Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Final Month

This coming Monday will be the beginning of my final month of blog writing.  My goal was to write for a year and to get healthy doing so.  It has been a rewarding year for me, and I feel blessed to have so many friends supporting me.

Last year when I began this journey I was pumped.  I have wanted to write my whole life.  It might be my longest dream in life.  I remember telling my elementary school teacher my goal to become a writer.  She responded by telling me that she fully expected to someday see a book in her classroom with my name on it as author.  The dream has been there for a long time indeed—but producing the dream is always another matter altogether.

The other dream I have had for almost as long is the dream of being healthy.  As a child I probably called it something like “being thin” or “skinny,” but in essence I wanted to feel good and look good.  Working on these two life-long dreams this past year has been exciting, difficult, and rewarding. 

A little more than a week after I proclaimed to the world that I planned on blogging for a year, I became seriously overwhelmed.  I regretted ever promising myself that I would stick to such a goal, and even more regretted announcing it to everyone I knew!  I had only written for ten days and I was already running out of ideas.  I really thought I had bitten off more than I could chew.

I hit some bumps in getting healthy too.  But when I look at the year as a whole, I see more successes than failures, and I am rewarded with the progress I’ve made.  Seeing a picture of myself at the beginning is one way to measure how far I’ve come.  (I’m glad I didn’t delete all those unflattering photos!) 

So as I go into this last month, I have just two final goals.  First, I hope to finish in top gear and ideal eating.  And second, I hope I don’t start repeating myself or my stories. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Not Too Serious

Part of being healthy is being emotionally healthy.  When I am busy, life can seem all-serious.  There is a constant list of tasks to do, and I have a hard time getting everything done if I am too casual.  So I focus, block out distractions, toughen up, and get it all done.  I might be so successful at doing this that I forget to relax and enjoy things. 

In the busy go-go-go stages, time slips by at an alarming rate, and we wake up to find that we have no positive memories of it.  Life was like that for me when I was in college.  I was very busy and stressed, and I have few memories of those hectic days.  Most memories I do have, unfortunately, are negative ones due to mistakes I made in my overly task-oriented state.  But there is one memory that stands out that is beautiful.

I was in a small choir of only 24 singers, and we spent our rehearsals in serious concentration.  The music we sang was not easy, and our director expected a lot out of us.  I liked the choir, but it was a task on the long list I had.  I really didn’t have the energy to pause and enjoy it. 

One day something different happened, though.  We were singing a song that was slightly less demanding musically, and suddenly someone started to sway to the music.  It spread throughout our entire group until we were all swaying to the beat, almost dancing to the music.  At that moment, I realized how much I really enjoyed singing.  It was more than a task.  It was more than something to check off my list.  It wasn’t something I had to take super-serious every minute.  It was fun!  That moment became one of my lasting and best memories of that time in my life.

 It is very easy to take life too seriously, to demand perfection from ourselves and from others, and to stress when things don’t go the way we think they should.  Sometimes we think we need to get away in order to stop stressing.  But we don’t need a vacation to relax or to create lasting memories.  Opportunities to dance to the music are available every day.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Being Cold

It rained last weekend here in Sacramento.  It was rather a pleasant change to wake up to dark clouds and rain beating against the windows.  We turned on the heater for the first time in over half a year, and it smelled like Christmas. 

If I talk about the weather a lot, it’s because weather effects my health in many ways, from mood to energy to exercise to appetite.  Dark clouds make me want to curl up with a book and light candles.  Rain makes me avoid leaving the house.  Sun makes me want to work in the garden. 

When I lived in a colder climate, I felt cold almost all the time.  October always seemed the worst because my body was adjusting to the cooler weather.  Those days were always damp and chilly.  No matter how I bundled up with thick socks and boots, my feet were always cold.  I just could not get warm.  Wait—there was a way.  Exercise.  Whenever I exercised, I burst through that constant chill and I was warm!  It was enough to provoke me to work out rather often.

