Thursday, September 1, 2011

She Remembered My Name

The other night in class my professor was talking about how much it means to kids when their teachers and school administrators know there names. (I am working on an MA in educational administration.) Its such a small thing and for many teachers it doesn't take that much effort, but to the kid it means everything. But what it got me thinking about had nothing to do with work. It took me back to some small, but incredibly meaningful, gestures that people have made towards me over the years.

In the first few weeks of college, I participated in sorority rush. At one of the parties I met and spoke with a young woman for what might have been 15 minutes. She was sophisticated, witty, interesting and had a smile that drew you in. In other words, everything my 18 year old self thought I wasn't. I didn't think too much of it as I went through the day and met a ton of other people. Walking on campus that night, my friends and I passed a group of three or four girls and one them said "Hi Debi!" with genuine enthusiasm in her voice. At that moment, Schoene (that is her name) transformed me from an insecure girl to the the coolest freshman on campus, even if only in my own mind. She thought enough of me to remember my name.  How many times do I meet someone and have so much on my mind that I hear their name but don't catch it? Don't even try to remember it because I am too distracted. Living in the moment has never been my strong point.

A few years later, I was involved in car accident in a town away from my home. The morning after the accident, I woke up in a hospital room to find Holly and Lynnette walking through the door. They were my best friends in high school and we were still in fairly close contact considering years had passed and we were separated by four or so hours. It wasn't convenient for them to come. They had classes and busy lives, but there they were, like it was the most natural thing in the world to spend an afternoon in a hospital in Peoria. Would I do the same for them? I believe I would, but there are other people who I haven't reached out to when I could have. Have I missed opportunities to surprise others with acts of kindness? Undoubtably.

Fast forward nearly ten years. One of my closest friends, Adrienne, was very ill and hospitalized. The prognosis was not good. The hospital she was in was about 40 minutes and two train from work and a good hour and two more trains from home. It was important for me to go see her every day, but not the easiest thing to accomplish while still showing up for my job. So I would go into work and try to be there by 7 am, in hopes I could leave early. I didn't need to worry. The creative director, Michael, would walk into my office when he got to work and tell me what had to be done that day. I was preoccupied and prioritizing tasks wasn't high on my priority list. Michael was thinking for the both of us. I am so appreciative of what he did to give me extra time with my friend.

For a long time after Adrienne died, one of my coworkers Rachel would walk into my office to ask if I wanted to go to lunch. We must have eaten hundreds of lunches together and became close friends. It took me a while to figure it out, but I realized that Rachel knew Adrienne and I always had lunch together and she took it upon herself to feel that void so it would feel a little less empty and that it did. I often don't know what to say or do when someone is grieving or going through a bad time, so I usually don't do anything other than attend a wake or send a card.

And finally there is Amanda, who has made an art of nurturing her friendships. It can be a random email about a book she is reading and thinks I might like, or an unexpected package in the mail because she found a cute dress she thought my daughter would look great in. She sends news clippings that make her think of you; she never forgets a birthday or aholiday. As I was reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, the chapter on maintaining friendships could have been written by Amanda.

There are so many other people I could name, including my great family, who have gone out of their way to show me I was important, to give me what I needed at the time, and to strengthen our friendship. So what does this have to do with the healthiest year of my life?

I want to be the person who lives in the moment; who shows up for someone when they least expect it but need it most; who puts others before myself because their current need is greater; and, who demonstrates how valuable her friendships are by nurturing them. I often feel that I have gotten so caught up trying to make my life what I think it should be rather than living it as it is. I think I used to be more positive and more generous with my time. I want to get back to that place. I want to stop worrying that what I do is going to be wrong and just do it, while accepting that sometimes it might be the wrong gesture, but it came from the right place. I think this is a change that will go a long way towards my emotional health.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting It In

It makes sense to me when someone says they went to the gym for 30 minutes between appointments. I admire the woman who can work two loads of laundry in between fixing dinner and a bed time story. I am not one of those. My life isn't organized enough to fit things in between other things. That requires planning, forethought or at least a strategy. I got none of those.

