Reflecting on February and Goals for March

Tomorrow is the last day of February, and to be honest I didn’t do a great job of sticking to my goals this month. Starting off the new month with Covid certainly didn’t help. Although I never got very ill (thank you, vaccines!), I had almost no energy and found myself needing to rest in between meetings and going to bed really early. It also reduced my appetite significantly, which I was honestly happy about because it made it easier to stick to my food goals. But once I started getting better, I found that I was almost always hungry and sticking to my daily calorie goals felt impossible.

I was afraid of prolonging my illness so I was diligent about resting and working back up to exercising normally. For the first week after I tested negative, I limited my activity to walking. By the second week I was a little congested but feeling much stronger, and I was able to return to the gym for my normal workouts. It’s been a month now since I first tested positive and thankfully I feel completely back to normal, but I’m also frustrated that I made zero progress in losing weight this month.

I know I need to re-focus and so my goals for March reflect that. The most frustrating thing for me right now is that I know exactly what I need to do to lose weight – I’m just not doing it. I struggle with letting temptation overpower my determination and I know that the only way to get past that is to put in an honest effort for a month so that I can re-form healthy habits. No matter how much it’s wanted, change is tough!

Average 1,600 calories per day. I really struggled with last month’s goal and so I’m increasing my calories per day slightly to give myself a little more wiggle room and hopefully to help give me some initial success. I can always reduce my calories per day if I plateau, but right now I have to find a goal I can at least stick to!

Work out at least four days per week. Now that I’ve recovered completely from Covid, I want to get back to working out habitually, whether in the gym or at home. I also have a really pretty fitness journal that my friend Amanda gifted to me, and I’m anxious to fill it with entries!

Average 7,500 steps per day. I did hit my step goal in February and I’m proud of myself for that! March’s goal is an increase of 1,500 steps per day and a lot more realistic for me when I’m not sick.

Read three books. This is the same as my goal for January, geared toward keeping me on target to reach my 2023 reading goal. I started multiple books in February, but I didn’t actually finish any of them – so this should get me back on track.

Goals for February

I’m excited to be going into a new month and to keep working toward my 2023 goals! I’m the opposite of excited about the most recent challenge life has thrown my way – on Monday I tested positive for Covid. After making it almost three years without catching it, I guess I can’t be too bummed, but it still sucks to be sick! Thankfully I seem to have an extremely mild case of it and except for a couple of times that I’ve spiked a fever I haven’t felt too horrible. But I’m ready to kick this and get back to normal life!

Because I’m sick, going into February I had to revamp my goals somewhat to take into account the fact that at least for the next few days I’m going to need to continue resting and taking it easy. I know that I need to give myself a lot of grace with my exercise and step goals while I recover, so that’s reflected in my goals.

Average 1,500 calories per day. Since this is the integral part of my weight loss plan, it made sense to me to make it a goal for February. I guess in a way getting sick has helped me get a jump-start on making this a habit, since I can’t go out to eat and when I’m sick dessert and drinks sound very unappealing. I haven’t had a huge appetite so I haven’t felt driven to snack – I’m not sure if that’s related to being ill or if it’s because the foods I’m choosing have kept me feeling satisfied, but either way I’ll take it!

Take measurements once a week. I want to have a log of inches lost, so that I’m not relying on the scale for an indicator of progress.

Average 6,000 steps per day. This is quite a bit lower than what I usually aim for, but I don’t think I’ll be back to taking walks for at least a few more days. I don’t want to put pressure on myself to make up steps later in the month, so I’m just aiming for what I think will be reasonably doable.

Read three books. This is the same as my goal for January, geared toward keeping me on target to reach my 2023 reading goal.

My 2023 Weight Loss Plan

Bill and I just returned from our week-long vacation to Cabo, and it was fantastic! We enjoyed a spa day at our resort, had plenty of relaxing hours poolside, and ventured into downtown one day for lunch and shopping. I can’t even describe what a difference it made on my mental health – going into this trip, I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and stuck in a rut of day-to-day life. Now that I’ve had a chance to get away and recharge, reconnecting with Bill and taking a break from life’s responsibilities, I feel reinvigorated and ready to jump back in. Yesterday morning I woke up and decided to go to my beloved dance class, and was delighted that I felt the old excitement creeping in as I got ready. It no longer feels like just one more thing on my to-do list; I was eager to go and enjoy myself!