Contradicting this notion, whenever I felt cold, I also didn’t feel like working out.  I wanted to bundle up with a blanket.  I remember turning my electric blanket to high, and waiting in agony as I slowly warmed up.  Even then, my feet stayed cold.  Miserable!

It’s definitely a good thing that yours truly is now living in a warmer climate.  Still, we have winters.  We are ranging from 50s to 60s this week, a bit cool for me.  While being cold doesn’t make me want to exercise, it still provides an incentive: getting warm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Honeymoon Girl

Recently I made a photo book of my honeymoon.  It’s been four and a half years, and it’s amazing how much I’ve forgotten in that short time.  I have a series of highlights that I think about, but studying the pictures brought back many small details.

From a purely unsentimental standpoint, our honeymoon wasn’t perfect.  Merely hours after I promised to love, honor, and cherish my new husband in sickness and in health, he put my vows to the test by getting sick.  Very sick.  The stay-in-bed-except-when-needing-to-run-to-the-bathroom kind of sick.  We had to postpone our flight to Hawaii, and it cost us over $1000 to do so. 

After an afternoon in the emergency room, we managed to fly out for our tropical paradise.  When we arrived it was raining harder than rice at a wedding.  The rain persisted for four days. 

During our last weekend, the sun broke out and shined her brilliance.  My now-well husband and I grabbed the opportunity to pack in as much adventure as we could.  We went hiking to an isolated waterfall that only helicopters and hikers like us can find.  Of course the people in the choppers who passed by couldn’t actually get the close-up view we had.  It was beautiful and romantic.  Everything a honeymoon is supposed to be.

Seeing the pictures brought back feelings I had as a newly married woman.  Worry for my sick husband, determined cheerfulness at the rain, and happiness that I had such a wonderful man to spend my life with.  Another feeling I experienced while sorting the pictures—shallow as this sounds—was jealousness at the fit girl I was.  Could it be only 4 ½ years?  I suppose two pregnancies will take their toll, and the reward is worth the sacrifice.  Still, the girl in the pictures was thin and energetic.  I can’t wait until I’m there again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Special Treats

Naptime.  It is one of my favorite times of the day.  The kids are sleeping, I am able to focus on my list of to-dos, and everything is peaceful.  The first few minutes of naptime, I feel a sense of relief that I made it through another busy morning and afternoon.  I feel like I deserve something.  A treat.  Something special to reward myself and celebrate the quite peace of sleeping kids.

Just what should I have for a special treat?  What will give me that satisfying feeling of a small indulgence?

From the time I was a small child I learned that special moments must have special treats.  My family made Friday nights our “treat night,” which usually meant ice cream.  Now that I’m older, treats are still important.  More recently I’ve discovered ways to have a treat without having the calories.  Flowers, for instance, instead of chocolate.  Or a shopping reward instead of an eating reward.

Here is one important concept that I have realized about edible treats: the specialness of a particular treat depends on what I eat the rest of the time.  Here’s what I mean.  My goal right now and for the next few weeks is to eat no more than 1500 calories a day.  When naptime comes I sometimes treat myself to a cup of iced tea and a white cheddar rice cake.  It tastes wonderful.  I feel like I’ve really had a treat. 

Switch gears to a day when I’m overeating, setting no limits for myself, and indulging in any food I feel like having.  My kids go down for a nap, and the tea and rice cake don’t appeal to me one bit.  I want candy corn or something that’s really a treat!  But candy doesn’t satisfy.  Usually even chocolate doesn’t satisfy on those days.  Special things in life are only special if I don’t spoil myself.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Working Up a Do-Nothing Appetite

There is a particular activity out there, something that grabs ahold of you, sucks the energy out of you, and keeps you sitting on the couch for hours. It keeps you from doing the cleaning, it takes away the desire to exercise. It even puts a stop to your social life.

Sickness might do all that, but I’m not talking about a virus. I’m talking about a good book. Do you ever get trapped by a good book? For me, reading has much more of a pull than TV or even the internet. It’s addicting. It’s gripping. It’s the ultimate time-killer.

