Living On Purpose

Nearly two years ago I read a book that I didn’t like that much, but it really stuck with me: Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the concept of adding happiness into my life. I’m all for that. I just found the author a bit off putting. She just seemed a tad too self-absorbed and didn’t think enough about the people around her. Also, she focused too much on perfection.

That being said, the book stuck with me, or at least the idea of trying to add more happiness into one’s life. So after the suckiness of last 7 months, I decided to get off of my duff and do a little more than just think about happiness.

It’s funny how a brush with one’s own mortality can light a fire under your butt.

Pursuit of Happiness
Don’t get me wrong: I’m perfectly content with my life. But where’s the fun in life if I settle for being comfortable? Whether it’s improving myself (physically, mentally or spiritually), trying new things, or getting out of my comfort zone, aiming for happiness is a good thing.

Below is a list of new habits to create (or break), hobbies to try, and skills to cultivate. Stuff I wanted to try but didn’t because of my own inertia. My goal is to work on each of them.

1. Make More Time for Play with the Hubby.
All work and no play makes Dot very uncreative, stressed out, and grumpy. I’ve forgotten how to have fun. I don’t know when this happened, but I’ve stopped playing. If my husband suggests bowling, playing pool or a date night, I’m more content to sit in my recliner with an iPad. Ugh! When did I become an old fogey?

There is nothing remotely rejuvenating about sitting for hours looking at my Facebook feed. To this I say: “No more!”

I’m setting aside time each day to goof around with the hubby. It can be something as simple as playing with the dogs, throwing a Frisbee, flying a kite, or bowling with friends.

2. Stop Mindlessly Web Surfing And Get Stuff Done
I know exactly where I can find an hour in my “busy” schedule for more fun. Facebook. Twitter. Texting. Web surfing. Email.

Every day, as soon as I wake up in the morning, I pick up my damned phone, and it never leaves my side. There is nothing earth-shattering happening on social media. Also, I don’t have a job, so it’s not like I’m getting an urgent email. Being connected is one huge time suck. Time to turn it off and join the real world.

3. Revisit My Inner Shutterbug
I’ve started the low carb cooking channel on YouTube with the help of my hubby. But between his job and work on his novels, I need to pick up more of the slack. It’s time for me to dive in and play with the camcorders, lights, and editing software. I also plan to dust off my old digital SLR so I can take way better food pictures.

4. Save, Baby, Save!
Both the hubby and I have made a decision to start saving and cutting down on expenses. We want to do some traveling and want to pay for the trips before we even pick our destinations. We’ve done this before with lots of success when we hunkered down and became debt free. Recently, we’ve slacked off on our saving efforts. We restart saving this week by working on a budget and sticking to it. I’m also thinking about savings milestones, competitions on who can save the most, and little celebrations as we move towards our financial goals.

5. Organize My Life
The older I get, the more I want to declutter and go all minimalist. Twenty years ago, letting go of “things” was so hard. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have much stuff. Last week the husband and I cleared out a corner in our basement and it felt awesome. Having too much junk in my life makes it hard to feel organized and focused on what matters to me. First up to feel my wrath: that spare bedroom that’s turned into storage. Time to finally turn it into that craft room I’ve always wanted.

6. Learn A Language
I took four years of Latin in high school and four semesters of German in college. I didn’t use either, and hardly remember them. But I’ve always wanted to learn a language and use it. The hubby suggested I try Spanish. I certainly have neighbors I could practice with and, while he’s a bit rusty, the husband also knows enough to carry on a conversation with a 3-year-old. (He can do that in English, too).

7. Try Something New Each Month
I’m in a bit of a rut, and I think it’s time to expand my horizons. So once a month I’m going to try something new. It can be anything from trying a new food to zip lining. Some ideas may come from my recently updated healthy bucket list. Others as they strike my fancy.

8. Add Music To My Life
Learning to play an instrument helps with stress by making you feel more relaxed. I’d also imagine it must feel pretty dang good to master a difficult tune. I always wanted to learn to play the piano. Yet another reason to work on that craft room!