When I created my goals for 2023, a lot of them centered on the fact that I’ve gained quite a bit of weight in the last few years and now find myself weighing the most I ever have. I finally realized that I couldn’t do much about that while I was so rundown mentally, which was one of the reasons that Bill and I booked our Cabo trip. I’ve learned over the years that my weight tends to fluctuate depending on where I’m at emotionally and so it’s important for me to maintain good mental health so that I can in turn focus on good physical health. Thankfully I feel like I’m there, and I’m ready to dive in and do the work.

My weight has been up and down throughout my adult life and it’s something that I think I will always pay attention to and care about. Some of that is vanity, and I am at peace with that. But some of it is also recognizing that as I get older, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits will give me a fighting chance in living a fuller life into middle and old age. I love being in the first row of my dance classes, working to get every move just right, and I still want to be doing that well after I’m retired.

Over the years I’ve tried various fad diets and none of them ever really worked for me, but what I found I can maintain long-term is calorie counting. I also know the kinds of foods that work for my body in terms of keeping me feeling energized and full, and I’m the sort of person who actually enjoys eating pretty much the same things every day (weird, I know – most people are all about variety). I’ll typically eat the same breakfasts, lunches, and snacks all week long, but will sometimes change things up at dinnertime so that Bill doesn’t get bored. There will be weeks when we’ll make a big batch of something like spaghetti or chili and eat it each night for dinner, which I like because it makes it easier to meal-plan and keeps me from being tempted to get takeout. Then there will be other weeks where I plan out different dinners, although I don’t usually designate which night we eat them.

Before I talk about how I’m planning to work on weight loss, I want to say that what works for me may not work for others, and that’s okay! Writing about my weight loss intentions and efforts helps me to stay accountable to myself, which is why I’m blogging about this subject, but these entries are in no way intended to be a guide for what anyone else should or shouldn’t do.

To get started on my 2023 weight loss plan, I set myself a target of averaging 1,500 calories per day. I track my food in the LoseIt app on my phone, and I’ve been using it off and on for over a decade so it has a lot of my regular foods and meals already pre-programmed in. I hate restricting types of foods or food groups so I focus solely on calorie counts. I used to add in extra calories on days I worked out for what I was supposedly burning, but I’ve since learned that 1) calorie burn trackers are notoriously inaccurate and will way overestimate how many calories are burned during a workout; and 2) I don’t like associating exercise with weight loss so it’s better to separate out the two and not include workouts in my calorie logs. For me, the beauty in this is the simplicity. I don’t have to buy special foods, I don’t have to overanalyze labels or obsess over what to choose if we go to a restaurant. My plan is to look at my average calories from week to week, so there will be days when I don’t eat the full 1,500 calories and there will be days I go over. As long as it averages out to around 1,500 calories per day, I’ll consider that to be sticking to the plan.

Since I’m pretty content to eat the same things each day, I have some go-to foods that I’m planning to keep stocked in the kitchen at all times:
Breakfast – My usual breakfast is two egg muffins in a whole wheat tortilla with an almond milk latte. I make the egg muffins with egg whites, spinach, mushrooms, bell pepper, and some Everything Bagel seasoning. I bake them in a muffin tin for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Then I portion them out into containers so I can quickly reheat them in the morning.
Lunch – I’ve always enjoyed taking a walk at lunchtime, followed by having lunch at my desk when I return. Years ago I got into the habit of having a Shakeology shake (I like the chocolate whey flavor) made with almond milk and a splash of sugar-free hazelnut syrup. I’m amazed at how it can keep me full and satisfied when it’s just a shake, but it’s worked for me for years.
Snacks – My go-to morning snack is apple slices with a little bit of peanut butter. Mid-afternoon, I’ll have a Dannon Light and Fit Greek yogurt, and if I want a salty snack, a kosher pickle or two.
Dinner – I do mix up my dinners a bit but if I come up with any fun recipes I’ll blog them.

This morning is what I considered my “Day One” of actively working toward weight loss, so I got on the scale and then had Bill take measurements and photos for me so I can track my progress. Sometimes the scale can be a bad indicator of progress so taking measurements and photos along the way will help me not to get discouraged in those weeks when the scale isn’t budging.

And that’s my path to weight loss in a nutshell! I’m feeling really good and really hopeful that I can stick to this, redevelop healthier eating habits, and see some progress.

Reinventing V

I’ve had conflicting thoughts over the years about my feelings and it’s definitely been a love-hate relationship, but one feature on my Facebook and Instagram accounts that I’ve always loved is seeing the posts I made in prior years in the Memories feature (on Instagram it’s under Archive, but same deal). I started my Facebook account in 2007 and so some of the earlier posts make me cringe a little bit at times, but I also like seeing how much I’ve grown as a person and looking back on fun times with people I love.

