About Denise

Find more about me on:

Here are my most recent posts

Gaining weight and self knowledge

On June 14, before starting a 10 day trip to the southeast followed by a 5 day trip to Seattle, I stepped on my scale to find that I’d officially dropped belong 150 pounds and 26% body fat, representing a loss of 95 pounds and a 50% reduction in how much of my body is composed of fat since starting this journey in February 2013.

When I weighed myself last Thursday, seven weeks later, I saw 154.1 pounds and 28% body fat on the display; I have regained 7 hard-fought pounds and that weight is pure fat (as opposed to increased muscle mass). Given the way I’ve been eating lately, this was not a surprise to me, but it was – and still is – difficult to accept. One thing I’ve realized in the last 18 months, though, is that the lessons I learn when the path becomes bumpy are those that stick with me and form the structure of a healthier, happier life if I focus on finding the lesson in the experience rather than beating myself up for not being perfectly perfect.

So what will I do differently going forward?

  • Stop mindlessly eating sweets before bed – I convinced myself that I could have hundreds of calories of dessert every night because it was all low-glycemic and wouldn’t affect my blood sugar. While that’s absolutely true, extra calories add up over time and they aren’t doing my body fat percentage any favors. I’ll focus on fruit and nuts after dinner instead and see where that gets me.
  • Stop watching television with Mick after dinner – school starts back up in a couple of weeks anyway, so I need to get into the habit of reading and/or writing before bed anyway. Mindless eating while doing something mindless doesn’t align with my goal to live a happier, healthier life, so it needs to be replaced.
  • I’ve started taking one yoga class a week – anxiety is a regular part of my life that I’ve used mindlessness to “treat” for most of my life. Yoga encourages being present in my body and observing myself without judgment; I need more of that.

I’ve also been giving a lot of thought lately to what my goals are in terms of a happy, healthy weight and when to shift from weight loss to weight maintenance. At a Fitbloggin’ session this year, I was confronted by these questions as well as this troubling (for me) thought: what needs to happen inside my body for me to feel satisfied with where I am physically? I still haven’t wrapped my head around that one yet and it feels like a great topic for a session – or several – with Dr. Jennifer, my therapist; let me make an appointment to find out what wisdom she has for me.

Look, I wrote a whole post in MS Word without getting overwhelmed – perhaps there’s hope for this blog yet!

Giving it a go

I compose blog posts in my head while I walk in the mornings. While they never seem to make it to the screen here, trust me when I tell you that they’re filled with angst and wisdom, and would probably make great reading. The process of getting them from my brain to the blog just seems like too much effort most days, in a life where every decision about what to do (and what not to do) starts with the question, “Will this thing that I am contemplating help me create a happier, healthier life?” When held to that standard, many activities that previously formed the routine of my life have fallen off my plate, blogging included.

It didn’t used to be that way, though, so what’s changed? Well, I have changed, for one. I’m not a single girl with no one at home to spend time with. Running, biking, Pilates, walking, and now yoga take up the majority of my discretionary time. Blogging has changed, too – so much focus is put on publicity and writing about things that will appeal to the larger audience. Back when I started blogging, it was about sharing your thoughts about life with whoever showed up to read them, with emphasis on the honesty and quality of what you produced, rather than how many people commented or tweeted or shared it on Google.

For a long time, I’ve allowed myself to be distracted by the shiny blogging objects that surround me when I sign into WordPress to write: SEO, categories, tags, keywords, featured image, publicity options. I get so overwhelmed with all of this that I tell myself “it’s too much work to blog, let’s do something fun instead”.

But then the thought occurs to me that if I pretended that I was back in 2003, ignoring all of the distractions, and just wrote things down without worrying about who is reading or what they think of me? I used to compose my posts in MS Word then cut and paste into Blogger (my original blog lives on that [much simpler] platform) – I could do that again to see how it feels.

Until next time, then.

