July 14, 2016

Small Successes Bring Big Results

It is a good Thursday morning here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. Our monsoon seems to have fizzled. The forecast for the next ten days is clear and sunny. There is no relief on the horizon! This is going to be one LONG HOT and very DRY SUMMER!

I am trying not to think about the summer heat this morning. I slept well, despite being woken up several times during the night, first with weird dreams, and after with persistent kitty cries for food or companionship. I finally got up around 4 a.m., fed the boys, and then crashed hard until 7 a.m. I was sluggish when I rolled over, thinking it couldn't possibly be morning yet. I didn't get out of bed right away, choosing to think about my weird dreams for a short time. I ended up drifting back to sleep until 8:30 when I felt the call of nature and finally pulled myself out of my warm and comfortable bed. In all, I do feel fine. Despite the dreams (I will explain) and the other sorted ailments (ahem - my "friend" arrived un-expectantly after a three-month hiatus). Still, I am in good spirits, and I feel that the day is going to be a good one, for sure.

Small Successes Bring Big Results

God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. (Ps. 46:1)

I haven't blogged about my weight-loss/fitness plans in a while. Mostly due to the fact that I haven't been consistent in following either diet or exercise routine. I had very good intentions, but when "push came to shove," I gave up time and time again. Sunday was a turning point for me. I had stayed home from church because I was feeling poorly, but also because I was depressed (general malaise is a better word). I was overwhelmed and panicked, and despite trying my best to remain at peace and to rest, I was still simmering under the surface fearing the week ahead. It wasn't until I got myself ready for the day when I finally felt the push to make a change in my life. I mean, I was already depressed. When I stepped on the scale and saw that the red line had inched up several pounds, I pitched a fit. I mean, it is not like I had been overeating by that much recently. Shouldn't my weight stay around the same number so long as you are eating the same amount, getting the same amount of exercise, etc.? You'd think so.

I thought the scale was the worse thing I would experience that day, but when I went into my bedroom to get dressed, I melted down into a puddle of mushy-panicked-goo! I pulled on my "go to pants," you know those "fat pants," that feel good no matter your size or shape. I found them not feeling good like they normally do. When I looked in the mirror, I noticed they simply didn't fit me well anymore. I cried. I literally cried. I stomped around my room a bit, tossing clothes that didn't fit well on the bed. In truth, I was having a combo "pity-party" and temper tantrum. I had no one to blame but myself. I am a failure. It is all my fault. These are the thoughts that ran through my head, and in truth, they were accurate accusations. I mean, no one has been force-feeding me all these months and years. I have done this to myself.

What was more, I couldn't blame anyone else for this condition. No, not even "menopause" or that "15 over 50" common experience. I had to take responsibility for the weight gain, and that meant I had to do something about it. For a time, I was utterly depressed. I was absolutely overwhelmed with the thought that in the course of a year, I had gained 15 pounds. I sat down next to my bed to have a good cry and to pray when I turned my head toward my bookcase. There on the shelf was a book titled, "The Beck Diet Solution." I had purchased this book 3-4 years ago when I was trying to lose weight. I skimmed it as I recalled, and had promised myself that I would read it more deeply. I never did. It has been on my shelf since.  I pulled the book out and read through it quickly. I had forgotten the premise, which is that to be successful in dieting, one must change their thinking about dieting. After one read, I knew what I needed to do, and I had a plan of action that could work for me -- regardless of my age or my hormonal situation.

I won't say that this book changed my life because it didn't. What it did do was remind me that there are many things outside my control. Many things I try to control daily, and because I cannot control them as I would like to, they cause me great stress and at times, great harm. Dealing with things that are outside your control takes faith. It requires a willingness to surrender what you cannot control to those that can. More so, by shifting your focus to the areas that you can control, often success is found quite readily. What I mean is that we tend to spend our lives trying to control the things that are not our responsibility all the while we forget to control that which sits right in front of us. Let me explain...

Lately, I have been fixated on my income and my work situation. I have agonized over my current shortfall, so much so, that I have become utterly stressed, panicked and overwhelmed. To the point, I should add, where my mind has not be able to focus on anything important (like my dissertation revisions). I cannot control my income, per se. Not now, I mean. I am an adjunct instructor who makes a fixed amount of pay per class taught. It is a written code, and all schools abide by it. I am paid when I am contracted to teach, end of story. I can apply for more adjunct jobs, but right now, I am the maximum contracts I can teach and still produce my dissertation (I know it, He knows it, it is done). Thus, no matter how much I stress, fret, or fear -- my income situation is not going to change on me. Not for a while, that is. Secondly, I can panic over the future, and I do. I blog about it daily, so if you follow me, you know this is a big deal to me. Is anyone able to control the future? No, not at all. We can plan, but in the end, the Lord is the One who makes those plans come to pass. Proverbs 16:9 ESV says, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." Yes, we can do our best to plan our future, but the future is UNKNOWN to all except for the Lord.

