What if we thought about weight like debt?

It’s been a somewhat unremarkable week for us. Nothing of note has happened at work. Justin had an exam on Wednesday and a paper due on Friday, so he spent a lot of time studying. Our evenings were pretty quiet.

But I’m trying to get back to writing more regularly. So I’m going to write about something that’s been helpful for me as I’ve been working on losing weight. I feel like some of this might be stuff I’ve talked about before, but maybe it’s just because it’s been on my mind a lot. Also, this post got a lot longer than I originally thought it would.

I know, I said I don’t really want to talk about my weight-loss much just yet. But when I was starting it up again, I was thinking about my failures and successes in the past and what they had in common and how I approach the whole thing. At the same time, I was reviewing our progress on our debt payments and how long it’s likely to take before we’ll be done with the credit card debt. It’s going quite well, though not as well as we’d been hoping last January. We had a more expensive 2015 than we’d hoped.

I think most of us have been working on that specific problem lately – paying off debts, working on emergency funds, all of those wonderful things. I think a lot of people have a hard time separating emotions from the picture when it comes to money. I don’t seem to have that problem much, it’s mostly just a math puzzle, and a tricky one at that because I’m not very good at math. But when Justin and I talk about it, we have to be able to discuss calmly the opinions we have about certain things, like whether or not purchases are wants vs. needs, if it’s a want that we’ll not be likely to find as cheaply as this particular sale and if that’s worth the extra debt, if going without something is an inconvenience that we’re willing to put up with for a short time in order to avoid more expense, that sort of thing.

Point being, the emotions behind it never seem to go anywhere near thinking about our debt as being a reflection on my worth as a person. It’s not personal. It wasn’t the smartest thing ever, but we’re learning from our mistakes and moving on. The closest it got to being personal was thinking that I’d just been kind of dumb about handing my resources.

My weight, however? For a long time, I considered it to be a personal failing. It was evidence of my sinful behavior. If I’d not been so gluttonous, I’d not eat so much. If I wasn’t so slothful, I’d exercise more. If I had more self-control, etc., etc. So losing weight was fighting against myself and my sinfulness. If I didn’t like the exercise, I was fighting my sloth and it had to be good for me. Restricting my diet was fighting my gluttony and managing self-control. If I slipped, I failed to fight my sin.

Not to say that skinny people are without sin. But I think I figured most of it would have to do with vanity.

I’m not really sure when I started to be able to separate the two, but I know that I have been able to be happy with myself regardless of my weight and not feel like a big fatty failure who sins. I’ve even considered myself to be pretty, even at 250 pounds. I wish I could pinpoint when and why that changed, but I have no idea. I do know that it did change, though.

When I was thinking about financial debt and appropriate use of resources, though, it occurred to me that a lot of the mentality that I’d been using to work on our debt would apply easily to trying to lose weight. What if I was able to separate my emotions from what got me to this point and focus on the same ideas that have worked well with my finances?

Instead of dollars, it’s calories. Instead of losing debt and gaining savings, I’m losing weight and gaining strength.

It takes specific concentration, every day, about how to spend or save the money available in order to be able to achieve specific goals. That same concentration can be applied to making sure that the calories I intake are not more than the calories I’m burning.

The same idea of setting wants aside in order to focus on the needs lets me look at a piece of cake and consider whether I’d rather have a couple minutes of sweet delicious empty calories or the lentil soup and small wedge of cheese for my lunch that will sustain me for longer without the sugar crash, and without the need to exercise for a lot longer in the afternoon. The satisfaction of feeling like I achieved something by passing on the cake is just an extra bonus.

And it’s a balance – I can’t stop paying rent and put all the money into debt payments; I can’t stop eating entirely in order to try to lose weight more quickly. But I can adjust the thermostat to cost less energy and just be a little uncomfortable (until I adjust), and I can eat less food and be a little uncomfortable (until I adjust) in order to lose weight.

