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Rules for Humans #3 There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rule 3: There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Growth is a process of experimentation. "Failures" are as much a part of the process as "success".

Iíve just been thinking about this one recently in the context of weight maintenance. Weíve even been discussing it in the At Goal and Maintaining Team

I failed spectacularly the first time I tried to maintain a 100+ pound loss. It was in my 20s and I thought I was ďcured.Ē That doing it through diet and exercise not drugs had taught me what I needed to know in order to keep the weight off. Everyone told me so, and I believed them. They were wrong.

ďLifeĒ happened to me in the form of grad school demanding more hours and more of my time. I had a boyfriend who liked to Eat. The weight snuck back on in an insidious way, such that I kept thinking, ďitís only 5 lbs, I can get it back off in a couple of weeks.Ē 5 pounds plus 5 more, plus 5 more, and, well, you get the picture. After a year I probably put back on 30 lbs or so. By then I felt really bad about the way I looked and how my clothes didnít fit anymore and my already low self esteem went into the toilet.

So I eventually pretty much gave up and gradually gained more weight. There were halfhearted attempts at Weight Watchers which led to sometimes as much as a 20 lb loss. But the attempts never stuck and Iíd always regain the weight and often gain back even more. And I became less and less social because I did not want to go outside and feel judged, and see my image in mirrors and shop windows and other reflective surfaces.

Having known what it was like to be slender and healthy and knowing that Iíd tossed away the fitness Iíd attained in my 20s, I felt like an abject, miserable failure. Which often led to more eating. And less activity.

A few things finally triggered me to turn the situation around after living like this for about 15 years.

Now that Iíve gotten back down to a size where I mostly like how I look and I feel energetic and I get to do fun things, I am extremely determined not to go back there. I think Iím MORE determined not to go back there now, having failed at it once already.

Iím not taking for granted the insidious sneaky slide back to obesity. Iím tracking everything and exercising on a schedule whether or not I feel like it. I donít think Iíd have this kind of discipline if I hadnít lived through that first failure.

So, yeah. In a weird way the previous failure to maintain my weight is fueling my current success at it.

For the past 2 weeks I have commented on the Rules for Being Human. I like their sensible approach and now that I'm transitioning back into kayaking and training for kayaking it seems like a good time to revisit them.

To see all of the blog posts I wrote in this series, go here:

You can see all of the rules by themselves, here: rules4humans.com

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NAVYMOM133 11/1/2011 9:53AM

    Excellent blog thread!
I recently had my first real "hit" of old, insidious behavior due to a Nor'easter this past weekend. Wow - "a storm is coming!! we need snacks!!" really? Yup, it wasn't an impressive showing this past weekend BUT I have identified two situations that need very special attention and am back to my whole foods. Day #2. Hopefully the worst of the cravings are behind me with yesterday's good showing.

I am definitely signing up for the challenge. I think I'll do that now!


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FISHPOND7 10/31/2011 8:33AM

    Good blog. So true.

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SUNSHINE20113 10/31/2011 3:59AM

    I must agree with Mobycarp. It's those first 5 pounds!! I've been steadily gaining 5 pounds a year over the last three years. And over those three years I've probably lost and gained the same 5 pounds three times over!!
I'm not sure how it slips in, but the shock to find that suddenly I'm nearly twenty pounds overweight is unbelievable.
I realised something had to change otherwise in ten years I'd be fifty pounds overweight. I can't do that to myself.
I tend to dwell on the mistakes I've made in my life. I'm going to spend some time today thinking of them as lessons and see what happens!
Lovely blog series, thank you.

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MOBYCARP 10/29/2011 4:13PM

    It's those 5 pounds at a time that worry me.

In 1991, I gained 5 pounds.
In 1992, I gained 5 pounds.
In 1993, I gained 5 pounds.
In 1994, I gained 5 pounds.

After that, I tried to avoid gaining and sometimes lose; but it was an awful long journey (with some serious detours in the wrong direction) before I got back to where I was in mid 1991. Then with SP, it was a pretty quick journey to drop another 10 pounds to be where I ought to be.

But those 5 pounds can come back on quickly, or stealthily. And the range that came on by stealth was the hardest to take back off.

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KAYOTIC 10/29/2011 12:39PM

    lots and lots of lessons....Great blog series, and links, looking forward to the rest!

