Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

Posted by Carla B. at 10:04 PM
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, as well as the entire series. I thought it was a good, if somewhat predictable in some ways, ending to the series.  Please watch out below - SPOILERS APPEAR!! If you have not finished the series, then please proceed with caution.

Thank you.... remember, you have been warned....

Just one more SPOILER ALERT in case you have not finished the series and don't want it spoiled.....

Okay... keep scrolling, and it will be right here.....

I knew on some level that Katniss would see Coin for who she really was, as her character had already developed enough to catch onto that. I think she could have caught on more without so much input from Snow, but I give her character the benefit of the doubt in grieving her younger sister. That was an unexpected twist, although it made sense in the storyline. Since children had always been used as pawns by both sides, it should have been no surprise either one would have used the ultimate weapon - Prim.

The love triangle left me a bit conflicted. I personally love the fact that she ended up with Peeta. However, I am not as comfortable with his "rapid recovery" as it appeared in the book. It makes it sound like he was slowly recovering, then her kiss jump started the remainder which was then finalized by his fire experience. This left me with several questions. One, if Coin was using him to assassinate Katniss, then it would stand reason that she was not helping him recover but was instead reinforcing the idea Katniss was evil and needed to be destroyed. This would make it harder, and not easier, for Katniss to overcome the damage done. Unless we are to believe his love for her ran true and deep, to the point he was never thoroughly corrupted. Two, if Coin didn't feel she could actively do that (reinforce his attitudes towards Katniss), then I still find it difficult that he could overcome them that easily. The reader is led to believe the damage is deep and almost impossible to overcome. So how can they almost completely cure him in the short time span allowed in the book from when he joined the team? Three, what about her Commander? He left instructions for her to kill Peeta, abandon and not trust anyone on the team, and then kill Snow. So, what was that about? It appeared as they moved through the Capitol that she actually could trust the team. Again, I can understand if some of her actions led them to be more supportive of her role - it still isn't enough to completely turn them into an avid supporter and have them sacrifice their own lives for her agenda if they have been routinely trained for one mission and led to believe certain things about Katniss. Some of that just doesn't ring true.

I did find the development of Gale's character completely believable. Throughout the book he appeared to love Katniss more out of jealousy than an original love. It appears he was always spurred by some external event to realize his love. While that can happen to some people and be valid, many times it is not a true and lasting love. It is a reaction to an event, and once that event has passed they are left with at least some confusion. I do believe he loved her, but the romantic aspect was what was spurred by the external events. This is what made his character somewhat tragic, because it seemed he was not capable of fully giving himself to another person. You kind of realized he was not going to go on to another District and find love. It was Katniss or nothing, and quite honestly his love for her was not deep nor true enough (in my opinion) for her to settle just so he was not alone. He was a hunter, and hunters are often loners. While hunters can go together and certainly they can help one another as Katniss and Gale did, it is often much more lonely. Think of how silent you must be, or of the lone hunter sitting in a tree stand for hours on end. When they tracked, it was sometimes more like fellow soldiers than fellow hunters. I think this translated over time as they moved through missions, and it made perfect sense. Also, at crucial decision points in the story, Katniss chose Peeta even when she knew it would hurt Gale. While she obsessed over this like many teen girls do, and sometimes judged herself a bit too harshly, it was evident she was typically "picking" Peeta. It would have felt hollow and untrue had she chosen Gale as a life mate at the end of the series.

All in all, I liked the series and the book. I liked reading it from a literature standpoint, seeing the allegory and motifs. It was written far better than Twilight which was enjoyable as long as you channeled your inner 14-year-old. This book had more depth, which I enjoyed as a an adult reader. However, it was accessible when looked at through the eyes of my inner teenage girl.

I give this one four stars out of five, as I would have handled some of the last few chapters a bit differently. The entire series is a 4.5 out of 5, for keeping the tension, character development, and providing talking points with teenagers.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Shroud by Dallas Tanner

Posted by Carla B. at 7:29 PM
It was okay. I liked the general concept and the story line, as well as the characters. I do believe the characters needed more depth and for as well as I could "know" them, I sometimes found them acting against how they were developed.

