Thursday, 29 November 2012

"Challenges" Revisited

Being leader of my TOPS group is an interesting yet challenging position to hold.  The thing I love about TOPS is that group leaders do not have to be members who have reached their goal (called KOPS … Keep Off Pounds Sensibly).  Everyone is on the same journey and able to help each other.  The challenge is coming up with a meeting topic every week.  This is my second year as leader and sometimes I feel like I am just repeating what everyone already knows.  I try to keep an eye out for interesting topics on line or in magazines or anywhere else I find current weight loss news.  I cut and paste links for future reference, I tear out magazine articles and yummy looking low fat/low calorie recipes (I’ll have to look for some of those to share on here too), I scan other Blogs and I print things off the computer.  There is an overload of weight loss information out there and boy, sometimes you have to take things with a grain of salt and really consider the source.  Hmmm … there we have another future idea … ridiculous diet ideas.

I like to print off a monthly calendar with my meeting plans so the group knows what to expect each Monday night.  Since the holidays are so close I want to try to keep things fun and light BUT still informational.  I was going through some of the articles I have filed away when I came across something I had written just after I rejoined TOPS for the second time.  It seemed like something that I should haul out, dust off and post on this blog.  Don’t be fooled, my reasons are entirely selfish … I desperately need to get back into a regular exercise routine.  Teaser ... more on that next week.

I enjoy playing with words and when I finished writing this I thought it was pretty good, so decided to submit it to the TOPS NEWS magazine.  I was tickled when they considered it good enough to include in one of their issues.

So, here it is as one of my “mid week sneak-ins” …


There is a building located not too far from my home. It is a modern looking structure of concrete blocks and large panes of glass in the front, much like other buildings located around it. The parking lot of this particular building is quite large and no matter what time of day you drive by, its usually quite populated, indicating a significant number of people frequent this establishment.

I happen to know that to enter this building you need to "belong".

I "belong".  And my goodness, what a special feeling that is!

I have to admit it is a rather strange establishment. It draws in people for any number of reasons, each one personal. People walk in with a sense of duty, or dread, or trepidation and, I have been told but find it difficult to trust, in a few cases actual anticipation. People congregate here for periods of time and yet rarely speak to each other. Oh, there are familiar faces indicating regular attendance. People make eye contact and occasionally smile. There may be the type of terse chit-chat that occurs among people who happen to be in the same place for the same reason. I am sure that at some point relationships may have formed, but I am not privy to any such information.

Upon entering I am always greeted by a smiling, energetic young person. Once I verify that I do indeed "belong" to this particular establishment I get a cheerful hello. I know what happens to those who cannot prove their right to be there. I shudder to even think of it. I remember the initiation process. I remember the vows made. I am still burdened with the debt of the dues this organization extracts. But I "belong", so I am told that "they" hope I enjoy my visit. I know this is a ploy. I know what awaits me. They want to try to convince me that I should "enjoy" my visit.


I walk in, trying to squelch down the urge I feel to turn around and leave. But I push forward, changing into the uniform required. Oh yes, there is a strict dress code. I carry with me my bottle of water, the only sustenance allowed during my visit here.

I walk down the ramp and into the MAIN room. There are other rooms. Each one designated for a special purpose. At various times I have attempted to partake in the activities in these rooms, but have found myself totally lacking in the enthusiasm and admittedly, the unique talent, it requires to do so. So I contain my activities to the MAIN room.

No one turns to watch me enter.

I pause for a split second to take in what is waiting for me. What lies before me is a sight that, could he have even imagined such a place, would make the Grand Inquisitor tremble in anticipation and rub his hands together with sadistic glee.

My time has come again ...

Oh God help me ...

(SOB) ...

I have to start my workout!

Alright – I got that out of my system. For those of you still with me here, there really is a point to this. Today I reached a personal goal. This article is nothing but a blatant, no excuses, pat on my own back.

First though, a couple of disclaimers.
     1. To those of you who run marathons, let me say without a trace of sarcasm and with the utmost sincerity, I have nothing but respect.
     2. I have absolutely no aspirations to ever do so. My brain and my imagination say "oh yeah, that would be so cool". At which point my body chimes in with a resounding "NO WAY!!".
     3. To those of you who do run this is going to seem like mighty small potatoes. I don't care. Because to me – today – this is the whole damn buffet.