Project Happy/Healthy Me: June Review and Goals for July/August

My goals for June (and half of July) were:

  1. Work back up to run/walk workouts three times a week - Done. I’m jogging 3/5 of a 5K three times a week and it isn’t totally awful most of the time. We’ll call that a win!
  2. Continue to concentrate on clearing out one quarter of the garage, by myself, for 30 minutes per week - Umm, not much was accomplished on this one but then I never added the Google calendar reminder, either. (Let me take care of that right now.)
  3. Put myself on a clothing, shoes, and accessory spending freeze for the entire month of June. I did fairly well with this one, surprisingly, with only one small purchase – $15 shorts from Target when I realized that the shorts I’d already bought months earlier for my trip to Raleigh/Wilmington/Charleston/Savannah were now falling off of my hips – for the whole month. I’m now halfway through July and I’ve been trying to keep with it – only one dress from J. Crew (originally over $100, I got for $25), a souvenir tee shirt from our visit to Seattle (marked down from $80 to $25), and tops and shorts for yoga (used gift cards and rewards points).

Looking forward, my goals for 2014 have been published and they include:

  • Achieve a healthy Body Mass Index by weighing 140 or fewer pounds,
  • A waist circumference measurement of 30 inches or less,
  • Body fat between 23 and 33% (done – body fat is hovering around 26%)
  • Complete a 10K event in 75 minutes or less,
  • Park both cars in our garage at the same time

What I’ll work on for the remainder of July and the entire month of August:

  1. Take one yoga class each week. My hip flexors and hamstrings are SO tight and it’s affecting my running, Pilates, and overall happiness; hopefully yoga can help.
  2. Work in the garage for 60 minutes at a time, at least twice in the next six weeks. - I’ve put the reminders on the calendar, now let’s see how I follow through.
  3. Put myself on a modified sugar detox. All of the vacations we’ve taken recently have been wonderful and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of all of them, eating very well but not necessarily wisely. Nothing to worry about in the long term, I just need to get back to basics for a little while and focus on whole foods with as little added sugar as possible.

OK, your turn: what small things are you going to work on for the next 46 days to make your life happier and/or healthier?

Project Happy/Healthy Me: March review and goals for June

My goals for March were:

    1. Keep up the run/walk workouts three times a week - I was doing well with this one until the training rides for the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure bike event started getting longer and more intense. I found that my hip flexors were very painful when I tried to combine running with the high intensity and/or long distance biking workouts, so I chose to focus on just the biking until after the event. I was ready to start back with the wogging (walk/jogging) last week when I developed a mysterious shin pain accompanied with some really alarming, unexplained swelling, so I decided to take the week off. At this point, I’m hoping to resume walking workouts and my beloved Pilates Reformer classes for this week and see how I go before putting the wogging back into the rotation.
    2. Continue to concentrate on clearing out one quarter of the garage, by myself, for 30 minutes per week - Oh dear, this one has really not gone well – I haven’t had a decluttering session since February. Some of the reason for the slacking was the long bike rides I was taking every Sunday for my Tour de Cure training but the root of the problem really is my reluctance to deal with the unpleasantness of sorting through all of that useless clutter. I have a bad habit of just ignoring things I don’t want to face – hence the need to lose 110 pounds! – so this is just another manifestation of the same problem. As with my physical health, the cluttered mess of my garage makes me actively unhappy and is a silent reproach each time I drive in, so this must be dealt with.

Unfortunately, I never reported in or set any goals for April or May, so we’ll just move on to what I’d like to focus on for June. My goals for 2014 have been published and they include:

  • Achieve a healthy Body Mass Index by weighing 140 or fewer pounds,
  • A waist circumference measurement of 30 inches or less,
  • Body fat between 23 and 33%,
  • Complete a 10K event in 75 minutes or less,
  • Park both cars in our garage at the same time

So, where to focus my energy for June (and possibly July)?

