Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sweater, Set, Go!

Pssst...I have a secret to tell you. Don't tell anyone...I'm counting on your discretion, internet. We just got back from visiting Sara and her family. And by just got back, I mean we got back 9 days ago. In my world, it takes 9 days to transition from vacation to life again. It also takes me 9 days to finish folding a load of laundry, but that's probably more than you need to know. Anyway, that's not the secret. The secret is: Sara is already skinny. I can tell you already that she will not agree with this. At least, she'll protest that she's not done and blah, blah, blah, blah. And that's true to a degree--she is not at her goal weight. But hoo boy, does she ever look good right now! Tall, leggy (her legs come up to her chin, and that's a good thing) and lovely. It was great to spend time with her and feel fat and frumpy in her presence...I mean, get inspired by her success and beauty. Really, it was the latter. Promise (mostly).  

Since Sara is looking so good, of course I had to force her to buy a pale pink sweater set at a consignment store. You might think this is part of my jealous fat-friend plan to make her look elderly/PTA Presidentish/Laura Bushish, but for once you're wrong. This was the most lovely pink silk, narrow-cable, elegant sweater set you ever did see, and Sara looked so fine in it. She already has this long-necked, slim, blond Grace Kelly vibe going on and the sweater set just added to that. I kind of bullied Sara into buying it and perhaps she returned it as soon as I was out of the way (and if she really has, I will probably forgive her, though it might take me 7 or 8 minutes). However, if she did, she must find another lovely pink sweater set and buy it. Then she needs to wear it with a slim gray skirt, some elegant heels, pearls (what else?), do her hair in a chignon, and then go walk around town for a while and wait for men to fall at her feet in dumb-struck awe. Trust me, it'll happen. 
Congratulations, Sara, on your fantastic progress. 
Note: The Sara picture was taken through a windshield, so it's not the clearest picture ever. However, she (Sara, not the windshield) looked so good, I had to use it anyway. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rouge: It's not just for harlots anymore!

(Does anybody call it "rouge" anymore? )
I've been a little scruffy lately. Let me explain. I found myself sitting on the couch the other day (how did I get here?) watching What Not to Wear and thinking, as secret footage of a contestant was shown, "She went out of the house like that?" Then I glanced down at my baggy-kneed exercise pants (which had certainly not been used for exercise that day), ran my fingers through my lank, greasy hair and wondered if perhaps I ought to consider my own appearance for a wee moment. I am well aware that I have inner beauty in abundance, but perhaps masquerading as a homeless person is not the best way to let that shine. A pajama day every now and again is nice, but when it becomes a daily thing for me, the grub starts to take its toll on my psyche. I've noticed I'm a lot less likely to stuff handfuls of Cheetos (or chocolate chips or couch Skittles) in my mouth when I've pulled myself out of slob mode. Taking a shower, putting on clothes I didn't sleep in and even slapping on a little makeup--it can lift my spirits! Then again, the quarters people tossed in my purse on trips to the grocery store came in handy...


Now, if you're me, the next thoughts that cross your mind will be of this ilk:
...In the name of love...
...Oh yeah, wait a minute, Mr. Postman...
...Collaborate and listen...

And if that's the case, then poor poor you.

But random song lyrics aside, I wanted to share this article I found today on sparkpeople.

3 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking
Don't Let Negative Thoughts Sabotage Your Efforts
-- By Dean Anderson, Behavioral Psychology Expert

You’ve gone over your calories for the day or eaten something on your “forbidden” list. You figure that since you've blown your diet, you might as well keep on eating and start over tomorrow. You keep eating, but despise yourself for it.

You’ve done well all week, but the scale says you’ve gained a pound. You panic, feeling certain that you’re doomed to be fat forever.

