Traveling through life with a timer and sneakers

Observations & Oddities

How do you summarize a year? 2014 in review.

As another year comes to a close, I surf my Facebook feed and read through emails attempting to digest and reflect on all that has happened in 2014. Everything that was lost and all that was gained.

I wanted to write that “this is a year that will go down in my history as a special year” but then I stopped myself. Because every year should probably be a special year. In fact writing that sentence reminded me of a short post in 2011 that I wrote when this blog was just a collection of randomness (oh wait, it’s still sort of that way, only more consistent!).

The fact that we highlight a specific timeframe. That we measure things based on a calendar. It’s always bothered me and yet motivated me.

Health class yesterday centered around this idea of timeframe. And more specifically about resolutions. About setting S.M.A.R.T. goals to help accomplish what we set out to do in the coming year. Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.

I set my goals for 2015. I want to run a full marathon (Portland look out!). I want to get under 150 pounds and stay there (the plan is to stick with a Healthy Solutions based diet). I want to journal at least once a week as writing has and will continue to be a release for me. I want to continue to raise money for community organizations. And I want to continue to strive for a better work-nonwork life balance which I will begin to accomplish through continuing to ensure I have “me time” through fitness and journaling.

As I set those 2015 goals out for the Internet to digest, my mind wanders back over everything 2014 brought to the table. I honestly don’t think I had any resolutions for this year. I just knew I needed to stick to the HMR Diet (I was still in the first months of Core) and that I just needed to continue to take small steps that would build upon each other towards the “yellow brick road to Oz” (sorry I just giggled and imagined an HMR class linking arms and skipping down a path to the Emerald City of Healthy and couldn’t resist sharing).

In January of 2014, I took a rare weekend off work. I traveled with friends. And I learned to put my needs out publicly rather than giving in to those who pushed back. Oh and on a whim, I signed up for the Disneyland Half-Marathon in August. I should probably note I had never run a full mile at this point.

In February of 2014, I ran my first mile (hmmm was there a motivation connection to the previous month? lol). It was at 4.0 mph on the treadmill. I stopped after one mile. But I ran a full mile without stopping. I also tried out every single group exercise class my gym offered at least once. And the ones I hated, I forced myself to revisit again later in the year, just to make sure I really didn’t like them.

In March of 2014, I celebrated my birthday at the gym. I invited all of my friends and we did BodyCombat and Zumba and it was so much fun!

In April of 2014, I ran a 10k. And I loved it. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.

In May of 2014, I ran two 5ks with friends and learned how social running could be. I hit the 90 pounds lost mark after 6 months on HMR and blogged about it.

In June of 2014, I ran my first sub-30 5k. A number I had only dreamed about. And in a tutu! I also finished in first place in my Boxing Fundamentals class final exam. I LOVE boxing! Oh and I hit the magic 100 pounds lost.

In July of 2014, I introduced my mother to her first 5k. And she finished under her goal time. I ran a 6-mile race with my husband (the self-proclaimed “non-runner” in the family) by my side. I also ran through the streets of New Orleans after an impulsive race-day sign-up. And I stayed in the Decision Free box the entire time I traveled.

In August of 2014, I RAN TWO HALF-MARATHONS and finished both in under two hours and thirty minutes – one of which was the Disneyland Half. What?!?!?!? No but really… WHAT?!?!?! I also transitioned to Healthy Solutions.

In September of 2014, I ran a sub-60 10k. Can you tell how freakishly proud I am of my running? Probably because it’s super easy to measure compared to so many of my other accomplishments and because it’s something I used to try to get out of doing in high school gym class. I also transitioned to Phase Two.

In October of 2014, I completed the Rock and Roll San Jose Remix – PRing my 5k on Saturday and conquering my mental behemoth (and PRing) at the San Jose Half Marathon on Sunday.

In November of 2014, I hit my one year anniversary since starting HMR. And I ran with friends on Thanksgiving and scored a new 10k PR!

In December of 2014, I shaved some more time off my 5k (post coming in January) at the Santa Run. And I learned a LOT about myself. I spent the holiday season fighting in the gap. And I survived without too many bruises.

I am leaving 2014 on a high note. I know I have a lot of self-improvement still to do. A lot of goals I want to accomplish. But a renewed sense of self-determination and body full of energy (despite today’s 5:15am OrangeTheory class).

So in short, 2014, thank you for everything you taught me about myself and about the world around me. I am truly blessed to have gotten a chance to experience everything you contained and I look forward to jumping feet first into what 2015 has in store!

