Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Healthy for the Holidays: Sticking to Your Goals for 2016

I can't believe 2016 is just TWO days from now. That's nuts! Time, please stop moving so quickly!

For the final Healthy for the Holidays post, Alissa and I are talking about creating realistic goals for the new year. With the New Year, we automatically think about a fresh start, a new beginning; something about a brand new, untouched year just renews the spirit. A whole new set of dates to work with, to re-do... I think a brand spanking new year is the closet we can get to a do-over!

Without consulting any articles, I am fairly confident in saying that one of the most popular New Year's Resolutions that people make is to lose weight. Yet... so many people (including myself, and many of you, no doubt) have failed at this resolution time and time again. Sure, we may have lost a little, but probably gained it back (and more) over time. I went several years without making any official resolutions, then last year I decided to actually set some goals for myself--NOT resolutions, mind you, but goals.

These goals are things that I would like to achieve by the end of the year, things to work toward. I think it's important to set realistic, specific, attainable goals for ourselves; it gives us something to strive for, a place to direct our energy. For me, there's a process to coming up with these goals. First, I lay out in broad terms what I'd like to do this year:
  1. Lose weight (duh)
  2. Pay off debt
  3. Get healthier (spiritual, financial, physical, daily life)
Next, I need to figure out how exactly to go about accomplishing these things. Almost immediately, I realize that the first two goals I listed can go under the very broad "Get healthier," and I can break out that goal into 4 sub-goals (the 4 groups in parentheses). 

Spiritually, I'd like to continue to grow in my newfound Catholic faith. Marc and I have been going through an RCIA (Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults) course, and we will officially be confirmed as members of the Catholic church at Easter. I have learned so much and have never felt God's presence in my life more than in these past few months. I'm so excited to learn and grow, and to do this I need to set aside time each day for prayer and reading the Bible; a half hour each day should be good!

Financially, I'd like us to be smarter with our money. It's no secret that we don't make a ton of money, which means we need to be careful and actually stick to our monthly budget so we can pay off our car loan quickly. I don't want to just say, "pay off our car loan," because I feel like that's just setting us up for failure; there are too many unknowns that can happen in a year, and I don't want to get derailed or feel like a failure if we don't manage to pay off all $9300. Instead, I'm going to say that in general, at least 75% of all "extra" money goes to the car loan; things like bonuses, tax refunds, etc. I say 75% so that way we can have a little fun if we want.

Physically, I'd like to continue improving my running and overall health, and losing weight. Since I am most certainly not at a healthy weight, or a weight that feels good, I'm okay with that terminology. I would like to lose 50 pounds this year--more would be awesome, but I'm being realistic. Again, I'd rather not set myself up for failure, especially with this one. In order to lose these 50 pounds, I will continue to reduce my sugar intake, and track my food with WW and/or MFP. I would also like to strive to average 30 minutes of activity every day--with my sedentary job, I really have to work at this! Marc and I just bought new bikes yesterday, so I'm super excited at the possibilities they will bring! I think that with exercise, and really being honest with myself about the food I'm eating, the weight will come off.

In my daily life, I'd like to be more present with my family. All too often, Marc and I both are staring at our phones after we get home from work--sit the kids in front of the TV with some quickly thrown-together dinner, and zone out while they eat and watch TV. Then we ultimately get nothing done at night, even after they're in bed, because we're so focused on playing games or watching TV. This has got to stop. We see our kids for maybe 3-4 hours each day; we need to make the most of it! I'm not saying no TV at all... but this after-work ritual is becoming far too common. This is a bold goal I'm about to propose (especially since I haven't discussed it with Marc yet), but I'm really feeling like we should have NO screens after work until after the kids are in bed. I think the kids deserve more from us, and this is the only way I can see to make it happen. 

So, to sum it all up, my goals for 2016 are: 
  1. Daily 30-minute quiet devotional time. 
  2. Stick to the budget and pay down debt! Put at least 75% of "extra" money toward car loan.
  3. Lose 50 pounds. Reduce sugar and track food; continue increasing activity, and strive to be active for at least 30 minutes each day.
  4. Be more present with the family. No screens (TV, games) after work until after the kids are in bed! 
What are your goals for 2016? 

Enter below for a chance to win a Fitbit Flex! Make sure you visit A Journey to Thin and leave a comment there as well! 

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Weigh in (12/26) + Back to normal

Well, hello there! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I managed to make it to a Weight Watchers meeting on Saturday--despite daily exercise and tracking my food and making decent choices, I was still up 2 pounds. However, that was immediately following 2 nights of Mexican food AND Christmas dinner. And dessert. Lots of dessert. I wish I'd thought about attending a meeting prior to Christmas, but it didn't even cross my mind! Oh well--hopefully it's (mostly) water and I'll see a good loss this week.

I enjoyed spending time with family, but I'm also glad to be back home where all I have is my regular, boring ol' food. I'm still holding out hope that I'll be 50 pounds down by this Saturday, but if I don't make it, that's okay too. I'm pleased with *most* of my food choices this week, so that's something to be proud of. Marc and I also got out and walked or ran 3 out of the 5 days we were gone! There's a monster hill in his parents' neighborhood, and we avoided it the first 2 days, but we went for it on the third day--woohoo!

One thing I'm really happy about is the lack of snacking I did in the car (it's about 7 hours each way with minimal stops). The last time we went to Texas, I think we stopped at every Starbucks and I ate tons of crackers and cookies and turkey jerky. This time, we only stopped at Starbucks 1 time each way (and I threw out one of the drinks after a few sips because it was horrible); on the way there, I snacked on grapes and a few crackers (like 5), and I made really good choices for lunch and dinner. At Wendy's for lunch, I had a small chili and side salad; at Taco Bell for dinner, I just got pintos and cheese because I wasn't very hungry. On the way home, I did finish off a small bag of turkey jerky for 5 points, a grande iced mocha for way too many points, and had chili and salad at Wendy's again. I'm really happy with those choices!

The kids are staying in Texas until Friday with my in-laws (we'll meet them halfway on Friday to pick them up), and Marc and I have made some big plans this week! We're going to buy new bikes for ourselves and a bike trailer for the kids to ride in with some of our Christmas money, and we're going to clean out our utility closet downstairs. We've got a bunch of boxes stored in there, and it's inside, but there appears to be animal poop in there now (definitely bigger than a mouse--it's cat-sized poop); we have no idea how a critter got in there so it freaks me out a bit. Maybe once it's cleaned out, we'll find a hole or something. *shudder* We're also going to work on our budget, and map out some financial goals for 2016, with the steps we need to take to achieve those goals. I told you we had big plans :D

I didn't really take many pictures at all this week, so I'm leaving you with this picture of Marc and I waiting to watch The Force Awakens!

Don't forget to enter the Healthy for the Holidays giveaway for a $25 Starbucks card! You can enter here.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Memories and Traditions

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday! We are still at Marc's parents' in Texas; we'll be getting on the road tomorrow to head back to New Orleans sans kids--they'll be hanging out here until Friday, when we meet them halfway to bring them home.

