Sunday, July 31, 2011

Finding the Courage to Say No...

Okay, I'm not talking about drug or alcohol use here, but for anyone who has ever struggled with weight, you know that food can easily qualify as an addiction. If it's something that occupies much of your time, thoughts, and money, and it prevents you from reaching your goals, then you need to rely on your own resources to stay safe from it. A little willpower can go a long way, and granted, you're not going to succeed every day, but if you've been tuning in to my blog, then you know that balance is one of my favorite words :)

Tonight, I am at home with my grandma again while my parents and sister are at a concert. I am *attempting* to write out lesson plans for the children I tutor twice a week, and all I've been thinking about is pizza. More specifically, I'm thinking of a sausage and green olive Panzerotti (basically a supersized calzone), cheese sticks, and a Diet Rite from Mamma Maria's in Elmhurst (because only in America do we add diet pop to a meal like that). You see, a Panzerotti and cheese sticks are an example of what Weight Watchers members might refer to as their "old dinner"--the kind of meal they succombed to on a regular basis before committing to a new, healthier way of life.

There are several favorites from years past that I still enjoy as an occasional treat for staying on my diet, but ordering pizza is one thing that I can only do once a month at best--and usually even less frequently than that--because of the extreme fat, calorie, and salt contents. Sometimes I'll get it because I think I'm craving it so badly, but once I'm finished (and uncomfortably full), I find myself wondering if it was really even worth it in the first place. That's exactly what I asked myself tonight, when I wanted so desperately to pick up the phone and splurge big-time. I also thought of a quote that keeps me focused when I feel like getting lax: If I eat fattening foods, I'll be happy as long as I'm chewing, but if I stick to what I've been working for, I'll be happy as long as I'm living.

As the hours passed, and I continued working on my lesson plans, I finally decided to save some fat grams (not to mention money) by boiling a pot of noodles and having tuna instead. I also have a Weight Watcher-friendly ice cream bar in the freezer for later (purchased as a single, which is great when you're working on portion control and cautious about buying a whole box). Of course, the noodles and mayonnaise (although light) on the tuna do have a few extra calories than I might like, but it is still a much better choice than the Panzerotti and cheese sticks. It tastes good, fills me up, and reminds me that we are all capable of making healthier food decisions when we stop to consider the consequences of going the other way.

I may have been slightly grumpy about not getting my Mamma Maria's food at first, but I know that I'll be proud when I step on the scale tomorrow. The decision I've made tonight will pay off then, and that makes it all worth it. Someday soon, maybe I will indulge in that delightful "old dinner" of mine...just not now, because tonight, I have somehow found the courage to say no, and that's what life is all about: saying no when possible, with the knowledge that because you stayed strong, you will be able to say yes some other time.

Now, before I say good night, I will add a few pictures from a wedding that I attended this weekend. The beautiful newlyweds, Tony and Kristen, have been together for 11 and a half years, and as a couple, they are the real deal. It is always fun to go and celebrate the excitement of a brand-new marriage, especially when you have memories of playing Barbies and acting out American Girl plays with the bride! (Kristen is my sister Katie's age, I am the same age as Kristen's younger sister, and we spent many, many days playing together as kids.) Weddings also happen to be a fantastic opportunity to burn calories on that ever-popular dance floor!!!!

Good night to everyone, and have a great day tomorrow--or at least as great as a Monday can be :) Question of the Day: Can you find the willpower to "say no" sometime this week when you know that it will benefit you in the long run? If so, I hope you will post here and share it with us! Your success is someone else's inspiration!

Tony and Kristen sharing their first dance

Hanging out with my mom at the reception. Weight Watchers buddies forever! :)

Here's my sister Katie--one of the bridesmaids--tearin' it up on the dance floor...

...and my sister Kerry and I smiling big with our dad!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's a Great Night to Feel Just Plain HAPPY!

