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MindMindBodyBody July 12, 2013

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It is amazing how things have a way of coming together, all at once somehow. It is a strange and wonderful story. Back in the beginning of May, I was in a kind of bleak place. My hip was hurting. I had not been able to exercise the way I wanted to. My weight was bumping up and up.

Then I got the dreaded email from the Powers That Be at Weight Watchers. Because you know, they keep an eye on these things. We staff members have to weight in once a month and show that we are either in compliance with the Staff Agreement (that we will be within 2 lbs of our goal weight), or that we have an Active Plan in mind to get back there. It was just a form letter. It wasn’t aimed only at me, but I took it absolutely to heart. I was utterly disappointed with myself and for the first time in four years, I felt hopeless. I went into this whole spiral of: I am a failure. I am a a fraud. How can I be standing up in front of people when I have let myself down so terribly?

I got that email about an hour before my regular WW meeting. I broke down in the parking lot and cried. I texted another leader friend intending to beg her to cover for me. No way could I go in there. But she didn’t answer back, she didn’t answer and finally it was time to go and I had to just suck it up and go in there. I bumped into a member who greeted me so enthusiastically. If only she knew, I thought. We walked over to the center and there was already a long line of people waiting to get in. “Look at all the people!” she said. “They’re all here for YOU.” Which made me feel even worse. My eyes filled up again and I thought about quitting. For good.

I went up to the leader area to prepare for the meeting. I noticed that the new Routine of the Month was: Mindful Eating, aka Eating Without Distraction. I laughed out loud. This is my favorite topic. This is the thing I am the most passionate about. I laughed. I told myself, all right, I will hang in there for this month and THEN if it still feels miserable, I will quit. I started the meeting and it was just awesome. As they mostly are. I love my members so much.

That next week, I took part in a one-day meditation retreat which was part of an eight week series I have been taking in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. (MSBR) It included an hourlong mindful lunch. I have had previous experiences of mindful eating practice, but it was before I was involved with Weight Watchers. I have also READ about mindful eating a LOT (love the book Savor) but I had not really practiced it in a formal way. So this was, like perfect timing: to have this experience smack in the middle of Mindful Eating month.

It was an astounding, beautiful, altering experience. First, we did the Raisin Exercise as a warm-up. Then we all went into various corners and spots of our own to eat and experience our own lunches. We were instructed not to make eye contact or try to communicate via hand gestures with anyone else. To see what it was like to eat WITH other people, but not in a social way. Interesting. I had brought a sandwich I’d make that morning, a bag of fruit, two little cookies and a bottle of sparkly water. I took it all out and laid it out on a napkin. I took off my glasses and held each piece of food up to my eyes, up close.

The raspberries blew my mind.

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Seriously. The way they had openings like little mouths. The teeny-tiny hairs. The puffy red bubbles. They were so luscious and somehow tender like tiny baby somethings. I was overwhelmed by affection and appreciation for them. Sweet little raspberries! Then I turned to the blueberries. I had never really given much thought to how blueberries looked up close. But they were like little grandmothers. Kind of drier, and a little more wrinkly (which I didn’t expect). The colors were muted and they didn’t have the same baby-like quality as the raspberries. They also tasted so very much themselves.
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The sandwich was another story altogether. I remembered when I was looking at it, how I really don’t like to eat the crusts of the sandwich. But it felt like a virtuous thing to do, to not “waste” food. I thought about why I don’t like the crust. Because it doesn’t have any of the yummy filling or flavor. It’s just… plain bread. It’s dry. There’s no goodness inside of it. So during my Mindful Lunch I paused and made the choice to leave the crusts behind. I didn’t need to eat them. And that felt just right.

It took me an hour to eat a lunch that would normally be snarfed up in about ten minutes. I made many, many decisions during this hour. What next? How much? More? What does it taste like? How hungry or satisfied or full am I NOW? What else is going on? How’s the weather? What’s that sound? It was really one of the most memorable meals I have ever experienced.

I felt changed.

As soon as I got home I emailed my awesome Territory Manager at WW. I told him I had an idea: to bring Mindful Eating practice to our Weight Watchers members. After all, it’s one of our new core Routines. How awesome would it be to invite members to actually practice something, instead of just talking about it? He was in. He was so supportive and excited. The first Mindful Eating session (which I had limited to 20 members) sold out and was held about a month ago.

I loved sharing this experience in this way. I am so grateful to our local WW administration for allowing me to expand the experiences we offer our members. The feedback was so good.

