Saturday, November 26, 2011

Annie: Thanksgiving

And so, here we are.

It's now six weeks or so beyond our original "Canadian Thanksgiving" deadline, and almost three months since I passed the 100-pound line... and now, finally, this project officially comes to a close. I'll explain why now in a bit; for now, there's other business to attend to.

1) Figuring it out, part 2

In a post what seems like aeons ago, I wrote about Geneen Roth's book, Women, Food and God, and what a tremendous impact it had on me -- specifically, helping me figure out what my problem is with food. I said I'd come back later to explain, and I fully intended to: but as time went on, I wanted less and less to talk about it.

To be perfectly honest, I think that, once I figured out my problem, I quickly came to be tired of thinking about food all the time.

(And, promises-to-my-blog aside, that's a good thing.)

But in sum, here is what Roth's book helped me see: simply put, I am a stress eater. I discounted this for a long, long time, since I over-ate even when I felt I wasn't particularly stressed at work. The thing I realized, though, was that "stress" for me goes beyond the kind of professional stress I used to have on the job.

My big revelation: I am an under-achiever. That is, I always feel like I'm under-achieving. I have always felt this way, as far as I can remember -- and even when I was receiving awards in high school, I felt like an impostor... and was sure that someone figuring out I was actually a fraud was always just around the corner.

I can't explain why I've always been this way, but I have. It's who I am.

A couple of years ago, my family doctor referred me to a counsellor who specialized in eating disorders. She asked me to fill out a journal of my thoughts that would track what I was thinking immediately before each time I had the impulse to over-eat (or eat something I knew I shouldn't eat).

It only took me a couple of hours' worth of journaling in this way before I recognized the pattern: each food impulse was immediately preceded by thoughts about all the things I had to do, how many balls I had in the air. On the drive home from work, for example, thoughts about what we were going to have for dinner led to thoughts about what needed to be picked up at the supermarket, which led to wondering how long it would take me to get to, in, and out of the supermarket, which led to concerns about being late to pick up Child at daycare, which led me to McDonald's.

It doesn't make any sense, but that's how it worked.

My "stress" wasn't traditional big-stakes-decision-required stress, it was you-don't-have-your-shit-together stress.

So I recognized that connection a couple of years ago, but then, didn't know what to do with it. The counsellor, though very kind, was more of a "tell me how YOU feel" kind of person than I generally have patience for, so I didn't stick with her -- but I did value that little bit of learning.

Roth's book, though, brought that recognition back and explained how feelings of insecurity could become an addiction to food.

In a nutshell (at least, the nutshell I take from it), my brain knows that I live in a state of waiting to be proven to be a failure. My brain knows it's unpleasant to feel that way. So my brain gives me something else to focus on that's less scary: food.

I never understood before how the "self-medication with food" thing worked; now I do. It isn't that the physical ingestion of the food medicates -- it's that the mental focus on the food prevents me from thinking about my impending failure.

And, of course, the lack of control with food is a failure.

I can't tell you how much it helped me to understand this, after all these years; it was like scales fell away from my eyes or whatever they say in the bible. It was literally a life-changing book for me.

2) But I'm not "all better"

Recognizing my problem was hugely helpful, but not because it cured me.

I'm not cured, and I don't expect I ever will be.

I still have those same impulses, every day, in response to the same things -- I'm just better equipped to deal with them now.

Most of the time.

3) A new me

In the months since I reached my goal (and for the record, I am still below goal weight, though I have gone up and down the same 5 lbs at least three times since having hit it), I have received a huge number of compliments from people I hadn't seen in a while, and even from people I had seen fairly regularly.

In my work, I meet new people every year, and it's been interesting for me that I have scores of people in my life now who never knew me overweight, even though I wasn't overweight so long ago.

But the "new me" isn't about the way I look -- it's about the way I look at myself.

This is where I come to the next part of the key that unlocked this whole thing for me: running.

As any reader of this blog knows, The Faithful Mo motivated me and mentored me from a time -- less than a year ago -- when I couldn't run more than 28 seconds straight, to having run a 10K last month (in, I might even say, a time I never would have thought I could achieve!).

In the beginning, the "learn to run" program she created for me was a way to begin integrating activity into my life: at the time, I was still well over 70 lbs overweight, and many activities were simply impossible for me.

I began the program she made for me with sets of walking 9 minutes and running 1; and that was really, really challenging for me.

Nine months later, as The Faithful Mo and I crossed the finish line on my first 10K, I cried. And I cried. The race photographer took a picture of us right after the finish, with our medals around our necks, and I look awful in it -- I should have just let myself bawl in it, because the crying-attempt-to-smile is actually kind of weird-looking.

I couldn't believe it; and there are times when I still can't.

But most of the time, I don't feel that way. I do believe it. I feel like a real runner, even though I'm slow -- I feel like I'm part of a really warm and supportive community that extends even beyond The Faithful Mo, and her husband, and my brother and his wife, and my husband and his sister -- all of whom were runners before I was, and all of whom have been really, really supportive of me.

The new me loves the feeling of being able to run. The new me remembers what it was like to have trouble walking, and is filled with gratitude and joy at the chance to step outside into the fresh air and just go.

There is so much gratitude, I can barely contain it.

4) The Thanksgiving Project, by the numbers

When I first started running outside last spring, I would send Mo emails called "this morning's run, by the numbers."  I'd report on how far I'd gone and how fast... and how many buses, how many dogs, how many other runners, etc. I had passed.

