Guest Post: Try It and See

Hi friends! So I have another guest posty treat for you guys today! My very good friend, Lara, is here to talk about her non-resolution New Year’s resolutions. Which, as you know if you read my New Year’s post, is something that I am SO on board with. Forget New Year’s-specific resolutions — why can’t we just make LIFE resolutions? Not affixed to an arbitrary date, not riddled with stigmas of failure and give-uppery…

Anyway! Evidently Lara and I are seeing pretty eye-to-eye on this front, so I’ll just let her take it from here. 😀

Happy week-after-New-Year’s everyone! Have you quit kept up with your resolutions so far?

Gretchen is a great friend of mine, and she is being so generous and letting me do a little guest post for her! Thanks Gretch :). We have been friends for about three years now, and throughout our friendship we have both made lots of resolutions and goals and promises. We’ve kept some (like keeping in touch), but some have fallen to the way-side.

This post is kind of about resolutions, but mostly about just being better at life in general. I think it’s safe to say that, for the average Joe like me, resolutions don’t work. I remember sitting at my good friend’s New Year’s Day wedding two years ago resolving to lose 20 pounds. And, well, I’m pretty sure I’ve gained at least half of that instead.

So, this year, I’m going to try a different approach.

The first step of solving any problem is to pin-point what makes it a problem to begin with. Why don’t resolutions stick? (Please note that this is simply MY list of set-backs. Yours may be, and probably is, completely different, and that’s okay!)

1. I don’t plan out how I’m going to achieve my goals (and then I forget to track them) – This might be the biggest reason resolutions fail for me. Let’s take that 20 pound weight loss goal from two years ago. 20 pounds isn’t a ton. It’s pretty obtainable with a plan. “Eating better” and “working out more” are good thoughts, but they’re not achievable because there’s nothing to track them against. On day one I need to plan out what I’m going to eat and how often I’m going to work out, and then I need to stick to it. Make a chart, put it on the calendar, set alarms in the cell phone, blog about it – whatever it takes.

2. I try too much, too soon – For argument’s sake, let’s say I had only one resolution. (I usually have about 10 but let’s stick to just one.) Keeping with the weight loss example, here’s how I’ve attempted that one in the past: I immediately start counting calories and limit myself to 1300 calories a day, effectively cutting off all indulgences. Simultaneously, I start hitting the gym, oh I don’t know, six times a week or so. After about two weeks of this, I convince myself that I have “earned” a dessert or a day off from the gym, and then that day off turns into a week off, which turns into never-eating-a-salad-or-working-out-ever-again. Phew. So, needless to say, it’s important for me to ramp up to these things and form an actual habit, rather than sinking or swimming. (Apparently I never learned to swim.)

3. My goals change over time – Seriously, and be honest with me, what could you possibly do for an entire year without having something more interesting/important/exciting come up? My interests change about as often as my underwear, so it’s really hard for me to plan to be interested in one thing for 12 entire months. Maybe that speaks to why I quit after a few weeks? Maybe at first my goal was to lose 20 pounds, but then it was simply to live a healthier lifestyle. That new healthy lifestyle showed me that I love horseback riding and hiking, and soon my goals are entirely focused on how far or fast I can hike, instead of just losing some weight. Sure the latter will (hopefully) contribute to the former, but as my life changes, my goals change, and I think that’s completely normal! So, why would I set a 12 month goal? I’m going to focus on big picture, and know that my goals will change over time. More importantly, I’m going to be okay with it.

Great… this “non-Resolution” post seems awwwfully resolution-y. Well, here’s where things are going to change. I am going to start a list of the things that are important to me right now. Like, right this second in this tiny snapshot of my life. And then I’m going to assume that they will change. With those things in mind, I am going to set planned out, obtainable and track-able goals, starting slow and embracing the changes my life throws at me. Be on the lookout for a new series on the blog about these goals and changes, since I’ll need some help being kept accountable.

Here are a few important-to-me-now items:
– Get serious about training my dog
– Get in shape (for my life and my wedding)
– Spend more time in the kitchen
– Take more (and better) pictures for my blog
– Make more (or just more quality) time for my fiancé

Head on over to Try It and See Blog to see how I’m going to tackle these as life goals, not New Year’s Resolutions.