Just such a memory came up last week. It was a photo of me and two of my Zumba friends. It was taken on a cold, clear January Saturday in 2013, when we decided to meet up and walk laps on the track at a local school to get some exercise. I remember that day vividly and it’s a really happy memory for me – not just of a fun time with friends, but of how I felt that day. I was on top of my game and the strong, self-assured look on my face in the photo very accurately reflects how I felt about myself. I was in the best shape of my life, I was full of self-confidence, and overall just felt really good about myself.

It’s been a long time since I last felt that way. The stress of the last few years has taken a toll on me, and I’ve struggled a lot with my mental health. I made some strides in 2022 with therapy, and overall I am feeling better, but there’s a lot more work to do. I want to fall back in love with myself, to give myself the very best care and to find my best self again.

One of the things I’ve learned in therapy is that a lot of my anxiety disorder originates from my need to be perfect at all times. Allowing myself to be imperfect – to make mistakes, to be tired, to get it wrong, to not have the perfect response to every situation – would very likely help me to feel a lot more worthy of love and a lot more confident. I struggle so much with giving myself the same grace that I give others, and constantly reprimanding myself is exhausting. I do genuinely try to do the right thing and to be a good person, and at some point that has to be enough. I can’t ever be truly happy if I’m constantly in fear that I’ll somehow fail someone or at something.

I’ve been pretty open about my therapy journey, and one of the amazing things that’s happened as a result is that others have become more comfortable sharing their own stories with me. It made me realize that some of the people I admire most in the world have also experienced mental health issues, and that having an anxiety disorder and experiencing depression don’t mean that I can’t be (or that I’m not already) an aspirational person myself.

And so, I am committing to reinventing myself in 2023. This will be my year to focus on falling in love with myself and my life again, to embrace my imperfections and give myself grace, to get back to the healthiest version of myself both physically and mentally.

Welcome 2023 and Goals for January

After spending a fun and relaxing New Year’s Eve with wonderful friends, I woke up this morning excited to start my first day in 2023. The weather was sunny and just under fifty degrees, so Bill and I bundled up and took a long walk and had lunch together. It felt great to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and to spend time together. Now we’re relaxing and watching the Kraken game on TV, while also enjoying the Christmas tree for one last night before we de-Christmas the house tomorrow.

January should be a really great month for Bill and I – we’re headed to Cabo at the end of the month for a much-needed vacation, and I’m wrapping up a huge project at work and my days should start to feel a lot less hectic. Knowing that we’re going to be on vacation, I tailored my January goals so that I don’t feel like I have to follow any sort of plan while we’re away and I can just focus on relaxing, while working up until we leave on establishing new healthy habits.

Hit my calorie goal 65% of the month. I’ve decided to start counting calories, which is the only method of weight loss that has ever worked sustainably for me. To start, I’m setting myself a goal of 1,450 calories per day. By setting a percentage goal, I’m giving myself some wiggle room both for our vacation (when I intend to indulge and not stress about tracking or calorie counting) as well as some days to go over while I’m home so that I don’t feel like I have to be perfect all month.

Work out five days per week (except during vacation week). In December, I set a goal of doing ‘Daily December’ and said that I was going to try and work out every day except for Christmas Day. Work got extremely hectic right before Christmas and I didn’t accomplish my goal of daily workouts, but I did work out on 22 days of December and having that goal motivated me to work out on many days when I otherwise would have made excuses not to do it. Now that I’ve built that momentum, I really don’t want to lose it, but I also know that realistically working out seven days per week is a bit too much and that I do need rest days.

Average 7,500 steps per day. Since this is my annual goal, I’m making it my monthly goal as well so that I can get off to a strong start.

Add $500 to my emergency fund. I get paid once a month, so when I get paid in January I plan to transfer money directly into the personal savings account that I use for my emergency fund.

Read three books. Reading more should be easy since we’ll be on vacation, and this should give me a nice head start to achieving my 2023 reading goal.

Resolutions for 2023

I am absolutely blown away by how fast 2022 went by. Overall, it was a good year, but I dearly love a fresh start so I’m happy to be bidding it farewell.

I want to make 2023 a year to work on getting back to my best self. I’ll be turning 39 this year – it’s hard to believe I’m almost out of my 30’s! – and I want to set myself up for health and happiness as I approach the next decade of my life. My resolutions for this year are all in the theme of focusing on my mental, physical, and financial health.

