Wednesday, January 04, 2012
So, briefly mentioned in the prior blog on Time Management was Stephen R. Covey and his "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-
Effective-People/dp/0671708635 Anyone who has read the book or listened to the lectures or attended the seminars already knows about Importance and Urgency. This is for those who don't, but may find it useful in fitting their health activities into their life (and a good refresher for me - I actually have some plans to pick it back up).
(I manually drew this just now. I actually don't remember how the original grid looked.)
Quadrant 1 is the top left square of the grid. Important and Urgent. An example here is going to work. If we don't, it generally has pretty quick consequences like a write-up, less income, or even a lost job. We can't just put it off until tomorrow.
Quadrant 2 is the top right square of the grid. Important but not urgent. An example here is the oil change on a car. If we don't get it done on time, we may not feel any consequence. It will eventually become urgent - the engine can burst into flames if the heat and running rough don't clue us in sooner - but it is easy to put off.
Quadrant 3 is the bottom left corner. Not important but urgent. An example is a child yelling "Mom!" in a store. We rush over and they tell us they want carrots with dinner instead of corn.
Quadrant 4 is the bottom right corner. Neither important nor urgent. A vacation trip goes here. Our favorite TV shows or video games or sports talk goes here.
All of them have a place in our life. Yes, even Quadrant 4. Trying to eliminate all of Quadrant 4 is as silly as saying "I'll never eat anything that isn't good for me". Quadrant 4 is often how we refresh or reward ourselves, what we want to do with our free time.
The biggest problem areas are Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 3.
Our health, physical and mental, far too often is sitting over in Quadrant 2 - being put off because more urgent things keep coming up in Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 3. (And this isn't just a procrastinator's problem. Sometimes we legitimately don't need to do a Quadrant 2 thing today. We can put off shampooing the carpets or filling out our tax forms in January. And it makes sense in January to put them off.)
The things that fill our time to the extent we can't get Q2 things done ... we'd like to think they all belong in Q1. But, no, watching the latest episode of Biggest Loser or the local sports team's games or playing our favorite video games, no matter how much we want them part of our life, our day, they are not Q1.
In fact, Q3 is guilty of sucking up a lot of our time. Every time the phone rings or the children call, we interrupt something. Many things feel urgent in our life. Emails? Gotta read 'em all. New blog posts? Ditto. News at 11, 3, 7, and 11? Can't miss what's going on in the world. Society even reinforces this feeling with ads that tell us to "buy now" and "don't delay" - everything is a rush, urgent. But much of it is not important and if we ignore the demanding voice telling us it is URGENT, we find we don't miss a lot that's important.
In the video, several of the "big rocks" representing things that fit into Quadrant 2.
One was "Planning, Preparation, Prevention and Empowerment". Over-simplified that would be making sure we are ready and able through things like goal-setting or education, and regular physical checkups.
Another was "big opportunity". That could be having savings so we could buy a house, car, move to another city, keeping our eyes on career openings ... anything so we don't see the perfect chance blow by us with no hope of taking advantage.
Another was "Sharpening the Saw". That is any sort of maintenance action. Might be literally taking the time to sharpen a saw or defrost a freezer or test a smoke alarm or it might be keeping our most indispensable tool in good shape. (What's that tool? Our mind and body, of course. We're pretty much ineffective if we're not kept "sharp".)
Now, the point of this wasn't to promote Stephen R. Covey. The time and life management skills he teaches are just tools and there are many other self-improvement tools out there to choose from, or we can even find our own methods built from pieces of what others have.
The point, going back to the big rock concept, was to think about and define for ourselves what our big rocks are - and to not limit those big rocks to only the things we think are important right this moment, but to consider the important things that aren't right there in our face demanding attention.
Until something hurts or stops working right, too many of us ignore our health. Even when we do get forced to pay attention, many of us do the bare minimum. We don't want drugs, so we drop just enough to get off them ... then stop. A heart attack scares us and we're active until it has been long enough we're comfortable again. Then right back to our normal habits.
I think the concept of lifestyle change is really about making important, but not urgent, actions into habits that we get done. Really! Will you fall over dead because you only had 1 glass of water a day? Nope. Will it make you very unhealthy over time? Absolutely. It is important, but not urgent. Will you fall over dead because you only walk to and from your car one day? Nope. Will it make you very unhealthy over time? Absolutely. Again, important, but not urgent.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Many of you may have heard a version of this parable in the past. I think the one I first heard described a professor using a fish tank in his classroom for the demonstration.
