Saturday, December 20, 2014

Reality Bites

About a year and a half ago I cut back on the dairy and gluten in my diet at the recommendation of a naturopath.  She looked at my medical history and my list of symptoms and said that inflammation was at the root of all my problems and that both dairy and gluten could contribute to that.  

As a general rule in the south you have a biscuit with most meals.  Even if you already have potatoes, rice, pizza, etc on your plate you should also have a couple pieces of bread.  Since both my husband and I are from the south we have proudly continued this tradition.  My inner voice screamed no when I thought about given up all my favorites.  But I was desperate for relief and tired of traditional doctors telling me that I had a number of "syndromes" which may or may not be responsive to medication (in my case no medications have been useful to date).  So I jumped into the gluten and dairy free pool with both feet.  

I rarely do anything in moderation.  The moment I hear about a new fitness craze, shoe, diet book, fashion trend, artist I immediately sign up for or buy everything that I can.  My diet no different.  So I bring a box of food to the break room at work so that I don't have the temptation in my house.  I spend $250 at the whole foods store and create a binder of limited ingredient recipes that will keep my foodie heart happy.  

I didn't want it to work but it did.  I felt better.  I slept better.  My bathroom trips were better and less frequent.  All of my syndromes improved.  I was ecstatic.  I told everyone I knew that I was on a limited ingredient diet.  I started frequenting the restaurants that could accommodate my new lifestyle.  

After about 2 months I plateaued.  My syndromes were taking over again.  I was frustrated.  So I did what any irrational, overreacting person would do.  I started bringing all the crap back in my diet. 

I had never gone 100% gluten/dairy free.  I had settled on a place where about 60-75% of what I ate was on my diet.  But once I stopped feeling good I stopped monitoring what I ate.  I stopped trying.  Of course then I had to tell everyone that I had only had moderate success with my limited ingredient diet so I was going back to my old ways.  

A rational person would have visited their medical doctor and tried some of those prescriptions again to see if they worked better when combined with a limited ingredient diet.  Or maybe follow up with the naturopath to see if there were supplements or additional changes that she recommended.  Hell, maybe even checked out an online community and checked for tips from other folks suffering from the same problems.    

Fast forward to a few months later.  My husband and I went on a trip to a bed and breakfast in Vermont.  The trip was amazing.  It was a foodie's dream vacation.  Amazing dishes that felt indulgent and healthy at the same time.  The chef at the bed and breakfast made all of her food from locally sourced ingredients.  Most of the restaurants that we visited did the same.  I was eating gluten free without effort because it was everywhere.  There were no dairy free options in Vermont but there was an amazing selection of organic/raw options.  So of course you know what happened:  I felt better.  I slept better. My bathroom trips were better and less frequent.

So here I am again.  With a pantry full of selections from the whole foods store and my trusty recipe binder dusted off.  Just in time for Christmas and the New Year I am getting back on the wagon.  Not everyone quits smoking the first time but eventually it usually takes.  So here goes nothing.  


Monday, October 20, 2014

Moving to a Better Me

Today after 10 years in the suburbs we are packing up and moving to the country.  Not off-the-grid, banjo playing country.   But 5 acres of land, private driveway and rural post office route country. 

This is the beginning of a new chapter for my hubby and I.  This is the first house that we have bought together (he moved into my place before).  We are a moving to a new town that neither of us have ever lived in.  

The beauty of moving is leaving behind all the crap from this house.  The bad neighbors.  The annoying traffic.  The unruly kids.  The loose dogs.  

But maybe it can be a chance to leave behind some other unwanted baggage as well.  The unhealthy attitude. The inconsistent exercise and diet.  

Maybe it's a good time to welcome in some new habits.  Better dog training.  Better communication.  Following through on projects.  Planning better.  

Maybe I can stop beating myself up for the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past and focus on the potential for the future.  No, I don't think this move is a magic bullet but I work better with goals and plans and this move seems to be the perfect opportunity to reset myself.  

My husband has acknowledged that he needs a reset as well so we're in this together.  This new chapter will undoubtedly be better than the last.  The new me won't be all that different from the old me.  I think she will just live up to the person that she wants to be and like herself a little more.   

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Spanking vs. Beating

 Every summer when school let out, my parents dropped me off to spend the summer with my grandmother and extended family.  I loved the summers with my grandmother.  We did something different every day and my parents, babysitters and brother weren't around to bother me.  

Both of my parents believed in spanking as a form of discipline.  They both had abusive, alcoholic fathers who had disciplined them.  They hated their fathers and were estranged from them.  But, like their fathers, they often went to far with discipline and spankings quickly turned to beatings.  

Our two primary babysitters were also very abusive.  The private school we attended was authorized to spank us.  It seemed like everywhere we went some adult had the right to beat us and we just had to take it.  I don't know what it was like in other places but this was the norm in the south in the 70's and 80's.  

These summers with my grandmother were a welcome relief from being beaten.  She spanked me on occasion but not with the frequency or intensity of my parents or sitters.  When my grandmother spanked me I knew it was in response to something I did wrong.  At home it was generally because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and they needed someone to let out their frustrations on.  

