Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gotta Work Out Workout

My new no excuses, got no time but I gotta work out workout:

Run up and down the stairs. Until you can't anymore.

If you have 10 more minutes, add this yoga routine, repeat three times, at least:

1. Sun salutation

2. Standing forward bend

3. Plank

4. Cobra

5. Upward facing dog

5. Downward-facing dog

6. Standing forward bend

7. Sun salutation


Then, go for a ten minute walk with a real dog.

My blood glucose comes down 70 points, every time.

Overheard On The Radio

"Y’know we’ve gotten a bunch of e-mails, people saying they don’t like gospel music. Mostly they say they don’t like it ’cause of the subject matter. They don’t wanna hear religious music.
Let me just point out: You can just listen to it as music. The beautiful part of it is that the people singing believe it so much. Anytime people sing about what they believe, it elevates it.
You don’t have to be a junkie to enjoy the Velvet Underground song Heroin. You don’t have to have horns and a pitchfork to enjoy Sympathy For The Devil … but it does help.
The thing is, it’s all music, and when the people believe what they’re singing, it’s just that much better. You’re listening to “Theme Time Radio Hour” — your number one musical consultant."
-- Bob Dylan, XM Theme Time Radio Hour,
Feb. 20, 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Our pregnant cat, Carly, is due to have kittens soon. Perhaps in a matter of hours. She sleeps a lot. She likes the sliding glass door and spends her days looking outside at squirrels. And eating. This is a mellow side of her that I'm not used to. She doesn't like to jump around much or go upstairs. She is almost half as wide as she is long.

And I hope she decides not to give birth on our bed. We've made a cozy nest for her next to the sliding glass door and for the last few days she has been hanging around it. Like, she might know what it is for. We hope.


Ginger and Carly don't play much anymore. Ginger spends time gazing at Carly as Carly gazes out the door. We don't know what Ginger will do once the kittens arrive, but I've been told that Goldens are the best of all breeds to get along with cats. They like everyone, even punky tough cats like Carly the Pirate Captain.






















































Where I spend a lot of time--





































Ginger loves to hang out with us more now that Carly has to rest. She even likes to help Dennis with handyman stuff.






















Oh yeah, it snows here. A lot.

Showing Off A Little

I took a picture of myself last night. Weird, but true. I compared my picture with pictures from a year ago. From last fall. From Christmas. I noticed my double chin is missing now. Or maybe it was a triple. But whatever, I only see one now.

I am not sure I'm ready to post the "before and after", I still have a long ways to go.

Okay. Here goes. I'm going to do it. Comment if you see anything different.















March 2007

















August 2007




















January 2008



















February 2008

Whew. That was tough!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Processing

A lot of what I'm doing to deal with changing my eating habits also includes trying to examine why I do what I do. Food journals help with that--to find the patterns that reveal the blind spots. My food journal has shown me a few valuable insights, and some painful ones.



Valuable and painful insight #1: I eat for recreation. Not for health. I noticed that when I'm crunched for time and had to choose between stopping at a drive through or making myself something simple and healthy at home, the drive through wins every time. Although through Weight Watchers, I'm supposed to learn how to make better choices, it still is much more healthier to make my own food. But it isn't as fun as when I go to the "mom and pop" place down the road that makes excellent gyros or getting a "black and blue" salad at Quizno's. When I cook, I like cooking real food but that takes time. If I have to cook or prepare something mundane like canned low fat soup or a tuna sandwich, it bores me. Or eat the same thing every day (oatmeal every morning no matter what). So, I'm trying to not make food my entertainment, but my routine for taking care of myself.




Valuable and painful insight #2: I eat emotionally. When I'm agitated, it feels good to have something that is crunchy, like popcorn or taco chips. When I am sad or depressed, I comfort myself with ice cream. When my emotions are intense, no healthy substitutions really appeal to me. But I've been learning that cookies don't solve my problems. So, I talk more and journal more and pray more.




Valuable and painful insight #3: I don't like feeling "empty" or "light", which is how I feel when I don't eat as often or as much as I used to. It makes me feel worried. When I first started out with Weight Watchers at my sister's house last fall, I had a hard time with an anxious feeling that had nothing to do with hunger, but I had to eat. I don't feel anxious when my stomach is empty anymore, and I have learned to like that feeling. Especially as I see my belly shrinking in size and I'm more aware of how my body is functioning. I don't know why I started to panic when I cut down my portion sizes or eat less, but getting over it is less of a struggle than I thought. I had to replace thinking about food with thinking about other things.




Valuable and painful insight #4: If I don't eat on time, I get really quarrelsome and unpleasant, which makes me eat too much when I finally get my food out of guilt for the grouchiness I feel. Hence, my "emergency" apple in my purse or my bag of almonds if I have to wait a little longer for my meal because of work or tiredness. It doesn't spoil my appetite, but if meal times aren't regular or out of my control, I have to step up and do what it takes to take care of myself in a healthy way. It's a blood sugar thing and I'm diabetic but the world doesn't revolve me but I still have to plan to meet my own needs whether I have a regular schedule or not.