I used to go to the gym regularly.  Every other day, and I really enjoyed it. Even, dare I say, missed it when I could not go. However, real life took over (I was working two jobs, my father took ill and went into care, and I just plain got lazy and stopped looking after myself) and I found myself going only sporadically over the last three years. Again, life hands you things, and there are a few important events coming up over the next year and I decided with a resounding THWACK to the forehead that I had better get my act together and start looking after myself again.

At the beginning of March this year, I swallowed my pride, tucked my tail between my legs and sheepishly walked through those daunting doors once again. I am a die-hard cross trainer fan and started off doing that as my cardio workout. My daughter, who happens to be my biggest rooter in this endeavour, likes the treadmill. In thanks for her support, I decided that a little mother/daughter time walking side by side on the treadmills would be nice. Only one flaw in that plan ... I walk ... she runs. My first day on the treadmill I managed to do one mile in a little over 19 minutes. I had one mile down to about 13 minutes a few years ago ... this was not good! When I got off I was wondering, "was it possible that the floor was really moving or were my legs just made of jelly?” That day I decided on a little personal challenge. I was older ... I needed to get started on this reasonably slowly ... so my goal was a 14 minute mile. It would involve little spurts of my own personal version of running ... the "wog". Well – I soon found out that it took more than a few spurts.

To cut a long story short, by the middle of April I had the 14 minute mile down. I like to spend about a half hour on cardio, so I tested myself to see if I could do two ...NOPE! Tiredness won out and the second mile took longer.

To cut that story even shorter, today I did three consecutive 14 minute miles. Yup – 42 minutes to do three miles. 3.03 to be exact. Never win me any medals but ... Oh yeah ... feeling proud ... back to the cross trainer I go. Until Nicole said, "Gee mom, you should try to get that down to 13 minutes each." DAMN, the nerve of her, a challenge!

So, on I go to the next challenge ... 
Right now it seems like it is going to be getting myself out of bed tomorrow morning.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Cravings and Permission

It’s Monday night, which means TOPS weigh-in night.  That small step up and onto the scale seems like scaling a mountain sometimes.  And really, I can’t kid myself.  I know if the result is going to be good or bad.  The people who step onto the scale, see the number and give it the “I don’t understand that … I’ve been good this week.”  Uh-uh!  Doesn’t work that way.  I had a sneaking suspicion that it was going to be a good weigh-in for me this week and it was.  I was down 2 ¼ pounds.  I’ll give myself a little “whoop-whoop” for that!

Before anyone looks at the date of my last post and thinks “no way”, let me clarify.  This loss is a whole week’s worth of being good.  I started thinking about this blog and putting together the first post for quite awhile before I posted it.  I am going to try for one post a week … probably on Monday night or sometime on Tuesday.  I may slip in an extra one here and there if something tickles my fancy.  It’ll make up for the week I may miss because I can’t think of anything even reasonably intelligent to put on paper.

I am sitting in front of my laptop at my kitchen table watching Dancing with the Stars as I type this.  Yes, Dancing with the Stars … sigh ... it’s a guilty pleasure.  And speaking of guilty pleasures I do have another one too.  Okay, not so much a guilty pleasure as a dirty little secret!  I also just ate a chocolate bar.

Before you start shaking your head, tsk-tsking, and pointing fingers at me, here’s a little deal I made with myself …

If I have a craving during the week I wait it out.  More often than not it goes away, especially if it was a craving brought on by something I saw on television (the Food Network will be the death of me), read in a book (authors seem to take sadistic delight in describing amazing sounding food in great, mouth watering detail) or saw in a magazine.  If the craving does not go away I allow myself a “treat” on Monday night.  Weigh in is on Monday, so if I need to eat something “bad” I do it on Monday, within reason.  Let's face it - you can’t sit down and eat a whole pizza or a bucket of KFC and not expect an impact on the scale, not to mention your hips.  Then I get past it, and get right back on track again.  Also, hehehe, I have a whole week to work it off.  So tonight it was a Three Musketeers Bar.  As I may have mentioned once or thrice, chocolate is definitely my weakness.  Admittedly, it may not be the best "tip" in the world of weight loss … but it’s worked for me in the past and I am counting on the fact that it will help me keep those cravings in check this time around too.  It's a quarter-step backwards that helps me keep my sanity.  I mean, who doesn't get a little ugly living in a world of total deprivation?  Frequently I will look forward to it all week and then when Monday night rolls around I find it’s not so important anymore and I skip my “treat” altogether.  Just giving myself permission seems to be enough.  This week it wasn’t and I caved.

