Change comes from some shift within. That’s true. It happens within a person. Without that shift, change isn’t possible.
And I don’t think it’s all that rare. It’s in that brief thought, “Maybe I should….” It’s in that nagging mind loop, “Well, I really must….”
People just don’t know what to do with that shift, those thoughts. They don’t know how to make good on that glimmer of change. How to break it down, make it happen, make it stick. And even if they do know, it’s scary.
So, you need support. You need someone to come along side you and believe in you for you…hold that belief like a door you can eventually go through and claim as your own. You need someone who can help you figure out what’s the most important thing to you…and start there…or, if not the most important thing…something you’d like to be able to do, like impulsively buy a top at a store that doesn’t carry plus sizes….while shopping for groceries. A good coach takes what you give her and throws it back at you so you can see it, break it down into just “manageable” steps– and do the next thing– out there where it’s a little uncomfortable, but not too uncomfortable.
I have been so blessed to have the coach I do.
I am so grateful to her.
She is still holding that door for me.
And I am taking steps to walk through it. And there will be another and another and then there will come a day when I open it for myself.
April 1: During this month there’s some Spring Cleaning and the start of “bathroom refreshing” project
weight: 242.6 (-0.8 lbs)
Workouts in April: 6
May 1: This month the Bathroom continues, Unclutter the House course begins, I did Dr. Mark Hyman’s 10 day Detox. (Successfully, I might add. The facebook group was fun and I like rules.)
weight: 244.6 (+2.0 lbs)
no measurements taken
Workouts in May: 6
June 1: Unclutter: The Course continues.
weight: 235.0 (-9.6 lbs)
no measurements taken
Workouts in June: 12
July 1: Unclutter: The Course concludes, I do Uber Frugal Month as an on-line thing, Mom goes into the hospital with pneumonia and comes out rarin’ to go declutter, clean, and decorate her house.
weight: 232.8 (-2.2 lbs)
no measurements taken
Workouts in July: 12
August 1: help Mom
232.4 (-0.4 lbs)
no measurements taken
Workouts in August: 6
September 1: help Mom
weight: 235.0 (+2.6 lbs)
no measurements taken
Workouts in September: 15
October 1: help Mom, begin an online course from the U of A called Indigenous Canada.
weight: 236.6 (+1.6 lbs)
no measurements taken
Workouts in October: 5
Nov 1: continue with Indigenous Canada
weight: 240.2 (+3.6 lbs)
no measurements taken
Workouts in November: 23 (with the last 17 days in a row!)
December 1: finish Indigenous Canada. I’m going to do my best not to take on new things this month.
weight: 237.0 (-3.2 lbs)
waist: 45 3/4″
hip: 52 1/2″
I usually also discuss meditation and habits, but I practically gave up my meditation and a discussion of the PN habits I was supposed to incorporate into my life would not really help, because, clearly, things got in the way. But I will discuss the habits I’ve been getting back on track with.
Or, rather, to take responsibility for it, I chose to focus on things other than behaviours which lead to better health (and weight loss) until quite recently.
Beginning in March, I took about seven weeks and focused intently on Spring Cleaning–and redecorating our bathroom. In retrospect, I have no idea why I thought I’d be able to manage. I regret shifting my focus away from creating my new identity as a fit, strong, healthy, slim person and sliding back into the same ol’ frenzied creative decorating person I have been for the last decade or so.
In May, city crews began reconstructing the sidewalks, curbs and even a few roads in our neighbourhood. They started with a meeting right under our bedroom window at 7am every morning except Sunday. Then they rolled out their beeping equipment. It was awful. The noise of it all nearly killed me. (We live on a corner. Both streets were ripped up.) That continued right up until mid-October.
In June, I was able to get back on track a bit. I decluttered the house thinking hard about what I want for my future and how little I will likely need.
From mid-July to about the middle of October, I was busy with helping my Mom. That was more a case of seizing an opportunity that came up rather than a choice to do something other than focus on my journey. I discussed all that here. And while I am sorry I didn’t take a bit more time for myself to go for a walk now and again and I wish I’d made better choices about what to eat, I learned an awful lot about myself.
I need support. It was so important to know that the program was right there for me to return to. I stayed in touch with my coach throughout and that kept me connected to my goals.
I use highly palatable foods to soothe myself and make me feel great. I need to find and practice behaviours that do the same thing but which also contribute to my goals for a healthier life.
With help from my coach, I tried eating better “on the go” and now know what I can do if there ever is a next time.
My Mom and I have had some productive talks and there is now an expectation that I will bring my own food to her place if I am staying a while. Also, she is not to buy “treats” like baked goods just for me.
Exercise is an anchor habit for me. When I exercise, I make better choices about what to eat.
I hit junk food free fall after about 3 months of high stress. Huh. That’s not too-too bad. Working to a deadline, though, is high-high stress for me.
I am quite excited about my seventeen day exercise streak in November. Not all of those days were vigorous exercise. In addition to my PN weight lifting/full body exercises, I did Pilates, yoga, aqua fit, low-impact aerobics, went on a few walks and danced in the kitchen. I reviewed PN’s lessons on Recovery these past few days and it struck me how many times they stressed moving your body as often as you can. Depending on how you do it–and who you are–and what else is going on in your life–exercise is one of those things which can increase your stress–or decrease it by helping you rejuvenate. For me, that means I need to choose my movement based on what I want it to do for me. So, for example, on my walk today, I went to a trail where I would enjoy the view and the sunshine. My purpose was rejuvenation and joy–not building my strength or my cardiovascular fitness (though I’m still so out of shape that I can’t help doing both!)
