What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’?

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

mother ~ bike ~ photo ~ hamburger ~ salad ~ blood pressure

They were submitted by: http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/               

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.

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I am a terrible cook.

I don’t enjoy cooking. It actually gives me anxiety.

When I embarked on my weight loss journey, I knew one of the bad habits I was going to HAVE to change was the amount of times per month we were eating out. I needed to cook more if this was going to stick.

Ugh.

Nothing I make every looks like the picture. If I’m lucky, it’s edible. Feel free to question my daughter about the “Green Shrimp Soup” fiasco of 2004.  I think I may have blogged about it, but I’m too lazy to go search my archives. I suck at timing. By the time my main course is ready, everything else is cold and congealed. I often leave out important ingredients or steps, not on purpose, I’m just not good at following direction. I’m bad to buy the ingredients without reading the recipe and then find out when I set out to prepare dinner that the chicken was supposed to marinate overnight… So I wing it, often with disastrous results. Do you see what I did there? 😀 “Wing it…” “chicken…” Yeah, okay I’ll stop.

My husband is a much better cook. I don’t cook because I’m the mother, I cook because my husband works 2 jobs and goes to school full-time. No gender specific roles being assigned up in this house. I’m sure there is a small part of him (a very tiny, minuscule part) that sometimes wishes he was the stay-at-home dad, homeschooling our son and cooking dinners, doing laundry, meal planning, cleaning…oh wait, he does a lot of the cleaning actually.  In truth, I’m the worst housewife ever. But I try. I get an E for effort.

I’ve been wanting to try these new food delivery companies that seem to be flooding the marketplace. Places like Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh, Sun Basket, Green Chef, Home Chef, etc… There seem to be a billion of them. A friend of mine was giving out 2 free meals through the Blue Apron company, and my favorite thing in the world is free anything, so I jumped all over that opportunity.

Despite the fact that my husband spends HOURS at the gym, on the exercise bike, lifting weights, sweating it up in the sauna, staring at himself in the myriad of mirrors and reflective surfaces…genetically speaking, he is still at risk for High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol. His strict exercise and diet regime don’t so much lower his risk for those factors as they lower the risk for the side effects…like death.  As I kind of like having him around, I’ve recently switched us over to a more pescatarianesque diet, more salad and fish less hamburger and chicken. Basically, trying to lower his exposure to animal fats.

For someone who doesn’t cook well and doesn’t enjoy it, getting creative with fish dishes is extremely difficult. It can also be expensive.  We can’t eat salmon every night, and not just because I have a tendency to dry it out so it resembles something more along the lines of salmon jerky. I refuse to buy tilapia. If it can’t be found in nature and it’s breathing, I’m wary. We have to avoid the high mercury fishes like Ahi Tuna, Orange Roughy, King Mackerel, etc. Not because I’m pregnant! Don’t want to start any rumors…

Anyway, back to my Blue Apron experience.

I ordered the “fried” Catfish with spinach and sweet potato fries and the black bean and quinoa burritos. I thought both options were pretty safe, both for me in the kitchen and to satisfy my son’s picky palate. The kid LOVES beans. I haven’t been able to sell either my son or my husband on the benefits of quinoa. They just don’t like it, so I was a little nervous about the burritos, but I thought if you smother enough cheese and beans on it and cover it with a tortilla, maybe they won’t notice. I will admit that I don’t find quinoa all that aesthetically pleasing either. It looks like bugs.

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Having never used one of these meal services before, I didn’t really have expectations, but I thought it would be more prepared I guess.

For example, I had to grate my own cheese… Luckily, we had a cheese grater. I wasn’t sure if that particular kitchen utensil made our recent move. I was throwing out everything. Yes, I know the benefits of grating your own cheese versus buying the packaged grated cheese. I like to live dangerously. And lazily.

On the upside, I finally know what a shallot is and what it looks like! Whenever a recipe asked for a shallot, I could never find it in the grocery store, so I always just bought green onions instead.  Same thing right? I think you’re maybe starting to understand why I’m so terrible in the kitchen.

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THIS is a shallot, if you didn’t know!

By the looks and smell of it, I’m thinking a red onion might be a better substitute. Yes? No? Anyway…

There was a ton more prep than I expected.

I laugh at the instructions they sent allotting a 10 minute prep time for each dish.  It took me that long to find the cheese grater. I grated like half the cheese block, got tired and cut the rest in chunks…I mean it’s gonna melt, who will know?

I apologize for the stock photo‘s. I completely forgot to document my Blue Apron cooking journey in pictures, which is too bad, because the burritos actually turned out kinda pretty. You’ll just have to take my word for it this time.  Next time, I’ll remember to take those important Instagram moments!

Despite the amount of prep and cook time, both meals turned out pretty good. There were clean plates all around, and even the KEENWAAAAH went down the hatches! It was nice to not have to grocery shop or meal plan for those 2 days. The convenience alone would be worth the price. I think both meals were around $60 and are supposed to feed a family of four. My husband eats for two or three, so there wasn’t much in the way of leftovers which sucked because I use leftovers for lunches.  I could probably duplicate both recipes on my own for cheaper but it was fun to try it out.