So the kids are (hopefully) napping and I'm enjoying a little quiet time on the back porch, reflecting on our Christmas holiday, and I thought I might share some Christmas memories with you.

Growing up, my Christmases were always big. My parents were always struggling financially, but they always seemed to feel this pressure to give me tons of toys for Christmas. Of course, I didn't know this when I was little... but now that I'm older (and wiser), I often wonder what bills didn't get paid and how many items went to the pawn shop just so I could open a ton of presents.

I remember one year when I was about 8 or 9, I think my dad must have gotten some kind of last-minute Christmas bonus because on Christmas Eve, they took me to Toys 'R Us and told me just to pick out whatever I wanted. Being so young, I don't think I really held back, either--dolls, games, art stuff, an Easy Bake Oven (that was ultimately returned because it didn't have all the parts)... all kinds of stuff landed in the cart. When we got home, my parents didn't feel like wrapping everything, especially since I already knew what it was... however, I loved ripping open the paper (still do!), so I wrapped everything and stuck it all under the tree. It's kind of a funny memory, but at the same time it's a little sad because I realize how selfish I was and how materialistic that Christmas was.

I think those Christmases are part of the reason that Marc and I do presents differently with our kids. They are very fortunate and have grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles who love them very much and take good care of them at Christmas; such good care, in fact, that we haven't felt the need to buy gifts for them ourselves. Instead, we adopt 1-4 kids from our local Catholic Charities and purchase gifts for them. It's a way for us to be generous and hopefully teach our children that Christmas is much more about giving than receiving. We've done this for the last 3 Christmases and hope to continue the tradition for many years.

I always loved baking with my mom. I don't know how old I was when I first started helping, but by the time I was 10 (maybe sooner), I was pretty much doing all the baking myself. We made sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies; chocolate fudge and peanut butter fudge; apple, cherry, pumpkin, pecan, mincemeat pies; and every year we added new recipes. That's one tradition I hope to share with my children (baking in general, not necessarily the quantity!). They are getting older and much more helpful in the kitchen, so hopefully they already love it! They both helped with sugar cookie cutouts this year--though I suppose the term "helped" is relative; I'm sure if you asked Marc, the voices he heard coming from the kitchen were anything but helpful! ;) They're excellent at cutting out the dough, and even better at getting sprinkles all over not only the cookies, but the floor as well :D

Facebook's Memories function reminded me of that first Christmas after my mom died 7 years ago; Marc was in Korea (I would be heading that way in February), I'd had a huge fight with my sister... I told my dad I wasn't going to the family Christmas at her house. He convinced me to go, and everyone pretended like it was all great and hunky-dory. All I wanted to do was go home and forget that day even happened. Later that night, my friend and I decided to go to the movies; however, when we got there, the line was out into the parking lot. We decided to go to a bar instead, and that was seriously one of the best nights I'd had in a looooong time. We each started with just a beer, then we shared a pitcher, then we had a few shots... yeah, we ended up pretty wasted, in a "this day sucked royally but we're ending it with great friends and great music" kind of way.

Since that year, I haven't really felt the "Christmas spirit". Sure, I went through the motions, putting up a tree and stuff, but I haven't been excited about Christmas. However, this year I actually got into the Christmas spirit; I actually looked forward to decorating and putting up our tree! Whether it has to do with coming out of the depressed fog I'd been in for so long or just having little kids who understand what's going on and are excited about Christmas, or maybe a little of both, I don't think it really matters. We had a wonderful Christmas and I can honestly say I'm looking forward to all the Christmases to come.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

5 Ways to Find a Little Peace When Things Get Crazy

Well, here we are--right in the thick of one of the most stressful weeks of the entire holiday season--CHRISTMAS WEEK! With only 2 days left until Christmas, no doubt most of us are running around like a bunch of crazy people shopping, baking, cleaning, and traveling. We're worried about everyone and everything except the most important person--ourselves.

It's more important now than ever to remember to take care of yourself. When things get too crazy or you feel like you're losing your mind and you just want to get away, take a few minutes to calm and center yourself.  Here are five ways to help you find a little peace in the midst of all the crazy this week.

 1. Take a brief walk and clear your head. If the walls are closing in and you just can't take it anymore, excuse yourself and go for a walk. Five, ten minutes is enough to clear your mind and regroup; you'll feel energized and ready to keep going! Try not to focus on anything that will make you more mad or anxious... instead, just clear your mind completely and practice some deep breathing. This walk is for your mental health, not physical exercise, so take it as slow as you need!

2. Meditate. Before I started going to therapy, I thought meditation was just some new-agey, hippie-dippie stuff. I was super skeptical when my therapist suggested it, but I figured "what the heck?" and went with it--and I'm so glad I did! I've mentioned meditation a couple of times on the blog (here and here). All you need a minute or 2, and just close your eyes and breathe deep, focusing on the sound of your breath; it doesn't take much to feel centered and present again. 

3. Pray. This one kind of goes hand-in-hand with meditation. I know it seems like a no-brainer, but when things are hectic and you're feeling anxious, give it to God. I can't tell you how many times I've prayed on the way to pick up the kids after I get off work just for patience, and peace, and for help maintaining my cool with them until they're in bed. God grants me that peace every time I ask

4. Take a coffee (or tea!) break. If you're out and about shopping, or traveling a long distance, don't forget to stop and get a coffee! Sit down for 10 minutes and enjoy it before you get back to it. DO IT, I'M NOT JOKING!! 

5. Give yourself a nightly cutoff time and spend 30 minutes doing something just for you. Instead of cooking and cleaning and wrapping gifts until you collapse into bed, promise yourself (or set an alarm) that you'll stop at a specific time, and allow yourself 30 minutes to take a bath, read, crochet--whatever you enjoy--before getting into bed. You'll feel better and have a much better sleep as well. 

To help you unwind and relax a little this week, Alissa and I are giving away a $25 gift card for Starbucks. Enter using the Rafflecopter below, and be sure to visit A Journey to Thin and comment on her post as well!

How do you plan to relax and be more present when things get crazy and hectic?

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Weigh in (12/19) + Christmas Travel

Wow, this Monday totally flew right by! Actually, the whole weekend seemed like it was over before it even started! Sorry to be posting so late, but I'm just glad I remembered ;)

Saturday's weigh in...

Not bad! I basically lost what I gained last week, but it's a loss, nonetheless. I know I can still lose 2.8 lbs by January to make my 50 pounds lost goal... though considering this is Christmas week, I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't quite make it.

Saturday's WW meeting was good; lots of people are feeling the same about the new program as I am... we know it's good for us in the long run, but it's a lot of changes to have to make which leaves us feeling a little unsure about it all.

