Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back From My Unplanned Break

Hi friends.  I'm back from an extended break and lots of thoughts and experiences to share.

It wasn't the break that I had intended to take.  In early July we left for our long-planned family vacation to the east coast.  My son attended a summer program at Princeton for three weeks, and my hubby, younger son and I headed out in his last week to enjoy some special vacation time.   My husband and I took a very nice four-day break on the Delmarva Peninsula to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, while my younger boy stayed with family in Maryland.  It was lovely and rejuvenating in every way.

When my husband and I drove into cell phone range, I noticed lots of messages from my sisters, which got me worried.  It turned out my oldest sister, who lives in Connecticut, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was kind of a miracle that I should be on the east coast at that moment, since I live in California.  My little family was headed to New England anyway to visit relatives and take college tours, so after a quick stop to pick up my son in New Jersey, we kept moving north, and I decided to join my sister and be with her through the beginning diagnostic appointments and procedures.  I ended up staying for three weeks with her.

For those of you who have been through a serious diagnosis or who have experienced one through a loved-one, you know how every day can bring a flood of new, life-altering information, with every doctor's appointment.  All sense of time gets thrown out the window.  Every day felt like we lived for a week.

While away, my diet became more carb-filled with mostly wine and fruit.  But it was also salad focused and generally healthy.  I managed to exercise almost every day, just for my own sanity, and also to take advantage of the beautiful area where my sister lives.  I walked and jogged and felt great about staying active through all of the stress.

I returned 10 days ago, and hopped back into my life, preparing the kids to return to school and making a point to do something special with each of them, since I missed them while I was away.  It has been a busy time, but nothing extraordinary.  I planned a beach bonfire to celebrate the end of summer break, and spent the day at our favorite beach last Friday.  I had an excellent time swimming and boogie boarding.  I also got a wicked sunburn, but it was worth it :-)

I posted a note to a very wonderful Optifast Maintenance group on Facebook last night, and one of my fellow bloggers, Optifast Mom, encouraged me to get back to the blog.  We made a pact to do it together, since she was also letting her blog slide and needed to make her health a focal point (in writing) again.  Wise words.  I've been away from both reading and writing about good health, and I don't like feeling remote from such an important and helpful part of my life.  I have missed some of my favorite lady bloggers, so I'm looking forward to reconnecting.

Reflecting on this time, I think I'm experiencing a delayed stress reaction.  For the past month, I've had to be "on" very intensely.  When faced with lots of responsibilities and multi-tasking, I'm pretty good at keeping my focus, but it takes a lot out of me.  Coming home, I was able to just let it all go, especially my hyper-vigilance and my schedule.  It's kind of like THIS is the vacation, now that I think about it.

But I know that my body doesn't take a vacation.  It sees the poor diet and exercise and reacts with lethargy and weight gain.  I'm not feeling as vigorous as I used to feel.  So here I am, and just writing it all down is making me feel better.

As of today, the vacation ends and I'm going to get my spandex-clad butt to the gym for a second day in a row.  One choice at a time, I'm going to return back to a healthy routine, and a focus on my health.  It’s also time to start training for the Las Vegas Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon that is coming up in November!

It's easy to let it slide, as I've done in the past.  Time gets away from me and I could just let it keep going, but for my blogging friends and my support systems.  That's the real difference in my life that I am humbly grateful for.

Thanks to everyone for your kind remarks on my last post.  To recover from busy times is part of the process of establishing a new life focused on my health.  I'm not the poster child for success, but I'm still here giving it a try and feeling better with every positive choice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

RMR Data and Going Forward

179 lbs.

I'll be the first to admit that this year has been a learning experience in my weight loss journey.  After losing 100 pounds in 2014 on a 40 week medically-supervised liquid diet, I've worked hard this year to create a new healthy life.  It has been joyous for the most part, in that I've loved every minute of being mobile, wearing cuter clothes and living without the aches and pains I used to feel on a daily basis when I was obese.

I've enjoyed exercise and being outside, but the eating part of the equation was baffling to me.  Even tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal since the fast, I found myself steadily gaining weight.  Keeping my calories under 1800 for the most part (with a few excursions upward on special occasions), I thought with all of my activity that I could handle those calories.  But I was wrong.

I have some answers now.

On Monday I went into my clinic and had my Resting Metabolic Rate measured, using a somewhat sophisticated machine.  I fasted for 12 hours, then they pinched my nose, and I breathed into a tube for about 20 minutes, while sitting in a chair, relaxing.

What I learned is that my RMR is lower than normal.  My resting energy expenditure is 1310 calories, so that means that to maintain my weight, I'd need to eat about 1310-1703 calories, and for weight loss, between 1000-1310.

I had a hunch about this, based on my weight gain/loss over the past year, but I didn't want to believe it.  It seemed illogically low based on how most people eat, especially those who are active.

But I'm me and these are my numbers.  I was tremendously relieved to know that it wasn't my imagination, and that I really couldn't eat very much without gaining weight.  Even though I've done some strength training since stopping my fast, I haven't gone back to it since I slipped on a hiking trail in late April (I still have a sore rotator cuff).  But this is what I need to do in order to bring that number up.  Building lean muscle mass will be my ticket to easier weight maintenance, not to mention all the wonderful health benefits.

It also has me rethinking my cardio strategy.  I've loved doing my interval running and participating in races big and small.  I'm scheduled for a 10K in August and a half marathon in November.  I'll need to keep up my training.  But I think in the future, I'll do more walking, strength training and group cardio classes.  High Intensity Interval Training will help boost my metabolism along with the strength training.  I'm going to start lifting again, and my plan will be to retest my RMR at the start of next year to see if there are any changes.

Maybe my long, very low calorie diet played a part in lowering my metabolism.  I don't know enough about physiology to know if this is the case.  I also don't know if I've always had this type of slow metabolism.  I've been taking medicine for hypothyroidism for 30 years - but my weight struggles preceded that.  In any event,  if I had it to do all over again, I would certainly do my Optifast program in a heart beat.  My life is so much better now, and it gave me a new beginning point, even though it has been frustrating at times.

In a strange way, this data reinforced my own hunches, and has encouraged me to believe in my hunches more often.  It has also reminded me that I am a unique human being, and while there is a lot of conventional wisdom out there, I can be an n=1, and not be afraid to move on if something isn't working well for me.

