Archive for the ‘habit’ Category

I’m Making A Quilt for Christmas

I’ve decided to make a quilt for myself for Christmas. I have the following patches that I am carefully piecing together:

  • old (pre-cancer, post-college) eating habits
  • new (post-baby) eating habits
  • new (post-baby) schedule/time available
  • old recipes
  • new recipes
  • old exercise habits (spin! lifting, swim-bike-run)
  • new exercise habits (more at home, more time-efficient)

Some of those pieces are tattered and need to be patched before I can set them in place. Some of them are completely theoretical and need to be measured and cut still. Some of them are already stitched together.

But I know what the quilt looks like when it’s done. It’s a healthy, balanced life where I and the others in my house are well-nourished.

This is not something that will be easy to put together, but I know it’s possible! Change IS possible! I know, for the most part, what I need to do to make this happen.

It is my Christmas gift to myself.

So, on Christmas, my pre-pregnancy clothes all will fit (I’m into about half of my pants right now). My energy will be higher. I will be on my way to my pre-pregnancy strength (and from there, onto pre-chemo strength). I will be looking for a new 5K personal record in 2013. I will be back on the path that chemo both interrupted and fueled.

What are you giving yourself for Christmas?

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Breast Cancer Awareness: Happy Birthday To Me!

Today, I turn 37. As my birthday gift to myself, I am allowing myself to ramble πŸ™‚

When I was in my late 20s and starting to get fit, people who were roughly my age now told me to wait until I was their age β€” then I would understand.

Now, creeping into my late 30s, people ten years older still tell me to wait until I’m their age β€” then I’ll understand.

This is what I understand:Β those people have given up. They are blaming on age what is mainly a lifestyle problem.

I grew up eating crap. Even most home-cooked meals were skewed towards meat and heavily skewed towards highly processed crappy (delicious) carbs. We ate a lot of fast food. We watched a lot of TV. I was always chubby.Β You can’t say that I’ve just always eaten like this or grew up active.

In college, with the freedom to eat as I so chose β€” and a local dairy with $1 homemade ice cream pints β€” it only got worse. My slightly “big-boned” body got really fat. I loved all types of sweets. I believe I’ve been quoted as saying that “I don’t eat all that healthy shit.”Β You can’t say I don’t understand having a sweet tooth or a love of everything fried.

I changed slowly. What I fueled myself with started to look different. I joined a gym and read books on stationary bikes when I had free time. Then I started to spin. And take other classes. I started to feel better and look better, and I was hooked.

After finally hitting a healthy weight, having a body that didn’t jiggle, being strong, I was diagnosed with cancer.

I had five invasive procedures (three with anaesthetics), six months of chemotherapy, along with a six-month cocktail of other drugs, nearly a month of radiation. The cancer was decimated, and so was the rest of my body.

I started to eat well and exercise again. I started to reshape myself. You can’t say I’ve never started over.

Most breast cancers β€” indeed, most any cancers β€” can be prevented by taking care of yourself. Eat well, exercise often, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke.

(As an aside: I mean a real healthy weight, not an American healthy weight, which, according to most of us, is at least 15-20 pounds over.Β Most people are in denial about their body and about their diet. I have had people telling me I am “skinny” since I was about three weeks postpartum. Nowhere close to skinny. While I’m not a huge fan of BMI, it is a decent indicator of some health measures for the average Joe.Β My BMI is too high. People look at me and scoff, saying that BMI must be wrong if mine is too high. No β€” you’re just used to looking at really fat people. I’m less fat, so I look thin. You also know that I eat a fairly healthy diet and exercise regularly, which skews your vision. And, in some cases, just because I’m less fat than you are doesn’t make me a healthy weight.)

Post-cancer, I completed three sprint triathlons. The first one was amazing. My pride in training and completing it has been rivaled only once in my lifetime (see: senior recital). My body was getting stronger, and then…

I got pregnant. Most of the time, I didn’t go crazy on junk food. (Ladies, this is the time in your life when, more than ever, you need to eat well!) But there were weeks at a time when it seemed I couldn’t possibly feel full. I ate half of a large pizza one night and wasn’t stuffed. That is crazy. I know growing a fetus requires more fuel, but not that much!

Also, while pregnant, my body was tired. A three-mile bike ride took about half an hour and was exhausting. No exercise for six weeks postpartum, and then I climbed back on the wagon. Again.

