Saturday, June 21, 2014

Weight Loss Issues -- (my own perspective)

The issue of weight gain is a deeply sensitive and personal situation for many people, me included. Like many of you, I've gained and lost a ton of weight in my life.  After a while, that starts to get old~

 when looking for weight loss motivational posters, 
I laughed out loud when I found this one --
 this is SO me!!

About 2 years ago, I just happened to mention on one of my blog posts, that I had struggled for many years with my weight and was working hard to keep off the pounds that I had recently lost.  That statement set off what would turn out to be an avalanche of emails from so many of you --- asking how I lost my weight, how I kept it off, asking for my personal weight loss strategies, and in general, asking for support for so many of your own weight issues.

 To many of you, I responded personally-- but as the emails kept coming, I decided that I would post about my weight loss struggles and what was working for me. I promised to do this post -- but then, I lost my nerve, because as I previously said, "this issue of  weight gain is a deeply sensitive and personal issue". Your emails kept coming, so now -- I'm here, (just a tad bit nervous,) but as promised, I will share with you my own perspectives on weight loss, how I made a weight loss plan for myself, how I made it WORK for me, and why it is STILL working for me now -- after almost 8 years.

 Here's my story~
about 10 years ago, I finally got to the point where I was unhappy with my appearance. I was becoming increasingly self conscious about my weight--and, painfully -- someone that I greatly admire, made some callus and unkind remarks to me in reference to my weight.  Even though the statements were true, it hurt.  After some serious reflections, I decided that one way or another, I would do whatever was necessary to lose my excess weight.  

My goal was to lose 60 pounds -- but just saying that out loud was overwhelming. To me -- this was a goal that I felt I was not likely to achieve -- the task seemed daunting.  So -- I made a new goal for myself ----
"My weight next week will be less
than my weight today."
that's it -- that was my goal.
I taped it to the refrigerator door --
my bathroom mirror
and wrote it on the monthly
pages of my day planner. 

 (all motivational photos courtesy of Pinterest)

Like you, I have watched my friends try every fad diet out there.  Watched them all lose weight on the diets and them watch them gain it all back -- because, seriously, you can not live your life on liquid diets, buying manufactured boxed diet dinners, eating only meat and proteins, cutting out all fats and carbs,---- and the list goes on and on.  I had decided that if I was going to do this -- I was going to do this in such a way that I could live my life and incorporate weight loss into my everyday activities.  For me -- that was Weight Watchers. Their motto is "it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle"-- and for me, that was the only way to do this and make it work. 

So --- I did my own version of Weight Watchers and in about 8 months, I lost that 60 pounds.  Honestly, it was easy, really it was.  I kept the weight off for about 2 years, then---- I began to get complacent.  I stopped keeping track of my foods, stopped my regular exercise routine,and --- gained back almost 30 pounds.  

For the next year, or so-- I just buried my head under the sand and ignored my weight.  But even though I thought I was trying to watch the things I ate -- I still saw myself adding on a few more pounds gradually. And then, again, I hit the wall -- I thought, I cannot keep doing this.  I have to lose this weight AGAIN -- and this time I have to keep it off.  The task seemed daunting -- but I knew what to do -- so once again, I went back to my own version of the WW program, restarted my exercise routine, and the weight came off -- more slowly this time -- but it came off.  I've now realized that the older I get, the harder it is to lose weight, and to keep it off.  So--- I'm not doing this again.  This time, I have kept my weight off for 8 years, and I am not ever going off the program.  "It's not a diet -- it's a lifestyle."

 So-- this is how I live my life now.  I will share with you the things that I do that work for me and have helped me to lose weight and to keep it off -- but first -- (and I have to do this!)-- my disclaimer~

I am not selling a weight loss plan.
I am not advertising a weight loss plan.
I can not guarantee your success using these tips.
I am merely having a chat with you, my friends,
in which I am answering the questions that 
you have asked me.
I am offering to you my own ideas
about weight loss,
and the strategies that work
 for me.