In truth, my worries, fears, and doubts about the future are under my control, but the FUTURE itself belongs to the Lord. I can choose to worry or I can choose to recognize the One who is in charge of the future. If I spend my whole life focused on controlling the future, which is unknown, I will spend countless hours frustrated and feeling overwhelmed by the process. Instead, I can control smaller elements, small aspects that could improve or impact my future success, but to do that, I have to let go the BIG PICTURE and focus on the here and now (what I can do today).

Dr. Judith S. Beck's book is based on the practice of cognitive behavior therapy. CBT was pioneered partly by her father, Dr. Aaron Beck, who successfully used it to treat depressive disorders. In her book, Beck suggests that the same approach can be successfully used for any number of psychological disorders, with weight-loss ranked high among them. It may seem strange to consider weight-loss as a psychological disorder, but for many people it is just that. It is an addiction like any other whereby we feed the brain's signals with the wrong medication, so to speak. The book jacket says it this way:
This time, its going to be different. This time, you are going to diet successfully, lose weight with confidence, and, most importantly, keep it off forever. That's because The Beck Diet Solution is the first book that teaches dieters how to apply the proven benefits of Cognitive Therapy to dieting and weight loss: how to think differently, change your eating behavior, and lose weight permanently. In fact, Cognitive Therapy is the only psychological method shown to help dieters keep off excess weight once they lose it. The Beck Diet Solution will change the way you think about eating and weight loss forever!  
Written by world-expert Cognitive Therapist Dr. Judith S. Beck, The Beck Diet Solution is a remarkable six-week program that gives you all the tools you need to train your brain to think like a thin person. This breakthrough approach, which works in tandem with any nutritional diet plan shows you how to make the kinds of positive, long-term thinking and behavioral changes necessary to lose weight and to maintain your weight loss, not just for the short run but for the rest of your life! Simply put: The Beck Diet Solution teaches you the skills you need to diet successfully and to keep the weight off permanently.  
You will discover Dr. Beck's strategies for ensuring long-term weight loss based on over 20 years of successfully coaching dieters in her practice including ways to:  
Learn to stick to any diet. Make cravings go away fast! Resist tempting foods. Deal with trigger eating situations. Say, No, thank you, to food pushers. Put an end to emotional eating. Conquer every excuse to overeat. Find time to exercise. Lose weight and keep it off for a lifetime!  
Give yourself the mental and emotional foundation you need to succeed with The Beck Diet Solution. 
In my view, I have always believed that my weight-gain has been emotionally charged. The reason being is that as a child and young adult, I was always thin. I never had an issue with overeating, even though I didn't always eat healthy foods. I simply didn't overeat, and the calories I consumed were burned off through daily exercise. In time, though, I replaced food as nutrition for food as comfort. In doing so, I started to eat for emotional reasons. Furthermore, my negative thoughts, mostly of failure predominated my mind, and gave me enough reason to eat more.

Beck's solution is simple: change the way you think and the weight will come off. What I like about her approach is that it is proven. As a therapist, she has used her own program to treat clients suffering from extreme weight issues. Her approach is also easy to implement and costs nothing but time, some index cards and post-it notes. In fact, she doesn't recommend a "diet" to follow so each individual can choose one they like and get this, THINK they can stick to it.

The Basics of the Plan

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy includes techniques designed to help you change your thinking. One of the key techniques designed to assist any retraining of your thought-life is positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are simply statements that affirm change in behavior or attitude. In a Biblical sense, reciting favorite verses to remind you of God's goodness, for example, is an example of cognitive behavioral therapy. God's word is truth, thus when we recite His word to replace faulty, negative or false thoughts, we are "retraining our mind" to think rightly. CBT does the same thing, only it uses positive statements that counteract the negative ones we generally accept.

1. Affirmations and Mindset

Dr. Beck has you write up a list of affirmations before you begin to diet. I made my list of 10 statements based on why I want to lose weight. My list includes things such as "I'll look better in my clothes," and "I will have more energy to do the things I love." I read these statements to remind me why I want to lose weight. The statements are not "pie in the sky" but real, rational reasons for wanting to change my life. I listed my 10 statements on an index card. I read them aloud every morning and evening, and they remind me that I have a real and valid reason to want to lose weight. The reasons are valid to me -- so my reasons might be different from the reasons another person has in mind. The point is that the reasons are justified, and as such, I am replacing my faulty thoughts such as "I am a failure. I can never lose weight. I am a loser" with ones that remind me why I am denying myself comfort with food, and instead choosing to wait, to be patient, to make better choices.

