Thursday, November 27, 2008

Twenty Years Off

Thanks to The Grandpa via Gran for leading me to this quick little quiz that instantly took 20 years off my life without a single pill, shot, or exercise:

You Belong in Generation Y

You fit in best with people born between 1982 and 2001.

You are cooperative, flexible, and adaptable.

You know the world changes quickly, and you're eager to change with it.

You are socially responsible, forward thinking, and open minded.

I've always said my life didn't start until I was 24--when I was in graduate school, got my first car and my first apartment. I guess that's the generation I synced in with. . .
I like these ideas thought--open minded, forward thinking, ever adapting. .

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Your Creativity Requested

I’ve lately been quite overwhelmed with concern for my cousin Scott who is 35 years old. The short story is that this past summer Scott was getting chemotherapy for testicular cancer and subsequently had 2 strokes.

Right before his cancer treatment started, his wife was laid off. After the 2nd stroke and the lack of return of Scott’s ability to talk, he lost his job. He had a morning radio show, was district manager, and was up for a promotion to regional manager—his voice was his career. The nurses couldn’t believe the tapes that his friends brought from the radio station were Scott. All he can say now is gibberish—boos, blips, peeps--no formed words.

Scott & his wife have a delightful 4-year-old daughter. Due to the intensity of Scott’s therapy schedule and limited functioning, his wife has not yet looked for new work. Plus, her mom (she’s an only child) broke her hip last month, so she is in a nursing home near them—they tend to her needs twice a day.

One thing that particularly tugs at my heart is that Scott did all the major caretaking for their daughter—bathing, soothing, entertainment, and cuddling. He was the family's main cook and housekeeper too. After the first stroke, he couldn’t make any sounds at all. They were avoiding letting his daughter see him. After a particularly bleak day for him, though, they brought her in to the hospital. His first vocalization was when he saw her, he said--like a vocal sigh-- “Aaaaahhhhhhh. . .”

Now, my aunt tells me that Scott can’t be left alone with his daughter because he can’t communicate with her to stop if she is doing something dangerous. It breaks my heart.

Equally heart breaking is the struggle Scott’s wife is going through—learning to be mother and father and “man of the house,” while feeling all the fear and anxiety that anyone would when faced with the potential loss their spouse—and when their spouse is already “lost” to them in so many ways. She’s having to face all this without being able to really communicate with the person she most relies on for help—Scott.

Scott has an amazing attitude and spirit. Like his mother--my favorite aunt who provided me and my sister a haven so many times from our strife—he is continuously optimistic. I saw him in Sept. when I was in MO for a family funeral. He was completely bald and couldn’t speak, but had magnificently communicative expressions and a big smile.

He pantomimed to me how anxious he was to get back to chemotherapy. The doctors didn’t know then that there was any connection between it and the stroke—he hadn’t had the 2nd stroke yet. He hadn’t been ricocheted back to step 1, losing the progress he’d made walking, using his arm, and learning to talk.

Now, in Nov., they do not think he will likely ever regain use of his hand & fingers. He has learned to mimic a few 2-word phrases, but he can’t use them appropriately. He doesn’t know the days of week or the month. He can’t drive. . . their lives have flipped upside down. They are hopeful, positive, but REELING. Who wouldn’t be?

As you can see, I have many, many thoughts and concerns about this. I want to do something to help, and nothing seems like enough. I don’t live near enough to make a real contribution (he’s about 7 hours away from me).

The only thing I’ve decided is rather than contribute to families or kids through my work or other charities this year, I’m going to scrape together any extra gift-giving funds to give to Scott’s family.

So I’ve been thinking about gathering together a package to send to them that will include a number of gifts. Depending on how quickly I can get this together, it may be like Advent boxes—1 for each day in Dec. up until Christmas Eve. Or it may be a 12 Days of Christmas thing—from Christmas day to Jan. 6. Or since Scott’s wife is Jewish and they usually have a "mixed" celebration, I could start it on Hanukkah, which starts on Sun. Dec. 21 and goes on for 8 days (until the 29th).

Anyhow, I think I’d like the last box to have a Visa or American Express Gift Card of at least $50 for them to use on whatever they need groceries, gas, utilities, daycare, etc. I know that’s not much, but frankly, it’s more than I usually do for them.

I want to fill the other boxes with fun things for them to do together or that will inspire them or offer them some kind of support or relaxation or get away. I’ll probably be lucky to stretch another $50 across these, so I need to be creative. That’s where you come in. . . Can you help me be creative?

Here are a few ideas I’m circling around:
  • X-mas mugs with the ingredients for cake in a cup you can make in the microwave
  • Instant hot chocolate with extra real marshmallows to put in those holiday mugs for another day
  • A CD with "I Feel Good" on it--with instructions to play and be ready to dance (Know any other upbeat songs to add to it?)
  • Some urls to look at fun things on the Internet (I will make sure they are still connected)—here’s the one I have in mind Do you know any others?

