Thursday, October 13, 2011
The blog post by CANNIE50 a couple of weeks ago about willingness versus willpower got me thinking how I approach the use of willpower in trying to lose weight. I have tried to focus more on "wantpower" than "willpower" throughout this journey, because I find trying to exert willpower to be exhausting. Now it turns out that constantly trying to exert willpower may actually be exhausting. The book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney discusses the strength of willpower, and how it can be worn down like any other "muscle." I have not read the book yet, but I plan on getting it after reading the review that was shared with me. The book covers some of the research that has performed on willpower, a generic term used referring to exercising self-control.
Willpower supposedly makes it easier to resist temptation. However, the arguing back and forth in our heads when we are trying to resist temptation may ultimately make it more difficult to resist not only that temptation, but subsequent temptations. Just like holding a 100 pound barbell up in the air wears down muscles, we can only exert mental energy for so long. The authors discuss how willpower actually seems to be fueled directly by glucose, which makes sense, as glucose is the only useable form of energy for the brain. Research had shown that it was easier to resist temptation when people had recently had a simple carbohydrate source. Rather than being mind over matter, it seems to be mind AND matter.
We can't starve our willpower. Just like our muscles need the proper fuel to work properly, so does our willpower. I would say that the evidence of glucose being a necessity for fueling willpower shows the importance of physical activity in losing weight. Regular exercise, especially muscle-mass building strength training, greatly increases the body's ability to utilize and make glucose. Perhaps this is why the appetite seems to self-regulate with regular exercise; the mind more easily exerts its own willpower without us even having to think about it. When we aren't focusing so much on exerting willpower and thinking about what we can't have/do, then we can focus on what we're willing to do.
Perhaps another aspect is that positive thinking is a lot less exhausting than negative thinking. The words "No" and "can't" actually seem to wear down willpower even faster. It does seem that the power of willingness harbors positive energy, especially when we know why we're willing to do something, whether it be resiting a temptation, choosing to exercise, or tackling a chore. CANNIE50 talked about how momentum can be built by having the willingness to start a task and how we may then be willing to do more and more. I like this way of approaching willpower, because it focuses on what we can do rather than what we can't do. Since thinking of it this way, I think, "I can choose not to have/do X" instead of, "NO, I can't have/do X," which brings negative energy in and wears down willpower.
In any case, I find the interplay between willpower and energy to be fascinating. It's simple: self-control is easier when properly fueled and when spurred on by positive energy. When someone says, "I just have no willpower," they probably really mean, "My willpower has been worn down." Approaching this journey without relying on steely-faced willpower has made it possible for me to learn a lot about myself and find out what I am capable of doing. I have unleashed my willingness and let my willpower naturally spill forth.
I had never really stopped to think about how willpower really works, and I look forward to reading “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” for further insights. Here is a link to one of the book reviews that was shared with me by Calvin Dietz, the strength training coach for the Minnesota Gophers:
And if you missed CANNIE50's fabulous blog post "Willingness is a superpower," here it is:
"The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win."
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
My 19-year-old cat Kaia had a 2+ minute seizure the other night. It seemed that her seizures were getting more frequent and lasting longer. She was getting weaker and thinner. I would have been justified euthanizing her a month ago when I first started thinking about it, but I waited. I wasn't ready. She didn't seem quite ready. I was continuously afraid of coming home and finding her having a non-stop seizure and having to rush her in--this was not how I wanted her life to end.
After her seizure the other night, I noticed that she stopped grooming herself, a clear sign that she wasn't comfortable. I arranged with my co-worker to bring Kaia into her clinic and euthanize her tonight. It ended up not being the smoothest night--my mother and I came across a blind dog wandering in the street and had to deal with getting him to his home, and then my friend switched her shift with someone else and wasn't actually working. Kaia sat in my arms, though, until the veterinarian came in to euthanize her. I have been saying good bye to her for some time now, so I was ready. She went peacefully.
I wrote a blog telling Kaia's story about a month ago:
I will miss Kaia. I also know I gave her 7 extra years that her previous owners would have taken away, and I got to have a great cat. There is sadness in her death, but also relief that she will never have another seizure, and will not continue to become sicker. The decision is never easy, but she is at peace now.
"You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity."
-Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet"
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Yesterday I went to Muay Thai and boxing, and was having a great time until my boxing coach Ty popped a fitness assessment on us. He had us do 1 minute tests where we had to do as many line touches (running back and forth and counting the laps), full push-ups, full sit-ups, and box jumps as possible. I wanted to come up with an excuse and leave--I did not feel like making an ass of myself. I already felt lame because I couldn't do the box jumps because of my knee. I only did 17 sit-ups and 14 line touches, both which were a lot less than everyone else. And push-ups? Zero.
Couldn't do a single full push-up.
I've prided myself in not letting my body size stop me from doing things nor being embarrassed about my body size (although I discover that does sneak in). I have considered myself to be fairly fit--after all, I can easily do 2 hours of martial arts training at a time and keep up with everyone else. I didn't like feeling so unfit with doing that test. It took me back to my gym class days where my gym teacher poked fun at me and students laughed at me.
Except this time, no one laughed. No one mocked me. There was no judgement. "I suck," I said, making sure to draw attention to my level of un-fitness. Ty shrugged, "It's just a gauge, it doesn't mean you suck." I realized that I really need someone like Ty, someone to really push me and force me to do more than I think I can do. I need to have someone like him in my head during those times when I want to slack, knowing that he will be testing my limits at some point. Moreover, I have to remember that my performance doesn't have to do with being fat, I'm just not very well conditioned right now.
I really like Ty because he actually seems interested in getting to know people, which I think is helpful as a trainer because it helps to know what makes them tick. We were chatting for a bit after class. I didn't realize that being a model was actually his full-time job, not just something he does on the side. Rather than being cocky about it, he revealed that he is camera-shy and doesn't like having his picture taken. I was touched that he shared something personal like that, even though sharing it didn't seem like a big deal to him. I feel better knowing that even full-time models feel insecure with themselves. I appreciate that I'm not driven out like an outcast like I was at my other gym, but rather, am forming an actual friendship with my trainer.
I may not have felt fit yesterday, but I am still fit. I can get even better.
Sunday, October 09, 2011
People seemed to enjoy seeing pictures of my new coaches in my last "Week in Review" blog. I guess they are both pretty attractive. I never really thought of my Muay Thai coach, Eric, as hot before...he's just Eric, a guy who I trained with on another fighting team. My boxing coach, Ty, is a model. I found this out after deciding to do boxing. Rather than being excited, I kind of rolled my eyes, thinking, "Great, how is THIS guy gonna be?" Although I know he's attractive, he's not my type, so I wasn't terribly excited to have a model for a coach. I was just hoping he would not treat me like a fat girl who didn't belong in his class.
I had met Ty briefly when I went to Muay Thai last Saturday and told him I would be starting to train with him. Within the first few minutes of hearing him talk, he sounded like a brash and crass person--I liked him already. I had my first training session with him last Wednesday. Right off the bat, he seemed like a very intense person. He knew that I had done some boxing before and a lot of kickboxing. He seemed to respect the fact that I had some martial arts skills. He told me that doesn't tolerate people f*cking around and that he expects people to keep up at all times. Then we warmed up on the punching bags. Partner work was next. There were only 2 other guys in class. Ty told me I was going to partner with him first and he would show me a bit how he runs his sessions. He held the focus mitts and started calling out punching combinations.
I dropped my hand slightly and he punched me right in the face. Not hard really, but I know I looked stunned. "Keep your guard up, or I'll punch you." He got right back to calling out punching combinations. I could barely finish the first one before he called out another one. Panting and feeling dizzy from his speed, he told me to go work on punching, blocking, and countering with one of the other guys. They also actually punched me. It was different from the boxing classes I had taken before, but now I know I'll be getting real boxing training.
After an hour of boxing, Ty said it was time for conditioning work. He was going to keep us longer to do it. I had already forewarned him that my knee was bad and that it limited a lot of the activities that I could do. He seemed a bit irritated with that. I'm actually glad that one of the other guys had a bum knee and couldn't do all of his drills, either. I don't think he was mad, but he talked about how he had a knee injury before and how we should both be evaluated because there's no excuse to not be able to return to normal activities once it's taken care of properly. I agree and disagree with him on that. I do have arthritis, so there will always be some limitations.
He said, "You'll get no sympathy from me." I told him, "I don't want sympathy, I just won't be able to do everything you want me to do in conditioning." What the hell, he seemed like he could take a little back talk. "All right, just do what you can." I'll see how this week goes; I just need to assert if there is something I can't do right now.