For December, I intend to continue incorporating movement into my life every single day. I am also logging my food to track what I’m eating. I had been focusing (and I will continue to focus) on doing my best to eat five fist full servings of fruit and veggies a day, but I want to level up. I want to start putting together what they call “PN Friendly” meals. I’ll continue to focus on eating my meals slowly. As for only eating to 80% full, it’s complicated. I’m not ready to do that in anything more than a casual way right now. I have noticed that the more slowly you eat, the easier it is to stop at 80% full. It just feels natural. But sometimes I eat too quickly because I’ve gone too long between meals or I want to eat it while its hot. So, timing is an issue. I should start writing down what time I eat in the food log. Anyway, I am taking 1,000 mg of Vitamin D, some acidophilus supplements and fish oil daily. With my husband now working nights, my sleep may become an issue as I am staying up later in order to have some time to myself since he’s usually home and talkative in the mornings (after 20 years of being gone by 6:30 am).
I am so glad I’ve been able to just jump back on the horse so quickly and easily.
Reward –> feels great! and I avoided all those nasty feelings and thoughts brought up by the argument. That’s the negative spin. Looking at it on the positive side: Feels great! I am getting some much needed distance from my negative emotions so I can deal with them and issues when I’m clear headed. It’s a cooling off period.
So, I want to retain the reward: feeling good, getting some distance from/avoiding my upsetting emotions and change my mood to something better.
What other behaviour can do that?
a walk with music. (Without music I’ll just ruminate and feel worse.)
I’ve been listening to music more. Finding out my likes and dislikes. Navigating all this new technology. (I am from the first generation of mixed tapes. I still have them.) That’s getting ready. I’m building the support structure. I’ve also been listening a lot lately and remembering how much I enjoy it. That’s building (re-building?) one side of the neural pathway.
The trick will be to remember to practice my new “coping habit” the next time there is a trigger–or an argument. (That will build the other side of the neural pathway.)
And so build the new neural pathways through repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Let the old die off.
One of the earliest lessons in P.N. coaching was to send yourself a postcard from the future with your answers to three different prompts. I wrote:
I want to be…
I want to be able to handle the daily stress of life in a healthy way.
I want to be full of vitality and spirit.
I want to be able to handle my emotions without food.
I want to be confident in my body.
I want to do…
I want to move with grace and poise.
I want to go on fun adventures with my husband–and if he can’t keep up, I’ll go by myself. There’s too much of the world I still want to see. Did you know there’s such a thing as an “ocean walk” in Australia? How fun would that be?
I want to feel…
I want to feel free.
I want to feel strong.
This week, P.N. asked us to imagine ourselves as that person–and then to ask ourselves: What would my future self…the one in the postcard…say to my current self? What advice would I give to my current self?
I am so proud of you for learning to handle your stress in ways that don’t involve food. You know how much your exercise helps with that. You also have your tools– your journaling and writing (including this blog) and your meditation. You know how to ask for what you need. This is probably an area of your life where you will keep learning and practicing new ways to relieve stress as you learn how to respond well to life ever-changing around you. Keep trying out different things to help you de-stress. Keep practicing different things. You are so close to developing a really workable toolkit–and soon you won’t even have to think about it.
Part of your kit for de-stressing, of course, includes all those things which give you vitality and feed your spirit.
Music. Remember that day Jemma set up your playlist for you? Was that life changing, or what? [Just happened this week, can you believe it? So late to the party, but finally here! Enjoying it so much.]
Walks in inclement weather. [Weird but true. I like a little wind in my face, rain in the summer, even the cold in winter. It’s the competitor in me, I guess.]
Learning. [This makes me feel like I’m growing. On a path of discovering all I can about Indigenous/Settler relations here in Canada at the moment. Not sure what I’ll ever do with my knowledge. But it feels worthwhile.]
Oh and girl, your emotions. I know you were afraid of them. Good thing you saw that counselor and learned how to live with them instead of eating them.
Hey, I know that Spartan race in June 2018 has you a little freaked out. Let me tell you from the other side that it was so worth it! Your physical activity and personal challenges have given you such confidence in your body! You know what it can do and you continue to move your body at the edge of your limits in some way every day, no matter whether that’s at the park on the Monkey bars, hiking through Iceland or kayaking on the West Coast. I am so proud of you for choosing to just go for it. Physical mastery brings you such joy. And let me tell you, having been through what we’ve been through– old age doesn’t scare you anymore.
You’ve always known that you’re responsible for your own life. Bottom line. Your actions have consequences: and those consequences create your reality. I am so grateful to you for being proactive and looking after yourself–for creating the life I get to live in today. You have no idea how much joy is waiting for you. (I know there are totally random acts in the Universe that can happen and that we are not responsible for them happening–but we also know that our response is always a choice we make.)
Thank you for taking the time to set your boundaries and reinforce them. I can tell you that you’re not manipulated emotionally by others as much as you were. So, good for you.
And thank you for making the committment to take care of your health–physically, spiritually and emotionally.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
…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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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):
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.)
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:
5-10 minutes of activity like dancing to music or walking outside
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:
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.)
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.”