Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Revisiting Exercises from Days Long Past

Everyone always tells you that exercise should be fun – because, let’s face it, if it’s not fun you’re less likely to want to do it. And despite the fact that recent research has now pretty much shown that exercise is not going to make you thin, there are a lot of positive benefits of getting your heart rate up – the least of which include helping your body absorb calcium from the blood, detoxifying your skin, and strengthening your heart.

So what does it mean to find an exercise that you love?

As adults, particularly women, we tend to think about exercise as going to a gym or taking a class. Admittedly, men are more likely to have stayed active with sporting activities or games throughout their lives, for example, playing pick up basketball at community gyms or going rock climbing, skiing, or cycling on the weekends with their friends.

But if you watch young kids play, they are constantly in a state of motion. They don’t need any excuse to exercise. They don’t need any additional motivation. You don’t need to convince them to move. In fact, if anything, you usually have to convince them to stop running, to sit down, to take a nap, and to settle down. Unfortunately these messages are usually pretty well internalized by the time they’re teens – which is the time when they need to start running, to get up, to stop sleeping, and pick it up. This is especially true for young women whose bodies (especially if they’ve grown up drinking dairy products enriched with fat storing growth hormones) are naturally designed to start storing fat upon adolescence.

Kids move their bodies.

Adults look for excuses not to.

Well, yesterday, I was doing a round of High Intensity Interval Training and one of the sets was to skip in place.

Remember skipping?

It took me a minute as I really had to think about what I was requiring my body to do. You throw one arm up as the opposite knee also goes up? What?!

After a couple of false starts, I figured it out. And once I did, my body memory kicked in and I remembered: I love skipping! Or, more accurately, when I was a kid, I loved skipping! I didn’t just like it. I seriously loved it! In fact, I remember my mother telling me repeatedly to slow down, to stop skipping, to not skip in the house, etc. Now, granted, I was a bit of a klutz, so I’m sure that I spent more time on the ground face first than I did moving gracefully above ground and we also lived in a pretty small house, so she was probably just looking out for my best interest – so I don’t mean to be bashing my mom. But the bottom line is that eventually I stopped skipping. I stopped skipping so resolutely that I had completely forgotten about it. I had completely forgotten about how much I loved it.

So, during my H.I.I.T. I was supposed to skip in place 75 times.

Without going into too much detail, let me just say that that’s harder than it sounds! I was gasping by the end of it. I was particularly out of breath given that you did this 12 times, plus a lot of other stuff (the entire routine was based off the of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas with the skipping on day one! Just in case math isn’t your strong suit: 75 times 12 is a 900 skips. That’s a lot of skips. If you don’t believe me, just give it a shot!

Well, after that I started thinking. What would my life had been like if I had never stopped skipping? How many calories a day would I have burned just doing something that I loved instead of doing something that I felt like I had to do? How much better shape would I be in if I skipped from my car to the office and back again? Or if I skipped from one end of the house to the other ten times a day as I went about my daily routine? More importantly, how much more fun would I have?

So, after my 20 minute exercise routine, I drank some water and decided to skip to the end of the driveway and back. Michael J and I live in a house that’s pretty set back from the road; I would guess that it’s less than a quarter mile, but I couldn’t tell you for certain. It is pretty steep though, at least in places. Regardless, I took a deep breath and without so much as even taking a glance around to see if anyone was watching, I took off.

Skipping in the real world is fun. Skipping in motion (that is, not in place in your living room) is fun and exhilarating. There’s enough movement that it creates a nice breeze. I felt ten years younger. I laughed. I had fun!

Heading down hill (away from the house) my heart rate pretty quickly went from 85 (post workout) to 115 and by the time I had made it to the street it was 145. After taking a few seconds rest, I turned around and headed back up the hill, which, granted, was much harder. By the time I crested the last hill, I was totally winded and my heart rate was 162!

But it was fun! In less than 6 minutes, I burned about 70 calories and had a complete physiological and emotional state change. Not only because I was moving my body, but because I was moving it in a way that brought back memories of being happy, easy, free, and comfortable in my body. I was literally transported back to a time where I accepted myself whole heartedly and could enjoy being in my body without any feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment or shame. And trust me, that’s worth something.

If you need to mix up your routine or you just need a quick way to shift your state, try skipping. Or, better yet, reach into your old childhood toy box and find find the thing that you used to love the most. Even if you don’t think you remember how to do it, I bet your body can remind you. And even if you think you’re body can’t do it because you’re too old or you’re too out of shape or that you couldn’t possibly still like X, Y, or Z, I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Strike Two on Personality!

