Wednesday, February 4, 2015

On the Menu... No Regrets! Plus... FitBit Give-Away!

So what was on the menu for your Super Bowl weekend? Did you feel
bombarded by non-stop images of cheesy, melty, crunchy, sweet
calorie-garbage posted by your Facebook/Blogger friends like I did?
I felt your pain, I really did... Because truth is, most of the bloggers posting and pinning those recipes are people I know and truly like. But rather than feeling deprived or tempted, today I know I can like those people without liking their food. Today I know I can like those people without recreating their recipes for you here on my own blog. Fact is, I no longer feel the need or obligation to be a delivery system for recipes that, in truth, do nothing but a disservice to both of us. Instead, I'd rather have a conversation about how to live in a world where food that is killing us is regarded as more fun, more popular and more socially acceptable than taking care of ourselves.

You see, as I thought about how I ate leading up to the holidays and Super Bowl last year, I realized that just as any occasion can be a reason/excuse to eat poorly... It can also be a reason/excuse to NOT eat poorly. So, I decided that at the top of this year's party menu would be No Regrets! Which, pretty much explains how I've managed to lose the weight I talked about in this post and, how I plan to keep it off when I reach my goal. Because I've decided not to trade what I want most for what I want now.

Now, does this mean I'll never be able to eat whatever I want ever again? No. It just means that to reach my goal and to be successful at maintenance requires me to redefine what it means to eat whatever I want.

Think about this for a moment... Are you like me? Either on a plan, restricting every calorie and losing a ton of weight or off plan, eating everything in sight and gaining a ton of weight... On the promise, of course, that as soon as you finish cheating you'll start over tomorrow. And, if you are like me, then you believe you're only capable of losing weight so long as whatever plan you're on holds up - Because as soon as the plan ends, your old habits creep back in and take over. Old habits that take us right back to where we started or worse, right past the old number and onto a new, all-time high. Finally, if you are like me, then you know being off plan also comes with permission to eat whatever you want until that certain someday when you're able to get back on your current plan or find a new one that is sure to work this time... Because you are either on or off plan, you can't be both.

For years this thinking and resulting behavior with food was my normal... Just my own personal misery of being trapped in yo-yo dieting hell. However, in medical weight loss they call it, All or Nothing Thinking. And, as I've learned, to be truly successful at weight loss and maintenance, it's this thinking that has to stop. Why? Because first of all, no one can live like that and second, life happens in the middle... Life does not happen at the extreme ends of anything. Nothing is either all good or all bad. But that's how we all-or-nothing thinkers eat. When the reality is... If you need to lose fifty pounds for your high school reunion, then you probably need to lose fifty pounds for every other day in your life too. Still, we fixate on the events of our life, (such as weddings, reunions. etc.) because we think and eat in a space that must have a beginning and an end. An all or nothing... No in between.

It's crazy... I know. But that's the flawed thinking of professional dieters like us. We go into a new diet believing it will be the answer to resolving years and years of behavior that in the end has very little to do with food. We eat the food, instead of feeling the feelings. Of course, these diets usually work - Remember, we aren't quitters... In fact we are experts and most of us suffer from a healthy dose of perfectionism too - All a perfect recipe for quick but temporary weight loss that often ends up being regained in half the time it took to lose it.

For these reasons, to lose weight and keep it off, I've learned there must be flexibility in my thinking, a willingness to sit with icky feelings and, I had to implement some serious behavioral changes into my plan as well. Otherwise, the slightest misstep triggers that old message of, I've blown it so I may as well eat whatever I want and start over tomorrow - Which usually triggers a binge - Which activates the guilt that leads to the eventual feeling of hopelessness - Which delivers the negative self-talk that screams, I'll never actually be able to reach my goal weight, so why bother - Now, pass the chips!

It's a vicious, painful cycle of days that turn into weeks, weeks that turn into months and months that ultimately result in years of dieting frustration. All or nothing thinkers are the same people that believe every aspect of their life would be perfect, if only they were at their goal weight. All or nothing thinkers also live their life on hold... Postponing vacations, career decisions, dating, family portraits, reunions and other events on the promise that they'll participate in life when they reach their goal weight. Problem is, time marches on without us. Also, certain life events cannot be scheduled around the number on our scale. So if you've ever wished your sister would postpone the birth of her child to give you more time to lose a few pounds so that you'll look better in photos with your new niece or nephew... Or you've prayed that a family member doesn't suddenly drop dead because you'd die too if you had to show up to a funeral and face all the relatives you've been hiding from... Then you are most likely an all-or-nothing thinker and trapped in the same hell as I was.

The revelation of this hell and insight into how to overcome it came during sessions I had with a medical nutritionist/cognitive therapist. We were talking one day about how difficult it was for me to remain on plan while at work where food is everywhere. And, how one slip during the day always caused me to blow out the remainder of the day and eat throughout the evening - Always promising to start over the next day. Oh, I'm not talking about a few vending machines at work... I'm talking catered buffets brought in for breakfast and lunch meetings several times, if not every day of the week!