I’ll definitely order again, just to spice things up.  If you’ve used any of these types of services and have recommendations, send them my way.  Especially if they have a “free to try” option 😀

Grab that mug, pull up a chair and read how my friends used their particular words this week ❤

Baking In A Tornado                        http://www.bakinginatornado.com

Spatulas on Parade                   http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/

The Blogging 911                       http://theblogging911.com

On the Border                           http://dlt-lifeontheranch.blogspot.com/

Bookworm in the Kitchen      http://www.bookwormkitchen.com/

The Bergham Chronicles                  http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com

Southern Belle Charm                    http://www.southernbellecharm.com

Confessions of a part-time working mom         http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/

Climaxed                                       http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com

Believing Is Achieving

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

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I get a ton of questions daily about what I eat and what kind of exercise I do, so I thought I’d write today and share what I’ve found works for me.  I plan on making this an ongoing series, posting my workouts, meal plans and anything else I find motivational or inspirational.  I know that I love seeing other people post about their meal plans and exercise routines.  I love finding new recipes and ideas.  My idea of spicing up the kitchen is buying chicken with the skin on.  I know, I’m living life on the edge!  Be jealous.

I don’t know about you but I’d much rather think about food than politics or the state of the Union which has been filling up my social media feeds here lately.  All the scrolling to find videos of puppies and kittens and things that make me happy is exhausting lately and quite frankly should be counted as exercise. All that finger swiping has to be burning calories.  I’m going to google that…

Apparently there is an app that calculates how many tweet calories you burn.  An argument could be made that swiping, liking and commenting burns about the same amount of calories as tweeting.  The average, healthy person burns about 2.65 calories per minute.  It takes 23 seconds approximately to craft a 140 character tweet, which means that sending one tweet burns about 1.03 calories.  I don’t do math, so I’m not fact checking this information.  I can’t believe someone sat around trying to figure that out, but it came in handy today.

Anyway, I digress.  One of my major goals for 2017 is to meal plan/prep every week.  So far so good.  I’ve noticed by planning my meals each week, I’ve saved a ton of money and time.  I was literally going to the grocery story every day last year, spending roughly $30-$60 each visit.  More if I was at Target.  We also ate out more often, and I’ve been scaling that back to once a week, maybe twice at most.  Since meal planning/prepping, I’m spending about $150 per week, $600 per month on groceries, approximately.  Some weeks it’s a little higher, some a little lower.  I was spending $210 – $420 per week before.  That’s just ridiculous.  Sunday is my planning day and Monday is my shopping/prepping day.  I put little stars next to the meals that go over really well, and I have theme nights.

For example:

Meatless Mondays

Taco Tuesdays

Whimsical Wednesdays (when I try something new)

Thematic Thursdays (I look for dishes from other cultures/countries – Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, etc…)

Fallback Fridays (old favorites, comfort foods)

Silly Saturdays (fun foods – like make your own pizza or finger foods only)

I don’t always stick to these themes, but it gives me a guidepost and makes it easier when I’m trying to plan to keep things new and different.  I usually incorporate at least one crockpot meal and I don’t cook on Sundays.

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I do not diet.  However, I do believe that what we do in the kitchen, dictates how successful we will be in creating healthier, fitter, happier versions of ourselves.  I follow the 80/20 rule.  80% of the time I follow a healthy, clean and wholesome food plan.  The 20% rule is because I love Chick Fil A, Girl Scout Cookies, Chocolate and wine and I don’t believe in deprivation.  I spent years abusing my body.  Starving.  Overeating.  Binge eating.  The word “die” is in diet for a reason.  It was literally killing me.  I’ve tried every diet out there and none of it worked long-term.  I worked with a nutritionist and therapist prior to my surgery and there is a reason they require it.  My relationship with food was detrimental to my mental, physical and emotional well-being.  I had to change the way I felt and thought about food or I would end up being another statistic.  I felt like surgery was a pretty drastic action, it wasn’t something I entered into lightly, and I didn’t want to put myself thru all of the this only to end up back where I started someday.

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I learned that food is neither inherently good nor inherently bad.  We assign values to food and it creates this unhealthy relationship.  We eat something “bad” and we beat ourselves up, feeling crappy and worthless and in my case, I’d end up just eating more “bad” food in this vicious cycle of self-loathing.  We embark on these crazy diets and fads, billions of dollars are spent every year, making the fitness/health industry one of the largest, yet we are still obese as a country on the whole and that number is rising every day.  There isn’t a magic formula or magic pill to lose weight or get fit.  If there was I definitely would have found it by now.  Losing weight also doesn’t mean losing fat.  The scale lies.  I threw out my scale and it was the best decision I ever made.

THROW OUT THE SCALE!

 You will be happier I promise.  Take your measurements, pay attention to how you feel, how your clothes feel and celebrate non-scale victories.  The scale will only make you miserable and obsessed, it is not an accurate measure of your success, failure or progress.  It doesn’t tell the whole story.  In fact, the scale tells “alternative facts”.  Cheeky I know, I went there.  Deal with it ❤

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How much do I eat?

Here is the other mistake many people (especially women) make when it comes to food and eating.  We don’t eat enough.  I KNOW!  Shocking, but true.  We are starving ourselves.  Our bodies need fuel, especially if you are working out.  I use the formula below to determine how many calories I should be consuming each day and I use the MyFitnessPal app (iPhone) to track my food.  I’m not super religious about tracking, mostly I use it to ensure I’m getting my protein each day.  I aim to get about 60+ grams of protein each day.  Then I balance out the rest of my diet with fruits/vegetables, whole grains, fats, etc.

What is your gender? Your Score: 1 or less – 1,200 – 1,499 calories
Female +1 2 – 1,500 – 1,799 calories
Male +2 3 – 1,800 – 2,099 calories
4 – 2,100 – 2,399 calories
What is your weight? 5 – 2,400 – 2,699 calories
130 lbs or less +1 6 – 2,700 – 2,999 calories
131-160 lbs +2 7 – 3,000 – 3,299 calories
161-180 lbs +3 8 or more – 3,300 – 3,599 calories
181 – 200 lbs +4
201 – 220 lbs +5
221 lbs + +6
What is your current activity level?
Inactive (desk job) -1
Moderate (server in a restaurant) 0
Very Active (construction worker) +1
What is your goal?
Lean out -2
Maintain Weight 0
Build Muscle +1
Total Score

You are wondering how I know how much I weigh if I threw out my scale.  Well, I still have to go to the doctor and they make me stand on it.  You’ll have some idea of how much you weigh, even if you don’t have a scale.

