Dieting ups and downs

Week 3 of this 6-week fat loss program has been rough. Due to work stress and crazy hormones I’ve been fighting a multitude of cravings, and losing those battles more often than I’d like to admit. This past week I’ve somehow justified impulsively purchasing a lot of unhealthy snack foods and then chowing down on them until the guilt finally sets in. It’s vicious cycle of self-indulgence and self-hate that I have to break or else I’ll be right back where I started a few weeks ago. (Not that it would be the worst thing to happen, but I’d rather not backslide if I can avoid it.) You’d think feeling crappy about myself would be motivation enough to stay away from junk food, but I guess not. Last Sunday I unwisely got on the scale (because my weight should not be my primary indication of success), but I surprisingly discovered that I had lost seven pounds! That was extremely encouraging, but it didn’t keep me from making poor choices. I’m pretty upset with myself, but I know there’s nothing I can do to change the past. All I can do right now is remember how good progress feels and focus on all of my short-term and long-term goals.

My first goal when I started this program was to be able to wear an older dress for a big meeting at work. For the first six months of 2018 I’ve mostly been wearing a single dress when I have to give presentations and people are probably starting to wonder whether it’s the only one I own. My professional wardrobe needs more variety, even if that only means I can wear some of my old dresses rather than buying a bunch of new ones. I only had 16 days to slim down enough to squeeze into a dress that was way too tight beforehand so I had no idea if it was even possible. I usually wear some high-waisted Spanx under my work dresses to help even everything out, but they are horribly binding and have a tendency to roll down throughout the day. I’m always pulling on them to keep them in place and that’s not something you want to be doing in front of your co-workers. So the week before the meeting I went to Target to look for alternatives. I settled on a waist cincher with plastic boning that will circumvent the pesky rolling down while smoothing out the lumps and bumps around my waist. I was skeptical that it was going to be the right solution, but I actually loved it! Unfortunately the dress I was hoping to wear for my presentation last Tuesday ended up still being slightly too small, but I was able to comfortably wear another old dress so I was still pleased. I had made enough progress in 16 days to fit into an old dress and I had found a foundation garment that made it look fantastic on my body in its current state. The waist cincher has its downsides, namely the boning sometimes poking me when I sit down, but overall I’m optimistic about its prospects for future work meetings where I need to dress up.

My next big goal is to wear something fabulous to a wedding reception in Portland, OR in less than four weeks. The reception is for a couple of friends who got married last year in a small ceremony, but are now throwing a big party for all of their family and friends. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never been to Oregon before and going to this reception in Portland is a wonderful reason to visit for the first time. Also, I’m going to see a lot of my online friends (I wrote about them for the first time back in 2015) who are scattered all over the country. We love any excuse to be able to get together! We’ll see what dresses I can fit into before I head to Portland for the celebration.

A woman’s worth

“There is a reason women were created, and it’s not just because Adam didn’t know how to do the dishes.”
-Blog comment that made me laugh

For some reason I can’t seem to stay away from my least favorite blogger’s page. (I’ve written about her twice before, on 6/30 and 7/7, but I refuse to name her or her webpage here because, in my opinion, she doesn’t need any more exposure!) I visit the blog on a regular basis even though her every post make me ill. Most mornings I find myself checking in to see what fresh monstrosity she has put out into with the world. Recently she wrote a post that “went viral” (as she will remind you at every opportunity) so her particularly narrow-minded “Christian” views got a lot more attention that usual. (Note: By putting the word Christian in quotations I mean no disrespect towards the religion in general, but I also don’t want to imply that this woman’s beliefs apply to all followers.) The post in question was regarding what essential traits a woman should have to make her marriage material. I’m sure everyone could come up with a reasonable list of characteristics, like kindness, maturity, loyalty, responsibility, etc. However, this blog post called out three particular qualities that “men prefer” in their potential spouse – namely her virginity, no accumulated debt, and a lack of tattoos. Pretty specific, huh? Taking this list at face value I don’t think any of these things are exactly groundbreaking concepts, especially since every man (and woman, for that matter) has their individual preferences when looking for a partner. But the way the post was written implied that women who had any past at all (like independence or ex-boyfriends) were damaged goods not worthy of a quality husband. What nonsense!

