A mystery of obesity

I have a friend, Maggie, who only commands respect from those she knows well.  People who see her in the grocery store can’t see her character.  They probably make assumptions about her based on her appearance.  She is a brave, honest, generous, loving woman.

She takes children into her home and into her heart, when their own mothers can’t care for them.  She isn’t wealthy.  The family must ask for financial help from time to time.  She has provided emergency care for months at a time for 3 different young girls when their own mothers could not care for them.  That is the embodiment of love and generosity.  A casual passerby might assume that her quick ponytail and sweat pants point to someone who doesn’t care.  They can’t see that she just invests her time and energy into children, instead of her appearance.

Maggie homeschools her children.  She has 5 biological children ranging in age from one to thirteen.  She believes that homeschooling is the best education for her children.  She braves the chaos and curriculum to provide what she feels is best.  Outsiders don’t see how her passion for her children’s academics impacts her ability to have time for herself.  They just see a busy, disheveled stay at home mom.

Her honest nature compels her to profess her true self even to people who disagree with her. Without preaching she explains her spiritual journey and colorful history. People trust her because she is open and vulnerable.  She knows that some people might criticize her, but she prefers honesty to hiding behind a façade.  If you ask her how she is, be ready.  She will tell you the truth.  Someone just meeting her might not know how to relate to her.

Another reason people criticize Maggie is that she has had a lifelong battle with weight issues.  Even though she is not a typical suburbanite, stay-at-home mother, she struggles with a very typical problem.  She is very overweight. This affects her body image, her fashion, her energy, and her health.

It would be easy to assume that she is a lazy, slob who doesn’t take care of herself. That assumption would be false. She goes to the gym regularly, takes care of her hygiene, her home and her children.  She is so motivated to change her body shape, that she started an accountability group for herself on Facebook.  She chronicled her exercise habits, her successes, her failures, and her goals.

I have known Maggie for seven years.  I have seen her through several pregnancies.  Through all her efforts, I don’t see her body dramatically changing shape.  When she exercises regularly and eats right, she makes progress and feels good. Still, she remains obese.

The source of her problem perplexes me.  If she were someone else, I might think that she just eats junk food in secret.  But Maggie has been so open about all her struggles and life.  If she had an eating compulsion, she would say “I have an eating disorder.  Help me, please.”  She doesn’t say that.

Maggie might have a metabolic disorder, but I don’t think so.  If she had a medical condition that predisposed her to obesity, the problem would be isolated to her. But obesity is definitely not isolated to her. Maggie has a beautiful eleven year old daughter, Maura.  Maura was lean and athletic until age 9, but now she is steadily gaining weight beyond what is healthy for a growing girl.  Maggie’s husband has a large midsection so common in American men.  So I wondered if the problem lied in their household habits or familial genetic disposition

So what is happening in Maggie’s home that keeps her from getting the body she wants?  Is there something about Maggie’s home environment that makes the family overweight?  Maybe, but look at the statistics for obesity published by The Center of Disease Control.  The CDC considers obesity to be a national epidemic.  Clearly Maggie and her family are not alone in their struggle.

Maggie and her family live in Colorado. While Coloradans are leaner than many in the nation, it is still a major problem for men and women.  20% of adults in Colorado are obese compared to 35% in the country as a whole. That’s an alarming amount of Americans struggling with weight.

Race and poverty are also correlated to high levels of obesity.  Maggie is Hispanic and her husband is black and their daughter is mixed race.  Do they live in a food desert where they don’t have access to healthy foods?  That is a real problem for many ethnic minorities and people living in poverty.  But Maggie lives a few blocks away from many well stocked grocery stores, including discount a health food store. She has access to affordable, healthy foods.

Most people, including Maggie, understand the basics of nutrition and exercise, so why are we getting fatter?  The statistics point to obesity being a national problem, not just a personal problem.  Millions of loving, honest and brave people, like Maggie, suffer socially from teasing, shaming and being at the butt of jokes.  So much emotional suffering from a societal problem.

Why does Maggie struggle year after year to shed the unwanted pounds? Solving her mystery would shine light on the obesity problem as a nation.  She is a wonderful person and deserves to walk tall and proud.  Her body should reflect her effort, just like her actions reflect her heart.  People who pass her in the grocery store should see the efforts of exercise and eating right.