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WATERMELLEN 10/28/2011 8:30PM

    It takes such tiny mistakes to trigger weight regain -- 100 extra calories a day (even healthy calories, an apple, doesn't have to be French fries!) adds 10 pounds a year -- and 10 more pounds next year -- and 10 more pounds the year after that . . . and that's how my weight hit 230 while I did three law degrees!! And why only 5% of people who take weight off keep it off. Losing weight and keeping it off being for me more of a struggle, more of an accomplishment, something I'm prouder of every day than the academic qualifications which don't actually matter that much (and which I sacrificed way weigh too much to achieve: what a lesson to figure that out!!)

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MIRAGE727 10/28/2011 3:21PM

    I must be a friggin' PHD genius! At 61, I've made a lot of mistakes! Thanks for sharing, Anja!

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DDOORN 10/28/2011 12:16PM

    My wording for #3 is:

Mistakes are opportunities for learning!

Insidious and sneaky are great words to describe the devious ways we can make horrible choices that lead toward a backslide! Been there, done that WAY too many times and yes, STILL fighting those trends and accepting that I will ALWAYS have to be vigilant about this!


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Rules for Humans #2 You will learn lessons.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rule 2: You will learn lessons.
You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life on planet earth. Every person or incident is a Universal Teacher.

I have a lot of experience with formal learning. I spent 27 straight years in school (K-PhD, not counting preschool.) You could definitely say Iím overeducated.

Life lessons, however, have always come less easily to me. I find them frustrating. WHY do I have to go through the motions of tracking, day after day, to learn how to do it? Canít I just read how to do it somewhere online or in a book?

The problem here is that some things have to be learned by DOING. You canít grasp all the nuances of a new habit or behaviour by reading about it or imagining it. You have to put it into practice to really ďgetĒ it.

Situations can be great teachers. Some of the life train wrecks Iíve experienced were due to compounded issues, or not grasping the true difficulty of something.

For example, my first job out of grad school involved working for a nut case. Sheíd have screaming tantrums in the lab and throw things. She was unstable and periodically went to therapy for drugs and counseling. When sheíd stabilize sheíd assume she was Ďbetterí and go off treatment. With predictable results. She was paranoid, and insecure, and had an inflated ego. In the end, just to keep my own sanity I started going to a counselor just for tips on how to deal with her. Through my descriptions of her behavior he diagnosed her with ďnarcissistic personality disorder.Ē Who knows if his diagnosis was correct. But the tips did help me marginally keep my sanity.

My mistake? When I met her I noticed she was eccentric. Really eccentric. And she broke some basic interviewing rules, like asking if I had any substance abuse issues. (This is illegal. As it turns out, SHE had substance issues. That I didnít ask about.) Someone at the institution took me aside and gently suggested I look at the turnover sheíd experienced in her lab. I took all of this information, figured sheíd be a handful, and accepted the job anyway.

I will not make that mistake again. Life is hard enough without choosing to work for an unpleasant, demanding, unstable boss. I wonít assume that I can handle something like that and throw myself knowingly into a situation like that.

Hereís another example, this one involving kayaking. There is a whole blog post about it

Or you can just read the summary below.

Halfway through my first season of white water kayaking I decided to go to a river festival with a friend and paddle a class III-IV river. Iíd paddled things close to that level but never quite as difficult. Thatís #1. I was trying to step it up a notch on an unfamiliar river, as a pretty inexperienced kayaker.

I had been spending a lot of time in my playboat which has a flat, planing hull and not so much time in my creeker (which has a rounder displacement hull and requires a different paddling style). Thatís #2. I was going to be in a boat I hadnít used in a while. I also hadnít practiced my roll in a while.

I had just spent two weeks with a visiting friend, doing a half-iron aquabike portion of a triathlon and driving around Canada. I didnít have time to boat in white water while she and her kids were there. Thatís #3. I hadnít even boated in 2-3 weeks.

The festival was in Massachusetts, a long way from my house. The friend coming too lived an hour away. I had to leave the house at 4am to pick him up and then get us there in time for the dam release at 10-11am when other friends would meet us. Thatís #4. I was going to be very tired before I even got on the river.

This particular river starts out easy and gets progressively harder. Thatís #5. I allowed the easy rapids at the beginning lull me into complacency and didnít pay attention to each new one as a new experience.

My two runs down that river were a train wreck. I went under a strainer on the first run (and fortunately didnít get caught in it), and swam out of the bottom rapid. On the second run I swam and was dragged involuntarily up into a raft with one of my feet tangled in my kayak over the side of the raft. As we went through the rapids my body was flipping around trying to follow my foot, and the raft guide had to cut the entangling strings.

