What to Expect at a Weight Watcher’s Meeting

A few posts back, I shared my battle with maintaining a healthy weight.  Before stepping off the scale, my better half and I knew we had to do something.  We headed back to our old standby—Weight Watchers.

If you’ve never joined Weight Watchers you may have a few preconceived notions—I did before joining.  Let me clarify a few.  Weight Watchers meetings are not a group of hefty soccer moms holding a low-fat muffin in one hand and a Starbucks Venti cup in the other.  Members don’t sit around listening as the group leader shares the latest recipes for low-calorie baked goods.  Like Mommy and Me Class Weight Watchers meetings are not strictly women-only events, men go to Weight Watchers too.

If you are undecided here are a few things I noticed.

This could have been modeled after,me.

The Weigh-in – If you want the full Weight Watchers experience, start with the weigh-in.  It’s not as entertaining as The Biggest Loser but it has its moments.  Picture a long line of overweight people clutching little books and stripping down to as little as possible before climbing aboard the scale.  It’s not a pretty sight, or so I’ve been told—repeatedly by the wife.  If you’re hyper obsessive like we are, you wake up early on weigh-in mornings looking for ways to shave off an extra half pound.  We’ve taken Chico for two-mile walks, done full gym workouts, and run half-marathons before stepping on the scale.

The Plan Changes Weekly or So It Seems – If you’ve jumped on and off the program like an adrenaline junkie at the X Games, you notice the plan changes—a lot.  Staring over means another post-meeting walk of shame to your group leader so you can learn the latest buzz words and changes to the Points Plus plan.  The only thing changing more is the celebrity endorser—I’ve been through Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, and Oprah during my many memberships.

They Sell More Products than QVC – If you’ve taken three children to Disneyland you have an idea of the kind of money a brand-new gung-ho member can spend.  Offering a full catalog of branded products including starter kits, cookbooks, and prepackaged snacks, members can easily drop more dollars than pounds on the program.

It’s an AA Meeting for Fat People – Weight Watchers is a support group for those having an unhealthy relationship with food.  Although we don’t introduce ourselves, “Hi I’m Frank and I’m a fat person,” meetings offer support and encouragement during those rough weeks.  The group leader offers constructive suggestions and keeps the conversation from going off course.  I’ve seen meetings sidetracked for twenty or thirty minutes as members discussed Oreo binges and debated the point value for a bag of microwave popcorn.  One meeting went off the rails explaining the term food porn to a confused member.  To this day I’m pretty sure she thinks it means something else.

But Seriously – I keep going back because the program works.  I’ve learned portion control, healthy options, and not to get too down on myself after a bad week.  Since starting on January 2nd, I’ve lost 17 pounds—a good start but still a long way off from my final goal.  Sitting next to members who’ve lost over 70 pounds and have maintained it over ten years says maybe there’s hope for me too.

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Nine Things No One Tells You about Two Year Olds

Cristian taking off on the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk.

Once again it’s time for I’m Not Grandpa to provide valuable information for those considering having children.  Parenthood is pretty much a learn as you go proposition.  Sure you can pick up a parenting book or do a Google search but that’s time consuming.

In effort to save time I compiled my list of Things No One Tells You about Two-Year Olds.

You Spend a Lot of Time Chasing Them – Remember how excited you were when the baby took his first steps?  The excitement fades when you’re chasing after him.  I coach running, I’ve lead many speed drills—few prepared me for a hyperactive toddler possessing the curiosity of an MIT student and the speed of Usain Bolt.  Over the past year, I’ve chased Cristian around playgrounds, up and down Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk, and through the aisles at Target. The cashiers at Key Food barely look up as I’m chasing him as he turns lap after lap, while my better half does the grocery shopping.

Projectile Vomit – You thought diaper blowouts were bad, wait until you’re cleaning puke.  I’ve heard my share of horror stories but figured they were like nightmarish stories of appendix and gall bladder removals—not something everyone experiences.  Then it happened.  It starts with a splashing sound, and you find the baby standing in a puddle of vomit.  It’s not just on the floor—it’s on the walls, the bedding, maybe even the ceiling.  Think it’s over, not a chance.  After changing the bedding and scrubbing the room with Fabuloso and bleach, he’ll puke again, just to keep you on your toes.

