Week #54 Weigh in…and who’s not a 300-pounder!?!!??!

In the fall of 1991, I showed up on the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point campus at 242 pounds. Shortly, it became clear that among offensive linemen there, the expectations was that you would need to weigh 300 pounds to have a chance at starting. (To be fair, there were starters who didn’t weigh 300 pounds, but I definitely felt pressure from my teammates and coaches to get bigger, and 300 pounds was sort of alluded to as the bench mark.

So I ate a ton and worked hard and came back to school after X-mas break in January 1992 at 275 pounds. And in August 1992, at 295 pounds. And around January 1993, I crossed the 300 pound mark and never looked back. I weighed 320 pounds on the day of my wedding in 1996. I weighed 330 pounds in 2000, when I hiked the Grand Canyon. I weighed 360 pounds in 2006, when I took a position as an associate principal. And I weighed 375 pounds in 2008, when I became a principal.

In August of 2009, after a year of bachelorhood and the stress of being a first year principal I weighed 404 pounds, my personal high point.

So this morning, when I stepped on the scale, and it said:


…I might have been a touch excited. 🙂

So to recap, as of this morning, I have hit a 21 year low for body weight, lost a total of 104.4 pounds from my high point, lost 81.4 pounds since August 17, 2012, and lowered my BMI from 49.4 to 38.8 in the same time frame!!

Yep, it’s been a damn good year!!



A 24 Hour Kayaking Menu

In my most recent blog, 40th Birthday…Fishsticks to Sushi-Style, I talked about Chad’s and my first kayaking-camping trip. We took a short trip for our first time, just less than 24 hours, just to see how it would go. One of the biggest challenges was packing, since we had to fit everything in the kayaks. That meant because we’d have limited space, we would have to avoid over-packing, and since most people I know, including myself, pack WAY more than they need whenever they go camping, I wanted to try and pack as wisely as possible. When got home, I recorded my calories burned and calories eaten, just for fun. (Yes, us dietitians are a wild and crazy bunch!)


Our kitchen: a canister of gas which feeds the stove is surrounded by a windbreak, with pasta cooking in our set of pans.

Even though we didn’t have a campfire to cook on (which we saw some campers use with tripods they set up on the beach,) we did, thanks to my father-in-law Gene, have a gas cook stove. We had used this during a trip to the Grand Canyon years ago, and we had forgotten how great it was! This allowed us to boil water for cooking, which it did very quickly. Also, we had a set of 3 pans, a couple plates and reusable camping utensils. All of this took up less space than 2 loaves of bread. Also, because I am a food snob, I needed to have a bit more access to flavor. My indulgence on the trip? My Mobile Foodie Survival Kit! Smaller than a paper towel tube, this travel spice rack provides a little zing to almost any dish…one of my most dorky possessions, but I LOVE IT!

Knowing what cooking methods were available to us, I designed an easy, mostly-healthy menu:

Letting my dork flag fly!

Letting my dork flag fly!

Lunch (In the kayaks)

  • Kashi Dark Chocolate and Coconut granola bars
  • Mini Baby Bel Light Cheese Wheels
  • Trader Joes 100% fruit wraps
  • Apples


  • Velveeta Shells and Cheese: Chad had the original and I has queso blanco. I wanted to have a hot meal, since our lunches and snacks will all be room temperature. (Something to note; we each ate a WHOLE box, designed for 3 servings! We didn’t have lots of other things with this meal and as you’ll soon see, we did burn a lot of calories. The other concern is the large amount of sodium, but as hot as it was, I was fine to use that sodium to replace what I lost in sweat.)
  • I also added a single-serve pouch or ready-to eat salmon for some extra protein and to be honest, to glam it up a bit! Chad had a hard boiled egg as a “side” with his pasta.
  • My flourish was a bit of dill from my traveling spice rack, while Chad used cayenne pepper.

    Salmon with pasta in white sauce with dill...Ooh La La!

    Salmon with pasta in white sauce with dill…Ooh La La!


  • We brought 3 gallons of water, which turned out to be more than we needed. Chad also brought some Crystal Light concentrated flavor enhancer for his water bottle.
  • Chad made up a Nalgene bottle of Salty Dogs for the evening (100% pink grapefruit juice, vodka and a couple pinches of salt. The salt serves the same purpose as a salty rim.) Refreshing!


  • Coffee: We have a French press, but to save space, we used Starbucks instant Via. (I know, some coffee drinkers will scoff at this, but let me tell you, it hits the spot just fine during a camping trip!)
  • Oatmeal: we used the single serve packets so they were already flavored, and you may notice below I had two packets to fill me up for the morning workout. (But I did have extra cinnamon in my spice rack.)
  • Raisins: to jazz up the oatmeal and give and extra burst of energy in the morning.
  • Hard-boiled Eggs: we boiled and peeled them at home so they were ready to eat, with salt and pepper from the spice rack.