Keep in mind that what I have shared here is just a fraction of what is in the book. If you are interested, look at the book yourself and see if it will work for you. For me, it was a solid reminder that I may not be able to control everything in my life, but I can control my weight. It is up to me to choose healthy foods, eaten in moderation, along with an active lifestyle. I made the choice each day, and even when I mess up, I am still able to get back on board and start again. I am empowered with the ability to change the way I think about weight-loss. I can start to think like a thin person again, thanks in part to Dr. Beck's book.

2. Choosing a Plan to Follow

Dr. Beck recommends that each person chose two diets that have worked for them in the past. I chose Weight-Watchers Points and Atkins. I listed the pros and cons of each approach, and this time, chose WW Points. In fact, even though I lost weight on both programs, I lost more weight and kept it off longer on WW.  In my list of pros and cons, I noted what drew me to each program. The main draw for me with Atkins was the "immediate" weight loss. Atkins promises that the average person will lose 10-15 pounds in the first two weeks (on a strict induction diet). Likewise, whenever I have followed a low-carb diet, I have lost 6-8 pounds in the first two weeks. The quick weight loss is a nice booster to get you going, but typically, I would stall out after that because I didn't like eating protein with little carbs each day.  On the other hand, WW Points is the system I used in 2001 when I lost 35 pounds. The big draw for me was that I found the system super easy to use, and I liked that I could eat whatever I wanted in moderation. I liked the fact that I was never deprived of comfort foods, ONLY the quantity and frequency of eating them. After considering both approaches, I chose WW Points even though it offers a slower weight loss result than Atkins. Nevertheless, even at a slower rate of loss, the results with WW Points were consistent, and in the end, I achieved my goal.

3. Setting a Goal

My end goal is to lose 30 pounds. I have made my first goal 10% of my body weight. Beck recommends losing in 5 pound intervals and that sounds good too. I decided to follow WW recommendation, so my initial goal is 16 pounds. My rate of loss is 1-2 pounds per week, which is considered safe and normal (note, not average). I thought back over my weight-loss in 2001/02, and estimated that I lost 4 pounds a month over a 8-9 month period. In my mind, I want the weight off now, tomorrow, but in reality, the weight will come off pretty much the way it went on, incrementally and over time. Thus, my first mental change was to accept that permanent weight loss requires a change in my thinking that includes long-term behavior. I cannot lose the weight, go back to thinking negatively about my life, and expect to remain the same weight. Nope. History will repeat itself, and in time, I will gain this weight back again.

4. Managing Expectations

I don't want to be a yo-yo dieter, so I have to make the mind change now. I have to replace the negative thinking with positive thinking, and then change my behavior to suit. In doing so, I am creating habits that will produce successful results. It is really "mind over matter," and once you understand that barring physical or medical reasons for weight gain, most people are fat because they choose to be fat. Now, I am not saying that we all can look like Heidi Klum (or pick your poster girl), but we can look healthy and trim and toned no matter our God-given size or shape. You see, I think a lot of us girls who grew up in the 60s, have this fantasy image in our heads about what a "girl" should look like. For me, my poster girl was Farah Fawcett. Yes, her red swimsuit poster hung over my brother's bed when I was a teenager. She was my idol back then. She wore a perfect size 6, and that is what I wanted to wear. She was trim and toned, and her hair was gorgeous. I wanted that whole "Farah" look. Still today, if I had to pick a poster girl, it would be her. She would be the one I wanted to look like, if at all possible.

In reality, though, I was not built like Ms. Fawcett. In truth, I am built far more hourglass shaped than she is (or was now that she has passed away). I also was very thin as a young person, and my body shape was angular, especially at my hips. This meant that I carried fat deposits on my hips and outer thighs. Of course, if I had worked out as a teen, my body might have looked different. But back then, before aerobics and all, we didn't work out. We had gym class, and most of the girls I knew hated gym class.

Even now as an adult, my image in my mind is much different that what my body can or will look like once I lose the weight again. After having children, female bodies change. We get round, we get soft, and our waists, hips, and yes, butts spread out. It is called child-bearing, and God made us this way for a reason. Therefore, it is not natural to aspire to look like someone who 1) has never had children, and 2) has never been out of shape in their life. It is better to choose a practical variation of your own self and work toward making YOU the best possible version. Thus, while I loved Farah, I will never look like her no matter how hard I try. I can look good as ME, though, and that is my goal. I want to be the best version of ME possible, and that means a healthy and happy version.