Fortunately my leg was OK (I was seriously afraid it would get broken) but I ended up twisting my shoulder and getting bashed around on the rocks while I was upside down. I spent the rest of the weekend in an impromptu sling, feeling crappy about my boating skills and the situation in general.

It took me 2-3 weeks before I got my nerves back and could boat again without unreasonable fear.

So from that situation I learned to respect the river, be more conservative in my judgement of my abilities, make sure Iím not tired and sleepy before I even get on the water, and to practice my roll whenever I have the chance.

Life is still throwing lessons at me, and Iím trying to absorb them. I have a feeling itís going to be like this forever until I move onto the next plane. There is always more to learn.

For the past 2 weeks I have commented on the Rules for Being Human. I like their sensible approach and now that I'm transitioning back into kayaking and training for kayaking it seems like a good time to revisit them.

To see all of the blog posts I wrote in this series, go here:

You can see all of the rules by themselves, here: rules4humans.com

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 10/27/2011 7:11PM

    Love this one too -- and those of us with way too much "book larnin'" education do tend to underestimate the necessity of learning lots and lots of other more important stuff by doing. And then relearning it when we stop doing because we think we got it already: but, we didn't. How many many times have I had to re-learn the "track everything I eat" lesson? Yup: too many. Slow learner on that one, for sure.

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DDOORN 10/27/2011 6:40PM

    These rules are just solid, good common sense...something that can be very fleeting for yours truly sometimes...lol! They oughta replace the Pledge of Allegiance with these Rules in school! :-)


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SLFGOLF 10/27/2011 1:05AM

    Working as a teacher, we learn that we have to have students practice over and over and over again before they learn something. It must be practiced and repeated many times before it is a learned trait. Why we don't realize this is true in our own lives I don't understand sometimes. It only makes common sense. Almost 4 months into this program I finally feel comfortable when I sit down at a restaurant or at a party that I will make wise choices. It took a lot of continued work and practice over these last months and I have learned a lot. I will continue learning a lot about healthy eating along with learning about myself in this journey.

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REDSHOES2011 10/27/2011 12:03AM

    WHY do I have to go through the motions of tracking, day after day, to learn how to do it?
Why do we take a shower daily? Why do we make breakfast? Why do we take care of a job? They are things we have to do- why do we go through the motions of tracking day after day- the lack of it got many of us fat- it is a mastering tool we have to take to us with kiss on the hand to avoid disliking ourselfs.. If we don't take a shower people avoid us or say we smell and if we don't eat breakfast we get hungry and over eat.. Logic is difficult to get angry at -it is a question of taking another good habit and getting it running like all other life vital functions we are taught because we know what happens if we don't..

Comment edited on: 10/27/2011 12:07:27 AM

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Rules for Humans #1 You will receive a body.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rule 1: You will receive a body.
You may like it or hate it, but it's the only thing you are sure to keep for the rest of your life.

Accepting this has been a mental transition for me over different periods in my life.

That's me on the left, in college. I did not generally like the way my body looked, although I could ride 100 miles on my bike in a day, swim forever, do martial arts, etc. I felt fat.

In my late 20s I was hit with some medical issues back-to-back-to-back.

The first one necessitated a surgery. At the time I was living alone in rural Connecticut, going to grad school. I didn't have a lot of money and the nearest family were cousins who lived 2 hours away. I didn't know that you could get bad doctors and just went along with the system that sent me to a general surgeon.

He botched the job so badly I needed further procedures and friends and colleagues leant on me hard to find someone else to fix it. It was at that point I realized that I needed to be my own health advocate (there wasn't anyone else around to do it) and that my body was like my car, but much more valuable.

I wouldn't take my car to just any old mechanic; why would I take my body to any old surgeon? Money could replace the car if necessary. Money could not replace my body. Ever. (Just look at Steve Jobs. That guy had access to the best medical treatment available and even they couldn't save him.)

I still persisted in living at 200+ and 300+ pounds, however.

In my mid 40s I had been living at 300+ pounds for about 10-15 years and was starting to have mobility issues. I thought, "oh crap, if I'm having trouble going up and down my stairs NOW, what is it going to be like in my 60s?" (I wasn't thinking farther than 60s because at the rate I was going I figured I might be lucky to even make it that far.)

So I started losing weight, joined this site, began watching my body composition and macronutrient ratios. I gradually have come to see my body as a machine. I can choose how to fuel it and how to maintain it (cardio, strength, flexibility, rest).

