My Weight Loss By The Numbers and 20 Tips for Tackling Your Own Challenge

I did it – I lost 75 lbs in a year. On the morning of May 9th, I weighed in and registered a 75.5-pound weight loss from where I started on May 13, 2017.  It certainly wasn’t easy and took a lot of work, but the results have been so worth it.  I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what my weight originally was, where I ended, my change in clothing size, changes in eating habits, etc. and so this post will highlight my personal experience and outcomes along with some of the tips I would follow if I were to do this all over again.

My Stats

  • Age: 40 at start of challenge
  • Height: 5′ 9.5″
  • Starting Weight at challenge beginning: 226 lbs (note: largest I have ever been was 237 in early 2012)
  • Starting BMI: 32.9 – Obese
  • Original Clothing Size(s):  Size 16/18 for jeans, 18 for dress pants, Women’s XL for all tops/sweatshirts
  • Ending Weight: 151 lbs
  • Ending BMI: 22 – Normal
  • Resulting Clothing Size(s): Size 4 for jeans and dresses, size 6 for dress pants, Women’s S or M for all tops depending on fit

 

Taking on the Challenge

There were four keys things driving my desire to take on my weight loss challenge:

  1. My boss took a photo during an outing and when I saw the resulting picture, I realized people I respected and worked with saw this obese person I had been ignoring when I looked in the mirror.  Frankly, I was mortified.
  2. I read a comment about how successful people are different and it mentioned they work out and make their health a priority.  This was not a news flash, but the commentary by the author was — “How can you ask organizations / employees / clients / board members / investors to have confidence in you to run your company when you can’t even demonstrate you can take care of yourself?”  For those of you that know me well, you know I am married to my job and the image I was projecting to others shook me to my core.  I know we all wish everyone didn’t judge one another, but it is a reality and I had to face mine.
  3. I can’t recall who exactly it was at the time, but a friend or family member was telling a story of a loved one who not only was in ill health, but they also needed additional outside help because the spouse couldn’t help take care of them due to their size. Knowing ill health and being overweight are tied closely together, it registered for me the burden I would be on my husband if I was not only ill, but also overweight too.  I didn’t want to do that to him. I knew I would prefer to get healthy and have as many years of adventures with him of the positive kind than build memories of sickness and requiring a caregiver.  The healthier I could get myself, the better it would be for us both in the long run.
  4. This last one may sound a little odd, but I need to add it to the list.  I finally figured out I was worth it.  I deserved to make myself a priority and be able to enjoy how great I would feel and how good I would look. Why didn’t I deserve it?  The only one stopping me from doing this sooner than now was me.  This was probably one of the tougher pills to figure out how to swallow, but once I did, it certainly made this a bit easier.

With these four reasons firmly implanted in my mind, I came across a website called Healthy Wage.  It gave me an opportunity to create a defined framework for my weight loss plan while putting my money where my mouth was.  I was going to gamble on my own ability to meet my goal over a 12-month period. Being fed up with how I looked and felt, I looked up what the “Normal” BMI range was for my height and weight and signed up for a goal to put me in the middle of the range.  Not 20 pounds or 50 pounds, but 75 pounds.  When I told my husband, he initially thought I was crazy. Thankfully, he didn’t tell me this little detail until several months later after I had lost 40 lbs and he knew I was truly committed to meeting my goal. As many have asked why I didn’t go for “just” 50 lbs, 50 lbs wouldn’t have gotten me far enough – I would have still been considered “Overweight” for my BMI and if I was going to take this on, I wanted to stay focused on getting me to a healthy level.

In my last post, I mentioned about how I started by working on my eating first and then working on my exercise.  For this post, I will highlight the things I would suggest out of the gate if I was going to do this all over again and then some of the key tips most helpful to me in making healthier choices.

Tips To Get Yourself on Track and in the Right Mindset

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed medical professional, a certified trainer, or dietician.  These tips are from my own personal experience and may or may not work for you.  Please consult with your physician before starting any lifestyle changes involving dietary changes and an increase in physical activity.

