Happy 2019!

I love resets, and January 1 represents a nice, fresh restart.  I don’t actually *believe* in New Year’s “resolutions,” though, because – while typically made in earnest and followed by a full-bore (albeit (also typically) short-lived) burst – they are so often abandoned, left to fade into the rush of life…until maybe a year later.  When, of course, the same thing happens again.

What I DO believe in, however, is that we have the opportunity to make life changes at any moment, on ANY day we so choose – you can take January 1 if it’s nice and tidy, or just go for it at any time that best suits you.  (We just need to make sure we PICK a time, not procrastinate).  The decision is generally a great deal easier than the follow-through…but then everybody knows that!  But, if we can find a way to work towards something meaningful and realistic…the rewards are worth the price.

We all have areas in which we’d like to improve – sometimes strictly for our own well-being, and yet in others, for the impact it will have on those around us, and even the world.  One of the most important things we can do for ourselves (and others) is to choose to be “happier.”  Happier is something we all must define on our own – there’s no one size fits all when it comes to what makes each of us “happy” inside.  And, PS, it is an inside job.  But I can guarantee you that whatever the goal posts, if you do make it to “happier” (even if in tiny increments), you will see a marked change in the world around you.

Life is precious.  We don’t know how much time we have, neither can we be certain of that given to those we love, so happiness matters.  We all deserve the blessing of “happiness,” and no matter how different that may look to each of us, it is more than achievable.

Amidst an undoubtedly hefty resolution list, this one is an “overall makeover” that can both help us to reach many of our other goals, as well as be manageable enough that we can have some real success.  It also happens to be a relatively realistic goal because we don’t have to be at the pinnacle of perfection…rather we are aiming for more “happy” in our lives, which can come in smaller increments (the “-ier” suggests it is more than our current state not necessarily a massive jump—> those baby steps are worthy)!

Short-term boosts are great, but I’ve seen too many resolutions fail because they are not appropriately backed by an equally ardent “I really want to make a lifestyle change”…which, let’s be honest, is the only way any achieved result will still with us long-term.  We need to think about how we can incorporate our goals (and the steps we need to get there) into our daily routine withOUT it feeling like torture (torture = not going to do it.  Period).

MAKING CHANGES

Any life change – or the endeavor to make a lifestyle change – requires the following:

  1. We truly want the change ourselves (we honestly want it, we aren’t being coerced, or forced, or guilted into it).
  2. The change is realistic (for example, we can lose weight or be healthier, but we can’t suddenly look like someone who is an entirely different body type than we naturally possess).
  3. The change is one we can maintain over time (we aren’t instituting so rigid a plan that we fail to account for human error and natural, flexible fluctuation).

That’s really it!

Well, then what gets in the way…?!

ROADBLOCKS

  1. Our “resolutions” and hopes for a new way of living are sometimes at the mercy of temporal constraints.
  2. As above…excuses are insidious.  It’s easy to find reasons why “ohhh, I’ll do it tomorrow – I’m just too tired / don’t have time.”  Or, “well, I’m already down hill so may as well keep going!”  That kind of thinking will derail anyone!

Okay…so then how do we DEFEAT the roadblocks?

OVERCOMING ROADBLOCKS

  • Promise yourself that you will make time Time is limited for us all – sometimes I’m amazed how much other people fit into the day, and how much they know!  Well…they’ve got the same 24 hours so that means I need to figure out – if I want to fit something in – how I’m going to do that.
  • Our excuses need to be exposed for what they are.  They need to be acknowledged and nipped in the bud AS SOON AS THEY APPEAR.  Keep tabs on yourself and be honest with you.  If you need to write them down, do it.  If you want to post goal pictures or positive affirmations around the house, do it.  If you need to recruit a partner, do it.  Whatever you need to squash those pesky excuses…DO it.  You are NOT alone.  We all make excuses.  But…
  • Remember that a tiny effort each day WILL get you headed in the right direction.  Baby steps are still progress and it is SUPER important that you notice your efforts and any progress you make (again…little steps are still steps)!

Fortunately…again…

“Happy” is something that we all can make strides towards.  We owe it to ourselves to put it on the top of the priority list not only because we deserve to enjoy life, but also because being “happier” contributes to the overall picture.  When we FEEL happier, so much more falls into place – we feel motivated, we feel invigorated, our mood and attitude improves…and we find more of that self-confidence that we both deserve and need to be successful in life.

  • Make a list of what contributes to YOUR happiness.  Try to incorporate more of THAT into your day.
  • Look for the little improvements…and pat yourself on the back.
  • Force a smile when you don’t feel like it (sometimes – it’s also okay to need time to “feel”).
  • Make a gratitude list…
  • Be yourself, and be proud.  You’re worth it.