Overall, I think this book could be very good if it had a good editor. It proves how essential that is, especially for an author that is published independent or by a smaller house. In this case, there were several large chunks of "info dump" which slowed the pace of the book considerably. This information could have been provided as an addendum at the end of the book, as several larger chunks of information were not essential to the storyline. Where the information was essential or quite helpful, I believe it could have been written as dialogue between characters or woven into more action-oriented scenes.

I also found at least once where the main female character had an entirely different name. It was confusing enough to see the author randomly switch between using her last name, her first name and her nickname. However, at one point he used a totally different name which makes me think an earlier draft (or perhaps a middle draft) changed her name entirely from the one in the final publication - only this one time it did not get caught. Those things are confusing and again interfere with the pace of the story.

While the story did follow a systematic flow through approximately the first two thirds of the book, the last third seemed to jump around and was very awkward. A few scenes were entirely unnecessary, to the point one made me cringe a bit in embarrassment for the author. By the end of the book, I found myself skipping large segments and scanning the pages for essential information. I just wanted to get it finished. While I was sometimes bored through those first two thirds, I was interested enough in the storyline to see how the author was going to solve the problems and explain some of the situations. I did find it fairly predictable in some ways (such as the identity of Boangeres), which was slightly disappointing.

I think the author has promise, but I found myself wishing I could edit this book and perhaps other future books of his. I think with good editing his writing can be tightened, his characters made more consistent which would add depth, and basic errors (such as consistency in names, and double checking timelines, etc.) would be immensely helpful. With that, I think he could find a home at a larger publishing house and get recognition for his unique storylines and story concepts.

If you are interested in reading it for yourself, please click here:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 12: Breaking Free

Posted by Carla B. at 9:41 PM
Part of my transformation is a 28-Day Breaking Free program, developed by Leanne Ely and JJ Virgin. You can read more about it at the website Saving Dinner.  So, I am now on Day Two (officially) of that program. It's been tough, and there was a point today when I wasn't sure if I would make it.

My oldest stepson turned 19 today, and he came by for some birthday cake. I knew I wasn't strong enough to cook and ice one at home so I just picked something up at the local bakery. It was chocolate decadence - a dark brown, moist chocolate cake topped with a cream cheese and chocolate fudge icing, and then a thin layer of chocolate ganache swirls to decorate. It was all I could do to resist, but I did it! I managed to get through serving and chit-chatting while everyone else indulged. When I did start to feel resistance crumble, I satisfied my need by crunching on about one ounce of almonds. They crunched and gave off a slightly sweet but almost salty flavor which completely took away the desire to devour chocolate cake.

Perhaps in some way I am breaking free from more than food. I feel like I am breaking free from the hold that food has held over me for so long. It wasn't so much denying myself tonight, which I have done through all too many other diets. Tonight it was more liberating, knowing I had a choice. I then made the choice that was best for my body and found something else that really did satisfy. I think in the past I obsessed over what I couldn't have and ended up cheating myself. I couldn't concentrate on anything else with the "can't have" crowding my brain. Tonight, that changed. Rather than a "diet", I am doing something for 28-Days. I realized in less than a month I can walk in there and order a whole cake all for myself if I want to do it. That realization gave me the freedom to walk away and the open space in my brain to think of alternatives. In that sense, it became easier.

I also think that it goes deeper. The main feeling or emotion was that of loss and fear of not having something. I realized I had looked at things from the perspective of "if I choose not to eat this, I won't ever be able to have it again." And somewhere along the way, I think I have made that same association about other things in my life. For the first time in this whole process, I think I am finally seeing signs of a real transformation.

Quote of the Day

Posted by Carla B. at 11:19 AM
"You don't get to pick your mom or your daddy. You don't get to pick what color you are. You don't get to pick what kind of house you grow up in. But you get to choose what kind of attitude you have." Dabo Swinney

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 9: This Is Hard As Heckles

Posted by Carla B. at 9:45 PM
I never have faced anything this tough. Based on what I re-posted yesterday about metabolism, I feel certain this is where I am. I am religiously monitoring my food intake, and I am keeping well under 1300 calories on most days. A couple of days I have gone up to 1500 calories (like on July 4), but I also did enough exercise on those days to compensate (such as a total burn the whole day of around 2800 calories). I have burned a minimum of 2100 calories every single day (this includes my basic metabolic resting rate of around 1700, plus whatever I burn in activities, workouts, etc.). I know I am expending more than I am taking in, so why am I not losing weight more quickly? In fact, I have actually gained - yes, GAINED - two pounds this week. What gives?

