The Making of a Soldier’s Mom

We all know that mothers have an important job and we put in a lot time, work, and dedication. There are all kinds of mothers and everyone has one—it’s the most common denominator we all share. Being a mother of three has been a rollercoaster of a ride so far—thrilling, scary, and fun. Like with all parents, I want the best for my kids and hope they go off on their own one day to live happy, healthy lives. That time came for me last week with child #2—the first to fly from the nest. And just like the first day of kindergarten where mom is tearfully dropping their kid off at school, I tearfully did the same when my son left for the Army basic training. 

He swore in on October 1st with a ship date of November 13th. The excitement was overwhelming at first and then it turned to anxiety—but in a good way, if there is such a thing. I really only know what I’ve seen in movies and hearsay from others about boot camp. I understand the process of “breaking” the enlisted recruit and then building them back up again. This is why the process is tough and training can be grueling, but necessary nonetheless. However, this was MY son venturing into that atmosphere. The thought of breaking his spirit was distressing. The thought of breaking his bad habits…well, that didn’t worry me so much.

He is the one who could literally sleep all day and would now have to get up at 5 am. The one who would sleep on a bare mattress rather than put on sheets would now have to make his bed every single day. The one found in the kitchen quietly making a quesadilla at midnight would now have to eat when scheduled. He is the very one who averaged a thirty-minute saunter to a high school that was only a ten-minute walk away—and he will now be running miles. In short, whatever discipline is called for in basic training, he was the polar opposite. 

The remarkable thing is that he knew he needed the discipline and challenge. That alone makes me a very proud mom. He recognized the qualities of becoming a solder and what it would do for him. This was about realizing that life needs direction, even if you aren’t sure which way you’re going—you need to keep moving. He talked the talk all day long about his future, but now he was actually doing something about it.

It’s been a week since I said good-bye, with only a brief phone call to say he arrived safely. My thoughts are filled with how he’s adjusting to his new life, even though I understand he really hasn’t begun training yet. It’s the getting up and moving about with the rest of us day-walkers that he has to get accustomed to. And, he knows he will have to bury his sarcasm (yes, that’s from me), his smirk (probably from me too), and joking his way out of confrontation (yea, there’s a pattern here). For the most part, I can empathize with what he’s going through. The drill instructors do too, but they couldn’t care less about what his feelings are about getting up early or training—and they certainly don’t tolerate sassiness or dickering on how the day is structured. They have a job to do and know what it takes to get it done. They have a solder to make.

I have some basic training of my own to do during this time as I know my job parenting is done. I’ll always be his mother, but I understand that this is a new chapter in HIS life— and I will let him be the adult that he is. There is no need to interject my opinions and advice about his choices without him asking. I will be encouraging and listen with interest to what he’s willing to share. I will learn more about the intricate nature of the Army and all its terminology. And, I will write letters even though they will probably outnumber his ten-to-one. 

In short, I will be here knowing he is doing what he needs to do with his life. He knows he has my support, love, and encouragement—and care packages…the boy man is going to need his chocolate. 

HOOAH!

The Ambivalent Night Owl

So, we passed through the tough part of creating good habits, measuring out our foods, and keeping track of our intake—we’re feeling pretty good. We have more energy and are thrilled to see the changes taking place in our body—both in weight and shape. Then something happened. We unexpectedly fell into one of those healthy sleep schedules—the kind experts call good sleep hygiene.

Obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It can also improve productivity and overall quality of life.

National Sleep Foundation

I say it was unexpected because we are hard-core night owls, going to sleep anywhere from 1:00 am to 2:00 am—getting anywhere from four to six hours of sleep. Now we are powering down by 10:30, or even earlier sometimes.  We now know what a sunrise looks like without the aid of an Instagram feed. When my eyes pop open around 6:00, I get up to enjoy some quiet time with my coffee, see our daughter before she slugs off to school, and then maybe do a little yoga. Michael gets up by 7:00 (or earlier) and laces up his shoes to go for a two-mile walk/run.

We have never been able to process the idea of morning people. We are refusing to call ourselves that as we are not yet qualified.  We don’t get up and start our day energetic and singing with the birds. We just get up. We don’t talk. We may even avoid eye-contact. As far as we are concerned, nothing has happened yet, so what is there to talk about? That, my friends, is a grizzled night owl out of its comfort zone. We don’t know how to behave in morning air—suspicious of the sights, sounds, and smells. 

