birthday cake

In  just a few short hours, I will be 42. I find myself wondering over the past week or so, what does that meant is 42 supposed to look like? Do I embody it? Do I even care if I’m the typical 42-year-old woman? I’ll share with you what I came up with. 

I don’t think I’m the average 42-year-old, although again, I’m not sure I even know what that is. I am me and I feel pretty good at this age. While I’m far from perfect, I have certainly matured over the years. I’ve made sure to put my health front and center. I’m even calmer when in uncomfortable situations, as opposed to arguing, yelling, or just bolting. I’m understanding in the differences of others without losing my point of view or myself. I am patient, caring, kind and open-minded. At the same time, I refuse to deal with a bunch of BS. I accept the fact that people are flawed and would rather they be upfront about things, just as I am to everyone. All of these traits came with growing up, or as I like to say, are reflective of Grown Folks and yup, I’m Grown!

At 42, I am happy. I have many more goals I’d like to accomplish and things I seem to continually fail at but overall, I can’t really complain. I can wake up on my birthday and do yoga, or cardio, or weightlifting, or bike riding and be with people I love throughout the day. My mind, body and spirit might be getting older, but intelligence, confidence and strength came with being older, so it’s not a bad trade-off.

So, what does 42 mean? To me, celebrating this birthday means I’m still here doing what I do, learning what I enjoy and being the best me I can. I’ve taken HUJ strides in changing who I am and sculpting the best version of me possible. Maybe it’s in bad form to say this, but “Happy Birthday to Me.” Or rather, as I say it with no shame and shout for the world to hear, “Happy 42nd Birthday to Me.”

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(I realized, after I wrote this, there’s no weight-loss or maintenance information here, just me basically patting myself on the back. Shameful, maybe, but sometimes, kudos and thoughts to oneself is exactly what is needed to keep on keeping on.)

Last year I absolutely embraced 40. This year, tomorrow actually, I’ll be 41, which feels a bit different. I will officially be in my 40s, as opposed to exactly 40. Crazy, I know, but that’s how I think of it. While I’m not embracing 41 as I did 40 (no huge party this year), I am quite accepting of it. Below are just some random thoughts I have in regards to being in my 40s, which is less than 24 hours away:

I’m not the average person for my age. I exercise regularly and I’m merely pounds from a healthy BMI, thus from a weight standpoint, so far so good.

I fear the middle age spread. I finally got my body in shape, looking a bit like an hourglass and now, who knows what horrid thing will happen next.

I can’t wait to do my 2-hour workout tomorrow. There is something liberating about “pumping iron” the morning of another year older. It makes me feel like I haven’t lost anything, which is silly really. If I lose something it’ll likely happen over time, not overnight (but I’ll take the delight it brings me, no matter how misguided).

I am highly looking forward to celebrating with friends and family this weekend. And, while healthy or not (I know it’s not), I’m going to have a great time partying it up. Though at my age, I had better be careful about how much partying I do, especially if I plan to complete that aforementioned workout.

I still feel young but I also feel accomplished. If I were a man, that would make me distinguished (like Sean Connery at 40-something). Not sure what that makes me as a woman. I hear ma’am and shutter as I think that’s a sign I’m old to others. I’m not that old but I suppose I’m getting there.

Most importantly, I am not only healthy but I am happy. It took time to get here. I can’t say it took the entire 41 years but it certainly wasn’t overnight or quick. It is nice to feel settled, relaxed and ready for what comes now that I’m officially “over the hill.” I smile slyly as I say, “Happy Birthday to Me… You Go Girl!”

Recently there was a lunch meeting in our department. On July 1, we are merging with a new group and creating a wider customer base, so the luncheon was sort of a meet and greet for everyone. The food served was New York style pizza from one of my favorite pizzerias in town, salad and pop. The meeting was scheduled for noon-1:30. I showed up promptly, water bottle in hand with the intention not to eat a thing. Sure, I could have had salad, but I eat at structured times during my workday. Typically, I have my latte with skim milk at 7:30, my breakfast at 9:30, mid-morning snack at 11:30, lunch at 1:30, afternoon snack at 3:30 and eat dinner following my workout, about 6pm. More importantly than my schedule, I simply wasn’t hunger at noon. So, how’d it go, me planning to eat nothing while everyone else ate?

