Saturday, November 10, 2012
Years ago, my dad once joked that I was spending too much time with dogs. This morning, watching my dogs eat (devour) their breakfasts, I thought he might have been right. I noticed some similarities between their eating habits and mine.
1. The dogs get very excited about mealtime. Really, seriously excited. I'm sure it's the highlight of their day. You'd think they didn't get regular meals, that I forgot to feed them on occasion or that 2 Squares plus treats a day is a new experience for them from the way they act each and every time I put food in front of them. While I don't achieve their same through the roof level of excitement over eating, I do sometimes think an awful lot about my next meal and I definitely enjoy eating. I bet if I was at the mercy of someone else for every morsel of food, even if that someone was really excellent about providing those morsels (for the record!), I might approach their level of anticipation for meals too.
2. My dogs would binge if they could. I am super careful to keep food out of their reach. The agile Border Collie/champion counter surfer has taught me well. This diligence on my part has helped them avoid potentially dangerous binges. I definitely share their keen appetite though I am at least more discriminating in what I consider edible. Dogs can be so gross - or stupid - the agile Border Collie once ate an brand new, unused SOS pad for reasons I could never figure and he wasn't saying. Unlike the dogs, however I don't have anyone watching out for my welfare, keeping junk and potentially dangerous (if only decades down the road) binges away from me. Oh, wait, I do that for myself. Or at least I try to careful about not bring food into the house that will tempt me into unhealthy eating. And unlike the dogs, I am capable of rationally looking at what I want to eat and why.
3. The dogs and I share a keen appetite. This goes with the ability to binge and excitement over mealtime, I suppose. But I find that keen appetite in both the dogs and myself to be a comfort in the sense that it is, for us at least, a sign of health. The day one of the dogs doesn't want to eat, I know something is seriously wrong. Same for me. If I am lacking appetite, that is an important piece of information to consider that something is off with my system.
4. Not that the dogs understand, but they get the benefit of excellent nutrition. There is a lot of research (and omg, bitter, protracted, angry Internet debates/arguments) over what to feed dogs for good health and long life. As with our own journeys to health, I feel there are many routes one can take. I make my choices on what to feed the dogs both on the research and how my dogs do on a particular diet. How someone else's dog does on some food is interesting to me, but in the end it is how my dog does that makes up my mind. I have had all my dogs on the same diet and all three on different diets, depending on their needs at any given time. Same with what I eat. I love that there is so much information out there to look at for guidance and I enjoy hearing about what works for others. But in the end, what works for you may not work for me. And that is ok.
Good nutrition is the area where I have been the slowest to catch up to my dogs. I just haven't paid the same attention to the importance of nutrition to my own health and well-being until recently. I still have a ways to go before I feel that I am being as careful with my food as I am with theirs. Unlike them, I can't eat the same thing day in, day out and I have decades of bad choices and ingrained habits to work through. But I am making progress and envision making more positive changes.
So, I guess it isn't all bad or too weird that I see some food related issues I share with my canine companions. As dear old Dad noted, I do spend a lot of time with them. :-) Now, if you'll excuse me, the agile Border Collie has been telling me it is time to throw a ball for him. Dogs live in the moment. It is one of the things I enjoy most about them.
Hope everyone has a great weekend!
Sunday, November 04, 2012
Like so much on our journeys to better health, there are many routes we can take. What works great for one person may not work at all for another. I am often impressed with the goals I see others set for themselves. I see very ambitious goals. Very detailed goals. Goals with percentages and end dates. Highly organized goals.
I, on the other hand, design my goals to be highly achievable. I never set a goal I think is going to be hard for me. Total slacker, c'est moi! But (and this is important for my progress), I build on those easy goals a bit at a time until I am setting pretty big objectives for myself that earlier I never would have seen possible to reach. But they are still goals that I am very confident I will achieve.
When I began this journey, I started out with seriously vague goals. Or maybe one quite vague goal. Eat less. That was it. Losing weight was also hoped for but at that time, I wasn't even stepping on the scale so I couldn't know for sure how much weight I was losing. However, I knew if I ate less at the size I was and at the rate of intake I had been engaging in, I would lose weight. And so the journey of 170 pounds lost began with "eat less."
