Tell Me A Little About Yourself.... and a Giveaway!

Doctor:  So, you know you're fat, right
Me (thinking):  I may be fat, but I'm not stupid.
Doctor:  [silence]
Me (thinking):  Okay, now what? 
Doctor:  [silence]

I left that appointment knowing no more than I had walked in there knowing.  No recommendations for a dietitian, or a weight loss counselor. So I needed to do some research, homework, and digging of my own.

I recently addressed exercise in my post "start with the joy." 

While I've talked about foundation (educational, emotional, environmental, personal relationships/support) I want to link to this post and this post that point out the mental processes needed to take the leap of faith into making your health a priority.

Most of my blog posts about recovery are about healing from injuries, and so they don't quite fit.  But what I mean by recovery is more along the lines of cellular regeneration.  Changing your body composition is a very labor-intensive request. You need to have rest days (not the same as a "cheat" day, a term that I abhor), you need to sleep (this is different for everyone), and you need to have balanced/counterbalanced exercise (i.e., not doing the same workout every day, not working the same muscle in one direction every day) in order for your body to make the changes that you're asking of it.

I've often talked about diet, but I don't want to harp on it here except to say "do what is right for you" but that the CDC says that people who food log are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.

What tied this all together for me was the BodyMedia armband. I bought mine in February of 2010 and have been wearing it ever since (I do take it off for special occasions, when I don't want a tanline, and when I need a break from "the journey").  I have found that more than anything else, the armband has taught me so much about not just my behaviors, but my own attitudes -- how I relate to food and my body.

Unlike other devices, the BodyMedia armband measures (vs. estimating) my caloric expenditure, steps taken, and my sleep patterns with remarkable accuracy (as clinically tested).  I can have confidence that the information that the armband gives me is an accurate reflection of how I live my life.  When I add food logging to the equation, the armband and the dashboard basically spells out my health for me (and my doctor, because you know I brought in the reports/data to my follow-up appointment to show my doctor just exactly what I was up to).

I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone that I come across as one of the most valuable tools when it comes to weight loss and health gain.  Why?  If you know how many calories you are burning, you can start making better choices about how you live, how you're eating, and when you should go to bed.

With that in mind, how would you like to win a BodyMedia Armband and some other fun accessories?  My awesome friends at BodyMedia reached out to me because they wanted to send me a t-shirt for all of my tweeting and I asked if they'd consider including something for me to give away.  Lexi and the BodyMedia team sent me a whole box of goodies to give away!

Included are:
It'll all go to ONE lucky winner who fills out the following entry form:
[form removed]

Start with the Joy

People always ask me, "I'm just getting into exercising.  Where should I start?" when it comes to weight loss/health gain.  Sometimes I give a bit of a serious answer—that you need to have a strong foundation, or that you need to have the mental epiphany first—but when it comes to moving your body, I have one answerStart with the Joy.

This past weekend, I had an occasion to reiterate that point to my dad.  Dad was coming down to DC (from NY) to visit for the weekend. I told him to bring workout clothing.  My hope was that the hotel had a gym and I could have him show me what he learned in physical therapy and what he could do.  Alas, the hotel didn't have a workout facility (it is a boutique hotel).

Since it was such a GORGEOUS day on Saturday, I figured that we'd make the best of the situation and go for a walk and have a little talk.  As often people are when they're met with something outside his or her comfort zone, Dad was a little testy with me to honor his limits.  I reassured him that I wasn't going to kill him (there goes my plans for 30 seconds of light jogging here and there!).  I wasn't going to go easy on him either.

We went through some of the historic and commercial areas of Georgetown and down by the waterfront.
As dad looked out on the water, he got excited to see a
1-man rowing scull. His eyes got big and he started smiling as he described his time in college on an 8-man rowing team.

We walked down to Key Bridge Boat House (formerly Jack's Boat House), but they only rented out kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards.  I pointed all the way across to the other side of Georgetown at Thompson Boat Center and told dad that I bet that's where the sculls were being launched and I was right.  Not only were they launching them from there (2 colleges and a bunch of other schools), but you can rent 1 and 2-person sculls by the hour.

However, because it's not as intuitive as kayaking or canoeing, you have to be certified -- which means either taking a beginner's class or being evaluated by an instructor (for someone that hasn't sculled in a few years).

Getting out on the water with Dad is probably not going to happen this year, but the first classes of spring are in late April/early May of 2014.  That give Dad around 8 months to get in shape.  We made a deal right there.  I decided to buy dad a hat to mark the occasion (and because it was recently his birthday) and remind him of the excitement he felt.

When purchasing the hat, I thanked the manager for giving my dad something to be enthusiastic about.  He then asked me if I wanted an oar.  Dad thought he was selling me the oar, but he was giving me the oar.  Yet another memento, something to hang on the wall as a reminder of what is to come.

Later that day, we visited with my brother, sister-in-law, and my niece and Dad recounted this story only to find out that my SIL rowed in college as well.  Oh, and by the way, I spent my 29th birthday kayaking, and have kayaked in the Carribean.  My brother and SIL have gone kayaking a few times as well.