Make sure you are eating enough!

Exercise – I work out 4-6 days per week, depending on what is going on that week.  Never fewer than 4 days and never on Sunday.  What I do each day depends on my mood and how I feel.  Typically, I walk 4-5 days per week, 1-3 miles.  Currently, I am doing the T25 program thru Beachbody, which are 25 minutes in length and vary each day in terms of what is focused on (i.e. lower body, total body, cardio).  I also work to hit at least 10,000 steps per day.

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I don’t love exercise, and I won’t pretend that I do.  I do it because I do love how it is changing my body and how strong it makes me feel.  I do it because I don’t want to gain the weight back, and I still have inches I want to lose.  I do it because I know how bad not doing it makes me feel.  I can’t and won’t go back there.  I wish there was another way, an easier way.  But there is not.  You have to move your body and fuel it with wholesome and nutritious foods.  It takes so much longer to take it off than it does to put it on, which is horribly unfair.  Alas, it’s the way it is and that won’t change.  Find what motivates and inspires you.  Make exercise a daily task or to-do on your list, schedule it on your calendar. Whatever you need to do to make working out and YOU a priority.  You deserve it.  You need it.  You’ll be a better person for it.

I promise.

I’m here for you.  We can do this together.  We’ve totally got this!

Next time, I’ll share meal prep ideas, meal plans and recipes.  Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you, inspire you, motivate you.

So, I’m Basically Moses

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My Bible study this week has been focusing on Moses and the Exodus from Egypt.  This study couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  When God tasked Moses with liberating the Israelites, he was full of excuses about how it would NEVER work.  Moses was a bit of a whiner.  I’m not judging.  To judge Moses would be to judge myself.  Not that I think I’m ACTUALLY Moses reincarnated or anything like that (although…), just that I completely understand his fear and reticence towards the monumental task set before him.  Moses basically attempted to dissuade God in three primary ways:

  1. Moses didn’t believe in himself or think he was good enough.
  2. Moses was afraid people would doubt his authenticity or credibility.
  3. Moses believed himself to be a terrible public speaker.

I am 45 years old and still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I’ve always wanted to be a mother.  I’m not terribly ambitious.  I mean I can be super competitive, you probably don’t want to find yourself my adversary in a board or card game, but in the world of business, not so much.  I don’t have any desire to climb the corporate ladder or further my education.  I always knew I wanted children.  It’s the only life ambition I can ever recall truly wanting and craving.  Part of being a mother, meant helping to support our family, so working outside the home was a necessity.  I don’t have any regrets, but as I enter a new season in my life, I find myself floundering.

Our three girls are out of the house, adapting and thriving in a world outside of our little bubble.  We couldn’t be more proud of them.  Our son is only 10 and still living at home.  I don’t know where we went wrong with him.  I keep encouraging him to get a job and be a contributor in life, but he’s full of excuses (just like Moses).  Apparently, he’s under the impression that 10 is too young to work or drive.  I tell him he’s just not trying hard enough.

Obviously, I’m joking.

Or am I?

But seriously, most of the time, it’s just me and little man hanging out.  My husband (in addition to working 2 jobs) is in Seminary, completing his Masters of Divinity degree.  Unfortunately, we don’t see him as much as we’d like (never thought I’d say that!)  I’ve taken the last year off from working outside the home, choosing instead to focus on little man, my health, my faith, my husband and my girls.  We’ve focused these last few months on simplifying our lives.  We will be downsizing from 3600 square feet to 1300 square feet of living space in a few short weeks.  I feel like we are either selling or giving away our entire life and history, it’s both terrifying and exhilarating.  Like many people, we have entirely too much STUFF.

I’ve been looking into part-time jobs and opportunities, not having much luck or finding anything I’m truly excited about.  I feel lost and a little dejected if I’m being honest.  I’ve been channeling my inner Moses and whining to God about it.  I don’t do many things well, but I do think I’m a competent writer.  I haven’t figured out how to make money doing what I love, second only to motherhood.  I do feel I have a story to tell, and God has impressed this feeling onto my heart.  It’s scary to put yourself out there, metaphorically naked and under a spotlight.  I don’t like feeling vulnerable.  I’m embarrassed when I get complimented or even noticed.  I both crave and cringe that spotlight.  Maybe if I could keep my clothes on…?

As I read about Moses this week, I’m struck by his three excuses to God.  Why?  Because they sound so familiar!  Those same three excuses have been stuck on a loop in my head for months.

  1. I worry I’m not good enough
  2. I worry that people won’t like me or that I’ll annoy them
  3. I worry that I won’t be able to speak (write) confidently or authentically, that I will fall short and be judged harshly and found lacking

In short, I’m worried I will fail.

If you’ve followed my Instagram or Facebook posts lately, you’ll notice I’ve been posting more about my health and fitness journey. In my quiet moments of prayer and reflection, I feel like it’s this part of my journey that God wants me to share.  I keep making excuses and trying to ignore that little voice but it’s not going away.  I feel like there are so many people out there that have struggled with weight, poor self-image, terrible self-confidence and low self-esteem.  People who look at themselves in the mirror and feel shame, even hatred for the person looking back.  People who feel like they have tried EVERYTHING and nothing works.  People who have just given up, thrown in the towel, trying to convince themselves and others that it doesn’t matter anymore, that they don’t care.  People who are tired of failing.  Tired of feeling ashamed and judged.  People who find themselves spectators in their life instead of active participants.  People who just don’t feel good enough or that they measure up against the ideals of others, stuck in the perpetual cycle of despair and recrimination.

