The Greatest Gift

Since his first grandson was born, my father and I pack the car with gifts and travel north to spend Christmas with my brother and his family. Work is extra busy each December and with limited time, I never bother to find a tree or decorate our house. Arriving at our destination on December 23, we find their tree is trimmed, stockings hung, and baking completed. Time is spent distracting the little ones with long walks or make believe games to keep their anticipation in check until Christmas morning when gleeful exuberance erupts sending scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon flying, but this year our holiday hosts set off to tour warmer climates, and Dad, at 84 (and not in great health), didn’t feel up for the trip. As the others planned their adventure, I felt frustrated, knowing I couldn’t leave Dad behind, but yearning to join their holiday adventure. What would the season bring without the children here to make it merry and bright?

It turns out, despite the chill of winter, this Christmas has been one of the most enjoyable and memorable in a long time. I didn’t realize how much I’d been given by staying behind. I selected and trimmed the tree. I hung lights around the windows. I planned meals full of our favorite foods while listening to old fashioned Christmas songs by Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole. At night, Dad and I sit by the fire, admire the tree, and remark on the pictures streaming through my tablet of the grandchildren splashing in the waves at a beach far away. We’ve reviewed our year, reminisced about Christmases past, and begun looking forward to what will come. This Christmas might very well be Dad’s last, and the peace we’ve enjoyed together has been a true delight. I realize that I’m not missing out on a tropical paradise, everyone else is missing out on the beauty, joy, and gratitude of home. My special Christmas with Dad has been the greatest gift I could imagine.

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Weighed Down

I couldn’t admit how much weight I had gained, until I decided to lose it. My girth began expanding last spring after I couldn’t run long distances due to a foot issue. Exercise continued to be part of my day, but an hour of low or no impact movement doesn’t come close to matching the calorie burn of a six or eight mile run. My clothes looked and felt awkward, and I didn’t have the same stamina, but I blamed my over 40 body telling myself there was nothing I could do. BIG LIE. I refused to admit the truth: I was getting FAT!

My sister visited and we took a dip in the ocean one warm sunny day. Her photos showed the me I refused to see. I quickly pushed away the reality of my largess until a few weeks later when my brother’s wife sent photos of me in the garden with my niece during their visit. Wearing one of my favorite tank tops, I look like I was playing dress up in a fat suit. That couldn’t be me! My vacation was coming up, and it required a bathing suit. I stopped ignoring the problem and took action.

Using an app called Lose It! I tracked my eating. After one week of logging my food intake, I could see the problem was not cookies and ice cream. Mostly, I was eating healthy foods-just too much of them. My servings were too large, and my snacking was out of control. “It’s only yogurt,” I told myself until I noticed that 3 Chobani in a day adds up to 480 calories.

The second week, I began measuring servings and made adjustments including reducing my previous 3 servings of cereal each morning to a single 1 cup serving. I also reduced my orange juice intake from 8 ounces to 4 ounces. Then, I skipped my mid morning snack (usually a yogurt) and made sure to have a good lunch. By choosing healthy foods, I could eat a 350-400 calorie lunch (veggie roll up w/tofu or tuna sandwich) and feel full. I allowed myself an afternoon snack so that I didn’t feel ravenous by the time the work day ended-again choosing something sensible like an apple (without peanut butter this time!) and I drank a lot more water. For dinner, I tried to keep my calorie count under 500 calories which was easy if I skipped dessert. On the nights I felt like something sweet, I chose fruit, or if I had enough calories to spare, I’d treat myself to a Chobani (switching yogurt to a reward food rather than a standard go to.)

Did I mess up some days? Of course, especially in the early weeks. The Lose It! app summed up how I did, and during the first three weeks, I regularly passed my total weekly calories by 750 or more. Since I didn’t want to decrease my food intake, I found ways to increase my exercise. My goal was to burn 400 calories each day, and I got creative. Stretching counts. Finding reasons to go up and down the stairs over and over counts. Doing jumping jacks while waiting for someone is a good use of time, and raking leaves achieves multiple purposes. Most days I was able to burn my 400 calorie goal.

When faced with an irresistible cookies, I allowed myself two rather than chowing the entire bag. The exceptions to my good behavior were Thanksgiving dinner, and tonight when I had reached my calorie limit for the day, but I couldn’t stop myself from enjoying a serving of Sea Salt Caramel ice cream. I’m 240 calories over for the day, so I’ll stretch and maybe do some abdominal work before bed. I’ll be more mindful tomorrow.

The good news is that I’m seeing results. In seven weeks, I lost 7 pounds. I feel great. My clothes fit, and I don’t have to suck in my gut anymore. I’d like to lose 3 more pounds before vacation, but even if I don’t get there, I’m happy with how I look. Just knowing I can achieve this goal keeps me motivated.

Anyone out there hoping to lose weight, my advice is to recognize that you’ve taken on a significant goal. Acknowledge that getting fit and healthy takes hard work and discipline. Stay focused. You can do it! Remember that looking in the mirror at your accomplishment feels better than most food tastes.