Monday, June 11, 2012
What happens when an adult is brought in a situation where they have to do something that has long been forgotten since their school years? When, all of a sudden, you find yourself in a school surrounded by hundreds of kids, parents and teachers who are actually staring at you and are waiting for your performance?
Well, if this was some kind of research, we could easily provide some really interesting results. For those of you who haven’t read my previous blog, I’m talking about the parents’ dance performance at the school’s end-of-year celebration last Friday!
Now that I think about it, it was kind of funny. You could see a group of parents who usually preach their children daily about being strong and courageous and taking chances and not be afraid of trying new things… being the exact opposite! One could track down hundreds of anxiety symptoms just by looking at us! Trembling legs, racing hearts, over-sweating, stomach butterflies, to name just a few. In addition to this, we were the first parents to try something like that in our school. If you could see the look into the eyes of the other parents who were seated comfortably in front of us, you could “read” the high expectations in their eyes…
But, we did it! I’ll borrow the words from a good Sparkfriend of mine. We surprised them! And we surprised ourselves! We were good, really good! Yes, of course we made a few mistakes but we were enjoying this so much that we managed to pass on our positive energy to everyone. And, yes, we got, a big applause, and yes, we felt proud! And yes, we’ll do it again next year if we have the chance.
This whole thing may seem irrelevant to Sparkpeople and our health journeys but it’s not! It’s been almost a year since I consistently started trying to change my lifestyle and myself. A year ago, I would never have tried something like this. First of all, I lacked the physical endurance. Being obese and with little to no exercise in my daily schedule, I would never have made it through a half-an-hour non-stop dancing performance. Secondly, I didn’t have the required self-esteem, determination and, well, guts to go ahead and dance in front of so many people! And these changes were made with the invaluable help of this community.
There are people here who have made a great impact on my life and with whom I feel like I’ve known them for years even though I’ve never met them in person. Which is kind of weird for me because I never believed in human relationships over the internet! And for months now I’ve been feeling like my relationship with these Sparkfriends is not on equal terms. I mean, when I “talk” to you by leaving messages on your page or commenting on your blogs, I “see” you. I have a visual image of you in my mind. What do you have of me? Probably, my little girly image in my profile pic – which is actually very characteristic of me because I’ve always loved Sarah Kay images, but, still it’s nothing real. So, I made a big decision for me. I decided that it’s time to meet my Sparkfriends “in person”! So, Beth, Jess, Nikki, Carole, Sharon, Tammy, Suzanne, Annie, Jennifer, Minna, Sarah, Shannon, Tambi, Debbie, Whitney, Leela, Liss, Carolyne, Mitzi, Bren and all of you new or old Sparkfriends whose real names I don’t know, that’s me just before dancing last Friday.
You have all inspired me, helped me and been part of my health journey.
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!
Thursday, June 07, 2012
And not only physically! I’m about to do something that requires lots of other characteristics which I didn’t know I have, or maybe I don’t! But let me be more specific…
Last September, at the beginning of the new school year the parents’ committee at my daughters’ school announced the beginning of a parents’ dancing class. Now, when I say “dancing”, don’t let your mind go to rumba, tango or other “dancing-with-the-stars” kind of dances! We’re talking about traditional dances of our country – I think it’s called line dancing – which is performed in small or big groups and usually in a cycle. Still, it’s difficult. It requires learning the steps, counting and being adequately fit and having lots of physical endurance. I’ve always loved dancing of all kinds. And having already lost some weight and embarked on my fitness journey, I decided to join!
The classes were really fun. They were once a week and they were a stress-relief for me. And as a stay-at-home-mom, they were also a good opportunity to get out of the house and meet with other people. But a few weeks before Easter we realized that there was a bigger challenge ahead of us! Our teacher told us that all kids’ classes traditionally take part at the end-of-the-year celebration, dancing in front of the whole school. So, we will have to do the same!!!
Now, let me point out a few things. I’m as shy as a 3-year-old hiding behind his mom every time someone smiles at him! I’m self-conscious beyond imagination! I’m the kind of person who gets sort of “paralyzed” under circumstances of stress and feeling nervous! As a student, I used to dread days like these where I had to talk, dance, perform or just stand in front of so many people! I absolutely love pictures and videos as long as I stand behind the camera! I blush when I talk in front of people I don’t know very well! And tomorrow I’m going to dance in front of a whole school with so many students, parents and teachers looking at us, with cameras and lights in front of us and with my two little girls waiting to feel proud of their mommy – that’s the toughest one!!!