The other day, I shared my 21 day challenge group with all of you.  How it gave me new energy and focus, a sense of purpose and excitement.  My accountability group is comprised of an amazing group of women, who are motivated simply by helping and encouraging others.  I shared how in 21 days, I lost 3.5 inches overall.  I spoke briefly of how excited I am for my next challenge group to start.  In some ways, this group has given me a sense of belonging I didn’t even realize I was missing, a sense of purpose.

Over the last month, I’ve been reflecting and praying, listening hard for an answer.  What I didn’t realize was that it’s been in front of me all along, but I, like Moses, gave God a million excuses why I was the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong place.  I will fail.  I can’t do it.  No one will listen.  No one will like me or relate to me.  I won’t find the words.  I’ll suck.  It will just be another thing in a long line of things that I’ve attempted to do that I’ve failed or given up on.  This time, I’ll fail publicly and spectacularly.  I’ll withdraw into myself again, gain all the weight back and feed on self-loathing, self-pity and cupcakes.

WOW.

For real though, this is the rabbit hole I find myself diving into, time and again.  I’ve worked so hard to change my thoughts.  Changing my thoughts has changed my behaviors.  Changing my behaviors has changed my perspective.  Changing my perspective has changed my life.

So I took the leap.

I decided to become a coach, a fitness consultant for Beachbody, run my own challenge groups, be a part of an amazing team,  and see if I can’t reach the people who struggle just like me, need the encouragement and motivation of someone who understands.  Someone who gets how hard it is.  Someone who has to fight for every pound or inch lost.  I’m living proof that perfection is not required, just a willingness to do the work, to show up, every single day.  Celebrating both scale and non-scale victories is sweeter when done with people who truly want the best results for you.  I love my challenge group because it’s not just about physical change.  There is a heart change, a mind change, a willingness to believe in yourself because other people believe in you and are walking alongside you, cheering you on.  Where I saw failure, I now see opportunity.  I’m excited to embark on my new journey, this new stage in my life.  I’m scared to share it.  I’m terrified of not living up to my own expectations.  I’m even more terrified of letting my team down. I feel I’ve found a beautiful way to share my journey, help others while doing what I love most, writing about it.  I will still write about other things, participate in my writing challenge groups, share my thoughts and insights, but I’m focusing my energies primarily on my health and fitness journey.  Even giving my blog and social media accounts a bit of a face lift, revitalizing my writing and sharing space with a new look and a new name.

I struggle with this concept that I could possibly know or understand what God wants for my life.  I know that in those quiet moments of prayer and reflection, this direction, this path feels right.  I feel God is telling me that I am the right person.  This is the right time.  And I’m in the right place.  ❤

If you are interested in hearing more about my next challenge group, please don’t hesitate to message me!  We have another one starting on November 14th (prep week starting on November 7th) and it’s going to be fantastic.  I’m beyond excited and I don’t get excited about exercise or eating healthy!  So you know it must be good.

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I hope I’m the mouse, not the frog 😛

HAPPY FRIYAY!  ENJOY THE WEEKEND ❤ 

Wickedly Fit – A Halloween Challenge

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“Take care of your body.  It’s the only place you have to live.” Jim Rohn

On Halloween, I completed day 21 of a fitness challenge I joined called “Wickedly Fit.”  I’m all about the packaging, and the title of this fitness challenge group was just too cute to pass up!

My health and fitness goals have been stagnate for awhile now.  I hadn’t gained any weight, but I hadn’t lost any either.  I could see the old patterns of behavior, poor eating choices and a sedentary lifestyle sneaking back into my daily life.

It scared me.

But not enough to take action.  Yet.

I’d been creeping on this one girl’s Instagram account.   I didn’t know her.  I’m not even sure how I ended up following her to be honest.  I loved reading her posts and seeing her photos.  She’s adorable, motivational and inspirational.  I wanted to be a part of whatever she was doing.  It took me 4 months to get up the courage to message her.  Our stories are vastly different, but one thing I’ve learned is that unhealthy means different things to different people and it isn’t always just a reflection of the number on the scale.  In fact, I don’t even have a goal weight anymore and I’m seriously considering throwing out my scale altogether, especially after seeing the results of this latest fitness challenge.

I finally found the courage to message her.  She immediately responded.  Her excitement and enthusiasm were contagious.  Before I even knew what happened, I was signing up for her fitness challenge. For the first time in months, I was thrilled about the prospect of working out and overhauling our pantry and fridge.  I know.  It was crazy.  I didn’t even recognize myself.

I’m not one to get excited about healthy eating or exercise.  Ever.  The only thing working out has ever made me want to do is nap.  I get endorphins for chocolate or Chick Fil A but not from exercise.  It had been just over a year since my Gastric Sleeve surgery.  The surgery had taken me as far as it could, the rest was going to be up to me.

I knew this.

I just didn’t want to know I knew this.

My highest weight recorded was 297 pounds.  I’ve never told anyone that number.  It took me 6 months to lose 10 pounds and that’s when I decided to look into Gastric Sleeve surgery.  When I decided to go in for surgery, I was down to 287.5 pounds.  The date was July 21, 2015.  My surgery date was August 19, 2015.  By January 2016, I was down to 216 pounds.  I lost 71.5 pounds in 6 months.  Unfortunately, there were side effects.  My hair thinned out, at an alarming rate.  I lost muscle and I found myself feeling low on energy and motivation.  My periods, while much improved, were still bad and irregular.  I lost another 10 pounds over the next few months, but by May of 2016, I had stalled out.  I didn’t exercise over the summer and I was starting to panic that I was going to eventually put all the weight back on.  Gastric sleeve surgery gave me an internal control over portion size, but I was filling up on all the wrong things and wasn’t getting the vitamins and nutrients my body needed.  I felt run down and worn out.  Not to mention, disgusted with myself.  Did I really put myself through all this only to quit, to fail?

