Wednesday, April 22, 2009

#38 Birthday Babble

I've recently been emailing back and forth with a cousin I haven't seen nor spoken to in a very long time. She emailed me a recent photo, and upon viewing it, I thought she looked exactly the same as the kid I remembered [photo circa 1980]. When I told her so, she wrote back that maybe she looked the same, but that she was very different from the little cousin I remember. That got me thinking. I'm turning 47 this month, actually in a few days, and I've been doing a lot of "life reviewing" and looking at how I've changed over the years -- not just the chronological physical aging, but the self assurance and confidence that comes with time going by.

Back in my early 20s, I worked in the Emergency Room. During one typical shift, I was with a team of doctors and nurses taking care of a woman who was having a very difficult time breathing. We had an oxygen mask on her while the team was busy getting an EKG, starting an IV, drawing blood, and so on. We were all working very quickly and quietly and all one could hear, besides the beeping of the monitors, was the patient saying, "oh my god", and "I can't breathe", and "help me, help me I can't get my breath". After about a minute of listening to this, I looked up from drawing her blood and said very plainly, "if you'd stop talking you'd be able to breath better". She stopped talking and of course was able to catch her breath and breathe just a little easier. I remember thinking to myself, why didn't anyone else speak up? I, the youngest and newest one there, was the one who said it. After the patient went upstairs, the attending physician came up to me and said, "good job calming that patient". Speaking my mind is something that I have always been able to do, and because of this [and maybe because of my sometimes gruff NY twang], people have always assumed that I am a confident person. Truthfully though, it's just that I am a truthful person. After telling the patient to stop talking, I questioned myself for days wondering if it had been the right thing to do, even though the doctor had commended me. The confidence didn't come to root until my 40s. I might have said what was on my mind in my earlier years, but I was never sure of myself after speaking. How do I know this? Because if someone questioned me, I would almost always doubt myself - even if I knew I was 100% correct. Now, in the latter part of my 4th decade, I can say with confidence, that when I say something, it's with confidence.

I'm the middle child. I have an older sister and younger brother, both whom I adore. I don't think we were your typical siblings growing up [we hardly ever fought] nor was I the typical middle child, except maybe for one characteristic. Middle children [it seems] are the peacemakers. I'm not so sure this was so much a part of my personality as a kid [although I hated to see anyone bullied], but as a young adult, I didn't like to see things out of sorts and so I would try to make "it all better". Over the years, peacemaker, for me, has morphed into the "giver inner" and the "lets not make waves" and the "don't hurt anyone's feelings" person. I've thought about this recently as it relates to my "food issues" and I think a lot of my EATING was due to resentment [can you relate?]. Because I didn't get what I wanted and didn't have the confidence to say what I wanted, I shoved down my feelings with food. Of course, I only had me to blame, but back then, I didn't understand me. I didn't have 40 some odd years of experience and wisdom behind me. Today, what I can easily see and readily admit about myself is that I don't really have strong opinions about a lot of things. Now when I "give in", it's because I'm not inclined either way. Don't get me wrong, I have preferences and I will speak up if I feel strongly enough, but now in my 40s I realize that if and when I really want something -- say Indian and not Chinese food -- I'll say it out loud, without fear of rocking the boat, and with the confidence of someone who knows what she wants.

And last, for this babble could go on and on, I have learned that I'm a good writer. I say this with confidence. Not because many people have told me so, but because many people have told me that I wrote how they felt, that I wrote what they couldn't say, that they were laughing so hard at the visuals, etc. I'm tempted to qualify "what a good writer is" so that I don't sound like I'm bragging, but that's the difference between being in my 40s and what I would have done in my 20s and 30s. Now, I can graciously accept a compliment without feeling undeserving. My parents [look left] told me that I could do anything I set my mind to... even though I was never really convinced. Now in my 40s, I think, why not?

And so, I'm curious. I'd like to hear from you, the reader, about changes that were obvious enough for you to realize that you had grown/matured/expanded as a person. Share by commenting on my blog [you can show your name or go anonymous] or send me an email.

Quote of the Day: Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, April 19, 2009

#37 You Can't Live on a Diet

In the past week, I must have had about 5 people mention my weight or ask about my weight or comment on my weight. The common theme of their remarks was "how do you keep it off? Why can you, unlike others, stop yourself at 3 or 4 or 5 pounds gained and turn it around before it becomes 10 or 15 lbs?" This isn't the first time I've been asked these questions, nor are they questions I haven't asked other weight loss maintainers. I'm curious, too.

