Weighty Matters

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Fast Food

I’m old enough to remember when fast food restaurant chains were a novelty instead of a staple in many daily food plans. The first time Mom took us to the first McD’s restaurant to open in our area, we stared through the window at the metal conveyor belt moving out its line of burger patties. The French fries tasted out of this world to our uncultured taste buds.

Little did I know that this experience was the equivalent of drug dealers hanging around schools to seed new users.

Gagillions of calories, fat grams and sodium mgs later, I look at the chains with the same kind of aversion I used to quit smoking. Twenty six and a half years ago when I enrolled in a smoking cessation program they taught us to not just foster a desire to quit, but to also develop a disgust and loathing for cigarettes.

It helps a lot to approach those well-branded, familiar buildings and think, “Ewww gross.” It’s easier for me to support my aversion since the last time I ran into one when I was starving, the plain burger didn’t slide well into my stomach. I had to throw it up. Gross for sure but it strengthened my resolve.

That’s a long way from the days of driving up, placing an order and asking for two sodas so the people would think I was getting a meal for more than just me.

I’m better off not going in at all but finding other choices if I get caught in a situation where I couldn’t travel with my food. As a last resort, there are a few places where I can find food items that will meet my needs, won’t trash my plan, will give me at least something close to quality, and won’t make me feel like hurling after I eat.

Because I don’t usually go into quick serve chains, I only recently discovered that Subway now offers chopped salads. Any meat or meat and cheese combo available in a sandwich can be mixed into a salad made with exactly my choice of veggies. There are also lower fat dressing options.

Tonight was one of those nights. I leave on a business trip tomorrow so there aren’t many fresh food supplies in the house. It was convenient to run into Subway and have them assemble a salad for me. I made good protein and dressing choices over lettuce, raw spinach, onions and peppers. I feel like the end result was a good balance of nutrition and taste.

Granted, I can eat less than half of the total meal, but that’s okay. I can pack the rest into my travel cooler and have it for lunch tomorrow.

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Fat Rights and Airplane Seats

I will be without Internet service at home for awhile.  The modem is shot.  I’m switching Internet and television services to a different provider but with an upcoming business trip and other work responsibilities, the first day I can be at home for a few hours for the tech to come and do the work is a week from Friday.  Last night I dragged out my old 20 foot phone cord and tried to go online the old-fashioned way via a dial-up number on AOL.  The connection is spotty at best.  So, I’ll post when I can during the day and hope you’ll all bear with me.  If anyone send me an email, it might be awhile before I can retrieve it.  I can only do that from the home computer and last night the service was simply too uncooperative.  My apologies!

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is also a travel agent.  She booked my trips to Alaska and Hawaii.  I haven’t seen her in a few months so the weight loss since last time is pretty noticeable.  I remarked on how much more comfortable it is for me to fly and probably more comfortable for whomever sits next to me on the plane too.  This sparked a conversation about overweight people and airplane seats.  You might remember a few  years ago director/writer/actor Kevin Smith was told by Southwest that he needed to buy a second seat.  Other people have been taken off of planes because of their size and, I gather, because a second adjacent seat wasn’t available for them to buy.

This never happened to me but I can safely say that if I had ever been approached by a flight attendant or gate staff for this, I would have absolutely shriveled and died inside from humiliation.  I will say that I have always done what I could to alleviate inconvenience and discomfort for fellow passengers.  I always took an aisle or window seat and squeezed myself over as far as possible from the person in the middle seat, if there was one.  I used to fly one particular airline a lot.  While they didn’t have a first class, they did offer a couple of rows of “big front seats” for extra money and I paid the premium for those.  For my own comfort, if the flight was more than three hours, I also spent more and flew first class.  Still, whenever I was in a Coach seat, I felt bad about the people I might be crowding.

For many years I needed to request a seat belt extender from the flight attendants.  I’d like to thank all of those people who always handled this request with discretion, quietly slipping me the extender once I was seated.  They made it a lot less embarrassing for me than it could have been otherwise.  I appreciate it so much.

