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

Monday, November 16, 2015

When life falls apart... on money and self-care, part 1

Something I don't talk about very often is money and finances. I generally avoid it because a) it's really not the subject of this blog, and b) I don't particularly like talking about money. However, some talks that Marc and I have had lately got me thinking... sometimes you just have to talk about money in relation to your self-care.

I know I've touched on the history a bit, the job loss that brought us to New Orleans and the devastating hit to my self-worth... but here are the details. The nitty gritty details and reasoning behind every decision. I'm sharing this as much for myself as I am for you.
Marc and I have never really been money-motivated. We've always just wanted to live debt-free, and not live paycheck to paycheck. When we returned from Korea in April 2011, things were looking pretty great. I had a good job making decent money, enough that Marc could be a stay-at-home parent after Karinne was born in August, and our only debt was our (modest) mortgage and my student loan. We paid a total of $7000 cash for 2 cars after returning from Korea--we are still driving the beat up 1999 Mitsubishi! A few months later, I received a fairly significant raise that just had us feeling really great about where we were financially. We were confident that we'd be able to easily pay off that student loan, then the mortgage, and put a good portion into savings. We truly felt like we'd made it... we had a nice home in a good neighborhood with good schools, we were attending church and making friends with our neighbors, we were mostly debt free and on our way to complete debt freedom, and we had a beautiful daughter (and shortly thereafter would have another on the way!).

My favorite photo of us, May 2012; I didn't know it yet, but I was pregnant with Ryan!
Well, wouldn't you know it, the carpet was ripped right out from under us when I lost my job just a few months later. We weren't too worried, as we assumed one of us would find a job fairly quickly and in the meantime, my 12 weeks of severance pay would carry us through. So I lost my job in October 2012, and we were still unemployed in February when I gave birth to Ryan. I'd already started collecting unemployment, so that plus my remaining severance was keeping us afloat (I was able to put my student loan payments on hold, so our only debt we had to pay on was the mortgage). Marc was delivering pizza, just to generate some income while we looked for jobs, but it really wasn't much. In December, we came home one day to find an envelope stuck in our door with a $100 gift card for groceries; I still don't know who gave it to us, but I've never felt more humbled and grateful. By April, we made the decision to apply for SNAP (food stamps) and WIC--of course, with both of us practically unemployed, we were quickly approved. We also realized by that time that we were going to have to sell our house (whether we stayed in Birmingham or not) and rent if we ever hoped to get back on our feet and rebuild our savings.

In June 2013, Marc accepted a position as an assistant manager for $14/hr at a fancy movie theater in New Orleans; we got our house on the market, and he left to start work while I stayed behind with the kids until the house sold. Fortunately, we had an offer for our asking price within a week, so (thanks to Marc's extremely generous parents) the movers came and packed us up and off we went to New Orleans!

We moved from our cute 3bed/2bath 2-story home in the 'burbs, to a 2bed/1bath shotgun double (duplex) in the heart of New Orleans. We did the best we could afford; housing prices in New Orleans are much higher than we were used to. It was a rude awakening, to say the least. I could see the surprised look on the movers' faces as we tried to figure out where to fit everything; fortunately, this house had a basement for storage (a rarety in New Orleans) otherwise we never would have had space for all of our stuff. Because that's all it was... just... stuff.

The night the kids and I arrived in New Orleans; the moving truck is just off to the right. That's Marc in the doorway!
Whether that look of surprise from one of the young 20-somethings was real or imagined, it's not really important. I think what matters is that was the first time I recall actively being ashamed of our situation. I realized I was already tired of the pity... we'd been getting it for long enough. So I turned the pity inward, into real, palpable shame. 

Things were really rough for a while. We no longer qualified for SNAP because Marc was working so much overtime, and I was no longer collecting unemployment since we weren't in Alabama anymore. (Though our SNAP benefits carried over from Alabama--whatever you don't spend each month stays in your account until you spend it. I also believe our caseworker gave us some extra help by not closing out our account as soon as I called to say we'd moved; she left it open a few days until the next month loaded into our account.) I was stuck at home with 2 babies and no money, in a brand new city. Marc worked mostly nights (5pm til 2am or later) and mid-shifts; Ryan wasn't sleeping well at night, so it was kind of a never ending nightmare for me.