“A calming, conscious eating practice.” “

A very uplifting experience.” “

A quiet reflection, a safe space.”

“The food tasted better!”

“A chance to stop and savor our food.”

It made me so happy. And guess what? That month of focusing on Mindful Eating brought me easily, painlessly, calmly back to my goal weight.  BOOM. :-)

The first event was such a success, I’m offering it again this month at our Emeryville Center. Bay Area peeps, it’s free and open to the public, NOT JUST Weight Watchers members. But all participants need to register HERE (free of charge) to get in, because spaces ARE limited. I’d love for this one to fill up too. (click on image below for details, click on link in previous sentence to register)

MINDFUL EMERYVILLE  copyI am so grateful and kind of amazed at the course of events that have conspired since that day I sat in my car crying, ready to quit. I had no idea what changes would occur, how serendipitous it all would be, but for all of it, I am so very happy.

 

Book Review: Craving April 4, 2013

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As I read Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough, by physician Omar Manejwala, MD, I found myself nodding like a bobble head doll, and also reaching for my pen to underline something on pretty much every page. This is a topic I can relate to. It opens with the question, “What explains the mysterious urge to do something that has caused so much damage in the past?” In other words, haven’t I learned YET?

I read this book to see if I could learn something new for my blog readers, my Weight Watchers members, friends and family that I care about, and of course myself. And while much of the content of the book wasn’t NEW, it was certainly reaffirming and validating of many of the steps I’ve taken that have helped me (and explained how and why I’ve had setbacks).

The book opens with a definition of what craving is: a strong desire that, if unfulfilled, produces a powerful physical and mental suffering. They can range from a passing urge to an all-out, consuming addiction.  The author mentions something called “apparently irrelevant decisions” that can lead to a relapse. Then he explores why cravings matter: because they are uncomfortable, because they cause us stress, and because people who experience cravings are more likely to relapse into behavior that isn’t good for them or aligned with their goals. (nod, nod, underline, underline)

It deals with all different sorts of cravings – from alcohol to food to gambling, smoking and sex. He addresses ways in which these are universal issues, no matter what the substance or behavior.

There’s a big chunk in the book on brain science – the neurobiology of cravings, why they happen and how our brains lie to us to make us do things that we know don’t benefit us. I happen to be a total geek for brain science, especially when it relates to this topic. I find it both reassuring and encouraging – it takes it out of the realm of “I suck because I can’t get a handle on this” and sheds a light on exactly WHY it can be so hard sometimes. The studies that are cited are fascinating.

The good news about our brains leading us around, is that we can actually re-draw the map and get our brains to work in ways that are more beneficial to us. Again, this isn’t new news, but for me, obviously, it is something that I need to learn and read over and over again, and this book does so in a way that is so straightforward and nonjudgmental.

The other good news is that a lot of things that I am already doing, are the things that are proven to work. Group support is key. KEY! (yay Weight Watchers, yay online blogging community, yay friends) Writing things down (i.e. tracking, food journaling etc) is KEY. Forgiveness is key. (One of my favorite, and most startling lines in the book: “Only love can neutralize shame.”)

What can I say? It’s a good book. It’s SOLID. It’s filled with good science, which I find both illuminating and reassuring. It’s filled with concrete, positive suggestions for addressing the issues of craving. It’s also compassionate at its core. It’s like, Give yourself a break. There are reasons you do this stuff, and it’s not your fault, but it’s not helping you, so here are some good tools that can give you a way out.

It so happened that I finished reading this book while alone on my writing retreat. I’m away from home, and out of my normal routine. A little excited (vacation mode), a little anxious, a little lonely here and there. Perfect breeding ground for cravings! I could feel myself veering into potentially dangerous territory. Reading this book was like a little life jacket being thrown my way. It was a voice saying, “You know how to do this. Remember?”

Some of my favorite underlinings:

  • Cravings… are deeply personal. Comparing your cravings with what other people experience is a losing game and can only serve to undermine your success.
  • There is no such thing as a permanent craving; all cravings eventually go away, whether or not we act or act out on them.
  • The ideal time to address your cravings is when you are not actively craving.
  • Another important brain function is to lie to you.
  • Health, happiness and even longevity benefits come from being helpful to others.

It’s good stuff. Check it out! You can pre-order here.

Disclosure:

I was fortunate enough to recently receive a copy of this book for review. For the record, I often get offers to review a product for this blog. My policy (and I am up front about this) is that I will accept things to review, but unless I really like it, I probably won’t take the time to write a review. I don’t really have time for negative reviews. Unless I really, really really DON’T like something. ;-)

 

100 Pounds Gone!!!!!!! August 12, 2012

Go Henry!!!

