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Feeling the Gratitude

On Easter, I had dinner with friends. On the way up to their house, another friend and I stopped at the store and ran into one of our senior managers and his eldest daughter. I haven’t seen the daughter in about a year. We all chatted for awhile and then went our separate ways. Monday morning when I got to work there was a message from the daughter on my voice mail. She literally hadn’t recognized me when we were talking! She said a lot of really lovely things to me in her message.

Easter was a great day of exploring a state park island, hanging with friends and sharing a meal. I don’t see the husband of one friend very often. Monday when my friend and I were back at work she said that later in the evening, her husband told her that he hadn’t wanted to embarrass me but he thought I looked great. Then she said that when we were all together, she really noticed how my bad knee didn’t stop me at all. I jumped on and off the boat, into and out of the golf cart, and did all of the activity without it hampering me. She and I have worked together for more than 10 years, so she’s seen me at my heaviest and all of the times that my knee presented challenges.

Of course I felt good in the moment of hearing these things from her, but even nicer, the good feeling has stayed with me. This morning I was riding my bike back from the beach and thinking about these two things. Then I started thinking about all of the friends and family members who are so happy for me and, also, proud of me for doing the hard work of regaining my health and fitness. As I thought of this, I was swamped with gratitude.

I have so many people in my life who have loved me unconditionally and supported me through good times and bad for many, many years. Some of them are family by blood or marriage; others are my family of friends or my work family. Whoever they are, they are always in my corner. They’ve loved me through pain and loss and sometimes even more than I loved myself.

I’m blessed and grateful for each and every one of them.

Some of these people come here and read this blog. Some don’t. To those who are here, please know that your choice to be part of my life means the world to me. Thank you for your love and support and know that I appreciate you deep, deep in my heart. Even though I may thank you in person, I don’t know if the words truly convey how I feel. I hope you and every person who isn’t here knows this.

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P.A.C.E.

I’ve had two good days back to back and they both started with morning exercise which produced endorphins and general positive feelings. I carried them with me through the days and this helped me deal with the regular old annoying stresses and complications. No big surprise, my food and eating have been more on track — and keeping them there has been less challenging.

Have I ever shared the acronym P.A.C.E.? It means Positive Action Changes Everything. This is a particularly good reminder for me. The rightness of it is illustrated by me making sure that I roll out of bed early enough to get in a morning workout. When I experience the difference in how I feel on days like today versus a few days when I don’t get in enough physical activity, it sure makes sense.

I won’t always do these things perfectly, but I sure can keep making the effort on most days. Again, it makes sense to, ahem, P.A.C.E. myself.

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Getting Moving

For the last week, I’ve been sluggish. Even though I got out on the bike several times, I fell off on my steps and didn’t get in my longer walks for a few days. I was exhausted at the end of every evening and craved even an extra half an hour of sleep in the mornings.

When I fall off of my game for even a few days, it affects how I feel about myself. Not only does my body weigh down, but my mind and emotions also experience their own kind of sluggishness. The more days that I go without significant, or at least fully adequate, exercise, the more I feel like a slug and the more difficult it is to self-motivate.

This morning, my alarm went off at 6 a.m. and I completely did not want to get out of bed and exercise. I scolded myself, laced on the sneakers and went out for a 40 minute brisk walk, followed by another 12-15 minutes of more leisurely walk with the pups. One the way home I realized how good I felt emotionally. My whiny ‘tude evaporated, I had more of a spring in my step, and I was smiling while I sang along to the tunes on my Nano. I not only no longer felt tired, I was rejuvenated.

After so much time, it shouldn’t surprise me that positive energy first thing in the morning sets me up for less stress and more energy throughout the day. The better I feel about my body and my self, the better I do with everything or anything that comes my way.

I’m really glad that A) I got my ass up and out of bed for the walk and B) that I was aware of how I felt when I started and then how great I felt with the endorphin release. I’m going to remember this tomorrow at 6 a.m. when the alarm goes off. Getting moving is a positive on which I can, and need to, build.

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My WTF Week

By the time last Thursday rolled around, I had officially proclaimed that I was having a WTF (What the _ _ _ _) week. Random, strange, unexpected or otherwise stressful situations and people kept happening. By the time that I got home every night, I was wiped out. Hence the four days between blog posts.