Slipping now and then isn’t such a big deal, either. We really wanted to get me a nice pair of hiking boots this past summer, so we spent a lot of money on a great pair of boots. We looked at other budget categories we could pull other money from to pay for that and accepted that it’d just be an extra bit of work we’d have to put in to pay for those.

I really wanted some ice cream a couple days ago and it wasn’t really going to fit in the calories for my day. It wasn’t much out of my plan for the day, but it was a little over. And instead of passing on it and getting grumpy about it, I carefully measured out a serving size and enjoyed it thoroughly. And the next morning I got up and did a hard workout in order to pay for it, and made sure I was a little under my calories for the day.

Because when it comes down to it, my weight problem is primarily due to a poor use of resources. I’ve incurred more than I could afford, and now I have to pay for it. Over time, with perseverance and dedication, I will be able to resolve it. I can pay off thousands of dollars of debt. I can work off a handful of dozen pounds.

And thinking about it this was has helped me a lot. I don’t feel like I’m suffering or punishing myself. I’m just working to pay off another debt, and I’ve done that before.

Goal planning and Me

I’ve spent a bit of time lately considering my goals and wishes for my life. I find that I have a lot of “I wish” things. Things like “I wish I spoke German” and “I wish I could play guitar” and “I wish Justin and I could travel to Austria.”

The problem is that it’s tricky to look at my life today and figure out how to get from here to Austria, speaking German, and plucking away on a guitar. It’s this enormous situational gap and while I have all these wishes, I haven’t actually done a whole lot of planning out how to get from here to there.

So I’ve been thinking about how that would actually work. I’m sure that there are books and lots of resources that go into how to do this, but I haven’t actually gotten that technical yet. What I’ve been doing is this:

  1. I wrote down a huge long list of my wishes and goals for the future.
  2. From there, I tried to narrow down a handful of ones that I want to focus on right now, because it’s a really long list and I can’t work on all of them at once. There just isn’t enough time or brain space.
  3. And then I tried to break it down even further, into the things that I want to do in the next 6 months to work toward those goals.
  4. And from there, even more, I’ve got to break it down into things that I can do each week to get working toward those goals.

So the big wishes that I’m working on right now are (and several of these will be familiar from the Smoky Mountain planning):

  1. Be debt free
  2. Be a great seamstress
  3. Play guitar
  4. Run half-marathons
  5. Move to the mountains
  6. Grow vegetable gardens
  7. Find a career that I really enjoy
  8. Plan for the future better

That seems like a lot. In order to get to those goals, my 6 month goals are:

  1. Pay at least $200/month extra toward our debts
  2. Sew at least 1 skirt and 1 shirt
  3. Be able to play 3 chords on my guitar
  4. Be able to run 1 mile contiguously
  5. Visit Chattanooga
  6. Grow 2 plants for food/spice
  7. Look into Lean/Six Sigma certification training
  8. Learn how to make better goals

That seems more manageable. From there, my goals for this week look like this:

  1. Pull out the items for Craigslist and eBay that we were going to sell and get them looking nice, take pictures, figure out how much they’re worth, and get them listed.
  2. Review budgets for February and make sure we’re sticking to them.
  3. Look up the information about gored skirts again and work out the details on how to create a pattern for that.
  4. Pull out the guitar, re-learn how to tune the strings, and read though the book I bought about how to learn how to play.
  5. Go walking/do aerobics or yoga/go for a bike ride a couple times this week.
  6. Ask Justin if he needs/wants  my help with the Chattanooga planning.
  7. Figure out what plant to grow – I’ve got parsley already, if I can keep it alive. What else do I want to grow? Basil? Oregano? Strawberries?
  8. Remember to water the parsley.
  9. Look up what goes into Lean/Six Sigma training.
  10. Go to the library and look up books on goal planning (also pick up books on gardening and sewing).

