Monday, November 16, 2009
This week's Daily Challenge topic is KNOWLEDGE IS POWER - and we're challenged to get more knowledge about what makes us healthy. It couldn't have come at a better time for me. As a part of my 6 week assessment I looked at the charts generated by my nutrition tracker. While I have not been the perfect little dieter, I have done well enough for a starter. At that early stage it was more important that I got into the habit of tracking things than that I actually ate exactly the right amount of everything.
But now I want to go another step ahead. I would like to do a little better. I would like to fuel my body with some better choices. I'd like to reap the benefits of a richer, more completely nutritious diet. And I want to understand some of the whys about what I'm trying to do, on the theory that if I know why I'm doing it, it'll be easier to succeed.
So - what the heck IS folate?
From the U. S. Depart. of Health and Human Services website WomansHealth.gov
I find that folate is one of the B vitamins and:
Folate helps your body make new cells.
Folate helps keep your blood healthy
Folate can also help prevent some birth defects
You find folate in:
•Beans and lentils
•Peas (black-eyed peas, chickpeas, green peas)
•Juices (orange, tomato, grapefruit, pineapple)
•Fruits (oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, avocado, papaya, raspberries)
•Vegetables (green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, and Chinese cabbage; broccoli; Brussels sprouts; asparagus; artichokes; okra; corn; cauliflower; potato; beets; green onions; sweet red peppers)
•Peanuts and peanut butter
And magnesium? Why do I need it? Where can I find it?
Well, according to the National Institute of Health's Medline Encyclopedia,
olicacid.html magnesium is essential for these functions:
1. Contraction and relaxation of muscles
2. Function of certain enzymes in the body
3. Production and transport of energy
4. Production of protein
You can find it in these foods:
Fruits or vegetables (such as bananas, dried apricots, and avocados)
First off - in Dark green, leafy vegetables
Nuts (such as almonds and cashews)
Peas and beans (legumes), seeds
Soy products (such as soy flour and tofu)
Whole grains (such as brown rice and millet)
Hmmmm. Do you see something familiar about the sources of both folate and magnesium? Dark leafy green vegetables? Peas and beans? Nuts and seeds?
I do believe I can be sure I get at least some of these in my diet every day. I'm already looking forward to my white bean chili soup for dinner and I think I shall have that spinach salad for lunch today.
So - may your day be full of knowledge and make you feel very powerful! Happy Monday
Saturday, November 14, 2009
This morning I played catch up with yesterday's meal tracker and while I was at it I took a look at the graphs of my progress. I hadn't realized that I'd been tracking my meals for 3 weeks but I did realize it was time to move to Stage 2 of the Healthy Diet Habits. Since Moving to a Better Place is what this is all about, I think it's time for a bit of an assessment of the past few weeks.
I'll go back as far as October 1 - since that was when I actually joined SP and it's also when I decided that it was Time To Change - all the way around. I was just home from a wonderful, but nutritionally over indulged, vacation. I was bloated, soft, with lack luster energy levels and chagrined at the photos of me that came home from that trip. Though I am not repulsed by how I look, I do think I'm too soft, too puffy, to blobby. I don't think of myself as a soft puffy blobby person so I don't want to look like one.
The first thing I did was to eliminate carbonated beverages from my life. No sodas. Nada. Niet. No. none. I have drunk diet sodas for 40 years. The were such a fixture in my life that one year I gave them up for lent. alas. I was a snarky witch for 40 days - which certainly is NOT the object of a Lenten sacrifice. But from somewhere deep within - my body was telling me that it had had it's lifetime quota of sodas. It wanted water. It wanted water and a little coffee and water and perhaps a little tea, wine now and then, oh - and did I mention? My body wanted water.
Of course, I wasn't positive I could really go cold turkey with the sodas. I had to trick myself into cooperation by saying I was only going to go 30 days without a soda. But deep down inside I knew. I really wasn't going to drink them any more. At least, I'll have a soda about as often as I'll have distilled alcohol. Perhaps 3 times a year.
I had to schedule drinking water at first. Now and then I had to stop myself and say "oops. No soda's till November 1" but it wasn't that difficult to resist. Just the littlest bit of effort - which was actually better than no effort at all. Resisting helped remind me to drink Water. Because, did I tell you? My body really wanted More Water.
