Low-cal Thanksgiving? Why?

My dietitian, Britt, sent me an email a few days ago asking the following:

“random questions; whats the obsession with low calorie thanksgiving.. its mostly turkey?? Why are people scared? Its one day. You cant undo your whole life in one day??? “

(As I was replying, I thought it might be a good post for the blog. And when she answered me, she said it needs to be a post for the blog, so here it is. )

My unedited answer:

“Because Thanksgiving is the biggest pig out of the year and people know it. Because you’re with people and expected to eat and eat. I get it, it still scares me. Not as much maybe, but still enough to mess with my mind. And while I know one day won’t undo my 107ish pounds, Fat Karen, who’s still in there, still believes it will.

And it’s the first of a lot of parties with Christmas not too far behind. It’s a lot of time outside of the normal routine of good food choices, logging and exercising. It’s a mind game of believing that one bad day will be enough to make you go back to the way you used to eat, that once you start eating all the foods, you won’t be able to stay in control. Or worse, that you won’t want to stay in control. I get a little scared every day that I won’t want to keep doing what I’m doing, that I’ll stop caring and Fat Karen will re-emerge.”

That was a little hard to write down, even when it was just going to Britt. That fear is there every day, but I don’t always think about it. I do care about this journey, the weight I’ve lost and how much better my body and mind are, but get scared that it won’t take much for me to slide all the way back to square one – that there might be one incident, idea, or food out there that will trip me up.

As for the holidays, I will enjoy myself with my family. I don’t think it’s an excuse to eat to the point of being bloated and sick like so many people do, but will have the foods I don’t eat every day and just quick add a million calories to my food log, and be done with it. Oh yeah, and drink lots and lots of water.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Navigating the Holidays in the Workplace

When you’re on a weight loss journey, one of the biggest obstacles you can encounter is food in the workplace, especially this time of year, around the holidays. The holidays can be stressful by themselves, but since a huge part of celebrating has to do with food, this can place even more stress on those of us who are trying to make healthy food choices and not get derailed. I’ve been on this journey for several years, so I’ve survived a few.

First, realize the holidays are for celebrating and for family time. It’s not about logging food and watching other people eat what you don’t think you can have. That being said, I don’t think it’s a free pass to be a glutton, either. I read somewhere that the average American eats 4000 calories at Thanksgiving, which is nuts. For family time, I don’t log (my own dietitian says not to), I enjoy my food and more importantly, the company and I try to drink a LOT of water.

Work, for me is a different story. I worked in a hospital for years, hospital settings are notorious for spur of the moment potlucks. We’d celebrate anything and everything. I’m currently in a doctor’s office, where there are also a lot of celebrations – there was enough sugar at Halloween to feed a couple of classrooms at the  local grade school. I managed not to eat any candy, although I really wanted a roll of Smarties, they were a childhood favorite.

During these past few years of trying to make better food choices and being faced with the challenges of work parties/potlucks/holidays, I’ve made some rules for myself. I participate in the big holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, but not in the smaller ones, the Taco Tuesdays, the “everyone bring in food for no reason” ones, and any others that pop up. My first priority is to myself and my health.  This isn’t family time, this is a lunch break in a not so comfortable setting and it’s usually a grab your food and eat whenever event. Eating under these circumstances is just not worth it to me. I usually get some flak from coworkers, but I’m not about to eat food I wouldn’t eat on my own time. Sorry, not sorry.

For the times I do partake, I try to bring something I like, so I know there’s something there for me, if the other choices are less than optimal. Before I eat, I remind myself that I don’t need to eat everything just because it’s there in front of me and free. I step back and look at everything that’s offered, before adding it to my plate. You can’t go wrong with vegetables/salads, just watch the amount of dips/dressings. I try to get a protein in there and skip the rolls/bread (PCOS means I watch the amount of carbs I eat). A small scoop is smart, you can always go back for more. If you load up a lot on your plate, you’re more likely to eat it because it’s there in front of you. I skip the never ending supply of soda and juices and stick with water. I don’t like to drink my calories and I’ve been soda-free for five years now. When it’s time for dessert, the smaller the better. I remind myself of what I’m trying to accomplish and that a work party/lunch doesn’t have to derail me, even for one meal.

It can be easy to get caught up in the festivities and go overboard, but it should be a conscious decision to do so and it should be enjoyed. Work settings don’t do that for me so I simply don’t. The comments and disapproving looks are trivial, the bigger picture is to do what makes me happy and what is good for me.


