It’s been a long time since I posted a “My Mom Journey” post. I’m putting todays post under that category because really, it completely affects how I mother.
Since puberty I’ve had weight issues. I come from tall genes on one side, and Ukrainian genes on another. They’re known as what we all like to call “big boned” people. I’m 5’10”, so I actually carry my weight a lot differently than most people with the same number of pounds on their frame. That’s good and bad. Good in the sense that a higher number on the scale is normal for someone of my stature. Bad in the sense that it’s easier to let that number creep up because it doesn’t look the same as someone who might be even 3 inches shorter than me. And there in lies the problem. The creeping.
Through my life my weight has slowly crept up. I don’t come from an athletic family. My dad is 6’4″ and his whole life heard comments about what a fabulous basket ball player he must be – except he is the first person to admit how awkward he looked as a teenager while running. So no, not a sports family. I grew up playing outside, but the only team sport I ever played was a couple seasons of soft ball.
My weight has always been a self esteem issue, like most people that struggle with their weight. But, in my case, I’m not a binge eater or struggle with major eating disorders. While my weight bothers me, it’s not the only thing that identifies me. Rather, it’s a problem that I’ve been too lazy to do anything about consistently. I have started several times, only to peter out after a while and go right back to my bad habits of eating portions way bigger than I need to, and doing very little activity. It doesn’t help that I actually really love food. I love the taste, the experience and the process of making it. Food is emotional for me in that it comforts and I use it to celebrate.
People who have gone through major weight loss tend to tell you that they finally got to a point where something just “clicked” for them, and the decision to do something about it finally stuck.
A few weeks ago I finally got to that point. And it wasn’t this big epiphany, it was more like, “Okay, this is it.” I know getting there has actually been a process full of thought for me. Because I’ve tried several things in the past I knew certain things just weren’t for me. Stuff like:
- I hate counting calories. It actually has adverse effects for me when I see large numbers, even if the food is healthy. I feel guilty. It’s strange, but that’s the way it is. And yet, most often the most successful weight loss stories all have calorie counting in common. I get the principle and agree with it, but it’s incredibly hard mentally for me.
- I hate feeling deprived. Any program where I’m told I can’t possibly eat the foods that I like because they will cause some sort of derailment in my weight loss only leads to disaster. As in, I get to a breaking point where I don’t just fall off the wagon, I throw myself off the side, roll under the back wheel and get left in a dust cloud.
- I have really lousy will power. I need something that is encouraging, not boot camp style where I feel like I’m not hitting the mark because I miss a work out or something like that.
Over the summer the reality hit me that I was missing out on certain things with our kids because I literally felt like I couldn’t do them. I don’t feel comfortable running, so even running after my kids for some reason is always a check point. What if there was an emergency? Could I respond fast enough? When I had to honestly answer that I didn’t think I could, it was a wake up moment. What about the kinds of activities we can do as a family when we’re on vacation? Is my weight limiting us? The answer is yes. We don’t have a lot of cash to spend on the fun things, so we need to make our own fun. So many free activities revolve around being physical, and yet I was the one not wanting to do those because I didn’t feel I could. That’s a problem. How many experiences are my kids missing, even if it’s just something simple like walking around town and exploring? And lastly, I’m trying to teach my kids how to have a healthy relationship with food at a young age, but what example am I setting? If I tell them they don’t have to clear their plates, but rather can stop when they feel full, yet can’t do the same thing for myself, they will eventually notice that. And how do I tell them that they need to ask themselves if they’re really hungry, versus being bored, when they ask for a snack, if I’m snacking because I’m bored or have an emotional hole that needs filling? I don’t want to be hypocritical.
So, what did I do?
I joined Weight Watchers online. And you know what? It’s working for me, and most of all – I LOVE IT!
This is why:
- I love the point system. For me this is so much better than tracking calories, yet it’s essentially the same thing. I get a daily allotment of points based on my current BMI (body mass index) that was calculated when I signed up. Tracking points feels like a game, so I don’t mind doing it every day. And, I was able to download the app for my iPhone and our iPad, so it’s easy to track things on whichever device I’m in front of, and it updates to my account so it’s the same right across the board. No need to try and remember things for when I’m in front of my computer.