Lara blogs about life, food, planning her rapidly impending wedding, and her awesome dog Jameson over at Try It and See. Follower her on Twitter at @lara_tal@lara_tal!

From Gretchen: What’s your latest (and greatest) LIFE resolution right now? I have many, of course, but for now, I think #1 is obviously to finally get rid of these last 20 libbies. IT SHALL BE DONE.

Guest Post: Army Pants and Flip Flops

Boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Have I got a treat for you today. Some of you might recognize the name and face behind today’s guest poster, and that’s because today we welcome my good friend Aileen to the blog! Aileen, for those of you who don’t know, has a witty and laugh-out-loud hilarious blog called Army Pants and Flip Flops, where she details her life, opinions, and various neuroses–with all of those things being at least somewhat related to the fact that she is an Army wife-in-training. Oh, and she’s totally the one who edited my book.  NBD.

Aileen has managed to masterfully weave together a post about health, happiness, and new year resolutions for your enjoyment. Also, she utilizes the word “cheese” no less than 36 times, which I think is already very telling as to how awesome and delightful this post is. I strongly, strongly recommend you guys become a regular follower of her blog, but since I’m sure her own words will  be far more convincing than my own… take it away, Aileen!

How I tackled 2012 like a well-balanced cheese plate

In January, 2012, I made a list of resolutions. When I do choose to make New Year’s resolutions (re: rather infrequently), I like to set the bar as low as possible. One year I resolved to eat more cheese. The next year I resolved to eat less cheese, because my primary care physician recommended I have my cholesterol routinely checked, which I took to mean that my cheese consumption was rapidly killing me, and every slice of brie brought me one slice closer to death.

The year after that I went back to eating cheese again, because I decided that life is too short to ignore a sweet-cream gouda. Although my life might be a little longer if I decide to ignore the gouda every once in a while.

So by January 2012, I’d learned an important lesson: resolutions, like a good cheese plate, require a purposeful element of balance.

CheeseClock
Study this CheeseClock; it will become important later. And now you know how to balance a cheese plate. You’re welcome.

At the end of 2011, I came down with bronchitis. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t simultaneously come down with tonsillitis and sinusitis, and a completely unrelated tendonitis in my right hip and left foot, none of which I’d ever experienced before, and all of which left me looking and feeling extremely attractive. Which is I’m assuming why, at the end of 2011, the time was also right for my then-boyfriend to ask me to marry him.

Anybody who doesn’t regret proposing to you after watching medicated nasal spray drip slimily from your snot-filled nostrils for the week proceeding the engagement is definitely a keeper.

The proposal and my sudden onslaught of ailments jolted me into 2012 feeling giddy and breathless. (The breathlessness was mostly from the bronchitis. It took me a while to get used to using the inhaler.) And while the general area of my face, chest, and throat only took a month or two to clear out, the other symptoms of my end-of-2011, it seemed, were a bit more permanent.

The first permanent symptom was Jonathan, my now-fiancé. I realize that calling him a “symptom” makes me sound like an asshole, but before you JUDGE ME, consider that I call Jonathan a symptom of my new life in the same way that the blooming bud of an orange day lily is a symptom of pollination, which is a symptom of photosynthesis, because the working world is full of beautiful symptoms that happen because we need them to, but also because we want them to.

I also call Jonathan a symptom because, as much as I believe every new marriage should strive for happiness and permanence, marrying Jonathan also means marrying his job as a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army. If you want to know how inadequately my upbringing and temperament has prepared me to be an army wife, feel free to take a look at my history with semi-violent situations and my fear of Republicans.

When 2012 began, I knew it would end with my fiancé’s second deployment to Afghanistan, and the promise of a new beginning when he returned.

What I didn’t know when 2012 began, however, was just how permanent my second symptom would be.