It’s a pretty big list for one week, I think. And that’s not including the normal around the house things that I tend to do, keeping things tidy, organizing things that get out of order, all of our Present Time Plans compared to our Future Plans. Like, figure out how to actually get the most out of the limited space we have in this kitchen and keep the house clean and figure out how to NOT let the library just be a dumping ground for stuff we’re not sure where to put.

But it’s that’s also a sign of how badly I’ve done at working toward my big goals. I’ve spent more than a year with this guitar sitting in my living room and a book about how to play and I’ve barely touched it. It’s not something I’ll learn by osmosis, no matter how much I wish I could play. And it’s not like it’s this complicated trick – work on the small stuff to get to the big stuff. Stick within the budget and we’ll have money at the end of the month left over. Go for a walk today to build up muscles for running later. Water the parsley this week to keep it alive to next week.

But I have a tendency to be lazy. I get home and sit on my butt, playing a video game or reading a book. If it’s a productive evening, I’ll make sure the house is tidy and the dishes are washed. I get more done over the weekends, when I have more time to dedicate toward a project, or during the summer when there’s more light in the evening. But I’d still get to the end of the month (and the year) and wonder “What happened to the time? Why haven’t I figured out how to play that guitar yet?”

So this is how I’m hoping to address that problem – by intentionally setting up manageable goals. If I can’t make it at least partially through that list of things for the week, then I’ve got to figure out what exactly I’m doing with my time, and if what I’m doing is of more value to me than the end goals that I’m working toward, then I’ll re-evaluate my goals.

For example: Last week, I worked a lot of long, frustrating hours at work, covering for a coworker who was out of the office due a death in her family. I intentionally spent my evenings away from computers and doing things that I found extremely relaxing because if I didn’t, I wasn’t going to make it through the week. As it was, I found myself loudly venting my frustration about my boss toward Justin on Friday afternoon, raising my voice and behaving badly. Last week, my one goal for the week was just to make it through the week with my marriage and my job still in place. Having managed that, I took the weekend to really enjoy spending time with Justin. And now I have the brain space to consider my other goals.

I think it’s important, too, to realize that goals change over time. I might decide that playing guitar just isn’t my thing. And that’s okay. It’d be silly to keep trying to be able to play guitar if I decided that I just don’t enjoy it. And maybe that’s one of those “Well, d’uh!” things, but I think it’s worth saying anyway. I think sometimes people get an idea stuck in their head that they “ought to” do or be something and they keep working toward that idea when it’s just not what they really want to do. They just feel like they should.

This post got a whole lot longer than I had originally intended! I guess I had a lot more to say about this than I thought.

For anyone who’s interested, I keep my To Do list on Wunderlist. It’s an online, desktop, Android-device compatible list-thing.  I find it super-easy to use, pretty to look at, and I can share my lists; I’m just not sure with how many people I can share them. I’m going to try to keep on top of my goals using that tool. If you want more information about that, I can try to get that to you.

Hello, February.

Right. And there goes January.

As is the norm for me, even down here in the sunny south, January brought on a case of the Winter Blahs. It’s dark and cold (relatively-speaking) and I don’t feel like doing anything other than sitting on my butt and reading while simultaneously stuffing my face with something high in sugar or flour. Both, if possible. I’ve been kind of hoping that this year would be the year that I Figure Stuff Out and Get Stuff Done. Last year felt like a lost year where things didn’t change much and the year ended much like it started, without many significant changes in between. But so far this year has been the year of Sitting Still and Reading Books. I’ve seriously read at least a dozen books, probably. This would be impressive if it wasn’t a sign of me sitting still WAY too much. (Okay, it’s not quite 12 books. It’s closer to 8.)

I was talking with Tracie, my massage therapist, about it on Friday and she had some recommendations on adding colorful fruits and veggies to my diet and making sure I got outside into the sunlight for at least a couple minutes a day and it sort of kicked me in the butt with the realization that “Oh, yeah! I can actually do something about that.”