9. Travel More
I know I’m saving up for future trips, but day trips are pretty cheap. My area is loaded with tons of cool things to see and visit that are just a short drive away: the ocean, Gettysburg, Jamestown, Appalachian Trail, the swimming wild ponies, and lots of rivers and lakes to fish in.

10. Learn to sew
My husband gave me a sewing machine for Christmas two years ago and I’m embarrassed to say it is still in the dang box. Ugh! I found a local fabric shop that offers sewing lessons. Time to sign up.

To track my progress, I’m posting a daily log with the above list, with the first post hitting tomorrow. It’s one thing to have a list of things you want to do. But it’s another to take action. I have to hold my feet to the fire on this one (any help appreciated!).

Here’s To Seeing Less Of Me In 2014

weight loss goals, setting weight loss goals, nutrition goals, fitness goals

No resolutions for me. I prefer setting measurable goals! Image courtesy of chanpipat and

The other night I not only said goodbye to 2013 but also 48 pounds. Since my weight loss journey began nearly two years ago, I’ve lost more than 25% of my body weight.

Wow…88 pounds total. Sweet!

Time to kiss the rest of the fat goodbye.

I don’t do resolutions. Resolutions are too vague and I never keep any of them.

But I do believe in setting measurable goals. Below are my weight loss, exercise and personal goals for 2014.

Weight Loss
Goal 1: Lose 37 pounds by the end of April

Why 37 pounds? That’s what I need to lose to weigh 200 pounds, a number I haven’t seen on the scale for more than 15 years. When you read my exercise goals, you’ll see why I picked the end of April.

That means dropping roughly 2 pounds a week for the next 17 weeks. Tough but doable.

Goal 2: Reach my goal weight by December 31
That’s a bold goal if I do say so myself. But when I started my journey in 2012, I always thought it would take 3 years to lose the weight.  My 5-month plateau in 2013 makes that tough, but I’m up for the challenge.

After reaching 200 pounds by the end of April, I’ll have 8 months to shed another 60 pounds. That’s a little less than 2 pounds a week.

Goal 1: Run in four 5Ks in 2014, the first being at the end of April.
The end of April is the Brambleton 5K. Brambleton was the first 5K I walked in so it’s only fitting that I run it.

I’m still working on my interval training and now I have an actual date to work towards.

Goal 2: Complete the 30-Day Push-Up Challenge by March
I hate push-ups. I really do.

My first attempt at the 30-Day Push Up Challenge I quickly realized I had no upper body strength. Now that I’m lifting weights, I’ve got my sights set on beating my old foe.

Goal 3: Go on a 3-day bike tour of Virginia wine country
It’s no secret I love my cycling class. And I’m itching to take my bike out for a spin. I recently discovered a group that offers bike tours of Virginia’s beautiful wine country. The weekend tour I spied is 70 miles long, roughly 25 – 30 miles a day.

During the winter I plan to keep up with my spin class 3 times a week. Once spring hits, I need to take advantage of all the bike paths in our area, especially the 18-mile Mount Vernon and the 45-mile W&OD bike paths.

If I can bike the full Mount Vernon trail (36 miles round trip) by early summer, then I can reserve my spot for a fall tour.

Goal 1: Learn to sew!
I got a sewing machine last Christmas and it’s still in a box. There’s a fabric store a few blocks away that offers classes. It’s time to break that bad boy out of the box and get some mad sewing skills!

Goal 2:  Canning!
I’m reading a lot about micro farming. Well I don’t have the land to farm now (oh, but I will one day), but I can still learn how to can foods. We have the gear (again, another 2012 gift from my husband…I’m a bad wife). When the farmers’ markets open in spring, I’m going to try my hand at making jams, canning tomatoes and pickling cucumbers.

Time to make 2014 a busy and awesome year!


The Will Is Strong But The Body Is Too Damn Tired To Workout

resting your body

I struggled through two curls before admitting defeat and going back to bed. Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti and

There are days when I really want to workout, but my body just isn’t up for it. I mean I’m motivated. I set my mind to it. I have the urge to workout. But my body refuses.

That’s what happened this weekend.

I went to bed Friday night with every intention of working out early Saturday morning – weight training, yoga and a short walk right after my weigh in. Everything done by 10 a.m. Simple plan, right?