Don't believe me? Well, this is what the food outside the two conference rooms nearest to my desk looked like today...
And, since there are always leftovers...
We are always encouraged to...
In terms of this temptation and my inability to avoid this daily barrage of food... My nutritionist/cognitive therapist suggested that for me, the key to making the right choices every time will be to reframe my thoughts and the messages I send myself about this food. Notice she didn't launch into what I should be eating on my plan to reach my goal weight... Instead, she's asking me to focus on the real issue, which is how my emotions and feelings about this food cause me to eat.

At first, what she said left me confused... So she offered this as an example to jump-start my thinking... She said, unless I am invited to attend one of these catered meetings the food provided simply has nothing to do with me.

So, just because there is five pounds of bacon, cheesy hashbrowns and scrambled eggs left over from a breakfast meeting... Or our CEO's lunch meeting offered a baked potato bar with all the toppings you can imagine piling onto potatoes as big as your head, does not mean the food has anything to do with me or that I should eat it.

She said, before or immediately after being confronted by this food is when reframing my thoughts and removing negative self-talk/messages becomes vital in order to not be triggered. Now, this takes some practice; after all, I've been triggered for over three decades by all-or-nothing thinking/eating and we all know that behavioral modification in general doesn't happen overnight. But it does happen. And, I'm going to share with you how it's happening for me.

Rather than allowing old negative self-talk about the buffets at work to trigger off-plan eating, which always resulted in a totally blown day/week/month, I first had to get honest about what I was feeling about the food. Second, I had to be willing to sit with the emotions and really feel and process them, versus numbing them out with food. Finally, I had to turn negative self-talk into a positive message, one that helps me avoid the trigger. Now, don't get me wrong... This is hard work. I mean, the time between being triggered and the decision to blow it and numb the emotions with food is literally seconds. In medical weight loss this process is referred to as the, Activating Event and Resulting Behavior.

What takes practice is finding ways to stretch those seconds out, to give us time to make a better choice. Some people find it helpful to count to ten. Others, like me, find it helpful to check-in with myself and ask, How do I feel and what do I need right now? Anything you do that creates space between your emotion and trigger and the impulse to grab food or binge to avoid feeling the feelings will work.

So what does getting honest about my feelings look like? Well, by checking in with myself about this work food and how it makes me feel, I discovered my negative self-talk sounded like this: I am not qualified to participate in these meetings due to my lack of education and position in the company. Ouch! So what kind of feelings do you suppose this kind of negative self-talk inspires... Feelings of... Inadequacy? Rejection? Regret? Sadness? Anger? Usually all of the above. And, for someone like me; someone so inadequate, I must be punished. Right? Because ultimately that's what binge-eating is... Punishment. Even if I know I've done nothing to deserve punishment at that moment, the part of me that believes there's something I'm either not willing to admit or might do in the future that does requires punishment threatens to take over.

So now, left with all these crappy feelings I don't want to feel and all of this ammunition (food) with which to squash them, I feel completely justified in helping myself to the food. After all, I deserve to be punished and, even if it's not punishment I deserve I can justify it as needing to comfort, console or perhaps even reward myself. Because surely, if I eat food meant for high-level executive meetings, I must be good enough. Right? Of course not! The answer is, No! Because when you really think about it, food cannot validate or invalidate us. All it can do is provide a temporary escape for how we feel. So... When my nutritionist/therapist said to me "You have no issues with food, Janet... you just aren't willing to be emotionally uncomfortable", she was right.

So how do you fix it? Well, let's look at the reframe that's possible with all this new inner-wisdom I've gained. The truth is, no matter what meeting I order food for, it's just food. It's not a commentary about how far I did or didn't go in school; nor can it bolster or diminish my contributions. It's just food to nourish people who, because of their position, lack choice about what they eat and where they eat it

So the positive self-talk and message becomes this: Those poor people are stuck in meetings during meal times and thankfully, I am not. I have a choice about what I eat while I'm at work and I even have a choice about when and where to eat it.

Therefore, the take away from my reframe and the message is: Just as the therapist said, that this food has nothing to do with me. Taking it a step further, I might also remind myself how silly it is for me to limit my food choices to those made for people who, for the most part, probably wish they had my options! The option to go for a walk during the lunch hour and eat what they choose, not from a buffet choice made for them.

Bottom line, I very rarely ate the food offered at work because I was physically hungry. I ate it because of what I felt, what I told myself and ultimately, my inability to manage emotions in a more positive, healthy way.

Of course, this is just one example in a long list of situations I've worked through. Nevertheless, I hope it helps explain what I meant in my last post by losing weight and keeping it off by reframing my thoughts. And, when I told you that what I weigh has nothing to do with what I eat and everything to do with how I feel.