The talking usually starts about an hour into the morning and it’s starting to feel more natural as the days go by and we repeat the process—proving it’s not a fluke. We do a lot things before breakfast such as he’ll meditate, do some reading, and write in his journal. I’ll pop open my Design Home app and create a beautifully decorated room (it’s for creativity purposes), work on a story or blog post I’m writing, and compile a menu for the day. The best part is sitting down for breakfast together before he starts his work day (which is here at home, fortunately). All sorts of things get discussed and oddly enough with good humor, even if it deals with the kids. 

We find that our day feels so much longer and the only downside is waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.

Retain Your Individuality and Be Yourself

I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or just mind over matter, however I am finding that I am not nearly as judgmental as I used to be—about almost everything. I came across a quote from Gwyneth Paltrow: “The older I get, the more open-minded I get [and] the less judgmental I get.” In my 20s and 30s, I would readily look at someone and sum up who I thought they were and the personality that went with their behavior. More often than not, it wasn’t flattering.

Women have a talent for noticing other females as they walk by. We can tell you what someone is wearing from head-to-toe, with just a glance. It’s not always used for judgment purposes, it’s just something we do instinctively, I think. What I’ve noticed about myself lately is I don’t harbor any cynical thoughts about what a woman chooses to do with her personal style. I have a greater appreciation for how women present themselves and it’s overall admiration. Is that maturity on my part? I’m not sure, but let’s call it that.

I started to think about the reversal of that and the feeling of being judged by others. While we were out this past weekend, I wondered if women looked at me and judged who I am by how I looked. Did they assume that I didn’t have any issues with my weight and have always been a size six—that it came easy for me? That I must not have any children who seem to be blamed for mothers not taking care of ourselves.  That I don’t care about how my hair looks because…well, let’s just say humidity isn’t my friend. Of course, I assume too much and perhaps not a single person even noticed me. However, being a female, I know how women think—not all women by any means, just in general. 

I’m not quite on board with the “I don’t care what people think” school of thought just yet, but I’m working on it. I wonder if someone is judging me for my nose piercing or if they think my breasts must be fake or that my shirt is inappropriately low-cut or my leather pants are a bit much to have dinner at the local taco joint. It’s is a full-blown job being comfortable in my own skin and having these thoughts don’t help. And why should I care what others think?

I shouldn’t.

It’s discouraging and brings down my confidence. We women have enough to deal with and need to feel a sense of camaraderie with those who would understand—judgey-judy doesn’t wear well on anyone. I want to project what I feel on the inside by how I look on the outside. Some days I feel sexy, on some I feel energetic, and on some I feel impossibly introverted. So I will wear the sexy low-cut top, or cut-off shorts with a cute t-shirt—and on the introverted days, I may just stay home in yoga pants and a tank top (but they’ll coordinate!).

My best friend—someone I’ve known since childhood—is enviously comfortable with who she is. It’s the most beautiful thing about her. If she wants to dance in the middle of the grocery store parking lot to a song blaring from a car driving by, she’s gonna dance. If she wants to wear a short, black dress cut down to her navel with high heels to the aforementioned taco joint, she’s gonna rock that look. You will notice immediately that she loves who she is as a woman.

And, she has never been the judgmental type, with always a positive thing to say about everyone—no matter what. The topless, drunk girl at the festival doing cartwheels? “Well, okay then…you go girl!” I love this about her and being in her presence encourages me to be the same. In fact, it makes me feel good about myself. The difference between us is that she may do a cartwheel too, whereas I wouldn’t want the attention it would provide—oh, the judgment. (Just kidding, I wouldn’t do the cartwheel as I did it once a few years ago and thought I was going to die. My insides felt like I stirred everything up with an old, wooden spoon.)

The goal is to not apologize for who I am and not care what others may think of me. The only person I need to answer to is myself. I know this. And because I know this, it is something I will work to correct it as the feeling of being limited for fear of judgment is exhausting. I want to be as comfortable in public as I am at home with my family. 

I do encourage my 15-year-old daughter to be confident with who she is and express her personality however she wants—with age appropriate limits, of course. She’s better than me about not worrying what people will think. I do step in when she is about to leave the house in a shirt that looks like she practiced origami with it before putting it on. However, I let her wear it if that’s what she wants. Maybe it’s a style or maybe it’s laziness, but either way, it’s her choice. Rock that wrinkled shirt!

“Always be yourself. Retain individuality; listen to the truest part of yourself.”