Waking up at 11 a.m. wasn’t part of that plan.

That should have been my first clue how my weekend was going to go.

On the drive to the gym I went over my planned workout in my mind — 10 minute warm up on a cycle, 20 minute leg workout, 20 minute upper body and 5 minute cool down on the treadmill. Then back home for yoga. Easy.

Well, I completely forgot the 2 flights of stairs you need to climb to get to my gym. I climb these everyday. No big deal.

When I hit the 5th step you would have thought I was climbing Everest…without oxygen.  When nearing the summit top of the stairs two thoughts crossed my mind: 1) Just go back home; and 2) I need a Sherpa to carry my little pink gym bag the rest of the way up.

Once I got to the top of the stairs I immediately change my plan. Thinking I’d give my legs a break today, I opt for simple stretching and just an upper body workout.

After catching my breath I muddled my way through my upper body stretching routine. Then I picked up two 15 pound barbells and started my curls. I struggled through two curls before putting the weights down and heading out the door.

Tired and defeated, I went home, put a lamb roast in the crock-pot and took a nap.

I was no better on Sunday. But thanks to all the ice and snow, I didn’t feel as guilty for not getting to the gym.

Listening to your body
My trainer warned me I’d have days like these. Her advice: Listen to my body and don’t force it.

Most of the time when people don’t exercise it’s because they lack motivation. That’s when you need to workout.

But when you’re motivated and your body is fighting you, that’s you need to chill. It’s your body’s way to tell you it needs more time to rest before starting a new workout.

In the last week, I exercised everyday for 3 hours each day. I think the extra cycling classes I slipped in on Friday (yep, I did 2 in one day) pushed me over the edge.

This week I’m still shooting for the 3-hour workout, but I’ll take a rest day in the middle of the week to help my body recover quicker. Oh, and I’m done with back-2-back cycling.

As for the guilt I felt this weekend, my trainer knocked that right out of me. She put me through the wringer this morning with an insane barbell routine.


Water Weight Vanquished; Finally Below 240 Pounds

The water weight is gone and I'm now officially below 240 pounds!

I controlled my eating on Thanksgiving and my water weight is gone. I’m now officially below 240 pounds!

While I attended my Weight Watchers meeting last week, I decided to use my free pass and not officially weigh-in. While I didn’t over do it on Thanksgiving, I suspected I’d show a lot of water retention with all that tasty turkey day sodium. Sure enough, when I got home from that meeting, I stepped on my home scale and saw a 6 pound gain.

No one gains 6 pounds in one day. More water weight. Basically I needed to flush the excess water and salt out of my system before getting a more accurate weigh-in.

I worked hard this week to stay on my food and exercise program.

The result? I’m down 2.2 pounds from my earlier weigh-in.  Awesome! That damn water weight is finally gone (for now).

What makes me happy is that I’m finally below 240 pounds. Woohoo!

I know I dropped below 240 a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I just couldn’t let myself get too excited until that holiday was firmly in my rear view mirror.  I needed a post holiday weigh-in for confirmation.

Missing My 3-Month Goal
I’m not going to reach my 3-month goal of dropping about 20 pounds before the end of the year. I’m not being  pessimistic, just realistic. I’d have to lose 14 pounds in 3 weeks. That’s nearly 5 pounds a week…not very healthy (or smart!).

Am I disappointed? Sure, but I was overly aggressive in setting that goal mid way through October. But I’m not beating myself up over it.

Besides, I’m happy I controlled myself over Thanksgiving.  That gives me a lot of optimism for the rest of December.

I’m revamping my expectations and shooting for 6 more pounds by the end of the year. Still a tall order considering 2 pounds a week is at the top of the range for healthy weight loss.

I think an extra spin class can help.

Why Do I Want To Lose Weight

Saturday, during my Weight Watchers class, I listed my reasons for losing weight. Today I found my original list of reasons – the one I created in February 2012. Boy, what a difference. It’s clear I’m now in a much different place mentally than I was then.

My reasons for weight loss in 2012 were driven by fear and anger. Clearly I wasn't in a happy place.

The 2012 List. My reasons for weight loss were driven by fear and anger. Clearly I wasn’t in a happy place.