He put in big rocks (small enough to fit in the tank, but only a few of them fit) until its full with no room for more of those rocks. He gets the students to agree that it is full, too full to add more.
Then he puts in marbles and they scatter and fill in many of the spaces between all the rocks, but eventually there's no room for more marbles. He gets the students to agree that it is now definitely full.
Then he adds sand and it filters down through the rocks and marbles, until it's full to the brim. Now it MUST be full. There's nothing else that could possibly fit in there.
Then he adds water, just to show there was STILL room.
That parable makes the point that even when our day is jam-packed with activities, we can usually find a way to fit small tasks in here and there. The 10-minute commitment to fitness is a good example of this concept. Most of us can find 10 minutes somewhere in our day to squeeze in some exercise.
However, yesterday on Google+ I saw a publicly shared post by +Brad Thompson that starts with the same concept, but includes a twist. The story does not appear to be originally attributable to him. In fact, one reference I found has a video of Stephen R. Covey (a motivational speaker) demonstrating the point. And it may not even originate with Covey. More likely it is one of those basic stories that gets altered to make different points.
The twist was that the order in which the items are added is key. While the terms on some of the rocks may not make sense, the video here is definitely worth a watch. michaelhyatt.com/put-the-big-rocks-i
For those who don't wish to watch the video, Covey has a glass bucket that he fills about 2/3 full of gravel - the sort we might put at the bottom of a fish tank. These represent all the little tasks and responsibilities that generally fill our day. Then he has a pile of fist-sized rocks, varying shapes, with labels on them. He instructs the person with him to try to fit all of them into the bucket. She gets maybe five or six of the ten or so rocks in, barely, not quite staying under the lip.
Then he gives her the chance to look at it a whole different way. A second empty bucket is available and she choose to put the big rocks in first, figuring out how to make them all fit around each other. THEN she adds the gravel, shaking occasionally to get it it fill in, until voila, everything is in one bucket and nearly level with the lip.
So, what does this have to do with SparkPeople, fitness, health, eating right, and losing weight?
Think of the size of the rock as its level of importance in our life. We have quite a few things in our lives that are important. Some, from the video, are "relationships and family", "employment", "service to community, church", "vacation", and "major projects". (Others would take explaining more about Covey, which I'll do in a second blog.) There's even one there called "big opportunity", because if we're not ready and able to take advantage of an opportunity when it shows up, we may lose the chance.
So, just how important is our health? Do we treat it like one of those big rocks - giving it a priority in our lives? Or do we treat it like the gravel, pushing it here and there trying to fit other big rocks in that we consider more important? Do we perhaps even leave it out of our schedule completely some days because it just won't fit?
Thinking with that, what are the big rocks in your life?
Are you building your time (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly) around those big rocks? Or are you having trouble getting those big rocks to all fit with everything else going on?
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Obviously not entirely. We do many things throughout the day that are not driven by habit. But the sheer number of things that ARE dictated by habit is not something we notice, and with good reason. Habits are our bodies way of doing things for us so we don't have to think about doing them. They're time-savers, or meant to be.
When I started doing my strength training, one thing I noticed is that I will automatically start with my right leg or arm. I'm right-handed, so maybe that makes a kind of sense, but it isn't even something I think about most of the time. (When taking Salsa lessons once, it was interesting to see this in class because men and women start on opposite feet - he steps forward on the right and she steps back on the left.)
On that same note, think about getting dressed every day. Do you put on your shirt first or your pants first? Which leg of your pants? Do you put both socks on before you put on your shoes? Which shoe goes on first? Do you shave the left cheek or leg first, or do you shave the right?
Even more funny ... try doing it the other way around. What an odd reaction I've had to that on occasion. It's not physical, it's not entirely mental, but it was a notably "not right" feeling.
We have a lot of habits. Included in those habits could be the common eating issues. Portion distortion? We have a habit of serving ourselves large amounts of food. Emotional eating? We have a habit of going to food for comfort. Clean plate club? We feel wrong if we leave something on that plate.
Yes, there is more than habit at work, but habit is what helps make it mindless when we're focused on other things. Habit lets the body run itself through a known pattern so we can put our attention on other things.
That ATTENTION is an important point here.
We only have so much attention we can apply to things. Too much going on and we can lose the ability to pay attention to everything. We can control our attention consciously, deciding what to watch, but to do so we often relax attention on other things.
