Thursday, February 26, 2015

Disney World Planning, Part 1: Research

I have a confession to make: I'm a Disney freak. Over the last several months, I've fallen deep into the rabbit hole that is planning for a trip to Disney World ... and think I'm a complete convert. 

If you don't already know, I'm what most people call a "Planner" No, not planner. But "Planner." With a capital P, air quotes and a bit of a side-eyed smirk. When I get excited about something, I tend to research the hell out of it so I know ALL of my options. Then obsess over all the decisions. Compare costs. Look at pros and cons. Draft Excel sheets. Make itineraries and lists. And basically freak out until the big day comes. 

Examples of this OCD-like behavior include when I got married (I think my 3-inch binder is a better scrapbook than my professional photo album), when I got pregnant (HOURS after that pink line showed up, I was at the bookstore ... and I already knew which book to buy based on prior Internet searches), when I started running (Do you know how many running blogs I follow? It's crazy ...) and now: Planning a trip to Walt Disney World. 

Like a lot of 80s/90s kids, I grew up with the Disney animated classics: "Cinderella," "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "Toy Story," etc. - all of the VHS tapes are still lined up in my parents' TV cabinet ... and I told my mom she's not allowed to get rid of them. Ever. 

And luckily, my parents took us all to Orlando to experience the magic when I was 8 years old. I can still remember meeting Mickey and Minnie, spinning in the teacups, singing along to "Beauty and the Beast" on stage, and watching the fireworks over Epcot from my dad's shoulders. 

Jan's rocking the fanny pack, I'm rocking the perm and Scott is rocking those chicken legs!

I knew the moment I left that I would be back with my own child someday. So when my husband kept dropping little hints about maybe taking our daughter, I had to have a come-to-Jesus talk with him. "We're either going or we're not," I said. He needed to give me the green light so we could get serious about planning and saving ... or he needed to put the idea on hold until he was really ready to commit. 

Sounds insane, I know. But my mind couldn't take the thought lingering in the back of my head any more. I either needed to push it out completely or let it take over. That's just how my brain works ... and he knows this. 

So luckily, Kyle gave me the go-ahead, and I'm currently in the throes of planning our family’s first adventure to the World. (And don’t think that I pushed him into this … He’s never been to Disney World before, so I think his curiosity played a big part in his decision to go sooner rather than later.)

I think our big talk was back in June … and I’ve been researching ever since. I told my mom I have NO IDEA how she planned our trip back then with just a book from the Disney Store and an 800 number!

Rather than hold all this knowledge for myself, I’ve decided to share it. Over the next few months leading up to our trip, I’d like to post about the planning process and tips I’ve used to create what I hope will be a wonderful, memorable experience. 

Part 1 is going to be research. Because that’s where it all starts. Before I made any decisions, I got my hands on as much information as possible. Now let’s be real… there’s no way anyone can really be a Disney expert in just a few months, but I think I’ve found some of the best resources to get started. 

For the Majority of First-Timers: WDW Prep School 
Shannon Albert is my hero. Seriously. She focuses almost all of her content on planning for first-timers. Her six-step planning process has kept me in check so I don’t get too far ahead of myself (we’re currently on Step 4: Pick dining options). If you’re into podcasts like I am (think radio on your mobile device), you’ll want to binge-listen to all of her episodes of WDW Prep To Go for great ideas and tips. You’ll also notice all the best planning pins on Pinterest come from her. In my opinion, you can skip all of the other planning resources and just stick to this website if you don’t want to be overwhelmed. 

For Those Who Like Details: "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World"
If you’re a details person, you HAVE to read this book. It includes tons of ratings, charts, lists and plans – all based on meticulous research and data from a team of, essentially, Disney scientists. The only downside to this book is that a new one is printed every year (they have to in order to keep up with the constant changes at the parks!). That leads me to my next recommendation …

For Those Who Want To Do It All:
This website is an extension of the Unofficial Guide, with up-to-date information about pretty much ANYTHING you want to know. You have to buy a subscription (a whopping $12.95 for an entire year … or less because there are discount codes everywhere you look) to access the step-by-step touring plans or create your custom plans to maximize your time in the parks. You can also look at plenty of FREE material without a subscription, including the blog posts, which are helpful and sometimes entertaining. 

