Weighing In

At the beginning of this year I joined Weight Watchers for the fourth time. The first time I joined I did meetings but it didn’t work because I was still drinking and there are a crap ton of calories in a bottle (or two) of wine every night. Add to that the empty calories consumed once my inhibitions were lowered and I might as well have flushed the monthly payment to WW down the proverbial toilet.

The second and third time I joined I did the online version of WW which was moderately successful. I lost about 10 lbs. each time and then gave up and gained it back.


So at the beginning of the year I decided to give it one last college try. Oprah had just invested in WW and was all over TV hawking the company and vowing to lose weight with me. Since she’s had such success with losing weight and keeping it off (yes…that WAS sarcasm) I figured I was bound to be successful right? Of course!

I signed up online and decided that if I was going to do it I would need some accountability so I signed up for the package that included in-person meetings. I dusted off my food scale and became familiar with my new app and jumped into the pool.

And was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, after a gazillion years they changed the way the points are calculated. Instead of Points or Points Plus, now they have Smart Points. In a nutshell, it forces you to eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and protein and low in refined sugars and other carbohydrates. Since all the research says that’s just about the healthiest eating plan going, I saw that as a positive. Not everyone was feeling that way however – apparently there were a LOT of pissed off people when they found out that their “snacks” that used to fit into their plan were now loaded with points. The thing I was always discouraged by when it came to WW was that they let you eat pretty much anything you wanted as long as you stayed within your points allowance. That meant that you could have chips or candy or a loaf of bread (don’t judge) as long as you were within the points. There was no education about how to eat better to sustain the weight loss, just a focus on the weight loss itself. It just rubbed me the wrong way.

Now there’s a focus on eating healthy for life and actually learning what is good for your body and what isn’t. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose more weight or any weight at all for that matter but at least you can’t get away with stuffing your face with crap and then wonder why you gain all your weight back as soon as you move to maintenance or go off plan.

Next was a new meeting format. The old meetings had a leader in the front of the room with a tired flipchart trying to teach about the week’s topic. Could be tips for getting through vacation or how to lower the caloric intake of BBQ foods but it was mostly a talking head telling you what to do. Now they’re run more like AA meetings. Everyone sits in a circle and talks about their week and the leader is more a moderator than teacher. Since I’ve BEEN to AA meetings that really resonated with me. I felt immediately comfortable and even shared a few times! That’s a miracle for this introvert.

Between the end of January and the end of April I dropped 15 lbs. It was slow, about 1 – 1.5 lbs. per week but it was consistent and the more weight I lost the more committed I became to the program. That is, until work got crazy and I started traveling…that’s when it went to hell in a hand basket. Since April I have struggled to get back to my meetings and even cancelled my membership for about a month, convinced that after the crazy time at work ended I’d be able to continue the weight loss all by myself. Because…you know…I have been SOOOOO successful with that in the past.

HA! Oh…sorry. That made coffee come out of my nose.

I realized pretty quickly that, like most things in my life that require discipline, I was going to continue to need help. Blessedly and with diligence I have maintained the original 15 lb. loss but I knew that if I didn’t do something, that wasn’t going to last much longer. I signed BACK up and began to, half-heartedly at best, track my food again. It’s not hard for God’s sake. The app makes it simple stupid. What’s hard is committing to counting the chips I eat for a snack each night and saying no to that afternoon cup of Dunkin coffee with real cream and sugar (10 points!)

Now I find myself at a cross-roads.

1. Do I fully commit and jump back into meetings and regular exercise and hope that I begin actually losing again?

2. Do I wait until the end of September when our feeding frenzy of a busy season is officially over (just in time for the Holidays to roll around)?

3. Or do I accept this new place my body has found and learn to be happy?

Since numbers two and three made me snort with laughter and my co-workers are now looking at me – I’d say it’s number one.


I See You

I was in San Francisco last week for work. Long time readers know how much I freaking love that city. The weather (fyi – It’s cold there in the summer – go figure), the people, the sights/sounds…just everything. What I don’t really love is the homeless. The homeless here are an entity unto themselves. San Francisco seems to have an unusually large portion of homeless who have mental health issues. I guess it’s the weather that brings them and has them stay. They mumble to themselves and each other and anyone else who they think is listening. They walk naked down the street. They smoke crack in the doorways and alleys. They are everywhere.

