Do What You Love

2 Jul

It’s finally summer time, and the days are long and warm. The hot sun permeates my muscles and warms my bones when I take the time to enjoy being outside. My last blog post in February highlighted the detrimental effects of the fall and winter on my depression. This past year in general was a challenge for me where my depression is concerned. That is in part why I haven’t written any new posts until now. If you look back in my posts to June of last year, you will recall I accepted a new position at the college where I’ve worked for the past 15 years. The opportunity was a good one, and I’m glad I took it, but at the same time, it knocked me off balance for a while. Looking back at all my posts between then and now, I see my internal struggle to maintain a diet and fitness routine while learning and adapting to a new position of increased responsibility and helping to run a part-time DJ’ing business, illustrated in a series of conflicting blog posts. I spent all of the fall and winter, and part of the spring just trying to maintain some sort of equilibrium, and often failing. Sometimes I was on, more often I was off. Depression was pervasive, sapping me of energy and ambition. I wasn’t eating right most of the time, or working out and I gained a bunch of weight, hitting my all-time highest. I wasn’t writing as I like to do for pleasure, and I barely kept up on reading my Bible and daily devotions, often feeling so tired as I read in the morning that I couldn’t tell you later what it was that I had read.

Now, this blog isn’t supposed to be about depression. It’s supposed to be about taking a journey to fitness that includes God and faith every step of the way. But, my depression is a very real factor, a stumbling block if you will, to my success. I am sure anyone who suffers depression will understand how mental health and physical health are completely intertwined. Just in the past two months, I have really begun to feel a great deal of relief for my depression. Allow me to share a few things that I know contributed hugely to my upswing of positive energy.
• Prayer and devotions. When you feel most like isolating yourself and least like reading God’s word, is when you really must invite Him to spend time with you. Never ever, isolate yourself from Him and His love and power in your life!
• A change in meds. YES! It is ok to turn to pharmaceutical treatments and solutions. Too many people associate this with shame, and feel that it’s some sort of indication of weakness if they can’t ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’. That’s bull. Depression isn’t a “mood” one can snap into and out of based on a simple change of circumstances. It’s a chemical imbalance, a disease. You wouldn’t tell someone with Lupus or MS or Alzheimers to resist medical or pharmaceutical treatments, would you? This is the same thing!
• Do things that you enjoy. Do those things that give you peacefulness and/or joy, even if you have to force yourself at first. Take a walk; crochet a hat; go to yard sales; bake from scratch; go fishing, lose yourself in reading my entire blog from start to finish. : ) The point is, do what you love. For me it’s writing. Since last fall, the only time I wrote anything for fun was when I posted a new entry here, and you can see I haven’t even done that since way back in February. It is very difficult to spend time on pleasurable things when it’s all you can do to gather enough motivation to get up and go to work. Add in the many other immovable responsibilities we all have each day, and it’s a recipe for complete inactivity on the ‘other healthy pursuits’ front. Just do it. Just try! Since I have started writing almost every day again, for pleasure, my depression has improved a great deal. Another great thing has happened since I’ve put these three bullet points together. I’ve actually gotten my workout motivation back. That leads me to my last bullet point.
• Get moving. Get some exercise. A little or a lot, for weight loss or just for fitness, indoors or outdoors, by yourself or with a group. No matter how much or little you do, I promise sucking in more air than usual, getting your heart to beat faster, and actually sweating a little will help you feel better!

These bullet points build on each other. I am not saying it’s possible to go from major depression to happy happy happy (duck dynasty fan right here btw!) by implementing all these things at once. A depressed person would feel completely overwhelmed with the idea of implementing even two of these at a time. Here’s how the chain reaction seemed to work for me, this year. First, I pray, always. Feeling low or not, I pray. Bullet 1 is my constant. Second, I talked to my primary care physician. She changed my meds a bit and I followed her orders. I think it took a few months before I sensed any change in my motivation levels or felt the fog begin to lift. Once I did, I started to want to do things I enjoy, and I got an idea I felt was worth writing down. I had some time off in May and was inspired to write, so I did. It made me happy and energized me. I then decided to team up with my daughter (always good to have moral support!) to revisit the fitness center at my workplace. I haven’t been doing the boot camp style workouts I’ve written about before. I got to a point of depression and weight gain that just depleted me of the strength I feel I need to do those workouts, but I have been doing basic aerobic exercise at my workplace gym regularly for the last month now. It feels good to be back on the elliptical machine and burning calories again, and I’ve lost 14 of the pounds I put on over the depressing winter months!

