Monday, November 21, 2011
Most people know or have heard about the famous "Stanford Marshmallow Experiment" right? The one where they offered children one marshmallow now or a number of marshmallows later to study variations in delayed gratification? If you haven't heard about it, here's the Wiki link about it - it's worth a read: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marsh
Every so often, one of my Sparkfriends writes a blog that doesn't just hit home with me, but keys off a sequence of connect-the-dots behaviour in my head that leads me to some profound realization about myself and some of my most current struggles. And isn't that what we love about this community? Today's AHA Moment comes courtesy of WYND10's blog about coming back to Spark after getting "happy" - I'm so happy she's back and I'm SO happy she's happy. Here's the link to her blog: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
But here's where the two above paragraphs overlap. How much of our life happiness is based on delayed gratification and how much is based on instant gratification? Because if I'm like anyone else here, my gratification scale is way out of balance.
I don't know how I would have performed in that marshmallow experiment as a kid, but based on my mother's story of me eating all of the chocolate almonds I was sent home with to sell when I was in kindergarten, I'm going to assume that I would have eaten the damn marshmallow. I'm an instant gratification addict. I have learned delayed gratification over the years, but I'll be the first to tell you that it is absolutely NO FUN. Thankfully, unlike some of the participants in the study who were also instant-gratifiers, I got good grades in school, have managed to pay off my student loans, and have never become addicted to smoking or drugs. But food? - that's another issue all-together.
And like WYND10 asks - why is it so much harder to delay gratification when you're already happy? I think this is due to the method of thinking that more of a good thing can't possibly be bad - right? So when we're happy, it's easier to replace our system of delayed gratification with shorts bursts of instant appeal. Maybe I'm taking the analogy too far. But what happens when that "happy" is because we've accepted another person into our lives like she and I both recently have? Here's my response to her blog, which gets to another matter I've been meaning to talk about for a while now:
"OK - so I'm in exactly the same place you are right now. Except, I wouldn't blame this on being happy anymore like I might have in the past. Here's the therapy talk that I'm still trying to work through myself but that I know holds SO much weight (both literally and figuratively):
When we add another person (or thing, like a new job) into our lives we slowly start to lose sight of ourselves because loving and living and being for that other person/thing becomes who we are. It's second nature for us - negating ourselves and our goals and aspirations in order to better serve everyone else in our lives. We call it happy because it feels good - for the time being. But eventually it won't feel good anymore. And then we start to get angry and resent the other people/things in our lives because they prevent us from being and caring for ourselves and we start to remember and long for the days before the "happy" came along when we had control over things.
So the ONLY way to prevent the unhappy from creeping back in is to maintain YOU. And that is NOT at all easy. Because it means standing up for yourself 100% of the time. It means turning down food when hubby wants to order in, it means insisting on exercise when all you want to do is cuddle on the couch, it means speaking up when something doesn't feel right or you don't like something about your partner, or your boss, or your job situation. And keeping in mind that all of these things are NOT to deprive you of the "happy" but to keep you in it long term. This is not eating the marshmallow because you get a whole bag of marshmallows later if you wait."
I want my cake and I want to eat it too. And I can have it. Really, seriously. But it means adhering to the slow bake approach. It's not a matter of denying yourself the cake, but about eating small pieces of cake over a LONG period of time (or about saying no to small pieces of cake over a short period of time). And I think we all need an injection of this attitude right before we hit the holidays. It's not about denying yourself Christmas (or Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or birthdays or cake or cookies or pie or anything else that you might be feeling deprived of my taking a pass on it or saying no). It's about having 10, 15, 20 more years of your life to celebrate these amazing events. Because eating that marshmallow this year seriously could deny me eating 20 more marshmallows spread over the next 20 years of my life.
For me this works for food binging, money binging (stressed out shopping spree anyone?), saving for my retirement, and many, many other areas of my life in which the need for instant gratification is currently hurting my long-term life goals. I refuse to sink into the "happy" right now and risk not having it 20 years from now. And my partner needs to be the type of person that understands that about me. Or ultimately, we're not going to work. However, just saying that is me being afraid that he won't understand, when really, being myself is all he really wants from me anyway. Setting up future happiness isn't about not being happy right now, it's about balancing both.