Many wonderful people around the nation are trapped in a body they struggle to transform.

Do you know anyone like Maggie?  What do you think make Americans fat?  Share your thoughts.

Success or failure in a bikini?

Which philosophy of failure and success do you embrace?

  • You can’t succeed unless you try. Mistakes and failure are part of the journey.

Or…

  • Don’t try do! 2nd place finishers are just the best losers.  Be the best at everything you do.

Which school of thought is the most productive?

Start with the definition of success. Dictionary.com defines success as:

“The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.”

 

Read the story of two women who have different philosophies about failure.  Decide if you are more like Jasmine or Bethany.

 

Jasmine and Bethany both want to lose weight to wear a bikini in Hawaii.  Jasmine and Bethany are both hard-working, bright, ambitious young ladies.  But, they have focused on their career and education goals and neglected to take care of their health.

 

Late nights studying included fuel to keep them going.  The fuel was quick, easy calories like pizza and soda.  Who has time to chop vegetables when cramming for an early morning exam?  When they did well on a test, they celebrated with going out for a drink or to dinner.  It never occurred to them to celebrate with a run or tennis match.

 

When Jasmine realized that she would graduate with honors, she invited Bethany to by going to Hawaii.  While they achieved this goal, they had very different paths of getting there.  Jasmine encountered many speed bumps along the way, but she took every failure as an opportunity to learn.  Bethany also had a few disappointments along the way, but she could always find someone else to blame.  She never talked about her own mistakes.

 

When Jasmine her first exam back, it had a big red C on it.  She knew she would have to change something to finish law school. She decided hadn’t studied efficiently enough and took steps to change that.  She eliminated Facebook, told her boyfriend not to call when she was studying, and joined a study group.  Tests always made Jasmine anxious, so in college she learned breathing techniques to help calm her.  Some of her high school teachers would be amazed that she was in law school at all.  She was never a star student, but she had lofty goals. She just kept learning and adjusting and never stopped trying.

 

Bethany got a B on her first test in law school.  She was stunned.  She had always been a straight A student.  She credited her own smarts and long hours studying.  High school and college were easy for her.  Law school was the first time school was challenging for her.  She blamed the B on the professor, saying that the test was unfair.  She got angrier and angrier at the world as she earned more and more B’s.  There was always an excuse and she didn’t change her habits dramatically.  Bethany didn’t feel like celebrating finishing law school because she is graduating Cum Laude, not Summa Cum Laude.  But she couldn’t turn down the chance to go to Hawaii with her best friend.

 

Both Bethany and Jasmine had 15 pounds to lose to feel comfortable struttin’ their stuff on Waikiki.  The flight was 2 months away.  They made a plans to eat healthier and exercise more.  Jasmine enlisted the help of her friends and family and Bethany joined a weight loss program.

 

The first week went great!  They stuck to their diet plan and went on daily walks. The both lost five pounds. Feeling successful, they gave each other high fives and lots of compliments as they entered their second week.

 

The second week was more difficult.  A friend got married and had a lavish wedding with an open bar and tons of tempura shrimp.  Neither one stuck to their diet plan.  Then, a bitter cold front hit the area and they could not get outside to exercise.  Jasmine gained one pound back.  Bethany gained a pound and a half back.  Jasmine felt discouraged, but decided to learn from the failure and changed her tactics a bit.  Bethany felt devastated and almost gave up.   Jasmine gave her a pep talk, and Bethany agreed to try again.

 

For the next six weeks, each time Jasmine didn’t lose as much as she wanted, she figured out what the problem was and adjusted her strategy.  The week before the flight she went bikini shopping.  She had lost a total of 10 pounds.  Although she didn’t lose enough to feel good in a bikini.  She felt healthier and proud of her partial success and picked out a flattering one piece swimsuit.  She decided to keep her healthy new habits and continue her weight loss quest.  Jasmine adjusted her idea of success to fit with the situation.

 

Bethany also ended up losing 10 pounds by the week before the flight. She blamed her “failure” on the weather and her mom.  Her mom took her out to lunch weekly. She went bikini shopping and decided that she WOULD buy a bikini because that’s the goal she set for herself.  Knowing she still had some bulges, she vowed to starve herself for the next week. She kept her goal the same.  She could not stand the idea of 2 failures- not graduating Summa cum Laude and not wearing a bikini in Hawaii.

