Saturday, August 3, 2013

San Francisco Chronicle Love!

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Two posts in one day? Something must be up. I've been a bit quiet about this but a most amazing writer, Jeannie Matteucci from the San Francisco Chronicle, contacted me a couple months back and asked about doing an interview with me. Me? How fun. The idea of reaching more people, of reminding them there's a reason to fight the good fight, lose the weight, and get on with enjoying life - it was so exciting I could hardly stand it. I had so little hope when I started my journey but I'm filled with it now and I'm happy to share.

Being a person to not count my chickens before they're hatched I kept it mostly to myself...but it hit newsstands this weekend, much faster than I was expecting. I was having my morning coffee when my friend Gina posted on my Facebook wall, "Are you kidding me??? Just saw Chronicle!!!!!!" I piled the kids in the car and we raced to Gina's house, pajamas and all. I just couldn't believe it when I saw the cover. Couldn't believe it. 

The cover!
I mean, really. Can you even believe it? Holy cover photo. I know some of you have been reading this blog since my humble beginnings when I wrote my first post over 6 years ago. Here's the last paragraph of that post.
So here I am. Head down in a bit of embarrassment about my situation. I have been eating a healthy diet for 6 weeks and have lost 8 pounds. I was 233.8 pounds when I started 6 weeks ago. I am in the contemplation stage when it comes to exercise. I know I want to start again I just don't know when. I'm getting closer, and starting to write on here again is part of my move toward taking that step. I am trying to take things slowly so that I can create something that I am able to maintain for the rest of my life. Maintenance is the only reason I'm back.
I lost 25 pounds and was a bit over 200 pounds when I started exercising. Those early days of moving an over-sized, sedentary body were not easy. But they didn't kill me either. I started slow, doing what I could without injuring myself. I tried to do the Couch to 5k running program but couldn't even do the "brisk 5 minute warm-up walk", let alone the actual Week 1, Day 1 program (which involved multiple 30 second running intervals).

"Inspires" - I sure hope so. I'd love to reach even one person and let them know there's hope.
Obviously the journey from there to here is a long story, one I've covered in tremendous detail on this blog over the years, from 3 bowls of ice cream nights to the unexpected glorious tears of finishing my first triathlon. This journey has included the birth (and weight gain) of my two children and my post-baby fitness comeback. It's been one heck of a ride and one that I've never doubted is worth it. One of my favorite sentences in the article is about starting Weight Watchers, "the weekly meetings became her way of keeping a commitment to herself...". To myself. That was my first and most important commitment. Recognizing this was my choice, my decision - that was key.

But this blog was never about just me. My readers have been critical to my continuing to blog, baring even my worst binge-eating moments, and happily sharing my success to a group of readers who never failed to encourage me, give me life-changing tips and let me know I was making a difference in their lives too. What a rewarding opportunity that has been. I am now convinced my journey was never so much about me as it's about how I can turn this into helping others. Who knew losing the weight was just the beginning? But through helping others, I continue to help myself. I never would have predicted that having a degree and license to practice psychotherapy would merge with this journey in the way it has; I couldn't be happier about that.

Love that Marek made an appearance. Missing my little Myra girl.
When Jeannie did the interview I asked about letting people know about my private practice. She wasn't sure they'd include reference to it - the story being about my blog and all - but this made it into the story and it's like icing on the cake.

Thank you Jeannie! You are an inspiration yourself and I am so grateful to you for seeing my story as one that could help others. There are people in as much pain as I was out there, who have as much drive and desire as I did but they just don't know how to channel it into permanent change, let's hope this article reaches them and inspires them to give it another go. Willpower alone will not get you there. Deprivation and restriction never work. Change your mindset, focus on your goals, remember why you started and just how much it means to you. Don't give up on yourself. It's not always easy, I know that as good as anyone, but it's always worth it.