Getting Started

  1. Figure out your “Why” — Why do you want to do this? Ask yourself “Why” three times to get to the meaningful reason.  Example – Why do I want to do this? To lose weight. Why do I want to lose weight? To look and feel better. Why do you want to look and feel better? I don’t want to be tired and lack energy anymore so I can play with my kids and enjoy time with my spouse.  The last answer would be considered your “Why.”
  2. Commit to you – Oftentimes we put others before ourselves, but this needs to be about you and taking care of yourself.  If you are going to commit to something, shouldn’t it be you?
  3. Determine what you should weigh – This one is difficult and can be hard to accept and acknowledge.  We have to admit collectively as a society in the US we have gotten more and more overweight, with many people we know and love being obese.  I was one of them.  I also know looking around at my friends and family, I would muse from time to time I needed to lose 20 lbs or maybe 40 lbs, but this isn’t about how you compare to anyone else.  This is about you.  To eliminate the comments up front, I am aware BMI is not a perfect measure and with some rare examples, you can certainly make a case.  I’m going with 99% of the population in mind and BMI is an accepted place to start.  Here is a great website to look up the range of what you should weigh based on your current height and weight from the CDC – Adult BMI Calculator. They also have a link for calculating BMI for Children and Teens if you want to check those as well.
  4. Sign up for MyFitnessPal (free for Android and iPhone) – For your age, gender, height, current weight, and activity level, you have a caloric intake you need each day to maintain your current weight.  They use 2,000 calories as the default for demonstration purposes, but it doesn’t mean that is your requirement. By signing up for the free app, you can see what your intake should be to maintain your current weight and then what it would be to align with your personal weight loss goal on a weekly basis.
  5. Say out loud (and often), “This is Not a Diet. I am committed to making healthier choices for myself” – I can’t emphasize this point enough.  Making healthier eating choices is not a diet.  No one is saying you can’t have anything and a bite of a brownie or enjoying Thanksgiving with your family are both feasible. Many people would try to cut me off when they asked me what I was doing for myself when it came to eating and would tell me “Oh, you are doing low-carb or…” No. I can (and could) eat anything I wanted to and so can you, with a little help.
  6. Start simple and track your food intake I am not suggesting changing what you eat of any type.  Get acclimated to adding entries into MyFitnessPal (if you choose to use it) or another app of your choosing.  We all need to acknowledge how much or how little we eat during various times of the day.  MyFitnessPal also helps to educate you on what is the calorie count of your food choices and if you pay for the premium app, the breakdown of micronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins).  The goal of this tip is all about educating yourself.  You can’t fix how and what you eat if you don’t know what you are truly eating and how much of it.
  7. Make sure to eat three meals a day – If you don’t eat breakfast now or you eat at irregular meal times, this is about building a meal routine for yourself.  Structuring when your body will be taking in calories helps your mindset of when you should and shouldn’t be eating.  Eating irregularly can make “grazing” behavior more acceptable and increase the likelihood of overeating.
  8. Minimize caffeine intake after noon – Sleep is a critical part of taking care of yourself and impacts your weight.  By minimizing caffeine to the morning, you are giving your body an opportunity to find its natural sleep needs.  For me, I went from thinking I was fine with only 4-5 hours of sleep.  Modifying my caffeine intake to be only in the morning, I now average naturally 7-8 hours of sleep a night and find I fall asleep quicker, sleep more soundly and feel more rested when I wake. Who can’t want that?
  9. Know Your Vices – Identify the eating habits for yourself you think are going to be the most difficult to modify.  For me, it was my every other week “date” trip with my husband for Mexican including a fully loaded chicken burrito smothered in cheese sauce with sour cream, double serving of Mexican rice, and of course, chips and salsa and the occasional adult beverage.  Partner this vice, wih an addiction to Diet Coke, and I thought making healthy choices would be next to impossible. Awareness of the worst offenders is a great start.