 

The two friends went to Hawaii.  Jasmine felt confident and happy on the beach.   She flirted and laughed and played.  No one, but herself and Bethany, knew that she hadn’t reached her weight loss goal.  The friends Jasmine met on the beach saw a vivacious young lady trying new things like stand up paddle boarding and snorkeling.

Bethany put on her bikini, but did not feel good about it.  She still was not comfortable wearing it.  Often, she hid her body under a cover up.  She hardly got in the water because she didn’t want people to see her.  People around her didn’t care or know that she had just lost 13 pounds and finished law school.  They saw a young lady withdrawing and not willing to participate in the fun.

 

So who is successful in this scenario?  Bethany or Jasmine or both?    It’s all perspective. Who accomplished their goals?  Should people change their goals when they experience failure?

 

Do you relate more to Bethany or Jasmine? What happens when you experience failure?  Please share your story.

Find the motivation to lose 10 pounds

Find the motivation to lose 10 pounds

You want to get in shape, increase your fitness and lose weight.  So did Janika.  She noticed her pants didn’t fit the same.  She didn’t get off the couch as much as she should. Her high school reunion was coming up and she wanted to wear the jeans that accentuated her curves.  They fit a little snug and didn’t look the way they should. She made a decision to lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks and she did it. Do you want to know how?

First she enrolled in an online diet program. It was one that she had lost weight on before.  In fact, she used it about once a year, when her weight crept up after the holidays.  She was comfortable with its restrictions.  She probably could have stayed on it all the time, but inevitably she slipped back into some bad habits after a month or so.

Then she went on Amazon.  She ordered 3 highly rated fitness DVD’s.  One was a boot camp video with one of the trainers from The Biggest Loser.  One was a yoga video that came with a mat and the instructor had a very motivational way about him.  The last was a Latin dance instructional video.  She had always loved dancing and she figured she should incorporate fun into her exercise.

Next she started a Facebook group of supportive friends to keep her accountable.  She vowed to post the truth about what she ate and the exercise she did daily.  She requested that the small group reply with encouragement only.  Janika only invited people who would help her make healthy choices, and didn’t allow excuses.

She took these hard first steps in a matter of an hour. Now came the hard part.  She went to her kitchen, got out a garbage bag and put all her processed food in it.  She cringed each time her beloved comfort food hit the bottom of the bag.  She tried to keep a vision of herself wearing the jeans in the front of her mind but it wasn’t enough motivation to actually get rid of the food.  She went back to her computer, found a picture of herself, looking her best and printed it out. She thought to how hard she worked to look that good two years ago and decided she was ready to do it again.

She knew her high school sweetheart, Jack, just got married and she was still waiting for Mr. Right.  Maybe he would be at the reunion.  Anyway, it would feel good to show Jack what he gave up.  Knowing it was bitchy, Janika was motivated to be sexier and thinner than Jack’s new wife.

Every night when she used sit on the couch watchin t.v., Janika now spent  her time sweating in front of the t.v. with one of her workout videos.  Then she went and posted her stats on Facebook and relished in the accolades from the online community.

By the time of the reunion, the jeans hugged Janika’s hips without rolling over at the waist.  She got on the scale and found that she had dropped exactly 10 pounds in 3 weeks.

She met Jack’s new wife, but since the lady was obviously pregnant, Janika didn’t gloat about being skinnier and sexier.  She congratulated them and moved onto the dance floor, where her new moves, and stamina came in handy.  She wasn’t sure if she met Mr. Right, but there were some interesting new prospects.

What would losing 10 pounds do for you?  What motivates you?  How will you create a community of accountability?  Do you have something in your closet, that you’d like to wear again?

Becoming a Sexier Woman

Becoming a Sexier Woman

You want to invest in your image.  You want to show the world the best, most confident you that you can be.  Maybe you want to catch somebody’s eye, but you aren’t secure with your looks. You are overwhelmed with choices and advice about what you should do first, how to find the time to do it and who to look to for help.  You aren’t alone.