I was in such bad shape that for a few weeks, maybe longer than a month, I didn't do any exercise. I knew working on eating less was all I was going to be able to easily do at the time. Eventually, I started walking 5 times a week. I decided on a little route in my neighborhood and I didn't care if it took 15 minutes or 25, that was all I was walking. Period. That was what I knew I could do at the time without it being overwhelming.
And as I lost weight and slowly got into better shape, I started making sure I was walking for at least 30 minutes so my route kept changing. But I stuck to no more than 5 times a week, because again, I wanted it to be easy to achieve. Also, as the pounds came off, I started aiming for a certain number of calories each day that I seemed to find easy to meet most days.
Eventually, I liked my walks so much that I walked every day. Then I started walking for longer periods of time or taking walks twice a day. I branched out into other exercise that was no longer torturous for me to try and that I could do on rainy or icy days when walking wasn't optimal.
So from "eat less" I arrived at eating within a range of calories to lose and now to maintain weight. From no exercise, I now have a goal of 500 minutes activity and at least 2000 calories burned per week. I always surpass my exercise objectives -- because, yes, I still keep my goals highly attainable. The dog and I walk every morning for an hour. I now loop around my fairly small subdivision in a complex pattern and I still love my walks. I recently purchased a treadmill which isn't as relaxing as my neighborhood walks, but gives me a more intense workout, so which ever "walk" I take, I am getting something very valuable. In addition, to my 7 hours of walking each week, I add some stationary bike time, step aerobics, long walks on the beach, Zumba, etc. to shoot past my 500 minutes goal.
Yes, I know, I should do strength training. One of these days, that will feel very achievable for me, and I'll get right on it, LOL. I also am making slow progress on a healthier diet but at least it is progress and all achievable. By setting my goals small and incremental, I have had very few failures and lots of success since I started my weight loss in March 2011. And the successes fueled and increased my motivation to keep making healthier choices, keep setting new goals, keep on keeping on, as they used to say back in the day.
Earlier this week, I heard Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I had forgotten what a great song that was both in music and lyrics. So I will end my post here, saying to all my friends on this journey and paraphrasing Stevie, "Sparkers, keep on sparking. No one's gonna bring me down. Oh no. Till I reach my highest ground."
Saturday, October 27, 2012
I need to start this blog by admitting a fairly new addiction. I love the various incarnations of the show, Say Yes to the Dress. After being without cable for a few years, I got it back during the summer. And that is when I discovered this seemingly simple show about girls picking out their wedding dresses. At first I was puzzled about how there could be an entire show around this activity. I mean, I love pretty dresses as much as the next woman, but seriously? But then I realized, as they sometimes say on SYTTD, it isn't really about the dress.
There is drama, omg so much drama involved, especially in the Atlanta spin-off (plus Lori and Monty are such a hoot). There are families and friends that treat the bride terribly, spoiled brides, grieving brides, insecure brides, controlling grooms, over-protective fathers and mothers of every stripe and color (the Mama Drama always makes for a good show). I just love the psychology and family dynamics (hey, they're not MY family dynamics LOL). I have laughed and cried watching this show about girls trying on fancy dresses.
But this blog isn't really about Say Yes to the Dress, as much as I love it. It is about a recurring theme that I see on the show. Body Image and how messed up it can be. The brides in the shows often have problems with their bodies. Some plus sized brides struggle to feel beautiful. But so do some very thin brides, especially those who have lost a significant amount of weight. It reminds me how some of us here on SP struggle with our body image and how hard it can sometimes be to see the best aspects of our appearance because we are so focused on what we see as our faults, even if those faults are in the past.
I just watched an episode of SYTTD, Atlanta in which a bride had lost 65 lbs and was very, very slender but all she saw were "problem areas" when she looked in the mirror. She came with a wonderfully supportive bunch of family and friends and it was heartbreaking to see her struggle to truly see herself and just as poignant to see the sadness and concern on the faces of the people who loved her.