Dad thought he surprised us by telling his tales of rowing past, but I think the bigger surprise was that Dad found out that he wouldn't be the only one out there in the water.  (ahem, bigger lesson there along the lines of "you are not alone" and that there's always someone willing to travel part of the journey with you)

My brother and I on my 29th birthday (2010).
So the moral of the story is this:  when you're first trying to change how you view exercise, start with what excites you and brings you joy.  You're more likely to have a positive experience, more likely to want to get better at doing it, and you're more likely to stick with it in the long run.  The mind-fake (i.e., the lesson you learn by accident) is that exercise is not punishment.  It's a celebration of what your body can do.

I'd love to hear the kinds of activities that bring you joy. 

I love swimming in the ocean, hula hooping, playing softball, bike riding, boxing, dancing badly and playing with doggies.  

Put a little love in your heart

This morning I checked my Twitter feed and saw this message from @MelKettle:
When my mom passed away, my family made the decision to donate her organs.  While going through that process, we learned that many of her organs were not useable (not a surprise considering she was a smoker).  What was a surprise was that the doctors had found evidence of a heart attack.  Apparently when she was younger, my mother experienced a heart attack but was never treated for it (women are statistically more likely to ignore the signs of a heart attack, which are different for women than they are for men).  

This is alarming because (1) my paternal grandmother died from a heart defect (she was 30) (2) my maternal grandfather died from a heart attack (he was 50) and (3) my mother died from a cerebral aneurysm (she was 44).  I don't want to be part of the trend of young deaths. 

The American Heart Association has lots of great information about how to be heart healthy and has highlighted a few areas also crossover into the whole weight loss/health gain arena:

Mel was quick to point out that "a basic blood test can tell you a huge amount." And well you need to get your butt to a doctor to get that blood test.  My last physical/blood test was July 2012 (though I did get a pre-operative blood test in Dec. 2012 before my neck surgery, it was incomplete (it didn't include a fasting glucose test)).  So I'm going to go ahead and schedule an appointment. 

Have you gone to the doctor in the past year for a comprehensive physical and blood test?
Have you discussed with your doctor what your results mean?

That certain je ne sais quoi...

I've posted about grace before, but it was more of the "here look at this fun graphic that someone else made" kind of post.  It's one of those words/qualities that we don't know how to define until we see it in action.  Sadly, I think the dictionary strikes out on the word "grace."  The word is just trying to do too much work and be too many things. 

When I think of the word "grace" or "gracious" I envision a person who doesn't show that the weight of the world is on her shoulders, doesn't show judgment, is thoughtful and sincere, and is naturally at ease in any given situation.  In other words, this imaginary person is the antithesis of me.  Okay, that's harsh.  There are times when I am those things, but it's not my natural state.  I show my emotions, I am a bit judgey at times, I am completely oblivious at others, and I am often uncomfortable.

I realize now that the term I was describing wasn't grace, it was equanimity:  a balanced internal state.  I found this as much a philosophical puzzle (we're not Weebles. we wobble) as well as a bit of a comfort when combined with Emily Ley's quote -- about not expecting perfection all the time, but being gentle with yourself when trying to live your life.

Newtonian physics kinda backed me up on this -- the world is full of opposing forces on us -- but all-in-all, things would average out if you allowed time to work its magic.  But for some things, you have to be a willful participant.  If you want to have friends, you not only have to be a friend to them, but you have to let people take care of and love you.

Four paragraphs to get to the meat and potatoes of what I wanted to write about.  You still with me?  So yeah, the vortex of suckitude struck again.  Bad things tend to happen on/around my birthday.  I've been dumped on my birthday (21st!), had my leg in a cast on my birthday(15 or 16?), have had my birthday forgotten (17), had a friend die 2 days after my birthday (24th), and a blooper reel of other mishaps and faux pas, as well as heartbreaks.  This year was having someone who I thought was a friend completely cut me out of his life.

So starting this past Friday (August 2) I have been in the most foul of moods.  People would ask me if I was doing something for my birthday and I would grumble and bah humbug an answer.  Instead of reaching out and letting friends help me through this, I shut them out.  I felt my anger, frustration, and abandonment viscerally.  There were times that I would shake because I was so seething mad.  And forget having any sort of appetite.  I spent the weekend in bed crying as well as throwing up. 

My ah hah! moment (this happened at 11 pm today) was realizing that the birthday curse wasn't just bad things happening on my birthday (bad things happen every day), but my lack of equanimity:  I let that one bad thing send me into a tailspin.  I let one person's suckiness overshadow everyone else's awesomeness. 

But despite all that....some of you crafty little buggers found a way to see past the Ms. PoopyPants fa├žade and show me some love (which is appreciated, no matter how much I grumble).  My dad drove down from NYC yesterday to surprise me for lunch (which while I love him for the gesture, was unfortunate because I had a lunchtime appointment and was very busy at work).  My boss not only gave me a sweet and schmoopy card, but also shark cupcakes!! All the texts, emails, voicemails, calls, cards from far off places, carrier pigeons..... seriously guys... truly touched and reminded that I'm loved.  Sometimes I forget.  And I'm not trying to fish for more, but I am serious.... there's still a part of me that is the girl worried that no one is going to come to her birthday party (cause usually kids were on vacation or at camp on my birthday).

So my goal for next year (I'll be 33) is to be cheerful and happy that there's one day where I can have all my friends in one room (it'll have to be a very big room), and I get to tell all of them (and you) that I love them for never giving up on me, for always showing up, and knowing that I love cake

This birthday ends with a toaster oven pizza (that Spike tried to eat), some watermelon, writing a blog entry in my bra and boy shorts, and vowing that next year will be different.