Wednesday, May 19, 2010
My living room looks like a bomb went off in it. There is thirty six years worth of photographs strewn all over the place. Our middle child, Paul is getting married in September and his fiancé has requested a photographic history of his life. This meant, and I am not using literary exaggeration here friends, six huge Rubbermaid tubs that had been tucked away in various nooks and crannies were pulled out and the sorting process has began. Thirty six years of collected family history.
On the up side there was a lot of “Do you remember……..? And “OMG look how young we were.” It’s nice to walk down memory lane every now and then, just as long as you keep on moving. The word “journey” is a verb and it’s intended to inspire action.
One of the ways I often shoot myself in the foot is to try to go back to them “good old days.” Seeking happier times and all those mangled metaphors. The happiest time in my life should be right now. The “glory days” should be today. But as I looked over the mess in my living room and all the collected emotions associated with them I couldn’t help but realize that the past was often a larger part of my life than the present, whether it is through a positive or negative memory.
My journey towards health involves me creating happiness, health and abundance in my life today, not reflecting on past mistakes, bad decisions and failed relationships. They are important only from the perspective that they landed me at the place I am today. In twenty four hours today will be over and it will not come back no matter how hard I click my heels three times and will it to be so. So I must enjoy it, learn from it while it is here and then let go of it when it is gone.
I notice that when I get very close to reaching a goal or when I receive some sort of recognition or praise that I slowly want things to go back to the “good old days” where things were safe and predictable. They were also the days I was morbidly obese and extremely out of shape. Aches and pains abounded, but yeah, bring back the good old days and then I won’t have to deal with today’s challenge or an area I need to improve.
The glory days are safe because we are in charge of how we remember them. I can dredge them up when I want to create a safe buffer or wall between me and reality and then I can either complain and moan about them or get a dreamy smile on my face when I recall them.
Memories are good when they serve to inspire me. Joan showed me some pictures of one of my grandfathers and I remember how gentle he was, even though he died when I was eight. He had a great sense of humor and was always ready to laugh. He lived upstairs for us and the highlight of my day was to wait for him when he came home from work. When the weather was nice he would hold on to my hand and we would walk down the block to a tavern. He would order me an orange soda and a huge pretzel stick and I would spin around on the bar stool while he and his friends solved the world’s problems. When he finished his one beer we would walk home and eat dinner.
I take lots of walks with my granddaughter and we talk. I’m a lot younger than my grandfather was, but I was inspired by his patience and his kindness and I try to mirror that in my life.
“But John, back in the old day’s people prayed more!!! That’s what’s wrong with the world, people don’t pray!”
Then pray and be an example. Conjuring up some old memory from thirty years ago isn’t going to drive a single soul to their knees. The example I set in my life may cause someone to take notice of how I live my life and inquire about it, but moaning about the good old days only wastes time.
“Family values are dead.”
Then you and your family work hard to create those values in your home and let other people see what a wonderfully happy family you have. Don’t blame the political system, the educational system and any other excuse I can create.
Be a change agent.
Pining for the good old says isn’t going to make me healthier. My body reacts differently at fifty six then it did at twenty six. I can still be healthy and looking at old pictures of really thin John isn’t going to make me any thinner or any healthier.
The picture that inspires success for me is the one I take every morning when I stare in the mirror and realize that the very best me, on that very best day is standing right there.
So why ya sittin’ here? Go look at your best picture too.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Is anyone here an emotional eater like me? Do you let things build inside of you until you feel like the dam is getting ready to break? Then you grab your food of choice and OD on it?
There are some mornings I will lay in bed and review my plans for the day and I feel every fiber of my being begin to tighten. I am frustrated and even though it took me a really long time to figure it all out, I am defeated before I have done one thing.
I lie there and mutter something g like “I’ll bet skinny people don’t have these issues. They are so calm, so cool so collected. They handle everything so very well.”
I am bald. Oh, I have a bit of hair on the side and on the back but for the most part I am bald. Whenever I fall into this trap of misperception I say this “I’ll bet people with hair don’t have these issues. They are so calm, so cool, so collected.” Then I laugh
Misperceptions abound in every area of our lives and they are mostly our own creations.
Despite what conventional wisdom states I have found in my own life, that emotional eating is a symptom and not a disease. What happens when you treat symptoms? You get better for awhile but in the end you are right back where you started from, and you have become really frustrated. You question your own worth and value because no one in the entire universe has this problem but you and if they indeed do have this problem they cope with it much better than you do. So why even bother? Pass the butter please.