Good things are right in front of you, but good things also come to those who wait (and due to inflation, they sometimes come in larger quantities later). So think about all the short term changes you could make right now to ensure long term happiness. It's about YOU, not about the marshmallow sitting in front of you on the table. Instant happiness (the thing that you feel right now, the sensation you get when you gobble down the marshmallow) is not the goal. It is fleeting and will eventually go away unless you commit to continuing to do the work to hang on to it. The goal is sustained happiness: a perfect balance of short bursts of joy, long-term planning, and believing that you can and will have everything that you deserve and desire in time.
Friday, November 11, 2011
After not posting a race report for the 10K I ran back in August, I figured that I both owed you guys a blog, and owed myself an accurate representation of my year in running. I know I'm going to regret not posting my 10K report. This blog is like a scrapbook for me of my journey here and I've been away for far too long!
My prep for this race was much like my prep for all my other races - except this time I started "carb loading" a couple of days in advance. I stayed within my calorie range, but ate more whole grains, pasta and bread than I usually do to beef up my stores a bit. I knew that I didn't want to fade out at mile 7 or 8, so I was going to need the extra energy. And I am also a runner that still runs without any assistance from gels or even water on the course. So I stock up early and often to make sure I am ready to hit the GO button when it's time to race.
The Friday night before the race I had planned to stay with Nikhil at his place since he lives right beside Grant park - an easy 5 minute walk to the start line - glorious! I had a very busy Friday, waking early in the morning for Day 2 of a conference I was attending downtown, then over to meet my boy for lunch, a walk to Union Station to pick up my race packet, back to my house to pack for the weekend, a visit at work quickly to cut some checks for staff, then back on the train downtown for the night. Whew! My bus card got a serious workout that day. By the time I made it back to his apartment, I was tired. I had a nice, big chicken ranch salad and a cheese twist from Dunkin Donuts (definitely a pre-race treat) and awaited him to get home from his Friday night class.
When he arrived home he was a bit irritated with me that I had eaten dinner already (we had never really decided if we were eating together that night or not, so I decided to go ahead and eat early). I brushed it off as he made himself dinner and plowed through about 6 Rice Krispie Treats. Odd behaviour I thought, but I was too much in my own head to really worry about him at that moment. After all - he wasn't even running in the morning - so I had to think about me and what I needed that night.
We watched a bit of TV and chatted for a bit. I asked him where he was planning to be on the race route so I could look for him. I told him that I'd love to see him at mile 8.5 - the intersection of Jackson & State where we rounded the corner into the final stretch. He said he wasn't sure where he'd be yet, but that sounded ok. I asked him if he'd hold my stuff for me instead of me putting it in gear check. He said no. Umm, ok - I'll check my gear. No big. But I was really starting to wonder what the heck his problem was. Probably just upset with me because I had been teasing him for a couple of months about being a wuss for not running the race with me. He's a multi-race Half Marathoner after all - what's a 15K to him? But whatever. My race, not his. I readied myself for bed.
When he turned in with me at 10:15pm I thought there might actually be a chance that he was coming down with something. Great. Just what I needed. He's usually up until all hours even if I sleep early.
I didn't sleep very well. It wasn't MY bed and I heard his roommate get up to leave for work at 4:30am (she's a nurse). Plus - I was nervous. 15K (9.3 miles) is a LONG race. And even though I had done the distance before, a number of times, I still doubt myself on race morning. What on earth am I going to be like the morning I run the marathon? Ha! The alarm went off at 6:15am and I was up. I had brought my own breakfast because I know his place isn't stocked all that well for a.m. eating. I made overnight oatmeal with flax seed and sunflower seeds and coconut and chocolate chips. Aw yeah. Washed that down with a cup of chocolate almond milk and a cup of coconut water and a big mug of tea. Perfect race breakfast.
No sooner had the microwave beeped and I see Nikhil out of bed and trotting to the bathroom. What the heck? I thought he was sleeping until 10am?? I sit on the couch to eat my breakfast and out he comes with the biggest smirk on his face.
HIM: "So you know how I've been talking about a surprise that I had for you?"
ME: "Uh, yeah"
HIM: *running into the office to get his race packet* "Guess who's running the race with you today?"
ME: "You SH*T - This explains everything!"