My extended family also believed in spanking.  I frequently witnessed my cousins getting beaten with a switch.  These beatings were painful to watch but I knew from my home life that I should keep my distance.  My mother would often lose control when beating my brother and start hitting me as well because I was in the same room.  

Most beatings left bruises.  Occasionally there was blood if the skin was broken.  Wooden spoons, leather belts with metal buckles and switches each had the potential to break the skin.  No one ever told them what they were doing was abuse.  My brother and I frequently threatened to call child protective services on my mother but we never did.  She knew they were idol threats and had no reason to do anything different. 

No one at school every questioned the bruises and we never went to a teacher or other adult for help. We thought this was how all parents treated their children.  Most of our friends were covered in bruises and scars just from rough housing and being kids.  I'm sure if we had black eyes or burn marks an adult would have stepped in but I'm not sure.   

The Adrian Peterson story is shocking to the public because there are pictures of a 4 year old with bruises.  The use of a switch to beat the child seemed barbaric to many people.  Peterson's only defense is that this was how he was disciplined and he saw no reason not to discipline his child in the same way. 

I have vivid memories of being beaten from the time I was 3 years old.  I didn't start to forgive my mother until I was well into my 20's.  I still resented my father when he died.  

One of my babysitters died from cancer 10 years ago.  Even though I had not seen her for many years I felt a strange sense of relief after she died.  

A couple of my cousins have been arrested for assault.  My brother has struggled with controlling his temper and has been arrested as well.  For a number of years he was medicated but he has learned to control his anger as he has gotten older.  He works in a very physical job which helps him relax.   

I often find myself so angry that I feel like my entire body is going to explode.  Exercise is generally my refuge.  After a good workout my anger subsides.  But there are still times when I think extremely violent thoughts.  I am proud of myself for being strong enough to never act on these thoughts but the fact that I have them concerns me.  I wish my parents had given me other tools to deal with conflict.  I wish my first instinct wasn't to fight.  

Maybe other people will see themselves in Adrian Peterson.  Maybe they will recognize that what they are doing is abuse and seek help.  Maybe they will learn how to discipline their children without violence.  Maybe some other little girl in the south won't grow up resenting her parents and terrified of having children of her own and continuing the cycle of abuse.  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Relationship with Food

I have always had an unhealthy relationship with food.  I use it as a reward after a long workout or a hard day.  I use it as a crutch when I'm in a situation that makes me nervous.  I eat when I'm bored.  I eat when I'm sad.  I eat when I'm happy.  I'm definitely an emotional eater. 

Due to potential allergic reactions, I've been forced to clean up my diet over the past year.  Dairy and gluten are a much smaller part of my diet than they used to be.  I eat more veggies and less sweets.  I still allow myself indulgences but nothing like how I used to eat.  I definitely feel better when I eat better. 

I still have moments of weakness when I'm craving the really bad stuff that I used to eat.  I eat it and within minutes I start to feel sick.  My body is getting used to the healthier choices.  It is not taking the bad food.  

I'd love to say that the solution is curing my unhealthy relationship with food but I don't think that is realistic.  I think that I need to find new indulgences that aren't going to make me sick.  I'm never going to sit down with a bag of carrots and hummus instead of a bowl of ice cream but there has to be something in the middle.  

I recently met someone who lost half of herself on Weight Watchers.  She used to be 300+ lbs and is now a very trim 150 lbs.  When we go out to dinner she is extremely disciplined.  She never gets the items with heavy sauce.  Nothing fried.  No desserts.  I asked her what her food indulgences were.  She said that she craved nuts.  That in uncontrollable moments she could eat an entire jar of peanuts.  I looked at her like she was crazy.  She talked about peanuts like I talk about ice cream and Chinese buffet.  

Clearly that wasn't her splurge when she weighed 300 lbs.  How did she make that switch?  How come people have to become morbidly obese to make major life changes that stick?  Why can't those of us who need to drop 30 lbs go through the same transformation?

When I'm craving something bad I need to remember how I feel now.  Dizzy, noxious, bloated, tired, etc.  I need to remind myself that no piece of pizza is worth being sick for the next 12 hours.  That a long workout might burn 2000+ calories but that doesn't give me an excuse to indulge in double that afterwards.  Sigh.  I might have just eaten my last egg roll.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Life Change

I have known that it was time for a career change for a while now.  I don't have any passion for my job any more.  What my job used to be and what I thought it could become are no longer possibilities.  If it weren't for fitness I think I would have quit years ago.  Teaching fitness has feed my soul and kept me from losing my mind.  After a miserable day at work all I want to do is eat a pint of ice cream and watch reality TV.  But I can't because there is a group of people depending on me to give them a good workout. 

So I drag my cranky ass to the gym.  Sometimes I have a sour look on my face when I walk in the door because I'm still thinking about my work day.  But once I see one of my students it erases all the crap from the day.  And once the class gets going and the music is pumping and I'm starting to sweat it's like the rest of the day never happened.  It is an amazing feeling. 