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently learned that INTJs (Introverted INtuitive Thinker Judgers), under times of stress are more likely to seek out full body experiences, which include, among other things (like sex and exercise), eating!

Given that I have struggled with stress eating (some would call it bingeing) and – to a lesser degree – overexercise my whole life, this made a lot of sense to me.

We then moved on to the Enneagram Personality Model. Well, as it turns out I am a 5 Personality Type (also known as the Stinge). Stinge’s hoard. They always think that they need more of whatever it is. I could give you a thousand examples of how this plays out in my daily life now that I am aware of it (including how I routinely hide protein bars in my bag so that Michael J won’t eat the one’s that I want and how I routinely hog all of the flat surfaces in the house with of the stuff that I’ve been hoarding for God only knows how long), but I won’t. Just trust me: it’s there!

Interestingly, the Enneagram Personality Model tells you what your basic preferences or behavior patterns are at three points: where you are normally (which for me is a 5) and where you go under times of stress and intimacy. Without going into too much gory detail, where I go under intimacy explains a lot about my history with men (and with friends). And where I go under stress is – you guessed it – Gluttony!

Interestingly, the Myer’s-Brigg and the Enneagram are not perfectly correlated with one another. You can think of one as supplementing the other.

So, just my luck – what didn’t get covered by stress eating gets “covered” by my propensity to choose gluttony!

Now, one approach to this information might be just say, that’s the way I am, so I have permission to act that way…so I should just pull my chair up to the fridge and be done with it. However, personality can also be thought of as a decision that you made as a child in response to an arbitrary event that you had confirmed over and over again during the course of your life as opposed to something that’s biologically hardwired. If you take this second approach, then I can view my propensity to stress eat simply as a learned pattern of behavior that can be unlearned.

The key is remembering to observe it (and acknowledge it) not as something that can’t be changed, but as just something I do because it’s comfortable. It’s a choice. It’s not set in stone. It’s not just the way I am. And, perhaps even more importantly, it’s not me.

So the next time I catch myself stress eating, I will just observe the behavior and acknowledge that that’s the choice I made.

And, who knows? Perhaps, in time, I’ll learn to choose a different choice.

Personality and Stress Eating

I have battled with stress eating my whole life. I always assumed that it was a lack of will power.

I am currently at a five day seminar on personality types. (Michael J and I are all about the learning vacations!)

Yesterday we covered the Myers-Brigg in more detail than I have even seen it covered in any psychology class in college.

Much to my chagrin, I am still a hard core INTJ (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinker, Judger). I would like to think that I have have practiced my Feeling muscle over the years, but it’s not totally clear after sitting at a table with a bunch of self-identified hard core feelers.

The interesting thing (one of many) about yesterday’s presentation, is they helped us to identify our strengths and our weaknesses. The thing that you are most weak in is your achilles heel, so to speak, and under times of stress, you revert back to it. It’s sort of like letting a 3 year old drive your brand new Mercedes! Because my weakness is Extroverted Sensing, under times of stress, I often seek out whole body sensory activities, which, if left unchecked, can manifest itself in addictions – to food, to alcohol, to drugs! (Notably, my struggle with stress eating has tripled since I stopped drinking red wine on a regular basis).

Interestingly (and I actually felt good about this), my positive “hack” is exercise.

This means when I get to feeling overwhelm and stress in my strength, my Introverted Intuition, instead of reaching for the almond butter or tahini (or whatever the full fat flavor of the week happens to be) I should exercise! Even if it’s just a short ten or fifteen minute burst.

I tend to do this anyway, but hopefully having this insight will encourage me to do that first, instead of after the fact.

Although the course is on personality type, I think it’s really about preference and habits. I’m hoping to get some additional tips on how to not only strengthen my strengths but also to strengthen (or at the very least shore up) my weaknesses.

It’s Very Rare That I’m Speechless…

…but it’s been known to happen.

Today was one of those days. I literally lost my whole train of thought, my mind blanked out and literally jumped tracks.

I was at a business meeting. I can’t remember exactly what was said, but the gentleman to my right said (to me): “But you’re very thin.”

All of the noise in the busy cafe faded to nothingness. I totally forgot what I was saying. If the floor didn’t tilt it very well could have. And I just sat there – mouth open.

‘Really? Can I kiss you?’

It really was shocking to me to have someone that I didn’t know refer to me not only as thin – but as “very thin.”