So all the weird behaviour - the eating, the going to bed early, the not being able to hold my stuff - all because he knew he was running! And apparently so did everyone else. HAHA! I was completely oblivious to it. Can you blame me though? I had to have my own race-face on.
By now it was time to get dressed and get to the start line. I was really, really nervous, but somehow walking there with him, checking my gear and then having him hold my hand in the start corral made it all better. By the time the crowd surged forward to start the race, I felt great. One big breath, a kiss and a "Have a great race, Babe" and we were off running.
Already I was enjoying the 15K distance much better than any race I have run before. The pace of everyone starting out is much slower, so I didn't feel like I was tripping over anyone or they were tripping over me. It's such an exhilarating feeling running up Columbus Ave and hitting the first underpass. Everyone whoops and hollers and cheers and the echo of excited runners bounces off all the walls of the tunnel. Here we go - and this is gonna be FUN!
I was feeling really great rounding on to Grand and then onto LaSalle. I was disappointed not to run down State because I love running by the Chicago Theater, but running down LaSalle was equally as cool because you can see the Stock Exchange in the distance before looping around to Madison. My first 5K came in at 35 minutes. Perfect pace. I gave myself permission to run the second 5K a little slower. In fact, my mantra for the run was "Slow Down" since my goal for this one wasn't time, but just to finish and to finish feeling strong.
Once we got to Madison it was time to settle in. I knew this was the long stretch and we were going to be here for a few miles. All the way out to Damen past the United Center where the Hawks play! I just enjoyed the scenery, the people out on their doorsteps cheering us on, and watching the funny race gimmicks that happen along the way. One guy turned around and started running backwards...just cause. A lot of other people started shedding articles of clothing at this point, which I always find funny. One couple were taking turns exchanging an iPhone and taking pics of each other running without stopping!
My mind was on my music and where Nikhil was on the course. I had left him in my dust early on, so I knew he was behind me, but still waiting for him to maybe come up behind me at some point kept me going. To his credit, he isn't in his same Half Marathon shape right now and the longest distance he'd run to train for this race was 6.5 miles. So I was really proud of him for getting out there with me and risking sore knees for a week just to be with me.
We finally reached the United Center and I grinned. The turnaround point was coming soon and I still felt really good. We were almost to 10K. Another round of the bend and BAM! there was the Sears Tower calling to us - "Common back home kids!" I almost cried. The day was so utterly beautiful and the sun in the sky behind that gorgeous building is just a breathtaking and powerful sight. And I knew once I reached it I was 2 miles to the end. I ran towards it like I wanted it - and I did want it. I trained my eye on it and just lost myself for a bit in the feeling and all of a sudden I couldn't feel my legs, or my lungs or anything else. The runner's high kicked in and I felt like I was flying. So awesome. The 10K marker came and went and I remember saying to myself that I was officially in new territory. As 10K was the last race distance I had run, from here on out was my chance to make THIS race really wonderful.
As the mile markers ticked by I knew I was within my goal. I was running about 11-12 minute miles consistently even though I kept telling myself to slow down. By mile 7 I was starting to feel the race in my legs, but my lungs were still happy and strong and my breathing wasn't at all laboured or painful, so I just kept the pace that was working for me. Mile Marker 8 felt like it would never come. After we passed the Sears Tower I started looking for it - and when you look for it, it's never where you want it to be. I finally found and passed it under the EL Tracks running back towards the city on Jackson. Michigan Ave was coming closer and closer, I could finally see it and as we made the turn onto the Magnificent Mile the crowds started cheering fiercely. At this point I was thankful for RAM Racing's decision to start the 5K race first since by this time, they were all finished and there were tons of people lining the streets to cheer us on as we finished.
As my legs ran themselves down Michigan at this point (I think I clocked a 9.5 minute mile for the last 1.3 miles) I was scanning the crowd for my friends who had run the 5K and saw a couple of hilarious signs that I loved: "GO TOTAL STRANGER! GO!" "You Have Stamina, I Like That, Call Me! (and a phone number)" and my personal favorite "You're Almost Done - DON'T POOP!" Hahahaha! Love that group of people who were all positioned right before the dreaded hill. Gave me a nice laugh and a good frame of mind for that final challenge.
