Give yourself a theme song

ImageThe Brady Bunch kids have one.

So does Mr. Ed. Even George and Weezie Jefferson have their own.

What? A theme song. You know, a signature song that tells your story or proclaims your future.

Well, it’s my opinion that you don’t have to have a TV show or live in a deluxe apartment in the sky to have a song. We all need one; something that gives you hope, makes you dance and focuses you back on the mission at hand: enjoying life.

A lot of times people give themselves a theme song without even intending to do so. They sing the same sad song over and over in their head: Whoa is me, I’ll never be anything Boo, hoo… life is so hard.

Today’s the day for a new song. You need something that reminds you that life – although filled with twists and turns, detours and stalls – will get better.

In my 20s, my theme song was the chorus of the G-rated version of “Who’s that Girl?” by Eve. I’d walk down the street humming the song to myself:

Who’s that girl???

La la la la La la la la

Marie’s that girl.

Instantly, I’d stand straighter and wear a little smirk because I knew what other people may not have known, I am THAT girl (who will succeed and live life to the fullest).

Years later, I updated my song to Jill Scott’s “Golden.”

I’m taking my freedom,

Pulling it off the shelf,

Putting it on my chain,

Wear it around my neck,

I’m taking my freedom,

Putting it in my car,

Wherever I choose to go,

It will take me far,

I’m livin’ my life like it’s golden…

These days, I’ve got a new song. It’s another Jill Scott ditty called “Blessed.”

I woke up in the morning feeling fresh to def

I’m so blessed yes, yes

I went to sleep stressed woke up refreshed

I’m so blessed yeah yes

Water in my face and everything is in it’s place peace of mind even my grace

I’m so blessed yes yes yes

When you’re stuck in traffic, sing your song. When your kids get sticky hands all over your dress, sing your song. Hubby’s working your nerves? Sing your song.

Life has pressures. Why not at least give yourself a song?

Happy singing.

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That dress…

I spotted that dress in one of those pricey, fashion-forward stores and had to have it. That cute little V-neck, plum-colored sweater dress called to me.

“Psst…girlfriend,” it said. “Buy me and from the front you’ll have the silhouette of a Coca-Cola bottle and from the back, POW!, it’ll be J-Lo action.”

That’s all I needed to hear. I bought the dress and wore it to an event, strutting all night while my hubby looked at me like, “Yeah, she’s with me.”

Then, after months of eating mountains of chips, munching on lots of leaning towers of cookies and joining in scores of late-night eating binges, the dress began to reveal my imperfections. Instead of a Coke bottle, I looked more like a 2-liter and my J-Lo action was more like J-Large.

I vowed to get skinny and wear my dress again when I shed a few pounds.

Well, the few pounds came, but in the opposite direction. And, the more weight I put on, the further back into the closet I moved the dress.

Each winter, I would revisit it and sigh because I could no longer get into it. Each year, I would vow and each year the result was the same – no dress.

Last year, I gathered clothes to give away to charity and reluctantly tossed the dress into the box. I told myself that I would never get in it; I’d resolved to being a “big girl.”

This year, however, and to my surprise, I lost 22 pounds (make that 20 now that the holidays are here). My stringent routine of counting calories paid off. The weight fell off and each time I see that number on the scale, I am stunned.

Recently, I was looking for something to wear to an event and my husband commented, “Why don’t you wear that purple dress?”

“Oh yeah,” I said and rushed to the closet, moving all my big-girl clothes to the side in search of my skinny-girl uniform. Then, I remembered that I had given it away.

I felt deflated. Not only was I glum because I no longer had my beloved dress, but I was sad that I had given up hope that I would ever lose weight and get in that dress.

I didn’t think I had what it takes to be one of those women who have the will power to do it.

I was wrong.

When I got tired of feeling sluggish and sick of not liking what I saw in the mirror, I did something about it. When I did, and got serious for real, my body quickly complied as if it had been waiting for me to do so all along.

The lesson? Don’t give up on yourself. The coming year could be the year that you get your skinny back. And, believe me, you can. If I, a potato chip eating, deep-pan pizza ordering, always has the munchies 30-something year old, can, then so can you. As long as there is breath in your body, there is hope.

Geez…If I had hope back then, maybe I would still have that dress. But, of course, there is a bright side: a shopping trip in my near future.

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Just eat the serving size? Yeah, right

Every day I say I am going to stop. That’s it. No more.

But then, the craving starts and I want it…BAD.