Because I love looking through random "before" pictures, here is another from my sister Katie's wedding in July 2009. That would be me and Robbie, one of the groomsmen. Looking back, I am truly amazed at how much weight I carried in my face and arms. That was such a beautiful day, with so many wonderful memories, but I am definitely glad that I no longer look that way:
Now this is a picture of my parents, which I am adding for a couple of reasons. First of all, I love it and feel happy just looking at it. Secondly, my mom--who has been at Weight Watchers with me every step of the way--has lost about 20 pounds of her own since this was taken (also in 2009). YAY MOM!!!!!!
Well, this post is sure to be short and sweet--or at least as short and sweet as Rosie the Rambler can manage--because the day's events are finally over, so it's a perfect time to just eat dinner and relax for a while. Mom and I went to our Weight Watchers meeting about an hour ago. I lost 3.2 pounds, and she maintained her weight loss from last week, which is still successful since she had a big loss last week. My total is now 143.2 pounds lost, which means that I am only TWO POUNDS HEAVIER THAN MY MOTHER!!!!! Wow. I never, ever, ever thought I'd be able to say that. It's an amazing feeling! In the car, I said to her, "I can't believe we weigh almost the exact same thing. My legs are so much fatter than yours!" and to that, she said "Well, I feel like my stomach is a lot fatter than yours!" We laughed about it, but it brought up an interesting point for both of us. Even more than just the outer rewards of weight loss, what feels good is when you know you are making strides in just being a healthy person, regardless of what you look like. This morning, when I went to get some more dental work done (yep, twice in one week for me, but everything is looking good now), the woman who was there said that my blood pressure is excellent. Those little things are pleasant reminders that even when we feel like we still have a long way to go, we can take pride in knowing that we're making progress.

Wednesdays are always the most difficult day of the week for me to get through, in preparation for that big evening weigh-in. For that reason, it is typically my most critical exercise day, but I had very little energy to run today, and I was only able to run 6.5 miles--which included a lot of stopping and walking in-between. Again, I am coming back from a sprained ankle that took two weeks to fully recover, which feels like a lot when you're only two and a half months away from your first marathon. I do my best to eat the right things before an important run, and I am usually good about that, but when I'm not, I can feel the difference immediately. I have found that keeping energy gels on hand (one for every 45 minutes that you're running) is helpful, but even more than that, if I drink a Gatorade and eat a power bar (my favorites are the Luna bars that they sell at Jewel and Dominicks) about 30 minutes beforehand, my endurance increases tremendously during my run. When you are doing any form of exercise, you need to remember what eating what works best for your body to eat/drink, and how you can perform your absolute best. I have found that it benefits me to learn from the experiences/successes of others when it comes to things like this.

Okay, plan was to keep this brief. Did I succeed? Well, I'll let you decide on that one :) Right now, I am going to eat my all-time favorite Taco Bell dinner (Wednesdays are my big splurge nights, after weigh-in) and watch an episode of Grey's Anatomy on DVD. The one I'm planning to watch is from Season 2, with a female patient who has an actual medical condition where she blushes excessively...and it just happens to flare up the most when good old Dr. Shepherd (aaaah, Patrick Dempsey) is around. I am topping off this post with a picture of my favorite fictional surgeon, just because it's nice to look at...and because if McDreamy happened to walk into this room right now, I'd be blushing like a schoolgirl too! (Not a word out of you, Kerry! LOL) I may be 26, but I don't always act like it. Oh well--we all have our guilty pleasures! Good night, and HAPPY WEDNESDAY to all!

Question of the Day: What powers you up for an especially great workout? Is it a specific food or drink that helps you, or something that prepares you mentally? I hope you will share what has worked for you!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dunkin Donuts? Check. Popcorn? Check. Buffalo Chicken Tenders?? Okay, You Get the Point!