What I do manage to plan and work in though is food. And this is not a positive thing. Take today. I had a powerbar for breakfast around 7 am and then I started a day of back to back meetings, nine in total. I had a thirty minute break around 11. I wasn't really hungry, but I thought this would probably be my only opportunity to eat. Hungry or not, this girl was not about to miss a meal. I wouldn't be done till 4 so I had to eat. Not just a bit of my turkey and Swiss sandwich but the whole thing. Not so bad, just turkey and Swiss could have been worse.

Graduate classes started tonight. And because of poor planning on my part I didn't realize I was near Whole Foods, or that I needed to go there, last night until I passed the exit and it would have been a pain to turn around. So in the three hours between work and class, I headed to Whole Foods. And then, of course, I ended up in the wrong lane and missed my exit. The worse part is I changed lanes four times trying to figure it out and still missed it. (Some days I probably shouldn't even drive).

I got what I needed -- coconut oil. Of course, I wanted two jars, but realized when I got to the check out that I had picked up the tester for one. So I left Whole Foods with exactly one jar of coconut oil. And then my car wouldn't shift out of park. But the amazing part of this story is that the whole time I was plotting how I was going to work in dinner. I wasn't the least bit hungry, but was so afraid I was going to miss a meal that the comedy of errors that is my life was secondary.

By the time I get close to my class, I still have an hour and a half to waste. My goal for this week was (and still is) to stop eating fast food. So with that in mind I went to Walgreens to buy a notebook. And walked out with a notebook and chocolate cover peanuts. Ate the whole bag in the parking lot and thought what can I eat for my real dinner. Not fast food, I had made a commitment. My mind floated to taquitos from Quik Trip. That is when I almost had to laugh out loud at the insanity of avoiding fast food by eating a half of pound of chocolate cover peanuts and two taquitos from a convenience store. Instead of laughing, I drove through Arby's.

Not exactly a success, but this is my relationship with food. This week's goal is no fast food. Obviously today is a lost cause but that doesn't mean I give up on the whole week. Previous goals are going well. I haven't had a soda, not even a drop. My daughter's playroom is not organized yet, but I have made serious progress. This blog should probably be called The Slow Road to Health. Guess it doesn't matter how long it takes as long as I get there.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Taste of Success

Last week's goal of no soda actually wasn't as difficult as I thought. I have not had a drop and I haven't really craved it. I didn't get on a scale to see if I had lost any weight, but I am certainly less bloated. I haven't noticed a difference in my energy level. Usually, being off soda means I am less tired, but I also haven't been getting a solid seven hours of sleep.

Now on to this week... I will continue with the no soda and I am going to focus on something that I think will alleviate a little stress and probably some guilt too. My focus for this week is to clean out and organize my daughter's playroom, which in theory also serves as an office. Why this? Its the first room you come to when you enter our house. Its a formal living room, but we aren't really formal and my daughter is a bit spoiled (translation: we have way too many toys), so its a playroom. By the end of the week, it will be purged and everything left will have a place. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Epic Fail

It has been more than three weeks since I posted, so that in and of itself should explain the title of this post. July was a mess, to put it mildly. I am no healthier than I was June 1st. Actually I think I am actually less healthy. Stress took over and I lost all focus.

But I am ready to get back on the horse and have revamped how I want to structure my goals a little. I am still not entirely sure how I am going to manage the stress, particularly work stress, but I am ready to give this health thing another try. The bad news is I gained back the weight I had lost in June. The good news is I didn't gain any additional weight, which is nearly a miracle.

I am the type of person who lives well with structure and rules. So I can't just wing it and say I am going to be healthier and I will figure it out as I go. So I am going to set one goal (or rule) each week and I will post every Sunday to tell you how it went. I guess I am declaring a do over.

This week's goal is no soda. NONE. I haven't gone back to the full amount I was drinking before, but I am headed in that direction. So it is time to go cold turkey. No more soda. Just yesterday I read another article about it increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. And it has no upside at all. So good bye soda.