I long for the blissful feeling of my teeth crunching down upon a piece of light, salty, crispy heaven. I am addicted to potato chips, particularly those coated with sour cream and onion yumminess.

Although they seem harmless enough, eating too many chips can have a negative impact on your health. And, since I am battling high blood pressure, salty snacks of that kind can wreak havoc on my body.

Every time I have one of my chip binges (picture a family-size bag devoured in minutes), my blood pressure spikes and a boatload of calories get dumped into my daily caloric coffer.

Whoever said, “You can’t eat just one,” was either a prophet of casting a curse. I go through the same scenario over and over: First it’s just one chip, then two, three and …oops, how did that bag get empty?

Then, instantly, I have chip remorse and wider hips to boot. Argh…

A Harvard study that was published in the June 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine showed that chips were the absolute worst when it comes to food that contributes to weight gain. (Darn you, Mr. Lays.) For each extra serving of potato chips we eat a day, expect to gain about 1.69 lbs. every four years. That adds up. After a few years, you’ll go from being svelte to having the same silhouette as a potato.

There have been times when after a chip binge, I would wake up in the middle of the night and feel my head throbbing, heart racing and a nervous feeling of terror shooting through my body. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

How sad, and senseless, it would be if I had. I don’t want my tombstone to someday read:

There she Lays, a young woman who couldn’t eat just one.

Experts recommend that if you don’t want chips to be your downfall, start with simply eating the serving size. To that, I say, “That’s easier said than done.” The average grab bag in the store has two, and sometimes two-and-a-half, servings. For me, once the bag is open, it’s ovah.

Health professionals also recommend trying baked chips, the ones with no Trans fats or those low in sodium. But, trust me, for me, a chip is a chip and I will overdo it whether it’s a smart chip or a dumb one.

I’d rather find an alternative altogether. I can’t resist the salty, crispy demon spud whether it’s baked, fried, curled or contorted into a smiley face. It’s best that I kick the habit altogether and, starting today (fingers crossed), here are some alternatives I plan to try:

  • Nuts
  • Baby carrots
  • Pickles
  • Chex mix
  • Trail mix
  • Low fat popcorn

Wish me luck!

High blood pressure? Not for my babies

I recently took my three year old son to the doctor for his annual visit. The nurse went through the normal drill:

Weight? Check.

Height? Check.

Temperature? Check.

Then, she pulled out this tiny blood pressure cuff and grabbed his arm to get a reading.

What? Wait! Stop the presses.

They check blood pressure for three year olds?!

Apparently, so. The nurse said that it is now standard to check the blood pressure level of kids once they turn three. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services thinks it’s a good idea. They want to see if kids are predisposed for having problems down the line. If their pressure is at or above the 95th percentile for their age, height and weight, it is considered high blood pressure.

MSNBC recently reported that, “The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in 2004 defined prehypertension in kids as a top blood pressure number between 120 and 139 or a bottom number between 80 and 89. High blood pressure starts at 140 over 90.”

As the nurse began to squeeze the bulb to measure my son’s pressure, I must admit, I held my breath for a moment.

It was a wake-up call. Not only could my genes affect my son and daughter’s propensity for high blood pressure, but so could my daily habits that they soak in indirectly.

It’s not only critical that I get myself together for me, but for my kids, too.

When all was said and done, my son’s blood pressure was normal. (Thank God.) But I left with a more heightened sense of my responsibility in getting a handle on this blood pressure thing.

When I think about the things that I want to pass on to my kids, I think about my love of reading, devotion to God and commitment to hard work. But high blood pressure? No way. Not for my babies. Mama’s got a new attitude.

Wanna lose fat? There’s an app for that

If you’re like me, you’ve read so many books and articles about dieting that you could pen your own collection of how-to guides. You know, intellectually, all the tips, tricks and suggestions when it comes to losing weight, but somehow they just never stuck.

Well, I have discovered something that is working for me and for the first time in years I am losing weight. (So far, 13 pounds in 4 weeks).

Remember the diet tip about keeping a food journal to write down everything you eat? Well, it turns out that it works.

Initially, though, I couldn’t make a go of it. As a working mommy of two preschoolers and the possessor of organizational skills akin to one of those folks on the TV show Hoarders, food journaling was too demanding. I’d buy those pretty, hand-crafted journals in hopes it would inspire me to record my daily gorges, but could never find it when I needed it and couldn’t figure out the calorie values of food items that didn’t have it written on its packaging. I even tried online journaling, but never got in the habit of going to the site throughout the day and at night.

