Monday, December 16, 2013
Well, the 23rd round of the BLC is almost over. It has been, for me, a really really hard round--not because of anything that my team (Azure Destinations) did, but because I was both retaking my comprehensive exams (I had timed out from when I had taken them the first time, so I had to redo them) AND massively revise my dissertation into a (hopefully, knock on wood) defensible draft, which I had to submit at the end of this past semester.
As a result, I've been working 10 hours a day at least 5 days a week, and most weekends as well, since March. I've had almost no social life other than weekly fencing practices, which I justified as a stress reliever. Since August, those hours bumped up to 12 hours a day and EVERY weekend. I haven't made a fencing practice since October. I had multiple stretches in there where I worked until 3 or 4 am, slept a little bit, and then woke up and continued working. I pulled more than one all nighter. I've been stressed, sleep deprived, and physically in pain (my carpal tunnel/pinched ulna nerve/tendinitis has flared up with a vengeance). I've not slept well when I did sleep because I'm so stressed. My headaches have gotten bad again. I'm struggling to remember to eat and when I do eat to not eat crap because it's easy. I've barely seen my husband some weeks because he's been going to bed before I emerge from my office.
My goals for this round were embarrassingly modest. I wanted to at least maintain my weight. I wanted to maintain my exercise streak--so minimum of 20 minutes of exercise 5 days a week (I need those 2 days of rest physically, but I often exercise quite a bit longer than 20 minutes normally). I wanted to drink tea instead of soft drinks for my morning caffeine. I wanted to eat breakfast every day, even if it's usually just a wedge of cheese. I wanted to meditate every day as a means of controlling stress. And I wanted to take at least a little bit of "me" time every day because I knew that I need that. I knew that stress was going to be my big enemy this semester and I knew I was going to be pushing myself VERY hard. And I wanted to pass my comprehensive exams and get my dissertation submitted.
How did I do? Well, as far as my health related goals, it was a bit of a mixed bag. I gained weight over the semester--not as much as I might otherwise have, but I gained. I maintained my streak, admittedly some days by the skin of my teeth, and my workouts have progressively gotten shorter as my time got tighter. But I finished the round as a streaker (or at least I will assuming I workout today or tomorrow) but it was... close. I mostly remembered to eat breakfast, though I wasn't perfect. Almost every morning started off with tea, and not pop, and I'm kind of proud of the fact that for my second exam and the last week on my dissertation, while I was up to 3 *pots* of tea a day to keep going, I didn't drink pop. I didn't even especially want it. I started out fairly strong on the meditating but then it slid and I finally gave up on that goal. I did however take at least 15 minutes of "me" time just about every day. And I passed my exams and submitted my draft, all without completely losing all of my healthy lifestyle goals--they've deteriorated, but I'm still holding onto them.
So I call the round I success, even if it wasn't a spectacular success.
As for Azure, I feel like I was often the anchor holding them down, which I am sad about. I wasn't as helpful/supportive/encouraging as I felt I should be... I was barely holding myself together. I didn't travel, I didn't post a lot on blogs and sparks pages, and I wasn't losing weight. My team, however, has been awesome, constantly full of support and encouragement and even being willing to sending me text reminders so I wouldn't forget to weigh in and go floater because I had that few brain cells left for anything that wasn't grad school (I even completely forgot about jury duty, and that's not like me at all. I realized it a month later and called them up to apologize--thankfully they were really nice about it and rescheduled so I'm now due for jury duty in early January). So my team has been extremely awesome and I'm very grateful to them.
I'm hoping that next round, while I still be busy with grad school (I have to defend and do any necessary rewrites) that I will be able to give more back to the team. And hopefully do better on the healthy lifestyle front and maybe even lose a little weight before graduation *grin*
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Kal posted a link to a great article about 10 things you can do to make yourself happier:
(it's not very long, but well worth the read.)
So I read it before I went on my walk today and it got me thinking about the things that I do that myself happier. Some of them are on the list of the article, but not all of them.