All right, so this isn't exactly the kind of menu I usually follow so close to my Weight Watchers weigh-in (which is on Wednesday evenings), but I got to spend the afternoon with someone I love very much, so it's hard to feel too icky about it. Plus, of course, I'm all about the school of belief that "cheat days" are acceptable on occasion, but after pizza and movie theater candy over the weekend, I'll be glad to get back to a healthy schedule tomorrow. Wow, did I just say that?? I think there's something about seeing it all typed out in front of you that makes your eating habits feel even more real. Imagine that :)

Anyway, after my morning work shift, my mom and I had about 40 minutes to kill before I headed to the dentist for a few fillings. Dunkin Donuts happened to be on the way, and while I know that a corn muffin and bottle of Gatorade don't equal a daily Breakfast of Champions, it's okay to enjoy once in a while. Later this afternoon, I ended up taking an unexpected trip to the city to meet my sister Kerry, whom I haven't seen or talked to much since the 4th of July holidays (busy schedules are the culprit, as usual). It was nice having some time on a weekday to just talk and be together, and after popcorn and a viewing of Friends with Benefits, we stopped at a bar for a drink and buffalo chicken tenders. When days like this happen, I try to just enjoy it as much as possible, pay attention to my stomach, and stop when I'm full. Continuing to eat, despite being uncomfortably stuffed, is an issue that helped me become so overweight in the first place, and I admit it still happens sometimes, but not nearly as much as it used to.

As for exercise, my ankle has been acting up for the past two weeks, also, which has cut my normal running schedule in half, but I think this is a good thing for now, because I am in the process of learning how to balance exercise and "the real world" more realistically. There have been so many days (most of them, actually) where I catch myself worrying constantly about how much I'm going to work out, and how I will manage to catch up when other plans/commitments get in the way of that ideal schedule. When we feel ourselves getting overwhelmed and obsessing too much about things like this, it's important to remember what we've learned about ourselves and what positive changes we have made in our lives. Indulgences are going to happen, no matter who you are, so it's best to just focus instead on how you'll handle the days following that. Focusing on fruits, veggies, and low-sodium food during the week makes you feel better about yourself, and being more disciplined gives you something to look forward to when the weekend (or whenever you generally like to treat yourself) rolls around.

Question of the Day: What's your favorite form of exercise--something that make you feel particularly energized and "back on track" after a weekend splurge? Feel free to comment if you want :)

Thanks for reading, and have a good night! Here's to health, happiness, and most of all, BALANCE!

Here's a fun picture of me and Kerry on our family Vegas trip from last month. It was awesome hanging out with you today! Love you lots :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Finding and Keeping Perspective, Today and on All Days...

Well, the house is quiet, I am enjoying my favorite Subway lunch of chicken teriyaki on flatbread (even though I'm not supposed to eat near the computer...haha...I guess some things never change), and I thought I'd start this post off with the following picture. Isn't it gorgeous? Yes, that is some heavy sarcasm...pun fully intended! :)
This was taken three years ago, in Fall 2008, during my student teaching semester. At that time, I spent eight weeks working with 3 and 4-year-old children who have autism, which was an amazing experience professionally, but when you weigh 337 pounds, getting down on the floor and interacting with enthusiastic pre-schoolers all day is pretty difficult physically. My mom and I had just returned to Weight Watchers (her idea, mostly), and although I did manage to lose some, I didn't really get serious until over a year later, after my sister's wedding.

I enjoy revisiting these pictures every once in a while, because they are excellent reminders when I'm struggling, just as we all do sometimes. In preparation for the Chicago Marathon on October 9, I am using Hal Higdon's free online training program as a guide, mostly with my long runs on Saturdays. Today, I was scheduled to do 12 miles, but due to lack of time, I was only able to complete 9.2. I am also coming back from a minor ankle sprain that kept me away from running for about ten days. I knew I had made a mistake by not eating something before this morning's run, and I felt a little disappointed that I was too tired to go farther. People tend to be very good at getting competitive with themselves, and it's easy to let yourself get too caught up in it.

