Dear Future Me

Dear Future Me,

So you found your abs at age 37 and life has been perfect since then, right? Tee hee. Ha.

I’m writing to you today because I’m reading a book called The Food Therapist in an effort to tackle my issues with food – diagnosed, according to the author, as dependence, craving for control, and lack of trust. Apparently, the more connected I feel to YOU, Jen-in-her-40s, the better equipped I will be to conquer these issues and maintain my goals (abs!) (and other stuff) for the long haul.

So how are you? Energized, clear-skinned, inspired, confident, and still fitting into a size 4-6? Continually obsessed with your Peloton bike? Still getting a literal and figurative kick out of your heavy bag kickboxing classes? I hope so.

If you recall, you spent ten weeks in 2017 dropping 23 pounds with Weight Watchers. You maintained your weight loss as you began to exercise regularly again. And you also drank regularly throughout. Your drinking became both less pleasurable and less escapable, and so you decided to go dry in January 2018. And that’s when things really got interesting.

Your world opened up with clarity and exquisiteness that you couldn’t have imagined. You liberated yourself from the “mommy juice” myth. And when alcohol became routine again in February and March, you started The Alcohol Experiment. 30 days turned into 60 which turned into 76 days sans booze.

As of today, 93 days since the start of The Alcohol Experiment, I (switching pronouns here, sounds a little less awkward this way) have had four drinks. And I feel great about that. I have steadfastly adhered to my alcohol non-negotiables. The one night I had two glasses of wine, I enjoyed the first and did not enjoy the second. I am continuing to experiment and I am striving, always, for balance.

I wonder where you are with alcohol. In this letter I’m supposed to tell you where I want you to be. But, honestly, I’m not sure. I want you to be happy and healthy, first and foremost. I trust that you have not regressed. If you have decided that alcohol really has no place in your life, kudos to you! And if you have continued to drink occasionally, so long as you truly enjoy it and always adhere to your non-negotiables, that’s a-ok too.

As of the typing of this letter, I am about 98% at peace with my relationship with alcohol. I hope you can confidently say that you are at 100%. And if you haven’t taken a moment lately to celebrate that, please do. Go ahead, I’ll wait. The 2017 us did not believe we would ever be free from our reliance on alcohol. I am so proud to have broken free, and you should still be proud too.

As for food, I hope that walking by the small batch artisanal tortilla chips at DeCicco’s is no longer torturous for you. I hope you can have a bag of chocolate granola – or maybe even a jar of Nutella! – in the pantry without eating the whole thing in one go. I hope that you and food were able to work through your issues and that your relationship flourishes now.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy. After all, you and food had a rocky rapport from the beginning. As a kindergartener you fell asleep every night with your blankie and a Hi-C juice box. Food was always a comfort, a salve, an escape, a distraction. A moment of joy that was worth long-term emotional and physical malaise. But then you ditched booze and started to really love yourself, and once that self-love took hold there wasn’t as much room left for your toxic relationship with food, was there?

I am at the beginning now. I am just starting to untangle 37 years of food dysfunction. I think I can do it. I hope I can. No. You know what? I WILL. Because I’ve come too far to not tackle this shit. (I hope as you read this you’re smiling to yourself, endeared by my determination and my still-flickering self-doubt, which I hope you extinguished for good long ago.)

Here is how I envision you, Jen-in-her-40s:

You wake up well-rested and maintain steady energy throughout your day. You walk into your closet knowing you can fit into everything you see. Whatever you put on, your clothing brings you joy and makes you feel good about how you look. In the summer you confidently wear a bikini, and not just on skinny days. You have a strong core (do you have those awesome side muscles that I am just starting to see? I hope so!) and you don’t look pregnant by the end of the day. You are confident in how you look and how you feel and how you move. You feel sexier than I do. But most importantly, you feel strong and healthy – which may mean something different to you than it does to me, and that’s cool.

You are your own living epitome of health.

No pressure, though.

I don’t expect you to have yanked out your sweet tooth. Or your salt tooth, for that matter. I hope that you and food have a relationship based on trust and appreciation. You see food as fuel for your strong and healthy body and mind. The occasional indulgence does not send you flailing into a downward spiral or fleeing to the pantry in a state of sugar-lust. Sugar-lust may still exist for you, but YOU are in control of your cravings. You understand why they are happening. You are mindful and aware and whether you choose to indulge a craving or not, you act consciously and move on confidently.