I would love to hear ideas of what other weekly goals I should adopt. Each goal will be focused on for a week but then hopefully incorporated into my life after that and become habit. But for now I will just be thankful that I haven't yet gave up and am still moving forward.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Let's Talk About...... STRESS!!!!!

The healthiest year of my life has been sabotaged. Wait, did I mention that this post is probably going to do a little wallowing sprinkled with self pity followed by a small does of woe is me? Okay then, the healthiest year of my life has been sabotaged... by stress.

I deal with stress in three ways: 1.) I drink really unbelievable amounts of Diet Pepsi. Except wait I gave that up. Well sort of, I did have a small Diet Coke yesterday. Only one and it was small. It was so good, it almost brought tears to my eyes. 2.) I gamble. That takes a little more effort and a lot more money. or 3.) I eat. And when I say I eat I mean anything and everything.

This time though I didn't eat everything in sight. This time I was so stressed that I began searching out the really good foods I tell myself I miss so much. In truth, I don't think I really miss them and after eating them I always feel pretty lousy. So why oh why do I keep taking the ice cream out of the freezer?

I admire those people who deal with stress by running 5 miles. I want to be them. However, when you are overweight and don't exercise regularly, you don't just strap on your shoes and run your stress off. No, you go straight to the Sonic Drive-Thru and order mozzarella sticks. Then within a couple of hours you are bloated and sleepy and kicking yourself in your still ample rear.

This has been going on for about a week and while I am still kicking myself in the rear, I must not be doing it very forcefully because it is still going on. I really thought I would start this project and just will myself to be healthy. Much in the same way I willed my self to stop biting my nails. That didn't work out so well either.

My relationship with crappy food and diet soda is not unlike a relationship with they guy you know is bad for you but you keep hooking up with anyway. It is so enjoyable in the moment, but the effects are lingering and aren't worth even a taste. Eventually, you see the light and dial your phone no more. But usually, you backslide a time or two first.

So tomorrow, I start again. Hopefully, I get back on track quickly, but no matter what I keep trying. And somewhere along the way, I might even find some willpower.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One Month Down, Eleven to Go

One month has past since I started this blog. The biggest change is that I no longer drink soda. Cutting back one hour earlier each day really worked for me. And to be honest, I don't really miss it... unless I am stressed. (More on that later.) I have replaced it with ice tea and water. I have always loved iced tea. However, I am what I call "ice tea picky" and often I find ice tea undrinkable.

My three goals for the first month were to get at least 7 hours of sleep. I have been pretty consistent in this. And while I think I am still more tired than I should be, I do feel better than I do when I sleep less. Second, I was going to be more conscious about my eating. I have really thought about what I am putting into my body and am making better choices. I am down 4 pounds for the month. Given that I haven't really focused on anything more specific in my diet I assume that this is all a loss from not drinking soda. However, it is enough to encourage me and keep me going. The final goal was to exercise every other day. Other than a few walks around the block (its a pretty big block) with my daughter, this is a complete fail. I really need to get to this. I think it would make a real difference on many fronts.

So as I enter month two, I will continue the intentional eating and try to exercise more. But the focus of month two is going to focus on one of the things that cause me a great deal of stress... clutter. This may not seem to be about health, but believe me this is a huge source of stress. I have six items I want to focus on:

1.) I will consider every item I own and ask myself what it adds to my life. I will dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to this task. No more keeping items out of guilt, obligation or just because.

2.) I will create and implement a cleaning routine. The implement part is important. I am a planner. But I often go through the planning stage and never implement, or half implement. Not this time. I will find something that works for me.

3.) I will do a load of laundry every night. Wash, dry, fold AND put away.

4.) I will clear my desk at work before leaving for the weekend.

5.) I will pick up every night before I go to bed.

6.) I will begin teaching my daughter to pick up after herself and not do it for her just because its quicker.

I also will try and write on this blog more frequently. But for now, I must get my 7 hours in. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Addictions, Compulsions and Habits

I sat down tonight to write about my odd addiction. But then I actually looked up the word addiction. According, to Merriam-Webster an addiction involves a substance (doesn't apply to mine) and withdrawal. Since, I am pretty sure I wouldn't have a physical reaction if I stopped cold turkey, I need to drill back the drama and stop thinking of this as an addiction.