I'll need lots and lots of creative ideas that aren't too pricey to pull this off. . . please put your creative hats on and share your ideas with me.


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Possibilities of the Cornucopia

I've long found cornucopias a thing of beauty. I like seeing them filled with beautifully colored fall vegetables and fruits--or with flowers.

I think the concept of a "horn of plenty" has a generous ring to it.

So it caught my eye the other morning when I was on the elevator at work and the word cornucopia came up on the ever-playing Internet monitor on the wall near the door. (It's taken the place of people staring at floor numbers as they ride up or down.)

I learned something about cornucopias that I didn't know.

It turns out the idea of the cornucopia came from Greek mythology. When Zeus was born, his mother sent him to Crete to be cared for so he would be hidden from his father, Cronus. Cronus had a bad habit of eating his offspring. The daughters of Melisseus, king of Crete, nursed & raised Zeus. Their goat, Amalthea, provided milk for the toddler god. Zeus broke off one of the goat's horns and gave the horn the power of becoming filled with whatever its possessor desired.

It was that last line that struck me. Whatever its possessor desired. Or, as Merriam Webster's says "an inexhaustible store" of whatever you desired. . .

Wow. What would that be for me if I got to choose, I wondered? I found images of some things that came to mind--cornucopias filled with chocolate candy and overflowing with cash.

Then I started to think of less tangible things. . . self-confidence, drive, stamina, life. Would it be a waste to have it supply me with things that I already strive for--tolerance, patience, perserverence, kindness.

Instantly, I start to think things like, what's the use of me having endless life if hubby doesn't? Or if it doesn't come with good health? Can the horn supply us both?

But if it's capable of being more than self-serving, shouldn't I be asking for something more Miss USA-like--world peace? (What would it take for world peace to re-establish itself every day. . . is there a difference in an abundantly filled cornucopia of peace as one that is dwindling towards emptiness?)

One source I found definitely connected the cornucopia with food--saying it was Zeus's promise that whoever had the horn would never starve. I think of Star Trek The Next Generation--where they just ask the computer for whatever food or drink comes to mind ("Earl Grey, hot."), and it appears. Or I think of the Japanese story of Yam Gruel, where the peasant wishes for his favorite delicacy, yam gruel, every day, and he gets his wish and it lasts until just the thought of it makes him sick. (If I didn't have to spend time shopping or paying for food, what more could I be doing with my life?)

Moving beyond food once again, I think of Robin Cook's book Brain, the story of a woman who loses all sense of humanism for her desire to have continuous orgasms.

What do I desire to continuously be replenished that I would never get sick of or that would start to seem like not enough? Some desire that wouldn't take over some sense of my own independence or verve? Some fulfillment that would only make me more sustained or bolstered without making me more lazy or greedy or complacent?

I come up empty. So many possibilities that I can't decide.

If you were the possessor of the horn, what would be your desire to have it be filled with? Over and over again in an unending supply, something you'd want in an inexhaustible store? What's your quick answer? How does it change if you give it more thought?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Music Requests: Share Your Favorite Exercising Tune

I'm one of those people who likes to listen to music when I exercise. Sometimes I prefer that to a buddy (sorry, Hubby). It helps me set a pace, get to the place where I can see through my "third eye" to focus, improves my mood, and in ideal situations lets me bellow along or hum. I sometimes prefer different songs for walking outside versus on the treadmill, and different ones for elliptical vs bike.

I've put a few of my old standbys at the top of my playlist on here. I admit I heard the first 2 at the gym; I'm not very good at finding newer music. They are:
  • I kissed a girl.-Katy Perry (just like the beat!)
  • Clumsy Fergie (makes me want to move my shoulder)
  • Diamond Road--Sheryl Crow (I hum along with the chorus)
  • Bring It Down to Jelly Roll--John Fogerty (It makes me want to punch my arms in time)
Would you please share with me the names and artists of your favorite exercise tunes? Don't worry about whether or not they seem like the kind of thing I'd like. . . you never know!

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Life's Challenge of 3 Dimensions

When I was in high school I was very good at math. And I really liked science. Around my sophomore year, probably from some kind of achievement test results being sold to colleges, I received in the mail a colored pamphlet from Boston University about their biomedical engineering program, with a letter suggesting I consider it as a major for college.