I can’t believe I actually did as planned. I took a seat away from the food station and felt perfectly fine. No one even commented on why I wasn’t eating. We followed the agenda, we had friendly conversation and nothing seemed odd at all, to me anyway. Maybe they were wondering why I hadn’t eaten, but no one said anything, no one treated me differently and I didn’t feel apart from the group or conversation. The smell of the food didn’t bother me, as I wasn’t hungry and I really didn’t want any. I’ve gotten much better at checking in with myself on whether I really want something or not; no sense in messing up a day’s calories because food is conveniently in front of me. If I do it because I really wanted the item, that’s another story. Power lunch meeting completed with my mission accomplished.

The meeting was over at 1:30, at which time I proceeded to the kitchen to cut my apple and make my turkey sandwich with my toasted sandwich-thins whole grain bread, oven roasted turkey slices, and one tablespoon of light Miracle Whip. I did use some of the lettuce from the salad leftovers to top my sandwich. I finished with a wonderful piece of Extra, sugar-free, Mint Chocolate Chip Dessert gum. I believe this is the first meeting in my organization, over a timeframe for which I don’t normal eat that included food, for which I didn’t eat. Since I have to work with everyone and see them daily, I was a bit nervous about how it might look. No one normally says anything when people miss breakfast or some ice cream social but no lunch, during a lunch meeting… that’s a big milestone.

What I take away from this is that while I was anxious about this meeting and the results, there was no need to be. Nobody cares about what I do, which is actually how it should be. I’m the one that called myself the Weight Loss Weirdo, or that weird woman who doesn’t eat. The things that sometimes cause me to be uneasy or that used to result in “peer pressure eating” are all in my head. As I go through my journey and travel the road, this really is what I’m beginning to realize. Eat when your body needs nourishment. If I don’t make a big deal out of not eating, no one else does either. Stay the course… slow and steady!

This blog was my husband’s idea (can you hear the hum-bug in my voice). I have minimal artistic ability (minimal being a kind word because I really have none), but he suggested I come up with my own 12 Days of Christmas or at least 12 tips for Christmas. Not being one to turn down a challenge, I decided to go for it. Therefore, I bring you HUJ’s 12 Tips for Christmas:

12 – Appetizer veggie sticks (think carrots and celery) 

11 – Chews of each bite before swallowing

10 – Food items maximum on dinner plate (HUJ readers already know only one plate)

9 – Snack chips, grab one or two at a time

8 – Glasses of water

7 – Minutes per hour of activity (play Wii, snowball fight, clean kitchen, etc.)

6 – Minimum kinds of veggies on your plate

5 – Mini/small/bite-size portions of dessert to taste

4 – Maximum types of meat

3 – At the most caloric drinks

2 – Miles walking

1 – Day only of this type of eating

Drumroll please…  

Now, for your singing pleasure, brought to you by HUJ, are the lyrics to the above tips, sung to the same tune as The 12 Days of Christmas:

12 – Veggie sticks

11 – Chews per bite

10 – Foods, one plate

9 – Chips for snacking

8 – Water glasses

7 – Minutes dancing

6 – Kinds of veggies

5 – Mini desserts

4 – Types of meat

3 – Caloric drinks

2 – Mile walk

            And only do this for Christmas Day!

I hope you enjoyed this world premiere release by HUJ. Everyone have a happy, safe, and Merry Christmas!

I suppose a blog about Halloween candy and how not to overdo it with all the Halloween treats would be most appropriate, but that’s not where my head is. Today, I’ve been thinking a lot about the various conversations I have with people about weight loss. Some people wonder how I do it and I’m still able to socialize and hang out with my friends. Others state they don’t have the will power and just couldn’t do it (though these people are already “doing it” as they aren’t obese like I was). Sometimes I am asked questions like, “what are you most proud of in this accomplishment?” Or, “what have you found is the hardest/easiest part of this journey?” As I said, for some reason today I’m pondering these things. I suppose I do get into these moods where I am shocked I lost and have maintained having lost over half my weight. I am glad I did it, I wonder what took so long, I hope/pray I maintain it and I fear what happens as older age will eventually come knocking. All of these thoughts today lead me to one feeling. One huge overwhelming emotion of love and honestly I feel… Blessed. Today I truly feel blessed. 