I’m getting closer to my pre-pregnancy body … and then I’ll be continuing to work towards my pre-chemo body. It takes time, it takes diligence, it takes patience, it takes support.

There is nothing special about me that makes it possible for me to work to be healthy. It’s something that is important to me, so I do it. It is simple. It is not easy.

Assuming it is easy for other people is just your internal attempt to let yourself off the hook.

Make yourself accountable. Today. Now. Do it. You’ll be glad you did.

While I am in spin class, pushing myself as hard as I can on a bike that’s not getting me anywhere, this is my mantra:

You can use it if you want. Or make your own. Just make it positive πŸ™‚

When I turned 27, I was not inspiring.

Today, I have had many people tell me I have inspired them to change their lives. I have been witness to them do it. I have heard celebrations of how many pushups I can do, how long I can hold a plank, how I wasn’t tempted by some crap food that used to appeal, how my old pants fit again, how I haven’t been this size in 2/8/20 years. And now they inspire others.

You owe it to yourself and to the people around you to take care of yourself and be a beacon of hope and inspiration in your community.

Who are you going to inspire?

Your Tastes Change…

I went to a party over the weekend. It was a potluck with an “American food” theme.

Needless to say, most of the food there was junk food, though conspicuously, there was no apple pie!

Anyway, someone brought Twinkies. I haven’t had a Twinkie in years. I decided, just out of curiosity, to try a bite of one and see what they taste like.

They taste like chemicals. It was disgusting. I spit it out.

This is the thing: I used to like Twinkies. A lot. They weren’t a go-to food for me, but they were pretty delicious.

Taste buds changed, not as a result of time passing, but as a result of time passing without me eating crap like Twinkies.

As you remove garbage food from your diet and replace it with whole, real food, you develop a liking β€” a craving, even β€” for good, whole, real food. The more of it you eat (assuming you’re eating food you like), the more of it you want.

Did you see the fine print there? It needs to be food you like. If you decide to “go on a diet” (which is not a good plan in the first place) and eat lots of “salads” made of iceberg lettuce and carrot shreds and hate every minute of it, well, you’re not going to crave more of it.

Find produce that you like. Reduce the amount of cheese/dressing/sauce/dip you eat it with. Eat more of it. At the same time, eat less junk food, less processed food, less sugar and sugar substitutes.

As time goes on, keep eating more good food and less crap food, and before you know it, you’ve completely changed how you eat. I am a living testament to this process. People think I’ve always been healthy or that it’s always been easy β€” but that’s just rationalizing why you “can’t.” It was no easier for me than it is for you.

Drop the excuses and get it done. Because you can. And it’s worth it. YOU are worth it.

You Still “Feel It” β€” But “Why” Changes

If you’ve been living a sedentary life and you start exercising, especially with vigor, you’re going to feel it. You’re going to be tired when you’re done, you might be sore that day or the next day. You might wonder how people do this all the time. You might tell yourself that you can’t see yourself doing this all the time.

For whatever reason, you push through. You are exercising four, five, six days a week. (Please keep a rest day in there!) You start to have more energy in your daily life. You might not look forward to gettin’ your sweat on, but you’re not dreading it. Maybe you’ve lost a few pounds or your clothes are fitting differently. You are fueling yourself differently.

Something happens and you miss a couple of days of exercise. You notice that you feel sluggish. Your eating is going downhill.

You’re looking forward to exercise again!

Our bodies aren’t made to sit around. Exercise is good for countless reasons (general health, cardio-vascular function, cognitive function, emotional health and stability, joint health, bone density). When you’re in the habit of moving moving moving, your body is happy. When you stop, you feel it.

Have you reached the tipping point yet?

I Don’t Have Enough…

Disclaimer: yes, there are exceptions to today’s post. Instead of making that disclaimer over and over through the post, I’ll just say it here. But for most decisions that most of us make on most days, it’s all true.

“I don’t have time.”

“I can’t afford it.”

“I just don’t have the energy.”

Ever heard any of these? Ever uttered them yourself? Or perhaps their statement-partners: I wish I had more time/money/energy.

The truth is that we have enough for many things, just not enough for everything. And for the most part, we’re really bad at doling it out according to our priorities.

I was conversing with someone not long ago who complained that they really just didn’t have enough time to exercise. But they could tell me everything I wanted to know and then some about ten different TV shows. Impossible to have “no time” to exercise and be watching that much TV! Heck, go to the gym and walk on a treadmill while you watch it! “I can’t afford the gym.” Cut the cable and go to the gym for all of your shows β€” exercise taken care of, more money in hand, less butt-to-couch magnetism.

