The Road Map to Skinny

If getting my mind in the right place was the first order of business to begin the process of weight loss, setting realistic goals was the second.

I tried losing weight so many times.  This was always my goal:

weight loss imageI had no plan, no road map, no idea of how to get there; I just wanted to lose weight NOW.  And time after time, my efforts to lose weight ended up a big goose egg, leaving me more miserable at being such a failure.  I tried things like skipping dinner and eating 10 stalks of celery a day.  Both lasted for maybe 2 days.

I did a lot of reading about weight loss.  I was searching for that magic tip that would take me from 180 to skinny with no effort.  I didn’t find the rabbit hole from fat to skinny, but I did find a sort of road map to help me get there–setting realistic goals.  Setting specific, realistic goals.

Realizing that I needed to lose 50 pounds was overwhelming.  I mean that’s a stinkin’ amount of weight!  How do I even start?  Where do I start?  Sure, we all know about good nutrition and exercise, but…I mean, 50, and eventually 60, pounds!  It was too much to think about.

But reading about goal setting in a weight loss scenario was a light bulb moment.  You’ve probably heard about how to eat an elephant, right?  You eat an elephant one bite at a time.  That’s how you lose weight.  One pound, one meal, at a time.  I had to break down my big nebulous goal of LOSE WEIGHT into bite sized goals.  I learned that I needed both long and short term goals.

Physically writing out my goals was helpful.  It made them concrete and in some way, provided some accountability.  I mean, if it’s written in black and white, you have to follow through, right?

I started with my long term goal.  I knew I needed to lose 60 pounds and it wasn’t going to happen overnight (bummer!).  So I had to be realistic about giving my goal a time frame.    Remembering that safe weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week, I estimated that if I could lose 8 pounds a month, I could reach my long term goal in 9 months.  I decided to give myself a little “wiggle” room in case I didn’t always lose 2 pounds a week.

After I set my long term goal, I created some short term, and then some very short term, goals.  I set a monthly weight loss goal of losing 8 pounds.  I set a weekly goal of losing 2 pounds, and I set meal by meal goals.  I would determine what I was going to eat for that meal and that would be that (I’ll be writing more on being determined later).  I set a goal of exercising 5 days a week, and exercise goals of burning x amount of calories on the elliptical or walking for x amount of time.

As I made it through each meal or exercise session, there was such a sense of accomplishment of meeting a goal.  That motivated me to keep going.  And at the end of the week, seeing the number on the scale go down was motivation again to keep going.  I always had my ultimate goal in sight, but my focus was meeting those short term goals.  I wasn’t always thinking about those 60 pounds I needed to lose; I was thinking about making good choices for this meal and reaching this exercise goal.

Soon, I’ll write the story of how I actually put the wheels of change in motion, but one of the first steps was just setting realistic goals.  If you’re contemplating losing weight, could I just encourage you to set some goals?  How much weight do you need to lose?  Be realistic in how much time it will take you to meet that goal.  You’re only setting yourself up for discouragement if you have unrealistic expectations.

And now, on the other side of fat, I’m discovering the value of specific, realistic goals in other areas of my life as well.  I have short term goals I’m working through now in CrossFit.  I want to be able to do a strict pull-up by my birthday in July.  To that end, I’m doing specific amounts of several exercises every day I’m at the gym to increase my strength and mobility to help me acquire that skill.

What goals are you setting for yourself?  Seriously, I’d love to hear from you!  Losing weight is hard, but I’m living proof that it can be done.  Can I just be your cheerleader and say, “You’ve got this!  You can do it!”


Sometimes You Just Need a Cheerleader

This weekend I ran the longest race of my relatively short running career, a 25K (15.55 miles).  I’d never run 15 miles before, so I was feeling a bit nervous.  I could feel I Can’t sneaking around, so I gave myself a pep talk and a thumbs up before I walked to the starting line.018There was a wind chill of something like 19 degrees F when the race started; it was a 2 pairs of gloves race.  Seriously, I had 2 gloves on each hand for the entire race.  But the cold temperatures made for great running weather when my toes finally thawed out at about mile 3.

