Gosh, I can’t believe that I haven’t written since May! I write in my head all the time, but I somehow just don’t seem to make it to the keyboard, if that makes any sense. Today, however, my spirit hurts and sometimes the only way to get relief is to let the words flow.
On Saturday, I attended and spoke at the memorial service honoring a very dear friend of mine. I don’t know if we met in 1991 or 1992; but, whichever it was, it was a long time ago. I may not know the year, but I know that it was late spring and early morning. I was working my first flight of the day in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when this pilot from the training department was in my office, asking a bunch of annoying questions and just generally getting in the way. Finally, I looked at him and said, “Captain, they don’t pay me to babysit pilots. Find another place to be.” He did and thus began a very complex, sometimes convoluted friendship.
I hadn’t seen Lance in over a decade, I realized on Saturday, but that didn’t seem to matter. He was never far from my heart and we checked in with each other every couple of months, just as we have done for the better part of 30 years. We were friends through a baby and hurricane (mine), a marriage (his), and jobs and moves for both of us. It is inconceivable to me that he won’t be texting some joke in a couple of months. While he hasn’t been a physical presence in my life for a long time, he’s always been out there and I’ve always known that if ever I needed him, all I had to do was call. I believe he knew the same thing. I certainly hope so.
Lance is my third friend to die. My 82-year-old dad says it doesn’t get any easier to let them go. On the one hand, I think my dad kinda sucks at pep talks; but, on the other hand, grief is the proof of love, I think. If I had not loved Joey, Sandy, and Lance, I would not grieve their absence. Certainly, not grieving for them would have made a few days of my life easier, but not having known and loved them would have made my whole life so much emptier. I am already grateful that the loss of my friendships with Joey and Sandy were worth grieving. Someday I will feel that gratitude about my friendship with Lance.
My first three cycles of this campaign were not easy; but, I got through them and felt great. My fourth cycle has been an uphill battle and I’m not doing well at all. I have restarted it several times – most recently on Monday, but I’m still not doing it right. However, I believe that I have identified the problem and will start anew. Again.
In my first three cycles, I did several of the tasks every day. For the fourth cycle, I thought I was going to be cute and change it all up. Here’s the problem with that: a habit is a consistent way of doing something. By switching up my exercises, my consistency was lost. That just threw the entire system into chaos – CHAOS, I tell you! I’m not even drinking water like I’m supposed to. In fact, the only habits I’ve kept to are making my bed and taking my medicine.
It doesn’t matter that I’m still watching my diet and am as active as I was when I rode the bike daily, it was the process of actually riding the bike daily that got my brain into the right place. So, I am returning to the patterns that I used in Cycle 3, only adding mowing lawns two days a week and hitting my StepBet active goal of 7322 steps daily.
This is all about developing healthy habits. I lost sight of that and changed (then lost) my foundation habits. My Cycle 4 overhaul was a mistake. I know how to fix it now; so, pardon me while I go ride my bike.
I’ve been quiet this week both here and on my Facebook page because….well, because I failed.
I messed up in Cycle 4 and added too much at once. My mind was ready to tackle more and bigger exercises; but, my body wasn’t. My muscles are all sore, which is fine – muscles do that and they get over it. No biggie. The show stopper was my joints. My hips, shoulders and knees all really hurt – especially my knees. And my foot started to act up. Big time. And I’m not trying to end up back in a boot or, heaven forfend, a cast! Nope. Not even a little bit.
One of the first things I did was to start taking Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. That product has worked miracles for my sister, for several cousins, and a few friends who work at physically demanding jobs. I have never really taken it; but, it’s been a lifesaver for so many people I know that I’d be an idiot not to give it a go. I’ve only taken it a couple of times now; so, I don’t see a difference yet. I expect to soon, though. I pretty much expected my knees and hips to bother me. My shoulders were a surprise, though, and the thing that has motivated me to do something about it. Now, I’ve started the collagen and am being an advocate for myself.
I took a few days off heavy exercising to get my joints to stop screaming at me. Now I am rethinking all of the things I added this time and am redoing my Cycle 4 schedule. I have come too far to give up – that’s not even a consideration. I have to adjust my expectations and do what my body will let me do. Cycle 4 will now exclude Tabatas that include jumping jacks or anything jumping, really. While I don’t believe that running in place hurt anything, I’m going to skip that for a little while longer, too. There are other ways to get my cardio in until my body is ready to jump around. I just have to be patient. No problem. That’s totally one of my greatest strengths.