I still hang out with my same friends. We still go to the same places, we still drink together and we still have tons of fun. I still host events at my house, we still have game night and did I mention, we still drink together and have fun. Sure, I don’t eat as much food as I used to and I might lean on the healthier side for some of these outings, but it doesn’t make me a killjoy or bring anyone down. Sometimes my friends will choose to eat healthier as well. Other times they’ll say, “I need to eat something healthy, but oh well, not today.” We toast and laugh to it and move on with our conversations. My friends are happy for me and don’t consider my weight loss an obstacle in our friendship. My friends (and family) are true blessings. 

I couldn’t do what I do or be who I am without them. They’ve been my cheering section all this time, never doubting, never wavering, never trying to steer me down another path and never judging. I’ve always felt if I lost the weight, great and if not, that’s fine too as my friends and family are still going to see me as Me. Sometimes it’s not until times like this that I truly know how right I am and I was more than right about my nearest and dearest. I suppose that’s what I’m proud of the most in this accomplishment. I’m proud that I am still me. I’m proud that on those few occasions that others learn from my weight loss or make better decisions about their lives that I am able to give something back (as they always give me so much). 

For example, my mother, to me, is one of the greatest people in the world. She’s strong, independent and extremely intelligent. She’s one of the reasons I knew there had to be a way to be a respectable weight without being “big-as-a-house” or obese. My mother eats ribs, dessert, drinks Coke and other calorie-laden food but manages a normal weight. I figured if she could do it, so could I. The beautiful thing is that she never pressured me about it, so she was secretly my motivation and inspiration. (Guess the secret is out now). She gave me something that she didn’t even know, and through this journey, I’ve been able to give back. She’s changed her cooking just a bit to be healthier, using a little less butter, maybe even lite-butter on occasion, and most importantly, she now works out. When she retired I was a bit worried about her getting exercise, but I indirectly introduced her to Leslie Sansone and now she does her walk-at-home videos. She’s even lost some weight, something she wasn’t trying to do. While my mother’s never said it was due to me that she changed her lifestyle or started buying a few of the same foods I purchase, I’d like to believe this is my way of giving back. Yeah, if for no other reason than this, the ability to give back is the accomplishment for which I am most proud. 

Maybe because tomorrow is All Saints’ Day, and I see many of my friends and family as saints in their own right or maybe it’s the gathering of people for Halloween festivities or maybe I’m just feeling all warm-and-fuzzy, but I just wanted to take this time to thank all those in my life for being such a blessing. I want to say thanks for being such wonderful treats in my world and allowing me to grow and strengthen because of you. I can say this journey hasn’t been hard because I’ve had support every step of the way. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been the easiest thing I’ve ever done but my loved ones have certainly helped pave a smoother way. On this Halloween, I realize there is no trick to losing weight or having a healthier lifestyle, as it all boils down to how I treat myself and treating myself to the best people imaginable is the healthiest thing I’ve ever done.

I never judge what people eat or how they manage their weight or lifestyle. However, it almost seems impossible not to notice what people eat now a days. I’ve gotten used to calculating calories for myself and reviewing restaurant menus and corresponding calories prior to eating, so I can’t help but recognize what others eat and how many calories they are eating. It is my new “calorie counting superpower” (or my kryptonite, depending on how you see it). My powers always seem to tabulate and focus on that skinny person that plows in a ton of food but seems to remain, thin, fit, and wonderful looking. If I even looked at the amount of food they ate I’d put on 10 pounds instantly. How can this be? How do they do it? 

