Better by the Dozen

As a Weight Watcher Leader, I’m constantly suggesting (….ok, nudging….ok, pushing…OK, kicking their butts….) my members get out of their comfort zone. We say magic happens outside of your comfort zone. But what does that mean? We say we’re “Beyond the Scale” but does everyone “get” that?

I remember little elf Judy in the movie, The Santa Clause, said to Scott Calvin, “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.” Sometimes we can’t know what the magic is until we take a leap of faith and try or experience something.   Trying something can be as small as a new food or as big as a new job or marriage. When we try something, our minds open a bit. (Trust me when I tell you that there is very little magic inside a closed mind.)

These last few days have been amazing.   It started from a simple invite to all WW leaders to come to her house – her state – her meetings. Wait. Back up. Just throwing out an open invite to thousands who she didn’t know? Yeah, it takes a special kind of person to do that. This is a woman who loves people and believes with the utmost faith that all of them are lovable. The first time she cast out this invite three of us took her up on it. This time – twelve.

Twelve women came together – each taking a leap of faith. Each putting aside their time, their money, their work, their families – for a few days with people they didn’t know. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone! Twelve women spanning three decades and five states. Twelve women with different priorities in their lives. Twelve women with different backgrounds. Twelve completely different women who were simultaneously excited and nervous (ok, none of us wanted to get in to bathing suits!) taking a leap of faith. Twelve women who realized that our vulnerabilities are our strengths. Twelve women whose passion to help others – including and especially our members – was palpable. Twelve of the most beautiful beings I’ve ever encountered.

What happened was exponential power. Each of us imperfect beings, but as a group it couldn’t have been more perfect.

I knew it would be great. I didn’t know how great. I knew I’d meet new friends. I didn’t know my heart would be filled with love for these women and my life changed forever. I didn’t know I’d become a better leader, listener, sharer.  I can’t do math, but if you take 12 women and each have new and unique friendships – well, you get the idea. It’s a LOT!

Beyond the Scale has taken Weight Watchers exactly there – BEYOND the scale.   We know that in order to be our healthiest selves, we need to focus on food, fitness, and fulfillment. We got all three.   Our host planned a healthy few days complete with incredibly healthy and delicious food, walks downtown and on the beach, and the whole few days took the term “fulfillment” to new levels.My goal – my theme, so to speak – for this year was to Nourish.   Nourish my body, my mind, my soul.   This was nourishing.  We lived Beyond the Scale.

The list of people to thank is too long and this isn’t the Academy Awards. It’s just my take.   But I will thank Weight Watchers (as I do so often in this blog) for changing my life for the better first as a member (always as member!) and then as a colleague.   And Lisa, my dear amazing friend…. Thank you for loving us so individually and so jointly and so completely.

Next time you’re on the fence about something – something that you know would be good but you’re too nervous to try – close your eyes and jump. Let the magic in!

“Saying yes . . . saying yes is courage. Saying yes is the sun. Saying yes is life.”
― Shonda Rhimes.   We said yes.

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Every now and again I smile to myself and thank God for all His blessings. I don’t do it often enough – how often is often enough anyway? But I know how blessed I am. And some days I realize that it’s my brains I’m thanking Him for… some days it’s my spouse, some days it’s my job. Some days I thank Him for raising me to be the kind who IS grateful and DOES appreciate what she has – as it’s all I need and more.

Today it was my daughter. She treated me to one of those wine and paint nights.   Considering that I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler and smiley faces intimidate me, this was a stretch for me. But she was determined to prove me wrong. She’s SO artistic – everything she touches turns to art. Anyway, mine was not horrible, NOR was it the worst in the class – yay me! It’s good to stretch your limits once in a while. I haven’t done that in a long time, and it felt GOOOOOOOD! But her treating me to the evening wasn’t the only reason I was thanking God for her. I raised a good girl. And approaching this Mother’s Day weekend where I internalize so much because my mom isn’t here, it’s really great to realize that I have this adult child with whom I thoroughly enjoy spending time. I have two actually – two kids became adults who I enjoy. I enjoy conversations, I enjoy spending time with them, I enjoy how their minds work and how grown up they became. They’re nice people. They’re good people. I had some part in that. Unreal.

