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March 05, 2010

Help Me Out Here!!

Help Me Out Here!!

A Very Special Guest Blog Starring Our TLC Community

Karen Maslowski

Confession is good for the soul. That’s one of the major tenets of the Catholic faith; in fact, it’s one of the best devices the Church ever invented to control the flock. And apparently, it’s good for the body, too. Seven backblogging dieters who started reporting in to one another two months ago are living proof of this. 

On January 3rd, Sarah blogged about yo-yo dieting, and how difficult it was to lose weight and maintain that loss. During a discussion about a potential TLC diet challenge, Al S volunteered to monitor a spreadsheet of results, and we were off. We created a Facebook page, Help Me Out Here, and promised to report weight loss/gain, minutes of exercise, and any diet challenges twice a week to the group via email. Some of us also decided to try drinking the tart cherry juice mentioned by KateRoth, who lost 35 pounds in a year by having one glass of the juice a day. 

I’m happy to report that, as a group, we’ve now lost over 50 pounds, and that I personally have lost the equivalent of a gallon of milk (eight pounds, in case you didn’t know that)—weight I’ve been trying to lose for years—and made lasting friendships, all thanks to TLC. Here’s the skinny on how we’ve done so far:


Practicing acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine, I spend my days delivering treatments and coaching patients on reaching their health goals, discussing nutrition, exercise, sleep.  The healthier, more fit and energetic I am, the more realistic and reasonable my body/spirit's ‘advertising’ to patients the effectiveness of my suggestions.  But, who is there at mealtime, or the end of the day, or weekends, to cheer me on, as I deal with self-care?   What a joy it has been in recent weeks, to have the daily friendship, acceptance and cheering-on of our group. We each throw all the motivation, experience and wisdom we can into the communal stewpot . . . and I love every minute of it, and every member of the group!

Jodi Lisle

Someone on TLC mentioned we should get together to form a support group to lose weight and frankly just get healthy.  “Count me in,” I said with determination and desire, but not much willpower! Two months into this we are still celebrating, commiserating and sharing tidbits on eating and exercise with each other.  Al is our rock.  He keeps the charts of how much exercise we do or don't do and how many pounds we lose (ok, and sometimes gain) individually and collectively as we report in to each other twice a week.  But don't think we only share twice a week.  We have a real gabfest going every day.  It's like having your best friends near at hand.

Mary Garrett  

Story Teller Mary  

When the suggestion was made on TLC that we form a challenge group, I was motivated as much by “group” as by challenge.  I enjoy the exchange of ideas and support from our “Help Me Out Here” group, even though I haven’t seen the results enjoyed by our leader, Al (who refuses to let me define myself as the “bad example” of the group).  Sweets still have a hold on me, but I’ve also started with tart cherry juice, and more varieties of fruits and veggies (including celery) at Laraine’s suggestion.  I have added some walking to my aqua-aerobics and am progressing with “baby steps,” and even baby steps are good, if they are in the right direction!  

Judy Merrill Larsen

Judy Merrill Larsen 

It started with me becoming addicted to a funny, great blog, TLC.   Eventually I started commenting regularly and feeling like I was among friends.  Then, at the start of this year, there was a post about getting in shape (or not).  And before I really knew what was happening, I'd signed on to the idea of accountability (Eek!) with Alan, who said he'd keep a spreadsheet for us.  Whatever, I thought.  Maybe it'll keep me a bit more disciplined, I told myself.  No big deal.  But, much to my surprise it became a big deal, a group of friends who e-mail daily with support and tips and encouragement and funny stories.  Friends around the country whom I don't want to let down.  It's so much bigger than I'd ever dreamed.  I signed on to try to exercise more, eat healthier, and lose 20 pounds.  But now it's not about what I've lost (or not), but about what I've gained.

Laura Gorton (in PA):

I replied to Al's suggestion on the blog to start a group because I'm the sort of person who does better with diet and exercise goals if she has accountability. Weight Watchers has worked for me in the past, because I enjoyed the give and take, the exchange of ideas, the encouragement when you fall behind, and the celebration when you've succeeded. We've created our own version of that with the TLC group. We have gotten to know each other and become friends, we have someone out there who knows what we're going through, and we try to inspire and support, but not judge. I can find ways to justify to myself why I didn't exercise that day, but it doesn't fly when I have to report to a group. I am so glad to be a part of this group. Although it's serving a purpose for us to get together on diet and exercise goals, it also has become a group of friends. I love the mix of people involved; there's a wealth of skills, knowledge, humor and experience, and I'm privileged to be a part of it.