- Fruits and veggies are “free” foods, with the exception of a couple things like avocados which have a lot of great things in them, but also have a higher fat content. The point is that WW encourages the eating of as much fruit and veggies as you can during the day, so they encourage you to go to those foods first because they’re the most nutritious. Knowing that those things are a zero point value, I do find myself going to those as options first before something else.
- You can eat what you want, as long as it falls in your point allowance for the day. I just have to make sure I track it. I haven’t felt deprived at all. If I want a treat, like a piece of cake at a missionary meeting, I eat it, track it, then choose other lower point foods for the rest of the day.
- There are a ton of great tools like an activity tracker that gives you extra points to use, a recipe builder that calculates the points in a serving, and helpful articles and a community to get connected to – if you want to.
- It’s affordable. Depending on where you live, the cost is about $20/month. For some reason a couple years ago I thought the cost was higher, so I didn’t consider WW. I’m sad I didn’t now. Rather than look at it as an expense, I’m looking at it as an investment into my health and the life of our family, and in that frame of mind it’s well worth it.
What I’m learning…
Wow. So many things! Chris just saw the title of the post and asked how being on WW affects me as a mom. This is how…
How food affects me. I seriously had no idea just how much what I was eating was affecting me. I knew that there were emotional issues because I felt cruddy about my weight in general, but I had no idea how certain types of foods were affecting my overall mood and how my body felt.
In the last year I’ve been feeling more overwhelmed with life in general. I’m kind of in a fog and not feeling really productive. I felt cranky most days, and would be on edge. Excessive noise would bother me, and I had a hard time feeling calm.
Since I’ve been eating better and not eating as much refined foods like pasta, or carb dense foods like rice, bread etc I’ve noticed a BIG change. When I have eaten those things I’ve quickly seen how those foods hit me. I get really tired for an hour or so after eating pasta, for example. This past week was a training class, so I wasn’t cooking but rather eating a LOT of rice and carb heavy foods. I’ve felt bloated and tired and cranky again.
When I’m making healthier choices I feel calmer. Last night for example, Alex was waiting for dinner and threw his plate on the floor. I was on edge and the noise startled me really badly. I hadn’t felt that way in the past couple of weeks, but had been feeling that way before I started eating better. The first thought in my mind was the realization that I wasn’t feeling calm, and I knew it was because my body was struggling.
Being accountable with myself. The point tracking is working for me. In the past when I’ve tracked calories, because of my weird mental relationship with them, I would find I felt guilty at times, and would skimp on the right portion amounts so I wouldn’t have to see the high number. Or, eventually I would just stop tracking.
This past week I made it a goal to track everything I was eating, as best as I could. I recognized that even while I wasn’t doing the cooking I had some idea of what was in things. I made a great effort to get as close as possible with things in the tracker, to enter the proper quantities of what I was eating, and account for how Haitians cook – like literally adding a tablespoon of oil to a meal in the tracker because I knew what I was eating was grease filled. And then after all that, I gave myself some grace.
What I found was once I knew what the point value was for, say, a cup of rice, I could eat a right amount for my hunger and stay very close to my point allowance. Knowing that it was a week full of heavy point meals, and frankly, heavy meals period, I didn’t snack much but rather left my points for meals instead.
I also paid attention to how I was feeling on a different diet, and the information gathered is really useful! I’ve come to realize that it’s more worth it to feel good, to be in a good mood, and to be able to deal with life better than it was to stuff myself. At the end of the week all I want is good food. Seriously, I made a big salad last night, and this morning there wasn’t a starch in sight when I made breakfast. My body doesn’t want it right now.
All through the week I really worked hard at being accountable with myself. And I’m proud of myself for getting through the week, not feeling guilty, and doing a good job! I really am proud. I feel good about staying on track in a difficult food situation. And, it’s one week! Why should I let one week determine my success or failure?
Learning portion sizes. This is probably one of my biggest struggles, and has lead to the most pounds gained. For most of my life I’ve eaten with my head, not with my stomach. As in, if I think it’s the right amount of food or it tastes good, I will let that override any messages my body might be sending me about what it needs, or when to stop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at a table and chosen to take more, even though I felt full, simply because I thought something like, “It tastes really good, a little more won’t do anything bad,” or, “I might not have this again for a really long time. Better eat it while I can!”