My friend asked me how I felt about airlines sometimes asking overweight passengers to purchase a second seat.  There are individuals and organizations who decry this practice as discrimination and proclaim Fat Rights!  Upon very careful consideration, I don’t think this is discriminatory.  If I, or someone else, is too big to fit in a single seat, then I think we should buy two.  My friend and I agreed that the person in the next seat has a right to be comfortable in the whole seat they paid for without someone else’s body overflowing onto them or pressing against them throughout the entire flight.

I believe it would be difficult to establish guidelines, however.  How could staff make the decision as to which person to charge extra?  I don’t think you can go by weight itself.   A person 5’5″ who weighs 250 pounds is going to fit differently than a 6′ tall person of the same weight.  Do they wrap a tape measure around a person’s butt and stomach to determine whether they fit in the seat without overflow?  Do they go by body mass index (BMI)?  That’s a really knotty challenge.

When the situation arises, I believe that airline staff can and should handle the matter with professionalism and discretion.  It’s difficult enough for the overweight person to be singled out.  Regardless of how you feel about obesity and personal responsibility, in the words of Plato, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

What do you think?

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Home Without Internet

Checking in after my whirlwind trip to and from New Hampshire. Sorry in advance that this will be brief but I’m exhausted. The drive home down the Overseas Highway was horrid with often blinding rain. Not having Internet connection at home means I’m typing on my phone. Ok, enough whining.

I had a great time with my brother, sister in law and many of our friends. I did okay food wise, did two treadmill sessions and feel good about myself regarding my whole effort. I’m not perfect but I’m so much better than I was.

I used to take any reason or excuse to overeat or eat poorly. Now I strive for balance. I teeter, sway and sometimes I need to steady myself but I can feel the improvement.

One day, one food choice at a time.

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Sleepy in the Airport

It’s 5:30 am and I’m waiting to board my plane. This is never my best time of day. I got up at 3:30 and, even after a cup of hot tea, I predict I’ll be asleep before the plane lifts off.

Oh how grateful I am that I inherited my dad’s ability to nap anytime, anywhere.

It is more challenging to be food plan vigilant when rushed, stressed, angry, frustrated, harried, or tired. Feel free to throw in any other state of being that I missed. I realized that again on the drive up yesterday when I stopped for hot tea to ward off sleepiness when I still had 90 minutes more to drive. That’s the only reason those couple of munchkins seemed like a good idea.

This morning, food choices were limited. No skim milk was available at the hotel at dark o’clock. Here at the airport there are a few places open, including an espresso bar with trays of ginormous pastries.

I wanted one, believe me. My mouth watered, stomach rumbled, and my eyes probably took on the dreamy gaze of a woman looking at her lover.

I feel pretty damn good that I bypassed the baked goods and chose a low fat yogurt instead. Booyah!

Each bite and every food choice really does matter. Each deviation from the plan delays the attainment of my ultimate goal. If I’m going to veer I want it to be because I made a deliberate, conscious decision to do so and not because I let tiredness or emotion rule.

Have a great day, everyone.

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Food – The Most Abused Anxiety Drug

Today on Facebook, someone I know posted a picture that they picked from some other site.  The picture said, “Food is the most abused anxiety drug.  Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant.”

Friends, I have to say that those two statements really resonate with me.  Can I actually say with any certainty that “most” applies in either case?  No.  I don’t have the data.  In reality, they could be massive generalizations.  However, I absolutely know that this is how I feel about food.  It is my drug of choice for anything — anxiety, stress, fear, sadness, nervousness, you name it.  It’s readily available without a prescription, too.

This is not a new realization.  I’ve understood this about myself for a few decades.  I’m much healthier about it these days, and self-medicate with food a lot less than I used to, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes fall back into using it as my anti-something drug.  (Last night’s popcorn, for example!)

