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I did It MY Way. YOU Must Do It YOURS.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Yesterday, I wrote a blog that I feel was somewhat misconstrued. (I love the word "misconstrued." It's kind of like that word "thrice," which is sorely neglected but is fun to say/write for some reason.) Far be it from me to tell any weight-loss journeyer to place themselves in harm's way by exposing themselves to binge-triggering foods that will be harmful to their efforts! My point yesterday was simply that one part of dieting involves being able to show restraint, whether that restraint is eating only one cereal bar or not buying the cereal bars in the first place. That said, there is one thing we must all remember: Weight loss is PERSONAL. Every single human being is a giant stew of various genetic factors, emotions, cellular makeup, experiences, attitudes, ideas, activity level and lifestyle, history, cravings, preferences, tastes, weaknesses, strengths, and all sorts of other things. Bearing this in mind, what works for one person may not work for another. For sake of a simple example, let's go to the dogs. I have three of them: a Jack Russell, a min-pinchi, and a dachsund. Every one of my furbabies eats the same food and gets the same amount of exercise. Yes, they are all different breeds, and they are about 3 or 4 years apart in age, but they are all small breeds (allegedly). Maggie, my Jack, is a dainty little thing who prances around the house looking like those deer on the old Rudolph Christmas special. Monkee, our min-pinchi, is a fit little guy with that typical thick neck that comes from his Chihuahua origins. Then there is Mitzi, our ham dog. I say "ham" because while she's supposed to be a wiener dog, she has never, ever resembled one. She has always been a bit rotund, and we often jokingly call her Jabba the Mutt because when she lies on her side, she truly looks as if she should have a gold-bikini Carrie Fisher chained to her. We love the girl, but even though she eats the same food and gets the same exercise as the others, she tends to be a bit of a bulging belly monster. The same holds true for humans. What works for one may not work for all, because we are all unique.

I lost that 174 lbs. MY way, but if you are trying to lose, you must lose it in YOURS. My sister and daughter have been on this journey with me since about six months into my start. Each of them has their own way, and neither of them use Spark, except to look up information. My daughter keeps track of her calories mentally or on paper, and she loves to spread them throughout many snacks throughout the day. My sister is an amazing chef, and she has a green thumb and a love of organic, fresh things, so she eats a lot of homemade things and things from her own garden. She also gets far more exercise than I do (on a daily basis, I think my fingers get more exercise than anything. You should see the definition on my pinkies from hitting that SHIFT key, folks!) My sister has also experimented a lot with several different types of diets and cleanses; some have worked for her, and others haven't. Her most recent trial-and-error was some sort of boiled egg diet, which she was not a fan of and didn't see a lot of success from, so she's back to counting calories until she finds something else to try. They have both lost a lot of weight, but they did it THEIR way, not mine.

That said, I DO want to share what I've done, because some of what I've done might work for you. (DISCLAIMER: If this doesn't work for you or you don't agree with it, please don't sue me. All I own is a fat dachsund and a '97 Corolla and far too many boots, so you wouldn't get much out of it! If you do sue me, please at least take me to Judge Judy. I've always wanted to ask her what she wears under her robe that makes her so grouchy.)

Now, let's proceed...

Many, many people IRL and on Spark and Facebook have asked me for tips. First and foremost, you must recognize that you will have to make some changes. Why? Because, as my wise Grandpa Miesse (and probably other philosophers throughout time) puts it often in his sermons: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always be where you are." Here are some of the behavior mods I've done during my weight-loss quest:

-- THE SPICE OF LIFE, CONDIMENTS/SEASONINGS: When I eat salad, instead of pouring the dressing on it, I ask for it on the side, in a little cup. Every bite I take, I dip the fork in the dressing first. This way, every bite has that dressing taste, but in the end, I eat about half the dressing I would have if it was poured over the salad. I do eat condiments (evil ones like tartar sauce and creamy horseradish and mayo), but when I do, I make sure to use ONLY those little packets. I keep any extras I get at gas stations or restaurants and store them in my fridge, because they are convenient and portion/calorie controlled. I also purposely add seasonings to my food: paprika, black pepper, garlic, and oregano, all of which are low in calories but help to boost metabolism or help in other healthful ways.

-- SIZE MATTERS: I've mentioned this before, but I do often mentally trick myself into thinking I'm getting more food than I'm actually getting. This means the saucers and Coffee/teacups in my house see far more action than the plates, platters, and giant soup bowls. The same-sized portion looks a whole lot bigger when there is not as much empty space around it, and this little mental trick has actually worked for me.