While the tendonitis in my foot disappeared easily with systematic rest and a nauseating dose of NSAIDs, the tendonitis in my hip decided it was really enjoying hanging around. It was having such a good time, in fact, that it decided to invite increasing joint and muscular-skeletal problems to the party. You know those really charming Mucinex commercials where they turn a big blob of mucus into a middle-aged New Yorker with a tiny bowler hat and suspenders? I imagine it’s something like that mucus guy that settled into my hip; except, instead of mucus, he is made of A THOUSAND TINY RETRACTING SWITCHBLADES, and he has no charming bowler hat.

While my doctors and I had legitimate reasons to be concerned about this, the symptom (and this time I’m saying “symptom” in the traditional, non-fiancé sense) that manifested earliest was that I absolutely had to stop running, under penalty of tiny switchblade death. And also under penalty of a very nice MRI technician who let me listen to a local country radio station in giant headphones while he scanned my hips for fluid, so he seems like a trustworthy guy.

I guess my saving grace in this new army-wife-suddenly-crippled life was that I’ve never actually enjoyed running. I ran several times a week for many years of my life because I’m lazy, and running was the easiest way for me to exercise my whole body and keep my weight down, but still leave the gym in time to be home for Jeopardy. Running was the entire foundation on which my fitness routine was based, and suddenly, in the midst of these other life changes, that foundation crumbled like a chunk of pungent feta cheese when you take your first bite into a Greek salad.

I can make almost anything a cheese analogy if you give me time.

As 2012 began, so did many changes. I needed to find a way, with my doctors’ help, to stay healthy in a body that felt completely new to me (and was apparently a complete asshole to me, too). And I needed to do so in a way that would fit my life as it somersaulted into a new world of unknowns and anxiety.

With an eye for balance, I went about setting my 2012 New Year’s resolutions in the same way one would go about balancing a cheese plate according to the CheeseClock: from mild, to medium, to bold, to strong.

  • Mild cheese plate selection: Start your cheese plate at the 6 o’clock position with young mild goats, double or triple cremes, or bloomy rind cheeses.
  • Mild resolution for 2012: Get better at using the touch screen on my iPhone.

In my habit of setting the bar low, I chose to make sure my first resolution had nothing to do with anything. This resolution was mild (like a creamy chèvre) because it was literally impossible for me to be worse at using my touch screen. As a bonus, I resolved to train my autocorrect to recognize the word “chèvre” without suggesting I change it to “Chevrolet.”

  • Medium cheese plate selection: Proceed clockwise, with the next type of cheese being a soft to semi-firm, such as a mild cow, aged goat or sheep milk cheese.
  • Medium resolution for 2012: Incorporate poultry into my diet.

When I walk through the cheese aisle at Trader Joe’s, I will inevitably purchase at least one block of artery-clogging, semi-firm Manchego. Finalizing my departure from 10 years of vegetarianism was something I’ve known for a long time was equally inevitable.

While my doctors couldn’t prove that my lack of meat-derived amino acids was necessarily causing any of my health problems, they urged that being committed to appeasing my health problems meant cutting out any external factors that could be contributing to my body’s unhappiness. While I was already health-conscious and balanced my diet fairly carefully, I knew that my life would be much easier without the constant worry that I wasn’t getting enough protein. Which sometimes led to unhealthy binges on Greek yogurt and pad thai with tofu, which in turn left me unsatisfied and bloat-y.

  • Bold cheese plate selection: Your next cheese can become stronger, bolder and nuttier like a hard mountain, long-aged cheddar and mild washed rind (“stinky”) cheese.
  • Bold resolution for 2012: Plan (most of) my wedding.

One time I went to a wine and cheese bar, and was served a cheese that was purposely covered in fuzzy, pungent mold. Stomaching that cheese was more pleasant than planning a wedding has been so far.

Side note: I also learned that when a cheese is “washed,” it can sometimes be “washed” with penicillin. So make sure to warn your waiter about allergies you have to any medications. But only at wine and cheese bars; other waiters apparently don’t care that you’re allergic to penicillin, even though you were just trying to prevent a stinky cheese lawsuit for them, so they should really stop being such an asshole to you.

  • Strong cheese plate selection: To finish, choose a cheese with a bigger presence, such as more assertive washed rind cheese, or a classic blue cheese like Roquefort.
  • Strong resolution for 2012: Lift twice my body weight on the leg press.