The new realization is the second statement.  I know in the last year, or thereabouts, I’ve come to enjoy exercising.  I’ve embraced a more active lifestyle and can downright revel in the wonder of being able to move with greater ease, power, endurance, strength and flexibility.  I just never thought of it as an antidepressant.  Somewhere along the journey, I’ve begun to be aware of the mood-lifting endorphin affect created by exercise.  I believe I’ve even experienced the occasional Zumba-high.

Reading that sign on Facebook put some pieces together for me.  I’m going to be more aware of how I feel emotionally during and after exercise.  I also want to see if I can work this into an effective tool for myself whenever I feel the urge to reach for the drug to numb the undesirables — the anxiety, stress, fear, and so on.   Think how much better off I would have been yesterday at home if I’d done a walking program for even 15 minutes instead of eating some popcorn.  What if I could teach myself the alternate drug of choice?  I could stand up from my chair and dance in place for even a couple of minutes as a substitute behavior for compulsively eating.

Positive Action Changes Everything (P.A.C.E.).  I really like the idea of not merely focusing on the cessation of the undesirable behavior, but instead redirecting myself to a more desirable action.

Something to work toward, I think.

I’m heading out this weekend for a short trip to attend the wedding of friends.  As of right now, I’m not taking my computer.  I don’t think I’ll go three days without a new blog post, but whatever I write will need to come from my phone which is, thank goodness, fully functional once again.

Who else has plans for Memorial Day Weekend?

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Some Days Just Suck

Today is one of those days.

I can’t go into vivid detail because a lot of the suckitude involves someone else’s business.  Suffice it to say that this person’s situation has triggered a lot of stuff and it fell like I was mired in it all day long.  Tense to the point where I felt like I’d swallowed steel bolts that were jabbing my stomach, I only wanted to come home and chill out for a little while before going to Tai Chi which would, hopefully, help me relax even more.

I fed the dogs, ate a little dinner and fixed a mug of chai tea.  The porch was lovely in the late afternoon with a cool breeze and fresh ocean air.  I breathed deeply, processing out the stress.  Right up until I knocked over the hot mug of tea and spilled most of it on myself.  Luckily, most of it hit and soaked through my denim shorts with only a few light splashes against my skin.  While it still hurt, I didn’t seriously burn myself.  No so luckily, however, some of the liquid — a spare amount — managed to seep into the wrong parts of my iPhone.  It now acts like it’s stuck on mute.  If I make a call, the other person just hears static.

Everything else appears to be find except, you know, the phone features of the freaking phone.  I’m so annoyed.  I’m going to try burying it in a tub of raw rice overnight and see if absorbing the moisture fixes the problem.  If not then I need to find time tomorrow during the day to replace the phone.  I’m going away this weekend and feel like I need to have my communication connection.   Yeah, yeah, I used to travel all of the time without a mobile phone for most of my life, but now I’m used to it.  When traveling alone, I feel like the phone provides me with added security.  Plus, I’m going somewhere that I’ve never been.  Even with a map I have the sense of direction of a stranded clam.  There are good odds that I will get lost at least once while on the road.  It’s practically impossible to find a pay phone, so I feel like lifestyle and technology have put me into the mindset that I need the phone.  If not, I’ll stress about it the whole weekend.

Tai Chi was a welcome break, although I know that I was decidedly short on patience.  Normally, I enjoy being helpful to others, like the beginning students.  Tonight, I really wanted to not answer peoples’ questions, not see that they got their needs met, and just be left alone to practice my Tai Chi.  A co-worker also takes class and in the first five minutes she started to bring up the other situation.  Right then, I took care of myself.  I explained that I didn’t want to be rude but just didn’t want to bring it into the space at that time.  Fortunately, she got it and backed off.  Either that or what I thought was a calm, practical request really came out as a snarl.  Not sure.