Al_S (Alan Severson):

When Sarah blogged about fighting life-long weight problems it struck a chord. As I read her post and all the responses I realized I needed to do something about it. I knew that the best way to succeed in such a difficult task was to have a support group. I volunteered to do any administrative work necessary for such a group and hoped that someone would join me. It worked beyond my wildest imagination and six fabulous people joined me. I like to think of the “voices” from the group. The advice and experiences of the group get embedded in your head. I remember having dinner at a restaurant and Judy's remark about dealing with portion sizes popped up in my head. I split an entrée with my wife and we ended up taking half of it home. The group helped me deal intelligently with a buffet awards dinner. My willpower is now wearing chain mail!

Thanks, TLC, for getting us all together! Here’s to a healthier 2010 for us all. 


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I think this is so cool! Isn't it amazing how we can really connect with our 'friends we've never met'?

I love TLC.

Are you accepting new members? I need to lose about 20-50 pounds. ;-D

Congratulations, guys!
You are fabulous!

Chain mail, indeed, Al! Good one!
Thanks, Karen, for putting our post together from all of our mini-novels. A big old Carol Burnett television kiss and wave to the whole TLC crowd, especially the Tarts, most especially the Tarts, for creating a great community that can not only share our love for great books, but also our love for life, and for healthy life. Did anyone say that Al is a prince for showing up cheerful every day? He is!

C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S to one and all!

Fighting the Pound Battle is never easy, and sad to say, it gets tougher as we, ummmm, reach our current age range. (Yeah, I like that. 'Age Range'. Yes, that works.)

You are all to be commended for even starting this project. As for sticking with it and getting results, well, MAJOR props to everyone!

Great blog! When the Tarts first sat down together--in a hotel lobby in St. Loius--to discuss creating a blog and what we should and shouldn't do with it, it was Harley who immediately piped up with "Let's not talk about diets. It's so boring." And she was so right.--But today's blog is terrific! Behind the scenes, we talk with wonder about The Power of the Blog a lot---and this is a shining example. Congrats, dieters!

Sure, Becky--you are welcome to join us!

Al usually gets us started each day with a cheerleading email, then everyone else chimes in. But the only thing we are strict about is reporting on Wednesday and Sunday about our losses or gains and our total minutes of exercise. Then Al tabulates and sends us the totals.

Thanks for letting us post this today, Kathy and the rest of the Tarts! And thank you for providing a place for us to "meet".

Congradulations to everyone on their weight loss! On January 2nd I decided not to diet anymore. I am changing my lifestyle. Becoming healthy (that's what I'm calling it). When I stepped on the scale this morning, I hit 20lbs lost. I still have a little ways to go, but it sure feels good. It makes all the differnce in the world to have a support group of people getting healthy together.

So many days when I log on to read this blog, I'm amazed. You never know what the topic will be, funny, happy, sad or helpful.

Keep it up!

Tina, changing your lifestyle is the whole key . . . Good for you on your weight loss!

Just chiming in to say this "weght loss" group has been so much more than that. We started out as people with common interests anyway, being all addicted to TLC, and so I think we've really bonded as a group. It's become a fun friendship with a common goal.

One more reason to be thankful to TLC. :)

Karen thanks for the great job editing our posts. I'd like to add that we also keep track of exercise. The group helped me be consistent and effective at exercising. I began twice daily walks, started aqua aerobics, and Tai Chi. I have never felt better. Together in the 9 weeks, we have accumulated over 11,000 minutes of exercise, which is almost 8 days!

Nancy you are right, the power of your blog is amazing. I think it reflects the character and personalities of the Tarts, intelligent, articulate, caring, and a wicked sense of humor. And your books are great too!

I'm so impressed. Losing those last 5 or 10 or eight pounds -- or more -- is a terrific battle.

From the person who never met an exercise I liked, let me just say Al is amazing. He reminds us that exercise is in everything we do not just lifting those weights or pounding our feet on the pavement. Why he even let me count ironing napkins one Sunday afternoon as exercise. I know, we won't go down that path but napkins are the only thing I iron. So on those days when there is no formal exercise we all do get in exercise. I take the stairs at work and park as far from the building as possible. He attends water aerobics and tai chi classes. But we are all here together.

