Outshining Broken Bulbs at 150 Days

Stringing the lights on the Christmas tree is one of my least favorite tasks of the year. Not to sound Grinchy, but I always end up doing it by myself, getting poked by myriad needles while trying not to be toppled by a nine-foot fir.

Tonight, my daughter asked if she could help me. And, lo and behold, my little stringbean ninja turned out to be the key to successful light-stringing! The process was painless (save for a few inevitable pokes) and a fun bonding moment. I was grateful to finally have a wingwoman to support me through this dreaded but critical Christmas task.

Then she plugged in the lights. And the top 1/4 of the tree did not work.

I could consider the whole effort a failure. I could give up, rip the lights off the tree and let it ruin my night. I could buy a new strand of lights to try to hide the broken ones. I could.

But I’m not going to do any of those things. I talked about it with my daughter and she said, “Well, it’s still a great tree even if some of the lights don’t work.” And she’s right.

I’m struggling with eating right now. But I do not consider myself a failure. I am not going to give up and let the sugar monster ruin my night. I am not going to try to hide the fact that I am struggling. And I know that I am still great even if my relationship with sugar is not working.

A year ago, I was struggling with drinking. What if I had given up then? What if I had let the wine witch ruin my night, and eventually my life? What if I had continued to hide the fact that I was struggling?

I didn’t, thank goodness. I found Connect and appealed for support and received it in spades. As low as I felt, somewhere inside I knew I was still great. I knew I deserved better, and my #sobersisters on Connect helped me strengthen that belief.

I have so much more confidence now than I did a year ago. So much more faith in myself. I have overcome a soul-crippling, dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. I know I’ll figure out sugar too.

Sometimes I still feel alone in my struggles. But I know I’m not, and I never was.

If you are struggling, you’re not alone. There is support for you here. Believe that you deserve to receive it. Let us help give you the boost you need. You are not a failure. Do not give up. Do not hide, from us or from yourself.

You are great. We are great. We may have a few wonky bulbs, but our light shines beautiful and bright.

Monday Malaise

I’m feeling some malaise today. I am quite literally not at ease. It’s not the alcohol, since I haven’t had any for the last 17 days (and 96 out of the last 99 days!) anyway. It’s not even the chocolate mint waffle cone, bagels, cookies, and Chinese food I binged on yesterday – though recovering from that is not helping. It’s just me – unclouded, un-hungover – having a malaise-y Monday.

With the end of the school year upon us, and my son starting kindergarten in another year, I ponder the precipice I approach. I have been a stay-at-home mom for the last six and a half years. And I don’t know what’s next for me. I don’t have a job waiting for me, or a career to which I could make a triumphant return. I am about to emerge from the depths of #SAHMlife and I don’t know what’s out there in a world where I will have SEVEN WHOLE HOURS to myself five days week.

I imagine some of this time will be taken up by a part-time job. But what am I going to do to make money? None of my volunteer commitments have the potential to turn into paying gigs. And lately I’ve lost steam with them anyway. I’ve been too into, well, THIS. Writing. And reading. And Connecting.

I am figuring my shit out, learning to love myself, and finding my voice.

So what do I WANT to do once I am able to usher both my kids onto the same school bus and not be chauffeuring them, cooking for them, cleaning up after them, and wiping their butts all day?

I want to help people like the person I used to be, by which I mean overweight, wine-dependent, unfit, and – most importantly – under-self-loved. But how? There are already so many beautiful women with perfect Instagram accounts and gazillions of followers who are established in the sober/mom/fitness/wellness/you-name-it communities. Books have already been written. Podcasts have already been recorded. Who am I to think I have anything to add to any aspect of any of this?

Especially since I have not fully given up alcohol. And I have not fully conquered my eating issues. And I could always be more fit. And a better mom. Etc.

But I have come so far. I wake every morning now with a body that a year and a half ago I believed was totally unrealistic for me. Before starting Weight Watchers, I had my wedding rings sized up and now they dangle from my fingers on cool days. The thought of drinking the way I used to not only holds zero appeal, it feels like a different life – and yet it was only six-ish months ago that it was MY life. I feel more comfortable in this skin than I have felt in years – maybe ever.

And yet I’m uneasy. I think because I don’t have a clear picture of where I want to go, what I want to be, what I want to do. My opportunity to emerge from #SAHMlife is on the horizon and when I get there I want to be ready to slay.

For now, I am a work in progress. And that is ok. I will never catch up to those amazing ladies who have been pioneers in the alcohol-free movement. And that is ok. I am finding my own voice. And that is ok. I can’t pretend to be anything other than this much-improved version of me. And that is more than ok.

Will I ever give up alcohol completely? I don’t know. Here’s what I do know: I will indulge in a glass of wine the way I indulge in a cup of Cold Stone Peanut Butter Cup Perfection. Very occasionally. I know it’s not good for me. I know it brings no benefit to the body that I have worked so hard to achieve. I know I will feel worse for having consumed it. And yet I am building enough inner trust to know that one cup of ice cream or glass of wine will NOT send me into a spiral anymore. And that is huge for me.

