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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Life, death, health, wealth...

A week and a half ago I received some news that helped shift some of my ideas, challenged other ideas, created new ideas, and is slowly but surely transforming the way I have been approaching life, people, health, and spirituality.

It is amazing to me how one event can profoundly impact my own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

On October 13 one of the most amazing women I have ever known climbed the mountain from this world to the next.  My dear friend Liz Adams suffered from a pulmonary embolism on the previous Thursday and was declared brain dead on that Saturday.  One of the most shocking things about this is that Liz was an extremely active (mountain climbing, sea kayaking, scuba diving, etc...) person, who was the most emotionally stable and optimistic person that I have ever met, and who had a very healthy lifestyle in all areas, and ALWAYS had for as long as I had known her, which was the past 15 years.  

Usually when a younger person passes away due to a medical reason, that person has either had a history of some sort of medical issue, or had had an unhealthy or partially unhealthy lifestyle to has contributed to the sudden death.  But Liz had neither issue.  i am sure it was probably either a fluke or some unknown underlying condition, but still it was such a shock.  

I was glad to be able to attend one of the memorial services held for her, as I was not sure if there would be one close enough, as she lived in Alaska most recently, and her family is from Ohio, so both places were having a service.  Luckily, the school she worked at in Massachusetts decided to also hold one for her friends and colleagues from the Northeastern US, which is where she spent about 10 years of her life between college and her early post college years.  So I arranged for my mother to keep the kids overnight, and headed out to MA to celebrate her life, laugh and cry with old friends who loved her as much as I did, and connect with other friends whom I have neglected over the past few years due to life being busy, and not making those friendship a priority.

So health, not just diet and exercise, but the health of my connections with other people, has come to the forefront for me this past week.  I am renewing my commitment to becoming healthier, in many ways, to sticking to my diet and exercise lifestyle changes and making them permanent  rather than a means to an end.  Committing myself also to being more socially healthy, not letting the tyranny of the urgent in life get in the way of the important connections with a wide range of people, like those many, many amazing people who have a piece of my heart, many of whom I have known for 15-20 years.  Moving my mind and my actions towards finding a way to increase the wealth of my physical self, my social self, my spiritual self, and my financial self.  Recommitting to finding more streams of income so that I can afford to drive out and visit friends, and maybe someday have enough stable income through working from home, that moving back out towards Boston would be feasible.  So I am working on writing more on both the assigned article sites and on sites like Yahoo Contributors (of which I have put a link on the side bar in case others want to write for pay as well), and starting my Hub Pages, which I have yet to get off the ground.

May you, dear reader, enjoy all of the wonders that today brings, and give love to those whom are on your heart today.  None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Busy, full life....

One of the most amazing things about life is the ebb and flow of experiences   It is wonderful to have change with consistency, and a return to old good habits wile adding in new ones.

So, I have been good (not great) at walking a minimum of 2 miles 5 days a week (with up to four miles on occasion .  My body is definitely adjusting to this after doing it for nearly six weeks.  I find I finish 2 miles in 30-45 minutes now, as opposed to it taking 60-75 minutes like it did when I first restarted.  The muscles in my legs are getting stronger again, and I am finally able to walk at a pace that challenges my cardiovascular system, which is a very good thing.  It is annoying in some ways to find the right balance, because to actually work my heart and lungs, I push harder, and my knees end up hurting...a lot.  So it is a hard trade off, as I can walk slower and longer (3-4 miles in 60-75 minutes) or I can push harder and have a brisker, more heart pumping walk, but my knees start to buckle after only 2 miles.  I do know from an MRI done 8 years ago when I dislocated my right knee cap, that I have very little cartilage in my knees, so they can not take a lot of impact.  I am considering, especially with cold weather fast approaching (it snowed at home today!!), I am looking into getting a YMCA membership, which will allow me to do weights room workouts, elliptical machines, which greatly reduces the knee strain, and time in the pool for both aqua-aerobics and swimming.  It is mainly a matter of cost right now.