I recently read in a diet newsletter about the three S's: starving, stuffing and skipping. Well, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that starving leads to stuffing, which then leads to skipping. I could probably write a book on all three, but I think the previous sentence pretty much sums it up. I also recently saw an advertisement for a Holistic Nutritionist. Her ad must have been written by a Ph.D. psychologist specializing in people with food issues and who also happens to have an MBA in Marketing. I mean, she hit all the right buttons, and she threw in some new technology like biofeedback, partnered hypnotherapy, etc., to really draw in the desperate dieter. Her whole deal sounded really enticing, but in seconds after thinking that she/this/her program might be the answer to everlasting thinness, I hit myself on the head [the V8 kind of hit on the head]. I know the secrets to successfully losing weight. I know the secrets to maintaining your successfully lost weight. And, I know the secrets for continued success of your successfully lost weight. Here is how to be successful.

1. You really want to lose weight. I mean REALLY want to.

When I heard about Trevose Behavior Modification 8 years ago, I couldn't wait to join. I was sick and tired of feeling fat. I hated going out because that meant finding something in my closet that fit. I hated shopping for clothing because nothing covered my "dread" areas enough to make me feel secure. I was nasty and bitchy from sugar highs and lows. I was tired of dieting, losing and re-gaining. I was so ready. So desperate. So sad.

2. You need to decide how you are going to lose weight.

Is this something you think you can do alone or are you going to need a buddy or a group or special meals? I remember sitting at the computer reading about TBM with my girlfriend. She had learned about this program from her decorator who had lost a lot of weight and managed to maintain it. The program sounded wonderful, but also a bit scary. First, you had to find a group in your area that met when you were able to meet, then you had to apply and hope they had room for you. This program consisted of counting calories, mandatory weekly meetings, losing your "told" number of pounds per month, and finally keeping it off [or be asked to leave]. I wrote a letter to the leader of a group in my area and sent it off that day.

3. You need to be honest with yourself about what you are able to do, and then be ready and willing to commit to whatever program/weight loss regime you choose.

I knew that buying "special" food or doing a liquid diet wasn't going to work for me. I needed to eat normal everyday food that you buy at the supermarket. I also knew that I couldn't do this alone. I had lost and gained, lost and gained more times than I could count. It was time for group support. I admitted to myself that I needed diet police. I needed to be accountable to others because obviously being accountable to myself just wasn't working.

4. Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Of course we all want to lose 10 pounds the first week. Well, that's what almost happened when I finally started Trevose. I lost 6 1/2 pounds my first week. How? I cut my calories down to nothing. The group leaders told me that I needed to eat the calories they had calculated for me [weight x 12 - 500] to lose weight or this program wasn't going to work. I followed their directions and sadly, gained some weight back during the second week. By the third week, I had gotten the hang of it and by the end of the month I had lost the 3 pounds I was told to. I was continuously reminded by the group members that I needed to look at this program as a way of life, not a diet. This is probably the essence of maintenance. You can't live on a diet.

5. Keep a Journal

Writing down what you eat after you've eaten it is the only way to really know what you have put in your pie hole for the day. I can't tell you how many times I forgot [or was just too lazy] to write down my day's intake, and by the next day I couldn't remember dinner let alone the meals and snacks eaten earlier in the day. Mindless eating is not something that works when you are trying to lose weight. To be honest, I sometimes resent having to write down all the food I eat. However, 8 years later I'm still maintaining. The friends that started with me, and many people who have started and left over the years, left because either they thought they could do it on their own or [the majority] they were just plain old tried of having to keep a journal and go to meetings. Many have gained back their weight - plus some. Some have been successful, but most are on the loss/gain roller coaster. This goes back to #3, Commitment.

Last, but so not least......................

6. WATER!!!! This is the mother of secrets. TRUST ME. Growing up, I never drank water. Ever! I lived on milk, orange juice and cans of TAB diet soda. I swear. It wasn't until my early 30's that I started drinking water. A friend bet me $5 that if I drank 6-8 glasses of water a day, I could lose close to 10 pounds in 7 days. I was desperate to lose and so I took her on. I didn't lose 10 pounds, but I did lose 5 and that was with eating normally, not dieting. I shared this secret with my mom a few years later and she decided to try it. Well, she couldn't go anywhere that didn't have a bathroom nor did she feel safe on long car rides, but she was successful in losing weight. Another plus to all this water drinking is that it helps reduce my ankle edema. A friend once said to me that when the body is dehydrated, it holds onto fluid and the best way to get rid of that extra fluid is to hydrate your body. Perhaps a little compulsively, I keep a bottle of water in my car, on my night stand, and on my desk. I know where all [best and worst] the bathrooms are in every store and restaurant in my neighborhood.