I am a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice offering Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for weight loss and maintenance. I have an office in Marin County, CA and I'm also available to see clients via Skype. I started this practice after finding CBT techniques to be the most effective interventions for my own weight loss journey. To learn more please visit my professional website at

Enjoying Life (without more candied nuts)

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It was late afternoon and I'd forgotten to pack a snack. I was hungry but with no time to buy something. Someone offered me some candied nuts and I decided it was better than nothing. I had two small handfuls - a decent sized snack. As I was leaving the meeting I was offered more, "no thanks, I've had enough." In trying to convince me to take the rest with me I was told, "You need to learn to enjoy life, Michelle."

The issue of well-intentioned food sharers aside, this comment really struck a chord with me. I took a mental pause and considered my responses...I am enjoying life. In fact, I'm enjoying the heck out of my life. What does another handful of candied nuts have to do with my enjoyment of life? Was he assuming I truly wanted them but was purposelessly denying myself? Was he assuming that portioning my food means I'm missing out on some enjoyment of life? This is just the kind of distorted thinking that many of us fall into. And when you get out of that thinking, you see it more clearly for what it is, false. The other thing was I really liked the candied nuts, eating more than I needed, which would lead to negative feelings, would only diminish that enjoyment.

Besides, I enjoy life more now because I portion my food, because I don't mindlessly eat more than I need and because I don't confuse over-indulging in food with enjoyment of life. In the end I said nothing in response to his comment, thanked him for the snack and went on with my afternoon, grateful I didn't have to starve for the next couple of hours until dinner. And even more grateful that I know how to enjoy life just fine without having a third, fourth or even fifth handful of candied nuts.

I'm doing well on the exercise front too. Thursday was a gym day. I had to go early in the morning as my afternoon was booked solid. I rode the bike for 25 minutes and then did chest/triceps/PT exercises. I don't know if it was because of the early hour but my workout was particularly tough. But I pushed myself and felt better for it when I started my day. Friday was an afternoon gym day and it was again tough. I ran for 3 miles on the treadmill and pushed myself just to get through it. After that I did legs/shoulders/PT exercises. Not sure why my workouts were harder than usual but I'm happy for a rest day today.

Weigh-in Friday morning... 141.6 pounds. Up by a couple, but not surprising after last weekend's camping trip. I know I'll get back to my body's ideal weight by staying on track this week and getting in all my exercise.

Last night I went to a mom friend's house for a get-together. I had dinner at home beforehand - red beans, rice, avocado and pico de gallo - and was successful in sticking to one glass of wine, a handful of almonds and grapes at her house. I thanked the hostess for having grapes out with all the other snacks, "I was thinking of you Michelle." Yay! Thank you Erica. Food helpers are awesome!

Afterward my buddy Michelle and I stopped by Finnegan's for another drink; we weren't quite ready to call it a night. I had a cocktail there and a big glass of water. Back home and Miguel was playing poker with some buddies. I might have had a bunch of chips from their bowl. And someone had gone to fast food and there was a pile of $1 chicken burgers on the table. Normally I wouldn't eat such things but I might have also had one of those. Alright fine, I ate a bunch of chips and a $1 chicken burger. I remember wondering what on earth must be in a chicken burger that's only $1. Then I decided it's better not to know. At least the one piece of lettuce looked legit.

But it's all fine, I have no other social plans this weekend so if that's all the indulging I do, I'll be in good shape come Monday.

Last backpacking buddy Heidi sent me a picture of a heart she came across recently. For whatever reason I'm all about the signs these days. "A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart."

Watch for signs
I am a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice offering Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for weight loss and maintenance. I have an office in Marin County, CA and I'm also available to see clients via Skype. I started this practice after finding CBT techniques to be the most effective interventions for my own weight loss journey. To learn more please visit my professional website at

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Routine is Good

So my weight shot up after camping last weekend. I've been keeping an eye on it all week and while it's back down, it's not likely going to be under 140 come Friday morning. That's ok, I know it will settle back after a few more days of normal eating. My workouts have been good. I realized that last week was the first time in a long time that I got all five of my planned workouts in. I felt really good about that. It took some early morning trips to the gym, which are not my favorite, but I made it happen. This week I'm shooting for another five day streak. I've missed my routine.