And they make me uncomfortable.

Every city has its homeless population. I grew up in and around Washington, D.C. which has a large homeless population. They live on the streets and sleep on the grates in the sidewalks and roads and, in the winter, the city scrambles to keep them from freezing to death. It doesn’t always work but at least they try. The population of homeless here in Charlotte is a lot smaller than that of D.C. or San Francisco. They are also not as aggressive as those in larger cities. Maybe it’s because the city is so much smaller or maybe it’s southern manners. Whatever it is, it’s a little less uncomfortable here.

But it’s still uncomfortable.

Over the years, I, like a lot of others I know, appear to have become desensitized to them. I know not to give them money but, if they’ll let me, I’ve been known to buy them food. I ignore them if they shout obscenities at me when I walk by. I’ll step over them or detour around them but seldom do I make eye contact, smile or even nod. Mostly I just cast my eyes downward and keep walking, seemingly oblivious to their situation. I assure you that could not be farther from what’s actually going on inside of me.

This post isn’t meant to debate what’s going on in our cities and why these people are subsisting on the streets. That’s an entire dissertation and a simple post would not begin to scratch the surface of this issue. The only thing it was meant to do was to say to that population…

…I see you.

Even when I walk down the street and fail to make eye contact…I see you. When you yell at me or try to engage me in conversation and I keep walking…I see you. When you ask for money and I say no…I see you. When you ask for food and I offer to buy you some and you say never mind and curse me…I see you. When you stand with your children and beg and I DO give you money…I see you.

I see you but I don’t engage you. I don’t engage you not because I think I’m better than you because, let’s face it, we’re probably all just a paycheck away from being right where you are; I don’t engage you or make eye contact or even acknowledge you because it’s painful.

It’s painful for me to see you struggle with your reality. It reminds me of my grandfather who was locked away for being senile and brings to mind the fact that my own mental health can be tenuous at times. It’s painful for me to see you succumb to your addictions because I know how difficult it can be to battle those particular demons. It’s painful for me to see your poverty because I know, in a country this rich, there should not be poverty on this level. At the same time it’s painful for me to know and understand that you may have chosen this life and not want to lead a conventional existence because I know how beautiful life can be under the right circumstances.

So I cast my eyes away.

But I see you.


It’s Back to School Time!

It’s that time of year again! The kids are preparing to go back to school! I always loved having my kids home for the summer but even I will confess to being unreasonably happy when, just when I wanted to kill them and bury them in the back yard, school started again. They were truly saved by the bell. Get it? See what I did there? Don’t judge.

Anyway, it always reminded me of when I would go back to school. We didn’t have much money so clothing shopping might have included one outfit and a new pair of shoes…maybe; but what I always got was a new book back (long before the days of backpacks) and school supplies. Oh how I loved the possibilities that were indicative of a clean, untouched notebook, some sharpened #2 pencils and crayons that still had a point. I would pack everything neatly and then check and recheck the list to be sure I was ready.

Even shopping for my own kids thrilled me – maybe a little too much but again…don’t judge. For the ones in public school, which were the boys, I would drag them shopping for clothes and shoes and then we would go for school supplies. See, they loved the supply shopping as much as I did so I had to bribe them with it to get them shopping for clothes. A mama’s got to do what a mama’s got to do. They would go up and down the aisles at Staples and Target looking at their lists and picking out their things. Pens, pencils (mechanical now), erasures, notebooks, folders and…of course…backpacks. A new backpack was the most important thing on the list. It was what everyone would see first. It didn’t necessarily have to be expensive but it HAD to be right. I was always very patient but I was really glad when they were old enough that we could order online.

By now I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Not all kids get to have this experience. Some families can afford or don’t care (unfortunately this is true in some cases) to equip their kids properly for school. It was hard enough for me to be “less fortunate” than some of my classmates but it would have been almost unbearable to have to start school and borrow things like paper and pencils from the teacher. It would have infinitely more painful for me, due to life’s circumstances, to have to send my children to school unprepared. I can’t imagine that pain.