This past week the food for thought in our Weight Watchers meetings revolved around emotional eating. And my members, both coaching and meetings, really dug deep in to feeling and not hiding or stifling their emotions. And then there is me. Approaching Mother’s Day is hard for me, I miss my mom. It’s simple. And very often – and this year was no exception – I eat those emotions of loneliness, missing her, and have a very tasty pity party for myself because she’s not here. When really, all I need is to treat the loneliness. Treat the missing her by filling myself with her – and that might mean filling myself with my kids, or pictures of her, or memories of her in conversation. There are ways to feel the feelings without eating them. My beautiful members came up with fantastic coping skills for themselves. I wonder if they know how much they inspire me.

I’ve been at my goal weight for over 7 and a half years and in all that time of hard work, I consider myself lucky. I know I work hard. I know that it’s not easy – especially during certain times of the year. But each meeting I get something more….something that they give me. And I never know what it is. I’ve said this before. My vulnerability is my strength.   It’s when I feel the most vulnerable that those little gems my members provide really give me the needed lesson. I rarely learn when I’m being strong.

I’m an emotional person. If I took all the weekends, all the holidays and all the “emotional times of the year” off from my plan, that would add up to 90% of the year and as a result I would be triple my size. Realistically, I have to follow the plan more often than I don’t in order to stay this size. People ask me, “Isn’t it hard?” “Don’t you want to just go crazy?” Well, the answer is “Sometimes”. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I want to go crazy. So what? So I do. Since I’m not a perfectionist and I never do it perfectly anyway, it’s not hard to reign myself in after a little detour. It’s not an option. It’s on the schedule. Remembering that I love my life, my job, my size MUCH more than I love any food (and I LOVE FOOD!) helps me set an end time for my detour. I know I’ll have them. I’m human. And you know what – I NEED to feel these feelings. Sometimes that goes along with food – but sometimes it’s just the feelings that I need to embrace. Emotional eating is sometimes the result, but it’s less often than it once was. Victory.

When I spend nights like this with this woman who I raised – this girl child woman who I adore – not once did I think about food. We laughed. We painted. We joked. We were busy in each other’s company and in a task that made us smile. Those moments are better than the food we might have eaten or overeaten. We’ll remember the memory.

How do you cope with that feeling you have after binging on potato chips and M&Ms (what? Don’t judge, people – that’s my go-to for certain emotions!) Maybe if you’re sad, watching YouTube videos of animals will help. Maybe if you’re lonely, reach out to a friend and connect. Maybe missing your mom, find someone who knew her and talk about some shared memories – or find someone who didn’t know her and tell them something about her. Maybe if you’re angry, you could forgive – it helps you and has nothing to do with the behavior that was the cause. Maybe if you’re ready to reward some great accomplishment, you could think of something that TRULY fits the accomplishment, instead of ice cream. The only accomplishment ice cream feeds is making ice cream. Have the food because you planned for it. Have it because you love it. But don’t have it because of a feeling.

I ended my meetings this week with the quote, “If hunger is not the problem, then food is not the solution.” I eat for other reasons than hunger and guess what? It’s okay. But what’s important is this. I need to feel the feelings and LIVE my life – with the feelings, with the food. I don’t want to hide behind the chips anymore. When you feel the most vulnerable, look for the lesson in it. Is it hard? Yes. It’s okay. Aren’t you worth hard? You are. So am I.

Thanks Mom, for raising me so I can raise these kids.  I don’t know if they’ll have kids to raise or not – but right now I know they’re amazing.  And we did something good.  And that is a better reward than chocolate  or bacon.

 

 

Madelene and my Mom

Disclaimer, the title of my blog is Just Me and Sometimes Bacon. And although I mostly focus on weight loss, there are some posts that are, in fact, just me. This is one of those.

Oh, the thoughts running through my heart right now. I’m following the advice of a dear friend who said to me today, “I see some blog posts here. It’s how you process.” Well, that and some Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, but I digress.