The surprising thing was that when I cross022ed the finish line 2 hours 31 minutes and 9 seconds later, I discovered that I was the third place finisher in my age division!  This nifty water bottle was my prize.  The finisher medals were pretty nifty too.023025

But the one thing that made this race the most memorable was the lack of spectators.

Tulsa has a great system of walking/running and biking trails that follow the Arkansas river, and the race was actually held on the running trails.  It’s a great place to run–beautiful scenery, mostly even terrain unlike some of the city streets, the river itself. But there were no people aside from the racers.  Other long races I’ve run were held in city streets with people standing along the way clapping for and cheering us on.

It seems strange to say that I missed spectators when for most of my life I’ve craved solitude and sought out isolation, but running has opened my eyes to how much I need people.  Running long distances is hard, especially during a race.  Racing is all about pushing yourself, covering the distance in the shortest amount of time.

But despite the fact that this was a new distance for me, the race was going well.  I felt strong.  The pace was good.  I reached the half way point, turned around and headed for the finish line.  But suddenly I found myself alone.  The crowd had separated itself and instead of running together, we were all running our individual paces, spread out along the trail.  Somewhere around mile 13 I found myself getting tired.  My quads were burning and my legs were starting to feel heavy.  I started listening to I Can’t:  I don’t know how much longer I can keep running.  I don’t think I can make it.  I just want to walk.

Enter the importance of spectators.  They stand on the side of the street clapping and calling out things like, “You can do it!  You’re almost there!  Looking good!  Way to go, runners!”  I don’t know them from Adam, but their encouragement is fuel.  Somehow, when my legs are gone and my will to finish is nearly tapped out, those calls to keep going, keep me going.  It’s like they see the potential in me to complete the race, and they won’t let me give up on myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much the same holds true in life in general.  We all need people in our corner cheering for us when the going gets tough.  Races give me lots of time to think, and as I thought about how much I needed someone on the side lines encouraging me to keep going, to keep fighting, to not give up, I thought about me in life and how I interact with people around me.  Am I someone who stands in other people’s corners to cheer them on or am I so wrapped up in my own life that I can’t even see their struggles?

I’ll have to do some serious soul searching on that one.  I’m afraid of what I might find…

What about you?  How do you cheer people one?  Who are your cheerleaders in life?

Fat Didn’t Happen Overnight

January, 2013.  I was miserable with my weight, the way I looked and felt about myself.  Yet, I seemed powerless to make any lasting changes.

I was desperate to get the weight off.  Those TV commercials promising nearly instantaneous weight loss from something as easy as sprinkling powder on the same fatty foods I loved, taking a pill, or drinking a juice, and all without exercise, grabbed my attention.  I wanted them all to be true.  Diet plans advertising their brand of nutrition with gorgeously thin models telling their success stories taunted me.  I just wanted the fat to be gone NOW!  And I wanted it gone without having to change what I ate or having to exercise.  I wanted to get skinny and eat pizza and donuts every day.  Who doesn’t, right?

But I’m not a risk taker by nature and maybe a career in healthcare created some (healthy?) skepticism.  I researched all the fad diets, diet pills and supplements wanting to find actual scientific proof that these methods were both safe and effective, wanting reassurance that I could have my cake and eat it too, so to speak.  Unfortunately, what I read only increased my wariness.  Now, I am not going to say that these methods are dangerous; I have not researched them deeply enough to say that.  What I do know is that they were not right for me.

What my online research led me to, instead, was the conviction that I didn’t get fat overnight and I’m not going to get skinny overnight.  Healthy weight loss is slow and steady, maybe a 1-2 pound weight loss per week.  And healthy weight loss involves both diet and exercise.

I get it.  When you have 60 pounds or more to lose, 1-2 pounds a week seems like nothing.  But every pound you lose is 10 pounds less pressure on your spine!  And exercise is hard.  Believe me, I know.  I couldn’t even walk without pain in my hips.

But recognizing and owning the fact that I was going to have to work to lose the weight that went on so easily was a big step in preparing me to actually begin weight loss.  I’m sure I’ve said this once (or a hundred times) already, but getting my head in the right place had to happen before physical change could happen.

So the hard truth set in.  I was fat.  I let it happen, and now I was going to have to make some tough choices to get it off.  Stink.

