Do What Works

I have been thinking a lot lately about “what works” for me regarding weight loss. My grandpa sent me a supportive text to check in the other week, and said something along the lines of “you know the food study worked, so do what works.”

Last fall, I was blessed to be a part of a nutritional study at Framingham State University. As a participant, all of my meals were provided for me. I did not have to do any cooking or grocery shopping…NOTHING. I had a team of scientists carefully planning all of my meals down to the exact ounce I needed of fats, carbs, protein, etc. The diet had hardly any processed food, very low salt and sugar, and was well-balanced, so I felt good after every meal. With all of that support, I lost weight. I lost about 22 pounds or more. Then I got a new job and had to leave the study. I gained about 10 pounds back, not all at once, but eventually because I went back to old habits.

When my grandpa sent the text, I dismissed his words at first. Ok, yeah, what worked was having a team of people make all of my food. OF COURSE  I lost weight!! But I do not have the money to pay for a personal chef or nutritionist and I cannot go back to the food study. So now what?!

I have been trying to look up different recipes and think through my weekly meal plan, but nothing has really worked great. I think I blogged about her already, but recently I discovered Betty Rocker. I decided to buy her 30 Day Meal Plan because I was curious. Today I am on day one of her 30 day meal plan, and I LOVE it. The biggest thing that I love is her style. She provides you with a complete grocery list and meal prep guide. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and followed her guide. I bought all my food and then went home to prepare (the picture above was taken before I started cooking). She also provides a guide to mass-produce all of your meals for the week in one long cooking session. I am not a cook. I have limited experience but her guide helped me get all of my meals made and boxed up. Essentially, all I have to do now is pull a Tupperware container out of my fridge and eat. IT FEELS JUST LIKE THE FOOD STUDY! I know that this lifestyle will take prepping and lots of work. But the food tastes yummy and I feel good physically so far.

I can do anything for 30 days, right?!

The biggest thing I am learning is that being healthy has to be a priority or nothing will change. I know myself enough to know that during the week, if meals are not prepared ahead of time, I get lazy. I do not like coming home and cooking, so I eat out. Eating out is ALWAYS a struggle for me because I rarely make smart choices. I like comfort food and when I look at a menu, I cease to think rationally. I pick the cheesy, creamy, high fat/processed/sugary options. I eat with my emotions when I am paying someone else to cook because eating out is an indulgence for me. Having meals already made takes the emotions out of eating. I do not have to think, I can just grab the pre-portioned meal and eat, which is why the food study worked. I did not have choices, so I ate the right amount of the healthy options. And because I am not a cook and do not enjoy meal planning, I DREAD creating a menu for the week, which is why I am grateful for Betty Rocker’s plan. She has made cooking ahead of time easy for me, for which I am SO grateful.

Since today is only day 1, we shall see how this process unfolds, but I am learning I can do anything for 30 days. I am learning to follow through even when I am not perfect, and I am learning that being healthy and muscular and strong is something I really want. I am also learning not to dismiss those moments of success as dumb luck or times that cannot be recreated, like being on a once-in-a-lifetime food study. In those successes resides clues to who we are and what we need to continue to be successful. When you focus on what works, the solutions will come.

When is a Problem NOT a Problem?

One of the aspects of Solution-Focused Brief therapy that I have been thinking about a ton lately is the idea that a problem is no longer a problem if the client and the client’s community no longer view the problem as a problem. I have been particularly thinking about this idea in terms of my weight loss goal. Right now, I view my size and weight as a problem. I do not like how I look or how I feel in my clothes. I do not like how hard it is to run, and overall, I want a change. But if I am healthy, is my size really a problem?

I am 5 feet 4 inches tall. For most of my adult life, during times of better fitness, I have never weighed less than 159 pounds. I would say that the 160s were always a good maintenance weight for me until recently when I have crept up to 180 pounds. So, what if I never achieve the 140 pound goal? Why is that my goal?

I know that I am ingrained with images and visions of skinny people. The media always shows me what the ideal figure is and I have definitely received messages from family that I should be smaller. But do I want to be smaller? Sometimes I do. I would LOVE to look in the mirror and feel great and wear smaller sized clothes and wear shorts or skirts or dresses without fear of inner thigh chaffing. But I should be able to look in the mirror at ANY size and see my value, worth, and beauty. And I like food. I really do. So, if I’m still active, medically healthy, and a little plump, is that really a problem?