Blessed 2019 to all…

 

Planting The Seed And Letting Go

There is no contesting that an individual set firmly in his or her ways (and honestly, who isn’t after the age of 2!?), will not embrace change unless he or she chooses to. To change requires a process of self-reflection, of acceptance, and of a willingness to walk a new path – but looking in the mirror and choosing to face the truth of what we see isn’t always so easy. We are likely our harshest critic, and also at times guilty of self-delusion…so facing ourselves head on can be a frightening prospect! In this way, admitting that we even NEED a change can prove a challenge, forget someone else insisting we make one. 

It may be that we want to address something small, such as a relatively benign habit (hitting the snooze button more than we’d like to, leaving dishes around, getting sucked into social media until 2am…) or something more significant (wanting to alter a life habit or behavior that no longer serves us.) Whatever it is, those decisions begin internally – when we are ready, willing, and would like a change, that’s when change becomes possible. It will take work, but opening the door begins within.

All that said…planting a seed ought not be abandoned as an exercise in futility! While we may be resistant at first, there is always room to grow. Criticism is tough to handle for most of us – we have an innate need to belong (refer to Maslow for one theory) and therefore also to impress on some level. Most of us aren’t proud of our quirks or common foibles, and when they are engrained over the duration of our lives, they’re much harder to uproot. But, it can be done…and sometimes the repeated lessons or directions helps.

For example, there are things that I have done much of my life that just aren’t helpful any longer. I know they are habits born of some challenging times in my life – they served, at that time, as a way to cope and survive. So once upon a time, perhaps shutting down served me well – it protected me in that moment. But a deer-in-the-headlights way of operating doesn’t work when communication is required…so, I’ve been working on it. Finding one’s voice is a daunting task, especially when you weren’t really aware you had lost it, when you had lost it, or how the hell to get it back! 

For another thing, I’ve identified with, and hinged my worth on brightening others’ days, diffusing or patching fights between people, and putting others first. For a long time I thought that was a really noble quality – I sincerely wanted to fix people’s hardships and be as little of a burden as possible. But…I’ve learned that there are some not great byproducts of that. It isn’t my right or responsibility to help, fix, or otherwise brighten someone’s existence – maybe they don’t damn well want me to! (That was an immensely tough realization for me, though I’ve learned that not taking this on provides me a great deal of freedom.) And not wanting to be in the way can translate to indecisiveness or a selfless approach that leaves someone else wondering what I feel internally.

If it wasn’t pointed out, I suppose I’d just continue along as always – because why fix what isn’t really “broken?” Learning that perhaps my methods of operating aren’t serving me as well anymore, or those around me, that I don’t need certain defenses, that it’s okay to be selfish and forthright has had a positive impact. That doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly rid of habits – I have to work really hard to overcome conditioning (just as we all do!) But it means I have awareness – the seed was planted a while ago, I’ve allowed it to bloom taking the time it needs, and I’ve reached a point where I am able to see that change is possible. And, that I want it. 

So the point is that maybe a behavior or attitude we carry with us worked in past situations – maybe it was a way that we coped, or got things accomplished, or even the reason we survived in the end. But it’s possible that those methods would do well with a shift – time marches on, life changes, the people and places in our lives change… We don’t always need the same tools. If we are willing and able to take a hard look in the mirror, we may find ourselves opening to change and working for it. In some cases, though, we just aren’t ready. Criticism and constructive commentary may need to take place for some time… Maybe we need to hear the message a million times before we can really make sense of it…and only then are we ready to acknowledge a change would serve us well.

It takes time… We aren’t always open to altering ourselves – we’ve managed well enough as long as we’ve been around, right?! But the positive seeds others plant aren’t in vain because we may yet come to a fork in the road when suddenly those seeds find a way to flourish. 

So remember that it’s hard enough to change oneself – asking that of someone who isn’t ready for the message may well fall on deaf ears. Maybe even rightfully so. But…if it’s a message that might bring about positive change for that person, don’t give up on planting the idea. It may take time for that seed to find the daylight, but in time it may grow into something spectacular.

 

Yesterday You Said “Tomorrow”

This has always been a favorite, ass-kicking quote of mine. When I say I’m going to do something and I lollygag, I’m in for a nice trip to Self-Disappointment Central. This quote reminds me that if I commit to something – doesn’t matter what – come hell or high water, I’m going to go for it.

I don’t have to be perfect – it’s about progress, NOT perfection! – but I damn well need to try. SOME effort is better than ZERO effort in my book.

Never mind that… The prospect of spiraling downwards, getting stuck, or making life harder for myself (longer climb the longer I “put off what can be done today”) is absolutely horrifying. So much so that I flash this quote in front of my face and I start somewhere.