Every year my friend, Paige Davis from “Trading Spaces” and the Broadway productions of “Chicago” and “Beauty and the Beast” to name a few, lends her celebrity to Operation Backpack, an organization that strives to ensure that no child starts school without the proper supplies. If you are so inclined, you can read more about the organization here and donate to Paige’s campaign here and she’s written a lovely post on her own blog which you can read here.

To quote Martha Stewart, “It’s a good thing.”


The Power of Shame

Long time readers of this (and all the other blogs I have had) know that I’ve done a lot of work on shame the last couple of years. Shame is extremely powerful and I had no idea the impact it was having on my life until relatively recently. Given the way I grew up I should have known all along that it was destructive but nope…that particular emotion never occurred to me. I mean seriously, all my neuroses and not once did I think to pinpoint shame as one of the culprits? What the what? I mean, it’s not shame’s fault that I am where I am in my head/life, but it IS a reflection of how I grew up. Be careful what you say to your kids people…this old poem hung in all of my children’s rooms when they were little to remind me.

Dorothy Law Nolte
If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.

If a child lives with pity,
he learns to feel sorry for himself.

If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with jealousy,
he learns what envy is.

If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with praise,
he learns to be appreciative.

If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.

If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.

If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.

If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.

If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.

If a child lives with friendliness,
he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.

If you live with serenity,
your child will live with peace of mind.
With what is your child living?

What that should say is that if a child lives with shame they will feel “less than”, but that’s another post entirely.

My niece is going through something similar right now and I’m trying to coach her through it. She is dating a new man and mentioned in passing that she hasn’t told him about her mother yet because she is ashamed. (FACEPALM) Of course I explained that she had absolutely nothing of which to be ashamed. She was a child and the actions she witnessed were those of her mother and not her; but as we all know it’s easy to hear but not so easy to believe. Even at my advanced age, something as simple as a smell or a passing comment can make me feel ashamed. The memories come rushing back and I’m in that spot all over again, face hot, tears stinging the corners of my eyes, shame filling every portion of my being. Feeling less than.

I sent her a copy of Brene’ Brown’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” which honestly CHANGED MY LIFE (along with a year of therapy) and made her promise to read it. In the book, Brene’ says…

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” ~ Brené Brown

Lately, due to some shake ups and changes at work (which btw is normal in my industry) I’m feeling insecure and vulnerable. I hate feeling vulnerable. When I start feeling this way, THAT’s when the shame memories and feelings begin to creep in. I’m sitting here this morning preparing for a new assignment and having a moment of personal panic when BAM! one of those memories pops into my head and for no reason at all I want to hide. I’ve learned not to hide. I’ve learned to invite them in and serve them tea. To sit with them and feel whatever I feel. Not to rush them but rather, let them sip the tea slowly and then, when finished, I can show them to the door. (It’s an exercise I learned in therapy and it really, REALLY works for me.) Instead of fighting something that is so much a part of me I embrace it like I would my children. I let it be whatever it is. In this way I’m able to find a little peace.

Sometimes however, the shame is stubborn and doesn’t want to leave. Sometimes it insists on hanging out and pecking at me like the vulture that it is. Brene’ says that the only sure way to get rid of shame is to shine a light on it and send it running like cockroaches when you turn on the kitchen light (that last part was me…she’s got much more class). To share it with someone empathetic and realize that I won’t die once it’s out of my head. People will not go running into the streets screaming. The town folk will not show up at the door with pitchforks in the dead of night to drive me away. More often than not, after sharing something that is shameful I hear two of the most beautiful words in the English language. Me too.

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” ~ Brené Brown
I would love to be that person for my niece but I’m her “mom” so whatever I say falls on deaf ears. She dismisses my comments with a, “But you have to say that because you love me”. So I suggested she start a blog. I suggested she start reading blogs (she has no idea I have one). I told her that the blogging community is one of the most empathetic, embracing and loving communities she will ever find. There’s no shame. There’s no need to hide. There is acceptance. I don’t know if she’ll do it or not (or attend Al-Anon which I also suggested) but I can at least try and guide her in the right direction. Perhaps she’ll find some healing before she’s the ripe old age of 55.