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Ten Questions to Celebrate Ten Months on the HMR Diet

Wow. Today is September 13th and I went to my very first class on November 13th. Ten complete months on the HMR Diet. I have a bajillion (it’s a real number in my world) thoughts running through my head about the past ten months and what the future holds. But I will try to contain my ramblings and keep this post somewhat focused.

Today I saw many of my students’ parents for the first time this school year and for many parents I hadn’t touched base in person since our conferences last November. Many were very open about their surprise and open happiness for my improved health, including one or two who thought I was a different teacher and they had come to the wrong room. In light of the many questions I answered throughout the day about my journey, I thought I would select ten common questions I get now in order to celebrate the ten months since I started this incredible journey.

1. What did you do to lose all this weight?

Well this one is easy for those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile. I started on the Decision Free diet with HMR which is a medically supervised diet where I was prescribed a minimum of two entrees and three shakes/cereals/soups a day. Yes I could only eat the HMR food but between the balancing of the meals themselves plus additional vitamins, I stayed healthy – in fact I had the fewest amount of sick days in a school year that I can remember! I could also eat more than my minimum if I wanted and I would still lose weight (due to the high volume and low calorie make-up of the HMR meals).

On my nine month anniversary, I transitioned to Healthy Solutions where I began introducing a minimum of five vegetable/fruit servings a day, again embracing the more is better mindset. While the weight loss slowed, I have still continued to lose most weeks. It has been more difficult to make decisions because now the outside world is open but it’s also great to have the additional options.

This week I began the transition to Phase Two by each day introducing one outside meal replacement of 300 calories or less with ten grams of protein or more. This has been an interesting week as I explore foods I really missed like eggs and while I will write more on this transition later, in short I realize I haven’t been missing much over the last ten months.

2. Don’t you get tired of the same food all the time?

Yes and no. I have obviously been very limited in my choices however I have mixed it up with various condiments and preparation methods. My weekly homework assignments have challenged me to be creative and this has kept me engaged. During the ten months, I didn’t allow outside foods into my life. I learned many valuable lessons from my classmates about how to handle stressful situations and manage life should I find myself slipping off course.

3. What does it taste like?

Food. So here’s the deal. I know it’s all packaged. And the thought of consuming it made me gag a little a first. I almost threw up after my first couple of bites of a cold entree in an airport during my second week on the diet. But it was all in my head. I had to reframe in the first couple of weeks to think of it as a prescription and separate the word “food” from the equation. Once I got over the mental hurdle and actually tasted the food, it was quite tasty! Yes, the barbecue chicken, for example, doesn’t have the same texture as a commercially plumped chicken breast because it is vacuum-sealed. But everything has good flavor and you can change them up with the dozens of allowed condiments and spices.

4. Do you plan on losing more?

I am still above my BMI range for normal. I would love to be within that range. But I also know my body and mind are tired focusing on losing weight. I fit in a size small in most tops and a size six petite (sometimes four!) in pants. While my numbers-focused brain is still catching up with this realization, I logically know that I am at a reasonable weight for my size. I would like to lose ten to fifteen more pounds, especially from my stomach, to get to my “half-my-size” weight but I am choosing to transition now because I know I need to learn how to incorporate outside foods “safely” in my life and wanting to lose a little bit more would help me to avoid going hog-wild in the outside world. I am probably at the top of my happy weight range, a range I want to develop and to try to live within after recognizing that a single goal number isn’t practical (thanks to my health educator).

5. How many hours do you exercise a week?

This is where some people I know call me crazy. To be honest, when I started this diet I maybe did two to three hours a week broken down into much smaller bits. It was all low intensity.

Now I do six to twelve hours most weeks and it’s usually 30 to 60 minutes a block multiple times a day. But it’s not because I have to do it… it’s because I LOVE doing it. I was sidelined earlier this week for a day and missed my training session and boxing class and I was super cranky.

I know I may have to dial back during the debate season but even my most conservative schedules have at least six hours. I can’t imagine doing less. I feel amazing when I work out and the feeling extends past the actual sweat session.

6. What exercises do you do?

In short – I do a LOT of things. I get bored easy.

When I started HMR, I walked. A lot. I used the elliptical on the easiest setting. I did spin class without a ton of resistance. And I started swim class. I am still taking swim lessons and my teacher encouraged me to go to masters swim sessions, so I try to include one a week when I can (although I am still no where near as fast as those guys, it’s a fun way to structure a swim workout!).