I’m starting to feel so excited for us. I’m excited for me to become you. I could do without the additional gray hair and fine lines that will turn into wrinkles; but I’m less fussed about those things because I know that I am taking our wonky foundation and reinforcing it so that we can continue to grow, to build, to strengthen, to create, to achieve.

Thank you for getting yourself to where you are.

You’re welcome for starting you on your way.

Love,

Me

 

 

A Mocktail on Mother’s Day

Last Saturday my mom and I made our annual Mother’s Day pilgrimage to NYC for a Broadway double-header with fun meals and shopping in between shows. I had been planning for weeks to break my 60-day alcohol-free streak on Saturday with a frozen pomegranate margarita, one of my favorite drinks. But in the days leading up to #MothersDayonBroadway, I started to feel a little twinge of hesitation in my gut. And by the time Saturday rolled around, there was a strong inner voice telling me, “I don’t want it.”

We arrive at Rosa Mexicano for lunch. The waiter asks for our drink order. “I’ll have a virgin pomegranate margarita,” I hear myself say. Alas, they are pre-mixed! Crap! The waiter recommends a mango-strawberry mocktail. And before I know it, my streak-breaking moment has passed and it’s Day 62.

Honestly, I’m shocked. And yet I guess I’m not. It just takes a glance back through what I’ve written over the past few months, especially my reflections once I hit my 60-day milestone last week, to quash the instinctual shock.

“I feel lighter, both physically and mentally.”

“I feel stronger, both physically and mentally.”

“I feel more energized – and beyond that, I have more endurance – both physically and mentally.”

Less anxious. Healthier. Empowered. In control (of booze, at least).

Why would I want to risk losing any of these feels?

And yet, would one drink really make a difference?

Do I still care enough about alcohol to find out? Or do I care more about me? (That’s a rhetorical question obviously. But maybe it hasn’t always been.)

On a date night a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I had a very candid chat about our diet goals. He has recently committed to cleaning up his carb-inhaling act; and though his approach is different from mine, we are on the same page in terms of cutting the crap and getting healthier for ourselves and to set a better example for our kids. We agreed on this: that we would like to get to a point where we can go out to dinner, have a drink, eat a burger, splurge on dessert – and have that meal be an isolated indulgence, NOT a shove that sends us back down into the junky spiral that we have been trying to escape basically since becoming parents.

My husband has a true take-it-or-leave-it relationship with alcohol. I do not. So to include “have a drink” in the description of an ideal date night is a bigger deal for me than it is for him. I recognize this. I’ve got my toolbox now. My non-negotiables remain steadfast. I am aware and I am armed and I am determined to never fall back down to where I was.

But why do I still feel the need to include “have a drink” at all?

Because I am not ready to proclaim myself a non-drinker. But also, I don’t want to drink. So.

Last #MothersDayonBroadway, my mom and I spent our time between shows having margaritas with dinner and prosecco at a cute Irish pub. This year, because we weren’t bar-hopping, we had so much time on our hands we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves. We browsed the shops at the Time Warner Center. We found her some cute summer shoes at TJ Maxx. We had dessert at Pinkberry. It was refreshing, if a bit disorienting.

I did miss being able to go sit at a bar and have a drink with my mom. I missed feeling giddy and fabulous. But I didn’t miss the crash. I didn’t miss the void left by a worn-off buzz, the dehydration, having to suppress the yearning for more booze, the anxiety about having to drive home. Yikes. Nope, I did not miss any of that at all.

We saw “Mean Girls” that night, and it was hysterical and awesome and I was able to fully absorb both the fantastic show and the amazing audience. I drove us home afterwards, grateful to be sober and not having to calculate how much time had passed since my last drink. I slept well and woke up guilt-free on Sunday.

I am really proud of myself, if a little surprised to have made the choice that I did. [I should note that one of my non-negotiables is that I will not drink if I have to drive. My plan had been to have one margarita with lunch at noon which would have worn off completely by the time I was driving home 11 hours later. But the fact that I would have been compromising, if not fully breaking, a non-negotiable did factor into my gut decision to go for a mocktail instead.] I accept that I still have conflicting feelings that will take time to untwine. And I accept that I still don’t know what my relationship with alcohol will be.

