Frustration, part II

It's so much easier to be less stressed and more forgiving about my back when I'm within 4lbs of my lowest weight as an adult.  For me that's a huge success -- to keep focused on my diet and doing what I can.

I always have moments of clarity when I see the sunrise.
It's always darkest before the dawn for a reason.... sometimes because it helps you to see clearer.

Frustration

I've got to hand it to my doctor.... there's no sugar coating with him.

I told his resident what's been going on, then relayed it to my doctor.  He looked over his notes from last time and my MRI from 3 years ago. He had me stand up and lean back (ouch!) lean to the side (ouch!) and then touch my toes (remarkably proficient!).

He then had me sit down and he said "Well, even if you got a new MRI, my advice would be the same."

"What's that?"

"Keep on doing what you're doing."

"You don't think all this running is doing damage? Why am I unable to walk an hour without feeling pain in my back and in my leg? What if the degeneration is affecting other discs? Wouldn't an MRI show that?"

"So you just want peace of mind?"

"I guess, yeah."

"I'd still say to exercise when you can, rest when you need to, take some Aleve, strengthen your back.  You're doing real well for most people who have degenerating discs.  If there was a significant, operable change you'd know it.  You're 29.  Go and live your life.  Come back when you're in a wheelchair."

"When?"

"Look, you have a mulit-level situation. Operating now would cause just as much damage and no guaranteed result.  But in terms of the progression of the disease you are in good shape. You have good range of motion.  You're doing okay."

"Well more often than not I'm doing okay, but the nots really suck."

"I'm sorry about that, and I understand you're frustrated.  You're still doing much better now than you were three years ago."

"Yeah I'm frustrated. It's hard to feel this much pain and be told that I'm doing well."

"Your back is going to seize up. You will feel pain in your leg.  But you're walking."  He then got up to leave the office.

"That's it?"

"I hope it's another three years or more before I see you."

. . . So part of me wants to strangle him.  The other part of me is trying to hear what he was trying to tell me -- that I'm going to have good days and bad, but that it could be much worse.  I appreciate that he won't operate on me (as that's his bread and butter).  I don't think he was being dismissive of the pain, but rather trying to put the pain in context.  So I have a few bad days.  I also have good ones.

A friend of mine said "We all have to pick ourselves up and press forward" -- that's what I intend to do.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -- Teddy Roosevelt

I wrote a few days ago about the psychological aspect of feeling broken.

I spent Dec. 24 at the animal shelter helping out where needed, but mainly taking dogs for walks.  The most strenuous task was throwing a ball.  I spent Dec. 25 and 26 between a 7 and an 8/10 on my pain threshold scale (I'd like to think I have a high pain tolerance -- but even this leveled me).  Yesterday was between a 5 and a 6.  I'm about a 3/4 now. There's still pain, but I can walk

So I'm going back to the spinal specialist today to discuss where I'm at (I want a new MRI -- my last one was in March 2007) and to discuss pain management options.

I don't want my back to interfere with my life. I don't want my back to interfere with my finding joy in life.
For the most part it doesn't.  But for every day I have that's a 7/8, I go into an emotional tailspin -- wondering if it's the big one, if I'm one sneeze away from having to have massive spinal surgery.  I think about all the rehab required, and the fact that I live alone.  I think about how hard it is to maintain friendships with people when you can't move.  I think of my future and the quality of it.

I mean lots of people ask me about the surgical options, of which there are a few.  But there's also no guarantee that surgery will help me.  For many people surgery helps alleviate pain of one kind, but causes pain of another. I'm constantly weighing my options -- have surgery while I'm young, strong, and healthy, or have surgery when disc replacement technology is more advanced/approved by FDA.

Like the AA motto, "one day at a time" -- I'm just trying to stay focused on what I can do.  If I can't exercise, then I can mind my diet.  If I can't exercise, I can try to move to the best of my ability. Just do the best I can on any given day.  That's all any of us can do, right?


PS:  I'm the "guest expert" for a Twitter party tomorrow night at 9 pm (eastern) for the #MeFirst/Me Movement.  I have six awesome questions queued up relating to New Year's resolutions and mindfulness.  I hope to see you all there!

#DecGTD and #JanGTD


1. Five more days until the new year! That also means you have 5 more days to get in some miles, some ounces, some meters and/or some fruits/veg for #DecGTD.  Don't forget to LOG your info.  Why log your info? Well it helps you stay organized and see your progress. Also, you never know who you might inspire or encourage.



2. The lovely Carrie/@CarrieSinCA was the only one to volunteer to write the guest post/wrap up for #DecGTD. So no need for a poll! Look for that Jan 1 or so.



3. I have to start the #JanGTD announcement with a huge THANK YOU to Rachael/@Brooklyn_1012.
The big secret/new element I was hinting at is more fully explained on Rachael's blog. I didn't mean to intimidate or scare anyone into thinking that #JanGTD would be more than you could handle.  But the thing is... after #OctGTD, #NovGTD, and #DecGTD (adding in water, fruits & veggies), it's time for something new.  Rachael says it perfectly:
I’ve always said there is a big difference between exercising and training.  Exercising you are just going through the motions.  In training, you are working towards a specific goal and gaining knowledge along the way.
So you're ready to own your identity as being an athlete, right?