Summertime is usually a kind of sparsely-populated time around Weight Watchers. A lot of people are traveling, on vacation, or just not in the mood. Maybe they’re out earning lots of activity points. But at any rate, it’s not usually one of our busiest seasons. But this year, for whatever reason, my Wednesday night meeting is hopping. Last week was a huge one. I had over a dozen “celebrations” (where people are recognized for milestone weight losses, from 5 lbs on up) and the most fantastic one was Henry, who celebrated his 100 lb (actually 103 lbs) loss. (and counting)

Henry joined about a year and a half ago. At first he just charged out of the gate with huge losses every week. Then things started slowing down. Then he hit a plateau. And his weight went up a bit. And up. It went up and down. But through it all, he never stopped coming. Even when things were not going the way he wanted, he smiled and said, “Well, I’m here.” He came to meetings no matter if the scale told him good news or not.

A few months ago, we had a “Success Stories Live” event, in which we profiled several really successful members from our local group. One of Henry’s relatives was featured. At that night, he came up to me and said, “I’m going to be one of those people up there” (being featured) next year. And I saw that look of absolute determination in his face. From that night on, he just dove back into the program one hundred percent. It has been amazing to watch. Once he decided, it was pretty much all but done.

I could not be more overjoyed for him and his family. He first joined because his baby son had some medical issues. He wanted to be there to be a good role model, to provide for his family and to prevent health issues in himself. He is doing that all in such an amazing way. Add this to the face that Henry WORKS IN AN ICE CREAM STORE and also is a cake baker. Whaaa? Yes.  He is a professional baker who works in an ice cream store and he just lost 100 pounds.

(side note: he actually baked the delicious wedding cake for my triathlon buddy Lily’s wedding this weekend!!!!)

It is so inspiring to have Henry sitting in our meeting room, which is one reason I think the meeting is busting at the seams, especially for a summertime meeting. We have had to bring out extra chairs the past couple of weeks, which is great. The energy is high and the contagion of his success is spreading.

Every year, Weight Watchers staff have a special event with awards and recognitions and stuff. There is a special award for leaders who have had members who have lost 100 lbs or more during the previous year. I have never gotten that award. It’s really only a small handful of leaders who do. I have looked around at those leaders and thought, those members have really stuck with it. It’s a huge milestone and it takes so much dedication and commitment. I’ve had people come in with the goal of losing 100 lbs, but at some point they have drifted off.  Henry is the first person I’ve had who has hung in there through many ups and downs. I am fully confident that he will reach his final goal this year. I’m so happy for him and proud of any part I may have played in his achieving it.

Truly one of the highlights of my Weight Watchers career.

 

 

Healthy Beef Stroganoff – YUM! A Guest Post by TJ! April 12, 2011


me and TJ!

I’m excited that Tracey (aka TJ) is sharing one of her awesome healthy recipes on my blog today! Her blog is full of fantastic, easy recipes that are super WW-friendly. Check out her fantastic progress – inspiring isn’t it?? One of her greatest strategies is coming up with wonderful recipes to keep her satisfied and on track. Take it away, Tracey!
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Hi guys! Tracey here from tj’s test kitchen! Special thanks to Foodie McBody for allowing me to post a recipe over here today. :) I made this just this past weekend with my Mom and the whole family loved it. Beef Stroganoff SCREAMS comfort food if you ask me but sometimes with comfort comes calories. My mission along this weight loss journey is to make the foods I love…. HEALTHIER!
Beef Stroganoff
serves 8
4PointsPlus
*add additional PointsPlus for noodles
1 lb package lean ground beef 90/10
1 can Campbells Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom soup
1 can Campbells HR Cream of chicken soup
1 Cup Fat Free Sour Cream
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 1/2 Cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 Cup water
pepper to taste
First brown beef over medium heat until fully cooked; drain any fat after cooked.
In separate pan- even at the same time the beef is cooking saute mushrooms in a small pan sprayed with PAM.
Ingredients all lined up….
These are the noodles I used 1 cup for 5 PointsPlus
1 Cup Sour Cream
After draining any fat, add onion soup mix, sour cream, water, and both soups to the pan. This looks weird, I know, but wait! haha!
Give it a stir….then toss in the cooked mushrooms.
stir again…mmmm nice and creamy! Add in pepper if you like!
Serve on top of cooked noodles. YUM! After I took this picture I tossed in some peas. It was delicious!
Easy and tasty! My two favorite words to hear when I am cooking dinner! Hope you all liked my recipe! Make sure you stop by my blog to let me know if you decided to make it! I would love to hear all about it! :) ENJOY!  tj
 