Boston seemed totally cool and out of reach for me (who knew that I'd end up spending so many of my adult years there?), but the real appeal was that the pamphlet described how a degree in biomedical engineering could result in a job designing prosthetics. Not just hands or legs that fill out your clothes, but ones that connected to nerves so that people could move them more naturally. I was completely enthralled.
I went off to college, declared a major in biology, and somewhere along the way (probably in that 5th year when I was tacking on all these extra courses because I didn't know what I wanted to "do" with my biology major), I signed up for a beginning engineering course. I didn't want to close any doors yet. There was still that lure of designing a prosthetic hand. . .
I think I was one of three women in the class. I had 2 main problems. The first was I wasn't neat. You had to print neatly and use your eraser well enough that no erasure lines were still visible (obviously with no holes in the paper either!). I've never been neat about anything--but that's a story for another day. The other problem, the problem of today's story, was that I've never been very good at visualizing 3 or more dimensions.

In this beginning drafting class, we went through a lot of exercises that looked like these:
Figuring out the correct answer was quite challenging for me. I improved as the class continued, but it took lots of concentration, and I certainly never made it to the head of the class.

Another clear example of my problem with 3 dimensions is that I am perpetually lost. I get turned around in the mall. I get lost going the same place I've gone a hundred times before. Everything may look familiar, but I'm not sure if it should be on my left or right to get where I'm trying to go. Or I can "see" where I'm headed, but the dots aren't connecting from where I am in the car to where I need to be.

Hubby has told me this is because I don't make visual maps in my head--I don't "see" how the roads connect. It turns out, he's right--well, it always made sense--but even in looking for the above images and Googling spatial skills, I see that mapping is part of developing such skills. (Imagine my delight at Hubby's gift of a GPS last Christmas! Unfortunately it doesn't work at the detailed level I need for the mall.)

Today I realized that I have this same dimensional challenge in terms of my identity. While I consider myself well-rounded (pun intended!), I'm pretty much a linearly focused gal. My first therapist in college told me this (I know what you're thinking! Yes! I've been in and out of therapy since college. . . and I'm actually quite sane!! It's a luxury. . . consider it like a shopping compulsion.)

He told me that I was so focused on being a good student and that my efforts & success at it gave me such positive feedback that I pretty much let everything else go by the wayside--my relationships, social life, creativity, etc. Like a Bran muffin, I was all work & no play!

Maybe I did that because the other stuff was too painful. From the time of my parents divorce when I was 11, I was always grieving the loss of my father in my life (I even married someone a lot like my father, but that's another story too!), and caught up in my sister's issues and hating my mom's boyfriend. And it's hard to be into the fashion and beauty trends and love lures that occupy the lives of so many young women when you're a really big young woman. Compared to that, studying to get As was easy.

But the story has pretty much continued as the same story, it's just that focusing on being a student morphed into focusing on being a good employee.

Work has been pretty much my life. I dream about work. I talk about work at parties. I married someone with similar work; we talk about it over dinner--and on vacation. Sometimes we even work together. My hard work has paid off for me in terms of promotions, positive attention, good salaries, and good networks.
And I've focused on my work a lot. Hubby and I have flopped roles from a lot of couples. He does the more traditional "wife" role compared to me. I focus on work, I lead the job search and the moves. He works from home. For years, he cooked dinner every night (I've JUST started doing that). Until we could afford cleaners, he did all the housework. He pays the bills, etc. etc.

It's probably not that surprising that I gained all my lost weight back when--dun dun--I got laid off from my job.

The problem is that work doesn't always, well. . . , work anymore, if you know what I mean. For one thing, maybe it's just me (is it just me?) but it seems like now that I'm over 45 it's harder to be the office star. Or maybe it has nothing to do with my age, but has a lot to do with the fact that I am no longer in an entrepreneurial environment but a corporate one--where the responsibilities are so siloed that it's hard to branch out.

But work is still so much my single dimension that it overwhelms everything-- like trying to be my new alter ego MizFit (not the blogger, but the identity behind the bracelet!). When I get busy at work--as I am now and likely will be until after the first of the year--the first thing that goes is my attention to exercise.

I can't break away from my desk for a walk or to go to the gym or train. Or at least that's what I tell myself. Even though it's just so clear that doing that would help me feel better in so many ways.

I resent that I am putting so much time into work (even though, duh, I've chosen to focus on that) that I don't do the things I need to do, like get up earlier. So I don't get up earlier to be able to fit in more, so I don't exercise, so I resent it more, and I feel bad because I'm not exercising or changing my identity, and it's this vicious cycle.

I need to--want to--branch out into a 3 dimensional person. I need to be more than just my job. I want to be an exerciser (maybe a swimmer), a cook, a wife and lover (!), at least a minimalist housekeeper, a daughter, an aunt, a crafter, a writer, a reader, a movie goer, a photographer, maybe a pet owner, an adult who knows what the electric bill ran this month and if it gets paid online how to track it instead of letting Hubby handle it all, a friend, and a blogger.