~Marilyn Monroe

The Devil Isn’t The Only One In Prada

So maybe I don’t wear Prada, but the devil shouldn’t have all the fashion fun. One of the fabulous benefits of weight loss is the need to go shopping for new clothes. I’m not a huge fan of shopping (unless it’s books or antiquing) and don’t venture into malls as a fun way to kill time. However, this was an exciting excursion and I was curious what size I would be needing. I have to mention, I don’t think we really understand what size we are until we’re in the dressing room—and it varies sometimes on the store you’re in. 

My first stop is always White House Black Market. It isn’t because they have beautiful clothes and great sales—it’s the personal stylist that comes with every visit.  No need to be a celebrity to have you’re own stylist here. When I’m in WHBM, I know that they get me and I never feel pressured. My love for this store started one day last December when Charnel walked into my life—or fitting room, as it were.

Charnel is a stylist for WHBM in their Millenia Mall location here in Orlando—a petite woman with a lot of personality and personal style—and, she is fabulous! I had ventured to the fitting room area with a few things and she was there to get me settled. The first thing she asked was my shoe size. I didn’t come in for shoes, but that wasn’t her point. She told me that the only way to determine whether the outfit worked is if I was completed assembled. Charnel was right—it made a huge difference. When I came out of the fitting room to show Michael the outfit, he was floored. 

“You’re getting those shoes! And everything else you’re wearing!”

“Shoes transform your body language and attitude. They lift you physically and emotionally.” – Christian Louboutin

The shoes were a dark blue, patent leather high-heel that seemed to go with everything. Charnel was there to offer her advice when I stepped out and had a few other items in her hand for me. With Michael’s reaction and the good vibes emanating from being in some sexy shoes, I was feeling good. I didn’t readily like what Charnel handed me, but I tried it on anyway. Not only did everything fit perfectly (without her asking my size), but I loved it. This happened several times within the next hour, well past closing time—I hadn’t even realized and no one said a word. However, I quickly apologized when I realized I had stayed so long. 

I didn’t leave with the shoes as my frugal nature allowed only the two pairs of pants and three tops—besides, I had some black heels to go with the skin-hugging, black pants I purchased. 

So naturally, when I was down twenty pounds in weight, I knew where I wanted to go. Charnel was already busy with another client, so another stylist named Kim helped me. She wasn’t as spunky as Charnel, but super helpful. And like my previous visit, I was brought some sexy shoes to try on with my outfits. I laughed when Kim brought me some skin-tight, black leather-like pants in a size four. Just like Charnel said back in December, Kim said, “Trust me.” They fit! Mostly because they were stretchy, but let me tell you, I haven’t worn size four since I was four. 

Charnel popped her head in to check on me constantly, she cheered me on and made suggestions. Her personality is so contagious and she has a way of making you feel like a rock star. Although Kim did an amazing job styling me, Charnel is my spirit animal (as the saying goes). I left with the size four pants, two small tops, two pairs of jeans in size six—and the sexy sandals Kim suggested. I haven’t worn the “leather” pants yet, but I definitely will. 

Having clothes that fit you properly is essential in feeling good about how you look. Sometimes you need a stylist to show you the possibilities, if not, take a friend whose style you admire. I have deliberately avoided the usual choices I make with clothes and try on things that I normally wouldn’t. There is no “age-appropriate” clothing when it comes to how you want to look and feel. When I look in that fitting room mirror, I have more appreciation for what I have worked for and like what I see. 

To make room for the new clothes, it was time to get rid of those size 10-12 items from my wardrobe. At my daughter’s suggestion, we went to Platos Closet—apparently they’ll pay you for clothes in good condition. They didn’t select very many of the items I brought in, mostly the purses and wallets (there was no joy sparked from them anymore, so they had to go too). But, I left there spending far more than they gave me.  I should mention that I was against buying resale many years ago, before I learned the absolute comfort of a worn-in pair of jeans. The reality is that if you go to a reputable resale shop, their selection of clothes are usually in excellent condition, or may even have the original tags still on them. I actually picked up a WHBM top, new with the tags, just a few days ago at one of my favorite resale shops. 

So again, don’t continue to wear clothes that don’t fit you. It will completely taint how you feel about yourself. When I was growing in weight, I reluctantly bought clothes in the appropriate size, but felt better about how I looked—the muffin-top isn’t a style I appreciate for myself. When my weight went the other way, I bought a few things that fit better rather than wear something that made me feel frumpy. This isn’t about what others may think of me, but how I wanted to feel when I left my house. If you feel good wearing tank tops and pajama pants, then do so. It’s all about what makes you feel good. 

