Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 retrospective

Oh, 2012. You started with such promise, yet you end with such uncertainty as we all wait to hear whether or not we're about to plunge over the so-called fiscal cliff.

I know I say this nearly every year, but 2012 was a year of change. It started in early January, when I accepted an offer to move to another company. Although I loved my job at the company where I had worked for 1.5 years, the new company offered me an exciting new professional challenge and some appealing benefits. The downside? I traded in an easy four-mile, 15-minute commute for one that's typically anywhere from 40-50 minutes. Oh, and I miss my carpool buddy like crazy!

Something really different about my current job is . . . we only do business in three states. I'm still adjusting to this. I went from working for a global company (2000-2010) to working for a US-only company (2010-2012) to working for a regional company. Nowadays, instead of traveling to places like Sydney and Shanghai and Vienna for work, I travel to exotic destinations like . . . Greenville, South Carolina. Good thing I'm really liking this gig so far. :)

One of my New Year's Resolutions for the last 20 years or so has been to lose weight. I finally did it in 2012. I still have a ways to go until I reach my ultimate goal, but I'm well over halfway there. I feel great and my health has vastly improved. Big accomplishment!!!

We had a very mild winter this year, and spring came in like a lamb. Highlights of the spring months included going from the coast to the mountains for our birthdays: We celebrated mine in Wilmington and S's in Asheville. In May, we welcomed a visitor from Vienna who hung out with us for a few days on her first-ever USA trip! We took her to the farm and to the beach, and showed her all around our fair city of Charlotte.

Before we knew it, summer was here. In June, I attended my 30th year high school reunion. It was great to reconnect with 'old' friends and to learn what everyone was up to. Also in June, we took a long weekend and went up to West Virginia, where along with S's brother, we went white water rafting! Now that was fun.  It was my first time rafting the New River and I'm so ready to go back and try the more challenging Gauley River.

There's not a lot going on at the farm in the heat of the summer, but we did have our family reunion as per usual in August. It was nice to see aunts, uncles, and cousins. Also in August, we learned that the owners of the house we'd been renting since summer 2011 wanted to sell. We made an offer, and in mid-September, we became homeowners again. Our house is a small bungalow -- much, much smaller and cozier than the house we left behind in Indianapolis. But it's perfect for us and it only takes a couple of hours to clean, which is awesome. AND we don't have to mow the lawn because that's included in our HOA fees. Woot!!! I think we will stay here for a while. :)

Fall is our favorite season, but we didn't have much of a fall this year. We went to Turkey in October for vacation. It was a trip of a lifetime and we enjoyed it tremendously! I wrote about 20 blog entries about our trip so if you want, you can find links to them on the right side under the Previous Posts header. Bottom line: I think Turkey was my most favorite vacation ever -- even though we had to leave Istanbul a day early because of Hurricane Sandy. 

Then the holidays were here. We enjoyed Thanksgiving in the "new" house, and spent Christmas at the farm. I know I wrote last year that 2011 was the best Christmas, but 2012 Christmas was even better. Our family gathering included two new people as my nephew brought his girlfriend and my niece's boyfriend came along, too. (Another sign that life is just one change after another! Gosh, how quickly those two have grown up!)

Oh, 2012. As the Year of the Dragon it was supposed to be "My" year . . . I was born in a Dragon year. I guess it really did turn out to be "My" year after all. There was lots of change. Lots of transformation and personal growth, too. And adventures! Lots of adventures! So goodbye, 2012, and thank you for all your gifts.

Bring it on, 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Foggy sunrise

We had a beautiful foggy sunrise at the farm yesterday morning. I hope everyone out there who celebrates it had a wonderful Christmas . . . and that you will all have a prosperous and healthy 2013! Cheers, everyone. :)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012 favorites

Stuff I read

Favorite book of the year . . .  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

General fiction . . . Bliss by O.Z. Livaneli

Historical fiction . . . The Dark Monk by Oliver Pötzsch

Crime thriller . . . The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Mercy outside of North America)

New-to-me author . . . (tie) The Righteous by Michael Wallace and Exit 22 by p.m. terrell

Young adult fiction . . . The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Novella . . . Snatched by Karin Slaughter

Nonfiction  . . .  Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

Magazine . . . (tie) Runner's World and Huffington Post Magazine

Music I listened to

Band . . . Imagine Dragons

Artist . . . Pitbull*

Album . . . (tie) Night Visions by Imagine Dragons and Slipstream by Bonnie Raitt

Song . . .  (tie) Some Nights by Fun; Hold On by Alabama Shakes; and Crystallize by Lindsey Stirling

Song that most of my friends have probably never heard of . . . Genesis by Grimes

Artist Discovery . . . (tie) Imagine Dragons and Lindsey Stirling

Local (North Carolina) music . . . (tie) Carolina Chocolate Drops and Trinity Seed

Song rediscovery . . . Ready To Go by Republica

Workout tune . . . We Run The Night by Havana Brown featuring Pitbull

*I listened to Pitbull more than any other artist this year because so many of his collaborations with other artists are on my workout playlist!