So that's the interesting news from me today.  Salad lady signing off and wishing everyone a wonderful holiday weekend if you are in the U.S.!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Thinking of the Big Picture And Accepting My Pace

After my setbacks of late, I'm finally feeling better and boy do I appreciate every pain free moment!  As soon as I could, I ditched my medication and slowly set off to walk  and keep moving.  Of course, last week was also the end of the school year for my youngest son, and there were school promotions, parties and events to attend.  Yesterday I organized a sunset beach picnic for friends and kids, and we welcomed the summer Southern California style with a chilly evening at the beach.  I left very early in the morning to stake out a nice spot on the sand and at the picnic tables.  I love the beach, especially before the people arrive.
I had the beach all to myself early in the morning.  Only seagull prints were in the sand.
Diet and RMR Testing

After Monday's humiliating weigh-in, I have been extra, extra conscientious with my diet.  I've followed the clinic eating plan perfectly this week, and am also losing the water weight that I had gained while on medications.  I've only weighed in once this week, and was down a couple of pounds.  I have no doubt that this was some excess water weight.  It will be interesting to watch my weight over the next few weeks, because I average very few calories - usually 1200 or below - on this eating plan. This would normally seem low to me, but I'm wondering if this is my reality.  If I really don't need very many calories to live my life, then that's what it will be.

My clinic recently replaced their machine which tests resting metabolic rate, and so I set up an appointment to be tested in a couple of weeks.  I'm super excited to get this next batch of data.  I'm almost a year into eating food again, so my body has had a decent amount of time to adjust.   Plus I'm so much more active than I was back then and have built muscle in the process.  I can't wait to find out what my baseline/resting calorie needs are.

I think I can accept and feel fine about my diet if the scale moves in the expected direction, even if it's slowly, and even if it fluctuates a little bit on the way down.  I don't need to lose my extra weight quickly, I just need to learn the right way to intervene when it starts to climb, and feel confident in my interventions.  This is my ultimate goal.

Interventions That Are Apparently Working So Far

  • Eating a low carb, very nutritionally specific diet:  Exacts amounts of proteins, vegetables, dairy, fats and fruits.  Higher protein than any other macronutrient.
  • Eating fewer calories, and not adding calories from exercise.
  • Conscientiously drinking tea, water, and avoiding diet drinks.  I add lemon, which makes it delicious.
  • Abstaining from alcohol.  This is the most difficult, of course, but it will be my strategy while I'm trying to lose weight.  It is not part of my long-term plan, though :-)  I want to try and add a drink or two when I am maintaining a healthy weight range.
All this may sound pretty dull and basic, but this is what I'm doing, and I'm making the best of it, with delicious, healthy dishes.  

I hope all of you are feeling healthy and enjoying the new season!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

...One Step Back

Feeling Discouraged

Well, two steps forward and one step back.  Shortly after my last post I went to my kickboxing class and really gave it my all.  Actually a little more than my all.  And when I spent some time vigorously cleaning my pool afterward, I developed a terrible lower back spasm.  This was the worst attack ever, and was probably a re-injury of my hiking accident.

I ended up going to the doctor that day, due to the extreme pain.  He prescribed me an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxer, and told me to take it easy for 10 days.  I've never really taken a pain killer, and actually this concoction of drugs really didn't help me much.  But the pain was terrible, so I took them as prescribed.

After three days of uncomfortable bed rest and hot/cold treatments, over the weekend I made it to the gym to use the Jacuzzi.  I felt great relief to be in the hot bubbling water.  After 5 minutes, this very elderly, stooped-over lady made her way into the hot tub.  She didn't speak English, so we silently acknowledged each other.  I helped her out of the hot tub, and she made her way to the pool to walk laps.

A lightbulb went off, and I immediately decided to try this.  Although I had to make my way slowly, I was able to walk laps for 20 minutes, and then carefully got out and re-entered the Jacuzzi.  This rehab process was a great success.

I repeated this the next day, and didn't need bedrest.  Although I had another brief setback when I hurt myself getting dressed, I have persevered and today was able to use the regular treadmill somewhat slowly for 40 minutes, followed by the sauna.  I think the movement is helping me.

Rapid Weight Gain and Bloating

While I was laid up, I continued to eat carefully, except for two occasions when the pain was just so horrible, I actually turned to food .  Both times I reached for my favorite comfort food, a PB and honey sandwich, and washed it down with a big glass of milk.  Each time as I started making the sandwich I told myself that this food was not going to make the pain go away.  "What I'm looking for isn't here."  But my desire for some sort of comfort overrode my logic and willpower.  After the second sandwich (the next day) I told myself to stop, and I got back on track.  It has been a very long time since I reached for food so blatantly for comfort.

I know that those two sandwiches didn't throw me into weight gain territory, but each day I was steadily gaining weight.  The first three days I was in bed, so I wasn't moving or exercising.

When I attended my first of two clinic meetings yesterday, my weight was up 2 pounds in the morning (I ate very little that morning).  Then that evening, I attended another meeting and my weight was up another 4 pounds.

All in all, since I started my medication, my weight is up 8 pounds!  I can't even fit into my pants right now!  I can't tell you how discouraging and depressing this is.  So tonight I Googled my medications and learned that BOTH of them cause weight gain and edema.  My stomach, hands, legs and ankles are puffy.  Luckily my pain is much better so I don't need to take them anymore.  But the very vain part of me was so depressed that I had to weigh in TWICE with such tremendous gains.

So I will keep going.  I'm following my clinic diet to a "T", which puts  my calories at around 1100 or 1200 and is low carb.  I've decided to be as compliant as possible this week to see what happens and see if I can get the scale to go down again.  I am desperate for some good news on the scale.  I'm happy with eating low carb again.

Since I really haven't seen much of anything but gains since starting back on food, I'm feeling discouraged and depressed about my weight maintenance phase.  After this week, if I don't see the scale move and notice my edema subsiding, I'm going to get a meeting with my course instructor and show her my food logs, and may make an appointment with my GP to pick his brain on what could be going on with me.  Maybe my thyroid needs to be rechecked - but it hasn't been that long ago.  I'm also going to inquire about getting my Resting Metabolic Rate checked.  The machine at our clinic was broken the last time I asked.  These may all be pieces of the puzzle.

I'm not a saint, but I have made a real effort to keep my calories low and eat healthy, real foods.   At this point in my weight gain, I'm looking very hard at myself to make sure I'm not in denial about how much I'm eating, and the content of my diet.  I will get some outside advice from my instructor on that.

So this is kind of a downer post.  I wish I could be a normal person with a steady weight, but that's just magical thinking.  I don't want to go back to where I was, and I have to honestly admit that I'm entertaining the fast again, just to get my weight down.  I'm conflicted about this, so right now, it's just in the back of my mind.

I'd appreciate any stories of weight loss/maintenance perseverance if you are willing to share them.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Lessons From A Snail

This morning I was on my favorite trail getting a quick workout in.  On my way forward, I noticed a snail slowly making its way across the path, leaving a trail of slime in its wake.  I jogged around the snail, not thinking much about it.

On  my way back, I passed it again.  It had made significant progress, not travelling in a straight line (as I noticed from the slime), but I had to admit, I was impressed with the perseverance of this little creature.

