{on false starts and the shame of admission}

imageI read this article on false starts today. It rang true, and inspired me to renew my domain and write this blog post, which I almost didn’t publish because I didn’t have a good photo of my running shoes. Oh, the irony.

In 2015, I had a weight loss goal associated with my wedding. I carefully planned my weight loss so that I would achieve my goals by June 2016. I joined a gym and got a personal trainer and I enjoyed working out with my personal trainer, until she made a career change. Suddenly, my crutch was gone.

I had to realize that my gym was not healthy for me, or my finances. So I went through the painful and frustrating process of quitting that gym. Lesson learned: always check reviews from the Better Business Bureau before making any large financial decisions and examine the terms of contracts. This was a shameful experience for me, and I neglected my blog and weight loss goals because of that false start. Spending a ton of money had initially given me the feeling of wellness and progress, but it was draining me of joy.

My wedding was moved up to November 2015. I planned to get serious about a diet, but procrastination took over. I was nearly the heaviest I had been because of stress eating and a lack of exercise.

Another false start? I begged my husband for a German Shepherd mix puppy to be my running partner in February. I had to wait until sweet Buffy was old enough to take her on runs and walks, only to find that my exercise partner was more demotivated than I was in the July heat.

She loves children, and drags me to them, only to halt and sit so she can gently receive pats on her head. She’s afraid of sprinklers and bolted in front of me, tripping me. I ate the asphalt. Several times, she stopped completely and refused to budge. I had to carry her (30 lbs at the time) the last block of my run many, many times. She weighs 55 lbs now, and I can’t carry her anymore. She’s a sprinter. I’m trying to be a distance runner. We mostly play fetch now and I chase her around the house. Despite my initial disappointment about walks and runs, she’s still the best dog ever.

I realized that I wasn’t going to run alone in the dark and cold, so I joined my new (old) gym about a month ago. I even signed up for a crazy (free) half-marathon plan on Runkeeper. I’ve skipped many workouts because of Thanksgiving and a bad, hacking cough. But I am going back this week, because I still remember that rush I had sustained through my first full workout at my current gym. It is a completely different atmosphere and I’m happy to be back after four years.

Here’s to getting off to a really good start.

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{on weight loss goals: part two}

I have made a SMART goal to lose weight. I want to lose 40 pounds by my wedding day in June 2016. I want to look good and feel confident and comfortable in my wedding dress.

June 2016 is over a year away, and I could write the manual on procrastination. It is easy to say, “I’ll go on a diet tomorrow,” or “I’ll start my exercise plan next Monday.” This is how I’ve spent nearly a decade of my life being overweight and miserable. I have 9 years of procrastination to thank for that.

Over those 9 years, I have grown as a person and have found out what makes me tick. Although I am excellent at procrastination, I am a goal-oriented, Type A perfectionist. This explains why I fail at dieting and exercising. I’m not forgiving of myself when I make a misstep, and this leads to a sense of failure and hopelessness. This sense of failure drives me to the apathetic, self-destructive attitude of “screw it, I’ll eat the whole thing and start over again tomorrow.”

The idea of starting over again tomorrow, when I can be perfect is seductive and damaging. I could have eaten a slice of pizza or a single serving of something that is good for the soul. I could have shrugged it off, but no, I had to eat the entire row of Thin Mints.

It’s okay to have a treat, and enjoy it fully. It is okay to take pleasure in small things. It is okay to acknowledge that I am not perfect and I don’t have to be.

Once I acknowledged these things about myself, I began to set goals in a way that used my own personality traits to my advantage.

1. I make to-do lists constantly in my planner. It keeps me sane and keeps me accountable for my job. Additionally, it gives my mind a break from having to be the sole keeper of tasks. I acquired this habit when my fiancé gave me a small purple notebook, and encouraged me to record everything I did and needed to do for work. I am grateful for this gift that he has given me, and have extended this habit to my weight loss effort. This comes in the form of files in a notepad with a few simple goals that I need to achieve by the end of the week.

2. I deal with metrics and numbers as evidence of improvement, or “Key Performance Indicators”. My weight on the scale is just one KPI. I like to include miles of cardiovascular activity, repetitions, and pounds of resistance as evidence that I am improving.