  1. Work back up to run/walk workouts three times a week - As I explained above, I haven’t done any wogging since March, so I’ll need to ease back into it so as not to hurt myself.
  2. Continue to concentrate on clearing out one quarter of the garage, by myself, for 30 minutes per week - This one is proving to be very challenging, as I discussed above, but it’s simply too important not to keep trying. For June, I’m going to put my 30 minutes on our Google calendar so that I’ll get a reminder and TCB will see it as well. Once something is on the calendar with an electronic reminder, the chances that it will get done increase exponentially.
  3. Put myself on a clothing, shoes, and accessory spending freeze for the entire month of June. It’s bad, people – really, really bad – and it must be curtailed. I don’t know if any of you loved to play dress up with your dolls when you were a kid, but I did. I loved to pick out the perfect outfit, mix and match different pieces to see how they’d look, add just the right purse and shoes, then style her hair just so. For all but 18 months of my adult life I was morbidly obese and forced to make do with whatever the plus size clothing manufacturers deigned to offer in my size, so I focused my obsession on my accessories – let’s not talk about my jewelry, purse, and shoe collections! – because I had no other outlet. Now, however, I find myself blessed with my very own walking, talking fashion doll and I don’t want to stop buying her every adorable outfit that crosses my path. My side of the walk-in closet is packed in as tight as it can go even as my bank account dwindles, so this cannot continue.

OK, your turn: what small things are you going to work on for the next 30 days to make your life happier and/or healthier?

Dear Comrades: It’s been a little while since last we spoke

Way, way back, so long ago that it hardly seems real now when I think about it, I used to write blog posts as naturally as if I were casually checking in with a friend every day. Heck, I sometimes posted more than once a day if I had a particularly interesting – at least to me! – day. I didn’t worry about what anyone wanted to read, or about how it all came out, I just let words tumble onto the keyboard and the blog page. Somewhere along the way I lost that mindset and writing here became something I had to do and it had to be done properly, with tags and pictures and search engine optimization and all of that rigamarole.

I have a couple of lovely friends with whom I am supposed to check in every day to report how I’ve done on my Healthy/Happy Me routines, so I wondered if I could use the blog to do that since there can’t be anyone left reading here who isn’t a friend at this point. (Who but a friend would indulge me my long, unexplained absences?) So, with that, I give you my check-in for today:

Dear Comrades,

Where to start? It’s been a tough week, with lots of changes at work and odd pain with swelling in my shin, but I think I’ve done pretty well in staying focused on taking care of myself. The scale at Weight Watchers said that I lost 0.8 pounds this week but more importantly to me, my blood glucose testing results show no rise in my sugar levels even though I haven’t been able to walk or get any sort of real exercise since last Monday’s walking 5K – huzzah!

So, what have I done to keep my sanity – and maintain healthy blood sugar levels – without physical activity?

  • I’ve cut out nearly all carbohydrates other than fruit and vegetables from my eating. It’s not that I eat a lot to begin with but they’re completely gone until I can exercise enough to burn them off.
  • Keep close watch on the sugar content of the packaged foods I do eat. For instance, I have Greek yogurt every morning and used to scarf down 17-20 grams of sugar with the brand I was eating. Since I’ve been paying more attention, I’ve reduced that to 10-15 grams instead. Small changes add up, particularly with sugar and simple carbohydrates.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Water, tea (iced and hot), non-fat/skim milk (at least 8 ounces a day), and decaffeinated iced coffee are all keeping my body humming along nicely without the false hunger cues that can sometimes pop up when I’m actually just thirsty.

TCB and I are off to watch The Book of Mormon this afternoon and I still need to take a shower, so I’ll close here. Hope all is well with you and that you’ll share how you’re doing – any challenges coming up or recently faced? – in the comments.

xoxo Denise

Creating a new habit

  • I never used to walk anywhere if I could drive.
  • I never used to bring my own food – healthy or otherwise – to work with me.
  • I never used to walk a 5K every morning before work so that I could start my day off with 8,000 steps on the pedometer (that I didn’t own).
  • I never used to do anything about it when I had worrisome medical symptoms.

…but I do now.

For each item on the list above, I’ve created a new habit over the last 14 months that makes me a happier, healthier person. None of those things were easy to change – believe me! – but I knew I needed to change my old way of doing things in order for Project: Happy/Healthy Me to succeed. I started out small, increased what I was doing slowly and steadily, and eventually it became easier to do the new habit than revert to the old way of doing things. Writing here needs to be the same way.