"The Hill" - that horrid stretch between the 8.8 miles that you've just run and the Finish Line. Oh Lord, it sucks. But I powered through and did it anyway. I had run ALL this way, I wasn't slowing down now. Not ever. And so that's where THIS face comes from:
They HAD to go putting the race photographers at the top of the dang hill. Of course they did. So when I saw them, that prompted THIS picture:
Oh - I'm a funny girl. But in all seriousness, this photo sums up the race for me:
Calm. Even keeled. And with a smile on my face. I AM DOING THIS. 3 Perfect 35 minute 5Ks back to back.
The thing about going UP hill is that at some point, you have to come back down. And thankfully, this route ends on a downhill grade for the last .2 miles to the Finish. So you can BURN IT. Seriously. Which I did. This is me right before letting out my Finish Line "WOO-HOO!"
I booked it to the water station as soon as I crossed, grabbed two bottles and backtracked to wait for Nikhil to cross the line. 7 minutes later he finished as well - tired, but happy that his time came in under 2 hours. We stretched for a bit, then headed to the Finisher Photo area to snap a couple official shots:
Haha - this was so the photographer could get his race number which was on his back
By now it was time for CHOCOLATE. I mean, this is what this race is all about - right? I snapped a quick photo of my Garmin and another of me and the skyline to match this one taken a year ago with my girls Kathy & Jen:
Quite the difference huh?
In under 1:45! (Which was the "soft" goal of the race, even though the real goal was just to finish)
A couple of photographers caught us on the way to the Hot Chocolate and even though Nikhil looks funny, I like this pic of me :)
Me with the Chocolate Truck:
After some sweet treats with my sweet man, we headed back to his place, jumped into our swim suits and headed up to the roof to the hot tub for a nice long soak. Yeah. I'm spoiled. And let me tell you - after a leg massage from my honey (I gave him one too - hehe) and an afternoon nap, I felt better than I have ever felt after running. Especially that distance.
It is without a doubt that I will run 13.1 miles before the "close" of this race season. Whether that is at the Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon on the 26th of November or whether it's just on my own one of these days, that's the next goal. I know I can do it. And I will.
And then I will officially be half way to the big goal: Chicago 2012 Marathon. And with only a little less than a year to train.
A moment to reflect on how far I have come in one year. One year ago I posted my very first Race Report ever: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
I had lost 60 pounds at that point and running a 5K was the biggest challenge that I had ever thought to undertake. I did it. It was hard. But I made a promise to myself then to keep going and keep trying and that next year, I would run the 15K distance.
Well - guess what? I fulfilled my promise to myself. I have now lost 125 pounds, and I just ran my best race yet. My future in running is bright - and if this race has anything to do with it - full of a little sweetness!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
You want to know what happens when you eat EIGHT fun-sized Halloween candy bars after coming home from work and cooking a delicious veggie-filled dinner with crazy amounts of good-for-you nutrients?
You can't get out of bed the next morning, and when you do, all you want is another chocolate bar.
THE INSANITY MUST END!
After my big loss last week, two days later the stupid scale was back up to 191 where it's been hanging out for 2 months now. Today it's at 192. Wrong direction. Sure I have a long run tonight and tomorrow it will likely be back down from water loss, but in order to get it to actually stick, I need a serious attitude (and nutrient) overhaul.
When I was actually losing weight there were a few small habits that I was focusing on that I now believe are a large part of my pound-loss success:
- No Coffee. Tea til the cows come home, but ditch the daily cuppa Joe. This is going to be rough because though I was a sworn tea-granny and never really indulged in that sweet caffeinated nectar of the gods, I have recently picked up a terrible daily habit of a $4 trip to Starbucks for my "Venti Half-Caf Sugar-Free Vanilla Americano with room for Skim." Just think of the cash I'm going to save. And my body just does better without it. Period.
- No Soft Drinks. Same as the above. Just as hard a habit to break. But I just stocked up on Crystal Light. And tea. Tea, tea, tea.
- Get up in the morning. This is certainly easier when you...
- Go to bed early. Get back on a sleep schedule. Stop binging on chocolate and having sugar crashes making it impossible to separate oneself from one's sheets in the morning.
- Add back strength training. I was never doing this specifically before, but had good enough success with bootcamp. Maybe THIS will be the thing that helps. So here's to trying a month-long (and then longer) streak at daily exercise. Even 10 minutes of resistance bands are better than nothing.
