Archive for the ‘mental clutter’ Category

Conflicting Advice


I have heard many complaints that there’s so much conflicting advice, people don’t know what to believe.

Some of this is because of “common knowledge” that hasn’t caught up to more recent research. (Some of the “more recent” research isn’t all that new — it’s just not managed to eradicate the old knowledge. Change is possible, but it sure is slow sometimes!)

Some of it is conflicting research.

But some of it is just conflicting goals.

Advice that is given for weight loss is not necessarily healthy.


Weight loss advice: Use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar to reduce calories.

Health advice: Artificial sweeteners are not good for you, mess up your taste for sweetness, and should be avoided.

Weight loss advice: Use low-fat products instead of their full-fat counterparts.

Heath advice: When fat is taken out of processed foods, flavor tends to go with it. Manufacturers replace the fat with other things, generally chemicals, that aren’t good for you. Full-fat in moderation is better than low-fat. (For an explanation of why this is also true with dairy, please see here.)

The advice dished out about fat and carbs is enough to make your head spin.

Don’t get me started on meal replacement (protein) bars. Or potatoes.

Here’s my take: if it is healthy, it is a good choice. If you focus on being healthy (eating healthy foods, keeping your body moving, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, etc.), the fat loss will follow.

If you focus on fat loss, there are too many negatives associated with it. Too many opportunities to feel deprived. For many, too many, “I can’t — I’m on a diet”s. These mindsets are not sustainable.

Eat to be healthy. Look for the information that guides you to health. The fat will follow.

Find Your Block To Getting Started

Yesterday, I went to the gym pool and did laps for the first time in a very long time. It went something like this:

25m: Ahhhhhhhhhhh…..

50m: This feels great! I haven’t been here in so long!

75m: Crap! My arms are burning already! I haven’t even done 100 meters yet!

100m: OK, arms are tired. Might not get the full 800 meters done. Will swim until I’m done or my arms fail, whichever comes first…

I took a break at 200m, stretched my triceps and lats a bit, then continued on. The stretch felt really good, and the second 200 meters felt better than the previous 100. No problems finishing all 800. Soaked and stretched in the hot tub for a few minutes, showered, home, about an hour and 15 minutes from when I left home. Not bad.

I first learned to swim (for exercise) shortly after I finished chemo just to have something else to do for cardio. Learning to swim opened the gates to triathlon, and I’m training now for a sprint tri in October that I’ve already registered for.

I like swimming. It’s great exercise. It’s mind-clearing. I’ve been trying to pinpoint what exactly about swimming is so fabulous. Some of it is the water, no doubt. Water is calming. But I think part of it is that there’s no one else’s noise. I don’t hear cars or music or TVs or conversations. It’s just me and the water. I always feel better emotionally when I get out of the pool than when I get in, even if I didn’t feel bad when I got in. The only problem with the pool is that when I have good ideas, I have no means of recording them to remember for later. Many good ideas have drowned.

So if swimming is so great, why have I not done it in so long? I’m pretty sure that I’ve gone to do laps only once since The Kid was born. Didn’t do laps much while pregnant, either.

I could blame it on having a kid, not enough time, not enough sleep, blah, blah, blah. There are a million reasons that I could list that many people would say, “Well of course!” and I would be excused.

But they’re not true. I mean, I do have a kid, and he’s time-consuming. But The Big Man is good about sharing parenting responsibilities (not helping me — it’s our job, not my job), so I know I could get to the pool a couple of times a week. I go to spin once a week, meet friends for coffee or dinner sans baby, etc., etc. Going swimming is no different than any of those. My time is often full, usually with baby things, things around the house, trying to maintain relationships (marriage, friends, family), blogging, business-related stuff and so on.

So why haven’t I been swimming? The answer is so simple, but not obvious.

Bathing suit.

This is not a vanity issue.

In my pre-pregnancy life, I had two bathing suits: a two-piece (shirt/shorts-style, not underwear-style) that I wore for social swimming, and a one-piece that I wore for swimming laps. I bought a two-piece (shirt/shorts-style) maternity suit when it became appropriate.