“A woman is never sexier than when she is comfortable in her clothes.”

– Vera Wang

If Being Snarky Was A Calorie Burner…

I have been basking in the glow of my 25 pound loss this past week—up until this morning. I feel a tad bit grouchy and disappointed with the scale that obviously isn’t getting on board with reaching my new weight goal. The clever chart on my app that monitors my progress for the month looks like a cardiogram. I know better having done all the work to get from 160 to 135 pounds. There were times when the scale seemed to be malfunctioning and I had to check the battery, and maybe give it a kick or two. My weight seems to fluctuate for a period of time, thus resulting in my attitude being quite snarky. 

During these times, I behave as if I don’t care anymore about the weight loss—and not in a good way. I say a lot of bad words (to the scale, mostly) and unsuccessfully not take it out on those around me. Not mature, I know—however, I never claimed to be. What I don’t do is brush off my healthy eating habits or go out and get my favorite ice cream—Bluebell’s Pistachio, laden with an inappropriate amount of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. I treat the day as any other and measure out the food portions, log everything I eat in my app, and keep my body moving. You know, kind of like your teenager having to do chores while mumbling under her breath how much she hates you. 

And, just like clockwork, four to five, or maybe even six days later, I’m down another pound toward my goal. It’s all rainbows and butterflies and I’m skipping in the sunshine—life is perfect. Then, I have some fences to mend around the house as my family seems to be a bit hesitant to engage. So maybe yes, I do get rather snarky. I did it this morning when Michael suggested I get my body moving more. I know he’s trying to help and has only my best interest at heart. 

What he said: “You should think about adding more exercise to help burn off some of the weight you want to lose. Get your heart rate up with some cardio.” 

What I heard was: “If you get off your ass more and exercise, perhaps you’ll lose the weight.”

I even added something along the line of “Yea, I’ll run a marathon and probably lose nothing.” I was on the offensive and there was no reason to be as he knows that I’m actively working toward my goals. I’m just not actively exercising as much as I should if I want better results. I do know that snarky, negative comments do nothing for my weight loss.

But, oh if they did…

Too Many Books in the Kitchen

As a book lover, I believe you can never have too many books—hoarder or not. In the genre of cooking, I’m wondering if my collection has become somewhat excessive (or is it obsessive?). In the quest for healthy eating, I spend an enormous amount of time flipping through cookbooks looking for new recipes. The problem is everything looks so delicious! I have been successful in creating a menu for a week’s worth of meals twice in the past few months. Those other weeks, the menu looks like an editor took to my work and hated everything. I’m constantly changing my mind because there’s something that pops up that looks better than what I’ve planned. 

The cookbook I have turned to most is Milk Street’s Tuesday Nights and it’s fantastic. I’m not sure how many recipes are in there, but I think I’ve covered at least a third of them so far this past month. When we brought it home, we sat down and turned each page, marking the ones we wanted to try—green tabs for him and orange for me. Yes, we are nerds—chef nerds. What I love is that there is no set category, i.e. American, French, Italian, etc. I made a Palestinian Crispy Herb Omelet for breakfast and Chicken in Chipotle Sauce for dinner (they actually used pork chops in the book, but I’m shifty like that). 

Now, this doesn’t include the ten other cookbooks on my counter (eight in the cabinet), magazines in the drawer, and internet websites I use. I love to cook, so all of this is stimulating for me. The only anxiety I feel is waiting for Michael to take that first bite. If I don’t hear any words come out of his mouth and he continues eating, I’ve done well. If he says, “Interesting,” then it can go either way. If he literally licks the plate, then the recipe gets a gold star. He’s a trooper and will eat absolutely anything I put in front of him. The only exception is when chicken breast is in any way soft—it has to be thin and firm. I’ve learned this, so I don’t make that mistake anymore. It makes me feel like I’ve failed all humanity when food gets put in the trash. He never makes me feel bad as he knows it’s his personal preference—but, a little bit of my soul dies like any other chef who disappoints. 

The essential element to any purchased cookbook is that the ingredients are attainable. I’m a frugal shopper as it is and already go to three different grocery stores each week—yes, three. One is a local farmer’s market with a large variety of fruits and vegetables on one side; and meats, poultry, and seafood on the other. The second is a regular grocery store for all the ancillary items like seasonings, oils, dairy, paper products, etc. The third is a specialty store similar to Whole Foods, called Lucky’s Market. If I want garam marsala, tamarind paste, or some unique organic item—they have it. I also love that I can get red or green lentils, sesame seeds, coconut flour—or whatever they have in a snazzy dispenser—by the ounce or pound. 

