Stress and Me


October 2017 Fitness Tracker from my BuJo

Here’s the thing.

We live who we think we are.

–Tony Robbins

We all act consistently with how we define ourselves.

And I define myself as a good daughter. Over this past year and a bit, I’ve also begun to define myself as someone who takes care of herself. Recently, these two values butt heads and I wound up gaining 10 pounds.

Here’s what happened.

I. Taking Care of my Mother

It happened at a bad time. I was just beginning to redirect my focus from a six week effort of helping my mother declutter and freshen up her home when it happened. From the middle of July to the end of August, I had spent every spare minute painting rooms, packing, organizing, hanging pictures and delivering loads and loads of things to Value Village. It was worth it. Mom was on medication that gave her physical strength and mental clarity–but it would only be for six weeks. So, we worked hard to declutter and transform her home.

Then, abruptly, t the beginning of September, with three months of back rent owing, my sister and her family moved out of the trailer she had been renting from my Mom. She took clothes, the kids’ beds and the curtains (and rods). She left everything else. Pots and pans. Books. A sectional, a bed, a dresser. An entire room full of boxes. An 8×10 shed full of boxes. The kitchen drawers were still full. It’s like someone left in the middle of the night–in the middle of a life. So, I jumped in to help. I painted, I packed, I bought new light fixtures, installed curtain rods, and hung curtains from Mom’s stash. I drove countless loads to good will and to recycling. Every spare minute I had, I was on the road to that trailer–1/2 hour each way. And it was fine. On the day I was there to take the final pictures for the listing, a fellow knocked on the door and asked to see it. Mom wound up renting to him: so all turned out the way it was supposed to.

II. Taking Care of Myself (not).

I worked out only 6x in August.

September was better with 15 workouts logged. However, 6 of those workouts were during the single week I took off between the two projects not understanding how dire the trailer was.

October: 5 or 6x.

As I drove along the highway to the trailer, I’d promise myself I’d just take 15 minutes and go for a quick walk in the fall sunshine. Never happened. Instead, I ate crap in my car. When I had time to sit down, I had pie. And it got worse. I was in junk food free fall.

As an only child (my sister wasn’t born until I was 19 and I’d already left home) I have had a long and complicated relationship with my mother. It would be natural to cast this narrative as a conflict between meeting my needs and meeting hers. That’s certainly how it looks. But that would be a mistake. Luckily, as I was drafting this blog post, I read this article; Why we crave comfort: a peek at the science of food + mood, I realised it was something else entirely.

III. Stress.



Stress, I’m looking at you.

According to this article, when you put yourself, or find yourself in a stressful situation, you tend to revert to behaviour you have always used to comfort yourself. I mean why wouldn’t you? You need comfort. You need to feel good for a hot minute. So, in my case, I eat something engineered to deliver the biggest dose of pleasure I can get legally. Pie, ice cream, chocolate in any form. Stuff that certainly does not help me towards becoming a healthy person. Couple that with virtually no exercise and boom, ten pounds.

Originally, I’d thought the value of being a good daughter and the value of looking after my self were in conflict–because I did not look after myself at all while helping my Mom (though I could have). But fortunately, that’s not what was happening. It’s just that my newly found awareness of the importance of looking after myself has not yet solidified into stable habits. On the contrary, those habits are very fragile. They need protecting. And so I mustn’t take on any big projects or tasks even as we go through Christmas and New Year’s.

Though that might be difficult. I think I may be a stress junkie.

I intend to sign up for P.N. again.


Questions and Triggers

Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. I listened to it on audio cd, though I checked out the hardcover version to take notes and get a look at the questions tracker.


Triggers, by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter, reminded me of the power of inertia–and the importance of creating a super support structure for change. As he says,

If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us.

One of the most powerful ways to build support is to create the Daily Questions. Somewhat reminiscent of Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues which I first found out about from Gretchen Rubin,* the daily questions “are what behavioural economists refer to as a “commitment device.”

After all,

We are superior planners and inferior doers.


The questions do a few things to shorten the gap between planning and doing.

First, all begin with the phrase: “did I do my best to…..” This is so that when you score yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, you focus on effort, not results. It is about how much you try to do what it is you want to do. With a question like “Did I eat well today?” Well, who knows? Did that brownie you ate before morning coffee nullify a great day? I mean your eyes weren’t even open and it was right there!

