Thursday, June 21, 2012
Since starting this journey, learning exactly how much body weight I have stored as fat, has become an important aspect of my better health plan, to better understand exactly where I am, health-wise. Call it the scientist in me, I need to see concrete evidence in numbers of the damage I have done, and another way to mark my progress. I have read about scales that offer this element as part of a simple weigh-in, but when I actually bought one, it didn't work and I sent it back from whence it came.
Just now I came across something that is simple, versatile and best of all, FREE. The YMCA formula claims to be within 1-3% of accuracy, and for my purposes, that's close enough. I'm not ready to spend thousands of dollars on something that will only give me a small difference in percentage points for the sake of better accuracy. [Did I already say that the YMCA formula is free?]
Check this out and tell me you don't agree:
Monday, June 11, 2012
Oftentimes we need some guidance about measures when we are forced to "guess-timate" what is a portion exactly. Most of us are not yet ready to lug around scales and measuring spoons in public places nor restaurants. So what's a body to do?
I stumbled across this tonight that might be of some help:
I knew some, others were new to me, and something I'll have to remember (my good eye not withstanding).
Let me know if it helps. I'm curious.
Sunday, June 03, 2012
The other day I remarked to a friend about the fact that she and I, although on different career paths, shared something in common: The need, when circumstances demanded, to reinvent ourselves. I thought it required a lot of chutzpah to take on challenges where we "boldly went" probably where we had no right to go. She didn't think it was a question of chutzpah, but of persistence.
I considered this. What makes some toss in the towel in the face of adversity and others to push on, even against astronomical odds? I was invited to attend a lecture sponsored by the World Science Festival in NY the other night which explored a similar theme, under the title: "How We Bounce Back: The New Science Of Resilience". They showed several videos in the course of the discussion with a panel of individuals who are exploring just this theme in their own pursuit of answers to this question, and I found that I could clearly identify with one of the women especially. She was a Peruvian veterinarian who was forced to come to the US and move in with her mother, after a devastating divorce. Because of language barriers and the need to support young children, she did not have the means to go back to school and learn veterinary science all over again in a new country and in a new language. She's currently pursuing another avenue: To keep close to her roots and her love of animals, she is planning to open a dog grooming business. No mean feat, but I admire her ambition and her drive to succeed.
The lecture went on further to ask, "Can we teach resilience to patients and others with this need?" I honestly do not know. I just know that the people I do know who needed to change directions, and who succeeded in doing so, had to dig deep and then put themselves out there. It didn't always work, but there were more positive steps forward than backward.
Still pondering this theme of resilience, I remembered the story I had read not too long ago of Kathryn Stockett who wrote "The Help". She had received over 60 rejections from publishers to publish her novel, and last summer her book was developed into a movie. Where did she find it within her to continue after the first dozen or so rejections?
Similarly, I remembered Sally Jesse Raphael's story where she was fired about 23 times from radio jobs before she finally made an inroad and succeeded, and eventually went on to a successful daytime television show. In her case, I do recall she had a very supportive mother who instilled in her a belief in herself.
Sara Blakely, the CEO of Spanx, was recently installed onto Forbes' list of new billionaires. Her origins are truly mindblowing: She used to sell copy machines door to door for a stationery company before she decided to follow her passion with five thousand dollars in seed money to develop her prototype of footless pantyhose. Her father used to cheer her on by asking her daily, "What did you fail at today?" Her husband's story is similar: In an interview he noted that scoring a meager 900 on the SATs, he felt that he was not going to succeed in academia and found a niche where his passions and skills could develop. He, too, caught a moment in time where there was a need for a product that was not yet developed for the market, and developed a private jet rental service. No wonder they married. They share similar visions and the wherewithal to chase those dreams.
Here in SparkLand, I have seen a pattern of success that I think I'm just now beginning to understand better: The general weight loss plan is a simple one and not unique to the diet industry. Less calories in, more movement. But what I think is carrying us futher here is the strong sense of community and support found here. No other diet program that I am aware of incorporates this element. We succeed by supporting others and by continuing to write about our struggles and hopes in our blogs. And more often than not, our words resonate with others, even if we are truly writing selfishly for ourselves, primarily.
I believe that for the most part, we push further here than we have before, even when we "plateau". As a group, we are a resilient bunch, and even damaged by our own internal demons, are succeeding as we shed light on the dark corners of our souls. This requires a lot of time, patience, and, yes, resilience, I believe, to conquer. Many of us are older and the damage did not occur overnight, but over years, and even over decades. It will take a lot of time and a lot of fortitude to undo.
