Weighty Matters

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Diet Mentality

Last week I had a phone consultation with a nutritionist. I feel like I’m sort of slogging along and not making any progress. I know this woman through other friends in town and know that she’s all about healthy, balanced eating, striving for “clean” foods, respecting our bodies and our metabolisms, etc. The friends who have worked with her on their nutritional programs and weight loss efforts have achieved good results and like what they’re learning from her. After thinking a lot about it, I decided that a consultation was a good idea and a potentially positive step forward.

I’m always leery of tipping over into a diet mentality. For me, I equate “diets” with huge restrictions and that thinking leads to negative feelings of deprivation. The chattering monkeys then hook up with the mind squirrels and I begin to think that I need to hoard food and protect at all costs my need and right to eat whatever I want. Sometimes just thinking about denying myself a certain food triggers my eating disorder.

Devising a healthy food plan with a broader approach calms my mind and buffers me from that diet mentality. Even though I ultimately restrict my food choices, the key is that the action remains a choice and not a demand. I do much better thinking, “Choose to eat more clean, unprocessed foods and emphasize fruit and vegetables over breads, potatoes and other starches” than I do when someone says, “No carbs. Only a little fruit. No more than XX grams of XXXXX or XX grams of XXXXX a day.”

It’s a mental and emotional balancing act, but when I approach it calmly, I reap physical benefits.

I like having a nutritional professional working along with me. You’d think after all this time, I could serve as my own expert, but I’m not. Left to my own devices, I can easily veer off in the wrong direction. I’ve made a lot of progress, true, and I’m much better informed than I was in the past, but there’s more improvement that I can make as I continue to move forward.

The nutritionist and I will speak again this week. She’s working on a plan outline for me. I know that I’m steering clear of the dreaded diet mentality because I’m looking forward to discussing the plan with positive anticipation instead of diet dread.

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Universe is Totally Messing with My Zen

The monkeys are not only chattering this morning, they are relentlessly gabbing up a freaking loud storm. I’ve discovered that it is not a meditative practice to internally yell, “Shut the f**k up already!” at them. Freaking monkeys don’t listen anyway.

Yesterday I attempted to clean my pool filter. This involves undoing the top of the filter canister and lifting a three foot tall, heavy filter straight up and out. I’ve done it before and had no doubt that I could again, except that my hand slipped and when I dropped the filter to avoid getting a broken hand, some internal rod then got wedged between the canister wall and the filter. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t unwedge the damned thing so now the filter is stuck half in/half out.

This morning, I thought I’d shut off the system before the pump began to run. Wrong. It clicked on at the usual time and as I ran through the house to shut it off, water began to gush up out of the filter canister and flood the driveway. I shut off the system again before too many gallons spewed forth and returned to getting ready for work. Ten minutes later, that persistent fricking timer thing turned the system back on. This time I had to run while holding two dogs on leashes, my lunch bag, backpack, a plate of lemon squares and my travel mug of tea. I managed to shut off the system, again with only the waste of a gallon or two of water, and return everything else, including the dogs, to the house. It was like a mechanical vampire or zombie that refused to stay dead.

Not knowing when the pool man planned to stop by the house to fix the filter issue, I needed to make sure the damned system stayed off. When it doubt, experiment. I unscrewed the “On” lever on the timer that starts the system. This enabled me to push the manual lever all of the way to “Off”. I then waited half an hour to make sure it was not only off but staying off. I finally felt at least semi-confident about leaving for work so I regathered the dogs, lunch bag, backpack and lemon bars, took a deep breath and headed off.

Yes, I called the guy working on my house a short time ago just to make sure that the system had not magically risen from its Off state to flood the neighborhood. All appears to be well.

At work I threw myself into some tasks to regain my equilibrium. Nat and Pyxi are with me in the office again today due to the home remodeling project and an afternoon vet appointment for Pyxi’s regular thyroid check. A short time ago, I discovered a strange pink growth on one of Nat’s legs. Argh. More Zen interruption! Called the vet office and the doctor has time to examine him too this afternoon. Breathe, Mary, breathe. Stay in the moment. I was doing better when I grabbed the broom and dustpan to sweep up some dog hair. When I replaced the broom in its customary spot, I walked into a shelf with my eye. Ohmmm became Oh Effing Eff. That hurts!

Fortunately, I didn’t cut my eye. There’s no blood. I can see with that eye. Hopefully, it’s no more than a temporary bruised state. Speaking of other states, I’m not sure what’s talking more loudly to me at the moment – those damn monkeys, or the lemon bars that I brought into the office specifically so I wouldn’t eat them. (I stress-baked yesterday and knew that I had to get the results out of the house or I would gradually consume them all.)