Which brings me to the my odd compulsion. A compulsion according to Mr. Merriam (or Mr. Webster) is "an irresistible impulse to perform an act." Now given that I have resisted on a few, albeit not enough, instances, this must not be a compulsion either.

So I am left with an odd habit, or "an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary." But the word habit doesn't pack the same punch as addiction or compulsion. Quite honestly, it now seems like something I should just take control of and get over and that all that can probably be conquered without psychiatric help. So much for the interesting component.

Regardless, what I am talking about is my love of the drive-thru. Its not fast food that I love. It is the drive-thru. Since I began the healthiest year of my life, I have only had typical fast food once. (I say typical because I am not counting Subway here or multiple Diet Cokes from Sonic.) There is something about the convenience of a drive-thru that keeps me coming back for more.

I thought once I stopped eating fast food, my drive-thru days would be over. But I started driving through multiple times a day for soda, even though QT is cheaper and more reliable. Now that I am down to one soda a day and soon will not be drinking it at all, I was positive my drive-thru days would be limited to the bank. So why am I currently evaluating the ice tea of all drive-thrus in a 20 mile radius? Because apparently, I am addicted, oops I mean, have a drive-thru habit.

So now what? "I am Debi and I have a drive-thru habit." I can admit its a problem. But where do I go from here? If you are saying to yourself "Just stay the hell out of the drive-thru," I have said that many a times, but I always end up back, usually with a new justification.

So I am saying it again, the 10,327th time is a charm, right? "Just stay the hell out of the drive-thru." I probably need to come up with some reward to keep me focused, but the only one that comes to mind right now is a big Diet Pepsi and that kind of defeats the point.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Challenge That Is Vacation

I spent the last four days out of town with my daughter, my parents and my sister's family. Why is it so hard to stay in a healthy state of mind for no other reason than you uttered the word vacation? Does being on vacation and not answering to your usual responsibilities really mean that you have none? No. I still had responsibilities, namely my daughter, but also responsibilities to myself to not abandon my goals.

Food was a challenge. It always is for me. You don't overcome 40 years of bad food habits just because you started a blog and spoke the words "healthiet year of my life." I think I did okay. I didn't deprive myself of anything, but I did consciously make my food decisions. Some of those decisions limited me to a single trip to the breakfast buffet and a healthy helping of oatmeal and others included homemade chips and fried pickles.

I am reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, which I am really enjoying. One of the points she makes is that you should frame the changes you want to make in the positive. And I have been thinking a great deal about this and trying to implement this where it makes sense. So when ordering room service at 8 pm I didn't say "I can't have the sandwich because it comes with fries." Instead, I thought, I really want to have energy and sleep well tonight so I should have a salad not the chicken sandwich. I finished the salad and didn't feel stuffed to the gills and felt pretty good about the decision I had made. No guilt here. Similarly, when I had the homemade chips and fried pickles, I decided that I really wanted them and knew I would have a lighter dinner because of the choice I was making.

On the soda front, I stuck to the plan... nearly. Each night we were away I ordered a pitcher of iced tea from room service. This kept the soda obsession at bay. But last night after we saw Noah the Musical it was too late for room service. So I did get a soda from Sonic. And tonight as we came home, it was after my 2 pm no soda deadline. I knew I didn't have any tea at home and I can't stand the taste of tap water so again I had a Sonic soda. I didn't order the Route 44 I usually would have, but instead a 32 ounce. Now that may not sound like much of a sacrifice, but for me its a pretty big distinction.

I am still not exercising. I know I need to make time for this, especially as the rest of this month is going to get pretty stressful work wise.

I did pretty well at getting the required 7 hours of sleep. However, while I do feel better rested, I am still tired much of the time. I think I am someone who requires more like 8 or 9 hours of sleep for optimal rest. But right now 7 is as good as it gets.

So the scale will show tomorrow how much damage was done by vacation. I am hoping not to much, but I do expect some gain. But regardless of what the scale says I am not giving up making this the healthiest year of my life.