Valuable and painful insight #5: I hate routine. But I need routine in order to take care of myself as a diabetic and to deal with my obesity. I have to adjust my mental attitude towards routine in order to free myself towards being healthy. So, I must check my blood sugar, exercise, plan my menus and take my meds. And routine doesn't mean boring. It means good health for me. I can find excitement in setting goals for my life and challenging myself.




That's what I'm having to process, with God's help.




I'm also trying to remember how I felt when I was at a lower weight, what I did, how I dressed, how I felt. And trying to visualize myself being back at that weight again. I'm not doing it in some weird wacked out "voo doo" sort of way, and most of the time I'm not even aware that I'm doing it. But I'm longing for it, and am ready to move forward to making the changes neccessary for it. The question is, what do I really want--the cookie or being smaller? What am I doing all this Weight Watcher stuff for anyway? I'm trying to hold on to what my purpose in losing weight is--which is, to make the lifestyle changes neccessary to take it off and keep it off.




Here's an excerpt from a "Entertainment Weekly" 2003 interview with Adrien Brody, of The Pianist:




"Who says getting a Golden Globe nomination is easy? To earn his, Adrien Brody had to drop to an anemic 130 pounds (from his normal 160) to play real-life concert pianist and Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman in Roman Polanski's acclaimed film ''The Pianist.'' Brody, 26, tells EW.com about the sudden weight loss, working with Polanski (a Holocaust survivor himself), and more.




How on earth did you get so skinny? "A very specific diet: I had only small amounts of protein, a couple boiled eggs, a small piece of fish or chicken, a couple steamed vegetables -- that was it. In 6 weeks, I lost 30 pounds. It affected me very deeply. I was cranky, definitely."






Monday, February 25, 2008

An Idea

Today, a customer to my coffeeshop who used to visit us daily but has cut back for a few months came in and greeted me with "You're looking great!" I responded that I've started to take care of myself and I recieved encouragement to keep it up.

And keep it up I will.

At Barnes and Noble, I perused their selection of numerous books about competing in triathalons. Everything from "Triathalons for Dummies" to "The Female Triathalete" with photos of the most unbelievably buff people. It was kind of intimidating. Do I really want to do this?

Jessica, my partner at work, had been training to run in a marathon this year. I asked her this morning what she thought of books about training for triathalons. She said that she probably would rather have a coach, who could watch her and correct what she was doing, and that a book probably wouldn't do much for her. But we agreed that a book would be good for getting an overview of the event and perhaps getting an idea what might be involved, and maybe some idea of what goals I need to set. I see now that they would have to be really high.

I don't watch much sports on television, unless it's the Olympics. But if the Ironman or Ironwoman is on, I can't resist watching. Yes, beautiful Hawaii is the setting, but I'm fascinated with the race, on how the athletes deal with the transitions. A Californian friend has a sister who competes every year, a woman in her middle ages. The majority of the female athletes tend to be older and very disciplined in their training.

One book I glanced at examined the main reasons women want to train for these competitions--number one is to lose weight. The writer, I can't remember her name, invoked that we should not focus on what we would be losing as we train, but the kind of women we would become in the process. In a sense, you can not lose if that is your focus.

So, what kind of woman do I want to become in this process?

A woman who:

Depends on God for everything, especially for goals that she can't see herself reaching right now.

Glorifies God for everything, joyfully for the goals she eventually reaches with His strength.

Thanks God for everything, including the body He gave her and whatever capabilities, small or great, it has.

Perserveres.

Endures.

Hopes.

Loves.

Trusts.

Who is involved and passionate about Someone and something beyond herself.

When I think about it, I've always longed to compete. I am a competitive person with no outlet for that kind of energy. I just haven't found anything that I'm good at enough to win, but now as an older, wiser woman, I see that it isn't about winning really. It's about having a challenge and having courage enough to let someone else challenge me. If I can't find challenges in most spheres of my life, where do I go with this energy?

Hmmm. Where have I been going with this energy?

So, I'm asking my Father what I should do about it. Triathalon training is just one idea. Maybe He has other ideas, but I'm starting to warm up to this one.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Setting a Higher Goal....Or Not

Last night was a long busy one at work, capping off a short busy day at home. The thing is that as we were leaving the store, finished with all our closing duties at 11:45 pm, I realized that I had a lot more energy than I used to.

Corey at work is also a boxer and sometimes works at one of the swankiest athletic clubs in town. I told him that I've been working out almost daily for three weeks and found out today that I gained a half pound. Corey suggested that I get a GEM readout--he says that it would give me a better idea on how I'm really doing, especially in what percent of my weight was fat and what was muscle. He thinks I'm building muscle, so that accounts for the weight gain, but it would actually help me later burn calories.