Am I person who enjoys being the center of attention? Absolutely, if it's for the right reason.  I don't want to be on the Jumbotron at a sporting event.  I would hate for someone to throw me a surprise party.  I can't think of anything worse than being on any of the shows that I love to watch (What Not to Wear, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Dog Whisperer, House Hunters, etc).  I love to watch reality TV.  I would hate to be a part of it.  I hate having people in my personal space if I didn't invite them there. 

I have always been an overachiever.  Professionally, I have been successful at most things that I have attempted.  These achievements have earned me recognition that I enjoy receiving.  I love tackling difficult problems.  I love picking things apart and discovering issues that some one else overlooked.  I thrive on finding new and innovative ways to solve old problems.  This is at it's core what an engineer is to me.  A problem solver.  An innovator. 

Unfortunately many large corporations employ engineers as people managers, legal consultants, real estate advisers, community liaisons and a number of other unsavory tasks that don't require engineering skills.  I'm okay with these tasks being a component of my job as long but they have become 90% of what I do on a daily basis.  Many engineers are okay with this.  As they move deeper into their careers they no longer want to deal with the daily grind of site management and problem solving.  They like being in the office and dealing with the business side of things.  In my 14 year professional career it seems that this transition is expected if you work for large corporations as I have.

I started my new job search 2 weeks ago.  I have been searching for engineering/project management jobs.  Demanding, high pressure jobs that are commensurate with my experience.  Jobs where a lot will be expected of me.  As I look over my resume and the jobs that I think I am qualified for I don't think it will be difficult for me to a find another job that is similar to the one that I have now. But do I really want that job?  Do I want to go down that path again if I know where it's likely to end up?

When I was in college I was at my happiest.  I had a full course load, did a lot of volunteer work, had an awesome social life and participated in numerous extracurricular activities.  I was very busy but I was never bored.  When I got my first engineering job it was difficult to maintain all of my hobbies and still work full time.  Slowly, as the demands from work increased, my extracurricular activities decreased.  Add in a few pets and a husband and it's nearly impossible to manage everything without major sacrifices in some, if not all, areas. 

I have been teaching fitness for 4 years.  I teach an average of 10 hours a week but those 10 hours of teaching equal about 20 hours of preparation.  It is a part time job.  Even though it is fun it requires a lot of work.  When I think back to when I first started my engineering career I was working long hours.  60+ hours a week for several weeks at a time.  If I'm going into another situation where I'm expected to be a problem solver, this initial time commitment will be a must.  I have no desire to go through that again at this stage in my life.  My fitness and my family are too important to me. 

It struck me that what I need is a part-time job.  A job where I can have the flexibility to teach fitness classes on the side.  A job with a social component to it but not one where I am spending 40 hours a week in an office with a bunch of people.  I recognize that even though I may be solving problems, I probably won't be a senior member on staff.  I will not be in the spotlight.  But I'm in the spotlight with fitness and maybe that's enough.

To have the time to dedicate to my hobbies.  To not have to carry my cell phone at all times just in case there is an emergency and I'm needed.  To stop checking my e-mails once I sign off for the day.  To truly put in my hours and then leave work at work. 

Assuming my ego can handle me being just another member of the team, can it handle me making significantly less money?  As my husband moves into a position in his career where he is the go to person.  The person who has to check his phone at all times.  The person who can't leave work at work.  The guy in the spotlight.  His salary has increased dramatically during this time.  I still make more money than him but I don't think that would be true for very long.  Maybe it's time to let him take the lead financially.  He is only 2 years into his career.  I am 14 years into mine.  He made a career change 2 years ago to do something that he loved. I need to do the same thing. 

Recently my husband and I have clashed over his lack of contribution to the household.  The maintenance of the house, meals, shopping, the pets, projects, setting up appointments, etc are all my responsibility.  I have always taken the lead with things but he used to be around more to offer assistance and appreciation.  At this point it seems like there is the assumption that I will handle everything.  That I am the housewife.  Maybe that's okay.

If no one is making huge demands on me at work I don't know if I would mind this transition.  I enjoy being the "house manager".  I take pride in all of the things that I do with the house and the pets.  I like taking care of my man.  Maybe that's an old fashioned way to think of things but it's absolutely how I feel. 

So I need to start looking for part time jobs.  Financially, we will probably have to go through a period where I'm working 2 jobs so we can pay down debt and set up a nice emergency fund.  So that my husband can take over the role of primary bread winner and I can find a new career path that will make me happy.  Somehow just acknowledging that this is the change that needs to happen makes me feel better.  I'm ready. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Positive Dog Training

Like every dog owner I know, I have had moments where I get extremely frustrated with my dogs.  Even though I know that being positive is the best way to get results I have yanked a leash or yelled at my dogs during tense moments.  Not too long ago it felt like there were more tense moments than happy ones so my husband and I sought help from the professionals.