I digress.

We all have only 24 hours:

How is it that some people seem to do everything and some people can’t find time to do anything? Part of it is that people (in general) are not what they seem. There are people who think I do a whole lot more than I actually do.

But really, some people use their time better than others. Some people say they have priorities but don’t live by them. Others live by them (to a greater or lesser extent). What’s the most important thing in your life? How much time (and energy) to you give to it? Why?

Do you really want to spend four hours a day on the computer? Or watching TV? Letting the TV drain your brain for whatever time you’ve decided, because that’s what you do to relax, is all good. If you know you’re not going to get up after you sit down, make it happen at the end of the day (not the end of the work day). Or change your habit of flopping down and not getting up. I know one person who put the TV on a timer, so that at a certain time, it turned itself off. Not a bad idea.

In personal finance:

I read in a personal finance blog somewhere along the way a sentiment along these lines: You can have everything you want, you just can’t have it all at once. There are stories of married couples in their late 20s who have houses that are paid off. They worked two jobs, lived like they were still in college, threw everything extra at the mortgage and got it done. After that, they had more free time and more disposable income. But they couldn’t have disposable income and free time andΒ a house and no mortgage from Day 1.

I have seen many people with all sorts of financial troubles buy all sorts of unnecessary things. I have certainly not always applied my financial wisdom to all situations, but I’m much better about it now than I used to be. And I’m aware of this tidbit that I picked up in a blog somewhere as well: you only get to spend each dollar once. Spend it on whatever you’d like, but it only passes through your wallet once.

I’m so tired…

If you’re really tired all the time, you either have a newborn ;), some sort of health condition or you’re not taking care of yourself (which I guess could be considered a health condition, but that’s not what I meant).

Newborn: sleep when they sleep. It’s true. You can get help with everything else. No one else can sleep for you.

Health condition: go to the doctor and see what can be done.

Everything else: if you eat a generally healthy diet, drink enough water (and little enough of most everything else),Β exercise regularly, get enough sleep, the energy will follow.

Once you get into the habit of exercising, a good workout will help you feel better on its own. Really. It’s one of those things that people don’t believe until they do it. In the last few weeks, I’ve heard it from three people who have recently learned this lesson themselves, and it excites me every time. Welcome to the side of the believers πŸ˜‰

Sugar, refined carbs, and caffeine are energy-drains. You’ll feel better for a short while, but then you’ll feel worse than when you started. You’re better off without them.

As with the other pieces, it comes down to what’s important. Would you rather have a muffin for breakfast, bread with your lunch, cookies in the afternoon, a piece of candy as you walk by the dish, ice cream after dinner, or would you rather feel good and have more energy?

Want to do better but don’t know how? Here are two things that go hand-in-hand that might help you find your path.

1- Write everything down. Write down everything you spend money on. Everything. Including interest, penalties, fees, etc. Everything looks a little bit different when you see it on paper. (I’ve seen a suggestion to take your monthly expenses and color in one month of a calendar, indicating how many days’ pay go towards each expense. This is eye-opening. How many days’ work does it take for you to pay interest? Or for your lunches out? Or for your non-essential utilities? Not saying you shouldn’t have these things. Just make the decision that that is how you want to spend your money.)

For time, do a time audit. For a few days, every 15 minutes, write down how you spent the last 15 minutes. Just a few notes β€” you don’t want the entire notebook to say, “10 minutes, writing how I spent the last 15 minutes.” At the end of a day or two or three, look closely at how you’re spending your time β€” then change the parts you don’t like. Include in this what you’re ingesting and when you’re sitting, standing, moving, etc. and you’ve got all of your bases covered.

2- List and live by your priorities. I would love a smart phone. But there are many, many other things I’d rather spend money on than a smart phone bill every month. So I don’t have one. (Or a data plan.) It’s not a priority. Maybe it is for you. It doesn’t matter to me what your priorities are β€” just make them and stick by them … or they’re not really priorities.

That goes together with energy. Spend your energy on things that are important to you. I know I have gotten caught up spending a lot of energy being mad about something or someone at work. People and situations I don’t like are definitely NOT a priority, so why spend all that energy on them? For me, a good workout will calm most of that noise. I’m sure if I worked at it, I could become good at meditating which would be more practical when I’m still at work. A few deep breaths takes the edge off, as does the reminder that I don’t need to be angry.