Same as always, there is a spreadsheet that you will use to sign up and track your progress.
1.  Click on the SUMMARY PAGE (bookmarking it would be a good idea as you will be using it often)   
2.  Fill out a line on the "Summary" spreadsheet (do not use columns F, G or I and J -- those automatically calculate) Use separate lines if you want to do different modalities (i.e. one for running, one for biking). You will be able to mix and match strength circuits.    
3.  Find your correlating individual tab (it should be "@[line number where you entered your info]") -- make sure your information from the "Summary" tab has been pulled onto this sheet (and not someone else's information -- if so, contact me).   
4.  Rename the tab "@[twitter name]" or if you don't have Twitter "@[nickname]"   
5.  Fill out the sheet as you wish -- including dates of drs appointments, goals, and eventually mileage, ounces of water, servings of fruit/veg, and how you feel.    
6.  Update your own individual page as needed. The total mileage will automatically be updated on the Summary tab as you report on your individual page.   
7.  Follow #JanGTD on Twitter for support if you need it or to support others when they do, to announce achievements, and find new/old friends!   
8.  PLEASE DO NOT DELETE LINES OR TABS!

The Incredible Edible...

I'm not a dietitian. I'm not a doctor.  I'm not a scientist.  But I will tell you what I believe to be true:  whole eggs are delicious, nutritious, and are a translation of all the goodness in the world.


I must qualify this:  I get my eggs from the farmer's market (Creekside Farm and Orchard in WV).  I'm not trying to sound all uppity about this, but industrialized eggs cannot even come close to the goodness found in an egg from a healthy and happy hen.  I've had the pleasure of meeting some of these girls.  They're broads.  Happy chickens full of attitude and spunk. 

Like I said above, eggs are a translation of all the goodness in the world.  If the sun is shining, the grass is growing, and the hen is free to go hunting for bugs, the sun, the grass, and the bugs will all be present in the egg in nutrient form.  You see, eggs are more than just sitting down and popping one out.  They require great effort to produce within the hen (25 hours from start to finish!).  Each layer of the egg is a commentary on the health of a chicken.  If she is healthy, the egg will be healthy.  It's really quite amazing.

Through the 1970s and 1980s (and even now) people were afraid of the cholesterol in eggs--that they weren't heart healthy.  As always, we love to vilify one type of food (carbs! fat! oh noes!!) without knowing the whole picture.  You see, cholesterol in an egg does not equal cholesterol in the blood.  And I've even read claims that chickens that are pasture raised (i.e. spend lots of time roaming in the grasses) have one third the cholesterol of an industrial egg (among other health benefits).


I pay $4.50 for a dozen eggs.  I know that not everyone can afford that.  I also know that the cost of a dozen pasture-raised eggs will be cheaper the closer you are to the farm.  So poke around and try to find them.  I beg of you -- support the deindustrialization of the chicken egg.  Not only will these birds live better lives, but we'll see the quality in our cooking and in our overall health.

And if you are afraid of carbs and love french toast, try putting a touch cinnamon in your scrambled eggs.  You can thank me later :)

Good Days & Bad; Belonging

I'll be honest:  I get very jealous when I see pictures of you all running races with each other.  I know I'll never be able to do that because of my back.   Heck, my back couldn't even handle today's two hours of walking around DC (which is relatively flat) in sneakers.  I came home in oodles of pain and cried myself to sleep.  I wasn't crying because of the back pain.  I cried because of the isolation it brings.

Well let me take a step back and say that I know I'm a bit of a hermit without figuring all of the back stuff into things.  It really goes back to my childhood and a few pivotal moments such as my dad telling me that I shouldn't be argumentative with friends because I'll end up alone (1. I only argued with him because he was usually wrong; and 2. if someone is truly your friend, you can survive disagreements); my father's profession (he saw the worst of humanity and assumed it followed him home to the quaint village I grew up in); my mom's agorophobia (which limited not only my being able to go over to friends' houses, but other after-school events, because I didn't have transportation); and my mom being very paranoid/controlling and not allowing me to go off the block (there was only one other girl on my block, and we had nothing in common. The boys wouldn't always let me play with them.).

The end result was that by the time my mom died (I was 13), I didn't have many friends and the friends I did have at the time were more like acquaintances.  To put it in the perspective of a newly-minted teenager: I didn't get invited to many birthday parties and few kids showed up to mine.  After mom died, I was a latch-key kid, with fewer after-school invitations, and only my grandmother able to help out with rides (which were usually saved for my weekly vocal lessons and trips to the doctor). Otherwise I had to arrange everything myself.  I got tired of asking people to help because of our "situation."  I also felt like my dad should have done more to help with that.  However, he worked an hour and a half outside the city and knew none of the other parents in my grade (unlike my mother who was very well connected and very involved).  I walked home a lot from school (not far from middle school, but about 3 miles from HS). An already-introverted childhood made it all the easier to become a hermit whose only connection with the world was the internet (IRC and AOL).