I'm excited to share with you what I've learned about listening to my body to lose weight and keep it off - But for now, I'm going to end this post because these first steps of reframing our thoughts and turning negative self-talk into positive messages is such an important component of what's working for me. I'm going to ask you to think about this for a few days and consider doing the following homework assignment, which I found very helpful as I worked to wrap my own brain around this concept and apply it to situations where I felt triggered to eat for emotional reasons.

Think of a situation where you were triggered emotionally to eat
  • What did someone do or say to you? Or, what happened (activating event) that made you want to turn to food to manage the resulting feelings? Triggers can be an argument with a friend or spouse. Maybe your child got sent home from school for misbehaving. Whatever it is, before you reach for food or swerve into the drive-thru, ask yourself why - and then, be willing to sit with and feel those feelings
Think of a time you were confronted by food and were tempted to eat it, even though you were not physically hungry
  • What negative self-talk did you hear that gave you the permission and/or excuse you needed to give into the impulse to eat?
Did you hear something like: I'm tired of being excluded from the group. I deserve this because I've had a rough day. So-and-so really upset me so I deserve to have this to feel better. Going off-plan today won't really matter. I'm so fat, another few hundred calories won't matter. I have that dinner on Saturday so I may as well blow the whole week and start again next Monday.

Now, think of the same situation and come up with three things you could do instead of eating to cope with the emotions you're feeling
  • Things that work for me include: taking a shower, brushing my teeth, journaling about the feelings, calling a supportive friend/relative I can vent to, picking a closet or drawer to organize, going for a quick walk, throwing a tennis ball against a wall. Taking a nap, washing my Jeep. Give yourself a time-out of just ten-twenty minutes and find something else to do. If you still want to eat after twenty minutes, drink a bottle of water. If you still want to eat after hydrating, eat - But make sure the food your choose fits into the four P's I mentioned before - It should be: Planned, Peaceful, Purposeful and Portion-controlled 
Next, think of at least one reframe and one positive message for the situation
  • Remind yourself not to trade what you want most (weight loss/maintenance) for what you want (emotional escape) right now. Remind yourself that nothing you feel will last forever. Nothing truly terrible will happen to you if sit with the feelings and don't choose the food. You are stronger than your desire to eat for comfort
Finally, write down three positive things that happen when you do not allow yourself to eat for emotional reasons

For me, it's knowing that another day of making the correct choices puts me closer to my goal weight. My goal weight means my health improves. It means that I can continue to ride my bike with ease, wear fun clothes, fit into rollercoasters and airline seats without seatbelt extenders. It means I can be more present and participate in life!
Through the process of checking in with myself I've discovered that no craving, no matter how intense ever lasts for very long... I also figured out that every food I'm tempted by is nothing I would dream of eating at 5 o'clock the next morning. It's one of the new ways I combat cravings. I tell myself that if I still want _____ the next morning I can have it.

Think about it... Have you ever been triggered by a TV commercial to eat late at night? Like between 6-10PM, when Red Lobster seems to run their commercials on a continuous loop, so all you can think about is crab legs dipped in melted butter... Now, I've never jumped in my car and driven to Red Lobster but those commercials and others like it have triggered me to eat for no good reason. However, by checking in with myself I realized that I'd never think about eating what I saw or what I ate because of it, the next morning. Practice this... For me, Mexican food is a weakness but as much as I'd love to crunch tortilla chips and eat guacamole while I'm watching television at night, I would never consider eating guacamole for breakfast. So if you check in and find that you wouldn't eat ______ the next morning, then it's a craving, not physical hunger... And, cravings pass. So let them!

Until next time, I hope you'll consider the homework assignment and think about how reframing your thinking to turn negative self-talk into positive messages may help you off-plan and/or binge eating.

Remember, I am here to help. You asked and I've offered to share the information of my journey with you - So if you have questions, please let me know!

Speaking of sharing...
As the winner of my company's holiday Maintain-Don't-Gain challenge, I received a FitBit One activity tracker - However, since I already have a FitBit, I'd love for you to have it! All you need to do to be entered to win is leave a comment letting me know one thing about this post that you might adopt to help you on your journey to better health!

One winner will be drawn at random and announced on Valentine's Day February 14th!

Give-away is closed... Congratulations Lori! Please send your address
to me at: jcbridge@aol.com and I promise to mail your FitBit right away!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Join Me and Do You with the Evolution Fresh {#3DaysToGreen} Movement Challenge!

You know how they say there are no coincidences in life, only things that happen either because of the energy you project or they were just meant to be? Well, I believe that. And, once again, my belief was validated after I wrote this post about my effort to take control of my health/weight and then was almost immediately challenged by Evolution Fresh to join their #3DaysToGreen Movement and, share it with you!

Now, you already know that I invested in a juicer last year - And, while I had the best intentions of juicing my way back to health every day... Let's be honest... Juicing is expensive. Juicing is time consuming. Juicing is also messy. And worst of all, in addition to what you'll spend in money and time, on top of the mess... To be really beneficial, green juice often tastes really bad too! Bottom line, anything that adds another to-do to my already enormous list and makes me hold my nose in order to choke it down, ain't gonna happen!

