A 5-Step Weight Loss Game Plan

Jenny was just plain tired of the heat. She was tired of wearing long pants to her son’s baseball games in the summer, tired of her thighs rubbing together until they were raw and tired of the embarrassment she felt for being overweight. So last December Jenny made a decision. She was going to lose the weight. She didn’t know how she was going to lose the weight. Or, even when she was going to lose the weight. But she knew in her heart she was definitely going to lose the weight.

You’d never imagine that this slender size 6 wife and Mom of 3 had ever been 100 pounds overweight. She’s bubbly. Engaging. Talkative and energized. She’s got gorgeous long auburn hair and a smile to match. So when she casually mentioned that she’d lost 100 pounds the year before as I perused her garage sale, I just had to know more. How she did it. Why she did it. What was her magic bullet, her trick?

The One Thing at a Time Diet
Jenny told me there was no trick. She woke up the day after Christmas and decided that she was important. That she mattered to herself, and to her family and to God. So she took the ‘one thing at a time’ approach to weight loss. No fad diets. No insane workout schedules. Very little calorie counting. And no deprivation. Jenny simply decided to take care of herself. That’s it.

“I decided that I would start taking care of myself, as well as I take care of everyone else. I started small. Simple things like doing my hair in the morning and shaving my legs every day. Those little things were the catalyst to my 100 pound weight loss.” Jenny joined Weight Watchers Online and worked the program. She even deviated from the program. But Weight Watchers Online combined with Jenny’s intentional declaration made all the difference. The pounds came off slowly but steadily at the rate of about 3 .5 pounds per month. She added in some light exercise in the form of Piyo (a combination of Yoga and Pilates).

Fighting Back Fear
You can tell from Jenny’s smile that 100 pounds lighter feels delightful. She still battles her inner demons…the ones she fights when she wakes up in the morning and still believes she’s a size 22 until she pats her tummy and checks her hips and assures herself she hasn’t gained the weight back.

Jenny just went back to work after 14 years of being a stay at home Mom. She’s reveling in the fact that she can wear shorts to the ballpark. “I wanted to feel young, to be active with my kids and to end my never-ending adult battle with weight.” Jenny went from fat to fit in just under a year with her basic principles of self-care, moderate eating and light exercise. But her true inspiration comes from fielding kid stuff and the joy of being a Mom. “I’m more relaxed now…not so anxious and uptight.” As the weight melted off, so did some of the worries. “Losing weight isn’t about what you eat, it’s about what you think.”

Jenny’s 5-Step Weight Loss Game Plan:
1. Decide. You are important.
2. Take care of yourself. Put yourself first.
3. Eat moderately. Smaller portions. Less junk. More water.
4. Keep the demons at arms length and don’t believe what they tell you. They are lies!
5. Enjoy your life. Celebrate your success.


Does Your Life Need a Before and After?

I love before and after makeover shows.

The ones where the house is falling in and needs a new roof…where the family has been living in a shambles with electrical that doesn’t work and plumbing that’s shot. And then, with the Goliath help of a thousand man crew…the house is rebuilt from the foundation up in 7 days and every single room looks like Ty Pennington personally handled every detail…from the faucets to the throw pillows to the appliances to the perfectly positioned tulips on the lawn. And the family gets treated to an all expenses 7-day vacation in paradise, conveniently removed from all the mess and dust and frustration.

Or there’s the style shows. The one where Stacy and Clinton hand a $5,000 Visa card to a deserving woman who is frumpily stuck in the 80’s and in two whirlwind days she shops til she drops and ends up looking like Cinderella at the ball. She gets styled and coiffed and pitches the clothes that’ve been holding her back from the life of her dreams.

You can do it with weight too. Chris Powell, host of Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition chooses a morbidly obese person to cajole, coach, cry with, train and coddle over the course of a year…usually resulting in at least a 100 pound weight loss. Then, Wal-Mart hands over a $50,000 gift card as a reward.

Life isn’t like this.

You don’t get a new house in a week.
You don’t makeover your closet or your personal style in two days.
And most of us don’t need to lose 100 pounds and certainly couldn’t do it in a year without Chris’ help.

Life is, well, much harder than they make it look.

