Friday, November 26, 2010

Mostly I am thankful it is over.

I spent weeks preparing for the big feast-- the menu, the guest list, the diet survival strategies. I devoted four days to cooking and cleaning, which cost me 16 hours of earned time and an entire weekend, turned my hands into raw hamburger, and forced me to pay my 15-year-old daughter $5 to walk on my back. Before the Vivaldi CD was finished, the diners were. Thirty minutes of eating and three hours of dishes, it is all over. I have a fridge full of leftovers, four gallons of turkey stock on the stove, and a breakfast bar still lined with half empty liters of diet soda. Also there’s a squash gratin that never made it out of the oven on the front porch. And I am still googling low fat turkey rice casserole recipes.

Moving on is hard, not because I was that bad. It's hard to over eat when you host the holiday. I didn't even have a chair to sit on. I missed the first soup course because I was hauling an office chair up from the basement. It was pumpkin squash soup. There’s a void like I just graduated from college. It’s a bubble that seals you in. It is like I am still in a daze from the all night finals push when, all the sudden, I have to unplug my dorm fridge. What’s next? I planned my table linens and guest towels and candle scents, but not what to do after it was all over.

Thanksgiving was a great cover story. It was the reason for cleaning instead of exercising, for hitting the liquor store before the produce section, and for making sure my husband finished painting the shutters.

With it all behind me, what lies ahead? I’m hours away from a new program, which provides yet another fresh start. I am weeks away from a new year, which can put an end to multiple setbacks and obstacles. Work is coming to a new era as a result of recent turnover.

I know the answer to that “what’s next” feeling. Next it is time for me to create a healthier me by reducing stress, ending emotional eating, and making exercise my healthy escape. The time has come. My time has come. Wanna join me on this journey?

Monday, September 7, 2009

How to Treat Someone Losing Weight

It's a scary place for most people. The realm of weight loss or gain. We shy away from all topics weight related after asking someone if she is pregnant in our twenties only to discover she delivered 14 months before. After that we only comment on pregnancy if a woman's water breaks before our very eyes in the checkout line. "Are you kidding? You are pregnant?"

As friends, sisters, cousins, and spouses, however, we can play a valuable role in helping our friends and family to lose weight. It is a long, difficult journey. We need your help. Granted you might feel like you are sticking your hand into a fox trap. But it's really no scarier than your average carnival ride. Climb aboard.

Support us. Notice and acknowledge positive changes in behavior. Use the sportscaster technique. You only need to narrate what's going on. No wisecracks or sarcasm please. "You made such a beautiful healthy salad. It's so colorful. It looks delicious." This is considerably better than jokes about rabbit food.

Notice progress. If clothes are looking loose. If fewer curves are showing. If more curves are apparent, make a polite compliment. Make it something you'd say to your eldest aunt, not your youngest sibling. Keep it kind, neutral, forward looking, and positive. Instead of "the last time you wore that Jimmy Carter was sworn into the White House," try, "That dress looks fantastic on you, you look beautiful."

Be careful about calling someone slender, thin or skinny because she may not see herself as that quite yet. But we all can feel and look beautiful, sexy, wonderful, glamorous, fantastic, or fabulous at any size. You can, however, share observations about weight loss, "I can see progress from all your hard work. I am so proud of you."

The most difficult challenge for significant others of those losing weight is how to react when their partner is falling off the wagon. Commonly, the default is something like this, "Are you sure you want to do that?" This answer to this question might be a cast iron pan with wings.

A better approach might be to start with a compliment, offer affirmation, express concern, and ask an open ended question. "I am so proud of how hard you have been working to lose weight. I know how difficult it is. I am guessing that you might be having trouble tonight. Can you tell me what is going on?" Your next assignment is to listen to whatever that person's co-worker, sister, mother, or automobile is doing to make life difficult without trying to solve it, but just to hear her or him out.