I'm feeling really good about kicking this frappuccino habit; there's a good coffee place next to my WW meeting center, and usually after the meetings I go there and get a mochassippi (their frappe-type drink). On Saturday, I still went, but I got hot tea instead! I'm enjoying trying all different flavors; currently, I'm drinking a tea that's supposed to taste like a sugar cookie... and believe it or not, it actually does!

Just making little changes each week will go a long way to helping me adjust to the new program. I'm definitely thinking twice now before I grab another cookie or piece of chocolate, and I feel better in general--probably because I'm not ingesting nearly as much sugar as I was!

On Sunday, we had an early Christmas--meaning we opened the gifts that already arrived at our house since we're going to Texas (Marc's parents) Tues-Sunday. Later, went caroling at the kids' school. It was fun! We all sang for about 30 minutes, then they served us dinner and dessert--all the free food is definitely one of my favorite things about Catholic school (just kidding...or am I?)

Early Christmas... bikes, stockings (I couldn't find the stockings
with their names on them!)
, and a few gifts from my oldest brother's family.
Karinne and I at the school caroling party
They called all the kids up to the front to help sing "Rudolph..."
and Karinne wouldn't go up by herself ;) She sang it with her class on Friday, so
she knows it really well! 
Tomorrow, Marc and I both are just working half days at work, then picking up the kids and getting on the road to Texas as soon as humanly possible. Marc and I will come back on Sunday, and the kids will stay with their grandparents until New Years Day, when they'll meet us halfway to give them back. Hopefully the trip won't take more than 7 hours tomorrow, but you never know with kids!

How was your weekend? Any plans this week?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Reflection after 1 week of "Beyond the Scale"

Well, here I am, Day 7 of Weight Watchers' new program, "Beyond the Scale." (Read about my initial reaction here.) I'm still not entirely certain how I feel about it--it'll probably take a couple more weeks for me to decide whether I love it or hate it.

In any case, here are a few observations I've made regarding tracking SmartPoints, calories in My Fitness Pal, and my habits.

I still can't believe that a tall Frappuccino is 18 points. Really not worth it! However, get it without the whipped cream, and it's "only" 13 points. I feel like that's more reasonable, and I can handle that; I could really take or leave the whipped cream anyway. Now, a tall Mocha Frappuccino Light is only 6 points--still double from its PointsPlus value, but definitely easier to fit into my diet. Now, that being said, I actually went 2 days this week without a Frap... talk about progress! And I didn't die :)

I enjoy drinking hot tea. I'm not a fan of black teas, or most green teas, but give me some fruity, flowery, or pepperminty tea and I'm down. I still went to Starbucks on the days I didn't get fraps, but I just drank hot tea instead. They have one called Peach Tranquility that's just the bees knees. Drinking more tea also helps with the water intake, so it's a win-win!

Be sure to calculate recipes on the WW website AND in MFP. Since I track in both MFP and WW, I was calculating recipes in MFP, then just entering the nutrition facts into my SmartPoints calculator to get the points--well, it dawned on me today that veggies are 0 points in WW, so I need to actually enter the recipes into both apps! Turns out that my 6sp mushroom soup is only 5, and my honey garlic chicken went from 12sp to 10! This is great news, because I wasn't pleased with the high points values of some of my recipes.

I still have a hard time with the "I already blew it, so may as well go all out" mentality. Not as bad as it once was, but it's still there. Since I promptly went into negative weekly points my first 2 days on the new program, it's been difficult to quiet those voices. However, I am fighting them, and the longer I fight them, the easier it becomes. I feel much better today than I did Monday morning :)

So, there you have it--my Day 7 take on Beyond the Scale. Now, I'm still having a real hard time staying with in my points; I've gone over, way over, pretty much every day this week. However, I'm still learning and tweaking and it's a process that's going to take a little time.
I also wanted to share a couple of good things that happened this week:

I chatted with an old friend. We worked together at my old job in Birmingham, and we've managed to keep in touch over the years. She reads the blog and we're friends on My Fitness Pal, so she knows I've been struggling a bit with the WW change--she texted me to see how I was doing, and was so encouraging and uplifting--after our conversation, I felt much better about actually being able to make some of the harder changes that I know need to be made.

I received a very special Christmas gift. My dad and stepmom sent me a Fitbit for Christmas! It's the first gift I've received from them in a very long time; I don't talk about it much on here, but our relationship is somewhat strained and we don't speak very often. Last week, I was chatting with my stepmom on FB--she was letting me know to expect a package for the kids--and she was telling me how she and my dad both got Fitbits. I told her I needed to get one, and then we could connect and have competitions and stuff. Well, one showed up on my doorstep yesterday! Just know that it's one of the most meaningful gifts I've ever received--not because it's a Fitbit, but just for what it represents about our relationship. I literally can't stop smiling about it. It's a Christmas miracle!

Sorry for the cheesy photo, but I couldn't help myself. Looking at my wrists now remind me of both of my parents; my dad on  the left, and on the right, the tattoo I got to remind me of my mom after she died . Though  she was Christian, her family was Jewish; it says "believe" in Hebrew.
Don't forget to enter our Healthy for the Holidays giveaway this week for a $25 giftcard to Target or Walmart--check out this post to enter!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

5 Tips for Staying on Track Through the Holidays

As we are all well aware, the holidays are a difficult time to stay on track, and it's no secret that the majority of New Years' resolutions are related to weight-loss--probably due to all the gluttony of the previous month!

Well, I am super excited to announce that I've teamed up with Alissa from A Journey to Thin to bring you our "Healthy for the Holidays" series over the next 3 weeks, complete with giveaways! Each week, we will be posting on different topics to help you get through the holidays in the healthiest way possible, and start 2016 off as the best version of yourself yet! 

For my first post in this series, I'm diving right in with 5 tips to help you stay on track during the holiday season. These are a culmination of my own tried-and-true strategies, as well as some excellent tips that readers posted on my Healthy Thanksgiving post!

Without further ado, here we go!

1. Water, water, water! During this time of year, we are bombarded with so much rich, delicious, calorie-laden food, it's important to make sure we are drinking enough water to flush everything out of our systems. I have a 32-oz bottle (jug?) of water that goes with me pretty much everywhere I go, and as long as I keep it filled, it's no problem for me to drink 3 of those throughout the day. (I generally try to drink most of it before dinner so I'm not going to the bathroom all night long, but that doesn't always happen.)

2. Make a note of all your "trouble days". I picked up this strategy in a Weight Watchers meeting a few weeks ago--mark all of your "trouble days" on a calendar, days where you have parties or events to attend, and make a plan for those days. For me, I have 4 specific days--yesterday was a work Christmas party for all of our clients, Monday the 21st is our employee Christmas party, and then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (we don't really do anything for New Year's Eve/Day). Other than those 4 days, all the other days this month are regular days for me--so it really shouldn't be that difficult to stay on plan and see some overall weight loss! On the trouble days, I need to follow the strategies I listed for Thanksgiving (though I'll admit, I pretty much failed at this yesterday! All the food was so freaking delicious!)

