Feeling Grateful

album-gratitudeI have two journals. This one, and a physical blank book I write in at home over breakfast. The home journal is for stream of consciousness writing, mostly centered around weight loss, diet, exercise and so forth. It’s my little space to get all the thoughts in my head out and onto the page. Honestly, it is pretty repetitive and occasionally seriously whiney, and having it helps me not bore you all with it!

However, there is one aspect of that journal that I really love. In addition to all the stuff about fitness and whatnot, I also try to include things I am grateful for and the good things I am doing for myself; things like spending time with people I love, reading good books, trying something new, and connecting with old friends.

Today I thought I would share a few things that I am deeply grateful for. In no particular order: 

  • My amazing sister. She has been such a cheerleader through my journey. We don’t always talk or see each other as much as I would like, but we’re working on it. And I love the friendship that keeps growing between us.
  • The lovely lady over at Owls and Orchids who nominated me recently for an award. Those of you that read this little blog and take a moment to comment or say hello make my day. I am grateful for your support.
  • Your blogs. I have learned from you all, laughed with you, and have been inspired so much by all of you. I honestly think that I’ve felt more confident in getting out there and trying new things because I see all that you are doing. You guys awe, inspire and motivate me!
  • My friends. They are rock stars! Some times we see each other a lot, other times hardly at all, but I know they are always there for me and always want the best for me. I know not everyone has a network of supportive friends and that I am lucky, lucky gal.
  • Technology. I keep saying this phrase: I love living in the future! Sure, I know that there are a lot of negatives to all the screen time we have nowadays, but when used well, technology is amazing. It has helped me to lose weight, start running, connect with friends (old and new), meditate, make healthy meals, find running and biking trails… the list goes on and on.
  • My health. I know I talk about it a lot, but I feel so different from I did. I have more energy and more zest for the everyday. …of course, I also have a lot more aches and pains. (Thanks, strength training!!) Still, now that I have been focusing on it, I am all the more grateful for what I have. So many folks struggle with health issues – my heart goes out to them. I may not be exactly where I want to be fitness-wise, but I am healthy and feeling good. It is something to be thankful for.
  • My guy. Julian and I have been together a little over 3 years now and things just keep getting better and better. How great is that?

What can I say? Though sometimes I get overwhelmed and frustrated, I have to say, life is good. I am very, very fortunate. It’s good to look back and remember all that.

My Two Journals

I have a confession. This isn’t my only journal. I have another.

My other journal.

My other journal. Not pictured: my coffee cup, which is usually nearby.

Back in April, Julian told me about a weight loss journal he had seen at the bookstore and was coveting. It was pretty cool, so we went out one night and picked it up. While we were at the store, a little blank white journal with birds on the cover caught my eye. I like birds, so I picked it up for myself.

I wasn’t sure what I would do with it at the time. I just love journals and I thought I would find a use for it. What I’ve been doing is writing in it almost every weekday morning. (Weekends are a bit hit or miss depending on what I have going on.) I write two pages. On the front I write about what’s going is going on with my health and fitness goals, and I break the back page up into categories: Weight, Food, Exercise, and Good Things I Did For Myself. I just recently added one more category: Sleep.

To anyone else, it would make seriously boring reading. I typically write while having my morning coffee; totally free form and stream of consciousness. Sentences are wonky and every page is full of grammatical and spelling errors – not because I don’t know how to write without spellcheck, but because I just don’t want to take the time. (“Training”, for example, is almost always spelled “traing,” because I don’t have time for the other “in”!) The goal here isn’t to have tome filled with brilliant thoughts to pass on to future generations to read, but instead to just get junk out of my head and onto a page.

The categories on the back pages help me track what’s going on. Writing them down helps keep me more accountable. Weight usually is just a number with a few words, like “where I want to be.” Exercise is where I jot down what I am working on. It isn’t detailed like a training log, it’s just the basics. Food is also just a few sentences – kind of a tally on how I am eating and how I am feeling about it. Good Things I Did For Myself is where I make a short bulleted list of good things that happened the day before. It could be related to fitness, or might be dinner with a girlfriend or sitting and reading a good book. It’s my little way of reminding myself to take care of my heart and mind, as well as my body. The most recent category, Sleep, just got added so I keep an eye on how I am feeling in comparison to the amount of sleep I get. I’ve been short on this one lately and it has been wearing me out. By adding it to my journal I am hoping to focus a little more on making sure I am getting the rest I need.

The difference between it and this blog is that I don’t care how repetitive I am, or how boring, or even how whiney I am in my little white book. Here I try to put ideas and discoveries – big things I am working on. My handwritten journal is for the minutia.

I do think it helps having it though. The accountability I mentioned is part of it, and also having a safe place to vent makes a difference. I started it almost by accident, but I’m really glad I did.

 

 

Dear Longview Hill…

The Letter, c. 1906, oil on canvas by Pierre Bonnard

The Letter, c. 1906, oil on canvas by Pierre Bonnard

This post is not written for you, dear reader, instead it is a note to my future self. I’m at that point in my weight loss where people are noticing and starting to give me quite a few compliments. It’s wonderfully nice, of course, but it also makes it really real. I did this. After all the years of thinking about it and trying different things – this is it. This is the start of a new me.