Two emotions started my latest weight loss journey – fear and anger.  My doctor certainly put the fear in me about diabetes and heart disease. But when looking at that old list it’s clear I was really pissed with myself.

My 2012 Angry Reasons For Losing Weight

  • Can’t walk 20ft w/o back seizing up – what the hell was I thinking!
  • Scared to death I’ll be diabetic
  • Too damn lazy!!!
  • I’m a heart attack waiting to happen
  • I feel miserable

I think Master Yoda had it right. Fear and anger only lead to bad things. I channeled those negative emotions into something more positive – determination. I stopped caring about being thin. I wanted to be happy, healthy and confident. The attitude adjustment took a few months. When it happened I started losing the weight.

I've got a new attitude. And I'm seeing dividends on my waistline, annual physical and confidence level. How awesome is that!

My 2013 List shows I’ve got a new attitude. And I’m seeing dividends on my waistline, annual physical and confidence level. How awesome is that!

Nearly two years later and 85 pounds lighter, my list is much more positive.

My 2013 Reasons For Losing Weight

  • I’m happier
  • Boosts my confidence
  • Feel GRRRREEAATT! (about myself)
  • Way more energy/more active
  • Stay off medications/be healthier
  • Want to do a Tough Mudder in 2015

What are your reasons for wanting to lose weight?

Damn You Water Retention

water retention and weight gain

Swollen feet, knees, hands and face means I’m retaining water. Just in time for my weekly weigh in!

I knew going into my Weight Watchers meeting that I’d show a gain. Not only were my hands, feet and knees swollen, but my face was puffy too. Great! Nothing like water retention on weigh-in day.

The old me would skip the meeting.  I never wanted to step on the scale if I had a bad week or knew I gained weight. I didn’t get that stepping on that scale week after week makes you accountable to yourself. Without accountability, I’d fail…and I did.

I must admit the thought of skipping yesterday’s meeting did cross my mind…for about half a second. I can no longer fear the scale. The scale is just a snap shot in time and doesn’t tell the full story. Sure Weight Watchers will officially record a gain.  But the difference is I know that it’s water weight and it will fall off in a day or so. The new me knows weight loss is about baby steps and I’m not going to always have the losses I’ve had the last few weeks.

I also know if I want to reach my 3-month goal of losing 19.5 pounds by year’s end, this was the one Weight Watchers meeting I’d be foolish to miss. Thanksgiving is this week and I need all the good karma I can get before Thursday.

This week I’m up 2.8 pounds. I’m less puffy today than yesterday, so I know I’ve lost a chunk of the water. The real test is coming up — no, not Thanksgiving. I’m talking about making it to the post-Thanksgiving weigh-in.



Sluggish Workouts And The Importance Of Tracking

diet and exercise, tracking food

Forgetting to track my food for a few days has screwed up my diet and makes me sleepy!

When you forget to track your food, bad things happen. Like what?  How about sluggish workouts and a complete lack of energy.

That’s how I’ve felt the last couple of days. I think my carb and protein intake are far too low.

During my weight training Wednesday morning, every exercise was difficult. Not too unexpected since my trainer is really pushing me — increasing weights, focusing on upper body, and challenging my endurance.

When I did my 5K training later that afternoon, my legs felt like lead. While I finished the training, it seemed harder than normal. I chalked it up to tired legs after working out with my trainer.

Yesterday during spin class, it’s clear that I’m getting stronger as my resistance level increased over last week’s class. But where I’m usually energized after spin class, today I just wanted to curl up in bed. And when it came time to do yoga last night, I struggled to finish the session.

I just didn’t feel right. Something was up. I’m not coming down with anything. So I’m thinking its diet.

When I went to look at my tracker, I realized the problem immediately.  The last time I tracked was Tuesday dinner.


Since my trainer changed my diet, I’ve tracked religiously. Anytime I felt hungry, I made a note in my FitBook and looked at the tracker to see if I need to make adjustments to my meals.

I’m usually all over my tracker like a monkey on a cupcake!

But the last few days have been hectic. Just lots of errands, projects and breaking up too many pet fights (damn you evil overlord cat!).