It took the sales consultant, the fashion director AND the store owner to help the bride see "the new girl" she was now instead of the heavier one she had been. They all talked about how she was stuck in the past and the fashion director commented, "She needs to get back to the future." This episode ended happily with the bride choosing the form fitting dress of her dreams and talking about finally being able to celebrate all that she had accomplished through careful eating and exercise. Sadly, I have seen other episodes where the bride could not reach that point of seeing how she truly looked, instead leaving the salon miserable and her self-confidence tattered.
I know I struggle with how much my body has changed in the past year and a half. My recent blog, "I sometimes don't know who this person is" addressed how I am at times surprised both by how I used to look and how I look now. In the restroom at work, I must be seeing myself in the mirror from a certain angle and it looks like I am slinking by, the woman with no hips. That woman looks a bit startled at times. She even pauses to stare on occasion.
Not that I don't have faults by the dozen to catalog, if I let myself do so, even though I am now at the lowest weight I've been in three decades. And I see people on SP commenting on how they hate their bodies still. I am really trying hard not to get sucked up in that need for perfection, that need to look like we think we are supposed to look, or seeing our short-comings compared to that celebrity or that SP member who is 6 inches taller but wearing the same size pants. Ok, I came across that last example the other day, but I decided I am from good peasant stock and we are not built for speed, but endurance. I still look fine in my size 6.
We need to do more than take good care of our bodies with the right food, care and exercise. We also need to love and appreciate our bodies. We should speak of them kindly and not cast aspersions on them. Many of the things I could find most fault with in my body have been caused by the choices I've made over the years. The least I can do now is treat it with respect and gentleness in both my actions AND my words.
I understand when others struggle with their body image, because I struggle too. But it hurts to see them struggle, to hear the horrible things they say to themselves about themselves. As I grow older, the more I shudder a bit inside when I read or hear someone say "I hate..." about herself or her body. Since we only get this one body, how about we figure a way to make peace with it, to take good care of it so it takes good care of us, to speak well of it the way we speak well of those we love?
So let's appreciate our bodies for all they have been through, often at our own hands and for all they can do. Let's say yes to being comfortable with who we are, how we look and what we can accomplish with the bodies we have been blessed with.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
So, I have been on this plateau for over a month now. I thought I was moving off it when I went down a pound after a two week stall back in September, but then I went on another stall, this one about 3 weeks. Actually went up .6 lb, then a while later, up another .6, then down in the space of one day by .8 lb where I have held amazingly steady for several days. Let's just say my body really likes being 138.4.
Meanwhile, my goal is 137 but in my heart of hearts I want 135, mainly because it is that much further away from an overweight BMI. At only 5' 3" (and that's rounding UP), I am near the top of my healthy BMI range.
One of my spark friends commented the other day how neat that I was so close to my "secret goal" of 135. It surprised me that she was right. I WAS really close to 135. It's just that I started doing the daily weigh in during this plateau (yeah, bad timing) and so every day it was like be smacked in the face -- nope, not losing, still not losing, wow you just went up over half a lb, still not losing, still not losing, and on it went, morning after morning. I decided this was my chance to work on non emotional reactions to the scale. And boy, am I getting plenty of practice.
But my friend got me to look at see how incredibly close I am to my secret goal, never mind the official one. And that got me to thinking about being on a plateau and what it teaches me whenever I am on one.
1. No matter all the research, no matter all the great information here at SP, no matter how some approach to eating or exercising worked for a friend, the fact is losing weight doesn't always add up. We don't have all the facts yet. It should be simple. Eat less. Move more. And in fact, that does work most of the time but then there are plateaus where that simple formula doesn't work for a period of time. We all need to figure out how to get off the plateau, but the options are endless. Eat less. No, eat more. No, eat more protein. No, eat more fat. Exercise more. No, do some completely different exercise. Change it up. Don't change a thing. Probably the answers to the plateau puzzle are endless too and different for many of us.
2. The scale is important to me but it is still just a number. Although my weight has held eerily steady lately, my clothes fit a bit loser. I'm not down a size, but I can see and feel a difference in my body. Unfortunately, I don't take measurements often or well, so I can't say how many inches over all I have lost on this plateau.
