Sunday, June 30, 2013

Deciding to be Still

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
     As it often happens, my husband came to me with a good idea. After reading a blog post from a friend who had decided to do the same, he said,  "I'm taking a week off from social media," he told me. "No Facebook, no Twitter." Impulsively I decided to join him, knowing that it would be easier to keep to if we were both doing it, and feeling weirdly excited for an 'excuse', as if I needed permission to disconnect.
                                          How to be happyFind a place to be still. Go there. Repeat. 
      I love social media. It keeps me connected to far flung friends, affords me support for different pursuits from people all over the world that I would not otherwise have, and gives me a way of sharing in people's lives that is nothing short of miraculous.
     There's only a couple of problems. One, I find myself almost addicted to that relentless connection. To that illusion of multitasking, always checking to see if there is something new. Two, I started to lose my connection to silence, to deliberation, to doing one thing at a time and giving it my full attention. So taking a break afforded me the chance to remember how I used to do things before I had that constant hit of information and interaction at my disposal. And it was good. I also noticed that I was less focused on the negative, in ways both petty and grand. There was no opportunity to dip a finger in gossip. Or that nasty little taste for schadenfreude that we all have trouble admitting we have.
     Commitment to stillness is a lot like commitment to exercise. Practice makes us strong and able. Practicing stillness makes us calmer, comfortable with less input, less "noise". And I think we need it as much as we need to move. So I'll be back 'online' tomorrow, but I am adding regular breaks from being online to my practice of the 'Whole 9' principles. I have a suspicion that being less connected will ultimately result in my being better, more meaningfully and mindfully connected.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Powerless and Unmanageable

                                          SWYPO-- at my house
 I'm not sure why this always happens.
I relish the ideal moment to write, and then sit at this computer staring at the blinking cursor. "What was I going to say again?" My mind patters off giggling, leaving me with vague ideas of topic and snatches of lyrics to 80's pop songs.
     I'm sitting at my kitchen table in an empty house. It is a beautiful day, unseasonably mild, making sitting in the furthest spot from the air conditioner (which is not on, because it doesn't need to be on) possible. The goodness of the weather makes even being inside an almost obscene waste.

So of course I'm sitting at my kitchen table thinking about artificial sweeteners.

     I'm sorry, non-nutritive sweeteners. Artificial sounds so...artificial. It invokes the bright pink packets of Sweet and Low that used to blare cancer warnings, and the pencil thin, chain smoking, over-tanned women of my youth that would sit by the community pool clutching Jackie Collins novels and returnable bottles of Tab.
     One of the 'rules' of the Whole30, which is happening in just a week, is chucking all artificial sweeteners for the duration of the month. The idea is to reconnect with the taste of real food, not food that is overstimulating and nutritionally bereft or chemicals 600 times sweeter than naturally occurring sugar.
And this has been a tough one for me. See, I was always a sugar addict. Not a sugar user, not a sugar fan, a sugar addict, with all the skin crawly obsession, selfish hoarding, theft, deception, and other nonsense you'd normally associate with addictions that can get you arrested. It took me 42 years to realize that this particularly delightful component of my personality could not be bargained, rationed, Points valued,or negotiated with. I was surprised how much emotion came along with this realization. Fear. Panic. Grief. Sadness. I was like the character in 'As Good as it Gets' breaking down after his involuntary pet sitting that he unexpectedly enjoys comes to an end, and he laughs bitterly, saying to himself  "Over a DOG." Only it was sadder. Because I was thinking about brownies and cinnamon buns.
     Giving up sugar, I figured I was free. Because there were things I could use without consequences instead. I started to feel better. Good things started to happen.
There was, and is, only one problem.
I am still 'using'. I spent an inordinate amount of time, and not a small amount of money, trying to determine the exact right combination of sweeteners that would satisfy me. I wasn't looking for a certain balance of flavor, or a stability in a recipe, I was looking for something that would flip that cool, happy light on just like my old friend sugar.
And that, my good gentles, is STILL addiction.
     It is what Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, the authors of 'It Starts With Food' and the people behind the Whole30 call SWYPO-- Sex With Your Pants On. Getting off without technically 'breaking rules'. And I'll be honest. I don't make this statement with peace and smug satisfaction. The realization, bluntly, pisses me off. I'm pissed off because of the way my brain works. I'm pissed off that finding a way to keep it quiet by essentially engaging in the same behavior isn't acceptable, and I'm pissed off that I KNOW it isn't acceptable, because it means I have to do something about it. Not just for thirty days, but permanently.
     Now, my low carb friends will be quick to point out facts (and they are facts) about the dangers of some of the things in that picture and the relatively benign nature of others. They will argue that there are some things that can be peacefully accepted as part of a reasonable way of eating and for themselves they will be 100% correct. For me, they will be wrong. I wish they weren't.
     Or maybe I don't. Powerlessness is pretty fertile ground for gratitude.
And victory.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Whole 30 Countdown: The Goals