Although I didn’t ask if I could kiss him out loud (though I might have, now that I think about it), I did ask if he was serious. “Really? Do you think so?”

He looked at me like I was crazy. “Yes,” he repeated, giving me a strange look. “You’re a very thin woman.”

Michael J, from his seat behind, me laughed, “Identity shift in action.” (He told me later that the silence emanating from me was deafening.)

It really was one of those moments where I felt like I had to explain my whole sordid history with food, but luckily for me (and probably for the poor guy who’s thinking he’s never going to comment on a woman’s weight again) I managed to choke it back after a quick false start.

It was an interesting moment – or ten, as that’s how long it took me to get my head around the fact that to the rest of the world (that is, the part that really doesn’t know me) thinks of me as being not only thin – but very thin.

There is no real moral to this story; I just wanted to write it down for posterity (especially now that I think I’m writing this in the middle of an earthquake!!! Time to go check CNN!)

post script: As it turns out there was a earthquake (5.9 on the richter scale) south of here, but it appears to have passed. Wouldn’t have that been a fitting? The first time a stranger refers to me as thin and the ground opens up and swallows me.

And the experiment continues (no more calorie counting)

It seems like everyday I am trying something new with my diet.

This weekend (and in the coming week), I have made a deal with myself to try the previously unthinkable.

I am not counting calories.

I have put away the LoseIt and I am going on trust. In other words, I am going to trust my body to tell me what she wants to eat and in what quantities.

For those of you who don’t know me, this is as scary as hell.

I’ve been counting calories (and keeping a food diary) for three years now – religiously.

But I decided that it’s time to cut myself some slack and to try trusting myself around food for a change.

And this doesn’t mean that I am doing the mental calorie calculations in my head and just not writing them down, which is what I sort of what I thought would happen. I literally haven’t even thought about the calories. To tell you the truth, it’s more liberating than I thought it would be (and it sort of belies all of those times that I told myself [and Michael J] that I really loved counting calories)! Because, to be honest, meal time – and life in general – is so much more pleasant and relaxed without it.

The interesting thing is that it seems like I am actually eating less than I was when I was counting calories! I think part of this is because since I am trying to feel that satiation point (instead of eating a certain number of calories) I have really slowed down my eating. It’s amazing how much less you eat when you slow down enough to savor each bite.

The hardest part of this whole thing I am realizing is not the trusting, but the slowing down. Sometimes (most times) I am three or four bites into it before I realize that I am eating way too fast. When that happens, which it does at least twice a day, I have to literally put down the fork (or the spoon or the piece of flax bread) and remind myself to breathe.

I’ve been trying to remember to take three deep breaths before I put anything in my mouth and to continue to take deep breaths through my nose while I eat, but it hasn’t been perfect. Slowing down and breathing while you eat makes a huge difference. I enjoy my food more. I eat less. And I feel much more satiated.

I would like to say that I discovered these strategies on my own, but alas that would not be the case!

To give credit where credit’s due, I am currently reading The Slow Down Diet: Eating For Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss, by Marc David. It’s a great book. I highly recommend it, even if you don’t have any weight to lose. It seems so intuitive, yet potentially life changing.

In fact, it may be that this relatively short, easy to read book may hold the last of the answers I’ve been searching for.

As the title suggests, the key is really about slowing down enough to trust yourself – neither of which I have been able to master in my previous relationship with food. This program seeks to remedy that by encouraging you to get in touch with your “inner nutritionist” and to really be present, pay attention, and get in alignment with your needs and desires.

And although the focus is on food, if you squint a little, you can see quite easily how the principles therein could also apply to pretty much every aspect of your life.

Essentially, The Slow Down Diet is designed to be implemented over an eight week period. Each week focuses on one of the “eight universal metabolizers,” which David identifies as Relaxation, Quality, Awareness, Rhythm, Pleasure, Thought, Story, and the Sacred.

At some point, he states that our approach to food (or eating) mirrors our approach to life. In other words, the way we do food is the way we do life. Reading this book, especially the chapter on awareness, has made me see that not only do I not eat with awareness, I also don’t live my life with awareness to the degree that I would like. That is, I don’t bring my full concentration to bear on many things – not just the food that I used to shovel down unthinkingly, but also my relationships, my work, or my home.

As I work on implementing the principles of this diet in my relationship with food, I also hope to deploy them in other areas of my life. Wouldn’t it be nice to be more relaxed, to have more quality, to be more aware, and to experience more rhythm, pleasure, and thoughtfulness? Wouldn’t it be absolutely joyous to rely (or access) better stories and to be more profoundly in tune with the sacred?