3. I ensure that my goals are short-term. I got through a difficult program in college, one day at a time. Weight loss is no different. I may not have enough focus to make it through a year-long program of diet and exercise. I can, however, make it through this week.

4. I ensure that my goals have a certain amount of forgiveness. This allows for changes in schedules and plans. I have a hectic lifestyle and I enjoy going out with my friends. My goals allow me to do this without guilt.

5. I reward I myself when achieve my weekly goals. I buy that new pair of shoes that I’ve been looking at for weeks, or I splurge on a luxurious lipgloss. I take a break from the treadmill and go for a long walk outside. This reward rarely involves food, as that seems counterproductive to my weight loss goals.

Setting small, process-oriented goals help me to achieve a larger goal without feeling overwhelmed. I

{on weight loss goals: part one}

I made goals every time I wanted to lose weight. Nearly each time I attempted to lose weight, I failed. It seemed like I started over 365 times every year. I needed do-overs, not because of my willpower, but because the goals that I set were doomed for failure.

First, there was the vague, intangible goal.

I want to look and feel better.

You look pretty fine to me. For some people, looking better is as simple as getting a hair cut. For other people, feeling better could involve gastric bypass surgery and looking better involves several cosmetic procedures. What is it you’re exactly looking for?

I want to lose weight.

That’s cool. How much weight do you want to lose? Do you want to lose 3 pounds or are you terrified of seeing 300 pounds on a scale?

I want to lose 40 pounds.

You’ll gain and lose 40 pounds many times over a lifetime. It’s totally doable for you to to lose 40 pounds, but why do you really want to lose the weight?

I want to lose 40 pounds because I’m getting married and I want to feel comfortable in a wedding dress.

What? You mean you don’t want to be squeezed into Spanx at your wedding, and you like to breathe in air sometimes? Okay, I get it. I don’t want you to pass out at the altar. When is your wedding?

I want to lose 40 pounds by my wedding day in June 2016, because I want to feel comfortable in a wedding dress.

Can I lose 40 pounds a year in 15 months? Yes, losing one half of a pound a week is healthy and manageable.

That is a SMART goal, worthy of all self-improvement writers who sell books about achieving the life of your dreams. It’s specific, because I want to look better by losing weight. It’s measurable, because it’s easy to quantify how much weight I lose. It’s attainable because it is a healthy weight loss goal. It’s relevant because it matters to me. Finally, it’s time-bound, because I have a general idea of my wedding date.

Great, I set a weight-loss goal. Now I need to figure out how to achieve it.

{on joining a gym and other health nut things}

I’ve never had great balance. Don’t get me wrong, I can stand firmly on both feet. But when it comes to anything else in life, I’m a bit wobbly.

This is particularly true when it comes to how I treat my body. I can extol the virtues of eating clean, but I hate kale and quinoa. Mostly because it seems like rabbit food and bird seed.  I would rather eat okra fried in peanut oil and silky cream corn. My favorite holiday is gluttonous Thanksgiving, with all the fixings.

But every day can’t be Thanksgiving. Someday, it has to be January 2nd or March 9th.

Over the past month, I have joined a gym and gotten a personal trainer. So far, after two sessions, I like it. My trainer always explains how each exercise will benefit my muscles, and how it will help me feel more confident. She tells me about the back and shoulder exercises being good for a backless gown. The cables are great for strapless options. We worked on my calves, in case I want to wear a sweet little white dress to City Hall. It’s more than a year away, and I want to keep my options open.

I drink protein shakes twice a day (sometimes). I’ve developed a fondness for the best Rio Star grapefruit from Texas. I can tolerate kale, if I add enough parmesan and olive oil to it. My grocery bill has been reduced, and I’m eating mostly organic produce (when it matters). This week, my goal is to only eat food from someone else’s kitchen twice, and workout five times.

I’ll have to give myself goals and an incentive each week to keep things going. Otherwise, it’s just punishment and who wants that? Not this lady.