In the spirit of those emails, here's The Thanksgiving Project, by the numbers:

Total pounds lost: 106
Weeks it took to lose 100: 48
Weeks maintained: 12 (so far)

Starting clothing size: 22/24
Ending clothing size: 10/12

Distance run: 550K+ (so far)

Distance left to run: as far as I can cover in as long as I live.  :)

5) Giving thanks

I couldn't be more grateful for all the people who helped get me to this point, and who I know will be there to support me as my struggle continues the rest of my life.

First, Mae, whose friendship, commiseration and encouragement helped get me going, and helped keep me going.

My supportive girlfriends, some of whom also struggle with their weight and other personal challenges, who shared resources and cheered me on.

My brother, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law, who encouraged me to get started and helped me believe I could keep going... and welcomed me enthusiastically into the family running club!

My husband, who made significant changes to his life and lifestyle to accommodate the changes I wanted to make in mine -- and who I really believe thinks I'm beautiful, no matter how much I weigh. It can't be easy to live with someone struggling with food and self-esteem issues, but in the almost 16 years we've lived together he never once gave any hint at frustration with my constant cycle of finding and losing my motivation to get healthy. I don't know that I could be that good.

My parents, for whom it must have been so hard to watch a daughter they loved self-destruct as the years went by. As a parent now, I can only begin to understand how difficult that must have been for them. They, like all my family and my husband, walked on the eggshells of trying to figure out what if anything they could say or do to help me, without hurting me. I put them all in an impossible position, and they loved me through it. Incredible.

And finally, of course, The Faithful Mo. I call her that for a reason: she never, ever, ever gave up. And I'm sure she wouldn't have, either, had it taken me another 10 years to figure my shit out (if I'd managed to live that long).  I've already said she was my motivator and my mentor: but she was also my coach, my cheerleader, my conscience, my trainer, and my developer-of-training-programs-for-newbie-runner-friends. She was relentless... but quietly so. Long before this Thanksgiving Project began, she bought me a subscription to Women's Health magazine. A year and a half ago, she ran a children's 1K with Child, in the hopes that seeing them run together would motivate me to run, too. She didn't nag, but she was there, encouraging, quietly.

And then, not so quietly. As I embarked on my running program, she encouraged loudly. She cheered loudly. She travelled thousands of kilometres to cheer me, encourage me, and run by my side. And she shared my success loudly: so proud was she, that she wrote an article in a national magazine about our family, centred around me and this project.

The night of my first 5K last May she gave me a card, the front of which said: "Nothing is impossible."

Now, that card sits atop a bulletin board on the basement wall, next to my treadmill. That bulletin board is home to my race numbers from the three 5Ks I've now run and the 10K, and the two medals I've earned... and will be crowded by this time next year. I look at that bulletin board, and Mo's card, every single day, and reflect... on how far I've come, on how lucky I am, and how much I have to be thankful for.

6) Giving thanks, again

In the time since I hit my goal, I've become a walking ad for Weight Watchers. I've lost count of how many people have asked me how I did it, sat down with me for advice on how they can do it too, and told me I've inspired them to lose weight too.

It's a huge compliment every time, and makes me feel fantastic that maybe I can pay it backward a bit -- to help other people the way so many people helped me.

But one person in particular really drove home to me how important my journey was, when she told me that, when she saw me hit the 100-pound mark, she had quit smoking. This stopped me in my tracks, because while I've never smoked, I've seen enough people struggle with quitting that I have an idea of how difficult it is. I tried to tell this person what a tremendous honour it is for me to think I could have played a role in her making that potentially life-saving decision -- but I don't know whether I was able to. Even now, writing about it, I'm choking up.

There is so much to be thankful for.

7) The Boy

Now, the reason this blog couldn't be closed Thanksgiving weekend: The Boy.

Mae and her Mister welcomed a strapping, handsome little man earlier this week, bringing Mae to her finish line.

While the course of her journey changed mid-stream, Mae's year of focus on her health came to a successful finish, too: she controlled her weight during pregnancy, and obviously did it right: The Boy is perfect!

7) The future

Now, Mae and I both begin our "afterlife."

In the three months since I crossed my 100-pound finish line, I've confirmed what I already knew: for me, the Thanksgiving Project will continue on. While I don't have to focus on achieving a loss every week, I do have to remain focused -- and I've discovered that for me, that will mean eating and running as though I'm still on the Thanksgiving Project most of the time.

The difference is that now I have the latitude to have a little fun every once in a while, too.  :)

I've learned that, while eating "normally" isn't something that comes naturally to me, it's something I can imitate; and that's probably the best I can ask of myself.

So that's what I'll do.

And I'll be ever thankful to everyone who played a role in helping me figure that out.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Annie: what happens now

I promise, I do intend to post the second half of my "figuring it out" blog -- I just have to get myself out of a little time crunch I'm currently in.  But in the meantime, I wanted to just touch base with my handful of loyal readers about where this blog will go from here.

As you may have noticed, my posts have gotten pretty thin in recent months... truthfully, I haven't found that much new to say every week.

While I've crossed the 100-pound line (in fact, 103 pounds as of yesterday morning!), I don't feel like I'm quite done: now that I know what my body looks like/how it behaves at this weight, I think I'd like to try to lose another 10.  But I'm not going to keep posting results every Monday - I fully expect I'll keep following the plateau 3 weeks/lose 1 or 2 pattern, and it would be as boring for me to write as it would be for you to read!

Sometime in the next month or so, I'm also going to hit a Weight Watchers meeting to find out how maintenance works on the new program, as it may have changed since my last go-round. I'll likely post about that, whenever I find the time to fit the meeting in!

I promise, though, to complete the narrative of this blog, with a final post after the 10K race on Thanksgiving weekend. It's only a month away, and I can't wait!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 47

Had a little cry this morning.