I don't want it to seem like I had no friends -- but I will be very clear that the friends I did have after my mom died were heroes in my book.  Take an already unhappy child and throw some more trauma in her life and what you get is a very bad friend.  There was little joy in my life and whole lot of adult-type seriousness (there still is). My true friends from that time in my life never shied away from the pain I was in but did their best to make me feel loved and wanted.  For that, I will always have a place in my heart for them.

But there was lingering damage from my past -- mainly the feeling that I was imposing on or a burden to people. Even now I am very peculiar.  I am very uncomfortable outside of my comfort zone.  I will often be invited to people's homes or to places I don't know but feel paralyzed with fear (not the agorophobia issue of my mom's, but something else I can't quite put my finger on).  For me to travel outside of my comfort zone requires a lot of trust in those people (especially now that I don't have a car and a trip to someone's house is often a logistical nightmare).  I feel much more comfortable on my home turf, but it's hard to entertain friends when you live in a studio apartment with two cats.

I also have a hard time telling people that I need them or their help.  I know it's very one-sided of me to want to help people when they come calling and not allow them the ability to do the same -- but it's that same old problem of feeling like I am a burden.  When I first hurt my back in 2007, I should have relied on friends and family more.  Few people saw just how much pain I was in.  My dad didn't even realize that I spent three months hunched over when I walked. And yet, I would go to the grocery store myself and carry things home in a backpack (including 28lb boxes of cat litter). People would offer to help, but I think my canned response was "have a new back?"  I tried to use humor to deflect how much physical pain I was in.  However, I rarely let people help me.

It was a huge thing for me to ask for help when I needed to get epidural steroid shots to help with my back.  The first time my ex boyfriend/friend took me.  The second time my brother took me.  If I had been given the choice to go myself, I would have (not because I'm independent, but again, I hate feeling like a burden) but the hospital wouldn't let me go home alone. ((funny story about the time I got my wisdom teeth taken out -- I was so thankful my friend Jeff came with me.  They put me under for the procedure because my teeth were impacted.  When I woke up I vomited on the nurse and fell asleep every chance I could as we were going home.  When the anesthesia had finally worn off he had the milk I had deliriously asked for.))

When I had the epidural shots done, they had some serious side effects.  On top of the Valium and Vicodin, it was just a really good idea to stop drinking for a while.  I think when people knew I wasn't drinking, there were fewer invites to happy hours.  I can appreciate that they didn't want to tempt me, but I'm perfectly happy drinking seltzer at a bar.  I just felt further isolated.  I think that also once people realized that it was more than just a pulled muscle, they didn't know how to handle me. It's okay.  I'm not blaming them. Again, it was some serious shit to deal with.

When many of my "real life" friends were signing up for 10ks and half marathons, I was struggling to take showers, put on my underwear, and go about my life.  I was so proud of them for being able to do these feats of strength and endurance, but at the same time it made me so sad.  I wanted to belong to that herd.  I wanted to feel what it was like to run with people.  I didn't want to be hindered by my past, or my back.

I still feel that way.  I hate having to turn down invitations to go to a dance club because the fear of someone pushing or pulling me in a crowd is too much.  For example, a woman today wasn't looking where she was going and ran into me in a crosswalk.  She hit me just right so that the pain took my breath away.  It's Saturday night and I am at home, in my pajamas, with my cats, alone, because my back hurts from walking today.

I'm 29 years old. I should be having the time of my life. I should be out there meeting people and laughing with my friends.  I should be dating.   Instead I am at home feeling sorry for myself because all I see is a broken person (inside and out).  And who would want to be around that?

A large part of my LCJ has been overcoming the idea of that I am a burden to people.  It has dredged up some unfortunate memories and feelings and I think I'm ready to talk about one of those things.  I always say that I started to gain weight after my Nana died, but the truth is that I was pretty pudgy before then.  I don't know know if I started to gain weight after she had her stroke, or if it was something entirely different.

You see, right mixed in the timeline of my Nana's having a stroke, being paralyzed, and then dying was another series of tragedies:  my mother had three miscarriages in a row.  I remember sitting with her on our back patio after her last miscarriage.  With cigarette in hand, she told me that she might've been able to keep the last baby, if only I had helped her more around the house.

So not only was my mother jealous of my body (something that my father verified that she talked about to him), but she was willing to blame me for her own failings (dad was unaware that she had said this to me). She would also make comments of what her life could be like if she didn't have kids.

And well, that's just fucked up.

Now you know why I feel like a burden sometimes.

At the end of all of this, all I really want is to feel like my body is my own.  I want the people in my life to love me as I am (imperfect, serious, broken).  I want to let them love me without the burden of my past preventing them from getting close.

