Summer’s End and New Beginnings

ImageThere is a lot to celebrate this week, so Happy Samhain, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos and All Souls Day! Did you know that in addition to the whole spooky “veil between the worlds grows thin” thing, Samhain is also a harvest festival and considered by some to be the start of the new year? And what better time than the new year to make some changes!

It has been a while since I’ve posted much about my diet or anything else, so I have decided to do something I used to occasionally do on my old blog and proclaim this a Blogstravaganza month, so I can get back in the habit of writing on at least a semi-regular basis. This is something I would do in the month of January to help start the year off with lots of writing and creative projects, but since it’s something I made up, I can totally change the rules and proclaim and emergency November blogstravaganza. Normally, I would just do NaNoWriMo, but it feels like there is just too much going on to undertake a novel, even a crappy novel written over the span of the month. That said, NaNo is truly a fun experience, so if you’ve never tried it, I can highly recommend it.

Since I haven’t posted in a while, this will be a catch up post covering a plethora of things:

The Diet UpdateI’ve been struggling. I go up, I go down. On the plus side, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking at home using fresh, hormone free, RBST free and organic ingredients. I’ve also eliminated 98% of the diet soda from my life. So, not the exactly progress I wanted, but progress nonetheless.

The Lily Update: Back at the beginning of October one of the loves of my life, my dog Lily, had cataract surgery. Her recovery has been slow and arduous. I feel like I spend more time at the vet than anywhere else. She has regular weekly checkups and has been in for quite a few urgent care visits in between due to issues with inflammation and fear of glaucoma after an early glaucoma spike. As of the last visit, her opthamologist proclaimed that we “are not winning the battle, but we’re not losing either, so that means there is still hope,” but I still worry a lot about her. In the five years I’ve had her she has become my second shadow and it just breaks my heart to think of her in pain or blind or worse.

The Chasing Happiness UpdateI’ve decided to take a class! It is called Divine Guidance: Trusting Your Inner Wisdom and Connecting with Spirit and is taught by Jen Trulson. I’ve been feeling really disconnected lately and am hoping it will help me listen to my own intuition, creative spark and also just connect a little better with the people and world around me.

So here’s to rebooting and trying to reignite both my creative spark and motivation to do keep doing things that are emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically healthy. That is my focus for the fall. What is yours?

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Plateaus, purging (the good kind) & motivation

One thing you will probably notice, if you get to know me (or at least my blog), is that you can tell how well things are going with the old diet by how frequently I post. I’ve not been posting much lately and when I do, it’s been about other things, so…Well, you get the idea.

I suppose everyone goes through plateaus, periods of inertia where “I should” yells louder than “I am”. Nature is filled with cycles. This is just another of them. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it’s a horrible feeling to feel like you want to do something but find yourself unable to cross that bridge from wanting to doing.

Tonight I’ve been thinking about ways to inspire myself, so I spent the early evening watching Hungry for Change. If you haven’t seen it, it is definitely worth the 89 minutes of your time. It is easy to follow and full of good sense things you probably already know deep down inside. I found it to be incredibly motivating. One of the things I love about the film is that it emphasizes adding new healthy foods with the idea that they will soon crowd out the old, unhealthy ones, rather than having the focus of “going on a diet”.

One of the things I had promised myself when I started my lifestyle change was that I would focus on eating fewer processed foods and on making smarter choices about what I eat. While I’ve certainly done better at this, I definitely have a long way to go.

Before watching the film, I was already developing the idea of doing a spring cleaning of my cupboards (yeah, I’m about 6 months late, sue me!). Now that my attitude has been reinvigorated, I want to make sure it’s not just getting rid of old stuff, but doing a real purge of items that represent an old way of eating.

One of the things I traditionally have a hard time with is throwing things away. This is as true for food as it is for objects. With things, I am often ruled by sentimentality. With food, it comes from this ingrained notion that throwing it away is wasteful. I paid good money for it and there are starving children living on far away contents who might be able to eat it if it weren’t buried under refuse and cat litter in my trash can.

But in the end, what is more wasteful? Throwing away a carton of cookies laced with high fructose corn syrup and a couple cans of MSG laden soup or damaging my health by ingesting them? And don’t even get me started on the diet soda. Oy, the chemicals! Let’s just say I am an addict.

So, tomorrow I am cleaning the cupboards (some more – I got excited and did a little pre-cleaning). I already did some organic fruit and vegetable shopping over the weekend, so I am set for healthy things to eat. I don’t expect perfection, but between the healthy fresh foods in the crisper and the major offenders on their way out the door, I think I am in good shape for my next step.

I’m so happy that I decided to approach my diet malaise from another, more holistic direction. Sometimes ours strides are just as much a product of how we fill our minds as they area about the rules we set for ourselves.