Then, there are the calories to consider. Especially when your reason for juicing is tied to a weight loss goal - Because making green juice something you actually want to drink often requires adding a ton of fruit, which adds loads of carbs and calories - Thereby largely defeating the purpose of juicing at all! Also, if you're like me and have a sensitivity to artificial sweeteners and wouldn't put that stuff in your body any way... You're really stuck!
So there she sits, my pretty little juicer... A whole year old and never used to produce a single drop of healthy green juice! Now, to my credit, it's never been used to create any decadent, candy-laden milkshakes either. Still, there she sits... Just another thing to wipe down and a daily reminder of last year's broken resolution to drink healthy green juice! 

Fortunately, Evolution Fresh has the answer for all of us daunted by the investment and process of juicing, because they've done all the work for us! And, not only do their juices taste fantastic, they are cold pressed and made with only locally sourced produce!
The juice is indeed greener at Evolution Fresh, with more than one pound of green vegetables and 10 grams of sugar or less per serving in a selection of Evolution Fresh green juices including: Sweet Greens and Lemon, Essential Greens with Lime, Organic Sweet Greens and Ginger, and Smooth Greens. Plus there’s nothing added... No preservatives, No sweeteners  and No added flavors... Not even the natural kind!
Now, I have a slight confession to make... Although I was invited to share news of Evolution Fresh juices, (kitchens, snacks and so much more!) with you much earlier this month, I've kept it to myself because I want to make clear that Evolution Fresh has nothing to do with those resolutions that get shoved down our throat the moment the clock strikes midnight on December 31st! No, Evolution Fresh is about clean, healthy living for a Lifetime - Much like the program I embarked on last April when I decided to regain control over my weight by reframing my thoughts about food and stopped using what I eat to manage my emotions!

So... Evolution Fresh is challenging everyone to join their 3 Days to Green Movement – Drinking one green juice a day for three days to take a big step toward a better self and a new, good-for-us habit. What’s more, you have the chance to WIN prizes with Evolution Fresh by visiting this page and entering here from January 2nd through February 28th! And, if you read their story, you'll see Evolution Fresh isn't going anywhere... So slow down, focus and forget those get-thin-quick gimmicks that make up the billion-dollar diet industry. Instead, turn to real food that's real good for you. Food like, Evolution Fresh!

Evolution Fresh juices are now available at Albertsons but they can also be found at Starbucks, Harris Teeter and Whole Foods stores, just to name a few. While Albertsons would be my first choice if I still lived on the Monterey Peninsula, we don't have one nearby... So, I grab my Evolution Fresh juice here at Whole Foods!
Of course, if I were stocking Evolution Fresh according to its
ingredients, that display at Whole Foods would look more like this!
Once you get started with the #3DaysToGreen Movement challenge I know you'll fall in love with how effortless and delicious it is to make Evolution Fresh green juices a daily habit like I have. Three days, three Evolution Fresh green juices was all it took for me to notice a real improvement in my energy level and overall feeling of vibrancy and wellness - Which is everything I want for you too! So what are you waiting for? Take the pledge to do You like I have here!

Speaking of good habits... Many of you wrote regarding this post on my invitation to share what I've learned since beginning my journey to better health, which so far has resulted in a 118 pound (and counting) weight loss. And, while I still receive several e-mails a day and am happy to answer every one, I realized that some of you may be too shy to ask. So because I cannot think of a better partner than Evolution Fresh to help kick off the topic of what's working for me, I'm sharing a few tips from my own program that you can employ as you embark on your own journey with the Evolution Fresh #3DaysToGreen Movement Challenge today!
  • Narrow food exposure. They call this "stimulus narrowing" in medically managed weight loss. This is where Evolution Fresh green juices come in especially handy since they are nutritious, pre-made and portable. This means you stay properly nourished without being exposed to and/or handling foods that could trigger unhealthy eating  
  • Listen to your body. Your body will tell you when it is hungry and when it is full. Eating according to what your body is telling you is key to losing weight and allowing your body to find its natural weight for maintenance - Where it will stay as long as you eat according to your physical needs and not your emotional needs
  • Do not use food to manage your emotions or the emotions of others. When you feel the urge to eat outside of physical hunger; ask yourself, "How do I feel and what do I need right now?", "Am I turning to food to make myself disappear from a problem or numb emotions because of something someone said or did to me?" If the answer is yes or even I don't knowfind something else to do besides eat... Always taking into account that doing nothing at all or being emotionally uncomfortable for a while is the answer until the urge to abuse/punish/soothe yourself with food passes. The good news is that feelings, just like cravings will pass. Also, taking a break from the habit of eating your feelings provides an opportunity for emotional growth, Finally, none of us will starve in the time it takes to pause and formulate a new strategy for coping with our feelings and taking care of ourselves - So make the time to do this
  • Eat meals that fall into the four P's of healthful eating: Planned, Peaceful, Purposeful and Portion-controlled
  • Avoid eating anything that falls into the three G's of destructive eating: Grazing, Grabbing (and Going) and Gulping 
Notice that my plan does not mention any specific diet or instruction to exercise. This is because I have learned that what I weigh has NOTHING to do with what I eat and everything to do with how I feel and my reaction to those feelings. Now, because my plan to lose weight and keep it off deserves more explanation than I can offer in this sponsored post for Evolution Fresh, I promise to come back to this with you. In fact, I will begin a new series of posts dedicated solely to what's working for me beginning on February 2nd. Right after the Superbowl, which we all know is the last excuse of the holiday season to put off becoming a healthier version of ourselves... Before Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Easter roll around, right? So you get the point... There is never a perfect season to Do YOU; there is only now!

