One Pound after Another

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Last month I joined Weight Watchers to get back to my goal weight.  It has been much harder than I expected.  Not the program, the commitment to stay the course.  There are more days than I like to admit that I just give up.

Because I’m not heavy or even over-weight, I appear in good shape, but I’m not.  I am at the high end of my BMI and therefore very close to being over-weight.  And my body feels it; in my joints, my clothes, in my attitude.

My weight loss has been like a roller coaster going up and down the past five weeks.  The slightest thing can trigger a change; a trip to see the grandchildren, a birthday lunch out at a restaurant, and even the everyday schedules I maintain with my commitments to Girl Scouts, writing deadlines, housework, and taking care of my grandchildren.

The first week of meetings I had a woman actually confront me and say, “You don’t look like you need to lose weight.”  It was disconcerting to say the least, but I explained to her that my attending the meetings was to reach my goal weight and be healthy.  She looked at me with a blank stare.

As the weeks progressed I noticed a pattern at the meetings.  Everyone sits in the same place or close to it.  Some are friends, mother/daughter, and husband/wife.  Many are life-time members and I would venture a guess that of the average twenty-five who attend the meetings on a regular basis, 90% are technically obese and of these members, 75% are my age (62) or older.

I am amazed at their grit and determination to improve their health by committing to the program.  I am proud to sit in that room and listen to their stories, their trials, and tribulations.  They are not unlike me when you take the weight factor out of the problem.  Yet, it is clear, that I’m not one of them.  They don’t see me as a partner in this journey – at least not completely.

I noticed yesterday that no one sits on my row of chairs until the last minute.  I don’t think they are avoiding me on purpose, but it happens week after week.  I thought about sitting in another chair next week to see what happens, but what purpose would that serve?  This is not sixth grade and a popularity contest.  This is my life.

The leader asked me to share a story I told her before the meeting and I noticed the ice crack a little when a few people turned and smiled at me when I shared my story.  I don’t need the other’s approval.  All I need is my own.  I know that what I’m doing is a step in the right direction and I’m going to keep on keeping on, as the saying goes – one pound after another.

Free to be Me

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When I was a little girl my favorite time of year was springtime. Waking to the sound of lawnmowers roaring up and down the street and the ligustrum blooming outside my open window, I took the good with the bad.  We didn’t know what allergies were in those days.  A stuffy or runny nose in the spring was acceptable and a rite of passage from winter to spring.

Today the Bradford Pear Trees are in full bloom; already their petals are flying across the airwaves from yard to yard.  The other day my throat closed up on me in the middle of a conversation with my new neighbors.  I walked down with a bag of chocolate chip muffins, just out of the oven.  So warm, the plastic bag was steamed over.  The teenage son, twin ten-year-old boys, and 8 year-old daughter gobbled them up while their parents and grandmother and I exchanged names and telephone numbers.  I was there only a few minutes so as not to disturb their unpacking, but by the time I walked back to my house two doors down, I could not stop coughing or catch my breath.  I thought at first I was choking and then it came to me that it was the blossoms of the pear trees across the street from my house.

Once inside the house, I drank some water and washed my hands and face.  This seemed to help.  I felt refreshed and renewed, not unlike the feeling I get when winter turns into spring.  But this year seems to be harder than years in the past.  My first full spring in my house where half the garage still needs to be unpacked so that the storage unit that needs to be emptied can fit into the garage.  I can’t seem to part with some of my family furniture like my parent’s antique Queen Anne dining room table and antique four-poster bed, or my grandfather’s antique sofa.  I don’t have room for them in this house because I no longer have a den or a formal dining room.  And it is not fair to ask my children to burden their homes with pieces of furniture they don’t want.  So for the time-being they will be housed in the garage, along with my craft supplies, sewing materials, albums of the children when they were babies, and various other things that would not survive life in the attic over the garage.

