Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Put down that cookie...and that doesn't mean in your mouth!

It was July 26, 2004. I was getting married in a little less than a year and, taking a moment to break away from Kindergarten teacher busy-ness, I realized that I'd packed on fifty pounds since graduating from college the year before. It was on this day that I began the Weight Watcher's Online program and ended up losing the fifty pounds that lazyness and a Taco Bell in three different directions can't help but lead to. My wedding dress had to be taken in twice and I learned not to gorge myself on six breadsticks at Olive Garden. Though I still maintain that there are circumstances which require that immense consumption of garlicky goodness.

The sense of accomplishment that I felt after losing the weight was incredible. It wasn't only at the culmination of my weight loss journey, either, that I felt such a sense of achievement - it was during. Being active, being pro-active, raised my self-esteem higher than it had ever been before. I actually never lacked self-esteem and still felt beautiful when I was heavier, but there was something bogging me down, making me feel stagnant and still. The accomplishment in losing weight isn't the slimmer figure: it's conquering what seems impossible. Mustering up my willpower, which I'd before believed myself pretty much averse to, and sticking with a program, putting a goal over a craving, was what gave me an immense sense of self-worth and achievement. It's for this reason that weight loss is successful. When you're doing it for an end result only you WILL fail. When you embark upon it as a lifestyle change both physically and mentally, you can attain your goals.

I've lost the baby weight plus another eleven pounds all in three months since Alice was born. In fact, I was back to pre-pregnancy weight about six weeks after her birth...and that was with only two week's effort (exercise and eating right) on my part. Here's a simple break-down of what has worked for me:

Eating 2000 calories a day: Weight Watcher's Online program was a $40 set-up fee and $14.95 a month when I joined back in 2004. I'm not sure about today's current prices, but I do still recommend WW and find them to be an incredible program. However, I lost twenty pounds before we found out that we were pregnant with Alice (just about the last of the Rose baby weight) and did it with counting my calories. At the time I was extended breastfeeding a toddler, so I combo'd 1500 daily calories with 200 for nursing and was eating 1700 calories a day. Now, since I'm exclusively nursing an infant, I added 500 calories to bring my daily total to 2000. You can easily calculate how many calories you need to eat a day to maintain or lose weight at www.thedailyplate.com/. It's a fantastic resource! You cannot adjust it for breastfeeding, but the rule of thumb is about 500 additional calories for an infant and about 200 for a toddler.

Track those calories throughout the day: Do not, I repeat, do not keep mental post-its, ladies! They tend to get lost in the wastebin of brain. At least mine do... I keep track of my calories in my daily planner (right next to 'call the newspaper for delivery' and 'get mail'...). My trick is to begin with the total for the day and subtract breakfast, lunch and dinner right away. So, I have 2000 calories - 270 calories (two Special K waffles and a glass of orange juice for breakfast) - 270 (garlic chicken lean pocket...yum!...for lunch) - 530 (bolognese spaghetti and italian bread for dinner). Pre-planning your meals is important with regard to properly and easily tracking your calories, but I find the predictability helpful and rewarding. Rewarding not only because it helps me to stay easily on track, but also because what you have left over - 930 calories in this example - are your "play" cals for the day! I use these up in having coffee, snacks, treats, etc. I also make sure to use them up in veggies and fruits. Cantalope is my favorite fruit at 60 calories a cup, and broccoli is virtually nothing.

Be active: If you're someone who likes to take long walks in the morning alone, do it. Like to push your kiddos around town in a stroller? Get moving, sister! Have a gym that you visit regularly? Make it a point to get there. Fan of Denise Austen 90's work-out videos? Put on that leotard and get leg-liftin', lady! Don't know anyone who used to do those in college or anything (whistling and slowly walking the other way...). I go to the gym three days a week for 20-30 minutes at a time. As a very busy mom of a toddler and an infant, there are just times when I rush back after 20 minutes because I know that Alice will be freaking out, despite the efforts of her loving father who always supports me going to the gym and in everything that I do. I typically do twenty minutes on the elliptical and then ten minutes on the treadmill. I bring our iPod Touch with free books loaded on it (it's a free app...LitReader, I think?) and am currently reading Tolstoy's Anna Karenina while getting my sweat on. Makes the minutes fly by. I'm not naturally a lover of working out, but ever since being so blessed to have moved to our development our clubhouse gym has given this mama a breathe of fresh air and relaxation by letting me get out of the house for a bit and still being close (1 minute away in fact) if there's an emergency (read: suddenly hungry babe!).

My biggest weight-loss advice is to remember that it won't work unless your entire day is focused. You can't begin to maintain the mental fortitude required to complete a mission at which you've failed over and over again previously unless you are dedicated to excellency in all that you do. Balance your day, keep organized in everything from housework to paying bills to your calorie-counting. That doesn't mean the entire spring-cleaning of your house in an afternoon or creating a color-coded filing system for household expenses, but rather putting that coat lying on the sofa back into the closet instead of telling yourself that you'll do it later and getting the mail so that you can pay your electric bill on time even though it's pouring rain and you have to drive to the post office. Living responsibly, focused and efficiently can prevent you from being irresponsible, distracted and wasteful when it comes to your health.