1) EXERCISE. Technically, I do this for two primary reasons--one to help my body recover from my hip injury etc. and become stronger, fitter, and in less pain, so that I can regain my life, and two, as a form of stress relief. Also, I have a streak going right now and I'm stubborn so I don't want to give it up. The fact that it lets me eat a more comfortable (for me) diet while still (at least theoretically, grrr) losing weight (comfortable for me is at about 1500 calories; I can go down to 1400 but I start to feel like I'm depriving myself, and less than 1400 and I get irritable, shaky, and otherwise non-functional. Besides, it's hard to eat every 3-4 hours and feel remotely satisfied with what I ate and still eat under 1400 calories. At least for me). I also exercise--at least some of the time because it's fun, and fencing has the added benefit of being social. But I'd say that stress relief, rather than necessarily happiness, is my primary motivator. Still, it's really hard to be happy when you're so stressed you're making yourself sick. Even better, fencing and some of the other activities I do are pure fun. It's easy to be happy when you get to play once and awhile.
2) GET OUTSIDE. I like to be outdoors. In fact, given my choice and cooperative weather, I prefer to exercise outdoors. Sun, trees, water, and mountains in my terrain all make me feel very energized and happy... sadly mountains are somewhat (okay, extremely) lacking in my Michigan landscape, and while I love the ocean--I've rarely felt as alive as I have by the sea--that's also pretty lacking as well. But this is Michigan, a state filled with many lakes, including some really big ones *grin* and a great many rivers. I am extremely lucky in that I managed to find an apartment right on one of those lakes, and I love to go for a walk down by the shore. Sun is often somewhat lacking in Michigan, but when it's sunny like it is today, it's glorious out. My parents joke that I'm solar powered, and there's some truth to that--I feel so much more alive after my walk in the sun today. Pity I also burn if I look at the sun wrong, so maybe it's a good thing I don't live in a warmer, sunnier state.
3) STRONG SOCIAL SUPPORT NETWORKS. In my case both friends and family. I am very lucky in both. So many people I know, particularly living in urban areas, are so isolated... separated from their families by job and without a good way to meet and socialize with people. Most of my friends are either people I've known since high school (or longer) or people I met through the SCA. Some of these people are *very* good friends. I know that people on sparks have commented that I'm a very good friend because I've helped bail my friends out when they needed help, such as when a friend of mine found herself having to move on VERY little notice. But the thing is, I know that these people would do the same for me. They've helped me before. They'll help me again. Same with my family. I haven't had the chance to spend much time with them because of school, but I still try to stay connected because they matter to me and vice versa, and even though we don't get together as often as we'd like, we make those times count. And even though I don't see my friends in person much, and they are leaving me alone because they know I have no time, they always take time to talk to me when I call, at least a little while, send me quick supportive texts when they can tell I need it, or quick hugs at a fencing practice etc. I didn't used to be a hugging kind of person but there are times when hugs from a good friend are just what a person needs. And lucky me, my husband gives great hugs *grin*
4) GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Seriously, the number one thing I can do to manage my stress is get enough sleep--as soon as I start becoming sleep deprived, my stress levels go through the roof and my mood plummets. Sadly, sleep doesn't always come easily to me even when I try to make sure I get enough, and this semester I just haven't been getting enough sleep. While the amount of sleep everyone needs varies, I typically need somewhere between 8-9. This semester hasn't been as bad as it could be--I've been averaging closer to 7--but it's just not enough and it's wearing me down, and I can tell.
5) MUSIC. (Here's where I diverge from their list). Music is essential to me--I can't imagine a life without music. I listen to music while I read, while I exercise, while I work. I have music that makes me feel excited and music that makes me relax. Music is intimately connected to my mood, so when I'm feeling down I turn to music that makes me happy. Lately I've been listening to a lot of video game soundtracks (Numerous Final Fantasy and Zelda, mostly, but also DragonAge and a couple of others) because the music makes me happy.