Meet Christine.  She is attractive but as she hits her mid-thirties, she doesn’t look in the mirror as much.  When she does, she isn’t as happy with her reflection as she used to be.  She wants Paul to notice her, but she isn’t showing herself off.  Her 35th birthday is approaching and so she decided to give herself a gift.

She decided it was time to invest some time and money into herself, but she didn’t want do anything surgical.  Last week she stepped naked in front of a full length mirror and really analyzed what she saw from head to toe.  She made a to-do list help her turn back the hands of time a few years.

Her hair is naturally jet black and glossy.  The few grey strands that were springing up bugged Christine.  She decided to pluck them and get a haircut.  Coloring could wait for several years.

Then she smiled. She had the benefit of braces as a child and good oral hygiene to give her a row of straight, healthy teeth.  Years of coffee drinking, and two years of smoking in college, has stained them a slightly yellow color. She added teeth bleaching system to her to do list.

Next she jumped up and down a bit.  She noted any body part that jiggled, that should not jiggle.  She keeps active playing tennis twice a week and walking her Labrador.  But she noticed that she isn’t as tone as she would like to be, particularly in her upper body. She scribbled, “get tone”.

She admitted that she could stand to lose five pounds.  She grumbled at the thought of a diet, but wrote, “lose five pounds”.

Christine reviewed her makeover list. It read:

–         Pluck grays and get a hair-cut.

–         Bleach teeth

–         Tone upper body

–         Lose five pounds.

She put her clothes back on and took a look at her budget.  She decided she could spend only $100 on this project.  Without the benefit of an unlimited budget, she would need to be creative to accomplish her goals.

 

She called her friend and they brainstormed.  Together they made an action plan for each item on the list.

  • She could get a quality haircut at the beauty school for only $20.  Christine made an appointment for the next week.
  • There are plenty of do it yourself bleaching kits at the drugstore.  She read peoples reviews and ended up spending another $25 to get a top of the line kit.  She started using the kit that night.
  • She decided to get up 15 minutes earlier every day and add strength training to her daily routine.  She spent $40 for some simple equipment and a video to guide her.
  • She eats a fairly healthy diet but indulges in chips and a soda with her lunch most days.  Deciding to cut back to twice a week, would be an easy way to shed the extra weight.  It would also save her $7 a week.

With the remaining money and the money she would save on her lunch expenses, Christine decided she would buy a new dress to celebrate her new look.  She circled her birthday on the calendar.  She had 6 weeks to complete the transformation.

She couldn’t wait to get started.  Now a week into her project Christine reports that she is progressing well.  She says the hardest part was making the decision to confront herself in the mirror.  Now that she has a plan of action, she feels more confident of her success.  She has her eye on a black sleeveless dress at a vintage shop.

Giving yourself a makeover doesn’t have to be expensive or overwhelming.  Just be honest with yourself about your starting point.  Arm against failure with making a time and monetary budget that is realistic to your lifestyle.  Reward small successes.  Remember, confidence is sexy.

When do you feel sexiest?  What would be on your makeover agenda? Let us know.

Our Day at the Ultrasound

Our Day at the Ultrasound

“Do you want a boy or a girl?” Susan asked.

“I just want the baby to be healthy”, I lied. I rubbed my swollen belly.  The ultrasound was in a week.

I secretly desired a girl.  I knew that if I said that, the conversation would go down a path that I didn’t care to explore with this friend.

I wanted to dress my baby in pretty dresses, put bows in her hair, and teach her to be strong and beautiful.  I imagined her as a young girl in ballet recitals with pink tutus twirling and kicking high into the air with her pointed toes.

Susan has three boys and they constantly wrestle and yell.  She takes her boys to basketball games and plays soccer with them in the backyard.  I couldn’t imagine her as the mom of a girly girl.  I feared she would see my desires as shallow and the silly daydreams of a mother-to-be.

At the ultrasound, the radiologist took forever taking measurements without saying a word.  I began to get worried that my little peanut wasn’t developing right.  My husband was looking at the little monitor like he understood everything on there.  Maybe he did, he seemed to have a little smirk on his face.  I squeezed my husband’s hand and he looked at me.  Noticing my fear and tension, he spoke up.

“Um, is everything okay?” he asked.