Friends with Snow Again January 11, 2011

Sargent Wilderness Area, Chama, New Mexico

By the time I’d gotten to the heaviest of my Before phase, I had become a true hater of snow and snow sports. I grew out of my very-largest, expensive snow pants and SWORE I was not going to move up to the next size. So I’d go out in the snow with the pants unsnapped and only halfway zipped up. That was, er, chilly and distressing. I also remember that the maneuvering that involved snapping or buckling ski boots or other such things resulted in an uncomfortable/impossible squishing together of my ample midsection, and just tightening my boots made me dizzy enough to pass out. Often I’d opt to sit by the fire and drink lots of hot cocoa. Eventually I ended up opting out of going to the snow altogether, it was so unpleasant.

It had been probably more than 3 years since I’d done anything snow-related. But my very best college friend and the godmother of my daughter was throwing a 50th birthday bash with all her besties in the New Mexico mountains, and it involved cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and I could not say no. I thought maybe I’d end up sitting by the fire and reading/writing all weekend. But no.

The first NSV (nonscale victory) came the night before the trip, when I went down to the basement to rummage around the piles of snow clothes. I found the hated VERY BIG snowpants that I could not even zip up 3 yrs ago. Then I found the 3-sizes-smaller ones that my kids had worn when they were maybe in junior high. I held my breath. I tried on the small ones. HEY! THEY FIT! So that put me in a pretty good mood.

I got there, and it was beautiful. So beautiful! I am spoiled by being one of those people who can “go to the snow” and then leave it. And this was some of the nicest, prettiest snow I had ever seen. The flakes were giant crystalline shards of beauty. I was entranced!

My friend had rented me some cross-country skis. Back in the day, I was probably the World’s Worst Cross Country Skier. One, I had absolutely no stamina or cardiovascular endurance. So after about three feet I would be panting. Secondly, I was absolutely terrified to go up or down the slightest incline because I would immediately fall to the ground. NO JOKE. Once I went to this X-C ski resort with the family and I signed up for this hellaciously long (could it have been more than 2 hours?) X-C group ski lesson. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my LIFE because I was either panting in absolute oxygen debt, or I was trying to struggle up from an upside-down turtle position on the snowy ground, while the entire group looked on in abject pity and disgust, or left me miles behind. It was miserable and I swore on ten frozen Bibles that I would never, ever, EVER cross-country ski again.

But my best college friend, the hostess and birthday girl, had rented me some X-C skis. What was I to do? Well, the REI gods were smiling on me. They sent me one defective ski so that I could not for the life of me get it latched on to my boot. DEFECTIVE BINDINGS saved my dignity. I praised the Lord and reached for the snowshoes. Which I loved. And adored.

It is damn near impossible to fall down while wearing snow shoes. And thanks to all the running I did in 2010, I was not the least bit cardiovascularly challenged by this activity. I tromped through the snow, sometimes up to my knees, in total glee. It was freakin’ AWESOME. And it made my heart pump and my DirectLife activity monitor wake up and say “hey, she’s not dead!” and a happiness rang out across the snowy land.

So now I am friends with the snow again. I went out twice on Saturday and once on Sunday, the first exercise I’d done since the Plague hit me on New Year’s Day. It felt really, really good! And now I can actually contemplate the idea of renting some snowshoes again and going to play in the snow in my own home state.

PS. One of the nicest things about this weekend was learning how to make homemade chai. SO DELICIOUS and so simple. There was always a pot of chai on the stove and I became obsessed with it. Recipe and how-to photos here!

happy birthday, JAZ!

 

Guest Post: “Body Image, Schmaty Image” August 23, 2010

I’m excited to welcome Jennifer Robinson as a guest poster while I am off hiking, biking and running away from grizzly bears. Thanks for stepping in, Jen!


Scenario #1: You see a photo of yourself that you think is highly unflattering. In fact, you wouldn’t show it to anyone. What you really want to do is throw it into the fireplace and be done with it. But let’s say you show it to someone important to you and she looks at it and exclaims, “What an adorable picture of you!” This leads you to a couple of possibilities: a) You look that way all the time and so therefore maybe it really is a good picture of you or b) Maybe you’re being too hard on yourself.