It would appear that having resilience is allowing us to move forward, in spite of ourselves.
Now if I could only bottle that, perhaps, I, too, might be on Forbes' list next year?
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Serendipity is an amazing thing, no? I've been on SparkPeople going on four years now, and have been amply rewarded by this supportive community in so many ways. I was thinking that it was time to add new activities to the cardio routine, to keep boredom at bay, and was seriously considering starting a boot camp video as an alternative to get some variety in. SparkPeople must have been reading my mind, because I then received an invitation from their marketing division to review Coach Nicole's latest DVD. The stars aligned and I happily agreed.
Taking advantage of the long holiday weekend, I went up to Massachusetts to visit with my family and took the DVD with me to incorporate it into our activities. My sister was game, and we set aside time to do this. She went to the basement and brought up all her weights -- a sign of enthusiasm, I thought. We started simply with the warm up, and were pleased to find the timer unobtrusively located in the lower right hand corner counting down the minutes. When one begins to sweat, it's really nice to know we just might make it to the end of the segment, if we can just hang on a few minutes longer. Very nice feature! We segued into the cardio segment, but started to find ourselves falling behind. I was amazed that Coach Nicole could talk as the exercise pace increased and she didn't lose a beat, or her breath. I soon realized that to do this DVD justice, I was going to have to take it home and start anew. Alone.
Fast forward two weeks to today.
The DVD is divided into two, primarily. One can choose the 28-day plan, which shows you at a glance on a calendar what type of exercise one can expect for a particular day; or one can choose the plan wherein you can select your own workout and do the segments in any order that you like.
The 28-Day Plan is a four-week plan that has "different combinations of workouts to keep the body guessing and prevent exercise boredom". Each total workout includes ten minutes to warm up and cool down. Day One starts with 22 minutes of exercise and over the course of the four weeks, builds up the time factor so that by the time you are on Day 28 you are working out a total of 60 minutes. Over the course of the four weeks, one, two, or three rest days (or if you prefer, cross training days) are built in, the number of rest days (or cross training days), depending on the week you are on.
The "Choose Your Own Workout" is broken down as follows:
Warm Up (6 minutes)
Cardio Burst (12 minutes)
Short Cardio Sculpt (12 minutes)
Tone and Burn (20 minutes)
Total Body Challenge (30 minutes)
Cool Down (4 minutes)
If you do the whole workout in this option, it covers a good 84 minutes. (Now you don't have to add it up yourself. )
In the Introduction section, Coach Nicole gives you "the lay of the land". You can exercise as little as 10, 20, or 30 minutes, depending on your time constraints, and the DVD will allow for that. There are three trainers showing you all the moves: The beginner (woman after my own heart! I loved watching her, as I am quite the novice), the intermediate, and the advanced: Coach Nicole herself. It is explained, that as you become more adept with the video, you can focus on the movements of the more advanced trainers. Coach Nicole notes that when moves are explained, it always starts with the beginner level.
I do have a comment though for this introductory section: Later on in the video, in the Cardio Burst section, Coach Nicole mentions the "grapevine" step, as the move that is coming up, and then later the "mambo". It might be worthwhile to show these steps at the beginning in the introduction section, as quite a few people have no idea what these steps entail. I happen to know the grapevine from my folk dancing days, but mambo was new to me, and it would have been more helpful if these steps were pulled out separately and shown at the beginning of this exercise segment or in the introduction segment, rather than have it run into the routine of the Cardio Burst section. I also found the drum beating in the background of the Introduction section somewhat distracting, but perhaps that's just me.
So for today, I picked up where my sister and I left off. I began with the six-minute warm up and loved watching the countdown clock to pace myself. We began with marching in place and the pace picked up from there. Even for a novice, this was a good pace, and I can see with practice, how the work on the DVD would grow easier as one gets accustomed to its rhythms. Coach Nicole calls the movements before she does them, so one knows where she's heading next. Her pace is good and relatively easy to follow.
I then followed Coach Nicole to the Cardio Burst workout. As already mentioned, the grapevine and mambo steps were introduced here. One more thing I noticed, when she signaled that you are to use your left arm, she used her right (and pointed to it), and vice versa. I realize that people get mixed up when seeing mirror images, but frankly, I found that somewhat confusing.
The video also has a nice Bonus Features section, showing you how to do seated abs exercises for when you are working at a desk. This was quite nifty. Coach Nicole goes over three simple exercises that can be done in a chair. Also part of the Bonus Feature is a section on education, instructing the individual in three simple tricks to burn more fat. The video also gives some sample recipes from the SparkPeople Cookbook.
