Wednesday, October 10, 2012
That’s the time I would need to run 5 kilometers non-stop according to Sparkpeople’s 5K Your Way Rookie Running Training Program. This means that the end of this week would find me running my first 5K on the treadmill.
Hmmm… Not even close…
I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to finish the sixth week of the program. Even though the last time I ran – which was a week ago – felt slightly easier than all the previous ones, I just can’t find the strength to get on this treadmill again and continue with the rest of the program. It’s not that I don’t exercise. I do circuit training most days of the week and an hour of dancing on Mondays. But on the days that I’ve scheduled to run, I just look at the treadmill and this little perfectionist inside me that has been making my life difficult for 36 years – what a mean girl! – starts the talk:
“Seriously now, do you really believe you will run for more than half an hour in two weeks? Ha! You can’t even run for five consecutive minutes! You run for three and you need another two to recover! Look at you, you can’t even finish week 6! Can’t you just accept it and go on? Running is not for you! You will NEVER be a runner! You weren’t able to run when you were in high school. What makes you think you will do it now that you’re approaching your forties? You? A runner? Wishful thinking!!!”
See? I warned you! She’s mean!
But she’s part of me. And she wins. And I turn around, away from the treadmill and do circuits instead.
I was about to quit. Forget about running. Post a blog about my failure, thank all my wonderful Sparkfriends for their support and let all of you know that, simply put, running is not for me. I tried, I failed. It happens.
And suddenly I started thinking differently.
I’m a Sparker!
I belong to the Sparkpeople community. People here don’t quit! It's the number one rule! I took the word “quitting” out of my vocabulary a long time ago. When I realized that not every plan is for everyone. When I figured out that everything, from meal plans to fitness schedules should be flexible and tailored to our own individual needs.
Who decides that every person in this world is able to run in 8 weeks? Who can be absolutely sure that life will agree with our plans? No one! It’s just a plan that gives us the guidelines. And if we want it to work, we have to make it flexible. We can’t be perfect at it. Simply because our lives are not perfect. My life right now is a constant combination of multi-tasking and multi-thinking! I’m not always in the mood to press myself for something which my brain and my body categorize as “very difficult”. Sometimes I just need to do something that is also challenging but I know the limits of it. I’ll choose the time when I will be strong enough and ready to exceed my limits.
So, I won't quit. I’ll keep on training with my own terms. Maybe I’ll need double the time to finish this program and run 5 kilometers. So? Time is irrelevant to the accomplishment.
Soon you'll read one of my next blogs. It will be called “I ran my first 5K!”
I can’t promise you the date I’ll post it.
But you can be absolutely sure that I will.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Are you a “sweet” kind of person?
Or a “salty” one?
You can’t stay away from the bag of chips?
Or you’re drooling at the sight of chocolate chip cookies?
Or maybe both? Either way, I’m sure you sometimes imagine how much easier your life could be without these cravings! How much more successful your weight loss efforts would be if you didn’t feel this mouth-watering sensation every time you looked at the source of your craving! If you still dream that one day you’ll wake up and your cravings will have stopped once and for all, stop dreaming.
This. Will. Not. Happen. Ever.
We all live in the 21st century. Over the past centuries our world created civilization from food. It wasn’t just used to fuel our bodies. We were raised in societies that used food as part of social encounters, family traditions, holiday festivities, friendly gatherings, and so on. Food was a source of enjoyment and entertainment. If you think you can suddenly fight back to all those years of living with this frame of mind, I’m afraid you’ll be met with an ugly surprise. Our human brains work in a pretty simple way: If something makes us feel good, we want more of it.
Accept it. Cravings will always be part of our lives.
Especially if we’re women and our hormones ally with our sweet tooth once in a while.
Or if we’re emotional eaters and we want to gulp down our feelings with some sweet or salty help.
Or if we just lack some strong will-power and we use the above excuses to allow ourselves to fall heads-on in the temptation which is calling our name!
So what do we do? Do we become the slaves of those food temptations that are constantly around us, putting our weight loss or weight maintenance efforts in continuous jeopardy? Nope! We build a strong defense system and fight back.
My own self-defense against cravings was actually a discussion with myself.