We don’t have sponsors or TV production crews. We have to go to work and raise kids and squeeze eating and living in around all of it. It’s impossible to have a single focus like these shows make it seem. All magically wrapped up in a 60-minute vinette.

But what you do have to know is what direction you’re going. What do you want to do with your life? What does it look like now? What do you want it to look like after?

Ty isn’t standing in front of your house yelling ‘move that bus.’

Wal-Mart isn’t handing over any gift cards.

No one is doing your hair and make up. Heck, I even ran out of hair product this morning and no one rushed over a replacement.

Life is messy.

It took me 6 years of dating my husband before we said “I Do” (we’ve been married 31).

It took me 7 years to figure out that the chaos full-time work made for my family with 3 small children wasn’t worth it.

It took me 25 years to finish raising my three awesome kids…all the way fretting over what parts I was screwing up.

It took me almost a decade of writing before I considered myself ‘good enough’ to publish.

Good things usually take time. More than we want to give. More than we think we have.

We believe we’re going backward if we don’t see instant results. Just because you can drive through McDonalds and get dinner in less than 10 minutes doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good dinner.

Good things usually need to simmer.

The before and after shows still have things to teach us. They have a plan we can follow.

You have to know what you’re starting with. (The benchmark)

• You have to know where you want to go. (The journey)

• You have to know what success means to you. (The destination)

• You have to know what resources you might need along the way. (The tools)

• You have to know whose on the team and who isn’t. (The team)
When you know these key things, life seems simpler. You feel more content. You can stop wondering and worrying and overprocessing and obsessing. You can simply get to work. You’re on the path. Your path.

I’m suggesting you complete an Extreme Life Makeover. Your life is worth it. It’s a magical mosaic of a million tiny pieces…all coming together to form your days that in turn form your life.

Try this.

Write down what your life before looks like. Every single detail. All the parts. Your health. Your money. Your friends. Your work. Your relationships. Your spirituality. Your house. And the list goes on.

Then, write (or draw) what you want all the parts to look like. Where do you want to live? How much do you want to make? Who do you want to love? What or who do you need to let go? What kind of car do you drive?

Life makeovers are tough because unlike television, you can’t stop everything else and focus on one area. Life is swirling and it never stops.

Tomorrow marks my one-year fitness anniversary. I’m 51 and this is the first time that I’ve spent any concentrated or long-term effort on my health. This time last year I weighed 207.4 pounds. Today I weigh 181.2. Total weight loss = 26.2 pounds. I did two simple things…I joined Weight Watchers and I walked 2 miles a day, 6 days a week.

I wanted to lose 47 pounds. I barely lost half of that.

Did I fail? No.

I’d give myself a C- at Weight Watchers. I didn’t track. I didn’t eat Power Foods or drink a ton of water. I did attend the 30 minute weekly meeting and I did weigh in.

I’d give myself an A- at walking. I walked 6 days a week regardless of everything else that was going on. Sometimes I got up early. Sometimes I had to walk on vacation. But I did walk.

Were there other benefits of this fitness makeover? Definitely. My mind is stronger. My body is stronger. My clothes are smaller. My energy is higher (even though most would say that my trademark energy was already off the charts). My blood pressure is insanely good.

One decision moved me in the right direction. One decision and daily perseverance. Before, I was fat. After, I’m healthy. And happy with how walking makes me feel.

This is the formula to use. A decision and daily action steps. Steps that will take you to the life of your dreams.

Don’t worry that Ty Pennington or Stacy and Clinton or Chris Powell aren’t going to show up in your life. You’re not going to win the lottery. Sadly, Santa isn’t real.

You have the power to change. It’s in you. You possess everything you need to produce your own before and after life makeover.

You can create your own amazing life. Step by step.

The Power of a Good Cry

I used to be one of those women who cried at the drop of a hat. I’d tear up at the sound of a bluesy song, the sight of a new baby or at the swell of a dramatic news story.

Then I got older.

I started taking medication for my ADHD and I stopped crying. It dulled my emotions and took away my tears.

I missed them.

So I quit taking the medication. It wasn’t simply about the lack of fluid in my tearducts. After all, my life didn’t get any better with it (the medication, that is). And I liked the thing that made me me. Tears. Joy. Excitement. Enthusiasm. Love.