But then there is the other side of the coin. I do not know if I have ever believed in myself enough to follow through on a goal, like losing weight. I have quit too many things to count. I have quit and re-joined Weight Watchers countless times. I have quit blogs that I started, I have quit exercise programs, fitness challenges, training programs, over and over again before I reach my limits or my maximum potential. Which is why lately I am trying to follow through on things even when I fail and am not perfect. Case in point: on Weight Watchers, I signed up for a challenge of 30 minutes of exercise for 30 days straight. I hit day 20 and ran into some obstacles. Instead of quitting, five days later, I started back up from day 21 and finished the 30 days. It wasn’t perfect, but I did not quit.

I think for me, part of this journey is allowing myself the freedom to fail. But with that freedom comes discovering and fostering my strength to pick myself up and keep on moving forward.

I recently discovered Betty Rocker. There is something about her and her videos and food preparation that is so inspiring to me. Why do I think I am any different? Why can’t I choose healthy foods and daily fitness to get my body to my peak level of fitness? Because if I am honest with myself, I do not value the number on the scale as much as I value the look of muscles on my arms and legs. What do I really want from being smaller? I want to be like Betty Rocker, full of defined muscles and raw strength. I want to scale walls, run triathlons, and do a pull up for once in my life. And I want to be faster!

So, I am re-framing my goals. I am focusing more on exercise and how I feel physically. Food is absolutely a part of this process, but the step I am focusing on right now is increasing my activity and working on getting faster. I signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon in August. My goal is to finish under 3 hours. For me, that will take an immense amount of work and follow through, and eventually it will take making better food choices. And if I get under a 3 hour triathlon and still weight 180 pounds, then WHO CARES?! Not this girl right now. Right now, I want to build muscle, make better choices and work on loving myself a little more.

 

Find a Happy Place

Today I am not doing well. I feel grumpy and want to hide. I do not want to be at work today, which is not the best way to start a Monday. I found this article on Forbes about the 11 Ways to Beat the Monday Blues and think there are definitely some valuable tips. #3 is speaking to me, so in an attempt to break free of my Monday Blues, here are some of the things that I am looking forward to this week:

  • Seeing my friend Mary on Tuesday for a walk/run and salads for dinner. It will be good to catch up and she is one of my favorite people here in Boston.
  • Getting some work trips planned to California, New York, possibly the Pacific Northwest, and more! (I love that I get to travel for work.)
  • I am excited to get my bikes. My Dad is AWESOME! He took time last weekend to figure out how to ship my bikes to me from Portland, OR. Once I get my bikes, I will be able to resume some of the hobbies I love, like bike riding and triathlon racing.
  • I’m excited to start triathlon training. Last week, in the spirit of taking steps toward achieving my fitness goals, I signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon in August (0.9 mile swim, 26.2 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run). I did this race with Team In Training 2 years ago on a mountain bike, so it will be great to see what I can do with my triathlon bike and more consistent training.
  • I bought a kayaking rental package off Groupon last week, so I am so excited to find a weekend to book the rental. The picture above is from a trip to the Bahamas I took back in 2009. My Grandpa had signed up for a kayaking trip and unfortunately was not able to go, so he graciously let me go in his place. It was an AMAZING trip. I am blessed to have my Grandpa as my grandpa. He has opened my horizons to a lot of things, such as bike riding, running, kayaking, back packing, and more. Without his influence, I probably would never have completed two Ironman triathlons. Thank you Grandpa!
  • Seeing my handsome partner Eoghan tonight for a romantic stroll on the beach.

Today, I am going to think about that kayaking trip when I need a moment to escape and get my mind on better things. The water was a gorgeous crystal clear turquoise blue, the sand was white and pristine and warm, the water was calm and easy to maneuver as a beginning kayaker, and I had no cell phone or technology to distract me, so I got to read, think, exercise and soak up the sun. That trip is my happy place for today.

Friday Inspiration

Today I was inspired by this lovely video of a young girl drumming on Facebook (hopefully the link works):

Badass Drumming

Which prompted me to find this awesome festival (I want to go to this in 2017): Hit Like A Girl Contest

Anyway, drummers in general are amazing. I can barely walk without tripping over my own feet much less have enough coordination to play an instrument like the drums. And female drummers are SERIOUSLY cool because they are kicking butt in a typically male dominated field.