For Those Who Want to Geek Out: Be Our Guest podcast 
I listen to several Disney World podcasts, but this is one of my favorites. The hosts are always upbeat and excited to help listeners plan their trips – the way they talk about the World always puts me in a good mood and gets me so excited for my own vacation. This show isn't as structured as WDW Prep To Go, but that's the appeal! You can learn a lot throughout their conversations and trip reports. Listener Questions are my favorite episodes because people ask about things I would’ve NEVER thought to ask. 

Keep in mind through all of this that I haven’t actually been to Disney World in 21 years, and my family’s wants/needs won’t be the same as yours. I’m just hoping that sharing my experience will help others get started when they’re ready. Remember, I’m a “Planner” so I prefer to do it myself rather than use a Disney travel agent … but the option is out there (at no extra cost) for those who’d rather let someone else handle the details. 

I think Part 2 of my series will be budgeting for Disney World. If you have any questions in the meantime, you should leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What We're Eating: Peanut Butter & Banana Protein Smoothie

So if you made it through the long-ass story of how I ended up on the bathroom floor and then became a protein powder person, you may recall that I mentioned a new obsession with smoothies. There are literally millions of combinations I could try, but there’s one that I’ve been using as my go-to recipe lately. 

Peanut Butter & Banana Protein Smoothie (5 points)
  • Handful of ice (more or less, depending on your preference) 
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 2 tbs PB2 powder
  • 2 scoops EAS Lean 15 vanilla protein powder 
  • 1 banana, sliced
Directions: Combine all the ingredients in a blender and fire that bad boy up – it’s that easy. I will note that sometimes I have to use a spoon to scrape the sides of the blender because the powder will stick. But other than that, you’re gold! 

Before ...

... After!
Cheers! Here's to a great post-workout recovery. 

P.S. You can find PB2 and EAS powder at most major grocery stores. I buy mine at Meijer. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tales of Training: %&!@ February

So I used to have a boss whom I often butted heads with, but I could always agree with her on one thing: F--- February. (Except she and I usually left out the dashes ...)

My point? Where we live, February pretty much sucks. If you make any plans, for any reason, Mother Nature will screw with them. By this point in the winter, we've had enough cold and snow, and we're ready to move on to sunshine.

The difference between my boss and me is that she could afford to make a trip to Florida every February to escape the arctic cold. This week, I had to settle for pretending I was running alongside all my Twitter/Facebook friends who were at Disney World for the Princess Half Marathon weekend. ::SIGH:: Oh well.

Sunday: Rest Day

Monday: PiYo Lower Body
I was supposed to do a "Fun Workout" according to my plan, but I opted for something easier. The lower body workout is heaven for my legs/hips. (Helloooooo pigeon pose!)

Tuesday: 3 miles
Took it easy with Rowdy ... I think he's ready to move up to more mileage, but I'm waiting for a good weather day to take him out and see how he does.

Wednesday: 6 miles, mid-4 at race pace
Well at this point, I'm not sure what my goal pace really is. I could shoot for the moon and try for a 1:55 half marathon, but I'll be happy with another 1:59. It's hard to keep reminding myself that winter miles should really be run by feel/effort and not by pace. Either way, I went faster for the mid-4 miles in this workout, and that's all I could really ask of my body in these temps.

Thursday: 5 miles
I was supposed to take it easy for this workout. However, the double-digit negative wind chill forced me to use the treadmill in our office fitness center. I normally LOATHE treadmill miles, but I actually felt relieved to not worry about ice/snow/layers of clothing getting in my way. So I kinda cranked up the pace for a while and let my feet fly. I felt AWESOME afterward!

A decent indoor run MUST be documented. Notice the happy face!
Friday: Rest
I was going to attempt to do a core workout, but my motivation pulled me deep into the couch Friday morning. I regret nothing.

Saturday: 13.1 miles (strong finish?)
So my options were to run Saturday morning in decent temps (about 18 degrees) as some snow fell OR run Sunday with no snow, but lower temps (about 10 degrees). I chose the "warmer" option and stuck to it. I mapped out a country route that I thought would be free of traffic for the most part (and it was), but it was also pretty slick. I was doing OK for the first half, but I fell apart toward the end when I couldn't get decent traction. At one point, I realized I was running so slowly with tiny, careful steps up a hill that it would be faster if I walked ... so frustrating! The strong finish part wasn't as strong as I hoped it would be, but I know I at least ran a little faster when I was back in town on semi-clear streets.
I stand by my earlier statement: F--- February
Looking Ahead: I have no idea how I'm going to get all my workouts in this week with wind chill advisories and my husband's work schedule ... I'll just take it day by day.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A lesson from the bathroom floor

I feel like I should start doing deadlifts. Or at least buy some free weights. After all, protein powder is only for meat-headed gym rats, right? 