It all goes together, body, mind, spirit and your emotions. If you neglect, squash, suppress, ignore or stomp on any one of those areas, you are short-changing yourself of your best life. Stop it! Stop doing that! Do what you love, be happy, take care of whatever body you are in right now and never ever give up. People with depression know that highs and lows can be cyclical. My history of posts right here demonstrates that. It sucks to ride this particular roller coaster. But as long as I’m on it, I might as well throw my hands up and enjoy the slow climb before the next big drop has me starting from the bottom again.

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Caution – Unpleasant, but Honest Post Ahead

25 Feb

Depression stinks. I’m not talking about the passing blues that are normally felt when a beloved pet passes away or a job is lost. In those cases, there is a reason for the blues and with some passage of time or correction of a given problem, the depression subsides. Even if it lasts for a while, at least you can point to a reason for your blues. I’m talking about depression the mental illness. This is when you feel sad for apparently no reason. Then, you feel guilty for feeling sad for no reason when there are so many people with valid reasons to be sad who are seemingly doing a better job keeping their head up than you are. I recently read a quote that said “saying you shouldn’t feel sad because there are people who have it worse, is like saying you shouldn’t feel happy because there are people who have it better”. That’s a great quote. There are many great sentiments to be found online that could potentially help inspire, motivate, energize or lift the spirits of a depressed person, assuming they could penetrate the heavy curtain of doubt or insecurity that tells you it’s all just a bunch of Polly-Anna BS.

As I sit here today, with a day off of work that I intended to use to accomplish a few things, I have zero motivation. The sun is actually shining outside, a rare treat in late-February in Pennsylvania. That might sometimes lift my spirits, but I don’t care today. I would like to go back to bed. The house is dusty, shed dog hair is threatening to unite and form whole new dogs, there are empty pizza boxes sitting in the kitchen from Saturday’s dinner. I should be thinking about making a grocery list and going shopping. I should fill that list with healthy stuff, but that requires thinking ahead about planning meals and then following up with actually preparing the meals throughout the week, and I don’t have the ability to even concentrate on all that right now. I should be finding some way to psyche myself up to get back to my workout schedule too. If I could get the food and the exercise back on track, I know some of this depression would be alleviated, or at least I’d feel better equipped to fight it. The problem with that logic is that I need this depression alleviated in order to be able to find my way out of the fog and into the gym, which would alleviate the depression. I feel like the kid fresh out of school who can’t get a job because he doesn’t have experience, but he can’t gain experience without first getting a job. It’s a vicious circle. I have a good job at a nice place with nice people, and yet I feel like I have to force myself to go most days. My comfort zone barely extends past my front door these days. A year or two ago, my mission was to purposefully do things outside my comfort zone, and now I seem to be striving just to find comfort in any zone. And what really stinks is when I am given well-meaning advice like “you just need to cheer up” or “you just need to appreciate all the good things in your life” from people who apparently think this is all just a matter of choice. If it were a simple matter of choice, I assure you that nobody would choose to feel sad, scatter-brained, defeated and unmotivated, over happy and healthy. I can also assure everyone that I count all of my blessings on a daily basis, and am continually amazed that they’ve been bestowed upon me. I feel so undeserving, and the fact that I’m still depressed just makes me feel guilty… and therefore worse.

I’m beginning to wonder when the breakdown occurs. When do I wake up one day and realize I’m no longer able to force myself to go to work, or manage the responsibilities of keeping the household budget or absorb and care for the physical and emotional needs of the family I love. When do I fall apart and end up jobless and heavily medicated? I used to think I was the “bring your own sunshine” kind of girl, with an optimistic, can-do, never-say-never attitude. Now I think I was just kidding myself all along. The only way you can do anything you set your mind to, is if your mind is able to take direction. Lately, my mind is like a herd of cats in a room full of laser pointers…with the shadow of a German Shepherd looming overhead. This isn’t what I want, or choose. It’s defeating and energy sapping, chest constricting and oppressive. I understand how some people never make it out. I am at least fortunate to have experienced long periods of relief from depression, so I know how much better things can be. Despite darker days like today, I still have the hope of getting back to that healthier place with the help of my God, my family, and yes my doctor; but I need to make myself talk to all of them, when I least feel like it. Unfortunately, some people have never known relief from their depression, their existence affords them no hope of better days ahead. These are the ones who become invisible, reclusive, and lost. I pray for all of us who deal with this disease or disorder, but I pray for them most of all.
fine

Parent Thyself

25 Jan

Again! I thought this post actually published back on Jan. 25, but it didn’t. So I am publishing it now for you! I will try to get today’s post up soon also!