I'm glad I took the time to do some sections of the video again. My first impression was it was too hard for a beginner. Now, seeing some of the same sections again for the second time, I see that there is hope. I can see incorporating some of these sections when I am pressed for time and can't go to the gym or if the day outside is inclement. It's a nice change up to my usual cardio routine. Overall, I think most of the folks on SP can utilize this video whatever exercise level they are, as it covers the gamut from beginner to those who are more advanced.
DISCLAIMER: I received Coach Nicole's "28-Day Boot Camp" DVD for free, and did not receive any money to write this review. SparkPeople is in partnership with Target to sell the DVDs. If you like, you can get a discounted coupon for $3.00 off at www.sparkpeople.com/28daybootcamp and you will also receive 250 SparkPoints as well.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
First, before I say anything else, I want to thank my "core" of Sparkers for their unwavering support. I very much appreciate the notes on my SP page, the comments on my feed, and the texts to my phone, especially over the last two weeks, as these sad events began to unfold. You all are very special people.
In the last several months, I have seen two men, young in years, felled by illness that came, for lack of a better word, like a thunderclap. One day they were fine, and then =BOOM!= out of the blue, the first 54-year old had a stroke, and then several months later the second 54-year old went into cardiac arrest. Watching these events unfold, barely a little more than two months apart, was stunning, again, for lack of a better word. What many of us have written to each other and discussed on the phone with each other, of late, is that life is incredibly short, and so unpredictable. And as Wife Number One e-mailed me, we are so not in control of these events, and that we cannot make ourselves crazy with the “wuddas, cuddas, and shuddas” of life. To a point, I do agree.
Wife Number Two, also a nurse, took a different stance, and her eulogy for a beloved husband reflected that. Being the person she is, and knowing her and the depth of her grief, she kept her remarks light, and riffed on an old movie, “Love Story”, and started her remarks with, “What can you say about a 54-year old man who died?” One thing I know for certain, and one she included in her speech is, they never lived with “what if” moments. They shared an amazing, yet simple love. Each conversation that they shared on the phone ended with an “I love you”, without exception, and I overheard many of those conversations, working elbow to elbow with her for two years. He also concluded the conversations the same way. It was their way of saying goodbye. Back at the house after the interment, she joked with me that she said that because she was sure she was going to die first. This was typical of her. After her first e-mail telling me of the horrific events that had transpired that first Tuesday back in December, I decided to take a trip down to Brooklyn the following Tuesday and check up on her. What I found was a woman completely in charge. She commandeered a situation that I can only begin to imagine. And as a result, I came to the conclusion that, either way this plays out, I knew one thing: She’s going to be all right.
These events have cascaded to other people I know. I got a call from my best friend today that I missed, and the message was, “What was the day I had chest pain? [I’m the keeper of the data and the chronology of events as she has a horrible memory for sequences.] I’m on my way to the doctor’s and I feel so stupid going when I feel OK.” We all wore her down, apparently, to get her to see the doctor, that albeit she was feeling better, her symptoms of the previous week were very bizarre for an otherwise normal, healthy 60-year old.
I got another call, earlier, from a former coworker who also was following the events of our mutual friends from the hospital where we had worked. She, too, remarked that she had had blood work done, as she had a history of diabetes in her family and was “concerned” that it was a point above normal. It struck me as interesting how we hear what we want to hear: She told me that her cholesterol was a steady, elevated, 290. That, interestingly enough, didn’t phase her. Her doctor had been telling her “for years” to begin medication, which she refused. I for sure thought she was on something with that high a value for cholesterol. And the final remark? “I really don’t want to be on medication, then, for life.” How does one begin to even answer that? Finally, I said, “Be glad that there are medications for those conditions.”
So, what’s the bottom line in all this? As I stated in the earlier blog, the best we can do for our health, is to optimize it, so these catastrophic events do not occur. We cannot avoid it all, of course, but perhaps, as we often read, a person can be saved, because s/he was in the best possible physical shape. And that, dear Sparkers, is the saving grace: That’s all we can do to rescue us from something that could be totally catastrophic.
The second thing is, to remember what and who are important: The relationships we nurture -- spouse, significant other, parent, sibling, child, friend -- these are the people that enhance our world and make it all worthwhile. Have you told someone you love lately how much they mean to you? If you haven’t said it in a while, consider doing so. It will make the world of difference for both of you.
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