 I think most everyone is familiar with the Weight Watchers system and their use of points in relation to food choices.  At the time I first started my "lifestyle change" over 10 years ago -- I was using the original WW as my guide.  (Since then there is a new WW -- but I don't use that info.  I saw no need to relearn a system that was already working for me.)

The original WW system assigns points to foods using a calculation based on fat, fiber, and calories.  While I can't  argue with the success of a proven system, I knew that for me to calculate all that out for everything I ate --- from now on --- just was NOT going to work for me. My life is so busy sometimes, adding to that having to calculate out everything I ate -- well, I just knew I would not keep up the practice of that. So--, I made a new plan for myself.  My own version of the successful program.  Something easy- something I knew that I could do without too much effort~

 THIS is the basis of my entire weight loss strategy ----- 50 calories equals 1 point.  That's it -- that's all I do - every day -- every meal - everything I eat-- for the last 8 years. It works perfectly - it makes me happy --

How many points do you need?
you can go here to calculate your suggested points target
my weight is maintained using an allowance of  24 points per day.
on work days-- I allow myself about 26 points per day.
(I get up at 4 am, leave the house about 5:30 am, and get home about 8 pm-- 
that's a long day, so I allow myself a little extra
on those days.

 Some tips that have worked well for me~

1.  even though WW allows you to earn extra points for activity- I DO NOT take those points.  Meaning I do not eat those points-- except on special -- I mean really special occasions.  Sometimes I take those points when I go out to dinner -- but only, when its special celebration-- not for every meal I eat in a restaurant.On almost all occasions, I factor my restaurant meal into my daily point allowances.

2. Exercise is important to me -- I go to Curves almost every day that I am not at work.  For me -- this is one of the key points to my weight control.  After I lost weight the first time -- I stopped going to Curves -- of course, I gained my weight back -- now, Curves is part of my daily routine. It works best for me to get up in the morning, drink a diet pepsi, go do my Curves workout -- then come home and fix a protein shake.  I do NOT eat in the mornings before I go for my workout. I come home hungry and fix my protein shake.

3.  Everyday a protein shake is part of my daily intake -- I count it for 5 points.  There are a variety of good protein powders on the market -- I use Visalus.  It is heart healthy, has a great taste -- I mix it with fruit juice and a variety of fruits , along with about  2 cups of crushed ice .  It makes a huge glass and takes me about 2 hours to drink it all.  (Although there are a lot of recipes for Visalus shakes using additives like pudding, peanut butter, ... I don't go there.  I keep it simple and use this as a way to get lots of fresh fruit into my diet. Choose any protein powder you wish, but make sure that is low in sugars and carbs. I would suggest not spending more than 4 or 5 points daily on your shake.

4.  Although WW says that most fresh vegetables are considered free -- I assign all cooked vegetables a 1 point total except for raw vegetables.  Personally, I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables - every day -- so this is easy for me and helps me to stretch out my point totals every day. Fresh fruits -- according to the "Vicki version" are assigned  2 points per cup.  

~~ I am not really a meat and potatoes person.  While I don't consider myself a true vegetarian, the fact is that I mostly do eat vegetables.  I love a good steak now and then, crave a good hamburger, love fish-- but that is not the norm for me.  If you are someone who has to have meat and potatoes every day -- you will need to eat a lot of free food choices (fresh vegetables) to help stretch your points for the day.  *** btw -- when I eat a hamburger at home -- I eat it on my 35 calorie bread  and not on a bun.  That saves a lot of points since most buns are between 3-4 points just for the bun.

5. Two days a week -- I try -- REALLY HARD -- to not eat any carbohydrates after 4 pm.  On days that I do this -- I make wise and calculated choices regarding my food intake.  It takes a bit of planning -- but after you do it for a while -- you will find it isn't really that hard to do.   