That's when I remember that three years ago, the only time I ever ran was to chase a screaming 3-year-old down the hallway, and even though it was only a few feet at a time, I could barely keep up. The clothes I'm wearing in the picture above? Well, I picked them out from either Lane Bryant or the plus-size section at Sears, and it was one of maybe three outfits that I alternated among in sixteen total weeks of student teaching, because I couldn't find much that fit (and wasn't exactly eager to spend the time looking). I loved working with the children and spending time with them, but I was unhappy all the time. How can you feel good about yourself when you know you're not healthy, and worse yet, when you know you're not even really trying to fix it? It took a long time to connect with a weight loss regime and feel motivated enough to keep with it, but it feels good to know that I am getting there now.

It's a lifelong journey, but I am absolutely not going back to where I was in that picture--not if I have anything to do with it! That's what moving forward is all about...knowing that you've taken the first step, and being happy with what you can do right now. So you might wish you had worked out a little longer or harder, or you wish you hadn't slipped up and eaten this or that, but if you went and did something, it's worth being happy about that.

This afternoon, while my parents and sister are at the Jimmy Buffett concert, I will be hanging out here with my grandma, savoring the air conditioning and watching "The Sound of Music" on Blu-ray. The von Trapps are even more fantastic in high definition!!! My mom and I were supposed to run into Dominick's and pick up dinner for later, but we got too busy, so Baba and I will be ordering a pizza instead. How very, very convenient ;) I have already told myself that I am going to have three square slices, along with fruit and a salad...and guess what? I just typed it here, and I'm going to be publishing this in a few minutes, so there's no going back! I happen to be very good at sneaking extra slices of cheese, sausage, and green olive (yummy) at 10:00 in the evening, or sometimes even in the middle of the night, but this blog is one way to stay accountable, and I'm seizing the opportunity. So you see? You guys are helping me out here! Rosie Krajewski is going to control her portions and add salad to her meal. Are you reading this, Mom???

I will top off this posting (and all others after it) with a question, because it feels more productive than just talking about myself the entire time, and once again, the best part of blogging is when other people get involved, offering their thoughts and sharing how they get through similar situations in life. What is one thing you can do today, for the sake of your health, that you will look back on later and use as an incentive to get over the next hurdle? It really does not have to be anything major, because as we all know, the little things add up over time and are worth remembering! You'll be surprised how much it helps to just write it down and get it out there for others to see. You'll be that much more determined to stand by your words, and you'll be helping someone else at the same time! Talk about a fabulous two-for-one deal :)

Now I am off to be a couch potato for a few hours...the hills are alive! :)

This is a random picture of my dog Ditka just being himself...adorable and cuddly! Ah, the life of a puppy...wouldn't you love it if you could just be lazy all day and never lift a paw?

UPDATE:  Well, unfortunately, I did not adhere to my "three slice plan" with the pizza, but I had four, which is pretty close. This is still a huge improvement from the 10 + slices that I used to put away, so I'm okay with it...and I figured it would be fine as long as I admitted to it!

As for the The salad. Let's talk about that :) I only finished about half of it, mainly because we don't have the thousand island dressing that I like, I was too lazy to make some, and I was afraid it would cost too many calories, anyway. In the coming weeks, one of my goals will be to work on my relationship with salads. Nothing is impossible!! At least I did well with the fruit. My taste buds like fruit!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Story from Then to Now...

Before I start, I would like to apologize in advance for the length of this post. This brings me straight back to my "Computer Diary" days, when the 10-year-old version of myself would sit in front of the monitor and type multi-page dissertations on the ups and downs of childhood. I am extremely quiet and sometimes painfully shy in real life, but I have always felt like a different person when I express myself through words. I could probably type here for hours without taking a break, and I appreciate every single person who reads this through to the end.

What kind of little sister would I be if I didn't copy my older siblings at least once in a while? Yeah, yeah, I'm 26, which feels a bit old for the whole "copycat" thing to still be an issue, but when my sister Katie opened a health and fitness blog about a week ago, I suddenly started wondering if I should finally start one of my own. After all, there are quite a few blogs from friends and family members that I follow daily. My favorites are from (in no particular order) Brandy, Bonnie, Mia, Mary Beth, and Jamie. Oh yeah, and Katie. How could I forget you, sis? Didn't I just say that you were the one whose blog was the "final straw" that inspired me to begin writing this? I'm just kidding; you know I love ya :) Unfortunately, my jokes are sometimes lame and not very funny, so I'm just going to move right on ahead here.