But until very recently, the maternity suit was the only one that fit. And it sucked to swim laps in.

“Go buy another bathing suit.”

But you see, I have never liked to spend money on clothes. Ever. And temporary clothes are even worse. Bathing suits are expensive. I hate spending money on bathing suits, especially one I consider transitional. I’m only going to “need” this suit until my old one fits. There are MANY other things I would rather spend that money on. And I really don’t need another bathing suit…

So I didn’t swim.

A couple of weeks ago, after a pee-related incident with The Kid, my last pair of non-sweatpants headed to the hamper. I decided to try on the pants I had that were the most loose-fitting before I got pregnant. They fit! A week or so later, I tried on my biggest pair of jeans. They fit!

And so I got brave and tried on my lap-swimming suit.

It fit! More or less.

Lots of sausage. Not a lot of casing. But it got the job done.

It’s not very comfortable, and if this was a long-haul fit, I would buy one size bigger. But it’s not, and it’s not so uncomfortable that it impeded my swim. Still better than the maternity suit! And it gives me another piece of incentive to keep chunking away at the baby weight.

So what’s the point of the story? There is something that is stopping you from making a change that you want to make. What is it? Move past the normal excuses. Dig a little deeper. What’s stopping you?

Wow… How depressing

Wednesday in Spanish is el dia de Nichol.

I have been feeling so sucky. Not in a sick way, but in a life sucks and people suck and being broke sucks and I’m sucky and fat.

Now, if you have been following along with me, or if you know me personally, I don’t really believe life sucks (usually), or that people suck (most of them don’t suck), can’t argue with being broke, and I definitely don’t think I’m sucky, and I don’t call myself fat. I call myself “fat in transition.”

But the past week I have been struggling like crazy. Crying in front of people who are not my sisters. Crying in front of people who generally only see me cry once in every six months. I’m just bummed.

It’s a whole mess of things that if I listed here, would exceed the blog’s limit for infinity. I know it’s just a blip, I’ve been here before but this has been a little harder to get out of. I think because it’s more than how I look that’s bringing me down. It’s my job. It’s my lack of money. It’s exhaustion.

On Saturday, I had a really scary moment and I could see myself tiptoeing back to the mouth of the rabbit hole. When I say it like that, it sounds like I’m about to start shooting up again. But that’s what it feels like. I’m referring to food. Before I started this whole process, I was addicted to fast food. I ate it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If it wasn’t fast food, it was Doritos, ramen, Mac and cheese… Anything. It just made things better when I was eating it. And it was a freaking hard habit to kick.

I was hungry on Saturday. I went to get something to eat. I pulled into the parking lot of a plaza near my house and came to a fork in the road. Right was Filiberto’s, left was Sprouts. That was one of the hardest choices I’ve had to make in a long while. I turned left.

The other day at work, I ate pizza. Two slices. I wanted a third. The only thing that stopped me was that I didn’t pay for it and I felt guilty.

Food is my addiction. I recognize the triggers, but sometimes it is so hard to ignore that voice that’s telling me that it would be okay to have a six-piece McNugget. No harm in a Taco Bell taco.

I know that this will pass. And I always tell myself, right before I go to sleep, that tomorrow will be better. But I’m struggling this week. Probably more than I’ve struggled in the past 22 months. I know I’ve just got to keep pushing on because I have an issue with not completing something I’ve started, no matter what the cost.

Health and Longevity

Two people died during the Philadelphia marathon yesterday. One was 21 and collapsed at the finish line. The other was 39 and collapsed about a quarter of a mile before the finish line.

The 39-year-old is a friend of a Facebook friend, so I know a bit about him.

He was an Ironman. In case you don’t know what an Ironman triathlon is: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run (marathon). He finished one in the spring in just over 10 hours. (That’s a really good time.)

In short, he was in good shape.

He wasn’t the guy you expected to die of a heart attack right before the finish line. (I know nothing of his history, of his other life habits, etc.)