Starting to Make Better Choices

  1. Plan Your Meals for the Week – We all live on the go and it is easy to make unhealthy decisions when we are in a hurry or tired.  By taking a few minutes on Sunday and looking at what is on your calendar for the week, you can quickly determine the meals you will be able to eat at home and the ones you may need to plan for more thoughtfully or in advance to pack something.  Mentally preparing for meals early, and before the time of stress and being in a hurry, can help you feel like you have better control over the upcoming meal and give you a chance to make the healthiest choices at the time.  They don’t always go perfectly, but having a plan certainly improves their chances.
  2. Begin with items of no significance to you – Don’t try to take on your biggest vices the first day.  Start with the things that don’t matter or you have no emotional attachment.  What do I mean?  For example, I wasn’t committed to a particular type of pasta so swapping it for whole grain pasta in my meals was an easy switch. Going from whole wheat bread when making a sandwich and replacing it with a whole wheat sandwich thin, I still got the taste I was looking for, but reduced my calorie intake by half for my bread choice.
  3. Introduce More Water into Your Diet A lot of people think of healthy changes as taking things away from what you eat.  Instead of trying to take anything away, add drinking more water each day.  Start simple with a single glass and see how it starts to change what you eat and drink and build from there.  Many times we eat when we are actually thirsty and a bit of extra water can help hold off some of those cravings.  If you aren’t a big fan of “plain water,” I will keep lemon or cucumber slices in my fridge and throw a slice in to a large glass of water with ice.  It is refreshing and easy to add without it being overly difficult to do.
  4. Weigh Your Food When Cooking at Home – I created a weight loss starter kit for myself.  It includes a digital food scale, a set of measuring cups and spoons, an easy-to-clean Correlle bowl for weighing food in, and a Correlle pasta bowl. It wasn’t so much to make pasta, but to be able to find a large enough bowls for filling with various mixed greens for a huge salad.  The most important point though is we don’t understand serving sizes in comparison to our portion sizes.  By going through the motions of measuring out a single serving and seeing what that means for a portion for yourself, you can better educate yourself on the impact of what you are about to eat.
  5. Redefine a SaladThis one may not apply to many of you, but it was a significant thing for me and so I’m sharing it.  I grew up with my idea of a salad being the traditional side salad you get in many restaurants — iceburg lettuce, a cherry tomato or two, maybe some shredded carrots and a couple of cucumber slices and if you were lucky, a pinch of shredded cheese and a tiny crouton or two.  Smother this with your favorite dressing – ranch typically for me. When I took on this challenge, I knew I would have to eat more greens and a lot of people have heard me say salads are for rabbits so I knew this was going to be a big hurdle to overcome.  My new definition of a salad has evolved to be much more robust – a large bowl overflowing with greens (keep in mind –  the darker the greens the better they are for you).  On top of it, I now place 2-4 ounces of my protein of choice (warmed up in the microwave if I prefer).  This could be cubed chicken, turkey, steak, or even prepared taco meat in my case.  The big thing is the seasonings you use on your proteins.  It could be a marinade or a grill sauce or even cajun seasoning used during grilling.  Be creative!  Many of the marinades and grill sauces when applied to your salad add enough moisture you don’t need to add extra dressing.  I also would add in a pinch of low calorie cheese – low fat mozzarella or crumbled feta are both pretty good.  Check calories per serving size if you want to include cheese on your salad. I would then top it off with something for crunch — slivered almonds, a few wonton strips or a couple of tablespoons of tortilla strips.  Salads can be very simple with only a few ingredients or they can be fully loaded with every fresh vegetable you have on hand with the protein of choice.  The big thing is to know there are a lot of options and if you want me to (and you remind me), I will write a separate post on some of my favorite salad recipes.  Any way you can get the greens into your diet with a controlled calorie count, the better.
  6. Don’t limit food to only being eaten at certain times of day – On days when I was going to be traveling or have to eat out for work, I would eat my salads for breakfast to make sure I got enough healthy greens.  If there are certain foods you like a lot and they are a healthy choice for you, fit them into your meal plan wherever you need to.  Be flexible with the time of day and know any food can be eaten at any time.  It can really help you set a healthy tone for the day if you need to make it your breakfast.
  7. If you think something isn’t healthy enough for you to eat, don’t buy it!You can’t eat what you don’t buy. Initially, I would tell myself I was buying certain snacks for my husband to eat. However, if it isn’t something healthy for me to eat, why would I want my husband to eat it?  Don’t give yourself the excuse of having “bad” food in the house for others.  If you want to stay away from it, don’t buy it in the first place.  Please note, this is not saying you can’t have something you want to eat.  I’m suggesting you get creative in how you get the taste you may crave from time to time instead of buying a whole bag of chips, carton of ice cream, etc. and use the excuse of your spouse/kids for why you purchased it in the first place.  For example, there is the single-serving small grab bags of chips you can buy one at a time or a single ice cream treat.  These are much better alternatives to satisfy a craving than eating an entire carton of ice cream simply because it is in the house.
  8. Have Healthy Snacks at Hand – We all need to snack from time to time, but what we choose to snack on is more important.  In the fridge, keep washed grapes, chunks of fresh fruit, single servings of prepared veggies, etc.  The more you can do to be prepared for the times you want to snack with healthy options, the better. 
  9. Empty Calories – Are They Worth It?This is a tough one, but needs to be addressed. Alcohol. If you are committing to your health and well-being, do you want to be drinking? There is a special occasion where you would like to partake in a glass of wine with friends and family to celebrate.  To have that glass, you can certainly do it.  To have alcohol on a semi-regular basis to de-stress, unwind from a long week, or whatever the reason may be, I will tell you the calories aren’t worth it.  As you begin to lose the weight and start to feel better, my energy and coping mechanisms started to change.  My desire to have a drink on a Friday night dimished as I had more energy to do things I wanted to and my focus was on other things.  I can’t tell everyone to quit drinking as I haven’t quit completely, but I can tell you, making significant cuts to your alcohol intake will help you feel better — plus no hangover the next day!
  10. Make Plans to Mitigate for Big Calorie Events and Eat with a Plan Oftentimes we eat mindlessly and when it is a holiday or at a party, it can be even worse as we feel we have an excuse to eat more.  Make plans for how you are going to handle your eating for the entire day of the event/occasion as soon as you know about it. Do your other meals need to be lower in calories than a normal day? Can you drink more water or eat a small snack before to minimize your hunger while you are at the party?  You can still partake in the food of the event, but you need to do so thoughtfully and with preparation, you can have a taste of everything.
  11. Work on Your Major Vices Last People hear someone is eating healthier and they instantly assume they are now eating “tofu and bean sprouts” and have given up every food they love.  When we take this approach, to me, it sounds like all we are doing is depriving ourselves.  The approach I took was not about a diet; it is about making healthier changes.  By working on changes slowly and introducing in new healthy habits, you can building a healthier life.  As you get more confident in your choices and start to see the positive results from your life changes, you will know when you are ready to take on your big vices.  For me, I mentioned my Mexican food date with my husband.  We still go out for Mexican, but I have changed my order to enchiladas in red sauce and no rice and no extra fixings.  I still have a few chips with salsa though!  It is about reasonable transitions to something a bit healthier than where you might have been, when you are ready.