Also thinking about my idea about training for a triathelon. If I really want to do it, I might need to hire a personal trainer to help me put together a plan. And how expensive will that be?

See. Either I never exercise or I go all out. I'm such an extremist.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Way It Is

Today's exercise will be taking Ginger and Hubby to the park to play. The sun is out and the temp is up.

A friend and I might go to the newest YMCA this evening, if she's free. We'll try everything from the treadmill to the pool to the whirlpool to the sauna, maybe even lift a few weights or try out the cycles. The new YMCA also has a snack bar, too. We might order up a juice or something.


I'm trying to remind myself that I need to have fun with the fitness too.


Last night, yoga was canceled. So, I went to a favorite clothing store to check it out, my dad gave me a gift card for last Christmas that I haven't used yet. I bought some new workout clothes that were on sale, but I tried on different styles and different sizes to see where I'm at now. I saw that I did make progress, measurement-wise. I'm a size smaller than I was when I first came to Michigan, which is four or even six sizes down from where I was last October. In other words, my tops used to be 28, now I am 22. My pant size used to be 24, now I am 20. In college, I was size 14, sometimes 12. When I married, I was size 16, sometimes 18.


Back at Washington state, I'd lose 10 or 20 pounds every summer and gain it back every winter. I loved summer. I would go running up on the canal trail for 2 or 4 miles in the early morning or at dusk. When I married and lived in California, I cooked more and stopped running. Even though I would walk miles by the ocean at Asilomar and Pacific Grove, it wasn't a cardio workout that evidently my body needs to function. My sisters are the same. They have to work out in order to keep their weight down, no matter how moderate their calorie intake is. I wonder if it is genetic. Nancy has a personal trainer, Fran visits the gym regularly and Amy has her own gym at home (her hubby gave her an ellitiptical trainer last Christmas) and they are all pretty disciplined. And Dad walks with his wife Starla 2 miles every day rain or shine. Starla and I walked together last fall when I visited and had to work hard at keeping up with her.


This morning, I did 20 minutes of yoga and showed Dennis how to do the "tree" and the "warrior"--he did pretty good even though the dog was trying to push him over. It was fun, I hope to show him how to do more. Maybe when I take another class, he'll join me.


I'm accepting that this is the way it is for me, no vacations from being active and working out. I'm glad that I married a man who does this on his own without prodding from me--in fact, he does a lot of healthy and good things without me having to nag at him. Except maybe eat more fruit. But that can be sneaked in no problem. All I have to do is start peeling an orange and he wants a slice. Or two, maybe three...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Today's Swimming News

Today, I swam 19 laps in 40 minutes. But it was a lot more tiring. I was going to push it for 20, but changed my mind a quarter of the way on the first stretch. I used to not count at all, but set a time limit and just swam until the time limit was up or I had to go to the restroom, whichever came first. Things have changed since then.

I don't like counting laps. It's hard for me to keep track after lap five. After that, I'm wondering if it is six or seven, eight or nine. It feels like defeat to decide for the lower number, it feels like cheating to decide on the higher one. So I usually give it up right there. I only report the numbers that I know for sure.

There is a lot of counting to be done while swimming. I check my heart rate every five laps. I count how many strokes before taking a breath. How many breaths per stretch and per lap. How many strokes between color changes on the buoyes that separate the lanes. How many minutes for one stretch, how many for one lap. How many long breaths I take, how many short ones.

So, no wonder I lose track of how many laps I do.

Today, my heart rate stayed around 120--which is my target. Yesterday, I didn't push as hard and I kept it at 90. I usually breathe every two strokes, but I am pushing it to every four. Beginning every lap, I breathe every six for eighteen strokes. It takes me two and a half strokes between color changes on the buoyes. That is good to know, because length of stroke is important for good form. It takes me about two minutes to complete a lap. I usually breathe long breaths most of the time, but I am working on short breaths without turning my body as much to increase my speed. Today, my short breaths dominated the beginning of my set, while long breathes dominated the last five laps.

I am more interested in the numbers that indicate the quality of my swim instead of quantity. But now, I want to find out quantity, to see how close I can get to swimming a good quality mile.

I think my technique is good, but the other day a guy who gave up his lane to me asked me what kind of swim style I was using, because he had never seen it before. It's true, he probably hasn't and never will again. I learned it from my dad, who to this day is an excellent swimmer at 72 years old and loves to scuba dive, too (he dives with my sister in San Diego). It's a Hawaiian style of the crawl, and I nearly said so to the stranger kind enough to let me have my own lane. But instead, I told him I wasn't a great swimmer and I just swim. He didn't believe me and said that he'd been around swimmers all his life and it was just different. I didn't want to talk, I just wanted to get to swimming even though I felt obligated to be nice because he was so gracious to me.