3. I'm honestly OK where I'm at. When I hit 135, this would be what I'd want as my top weight. I don't want to hit 140, but 138.4 is still in my maintenance range. Especially with the way my pants are fitting these days.
4. I need to keep the faith. There is a prayer I liked a lot when I was first starting out as a therapist with children. It went something like, "Lord make me faithful in my actions and indifferent to my success." Sometimes, we don't see the success right away. Sometimes not for a long time, but if we know we are doing what is right, then later, down the road, we will see we were right to stay the course and believe in what we were doing. I believe in what I am doing. I know that staying in my calorie range and keeping active will eventually get me to the weight I want. In the meantime, I am staying healthy and fit.
The view from the plateau, isn't that bad, actually. I can see where I've been and how far I've come.
I can see where I am going.
Best of all, I see that this journey isn't going to end at 135. A year from now, I hope I will be 135 but I also hope I will be stronger and more confident than I am now. I hope that I won't be so surprised at times when I see myself in a mirror. I really hope I won't criticize myself when I look in the mirror at other times, not satisfied with what I have achieved. I am so different than where I was when I began this journey in March 2011. I know I will be different still in October 2013 and in March 2014.
This journey I am on is awesome. I can see that, even from this plateau.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
MISSUSRIVERRAT's blog on October 11th www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=5094907 touched on many thought provoking topics, but the one that really caught my attention was her reference to "positive addictions," most notably exercise.
I think we have all heard the research of how exercise releases endorphins in our brains, making us feel happy and less sensitive to pain. And most of us have experienced a sense of well-being during and/or after exercising. There is the long known "runner's high" (which always eluded me during my few and brief efforts at jogging). Then also we notice other benefits such as lost pounds and inches, increased energy, and better endurance. Those also make exercise highly reinforcing.
MISSUSRIVERRAT suggested maybe we should call positive addictions "ingrained good habits," and certainly that is how I think of what has become a need to exercise daily, as well as my need to stay in a certain calorie range. Those ingrained habits allowed me to lose a whole bunch of weight, go off blood pressure medication and just be in better shape for most things in life.
But here is the thing. I'm a little compulsive. Ok, a little more than a little compulsive. I don't need medication, but I can get really driven about things. Like exercise. I don't do really strenuous exercise. My main exercise is walking briskly. I do that about an hour a day with some supplemental activities and aim for a minimum of 500 minutes of exercise a week and the hope I am burning at least 2000 calories in that period. I don't think it is excessive, but others might. I sometimes wonder at the amount of exercise others do but they don't think it is excessive either.
Where does the positive part of the addiction take a negative turn? In the summer of 2011, I managed to get tendonitis along the top of both my feet. I still walked each and every day. At that point in my weight loss, I was probably only walking 30 minutes. Some days I was in such pain, my regular route (because you KNOW I have a regular route, being as compulsive as I am, LOL) took 40 or 45 minutes due to how hard it was for me to walk. But I kept moving. Is that will power? Addiction? Nuts? Not sure, but that is how I am.
Last April, I had minor, outpatient surgery on my parathyroid and had to go under anesthesia. I walked the morning of my surgery and the next day went for 30 minutes instead of my usual 60. The day after that, I was very tired and skipped the walk, taking a nap instead. I haven't missed exercising in some form, to burn at least 200 calories, since that late day in April. Is that too much? Too compulsive?
What about when we're just exhausted? How do we know if it is our bodies telling us it is important to rest or if exercising will make us feel better? I think a lot of us aren't the best at listening to our bodies. I know my skills in that area can be pretty shaky. Or what if we are actually sick? If it is just a cold, I'd say exercise if you feel like it and wouldn't think twice about exercising myself. What about a bad cold? What about the flu? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't keep going if I had a fever and other flu symptoms. What about a minor injury? I kept walking last summer with my injured feet, though I did stop going to the beach until they healed because the sand is so unstable. Which broke my heart because I love walking on the beach with friends and dogs, beach combing and soaking in the serenity.
Anyway, no deep thoughts here. Just pondering and wanting to be aware of how helpful my positive addictions are but also aware that at some point I might need to take a break for a day or two or more. And the world WILL go on and I WILL exercise again. It just might not feel that way at first.
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