In the winter of 2011, I ventured for the first time into the weight-machine section of my gym. While I’ve always felt safe and comfortable among the treadmills and suspended flat-screen TVs playing Hardball with Chris Matthews in closed captions, the weight-machine area was like some weird factory on Mars to me. It was filled with levers, and clanking, and angry, grunting men. Who smell your virgin weight-lifting fear. And then stare at you like you’re a toddler sporting a stinky, poo-filled diaper when you remove the pin completely from the bicep curl machine, because you realize you can’t lift more than 25 pounds, and that’s just the bar.

In my first two months of lifting, I hated it so much that, once a week or so, I decided maybe my body was better now and I could start running again. On one such occasion, I ran for an entire 11 minutes before my friend the DELIGHTFUL BALL OF SWITCHBLADES remembered he was on duty in my hip. F that guy.

I stopped running. Indefinitely. And, thanks to the backsliding, I had to stop all cardio for a few months, because just the strain of my apartment-to-work commute was prompting my doctor to recommend my taking short-term disability from my job. OKAY. I GET IT. I’LL STOP RUNNING.

I learned how to properly use all the machines. I discovered a particular affinity for the leg press, which is probably because I learned to channel my rage through my legs during six years of soccer as a kid. I even learned to use the machines I hated, i.e. THE STUPID BICEP CURL, which, even when I finally got the machine adjusted to the right height and position, I still couldn’t set it to more than 25 pounds. A guy at my gym who wears short shorts and those webbed-toe shoes that make you look like a frog continued to eye me patronizingly for weeks. I decided not to care, because maybe my lack of strength was ridiculous, but his shoes were also ridiculous so in my book we’re even.

When I began lifting weights at the end of 2011, I weighed 115 pounds. Which sounds like maybe I should quit my bitching and just skip a few weeks at the gym, until I mention that I’m 5’2” and I consistently have to go up a size in bikini bottoms because the size that accommodates the rest of my body absolutely cannot accommodate my butt. Which also probably explains why I’m overzealous about the leg press.

So I set my goal. Starting at a measly 100 pounds on the leg press, by the end of 2012 I resolved to lift twice my body weight: 230 pounds.

Then halfway through the year I gained five pounds and angrily realized I’d have to get to 240 instead. Jonathan says this was just a result of building muscle. I say it probably also has something to do with the manchego.

December 27, 2012 marked my one-year engagement-versary with Jonathan. He celebrated by attempting to find a free computer at the MWR in his post in Afghanistan so he could email me. I celebrated with this:

Leg press

Seated leg press

Leg press, and seated leg press for good measure. 10 reps; 3 sets. 240 pounds.

For 2013, I have resolved to make no resolutions. Except for dropping back down to 220 on the leg press for a little while, because apparently completing my New Year’s resolutions was at some point more important to me than being able to walk up and down stairs for the next week.

And as for the others…

Touch screen

Turkey leg

wedding-binder-details

Aileen blogs regularly about cheese, life, and her gun-wielding hubby-to-be at http://armypantsandflipflops.com. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

Honey, I Shrunk the Series: Alex Eats Green

Gretchen’s Green Guest:

Hi, fellow foodies! I’m Alex, blogging over at Alex Eats Green. Gretchen was kind enough to pass over the reins while she frolics in Harry Potter land (I’m so JEALOUS) for the weekend. Though not about weight loss, I’ve recently undergone a different kind of transformation: introducing myself to real food.

I live in NYC, and started the blog after being bit hard by the nutrition bug. It was only a matter of time before I found an outlet (other than lecturing my parents) for ranting about the processed food world. I’ve always been an avid Bon Appétit reader, but only recently have I started paying attention to the ingredients listed in all those beautiful recipes, and in turn, what those ingredients do to our bodies. I had become obsessed with learning about nutrition, and had an urge tell people about what I was learning. It was a whole new world that simply astonished me. I couldn’t believe how much I’d been left out of the loop on.

(I really like pickles.)

I stepped into the light after reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. I’ll never forget the moment where it all clicked for me. Summer of 2010, I was reading on a train to Martha’s Vineyard, and Pollan was discussing sugars such as fructose, glucose, and the evil spawn: high-fructose corn syrup. He spoke of the havoc that HFCS can unleash in the body.

I set the book down and thought for a moment.

Ahhhh. I get it now…

We need to eat whole (preferably mostly green) foods in order for our bodies to be happy. And by “happy,” I mean we need to eat food that our body understands, and knows how to break down. When our bodies are happy, we’re happy. Makes sense right? However, the line gets a little blurry when it comes to what constitutes these whole foods; happy foods.

I finally made the correlation as to why when I was a kid, my Mom always insisted on buying us that “gross organic stuff.” The organic whole milk, real cookies (made with milk, sugar, flour, chocolate), Breyer’s ice cream with whole ingredients. Of course when I got out of my Mom’s kitchen, I found my way into the multi-colored world of Twizzlers, Sour Patch Kids, KitKats, and Cheetos. I lived in that world until I realized that our bodies don’t have the tools to process these colors (high-fructose corn syrup, processed, artificial coloring) and that it was time to turn my plate around.

I started reading (and watching) everything and anything related to my epiphany. I was passionate about making good food, and about making real food. I also became a vegetarian a little over a year ago (just had my veggieversary!), which stemmed from my newly acquired appreciation for all things green… plus the lofty environmental and ethical effects don’t hurt either. Living in New York City, it’s easy to find fellow green-eaters. I try and take in my fair share of restaurant weeks, but more often that not, I find myself wandering the Union Square farmer’s market searching for the perfect eggplant for that evening’s home cooked meal.

Sometimes I make my own 3-day juice cleanses, and sometimes I eat nothing but cheese over the weekend. Either way, I feel like for the first time in my life, I am really tasting my food, and liking it. Mother approved.

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Thanks, Alex! I love how your story proves that healthy living transformations are not just about weight loss — something that I often forget as someone so fixated on my weight! If any of you are interested in learning more about Alex and following her story further, please check out her blog, Alex Eats Green!

Happy Presidents Day!

Honey, I Shrunk the Series: Katie for Life

Happy Tuesday, all! If you live in the area, I hope you weren’t accosted by the terrible, first-snow-of-the-season traffic that befell me last night, haha. I love snow, but I do NOT love snow commuting, that’s for sure.

So you guys have all heard the origins of my weight loss story time and time again, and I am so grateful for how kind and supportive everyone has been in receiving it. Of course, I only provide one perspective of how this kind of health journey can take shape! Many of you have accomplished far more than I have in terms of your weight loss, and I can only imagine how inspirational your journeys are. Thus, Honey, I Shrunk the Series has been born! Cut me some slack on the title — you know how much I love the corny.

So today, instead of more continuous drivel from yours truly, I thought it’d be great to showcase others who have had similar struggles. First up, we have Katie from Katie for Life!

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He's not mine, but isn't he the cutest?

For as long as I can remember, I have always struggled with my weight. I went to a private grade school and in 5th grade, the other girls made fun of me, because I had to start wearing a skirt – a privilege reserved for girls in sixth grade and up – because the jumpers didn’t fit me anymore. Girls can be so harsh. Between the seventh and twelfth grades, I dieted on and off, trying my best to get small enough to fit into the all-the-rage clothes at the hottest stores, but I always ended up gaining back what I lost … and more.

Senior Prom, May 2007

Then, I hit the road for my first year of college. While most kids gain the dreaded Freshman 15, the pressure of fitting in and looking as good as all the other scantily clad girls prancing from house party to house party encouraged me to lose weight. I crash dieted, over-exercised, and successfully dropped about 30 pounds.

College 2008 (Another baby!)

For me, the end of high school and beginning of college was a very unhealthy period in my life, both physically and emotionally. I invested myself in an almost-five year relationship with an individual who showed a complete and utter disregard for my feelings. To put it simply, he cheated on me, pointed out each and every one of my imperfections, and made me feel worthless. To make matters worse, I was unhappy being away from home and realized that the “giant university” college experience didn’t suit me at all. However, I put my feelings on the back burner, because I didn’t want to leave the “love of my life.”