I am big enough to know how busy that trail is.  I can see things coming at me from far away and make course corrections.  Throughout the day there are numerous joggers, walkers, bikers, horse riders and dogs that pass there.  Of course the snail had no way of knowing how busy it was and the risks it was taking by moving forward.

If snails are capable of reason, eventually the snail must have noticed that the path was filled with dangers and obstacles coming at it from every direction.  At some point it may of even regretted ever turning in that direction, but it became too late to turn back. Its only choice was to keep moving forward and hope to reach a safer place.

There are no guarantees that the snail will make it to the other side, but it keeps moving forward, taking the challenges as they come, despite its vulnerability.

Of course, on another level I'm also a small creature in this big world.  Each day brings with it surprises and unforeseen events.  Ultimately, it is my own determination, in the face of challenges, that will keep me moving through the dangerous, challenging patches with the hope of making it through.   I know that no matter how slowly, or circuitously my movements are, my only choice is to keep moving forward, just like that little snail.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Weekend Update

182 lbs.

I'm posting my weight.  It's hard to have it out there, but then again, when I think about my intentions involving this blog, it has been to be honest about my experience, both for my sake and for whatever benefit/encouragement/information might be felt or shared by readers.  I do want to reiterate that I'm only one person, and my journey might not follow your experience using similar or different nutritional strategies.  As I get older, I appreciate this more and more.

I'm also finally getting the courage to listen to my body and make nutritional decisions based on how my body responds to food.   In the last few months I've learned a lot, and as I am still looking for a good mix of macronutrients and calories to help me stay healthy, I have had ups and downs.  It's a big step for me because I'm a rule-follower by nature, and it was easier to believe that just because it was recommended by X or worked for X that I should respond in the expected way.  Well, as a pre-menopausal hypothyroid woman, I may need to tweak things and adjust my own expectations as well.

Gaining weight after a loss is embarrassing to me.  Embarrassing and frustrating.  I believe that if I had been binge eating sweets or pizza or fast food every day, then this weight gain would be more understandable.  I have a greater empathy for those who regain and it is rooted in how complex and unique our systems can be.  Maybe the recommended maintenance diet isn't the right one for everyone.  I am also living proof that you can't out-exercise a bad diet.  Unfortunately I have to live with raised eyebrows and the assumption that I must be going back to my old ways of eating and living, since I've put some weight back on.  This is incentive for me to really buckle down and at least stop gaining, if not lose a few of those pounds.

I'm closing in on one week eating LCHF (low carbohydrate high fat), and it has felt great.  I had only a couple of hours that might be considered "keto flu" which isn't so bad.  I added more salt to my diet, and I've been taking magnesium and potassium.  I didn't really cut back much on my exercise, as I love my new BodyCombat classes and I had the chance to go on a beautiful hike on Friday (pics below).
Hike at Torrey Pines, an iconic place in San Diego.  Views, even on a cloudy day were stunning.

This is a view South.  Such a stunning place to walk.

When I first learned that we were moving to SD, I saw pictures of these beautiful sand cliffs up against the ocean view.  I couldn't believe my luck, and the stunning beauty of this place.
I felt awesome climbing the couple of good sized hills that were needed to get to the trails and then back to my parking spot about a mile away.  It wasn't a strenuous hike by any means, but I just felt wonderful the whole time.  Really full of energy, actually.  And the views really filled my soul.

So for the first week of tweaking the fuel source for my body, I felt great. According to many sources, my body should be switching over from burning glucose as a primary source of energy, to burning ketones, in the next couple of weeks.

I'm also feeling very flexible about this week because I'm experiencing my monthly cycle right now.  So I if my weight just stays stable, I'll be thrilled.  If it goes up, I'm also not going to freak out this week, as most women will understand.  I'll weigh myself weekly at the clinic and try not to obsess over it.

What Have I Been Eating?  Hint:  It's not pork rinds (not that there's anything wrong with that)

My favorite meal of the week has been my breakfast of Trader Joe's Southern Greens, sauteed with 2 slices of bacon.  It's almost as God intended them to be cooked! (my southern friends will nod their heads in approval)  I have that with an egg or two and I'm fine until lunch.  Though I didn't have any this week, I also love to have a whey protein smoothie, and it will fit in just fine to support my nutrition goals.  The protein mix I use is very low carb/low sugar and tastes great.  I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk, but will probably add a splash of cream to raise the fat and make it taste even better.

My lunch selection hasn't changed much because I love it.  Salad with avocado, feta, tuna, tomatoes, cucumber.  This week I added some toasted pecans to the top -- yum. I added some olive oil vinaigrette and pepper.  The protein toppings change based on leftovers from dinner or what I have around the house.  I like canned tuna and my cat likes the empty cans :-)

Dinner this week was three nights of salmon because I cooked up a big salmon filet from Costco.  It feeds my family of four for several meals.  I baked it in foil with olive oil and lemons on top.  Some salt and pepper.  Nothing fancy, but very versatile.  It comes out for breakfast, lunch and dinner for various members of my family.  Every night I make a different veggie.  We do a lot of cauliflower and asparagus because those are liked by most of us - sold in quantity at Costco.  I like either sauteing them in olive or avocado oil, or roasting them.  Mushrooms, broccoli and peppers also make the rounds.  I'm not shy about butter, either.  I love to add some to the sautee of the day.  I had a dinner gathering with friends this week and we had Thai food.  I skipped the rice and enjoyed the coconut sauces over meat and vegetables.  My favorite green papaya salad has a sweet dressing, so I just had a little bit of that.  Going out to eat is always a challenge because if it's fancy or complex, you can never be sure of the ingredients used.  Since it's just a couple of times per month at most, I just do my best to make thoughtful choices and enjoy the tastes.

Snacks:  Before my hike or exercise classes this week, I measured out 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pistachios in the shell for snacking - great source of sodium, fat and some carbs.  We get a big bag at Costco. Cheese is another go-to snack this week.   Most of our shopping is at Costco or Trader Joe's - my food log look like an advertisement for those two places, but we are frugal people.

For dessert my hubby, who has also started eating a more keto diet to lose a few pounds, bought some sugar free chocolate candies that we are parceling out carefully.  I also had a couple of squares of 78% dark chocolate, which I feel is a wonderful treat.  Home made whipping cream turned into chocolate mousse was also a treat once this week.  I'm looking forward to finding some other dessert options that will fit into our way of eating.  There are some great recipes online.  If you have a favorite, I'd love to hear about it!

I have to say that making the decision to remove sugar and grains hasn't required much of a change in how we have been eating since I lost weight.  The kids miss having fresh sourdough around lately, but we give them whole grain bread when they want a sandwich, and if we go out to eat, they can enjoy a treat of fresh bread/rolls.  It should be a special treat for them and not an every day indulgence anyway!  They are not complaining at all, so that's great.  I love my supportive family!