I’m one of those people who is loud and animated and who some call crazy. I don’t care.

I like to think I love bigger, I feel deeper and I show it more openly than most. Some don’t even know how to be around a woman who’s like this. Thank God my husband embraces me and the things that make me me.

Our society shys away from tears. Oh, you can cry at funerals if you make sure to dab away the tears before they fall to your cheeks. Sadly, last summer one of my best friends buried her 6-week old grandson who died in his sleep. Her other grandson who was 6 at the time was weeping during the graveside service like a wounded animal. Hearing his moans almost brought me to my knees.

He was hurting. He was devastated. And at age 6, it’s okay to show it.

The rest of us wanted to moan too. The rest of us wanted to collapse into a heap with him. The bereaved Mom of the baby who had died lifted this sobbing child onto her lap for comfort. Hers and his.

It was a broken day. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. Brokenness all around.

So why do we try so hard to keep it all together when everything’s falling apart.

We view it as a ‘weakness’ to cry.

It is not.

Tears are the medicine of angels. They heal us from the inside out. When we allow these toxic emotions to invade our body and our soul, we break down. Literally. We get sick. And after doing this for too many years we can’t go on. People die.

Don’t be afraid to cry. Let your body feel what’s quaking in your soul. Let it out. If you don’t, the pressure builds up and you dare to explode. Or worse yet, implode.

So cry. Your tears have power. They are there for a reason. To heal you. To comfort you. To change you.

It takes strength to feel.

7 Ways To Be Brave When Your Knees Are Shaking

Hurricane Sandy just hit the East Coast. Horrifically, some lost their lives. Some lost everything they ever worked for. Some lost their homes for the short-term and some simply lost some sleep.

Manhattan was literally blacked out and taking on water in the subway systems. The David Letterman audience wasn’t there for the monologue and the Good Morning America Extreme Weather team was reporting from all over the East Coast.

Sometimes life can feel like a hurricane, things swirling about us threatening to destroy our sanity and our safe places. But what if some of those places we believe to be our refuge really aren’t that safe? What if our sanity needed shaking up a bit. What if it’s time for us to start over in a new place, in a new life, in a new destiny.

Maybe you’re a little too comfortable.

Maybe life is a little too easy.

Maybe it’s time to s-t-r-e-t-c-h.

Bravery is mostly taught to be a guy thing. You know, Gladiator and Braveheart. The Wild West. Warriors and weapons. Women seldom hear the words “Be brave.” So I’m going to tell you.

Be brave.

I even want you to join a club. It’s free and it will teach you how to be braver than you ever knew how. It’s called the Brave Girls Club. You can check it out by going to http://www.BraveGirlsClub.com.

But how can you be really brave when your knees are shaking? How can you be brave when you want to run away and hide? That’s a girl thing. Wanting to be taken care of. Wanting to be comforted and shielded from harm. A girl thing. NOT a woman thing.

A woman has to be brave. A woman who wants to control her own destiny MUST be brave.

Bravery is learned. You get braver every time you take a step toward making your own decisions without relying on what everyone else thinks. You get braver when you speak up in your own defense, even if it’s simply to tell a waitress she brought the wrong order. You get braver when you decide that your life is your own, and that it’s magical and spiritual and that it really, really matters.

Be brave.

Here’s 7 ways to be brave when your knees are literally shaking:
#1: Breathe. B-R-E-A-T-H-E. When emotion overwhelms you, breathing can center you. Take a deep breathe and start again.

#2: Make eye contact. Don’t look down or around or at your feet. When you’ve got something to take care of, let your eyes make the statement.

#3: Wear an amazing bra and underwear. There’s something about feminine power that’s unleashed when you look good underneath.

#4: Pray. God is on your side. He wants you to be brave. He made you strong and confident. Own it.

#5: Call a friend. Tell her to tell you to ‘be brave’. Have her kick you in the butt if you need it. Sometimes knowing you have an ally in your corner makes all the difference. (This isn’t about asking her opinion…this is to say I’m going to do this and I need you in my corner.)

#6: Don’t overthink. Women get paralyzed in their own heads. Don’t retreat…attack. Move forward. Be brave.