I feel like those criminals in Superman, trapped in the glass, pressing to get out as they float into space.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Get to Know Me Better

Hubby & I agree that the descriptions to these 2 quiz answers do a pretty good job describing me. I am a Bran Muffin and a Beagle! Enjoy!

You Are a Bran Muffin

Some people have accused you of being all work and no play. And that does describe you most of the time.

You are very career oriented. When you're not working making money, you're working to improve yourself.

You have very little room in your life for fluff. You want to live as good of a life as possible.

You are competitive and driven. You like to surround yourself with other motivated people.

While you are a go-getter, you are by no means self centered. Quite the opposite.

You are a caring, together, and stable friend. You are grounded enough to be there for people.

You Are a Beagle

You are good natured. You enjoy spending time with people and animals.

You have a wild, independent streak. If you're left to your own devices, you get in trouble.

You love to eat and enjoy food of all kinds. If you don't get enough physical activity, you tend to have a weight problem.

You are very stubborn. You don't like authority, and you tend to do your own thing no matter what.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sensitive Inside and Out

Sleep study #2 down. Last night I got fitted for a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine, which meant I once again had the octopus like electrode connections all over my body. So catching a quick, albeit without glasses, glance at myself in the mirror for the middle-of-the-night pee, I looked rather astronaut/martian like. (The tips of the electrodes were blue and the CPAP fit over my nose and mouth with Velcro straps around my forehead and ears.

All in all a really fun and sexy thing to do on a Friday night. . . NOT!

Still, I'm committed to treating this, so I slept OK. I think my biggest challenge will be not to have the thing irritate my skin. I have red marks today where the electrodes sat and sore spots on my ears from the Velcro.

Seeing the dermatologist was how I spent part of Thurs. I have very sensitive skin. I'm the type of person who cuts tags out because they give me a rash. I can only wear cotton bras.

I got a facial from a friend the morning of my wedding. . .rash by mid afternoon; belt buckles = rash; band-aids lead to rash. Cheap necklaces turn my neck into a massive red, raw-meat-looking zone. I can only wear sterling silver and gold earrings--not even surgical steel. I held my breath when they told me I'd get a metal plate in my wrist--picturing the red, oozy internal inflammation it would cause--but thank goodness it's titanium! That's the same pricey metal I have to get glasses made from--anything else that touches my cheeks leads to, you guessed it, rash.

I'm prone to cold sores. I'm addicted to Carmex; I carry it like a silver cross to ward off evil.

And let's not even talk about the sun. Suffice it to say my body was not meant to be tanned. I think "Be like Scarlett O'Hara, and stay creamy white" as I don a hat.

So the dermatologist said I should only put 4 things on my body (Then it went on to recommend 2 more. . .go figure):

  1. Water
  2. Dove soap (and shampoo)
  3. Vaseline
  4. Medicine he prescribes

The other 2 products he went on to recommend were:

Aquaphor (though he admitted he was just giving it to me because he had samples, and that Vaseline would do the same thing for a lot less money. I have to say, they feel the same. It's just that the Aquaphor sample is easier to fit in my pocket).

He used the Aquaphor to demonstrate how to use really greasy things--like Vaseline--to moisturize without getting greasy. Here's the trick:

  • First you get really really wet
  • Then you use just a little bit (for both hands, front and back, he squeezed out about the size of half my pinkie fingernail)
  • Rub it in really good
  • Pat (not rub) dry

He told me to use this every time I washed my hands.

So now I take my Vaseline in the shower with me and do the same thing over a much larger surface.

The other product he recommended was one I had discovered before when regular old sunscreen started giving me a rash. It's Neutrogena's Sensitive Skin sunscreen. He suggested I wear it every day because sun wrecks havoc on sensitive skin.

He also tried to encourage me to not get my hair highlighted any more and not to use liquid foundation. (I'm thinking these 2 are not going to happen.) He said loose powder--Bare Essentials--is OK. Haven't checked that out yet.

Anyhow, as you may know, dermatitis and eczema and sensitive skin are exacerbated by lack of activity. It's not what you eat he told me, it's whether or not you get a really good workout resulting in a really good sweat a couple of times a week.

One of my problem areas--my shins--is a problem for many fat people. I noticed before when I was exercising the most that they cleared up.

I am trying to feel positive about this. I saw the doctor--check 1 for something good. I like the Vaseline shower thing feels good--check 2. He was kind and not insulting in any way--check 3.

But still, the derm stuff right there in the same 48 hours with the the sleep stuff. . . it's like big whap-in-the-face reminders that fat does not do a body good. And I need to use a little mindful keening to soak that in, feel it, and grieve it, before I can rah, rah on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Advice to Friends on How to Get Physical, Part 2

Here are more things that I’ve done to try to become less of a fitness phobe. It’s a gradual change to my identity—not just my activity level. I think the 2 go hand in hand. Let me know if any of this “speaks” to you.

