Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Doing our part.....

It is astounding to imagine. We hear so much of the obesity crisis in the US -- that we're killing ourselves by the spoonful or forkful, that our heavily processed food is leading to diseases which should be easily preventable by eating correctly, that we're raising the first generation that may not outlive its parents......

And there is yet a hunger issue in this country. Seventeen percent -- one in six -- does not have enough access to food to sustain a healthy life. To see this and other staggering statistics on food and poverty, just visit Feeding America's website. I knew many of these statistics, and it still broke my heart. 33.5 million adults, 16.7 million children. Many receive benefits, but it may not be enough.

My last semester in college was the closest I came to experiencing even a fraction of this. I was 21, almost 22, taking only 2 classes, and working the rest of the time, and there was never, ever enough money to go around. Between the utilities, trying to pay rent, gas to go to class and/or work, and trying to buy groceries....... never enough. The Velveeta Shells & Cheese that I had enjoyed while living in the dorm very quickly gave way to six-for-a-dollar "mac n cheeze" in the generic black-and-white box with that nuclear-meltdown-orange powder. I bought a pound of boneless/skinless chicken breasts once a month; each week, I would cook one breast and chop it up incredibly finely and use it in rice or macaroni to create a more rounded meal. Those were the smallest portions I had ever eaten in my adult life until I joined Weight Watchers. That chicken and rice was put together into an 8x8 Pyrex dish, baked together, and then refrigerated and cut into 6 blocks -- four days of lunch and two dinners. On the rare occasions that I had a little extra money for going out for dinner, it was either Taco Bell and the 49c crunchy taco or -- MAJOR MEAL -- a McDonald's value meal (back in the pre-supersize days ... for the meal, anyway). When the semester was over and I moved home and started my career, I wasn't making a lot -- certainly more than I'd made working minimum wage in college, but still...... The lessons on economizing remained, as did my penchant for the Value Meals. 

I say all this to say that I get it when people say it's more expensive to eat healthy, especially when feeding kids. You'd love to give each kid an apple to take with them to school each day, but that's 15 apples for three kids..... maybe $8 to get that many apples. Or you can buy a couple of boxes of fruit flavored snacks and have enough to last all week for half the price. Forget buying chicken breasts to feed us all: a bag of nuggets will go much farther. And you can really forget the fish unless you're talking Mrs. Paul. Fresh veggies? If you can get a kid to eat them, good luck.... some might touch canned corn or green beans, but most run in the other direction.

Last year, celebrity chef Mario Batali undertook a challenge to feed his family of four on the same amount that a family of four receives from SNAP (what I grew up hearing as "food stamps"). The first thing he noticed? Organic produce or anything else was absolutely out of the question. The next thing he noticed? his kids lunches suddenly became PB&J on white bread. Even though he *could* have made nutritious bread at home, most families on SNAP would not have been able to do so. And there was so much more..... it works out to $31/person per week ..... or at 3 meals a day (no snacks!): $1.48/meal. Good luck.

There's also another hunger-related issue: simply not being close to foods which will sustain a healthy life. I've always been lucky to live in town -- I've never lived anywhere that food of some sort was not easily accessible. But even in urban areas, you can have "food deserts" though they are far more prevalent in rural areas...... food deserts are those places where food is sold, but it's mostly highly processed, no selection of vegetables, fresh fruits, lean meats, or healthy dairy. Think of a convenience store: mostly chips, candy, whole milk, butter, cold cuts in the refrigerated section, and if there's a hot food section, it's either hot dogs or fried foods and overseasoned "veggies" (green beans, corn, pintos, macaroni, and everyone's favorite, banana pudding. Wish I were joking). And it's there because the nearest town is 4 miles away and some of the older people walk to this store because they have no car. But you haven't seen Miss Minnie in for days. Guess that diabetes is making it harder for her to walk.....

And every summer we hear stories of kids who depend on free or reduced lunches and breakfasts in the school year as sometimes their main meal ..... and who in the summer or on weekends are facing a real hunger crisis. We hear of secret backpack missions where teachers or charities provide meals that kids can take home with them, disguised in backpacks so that it looks like they're just taking books.

I'm proud to be part of an organization that is working in its own way to bring these issues to light as they work to teach people how to live healthier lives within their own lifestyles and budgets. And each fall, Weight Watchers has promoted a campaign called "Lose For Good" .... in the last few years, we have partnered with Share Our Strength/"No Kid Hungry" for hunger relief in the US, and with Action Against Hunger (ACF-International) to bring attention to the similar plight around the world, where food supplies are far less abundant than in the US. 

