Thursday, July 28, 2011

Birthday Restraint

I just celebrated my 35th birthday.  As always, my husband and I went out to dinner at a popular chain restaurant that serves obscene portions of yummy, bad-for-you food.  In preparation for this night, I was very careful with what I ate all day.  I ate lighter than normal.  I made sure I didn't load up on carbs.  I ate lots of fruits and veggies and mini-meals throughout the day.  I wanted to make sure I had plenty of room for all that food I knew I was going to eat.

I was able to eat a lot of food that night without completely gorging myself.  In the past I have made myself physically ill by eating too much.  I am happy to say that I didn't get to that point.  I didn't eat light by any means and definitely made myself a little uncomfortable with fullness but it passed quickly.  I also brought home enough leftovers for a couple of reasonably sized lunches. 

The big question is why can't I exercise this level of restraint every day? Why can't I spend all day being careful so I don't have to beat myself up if I have two tacos for dinner or a bowl of ice cream for dessert.  The anticipation of a splurge meal gave me more incentive to eat right than anything has in a long time.  I didn't feel hungry or like I was punishing myself. 

When I was on NutriSystem, I was careful to follow the plan throughout the day and at night I ate dinner with my husband.  He was not on NutriSystem so it was a regular dinner.  I tried to eat smaller servings at dinner but it was not an on program meal. I lost 15 pounds doing this. 

I am down 20 lbs from my highest weight but I probably have another 20 to go before I'm healthy.  I am at the weight where I always seem to plateau and then spike back up.  I have been this weight multiple times over the past few years but never for very long.  I am going to do my best to push myself through this wall that I keep hitting and find a new low in my weight loss journey.

I'm hoping my next birthday finds me in an even healthier place. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Zumba Convention 2011

I have written about how Zumba has changed my life and helped me find myself.

In 90 minutes I will head to the airport and fly to my first zumba convention.  Then I will spend the next 5 days with 6000 people who love zumba as much as I do.  I am excited about making new friends and learning new things that I can bring back to my classes.  But I am also very nervous.  There are a few things that I need to keep in mind to make sure that I have a good time:

1. Do not play a role.  It is never a conscious thing but I have a tendency to "act out" when I meet new people.  I am an obnoxious, outgoing person but sometimes it can be over the top.  I don't want to establish myself as the crazy one right off the bat and then spend the rest of the weekend living up to that.  Plus, I'm going to turn a lot of people off if I get out of hand.

2.  Do not compare yourself to other people.  This is the hardest one for me.  There will always be someone who is prettier, funnier, thinner, a better dancer, etc. than I am.  That doesn't mean that I am none of those things.  That doesn't mean that people are looking at me and saying "Oh, she's not as pretty/funny/etc. as this person".  I need to get out of my own head and just relax.  I have lost 20 lbs since I started teaching zumba 7 months ago.  I wear more fitted clothes and sometimes I genuinely love the way I look in the mirror.  I can't let the anxiety of a large group of people take that away from me.

3. Don't let rude/obnoxious people ruin my time.  This is not high school.  I don't have to hang out with people that get on my nerves.  I do not have to gossip about someone who is obviously not making a great impression. 

4.  Also part of the not high school thing- don't give in to peer pressure.  There is always a tendency for hard drinking and partying and overall ridiculous behavior at these sorts of things.  It happens at my corporate functions for my day job so I know it will happen here!  I'm not going to be partying until 2 am just so the youngest/party animal people think I'm cool.  I want to meet people that I have things in common with.  I want to make friends and not just crazy YouTube videos.

5. Make sure I have some me time.  I worry that my friends that I am traveling with might be a little clingy out of nervousness and suffocate me if they don't loosen up once we get there.  I am staying by myself in a different hotel than people I know.  I need to make sure I take the time to write, meditate, walk, and do other non-zumba things that keep me sane.  There will be mostly women at this convention and I have a tendency to tire of women very quickly if I'm not careful.  I need to set myself up to be as successful at being me as possible!

I will try to blog once a day and write in my journal.  I am very excited about this weekend.  I hope this is the first of many zumba conventions and other events that will take me out of my comfort zone (in a good way). 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fireworks and Zoos

Every year at this time I find myself being the grinch of summer.  There are endless invites to fireworks displays and events at the zoo and I always decline.  I do not see holding wild animals in captivity or generating air pollution as acceptable ways to honor nature or celebrate our nation's independence.