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I was out walking earlier and thinking of what to write for this post. It was just last Sunday when I did my Bull City Five Mile race.   My goal in that was to run the whole course as the previous time I tried it, I wasn’t able to do so.  I was thinking about how that had been something I really wanted to do for the past two years (only did the mile course last year due to a plantar’s fasciitis). It was a great feeling. Still is.

It’s good to have goals in all areas of your life. Definitely in this weight loss/health journey thing. I’d have never made it this far without them, or if my only one was to lose the 100+  lbs. That was a big goal at the time, and it was overwhelming. It had to be broken down into smaller ones, as far as the numbers went, or I’d have failed miserably. For me, starting at 248 lbs., getting to Onederland was an important one. I still have the picture of the scale saying “199” taped over my computer.

But it’s not all about the number on the scale. (Yes Britt, I do listen). As I learned more along the way, the more important numbers became more about reaching milestones in body fat percent, moving out of being obese, increasing my lean muscle mass number and more.

It’s also about reaching physical goals. I ran five freakin’ miles last week. Nowhere in the past would I, or could I, have done that. I run. And not because someone is chasing me, just because I can. My first goal with running was just to finish the Couch to 5K program, especially the dreaded Week Five, Day Three where you don’t do intervals and run 20 minutes straight. I did it and even had enough energy when the timer went off to do one of those football touchdown dances!

Another goal was to go to early morning classes at the gym. The first year I made that one, I just had to go to one and it took me till October to actually do it. Then my goal was to do Boot Camp, be able to do whatever was on the schedule and not be the slowest person in the class. I checked that off the list and it’s now my favorite class.

I’ve reached goals I’ve set in lifting weights with bench pressing and deadlifting. One of my current ones related to physical activity is to do a pull up or chin up. That’s going to take some time and that’s okay. I joke around and say just one before I die. In the meantime, I’m working towards that by continuing to lift weights, to increase the amount of lean muscle mass in my body, especially my arms, shoulders and back.

I also thought about ones I’d like to accomplish.

Related to the physical part of my health journey:

  • do the pull up
  • end up with 20% body fat
  • do more strength training
  • run next year’s Bull City 5 miles in 49:59 or less
  • walk outside more

Related to the mental part of my health journey

  • handle stress better
  • more confidence
  • care less about certain things/people
  • go back to meditation

Other goals (just a few)

  • finish up studying and pass the Health Coach certification test
  • become a Health Coach
  • get up the nerve to use the Group Fitness Instructor certification
  • work on this blog more
  • be happy


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Taking the Bull by the Horns

The Bull City Race Fest that is.

It’s a yearly race held in Durham, NC each October, with a half-marathon, a five-miler and a one-miler. I’m referring to the five-miler.  I call myself a casual runner. I  do a few 5Ks a year, and one 4 mile race. So this is my longest. This was my third time going. Last year I had an annoying Plantar’s Fasciitis and while I should have skipped it, I liked the color of the race shirt they were giving out and signed up for the one mile. The year before that, I did the five-miler. I started out with the people I went with, but I couldn’t keep up with them. Seeing them pull ahead of me and starting out too fast, made me have to slow up and walk. And once I did that, I’d run a short distance, and then listen to the voice telling me to walk again. I did that several times. So, that’s been a thorn in my side (may as well keep with the bull theme) for the past two years.

My goal was to run the whole thing with a secondary goal being under an hour. For the past few months I’ve been running outside in the morning and keeping it at an 11 min/mile pace. It’s sustainable for me. I can go faster for shorter distances. I finally did five miles on the treadmill last weekend at 5.5 miles/hour and it felt good. It’s more about the mind games for me, about having a plan on how to combat the insecurity and doubts. I worked on that while I did those morning runs.

My Achilles tendon was acting up this past week, so I wasn’t sure I was going to run, let alone run it all. I threw the hour time limit out the window – kind of – and just tried to tell myself to run slow and keep going. Limited sleep (adopted a new kitten two days ago, who’s apparently a night owl) and the balmy 45 degree weather with some wind gusts, added to the challenge. But it was paid for, I picked up the shirt and bib and they do have medical attention nearby, so I went. I went with my trainer, we also met someone else who works at the gym. My plan was to start behind them, since I knew I couldn’t keep up and watching people pass me messes with my mind.

I did it.