Time for a break.
No seriously, when I get to this point I take a break. If I can get up from my desk or kitchen table and physically go somewhere I do, but if I can’t I have located this amazingly powerful drug called my imagination and I simply create an opportunity to check out, put it in neutral, or whatever term you choose to use. This takes a bit of work and strategy and before I begin please understands this disclaimer. “I don’t always get it right.” It’s the reason most of my stress pools in my lower back and I am sent running for a seventy dollar massage!!
Misperceptions abound in every area of our lives and they are mostly our own creations.
“I don’t have time, John.” I used to think I didn’t have any time either until one day it dawned on me that every time I hit a red light and grit my teeth I have an opportunity to relax a bit for at least a minute. It’s an opportunity to have the entire chatter stop inside of my head. There are days I am so frustrated I will tell all those negative voices quite simply to “Shut Up!!!!”
I have found that turning off the chatter on the radio allows my mind time to disengage. I listen to soft, reflective music, either on a CD, my IPod or the radio and while I am driving it takes me away from the situation I am in. When I return from my internal journey I can see things just a bit clearer.
Maybe the car isn’t your place. I decided awhile back that I cared enough about me that I would create opportunity to remove myself from the fray and get some peace in my life. When I create those moments, I don’t emotionally over eat. I find I am a bit more balanced and focused.
Joan learned this years ago and part of the reason I write this paragraph is for younger parents. We have six children and they are all relatively close in age. When they were teeny tiny, Joan was a stay at home mom. Every afternoon, when I got home from work, after I checked the mail and stuff she would take an hour before dinner and do something, anything, everything, nothing or all of the above. Sometimes she took a walk, other times she went in our bedroom, closed the door and read, or watched TV. She disengaged.
I wrote a bit yesterday about being proactive and I guess it’s a nice way of saying you have to open your big mouth to get what you want. You are worth it, so am I. This journey towards health we on, requires a lot of attention to detail. Most of us have failed before and we are scared to admit we are afraid of failing again. That’s because we are not used to getting good things for ourselves.
Find a way, to take a break. Find a way to disengage, even if it’s for five minutes to start with. You are worth that investment and I promise you with all my heart it will pay a huge dividend.
Have a great Monday
Sunday, May 16, 2010
I caught the Spark five months ago this weekend. I have made many friends here and learned many things about myself and about my journey towards health. If I had to summarize what I have learned and continue to learn it would go something like this:
I am learning PATIENCE
When Joan and I were married in 1974 (Long before a lot of you were born!) I weighed one hundred sixty pounds. Thirty five years later the day I began to Spark I weighed three hundred twenty six pounds. In thirty five years I had doubled myself and not I a good way I might add. It took me thirty five years to create all those habits and strategies that allowed all that weight gain. It is going to take a bit longer than five months to create new behaviors that will reverse that trend. I know I am on the right path. I have lost right at sixty four pounds during that time. The last three weeks have caused me to scratch my head a bit - - - A two pound gain, a five pound loss and this week I stayed the same as the week before. I reminded myself that my body is going through a lot of changes, all of them good ones. It needs time to adjust and in order for that to happen I need to be patient.
I have found that looking at my goals rather than my progress helps me slow down, take deep breaths and remember why I am here. It also helps to celebrate what I have achieved and plan to achieve more. I am in the process of becoming healthy and a process is not a program! Programs start and end. This process will go on for the rest of my life. I am not going to fail. It’s no longer an option.
I am learning to be PROACTIVE
News flash Sparkies, no one takes care of you any better than you and if you sit in the corner and cry about the fact you are fat, well then you are going to get awfully lonely, if you are not already!!! I have to be my best advocate and I have to make sure I get the positive attention I deserve to help me become healthier tomorrow than I am today.
It means that I have to face the music about things other than diet and exercise that are holding me back. I have to face those obstacles and then find help by either over coming them or learning to deal with them. No more blaming the environment, my upbringing, my family, my friends, etc. As a matter of fact there is no more blaming period, especially of me. I am obese.
The question becomes “What am I going to do about it?”