All kinds of studies have shown that people with a positive disposition or approach to life (a positive affect) are generally healthier than people who have a negative disposition or approach (a negative affect). People who are persistently depressed, angry, or stressed are more prone to transient illnesses like the common cold and to chronic and even terminal illnesses like asthma and heart disease. Since my campaign is about losing weight, why are we talking about positive affect? Well, my campaign is only peripherally about losing weight – it’s mostly about being strong and healthy again. Good health – that’s the ultimate goal.
As I’ve shared with you multiple times, I have been treated for depression since my early 20s … so for over half my life now. I take medicine daily to help my endocrine system function correctly in its production and use of the neurotransmitters that are involved in my moods and their stabilization. Like many people with clinical depression and other mental illnesses, from time to time I decide that I don’t really need those medications and I stop taking them. Yeah, well. It turns out that I do need them – every. single. time. I try this bone-headed stunt. Because of my decades-long experience with depression, there are a number of popular sayings that make me roll my eyes:
- Don’t worry, be happy.
- Happiness is a choice.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.
- For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.
Ugh. Bitch, please.
I’m sure that you can add some pithy sayings of your own to that list, particularly if you, too, struggle with depression. As ridiculously simplistic and reductionist as I think those statements are, barring major disorders, I do think that we have some control over our attitudes. There are things we can actively do to be more positive. We are not helpless.
This week I’ve read several articles addressing happiness and the habits of healthy people. One of those habits is an exercise that I am inserting into this 4th 21-day cycle of my campaign. During November, I often see people make a daily post about something for which they are thankful. This exercise will be similar; but, every day, I will choose one thing that was my favorite thing of that day – whether it’s an event, a feeling, an experience, a song – whatever. I’m going to end my day thinking of one good thing from the day I just finished. I’ll share those things on my Facebook page and I would truly love it if you guys would share your One Things there, too.
I once had a manager who constantly exhorted us to “control the controllables.” (Mike Feldman, I’m looking at you.) That directive was invaluable to me when prioritizing and reprioritizing actions to meet our delivery deadlines. I’m sure Mike would be surprised to hear that now, years later, I still use his advice on nearly a daily basis to address stresses from finances to yard work. In this exercise, there are two controllables. The first is my medication, which I am now in the habit of taking right after I make my bed in the morning. The second is my focus, which I often neglect. I can choose to focus on the person who cut me off in traffic or I can choose to focus on hearing Bohemian Rhapsody and Are You Gonna Go My Way back-to-back on the radio. I can choose to resent having to mow my lawn or be thankful that I have a lawn and that I am physically able to mow it now. I can choose to go to bed exasperated or I can choose to enjoy the feeling of my cat Link snuggling at my feet as I drift off.
Positive affect “muscles” atrophy easily, particularly when bombarded by the sludge pumped out by main stream media, social media trolls, and general jerks. This cycle, join me in working for better health by exercising our positive affects.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying that people “are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I still don’t believe that we can be happy just because we chose to, but I do believe that we can be happier.
Let’s make up our minds to be that.
HURRAY!!!!! Yesterday I successfully completed Cycle 3! Every day saw me complete every task on my refrigerator calendar – bed, med, bike, water and either Yoga and abs, or Tabata 1 or 2 and planks. The little calendar squares are so crowded with tasks, there’s not much room to add anything and, honey, there are still healthful habits I need to form! Some days I forget to mark things off; so, for Cycle 4, I’m going to drop a few things from the calendar. Making my bed, taking my medicine and drinking a gallon of water every day are habits now. I feel comfortable that I will continue to do those things even if I don’t have a reminder. I’ve been riding the bike since Day 1 and you’d think that would also be a habit that could come off the calendar by now; but, I’m not that much of an adult.
And I still hate to exercise.
During a conversation this week, my sister actually accused me of liking to exercise. Can you imagine?! I straightened her out on that right quick, let me tell you! I still don’t like to exercise; however, I am remembering how great it felt to feel strong and capable. I remember being able to walk past a mirror and not cringe. I remember trying on cute clothes and having them fit. I remember that, I want to have it again, and I’m on my way to making that happen. Sure, I could starve myself back into a size 6; but, that’s not going to make me feel strong and energized. Only exercise is going to do that. So, exercise I must!