When my children were still in school, I used to make them do their homework.  They didn’t always want to do it, but I knew if they didn’t put the work in, they wouldn’t learn what they needed to learn and get where they needed to go.  As a parent, I can think of many things I had to make my children do, whether they wanted to or not; things that were important to their well-being or happiness or safety or future.  Eating thier vegetables, brushing their teeth, owning their mistakes and apologizing when neccesary, sharing with others and helping with chores are just a few examples of the torturous expectations my children endured.  As a parent, it was my job to instill these disciplines in my children, because it was good for them.  Good habits in all different areas of life would ultimately help them to become healthy, strong, well-rounded individuals.  There were times when we battled and I really had to force them to practice good habits, and there were times when I gave in to their resistance way too easily and we all got a little lazy for a while.  

What I realize now, is that as time went by, the battles occured much less frequently.  I found I no longer needed to prompt my youngest daughter to share her toys, and chores simply became part of the routine in our house.  I could ask my kids, “do you want brocolli or green beans for dinner?” and they would actually pick one!  They eventually came to understand the expectations upon them, and good habits became second nature, no longer needing to be forced.  We didn’t need to invest so much energy in enforcement anymore and we could enjoy the positive results that came from their positive habits.  We now have three adult children who are helpful, respectful, compassionate, hard-working, thoughtful, generous, funny, creative and smart. 

Those of us struggling with eating what we know we should eat, not eating what we know we shouldn’t eat, and moving our bodies and doing the exercise that we know will benefit us in the long run; we need to parent ourselves!  Going to the gym is my homework.  There are times, I’d rather put it off or not do it all.  These are the times I need to yank myself up by the ear and force myself to go do it anyhow.  I know what’s best for me, just like I knew what was best for my children, and I really shouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.   In time, going to the gym will again become a standing part of my routine, and I won’t have to expend so much energy convincing myself to go.  Getting to that point though, requires that I force myself now. 

I think we are too easy on ourselves sometimes or we think someday ‘something’ will come along and motivate us or that buying the running shoes and treadmill will get us going on the path to fitness.  I am here to tell you that waiting, hoping, planning, even buying the right ‘stuff’ will not work unless we are willing to work, even if it means the first few weeks are completely forced.  My oldest daughter has taken up crocheting, making scarfs, blankets, dish cloths and other works of art.  She has the knowledge of how to do the stitches, she has crochet hooks of different sizes, and tons of yarn of different types in different colors, but unless she puts yarn to hook and actually works those stitches, nothing will be created.  Those scarves won’t crochet themselves; and just because we think about working out and have the equipment to do it, our muscles won’t work themselves either. 

This week has been a forced week for me.  It has taken me the first three weeks of the new year to get my head back to parenting my body.  I have forced myself to say no to junk food.  I have forced myself to work out three times this week, doing two boot camp classes and a Zumba class.  My ‘kids’ (read glutes, knees, shoulders, back) have been complaining because it’s hard and they would rather sit on the couch; but that’s ok.  I am in charge now, and I know that if I force myself now, I will reap the rewards later.  I just have to keep reminding myself of what I want to be when I grow up: fit, healthy, energetic, and able.

So what kind of parent are you being for yourself?  Are you caring enough to kick yourself in the butt when you need it, or are you giving in way to easy and getting lazy?

Today’s breakfast… again really simple for the busy woman:  A whole grain english muffin with 2 tbsp. all natural peanut butter and a serving of Fiber One cereal with a half cup of unsweetend vanilla almond milk.  Right around 400 calories with about 15 g. protein and 22 g. fiber.  In retrospect, that may have been a little too much fiber to eat all at once before work, but we live and learn, yes?  : )

 

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In Jesus’ Name I Plank?

24 Jan

Surely I can’t be the only one who prays during a workout? I do a ‘boot camp’ style circuit training class at my local gym. If you watch The Biggest Loser, you’ve seen the heavy ropes, the burpees, and squats that are the cornerstones of this type of workout. Another staple for these workouts is the ‘plank’. I often find myself praying for endurance as I hold a plank position!

