Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ooh La La!

It's been about three months since I started my quest to "become more French" in my attitudes. I've read half a dozen books on the topic, made some small changes (and a few large ones!) and am ready to report on my research.

Executive Summary - You should really do this!

Lengthier Explanation - As I explained in an earlier post, when I started this journey, I didn't think anything would change. I've made enough trips around the sun to know that I'm headstrong, set in my ways, and don't do well with down time. But I also knew that my methods weren't bringing me calm and a cancer diagnosis (even as mild a one as I had about this time last year) will scare you into making some changes.

It started with the idea of dieting. I've wanted to lose ten pounds for years, but nothing ever seemed to work and hey - it was "only" ten pounds. I was fine, right? Then I hit that magic birthday and the weight began to creep up. Still nothing to worry about; the doctor was quite happy with my bloodwork results and my various test numbers. However, radiation treatment meant a lengthy time of being very sedentary and eating whatever I wanted (and I didn't want salads and kale chips, let me tell you!) because - well, cancer and you're so consumed with dealing with that mess that everyone tells you to not worry about the scale (and they're right, by the way). So in June, I stepped on the scale and was horrified to discover that I weighed about 30 pounds more than I wanted to and that nothing - repeat, NOTHING - in my closet fit properly.

At this point, Something Had to Be Done. Having heard about the "French paradox" and having tried far crazier things in my life, I decided to look into this and maybe sort of "go French."

 Oddly enough, this did not include dieting. And yet, over the last three months, I've lost 12 pounds and I've done it without tracking my food or denying myself much of anything. I eat a lot more soup (homemade, which is another plus since prepared ones tend to be full of sodium) and don't go anywhere without a water bottle. I eat real food (which includes butter, sugar, and chocolate, along with huge salads, fruit smoothies, and plenty of vegetables) instead of sad, flavorless, packed-with-preservatives frozen whosits, and I watch my portions. It's interesting - it takes less "real food" to make me feel full and satisfied. I'm not totally virtuous - I occasionally eat the "bad stuff" but overall, my habits are much better than they've been. I also weigh myself often - I've heard conflicting reports on the advisability of doing this, but it works for me.

OK, that's all well and good. I still have 20+ pounds I want to lose and it's likely to take months. That's all right. Clothes that I bought when I was in "ohmigod, what can I wear to work when it gets cold?" mode are now slightly large on me, which is fantastic.

Which brings me to my next point - shopping.

As a general rule, I don't pay full retail for much of anything (read about that here) and I fretted over the French idea of fewer clothes, but better quality. Like many Americans, I had overflowing drawers stuffed with cheap clothes. I took several deep breaths and culled ruthlessly. (When much doesn't fit, it's easier, which is perhaps the only plus side to my balloon journey.) There's an axiom that says that you can't bring more into your life (stuff, love, etc.) unless there's room for it. Perhaps that's true - once I made room and committed to not buying anything unless it fit, I loved it, it was versatile, and the price was right for me - it's as if a celestial door opened. Consignment shops - that's where it's at. Go - and go often! - with patience and a spirit of adventure and buy NOTHING that doesn't fit ALL of these criteria. And, of course, be willing to haggle good-naturedly. (I also keep a list of what I'm looking for so I don't wind up buying things I don't need.)

I've been amazed at what I've found - classic, timeless pieces that will last me decades, if I properly care for them. Also, by having fewer items that go with more things, it's both easier to decide what to wear and I'm discovering new ways to put things together and I'm more confident about trying new things. I'm even experimenting with scarves!

I think the biggest takeaway from the last three months is that it's good to take care of yourself. I work full-time and still struggle to find that "sweet spot" of balance between work, family, the new book, and self-care, but I like using the "good stuff" (such as wearing the good pearl earrings on a random Tuesday or taking a 20-minute bath instead of a 5-minute shower) and it's good to try to have more fun everyday. Some of my steps in that direction include prepping a "bad day" box, getting a decent fountain pen to use instead of just cheap stick pens, using sidewalk chalk, and using fewer disposable paper cups at the coffee shop - carry your own mug instead. By the way, this really isn't a question of money - my finances are such that even shopping at Target right now is something that must be planned for. Budgets are actually your friend - tell your money where to go instead of just wondering where it all went - it's hard at first but it gets better. And you acquire things piece by piece.

I'm nowhere near done with this and, quite frankly, I hope it takes me years. I still have too much stuff and I still have tendencies to overwork and view time off as being wasted time. These are not good attitudes. (Common, yes, but good - no.) It is good to treat ourselves well - to drink fresh water and eat real food, to laugh and play, to get ourselves winded from running and then have Gatorade and a graham cracker, to nap and pet animals, to leaf through catalogs and magazines and to remember that the very seasons of the year itself include quiet time for growth and reflection. We could learn a lot from that.

Vive la France!

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