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Was I going to be THAT girl again?

I hope not.

No, I definitely did not want to fail (nor did I want to see my chins having chins)!

So I gathered my courage and messaged this girl to find out what this Wickedly Fit program was all about.

I received access to a Facebook accountability group (my favorite part).  This group of women kept me going day after day.  They were positive and encouraging.  They were open and honest about their struggles and challenges.  We celebrated non-scale victories, participated in daily challenge questions/activities and posted all sorts of wonderful food porn (the clean and healthy kind).  I wasn’t intimidated by this group at all.  Quite the opposite in fact. I found myself sharing and opening up about my own struggles and daily challenges and even victories.  I found myself bolstered and encouraged and being a part of this special group of ladies gave me the motivation I needed to complete this 21 day challenge.

I also received a 30 day supply of Shakeology and the 21 Day Fix workout program and eating plan, complete with portion control containers.  This whole program is facilitated by Beachbody.  I was familiar with their programs, and had used them to bounce back in shape after my youngest daughter was born.  I knew they worked.  I knew it wasn’t a quick fix.  I knew it would take hard work and dedication on my part.

I was ready.

Sort of.

I mean, I paid for it.  So I’d better be ready.  I was nervous though…

Failure.  My biggest fear.  Always hovering over me like the Grim Reaper.  Whispering negative words of discouragement in my ear, making me doubt myself.  This particular demon has always plagued me, but I was learning to fight back.  I was learning to stifle and smother those negative thoughts and feelings.  I have good days and bad days.  Days when I see all that I have accomplished and days when I only see the ways in which I have failed. Before my surgery, I would binge eat those feelings.  Now, I binge watch Netflix.  Not quite the trade I should be making.  I know.  But still…a slight improvement.

The “before” picture was taken on Day 1 of the challenge and the “after” picture taken on the last day of the challenge.  21 days total.  I lost 3 1/2 inches overall.  I can definitely see subtle changes and I hope you see them too.  Naturally, I lost the most inches in my chest. Just proving that my boobs are the first thing to go when I lose weight.  Actually, despite losing 3 1/2 inches, I gained 3 pounds.  I weighed before I measured and I was devastated.  I almost didn’t even take my measurements, but I’m so glad I did.  I’ve never been one to record my measurements, but this 21 day challenge made a believer out of me.  I could see noticeable differences in how my clothes fit and how I felt that just wasn’t reflected on the scale.

It was a dark moment, and one that in the past I would have responded to by raiding the pantry.  Instead, I chose to reach out to my challenge group through Facebook.  Post my results and reveal what I considered to be a failure, the gaining of 3 pounds.  I’ve since adjusted my perceptions and I’m super proud of the 3 1/2 inches I lost.  I can’t wait for my next challenge group to start!  Despite what my scale would have me believe, I am transforming my body, making positive changes, gaining strength and confidence.

I’ve got this!

Today.

Tomorrow might be a different story.  But I’ll deal with tomorrow…tomorrow.

The last year of my life was about losing the weight and finding myself.  This next year, I want to focus on living a healthy lifestyle, strengthening my body, mind and soul in new and different ways.  Yes, I still have weight I want to lose, but I want to focus less on the scale and more on building strength and flexibility, pushing my body in ways I never imagined I’d be able to do again.  I want to transform myself physically, mentally and spiritually.  I want to develop attainable goals and then smash through them.  I want to redefine what beauty and success mean to me, not measured by what others think or believe, but about what works for me.

One day at a time.

I want to share my journey and experiences with others.  I draw strength from putting myself out there, as terrifying as it can be.  I hope that maybe someone reading this will be inspired or encouraged, reach out either to me or someone else.  I hope that maybe they won’t feel alone or afraid.  Our goals might be different.  Our struggles, challenges and motivations might be different.  At the end of the day, we all want to be the best versions of ourselves.  We all have desires, wants and needs.  Things we want to accomplish.  Let’s do it together ❤

Wishful Shrinking

“The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” Audrey Hepburn

The other morning, leaning over to reach into my dresser, I felt something brush against my upper thigh, which quite startled me.  I looked down expecting to see some terrifying rabid rodent with ginormous teeth, but no…  It was just my boob.  A dose of humility is always a great way to start the day.

Another month has come and gone since I last updated my weight loss progress.  Here is the first set of pictures I took in January:

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and current pictures:

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I thought the towel turban was a nice touch this time.  I have a thigh gap!  You might need a magnifying glass and a little imagination but it’s there!  I have a mental picture now of everyone leaning into the screen scrutinizing the area around my crotch trying to find my minuscule thigh gap.  I’m feeling super awkward.  Ok, you can stop staring now.  Trust me, it’s there.

My current weight is:

208 lbs

I’m down another 5.7 lbs bringing my total weight loss to:

79.5 lbs

I’m so close to “ONEderland” that I can taste it, and it tastes good!

I definitely see the results in my face.  At my heaviest (287 lbs), I remember catching my reflection in a mirror and being shocked at the person staring back at me.  Feeling trapped inside yourself is the worst feeling ever.  Viewing yourself under the distorted lens of disgust, shame and embarrassment is a burden far heavier than the actual weight you carry.  I felt like me, but when I would see myself in a reflective surface, I experienced a moment of confusion trying to work out who the person was looking back at me.

That can’t be me.

I don’t look like that.

Do I?