Then you have these women, who are taking their passion to the masses and inspiring movement and fitness in a unique and fun way (I hope these classes make it to Boston): POUND Workout.

Today I encourage you to find your inner badass. What are you good at? Is there something you have always dreamed of doing? If so, take a risk and take a step toward that dream today. For me, my step is signing up for a triathlon this summer and starting to plan out my training program.

 

The Magic of Scaling

When you think of scales, probably any number of images come to mind: scales of justice, scales on a reptile, bathroom scales, those dreaded scales in a doctor’s office, scales on a survey/questionnaire, etc. The above image is the scale I want to talk about today.

What is scaling? Scaling is a way to name and focus a situation. In some ways, scaling temporarily removes the emotion of a situation and helps create a plan to move forward. Scaling is also a great way to make sure you are on the same page as someone, like a family member, partner, coworker, supervisor, etc.

What do I mean? Well, a scale is linear. You can draw it on a piece of paper. You can put as many numbers as possible. 1-10 is nice because it makes the solution, or goal, seem within reach. A scale of 1-100 can feel daunting in some situations, but in other situations, you may need that many steps laid out to get to your goal. The point is that you find a scale that works for you. I recently witnessed a classmate use a scale of 1-10 with a child she was coaching. The 10 on the scale represented great classroom behavior that the child would model consistently. She and the student discussed the scale and the end goal and where he was at currently (they both agreed he was at a 4 on the scale). They took time to celebrate the fact that he was at a 4 on the scale and not a 3 (clearly he was being successful in some areas of his classroom behavior, which she pointed out as a way to build his confidence in his abilities). Then they discussed what it would take to get him to a 5 (e.g. what behaviors and actions would he display at a level 5 that he was not currently exhibiting at a 4). However, he was struggling to get to a 5 and needed some extra motivation, so they broke the scale down even further and added a 4.25, 4.5, 4.75 to get him to the 5. It worked! A scale does not have to be perfect. A scale is adaptable as we are adaptable. Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and unmotivated is a great indicator that you might need to break the steps down even more. The goal of a scale is to celebrate success and to keep you moving forward.

How do you scale? Start by drawing a line and marking 1-10 on the line. Figure out what the situation, goal, hope, dream, behavior, etc. is that you are working on or toward. Make the 10 the ultimate goal and get specific, so what will being a 10 on the scale look like, feel like, be like for you? The more details the better because you can use those details to help you assess where you are at currently and to create steps to get you to a 10. You can even write all of this down next to the 10 as a reminder of what you are aiming for personally. Then the 1 on the scale represents the opposite of this goal. Once you have this figured out, circle where you think you are at on the scale. Then ask yourself the following questions: what makes me a ____ on the scale and not one point lower? If you are at a 1, then give yourself props for working on this goal (we all have to start somewhere). Then ask yourself: what would it take to raise my number by one point? What else would it take? If you tend to be really hard on yourself and need help getting a better assessment of your situation, ask your loved ones where they would rate you on your scale and why? What do they see as your strengths and what do they see as a next step to get you to the next higher number?

A scale is creative and a great way to get unstuck.

You can apply scaling to ANYTHING. Get creative.

I used scaling with my boss to make sure we were on the same page about a huge event that we had finished in March. I asked him on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is us knocking the event out of the park and it was a huge success, and 1 is the opposite, where would he rate the event? He said a 7 and I agreed. Then we discussed why it was a 7 and not a 6, and what it would take to get the event to a 10. It was a great check-in opportunity that did not point fingers or cast blame, but the discussion gave me clear, concrete goals for future events.

Scaling also creates buy-in. So if you are working on a scale with someone, then you both have investment in the success of the scale. The process is about your perception of the scale. There is no right or wrong answer because if you disagree with your co-creator about the current number on the scale, then you can talk about it and find out why the numbers are different. This discussion can create solutions, uncover hidden talents and strengths, and can also lead to conflict resolution as you work toward agreeing on the number.