Getting Started with WW Points

One of the other reasons I chose WW Points is because I had the old materials here at home. I found my kit packed away so I am not joining WW and paying the monthly fee. I am simply tracking my points in a small notebook, and using my points calculator to tally my food choices. I am also using a website that is online called OneMorePound.com, where the owners have put oodles of WW Points articles online. Note: the new WW system is very different. The Points Plan I am following is the one they used from 2000-2009. Since then the system has changed, and I have heard many people do not like it or find that it works. Plus, the cost to attend is still $20 per month (pricey to boot). If you don't mind doing the leg work yourself, consider following this site and using their tools to get started. It is really not that difficult of a program to use (the old one, I mean).

The basic plan I followed back in 2001 netted me a 35-pound weight loss after 9 months on the program. I didn't really exercise, so the weight came off at a rate of 1 pound per week. For those of you like me, that seemed really, really slow, but truthfully, considering the fact that most weight gain is about the same, the point is mute. I easily gain a pound in a week due to water-weight fluctuation, so to lose a pound of fat, well, really that is a good thing, a very good thing.

1. Calculate Your Target Daily Points

The first step in using WW Points is to figure out your daily target or points range. You can calculate this using the chart on the OneMorePound.com website. For people in the 150-170 weight range, your daily target will be based on your age. In my case, my target is 22. My range is between 18 (min always) and 27 (maximum). For fastest weight loss, stick to your target. Extra points saved each day can be used at the end of the week or for one special occasion during the week (like lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, for example). The goal is to hit your target every day, if possible. The more consistent you are, the better your results will be.

2. Track Your Points

Next, count your points. I use a points tracker I received as a member of WW many years ago. However, you can use the OneMorePound.com website to see thousands of items that list their point value. I use a small notebook from Walmart. I write down everything I put into my mouth each day. I accurately assess the quantity or volume as well. This means I measure my food. I use cups or teaspoons as much as possible, and I will eye-ball something as a last resort. Once I was well into my diet last time, I could eye-ball items and be on track. I am not ready to do that now, so it is better to remind myself how much a 1/2 cup of something really is and how many points are in a 1/2 cup.

3. Be Consistent

Third, drink non-calorie drinks whenever possible, and substitute water as a rule. Furthermore, save points by giving up bread once a day. For example, I eat bread for breakfast (toast), and I have a 1/2 sandwich for lunch. I forgo the roll at dinner to save points. This gives me a desert credit which allows me to budget in a snack after dinner. I pick what to eat and what to forgo, and in this way, I am in control over my food choices (according to Beck, this is key).

Fourth, vary your diet if that works for you. For me, I stick with a pretty bland diet that is doable. I did this last time, and it worked well. I made meal-plans that rotated items three times a week. So for example, I ate a bagel on one day, an english muffin or toast on another, and cereal on a third day. This gave me a variety of options, but limited my points each morning for breakfast. I am a bit "anal" as they say so I prefer structure in the beginning of the program. I did the same thing for lunch, but then left my dinner menu open so I could vary it based on family needs.

My target points per days is 22, so I break this out as 6-6-10. I give myself a free snack in the afternoon (carrot sticks with 1 tsp of Ranch dressing). If I need a dinner snack (before 7 p.m.), then I have a fat-free pudding cup with my coffee (2 points). My goal is to keep my total points under 24 so that I see results each week.

Progress So Far

It has only been five days, but so far I have dropped 2 pounds. Now, this may be water weight, and I expect it is, but I am counting it as good news and encouragement to go the distance. I am weighing myself daily, to see how I am doing. At the WW meetings, we weighed in once-per-week. I need the daily accountability, but if I start to see fluctuations, I will stop and weigh in every Monday. For now, I am writing my weight in my notebook so I can watch my progression. Hopefully, I will see a nice drop this first week. Afterwards, I expect to see 1 pound a week since that is what happened to me before when I was on the program. Actually, I should say, my weight loss was sporadic as I recall now. It was like 1/2 pound on one week, 1 pound on the next, and so forth. It was not a steady 1 pound drop, but overall, it was roughly a 1 pound per week drop long-term (if that makes sense).