(See my new addition, now you can (gulp!) rate each post to let me know how I’m doing. I love the comments, but for those of you who are hesitant or in a rush, it still lets you have an anonymous vote , not to mention help me feel less in the ether all alone.)

1. Don't worry at the beginning about having to do 30 minutes. Just start and do what you can do. When you think you can't do more, go for a few more seconds. If you are walking, stay close to home (do circles or “pace”) or exercise in your house to combat the fear that you won't have the energy to get back.

2. Ignore, ignore, ignore that ubiquitously stated 15 minute mile! I walked faithfully for more than year and never achieved this. I sweated; I pushed, I lost weight, I improved. My best was like 16 point something minutes a mile. Just because you read it everywhere doesn’t make it the national average!

3. Do push yourself enough so that you sweat. Hard. (I know what you are thinking. You may be afraid. It’s OK. You’ll be OK.) It may take a while to get used to the feeling, and you probably don't believe me now, but it is in pushing yourself some where you finally will start to feel good after exercise. The ambling walk--like in the mall--is more tiresome and feels worse than a "pushing yourself" 10 minute walk. You've heard it before, but try it. Walk like you are hurrying to get to the train. Then slow down or even stop if you have to. But get used to pushing yourself a bit. It's OK if your heart beats fast. It's OK if you are out of breath/panting a bit. That's what happens to people who exercise. Doing it makes you one of them.

4. Get over your fear that if you sweat you are going to stink so you can’t sweat unless you shower. I can’t speak for men, but I’ve gone to the gym and sweated so hard that people thought I’d been swimming—and (gasp!) I didn’t stink. I’m pretty certain. I asked people I could trust to smell me! (I did!) Here’s the key thing—change shirts and your bra. Don’t wear the same sweaty bra even 2 days in a row. So you can walk at work and get sweaty and not have to take a shower. (I do blow dry my hair often—and I think that helps keep away that sour smell.)

5. Here’s a tough one. When you feel self-conscious—say something positive. Just own it and state it. (OK. I realize everyone isn’t as vocal as me. But you can say it to yourself.) Like when I go back to my desk with my make-up a little less than perfect after a workout or if the back of my hair is still damp or my cheeks are flushed, I say, “This is my afternoon look!” (I don’t say, ‘Oh, sorry I’m sweaty!). Don’t say, “I’m pathetic!” Say, “Wow! Look at me!” I am less embarrassed by people seeing how I look after exercise (they don’t have to know how MUCH activity it was to cause such reactions) than from gasping for breath from some “normal” activity—like, well, crawling under my desk to plug in something.

6. Accept it, there are those rare few people who seem to be fit and lean without exercising. They are the exception. Most fit and lean people work at it and exercise. You are not being persecuted. (Same is true with your kids. It’s not unfair that they need to exercise—all kids exercise! Some just do it more naturally than others! Kids want to move; yours may just be out of practice.)

7. Get the right shoes and socks. I love these socks: Thorlos. They are pricey, but they are worth it. They have extra cushioning in the heel and kind of “hug” your foot in the middle at the arch.

8. If you have painful areas, find ways to strengthen them or work around them. You may need professional help. I have osteoarthritis in my knees. I aggravated it after I’d lost 60 pounds and was a faithful walking by—get ready—wearing low heels in my big sprawling office complex. I saw an orthopedic doctor (I wanted more than 2 hours in his office to “see” him.) His advice was, “Go on the Internet and look for strength-training exercises you can do for your knees.” He didn’t bother to find out that I’d been a health care editor and writer for 20 years! So, I did that. And I went to gym. And it helped.

9. Recognize that you may have some aches and pains especially as you start out. This was my big revelation from breaking my wrist. My hand therapist said, “There is nothing wrong with your fingers. You are going to have to work through the pain.” Well, throw cold water in my face! What a new concept for me! But it helped me get through the aches in my knees (There IS a difference between discomfort and creaks and PAIN.). And I do allow myself to take ibuprofen.

10. Get the gear. (I love to shop!) I don’t mean go buy a super expensive machine before you’ve ever tried it. I mean, see what the other exercisers have and follow their lead. Get the water bottle. (My water bottle in the gym makes me feel like I belong. Getting one was a huge step toward my identity as a gym person.) Get the weight lifting gloves. Get the exercise bra. (Check Wal-
Mart--really--they carry lots of exercise bras for fat women--46 & up.) Get new exercise clothes that you feel comfortable and OK in instead of wearing your old stained, torn T-shirt. I don’t mean SPANDEX unless you like that . . . I just mean if you are dressing like you are a slob who doesn’t deserve to be with the others in the gym, STOP it. I bought a couple of long shirts (one pink; one gray) that don’t ride up when I left my arms over my head.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Advice to Friends on How to Get Physical, Part 1

Thanks to Dr. Barbara Berkeley of Refuse to Regain for her inspiration for this post today. On her post, she makes this request. . .