That wraps up my 20 suggestions for someone else wanting to tackle their own weight loss challenge.  Food is such a big part of getting ourselves healthy and if you can build positive habits here, I think you will find it easier to have the energy and the motivation to get moving and work on the exercise piece we all need in our lives.  I can only suggest you take this slowly and don’t expect to lose 20 lbs in a week.  This isn’t meant to be a drastic diet you follow verbatim, but a few of the key tips that worked for me and have helped me to develop some sustainable habits to eat better and get my weight under control.  I hope you find this helpful and if there is anything unclear or you want additional information, post a comment and I will be happy to help explain.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing about your individual successes!
~Steph

Thinking Differently – Pushing the Elephant Out of the Room

About a year ago, I posted about the elephant in the room and my need to lose weight. Since then, I took on a year-long weight loss challenge and I am coming up on the halfway point on Monday. I’ve never posted what my goal was, but I am going to lose 75 lbs total when it ends. Yep, you heard me right – 75 lbs – the difference in being classified as Obese to sitting comfortably in the Normal range for my BMI at my height. I have had the advantage of my height helping disguise just how overweight I had become, but you can only go so long before you have to acknowledge the weight gain is showing on your face and is affecting your overall health. That brings me to today.
I have already lost 35 lbs, have gone down 3 sizes in my clothes working on a 4th, I approach food completely differently than I used to and now hang out on the treadmill 5 days a week. It hasn’t been easy, but I am going to continue my approach and routine because it is working for me. Why am I sharing this? Because I know I’m not the only person among my friends struggling with their weight (our loving elephant in the room) and I want others to know there are ways of getting things under control. I recognized if I tried to change how I ate and started a workout routine at the same time and I wasn’t successful in doing one of those activities on a given day, I was more likely to quit both as it would be overwhelming and trying to change too much at once. I chose to start with food as I knew it was a way for me to take control of what I could and by learning to make informed choices, it would have an immediate impact.
My Approach to Food
To me, how we eat food every day should not be about being on diet. Diets create fear of certain foods and when you eat something out of a diet’s parameters, it can create an immediate sense of failure. I wanted to set myself up for the best chance of success possible. It was also important to me to be able to go anywhere at any time and be able to eat with friends and family and not feel like I needed to pull items out of my purse to keep me on a diet. It wasn’t a practical approach (or cost-effective) and I didn’t want to be dependent on purchasing certain products to be successful.
Food was something guaranteed I could control day in and day out regardless of how busy I was. I am the only person who feeds me so I am the only one I could hold accountable for what I ate. I signed up for an online app (MyFitnessPal) and through documenting my food choices each day, I was able to learn the calories in each portion of the type of food I was eating. I purchased a food scale and I took the time to measure my food to get an idea of total ounces of my meat portions and what a cup of food would look like. Some of the descriptions I had been told really didn’t really match up and until I saw it with my own eyes, it didn’t resonate. By the way, a cup of wild rice is much bigger than you might realize! Most importantly, I would ask myself a single question before snacking or making my meal choices – do I want this particular item or is there something that is more filling for fewer calories?  For example, I would ask myself if that single candy bar was worth 220 calories or would I prefer a bag of natural popcorn where I could eat the entire bag for a lot less? I could make a choice to eat something or not. Is there anything I have taken off my list that I no longer eat? No, as it isn’t a diet. On occasion, we still eat pizza or go out for Mexican including the chips and salsa. What I have learned is to make choices based on calorie counts and where I want to be every day. It may sound funny, but I am looking forward to Thanksgiving. I have a plan in place for what I’m going to be eating the days before and the days after, but I will enjoy all the food of Thanksgiving.  It will be important for me to control my portion sizes to keep the total calorie count down, but I intend to eat my favorites including the apple pie.
To give you an idea of the impact of our food choices, by modifying my food changes I was able to lose 25-30 lbs. I think if I was a regular soda drinker, it would have been even higher. For me, the best part is I am not afraid of certain types of food like I believe many of the diets can do and I certainly don’t have to experience the feeling of failure for not following the rigors of a particular diet. Do note, this was not something I had control of quickly; controlling my food intake took about four months before I felt comfortable with my day-to-day eating habits.
The Start of Working Out
Even though I do still need the occasional reminder from my supportive husband about my food choices, I felt ready to commit to regular work outs about two months ago. For us and our choice to living out in the country, it meant I would be starting with the treadmill in our house. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I have a love/hate relationship with the treadmill. Building it into my normal morning routine before work, I am now on the treadmill 5 days a week for a minimum of 20 minutes as I continue to increase in intensity and slowly increasing duration. I absolutely dislike having to run on a treadmill and feeling my jiggly parts move with me, but I also enjoy the feeling of the strain of muscles as I know the work is going to help achieve the weight loss I desire. I look forward to the day when things are no longer jiggling! I also know continuing to work out will help me successfully cross the finish line on May 13, 2018, the end point of my weight loss challenge.
While running recently, I noticed something very important – my wedding ring. I think of it now as the ring that keeps my world moving in the right direction as I watch it now spin on my finger when it used to be snug. Every time I run, I now use it as my motivation and focus to keep me going for my entire workout. It is a symbol of my husband, our family and our future and the length we have together is dependent on me being as healthy as possible to be able to enjoy our time on this earth together. When you can start to see the positive outcomes of your efforts, it certainly helps the motivation to keep on going.
So as of today, I am going to say my elephant has been successfully pushed halfway out of the room with the plans in place to keep pushing over the next six months.  For those of you who have seen me in person since I have started this journey, I greatly appreciate your support. For those of you who I will be seeing over the holidays and during the course of the rest of the challenge, know that I look forward to enjoying your company. I hope you will also understand and are not offended if I turn down the appetizers, the sweets, or the drinks. Your friendship, as well as my health, are both important to me.
Please feel free to share this post with anyone you think it could help.  If some of my commentary resonates with you and you have questions, I will be happy to answer what I can.  I’m not an expert, but I can tell you more details of some of the small changes I have made that have been working for me for you to consider. As we get closer to Thanksgiving and the extended holiday season, I wish everyone a happy and healthy season and I look forward to posting a final status in May of my success!
~Steph