First we contacted a local dog training company that came highly recommended.  Two trainers came out to our house and observed our reactive dogs and recommended cages and pills right off the bat.  I understand that these are tools that might be necessary.  But to recommend these tools before trying anything else, was extremely troublesome to my husband and I.   They didn't ask us how much exercise our dogs received.  We didn't go for a walk or do any obedience.  Yes, my dogs are highly reactive but I have seen worse.  I thought were were going to come away with a plan of action but instead we were even more frustrated and out $180.

I consider myself a pretty experienced dog owner.  I grew up with dogs.  I have volunteered with animal rescue.  I have read more books and articles about dogs than may seem normal.  Not to mention my years of watching The Dog Whisperer, It's Me or the Dog, Animal Cops and just about every other show or documentary involving dogs.  People come to me with their dog problems and I can usually give them solutions.  But I cannot control my own dogs and that is something that I am not proud of.

After our negative training experience, we gave up for a few months.  We just accepted that we were the house with the bad dogs.  The dogs that bark maniacally at every noise, shadow, mammal that comes any where near them.  The dogs who bark at the UPS guy even when he's not at your house.  

After a few months of this we contacted a new dog trainer that we saw advertised in the local paper.  He promised quick results for even the most reactive dogs.  We went in for our free consultation with our dogs, hopeful but skeptical that he could help us.  He explained to us that they used training collars to reinforce verbal commands.  So that when you say sit, you hit the button and the dog receives a physical correction to go along with the verbal one. 

Neither my husband nor I are advocates of training collars but we had to admit that it made sense.  The dogs were extremely responsive to these collars during our one on one sessions with him.  We could achieve results on fairly low settings and were able to be in a room with 2 other dogs without constant barking.

When we were back at home we found that we had to put the collars on higher settings to achieve similar results.   Walking around the neighborhood still presented a challenge.  Everything that passed them warranted barking and lunging.  The worst incident occurred when we passed a family riding bikes while their dog ran beside them.  I had to turn the collar up to it's max level to get my one dog to respond.  He yelped and whimpered as I continued to pull him away from the family while giving him corrections.  My other dog continued to bark and lunge at the family despite being shocked at the highest level. 

When we expressed our concerns that the shock was actually sending a negative message to the dogs the trainer disagreed.  He indicated that the dog yelped out of frustration not out of pain.  He said the dogs would become less reactive with repetition of the training over time.  There was no way I ever wanted to repeat this incident and I could tell by my dogs' body language that the collars were having a negative affect on them.

When we attended group training classes with our dogs it was obvious that the trainer was very knowledgeable about the collar but not very knowledgeable about dogs.  None of the standard animal behavior and training methods were ever discussed.  Maybe Rover just needs some more exercise.  Maybe he's just being a puppy and you need to be patient and teach him basic obedience.  Maybe he's bored and needs more stimulation.  At times he said things that seemed to completely contradict "doggie common sense"and basic animal behavior.  This guy was shocking dogs into submission without teaching them anything.

We decided to stop attending group classes and work with the dogs on our own.  We lowered the collars to the vibration setting and turned off the shock completely.  The dogs were immediately more responsive to training with the minimum amount of correction.  We felt much better about using the collars and, as a result, used them more often. 

We moved out of our house for a month during renovations and saw it as a chance for a fresh start with our dogs in a new location.  In our temporary housing we didn't have a large fenced in back yard to let our dogs run in.  We had to walk them multiple times a day, every day.  For the first week we put the collars on the dogs every time we went outside.  We even used them inside to work on the barking at the windows.  By the end of the week it seemed like the dogs were having a negative association with the collars so we stopped using them. 

There happened to be an article in our monthly issue of The Whole Dog Journal that reminded us that positive reinforcement is always the best way to go.  So we clipped on our bags full of high-value treats and shoved treats in our dogs' faces every time we ran into an obstacle.  For our dog who is not responsive to treats, an obedience command and lots of praise on a loose leash did the trick.  And you know what, the past 4 days have been significantly more peaceful than the previous 7. 

Yes, I still have highly reactive dogs but I also have hope that they can be less reactive if we are consistent with the training.  Maybe we'll even keep walking them once we get back to the big backyard.  Maybe a pet store one day.  Or dare even dream of a concert in the park or outdoor cafe.  All things that I have gotten to experience with previous dogs that I haven't been able to do with my dogs.....yet.  As always, dogs are capable of learning new tricks, as long as their humans learn how to teach them. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Marriage is Hard

I often get frustrated with my husband because it seems like he asks for permission to do everything and/or volunteers to inconvenience himself for no good reason.  Whether it is work or family, he frequently invites people to take advantage of him by taking on more than any one else.  

I don't think people should steamroll their way through life but there is no reason to accommodate everyone to the point that your are putting yourself last.  Sometimes these incidents lead to friction between us which I'd like to avoid.  I am working on taking a breath and evaluating situations before I react.  I have a tendency to jump to conclusions and overreact and that never ends well. 

I'm trying to consider the alternative.  Do I want my husband to be so brash that he never considers someone else's opinion?  Of course not.  I have dated men who considered me as an afterthought.  Who blatantly commented on how beautiful other women were to me but never complimented me.  Who forgot to pick me up for dates.  Who always made me feel guilty for expecting any attention.  Those guys were jerks.  I never would have married those guys.  I didn't have healthy relationships with them.  I didn't value myself and I let them treat me like crap.   My husband would never do those things.  He is a very loving and supportive person.  