This may be way more personal that I should share here, but I was a virgin when I met my husband at age 22. I’m what most people would call a late bloomer in that regard. That label doesn’t bother me, but I know that most women in my peer group had sex for the first time much younger than I did. However, when my ex and I got married (on the 6th anniversary of our first date) I was no longer a virgin. Not surprising considering we had been dating for such a long time. We also lived together for a year and a half before the wedding in the house we bought a few weeks after getting engaged. Still, he was the only person I had ever been with. But rather than lauding my virginity at the beginning of our relationship, he was actually annoyed by it. Virgins have no idea what they’re doing in the bedroom and he didn’t want another inept lover. (He was my first but I was not his, which I was OK with.) And now that I’m older and have more life experience I don’t blame him! So while I understand that most religions value a woman’s purity when she weds, clearly not all men are exclusively looking for virgins to marry. (For the record, my ex-husband wasn’t any more religious than I am, but he was still interested in my morals, goals, and our mutual compatibility before choosing me as his wife.) So now that I am a divorced woman pushing 40, and obviously no longer a virgin, am I less worthy of a man who loves and respects me in my current state? Am I damaged goods because I am single after saving myself from an abusive marriage? No! Maybe no Prince Charming will ever make his way into my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to settle for less than what I deserve just so that I can have a man in my life. I’m doing just fine on my own!

Regarding the other two noted qualities of a marriageable female according to this “Christian” blogger – no debt and a lack of tattoos – I’ll have to tackle those in another post. It’s getting late and I have to get up and run the Cypress 5K in the morning. Just one of the things this single woman can do with her abundant freedom and independence!

The journey continues

That first week of the 6-week fat loss challenge I was 100% faithful to my plan and didn’t give in to even a single craving. (Except for my one allotted cheat meal, a turkey sub from Jersey Mike’s that I ate on Friday night as fuel for my Saturday morning 8-mile run.) I had almost no sugar at all, except for whatever amount that’s in my favorite salad dressing from the Greek restaurant that’s two blocks from my house. Their gyro salad is divine. This was undeniably a honeymoon period because the second week on the program I started to lose my resolve. I had some slip-ups in moments of weakness. My very first cheat was a pistachio-flavored Oreo Thin at work. Honestly, it wasn’t worth it. It was so overwhelmingly sweet that I didn’t enjoy it at all. It tasted like a mouthful of sugar and nothing else. At least I wasn’t tempted to have another one! The next day my diet transgression was a bit bigger. I was working late for a big event and we had dinner catered from Boudin Bakery. I had brought in food from home so I wasn’t tempted by the sandwiches, the tomato soup, or the underwhelming salad. However, when I made the mistake of glancing at the dessert tray I saw an iced shortbread cookie that was calling my name. It only took a split second for me to decide that I was absolutely going to eat it. And it was so perfect and delicious that I regret nothing. So by the time the end of the work week rolled around I had only had those two minor deviations, but then the weekend arrived and it didn’t go quite as smoothly.

