Thursday, December 29, 2011

It Was The Best of Christmases

Distant view of snow-capped Mt. LeConte from Chestnut Top Trail
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - December 28, 2011

It has been a wonderful Christmas season in every sense of the word.  Our past three Christmases have been difficult at best and we decided on Thanksgiving evening that this one would be different.  We have embraced the season and its message of love, peace and joy with everything we have.  We chose to focus on giving, loving, serving, enjoying nature and finding new ways to celebrate what Christmas is all about without giving in to the lure of commercialism, overspending, overindulgence and any other thing that tries to overtake our minds leading us AWAY from the true meaning of Christmas and into sadness, depression and LOTS OF DEBT!!  

We took a short trip to Nashville to celebrate the end of Mr. B's very successful semester.....................

Opryland Hotel, Nashville, TN
December 19, 2011

We entertained MANY times including hosting Christmas dinner for my family.  Each table setting was different, but this was the two themes..................................

We enjoyed time with family......................................

 That's my sister on the left and niece on the right!

A really good picture of everyone EXCEPT me!  My excuse is I didn't have long to get from behind the camera into the photo!!

Link, my niece's dog, enjoyed Christmas from his "throne" where he ISN'T supposed to be!!

I have hiked, and hiked, and HIKED!

 Abrams Falls Trail - GSMNP - December 2, 2011

 Lumber Ridge Trail - GSMNP - December 12, 2011

 Laurel Falls Trail - GSMNP - December 17, 2011

 Gatlinburg and Twin Creek Trails - GSMNP - December 23, 2011

Turkeypen Ridge, SchoolhouseGap, Chestnut Top Trails - GSMNP
December 28, 2011 

Yes, I WILL reach my secondary hiking goal of 350 miles in 2011!

I have no pictures to document it, but I am happy to say that I have navigated this holiday season without straying from the 17-day Diet which I began following on the day after Thanksgiving.  I completed Cycle 2 - Activate yesterday and enter Cycle 3 - Achieve today.  Much more about this in upcoming January posts, but this one has clicked, does not feel like a diet, IS something that can be sustained for a lifetime and just feels right for me.  Obviously, the weight loss slowed during Cycle 2, but I would have been concerned if it hadn't.  The important thing is that I did continue to lose slowly and I remained true to the plan.  

I am looking forward to the new year with great anticipation and excitement.  I'll be back on Monday with more.


Monday, December 19, 2011

On The Sixth Day Before Christmas..............................

Laurel Falls - GSMNP
December 17, 2011

My True Love Gave to Me...................

Six hours of an absolutely gorgeous hike.  Actually, my true love wasn't technically with me, but he didn't mind my going on a Saturday.  Our trek to Laurel Falls, one of the most popular trails in the Smokies, was spectacular following two days of rain and the fact that we were there early enough to NOT share it with anyone else was a gift.  Few people venture beyond the falls, but the trail continues another 1.9 miles and promises complete solitude, beautiful views and a serenity beyond compare.  

Laurel Falls Trail above the falls

Five more days of hiking between now and midnight on December 31st.  Because that will easily allow me to reach my secondary goal of 350 hiking miles in 2011!  When I reached the original 300 mile goal by the end of November, I knew that 350 was doable, but adopted an "if it happens, great - if not, that's o.k. too.  Barring some unforeseen circumstance, it'll be a done deal!  Am I proud??  You better believe it!

 Midway point of a recent solo hike on Lumber Ridge Trail

Four days in Nashville.  We traditionally plan a trip to celebrate Mr. B's completion of another semester and this year, that celebration will take place in Nashville in order for us to attend a concert in which my sister is singing in a locally secured back-up group for a contemporary Christian group.  She is so excited and I'm quite proud of her.  We'll also be having dinner with some friends and doing some shopping.  We're staying in our favorite cabin, Uncle Pete's at Rockhaven Cabins and I CAN'T WAIT!!

Three weeks of 24/7 "me" time with Mr. B.  This could be a gift or a curse depending on how you look at it.  Seriously, he turned in his grades Friday at 3:42 and drove away at 5:50 not to return until the end of the first week in January!  He finished his last concert performance (he had 15 concerts between October 27th and yesterday) at 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon, I picked him up and we headed to Nashville.  For the first time in 9 years, we are NOT going to Florida this year.  No particular reason - we just both felt o.k. staying close to home.  I see some serious "nesting" in the upcoming days! But then who wouldn't enjoy "nesting" when you've got this to look at?

Our Den - this is the "informal" tree.  All decorations were either given to us as gifts or were acquired during our travels. 

Two nights of entertaining guests in our home which we LOVE to do especially during the holidays.  But the gift my true love gave to me was allowing me to supervise and even make changes to the menu so that I could easily stick to my commitment to Cycle 2 of the 17-day Diet!  As you may recall, HE is the gourmet cook who loves to cook for company, but by working together, he selected foods to prepare all of which I could enjoy on that particular evening.  And then (bless his heart!) of his own choosing, he made a dessert that he KNOWS I don't like.  There was no temptation there and I was able to fully enjoy BOTH evenings without dread or fear of messing up and I can assure you that our guests never knew the difference because the meal was superb!!