Lunch (At the boat landing)

  • Everything Bagels
  • Mini Baby Bel Cheese
  • Hummus

We also packed some trail mix in case we needed more food; like I said, we weren’t sure how long we would be on the water or how hungry we would get. We were able to pack all the food in just two small, soft-sided coolers, one room temp and one with ice. We obviously could have packed either more healthy food or more junk food, but this menu suited us just fine. (In the end, we came back with just a few apples, cheeses and granola bars.)

Now, let’s also look at my calories burned. For me, myfitnesspal.com estimated I burned just under 900 calories per day. Obviously it depends on how hard we worked, but serves as a pretty good ballpark number. Putting food and exercise together (adding Saturday’s breakfast and Sunday’s dinner,) this is what the weekend looked like:Slide1

Slide2I didn’t try to restrict anything I ate, but I didn’t go crazy with treats, either, and I’m pleasantly surprised with how this worked out! Doing the math, with the 1200 calories I try to stay close to and the 884 calories estimated in kayaking, that gives me over 2000 calories per day. Both days were pretty darn close to that, considering there are lots of estimations here and I didn’t make any effort to count calories during these days. Having said that, since it was my 40th celebration, perhaps I should have tried harder to be bad!

As with the whole trip in general, we now have confidence we could repeat this, or even take a multi-day trip. We have an idea of what food tastes good after a hot day on the water, and know how much we need to pack, so we won’t have to bring coolers full of food just to have most of it go uneaten…but we may want to pack a few more of those Salty Dogs! 😉

40th Birthday…Fishsticks to Sushi-Style!

I apologize a bit for the length of this one, but as its my 40th birthday post, I reserve the right to ramble!

This June I turned 40. If you know me personally, and missed it, don’t feel bad, because the day passed as any other, which was as I wanted it. I didn’t make a big deal of it because I have had a pretty bad relationship with my birthdays. I remember that even as a kid, birthdays were a bit sad for me; even then I felt life was whizzing by way too fast, and birthdays only reminded me of that. (Pretty depressing for a kid, eh?)

So with a pretty big landmark birthday approaching, I had thought long and hard about how I wanted to handle it…I mean “celebrate.” 😉 Please don’t misunderstand; I am incredibly grateful I am having another birthday. I relish the facts that I am healthy and have a full and happy life. I feel incredibly blessed. And it is because of these feelings that a birthday party just didn’t seem to suffice. I did want to mark the occasion, but wanted to DO something, something I have never done before but that I have been wishing for. (So things like bungee-jumping were NOT on the list!) This spring it came to me…a kayak trip on the Wisconsin River with a night camping on a sandbar! Why, you ask? Well, growing up, my family made countless trips over the river as we were cruising up and down Wisconsin’s highways, and I can remember looking down and seeing the sandbars in the sparkling river, sheltered by the vibrant green along the river bank, and it just looked like a great place to be. I had told Chad that someday I wanted to camp there, and since we recently started kayaking (day trips only up to this point) it seemed like this wish might actually come true.

Before 40 X 40, kayaking on the Red Cedar River.

Before 40 X 40, kayaking on the Red Cedar River in Northern Wisconsin.

I also recently learned another factor that obviously played into my developing this wish…it’s my mom’s wish, too! She told me she had the same thoughts as we went over the river, so no doubt I heard her and adopted this dream as my own. Therefore, I am doubly glad I was able to make this happen…and now I can take her on her own trip someday. (Start looking at your calendar for next year, Mom!)

Now, since my birthday was in June and I’m writing this in August, you are correct in assuming I didn’t do this on my actual day-of-birth. In June we were in the planning stages of moving and Chad’s school year was still wrapping up. Also, the water and air temperatures would have been much colder! And since I’m weird about birthdays, as previously discussed, I didn’t care when we went, as long as it was sometime this summer. Spoiler: I got my birthday wish, and it was everything I hoped for!

Not a lot of storage in my cheap, starter kayak. Chad gets to do most of the hauling!

Not a lot of storage in my cheap, starter kayak. Chad gets to do most of the hauling!

We launched Saturday afternoon to cover a 14-mile stretch of the Wisconsin River, from the north end of Sauk City, Wisconsin to Arena, WI, with one night of camping. (There are longer sections and multi-day trips we could have taken, but having never overnight-ed using our kayaks, we wanted to be sure we could carry what we needed without swamping the kayaks!)