Women who swim, on the other hand, I love to take the time to talk to. Most of them are older than me and a good number of them are much faster, too. They don't spend as much time in there as I do, but most of them had swam competively in high school and college and kept it up over their lifetimes. I saw Joline for the first time in a month. She's in her 80's and goes to the pool every day since her 40's, so when I don't see her, I wonder if she's okay. Joline was the first lady I met on my first visit to the pool, and always remembers me. It turns out she had to start using a walker and it is hard to navigate it around the ice and snow. But she told me that she noticed that I had lost a lot of weight. I told her she inspired me!

I'm thinking about taking a water aerobics class. Usually, the class is dominated by women of various ages and they are easy to get to know.

Tonight is my last yoga class. I learned enough to start using yoga to stretch at home. But the class is held in a dark small room and last time I was there, a string of miniature lights (the lights are turned off and the mini lights light up the room very dimly) had busted and there was broken glass left on the floor. Since yoga is done mostly barefoot and I have some neuropathy in my feet, I think that I really don't to keep taking the class.

Yesterday, I read about a local woman who started losing weight through Weight Watchers and is now competing in triathalons. The one in Hawk Island (my favorite park) is on June 1st. I don't think that I'd be ready by then but maybe in 2009. I'd have to start running and cycling, too.

Hmm. Some new possibilities. Some new goals. Some new prayer requests.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Praise

Yesterday afternoon, I swam 19 laps in 45 minutes. Twenty-three laps in that pool equal a mile. The really fun part is that the swim stroke I chose for 18 of them was the Australian crawl, only one was the breast stroke.

A year ago, I couldn't finish one stretch of a lap with the Australian crawl. Two years ago, I couldn't do a whole lap with the breast stroke without stopping between stretches.

Yesterday, most of my laps were non-stop. They were slow, but steady. Towards the end, I sped up and had a take a few rests between laps, but the rests weren't long.

And I'm remembering to praise God for the ability and a place to swim.

He is merciful and gracious,
My kind Deliverer.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Alicia

This afternoon, we went grocery shopping before going to the gym, and steaks were on sale. I haven't eaten steak since around last October. My protein sources have been mostly canned tuna, eggs or egg substitute or fish. Sometimes chicken. Rarely beef. So, we bought steak and had a small feast for dinner. I also had a real bagel with real cream cheese for breakfast this morning while at work.

I'm coming to terms that these eating experiences will be exceptions, not the norm. And really, I'm happy to be able to appreciate those occasional and rare treats. I work too hard to go back from where I came. It's been a long journey that started one and a half years ago at a women's retreat, where the nurses in my cabin noted that I had sleep apnea--I literally quit breathing several times while I slept, and they could hear me gasping for breath without waking up.

One young woman, Alicia, from our cabin approached me several times afterwards at church to ask me if I had seen a doctor. After awhile, it occured to me that this was an accountability issue and I needed to follow through. I made appointments and started on the work of getting back to health. But it was Alicia who helped me assess the situation and sparked me to do something about it.

Just a note about how God uses community, specifically Church, to build us up.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dealing With It

Yesterday, I wasn't feeling very good. It was a sick to my stomach feeling, perhaps a reaction to a salad that had more cheese (henceforth, fat) than I'm used to eating in a meal. I made a cucumber, tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil plus olive oil salad for lunch that was crazy delicious, Dennis and I kept picking at it long after we finished what was on our plates (I counted each ounce of cheese on it, but forgot to count the morsels that I ate afterwards) and were just talking at the table. Note to self: pack away the food into the fridge or leave it in the kitchen after I fill my plate and head to the dining table. Do not put the food on the table for seconds. Or thirds.

A chain reaction started. I felt bad so I didn't swim and go to my scheduled yoga class. After taking pepto bismal that Hubby was so kind to go to the drugstore to get for me, I felt really hungry, so we ordered takeout pizza instead of the nice seafood healthy pasta I had planned to make for Valentine's. I ate four large pieces while watching a DVD with Hubby. Wayyy more food than I usually eat these days, except for Donna's great Mexican rice dish a few days ago.

And this morning, I woke up feeling even worse--tired, bloated, and slightly irritable as I added up all the food I ate online to discover not only had I exceeded my daily allotment but my weekly allotment of extra points as well. For the next three days, I really have to make sure I stay within my boundaries. Well within.

The good news is that I ate healthy so far today. And I practiced yoga for a half hour after I got up. And as of right now, I'm going to go swim.

Bye... more later.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shocking, But True

Today while organizing my closet, I tried on two pairs of jeans I haven't worn for five years or more. One pair fit perfectly. The other was too big. I turned an otherwise 15 minute job into an all morning project, trying on different clothing in various sizes. I filled three garbage bags full of clothes too big for me now, ready to be taken to a local charity for donation.

Emotionally, it's a shock. To try something on that was too tight before and see myself swimming in it now. Last night, I wore a pair of shoes that were a little too tight in December, a pair of black mary jane mules with a high heel. Usually I wear them when I know there isn't much walking involved, because after 10 minutes, they hurt a little. After an hour, they hurt a lot. There was no problem at all with them last night, as I wore them for 3 hours.