If the book’s recipes call for some weird ingredient like hunza apricots, kiwano (it’s a thing), or tears of a mountain goat—it doesn’t come home. And, I don’t order food from the internet. Call it old fashioned, but that’s unnatural to me. I welcome any persuasive arguments you have to convince me otherwise.

The bonus to all of this is having made some sensational and delicious discoveries for my food palate. Most of my meals before we started eating healthier consisted of Mexican food or something breaded and fried. Mexican food hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just made healthier now (if only in my mind). But, I’ve discovered I like turmeric, curry, and even tofu—among many other flavors and textures. I continue to dislike thyme in any form or fashion. If the recipe calls for any amount of it, I’m only putting 1/8 of a teaspoon…maybe. 

I do think having a variety is key to keeping your diet fun and interesting. Our daughter refers to all of our meals as being rabbit food, but healthy isn’t just about salads and fruits. It’s making dishes with fresh ingredients and being smart about how they’re prepared. Michael had a southern craving for fried green tomatoes and being the good guru of a chef that I am, I made baked green tomatoes. Not only were they delicious, but had a better crunch than the fried variety. Mix up a little avocado oil mayo, yogurt, ranch dressing seasoning, and chipotle peppers with adobo sauce—you have yourself a dip.

So, don’t see eating healthy as limiting. There are always ways to get around to your favorite dishes. You just have to find a few good recipes—or be like me with 19 cookbooks, six magazines, and the never-ending world wide web. 

Having My Cake and Eating It (But Only the Serving Size)

The goal has been achieved! After months of hard work by way of not stuffing my face every chance I got, I have reached my target weight. I’m down twenty-five pounds!  I know it may sound silly, but I worked hard for this by choosing wisely not only what to eat, but how much. I thumbed my way through a collection of cookbooks, magazines, and websites, making most of my meals at home. I also measured out everything—yes, everything. I can honestly say I’ve never been more dedicated to any cause. I’ve transformed my eating habits, lowered my weight, and improved how I feel about myself. 

October 2019 – 135 lbs
March 2019 – 160 lbs

This isn’t for everyone, I know. Most will say it’s too much work, or that they don’t like the restrictions. Well, it is a lot of work—at first, but then it becomes a daily habit. The same kind of habit we create when we have a bagel laden with strawberry cream cheese every morning with our Almond Joy Creamer and coffee. I’m not saying don’t have these things, but are you measuring out the cream cheese and creamer to the recommended serving size? This is the key to all of this weight loss—moderation.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, don’t say you’ve tried everything if you haven’t controlled your food intake. Yes, measuring out all the ingredients in a recipe and how much you serve yourself is a huge pain, but only at first. If it helps, I played a little mental trick to see if I could guess the weight of the food before weighing it. We all like to be right, don’t we? Absurd? Maybe, but I lost the weight I wanted.

When it comes to “restricting” myself, I did choose to remove most added sugars from my diet. Which wasn’t an issue as I really didn’t drink a lot of sodas, nor did I eat a lot of sweets overall. I had that slice of chocolate cake drizzled with caramel at a birthday celebration last month—I just had a smaller piece than I normally would have (and I did lick the plate). I did have delicious burgers with a soft, sweet Hawaiian buns, but I planned for it. In fact, I enjoyed everything I ate over the past three months. I controlled what and how much I consumed without the limitations of Keto, Paleo, or any of the other diet plans. And, I’m not vegan, vegetarian, or any other specific classification out there. I was smart with my choices.

I have been this weight before (years ago), but it isn’t the same. And, I don’t think I appreciated it as much. However, it’s more than the weight, it’s knowing that I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. When your daily intake of food consists of only fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains that I put together myself, how could it not be? I know what’s going in my food and I can pronounce every ingredient. We have eaten meals out as well, but put more thought into our choices. When the scale reflected those dinners out the next day, we didn’t sweat it because we knew we were on the right track overall.

The best part is that Michael and I are doing this together—which does make everything so much easier. It helps when you have a moment of weakness, don’t feel like measuring out all the ingredients, or even cooking for that matter! In the end, I am accountable to myself, but it helps he looks to me for motivation. He reached his goal too and gives me most of the credit as I make all our meals. He does help in the kitchen sometimes as he loves to use our fancy, new knife to chop, dice, and julienne. Michael also measures out our snacks and puts them into little baggies—nuts, wasabi peas, veggie puff-thingies, and whatever else that isn’t laden with sugar. 

yogajournal.com

I’d like to say my yoga exercise was a factor, but it really wasn’t. A few of weeks went by with no yoga after I strained an already hurt arm being ambitious with a pose. It was that backbend I did with ease when I was a wee younger—a million times—and was successful until the arm gave way. I’ve just gotten back into the grove, but still can’t do a lot of the poses as intended.