3. Increase activity. Try to increase the amount of daily activity you get to help offset some of the extra treats and indulgences you're having. This doesn't necessarily mean "exercise more", it just means increase movement any way you can! I'm sure you've heard it all before but things like parking in the back of the parking lot, taking the stairs instead of the elevator (if you live/work high up in a building, take the elevator to a few floors below yours and then take the stairs the rest of the way), make a few extra laps around the grocery store... everything helps! One of my new favorite things to do is a lunch time walk--a 20-30 minute walk in the middle of the day is a perfect little pick-me-up!

4. Bake some treats and give them away! So, little-known fact about me: I LOVE to bake. I mean, I LOVE it. Baking Christmas cookies with my mom every year for as long as I can remember is one of my favorite holiday memories. We baked every kind of cookie under the sun--chocolate chip, sugar, peanut butter, etc.... not to mention making chocolate fudge and peanut butter fudge! Oh, and chocolate-covered pretzels and chocolate-dipped peanut butter cookies... the list goes on. However, we never gave any of it away. Nope, we'd pretty much eat every bit of it between me and my parents and siblings. A few years ago, I realized how much I missed baking... I'd avoided it for a long time because A) it reminded me too much of my mom, and B) I was always trying to lose weight and that wouldn't happen with all that yumminess in my house! So I decided to start boxing up the treats and giving them away to friends and neighbors and coworkers. Guess what--it works like a charm! I get my baking fix and keep just a few cookies/pieces at home, and then I give the rest away! Good for my waistline and my soul ;) 

5. Relax (occasionally) and enjoy the season. I know, so much easier said than done, right? But here's the thing... in all the hustle and bustle, it's easy to forget to take care of yourself. If there's one thing I've learned since I started my eating disorder recovery, it's the importance of self-care. I absolutely have to get out and have time to myself 1-2 times per week. Usually, that winds up being grocery shopping every other Tuesday evening (I refuse to go grocery shopping with my kids!), and a couple of nights blogging in a coffee shop. It's just the thing to help me refocus and take care of myself. I also enjoy getting out for my runs (which haven't happened much this week), and waking up extra extra early to enjoy some quiet time before the kids get up. It's hard to fit it into my busy schedule, but I make it happen. In short... take care of yourself! You know how you're supposed to put on your oxygen mask first in an airplane before you start helping others? It's the same principle! Also, don't forget to partake in some of the unique things to do this time of year... caroling, holiday musicals, driving around (or running through neighborhoods!) to look at Christmas lights... shoot, just drinking some hot cocoa while watching movies on the Hallmark channel is awesome! 

So, how about that giveaway?!? This week, we are giving away 1 $25 giftcard to Walmart or Target (winner's choice). To enter, complete the steps in the Rafflecopter below to get multiple entries, and be sure to visit Alissa at A Journey to Thin and comment there as well! 

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Weigh In (12/12) + Initial Thoughts on Beyond the Scale

My weigh in this week was kind of a bust...

It is what it is... I can't really pinpoint any one thing to cause the gain, but I did eat pizza Friday night so maybe it was just salt? Oh well. Onward!

At Saturday's meeting, I finally got to learn all about the new program, "Beyond the Scale". Honestly, to say that I'm overwhelmed would be an understatement. It's a whole lot of change, and I'm not entirely certain how I feel about it. I apologize in advance for the rambling post you're about to endure!

I didn't pay much attention to my points over the weekend, as I just wanted a few days to absorb all the new information. However, this morning I finally went in and tracked everything... and whoa. It's pretty eye-opening... I mean, I knew I didn't have the best diet ever and I eat way too much sugar, but this is like a good smack in the face, saying "Hey! Stop consuming all of this crap!"

One thing I'm not so happy about is that my Daily Points did not increase at all; everything I'd read said that my points would increase to somewhat offset the increase in points of most foods, and the reduction in weekly points--but for whatever reason, my points did not change whatsoever. My weekly points reduced to 42 (from 49).

Weight Watchers has said the goal of the new program is to "nudge" us toward healthier choices, but right now I'm just feeling forced. Even though I know it's good for me, and they're changes that I need to make anyway, my eating-disordered brain is freaking out a little bit and my biggest fear right now is restriction. When I restrict foods, cut out entire food groups, or feel like I "can't" have something, it's always led to a binge.

Here are my tracking pages for Saturday and Sunday...

I love the new 12-week journal!

Check out those point totals! Holy crap! Basically, everything I like from Starbucks has doubled in points. Again, I realize it's good because I needed to reduce my intake of all that stuff anyway, but now I'm like... is it really worth it? Is that amazing sugar cookie from CC's really worth 28 points? Is a frappuccino worth 20+ points? And what sucks is that it's not worth it... it's not even worth it for the occasional treat! I mean, if I'm going to blow 28 points in one go, it certainly won't be on a cookie! But these are my favorite things, and I can't imagine ever wanting to spend the points for those items as an "occasional treat." I worry that my disordered thinking is going to twist this around and tell me that I should just forget the program altogether and eat whatever I want... even though I know that's not productive.

But maybe, just maybe, this is the thing... I have enough self-awareness now to realize where this type of thinking leads me. I know that I need to make these changes and I've been waiting for that extra push, and here it is! So why am I so resistant? I need to reign in my crazy self-talk and realize that no one is forcing me to do anything... I need to just embrace this change, and work the program because with Weight Watchers, the program works if you work the program.  So simply by acknowledging these things, I don't think this change is going to cause me to devolve into a mindless binge frenzy... change doesn't have to be scary I think that simply by acknowledging my thoughts and fears, I've won.

So there you have it... my initial reaction to Weight Watchers "Beyond the Scale". This wasn't my most coherent post ever, but I needed to get these thoughts out of my brain. Thanks for listening reading!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Thoughts

Wow, I don't know about you, but this week has FLOWN by! I've been a little quiet the last couple of days because I found out on Wednesday that I'd be attending a conference all day Thursday and today. We're one of the exhibitors, and my boss wanted to do a fun Christmas photo booth type of thing, and he wanted me to come along to run it. It hasn't been so bad... honestly, we're only busy for about 20 minutes every couple of hours (during the breaks between sessions). I could get used to this!

If you haven't heard about it already, Weight Watchers launched their updated program this week (they update it in some form or fashion every year)--they weren't kidding when they said it was going to be big! From what I've heard and read, PointsPlus are now going to be called SmartPoints; PointsPlus were calculated using fat, carbs, protein, and fiber, and if their was enough fiber in something it could actually lower the overall PointsPlus value. SmartPoints will be calculated using saturated fat and sugar as well, and now protein will be the mitigating factor. It's designed to nudge people toward healthier choices; for example, I read somewhere that a doughnut practically doubles in points--that's nuts! But it will also definitely make me think twice about having a doughnut on a regular basis.