Ask instead: Did you try to eat well? Did you do your best? Overall? On balance? That’s an entirely different question, isn’t it? It is full of grace and forgiveness. And it has an answer. An instructive answer to boot. In the end, your effort is the only thing in your control, anyway.

With black and white thinking effectively vanquished, Goldsmith harnesses the power of planning to the effectiveness of doing, like so; because you know you will be rating yourself on your aspirations at the end of the day, you keep it top of mind throughout the day in an effort to do well. So, in a sense, you’re planning all the time. While circling the parking lot —it occurs to you that not only would it be easier to park further away, walking further could count as part of your effort to be physically active.

Goldsmith suggests that everyone should probably ask themselves these six questions:

Did I do my best to…..

…set clear goals?

…make progress toward goal achievement?

…find meaning?

…be happy?

…build positive relationships?

…be fully engaged?


However, more meaningful to me as are these much more prosaic questions:

Did I do my best to…


…journal or write for 5 minutes?

…exercise or be physically active?

…be grateful for what I have?

…learn something new?

…eat in accordance with my goals for a healthy body?

…eat slowly

…eat to 80% full?

Goldsmith, apparently, has someone call him every night and ask him his questions. I’d love to do the same, but I think I’ll have to be content with doing it for myself.

I set up one of those e-mail reminder services to send me a reminder every night. I’ve been using Memo to Me to send me a daily reminder to exercise and a weekly reminder to record our expenses. I usually never open them, just seeing them in the inbox is enough. But with this one I could type in the questions. That wouldn’t be necessary though as I’d be doing the tracking and scoring in my bujo anyway. Memo to Me lets me set the time for my message, so that’s great. I set it to about the same time in the evening as my Calm app reminds me it is time to meditate.

BuJo daily questions tracker
Bullet Journal Tracker

But come to think of it, I could just set both as notifications on my ipad! I like adding the element of sound, too.

And then I’ll have my triggers.

*Have you seen her website recently? I’ve been visting her site for a good long time, but not frequently or recently until I clicked to get the link. I feel so proud of her.

A Big Hairy Goal

source: Muscle and Fitness

Ever since Roni wrote about her Tough Mudder race, I’ve been thinking about doing one.

And I’ve decided: The Time Has Come.

Not a Tough Mudder, per se, but a knock off obstacle course race. There appears to be a “Foam Fest” 5K run next summer just down the road from me. A few weeks after that, there’s another 5K obstacle race in Calgary called the Rugged Maniac. There’s even one in Edmonton, called Rise Up Challenge…it’s the same weekend as the Rough Runner in Pincher Creek. (That’s a beautiful place.) I don’t know right now which one I’ll do–and maybe I’ll do two. I’ll decide in November.

The idea scares the bejeezus out of me. I mean, I don’t run, people. Not since puberty and all the discomfort that came with it. Before that, I sprinted, you know, like after dark when I was playing “hide and chase” with the kids from the neighbourhood. But I am going to have to learn. And how to climb rope, and jump tires and all sorts of other hairy scary awesome things.

I need to up my game, here. I know I haven’t checked in in a long time: I’ve been dicking around with my workouts, being careless about what I eat. I weigh less than my last update…but I’ve been hovering at about 233lbs since May 18th. A three and a half month plateau.

But no more! A week ago or so ago, I re-committed to getting serious about getting fit and strong and slim(mer). I figured out a work out plan…and I took my first Zumba class this week! My face was so red! And since I could barely walk, I figured, why not an obstacle race?

And so, now I need to know: if I am not going to be stuffing down my emotions (and stress) with food–what am I going to do?

The March Report

My “gym” in March.

A dismal month. Let’s get to it.


March 1

  • weight: 243.4 lbs (-12.4 lbs)
  • no measurements taken

April 1

  • weight: 242.6 (-0.8 lbs)
  • waist: 46″
  • hips: 53″


With the exception of one particularly cold and miserable week, I worked out 5 times out of 7 every week: either aquafit (but only 3x all month), walks outside, or my PN walk. That cold and miserable week (negative double digits! with snow!) I went for my P.N. walk only once. I could have exercised inside–but I went on strike.