So when I look at the above, I don't see an unhealthy way of eating.  Fruit wasn't there this week, but I won't be shy about adding a few berries and counting the carbs.  I'm getting some excellent vitamins and fiber.  Real food all the way!  Per some suggestions, I've also upped my calories to 1600, and have not noticed a gain so far, so that's wonderful. My inclination is to keep it closer to 1500 but I won't stress about it and just see where my hunger level takes me.  Hunger has not been a problem at all.

On Monday I'm starting a new Healthy Balance class (looking at mindfulness, nutrition and exercise) at my clinic.  I realized that it would be helpful to plug back into a support system in addition to a wonderful monthly "booster" class that I go to.

I've also dived into some published research studies on LCHF as well as conventional HCLF diets.  It is empowering to go to the original sources, and luckily I have a scientific educational background and can get through the information with a few look-ups of terms here and there.  It is so easy to be swayed one way or another by books or websites that express a strong opinion about the "right way to eat", so it's nice to dig through their citations.  I'll write more on this as I process through it, but I'm finding it to be very interesting and surprising.

Let me know if you have any recipe or food suggestions.  I'm always looking for some.  Happy Weekend to you all!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hello Friends, Sorry I've Been Away

Right from the get-go I want to thank folks for the sweet and supportive comments on my last post many weeks ago.  I'm sorry to have disappeared off the face of the earth, and I know, as a blog reader, how I can be left wondering when bloggers just stop.  But it is not my intention to stop writing.  I am still very much a work in progress, and not afraid to talk about it.

This Spring just became very busy for me.  Much of it very good and productive, as I mentioned in previous posts.  I made some very positive strides in household organization and we also demolished a deck, got the house painted, got a kid through AP tests and planted a very small Spring garden (due to California drought).  I got to travel to wonderful Portland, OR for a family event, and was able to hike some beautiful forest trails.  

But I also needed some space to process this "maintenance" experience.  It has left me confused and often at war within myself.  That old fight between what I want to eat and what is best for me has challenged me. Old habits and mindsets die hard.  I didn't quite know what to say, so I waited until I could hopefully coherently share my experience.

On The Diet Front

I have made some valuable discoveries for myself and my body.  I experimented with many levels of calorie restriction and eating "good carbs" but quickly saw my weight jump up and my frustrations continue to rise.  Well, I haven't come this far to fail, and I won't.  

But it will be a challenge until I can reign in my weight and get it moving back to a normal level.  Yesterday I read, cover to cover, a book that I had heard about, and finally downloaded onto my kindle.  Gary Taubes' "Why We Get Fat:  And What To Do About It".  I owe a debt of gratitude to this writer for doing the legwork to examine the nutritional research and make a strong case that sugar, carbs and insulin are the culprits in weight gain and a multitude of related diseases. (I am hearing some of you say "duh!")  Some people are more sensitive, especially those of us who have been obese.  He addresses many of my weight-related struggles.

One of the most interesting concepts that he shares involves clinical studies on animals and humans to explore if "a calorie is a calorie."   One group was put on a very calorie restricted diet that included carbs.  The other group had no calorie restriction and was placed on the same diet.  Despite the calorie differences, BOTH groups gained weight/fat.  Taubes noted that physiologically, people who have some degree of insulin resistance (most overweight people) will gain weight and fat while eating carbs, even if they are on a low calorie diet.   Some may even gain their weight back on a carb restricted diet (depressing thought) regardless of their best interventions.  This is because there are receptors on the fat cells that are primed to get first dibs on the glucose/insulin in the bloodstream after a meal that includes carbs.  This comes at the expense of "feeding"  other cells in muscles and organs, etc.  The studies showed that in the presence of low calories, all the nutrients go into the fat cells first, leaving the other cells starving for food, and thus making the person hungry and tired.  

I know that my explanation is not doing this justice, so I highly recommend that you read the book for this and much more interesting information on the history of nutritional research and how policy makers have turned their backs on it without conclusive evidence to the contrary.

As I read the book, I nearly cried.  I do believe that THIS is what has happened to me post weight loss.  This is why after logging my food, keeping my calories at about 1400 (most days), hiking, running, walking miles per week I am still gaining weight.  I swear that it's not like I'm diving head-first into sweets every night, or even every week, but for the past several months I have let more carbs/fruit come into my diet.   I eat lots of veggies and drink plenty of water, but I also have been eating berries, some bread, more wine than is necessary. I've been discouraged by this steady weight gain despite living an overall very healthy lifestyle (at least according to some). Now I finally might have an answer and a possible solution to my individual problem.

Is my metabolism still stunted from my weight loss fast?  Maybe.  Will I need to make peace with eating under 1200 calories per day in order to lose weight?  Maybe, until my metabolism heals.  But probably I'm one of those people who are lipophilic (my metabolism wants to retain fat), and I'm going to have to keep my insulin response very, very low in order to reduce the storage of fat in my cells.  I'm willing to go there and see what happens.  I ate like this earlier in my maintenance, but got sidetracked.

I'm starting to eat very, very low carb, without fruit (for now). Moderate protein, high fat whole foods, healthy greens and healthy oils will be the bulk of my diet.  I just want to see if I can enter a strong state of ketosis and lose a few pounds as a result.  I am keeping my calories at 1400 for now on MFP and will track my food.  My goal is to stay under 20g carbs and around 100g of protein.  I will also continue to exercise.  If I have some luck, then I know that la vida low carb is probably best for me.  I will keep you all posted, of course.

My Exercise

Though Taubes cautions against too much exercise during weight loss (because of added hunger and lack of evidence that exercise aids weight loss), I love how exercise makes me feel and will find a way to nourish myself so that I can stay active. It's funny how I have gone from an "exercise to eat" mentality to an "eat to exercise" mentality.  As an obese person, I just couldn't move without lots of pain and embarrassment.  Now I feel liberated and love to move and hike outside and commune with people, surrounded by healthy, positive energy.   Ketosis is supposed to suppress appetite, so hopefully this will help.

As a present to myself, and a symbol of my commitment to a healthy life, I rang in my 48th birthday last month running/walking a 5K race with one of my good buddies.  It was her first timed race.  We had a blast, and I got to meet some wonderful people from a Facebook group that I belong to (From Fat to Finish Line).

Here is a pic of me bright an early that morning.  My hubby isn't an early bird, so he really showed his love by getting up and driving us 40 minutes to the race.  One of my sons came along to cheer us on.  Great birthday presents!

I'm scheduled for one more "virtual" 10K race in August, and then the crazy fun Rock n' Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas in November.  This is a night time race, right down the strip!

I've also started sampling the wonderful fitness classes at my gym.  I've taken Zumba and BodyCombat so far, and have LOVED the instructors for these classes.  They were cheery, positive and encouraging, and I felt great afterwards.  When I was much heavier, these classes would have exhausted me for days.  But I was elated by my ability to push myself and feel the cardio benefit, but not to the point of needing to keel over.  I was pleasantly surprised by this and was left feeling a good kind of tired. 