Before I go further, I would like to ask for some positive energy, good thoughts and prayers for one of my aunts. She’s in the hospital in critical condition. She went in with an infection that started in her skin and went septic. This led to renal failure. She’ll be 88 in October. This is a bad situation. We hope that her kidneys will regain their function as the infection is cleared up. Thank you in advance for your good vibes.

So with all of the stress stuff going on, I’m thinking a lot about how I’ve used food and overeating to cope for all of my life. More to the point, I’m really working on not using it in these ways any more. It’s become a different kind of WTF week, as in “Why the Food”? I’m still building on the realizations and acceptance and all of the other emotional work I’ve been doing recently. In thinking about all this, I’ve tried to check in with myself and ask, “What does food and overeating do for me? Why do I keep going back to these coping mechanisms? What’s the positive payoff?” The overriding question in all of this then becomes, “Why do I think I can’t give it up?”

Actually, I know that I can stop doing it, but sometimes it just feels like I can’t, or it scares me to think of letting go of my security blanket. I don’t know what I think will happen to me if I do. I’m not sure what the source of my fear really is.

Then sometimes I think that asking all of the why, why, why doesn’t really get me far. What matters most is that I stop doing it. Understanding might just be the bonus — or maybe the booby prize.

So, instead I’m trying to reframe the discussion and tell myself new truths, as in, “You know, you really don’t need the food to cope. The food isn’t going to help you cope. In fact, it’s a detriment.” I am also reminding myself that I am stronger and more balanced and that I have different, healthier methods. I can take a walk. Dance around the room. Cuddle the dogs. Go for a bike ride. I can do almost anything other than overeat or eat inappropriately that will help me in ways that food and overeating never did.

These are things that I need to reinforce within myself. The whole mindset is a valuable tool to carry around with me the next time I need help coping.

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Not Letting Disease Win

Yesterday at work I experienced a scene with a person (not a co-worker or friend) who went from 0 to 25 on the anger scale in the space of three heartbeats. I tried to diffuse it, did my best to work with this person, but the bottom line was that I could not give him the one thing that he wanted and nothing else mattered to him. He was completely unable to see reason.

I’m a fairly tough cookie when needed. I’ve had people yell at me and attempt to bully and intimidate me and it doesn’t work. I have my coping strategies firmly in place. (This wasn’t the case 20 some years ago, but I’ve learned since then.) For whatever reason, maybe it was the lightning fast reaction of his, this situation really got to me.

It affected me all day. I could feel it in my clenched gut and the constant ache behind my eyes. Driving home with a friend, we talked about it and I mentioned that I’d love nothing more than to dive into a half of a pound of chocolate walnut fudge. My friend wisely reminded me that doing so would mean letting the guy and the situation win.

I’m trying to hold onto the concept of not letting my disease win. (I didn’t dive into a vat of fudge last night, but did indulge in some cookies, unfortunately.) I think it will do me good for the time being to think of my disease as an opponent battling me for my health and envision myself as a warrior. I like that kind of self-empowerment.

So, for today, I am waging war against my disease, against the compulsion to eat inappropriately. I will not let my disease win.

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Stopping the Slide

A lot of what Chrissy said in her comment to my Funk-ytown post really resonated. Recovery requires attention to all three aspects – physical, emotionally and spiritually. Spirituality does not necessarily mean formal religion. It means different things to different people whether their Higher Power is God, Allah, Buddah, the Universe, or a higher consciousness of their own self. For me, mostly, it’s God. Sometimes it’s an intangible state of being I think of as my healthy-non-diseased mental state.

Whatever the case, I need to reconnect with my Higher Power in order to stop this slide. Allow me just to say that today I physically feel like utter crap and that’s a direct result of too many days in a row of eating off of my plan. Emotionally and mentally I’m still down, although I had a nice time last night — which I’ll share about later in this post.

I’m trying to take care of myself. Thanks to the forethought of arranging for a dogsitter to stay in my house last night while I went to Key West for the function, I was able to sleep in a little this morning. Staying in bed until almost 9 a.m. felt really good. I woke up to a beautiful morning, so beautiful in fact that it would have been a perfect day to take out the boat with friends. However, I didn’t rush to come back home. I realized that while I would have loved to be out on the water, I really didn’t want to be around a lot of people today. I feel like I have been surrounded by others without a break for too many days in a row. Don’t get me wrong, I like being social and enjoy the company of others at work and in my various other pursuits. It’s just that when I’m already feeling the effects of energy drain, I hit a wall.