I ran the whole thing, came in at a respectable 52:29,  a 10:29 min pace, faster than the 11 mins I was aiming for. Also 26/74 for females 50-54. I’m very happy with it and that my Achilles held out. More importantly was the voice in my head that says “walk” didn’t say a word. There were no negative thoughts, other than being annoyed at the wind that would pop up, no thoughts of walking or that I couldn’t do it. To hit a physical goal is one thing, to beat back the negativity and self-doubt two years in the making is so much more. 

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Random Thoughts on the Treadmill

Took myself to the gym this morning to use the treadmill. I have a love/hate relationship with the thing. I definitely prefer running outside, but realize it’s a necessary evil at times. Next week I’m signed up for a 5 mile race. The last time I did that race, I ended up walking part of it, so I’m determined to run it all this time, even at a snail’s pace. I planned on four miles this morning, haven’t done that distance since April, 3.1/5Ks are more my thing. Despite the multiple tvs, my headphones and playlist, open windows and people watching, I get bored on the treadmill. These do have videos of trails you can watch while you run or walk and those are what keep me on for longer than ten seconds. The videos cover trails in the Western US State Parks, New Zealand and Germany. This morning I was thinking about a blog topic when the idea of things that go through my head while running might be fun. Or frightening. So, here we go …

(You never know which location you’ll be in first, I ended up in the US parks)

  • Geez! Drop me in on the side of a cliff! (the first time I landed on this trail with nothing but a long drop to my death on one side, I swear I grabbed for the side of the mountain)
  • Oh good, I love these trails, gonna do four miles – probably.
  • Why do I always run with my right index finger and thumb sticking out?
  • I need to visit these parks.
  • So, when I get home, I’m going to start boiling the water for my hard boiled eggs meal prep, put the bag of carrots in the microwave, run upstairs and shower, come back to the kitchen, put the eggs on, set my phone timer, and nuke my coffee.
  • Coffee.
  • Need to be ready to leave by 11:30ish (went to check out a shelter kitty in a foster home, decided to adopt her, she comes home Friday)
  • Why is the camera guy running so close to the brick wall? Move over idiot! You’re scraping my legs!
  • Approaching a tree in the middle of the path – I can’t remember if camera guy goes left or right, I swear he was going to kill us both.
  • I’m not checking my distance until at least ten songs play.
  • Three, three, three, three (kept chanting to keep track).
  • Don’t peek!
  • So, when I get home, I’m going to start boiling the water for my hard boiled eggs meal prep, put the bag of carrots in the microwave, run upstairs and shower, come back to the kitchen, put the eggs on, set my phone timer, and nuke my coffee.
  • Karen you need to stop over planning things. You said that already.
  • Why are there eighty bazillion steps up the side of this mountain? Thank God I’m not running them for real, I’d have tripped and rolled back down by now.
  • Four, four, four.
  • I’m not even sweating yet. Go me.
  • Get out of the way people in my video, can’t you see crazy camera guy coming at you?
  • I need coffee.
  • Next week I’m going to start out really slow and stay slow.
  • Is it five, or six? … Six, six, six.
  • I wish they’d have filmed in Yellowstone.
  • Move already! (they end a shot with a few seconds of a panoramic view).
  • In two, out two, in two, out two.
  • Did I really say four miles?
  • Why did I sign up for this race?
  • Remember to put the books in the car so you can go straight to the library after the kitty meet and greet.
  • Eight –  damn it – you can’t even hold out till ten and why is it only 2.2 miles???
  • Keep going, stop whining.
  • Why did you get on a treadmill so far away from the HGTV tv?
  • Coffee.
  • Sure, like adding 1/10 of a mile to your pace is going to move this along.
  • What does one wear to meet a cat?
  • Okay, if I was running on the beach for real, I’d run closer to the water.
  • Don’t peek!
  • Yay, finished the parks, now being rerouted to Germany.
  • Love these flat trails.
  • Hate these rocks.
  • My favorite part – running past the guy on the bicycle. It’s hard to laugh and pant at the same time.
  • Ooh, this part is nice, the gardens.
  • Look at all the people lounging in the garden chairs. Slackers!
  • Why is German camera guy choosing the paths with the puddles?
  • Okay fine, peek. 3.95 miles, almost done, but you know you should do five.
  • Fine, I’ll do five, but I won’t like it.
  • (Peeking) 4.02 … sigh … too soon
  • Too many people in this scene and they won’t get out of my way.
  • I still want coffee.
  • Perfect timing with this song (Whatever It Takes)
  • Why isn’t this over?
  • Almost – 4.95
  • COOL DOWN! Hit the button, COOL DOWN!

Good job … 


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