But I’ll be really honest, the more real it is, the more scared I am of gaining the weight back on again.

It isn’t a health thing; in December my physician told me that though I was over the weight she’d like me to be at, I was in excellent health. It has a little more to do with the physical looks, but just a little bit. After all, I haven’t gotten rid of all my old clothes yet! Mostly, it has to do with the fact that it is just so darn easy to fall back into old habits. That I know that while I have been at this for a few months now, I am not in a place of permanence yet. So, I thought I would write this post to myself if I ever found myself struggling again. I wanted to write down what has been working for me, so if I ever fell lost, I would know where to turn.

I should say, dear reader, that is not necessarily what you should do. This just my own personal weight loss code.


Dear Long View Hill,

Sounds like you are going through a rough patch. You and I knew this might happen. We’ve known each other all our lives, we know these things can happen. So this is a letter to you – my future me – from your past. If you are ever stuck, or feeling stressed and having a hard time staying on track. Here’s what we know what works for us:

#1. Walk the Dog.

Walking the dog won’t solve all your weight problems, Long View Hill. You had Hermes for over a year and were walking him for up to a couple hours a day there for awhile, and while you lost some weight, it didn’t start really paying off until the rest of the pieces of the puzzle were in place. However, getting outside is good for you. Spending time with your dog is good for you. They are good for your emotions, your sense of calm and your happiness. As a benefit, walking the pooch also burns calories, so if the reason you are gaining weight back has anything to do with stress, this is a good place to start. Hermes will love you for it.

We really should be on a walk right now.

We really should be on a walk right now.

#2. If you bite it, write it.

The moment things started to change for you is when you downloaded the My Fitness Pal app onto your phone. Trying to track calories on a computer doesn’t work for you LVH – we know, we’ve tried that. It is putting the food in your phone as close to having eaten it as possible, (without being super rude while out to dinner with friends,) that makes it work for you. You know you need that immediate feedback. There might come a time where it won’t be as important, but if you are reading this again, it is probably because you fell off the tracking wagon. Time to saddle up and get back on board.

#3. Do Not Go Over the Line

You lost your weight by sticking to the rules. Like tracking, there may be a time where you can be more relaxed with this, but again, if you are reading this, it is time to go back to square one. You know where the base is, My Fitness Pal will tell you where the max is, just stick between those two numbers. You can do it, you’ve done it before! If you get to the end of the evening and see you only have enough calories for green beans for dinner, well, it is time to do Rule #1. A 30 minute walk will buy you enough calories for a bowl of soup and a light salad! Best yet, leave some room – don’t walk the line. Leave some extra calories for the end of the day. Then, if you want a glass of wine or port before bed, you can have them. Remember Long View Hill, if you leave a cushion of unused calories, you won’t go over.

#4. Get Moving – Whatever it Takes

Well, if you are gaining weight, you might not be exercising. Figure out what it is going to take you to get back to it. Bored of running? Join a gym! Take some classes! Do something! Exercising makes you feel better, stronger and more healthier. Don’t forget to slide in a little extra exercise when you can. Keep running up the stairs at home when you do laundry, keep a smile on your face when it is time to shovel snow – and of course, keep walking that pooch!

#5. An Ounce Weighed, is a Pound Saved.

Don’t forget to measure. You don’t need that fancy scale, girl. You can use that $.50 thrift store find you used for the first 3 months of losing weight. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you have to have a fairly good idea of what is really going on. This is why you have three sets of measuring spoons and had to wash them every day. Don’t forget about that.

#6. Every Day – Weigh

Oh my!I heard the groans across the internet as I write this. We’ve all heard the countless reasons why you should never weigh yourself every day. “You’ll get depressed! You’ll quit! It doesn’t help!” The fact is, there are very few scientific studies to back “what everybody knows.” There was, however, a study with college students that showed those that weighed themselves daily were better able to lose weight and keep it off. But regardless, this is not about other people, this is about you. I’m not saying you have to do this for the rest of your life Long View, but I am saying that prevention is the best way to nip problems in the bud. Like Rule #2 and #3, this is one of those things that might change with time, but you know what works for you. If you think the scale is going up – check. Then start following these rules again.

#7. There Are No “Bad” Foods

One of the reasons we’ve been successful is that we decided not to exclude any food. You have to follow rules #2, #3 and #5, but with that in mind, nothing is off limit. I put this here, because I know us. One thing that could happen is we could get all overly into it and start restricting yourself to a particular way of eating. I can see us trying to make all the daily summary numbers on My Fitness Pal come out absolutely perfect. If we’re doing that, knock it off!  It is only a matter of time before we get all frustrated, mad and rebellious and quit everything. Don’t do that, me! Keep in mind you can eat what you want, and you will never feel like you have to eat to prove some kind of point.

#8. This is the most important one of all – Don’t Listen to Everyone Else.