So, what I am sharing with you readers [and please share this with others who you think this would help] is that losing weight and maintaining isn't a secret. It's really and truly about being emotionally ready, honest about what you can handle, and making the commitment to yourself [or a higher power or a group or your children or whomever] that the time is now.

There is no secret!!! I swear!!

Quote of the Day: "It's kind of fun to do the impossible" Walt Disney

Saturday, April 11, 2009

#36 Life Lessons

During my fairly strenuous and serious 90" Anusara yoga classes, lessons are learned with grace and sometimes a giggle. At first, the laughter surprised me, but I soon realized that what is experienced and learned in yoga, are life lessons to be lived outside of the classroom too. Below, I want to share some of the amazing lessons I've learned so far, and I've thrown in a giggle or two to keep it real.

See The Good First
I learned this on my first day of class. The instructor asked for a volunteer to stand in the front of the room and then asked us what we saw. One person commented on the fact that one shoulder seemed lower than the other and another student pointed out that her feet were not hip width apart. The instructor then explained to the class that when you teach Anusara yoga, you should always see the good first. She said things like, look at how nice she looks in her yoga "outfit", and look at how firm and strong her arms are. As she continued sharing the volunteer's other positive attributes, she was gently easing her into the "correct" alignment. The lesson: see the good first and then with kindness, an open heart and a gentle hand, help the other person become "aligned". I left that 5 hour class having learned so much, but this lesson has really stayed with me. I find that now before allowing my inner judge to jump right in, I try to take those first moments to see the good, especially when judging myself. I also try to do this with my kids. I try to gently nudge and direct them before I start yelling and screaming. I'm told yoga is a process. So is parenting.

Celebration of the Heart
Poses in Anusara yoga are heart-oriented. This means that the poses are expressed from the inside out. When moving into and staying in a pose, the energy should come from inside [your intention, your attitude and your heart/desire] and not from pushing and moving your muscles to make them do your bidding. In Anusara yoga [the lesson] attitude is always more important than performance, strength or flexibility. Consciously breathing into the pose, letting go of those controlling thoughts and stretching your limbs is a wonderful sensation. When you've attained the pose and are in perfect alignment, and can breath easily, it's like winning the 100 yard dash. As for both yoga and the run, it's more about the enjoyment of getting there, then the actual winning of the race. It's like that saying: 'it's not the destination, it's about the journey'. This opening of your heart works wonders too when your destination is Florida, but you can't begin your journey because foul weather has postponed your flight for the 2nd time in 4 hours. Open your heart and breath.

Intertwined with one's attitude and intention in yoga is willpower. In Anusara yoga, willpower is defined as that balance between the ability to surrender and self effort. How many times have we cursed ourselves for our lack of willpower? For me, there were years of going to bed berating myself for not being able to stay on my diet, for not staying in control. If we look at this definition, however, willpower is so much more than controlling one's behavior. It is the blending of two totally different actions whose outcome [the lesson] allows for the ability to be able to carry out one's wishes, plans or decisions. Isn't this what we all want to do? It seems that whenever I am in control of my eating, it's the combination of knowing that this is good for me [the surrender] as well as having the right foods in my house and making the right decisions when out of the house [self effort]. Of course willpower shmillpower. If there was a magic pill, don't think I wouldn't be the first in line!

Good Yoga Teachers
I read in the Anusara teaching manual that a good yoga teacher will have [the lesson] a soft heart, a sharp mind and a vibrant body. This too is something that I would like to attain outside the yoga studio. Being tender in the way you interact with people makes them feel good. We all know that making someone feel good, giving charity, helping out a friend ALWAYS makes the giver feel just as good as the receiver. As for the sharp mind, I've been working on that [a la blog 29, Exercise Boosted by Aging]. Learning yoga and the Sanskrit words and prayers is very brain stimulating. I also continue to do my crossword puzzles, but now I stop to look up words when I don't know them. However, that vibrant body thing is an illusive concept. Sometimes I feel vibrant and healthy and thin, and other times, not. I believe this is felt by all women nearing 50 with hormones running amok; body, bones and skin doing things beyond our control, and gray hair growing in places that, well, the sun don't shine [as I've been told of course]. Perhaps the word zesty....

As a yoga class begins, you state your intention in your heart for "that" time. This is important, but so too is the end of class. At the end of each class we lay on our mats, close our eyes, and relax into stillness. It is in this pose, Savasana, the corpse pose, that we draw inside and put our bodies at ease and allow thoughts to float in and out without judgement nor reaction. I am sure that these lessons will make me better at yoga, but [the lesson] I hope too that they make me a better person. So, after 90" of handstands, almost near splits and holding my body in positions that 10 year olds do without blinking an eye, I consider this my favorite pose.


Quote of the day: "The ultimate result of shiedling men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools" Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher