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.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I always tease my husband and tell him that the best wedding gift he gave me was his cousin H. She was just a little girl when I came into the family as a 19 year old girlfriend-with-staying-power. I'm in between the generations of my husband's precious, but a little stolid and proper family. I bridged the gap between parents and children - the "glamorous big girl" who played with the little ones.
And yesterday one of those little ones died of a massive, unexpected heart attack. He was the brother of my best friend and best gift H. He was 46. We are still trying to wrap our brains around this devastation because nobody plans for something like this. To our knowledge he had no heart disease symptoms, though heart disease runs strong in his family on both sides. Eveyr man in his mother's generation has had a heart attack and two have died from it. It looks suspiciously like the DNA is active in our children's generation too.
When a death comes suddenly and to someone who hasn't yet moved into the "old" category ... a category which seems to be extending further into the future every year I add to my own Not-Yet-Old category. I laugh at myself sometimes when I remember how utterly ancient I used to think 60 was and how, when my brother in law died at 69, of a HA, I was horrified that Someone So Young should actually die. Especially someone who ate properly, exercised, was smart enough to get good health care and who had enough money to pay for it. How could HE die so young in this day and age?
Imagine the difficulty in coming to terms with losing someone 11 years younger than I?
Swirling all around this personal tragedy though, are all the Other Things that life was planning on, demanding and expecting of me, marching inexorably towards me . Things I am scrambling to do in my darling H's stead because she is the next of kin and must take on more pressing matters. Things I was supposed to have done yesterday, last week, two weeks ago, but put off because of our own health surprises. And worse than things - there are MISTAKES I have made in my haste, distractedness and sadness. Like - forgetting to name an important sponsor of a festive community event I am hosting this Friday and so angering him that he withdrew his sponsorship. No apologies will satisfy him and for that I'm deeply sorry. But the event still must go on as planned. I will plaster a glassy eyed smile on my face and plod through the weekend - it's only gift for me now the fact that, come Monday, it will be behind me instead of looming up ahead.
And so. I am going to use a trick I figured out some years ago when I had some dreadful thing I had to deal with in the public arena. I asked myself - what will be the final result if everything goes wrong. The answer? I would come home. My husband would wrap his arms around me. My dogs would wag their tails and lick my hands. My cozy house would smell like love inside 4 walls. My work would be there on Monday morning. Somewhere out there in the world there would be people who didn't like me - who thought I was worthless and stupid. But they would be only SOME out of billions of people and right here at home there would be people who loved me ANYWAY.
And what would be the result if everything went surprisingly right?
I would come home. My husband would wrap his arms around me. My dogs would wag their tails and lick my hands. My cozy house would smell like love inside 4 walls. My work would be there on Monday morning. Somewhere out there in the world there would be people who didn't like me - who thought I was worthless and stupid. But they would be only SOME out of billions of people and right here at home there would be people who loved me ANYWAY.
So the end result is pretty much the same. Out there in the world I may blunder or I may step deftly but I can always come home to warm hugs, licked palms, and cozy walls. I guess there isn't really that much to worry about after all.
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