Riding a bike in England with LAFAGG

I have come to see that I can adjust it depending on what I want it to be able to do.

Ready for the Musselman half-iron.

See these photos if you think you are locked into a specific body type:


Those bodies may have started with certain proportions, but the kind of sport they do really does dictate how they look and function.

So now that mindset has become the way I view fitness and weight maintenance. I want this body to be able to take me the places I want to go and do the things I want to do (usually on the weekends).

XC skiing

Surfing river waves

Hucking over water falls

And yes, despite the possibility of another rotator cuff tear, snowboarding.

On powder, though. No more ice.

That means tracking what I put into my body, how I exercise it, and monitoring its composition (weight, % fat) throughout the week. My body is my vehicle, and I want it running at the best performance level it can, especially as I get older.

There is an 80-year old woman who cross country skis in the group I go with in Ithaca. She leads trips. She can ski circles around me. I don't just want to be her when I'm 80. Heck, I want to be her, NOW!

It takes a lot of time and effort to maintain a certain level of fitness. But I'm the only one who can do that, and I want the results. So I do it.

For the past 2 weeks I have commented on the Rules for Being Human. I like their sensible approach and now that I'm transitioning back into kayaking and training for kayaking it seems like a good time to revisit them.

To see all of the blog posts I wrote in this series, go here:

You can see all of the rules by themselves, here: rules4humans.com

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

EILEENV3 10/29/2011 6:59PM

    Loved the pictures of you to see how you have transformed & restructured your life. You are such an inspiration. emoticon

Thank you for the link to rules4humans.com, I have a bookmark from the group I picked up somewhere along the way. Think I got it in the 90's. I have it with a Exit Directory (info re Interstate exit gas stations, restaurants, or other.) We take it on trips. I look forward to reading the "rules." Thank you for posting them. emoticon

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WATERMELLEN 10/27/2011 7:05PM

    Great blog, thanks! And: love the pictures!

Gotta think about food as fuel . . . and the fuel has to be good enough for the Porsche that is me! Wouldn't leave my Porsshe up on blocks and never drive it either . . . and ditto, taking the old bod out for a drive regularly also.

I have a friend who is 80 and celebrated by sky-diving for the first time: she had set the appointment and when she got out of the car, they didn't believe it could be "her". Because she is fit and moves like a woman in her 40s or 50s at most! Good fuel, lots of drive!

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LINZEE118 10/27/2011 8:28AM

    emoticon opening statement! It made me doing some reflecting on that simple truth! Also I liked the what you said that you want your body to be able to take you to the places you want to go & do the things you want to do. Only when one has been incapacitated because the body is not functioning 100% does one truly appreciate this statement.I had a hip replacement & now I'm dealing with problems because the hip is a recall. Their were times I would have loved just to take a hike up the mountains but my body prevented me from doing these simple joys.

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DDOORN 10/26/2011 4:21PM

    Wonderful points...have "borrowed" your "rules" for sometime in my SP signature...great advice!!


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NIMNIX 10/26/2011 3:25PM

All I have to say is... that series of athlete pictures needs some MMA in there. And I did spend a little too much time drooling over some of them.

That being said - Go on kicking ass. You deserve it!

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4ANEWME2DAY 10/26/2011 11:37AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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New Challenges! Motivation through New Year's Day!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

With the current challenges I'm managing drawing to a close, here are two more we're starting.

Both require signing up by November 7:

If you're maintaining, you can join this one:

If you're trying to drop some more avoirdupois, you can join this one:

More info on this thread:


'cuz we all want to still be able to fit into our jeans (and kayaks) in January!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

4A-HEALTHY-BMI 10/25/2011 10:57PM

    Yup they will use the same links. :-)

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KAYOTIC 10/25/2011 10:06PM

    Looking forward to this again! (can I use the same link I'm using for the current challenge?)

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What I've been up to. Paddling, among other things :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The last time I checked in was 2 weeks ago. I've been bizzy running around and doing STUFF.

Here's a summary:

18 training sessions

5 Tae kardio
3 body pump
7 kayaking
4 spinning

31 hrs, 52 minutes and 34 seconds
6880 calories burned

Some GPS tracks and pictures from the weekend adventures. I was behind the camera so there are only a couple of pictures of me.

Mosefest 10/14-10/16

Owasco Outlet 10/22

Letchworth State Park 10/23

I'm still pushing the weight back down into my happy range. I've managed to lose almost 2 lbs.