I Can’t–Yet

I came home from CrossFit feeling a tad discouraged today.  All because I still can’t do an overhead squat.  No, this is not a post about CrossFit (although that might be a topic for some day!), so don’t check out on me.

Here’s what an overhead squat is supposed to look like:

And I can’t do it.  Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point of being able to do an overhead squat with more than just a wimpy piece of PVC pipe in my hands.  I just want to throw the bar on the ground, and say, “It’s too hard.  I can’t do it.”

A few weeks ago, I made the mistake of saying, “I can’t do it” to the CrossFit coach.  He encouraged me to keep trying, and then said something that I can’t get out of my mind:  “I don’t ever want to hear you say ‘I can’t’ again.”  Yes, sir!

But it brought me back to what a running coach used to tell us.  I was training for my longest race to date at that time, a 15K (9.3 miles).  As my running group was getting ready to head out, the coach talked to us about saying “I can’t”.  He said,  “You can’t run 9.3 miles…YET.”  His point was that the reason we train is to accomplish something that we can’t currently do.  Makes sense, but for me, such a paradigm shift!

And that’s what so much of losing weight and getting healthy has been about for me–perspective.  Reshaping the way I look at situations.  Thinking, and believing, I can’t is the demon I still fight.

Why is it that I tend to default to the things I can’t yet do and let those “failures” define me instead of looking at all the things that used to be impossible that I do without even batting an eyelash today?  Things like driving a car, starting an IV, running more than a mile without dying, speaking in front of a group without puking, blogging (well, the jury might still be out if I can actually do that, but you get the point!).  And I can do all these things because I kept trying, training, and refusing to give up.

So today, feeling bummed out because I STILL can’t do an overhead squat, I choose to say, “I can’t do it…YET.”  I refuse to let Demon I Can’t win.  Tomorrow’s another day, and I’ll try again…and again…and again…


More Stinkin’ Thinkin’

When I turned 30, I started to gain weight.  I promise you, I could smell bread baking and gain 5 pounds.  It seemed like overnight, something in my metabolism changed, and I collected weight like black pants collect lint.

My body image issues dissolved with those negative, accusatory thoughts, and by this time I had a realistic view of myself, strengths and imperfections alike (click here for that story).  I could eat and enjoy food with friends, but now I had the problem of controlling my weight, a true problem, not a perceived one.  As I mentioned, my brain tricked me into not worrying about what I was eating since it wouldn’t change how I looked TODAY (Click here for that story).

Then came 2006.  My mom’s health began to decline, and I moved 800 miles from the east coast to the mid-west to help care for her.  I rapidly gained 30 pounds that ballooned into 50 pounds, on top of the turning 30 weight gain, after the move.  Can someone say stress eater?  It was not pretty.  Here I am, one day before my fortieth birthday, quite the pudgy gal.  My body mass index (BMI) actually classified me as obese.


As the number on the scales went up, I became increasingly disgusted with myself.  I knew better.  I’d studied nutrition as part of my nursing program.  I knew the potential consequences of obesity.  Looking back, on the other side of fat now, it’s easy to see that while a spiritual transformation propelled me towards health, there was still a lot of stinkin’ thinkin’ going on.  There were a lot of things I believed to be true that were in fact lies.  Thoughts like:

  1.  I don’t have the self-control I need to change my eating habits.
  2. I don’t have time to exercise.
  3. Healthy food won’t taste as good.
  4. Eating healthy takes too much time.
  5. Eating will make me feel better.
  6. I am powerless to make healthy changes.
  7. Losing weight is too hard.

How many of these can you identify with?  What other thoughts are holding you back from making healthy choices?  If I’ve learned anything about making positive, sustainable life changes, it’s that your mind has to be in the right place first.  Winning the battle of the mind is what ultimately led me to permanent weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

So what thoughts, or beliefs, are driving your actions?  Your choices?  Is it time for you to wage war in the battlefield of the mind?

The Victory in the Oreo

So maybe my demise started with an unhealthy perspective I attached to an innocent comment made while I was eating an Oreo.  But as strange as it may sound, just eating that Oreo was a kind of victory.