Welcome, Becky. Our "Help Me Out Here" group has provided help and support in so many ways, including how to "say no" to overloads of activities. Clearing out the tax stuff to give room for meditation might actually provide me the motivation to do those taxes. ;-) Laraine's knowledge and advice in health matters is amazing, and because my email is not working today, please excuse me for asking this question here:
Laraine, would that essential oil work in a hot steam instead of a cool vapor, so I don't have to buy yet another gadget??

Here are some of the other ways we've helped each other, since I couldn't possibly fit it all in the blog post:

Reminding one another of various strategies, like portion control, adding activities (like Jodi taking the steps and parking farther away at work, Yay, Jodi!), and substituting a glass of tart cherry juice for my nightly glass (or two) of wine. Each of us has shared links to helpful online articles, too, articles we might not have otherwise known about.

The TLC community--and that's exactly what it is--has come to mean a lot to many of us. This is not the first time this has happened with a group I've been involved with online, but the last time was nearly 20 years ago, on Prodigy. A group of us posted daily on the Sewing message board, and one of my best friends came from that time (we didn't actually meet for several years). One horrible night one of the most helpful posters made her own plea for help. The police had come to her door in the night to let her know her son had died. Immediately, dozens of other posters sprang into action. After her initial shock and horror, she posted heartfelt gratitude and amazement that "a bunch of strangers" would spend so much time helping her get through that time. Now you might have a similar experience on Facebook, but the community there is usually comprised of people you already know and who know you.

The buddy system is really great! It surely helps when you need a boost.
My only buddy system involved my mother-in-law and myself. She decided that we needed to lose weight because we were no longer the fetching girls that we were in our youth. This was in the eighties when I was in my thirties and she was in her fifities and gorgeous. I idolized her and did anything she told me.
We signed up at the Venus the Milo weight loss clinic. Right there I should have been suspicious because the statue of Venus stood in the lobby and she was voluptuous and not a model for weight loss in my opinion.
She probably weighed less than her ideal weight because of the arm loss.
We were assigned a high protein diet (again the eighties) and were weighed and measured to our mortifications.
We looked at our profiles and discovered that they had assigned higher numbers to our weight totals to account for their succes if we indeed lost weight.
We bought leotards and resembled the Fruit of the Loom characters causing high hllarity among family memebers but ventured on with our visits to the Venus salon.
My mother-in-law and myself would order sunnyside eggs from restaurant menus and the waitresses would roll their eyes knowing a small tip would be reflected on the small tab. People couldn't decide if we were Lucy and Ethel or Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the buddy cop movies but that never stopped us.
We would give the phone support call to each other and lie through our teeth at the daily food consumption..well, I did anyway.
Finally my poor mother-in-law feigned bursitis and declared that she would no longer be able to do the weight machines and we would not see Venus anymore.
I cherish the Venus and Jane Fonda days and just read where people no longer wear tight leotards so maybe I'll give it the old rah rah try again.

Congratulations to all of you! I'm struggling myself right now, being at the highest I've ever weighed (and the chocolate cravings don't help much!. What type of juice is it that you're talking about? I'd be interested in trying it.

Tight leotards?? Oh, Marie, you were so brave. But the beauty of our little group is no one knows what we wear or don't wear when we exercise. We do lunges around the house, dance to peppy music (Kathy can you make us a cardio music mix?) while doing housework, some of us shovel snow, and Al, bless his heart, does lots of real exercise which, I think I can speak for the rest of us, we hope to emulate but realize it requires actually doing it. Dust off the comfy clothes and move to whatever gets you going. If we can, you can. And as Al points out everything you do is exercise. Bless him!

Cris, it's Tart Red Cherry Juice not from concentrate found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store where the POM products. The pucker factor is high but it seems to help. Join us anytime. We are not exclusive.

Cris, it's a concentrate made from the juice of tart cherries. You don't want the kind that is already mixed. The concentrate is very expensive, like $16 for a quart bottle, but it lasts for a month because you only use an ounce a day mixed with water.

I found it in the refrigerated case near the natural foods where they keep the chilled PomWonderful and Acai Berry juices. The kind I buy is called Fruit Fast, made by Brownwood Acres from Michigan, but there are other brands.

It's all I drink now (once a day), aside from plain water, two cups of decaf a day, and herbal teas. I do allow myself one or two glasses of wine a week, but I'd probably have lost more by now if I didn't have them.