So... Until our next chat where I begin to expand on those five tips I just gave you, why not grab your Evolution Fresh green juice and START TODAY... After all, you're so worth it!

Disclaimer: I’m participating in the Evolution Fresh blogger campaign and received compensation as part of the program. All opinions about Evolution Fresh are my own and everything I share with you about my journey to lose over 100 pounds is hard-earned and all ME!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Year Beach Get-away and South of the Border, the largest Road-side Tourist Trap, ever!

When a friend asks if you'd like the keys to
her beach house for the long weekend...
You rush home to pack your bags immediately!
Which is exactly what happened on Friday evening...
And, exactly where we ended up Saturday morning!
As you already know, I love my Pacific Coast any time of year. But here
on the east coast, I prefer to visit only during the winter months... Because
while the sea is just as beautiful, there are fewer bugs and people to deal with!
I also love having the beach all to myself and
as you can see, Ocean Isle did not disappoint!
Also, because it's only a half hour drive from where we spent the weekend...We
finally made the trip to South of the Border to see what all the fuss is about!
And, now we know!
I had to do it... Because if I had a nickel for every time a certain friend
has asked me if I've ever been I swear, I could buy the place! I still don't
understand why he thinks we travel 95 enough to have stumbled into it
before now; but to put the issue to rest we made the trip to see Pedro!
And, what we found at South of the Border was
America's largest road-side rest-stop/tourist trap, ever!
Intentionally campy about sums it up!
It's a little hard to believe that former Federal Reserve Chairman,
Ben Bernanke worked for a summer here as a poncho-wearing
waiter to help pay his way through Harvard, but it's true!
However, if you come looking for some of that imported-from-Mexico
kitsch South of the Border was once famous for you'll be disappointed,
because while there's tons of kitsch, all of it is now imported from China!
Although their post cards are printed right here, in North Carolina!
Nevertheless, I had a little shopping to do because I promised to
bring something back for our sweet house-sitter and his girlfriend!
Especially since her parents spent their honeymoon here!
So true...
I would have loved to see SOB (as it's referred to by locals) in its heyday!
Because today the place seems a little sad...
In fact, one of the shop employees told me they pretty much
keep it going only because it would cost more to tear it down!
Nevertheless, if you find yourself traveling along 95 between Florida and Jersey...
It's worth stopping...
To check South of the Boarder off your list!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Post Cards from Paradise!

In my last post I mentioned that the post cards I bought in Nassau
had still not been delivered... A full two weeks since being mailed!
But today they showed up... Here and every where else I
sent them! I'm really happy about this, especially since
each post card cost me $3 and I mailed 43 of them!
And yes, I always send my husband one to
remind him of all the places in the world he was loved!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Cheers to the New Year and Journey of Life and Better Health!