For literally my entire life, I was painfully shy.  Ask anyone who knew me as a kid or even as a teenager.  I would blush beet red if someone so much as looked at me.  I was teased mercilessly about that, and for an already withdrawn girl, the teasing just pushed me further into my shell.  The problem was that I believed myself to be worthless and unlovable.  I looked in the mirror as saw an ugly, fat girl (even though I was underweight).  And growing up Mennonite (yep, we’re talking long hair that had never been touched by a pair of shears and homemade dresses) drew  additional negative attention, or at least that was my perception.  (Here I am as a senior in high school.)

senior pic 001Everyone whispering to their neighbor was talking smack about me; I was convinced of that.  To make matters worse, my mind told me repeatedly that people wouldn’t want to talk to me, that I would be a bother to them, that I was stupid.

What that boils down to is a life spent trying to please people.  I had to say and do what would make people like me.  Life was exhausting.  It’s hard work trying to have a conversation when all you can “hear” are your own thoughts telling you, “You can’t say that!  What will people think?”

Yet, from all appearances I managed to live a normal life.  I got a degree in nursing and landed my first job as a registered nurse at the age of twenty.  I moved away from home, rented an apartment, bought a car, but I avoided people as much as possible.  Social settings were just down right stressful.  Many times I would develop severe tension headaches just from “having fun” with friends.  And hunger only made the headache worse, because, of course, what would people think about that fat girl eating?

For 29 years I tried to avoid people in a world filled with people.  Or if I had to be around them, I tried desperately to be the person I thought would gain their approval, which meant, of course, NO Oreos!

But one day, I had an incredible revelation that completely changed the course of my life.  I realized that God’s word is true.  That sounds very simplistic, but what I mean is that I went from knowing God’s word is true to really believing God’s word is true.  I realized that I may feel unlovable and worthless, but what God says about me is true regardless of how I feel.  And God says I am a masterpiece.  A masterpiece!  That makes me unique and priceless!  He calls me His friend and co-heir with Christ.  As those truths took root in my soul, I can’t explain it, but those negative, accusing, deceitful thoughts were silenced.

For the first time in my life, at the age of 29, I looked in the mirror and really saw myself as I was–a petite, not pretty, but certainly not hideous, thin girl.  So when my friends offered me an Oreo, I ate it and enjoyed it, an act of freedom in realizing who I really was.  While I had other devious beliefs to deal with (more on that another time), settling my true identity, seeing myself as God sees me, took me leaps and bounds toward true health.


It Started With One Oreo

I cried when I saw the number on the scale.  How could that 99 pound girl have morphed into a 180 pound young woman?  I was disgusted with myself, so I decided to have a snack to make myself feel better.  After all, those calories wouldn’t show up on my body for days.

And there it was.  That stinkin’ thinkin’ that started me down the path to 180 pounds…and it all started with one Oreo.

It was 2004.  My baby sister was getting married, and I was to be her maid of honor.  My friends wanted to see my bridesmaid dress, and after I modeled it for them, someone broke out a package of Oreos.  “What am I doing?!” I said as I chomped on that delectable Oreo (seriously, I could eat Oreos for every meal and be completely satisfied!).  “I have a bridesmaid dress to fit into!”

And then the line that would play a big role in my undoing.  “Those calories aren’t going to show up for days!” one friend said.

Karen's wedding 001What he said is absolutely true.  Weight gain happens when the number of calories consumed outweighs the number of calories burned.  The calories of one Oreo wouldn’t cause me to bust out of my dress (that’s me in the purple dress).  But continually consuming more calories than I burn will EVENTUALLY show up as extra padding on my body.

My brain selectively chose to ignore that last bit of truth, and the salve that I used to soothe the guilt of eating those bad-for-me treats was the fact that those calories wouldn’t change the way I looked TODAY.

I promise we’ll get to the stories of how I lost the weight soon, but an important part of my weight loss story is realizing how I got to where I was.  I had to reflect on thoughts and beliefs that led to my behaviors and realize that stinkin’ thinkin’ (those negative thoughts and false beliefs) had to change before my physical self could change.