The other day while working on the garage, I found a picture of my mother and her mother standing opposite a table filled with an abundance of food.  The table was covered in a cotton cloth and a vase of flowers.  It was outside the screened porch under some pine trees at my grandparents’ home.  It was Easter Sunday.  My mother and grandmother look pretty and happy.  In the same batch of pictures was one taken earlier in the winter, at Christmas.  Again my mother and grandmother and most of the rest of the family are seated around the table, all turning toward the person, most likely my father, who is taking the picture.  This time the table is in my grandparents’ dining room and again the table is beautifully set and filled with an assortment of food.  But not one of us is smiling in the picture.  It is clear that this is not a good day.

Probably my mother has been drinking too much and her mother and father are upset with her.  My father has gone into the protective mode hovering over my mother and being defensive to my grandparents’ remarks.  My uncle is also drinking heavily and his wife is not supportive but instead mad at him.  One spouse is enabling while the other is admonishing and we children are caught in the crossfire once again.

As the oldest of the cousins, it was my duty to stay calm and stay the course, to pretend all is well.  This was not a job I was given, but one I imposed upon myself.  Welcome to the world of living with alcoholics.  There I am in the picture, clearly a young teenager, maybe 12 years old, with my legs crossed like a young woman wearing fancy white boots, like the models of the early ‘60’s, and in my arms is a baby doll that I got for Christmas.  How mixed up is that?  It is no wonder that wintertime brings up feelings of inadequacy and hunger for a better life.  And that springtime is just the opposite.

We are all called to be the person God wants us to be.  If we are to live as Spiritual beings so that God can live through us, then we must choose to be free of the things that hold us back.  I can choose to live in the wintertime of negativity or in the springtime of renewal where I claim my freedom as a child God.

So give me a runny or stuffy nose any day!  I am free!

To Think Impeccably

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Flowers from my oldest son!

I inventory my life to see what endings are preventing my new beginnings. I willingly, faithfully, and “gladly die to everything that is unlike good.”  ~ Abundant Blessings, Our Abundant Life

Today being the last day of January, I am a bit saddened to not be receiving more messages pertaining to new beginnings from the many devotions I read.  Always at the beginning of a new year, we seem to be prompted to look at life from a different perspective; whether it is a new diet, new exercise routine, new attitude about life, or a new approach to the familiar.  The purpose to this message of new beginnings is to extend one’s life; to live it fuller and with purpose and gladness.

One example I read about in my Science of Life Magazine was a message from Dr. James Rouse who said, “Begin this moment to think impeccably.”  What a huge challenge.  This is because normal society drills into us that we are not perfect, without fault, without a flaw or without a blemish.

Deepak Chopra reminds us that, “The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years.”  Constantly being told we are not good enough, we could begin to believe it.  Instead, Rouse reminds us to begin a new way of thinking about our bodies/lifestyle/health.

We each have the ability to create the life we want.  We each have certain gifts.  My gift is unique to me, while your gift is unique to you.  Neither is better than the other and therefore one does not make either of us better than the other.   My life is disorderly, with fault, with flaws and yet it is PERFECT.  I know this because as Father Francis Mulcahy said in one of my favorite M*A*S*H* episodes, “God didn’t create us to pat us on the back.  He created us so He could live life through us.”

Rouse concludes, “Create an exceptional livelihood for yourself and show it off to the world around you.”  In other words, be the person we are called to be.  “Eat with intention, with the mission to nourish your mind and body so you can transcend the cultural trance of physiological mediocrity.”  Meaning don’t listen to society tell us we are not perfect.

This is our time.  We are the one.  “Get up, stand up, and put on your radiant wellness!

The Spirit of Newness

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New day, new year, new life; we are bombarded with ways to renew our lives at this time of year.  Famous actors and athletes are promoting all the well-known diets which are on sale or have no sign-up fees. 