The doctor cleared his throat and straightened his tie.  In that split second, I realized that I really did just want my baby to be healthy.  Finally, he broke out into a big smile and said, “Everything is just fine”.  “You have two healthy looking boys here.”

What?  Did I hear that right? Two boys? The rush of emotions was too complex to comprehend.  While my husband whooped for joy and hugged me, I just stared at the screen.

“Are you, are you sure?” I stammered. I felt relieved, overwhelmed, ecstatic, disappointed and scared all at once.  I heard a mental door slam as the daydreams of braiding hair and tea parties were stomped out. A void took its place.

The doctor gave me a wry smile at having his competence questioned by a half –naked woman, lying flat on her back, with jelly all over her tummy.  But he is accustomed to the scenario and dutifully explained and showed the 4 chambers of both hearts, the measurements of 2 heads, and finally the full profile of two complete babies.  Sure enough, I saw two penises.

This was real. I was going to be the mother of two baby boys in five months. By the time I was cleaned and dressed, I was coherent enough to smile, hug my husband, thank the doctor and walk out with a plastered smile on my face. As my husband started calling people and tweeting our big news, I could hear the pride and excitement in his voice.  Had he been secretly hoping for a boy?  Was he just relieved that the babies were healthy?  Why wasn’t he freaking out at the thought of twins?

Slowly, a new daydream began to form.  I imagined the boys playing cars together on the front lawn.  I saw them dressed up in baseball uniforms, practicing before the big game. I heard my future self, teaching them how to treat a young lady.  My heart swelled with pride at the fine young men I was raising. Okay! I was ready for this adventure.

I called Susan.  As I gave her the news, my husband glanced over at me.  He could hear the genuine excitement in my voice and gave my hand another squeeze. We decided to go celebrate by going to a baby store and pick out our wish list of strollers, car seats, and cribs and room décor.

As I walked down the aisles looking at sports themes and dinosaur themes and train themes, I decided having boys would be fun. My husband and I discussed the merits of each theme and item.  I was falling even more in love with him every minute.

“Sweetie, sweetie… Tiffany”

“hmm?”

“Wake-up. The ultrasound appointment is this morning. You have to start drinking water to get ready”. As David showered, I thought about my dream.

In the car, on the way to the appointment I asked my husband if he is hoping for a boy or a girl.  He shrugged and said, he is just hoping for a healthy baby.

“Really?”  I prodded.

“Well, a boy would be kind of fun.  I could take him fishing and camping and show him how to change a tire.” He replied.

“You could do that with a girl too”

“I could, I guess, it wouldn’t be the same though. What do you want?”

“I just want a healthy baby too.” I said truthfully.

I told him all about my dream.  We held hands and walked into the doctor’s office.

“David, there’s something you should know. You know my mom is a twin.”

“Of course…”

“Well, my cousin has been doing some genealogy research and discovered that there has been a set of twins in every generation, except ours, for the last 100 years.”

“Oh”

Just then the doctor opened the door and introduced herself as Dr. Murphy.  She was very chatty and cordial and explained everything she was doing.

Then she stopped and said “um, do multiples run in your family?”

“Yes” I answered.

“Well, it looks like you are going to be the proud parents of three little girls. They all look like they are developing just fine.”

David and I both looked at each other and then Dr. Murphy and we started laughing.

What else could we do?

 

What happened when you went to the ultrasound?  Did you secretly hope for a certain gender or twins?  Share your reaction to the news.

 

 

 

 

Concealing a scar

Concealing a scar

Jessica’s long red hair bounces as she runs up the trail.  She trains daily for the upcoming marathon.  Her long legs are designed for running and nothing makes her feel as free as the rhythmical movement. The crisp morning air hitting her face reminds her that she must run home and start getting ready for the day.

It takes Jessica longer than most women to apply her makeup.  She works in an upscale retail shop that expects people to look a certain way.  Every day she puts on her makeup she feels like she revealing her true self and hiding her history simultaneously.

Without the makeup, people don’t see the real her.  Instead of seeing a vibrant, intelligent and healthy woman, they see a scar.  When Jessica was in high school, her right cheek got burned during a chemistry lab experiment.