We do fit daily walks into our schedule, especially after dinner. Exercise and/or movement does need to happen in some form or fashion. It’s a great time for us to talk to each other without any distractions. I’m pretty sure we have a vacation planned out now.

All this to say, I did it. I promise you that I was the laziest of people when it came to healthy eating—not bad, but not smart. My weakness is Mexican food and I have found ways to keep enjoying it. In the end, it’s all a matter of what you’re willing to do. When you start seeing results, you’ll wonder why it took you so long. 

My Memory Palace is Cluttered.

I’ve been reading a book by Mary-Louise Parker called Dear Mr. You. It’s an epistolary-style memoir with a series of letters directed toward people in Parker’s life that have influenced, inspired, or simply pissed her off in some form or fashion. I’m thoroughly enjoying the concept and her style of writing—especially liking the idea of displaying gratitude, regrets, and even gaining some closure. Things we all experience and appreciate. And because I like it so much, I’ve started writing down a list of people I’d like to write a letter to, but not send. The notion is rather therapeutic, which I feel is the idea anyway.  It will get all these things out of my head that are just sitting around in my memory palace—cluttering the rooms and making me step over them constantly. 

There is one lady I would write to for sure. Once explained, I will sound crazy and there won’t be taking it back. However, her behavior twenty-two years ago still affects me today. Isn’t it insane to let someone, a stranger, get to you for so long? I’m not saying this is on a daily basis, but when the memory is triggered, I feel the same as I did back then. I’ll explain.

My friend and I decided to get rid of clutter in our homes and have a collective garage sale. Neither of us had a yard, much less a garage to hold said sale. We joined forces with my friend’s coworker who not only had a garage, but a large yard in a great neighborhood. Each of us had our own little section of the property to sell our loot and the buyers came in herds. It was madness and I felt overwhelmed from the beginning.  We had garage sales growing up, but I was never in charge or handled the money. It’s kind of awkward exchanging money with people for things you don’t want in your life anymore, but they have to have. On the flip side, it makes me feel self-conscious when nothing is purchased, like you’re somehow judged on your goods. 

Anyway, in steps a Cuban lady (this is Miami, by the way) who decides to buy my shower curtain and rings, among a few other things. She proceeds to start negotiations—all her offers were significantly lower than I had the items labeled.  I think she felt that the quantity of items should be rewarded with the price of just one item. We went back and forth with me saying no and her persisting. She even resorted to disparaging the items I was selling with erroneous claims. She was a bully. It wasn’t as if I was ready to call it quits after a long day—we had just started! I have to hand it to her though, she kept at it, getting louder and more pushy until she finally broke me.

What still gets me to this day was my inability to flatly say no and walk away. That I let her push me, control my emotions, and make me feel weak in those few minutes. Do I blame her for my faults? No. I want to thank her for making me feel that way to help me succeed in any future dealings I encountered. I want to thank her for being so utterly obnoxious that I know how to handle someone who behaves the same way. 

I know it’s ridiculous to hold onto this memory and let it affect me—but, I told you it would sound insane. We all have little triggers that take us back in time, affecting us emotionally—good or bad. If I verbally told anyone about this woman I no doubt will hear, “Are you kidding me? Get over it.”  They would be right, and I am over it—mostly. 

So, that’s my thought process while reading Dear Mr. You–write letters to people, both significant and inconsequential. My list has about ten people on it already, and grew by one while writing this post. It was my photography teacher in high school. I need to apologize for forging his name on a tardy slip. I was rather rude when he kindly asked me about it, as if it was his fault. The expression on his face when I snapped at him still haunts me.

See? This is the kind of shit still cluttering up my brain and it needs to be filed away—never to be thought of again.

What Are You Putting In Your Mouth?

You know how we find something that interests us and become obsessed? We live and breathe it, no doubt annoying everyone with the constant monologuing and social media posts. We have become those people when it comes to what foods go into our daily diet. My Instagram feed is full of photos of our meals, and conveniently, Facebook duplicates them for that feed. Then there’s the commenting on every post that involves food, detailing why they aren’t good for you—making you ponder on whether or not to unfriend us. It’s a risk we take given our fascination with just how many people have it wrong about what’s healthy and how to knock off those extra pounds.