Loss this week: 3.1 
Lost so far: 100.6 
Still remaining: 0
Activity points earned this week: 36
Weeks to go: 5

Monday, August 29, 2011

Annie: Malibu Stacey's weigh-in, week 46

I know, my math is off somehow. I don't know when I messed up my count, but I don't have the time or inclination to figure it out.

What I do know: I am 2.5 lbs from the finish line -- I've crossed over the last big "10" before reaching it, so the the arithmetic is pretty easy.

Even with my socks and shoes on!  

Loss this week: 0.6 (as calculated by the WW weight tracker)
Lost so far: 97.5 (as calculated by goal - 2.5)
Still remaining: 2.5 (see above)
Activity points earned this week: 39
Weeks to go: 6

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 45

I'm reporting a loss this week from my weigh-in Monday morning, but by this morning the loss had been all but made back. It's the pattern, and I'm fine with it.

No big news this week, though I've been enjoying seeing people whom I haven't seen all summer - it's a nice confidence booster. My favourite comment so far: "It looks like the summer was good for you!"

It was, indeed. "You look 10 years younger!" was a close second.


I hope to blog this week with the second half of my "figuring it out" post; just need to find some time to do the story some justice.

Loss this week: 1.5
Lost so far: 97.1
Still remaining: 2.9
Activity points earned this week: 40
Weeks to go: 7

Friday, August 19, 2011

Annie: Figuring it out (part 1)

I am just finishing a book, Women, Food and God, which I think is going to change my life. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but there it is.

It was recommended to me by a friend I haven't seen in some time, making me think somehow Providence nudged us to meet for lunch this week, so she could share this gift with me. (If you're reading, friend, thank you.)

I'm kind of mid-revelation right now, so don't feel equipped to explain it to this blog quite yet... but I will, I promise, sooner than later.

In the meantime, I was searching for clips from author Geneen Roth's appearance on the show, and came across a video montage of diverse, unhappy women talking about their bodies and food -- and realized that I either have been or completely understand each one of those women.

I can't embed the video here, but if you're interested -- and even more importantly, if you feel helpless in your battle with your weight and feel like no-one understands -- click this link.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 44

Oh, it's so close I can smell it.

Looking at the pattern over the last few months, while it's close, I know the big number is likely at least a month away. But I can actually see it on the horizon!

This last week was a challenge because I was away from home for most of it, staying with my parents. Neither of them is a Weight Watcher, and my mother is a wonderful cook, so their kitchen is full of all kinds of "good stuff" that could have the potential to throw me off... if I were in a mental place where I could be thrown off. But I'm not, because I understand I have to live in a world full of yummy food -- something I think I'd have a harder time with if I had taken the approach of banishing all non-WW-friendly foods from my home, office and life. If the presence of cookies means you're going to eat cookies, good luck living outside your own kitchen.

My Mum went out and specifically picked up things to help me out: WW-brand bread and bagels and low-fat mayonnaise, for example. And as a reader of this blog, she kept asking "can you eat..." and then catching herself: "I'm sorry! I don't want to be that person! What I mean is, would you like..."  We'd laugh about it every time, but I understood then how difficult it is to live with a Weight Watcher like me. She didn't want to say "can you eat this?" because I'd blogged previously about how that drove me nuts -- but if she said "do you eat this" or "are you willing to eat this" or some other variant of that, it would make me sound high-maintenance, which she didn't want to suggest (even though we both know it's true!).

Mum: see the scoreboard below for the fruits of your efforts. And thanks for all the yummy, Points-friendly meals, not to mention the support!

My Wendie Plan day

The last time I successfully lost weight on Weight Watchers, we followed the "Winning Points" program (this was around 2002/2003). That version of the Points program gave you a range of Points you could use each day based on your weight, and you had to eat at least the bottom of your range every day -- any Points between the bottom and the top of your range that you didn't eat each day went into a "bank" that you could withdraw (and eat) before the week ended, with some limitations. This was before there was ever a "Flex" Points bank or a "Weekly Points Allowance" -- you had to save it before you could eat it. 

At that time, on the Weight Watchers online bulletin boards, there were rogue posts about the "Wendie Plan," which people used to bust through plateaux: it took the number of Points you were allowed during the week and re-distributed them so you had low-Points days with one very high-Points day in the middle of the week. The theory was that getting your metabolism out of its regular rhythm actually kicked it into gear, and people who'd tried it swore it helped them break through long loss droughts.

I think the introduction of Flex Points showed that Weight Watchers saw its value.

At any rate, this week I also did my own version of the Wendie Plan, on Wednesday. It was my last day at home, and we took out our family's favourite submarine sandwiches for lunch. Mum and I de-constructed the sandwich, and it came up to (hold on to your hat!) 28 PointsPlus! Seriously! And that was without the full-fat mayo that usually comes on it! Well, I love those subs and can't get them where I live, and it was my last day. So I decided to take advantage of my Weekly Points Allowance, which I almost never use, and my Activity Points, which I never use all of, and enjoyed every bite. The one sub took care of almost all my regular Points for the day... and then we went out to dinner. I'll spare you the delicious, gory details, but that was another 30 Points.

Did I have indigestion that night? You'd better believe it, but no guilt. I vowed not to eat any of my Activity Points or go over my daily Points allowance for the rest of the week, and kept my promise to myself -- so in the end, I finished the week with all my Weekly Points restored and a spare Activity Point left in the bank.

And a big loss - though the calendar says I might have had that coming anyway. Either way, I didn't pay for it at the scale.

The bottom line for newbies: don't let a high-Points day throw you off -- it can be part of a successful loss program. Just make sure you follow it up with a return to lower Points consumption and lots of activity.