I didn't realize it yet, but I was extremely depressed, and falling deeper into depression every day. Looking back, I realize that depression absolutely stole Ryan's first year of life from me. I just... I don't remember it. I was in such a haze, such a fog of depression... all I remember is his screaming all night long. I still feel guilty because when I try to recall Ryan at various months, I just remember the crying, the bad parts. I don't remember much about Karinne during that time either. I look at pictures, and I feel like an outsider, like I wasn't there--like I'm looking at someone else's photos. 

It took some time to get our money from selling the house; we moved out quickly because the buyers said they wanted to close as quickly as possible, but it wound up being at least a month before we closed. (Our realtor apologized profusely for some miscommunication as well, as he was fully aware of our situation.) I remember clearly, the day we had exactly $15 to our name and Marc's next paycheck was over a week away. I said, "Screw it" and went to Starbucks anyway because that and Lindor truffles were the only things that brought me any joy.

The very next day, our check arrived. We padded our checking account, loaded up our emergency fund, paid back whoever needed paying back, and put a significant amount toward the student loan. We felt some relief at that point; the weight of the world didn't feel as crushing as it had been. For just a brief moment, I didn't feel like I was suffocating. 
to be continued...

It happened!

Well, you guys… it finally happened.

I missed my Weight Watchers meeting for the first time ever.

Yep, I’ve been doing Weight Watchers since May 2014 and I went 18 months without missing a single meeting. I’ve attending a meeting in another state, and meetings at different times, but I’ve always managed to make it to my weekly meeting.

However, it was bound to happen eventually, and I had a perfectly legitimate reason for missing it - Marc and I ran the YMCA Corporate Cup Second Line to Literacy 5K on Saturday (race report to come)! The Saturday meetings are at 8 and 9:30, and the race started at 8:30… it just wasn’t going to happen. None of the other meeting times during the week really work with my schedule, so I decided it was okay to miss this one.

So, all that just to say—no weigh in this week!

In other news, I think Marc is finally ready to take action to lose weight and get healthy. He’s put on some weight and he’s not happy about it—he’s got about 40 pounds to lose. I’ve (mostly) left him alone about it, because I know you just have to get to that place on your own. Over the weekend, he commented that none of his pants are comfortable and I asked him, “So what are you going to do about it?” I already told him I wasn’t buying him any bigger pants!

After talking a bit, he decided to download My Fitness Pal and start tracking his calories. He hates tracking, but after giving me several lame-o excuses why it’s so terrible (I love you honey!), I explained to him that he at least needs to try it for a month—otherwise, how’s he going to know what he needs to change? (Of course, I’m hoping that he’ll have such good results after a month that he’ll want to keep doing it!)

I’m so excited to finally have him on this journey with me. He’s always been encouraging, but I know it will be even better having him actually in this with me. We are doing this!

Feel free to add him on MFP and give him some encouragement – his username there is marcbyrne.

Waiting for the race to start on Saturday; love the bedhead :D

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Thoughts

It's Friday!!! This weekend is supposed to be amazing... we finally got a cold front, so it's going to be in the high 60's all weekend--glorious!

Marc and I are running in the YMCA "Second Line for Literacy" 5K tomorrow; I'm really looking forward to it! The humidity should be a fraction of what it was for our last 5K, and they have free childcare during the race and a fun after party. We can also just walk to it from our house, so we won't have to deal with parking or anything.

We've really had to tighten the purse strings lately, and it's been an exercise in finding contentment exactly where we are. I'm writing a 2-part post all about it for next week--I'm looking forward to sharing it with you!

So, it turns out I don't have much to share, so here's a picture of me right now!

At a work event in Baton Rouge
Have an awesome weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Weigh In (11/7)

So, I know you're all dying to know how my first weigh in post-weight loss break went...

I lost 2.6 pounds!! I was fully prepared for a 5-pound gain, so I was pretty excited to have a loss on the scale. Of course, this made me realize that all these habits I've been working on, and changes I've been making are actually taking root--they're sticking.

In the past, if I wasn't doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, i.e. tracking, counting calories/points, staying on top of things, then I was gaining. No ifs, ands, or buts... I don't think I've ever managed to lose weight all on my own, in the history of ever.