Here is where I really fell down. I meditated 8 times, in total, all month. Eight times! Looking at that–and looking at my lack of weight loss, I am strongly tempted to say that that the lack of one caused the other to be lacking. It seems intuitively obvious to me. Meditation helps alleviate stress–and studies have shown that chronic stress makes it extremely difficult to lose weight–especially when one is a middle-aged woman.


  1. Eat lean protein at every meal and snack. One significant change I made was to switch up one of my snacks at work from cashews and an apple to a hard boiled egg and a clementine. I’ve also been experimenting with different cottage cheese and fruit combos. My favourite is cottage cheese with an apple, cinnamon and maple syrup. I admit I am struggling with the whole “lean” aspect of this protein thing.
  2. Eat five servings of vegetables and fruits a day. A serving of veggies is the size of your fist, and for fruit, it’s a cupped hand. I have absolutely no difficulty with this, though it does take a bit of planning.

What is tricky with these two habits is incorporating them into the structure of eating slowly to 80% full. The last week of March saw me suddenly “get” how small my meals actually need to be if I want to eat more than twice a day.

Now it is a matter or remembering to take about half of what (I think) I want to eat.

I’m sure this is something I will continue to figure out –it will change as my body changes– it will change as I get smaller and stronger.

April is a new month –and just like the season– a whole new beginning. My long-term goal is to be independent in my old age. It is to be fully alive and strong and completely capable of looking after myself in my own home until the day I die.

And how I am going to get that done is to do all my PN lessons, my workouts and my habits. I will do my best to get used to the idea that growth only happens outside my comfort zone. That being uncomfortable is a good thing–growing pains are “good” pain.

And I am going to to meditate every single day. Definitely meditate.

What the Nutritionist Said

This has something to do with eating a bed-time snack.


It’s been two months since my doctor asked me if I would like to meet with the in-house nutritionist. By the way, having an in-house nutritionist is absolutely brilliant. I’ve never known one to come into a general practice before! She is, however, only in the clinic twice a month…hence the loooooooooong wait time! Her name is Jennifer and she is fabulous.

I was with her for a whole hour.  Her eyes lit up when I told her I was trying to eat slowly and only to 80% full. We talked about my tendency to comfort-binge eat (I just finished off a bag of Dare Fudge cookies last night as a matter of fact) and timing my meals. She also helped me come up with a few self-care activities to help with the whole “comfort” thing and lower my stress levels. We also came up with a few  distraction activities to help me out when I want to eat all the things (but it isn’t time to eat quite yet.) And we talked about eating a before bed snack.


My first question to her was: “Should I eat breakfast even when I am not hungry?” And she said, “Yes!” In fact, it is the only time I should override my body’s hunger cues and eat within an hour of getting up. But, she recommended I eat my breakfast. Key word: Eat. I am to stop making my smoothies (or have them rarely) because, apparently, in rat studies, drinking your meal burns 30% fewer calories than chewing and swallowing the same meal.  So, that makes me sad. (By the way, satiety has to do with how slowly I consume my shake….so as long as I drink my breakfast slowly, it will keep me just as satisfied as would eating the same meal in the same amount of time.)

Hunger and Meal Timing

I have trouble knowing whether I am hungry or not.  For a while there, I ate only when I recognized my hunger cues. As I mentioned before, I was going without eating for many, many hours. But,  that pattern of eating was not sustainable. 1) I never knew when I would be hungry which was hella inconvenient. 2) Sometimes, when I did eat, I would eat too quickly–and well over 80% full. The dietitian gave me a guideline: if I start thinking I may be hungry (which is usually me thinking about food, or, when I am home, heading for the kitchen) I can eat if it has been 4 to 6 hours since my last meal. If it hasn’t been at least four hours, I am to try one of these distraction techniques (she helped me come up with them):

Distraction Techniques:

  • say the alphabet backwards
  • do 5-10 minutes of housework
  • do any of my self-care activities.

(I had a book out of the library which I want to take out again called 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, by Susan Albers. It’s full of these sorts of ideas.)