The funny thing about moving more, though, is that when you do it, you want to move even more. I find myself not wanting to sit and watch TV in big blocks like I used to. Even when I’m watching something, I keep getting up to do things like fold clothes, tidy the kitchen or sweep. Most of the time, I just opt not to watch television at all. On the weekends, I find myself going places if only to walk and look around. I don’t want to just sit in my house, I want to do something. The weather is finally warming up; so, I also find myself outside doing things in my yard. This weekend, I started planting flowers in pots for my porch and working on some large planters I wanted to make.
The extra activity benefits me three-fold: 1. I am moving, more active and burning more calories, 2. my house is cleaner, neater and prettier, and 3. because I am moving more and my environment is more ordered, my spirit feels calmer. This is just good all the way around!
Movement is great; but, I have not had a rest day since I started this campaign 63 days ago, which is a mistake. There is a reason that trainers don’t work the same muscles groups really hard day after day. The muscles need time to repair and recover. Even if I’m not sore the day after working my arms and shoulders, the muscles still need time. My shoulders have been aching for a few days now and my thighs are feeling weaker than they did two weeks ago. So, I’m taking today off. I’m still watching my calorie intake; but, I’m not going to ride the bike or do any strength training today. I’m also going to switch up my strength training exercises for Cycle 4. Truthfully, I should have done that for Cycle 3, but I let it sneak up on me and got lazy about scheduling. I’m going to schedule this cycle with different exercises to keep my muscles guessing what’s coming next, to give them time to recover after I work them, and to keep me from getting bored!
I will still be printing out a calendar to put on my refrigerator since that has worked beautifully to help hold me accountable on a daily basis. I’m a big believer in doing things that work and this is working. After 63 days, I’m still doing the things I need to do. I have two pairs of pants that I no longer have to unfasten to take off. I’m able to wear another pair of pants I haven’t been able to wear in over a year. My arms and abs are beginning to show some definition even through the layers of fat that still have to come off. I sit on the floor without wondering if construction equipment will be needed to get me up. Good things are happening and I’m excited to rediscover more strength as I tackle Cycle 4 tomorrow!
Today is Day 60 of my campaign. It is Day 18 of Cycle 3. And it is a great day!!
Earlier this week, my sister and I were doing Tabata 1 which includes left and right bridge pulses. They should have looked like what you see pictured here; but Chele and I are not nearly as strong or coordinated as Erin Oprea is. Although we still bear a striking resemblance to beetles in distress, we do our best and we are both getting noticeably stronger. As we were grunting our way through the exercise, Chele asked me (with some desperation and frustration, I might add) exactly what muscles we were supposed to be working. “You’re working your thutt muscles,” I said. You know, the thutt muscles – where the thigh meets the butt. The area around my hips, thighs and butt is always a trial for me. When I lose weight, I always lose first in my face, then in my belly, then everywhere except my hips, thighs, and butt. They are always last. They are last to the degree that as I approach my goal weight, I feel like an apple on a stick. That area is just way out of proportion.
This time, though, things are progressing a little differently. I can see a marked difference in my thutt and in the area where my thighs and hips meet – my thip. My thutt and thips make up the area I usually refer to collectively as My Hams. And, honey, when I started this campaign they were like extended family Easter lunch hams – big, ole things! The idea is to end up with something like a picnic ham. I was prepared for the apple on the stick look for the next several months, but it looks like it may not be as bad as it has been before.
I don’t know exactly why that is. It could be my age and my proximity to menopause. I am inclined to think, though, that it has to do with the cardio and strength training I introduced much earlier in the process this time. During the Great Reduction, I didn’t really start exercising until the first 20 pounds or so were gone. And, when I did start exercising, I walked, nothing else. Because I can’t walk those distances this time, I’m riding the bike, doing yoga and floor exercises. I truly believe that the strength training from yoga and the floor exercises is making a huge difference.
Of course, I don’t think I’m losing fat from those areas any faster because, as badly as I might want to, I cannot tell my body where to lose weight. The only way to spot reduce is very expensive and requires a plastic surgeon. No, the fat isn’t leaving faster, but the muscles underneath are toning, which gives the area a smaller appearance. Additionally, the muscle tissue I’m making and toning there burns fat, making my body more efficient at losing weight – total win/win!
So, here I am on Day 60 with the Morse code dits and dots of my body – my thips and thutts – decreasing at a really satisfactory rate. I’m down at least 23.6 pounds of fat in these first 60 days. My estimated date of campaign completion has gone from December 24 to November 29 (although that will continue to fluctuate) and I just could not be happier about it all.
It’s not easy, but it’s working, y’all!!