Write in my gratitude journal daily. Years ago I got into the habit of keeping a journal to jot down things I’m grateful for. I’ve fallen out of the habit but I’d like to get back to it in 2023. I think it really helps me keep a positive mindset!

Read 30 books. I’ve gotten back into reading as a hobby and I love it. I think having this as a goal will help me reach for a book instead of mindlessly scrolling social media when I have free time.

Average 7,500 steps for the year. I want to prioritize walking in 2023. I even bought myself a walking pad for days when it’s too dark or rainy out for walking.

Lose 25lbs. I’m beginning 2023 at the heaviest weight I’ve ever been in my life. I accept that I’ll never have my 29-year-old body again, but I also don’t feel great at this size and I want to get healthier physically. Cleaning up my eating habits will make me feel a lot better.

Add $5,000 to my personal savings. I had some unexpected expenses in 2022 that really ate into my emergency fund and I want to replenish it.

Write monthly goals for myself. I think that one of the key ways to achieve my 2023 resolutions will be to create monthly goals to keep myself on track. It’s easier to achieve things when I make myself a road map!

Happy 2023!

Health Scare

On Sunday, my phone rang at around 5:15am. It woke me up; I was in Portland for the weekend with Bill and my good friend Jamie and didn’t need to be up until around 7:30 to start packing to head home. As I rushed to answer, my not-yet-awake brain was slowly processing that what I was hearing was my ringtone and not my alarm and that it was too early in the morning for anyone to be calling me with anything but bad news. The Caller ID display showed it was a call from my dad and briefly I hoped that he was simply up early (as he often is) and had somehow dialed my number by accident as he walked the dog. But as soon as I answered, he was there on the line, telling me first that everyone was okay but then going on to share that my mom had suffered a heart attack.

When I think of the things that I might have worried about happening to my mom, a heart attack wasn’t really on it. She’s in her seventies and up until now has never experienced any sort of issues with her heart. My grandfather and uncle both had heart problems, so it isn’t completely shocking – but they both experienced those problems when they were much younger so I always figured Mom had dodged any potential genetic bullets.

Having a parent in the hospital when you’re far away from them is incredibly stressful, or at least it is for me. As I am not a heart surgeon and quite frankly get a little squicked out by just being in a hospital, I don’t entertain any sort of fantasies that my being there would help her recovery in any way, but it’s still hard knowing that she’s going through something pretty traumatic for her and that there’s nothing I can do to comfort her or make things better. As someone who likes to plan and problem-solve, feeling helpless is extremely difficult for me.

Heart attacks sound very scary, but in reality medical advances have made them a lot less so and heart attack survivors can recover very quickly. As long as there are no unexpected setbacks, Mom should be able to go home from the hospital by the end of the week, and with some time to rest she’ll be as good as new. She’ll have to make some diet and lifestyle changes, but it seems like there’s also the possibility that she’ll ultimately feel better than she has in a long time.

Heart attacks present differently in women than they do in men and I feel like that’s as widely known as it should be. It’s important to know the common symptoms:

1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness, or heartburn.

5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

I trust that my mom is getting the best care possible and I’m excited for her to be able to go home from the hospital to get back to living her life.

West Coast Road Trip, Pt. 3

Friday morning dawned sunny and beautiful and it was time for us to leave Monterey behind for the next leg of our adventure. Bill and I both really wanted to see the Redwoods, and there were plenty to look at as we wound our way north toward Eureka. That stretch of highway has plenty of twists and turns, along with beautiful scenery.

I had told Bill that I wanted to find the stretch of road that runs right through a Redwood, but he was skeptical and said he was pretty sure that the tree I had been thinking of had fallen down. So I got super excited as we drove through Leggett and I spotted a sign announcing “Drive Thru Tree”.

Sure enough, we found out that there was indeed the Chandelier Tree, a giant Redwood that cars could be driven through. It’s a private attraction and it was $10 cash, which I happily paid. We bumped along a back road for a bit before coming to the tree. The sheer size of it took my breath away.

It’s actually kind of amazing that I was able to navigate my car through the tree – I get nervous driving into the car wash! But I managed it with no scrapes or incidents.

On the other side of Leggett, we followed the Avenue of the Giants detour and stopped at the Founders Grove trailhead to wander through the giant Redwoods, completely at a loss for words. I knew Redwoods would be tall, of course, but it was impossible to imagine just how overwhelming it would be to see the 346-foot Founders Tree. At the Founders Grove, we were also able to see the Dyerville Giant, a Redwood tree that is approximately 2,000 years old. It was considered the tallest tree in the area before it fell in 1991.

