Really, WW Mag? Booze as Your Holiday Cover Girl?

I have never been one to stand on a soapbox, and I have debated all day about whether to write about this. But the more I think about it, the more upset I get. I have to call out WW (that’s the newly rebranded WeightWatchers, y’all) and WW Magazine on their November/December cover. I am disappointed and perplexed as to why a company which has just rebranded itself to encompass the concept of “wellness” and claims to be the provider of “Wellness That Works” would celebrate alcohol as its holiday cover girl; and, further, insinuate that alcohol is the path to “health, joy & connection.”

In reality, a recent study published in the Lancet states that “the safest level of drinking is none.” Alcohol is a leading cause of disease and death world-wide, killing 2.8 million people every year. In the United States, 88,000 lives are lost annually to alcohol, making it the third-leading preventable cause of death. Alcohol is to blame for nearly 1 in 10 deaths of those aged 15-49 – the likely age bracket of the folks shown toasting wine on the new cover of WW Magazine.

How about showing hands toasting with hot chocolate? Or, as someone suggested on Connect, showing some hands toasting with non-alcoholic beverages? How about showing a happy holiday table scene that – gasp! – does NOT include alcohol?

I realize that the vast majority of holiday celebrations – including mine – involve alcohol. I am not standing in judgement of anyone who chooses to imbibe on a holiday or any other day.

But I am also a person for whom “gray area drinking” – that is, not hitting rock bottom but drinking enough to feel a lack of control compounded by guilt and shame – was enough of an issue that I have sworn off the stuff for a year. I have also come to trust in WW as a lifestyle that works better for me than anything else I’ve tried. I lost 23 pounds in 2017 and have kept it off with the help of my trusty tracker. I summoned the courage to take a break from drinking because of the incredible support of my #sobersisters on Connect. I achieved Lifetime two months ago (meaning, for those who are unfamiliar with WW, that as long as I stay within two pounds of my goal weight I have free access to the program) and plan to stick with WW for the foreseeable future.

So I feel let down by this magazine cover. I am not asking WW to take an anti-alcohol stance. But I do ask WW to reconsider its messaging. I believe that a wellness company should not promote alcohol, the most commonly-used addictive substance in the US, as integral to “health, joy & connection.”

Alcohol is not the key to “health, joy & connection.” Alcohol is the fast lane heading in the exact opposite direction.

Sources:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31310-2/fulltext

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/08/24/alcohol-death-disease-study-beer-wine/1082443002/

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol

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

My First Session with The Food Therapist

You can’t make better, more consciously driven food decisions that are in line with what you really want for yourself and ultimately reach your health and bod goals if you don’t examine the roots of this vital relationship. – Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD

I finally started reading The Food Therapist today, and there is already so much to digest (pun intended)! Through a quiz that is included in Chapter One, I’ve identified that I have three main food-related hang-ups:

  1. Trust Issues – I feel like I have no willpower and I don’t trust myself with certain foods (and booze). I feel like I can’t keep certain foods in the house for fear that I will eat them in one go. I often eat things I shouldn’t, and/or eat too much.
  2. A Craving for Control – I am a rule-follower, so I get mad at myself when I overeat and follow that with a heaping serving of guilt. When I do stick to my food rules (i.e. staying within my daily and weekly Weight Watchers points), I feel like I’m winning. When I don’t, I feel ashamed, guilty, and depressed.
  3. A Dependence Issue – I “treat” myself with food in both good times and bad. I eat when I procrastinate. And in all of these moments, I tend to overeat which of course makes me feel worse than I did to begin with (or makes me feel bad when I had been feeling great).

The goal is to accept that I have these tendencies, dig deeper to understand them, and then figure out how to manage them. Hmm. Ok, I’ll play.

Shira provides a neat little Venn diagram to show the forces behind our behavior around food. According to her diagram, my food issues (trust, control, and dependence) are both emotionally-driven and mistrust- and negativity-driven. All true! I have used food to self-soothe ever since I can remember. I was never taught about proper nutrition and had a crappy diet as a kid, so I have basically never felt nutritionally empowered or in control of food. And I am also a veteran negative self-talker. So there you have it: 37 years of food issues, summarized in one short paragraph! Am I done? Am I cured of my food woes? No?

“… these forces will always be there, so it’s up to you to get better at anticipating them and identifying your personal vulnerabilities in order to start making conscious eating choices that are in sync with your ultimate goals.” – Shira Lenchewski

Ah, ok. So this is gonna take awhile.

The forces will always be there, she says. I will always have emotions. I will have triumphant days and garbage days and I will feel feelings about all of that. Will the mistrust and negativity always be there? Ugh, I hope not. But realistically, and certainly for the foreseeable, yes. It will take a long time to build trust in my relationship with food. And negative thoughts will inevitably creep in.

I’m feeling hopeful, though. This is going to take a LOT of work – this is only Chapter One! – but I am worth it. I don’t want my kids growing up with food hang-ups like mine. Tonight at dinner my son asked me what I was eating – spiralized butternut squash – and my daughter said, “That’s so healthy. Mama always eats healthy stuff.” Eureka! There is hope! For me and for my kids (and maybe even for my husband)! And maybe one of these days some of those squash spirals will end up on my son’s plate without an epic battle ensuing. A mom can dream. And in the meantime, get herself sorted.

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.

Who’s Got the Power? My First Year on Weight Watchers

Today is my one-year Weight Watchers anniversary.

Am I at my goal weight? No.

I am at my original goal weight, and that is ok. Because this past year has been about so much more than that.

My original goal weight has become my new “I feel puffy and need to get back on track” weight. That’s where I am today. And after three weeks of craziness (international travel with two young kids, a family case of strep throat, then head colds, and currently on day five of a power outage), I am ok with that.