Marie, you made me laugh out loud at the idea of Venus de Milo's ideal weight because of no arms.

Al is so impressively open-minded that he even tried aqua-aerobics (many men won't) -- it's great exercise, and very helpful for achy joints. I just read that "being active" is more effective than set periods of formal exercise, so I'm trying to incorporate that. My P.T. had suggested a timer to interrupt computer sessions, and I'm going to let the hourly bird calls from my wall clock also be the signal for a stretching and walking around break. The weather is getting milder, so outdoor walks will be more appealing, and I may even try out the weight machines again . . .
I've finally realized that maintaining the body is important -- there are no realtors offering upgrades to new bodies (though that would be lovely).

I'm sorry it looks as though Jodi and I are giving conflicting info. The bottle does say concentrate, actually: "25 pounds of tart cherries" concentrated into what looks like a syrup. I try to use very cold water to mix with it, which seems to help.

I love the power of the buddy system. I met Sharon for the first time at the library, our librarian introduced us. We chatted a bit and then Sharon asked if I walked/hiked. I made a face of disgust and the next week found myself walking with a partner. Through the summer and early fall we walked rather gentle strolls. In October, Sharon had her second knee replaced. January got serious. We walk uphill for 20 minutes to a silently repeated 4-beat affirmation or mantra (it helps us focus) and back down in 15. We try very hard to keep it going two days on and one day off. Harder, but not absolutely impossible, I try to use the stationary bike on the off (or rainy) days.
Neither of us likes exercise, but we are dependent on each other to help us move. It's wonderful how quickly the changes happen when we commit.

Cris, what Karen said. But if you find the other stuff it will say from concentrate which means it is already mixed which is what I meant but couldn't say properly. Karen is right on. Listen to her.

Marie, your Venus story cracks me up! I'm never going to another 'gym' (as I did once, long ago) where they measure my arms in three places, legs in three places, etc., etc.--what are we, sculptures to be photo-shopped?!

Storyteller Mary, the only way I've ever had good success with that therapy with my patients was with the little nebulizer I mentioned--anything else seems to change the quality of the essential oil delivery to the lungs (probably shifting molecule size), which is unhelpful.

Jodi, I'll be flying from St. Louis to LA in July -- plenty of time for you to get me all the tips you can think of . . . ;-)
Our group really does help with everything!

This is excellent. Having lost about 37 -40 pounds (I'm fluctuating around those numbers), I KNOW I wouldn't have done this without the group support I've been getting at home. Since I've been snowbirding in FL, I haven't lost anymore weight. Held my own, but not lost more. As soon as I home to AR, I'm going back to the weight loss program. So much support.

However, I'd love to join in with you guys. Did I overlook how to join y'all?

As we've said, we're not an exclusive group (if we were, I probably wouldn't have made the cut!). So, if any of you all want to get in on the fun (and it really is fun), shoot me an e-mail at judy.moticka at gmail dot com.

Or, friend me on FB (I'm Judy Merrill Moticka there) and I'll invite you to our group)

See why I love you guys? Cris and I worked together years ago, and she's just started reading the blog, but she asks for help and gets it in five seconds from people neither of us have ever met.

This is so cool.


And I hereby officially lift the ban (by any powers invested in me, and if I haven't any, then never mind) on diet blogs on TLC. Not that we ever have any luck with rules anyway.

GO, team! GO!

Oh: I did try buying cherry juice. After asking in 4 different stores --one produce guy looked at me like I'd suggested sex among the melons-- I found what I thought was right. But it was like drinking lighter fluid. Back to the drawing board . . .

I worked out like a fiend for over 25 years until health issues put that to an end. I miss it terribly. I was one of those people who loved to exercise, planned my life around being at the gym or out on extended walks.

I am about 10 pounds over what I would like to be and don't really diet. Food allergies that showed up about 15 years ago make my diet permanently low in carbs. I usually walk home from work, about 3 miles but am dealing with severe anemia right now and am limited in what I can do. Mostly I make it to work and go home and collapse.

This blog page is a great support for all sorts of issues and it is terrific to hear that you all support each other behind the scenes as well.

KateRoth here - first of all, congratulations to each and every one of you! I know how hard it is to make lifestyle changes (I'm with Tina on this, it's not 'dieting' but 'lifestyle changes').