So, today I decided that I would rather soak up some solitude hanging around the house with Nat and Pyxi. I also would treat myself to new spring flowers for my porch planters and rejuvenate my herb planter. This was another way of taking care of myself. With that decision made before I left the hotel this morning, I was in a calmer, more relaxed state of mind on the drive up home.

Perhaps that’s what opened me up to understanding why my funk and slide are prolonged. Lately, I’m experiencing a resuscitation of some co-dependency issues. Co-dependency kicks off my eating disorder because food and overeating were always my coping mechanisms. Destructive and not always effective, still, it’s how I coped.

I haven’t run up against a situation where I would experience co-dependency in the two-plus years that I’ve lived in recovery on my weight loss and health-reclamation journey. I’m not surprised that I didn’t recognize this right away, but now that I have the signs are very clear to me. Now that I know, it’s time, as Chrissy said, to jump horses on the carousel and look for help from my spiritual self and my Higher Power.

This is not something that I can resolve with an extra bike ride, although the endorphins help. I need to make the conscious decision to turn the problem, the situation, and my reaction to it, over to my Higher Power. Turning it over is another means of letting go of it. It requires admitting that the situation is not something over which I have any control, nor am I required to fix it.

My responsibility in this is to take care of myself. I need to stay aware of how the situation affects me and, when I feel its influence, not take that influence into myself but turn it over and let it go. It’s another kind of mindfulness, to realize how other people/places/things/situations can impact my health — if I permit them to. This aspect of my recovery requires help from my Higher Power, but I have to make the conscious choice to ask. Doing so will help me stop this slide and get back on the road to recovery.

Okay, now back to last night. A few weeks ago, I talked about finding a couple of new dresses for upcoming events and then also ordering some heels. Last night was one of the events. I had fun socializing with a large group of people whose company I enjoy. We talked, laughed, and danced a lot. It’s not easy to take a flattering picture of myself with my phone in a mirror, but hopefully you can get an idea. I think I looked great in one of my new dresses. (Please ignore the slightly strange facial expression. I was focused on trying to get the photo.)

newdress

This was the debut of one of the new pairs of shoes, too. First time that I’ve worn more than a kitten heel in forever. They were pretty and comfortable (for most of the night anyway). I slipped them off a few times, as did some of my friends with their heels, but I was never in pain. As I discussed in that earlier post, I haven’t owned a lot of really pretty shoes in my life. If I keep having this kind of success, I might become a late blooming shoe addict. What do you think?

Shoes

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Taking You to Funk-ytown

That title contains a little bit of a local joke. A little bit across the water from my house is a house on a point of land. The people that own it fixed up the outdoor area with a little dance floor and sound system. Quite often music drifts out over the harbor – classic rock, old country, their tastes are varied. They also like to occasionally pump up the jam with disco and other dance music to which they also often sing. If you can call the caterwauling singing. Seriously, it’s the worst karaoke ever to the point where it’s laughable if you have a sense of humor or reason to call the deputies and invoke the late night noise ordinance if your ears can’t take it. The woman is particularly fond of shrieking along to, “Won’t you take me to Funkytown?” That was never the most melodious tune and it’s nine-fighting-cats-in-heat bad when she takes the microphone.

My Funk-ytown is different as in, I’m in a funk and have been for days. I thought I would be finished with just a one day buzz crash, but emotionally, physically, and food-wise, I’ve had a rough week. Put all three of those aspects on a downturn at the same time and they feed each other, which only makes me feel worse. Then it wipes me out so that I not only feel bad, I’m exhausted. Last night I was so tired that I fell asleep in my chair sometime after 9 p.m., woke up as Scandal was starting and was so muzzy-brained that I just turned off the television and crawled into bed. I woke up a couple of times in the night but fell right back asleep. Even with enough hours of sleep time logged, when my alarm went off at 6 a.m., I absolutely did not want to get up and go for a walk or bike ride. So I didn’t. I watched the DVR recording of Scandal instead. To digress a moment, if you’re a fan of the show like I am, allow me to virtually shriek, “OMG!! Cyrus is soulless!”

Anyway, there’s tiredness where I don’t feel like I can get enough sleep. Sluggishness from not exercising. Add in stress over a situation at work. Mix in some extra achyness — probably from being tired and holding onto stress. It all has the effect of stirring up my hunger. Big time. Around lunch, I was absolutely ravenous.