#7: Pretend. No one can tell the difference. They don’t know your blood pressure is on the rise or that your palms are sweating. Pretending (faking it) is sometimes the best way to getting what you want.

I was a 23-year old ad agency exec (aka grunt) who knew I was severely underpaid. I was also privey to what others were making. My boss called me in at review time to give me a $3,000 raise. I told him “I was more valuable to the firm.” That’s all I said. I am more valuable. His response…”you’re right”. Your raise is $7,000. I was brave. (Oh alright, young and maybe a bit arrogant and stupid too.)

If I hadn’t been brave, I’d have been $4,000 poorer.

I would’ve resented the staff I knew was making more than me, while I was doing better work.

I probably would’ve quit soon thereafter to go to a better job.

But I didn’t have to because even though my knees were shaking and I thought I was going to cry, I said my peace. I was brave.

In spite of what’s going on in your life, be it a hurricane or a thunderstorm or a broken relationship or a broken heart, you can be brave. It’s in you.

Art image by Mae Chevrette (she’s got really, really cool art…check out her Etsy shop at http://maechevrette.etsy.com )
Thousands of brave women subscribe to The Brave Girls Club (www.BraveGirlsClub.com) created by Kathy Wilkins & Melody Ross. Join them.

5 Simple Steps for How To Get More Of What You Want

My grandson Max is almost 3. He asked me if I wanted to be a pirate for Halloween and I instantly said yes. The way he presented it to me was irresistible. He got in close, he made eye-contact and he waited for an answer without flinching.

He knew what he wanted. He wanted Grandma to be a pirate. So guess what…I’m driving to US Toy to hunt for pirate hats, eye patches, a hook arm (for Grandpa) and wondering which thrift store I can hit to buy a white blouse and a vest. I’ve even turned this into an opportunity to buy some tall brown boots I’ve been wanting since last season. I’ll be adding gold necklaces and huge gold hoops to top it off and there may even be a parrot perched on my shoulder.

Secretly, I’m wanting to look as good as Penelope Cruise co-starring with Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Never downplay the influence of a 3-year old in getting what he wants. You can use this same magic to get more of what you want in your life whether you’re ordering a meal, asking for a raise or or buying a new house.

5 Simple Steps for How To Get More Of What You Want:

#1: Know what you want. Do you want to be a pirate or Cinderella? Do you want to trick or treat around the neighborhood or go to the mall?

#2: Don’t overanalyze. Women especially play through at least 5 different scenarios of outcomes before we do anything. I call this the ‘retreat mode’. We talk ourselves out of things before we even get started.

#3: ASK. You have to ask for what you want. Make eye contact. Don’t flinch. You have to let it be made known than you WANT SOMETHING. It’s okay to want something. It’s even better to get it. If you don’t ask, the answer will almost always be NO.

#4: Be more childlike. Don’t question every single thing you do. Be silly. Be yourself. Allow yourself some fun. I thought about the last time I’d dressed up for Halloween and it was in 1986, when my daughter Candice (Max’s Mom) was 1 year old. We even hosted a Halloween party that year. She was Superbaby and Dennis and I were Supermom and Superdad.

#5: Go with it. Once you decide, don’t waffle. I’m over 50. Dressing up like a pirate for Halloween isn’t exactly ‘mature behavior.’ But the excitement I feel for this Halloween and being with Max all dressed up outdoes my last 25 Halloweens all put together. In other words, celebrate!

Life doesn’t give us what we deserve. Life gives us what we ask for. So ASK. And then go celebrate when the answer is yes. Arrrgghhh Matey!

The Quest for Perfection

We’re all waiting on something. Until we get that degree. Until the baby gets bigger. Until our Mom isn’t sick. Until we have more money in the bank. We’re all waiting on life to give us the green light, but life isn’t that way. Life is like living in a perpetual yellow signal. Do you go? Do you proceed with caution? Do you stop completely?

The truth is…life’s never going to be perfect. Never. Ever. Ever. It’s like wanting to have your house sparkling and your car clean at the same time. It rarely happens. There is only so much energy to go around and if one is getting it, the other probably isn’t. Life is messy. Raw. Imperfect. And perfectly lovely.