I get to switch to the new program tomorrow (my weigh in day), so I'll have a much better understanding of it after a week or so. Sugar is definitely a huge problem for me, so I'm looking forward to the change (though I'm also a little nervous about it). We'll see how it goes!

This is a quick post because I'm being called back to picture duty, but if you're doing Weight Watchers, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new program!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Girls on the Run New Orleans 5K Race Report

As I mentioned yesterday, I started volunteering as a Coach this year with Girls on the Run. It's been an eye-opening experience... the school I'm at is made up of primarily lower-income students, and I'm coaching 6-8th grade girls along with the "Head Coach" (a teacher at the school) and another assistant coach. Every session, the first 15-20 minutes is spent talking about different topics (we're given prompts and activities to follow), and then we spent about 30 minutes being active. The point of GOTR is not just running... they can run, walk, skip, whatever they want. The point is to help them realize their potential and that they can do anything if they put their minds to it.

I'll be honest--I was pretty nervous at first because I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to relate to these girls. The school is in a very low-income part of town; most of the girls in our group don't even own running shoes so they run in their school clothes and boots or slippers (whatever they had on that day). It's also not the safest part of town; a few weeks ago, there was a shooting at a playground in the neighborhood--there was a block party going on or something like that. Anyway, 17 people wound up getting shot (no one was killed, though several people were shot several times) and over half of them were under age 21. Although none of the girls on our GOTR team were there, several kids from the school were there, and to them it seemed like no big deal. Our Head Coach teaches 3rd grade, and she said that a few of her students were there and they said something along the lines of, "We were there and we heard pop pop pop and we got outta there!" These kids are so jaded already, and they don't know anything different. It's just another day in the Ninth Ward.

Now that you know some of the background of the girls I'm working with, let's talk about the 5K! I honestly wasn't looking forward to it because I wasn't sure any of our girls would actually show up--but it turned out to be AMAZING and reminded me why I wanted to coach with them in the first place.

Stormtroopers! I was laughing at the one dancing next to me.
As you might imagine, The parents are fairly uninvolved--I'm sure there are a variety of reasons. All of the girls were supposed to have a running buddy for the race--a parent, sibling, friend, relative... But we (the coaches) were our girls' running buddies, plus some other teachers from the school came out to support the girls and be RB's as well; some of them even made signs and cheered for us along the route! None of our girls had any family members present, and the other teachers actually picked up the girls who wanted to come and drove them to the race (we had 4 come to the race, out of 8).

Team Photo! Three more teachers showed up a little later. (My running buddy, C, is the taller girl in glasses.)
The race itself was SO much fun! There was face painting, "Happy Hair" (they spray fun colors on your hair), lots of food and snacks, GREAT music, and a big warm up routine. The race started at 8am, and we were off! We encouraged our girls to start slow (as opposed to their usual schtick of sprinting and wearing themselves out), and 2 of the faster girls ran ahead with our fast runner coach, and then we basically ran fartleks with the other 2 girls--"Okay, we're going to start running at that sign! Alright, let's walk when we get to that trash can!" (I was wearing my Garmin, but they much preferred the visual interval markers.)

Best friends
There were groups all along the course to cheer the girls on--cheering, high fiving--it was awesome! There was such a positive energy; I wish I could have bottled it up to take to every race! I could tell our girls were getting more confident as the race went on. At the start, they were like, "What, 3 miles?!? We can't do that!" but at the end of it, C said, "I can't believe I just ran 3 miles!" and she was absolutely beaming. I was SO incredibly proud of her!

All in all, the race was amazing and I am so very proud of the girls. Even if I'm not able to commit to coaching again, I definitely plan to volunteer and be involved with Girls on the Run in other ways! You can volunteer at the 5K, be a Running Buddy (run with a girl on race day), a Super Running Buddy (raise money for GOTR and run with a girl), a Sole Mate (be a charity runner for GOTR--I'm actually doing this for the Crescent City Classic in March)--if you're interested, find your local chapter and see what you can do!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Weigh In (12/4) + Weekend Recap

I actually weighed in Friday morning because I had the Girls on the Run 5K on Saturday and wouldn't be able to weigh in...

Remember last week when I said I'd probably have a 6-pound loss? Haha, CALLED IT! That loss definitely made me feel better about the large gain last week thanks to TOM.

Saturday morning, I went to the Girls on the Run 5K--you may or may not recall that I started coaching for Girls on the Run in September. At the end of every GOTR season (they have a fall session and a spring session), they have a celebratory 5K. Well, it was amazing and made the entire season totally worth it. I'll post a full recap tomorrow, but here's my favorite picture with our team...

A photo posted by Christina Prados (@steeners) on

On Sunday, I did a ton of laundry (seriously... 6 loads washed, dried, folded, AND put away!), and a little dancing while I was cleaning. We also put up our Christmas tree for the first time in 2 years! I truly feel the Christmas spirit this year, something I haven't really felt in far too long.

I just have 3 pounds to go before I reach 50 pounds lost... I can most certainly get there by January, and I most definitely will get there! I'm truly looking forward to this holiday season and all the promises of 2016, and it feels good.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Game Changing Flavors {Sponsored}

Let's talk, not those nuts! I'm pretty sure we all know the health benefits of nuts in general... they're filling, satisfying, and provide good, healthy fat--and almonds are considered healthier in general because they're lower in fat than other nut varieties. But what happens if you don't particularly like nuts? Nothing's worse than trying to choke down bland, tasteless food for the sake of being healthy!

Well, my friends, this is where Blue Diamond comes to the rescue.  They have created some truly fantastic flavors of almonds, ranging from sweet to savory. Blue Diamond recently sent me two of their bolder flavors to try, and while they're both amazing, my favorite is the Smokehouse flavor. I love barbecue potato chips, and when I'm craving that smokey, barbecue flavor, I imagine that these almonds would be a perfect substitute.

With the end of football season drawing near, there are a couple of big games coming up--which means a couple of football gatherings are in my future! As a busy working mom with 2 little ones, I don't have a whole lot of time to put together overly complicated snacks to bring to these parties. That's where Blue Diamond comes in--toss these almonds in with some party mix (I think both flavors would work well, but the Smokehouse flavor is particularly delicious!), and voila! A yummy, satisfying snack to munch on at any gathering!

Have you tried Blue Diamond almonds? What's your flavor of choice?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. Ditch the chips and grab some Game Changing Flavors this football season! Enter for a chance to win the Ultimate Football Party Prize Pack, get great savings and ideas for delicious snack hacks at

NSV time, y'all

I don't have anything of much substance to share today, so I'm just gonna share a few random things with you (if you don't mind).

First things first, I have a great NSV to share! Last Christmas, our boss got us jackets with the company logo embroidered on it. They're nice jackets, but they're cut for men... meaning they might fit in the chest, but are too small in the hips. I told him to get me a 2XL last year (I think that's the biggest size they had), but I couldn't zip it--there was about a 2-3 inch gap at the bottom where I couldn't even close it to attempt to zip it!