Though I've obviously had two babies during this time, I'm proof that you can succeed...if my chocolate lovin' self can replace handfuls of M&Ms with a nutrigrain bar and not order a large coffee coolata from Dunkin Donuts (see, my beloved iced coffee wasn't always my first choice!) then you can too!


2009 - this weekend :o)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When a Latte Just Won';t Cut It: Mama Burn-out

Sometimes we all need a bit of rejuvenation. Mothers need a lot. It can come in the form of a latte and a few minutes of peace (in the kitchen while the kids run amuck around you) or a hot shower, fifteen minutes to disappear into a novel, or maybe even two seconds in the bathroom with the kids beating down the door while you simply try to pee for the first time that day. And it's already six o'clock at night. I surely can't be the only one that's happened to!

For the past few weeks, I've found myself losing patience with my eldest daughter. She's two and a half years old, the most loveliest of ages as all mothers know, and seems to run on endless energy from the moment her eyes open until she reluctantly goes to sleep at night. She spends a good part of the day tired from not napping, which has been the pattern for about a year, and then goes absolutely bonkers in her behavior since she's sleepy. There's something in the two year old mind that makes them completely freak when they're tired - one little iota of fatigue unleashes flood gates, fire balls and banshee-like whines.

All of the extra "management" that my daughter's behavior requires when she's in these modes of obstinance, leaves me burnt-out. I found myself being short with her, impatient and a poor example of Christian love. I tried to console myself for snapping at her or feeling irritated at being asked to play Chutes and Ladders (I was just so tired, I needed to lie down!) by telling myself some very worldly truths:

I deserve a break.

I need a moment to myself.

I have two kids now, and they're both young, so of course I can't be the all-in-all for them all the time.

Each of these affirmations are true. I do deserve a break and a moment to myself. But, a break doesn't mean taking the entire afternoon off to be blah around the house and a moment isn't five hours. Having two young children with different demands - one a new baby and the other a toddler - is exhausting, and it's realistic that I cannot go full-steam at all times. However, it's not an excuse to neglect anyone or think that a baby's needs are more important than a toddler's.

I'm a very conscious mother, as many of us are, and I don't parent without a lot of prayer and thought. Recognizing that I was starting to fall into a pattern of frustration and impatience, which was reflected in my daughter's increasingly poor behavior (kids are always affected by the emotions around them), I brainstormed ways to revert back to my happy-go-lucky, jovial persona. I tried getting us done quicker in the morning and into our daily activities with more ease. Useless. I attempted to stick very true to our routine, and then, vice versa, to shake things up a bit. Not much change. I tried to be calm, patient and constructive when my daughter misbehaved, but it didn't always make a dent. The worst part was that I still felt aggitated and guilty. Guilty without reason? No, I deserved the guilt that I felt. I wasn't being the best mother that I could be. I was giving into earthly fatigue and worldly consolation.

I wasn't doing the one thing that could rejuvenate me and bring me back to the happy, calm and loving mom that I naturally am.

I was asking Jesus to "help" me. I wasn't asking Jesus to transform me.

Let me tell you, friends, that I prayed that prayer and woke up a new lady. Well, the old lady!  Monday morning my husband was home asleep from auditing the night shift the evening (and early morn) before, so I got the girls ready even quicker than usual and downstairs. How efficiently our day started! The calmness and positivity that made that possible continued throughout the day, and I noticed that my eldest daughter was peaceful and only about a level five on the scale of banshee-ness. She used to rate an eleven. It's now Wednesday and my patient manner, soothing voice, direct instructions and constructive parenting still persist. The cranky, frustrated mom of the past couple of weeks has decided to take a holiday. Actually, it's more like she had a make-over.

So, even though that hot shower can rejuvenate and refresh you after mommyhood burn-out, the gleam that it leaves in your hair, the warm scent on your skin and the disappearance of those bags underneath of your eyes cannot compare with the new look that Jesus grants when He transforms our hearts. All it takes is prayer, and belief that your desire will be answered. After all, He's been there, too, and no one knows how to transform a heart that bears the weight of the world like Christ. He died not only for us, but for our children, and will do everything in His power to help us raise them for Him. Unlike a latte that eventually runs out, a hot shower that turns cold or a book that must conclude, Jesus the Risen Savior has power and love that are endless, eternal, and, most importantly, always available.

If you're burnt-out, ask the Lord to come into your heart and bring about a change in you today. Ask him to bring you peace - towards yourself and towards others, and ask that He allows you to be an instrument for His love to everyone in your life from the smallest to the grandest. How great is our God!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Berry Baby

Irresistable! This cutie pie strawberry hat was Rose's when she was about 8 months old. Alice still needs some time to grow into it, but, like I said, I just couldn't resist!