Graduation Season

Today we went to my niece’s graduation party. After missing her actual graduation due to our sweet, old cat Isis choosing the same night to pass away, I was happy we got to go. She is a good kid, even if she does strike that completely unnatural hand-on-hip-slightly-bent-kneed Kardashian pose every time there is a camera within a 20 foot radius. Oh to be 18 and filled with the potential of your whole life ahead of you instead of…well, not.

Her first summer of post-grad freedom reminds me so much of mine – a month of work, six weeks visiting relatives abroad and then back for her first days of college where she will hopefully meet one of her best lifelong friends in a History of Western Civilization class taught by some guy who looks like Hitler and is fond of muttering gems like “they all TOLD me not to teach at a community college” at random times during his lectures. Oh, the places she’ll go!

It was such great barbeque weather – perfectly sunny and breezy. Being the most awesome auntie ever, I got the graduate to tickets to go see her favorite performer (Drake) with a friend in September. I have no idea who he is, but he is apparently way cooler than either 80’s hair bands, Nirvana or even my early childhood Hardy Boy of choice, Shawn Cassidy, none of whom she recognizes. He is also way cooler than the Hanes cotton granny panties I threatened to get her, if she didn’t give me some clue as to what she would enjoy as a graduation present.

Of course, there were lots of cameras and pictures at the party. These days it only takes a nanosecond for whatever you’re doing to show up on Facebook. Typically, I try to stay on the business side of the camera, so there are not a lot of pictures of me floating around, but somehow I ended up in a group shot. And, oy, are my chins and I depressed after seeing what I look like in my uncomfortable with my body glory. It makes me want to cry, give up AND crack down on my diet all at the same time.

But then, I started thinking about how this has been a bit of a graduation year for me as well. I faced my worst fear – losing my job and somehow came out okay. I’ve made some significant changes in my diet and lifestyle. I’ve got a long way to go, but at least it’s an important start. Like life, it’s a process. So, instead of being depressed and loosing steam, I’ve decided to look at it as a “before” picture. A before where I was the awesome, kind, funny, creative, gentle, animal loving, bleeding heart of a person I am now; a before where I acknowledged that I was not living in a healthy manner and had the fortitude to do something about it.

And, I guess, if I had to give my young graduate friend a piece of advice, it would be the same advice I’d give to myself: Enjoy life, be open to new experiences, be willing to change when something isn’t working for you, rock on with your Kardashian posing self and let people take pictures of your happy smiling face for posterity, and, most of all, don’t be so hard on yourself.

Let’s talk about goals

Tomorrow is my next weigh in day. I already cheated and weighed in today, despite my promises to myself to only do so once a week. So, I already know I lost more weight (yahoo!), but I’ll wait for tomorrow to share how much. After all, who knows what kind of chaos could ensue if I post my progress to my first weight goal on Thursday instead of Friday? I don’t want to be responsible for launching a zombie apocalypse, so I will be safe and wait until morning.

You’re welcome!

So, anyway…

A few days ago, I shared a few goals for the week. As goals go, they were kind of lame, because they were not particularly specific or quantifiable. Maybe next week my goal should be to set SMART goals, but this week vague is how I roll, so deal with it!

Here is how I did:

Goal 1: More real food (organic when possible). Cook more, open fewer packages. I’ve been thinking about this and have realized that my issue isn’t really that I eat a ton of pre-packaged stuff. I eat the odd frozen dinner here and there, but my issue is more that that, even though I really DO like to cook, I also like to eat out. Eating out is not just about the food, but about the experience.

While I did cook a lot more than usual, I won’t lie and say I didn’t eat out this week. I did, however the cool thing about Weight Watchers is that I’m finding I can dine out in moderation without getting off track as long as I plan ahead. Now, when someone invites me to dinner, I make them go to Mongolian Grill type places, where I can control over what I eat. I find it to be a good compromise. I get the experience of eating out, while still being able to fill my plate with lots of 0 point veggies. And, if they’re really not into Mongolian Grill, I have my Points Plus restaurant app (love!) and can almost always find some manner of grilled chicken or fish that will fit into my plan.

The one thing I did learn is that no matter how motivated I am or how good I think I will be, I am banned from buffets. We ate at an Indian one tonight, and while I did stick with mostly vegetarian fare, I also ate way more than I should have. Luckily, I had a ton of “plus” points left over, so beyond being annoyed with myself for losing control, it won’t make a difference as far as staying within points goes. So, I am choosing to look at it as a lesson.

Goal 2: Make better food choices (just because it’s within my points does not make it healthy) by eating fruits and vegetables with every meal and being more mindful to how food is prepared. I have a bit to go with this one, but over all am pretty happy with my progress. I stayed within my points, I ate a fruits and vegetables as snacks, as sides to just about every meal and made a lot of really great salads (modified versions of black bean, corn and mango salad and couscous with squash, pistachios and sultanas to cut out some of the fat) and even managed to enjoy myself at two potlucks without going over my points for the week.