Maybe my husband will stop being so accommodating as his self confidence increases.  Maybe he won't.  He's already been like this for 37 years.  Maybe I just have to accept that we are very different people and that this is one of those things that I just have to learn to deal with.  Pointing out where he is weak doesn't make me strong and it definitely doesn't make our relationship stronger.  Ugh.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

10 days left

I can't believe it's been 90 days since this whole "new me manifesto" started.  I can't say that I've changed a lot so I guess this 100 days thing doesn't really work unless you commit yourself to doing something every day for that time period.  

My husband and I are in the process of selling our current house and buying another one.  The level of stress that this brings to my already fragile existence is insane.  It seems to amplify all the issues that I already have and bring up new issues that I didn't even know existed. 

The freedom of my flex time schedule has meant that I'm the one overseeing the contractors and cleaning the house while my husband goes to work every day.  I already tend to go stir crazy when I overuse my work from home privileges but this is worse than normal.  Not only am I sitting in my house all day, I have endless projects that I need to do to get our house ready to put on the market.  I know it will all be worth it in the end but right now it's making me miserable.  

Positive thought for the day: Packing and storing our stuff has helped us get rid of a lot of junk.  It's kind of freeing to get rid of clutter and exciting to think about buying new furniture.  I struggle to throw things out sometimes because I love the idea of re-purposing everything.  I rarely have time to follow through with those projects so I end up with a lot of piles of half finished projects and I stress over not getting those projects done.  As hard as it is to let go of some of these projects, it's a relief too.  

Goals for tomorrow: Carve out some me time before/after the contractors so I don't feel so trapped.  Plan my day over breakfast so I don't get derailed trying to do a million things.  Ask my husband for help/support.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

65 Days and Green with Envy

Social media is making me jealous.  I used to have a lot of friends who were curvy and fit like me.  Now they are all skinny and uber fit and I'm on the only curvy one left.  Sure, I have plenty of friends who are obese and inactive but I don't want to be lumped into that category. 

Two of my curvy friends starting taking Zumba classes.  I encouraged them because I love Zumba and it turned my life around 5 years ago.  So of course now they go non-stop and have lost tons of weight.  They know have their own clique of front row divas and know as many instructors as I do.  At least they could have lost weight by attending my classes.  No, that would have sucked more. Nevermind.    

A handful of other friends starting running.  I have been running road races for 20+ years.  It is my time to meditate and reflect.  Even though sometimes my body hates it, my brain is always in the mood to run.  I always recommend running to people because it's cheap; a pair of shoes and a sports bra and you're good to go.  Of course they all now do road races regularly and are much faster than I am. 

I know I should be happy for them but I feel like everything that defines me has been hijacked by other people.  So you've been doing something that I love for a short period of time and are better at it than me.  Awesome.  Please show me another picture of yourself in your bra top and your short shorts winning your age group.  I know.  It's childish.  

The reality is that they were all bigger than me and now they are all smaller than me and it pisses me off.  They were all more disciplined than I have every been about my diet and exercise and, as a result, they have seen amazing results.  I can't be jealous that they worked hard and got rewarded in the end.  But I am.  I am happy for them (to their faces) but my insides are boiling inside and with every happy post I just want to punch the computer screen.  

I know.  If I were happy with me I wouldn't be so jealous of them.  If I tried harder and was proud of my accomplishments I wouldn't waste so much time obsessing over theirs.  Believe me, I would never admit to being this shallow to outside of this blog.  I am pretty ashamed of myself. 

I'd like to believe that this will motivate me.  That the chance to one-up the people who accidentally one-upped me by getting their shit together will be the final piece to motivate me but I doubt it.  Somewhere within me is the motivation.  I just need to find it. And do squats instead of logging onto Facebook.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Learning Discipline

Yesterday I ate so much food that I threw up.  This has never happened to me before.  I've been sick from food poisoning, food allergies, stomach bugs and alcohol but never from stuffing myself.  

I have been very good about making healthier choices when I go out to eat and not giving in to all of my cravings.  If I'm stuck getting fast food when I'm traveling I get the burger or the fries, not both.  I pack healthy snacks into a cooler and keep them in my car so that between meals I won't be tempted by Dunkin Donuts and other highway evils.  I eat a lot less than I used to and notice that I get full quicker. But yesterday was a long day.  

After my second day out of town I was tired of having salad for lunch and steamed broccoli instead of french fries with dinner.  I wanted to get a refill on my drinks rather than just drinking my one lemonade and then water.  I had survived a rough stretch of days and I wanted to reward myself rather than deprive myself.  

So I went through the Dunkin Donuts drive thru and ordered a breakfast sandwich, a donut and a coolata.  I'll admit everything was pretty delicious but also painfully rich compared to what I've been eating.  Then when I got home we picked up Mexican food.  My husband asked me if I was hungry.  I wasn't but I liked the idea of a delicious quesadilla so I said yes.  I couldn't think of the last time I had a quesadilla from a restaurant.  The gluten free, low fat quesadillas that I make at home are good but not nearly as satisfying.    