That brings me right back around to yesterday's repost from MyFitnessPal. I think my metabolism is shot. Like many of the obese, I didn't get this way overnight or from mindlessly eating 4,000 calories a day for years. I have a mostly sedentary lifestyle, other than running around with my kids at times or doing daily housework activities (with three kids in the house, including a five year old there are DAILY chores that must be done so we can maintain a minimal level of cleanliness). Yes, there was a time when I ate like crazy - too much fast food such as the Super Size Quarter Pounder meal from McDonald's a way too frequent basis when I lived with my ex-the-loser (better that I lost that lover than continued to love that loser). So, a few years of that led to my previous sumo-sized body. I lost 85 pounds, and I began to get healthy again.

Then I moved, eventually remarried and took on an instant family by becoming a custodial stepmother to four beautiful children. Beautiful children with a mother that was pretty much ineffective except for keeping us in and out of court until she was finally diagnosed as mentally ill and incompetent to have anything but therapeutically supervised visits. Naturally, this had an effect on the kids and as a result on my health too. This led me back to emotional eating that alternated with strict dieting. Diet, binge, diet, binge - but binges as described in that article. I always thought I didn't binge, not like they described. For me a "binge" was a bowl of ice cream. Or a few warm from the oven chocolate chip cookies. Not entire containers of food or thousands of calories at a sitting. When I read the article, I realized how well it described me. And when I combine that with my hormonal issues of middle age (and forced menopause thanks to last year's hysterectomy) I suddenly realize why I can't lose weight. My metabolism has crawled almost to  complete stop.

The main question is what to do about it? One thing is my break free plan, which I will be starting soon now that I have my supplements which are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, etc. I think that cleansing my system will kick start my new eating plan. I will continue reasonably low calories (never less than 1200 a day), and I will add more consistent exercise. As my body realizes that it is no longer in danger of starving, and as I aim for more consistency in meals as well as exercise, I think my body will heal itself enough to start losing weight again. Until then, I will have to accept a small weight gain might occur. Acceptance of that fact will probably be the hardest part of the whole program.

As for today? Well, my teeth are still throbbing and hurting from a dental visit earlier in the afternoon. It was just my regular checkup and cleaning, but as I age I am finding it hurts every time I go. It typically doesn't start hurting until about an hour after I leave, and then it continues to build until I get a headache to go along with it. At least there was good news and my teeth look great "as usual" according to my dentist. My five year old went too - excellent report for her too, including one loose tooth in the front and the eruption of her six year molars on one side.

With that in mind, I am off to bed for a bit of rest and hopefully awakening to a new day where I can actually chew food.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Interesting Post About Metabolism!

Posted by Carla B. at 10:21 PM
Courtesy of the message boards over at MyFitnessPal:
Living With Obesity At 700 Calories Per Day!
By: David Greenwalt

I want you to consider a common female client. She's a woman about 5'5" and 185 pounds. A combination of a mostly sedentary lifestyle, quick-fix, processed foods and consistent excessively low calories has resulted in an incredibly stubborn fat loss scenario. Not only has it created a stubborn fat loss scenario but her ability to add body fat is remarkably strong.

Most would believe there is simply no possible way she could be 185 pounds eating mostly low calories. While it's true the average obese American created their own obesity by being a huge over consumer, a sedentary glutton if you will, many are able to maintain their level of obesity with the following formula in very precise ratios: starvation + binges + sedentary lifestyle.

An initial review of this woman's calories indicates she is just above starvation level in the 400-700 per day range. The food choices are mostly protein in this case (low-carb is all the rage you know) and there are virtually no vegetables or fruits to speak of.

Five or six days per week the calories remain low in this range, however, there are nighttime binges from time to time and weekend binges where carbs loaded with fat (doughnuts, rolls, cookies, pizza etc.) are consumed.

So while the calories are very low the majority of the time, there are one to two days per week where this isn't always the case. Even so, the nighttime binges and weekend slack offs don't amount to what you might presume would be thousands of extra calories, thus explaining the 185-pound body weight.

Very few foods are prepared from home. There are lots of fast foods being consumed. Convenience and taste rule.

I must say. Early on in my coaching and teaching career this woman was a real head scratcher for me. Isn't it calories in and calories out? Even if she's not active she's starving!