Goal Three: More water, less diet coke. I know it is SO bad for me, yet I persist in drinking it. I am going to wean myself from it or my name isn’t Sophronia Dalrymple! I have my case of Gerolsteiner and am ready to go. Starting now, it’s all about 64 oz. of water a day. This is by far the toughest for me. As bad as I know it is for me, Diet Coke has become like the elixir of life in my world. I crave it like a junkie (which makes total sense, considering how addictive that toxic brown liquid is). The good thing is that I managed to drink a bottle of two of Gerolsteiner a day and did a lot of filling in with jamaica (hibiscus flower tea). The great thing about jamaica is that it has a wonderful side effect of being good for high blood pressure at the same time as it is deliciously red and refreshing. So, while I have a bit to go before I am off the diet coke train completely, I have cut my consumption considerably.

So, I will end for tonight with the reminder to myself that perfection is not the goal, it’s lasting lifestyle change. There are bound to be a few hiccups along the way, but I have made leaps over the past couple weeks and think I’m doing pretty well so far. How is your week going?

More tomorrow…

Foxglove Don’t Care

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And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~ Anais Nin

Today at church a friend (who also hosted a wonderful Beltane ritual this weekend – more on that later!) talked about foxglove. Anyone who knows her knows that she is an engaging storyteller. Her mind works in wonderful ways, taking twists and turns you don’t always see coming, but somehow know will leave you feeling “Oh my gosh, I totally GET this!” Her thoughts on these pretty pinkish wildflowers particularly resonated with me. In short, they were this: Foxglove don’t care!

What does that mean, you ask?

Foxglove, which grows abundantly in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, belongs to the genus Digitalis. In addition to being (according to flower lore) a favorite hiding place for fairies, foxgloves also have great medicinal value. When administered in the correct amount, digitalis can be quite effective in treating atrial fibrillation. When ingested less carefully, it can be highly toxic. Deathflower or helper and friend to the literally heartsick – the foxglove itself doesn’t care. It simply is what it is. It goes about the business of being pretty and pink whether we like it, hate it, fear it, want it, shun it, need it, find it beautiful or funny looking. It is perfect in its foxglovicity. What we take from that is our business.

And what a great symbol that is for those of us who struggle with body and self-image. It is too easy sometimes to hide in corners or let ourselves adapt to what we think other people think of us or need us to be. It is too easy to not do the things we want, because we think we are too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too this or too that to draw attention to ourselves. So, instead of blossoming as we are intended to, we allow ourselves to stay closed up into this tight little bud that never gets to feel the sunshine on its face or the wind in its silky petals.

The other day while I was out, I was stopped at a traffic light where a heavy woman in shorts was waiting to cross the street. It was a gorgeously sunny day. A lot of people were out walking. A small group of pedestrians were also coming down the street. As they passed by this woman, one of them made a loud crack about her weight, advised her to go on a diet, then walked off laughing with his buddies. After a fleeting look of pain, the woman told him to fuck off, then stood staring straight ahead, waiting for the light to change.

There was a big part of me that wanted to jump out of the car and give her a hug, but since people generally don’t cotton to being groped by strangers, I refrained. It didn’t stop me from thinking more about her, though. I’ve had people make cruel comments about my weight before. I know from experience, if I were her, I would probably have done my best to not let the offending asshat see how hurt and frustrated I was, then I would have gone home and cried. And, the next day, I’d find that I felt just a little more closed up and self-conscious.

I know as I’ve gained weight I’ve been guilty of this. There are days when getting up in front of people to talk makes me feel so self-conscious, I can barely do it, despite the host of magnificent and hilarious ideas that run through my brain. I try to force myself to do it anyway, but it is really difficult. There are days when I feel so uncomfortable in my own skin, I can barely stand it.

But then, there is also this little foxglove inside me, beating its little belled fists against the windows of my soul. Lately, it’s been beating louder and louder. I want to blossom and live in the sun. It’s part of why I’ve been so motivated to make changes. I feel it in there exhorting me to be all the crazy, unapologetically beautiful wildflower I can be.

Foxglove don’t care. And when it comes to embracing ourselves not matter where we are on our journey, neither should we.

Little Earthquakes

It has been longer than I have wanted since I last posted. It’s been a bumpy couple of months here. Back on March 12, just as I was preparing to take a long deferred week off from work, I logged into my work computer to find that I and everyone else in my company had been laid off, because the company was filing for bankruptcy. It was all due to a really ugly feud between our two evil billionaire equity partner owners, but for this post the why is not as important as the what. If you are interested in the details of my adventures in unemployment, you can read about the whole experience on my general journal blog. What I really want to talk about here is shake ups as an impetus for change.