Comfort eating is a hard habit to curb when it’s been such a regular coping mechanism for so long. I was feeling hormonal over the weekend and not in the right frame of mind to make good choices. I decided to have my weekly cheat meal on Saturday night so I drove a half hour to Firehouse Subs and got my favorite sandwich. It’s always worth the extra time on the freeway. I enjoyed every bite of that Hook & Ladder sub (turkey and ham), but it wasn’t quite enough to curb my irrational cravings for junk food. On Friday afternoon at work someone left a bag of caramel M&M’s out and I foolishly tried a couple of them. Unfortunately they were delicious. I should have known better and avoided them altogether, but I just wasn’t thinking straight. So Saturday night, when I was slightly delirious and willing to do anything to get some sugar, I bought caramel M&M’s at Target. As it usually goes, I felt so happy and satisfied while eating the M&M’s, but I regretted my actions as soon as I was finished. I didn’t even make it through the whole bag before the guilt set in. I was mad at myself for being weak, especially since I felt like I’d been making progress already on this diet program. I vowed to do better on Sunday, but it ended up being another day of poor choices too. At the end of the weekend I was feeling pretty terrible, but I had to remind myself that a few slip-ups are not enough to undo two weeks of hard work. I have to remember to stop chastising myself because I’m an imperfect human with ups and downs just like everybody else. In the long-term these healthy changes I’ve been making will pay off!

Starting again

“I’m calling it a clean-ish diet because I’m eating a wider variety of foods than Whole30 allows (like cheese and beans), while still keeping my focus on meat, fruit, and vegetables. And after two weeks I’m starting to see some real results. I wish I’d made this change sooner!”
4/15/18 webpage post

Remember in April when I said I had established a clean-ish eating routine? Well, I’m sorry to say that it only stuck for about three weeks. I was anticipating seeing the number on the scale drop dramatically while I was not only eating appropriately, but also exercising regularly. However, when I got on the scale after three weeks I had actually gained weight. It was infuriating. Shortly after that I went to Las Vegas with my running buddies for the Mt. Charleston Half Marathon and ate all sorts of unhealthy things while I was away from home. I had lost all motivation to continue my clean-ish eating and I went right back to my old ways, including fast food, sugary soda, and sweets. Comfort eating at its finest. Shockingly, this didn’t make me feel any better about myself. In hindsight it’s easy to see that only short-term satisfaction can be gained from comfort eating, being rational is not my strong suit when I have cravings. After falling off the wagon I wallowed for a couple of months, but then my workout buddy and I came up with a new plan of action. We decided to sign up for a 6-week fat loss challenge at our gym because both of us needed some structure to help us succeed. We had been working out very consistently since February, but the eating portion of our weight loss journey was much harder to figure out. We definitely needed both sides of the coin to make progress.

So I’ll be you’re wondering how it’s going so far, right? Well, the 6-week program started on July 9th. Today is July 22nd. That means I’ve been dieting for 14 days. Just 14 measly days, but it seems like much, much longer. This has already been a journey and a half and we’re only one third of the way through the program! I’ll write more about that later this week, but for now I’ll leave you with a few key points. On the plus side, I have significantly increased my protein and vegetable consumption which I know is good for my body. Also, I have ingested minimal sugar in the last two weeks and I feel pretty great about that. Unfortunately, my resolve fades a little with each passing day. Every evening I crave a dessert of some kind or another, and Larabars (my “healthy” sweet snack of choice) just aren’t cutting it on that front. Hopefully once I start seeing noticeable results of all this deprivation I will be more inclined to faithfully follow the rules. Until then I’ll continue doing my best (with a few stumbles here and there) and hope for the best!

Braided hair, oh my!

Remember that Christian woman I mentioned a couple of posts ago who banned me from her Instagram? Well, here’s the story of how I was blocked from commenting on her Facebook page. On June 19th her blog post included an image of an excerpt from the 1st book of Timothy. Here it is in its entirety:

“8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
1 Timothy 2:8-12

The only portion that wasn’t highlighted in the blog post was the part about women not braiding their hair, or wearing gold and pearls or costly attire. This woman claims to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Bible, and scolds her readers when she thinks they are picking and choosing which verses to honor. So when she used this passage from 1st Timothy I commented on her associated Facebook post asking how she feels about braided hair, gold, and pearls in this day and age. I tried to ask the question as respectfully as possible because I wanted to get a sincere response without starting an argument. How do you think this situation played out? Not only did I not get a response, but my comment was very quickly deleted and I was banned from posting anything further. Why bother trying to answer simple queries when you can just avoid them altogether?