Happy New Year to you, my dear reader... Have you missed me?
Well, I've sure missed you... So let's catch up, shall we?
First, an apology for my absence. It's not that I didn't think about you
every day or didn't want to update my blog, I did! However, ever since I
returned from my trip to visit my parents at the end of October, every day
has felt like an hour and every week like a day! Nevertheless, I hope you'll
forgive me and let me share with you a little about what's been going on!
As usual, going home always begins with my fear over flying... Not to
mention that I had to navigate a busy airport and travel in a cast due to
the re-injury of my Achilles, which happened during that accident I had
in August when someone crashed into my Jeep. Oh, and then there was
this little fellow that kicked my seat all the way from Charlotte to SFO!
All of the fear and stress melted away though... The moment
we landed and I found my parents waiting for me at baggage!
Of course, the first stop on the way home is always the beach...
Just to make sure it's exactly where I left it!
Funny story... Just after dad took this photo of me and mom, a gentleman asked
if I'd take a photo of his family. Of course I said yes; but imagine my surprise
when I realized his family included the little fellow from the plane - No... Really!
I couldn't believe it! I'd just told mom and dad about how miserable my
flight was because of this little stinker and there he was! Oh, and when
his father mentioned they were on their way to LA, I may have mumbled
something about hoping that his little dear kicks his seat the whole way!
Nevertheless, being home couldn't have felt better!
We did all of my favorite things... We went to the Carmel Mission,
where both of my sweet boys were baptized on this spot!
And, where this beautiful bride was about to
enter and begin making memories of her own there!
Mom and I spent several days shopping our favorite spots in Carmel!
Soaking up the glorious sunshine and breathing in the fresh sea air!
I also took her to the Apple store...
Where mom got her very first iPhone!
We also went to Mass together...
It was wonderful... As it always is!
Quite simply, we revisited all my favorite places while I was home!
The places I miss seeing every day...
I also managed to cook dinner for my parents!
My dad loves chili so of course...
I made a big pot of my chili with cornbread!
Knowing how much I've been riding my bike at home,
dad offered to bring their bikes out of storage for me!
So the next morning before the sun was up, I was on my mom's bike!
It was a lovely morning for a ride!
I rode all the way from Fisherman's Wharf to Asilomar Beach!
Past my favorite lighthouse...
And, I stopped along the way to take photos... Lots of photos!
I also forgot my dad's riding gloves on that bench so that little
circle on my FitBit you see is where I had to ride back to pick them up!
On the way back I stopped on Cannery Row...
Just as the shops were opening...
So I picked up some goodies to take to some special people back home!
Mom and I goofed off a lot!
We spent a lot of our time together by the sea. Feeding the gulls...
And my little buddies... The ground squirrels!
I love them and I know they love me!
All too soon it was time to say good-bye again so dad and I ran down
to Asilomar beach for one more look at the place where it all began...
Where my little beach bums used to chase birds and sunsets...
The place where I grew up as a mom and where I most wish for us all to meet again!
Dad and I watched this surfer, who was having considerable trouble with his form...
So we decided to show him how it was done!
Didn't we, dad?
After our form lesson, surfer went back into the
water. And, I think he did much better... Ha!
And just like that...
All the fun we had...
All the many gifts my parents gave me...
All the spoiling they did...
Along with our strolls through the Monterey Farmers' Market...
Came to an all too soon end...
It was time to pack up all the great finds...
From our trips to the thrift stores...
And, head back home!
Dad and I were on the road to San Francisco just a little past
4AM, which totally explained this unfortunate sock mishap I had!
And, just like that I was back in North Carolina, rushing to
get back to Forsyth before the polls closed so I could vote!
We made it just in time!
But, as happy as I was to be home there was no time to relax,
let alone blog to tell you about it, because 48 hours later...
A sweet friend of mine and I were on our way to Mixed!
Where yours truly worked the registration desk!
As in the previous two years I've attended Mixed, it was a blast! I
finally got to meet one very special long-time blogger friend
in person and see others I've missed since the last time we were all
together in Asheville at FBF! Oh, and my friend Lynda was the
grand prize winner in the Dixie Crystals baking competition!
Just as soon as I returned from Mixed, Thanksgiving knocked on the door!
And I will not lie to you...
With the exception of these rolls I made
from scratch, I phoned the rest of our feast in...
Using mostly pre-made everything!
And yet, we managed to have a wonderful
celebration of all the things we are most thankful for!
I would have liked to have done better... But the motivation to
focus my time and energy on food this year just wasn't there!
I barely had time to decorate the house for Christmas
before we packed our bags and hit the road again!
After all, it was December and time for our annual
month-long celebration of our wedding anniversary!
Our first get-away was a relaxing weekend in Cherokee, North Carolina!
Where we stayed at Nantahala Village. I was a little worried
after reading some of the reviews on-line since I'd already
made a non-refundable reservation before reading them! But...
It was a fantastic place to stay near Cherokee!
I chose a fireplace lodge suite and couldn't have
been more delighted with what we found waiting for us!
The whole place exceeded our expectations!
After checking into our room, we headed
over to the Bryson City train depot to catch the...
Great Smokey Mountain Railroad's...
Polar Express!
It was such fun!
We were served hot chocolate and sang Christmas
carols as the train made its way to the North Pole!
Following our return, we stopped for pizza at
Nate and Nick's, a little place across from the depot!
I had the salad but heard the pizza was quite decent!