In the interest of complete disclosure, I have spent the day wanting to eat anything and everything in sight.  The situation at work, while it is not focused on me, triggers some flashpoints and memories of similar situations in which I was involved over the decades at other places.  It’s really important for me to stay in the present

I wish I could say that I sailed through the day and remained abstinent from compulsive eating but I didn’t.  I stumbled through the day instead.  I was doing okay on my food until I left Tai Chi.  Although I successfully talked myself out of stopping for ice cream on my way home from class, I dove into some microwave popcorn and ate far more than I should have with some melted butter.  I didn’t even really taste it but just kept eating.  I know that behavior.  When I consume anything that frantically, it means that I’m trying to stuff down and control my emotions, mostly because I’m feeling like I have an emotional pinball game operating inside.

It’s 10 p.m. now and I’m exhausted.  Earlier I thought about taking a bath, but then remembered that I can’t talk on the phone.  Given my topic of a couple days ago,  I started worrying about how I’d get help if I slipped and fell in the bathroom without a fully functional phone.

That’s not good.  It is not healthy to let an outside situation upset me to such a degree anyway, and then to wrap it into the decision to not do something that I know will help me to feel better is ridiculous.

I’ve now changed my mind and am heading for the bathtub.  I’ll be super careful with my footing and still take the phone with me.  If some freak mishap occurs, at least I can text or email for help.

I can’t control the outside forces.  Instead, I need to work with what is within my control — my reaction to the forces and how much I let the reactions impact my self-care and recovery.  Regardless of what’s happened in the last 11 or so hours, for my own well being, I need to finish up this sucky day on a positive note.

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Alone and Becoming Older

A friend is going through a rough time right now.  She’s suffering vertigo, her balance is horrible and she’s falling a lot.  Last week she tripped on a cord at work and her balance and reaction time were so off she couldn’t break her fall.  She slammed down hard on her knee.  Four days later it’s still swollen and she can’t bear to put weight on that leg.  She had an appointment with a doctor today so another coworker/friend and I went to help.  A good thing that we did because, even with crutches, she couldn’t have made it and she definitely shouldn’t drive.

This friend is a couple of years older than I am and lives alone, except for her two small dogs and a number of indoor and outdoor cats.  She has no blood family in the area, but our work family is strong.

Her situation taps into a significant concern.   I never really admitted this to anyone, and barely could stand thinking about it myself, but as my weight increased and it became ever more difficult for me to move and do things, I began to worry more about living on my own.  What if I really got sick or fell in my house?  What if I got injured somewhere else and was hurt badly enough that it affected my mobility?  How would I get around?  Who would help?  What would I do?  I’m an independent, self-reliant woman and the thought of anything making me less independent and self-reliant, scared the crap out of me.  It made me feel insecure and that is a horrible feeling when you’re single and in your 50s.

I used to have horrible visions of slipping and falling in the shower, hurting myself in some way that made it impossible for me to get up or even reach a towel to cover myself.  I knew that coworkers would be concerned if I didn’t show up as expected in the office and they’d either come to find me or send emergency teams.  I hated the very thought of being discovered in so helpless a scenario with the added humiliation of being naked.

I’m really fortunate to work where I do because we honestly do look out for each other.  Back in 2006 I had a health scare and wound up in the hospital for a few days.  My boss showed up at the hospital within mere minutes of my getting admitted.  I called a co-worker and immediately arrangements were made for her granddaughter to dog sit.  In 2007 when I needed to have my gall bladder out suddenly, as soon as I was in recovery, my boss showed up again and informed me that she and her husband would pick me up the next day when I was discharged and that she was spending the night.  No arguing.  Last fall, she injured her back.  I spent the night at her place in case she needed help.  That’s how we roll where I work.  So, when I’m not scaring myself with “what ifs”, I can logically look at possibilities and know that I’m not truly alone just because I don’t share my home with any other human.

I do, however, think sometimes about my retirement.  When I’m in my 70s, will I still live in my house in the Keys or will my need for security compel me to move back to the Northeast, closer to family?  Should I plan now to find a really great senior citizen condo complex that also has some degree of assisted living?  Financially, will I be able to, instead, pay for someone who can come in and help me maintain my independence, like my elderly neighbor next door did for several years?