Now, I’d like to make it clear that I am not religious so I am not as familiar with the Bible as many others are. My general belief is that the Bible is an ancient book written exclusively by men back in the time when women were little more than property. While it undeniably contains a great deal of wisdom, not all of it is applicable to modern Christian life. Some of it even seems downright crazy. Simply considering this example from 1st Timothy, I most certainly disagree that women can’t teach men. Gender equality was not even a remote consideration thousands of years ago, but now women are employed in almost as many jobs as men. When numerous churches have female pastors and other leaders without feeling like they are going against the will of God, how can we possibly take the Bible as a whole in its strictest interpretation? All of this is just my opinion, of course. I don’t have a problem with anyone’s religious beliefs unless they advocate oppression, hate, or violence. As long as you don’t try to force me to conform to your moral code, or tell me I’m a horrible person because of how I live my life (more on that in another post), we’ll get along just fine.

Baking is my self-care

“I am rediscovering my love of baking today. I used to use it as self-care, and now I remember how soothing it is for me. I’m headed to a friend’s house later to shoot off some fireworks and gorge on delicious food!”
7/4/18 Facebook comment

This past week I’ve been thinking about how in the heck I’m supposed to follow such a heavy post about feminism and rejecting limitations. I’ve recently started several other posts on meaningful topics that I want to expound on, but they need a lot more time before they’ll be ready to publish. So in the meantime, here’s something a bit lighter! (I would have added the word “literally” to that sentence, but one of the things I’m going to talk about is pound cake which is the opposite of light fare!)

With a few exceptions (mostly holidays like Halloween and Christmas), I haven’t done much baking in the last couple of years. Granted, I’ve done quite a bit of other cooking (chili, of course, plus a lot of Whole30 recipes), but it’s just not the same. Looking back at my archives, I’ve been partial to pumpkin bread in the fall, but the last chocolate chip cookie recipe I posted was in February 2016. (I high recommend those brown butter and molasses chocolate chip cookie bars.) Baking used to be a weekly activity that I truly enjoyed and soothed my soul. It was certainly a welcome distraction during Gator games in the college football season! There’s something calming about mixing ingredients in the right proportions and producing a delicious treat that I can share with my friends and co-workers. These days while focusing on my favorite forms of self-care I realized that baking was one of the ways I took care of myself. Not that eating a whole bunch of cookies is particularly healthy, but I relished the process more so than the finished product. So when I got an invite to the annual Fourth of July party I saw it as an opportunity to reinvigorate this pastime and also provide dessert for everyone.

With July 4th falling in the middle of the week I knew I wouldn’t have time to make anything complicated, so I chose two old, previously posted recipes that I knew would be delicious. Also, I figured there was some leeway in both of them for me to experiment a little. I love the creativity that baking allows me – within reason, of course! So in the berry buttermilk pound cake I used a mix of red raspberries, golden raspberries, and blueberries. The grocery store that I visited in a panic the morning of July 4th had only one package of red raspberries left so I improvised with other fruit. I also added more buttermilk than the original recipe called for – probably an extra 2 Tbsp. The end result was an amazing pound cake that I ate way too many slices of. My second cake was a blueberry upside down cake that I’d made for a Memorial Day get-together a number of years ago. This time I used 1/2 c brown sugar, 1/3 c white sugar, an extra 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and an extra 2 Tbsp buttermilk. I am so glad I made those changes because the cake was absolutely incredible! It was rich, flavorful, and tasted like blueberry cobbler. It’s the perfect summer dessert and everyone at the party loved it.

So will I keep up with my baking as a regular form of self-care? Well, as I mentioned, it’s not exactly the most healthy pastime, but I foresee myself mixing up some sweet treats more often during the second half of 2018. Especially in the fall when Gator football returns! I certainly need to remember that it’s a therapeutic activity that I can easily perform at a moments notice in the comfort of my own home. That is very comforting.