I’ll share more about other harmful thoughts and beliefs that held me back from health, but if you’re thinking about losing weight, could I challenge you to begin reflecting on how you got to where you are?  Can you identify some stinkin’ thinkin’ that needs to change so you can find  your healthy?



Elusive Health

It’s a new year, the time when many people turn their thoughts and energy towards weight loss and getting healthy.  It’s got me thinking a lot about what health really is.

When I graduated high school eons ago, I was 5’2″ tall and weighed 99 pounds.  I was co-valedictorian (not such a big deal when you know my class was only 23 people), and in my entire school career thus far, the only B I had ever received on a report card was in sixth grade math.  I was known to be trustworthy and never got in trouble.  Seriously, never.

Now, in case you think I’m bragging, I say all that to say most people would’ve looked at me and said, “She’s healthy.”  I was a good student, responsible, dependable, and obviously, not overweight, a sure sign of unhealthiness, right?  But in reality, I was thin because I was embarrassed to eat in front of people.  I was sure if people saw me eating, they would be talking about why that fat girl needed more food.  Alone, though, I would eat as much of anything I could get my hands on to stop the intense huger pains and headaches that accompany food deprivation.  And that obedience and dependability schtick?  A cover up for low self-esteem.  My rationale was that if I did and said what people wanted, they would like me.

So was I healthy?  I guess it depends on your definition of health.  If health means the absence of illness, then, yes, I was healthy.  I was, and still am, rarely physically sick.  If healthy means a thin profile, then I fit the bill of health.  But if health means seeing the truth about yourself, accepting what you can’t change, and learning non-harmful ways to change the things you can, then, no.  I was anything but healthy.

All these years later, I realize I’m still in search of my healthy.  As I’ve been contemplating what being healthy really means, I don’t think I fully know, despite a career in healthcare.  I think healthy involves exercise and good nutrition, for sure.  But health is more than that.  It’s a lifestyle, a way of thinking, a pattern of decision making, a journey of self-awareness, and a spiritual quest to know God that looks a bit differently for everyone.  I’m finding that healthy is more than 30 minutes on the elliptical and 8 glasses of water everyday.  And I’m starting to realize that finding my healthy will be a lifelong process.

What about you?  What does being healthy mean to you?


Taking the Plunge

I honestly never thought I’d write a blog.  But here I am, about to take the plunge (never say never, right?), and I’m scared to death.  I have this thing about failing.  I don’t like it.  And many times I give into that fear and just don’t try.  Then, I live with the regret of, “I wonder what would’ve happened if…?”  I’ve missed out on a lot of fun and adventure by caving to that fear.

Recently I heard someone describe failure as not learning something from the experience.  Ok, so maybe I don’t accomplish what I set out to do (in this case, create a blog that becomes wildly popular and helps tons of people), but the failure is not the lack of accomplishment but the lack of learning something through the experience.  Hmmm…. Paradigm shifts, new perspectives, I’m learning, are a necessary ingredient for a healthy me.

I tend to have excuses of why I shouldn’t try new things:

  1. I’m single; I don’t want to do it alone.
  2. I’m too old.  I’m 40-something now.
  3. I don’t know how.
  4. I might get hurt.
  5. I might not be able to do it.
  6. What will others think?

Logically, I can argue with myself about each excuse.  I have friends that I could invite to join me in my new venture.  I may be 40-something but I’m certainly not decrepit!  Of course, I don’t know how; I’ve never done it before (duh!).  And yes, I might get hurt.  I might get in a car accident, too, but that doesn’t keep me from getting behind the wheel.  I really might not be able to do it, but how will I know unless I try?  And really, what others think about me is none of my business.  So I realize my excuses are lame; yet, I let the fear behind them hold me back.

So why have I decided now is the time to tackle something new like beginning a blog?

  1. I’m single.  I have the time.
  2. Forty is not too old to begin again.
  3. I know nothing about blogging, but I have a story to tell.
  4. If no one likes what I write, that will hurt, but regret doesn’t feel good either.
  5. Who knows if I can do this or not?  I’ll only know by trying.
  6. What others think about me is not nearly so important as what God says about me.

So I’ve diving into the blogoshpere!  This is the story of me, of a life and health transformation through weight loss, facing my fears, and discovering that 40 really isn’t too late to begin again.