I believe that giving yourself permission to have a small slip empowers you.  It allows you to plan for it, prepare for it mentally and then get it over with.  No beating yourself up … after all you have already decided it was okay.  No whole days of senseless eating because you “blew it anyway, so what does the rest of the day matter”.

It may not work for everyone and I am not necessarily recommending it.  I am only an ordinary person trying to find her way to a healthier lifestyle and a lower number on that pesky scale, and sharing what works for me.

The only other thing I stress is if you are going to give yourself permission to have a not so perfect food for heaven's sake ENJOY IT!  Don’t eat it with a guilty conscience.  Don’t scarf it down without tasting it.  Eat it slowly and ENJOY every single morsel.  ENJOY it and call it good … over and done with … and on to healthy, portion controlled choices for the rest of the week! 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Why now?

It’s true …being fat is hard.  The hardest part is saying “fat”.  So many euphemisms we use, but the truth is its fat we store inappropriately on our bodies and its fat we have to get rid of.  Weight is a battle I have been fighting for most of my adult life.  I’ve gotten to the high ground a few times, but always slid back down that treacherous slope covered in chocolate, rich food and laziness.  Every weight loss tips article I read, every television show I watch and every person I speak to about successful weight loss all say the same thing.  They say it in a variety of ways but it all boils down to the same thing … Keep a food diary.  You must journal what you eat.  It helps you see where you went off track and helps you avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

I have a personal problem with keeping a food journal.  I lie!  I do not want to write down everything I eat because it looks horrible to see it all written down on paper.  And … OMG … what if I accidentally leave it lying around somewhere and someone else happens to see what I’ve eaten that day, or that week?  I would be mortified.  I know that is the precise purpose of it, but I simply cannot do it.  Besides, I also know where I went wrong.  I started to slip up about the time I had the first bite of the chocolate doughnut that I should never have bought in the first place.  Chocolate could become a recurring theme here because it is most definitely my downfall … my food addiction.

So, because I HATE keeping a food journal but I do like playing around with putting words on paper I have decided to keep an information journal.  Hopefully writing things down will help.  Even if no one but me ever reads it, putting it “out there” might be the push I need to get “back on track” and finally make it this time.  If nothing else, it’s difficult to type on a keyboard and place food into my mouth at the same time.  That alone could save me hundreds of calories in a given day.

Now that I have made my mission statement let me tell you a little bit about myself …

I have just turned 54 years old.  I am mother to two amazing young women, have a close group of people in my life who love me and am secure enough to realize that the number on the scale does not reflect my self worth.  Secure in my mind that is … in my heart … I desperately need that number to be lower.  I work full time.  I am addicted to food, cigarettes and books.  I fully understand that two of my addictions are life threatening, but this is a case of picking my battles and right now weight is my priority.  I can only handle one fight at a time.  I belong to a weight loss group called TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) but more on that later.

That’s me in a nutshell.  If you happen to follow along on my journey you will no doubt find out more about me, but for right now that’s probably enough.

Oh … I guess to make some sort of sense out of why I am writing this … I currently tip the scales at mumble, grumble, and mumble pounds.  And WOW, that was hard to write down.  You see no one besides me and my weight recorder know that.  So please, don’t share the information, okay?  I know that’s a cop-out and maybe someday I’ll share, but right now – no can do!