The next thing I had to do was to exercise my body. I love exercise but it's never been the top priority on my daily list of Things To Do. It hasn't been at the bottom either, but it's hovered somewhere around #8 or#9. Time is the issue when it comes to exercise, for sustained exercise involves not just the 30 minutes of cardio but the 10 minute warm up, the 10 minute cool down, the 10 minute drive to the gym, the 5 minutes to change, the 10 minutes back. Yes, you can slip in little steps here or there, but if you're going to get serious about exercise you must acknowledge that it's going to take an hour out of your day. To make that commitment I had to move up daily exercise on my list of priorities. It had to be right up there with brushing my teeth or bathing. I do those every day. I must exercise every day.
And I took a tip from my husband's method for dealing with missed exercise days. He walks 2 miles a day. And whenever he has to miss a day - he adds a little more mileage to his walk till he's caught up. When I have to miss a day I just add on another 5 minutes or half mile till I am "caught up".
These first two changes fit into my life with moderate ease. I'm finding them so pleasurable that sticking with them is an act of recreation and joy more than of deprivation or effort.
But there still loomed the 2000 lb elephant in the living room - the Dread Diet Dilemma. I knew I had to change the way I ate - the foods and the portion sizes. But what to do - how to go about this - which path to choose?? This was the question I struggled with the most. I brought home diet books: Flat Belly Diet, Vice Busting Diet, South Beach Diet. I puled out material from a healthy diet I'd used 20 years ago. I looked over my old Weight Watcher materials. I had successfully taken off 37 lbs using them, though over the past 4 years I've put back more than half of them.
What I was looking for was more structure than WW provided. What I found in the diet books was more structure than I was willing to submit to. A friend suggested I look at Spark People and it was here I found the right combination of structure and flexibility. I was a little slow to use the nutritional tracker at first but I am in love with it now. It gives me all sorts of suggestions – which was the structure I was looking for in diet books. But it gives me as much flexibility as I need when I don't want to or am unable to follow “the plan”. I can keep track of what I've done differently and see what that does to my total nutritional package. I'm still learning how to use the tracker because I'm seldom meeting my micro-nutritional needs – things like foliate or magnesium. I actually take a daily vitamin supplement and I can't find where that gets counted on the nutritional feedback page.
So. What have I gained from 6 weeks of Spark People? How far have I come on the Make Bess More Healthy journey?
I have rediscovered my love of water and my body feels simply wonderful for it.
I have freed myself from the soda addiction.
I have allowed myself to believe – to readjust the mind set – about time and exercise. The facts did not change. My attitude changed. Daily exercise shot to the top of daily TTD list.
I have more energy, fewer aches, and feel like I am more compact. I feel like I am no longer spilling over the margins – like I take up less space in the world.
Oh and yes – the clothes are starting to fit better.
I have found an eating plan that offers interesting suggestions and portion sizes that leave me satisfied at the end of the day
I have discovered a few concrete goals I want to achieve
I have made some new friends
And I have lost a few pounds.
Pretty good for 6 weeks of exploration. Just imagine what the next 6 weeks will bring!
Friday, November 13, 2009
That's what mama said to me when I was a little girl. Not so little that it didn't bring me up short and make me think deeply about life, time, and perhaps at a very juvenile level, our ultimate purpose. I know I was younger than 11, because I can close my eyes and see the room we were in when she said those words to me and we'd moved out of that house by then. I wouldn't be surprised if it was this time of year, too, since what 9 or 10 year old isn't wishing the time between Now and Christmas morning wouldn't just disappear. as expressed in the classic children's lament "I wish it were Christmas NOW!"?
But something in mama's voice when she said those powerful words struck deep into my heart and ever since, I have been acutely aware of time as currency. A special type of currency that, once spent, is gone for good. Like the three wishes in the fairy tales - you don't get to change your mind, take them back, or swap them out. Even if you still have one wish left - or 10 minutes left - if you've spent either of them foolishly - you have to use the last bits of them to fix what you mucked up with your prior carelessness - or live with consequences too terrible to bear.
This was not the first time I had had an inkling that life was a process of conscious choice but it was a major building block in forming my approach to life. I understood that a life was finite. To continue the math metaphor, I even understood that I would never know just how much time currency was in my life-span bank. Like the $200 you are given at the beginning of a Monopoly game, I understood that I would start out with an amount of time and it was up to me to determine how I spent it. The correlation, while not exact, was similar enough to work with the newly learned math skills of the average 4th grader.
