Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On the Pulse of Morning - Goodbye Maya

I started my day with the sad news of the passing of Maya Angelou.  For a long time I have found inspiration in her words both written, and spoken in her beautiful deep voice.  I'm so thankful that I was able to share this planet with her for a few years, and even hear her speak on occasion.  I want to share an excerpt of one of my favorite poems written by her.  "On the Pulse of Morning."  I was in attendance at the inauguration of Bill Clinton when she read this beautiful poem, and I've reflected on it many times.  Here are some words of inspiration from that beautiful woman:

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

And here is the link to her reading the poem in its entirety (courtesy of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Page One of a New Chapter

Today is my first official day as a self-employed person!  I left my job so that I could pursue my own private practice and have a more flexible schedule to accommodate my family and just feel less stressed.  I don't think that it has hit me yet, but I'm sure I'll get used to this pretty quickly!

Last summer I joined the YMCA near my work, and arranged my schedule to leave the house every morning at 5:30am, drive the 40 minutes to the gym (without the stress of rush hour!) and work out before work.  There is a water aerobics class at 6:20am so this was perfect timing and the perfect exercise for my low calorie intake.  It was a win-win situation on all levels.  I really noticed that exercise helped me cope with my job pressures, and I no longer had to sit in traffic and worry about arriving to work on time.  It was wonderful!  When I gave my notice in January, one of  my immediate concerns was getting out of my newly-established exercise routine.  I immediately got online and looked up gyms near my home, and specifically, near my oldest son's high school.  I learned that my local YMCA has water aerobics as well as Restorative Yoga at just the perfect time after I drop the last kid off at school.

I've envisioned this plan for the last 5 months, and today I put it into practice.  I dropped my son off, then headed to the Y.  I would be the "new kid" again, emphasis on the kid, since I'm usually the youngest person in these classes.  I tried deep water aerobics today and LOVED IT!!  There is something wonderful about exercising in the water, and especially in deep water with a flotation belt.  The ladies are sassy, the music was tuned in to a radio station that I listen to all the time, so it was '80's all the way through.  I feel like I'm off to a good start in this transition, but I'll have to keep it up so that it get's established.  I have been slacking off exercise for the last 2 weeks, so getting back to it felt really urgent to me.  I could feel myself slipping back to a place that I didn't want to go.  I feel very aware that my diet and exercise require vigilance and commitment if I'm going to make a real lifestyle change.  I'm still a "noob" as my son would say, when it comes to this weight loss and switch to a healthier life.

That's my story for now.   My youngest son smiled at me this morning and said "now you get to be in the garden all day!"  He knows that this is my happiest place.  I've got a cucumber and a zucchini to pick, and some housework to do, but I'm going to take some time to breathe today, and embrace this new direction for my life.  I am very, very thankful.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Week 21 Weigh-In and a Quick Status

192 lbs

I had a small loss this week, but I have to say that it wasn't my best self-care week overall.  For several days now (since the fires), I haven't slept very well.  On Monday my youngest son had a sudden seizure and we were in the ER for quite some time, and it was very stressful.  He had a seizure a couple of years ago, so when it happened again, I recognized what was going on and I remained calm.  Unfortunately my husband was travelling and so all of this happened when I was flying solo.  Luckily my little guy is doing better, and he will go in for tests next week.  I hope that they find out what is going on this time around.

Since last week's fires, I also haven't been back to the gym.  I know this isn't good, and I'm feeling the effects of the stress without that wonderful physical outlet (developed a wicked cold sore on my lip.)   I did join the YMCA near my home, so this weekend, my goal is to get one workout in, and then start working out next week at least 3 times.  The good news is that my last day of work is tomorrow -- yippee!  So now I have a clean slate to establish a new exercise routine.

It's precisely during these life changes and ups and downs when I need to get really, really focused on my health goals.  I'm seeing how easy it is to let exercise fall by the wayside in the face of fatigue, stress and changes in routine.  For some reason, my water intake tapered off as well.  These are duly noted behavior changes.  I'm just going to get back into the swing of things.

Finally, I started a new Optifast group tonight, and they seem like a nice bunch.  I look forward to getting to know them, and learning from their experiences too.  Some of the class might be a repeat of what I did last time, but I'm changing on the inside as well as the outside, and I'm sure my way of approaching challenges and memories have evolved.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weekend Readings and Links

Well, thankfully the fires have been conquered!

In between loads of laundry and schlepping kids to and fro, I've had the chance to do some fun reading on diet and fitness this weekend.  It seems that everyone has an opinion on how to measure healthiness and what to eat to maintain optimal weight and health.  These are two subjects that are on my mind right now, and that I'm exploring.