For now, it’s back to our weekly routine, which at this point is easily, breezily alcohol-free for me. No date nights or other potential drinking occasions coming up this week. So I am going to try to give myself some head space. I will shift my focus back to simply (because it’s so simple – ha!) staying on track. I will stay within my points, achieve my workout and daily water intake goals, and get my butt to bed. Keep it simple. Give myself grace.

It’s Tuesday, which also happens to be Day 64. But it’s also just Tuesday.

Losing the Big Picture and a Booze-Free Breakthrough

I lost sight of the big picture yesterday.

It was my one-year anniversary of hitting my original goal weight of 145lbs. It was also the Mother’s Day brunch celebration at my son’s nursery school. I remember going to the event with my daughter when she was in Pre-K last year, feeling triumphant for hitting my weight loss goal. Yesterday morning, I couldn’t resist weighing myself – and I was 146lbs.

I felt discouraged. I had a lovely time at the brunch – but also ate quiche, pumpkin bread, banana bread, and a blueberry muffin. Then last night I ate a 13-point pint of Enlightened ice cream and followed that with about 22 points’ worth of granola.

At about 8pm, my mom arrived for the weekend. My husband had to go out on an ambulance call (he’s a volunteer EMT). I decided to stop eating, hydrate, and enjoy the time hanging out with my mom. By the time my hubby got home, my mom and I were telling funny stories and laughing our heads off. My husband said, “This is like you ladies after a few glasses of wine, only without the wine!”

His comment made me feel SO GOOD and so proud and so happy. He was right – we were having a great time together WITHOUT wine! It was a great way to end what was otherwise a bit of a rollercoaster day.

I am now in the negatives for my points this week, with the entire weekend ahead of me including a day out in NYC today with my mom. I weighed myself again this morning to keep myself accountable –

and as of this morning I’m 144.6lbs. So I LOST a pound and a half after eating all those carbs yesterday!

So I am resetting my view to the big picture. I put too much pressure on my one-year goal weight anniversary yesterday. I’m going to try not to do that again! I will reinvest my trust in the process. Give myself kindness and grace. The rest (and the weight loss) will follow.

My Alcohol Experiment: Day 1

Whoa! I didn’t realize I would have homework every day of The Alcohol Experiment!

But that’s ok. I’m actually very intrigued by this process. Having written a daily Connect post during Dry January, I’m excited to let Annie Grace help guide my thought process this time around. I read her book This Naked Mind during Dry January, so the material she covers here is familiar to me, and I’m looking forward to taking my exploration to the next level with this interactive “experiment.”

“Excited.” “Looking forward.” These are good signs, right? I remember how nervous, sad, and scared I was to start Dry January. Now I am voluntarily embarking on another month without booze and I am excited for it. I am excited to give this gift to myself. THAT is progress, even if the last six weeks of attempted moderation have not been my best, I HAVE made progress. Phew.

So. Day 1 homework. Write two lists: why you drink, and why you are choosing to do The Alcohol Experiment. Behold how they conflict! Eureka!

Here are my lists:

Why I Drink

  • Drinking makes me feel giddy and happy and relaxed (at first).
  • Wine helps me cope with my kids are the end of the day, giving me an energy boost and helping me relax during the witching hour.
  • Drinking is something I can do for ME, not for my kids or anyone else. It’s ME TIME.
  • I drink to relieve stress.
  • Drinking helps me unwind.
  • Drinking helps me feel more confident and outgoing.
  • Alcohol makes me funnier.
  • I like the taste of some wines and mixed drinks.

What’s My Why (i.e. why am I doing The Alcohol Experiment)

  • I will not reach my weight loss goal if I continue to drink the way I am drinking.
  • I will not exercise as often if I continue my drinking habits.
  • I want to be thinner and more fit.
  • I want to have more energy.
  • I want to be more patient with my kids, especially in the evenings.
  • I don’t want to wake up feeling puffy, dehydrated and disgusting.
  • I want to start the day feeling AHEAD, not BEHIND.
  • I want my sin to look more clear.
  • I want to get rid of my “wine belly.”
  • I want to be able to be socially confident WITHOUT relying on alcohol.
  • I want to be free.

Today’s video is a “3D belief deconstruction” (basically a PowerPoint) on the concept of drinking alcohol for the taste, which is a popular reason why people drink. I certainly grew up seeing all the adults in my life seeming to enjoy alcohol. My first drink was a rum and Coke, heavy on the Coke to cover up the taste of rum. I remember not particularly liking it, but feeling like I should. I definitely did not like wine or beer when I first started drinking. So yes, I agree that alcohol is quite literally an acquired taste.