I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help or guidance. When I want to know something about diet or exercise I write a blog that that basically says “Hey guys I want to know more about……..” And you all answer and then I know what my options are. The trainers at our gym know me as the guy who is now eternally saying, “I gots a question for you.” It may refer to how to use a piece of equipment or an exercise I can do to stretch an aching muscle or two. I want to know. Truth be known, some of them give me a five word answer and walk away but most of them take the time to help me because I am showing an interest in myself.
Despite what that bald headed charlatan on television may say it is all about you. The thing we have shoved food in for so long, that thing called a mouth? That mouth is for you to ask, wonder and learn with so you can be the wonderful you that you are.
(From time to time I wonder just how much I really fracture the English language.)
I am learning to be POSITIVE
The harder I work the more encouraged I become. The more of you I spend time with you the healthier my mind becomes. If you know me at all you know my mantra is “You are who you hang around with.” I hang around with courageous, committed, beautiful people who share my common goal: To be everything I can be.
Some days I look in the mirror and even though my mind sees a really slender me, the mirror doesn’t. It can get discouraging. I could give up or…………. I could say a prayer, read one of your really great blogs and find a friend who may need my help and assistance.
Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker once said “You will get what you want when you help other people get what they want.” I believe that. I will find my happiness and my success through all the people in my life that are looking for the same things I am. If I started detailing everyone here at Spark who has helped me these past five months I would surely forget someone because there are thousands of you. Suffice to say, if you are reading this, you are one of my posse, LOL.
Finally, and this is just a recent revelation, my life is not ruled by a number on a scale. It is ruled by my desire to be happy and to spread that happiness to other people. My definition of success has always been “To help good people become better.”
I know include myself in that definition
You should also.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
You log your food, faithfully calculate your exercise program. You get enough rest, remain active and balance your caloric intake. You get on the scale once a day, once a week, or once a month. You measure your arms, your thighs and your waist. You do all this stuff faithfully and you start all over again tomorrow morning. It becomes routine and you learn that changing your life style means that what you do becomes part of your day and while you are happy and satisfied with all of your progress it can become, well it can become awfully ordinary.
Oh, you do not have to convince me of the benefits. I am well aware of them, but some days it just seems like, well there is a line from a movie of the same name and it says “What if this is a good as it gets?” Then you get surprised. When you least expect it, when you start to wonder………
The gym Joan and I belong to is part of our local hospital system. Appropriately enough it is called The Health Park. Besides the fact that its five minutes from our house it is a good facility staffed with good people. About a month ago they sent out one of those customer satisfaction surveys. I not only filled out the survey but stapled on an attachment. I told them how I felt that along with my family, my doctor and my friends they had played a real integral part in my journey. I detailed how they had helped.
Yesterday morning as I was feeling sorry for myself about God’s know what now, my phone rings. On the other end was the membership director of the Health Park. She told me how she had read my letter and was impressed with my journey. She went on to tell me that a few times a year they print a supplement that goes in our Sunday newspaper. They usually profile a member who has had some success. Would I like to be that member in June? I was speechless. She told me they would set up a photo shoot and arrange for a reporter to contact me for an interview.
“I don’t know you personally know you John,” she said. “But I understand from my staff you are quite an inspiration.”
I almost had to pull the car over to the side of the road. I started calling everyone I could think to call. I got home, changed clothes and did my C25K training and yeah I hurt a bit but I had this huge grin on my face. I WAS A SUCCESS.
I couldn’t help but think about a quote from a new friend here TRACEY5280. She wrote a response to my blog yesterday. She said “A quote I saw yesterday - "the bad news is that you are the problem, the good news is that you are the solution". That is so true.”
Amen. Enough said
Those days in the gym, passing up the cookies, cakes and pies, the sore joints? They suddenly became worth it all. I had achieved a success in my life and if I had one then I can have two and maybe three and then God knows how many. So I will hold this in my heart and I will enjoy it and I will realize that it is all worth it and it will carry me through until my next success, which I am coming to believe is right around the corner.
So is yours. When you least expect it.
I will publish the link to the article when it is published
Have a good Saturday.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Many years ago, when I worked in Human Resources I used to comment t that the real good things we accomplished no one ever knew about. They were all confidential. I used to feel good whenever we were able to help someone. No one ever knew we did it.
I thought about that yesterday as I was driving around between appointments. I get a lot of private comments on my blog postings, stuff that’s not posted for the public to see. To be honest some of it tears my heart out.