I'm still not 100% healed on my right arm from my earlier hiking accident, so I'm holding off on upper body weights (I abstained from planks and push-ups in my classes).  Next week I'm thinking of adding a couple of leg lifting days to the mix.  I know that building muscle will help my metabolism and help my running as well.


Thanks for sticking with me and for all of your loving support.  I look forward to catching up on my blog reading and reconnecting to a wonderful blogging community that inspires and challenges me in my continued weight loss and healthy life adventure.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Tumbled but I'm Not Slipping Away

Hi all, I know that I've been away for what seems like forever, but I had a little accident early last week that has kept me off the couch (probably a good thing in the long run).

I went hiking with my teenage son - one of the rare times that he wanted to stretch his legs and hang out with his mom after school.  We hiked this pretty steep trail, but one that would get us back home before sunset.  It offered a beautiful view of the surrounding area, including the ocean.  We had a wonderful chat along the way.  On the way down, though, I lost my footing on some slippery small rocks and took a tumble.  After clearing my head and assessing for broken bones, I realized that although I had a very seriously hurt shoulder, nothing appeared to be  broken, thankfully.  I was bloodied, but we were able to make it down and I was able to drive us home.

What a bummer!  This was not the way I wanted to end my rare, lovely visit with my son.  The hike left me in serious pain, so I treated it with a combo of ice, heating pad and ibuprofen.  After a day or two I tried a little walk, and did okay.  So I decided that I would just do leg weights at the gym, and give more time for my shoulder to heal.

Very big mistake.  At some point I strained my lower back, perhaps related to the fall, and then I was REALLY hurting.  I've never had back pain like this.  It hurt to sit and lay down.  So I treated it with the ice and heat and anti-inflammatory meds.  I am pretty much okay to stand and walk around, but sitting or driving is still painful, over a week later. Today both are getting better, but I don't think I'll be lifting for another week as least.  I've been getting in some long walks that keep me moving and help to clear out the cobwebs.  I've become one of those people who now feel cranky when I don't get out and exercise a bit each day, preferably in the outdoors.

In the mean time I started a HUGE Spring cleaning project at my house, finally unpacking things and getting really organized after living here for three years.  Better late than never, but this sort of thing is not something that comes natural to me.  I consider myself a recovering slob.  My hubby and sons have done the heavy lifting for me and things are shaping up nicely.

A funny thing about the start of this cleaning frenzy -- my son, who is a Sophomore in high school, has been seriously looking into attending college in Scandinavia.  He is interested in the culture and hopes to have a career in the Foreign Service/State Department.  He told me about a number of very good universities that have degree programs taught entirely in English.  This could be an excellent adventure for him, especially given his career interests.  The plus side for us as parents is that college is MUCH cheaper there, and the programs are only three years.  We will see.  He is bright and can probably get accepted into some excellent universities in the USA, but if in the next couple of years, and thorough research he decides to go abroad, we'll be supportive of the idea.  This summer he will attend an International Relations/Economics program at Princeton University (this type of camp is actually thrills him), and we will tour lots of universities on the East Coast.  I can't believe my little boy is at this stage.

So how does this relate to cleaning?  While researching Sweden and Swedish culture I learned about the concept of "just enough, not too much" and looked at lots of pictures of lovely uncluttered Swedish homes and architecture.  It made me look around my home and realize that I can do much better with less.  So I decided to make it a mission to get rid of the things we don't use or need.

Not my living room - but it's so clean and uncluttered!  
My father-in-law used to say that we spend the first half of our lives accumulating stuff and the last half getting rid of it.  I had a laugh and realized that I'm there.

Hopefully by the end of the week, and many many bags/boxes of items delivered to the Goodwill, I will have an open concept closet (meaning I will be able to open the door all the way without stuff falling out), and I will have some exercise equipment neatly in place in my newly organized garage.  It will feel very good to not have an elliptical machine in my bedroom.

Diet wise, I am in a holding pattern as well.  I haven't fallen off the deep end, but I'm neither low carb nor low fat specifically - just not employing a strategy, which is worrisome.  I have not weighed myself, but am mustering up the courage to do so very soon -- probably this weekend.  I will reassess my strategy and tighten up my eating.  I don't want my diet focus to get lost in the activity.  I've come too far to let it go.

I'm very behind in reading my favorite blogs, and I look forward to catching up with everyone.  I hope all of you are feeling Springish as well, and that you're starting to feel the changing of the season.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Trying Something New...Again

173 lbs.

I've been getting very frustrated over the past couple of weeks.  Maintaining weight loss is a different leg of this journey, and it has been tough for me.   I have gained 20 pounds from my lowest weight, and I know it needs to stop - I need to make changes to stop gaining weight.  I feel like a ship out at sea without a sail or rudder.  I've read about and tried different approaches -- low carb, paleo, primal, high fat, "primarian".  People who try these approaches swear by them.  I'm not finding my groove with any of it.

To date, I've been tracking everything on MyFitnessPal.  I also exercise regularly.

I've decided to try something new...again.  I need to find what works for my body and activity level after having lost weight on Optifast, and taken up hiking and running.  One of the people in my Optifast maintenance group is finding success with the Weight Watchers Simply Filling technique.  Weight Watchers posts their food list here.  You don't count points, but eat freely from this food list, until you are full.  It isn't a large departure from the foods that I enjoy eating, except that it allows for some grains and bread.  It focuses on whole foods such as veggies, fruits, lean protein and low fat dairy.

Even though it allows for grains, I'm still aware of my trigger foods, so certain types and brands of foods won't be coming back into my diet.  I'm going to eat some legumes, though.  Maybe some oatmeal.  I am not a fan of low fat dairy, but I don't consume a lot of it anyway.

Since I track my foods, I've found that I am naturally eating fewer calories so far.  I think this is due to the lower fat intake.  I feel good, though, and time will tell whether or not eating more carbs is going to be my friend or enemy.  It's not like I'm eating processed or packaged foods in any way, shape or form, and that's the way I like it.

There are many who follow my blog and may think "What the F is she doing!?"  But all I can say is that I'm still searching for the best way of life for me, and I'm just being honest in my blog about my choices.  I will certainly keep everyone updated about how this goes.

Maybe you're reading and relating to my mad quest to find weight stability.  At least you know that you aren't alone, that's for sure.  This is one of the most challenging times in my life.  I try not to focus too much on what's at stake.  I'm still living a very different, and healthier life than I lived when I weighted 257 pounds last year.  I don't have any intention of giving up and going back there ever again.  Hell no.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Diet Hardball and Happy Hiking

During the past few days I have slowly gotten my groove back.  I am in the process of getting back into ketosis, and getting my workouts in.  I'm trying to approach this with a spirit of enthusiasm.