Honestly, I don’t obsessively worry about these things.  I think it’s smart to think about the future and consider options.  I also think it’s smart to be cautious about what I do at home when I’m alone.  You won’t catch me trying to climb up on the roof, that’s for sure.  If I go up on a step ladder, I make sure that the ladder is secure and that I brace myself, don’t over reach, and don’t take unnecessary chances.  I also always keep my cell phone within reach.  I figure that way if I do happen to trip and fall, I can always call for help.

Earlier this year when I had to replace my front door knob and lock, I picked a keypad.  At the time, I just thought it would be super convenient for those rare times when I can’t get home at a reasonable time and might need to call a friend to come over and let out the dogs.  I can just give them the code instead of having to leave a key outside.  It also means that I don’t need to carry my house key with me when I go out on the boat.  Now I realize that, if I have an in-home accident, the keypad means that rescuers will be able to get in the house to assist me without having to break down the door or crash through a window.

Getting older isn’t for sissies, I’ve decided.  I’m grateful that I’m heading toward 60 in much better shape than I was.  I’m stronger with improved balance.   If the worst case scenario happens and I do happen to fall in the shower, at least it won’t take two or three strapping men to lift me onto the stretcher.  I might not know what I’m going to do 15 0r 20 years from now, but at least I can think about options.  Most importantly, I need to keep taking good care of myself today.

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DIY Wild Hair

Every once in awhile I get a wild hair to take on some do it yourself (do it myself?) project around the house.   For some reason, these often involve furniture, either assembling a new piece or redoing something old to give it a fresh look.  Hand to God, I always have the best of intentions and I swear that I’m careful, but there have been many times when I’ve finished up with some bruises, scrapes and cuts.

I’m not the handiest person and, frankly, a project probably takes me twice or three times as long as someone else that actually knows what he or she is doing.  I blame my father.   He didn’t exactly have the fix-it gene either.  His father, however, was a wizard at making, fixing, creating and constructing.  Grampa had a sixth grade education but his knowledge knew no bounds.  He’d sketch out an idea, take a few measurements, go to work and, presto, a new object would exist where previously there were just pieces of wood and some hardware.  He could also dress out and butcher a deer, make sausages, fix a car and do any one of a few hundred other things.  Daddy, not so much.  I asked him once why he became a doctor and he said he’d known he’d never be able to make a living with his hands.

He was half-kidding.  Dad actually was great with his hands and was a terrific surgeon.  That same kind of precision also made him a champion tier of knots on boat lines or fishing lures.   What he took on, he excelled at, and he was smart enough to know his capabilities and strengths.

I’m really good at needlework.  Not sewing, but things like needlepoint, counted cross stitch, and sequinning.  Good eyes, with corrective glasses or contacts at least, and manual dexterity help me produce truly beautiful things.  Here are two examples.  I did the Serenity Prayer in counted cross scene.  The beach scene is a needlepoint piece.

 

Serenity prayer in counted cross stitch

Beach scene in needlepoint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I trade in a needle for power tools, a paintbrush or even an Allen wrench, well, bad things can happen.

Still, sometimes I get an idea or a yen in my head and nothing will do but that I tackle the project.  I’m sure that has something to do with my compulsive personality.  The thing is, no matter how much energy and good intention I begin with, midway through I begin to regret it.

I have to say that being super obese never made these things easier.  It was harder for me to tote things.  My muscles would ache after continued movement.  I’d feel strain and burn in my back from bending.  I’d get short of breath.  Every project took even longer, not only because I was inept inexperienced, but also because I’d have to take frequent breaks and rest.   Only sheer stubbornness and refusal to quit until finished would get me through to completion.  Even then, I’m sure the quality of the work suffered as the need to finish began to outweigh the need to do it perfectly.

Hmmm.  I wonder if there’s another correlation.  Needlework is done with one’s butt planted in a chair.   Laziness, compensation, or something else?  Okay, I’ll accept that it’s not a high energy craft, but I honestly do enjoy it!