My name is Rose Krajewski, and in just under three years, I have lost exactly 140 pounds on the Weight Watchers program. Just now, I have spent a few minutes staring at my computer screen, wondering what I can say next, because although I love words, I don't always know what to say. I am asked all the time how I did this, and what finally drove me to do it after years (and I do mean years) of not having the willpower to make that change. This always catches me off guard, mostly because my words don't come as easily face-to-face, but simply put, I think it's because over the past few years, I have had a rare opportunity to adopt weight loss as my full-time job. I graduated from Elmhurst College in February 2009 with a degree in Early Childhood/Special Education, and while I am currently working for the Elmhurst Park District, I am still searching for a full-time teaching position. To make a long story short (not that this posting is going to be short by any means, but you get my drift), I realized that as long as my part-time work hours gave me about six hours of free time in the middle of the day, I might as well take advantage of it by going to the gym every day. Okay, okay, I didn't quite come to this realization on my own--it was actually my mom (my best friend and one of my greatest cheerleaders through all this) who played the "tough love" card and reminded me that I wasn't exactly working during the day, so why not put that time to good use?

It made sense, and after years of not being able to make Weight Watchers work for me, I hauled my butt to the gym from about 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM each weekday (and a few hours on the weekends). I bonded with the elliptical machine from the start, and that alone helped me start dropping pounds at my Weight Watchers meeting each week. Sometimes it would be four pounds, or one, or four tenths of a pound, but I was finally losing steadily, and that's what mattered. I lived at home with my parents (still do), and my mom, who attended the meetings with me, was extremely helpful in stocking the kitchen with fruits, veggies, healthy cereals, power bars, etc... I will tell you something, though. I have lost all this weight, but my old favorite foods--you know, the ones that aren't exactly healthy for you--are still very much a part of my life, and they always will be. That simply is not going to change, no matter what happens, but the trick is learning how to deal with it the right way. It's about figuring out when you can treat yourself, how much you can have, and what you will do to keep yourself in line after those indulgences. I will be talking about that a lot on this blog, because it's how I keep myself sane, and I think it's crucial for everyone to know that they can still be healthy and eat the foods they love (in moderation, of course). More about that later...moving on...

For a person who loves food as much as I do, it's one thing when you're a little kid, but it's another issue entirely when you're all grown up, living your own life. All of a sudden, Mom doesn't have control of what's going inside your lunch box and on your dinner plate each night. You have the ability (and the money) to get whatever junk or fast food you want, and if you don't drive (again, I'm raising my hand here), you put on your walking shoes and hike over to McDonalds...just because you can. As an adult, how do you find the will to discipline yourself and keep your own life in balance?

I've come a long way from the little girl who used to inhale rows of raw cookie dough from the freezer and pretend it never happened; the teenager who literally tucked cookies inside her socks to get them past her mother; and the college student who polished off entire boxes of pizza without really considering (or caring about) the consequences. It's always been hard for me to come clean with those obsessive eating patterns that characterized my younger years, because I was too embarrassed to ever admit them out loud, even to myself. Little by little, it has been easier to acknowledge these things, because I have come so far and changed so much as a person since then. The humiliation gradually lessens as you realize that you've taken control and made some solid, positive changes in your life. That said, 140 pounds later, I am still not above enjoying a meal at Taco Bell, or having the occasional stuffed pizza with the family on a Saturday night. So many people who lose significant amounts of weight say that they completely lose interest in fast food. They argue that they feel too good to ever go back to that, and I admire this, but I'm also living proof that this isn't the case for everyone.