Okay. Deep breath again. Now that I have spewed my stress over the virtual page of the blog, I’m going to work on centering myself once more. It’s a new moment. A right-now-is-all-that-matters moment. Dogs are okay. Pool is not flooding. I am not blinded. I’m good.

Serenity reigns.

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Chattering Monkeys

Chattering Monkeys is a term we use at Tai Chi for the distracting thoughts that assail our minds. As I learned in a book that I recently read, it’s akin to the term monkey mind that Buddhists use. Call the condition what you want, it indicates not being mindful.

I continue in my quest to become more mindful. My priority is to be mindful and aware about my eating habits, specifically my compulsive eating. When I am not vigilant and aware, I eat things that I don’t want, am not hungry for, and that are not on my food plan.

One of the reasons I love practicing Tai Chi is that it is like meditation in motion. I can be totally present in the practice, focusing on the moves, the flow, the actions of my body as I do the moves. There is very little room for stressful or distracting thoughts when I am focused. When I get distracted, I either don’t do the moves correctly or to their fullest extent for the most benefit, or I lose my place and forget what comes after whatever move I just did. So, quieting those chattering monkeys helps, but it takes practice like everyone else.

Knowing how my meditation in motion benefits me, I’ve lately been interested in learning more about sitting meditation. The closest I’ve come to trying it in the past was to do some deep breathing exercises and, honestly, my mind wanders quickly even when I’m trying to rein it in. In thinking about meditation, it feels like it will help improve mindfulness. Improved mindfulness could lead to more control over the impulse to eat food in compulsive ways.

I recently finished a book by ABC news anchor Dan Harris in which he talks about his journey into self-awareness, learning more about mindfulness, and becoming a meditator. The book is called 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — a True Story.

I’m glad I bought the e-book on my Kindle, although I would love to see how they fit that entire title on the spine of the book.

I admired Harris’s candor in writing about his life and career including a couple of panic attacks that he suffered while live on the air on Good Morning America, the coke addiction he developed, and his brutally honest assessment of his own personality, work drive, insecurities, etc. When I say brutally honest, I mean it. He all but says that he tended to be an asshole sometimes. I was surprised to find out the things I did about his life off camera. I’ve watched him do tv news for years and never suspected that he had problems with insecurity, anxiety, stress and other issues.

The long and short of the book is that he looked for answers to his problems, exploring various paths and approaches, including the writings of Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Joseph Goldstein, and others. He ultimately learned that meditation helped him realize all of the things he included in his lengthy book title.

What he experienced in the process resonated with me. Things like responding to situations, not reacting. Taming that voice in my head that triggers poor decisions. And again, the whole idea of mindfulness. This book is my first foray into reading about meditation. I’m going to read more and if any of you are meditators and have suggestions, please share some in comments. In the meantime, I’m working on five minutes a day of simply focusing on my breathing, being in the present, noticing what I’m feeling or hearing and, most importantly, bringing myself back to focus when the chattering monkeys in my head attempt to distract me. Once I can consistently do five minutes, I’ll see if I can extend the time.

In other news, I’ve been away from the blog for awhile, mostly because my living space is in disarray, including my laptop not being set up in its regular position. For several months, I’d planned to get some remodeling work done on my living room/dining room area. I thought it would happen in August, but the guy was available now, so we rushed in and started last week. The dining room walls and ceiling have already been ripped down and rebuilt with new sheet rock, including new insulation where needed. Fast progress. I picked out the trim, crown molding and baseboards I want. I’ve pored over paint options. (OMG, have you ever gone to Houzz.com? It’s like design brain crack! I spent hours looking at room designs until my eyes blurred.)

John just has to prime, paint and do the trim, molding and baseboards and the dining room will be done. Then we’ll rearrange so he can do the other half of the space, which is the living room. It’s a little disruptive but manageable.

I also had an incredibly busy work week. Seems I say that a lot these months. It isn’t super stressful, but there are nights when I just don’t have the brain alertness to blog. On the last blog post I did, I actually fell asleep at the keyboard while writing and typing. When I’m that tired, it’s a challenge to be coherent. Rather than produce drivel, I opted for a few days’ break.

Hopefully my brain will not be as challenged this week. I have some things underway that I think are positive developments and processing them with the blog always helps.

How are all of you?


Looking at Overweight People

I never used to think much about other overweight people. It’s almost like I didn’t really see them. That sounds strange because they were not rendered invisible when I was in their vicinity. Obviously I knew they were present, but my thought patterns might have been absent, or at least turned in another direction. I didn’t see them for them because I was too busy thinking about myself in relation to them.

I know for a fact that I never looked at another heavy woman and thought, “She’d be so pretty if she lost weight.”

Melissa McCarthy has a new movie out so she is all over the entertainment news right now in television and print interviews. She is a beautiful woman. No qualifiers. She’s simply beautiful. Smart and talented too. She’s built a great movie and television career over the years. I wonder if anyone ever looked at her with a sad shake of their head and told her she could be a big star if only she wasn’t heavy. If they did I hope they seasoned those words before they ate them.