A month into HMR I gathered up courage to ask a trainer about the free session that came with my membership. I met Eliana and the rest was history. I have been working out with her for one to two days a week since. She started with building small muscles to help stabilize weaknesses and we have worked our way through her program and she has helped tailor my workouts based on my needs and abilities.

I have also tried almost every class our gym offers — I know what I like and what I don’t like. And if I didn’t like a class, I made myself go again a month later to make sure I really didn’t like it. I discovered in some cases I didn’t. But in some it was that I either wasn’t ready for it yet or it was just an off day for the class the first time around or in some cases I just needed the chance to adjust to the type of activity it was and learn some of the basics.

When I had lost about 60 or 70lbs, I took my walking to running. I ran my first full mile in late February and worked my way up to running 13.1 miles. I learned I hate running on a treadmill and I actually prefer running without music most days. Some days I run fast and some days I run slow. I also love races because of the challenge and also the community of runners I get to run with.

A few months ago my gym offered a small group (3-5) boxing fundamentals class and I fell in love. I wish I could keep this one up during the school year but once this session’s final happens, I will have to take a break because I will miss too many classes with my travels. However between the technique and conditioning, I get a ridiculous workout.

In late June I also tried a free OrangeTheory class and decided it would be a great supplement to my running by giving me speed and hill workouts during these classes.

7. How do you fit it all in?

My health classes are non-negotiable. They are once a week and unless I am gone for a full week, they can’t be missed. I need that accountability and built it into my schedule.

I plan more workouts than I can practically do. Some are set in stone and I treat like doctor’s appointments like boxing classes and my workouts with Eliana. Others I am more flexible with. By scheduling extras on my calendar, I don’t feel guilty if I have to cancel one or two. As long as I get in the majority, I am having a good week.

I try to prep lots of fruits and veggies in one bout and portion them out to grab all week. And I have HMR entrees and shakes in my classroom and car and purses so I am never without and thus have no excuse to not stick with my eating plan.

And honestly I have had to let some things go. My apartment is probably not as clean as it could be but my husband is luckily super amazing and he takes on a lot of the dirty work. I also don’t spend as much time randomly surfing the web or other time sucks.

I have also found I have more energy and am more focused which means I get a lot more done in the day than I used to.

Finally, I don’t let myself make excuses any more. When I don’t want to do something, I ask what excuse I am trying to use. If there is a legitimate reason and not an excuse, it’s fine. But if I can counter it with a solid response, it’s an excuse and I need to suck it up and get over it. I deserve the best I can give myself and that means not getting lazy and countering all my hard work because of some lame excuse.

8. How do you keep up with work travel while doing this diet?

Super easy! Lots of planning ahead by making sure I have enough HMR food packed. I have written a number of blog posts here about traveling on HMR that you can find for more details using the tags to the right of this post.

9. How much better do you feel now?

Honestly I can’t even begin to explain this one. I feel like I have my life back. Actually scratch that. I feel like I have more life back than I ever had before. It is absolutely unquantifiable!

10. Is it expensive?

Yes and no. For someone like me who ate out a lot? I probably saved money the last ten months. The meals range in price from $2 to $4 and you consume 5 or more a day. So it does add up. Plus health classes and medical tests depending on whether you do Healthy Solutions or Decision Free and your insurance may or may not cover those things.

However most diets are expensive. And none of the others worked for me. So it was a bunch of wasted money. I knew this would be an investment going into it. However in some ways the investment also was a disincentive to cheat. I have spent so much on diets over the years – I needed to stop flushing money down the drain.

Plus, I can’t begin to quantify how much better my quality of life is. How more productive I am and how much I have saved myself in future weight-related medical costs. How positive my outlook is (yes someone told me to “shut up Pollyanna this week and I beamed). I can’t even begin to think of how many years I have gained back in my life. And these things are  truly priceless.


Compliments and the Weight Loss Journey

Weight loss is an incredibly difficult journey. Limiting food. Working out. Avoiding temptations in the Gap. It is a daily struggle regardless of what diet you are on. And at some point, you have that moment where you wonder if it is even worth continuing the struggle.

Enter the compliment.

Starting about 6 weeks into the start of the HMR program, I began to have people notice that I looked different. And at three months, people didn’t hold back their observations.

“Wow you look great!”

“What have you been doing?”

“You are disappearing!”

“Be honest, how many pounds have you lost?”

I have been wanting to write this post for awhile and the topic just keeps growing. I could probably write a book at this point. But I wanted to limit it today to look at some of the positive and negative effects of receiving compliments along the weight loss journey.

There are negatives?