About the tart red cherry juice, I just wanted to say that I drink several large glasses of cherry juice every day, but it is the lifestyle changes that the juice brought about that led to the weight loss. Since I was drinking all that juice, no more diet pop. Then fast food (even the 'healthy' grilled chicken salads from Wendy's), started tasting nasty so that went too. Then I switched from regular milk to soy milk for the hot flashes and another 5 pounds dropped off (and I'm convinced it's all the hormones and antibiotics they give cows these days).

35 pounds in a year, and now five years later it is still off and I'm healthier at 50 than I've ever been.

Harley - I order direct from www.cherryridgejuice.com . Of the different brands I've tried they are the best.

Cris and Jodil, I don't mix according to the directions, it's too strong for me. I suggest that you add more water. Plus give it a few days, I found that in the beginning it was really tart but gradually that wore off. (I think that I was so used to the sweetness of diet pop that my taste buds needed a few days to adjust).

I don't know if it works the same or not, but I get cans of tart red cherries and put a half cup of cherries in my cereal.

I'd like to point out that my fitness buddies here are being overly kind to me. They are a fantastic group and are knowledgeable on an amazing array of topics.

And Harley, if I were a produce manager and someone like you came to me saying things like "tart", "red', and "cherries", my brain would quickly begin to resemble a cantaloupe. It's no wonder they were unable to help.

Sex Among The Melons would, to channel Dave Barry, be an awesome name for a rock group.

I'm thrilled that some of you want to join us. We have a lot of fun email conversations on multiple topics. I think the only thing that would make it better is if we were actually able to be exercise buddies in person.

Oh, my goodness. You all bring tears to my eyes.

I know I'm a sap, but here's the thing. As Karen was saying, we all live far away from each other, and under usual circumstances, wold never know each other. Now, because of Nancy and the gang and their St. Louis moment, we can share things like sisters and brothers. (Or even better than that, since one of my sisters isn't talking to the other one right now..) But you get what I mean.

SO we can chit chat about cherry juice and melons and wedding gowns and, oh, books, of course, and it's a real community. And that's astonishing.

Plus, Help Me Out Here is a great name--and applies to far more that weight loss! (Great job, you all..)

Muchas smoochas, as Calvin used to say, to each one of you.

Thanks Karen and Jodil!!

Nothing is as fine an example of the class and commitment of TLC Tarts and Readers as this one:


I still smile when I think of what people did after reading it. And I know in my heart, the flame has not died....

All you guys rock! The Venus weight loss trick and sex among the melons talk made me giggle. My dog was not amused. I guess I disturbed his mid-late afternoon nap. Judy, I'm emailing as soon as I finish this post. One thing, though. I'll be skipping the tart cherry juice. I'm not a tart-ter kind of gal.

One thing I started doing in January is try to stay away from prepackaged and processed foods. Since the second week of January I've lost 12 pounds just by focusing on freshly made foods.

The one concession I made, well maybe two or three, is Stoneyfield Vanilla Low-Fat Yogurt in the morning with fresh grapes & rain-forest granola, and chocolate pudding mixed with Cool-Whip Lite (so much more flavorful than ice cream) in the evening.

Who knew eating fresh food was a great way to lose weight? And much more tasty too.

William, thanks for making us aware of this link. A powerful subject and one we should all be aware of.
As it has been said before "You are one of the good guys!"

One of my favorite rules from Michael Pollen's "Food Rules": "It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car."

Sorry - I mean Pollan. My iPhone likes to overrule my spelling.

There's something about friendship on this blog. It has brought me new friends right here in St. Louis (Rita, Pam, Alan . . .) and friends across the country (including Karen, who came from Ohio for one of Elaine's signings and will always be welcome to come back and Rod who trusted me with his brand new book ;-) . . . and worldwide . . . There's something so warm and welcoming here, even when we disagree, or maybe especially then, when we are careful to stay civil. I wish the whole world could be more like this group.
OK, I know that was schmaltzy, but schmaltz can be good for your health . . . in controlled portions, of course.

Mary, I love "controlled portions"..very apt for today's blog!

Thanks, Marie! Nothing gets past you . . . ;-)

I try, Mary! I try ! Or is that I am a trial? LOL

I'm a little late today, but wanted to thank you all for sharing your efforts. I've been working on being healthier the last couple of years, and some days it's easier to stick to it than others, so I think it's great that you're all supportive of each other.

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