There have been a number of positive influences on me in the past week.  A number of my blogger friends have posted about food addiction and eating.  Here is a great post by my friend Wendy at Fitter At Fourtyish "A New Dietary Paradigm", and one from Gwen at The Sunny Coconut "My Observations on Deprivation in Maintenance." 

Wendy reported on a recent Low Carb/High Fat Summit held in Cape Town, South Africa this week.  Scientists and physicians from all over the world met to discuss their new findings and issue a call for further research on a LCHF diet to treat obesity.  Yes!  I think the research is starting to trickle in and it looks promising.  It is a nice read if you get the chance.

Gwen took the time to address the reality that for some, moderation just isn't going to work.  For many of us, myself included, we just can't eat certain foods that are triggers for our food addiction.  This is something that I've been giving serious self-reflection time to.  I know in my heart, at this time, that there are certain foods that trigger a flood of overeating.  Foods that I keep going back to.  I liked Gwen's "put your big kid pants on" approach to making food choices.  Ultimately we are all responsible for making the choices that we we know to be the most healthy for us.  Sometimes those choices are hard, but that's life.

I gave some thought to both of those issues.  I know that by and large, I need to decrease my carbs.  Bread, peanut butter and cereal are trigger foods for me.  I want them, and when I eat them, I can't stop myself.  It is a scientific fact that carbs, especially refined carbs, cause insulin spikes that lead to weight gain.  Barbara Berkeley, in her book "Refuse to Regain"  saw this time and again with her formerly obese patients.  A body that has lost lots of weight wants to regain that weight and is very receptive to insulin spikes.  So I have to put my big girl pants on, and if I love living a healthy, active, slim life, I need to abstain from certain foods. It is what it is, even though I might go through times trying to justify "trying moderation".  Nope, I can't do that, and really, it's not the end of the world.  It's not like I won't find other wonderful foods to enjoy in my life.  As many have said, the longer you live without something, the less you want it.  I look forward to feeling that way, but I'm in the withdrawal phase right now.  Another great blogger who has a steel spine when it comes to abstinence is Karen at Garden Girl.  She just finished two interesting posts on food addiction.  You should take a peek at her story if you need to bolster your resolve.

Sometimes when I'm feeling low and out of control with regard to my diet, I watch "My 600 Pound Life."  This week I watched an episode (while jogging in place to get some exercise - LOL), and watched in admiration when someone with unimaginable obstacles managed to own up to the fact that they are going to have strong cravings for foods, but they just won't be able to eat them anymore.  Some of the people featured on that show achieve, in my mind, miraculous life changes - not just physical, but emotional.

Sometime though, there are people who have such deeply entrenched denial that they have convinced themselves that they aren't overeating, and are surprised at why they can't lose weight.  I recognize that behavior in me sometimes.  Since I began this journey, I have been better able to call myself on that bullshit.  It's a hopeful sign when I can own up to my behavioral resistance, and forgive and move on in a more positive but firm mindset. In the past, I'd spend far too much time feeling shame, and getting stuck in those behaviors.

So those are my ramblings about my diet these days.  You are a saint for reading this far.

Now on to exercise.

I am blessed to live in a mild climate, so while much of the country is socked in with snow, I've been able to exercise outside.  I've had several lovely hikes that really blew me away.  They were TOUGH, but totally worth it.  My hiking buddy, Mary and I try and hit a trail each week.  Here are some photos from two wonderful hikes.

On the way up to the top of Mt. Woodson and Potato Chip Rock.   Steep, straight-up hike that was about 4 miles round trip (due to parking farther away).  But beautiful and totally worth it!

I collect heart-shaped rocks, and found this on the trail.  The pic was taken at the top of Iron Mountain.  A six mile hike with beautiful terrain, wildflowers and vistas.  A great workout, too. 
I've also been strength training and challenging myself on the treadmill at the gym.  I am finally able to run 2 miles without walking.  Yay for progress!  Thank God for kick-ass music lists that literally carry me on my walking/running workouts, and make me feel like some kind of athletic goddess in my own mind.  I love it!

That's all for me.  I'm still in the game and I'll keep you posted about my journey into ketosis.  I'll post my weight next time -- I'm up about 5 pounds, unfortunately.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Exciting Happenings, Celebrations

I'm sorry for my long absence from blogging.  I try and post a couple of times per week, but this past week was a crazy one, with lots to celebrate, and celebrate I did.

My husband recently finished his first novel, and early last week he received a very positive review from Kirkus Review.  The reviewer called it "utterly delightful".  Such wonderful news for someone who was brave enough to send his creative ideas out into the world!  It is a lighthearted political satire about a clown who runs for President of the United States.  It's not a mean spirited political book, but simply a sweet story that happens to cast a humorous spotlight on political discourse in the U.S.  If you are interested in that sort of book, it is being offered for free on Amazon until Tuesday (2/24/15).  Right now is only available as an ebook, but it will be available in other formats in the future.

This was the moment that I downloaded my husband's first novel onto my Kindle, one minute after publication.

In addition to my husband's publishing debut, a dear friend of mine defended her doctoral dissertation last week, and I celebrated with her a couple of times.  It was so nice to share that important moment in her life!

So this is where I return to the focus of my blog.  I celebrated WAY too much over the past several days.  My strategy from today onward is to cut back on calories, drink lots and lots of water, and get vigorous exercise.  I've already logged my foods for today since this strategy is a winner for me.  I tend to stick with it pretty well.

When I was on Optifast, I faced several celebrations where I simply said "no" to food.  So now that I'm eating, why is it so darn difficult???  When will I learn that it's much easier to say "no" to things than to try and burn it off later?

This is what I will be working on.  I know now from experience that after a couple of great days under my belt, I'll be feeling right with my healthy lifestyle again.

I have gotten some great hikes in, and will be doing a nice jog today.  We might be expecting some much needed rain, so I'll take advantage of exercising outside for one more day.

That is the latest with me.  Hope you all are enjoying your weekend!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Today's Tools

Each morning after I've prepared lunches, fed breakfast to my children and had my coffee, I sit down for a few minutes before the mad rush and read a couple of blogs featured on my sidebar.  Off and on by the end of the day I get through most of them.

This morning I am supremely grateful that I read Zen Habits' post on Savor Discipline:  Merge the Interests of your Present and Future Selves.  If you are conscious of the argument taking place inside your mind when you are craving something unhealthy, then this is a good little post to read.  My takeaway was an ah-ha about the many, many future selves that are impacted by my immediate choices.  Leo Babauta beautifully proposes a new way to view your immediate choices, sometimes allowing your present self to enjoy the treat, necessitating your future selves to choose the carrot or healthy option.  Most times, though, we can forego immediate pleasure and seek and find pleasure in the healthy foods that will support a healthy and fit life.  Bingo!  This is what I'm seeking to do more of in my life.  Experiencing the pleasure in a bowl of ripe berries.