Whole9 It was pointed out to me by my husband, ever the helpful Editor, that I had not perhaps fully explained what has already changed in my day to day life, and how I got to this point. Without boring you with a 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'-length explanation, suffice it to say that I read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and made a decision to implement the suggestions contained in that book as a means of addressing several health issues that were draining my energy, keeping me awake, and generally ruining my good time. I read the book, implemented the suggestions, dumped both wheat and sugar officially on September 20th, 2012, and experienced an almost instant relief of a list of complaints so long I'm glad I wrote it down because I wouldn't have remembered them all. I have said goodbye to heartburn, chronic joint pain, incapacitating lethargy, persistent skin rash, poor sleep, and brain fog, just to name a few. And when I say goodbye, I mean just that. None of those things have returned. So. I know we all know how to use The Google so I won't overload you with links, but I do encourage you to check out this book for yourself. There is a cookbook, which, in addition to being full of tasty recipes has a quick and dirty rundown of the book itself in the front.

 Anyway, one of the suggestions for starting this Whole30 is to commit to specific goals in a number of areas. These are my goals. The goals are based on what the authors refer to as the 'Whole 9 Factors'-- areas of life that need to be in balance to improve health. I apologize if this isn't one of the more exciting blog posts I've ever written, but I like the idea of putting these out there, and committing to them. I only just saw how the self-evaluation for goal setting says 'don't feel a need to make a goal for every one of the 9 factors', which I totally did like the overachieving Girl Scout that I sometimes am, so I'll edit myself somewhat and hit the most important ones.

I have been absolutely compliant when it comes to elimination of wheat. I have been almost completely compliant regarding sugar-- there is none in my house, and aside from a couple of treat sorbettos from the local coffee shop, I've had none. So the prospect of eliminating grains and sugar for the Whole30 is not a real big deal to me.
Dairy, however, is another story. Dairy is allowable in my way of eating, but not in the Whole30. And this will be a challenge. Because I love love love dairy products. I love cheese. Real cream is like the sweet tears of little baby angels in my coffee. And while I've been improving my health by crazy leaps and bounds and losing weight, I have definitely been overindulging in 'legal food', which I know will, at some point, hamper my efforts, so I willingly set aside my beloved Kerrygold Dubliner and cream for my coffee in order to bring things into balance.
Things like this, I will miss. First Place cheese. Can I join the American Cheese Society? Is there a uniform?

Yeah, yeah, so what's the goal? My goal is to increase our overall vegetable intake, increase variety, and expand my repertoire to recipes that aren't so.... cheese-centric. I'm going to continue to make an effort to source the best quality possible ingredients. I already have a meal planning system in place so that will continue.

     Working third shift makes some unique demands on life.  Some of it involves realizing that you can't do all the things you used to do when you worked day/second shift. And that involves saying 'yes' to things very, very carefully. Showing up tired is simply not an option. My goal here is to continue to commit to rest as a priority and not something I fit in after I spend myself on everything and everyone else, because eventually, everyone gets shortchanged otherwise.

