I love watching people. Have always enjoyed watching people.

I am always amazed at what I see when people watching.

We were just gone for 9 days and I had many opportunities to people watch.

I was sitting in the shade in Lancaster PA at the Green Dragon market (my 2 year old grandson was sleeping in the carriage and it was so hot I had to sit for a bit) and had another opportunity to people watch.

I have been realizing that, in my personal opinion, 90% of the people I see are over weight. Some severely. Morbidly obese as I was before Julie. Sad thing is, many of those people walked by me eating things that make me shudder now. Fried dough, corn dogs, ice cream, you get the gist. Makes me want to cry. Many drive by me in motorized scooters because they can't walk and I assume it is from the weight they carry. Not many are smiling, many have frowns on their faces and are short tempered with people at the booths.

Remember this is my own personal observations.

When sitting down I am at stomach level and can see many, many, jiggly bellies.

Now I am observing the 10% who are thin or at a normal weight.

I have been beating myself up because I jiggle in places I don't want to jiggle in, I have empty skin hanging, my body shape will never be what I would like it to be. I will never be 'centerfold' material. LOL! I have abused my body for so many years that unless I have many surgeries to make it the way I want it to be, well, lets just say, that aint happening here.

BUT, I have noticed, many middle aged women like myself, do not have perfect bodies. Their legs jiggle when they walk even though they are a nice weight. They look great in clothes but they have many imperfections also.
It's been nearly three months since my last post and a few of you have been asking if I'm okay and how I'm doing. Thank your for that! Here's an update of how I'm doing, where I am on my weight loss journey, and where I'm focusing my energy today.
Image source: Lonely Cards
I'm not sure what caused my lower back pain last June, but after a few months of physical therapy and daily stretching exercises, my back pain is gone—yay! At the end of September I twisted my knee and a few weeks later I was in so much pain that I could barely finish a four-mile walk. Prior to that I had been walking 8 to 10 miles daily.

Each month that passed, I walked less and less. Physical therapy for my knee only seemed to make the pain worse. By February, I was overwhelmed with pain and I was no longer taking my daily walks. I had become best friends with Ben and Jerry and my daily food choices were unhealthy. I felt like my life was a puzzle and there were a few pieces missing; I could not find the way back to living my best life.

What helped resolve my back pain was those daily stretches and that I stopped eating sugar. It was not a long and winding road of recovery from sugar, mainly because of a really bad flu that cleaned out my system these past two weeks. I do not wish that flu on anyone. In week two the symptoms lessened, my body was sugar-free, and my optimism returned. My knee pain is still there, but I now have the energy needed to get help to resolve this. I had no optimism when I was eating all that sugar.

I'm eating healthy again, but I feel like I did in the beginning of my journey in that I'm not ready to talk about what I'm doing or where I'm going on my weight loss journey. I want to spend my energy on doing and not talking or writing about what I'm going to do.

One thing I have learned from my nine months of unhealthy eating is that regardless of what I'm choosing to eat, I should never give up my exercise routine. I could not believe how much stamina I lost. The good news is our bodies are so forgiving. I am inspired to regain my stamina, because this past year I met many people who are in their 80's and 90's who have healthy bodies and minds. 

During the time I was stressed from my back and knee pain, I gained weight. Yes, gaining weight has been a set back, but along the way I found the missing pieces to the puzzle of my life: optimism, stamina, health, purpose, joy, love, intuition, and the desire to continue to learn and grow. These pieces are essential to live a good life and I don't plan on losing these pieces again.

My weight loss journey is just one part of my life's puzzle, I also have a business to run. Renewed from finding the missing pieces of my puzzle, I'm focused on making this a successful business. For almost two decades, I've been wanting to help others capture their life stories, so I started a video memoir business. I'm enjoying filming people telling stories of their lives and the lives of their families. Yes, in case you are wondering, this is where I met those octogenarians and nonagenarians.

I've captured stories from people in the Pioneer Valley, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and I now have enough stories for my portfolio. This means the time has come for me to build my Storycatcher Studios website. I'll add a link here when my website is up. I do other video projects, including filming stories of small businesses owners, editing films others recorded, and I'm working on a local documentary. I also teach two classes at the Springfield Museums: Creative Writing and Memoir and Family Legacy.

The photo below represents the part of my life pertaining to my weight loss journey, but I am more than a number on a scale or the size of my clothes. So are you. Meeting and filming those elders, I want to be like them—I want to be 95 years old and still have my health and my mind.