I want to start small weekly goals tomorrow. Anyone have a suggestion of what it should be?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Progress at a Snail's Pace

So it has been almost a week. One week into the healthiest day of my life. Let me reflect on the three areas I am supposed to be focused on.

Food: This hasn't been as hard as I thought it was going to be, in most cases. I have accepted that my current obligations require that I eat out. So I dropped $7.99 on the Eat This Not That app so I could at least make better decisions. I have also been pretty successful in choosing Subway or the like when fast food cannot be avoided.

So where are the challenges? Surprisingly, breakfast is a big challenge. Mornings are hectic for me and hectic might be putting it lightly. I need to figure out breakfasts that I can either prepare ahead or that I can grab on the go. So far that has been a jar of pineapple chunks and maybe a hunk of cheese from the gas station. I would love to hear your ideas for breakfast.

I attended a wedding this weekend and without guilt had a piece of wedding cake. I am not really a cake person, but I love wedding cake. I was able to eat it without guilt because I had been making good choices. The problem is once I let myself have a little leeway, I seem to lose focus and continue to justify bad choices. So I started Monday feeling a little defeated.

Then I stepped on the scale and was down 2 pounds. Not bad for small changes. (And I noticed that I feel and look less bloated since I have avoided fast food.) So I immediately felt a bit encouraged and was back on track. Even turned down a Dilly Bar that evening. (If it had been a Buster Bar, I might be telling a different story, though).

But tonight, I kind of lost perspective. I made good food choices all day and met a friend and her daughter for dinner. Since we both had toddlers with us, we opted for IHOP. Keeping in mind that IHOP receives an F grade in the Eat This Not That app, I figured if there is no right choice I should just choose what I normally would have. So I ate too much and now feel bloated and stuffed.

Just because a place offers options for good choices, doesn't mean I will make one.

Exercise: I wish I could tell you that I am exercising every other day and am almost in love with it. To be honest, I haven't really exercised at all. I have thought about it alot, but by the time A. is asleep I am exhausted. I will try and do better.

Sleep: I have done surprising well here also, with the exception of tonight. I have got seven hours of sleep every night. But here is the catch, I am not sure if it is because I am entering into a deeper sleep when I sleep more, but I am having a much harder time getting up than when I was sleeping less and exhausted all the time. I am consistently snoozing my alarm with no recollection of it happening. Luckily, work is pretty flexible and we have yet to miss breakfast at daycare.

Soda: Okay, I know this wasn't one of the original goals, but it is a biggie for me. I have stuck to my soda schedule. We are up to 6 pm and tomorrow it will be back to 5. So far so good. Keep your fingers crossed.

So to recap, I now have two rules of a healthy life
1.) No Nutella in the house. It is reserved for trips to France only.
2.) Just because a restaurant has some healthy alternatives, doesn't mean I should eat there. IHOP falls into this category. I am sure there will be others.

Starting Monday I am going to set small weekly goals. Any thoughts on what they should be? I would love to hear your suggestions.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Mistake, A Lesson Learned and a Plan for the Soda Habit

Day 1: Done.

Seriously, it wasn't so bad. But let's review the highlights.

A Mistake: I ate some restaurant leftovers for dinner. I justified it by telling myself that the portions were small. However, the sodium content was large. So I felt pretty yucky after. But I hadn't exercised yet, so I figured that would make me feel a bit better. Which brings me to...

The Stars Are Aligned Against Me: During my physical this morning, my doctor was saying that the best thing we can do for our kids in terms of exercise is to have them see us exercising. I usually exercise after A. (my daughter) goes to bed. This is a problem because I usually end up falling asleep too. But I am just neurotic enough to envision her hand getting caught in the treadmill, so I tell myself I should wait till she is asleep. Actually, she is pretty timid about everything and won't go near the treadmill while it is running.