Angry that one brief act of carelessness by her lab partner, and unsafe practices by her teacher had cost Jessica her flawless complexion, Jessica’s burn became her identity. The hours spent in the hospital didn’t help her social life, but most people were repelled by her sarcastic, flippant attitude more than anything else.  Her remaining friends and family didn’t understand how saying things like “you are still beautiful on the inside” or “the right boy won’t even notice the scar” hurt.

She knew that when someone had to describe her to someone else, they didn’t say, “she’s the track star” or “she has red hair”.  All they said was, “she is the one with the scar on her cheek” and everyone knew exactly who she was.  She imagined herself as two people, Jessica Before and Jessica After.

After multiple plastic surgeries, years of creams, and a few instructional sessions with a professional make-up artist, the scar on her face was no longer the first thing people noticed about her.  Before she learned to adequately conceal the scar with make-up, people pitied her.  She could feel them looking at her but trying not to.  They found it difficult to look her in the eye.

As a young adult, Jessica felt isolated, like people couldn’t understand what she had gone through.   Walking around the town, she looked at others and imagined their lives matched their complexions, perfect packages.  Just as people ceased seeing the real Jessica, and saw only Girl With A Scar, Jessica stopped seeing the essence of others and saw them as People With Pretty Faces.  Her family was supportive but they didn’t understand why this one aspect of her life dominated her thoughts and feelings.

With proper make up she could conceal the outward scar fairly well.  It still showed, but now people gazed and remarked on her big blue eyes and fire red hair long before they noticed the scar on her face.  She got better at hiding the anger too. She started to actually listen to others instead of mentally preparing a sarcastic remark.

The more she listened to other people, the more she realized that she had more company than she ever realized.  Many people felt their body was a shell that hid their true identity from the world. She heard an overweight women talk about her childhood dream of becoming a ballerina and how she still loves to dance.  She noticed women who dressed like men.  She asked her mom why she always dyes her hair blonde.  It turns out her mom did not want to be identified as “a grandma”.

After hearing Jeff’s story, she started relating to people on a whole new level.  Jeff lost his leg below the knee, during his battle with cancer.  He felt proud to be a survivor and learned to have fun with it.  Once, he was walking down the aisle of a store, when his prosthetic came off.  The lady behind him almost didn’t notice until Jeff said, “excuse me, but could you hand me my foot please?” Her horrified expression was priceless.

Jessica learned to share a dark humor with Jeff that not everyone could appreciate.  Jessica incorporated her scar into her Halloween costume, one year as the Bride of Frankenstein and another year as a zombie.  Winning first place at a costume party by highlighting her personal tragedy disturbed her mother, but it was part of the healing process for Jessica.  She started merging Jessica Before and Jessica After.

Year by year, Jessica became less interested in the physical scars and anomalies of others.  She had real friends again and realized that everyone struggles with identity.  The quest for inner peace and outward acceptance starts early and continues through adulthood.  Jessica came to forgive the lab partner and teacher, realizing that her own journey was accelerated because of the scar on her face.

She still wears makeup to conceal the scar in public. She wants strangers to first notice her eyes.  But when she is at home with her husband and children, she often goes without makeup.  They know the story and see her for true self.  It turns out her mother and friends were partially right.  The right man does her inner and outer beauty.  But they missed part of the point.  The scar was part of her journey and therefore is part of her beauty.  Her husband, Jeff, does see her scar and loves her all the more for it.

Plus, in the early years of their marriage they had great fun with door to door salespeople. When a solicitors come to the door, they have great fun answering it.  Jeff puts his foot in his hand and Jessica puts a touch of red lipstick dripping from her scar to look like blood.  They got a kick watching the sales people stammering through their presentation.  They don’t do that anymore because most of the sales calls these days are friends of their children selling popcorn or cookies.

How to save more money. Create your individualized plan.

How to save more money. Create your individualized plan.

 

Like most of us, Catalina lives on a budget.  Recently her budget shrank dramatically, when she and her husband decided to end their marriage.  Luckily, during her marriage, she had taken time to invest in her education.  Even with her new career as an interior decorator, the loss of her husband’s income and adding a new household, Catalina was finding it hard to make ends meet.

She borrowed some books from the library about personal finance.  She expected the personal finance books to talk mostly about making more money.   She read books by Suze Orman, Steven Silbiger and Vick Robin.  Surprisingly, the books explained how to spend less more than how to make more money.

