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4-7-8 Breathing

Weeks, or maybe even a couple of months ago, I first heard about 4-7-8 breathing.  An author I’m friends with talked about using the technique to help her with stress-induced insomnia.  I saw her post about it on Facebook a few times and that motivated me to investigate on the internet.

I’m not prone to insomnia when I first go to bed.  Truth be told, I’m so brain tired by 10-10:30 most nights, I fall asleep on the couch.  There are some nights when I look at the clock and wonder if 9 p.m. is too early to go to bed.

The sleep interruption affects me when I’m dealing with stressful stuff during the day, or have something bothering me and happen to wake up in the middle of the night.  Even if I just wake up for a quick trip to the restroom, if the stressful situation comes to mind, I can’t get rid of it.  I will think about it and think about it non-stop.  Sometimes the same phrase, sentence or conversation just repeats like a thought-hamster on a wheel.  I believe this might be something called “inefficient worrying”.  Honestly, when it happens, it does not accomplish anything positive.  I’m not working through the issue or resolving anything.  I’m just repeating thoughts, creating more stress, and depriving myself of much needed recuperation and sleep.

When I looked into 4-7-8 breathing, I found articles that described it as being helpful for reducing stress and anxiety.  I found a video of Dr. Andrew Weil talking about and demonstrating the technique which, if I correctly remember, originated in yoga practice.  It seemed easy enough so the very next time I experienced that middle-of-the-night hamster-thinking, I tried it for myself.  It worked!  I remember doing it three times and that’s all.

After that first night, I tried it again the next time I couldn’t fall back asleep and achieved the same result.  As I’ve whined about discussed several times, I’ve been experiencing a fair amount of extra stress in recent weeks, so I’ve had ample opportunity to demonstrate that, for me, the 4-7-8 technique isn’t a fluke.

I’ve done some additional investigation into it and have seen some suggest that it might be able to help me with some of my compulsive eating disorder.  For example, if I can be aware enough to do some 4-7-8 breathing when the urge to eat compulsively hits, or even if I’m still wound up when I sit down to a meal, the technique might help me settle before I reach for food.

Every day, I practice the technique at least twice a day, as Dr. Weil suggests. I’d like to develop it as a great and consistent tool.  It would be great if I could train myself to engage in this as a natural reflex.  Actually, I believe that with practice, I can do just that.  Any tool is a good one in this journey.

Do any of you do any kind of meditation or breathing technique?  Have you heard of 4-7-8 breathing and, if so, does it work for you?  I’d love to hear what things you’ve tried and found useful.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about it, this link will take you to the place on Dr. Weil’s site where it’s described.  From there you can also click a link to watch the video of his demonstration.

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Routine Change

I’m four days into the new program. So far it’s going pretty well. I’ve dropped some of the weight I gained. I’m doing the exercise routines. No lie, some of the exercises challenge me. In each routine, there is a woman doing the modified version of each exercise so that you can still benefit even if you aren’t quite up to the peppy, totally toned, I’m-an-absolute-fitness-beast level. Today, my body really felt the effort, particularly in my abs. Since I had to stop Zumba to protect my knee, I haven’t been crunching those abs and they made their discomfort known.

I do the full version of each exercise that I can handle. There are some, like jumping jacks or frog jacks, that I can’t do right now. So I do the modified version with good results. In today’s routine, I finally hit an exercise that I can’t do at all, even when modified. Called a Surrender, it requires quickly kneeling and getting up. I just can’t manage that motion smoothly enough to derive any benefit, even if I force myself to struggle through and do a quarter of the reps. It really bummed me out but I tried to put it out of my mind and substituted squats instead. Squats probably work a different set of muscles but at least they kept me moving.

On the set of the workout routine hangs a chalkboard sign that reminds us every effort is one day at a time, one pound at a time. Love it in all its 12 Stepness. Back at the beginning of the journey, thinking of having to lose more than 200 pounds overwhelmed me. Breaking it down to one pound at a time really helped.