Quick #DecGTD update:

1.  Don't forget to fill out the spreadsheet!

2. I'm taking the names of anyone who wants to do the official December Going the Distance™wrap-up guest post on my blog.  (See October and November for reference.)  I'll then make a poll -- you all will choose who gets to guest post! (So far @CarrieSinCA has volunteered -- as well as @jpnagan volunteering a few people...)

3. Also on the poll will be a question -- do you want to have scheduled #---GTD chats? I don't know if it's 100% necessary, especially if you do other chats, such as #Fitblog, #MeFirst, #mamavation, #SFCFit. I just want to know if people need more support on a more planned basis.

4. Rachel/@Brooklyn_1012 is helping me with #JanGTD.  I am not giving up any details -- but will just say that you'll want to stretch New Year's Eve.

Emergency Preparedness

First of all, I wanted to let you all know that this post is in response to a request from MeYouHealth in regards to their Blogger Well-Being Challenge promoting their Daily Challenge.  I agreed to it because their philosophy (small actions that make a lasting impact) fit in so well with what I've learned over the past year and how I'm trying to live my life going forward.
Today's (Dec. 15, 2010) ChallengeSwap your mid-afternoon snack to save cash and calories.
How to do it:
Step away from the vending machine or corner convenience store! Instead of choosing a sweetened drink for your mid-day break, fill a reusable bottle with water from home or from the big-bottle dispenser at work. Also skip high-calorie snack or candy bars, pastries, and salty snacks in the machine. Instead, choose fruit, trail mix, or string cheese and get a better deal for your bank account and body today.

Why it Matters:
Loose change adds up. The cash you'll save each week by not buying vending-machine drinks or snacks (priced about $1.50 each) every workday could give you $100 or more in your wallet in just three months. By drinking water instead of one sweetened beverage during a work day, you could save 200-plus calories daily (many drink labels have calorie counts per 8 oz., when the bottles hold 16 oz. or more). That's a savings of 15,000 calories in three months!

Fun Fact:
The average cost of a serving of fruit or vegetable (fresh, frozen, and canned) is 25 cents per serving.
Unfortunately, this is a lesson I've already learned -- the hard way.  It's no joke that at my company people tend to gain the "Freshman 15" the first year they work there.  It's not just the snack vending machines or soda machines--all the candy dishes, all the cookies and cakes for random occasions, and on top of all that, most of us are glued to our desks and computers. 

I was no exception to the "Freshman 15" at the office.  I can break down my failures into two different categories:
  1. Not eating lunch and eating something disastrous as a "snack"
  2. Not planning my meals the day before, or even the morning before. 
I think these two things are problematic no matter where you live, work, study, or play -- whether you a bustling metropolis or in the middle of nowhere.  I work in the middle of a smallish city.  With that comes all the trappings of the city -- the fast food, the multiple Starbucks and other coffee shops, and a CVS, pharmacy, or newsstand everywhere you turn.  The only difference between my smallish city and the middle of nowhere is that I do not need to get in a car to make some bad choices -- they're next door!

When I didn't eat lunch, my blood sugar would crash and I'd make bad decisions because I was delirious.  When I didn't plan my meals the day before, and the day's stress would get the best of me, I would make choices based more on comfort and less on nutrition.  These choices were usually based on what was nearby and easy:







In other words, it was a caloric minefield and a nutritional wasteland.

I knew when I made the choice to make my health and well-being a priority it wouldn't be easy (it's not hard, though).  I'm am an unorganized organized person, or an organized unorganized person.  It's easy for me to plan certain things, but not my own food. I'm a highly moody eater.  This was part of my disordered eating pattern.  I would use my eyes to determine my hunger than my stomach.  Luckily, I have been able to work with a registered dietitian and together we have begun the dialogue between my mind and my stomach.

So where does "Emergency Preparedness" fit in to all of this?  Well just like the Boy Scouts, I've learned that I need to be prepared to deal with my stomach (and my moods) in a healthy manner.  What does this mean?  Having lots of healthy choices on hand to deal with hunger or thirst.

Not pictured, but often on hand (either in a cabinet by my desk, or in the shared refrigerator on my floor):
  • (original) Fiber One cereal to add in to my Chobani Greek yogurt (the protein helps me stay fuller longer, and this is a tasty way to add some fiber to your diet)
  • Old Fashioned Quaker Oats (add salt and hot water and let it sit or microwave for a few minutes and will taste much better than the instant stuff)
  • Wasa Crisp'n Light crackers (in 7 grain or mild rye) to use with a Laughing Cow Light cheese wedge
  • Baby carrots, celery, or zucchini and some hummus in a half cup Rubbermaid container
  • Other whole fruits that don't need to be refrigerated and have a few days of shelf life -- like oranges or fruit canned in its on juice or water (not syrup)
  • Cucumber, tomato and red onion salad with a little bit of white wine vinegar
  • Almonds in an Altoid can -- it helps me not overdo it on portion sizes
  • A hard boiled egg (the eggs I get at the farmer's market are delicious and so healthy!)
I'm also lucky that my company has a pretty darn good coffee and tea selection in the break room (and sadly way too many artificial sweeteners, but that's another story)-- along with a water filter that dispenses both hot and cold water.  This comes in handy because often when I've had a great breakfast and lunch and some hearty snacks, I will still feel hungry.  I've learned that this is actually thirst I'm feeling.  A quick trip to the water filter to refill my 72 oz mug and I'm back in business.