And here I am today...

No one was here (lunch time), so I took a selfie with my phone's self-timer
So that was exciting :)

Second, I noticed yesterday that I've surpassed the number of pageviews on my old weight loss blog... considering I wrote in it for about 2 years, that's pretty neat! I went back and read the first couple of months worth of posts... I felt sad for that girl. I started it when I started Weight Watchers Online while in Korea, and then it switched to being all about my lap band surgery (for more on the current status of my lap band, read this post), and then pregnancy. I leave it out there for people who are in Korea also considering the surgery because it was difficult for me to find information about it. It was originally titled "Memoirs of a Daegu Fatty" but after we returned to the US and I had a baby, I changed it to "Finding My Way Home."

Third, I went on my first "lunchtime walk" yesterday, and encountered this guy:

Spotted on my lunchtime walk today; everyone has a neighborhood rooster, right?  P.S. Reminds me of the chicken on Orange is the New Black! #wycwyc #ww #weightwatchers #fitmom #lunchtimewalk
Posted by Love Yourself Healthy on Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Someone asked if I'd been able to determine why he was crossing the road... I have to admit, it went right over my head at first, and then I had a big "oh, duh" moment.

Well, I hope you're enjoying your Thursday. What are you up to today?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December Goals

Well, it's December... another month, a BIG month at that, which means it's time to set some goals. Last year, I simply wanted to maintain my weight through the month... however, I really think I can set the bar a little higher and aim to lose weight this month.

Back in October, I laid out these goals for myself, with the ultimate goal of being 229.8 by the first January weigh in. I seriously doubt this will happen now, but I'm not going to let that derail me. This is why I generally avoid setting time goals for myself; in the past, if I thought I wasn't going to meet a time weight goal, I would just give up completely and promise to get back on track at a later date. (Of course, that rarely happened and I'd wind up off the rails for months at a time.)

This time, however, I'm different. I might not make my goal of 229.8 by January 2, but I can certainly do my very best no matter the outcome on the scale. I do believe I can at least reach 50 lbs lost by that date, so I'm updating my goal weight for January 2 to 232.4. That's the beautiful thing about personal goals; they are not set in stone and can always be modified. 

My goals for this month include... 

End December weighing less than I started it! I know I can do this--I just have to stay focused.

Make a plan for "problem" days and stick to it. I have work parties on December 15 and December 21; then Christmas Eve and Day to deal with. Other than those 4 days, the rest of the month should be fairly routine. I will treat those days as I did Thanksgiving--exercising, eating only what I truly enjoy, etc.--there's no reason why those few days should derail my entire plan for the month! 

Track, track, track! I've been diligently tracking in My Fitness Pal for 2 weeks now; I also want to track my WW points, just to see how they compare, but I haven't actually managed to do that part yet.

Enjoy the holiday season and don't stress; remember why we celebrate. Easier said than done, amiright? I don't want to work myself into a stressed out, frenzied mess over food or finances or logistics or any of that--that's not what Christmas is about! I want to relax and focus on what's truly important. 

What are your goals this December?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Weigh In (11/28) + Thanksgiving break recap

Well, hey there. How was Thanksgiving?

I had planned on writing a post or two between Thanksgiving and now, but I must confess... I didn't look at a single blog, let alone actually write a post! I was busy enjoying time with our family that was visiting from out of town, and spending time with Marc and the kids before we all head back to work and school, so I think the absence was justified ;)

I'm proud to say that I stuck with my plan for Thanksgiving... I got up and ran 3.1 miles, had a good breakfast and only ate what I truly wanted at dinner. Marc and I went for a walk before dessert, and I felt good about the day in general. Overall, the week was great; I tracked everything and felt really great about all my choices.

On our pre-dessert walk
Well, then Friday came along and Aunt Flo decided to come for a visit and I knew, I just knew, that it was going to screw up my weigh in on Saturday.

Yep, you're reading that correctly--I was up 4.6 POUNDS. Ugh. For me, the first 2 days of my period are the absolute WORST in terms of bloat and constipation (anyone else get really painful constipation during that time? anyone?) so I was somewhat prepared for it... it just sucks to see it on paper! I'm just reminding myself that it means I'll probably have a 6-pound loss at my next weigh in.

Despite the weigh in, I'm still pleased with choices, and proud of myself for sticking to the plan. I can't control when my period decides to show up, but I can certainly control my choices and the food I eat.

Remember when I mentioned that Marc was going to start using My Fitness Pal? Well, he's 2 weeks in and still going strong! We don't own a scale, but I'm thinking we should get one so he can see how he's doing (in addition to the way clothes fit/measurements). It makes me kinda nervous, considering my history with the scale... maybe I'll try storing it in a closet and just get it down once a week to weigh in or something.

On that note, I also starting tracking in MFP again--I'm definitely still doing Weight Watchers, but I wanted to support Marc as well. Plus, I do love the social aspect and being able to encourage your friends. I wish Weight Watchers would get that capability (they've been teasing us with "big changes" coming for 2016... maybe that's one of them?). Feel free to add me--my MFP username is steeners.

How did your Thanksgiving go? 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Seven Tips for a Healthy, Mindful Thanksgiving

Ahhh, Thanksgiving... the time of year that signifies the start of the Great Feast that continues through New Year's (or Mardi Gras, if you live in Louisiana!).

Oh, wait... that's not actually true. Thanksgiving is actually only one day*, just like Christmas is only one day (or two, if you do something on Christmas Eve like our family!).

*Even if you celebrate 2 or 3 Thanksgiving dinners, you can still use these tips and have a good holiday. That's no excuse :P

The holidays can be a really stressful time in terms of food, especially if you're trying to lose weight or get healthy... usually we just resign ourselves to either A) maintain our weight through the holidays, or B) accept that we will probably gain a few pounds (or 10) and resolve to deal with it at the start of the new year. Well folks, guess what...

It doesn't have to be that way.

Believe it or not, there IS a third option, and that option is to actually continue your healthy habits and actually lose weight through the holidays.

What a novel idea, huh?

It can be done, and I can prove it...

Yep, that's right--I actually LOST weight at last year's post-Thanksgiving meeting. Let that sink in.

I remember prior to Thanksgiving Day, I'd decided that I'd be happy to just maintain through the holiday. Then, I met with my nutritionist a couple of days prior to T-day and she helped me develop some strategies to stay mindful and have a good Thanksgiving, where I was able to enjoy the company of family and not stress about the food. I then decided that I'd just do the best I could, and whatever the scale said afterward didn't matter, because at least I would know that I did my best and had a good time.

I should also mention that we eat Thanksgiving dinner at Marc's aunt's house. He has a massive family, and there are usually 30-40 people there, with like 5 different appetizers, about 20 different side dishes, and 5+ different desserts. Oh, and loads of wine and beer.