(Reminded me of a good blog right there:
This Dieting Thing Seems Alot Like Puppies To Me
As Creatures of Habit, when we start off a New Year in a blaze of glorious change, with resolutions and goals and fresh starts, we go in a direction which doesn't have a lot of habits built in. In fact, we may be going directly against bad habits.
At first, we have to put a lot of attention on the new behaviors and avoiding the old habits. But we're fired up with motivation, so we have all that attention to spare. Wake up and pay attention to what we drink, pay attention to what we eat, pay attention to the snacks and lunch we're packing, pay attention to packing the gym bag and carrying it to the car. We go on through the day, constantly trying to be vigilant to keep all these new behaviors (they're not habits yet) in line.
And what do we find? It's EXHAUSTING! Quickly enough it feels like we don't have enough energy left to pay attention to everything. We discover that while we paid attention to all of that, we bounced a check or our best friend is complaining that we never spend time with them. Our kids notice they're getting less attention and, boy are they creative in their ways of getting some back. Or, worse, an emergency derails us. An injury and recovery consumes all our attention. The loss of a loved one, a job, or a home overwhelm us and any attention to good healthy habits is tossed.
The original habits take over. That's what they're there for, after all - to help us get by when we can't pay a lot of attention. "Don't worry about paying attention to what you eat. I've got it. Grab that bag over there, open it, stick your hand in, put some in your mouth and chew. Repeat. Easy does it. There. You're fed, body's happy. Habit did good job!" If our attention comes to it at all, we're horrified to see we just scarfed an entire bag of __________ (chips, nuts, cookies, fill in the blank).
We often hear numbers touted, studies cited, on how long it takes to form a habit (or break a habit). Of course, if one study says it takes 21 days, another says 28 days, still another 66 days, and one even says 9 months ... what do we believe? In fact, more often we aren't reading the actual study - we're reading the news blurb with the "important" information.
Does it matter if we're trying to learn two habits instead of one? Does it make a difference if there's a bad habit directly counter to the good habit? Does the number vary by person? Age? Type of habit? Natural risk/reward of the habit? Something else entirely?
I can't begin to guess at that, but I can guess at one thing that will help.
Only change as many things as you have spare attention for. That may be just one thing.
Think like learning to be a juggler. We have to start with just one ball, practicing until we can toss it back and forth hand to hand without having to look at and track the ball. Just one ball! Back and forth until it is a smooth routine; until it doesn't take a lot of thought (attention!) One ball doesn't feel like much. It sure doesn't feel like we're ever going to be a juggler this way.
== Nor does one new healthy behavior feel like it's going to get us to our goal weight. ==
Once we're good with one ball, a second ball gets added. At this point we probably find ourselves regularly dropping one ball or the other. We catch one and the other we throw wildly out of reach. We pick them up and try again. And again. And again.
== Ditto for our healthy behaviors. Even though we think we have one new behavior well in place, when we add a second, we may find we drop either one or the other. That's fine as long as we pick them both right back up and keep going. ==
Eventually we add a third, then a fourth, and each new one we add in gives us new complications. Sometimes we drop the new ball, sometimes we drop the original ball. Every time, we pick up all those balls and we start again.
== Again, ditto for what should by this point be healthy habits. We may still drop some here and there, especially if we add more. But every good habit we want to keep in play is something we need to occasionally make sure we are doing. ==
So, fellow Creatures of Habit, build those habits without overwhelming yourself with change. And never give up just because a habit fell out. Pick the ball back up and put it back in play.
They do get easier eventually, until the day we find ourselves saying "I didn't even have to think about _____________. I just did it."
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
In some ways I'm pretty lucky. I've moved around a decent amount in my life, but mostly been in the same metropolitan area. Mostly. I've apparently lived briefly in Alabama (was 2 or 3 at the time, I think) and New York (bleh, Brooklyn).
So when I'm feeling particularly nostalgic or just in a curious mood, one of the things I do is go looking at what past houses look like now. I was rather impressed at the house my mom's third/fifth husband owned and they lived in from around the time I was maybe 10 for a couple decades, until he sold it to move to another nearby city closer to work. Impressed because he had started many home improvement jobs, but was terrible about finishing. I remember the porch being half-rebuilt, the garage made into a second bedroom looking half-done from outside. The new owners or someone since FINISHED and improved on those. It looks spiffy.