Monday was another early morning workout, hitting the gym early because my afternoon was booked solid. I started with the upright bike for 25 minutes, level 8, and then did legs/shoulders/core, mixing in my PT exercises throughout. My back is showing some real progress, I haven't taken ibuprofen in days. Tuning into my body is not one of my better skills so it's been hard for me to gauge if things are getting better but lately I've experienced very few moments of discomfort and that, I've noticed.

I also had PT on Monday. Kate was pleased to hear my back is feeling better, though I still have some pretty tight muscles back there. I think a weekly massage would help but who has time and money for that? So many other priorities. Anyway, she gave me two new exercises. Lunges, 2 sets of 10, and not the walking (aka dynamic) lunges I've been doing but the ones where you step forward, lunge, and step back. They are challenging in a new way and I have to really focus on pushing up from my heel to keep my knee from getting wobbly.

Golfer's Lunge
The other exercise she gave me is called a golfer's lunge. You stand on one foot and bend at the hip, keeping your back straight. In the beginning you hold a stick to keep your back straight but once you've got that part down, you don't use the stick and instead reach one hand toward the floor while bending. 

Monday was a clean eating day...until I went to my mom's house that evening. She had surgery last week so we all went by to check on her and let the kids see her. She had a bunch of food-loot lying around, gifts from well-wishers, and I helped myself to some peanut brittle, english toffee and ice cream. I know I would have felt better about my day had I skipped all those treats, especially coming off all the camping treats, but what's done is done and I'm doing my best to stay focused the remainder of this week.

Tuesday I skipped the gym. I'd like to tell you it was because I was too busy but really it was more because I procrastinated. I kept pushing how much time I had and then next thing, I had no time. So I came up with a scheme to go today, which is just what I did. I hit the gym before my afternoon private practice sessions. I started with an outside run, running 3 miles in just under 30 minutes, then did back/biceps/PT exercises. By the time I got home I was starving! We had refried black beans (unfortunately the canned ones, which have a lot of fat in them) and fixings for dinner. We've started buying this softer cheese, queso fresco, which might be too good for me to have around. It's like eating a solid chunk of cream. I ended up eating some off my kids' plate that they didn't finish. Bad form, Michelle, bad form. I'm skipping any post-dinner snacking to increase my mojo, if that makes sense.

Finally, thank you all so much for the encouragement, support and enthusiasm for my new career venture. The readers of this blog have taught me so much through the open outpouring of support and the wise tips and feedback I've been given over the years. Not sure I would have stuck around this long without it. Thanks!

ps - the Olympic tri is less than 9 weeks away and I have yet to make/start a training plan. Somebody, I need a kick in the pants!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Open for Business!

Recently I've been referring to some career changes that are directly related to my weight loss journey. I am a licensed clinical social worker and part of my training and experience has been in providing psychotherapy. Within the last year I made the decision to open a private practice specializing in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for weight loss and maintenance. Here's a bit more about it.
CBT addresses the feelings, behaviors and thoughts that have led to unhealthy choices. Sessions will focus on identifying and changing unhelpful thoughts with a goal replacing self-defeating habits with healthy ones. Changes are made when you're ready, putting you in total control of your journey. Treatment includes engaging in regular self-monitoring throughout the week as well as completing homework assignments. Treatment usually begin with 8 - 10 weekly sessions followed by 12-24 biweekly sessions.
My practice is open and growing! I couldn't be more excited to be working with people just like me, people who have been held back from living the life they desire because of extra weight. It's not about lack of willpower or drive, it's not about weakness, it's about needing to learn the skills and habits that will keep you on the path toward your goal. I've lived this path, I've made these changes. Sure, I slip and falter now and then, we all do, but I've learned how to get up. And I can teach others how to do the same. Witnessing people how to stay on the path, how to value and work toward their goals, how to make changes toward having the life they want - it's got me waking up excited to cheer others on as they create their new life. 