How in the heck does she stay at 185 eating an average, including all binges, of maybe 750 calories per day? She's frustrated beyond belief. She sees her friends and coworkers eating more and weighing less. Is she simply unlucky? Is everyone else blessed? And what in the world is she supposed to do to fix this, if it can be fixed?

Why Is She Not Losing Weight?
First, let me tell you why she's not losing weight. Then I'll tell you what she has to do to fix the situation. With a chronic (months and months) intake of less than 1000 calories per day and a 185-pound body weight her metabolism is suffering greatly. It's running cool, not hot. It's basically running at a snail's pace.

Think of it this way. Her metabolism has matched itself to her intake. She could, indeed, lose body fat but she's in that gray area where she is eating too few calories but not quite at the concentration-camp level yet.

If she were to consume 100-300 calories per day her body would have virtually no choice but to begin liberating stored body fat. This is NOT the solution. It's unhealthy and, in fact, quite stupid.

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Not only has her metabolism matched her intake, her body has maximized production of enzymes that are designed to help store any additional calories as fat. Anytime additional, immediately-unnecessary calories are consumed the enzymes are there and waiting to store the additional calories as fat. Her body is starved nutritionally and it has one thing on its mind - survival.

Being mostly sedentary, her metabolism (hormones play a large role here) can do a pretty good job of keeping things slow enough so that the pathetically low calories she's consuming are just enough to maintain.

But since certain enzymes are elevated, waiting for more calories so more bodyfat can be stored, every nighttime binge or weekend mini-feast will contribute to fat stores.

So on the days she's not bingeing her body does not lose fat, or if it does, it's very little. And on the few days or times she does binge a bit her body is quite efficient at storing fat. So, while she may lose a smidge of fat from starving it is quickly replaced with every binge.

Remember, these binges aren't a gluttonous 4000-calorie feast. Oh no, a binge might be 4-5 cookies worth about 500-700 calories. Nevertheless, since the binge foods are mostly carbs and fat it's very easy for the enzymes to shuttle the dietary fat into stored body fat. It's what they were designed to do.

So, What's The Solution?
Well then, now that we presumably know some valid reasons why she's not seeing a scale change and definitely no body fat change how do we fix her? We have to do something she's going to freak out over.

We have to get her eating more. Not only do we have to get her eating more but more of the right, whole foods need to be eaten. Foods lower in fat that aren't as easily STORED as body fat have to be consumed. And we have to warn her.

A Discouraging Start
We have to warn her that since she's been sedentarily living on protein with binges of carbs and fats she is likely to see a weight gain right away. It's true.
Once we begin really feeding her body with nutritious carbohydrates so she can become more active, her glycogen-depleted body will hang on to some of those carbohydrates (in skeletal muscle and liver) so she has stored energy for activity.

When her body hangs on to those carbohydrates it has no choice but to hang on to more water too. For every gram of glycogen (stored carbs) she stores she'll hang on to three grams of water.

This is not a negative response by the body but it will be interpreted by her as quite negative when she steps on the scale.

It's quite likely she'll see a five to seven pound weight gain when she really starts eating properly again. This weight gain will remain for one to three weeks before it starts moving in the other direction.

For argument's sake let's assume my Calorie Calculator and Goal Setter at Club Lifestyle suggests a 1500-calorie per day average in week one for a one-pound loss per week. First, she is going to freak out about this many calories.

For months she's been eating less than 1000 and usually around 400-700 in one to three feedings total per day. To her 1500 calories is a ton of food. And if she even begins to eat less fast and packaged-foods it will be a ton of food.

There is no doubt whatsoever that she will resist the increase. This resistance may take one to three weeks to overcome. During this period no weight loss will occur. She is too fat already in her mind and believes it will only hurt her to increase her food intake.

I mean, after all, isn't that how she got fat to begin with? In her early stages of fat gain this was probably true. She overconsumed. But as I've said already, that's not why she's staying heavy.

In addition to a freaked-out mindset about adding more food to her already overfat body she will simply find that it's all but impossible to eat four or more times per day.

She's just not hungry at first. Makes sense when you think about it. Why would she be hungry three hours after eating a 300-calorie, balanced breakfast? Her body is used to 400-700 calories per day!

So, even though she gets a plan and begins using my nutrition analyzer to log foods and meals she finds after having a balanced breakfast of 250 calories she couldn't force herself to eat meal number two on time.