This gives me so much hope, and makes me feel so much more confident in what I'm doing. Losing weight this slowly, it can mess with you... am I doing what's best for me, am I going about this the right way, do I need to let go of Weight Watchers... but then I take a break and live and eat with no rules whatsoever, and I did just fine.

I definitely still want... crave... the structure of Weight Watchers, so I'm not going to quit doing that any time soon (if ever!), but now the idea of zero structure, of living and eating like a "normal person"... it's no longer something to be feared.

And I really, really, really like the sound of that.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Binge Eating Disorder Recovery: Eighteen Months Later


I met with my therapist earlier this week, and she told me that I seemed really grounded.


Is that true? Am I really more grounded now, or am I just good at faking it?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that it really is true.

We talked about my weight loss break, and how I haven't weighed myself in over two weeks and I'm okay with that. I'm okay with it because I know who I am now, and who I am is no longer wrapped up in how much I weigh or what other people think of me. I'm finally living my computer monitor mantra - "My self-esteem does not depend on the opinion of others."

I told her that the break was good for me, but I was ready to get back to it. She asked what that looked like for me.

Huh. I hadn't really thought about that. I'm focused again, in tune with my body and what my body needs. Weight loss has moved back to its place at the back of my mind, rather than the forefront. Over time, I'd allowed "Weight Loss" to sloooowly creep forward, and with that my obsessive habits were slowly coming back.

And THAT is why I took the break. I have worked too hard over the last 18 months to allow it all to be undone so easily!

Wow. Eighteen months. Eighteen. That's a year and half since I stepped into Mary's office, asking for help. Eighteen months since I said "ENOUGH!" and took control of my life.

We talked about how much I just want to give back, to help others who are struggling like me. How I'm doing that in my Weight Watchers meetings by speaking up, and by volunteering with Girls on the Run. I'm doing it through the blog as well.

I want people to know they are not alone. You are not alone. When I shared my story at a meeting back in September, I realized just how much people need to hear that. Now, I share not only because others are longing to hear it, but also because I am no longer ashamed.

I am not ashamed of who I am or where I've come from. It's life, and life is messy... and it's my story, my life. I have struggled and clawed my way up from the darkest depths to get where I am today, right now, at this very moment. Nobody did it for me... they couldn't do it for me. Sure, I had help--from my therapist, nutritionist, and WW meetings--but I did all the the work.

They were there to help me, to guide me; and they are still there when I need them, because even though I've come a looooong way, I am not perfect. I don't have all the answers and I still struggle. (Spend any length of time reading this blog and you'll see that, for sure!)

What I want to say is this: You've got what it takes. Maybe you don't know it yet, but it's there, and it's okay to ask for help. Please hear me when I say this: There is no shame in asking for help. It's so hard to admit you have a problem, but just acknowledging your feelings and what you are going through goes a long way to getting the help you need.

Eating disorder recovery is not an individual sport--it is very much a team event, and you have got to be the one to take the first step. No one can do that for you; you have to be ready to change. Check out my guest post "I Don't have an Eating Disorder... or Do I?" for more on my decision to seek help from a therapist.

So how do you go about finding a therapist? 

I found my therapist by googling "binge eating therapist new orleans"... she was the first actual therapist on the page (as opposed to a general treatment center or hospital) with her own website. I didn't have to do a lot of research... I just called and made an appointment.

If you're already in therapy but you don't particularly like your therapist--find a new one. I adore my therapist; when I talk to her, it's like talking to an old friend, and I look forward to our appointments. I have never left her office feeling worse about myself than when I went in.

If you're worried about cost, ask if there's anything they can do to help. My therapist offers discounted rates for self-pay clients, and if they still have trouble with the fee, she does what she can to make it affordable for them (I know because I went through this with her when I started!)

When I started this post, I wasn't sure where I was going with it; I mostly just wanted to reflect on what my therapist and I talked about during our meeting on Monday. Anyway, I love hearing from y'all, so please don't hesitate to email me with any questions or comments, or if you ever need someone to just listen.

Frugal Fall Fun in (Mid-City) New Orleans

It's finally starting to feel a little like fall in New Orleans--this week's high temperatures are all in the 70's (yes, it's really November). This is the kind of weather where the last thing I want to do is stay inside all day!