I have not given up on my weight loss journey, but I will stop blogging about this part of my life, at least for now. I'm giving my full attention to my whole life and all the new found pieces to my life's puzzle.

Thank you all for your support over the years and for being a big piece of my life's puzzle. Wishing you all a safe and wonderful life journey.


After 13 months of side trips down Sugar Highway and Carbohydrate Lane, plus a few false starts back on program, I'm happy to report I've returned to my weight loss journey. This was a long side trip, but I learned a lot.
My progressive journey
For starters, I learned that eating a diet high in sugar and carbs depletes my energy; I like having a lot of energy far more than I like sugar and carbs. I also learned that I like being the size I was last year much more than the size I am today. I accept that it's going to take time to get back to the size I was.

Meanwhile, I bought some new clothes, as all my clothes were too tight. I'm teaching creative writing again soon and I was running out of clothing options. Despite my disappointment in the sizes I bought and how I feel when I see myself in the mirror, I was fortunate to find great bargains for clothing that is beautiful and colorful. That said, I'm already envision selling these new clothes.

I'm working on letting go of the shame I feel for gaining weight. I accept that I can not change the past. I can only move forward from where I am today.

In the fall of 2015, a number of friends encouraged me to go on maintenance. I wanted to lose more weight. I had been on program for 4 years and I don't think we're meant to be in the river (on program) that long. We've supposed to do this once and be done with the weight loss phase.

In Dec. 2015 I went off on some sort of a rebellion and I went crazy eating sugar and carbs. I stayed on program for a few weeks and then I'd go off again. I began to tell myself I'd start again tomorrow. Tomorrow turned into a week. When I got back on program, I couldn't stay on for more than a few weeks. The next thing I knew, all my clothes were too tight, more than a year had passed, and I had lost all control over what I was eating.

This is not a path I want to choose again. Once and done has more meaning to me today than ever before. If we follow this program as we are taught, then we only need to do it once and we are done. The goal is to take our weight off and then go through maintenance to learn how to stay in our goal size clothing.

Last spring exercise disappeared from my daily planner. In June I began to have back pain and at the end of September I twisted my leg. Eating sugar and carbs was one of the worse things I could do at that point, but I couldn't stop.

In November I began working with a Chiropractor on my back. Last week I started seeing a physical therapist for my knee. My pain has reduced drastically, but I'll need to do these stretching exercises for the rest of my life.

I'm in the river and I'm SO done with these side trips.

I concede that daily stretching exercises and healthy eating is what I need to live my best life. I can't afford anymore side trips.

Happy New Year to all of you. I hope that 2017 is your healthiest year ever!
The past couple of months have been rough for me. I found myself in new territory: a world with chronic pain. I've been seeing a chiropractor for back pain and next week I'll see a physical therapist about my knee. Meanwhile, I have a whole new perspective on life: I want to live a long and full life and chronic pain is not part of my life plan. Resuming my key weight loss journey is more important to me now than ever.
There is no reason to look back. I choose to only look forward.
Despite a couple months of walking, being back on program, and finally feeling more comfortable in my clothes, I find my blue jeans are extremely tight again. I'm frustrated with how little walking I'm doing these days.

I know the way to change my situation is by doing all of the prescribed stretching exercises, slowly building up my walking routine again, and getting back on key-program.

The old familiar mantra: tomorrow, I'll start again tomorrow, is not working. It never does, but I've been saying this mantra to myself for weeks. The tomorrow I'm waiting for so I can resume being perfect on my program and 100% with my exercises, isn't reality. There is only today. I know this; we all do.

These past few months I was feeling down from my pain, but my energy is increasing as my pain subsides. There is no reason to look back and think of what I should have or could have done different. If I could have, I would have. I choose to only look forward.

So I begin again today. Right this moment—today—not tomorrow!

I'm going to publish this piece and then do 15 minutes of Classical Stretch - Age Reversing Workouts for Beginners: Mobility and Bone Strengthening with Miranda Esmond-White. I'll follow her advise to do what I can today and I'll build my strength back over time. I won't get caught up in negative self-talk about what I can't do, but instead focus on what I can do.

If any of you have words of wisdom, please share them. There are so many of you who are successful on this program and I know there are others out there who are struggling and could use your help.