Self-Care Activities

It is pretty safe to say that I am, by nature, high strung. When I was a kid, the other kids would tell me to “take a valium.” When we talked about my binge-comfort eating, Jennifer said the goal was not to clamp down on the behaviour–but to make it less likely to happen. The way to do that is to lower my overall level of stress–so that when things happened which caused even more stress, the tide wouldn’t rise quite as high as usual, and I wouldn’t go floating off head first straight into a family sized bag of potato chips. The path to less (overall) stress is indulging in relaxing activities I enjoy. We came up with:

  • deep breathing
  • meditating
  • 5-10 minutes of activity like dancing to music or walking outside
  • journaling
  • reading.

And then, Jennifer challenged me to do at least one of these every day. At least one, at least once a day.

She also made two further suggestions:

  1. Do not eat with distractions–in fact, she even encouraged me not to eat in the same spot where I use the computer (and do everything else.)
  2. Have a snack before bed.

As for the first, I think I’ll tackle it PN style and start with one meal (or snack) a day. And I’ll start in the smallest way possible–I’ll simply cover (or close) the computer to start. It will be just like the mindful meal challenge all over again–and that’s doable.

About the second–I don’t know. I guess I will have one if I’m hungry but not otherwise. It shocked me, actually. I’ve been reading so much about Intermittent Fasting for fighting Type II diabetes that the idea of introducing food to my system just before bed seems ludicrous.

She gave me an explanation involving my liver and glycogen (see the diagram above) and why fasting glucose numbers are higher in the morning than at any other time specifically because my liver is producing glycogen which circulates in my blood stream as glucose. Fundamentally, I didn’t understand this argument. Whether the glucose in my blood comes from eating food and digesting it–or from the glycogen in my liver–what does it matter? Insulin is still not doing its job–getting the glucose out of my bloodstream and into my cells. Anyway. It seems I have further research to do.

I am to meet with her again in six weeks–but of course, she’s fully booked. Still, I am thrilled to be able to consult with a nutritionist. I love having someone to discuss all of this stuff with. My daughter just shakes her head and says, “Mom, you’re such a geek.”


The February Report

I know, it is the middle of March, already, but I want to take a quick look back at a great month.


Feb 1

  • weight: 255.8 lbs
  • waist: 47″
  • hips: 55 1/4″

March 1

  • weight: 243.4 lbs (-12.4 lbs)
  • no measurements taken



I worked out five times every week. P.N. coaching gives me three guided walking meditation workouts each week of about 10 to 15 minutes a session. I attended aquafit one evening a week. The other “work out” varied from an actual workout with a Leslie Sansone video or a walk outside (known in P.N. parlance as “active recovery” rather than a “workout.”)


According to my Calm app, I meditated 21 times in 28 days.

I felt great in February. I made excellent progress–12 pounds! 12 whole freaking pounds in one month! Unbelievable.


This month, I continued with a five minute habit of my own (taking 1 tablespoon of fish oil a day plus Vitamin D3 with calcium and acidophilous tablets).

This month I was introduced to Eating Slowly and Eating to 80% full. P.N. calls these foundational habits. As you can see, those two habits alone–without changing my diet in any way–caused a twelve pound weight loss. Twelve!

On March 1st, I wrote:

 I am so excited for a new month–this one in particular ’cause no matter how much snow we get, Spring is just around the corner, no matter what!

I love my workouts–even though they can be annoying and challenging. I love my new habits, even though I feel like I have to re-learn how to eat slowly now that we’re eating only when we are hungry and only to 80% full. I love my [PN] Coach.

My big fat stomach has lost its smooth roundness and is actually beginning to get some definition. MY 50 inch stomach! I feel different. I feel “skinny.” But that big fat woman in the mirror usually looking back at me doesn’t look quite so big.

Most of all, I finally feel like I am doing the best I can for the life I want to live. And it’s just not that hard. That’s really surprising.

I can’t wait for the rest of the year with PN. 





The Second Secret to Weight Loss

Leftovers from a meal I had Monday night at 8pm. With the addition of more veggies, it served as my first meal of the day on Tuesday, 16 hours later.

Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are (80%) full.

I have had an interesting couple of weeks learning my hunger cues. And before I say any more, let me also say that I realise what a privilege that is. Not all of us can choose to go hungry for several hours just to explore what it feels like. I am very fortunate.