College 2008

At the end of 2008, I made a decision – a decision that I believe led the way for many more positive changes in my life. I decided to transfer to a schools and move back home. Although I remained in that toxic relationship for years to come – and my unhealthy relationship with food still lingers – I truly believed that I finally started to see the bigger picture and realized that the importance of putting myself first in order to be there for everyone else.

College 2009

Still, living at home meant that I constantly surrounded by food. The house was stocked with every snack food imaginable, and I showed no restraint. I ate when I was hungry; I ate when I was bored; I ate when I was sad over the latest disagreement in my now-long-distance relationship. Basically, I ate too often, and I ate too much. I wasn’t as educated about eating disorders and healthy eating habits back then; I now know that there’s a name for the eating that I did, and sometimes still do: binge eating disorder. During the 2009 holiday season, I took a trip to Australia with my mom to visit her fiance. It was an amazing trip that I was insanely lucky to take, but I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious for three weeks straight.

Australia, 2009-2010

The once-in-a-lifetime experience of holding a precious little koala … and a picture that I was embarrassed to show anyone. In reality, I couldn’t stand to look at almost every picture from this trip. It was the beginning of a much needed wake up call. Still, the changes didn’t begin immediately. I continued working out semi-regularly. I was a Jazzercise instructor, after all. I had taken Jazzercise classes on-and-off since age 15 and became certified in 2008. Still, these well-rounded workouts were negated by my out-of-control eating. In April 2010, I attended a Jazzercise Convention in New Orleans. Surrounded by healthy women, I felt a blimp and decided that I needed to make a change.

April 2010

The next month, my mom and I joined Weight Watchers. I vowed to carefully count points and work out daily. I was dedicated – more committed that I had ever been to anything in my whole life. In fact, looking back, I was probably a little bit manic about it. But I lost over 60 pounds by my 21st birthday on September 21st, 2010.

I felt beautiful, confident, and healthy! Even better, pounds and inches weren’t the only thing that I got rid of. I also found the strength to close the book on my relationship from hell, and in August 2010, I can confidently say that I met the real love of my life.

Jazzercise Convention, Las Vegas, June 2011

In October, I walked 5 miles for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, feeling fit and fabulous. I was a mere six pounds from the WW goal weight. I even had the opportunity to share my weight loss story on a local morning TV show.

Unfortunately, in September of that year, I gave myself the “week off” to celebrate my birthday, and since then, I don’t feel like I been able to completely reel-in my eating habits. I am fully aware that this could have a lot to do with the fact that my weight loss journey was 100% healthy eating with ZERO indulgences. Even weight maintenance has not been easy. I still fight and give-in to the urge to binge eat. Since reaching my lowest weight, I have gained a little over ten pounds back. But I’m not giving up the fight.

After attending a second Jazzercise Convention in June 2011, I decided to resign as a Jazzercise instructor for various reasons. I still belong to a gym, but working out is by no means second nature to me. I know how important it is, but I still struggle with the motivation to do it on a regular basis.

I started my blog, Katie for Life, in October of last year, but only recently began blogging regularly – several times per week for me. I’ve tried writing about my eating and workouts in a past blog, but found that these aren’t the types of topics that I want to engage in with my readers. Instead, you will find open and honest posts about the struggles and triumphs of an average girl navigating the world of healthy living.

Most recently, on a trip to NYC in December 2011

Although my blog is relatively new, I have plans for innumerable posts about topics that I am hopeful that many of you can relate to. I truly want Katie for Life to be a safe and supportive community for all. At 22 years old, I am still learning and growing every single day, so I know that I can gain from your interaction as much as, if not more than, you might benefit from reading my posts. I recently shared my goals for 2012, and I’d love to know what yours are as well. Please stop on over, and say hello! Talk to you soon!

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See what I mean? Inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing, Katie! 🙂

If you would like to your weight loss story to be included as part of Honey, I Shrunk the Series!, please email me at [email protected]

PS: Just a final reminder that the winner of the Hello Hydration giveaway will be drawn tomorrow, so get your entries in!