Every year my mother always bought the giant fireworks variety pack from our local store.  In Virginia they have what many refer to as the "good fireworks". These are the fireworks that people cross state lines to buy.  These fireworks can also cause significant injury if they malfunction or someone gets too close.  My brother and our friends would sit in the driveway while my mom would set off our own private fireworks display.  All of our neighbors did the same thing.  The next morning our cul-de-sac looked like a war zone with burn marks and used fireworks everywhere.

When I was 15, I went to Washington D.C. to see the fireworks display on the national mall with my friend Laura and her family.   We watched the parade (I'm pretty sure this is when I started hating parades too but that's a different blog), had a picnic and then waited for the fireworks.  This was the biggest fireworks display I had every seen.  Patriotic music blared in time to the fireworks making it quite an impressive production.  There were American flags, "God Bless the USA" spelled out and even a giant bald eagle all with the reflective backdrop of the Potomac River.  It really was quite beautiful.  Throughout the entire display I noticed the giant pink cloud of smoke that was forming.  Before the smoke from one firework dissipated, another firework would go off and add to the cloud.  By the end of the display the sky was an unnatural shade of pink.  The cloud seemed to cover the entire city.  It was disgusting. 

On the drive home I thought about all the fireworks displays taking place in driveways and  in major cities.  I thought of the millions of pink clouds that were forming all over the country on Independence Day.  I wondered how the pollution generated by fireworks affected the environment.  How many days would it take for that pink cloud to go away?  Once the pink cloud disappeared were there secondary effects that we couldn't see?  There were no more fireworks for me after that.

My anti-zoo position took longer to form.  I am an animal lover.  I have always been fascinated by all animals (even the ones that scare me).  I had a membership to the World Wildlife Fund since I was a little kid.  We went to visit their headquarters in northern Virginia every year on a school field trip.  They told us all about the animals that they had saved and the sanctuaries that had been set up for endangered and injured animals.  For a long time I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian because I wanted to save animals for a living. 

We also had an annual field trip to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  I grew up in the time of Ling Ling and Sing Sing, the famous pandas from China.  People from all over the world came to the zoo to see the pandas.  When they had a baby there was a live camera feed so the world could experience the miracle together.  I was very fond of all bears.  My bedroom was full of stuffed polar and panda bears and koalas purchased from the national zoo.  I also loved penguins, giraffes and animals whose names I couldn't pronounce.  Animals from countries and climates that were beyond my imagination. 

As I got older, National Geographic, PBS and Animal Planet added to my love of animals with tons of great articles, documentaries and shows about animals.  A lot of negative stories started to come through about animals abused while in captivity.  About the tactics that some trappers used to catch animals.  About the life of an animal in the circus or at the zoo.  I don't think there was one defining event that ended my love affair with zoos.  It just slowly built up over time and now I can't stand them.

It seemed like when I was younger there were a lot of zoos that acted as animal sanctuaries.  If there was an animal that was injured in the wild it would live in captivity until it was nursed back to health.  The public got a chance to see this animal up close while it healed.  If the animal could be integrated back into the wild, it would be released as soon as it was healthy.  But if that animal could never live a successful life in the wild because of its interaction with humans, then they would create an environmental that was as close to its natural habitat as possible. 

Panda bears are not native to Washington D.C.  Neither are penguins, polar bears, ocelots or most of the animals you will find at the zoo.  The 400-1000 square foot enclosures that they have created for these animals to replicate the hundreds of acres of forest/ocean they are accustomed to is a joke.  It would be like a human being's entire existence being scaled down to a 1 bedroom apartment. 

There are real animal sanctuaries that exist and do fabulous work.  But there don't seem to be school buses of children going to visit those.  There continue to be stories of animals being put down for being to "wild" with their captors.  Of animals abused into performing tricks.  Of shortened life spans caused but the unnatural captive life.  There always stories about the negative effects of holding wild animals in captivity but they rarely get a lot of traction. 

Every year the Syracuse zoo has an event called Brew At the Zoo.  This is a time for adults to come out and get drunk and walk through the zoo and look at the animals.  The Syracuse zoo has received a lot of bad press during the 6 years that I have lived here because of the untimely death of a lot of young animals.  Poor management seems to be the cause of these tragedies but the publication of that information does not seem to affect the popularity of this and other events.  I have been invited by friends and declined with as little political rhetoric as I could muster. 

Yesterday fireworks started in my neighborhood at 2 pm and continued well after midnight.  Tonight there will be giant fireworks displays at all of the local high school and parks.  I will have my radio cranked to drown out the sound of all the explosions and turn my chair away from the window so I don't have to watch the pink cloud form.