Now, back to TOPS.  This would be a good time to put a disclaimer in here.  This blog has nothing to do with TOPS officially.  I mention it only because it has been a huge help to me personally as it has been for many other people around the world.  It is a non-profit weight loss organization that stresses healthy eating, smart choices, portion-control and education about real food.  It does not promote any particular weight loss program, sells no food products, vitamins or supplements.  I am currently a group leader so quite obviously (or I would not be writing this blog) consists of real people helping each other on their journey.  I will only be referring to TOPS in the context of a group I belong to, and possibly might pull some information occasionally from their website or the free magazine I receive with my membership fee.  If you would like more information you can visit

Now, back to TOPS.  When I first walked through the doors of my first meeting on a Wednesday afternoon so many years ago I stepped on the scale for my first weigh-in and promptly started to cry.  I had not weighed myself for a long time and found I tipped the scales at 275 pounds.  That was a shock.  I was very good at kidding myself.  I think most of us are.  I was a stay at home mom so wasn’t shopping much for clothes.  I lived in sweat pants and oversized tee shirts and sweaters.  My life revolved around my kids and their activities.  When one of the moms on my daughter’s T-ball team talked about TOPS I stored the information away but did nothing about it right away.  I couldn’t afford a weight-loss program, I didn’t have time to go to meetings in the evening and I REALLY did not want to step on a scale.  Oh yes - I had all the excuses.  It's scarey admitting you have a problem and even more frightening to make the decision to do something about it.  When I finally got up the courage to walk through the door I found a supportive group of people and, whew, I never had to state my weight or share my weaknesses.  This whole group was about positive support. 

I did well in that group losing close to 75 pounds.  By the time the weight had come off my youngest daughter was in school full time, my life circumstances had changed and I found myself needing to go back to work full time.  So, Wednesday afternoon meetings no longer fit into my schedule.  I, very regretfully, left the group.  If you have ever been out of the work force for a long time and then jumped back in full time you know that it takes some adjustment.  Tasks that were completed during the day now had to be completed in the evenings … it was a huge time adjustment for me.  I did not look for an evening TOPS group to join again right away.

Guess what happened.

Yup.  That weight started creeping back on again.  I needed the accountability of weighing in every week.  I fell right back into the old habits and let’s face it … if you are not accountable it really doesn’t matter if you eat that extra piece of chocolate cake.  Well, too many pieces of chocolate cake add up pretty quickly.  It took me three years to walk back into a TOPS meeting, but I finally took a deep breath and did it.  The scale was not quite as traumatic as the first time, but I had managed to gain back a substantial amount of the weight I had lost.  Once again I started being responsible for what passed my lips and I dropped almost all the weight I had gained. 

Once again life happened and I could not stay in that group any longer either.  I had to deal with my father facing dementia and eventually full blown Alzheimer’s.  I still had two daughter’s who needed me and still worked.  My hours had been cut at my full time job and my financial obligations depended on a certain level of income, so I took a second job.  You would think with all that going on I would not have time to overeat.  Not so.  Not so at all.  It’s not that I overate … I ate on the run – in the car going from one workplace to the next, in the car or at sports venues when my daughters were playing rep sports, and in the car driving to see to my father.  You get the idea.  You may even identify with the circumstances.  Needless to say, not a lot of wise choices were made in the food department.  Funnily enough, I always insisted my girls eat properly.  I just did not take my own advice.

Then many roads merged.  My father passed away, my full time hours at my first job were reinstated and my girls became a little less dependent on me for transportation. 

It was time to look after myself again.  Once again I rejoined TOPS.  This time I would make it stick and for awhile it did.  As I said at the beginning of this, losing weight it a slippery slope and last year, despite staying with my group (and being group leader no less) I started to backslide.  I have not yet been able to get my head in the game again.

And that’s where this blog comes in.  I’m hoping it will keep me focused.

A burning question would be “why right now?”  It’s a month to Christmas.  Crazy!  Setting myself up for failure?  Not the prime time to choose to start a diet.  True enough.  But keeping everything totally honest here, let’s face it … when your underwear starts to feel too tight … it’s time!  When you have more clothes that do not fit, than clothes that do … it’s time!  When you stop looking at yourself in a mirror … it’s time!  I won’t go on because I’m sure you get the picture.

I do have a plan … some fun things and mind games to keep me on track this time.  Will I slip up?  No doubt!  But I won’t beat myself up over it … I will get back on course and this time … I know I’ll get to my goal.

Join me, won’t you?  It’ll be fun!?!?!