6) BE CREATIVE. Kal posted in the Azure newsletter about feeding not just our bodies but our souls, and I think that this is so very important but it's something we often forget. What feeds our souls varies from person for person. Music, as mentioned, is one of mine (and I miss--deeply--making music. I use to play instruments and even sing in choirs, though I'm not a great singer, but music takes practice and practice takes time). Creative outlets are definitely another one. This could be writing fiction... I so miss writing fiction, it's ridiculous (I have worked on some fiction in grad school, which helps, but I just haven't been able to recently... even if I had the mental focus and energy to work on both, my hands won't let me). Instead I tell stories to myself in my head. I love making things--need to make things. I have a lot of craft hobbies--I bead, knit, weave, and do kumihimo, primarily (I also dabble in embroidery, spinning, working with wire, and a couple of other things I'm currently blanking on). I love playing with colors and textures, and the focus and repetitive movements are the closest I come to a truly meditative state (I don't sit still well. I just don't. And my brain is even more restless than my hands). I haven't done much crafting lately--I don't have the time and my hands/wrists/forearms are paying for all the time spent on the computer--and that's hard on me. I miss it, badly.
7) READ. I don't just enjoy reading, I *need* to read; this is even more critical to feeding my soul than being creative. It's my way to wind down at the end of the day. I often read during meals, too, if I'm eating alone (bad Zanna, I know, from a mindful eating perspective, but it's a way for me to stop working while I eat without resenting the time spent fueling up). Even in grad school, I read an average of one book every 2-3 days or so.... mostly very light, humorous, feel good fiction these days, admittedly. I don't have the head-space after I'm done with school to read much that requires thinking, and I can't handle the additional stress of a stressful book (so no suspense thrillers, horror, etc.). On vacations, I often read more, which is one of the reasons we broke down and bought kindles (we took literally a suitcase of books--a small carry on suitcase, true, but it was still 50 lbs of books. I know, because we weighed it to make sure it wasn't too heavy. Have I mentioned that my husband is a reader as well?)
8) EAT REGULARLY. This one may be strange, but I tend to forget to eat. You'd think I wouldn't be overweight since I'm prone to skipping meals if I'm not careful, but it doesn't work that way. For one thing, it means that when I do remember to eat I'm starving which means a weakness to bad (but quick) food choices, eating too quickly, and ultimately too much, but I'm also more tired, more stressed, impatient, and frankly downright irritable when I don't eat regularly. Seriously irritable. To the point that I was on a trip with my mom (years ago now--I was 18) when every time I'd get crabby she'd threaten to feed me. So if I want to be happy, I need to eat meals or snacks about every 3-4 hours.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
I've had a blog going in my head (I can't be the only person who does this, right? Reads something, experiences something, sees something, whatever, and starts mentally writing a blog that I never seem to find the time to actually sit down and write?) for a few months now... I even started writing it awhile back but it ended up being such an angry messy thing that I scrapped it as, well, too demoralizing and whiny.
But essentially, it was a rant of frustration at some of the messages I've seen going around on facebook, sparks, pinterest, and similar sites.... quotes or memes that are supposedly inspirational but make me want to stab something.
Example... I can't count the number of times I've seen the motivational phrase "the only workout I regret is the one I didn't do." And it frustrates me every time because, face it, I *have* regretted work outs. Repeatedly. I did this just recently--I tried a core workout challenge and didn't realize until I had finished that it really messed up my hip and knee (yeah, not doing that particular one again any time soon--this was last Wed. I think and my hip/knee STILL hurt. To be fair to both me and the person who posted this particular challenge, if I had realized it was going to be a problem I would have done something different and she would have been okay with that--the goal was a stronger core, not debilitating joint pain. So Kal, *please* don't feel guilty!!! Because it is in no way your fault!!! It's not even my fault, since my body didn't let me know it was a bad idea until too late.) I get it that my messed up joints are not necessarily representative... but they aren't THAT unusual on sparks, either; I can't be the only person who tried a workout and the body went "you shouldn't have done that." I wish that these inspiration memes and motivational quotes had more emphasis on things like listening to your body, and that slow and steady can let you climb mountains. One of the best motivational things I ever read was in the The Spark, where he talks about a woman who started "exercising" by just walking to her post office box and back to get her mail. From there, she started walking farther--maybe around the block, than a half, mile, etc. That small change led to bigger changes--she got stronger, fitter, and lost weight, and she did it without pushing her body to the breaking point. And that's just one example.