We've been trying to really cut back on our spending lately; Marc took a slight pay cut when he accepted his new job (will get a raise after a 90 day probationary period), and we acquired a car payment (grrrr!) when the transmission on our van went out--so things are little tight (tighter than normal) for the next couple of months. That being said, I've been trying to come up with some ways for us to have fun as a family without breaking the bank... basically, I need a pool of ideas to draw from when we're sitting around doing nothing!

We live in a great location in New Orleans--we live in the Mid-City area of town, and we are walking distance to the Mid-City Library, City Park, lots of local shops and restaurants--all within a few blocks! There's also no shortage of festivals going on around the city, most of which are free.

Some of the ideas I've come up with for the upcoming weekend...
  • Go to City Park and play on the playground, feed the ducks, and get beignets at Morning Call. New Orleans' City Park is one of the oldest and largest urban parks in the US, and it's also home to the oldest live oaks in the world, dating back something like 800 years! 

  • Walk to the library and pick out some new books or a movie
  • Be explorers in our own neighborhood
Took this before Halloween; love these grand houses!
  • Check out the New Orleans Book Fest this Saturday - held at City Park next to Big Lake
  • Pack a lunch and visit the zoo, insectarium or aquarium (we have an Audubon family membership--one of Karinne's birthday presents every year from Marc's parents). I'm pretty sure we'd still get it even if it wasn't gifted to us every year--we use the heck out of that membership!
  • Walk around the French Quarter and check out all the different street performers around Jackson Square. This never gets old!
  • Visit the bookshop around the corner from our house--there's always something fun happening there! It's very geeky and kid-friendly, just how we like it :) They have regular board game nights, events like "Dungeons & Dating" (yep, a bunch of singles go and play D&D), and it's locally- & woman-owned, so of course we have to support it! 
As you can see, we're pretty low-key and don't require much to keep us entertained. I think our favorite thing is to go to the park and read while the kids play! (Pro tip: Stick to the fenced-in playgrounds so the kids require minimal supervision!)

What frugal activities do you like to do in your city?

P.S. If you're interested in learning more about your personal finances, or just looking for free budgeting software, check out these free financial tools offered by Personal Capital!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Orleans Jazz Half Marathon & 5K Race Report

My first race report... can you believe it?!? When I posted last Wednesday, I wasn't so sure that we were going to go through with the race. After checking the weather Friday morning and seeing that the rain on Saturday was going to hold off until later in the day, we decided to just do it.

On my lunch break from work, I picked up the stroller from my friend and went to the expo to pick up our packets. Once I got our bibs, it finally started to feel real--we were really going to do this!

The race started at 7am, so I set my alarm for 5am in hopes of actually getting out of the house no later than 6:15.

Now, any time I'm not using my Garmin, it's plugged into my computer, charging. When I went to put it on, wouldn't know IT WAS COMPLETELY DEAD. I hadn't gone for a run in a few days, and apparently the power had gone out at some point which shut down the computer, therefore NOT charging my Garmin. I was so mad at myself--I should have checked it the night before to make sure everything was all set! There was literally nothing I could do at that point though, so I made the last minute decision that we'd just run and walk as we felt like it.

So I was trying not to freak out, but I was just a little... was this an omen of how the rest of the morning would go?! Of course the kids weren't so easy to get out of the house, and we finally got on our way at 6:30 (instead of  6:15 like I'd planned). Fortunately, we don't live far so it only took us about 10 minutes to get to our parking place (a garage about 5 blocks from the start line). By the time we parked and got the kids in the stroller, it was 6:45; at this point, I was just focusing on not freaking out and just accepting the situation as it was--out of my control.

Well, while making our way to the start line, we turned right at one point instead of left, and didn't realize we were headed the wrong direction until we'd gone about 3 blocks! It was dark and we were tired, what can I say? At that point, there was no way we were going to get the start by the time the race started, so we just did the best we could. I quickly checked our backpack at the bag check, and we made our way to the actual race. As we crossed the start line, the timer was right around 8 minutes and we were *definitely* at the back of the pack.

It turns out the race had a lot of casual walkers, so we quickly passed a lot of people and groups. Since I didn't have my Garmin, we just ran in intervals as we felt like it. I snapped this picture maybe 5 minutes or so into our race. It actually wasn't so bad being so far back; we didn't have any crowds to fight, and we could easily stop and deal with the kids as needed.