Yesterday there were cupcakes with green and red sprinkles everywhere.  I was able to walk away from them because I had a plan:  I knew what I wanted to eat, and it was ready and waiting for me.  If I had seen something that interested me, I would have been better able to make a value choice versus the making a choice based on my environment, my desperation to eat anything because I hadn't eaten in hours, or because someone else wanted me to eat it.

And yes, I have a silly side. #MeFirst Apple Pie

Transformative

It's almost comical to say that overweight/obese people are superb runners.  I don't mean any type of running that could qualify an overweight/obese person for an Olympic event. I mean the kind of running that created an overweight/obese person to begin with -- the distance and speed with which an overweight/obese person flees from their very self.

Leave it to Stephen Sondheim to eloquently summarize what I mean:
Trouble is, son,
The farther you run,
The more you feel undefined
For what you've left undone
And, more, what you've left behind.
I don't think any one of us overweight/obese people got this way because we were blissfully happy with the trajectory of our lives.  For most of us, there was a moment when life got way too real with us, and we just weren't prepared for it (nor should have we, in many cases).  Though I'm not expert,  I'm willing to bet that 80-90% of obesity is brought on by some trauma (emotional, physical, mental, sexual, etc.) of varying degrees on the Richter scale.

Either the trauma was beyond our ability to control or beyond our ability to understand.  Instead of holding our ground and confronting it, we just started running from the world. For many people, that was the only way to survive. I want to make it clear that I am in no way judging picking "flight" instead of "fight."  For many people, including myself, "fight" could have yielded dramatically bad results.

But seeing as we are human and can only run for relatively short distances (versus the world's unlimited endurance), pretty soon the world caught up and consumed us whole.  We lost the important boundary of knowing where we end and the world begins.

Just as the world begins consuming us, we begin consuming the world.  I mean that both in a literal and figurative sense -- we let our feelings of hunger and desire be the main tool for expressing our feelings.  When we give our physical feeling of hunger a say in our lives it is much easier to quiet all of the other emotions and physical cues that need a voice. Hunger is a very accessible feeling for most people to express without having to deal with the nitty gritty of their lives.

We also begin to consume the world in a more figurative sense -- we begin to assume the burden of the world.  We put the world's cares and worries before our own needs.  If the state of affairs in the world is in the forefront of our mind, we are able to distance ourselves from ourselves.

In both ways we become very estranged from the instincts we were born with and what we naturally learn as we grow.  As babies we were very capable of expressing our displeasure with the world around us, just as much as we show our delight. We were also capable of expressing our needs.

Like I posited before, for many of us (the obese more than the casually overweight) there was a trauma that made us forget both our instincts (i.e. how to regulate our hunger, our body's natural athleticism) and our needs (to feel safe, to feel cared for, to feel worthy, etc.). A large part of being able to change our lives is not just relearning the tools of health (how to be a mindful and intuitive eater, or how to enjoy exercise and our bodies) but confronting the trauma of our past and being able to say that it is no longer welcome to the piggy-back rides.

This is not easy work, nor is it work that many of us can do by ourselves.  While the diet/exercise bit might be rather straightforward in figuring out, the emotional complexities of our disordered lives often requires the delicate hands of a professional.  It also requires a great deal of compassion and forgiveness.  Jack Kornfield once wrote "forgiveness means giving up all hopes of a better past."  We can confront our pasts but ultimately we cannot change them.

I don't know about you, but that was a huge realization for me.  I wanted to hold the past accountable for my present state of being.  And just as I had consumed the world, I wanted to hold the world accountable for the results of that consumption (in as much as I tried to figure out if i was fat because of a medical issue).  When I was done confronting that which was easy, I had to confront that which was hard.  I'm still doing it.

But this is the transformative moment:  If we are able to realize where we end and where the world begins, we no longer let the world encroach on our space, our needs, our thoughts, our feelings.  It requires a very clear idea of knowing who we are and/or who we want to be, and placing everything else outside that boundary.

There are those that might say this is not very Buddhist of me* -- as the aspiration to be one with the world/universe (or belonging to the universe/world and not your temporal body) is so high on the list of things to do.  However, I think it is much more meaningful to be one with the world, and at peace with it, when the world doesn't take you by force. 

I could also say the same for love and relationships -- isn't it much more meaningful to give yourself  to another person when you know the quantity and quality of that gift versus a broken pile of junk they need to put together with a flimsy hex wrench and no instructions?

