Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Spoon and the Damage Done

(with all apologies to Neil Young)

Full disclosure: This was a week. I'd like to say I did this purposely, as an experiment, but that would be a total fabrication. I'd like to say, "I purposely had a rotten week as an example of what not to do -- of do as I say, not as I do." And I'd like to say, "I'm on HRT, and all the chemical changes are just making me into a sugar-seeking monster." While this is what happened, it surely was not done on purpose, and I can't blame Premphase for it either. It's on me, all me. Amazingly enough, only by the pure grace of God (and a good workout last night) did it not affect the scale. And I can't even do a happy dance for that, because I was fully expecting way worse, and deserved whatever I got.

Still, I don't consider myself fallen from grace or anything like that. I am not going to beat myself up over this. Throughout this journey, one thing I have learned - and am still learning - is that self-flagellation does no good. I made bad choices, but I am not a bad person. I messed up, but I am not messed-up. Big difference there. Too often, there's so much of an all-or-nothing mentality, especially with weight-loss and weight-maintenance. "Oh dear, I had one donut and I gained 3 pounds. Well, might as well go eat the other 11 KK's, I blew it." Oh come on, we've all said it or thought it. "Oh crap, I ate half the bag of chips? Damn, might as well eat the rest." And we beat ourselves up when it shows up on the scale, or we nearly kill ourselves with exercise to somehow redeem ourselves. Literally, there is a whole sermon I could go on from here, but I'm trying not to do that.

Okay, so what have I learned this week:

1. Put down the simple carbs: I gotta ease up on the carbs in general. But I especially need to steer clear of the simple, refined carbs. Prime example: I bought a reduced-fat ice cream that I thought would be tasty and yet (relatively) better for me. Given my indulging in that this week, full-fat chocolate or vanilla would have been smarter. Even as I ate it, I knew it was crud marketed as "better" and I kept shoveling it in. Not again. If I'm gonna have ice cream, I'm sticking to Breyer's Fat Free, and probably most often the vanilla. At least I can put some fresh fruit over it or even some Walden-Farms no-calorie chocolate syrup. Or one of the Torani or DaVinci coffee syrups too. Mmm, the possibilities.

2. Pick up the lean protein: No question. The nights I had protein in late afternoon or evening, the better I did. And that being said, either lean meats or an omelet. Much as I love edamame, it seems to suit me better as a snack than as the primary protein for dinner. Yeah. Ya think?

3. Clean it up: Basically, I need to get back to cleaner eating. I tried it last summer when I was really struggling and it helped tremendously. And I'm finding that caffeine and sodium are becoming real issues for me, especially the sodium in this hot weather. I tend to retain more in the summer heat, one of the little lovely parting gifts of lymphedema (and tell her what else she's won, Don Pardo!). The caffeine is just something that I'm finding I don't need nearly as much as I thought. I've cut out caffeinated drinks as much as possible after 3:00 PM, avoiding the caffeinated sodas and even trying to stay clear of tea unless it's clearly labeled "caffeine free." BTW, quick product endorsement: Tazo Zero Calorie Unsweetened bottled teas - the "Refresh" is a mint one that is soooooo good!

4. HUP-2-3-4: Making time for daily exercise. I love my workouts (yes, I actually uttered this phrase). However, apparently 3 days a week, even busting it for an hour at a time, isn't enough. So even with the crazy life I have for the next 6 weeks, I'm just gonna have to bite the bullet and do it. I am going to have to wake up even earlier and go do cardio, and save my whole-body workouts for non-rehearsal days. Now the trick will be to find a gym on the way to work, and buy a one-month pass just so I can pack a bag, shower and change there and drive on (my gym, unfortunately, doesn't offer shower space). And apparently, keep a healthy breakfast at the office too.

It's all in the planning. Yeah, planning. There's another whole sermon there. Me, who advocates it and usually lives by it, having to remind myself of the value of a good plan. But mainly, I've got to quit "Flirting with Disaster," "Living on the Edge" and "Cruisin"...... and REALLY refocus on healthier living.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thomas Wolfe Was Right....

This week, I attended (and acted as a breakout session leader) for a wellness symposium. During the main portion of the presentation, I heard a repeat of all the figures that I have known about wellness, the state of our health, etc., some of which I mentioned in last week's post. And somehow, it still manages to shock me. It is unbelievable at how much healthcare is costing our nation, in so many ways. I cannot fathom how one can hear those figures and do nothing.

The buzzphrase of my life in my 40s has been "educate and advocate" .... that seems to crop up over and over. And so it is still. This was something that I hope I passed on to the people in my group. We have to educate ourselves, and to educate each other. And once we have that knowledge then we must advocate for those who have no voice, or whose voice is unheard and unheeded.