I took this after we'd already passed quite a few people
The first 2 miles passed fairly quickly, and I was feeling good. Marc was struggling a bit though, as he'd been pushing the stroller, so I took over pushing at that point. It was surprisingly easy to push, but after a few minutes I could definitely a difference. My arms were aching! The kids were whining to get out, so we finally gave them our phones and that seemed to placate them.

At this point, I'll mention that it was really really humid that morning; I'm sure that affected how I was feeling too. I mean, my arms and hands were sweating so much that my hands were slipping on the stroller handle! There was supposed to just be 1 water stop on the 5K course, but they ended up having 2 which was extremely awesome! The volunteers along the course were so encouraging--it was great to have them out there.

So we finally turned on the street to the finish line, and we were maybe half a block away--the clock was around 59:40 so we decided to give it all we could to finish in under an hour, and we made it at 59:55! Marc was in a Star Trek shirt, and I was wearing a Star Trek dress (100% cotton, which I thought would be okay because I was anticipating cooler weather... hahahahahaha), and as we approached the finish line the announcer said, "And here comes Captain Picard and... company... just under an hour!" That was fun :)

We grabbed some water, and headed to the grass to sit down for a minute. The after party had free beer, jambalaya, hot dogs, red beans and rice, bananas, and sno-balls. The jambalaya was delicious! About half an hour later, we heard cheers as the first half-marathoner crossed the finish line--that was crazy!

I gotta say, my only complaint about this race was the lack of music on the 5K course; it's advertised as having live music all along the course, but we only passed 1 truck with loudspeakers, playing (awesome) music and you could only hear it when you were within a couple of blocks of the truck. I was expecting more! All in all though, it was a really great time--and lots of people liked our costumes.

My official chip time was 51:45--not bad, all things considered! It was actually better than I'd expected, having to stop so many times to deal with the kids and whatnot--and the course is actually 3.2 miles, so that added like 30 seconds or something too, right? Oh, and we're getting medals! Apparently they misplaced a bunch of the medals, so they're mailing them out tomorrow. It was a super flat course, and a very positive atmosphere. I look forward to next year!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Non-Weigh In + Weekend Recap

Well, my weight loss break is officially OVER. I purposely waited til after Halloween, because, well, Halloween. I had many more treats than I'd intended, but it's over and I'm back at it starting today.

I may not have weighed in on Saturday, but I still went to my Weight Watchers meeting. It was all about making your world plan-friendly, which I really needed to hear. I always feel wonderfully recharged after each meeting... that's why I've never missed a meeting. I couldn't go to my usual 8am meeting because of the Jazz 5K (which I will recap later), so I made sure to get to the 9:30 meeting. 

So, how am I going to make my world more plan friendly this week? By getting rid of all the leftover Halloween candy, of course! I was going to toss it in the trash, but my husband's going to take it to work. (We have 4 bags leftover--we did a trunk for the kids' school Trunk or Treat, and a grocery bag full of candy was left in the closet at home.)

R2D2 and Princess Leia hanging out in our trunk

Saturday morning, we ran the Jazz 5K with the kids--we had a bit of a rocky start, but ended up having a great time! I will definitely go more into detail when I post the recap. 

Following the race, we ran home (pun not intended) to shower and rest a bit before heading to a birthday party. It was super fun, and the first time Marc went to a birthday party with me. Several other dads were there, and I wanted him to have the opportunity to meet some other dads from the kids' school. Later, we went a "Fall Festival" that we'd been invited to; it was raining Saturday evening, so most Halloween festivities were moved to Friday night. The Fall Festival was one of the few indoor things to do on Saturday.

Yesterday was pretty low-key; got up, got donuts, and went to Mass. Karinne went to children's church for the first time; she had a good time! I was worried she wouldn't go; new social situations where she doesn't really know anyone tend to overwhelm her, but she did really really well. It probably helped that there weren't a ton of kids; children's church is just Pre-K through 2nd grade, and they only have it during one Sunday Mass (out of 3). It definitely made it easier to deal with just Ryan through the service (though he was particularly obstinate and we kept having to take him outside).

Hope you all had a great weekend!