Once again, I’m wrong. Life has a silly way of teaching us lessons, doesn’t it?

Obviously, I never thought of myself as a protein powder person. I’d see those big jars in the store and think they were a waste of money. “I’m an endurance athlete – I need carbs, not all that protein,” I thought. (Notice the past tense.)

Let me back up. I’m not a trainer or nutritionist, but I read a lot on the Internet, so I understand that proper nutrition is important before, during and after exercise. Don’t take it from me – Google yourself! ;) OK, for real: Talk to your doctor or someone else who has proper training and experience. 
My midweek pre-run snack

Back to my point: It didn’t take long in my running journey to realize I needed something in my stomach before going for a run. On weekday mornings, I usually have a banana and Fiber One bar, and on the weekends I have a hearty bowl of oatmeal before a long run. (Not to mention COFFEE – it’s an important pre-run ritual for me!)

As far as during goes, I really like Gatorade chews or Gus for long runs, and I eat them every four or five miles, depending on the day/mileage. Again, you should do your own research to learn more about carbs, calories, etc. 

Anyway, my after routine has been fickle. During the week, it’s easy to eat my normal breakfast after my run. BOOM. DONE. After long runs on the weekend, however … It’s been a crapshoot. I mean, sometimes it feels like a chore to get up and eat something. I wonder which is stronger: my hunger or my exhaustion. And some days, I’m just not hungry at all for a while. (And those are the days where I become ravenous a few hours later and can’t stop eating.)

I can’t be alone here. After a workout, it’s tough to find a snack that is satisfying, yet nutritious. I know I need protein, but all of my favorite protein foods seemed to come with extra sugar – which means extra points. I used to swear by snack bars loaded with nuts or peanut butter, but then I realized they were also filled with carbs. Then for a while, I loved a particular store-brand cereal with skim milk … then the store discontinued my favorite flavor. 
I eat these during long runs (an hour or more)

Some people swear by chocolate milk for post-workout fuel, but that just doesn’t do it for me. I’m not a fan of the taste or the extra points (AKA sugar rush). 

Then one day, I heard a fellow Weight Watcher on the Another Mother Runner podcast. Amy mentioned a protein shake from EAS that was only two points per serving – I was intrigued. I tweeted her for more information, and I brought home some vanilla and strawberry shakes to try – surprisingly, they were decent. Most protein shakes I've tried are thick and chalky – these were light, quite literally. They pack a whopping 17 grams of protein but only 1.5 net carbs. 

Kyle and I would drink one here or there, but I still wasn’t vigilant about my post-workout nutrition, mainly after long runs. I would have a shake sometimes, or other times I would wait for lunch. If I was hungry, I’d obviously make a beeline for the snack cupboard But if I wasn’t? Eh, it can wait. 

Then one day something scary happened. NOTE: If you’re my mother, please stop reading. I mean it, Pam!

It was a Saturday morning in January. Kyle was home from work, so I took advantage of the opportunity to go for a long run. Despite the slippery road conditions, I ran 10 miles. I felt good, great even, when I got home. 

Again, Kyle was home so I decided to take a nice hot bath while he kept Kenlee distracted for a little while longer. I remember briefly thinking I should grab a snack bar before getting in the tub, but I was more cold than hungry. So I started the water instead. Ahhhh …
Oatmeal: Weekday post-run meal; weekend pre-run meal

When I stood up to wash my hair (because even though I’m nearly 30, I can’t figure out the best way to rinse my hair sitting down), I started feeling … shaky. Nauseated. Dizzy. 

I sat down and let the rest of the water drain. I tried to relax, but I realized the shakiness wasn’t going away. Thankfully, I remembered KYLE WAS HOME, so I called for him and told him I needed help. I’m sure he thought I needed a towel or more shave gel … But instead, I told him I didn’t think I could get out of the tub.

Annoyed but concerned, he helped me stand up and told me to put my arms around him … Next thing I know, he’s yelling to Kenlee, “Help daddy find his phone! Where is daddy’s phone?!” The panic in his voice was just as scary as that day in August when he yelled to me, “Oh my God, I think she broke her arm!” 