-- MY INNER SLOTH: This was the topic of a blog some time ago, but I use my inner sloth to my advantage. I do NOT carry the whole bag into the bedroom with me, and I make sure to take only one serving, knowing that once I'm warm and cozy beneath my covers, I will not want to get up for a refill. I make the worst foods harder to retrieve, putting them farther back in the fridge and sealing them in more ziplocs and such to make them difficult to grab and nibble. I am lazy by nature, and I make that work for me.

-- THESE BOOTS ARE [FORCED INTO] WALKING: For any of you who have read my blog or gotten to know me, you know I do not like to exercise...at all. I know it may be difficult to believe and is yet another one of those behaviors (or lack thereof) that I don't encourage or suggest for everyone, but I have had absolutely no organized exercise regimen whatsoever for the duration of my weight loss. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've done anything that would count as active in the last six months. I do occasionally jaunt off into the woods or onto a bike trail to look for a little slip of paper in a duct-taped aspirin bottle, but that's about it. Bearing this in mind, I do things to force myself to move when I don't realize it. One of those things is purposely parking farther from the store/church/etc. I used to drive around like a shark on the prowl, waiting for the frenzy of that precious spot right next to the door. Not so much now. These days, I know that traversing the Walmart parking lot is good for me. Heck, sometimes I even park on the wrong side of the store, so that I have to walk clear across it when I'm inside. Parking near the garden center when all I really need is paper towels is one way that I force myself to move without even realizing it. After all this time, it has become an accidental healthy habit.

-- GULPING IT DOWN: I do not like water any more than I like exercise. I have always had a very hard time drinking it. In fact, there was a time in my life not so long ago when I went days upon days without drinking a single drop of it, when my Britta was so neglected that the water almost evaporated from it before it got drank. I know water is essential for diet and for good health, though, so I make myself drink a glass before and after every meal. What does this mean? It's VERY easy to get that suggested 64 ounces when you are drinking at least 16 with meals alone. Not only that, but it makes me feel fuller before and after I eat, and that takes off the urge for dessert. I mean, I know water isn't exactly the most delectable meal-finisher, but at least it won't result in Boston cream thighs.

Socrates was the one who came up with this genius advice. Sure, he walked around in bathrobes and dirty sandals and was a bit of a loudmouth, but he had a point. If we do not know ourselves, we cannot make the needed adjustments. When I started on my journey in 2014, even in my forties, there were things about me that I did not know. The quest to "find oneself" does not end in your twenties, my friend! It is said, "Knowing is half the battle," but I retort, "Knowing is the only way to successfully win a battle of the bulge." When it comes to dieting, you must know some of the following, and some of them will take you time to learn:

-- KNOW YOUR WILLPOWER LIMITS: Many commented on my blog yesterday that they do not buy any sugary snacks, etc., because they fear it will lead to binging. This is essential information that you must know about yourself. If you know that you cannot eat the Lucky Charms bar without wanting six more Lucky Charms bars or without wanting to then devour a half-gallon of ice cream, don't eat the bar. In fact, don't buy them in the first place. You must know what your willpower can handle. This willpower will strengthen over time, as healthier eating and your weight-loss goals become very prominent in your mind, but you must be aware of it so you don't fall victim to sinking your ship.

-- INDECENT EXPOSURE: You must be aware of situations and places that you simply cannot handle. For me, this would include buffets (oh, how I miss Golden Corral, but I know if I go there, I'll end up looking like a cow again) and eating INSIDE fast food restaurants. It is far too easy to walk three feet to the counter and order another McSin, so if I'm going to eat fast food, my hard-and-fast rule is to do so only from a drive-thru. Besides, sitting in the greasy, salty aroma of fries next to that big yellow and red clown is just too much for my willpower...especially because I love dipping those fries in McTartar Sauce!

-- TRIGGER HAPPY: You must learn the emotions that cause you to eat. To some extent, most people are emotional eaters. We eat when we're happy (celebrations/parties/holidays
). We eat when we're sad or angry. We eat when we're bored or stressed or anxious, which I often am. We eat when we see a presidential debate that causes our blood to boil. We eat when our favorite is voted off SURVIVOR...or when they aren't. We use every excuse to eat, and emotions/feelings are among them. Know what causes you to eat, and try to fill that urge with something else. Write in a journal. Write a fan letter to that SURVIVOR contestant or a political rant on Facebook. Take your fat dachsund on a walk. When feelings or boredom have you wanting to run to the kitchen, run instead to your hobbies or diversions that are healthier and more productive. For me, it's this blog, believe it or not; it's a little hard to stuff my face with pretzels when I need all ten fingers for typing!