When I completed the full fast and was reintroducing food, I can't tell you how much pleasure I felt in eating a beautiful salad, a strawberry, or an avocado.  It was incredible to enjoy chewing and tasting the subtle flavors of these healthy foods.

Truthfully, there have been a couple of times since the fast when the donut looked good, and I had one.  I'll be honest and say that the grease tasted terrible.  My memory of eating donuts was much happier than than the pleasure of the present experience eating it.  It is important to make note of that.  It's just food, after all, and if I can develop new pleasurable memories associated with healthy foods, then I think it will pave the way for a healthier life without feeling like I'm sacrificing anything.   I think those new memories will come from repeated mindful experiences enjoying those foods.  I'll work on it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Facing the Music is Always Good

I want to do a quick check-in after my "turn-around day" yesterday.  It was a great day and I want to share what I learned.

Last night I did my personal "walk of shame" and headed to the center for a Booster meeting.  I listened to my original music playlist, which immediately put my mind in a humble and open place around my weight.  The weigh in was brutal for me (late in the evening, you do the math) but since I had made peace with the increase, I didn't let it get to me.  I felt proud of myself for facing the music.

I was pleasantly surprised by a very meaningful and helpful meeting.  There were just two of us and the leader so we were really able to get to the heart of our anxiety and struggles around eating and maintaining.  The focus of the group was "Simplicity" and we talked about what that word means to us.  She shared the idea of viewing food as a "less is more" proposition, and encouraged us to focus on making beautiful, high quality, healthy choices, displayed creatively.

One of my take aways from the evening was the sense of how important my attitude is in this whole process.  If I am thankful and happy with the beautiful nourishing food before me, then I tend to be satisfied.  I know this about myself, and when I'm in a positive frame of mind about what I'm doing (with anything in life) I am more successful.

When I was on the full fast (treatment phase of this program), I viewed the shakes as a tool to keep me alive and to treat the symptoms of my obesity.  For the longest time, I stayed very true to the program with that positive focus, and it worked very well for me.  When I started thinking about what I was missing, I strayed towards the end.

My personal challenge with this new lifestyle is to keep a positive and thankful view of food.  It is neither the enemy, nor my savior.  It is nourishment, and can be a pleasant experience if I plan it that way.

Interestingly, after my instructor listened to my story and concerns, she picked up right away on how helpful it would be for me to plan out my meals ahead of time.  I know this is a common tool, but she expressed the suggestion as more of a way to plan for good things to eat, even nights out.  Make it a creative, and pleasant experience, and something to look forward to.

So my strategy will be to pre-plan with MyFitnessPal and do this with a positive outlook and look forward to the meals that I have planned.  This worked like a charm yesterday, but today I will do it with a smile on my face, and a grateful heart.

The moral of the story is that good things can happen when I put aside my self-imposed fear and shame and open myself up for help.  Weight is just a number, but ultimately I'm here to learn how to balance food and activity to support a healthy life and weight.  This is the life that I want for my future, so I'm going to keep positively focused on living it each day.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Planning to Succeed

173 lbs.

Well, my eating and tracking have been terrible this past week.  I'm done.  I got dressed up to go to a book group last night, and my stomach felt tight, and I didn't like it one bit.  It scared me and put me in a zone of feeling out of control again.

I hate feeling this way.  Last month I didn't make time to go to my Optifast program Booster class.  I'm supposed to go to one each month for a year.  Part of me didn't want to go in because I have to weigh-in.  Big. Red. Flag.  Avoiding a weigh-in is something I've done in the past.

Well, I'm calling myself out on this old, unhealthy behavior and I'm not going to do that again.  I've made such great progress over the past year, so I need to stay strong and stay the course.  Learning how to eat again (and finding the right thing for ME) is going to take some time, and while I'm heavier now than I want to be, I know that if I keep focused on my diet, and keep striving to achieve more with strength and exercise, I will not only stay where I am, but I will get to back where I want to be.  So I've done something to halt this behavior.

I'm owning up to my weight gain and tonight I'm going into the clinic for my first Booster class.  I'll weigh in and probably cringe, but I'll be there and learn something, and get some tools for this challenging time in my life.

I also entered the next six months worth of classes into my phone calendar.

Planning, planning, planning.

I've planned what I want to eat today and entered it into MyFitnessPal.

Back to grain-free, lower carb eating.  Just healthy, beautiful food that I know makes me feel great.  No more nuts or peanut butter "tastes".  These are triggers for me and I can't eat them.  Slowly I'm going to take back the reigns and change the course I'm on.  Time to get tough and get strong.

That's what's going on with me today.  I hope you all are doing well and staying on course with your programs.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New Blog Name and Fresh Look

I mentioned in my last post that I was contemplating changing the name of my blog to better represent my current life experience.  It wasn't easy to find a new and original blog name that describes my life as a person trying to maintain a significant weight loss and build a new life as a fit, healthier gal.  Closer to Fit is what I landed on, after much deliberation.  It reminds me of one of my favorite songs, "Closer to Fine" by the Indigo Girls.

The colors may change every now and then, but the context of this blog will stay the same.  It's just about me, trying to establish a life of healthy balance with food and exercise.  I try and share my honest experiences, even those that are not perfect and on-program.  Writing this blog as been a wonderful part of my adventure in weight loss, and it will continue to be an important tool for me.

I hope that you find it validating, and sometimes interesting.  As always, I'm thrilled to get your comments and have appreciated all those who have supported me for the past year.


P.S.  For those kind souls who have linked to my blog from yours:  The name of this blog might not change automatically in your blog rolls, so if possible, would you manually change it in your layout?  I appreciate your willingness to help me through this transition.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Changes in Attitudes

After an indulgent 24 hours celebrating my son's birthday, and taking bites of unhealthy sweets and chips, I'm finally over it and back on track.

Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake - our official family birthday cake.

I've read many times that you can't out-exercise a bad diet.  That may be true, but I have now experienced a few occasions, when my food choices were not good, I forced myself to get out there and exercise.  I have to say that those workouts weren't really about burning the extra calories.  It was about what it did ABOVE my shoulders.  Exercise hits the re-set button that switches me away from my "old place" of overeating that used to spiral out of control and transitions to my current, healthy, athletic self that is taking control and choosing wisely.

As I jogged one of my favorite beautiful trails today I was thankful for my healthier body.  I enjoyed the feeling of being able to run up hills, and breathe the fresh air.  Today my attitude changed from someone who was eating sugar and feeling tired and unmotivated, to someone who said "no excuses, get out there."  It felt wonderful and was one of my best runs.