Things I watched

TV show . . . Homeland

New TV show . . . (tie) The Newsroom and Scandal

News/Current Events TV show . . . GPS with Fareed Zakaria (CNN)

TV movie . . . Hatfields & McCoys (miniseries)

Full-length movie . . . The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Theater Movie . . . The Hunger Games (in all fairness, this was the ONLY movie we saw in theaters this year! I wanted to see others, but we just never made it.)

Miscellaneous things I liked or enjoyed

Game . . . Words With Friends

Social Network . . . Twitter

Web site . . . My Fitness Pal

iPhone/iPad app . . . My Fitness Pal

Vacation . . . Turkey

Weekend Getaway . . . Asheville

Exercise . . . completing the couch-to-5K program!

Shopping . . . online at Duluth Trading Company and LLBean

New store . . . Whole Foods SouthPark!

Coffee . . . Starbucks Blonde Veranda beans

The 'downside' to losing weight

My primary focus this year has been to lose weight and get healthy. This is something I should have done a long time ago, but never made it priority until this year. I could examine the reasons for that but I think basically, I just wasn't ready.

Despite my weight loss success, I'm still in the obese category according to the BMI charts. A lot of people find this hard to believe, but it's true! Call it the curse of the big-boned tall person. As of this week my BMI is 30.4. Not only do I need to get it below 30, I need to get it below 25 so that I'm not considered overweight. That means I need to lose -- at a minimum -- another 35-40 pounds. Ideally, I'd like to lose another 50-60 pounds.

I've lost 5 sizes. Yes. 5 SIZES. I'm now wearing a size I haven't worn since I was in my early 30s. If I can lose one more size, I'll be the size I was in high school. And if I can lose two more sizes, I'll be the size I was when I was 19 or 20 and in the best shape of my life. It's reachable!

But the more I lose, the more difficult it is to lose. In the beginning of this weight loss journey, I lost 3-4 pounds a week. Then 2-3 pounds a week. Then 1-2 pounds a week. I realize I'm gaining muscle from working out, but my loss has now slowed to about a half pound a week and sometimes less than that. It can get very frustrating, and it doesn't help that the holiday season is here with all its temptations.

When I finally reach my destination, I'll have to fight stay there. Maintenance is indeed on my mind already. I know that I'll have to eat this way and exercise for the rest of my life. And since our bodies get used to how we do things, I'll have to shake it up a bit every now and then. I know that. But back to the current situation.

I've noticed a couple of downsides to losing weight. The downsides don't cancel out the benefits, but they are downsides nonetheless. So for my friends who are also on this journey, I want to give you the heads-up about a couple of things.

1. The more weight you lose, the older you're going to look.

One of the first places I "lost weight" was in my neck and face. It has been quite confusing to look in the mirror and see that although I've lost my double chin and can see my cheekbones again, I can also see wrinkles that were never there before. To me, it's especially apparent around my eyes and mouth. I hate it, but I know it's better than being obese.

I guess what I'm saying is, be prepared to see an older person looking back at you in the mirror. You may even need to (or want to) start a special savings account for Botox and fillers. I know I do!

2. Get ready to spend some money on new clothes.

When I first started this journey, I had three sizes of clothes in my closet. One size I could wear; the other sizes were a bit too small yet for some reason (ever the optimist) I kept them, which turned out to be a good thing. Those clothes that were too small are now way too big.

I've never been a used clothing type of person, but knowing that I wouldn't be staying in one size for very long (again, ever the optimist) I got over my fear of cooties and became a used-clothing shopper. I hung out at my local Goodwill store at least once a week, and I scored some really great deals, including two cashmere sweaters (for $3.99 each), an Eileen Fisher top that still had the tags on it (also $3.99) and a bunch of other stuff. I actually found it quite therapeutic to go through all the clothes, touching each piece and looking at the brand tags, even though it would sometimes take me a couple of hours.

Then one day I looked in my closet and realized: 75% of the clothes in my closet are not . . . Me. I'm really an L.L. Bean kind of gal. Give me comfort, preferably cotton, and basic black. I don't want to look like a desperate male bird looking for a mate -- and I hate, hate, repeat HATE non-natural fibers unless we're talking exercise clothes.

I cleaned out my closet, "got rid of" (by offering to family/friends or donating) everything that was too big or not my style, and then made a list of things I needed to replace. I only replaced very basic things (black shirt, white shirt, jeans, dress pants for work, bras/sports bras, etc.) I now have all my clothes in one closet, which in itself is a miracle, but just goes to show you that I had way too many to start with.