I was confused and concerned – I thought Kenlee was hurt. I shouted, “What’s wrong?!” and Kyle came rushing back to the bathroom. That’s when I realized I was on the floor. 

For those of you who don’t know, my husband is a paramedic. He’s seen a lot of stuff. But before that day, he’d never seen his wife pass out and turn gray. He was scared, which made me scared. And we were trying not to scare poor Kenlee, who didn’t understand why momma was laying on the bathroom floor when she’d been told not to do that before … 
Yogurt with berries and granola: I eat this at work after a run with my BRF

Everything turned out fine – after convincing Kyle to NOT call 911 and get me a towel please, I had a banana and a shake before standing on my own. 

This is all a super long way of saying nutrition is important – before, during and after exercise. Looking back, several factors could have contributed to my bathroom floor experience (the hot bath water opening my blood vessels, not enough chew or gels during my run, underestimating the extra exertion involved in running on ice/snow, etc.) But I know in my gut (pun intended) that it was a wake-up call to take my post-workout nutrition more seriously. 

I was too embarrassed to share this story at first, but now I hope it can serve as a lesson for others. Plus, I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on this post-workout nutrition stuff. Those EAS shakes became a requirement after a long run … which wasn’t as friendly on my grocery budget, but I felt SO MUCH BETTER and decided they were worth the splurge. 

Then one day, those big tubs of protein powder caught my eye. “But, I’m not a gym rat!” I thought … but I’m also not made of money. After some quick math, I realized I would save 25 percent by going with the tub of powder instead of the pre-mixed shakes. My frugalness won out – I brought the giant tub home. 

Now, I’m here to admit I was wrong. Despite my pre-conceived notions of bulky weights and tire-throwing, protein powder isn’t just for strength training. And heck, the giant tub isn’t just cheaper, it’s also so much more versatile! I can use the powder in shakes or smoothies (recipes coming soon!), and I bet I could mix it in my oatmeal (haven’t tried it yet, but I plan on it) or other foods.

Behold, the protein smoothie! My latest post-run discovery. 
I’m not saying protein powder or shakes are the answer for everyone, nor am I endorsing the EAS brand. If you prefer the chalky shakes, snack bars, chocolate milk or chicken wings, that’s totally cool. My point is that nutrition is important for everyone – it’s not just for body builders. So learn from me. Make sure you’re taking your fuel seriously so you can have a great workout AND a great recovery. 

Trust me, the bathroom floor isn’t that comfy. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Track, track, track: The reminder on my wrist

It was a full-circle kind of moment. A light bulb. A realization of Oprah proportions.

Tracking makes you accountable. It's unbiased feedback. It's the honest truth staring back at you.

And it works.

It all came to me one day at work. My department has been discussing the need to track our daily work so we can more effectively manage our time and potentially bill customers for the hours we spend on projects. However, we haven't found an official system or program to do so. And to be honest, most of us were dragging our feet about it.

My Jawbone Up: a constant reminder to move and track!
You see, I tried keeping a simple list on paper, then a digital one. Some days, I was diligent about tracking everything I'd done ... and other days? I said forget it.

That's when it hit me. The days I didn't want to track? Those were the days I was disappointed in my performance. Those were the days when I didn't want a paper record of what I did (or really didn't) accomplish.

Hello! It's the same as tracking my food and fitness! 

For years, researcher have told us that keeping a food diary, an activity log, etc., is an effective method for losing and maintaining weight. And I've seen the proof in the pudding, so to speak, for more than three years with Weight Watchers.

I had the most success with my weight loss when was diligent about tracking all of my food intake. When I was ashamed/embarrassed/disappointed in my choices, nothing was written down. I bet a lot of you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

Just after New Year's, Kyle and I bought Jawbone Up activity trackers. I realize there's a lot of debate on the accuracy of wearable devices, but I found one huge benefit to mine: It's always on my wrist. It's a constant reminder that I'm tracking my activity, good or bad.

More often than not, I'm motivated to do good. BONUS: I'm motivated to also track my food every time I update my count for the day. So maybe I'm not really getting 5,356 steps today, but because I've been tracking regularly, I can see that I've moved significantly less than the day/week before.

It's all about feedback and accountability. That's my point here. You can track points, calories, steps, heart rate, miles or minutes - it's up to you. Just track it all! You'll be motivated to make better choices, and you'll be proud to write those down. Even on the bad days, you'll be able to see how you could improve next time.