It'll take several more days of realizing what is going on and being one-hundred percent honest and diligent with her logging and planning before she begins to eat her meals as planned no matter what - even if she's not hungry.

By now two to four weeks have passed and the only thing she's seen on the scale is it going up--not very encouraging if I say so myself.

Raising The Grade After the first two to four weeks have passed she's probably beginning to consume her meals as planned although not quite like an "A" student yet. That is coming. She feels better because she's working out and is more active.
And she feels like she has more energy throughout the day because she's feeding her body more calories and the right kinds of calories.

She has finally begun eating the right kinds of fast foods (low in fat, moderate in protein) and less packaged food overall. She is making more meals from home and taking them to work for lunch rather than always grabbing something quick from a vending machine or the break room that always has some treat another employee brought in.

After another two weeks or so she's moved from a "B" grade to more consistent "A"s. She's planning her days one day ahead in the Nutrition Analyzer; she's consuming fresh veggies and fruits on a daily basis.

Her calories are almost ALWAYS in line with what is recommended by my Lean Account and she has seen her first signs of the scale moving in the right direction.

She is now dropping from 190 pounds (her high after reintroducing food and carbohydrates again) to 189.3! "Progress at last!" she says. In actuality, the entire process was progress. But that's not how she saw it in the beginning.

With a total of two to four weeks of increased caloric intake behind her and eating more consistently the right kinds of foods her metabolism has truly begun to rebound.

She didn't kill it as she thought. She only wounded it. And since our metabolisms are like kids (they are quite resilient) and she doesn't have thyroid issues or diabetes or any known wrench that could be thrown into the spokes of fat loss, she will begin, for the first time in months or years, to see results that make sense and that one would expect of someone who is active (30-60 minutes five or more days per week) and consuming a caloric intake of 1300-1500 calories per day.

Butterfly Effect: The Basics Of The Thyroid - Part 1.
Avoiding Sabotage
This process is in no way easy. I think you can see a plethora of ways it could be screwed up, sabotaged, given up on too early and so forth.
A key to success for this very common woman (men too) is not giving up too soon, having faith in the fix, and moving sooner rather than later to the increased, quality food intake.

It's going to take effort to overcome the mental hurdles of eating more food as well as the increase in scale weight that is going to occur in weeks one to three or so. It's disheartening, however, to charge hard down the weight-loss field only to get to the one-yard line and decide it's time to quit.

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Many don't realize they only had one more yard to go and they'd have had a touchdown. You gotta hang in there with this plan. It's going to take some time for the glycogen levels to be replenished and level out. It's going to take some time for mental adjustments to occur.
It's going to take some time before hunger signals are restored to anything close to normal. It's going to take time for the metabolism to rebound and not be in its protective mode.

Giving A Stubborn Body The Message In certain, very stubborn cases, it may be necessary to eat at a eucaloric (maintenance) or hypercaloric (over maintenance) level for a few weeks to ensure the metabolism does get the signal that everything is alright and you aren't going to kill the body.
Remember, your body could care less about your desire for fat loss. It just wants to survive.

Some Take-Home Points The most common cause of obesity is Americans are sedentary overeaters/drinkers. Nothing in this article should be construed as to say that under eating is the root cause of obesity. It's not.

It IS common for many men and women to be under eating with sporadic binges as I described here. This creates a perfect environment for continued obesity even if total caloric intake is quite low on average.

Low-carb followers or "starvers" WILL see the scale go up when calories are consumed at reasonable levels again and carbohydrates are reintroduced. Live with it. Deal with it. It's going to happen. 98% of the gain will be water.

The time it takes for mental acceptance and other adjustments to occur will vary but one should expect a two to four week window for these things to take place. Being forewarned with an article like this may speed this process up some.

Once the right types of foods are consumed and the right caloric intake is consumed and the right ratios of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are consumed on a consistent basis, then, and only then, will metabolism begin to be restored and the key to fat loss be inserted into the lock with a noticeable drop in the scale resulting.
This may take an additional two to four weeks to occur. Your metabolism is never dead or broken for good. But it may take several weeks of proper eating and activity for it to be restored.