Then I found this blog, and it said everything I was trying to say, and it says it so very well. So I just had to share it with you.
Seriously. For example, the one about the pride? I'm proud of where I am now. I'm not where I want to be--not yet--but why should I be ashamed when I worked hard to reclaim my body and my life, worked hard to get where I am in school, worked hard to change my diet to make it healthier, etc.? And the one about anorexia/exercise anorexia... I was just talking to my husband about this the other day. He wasn't happy when I told him I had discovered that it was all too easy for me to flip that switch. Please note--I have *not* flipped this switch. I'm very careful that I *do not* flip this switch (this is one of the reasons why I think fasting diets are a very bady idea for me--though the main reason being the fact that I get physically shaky, impatient, and ill if I go too long without food). But when you are a control freak--at least when it comes to yourself, not necessarily other people--who is incredibly stubborn and doesn't get reliable hunger cues--yeah, all too easy. It's even easier when you're doing all the right things but still can't lose weight, and people who mean well keep telling you that if you only showed a little discipline you could lose that weight--I can be disciplined, right? It's all too easy to fall into a negative relationship with food and view ALL food as bad when no matter what you do, you still gained 20 pounds in one year, especially when food isn't all that appealing anyway. Thankfully, I recognized this early on--it's one of the reasons I strongly resist the term diet (at least as in "specific diet to lose weight" as opposed to "food I eat"), why I have made myself pay attention to the limits of my body, why I decided to focus on positive changes rather than deprivations (drink more tea rather than no pop, for example), etc. And I can at least say that I cannot exercise myself to anorexia because my body will break first (literally, when I first hurt my hip, I'd just fall down because it couldn't support my weight. Which can be scary when it happens on stairs and you have a backpack full of books. Thankfully, I managed to not hurt myself more than I already was). I don't want to ever experience that ever again.... so I watch my limits.
But telling me that I should push myself farther than I think I can go, that I'm not doing enough, etc.... these are not positive inspirational messages, even if they are well intended.
Instead I have made a very deliberate choice that my path will be one of moderation, flexibility, and small, gradual changes. I have focused on eating healthy foods I like (thankfully, it's not hard for me to find healthy foods I like) and active past times that I find fun, so it's not all about weight loss. This does mean that I still sometimes eat refined sugar, or fast food, or processed foods--not all the time, but sometimes. It means that I have days when my workouts are little more than my PT strength training and stretches because my body says that's all it can handle. It means I *have* to have 2 days of rest every week--which means real rest, not "light" activity--because I know my hip and knee need that extra time to recover. It means I tell myself if I go to the gym and I still don't feel up to exercising (since half the time getting to the gym is the hard part, LOL), I can come home and not feel guilty about it (and I have had days where I did just that. It only took 1 acute migraine that kicked in when I was working out to teach me that it was okay sometimes to stop).
Which is not to say that I'm against inspiration memes and stories--I love them! I collect them on pinterest, read and sometimes share them on facebook and on sparks (more so when I had more time, sadly). These are part of what keeps me going when I'm struggling. I even like the idea of strong being sexy--I want to be strong. But I've made the personal decision that I am going to focus on strong and healthy and not worry about skinny--the unhealthy excess belly fat needs to back off, but beyond that? I am okay with it. A healthy woman has about 20% body fat. I can live with a little softness. So I do not confuse strong with skinny--skinny would be nice, don't get me wrong, but I'd rather be strong and healthy than skinny.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Well, the next round of the BLC start next week, and we were asked to give some thought as to our goals for the round.