That alone is very strange. I usually only feel hungry when it’s appropriate for me to feel so, as in enough hours have passed since I ate something that the right amount of hunger signals me that it’s time for me to eat. Ever since my surgery, I don’t really feel severe hunger and certainly never the, “I could eat a small pony” degree.

This tells me that the, “Oh my goodness, I am STARVING” experience wasn’t physical hunger — at least not all of it. I think it was a bit of actual hunger dramatically magnified by my emotions. I then fed the anxiousness with lots of negative emotions and thoughts. Things like, “You’re eating off plan and you deliberately didn’t exercise. OMG, you’re relapsing. Your motivation is gone. You’re going to gain back all of your weight!!!!”

I don’t 100% know for sure what’s going on with me that I’m having all this emotional reaction and eating. What I’m trying to do to combat is to be aware of what I’m feeling and experiencing and sort out the truth from the disease thinking and acting. I remind myself that there are bound to be highs and lows on this journey. I don’t need to be perfect all of the time. I just need to strive for doing as best I can. I need to observe what’s going on around me, understand how it affects me and how often I let it affect my choices and behavior. Above all, I need to tell myself that this is a setback, not a road block. It’s a challenging time but it isn’t going to wreck me and screw up all of the fabulous progress I’ve made and success I’ve achieved.

I might visit Funkytown, but I’m not going to take up residence.

There’s probably more I can write on this topic and, certainly, more to explore. Unfortunately, no lie, I nodded off while typing a few sentences back. The sleepiness is upon me again so it’s time for me to listen to my brain and body and go to bed.

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Food Associations

I treated myself to some new technology at home in the form of an AppleTV gizmo. I also signed up for a subscription to MLB.TV. Together, these things allow me to watch Phillies games on my television. I’m a big fan of baseball and the Phillies are my team. All of the years that I lived up home in SoJersey, we watched baseball games on television all season long. Before the time that they broadcast the games on the tube, we used to listen to them on the radio. I’ve missed that practice in the years that I’ve lived in Florida when the only times I could see the Phillies were when they played the FL Marlins or the occasional game on ESPN or Fox.

Tonight’s game is on while I type this. I was thinking about the years when we also had season tickets to Veterans Stadium for 16 games each season. I always wanted a ball park hot dog at those games. That was a strong association of a particular food with a particular activity. Each of us probably has countless associations that we make like popcorn at the movie theater, cake on a birthday, or turkey at Thanksgiving. Many of us can also add family traditions, like my family’s practice of making Pizza frita (fried dough) on Christmas morning. I have friends who never go out fishing without picking up fried chicken from a particular convenience store.

There used to be a great little family-owned Cuban restaurant in town. For years I ordered the same meal whenever I went to this restaurant — pork chunks with yellow rice, black beans and fried plantains. It got to be funny because I’d go with my mom and say that I really should try something else sometime, but the favorite tradition always won out.

I’ve noticed that I also have food and eating behaviors associated with certain places, activities and other things. Cookies in the kitchen at work are a guaranteed trigger for me. It’s like I have to eat one (or two).

I don’t think that the food associations are necessarily bad, except when they are. :-) By that I mean that if I’m aware of the association and make the food or eating choice mindfully with full awareness — and incorporate it into my overall eating plan, it can be a positive activity. If I don’t use the associations as a trigger to overeat, or eat compulsively, then it’s not automatically unhealthy. The key is being mindful and aware.

Eating by rote just because of the ingrained, often long term, association can be a dangerous, slippery slope. One needs to be aware of the association or habit in order to effect positive change, or counteract the trigger. For example, I used to automatically throw a candy bar onto the belt at the supermarket checkout. There’s a reason they put those rows of candy bars in that location! It didn’t matter if I wanted the chocolate before I got to the store or not. Most of the time, I hadn’t even thought about it on my way to the supermarket. When I hit the checkout line, I had associated the experience with also buying and later consuming, the chocolate bar.

I’m mindful about it now. I still want it most times, but I can resist the trigger of the association and choose a different behavior — ignoring the chocolate, completing checkout, and leaving the store.