From day one, until the first, noticeable drop in the scale occurs may be four to six weeks--maybe one to two weeks longer. Those who give up on the one-yard line will never see the scale drop as will occur when intelligent persistence and consistency over time are adhered to.
David Greenwalt

Days... What Day Is It Again?

Posted by Carla B. at 9:40 PM
Fourth of July fireworks and they must have seared my brain because I can hardly how many days I am into this journey. If I recall correctly, July 4th was Day Six of my little campaign which would now put us on Day Eight that has just finished. I have been expending more calories than I have been taking in, and yet I have lost nary a pound. I did lose three pounds, but thanks to that demon sodium I have promptly put them back on. Needless to say, I have redoubled my efforts to drinking water and monitoring my sodium.

Today also brought my shipment of Paleo products: PaleoProtein shake supplements, PaleoFiber, and a few other goodies suggested in my 28 Day Break Free Boot Camp. Tomorrow will be my major planning day, and then I will start actually "breaking free" on Friday. Kind of ironic, since that might also be the day that sees Casey Anthony breaking free from her jail cell. I am still in a state of shock over that development.

I have a training session tomorrow at the gym, which means by tomorrow night I will be achy and painful. I am hoping that sometime next week will find me having a Biggest Loser moment in which I celebrate a huge weight loss. At this point I am not holding my breath. After all, that could put on a few more ounces and I am desperate for anything at this point.

Til my next post - may you all enjoy health and happiness.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Days 4 & 5: Turkey Bacon and Improved Eggs?

Posted by Carla B. at 10:04 PM
I just read an article in WebMD Magazine (I saw it at my physician's office) about new and improved eggs. Basically, the article said that recent studies show eggs are lower in cholesterol and almost 64% higher in Vitamin D than several years ago. The premise for why this has happened? It's in the feed. Yep, according to the scientific studies in a magazine placed in your traditional doctor's office - what we feed hens is apparently changing the content of the eggs those hens produce. Does it not strike you as a little ironic since this would seem to support the whole theory behind organic eating and holistic healing - such as vitamins, supplements and nutritional healing? Just found that kind of funny, in the ironic sort of way.

And speaking of eggs, I made some this morning along with some turkey bacon for our breakfast. My kids are giving me a hard time about cooking leaner and more healthy. I was relieved to remind them that even iCarly and her sidekick Sam enjoy turkey bacon. I reminded them of the episode where they were eating in class, and when admonished by their teacher they said, "It's turkey bacon!" as though that alone should explain why eating it was irresistible! It's nice to remind them using their own shows.

The new and improved eating habits are going rather well. I felt the past two days like I have been pigging out at times - but when I run my calorie counts using MyFitnessPal I am under my calorie count! I am losing weight, so something is working. I was thinking today, though, how it is so easy to pile the weight on and oh so hard to pull it off. I think pulling teeth is easier than pulling pounds.

I had another revelation today. I ended up picking a fight with my H - over something really stupid that was really meaningless. Later, when I was boo-hooing in the bathroom (hey, it's the ONLY place I can get away with a H and three kids!), I remembered something I read about how old you act when you throw a tantrum. I was acting like I was six. So, I decided to just comfort that six year old while she cried it out. I have generally harumphed the whole notion of an inner child, but today it worked. And I honestly felt better afterwards. I was able to find the root of the problem, discuss it rationally with my H, and apologize for my behavior (he apologized for his too, which wasn't too pretty). All in all, I learned something valuable about treating myself with kindness and love. And I think this was a huge step in my transformation. It also brought a moment of truth with my H about my weight issues. 

I will be back again tomorrow for my Fourth of July update on Day Six. See you then, Happy Independence Day, and be careful with hose fireworks!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 3: I can't move....

Posted by Carla B. at 7:55 PM
Day Three is almost over and I can hardly move. I had a session today with my trainer, and I have gained a whole new level of respect for people on shows like the Biggest Loser. I had to be pushed along several times, and still cranked out a few more reps even when I had zero energy left. I knew I could go home a bit later - unlike people on the show who have to do several more hours of training.

I started phasing into the Break Free program, although I haven't been able to officially start yet. I still have a few things to get from the health store - and the local Trader Joe's is about 45 minutes away so I will get there next week. I have pretty stayed away from gluten today, and I never realized how hard that is. I have also tried to stay away from sugar - well, except what occurs naturally in foods like fruits and veggies. I cannot begin to explain how hard this part is - I must acknowledge the fact that I am a sugar addict. So, avoiding sugar will be a way of life for me. Right now I am dreaming of the leftovers from my husband's birthday cake - it's in the kitchen, just a few steps away. I just have to stay strong, although I don't know how.