-- A NATURAL BOOST: This is one of those controversial things, but for over forty years, my family has owned and operated a business called Miesse's Herbs (aka Miesse's Health Alternatives and Miesse's Health Service). What does this mean? It means that instead of rushing to the doc for every sniffle, we first consulted Grandma or Grandpa Miesse. It means that we knew, from the time we were little kids, that the very best emergency treatment for a bee sting in the yard (we never wore shoes as we played amongst the dandelions) was to smash up a plaintain leaf with a rock and put it on that sting. I knew that the first thing I should take for my sore chest after giving birth was parsley and that I should stuff cabbage leaves in my bra. (It works, folks...and it's a lot better for you than those duct-drying meds the doc gives you and charges you a fortune for!). We knew what herbs to take for most common things, albeit we also are not weirdos who will never go to a hospital or a doc when necessary. Thus, for weight loss, there are a few things I know have helped me. Again, this is VERY individual, and you will have to use trial and error to see what works for you, because unlike pharmaceuticals, natural supplements are unique to what each individual needs, and they work on the underlying causes instead of just the symptoms. For me, red raspberry ketones, chromium picolonate, and cinammon have helped. I did not take them all throughout my journey, nor did I buy super-expensive ones (I use Puritan's Pride, which are often on sale and very affordable). They have helped me with appetite control and metabolism/energy here and there, when I have taken them in spurts throughout my journey.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: You MUST be your own cheerleader. You cannot do anything nice for yourself if you see no value in you. I am just about the most self-deprecating person on the planet, and I've never been much of a fan of Autumn Conley, so this has been one of the most difficult parts of my diet journey for me. I am very self-critical and always have been. I've often told people that if I had a multiple personality disorder, I'm certain one personality would file charges against the other; that is how self-loathing I can be at times. I wake up looking like I slept on a land mine (my hair is a beast all its own), and I've got a purple tooth left over from a roller-skating collision with a bench when I was in my twenties. I am exasperatingly anxious and not easy to live with or even hang out with. I have weird, too-small toes that look like they belong on a garden gnome. After my weight loss, I am relatively convinced I could fly with my arm wings. Nevertheless, throughout my journey, I've had to say, "Girl, you're doing okay." I've had to celebrate tiny victories, even if I just celebrated them in my roadkill-hair head. Today's small victory? Belts. I realized this morning that in my closet, there now hang many belts. When I was larger, I never needed belts, as my "gut shelf and butt shelf," as my daughter used to call it (since I could literally have stacked books or cups on either) kept my pants up. These days, even the little white shorts I wore for one of my before-and-during pics last summer require a belt. THAT is something to cheer about...and I love belts anyway. A girl can never have too many accessories, especially now that I'm not sharing the closet with a bunch of St. Louis Rams jerseys. (No offense to the Rams or the ex, but a girl loves her closet space, especially when the clothes are smaller so more fit in it!)

Far be it from me to quote M.C. Hammer in any sort of preachy way, but the baggy-pantsed one was right here. I will not throw sermons at those who do not believe the way I do, so I encourage you to skip this part if it offends you (which I don't think it really should), but part of my way involves prayer. I wholeheartedly believe that prayer has been a major part of my weight-loss miracle. I call it a miracle because I know that I don't move enough and don't eat like a health guru. God has been very gracious in answering my prayers for weight loss but also to help me when I needed strength. The Bible tells us, "Pray without ceasing," (I Thessalonians 5:16-18), and I've learned to pray without feasting. The Bible tells us that our bodies are the temples of God (I Corinthians 6:19). I want to avoid my body being a temple of doom, condemned to diabetes and heart disease and early death. For all these reasons, I've had many conversations with God on a daily basis about helping me lose and helping me be strong, and I will continue to do this every day of my life, because this is one battle in which divine intervention is a necessary thing.

Many people have asked, "What are some of the things you eat?" I always am hesitant to answer this, because the fact is that I do NOT eat the things a typical weight-loser would. I will share this weird list here, and you might be surprised that I've taken off 174 lbs. this way...but it's true!