And then this morning in my RSS feed, there was a blog post about keeping healthy, written by an older woman who has been taking good care of herself for decades and is in good shape, while watching people around her slowly crumble and fall apart. She acknowledges that some of that can be attributed to good genes but that it is mainly attributable to taking care of herself.

I agree. And the more science looks into it, the more science agrees.

(Yes yes yes, there are always exceptions. Everyone knows a 92-year-old guy who has smoked for the last 85 years, or a 20-year-old picture of perfect health who gets seriously ill and/or dies out of nowhere.)

I read only the first 15 or so comments on that blog post, but everyone said that really, it’s all genetic and she’s just lucky.

This makes me frustrated and sad.

Really, each person needs to be responsible for their own health and wellness. Do things happen that are out of our control? Sure. Do things happen that are a result of “in our control but not in a realistic way”? Yup. But most of the problems in most of our bodies today are a direct result of what/how much we eat and drink, and how much we move (or don’t move) our bodies.

That said, you all know I’m a pretty healthy person. I eat a fair amount of produce, I eat very little in the way of white flour products. Off and on, I look to restrict processed foods at all. I read labels and have a list of ingredients that I don’t put in my body. I avoid chemicals in many ways, both for me and for our baby.

Most people who know me just know that’s how I am, and it is what it is. Some ask me for information or advice sometimes. Some challenge me on various things sometimes. Most don’t say anything one way or the other.

It’s a different group of people who sometimes make me anxious. The ones who are sure that all of this stuff is a bunch of crap. Organics are a waste of money, plastics aren’t dangerous (to your body or the earth), etc., etc.

They bother me not because I’m insecure in my position on most things (still learning about the rest!) but because I feel pressure to be successful. Because if something happens, I am the “proof” that all of that stuff means nothing.

This was a large source of silent anxiety when I was pregnant, and it’s a minor source of anxiety with The Kid.

It’s fairly unfounded anxiety — these are not people whose opinion I’m going to sway. I will either be “proof” or be dismissed. But it exists anyway.

When I went to see the cardiologist a while back, he said that people who exercise generally have healthier hearts than people who don’t, but that I’m more likely to die while exercising than other times. Makes for a fun paradox of sorts.

So which side of the fence are you on? Do you think that eating well and exercising generally lead to longer, healthier lives, or do you think it’s all genetic and we will be what we will be?


I’m hibernating today. I still get to wear makeup and my new clothes are already loose, yay and boo.

But with all the changes at work and school back in session (have I yet told you all how much I HATE anatomy and physiology?), I am just bogged down and exhausted this week. Being a college student who studies all night is definitely not meant for 32 year olds. How did I do this at 21? And find time to party?

So talk amongst yourselves, I’ll give you a topic: online dating. I’m thinking about it, now that I’m all hot and junk. I’ve half heartedly explored it, but I never really went out because I felt disgusting (about myself, not about online dating). This is part of my second chance, right? I need some romance in my life. So… What do you all think? Good? Bad? Advice? I want to hear it all.


I have struggled off and on with depression for most of my life. I was talking to a friend recently about some of these struggles and thought I’d try to explain it a bit here, especially since it is a fairly common affliction.

I know that if I exercise fairly vigorously on a daily basis, I feel better emotionally. (Well, and physically, but that’s not what this post is about.)

I know that when I am feeling lousy, don’t want to do anything or go anywhere, if I just get up and run or lift or bike or swim, I will feel better.  (If I “just” – ha!)

“Exercise is like Prozac for me,” I said.

So why don’t you do it? she asked. Fair question.

Most of the time, I do, whether I “need” to or not. But sometimes, it’s all but impossible. And this is the part that I couldn’t really explain so well.

It’s not quite as simple as just getting up and doing it. It’s not, “I feel sad, so I’m not going to exercise.” It’s not so much about sad, but I struggle to explain what it is.

It’s sort of like when you just don’t feel like doing something – feeling lazy or lethargic – but times 100. Or 1000. Or 10,000. Depending on the day. And often, it includes a component of “I don’t want to feel better,” which of course is entirely not true … But it feels true, which makes it true enough.

Really, it looks like a combination of sad, lazy, and self-pity. But it’s not. Again, I can’t tell you what it is, just what it’s not.