I am struggling to reach a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). The number on the scale doesn’t always go down and certainly it does not do so easily when it does. The 15 pounds between where I am now and a healthy BMI feel simultaneously impossible and yet so tantalizingly close that it sometimes feels as though I’m already there. It’s like the feeling I have when we’re nearing the end of a long road trip: aren’t we there yet? How much longer? This was fun four hours ago but now my back aches and we’re out of snacks, so let’s just get this done. But, like a seemingly never-ending road trip, there are no short cuts in weight loss, either, so I’ll keep plodding along because there is no other option. (Thanks, Kay Lynn, for reminding me of that fundamental truth at our recent lunch chat!)

In the meantime, I ponder these moments in time and remember how far I’ve come:

old habits Creating a new habit

post-5K 9/3/2011

 Creating a new habit

post 4 miles, 4/26/14

Not an athlete

I was in a Weight Watchers meeting this morning when I had one of those annoying “a-ha” moments. It wasn’t my normal, early Saturday morning meeting because I walk/jogged a 4 mile event to honor Pat Tillman, an American football player who quit the NFL to enlist in the Army after the events of September 11, 2001. I was feeling pretty good because I was down just over 5 pounds from two weeks prior when I weighed in and I gained weight the two weeks prior to that.

The meeting leader, Marie – who also leads my normal meeting, started the class off by recognizing two women who walked their first 5K event the week prior, then turned to me and asked what event I’d participated in earlier. I told her about the Tillman run and then she turned to the group and said, “I knew she’d been at an event this morning because Denise is so athletic – she even plans her vacations around different outdoor events she wants to participate in.” I couldn’t help myself: I laughed out loud.

Me, an athlete? The girl who was always picked last for every sport in Phys Ed in school? The one who has to find exceptionally flat routes to ride my bike because my legs are so weak that my bike barely moves at all when I have to go up a hill? I can’t even manage to run an entire 5K nor plank on my toes – I am hardly an athlete!

Marie saw my incredulity and said, “Why don’t you tell everyone why you’re laughing, and while you’re at it, tell them what you’ve accomplished since last February?” And I was instantly transported back 15 months in my head, to the day I started on Project: Happy/Healthy Me in earnest.

  • It was uncomfortable to walk 15 minutes on the treadmill at the gym even though my speed was so slow that I was able to read an electronic book at the same time
  • I hadn’t been on my bike in over a year
  • I drove my car everywhere and got angry with TCB if he ever dared suggest that we might walk to the nearby shopping center because I knew it was uphill from our house and I didn’t want to get sweaty

I shared a little of that with the class, then listed some of the things I’ve done since then:

  • Walk for 60 minutes most mornings, usually covering 3 miles, over a very hilly route
  • Finished a Sprint Duathlon last October, including a 12 mile bike ride sandwiched between two running sessions
  • Completed a 5K event every month, either in person or virtually
  • Started taking twice-weekly Pilates Reformer classes and progressed from being able to do approximately 25% of the moves without modification to doing about 70% as outlined by the instructor
  • Formed a walking group at work that covers 1-2 miles a day
  • Began taking the stairs at work, even when my destination is 4 floors above me
  • Choose a local shopping center to walk around every week with TCB
  • Carry reusable bags and walk to do all of our grocery shopping; we also walk to dinner every night

As I spoke I realized that, while I’ll never be at the front of the pack in any of the events I participate in, I can definitely be accurately described as a physically active person, and that feels amazing.

 Not an athlete

this is what active looks like

Just Write

“I need to include at least one picture with every blog post, for SEO, Google+, and Pinterest.” If you don’t write anything, there’s nothing for a search engine to fine and nothing to be shared on Google+ or pinned.

“I need to finish that major project on the blog before I write any new posts.” The project isn’t as massive as you’re making it out to be in your head and you did the most urgent portion of it in 10 minutes just now.