I've done a huge amount of reading and research on the subject of CBT for weight loss. CBT is widely considered one of the most effective, evidence-based treatments available. What does that mean? Basically it means it's been studied, and it works - and to apply it to weight loss and maintenance makes so much sense, it's a perfect fit. I've seen it work on myself and I feel inspired to help others find their way. In addition to reading, research and living this model, I also attended an intensive training at the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, learning from the best in the business how to use this model in practice. 

now for the details: I have an office in Novato, California and I am also available to see people via Skype. My practice website is My email and phone number are on the website if you might be interested in contacting me. Soon I'll be placing an ad on my blog so that new visitors know about my practice. 
br /> Whew! This has been a long time coming with lots of thought, planning, learning and seeking of guidance on the best way to establish and grow this business. And yet it doesn't feel like work, seeing people move toward their goals, how to make lasting changes that don't feel like deprivation and restriction, how to let go of the baggage so they can proudly walk toward their dream - I feel honored to witness it. It's true what they say, choose a job you love and you won't have to work a day of your life.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Bikini? What? (plus camping, tequila, running, cup therapy, barrel racing...)

As usual, a lot's gone down since my last normal post on Tuesday evening. Wednesday was a day home with the kids. It was hectic and harried but even with that I managed to get my healthy meals and snacks in. It helps when I have homemade red beans in the fridge. I pop those in the microwave, slice up some avocado, add in a pile of pico de gallo and voila, healthy and wholesome lunch.

Wednesday evening was the board appreciation dinner for my mother's club. It was my final official event as a co-director and I had a great time celebrating. I definitely indulged on the food and drink front, having skirt steak, baked potato with fixings, a couple glasses of wine and a chocolate lava cake dessert. Yum! Here I am with Alison and Michelle, who are going on to serve their second year of co-directorship.

Alison, Me and Michelle.
I'll miss the socializing as well as the feel-good that comes from helping out, but I'm glad to have this time commitment off my plate. Especially as I'll be gearing up for Santa Cruz training and I'm making some career/growth changes - so I need all the time I can get. I'll be telling about the career stuff soon because it's related to this whole weight loss thing.

On Thursday my mom had surgery so I had the day off. She did great, thank goodness. After visiting with her in recovery and before a late afternoon appointment I barely had time for exercise. So I stealthily changed into my running gear at red lights and did a quick 22 minute run before my meeting (which was the type of meeting where running clothes are perfectly fine). Then I was off to the gym for a fast-paced weight training session - back/biceps/PT exercises - before picking up the kids. My pullups are coming along, I was able to do 2 sets of 4 without having to bribe the devil inside me. Friday had to be an early morning workout because I was leaving for camping right after work. When the alarm went off at 5:30am I had to really talk myself into getting up. The thing that always works is to mentally walk through my day, trying to find another time to exercise, and when I get to the end and it wasn't possible, I imagine how I'll feel having skipped out on my chance to exercise in the morning. Imagining my future disappointment gets me out of bed almost every time.

It was weigh-in day so I hopped on the scale. Woah - 139.6 pounds!  I'm back to my happy weight, under 140. That's a nice way to start the weekend. I arrived at the gym and the 6am spin class had just started. I noticed an empty bike so I decided to join in for 25 minutes instead of riding alone in the gym. The music was pumping and it was a fun time! Join late, leave early...that's how I roll. In the gym I did chest/triceps before heading to a 7:30am physical therapy appointment at Sport and Spine.

My PT - Kate Reiber, DPT - suggested we try myofascial decompression using cup therapy on my back.  Cup therapy is "a novel form of manual therapy that combines eastern technology with western medicine based principals, orthopedics, and sports medicine." I have pictures, but they are not for the faint of heart so I'm linking to the ones that might make you nauseous. Consider yourself warned. Here's one picture, and here's another.

It was a bit uncomfortable for the first few moments after she did the suction but it quickly passed. She had me do some stretches while I had the cups on and the thought made me nervous but turned out to be barely uncomfortable. An easier image is how my skin looked a few minutes after she took them off.