I know that this is going to be another really stressful round for me--I turned in my bibs (yay!) but now I have revisions to make on my dissertation and a lot of studying to do. I need to take my comps in November and turn in my final (or mostly final, anyway) draft in to my committee by the beginning of December. I also have a lot of bureaucratic stuff to deal with--getting paperwork filed, dates for exams and defense approved, etc. And apparently I should be job hunting at the same time. All this in the same 12 weeks of the round, so I'm seeing a lot of really long days of school related work during this round.
I think, because of that, I'm going to keep my goals very simple and pretty basic--really focusing on the fundamentals that will help me stay both sane and healthy (and hopefully not losing any ground as far as my healthy lifestyle goes) between now and December.
1) Weight loss: my weight loss goals are, as always, very modest. I want to lose 6 pounds in 12 weeks. I lose weight painfully slowly--last round was the first round EVER where I actually met my goal--but I know now at least it *can* be done, right?
2) I have been working on eating breakfast every day, and I want to keep that up. I have a hard time with breakfast. I really, really don't want food until I've been awake a few hours, and by that point it's lunch time. Food first thing in the morning is about as appealing to me as, oh, slugs. But I keep reading about how important breakfast is in jump starting the metabolism--and I *did* actually lose weight the one round so far where I regularly ate breakfast--as well as providing much needed energy to help you get up and go in the morning. So breakfast it is. I plan to have breakfast every day, even if it's something as small as an ounce of cheese or a slice of toast.
3) Another thing I have been working on is cutting back on the soft drinks, especially since I *hate* artificial sweeteners so when I drink pop, it's full-sugar. So my goal is to keep drinking tea every morning instead of my "normal" morning soft drink. I've been doing this for almost a year now (mostly--I've had some exceptions when I drank pop instead, but those days have been few and far between). It is, however, still *very* tempting to drink pop, especially when I'm not getting enough sleep and super stressed--that artificial energy from the combination of sugar and caffeine is like a siren in the morning. But I'm going to do my best to stick to tea in the morning. (I'm still allowing myself the occasional pop later in the day, because I don't do well with deprivation--it makes me want to rebel--and the occasional pop has remained very occasional and so I have cut WAY back on my soft drink consumption. Baby steps, my friends; baby steps.)
4) I intend to exercise a minimum of 20 minutes 5 days a week, Wed.-Wed, though I have the time and the ability, I can always do more than that. This serves a couple of purposes. First, this allows me to be a streaker for the round, and I've been a streaker every round since they went from 6 days a week to 5. Second, I can handle 20 minutes of exercise most days, even when I'm *really* busy. It's going to be a HUGE challenge the weeks I'm taking my comps, but I'm hoping I can pull it off. Third, it gives me 2 days of rest, which my hip REALLY needs. Every time I bump my exercise level to more than 5 days, I start to have problems with my bad hip. So I need those 2 days. Exercise also serves the purpose of being a very important stress reliever for me, especially fencing. So this way I have prioritized finding time to do it.
5) I am going to EITHER read 15 minutes/1 chapter (whichever comes first) from one of my religious texts (currently reading The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus by the Dalai Lama) OR 5 minutes in meditation. This serves a couple of purposes--it gives me time for spiritual contemplation, which does me good, but it also gives me space/time to meditate, which is a good way to help me deal with stress. And meditation and religious contemplation go hand in hand very well (think rosaries, if you're Catholic) so I think this will work in giving me the opportunity to read and study but also flexibility, which I think will be particularly important this semester.
6) And last but not least, I want to get at least 15 minutes of "Me" time every day. This could mean reading a book, playing a video game, watching a movie, spending some time on crafts... just 15 minutes to just relax. This is going to be *really* hard as I get close to deadlines and my exams, but I think that just makes it all the more important.