Loss this week: 5.6
Lost so far: 95.6
Still remaining: 4.4
Activity points earned this week: 35
Weeks to go: 8

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 43

I'm not letting it bug me.  I'm not letting it bug me.  I'm not letting it bug me. 

I'm letting it bug me.

Cognitively, I know this is my pattern these days... little payoff for lots of hard work for three weeks, and then a pretty decent payoff for one (sometimes two). But emotionally, it gets pretty tough by week 3 of the pattern.

This last week, I ran 23.5 km and left 28 activity points on the table, not to mention the 49 extra "Weekly Points Allowance" points I didn't eat.  It makes me wonder whether I'd be losing anything at all -- or even gaining -- if I was living on the edge of the program, eating all my allowed points. I mean, how can I be barely scraping by, leaving 75+ points on the table?

I know, I know.

Let's just hope I get my reward next week.

GAIN this week: 0.3
Lost so far: 90
Still remaining: 10
Activity points earned this week: 38
Weeks to go: 9

Monday, August 1, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 42

The scale had me down another pound from this for three days mid-week, then up a pound and a half from this for the last two days - I was fully prepared to be up again for my report this week.

Glad to be wrong!

Not sure how my reporting will be next week - I'll be away from home. There's a scale where I'm going, but I'm not sure whether it measures light or heavy or the same compared to mine... I've no doubt I'll weigh myself because I'm a bit compulsive that way, but haven't decided yet whether to report it.  Maybe I'll report and then confirm when I get home later in the week?

This week was all about perseverance; I have to admit, I'm getting tired of this. I'm all high and excited and full of motivation when the scale rewards me, but even still, now, 42 weeks in, the senseless gain/small loss weeks get me down.

Lots more work to do.

Loss this week: 1.1
Lost so far: 90.3
Still remaining: 9.7
Activity points earned this week: 38
Weeks to go: 10

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 41

As expected, this week's weigh-in reflects a re-settling of the water stores. Interestingly (to me), I was even down another 2 lbs for a few days last week, before re-gaining them (and the additional 0.6) for weigh-in yesterday. What a strange system.

Could the wee gain also be partially related to the TWO movies I attended over the weekend, at EACH of which I consumed a small bag of movie popcorn, at about a kajillion milligrams of sodium apiece? Possibly! Worth it? As my idol Sarah Palin would say, "you betcha!"

[Permission to commence flaming in the comments.]

I had the Points headroom for the popcorn, so I just entered it and enjoyed it. If the sodium did actually contribute to water gain, it'll be gone by next week. It's surprising how OK I've become with that.

A few notes from this week.

1. As much as I'm a blowhard about all this here, hidden by my blog, I'm still humiliated by this whole thing.

I've only revealed this blog to people I trust not to judge me.

It's a funny thing - anyone who looked at me a year ago (and even a few months ago) could have told you I had an unhealthy approach to feeding myself. It was no secret, it was visible to the naked eye. So why is it so humiliating to admit to?

You might say: people will be supportive of your efforts to deal with your problem.
I might say: yes, but they'll still be thinking of me as a person with a weakness they don't have, and will judge me for it.

You might say: people think about your weight far less than you think they do.
I might say: probably true, but that has absolutely no impact on how I feel about anything.

You might say: but you've lost almost 100 pounds! You're not that person anymore!
I would definitely say: I am exactly that same person; I just wear smaller clothes now.

It's a long, long road to being OK with all this... which leads me to note #2.

2. Say what you will about Oprah, she is very brave when it comes to her struggles with food, and deserves a huge amount of respect. 

I don't watch Oprah as a rule, but I saw ads for yesterday's show last week and wasn't going to miss it: it was 100 of her viewers who've each lost more than 100 lbs, having been inspired by something they saw on her show.

She kicked off the show with a retrospective about her own struggle with her weight and with food addiction, in a way that I appreciated for its candour. Given my hang-ups about admitting to my weight, my weight problem, and my food issues, especially given that I don't have an entire industry of tabloid "journalists" and comedians making it their careers to publicly ridicule me for my failings, I can't imagine what balls it must take for her to talk openly about it. Wow.

But then...

3. I wish Oprah would change her language about weight.

As she described her guests' struggles with their weight, Oprah used language like "her weight ballooned to...". I would have expected Oprah to understand how words can hurt. Or maybe I'm just too sensitive.

4. I don't see my weight loss the way other "big losers" seem to.

In that same show, Oprah talked with selected guests about their own weight losses, and each time, showed their "before" pictures. As she discussed their accomplishments and journeys, she asked them what they would tell that person in the "before" picture, and most said something along the lines of "if you don't deal with this, you're going to die."

That's not what I'd tell 90-pounds-ago me, though it's very possibly true.

I'd tell the smiling woman in my "before" pictures "you feel alone, but you're not."  Though I have always been surrounded by people who love and support and value me, being that big was the loneliest feeling I've ever had.

Nowadays, I don't feel that way as much - I think I "blend in" better with the rest of the population... visually, at least. But I'm not really one of them: I still struggle with food every single day, regardless of my size.

I am a very fat girl in a less-fat body.  Will that ever change? I've no idea.

Time will tell, I guess.

GAIN this week: 0.6
Lost so far: 89.2
Still remaining: 10.8
Activity points earned this week: 38
Weeks to go: 11

Monday, July 18, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 40

I'm 40 weeks in, and I still can't explain this strange roller-coaster of weight-loss. I swear, my behaviour doesn't change week to week particularly, other than that I run slightly longer each week (like, enough to account for maybe 2 Activity PointsPlus).  That's it; other than the phases of the moon, there's nothing to explain this.