Maybe someday these desires will disappear, and I won’t want to burden my body with booze or sugar. Wouldn’t that be great? I don’t know, actually – and that’s why it’s not my goal right now.

My goal is to spend what little kid-free time I currently have empowering myself with knowledge. Understanding acutely the effect of these chemicals on my body. But I am not going to force myself to fit into the alcohol-free mold before I’m ready, because I don’t want to set myself up for self-sabotage.

The final ascent to the self-actualization apex of Maslow’s Pyramid probably does not include alcohol or sugar, or caffeine for that matter! But everyone’s ascent is different. And I can only follow my own. As long as I’m making my way up that pyramid, no matter how round-about my route, that is the important thing.

I have more than a year until two little butts scurry up the stairs onto the school bus. I have time. I am in learning and discovery mode. And whenever I feel late to the party, with my tiny blog and tiny Instagram following, I have to remind myself that the party has already changed for the better because I am here.

 

maslow-5
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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 Lower-Stakes Slump

… and I can’t even blame it on Royal Wedding withdrawal. Though that’s not helping.

For the last few days I have been slumping HARD y’all. Eating crap, not logging enough hours of sleep, not hydrating, feeling junky and filling my body with junk in an unhealthy cycle. Granted, this used to be a lot worse when alcohol was in the mix; but it’s still no bueno and I need to get a handle on it.

I weigh in tomorrow and I will have gained weight, I’m sure. I have about two months until I fly back to London for my MBA class reunion and I want to feel just as fab, if not better, than I felt for my high school reunion a few weeks ago. Starting tomorrow (fresh week, fresh points) I am re-committing to staying within my points until my reunion. I’m also going to start reading The Food Therapist by Shira Lenchewski, hoping that this book will help me get to the root of my eating issues.

Help me, Shira!

I’m frustrated. Because at this point, I have tools. I have knowledge and awareness that I did not have before starting Weight Watchers last year. I have also conquered my alcohol cravings, a feat which I believed impossible until I achieved it. But now sugar has assumed the role previously played by alcohol in the rom-mom-com that is my life. And I know I have to dig deeper.

Willpower is a finite resource. My willpower is running out routinely right now – just like all those days I would wake up and promise myself I wouldn’t drink, only to open a bottle of wine during witching hour desperation. Every day I wake up and start tracking my points, determined to stay within my daily and weekly limits. But by the afternoon, my cravings take control and there I am, scouring my pantry for anything chocolate-y enough to appease. This doesn’t happen every day, but it happened too many days this week (and this month, and this spring) and here I am on Sunday afternoon, feeling bloated and exhausted and sugar-hungover and weak.

I was able to ditch my dependence on alcohol by educating myself and using the tools that Annie Grace gives us through This Naked Mind and The Alcohol Experiment. So many of these tools seem applicable to food cravings as well – yet I find myself balking at the commitment to using them in that way. I could make a list of non-negotiables (e.g. “I will not enter my pantry between 1 and 5pm” or “I won’t eat chocolate alone”) but, frankly, that just seems silly. And the stakes aren’t nearly as high. I’m not going to crash my car if I drive under the influence of chocolate.

This is not an emergency situation. While I’d like to lose a little more weight, I am still hovering within a few pounds of my original goal. Right now I’m just a girl, looking at a bar of chocolate, trying not to put it in my shopping cart. But just as I hit the wall with my relationship with alcohol, so too have I reached that point with sugar. Something has to change. I am tired of overeating sweets and feeling like I have no control over my cravings. It’s time to put in the work.

So this week I will start reading The Food Therapist. I’ll write about it too, because writing gives structure to my soul-searching. I will also get more sleep, continue to slay my exercise goals (the one thing I nailed this past week!), and give myself grace. I deserve to feel my best and not beat myself up if I stumble along the way. It’s time to turn this slump right-side up.

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-Free High School Reunion was Not Torture

On Saturday morning I woke at the buttcrack of dawn to walk my dog and squeeze in a Peloton spin class (burn, calories, burn!) before driving to suburban Philly for my 20th high school reunion.

I have vowed to take a 60-day booze break. Saturday was Day 55. I may not have done a lot of math since high school, but I was able to discern that this would be an alcohol-free reunion for me. My first ever alcohol-free reunion, in fact. Yikes. But ok. I can do this.

So I did. And it didn’t suck! At all!

How did it not suck being sober at my high school reunion? Let me count the ways:

WILLPOWER

I made the decision before going that I was not going to break my 60-day commitment. I also had one of my non-negotiables to guide and support me: “I will not drink when I have to drive, or if I am traveling alone.” So I had a full tank of willpower that I could put towards other decisions, keeping me on track (almost) the entire day. No booze or junk food boost-and-crash roller coaster for me!