6.  Fast food --- simply put -- I don't go there.  Seriously, with the exception of travel times, and only then, if there is NO other choice -- I don't do fast food.  It's. Been. Years.  I don't even miss it now.

7.  Diet soda --- I drink a can of Diet Pepsi every morning when my feet hit the floor -- but that's it.  One can a day. 

8. Things I do not eat any more --- 
boxed cereal~ I love it, but even the best choices are still a lot of points for a bowl the size I need to fill me up. If I crave it -- I make allowances for about 15 points, use skim milk -- and go for it. But -- I probably don't buy more than 2-3 boxes of cereal a year.  

9. Pizza -- yes I do!  But - lets face it -- its a lot of points.  So I plan ahead for it ---meaning I try to eat free choices most of the day -- and then I just go for it when the time comes.  But -- I probably only do this about once every 2-3 months.  On pizza days -- I try to get in some extra activity - like mowing the lawn in addition to my Curves work out.

10.  Exercise -- if you can't go to a work out program like Curves, then get out and walk.  Start small and work up to increasing your walks every week. As you lose weight you will feel better and will have more mobility and more energy.

11. Chocolate -- of course!! -- every single day.  I buy the packages with small portions and count every piece as 1 point.  Even though the package may say that the calories are 35 or 40 -- I count every piece as 1 point.  And -- I eat 1 or 2 every day. Right now I am hooked on Heath bar miniatures. 

12.  Write it down -- everything you eat -- I mean everything!  I start counting my points from the time I get up and keep track all day long.  When I am at work, I keep a little paper in my pocket, when I'm home - I have a notepad on the kitchen counter, when I travel, I use the note pad on my phone.  This is probably one of the most important things that makes this "lifestyle" successful for me.  If you don't write your foods down, you will NOT be successful -- trust me on this.

13.  Eat what you want.  Really.  But -- take responsibility for what you eat.  Write it down.  Always.  If you want a candy bar - or apple pie - or birthday cake -- then make allowances for it and eat things that are free or low in calories the rest of the day.   Keep a running total of your points throughout the day.  If you know you want something that is high in points at the end of the day --- (say you are going out to dinner) --- allow your self 18 points (or whatever you think) - write it down on your total first thing in the morning -- then, just build the rest of your day around that.

14. Just say NO-- learn to say no when you have already eaten your points allotment.  For example --- in the late evening, my husband might ask if I want to go out to dinner that evening. If I have already eaten myself beyond my points needed for going out to dinner -- I tell him NO.  He supports my healthy lifestyle and understands. If we are going out to dinner -- I need to know in advance so that I can plan for it. 

15.  Become more aware of what is available to you.  The grocery stores are full of new and healthy grocery items.  Notice the magazine advertisements. Ask questions about what your health conscious friends are eating. Visit websites that promote healthy food choices and healthy recipes.  Be willing to change!  You can find some of my healthy eating recipe ideas on my Pinterest Board here    

    I can not stress to  you how important that exercise is to a well rounded and healthy lifestyle.
(walk, run, garden, mow grass,...)
If  your health issues prevent you from doing any 
exercise, then you will need to adjust your points
Remember --
I do not use my exercise points
except for very special
What's in my fridge right now?
fresh cauliflower
laughing cow cheese wedges
(I  eat these with my cauliflower) 
baby carrots
fresh strawberries
mango chunks
(I eat blueberries every day in my protein shakes - 
I'm convinced that they have magical antioxidant powers)

100 calorie yogurts
fresh cooked green beans
fresh cut corn 
light salad dressings
baby yellow tomatoes
orange juice with extra pulp
(for my protein shakes)

100 calorie ice cream sandwiches
(my treat on days I mow the grass)

What's in my pantry right now?
35 calorie wheat bread
wheat saltine crackers
(I don't eat white bread or regular crackers anymore -
I gave them up when I started my "lifestyle" change)
multigrain or wheat is a healthier choice

100 calorie snacks - chips and cookies
(I know that prepackaged 100 calorie snacks are more expensive - 
you can save money buy packing them up yourself
 if you wish)

( you can get a lot of bang for your points with baby pretzels)

skinny pop popcorn
( love the stuff) 

Assorted cereal and yogurt bars 
(try to buy ones that are less than 120 calories each)

Assorted flavors of instant oatmeal and cream of wheat


peanut butter
(I eat one half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  every morning before I leave the house 
to go to work) 

pickled beets 
(they are free!)
I could eat half a jar in one setting!
You need to have healthy choices ready and available to you--
keep your fridge and pantry stocked!