So, back to the DIY discussion.  Last week I read an article about sprucing up your outdoor furniture.  Like a seed planted in a fertile field, a thought took root about the pair of Adirondack-style chairs out in my yard.  I assembled them myself a couple of years ago, and had the black and blue marks to prove it, and they’ve sat outside ever since.  Florida climate with the heat, sun and salt water is tough on furniture and, although these structurally held up, they’ve been looking sort of shabby and weathered.  After reading the article, I immediately new that I could paint them and give them spanking new beauty.

That idea stayed with me for days and yesterday I trucked right on down to the home improvement store for paint, a drop cloth and sandpaper.  While there I remembered the concrete planter outside my front door that really needed freshening, too.  It wouldn’t take a gallon of concrete paint, but the saleswoman swore that this special outside spray paint would do the job.   In for a penny and all that, I added a can to my supplies.

Note to self:  Don’t spray paint something if there’s the slightest breeze.  Bad things happen.  Let’s just say that there’s a border of blue on the concrete driveway around the planter too.  No worries.  Sometime this year I’m getting the house and driveway painted.  I can live with my mishap until then.

I won’t bore you with the blow by blow of cleaning, sanding and painting the chairs except to say that when I was three-quarters of the way done with the first chair I had an epiphany.  Yes, my excess weight made every previous DIY project like this even more difficult to accomplish but the bottom line is, I really don’t love doing this work.  Some people thrive on tackling these and even more complicated jobs.  (Jenny Crusie come to mind, anyone?)  I now realize that I like the results but would be more than happy to skip the labor.  DIY is simply not my thing.  I am, however, pleased that I completed this job without suffering any injury and my muscles aren’t killing me even though I put in several hours between yesterday and today.

I now have two Adirondack chairs painted Purple Paradise.  They’re done and done well — mostly.  If they have a head start on the slightly weathered shabby-chic look in small spots, who cares?  I’m the one who sits in them the vast majority of the time.  If it doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t matter.

Here’s the before and after:

Adirondack chair before painting

Adirondack chair before painting

Chair Two

Adirondack chair now painted Purple Paradise

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Balancing Act

Hey, this is the 350th post on Weighty Matters!  I’ll blow a virtual noisemaker and toss a few streamers.  Thanks for being part of the blog.

This week I keep thinking that so much of life and successful effort depends on how well we keep ourselves and our lives in balance.   For those of us old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan Show, they used to feature an act where a guy had a bunch of plates spinning on wobbly poles.  While frantic music played, the man ran from pole to pole, keeping the plates spinning so that they didn’t fall off and crash on the floor.  I can relate.  There are days when it just feels like I have too many damn plates spinning and I’m charging around trying my best to give each plate enough attention to keep it up so it doesn’t shatter.

Right now I’m finishing up a morning protein smoothie (pineapple, green apple, kale, coconut water and protein powder) and getting ready for my Saturday  morning Tai Chi class so it sort of synchs.  My food plan requires a careful balance of protein, veggies, fruit, carbs and even some fat.   I have a job that means I spend a significant part of my day at my desk.  I need to balance that with a good amount of exercise.

Tai Chi, with its slow, methodical movements is a terrific way to improve balance.   When you watch it being done, the moves flow and seem easy, but believe me the art takes real effort.   Over the last 16 months, my balance has definitely gotten better and it’s a constant transition.  As my body reduces in weight and size, my balance points shift so I’m continually readjusting.  I like feeling in control of my motions and establishing my own balance.

Then there’s the whole emotional and mental need for balance.   Over the last month, as you know from my frequently mentioning it on the blog, I’ve been in the middle of a boatload of stressful stuff.  Too much stress is bad for our health.  I’ve really had to work hard for balance in this area too.  I’ve developed some methods and used different tools.  For example, I set my phone to Do Not Disturb when I go to bed.  It can still function as my alarm clock, but I don’t hear email notifications or text message tones when I’m sleeping.  If something comes up in one of the situations, I sit and breathe through it instead of immediately reacting.  This is something that I think of as Dialing Back the Drama.