But do I like it? I still believe on some level that I do. I love margaritas. I like the taste of wine, some grapes more than others. I love pumpkin beer. Or do I?

Do I? Hmm.

 

[The Alcohol Experiment is a free, interactive 30-day program designed by Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind. For more information, click here.]

March Madness and Moving Day

Four weeks of craziness and I feel like my bones are made of cement. It is time for a change. My points reset tomorrow and so will my brain. Back to tracking, back to being alcohol-free, back to kickboxing and my beloved Peloton. Back on track or bust!

I am trying not to be too hard on myself, to accept the reality of these last four weeks, to accept that some of it has been in my control and some out of my control, to learn from it, and to MOVE THE F ON. Seeing as I am currently too tired to move much at all, I am taking some time now to collect and reflect. Keep what is important, ditch what is not.

Tomorrow is (mental) moving day.

I will keep the lessons that will serve me well as I move forward. Having alcohol as an option is too much of a willpower- and energy-suck right now, so it needs to not be an option for me for awhile. Again. Did I fail at moderation? No. But neither did I thrive. When we were in London, I drank a glass of wine with dinner the first few nights, and by the end of the week I was up to two glasses and felt like I could not let a night of vacation pass without it. Last Tuesday, when our power finally came back on, we returned to our 43-degree house and I immediately opened a bottle of Sauv B that had naturally chilled in a kitchen cabinet and drank the whole damn thing.

I am not panicking. I have more faith in myself than that. But I also know that I need all the energy and mental clarity and willpower I can get right now and removing alcohol from the zillions of choices I expend energy making on a daily basis will help a lot with that. So, it goes. Again. And I’m a lot less sad about it this time.

I will keep the fond memories of our wonderful London trip and travel adventures at Great Wolf Lodge and in NYC during our four-day power outage. Bringing our kids to London for the first time; walking them past our old house; seeing the thrill on their faces as they walked into Hamley’s, boarded their first double-decker bus, and ascended in the London Eye are memories my husband and I will cherish for the rest of our lives.

I will keep – but try not to torture myself with – the memory of how I feel right now. Drained. Bloated. Disappointed. Gross. Exhausted to my core. Some of this is due to stressful circumstances that were out of my control. We had no power for four days, five counting our 12-hour bonus (ha) outage yesterday. International travel is awesome but tiring. The jet lag/strep throat/head cold combo was a hat trick of heinousness that took about two weeks for me and my kids to overcome.

But I am also partly responsible for how I feel right now. I have burdened my body with booze and junk food. I have allowed my cravings to win out. I have stayed up too late. I have reopened my book of excuses and used them liberally to justify my actions in the moment.

This ends tomorrow. And a new chapter of this journey begins. I am starting Annie Grace’s 30-day Alcohol Experiment and I’m going to start reading The Food Therapist which I hope will help with my out-of-control cravings.

This is going to be a big week. My son is turning four, my dad and stepmom arrive to stay for five days (which is about three days too long), and we have my son’s birthday party on St. Patrick’s Day. (Oh, and I’ll be PMSing. Apologies if that’s TMI.)

The 2017 me would never have the guts to go alcohol-free starting on a week like the one I have ahead of me. The 2018 me is admittedly a bit daunted, but mostly excited by the thought of how damn proud I am going to feel a week from today.

Damn. Proud. I can do this.

Barf. Literally.

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I drank a bottle of wine last night.

WTF?!

After all the progress I’ve made?! WHY would I do that to myself?! I promised myself I would never drink a bottle of wine in one night again. I committed to not drinking wine at home for the month of March. And yet I did! I drank an entire bottle of wine at home last night. UGH!!!

… This is not actually my inner monologue. For once, I am not beating myself up about drinking too much. Instead of surrendering to my usual guilt spiral, and perhaps because I have not been drunk since December, I am reflecting on my behavior in a much more objective – and less damning, and less damaging – way.

This is fairly remarkable for me, as I am a frequent passenger on the guilt train. One of the reasons I so desperately signed up for Dry January is that I was in a heinous cycle of waking every morning if not fully hungover, at least puffy, groggy and stale; committing to not drinking that day; then feeling frayed by the time the witching hour rolled around and pouring myself a glass of wine anyway, which would inevitably become three or four glasses (if not more) by the time I went to bed in a haze; and start all over again the next morning. I knew I needed a clean break from this cycle and that is what I achieved.