I hate to end yet another post with advice but I can only hope to help someone by offering it:  Stand up for yourself in a way that is appropriate and meaningful for you.  Take on yourself when you make disparaging jokes at your own expense.  Stand up to other people when they don't give you the basic respect of your own space, your own thoughts, and your own opinions.  And if you're strong enough, stand up to the world.  Draw a line in the sand and say "no more."  You are not Atlas, and the world has always found a way to take care of itself.

When you have stopped running, be as still as possible.  Let the love you have for yourself repair the cracks and chinks in the surface.  This new feeling you may be feeling is not selfishness, egocentricity, or conceit.  This is not the barrier that prevents you from interacting with the people and the world around you.  This is you -- a whole person.  You are no longer less than yourself. There is no more need to run, hide, or shrink from life.

* I thought about it last night/this morning -- and it's actually very Buddhist -- in order to become a good Bodhisattva (enlightened person) the first connection that we seek to make is with our very own breath, with our very own body. It is our portal to the world and the universe. But I still contend that this is a choice we have to make out of free will, not force.

Mini #MeFirst Moment

So I was in Macy's today (1) trying to walk off a sore back and (2) looking for flannel sheets.
Right by the escalators they had this desk where kids could write and post their letters to Santa.

I started thinking about what I'd want as a wish or a gift this holiday season (I'm an atheist, so I don't really have Christmas or Channukah wishes, but my dad is Catholic and quite traditional).  I thought about the things that have brought me joy and pain over the past year. I thought about the people who I love the most. I thought about strangers.

And really... all I could come up with is that I wish everyone had the gift of the epiphany that I had.  It has made such a difference in my life.  It doesn't matter whether you're fat, you're skinny, tall, short, wealthy, poor, smart, not-so-smart, love yourself or don't.  I think the most important gift anyone can ever receive is the universe's permission to occupy a time and a space, and to do with that time and space things that enlarge the joys of living.

John Keats asked for his epitaph to be "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." In other words, we're all impermanent.  Most of what we do or say, and the memories of those things, will not live on after we cease to live.  Very few of us get to leave meaningful and lasting evidence that we existed on this world.  For someone to feel like they matter is a very temporal and heady thing.  It's an acknowledgment that right now is all we have, right now is all we can possibly hope to control.  To choose to matter or to live deeply in any moment is an extraordinary choice of presence. 

So this is my wish for all that read my blog, and for the people in my life that don't:  While I'm not the universe, I do want to pass on the beautiful sentiment that was gifted to me back in April -- it's okay to take care of yourself in a meaningful and lasting way.  Actually, it's more than okay to do so--you should feel no guilt, no shame, no hesitancy in honoring your time on this planet.

This year while you're celebrating a holiday, the darkest day of the year, or the beginning of a new year, while you celebrate your friendships and your familial bonds, and celebrate traditions old and new, please take a moment to celebrate yourself.

A Cautionary Word

Part of the #DecGTD challenge is tracking water consumption. Water consumption is important to me -- mainly because of all the other crap that people drink (water, soda, diet soda, juices, etc.).  I'm a firm believer that pure, unadulterated WATER is the only "DIET" drink you need (in other words, it compliments a well-balanced diet).

HOWEVER.... I found myself wrapped up in a little bit of a Twitter mini competition as to who could drink the most.  For the most part I'd encourage this type of playfulness.... except for a very sad occasion in my life:
District Officer Dies After Bike Ride
Over-Hydration Cited as FactorThursday, August 11, 2005 
A highly honored 25-year-old D.C. police officer died yesterday after he apparently drank too much water Tuesday while training to use a bicycle on patrol, police officials said.
Doctors believe that hyponatremia, a sodium imbalance caused by drinking excessive amounts of fluid, most likely caused or contributed to the death of Officer James C. McBride, police officials said. McBride consumed as much as three gallons of water during and after the 12-mile training ride Tuesday morning, police said.
I know no one has approached the 384 ounces that Jim is rumored to have drank. I know not everyone is doing a rigorous biking course in the middle of the summer.  But I do know there's a fine line between being okay and overdoing it.

He had a 3-liter Camelback pack.  The day he told me about it, I warned him to cut his water with Gatorade or Pedialyte -- passing on the advice that two former boyfriends (and long-distance cyclists) had shared with me.  They told me it was important -- because if they only drank water and didn't replace the salts in their body their body could shut down.

Jim ignored my advice.  To this day I regret that I didn't make him hear me and heed me.  Because of this the world is less one of its champions and I lost one of the best friends I've ever had the privilege of knowing.

His last blog post (on what was my 24th birthday):
So today was my first of five days in mountain bike school.

It hurt.

It was hard.

It was full of rain, mud, scapes, crashes, bumps, brusies, sun burn, and pain.

And it was a damn lot of fun.

The first thing we did was the usual administrative nonsense (sign this, write that, read this, agree to A B and C etc.), then we learned how to work and do basic maintenance on our Smith and Wesson bikes. Then we went riding. We tackled small hills (and at the beginning, before I figured out how the gears work, I couldn't do even small hills), then long rides, then hills again. Hills suck, but the long rides were fun. I believe I drank over 7 liters of water all told... and I was still wanting for more towards the last half of the ride (Monica you thought the 3 liter camelback was to big!)