This reminds me of something the coaches warned us about when I went through a smoking cessation program more than 27 years ago. We learned that smokers frequently lit up cigarettes because of the place or situation and not because they had an urge to smoke right at that particular moment. I rapidly noticed that I automatically lit a cigarette whenever I got into my car or sat down at my desk. (Back in the early 80s, most offices still permitted smoking.) When I went out to a rock club with friends, invariably I’d have a drink in one hand and a cigarette in another. Once I was made aware of the practice, I became adept at identifying the “association moments”. Eventually I learned to counter them, much like I’ve learned with the checkout candy bar rack.

Not sure if I’ll have the same success in other situations. Movie popcorn is a powerful lure. I can only try and do my best, or at the very least, take a look at my plan for the day and adjust so that I can enjoy the treat. Either action — resisting or working it into the plan – requires awareness and conscious thought. Those things can trump the automatic reaction because of long term association. I can work with that.

Do you have any food associations? Care to share?

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The Buzz Crash

Remember that “riding the buzz” feeling that I had? I appear to have crashed a bit. I can’t seem to roll my butt out of bed at 6 a.m. for my full dose of early morning exercise. Last night I fell asleep in my chair while watching television. I woke up, briefly thought about writing a blog, and almost immediately realized that the best course of action was to go right to bed and fall asleep again. Today felt like more of the same.

Maybe I’m trying to play catch up. Honestly, I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m tired through and through. I’m also moody as all get out. Is it possible to experience hormonal fluctuations even two years post-menopause?

Okay, so I won’t blame hormones for my swinging mood. Instead, I’ll chalk it up to the buzz crash. While I’m experiencing this, I have also noticed that food cravings frequently connect to state of mind/emotional balance. When I’m down and tired, I want to eat stuff that really won’t do me any good — like junk carbs and sugar. I would be extremely happy right now with some homemade cinnamon toast. Toasted white bread, spread with butter, and then sprinkled with a mixture of white sugar and ground cinnamon. No nutritional value whatsoever. Quite the opposite, in fact, but it’s delicious.

Good thing I don’t have any bread in the house. Saved from my own cravings!

My blah is not helped by the fact that it rained when I got home from work and was still raining after Tai Chi class so I didn’t get out for an evening walk. Even though I haven’t overeaten, my body feels like I have because I haven’t exercised to the extent that I would have otherwise.

Oh wah wah wah. You know what I just realized? When I’m tired, moody and crashing off of a buzz, I turn into a whiney beast. Just ignore me, okay? I’m going to relax in a hot tub and resolve to be much improved in body, mind and spirit tomorrow.

Thanks for listening.

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Rule #1 – Don’t Be Lazy

I woke up a few minutes before 6:00 a.m. today, when it was still dark outside. My right knee, which is the trouble one, was extra stiff and sort of sore. I walked close to 14,000 steps yesterday and, as previously discovered, that’s pushing it for that knee. I didn’t want to take my morning walk and was thisclose to going back to bed for half an hour. Then I thought to myself, “Rule #1 on this fitness thing is ‘Don’t be lazy’.” Rule #2, in case you’re wondering is, “Remember Rule #1″.

I dressed in my workout clothes, laced on the sneaks, and took the dogs outside. I realized that the wind wasn’t blowing as much as it predicted on my phone app. So, happily for myself and my knee, I got on my bicycle instead and pedaled off for eight miles. Not being lazy, getting in a good ride, brightened me up and energized me. The activity also loosened up my knee so that I could take the dogs for their walk, without pain, when I got back.

While we walked on this lovely cool morning as streaks of pink and purple began to lighten the sky, I thought of what I’d have missed if I’d gone back to bed. It wasn’t even just about today, but about the overarching journey.

Don’t be lazy. If I make a choice for a good reason, that’s okay. Being lazy isn’t a good enough reason for me. In my twisted brain, it’s okay for me to have an overall lazy day, as long as I don’t totally trash my efforts. By the same token, if I’d been seriously hurt, it absolutely have been okay for me to take the day off and rest it. I guess I’ll say, too, that if riding my bike had not been an option, then it would not have been lazy for me to not take a long walk when my knee was stiff and sore. However, the bike ride was an option which would not hurt my knee, so going back to bed would have been the lazy choice.

Does that sound crazy or does it make sense?

Anyway, I’m going to hold on to “Don’t be lazy” as a “rule”, a mantra if you will. Now that I am so much more physically fit, my body isn’t the barricade to activity. So, my thought process can present the biggest challenge. If I listen. I don’t have to pay attention to it, now do I?

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