Post cup-therapy.
Kate did a good job of explaining how it works, though all I can recall is that having the muscles sucked up into the cup does something to release somethingorother and make things better.  Yeah, well, I'm no DPT. The evening before I'd gone shopping for some camping stuff and somehow or another I came home with a bikini. No time like bikini-time to have big red circle spots on your back!

Wait, did I just say bikini? Yes I did. Don't ask me what universe I'm living in buying a bikini but what can I say? I'm getting more comfortable in my own skin, more comfortable with my imperfect body. I'm not saying I'm confidently rocking the two piece but the fact that I planned to put it on in public, with a bunch of people around (as opposed to only one or two friends), is like an alternate universe to me. So of course I took a picture when I got home from the store.

A bikini, what?
Please keep in mind this picture doesn't really show the wrinkly extra-skin phenomenon on my belly.  I'd have to take a close-up of my mid-section with a better camera but in person it's pretty obvious, especially when I hold my abs in. If I relax and pooch my stomach out it's a little less obvious, which is what I tried to do at the river. It's not easy, I'm so used to holding in my abs all the time.

After a full day of work on Friday I hit the road for camping. We went with my buddy Michelle and her husband and two kids. Miguel and them caravanned up earlier so they'd have more time to set up camp. There was a reservation snafu and we ended up camping at the Cloverdale KOA instead of Guerneville, but we were still plenty close to the Russian River so that was fine. I arrived just in time for some campfire action. Michelle and I enjoyed some mixed drinks with her favorite adult beverage, tequila, as well as making s'mores, eating chips and cookies and otherwise letting loose a bit. We finally hit the sack a bit after midnight.

Unfortunately Myra woke up cranky with an unexplained fever.  But we always pack kiddie med for just this scenario.  We dosed her up and after breakfast headed to the beach.  She played for a bit and then slept in the shade the rest of the day.

My angel girl.
Turned out we happened to show up on the day of the Healdsburg Water Carnival. How fun!

Did somebody say "races"??
The river and beach were super-crowded, which of course made me more aware of my bikini debut. Oh well, at least they're all strangers, right? In any case, we had a great time.  Myra seemed to be happy sleeping off her fever while the rest of us played in the water and lounged around in the sun.  There were no gasps or pointing when I donned my bikini and after Michelle and I polished off a bit more tequila I felt almost completely comfortable. Though I did have to ask Michelle about 10 times if I looked decent. She was very reassuring. I felt most comfortable lying down but even walked around a bit while telling my self-critical inner voice to STFU.  Picture time!

Great, right?  But here's a picture that shows more of my flaws.

Ah, gravity. Not a bikini body's friend.
Yes I just posted a picture of myself in a bikini on the internet for all the world to see and possibly judge. But you know what? I'm ok. I'm not thrilled, but I'm ok. I'm happy enough with myself overall to handle it just fine. And besides, all my body will do is age and get more and more wrinkly so I might as well get to loving it now. I'm not saying I'm over my tummy tuck fantasy, that's still alive and well, I'm only saying I want to love my body as-is, today. I've come so far in this area.  So far.  Hell, I'm wearing and posting pictures of myself in a bikini, I'd say I've practically aced the self body-love test.

So I'm checking out some of the festival booths when a woman asks me, "Do you want to be in a barrel race?".  Excuse me, did you say race?  I'm in!  No seriously, I was a bit hesitant but after a few questions (most importantly, do I have to try and climb back on the barrel if I fall off - no) I signed up.  And after some encouragement I managed to get Michelle to sign up too! Later the guys were so impressed they joined in on the fun! This day was turning into a banner, "Things I would never have done before losing weight" day.

Michelle and I were up first in the ladies round.  Pictures, you need pictures. [note: no way in hell I was getting on that barrel in a bikini in front of a crowd - I slipped my t-shirt back on for that].  Here I am getting ready to start.  Michelle is on the barrel to my right but she's blocked by the volunteers so you can't see her.