Fortunately, I am totally exhausted from today. I think I will hit the bed early. Hopefully it will bring sleep soon which will put off the cake craving for another day - and hopefully someone will eat the remaining cake overnight!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Days 1 & 2: The Beginning of the Journey

Posted by Carla B. at 8:33 PM
The past few months have been life-altering in many ways, which also explains my long absence and infrequent posts on the blog. Last September, my mother was diagnosed with Stage II stomach cancer. After a round of chemotherapy, she finally had surgery this past February to remove her entire stomach and part of her esophagus. The aftermath of that has been quite challenging, as she doesn't even have the pouch most gastric bypass patients have. This makes eating and maintaining a healthy weight difficult.

If that wasn't challenging enough, during my mother's recovery my father was diagnosed with Stage I Merkel Cell Carcinoma. It's a type of skin cancer that is below the skin, at the tips of the nerve cells. It is rare and very aggressive. Fortunately, my father's was found early and he had immediate surgery to remove the cancerous tissue as well as two sentinel lymph nodes (for biopsy purposes). They got all of the cancerous tissue, and the lymph nodes were clear. However, he developed a MRSA infection during recovery requiring emergency surgery and week-long hospital stay.

For several months, I was maintaining two households as I spent a great deal of time helping my parents through their illnesses and recovery phases. This definitely took a toll on my health, as well as my weight. After battling my weight for years, I have encountered a whole new level of challenge in the aftermath of a hysterectomy and forced menopause - all metabolism seems to have ground to a halt which means every calorie winds up on my hips, stomach or other body part. My stomach looks like I am six months pregnant, and let's just say I have nicknamed my backside "Jabba the Butt".

After getting diagnosed myself with a Vitamin D deficiency and feeling worse every time I gained weight or saw my fat shift from my legs or arms to my belly - well, it was time to take care of me. Yesterday I went for a training session at my gym, and I started an honest approach to changing my habits. I have had a trainer since May. A BodyFit device since January. Multiple free and low-cost diet book downloads on my Kindle since last year. And finally, it clicked yesterday. I saw another episode of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss, and I decided to chronicle my own transformation on the blog.

For the next year, you will see my daily updates about my experiences along this path to transformation. I will be not only transforming my body, but I will also be transforming all other aspects of my life. It's time to look deep within to find out why I allowed food such power in my life. I also want to look at re-entering the work force, as my baby girl (now 5 and not much of a baby) will be going to kindergarten in the fall.

My gym is the local Anytime Fitness (http://www.anytimefitness.com), where my H and I have a discount for membership. I love the fact I can literally go anytime since it is available 24/7, 365 days a year. That is a huge bonus considering my lifestyle right now, and it's right across from where my parents live so convenience there is a plus as well. I invested in a trainer there, and we do circuits. Yesterday I had my first "Biggest Loser" moment when I literally fell off treadmill. My mini-Jillian was doing the treadmill countdown, and then pressed stop - at which point I forgot to jump and my feet went one way while my upper body went another and down I went. It didn't help that a Vin Diesel look-a-like was bench pressing not too far away. I might be a fat, middle-aged, married Domestichick but I can still dream - and falling off a treadmill is a too sharp return to reality.

I use a BodyMedia BodyFit device (http://www.bodymedia.com) to monitor my calorie expenditure each day. I got this as a delayed Christmas present in January of this year, and I love it. I hardly notice the presence on my arm, which is surprising. I have used all the data, but I really enjoy the way it also monitors my sleep. It also keeps me going, as I like knowing pretty accurately just how many calories I am burning. I set goals for calorie expenditure, and it's fun to see how close I can get or even go over. It also measure how many steps I take, and I am still aiming (but falling miserably short) of 10,000 steps a day.

I do not use their site to track my meals. I used to use SparkPeople, and I still like it. However, I find that I prefer My Fitness Pal (http://www.myfitnesspal.com). It has a large data base, and I can use the Android application with my Droid phone. The best part of that, and what kicks it ahead of SparkPeople for me, is the ability to use the bar code scanner to enter foods. If I eat a protein bar, I can just scan the bar code for entry - super easy and fast, which makes the record keeping a cinch. That's huge for me with a busy schedule.