{holidays: cinema therapy}

It started early in November, before Thanksgiving. I introduced my best friend to the cult classic of all Christmas movies as the snow was falling. I drank egg nog with him on Black Friday while shopping for Christmas gifts online. I got engaged on December 3rd, with a gorgeously delicate snowflake ring. The Polar Express’s next stop was at my house, for sure. I waited for it.

I dressed the cats up in cute little sweaters with pink snowflakes and watched them become paralyzed with fear, and debated whether they should be on this year’s Christmas card or not. I debated even sending out Christmas cards (I didn’t). I was not in the mood for Christmas.

Christmas Card 2013

It could have been the black balloons lying on the living room floor, the dead leaves on the stairs, or the lone pumpkin greeting me at the front door every day. Maybe. It could have been the awkwardly timed vacation, or the knowledge that I would be part of the skeleton crew, working during the holidays as a junior professional. Mostly, it was the lack of sleep from my neighbors yelling at each other at 3 am. I was sleep-deprived. I found myself making mistakes that I normally wouldn’t have made.

I drank enough holiday-themed beverages to stay awake and ate enough sugar cookies to feel gastronomic regret. I created my bedazzled, festive monogram and changed my lock screen. My heart wasn’t in it. It felt like someone pissed in my peppermint mocha.

gingerbread valium vodka venti latte

In the season where everyone is wishing me tidings of comfort and joy, the most joy I got was when my fiancé and I became Christmas angels for a 3 year-old girl, fretting over warm clothing for her and granting her Christmas wish. This same feeling hit me yesterday, as I cleaned the house yesterday, spraying the scent of Oklahoma’s state parasite floral emblem. I turned on the yule log. I wrapped the first of the presents in cozy Scandinavian-patterned paper. I watched my favorite on-screen couple meet for the first time, for the 15th time. I played Scrabble with my best friend, laughing the entire time as we went head-to-head. He’s good. Slowly, happiness edged its way back in my heart.

Christmas Kitty 2014

Today, the holidays are in full-swing at my home, thanks to a surprise tin of cookies in the mail from my college roommate. Munching on snickerdoodles and drinking cinnamon coffee, I finished wrapping gifts and put them under my little tree. I watched the sweetest movie, perfect for my less than stellar mood.

Christmas Cookies

“Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel,” Charlie Brown lamented. It’s perfectly fine if I’m not as joyful as an elf on jingle juice. But I can have my small, quiet moments of happiness and lulls in this busy season.

Christmas Tree 2014

{coffee: sweetie pie}

sweetie pie

One of my traditions will be to share morning coffee as often as possible with the love of my life. We got to know each other while drinking small white mugs of coffee, resting them on saucers when the direction of the conversation piqued our mutual interest. It was this way that we quickly became friends.

In terms of coffees, I love them all. I like everything from the candy-like creations of Starbucks to the black Fair Trade coffees that are sourced from exotic locales like…Guatemala. I like French presses, drip coffee makers, Tassimos, and Keurigs. I love the art of making coffee, from filtering the water to measuring out the grinds. There is something in the small rituals of weekend mornings that calm me.

Weekdays, however, are often spent rushing around the apartment, changing outfits several times. Before deciding on the one cardigan that I want covering my shoulders in a chilly office, the coffee has already been made. The coffee brewed around 6 am, when I was still hitting the snooze button, trying to remember why on earth that evil thing is lighting up and wedding bells are pealing. My fiancé was brilliant when he bought the coffee maker with a timer as a gift, because I am not a morning person.

Although the hustle of my mornings doesn’t change, my coffee does. I tend to shop for my coffees on the end aisles in Target. I do this because the coffees on the ends of the aisles are usually on clearance because their season is coming to a close, yet they are still fresh. By shopping on clearance for coffee, I also discover new brands and flavors.

The flavors that I most often end up buying are from a brand called Paramount Coffee, who have cleverly named their bags of coffee according to the seasons. So it is with Sweetie Pie that I begin my first post on coffee. Sweetie Pie, as can be seen in the photo, is a pumpkin pie flavored coffee. I get less pumpkin flavor in this coffee and more of a strong clove flavor. It’s a strongly spiced coffee that is ideal for late autumn mornings, as long as the spices and acidity are balanced with half and half.