Ever have a moment where you think, “holy smokes! Is it (- day of the year –  ) already?!” or...”when the hell did I turn 40?! Where did the rest go?!”

Life moves FAST – in the nigh-literal blink of an eye. Cherish what you have today.

START working on your goals today.

Today turns into tomorrow, then next week, then next year before you know it – instead of drowning while your head is reeling, take a step forward. A little one is still in the right direction. You got this!

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My Heathy Eating, Japanese Reset

As mentioned in my post Tips For Healthier Eating And Weight Loss – Inspired By Japan I mentioned that I was very eager to have a reset with my own dietary habits. Generally I’m the only person who is aware that I’m puffier than normal, or holding onto slightly more weight than I should… But really, I’m the only one who matters in that equation, right? If I notice I’m not where I want to be and it makes me unhappy, then I know I have work to do. If I don’t do the work, I know exactly where that will land me emotionally – I’m not going to head that direction willingly.

So did my “reset” actually work?

Y E S!

Generally it takes a few weeks to reprogram ourselves into a new habit – a week in Japan wasn’t going to be enough, but it was a jumpstart that I knew I could look forward to. The Japanese don’t eat the way we do in America – I was counting on that! It isn’t that I’ve been through eating disorders or that I don’t think I can handle being around food establishments. I don’t have any fear or anxiety surrounding going out to eat either – most establishments have SOMEthing I’ll like (and in Japan, I knew they would.) I have a willpower the Spartans would have paid me for on top of it, so I’m not worried about seeing delicious items on the menu, splurging, and being disappointed with myself later. Rather it’s that I don’t enjoy being around the over-doing that goes on… At all.

It isn’t about a judgment, let me be clear. I don’t have any right (or desire) to try to guess as to why some people are morbidly overweight, or why someone eats well beyond when their body says “HALT!” It isn’t my place to judge, and there could be a million reasons why – it’s frankly NONE of my business. What disgusts me (and really, that’s the best word for it) is the over-stuffing, over-ordering, over-filling, over-indulging. 

As with everything else, to each their own for sure. What I’ve learned about myself is that I simply don’t want to be around that kind of splurging and binging. If I had to go into McDonalds, I’d take my food and go. You’ll never catch me on a cruise, for example – food is the focus and I am an eat-to-live kind of person. I LOVE to eat, don’t get me wrong, but my long-term goals are more of a priority than the short-term satisfaction. 

I don’t’ care about eating as it pertains anyone but myself – I am the only person / place / thing over which I have control AND, I’m the only person who’s my business! But that also means that pigouts are uncomfortable to be around because I don’t enjoy the over-doing when it comes to food (particularly here in the States.) When asked for nutritional advice, I always preface it by saying “what works for me, may not for someone else – our goals and bodies are different.”

So Japan…Japan was very welcome. The portions are WAY smaller. People don’t over-stuff themselves. People take time eating, and even buffets are healthy. You RARELY see anyone who’s overweight, let alone morbidly obese. Everyone – regardless of age – is WALKING. People are moving around all day, and eating healthily on top of it. Our surroundings matter and I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed that environment.

So, what did I learn? Which habits did I bring home?

I’ve made a few tweaks to my nutrition since I’ve been back, inspired by the change in routine:

1. I eat less at each sitting

I *could* eat more but I don’t serve myself more…because the extra isn’t necessary to feel full. Today I went back for a few more bites (a few times!) because I realized I needed more food and was, legitimately, hungry. But I ate my lunch, I waited. I had some water. And then I realized I needed to add.

2. I use smaller serving vessles

I’m using a bowl half or 2/3 the size of what I used when I left. Big difference! It allows me to fill it (looks like a lot!) but not overeat. I’d have the sensation of being full (before I went to Japan), so why was I forcing myself? No good reason! I’m not starving, and food is not in short supply. There’s more where it came from so I can chill out…

3. I use chopsticks

Yes, for every meal! Why? SLOWS ME DOWN! Seriously…there’s no need to shovel in food, and I can eat way too much way too fast if I’m not careful and paying attention.

4. I use mindfulness

I try to pay attention while I’m eating. Distraction can lead to stuffing myself more than I need to…and also delay my full signal because I’m not in tune. I try to be more aware of my food, and that I’m really enjoying it.

5. I don’t overdo

I don’t over-buy or over-order. I stock up a lot of frozen veggies because it saves me some trips (and keeps other food cold that I might buy while out and about.) But I don’t go crazy with things that I know I’ll just end up eating too much of – saves me the trouble of fighting urges (and losing those battles. Which…I will!)