Biggest Loser on NBC started last night with twenty new contestants all vying for the chance to win $250,000 and once again several of the contestants are over sixty years old.  If you are a fan of the show, as I am, you already know that winning the money is not a priority to these contestants.  It is changing their lives and lifestyle to become healthier more productive people.  My favorite part of the show is not the drama between the contestants or the “last chance workout” scenes, it is the very last segment when we see the person who was voted off and how they look today.  It proves the point that even when you are voted off after only one week on the Biggest Loser campus, you have benefited and you are on your way to making yourself new.

This newness is not available only to contestants on a TV show.  It is available to you and me and anyone who welcomes it into their mindset.  First we must acknowledge the spirit of newness which is in each of us.  We do this by believing in ourselves and the strength we have to do what we want when we put our minds to it.  When we look within, we are able to face our challenges and not be paralyzed in fear.

Yes, the sixty-two year old contestant this year on Biggest Loser has a disadvantage over the younger contestants, but her age could be the secret to her success, if she chooses.  And just like her, if we, her compatriots, draw on our wisdom and acknowledge the spirit of newness inside us, we will be renewed in mind, body and spirit.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

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Resolutions…..good or bad?  Good because they keep us accountable.  Bad because we usually don’t follow through with them and then feel like we failed.  Most people wait until the New Year to start a new diet.  I like to start during the holidays and more specifically during the Winter Solstice.

You might think that an odd time of year but truly it is not.  What better time to rethink your life, especially the things you want to change? It is that time of year when darkness gives way to light.  It is a perfect time, for me, to turn away from old habits and pick up new ones.

Ancient cultures worshipped sun gods and the god of sowing the harvest, Saturn. The Winter Solstice marks a time of rebirth, a common thread in many customs this time of year including the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, a birth that ensures life will continue.  I am reminded that I have the power of the light of faith to guide my way; to be present in my life.

With this power I can do all things.  I can avoid serving myself a huge portion of food at every meal; taking a second helping when offered; and passing up on the delicious desserts spread before my eyes.  How do I do this?  One day at a time; one meal at at time.  I also make a lot of cookies, cakes, sweets, and rich foods —- and then I give them away as gifts.  I don’t taste them when I’m cooking them, and I don’t eat any when they are finished baking.

This takes willpower and strength, but I rest in the light of God’s presence within me and respect my 61 year-old body with the love it deserves.  I don’t need all that holiday food to be uplifted.  All I need is to turn from the darkness and walk in the light of God’s love.

I Am Who I Am

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Yesterday I had lunch with my granddaughter at her school.  I did not like school lunches when I was growing up.  So it goes to show that I don’t like them now.  It was pizza day which included a slice of pepperoni pizza, tossed salad with dressing on the side, apple slices, and milk.  And because it is Friday, for 50 cents the children can get ice-cream out of the Mayfield Dairy freezer in the cafeteria.  Some children prepay, like my granddaughter; some bring money that day; and most don’t get the ice-cream.  This is because the majority of children at my granddaughter’s school receive financial assistance for meals, and ice-cream is not included.

Parents and grandparents are encouraged to come to lunch, but not bring fast food for themselves or their students.  And we have to sit at round tables away from the other children.  This isn’t too bad because each student can invite two friends to join him or her.  My daughter always invites one girl and then sometimes another girl or boy.  My granddaughter brings lunch unless it is hot dog day or chicken nuggets day.  She’s been eating fast food since she was old enough to chew.  So far the hormones have not affected her.  When I join her for lunch I buy ice-cream for her friends so that she is not eating her ice-cream in front of them.

 Last year I ate lunch before I came to the school because she didn’t eat until close to 12:30 and that is too late for me.  But this year her class of first graders eats at 11:15.  So I bring a turkey sandwich and a few chips.  I buy ice tea from the school and assist the girls with opening packages, bags, ice-cream and enjoy hearing about their day.  The teachers don’t eat with their classes.  The para-pros do.  This is a term I just heard of since my granddaughter started school and is what we used to call aids or assistant teachers.  This year she has only one in the classroom of 20, but last year there were three para-pros because her class was very unusual with a mixed bag of children all gifted, average or with learning disabilities including one with autism and he was a genius with Aspergers Syndrome.  It was a wonderful class.  This year’s class is pretty average, but she seems to enjoy it.  She loves her new teacher.  And I enjoy having lunch with her.  It keeps me young and keeps me visible in her life.