So maybe my Excel spreadsheet at work isn't as accurate or detailed as time-management software, but it's a start. The same goes with choosing a device, app or journal. Every method has pros and cons, but the bottom line remains the same: Track, track, track, and you'll be more likely to find success.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tales of training: I'm back in the game

I stopped doing my weekly training updates after I finished my first half-marathon, but I'm back in the game. Not only am I actually training with a legit training plan, but I'm also on a kick with tracking everything lately (more on that later in the week). 

So even though I'm already on week 4 of the TLAM Half-Marathon Own It plan, I'm going to start back with (hopefully) weekly updates. I'm thinking they will keep me motivated on track, and I'm hoping they will help me keep some regular content on the blog (which isn't always easy). 

Without further ado, here's a look at my week of training: 

Monday: 5 miles, including 4x4 min. intervals
Mother Nature was a fickle beast this week, so I decided to get my hardest workout out of the way before the weather would forbid it. Even though my legs were sore, I'm still happy with this decision. 

Tuesday: 3 miles 
I was supposed to tack on some sprints at the end, but I was running on too little sleep.Plus, I had Rowdy with me and didn't know if he could keep up at a fast pace. Good enough, I decided. 

Wednesday: 5 miles, mid-3 at tempo
I'm still trying to figure out what tempo pace really is for me, but I felt like this was a good effort. By the end of the fourth mile, I was definitely ready for that cool-down mile, so I think that's a good sign. 

Thursday: PiYo Core
The training plan called for a rest day, but I surprisingly missed my yoga mat. I chose the core workout because I knew it would be easier on my legs and lungs. 

Friday: 3 miles
Brrr! I used to think my cutoff for running outside was when the weather dropped below zero ... But maybe I need to re-think running when it's only 3 degrees outside. Oh well - got it done! 

Say, "Snot-cicles!" (From my Instagram)
Saturday: 10 miles
I was religiously monitoring the hourly forecast Friday, and I knew that I needed to be up and running with the sun to avoid 20-mph winds. I set out the door just before 8 a.m. and decided to do some laps around town to avoid gusts in the country. The first 5 miles weren't so bad ... but by mile 8 the winds had picked up and I was questioning my sanity. Anyone local can attest to the sudden shift in the weather - it was worse than anyone expected. By lunch time, we were under a Level 3 snow emergency, which means only necessary personnel should be driving on the road. Crazy! Today, the road conditions are fine, but the temps dropped as low as -17 with the wind chill. Suddenly, my 3-degree run doesn't seem so bad ...

Looking ahead: Next week's mid-week runs don't look bad on paper, but the weather forecast is too turbulent to make any judgement calls on scheduling. And I'm definitely a little intimidated by my prescribed long run: 13 miles with a strong finish ... I'm hoping I just finish without my snot freezing to my face again. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

It's time to see what I can do ...

I'm training again, folks. Like, following a legit plan and running with a purpose. This hasn't happened since ... Well, really since my first half-marathon. I sorta winged it and created my own training plans for my four half-marathons last year (Side note: Holy shit - I really ran four half-marathons last year?!), but I decided it was time to stop hanging out in my comfort zone and start pushing myself.

After all, I want to run a full marathon this year ... Like, really run it. I don't just want to wing it and cross it off the bucket list. (Another note: Running a 5k was the only running-related item on my original bucket list ... I should really update that one day!)

Cue Elsa: "It's time to see what I can do ... to test the limits and break through! 

Feeling fantastic after my first long run of official training, a 10-miler on a rare sunny day in January ... Let's hope this feeling stays around when things get harder!

So step one to training is picking a goal. So far, I have three for the year:

  1. Run a PR at Towpath Half Marathon in April. I was planing to run the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, but my brother convinced me to do this one instead. It works out better because, schedule-wise, for this year. Gazelle Girl still looks AWESOME, but it will have to wait. 
  2. Help my husband finish his first half marathon at the Cedar Point Run and Ride in June. I'll likely run this one too, but I don't plan to really race it. This will be Kyle's big race of the year, and I want to make sure I support his training as much as he's supported mine. 
  3. Run the Akron Marathon in September. I know, I know - I was set on running Grand Rapids this year. But again, scheduling was a big consideration. The Akron Marathon may not have the flattest course, but it's got a reputation for being one of the best races in the Midwest, and it's scheduled for early in the fall, which will make my life a lot less stressful/complicated come October/November. BONUS: My brother signed up to run the Akron Marathon too! I'm so excited to have him by my side, even if we don't run the whole race together. (That's TBD ... We'll see if our training matches up at all.)