One Step at a Time

I recently bought my husband a Fitbit for his birthday. Everyone who has ever met him knows the man has difficulties sitting still.  As a full-time farmer/rancher/handyman, he is always moving from the time he gets started in the early morning until the time he quits at night.  When I got him his Fitbit, I had no idea what we were about to see.  In the last 5 days, he has averaged – AVERAGED – 22,535 steps a day.  That is the quivalent of 9.7 miles. Think about that – walking almost 10 miles a day without even trying.

And then there is me.

We laugh now when we compare our numbers.  I’ve had my fitness watch for a couple of years.  Some days are better than others when I might reach 5,000 steps as part of my day-to-day movements.  I can reach 10,000 with extra effort and making sure I get time outside helping with the animals or gardens, but that certainly is not an every day thing. Working at a computer for long hours a day, I don’t get many steps as I go to the restroom and to the kitchen for lunch and snacks.  Is that an excuse? Maybe. I’m not trying to make one.  It is the reality of my choices.  I have not committed to the additional movement I need to make my goals a reality.

Let me go back to my husband for a minute and why I brought him up in the first place. I tell you this not only because I am proud of him and everything he does for our family, but I also think he is a living display of the difference in having vision and focus and how far it can take a person.  Does his day start with trying to walk 10 miles a day? Absolutely not. It is a positive byproduct of a larger plan he is following in his head.  Has he ever shared a grand vision with me of everything he wants for us and our farm?  No. However, every day he has three things he focuses on and doesn’t quit until the day’s tasks are done.  It ranges from the routine daily feedings of our animals twice a day to all of the maintenance (fixing fences, treating animals) to working on the next big project in his head for what he wants to do next. Right now, it is clearing out trees one at a time with a chainsaw to feed the limbs to our goats, cutting up the trees for firewood and dragging out all the brush as he works on creating a new pasture field.  Does that mean some very long days for him?  Yes it does, but he also is committed to create the best situation for our farm and that means putting in the time to get these things done. I stress the word committed.