When I started, my sister took my measurements. I think it's time to re-measure.

Weight Watchers stresses that there is more to weight loss than seeing numbers move on the scale. It's about change. It's about a new way of thinking, self-discipline and self-care. Christians used to talk about caring for our physical bodies as a part of our stewardship--that is, managing the resources and gifts God gave us for His Kingdom purposes. It's starting to sink in that God wants me to spend the time I do on my health.

A friend recently reassured me when I expressed doubts about how obsessed I feel about working on my weight loss. She is a physical therapist and deals with getting patients to improve their healing through movement and exercise. She also has a young adult daughter who has extremely good eating and exercise habits, following after her mom's example, I'm sure. She reassured me that often it takes an obsession to finally get into a good habit.

And that's all I'm really trying to do.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Always Hungry

Dennis treated me to an amazing "date night" recently, courtesy of a coupon to one of the area's best restaurants--four course dinner for two, at $47, with choices of appetizer, entree and dessert, and the house salad. Not a chain restaurant, either, but a romantic little place out in the country. It's called The English Inn, a renovated mansion in Eaton Rapids that also serves as a bed and breakfast as well as a sweet wedding destination, with riverside gardens and a lovely gazebo. Even though it's winter, I was looking forward to sitting by the fireside.

Well, we didn't get the fireside room. We got a little table next to the kitchen door, flanked by two other couples, around our ages. Hardly any privacy for our conversation, and hardly any privacy for anyone else, for that matter. And then there was the loud young woman at the table across the room. I found her bright and cheery. Dennis found her utterly annoying, as we shared notes about our evening on the way home. Since his back was to her, he didn't know she was sharing a table with her husband and her grandparents, who all seemed a little hard of hearing. She apparently had to carry the conversation for all three of her curmedgeonly companions, a chore she did admirably well.

As the room filled up, and the bustle of the wait staff turned up a few notches, it was hard to not notice a few other things. The couple on my right had nothing to say to each other, except when the husband rambled on and on about work. His wife had nothing to say, and he didn't even ask her about what she thought or felt about anything. They had nothing in common. The couple on my left were full of tension, it is hard not to notice when the wife raised her voice to a jarringly terse "I'll take care of it!" to what seemed to me like a gentle request by her husband. Whatever the issue, why couldn't it be left at the door so they could relax and have a good time? No one was smiling over there, that's for sure, and no one was kissing and making up either.

So, as we were sandwiched between these two "happily" married pairs of people, I noticed lots of other middle-aged couples in tables for two. One woman complained about their placement by the loud and noisy kitchen (so what? we were practically in the door). Another man seemed to have eyes following the young waitresses than focusing on his wife (note to wives, always take the seat facing the room, and let your men face only you and the wall behind you).

As for us, I think we had a good time. I loved the table by the kitchen, as I watched what was coming and going through the doors on platters and trays. The clatter of pans told me this was an unusually busy night, but there was no yelling or agitation from the culinary team behind the scenes. Obviously, they were pros and operating like a well-oiled machine. Everything was refilled by one young woman constantly on the go, her job seemingly just keeping water glasses full and coffee cups brimming. I'd take two sips, and she was right there.

The waitress, when told we had a coupon, at first looked a little like we were "one of those". After taking away the official menus, she brought out the special menus with our discount choices. Either she was disappointed that our order would not be as profitable or that time was wasted because we didn't tell her about the coupon in the first place. My opinion of her changed, however, as I heard her throughout the evening deal with a variety of complaints exceptionally well. I also made sure she got a big smile from me whenever she came by. I was proud of my husband for making sure he complimented her service as well as the whole staff. As she hustled off through those swinging doors, I wondered how many people took the time to notice how great a waitress she was.

And Den and I had a lot to talk about although we already had spent the whole day off together. We talked about making "play dates" for our dog with other friends with dogs. When we expected our cat to deliver her kittens. My plans for a sabbitical next year. Traveling to Montreal, maybe my studying French before going and surprising my husband's family with newly accrued fluency. Or teaching English in China. Camping. Plotting to get my sisters over to Michigan, or perhaps as far as Chicago. Reminiscing over old cross country car trips and train trips together. Swimming techiniques. Getting me back to playing racquetball again. Taking a spinning class together. And so on.

It wasn't deep or emotional. But a pleasant evening where we dressed up, ate a nice meal and drank a bit of good Cabernet. Even though I did a little people watching on our special date (it was hard not to with everyone crammed in so close) it didn't dilute our connection with one another. We smiled, laughed and let our eyes lock. It's been almost 19 years, and we have not lost the ability to have a good time. And that took a good bit of time and effort before the date night began.