Now that I’m having to be very conscious about portion sizes I’m learning what my body needs to function. What my heart might need is an entirely different thing. Food is for energy and nourishment, not to fill any emotional void.
I’ve switched to using smaller plates when I eat, so that visually my brain sees a full plate of food. That makes a difference for me. It also helps with not feeling deprived.
I am measuring things. What does a cup of macaroni and cheese look like? Or 3 oz of steak? For years I had told myself that I knew, but the truth was, I had no clue. I was lying to myself.
The really interesting thing is that I’m feeling full. I look at the big plates in our cupboard and think, “Those look huge!” and wonder why I felt the need to fill them. Yes, I’ve felt hungry, but it’s a good kind of hungry. The truth is, rarely in the last few years have I allowed my body to feel hunger. And, I’m realizing my body needs less food than I thought it did – if I’m making good choices about the type of food I put into it. Things that used to be the foods that gave me comfort, like cheese and pasta, are slowly doing that less, and I’m happy about that.
Learning to be gracious with myself. I have a lot of weight to lose to get to a healthy weight. That can be very overwhelming when I look at the big picture. Thankfully WW focuses on smaller goals. I’ve been feeling encouraged when I see the scale going down, and being able to see how close I’m getting to the first goal of losing 15lbs.
But, after this week and eating what I have, I gained a bit. Rather than feeling guilty though, I can see the situation for what it is – a time where I was in a situation where I didn’t have the healthiest options in front of me. I can see how that has affected me emotionally, and most of all, I can feel what that has done to my body. I know I’m bloated up right now, and that while the number on the scale when I weighed in wasn’t what I wanted to see, I can accept it. But, I know that I had a lot stacked against me this week, and I’m choosing to be gracious with myself and focus on the things that are good and working. I tracked everything, everyday. I was conscious about portion sizes. I tried to account for the extra oil. I did some gardening so I got some activity in, and those points earned went towards days where my points may have been over. I paid attention to how I was feeling after eating this way.
The biggest thing is, I know that today is a new day and I can make choices today. I don’t feel defeated like I have in the past, and I don’t feel like all is lost or that I’m just done. Rather, I spent today planning some good, healthy meals and am working on getting back to feeding my body healthy food. Chris and I have talked about what we can change on the class week menu too, so that we’re all eating better through the week.
Getting excited about healthy food. In the past I got frustrated with other plans because we live overseas. I don’t have access to “light” foods. I don’t have access to many of the brand name things that get included in calorie counters. It’s not always possible to eliminate certain kinds of food from my diet.
One of the great things about WW is that it’s fabulous for people like me who love to cook. Most of what we eat is from scratch simply because if I don’t make it, we don’t have access to it. With WW I can input my recipes, how many portions it makes, and get a point value for it that I can use any time I eat it. That’s hugely helpful. And for some reason the recipe builder is just easier to use than others I’ve tried.
Most of our produce is from right here in Haiti, and because most farmers can’t afford it, they don’t use chemicals or pesticides – so most of it is organic. We have a really good variety of stuff available to us as well, and because Yonese has worked for our family for a long time she’s really good at shopping. If she sees something I’ve forgotten to put on the list or she knows we like it, she buys it along with everything else. Our juice is homemade, so we can control how much sugar is in it. Our coffee is hand roasted on site. Our meat is so lean I have to literally add oil to the pan when frying ground beef or it sticks like crazy. We have an endless supply of beans, and a variety of grains. There is really no excuse for us to not eat fabulously healthy meals.
I’ve found myself in a cooking rut lately. I meal plan, but tend to make the same things every month. With focusing on how many points are in food, I’m finding that I want to try new things and see what I can incorporate that I may not have before. I should mention that typically Chris is a meat and potatoes guy, Olivia has recently decided there are things that she doesn’t like, and Alex will eat most things. I’ve already recognized that this isn’t just about me. I’m not going to be cooking separate meals for myself than I do for the rest of the family. So, I need to find good, healthy choices that are tasty and something we’ll all enjoy. I love Pinterest for this! Seriously, there are a wealth of fabulous healthy recipes on there. Even though we don’t see the same seasonal changes here as we would back home, I’m very aware of the fact that it’s September and my brain is all over pumpkin (Haiti’s variety is a cross between a cooking pumpkin and an acorn/butternut squash – super versatile!) and things like stews and soups.