Now, as I look at my week and the perspective my husband gives me, I owe it to myself to figure out a few things to give direction to my days and by extension, my life.

  • What is my vision for my life?  What do I see next for me as I figure out how to move forward? I don’t think I necessarily need to figure out what my vision is for when I’m 80 (several decades away), but I can focus on what I would like to achieve by the end of the year, a year from now, or 3 years from now.
  • With my vision in mind, what items do I need to focus on to get me there?  We all have many different ideas of things we want to complete/accomplish, but I think we get distracted with trying to do too much at once.  There are only so many hours in the day so focus is essential if we are going to complete any of them.  I know I can make the extra items my next “big thing” to focus on after I accomplish the first one.
  • With focus on a particular item, what do I need to do today?  Do I have items on there that hit the 3 categories – Routine, maintenance, and action towards achieving my goal to get me to my vision?  I need to keep in mind my routine and maintenance could be things I need to do to take care of ME to make sure I am in position to achieve my next big thing.  Do I need to get time in for more exercise? Or time to relax and meditate?  Or reach out to family and friends for support? I need to consider them all as I figure out today’s “MUST DOs” and doing it again tomorrow and the next day, and the next day…

I know what I need to do and I’m hoping by sharing this with all of you, it helps hold me accountable and encourages you to do the same.  Put simply, to achieve so many great things, it all starts with knowing where we want to go and taking it one step at a time and I am committing to my vision so I can focus and do just that!

“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life.”

-Unknown

Here’s to our many steps and wishing you life’s greatest success!

~Steph

Dear Friend, I’m Sorry…

[For the record, before you even read this, know I’m upset for my friend and I acknowledge upfront I am oversimplifying an extremely complicated topic.  But damnit – this sucks! For so many good people who have done nothing wrong other than be the receipient of a bad genetic roll of the dice, I’m sorry your lives are at risk due to the interpretations of who should be covered by health insurance and who shouldn’t be.  This is my commentary on the matter so take it for what it is worth without trying to nitpick every word to death.]

The House voted to repeal and replace ObamaCare and I feel horrible. Not for me, but for so many who will be left in a lurch without health care.  I am extremely concerned about those with pre-existing conditions if this awful piece of legislation goes through as it is currently being reported. This includes a dear friend of mine who is absolutely heartbroken by the news who was born with a condition which there is no cure and is in a daily fight to maintain her health.  I feel guilty and know I’m part of the problem. I didn’t write the legislation and I certainly didn’t vote for everyone in the current sitting Congress, but I have a role in this and likely, so do you. Let me explain.

I do not have a pre-existing condition. I am what in the healthcare industry consider to be an “under-utilizer.” I am terrified of doctors and will do anything I can to avoid the doctor. This equates to limited preventative care and monitoring and it also means that I don’t exactly follow doctors orders when I do get them – especially if it means follow up care. In time, my avoidance and lack of preventive care can get very expensive as things that could have been treated early and will be getting treated at a very late stage if/when more extreme methods (read that as costly) may be needed. In addition to being an under-utilizer, I also make some pretty bad lifestyle choices when it comes to diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, amount of sleep and stress management. Unless you are living under a rock, you know as well as I do all of these things contribute to some of the major chronic diseases that are very expensive to manage such as diabetes and heart disease. With everything I just rattled off and if we really think about the expenses behind the end resulting conditions and necessary treatments, it is the collective of people (myself included) making poor personal life style choices that are accounting for a significant amount of healthcare’s ever growing expenses.

I’m going to pile on a bit more…we also have created a society expecting a medication to solve all of our problems.  When we do finally go to the doctor, instead of doing the hard work to get our sh!t together and be responsible for our health, we are asking for (and in many cases being handed) drugs to help with many conditions that could also be improved through modifying our diet and exercise.  I am all for putting drugs to use to kickstart someone on the path to improving their circumstances, but making drugs a permanent fixture in one’s daily routine instead of doing things that cost nothing, we need to ask if we are doing the right thing for ourselves.  And what about the people who go to the ED or the doctor’s office to ask for drugs for routine things such as a common cold when what they need to do is go home and get the required rest to get better?  Don’t even get me started on that one…

So healthcare being expensive — yes, pre-existing conditions are expensive — but what would the healthcare landscape look like if we all acknowledged we have one body on this earth and we all did what we know we are supposed to do to take care of it? What if we penalized the people who made poor lifestyle choices instead of leaving behind the people who can’t do anything about the conditions they were born with?  So to my dear friend, I’m sorry. Healthcare being expensive and the Republicans trying to reform it so it becomes “cheaper” and taking away coverage from so many people who need it, I’m sorry.  Its on me.  It is on so many like me. I wish I could give you my insurance so you could have the care you will need tomorrow and each and every day after that without worrying what you will be able to afford in the future.  This situation is on those of us too stubborn to acknowledge our choices and who don’t get off our butts to do something about it are what is continuing to increase the cost of healthcare. We are overweight, overmedicated, and not taking responsibility for ourselves while so many have no choice in dealing with conditions that are completely out of their control.  If you want to fix healthcare, make it about taking care of the people who truly need life-saving care and can’t do it without a doctor’s help instead of penalizing them.  The rest of us…we need to take care of ourselves and stop expecting our doctors to do it for us.