Yes, he punched me right in the face.
Image from http://www.labdailyblog.com/?p=4568
Ty is right, though...I really need to get my knee taken care of. I didn't want to go see a doctor right away when I had health insurance again in September because I didn't want to be denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition. I've waited long enough, and I've picked a sports medicine clinic and am going to make an appointment with an orthopedist. I'm almost positive that my knee will need some kind of surgery, I just hope I'm not taken out for too long. Moreover, I hope they can provide some relief and that I'm able to return to a normal activity level with less pain.
This week was very packed, and included a 3 day trip with my dad and stepmom to Rockford, Illinois, for my aunt's retirement party. She had been a neonatal intensive care and flight nurse for over 40 years at the same hospital. Her dedication has always amazed and inspired me, and I hope she gets to enjoy some of the things she wants to do now that she won't be working 12+ hour days. Her party was a roast for her, and with my family, this meant that hilarity would ensue. One of my cousins is so funny that he has been told repeatedly that he should be a stand-up comic. His roast had everyone roaring. My uncle, her husband, was also very funny, but would tear up at times. It was very sweet. I was happy that I could make it down for her party. We visited with my aunt and uncle and I also visited with my grandparents on my mother's side, who are getting to be very frail.
I learned some things about how I have changed with this trip, because it's the first time I've traveled since starting this journey. Normally, taking a trip means a total food free-for-all. Although I overate some (which I do purposely sometimes anyways), I didn't feel out of control. I didn't eat something just because it was put in front of my face. I didn't eat something just because it was free. I didn't eat my dad's French fries just because he wasn't going to eat them. If I ate something, it was because I really wanted it. If it was something rich, I only had a little. The biggest thing was that it wasn't hard to eat like that. I also brought my 20 pound kettlebell and squeezed in a workout.
My stepmom Wendy, my dad, and me at my aunt's retirement party.
I didn't shoot progress pics this month, so I'll just use this one.
I didn't weigh myself this week, at least not on Saturday, my official day. I didn't want to use my aunt's scale and figured skipping a week won't kill me. However, the scale had been down by a couple of pounds when I did a sneak peek before I went out of town. I'm not too worried. My eating hasn't been terrible and I exercise a ton, so I'll just see what this week brings. I am dying to see the scale drop below 250 (it was 258.3 when I did a sneak peek last Wednesday), so I hope to make that happen over the next 6 weeks. It's kind of hard not to lose weight when you're doing at least 5 hours of martial arts training a week. While I don't really care about ending up looking like a fitness model, I hope to become a model of fitness. I'm sure Eric and Ty will get me there in no time, but I'm going to try to avoid getting punched in the face in the process.
"I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is."
-Derek Zoolander, "Zoolander"
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
SparkPeople is such a vast virtual land, it's easy to get overwhelmed with trying to connect to people. JILLYBEAN25 wrote a blog entry talking about feeling disconnected on Spark. Her blog got me thinking about ways that I could be a better friend to my fellow Sparkers. I know I am very lucky to have come across some of the coolest people on here and befriend them. I usually feel bad that I don't have enough time to read and comment on everyone's blogs, though; I may be able to read through them while I'm at work, but don't comment. I still feel like I am sharing in their journey because I keep up with what is going on with them, but maybe they need to know that I've been there. Sometimes I will realize that it's been several weeks since I've checked in on a SparkFriend, only to find they were having a problem and could have used some support. Sometimes I go to contact a SparkFriend only to find their page has been deactivated. Sometimes I realize that I didn't get back to someone when they asked me a question. Sometimes I don't thank everyone individually for their comments on my blogs.
I am amazed at some people on here who are both successful on their own journeys and are constantly there for others. It seems some people have an amazing SparkSuperpower where they can do it all. I do feel disconnected at times because it can be so much to keep up with, let alone trying to take care of myself while I'm at it. How can we find the balance between caring for ourselves and being there for our SparkFriends? I hope my SparkFriends know I appreciate them, but maybe I don't express it enough. I hope they know they can contact me anytime to vent.
I know that JILLYBEAN25's sentiment is shared, and I think she portrays this frustration in a wonderful way. Her blog expresses in a very honest way how we can all get a little lost in SparkLand, which could ultimately derail our goals. I hope she does stay, as she seems like a wonderful Sparker, and I'm glad I came across her blog to see why:
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