Weighty Matters

When working on a Happiness Project, you are encouraged to look at what makes you feel good, what makes you feel bad, what doesn’t feel right about your life, and what provides you with growth.

The thing in my life that hits all of those marks is my weight.

I weight less in my forties than I did in high school, and I’m still heavy.  Right now, I’m just in the obese category.  I don’t think I’ve ever been a healthy weight.

Maybe in kindergarten.

Infancy…

But by the third grade, I knew I was fat.

In 2007 I made the decision to pursue bariatric surgery.  I had the surgery in 2008 and lost 130 lbs.  Over the last couple of years I’ve gained about 15 lbs. back.  One of my goals for 2013 is not only to lose those 15 lbs. that I’ve gained, but also to make a push toward a health Body Mass Index, which I’ve never achieved.

I’ve started 2013 at 184.4 lbs.  I’d like to end the year 40-50 lbs. lighter.  On Thursdays, I’ll focus on my progress.

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Let’s Try This Again

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Happy New Year!

I’m back and giving the Happiness Project another shot.

I think I got a little too excited after reading the book last spring and jumped in without enough planning.  Also, I don’t think I realized how hard it would be to manage multiple blogs.

So now I’ve taken a break, and am ready to get back into it.  Today we start Happiness Project 2.0.

You can read a little bit about what a Happiness Project is here.

For 2013, my first goal area is “self care.”

Again, I may have aimed a little high.  I’ve selected seventeen resolutions for the month:

  • 7 hours of sleep
  • 70 grams protein
  • Doodle or write 15 minutes a day
  • Less than 45 grams sugar
  • Skin Care
  • Daily prayer/meditation
  • Read for pleasure
  • 100 oz. of water a day
  • 30 minutes daily exercise
  • Flexibility work 3x/week
  • 25 grams of fiber
  • Food journal
  • Joy-filled jar
  • Happy dance each day
  • Eat with intention
  • Eat less junk
  • Weigh myself daily

I think the goals can be broken down into three areas:

Health

I gained weight in 2012.  About 10 pounds.  I also gained inches.  15!  With the weight gain, I’ve also experienced increased fatigue, and general ickiness.  I want to turn that around.

Leisure

Because my work life has been so stressful, I want to make sure I’m taking time to enjoy myself.  I want to carve out half an hour a day – just 2% of it, to do something creative and pleasurable.

Attention

Sometimes I feel I’m going through life like a zombie.  I want to stop and pay attention to things.  Build rituals.  Express Gratitude.  Slow down.

So here we go!  Hope to see you along the journey!

A Week Without Money

It’s hard to believe that I’m already reaching the halfway point of the Financial Health month.  August seems to be flying by.

I still have two week-long projects to complete.  Tomorrow begins my week without money.  My fiscal fast.

What is that, you ask?

Actually, it’s very simple.  For seven days, I have committed to not spending any money.  None at all.  No random purchases.  No going out to eat.  For a week, I will just make do with what I already have.

It’s an exercise in restraint.  I first read about it several years ago in a book by author Jeff Yeager.  He came up with the idea while socked in during a particularly bad snow storm.  His family was trapped at home for a few days due to the blizzard, so they had no choice but to make the best of what was in the house.  It resulted in some creativity in the kitchen and some nice familial bonding.

I just want the practice.  I want to be more mindful of what leaves my pocket.

And it will give me time to plan the other remaining challenge for Financial Health month.  I’ve wanted to complete a food stamp challenge for some time.  I actually started one last year, but had to abandon it because of a hospitalization.  For one week, I will commit to preparing my meals on a budget consistent with the allowance received by an individual in the SNAP program.  I will need time to research current food prices and plan menus for the week.  I want to make the week as healthy as possible.  That will be part of the challenge as well.

Control Your Money or It Will Control You

I have a confession to make.

I have debt.

A lot of debt.

It is the thing I am most ashamed of.  It keeps me up at night.  It makes me scared to answer the phone or the door.  It keeps me from going to the doctor for needed treatment.  It makes me feel like less of a person.  It makes me feel small and weak.