A quick story before I sign off...I was feeling great all morning because I took extra steps while doing errands. I parked far from the entrances and I took the long way in and out of places. A little while ago I checked to see how many steps I've done and discovered I'm not wearing my Fitbit! LOL. Note to self: my body counts every step even when my Fitbit doesn't!
This thick and hearty stew comes from our key-friend Jennifer, who says it's a family favorite. I made this a few days ago and it instantly became a new favorite key-friendly recipes for me. perhaps this stew will add the spice to your life that you're looking for if you've been bored with food.
Beef and Butternut Squash Stew
Preparation
I gathered all the ingredients, chopped all the vegetables, and then began making this stew.
Gather all your ingredients
I cut the squash in half length-wise, removed the seeds, and then cut the squash into slices, which made cutting the edges off easier.
Cut off squash skin and then slice into small pieces
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2+ lbs stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 lb butternut squash, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups drained canned tomatoes (or 4-6 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3-4 cups beef broth
  • 1/2-1 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1/2-1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Directions
In a large soup pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, rosemary, and thyme and sauté until the onions are tender, about 2 minutes.
Sauté onions, garlic, and herbs in olive oil
Turn up the heat to med-high and add the beef to the pot. Cook until the beef is browned and golden around the edges, about 5 minutes. (My beef actually did not "brown.")
Use a wooden spoon to gently stir all the mix the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with the stew.

Add the butternut squash, drained canned tomatoes, parsley, and tomato paste; stir to combine. Oops, I just realized I didn't as I converted this recipe I forgot to add the canned tomatoes. It turned out delicious just the same, but I did sense something was missing when I was eating my stew.
Add squash, tomatoes, parsley, and tomato paste
Add enough beef broth to just cover the beef and squash and then stir to combine. I used 3 cups of broth and it seemed too watery, but when it finished cooking it was perfect.
Add enough beef broth to cover beef and squash
Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Or transfer to a crock pot and heat on low for 4 hours to combine flavors and cook the meat through. I let my stew cool down for a few hours and then added it to a crock pot so it would be ready for dinner.
Boil over high heat, then simmer on low, covered, for 1 hour
Some of the squash will break down enough that it acts as a natural thickener, along with the tomato paste.

Season to your taste with salt and pepper and enjoy!

I had leftover tomato paste, so I place the unused paste into a teaspoon, dropped them onto parchment paper, and place in a sealed container in the freezer. This gives me measured tomato paste at the ready for the next time I need it for this recipe or another.
Freeze leftover tomato paste
How strong is your weight loss journey commitment? What tools do you use when you hear the wild calls of sugar, carbs, and other non-key foods? Yesterday I discovered a couple news tools to help me stay one hundred percent on my journey.
100% on key. Photo by Theresa
Before I got out of bed yesterday morning I made a decision to commit to be 100% on program all day. Throughout my day, as my mind reached for something off-program, I said one word to myself: 100%.

This one word reminded me of my commitment: today I will be 100% on program.

I said 100% many times yesterday. As the hours passed, I thought about keeping track of how many times I did this. I did not keep a record, but I did kept my promise.

At some point in the day, I found humor in the number of times I reminded myself 100%. I began to enjoy this humor. Smiling felt good. Sticking to my promise felt good too. Feeling good and keeping my promise became empowering. Feeling empowered is a great place to be.

This morning before getting out of bed, I repeated my commitment from yesterday. With these two new tools, a daily commitment to be 100% on program and a one-word reminder: 100%, I intend to make this promise every morning until it is once again my lifestyle.

Feeling empowered by the success from yesterday, I know that today, I've got this.

What about you? What tool(s) do you use to keep you on program? I'd love to hear what works for you to help you stay on your weight loss journey.
I've only blogged once a month since July, except for a handful of recipes. Posting healthy recipes doesn't inspire anyone to eat healthy, myself included. I've been quiet because things have been messy in my life and I didn't feel I could publicly share the messy side of my weight loss journey. Last week I changed my way of thinking about this.
Make your mess your message. Photo by Theresa
I was inspired by GMA's co-Anchor Robin Roberts when I heard her encourage people: Make your mess your message.

I accept that I'm going through a messy phase in my life, and, with Robin's encouragement, I appreciate that in sharing my messy life, specifically as it relates to obstacles and outcomes of my weight loss journey, in making my mess my message, perhaps this will help a few of you struggling on your journey.