​”I’ve tried everything! I can’t lose the weight!”
Honesty, have you really?

“Dieting is too hard. I don’t want to be restricted.”
What about self-restraint on portion sizes?

“I don’t have the time to prepare healthy meals.”
Conservatively, you’re awake 16 hours in a day, are you sure?

“Healthy foods are too expensive.”
Are your medical fees and supplements cheaper?

There are so many more “reasons” people use for not eating better and I have a response to all of them.  If you avoid pretty much everything in the middle of the grocery store, you’d really be better off. All you have to do is control your ingredients…or, at least make better choices on those prepared foods. ​

We rejoice in the fact we feel better and that we’ve lost most of the inches grown over the past few years from all those bad food decisions. All it took was dishing out only the recommended serving sizes when we eat and cutting out as many added sugars as possible. There is a tendency to fill plates with even the healthiest of foods rather than thinking about quality over quantity.

Eating salads and snacking on granola bars isn’t exactly healthy if the salad is laden with dressing and the granola bar has added sugars. Here are two examples of salad dressing and a granola bar. Aside from the sugar added, there is a slew of ingredients most can’t pronounce. 

Ranch Dressing: Vegetable Oil, Water, Egg Yolks, Sugar, Salt, Cultured Nonfat Buttermilk, Natural Flavors, Spices, Dried Garlic, Dried Onion, Vinegar, Phosphoric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Modified Food Starch, Monosodium Glutamate, Artificial Flavors, Disodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid and Calcium Disodium EDTA as Preservatives, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate. Gluten free.

If you only use one serving size of two tablespoons, then it’s one-half teaspoon of sugar poured on your salad. 

Oats ’n Honey Granola Bar: Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Canola Oil, Rice Flour, Honey, Salt, Brown Sugar Syrup, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor.

If you only eat one serving size of two bars in a package, then it’s almost four teaspoons of sugar.​

​Let’s say you love ranch dressing and want to make it yourself. I’m pretty sure you can pronounce all of these: mayonnaise, sour cream, dried chives, dried parsley, dried dill weed, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper. Try this recipe for ranch dressing.

Need a snack, here’s what’s in the oats ’n honey granola bar you love so much: dates, honey, natural peanut or almond butter, almonds, rolled oats, and dried fruit. It may take a minute, but try using this recipe

Although honey is considered a sugar, it’s a natural one that offers nutrients and antioxidants. Pure Maple Syrup also falls into that category. Peanut butter containing ONLY peanuts is a good thing. Simply Jiff Peanut Butter has roasted peanuts, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, mono and diglycerides, molassessugar, salt. Again, this is about trying to limit the intake of added sugars that your body doesn’t really know what to do with—and then eventually turns it into fat. 

I have no doubt all this is annoying to think about, but you should. And, this isn’t a “look at me and how great I’m doing” thing. It’s about wanting to share what we know to those we care about. The most common food-related things people post about are:

Sugar-laden Treats – photos of rich cakes, donuts, or various other sweets. Usually oversized.

Food photos – plates filled with delicious meals or monstrous-sized burgers, pizza, etc.

Diets/weight loss – Keto, Mediterranean, Paleo, etc.

Types of Diets
Abs
Acid Alkaline
Anti-Inflammatory
Atkins
Biggest Loser
Body Reset
DASH Diet
Dukan
Eco-Atkins
Engine 2
Fast
Fertility
Flat Belly
Flexitarian
Glycemic-Index
HMR
Jenny Craig
Macrobiotic
Mayo Clinic
Medifast
Mediterranean
MIND Diet
Nutrisystem
Ornish
Paleo
Raw food
Slim Fast
South Beach
SparkPeople
Supercharged Hormone
TLC Diet
Traditional Asian
Vegan
Vegetarian
Volumetrica
Weight Watchers
Whole
Zone

Let’s tackle the diet scene. I can’t even begin to count how emails I get about diets with the notion that this is the ONE for me. I’ve never been a “diet” fan and despise the notion of restrictions–creating menus without diversity. I started looking at some of these diets and learned some basics about each of them. For example:

The Keto Diet: This is the trending diet plan that has essentially replaced formerly popular Atkins. It’s a low carb, high fat claiming to offer many health benefits in addition to losing weight. You drastically reduce your carbs, replacing things such as:

Root vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.