You can’t do it all.

I have always been a person who has been spread thin. It took me until just a couple of years ago to say, “I’m not going to live my life under constant deadlines and high stress.” I learned to say no. The problem is/was that I am interested in a lot of things. Opportunities come up. I want to take them! (It’s not even often people asking me β€” it’s just stuff that’s out there that I want to do.) I learned to say no. My life became better.

And then I had a kid.

As it turns out, kids take a lot of time and energy. It is easy to let them become all-consuming. So my already-pared-down life has become more pared down. Some things I’m not cutting completely β€” just doing when I can make time without feeling stressed, and not feeling bad about not doing it more. Other things are gone. Other things are business as usual. (That last category is incredibly small and shrinking.)

So I don’t “do it all” β€” I can’t. But I still do a lot, and I do my best to be sure that the things I spend time on are things I really want to do (go to spin class) or really need to do (laundry, keep the kitchen tidy). The more you streamline to make your calendar and your priorities match, the happier your life becomes. I feel much better when I get up in the morning if the daytime part of the house is tidy. So at night before bed, either The Big Man or I (or both) will wash the dishes, wipe down the counter, and pick up The Kid’s toys. This little habit brings a little bit of peace to my mornings, it takes only 10-15 minutes at most, and is important to me. Might not be important to you.

Going back to where we started … Instead of saying “I don’t have money” or “I don’t have time,” say, “That’s not a priority right now.” It feels a little … weird. You’ll know right away if it’s true. You can feel it. If you want it to be a priority, do your best to make it so. If not, let it go β€” it’s just taking up space.

Miss Me?

Hey! Look who finally remembered that she is supposed to post on Wednesday mornings! It’s Nichol!

Dear friends,

I suck! I totally missed last Wednesday. The worst part is, I didn’t even notice until Thursday morning, sitting in the Starbucks drive-thru.

A new semester has started and with that, I have started internship. With that, I have a whole new food issue. I need to figure out my food situation. Particularly Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

School days, I leave the house at 6:30am and I don’t get home until well after 9pm. Saturday I will leave the house at 5am and not get home until after 6pm.

How do you handle that? Does anyone have a portable refrigerator/stove/oven combination? Because that would be great.

In other news, I’m about 20 days from finishing P90. And I’m very excited about the 5Ks coming up (Color Run, Neon SplashDash).

I hope to have a better update for you next week, but right now I’m typing on my phone in the middle of SWG510, while my professor lectures.

Happy Birthday To Me!

It’s Nichol’s birthday and it’s Wednesday! Two for one!

So I’m 33 today. I’m having some emotional lability about that. Let’s do some pros and cons.

Pro – presents!
Con – single
Pro – cake!
Con – cake makes me fat
Pro – increased recognition that cake makes me fat
Con – I’m going to eat cake anyway
Pro – I’ll exercise more
Con – still single
Pro – still fabulous

Basically, I’m choosing to be happy and only minimally wallow because the pro list includes cake and presents.

There’s also the non-shallow pros. Which include all the accomplishments I’ve racked up since my 31st birthday (mini sprint tri, 5K, weight loss, healthy eating).

I’m actually okay with being 33. I think that if I hit 35 and I’m still single and in school and perpetually broke, I’ll let it affect me a little more but for now, I’m going to celebrate and just be thankful for my life and the many blessings I have reaped. Not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally.

The last two weeks have been intense, in reference to my well-being. In a totally good way, but totally intense. There has been a lot of reflection going on in this giant brain of mine.

Now, don’t be alarmed, but I took a day off. A real, honest to goodness day off. No P90, no running, no walking, no biking, no swimming. I slept 12 hours that night.

I have racked up 226 straight days of exercise. Well, it was 221 straight until my day off. I’m beginning to think that I might need a few more of those. Problem is, I had such intense feelings of guilt about it, it almost wasn’t worth it. However, if I’m not resting, my body can’t repair itself. I am currently always aching. Not in a worked out yesterday and I’m sore kind of ache, but a pretty constant, dull throbbing kind of feeling. Probably not a good thing.

I’m still thinking about it. I would have to get over the whole pride thing I have going on. When I make that decision, you will be the first to know.

In the meantime, I’m going to party like its 1979. I’ll see you peeps on the other side of 33.

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