But, the Lose It! app for the iPhone has taken away my excuses and is the main reason, aside from God’s help, that I am succeeding at this journey.

My doctor recommended that I try this app. He said, since it’s in my phone I will always have access to it. It’s also good because it has the calorie values of hundreds of foods including those at your favorite restaurants and supermarkets. And, best of all, it’s F-R-E-E!!!

All you do is enter the amount you weigh (I know, I know). Then, you enter what you want to weigh and by when. The app will figure out how many calories you need to eat in order to meet your goal. It’ll also send you an email reminder when you haven’t logged in.

Now, I keep track of what I put in my mouth and see foods in terms of calories and am careful not to squander them on chips and sweets and other edible vices. I select foods that count: nutritious and will fill me up (Subway, with their 300-plus calorie sandwiches, is my second home).

When I’m trolling the areas near my job during lunchtime in search of food, I don’t have an excuse that I don’t know how many calories are in what. According to my app, I know that a Mickey D’s Filet O Fish sandwich is 380 calories and 1 ½ oz. of grilled chicken breast is only 46. With only about 1,100 calories allotted per day, which one do you think I am going to pick?

If you don’t have an iPhone, no worries, you can access Lose It! from any Smartphone that lets you go online, or just go to the site from your personal laptop or computer. The web address is

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I’m a flirt…

I’m a flirt. No, not the kind who bats her eyes and shows a little leg whenever the mood hits her; unfortunately, I am the kind who teeters in and out of the danger zone of having high blood pressure.

That’s right. My love affair with potato chips and all things deep-fried have wreaked havoc on my health and if this 37 year-old, married, mother of two doesn’t get a handle on it, I won’t be a flirt anymore, but in a full-fledged, long-term relationship with my self-inflicted illness.

I knew something was wrong when I kept having a throbbing headache. It literally felt like my head was about to explode. Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood as it circulates against the walls of your blood vessels. My doctor kept up with my numbers and saw that each time I came in for a visit they would be high.

My top, or systolic, number that measures the pressure in your arteries while your heart beats was continually in the 140s when it should be around 120 or below. The bottom, or diastolic, number that measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats was in the 90s when it should be 80 or below. According to my doctor, 150/90 is high blood pressure period and I was working my way to being at that level.

My doctor put me on a blood pressure pill for six months and instructed me to lose weight and start exercising. Fearing that I would be on the pill for life and upset that my salty, fatty eating habits made me sick, I joined a Couch to 10k running program and also tried to do away with my bad eating habits. Pretty soon, the weight dropped off and the blood pressure went down. My doctor took me off the meds and I was on Cloud Nine.

But then, a few months later, I got assigned to a big, very involved work project while at the same time my personal life got a little more hectic. I fell back into my old ways.

I stopped exercising and was working into the wee hours of the night. I started back seeing my old boyfriend-on-the-side, “Lays,” (That’s “Mr. Sour Cream & Onion Lays,” to you) and the pounds crept back on, bringing with them a few extra. As a result, my blood pressure numbers headed back into the danger zone.

I was tired, listless and didn’t feel like myself. Then, I began to feel pressure in my chest and a tingling in my left arm. I immediately made an appointment to see the doctor.

My doctor was not available so I saw this older, kind of crabby gentleman who saw my blood pressure numbers and immediately took out his prescription pad and sentenced me to go back on meds. He basically said that taking blood pressure pills was my cross to bear and if I wanted to live long then I had to take them.

I reluctantly got the medicine and popped a pill before I went to bed. Then, around 3 a.m., I woke up feeling nervous and uneasy. I started sweating and the feelings of nervousness got more and more intense. I began to freak out and scared my husband half to death. I thought I was dying of a heart attack.

I had a bad reaction to the medicine.

I went to see my doctor and he gave me a heart-to-heart. He said, “You are too young to be on blood pressure pills. You know what you need to do; now I need you to do it.”

He took out his prescription pad and wrote down that I needed to exercise three days a week. He took me off the pill and told me to lose 25 pounds by November. If I don’t and these numbers are still the same, then I will be a high-blood-pressure flirt no more.

Now I am faced with a challenge: continue a lifestyle of eating fatty foods and letting stress control me or become a new woman who takes charge of her diet and stresses so that I can live a healthy, medicine-free life. I choose the latter.

Starting today, I am working to get off the weight and deal with my worries in a more constructive way. As I learn tips and meet milestones, I plan to share them. Until then, I’m “under pressure” to beat high blood pressure while managing life’s pressures of being a wife, mommy and working woman.

With God’s help, I will.

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