After dinner we decided to drive into Cherokee to do a little gambling!
Where it didn't take long to take this
warning seriously and get out of there quick...
Before any real Wicked damage could be done!
The next morning we said goodbye to our little fireplace lodge and headed...
To Asheville where I immediately bumped into another bride...
And, we toured Biltmore house for probably the hundredth time!
After our tour we grabbed a late lunch at our favorite place in the village!
As usual, Cedric's did not disappoint!
Not too very long after our visit to Asheville, it was time to embark
on the last get-away planned to celebrate our 29th anniversary...
Indeed... We were off to the Bahamas, via Savannah and Charleston!
I have always wanted to visit, ever since learning it was one of the
places our Ranger could have been stationed, had he been assigned
to second Battalion. Of course, he wound up with 3rd Ranger Battalion
down at Ft. Banning; therefore, we never did make it to Savannah!
But all that changed when we decided to go see REO Speedwagon for our
anniversary. You see, I've always wanted to see them so when I found out
they were playing on a cruise to the Bahamas, which was sailing out of
Charleston, I made sure to add a stop in Savannah to our itinerary!
We had the best time!
Savannah is really something to see. Our only
regret was not having enough time to see it all!
SpaBoy gave me all the best recommendations
for what not to miss in the short time we had!
First on our list was the Olde Pink House Restaurant...
Where we enjoyed an incredibly beautiful lunch!
The food was amazing!
We ordered a little bit of everything to share!
The staff treated us like royalty... Even before they knew we were celebrating!
After our lunch, we strolled through Forsyth Park!
Where I finally got to see...
The fountain of all fountains in Savannah!
We ended our day strolling through shops at the historic waterfront...
Where we chatted with a couple of tour-guide locals...
That told us about some other not-to-be-missed sights!
So we grabbed a quick dinner at Churchill's Pub,
where we shared fish and chips and a wedge salad!
We got up early the next morning...
To find Bonaventure Cemetery!
It was fascinating!
But if you go looking for that one statue made famous in the
movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, don't bother...
Because after visitors began chipping away at it to take
pieces home with them, it was moved to a local museum!
That's not to say there aren't plenty of other
interesting memorials to discover, especially this one!
After our walk through Bonaventure we visited Tybee Lighthouse!
You know how much I love a good lighthouse view of the sea...
And this one was pretty spectacular!
See what I mean?
After delivering a few postcards to
the Tybee post office it was time for lunch...
At Paula Dean's Lady and Sons restaurant near downtown...
I sincerely wish I could say the food was even slightly
good; however, I cannot lie to you... The food was awful!
But go! Go for the great gift shop because you never know...
You may just bump into one of the handsome Dean sons,
like I did - Which will help you forget all about Paula's food!
Speaking of shopping... The Paris Market
in downtown Savannah is not to be missed!
I had no time to shop for Christmas before we
left home so I did almost all of it in Savannah!
Between the Paris Market and Savannah Bee Company...
Everyone on my list was checked off in no time!
My entire Christmas shopping was done in one afternoon!
The next morning I quickly delivered all of our packages to the post
office... Where I was busted by a local news station asking customers
about mailing so close to the last possible deadline for Christmas delivery!
After Savannah, it was time to make our way to the equally beautiful Charleston!
As you know, we've visited Charleston many times...
It's our favorite destination for sea kayaking and so much more!
This trip lasted only a day though so I made extra sure to have everything
planned out as to not waste a moment! As for where we'd eat... Despite a lot
of terrible reviews, I really wanted to try the Bay Street Biergarten after
seeing one of their chefs compete on the FoodNetwork show, Chopped!
Fortunately, all the nasty things I read about their staff and the
horrendous service happened before we even ordered. I say fortunately
because it saved us further disappointment and from wasting our money!
Left without a plan B, we headed downtown to shop... We
And hit all of my other favorite places!
A too-late dinner at some Mexican joint ended up being a total bust so we
decided to call it a night and do what we needed to do to prepare for our cruise!
But Janet... You said you would never cruise again after the awful experience you
guys had with Carnival during your 25th anniversary cruise! I hear you and,
that's exactly what my love said when I proposed this cruise. However, there was a
very specific reason for wanting to take this particular trip and it had to do with...
I love them and I've always wanted to see REO Speedwagon in concert!
Plus, the Atlantis Resort and water park has been on our
to-do list for a while and this boat was headed that way!
The Carnival Fantasy is a much older and smaller ship than
the Glory we previously sailed on. It also became clear very
quickly that this is basically a floating party bus that makes
almost non-stop weekly circles between Charleston and the
Bahamas. Almost everyone that chatted us up said they'd taken
this cruise multiple times. What made this experience different...
Was the service and the attention we received from the staff!
The moment we embarked... We were glad to be aboard!
Although we didn't do a suite this time our ocean view stateroom was nice!
My mom was worried about us after all the stories in the media recently about
germs and disease break-outs on cruise ships... So I promised to go prepared!
But really... For as many people and as much use as this ship sees...
I couldn't have cleaned it any better. Everything was perfect!
I have to tell you that I was a little worried about this trip and the holidays in general...
You see, I decided to make some huge changes in the way I take care of myself
after Ranger left the Army. For five years and seventeen weeks I lived consumed
by fear, worry and extreme stress. I coped and comforted myself with food. And,