After staying the night in Eureka, we headed back out onto 101 for the last bit of sightseeing before we turned the car toward home. We found the turnoff for the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and followed it. Almost immediately we drove by a meadow filled with grazing elk. I could have stayed there all day watching them!

Beyond the elk, we found grove after grove of Redwoods. We stopped at a trailhead and took a short hike into the forest to see the Corkscrew Tree, which got its name because of its unique intertwined trunk pattern. It’s difficult to get a good photo of such a giant tree but I did my best.

I could spend an entire day at least just taking all of the hikes along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. For this trip, we drove through slowly and enjoyed the views of the forest before eventually getting back on Highway 101 toward Crescent City. From there we took Highway 199 into Grant’s Pass, stopped for a quick lunch at In N Out, and then made our way home.

West Coast Road Trip, Pt. 2

Bill and I left Hermosa Beach on Thursday morning, after one more amazing breakfast at Martha’s. Our plan was to take Highway 101 on our drive north, which is decidedly more scenic than I5. Our first stop was in Venice, to see the iconic apartment building that was home to Romy White and Michele Weinberger in the movie Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion – one of my all-time favorite movies. It still looks pretty close to the way it did in the film!

Traffic was slow through Malibu but we were able to pick up the pace a bit and got to Solvang for a late lunch. It’s a Danish-style town in the Santa Ynez valley that’s known for its architecture and shops. The afternoon was sunny and warm so we took advantage of the weather and decided to take a walk through town. After stopping at Mortensen’s bakery to pick up some Danish treats, we split a sausage sandwich and enjoyed a pretzel with mustard and beer cheese at Solvang Brewing.

Our next stop was in Pismo Beach. Bill had read about a place called Dinosaur Caves Park and with a name like that we couldn’t resist checking it out. The day had turned cloudy, which suited me fine because I love a moody coastline.

We stayed the night in Monterey and I was beyond excited that we drove into town and to Beach Point just in time for sunset! The sky had opened up and dumped rain on us for the last hour of our drive, but right as the sun began to set the skies cleared just enough to treat us to a spectacular color show.

West Coast Road Trip, Pt. 1

As I write this, I’m sitting on a balcony at the Grandview Inn, looking out at the ocean while I breathe in the scent of the salt air. Hermosa Beach is one of my favorite places to be, and today as usual it has me in a calm, relaxed mindset that I can really only achieve by being near the ocean. I’m definitely a beach girl!

Truth is, even though Seattle is home and hopefully always will be, LA is a very close second choice. I am a SoCal girl at heart and being back here always just feels right. This trip, we drove down instead of flying. I love a road trip. We made it to Bakersfield the first night, then drove into Victorville on Monday for lunch with my Cali BFF Keri and her two girls, my Nieces Big and Small. Keri and I met back in our 411 days, then later became neighbors when she got married and moved into the same apartment complex I lived in. We went from being neighbors to long-distance friends when she moved to Arizona, only to come back to Victorville just months after I moved to Washington. We’ve always made our friendship a priority though, and when we get together it’s like we were never apart.

Most people have few if any nice things to say about the High Desert, but I honestly don’t mind being there. It’ll always be my hometown, the place I spent half my life so far and where I did most of my growing up. While we were there I tried to drive past the house I once owned, but the neighborhood has been built up so much that initially I got lost and had to go around the block and start over. The house looks the same as I imagine it would if I still lived there. The rose bushes, trees, and sage we planted are all still there, although much much bigger now. It’s kind of strange to think that fourteen years have passed since I bought that place. It was a beautiful house, but the time in my life when I lived there wasn’t the happiest. Things are far better for me now.

After lunch, we headed down to Hermosa Beach, where we’ll be until tomorrow morning when we begin our drive north toward home. I love being here. We’ve had a fun time enjoying the beach, shopping, and eating at cool local restaurants. We found a great piece of art for our room that I’m really excited about, and Bill and I both found some great new clothes and each found a fun pair of shoes at Vans.

Our normal breakfast place when we’re here is Good Stuff, but it’s closed for renovations so we’ve been branching out. This morning we tried Martha’s, and we absolutely loved it. We might even go back tomorrow for one more meal before heading out of town! Although I’m sad that our normal spot isn’t open right now, it’s been great trying new places.

While I love traveling to new places and exploring, I’m happy that we keep coming back to Hermosa Beach. And I’m so grateful that we got through the last two years without having to struggle with our health or finances and that we’re able to take vacations and spend time together doing things we love.