As for establishing better eating habits, I can honestly say, that bit by bit, my eating habits are changing in a more healthy and positive direction.  This slow change results in much, much better chances for a true lifestyle change, as I also change not just what and when I am eating, I am changing my relationship with food.  It is not a diet, it is a lifestyle change.  For the first time, I think that is really sinking in to a deeper level exactly what that means.  It is said so often, that we forget to actually think about what it means to change our lifestyle.  A true change in health needs to come not just from changing the habits of the outside, but the way of thinking on the inside.  So as I concentrate on shifting our diet, bit by bit, towards whole foods, and more veggies and fruit making up the bulk of our meals (ensuring raw ones are a daily addition), I find that it is easier than I thought, and that I enjoy what I eat more, appreciating it for the gift it gives.

Some things we chose this week vs our previous choices:
Plain yogurt with fresh fruit cut up in it vs sugar filled fruit flavored yogurt
Brown rice vs white rice
Steamed fish versus breaded fried fish
steamed fresh broccoli vs canned green bean
lean cube steak vs hamburgers
100% whole wheat sandwich thins vs split top Wheat bread
Munching on Raw Kale leaves vs crackers or chips
Peeled fresh grapefruit, plain vs banana bread (or even bananas)
Spending time with friends doing fun activities vs sitting at home because money seems too tight

Does that mean that EVERY choice I have made this week has been the healthier one, of course not.  Since starting this blog I have learned, and continue to learn each day, that I am not good with quick changes, and that trying to make drastic sweeping changes, even if I can hold on for a couple of months, do not have a lasting effect.  For a while I got down on myself, as I watched other people go on a radical diet, lose a bunch of weight, exercise like crazy people, and look and feel great.  Most of them, though, within a couple of years were back to their old habits, having gained back the weight they lost and more.  The people I have seen transform to healthier bodies and healthier minds have been the people who have done so slowly, consistently making small changes that become part of their daily life without it being something they have to constantly think about and do, it becomes part of their being.

So as I throw out all these ideas on this blog, all these different things I want to try out, going from one idea to another, as there are many great ideas out there, many great methods, and a LOT of anecdotal evidence to support various schools of thought.  But I am learning, and as I learn I share with you all, that certain types of transformation take place more slowly, letting the changes strip away all of the complex layers that lead to, not only the less desirable end result that you are trying to change, but to the habits and the thought patterns that reinforced those habits.  It is not as easy as "you ate more than you burned off".  While that is, in its simplest form, the digested truth to weight gain, the mechanisms, biology, physiology  psychology, and sociology that lead to that fact is much more complex and interwoven.  Picking it apart, even if you do not identify exactly what it is you are picking apart, is vital to creating lasting change.  For me, right now, that means listening to myself, what I am comfortable with, what i am not, what makes me feel good, what makes me feel crappy--and reaching for the better feeling, for the more healthy choices of thought and sustenance.  So that is where I am in this journey today....

Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding a "healthy lifestyle change" buddy

Okay,  So, if you have been following this blog for very long, you know that  I have had many fits and starts on this road to transforming my physical body.  I will do well for a while and then drop back to older, bad habits, and then push forward again, and back again, over and over....  The end result of which is still progress in the right direction (over 30 pounds lighter with much better eating/exercise habits than I had when I first started out--a year and a half ago).

My most recent push forward has been successful in that I am walking 2 to 4 miles every weekday (except for 2) in the past month.  So my body and mind have started to adjust to this as a new normal, and I don't feel right (physically or mentally) if I don't do it, so it is well on its way to becoming a true, ingrained habit.

My eating habits, while greatly improved from when I began this blog--in that I:

1)   use almost exclusively whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain breads, etc...) as opposed to more processed, less fiber rich, less nutritious grains;

2)I ensure that I get AT LEAST 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, usually more, with the majority of it fresh, some frozen and a little canned; I eat at least one to two servings of a leafy green vegetable (usually Kale, Cabbage, or Chard--I am partial to the more flavorful, leathery leaves I guess) each day.