Step two in training is picking a plan. So last week, I started following the Train Like a Mother Half-Marathon Own It plan (available in the book, "Train Like a Mother" and also on Training Peaks). Choosing this training plan was a BIG step for me because it involves what I like to call "math runs." A "math run" is something that involves far too much thinking for my brain. For example: 2x400 @10k pace +10 min. WU - infinity + 25-60 strides.

OK, maybe they're not THAT complicated, but I've shied away from these kinds of runs for two years because they intimidate me. I prefer my nonchalant, non-focused kind of runs: 5 miles, 3 miles, 10 miles - just run until you hear the watch beep. Run fast when you feel fast, run slow when you feel slow.

But like I said, it's time to get out of my comfort zone! So far, I nailed two tempo runs (Thanks to my BRF Kim for cheering me through one!) ... and then royally messed up a hill workout. I was supposed to run six sets of one-minute hills, and I ended up running six sets of half-mile hills - THAT"S A BIG DIFFERENCE - and I felt it! After dragging myself to finish, I went back to read the workout description and realized my epic failure. Oh well - I survived and learned a valuable lesson!

Lesson learned: Read your workout directions very closely! NOTE: Ran the hills on a 5 percent treadmill incline since Mother Nature decided to give us more snow and sub-zero temps this week. 
So who else out there is training for something? Are you following a plan - your own or someone else's? Any advice for someone stepping up their game for the first time? I'm a teensy bit scared ... 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What We're Eating: Light Chicken Chili

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen the Light Chicken Chili I recently entered into the my office's chili cook-off. While I didn't win any of the awards, I got a lot of positive feedback (the pot was pretty much empty, if that tells you anything!), PLUS I was proud to put out a healthy recipe for people to enjoy.

A long time ago, I used to think that all healthy food had zero flavor, but boy was I wrong! This chili is proof of that. It's full of amazing spices, and it's even better after you let it set in the fridge overnight and reheat it - seriously! My version is adapted from one posted by Finding Her Happy Pace (I would link to her actual post, but I can't seem to find it). 

Light Chicken Chili (4 points per cup)

- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
- half a sweet onion, chopped
- 2 cans white northern beans (with liquid)
- 1 small (4-6 oz) can diced green chilies (with liquid)
- 2 tsp. minced garlic (the kind you buy in a jar)
- 2 tsp. oregano (you can use fresh, but I'm too lazy)
- 1 tsp. each of ground cumin, chili powder, sea salt and ground black pepper

In a slow cooker, combine chicken broth, onion, beans, chilies, garlic and all the spices. Then, drop in your chicken breasts. Cook on low for 8-10 hours (I have to do 10 because I don't get home til later in the evening), then shred the chicken breast and stir. A 1-cup serving is only 4 points! We like to add 1/4 of cup fat-free sour cream (1 point) and 1/4 cup of 2% shredded taco cheese (2 points). 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

No More Excuses

Let's review some important dates in the last two months of my life:
  • Friday, Dec. 5 - My last Weight Watchers meeting before Christmas
  • Thursday, Dec. 19 - The day I gave up and decided to stop tracking points for a while
  • Wednesday, Dec. 24 - The day I published a post in an attempt to excuse my poor eating choices and lack of tracking
  • Sunday, Dec. 28 - The day I returned to tracking, with my weight up nearly 5 pounds
  • Thursday, Jan. 1 - The day I published what I thought would be an inspiring post for people starting the New Year's resolutions (turns out, it was everything I needed to tell myself)
  • Friday, Jan. 16 - The day I had a bit of a meltdown on Facebook because I was too far out of goal range to return to my Weight Watchers meeting without having to pay the weekly fee (or so I thought)
  • Friday, Jan. 30 - The day I FINALLY weighed in at my meeting, back in goal range and back on track after eight loooong weeks 
That last one is the most important. As a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I'm supposed to weigh in once per calendar month in order to keep my membership and free eTools (my tracking app, essentially). I'm also supposed to be within 2 pounds of my goal weight or pay a weekly fee until I'm back in range. Up to this point, I was very good at skipping meetings whenever I was out of the top range (because let's be honest ... I've never been under range!). I would eat really well for a week, maybe add an extra mile or two, and I would be back on track. 

But this time was different. I allowed myself to fall down a slippery slope, even though I fully acknowledged it would be hard to climb back up. I wrote that I didn't mind dealing with the consequences ... Well, up until then the consequences hadn't been hard to deal with. 