I am also adding exercise into the mix this time around. I am doing bodyweight exercises 3-4 times a week, and using my mini stair stepper. I will join YouFit Health Clubs next month, once I am working again, so I can use the elliptical trainer for maximum fat burn. I have been reading about HIIT workouts, and to do this type of interval training, I need to run, bike, stair step, etc. The goal here is to do a shorter workout, 3-4 times a week, where you vary the intensity. So if you are running, you would jog for 1 minute, run hard for a minute, and then alternate for say 20 minutes total. The point is to get your heart rate into the target zone right away. In studies, more fat loss is achieved through interval training than through longer workouts. Thus, you can effectively train for 20 minutes all out and get the same cardio and fat loss benefits as if you ran for miles. The difference is endurance, of course. If you need to train for endurance, like to run a marathon, then you will want to vary in long training sessions. But, if the goal is to lose weight, short hard bursts do the trick.

I cannot run or bike outside when it is 110 plus. So I am using my mini stair stepper inside. It is not as effective as the elliptical trainer at the gym, but it is all I have for now. Furthermore, I am using bodyweight exercises like squats and planks along with some free weight exercises. Overall, I am seeing nice results to my body. I notice that I am less jiggly, and that my appearance is more toned. Losing some weight will help a lot, but for now, I am pleased with the way I look in my skivvies, so to speak.

Back to Control

So back to the "control issue" which is really what is important here today. I am a self-described "control freak." Yes, it is true. I desire control more than anything else. I don't try to control others, per se, but I do try very hard to control my life and every aspect of my life. The problem, of course, is that with control comes a mini-God complex, and frankly, I have an issue with that always. I mean, do I think I know what is best for me? Yes, I do. Do I think I can change my life, my circumstances, and alter my future? Yes, I do. Is this really possible? In some ways, yes; in other ways, no.

The problem occurs when the things I am trying to control are God-things. God has given me authority over many areas in my life. I am free to choose how to live my life, and that means the work I do (within limitations), and with the place I choose to live. I can choose many, many things, but the plans the Lord has for my life are non-negotiable. Thus, when I attempt to change His mind, His plans, then I enter into manipulation. I begin to try to manipulate God and to make Him do what I want. This is never a good thing, and always has poor consequences as a result. Yet, time and time again, I do it. I often do it without even thinking now, and that is a really BIG deal to me.

I believe God is in control, ultimately He calls the shots, makes the plans, and sees to the plans that they come to pass in my life. He gives me responsibilities, things He asks me to do, and He expects me to be obedient and follow His commands. When I walk outside His authority, then I seek to elevate myself above Him, and in many ways, I usurp His proper place as God. In submission, I am saying that I understand the proper order of things, and that God has graciously placed me in charge of certain aspects in order to train me as a servant leader. This means that just as in business, as my BOSS or MANAGER He is overseeing my training and preparation. However, I cannot do what I want and expect He will be pleased. I must trust Him as Authority, and I must remain in my place. He is God after all, and I am His created being. He is the Potter, and I am the clay.

So today, I relinquish my control. I take my place where He has me, and I commit to doing the work He has assigned. I look to my Manager as seek to please Him. This means I am changing my attitude about the work I do, changing my approach, and changing my behavior to suit His desires and needs. I am saying, "I get that you have me here in this position. You have promoted me, but I cannot move further up until I demonstrate I am ready." Yes, I am in training. I cannot move to the next step of the ladder until I successfully learn how to manage myself on this particular rung. It is baby steps -- daily life lived in submission to our Father who desires our best. It is not about running to the front of the pack, rather it is learning to be content in the middle or even the back, if that is where the Lord has you placed.

I am learning the hard lesson of patience. I am learning how to wait for the Lord's timing, and I am learning how to accept less provision, less support, less comfort. I am learning how to be content in all things, in poverty and in riches, and in doing so, I am learning that I cannot be in the God-position and seek to serve a Holy and Righteous Lord. No, He is God, and I am not. I know my place this good, good day.

Dear Lord,

It has been a long hard road for me to learn how to submit and yield to your will. I thought I had it all figured out, and that I was doing exactly what you wanted. While I was in the place of your choosing, and doing the work you provided, I struggled with a head issue, a mindset that was bent on willfulness and stubbornness. I wanted my way more than your way, and in doing that, I found myself stressed and overwhelmed by my circumstances. I ask your forgiveness today, and I thank you for helping to clear this matter up for me. Thank you for the steady progress of weight loss this week. I pray I can be consistent now and follow this program in order to lose all the weight I need to lose. Help me to make wise choices with my food, and help me to seek regular exercise to benefit my health and vitality. In all, Lord, help me to be a good servant, to love You and others, and to remember that I do not deserve your grace. Thus, I am to be gracious to others, even if they do not deserve it. I thank you for this good, good day, and I rest in your provision and in your sufficiency. Thank you, Lord, for your goodness, your mercy, your care, and your provision. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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