Scenario #2: You’re dressed up and ready to go out. You haven’t been anywhere at night for a long time because you have small children at home and you’re always exhausted. But tonight, you’re ready to have some fun. You put on your most flattering outfit. Granted, you don’t look like you did when you were 21, but whatever. You and your friends go to a restaurant/bar/bookstore and then you spot her. She’s you ten years ago. Seeing her ruins your night and you go home depressed.

Scenario #3: Each week, you notice that your pants are getting tighter. It’s the pants, you think. Not me. You go out and buy new pants in a size up.

I’m sure that many women can either relate to one of those scenarios. I’m no exception. Two years after my daughter was born, I came to a chilling realization. Over those two years, I had not lost weight (the nine months to put on, nine months to take off rule definitely didn’t apply to me). Instead, I had gained weight – about 30 pounds! It was awful…but I kind of knew how it happened. I had been so busy taking care of my daughter that food took on absolutely no importance. I ate whatever was there, when it was there. The weight had crept on. And now, looking at myself, I wanted it off.

But life doesn’t work that way, so I decided to try Weight Watchers. After my first weigh-in, I was ready to dive in full force. I was completely obsessed with the Points system. Before I could eat anything, I would calculate the points; you could name any food and I would know the exact count. After the first week, though, when I saw I had lost some weight, I started being easier on myself. It became like a game or contest. How many recipes could I make that contained the lowest points possible? What was the highest fiber food I could find? And could I really eat WW ice cream and still lose weight?

Over the next several months, I lost about 40 pounds and went down three sizes. I felt like the Incredible Shrinking Woman as more came off each week. It was amazing.

Now it’s three years later and ta-da! I’m still at my goal weight! That’s not to say that I don’t struggle with the above scenarios (and many, many more), but I’ve recently realized a few things that I wanted to share:

1. We’re too hard on ourselves about how we look. So many of us base our self-worth by a number on the scale – but that’s not a true measure of who we are.
2. Everyone ages. That 21-year-old girl? One day, she’ll be where we are now. So why not embrace the aging process and do it gracefully?
3. If you feel good about yourself and have genuine confidence, it will come through. There’s no such thing as a bad picture. There is such a thing as too much self-judgment. And who has time for that?

Maybe the trick is to re-write our own scenarios. If we have the power to get in body negative mode, we also have the power to take ourselves out of it.

Jennifer Robinson is tickled pink to be entering into the blogsphere. Her writing has appeared various magazines and literary magazines including Writers Monthly, The Readerville Journal, Full Circle: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, Long Story Short, Looking Back: Stories of Our Mothers & Fathers in Retrospect (New Brighton Books, 2003), and 2DO Before I Die : The Do-It-Yourself Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Little, Brown & Co., 2005). She lives with her daughter and husband in Southern California.

 

Runner’s HIGH! June 29, 2010


Roadwork girls

Originally uploaded by B℮n

I had the best run ever today. And I mean maybe the best run I’ve ever had in my life. I can’t remember another time when running has felt so absolutely effortless, pain-free (YES!) and joyful. I just set out intending to walk, but then Earth Wind & FIre “Fantasy” came on and that got me GOING. And instead of my usual little old-lady run, (very short strides, more like a fast shuffle) I just WENT with it, and I was like, FLYING, uphill! It felt so so so good. Then I walked a bit. Then another song came on and again I just pumped it out.

Partially it just felt great to do that. It was a cool, beautiful morning in the woods. Partially I was rehearsing for the Weight Watchers 5k walk I am going to be leading this Friday (SO excited about this!). I was thinking about telling the members about stride length and pace, and remembering all I’d learned from my racewalking coach with Team in Training.

But all of a sudden I thought, what if I just ran… like a gazelle? (OK, don’t laugh) Instead of like the little old lady I’d started to think of myself as being, since my ankle got injured again. And my body just took off. It took off and I was like, WOO HOOOOOOOOO look at this!

I was also trying to show my Phillips Directlife monitor a thing or two. According to it, I’m not running even when I think I’m running. So today I was like, “I’m RUNNING, dammit!” I wanted to know exactly what I need to do for the stupid thing to actually register as “you are running.” As it turns out, it takes this “running like a gazelle” thing as opposed to the little old lady shuffle. Figures.

Anyway, I feel a renewed happiness about running. I hope I can run like this again because it felt so awesome. But to just have experienced it this one time was amazing. Now I’m even more excited for the 10k Trail Run/Hike I signed up for in September. Who wants to join me? Brunch at my house afterward because it is just 3 blocks away!

(note: that is not me in the photograph, but it looks a lot like my woods and it is how I FELT)

 

 
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