This time, they sucked. I had to really work to get back to where I was before, and I didn't like the feeling of hopelessness I had, willing the scale to move down. It was embarrassing, and that's exactly what I told my leader when I walked into our meeting Friday.

"Where have you been?" she asked. "We've missed you!"
"Well, I've been too far out of goal range ... and too embarrassed to show my face," I said.
"Oh my! I've been worried about you!" she replied. 
"Well, you should have been worried," I said. "I was a little too merry at Christmas, and I had a hard time dealing with the consequences."

After a hug, she explained that I should still show up at meetings when I'm out of range because I don't have to weigh in if I don't want. She said what I already thought, "That's exactly when you need a meeting the most." 

You know what? During those eight weeks without meetings, I sorta knew in the back of my mind that I should still go. I figured they wouldn't charge me or care about my poor choices ... But I couldn't get past that little voice in my head that said I would be admitting to failure. The only failure during that time, however, was my failure to come clean and realize that I was making excuses for myself. 

My leader talked more about excuses during our meeting. She's always quick to remind us that excuses get us no where. We'll always be too busy or too tired or too stressed, she said. There's never a good time to lose weight! Remember, no one NEEDS that junk food in the house, and no one's FORCING us to eat that donut on the break room table. We can choose to give in to our excuses ... or we can choose to rise above them. 

So, do I regret taking the holidays "off" and going on an eating spree? Yes and no. Of course, I regret some of my food choices (Those cookies? WORTH IT!) and I regret feeling like crap most days (OK, maybe I didn't need 12 cookies in 1 day ...). But I don't regret the valuable lessons I learned from the experience. Ever since I started tracking again, I haven't stopped. That's right, I have tracked EVERY SINGLE THING I've eaten since Dec. 28, and I want to keep that streak alive. 

Also, Kyle and I bought Jawbone activity trackers on Jan. 2, so we've literally tracked every step we've taken since then, too. I'll have more to write about that later, but let's just say that the data has been eye-opening. 

So I started off 2015 coming to terms with my excuses. How about you? Let's get back up and keep going. The year's not over - we still have time to make it amazing.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Get. Back. Up.

Happy New Year! I bet you’re ready to get started on that resolution. Great! Here’s something I want you to know: You’re going to fail. Seriously, accept that now. I promise I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer though – I have a point. 

We’re all human (well, I think some spambots read my blog, but most of my readers are human), so we all slip up at times. Americans are especially notorious for making big, bold New Year’s resolutions about health and fitness. We do a great job for the first week or so … then we’re usually right back to our old habits. 

I’m not saying you shouldn’t make resolutions, however. What I’m saying is that you need to accept that failure is going to be a part of your journey. You WILL eat something you shouldn’t, you WILL skip a workout and you WILL tell yourself that packing lunch isn’t worth the effort anymore. If you don’t make a single mistake ever again after Jan. 1, then congratulations! You must be one of the robots. 

There’s an proverb I love: Fall down seven times, stand up eight. So like I said, you will fail/fall at some point … what matters is that you Get. Back. Up!

I used to tell myself, “Oh, I’ve ruined this week, so I might as well start over next week … or next month.” I would use the excuse time and again. I can’t tell you how many AWESOME Mondays and first days of the month I’ve had. But real change happened when I started to fall down on Wednesday, and I got right back up on Thursday (instead of waiting for Monday to roll around again).

Don’t wait until next week or month – every day is a new beginning. Actually, every hour! If you’ve failed, if you’ve fallen down, accept it and move on. Get up and use your next workout or your next meal as a chance to start fresh. It’s not easy, but when you stop wasting all those “already ruined” days/weeks/months, you see more positive days/weeks/months coming together. 

I think I’ve shared this before, but check out my weight chart from Weight Watchers. I started the program THREE times before I finally stuck with it. And in the two years it took me to lose 105 pounds, I had to mentally restart a million times over.

That line is jagged because I’m not perfect - my weight went up a lot, but it went down a lot more. Just this week, I had to reset my routine after falling down the holiday black hole. Of course that was my plan, but I still had to pull myself back up – I didn’t want to stay down for long. 

So I’m not saying you can’t achieve your goals … I’m just saying it’s not going to be easy, and you’re not going to be perfect. Remember, failure is a just a part of the process – you’re only a real failure if you completely give up.