Until I was 35 years old, I never even considered exercising. My only exposure to sports was the occasional volleyball game we played in gym class. The idea of sweating was abhorrent to me. I can’t exactly tell you what happened to change all that.
So here’s the problem I need help with. Every day, day in and day
out, I see weight-loss patients who don’t want to exercise. They simply can’t imagine it. Although I suggest to them that they find exercise that they can fall in love with, they mostly wind up walking on a treadmill. Then they stop. I so much want to find the answer to this puzzle: how do I motivate people to try exercise? How do I get them to fall in love with it?
I think that the answers lie out there with you, dear readers. What would you tell a friend? What kind of program would you suggest they start? Or what did a friend tell you that finally got you to consider getting physical? This information is not trivial.
If we can figure this out together, we can make real progress in changing lives.
Suddenly I was flooded with thoughts. As I said to Barbara in my comment, “This is a heartstrung topic for me--something I've long struggled with. And it's a longing of mine to help children, in particular, who aren't active--but also adults, including myself.”

I was a kid who hated gym and physical activity. As early as first grade I remember trying to get out of recess! In second grade, I remember suffering great humiliation when the gym teacher singled me out to shoot hoops with a lighter weight volleyball instead of a basketball (he was actually trying to help me!).

I’ve never caught a ball in a glove or hit a ball with a bat. I was never in any after school teams. I never went to a school dance.

I chose my major in college because it didn’t require any PE credits!

I left my first few Weight Watchers meetings crying (when I was really young) because when they mentioned the need for activity, I would feel hopeless, like weight loss was out of my reach. I could go on and on and on . . . but you get the picture already.

So now, I am not fit. But I am getting fit. I still have never caught a ball in a glove, but I have a different appreciation for my body. And I do workouts and am more active. Mostly, I have worked on changing my identity, which of course takes time, with lasting results!

Here are a few of my tips and advice for you, my friend, based on my journey so far.

1. Don’t worry yet about needing to fall in love with exercise. If you’re like me, you’ve hated exercise for so long that someone telling you this is as alien as telling you to go find an alley rat and bring it home as a pet or go dig up bugs, cook them, and eat them. It feels that scary, gross, and foreign to you. It wouldn’t matter if all your neighbors had rats or freezers full of bugs.

2. Do start noticing and appreciating the human body more—a) yours and b) other people’s.

*** To do #2a, try this--stretch. Stretching makes me become conscious of deeply buried muscles in my body in a really cool way. And you don’t even have to get up.

Put one arm over your head and act like you are grabbing a rope. Feel the stretch in your back. Doesn't it feel good? Do it with the other arm.

Also, sit and bend at your waist. Reach out with both arms in front of you--reach and pull that imaginary rope. Doesn't it feel good to feel muscles you aren't usually conscious of?

*** To do #2b, try this. Gawk a little. You don’t have to be crude or obvious. But start taking notice of other people’s bodies. I found that not only did I not look at my own body before, but I didn’t really look at anyone else’s. The body is pretty amazing. It’s like a machine with lots of complex moving parts.

I remember going to see the play Chicago and being awestruck by how long, lean, and muscular the women’s legs were. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

Once in my gym in Boston I was staring so long at this woman who was stretching (she could sit in an invisible chair and cross one leg and hold it forever without even shaking and she could hold the pose of her legs over her head and toes touching the floor), that I let water from the cooler flow over the top of my cup onto the floor.

I watch women in the locker room smoothing lotion on their legs after
a workout. I neglect this with myself. . .

3. Do get over your critical and holier-than-thou attitude about athletes, if you have one. I did. Throughout school I thought athletes were stupid. I resented the special privileges they got. I thought they were vain and shallow. I had to work to get more tolerant. They are just people with physical interest and talent. Like I have an interest in reading and a talent in academics. Some athletes are vain, some are not. Some are nice, some are mean. Just like everyone else.

4. Don’t deprive yourself of the benefits of physical activity any longer. You deserve to feel the benefits of moving your body. So what if your flab bounces in exercise clothes? Or you don’t even have “exercise” clothes? So what if you are breathless really quickly? You deserve to be in the gym or at the pool or wherever like everyone else. And it may surprise you to realize that no one is looking at you. It may surprise you even more when they even treat you just like any other exerciser--because that's what you are. And most exercisers focus on themselves and their own results.

5. Do consider exercise especially for large people or beginners. Here are 4 things I’ve done that were pivotal for me.

*** I spent some time checking out NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. I particularly found Pat Lyons book, Great Shape, The First Fitness Guide for Large Women helpful when I was a true, sitting on the couch, exercise phobe and pre-newbie.