It’s crazy how it starts to feel like that’s just the way the world is going to be and I can’t do anything about it. That I’m just stuck to live in a house that’s not quite clean and the laundry is always not folded and food just isn’t quite satisfying and I’m just going to sit here and be BLAH. But it’s not true. I CAN actually do something about it.

Starting with using the sun lamp in the morning. And then taking 20 minutes to go outside at my lunch. (Also holy cow it was almost 80 degrees outside here today. What is up with this absurd weather? That’s almost a 50 degree shift in a week.) And eating a lunch heavy in carrots and green peppers. And then when I got home this afternoon, Justin and I went out for a walk for the first time in about a month. Maybe a little more, actually. Yeah. I mentioned Sitting On My Butt, right?

Over the weekend we got the house more tidied and worked on the laundry. It got pretty piled up, but everything washed and dried got folded and put away. There’s still a little left, but it’s nearly finished. Next weekend, if the weather is good, I’m planning to do yardwork. The pampas grass and the crepe myrtle trees need to get trimmed and there’s sticks all over the yard and the Christmas tree stand is leaning up against the house next to the cooler.

And my minor twinges of OCD are starting to look at the floorboards around the house and think that they could really do for a scrubbing….

I think February will end a lot better than it started. By the end of the month, spring will actually be starting. And I’m sorry for all of you who will deal with snow for another couple months after that, but THIS is why I moved down here. Because I can’t handle the cold and the dark without just shutting down and feeling miserable. I need the sunlight.

So I think February will be my month to get back on my feet and get moving. I’ve got to get caught up on housework and get back into walking (or something) every day. I’m not aiming for anything groundbreaking. Just to get back up again. Because this winter has knocked me on my butt and I’m tired of being tired.

Our 2-year plan

I mentioned a little bit ago that we’re working on a 2-year plan to move to the Smoky Mountains. Two years is a bit general at this point because of all the work that needs to go into this endeavor, but it’s a nice rough time-frame that we’re working with. We’ve been working on figuring out what all would need to go into this plan in order to be successful and this is what we’ve been able to figure out so far.

We’re working on a 4-fold path:

  1. How are we going to afford it?
  2. Where do we want to live?
  3. What do we want to do as a career?
  4. How physically fit can we get before then?

Each of these points has multiple sub-points and we’re working on several of them concurrently. We haven’t been able to estimate yet how long it’s actually going to take to get through all of them, but I think that will become more clear the further we get into this.

Currently, this is where we’re at:

  1. How are we going to afford it? First, by paying off our credit card debt. This involves being much more conscious about how we’re spending our money, so we’re setting up budgets and sticking with them. We’re also working to find ways to spend less (like taking Justin’s not-often-used cell phone off our account to reduce that bill significantly) and trying to bring in more income (like trying to get a client to actually get a check to us).
  2.  Where do we want to live? In the Smoky Mountains, in a location that gives us enough space for goats, ducks, and gardening. We haven’t completely decided where we’re going yet, but we’re hoping to go up to visit Chattanooga in the next 6 months to see if it’s as lovely as it sounds. In the spring, I’m going to explore gardening in pots around our house.
  3. What do we went to do as a career? This is a point where I’m not doing much progress so far, mostly because I’m so frustrated about work that I don’t want to think about it in my free time. But I will need to figure this one out soon so I can start making progress.
  4. How physically fit can we get before then? We’ve been going for walks almost daily for the last couple weeks. It’s been a challenge mostly because I’ve been experiencing significant pain through my calves and shins that makes walking torturous. In the last several days, I’ve put some research into the problem and figured out that I supinate my feet — meaning I tread mostly on the outside edge of my feet, toward the pinky toes. This puts a lot of strain through my calves. The last two days walking, I’ve concentrated very hard on making sure that I adjust my stride to step through the center of my feet instead of the outside edge. Doing so has significantly reduced my calf and shin pain, as well as my hip pain, and allowed me to walk much faster. I’m also seeing a massage therapist at the recommendation of my chiropractor to help my low-back pain and my un-even hips. She’s given me several stretches for different muscles groups that I believe will also help with increasing my mobility.