After my initial gear working issues I def kept pace with the group. They tell you when you start the class that its all mental... and it is. I refuse to fail, and so far I've been doing well. Will power and gel pads. I'm not sure when gel pads became the rage, but I found shorts with gel pads and gloves with gel pads, both of which def helped with my overall post-class comfort.

Tomorrow: Big hills.

The question of "How much" is a bit tricky, and highly dependent on environmental and personal factors.  Most people at the gym do not need to consume an excessive amount of water while working out.  Heck, most people don't even need Gatorade at the gym. But I don't want to say anything here that will make someone go the other direction and get dehydrated.  But 3 gallons in a few hours is definitely waaay too much.

Yes. Just yes.

I want to thank Sheryl/Ms. Bitch Cakes for pointing out this article.

Both Sheryl and the article so eloquently and concisely point out:

Your body was made for so much more than being looked at, deprived of food, and enjoyed by others. Your body was made for kicking some ass.

I want you to remember this (as will I) as you're in the gym, as you're fueling your body....

Last night in #Fitblog chat we were talking about what "diet" means to us -- and I made the point that "diet" and "diety" are so close.  Combine that with the idea of "namaste" -- seeing the divinity in everyone -- then maybe our diets are how we honor and worship our own bodies.

#DecGTD Update

First of all, I want to thank everyone for participating in December's Going the Distance Challenge.

For those of you having trouble with the spreadsheet, I thought I'd give a few pointers.

1. The summary spreadsheet is just that -- a summary.  Sure it's where you entered your information initially, but that's how I generated personalized tabs for everyone.  You record your daily information in your personalized tab (located on the bottom of the spreadsheet (use the buttons on the bottom right to navigate).

2.  You can bookmark your actual tab for easy access.  All you need to do is go to your tab and then add a new bookmark using your browser's "add to favorites" or "set bookmark" function.

3.  When you add mileage/minutes to your personalized sheet, it automatically tallies your total (in cell B43) and that number is then pulled onto the Summary sheet (Column G).  Your percentage towards your goal is then automatically computed (Column H). 

4.  You can customize your page to fit your needs -- see the following tabs for examples:  @Rspnsblty199 put his team colors on the page; @VinnySlavin who dressed up his page and added some inspiration; @tidbits_of_tara is making sure she gets her vitamins in; and @Body_By_Beer is tracking her boozin.

5.  Let me know if you need help!

6.  I'm going to reiterate the same points I made in this post about balance -- you need to be organized to meet your goals. Have a plan!

"The one I want, the one I will become will catch me"

I've quoted this line before.  However it came up in tonight's #MeFirst Twitter chat.
@Ellie88 asked:  Q2: For the goals you are struggling with-What do you think the biggest block to achieving that goal is? #mefirst

FatGirlvsWorld: Q2: My struggle is realizing that I have to let go of some of how i was to be able to find who I am supposed to be #mefirst

FatGirlvsWorld: Q2: Rather, to quote a cirque du soleil song "The one I want the one I will become will catch me" I have to trust my progress. #mefirst

I think it's kind of like learning how to ride a bike.  Some of us had training wheels. Some of us had a parent steady the bike until we could trust that we knew what we were doing and that we wouldn't fall (or if we fell it'd be okay).   There is such great, immeasurable freedom when we just let go (of fear, of control, of pretense). I mean, we all remember that feeling when we looked back and saw that no one was holding on to the bike.  We were coasting under our own power.

I think a big part of the LCJ (Life Changing Journey -- to borrow from Tara's lexicon) is simply letting go of who we were (fat, depressed, unhappy, overweight, oblivious, frustrated, etc.) in order to become who we are now and who we will be.  You can't be a butterfly if you stay in the cocoon (well I guess you could, but the whole point is to do some unfurling of your wings, right?).


So there's a leap of faith involved, but also a calculated risk.  We enter the LCJ in the hopes that life will be better, we'll be happier, our health will bring good shit into our lives.  But the leap of faith is not knowing what that person looks or feel like.  We just gotta fumble our way through it sometimes.  And you know what? It's totally okay.  


[Just for the record -- my brother and I are 17 months apart.  He got his big boy bike a bit before me (i.e. not a tricycle, though they are badass).  When I got my bike (purple/white with a banana seat...of course), my parents took the training wheels off of my brother's bike and put them on mine.  While they weren't looking I would ride my brother's bike sans training wheels.  But heck, that's the kind of little girl I was...I knew the bruises, cuts, and scrapes would heal. Adventure was worth the risk.  Somewhere I have a picture of me on the banana seat bike... it's friggin adorable.]

#NovGTD -- Guest Post from Phil/@CannyMonkey

Last month, I asked my dear friend, @VinnySlavin, to wrap up #OctGTD for me.  He's one of the first friends I made on Twitter, thanks to #Fitblog.