I do.  I did.

Recently, the cover choice of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition made news featuring the 1st ever “plus-size” model, Ashley Graham.  According to Google, Ms. Graham is 5 ft and 9 in tall and weighs 201 lbs.  Her BMI is 29.7. Her measurements are 42-30-46.  I don’t know how often she works out or what she eats.  I don’t know her cholesterol or blood pressure.  I can’t really draw any conclusions about her overall health or physical condition, nor do I want to.

Is she beautiful?  Absolutely.

Is she healthy?  I don’t know.

Did my husband think I was beautiful at 287 lbs?  Absolutely.

Was I healthy?  Absolutely not.

Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes and colors.  Beauty can’t be measured by a number on the scale.  Beauty is subjective. Inner beauty eclipses physical beauty.  We were all made in God’s image.  We are all beautifully unique.  Differences should be celebrated. Beauty should be discovered in the things we do, the actions we take for one another or on behalf of one another. We allow social industry to define what is beautiful and then judge ourselves and others harshly when we don’t live up to these ideals.  We create buzz words like “fat shaming” or “skinny shaming” to condemn others and ourselves for accepting an image we all helped create and perpetuate. Beauty can be found in unexpected places and people.  A smile.  A laugh.  A sunset.  A kind word.  A kind deed.

Every person is distinctly beautiful with qualities, elements and attributes that make them uniquely diverse.  Diversity is beautiful.

Can you be overweight/underweight and healthy?  That is a different question entirely.  One that perhaps cannot be judged from the outside looking in, but still an important distinction.

Health can be measured.

Being overweight or obese creates a greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, reproductive issues, and more.

Being underweight creates a greater risk of a weakened immune system, fragile bones, anemia, fertility issues and more.

Health is important.  We treat the question of beauty and health as if they are mutually exclusive.  My husband told me daily I was beautiful, but he worried for my health, because of my weight.  He believed me to be beautiful but he also knew my weight was unhealthy. Weight isn’t the only factor in determining health either.  There is emotional health, physical health and spiritual health.  Many factors influence how healthy we are in all aspects and areas of our life.  These are things that can’t always be judged or measured by just looking at someone.

I feel guilty that even though I treated my body like a toxic waste dump, I stayed surprisingly healthy.  I think of those that eat right, exercise, do all the things they are supposed to do and then walk away from a doctor’s appointment with a dreaded life altering diagnosis.  In my mind, I imagine them sitting next to me at a restaurant.  How they must look at me.  How I would have looked at me.  Why does she get to walk around healthy, treating her body so poorly and shamefully?

My health is a gift.  A gift I took for granted.  A gift I abused.  I’m blessed to have been given the chance to change my outcome.  I don’t want to screw this up, which is why I blog about it.  To hold myself accountable.

God gave us this incredible vessel and it’s our responsibility to care for it, to the best of our ability.  I failed to do this and I’ve suffered for it.  Those around me have suffered for it.  My children have suffered for it.  I’ve passed down a legacy of poor self-image, self-doubt and shame. What do they see when they look in the mirror?  How much have I contributed to the lens they each use to view themselves, both positive and negative thoughts and does one outweigh the other and which one?  These thoughts keep me up at night.  They are my biggest cheerleaders and support system outside of my husband.  I’m not fighting to be thin or a certain size or shape.  I am fighting to be healthy.  I want to be an integral part and active participant of their whole lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren and God willing, great-grandchildren.

I haven’t always gotten it right. I don’t pretend any differently with my children.  When I screw up, I say I screwed up.  I apologize.  I make it right.  I hope that while they will never see perfection, they will see someone who never gave up.  Someone who learned from her mistakes and wasn’t too proud or ashamed to ask for forgiveness, admit to being wrong, seek to repair and rebuild.  I want them to know how much I love them, not just in word but in deed.  I want them to know that I learned to love myself.  Not just the good parts either.  I want them to know that I became someone who looked in the mirror, and liked what she saw.  Loved, even.  I want them to be proud of me and to know that I’m proud of myself.  I haven’t always handled my struggles and failures with grace.  In some ways, I hope to serve as a cautionary tale to my children.  Time is short.  Time is precious.  Don’t be afraid to take on life’s challenges.  Learn from your mistakes and move on.  Be unique.  Be special.  Just be you.  Above all, I hope they always know how much they are loved. Forever and always.

I use self-deprecation and humor to address issues I find painful or difficult.  I’ve turned making fun of myself into an art form.  I don’t love my loose skin, cellulite or stretch marks.  I probably never will.  I cope by using humor.  I’ll make fun of myself, beat everyone else to the punch.  Internal dialogue is much harder to change than physical appearance.  My body is less a wonderland and more like a carnival, complete with fun house mirrors, sideshow acts and sketchy rides.  My boobs might droop to the ground but at least they don’t rest on my stomach any longer.  Progress!  I can see my feet again without having to suck in while bending forward.  See what I mean!  Poking fun of myself has become as natural as breathing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  I can’t believe I’ve lost the equivalent of a 6th grader when it comes to weight.  While I do want to change how I see myself, I love that I don’t take myself too seriously.  I enjoy my sense of humor and make myself laugh all the time.  Sometimes at myself, but that’s ok.  The weight signified some serious emotional baggage, and I’m working thru it.  Perfection is not the goal.  Humor isn’t a mask I wear anymore, it comes from a genuine place of joy.  Joy in the space I now find myself.  Joy in how far I’ve come.  Joy in the little things I took for granted.  Joy in the big things I failed to see but now find opened before me.  Joy in the faith I thought I’d lost forever.  Joy in the fact that God never gave up on me. Joy in the fact that my husband and kids didn’t give up on me. Joy in the fact that I didn’t give up on myself.