I want to live for at least another twenty years so I can enjoy all my grandchildren.  Part of doing that is taking care of me and that means doing positive things that make me happy.  Exercise and healthy eating are right up there at the top of my list of things but more importantly is my attitude and the people that touch my life.  Keeping them close to my heart, keeps me strong, and knowing when to say NO and when to say YES to a request; that is also very important to me.  I have a very good understanding of what is right for me and who I am and that faith keeps me strong for I am who I am and that is good.

Mind Matters

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Before the days of computers, our parents and grandparents used books, magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, encyclopedias, the library, teachers, and their own parents and grandparents to learn.  Learning is a life-long task where we discover things created by man and revealed by God.   And it is the best way to keep our minds healthy the older we get.

My mother’s father read the daily newspaper religiously.  The day was not right if the paper was late. This is because it was his joy to share what he read with his wife, my grandmother who did not have the time to read the paper.  (Or maybe she chose not to do so that they could share that special time together.  I will never know, because I never asked.)   My father’s father was an avid baker, reading cookbooks and recipes he collected for years.  He then turned around and gifted members of the family with a homemade cake or pie or bread.  Both grandfathers stayed “young at heart” by discovering a way to keep their minds alert while doing something they found enjoyable.  Both of these men lived and died without a television as children and computer their whole life and until the last six months of their lives, they lived normal healthy lives well into their eighties.

My mother died, on the other hand too early.  She lived a short sixty-three years, as did her mother and her grandmother.  My mother lived a very addictive unhealthy life for the most part.  But she was funny, kind, a good friend, mother, grandmother and wife.  Everyone loved her.  I never saw my mother exercise in her life – not walking, hiking, swimming, running, dancing, aerobics, nothing.  And yet her heart and mind were strong and healthy.  This is because she read books and magazines and always looked for ways to stimulate her mind.  Her favorite magazine was the Reader’s Digest and especially Word Power, a regular column that lists words related to a theme with a multiple choice of answers for each word.  Answers were provided but my mother never cheated.  She worked diligently studying the words until she got them all right.  My mother also grew up without a TV or computer but I feel certain that had she lived into her eighties as her father, she would have welcomed a computer in her home.

Three generations later, I too, grew up without a computer, but there has always been a television set in my home as a child and today.  And I have used a computer for over thirty years.  But it was not until I started writing that I came to realize what a benefit to my health the computer is; for it is through the Internet that I search and research for the articles, stories, blogs that I write.  Here I find recipes, spiritual guidance, articles on health and fitness, and mental strategies to stay alert.  For example I signed up today to get A.Word.A.Day by Anu Garg  through a daily email.  It was free and like my grandfathers and my mother I can use the daily words to expand my world by forcing myself to learn something new each day keeping me well and whole and healthy.

P.S. Today’s word is picaresque.  “One of my favorite pastimes is watching the picaresque movie Robin Hood with Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHaviland.” ~ My sentence.

The 100 Calorie Challenge

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A registered dietitian at a local hospital lifestyle center was quoted in the newspaper recently referring to the 100-calorie snacks made popular by Nabisco and Frito Lay saying, “You’re not getting much quality food, and it’s not really filling.  It’s Dieting 101 for lazy people.”

As offensive as this sounds to those of us who welcomed these small portions of chocolate or salt to get that little taste we crave so much, the message nutritionist are trying to send is that there are more healthier options.   This is when an age-old dilemma of what is more important nutrition or calorie count comes into question.  And the answer is finding the happy median where both work together.