Potential for weight loss aside, doesn’t it just seem like a better way to live?

I know that when something sounds too good to be true, it often is. But there is something so intuitive about this book; it makes so much sense to me at such a deep level that I could not not try it.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted as the experiment continues. I do, however, think it’s worth noting that I do trust myself enough to at least try it, which, for those of you who know my history, is truly saying something and really speaks to the identity-level changes that have occurred over the last three years.

If you’re someone who bolts your food down without tasting it, who eats in the car, or who lives off fast food only to find yourself back in front of the fridge (or back in the drive-thru) an hour later, then I recommend you read this book. Who knows, it might change your relationship with food.

And, if you let it, it might also change your relationship with yourself, if not your entire orientation towards life.

Introducing Bella

I have a new best friend.

Well, technically, I’ve always had her, I just didn’t appreciate her. In fact, I think it’s pretty fair to say that I loathed her (Sorry, Bella).

I have been working with spiritual weight loss coach, Andrea Albright, for almost a year now. If you recall, she was the one that convinced me to throw away the scale.

It was also on her advice that I examined the possibility that I may have a food allergy (or several as it turned out). And it’s been her voice that I listen to in my car everyday, telling me how important it is to love my body.

In addition to her general weight loss program, she also has a audio course specifically on losing belly fat, and in the very first disc, she invites you to rub your hands together to make sure they’re nice and warm and to lay them on your belly and say (out loud): I love you.

The first time I heard that, I laughed (out loud). And I most certainly didn’t do it. The reason I didn’t (or so I said) is because I was driving. But in reality, I just couldn’t stomach it – no pun intended. I didn’t love my belly. I hated it. (Again, sorry Bella).

Why is it important to love your belly?

Well, the more you love something, the better care you take of it.

And the more that you love something, the better care it takes of you.

When you love your belly, you’re no longer at war with your body, which means, by definition, that you are also no longer at war with yourself.

When you love your belly (or whatever part of your body with which you’re chronically dissatisfied) you eliminate a lot of negative self-talk from your life automatically.

It’s also important to love your belly (and every part of your body) because no matter what shape your belly (or your body) is in currently, she’s an amazing being. Just think about it: where would you be without her?!

One of the things that I learned from listening to Andrea is that this truly is the only body I have and will ever have. And though that seems incredibly simple, getting that – at a deep level – changes everything. Your body is always going to be with you. Your body is your most significant relationship – it is the true ’til death do us part.

When this finally clicked, everything changed. And I do mean everything.

All of a sudden that big fat belly that I used to focus on (and fixate on) with loathing and disgust became the part of my body that deserved the most attention, the most respect, and, believe it or not, the most love.

The first thing I did to rehabilitate my relationship with my belly was to stop referring to it as an it. And, as I’m sure you guessed, by now, named her.

Let me introduce you to my belly, Bella.

Now, you may be wondering, Why Bella?

No, this isn’t some weird Twilight thing!

One, Bella is close to belly.

Two, it means beautiful.

So, now whenever I look at my belly or think about it, I automatically associate the word beautiful with it. My beautiful belly. In fact, whenever I see myself in a full length mirror, I simply say hello to Bella, as I would any good friend.

Again, ‘Hello Beautiful.”

I know this sounds silly, but my entire orientation to my belly (and, in fact, my entire body!) has changed.

It’s a wonderful feeling to look in the mirror and like what you see. In fact, it’s something that until this last couple of weeks, I’d never before experienced.

So, why does it work?

One of the things that I’ve learned from working with different weight loss coaches, is that you should treat yourself (and your body) like you’re (she’s) your own best friend. When you do that, it becomes impossible to beat yourself up. I mean, think about it: when is the last time you told your best friend that she was a big, fat slob, an abject failure, or destined to be fat for the rest of her life?

I would imagine that if you can actually remember a time, it was probably right before you lost that best friend forever! Bottom line is that you just wouldn’t do it.

So why is it that most women look in the mirror and say those things to themselves every day – if not every hour of every day?

I can’t explain to you in writing how much my life has shifted with this one little thing. I truly love my belly. Now that I have named her, I am more likely to touch her and wrap my arms around her, much like I would a beloved child. I am more likely to mind my posture and and to engage in deep breathing as I am more aware of how this affects her. And just yesterday, while out shopping for t-shirts, I was much more likely to blame the cut of the shirt than my belly!