Many years ago, I read The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. It is fairly lengthy and very detailed. Reading it was cathartic. I felt validation. Finally, someone was describing perfectly how I felt, why I wasn’t functioning the way I knew I ought to. I have (thankfully!) never been as bad/deep/whatever you want to call it as he describes in the book, but reading it, I felt less alone.

My struggles these days are minor compared to where they once were, and I am glad to have a better hold on myself, on my life, on what helps and what doesn’t. My self-management isn’t perfect, but it’s quite good. And most of the time, I’m fine, fine, fine 🙂

the down side of “clean your plate”

I don’t know many people who were not, as children, forced (or bribed) by a parent to eat when they didn’t want food, whether it was eating a meal when not hungry or finishing a meal when already sated.

With few exceptions, if you’re not hungry, don’t eat.  (An exception: I eat breakfast on race days despite not being hungry, knowing that the consequence of not eating is one I’d like to avoid.)

But suppose you’re sitting at a table eating a meal.  You’re eating slowly and mindfully enough to realize when you are sated.  There is still food left.  Can you leave it there?


“But there are people starving in ____.”  Yes, there are.  And there are a myriad of ways that you can help those people have enough food.  But overeating what is in front of you does not, in any way, help the people who are undernourished.  I have never heard the misfortune of the Third World be used as a reason to engage in any other behavior aside from donating money.  (There are more people worldwide who don’t have access to clean drinking water than are starving, but I’ve yet to hear that as a reason to drink more water or not waste the water we do have.)

“But I don’t want to waste it.”  Well … you might need to, depending on the circumstance, or you can box it up and stick it in the fridge and finish it later.  That said, almost everyone wastes food on a regular basis.  (A quick Google search showed consistency in saying that we throw away, on average, 20-25% of what we bring home from the grocery store.)  If you are among those who throw away food from your fridge, take care of not wasting that instead.

Also, along the lines of waste… An example: I was helping a friend clean up from a party, where there had been bowls of M&Ms on the tables.  When he commented that he wasn’t sure what to do with them (since the party was over) and I suggested he throw them away, he said he didn’t want to waste food.  “It only counts as wasting food if it’s really food to start with.”  M&Ms aren’t really food.  They sure are tasty, but they’re not food.  Toss ’em.

“I want to get my money’s worth.”  Gorging yourself does not get you better value for what you’ve purchased than eating sensibly.  If you are at home, put the rest in the fridge and eat it later.  (The eating it later part is an important step in not wasting money on food … and in not wasting food.)  If you are in a restaurant and were unable (or unwilling) or order a small amount of food, get the leftovers to go.  If you can’t get it to go, leave it there.  The money is already spent.  Eating more than your body wants is not an act of frugality.

It is easy to let guilt influence your eating decisions.  Resist the temptation!  Eat what you need in the quantity that you need.  Your body will thank you.

750 words

I learned about the 750 words idea some time earlier this year and while it appealed to me, I didn’t do it.

On Sunday, I started.

The 750 words idea is to start the day writing 750 words of stream-of-consciousness, whatever-rolls-in-and-flows-out writing.  The idea is to do it first thing in the morning to clear your head out and have mental space to move on with your day.  This makes a lot of sense to me, as we have so much mental flotsam and jetsam, getting some of it in order and out of the way surely would be useful.

I also know that writing helps me to organize my thoughts, especially when I’m not sure how to deal with something, or when something is really bothering me.

So on Sunday, I started, though not first thing when I got up.  (As per yesterday’s post, I am not getting on the computer first thing in the morning.)  I decided to keep these writings just on my computer.  The website above might be secure, but honestly, I don’t trust it, and I’m sure there are some things in my brain dumps that I don’t want to be public information.  I feel less cautious if it’s just on my machine.

Each day so far, I write what flows, then check the word count, and it’s at 668 (no kidding — always the same).  So I go to write a little more and end up with a little over 900 words.  It is nice to have this project scheduled out for each day, and it’s good to get it out of my brain.  Now just to make it stick…

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