We paddled only moderately hard, and stopped once to stretch our legs. We had eaten breakfast but not lunch by then, and since we weren’t sure how fast we would be traveling, we ate on the water as we went. It was a gorgeous day! Temperatures were in the low 80’s and we had a slight breeze. We did have some clouds, but it was mostly sunny, and Chad and I did our due diligence with the sunscreen. The river was wider than anything we had kayaked on before, and though we saw several groups of people out for short trips in kayak, canoes and tubes, after leaving the Sauk Prairie area we only saw 1 or 2 groups at any one time. After a couple hours it was already past 4 PM. We had made pretty good time, making it more than halfway in just three hours, so we figured we could start looking for a place to camp. We had read that this stretch has miles of sandy beaches and sandbars on which to camp, and no permit is needed, but it can sometimes get crowded. We were hoping to avoid as many people as possible, and not have a RV/Camperland type of population to deal with…that was NOT part of my birthday wish! It didn’t take too long until we came across the PERFECT place! IMG_20130824_173509_849

There was someone already camping on a spot that looked good, so we went ashore on the next sandbar to look around. It had a wide open beach, but high enough that we were sure we wouldn’t get wet from any rise in the river. We could stroll almost all the way around it about 5-10 minutes, and the center had tall grasses…great for when nature called!

I think destiny is telling us where to camp! We added our own cairns to the collection, too.

I think destiny is telling us where to camp! We added our own cairns to the collection, too.

We set up the tent and unloaded our gear, then Chad went about making dinner; even though we didn’t paddle too hard, kayaking is still a bit of work, and with the warm temps, we were deliciously tired and hungry. We ate a tasty meal (more on that later) and watched the sunset behind the bluff. [One thing we did not do, since we didn’t want to have to deal with firewood on this trip without knowing more about the capacity of our kayaks, was have a campfire on the beach. However, next time that is a MUST!]

Sunset on "Sandbar Swader."

Sunset on “Sandbar Swader.”

After a nice stroll around “our island,” (no one ever joined us, so we had the place to ourselves!) we sat down to play some cards and enjoy the cocktails that Chad had wisely packed for us. We knew the next day would be even hotter, so we turned in not too long after sunset, with thoughts of getting on the water early. I fell asleep looking out of

my tent at the water and listening to gulls, geese and fish jumping in the shallows just inches off shore. It was amazing.

The breathtaking view from my tent at sunrise.

The breathtaking view from my tent at sunrise.

I woke up a bit before sunrise, and was able to snap some pictures of the beach without ever getting out of bed! There was a slightly cool breeze, but it never got chilly in the tent. Then I promptly fell into another peaceful sleep while watching the horizon, and we woke when it was full light. We were able to enjoy our hot breakfast and coffee (iced for me, hot for Chad) before we quickly and easy de-camped. We waded out into the water in the warm morning sun, and after a quick splash to freshen up, we were on our way. We left camp at 9 AM, a bit later than we expected, but since we had no schedule, it really didn’t matter!

It turned out camping where we did was great for more than just one reason. The next day was a bit windy, and though I don’t know if it was the changing weather or that stretch of water, I’m glad we were rested and fed before we paddled that section. If we stopped the wind would not only cancel out the current, but in some spots we were pushed backwards! Not that it was too rough to deal with; it only lasted for small bits at a time, the breeze felt good, and it was another sunny, beautiful day! Also, the next area we came across did have multiple tents camped together, so we were fortunate not to have that company! We saw a couple bald eagles that morning, and Chad started scoping out other places he would be willing to camp, either on a repeat trip or perhaps a longer one. I take this as a very positive sign that he enjoyed himself; as I was totally geeking out with joy the previous night, raving about our great beach, wonderful weather and the tastiest camp food ever, he seemed stunned that I would be SO happy. After all, we were “just camping,” right? But the fact that he at least enjoyed himself enough to want to do this again made me think I didn’t have some weirdo wish, and that other, more normal people would enjoy this, too!

As we were coming up to the Arena, Wisconsin boat landing, which is quite a busy one, we saw several groups either finishing up or just starting a Sunday day-trip. We were off the water after just another three hours of paddling/floating, and since we worked a bit harder this stretch than the day before, we had a picnic lunch at the landing before we loaded up to head home.

Living life and and loving it!

Living life and and loving it!

As I stood on the beach Saturday night with the sun setting in front of us, I knew I made the right choice when I decided to have this as my 40th birthday celebration. While I do hope that this won’t be the last time I camp on a sandbar, it will always stick out in my memory as the first, and best, time; the time when it was just Chad and I on a secluded sandbar with perfect weather, a beautiful sunset followed by a beautiful sunrise. So am I weird about birthdays? Yes. But I couldn’t be happier that instead of just marking the day as it came and went, I went out and LIVED…isn’t that what we are supposed to be celebrating, after all?