You set the alarm an hour early to exercise, but hit snooze. Feeling like a lazy slug, you wonder if you have any willpower to do what you know you need to.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

The tendency to leap from minor, trivial problems to overblown, unrealistic conclusions is something that everyone struggles with to some degree. This type of negative thinking is one of the biggest reasons that people have difficulty sticking to their weight loss plan—and why small problems can cause stress and misery that is often avoidable.

Of course, there are dozens of deep, psychological reasons why individuals get caught up in this negativity. But you don’t have to know why you do it to stop being negative. All you have to do is to take a close look at what you are actually doing and decide to stop doing it for that moment. Here are three techniques you can use to stop all those negative thoughts before they stop you:

1. Look for Hidden Thoughts and Assumptions

The process of moving from an event (like going over your daily calories) to a conclusion about the meaning of that event (I’ve blown my diet) and what you should do about it (keep eating, start over later), typically involves several more mental steps that you probably aren’t aware of. Psychologists call these intermediate steps automatic thoughts because they are habitual, happen quickly, and feel so “right” to us that we don’t even notice them.

Although you can’t completely prevent automatic thoughts from occurring (after all, they naturally help us make good decisions in a hurry), these thoughts are not always accurate. Chronic negativity about yourself or your situation is a good sign that your automatic thoughts are inaccurate.

Luckily, it’s not difficult to learn how to identify your automatic thoughts, figure out if they make sense, and change the ones that aren’t working for you. The first step is to develop the habit of asking yourself: "What would have to be true in order for the negative conclusion I reached to be justified?"

For example, what would have to be true in order for going over your calorie limit to mean that you've “blown” your diet? Wouldn’t it have to be true that your diet is a one-day event that requires a perfect performance on your part? You know that's not the case.

2. Learn to Argue with Yourself

Once you recognize some of your automatic thoughts, you can inspect them and, if necessary, argue with them. The flaw in the above example is pretty obvious: Permanent weight loss is not a short-term project, and doesn’t require perfection. But sometimes the flaw or assumption won’t be as obvious. If that's the case, then you may need to do some investigating.

Before you jump to conclusions or attack your own character, ask yourself a few basic questions:

If someone I respect did exactly what I did, would I come to the same conclusion about them that I’m coming to about myself?
If someone came to me asking for advice about how to deal with this problem, what would I say to them? Would I tell them it’s a lost cause?
How does my conclusion help solve the problem? Does deciding that I’m a "lazy slug" without willpower empower me or enable me to do better next time? What thoughts would do that?
Is this a problem that lots of people have or am I the only one facing it? What do other people think or do when they run into this problem?
Is this problem a general pattern in my life or am I blowing one incident out of proportion? Are there times when I do well at things that clearly require willpower and self-discipline—like going to work every day and taking care of my family?
Have I put the same amount of time and effort into thinking about solutions as I have into listing the problems?
The more of these questions that you ask yourself, the more easily you’ll be able to spot—and correct—your negative automatic thoughts that are lurking underneath your tendency to assume the worst whenever things don’t go the way you planned.

3. Do What Doesn't Come Naturally

One reason that negative thoughts become so automatic and pervasive in our minds is that they are consistent with our typical feelings. If you find yourself jumping to negative conclusions about yourself, your abilities, and your options and opportunities, it’s probably because that feels “right” and comfortable to you.

This doesn't mean you have to figure out why it feels "right" to feel bad about yourself. Again, you'll simply respond better to doing things differently, rather than spending hours rooting through emotional baggage.

Changing those negative thoughts and judgments into realistic and reasonable ones is going to feel uncomfortable and unnatural. In fact, feeling uncomfortable is probably a good sign that this is exactly what you need to be doing to get past your problems.

So when you're unsure about what the problem is, your best bet is to do what doesn’t come naturally. When you find yourself arriving at a negative conclusion about you or your situation, stop thinking that and start thinking the exact opposite. If you’re thinking that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, tell yourself the problem is in the situation—not in you—and look for ways to change the situation. If you think you’re "doomed to be fat forever," tell yourself that success is unavoidable if you want it; if you’re feeling like a "lazy slug," tell yourself that your “true self” really does want to exercise. You get the idea.