It’s not as bad as it used to be.  I’ve worked very hard at reducing the debt, and I’ve made a lot of progress.  Thing is, it’s like when I weighed 300 lbs.  You lose 10 or 20 or 30 pounds, and you’ve still got SO FAR to go.

So for the second month of my Happiness Project, I’m going to focus on Financial Health.  My goals for this month can be divided into two categories.  One category will be daily challenges.  Like last month, I’ve set some goals for each day.

  • Track every penny I spend (cash, credit, whatever – write it down)
  • Purchase only needs  – not wants
  • No credit cards (with the exception of work-related travel)
  • No Starbucks (a big cheat in my budget)

I also have some one-time challenges to complete before the end of the month.

  • Start an emergency fund (I had one, then I had emergencies, and I haven’t built it back up)
  • Write a zero-based budget (I learned this in a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course.  You account for every single penny before the month has started.)
  • Complete a 1 week Food Stamp Challenge (For one week, prepare all of your meals within the constraints of the daily allotment for a person on assistance)
  • Complete a 1 week Fiscal Fast (I originally got this idea from author Jeff Yeager.  For seven consecutive days, don’t spend ANY money)

I’m actually looking forward to this month’s challenges.  It’s exciting to think of how much I might be able to squeeze out of my budget.  Not that I wouldn’t like an iced latte or a new fall skirt or pair of trousers, but it would be nice if just for a few weeks I could be in control of my finances rather than be controlled by fear and worry.

A Moment of Transparency

When I started my happiness project at the beginning of this month, I had planned to update progress each week.

It’s the last week of the month, and I’m just now getting to the first post!  I don’t know if that makes me a bad blogger, or a busy human being (or maybe both)!

As a reminder, my goal for the month of July is to work on health and well-being.  Specifically, I selected nine daily goals such as sleeping seven hours a day and drinking 80 oz. of water, and made a table where I could track the goals each day.

The transparent part?  Well, to do that, I would have had to be good about actually using the chart, and I haven’t.  In fact, right now, I couldn’t tell you where it is.

The good news is that even without the chart, I can share some progress with you.  My starting weight on July 1, 2012 was 183 lbs.  My goal for the next twelve months is to lose 41 lbs. or roughly 3.4 pounds a month.  So far, I’m on target.  My weekly weigh-ins so far:

  • July 1: 183
  • July 8: 181
  • July 15: 175.6
  • July 22: 177

Not bad for inconsistent effort.  I think I’ll continue the July goals into August and add the new ones when I switch focus areas.

Here Are the Rules… I Think

One of the important pieces of a Happiness Project is the identification of some personal rules.  Gretchen Rubin would call them “personal commandments.”  These are a set of ideals, specific to you, that you feel are important to follow to be the best person you can be.

On the Happiness Project website, there are lists of things that people have added to their personal commandment lists, and it’s interesting to see how different they can be.  I’ve been pondering this idea for a few months, and though I don’t think my list is done, I think I’ve made enough progress to share it.

I’ve changed the name.  As a devout Christian, I have trouble calling anything a commandment that isn’t from the Bible.  (Weird personal quirk – I know!)  So I’ve decided to call mine Guiding Principles instead.  Here they are, as they stand now, subject to change.

  1. God first.  Family Second.  Work Third.
  2. Be yourself.
  3. Be grateful.
  4. Accept yourself just as you are, even if you know you want to change.
  5. Do the right thing even when it’s uncomfortable.
  6. Eat for fuel, not entertainment.
  7. Control your money or it will control you.
  8. Live below your means.
  9. Collect experiences, not things.
  10. Don’t allow anything into your home that you do not know to be useful or beautiful.
  11. Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
  12. If helping you is hurting me, it’s not OK.

There they are!  For now anyway.  I’ll explore them a little more as the project progresses.

Do you have any rules, commandments or guiding principles?  I’d be interested in hearing them.  As I said, this list is subject to change.

Patience

You Can’t Get the Butt You Want Sitting on the Butt You Have.

In preparation for this Happiness Project, one of suggested steps is to sit down and consider some questions:

  • What makes you feel good?
  • What makes you feel bad?
  • What challenges you?
  • What doesn’t feel “right” about your life?