People will write me and ask me to “reach out” to a Spark person they may know who is having difficulty in their lives or who may be burdened. They hope I can inspire them to possibly overcome some type of adversity in their lives. I am not telling you all of this so you will think I am some grand and wise person. I am telling you this by way of explanation. There are a lot of “someone’s “who helped me. Some of them are here at Spark and some of them are people I have known forever. All I can do is be me and share my story. I can only hope and pray that might help someone else the way the things I have learned have helped me.
In 1989 I was hospitalized for panic/anxiety disorder and mild depression. I had suffered from this affliction for around two years and was hospitalized because a group of well intentioned doctors had medicated me to the point of being a zombie-like person. Joan hit the roof, with the doctors, when we went to Wal-Mart one Saturday and I simply stood smiling at The Kraft American Cheese display.
Fortunately, we had a close friend who was a rehab counselor and Joan and I went to see him and ask him what to do. I kept having panic attacks and the doctors kept increasing my medication. Ever seen a zombie have a panic attack? Our friend put me in touch with a doctor who simply told me I was on the wrong medication. Okay no problem. Off the meds we come. Small snafu here. He told me that based on the combination of medication I was on, that in all likelihood I would have severe seizure coming off of the meds. So he put me in the hospital.
One of “those” hospitals.
I spent ten days in a detoxification ward and while I didn’t have any seizures I did have an amazing and fantastic experience. If you are familiar with detox, you are segregated and you eat, sleep and live with ten other people in the same boat you are in. I met some heroes. I met some people who had so much adversity in their lives and they were struggling hard to overcome it. I sat side by side with people who kept struggling with the same chemical dependency over and over and kept coming back for one more try to get healthy and whole. I felt a little small, actually. Some of these folks had been struggling with life and death issues for years and I was the victim of some doctor’s error. I learned three things while I was there and they have served me well for the rest of my life.
The first was: “John quit being the victim.” Amazingly, when I got this through my thick skull my panic and anxiety attacks decreased dramatically. Yes, I had issues in my life that often went beyond my control and if you suffer from the same disorder you know what a royal pain a panic attack can be. I had to decide if it would control me or I would control it.
I was really no different than anyone else on the planet. I had issues. Playing the victim is an easy role. People feel sorry for us, they cut us a little bit of slack but one thing I found out was that while they are doing all this, they actually discount us and lose respect for us. Who’s inspired by someone sitting in the corner crying?
You may think I am being cruel. I am not. As they say “been there, done that and I got a major award to prove it.” Once all the drugs were out of my system my new doctor told me he didn’t believe in treating my disorder with medication unless it was completely debilitating. He told me “to go live my life and learn to cope with my issues.” I did and I have. I quit using it as an excuse to not get healthy and improve my life.
The second thing I learned is that you can be positive or you can be negative and it’s not going to change the situation you are in so you might as well be positive. I could sit here all day and tell you how I have turned really bad situations into really good ones, over time, by simply adjusting my outlook on life. There are people who hate to see me coming because I am always spreading sunshine. I just figure that there are enough people spreading gloom and doom, why shouldn’t I do just the opposite?
Third, if you have good friends, cherish them, feed them, water them and they will develop deep roots right alongside of you. During the ten days I was hospitalized I received one inquiry, other than Joan. It was from my best friend. She didn’t care what kind of hospital I was in or what I was in there for she only had one question, “What can I do?” She offered to help Joan out if she could and told me not to hesitate to call her no matter what time of the day or night.
Find a friend and be a friend. That’s the best advice I can give anyone.
I still have panic attacks. I live with them and I have learned some strategies to keep them at bay. They don’t rule my life. I overcame that obstacle and now I am dealing with my weight. I will overcome that obstacle too. I am not a victim, skinny, fat or otherwise. I am positive about my approach to this journey and truth be known I am enjoying it.
Finally I learned that if you want a lot of friends you have to be a friend. The first friend you need to make is you. You are your best friend. I’ll be there for you to cheer, to help, to guide and all that other neat stuff, but you and I will never stop playing the victim until we realize the issues we have in our lives and learn to first love ourselves. We need to see that all of this, good or bad is simply the life we live and it is indeed, what we make of it.
I could sit here until tomorrow making excuses for being overweight and unhealthy or I can, like the Nike commercial says “Just Do It.”
If I can do this, so can you.
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