3)  I also have greatly reduced the amount of processed, prepackaged food that I serve at home. yes the kids still eat ready to eat cereal and granola bars, and we do instant mashed potatoes, box mac & cheese, and even those skillet meals occasionally  But for the most part, I try to focus our grocery shopping  and meal prep on whole foods, the fresher the better.  While I can't seem to get the kids to eat the kale int eh stir fry, they eat most of the other veggies and fish (or shrimp or chicken) that is in the stir fry, they prefer the brown rice to white rice, and they see fruit as a great snack choice.

4) now that I am out of the house all day, most days I pack a lunch that is protein and raw veggie/raw fruit based

So, I have developed some very good habits, many of which have become a true lifestyle change, which is the goal.  However, I am still around 100 pounds from my goal weight,need to get my blood sugar under better control (the walking is helping with that quite a bit, but it is still not as low or as consistent as it really needs to be for my body to go from being over-stressed by my blood sugar to it moving towards a state of healing and good health).

Why, you may ask, am I still having trouble getting the weight off?  Well, the biggest answer that I can provide, is that while I may be developing good habits, I still have a lot of bad ones.  Emotional eating is a huge bad habit of mine, and while I have curbed a lot of my poor eating habits, the compulsive drive to eat when under stress is still one that I deal with on a daily basis--almost exclusively in the evening after the kids go to bed.  I tried to make a rule for myself that I could not eat after 9pm, aside from tea or MAYBE a piece of fruit or a small amount of plain yogurt IF I really was HUNGRY not just wanting to eat.  I used to not be a late night snacker.  Ten years ago, I NEVER ate in my bedroom, and I rarely had the desire to eat after 9pm, and would usually have a cup of herbal tea and read a book.    While I was heavy (and an overeater) I was also a lot healthier, much more socially active (amazing how quality social interaction feeds your soul so you don't feel the compulsive need to fill that void with food), and was not a single mom raising two kids with special needs--which adds its own, special kind of stress to life.

So I have been trying to figure out a way to combat some of this compulsion to overeat at night.  It s not like a gorge on junk food--no last night I ate left over roast chicken, a pear, an orange, an apple, a plum, 3 pieces of celery with cream cheese spread, a handful of saltine crackers, a glass of milk, and some raisins (all after 9pm).  The night before, I had a glass of water and a plum after 9pm.  So, what was the difference between two--one that prompted a normal, healthy snack time, and the other that prompted a continuous stream of munching on healthy stuff.   Well, Saturday, some newer friends came over for dinner, their son played with my sons, I had great grown up conversation, a nice dinner and four hours really connecting with these two people.  So, that social connection void felt fulfilled (we even talked weight loss stuff and recipes and walking and zumba).  Sunday I took the kids to visit my ex, played Wii in the family room, had dinner at the halfway house, and headed home late, put the kids to bed, and sat down to read.  So some social activity, but some stress added (not that there was not stress added the day before when I had to prepare my house to welcome guests who I really had only recently met--just a different kind of stress).

So I have decided that one of the things that MAY help curb some of my compulsive overeating or my emotional eating (sometimes it is hard to tell which has more power emotions or compulsion) in the evenings, is to have a partner in this weight loss journey.  The woman who I had over Saturday night with her husband and son is also on  a weight-loss journey (and has lost far more that I have), and has reached a bit of a plateau.  So I think if she and I can buddy up, plan meals, hold each other accountable, and help to fulfill that social connection void for each other, we may both have greater success.  It will be a challenge as they live nearly 2 hours from where I do, but with the age of internet, phones, skype and such, hopefully having a somewhat medium distance buddy towards better health, will help move my progress along more quickly and successfully.  This is quite a journey, and you never know where each path will lead until you start walking on it.