The leader of the program said something today that also resonated. As we sweat together through the different exercises (I might not do them all great but I give them my all, moving up my heart rate and working up a real sweat.), she reminded us that the exercise is just part of the program. We have to follow the good, nutritional eating plan. In a nutshell, the message was to not put in all the hard, physical work and then blow it in the kitchen.

That thought stayed with me throughout the day. A short time ago, I had a thought on how I can offer the best protection to my own efforts and set myself up for the greatest success. I’m going to try changing my routine.

Right now, the most challenging time for me food-wise is at night. I eat a healthy dinner, drink a cup of tea and should be done for a couple of hours until it’s time for my final fruit as a snack. Should be done, but instead I’m frequently beset by the compulsive desire to eat something else or something more. I’m not hungry. I don’t need more to eat. These are false needs fueled by the eating disorder. Yet, I frequently fall into the trap. Maybe it’s only a few pistachios or a tablespoon of peanut butter, but the quantities don’t matter as much as giving into the behavior.

I do my workouts in the morning. After 30 minutes of pushing my body to go harder, stronger and faster, followed by a 15 minute or so dog walk, all I want to do is drink my protein drink and get ready for work. I have no desire to pick up anything else.

So, I wonder if working out at night will make a difference to my eating desires. If I spend 30 minutes working my muscles and elevating my heart rate so that sweat pours down my face and soaks through my clothes, will the energy and great feeling of accomplish counteract the compulsion to eat off of my food plan? Will it be easier to battle the urges?

I don’t know, but I’m prepared to find out, starting tomorrow. I’ll let you know if changing my routine helps.

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Eating on Vacation

We’ve been eating wonderful meals while on vacation. It’s a large group of people gathered here in the property we rent on the Cape. Last night, 29 people sat down to dinner. We cook and eat as a community. Someone takes responsibility for the main part of the meal and other people pick up utensils to chop, mix or plate as needed. Our sous chef skills are put to work.

I confess that I’ve had more fresh bread in the recent days than I usually eat in a month, but it’s delicious. A friend who works for a natural food distributor also brought down many pounds of Amish butter. If you ever have Amish butter, you will never want to go back to store bought again. It’s that great.

There’s an organic farm across the road so each meal includes fresh, amazing produce. We’ve had kale salads, tomatoes that were picked a few hours before consumption, and corn of the most delicate sweetness.

I made my famous brownies yesterday for dessert. When I flew up I smuggled a few dozen key limes in my suitcase and a couple of days ago treated the crowd to key lime pies.

I refuse to think of how much weight I’ll gain in the course of the week. The food is too good and the company too grand. There is a wonderful sense of community to preparing, eating and enjoying the time together.

In our defense, we take walks every day. Yesterday, I also went paddle boarding again. So, while we do spend a lot of time sitting, eating and talking, we still get ourselves in motion.

Vacation is not the time to obsess about being perfect on a food plan. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I will recommit when I return and go back to being restrictive on my carb and dessert intake.

Today is for celebrating, breaking bread together and enjoying vacation meals together.

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Mary Does Disney

The last time I visited Disney World theme parks was in 1997. While still weighing more than 300 pounds, I was no where near my heaviest weight ever. I was a lot younger, had more energy, and my knee had not yet begun to really weaken. My friends and I had a great time.

A year later, after my Mom got sick, I’d put on about 35 pounds. I went to a theme park in Texas with a friend, got into the car for an old roller coaster and was too fat for the bar to come down securely, That pretty much ended any plans of going to a theme park ever again.

Since weight loss surgery, a trip to Disney has been on the Promise List. I have a conference starting today in St. Augustine and decided to come up a day early with a slight jog inland to Orlando for a Disney Day. I bought a one day park hopper pass and started with an 8 a.m. arrival to Animal Kingdom. Just going through a turnstyle without an issue is a mental relief. Climbing into a ride with a bar or a seatbelt and not giving the slightest, worried thought as to whether I’ll fit is a miracle.