- BE PREPARED. It's the Girl Guide motto. It means something. The better I prep, the better success I have. Invest the time, now, in me and reap the rewards of it later.
I have to get back to looking out for me. I am important - more important than eating EIGHT fun-sized Halloween chocolate bars. And it's time to start acting like it.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
So much for my daily confessionals. I swear I have an excuse for that too! But honestly, the more I think about these "excuses," the more I realize that they're not so much excuses as numerous reasons that my life is TOTALLY NORMAL every single day.
So Friday I was on track until hour 9 of my insanely long 15 hour work day when I went to get dinner, ordered a healthy turkey wrap and forgot to ask them to hold the fries. When it came out of the kitchen with those sexy greased potato strips of love, I devoured each and every single one of them along with the 2 glasses of wine that I believe I was OWED at that point in the day. Then enter skeezy bar manager who, though we work next door to each other, only recently noticed my weight loss for the first time and now believes that he has the right to 1. ogle my new body every time I walk down the street, and 2. make comments about my dinner choices. Which he did while I was trying to enjoy it. Him, as I am scarfing down my fries: "So is this part of the new diet?" Me: "There is no diet and I ran 9 miles on Tuesday, so I think that entitles me to eat what I want on a Friday night." What I Wanted To Say: "OMG, it's none of your $^%#*($#^$# business - get out of my life and let me enjoy my dinner in peace you #%$^&@&*#^" But I'm nicer than that. So I just ate too many fries and drank too much wine to wash his nasty comments and dirty, greasy looks out of my system.
Saturday was pretty good. I went to my Zumba class and loved every minute of it, per usual. And was totally on track with my food choices up until a late dinner with Nikhil (he made dosas - deep fried Indian pancakes that are made from ground lentils and meal flour and served with oily peanut spice paste - very dense, very delicious and only better when washed down with alcoholic beverages!) I was actually very proud of myself for opting to swing by Panera and pick up a bowl of chili and a bagel for lunch before meeting him for a study date at the library as opposed to waiting for him to make any food choices for us, because I know that he ALWAYS waits too long to eat and then makes poor decisions which I can't let be my habit as well. And as I suspected, our study date was followed by a mad dash to 7-Eleven to buy a churro to scarf down on the way home. I definitely felt like I won that one!
So as much as Saturday was a small triumph, Sunday was a total bust. My goals for the day? Stay in my calorie range and go for a 5 mile run. I didn't do either. We slept in and had a lazy morning over coffee and, yes, a caramel apple and leftover cheesecake from Thanksgiving. Ouch. Then came a late lunch at an Indian buffet - his treat. The food wasn't good at all (the authentic food he makes is so much better than anything at that restaurant and he usually makes it light and low fat for me!) and because he felt bad about lunch being a disappointment, after a leisurely walk by the waterfront (taking the place of my run, but at least it was SOME exercise) he took me to a chocolate shop to pick out handmade TRUFFLES for Sweetest Day. Oh lord in heaven. At least I didn't eat dinner.
Getting tired of my excuses, yesterday and today have been real, true, honest efforts at getting my act together. I made some really great choices yesterday - was on schedule with everything and even managed to fare pretty well at a work function last night. It's always really difficult to count finger foods, so I estimated the best I could and I actually don't believe I went over my calorie limits as badly as my tracker says I did. I promised myself I wasn't going to drink and held to that promise. I had a couple of finger sandwiches, a couple of pieces of bruschetta, some veggies and dip and ONE dessert bar. And then I got the heck out of there. Not only was I tired of networking for the evening, I knew that if I stayed, I would cave to having a drink and then I would surely eat more, so I did what I needed to do and extricated myself from the free food. Free food is deadly. Then, since I was in the neighbourhood, I swung by Caribou Coffee and picked up a hot chocolate for my beau and a tea for myself and surprised Nikhil at his place since I know he's been studying hard for his mid-terms this week. He was super cute, very surprised and very happy to see me (and the hot chocolate). I stole kisses for 30 minutes and then left him to keep working. A perfect little Monday night break.