Anyway, today I looked up how far I'd have to walk from one bus line to the house I lived in from early in 6th grade until the month I graduated and got out. Not too bad - 1.3 miles. *COUGH* I did not take into account that I'd then decide to walk further to see the high school I went to, then back and check out the elementary school and the park. End result was 2.77 miles and somewhat sore feet, but some pics and interesting memories stirred.
Wow ... all I can say is ... ouch. We had grass and a wooden fence (admittedly falling apart), a palm tree (some of the logs I can tell came from it), a fern in that little alcove behind where the hose is (and the hose was hidden by the fern). The driveway has definitely seen better years and the roses that used to be to the right are gone, replaced by patch grass and a vehicle half parked on them. I can feel the years just wearing this poor little place down.
My high school undergoing renovations of the main buildings. It intrigues me that I know where several of my classrooms were. One literature class (Greek gods I remember best of it) was on the top right where the orange flags are. I was briefly put in an English class on the back side also at the far right where the teacher told us we couldn't possibly get As because we were average students. O_o The counselor then got my schedule fixed and I went to AP English like I was supposed to.
Oh, and liked that this was still there and "prominent" in spite of the construction:
I think the biggest thing that went through my head wandering the old neighborhood, though, was that our old house wasn't the only one to look that poorly maintained. Even the school with its renovations had many areas not under construction that looked much as they had when I attended, but older, much older. I guess ... 25 years older, really.
The other thing I was remembering was P.E. classes. In Junior High, it seemed like every quarter we were changed from one activity to another. I remember dance, softball, tennis, and track. I even remember doing hurdles a couple of times. But it wasn't until my sophomore year in high school doing weight room that I really enjoyed my P.E. class. I got dang close to doing an actual pull up and remember outdoing several of the guys with what I could lift with my legs.
Yet somehow I also remember having trouble in P.E. I actually had a doctor's note from knee trouble, but had to "run" a mile in 12 minutes or get a failing grade on the final. I wound up with a C, in spite of perfect attendance and participation before that. I don't think I ever ran or jogged for school after that (not because of the event, but because I didn't need P.E. again, so I didn't take it.)
As a wander down memory lane, it had me thinking about how some of my attitudes about certain activities are coloured by how a mandatory P.E. class turns what could have simply been healthy and fun into ... classwork.
And that's an attitude I'm glad to have broken with. I walk because I love the freedom, the ability to go just about anywhere at any time. I walk because I can push my speed and get my heartrate up at the same time I am enjoying the scenery or getting somewhere. I dance when I can because it is fun and freeing and I love music that makes me want to move my feet. I do strength-training because I really want to someday be able to do the full military style pushup, an actual pull-up, and regular sit-ups without hurting myself or doing them wrong. I love that challenge to myself.
It also had me thinking about how age isn't going to slow down, that failing to do more than the minimum to maintain my body leaves me looking as sad as that old house does. I need to really put more attention into what it will take to renovate and renew (without nips and tucks =P) and that really might include some healthier eating down the road.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Starting off the new year with a look at where I am right now.
Height = 5' 7.75" (67.75 inches)
Weight = 221 pounds
Body Fat % = 45% or 28.23%
BMI = 33.85
BMR = 1737.375
Forehead = 23.75 inches
Neck = 15 inches
Shoulders = 45.5 inches
Chest = 41 inches
Bust = 48 inches
Ribs / Strap = 38.5 inches
Bicep = 15 inches
Forearm = 11.5 inches
Wrist = 7 inches
Waist at Navel = 42 inches
Hips = 51 inches
Seat = 48.5 inches
Thigh = 26 inches
Calf = 17 inches
Ankle = 10 inches
A couple of comments on those measurements. Chest was measured approximately at the armpits - above the bust. Rib / Strap was measured at the point just below the bust where a bra strap sits. Waist I had to very specifically set at the navel because my narrowest point is, oddly enough, the rib/strap point.
(This point about the waist has caused me some confusion on sites that calculate a waist-to-hip ratio, as the listed waist and hip numbers give 82% and call me an apple. Anyone who isn't blind and looks at pictures without a floppy shirt can see I have a defined waist, and definitely qualify as pear shape.)
None of the measurements are with the muscle flexed and I took several breaths while measuring to get the widest numbers without unintentionally sucking in away from the measuring tape. Often I slide the measuring tape loosely side to side to find the widest or narrowest point and accept that I may not have it completely parallel, so the readings may be off. It's just a general guide, not perfection, I'm aiming for.