The older a baby boomer gets, the harder it is to lose weight.  According to the Mayo Clinic web site, “Muscle mass gradually diminishes with age, and fat accounts for a greater percentage of your weight.”  Most sedentary women baby boomers, over 51 should be eating 1600 calories a day.  But if you are trying to lose weight, as I am, 1200 calories a day is the recommended count.  Choosing between a healthy snack and a 100 calorie snack that lacks nutritional value makes sense.  Well-planned, healthy snacks can complement a weight loss plan.  The one redeeming value of the 100-calorie snacks is according to a registered nutritionist at another local hospital is that it holds us down to a certain amount.

And therein lies the real dilemma, how badly do we want to take care of ourselves?  Do we have it in us to make the lifestyle changes we need to make to live another twenty years healthy and strong?  Do we have it in ourselves the courage to look up healthy snack options from cookbooks, the Internet, and local nutrition specialists and then follow through by choosing 100 calories of fruit/ vegetables/ whole grains, nuts and seeds instead of a tiny bag of cookies, crackers, or air?  Because that’s what it is folks and when we accept that, we are ready to make the switch.

Here are some examples the Mayo Clinic gives for 100 calorie snacks:

  •  1 cup sliced bananas and fresh raspberries
  • 2 cups of carrots
  • 3 1/2 cups air-popped popcorn
  • 5 melba toast crackers, rye or pumpernickel
  • 2 tablespoons of peanuts
  • 2 domino-sized slices of low-fat Colby or cheddar cheese
  • 1 fat-free chocolate pudding cup

 I think I’m ready to make the switch, are you?

Great Recipes Online

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Today I thought I would give you a few links to some websites that I enjoy using to stay healthy and strong.  I signed up to receive emails from these websites by going to the websites.  This way I can click on the email, file it in a folder if I don’t have the time or look at it immediately.  They are listed in no particular order.

The Better Homes and Garden website is a good source from a variety of perspectives.  Recipes are good, advice good, and graphics good.  Signing up was a pill, but once I got it all straight I look forward to getting the emails.  For example I found a slide show on “How to Save Money on Healthy Groceries.”  The best news: I was already doing all but two of the tips.  I figured out what I was spending and compare prices.  I keep recipes of my favorite meals in a notebook, recipe files, and marked in my favorite cookbooks.  I plan ahead by making a menu for the week, check what foods I have in my pantry and make a list of what I need at the farmers market, grocery store and in bulk at a big box store.  I clip coupons (or I should say my husband does), I try to buy foods in season, I don’t shop hungry, and I buy generic when possible.  Unfortunately, I rarely cook ahead and freeze to use later.  Instead I sometimes make enough for four and freeze half for later and I don’t make my own healthy snacks….not when 90 and 100 calorie snacks are practically falling off the shelves begging to be bought.

Another magazine that has an online version is Cooking Light.  I usually go to the Healthy Living section and when I find a recipe I like I save it to MyRecipes, a very handy helpful tool from the Cooking Light website.  I check my favorite recipes at least once a month when I’m making my weekly menus and seem to always pick at least one recipe that I’ve used in the past. Sometimes I watch the video that accompanies a recipe to pick up tips on making it as I always seem to learn something new when I take the time do to this.  Signing up for MyRecipes was an additional sign-up process from signing up to the Cooking Light newsletter.  Today on the Cooking Light Newsletter I found a link to the best vegetarian meals at restaurants.  I’m not a vegetarian, but I do not have to have meat to survive and when eating out, most often the lowest caloric items on the menu are those without meat.  One of the winners is Subway’s Veggie Delight coming in at 230 calories for the 6 inch on whole wheat bread and without cheese.  I order it with their sweet onion sauce instead of low-fat mayo.

I mentioned in an earlier blog the Holly Clegg series of Trim & Terrific Cookbooks.  If you haven’t had a chance to go to her website at:  www.hollyclegg.com, do so and sign up for her newsletter.  It too is free and you will be glad you did.  The most recent one made me want to put on my favorite LSU t-shirt and start cooking as it was filled with the perfect food to eat while watching your favorite team on TV.  (Both Holly and I being from Baton Rouge, wearing purple and gold makes sense.) Or you might check out Holly’s blog at: www.thehealthycookingblog.com . 