The first thing I noticed, however, is that I had a lot of fear around being hungry. Specifically, I was anxious that I would get hungry –really hungry– and not be able to get to food. The fear was so intense, I wondered if perhaps I had actually experienced just that as a child.

And, of course, it happened almost right away. Sort of.

Thursday morning, I woke up at 8am and decided to delay breakfast until I was actually hungry. I had my physiotherapy appointment at 11:15. Sure enough, at about 10:30, I felt serious rumblings. But there was absolutely no time to prepare and eat anything, especially if I was going to follow the secret to weight loss #1, so I stuck a Larabar in my purse and off I went.

So, I’m sitting on a bench like bed, back propped up with pillows, my ankle wrapped in a hot towel and it’s happily buzzing away with “stim.” I’m reading my book…and there they are. Hunger pangs. They are gathering strength and frequency, distracting me from my novel. On a scale of 1 to 10, my hunger growled it was about an 8 or 9. Fortunately, my purse wasn’t too far away. I really wanted to eat a proper meal, so I just nibbled the Larabar until I felt about a 4 or 5. I ate about 1/2 of it. That was at about 11:30am.

That held me for a surprisingly long time.–of what I thought, then, was a surprisingly long time.  I didn’t eat “breakfast” until 1:30pm or so. I was sure to eat my scrambled eggs with wilted spinach and melted feta slowly and mindfully.

I didn’t realise how good I had it last week.

On the weekend,  I decided I would truly wait for hunger to strike before I ate. My longest period so far is 19 hours. But I’ve had at least three other episodes of waiting at least 12 hours for hunger to kick in. Needless to say, I have not eaten much in the past few days!

Waiting to eat sucks. I hadn’t realised how much I love to eat. I mean, I knew I comforted and calmed myself with food. Food stepped into that job full-time eight years ago when I stopped relying on cigarettes. That’s emotional eating of one kind.  But another is eating simply for the pleasure of chewing and tasting the food in front of you. Yes, I am a foodie. I bet that’s no surprise to anyone! But it means that my meals are important to me. And I miss my meals! A little snack of mindless candy munching at 4pm means I am still waiting for my hunger to cue me to have my supper at 8:30pm. Everyone else ate hours ago.

Eating –when, where, how much– was something I took for granted. I planned suppers to include enough left overs for lunches the next day. I always made sure I had a healthy snack (or two) with me at work. I even pre-prepared some mason jar salads for my lunches on the weekend. The fridge is bursting with food.

Now, I have no idea when I will eat, how much, what it will be,  and it could be anywhere– in my car, at physio, at work, or at home. It’s unsettling. And I’m freezing.


  1. I am so blessed I get to figure this out. Not eating is my choice, thank God.
  2. I am losing weight. The scales are dropping. Cold and fatigue are “normal” side effects of burning fat for fuel.
  3. I can create more of an appetite with exercise–or maybe just being outside in the fresh air is what does it. But I have noticed that I was hungry after a walk in the brisk cold air. (Of course, it was five hours after the last meal, so maybe that’s normal.) But who knows what’s normal, anymore?


What the Doctor Said

Out on my walk, today. Minus 13 (with windchill, minus 20 something.) Celsius.

Not surprising.

But disappointing.

For the first time in a long time….so long I don’t quite remember how long, I went to a family doctor for my annual check up. Well, first I had to find a GP taking new patients…fortunately, that wasn’t too hard. Then, I went to see her and she ordered x-rays, and blood work and my mammogram and so on.

The news is this: the x-rays showed osteoporosis in both hips. I am pre-diabetic and my bad cholesterol (LDL) –as well as my non HDL cholesterol– is high. Unfortunately, my HDL is quite low.

Here’s the breakdown.

  • Fasting glucose: 6.6 mmol/L (Impaired is 6.1-6.9 mmol/L. Diabetic is >6.9 mmol/L)
  • I forgot to ask for my A1C numbers.
  • HDL Cholesterol (the “good” kind) 1.54 mmol/L
  • LDL Cholesterol (the “bad”) 3.79 mmol/L (o.o – 3.4 mmol/L is OK.)
  • Non HDL Cholesterol 4.93 mmol/L. (4.9-5.6 mmol/L is considered high)
  • Triglyceride 2.50 mmol/L (normal is o.0 – 1.70 mmol/L)
  • My blood pressure was within normal range which is not normal for me. Usually my blood pressure is low.