Before I had small children, I sometimes would use a Saturday to do nothing but read. Pleasant as those days were, I always felt a bit rotten and sluggish at the end of them. I wished that I had done something other than sit all day.

Now that I have small kids I don’t exactly have the option of designating an entire day to reading. Occasionally my husband will take the kids and allow me a few uninterrupted hours to read. Those days are blissful, but I still can feel somewhat drained after a long period of time doing nothing. It’s kind of like the feeling after a long road trip. Chances are eating wasn’t hindered, which means you have a bunch of calories just sitting in your gut waiting to be used.

My idea for these fabulous reading days is this: If I am so blessed to have several hours to sit and read, my body will appreciate it if I get some movement and fresh air before crashing for a few hours. It’s like working up an appetite for a big feast, only it’s working up a sit-and-relax appetite. It’s enjoyable to sprawl out with a book when your limbs are tired and your lungs are exhausted. Next time I sit with a book, I plan on pumping out a workout first. I won’t feel so lazy either.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Do Healthy Eaters Have to Eat Salads?

I hate folding socks. Everyone probably has a chore that they hate more than any other. For me it’s matching socks. Sometimes I might even leave a stack on the bed for somebody else to deal with, especially since my husband wears socks way more than I do.

Another chore I dislike is making a salad. What a bunch of work! It’s so much easier to pour peas into a bowl and throw it in the microwave or even to stir-fry up some bell peppers (pre-cut of course). Making a salad requires me to wash the lettuce, dry the lettuce, cut the lettuce, and clean up the scraps and water mess made from the lettuce. And this is all before I have even started adding the more tedious elements to the salad, like chopped onion, tomatoes, and cucumber.

It’s fun to complain, especially if you think people can relate. Can you? Lately I have made a decision about this second dislike of mine. My decision is that I need to make salads more often. Perhaps, after all, inclination to avoid them is just laziness. Salads provide a great source of raw nutrients, the best kind. And when I eat one, I feel like I’ve really munched on something substantial.

I was complaining to my husband the other day that I have been feeling sluggish, especially in the mid-afternoons. (I really am not a complainer in anything but socks, salads, and the occasional ailment, I promise.) He suggested that I eat more salads. So I am putting lazy-complaining aside and doing it. To my great surprise, I’m enjoying it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Moving Backward

I was thinking back recently of my son’s birth and the difficulties that came into our family. My daughter was one month shy of turning terrible two, and she was already proving the saying true. In preparing for our newborn to arrive, we moved Eden out of her crib and into a new bedroom a month before Lance was born. After he came along and turned her world upside-down, life went just a little crazy for all of us.

We all know babies are supposed to wake up frequently for feedings, but our two-year-old was waking up at dead hours of the night too, if for no other reason than she could. Two kids waking up throughout the night on different schedules is not going to produce a happy or healthy mommy.

One night after finally getting Lance to fall asleep around 1 am, Eden came barreling into our room around 2. And I had enough. While I can’t stand the adage, “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” I think it applied in this case. Thus CHANGE occurred in the Joseph household. Eden was put back into her crib, and everyone slept much better henceforth.

The reason I bring up this story in a health blog is that I learned a lesson that can be applied in more areas than just life-with-a-two-year-old-and-a-newborn. One lesson is that it’s okay to change policy if it’s not working, no matter how backwards it might seem. Plowing ahead gung-ho might be a recipe for burn-out. Another lesson is that part of caring for others means caring for self. (If I didn’t get enough sleep, I was a lousy mom.) And another lesson, something that seems like progress might not be progress at all if it’s not working. In fact, it may just be wishful thinking.

I think about my health strategies and apply life lessons like these. Some health advise works, and some doesn’t. I may have started something that I didn’t finish because it wasn’t working. Sometimes going backward on something is actually moving forward.
Moving Backward

I was thinking back recently of my son’s birth and the difficulties that came into our family. My daughter was one month shy of turning terrible two, and she was already proving the saying true. In preparing for our newborn to arrive, we moved Eden out of her crib and into a new bedroom a month before Lance was born. After he came along and turned her world upside-down, life went just a little crazy for all of us.