The first subject is the reliability of the BMI (Body Mass Index).  For me, it's the scary, judgmental measure of "ideal body weight" a person needs to maintain to be healthy.  I started my journey in the terrifying "morbidly obese" range.  But this well-used measure is controversial.  When you look at the population as a whole, studies have shown this old measure to be a statistically reliable predictor of the relationship between body weight and health risks.  However, when applied to individuals, it doesn't work quite as well.  If you are athletic, have large or dense bones, or are muscular - you may be perfectly thin and healthy while at a higher weight and BMI.  This may cause undue stress or financial penalties (in the case of insurance).    Here is a great little OpEd article, The Top 10 Reasons Why the BMI is Bogus, that explains this well.  I enjoyed reading the comments section even more.

I started reading about the BMI while thinking about my goal weight.  I haven't been anywhere near my normal BMI since I was in high school (30 years ago).  It's a foggy memory.  So when I listed my goal weight for Optifast, I aimed for the upper limit of "normal" on the BMI scale, because the lower level seemed like I would have been very very thin.  Reading MyFitnessPal posts and the like, I have noticed that many people struggle with the question of goal weight, and the answers and thoughts on the issue that resonated with me were of people who said that they let their clothing size and physical appearance decide for them.  That makes sense to me, so I'm keeping an open mind.

I've written a bunch about my explorations of the best way for me to eat to maintain my weight loss. My husband, sister and brother-in-law are all eating a low carb high fat diet for weight loss.  Hubby loves this, and based on what I see him eating, I'm thinking this is a contender for our new "lifestyle".  He has been very successful so far and I think his diet can be easily adjusted for maintenance.  I recently came across a blog that was really interesting.  It is written by a dietitian who also cites peer-reviewed journal articles at the end of her blog posts.  Here is the link to The Low Carb Dietitian.  Since she is a Registered Dietitian and a diabetes educator, I feel comfortable with her thoughts on eating based on recent medical studies.  The tide is always shifting when it comes to dietary conventional wisdom. Over my adult dieting years, many different "truths" have been shared, but yet they keep changing (especially the viewpoints on eggs, carbs and fat.)  If I were to listen to my body, I'd have to say that lower carb is probably better for me in the long run given my strong cravings.

I love getting the chance to read information on health.  This weight loss transformation is an amazing experience, and I'm highly motivated to keep myself here.  I can't even imagine myself at 140 lbs.  A few months ago, I would never have dreamed that I'd be able to lose this much weight and be able to function in long-term ketosis.  It has been a dream come true so far.  But keeping it off in the long run will require equal focus.  Optifastmom wrote a great post on this topic called Weekend Woes.  For many of us who work hard to lose significant amounts of weight, developing and sustaining a healthy Way of Eating (WOE) can certainly be a woe sometimes and will require lifelong vigilance.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Week 20 Weigh-In: "Red Flag" Behavior and Deciding to Stop It

193 lbs

This has been a very stressful week for me, and I've really been faced with my demons.  We have been dealing with an unbelievable number of fires in my community, and even as I type this, my house is on the edge of an evacuation zone and we have the car packed in case we need to leave fast.  All week the weather has been hot, dry and windy -- the worst possible scenario for fires.  This isn't my first experience with fire (they are common here), but last time there was a major fire event, we lost our home.  So I was faced with a range of emotions -- the rational side of me didn't want to freak out or over-react as I'm trying to stay calm for my kids.  However inside, I feel extremely anxious, churned up and hyper vigilant.  Yesterday, when 9 fires broke out across the city, I did something that was instantly recognizable as a "red flag" behavior (bad pun, I know).  I walked to the fridge and opened it.  Simple as that.  I was instantly aware that I was doing this because in that moment I was feeling anxious, helpless and overwhelmed.  I surprised myself when a stronger feeling of dedication to my weight loss prevailed.  I talked myself out of eating in that moment.  I knew this was a destructive behavior that, unless curtailed, would get in the way of weight loss, future weight maintenance, and the life that I want to lead with a leaner body.

In addition to these fires, I'm also experiencing stress at work.  My departure coincided with a reorganization, and this is causing some stress among my staff.  I know that I didn't cause it - they would have reorganized if I had stayed, but because I'm on my way out it makes me feel sad that I can't advocate for them.  Power playing is taking place, and some micro-managing and controlling personalities have moved in during this transition.  I wasn't involved or consulted in the decision making -- in fact they stepped in with the new supervisory measures today while I was home with my kids, who had school cancellations.  I feel sad for my staff, and all I could do during texts and phone calls today was to be as encouraging as possible.

As I write this, I think I'm seeing a pattern.  In the face of personal stress and emotion, I have stifled my feelings in order to help others feel better.  I'm not sure that's a bad thing all the time (cooler heads must prevail sometimes), but this time I'm getting my feelings out by writing about them in this blog and acknowledging them.

Life happens, no doubt about it.  I'm going to have struggles with my family, random natural disasters, loss, hormone spikes (haha), and stress.  Whatever.  I just need to keep swimming and be aware of my feelings.  If my core desire is to be healthy, I'm going to try very very hard to recall that vision for myself in those moments that I want to feed my feelings instead of getting them out. Maybe all those times I was looking to feed them, all I really needed to do was to bring them out and pay attention to them.   I may not succeed 100% of the time with this.  The real test will be to see how I manage to get back on the right path immediately following the unhealthy behavior.