Today's messy life story is short. I pulled these words from the privacy of my journal. This is intentionally sparse on details, deep into the heart of the situation, and quick to end. Spoiler alert: not all stories have happy endings.
The entire time I ran errands I was in a lot of pain. My sore left knee made getting in and out of the car difficult and painful. The skin treatment my dermatologist prescribed to burn off layers of per-cancerous skin was working. I know this because my nose, chest, and hands were itchy and burning. I felt embarrassed to be seen with such dry and red skin.

On my drive home, I felt proud that I had passed three ice cream stands after having several inner dialogues about stopping or not stopping. Yeah! I didn't stop. Yet suddenly, there I was buying a double scoop. When I grabbed napkins, I almost tossed the cup in the trash, but I didn't.

At home, I was aware that I actually did feel better as I ate my ice cream and in the minutes to follow. I wanted a reprieve from the pain and I got it.

For all of about 5 minutes. Then it was as if I'd had no reprieve at all. No amount of sugar or carbs will ever resolve my pain, my stress, my anxiety, or whatever is causing me to want those foods. This is hard to remember when I'm deep into the mess of things.

I accepted my decision: that I had gone off-program, that I had given in to the wild calls of sugar. Then I let it go. In the morning I began again. As I wrote recently: forgiveness is key.
This is the end of this short story, but it is not the end of my journey. There's so much more to my life than my weight loss journey. My life is a bit messy these days. While I'm not happy with this messy part of my journey/life, I'm not going to give up. I am going to reach my goal size.

Over a decade ago I took photos at a family gathering and when I reviewed them I came across a blurry photo. There was something beautiful in the blur of the colors and the scene that was mesmerizing. I printed a large size of this photo, framed it, and entered it in an art show. It was the first photo in my series I call Life is Sometimes a Blur.

This post is the first of my posts about my messy life.

It is my hope that some of you will share your stories of how you overcame life's obstacles while on this weight loss journey, how you got out of your own way and succeeded on your journey. I could use a good story about now and I'm sure I'm not alone.
Inspired by my recent lunch at Meatball Kitchen in Wibraham, MA, I was inspired to update my meatball repertoire. If you haven't been there, I encourage you put this on your short list of places to go for lunch or dinner. Perhaps call a key friend, as the menu is key-friendly. Avoid the mushroom gravy and Alfredo, as they have flour.

About six months ago a key friend told me he makes meatloaf and meatballs without breadcrumbs or Parmesan cheese. I followed his suggestion to eliminate them from my meatloaf and meatball recipes and I was surprise that I didn't notice a difference. I had not been to a refresher, but I had heard breadcrumbs were no longer allowed, which I found to be true at the refresher I went to earlier this month.

Before I share my new recipe, here's an update on breadcrumbs and cheese: both are no longer allowed during the weight loss phase.

Breadcrumbs: no longer allowed
    Cheese: no longer allowed
    • Cottage cheese is still allowed and is treated like a vegetable - you must always eat it with with meat.
    Are you really going to let cheese or breadcrumbs get between you and your goal size? You aren't giving them up forever, it's just during your weight loss phase. Once you reach your goal and learn maintenance, these items are once again an option.

    Ingredients
    • 1 pound ground beef (prime) 
    • 1 pound ground pork 
    • 1 pound ground veal 
    • 2 ounces chopped Italian parsley 
    •  2 eggs, beat in a bowl 3 ounces chopped garlic, sautéed until light brown in extra-virgin olive oil 
    • Freshly ground salt and pepper 
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    Directions
    1. Grease a sheet pan.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, mix veal, beef and pork until thoroughly integrated. 
    3. Use your hands; while wearing rubber gloves, do not mix with a machine of any type.
    4. Add garlic, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper and mix until all ingredients are combined. 
    5. Form mixture into 2 to 2.5-ounce balls and place on sheet pan.
    6. In a 12-inch sauté pan heated to medium, add 6 ounces extra-virgin olive oil.
    7. When the oil is hot, fry each meatball until golden brown. 
    8. You will have to continually add olive oil as the meatballs absorb oil. 
    9. Always make sure olive oil is hot before adding meatballs to the pan. 
    10. When meatballs are golden brown on all sides, cook for one hour in your favorite tomato sauce!
    Related Recipes
    I've been silent for a while, as I worked things out since my mid-August refresher, and I'm ready to share my new perspective on dealing with sugar and carb cravings. When these cravings start up, I ride them out like a wave. After the waves cease, my craving calm down, and I continue my journey from a more grounded place.
    Ride your cravings out like a wave and then continue your journey.
    I went off-program in Dec. and I struggled to get back on track for months. When I realized I needed help, that I had gained weight and I couldn't get back on track on my own, I went to a refresher. The first month after my refresher I felt great, motivated and on the right path.