I looked around the house this morning. The laundry’s pretty caught up and the kitchen is clean. I already took the trash out and all I have to do is make the bed. The carpet needs replaced and the outside siding can only make it about one more winter. I don’t even really like this house…so I don’t spend a lot of time tending to it.

But for today, this is where we live.

I’ve lived in some glorious places in my adult life. A mega-mansion. Apartments. Lovely estate homes. A saltbox in the country. I’ve had it all and I didn’t appreciate it. Took it for granted. ‘Til it was gone.

And now I sit in a suburban 3-bedroom raised ranch with crappy carpet and a tiny shower. I rarely spend time updating because I consider it a waste of money. But is it? Isn’t this where I spend my hours and love my family. Isn’t this where I make love to my husband and teach my grandbaby to bake.

It’s not perfect. I’d prefer to be living somewhere else because after all, at 51 aren’t you supposed to have ‘made it’. Aren’t you supposed to know what you want to be? Isn’t the bank account supposed to be bigger? The problems smaller? I’m simply being truthful. I’m going to stop my quest for perfection. I’m going to settle in and make a good meal for tonight. I’ll write around the crappy carpet and maybe even look into having it replaced.

I’ll water my mums on the front stoop and say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for this home and the warmth inside it. I might even buy a bouquet of flowers for the kitchen counter. I’m on a quest…it’s simply not for perfection…it’s for loving life.

How To Create Your Very Own Dream Board

Goal: To create a magnificent piece of inspiration in under an hour (or two) that encourages you to pursue your very own beautiful life.

• Old magazines (libraries sometimes give these away if you don’t have any or ask your friends)
• Scissors
• Glue-stick
• Colored markers (yes, you can use crayons)
• Large poster board (I prefer foam core because I save these for years!)
• Fabric, buttons, embellishments of any kind to add
• Good upbeat or soothing music (depending on the mood you want to create to)
• Cup of tea or a Diet Coke
Hint: This is a perfect project to do with a girlfriend (don’t invite anyone who doesn’t know how to dream…they’ll kill the project.)

How-To Dream: Most of us have tucked our dreams away deep down in the recesses of our hearts. Sometimes this happens because we’ve failed at something and are stuck. Sometimes we were never taught to dream at all and we have to be taught. Perhaps we’re living too comfy, cozy and need to stretch a bit. Wherever you are, it’s ok. Open your heart.

How-To Start: Start by flipping through the magazines. As you flip the pages, I want you to start listening to your heart. Tear out pictures that you love. Lots of them. No editing allowed. Focus on what colors draw you in and inspire you. Let the pictures pile up.

If you have particular things stored on your computer (your Pinterest boards, quotes you love, pics of family) that you want to use, print these out. If beautiful houses inspire you, use home decorating magazines. If you’re a foodie (which I’m not other than eating it), use gourmet food magazines.

You might have 50 or 100 pages of inspiration by the time you’re finished. Watch for words that inspire you and really, really let your dreams come out. Don’t filter your dreams. They are real. They were given to you for a unique reason. You matter. No dream is to big or unreasonable or impractical.

If you’re arty, draw your dreams. If you’re like me, cutting and gluing will be as good as it gets.

How-To Edit: Now, start sorting. Stack up all the pictures and start editing them down. You might have pictures of puppies or families or Italy or the beach. Look at the pictures and decide what you really want your dreams to be. Are those really your dreams? Or are they someone else’s dream? Differentiate.

Edit and start gluing. Overlap photos and words and turn it all into a whimsical treasure that belongs solely to you and your heart. .

Add fabric or embellishments, buttons or old pics. Use the colored markers to draw borders or words with

When you’re done gluing and drawing, stand back. Take a picture if you can. Post your dream board where you can refer to it often and don’t let anyone put a damper on your dreams. They are YOURS. They belong to your life. They are no one else’s. (I post mine in my closet so I can see it everyday, at least twice a day.)

When You’re Done: Celebrate! Do a happy dance. Call a supportive friend. Smile.

Dreams are real. They exist. It is up to you to create the life you want to live, no matter what it looks like today. I want you to make your life your DREAM come true. And I especially hope that your Dream Board will inspire you to do it.

Dream BIG and never, ever, ever give up on your dreams!

Love-Cheryl XXOO