So, instead of thinking automatically, my stomach looks terrible in this, I literally (and seamlessly) found myself thinking: this shirt doesn’t look good on Bella. Or, better yet, Bella does not like this shirt.

For those of you who have ever stood underneath the florescent lights of dressing room beating yourself up, you know what a miraculous shift this kind of thinking is. And if you can’t imagine it, just try it.

It seems like such a tiny, silly, easy thing, but it’s been the most significant change I’ve made so far.

Seriously. If you have a love-hate (or even a hate-hate) relationship with your body or belly, change it. It doesn’t take much…just a little imagination and a willingness to treat your body with the same respect you’d most likely treat anyone upon whose life yours depended.

I’ll let that sink in. And in the meantime, Bella and I are going out to enjoy the sun!

Female Fat Loss Over Forty

No doubt about it, Facebook is the internet marketer’s best friend.

A few days ago, I posted a comment-status-thingie on Facebook about doing Tabata Training and or High Intensity Training (H.I.I.T.) and – literally – within 24 hours an information products ad popped up on my profile that was obviously tailor made for me. The headline was Female Fat Loss Over Forty and said something about working out less than 15 minutes a day. I knew exactly what it was when I clicked on it. And, in fact, it was almost as if Facebook had been sitting in my living room listening in (which they may have been given their egregious privacy policies), because I had just said – not five minutes before – that I really wish I could just find a bunch of H.I.I.T. workouts that were timed for you, etc.

Ask and you shall receive.

Besides it was only $29.00, so why not?

So, I hit the button and in my mailbox arrives Fat Loss Over Forty (plus bonuses – of course)!

Actually, all I’ve been doing is the bonus, which is a 21 day fat loss program, which includes three 30 minute workouts (an interesting cross between Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred and P90X) and 3 days of 20 minute H.I.I.T. workouts (to be done on your off days). Other bonuses include a pretty standard diet/nutrition program (which is worthless to me, but might be a good start for someone who hasn’t really thought about nutrition) and a two page reminder of the biochemical benefits of sleep! It also comes with a full color exercise encyclopedia.

The woman is Canadian. She’s a health and fitness coach with a string of letters behind her name. And she seems to have a penchant for bad pop music. (I’m pretty sure that was Lady Gaga she was playing in the background). And she’s shooting these workout in her living room!

Now, you may think that’s pretty cheesy and you’d never buy an exercise video of someone working out in their home. However, there is something really endearing about someone checking their notes between exercises, breathing hard right along with you, and working out in the same non-optimal conditions you are! I particularly had to laugh when she was doing skaters and the rug kept sliding out from beneath her feet. Been there!

I also like the fact that she is over 40 and she gets winded – really winded! Seriously, the woman is working. And it makes me feel less self-conscious about my own panting and groaning.

Now I’ve done videos/DVDs for years, and I must say that this is as serious a workout as I have ever gotten with Jillian Michaels (and with a heck of a lot less impact on the knees).

And let me also say that the first “off day,” where I did the H.I.I.T. training, kicked my ass.

Another benefit to this particular approach to home fitness, is that I was able to download all of this stuff immediately onto my computer, which means I will be able to take it with me – without having to cart around a bunch of DVDs – while I am traveling this summer.

According to the marketing, this is what I can expect to experience in the next 28 days:

* Firmer arms, legs, thighs, and buns
* Increased strength, energy, and stamina
* Faster Metabolism to burn more fat at rest
* Tighter, flatter abs – means smaller waist
* 4-12 pounds of weight loss
* 3-6% decrease in body fat
* Increased muscle tone and flexibility
* Greater confidence and self-esteem
* Decreased stress, tension, and anxiety
* Increased sense of overall well being
* Reduce cravings for fats, sugars, and junk foods
* Sleep better at night and increase daily productivity
* Decrease back pain and discomfort
* Lose the uncomfortable “bloated” feeling
* Look and feel better in your favorite clothes

Sounds pretty good! Even if I just accomplish a third of that, I’ll feel like I got my money’s worth!

Regardless, I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

By the way, today’s workout was awesome: 30 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest (which really was just about the time it took to change positions), for a total of 30 minutes. Super challenging, but absolutely enjoyable – probably because I knew if I didn’t like something (or, better yet, couldn’t do something) it wouldn’t last long!

Eat Dessert First

Not a first, tonight I opted to have dinner in the form of dessert! Yum!

I swear, about half of my recipes these days comes straight from Gena Hamshaw’s amazing blog, Choosing Raw! Without a doubt, hers are some of the easiest, most beautiful, and most delicious recipes on the web!