To put you in my frame of mind, let me give you an example. I went out to dinner with my family and one person pretty much just inhaled her food. To protect the guilty (who was so innocent and oblivious to her eating or the amount of calories she ate), I will not include her name but will call her GM. We went to the Cheesecake Factory, which by itself can spell disaster for anyone watching his or her weight. The waiter came out with the customary basket of brown and sour dough bread. GM ate the entire brown loaf herself, within 15 minutes of its arrival to the table. The rest of us had to order another loaf to share because she wasn’t sharing. Right there she scarfed down 350-400 calories and she hadn’t ordered yet. 

Next up, her meal. She had a tossed salad for about 200 calories, ranch dressing, served in a dressing boat, and French fries. She completely emptied the 300 calories of dressing on her salad and plowed through, eating the majority of it and a bit more than half of her 580 calorie fries with ketchup. At this point her total calorie count is about 1200 if I’m being conservative. Unbelievably, she didn’t look the least bit full or tired and certainly wasn’t done eating. Now it was time for dessert. 

She decided on the Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake, my favorite. I only cut about 1 inch maximum off the back of the cake (the part with the white chocolate) and eat it with no whipped cream, which is calorie laden enough. Did she want to split it with me? Oh no, she wanted her own piece. Good thing too because after she pretty much cleaned her plate of that dessert, I wouldn’t have had anything to eat. Yes, she almost completely decimated the entire 1550-calorie dessert. She was glad I’d given her the tip of no whipped cream though. 

So, if you’ve been adding this up, you know GM has eaten upwards of 2500 calories or more. That is my daily maximum allowance on the weekend; daily allowance, not per meal allowance and I did a few extra bike rides just to eat about 500 calories of that cheesecake. She just ate more than my daily intake in one meal. OMG!!! I was with her all day so I know what else she ate and I know she had at least 3300 calories for the day. 

At this point, I’m sure you’re thinking GM must have an unhealthy BMI. No way can someone eat that much food in one sitting ( as she’d done all weekend) and be healthy. If those are your thoughts, you’re right, as her BMI is not healthy. However, not for the reason you think. She actually weighs 90-something pounds (something she constantly boasts about) and is underweight for her 5 foot 4 inch frame. Yes, she is a skinny-miny that wears a zero or a kids size 14 if they are made right. Can you believe it? She used to be a size 4 but in her older age has become more vain about her looks, thus watches her waistline a bit more closely now. 

As I said, I never judge or criticize how or what people eat. In fact, I have found some people down right inspiring, like my mother. She has always eaten what she wanted (ribs, hotdogs, veggies, fruits, burgers, etc.), eats dessert every night and continues to stay healthy. She was the reason I realized there has to be a way to eat good food, not restrict myself of the foods I love and not be big as a house; if my mother could do it all her life without even trying, surely I could do it with a little bit of effort. Anyway, I digress. Watching GM eat just made we wonder where does it all go?

Not this thin... but you get my drift

Why can’t I shovel food like that and be thin as a rail (OK, maybe not that thin but a moderate size with no effort)? I had to be meticulous, setting up a blueprint and plan of attack, as well as only eating 1/3 of my cheesecake in order to stay within my calorie count by eating at the Cheesecake Factory. How do skinny people do it? 

I know GM doesn’t eat like that all the time but if I ate like that just once I swear the scale the following morning would be 5 pounds heavier. Add to that the fact of eating that way the entire weekend, I likely couldn’t fit into my clothes on Monday. I know they say calories in versus calories out but sometimes I think there have to be some genetics involved. I go to happy hours with people, watching them drink and eat a ton and they are a size 2 or something. How do they do it? Sure, I can do it by juggling low-calorie food all day and doing a few extra workouts, but I don’t think others have to be that precise with their daily calorie intake. 

Dang-nabbit those skinny people! Those are my thoughts on occasion; those moments make me wish it were easier. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be a smaller size, glad I’m healthy and elated to have the necessary skills and knowledge to maintain this weight, but it does require work. For those of us that have to work at it, struggle, and be mindful, keep up the great work and continue to forge through. Continue your success, your hard effort, be proud, and say it with me, “Dang-nabbit those skinny people!”