The image above is the scale of my goal toward successfully losing weight and improving my health. I placed myself at a 3 on the scale because I recently had success and lost over 20 pounds, but I have gained some of that weight back (about 9 lbs back). My 10 is a place of peace. At a 10, I will be at my natural weight (maybe that is 145 lbs., I’m not sure, but I will feel comfortable and not have unhealthy weight around my middle). I will be better at moderation at a 10 and will choose to eat healthy foods to fuel my person. My emotional addictions to food will have minimal power over my behaviors at a 10, and food will be about fuel instead of comfort. To get to a 4 on the scale, I am trying to exercise for 30 minutes daily. 30 minutes is not enough to significantly get me to lose weight with the food I’m eating, but 30 minutes feels achievable and I want to build on success. 30 minutes also feels less overwhelming with everything I have going on in my life. To get to a 4, I am also working to reduce the number of points I eat per week. I am not trying to be perfect but just eat a bit less. I have been overeating by over 100 points a week on Weight Watchers, so if I can only overeat by 60-70 points, that would be a win and get me to a 4. I will work to build on that success so I stay motivated to keep working toward my 10.

 

 

 

 

Gratitude 


Today is a Monday. Usually I need some emotional help on Mondays, so to start this week off right, I’m making a list of some things I’m grateful for today. One of my new goals is to create a list of at least 10 things I’m grateful for every Monday:

  1. I’m thankful for my family, friends, & community
  2. I’m thankful to have a job in Boston that allows me to take the T to work, which gives me time to read, blog, reflect, etc.
  3. I’m grateful that some of my good pals started a Facebook group to share inspiration and tips, which is helping my soul and encouraging me to succeed with my weight loss goals
  4. I’m thankful that I am down 3 pounds!!! 
  5. I am thankful for my physical health and strength. I was on my feet a ton this weekend and I am just thankful for my mobility
  6. I’m thankful for my partner Eoghan and this new phase of our relationship 
  7. I’m grateful to have my sister live with me – she’s been doing a lot of the work at home and I’m thankful for her help
  8. I’m thankful for my cat Kevin, who woke me up today with cuddles and loud purring 
  9. I’m thankful that my job will allow me to travel to the west coast, which will give me more opportunities to see my family and friends
  10. I’m thankful for the sunshine today – it helped me wake up with a more positive outlook

What are you grateful for today?

Friday Inspiration

I am going to start posting images, quotes, something short on Friday that inspires me to think positive. What inspires you? If you do not have an answer to that question, then find an answer this weekend. What makes you feel good? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Who do you love? What do you appreciate most about your loved ones?

 

 

Goal Assessment: Like Climbing A Mountain

Sometimes goals can be daunting. Either because the end result seems so far out of reach, because we have no clear path to get to where we want to go, or we do not feel we have the resources to get there. Maybe we just lack time to properly think about our goals and how to achieve them. Goals are meant to be a stretch. If every goal was easy, life would be boring. Similar to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, with proper training, preparation, and an internal drive, you can absolutely summit your mountain.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is all about focusing on solutions and positive strengths. Problems exist. SFBT is not the absence of problems but is the focus on what works. Similar to getting to your goal: focus on what works, build on your strengths and existing resources, keep assessing where you are at toward achieving your goal, and keep figuring out what you need to do to continually move forward. Step by step. Poli poli, which in Swahili means slowly slowly. Going poli poli is sometimes the only way to get to the summit. Do not let the pace of achieving your goal discourage you.

For example, I have struggled with my weight since I was a child. Labeling myself “big-boned” always seemed to be an acceptable excuse for why I was not where I wanted to be physically. As a two-time Ironman triathlon finisher, I know I am an athlete capable of surmounting intense physical challenges, but I have not always felt like I look like the athlete that I am. I greatly dislike that part of me. I want to wear shorts and jeans and not worry about my tummy rolling over the top of my pants. I want to wear dresses in the summer without the constant fear of inner-thigh chaffing. I want to be free of my addiction to food that does not heal and sustain me. This goal has always felt a little like climbing a giant mountain, maybe more like Everest instead of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I have had some past success with weight loss, so I know I can be successful, but currently, I am not succeeding. My hope is to use what I have learned about Solution-Focused Therapy to apply the principles to my own journey.

Goal #1: Become the athlete that I am, both inside and out, which means eating healthier, losing weight, and exercising more.

Step 1: get clarity on my goals and my resources…

Goal Assessment Questionnaire:

1.) What goal would you most like to achieve right now?