Thomas Wolfe said you can't go home again, and he's right. Once you have knowledge, you cannot go back to ignorance. You cannot "unknow" something. Nor should you. And once you have knowledge on one area, then you will find that there is a tie-in to something else .... and you want to learn about a connecting area, and then you'll see how the web is woven..... you will want to do what you can to improve things. You will be angry and saddened and passionate. It might not be about food or health or wellness, but it will be about something that resonates deep within you and makes you a better person.

I'd like to close with a few profound insights from Margaret Mead:

1. "There is no greater insight into the future than recognizing... when we save our children, we save ourselves."

2. "Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems. All social change comes from the passion of individuals."

3. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Don't Get It....

Wellness is a big push at most companies and that's no exception for our parent company. Bottom line is, the bottom line is being eroded by healthcare costs as a national trend. Ask any company in any field of any size. For the last two years, as part of the benefits package, our parent company has rolled out wellness initiatives including online personal health assessments (PHA's), biometric screenings, and offered a discount on employee premiums, just for taking part in those measures. There's even a nifty voluntary program where they will send you information if your screening/PHA shows an area of concern -- just information for you to discuss with your doctor and maybe a call from a wellness nurse or other employee to see if you received it, have questions, etc.

While my division does not take part in the corporate initiative (long story and not really germane) we have done a few things on our own. One wellness program in which we took part was the American Heart Association's START! program -- we did the National START! Eating Healthy Day as well as the START! Heart Walk. I'd love to see 100% turnout for both, but then again, I'd love to see a winning lottery ticket shoot forth for me too.

Our work with the AHA has led me to working on a symposium with them next week on Corporate Wellness. As a presenter, I've been reading up on wellness news. For part of my presentation, I decided to throw in a slide about "Shape of the State" .... and pulled up lots of statistics from federal and state groups, as well as private wellness foundations.

Fellow South Cacks, we are in a world of hurt. If you weren't already aware, the "F is for Fat" initiative released their studies earlier this week and the whole country's in bad shape -- literally. ONE state has an adult obesity rate at under 20%. So mazel tov, Colorado, you're doing something right! South Carolina's rank is 8th worst. That's an "improvement" over 4th in a previous year's release.... but the bad news is that other states have caught up and passed us, so it's not a real improvement.

In fact, here's the most mind-blowing statistic of all:
"Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent. Fifteen years ago, Mississippi had the highest obesity rate, at 19.4 percent, which is lower than the lowest ranking state today, (Colorado at 19.8 percent)."

And I don't get it.

I don't get why we insist on digging our graves with a spoon, tilling the soil with a fork.
I don't get why we are afraid to move an extra muscle or two except to lift 12 ounces at a time.
I don't get why we frequent restaurants and chow down a double or triple-size portion of food, and cackle at our cleverness.
I don't get why we have forgotten how much fun it was to be a kid and bike all over our town and now we won't even step off our porches to walk around the block.

You know what? I've forgotten what it was like back in the day. I've forgotten what it's like to feel drained to just breathe. I've forgotten what it's like to pile food on my plate and stretch my stomach beyond normal limits because I thought I needed it. I've forgotten what it was like to come home and just do nothing. Yes, I do too much but you know something else? I have the energy now to keep up with it - not a limitless supply (see earlier posts) but way more than I would have ever imagined.

And I don't get how I lived like that for so long. I don't get how I could have let myself just go that way. I don't get how. I don't get why.

What I get is the amazing feeling I have now. As for me, if the price of 20 more years of good life is to eat broccoli, move my butt more often, and get regular medical care -- I'll pay it!! Life is fantastic, and I'm just sorry it took me so long to realize what I squandered in my early years.

The good news is that it's never too late to stop where you are and start fresh. Every day is a do-over. For those of us who are moving within a healthier lifestyle (and keep aiming high), we know that one meal is not the downfall.... it's in the refusal to get up and keep trying.

And that's one thing I will never get.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Visualize and Attack

Many years ago, a very wise woman wrote, "If you don't like your life, change it." It took a few years after reading her book to put that advice to my life, but I finally did in a couple of areas. I continue to make changes as needed to make my life even better. As I mentioned last week, the stresses of my life are playing havoc with me. So this week, I did exactly as I'd planned to do to divest myself of some of those stresses.

The massage was great -- so good, in fact, that I bought a membership in their wellness program, entitling me to a free massage each month. My next one is in two weeks and I cannot wait. I'd love to have a weekly one, but right now, I can't be that indulgent. After next June when Pearl is paid for.... maybe! But once a month is easy enough. So that's a plus! I think what I appreciated most was just finally being able to let go for a little while and be present in that moment, to know that all I had to do was be there and allow someone else to take the controls for just a sliver of time. For a control freak like myself, that was a major milestone. To simply be. Not to do anything; just be.

For my sleep debt issue, one big step that I took this week was to forgo caffeine after 3:00 PM -- at least as much as possible. I forgot and had unsweetened tea a couple of times. Even on those nights I found myself winding down earlier, about 30 minutes on average. Hey, that means I'm getting six hours instead of five-and-a-half. And guess what? No catnaps on lunch hour either. Oh my. Imagine that. Baby steps, but important ones.