Today has been good. I am on track again. And it's running day. I'm nervous because I haven't run in a week having skipped my run on Sunday, and tonight is my first 10-miler. But I've had my brownie! And even though it's raining and cold and miserable outside, I'm gonna do this! (Cause I have to. Cause I fueled with a brownie and running 10 miles is my only reason for being able to eat brownies.)
So excuses or just life? Take it as you will, but I'm feeling better about things. I can't be perfect every day, but I can be better than average. And I can deal with changes in the schedule as they come up. I'm learning how to be adaptable and I'm still improving myself. Gotta love that.
No more excuses this week. It's going to be great! Now - for that 10-miler...
Thursday, October 13, 2011
OK - so everyone has those days when things just don't go according to plan, but when you're already in a vulnerable position sometimes it's easier to make excuses for partaking in bad behaviour when the going gets tough instead of making the best of the situation and choosing the healthy road.
In an effort to be more accountable for my (off-track) actions of late, I'm going to start writing daily confessional blogs every time something goes awry in my plan. Feel free to pitch in your own excuses for why you didn't do your absolute best today. Once they're out in the open, they're less likely to eat away at you (or rather, cause you to eat) - and maybe you'll think twice before doing the same thing again!
1. Stay in my calorie range
2. Do some form of exercise to make up for skipping the pool yesterday
The Dog Ate My Homework:
Started the day off on track. I'm trying a new "Whole Foods" mantra. No - I'm not the new spokesperson for the grocery store (although I do LOVE Whole Foods), but I know that my body responds well to eating wholesome, nutritious and unprocessed foods - meat, dairy, whole grains, fruits and veggies. I had prepped lunches for the week last night and had my turkey pot pie packed and ready to go with a yogurt and an apple and a Skinny Cow treat. Not a "whole food" I know, but after the incredible amounts of sugar I have been ingesting over the last few days, I knew I was going to need SOMETHING to prevent the afternoon cravings. I had a healthy breakfast of an egg, a slice of bacon and some cheese on an organic flaxseed waffle with a cup of diced watermelon. Yum! On track and loving it, until...
I had to detour from my normal work route this morning to pick up 5 cases of candy for our concessions stand at the theatre. I usually never have to pick it up, but my poor custodian got his car stolen, so I offered to go over to get the candy myself and cab it back to the theatre. On the way out from doing the pick-up, my contact at the store asked if I'd like to take a sample bag of something back with me. DOH! I could have anything in the store. I chose a bag of "Mardi Gras Mix" (for my staff) and went on my way. Mardi Gras Mix is a blend of spicy sesame sticks, honey roasted mixed nuts, toffee covered peanuts and crispy rice sticks. OH MY GOD the stuff is ridiculous. How do I know? Because of course upon returning to the office with my sample bag "for my staff" I had to bust it out and try some. It didn't help that my delicious breakfast had left me earlier than expected and I was now starving. I ate about a cup of it. Down the hatch.
And about that exercise? I woke up today to pouring rain which makes me want to pull my covers over my head and never get out. After the ordeal of picking up the candy without a car and toting my umbrella and lunch bag along for the ride as well, I was quite happy to sit on my duff in the office today and do little more than visit the washroom twice and the water cooler once. Another post-work errand came up that I had to run with another big box to carry, so out I went in the rain again to hail another cab. Once the delivery was made and I was free of the heavy boxes for the day, I attempted to wait for a bus to take me home. Whatever it is with rain in the city of Chicago and the city bus system, I will never know. But the CTA was TERRIBLE tonight and it took me over 1.5 hours to get home. I ended up running a quick errand for myself at CVS while I waited for the first bus and then another errand to Dominick's to pick up carrots and celery for my healthy turkey soup while I waited for the second bus. By the time I got home it was almost 9pm, I still hadn't eaten dinner and my head was about to split open from a combo tension/barometer headache. Exercise is not happening tonight. Unless you count lugging boxes and fighting public transportation as exercise. Unfortunately, I don't.
So - those are the excuses. What am I gonna do about it? Set new goals for tomorrow and try to reach them.
1. Get out of bed 30 minutes earlier than usual
2. Do some exercise to make up for pool skipping on Wednesday
3. Stay within my calorie range
Simple enough right? We shall see :) I suppose the biggest objective right now is not to have to write an "Excuse of the Day" blog "Part 2" tomorrow!
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