when I wasn't cooking, I was baking and decorating cookies because it was
an obsession craft which allowed me to isolate myself for hours and often
even days. Hours and days that I spent consumed by all of my worst fears...
I could write forever about the feelings I had/have about the experience of
watching my first born deploy to Afghanistan five times and never scratch
the surface of what it was really like or meant to me as his mother or how it
affected us as a family. I feel such a sense of gratitude every day for his safe
return; but there is also a sense of overwhelming sadness that I feel for the
mothers I know who weren't as fortunate me. And, although some of the
struggles from his service have carried over into Ranger's civilian life...
I decided that being dead from stress and obesity wasn't going to bring me any
closer to helping anyone. So, I took control. I took control with the same kind of
skill, concentration and dedication it takes to create the thousands of cookies
I created and donated to everyone and every cause that asked! You could say
that I took a mental health vacation from all things that didn't concern our
little our family and that didn't begin with the letter M. As in the word, ME!
In terms of the cruise... I spent a lot of time away from the buffets here!
And here, in the ship's gym! So how did I do it? I can tell you I did not
do it with the assistance of any kind of bariatric surgery, fad diets, shots
or medications. As obvious and as simple as it will sound... I learned how
to become a better emotional manager and in the end, put myself first!
I learned that what I weigh has nothing to do with what I eat and
everything to do with how I feel. Doing the emotional work to identify
the reasons I manage my feelings with food was difficult; but in the end,
I can tell you it was far less difficult than being trapped by fear and fat. It
was also easier than feeling the resentment I carried around because I
didn't feel worthy of standing up for myself or capable of saying No to
those that hurt and took advantage of me due to my size. It was also much
easier than coping with the limitations the extra weight put on my life!
There is so much to say on this subject and so much I've learned
that I want to share and, I will. But... I just realized this has become
the longest blog post in the history of all my blog posts these past
seven years; therefore, I will close the subject for now. But since I
realize the thing people most want to know after any revelation of
adopting a healthier lifestyle is numbers, I will share with you that
during the first seven months of this life-long commitment I've made,
the pounds lost now number in triple digits. I still have a way to go to
reach the goal I originally set for myself; however, I am so grateful for
the success I've already achieved. Now, there is a specific program I
am following - So if weight is something you're struggling with too, I
am happy to share it with you. Just send me an e-mail and we'll chat!
After a day at sea it was time to explore Freeport, Bahamas!
The excursion I lined up for our day in Freeport was a Jeep tour of the island!
We were paired with a sweet couple that didn't mind me doing all the driving,
which was super fun. Especially since they drive on the left side of the road there!
We had a blast! And, the scenery was exactly how you'd imagine it...
Only better!
Our tour took us to the most beautiful places on the island...
Including a botanical garden for lunch!
Our guide, Sammy more than lived up to the on-line reviews we read
about him! He even left us this shell to find when we returned to our Jeep!
Originally, I envisioned we'd take the kayak excursion; but after
this Jeep tour I'm convinced it was the best way to see Freeport!
The following morning we docked in Nassau, Bahamas
where we were promptly whisked away to Paradise Island!
If you've ever seen the Atlantis Resort commercials and wondered if
the water park there was as amazing as it looks... I can tell you it is!
We had such a good time, especially on the rapid river!
Lunch was included as part of the excursion and after this little
cutie began following us around, I decided to feed him all my fish!
After a few hours exploring the water park we played on the beach!
Like little kids!
It was a beautiful day in Nassau!
But there was more to come because after I mailed these postcards...
Which by the way, if you're waiting for one, haven't
arrived yet... Anyway, we had a concert to get ready for!
After all, REO Speedwagon is the only reason I booked this cruise!
It was perfect! Great seats, small crowd, they sounded just like
they did in 1982 and seemed truly delighted to be there with us!
Other entertainment on the ship was pretty decent too!
Which coupled with the gym and spa activities I focused on,
helped to distract me from the unending buffets of temptation!
If you're considering this cruise I would tell you to take it. It's fairly
inexpensive for the places you'll see, things you'll do and the fun to be
had! I booked pretty far in advance (in July) and even with the choice
of an ocean view stateroom, I only paid $700 for the two of us! I will tell
you to skip the shopping for anything more than souvenirs though. They
put on a pretty tough sell on the ship about shopping for diamonds and
high-end watches in Nassau but in the end, I found the diamonds to be
very poor quality and priced far higher than they could ever be worth!
On our way out of Charleston we stopped at the Early Bird Diner... Another
one of the places found through FoodNetwork. But unlike the Biergarten, this
place was well worth the effort to find! I had the corn cake eggs Benedict - Yum!
Of course, no trip home from South Carolina would be complete
without a quick stop in Gaffney at the Pottery Barn Outlet!
I still had Christmas gifts of the liquid variety to package for
my bosses so I grabbed a few of these... Trying to ignore
Pottery Barn's unfortunate choice of bottles to display them!
We arrived home just a day before our Ranger flew in for Christmas! It
was a fantastic visit I cannot wait to share with you! However... Since
this is the longest blog post in history and the Cowboys are playing
now, I will leave you now with my thanks for visiting with me today...
And with my very Best Wishes for a very Healthy and Happy New Year!