We all know babies are supposed to wake up frequently for feedings, but our two-year-old was waking up at dead hours of the night too, if for no other reason than she could. Two kids waking up throughout the night on different schedules is not going to produce a happy or healthy mommy.

One night after finally getting Lance to fall asleep around 1 am, Eden came barreling into our room around 2. And I had enough. While I can’t stand the adage, “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” I think it applied in this case. Thus CHANGE occurred in the Joseph household. Eden was put back into her crib, and everyone slept much better henceforth.

The reason I bring up this story in a health blog is that I learned a lesson that can be applied in more areas than just life-with-a-two-year-old-and-a-newborn. One lesson is that it’s okay to change policy if it’s not working, no matter how backwards it might seem. Plowing ahead gung-ho might be a recipe for burn-out. Another lesson is that part of caring for others means caring for self. (If I didn’t get enough sleep, I was a lousy mom.) And another lesson, something that seems like progress might not be progress at all if it’s not working. In fact, it may just be wishful thinking.

I think about my health strategies and apply life lessons like these. Some health advise works, and some doesn’t. I may have started something that I didn’t finish because it wasn’t working. Sometimes going backward on something is actually moving forward.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Bike and I

I just sold my old bike, a woman’s bike, to a man who said it would work just fine for him. Hey, I didn’t argue. Parting with it brought back memories from college, where I used to commute to school.

The setting was Portland, Oregon, and I was going back to school to get my master’s degree to become a teacher. I lived in Southeast, and I would ride my bike down to the waterfront, across the Hawthorne Bridge, and up the other side to Portland State University. I rode rain or shine. Believe me, it rained more than it shined.

The ride home was always the most difficult. There were steep hills coming up from the river and past the Ladds. These hills often required that I get off my bike and walk, especially at the end of a long day at school. I wasn’t in the greatest shape back then. One day in particular I remember it was raining hard, it was cold, and I was walking my bike, drenched. That bike and I have quite a history.

I wonder what my new bike has in store for me. I am creating a history every time I strap my kids into their trailer and tote them around. My old bike helped me to get healthy and fit. Perhaps my new one will too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Better Than a Vacation


At this time three years ago I had just given birth to my first child, just moved to Sacramento from the rainy Northwest, and had quit my job to stay home with my child.  My life slowed significantly after moving from my fast-paced life in Portland, and I took lots of walks, trying to get back into my normal state of health after pregnancy. 

Autumn walks in Sacramento are nothing like Portland.  Instead of cold, damp streets filled with fir trees and wooden houses, I was passing white stucco homes with red-tiled roofs, lazy palm trees, and an open blue sky.  I felt like I was on vacation in some tropical paradise.

Two years later, the vacation was over.  I had another newborn, an emotional two-year-old, extra fat that didn’t want to fall off, and I was missing my home in Portland fiercely.  Many areas that I had received fulfillment were gone—my career, singing, and nature hikes to name a few.  I missed my friends.  Amazingly enough, I even found that I was missing the rain (but only a little bit).

It is the tough times in life which seem to motivate us the most.  When I felt like my life was a vacation I was not terribly motivated to do much of anything out of the daily routine of caring for my child.  But when I reached an emotional low one year ago, I started to explore ways to brighten the future.  Could I reach out to my new acquaintances to make deeper friends?  Could I write a blog about getting healthy to motivate myself?  Could I join a choir to keep my singing skills honed? 