Comfort zone: circumstances under which you feel comfortable with yourself. In physical terms, when your heart rate is as high as you can handle, you can still talk without being out of breath and you feel like you still have enough endurance to keep you going. It’s surely difficult to step out of it. You must push yourself to your limits, you must be ready for more. But there’s also comfort zone in emotional and psychological terms. We usually choose activities that we feel we’re better at, that we think they are more suitable for us and we don’t want to step out of this “comfort zone” for many reasons. We’re scared, embarrassed, we have low self-esteem, we don’t believe in our abilities, and the list goes on.
But this site can do miracles! The motivation and the inspiration found here together with the changes on our bodies that we’ve worked so hard for can cause a change in our attitude, too. We can take risks and try new things! We can stare back at the comfort zone we’ve boldly stepped out of and wonder: “Did I really do that?”
What did your weight loss make you want to try? How did you step out of your comfort zone? Were you successful? I’d like to hear your stories and try to feel more positive for my attempt tomorrow. In the meantime, some "good luck" wishes and lots of positive vibes could be greatly appreciated! I don’t want to be humiliated in front of my little girls and my husband! Keep your fingers crossed!
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I stepped on the scale this morning. It’s not my regular weigh-in day but there was a voice inside me that insisted. “Come on, get on there. It’ll put a smile on your face.” The last few days, I’m proud to say, I’ve been a bright example of proper nutrition and exercise. We’ve had more dance classes as the end of the school year approaches and we’re getting ready for our performance at the closing celebration. So, the fitness minutes were easy to gather this month! Right way of eating and lots of exercise. The combination that leads to weight loss, right?
And it did. I just couldn’t believe the reading on the scale!
Wow! This morning I entered the land of the sixties! And the last time I was here was about 16 years ago. Ever since then, I climbed up to the seventies and then the eighties and I stayed there for many years. I even reached the nineties at some point! And here I am again, at the age of 36, feeling like I’m 20 again. No, it’s not the number. It may be a big scale victory, it may be something that makes me feel proud and accomplished, it may be something that I never expected to see but it’s not what makes me feel 20 again.
It’s the energy. All this endless energy that exercise and clean eating have created in my body. It’s the feeling of waking up every morning, ready to seize the day with anything that it brings with it. It’s the positivity and the optimism that have come out of nowhere – I’ve always been a person who used to see the cup as half-empty! And, above all, it’s the feeling that I can set goals and achieve them. Because I finally believe in myself.
All I would like to do now is to shout out to all those people out there who want to make this change in their lives and, for many different reasons, they just don’t make the first step:
It takes time and commitment.
It involves lots of disappointment in the process.
It’s got ups and downs.
You’re going to fall and getting up again will be tough.
BUT IT’S WORTH IT!
It’s worth every single minute of your time.
It's worth every small or big effort that you put into it.
It's worth every sigh that you let out.
It's worth every drop of sweat that you shed.
It's worth every small or big sacrifice you will have to make.
Because you’ll be giving your body the best gift of all: health and energy! You’ll be giving the people you love a great person in their lives: a strong, healthy and energetic mom, dad, spouse, friend, sister, brother, granny, granddad.
You deserve to be the best yourself you can be.
It’s worth the effort!
Friday, May 11, 2012
How many times have you “googled” a symptom or a number of symptoms just to find out what’s causing it? Come on, admit it! You must have done it at least once! I know I have! Well, if you haven’t, you must belong to a very small percentage of people. Of really careful and cautious people. Because, even though the internet is a huge, enormous, gigantic bank of information, not all the sources can be trusted and some of them could prove quite misleading and even dangerous!
Unfortunately one of the areas that this commonly happens is the field of health and nutrition. If you belong to the majority of the people mentioned above who have – at least once – used the internet in order to find information about symptoms or illnesses, you have definitely come across a huge number of different cases and, in most cases, got worried or even scared! A very bad headache could be a life-threatening brain tumor! And the fact that you haven’t slept for two days in a row, you’ve drunk a lake of coffee and your stress levels have reached the stratosphere of earth??? Well, all it takes is a few terrifying cases found on the internet and we just forget about… the obvious!
Now, let’s narrow the field of health down to our interests here on Sparkpeople: nutrition. Anyone can find thousands of blogs in and out of the SP community on what other people did to lose the weight they had been fighting against for years. Tons of different “diets”, cutting out food categories, focusing on a specific nutrient, and – the worst kind of all – diets or nutritional habits meant for people with health conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol! Given by people who are no doctors or have no expertise on the subject!