You can also learn more about the food crisis in America by visiting Feeding America.

At the very least, it doesn't hurt to be mindful of everyone who doesn't have enough food, worries about how to feed a family on a fixed income, or who would like to eat healthier but have limited access to such foods...... and especially so for the next generation. Let's do what we can to support our neighbors in need.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Annnnnnnd breathe.

I got back to some of the basics I mentioned last week -- I still didn't do everything perfectly, but I did what I set out to do. I accepted the fact that some days would be better than others because of the lymphedema. I changed what I could (including the daily chocolate piece, knocked it down to only twice). And I rested at times when I should have been running around trying to do more than I could say grace over. (Should is another ugly word, sometimes).

The results? Down 2.2!!!! I'll take it! I actually had lost 2.6 as of the weekend, but I'll gladly take the 2.2 pounds!

The plan for this week? The same, with a little extra work -- doing the meat-and-two at lunch instead of running out for something because I've been too lazy to cook...... I actually started that this week and so far so good. Today was an exception because I had some dental work done. But at least I have my lunch ready to go for tomorrow!

And I plan to be at the gym in the morning, and getting back to a strength training routine I haven't done in a while. I do one on Fridays, but I'm going to add a routine (full body) on Wednesday as well. We'll see how it works.

In the meantime, the other thing I'm doing is more breathing and relaxing. Resting. Okay, so I'm a month late to the routine from August (HAAA!). But no really, the other thing that helped me most this week was a healthy dose of perspective from two fellow WW employees. They are people who know my story, who know of my health issues, who know my struggles, and who aren't afraid to say, "Okay, so what *is* working for you? What's standing in your way? Are you truly willing to commit and not just saying this to make me happy so we can move on to another topic of conversation?" Being able to share my joys and frustrations with them was a priceless gift this week.

This week, I got to walk down memory lane and share a little of my story with my group at the weekly meeting where I'm "just" a member. It really inspired me to think more about all the success I've had, especially in the times when I felt as down and discouraged as I did last week.

To all of you, KEEP STRIVING!!! The shame is not in falling but in failing to rise again to fight another round.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Do they have WW in Luckenbach, TX?

Either way, it's time to get back to the basics of.........

Not gonna sugarcoat it, I have been struggling, dancing around the same 4-5 pounds for a few weeks now. I've stepped up my exercise and it doesn't appear to help (at least not recently). My stress levels are out the roof (and not just from this struggle). The last couple of weeks have been a real battle with one of the worst enemies ever: self-doubt. Why? I know I can succeed .... So what's a girl to do?

I talked it out with a couple of good friends who also have been there, succeeded, had struggles, and are overcoming them. They have given me some good things to mull over .... and mostly just letting me talk it out and to lead me down a path where I can find the solution(s) that will work best for me and my life. And it's pretty simple, when I think about it:

Accept the things I cannot change. I've got a chronic condition in which I retain fluid -- and not a situation in which basic diuretics are a remedy. I have a compromised lymphatic system. I'll always have fluid retention to some degree. I will not be as easily able to merely "flush" things from my system by drinking 2 gallons of water a day (though staying hydrated is a tremendous bonus). I am also older than I was when I lost the weight, and other things have come into play as well, some of which has been rather unexpected. I've dealt with health issues constantly since I turned 40. I have a team of physicians now instead of just a GP. So these are obstacles which come up and there's not much I can do about it....... so I have to take a deep breath and remember that these too shall pass. Eventually.

Be courageous and change what I can. There are things I can change about my eating habits. As much as I enjoy my ONE Hershey's miniature -- and can limit myself to the one -- it's now become a daily habit, a way to end my lunch break on a sweet note. This has to stop. It's not a treat anymore in the real sense of things. I'm not saying it's bad, or even bad for me, but I need to do something differently than what I'm doing now. What other little changes can I make? I need to list the ones I know I can do...... one new habit each week. And I need to work on stress management even more than the steps I already take (regular exercise, other stress relief such as yoga, etc.). I have an idea on what I can do there.... just need to actually follow through.

Know the difference. I am pretty good at this but always need the reminder. And I need to remember that I am a winner, no matter what numerical value that gravity assigns to me -- because, really, that's all the scale measures: the amount of gravity keeping me bonded to earth.