But while I took mama's words deeply inside, I didn't actually agree with them. Not fully at least. I had already had enough spelling tests and bad report card days in school to know that there were bad minutes - like the minutes between before a spanking and after one - that would be worth wishing away and good minutes - like when the sunshine came out on Easter morning and you were sitting in the rich green backyard grass with your basket of candy and nobody was going to tell you to stop eating it - that were worth savoring, worth spending as slowly as possible.
Hmmm. Obviously, sugar and chocolate was playing a pivotal role in my life at an early date!
And so I grew up developing the skill of getting through rough times by dwelling, in my mind and my heart, on the good times that I know will eventually show up. It took me a long time to get modestly good at this without letting it take over my life, for the big danger is that this spending of your time, this trading of your life in the present for the hope of some golden future, can leave you unaware and un-noticing of the treasures that can be found in even the worst times. I am thinking here of the dozens of loving people who have stepped out of the woodwork to help my cousin deal with her brother's unexpected death - like lawyers giving her pro bono service as she deals with the Paperwork of Death.
But the other thing I began to understand, with this exchange of time for experience, is that the process can often be as wonderful as the goal achieved. I know that goal setting and goal reaching is the Big Deal these days and I am mighty glad that I have some young people on my staff who were trained up in this skill because they do get lots of stuff done for me in a timely manner. I have actually learned to achieve a few goals myself - though usually I am not aware that they were goals till I am done and looking backwards.
Instead, when I am not getting over rough ground as lightly as possible by dreaming of a happier future, I can truly enjoy the process. I'm especially enjoying the Spark People process - and the weight loss thing - and the healthier choices aspects that are now shaping my days. I am loving how good it feels to drink enough water. I am tickled pink when I have the stamina to get through a big chore and still feel like having a good time when it's done. I am totally enjoying reading the SP articles and playing with the trivia questions and learning things I hadn't known. This all feels like the fun of opening presents on Christmas morning.
I know I will love being at my goal weight and I'll love it the day I can button up THAT dress. I am going to enjoy playing with my Christmas presents. But honest and true - I am not going to wish my weight losing life away. I'm having too much fun.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
First I want to thank everyone who left me encouraging comments on yesterday's post. It's simply wonderful to feel the kindness of your thoughts - the sympathy and understanding. Thank you so much. I am substantially better today than I was yesterday.
If you have ever taken a Myers Briggs Personality Test you'll know there are E people and I people. Extroverts and Introverts - and the defining attributes aren't sociable friendly people vs. unsociable unfriendly sorts. The difference between an E and an I has more to do with energy levels and problem solving styles. E's are energized when others are around and solve problems in groups. They make superb committee people. I's, otoh, find their energy sapped by crowds and are the type to go off, like Jack Horner, into a corner, and come out with a plum of a solution to any problem. I am married to an I who can focus for months at a time on a project, in his corner office and come out with a 900 page book! I am an E. I NEVER try to tackle a problem by myself. If I don't have a committee, I'll scoop up strangers and pump them for their opinions and viewpoints.
My job takes me out into the public every day - the RANDOM public which means not just friends and co-workers, but anybody who walks into the library. But it was those friends who came in yesterday who helped me so much as I wrestled with my sadness, my mortification, and my worries. Each one of them got to hear me puke out my story and as each one listened, nodded, cooed sympathetic sounds and patted me or hugged me they lifted some of the pain out of my heart, carried it away with them, and, since it wasn't their pain, tossed it in the trash on their way out of the building.
My favorite minister just happened to walk into the library while I was standing in the foyer. My knitting group met for lunch at the library. A Virgo Sister Friend called me out of the blue and we commiserated over how the world had suddenly grown unfriendly. You - dear spark buddies - posted encouragement here on my blog. And by the end of the day I was able to stop hunching over my aching heart and stand up straight.
And after work I went to the gym and began walking around the indoor track. I didn't want to pump it up too much because I had a speaking engagement later in the evening and I didn't want to get too sweaty. But after a few laps my blood began to flow - and then surge - and after maybe a half a mile I suddenly felt the endorphins kick in. My eyes felt awake - felt like the light had gotten brighter. My shoulder blades began to pull together, lifting my chest even higher. By the time I'd done 2 miles I could smile brightly at people as I changed and checked out.
ding ding ding ding ding
That's the Duh Bess Bell going off in my head - saying Earth To Bess - Don't ever underestimate the mental health value of exercise - When your heart is in pain - walk - or run or swim or use the elliptical machine - but whatever you do - MOVE. Move your body and you'll end up moving it away from heartache.
I knew that. I was just testing you.
Thank you for reading and thank you for commenting.
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