With this loss, I'm once again confident that I'll make the Thanksgiving deadline for my 100 pounds - but I'm also confident that a nonsense gain isn't too far in my future, as they seem to follow super-awesome loss weeks. It'll suck, but I'll have to just come back and read this post to remind myself of what will follow.

"Can you eat this?"

There is a person in my life whom I love, and who loves me. This person wants to help support my weight loss, and whenever she cooks for me, she makes sure to ask whether I can eat what she's planning on serving, and then tells me what she used to prepare it. It is so sweet. It is so sweet that I feel like a complete jerk for dreading the exchange every time.

The problem is that this person, who has never for a moment had to worry about her weight (she eats like a bird), has no idea what is good or bad from a weight-loss perspective. So after I've been asked if I can eat steak, we have BBQ steak (yay!) with garden-fresh bell peppers (yay!) pan-fried in sesame oil (d'oh). We have green salad (yay!) pre-dressed with an oily dressing (d'oh). We have boiled (yay!) potatoes (d'oh).

I'm certain this person is changing the menu for all 9 people around the table based on what she feels will be most helpful to me... but isn't getting it right. I don't have the heart to tell her, because it is so sweet of her to be doing it at all, and because I know she'll be embarrassed and/or hurt no matter how well I try to phrase it.


Loss this week: 4.8
Lost so far: 89.8
Still remaining: 10.2
Activity points earned this week: 41
Weeks to go: 12

Monday, July 11, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 39

Trust the program.
Trust the program.
Trust the program.

This was my mantra for the latter part of this week, as I found on returning home from my fabulous runs and austerity eating at the farm that my weight still hadn't budged an ounce. I was pissed off, quite frankly - and actually forced myself to go back a few weeks to the post after my last plateau, in which I talked about how you need to trust the program and the loss will follow.

Past me lectured current (at the time) me, which enabled future me (at the time, now known as today me) to actually achieve a loss, rather than the gain that would inevitably have followed eating my frustration in french fries.

Thanks, past me!   :)

I took Child to Kelsey's tonight for dinner (making good on a promise, following a bout of unusually good behaviour!), and was faced once again with a challenging menu. Luckily, Kelsey's posts its nutritional information online; unluckily, there's not much there for folks who are watching what they're doing from a weight-management perspective.

In the past, I've had the fajitas - which are quite yummy, but when consumed with the tortillas (as if they wouldn't be?) they amount to 22 PointsPlus... a bit rich for my blood.  While the salads look pretty good, they are also fat-laden - they all seem to sport bacon or guacamole or a creamy dressing.

So tonight, I tried the vegetarian pizza. The good news is that it really is delicious - tomatoes, spinach, onions on a nice crust with generous cheese (next time I'll ask them to go light on the cheese - I think it could have half as much and still be good); the bad news is it's 25 PointsPlus. But it's also quite big (I'm going to say a foot in diameter?), so I ate half for supper and will have the other half for lunch tomorrow. Ran today and will again tomorrow, so I'll have an extra Activity Points cushion.

I'm not normally a "box it up and take the rest home" person - it's unusual for me not to finish a meal in a restaurant, no matter how big the portion. But this is so big that I was able to do that and still feel satisfied. Thanks, Kelsey's!

I'm surprised at the number of major restaurant chains that don't post their nutritional info (I'm looking at you, Moxie's!). While doing so does expose the unhealthy truth, it also allows we counters to count. If I can't count it I won't eat it... so a formerly fairly regular customer at Moxie's hasn't been there in 9 months. I'm sure they don't miss me... but imagine how many of us there are out there, eating at Kelsey's because they publish the info!

There's my rant. Pray for another loss next week - this plateau for 3, lose for 1 pattern is getting to me!

Loss this week: 2.0
Lost so far: 85
Still remaining: 15
Activity points earned this week: 41
Weeks to go: 13

Friday, July 8, 2011

Annie: running

Nothing but potential

We're home from our little mini-vacation in the Prairie at our family farm. I've been spending a few weekends and the occasional week here every summer for more than a decade, but until now it was all about the farmhouse and its lack of telephone and Internet (though of course the trusty mobile devices have always come with me - can't go completely cold turkey!), and, since Child was a baby, the fabulous community pool that serves the entire area.

Now, suddenly, I'm interested in the roads.

In the Canadian Prairies, farm land is divided into sections of a mile square, with "section roads" marking each mile. The size of a farm operation is described in terms of the number of sections it occupies, and the farmer has access to all parts of his/her farm because of the section roads.

For a runner, the section roads provide an almost-perfect track. They're pre-measured, so I know that completing a lap around the section facing our farmyard is just under 6.5K (that is, exactly 4 miles) -- and, at this particular moment in my training, provides a nice 5-minute warmup walk, a 5K run, and a 15ish-minute cooldown walk.

It's beautiful, as you can see from the photo above - it's hard not to feel as though you're breathing cleaner air running there, as compared to running in the city at home (though if you have allergies, as I do, "cleaner" may not necessarily mean "better," ha!). Running on the section roads (near our farm, anyway) makes you feel like you have unlimited runway, fresh air for your lungs, and blazing sunshine. You feel like you have nothing but potential!

OK, I have to admit there are a couple of minor drawbacks.

1) It takes a bit of getting used to running on loose gravel when you're accustomed to nicely paved city streets. You may be able to see from the photo that there are established tracks where cars, trucks, and farm equipment tend to drive - if you run in those tracks you have less loose gravel to deal with, but you're actually running down the middle of the road. Not bad if you run without music, but I have to run with music, or the sound of my own panting discourages me.  :)  My solution this time: run with Husband, who ran without music in the neighbouring track on the road, and warned me whenever a vehicle was coming up behind us.