Stress Management
     I will choose two days a week to be completely free of social media. Seems weird that this would be the first thing under stress management, but I observe in myself a tendency to indulge worry, frustration, helplessness, and less honorable things like gossip and meanness if I spend too much time in the 'virtual world'. Sometimes even the sheer volume of information available about good things can be a stress. You can only absorb so much.

Personal Growth
     I will continue to read books that inform my understanding of nutrition, well being, spirituality and health, ONE AT A TIME. My reading list for the Whole 30 will be as follows:

  • Made to Crave 60 Day Devotional by Lysa TerKeurst -I already started this but I'm saving the last 30 days for July.
  • It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig- this is the book that explains the Whole 30 concept, I am reading it now but will likely refer to it during the month.
  • The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson-I've had this for a while and just need to get to it.
     I believe in doing what you enjoy. I am not of the mind that what Mark Sisson calls 'chronic cardio' is any good in the long run. What I do for movement, just like what I do for nutrition, needs to be sustainable and joyful or it is nothing more than a short term and ultimately untenable fix. Luckily, I enjoy a lot of things. The biking, walking, hiking, and exploring will continue. A rainy day may find me doing a DVD of some kind, but otherwise its all outside, all the time. I also want to explore some weight training. 

My Whole30 begins on July 1st. Anyone wishing to know what all this is about can head here for tons of information. A few intrepid adventurers have already let me know that they are in. Want to join me? Let me know!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Journey So Far

So things have been going pretty great.
Bet you expected some kind of penitent paragraph for not posting recently? Nah. I have much darker things to feel guilty about. (Not really. Well. On some level we all do. It is quite possible I've had a sminch too much iced coffee this afternoon.)
Anyhow, where was I?
Oh yes. Things have been going pretty great. Thought I'd post and let everyone know just what I've been doing.
As I may have mentioned, back in September I made super major changes to my way of eating. A lot of things that weren't serving me well were unceremoniously dumped with no sensitive breakup discussion or apology. What started with a literal black trash bag has rocked on for nine months now. I'm not very good at photographic evidence, but I do have some. So let's review.
Here's me in October 2012, about a month after my nutrition overhaul. At this point, I was enjoying increased energy and definite decrease in joint pain. On this particular day I was on my feet all day, which is not something I had previously been able to do without discomfort.
Yeah, its from kinda far away because we were trying to get the mastodon in. But you get the picture. Both of those articles of clothing have since been discarded because I almost dropped those shorts in the middle of the grocery store.
This photo was taken in February of this year.
I look happy, but believe me, running indoors in a beige room on a treadmill is not my idea of a good time. But in the dead of winter it keeps me from sighting in from a water tower so we'll go with it when its 11 degrees out. Most of the happiness in this picture comes from the fact that I can move. And I feel pretty darn good.
These days, with the mountain laurel in full bloom and the temperature somewhere between 75 and 90 (North Central PA is nothing if not capricious where weather is concerned), my gym looks more like this.
And I've traded in the bike with no wheels with a view of the dusty TV for this one.

And this makes me very, very happy indeed.
I know people are curious about numbers. I've already broken down all the other good things that have come of this so here ya go, numbers people.

Pounds lost to date: 62
Aggregate inches lost from five separate measuring sites since 2/16/13: 15
Number of discarded articles of clothing to date: 5 (Note that I would have donated these if they had not been threadbare and, in some cases, ah, items of intimate apparel)

So what's on the horizon? A summer of playing in the woods and on the trails, and, this July, a Whole 30 Challenge. While many of the changes called for in the Whole 30 are things I have already successfully implemented, I want to focus on the positive side-- more veggies, more attention to the other aspects of the Challenge (the Whole 9 principles) and general focus on optimizing wellness and making the most of every single day. Far from being an exercise in depressing deprivation, this sort of discipline has given me my life back in a way I never thought possible. It doesn't matter how long it takes. It takes what it takes. The journey is a blast so far.
I'll be back soon. With pictures.