“I’m too busy training for the Tour de Cure, working, and doing homework for my class – I don’t have time to write a post.” Stop making up rules about what a blog post “should” be – you can write a sentence and be done, if that’s all you have time for.

“What would I write about?” Are you joking? How about any one of the hundreds of posts you compose in your head while you’re walking but never take the time to write down when you get home???

“It’s been so long since I’ve written anything, how will I explain my absence?” How about not bothering with all of that and just writing something? (And also, do you really think anyone’s noticed that you haven’t written since end of March? My, my, what an inflated sense of your own importance you have.)

Three things I’m grateful for this week: March 27

Thankful Thursday 200x300 Three things Im grateful for this week: March 27

Making lemonade from lemons!

  • Our vacation to Phoenix for Spring Training. Oh my gosh, it was so good to get away and relax for a few days – I’m so grateful to my husband for organizing everything (and doing all of the driving) so that I could focus on the enjoyment of it all.
  • Gentle rain. Last month’s gully-washing rain in San Diego were awful because so much moisture came down so quickly that it couldn’t be absorbed to do any good for our plants and streams. This week we’ve had a couple of days of slow, gentle rain and you can see it all soaking into our poor, parched dirt. With any luck at all, we’ll have some wildflowers in May to show for this.
  • A recovering Pug. Poor Alouysius, he swallowed a large piece of landscaping bark not last weekend but the weekend before and had to have emergency surgery to remove the obstruction. Between eating the bark and the veterinarian discovering what was going on, fluid and partially digested food built up in his abdomen and even post-surgery it was still draining from his (very short) nose, leading to concerns that he could aspirate some of the fluid and develop pneumonia. You can’t imagine how little sleep any of us got until it was clear he was out of the woods! He’s got to wear the Cone of Shame for another day, until his stitches come out tomorrow, so he’s doing Doggy Day Care at the vet’s office for the week, but it’s a small price to pay to get his sweet, squishy face back and healthy.
10013318 10152269047894660 233868382 n 300x300 Three things Im grateful for this week: March 27

Poor, sad Cone-of-Shame Pug!

Your turn: What are you grateful for this week?

Surround yourself with inspiration

This is a sponsored post; it does not contain affiliate links.

For as long as I can remember, having bright, pretty things to look at has inspired me. From the colorful posters I plastered on the walls of my on-campus apartment freshman year in college to the bright red, patent leather heels that make me smile whenever I wear them, I am happiest – and do my best work – when I have pretty things to look at.

When I moved into our new home – now just over six years ago! – I wanted to wait to hang things on the walls until I could figure out exactly the perfect piece for each spot. As a consequence, most of the walls in our bedroom and office are bare. A rare exception is the wall next to my side of the bed where I wake up every morning to see this:

minted more than coffee 237x300 Surround yourself with inspiration

More Than Coffee, a limited edition print by Lehan Veenker on minted.com

Several years ago now, I stumbled upon minted, where I found this print for sale, and fell in love. There are so many gorgeous pieces on the site, created by independent artists who submit their work for consideration and are chosen by visitors to the minted site; this one spoke to me because I am obsessed with coffee. Once I’d chosen the design I wanted, I was able to easily view my options then choose the size and frame for my finished piece – saving me a trip to the framing shop plus the time to wade through all of the framing options to choose just the right one for my piece. A short time later, my limited edition print, framed and ready, arrived in the mail and went straight onto the wall in our bedroom, where it still lives today.

When I was recently approached by a representative from minted to write a review of my experience with their site, I remembered the great end-to-end experience I had with my purchase and agreed without reservation. There’s a quote on their site, in the About Us area, that I absolutely love -

“Our purpose in life is to uncover exceptional design from all over the world and bring this to savvy consumers who won’t accept anything else.”

By giving visitors the power to choose what will be offered for sale on the site, minted allows artists from anywhere in the world to put their work in front of buyers who might not otherwise ever see it; what a neat business model.

What inspires you? And is anyone else still looking at (mostly) bare walls in their home and/or office?

Disclosure: I received compensation in exchange for writing this review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.