I’ve noticed that lately when I see someone who is obese, I experience an almost physical flow of compassion. I get this feeling for them that’s akin to me thinking, “Oh, honey. I know how miserable you are because I was there.” Then, as if that wasn’t enough projection, I follow it up with, “Trust me, life will be so much better if you can find a way.”

It’s presumptuous of me to look at another overweight person and assume that their life isn’t terrific that, in fact, it could be improved. It’s annoying and a titch arrogant to think that they aren’t happy just because I was unhappy deep inside where nobody else could see the hurt and despair I carried around.

Instead of merely witnessing the other person, I internalize the encounter, viewing it through the lens of my experiences.

I’m working to change this. Just because I struggled, and continue to struggle, with self-acceptance, doesn’t mean everybody else does. I don’t want to hang mental labels on others just because that’s what it always felt like people were doing to me.

I just want to experience people as the people that they are where it counts — their personalities, their character, who they are as human beings. I don’t need to assess their health and fitness. If they truly are suffering emotional or spiritual woe, then compassion is appropriate but it shouldn’t be based on assumption. That, I’ve come to realize, is another type of judging. The last thing that I, or any overweight person, needs, is to be judged and suffer from comparison to someone else’s criteria.


Feeling Fit

A couple of friends and I went out on my boat today. Two out of three days on a holiday weekend with boating felt great! The wind was up a bit and the water was a lot more choppy than on Friday but we went out to my favorite snorkeling spot, hooked up to a mooring buoy and jumped in.

Never has exercise been so beautiful. With the choppy swells and the current, I got a workout snorkeling around. I thought more than once how I would never have been able to do this activity as confidently or strongly three years ago. I wouldn’t have had the breath for it, not to mention the muscle strength or endurance. Now, today, the less-than-perfect conditions didn’t keep me from enjoying the lovely, underwater view.

I’m still learning to have confidence in my body. Even though I’m much more agile on my boat and my overall balance is also better, thanks to Tai Chi, I still look to hold onto things to steady myself. I guess it’s okay to err on the side of safety, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to test myself either. Even while I type this, I find I’m qualifying and writing words tinged with self-doubt. Old habits, or in this case old thoughts, die hard. I want those old thoughts to give up the ghost, so to speak, so I’m going to list my physical fitness positives with true statements.

I am strong.
I have stamina.
My balance is steady.
My agility is greatly improved.
My cardio-ability lets me walk/dance/swim without huffing, puffing, losing my breath, or feeling like my heart is pounding.
I move with ease.
Flexible? Yes, I am!
It bears repeating – I am strong.

As simple as it was, that little exercise really helped. I not only feel fit in body, but reminding myself of the improvements helps me feel fit in my mind and spirit, too.

Here are a few of the photos from today’s snorkeling excursion!

Beautiful fish that I believe is a blue tang.

Beautiful fish that I believe is a blue tang.

CP-0706-24 This four eye butterfly fish was a challenge to photograph but cool to see.

CP-0706-13 The grouper did its best to hide.

CP-0706-10 Nurse shark!


Independence Day

Before I go out to join friends for dinner and then we all come back here to watch the city’s fireworks, I wanted to jump on and wish everyone a Happy Independence Day. I’ve had a wonderful day so far. My friends and I were off from work and had planned a couple of weeks ago to go out on my boat today.

I woke up to a perfect morning of sunny skies and a very light breeze. My three friends arrived and we loaded our cooler and snorkel gear onto my boat and headed out. I had a particular spot in mind, located in a marine sanctuary area, and we hoped to get onto a mooring ball. I’ve said before how much pleasure I get out of being on the water and captaining my boat. These particular friends hadn’t been out with me before. One is an experienced boater who goes all of the time with her husband. The other two are infrequently passengers on boats. All of us were game.

Luck and timing were with us. We arrived at the snorkel spot just as one of the commercial snorkel boats ended their morning trip so we latched onto the mooring ball that they gave up. The water was the near perfect temperature with excellent clarity. I think after we first went in we swam around for at least an hour. Good exercise. I’ll post some pictures at the end of this post but we saw colorful fish, beautiful corals and were right over a sea turtle! When we climbed back on board the boat for a snack we saw a dolphin in the distance! (No photos, alas.) After lunch, we jumped back in and snorkeled for about another half an hour.

At one point while I was swimming, I brought myself totally into the moment. I didn’t just look at the beauty around me, I tapped into how I physically felt. I noted the strength of my legs propelling me through the water and how strong I felt swimming event against the tide. I listened to my easy breathing. When it was time to get out, I felt the ease with which I navigated the boat ladder. Even before that, when loading things on, I’d smiled at how I no longer have difficulty climbing in and out of my boat.