Wine barrel racing.
And here I am about 5 seconds later!

Yep, that's me in the water already.

As you can see, I fell off pretty soon after we started.  That darn barrel was just so wobbly! But Michelle was a rock star, turns out she's a previos barrel-racing state champion! Kidding, but guess what? She won the round! Here she is after her big finish.

Winner winner!
 And then it was the guys' turn.

Miguel and Erik on the barrel
That's Erik in the white hat and Miguel is on the barrel to his left. Unfortunately Miguel lasted about as long as I did - I guess our kids don't have good barrel racing genes - but Erik came in 2nd place! Their kids have a promising barrel racing future!! Oh my gosh, all kidding aside, what fun! I remind myself that I make the choice to have this life every time I turn down that unplanned snack or skip dessert. It's not deprivation, it's a choice to have something that's more important to me than extra calories.

Back to the campsite for dinner, chili dogs and salad. And the evening was another s'mores, chips, tequila party. Michelle is just as serious as I am about her diet and fitness and we were both having fun letting go of all that for a couple days. She knows as well as I do how important it is to indulge now and again.

Bottom's up!
As an aside, she also wore a bikini at the river and she looks amazing! I was in good bikini company that's for sure. Hot mama!!

Around midnight we all climbed into our tents, and up bright and early with the sun. Myra's fever hung on but we kept her on the Tylenol and Ibuprofen cycle and she seemed to be having a good time. Erik cooked up bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast. I had my normal cereal plus his cooking. What a meal! And then it was time to run. I'd planned a 3-miler and Michelle was up for it too.

The only road in sight was basically a series of hills. Oh well, I can run up hills, right?  After some walking and the dynamic warmup we started our run. We ran up and over the first hill and then started running down...and down...and down.  Oh crap, we have to run back up all this!  So after almost a mile running downhill I suggested we turn around, otherwise we might not make it back up.  Check out the elevation profile!
Full Garmin stats here.

Michelle kicked some major running butt, she was rocking it up that hill.  This was only the second time she'd run without pushing a stroller. I didn't even attempt to keep up with her, though she was nice enough to wait for me a couple times so I didn't slip too far behind. We wrapped it up just as the sun was breaking through the morning cloud cover.

Post run smiles!
Back at the campsite and we took the kids on a walk so the guys could pack up. At the camp playground we ran them through a little workout - squats, jumping jacks and whatever else we could dream up. That was fun. After we were done Marek yelled to his buddy P, "Now let's go play!". Wait, so squats and jumping jacks didn't feel like playtime? Oh well, they'd seemed happily up for the exercise drills so we must be doing something right.
Back at home and I put together a healthy sandwich for myself. I was putting away the food when I came across a bag of Doritos with a few handfuls of chips left.  I had some and then reminded myself that the camping trip was over and put the rest down the garbage disposal. The leftover marshmallows met the same fate.  Miguel had bought a HUMONGOUS bag of Kettle chips at Costco and I even had a few of those before I reminded myself that I actually don't like them that much. They are the Sea Salt flavor and I find them kind of boring (Salt & Pepper flavor is more my speed). So I wrapped up the bag and put it in the garage so he can take them to work.

So I'm sure my weight will take a serious jump after this weekend but hopefully I can get it back down to something closer to last week's weight if I stay focused for the next five days. I don't think I have any social plans and I need to write out my Olympic tri training plan so those two things should keep my eyes on the goal.

Oh, before I close, I finally ordered a RoadID bracelet.  It arrived on Friday so I wore it on the trip. Karen had one on the backpacking trek and after our almost-getting-lost experience I decided it was time. I plan to wear it whenever I'm out running or training by myself. It's a tiny bit snug (size small) but Karen said hers is too and she barely notices she has it on, that it's better than to have it moving around like a bracelet. I got used to it really fast and also barely noticed it. Now if running actually ever does kill me, instead of just feeling like it's going to kill me, at least they'll have a head start on IDing my body.

That's all I got.  Sorry for the super-sized post, it's been a busy few days.