Don't second guess some one's progress. It can be hard to watch someone transform before you eyes from an 18 to an 8. If you have always seen someone as round it is hard to adjust to a shrinking silhouette. Please refrain from telling someone they look gaunt, sickly, tired, too skinny, or anorexic. It is a bad idea to say something like, "Do you have cancer? Is that why you are losing so much weight?"

Don't tell someone to stop losing weight. This is never received well from a successful dieter who may or may not have reached goal weight. This is sometimes offered as advice to women who are sizes 12, 10, or 8. This response negates the progress she has made and plans to make. Know that as an observer of some one's transformation, it is you who is having trouble adjusting to her new body image. If someone is dipping into a danger zone of sizes 4, 2, or 0 and you suspect an eating disorder, you will want to be much more cautious in expressing your concerns for their health. Telling someone with an eating disorder to stop losing weight will most likely not interrupt the behavior. Therefore, if this is your greatest concern, you will need a different approach.

If you are trying to lose weight, tell people what you need, what you want, what helps, and what doesn't. If you love someone who is trying to lose weight, ask what she or he needs and wants, and what is helpful and what is not. If you do, you will find a source of support, courage, and assistance, that will help you to reach your goal together. The reward will be greater than matching track have conquered the greatest challenge possible together.

Those losing weight

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Dear John Letter

Dear Donna,

You mean more to me than I can say. But I can not bear the way you treat me. Everything else matters more to you than me—your work, the house, the children.

You don’t listen to me. You don’t try to understand or fulfill my needs. When was the last time you thought about what I want? When will I come first? I am overlooked and ignored every single day. Yet I continue to support you--day in and day out--in all that you do.

But I can’t go on this way. I feel more than mistreated, I am abused. If we continue down this course it will end badly for both of us.

I didn’t want to wait for some kind of crisis to occur before I said these things to you. I don’t want us to hit bottom. So I am drawing a line in the sand TODAY. If you want me to stay around, to stand by you, to care for you, you need to show me that you care. The time has come for you to learn how to love me.

Signed, Your body

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Confessions of a Saltaholic

For much of my life, it would of have been chips and dip, my last meal if given the option. My family tells stories. The toddler with the round belly in footed pajamas camped out in front of the chip and dip bowl on coffee table. Why a two-year-old would develop an affinity for sour cream, I can’t tell you. Maybe the formula I was fed had expired.

As a fourth grader I begged to be given the privilege of carrying the chip and dip bowl into the living room. The two tiered frosted glass set, which we probably purchased with S&H Greenstamps, was etched with grape leaves and gold trim. I didn’t get too far before I fell. I cried in front of the company I was serving. Not so much for the destruction of the family’s iconic serving set, but for the waste of all that onion soup mix, Breakstone sour cream, and Ruffles.

It’s not sweets that tempt me. It’s Triscuits, saltines, and pretzels. I learned to do things to Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers at a bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans to take it up another notch. Sprinkle Cajun seasoning on a bowl of the smiling fish before serving. In Ocean City, Maryland, I found Old Bay and Wye River seasonings would give me the same fix. Yes, I was salting salted cracker.

I had never counted sodium before. Then my doctor diagnosed me some kind of inner ear condition that caused vertigo. As a result, I needed to reduce my fluid retention by cutting my sodium intake.

Shattered and empty, I sat at the kitchen table, my chin in my chest. “Please pass the salt,” I asked politely.

“No,” my daughter said. “Your doctor says you can’t have any.”

My food was bland. It was like attending a symphony with no sound. Where was the volume? I bought unsalted pretzels and saltines. Unsuspecting family members who dipped their hands into the boxes spit the snacks into the sink. “Uggh. What is this?” my daughter asked.

“A snack only a meal moth would enjoy,” I said.

Sodium was everywhere. It was in my diet soda, my frozen food lunch, my zero point canned soup, and microwave popcorn packet. I pouted. “I gave up fried food, dairy products, caffeine, and red meat. There’s nothing left. Just put me on an IV drip.”