-- FROZEN FOOD: A GREAT majority of the foods we eat are frozen meals. What's interesting about this is that we do NOT eat as many "Lean..." this or thats as you might imagine. In fact, the frozen foods we eat most are Banquet and Michelina's meals. That's right! The cheapy under-a-dollar ones in the red and green boxes. Why? Because calories are our main focus, and if you look at labels, you will see that many of these have fewer calories than those fancy "diet meals" that cost twice as much just because they are associated with Dr. Atkins or that ridiculous (sorry to you WW folks) points-counting franchise. We eat these almost daily for lunch, coupled with a low-cal yogurt or some other small side dish, and we even sometimes split one up (such as the rice bowls, etc.) to use as one of our side dishes for dinner. We also eat a lot of frozen fish sticks, the cheap breaded kind (a small box of Kroger ones is 180 calories for five sticks). I know the sodium and preservatives are not good, but the calorie counts keep us in line, and we've both had success with it. All that water we're drinking before and after them helps to wash out some of the sodium, so I don't feel that salty about it!

-- EGGS: The incredible, edible egg gets a bad rap. Every few weeks, a news report comes out about how horrible they are for you, as if eating an egg yolk is going to instantly kill you with cholesterol. I can tell you, folks, that for the duration of this adventure, I have eaten two to three eggs EVERY day. I LOVE them, and I eat them for breakfast every morning. Sometimes I scramble them with a few goodies like mushrooms or a little crumbled sausage or turkey bacon. Sometimes I fry them in Pam and a little butter spray, with yummy seasonings. Allow me to parphrase Oprah here: "I love eggs. I love eggggggs. I have eggs every day. I love eggs!"

-- NIGHTLY MEAT. This is not as perverted as it sounds, so please no hasty notes here! When I started my diet, my hardest thing was the salt cravings I have. Lo and behold, I happened upon 90-calorie packs of deli-thin meat (like Carl Buddig). Problem solved! It was an easy enough snack to nibble on nightly, and it became known, therefore, as "nightly meat" in my house. We literally write that on our grocery list, so I hope we don't ever leave one in our cart and have people wondering about us! I also use these in salads and casseroles, on sandwiches, and sometimes we even bake up a pack for our meat dinner dish, because they are super yummy when they get all crispy and baked.

-- CANNED FOOD: I do not garden. I do not have success growing things. In fact, I have such a non-green thumb that I'm surprised my daughter grew to 18 years under my watch, without wilting. For this reason, we eat a LOT of canned vegetables. Our favorite for calories' sake are green beans, and we prefer the french-style, which we usually sprinkle with some minced onions and add a few canned mushrooms to. Again, I am aware that canned food is not as high in nutritional value and has more salt than half an ocean (in most cases), but they are low calorie and make a perfect side dish. We can generally split a whole can of green beans between us for about 35 calories, and we use mixed vegetables, carrots, peas, potatoes, and occasionally corn as well (though corn is very high in calories). We also eat a lot of canned soup; take a look at those lables, and you'll be surprised to find that you can probably easily fit the whole can into your 300-calorie lunch budget. We are a gig-to-gig family, so canned food is also economically sound for us.

-- HAPPY MEALS. We try to avoid fast food places in general these days, but when we do get a hankering for them, we buy kids meals. Not only are they lower in calories and smaller in portions, but who doesn't want a toy with her dinner?

-- RAMEN. If I can eat a meal for 29 cents and under 300 calories, I'm a happy girl. The ramen that comes in those noodle cubes is surprisingly high in calories; however, the ones that come in the single-serve cups, with a few freeze-dried veggies in them, are generally under 300 calories. I prefer beef, and the kiddo prefers chicken. We don't eat these that often, but they are a great option once in a while, and we can even afford them when the grocery budget entails digging change out of the couch.

-- BREAD. Oprah is not the only one who loves bread. I eat white bread every day! WHITE bread, folks! If you open our freezer, in there next to all those red Banquet boxes and fish sticks, you'll find bags upon bags of Kroger lite hotdog buns. Whenever we see them on the clearance rack for 89 cents, we buy them and throw them in the freezer. Why? Because they are 60 calories for a whole bun. We make garlic toast with them. We dip them in those fried eggs. We make sandwiches with them. We do all the things with them that one would do with any bread, and they have been integral in replacing our old bread ways with better bread options...in an affordable way in both calories and money.

So, there you have it. This is MY way, and it might not be yours. Maybe you can use some of these tips, and maybe they won't work for you. The important thing is that you find the way that works for YOU and stick with it. If you do that, you will find success, and you can share your way with others who might benefit from it too! We can't all prance around like Jack Russells, and some of us are prone to be ham dogs, but we CAN work to better ourselves each and every day!
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