Dr. Osman said I had to bring those numbers down in three months or she would put me on medication. She booked a consult with a dietitian for me and told me to stay away from the “white stuff” and lose some weight. She didn’t tell me how much weight to lose.

So, I’ve been doing  bit of research.

Apparently, losing 7% of my body weight will help those numbers go down.

Losing 7 to 10 percent of your body weight (18 to 25 pounds for a 250-pound person) can significantly improve health conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high blood cholesterol. From The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

So, to do that in three months, I will have to lose about 6 pounds a month.

As well, I need to increase the amount of fiber I eat. (The goal, apparently is 25 grams per day.)  Did you know that soluble fiber will glom onto and absorb cholesterol hanging around your intestines waiting to get into your bloodstream–and carry it right out of your body?! That’s amazing.

What does a day of 25 g of fiber look like? I’ll have to do some research on that.

Refined carbs not only wreck havoc on my blood glucose: but apparently any glucose not shuttled into my cells converts to LDL. So, I’ll really have to lay off the Lay’s! And the cinnamon buns and the brownies and the cookies and ice cream. But not the dark chocolate. Hooray for small mercies.

And I need to go back to taking fish oil. The Omega 3 fats will raise HDL and lower my LDL. Omega 3 will also help my cells be more receptive to insulin…so not as much glucose will run rampant in my blood. And, of course, my bones will thank me. (I also need more vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, too.)

Now that I am menopausal, my hips could also use more foods rich is phytoestrogens, like miso paste and soy.

So, while I was a bit depressed and scared by the news from my doctor last week, I am feeling a bit better. I feel capable of putting together an action plan that will help me get those numbers down and avoid medication.

The Secret to Weight Loss


Target time for the meal was 20:00. I completed the meal in 27:21

Eat slowly.

That’s it.

I am utterly amazed at how full I feel after a meal. And for me, that feeling lasts several hours. I have not changed what I am eating…my meals are the same as ever, yet in just one week, I’ve seen movement on the scale. Every day, my weight is a little bit lower than the day before.

It’s good for you in many ways. Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, has a great little blog post on it, too.

Here’s how I’m doing it:

I got an app called “Eat Slowly” for my ipad. (It’s free). It lets me take a picture of my meal…and I can either use the pre-set time or set my own. When I start the count down, not only does it count down the seconds…but it shows me a plate gradually getting emptier. It diminishes by 1/8ths. It’s great. I can look at my plate…and look at the ipad and judge instantly whether I am going too quickly or not. I love being able to track my pace at a glance. It helps especially at the beginning of my meal when I am hungry and most likely to revert to my shoveling habits.

How I slow down:

  1. I make sure the food in my mouth is completely gone before I start on the next bite.
  2. I put down my fork or my spoon between bites. I’ve noticed that sometimes, if I have a piece of bread (say, with a bowl of soup or stew) I have to go a get a plate to put it on…normally, I guess, I just held it in my hand the entire meal.) This one is going to take some practice.
  3. The best way to accomplish both 1) and 2) above is to take a sip of water in between each bite.
  4. This is bad–and may come to bite me when it is time to level up this habit, but so far I have not stopped my habit of eating in front of something–a book or the computer or the TV. I use it as another distraction device.

Notice something I am not doing: I am not chewing and chewing and chewing. Taking 20-30-40 chews or whatever before I swallow would lead to madness. Besides, I’d probably lose count!

Food does get cold. So, I take less food. I can always go back for more. (There’s a pause button on the app.)

Sometimes, I find I have had “enough” of something, even though I love it, (like a bowl of bean and bacon soup) and I’m still sort of hungry…so I have a salad. Last week, Chris prepared all the ingredients for a salad–and I just go to the fridge, open all the containers and throw everything into a bowl with a bit of dressing. Presto chango: instant salad.

I remember I used to eat this way as a child. People used to complain about how long it took me to eat something. It feels right to relearn how to do this.

Have you ever tried eating more slowly–or are you already eating slowly?

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