I saw the shoulder surgeon for my last follow up and he said I was free to go back to doing crazy things outside again. And to come back when I hurt myself. (WHEN?! Excuse me? That's not even an IF?!!! Bah.) I told him I'm not snowboarding on anything except powder from now on. He just looked at me and smiled in a knowing sort of way.

I suppose he must have experience with people into extreme sports... (more than I do, having only been doing such things since 2010, myself)

The two challenges I'm running are both in their last week:

Staying within range challenge

Lose or maintain challenge

I got a NEW BOAT as a reward for having gotten back into goal range this summer. I'll be learning tricks in the pool with it all winter.


And the sun is shining. If it can't rain, at least we can have sunshine. The worst is clouds that don't even drop any rain (which fills up creeks and rivers so I can kayak in it).

And for those who might actually want to read my introspective ramblings, here's a comment I left on the Daily Spark about returning to fitness after a lapse (in my case, injury).


In a cooperative extreme sport like white water kayaking it's a responsibility and a requirement to stay fit and paddle within your limits. The last thing you want to do is endanger someone else's life by needing them to rescue you or your gear.

I was out of my kayak for 6 months for shoulder rehab (snowboarding injury, "massive" rotator cuff tear according to the surgeon).

I tried to keep my heart and lungs in shape with road biking during the second half of the summer (I was in a sling for the first half and only did spin classes and the elliptical), but by the time the PT discharged me last month, my strength in both arms was HALF what it had been in March at the time of the accident.

My back and abs have atrophied as well, so my kayaking power has diminished. Paddling right now feels like driving a Yugo up a steep hill. I step on the gas and nothing happens.

For me the key has been to honestly assess and accept the level of fitness I'm currently at so that I can move forward with a positive frame of mind. It was really hard to do that. And I'm still coping with the fact that I tire easily and don't have the raw power I used to have for padding upstream.

So I have to make an effort to be kind to myself on the rivers and take it slow, watching my progress carefully to make sure I don't overreach and run stuff that's too gnarly too soon or exhaust myself before we get to the takeout.

I too started with a commitment to get back into a regular exercise pattern as soon as I was discharged from PT. For me it was adding body pump M&W to my regular spin class T&Th. After a few weeks of that I added back in tae kardio (like tae bo) M,W,Th. And the past couple of weekends I've paddled every day.

In addition to the weekday regime above I've committed to a 2-hr slalom clinic in the pool every Sunday night, following a 2 hr freeform pool session. That will run from November through April.

I got a new smaller playboat as a reward for getting back into goal range this summer during rehab, and will be learning tricks in it in the pool. That should help keep me interested and engaged in the short term from week to week (and maybe off the snowboard. LOL)

I also signed up for a week of paddling class III-IV rivers in Costa Rica in January. That's sort of like signing up for a race, for you running people (I can't run btw. knee arthritis)

So Costa Rica is my medium-range motivation. To have my strength back in time to stomp those rivers and play in them safely.

My long-range motivation is to come back in the spring paddling season stronger and more skillful than ever.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TENACIOUSTIGER 10/26/2011 10:56AM

    yes it was good to read this, i am having the same challenges, strangley lots of other really important muscles etc are connected to the one i had surgery on. Getting back fitness is a challenge and an ongoing goal. Post op almost 9 months and im getting bakc to more of the fun stuff i like to do. Went to a Salsa Burn class last week lots of fun and my leg held up , onward upward to you to. All the best

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WATERMELLEN 10/25/2011 7:47PM

    Love your new boat -- love your comments about accepting the fitness level you're at currently (tough after injury: but necessary. Has happened to me a couple of times . . . ). And Costa Rica sounds like a great motivator!

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CANNIE50 10/25/2011 4:07PM

    I really like your new boat. I like what you said about being honest with ourselves about our condition and our ability to do desired activities - it is not easy to do an honest self-assessment but it is so valuable. You continue to inspire.

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MIRAGE727 10/25/2011 1:24PM

    It's great to see our team leader showing the way. I'm really going to start kayaking lessons soon as we have so many wonderful places to go here in the Tampa Bay area on the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks for sharing. Hope to read more. Be safe. Be well!

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SF-RACHAEL 10/25/2011 1:22PM

    Thank you so much for being such an amazing example to others!!! YOU ROCK!!!!!


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DDOORN 10/25/2011 12:45PM

    Wow! Sounds like you are MORE than making up for lost time...!

Don't know ANYONE whose SPARK burns as brightly as YOURS!

Go for it!


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