But I digress. The point is, as you lose weight, you're going to have to get new clothes. You're going to have to get rid of some things (which is really hard for some people) and you're going to have to get new things (which can be very expensive, but there are options.)

3. Be prepared for people to treat you differently. 

I've saved this one for last because it's the most difficult to write about, but it's the truth, and I want you to know. If you've been obese for a long time, you get used to people either ignoring you or feeling safe with you. I may still be in the obese category, but it's been rather curious how suddenly I'm not so invisible anymore. People open doors for me. They hold the elevator. People who didn't seem to see me before suddenly smile and say hello and try to chat me up. To be honest, it's a little creepy at times.

As always, I wish you success with your journey.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weight loss update

It’s been a while since I wrote about my weight loss program. There’s a reason for that: I’ve hit a wall! I was doing great before vacation – down 58 pounds and feeling awesome from regular exercise. My weight loss coach gave me a plan to follow, but what she didn't realize is how different things are when you're outside your typical American weight loss comfort zone.

For example, here in Matthews we have sidewalks everywhere. If I wanted to, I could step outside my front door and start walking and walk all the way to uptown Charlotte (and beyond), or to Pineville, Indian Trail, or Mint Hill -- on sidewalks. Well, the rest of the world isn't like Matthews. We've got lots of parks, too, including two within walking distance of my house. There's even a gym and a very nice YMCA just a short distance away. So when I'm here, there's no excuse.

When I'm at the farm, sure, I can get out there and do farm work, but in terms of fitness walking, jogging, or cycling, I put my life in my hands every time I step out there. People drive 55mph (or faster!) on the road leading to the farm, and they're not used to seeing people out there exercising on the road. Now that it's hunting season, I have to make sure I'm wearing some sort of bright colors not found in nature when I'm out there, or risk getting a load of buckshot into my ass. Yet I still get out there.

But I digress.

Before we went to Istanbul, I  checked our boutique hotel's web sit and learned that they didn't have a fitness center. One nearby hotel had one. I contacted them via email about getting a day pass, but they said the facilities were only for their guests.

My point, and I did have one: I knew before we went that I was going to be stepping outside this aforementioned American weight loss comfort zone.

My strategy: We did a lot of walking in Istanbul. One day we walked about 5-6 miles through winding, hilly streets and over the bridge, as we made our way from Taksim Square back to the Golden Horn). I never felt like I overate, and even though I did succumb to the beautiful homemade breads and most delicious baklava in the universe, I never felt like I "overdid" it. (I'm lucky that I have a built-in "shut off" system that prevents me from overeating. I just can't eat past a certain point.) When I got back home, I’d gained 3 pounds. “That’s not too bad!” I thought. “I’ll get that off quickly. No problem.”

Then came Thanksgiving.

I wanted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year with turkey and all the trimmings, having not had one for the previous two years. Of course, I could've chosen to leave it at turkey breast and some greens, but I wanted it all: the stuffing, the green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, corn pudding, pumpkin pie. So I told myself things like: "Hey! Thanksgiving only comes once a year!" and "I’m not going to worry about it until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Hopefully by then, all the leftovers will be gone and I get back to my plan.”

And I enjoyed Thanksgiving. At my weigh-in the week after Thanksgiving, I had only gained a pound. It gave me a bit of an attitude, as in: "HA! For three days, I had whatever I wanted, and I only gained one measly pound! I! Am! Invicible!"

Which is a good feeling to have. But not necessily a smart one, if you know what I mean. Overconfidence can kill.

Three weeks ago, I started my half marathon training plan. The first week went well, and I thought: "Hey, I can do this! meaning: I can do my training AND maintain my eating plan.

At some point during the second week, I started getting horrible headaches. They hit me during the last part of the exercise (for example, in the last mile of a five mile walk) and then they literally knock me off my feet. The only thing I can do is lie down in bed, close my eyes, and wait a few hours. There's no food, no pill, no amount of acupressure or massage that will make it go away. They're not migraines, but are almost as debilitating.

Houston, we have a problem.

Turns out, I may not be eating enough, or eating enough of the "right" foods. I’ve done everything my weight loss coach has recommended (such as eating a starch 30 minutes before I work out) -- but IT’S NOT WORKING.

Something's got to give. I'm either going to have to give up the half marathon or the diet, because apparently I can't do both. I do want the scale to start going down again soon. I don't want to become complacent and satisfied with where I am now, when I'm really only a little over halfway to my goal.

Anyway, as of this week I'm officially down 56 pounds, which means that between mid-October and this week, I have a net gain of two pounds. I need to find a way to get out of this funk. I will find a way.

To be continued.