All the books made suggestions for where to invest money for the future.  But how could she invest, if she didn’t have anything left over at the end of the month?  She began asking her friends, relatives, and colleagues for advice.  Not surprisingly, their answers ranged from things like, “grow your own vegetables” to “cut coupons” to “limit your manicures to once a month”.  These people were well intentioned but their solutions just didn’t work for her.

She decided to follow some of the exercises in the books from the library.  To start with, she had to track where her money was actually going.  She put them into categories and figured out what percentage of her money went into each category.  The result looked like this.

Rent ……..35%

TV, phone, internet ……. 6%

Gym membership…. 3%

Kid’s afterschool activities and childcare ….8%

Groceries …. 15%

Entertainment …. 4%

Eating out …5%

Utilities …. 10%

Purchases …7%

Repaying loans ….7%

 

Next she examined her values to see if anything was out of alignment with her spending habits.  She was spending more money on rent than she wanted.  She liked that her apartments offered her children a safe neighborhood, walking distance to the school, and close to her their father.  The amenities were nice too. It had swimming pool, work out area and clubhouse. Catalina decided that moving was stressful and she didn’t want another disruption to her kids life.  She decided to stay in her apartment and keep that expense.

She had rationalized the gym membership. It was a social outlet and kept her in shape.  After thinking more about it, she decided she could skip the gym and work out at home, in the parks or at the apartment clubhouse.  She would miss her favorite spin class, but she admitted to herself that the gym was a luxury she could no longer afford. She actually felt relieved when she cancelled the gym membership and reduced her expenses by 3%.

She decided she did not need a premium cable service or high speed internet.  She knew the kids would complain, but eventually would get used to it.  They needed to spend more time reading anyway.  Within a month, the kids hardly noticed the difference.  Their reading scores went up and Catalina had an extra 2% savings.

The kids’ daycare arrangement helped Catalina work late when she needed to.  She considered that a professional investment.  However, she thought her ex -husband could help out more.  She approached him and he agreed to taking the kids a few extra hours once in a week.  The kids enjoyed soccer and Karate and she did not want to take that from them.  She reduced childcare and activities from 8% to 7%.  It wasn’t much, but every bit helps.

Catalina analyzed grocery receipts from 4 different trips.  They revealed that she spent a significant amount of money on organic meat and fruits and vegetables.  Deciding that eating organic food was important, she chose to only eat meat 4 times a week, but that it would continue to be organic.  She choose to keep the fruits and vegetables the same or even increase them.  The shock came when she totaled up how much money she paid for convenient snack food for the kids.  Buying individually packaged drinks, crackers and cheeses was really adding up.  She noted that not only was it expensive, it did not coincide with her values of healthy eating and reducing waste.  She invested in some reusable water bottles and snack bags and stopped buying individually packaged foods.  She made back the value of the investment within 4 shopping trips.  In total, she shaved 3% off her grocery bill.

Life can’t be all work and no play.  Catalina wondered if going out to eat and then a movie once a week was an extravagance she couldn’t afford.  She and her best friend really enjoyed seeing each other and it was like therapy.  Catalina brought this up to her friend.  Her friend suggested that they keep the out to dinner portion and then only go to the movie once a month.  The other weeks, they could do free activities like going for a walk or going to a book store.  They ended up having more fun and Catalina reduced expenses by another percent.

By now, she was on a roll and every new penny saved felt like an Olympic medal.  She began handing out financial advice to anyone that would listen.  At the end of the analysis, Catalina had an extra 12% per month.  She finally understood the saying “a penny saved is a penny earned.”  The funny thing was that she had dreaded slashing her budget using other people’s advice. When she used her own criteria, she actually improved her life and enjoyed it.

What did she do with the extra 12%?  She put some of it in 10% IRA, for her future.  She also started saving toward a trip to Hawaii.  At this rate it would take her two years, but just dreaming about it made her happy.

If you want to save a little extra money, do the hard work of analysis first.  Just slashing expenses feels like a punishment.  Think about your values and if you are putting your money towards those values.  Your outcome will look very different from Catalina’s or anyone else.  You are unique.  Make your budget reflect your target lifestyle.