***I was really inspired when Oprah worked with her trainer—the first trainer Bob—Bob Greene in Make the Connection. She wasn’t fit and she pushed herself to try basically everything! And he made it clear that everyone needs to exercise at their own levels—a pushed level.

*** I’ve been a longtime fan and less consistent participant in water aerobics. It tends to attract larger people (It is highly unlikely that you will unlikely be the only fat person there in a bathing suit—and I’ve been to at least 4 gyms—public and private--in 3 states—North and South, so I’m pretty reliable.)

Not only does the water make you feel lighter, it makes you feel invisible—like you’re covered up to your shoulders! You can try moves there that you could not, would not ever do on land—like balancing on one foot. One of my favorite stretches is in the water—opposite hand reaching forward from the leg that you’ve stepped (or kicked) back—it gives a great full-body stretch. Try it you’ll like it.

***Another HUGE transition for me was going to a rehab facility fitness center instead of just a gym. I worked out with people in wheelchairs, blind swimmers, and people recovering from stroke or heart attack. We all had different needs. We all inspired each other. Some of them were athletes. I needed my doctor to write a recommendation for me (due to OA in my knees), but it was so worth it! Plus, personal trainers were a lot cheaper there!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Believing in the Expert Opinion of Others

Well, the results of my sleep study are in. According the the records created by the many electrodes, microphones, and other monitoring devices that took a highly experienced technician one full hour to place all over my body--my head, face, throat, chest, back, abdomen, and legs--I have PLMS (periodic limb movement syndrome) and sleep apnea.

I already knew I had sleep apnea. The surgeon who screwed my broken wrist back together told me that. And my husband and mother--anyone who has had to sleep near me--confirmed it by witnessing/withstanding my snoring, moaning, and gasping.

Clinical results? I stopped breathing 54.9/hour, and my oxygen intake got as low as 69%.

But the PLMS caught me by surprise--and frankly, disbelief. According to the electronic records, I have muscle movements 86.5 times an hour. The doctor (board certified in sleep medicine/pediatrics/psychiatry/neurology) told me that it was the worst case he'd seen in 15 years. Hmmmmm. How can my legs or body be moving more than once a minute without me or my husband knowing it?

I expressed my doubts (I'm no wall flower in the doctor's office!). I told Doctor that I was aware of how restless I was that night in the sleep lab. I thrashed. I accidentally pulled the wires off my legs. I tapped my foot to help me relax and go to sleep--an old standby habit from my childhood.

He basically rolled his eyes and started shaking his head "no" before I could even finish. "We can tell when you're thrashing," he said. These periodic limb movements are " rhythmic," following a pattern. A kind of muscle twitching that we may may not notice but that keep me from deep sleep.

His rationale for treating it was that unless it was addressed, I would be less compliant with the CPAP required to treat the apnea. (He was this firm about it, no "likely"s or "maybe"s.) He claimed the restlessness and lack of deep sleep the PLMs caused would make me more likely to pull off the CPAP without knowing it or wake up and be unable to get back to sleep. (And I do have symptoms that I feel strongly about getting rid of when it comes to the apnea--so I have clear incentive to be compliant.)

His treatment was to prescribe a form of dopamine--a neurotransmitter in my brain. He said (as did the pharmacist, as did the doctor I work for) that it had relatively no side effects--short or long term. And it's cheap.

Course, Hubby & I looked it up. No drug is free of potential side effects. In fact, the one right on the bottle says it could cause a change in color of sweat and urine--red, brown, or black. Wouldn't that be fun to explain in the gym?

And, I take an antidepressant now (the only drug I take) and depression is one of the potential side effects (well that and schizophrenia and suicidal thoughts. . . so point out if you notice these things, will ya??). Two drugs that play with the chemicals in my brain.

So what's my point you're wondering. . .

The point is, this is the first time really in my life that I am being prescribed drug for symptoms that I'm not conscious of. So I find myself having to rely totally on the expert opinion of someone else that a) the symptoms exist and b) they are worthy of treatment.

All kinds of people have to do this. Everyone with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, for instance. These conditions lack visible symptoms. I argue with my mom all the time that she CANNOT know that her blood pressure isn't really high.

But it's a weird place to be in, none the less. And I basically believe in the medical system.

My day job is for a well known consumer health site, and I've been a health editor and manager for 20 years. I've written and edited articles about how to work with your doctor, vet your doctor, look up your own health info.

I also know many doctors personally, so I know they are human. Some are smart and some are not. Some know what they don't know, and well, others don't. They make mistakes. They get tired. They don't like some people just like I don't like some people. And it's super, super clear to me that doctors all don't come up with the same answer when faced with the same data. And the ones with the strongest opinions aren't always right.