Some friends and I have joined together to run/walk 2015 miles in 2015.  I'm ending January with 64.8 miles logged!  I'm also ending the month with sore muscles from strength training.  2015 is going okay so far, and I'll keep challenging myself to make healthy diet and exercise choices so that I can enjoy this active life for as long as possible.

On another note, I've been thinking about changing the name of my blog to something that reflects my new healthy lifestyle and challenges.  I'm very proud of my success using Optifast products, but as I move forward, my reflections have been more than about weight loss.  I haven't come up with a new name, it's just an idea that I'm toying with.  If I do switch, I'll be adding Formerly, Optifast Adventurer so that readers and searchers will know that it's me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Staying on Track

It's tough!

I feel like it is a real struggle for me to fully get back on track.  I'm trying to figure out if this is just the new "steady state" of being a person who lost lots of weight and now needs to keep it off - the snack and meal decisions that are sometimes perfect and sometimes unhealthy.  I know the unhealthy ones add up.

I could look on the positive side at how far I've come and the new habits that I've acquired, but right now, I need to face the ugly truth.  Peanut butter is crack to me.  I love whole wheat bread, and have started eating it.  I'm feeling more snackish than I did when I wasn't choosing to eat bread.

I just started reading some of my old blog posts, and remembered my Optifast workbook.  These are some of the suggestions:

  • Ask yourself if you're really hungry.  If you're not, physically leave the kitchen.
  • Do some deep breathing, and let the breath out slowly.  Relax.
  • Am I having an emotional trigger?  Go outside, walk around, breathe, find a distraction or ask if this is an issue I can control and evaluate it.
  • Fix something to drink.  Make sure that it's not thirst, instead of hunger.
  • Get rid of the trigger food(s).  Ugh. 
Tomorrow I'm going to weigh myself since it has been a couple of days.  I know that regular weighing helps me to stay accountable and keeps my head in the game.  I also recently started my TOM so I didn't feel very light, if you know what I mean.

I also notice some correlation with the time of my cycle and my desire to eat more.  Maybe the hormones trigger anxiety, I don't know.  But I sure as heck can practice better coping strategies.  Repeated practice is my only hope for change.

There are no quick fixes, of that I'm certain.  I just wanted to publicly proclaim that I'm not backing down from the challenge.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Completing My First Half Marathon

170 lbs.

Last weekend I completed my first half marathon!  It was a wonderful experience from beginning to end.  Starting off, I got to meet three great women, two of whom I only knew through a blog, or Facebook.  That was really neat.

When I began my weight loss adventure a year ago, I kept pretty quiet with my close circle of friends, and I didn't speak at all about it publicly on Facebook.  After years of trying, it seemed too risky, or I felt like it might be be a pathway to self-sabotage.  Instead, I started this blog, and discovered a world of bloggers who either had gone through, or were currently going through the same experience, sometimes with the same program.  Each day I would check their blogs for the latest news on their progress and experiences.  It was very motivating and inspiring.  These people, along with my Optifast classmates became my primary support system.  I'm living proof that that you can gain a tremendous amount of support from friends you only know online.

Fast forward to one year later, and after commenting on each other's blogs and joining shared Facebook groups, I got to actually meet two wonderful people -- Optifastmom aka Martha, and Jarmila, of the Facebook group From Fat to Finish Line and Optifast Maintenance.  I also met up with Jarmila's friend Peggy, a running veteran. What a cool experience to meet them in person, and put a voice to the picture!

Jarmila and Martha lost weight through Optifast, but they are also kick-ass runners who have logged several races, several half marathons, and in the case of Jarmila, one marathon.  I couldn't ask for better companions and coaches as I prepared for my first half marathon.  It was through reading OptifastMom that I first got the idea to try and jog a little bit during my exercise walks.  Jarmila was also so sweet and kind, offering encouragement and positive energy for this experience.
Martha, me and Jarmila at the Expo to pick up bibs.
Peggy (Jarmila's friend), Jarmila, Martha and me at lunch before the Expo.  Our first meeting!
I'm thrilled to call these wonderful ladies my friends -- no long virtual friends.  We will continue to be there to motivate and encourage one another, and share ideas.  All of us are battling weight maintenance, and it is great to know that I'm not alone in my struggles to keep the weight off.  This is a normal part of life now.

Here are more pictures of race day.
I arrived bright and early, just me and a few assorted workers.  All is quiet. I am wearing one of my favorite sweaters from my overweight days.  I will symbolically shed it during the race.  The clothing is donated to a local charity.
Me, Peggy and Jarmila before the race, at our corral.  Ready to Rock 'n' Roll.
Martha took this pic of me running across the finish line.  I got a second wind at the end and was able to run the last half mile or so.  I completed the race in 3:03 -- ahead of my goal.  It felt great!
Caught up with Martha and posed with our bling.
Post-race beer selfie!
One last photo with my medal, before getting cleaned up!
Diet and Maintenance Musings

Well, I took carb-loading to a new level before and right after the race.  Beans, pita chips, pancakes, banana bread, bagels, enchiladas, margaritas, wine... you get the picture.

It was fun while it lasted, and I admit that it's hard to get back on the wagon after indulging in the foods that I have mostly avoided for so long (wine excluded!).  But here I am, my weight is up, and I have no more excuses to eat.  I'm back to normal running distances, and I also began a weight lifting program at my new gym.  My goal is to build muscle to help build my metabolism.  I'm also going to work very hard to keep to my 1400 calorie limit, and not eat back exercise calories.

It feels good to begin again.  I also know that I'm not alone in my struggles.  I'm reading lots and lots of blogs and Facebook posts from people who are in exactly the same boat and working their way back to better eating and a healthier weight.

I'm taking it one meal and snack at a time.  One decision at a time.  I may not be 100% right now, but my mind and heart are in the game, and I'll take that as a positive sign.

Of course my mind is thinking about all of the special gatherings I have ahead of me.  I'm subbing for a fun Bunco group tonight, and will have to pass on the M&Ms and snacks.  I am having a special gathering with some friends this weekend, and alcohol will be served.  My goal is to have one drink and then pop open the sparkling water.

Valentine's Day, my 25th wedding anniversary, Passover Seder, Easter (we celebrate both), my birthday...etc.  That is only through April.  I was thinking about all of these events, because I've noticed that my life seems to be packed with them all of the time.  I'm very, very lucky to have so many wonderful people and events in my life.  I just have to reframe them differently.  They don't have to be occasions to eat and drink poorly.  When I was on Optifast, I managed them.  It's time for me to really develop a strategy around life events now that I'm eating food.  It will require me to feel so strongly about my health, that I'm willing to pass on opportunities to eat and drink alcohol, or limit the exposure to one day.  Balance.  That is what I'm striving for.  I can and I will.

I'll leave you with a great blog post that I read at The Weight Loss Counter Revolution.  Falling Off the Wagon is a great read!  It's all part of the journey, and we aren't going to be 100% perfect.  It's a good one.