I also intend to be as good an Azurita as I can be, given school--to post regularly, to be as cheerful and supportive as I can, to let my teammates support and encourage me when I need support and encouragement, to do the best as I can with traveling, and to participate as well as I can with the challenges. I am concerned, I admit, that I won't carry my weight well this round, but hopefully I'll be able to carry enough of it.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I just wanted to post a quick blog that the registration for BLC 23 is NOW OPEN.
If you have been thinking about joining, or have been looking for something to challenge you or to help you keep your weight loss and healthy lifestyle goals in focus, NOW is the time. Apply right away--space is limited and it's first come, first serve. BLC 23 starts Sept. 25 and runs until Dec. 18.
The BLC is a team weight loss challenge inspired by the tv show the Biggest Loser. The idea is that individuals are placed on teams who then compete against each other over the course of 12 weeks. This is a long challenge--it's an investment in YOURSELF. But while it is a weight loss challenge, it's about sensible, healthy weight loss (you are encouraged to set realistic goals based on YOUR body and where you are in your weight loss journey... there is even a team for people who have reached their goal weight and wish to maintain it).
All members of all teams are asked a basic level of commitment--you are to weigh in every week (on Wed., before midnight), you are expected to participate in the challenges to the best of your ability, and you are expected to post in the team chat thread at least three times a week... more is better, daily is best. The more you are invested in the challenge and in your team, the more you will get out of it in the long run.
There are a lot of different teams, with a lot of different philosophies and focus. Want a team that is really hard core and driven and highly competitive? There's a team for that. Want a team that focuses more on nutrition and balancing the rest of your life with your healthy habits? There are teams for that. Need a team that will support and encourage you? All the teams are there to encourage and support their members, but there are teams who prioritize this. Need a team that is flexible? Yup, there's that, too. If you are not sure what you want or need from your team, the BLC admin can help with that, too. They are VERY GOOD at what they do, and one of those things is fitting the person to the team. And if you get on a team and find out that team just isn't going to work for you, they will work with you to find a team where you can thrive.
There are a lot of mini-challenges over the course of the 12 weeks; all teams participate in challenges at one point or another, though each team has a different focus/goal/orientation. For example, depending on your team, you might have a last chance workout challenge on the Tuesday before weighing in (the more fitness minutes the better); you may have a weekly strength training challenge on Thursday. You will have a number of weekend challenges (Friday-Monday) which will ask you to push yourself in a number of ways--to exercise, to try new foods, eat more fruits and veggies, or to drink your water, or to be involved with the BLC community such as posting blogs or commenting on spark pages. Some of the challenges focus on some TLC--we all need a break sometimes, so we may be asked to do something for ourselves (like read a book for 15 minutes) or to get at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night for the challenge. Many of these challenges are HARD--they are supposed to challenge you after all! But you don't have to get perfect scores--I almost never do! What we DO expect from our team members is that you push yourself (to the degree that is safe and doable for you) and that you participate to the best of your ability. And sometimes, you'll surprise yourself at what you are capable of if you try... I know I have!
Some members of the teams struggle with weight loss--I am one of those. I have a very hard time losing weight and almost didn't join my first BLC because of that. Some participants struggle with health problems or injuries--I'm in that category, too. There are still a lot of exercises I can't do because of my hip. That's OKAY. Ultimately, the BLC is a journey for YOURSELF, with the support and encouragement--and the occasional kick in the backside when needed--from your team. And if you can't do an exercise challenge as written because of a health issue--contact your team captain and come up with something you CAN do.
The BLC is one of the best things I've ever done for myself (thank you, 4_1HealthyCyndi, for talking me into joining!). It isn't easy, and as many of you know the last couple of years have been particularly stressful in my real-life, and the BLC has been an important touchstone in my life--keeping my goals focused and giving me support and inspiration when I needed it.
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