Quite a bit actually. I have been struggling for months holding back responses to some of the compliments I have received both because I struggle to accept praise but also because some are just thoughtless. For example, a coworker who you aren’t close to walks up and says “Wow! How much weight have you lost this week?” It catches you off-guard. It defines your interaction by asking for a number. It treats you not as a person worthy of talking to but rather a “let’s get to the point, you look better and I want to know how much better you look now by placing a number on it.”

Asking someone who has lost weight “how much” is asking them to quantify a struggle into something we are told shouldn’t be our driving force. Week after week I get on a scale and sometimes I get a big decrease numerically and some weeks it’s barely a blip. Asking me in a week where I worked out hours every day, followed the diet to the letter, and the scale doesn’t respond is absolutely discouraging. Because you stole my other accomplishments away from me. I felt like a rockstar, and now I *only* lost a pound.

Additionally, why am I now getting your attention? The number of “good for you” type compliments I have gotten have gotten to the point where I asked my husband outright “do they know how condescending they sound?” He explained that most people don’t know what to say, and many aren’t able to take on the challenge themselves. They think it’s complimentary but the compliments come out sounding backhanded like I am a good puppy who is following orders and it’s about damn time I took care of myself. Because all of those previous times I struggled and was less successful weren’t worthy of the acknowledgement but this time I deserve praise. “Good for you girl. Sit. Drink a shake.”

It’s hard for people to respond to big changes involving sensitive subjects like weight loss. I completely understand. And in many instances, compliments are big motivators! But don’t come up and pinch me and tell me how skinny I am getting (yup that’s happened) and stop trying to quantify my accomplishments. I will tell you my personal number if I feel like we are in a place where I can share.

This weekend was a tipping point for me with regards to compliments. I am at an event where I am seeing people who I haven’t seen for a couple of months or more. So I spent the week mentally preparing for reaction. I got my hair done as a reward for hitting 75 pounds (to be more specific, that’s 76 pounds lost since November 13), I brought some of my new clothes that I feel comfortable in, and I mentally talked myself through how to accept compliments, no matter what form, with grace.

This weekend is also a struggle because of the delicious foods and lack of time for physical activity. Tournaments are like that. Super intense. Lots of responsibility. Constantly on the go. And they keep you going by fueling with high calorie tempting goodness.

A positive of the compliments is that it keeps me motivated to stay on plan. In the past, when I started getting compliments, I would get complacent. I would slack on “the diet” because I was “looking good” so it didn’t matter anymore. However on HMR it’s different. Still on the Decision Free diet, I would have to completely derail and go out of “the box” to slack. And knowing how far I have come and how far I have to go, I don’t want to slack. So reframing the compliments as motivation to continue has helped me stay in the box and avoid temptation. As I learn to accept the positive motivation behind the compliments and ignore the pinching and quantification, I can channel the encouragement behind the comments and use that positive energy.

I am #HMRStrong and I can do this. I appreciate your compliments but I also know that success doesn’t rest on your feedback. It requires my internal motivation. But I accept your positive energy and I will continue to learn to reframe those who may mean well but may lack an understanding of my struggle.

“Thank you. I have been working hard. I am healthier.”


Juggling Jealousy – Dealing with those who can’t deal

“I need to eat now. I’m starving and all I have had is a coffee and banana today,” she said.

“Let’s wait until we get back to the hotel and have our picnic & chill by the pool time as planned,” I responded.

“I haven’t gotten to eat recently. I’m starving. You wouldn’t understand because you ate one of your meal things and had a shake,” she snapped back. “I want pizza now!”

“Your fancy coffee and banana had more calories than everything I consumed today. I know you are hungry, as am I, but the pizza will take awhile to make, time we could have spent getting back to the hotel so let’s all be happy and have what we planned.” I replied, my nerves near breaking point.

Everyone has at least one. The friend who can’t handle their own appetite and food choices and thus probably also can’t handle when you are finally in control of your health. Whether it’s ignorance or jealousy that inspires their actions, one may never know. However on my ninth week of the HMR Diet, I have been tested to extreme levels. And now I let it all out in hopes it helps someone else relate.

“I’m on a special diet. I’m gluten-free,” she tells the waiter. Then asks him twenty questions. Then once he leaves proceeds to tell me everything I already knew.

“I know. I have known you for many years. I have lived with people who have an even stricter allergy. I understand,” I assure her.

I do understand. And having had serious food reactions over the years, I can relate to the anxiety when ordering. However, once you explain you understand and you sympathize, you expect this will be the end of the conversation. Yet for her it continues. It manifests her every conversation. Did you know she couldn’t have gluten? Did you know other people don’t know what gluten is? 