As some of my readers know as I’ve blogged before about her, I lost my mom almost 15 years ago. And in these last almost 15 years I’ve learned that the hardest thing I’ve ever done was not to lose her, but to have so many life moments without her. Sure I’ve visited her gravesite, sure I’ve had conversations with her, sure I’ve written her Mother’s Day cards and notes and even blogs. But there are life’s moments that I wanted my mom with me. And I didn’t have her.

This past week one of her dearest friends passed away. Madelene was like another mother to me.   When I was in her house she treated me like a daughter and that included loving on me and also setting me straight when I needed it. She took me dress and shoe shopping as she had boys and my mom truly hated shopping. We had holidays together. When I started a home business she invited me to her school to help me. She had my kids over for holidays. And when my mom died, she called me every month to check on me and make sure I was okay.

Both from New York and both the quintessential Jewish mothers, if a director called Universal studios and said, “Hey, send me a Jewish mother type,” these two women would show up. They loved through pure adoration, attention, guilt, and sacrifice. And because of all the years together and all the memories, and all I felt about her, I needed to be there this week.

I wanted all the honor to be about Madelene and I expected it to be hard on me emotionally. But, I wasn’t prepared for how hard. I wasn’t prepared for the memories of my mom to be as intertwined and connected. And at first I thought that’s a disservice to Madelene, but it’s not. It defines her – that she took on my family as her own and family is intertwined. That’s the way it is. So all the emotional entanglements that I was feeling about my own loss was because Madelene took such incredible care to connect.   She was a good connector, that one!

I saw many of their mutual friends, some – most – I haven’t seen since my mom’s funeral. These friends are people who taught with her, who make my mom’s food, have her picture in their homes, had our family over their houses.   We’ve celebrated joys and sorrows together. There has since been joys and sorrows that we no longer celebrate together.  Kids grow up. They have children of their own. Wives lost husbands. Friends become ill. Life happens whether I witness it or not.

That was not only my lesson, but my pride this trip. Life happens whether I witness it or not. I need to be present – and I was. I talked to as many of the people as I could. I avoided the food and embraced the connection.

The beauty of shiva (the tradition of the first week of mourning) is the sharing of the stories. We live on in whom with we’ve shared our lives. We let the soul know that they’ll always be alive so it can move on. And the sharing of stories were filled with humor and joy and a common theme of love (and shoes and maybe some food).

Madelene, you raised two amazing sons and a world full of other children with your heart. Your legacy will live on in all of us who knew you. Mom, you’re now with your friend. Catch up and show her around and give her a heavenly hug. And both of you – please… continue to watch over us.

Acceptances and disappointments

On any given day in social media, you will find articles and pictures telling us to be happy with our bodies. Accept and love them. That the way towards shedding the weight is to be happy WITH the body you have.   Be comfortable in your skin. Don’t make excuses in it – revel in it. Buy the shorts and the swimsuit and the sleeveless dress.

Also on any given day, you’ll find the models selling shoes and clothing – even plus size clothing – and they’ll all be a size 0 or 2. They’ll have the gaunt faces and rarely smile.

So this tells me two things: the media is confused and models aren’t happy.

Confession – I’m one of those people on social media who spreads the “acceptance and the happy with our bodies” messages. I wanted that known up front because my light bulb moment arrived when I realized (even though I’ve been speaking the words for years) that I could be simultaneously accepting as well as pretty disappointed with my body.   And I am.

I love that I am fairly healthy.
I love that my cholesterol went way down after I lost my weight.
I love that my legs can safely and (most of the time) take me for pain-free walks to experience scenery.
I’m disappointed I don’t do this more frequently or faster or longer.
I love that I can stand for hours.
I’m disappointed that I don’t do more varied activities.
I love that I have a small waist.
I love having an hourglass figure.
I’m disappointed that it’s a lot of hours and most of the time the sand isn’t split very evenly.
I’m disappointed that my bones are weak.
I love that I have blue eyes and that they can see fairly well.
I’m disappointed that I’m at the top of my comfort zone in weight.
I’m disappointed that so far I haven’t wanted to work hard enough to move that lower.
I’m disappointed in a size 8 when I used to be a size 4 but I love that I’m a size 8 because I used to be a size 16.
Why, on most occasions do I confidently follow my plan and on others rip it to shreds and dive in to the chocolate?
Why, if I feel SO good after I exercise do I not do it more frequently?
Why when cooking a variety of healthy and interesting meals do I feel awesome and then get lazy and stop doing them?
Why don’t I ask for help more frequently?