While I’m thinking about the kinds of food I’m eating, I’m also paying attention to how I feel afterwards. I love that in the tracker on WW you can write in how you felt after a certain meal. Did I feel full? Tired? Being aware of those things is helping me to make better choices too. For example, oatmeal is great for our bodies, but it doesn’t keep me full for more than a couple of hours. Knowing that, I can pair up a portion of oatmeal so I’m getting the benefits of it, with a hard boiled egg for the protein that my body needs to feel satisfied longer.
Not hiding. I think anyone that battles weight issues feels shame about talking about them to some degree. It’s cultural. Our North American culture looks down on people who aren’t thin. We tell ourselves it’s all about health, but there are healthy, active people who have more meat on their bones, and there are thin people who have major health issues. I think living in a different culture has caused me to look at my body differently. In Haiti, being bigger is often looked at as a good thing. It says, “I can afford to eat well.” When we got engaged, Haitians congratulated Chris on finding a big woman as a wife. Sometimes I cried, but then got to the point where I knew it was a complement. In Haitian culture it meant Chris could afford to take care of me well. It’s also not abnormal for me to get comments on how beautiful I am, and it’s very normal to see larger women sporting bikini’s here. It makes me realize that the version of “beautiful” that I grew up with is off in many ways because it teaches people to be insecure, rather than confident in who they are as a person, not just in how they look.
Typically I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing everything in this post with many people. But, you know what? I want to. This time I don’t want to be ashamed because I might be worried about what will happen if I struggle along the way. I want friends and family to know so that I don’t have to explain why I might not eat something. I want them to be able to ask how I’m doing and to be able to answer honestly, even when I might be struggling. I guess I just want to be real and to stop hiding behind what’s sitting around my butt, and let my heart speak.
I’m grateful for a couple of friends who wanted to buddy up on facebook, so we can share our personal journeys to getting healthy. We’re all in different places, in different circumstances, with different goals. But, we can support each other by checking in every week and sharing where we’re at – whatever that may be! Yesterday I also shared the fact that I’ve joined WW with a friend here in country who also wants to lose weight. It felt good to share and talk about it, what was hard, what’s working and to be able to encourage each other, and to open the door for that in the future. I’m realizing that one of the mistakes I made in the past was trying to keep my attempt at losing weight a secret, mostly because I was afraid I would fail. If I did struggle there was no one to help me pick myself up, so it was much easier to let it go all together.
I’m so grateful for Chris through this. We’ve had a lot of learning lessons along the way about how we talk about my weight. He’s had to learn that certain things are difficult for me, and I’ve had to learn to communicate those. When I told him I signed up for WW do you know what his response was? The first thing he said was that he was proud of me. The second thing he said was, “Tell me what I can do to be supportive and helpful. If I say something stupid, let me know. If I complain about what we’re eating as a family, tell me to shut up.” I *may* have cried right about then because I knew he meant it. And he’s kept saying it. When I have a good day I can tell him. And when I learn something, I get to share that and see his encouragement. When I’m feeling different like I am right now, we’re talking about those things. I’ve recognized that this process is going to be a big life change for me, and if he’s not a part of that, then we’ll be strangers. But, it takes me being vulnerable through that process, even when I’m struggling and not feeling good. The great thing is that those are the times where he’s saying, “It’s great that you’re seeing those things. Now you know how to do this better.” And I love him for it. Heck, I made vegetarian black bean burgers to have in the freezer for when I need an easy meal for myself and he asked when we get to have them for dinner. He hates cooked vegetables. That’s love.
This is a journey for me, and it’s one that affects every part of who I am and how I parent. I don’t want to hide it, but rather be able to share progress, what I’m learning etc. Especially because I’m doing it in the mission field. How exactly, does that work??? I’ll try to share updates regularly (maybe monthly, or something like that?!?).
Time to go cook dinner! I hope you all have a great week.