This was how I celebrated my personal Independence Day on this 4th of July. I enjoyed my freedom from most of my excess weight and from struggling to do anything the least bit physical. I was free from worry and stress over whether I’d be able to do something – like climb out of the water up the ladder. Free from joint pain.

I was there as an independent woman who didn’t need anyone else to run her boat and take her out to do an activity. Instead, I was the woman who could take her friends out so that all of us could enjoy the time and experience together.

Thanks to my weight loss and increased physical fitness, I am so much healthier and stronger. I am liberated.

Here are some shots from our snorkeling excursion. Beautiful things to see under the sea!


Blue Parrot

Corals on structure

We're still debating whether it was a loggerhead or a hawksbill.  I'm not a good turtle identifier.

We’re still debating whether it was a loggerhead or a hawksbill. I’m not a good turtle identifier.


In Training!

I am officially declaring myself in training. Today I signed up for a FoamGlow 5K event in the Miami area. It takes place at night and participants dress all in white, or in as much white as they want and take to the track. At intervals around the track, they run/walk through Foam Zones where they will be sprayed with brightly colored foam that will show up under the black lights stationed around the track. Glow in the dark fitness experience!

Honestly, it sounds like a big old pile of messy, colorful fun with a dance party after. I can’t wait! Already a group of friends have registered too so we’re participating as a team. I’m sure we’ll come up with a great team name.

This isn’t a big time race. In fact, I don’t think competitors are even timed. That doesn’t matter. I saw another friend post that she was doing this event and it immediately caught my interest. I’m setting a goal for myself to not only participate, but to also do the 5K in a faster time than I did the first one I did last January. (Or was it February?) I wanted to commit to an event and put myself into training for it. I think the motivation will do me good. In fact, this morning when the alarm went off at 6 a.m. and I was tempted to hit the snooze button and sleep a little longer, I sat up and said to myself, “Nope. You’re in training. Get going.”

I rolled out of bed, dressed, leashed Nat and Pyxi and headed out for a good 45 minute walk. We probably did close to two miles. For that distance, 45 minutes is not at all impressive. In my defense, the dogs need to stop, sniff, do their business, stop and sniff some more. It’s not like they’re power-walking with me, you know? They tend to take their time about things unless I regularly urge them along. Still, a brisk almost-two-miles on a warm, humid morning wasn’t bad.

It might sound strange, but the “in training” mindset helps. In taking inventory of my recent efforts, I’ve slacked off a little on my exercise regime. I’m getting myself back on track – by committing to actually get on to a track and walk, jog, dance through blasts of day glo foam. Hey, if it keeps me moving in the next few months when the heat will make it easy for me to be lazy, it’s a win. I think it will also help me if I’m tempted to veer off of my food plan, too. The more weight I lose, the better I’ll feel and the better I’ll be able to move.

That’s the plan anyway. In the meantime, just thinking about doing the event makes me smile. I’m sure it will be epic!


Carb Envy

I have a serious case of carbohydrate envy today. I will stop short of claiming that I am physically jonesing for carbohydrates. There’s enough clarity in my brain to recognize that this is an emotional or mental desire versus a physical craving. Although I am largely having a good day food-wise, I’m just a titch whiny about the fact that eating carbohydrates stalls my progress. Friends on the picnic table outside of my office split a sandwich for lunch. Although my edamame salad and mozzarella cheese lunch was perfectly tasty and even though the soybeans have carbohydrates, I got downright wistful, wishing for a bit of a sammie instead. Last week, I caught the aroma of toasting bread and it sent (scent? ha) the desire for it into my system. I wanted to smell it again, right before crunching into it with a nice bite.

About half an hour ago, someone heated up leftover pizza in the office kitchen. The atmosphere was perfumed with robust garlic. It smelled like garlic bread cooking which, to someone like me who loves garlic and is half-Sicilian, is the equivalent of lighting up a joint in front of a marijuana junkie. How much would I have paid for a thick slice of crusty garlic bread right at that moment? A lot!

I can be such a brat-baby sometimes about this whole eating healthy process. At least I realize it which makes the behavior slightly more tolerable to me. I also keep it to myself most of the time. It’s not like I stomp around the office saying, “I want bread. Whaah! Why can’t I eat an English Muffin? *mumblecussmumble*. It’s not fair that everybody else can eat carbs but I can’t. Whaah. Whaah. Whaah.” No, lucky you, I just wait until I blog about it here.

Look, this too shall pass. I know it. I’m just feeling a little sorry for myself right in the moment. Instead of falling off of the wagon and mugging a tourist for their potato chips, I’m munching on my healthy, non-carb, afternoon snack. I’ll remind myself that I made a positive choice and do my best to kick the carb envy to the curb.

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