I am more than ok. Because I have something that I didn’t have a year ago, when I set out on this journey. I have faith in myself. I believe in myself. I know exactly what I am doing and I know that I will get back to where I want to be.

Right now I am stress-eating. We have been out of our house for four days and out of our routine for three weeks. While I have managed to spend some of that time on the wagon, I’ve also allowed myself to give into my go-to cravings: tortilla chips, Nutella, and chocolate. I wish I were stronger. I wish I didn’t resort to junk food as a “reward” in times of stress. Because, of course, putting this crapola into my body is not a reward. It’s a burden. A moment of pleasure that instantly weighs me down mentally and physically. And that weight lasts a lot longer than the fleeting pleasure.

But I do it anyway. And I accept that. For now.

Because I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve run two marathons in my life. This is my third.

When I joined WW a year ago, I was desperate. My eating and drinking were out of control. I was squeezing into my clothes. I had little energy and patience. Working out felt like a hopeless chore. I needed some structure and someone else’s rules to follow because I wasn’t sticking to my own.

WW has opened a door to an existence that I didn’t believe was possible. I used to think my old weight was just the way my body was going to be after having two kids. I used to think it was fine to eat whatever I want because nothing would ever change. I used to think I would never be able to control my alcohol cravings. I felt disgusting. And, finally, fed up.

I didn’t know what else to do. So I joined WW. I stepped through that door. And while I have not yet arrived at my ultimate destination, I left the first 20lbs behind. Confidently over the threshold, I closed the door and flipped the deadbolt. I will never see those 20lbs again. The next five are hanging on for dear life, and the five after that still feel somewhat out of reach. But this is a journey. This is a marathon. I haven’t crossed the finish line, but I haven’t hit the wall either. I’m still going strong.

One year in. I wish I could have posted dramatic before and after photos, but I wasn’t up to it today. So I got a pedicure. I’d show it to you, but I forgot to shave my toes and my left big toenail is still growing back after a nasty incident with a pair of pointy-toe flats.

But under these Converse All-Stars, beneath my socks, my toenails are painted a fierce, sassy and confident shade of neon watermelon.

And under my stress-eating-induced bloat, beneath my sweatshirt and leggings, I am a fierce, sassy and confident person and mama and athlete and writer and warrior and wife.

I’ve been writing this post throughout the day. Between grocery trips and school runs and karate classes, amidst not knowing when or if our electricity would be restored before the next storm hits in a matter of hours.

And guess what? The power – finally! – came on.

We have power.

I have power.

THAT is what I have taken away from my first year on Weight Watchers. I. Have. Power.

And I take responsibility. For the good decisions and the bad. I alone have the power to learn from these decisions. And I am. I am learning so much about myself and I am becoming a better person and mom and wife every day.

Because every day leads me closer to the me I want to be. She has eluded me over the years. And at times I have almost lost her.

But not this time. Not ever again, I hope.

Because I have the power now.

Oh Hi. What am I Doing Here?

Hey there! I took this blog (and its lovely Insta-sistah, @maintaining_mama) public last night so I thought now would be a good time for a proper introduction.

Like so many other women on the cusp between Gen X and Gen Y, my name is Jen. I actually just Googled what generation I am and apparently those of us on the cusp are technically Xennials now? Not sure how I feel about that.

I’m a stay-at-home mom (or SAHM, as we hashtag it these days) burbin’ it up outside NYC. My kiddos are six and four and like every other parent, I believe that they are the greatest human beings to ever grace this planet. Also like every other parent (whether you admit it or not, you know it’s true) there are times that my children are maniacal devil spawn who break me down into a sobbing ball of rage. They’re the best though. Seriously.

I also have a husband and two dogs to round out my chock-full-o-love but chaotic existence. Oh, and I try my best to balance three volunteer gigs: colon cancer non-profit, local ambulance corps, and PTA (obv).

In other words, WTF am I thinking starting a blog?! Ain’t got time for that!

Oh but I must. This is what I’m learning. Writing makes me happy. Thinking thoughts – both big and small – about my diet, exercise, relationship with booze, and general existence as a 37-year-old-25-lbs-lighter mama on the cusp of having some semblance of a life again now that my kids are older – and taking the time to write some of these thoughts down, IS IMPORTANT. Maybe even vital.

I need this time right now. I need this outlet. It is going to make me happier, more fulfilled, a better mom and wife and person. (This is me trying to convince myself that taking this time for ME, to do something I enjoy, is OK. Mom guilt, begone!)

But enough about me. What are YOU doing here?

Seriously if anyone on the interwebs besides my mom has read this far, I am sending you a big ol’ hug. I honestly don’t know what this blog will become, if or how it will resonate with anyone else. But if you’re here, welcome. And thank you. And I really, really hope you find some comfort here. Maybe some inspiration, maybe a much-needed smile.

I promise to be real. I don’t have time to be anything else, y’all. I am far from Pinterest-perfect and I hope I stay that way. Because real life can be pretty darn exquisite, when you’re not scooping dog poop or covered in your kid’s puke. And some of the time, I am neither of those things.

Some of the time, I am strong. I am energized. I am motivated. I am eating clean. I am working out five times a week. I am balanced.

And some of the time, I’m raiding my pantry. I’m PMSing. I’m crying. I’m dropping F-bombs in front of my kids. I’m drinking too much wine. I’m in a dismal slump.

I hope that this blog will help me spend more time on the living-my-best-life side of the spectrum and less time on the tortilla-chip-and-sauvignon-blanc-binging side. And who knows. As this little project makes its way in the crazy congested blogosphere, maybe I won’t be the only one.