I can’t change my mistakes or the errors in judgment I’ve made over the years.  I haven’t always been the mother my children deserved.  Or the wife my husband deserved. Or the faithful servant God wanted me to be.  I’ve found unspeakable beauty in the power of forgiveness.  In forgiving myself. In being forgiven.  In forgiving others. I took the path of most resistance.  It was mostly uphill.  In the snow. And darkness.  I might have also been naked…

However, I feel like I’m standing in the sun now, and the view is beautiful.

ONEDERLAND HERE I COME!  

“There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.” Conrad Hall   

Highway to Health

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“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

My biggest fear is fear of failure.

My weight was never about the number on the scale or what size clothes I wore or trying to conform to a cultural ideal.  My weight was an outward representation of how I felt on the inside.

My weight became my excuse.

My excuse to withdraw from life, to hide.

The worse I felt about myself, my circumstances, the more weight I put on, which made me feel even worse, creating this pattern of cyclical despair.  I felt sorry for myself and every pound represented that self-pity.  I wasn’t just physically unhealthy, I was emotionally unhealthy.  I felt abandoned in my self-imposed exile.

My weight was a way to keep everyone at a distance.  I felt shame.

Shame that I allowed myself to spin so far out of control.  The more shame I felt, the higher the walls I built around myself.  Every pound was a virtual brick, shame the mortar holding it all together, higher and higher the wall grew almost with a life of its own.  I felt trapped by my own inadequacy to make impactful change.  I felt paralyzed by fear.

Fear of failure.

Every diet or exercise program I attempted ended with me gaining more weight.  The weight gain or failure to lose pounds fueled my negative internal dialogue.  It was simply a matter of self-control, of which I clearly had none.  Why keep trying?  I can’t do it. I’ve tried.  I’m tired of failing. The biggest lie of all that I told myself, “I can learn to be happy at this weight”.  Why should I try to live up to some unrealistic societal expectation?  Look at so and so, she’s fat but rich, famous and seemingly happy.  I don’t care what I look like or how much I weigh.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s just a number on a scale.  Why am I putting so much emphasis and importance on it.  Let it go.

My walls appeared to be constructed out of indifference and self-deprecation but truly they were born out of depression, fear and loneliness.  I lost my faith, my way…myself.

I was a spectator of my own life, not an active participant.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I flipped the script.  I know the decision to have Gastric Sleeve surgery was the beginning.

Every pound lost is a huge victory for me, emotionally and physically.  I haven’t gained any weight since my surgery, but I certainly have had weeks when I didn’t lose any.  I feel disappointment, but instead of letting that spiral into feelings of failure and seeking comfort in the pantry or fridge, I’ve learned to accept, adapt and let go.

However, whoever said nothing tastes as good as being thin feels must never have tried the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit from Whataburger. I have a love/hate relationship with food.  I’ll never strictly view food as a source of nutrition or fuel, for me it’s also about comfort and solace.  I eat when bored, upset and/or angry.  Food and I are frenemies.  At times it’s my best friend, other times my mortal enemy.  Food and I will never have a normal relationship, my success is dependent on recognizing this fact and learning alternative methods to deal with my emotions, both positive and negative.  I have good days and bad days.  Days where I struggle and find myself standing in the pantry waging this internal war.  Some days I win.  Other days I lose.  Every day is a new day.  I don’t beat myself up anymore, instead I’ve learned to celebrate every victory, no matter how small.

I have learned to appreciate views like these on my hikes –

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I’m an active participant in my life again, and it feels glorious.  I celebrate getting to experience days like these with my children –

We laughed so hard, I nearly peed myself.  Actually, I might have a little…

LIFE IS GOOD!

I started this journey at 287.5 pounds.  My BMI was 49.34.

Last month, I checked in at 220.2 pounds.

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Today, I weighed in at 213.4 pounds. My current BMI is 36.6.

Over the last month, I’ve lost 6.8 pounds.

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I can’t really see the 6.8 pounds lost in these photos, but I can feel it, in how my clothes fit and in how I feel.  Every pound I lose gives me more energy and more encouragement.  I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t take pics before my surgery.  Oh well.  I may not remember what I looked like, but I’ll never forget how I felt and I never want to feel that way again.  Plus, I’ve kept my size 26 pants.  I put them on occasionally, and I can still remember those days when they felt tight.  I smile at how far I’ve come.

Total pounds lost:  74.1

My BMI dropped 12.74.  I’ve added years to my life, both in quantity and quality.

I learn something new about myself every day.  I am constantly looking for new ways to challenge myself.  I’ve come such a long way and it feels great to say that I’m super proud of myself.  My journey is far from over and I’d be lying if I said I can’t wait to hit “ONEderland.”  I don’t remember the last time I weighed in the 100’s.  I’ll have another update for you in a month!

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” Ben Okri

Just Keep Cooking…

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My second objective in 2016:

FOOD 

Specifically, eating healthier, cooking more and eating out less, trying new things.  I know I sound like millions of other New Year hopefuls.  I’ve certainly made this pledge/resolution many times before, with little or no success.  My surgery last year was a game changer for me, but the second half of my weight loss journey is going to be harder than the first half, I know this and I’m prepared.  I’ve already made so many positive changes, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m an emotional eater.  Eating is hardly ever about hunger for me.  I wish I was the kind of person that could go out to eat and order from the “skinny” menu, but I’m not.  I wish I was the type of person that could bypass the chocolate and pick up the apple instead, but I’m not.  Now, I might dip the apple in chocolate…does that count?  What if it’s dark chocolate?  Mmm chocolate covered strawberries or those Dove dark chocolates with sea salt and caramel or ice cream topped with chocolate fudge magic shell…  The point is I love food.  I love eating.  However, I do not love cooking.