I’ve also got an app on my phone (Noom) to help with my eating habits, as well as a pedometer, and an app to remind me to drink more water. There’s a fitness challenge starting today at work and I’m on a team with a few of my coworkers and we’re going to try to be more active and lose some weight together. Justin also downloaded Noom to his (service-less) phone and, while I’m not sure if he’s tracking food, he’s already seeing changes in his weight and his ability to run longer distances at a faster pace. And while it didn’t exactly fit with our saving-money goals, we both are getting new shoes to help with our fitness goals.

So that’s where things are at so far. We still have a lot of work to do, obviously, but we are started. I’m going to try to remember to give an update on this every month or so. If you have recommendations for us, I’d love to hear them!

Goals and plans

I’ve been trying to figure out where to start this post, but I’m having trouble. There are so many thoughts bouncing around in this head of mine and they refuse to settle down into organized sentences. Let’s see if they’ll fall out into an un-sorted list:

  • Seeing everybody for the reunion was AWESOME! We enjoyed that a lot
    • Erica, can you go in and write up the notes that we decided at the meeting?
  • Justin and I decided that we really, REALLY love the mountains and we’d like to live there.
  • We’re currently working on a 2 year plan to move to the Smokies.
  • 2 years is the goal because that’s how long it’ll take Jessi to finish grad school and we want to be around her as long as we can.
    • She doesn’t plan to stay in this area after she’s done, but we’re not sure where she plans to go.
  • It’ll also take us that long (at least) to work off our debts and build up some money
  • We’re thinking of buying property with a good amount of acreage
    • I want goats
    • He wants ducks
  • We’re not sure if we’d buy land and build or buy a house and improve it or what, but because that’s still a long way off, we’re not worried about it too much.
  • We have a lot of work to do to get our finances in line and that’s going to be out biggest push for a while.
  • Our friend Julie would move with us because she said “it’s either there or back to Wisconsin. But mountains!” We’ll see if her opinion changes between now and when we actually move
  •  We’re looking at areas first that have a Costco because Justin has a lifetime membership and because the amount we could save by shopping there is actually kind of impressive
  • So far, of the 4 towns that have a Costco in the mountains between northern Georgia and southern Virginia, Chattanooga, TN, is the city we like the best. It’s not decided yet, but there are a lot of things there that we like so far.
    • Nathan and Amy, that’s like 2 hours from you. The boys could all get together and play cards pretty often!
  • We haven’t written up our formal goals and stuff, but I’ll be working on that here soon.
  • Meanwhile, I’m reading up on what it’s like to live out in the country, because my understanding of it as a kid is completely different from reality. :)
    • Like what does living on well water and having a septic tank actually require?
  • We won’t be rushing into this. We’re doing a lot of research and planning our finances and trying to be as responsible about this a possible.
  • On the other hand, we’re both SUPER EXCITED about this and keep fantasizing what we’d like it to be like.
  • And that’s why it’s a good thing we’re taking it slow….
  • We’ve also realized that we’re kind of fat and lazy and we’re working on that by taking at least a 3 mile walk every day.
    • We’ll make that a jog as soon as we’re actually physically able, but that won’t be for a while, at least for me.
  • I’m also evaluating what exactly I want to do with my career because I’ve mostly just been floating from one opportunity to the other, but maybe if I figured out what I’d actually like to do, I might be more happy doing it.
  • Justin’s also looking at the same sort of thing.

So, there’s lots going on, planning-wise. I have to sit down and make formalized plans soon because we both do better when we have firm goals established (and published on the fridge). More information will be coming as soon as I’ve got more information.