 

Make sure you comment below and share your thoughts.

10 ways on how to spice up your sexlife- all with your clothes on!

10 ways on how to spice up your sexlife- all with your clothes on!

Sandra and Bill had been dating for a year and were considering marriage.  They both liked sports and they both wanted to start a family.  But Sandra was getting a little bored of always watching NFL and wanted do something different.  Bill started wondering what to talk about and would mentally create a list of conversation starters before the got together. The prospect of a lifetime of boredom and running out of conversation scared both of them.  Soon they began to doubt their compatibility.

This would not be the first marriage for either of them and they did not want to make the same mistake they had done in choosing their first spouse.  Bill’s ex-wife, Maria, was a knock-out and an ambitious lawyer.  He fell in love with her drive and enjoyed the envious glances of other men when he took his wife to dinner.  Their relationship had been passionate and intellectually stimulating.  Bill never suspected that Maria was having an affair and felt shocked, heart broken and angry when Maria confessed.  He doubted his ability to choose women and did not date again until his brother introduced him to Sandra at Super Bowl party.

Sandra divorced Frank because he spent more time on line gambling than he did on anything else.  He was a good guy but his addiction ruined their finances and their relationship.  Sandra tried to help him but eventually had to cut him loose.  She wanted to have children.  She couldn’t wait around for Frank to change.

Sandra and Bill met because they both loved football.  They loved and trusted each other.  Still that’s not enough.  Bill and Sandra made a pact to do 13 exciting activities together before giving up on building a life together.  Take a look and challenge your partner to do a few of them with you.  There is nothing like an adrenaline rush to get conversations started.

1 Get up on stage together – try karaoke, open mic night or community theater.

2 Fly through the air together– Go skydiving, paragliding, or hot air ballooning.

3 Go somewhere exotic together- Experiencing a new culture, new language and new people makes you rely on each other.  This is not a resort experience.  You have to really mingle with the people that live there.  To make it really exciting, don’t plan your hotels and activities ahead of time.

4 Try new foods together- Get out of your gastronomic comfort zone.  Sample fried crickets, frog legs, and Rocky Mountain oysters together.  If you don’t like the taste, you can promise to not serve it at the wedding.

5 Go Fast- Get on a speedboat, go-cart or carnival ride.

6 Try a new sport- Skiing, golfing, kite surfing, whatever sport neither of you know anything about but are willing to try.  Learning a new skill might give you both a new hobby to enjoy together.  Stay active and challenged to stimulate the relationship.

7 Get lost- Who gets lost on purpose?  Try it.  Take 3 public busses/trains but don’t look at the numbers or where you are going.  Just get on. You will explore your town together like you never have before.  You have a great adventure and then you have to work together to solve the problem of how to get home again.

8 Create an original piece- music, painting choreography, write a story.  It doesn’t have to be good and you never have to show anyone else.  Just get your creative juices flowing and remember to work as a team.  No giving up for “artistic differences”.

9 Put on some music- Each of you pick out some new music to share with the other.  Find a different from what you typically listen to, maybe African drumming, Middle Eastern singing or Indonesian gamelan.  It will open your ears and minds to new sounds and together you will have an auditory adventure.

10 Make friends with another couple- Sometimes just seeing how your life partner puts on the charm can make you remember what attracted you in the first place.

Happily, once Sandra and Bill started to do more exciting activities, they never ran out of things to talk about.  Having a sense of adventure became an essential part of their relationship.  The still watch football together and still plan to have a family.  Let us know how things go for you.

…make sure to comment below and share your thoughts!

Marketing from Sock Panda Monthly Socks Subscription

Lesson from the Sock Panda Monthly Sock Subscription

WOW, what a lesson from the sockpanda monthly sock subscription folks in marketing.

(btw, check them out here, at http://www.followthenoblepath.com/socks if you’d like your own)!

“Who Loves ya?”

– Buddha Christopher

P.S. Please comment below and let me know if you like my new socks!

The real Christopher, nice to meet you ;)

Hi there,
I was a little unsure if I should post this or not, at first, but thought you may want to know how easy it is for real folk like you and I to actually make a good living online.

P.S. Want to know more, watch this video here about working online.

P.P.S. Nice to meet you! Please comment below.