But still. . . I typically trust doctors more than I trust my own ability to figure it out. And I still trust doctors more than alternative health folks in the natural health stores or with less formalized training. And I mostly trust my ability and my resources to check something out if it feels wrong.

Still, it's an oddity for me to trust what I don't see or feel for myself. And though some others close to me my disagree. . . I am more likely swayed by logic than emotion or an appeal to have faith.

So all this analysis of my beliefs makes me want to share one of my favorite things--This I Believe on NPR.

This I Believe is a radio program on public radio where people read the essays they've written on what they believe. I typically find them quite well written, often thought provoking, and sometimes moving. You can get free podcasts of them.

Here are links to a few that especially "speak" to me. You can read them from these links or click the "Listen Now" button, which I highly recommend. (They are short.) Hope you enjoy them too.

Learning True Tolerance, Joel Engardio
What Is the Value of a Human Life, Kenneth Feinberg
There Is No Such Thing as Too Much Barbecue, Jason Sheehan
There Is No God, Penn Jillette

[Tisha: Thank you for "back stalking" my blog and reminding me what I had decided I needed to do when I felt self-pity like I expressed in yesterday's blog. You took me back to my blogging beginnings and my application of "mindful keening," for which I am grateful. Your support and kind words mean a lot!]

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Accept All TLC

I've been fighting the flu bug. I'm not dying. But I've had a sick stomach and high abdominal cramps. Seems like it should be over by now.

I decided this AM that I would 'try' Starbucks. I miss it. And, it being a lovely day, I went outside instead of through the mall to get there.

Despite the sunshine and the breeze and the pansies, along the way, I was beating myself up about how I am not--have never been--very good at pushing myself when times are low. I starting listed negative words that suit my personality: crybaby, scaredy cat, self-pitier, egomaniac with an inferiority complex.

Thank god it's a very short walk to Starbucks.

I got up to the counter and the guy (not one of the ones I know by name), said, "Hey! What's wrong with you?! You aren't your normal vibrant and cheerful self!" I told him I wasn't feeling very well today. He suggested I have tea instead--on him. Suggested green tea with lemongrass and honey.

It was like a little star rising inside me. His kind words. (I obviously don't come across as an Eeyore to everyone I meet!) His warm and generous gesture.

I'll take it. I deem that it is not self pitying to accept all TLC that is offered to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

No Cute Seasonal Weight Loss Trackers for Me

I've been looking at a lot of weight loss blogs recently. I see a lot of trackers showing progress to a commitment to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain amount of time. They are really cute trackers for the season--pumpkins & Christmas themes. But that kind of goal setting has never worked for me. I'm not sure why exactly, but here are my guesses.
  1. I've never found losing weight to be as scientific as they make it out to be. I know 3500 calories equals a pound, so I grasp that if I create a deficit of 3500 calories of what my body needs to sustain my current weight by either moving more or eating less, then it should result in weight loss. But you know, sometimes it just doesn't. Sometimes my body doesn't do what I expect it to do or what the scientists say it should. I was kind of relieved when I heard someone weighing in on the Biggest Loser that she had tracked exactly how many calories she had consumed and burned but her body didn't do what it was supposed to. I don't think they've figured out the body's exact schedule yet. So to schedule weight loss just leaves me feeling frustrated.
  2. To count ahead to how much weight I will lose puts me in the "dreaming about weight loss" mindset instead of the "making active decisions about losing weight" mindset. How many nights have I lain awake counting on my fingers how much weight I could lose by a certain time? That anticipated counting doesn't seem to move me forward. But it does work for me to count what's past--that it, it's more effective to count my steps! (A high count means the moving/achieving has already been done.) Wishing to be thinner doesn't get me anywhere.
  3. I think the whole goal by a certain date somehow makes it seem kind of competitive. And I've never been very good at competition. I don't think I could be on The Biggest Loser, for instance, because I can't stand the game playing aspect of it. This season has made that more clear for me. I'm not sure if I'd been Phil or Amy that I could have left and succeeded after having so many evil people attacking me. I'm impressed with how they were able to move on instead of letting those people sink them. (By the way, I love how Bob called Vicki Shakespearean--what a more enlightened term to describe her manipulative, cruel, purposefully painful ways than simply calling her a Bitch.)

Anyhow, I think it's great if setting those kind of goals works for people and keeps them on track. It just doesn't for me. Each week just seems to slip by, with me always counting on getting on it the next week.

What does help me is setting weekly goals that involve activity particularly--like have a goal that I'll exercise twice a day at least 2 days during the week. Setting identity rules around eating helps me too. Like I don't eat from anyone's candy dish. These kind of goals feel more within my control and help me feel more immediately successful.

If you have success setting a weight goal by a certain time, what makes it work for you? What do you tell yourself?