Plan A. At first, I would take a distance from the temptation and ask myself:
“Do you really want to eat this? Is it something you really like or you just want it because…
a. That’s what you’ve been used to do for years.
b. It has a “sweet-unhealthy” label which suits your own “sweet-tooth-person” label.
c. You’re trying to eat away your boredom, anger, sadness, disappointment.”
Usually, it worked. My sensible, non-spontaneous and patient self would find the right answer and drag me away from the craving’s source. I was amazed to find out that many of the things I thought I liked actually belonged to the second category. I had convinced myself that I had a sweet tooth and I had every right to treat my body like a sugar-eating garbage bin! The truth is I don’t like all kinds of sweets. And I’ve come to enjoy the ones I really like better. So, my self-talk worked most of the times.
But not always.
There were times I really liked something and I just wanted to eat it.
Ok, plan B. “If you can halve it, you can have it.”
My common sense told me that I had no reason to halve a healthy and nutritious banana (see earlier blog). But that rule could help me with other foods that really need portion control. Imagine you’re a donut-lover. Can you live without donuts for the rest of your life? The longer you deprive yourself of them, the more you’ll end up eating. What if you can have half-a-donut once in a while? Stop the craving without doing a big damage. Isn’t this a fair compromise?
Plan B would usually work.
But not always.
There were times that the selfish, eat-everything-in-sight, emotional-eating monster would wake up inside my head and begin its own revolution. So after everything else had failed, there was only one solution…
Plan C. Give in.
Yes, you read that right. Give in to the temptation. Consciously. Remind yourself that it’s only this one time, that you can’t do this every day, that tomorrow you’re back on the wagon first thing in the morning. Then give in. And enjoy it. Chances are that the self-talk that led you to this decision will make you eat sensibly and not over-indulge. But even if you do, it’s only one time. It’s the exception. And exceptions only exist to prove how strong our rules are.
This is how I deal with cravings. I don’t expect them to disappear and I don’t pretend they don’t exist. I just fight them. And occasionally I give in. But I choose my battles.
You can build your own defense system, too. According to your own lifestyle and to your own character. And I’m sure that this fight will only make you happier. You’ll be able to enjoy the things you really like once in a while but also feel really good for yourself that you had the power to say “no” to any “disguised” cravings like the ones mentioned above.
And, most importantly, this is something you can do for the rest of your life.
So, what’s your plan?
Friday, September 28, 2012
Whatever you do, no matter how small or important, do it the best way you can.
Whatever you say, say it because you believe it.
Whatever you feel, feel it with all your heart.
Be the best version of yourself.
Have a beautiful weekend, Sparkfriends!
Thursday, September 27, 2012
This is a story about portion control. An important weight loss and proper nutrition factor which can easily turn itself into a boomerang side-effect if you lose balance and moderation while applying its rules. If you’re one of those persons who measure everything they put in their mouth by the decimal figures of an ounce, read on.
Back in my first dieting years, I would often browse through diets I came across in magazines or meal plans that a friend would follow. I had stumbled upon a snack option many times. “Half a normal-sized banana”. I would always wonder: Why half?
When I decided to follow a specialist’s advice to help me lose weight, I visited my endocrinologist who was also an obesity expert in order to make my first meal plan. I started reading it and soon realized that it had one fruit serving for every snack. “Great!” thought the fruit-lover inside me. At the end of the weekly meal plan there was a detailed description of what one fruit serving meant: One medium apple, two large tangerines, half a normal-sized banana…!!!
The question just asked itself using my voice!
“Excuse me, why do I have to eat half the banana? Can’t I eat all of it?”
She explained to me that a whole banana counts for two servings of fruit and it would double the calories of my snack.
“Ok,” I replied, “what if I eat both my snacks in the morning and not have an evening snack? This way I could eat a whole banana!”
She answered that the calories and the fruit fiber should be equally divided between meals and that the afternoon snack is really important.
“All right then, could you please tell me what I’m supposed to do with the other half?” – I know it sounds like a stupid question but I was really wondering at the moment of what her answer would be.
- You can put it in the fridge and eat it in the afternoon.
- I hate chilled bananas which have started going black!
- You can share it with someone else in the family.
- They want to eat a whole banana, too, and they have every right to. They’re not trying to lose weight!