Working out more regularly this week has helped too -- and bonus points for hitting the gym on the Fourth! Besides the good that it does my body, it does my mind and soul good too. At least it's made me forget everything else while concentrating on correct form (and the routine itself!) Amazing how just being there in the moment helps this part of my life as well.

I think that's been key this week: simply being there, in the moment, when I needed to be.

Not to say I still don't have some stress..... Tuesday was crazy with early payroll and forgetting that a couple of folks were out of the office all week. DUH. I haven't yet heard back about my labwork from last week, so they will be getting a call from me tomorrow. Regardless of what the numbers may or may not say, I know that something is not right, and I am determined to find the answers. And I surely didn't like what the scale said earlier today .... kind of kvetched about that in the car on the way home tonight. But you know, really, it is what it is. And I know what it takes to succeed, and now I can let it go.

For all these things, the answer is simple: Visualize and attack.... yeah, just like in The Waterboy. Visualize what I want and go for it. Whether it's weight loss or maintenance, stress relief, time management, new workouts, you just have to visualize and attack. Picture what you want. Focus on it. Determine how you are going to make it happen. Plan accordingly. Attack. Evaluate. Re-focus. Begin again. Every moment, every day.

Are there things beyond my control? Uh, did the sun rise in the east this morning? Will it set in the west? OF COURSE. I have come to the belief that somehow the universe allows us just the amount of control that we should have and the rest lies in a power beyond us. ("Wise, but you have much to learn, grasshopper!") Yet that does not absolve us from acting upon the things that we can control -- and doing so with the best of our ability, enthusiasm, drive, and power.

Visualize and attack. Sounds like a great plan for this week. Control what the universe allows me, and quit fretting over what is not in my power and control. Yep.... it's gonna be good this week.

I leave you with a quote from Helen Keller: "So much has been given to me; I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied." POWERFUL.

Go forth and conquer!!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Moving forward and looking back...

I have to laugh, smile, and give a little thanks. Okay, a lot of thanks.

After I published my last post, a dear friend in the Pacific Northwest e-mailed me with a laundry list of information on how sleep debt can wreak havoc on the body. She's a naturopathic doctor, and believe me, I listened. I started doing some reading on my own, and she's spot on. A lot of medical information out there and research on sleep debt, sleep deprivation and how it impacts everything in your system. Add a billion pounds from the stress of the weight of the world on one's shoulder and ...... well, you'll see me.

So I have taken definite action. I have an appointment this coming Tuesday for a massage. Now I've had massage therapy before with chiropractic, and I've had a few chair massages, but it's not the same as an hour on a table. I am SO looking forward to this. I remember reading a passage in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood where Vivi is on the massage table with a million worries dancing through her head and old memories surfacing and she just cries and cries and cries while she's being worked on. I can see that happening to me .... and I won't care at all. Let the tears come if they have to.

And I took a small step this weekend. It's going to sound silly, but I revisited a piece of my past so that I could sleep in this morning. I went to a Saturday Mass at one of the parishes for which I previously worked. I ran into a lot of the people I had known and enjoyed working with for years. There was one lady in particular I ran into -- I hadn't seen her in years, but I knew she'd be there. I think about her when I drive home on a certain road. She lives in a subdivision off this highway, and I sometimes thought about just stopping by her house to say hi.... but then I always go, "Aw, no, I couldn't do that." So I saw her last night and she just couldn't believe it! I also saw a couple of parishioners there who helped me so much back in the day, when I was having a serious health issue. He is a physician (albeit not in that specialty) and his wife is a nurse (now a stay-at-home mom). When I was having health issues about 8 years ago, my coworker asked them after church one weekend what advice they would give me if I had another flare-up. His advice was spot-on, and saved me a lot of trouble in the long run. I looked decidedly differently than those years ago, when I woke up in a hospital bed to see him standing at the foot asking how I was doing. Again, not even his patient, not in his specialty, but he was kind enough to reach out. And her advice on what to do in the meantime was extremely helpful!

But even better, I ran into one of my old dear friends.... okay, a "trouble buddy." I have some wonderful friends in my life, several of whom fall into this category. There are "LifeSavers" - they are the ones you call for bail money. "Trouble Buddies" are the ones in the pokey WITH you! Yep, she and I had some adventures back in the day! We sat together, laughed together, then went out for dinner afterwards. It was so much fun! It was an evening without stress, without a care, just lots of laughs and good memories.

And yes, I slept in, at least as long as my dog would allow. Boo-Boo is a built-in alarm clock. Not that he has to go outside, just wondering why you're not up, since you're usually up by now..... and it's a beautiful glorious morning of sunshine, warm (hot) weather, and the knowledge that I can do it again tomorrow!!! (Tuesday, another story.... but we're not looking that far ahead!)