Halfway through the quesadilla I felt full but I kept eating anyway.  After a couple more bites I felt a strong urge to throw up.  I ran to the bathroom and the quesadilla reappeared.  I am ashamed of myself for not listening to my body.  For rewarding myself with unhealthy food.  For lacking the discipline to make healthier choices. But I am also kind of proud of myself.  The old me could have eaten 2 quesadillas in one sitting without blinking an eye.  

Eating smaller portions and healthier food has changed my stomach.  I couldn't gorge myself if I tried.  My body just won't let me.  That in itself is proof of my progress (in a sort of backwards, way I know).  So this morning I'm drinking my high protein smoothie and heading off to yoga to recenter myself and get back on track.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Finding a Happy Diet Place

During the past few weeks I have gained back most of the weight that I lost this year.  It's hard not to beat myself up for this.  Yes, I could have made better food choices when I was on vacation.  Yes, it is unreasonable to expect to maintain my weight when I spend a week sick in bed after a week traveling.  Yes, some of the weight will come off once I get back into my routine.  Yes, there is still a lot that I need to work on.

I have been struggling with severe IBS since my late 20's.  I have had limited success with gluten and dairy free diets but I have not stuck to anything long term. I have made a lot of changes to my diet but I still have a long way to go.   If my digestive system were more predictable I would feel better over all.  All the science in the world shows that losing just a little weight will lead to improvements in almost every area of my life from sleep to physical endurance to joint pain and injury.  

I have tried different diet plans hoping to find a silver bullet that would fix everything with minimal effort from me.  The reality is that I have picked up great things from every plan that I have tried but haven't committed to real change.  The moment a couple pounds come off I get comfortable and slowly slip back into my old ways.  I have nothing bad to say about any of the diet plans.  If my mind were in the right place, any of them could have put me on the right path.

With Nutri System I learned portion control.  I didn't have to eat an entire burger to feel satisfied.  No one was going to gawk at me for taking half of my food home from a restaurant.  Eating mail order food for the rest of my life isn't realistic but having all my meals and snacks prepared ahead of time was huge for me.

Weight Watchers taught me that there was a price for the high calorie foods that I loved.  The point values made it clear that a 5 point splurge at lunch wasn't worth it if I didn't have enough points left for dinner.  No eating all the veggies you want isn't exactly exciting but it's easier to choke down those veggies if you're saving those points for a bowl of ice cream later.

The 3-1-2-1 diet taught me about eating foods in the right combination to feel satisfied and have better energy during the day.  It also made it easier to behave when I knew cheat days were coming every 2-3 days.  Not feeling sluggish after a meal or bloated during a workout should have been enough incentive to maintain this plan long term.  

I saw a nutritionist for a while who taught me about portion control and eating the right things to support my body after a hard workout.  I was making meals and serving my husband and I the same amount even though we are no where near the same height and weight.  I was also rewarding myself after a workout with a lot more calories than I had burned.

I saw a holistic doctor who reviewed my medical history and recommended that I try gluten or dairy free diets.  I learned that I have sensitivities to both.  Nothing as significant as someone with Celiac's disease but I have permanently replaced some of my staples with dairy and gluten free products.  I can still eat some of the foods that I love but when I overindulge I pay for it.

Yesterday I started The 21 day tummy from Reader's Digest.  I am trying to reduce my dependence on prescription medicine and supplements and have a healthier gut.  I am also trying to get down to a healthy weight and maintain that weight.

I planned all my meals and snacks for the week.  I went grocery shopping.  I separated all my meals and snacks into ziploc bags and rubber maid containers.   I know what I should order from restaurants.  I will not use work meetings and my weekend trip as excuses to binge eat.  I will have non-food rewards to celebrate my successes.  I will continue to employ time and stress management practices.  I don't think I will ever completely separate myself from emotional eating but I can get a better handle on things.  

A Month Later and Still Learning

Almost one month into the my rebirth and I'm starting to struggle a little.  After taking the planned 2 weeks off of fitness I came down with a bad case of bronchitis which resulted in another week off.  I was pretty angry at my body since it feels like I always get sick at the wrong time (like there is ever a right time to be sick).  But in reality my week in Europe wasn't much of a week off since I was walking constantly and cramming myself into tight airplane seats.  My body needed another week of rest and since I wasn't going to take it otherwise my immune system decided to give me a push.

I was a little disappointed in myself for not working on new choreography during my time off.  But, realistically, I wasn't well enough to get it done for a third of the time and I was on vacation for another third of the time.  I did manage to schedule new choreography into my first week back to work and felt like my energy in my classes was great as a result.  The combination of taking so much time off and feeling confident in my choreography was huge for me.  Yes my students missed me but they were still there when I got back.  I have stood in for instructors who were out for 6 weeks due to surgery/pregnancy.  When they came back their people hadn't forgotten them.  I'm not sure why I thought this would happen to me. It's all that negative self talk that I'm trying to stop doing.