No matter how big, bad or scary the problem seems, you're always just one thought away from turning it into an opportunity for change, growth and progress. All you have to do is find that thought.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gee, where's my mind been lately?

A few weeks ago I got a new computer. It came with a free printer. I'm cool and I can read, so I set it all up by myself. When I opened the printer box, this is what I saw:
And this is what I thought: "Ooo! Snacks!"

Mmm...tasty, inky morsels...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lose 10 pounds in 10 seconds!

I am a horrible huncher. You could practically call me Igor (that's "EYE-gor") somedays the way I hunch over when I'm sitting, standing, walking, you name it. Hunch hunch hunch. Ok, so it's not a good thing to do, but it is a fun word to say. But I digress. I know Holly shares this vice with me (ask her about her mom's efforts to correct it when she was a teenager, if you're so inclined). But a couple of years ago (during one of my skinnier phases), I discovered that if I stood up really straight, not only did my back and shoulders feel better, but my tummy pooch practically disappeared! I don't know why I didn't learn this earlier--it could have saved me so many crunches! Oh, I kid. Crunches still necessary (boo), but standing up straight makes them even more effective (yay!).

Please enjoy a helpful diagram:

A helpful tip I learned a long time ago was to hold your arms straight out to the sides from your shoulders, making your body into a "T" as if you were going to start flying around like an airplane (can you tell I spend a lot of time with small children?) (don't answer that). Then when everything has settled where it needs to be, lower your arms back down, and you should be set, posture-wise. If your intention really was to start pretending to fly, well then, I can't help you.

Another idea I stole and would be particularly helpful if you spend a lot of time at a desk is to set a timer to go of every hour or so (you choose the time interval; goodness, I can't do everything for you!) and when it goes off, have a "posture check." Are you sitting up straight? Are your shoulders where they need to be? What about your gut? Don't have a gut? Then go away. Again, I kid! Don't go away. But no braggin' either. Unless you're me. I fully intend to brag when I no longer have a gut. And I have a feeling that paying more attention to how straight my dear ol' spine is will help along that dream.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Filthy, disgusting habit

No! I'm not talking about smoking! What would make you say that? But why we're on the subject, if you smoke, you should probably stop. It's kind of bad for you and it stinks and stuff. But you know that already.
What I'm really here to discuss is my perverse and wrong-headed love of junk food. It's not that I don't enjoy unjunky (yes, it's a word) food. I can think of dozens of healthy and delicious foods I enjoy eating, but there are times when I'd gladly toss aside an entire plate of luscious fruits and vegetables in exchange for a lint-covered, toddler-handled Skittle from the depths of the couch. And in theory, chewed-up and reformed potatoes are totally icky, but I'll eat salt and vinegar Pringles until my taste buds are raw and the "chips" have clumped into an indigestible mass in my stomach.
What's the solution? I don't know. I'm usually smart enough not to keep my favorite crack-laced snacks around the house, but that doesn't seem to stop me from jumping into the minivan and going to the store in a fit of defiance. "I'll show you, self! You can't tell me what to eat! You're not the boss of me! " My inner teenager needs to shut up and go back to the 80's where she belongs.

Friday, April 4, 2008

What are you trying to say?

This morning I came downstairs in my exercise clothes, all rarin' to go and feeling mighty proud of myself for getting on the treadmill first thing. As I'm unfolding it, my 10-y/o son, The Great Brain, says to me, "Are you going to run?" And before I can even inhale to answer, my 5-y/o, Little Miss Sunshine, lets out an incredulous snort, and says, "Brain! That's MOM!" Like, duh.