You going my way?

I was watching a show on television recently and saw a parent bragging about how their son was going to be a doctor.  The problem – he was only two years old. It made me pause for a minute and what was something I may have found cute before had me hesitating and feeling a little sorry for the little boy.  Why do you ask? Well, to me it was an indication the parents were already setting expectations for the child to try and live up to. Now, let me be clear. I am not saying this is true of all parents who make comments like this at times. I am not a parent and don’t pretend to be one because I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night so this is most certainly not a lesson in parenting.  It was an observation of something that could very well be completely innocent. However, it helped lead me to a clarifying moment about something that has been gnawing at me for some time.

I reflect back and look at some of the crossroad points in my life and l have to realize at times I did one of two things.  One, I took the safe/expected route or two, I let someone else’s comments make a decision for me instead of pursuing what I wanted at the time.  I know I wouldn’t have my life today with my husband, dog and our farm here in Kentucky if I wouldn’t have taken the course I did so understand this isn’t about anything I regret. What this reflection has done is make me want to look a little harder at decisions I need to make now and going forward.  It makes me want to reconsider some of the interests I had when I was younger and put aside. Were those things something I should pursue now because I was truly passionate about them or were some of them a fleeting interest I should just leave alone?

I honestly believe many things we come across in our lives have consistent themes even though the opportunities presented may not be identical.  For example, if you were a volunteer at your local food bank when you were a teen, the desire to serve your community may be a recurring theme as you continue on your life and it may surface by serving on the board of a local non-profit, donating clothing to a charity or leading a food drive.  By identifying the themes that “sing the loudest” to our spirits, we can focus our energy on the things that matter to us the most and embrace the ones we should pursue.

How do you go about that? I can’t guarantee this will work, but this is what I’m going to try for myself. First, I’m going to make three lists taking 2 minutes to create each list – writing down one for my interests from under the age of 12, one for my teens, and one for my 20s.  Understanding my recollection of the activities I was involved in and enjoyed the most may hit the list the fastest and will give me some of the insight I need. For myself, I think I know what one or two of my themes may be, but until I do it, I may find myself a little surprised.  For you, you may find an interest in the outdoors, community service, being an artist, or a desire to be a teacher.  You just never know.  I will happily share the results of my exercise once I’m done with anyone interested.

Even if you don’t want to do the exercise with me, I encourage you to take a look at your own life.  Who set the course you are walking on today – did you or was it at the suggestion of someone else? Are you happy where you are and living the life you want to lead?  I think we all deserve to be happy and that comes from being true to ourselves and who we each are.  If you are walking a path in life in which you are enriched and living life to its fullest and our paths happen to converge, I look forward to sharing the road and enjoying your company along the way.  If not, I wish you all the success in the world as you find the courage to plot your own course and find your own way.

Regards,

~Steph

P.S. – an elephant update – looking for new ways to coax the elephant out of the room as he has sat himself down.  Following the suggestion of some others, I am hoping this new option will start to move it back out of the room.

 

 

A Goat, A Horse And A Fool

My apologies for my recent absence. I’ve been traveling for work and as much as I would like to make an excuse that it was really busy, I need to call myself out. Yes, life gets busy and there are other things taking a higher priority, but the real answer is I lost focus. I could have written this post while I was traveling. I just didn’t. And I think it is an important lesson for me. I allow myself to lose focus more easily than I like and I use the normal activities of life as my excuse. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a procrastinator, a self-proclaimed victim of the “shiny object,” or something else, but it is certainly something I need to figure out for myself. I know the list of ideas and things I want to do is long and if I keep losing focus, I will never move some of them forward. I ask all of you – call me on it! Help keep this woman on track! I know I am not alone in having this issue and I vow to help you too if you want me to.

So on to today’s post –

I was talking to my husband tonight and told him I wasn’t sure what topic I wanted to discuss in my post. He reads my blog from time to time, usually with my prodding, so he knows what I’m putting online.  His response was to jokingly give me a proverb to use as a starting point, but it may be a better suggestion than he even knew at the time. So what was the proverb?

“Don’t approach a goat from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.”