Tantrums are New and Improved – You thought those early tantrums were bad, wait until the baby turns two.  Those early toddler tantrums were mere tremors warning you of the full-fledged earthquake looming on the horizon.  Two-year old tantrums include screaming, tearless crying, kicking, banging his head on the floor, and Daddy rushing off to the bar so he could meet his tantrum-support group.

Don’t let the face fool you. Be afraid, be very afraid.


Establishing a Regular Bedtime
 Routine– Getting there takes work and differs from child to child.  Some only need a bottle and they’re good to go.  If this is you, I hate you. We turned Cristian’s bedroom into a sensory-deprivation chamber, we soundproofed the walls, put blackout curtains on the windows, and tiptoed around like a submarine crew rigged for silent running.  Establishing a regular bedtime is important for a child’s development and his parents’ sanity.

The Consequences of Breaking the Bedtime Routine – There will be times when you break the baby’s routine. A word of warning, Keep this to an absolute minimum.  Life happens, friends visit, running errands took longer than planned, or he was so cute playing with blocks and puzzles you put him to bed an hour later than his regular bedtime.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, like when you downed that fifth tequila shot, and hit on the tall girl with the Adam’s apple during your college days.  Waking up the next morning with a monster headache, and a massive sense of what did I do, is nothing compared to waking, dressing and dropping off a pissed off sleep-deprived baby at daycare.

Babies Have No Sense of Sleeping in on the Weekend – This runs counter to my last point but two-year olds haven’t grasped the concept of sleeping in on a weekend morning.  Call it Baby Logic.  You had a long week and decide keeping him up until 2am feeding him Coco Puffs and Cotton Candy washed down with three Red Bulls is the best way to get an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning.  Guess again, I guarantee he’ll be chirping the alphabet and figuring out how to climb out of his crib at 6:30 the next morning.

Don’t let the face fool you, Mommyitis can be rough.

Mommyitis 2.0 – In previous posts I described Mommyitis as: the baby emitting ear-piercing screams, similar to those an adult makes upon stepping in a bear trap.   Two-year olds scream just as loud, but now it takes less to trigger them. My son once became upset when he couldn’t find Mommy during a game of peek-a-boo.  Children are an extension of their parents, watching him clutched onto my better half, has convinced me of this.

You Spend Less Time Visiting Friends – Say goodbye to socializing with all but your closest and bravest friends—especially if their home isn’t childproofed. Much of the visit is spent eating in shifts, taking turns chasing the baby, and keeping him from climbing furniture, cabinets and entertainment centers.  That’s just for starters.  We’ve been blacklisted from a few homes having small dogs that couldn’t defend themselves.

Two Year Olds are a Great Source of Birth Control – If you read this blog you noticed I’ve never mentioned having another child—not even once. I’m a responsible parent who’s gone to great lengths educating those who think raising a child is just like taking care of a puppy.  I’ve taught, written and chased 19 year old employees at Costco, GNC and Target around the store, armed with words and a fully pissed off tantruming two-year old.  Sure the wife shakes her head, and pretends she doesn’t know me while I doing this, but it’s for the greater good.

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The Road Back to Badass

A few posts back I wrote about exorcising 2016’s demons and weight gain. I actually started gaining weight in 2014 during Esther’s pregnancy.  I always thought stories of expectant Dads gaining weight during their wives pregnancy was bogus, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster—until it happened to me.

Over the past two years I waited for some kind of event or trigger to snap me into weight-loss mode.  Oddly enough waddling around after a hyperactive toddler and a closet full of tight-fitting fat clothes didn’t do it for me.  Three weeks ago, a bathroom scale saying 242.2 provided the much-needed wake-up call.

Make a Plan and Own It
– I’ve done many diets and weight-loss plans over the years, including Atkins, South Beach, and Weight Watchers, with mixed success.  I never, ever, not even once, wrote my goals down on paper or any form of electronic device before starting any of them.  Not until now.