“Want a slice of watermelon?” my daughter asked as she served herself a piece.

“My Uncle Ronald used to put salt on that you know. My grandfather would salt his beer too,” I replied.

“And they made dandelion wine in the same stainless steel tub they all bathed out of in middle the kitchen, Ma. It was the Great Depression. Get over it,” she said.

“I’m trying to,” I said. “I really am. But if this was my last meal, I’d go to the grave dizzy.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

You don’t make time for healthy living. You take it.

It was a typical Monday, a fresh start at tackling too much to do with too little time, something I hadn’t achieved in any prior weeks. I walked in the door later than normal following a school board meeting.

The girls were busy in the kitchen preparing dinner. “Hello Mom,” they both greeted me with actual eye contact and smiles. “We thought we’d help out by getting dinner started. We are sautéing ground Italian turkey to serve with red sauce on whole wheat noodles,” said Maggie.

“I’m chopping zucchini, red and green bell peppers, sweet onions, and mushrooms,” said Emily so we can sauté them too because I knew you’d want to have some vegetables too.

“Why don’t you take a seat on the patio and listen to some music for a few minutes,” my husband said as he came in from outside carrying an empty garbage can.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “Garbage day is Tuesday, not Monday.”

“I just wanted to get a head start,” he said. “That way we’ll have more time on Tuesday night to take a walk together after dinner. I picked up some salmon by the way. I thought we could grill it. It’s already in a marinade.”

I sat on the porch with an iced diet soda and slice of lime. Finally, after all these years, my family has realized how hard I work and decided to pitch in and help out. I guess all that begging, pleading, and complaining finally paid off. It only took 12 years.

“It’s 6:04 on Monday morning. WKNE staff meteorologist Pat Pagano is calling for a scorcher: hazy, hot and humid with temperatures in the `90s. Sounds like a day for the beach, not for the office,” the radio rattled me awake. I reached for the snooze button.

It’s Monday morning. I have to approve payroll, distribute the minutes, and book the board room.

What a silly dream. Yet for so long that’s exactly what I was hoping would happen. One day my family would recognize all I did for them and start to chip in more around the house so I could have more time for me. That is not how it happened.

I used to think my husband would step over my limp, lifeless body on the floor to get to the remote control after I had, like an obedient mare, worked myself to death.

I tried chore charts, cleaning nights, and smiley stickers. But I still owned all the tasks that way. No one else ever took responsibility for them. I was desperately trying to charm others into doing “my” work. Instead, I just walked away from it all to do what I wanted to do for me. I spend time picking out recipes, shopping for fresh foods, cooking healthy meals, and exercising everyday. I put these as priorities for me, pushing doing other people’s laundry lower on my to-do list.

Messes are patient. They will wait for me to come back. But an amazing thing happened. My husband found where we keep the toilet brush after all those years. My daughters learned how to operate a washer and dryer. And I learned how to accept and appreciate the ways in which they do these things. They aren’t on my timeframe. They aren’t up to my standards. It is hard to even tell the difference before and after a teenager cleans the bathroom. The broom doesn’t seem to reach into corners of the kitchen. The recycling bin spills over before it helps save the planet. But they are finally doing what I always wanted because I didn’t do it for them.

How do I find the time to exercise, eat right, work full time, and lead Weight Watchers groups? I don’t make the time. I take the time. I simply claim it for me before someone else snatches it up.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Never too old to go out and play

It took my husband and I fifteen minutes to get to Goose Pond on our bikes, but I was much farther away than that from dirty laundry, unreconcilled bank accounts, and toothpaste splattered sinks.

I passed through a door when I entered the forested trail around the edge of a round pound. I was no longer a middle aged woman with a to-do list that could occupy a team of six.

I was seven years old. I pranced over exposed tree roots, jumped over puddles, hopped rock to rock across streams.

I was clever. I stalled to contemplate crossing wet, mucky stretches of trail, certain I had found a better route than all who had passed before me.