2) When a truck flies by on a gravel road in an area of low humidity, you get sprayed with gravel, and then live in a little cloud of dust for a few minutes afterward. I wondered whether I should have been running in a surgical mask!

Really, though, that was it for drawbacks. It was lovely, frankly.

I had done my "long slow distance" run on Sunday before we left, so normally wouldn't have run until Tuesday -- but Monday was gorgeous (see photo!) and I thought it would be a waste of a beautiful, not-too-hot, sunny day not to run. So I convinced Husband to come out with me (grandparents were with us to watch Child) that morning.

It was harder work than I was used to (apparently, the degree of difficulty for running surfaces goes treadmill -> road -> gravel, and I can only imagine sandy beach comes after that!), but I really, really enjoyed it. We even had the opportunity for a laugh, when we unwittingly caused a stampede of cows in a pasture alongside the section road. (If you're unfamiliar with the nature of cows, they're curious enough to want to know who you are, but not always smart enough to know to stop running once they hit the fence.)

Sorry ladies!
(photo taken later, after everyone had calmed down)
And because I really, really enjoyed it... we went back out again on Tuesday.

We drove home Wednesday, and I was all set to do the "cross-train" day The Faithful Mo had put in my training schedule for this week... but Thursday was, incredibly, another beautiful day. I checked with her to make sure it would be OK to run again rather than cross-training (I'm scheduled for 4 runs next week, so I switched one of them for this week's cross-train), and then headed out again, back around my neighbourhood.

As I ran, I plotted out this weekend's "long slow distance" run, which will be 6.5K and will require me to widen my little neighbourhood track - I'm running out of new territory.   :)

And I realized: I am actually enjoying this!  That may sound silly at this point, but until now I have been enjoying the "having run," without particularly enjoying the "running."  Now, I see a beautiful day outside and I want to run. It feels like a waste not to.

Today is gorgeous again (seriously, how long can this luck hold out?!), but I can't run again. I'm planning my long slow distance for tomorrow (hopefully the weather holds out at least that long for me), and I don't want to get injured and put myself out altogether. So I'm headed over to meet a friend (Jillian - see her blog at right!) for lunch and a walk in the sunshine.

What would I have been doing with a day like today a year ago?

Probably staying inside, hiding from the heat. Probably sitting on the couch or in my desk chair. Probably dreading every invitation to join people who would be dressed for summer, every opportunity to do anything outside in the heat, because I'd have refused to go out in shorts, and would have been miserable in long pants.

Today, I feel 10 years younger than I did this time last year. It's an amazing thing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Annie: comments on last post

For some infuriating reason, Blogger isn't allowing me to comment on any blogs (my own or belonging to others). I can post to this blog, but I can't comment to it. Aargh!

Since I can't respond to the kind readers who commented on my last post in the normal way, I'll do it this way!

1) Thanks Mo!

2) Ashton - a bad week is a bad week, and now it's behind you. The key is to keep getting back on the horse, which you're obviously doing! So many times on failed WW attempts, I'd NOT go to the meeting, rather than go and have to face a gain. You're doing it right!

Back tomorrow with a report on my running adventures in the western Canadian prairie. :)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Annie: early weigh-in (week 38)

We're headed out of town this afternoon for a few days, and I won't be near a computer OR a scale until late Wednesday.

Not sure that's entirely a bad thing.  :D

The story here is this: no story. Kept on keeping on, barely made a dent. But I think that's just how the last 20 are going to be.

Those last 20 are jerks.

In the "here's how far I've come" department, try this on for size: Husband is at work today, we're leaving right after he gets home, and by the time we arrive at our destination tonight, it'll be too dark to run. (It's a rural setting - no street lights.)

Old Annie would have said "so that's why I can't run today."

Instead, New Annie paid a sitter $10 to play with Child for the hour of my "long slow distance" run this afternoon. And it was worth every penny!

On the topic of the LSD runs, I have to say I'm beginning to really love Sundays because of them. Every week, I get to travel new ground (even if it's only a half-km at a time); every Sunday, I have a reason to feel proud of myself.

Yay Sunday!

Hoping to find myself down, finally, by the time I get home mid-week - will report back.

Loss this week: 0.6 (the same 0.6 I mysteriously gained last Monday)
Lost so far: 83
Still remaining: 17
Activity points earned this week: 42
Weeks to go: 14

Monday, June 27, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 37 and new food finds

A word for the scale: pfft.

I left ALL my bonus points on the table this week, and only ate 2/3 of my activity points... and was up on the scale this morning. I've been weighing myself every morning because my new running log wants me to (yes, I'm that type A), and while they say you shouldn't do that if you're trying to lose weight, it helps me on days like today. From last Wednesday until yesterday, I was down 0.7 - and then this morning, I was up. Was it water retention after the fabulously salty Baked Cheetos I enjoyed last night? Probably, but it doesn't matter. I know I'm following my program, I'm getting loads of exercise, I'm drinking my water etc etc etc... so it'll come off. Next week, or the week after... I just have to not focus on the scale.

I've made a few new food discoveries lately I figured I should share - this blog has picked up a few new readers I know who are undertaking their own fitness projects (hello!), so I thought I should share these.

1) Janet and Greta's Gourmet Chicken Burgers

I picked these up at Costco last weekend on a whim, and I think they are fantastic.