So here’s my letter to myself:

Dear Marci,

It’s okay. It’s okay to feel all the feelings.   It’s not okay to just whine without action. It’s okay for that action to not be immediate. It’s okay to be both happy and disappointed as long as you appreciate the happy and actually do something about the disappointments. If you choose to NOT do anything, then stop the whining. You’re a grownup and you can’t blame someone else bringing candy to the office and your house on your inability to keep your hands out of it. Marci, “No, Thank you” is a complete sentence. Practice it once in a while. You’re 53 years old; you might want to start eating with dignity again.   It’s okay to want to feel small. It’s okay to want to feel more attractive – you’re not superficial for wanting this. It’s just as okay to want to lose weight for cute clothes than a more important reason such as good health. Marci, there is no one more important reason.   It’s okay to leave something on your plate. It’s okay to spend a little more if it means you’ll feel physically better.   It’s also okay to think when people say “food is just fuel” that they’re wrong or crazy but just don’t judge them. It’s okay to think about lunch or dinner while you’re eating breakfast. It’s not wrong just because others say it’s wrong. You’re allowed to be a bit obsessed with food, but you might want to start behaving more appropriately with it.  Be grateful for the things you have, Marci.  This is really about the serenity prayer.  Accept what you can’t change,  but do something about the things you can.   I’m fully aware that you can.  I believe in you.

All my love, Marci

Wow – it’s been 10 years!

Ten years ago this month, numerous events took place: test results from a physical showing my cholesterol to be extremely high, a printed picture of a night I thought I looked great but didn’t – at all, and sitting watching TV with an open and empty bag of chips and no memory of eating those chips.

Oh – and I walked back in to Weight Watchers for the 6th time.

Most people come in the door to Weight Watchers because they’ve decided to lose weight. But it’s rarely just a number that freaks us out. It’s usually something that number is causing. For me, it was high cholesterol, vanity, and the fact I was out of control.   Completely out of control.

If I had a bad day then wine or cookies or just the cookie dough or chips or all of the above were on the table. And I say “on the table” in a figurative way because sometimes I didn’t have them on the table. They went hand to mouth. Food was my crutch. And truth be told, it’s not completely NOT my crutch now. If I celebrated, I celebrated with food and drink. If I was alone in the house I might have had 4 meals before lunch. So yeah – I was definitely out of control.

Once I made the decision to join I felt I should be thinner immediately – or at least within the week. We’re in a world of instant gratification so if I wasn’t thinner, then it wasn’t working and I needed to quit. But that’s not what happened.

I had to work. I had to work hard. I had to do it daily. And I made it hard on myself at first. You know how we are in the beginning – all excited and motivated. We want to do everything perfectly and get the best results so that it can keep motivating us to keep going. But that’s also not what happened.

I worked so hard and would lose .2 or .4. Others in my meeting were not (in my very resentful opinion) working as hard as I was and they were losing more. But somewhere in that first month I heard someone say a common phrase I hear (and even say) now: Don’t do anything to lose weight that you’re not willing to do for the rest of your life.  I was making this a bit too strict and I’m not a “bit-too-strict” kinda girl.

I relaxed in to this journey, this adventure. I took it baby step by baby step. I intentionally was not perfect. There were some weeks I was less perfect than others and some weeks that it was easier all around. And ironically, it made NO difference to my weight loss. My stubborn body was only going to release .2 or .4 at a time. (There might have been a few choice words during this process.) But a beautiful acceptance crept in to my life and my household and this is just how I cooked and ate and lived. Some of the small changes that happened over time was meal planning, water drinking, measuring and weighing food, creating new recipes, and splurging with limits. (Up til then I didn’t understand this word “limits.”)

I had setbacks. We all do. “We get the I don’t wannas.” “I shouldn’t havetas” and even the “I’m gonna have it all despite this *@*@&!! Plan”. We have surgeries and family crises and job layoffs – we have setbacks of our own making and setbacks that are out of our control.   And trust me, when that food is a crutch, that’s where we go. And no one emotionally eats broccoli. (Please do not tell me that you do.)