I was a goddess. I stepped out onto a slanted rock that overlooked the sparkling pond. I was on stage before the reflective water framed in blue sky and green trees. I stretched my arms out to the sky feeling the sun’s warmth on my face. Not tired, burdened, or stressed, I felt alive.

I was brave. I ventured into unchartered ways along the shoreline, discovering a fallen tree across a section of pond. I took a deep breath and stepped on board, placing one foot in front of the other. One-third of the way across, I called out to my husband, “I don’t know if I can do this. I shouldn’t be carrying my new cell phone.”

“It probably wasn’t such a good idea,” he replied. “You do have vertigo.”

“That was not the right answer,” I said. “I can do this. I will do this,” I said. I safely crossed to the other side.

I was an artist. On one of the few wooden bridges over bubbling brooks, I stopped to employ all my senses. My eyes scanned the many shades of green: vibrant glowing mosses, saturated warm maple leaves, and cool blue spruce needles. My skin felt the cool refreshing air rising from the brook. I could even taste the damp, dewy cool. My ears took in the rushing of water over rocks as it hurried past itself to the pond. I wanted to memorize it.

I was a naturalist. Stopping sharply mid-bounce, I landed softly and crouched slowly. A beaver was about a yard away from me chewing a green branch in the water. His big warm brown eyes and wide cheeks made me smile inside and out. His wide flat tail floating behind him, never rising to slap the water in warning, as I slowly passed him.

I was defiant. When we got to the cement damn where water runs across a wide flat stretch, I crossed the shallow flow in a march, purposely splashing as I went.

I was fulfilled. I got back on my bike muddier, sweatier, and wetter than before. The next door I crossed was into my house.

“Emily dropped the big bottle of brand new dishwashing liquid and the top broke off and it is all over the kitchen floor,” Maggie announced. In the same breath, without pausing a millisecond, “Can I go downtown with Min then to Hoffies with her and Grace so we can all go to the movies and sleep over Kelsey’s? Will you give us rides right now?” she asked.

By taking time for me, I was better able to be me.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Last Things First

When I brought my second child home, my good friend Fiona told me, “Last things first. When the baby goes down, don’t do the dishes or vacuum. Those things will get done somehow. Instead, read, write, or call your Mom. Those are things that otherwise might not get done.”

Fiona was wise and right.

It’s Saturday morning. There are piles of laundry, mail, and DVDs. From where I sit in the living room I can see three pairs of my husbands shoes—one resting on a dryer sheet. The floor has a light dusting of microwave popcorn and pretzel crumbs, remnants of someone’s movie fest. Are those movies overdue?

I should pick up. I should sweep. I should mop. No I should walk away.

Why am I obligated to clean up after everyone else? Tragically, my husband can’t see dirt. It’s a common condition associated with the Y chromosome. He walks right by it completely unaware of smears or crumbs. He even tracks in mud, grass, and horse manure without any knowledge that his boots have left a trail of deposits. What doesn’t make sense to me is why he asked me where I had gone in the station wagon to get it so muddy. I told him the living room.

My children are like irresponsible boaters, leaving a massive wake that rocks and tosses other boats without regard. Where ever they’ve been you’ll find evidence: empty cracker boxes, cereal bowls with a quarter inch of milk, flip flops, nail polish, nail polish remover, cotton balls, hair ties, crumpled tissues, gum wrappers, lip gloss…

I’m no one’s Cinderella. My husband and children all have hands and feet. Otherwise why would I be looking at so many of his shoes? What are my teenage girls putting nail polish on?

Cleaning up after themselves isn’t their top priority. Why should it be mine? “Last things first,” I say. “But why am I always last?” I ask. “Not anymore,” I answer.

It’s a beautiful day. I’m going to ride my bike to Goose Pond and hike around it. I’m going to give the horse a bath and groom his tail. I’m going to feed my soul instead of enslaving it in housework. Then I’ll come home and leave dirty tracks across the kitchen floor to see if anyone notices.