Earlier this morning I went on a bike ride pulling my two kids in their trailer.  I passed stucco houses and palm trees under a sunny blue sky.  It doesn’t exactly feel like vacation.  No, my days are much too productive to feel like that!  Instead I have the happy feeling of purpose and fulfillment.  I am growing in my new career, my new friendships, and my new environment.  And the weather is not bad either.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Genetics

Recently at a well-child visit for my daughter, I asked her doctor about her weight. Dr. Hannah said Eden is average for height to weight ratio, which I was glad to hear. Since I was always chubby as a kid, I am concerned that Eden stays within the average limit. The doctor explained that the key years in a child’s growth to watch weight is 6 and 12. If a child is over-weight at these ages, most likely he or she will be over-weight his entire life.

Next I must have struck a nerve. I told the doctor about my own childhood struggle with weight, and was concerned that it would carry on to my daughter. Dr. Hannah shot down the idea completely, saying that genetics play a very small role and that the most important factor is exercise.

While I would be glad to believe her, I simply don’t buy it. I have seen too many families that have one slim child and one over-weight child, both who eat the same foods. I have seen my own tendency for extra weight, especially during times of pregnancy when I seemed to gain weight just by smelling the food. There are so many factors in weight, such as hormone level, metabolism, energy level, and even personality that stem from genetics.

I think my kids’ doctor is right about one thing: exercise really does matter. Exercise and healthy eating is the only way to fight against those unfortunate genetics if they’re tipped against you on the scale. I do like a doctor to be honest and straight-forward with me, however; in other words, don’t tell me genetics don’t matter because you think it’s what I need to hear. Genetics impact our weight, and we will work to eliminate the disadvantage.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Keep it Going


Daylight is getting shorter and those after-dinner walks are almost out of the question now.  The other day I barely managed to mow my lawn after our evening meal, and I was in almost complete darkness for the last half of my endeavor.  Yes, it was a bit patchy the next morning. 

Exercise during the darker half of the year can be a challenge.  Many people don’t enjoy going to the gym.  Darker days mean less energy from the sun, and more of a mood to sit and sip a hot drink than to be active.  Getting up early in the morning is difficult enough without it being dark, now it seems almost impossible.  Evenings are cut short too.

As the active challenges increase, here are some suggestions that will help keep us moving.  First, develop a system.  If that means going to the gym, aerobics class, or video workout, do it at the same time of the day so it feels routine.  Before beginning the workout, pump up the adrenaline with some fast-paced music.  Don’t skip the stretch if you can help it.  Stretching is the reward for the effort you put into getting up and going.  It’s the time when stress falls off and contentment sets in.  Remember you’re not sitting out in the sun much these days, so take advantage of these mood-boosting moments whenever possible.

Although it is tempting to put the workouts on hold during these months, we will be so glad later if we stick to them.  Keeping active will help curb winter weight-gain and depression, and will boost productivity during a time when we might want to lag.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just What I Needed


A few weeks ago I mentioned that I have lost 30 pounds since last January. My goal to lose my pregnancy weight by the end of this year has been going well. Unfortunately, I have not made any more progress since my last update. It’s one thing to write about health, it’s another to achieve it. I have somehow lost a focus, in spite of knowing in my head what to do.

I have been trying to discover why I have been lacking the drive to refocus. Day after day slips by, and I continue to fall short of the mark. Not enough exercise, too many calories, eating after 7 pm, not counting my calories…. I know I can succeed, I just need to get driven so I will succeed.

Recently I joined a community choir group which meets on Tuesday evenings. The rehearsals are pretty intense so I don’t have much opportunity for visiting with the soprano sitting next to me. The small opportunity to visit comes during our ten minute break. Tiara and I struck up a conversation during our break this week during which she told me she has lost ten pounds in the past four weeks. She talked about her calorie counting, exercise struggles and successes, and sometimes going off track but getting back on.

I found everything she said to be so motivating! It was then that I realized that I am in need of some outward motivation. I can reach inward and try to find my reasons for wanting to lose, and it’s important. But I also need some people cheering me on, telling me their own stories of ups and downs, and ultimately their successes.

Thank you, Tiara! You are an inspiration to me. I told her I would write about her in my blog (and she consented). I truly feel a renewed purpose since our talk.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

My husband’s family owns an appliance store, so he doesn’t always work the traditional Monday through Friday week. Yesterday he took his Saturday—AKA day off—and we decided to take the kids to the pumpkin patch.