And ONE very large trunk of a Kia Spectra where Mr. B has stored every single morsel of the unbelievable amounts of "goodies" he receives from his students and other faculty members at Christmas.  He is well-loved by all (including the parents of his students) and you simply would not BELIEVE what he comes home with.  It usually begins the night of the Holiday Spectacular which was on December 8th, so a couple of days ago, I finally asked him if students were bringing him stuff and he got this silly grin on his face.  And then he said, "well, I cannot tell a lie.  Seems there's twice as much this year as usual and it's all either in my office or in the trunk of my car."  

And that is precisely why MY TRUE LOVE is a keeper!

Me and Mr. B the day I reached 300 miles!  As the song said, "we've got a thing goin' on!"
This will probably be my new "fat" picture and I'm happy to say I've lost 10 pounds since it was taken on November 26.  Thank You, 17-Day Diet!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Verdict Is In - I'm Sold!

Alum Cave Trail - GSMNP
November 25, 2011

Forgive me for the infrequent posting, but between now and the first of the new year, I've come to terms with the fact that weekly is about all I'm going to be able to manage.  Last year was unique in that it was my first year of blogging and our holiday season looked totally different because we were still adjusting to life without my sweet FIL who had died in late August.  We were trying to balance a hectic holiday schedule with caring for MIL compassionately and we did very little entertaining, shopping or socializing.  Such an about face for us as we love having friends into our home at all times of the year, but particularly through the holidays.  I kept wondering why I was finding zero time to write when the ideas were flowing.  And suddenly remembered how this year's schedule is "normal," last year's was not!  We all admit that often less frequent posts are a sign that things are not going well with the journey, but let me assure you that, in this case, nothing could be further from the truth.

Last Monday's post let you in on the fact that I had quite uncharacteristically chosen to follow a DIET!  Something to which I am strongly opposed as my philosophy is healthy calorie intake vs. calorie burn by physical activity equals sustainable weight loss.  Rather than repeat, read that post to learn what I've been up to for the past 17 days.  This morning, I will complete day 16 of the first 17-day cycle and am thrilled to report that I have lost 9.2 pounds during that time.  The book states that a 10-12 pound weight loss during cycle 1 is not out of the question.  I guess it's possible I could lose another .8 in the morning, but I am more than happy with what I've accomplished.  I suspect that has more to do with the fact that I didn't find the plan extremely difficult to follow as much as the actual pounds lost. 

Tuesday morning, I begin the second 17-day cycle also known as the Accelerate Cycle.  (FYI - Cycle 1 was called the Activate Cycle)  Those of you who wondered if the plan included carb cycling, you are very astute.  Cycle 2 still allows unlimited protein and veggies from Cycle 1's list with alternating days of choices from a much expanded list of protein items.  Cycle 2 also adds two healthy starch selections on alternating days.  The cycle 2 lists are quite inclusive and I strongly feel that no one could feel deprived during either cycle 1 or 2 if creative with their meal planning.   

After the first 17 days and a 9.2 pound loss, here are some observations about why this is working for ME!  
  • First and foremost, this plan allows fruit!  Fruit is my candy.  I could never stick with a program that banned fruit completely for even a short length of time.  From day 1, two fruits are permitted each day and that component is a major reason I knew it would work.
  • My personality type (quirky??) works best if I have a beginning and an ending.  I can do anything for a specified period of time.  The 17-day cycles attracted me because it was long enough to expect results, but short enough not to become bored.  
  • It is easy in that the lists include normal everyday foods and no special cooking, shopping or prep skills are needed.   I can't say that preparing dinners for myself and Mr. B have been all that different.  And to my surprise, he has even remarked that his pants feel looser.  
  • I am looking forward to the additional options available during cycle 2 and then even more in cycle 3.  If not at goal by end of cycle 3, recommendation is to follow the sequence again before moving to cycle 4 which is basically maintenance.  I just love the structure of it. 
I can't say that there is anything I don't like about this plan.   If one goes hungry, it is no one's fault but their own.  My body is so carb-sensitive and I am well aware that if I stop gorging on highly processed carbs, success is more highly pronounced by the quick change in my body SHAPE than in the pounds lost.  I am already down one pants/jean size and energy level is soaring.   Sugar cravings are totally gone and other carb cravings are greatly diminished.

Am I cured?  What a joke!!  Have I found something that is working for me right now?  Yes, and I am profoundly grateful because I was desperate for a shot in the arm from somewhere.  And as is often the case, it came out of the blue from a source I'd never have expected.   A DIET of all things!  But humility is and always will be the word of the day.  One bite, lick or taste and every last one of those taste sensations would come roaring back quicker than I can say, "sugar cookie."  This has given me a much needed shot in the arm, but I have a long, long way to go and a lot left to learn.  And you, my friends have and will continue to help me more than words could possibly express.

When you read this (unless you are, like me, a disgustingly early riser), I will be headed towards a hiking trail challenging myself in a different way.  I am hiking solo and although, I have done some solo hiking, this will be my longest.  I am properly prepared and it is a trail I know well, but there are still some inherent dangers in solo hiking.   So, if you are the praying sort, keep me in your prayers today.  This trail has a ready-made meditation spot about 3 1/2 miles in which is where I'm headed to do some thinking and planning for 2012. 