I thought I'd do something a little different and ask @CannyMonkey to do the honors.  Why? Well for one, he signed up for Twitter just to be able to follow #NovGTD.  Secondly, he's been so good about blogging about his progress as it relates to #NovGTD. Third, he's been one of the most enthusiastic tweeple I know about #DecGTD.

So what follows are his thoughts about the challenge.  As always, feel free to send me links to your final thoughts and I will include them on this page as a link below!


#NovGTD. What has it meant for me?

Up until joining the #NovGTD challenge I had been a solo weightloss-wannabe with the vague goal of wanting to lose weight and get fitter. I had been successful at both of these without the challenge but I lacked focus and, as a result, motivation on occasion. The huge goal of losing 151 lbs hadn't been broken down and managed into smaller chunks with mini-plans as to how to achieve each....I just had that huge goal on the dim and distant horizon with no real idea as to when I would get there. Sure, my blogger-peeps have been great with support and their words of encouragement have kept me strong but at the end of the day only I can feed my body healthily and only I can go for a run/spin 10K/perform 100 press-ups/etc and, as exercise is something I got out of the habit of doing many years ago, it requires me to put in a consistent effort if it is to become habitual again. This is where #NovGTD has really had an impact for me -- the goals we set are still personal ones but the fact that all participants are part of something larger, something with many moving parts and different minds, something inter-connected, something for all body-types (chubby amateurs to seasoned athletes), something which picks you up when you are in a funk, something...fab, means that exercising alone was never more sociable, and with this comes accountability. The weekly posting of results to the #NovGTD spreadsheet meant that I had smaller, workable goals to work towards and I work best and get most motivated, I think, when I have lots of boxes to tick, columns to fill in, results to post, etc as it is some kind of physical evidence (for me mainly, I don't feel the need to prove anything to anyone else) that I am working towards something. So, the spreadsheet helped my accountability to myself, but the Twitter aspect of #NovGTD brought me much deeper into this challenge than most as I got to chat, cajole, motivate, laugh and generally shoot the breeze with other participants and this instant community kept me coming back.

On the one hand, a skeptic could make the argument that all #NovGTD is, is just filling in some spreadsheet and you're on your own the rest of the time, and while that might be true for someone unwilling to make any effort, most of us successful #NovGTD participants realise that the more you engage with [___]GTD the more you get from it, because the true heart of NovGTD, for me, was the new people I met, their successes and failures, their points of view, their training ideas, their nonsense tweets...and mine. And when I say "Successful #NovGTD participants" I mean those that kept posting results each week, stretching their current comfort zone a bit more and posting on others' blogs or tweeting, i.e. getting involved, not necessarily those who achieved their goals. I achieved 88% of my running goal and 81% of my spinning goal, but I still went the distance in November and I'll have words with anyone who says otherwise!   ;o)

NovGTD. What have #NovGTD and the Romans ever done for me then , eh? (apart from the sanitation,...)   
  • It encouraged me to break my goals down into smaller ones and go after them first. This meant that a bit of forward planning was required to allow for things like recovery days between runs.
       
  • It introduced me to new folks and new ideas.
       
  • I think that by keeping the challenge focused on exercise rather than weight-loss it kept things simple. Weight-loss was simply a fringe benefit.
       
  • I learned that when I fall off-plan in what I eat (as i did for 2-3 days during the month), I also shut out the exercise and figure "what's the point?". This is not good and is a behaviour that needs to be corrected.
       
  • During this month I have lost 2 inches on my waist and I am 9 lbs closer to goal weight thanks partly to healthy eating and partly to consistent exercise as part of my monthly GTD goals. It's great to see that #DecGTD makes more provision to get involved in reporting on daily water intake, fruit and veg consumption, etc. Exercise is nothing without good eating.
Summary

GTD has a simple kind of genius to it - the more you put into it, the more you get from it, and the only person you are competing against is yourself, while all around you is a large network of accountabila-buddies (reference for all the South Park junkies like me out there!). There were quite a few folks who started, and slightly over 50% who finished the month (judging by the posts on the spreadsheet) and were still pushing their own envelope and being accountable to themselves and others. The energy seemed to wain a little after the halfway mark but it soon returned in spades and ended November on a high note.....and the anticipation coming up to the start of the all-new, brand-spanking, bling-wearing, all-singing-all-dancing #DecGTD is palpable. For the new challnge I am pushing out of my comfort zone again - my goals are longer and harder, and I may not quite reach them again but quitting isn't even an option. Persistence, my friends, will triumph over perfection.

I would like to thank Robby [Phil, you're welcome -FGvW] for being a great host, opening up GTD to anyone who cares to challenge themselves, and giving me the opportunity to post some of my thoughts here. Three cheers for her and a hearty slap on the back. And lastly, I will leave you with a cheesy, cliched bit of advice (but, thinking about it, advice only becomes a cliche because it is true and it just gets used a lot, so let's not be too down on it).....

"If you don't dare to begin, you don't stand a chance of getting there."

Thanks for reading guys, hope to be cheering you all on in DecGTD.

Simon/@CyclingSi's thoughts.