I've been thinking about how I will handle this Thanksgiving, and I realized that all I need to do is follow last year's strategies--and I want to share them with you!

Treat the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day as ordinary days. How often do we practically starve ourselves leading up to The Day so we'll feel "okay" about gorging ourselves when it actually arrives? Or how about the opposite--we say "screw it" and just throw our healthy habits out the window altogether because we figure we'll gain anyway so what's the point? So here's an alternative--change nothing. Remember, Thanksgiving is just one day, not a whole week! If you have work potlucks to attend, do the same... it's just one meal!

Wake up early and go for a walk or run. Last year was the first time I'd ever done any sort of exercise on Thanksgiving morning, and I gotta say... it was a game-changer! It set a positive tone for the entire day. I got up early and went for my usual 2-mile walk, and it was a wonderful way to start the day. I felt energized and invigorated to follow the rest of my strategies!

Eat a good breakfast and a snack prior to The Meal. In prior years, I would eat nothing until Thanksgiving dinner, because I wanted to make sure I had as many calories/points and as much room as possible for gorging myself. Not last year! I had a good breakfast (I think I had toast w/ almond butter, a yogurt and some fruit), and then I had fruit for a snack before heading out for The Meal so I wouldn't be starving when we arrived. This way, I wasn't starving when we arrived and I was able to mindfully choose what I wanted to eat--rather than just eating everything in sight.

Eat only what you truly enjoy. This is a tough one. It sounds simple enough, right? I mean, if you don't like something, why would you eat it? Well, there are a million reasons... you don't want to offend Great Aunt Sally, your sweet grandmother keeps pushing you to "try this! have another spoonful!", or it's the mindset of "it's Thanksgiving I HAVE TO EAT ALL THE THINGS mmmmmnomnomnom". So how about it this...
  • When your grandmother is pushing you to eat something you really don't want, take a tiny spoonful and then leave it on your plate.
  • You really don't want to offend people or hurt anyone's feelings, so when push comes to shove, make a to-go plate. Explain that everything just looked and smelled so delicious, but you're already stuffed and will take some to-go. Once it's home, you can do with it as you please! 
  • Be picky! I usually skip the basic veggies, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, and some of dressings (at our Thanksgiving, there's like 4 different types of dressing). I can have the veggies, potatoes, and mac & cheese any time, and I don't particularly like all of the dressings. However, I love sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and Aunt Donna's orange rolls, and I only have them 1-2 times per year so make sure to have those on my plate! 
Go for a walk after dinner. I didn't actually get to do this last year, but I'm hoping to do it this year. Ideally, I'd take the walk before dessert so I'm reinvigorated to stay the course, but after dessert would be fine too. 

Mingle away from the food. It's so easy to munch on food when you're standing right next to it. Go outside and chat with people, or go to another room... just step away from the food

Wake up Friday and remember it's a new, normal day and pat yourself on the back for being kind to yourself on Thanksgiving! You did it! Your survived, and you didn't overstuff yourself and feel miserable and fall into a coma afterward. You had a great time and enjoyed chatting with friends and family, and didn't concert yourself with the food the entire time. You rock! 

What are your strategies for a successful Thanksgiving? 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Weigh In (11/21)

Saturday's weigh in went great!

I'm down another 2.8 pounds, and I feel like I am firmly in the 230's--I also got another 5lb star, which is always fun :-)

Saturday's meeting was all about how to handle Thanksgiving, and owning your decision whether you intend to maintain, gain a pound or two, or continue losing through the holiday. Last year, I planned on maintaining my weight over the holiday, but I wound up actually losing a little! I fully intend to follow the same strategies I used last year, and I'll share those with you tomorrow (I'm seriously excited about that post!).

Saturday was a pretty slow day after the meeting... we did a whole lot of lounging around, thanks to the rainy weather.

On Sunday, I got up and went for a run. I'm planning on doing the Crescent City Classic 10k in March, which is 6.2 miles--so I figured I need to start increasing my mileage. Today I went 3.25 miles!

Anna over at Losing My Puppy is always sharing photos from her walks, so I decided to follow her lead and share some photos from my run (technically, I took these last week but I did the same route today). Today (and last weekend) I ran along the Lafitte Greenway, a 2.6 mile pedestrian path that links several neighborhoods from Mid-City (where I live) almost to the French Quarter. We are fortunate to live half a block from it, so it's easy for us to enjoy a walk without have to dodge the crazy drivers :)

View of downtown 
Have you heard of the Little Free Library? You purchase the little house and
put it in your yard and fill it with books, and people can borrow or keep books, or add books to it.
I was excited to see one on my walk!
My shadow, and a long, straight portion of the Greenway.
Lindy Boggs Medical Center, which was abandoned after Katrina. Several projects had been planned for it and fell
through, and as of May 2015, there was some dispute in litigation over it. It's super creepy, and is a huge
eyesore in an otherwise well-developed, booming part of the city. 
Some interesting graffiti; that creepy goblin hand showed up in several pieces of graffiti along this route.
After my run, we decided to walk to Parkway Bakery for lunch--we got a fried shrimp po'boy, fried pickles, and alligator sausage & turkey gumbo. YUM.

Karinne's great-aunt made the backpack for her, specifically to hold coloring
books/paper, and crayons/colored pencils. 
Ryan really didn't want his picture taken... I'm pretty sure he's mid-"no" here.
What did you do over the weekend?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday Surprise

I don't usually get around to posting on Saturdays (I'm busy preparing posts for the upcoming week... sometimes), but I just had to share something awesome!

Weight Watchers shared one of my Instagram posts on their Instagram last night, and the amount of love and support I've gotten from it is pretty awesome. Check it out! (P.S. Follow me on Instagram--@steeners!)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

YMCA Corporate Cup: Second Line to Literacy 5K Race Report

So, who knew I'd be doing my second 5K so soon after my first? Not me!

This particular race piqued my interest primarily because of the free childcare during the race--after the stress of not having childcare for our last race, this was an amazing thought! However, once we did the Jazz 5K, I didn't really think much more about this one--until they announced a discount code! $10 off individual registrations? Sign me up! 

The race was held at City Park on November 14--with the most beautiful, genuinely fall morning. We typically walk to City Park from our house, but after looking at the course map I realized that the race was going to be held much deeper into the park than we normally have to go, so we decided to drive and just park as close as we could. There was ample parking; the race was set to start at 8:30, and we got there slightly before 8 and were still able to park right next to the party/finish line area.

After we arrived, we headed right for the childcare area. There were several tables set up for arts and crafts, and they had 2 bounce houses for the kids. The area was fenced in, and they probably had 10+ people there to watch all the kids. We signed the kids in and got our parent wristbands, and off they went! They didn't even look back, lol.

We wandered around for a bit, chatted, got a (free!) smoothie, and then at 8:15 the second line started that would lead us to the start line! Now, if you're not from New Orleans, you're probably thinking, "What the heck is a second line?" I'll try to explain it the best I can...