Yes, we've had our share of silent and boring meals in public, trying to find something to say. And those tense moments during a date, too. But in the course of the evening, distance and communication gaps were filled, or heartfelt apologies were made. That's part of the marriage story for everyone who cares to work through those moments, understanding that those are just moments. After awhile, you learn a few skills. Like acceptance and appreciation, as well as forgiving well.

Keeping the spark alive at our ages is not impossible. It can be done, but I think it couldn't have been done if not for the mercy and grace of God lavished on us both. Relationships are really difficult, no matter who you are or where you live, single or married.

Today, I had to battle a little voice inside of me that kept trying to tempt me to take offense at every small thing I felt my husband neglected towards me. Since starting to work on my weight issues, I realized just how "husband-centered" I was. My moods went up or down according to how well I felt loved by him. It's a lot of pressure to put on anyone. I was free only when I remembered that God noticed me, knew me and loved me. Yes, my husband missed the last two laps I sprinted to finish out my workout today--it was something I have never done before, to push myself so hard to go so fast. Although I wished that he could have been there to see how well I can swim, to see I've turned a corner in my fitness beyond my own expectations, I still had joy in the moment, delighting that the Lord has indeed brought me this far, delighting that this 45 year old woman still had something in her, that she wasn't dead yet. Hubby didn't have to be there. But God always is.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Progress Report


I went to Weight Watchers yesterday and found out I lost 2.6 pounds last week.


Yay!


I exercised 9 days in a row, if I go today, it will make it 10. I'm thinking about it, or taking a break and letting my body rest. For eight days I swam on average 45 minutes a day. One of my workouts was yoga class. I'm wondering if I should include weight training at least twice a week. I read how increasing muscle mass helps women with diabetes.


My eating journal was filled everyday for seven days--I found out I could do this online. Today's lunch will be hard--I went to a potluck for the international fellowship. I kept everything small and mostly ate things with beans, which almost every dish included except for most of the American choices. So, it will be hard to calculate what I ate in terms of calories, fat and fiber, or in Weight Watchers points. You can't look this stuff up, either. I don't know the names of most of it. But there was a bean soup, a chinese rice noodle and bean dish and an african rice and pea dish, a korean tofu dish, and some vegetarian chili. I ate about an eighth of a cup of each.


And I had a small slice of pizza. It was great. One of the young Chinese women told me that she remembered I liked pizza and told me that her friend brought some takeout to share. Really, the best pizza I've ever had. So, I enjoyed it and had a great time.


I read on my CNN feed about a writer who lost 168 pounds and blogged about it. She writes mostly about the internal struggles, and she is really vulnerable about it. I realize that I've got a ways to go with being that transparent about my feelings about my body image. And I'm not sure I want to blog about it.


But I will say I'm feeling really great at this point, I've not felt this good for a long time. It's been a small surprise this week, brought on undoubtedly from the daily swims. How do I describe this feeling? It's feeling more energetic, for sure, but there's something more. I feel more "awake". And if I was depressed, it is no longer there.


As a reward--Weight Watchers emphatically stress rewarding ourselves for achievements both great and small--I bought 2 new swim suits. One is a suit a size that I'm currently wearing, which is still smaller than my old ones. The other is a size smaller, for when I lose more weight. The funny thing is, is that both of them fit me very well. I don't know what to make of this. I wore the smaller one yesterday at the pool and everything was fine.


I really needed the new suits, the old one was getting worn out from regular use for a year. Which is a surprise to me, which means that I actually have done a lot of swimming. I'm saving it and displaying it in my closet so that I see it everyday to inspire myself to keep exercising.


The last time I swam everyday was when I was in junior high school school during summer vacations. And I didn't swim much--I'd swim a little, then play tag with my sister and brother, then practice holding my breath underwater as long as I could, do summersaults and handstands, then swim a little more. And, jump in, get out, jump in, get out, jump in nonstop for hours. We did this from the time the pool opened at 8 or 9am until the late afternoon before dinner.


When I turned 13, I started going the pool with friends instead of siblings. Everything changed. The focus wasn't having fun anymore but "hanging out" and work on tans while listening to the rock music playing on the loudspeakers. When I was 13, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody was played constantly as well as AC/DC. The staff at the pool had a definate taste in music, and top 40 or disco wasn't on the listening menu. And jumping in the pool from the side was longer cool. If you did, you had to dive. And if you dived, you might as well dive from one of two low dive boards or the high dive. I usually watched my friends do the diving and applauded their efforts.


After awhile, going to the pool wasn't as fun anymore. I became hypervigilant about my appearence and if I was dissatisfied for the smallest reason, I didn't join my friends at the pool. Even though the only problems with my appearence were in my head (I weighed a whopping 126 pounds at 5'6"), it became too stressful to go.


So it takes not a small amount of courage to put on a suit these days and take the plunge at the YMCA. I don't always feel like doing it. But I do. In my reasoning, I'm allowing myself to look terrible in order to look better in the future. It's a paradox. But it works. And has a lot of spiritual parallels, if you think about it.




Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

College Women's Retreat

Our church's college women's ministry asked me to be among some of the older women of our church to come to their retreat for a meal and the message afterwards on Saturday. It was a blessing, a priviledge and a lot of fun! I went up with Kim, our assistant pastor's wife and enjoyed getting to know her as well. We stayed a little later than we planned, it was an amazing time. The retreat was held at a recently remodeled farmhouse out in the countryside, with a huge bunkroom and a huge basement that comfortably handled almost 50 women for their meetings.

I learned many things from being there. Vanessa's message about women's relationships with women was so good, I hope that there was a recording of it. She talked about how the Gospel changes relationships, particularly women's relationships in community with each other. I was in a small group with two sisters to discuss how to apply the message. I really enjoyed my time with them! I was in Becca's car on the way to eat out for dinner, we had a lot of lively conversations. I got a chance to meet and get to know a little about many women in between everything. I was just available and willing to communicate and encourage and listen.

One young woman and I talked about sharing our faith. We shared our struggles about the issue. Although it wasn't a very long conversation, it was encouraging and I came away with some astute observations coming from this young woman with a keen mind. Her struggle was during a spring break evangelism trip last year where she was among teams of students who approached other college students partying on a Florida beach. Her question was that why do we assume that if someone had a beer in their hand that that person needed to be saved? Sometimes, she found that they were actually approaching Christians, whom she felt her witnessing companions were judging by appearances. Sometimes, the people she met that she was intending to witness to were really solid believers.

I think she has a good point here.

We then talked about more biblical reasons for being open about what we believe. We talked about obedience as a good motivation, which seemed more appropriate than what often comes across as spiritual self righteousness or feeling sorry for people because they somehow seemed morally inferior. The obedience to God and trusting Him for the results was better because it was more focused on Him and not on our efforts or if there's a response. Basically, we step out in faith and let Him deal with it. I shared, though, what makes me nervous is fear of saying something the wrong way or being inaccurate. But just about always, the experiences I had were mostly positive.

I remember back once when I lived off campus and my roommates and I went to share cold-turkey in the dorms. Since there were three of us, I ended up on my own. I began by greeting women and being friendly and asking them, point blank, if they had any questions about Christianity or would like to talk about a personal relationship with Jesus or if they would like to see an illustration that helps us understand Christianity better. Since I was by myself, I think that it was less threatening. And being by myself, I had nothing to prove to anybody who was with me. And being by myself, I wasn't alone. Inwardly, I was throwing myself at God's feet for help. So, there were always good conversations, either short or long.

One woman I talked to in the hall was so intrigued, after awhile, she invited me into her room to talk more with her and her roommate. Then, she started to invite other girls on the floor to come listen and see the bridge illustration that I was sharing. I shared it three times. Her name was Grace. I asked her if she knew what her name meant. She didn't. I told her. I shared some bible verses with her name in it, she had no idea. When I think of her, I wonder if she thinks about me, who told her the meaning of her name. The thing was, I wanted to know if anyone was ready to pray to recieve Jesus, but I didn't ask because the one hour that I had was suddenly up.

I checked the time and saw that I was 15 minutes late to meet up with my roommates to ride home with them. It took awhile to get to the lobby and after waiting a few more minutes, I realized that the car was gone, and they had left without me. So, I called the house. Cindy drove back to campus to get me and she was furious. I was late almost every week we went to do dorm evangelism.

Well, I was late because I was always running into women who wanted to talk and hear the Gospel. How do I cut off a conversation that had deepened over the course of only an hour? Cindy and my other roommate seldomly found anyone, which probably added to their chagrin, knowing that I apparently did since I wasn't meeting them on time. I was usually too elated with my evening experiences to notice their irritation with me, so my obtuseness about the matter only made it worse.

Looking back, I see my immaturity a lot clearer, even though Cindy and I had reconciled that evening in the car ride home. For one, I could have taken someone else with me. I had a lot of someone else's who might have loved to go who met with me one to one and for bible study. For another, I could have left my phone number with the women I met or gotten theirs and make appointments to meet at the student union for lunch. An hour is never enough time to talk, and sometimes, it is better to cut it short and sort of keep them hanging. I've found that a spiritual appetite that is just barely whetted often is willing to come back, hungry for more. Jesus did it all the time in His ministry.

One the other hand, Cindy held in her resentment for almost a month until she exploded at me in the car. It blindsided me entirely and I didn't see it coming. There were almost a hundred solutions to our problem, and we didn't look at any of them because we were so caught up in our emotions. A few rational conversations aimed at real communication and honesty, it would have probably never come to that desparate and frustrating evening where obviously, Satan had the upper hand.

And on the other hand, it was always so convenient that I was always the one on her own. At first, it was a surprise. I thought the three of us would be together but Cindy decided we should split up when we got there. It was a lonely feeling. But when I found out after a couple of times, that things went a lot better on my own, I felt a little like Leah in the Bible, who triumphed over Rachel even though she had more advantages on her side.