What's the last challenge you faced that was exciting, but uncomfortable?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Call Me Crazy, But Call Me Determined

Abrams Falls - GSMNP
December 2, 2011

It is December and I am DETERMINED to begin 2012 at a lower weight than last January 1.  My hiking bud (who probably doesn't weigh 110 fully layered for a sub-zero hike!!) pronounced me "crazy" when I told her I had started a diet.  But I'm not crazy and if I've learned one thing over the years, it's that when the inspiration hits even if it comes in the strangest way, don't stop to think about what time of year it is.  Don't THINK at all!  JUST DO IT!  And I did!  And here's the story - crazy as it seems!

As you well know, I don't do "diets" so I'm starting out going against the grain of my own philosophy.  I strongly believe that (for me) the proper way to lose weight and keep it off is a balanced eating plan using the simple formula of calories in vs. calories burned = pounds lost.  I have also learned that I am somewhat carb sensitive and heavy carb ingestion even if total calorie intake is correct will still result in slow or no loss plus every one of those carbs attaches itself directly to my thighs and posterior.  

But on a rainy, cold morning, I was perusing the shelves at Barnes and Nobel when a book entitled, "The 17-Day Diet" caught my attention.  Why??   I have NO idea.  It was amongst 10,000 other titles each hoping theirs would catch some ignorant  gullible sucker and rob them of $25.  Maybe it was the pink and blue cover.  Maybe it was the "rapid results" part although normally that turns me off pretty quickly.  That's why the whole thing was so weird.  Usually, this is something I wouldn't have given a second glance.  At any rate, I picked it up, grabbed a cup of coffee, found my favorite window seat and began reading.  And there I sat until I had finished the book.  I wasn't sold, but I was intrigued.  

Did I buy the book?   Of course not - I'm far too cheap!  But I went straight to my public library, checked it out, then headed home where I ordered it from at half the price it was in Barnes and Noble.  I won't go into detail explaining the plan - that's not the point here and you can read plenty for youself online.   Basically, it follows three 17-day cycles with a fourth cycle that is "maintenance" if one stint through the first three cycles gets you there.  It's high protein and very low carb.  But you do have a variety of choices from the protein list and probably a primary reason the plan attracted me is that you are allowed two fruits (from the list) each day plus two servings from a list of probiotic items i.e. yogurt, kefir, Breakstone LivAction Cottage Cheese (which I was not familiar with and LOVE), and a few other selections.  In Cycles 2 and 3, your choices become much wider.  In fact, I could probably LIVE on Cycle 3.

Let me repeat that I have no idea why this drew me in when I've struggled so for the entire past year just to find ANY momentum to lose this weight I've regained.   Why now?   Why one more book when I've probably got 50 diet books stored away?   Whatever it was, the intuitive sensation that said, "try this" was very, very strong.

I am happy to report that all this happened on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  I began the first 17-day cycle on the Friday following Thanksgiving (coincidentally, the same day I reached my 300 mile hiking goal) which means I have successfully completed the 10th day.   Other than a slight slip-up when Mr. B put a tiny bit of butter in some asparagus, I believe I have toed the line all ten days.  As of this morning, I have lost 7.4 pounds.  The two daily fruit and probiotic servings are wonderful as those are both items I consider "treats" at any time.  The Cycle 1 list of fruit servings includes most of my favorites, so doesn't feel restrictive at all.  In retrospect, perhaps that's the reason I was drawn to this plan.

With the exception of a total "bonk" on the third evening, it has not been difficult.  There is plenty to eat and one need not go hungry.  I suspect the "bonk" was when the carb/sugar withdrawal kicked in.  I spent a couple of miserable hours biting Mr. B's head off alternating with sobbing on his shoulder.  Doesn't sound pretty, does it??  Believe me, it wasn't.  But he handled it well as I'd tried to prepare him that SOMETHING would happen.  I just wasn't sure exactly what!   Once I was past that, my energy level has soared and I feel great.  Cravings are pretty much gone.

And as Forrest Gump would say, until one week from today when I reach the end of the first 17-day cycle, "that's all I'm going to say about that!"

I'm happy to report that I did reach my 300 mile 2011 hiking goal and am now up to 309 miles.  In my head, I'm kind of playing with trying to get to 350 before December 31st, but that all depends on our weather and the availability of hiking partners.  I'm becoming increasingly comfortable with solo hiking and am certain the snake phobia factor is no longer present, but there are still those big black things known as bears and as you recall, I've had more than my share of encounters with them this year!!  In another couple of weeks, they'll be warmly hibernated doing whatever it is bears do in their dens that cause MORE bears next spring.  LOL!!

 SHE DID IT! - 300 mile 2011 hiking goal REACHED!
At Arch Rock on the Alum Cave Trail - GSMNP
November 25th, 2011

Have you heard of the 17 Day Diet?  How difficult would it be for you to follow it?  Is it something you would ever consider?