I did attend a time organization seminar.  It was all about managing multiple priorities and dealing with stress.  It is a seminar that I selected that my employer paid for me to attend.  The contents of the seminar were perfect for someone like me who sets their own schedule and can easily get derailed.  Between work, fitness, hobbies and family I often get stressed out because I don't feel like I have time to get anything done.  The reality is that I have plenty of time.   I just don't know how to manage it properly.  This seminar was great for me.  It was the perfect reminder than I can dictate what I do for my job and that I need to do that more often.  

Sunday night I got the best night of sleep that I have had in months.  I had prepped my meals, organized my fitness bag and planned out my day.  I stretched and meditated.  I reflected in my journal.  I took melatonin and read a book with a clear head and fell asleep without struggle.  I slept through the night until my alarm when off and woke up feeling good for a change. 

Of course I didn't do this last night because I let my day get off track.  Last night I tossed and turned, sleeping for short periods of time but mostly staring at the ceiling and trying unsuccessfully to clear my mind.  Part of me wants to blame my husband for working late or a work project that I had to complete but the reality is that I knew about both of these things well in advance and should have planned my day around them.   I'd like to think that I have learned my lesson and will get back on it tonight...  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

10 Days of Discovery

My husband and I just returned from a week long vacation in Europe.  I have studied Spanish since I was in elementary school but I am still very self conscious when I try to speak Spanish to other people.  During this vacation I spoke Spanish daily.  I tried to initiate all conversations with native speakers in Spanish.  A lot of people recognized that I was an American before I opened my mouth or a few words into my attempts at communication and started speaking to me in English (which I was grateful for).  But a lot of people didn't.  I was nervous at first but by the end of the week my confidence was up and my Spanish wasn't half bad.  

I would love it if I could speak Spanish on a regular basis.  I don't want to travel abroad frequently (I could really take it or leave it).  There are plenty of Spanish speakers in the US.  I just need to figure out what I can do to interact with other Spanish speakers on a regular basis. 

Before we left for vacation I worked harder than I have in months.  I went into the office and finished tasks that I had let pile up.  I took work home and completed projects that would be due shortly after I returned from vacation.  I took the initiative to organize tasks so that it would be harder for me to fall behind in the future.  I was able to complete all of this in 2-6 hours per work day.  I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and still had plenty of time left over.  I still need to work on how I manage this left over time but it felt great to be productive again without really having to try that hard. 

I have given myself 2 weeks off of teaching fitness.  I found substitute instructors to cover all of my classes so I could take the time to reset my class preparation routine.  When I first started teaching fitness I would work on routines for hours before presenting them to a class.  Even though no routine is ever perfect my preparation made me more relaxed and translated into me being a better teacher.   I want to walk into every class feeling confident that I'm going to be awesome.  I am lucky to have built a strong following among my class participants.  I want to make sure that I am always living up to my own reputation.  

Saturday, May 3, 2014

#100 Days of Me

All over social media people have been doing these 100 days of something.  They post a picture (or several) daily and describe how it relates to their goal.  I have seen 100 days of selfies to learn to love yourself, 100 days of running/working out to get into shape, 100 days of healthy eating and, my favorite, 100 days of happy. 

In 100 days of happy, people focus on one thing that they have done that day that has made them happy.  The goal being to focus on something positive even if you've had a really awful day.  At the end of the 100 days you have a better outlook on life and keep looking for those bright moments even after the 100 days.  
I'm not having a bad year but I am in a bit of a rut.  I don't really like my job any more but I don't know if there is a job out there that would make me just as happy and have all the same benefits.  I've heard a lot of entrepreneurs say that if you can't find the job you love you should create it.  That's easy to say when you don't have a mortgage to pay but there is definitely some truth in that. 

I have a flexible schedule.  My bosses keep very loose tabs on all of us.  I could do so much more with my job than I am now without anyone batting an eye.  Maybe 10 hours of my work week are defined outside of meetings.  What I do with those other 30 hours is totally up to me.  What I usually do is half-ass work that isn't a priority and dabble in several hobbies without any major commitment or focus to any one thing.  Being a fitness instructor is what I really spend most of my time on but, to be honest, I half-ass my prep for that sometimes too.  

So in my 100 days of me I'm going to try and find myself.  I'm going to do things that feed my soul and help me to be happy again.  Maybe this journey will show me what my dream job is.  Maybe I'll find enough joy outside of my professional career that it will balance what I don't like about my job.  Maybe I'll realize that the problem isn't the job, it's me.  