So with the doctor's advice on my mind. I headed to the treadmill for my promised 30 minutes before she went to bed. A. came in and began playing with her Little People town in between long periods of staring at the treadmill. (In all fairness, up until now the treadmill had mostly been filled with Little People stuff. So I think she felt a little like an invaded country.) But as she played I began to smell that odor that tells a parent no matter how much you are committed to the exercise, you are not going to be able to get through it until you have changed a diaper. Well, to make a long story short, my daughter, who has only had two previous "blowouts" in her life, left my work out pants covered with a not so lovely substance and a playroom floor in need of bleach wipes. At this point, I abandoned the treadmill and vowed to try again tomorrow.

Lesson Learned: Even at the age of 41, I cannot be trusted to have Nutella in the house. It is the devil's spread.

The Soda Plan: In the spirit of full disclosure, a normal day for me includes more than 150 ounces of diet soda. I love it. I really do. I have read all the articles. I know it is terrible for me. I know it isn't really helping me diet. I know. I really do. But did I mention that I love it?

So here is the plan. Beginning yesterday I am going to cut off my soda drinking one hour earlier until I am no longer drinking soda. Tonight I can drink soda until 11 pm, tomorrow until 10 pm. With this pattern, I will be soda free by June 19. This is a hard one for me... I really do enjoy my Diet Pepsi.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Today Is the First Day of the Rest of My Life

"Today Is the First Day of the Rest of My Life". This was written on a little sticker that had been stuck to our mirror when I was growing up. And for whatever reason it has been dancing around in my head for about a week now.

I am not someone you would necessarily call a healthy person -- not unhealthy, but not healthy either. I have never been particularly interested in health or fitness. I played competitive sports in high school, but was only as good as I could be without really putting forth any extra effort. I have never been thin, but throughout my 20s I could maintain my weight without giving it much thought. In my 30s, I began to see a bit of weight gain. Blaming it on moving to a city where I drove more and walked less, I joined a gym. For the next three years I forked out money for a membership and for a time a personal trainer. I sporadically showed up and never committed.

So I sit here now as I do most nights, comfy on the couch with the tv on, and well after I should be in bed. I find myself just past 40, out of shape, overweight and unhealthy. But that is all about to change. I have a plan... sort of.

Tomorrow I will have a physical. Tomorrow I will begin the healthiest year of my life and I plan to blog about it right here. Not so much because I think it will be terribly interesting reading, but more so that I am accountable to it. I hope readers will give me advice, encouragement, perhaps even criticism.

I have been preparing for about a month. Now let's remember that the unhealthy me is the one who has been preparing. So I have eaten all the fast food I believe I love, telling myself that after tomorrow I won't be allowed to have it anymore. I have had cookies for breakfast. I haven't exercised a bit. This should show you what an uphill battle this might be.

I feel I need a format to all this change. And to remind myself that this year isn't about losing weight. It is about being healthy, which right now translates to being able to walk two flights of steps without being winded. There are three main areas that I think need attention.

AREA 1: My Eating Habits
My eating habits need to improve, but as they say "baby steps". So for the first month I am just going to attempt to make the best food choices available to me and be more conscious about my eating. I don't want to overanalyze this area yet and frankly I am not educated enough yet to go too deep. Also, if you know me, you know I have a wicked diet soda habit. I know it needs to go and I have a plan for that too, but remember... baby steps.

AREA 2: Exercise
I am going to start off basic here also. The goal for the first month is to do some sort of exercise for 30 minutes every other day. And it will most likely involve the treadmill and other exercise I can do at home. In future months I would like to try some different types of exercise, hoping to find something I love.

AREA 3: Stress
As I thought about the my sources of stress, they fall into four categories: disorganization, procrastination, lack of sleep and money. The most important of these, I believe is lack of sleep, so the goal is 7 hours every night.

Month 1's goals:
1.) Conscious eating
2.) Exercise for 30 minutes every other day
3.) 7 hours of sleep

I am going to try and set small weekly goals also. Perhaps a habit I wish to develop, a resolve to accomplish some task, just not sure yet. I also haven't quite worked out how much disclosure in terms of weight, etc. I am comfortable with. So all I can promise is that all of my posts will not be this long and I will attempt to be as honest as possible.

So tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.