My motivations~
When I started my "life style changes" the second time -- I knew it would be harder -- and it was.  As we get older, it really is harder to lose weight.  SO --- I bought myself a beautiful (rather expensive skirt) two sizes smaller than my current size.  At the time I bought it, I could not even get it up over my hips.  I hung it in my bedroom where I could see it every day -- it took me 2 months to be able to wear that beautiful skirt -- 3 months after that, it was actually too big. Did I waste my money? I don't think so.

Every time I lost 10 pounds  -- I went through my closet and tried on my clothes -- everything --- EVERYTHING that was too big -- I gave away.  Even the stuff I hated to give away -- I gave away!
I'm not going to keep clothes in my closet that are too big so that I will have something to wear when I gain weight.  Instead -- I will continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that I will not need those bigger clothes. 

  this is one of my favorite quotes
relating to weight loss.
this quote is pictured on the sidebar of my blog.
You can now find this post 
to use as your weight loss reference
anytime you wish by clicking on this photo
on my sidebar. 

 Remember that you are doing this 
for YOU. 
Be proud of every accomplishment --
every pound you lose is a gain
in the right direction. 
Don't set yourself up to fail. 
Remember this simple goal~

"My weight next week 
will be less than my weight today."

I hope you understand that creating this post was a little uncomfortable for me. Kind of like taking your clothes off in a room full of strangers.  I have shared this info because so many of you have written to me asking for my personal strategies pertaining to weight loss.
I hope this helps.
I hope this motivates you to want
to do this 
for yourself. 
If you have questions -- and you probably do --
please email me
I will answer every single email
if there are lots of questions, 
I will address them all in a special post
that is dedicated to your specific


Monday, June 9, 2014

Continuing Our Spring Tour at the Biltmore

Continuing our tour around the beautiful Biltmore Estate -- this time I am taking you to the Conservatory for a colorful display of their flowers there~

 the architecture of this building always
amazes me~


even before you walk in the door,
you can see that the display is so beautiful~

the orchids were stunning
in their groupings~

can you even imagine what it must be like
to take care of all of these beautiful

do you see me?

 we thought the displays were 
just so creative --
I love the use of the old doors!

Moving on to the Potting Shed~~

I have always loved this little space~
(if I was a plant, I would want
to begin my life here~)

A few photos from around the grounds near the house~

one of my favorite vantage points
to photograph the house~

we found a new place to take a little hike~
(through this gate--)

 and down this little path~

 ~leading to a great little spot that
overlooks the walled


Ohhh - the trees were so beautiful
outside the house~

 yes -- another photo with the lions!
(I can't help it, I love these lions!)
she says, 42 photos with lions later~~

Some updates~
Up next -- I'm going to talk about my personal struggles with my weight and my own version of a  weight loss plan -- I want to be honest and say, sadly, I don't have any brilliant ideas, any super tricks or any magic ways to keep weight off.  But -- I do have things that work well for me-- and I have kept my weight off now for almost 8 years.   I hope you realize that talking about this here is not going to be easy -- (and I hope you will be nice to me and not critical of the things that I do that work for me.)  So many of you have written to ask about what I do regarding my weight, and I promised that I would do this -- so if you have weight issues and you are looking for something NOT complicated --  I will share with you what works for me.   And yes ----- I do eat chocolate --- every day:)


ps --- Don't forget that you have until June 21 to enter my "Spring Giveaway"!! You can find all the info here