I must begin by stating that I am generally not a big fan of burgers that aren't beef. (OK, Mae, I'm ready for you: let me have it!) I love turkey and chicken, but not when they are disguised as something else (like, for instance, turkey bacon: I'd just as soon have ham for the same points). The one exception is Hormel turkey pepperoni, which kicks ass, but I think I've blogged about that before. (If not, try it: I've only seen it in America to date, but it's worth carrying across the border for pizza cravings.)

At any rate, these chicken burgers are great. They're from the Podleski sisters of Eat, Shrink & Be Merry fame (so The Faithful Mo will likely like them!), they're only 5 PP each -- and they're a pretty decent size. They're fully cooked, so you just warm them however you want: I had one done on the BBQ last weekend, and then took them, cold, in hamburger buns to work this week and they were great. Nicely seasoned, yummy. In Husband's words, a "definite do-again!"

2)  Bolthouse Farms Light salad dressings

These, I found at Safeway, in the refrigerated salad stuff department. They're yogurt-based, and I have both the "Classic Ranch" and the "Caesar Parmigiano" - they're both really, really good. They don't have that weird "pop" in the mouth many light salad dressings give you (I don't know what that is, but it's mildly disturbing) - I actually find they taste like they're made with sour cream as opposed to yogurt. Husband likes the caesar one so much he's requested it on all our caesar salads from now on (as opposed to my having this one and the rest of the family having a yummy PP-laden one, like the Renee's caesar dressing we've been using forever).

At ONE point per tablespoon, you can't go wrong!

Mae and I took a quick trip to America on Saturday, and I stocked up on all kinds of great WW-friendly foods we can't get here: a wide assortment of Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine entrees we can't get (I almost always have one of these for lunch at work); fat-free cheese and Laughing Cow light wedge cheeses in a variety of flavours not available here; Hormel turkey pepperoni; Hebrew National 97% fat free beef franks; Fiber One yogurt; and, of course, 2-point 100 Grand bars, haha!  Also stocked up on 2-point Baby Ruths for The Faithful Mo.  :)

GAIN this week: 0.6
Lost so far: 82.4
Still remaining: 17.6
Activity points earned this week: 39
Weeks to go: 15

Monday, June 20, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 36

My "pounds to go" number is so close to my "weeks to go" number! Thought I'd crossed the line this week at first, but my math was off, haha.

As suspected, this week the loss I've been earning over the last couple of weeks turned up on the scale. The big lesson here is for someone just starting out on a weight-loss project: they tell you not to focus too much on the scale, and they're right (though, let's admit it, it's just about impossible not to, to a degree).

Over the course of this project I've had big losses in weeks I wouldn't have expected them, and plateaus (yes, Mo, I checked! My dictionary accepts both eaus and eaux!) where I didn't think I deserved them. As The Faithful Mo said in a comment way, way back when this blog began: think of your weight loss as a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on what you have to do to reach the finish line, and trust your program... the loss will take care of itself. I'm living proof!

Here's the graph of my loss since the beginning of The Thanksgiving Project, as generated by the Weight Watchers eTools.

You can see the little blips and flatter parts, but the downward slope tells the story. The plateaus aren't even that long... they just seem that way when you're in one.

So this week's lesson? Keep your eye on the prize!

Loss this week: 3.5
Lost so far: 83
Still remaining: 17
Activity points earned this week: 30
Weeks to go: 16

Monday, June 13, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 35

Either I'm on yet another plateau, or I need to start eating more of my PointsPlus.

Plateaus (eaux?) are discouraging, but par for the course... I've been on this program long enough now to get that. In fact, steep downhills and plateaus seem to be all I have anymore. Last time around I had pretty regular 2 lb losses most weeks, with the occasional sharp decline or low-loss week (and the very occasional gain) - this time, I seem to have many weeks with negligible losses, followed by a week with a sharp drop. It doesn't seem to be related to what I'm eating or how much I'm exercising or the phases of the moon, even - it just seems to be what my body does these days. Hmm.

And what's up with my font? Everything's all weird!


I've learned in the last two weeks that I need to have a goal to work towards, and a program to measure myself against, to feel truly motivated.

After my 5K, The Faithful Mo said just to keep running my 10/1s until the new 10K program started - and it was amazing how much less motivated I felt to do it! I kept going out because I know I need to do it if I want not to have lost any fitness when I do start again... and because I like the fringe benefits like getting more PointsPlus to eat... but I didn't feel that same compelling pull.

Then, Mo sent my 10K training schedule over the weekend, and already I feel it again. It's so funny - I know I'm a Myers-Briggs "J" and "S" and need order and clear deliverables, but this is crazy!  At any rate, Mo's schedule is up on my fridge, and I'm now excited to hit the treadmill tonight (thunderstorms in the forecast) and cross off my first box!  :)

PointsPlus dilemma

In the last few weeks, I've been eating my daily PointsPlus allowance, and then only eating extra if I've earned them with activity. So I'm not eating any of my "weekly points allowance" (formerly "FlexPoints").  Is that behind the plateau? Dunno. I'll stick to it this week, and if the plateau persists, will switch it up next week. With pizza, ha! Stay tuned.

A first

A teacher at Child's pre-school told me today she thinks I've lost enough weight and should stop here. She's wrong (and even gave that opinion when I was wearing my raincoat!), but it's the first time I've heard that in a long, long time. Wrong, but nice!

Loss this week: 0.2
Lost so far: 79.5
Still remaining: 20.5
Activity points earned this week: 27
Weeks to go: 17

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Annie: weigh-in week 34 and THE RACE!

I only averaged about a pound over each of the last two weeks, but that wasn't unexpected, since I'd had a big 5-pound loss the week before I went on vacation. I'll take it!