I conquered Dry January and felt on top of the world. Yet I was not ready to say goodbye to wine forever. So over the last five weeks I have been attempting moderation: drinking when I am out at night or on vacation, and not drinking at home.

The freedom I felt during Dry January has evaporated. To drink or not to drink is now a choice again. And making this choice takes energy. Willpower. And willpower is a finite resource.

So last night, when our power finally came back on after four long days, I was out of willpower. I wanted tortilla chips and wine and I didn’t even try to fight these unhealthy urges – despite simultaneously composing yesterday’s post about how empowering my first year on Weight Watchers had been.

I copped to the chips and chocolate in yesterday’s post, but I left out the wine. Why did I do that? I’ll be totally honest: I didn’t want my Connect friends to think less of me. Because opening that bottle made ME think a little less of me.

And at the same time, I was curious to revisit my old ways. So I allowed myself to surrender to old habits, slugging back the Sauvignon Blanc while feeding my kids dinner, and finishing the bottle a couple of hours later. My husband and I had a delightfully normal night of eating dinner on the couch while watching “Fixer Upper.” I didn’t get sloppy. But I didn’t necessarily enjoy my buzz either.

We went to bed. And a few hours later, half-asleep, I made my way to the bathroom and I threw up.

I FREAKING THREW UP.

I threw up from drinking an amount of wine which, by the time I reached the end of 2017, was what I’d imbibe on any given evening. Yikes.

I woke up feeling predictably gross this morning, and perversely grateful that I got sick overnight because at least I was able to purge some of the junk from my system. I have felt nasty and eaten tons of crap all day as my family and I weather cabin fever during yet another snow storm.

But you know what? Ain’t got time or energy to beat myself up. Instead, I am choosing to reflect and learn from my experience. And here’s what I learned:

Dry January helped my body reset its tolerance for alcohol and break from habitual drinking. And it made me feel like a million bucks. Drinking in front of my kids makes me feel like a loser. And consuming an entire bottle of wine now makes me sick. Good to know!

I really, really wish I hadn’t wanted to open that bottle last night. The last four days of not being able to stay in our house, coming on the heels of three routine-less weeks of travel, snow days, and illnesses, were the whipped cream and cherry on top of a big ol’ cortisol sundae. I was vibrating with stress by the time the power came back on last night. And the only thing I could think of to help me chillax was wine.

These were exceptional circumstances, and I’m disappointed that I resorted to old habits. Throwing up last night and feeling like crap today have been effective reminders of why I broke those habits in the first place. All I can hope is to continue this process of self-reflection, to continue to evolve, with grace and without judgement. Perhaps next time I’ll be strong enough to not open that bottle.

Dry January Day 31

So that happened.

Dry January has been a joyous journey. I expected it to feel like an uphill climb, and at times it did. But mostly it felt like a happy dance.

I feel free. I feel unlimited.

And I never could have gotten through this without Connect and everyone who inspired and supported me along the way. To think that I have been able to inspire and support others makes my heart burst with joy and gratitude.

So here I am on Day 31:

  • 5.2lbs lost
  • 23 workouts
  • 25 blue dots

And now the big numbers, courtesy of my Dry January app:

  • $200 saved
  • 10,000 alcohol calories not consumed

TEN THOUSAND calories I would have spent on poison instead of protein shakes. On sugar instead of – ok, well I definitely still consumed sugar. In fact I still consumed all my daily points and almost all of my weeklies. But instead of spending half my dailies and most of my weeklies on booze, I spent it (for the most part) on foods that nourish my body. Foods that sustain energy. Foods that build muscle.

I used to ingest 10,000 calories of alcohol every month. I am NEVER going back to that number.

But back to the scale. As of this morning, I am 143.6lbs, under my original goal weight of 145. I didn’t make it to my current goal of 138, but that is ok. For now, I am going to stick with Freestyle and my current workout regimen and see where my body settles.

I am happy with the way I look. (Omg I just typed that!) I don’t know where I will end up weight-wise but I do know these two things:

1. I de-puffed like a BOSS this month; and

2. Whether I reach my goal of 138 or not, I NEVER would have gotten there with my former drinking habits.

My former drinking habits. Have I mentioned I’m not going back?