The Good Men Project called me a badass because I’m over 50, run marathons, and am a first-time dad.  It’s been awhile since I’ve felt like a badass so getting back there that tops my list.  Losing 50 pounds is a close second. I also want to run another marathon, and cross the Empire State Building Run-Up off my bucket list.

I interviewed for my current job as at an art college in September.  For the interview I was unable to button the jacket on any of the suits — I have four of them.  My department is responsible for the school’s graduation ceremony in May.  I thought about buying a new suit but not any more.  My new goal is fitting into one of the suits currently sitting in my closet.

Find a Partner in Crime
– The minute I stepped off the scale, I knew who this was — she stepped off the scale about a minute before I stepped on.  Big goals seem daunting without having a partner with similar goals.  It makes things easier for both of you.

Misery Loves Company
– No I’m not talking about my marriage.  Three weeks ago Esther and I joined Weight Watchers — it’s an excellent program that’s worked for us.  Spending the first ten days or so detoxing, as our eating habits changed from pizza and fast food, to healthier foods brought some crankiness to our home.  Why do they insist on running commercials for cooking shows and burger joints the night before the weekly weigh in?

Set Short-term Goals – Finishing 12 marathons and two ultramarathons, taught, me to break a big goal into a series of smaller ones.  I break a marathon into three pieces, 13 miles, 18 miles, and the finish line.  Since my stating weight was 242 pounds, I wanted to get under 240 as quickly as possible.  After that I’m focusing on getting to the next five-pound increment.

Set Long-term Goals – After Thanksgiving I noticed many of my clothes fit way too tight but I refused to buy new ones.  Maybe it’s because I’m cheap, stubborn, or knew changes were coming after the New Year but buying bigger clothes seemed like surrendering.  My first goal is fitting into smaller clothes.  I’d also like to start running five-mile training runs, pushing Cristian in his jog stroller as I go, and racing again.  I have a ways to go before I get there.  For now it’s one day at a time, one step at a time, one meal at a time.

Esther and I after I finshed the Long Island Marathon. Running another another marathon is one of my goals.
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A Guy’s Guide to Picking a Daycare Center

Getting ready to go over the wall when he found out his daycare does not show CNN.

After Mommy and Me Class Esther and I talked about putting Cristian into daycare a few days a week so he could learn socialization skills playing with kids his age.  Working from home meant gathering Intel on the local daycare centers was another item on the Honey-do list.  I was in uncharted territory.

Becoming a dad at 50 and an uncle at 36 didn’t help.  I had no part of raising either or my nieces, a decision they’ll thank me for as they get older.  With no practice kid to make mistakes on, I was starting from scratch.

Since Cristian’s a one and done child we didn’t want to leave him with anyone, we wanted someone good.  Our ideal caretaker possessed compassion and sensitivity but was quick on their feet and able to handle anything he could throw at them, I do mean throw.

Not All Daycare Centers are Created Equal. – Daycare providers vary in size and scope ranging from small setups in someone’s basement to large compounds resembling internment camps.  They run the gamut from 5 children sitting around a TV all day watching the Disney Channel, to elaborate programs preparing toddlers for an Ivy-League education.  At one site I sat next to a pregnant mother reserving a spot for her unborn child, six weeks after her due date.

Logistics and Reconnaissance – Being a parent less than two years required me to draw from my experience as a logistics specialist. I started with a Google search of every daycare provider within a 25- mile radius of home, 50-miles was just too much, checking all possible routes, factoring in inclement weather and traffic patterns.  After numerous phone calls, I developed an understanding of all things a baby needs to perform at maximum efficiency, diapers, wipes, bottles, etc.

Then working with the diligence of a British Intelligence agent preparing Donald Trump’s dossier, I watched and observed Daycare Facilities checking everything from curriculum and reputation to compromising information on parents, neighbors and staff.  I learned a lot, but chose not to post my findings on cleanliness and potty training on BuzzFeed.

Making friends with a mermaid at the Long Island Aquarium.