Asking the question “what do you do?” is not necessarily “what is it that you SHOULD do?” I’m a fairly intelligent woman and I know that when I have a setback I should not give up. Then why time after time after time do I?   And since I’ve been leading meetings, those setbacks come with an added sense of guilt – now I’m a hypocrite. Why, if I can’t get my act together should I be in front of people leading how they should?

But I’m not a hypocrite. I’m simply a flawed human – redundant, I know. I’m a member first.   I have to remind myself that I do different things today than I did 10 years ago and that makes me a work in progress. I do some things a lot better and some things a little better. I’ve come a long way. I’m not where I was and I’m not where I’m going. A long time ago I decided I will like the journey. I will fall down and that’s okay as long as I get back up. I will make a dish I hate. Then I’ll make a dish I love. I will try a new form of activity that I might like. I will feel the feelings that come along with falling and rising.   That’s the adventure. That’s the life.

So now my cholesterol is lower, I like more pictures of myself than I don’t, and there are no chips in my house. Happy WW anniversary to me!

Setbacks be damned.

 

Cookies and Raviolis and Laser Pointers – Oh my!

I was telling my friends the other day about a fascinating story I heard on NPR.   It was an interview with an author about eating and one of the things the author mentioned was that as parents telling us to finish our plates was a mistake. It didn’t allow us to define our own limits with food. And one friend piped in, “Might I remind you, if any of us knew our limits with food we wouldn’t know each other.”   Ahhhh yes.

So this blog post isn’t about knowing our limits. Nor is it about weight loss. (I’ll start that again next post.)  And although it isn’t even about Weight Watchers, I must say that I have Weight Watchers to thank – AGAIN – for this post and these amazing women.

As every Weight Watcher Leaders does, I started out as a member and, honestly, that’s my first and most important role with Weight Watchers.  I was, and always will be, a member first. And, as a member, I need support. Not just once-a-week-in-a-meeting-support.   I needed to be talked out of the vending machine, the catered lunch, the midnight munchies.   And now we have something called 24/7 chat, but then – almost 10 years ago, we didn’t. Enter the Community Boards. There were many boards (age groups, dietary preferences, etc.) and I gravitated towards one. And on this board I found “my people.” It was a few years in that I joined the world of Facebook and became even closer to “those people.” Over the years I’ve met a few here and there. Some have stuck it out with Weight Watchers, most quit, and then there’s me who live and breathe it. But now, “those people” were in my heart.   It was those members I started with that became amazing friends and I have always felt blessed that they were in my life.

So a few months ago this past weekend was *born* so to speak.   One of these women planned a trip to visit another for her birthday.   Then, surprises were planned. Visiting for a birthday quickly turned chaotic when our friend told her not to come.   We had all purchased tickets and now had to back peddle. But we didn’t. We decided to go help our friend and her business and turn the trip in to what we originally did when we met – support each other.

Spreadsheets and airplanes and hotel and car rentals and mass coordination ensued.   Countdowns occurred.  And then it was here!   What happened next was pure magic. Never did we think, “oh my goodness – five women living under one roof doing everything together – we might kill each other!” Five women came together – we’ve known each other for years and some of us had never met in person – but the bond was real – palpable.   We came together and worked hard.   Yes – 5 women who originally met on a Weight Watcher community board were now at a Cookie Convention cutting samples and selling shortbread like no one’s business. (I suppose if they overdid it, I could have followed it with a business card saying sign up for WW personal coaching, but I digress.) We worked. We succeeded. We helped our friend – our sister. And we blossomed. We blossomed as friends, as a unit, and individually as women.

Something happens when 5 women come together and work hard in an area we’re unfamiliar. We’d either be stepping on each others’ toes or we’d flourish – and we flourished.   For days we worked together, laughed together, ate together (and oh my did we eat WELL!), drank together, slept together (mind out of the gutter, people!) and cried when it was over. Not one bit of drama among us. Not one moment of angst.   It was ideal.

So I thank Weight Watchers, yet again, for the vehicle that was necessary to bring people in to my life. What I know is that being affiliated as a member and as a leader has fulfilled me in so many countless ways. The fact I lost weight is just a bonus.