I also make the time to do things that I enjoy and build in “me time” so that I can restore my emotional and mental equilibrium.

I don’t like teetering on a high wire so shoring up my foundations is the equivalent of making sure that I have a safety net beneath me so that, if I lose my balance, I won’t fall splat on the ground.  I can hit the net and bounce back up onto my feet, then climb back up to the high point, regain my balance and continue to move forward.

Today’s going to be the kind of day that originally had the potential to get out of whack, but I saw that coming and took action.  There are some things that I need to do and time I must devote to other responsibilities.  I’m okay with that happenings since it’s all part of a well-rounded life.  However, I also have plans for myself.  Tai Chi in the morning is for me.  Later on today, I have a DIY project that I want to do after I take care of something for work and for one of my other involvements.  Looking ahead to the day, I believe I have things in good balance.  Just knowing this settles me into a good emotional place.  I’m starting out the day with a smile and positive attitude, ready to enjoy it all.

I wish you all a happy day, in balance, with a good shot of “you” time included.  Enjoy!

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Yoda, English Cocker Spaniels and Me

Much wisdom to be gained by a 900 year old fuzzy little green Jedi master.  When Luke Skywalker tells Master Yoda that he’ll try, Yoda responds, “Do or Do Not.  There is no try.”  I suspect that George Lucas might have spent some time in est seminars.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the past few weeks with the many stressful situations I’ve faced, and how hard I’ve worked to not eat over the stress.  Sometimes it’s almost a mantra in my head, “Don’t eat, don’t eat, don’t eat” as I am determined to get through the situations without falling back on the old coping mechanism of compulsive eating or overeating.  In another, completely different area of life, I was explaining to a good friend about teaching my dogs the behavior of “Leave It”.  When I first got Pyxi, she would repeat certain negative behaviors when bored and seeking attention.  For example, she’d plop herself down by one particular rug and attack the corner.  I was forever telling her, “No, Pyxi” and getting up from my chair.  She’d stop for a few minutes and then go right back to the behavior.  It wasn’t until I learned  the concept of “Leave It” that we were able to correct this behavior.

We began with bits of a treat placed in front of her.  If she went for it, I gently guided her nose away and said, in an upbeat voice, “Leave it!”   Then I’d give her a treat from my other hand.  She caught on quickly that if she stopped doing whatever it was she was doing at the time that I said, “Leave it”, she’d receive the positive reinforcement of a “Good girl!” and a treat.  Before long, I could ask her to “Leave it” in a variety of situations and she’d stop immediately.  Why does this work?  Instead of only receiving negatives in “No, no, no” that offered no positive reinforcement, she could do something, i.e. choose to stop a behavior, and be rewarded in a way that made her happy.

You might ask how I am now connecting the dots between an old fuzzy Jedi, an English Cocker Spaniel, and a woman with an eating disorder.  Trust me, it isn’t easy, but I do indeed have a connection.  🙂

At any moment in my life I can be faced with a situation where I want to compulsively eat.  At that point, trying not to does not accomplish anything.  Like Yoda points out to Luke, the choice is either do or do not.  In my case that would be compulsively eat or do not compulsively eat.

When I attempt to prevent compulsive eating by telling myself don’t eat don’t eat don’t eat,  I’m focused on the negative — much like Pyxi not understanding the goal of ceasing the undesirable behavior when all she hears is “No” without an instruction on what she’s actually supposed to do to achieve a positive outcome.

Recently I realized that I need to establish my own, personal “Leave it” reward.  Yes, maintaining abstinence from the compulsive behavior is a reward in itself, but I want to focus on a positive alternative so that “Do not eat” becomes “Do this (whatever this is) instead of eating”.  I’m not sure what to substitute.  Smile, whistle a happy tune, sip water or tea, or what, but I need to define some other action.  This will get the struggle out of my head and into a behavior pattern.  I believe this will be effective and more helpful in the long run.

Long term success is the name of the game.

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