These last two weeks were such a whirlwind - I even got out of the habit of blogging, which I know is bad. But of all my new habits (eating well, exercise, blogging about eating well and exercise), if one had to fall away for a bit, I'm glad it was that one!

Topic 1: The race

Well, I finished - upright, and smiling.  :)

It was an absolutely fantastic experience - so much more so than I had expected. It wasn't just the personal satisfaction of completing the race, it also was the unbelievable feeling of support and love from my family and friends. Mae even texted me good luck with 15 minutes to the starting gun! All of my immediate family and in-laws (even the out-of-town ones) were there to cheer for me, as well as some of their friends - in a word, it was awesome.

You'd never have known it was only 5K I was running to look at how much support I had on the course.
  • My Mum was there with Child, so I'd have the most important person in my world there to celebrate at the finish line. 
  • Mo and her husband saw me to the starting line and helped me find my (new, faster!) corral.
  • Our brother, sister-in-law and their friend (who was there to run the 10K an hour later) were on the sidelines about 500m past the start, cheering me on... and then at about the 1K mark, too! (Might I add that my sister-in-law is 7 months pregnant - no comfortable feat, even with a shortcut!)
  • I saw my Dad on an overpass over the course shortly thereafter, and then
  • At about the 3K mark, there was Mo, on the course to run me in. She stayed with me until my last 750m, and then split off so I could finish on my own.
  • But that wasn't it: my brother (who was at this point less than 30 minutes from the starting gun in his own 10K race) and sister-in-law were there again in the run-up to the finish line!
Shoelace from Mo's
first marathon:
If ever I had any doubt about finishing, this tremendous support group would have seen me across that finish line, no matter what. Even now, almost two weeks later, I choke up just thinking about how lucky I am to have so much love in my life. If you're reading, thank you all - though I've tried and tried to tell you, you will never know what you did for me, or how much it meant.

At this point I also have to mention the contribution my own husband made; while he wasn't with us for the trip (he stayed at home, working), he has been tremendously encouraging the length of this project. From choosing gifts that would help me, to re-arranging the family schedule so I could go running week in and week out, to encouraging me when I was feeling doubtful, his faith was with me as I ran those five kilometres, too.

I ran my personal best at the race, which The Faithful Mo had predicted I would - even despite time lost running around people in the crowd (which in my case included old people and young children!), I ran the 5K almost a minute faster there than I had ever run at home, finishing in 37:06.2. With that said, I was frustrated when I saw my time, because I know I could have broken the 37 minute mark, had I just listened to my coach! Which leads me to...

Topic 2: What I learned about myself and racing

Remember how I said in my very last post how Coach Mo had warned me not to start out too fast? Well, I started out too fast. She had also told me to stick to my 10/1 run/walk plan even if I felt I could go longer, because in the end it would help me conserve energy for a strong finish.

So what did I do? I let the adrenaline from the race atmosphere get the better of me, and I ran faster than usual, and longer than usual, in my first set of run minutes. I think I ran about 13.5 minutes in that first set, about 30 seconds/km faster than normal, and that was enough to leave me running on fumes at the end. Idiot! Why didn't I just do what she told me? She had gotten me from unable to run 30 seconds to completing a 5K in four months... clearly she knew what she was doing. Why didn't I just listen? Aargh.

So I learned to listen to my coach.

The next thing I learned was that I'm too dependent on my Garmin. I don't know what I did to it during the race, but it somehow stopped at the 24:35 mark, showing my having run about 3.5 km. Except that I didn't realize it had stopped - so I looked at my watch a couple of times before noticing it had stopped, then got all disoriented. Mo took me to within 750m of the finish line, but I was still thinking I had 1.5 km to go, and I knew I was running out of gas, so I walked when I should have been running - I would surely have made it in under 37 minutes had I been watching the signs rather than the watch.

Now I understand how people get addicted to this racing business! I wanted a second chance, to just trust my body rather than relying on the watch... but then again, trusting my body had led me to run 3.5 minutes too long at the outset.

Aargh. See? Now I have to run another one! Which leads me to...

Topic 3: Wanting more

Before I had even run the 5K, Mo floated the idea of running a 10K together in October, to celebrate the end of The Thanksgiving Project. As she put it in her email, "How awesome would it be to celebrate that amazing accomplishment with another finish line - one after a 10k race?  (with your very own pace bunny (I won't wear the ears, I promise) and biggest fan!)... To celebrate the 1 year anniversary of such a huge thing with another huge thing... sounds pretty cool to me."

I couldn't have agreed more. She said that going from 0 to 5K is harder than going from 5K to 10K, and I have to believe that. I'm actually believing I can do it, so we're going to try.

Fargo FM Half Marathon, 10K & 5K, here we come! Which leads me to...

Topic 4: The gift that keeps on giving

The training schedule Mo made to get me ready for the 5K is now also being used by two good friends of mine, both of whom are taking up running, too. We three will be running a little 5K together just outside of town at the end of September (by "little" 5K I mean fewer than thousands of entrants, not short distance! 5K is still far in my books!), all having gotten there thanks to Mo's training plan.

So, Miss Faithful Mo: thank you for your inspiration. For gently leading me to try. For believing that I could. For building a plan to help me get there, and for advising and encouraging me along the way. For flying Child and me to the race. For celebrating what must have seemed molehills as though they were mountains. For the card you gave me the night of this race that will always be a treasure to me. For being proud of me. And for helping me be proud of me.


OK, that's about all I've got in me for tonight - apologies to my three readers for having taken so long to post, haha! I promise to get back into blogging shape with an on-time post next Monday.

Loss these last 2 weeks: 2.1
Lost so far: 79.3
Still remaining: 20.7
Activity points earned this week: 23
Weeks to go: 18