Looking back, I don't think I was ever the kind of kid who ate because she was seriously depressed, angry, or pushed to a certain emotional edge. Oh, sure, we all have those "blue" moments where a pint of ice cream or a burger and fries perk us right up, but overall, I eat (and have eaten) for one simple reason: because it tastes good. I love to eat. I feel happy when I'm eating...and when you start a weight loss journey, there is never a guarantee that you're just going to "get over" that. I know that I am every bit as capable of finishing a whole pizza in one night as I was back in college, and that scares me a little, but not when I remember that I have the power to control the outcome. I can tell myself that I want that whole pizza, and that's okay. I can have a rough night once in a while, chowing down more than normal, and even that's not the end of the world. What makes it all right is knowing that you're not always going to be perfect, but you're going to move forward and make an effort that maybe you didn't in years past.

If you know me, and you live in the Chicago area, chances are you're going to see me in line at Portillo's sometimes, and I'm not always going to be ordering a healthy salad. When I go to Hollywood Boulevard on a Friday night with my buddy Evan, I will have my all-time favorite cheese sticks and not feel guilty about it (or maybe just a little guilty, but I will get back on the wagon the next day, and that will be that). I'm going to have my favorite Coke-flavored Slurpee from 7-Eleven, even when there's snow and ice on the ground, and if a sweet-faced Girl Scout approaches me with her cookie list in the spring, it's basically a given that I'll be buying a few boxes of Thin Mints (and enjoying every last bite). To make a long story short, I plan on living my life, and nobody should ever feel ashamed of that. It's important to eat well and pursue different, healthy choices throughout the week, but it's also important to admit that you're human.

This journey is far from over for me. Just tonight, I have made the decision to make 200 lost pounds my ultimate goal, which is about 60 pounds lighter than I am now. My mom is the only person I have actually said that to out loud, and now, with this blog post, I commit to it even more. I have no idea how the heck I am going to do this, but I am currently training for the Chicago Half Marathon in September, and the Chicago Marathon in October, so that will help a lot. Also, really, how do any of us push ourselves to do what we need to in life? Whether it's chasing a job, raising a family, or dropping those extra pounds, we start because we just plain have to. What else can we do? It's amazing how much we can accomplish when there is basically no other choice in the matter, and it's what makes our lives interesting enough to talk about with one another. Over time, what keeps us going is knowing that we have friends and loved ones on our side, and as we celebrate victories of all sizes, we are somehow motivated to keep at it. I am so blessed to have people in my life--some of whom I barely know personally--who offer a kind word, a supportive pat on the back, and an enthusiastic "Keep it up!" on those days when I would rather just take the easy route.

Well, I truly could write forever here, but it is getting late, and if I cram every last thought into this first posting, then I don't know how I'm going to sustain this blog for the long term! I am so grateful to you for reading this, and I know I'll be talking a lot about my personal experiences, but blogs are successful because of the readers, and I want to hear from you. I really, truly do. Please feel free to comment anytime with your own stories, struggles, and goals for the future. Individual health applies to all of us, and we can get there by supporting each other. I am still learning, and I hope that my story can help someone else, but honestly, I need your help just as much. We never know for sure what's coming next, or how we will feel tomorrow, but one little word of encouragement can change everything for anyone. I joked earlier about starting this blog as a way to imitate my big sister, but in all seriousness, I am doing this because I want to continue holding myself accountable to a bigger dream. (Okay, did I really just say that? So cheesy, yes, but it's also true, so I guess I'll keep it in there.)

I sometimes wonder what people think of the fact that I lost this weight mostly because I am only working part-time right now, and I've had the luxury to regard healthy eating/exercise as a full-time job. Very soon, I am going to start teaching and working much longer hours, and I need to know that it's possible to keep succeeding at this while navigating the real world. I need to know in my heart that I can keep this weight off for the rest of my life, and not just gain it all back. It is too easy to lose focus, and none of us want that in life, so to prevent it, we turn to others for support.

I look forward to talking with different people through this blog, and I hope you will follow me on this journey. It's going to be a long road, but I have a feeling that so many amazing things are going to come out of it! Thanks for being here!