I saved this one for last because I suspect it is the one that is most likely to go wrong. Already we’ve weathered this. Remember the day that Weight Loss Guru Coworker spent 10 minutes telling you different ways to cheat? Remember how the next week she was upset because at her weigh-in she was far short of her goal?  Remember the person who sent you the article about how calorie counters don’t work because they are not perfect. Remember how much weight you lost using one?* This is the most important rule: Do What Works For You! 

There is no magic pill. Different things work for different people. Some people hate My Fitness Pal, other want specific diets. But don’t listen to them – do your own research. Look gal, I know it is fun to talk about weight loss with people, but how many of them have already given you bad advice? I bet the reason you are back here in your blog archives looking at this letter is because you listened to someone else, just because they said something with a lot of confidence. Ignore weight loss advice that conflicts with your own code. Triply ignore advice that goes against your own code that comes from anyone who is still struggling with their own weight loss.

There are three exceptions to this rule: your sister Em, your friend Cee, and your boyfriend (who shall now be known as) Julian. They love you, they know you. They know what you have been through, your history, your temperament and your struggles. They understand you and want the best for you. If you want advice, go to them. Everyone else – tell them to blow it out their ears.

This also is true for articles, blogs and even things on NPR. No matter what someone is doing, there will always be someone in the background being *helpful* saying, “you aren’t doing it right!” Don’t listen to those people. Turn off the news, only read positive blogs, and trust your gut instinct, Long View Hill.

Eat well, exercise, and be happy, Long View. I am depending on you for it!

Love,

Your Past Self.

 

 

* The article basically said that calorie counters aren’t accurate, sometimes because of the information put into them, sometimes because the manufactures make servings bigger than they claim. I say, that’s why you leave a cushion of calories.

Photo credit: cliff1066

Walkin’, Yes Indeed

Walking

I mentioned recently that I am trying to spend more time walking. I thought I would post a quick follow up:

Things are going quite well. In addition to my twice a day walks with the pooch, I have walked to my doctor’s office, to my hair salon and to the theatre downtown. These trips are ones that out of habit I would have traditionally done by car. None of them, however, are much more than a mile away and all of them took less than 20 minutes one way.

We also had some rare sunshine here in the Midwest so I used that opportunity to take a 30 minute walk on my lunch hour. I was planning on running errands, but instead I chose to take a walk. I mean, you don’t get sun here in the winter very often – you have to soak it up when you can!

It isn’t all unicorns and flowers though. I almost skipped that theatre trip. It was dark and cold and I had just walked the dog for a half hour, I wasn’t feeling up to another 20 minutes on a dreary winter night. I ended up doing it mostly because I bribed myself with wine. (If you walk, you will burn enough calories that you have plenty left over from today to have a glass of wine. Walk woman, walk!) By the time I got home though, I just crashed into bed and never did have that wine. phoo.

Here’s what I keep telling myself though: 1) Walking is good for my health. I am burning calories and building up stamina. 2) It is good for the environment  Every time I don’t start my car, I am helping out a little. 3) It is good for my Jump Fund. Okay, I know that at roughly $.50 a mile, I am not piling wads of cash into my savings, but every single shekel counts, right? A penny saved and all that…

So, I’m going to keep on walking. It is, after all, when I do my best thinking. And when I draft most of the blog posts I write!

Long View Hill

Why I started this blog:

I’ve always been someone who enjoys the process of writing.  Over the years I’ve had a number of diaries, journals, notebooks, sketchbooks, legal pads full of scribbles, online blogs and so forth.  The format changed depending on what was available at the time, but intent was the same – to take all these crazy thoughts and whirlwind ideas and get them down on the page somewhere.  Journals have helped me through good times and bad. (Okay, mostly bad.  When life is really good, I’m usually too busy to remember to write!)

I’m starting this blog for a number of reasons.  I’ve been struggling with some of those big life questions – What are my goals?  Who do I want to be?  What do I want to be?  Where am I going? and How the heck am I going to get there?  I’ve been reading a lot, thinking a lot and I’ve gotten to a spot where I need someplace to gather everything together – someplace to make sense of it all.  This isn’t about trying to come up with universal truths or even trying to answer questions for anyone else.  This is about me.

Long View Hill

The “Hill” portion of the name of this blog comes from a lot of places.  I live in an area that is defined by three neighborhoods, all with the name Hill in them.  Where I live: my state, my city and my town all have a way of defining me right now.  It is part of what I am thinking about.

I also chose hill because it fits in a metaphorical sense.  I’m not at all worried about being “over the hill” but I am in the middle part of my life.  Part of what I am defining is what that means to me – what does the past mean, and what does the future hold?

My last name comes into play here, as well.  My last name is based off of my ancestors who apparently built their homes in up in the hills and high places of their mostly flat country.  It was unusual enough that they got names after it, apparently.

Finally, I have this mental image when I think of a view from a hill – not of a guru sitting atop a mountain, but instead me, sprawled out on the side of a hill, laying in the grass, shoes off, looking at the sky, the clouds and world around me.  I am hoping that this blog will help me figure out my own long view from my very own hill.