Which brings me back to the college women's retreat and especially, back to Vanessa's message about how the Gospel transforms women's relationships with each other. I wish I had heard it when I lived with Cindy. She outlined several sins to repent of and encouraged us to trust the saving cross of Jesus.

Want to know what sins Vanessa talked about?

I'm sorry, I'm out of time. I'll tell you about it later.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Never Alone

Health has been a huge focus for me over the last few years. I'm only 45 but I have to make some big changes in order to be productive and active for the rest of my life.

On February 3rd, 2005, I discovered I had a big problem at the doctor's office. After not weighing myself for 3 years, I had gained a grand total of 53 pounds, bringing me a couple pounds too close to 300. I had known that I had polycystic ovary syndrome for a long time and that the hormonal problems made it hard to conceive a child or lose weight, but I didn't know until then that it also prediposes me to insulin resistence, which turns into diabetes over time.

So, the doctor recommended regular exercise. I tried Curves with a neighbor for a few months with no results, but I had a good time working out with Tracy. Dennis and I joined the YMCA afterwards and I began sporadically visiting the treadmill room until I realized how sick of the treadmill I was. And my feet and ankles started to bother me. In the fall, Lisa came to live with us. Lisa was a swimmer who went to the pool on MSU campus about two or three times a week. I went once with her to the pool at our Y and was hooked. I started a slow breaststroke and by Christmas, I was able to go several laps without stopping. I also bought a bathroom scale. I lost five pounds and kept it off.

In 2006, I found out that I wasn't going to lose weight by swimming endlessly. I had to work on increasing my speed and challenging myself. It was hard, but I started to swim freestyle at least a lap everytime I went. By the end of the year, I had lost five more pounds. But I found out that I was diabetic. And had sleep apnea. I began low doses of metformin.

In 2007, I started to go to cardio and some other really fun workout classes. I was a klutz, but I felt better everytime I went. But by summer, I didn't continue the workouts and found my blood pressure rising and having to start taking medication for that, too. And had to increase my metformin dosage. Although I had lost five more pounds in six months, it wasn't making a turn around in my diabetes situation.

While visiting my sister in California last October, I started Weight Watchers. Addressing my eating habits has been a much more effective way to deal with my health, as I've lost 15 pounds in three months. My blood pressure has been normal every day (I have my own monitor) and my blood glucose is well in control. My bathroom scale has been smiling at me, letting me know that I am now 250 this morning. I went swimming three times this week. Yesterday at the pool, I swam 15 laps, 10 of them freestyle. I swam them in half the time it took me two years ago, too.

Weight Watchers has helped me set sensible goals and kept me accountable. I go to meetings every week, to plan good eating strategies. I get to talk with people who have the same problems that I do, and also with people who have lost 40, 50, even over a 100 pounds. It's a positive and encouraging environment. I look forward to going every week, even when I haven't had success that week. I need to be there.

My current goal is not eating fast food. I avoided it last week, and I think that is how I lost 2.6 pounds at my weigh in this morning. I pack my food for work and always keep an apple in my purse. If I pick up food, it is usually at Woody's Oasis, a mediterranean deli. They have a great lentil salad. They only use olive oil in everything they make. I have to make a conscious choice to avoid McDonalds when I drive, and I even take the long way home to do so sometimes.

Being at the pool as much as possible seems to be key for me. When I work out at the pool, I take a few minutes to stretch using poses I learned from yoga class. I talk to the ladies in the locker room, especially ones who are 20 or more years older than I and seem to be really active. A lot of them are survivors of something, healthwise. There's Betty who survived breast cancer, Joleene who lost a hundred pounds 20 years ago just by going to the pool everyday (she's 85), and the lady who has a locker on the other side of me who also swims everyday around the same times I do. She swims longer and faster than I do, and I think she's about 70.

Yoga is good, I do manage to get my heart pumping and perspire a little even though it is slow. Being aware of my breathing and my posture has been helpful, as well as exercises to improve my balance. I do get a sense of relaxation afterwards. My co-workers support each other by attending class together.

Spiritually, I've learned a few things. Of how a sin can take over your life if you aren't monitoring it. That I have a weight problem has been obvious for many years, but it's amazing how slow I was to addressing what was really causing it--my eating. Often, I did try to lose weight but only by working out. It is easier than changing how I ate to resolve stress.

It was stressful to find out that I was diabetic. I know how it affected my mother, who essentially died from complications related to that disease. I felt like God had abandoned me, and that I had abandoned myself as well. I finally came around from my terror of where I was healthwise and trusting that God had a plan to help me through the tough changes I had in front of me. He used my sisters, Amy and Fran, to confront my food abuse and eat better through Weight Watchers.

The thing that has helped me the most is God showing me how He is present with me all the time, and I never eat alone. And that He offers me food that really satisfies my soul.