    Then the sugar and carb cravings were hitting me and hard. I pushed back equally hard and
    I won. I thought a lot about what goes on in my head.  I looked at what happens when I choose to push back on sugar and carb cravings versus when I don't push back. I have a new perspective on my weight loss journey since my refresher.

    Just Say No to Non-Key Foods

    Every time I say yes, I teach my body that it can not trust me.
    Every time I say yes, I want more and more sugar and carbs.

    Every time I say no, I want sugar and carbs less and less.
    Every time I say no, my body learns that it can trust me.

    Each time I say no…it’s easier to say no tomorrow.
    I choose to just say no to non-key foods.

    Mix Thing Up in New Ways

    I realized I was bored with my meals, both at home and at restaurants. I started changing that by trying new recipes. Hence the large number of recipes posted last week.

    I found another way to switch things up. I usually only have one vegetable with my meat and one night I decided to have two small sides with my pulled pork: a side of corn and coleslaw. This was an easy change and something I plan to do more often.

    Eat Smaller Portions

    When I heated up my leftover pulled pork, I made my serving size smaller than usual. I intentionally gave myself a "normal" size portion instead of the supersize servings I've become accustomed to. This did not leave an easy option for me to go back for seconds. After dinner I wanted more, but I rode the wave and sure enough the hunger ceased. I'm retraining my brain that smaller portions are "enough." If I'm still hungry 30 minutes or more later, I'll eat more. The more I do this, the easier it becomes, because I have new memories of eating less and I'm satisfied with less. 

    Return to What I Know Works

    I know this program works. It feels good to be back on track and eating cleaner. I'm back to the basics and aiming for as close to 100% as humanly possible.

    I've resumed my daily walking goal of 10,000 steps. I know that using a Fitbit helps me meet my step goals, so last week I replaced my Fitbit, which died 6 weeks earlier. There were a few days I didn't reach my step goal. However, looking a this from a positive perspective: I walked a lot more than I have in months.

    This kind of accountability works for me. Plus my new Fitbit Charge 2 has animated features like a rocket ship that takes off when I reach my daily goal and another feature that  encourages me throughout the day by buzzing and asking questions like "wanna stroll?" It's a riot. I try to get up and walk when I get those messages, but I don't do it every time. Not yet at least.

    Forgiveness is Key

    After gaining weight this year, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I knew feeling this way wasn't going to help me. I focused instead on a more positive thought: there was a time when I was happy to be this size, which is far smaller than I was five years ago.

    I embraced the concept that this weight gain is simply a part of my journey. If weight loss was so easy, obesity would not exist.

    I know that beating myself up for not being ON 100% is harmful. I know that even if don't meet my daily goals, I'm doing my best.

    To be successful on this journey, I must forgive myself when I fall short and then let go.

    Life After My Refresher 

    At my refresher, I learned this weight loss phase of the key program is meant to be a phase we go through until we reach our goal size, then we go through maintenance, and then we maintain our goal size. We only return to weight loss phase a few times a year if we find ourselves at the tighter end of our goal size clothes.

    After my refresher, I felt resolved to sprint to the finish line and that no little sweet thing was going to get between me and my goal size. I still feel this resolve today.

    What about you? How do you do to push back on food cravings? What do you do to keep yourself motivated to stay on course?
    A new twist on making fajitas, this recipe, by Lou Mayo the one handed Chef, bakes the ingredients in the oven instead of frying.
    Oven Baked Fajitas
    Ingredients
    • 1.5 pounds boneless (I used 4 Breasts) skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips 
    • Olive Oil 
    • 2 tsp chili powder 
    • 1 1/2 tsp cumin 
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder 
    • 1/2 tsp dried oregano 
    • 1/4 tsp seasoned salt 
    • 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes (not drained) 
    • 1 medium onion, sliced 
    • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips 
    • 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
    Directions
    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
    2. Add a bit of Olive Oil to your baking dish and spread around with a paper towel. 
    3. Place chicken strips in the oiled baking dish. 
    4. In a small bowl combine the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt and about 2-3 tbsp olive oil. 
    5. Drizzle the spice mixture over the chicken and stir to coat. 
    6. Next add the tomatoes, peppers, and onions to the dish and stir to combine. 
    7. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.