How quickly things get out of whack when you don’t track for a couple of days. And scary how easy it is to forget to track.

I tried to remember everything I ate yesterday. It’s harder than you think.  What I pieced together indicates that I missed my morning and afternoon snacks. Not good. Also I ate about 20g of carbs, about 30g shy of what my trainer wants. I worked out for nearly 2 hours and 20g of carbs just doesn’t cut it.

As for protein, I was down 5 ounces.  No wonder I woke up starving this morning. Not eating enough to sustain your body is not how you lose weight.

This morning I’m back on track. I logged my breakfast — Kashi Go Lean, Almond Breeze Unsweetened Milk and one cup of strawberries — the perfect breakfast before this morning’s muscle workout and yoga class.

I prepared my protein shake so it’s ready for me when I get home — I just need to add 1/2 a banana and ice.

I also logged it.

Everyday Beauty – Gray Hair And Mastering That Damn Curling Iron!

everyday beauty, weight loss hair makeover, curling iron

For weeks I’ve been curling iron challenged. Thanks to Jenny, my hair stylist, I’m closer to mastering the perfect curl.

It’s been six weeks since my weight loss hair makeover and right on cue my gray hairs started sprouting. Now I’m notorious for letting the gray take over before breaking down and buying a box of color. Not anymore.

It was time to head back to the salon to visit my new favorite stylist Jenny.

Besides touching up my roots, I wanted Jenny to do another tutorial on the curling iron for me. I’ve tried to use it, but I always end up with a clamp dent near the ends. I got so frustrated that I started using my hot rollers again.

Burning Washing That Gray Out
My highlights and my ends still look awesome so no need for foil or a haircut this time out. Just a root touch up today.

Normally when I dye my hair I don’t wash it the day before. I want some oil build up to protect my scalp from the inevitable burning sensation. Well after yesterday’s workout and run, my hair was too funky not to wash.

So I braced myself. But as Jenny applied the dye, nothing happened. In fact, if felt quite cool.

I don’t know what hair dye product the salon uses, but it’s awesome! My scalp didn’t feel like it was on fire.

That’s it! No more box dye for me!

Prepping My Hair
After my shampoo, it was time to start styling. Jenny applied a heat protectant followed by a stronghold mousse to my wet hair. One to protect my hair from the heat of the iron and the other to define the curls and fight frizz.

And of course, I don’t have either in my home. Guess I’m going shopping this weekend.

Curling Iron Tutorial
dot curlWith my hair dried, Jenny handed me the curling iron and asked me to show her my mad skills!

I picked up a 2 inch section of hair, ran it through the curling iron first. I then clamped it about an inch from the end and rolled up until my hair was completely around the barrel. I released the clamp after about 10 seconds and…a near perfect curl.

Crap. It’s like taking your car in for repairs and you can’t reproduce the problem for the mechanic.

Hmmmm…me thinks the hair prep is a reason for great curls.

However, Jenny did notice a few problems with my technique.

I tend to hold the curling iron at an angle. Instead I need to keep it vertical (parallel to my face) with the clamp facing forward. Also I turned the iron in towards my face. Oops! I need to curl away from my face.

Jenny also recommends spraying my hair with a light-hold hairspray before using the iron. It’ll help hold the curls while doing my hair (I have a lot of hair!).

I carefully watched as she curled rest of my hair. When she got to the last piece to curl, she handed the iron over for me to do the honors.

I did everything right, including curling away from my face.


Time to send those hot rollers packing.

Everyday Beauty — The Home Manicure Edition

everyday beauty home manicure

Looking pretty ugly, my nails needed some TLC!

My weight loss makeover continues with a home manicure. If I want to jazz up the leaner me, I can’t stop with new hair, makeup and outfits. My hands also need some TLC!

So last night I watched videos on doing your own manicure.

Yes, I’m 45 years old and never knew how to give myself a manicure. I thought I did. I just filed my nails and applied a coat of color. Boy was I wrong.

Confession: I really didn’t have to know how to do it. Why bother when I can go out to a nail shop and pay someone $20? Well $20 every two weeks adds up over time.  Plus, if I’m looking for ways to reward myself for weight loss success, a professional manicure isn’t that special if I do it all the time.