Digging back through my archives, I found these two little gems, which I think accurately depict my love/hate relationship with cooking.

http://mybrainonkids.net/2012/09/03/french-cooking-with-a-redneck-twist/

http://mybrainonkids.net/2010/03/11/the-skinny-on-the-french/

I want to love it, I truly do.  I want my avocados to look like this on my plate after I slice them:

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Instead, they look like this:

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I mean seriously.  I post my food pics to Instagram with the hashtag “foodporn”, but honestly it’s a horror show, and I should probably use the hashtag “myfoodpicsmakeyouwanttonevereatagain”.  Also, I suck at hashtags.

One of my objectives for this year is to try new foods.  I’m infamously picky.  For some people, trying new foods may sound exotic or exciting, but I’m over here like “hey, I’ve never eaten a Mango.”

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Alaskan Cod with Jasmine Rice and mango-ginger-mint salsa

Also, my foods are always from the same color family.  But hey!  Now I’ve had mango.  I wasn’t impressed.  Sorry mango.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I overcooked the fish too.  I didn’t have an exact recipe for this, and apparently not all fish cooks the same, and I can’t just wing it.  I need specific, detailed cooking instructions complete with pics.  Even then, it’s touch and go.  The odds are never in my favor.

I’m also an extremely lazy cook.  I look for recipes that have the least number of steps, which is why I love my crockpot or recipes where I can use cheats.  It’s been really cold here the last week or so, a good time for soup.  I wanted something a little heartier than Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!  Those who can’t…Pin.  I could waste spend a whole day Pinteresting.  This recipe was easy, very few steps and I could use my favorite cheats.

Cheat #1: Onions and Celery

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They sell them already chopped and diced!  Granted much more expensive than buying a small onion and 2 celery stalks and chopping it myself, but I save like 5 minutes or more and a finger!  FIVE MINUTES!  Do you know how much Bill Gates earns in 5 minutes?  $34,200!!!  Give or take.  He makes about $114 per second.  I mean, I don’t make Bill Gates money obviously, but that’s not the point.  FIVE MINUTES SAVED!  And a finger.

Cheat #2: Garlic

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You can buy it already minced or chopped!  I assume that 1 clove minced is equal to 1 teaspoon, I’ve never actually measured it out and if I’m wrong, please don’t tell me.  Ignorance is indeed bliss.  The recipe called for 2 cloves, minced, so 2 teaspoons it is!

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This recipe was great because it said that I needed to sauté the onions and celery (and carrots, but I don’t like carrots so…) for 7 minutes.  I literally set my timer for 7 minutes.  Also, I recently learned that this pot (that I call the spaghetti sauce pot) is also known as a “dutch oven.”  I used to use a skillet when the recipe called for a dutch oven, because I didn’t know I had one.  I thought a dutch oven would look more like a toaster oven, except more…dutch?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t exaggerating my lack of kitchen prowess.  I received a cookbook as a wedding present.  It was titled “How To Boil An Egg.”  I was offended until I realized…wait, how do you boil an egg?  I still have to google it, I can never remember for how long (you can also buy eggs already hard-boiled in the grocery store fyi).  You are all probably feeling pretty sorry for my husband and kids about now.  They could tell you some cooking horror stories to be sure.

Anyway, then you add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Again, I set the timer.  Add 1/3 cup flour, cook for another minute (with timer).  It suggested I sprinkle the flour over the mixture gradually…who’s got time for that?  I just dumped it in.  Well, I did stir while I was dumping it in.  It’s now time to add the broth, 8 cups worth, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.  I hate the range.  Honestly, just pick one.  Is it 10 or is it 15 minutes?  Sigh.  I usually just split the difference.

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Cheat #3

The recipe calls for “3 cups cooked shredded chicken”.

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If I won’t even dice up an onion then I’m certainly not going to cook and shred a chicken.  Lucky for me, I didn’t need to do it!  I find this in the frozen section, and it’s great for soups, salads, crock pot recipes, etc…

At this point all remaining ingredients are added:

2 cups of uncooked egg noodles

12 oz of Evaporated Skim Milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried oregano and ground black pepper

1/4 tsp dried thyme

Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until noodles are al dente.

Voila!

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It was quite tasty.

So, this year the goal is to cook at least 4-5 nights per week.  We eat leftovers 1-2 nights per week, which still leaves us 1 day to splurge and go out.  Quite a big change from a year ago when we were eating out 4-5 nights per week.  I’ve been really good about cooking at home since my surgery.  My portion size is still very small, so eating out at most places is a waste of money unless I can split with someone or order an appetizer as my main dish.

In the spirit of trying new things, I will be attempting to cook different types of cuisine throughout the year.  Here is my list:

  1. Thai Cuisine
  2. Lebanese Cuisine
  3. Spanish Cuisine
  4. German Cuisine
  5. Korean Cuisine
  6. South African Cuisine
  7. Caribbean Cuisine
  8. Greek Cuisine
  9. Filipino Cuisine
  10. Indian Cuisine
  11. Indonesian Cuisine
  12. Brazilian Cuisine

Don’t worry husband, I have all our favorite delivery restaurants on speed dial.  Is speed dial even a thing anymore?  I’ll be posting my failures and successes (lol).  Trying new things and making healthy choices will continue to be challenging for me, but I think I’m up for it, plus I have all of you to keep me accountable!

Please feel free to share your favorite recipe from the above listed cuisines or cheats/lifehacks for cooking, or you can just come over and cook for me 😀  You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+.  The icons are on the side or bottom, depending on what device you are using.  You can also e-mail me @ mybrainonkids4@gmail.com or leave a comment!

Have a great week ❤