ENERGY

It was a long day, from the driving to touring around the school and a picnic lunch, to the class party that night. Lots of schmoozing. I needed all the energy I could muster and I knew if I drank my energy level would plummet. Instead I felt a constant stream of energy the entire day. And that was much more refreshing and long-lasting than a drink would have been.

AUTHENTICITY

I am so happy to have reconnected with old friends and former teachers with an authenticity that is inherent in not having a fuzzy, boozy brain. I felt confident. I felt sure of myself. I felt 100% present. I felt content to be there just as I am. And that is incredible to me.

I was able to tell my French teacher that he was the greatest teacher I have ever had and when he bashfully rejected the compliment, I said, “I used to be bad at taking compliments too but I’m trying to get better at it. Here’s all you have to do. Say ‘Thank you.’ Now let’s try this again.” We did, we laughed, he said “Thank you,” and it felt amazing to have put that goodness out into the world and into his heart.

FIERCENESS

Apologies if this sounds a little vain, but my skin and body looked GOOD. I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST TYPED THAT. But I’m not going to let myself delete it, because this is important. It has taken a long time and a LOT of work to get myself here: I am happy in my life and proud of how I look.

On Saturday night I fit into a dress that I haven’t worn since my mini-moon, right after my wedding in 2009. I’ve held onto it all this time for sentimental reasons. I thought I would pass it on to my daughter. I never thought I would be able to wear it again and I think it fits me better now than it did 8.5 years ago.

My high school friends knew me as a fairly athletic but never thin girl with a cute face that was unfortunately riddled with acne. I am thrilled that I was able to show up feeling fit and pretty. What I look like on the outside, I think, also reflects how I have evolved on the inside. I did not need alcohol to give me superficial jolt of dopamine masquerading as confidence, as I have in the past. How freeing that was!

FUN

Y’all, I just had a great time. And being fully present only made it better. Snooping around the school and reliving the laughs and drama of our high school days. Marveling at how technology has evolved. Appreciating what a great education I received and reflecting on how my years there shaped my life. Catching up with everyone I could, from acquaintances to very dear friends.

And I was there. I was 100% there.

My only misstep in what was otherwise a wonderful day was eating a brownie with ice cream at 10pm, after the class party. I couldn’t fall asleep until 2am because of the sugar! Oops. But I’m trying to be kind to myself and see this as a lesson learned. I’m still adjusting to how much more sensitive my body has become to sugar since I’ve been alcohol-free. And I’ll take fatigue over a raging hangover any day!

Alcohol-free high school reunion achievement unlocked. Next stop: Day 60!

My Alcohol Experiment: Day 9

Day 9 of The Alcohol Experiment: how to combat those pesky sugar cravings.

Let me just remove my hand from the bag of leftover M&Ms from my son’s birthday party to do some typing.

As with many of these daily entries, it’s like Annie Grace has a direct link to my brain. Sugar cravings have been a HUGE issue for me since Dry January. I have always had a sweet tooth but once I cut out the booze that little sweet tooth grew into a behemoth. Over the past couple of months, as I’ve felt increasingly in control of my alcohol cravings, I have felt increasingly powerless against my sugar cravings – and, as a result, consumed epic amounts of crap.

Fortunately for us, Annie Grace gives us a variety of ways to help us deal with the sugar monster. She also reminds us to go easy on ourselves and if we need to pop a few gummy bears to get us through, that’s ok. (Yes, we are on WW, but think of all the points we are saving by not drinking! Eat the gummy bears if you need to!) The list is pretty self-explanatory, but it does help to know that these simple things really do make a difference as we try to navigate life off the alcohol-induced sugar roller coaster.

So here’s how to keep sugar cravings at bay:

Exercise! This boosts serotonin and is a genuine stress-reducer, unlike alcohol which numbs, then exacerbates, stress and anxiety.

Eat fruit! It’s got natural sugar and will help keep you full.

Drink water! I have found hydrating during the winter to be very challenging, but when I am properly hydrated it makes such a difference.

Eat several small meals and focus on protein! When broken down, protein produces a variety of amino acids including GABA, which helps you feel good (and is mimicked by alcohol). Eating throughout the day helps stabilize blood sugar so no roller coaster spikes and drops for you!

Eat fermented foods and drinks! And/or supplement with probiotics. Happy gut, happy life.

So, what is your plan for coping with sugar cravings?

Here’s mine:

Tracking! What a great weapon we have in the sugar battle! I have also stocked my freezer with Enlightened ice cream and I eat fruit with wild abandon. I am going to focus on making sure my snacks include protein; try to eat something fermented every day (kimchi is my choice, even though it revolts my hubby and kids); and hydrate hydrate hydrate. Oh, and sleep sleep sleep! (A mom can dream…)

For Annie Grace, ditching alcohol “was like the big domino that knocked over all the other little life changes I wanted to make.” This is happening to all of us, whether we realize it or not. Whether we give up alcohol permanently or not. We are all learning so much during this experiment and making changes both conscious and subconscious.

So pop those gummy bears if you need to, and trust the process.

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