The first Body Fat % is measured by my scale based on some tiny bit of electric charge from foot to foot, which has the inaccuracy of being mostly lower body. (I maintain the same position during testing, arms at sides, to avoid too much variation.) The second is calculated on a site based on wrist and forearm, as well as waist and hips. I don't believe either number is accurate. (Currently on my page I use the one from the scale. The only point of it is seeing the fluctuations and the ongoing change.)
Since I was doing all sorts of measurements, I also wandered off to a site the tries to help suggest hairstyles, makeup methods, and clothing options based on face and body shape. I like one Dressing Tidbit they offer up:
++ Dress for the body you have not the body you might have next month or next year. ++
I'd found it when looking up the virtual body one I see others use. (NOTE: I don't use that myself as they seem to think MEDIUM-LARGE bust is as far as it goes, so the virtual body has no chance of looking anything like the way my body looks. Maybe someday they'll have one that lets us put in measurements and fills it out based on those. Maybe someday I should CODE such a thing. Hmmmm....)
I found out things like I apparently have an oblong face (length is more than width by more than a third), but I don't have the rounded hairline that oblong usually has ... so I don't really fit it well. Just my luck. =P
I have longer legs than torso, though not by much (as in 36" floor to hip and almost 32" hip to head).
Hourglass, no surprise at all, though I did learn that it's the very fact of dressing to hide the curves that has made me look frumpy. Hrrmmmmm. I just wanted to avoid attention to certain "assets" and hated looking short and dumpy to achieve that. (*snickers* Okay, that page says "boobs" way way too much. Yes, I'm weird like that sometimes.)
It didn't cover one thing I know is common in my family line ... long arms. So many shirts on me act like they have a 3/4 length sleeve. Standing normally, the heel of my palm is at the top of my thigh and with what my grandmother called piano fingers (they stretch pinky to thumb across an octave plus a note), my fingertips hit around mid-thigh. Sure, the supposedly shorter torso would give that appearance, but I really do have trouble with shirts that otherwise fit, but cuffs hit above my wrist and have me tugging at them a lot.
Replacing clothing is actually going to be a big part of this year. Even if I lost no more weight at all, my "wardrobe" from many years of bare minimum replacement is in bad shape. I need to do a realistic inventory of it, but more than half is ratty to the point I shouldn't really be wearing it still.
I probably need to do a full inventory of what I have and what I need, but that's not the point of this blog.
Hmmmm, I should do some sort of physical condition measurements probably. I'll edit these in after I get them done.
Resting Heart Rate = 56 bpm (counted out over 30 seconds at 28 beats)
Target Heart Rate = 125 - 151 bpm
Blood Pressure = 109/71
t.htm for instructions)
Situps = 20 (Average)
Modified Pushups = 3 (Poor)
Squats = 15 (Average) - hurts knees, may not have done 100% right
Step = 132 bpm (Below Average)
Vertical Jump = 7 inches (Poor)
Sit and Reach = -3 inches (Poor)
Aerobic fitness check (2 miles total)
Heart rate before walk = 59 bpm (on same machine as blood pressure)
Time for 1 mile brisk = 14:57:58 (woot! 15 minute mile)
Heart rate after 1 mile brisk = 128 bpm
Time for 2nd mile brisk = 15:07:72
Heart rate after mile 2 = 140 bpm
Time for 1 mile normal = 18:02:97
Heart rate after 1 mile normal = 120 bpm
(Couldn't decide if they wanted 2nd mile brisk or not and foot felt good enough for 3 miles, so I added the second mile brisk and made the third the cooldown speed.)
There, I think that will give me a pretty well-rounded comparison to go against as I work my way through 2012.
Definitely room for improvement, but not nearly as shabby as I could have expected. I was definitely pleased by the blood pressure results and resting heart rate. That rate of 59 bpm was measured by the machine after being up and about some, walking to bus, walking from bus, then sitting at machine.
One comment to make in reference to one response. I don't know how to exactly explain or word it, but my goal here on SparkPeople has never really been "lose weight". I expect to lose weight with the activity and food patterns, yes. But I want to be fit. I want to be able to do the kinds of tests I remember in P.E. class and score at least average for my age. And once there, I want to maintain it.
I don't honestly think there's a way to be that fit and be obese. I'm already a shockingly healthy obese person, really, but I can feel the strain such as in the knees doing squats (and that's part of what made Latin dancing less fun). So the weight does have to go. But what I want to really measure myself by is the fitness standards. If I can pull everything up to Below Average or Average, I will be very happy with myself.
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