But wait, there’s more! Of course I will talk about food as well, so the next post will follow shortly to address the food and exercise part of the trip.

Weeks 42-52 Weigh ins….And Mea Culpas galore!!

So, this is my first post since June 2nd. My fault. Between finishing up in Rice Lake, starting up in Sauk Prairie, moving my entire life from Rice Lake to Waterloo, commuting 47 miles one way from Waterloo to Sauk Prairie, going to Canada, and training for and completing the 60-mile 3 Days for a Cure, I haven’t made this blog a priority. Mea Culpa. I hope you will accept my apology, and continue to read on.

On my last post, June 2nd, I weighed 303.2. Then Week #42 was 303.6; #43 = 308.6 (Week in Trego at cabin), #44 = 310 (no excuse), #45 = 302.4 (Worked my tail off), #46 = 303.4 (little setback), #47 = 301.6 (getting there!), #48 = 301.6 (static!), #49 = 311.3 (Canada!), #50 = 304.2 (Back to working my tail off), #51 = 300.5 (so damn close!!), #52 = 302.5 (3 Day walk, still a bit swollen and likely water weight, but I’m totally ok with that.)

Tomorrow is my 40th birthday, that means that “40 by 40” has come to an end. Lets review the successes and failures of the year, shall we? I started the year, last August 17th, at 381 pounds. I now weigh 302.5. I’ve lost 78.5 pounds, an average of 1.5 pounds per week!!! I think just about anyone would tell you that is an amazing year and a really healthy rate of loss. Measured in pounds, no doubt, 40 by 40 has been a success!!!

On August 17, 2012, my BMI was 49.38. (Normal is below 25 and obese is over 30.) (Right Michelle?) Today, my BMI is 39.21!! I’m not a mathematician, but that number, 39.2, looks to be below 40 to me. And since the title of this project was “40 by 40,” referencing my goal to have a BMI under 40 by the time I turned 40, and since I turn 40 tomorrow, measured by BMI, again the last year has been a smashing success!!!

My blood pressure, blood sugar, and joint pain were all out of control a year ago. Today, I have a normal blood pressure (though still controlled by medication), my A1C has dropped down to 5.4, well into the normal range, and other than the aches I have from walking 60 miles last weekend…wait a minute, let’s jsut say my joints are in good enough shape that I could walk 60 miles if I wanted to!! Health-wise, this last year has been a smashing success!!!

If there has been a failure, it is this. I hit my 40 BMI goal for the first time in April, after only 8 months! At that time, I reset and established a goal of 35. I did not make it. The last 4 months have been some of the most hectic of my life, and I was not able to focus the way I needed to keep up the pace of loss over the entire year that I had established in the fall and winter. That means I did not hit a goal I had set, and that is failure.

However, through all the stressors of the last 4 months, I never weighed more than 311 pounds, within 3 pounds of the 40 BMI mark, and I continued to trend down in terms of overall weight, even if the pace slowed considerably. The old me was a stress eater. The more I stressed, the more I ate. The new me doesn’t do that. I may occasionally put too much in my mouth, but that happens briefly, for very short periods of time, and then I work out like a madman to try to  counteract the effects. In the last year I’ve learned that exercise is a much more effective stress reliever than eating. Go figure?

I absolutely could not have done as well as I have, without the support of everyone who reads this blog. Making my journey a public things was super scary at first, but the rewards of this public accountability, combined with the unwavering support of so many of you, have made this one of the most rewarding years of my life. Thank so much for that wonderful gift!

My co-travelers on this trip; myfitnesspal.com friends; my mom and sister; (All of them are the same people by the way) have been the heavy lifters. Every week for the whole year, we held each other accountable to completing our food-logs, a critical step in weight-loss by the way, with encouraging words when things were going well, and not so well. I could not have done this with you, Mary Harnisch and Ellen Race. I love you both and am so proud of the changes you have made in your lives in the last year as well!

Lastly, we all know how lucky I am to have a live-in dietitian. We all know how lucky I am to have a life partner whose love for me is so strong I can sometimes feel it’s presence like it is a physical thing. We all know how lucky I am to have found so young, and held for so long, someone who is the perfect match for me and whom I am comfortable loving for all time. Michelle, baby, I love you so much! And your love, support, expertise, patience and partnership have been so inspiring, so transformative, so comfortable! I don’t know what took me so long to figure it out; but I am so grateful that you hung with me. Thank you for everything you have done for me and with me. I look forward to 40 years of trying to pay you back!!

I have more I want to say, a long post about the amazing experience of the 3 Day, and another about my next goal. But I will save it for another day. It’s time to go home, celebrate my successes, and get ready for the next challenge. Talk to you all soon.

Be careful out there!!