When I answered those questions, I found recurring themes that helped me choose my monthly goal areas.  For the month of July, I will be focusing on my health and well-being.  More specifically, I’ll be focusing on my weight.

I have been overweight or obese my entire life.  I first remember really knowing I was fat when I was eight years old.  I was playing baseball that summer (not because I wanted to, but because my father wished I was a boy).  I was one of two girls on the team, and I was awful.  Not for lack of trying.  I really wanted to do well.  I wanted my father to be proud of me.

But when it came to baseball, I was never going to be good enough.

I don’t remember someone directly telling me I was fat that summer, but for years afterward, I would think of my team photo, and associate it with being grossly overweight.

For the next thirty years, my weight would continue to climb inexorably.  I started taking weight loss drugs in the eighth grade.  I did Weight Watchers.  I did several medically supervised diets.  My mother promised me several thousand dollars if I could get to “normal.”

Nothing worked.

Not for long.

At one point, after my mother’s death, I managed to lose 100 pounds, but I couldn’t keep it off.

Regaining that weight is the most helpless I’ve ever felt in my life.  I felt completely out of control watching the scale creep back up.  I cried.  I prayed.  My weight kept climbing.

I didn’t know that regaining that weight was normal.  That regaining that weight happened to 95% or more of people who lost significant amounts of weight (depending on what study you read).  I felt worthless.

Pathetic.

In July of 2007 I decided to undergo weight loss surgery.  This was a big deal.  If you’re not fat, you might not realize that there are right and wrong ways to lose weight.  A moral way and an immoral one.

A good fattie loses weight by sheer force of will.  Someone who has surgery is a cheater.  A lazy, horrible person taking the easy way out.

I had reached the point where I didn’t care.  At 298 pounds, I was at the high-end of what sizes were available in stores (a size 28/30 W).  I had to drive out-of-state to get clothes for work.  I couldn’t fit into an airplane seat or a chair in the conference room.  I hurt all the time.  And I couldn’t do it any more.

In preparation for surgery I learned a lot.  Like the fact that 97% of people who take the “sheer force of will” route regain all the weight within five years.  I learned about the way genetics and hormones play into your weight.  I read the book Rethinking Thin by science writer Gina Kolata and it changed my life.

I went under the knife in March 2008.  There was nothing easy about it.  With the help of surgery, working with a dietician and a personal trainer, I was able to lose 130 pounds.  I have kept most of that weight off.  (I tend to fluctuate 5-10 pounds)

My weight is an answer to all four questions above.  When I look at how far I’ve come, I feel happy.  When I look at the weight I’ve regained, I feel bad.  Keeping the weight off challenges me.  The fact that I never made it to goal weight doesn’t feel right.

I figure anything that hits all four of those buttons is a strong choice for my first challenge area in my Happiness Project.  So for the month of July, working on healthy eating and exercise habits is my challenge.  To help me get there, I’ve made some SMART goals:

  • Exercise 30 minutes/day
  • Strength train 3x/week
  • Eat three servings of freggies (fruits & veggies) a day
  • Stay below 1400 calories daily
  • Eat less than 45 grams of sugar a day
  • Eat a minimum of 70 grams of protein a day
  • Keep a food journal
  • Sleep 7 hours a night
  • Drink a minimum of 80 oz. of water a day

I’ve made a spreadsheet to keep track of these goals for each day this month.  My goal over the next 12 months is to lose 41 pounds – enough to be considered “healthy” on the BMI chart.

The First Post

It’s always a little intimidating.

The first few words you post on a brand new blog.

There is always a sense of excitement, hope and possibility.  Maybe a bit of dread.  A sense of exposure.  Some pressure.

But you’re driven to do it anyway.

In this space, I plan to document my personal Happiness Project.  I was inspired after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book of the same name earlier this year.  I’ve chosen a focus area to explore for each of the next twelve months, and if you choose to follow along, this is where you can read about my successes and failures along the journey.

I’ve chosen the title “Forty-One Project” because this blog will cover my forty-first year of life and during this time I’d also like to lose 41 pounds.  I’ll talk more about the weight later, but for right now, I’d like to extend a hearty welcome to you.  I hope you’ll hang around.

Patience