I had a lot of fun. I didn’t do every ride that I wanted but caught different shows and attractions. I managed to hit all four parks at some point. According to my FitBit, I walked more than 14 miles, or 33,000 plus steps. Needless to say I was exhausted by day’s end. I confess that my body was sore and I treated my knee and ankle to an ice pack before going to sleep.

Unfortunately, my eating wasn’t stellar. I received some sad news about a foster dog that I care about while I was eating lunch. I was shocked to see that I’d eaten the entire sandwich completely mindless to what I was consuming. I so need to keep working on this! My mind blanked about my food as I was swept up in the emotion. I ate some other junk later in the day but I have to think that the day-long physical exertion will balance it all out.

Today I’m giving my body a day off to let it recover and I’ve begun the day with a mindfully-eaten, healthy breakfast. There were many yummy, off-plan choices that I could have made, as well as some overly abundant but healthier options. I actually spoke to the servers about the large quantity of food on the offered breakfast platters and asked if we could customize something smaller in portions. To my pleasure, they agreed and worked with me.

So, check Disney off of the Promise List. I’ve shown that I can do theme parks again and am looking forward to returning in the future. Booyah!

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Not a Soap Opera

I’ve watched General Hospital pretty consistently for the last 30 years, or since whenever I got my first VCR and could record it during the day while I was at work. Going on in today’s episode, Bobbie is upset over the disappearance of her daughter Carly, who is in the hands of an insane murderer. Bobbie’s adopted son has just arrived in town to be helpful, but that stresses out Bobbie more because son doesn’t know that his biological father really isn’t dead. Heather, the crazy murderer wants to frame her own son for Carly’s murder and is furious that the cops haven’t fallen inline. That son is himself a serial killer but he committed his crimes because of a brain tumor.

GH puts the drama in daytime drama, don’t you think? I think these shows should make us feel better by comparison. What some people often feel is drama in their lives doesn’t come close to deranged serial killers, fathers back from the dead, and abducted daughters.

Then there’s “reality” television shows. I put that in quotes because they’re aren’t really reality. They’re reality ramped up by many degrees in order to make them more interesting, more “riveting”, often more controversial in order to generate more viewers.

When all is said and done, regardless of the occasional ups and downs, my life is not a soap opera. Most of the time, nothing that happens, nothing I experience should be powerful enough to throw me off stride and off plan. Bottom line, there really isn’t anything that happens to be today that is upsetting enough that I should eat over it. What’s that old saying about Rule #1 is Don’t sweat the small stuff and #2 is that it’s all small stuff?

I like the idea of keeping everything in perspective which means not letting mole hills appear to be mountains. It’s all small stuff.

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Burning the Candle

Quick post from the phone tonight, my friends. I’ve been going non-stop this week. In addition to being plenty busy at work, there were several other responsibilities requiring my time and energy.

When you burn the candle at both ends for too long, the candle isn’t the only thing that burns out. I’m exhausted tonight and have an extra early start tomorrow.

For the sake of my brain cells and body, I’m unplugging and shutting down early to go to bed.

Will be back soon. Big hugs to all.

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Copping Out – But With Cuteness

Everyone, I’m exhausted tonight, so much so that I couldn’t write a coherent post if you paid me. I woke up super early, couldn’t go back to sleep, and didn’t stop moving from the time my feet hit the floor until now. I hope you’ll forgive me if I direct you to some dolphin cuteness. One of the two expectant mothers at the facility where I work gave birth today. Check out photos and a video at the DRC blog by clicking here.

Hope you enjoy!

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The Sleepy Blogger

I honestly didn’t realize that I haven’t blogged since Tuesday.  I know I’ve had a busy week but, yeesh.  That’s bad.  The good news is that I’m really good.  The bad news is that I’m so sleepy that the topic I thought of earlier today has already floated out of my head.   In concentrating, I think it was something to do with being more productive since I lost weight.  How’s that for a contrast?