No real Life-Changing Analogy to be had here; I just thought it was funny.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Couch Slug

Couch potato would be a little too healthy of a title for this entry. Potatoes do contain all that vitamin C, you know, along with other healthy stuff, perhaps minerals...or whatever substance it is that transforms them so magically into French fries with the help of a mere smattering of oil. Anyway, it probably isn't very self-affirming or loving to call myself a couch slug, but there really isn't a better way to describe how I feel each and every morning. My long-term and chronic feelings about mornings are a subject for an entire post of their own some other day, but today suffice it to say that whatever the opposite of a morning person is, I'm that. I don't know how I managed, once upon a time, to hold down a job that sometimes required that I arrive at work by 5:30am. My job now (mom: homestyle) doesn't require that I do more than shuttle one daughter out the door by 9am, make an Eggbeater sandwich for Skinnyman, and keep other daughter from running out of educational programming and cheese. Easy? Yes! Little, loud daughter (still trying to think of pseudonyms for the children) wakes up around 7, cheerful and ready to strew things about the house and talk without pausing for air intake for the next 13 hours. I, of course, jump up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (I'm not fat, I'm just bushy!) and complete the necessary household chores before working on my novel for a few hours. Or, I dreamt that, and what really happens is I drag my pillow and down blanket to the couch, stumble into the kitchen to find cereal for the little one, then collapse into half-slumber on the couch while she eats and watches creative and intelligence-building television. I get up to help school-going daughter find breakfast and clothes, then collapse again for about 20 minutes, get up once more to create a semi-tidy hairdo for her, hug her and shove her gently out the door. THEN I start the chores. Well, no. Back to the couch I go for at least a little while. Do I want to be like this? Kind of. No. But I literally can't fathom anything but those few small tasks and sleep before 10am. I haven't always been quite this bad, but I'm currently taking a very helpful anti-depressant that has the unfortunate side effect of zombifying me a lot of the time. I'm tired. Really tired. I even tried going to bed at a decent time once and that didn't help! This is a case of side-effects-are-an improvement-over-the-soul-numbing-depression. I've tried other drugs, but the sad truth is the ones that work well make me tired.
I have many ideas for overcoming my couch addiction, but an idea that seems really goodandeffective at 9pm doesn't even register in my consciousness at 7am.
It doesn't help that we have a very comfortable sleeping couch. He, Clifford the Big Red Couch, was purchased 3 years ago to replace our teal (who has a teal couch?) hand-me-down. I love Clifford, pudding stains and all, but I wish his siren song (bark?) wasn't so strong every morning.
I hope you enjoy the accompanying photos, expertly doctored by yours truly. Though I have no formal Photoshop training whatsoever (can you believe it?), I have raw, raw talent and am available for hire for your projects at what I believe is the going rate for amateur Photoshoppers these days: $300/hour. I just can't guarantee the speed of my work--I have a lot of sleeping to do.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Arrested Development

I overheard my mom talking recently. She’s a therapist (which I imagine will be fodder for maaany future posts) and for the last 10 years or so she’s been really big into developmental theory, or the stages of development everyone goes through spiritually, emotionally, etc. Mostly when she starts elaborating on these things, my eyes tend to glaze over and I start thinking about shoes, rearranging my furniture, or, y’know, cake, which is likely why, when I overheard her, she wasn’t actually talking to me (methinks she’s caught onto to the fact that I’m nowhere near as deep as she is). I don’t know who she was talking to, what they were talking about, or why this came up, but she said something to the effect of, “You know when you’re trying to make a decision and you’re going back and forth between what you know is the right decision and what you want-at-that-moment? When you’re saying, ‘This is going to be the best thing for me in the long run, but, oh, I just don’t want to do it!’ Well, that is an indication that you are in between two different stages of development, and you’re struggling to both progress to the next level of development and stay comfortably where you are.”

I’d love to say that this concept has stopped all less-than-stellar choices cold, but it hasn’t. What it has done is, now and then, helped me make the (shudder) mature(r) decision. Small things, really, but that’s where the big things come from. Or, to make Holly’s dad happy: from where the big things come.

Isn’t my mom smart?