Finally I want to share with you a TV show that airs locally here in N. GA on Dish Channel 266.  It is called Tasty Traditions and is stars Kim Correll.  I interviewed Kim for an article in the upcoming October/November Catoosa Life Magazine and found her to be an amazing woman.  On her television show which is filmed in her own kitchen at home, she demonstrates foods that are handed down from family and friends.  In addition she touches on handmade items, hostess gifts, and foods that remind us of times gone by.  Eating healthy does not mean one has to stay away from the foods you grew up with and shared around the table with your parents, grandparents and own families before they all disappeared.  If you check out the Tasty Traditions Facebook page you can keep up with what’s cooking in her kitchen.  And if you don’t have Dish TV, watch her on www.catt.com, a web TV with links to her shows and more recipes including heart healthy recipes.

It’s a new month, a new school year, a new day to begin thinking about your health.  I hope you take the time to check out the websites and enjoy some good old fashion heart healthy recipes including some fun football foods……and Geaux Tigers!

Better Step That Up

Today I got an email from a friend who was emailing to apologize for leaving early from a meeting we both attended.  Her husband who was with her wasn’t feeling well.  And then she added:

“My cholesterol was always up around 200 and I was keeping it down using Red Yeast Rice.  But once I hit 60 even that was no good.  It got up to 300.  So I am on medication for it.  I need to lose 15 lbs.  And when I turned 65 then all of the sudden my glucose wants to go over 100.  So I take the fish oils and eat lots of fish.  My mother died when she was 68 and my dad lived to be almost 92.  So I want to keep active and healthy.  I have not been faithful to taking aspirin though.  So I better step that up.”

My friend is always the first one to arrive at a meeting and the last to leave.  She continuously thinks of other people first and herself second.  She takes care of her grandchild when needed and is a beautiful poet.  I asked for permission to quote her. 

Why is that when her life is so full that her heart is heavy with concern for her health? Why does that extra fifteen pounds make such a difference?  Well she is right that a woman’s total cholesterol should be under 200 and hers got up to 300 then there was a reason to be concerned and a need to get on medication to control the cholesterol levels.  But can an extra fifteen pounds impact one’s life?

According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity is defined as “having an excessive amount of body fat.  Obesity is more than just a cosmetic concern, though.  It increases your risk of diseases and health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.”  My friend does not look overweight to me, but if she has measured her BMI and feels she needs to lose fifteen pounds then more power to her.

The formula to determine if one is obese is based on one’s height and weight and is called the body mass index or BMI.   A BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight; 18.5 – 24.9 is normal; 25.0 – 29.9 is considered overweight; 30.0 and higher is obese; and finally 40.0 and higher extreme obesity.  I only know that when I brought my weight into the normal range, my joints quit hurting, my stamina increased, and other little aches and pains just disappeared.  To calculate your BMI click here.

And what about “an aspirin a day, keeps a heart attack away;” is that true or not?  Yes and no.  In all the research I’ve done, don’t start taking the aspirin without your doctor’s advice because abusing the aspirin could do more damage than using it to prevent a heart attack or stroke.  The Bayer Aspirin website even recommends talking to your doctor first.  But it is also a wonderful resource for aspirin therapy.  I take the Low-Dosage 81 mg every day, and I did not discuss it first with a doctor.  I don’t use aspirin for pain relief nor do I use acetaminophen (Tylenol).  I do use ibuprofens (Advil) when I need a pain-killer but only sparingly.  I am confident the low-dosage is not hurting me, but I do tell my doctor about it when asked and no one has said stop taking it.

What would I say to my friend if she were here with me now?  I would tell her – to look at herself in the mirror and see what a beautiful person she is; stop worrying and stressing over the little things for she has already taken the first step by acknowledging a need to make some changes.  I’d say keep smiling, keep writing that beautiful poetry, and keep on being the person she is – a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, writer, and friend.  Everything else will fall into place.