Yes, I’d like to blog about being more productive, but right now I’m too tired to be productive, let alone blog about it.  *snortle*  That feels ridiculous to me, too.

Please forgive me, but if I try to do the blog tonight, at some point it will devolve into gibberish and I’ll end up with poiuytrewq on my forehead.

Hope you’ve all had a terrific week and that you have fun plans for the weekend.

I promise to blog on productivity tomorrow or Sunday.  Cross my heart!

In the meantime, if you’re so inclined, talk amongst yourselves. :-)

 

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Food Isn’t An Event

I received a long, wonderful, “catch up” email from a dear friend today.  She had weight loss surgery last fall and both knees replaced last month.  We’ve known each other for almost 20 years.  Of all of my friends, she most understands my food issues and struggles with the eating disease.

It was great to hear from her and learn how she’s doing with her recovery and rehab.  I’m so proud of her and excited for her future.  In her email she said something that really got me thinking.  In a nutshell she said that food cannot be her friend and it can’t be an event.   That has stayed with me ever since I read it.  I realize how often I made food an event even though I didn’t realize it.  It wasn’t enough for food to be part of a celebration or holiday.  It often became my focal point.  Sort of like, “Oh, great.  It’s Christmas.  Mom’s making Beef Wellington” or that the whole point of the birthday was the license it gave to eat cake and ice cream.

Those were just the big things.  There have been countless other times when food took on much greater relevance, when it surpassed the event to become the event itself.

It’s sort of a thin tightrope to walk.  Whether it’s a date, or a celebration, we’re big on the practice of marking such things with a fine meal. Whether we prepare it ourselves at home, or go for the entire ritual of dinner out, we give food this powerful quality.   It’s really difficult to sort it out emotionally.  How can I relish the reason for the celebration and make celebrating at all the reward without elevating food and eating to star status for the occasion?

So much of my focus is still on food these days.  In order to successfully proceed with my journey, I honestly need to think a lot about my food, what and how I’m going to eat.  Again, there’s a tightrope — to balance between not making food and eating an event, but giving enough thought and consideration to my planning and the way that I consume.

The pre-planning helps.  I’ve done well with putting together lunch and my snacks the night before.  It’s like once I’m prepared, I can forget about the food.  I don’t have to think about it anymore once everything’s packed up and ready to go.

For the rest of it, I think I need to work even more on the awareness factor.  I love the social aspects of going out with friends or family to eat.  I think it’s okay to roll in enjoyment of a tasty meal that someone else created, as long as that’s not the priority.  So, before I go out, I guess I’ll need to remind myself that the point of the evening is the socializing and company.   Food is the accessory.  An important one, for nutrition’s sake, but an accessory just the same.

There’s more here for me to delve into.  I’m not quite at the root, but it’s a start.  I need to think, consider, and process this some more.

 

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Live Every Moment

A short time ago I received news that a dear friend has cancer. His stomach, liver and lung are involved. Please keep him in your prayers.

I met and became friends with his wife and then him back in 2000. They are the nicest, kindest people. He’s close to 80 but lives a full, active life with Jeep adventures, lots of RV travel, good times with friends and family celebrations.

This diagnosis just sucks.

They’ve been planning to spend the winter in the Keys. I hope and pray that his treatments are effective and they can still come. Even if they can’t come, I pray the treatments work. These are two of my favorite people. The world would be a less happy place for those of us who care about him if things do not go well.

That sounds like I’m making this more about me and his other friends. I don’t mean it to be. It’s really all about him, his battle, and their journey together. I know this and I’m also sad. Can’t help but be.

When I responded to the email that broke the news, I reminded them that we have a date to go fishing on my boat and I’m holding him to it. Until I have reason not to, I believe it will happen.

In the meantime, this is another reminder to live every moment and make life the best it can be.

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