The Interview – After deciding on a daycare center, we scheduled an interview with the owner.  Staying true to form, my better half looked for safety, cleanliness, and a stimulating curriculum—I asked if the staff had paramilitary training, Cristian’s tantrums get pretty bad.   What sold me was the bouncy house in the backyard play area, perfect for tiring the most energetic toddler.

Ready to go from Day One.

Summertime Blues – For his last days of freedom, Esther and I sent him off with style, taking him to the Beach, Sesame Place and the Aquarium—okay we enjoyed it too.  Cristian ran up and down the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk, saw his favorite Sesame Street characters in a parade, and made friends with a mermaid.  We found out he loves, water, marine life, and photo bombing tourists at the Aquarium.

Worries/Concerns – Esther and I differed on this one.  As a Mom she worried about leaving the baby with someone other than family.  I worried about getting a phone call an hour after dropping him off. “Mr. Priegue, we are refunding your deposit, please pick up your son.”  We were curious how he’d react.  Would he cry or panic?  Not Cristian, as soon as they opened the gate, he went running in and didn’t look back.  Was he asserting a sense of independence or just happy to see new toys to play with?  We’ll leave that to the historians.

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Because You Can’t Flush a Cocker Spaniel

Cristian at the Long Island Aquarium

If you follow this blog you know I’m a cranky dad, a marathon runner and a dog lover.  When my better half and I were dating, her dog Chico’s approval helped seal the deal.  Chico was more than a pet—he was a friend and my practice child.

Chico’s passing left a void.  Esther and I want another dog, but we have too much going on right now. A dog is a major commitment, demanding time and attention we don’t have—plus we have someone who keeps us busy with walks, feedings, and cleaning poop—I’ve been writing about him for almost two years.

This summer Esther, Cristian, and I did the family thing, going to Sesame Place, summer carnivals, and a couple of aquariums.  We quickly learned he likes playing in water, but he loves fish. He loved the big tanks at the Long Island Aquarium, the small tanks at Petco, and the movie Finding Dory.  You should have seen him freak out when he saw me eating sushi that looked like Nemo.

Cristian’s love of fish had Esther and I considering getting him a fish tank instead of a dog—okay more her than me.  One night at the carnival, the decision was made for us.   We were playing a game, throwing ping pong balls into small holes when we won a goldfish.

I wasn’t worried, I won goldfish as a kid, they all died and were flushed a week later—but this was different.  Before handing me a fish-filled plastic bag, he went into sales mode. “You have a fish in a bag, but do you have a fish bowl?  No?  For only $10, I’ll give you a fish bowl, a second fish, and I’ll even throw in some fish food.  Now how does that sound?”

Walking home, trying not to spill water as I balanced the fish bowl on top of Cristian’s stroller, I wondered what just happened.  Did I miss something?  We left home planning on letting the baby run around a little,  playing a few games, and eating a sausage and pepper hero and maybe some funnel cake.  How did we end up with a couple of fish?   Good thing we weren’t looking for a used car.

When we got home, my better half started researching home aquariums, aka fish tanks.  If you’ve met my wife, you know she’s a big-picture type of person—big goals, big dreams, big ideas. I’m the one who brings her back to earth when she goes off the deep end.

My mental image of what our home aquarium would look like.

This is usually when I worry about how big a picture.  Are we ordering tropical fish, converting a room into a full-sized aquarium, getting a school of piranhas?  Okay the piranhas were my idea.

What do I know about fish?  I’m a dog person.  My family had dogs for as long as I remember.  Dad brought home Susy, our first dog, when I was in second or third grade and she lived until a few years after I graduated from college.  All I knew about fish was you flush them when they die.

Around the time we flushed our original goldfish into Jamaica Bay, we set up a ten-gallon tank in Cristian’s room, complete with new fish, gravel, and columns.  Although fish are lower maintenance than dogs, they aren’t maintenance-free, so instead of waking up early to walk a dog, I’m cleaning a tank every two weeks or so.  Saying goodnight to his fish is now part of the baby’s bedtime ritual.  It’s not the same as a dog, but for now it will do.

Cristian’s Fishtank
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