I'll take this recent test as a good first step toward self-awareness.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Musical Motivation - The Second Playlist

Last August when I first started on my journey towards health and decided to join a gym, I created a motivational playlist to help me stay centered and focused on my goals.  I wrote about it  in the post Cultivating the Soil.   Music is a powerful, emotional tool for me and I have listened to this playlist at least once a day since I created it.  As I've progressed, the meanings of the words have changed for me and touched me in new ways.  Much like a mantra, these songs have reminded me of how I felt when I was desperate and in need of blind faith to work my way to better health.

I was sitting in a quiet house on Friday night, and decided to create a new playlist.  I Googled "motivational playlists"  and went on a journey of discovery of new music and artists with something encouraging to say.  I also included some of my old favorites that just make me feel good and happy to be alive.  I think this set of songs has more of an "on the path to success, seek truth and beauty and believe in yourself" kind of vibe to it.  The groups are very diverse, but so is my musical taste.  So here's the new playlist in case you are looking for some tunes to keep you focused and encouraged.  I didn't arrange them with an ear toward flow because I usually shuffle songs.

1.  Hall of Fame:  The Script with
2.  Reach for the Sky:  Social Distortion
3.  When You're Falling:  Afro Celt Sound System
3.  Bright Lights:  Placebo
4.  Face the Music:  Conjure One
5.  Always on Your Side:  Sheryl Crow and Sting
6.  Back to You:  Bryan Adams
7.  You  Gotta Be:  Des'ree
8.  She's A Rainbow:  The Rolling Stones
9.  Brave:  Sara Bareilles
10. Tubthumping:  Chumbawamba
11.  Owner of a Lonely Heart:  Yes
12.  Never Going Back Again:  Fleetwood Mac
13.  Defying Gravity:  Wicked
14.  Closer to Free:  BoDeans
15.  Invincible:  Pat Benatar
16.  Be Still:  Los Lobos

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Week 19 Weigh-In and 60 Pounds Down

197 lbs. - 60 lbs. down officially -- YAY!

My group leader handed around a list of weights and some unusual things that weigh that amount.  I'm THRILLED to announce that tonight I have officially lost the equivalent of an elephant's penis so far!  Now that's an accomplishment.  On to bigger and better things, whatever they may be!

This was the next to last week of our Optifast class - some of my classmates are winding down and preparing to go onto the 6 week maintenance class, and quite a few of us who have not reached goal will be continuing on to a new class, joined by people who will just be starting Optifast.  I remember my first class.  I clearly remember those returning people, looking slender and offering tips and words of encouragement.  Now it's my turn to speak about my experience and offer advice.  My appearance is different, and I'm so happy to have experienced many scale and non-scale victories so far.  I've updated my Progress in Pictures.

I'm not afraid to walk places anymore for fear of getting winded or of hurting my Achilles tendon or my sciatica flaring up.  I enjoy shopping now, in normal stores -- and even better -- from the Sale rack!  I recently slipped on my original wedding band, which was tight, but in a few more pounds, I should be able to wear it again. This will be the first time in 15 years!  I play and swim with my kids now.  I don't regret a moment of this journey, even though on Day 1 I was unsure about if I could do it.  I've learned not to put too much stock in my initial self-doubt when facing new challenges.  Sometimes you just need to forge ahead into the unknown and have faith that you will know what to do each day.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Week 18 Weigh-In - Onederland!

199 lbs - Officially under 200!

I think it's ironic that I spent a good part of the week thinking about eating, because we talked about that during our Optifast class today.  It looks like the next stage - transition - will be low carb, higher protein/veggies.  Concern over leaving ketosis has been a strong driver in keeping me true to my diet.  I will try to transfer this motivator over to my maintenance eating plan.  I really don't want to revisit the cravings and hunger that I was living with before the fast - though I'm sure I will need to.  I'm still going to consider a low carb/high fat diet, but if I'm satisfied on the eating plan outlined at my clinic, then I'll just keep it up.

Life is getting pretty emotional at work.  I'm working like crazy to prepare the way for whoever takes my place when I leave, while also helping students find jobs after college.  One of my biggest challenges is cleaning up and organizing my computer files so that the next person can find what they need, and access archival material easily.  I also confess that I don't want to show them how disorganized I have always been!  I'm compiling a guide explaining what I do and when I do it, and who to contact for things.  I've done this for every job I've left, and I know it's a nice thing to provide for the new person.

It has been very touching to hear the kind words from students and colleagues, when they drop by to acknowledge my leaving.   It has been a rewarding career for me, and in my time in this position, I've met some wonderful people.  I will miss them!  My last day will be May 23rd, and after that, it's on to a new adventure that isn't quite clear to me, but will hopefully be more conducive to a healthier life.  I'm going to have this new emerging body, and sense of self.  I'm excited!