So I’ve decided to do my own nails and save the trip to the salon as a reward.

This morning I headed over to Ulta and picked up:

  • Nail polish remover
  • Crystal nail file
  • Nail buffer
  • Cuticle clippers
  • Cuticle stick
  • Cuticle balm
  • Hand lotion
  • Basecoat
  • Topcoat

I pretty much followed the tutorial video below.

I did deviate slightly. The tutorial recommends a liquid cuticle remover. I didn’t want to burn my cuticles off with a chemical.

A wonderfully helpful Ulta lady recommended soaking my hands in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes and applying a cuticle balm to soften my cuticles.   Then I used the cuticle stick to push the cuticles back and scrap up dead skin (like the video).

weight loss makeover home manicures

My first home manicure done right. Not too shabby. I’m sure I’ll get better with practice.

To remove the dead skin, I used cuticle clippers like the ones your local nail salon uses. I don’t cut the cuticles – I just remove the dead skin – because you can easily get an infection.

Overall I’m happy with this attempt. The whole process was quick and painless. Since I need to do my nails once a week, I should get better at it.

Now I just need to stop biting my nails so they can grow!


Why I’m Not Wiped Out After Tough Workout

Feeling mighty sweaty and exhausted after weight training and 1 mile run.  The banana and protein shake recharged my battery.

Feeling mighty sweaty and exhausted after weight training and 1 mile run. The banana and protein shake recharged my battery.

This morning my trainer kicked my butt with a tough workout. I followed up with 30 solid minutes of interval training for a 5K.  Why am I not wiped out after such an intense workout?

After yesterday’s cycling class, I felt too week and sleepy to do anything…other than take a 3 hour nap. Yet I worked harder today than yesterday, but feel the opposite. I’m ready to take on the world.

What Workouts Did I Do Today?
Today’s muscle workout focused on using the TRX suspension system. I did 3 sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise.

Yes, it was grueling, but I felt great.  As my dad would say, I was “filled with piss and vinegar.” So I decided to do my 5K-interval training once I got home.

Slated to run for 1 mile, using the 20/40 second run/walk rotation, I forgot to turn on my app’s GPS system. So my app didn’t track mileage. So rather than running a mile, I ended up running 1.5 miles. D’oh.

Now I was exhausted. And very, very sweaty! I promptly ate 1/2 banana, downed my chocolate flavored protein shake and chugged two glass of water.

I bounced back immediately after the food. Now I’m ready to take on the rest of the day!

So what was the difference between today and yesterday? Three things stand out.

Getting The Diet Right
I think I’m doing a better job balancing the low carb diet on the days with my muscle workouts. On these workout intense days I up my carb in take to 100g.

My major carbs – whole grains, fruit, protein shakes – I eat before and after my muscle workout.

It helps with the soreness – I’m recovering faster — and my energy level stays high.

On days where I’m only doing cardio, I should eat up to 50g of carbs.  But yesterday, I only ate 20g.  Normally that would be fine, but with that 60-minute spinning class, my body needed a little more fuel.

No Longer Waking Up At The Crack Of Noon
I’m an insomniac. Getting to bed by 3:00 a.m. is early for me. But I’ve noticed a change in my sleeping habits since the weight loss. For the last few weeks, I’ve turned in before midnight.

I notice a huge difference in how I feel after a workout when I get 7-8 hours of sleep. The night before my cycling class, I slept for less than 5 hours. After cycling, I came home and slept for 3 hours. Yikes!

Last night I got 7 hours and after 60-minutes of very intense exercise, I feel great.

Drinking My Aqua
I’ve read that drinking water before, during and after a workout helps to fight fatigue.

Looking at my tracker, I see a huge difference in how much water I had between yesterday (cycling class) and today (muscle workout/run).

Yesterday I drank 1 liter of water…all day. Well below the 3 liters I normally drink. Before noon today, I’ve already drunk 1.5 liters.

Since I’m upping my cardio, I’ll need to find the right carb balance on those non-muscle workout days. And I got to get my 3 liters of water in per day. That’s a biggie!

As for sleep, if I keep up with days like today, I think hitting the pillow early won’t be a problem.