Fruits – all except small amounts of berries.

Beans/Legumes – peas, lentils, chickpeas 

Types of things you can eat:

Meat – steak, ham, sausage, etc.

Cheese – unprocessed cheddar, mozzarella, goat, etc.

Low-carb Veggies – most greens, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.

Do you know how many vitamins and nutrients are in fruits? They are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. There’s a bonus, too…no cholesterol. They may have sugar, but it’s the good kind as it also has fiber—which helps blood cholesterol levels. There is no substitute for what they do for you—so, save your money on vitamins and special juices and embrace this type of carbs. 

The same applies to root vegetables. Sweet potatoes are laden with fiber, vitamin C and A, not to mention antioxidants. And, oh-my-god, don’t sprinkle brown sugar on your sweet potato—because…well…it’s a SWEET potato. By the way, garlic is a root vegetable—think on that one a while. Here’s a guide to help figure it all out.

When it comes to beans and legumes, I’m a selective fan. Nevertheless, I am a fan. So whether I’m eating pinto or black beans, I’m getting my amino acids, protein, antioxidants, iron, fiber, etc. Beans and legumes are good eats and better made fresh at home, but we all do what we “can.” 

Shall I go on? I can tell you’d like me to, so here a couple other diets I explored:

The Paleo Diet – This one advocates eating the same foods that your hunter-gatherer ancestors allegedly ate. The paleo diet consists of eating whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, and seeds. It restricts the consumption of processed foods, grains, sugar, and dairy, though some less restrictive versions allow for some dairy products like cheese. I will say a lot of our meals follow the paleo guidelines and I’m delighted with the recipes. Here’s a website I frequently use that has a ton of fabulous meals you can make. 

The Mediterranean Diet – This one advocates eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, tubers, whole grains, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil.. Foods such as poultry, eggs, and dairy products are to be eaten in moderation—red meats are limited. It does restrict refined grains (white rice or flour), trans fats (frozen pizza/fast food), refined oils (vegetable/canola oil), processed meats, added sugar, and other highly processed foods. Again, a lot of great recipes to add to your menu without having to restrict your entire diet. 

There are literally hundreds of diets to choose from. I find the best way to choose one is to piece it together based on your needs. Don’t completely restrict yourself, but have self-control. There is no right or wrong, just moderation on your portion sizes and sugar intake. I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things we’ve had to do.

We recently watched a documentary-style movie called FED UP.  It’s essentially how we (everyone) have been so wrong about food—in a humorous and informative fashion. The movie claims it will change how we eat and it was a real eye-opener for us. I highly recommend watching it and guarantee you’ll invariably start paying attention to nutrition labels on the foods you buy. The amount of added sugars in almost everything we buy at the grocery store—sans the produce and fresh meats—is overwhelming. The labels of low or fat free, healthy, low-carb, among others, is misleading the public on how much sugar is actually added.

Did you know there are about 56 different names for sugar? ​​​Food companies are finding new ways to add sugar by simply renaming them—sometimes making it seem like a healthy additive. It’s not, so pay attention.

I know our daughter is hating the changes we’ve made as we not only point out all the sugar and unhealthy ingredients in the foods she likes, but we don’t buy most of them anymore. We do get her a few of her favorites things, like Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup to make chocolate milk. However, she has to measure out only a serving size, which is one tablespoon. Her macaroni and cheese is now Annie’s, which has better ingredients than Kraft’s version. We understand she wants the quick and easy meals, not ingredients to make them. However, she also wants a better complexion and more energy to get through her day. The key is involving her in the menu and letting her go through the cookbooks to pick out what she wants to eat. Her school choices are awful and she sent us photos of the healthy foods to show why she won’t bother choosing them. It’s really no wonder kids select pizza, French fries, and hamburgers. And, it’s also no wonder that kids are developing Type II Diabetes and becoming obese. I’ll no doubt have to blog about that, too. In the mean time, I want to make sure she has good choices at home.

I will conclude by saying sorry, not sorry, should you still be reading this post. If just one person gets something from it and attempts to better their diet just a little, I’ve succeeded.  Meanwhile, I will relish in the fact I have lost twenty pounds since we started eating actual portion sizes and limiting added sugars. I will embrace having more energy and the feeling better throughout my day. I will be continue to be assertive with our daughter, not giving up on changing her view of healthier foods. I will persevere in my search for new ways to appreciate asparagus.

​ I will not, however—under any circumstances—find value grapefruit or papaya. They are the fruits of the devil.