The fact that I'm even going on this journey shows how much healthier I am than I was not too long ago.  I am still a work in progress but I have done more this year to improve myself than I have in a long time.  I seem to trend towards the negative in this blog so I'm going to end by patting myself on the back and reveling in my accomplishments:

  1. I added strength training to my workout regiment and started paying more attention to what I eat.  I have lost 8 lbs and 12.5 inches since December and my BMI and Body fat percentage are on the decline.  Admittedly I have had some slip ups where 1-3 lbs of this weight back on after traveling but overall I am trending down and I know what to do to keep moving in the right direction. 
  2. My husband and I started going to a marriage counselor to learn to communicate with each other better and to deal with issues from our past that affect how we interact with each other and the world. 
  3.  I am wearing more fitted clothing to enjoy my body as it is now and stop focusing on all the parts that I don't like.  Am I learning what clothes to wear to accentuate the good (and camouflage the bad) and holding my head a little higher when I walk past a mirror.   

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Couples Therapy

I always viewed people who went to therapy as weak.  Well that's not completely true, people in my family who went to therapy.  Therapy seemed to enable my mom to keep hitting us and justified her not having a maternal bone in her body.  It didn't prevent my brother from being destructive and suicidal.  And it didn't make my father any less angry about having MS.  Sure I didn't cope with any of life's issues well myself but I coped better than they did and I didn't have the benefit of years of therapy. 

So imagine my surprise when I was the one who suggested that my husband and I go to couple's therapy.  After seeing so many of our friends go through divorce I didn't want us to be next.  We weren't in crisis.  There is no infidelity. There are just the same lingering issues that have been there for our entire relationship.  The problem is they aren't getting better and no matter how minor, issues that go unresolved turn into problems.  

We had our first therapy session yesterday and it went well.  In one hour we communicated better about things that we normal spin our wheels on for weeks.  There was no anger.  No resentment.  No fighting.  It was just a great space for us to be honest and talk about what we needed from each other and what we wanted from our relationship.  

Do I think we're weak for going to therapy?  No, not at all.  Am I ashamed that we're under 40 and already in therapy?  No, because I have no plans to be divorced before we hit our 10 year anniversary.  Maybe if a few of my friends had sought out therapy they would have found a way to make their relationship work.  I don't know.  Either way, I'm all in for weekly therapy and I'm feeling pretty strong about the whole thing.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Finding Myself Again

I find myself at a crossroads.  I love being a fitness instructor and all of the things that come along with it.  I am more excited about a new workout outfit than I am about a new dress.  I love interacting with people and hearing their stories.  I love encouraging them to meet their goals and consoling them when things don't go their way.  My fitness classes are my social life.  We laugh, we talk, we dance, we sweat and then we go back to our regular lives.  Most of my week is full of practice and planning for my classes so that even when I'm not teaching most of my energy goes to fitness.   

My real job brings me very little joy.  I still like the idea of what I do but what I actually do at this point is far away from where I started.  As an engineer I solve problems.  I look at data and try to come up with solutions to those problems.  I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I solve a problem.  I enjoy the praise that I get from others when I solve a problem that has existed for year.  But after 15 years I am less of an engineer and more of a manager.  The problem with being good at your job is that you get promoted out of doing those tasks that you enjoy.  Most of the problems that I deal with now are related to people and not case studies.  On a good week, half of my time is spent being a real engineer.  

After 15 years I am burnt out.  I am at the point where I'm going to be promoted to upper management (which would equal no time being a real engineer) or I need to change careers.  If I was willing to work for a state or local agency I would have more chances to be an engineer until my retirement.  But, in doing this, I would give up the salary and the freedom that I have become so accustomed too.  Realistically, I could never afford to be a fitness instructor if I didn't have my engineering salary to pay for all my trips and certifications.  And I definitely wouldn't have the time to teach as often as I do if I had a 9-5 office job vs. a flex schedule.

So how to I find balance between a job that often feels like it is sucking the life out of me and a job that feeds my soul.  My life as an engineer is solitary and lonely but I wouldn't be able to afford my house, my car, anything without it.  My life as a fitness instructor is amazing.  I feel like a rock star. I can be myself and express myself with wild clothes and over the top hair styles.  When I go to business meetings I dress conservatively and keep to myself.  I have tons of great clothes in my closet but little opportunity to actually where them. 

I never thought I would say this but sometimes I miss working in an office.  I miss the business lunches and the water cooler conversations.  The happy hours and the office gossip.  The Christmas parties and summer picnics.  Because as much as I hated the high school clique-i-ness that often came out of those situations, it was a social life.  I always had plans for the weekend.  I carefully selected my clothes for work and other events because I cared about what people thought of me and I would be seen by a lot of people. 

Sometimes I wear my pajamas all day or until I head to the gym.  When I have meetings I put on nice clothes but usually that's just for a few hours and then its back to the sweats.  I try to force myself to get dressed up once a week and go to the office and go out to lunch but that almost makes it even lonelier.  I sit in my office by myself, I go out to lunch by myself and then I ask myself why I wasted the time getting dressed when no one notices me anyway. 

Of course my work friends were acquaintances and not lifetime friends.  They didn't really know me. It was all surface stuff but that's really what I'm missing.  A social life. Something to fill the gaps between fitness classes and sitting at my desk alone.  I recognize that the me from my fitness classes isn't the real me either. It is the other extreme of my personality, the loud, outgoing party girl.  But living at these two extremes and nothing in between leaves me feeling lost and lonely more often than I'd like.