It made me laugh when he said it and I was rather dismissive to the idea of using it. Thinking about it now though, I think  there is a ton of truth to it. Not getting into the specific references about the goat and horse (those parts are both true too), but the fool.

We come across “fools” all the time. In my opinion, in this case a “fool” can refer to a person or it can be something more abstract like a decision, idea or situation. For me, a fool can be the voice of a jealous friend, an unsupportive family member, or a stranger with an opinion that thinks it should matter. It can also be a bad decision such as spending money you don’t have on something ridiculous, a crazy idea that can’t possibly end well or an absurd situation of which you don’t need to get in the middle — some crazy family situations come to mind as an example. All are things we know in our gut we shouldn’t listen to or do and we generally speaking, we should avoid at all costs.

I think it is also important to point out we have to avoid being our own fool. If we allow ourselves to be distracted from our purpose or have negative self-talk about our ability to achieve our goals, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors. As difficult as I know positive self-talk can be at times, we need to give ourselves the support in our own heads to help us achieve our goals. I don’t know about you, but I know my mind doesn’t shut off from the time I get up until the time I go to bed. My inner voice isn’t always the most positive thing to listen to – there have been some very tough days over the years – but if we let that voice be too overpowering, it can derail all of the positive and good we each have within us to do something great.

Put simply, a fool is a fool and shouldn’t be given a second thought. When you are trying to keep your life on track living on your own terms, as hard as it may be, we need to keep away from the occasional fools we come across. Life may be difficult and getting where we want may not be the easiest, but knowing if we keep looking forward and staying focused on where we want to go will get us there, you need to just keep plugging away it. In the meantime, I will keep trying to stay focused on my goals and the things important to me (like posting here!) and encourage you to do the same. I am going to go get some sleep before I have to go hang out with some goats in the morning…

Have a terrific, productive week!
~Steph

A Reason to Smile

Ever get caught with that random smile on your face that seems to have come out of nowhere?  The one where someone sees you and says “What?” and you realize you were smiling because a great memory of someone had crossed your mind?

A friend of my husband’s and by extension, mine, passed away last year.  It was completely unexpected and he was way too young.  My husband and him were pretty good friends, but it wasn’t like we saw him every day or we all spent a ton of time together. He was one of those people filled with a ton of energy, genuine, true to himself, respectful, and at times, a bit off the wall in his thinking and his actions. Being around him was a bit of a crapshoot as you never knew what he was going to do, but it was always an experience you remembered and often times, you would be laughing about it later.  There are some great stories about the tree people documentary he saw on the Discovery Channel and a particular incident in a Mexican restaurant, but they aren’t as funny if you weren’t there and even less so, if you didn’t know him.

What is interesting though to me is how much we talk about him now. The most random things will trigger a thought about him.  My husband and I will look at each other and just start laughing and commenting on something he did, said or a guess at what he might think.  And we realize we miss him, more than we knew we did, and we smile.  It is the lasting impression of his character that has stuck with us.  It was how he made us feel, how he treated those he kept close in his life, and did I mention he loved his pet chickens?

In my last post I was talking about who we let into and keep around is in our lives and being ok with letting people go if they are toxic to our well being, but I hadn’t mentioned the role we play in our own environment.  And then I thought about our friend, and smiled.

“Show respect to even those who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.”

~Dave Willis

We all make choices every day. Not only do we choose who keep in our life, but we also need to think about our responsibility in creating the environment around us.  I encourage you to look inside yourself and ask yourself how you are doing.  Are you adding negativity, anger, and resentment to your environment or are you adding love, respect, empathy, and compassion?  It is a choice.  We make it over and over again, numerous times every day with every personal interaction we have.  We have to hold ourselves accountable for what we put out into the universe.

watch-your-thoughts-for-they-become-words-watch-your-habits-for-they-become-your-character-and-watch-your-character-for-it-becomes-your-destiny

This has nothing to do with changing anyone’s beliefs or everyone needing to agree or lettings things go.  It is about how we treat the people we come across in our day to day. Our environment and how people will remember us comes down to fundamental respect and compassion for one another as human beings.  We all have our own life struggles, some beyond our wildest imaginations, but as fellow occupants of this planet we need to each be responsible for our own corner of the world.  When you conclude your time on this planet, how will people remember you?  Will they remember you with a smile?

I know I would prefer people to smile when they think of me, both now and after I pass. I also know that I have to continue to work on my thoughts and actions like everyone else. It comes down to this – we are the making of our own legacy.  Our friend, I think he would be amazed if he had any idea the way he has touched so many people.  I will smile at the memory of him and only hope to someday be someone else’s reason to smile.

Wishing you all the very best day and until next time,

~Steph

PS – For everyone wondering about my elephant, she has slowly started making a turn for the door.