Overnight, I went from stressing over getting everything done in time for a vacation I had planned for the next week next week, to stressing about being on vacation FOREVER. (That’s right, FOREVER. If I’m going to have a freak out, I’m going to go big or go home!) I ended work Monday night with a full schedule of meetings and tasks to complete on Tuesday, then logged into my work computer on Tuesday morning to find that after eleven years with the company I was now among the ranks of the uninsured and unemployed. Because I am home officed, I got to process the shock in my pajamas in the privacy of my own home. My coworkers at our headquarters in Michigan, on the other hand, were greeted with the news at the front door, told to pack up their things, and go home. I have been lucky enough to always leave jobs on my time and my terms and have never in my life needed to file for unemployment. Needless to say, this new turn of events was pretty overwhelming.

There is nothing like a cataclysmic life event (or even just a small earthquake!) to make you stop and take stock of who you are and where your life is going. As traumatic as the whole experience was, in its aftermath, I’ve come to believe it was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me. In the end, things worked out with my job. In a completely unexpected turn of events, the son of the company’s founders spearheaded an effort to buy it back out of bankruptcy and rehire the employees. So, instead of working for two Mr. Burns clones, I now work for a company with ethics and a commitment to making the world a better place by helping schools and churches fundraise and local merchants thrive within their communities. While I am so grateful for this happy ending, what I am really grateful for is that having the time off reinvigorated my commitment to the goals I’ve set for myself this year and made me stop and reclaim some of the passions that have taken a back seat to work over the past years.

All this taking stock has helped me reach some important epiphanies:

Lesson One: Health is not just about getting skinny. Yes, it’s about living and eating healthfully, but it’s also about feeling good, finding happiness, having a good quality of life and enjoying it. I think that to really be healthy, one has to have a balance of mind, body and spirit. It’s not just about diet or a number on the scale.

Lesson Two: Sometimes the worst thing that could happen is the best thing. In my month off, I started writing again, joined a monthly music jam, started exploring new spiritual paths, and have come a long way toward figuring out a solid game plan for losing the weight I want to lose this year.

Lesson Three: Feeling in control is important. One of the first things I did my break up with employment was to cut off all my hair and dye it bright red. While this might sound a little shallow, for me it was a symbolic act of reclaiming control. My life might suck, I might have no job and no prospects, but I can change things.

Lesson Four: If something isn’t working, change it. The truth is that even though I knew my job was negatively affecting my personal sphere (read that as the polite way of saying “it was becoming soul sucking”), I didn’t make too much effort to change it or to set strong boundaries. Reclaiming myself ever the past month made me realize that I don’t want to lose the whacky, creative parts of myself that enjoy noodling around with music and words and life ever again. No job is worth that.

Lesson Five: It is okay to fail as long as you keep trying. After returning to work, I learned that the founder’s son had been quietly trying since January to buy the company from what I now like to think of as the evil empire. He made multiple bids that failed to be accepted. In the end, he had to change his strategy to buying the assets out of bankruptcy. Even there, things did not go smoothly. There were delays and overturned trustee recommendations, but in the end he prevailed. The lesson of flexibility here applies to weight loss as much as it does to corporate finance. While I was off, I decided (despite my January proclamations about eating whole, real foods) to go back on the Take Shape for Life program I started a year or so ago. I still had almost a month’s worth of pre-packed foods in my cupboard and in my new budget economy, it seemed really wasteful to not use them. While the program absolutely works, if you stick to it, I’m going to be really honest and tell you that I really struggled with it. I struggled with staying on the plan. I struggled with not wanting to disappoint my sweet friend, who is a health coach for the company. I struggled to the point that started feeling like a big, fat loser. Then, the other day, I realized that I was creating my own hell. There are plenty of diet plans that work. The mechanics of weight loss are the same whether you eat food from medical packets or the grocery store. I just need to find a sensible program that works best for me. In my heart, I really believe that what I need to learn is to eat properly using real foods, so I signed up for Weight Watchers (mostly for the support aspect, but I find I’m actually really digging the points system) and am again just focusing on eating whole, healthy foods.

These epiphanies also made me think about this blog and the life project it represents. I don’t want it to only be a chronicle of my diet struggle (which it will always continue to be in part), but also a place to focus on the things that make life healthy and happy, because what we feed our souls is just as important as what we feed our faces. I think they will all be part of my success or failure in reaching my goals. One of the reasons I called this blog The Peacock Project is because of the affinity I feel for those gorgeous birds and the confident beauty they represent. Even with their tails down, they are beautiful. With them fanned out, they are breathtaking. Don’t you want your life to be breathtaking? I know I do!