I am a FlyLady (http://www.flylady.com) follower, still taking Baby Steps. As a result, I also follow the Saving Dinner Diva Leanne Ely (http://www.savingdinner.com). She has a FABULOUS deal right now, which was perfect timing for me. I invested in the 28-Day Break Free Boot Camp (http://savingdinner.com/breakfree/) at a ridiculously low price. I will be blogging my daily endeavor to break free of some of the foods that hold me hostage. I can't encourage you enough to join me on this quest for better health!

If you have made it this far, thank you. For your reward, you are privileged to know my starting weight: 249 pounds. My highest weight was 285 pounds back in 1998. I successfully lost down to 220 pounds before I met my current H. I have bounced around between 220 and 199 until the past year when I started gaining. Since January, I have gained the other 29 pounds and I am miserable. I am not the least bit proud, and I am quite embarrassed to reveal my actual weight. But, transparency is part of the process and I think it will be key to keeping me real and on target. If you have something negative to say, I pray for you. No more negative energy comes from me. If you have something positive or encouraging to say, I thank you sincerely.

Until my next entry, health and happiness to all.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

REVIEW: Alone by Lisa Gardner

Posted by Carla B. at 2:10 PM
AloneAlone by Lisa Gardner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book, especially after I read her afterword. I think it is neat that she named many characters after real-life friends and family.

Her plot was enjoyable with a variety of twists and turns. Some of these were more believable than others. The characters were well-developed, and I liked the way she drew out their background in small chunks here and there in believable ways. There were no long periods of introspection that seemed contrived or long chunks of "info dump" that can be either boring or distracting - or both.

All in all, I really enjoyed this and I will likely read her follow up books on D.D. Warren in the future.

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 2, 2011

REVIEW: 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik

Posted by Carla B. at 8:07 PM
I really enjoyed this book. and I highly recommend reading it. It's not perfect by any means, but it has an authentic voice and a good message. The book is written in first person, and is a true-story based on the author's life over the span of approximately one year. It is nearing Christmas, and the author is enduring one of the worst periods of his life - financially, personally, and socially. He has lost sight of any good in his life, including his own children.

On a hike at the start of the new year, he hears a voice that basically tells him until he starts being grateful for what he has, he will have nothing else good in his life. Upon returning home, he chooses to write thank you notes to show his gratitude. It's very simplistic, and he gives a rational reason as well - using up old stationary. A few dramatic results take place - one thank you note to his own leads to that son repaying a loan (one our author had long-ago given up receiving). However, these are not the focus of the book. Even the author says he doesn't believe they are a direct result, but he does use these events to continue his mission. He also slowly begins to appreciate the things around him.

Somewhere through the middle of the book, his life is slowly improving. Some of the things make you wonder if they were really that dismal all along or was he just seeing them through the eyes of a depressed person? Suffering depression myself, I know that when I am feeling low my surrounding always seem more drab and unpleasant. I think it was that way with his apartment. When he first described it, I pictured a dour apartment in the "bad" part of town with water stains, torn carpet and all but caving in. Later, this same apartment seems to transform into a rather pleasant place to live, complete with flowers and favorable neighbors like his daughter's schoolteachers. Like most things, I think the actual truth falls somewhere in the middle. I believe it is the same with his law practice, divorce and financial matters.

Overall, this book reminds us of the importance of the simple things. A handwritten thank you note is something that appears less frequently in our society, which is so based on current technology. Emails replace handwritten letters, and text messages replace phone calls, reminding society that time is at a premium and in the rush people can forget all the things they are grateful for. The reminder of the simple art of writing a thank you note, something my mother instilled in me at a young age, is a blessing in and of itself.  In writing the thank you note, which takes time and effort, gratitude naturally flows. This book is a kind and gentle reminder of that.

For me, I plan to do my own variation of his plan. I already have an "attitude of gratitude" about most things, and most days, in my life. However, I have fallen behind on that simple thank you note. Often a phone call or email replaces the thank you note. I know that I could do better in setting aside the time and effort required. That will be one of my personal New Year's Resolutions, and one that would make my mother proud.

 **I received an advanced reading copy of this book from Librarything.com as part of their Early Reviewers program. Please see my  disclosure policy for further information.**

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