I wonder if I was like this. If I annoyed people to no end talking about my food allergies and intolerances? I would hope it didn’t consume my life the way it had obviously consumed hers. 

Now that I am on HMR, I don’t talk about my food unless asked. I realize that there isn’t a reason to remind people I can’t have what they are having. I don’t need to make someone else feel guilty for the choices I am making to be healthy. What others choose to eat should not make me angry at the world. And I recognize that for her, it does. She is angry. She wants people to know she is special. She needs the attention that comes with the special need. And I resent her for it because in the constant nasal whine about her special needs, she has forgotten those who are with her may also have their own struggles.

Rather than assert myself at first, I let her make jokes at my expense:

“You can watch me eat and drool over it all,” she grins.

“I’ll drink and you can watch,” she reminds me.

“I’m so hungry I could eat just about anything on this menu,” she pronounces at lunch. “Too bad you can’t.”

Roles reversed and she would never let her audience hear the end of it. She has special needs and how dare you remind her she can’t have something. However, she sees nothing wrong with taunting me.

Why is it okay for her to do it?

It’s not. And eventually, I can’t take it anymore. In my head I talk openly how cruel it is that people would taunt people with things they cannot have. But in reality, I just use logic to prevail. We don’t end up at a pizza joint this time, however I suspect she will push again. And indeed the next day the passive aggressiveness begins:

“Well I guess pizza is out since someone here can’t handle being around it,” she huffs.

If the crust wasn’t gluten-free, the pot would meet the kettle. Instead I firmly assert myself. Saying that I wouldn’t go, suggesting alternatives to the sweet smelling pizza parlor, and finally suggesting she could go alone and the rest of us could go else where. With an eye roll and heavy sigh, she accepts one of the many alternatives proposed.

I am told by others that her behaviors reek of jealousy. And perhaps they do. She doesn’t have someone to be gluttonous with. To stuff face until our stomaches spill over our shorts. Instead she has someone who is working against those habits. Who is fighting for her own health rather than focusing all of the attention on the special one’s needs.

Her diet may define her. Mine does not define me. Food is not longer my whole life. And while I will continue to defend my needs, I will not defend to the point of it consuming my life. There is so much in the world besides food. And I am determined to experience it.


IFBC Santa Monica comes to a close

Morning. Fruit and potatoes. Homemade energy bite.

Monetary decisions. To monetize or to save? Saving seems more practical. Lots of tips. Lots of tweets.

Dietary restriction? Reframe it. You can’t choose everything on the menu anyways. You eliminate those options by choice. Just choose to eliminate those that do not make you stronger. Choose quality. Discover new options. Recognize your strength.

Closing. Portland 2012.

After-party? Fabulous. Friends. Strangers. Community. Welcoming. Choices. Delicious choices. No waiting. Warmth in the form of sun, smiles, jokes, food, and fermented grape. Highlight of the weekend. This moment of community forever frozen. Stored in the memory box and wiping clean any of the anxiety and disappointment from before. Singing. Dancing. Video. Fingered Citron. You can’t plan this. You can’t pay for this in your conference registration fees.

Ultimately, what I continue to realize as I attend these conferences is that I always set expectations high for the event itself. When in reality, it’s never the event that changes me or inspires me. It is the other people attending the event. Sharing their homes, their food, their stories and smiles. If I could thank all of them independently, I would. But I would be thanking for longer than I have battery life on my well-worked laptop. I hope they realize how amazing they all are. And if not, let me just say…

Thank you.


Someone was reading my mind last night…

I started this blog after a number of conversations with coaches in the high school and college community. When I was in college, there were coaches studying and writing about how unhealthy the lifestyle of debate can be on it’s participants. That was almost a decade ago. However, even today there is a push to increase the focus on creating a healthy environment.

While no one may be reading my blog yet, a college debater who knows I am attempting to live healthier, directed me to a college debate forum focused on the Healthy Debater Initiative. To my surprise, I found an email I had written to another coach had been shared with the community about healthy eating tips. How cool is that! While my eating habits have changed (I rarely eat animal products), I still follow most of the guide.

It is good to know that there is a movement at the college level for a healthier debate community. I hope the high school community will take notice and work to improve our environment as well. I am probably on a plane to Chicago as this post is being auto-published. After we check-in to the hotel, my students and I will had to the grocery store. I have a shopping list from my assistant coach who arrives later in the evening and will create my list on the plane. Tomorrow I will share the stash with you, so you can get an idea of what this Healthy Academic is eating.