I highly recommend doing this sort of thing during the week instead of the weekend if you can help it. There was virtually no one there, so we had a free run of the place. It may have helped to have a few kids there though. Eden didn’t have the four-year-old cousin to run around with like she did a few weeks ago when we went to Fairytale Town, so she was much less energetic. Still, she really loved jumping in the bounce castle and sliding down its slide.

While we were riding around the huge farm on a hayride, it began to sprinkle. We have had only a couple of rains since last spring, so it is slightly ironic that our outing would get rained upon. But it was warm and passed quickly, and Eden was excited with the splatters came.

The kids were pretty tired after the hayride. Let me rephrase. The adults were pretty tired. We tried to get going home, but our rather fussy kids wanted more fun, so we managed to hit a few more stations—more bounce castle, a climb up the hay ziggurat, a trip to the tomato gardens where Eden and Lance managed to each pick and eat one (I’m not sure if that’s allowed!), and a stop to pet some animals. The animals were a horse and a stray cat. (I think both kids were more impressed with the cat than anything else they saw all day.) Before we left Eden purchased a small pumpkin.

The day was fun, but hectic as all outings are with small children. I didn’t mention the trip to the bathrooms at the last minute, courtesy of our three-year-old, or the one-year-old who got a diaper change in the trunk. I didn’t mention that there was a loud pumpkin launching canon that scared both kids into tears. Nor did I mention our boy who kept running off to the other side of the farm, or our girl who thought the dirt was more entertaining that the pumpkins. That stuff is already almost forgotten, and I took tons of pictures to remember the rest.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Too Much Heat

I recently read an article about laptops slowly injuring people’s legs. A few people experienced blackened and damaged skin on the upper thighs, and they had one thing in common—they had sat for several hours each day with a laptop on their laps. These injuries were caused by moderate heat, not hot enough to burn the skin, but prolonged exposure did the damage. The damage has been found to rarely even result in skin cancer.

I love to write my blogs with my laptop perched on my lap, keeping me warm. I suppose I’ll have to start being careful, or at least make sure I don’t sit there too long. The same damage can result from heat pads. Again, I am a lover of those!

While we could really get worked up about many things that have the potential to being “harmful,” I think the lesson here is to be moderate. Just about anything in excess will have a negative effect.

When I was younger I always thought my mom worried too much. Whenever she started trying to limit my adventurous streak, I used to say, “Mom, it’s dangerous to walk down the street because you might die.” There is a healthy balance, of course. A person can be too carefree and end up stranded on a mountain or something (yes, this is an inside joke which you should understand). Then there are people who live their lives in such fear of getting cancer by this chemical or that pollutant that they forget to enjoy themselves.

My point, I suppose, is this: make wise choices daily and enjoy living.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It Takes Heart

A few years ago I made a big mistake—one of those impulsive purchase kinds of mistakes. I walked into a weightloss clinic and wanted to be thin so badly that I bought the whole package—lifetime membership and everything. Two weeks into the new diet plan, I quit. I didn’t agree with half of their philosophy about food, I was constantly hungry, and I wasn’t connecting well with their “nutrition” consultants. I wanted out.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my money back. Well, I ended up getting half of it back, but in the process I lost about $300. All I have to show for that money is the conviction that I’ll never do that again!

Although at the time I felt like a martyr for losing all that money, looking back, I see my expensive experience a bit more objectively. I realize that I wasn’t completely in the right. I walked into that clinic wanting to be thin, but not wanting to put effort into it. I wanted a magic system, not hard work. So I threw the money in, thinking that would do it.

It is easy to spend money—on a gym, a diet, organic food, a personal trainer, a diet consultant—but it is the hard work that will find success. Don’t make the mistake I did and assume that money and a program will make you healthy. The programs are just tools. It takes heart to use the tools and find success with them. So while I still don’t like losing that money, at least I recognize how not to waste it again.