We all exchange knowledge and information about the subjects that we are interested in and that’s perfectly normal. But when it comes to health issues, there’s a huge difference between discussing and actually doing! If you have health problems that are directly related to the way you eat, the only one who can give you the guidelines is your doctor! You can talk about it with your friends, your Sparkfriends, your Facebook buddies but only to know what other people have to say and share your stories. In order to apply any change to your nutritional habits, you have to be perfectly sure that they are right for you. Every case is different. Are all people with diabetes treated in the same way? Some are only advised to be careful with what they eat, whereas others need daily insulin shots! How about people with high cholesterol levels? 220 for a 25-year-old who doesn’t smoke, is not obese and is active is not a big worry but 360 for a 50-year-old obese smoker is extremely alarming! How can those two people follow the same nutrition plans? And I’m sure there are hundreds of other food-related health issues. Those are just some examples.
But while we’re at the high cholesterol example, I would also like to stress something else for all of us who use the information on the Sparkpeople food tracker. We can see the amount of cholesterol intake and other nutrients we choose to. But we should only consider this accurate, if we are perfectly sure that all food we track contain information for the nutrient we’re interested in. There are many kinds of food that we enter manually or that other users have, which don’t have information on all nutrients. For example, I’ve had high cholesterol for years now and even though it’s dropped considerably after my weight loss, it still remains high. I also have a slight problem of anemia. So, cholesterol and iron are those that interest me the most. Almost none of the foods I’ve manually entered contain this information! So how can I rely on them? I definitely can’t! I only rely on the advice my doctor has given me.
To sum up with all this, the internet is full of people who have stories and advice to offer on health and nutrition even if they are no experts. That’s really irresponsible of them, in my opinion, but you can judge them according to your own beliefs. Just think before you decide to adopt a person’s advice. Check their expertise, compare their case with yours, ask questions, do your own research and above all talk with your doctor. When we have health issues that are related to food and we know it, we can’t experiment with weird diets and other people’s “I’m-the-living-proof-that-it-works” ways of eating! When it comes to our health, our body is the expert. And we have to be sure that it’s in safe hands!
Friday, May 04, 2012
Guilt. Well-known feeling to anyone who has tried to lose weight. We start, filled with enthusiasm, we follow meal plans and exercise schedules with discipline and we’re proud of ourselves. Then one day, life gets in the way. Our day is filled with tasks and we can’t find ten minutes to exercise. We’re stressed and we eat everything in sight. And quite coincidentally we’re invited to dinner and we just can’t resist the temptations! And those feelings of guilt begin to arise in our heads. And they’re usually fought by another cycle of more eating - less exercise. And then more guilt. And the vicious circle that is bound to ruin our efforts has just begun!
Sounds familiar? It does to me! That’s what I kept doing for years and years. I would feel guilty every time I allowed myself to eat in an “unhealthy” way. I would punish myself with “strict diet days” every time I happened to overeat because of a special occasion, because of cooking something that I really liked or simply because of emotional eating during stressful days. The guilt was overwhelming and I would always go to extremes to make myself feel better. But extreme measures can only lead to more extreme actions!
It took me almost three years on Sparkpeople but I finally learned one of the most important lessons of this journey: Myself deserves to be given a break once in a while. And there’s no reason to feel guilty about it. We are all human beings, not programmed machines. There will be days that we just can’t follow our healthy way of eating and exercising for many reasons. That’s what happened to me the day before yesterday. I was feeling many stressful things taking full control of me. My mind was filled with many different things and solutions I had to figure out and I could feel the emotional eater inside me taking action. And do you know what I did? I gave myself a break! I hated it but I felt it had to be done. I let myself binge on different foods I was craving and even munching mindlessly while talking on the phone! And I discovered two things. First of all, my house has been emptied of many unhealthy foods that I used to crave on days like this. Secondly, my cravings are different now and I can’t eat as much as I used to!
So, I admit it. I gave in to my emotional cravings and… nothing bad happened! That’s where another important lesson comes in: Knowing when to put a stop. It was a bad day. I gave myself permission to take a break. But breaks have to come to an end. And the sooner, the better. The next day was back to normal. And normal means healthy food, balanced meal times and exercising. That’s exactly what I did and today’s weigh-in proved that everything was back to normal again. Almost a pound’ loss and no damage done.
We all deserve – yes, deserve, you read that right – a day of mindless eating or a break from exercise. It’s the exception, not the rule. And if the rule is a balanced and healthy way of life, the exception can really do no harm. A break is something everyone needs. So, the next time you happen to find yourself at a wedding reception with a buffet full of foods you love, next Christmas when your mom greets you with your favorite pudding, at your next birthday when your best friend orders your favorite flavor in your cake, when you are going through a “wrong” day and "eating right and exercise” seems equally wrong, or in every other occasion that guilty feelings of over-eating and “under-exercising” would come to haunt you, give yourself a break! Respect your desires, your needs and don’t start criticizing and punishing yourself. Set the limits and allow yourself one day of “wrong-doing”. It’s just one day!
But don’t forget! Tomorrow is a new day. And you have to get back to normal. Let your dreams, goals and ambitions define “normal”.
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