6. I have lightened up on cruciferous veggies and go for free instead

Some vegetables can upset the stomach. Though I can tolerate a LOT more fiber than the average person (it’s been the bulk of my diet for over a decade – as in, four to eight pounds of veggies a day!) it can still be too much for me. Switching to lesser puffy-producing veggies has meant less stomach aches. I tend not to overeat green beans, snap peas, legumes, or greens as much as I do cauliflower so I’m also having a little less overall. 

What have I noticed with the reset?

  1. I’m feeling better overall!
  2. My stomach doesn’t hurt as much (WIN! I suffer from regular stomach aches)
  3. I’m not as puffy feeling or looking
  4. I probably lost a pound or two (or at least puffiness from too much food and fiber)
  5. I’m not starving. At all!
  6. I have plenty of energy
  7. I’ve been sleeping better overall
  8. I have less anxiety about having to eat right away because my body isn’t responding as poorly to not eating quickly enough (still happens, but not as horribly)

So yes, my ruse worked! BUT…a big part of it is sticking to the plan. I’m making sure I KEEP good habits because it’s easy to revert to poor ones.

My goal has always been to maintain a healthy, happy, strong body…and that hasn’t changed. My nutritional needs, however, have. I’m 40…not 20…so it’s important I listen to my body, and that I try to fuel it with the proper food…not to mention the proper QUANTITY of it. America doesn’t help us a ton there because it’s always about how much can you stuff in for how little money. That is a horrifying concept to me! Again, different things work for different people – because I know what I need, I make sure I’m not around what doesn’t support my goals, or whatever makes me feel uncomfortable. Nothing wrong with looking after ourselves – we do, at the end of the day, have to live with ourselves TRULY 24/7. We deserve to feel – and be – healthy. Period.

Get Moving! – Self Care Matters

I was on a long road trip this past weekend and delved into a few podcasts, all but one related to fitness as it pertains to the health, development, and symptomatology (physical manifestations, presentations in the academic setting, social interactions, problem behaviors etc.) of various disabilities (including autism, down syndrome, and ADHD.) What I heard, however, was relevant to all human beings as a species – much of it covered material I have always taken as “common sense” (likely a product of an athletic upbringing), but some of it was also a little bit alarming.

According to studies, a wholly sedentary life can be more detrimental to our health long-term than smoking. Uh…YIKES. As I am neither a clinician nor a doctor, I’ll leave the research review of studies and articles (such as this one) to you. One way or the other, though, inactivity is bad news.

While I know some people who’d argue a few minutes out of a lifetime isn’t a big deal, I’m willing to bet there have been moments in all of our lives during which we’d have done anything to gain more time. It can be a frightening prospect when put into that kind of perspective – we are (like it or not) a fragile and fleeting species.

The discussions in the podcasts revolved around how we can engage those that have deficits in joint attention, physical challenges, and slower cognitive processes, as well as those who aren’t particularly interested in the activities to begin with. Again, the concepts were ones we all would do well to live by, particularly that last one.

We have one body this go around and it’s important that we take care of it as if it was as sacred to us as whatever else in our lives we cherish (YES, you DO deserve that kind of love and care from yourself.)

This photo crossed my path the other day and I found it, too, to be both jarring and sad.

I was recently chatting with a 93 year-old friend about aging well – meaning mind, body, and spirit. We were out on the ice – both of us skating – and were nodding our heads that many people resign themselves to a false fate. What do I mean by that? I mean that some people think “active” and “healthy” are reserved for 20-somethings or younger.

B U L L S H I T ! Here’s my buddy George proving everyone wrong by zooming around the ice with me…

As we get older, some change is inevitable – we might need longer recovery, we might need an extra rest day, we might need to tweak our nutrition to suit what our body and minds need with each passing year…but that doesn’t mean we can’t stay healthy overall. 

I always believed in maintenance because a spiral that has delved into the depths is harder to come back from – that goes for every aspect of our being (emotional, spiritual, physical, you name it!)

Goals don’t have to be unrealistic (nor should they be!) – we DON’T have to compete with anyone, let alone a professional athlete, a model, a celebrity, a Roman statue, a meme…! 

There’s also no need to set ourselves up for failure by trying to attain what doesn’t make sense. Not everyone wants to be overly muscular, or necessarily “thin”… It’s about striving for a healthy, fit, and / or active life, which is – YES – more than achievable. Remember, our “healthy” may look differently than our neighbor…but we always know, deep down, if we have attained that. Or not.

When we try to take steps each day to love the one vessel we have been given, we are able to stay in control of what we CAN do…rather than deal with what we can’t because we decided we were too much effort. 

You ARE worth the effort, 1,000%. 

And…you can do anything you put your mind to. Beyond that, treating ourselves with the respect we deserve in order to live and enjoy a healthy life means we may buy ourselves some precious moments that one day we will thank the stars we have to spend.

 

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