The beauty of these strong women was in our diversity – not necessarily ethnic, although there was some of that – but in our values and ideas and careers and our tastes.   We celebrated each other – our differences and our samenesses. (Yeah, I’m making up words.)   We were all fortunate enough to be able to make this happen (and we don’t take that lightly!) and are all richer for making it happen.   We bring different strengths to each other, different words of support, different ways to digest information and conflict, different coping mechanisms and definitely different sleeping patterns!   (Can you say ear plugs?) We have new ways of looking at cookies and laser pointers and raviolis.   Forever changed and forever blessed.   Thanks, ladies. I love you.

 

I’m at the bottom of the Seesaw

The first time I joined Weight Watchers I was engaged to be married and wanted to lose 20 pounds. I joined with my mom and a few of her synagogue friends. The center was in an office building next to a mall and we’d go weigh in, then go to the mall, get the famous “White Flint chicken salad”, eat it, and go back for the meeting. I was the youngest in this group by at least 25 years. These women never got to goal and I really don’t even know if they wanted to. It was really another social event. They were okay with that. I was okay with that. The leader was another synagogue member and although I liked her, she wasn’t a great leader. I didn’t know it then.

I’ve struggled with my weight off an on (when I didn’t struggle with it, I was heavy and didn’t care) since then. It finally clicked. I can attribute that to a number of things, but that’s not for this note.   I rejoined WW numerous times because although I lost that original 20, when I quit I gained it back plus more (being an overachiever!)   Joined and lost. Quit and gained – and gained more. Joined and lost. You get the drift? I’m sure some of you can relate.

Seven years ago today I was in training to become a Weight Watcher leader. I remember my training and I remember getting back to my hotel room reaching for the phone to call my mom. She led me here. I know she’s proud, I know she’s watching. I see her in so many members. I remember the overwhelming feeling that we were going to be entrusted with members’ stories, their emotions, and their struggles.   I remember being taught how to deal with different emotions.   I remember being taught different words to say and different members’ personalities to lead towards. I remember being so excited but also SO nervous.   And I wasn’t nervous about talking in front of people – I’d been doing that for many years.   I’ve spoken in front of groups ranging from 5-1000 – doesn’t phase me. In fact I love it. But I took this role – not a job – very seriously.   I remember what I needed from my leader and when I got what I needed and when I was left empty. The responsibility of inspiration was so overwhelming.

But what I learned in that class and what I’ve learned in the 7 years I’ve been a leader are different.   It’s not until someone actually cries at your scale that you truly know what to do when they cry at your scale. This is not something you learn in class. This is something I learned from my Mom. This is why, I believe, she’s with me in every meeting.

When someone hugs you SO tight because she’s under 200 pounds for the first time in 40 years….you don’t learn that reaction in class.

When someone shares with her meeting members – her clan – that not only is she celebrating 28 pounds gone, but her doctor took her off her blood pressure medicine, your joy in taking part of that is palpable.

This week I had a coaching member who got to a place where she never thought she’d get.   She’d cry on the phone begging me not to give up on her. And over the course of the last few months her improvements were so amazing and yet she still didn’t believe in herself. I did. I never doubted in her ability to do this. I did doubt in my ability to help her.   That’s what leaders do – they want SO badly for their members to succeed, they’ll ask for help, they’ll lose sleep, they’ll worry and sometimes they’ll pray. But we didn’t give up on her and this week she had a huge milestone. As happy as she was – and oh boy, she WAS! – I don’t know whose heart was bursting more.

When you get to see women and men start in the back of the room and slowly, as they get more confidence, move forward, your pride soars.   I didn’t learn that in class.

In any job we can get frustrated.   We can be frustrated with how the company handles things. We can be frustrated in the pay scale. We can be frustrated in fellow employees and inconsistencies.  And amid whatever occasion frustrations I might have, I still have the feeling that I was meant to be here right now doing this job, this thing…. I suppose that’s the difference between a job and a calling. If I weighed all the good against all the frustrations, I’d still be at the bottom of the seesaw.  And I’m happy there. I’m being nourished.