You're might be aware that New Orleans loves parades, and loves music, and it's not uncommon for random parades to happen anywhere at any time. The brass band and group of people leading the parade are considered the "main line," and the regular people joining in the parade off the street are called the "second line." So there was a brass band playing music at the race before it started, and at 8:15 they came off the stage and continued playing as the runners joined in behind them, and we followed them to the start line.

Right as they got started; the second line hadn't even formed behind them yet
Since we missed the start of the Jazz 5K, I was excited to actually get to experience the start of a race with (the sound of) the gun going off. It was very walker and stroller friendly, and we had to dodge quite a few people at first. The course was mostly flat, except for a pretty steep dip when we went under the interstate. As we were going down the hill, I thought, "ugh, and we have to come up back up!" But it actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I knew it was an out-and-back course, and as we were going down that hill, the first runner passed us heading to the finish line! He ended up finishing in a little less than 17 minutes... whew! He ran 3.1 MILES in the average time it takes me to walk 1!

Marc & I were doing 2min run/1min walk intervals, and were feeling it--it's hard to keep the pace down with all the energy buzzing around! Marc was feeling it more than I was (he hadn't been running much), but I was still having a harder time than usual because the cold air is harder on my asthma. There was a woman doing similar intervals to us, and for a while we were leapfrogging... she'd run past us while we were walking, then we'd pass her while she was walking. We did take a couple of prolonged walk breaks, which eventually put her firmly ahead of us. I tried to catch up to her a few times, but every time I got close she'd start running again.

Finally, I could see the finish line--the time had just passed 45 minutes, so I sprinted the last bit so I could finish in under 46 minutes. My final official time was 45:11, with an average pace of 14:33! Much better than my 52-minute time at the Jazz 5K :D

Overall, I really enjoyed this race and would definitely do it again!

That's Marc & I in the middle--I'm wearing a pink jacket
Finish line!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Picking up the pieces... on money and self-care, part 2

This is a two-part post on how I let go of the past. Find part 1 here.
In October 2013, I finally got a job! I was certain that was just what I needed to get out of the "funk" I'd been in; I put it in quotation marks because I was in such denial of actually being depressed.

Well, it didn't work. I was still unhappy, sad, miserable... I was completely checked out of life, just going through the motions. My bingeing was the worst it'd ever been... Marc was still working mostly nights, so I had a lot of time to myself to binge after the kids were in bed.

Our finances were much better... we were finally living just slightly better than paycheck to paycheck--we had everything we needed and were completely off government assistance. We were able to move into a different house; still 2bed/1bath, but we're in a better part of the city with TONS of things within walking distance! However, it would be a very long time before I recognized just how blessed we were; first, I had to stop comparing.

I had to stop comparing our new life to our old life in Alabama. What had happened, happened, and nothing would change that. I had to accept our life as it was, and learn to be thankful, content, with what we had.  I also had to stop comparing our new life with the lives of my peers... or at least, the glimpses I could see on Facebook. For several months, I actually blocked many of friends' newsfeeds because it pained me too much to see their success.

When I finally decided to join Weight Watchers and start seeing a therapist in May 2014, I knew it would be a struggle to afford these things financially, but I had to make it work. Fortunately, my therapist worked with me on the cost... for her, treatment was a priority. For me, Weight Watchers and my therapy was non-negotiable and I was able to work them into our budget with a few sacrifices.

We sailed along pretty well for some time... which brings us to the present. Over the summer, we had to get a new (used) car when the transmission in our van died. We didn't have the funds to pay cash for a car, so we acquired a car payment for the first time in a very long time. This also caused our car insurance to go up, since you have to have comprehensive coverage when you have a car loan. Marc started a new job in September, taking a bit of a pay cut--but works a regular schedule, with weekends and holidays off, and ultimately has much more room for advancement. The improvement in our home life alone is worth it! Although it wasn't a HUGE cut in pay, our budget was already tight enough that we're feeling the squeeze.

Recently, we took a good look at our budget (we've written a zero-based budget every pay period for probably 2 years now--meaning every dollar has a home) and realized that we really need to tighten things up and get "gazelle intense" (as Dave Ramsey puts it) if we ever want to make any head way in paying off our debt. We figured out what we can reduce, and in slashing our budget, when we got to Weight Watchers, I was hesitant... sure, we could really use that $43/month, but could I really give it up? Thankfully, I didn't have to think about it long... Marc said, "Give up Weight Watchers? No, I won't let you."

Here is what our budget template looks like:

Without going into too much detail, I'll say this: The items in pink are funded through a separate checking account and we refer to these as "sinking funds"; we deposit a set amount every month and they just build on each other (I have another spreadsheet that tracks the total amount in each category). Money for our HSA (health insurance) is automatically deducted from my paycheck, so we never even see that. The "Gas/Maintenance" item is for our cars; also a sinking fund, which goes into another checking account--this keeps us from spending gas money and helps us always have money for gas, oil changes, and (most) repairs. "Amazon" is for our Subscribe & Save items--diapers, wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, and kleenex. Any money that doesn't fit into these categories is considered "blow money" and starting this pay period, we're actually using cash for the blow money--so when the cash is gone, no more "fun" stuff. So starting this month, we cancelled Hulu and the gym. We also reduced our grocery budget and our "Gas/Maintenance" deposit. (If you want a more detailed view of how our budget spreadsheet works, comment or shoot me an email and I'll make a post about it!)

I'm working on focusing on what we do have rather than what we don't have. We are learning to be content with what God has blessed us with, which is really hard to do sometimes. Sometimes it's fun to play with our budget, figuring how to make the most of our money, but sometimes is really not fun--like when we're exhausted and just want to pick up dinner and bring it home, or I want to buy new book or something and realize we literally don't have the money for it (without planning in advance). 

So we're learning to live on less, and remembering that we do have everything we need, as there are people in this world living on much, much less. Finding this contentment, it's just another piece of the self-care puzzle--when I'm not comparing our life to everyone else's and trying to keep up with the Jones's, life is pretty great. I've even reframed how I look at things that are outside of our budget--rather than say, "we don't have the money," I try to say, "that's not in our budget right now." It helps, and it's true! That's one of the reasons I haven't included any actual numbers--cost of living is different everywhere you go, everyone has different expenses that they deem mandatory (though if it helps to satisfy anyone's curiosity, we do not have a six figure income). The comparison monster is a cruel beast, one that feels nearly impossible to defeat... but when you do, you realize all the possibilities that lie before you. When you stop focusing on what you don't have, and start to truly appreciate what you do have, life gets a lot simpler real quick. 

I hope I haven't come across as whiny or entitled... but I'm certain I'm not the only person who's struggled with comparison, or living in the past. With this post, I feel as if I'm putting all this in the past, for good. I'm ready to move forward.

When you spend your life wanting, you never get down to the actuality of living.
Posted by Geneen Roth on Sunday, November 15, 2015