- Well, throw it away then!
(Oops! Anger alarm triggered! Is she really telling me to throw away half the quantity of bananas I buy?)
I wanted to start telling her about the increasing rates of hunger and famine over the world but I thought “She’s a nutrition expert, she knows about those things.” And I just ended the discussion. Already determined to break this one rule.
Don’t get me wrong, I bear no grudge against her. She’s an excellent doctor who has kept my thyroid at rest for the past decade and that was one of the two arguments we’ve ever had.
I managed to lose 17 kilos back then – which I gained back, you know the story – and I lost 19 again with Sparkpeople. Always eating a whole banana for a snack.
The moral of the story? Moderation has to be applied everywhere, even on portion control. You must be aware of how much you’re eating but one more fruit or salad serving won’t make you fat! How bad can it be compared to the cookies you used to snack on until yesterday? Food tracking is a valuable and helpful tool that will help you discover your bad eating habits but you mustn’t get obsessed with it. You don’t have to count the lettuce leaves that you’ll put into your salad! You won’t be able to do that for the rest of your life! Because if you do, you risk crossing the line. And on the other side, food obsession awaits. And it’s a very good friend with eating disorders.
Change your bad eating habits one at a time, one step at a time. I’ll never get tired of repeating it. Healthy, life-long habits that are far from tiring, compulsive obsessions can really put you among the small, successful percentage of people who lost the weight and never “found” it again. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to accomplish?
Monday, September 24, 2012
September, 22nd, 2009.
Another terrifying reading on the scale had triggered feelings of guilt, self-hatred and panic. Getting too close to the dreaded 90's again. I had gained back all the weight I had lost using huge amounts of patience, self-discipline and money. I was back to square one again. And in serious danger of getting even further behind it. I would soon need one-digit weight gain to enter the three-digits weight numbers. 100 kilograms looked so close! I had to do something.
I thought I’d try the internet. Keywords like “weight loss” and “diet” flooded the result screen with millions of sites. I found a BMI calculator in the first one I entered. The categorization only made me feel even worse.
“A BMI over 30 puts you in the “Obese” category for adults of your height.” Obesity??? The word echoed in my head, destroying my already vulnerable self-esteem.
I was ready to try the first fad diet I could find that would promise me the fastest results. But then I came across Sparkpeople. What caught my attention at first was the word “free” - I had already paid once to get rid of the weight, I refused to do it again. At first, it looked complicated. And I was skeptical. But I chose to stay. A choice that would prove to be wise.
I found a lot on Sparkpeople.
- Information. Hundreds of articles and feedback on nutrition, exercise and healthy living.
- Tools. Trackers, videos and healthy recipes.
- Inspiration. People who had succeeded in their journeys, no matter how difficult it seemed.
- Support. People who fought the same battle I was fighting. Who were there to cheer me on when I progressed. Who would gladly offer their hugs when I fell. (Who would have thought that virtual hugs could ever mean so much?) And people who would encourage me to get back up and fight again.
- Wisdom. Life wisdom. The kind that is not written in books. The kind that is sculpted on people’s hearts according to their experiences. And I found lots of those people here who were willing to share their priceless knowledge.
3 years later, 19 kilograms lighter, 24,000 fitness minutes fitter and a lot wiser by hundreds of Sparkpeople’s stories kept securely in my heart and mind, I can reassure you that Sparkpeople changed me in so many ways. Ways that I could never imagine when I joined in 2009. Back then the name of the site sounded motivating. For some reason, it seemed like a community of people who "sparkle" with the glow of change.
Now, I know that it’s all about the spark within us. A spark that can only be lit by us. No matter how many tools and how much support this wonderful community gives you, if you don’t light the spark yourself, nothing will ever happen. It’s like trying to educate a reluctant student. Even if you bring him the world’s finest tutors, no one will manage to put the knowledge in his head.
The spark is somewhere there inside you. You are the one who will light it. When it starts fading, your supportive friends will help you rekindle it. If you really want to change, no failure is strong enough to stop you. It can only serve as a learning tool for your changing process. Your spark doesn’t know quitting.
Thank you Sparkpeople for helping me light my spark.
I wish I’ll always be strong enough to stay here and help others do the same.
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