I want to be healthier. I recently lost 20 pounds on a food study, which provided all my meals. The study eliminated my choices so I was forced to eat healthy. I felt good and enjoyed the food, but after being out of the study for five months, I have slowly gained about 9 pounds back. Including the 9 pounds, I have about 37-42 pounds to lose to be at a healthy weight for my height. I also know that losing weight helps me to run faster. A long-time goal of mine has been to consistently run a 10 minute mile pace for a long-distance run, like a half marathon. Losing 10 pounds correlates with a minute-per-mile loss on my pace when I run. For example, when I was 160, I was closer to a 10 minute mile. At 170, I ran about an 11 minute mile. Edging toward the 180s, I am at about a 12 minute mile now, and last summer when I was in the 190s, I ran a 13 minute mile. I also want to feel good in shorts and a tank top. Boston summers can be hot and humid, so wearing less clothing is essential. I want to feel good wearing less.

2.) On a scale of 1-10, where 10 means you have achieved the above goal and 1 is no progress has been made toward achieving your goal, where would you rate yourself right now?

I think I am at a 3 or a 4 toward achieving my goal. For the sake of the scale, I will lay claim to a 3.

3.) What qualities and knowledge do you currently possess that will help you achieve your goal? Please list all that apply:

I have succeeded in losing weight before. I know what foods are good for me and what foods are bad for me. I am an online member of Weight Watchers, which has worked for me in the past. I love to exercise and know how to set up a fitness plan that includes both weight lifting and cardio. I just received training on Solution-Focused therapy. I have skills that I just need to apply.

4.) What qualities will you need to gain or learn in order to achieve your goal? Please list all that apply:

I need to learn more about my triggers. Why do I want to eat certain bad foods? Why do I feel compelled to over-eat? Why don’t I follow through on what works and say no to myself when I’ve reached my point limits on Weight Watchers? What do I gain emotionally from eating unhealthy foods and filling my belly to over-capacity?

5.) What would need to happen to raise your current rating on the scale above by one point?

I would need to start planning my meals again and be more aware of my food choices. Maybe asking myself if I really want the food I am about to eat would be helpful too. Maybe also slowing down when I eat by taking time to chew and savor each bite so I allow my body time to let me know I am full.

6.) Who are the most important people in your life who can help you achieve your goal?

My sister, my partner, my friends, my family, my coworkers, my therapist, the Connect Community on Weight Watchers.

7.) How can each person mentioned in question 6 help you achieve your goal? Please describe how each person can help you individually:

My sister: we live together and she has been helpful in getting me to exercise. She can also encourage me to make better choices.

My partner: when we schedule time to workout in the morning, I actually get up and get to the gym, which helps set my day on the right path with eating and managing my food choices.

My family: my grandpa is very active and encourages me to get moving; my dad could help send my bikes to me so I can start training for local triathlons again.

My friends: some of my friends have already been successful in losing weight and others are on their own weight loss journey, we could be more supportive of each other and encourage each other by checking in and sharing what works.

My coworkers: they can be supportive of me walking on my lunch break or exercising after work. Also, I could find other coworkers to walk with (accountability always works for me).

Therapist: this blog is actually something she encouraged me to do. By publicly writing about my goal and being my first “client,” I can hopefully grow and continue to develop my skills as a counselor.

Weight Watchers Connect Community: Connect is basically a social media tool for those losing weight. The success stories and encouragement are incredibly helpful to me. There is also accountability in sharing my goals publicly. Connect allows me to post pictures, share blurbs about my journey and learn tips from those succeeding in losing weight.

8.) Are there any other resources that you will need to help achieve your goal, if so, please list them below:

Follow through. I have set goals before and have stopped working toward them. I will keep moving forward even when I have minor missteps or failures. Obstacles are just opportunities to persevere.

If you want to join me in some Solution-Focused work, please answer the above questions and email them to me at: livingsolutionfocused@gmail.com. Or if you are feeling particularly brave, write your goal in the comments. If you email me, I will check in with you about your goal (sometimes accountability is all we need).

Best Hopes

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is all about looking at the strengths of a person or a situation. I have recently completed a training course on SFBT and am excited to apply this theory more fully to my life and thoughts. As an adolescent, I used to journal about my life. The act was not only therapeutic but helped me to make discoveries about persistent patterns of thoughts and behaviors. Blogging is journaling in a public arena. My best hopes for this blog are that I can find a more concrete way to apply SFBT to my life in a holistic manner. I want to discover how SFBT can be applied to my career in fundraising, my weight loss journey, my relationships, and my overall interaction with the world.

Let the journey begin…