Yesterday’s workout was plum plank crazy! We did knee tucks while in a plank position with our toes in the handles of the TRX straps, we did plank get-ups which is repeatedly pushing up from a plank position, we did side planks while rowing with a resistance band, and as if front facing planks weren’t enough, we also did tabletops which is basically holding a ‘crab’ position that tests the fortitude of your back and shoulders. Planks weren’t the whole workout, we also had squats, burpees, box step ups, crunches, cable rows and a couple others, but let me tell you, the planks always seem to elicit my prayers for strength!

I think that’s just fine too! I am so very thankful for the strength He gives me, and the Bible tells us to never cease praying right? Have a great prayful day!

Today’s breakfast: oatmeal with strawberries (half cup oats, half cup almond milk. Half cup water, half cup berries), and for protein, 1 whole egg plus 1 egg white scrambled with baby spinach, diced onion and green peppers. Yum! Approx. 285 calories, 9 grams fat and 16 grams protein.

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What’s Your Motivation?

23 Jan

This was supposed to be posted yesterday, Jan. 23, but for some reason it never posted and I just now realized it! The result is that you get to hear from me twice today!

If you’re reading my blog, chances are you are at least mildly interested in diet and exercise.  It’s either that or you have already finished reading everything else on the internet… : )  I’m wondering today, what is your motivation to eat right and exercise? Are you hoping to improve some health issues or prevent them?  Are you training for that 5K or half marathon you’ve always wanted to do? Are you just hoping to look great for the next special event you will attend?  I think any motivation is good motivation if it leads to our taking better care of ourselves.  My motivation is mostly to be fit to “DO” more, live more, serve more, see more, achieve more, etc.  But I have to admit, looking better in my clothes would be a definite plus! 

This morning I was reading in 1 Peter as part of my devotions.  I read these verses in chapter 3 for probably the 100th time.  No matter how often I read them, I am still struck every time by how easy it is to only look at ourselves and others on an external level.  I hope everyone will take a minute or two to think about the beautiful light that’s on the inside, worry less about the outside and just SHINE!

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
(1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV)

OK, breakfast today was super easy! I’m a no-fuss kind of breakfast eater.  I had two tablespoons (yes, you need to MEASURE them!) of all natural peanut butter on a light multi-grain English muffin and a small banana.  The only ingredient in my peanut butter is ‘peanuts’.  I love it!   Oh, and the dog?  That’s Stanley my Basset Hound.  He has this weird love of bananas, so he was waiting for his usual ‘bite’ of my ‘nanner’. 

 

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PB Banana
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Idle Hands Hold More Cookies

22 Jan

My devotions this morning led me to Proverbs where I stumbled on the following verse: “slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” Proverbs 19:15

Now, I think the deeper meaning here is that God expects us to work and do our part to earn our provisions and that lazy breeds more lazy. But it also reminded me of all the times I’ve heard “you’re not really hungry, you’re just bored. How true that is! Next time you’re sitting around all slothful-like watching TV in your PJ’s and craving cheese balls, find something to do! You can still watch your favorite show, but paint your nails, or return some email, or crochet a scarf or something while you watch it. I’m not always good at that, but I’m going to try!
Now for today’s breakfast. I call it “tootie frutti” smoothie. It’s almond milk, pineapple Greek yogurt, and a banana and blueberries I put in the freezer yesterday. Adding them frozen, gives the smoothie a great ice cream like chill and texture. The best part about this shake is that between the Greek yogurt and almond milk, I’m getting 60% of my daily calcium needs, and a respectable 14 grams of protein to start my day. Total calories 340, with 5 g. fat. It’s pretty delicious too!

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Hello Reality!

21 Jan

My blogging and my pursuit of health and fitness both took a back seat to my new job when I accepted that great promotion back in the summer. No sugar coating or excuses here, just the realization that most of my energies needed to go to my work for a short time while I adjusted to several changes. Perhaps if it hadn’t been during our busiest Wedding season for our DJ business as well, I would have had more energy and focus to go around, but alas I had to accept and work within my capacity as a human being. The result of my shifting focus for the past 6 months? I gained back a LOT of weight!

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That photo my friends is unacceptable!! The first step I’ve taken to signify my recommitment to getting fit, is a visual and intentional exercise. I’ve placed the number of pounds I need to lose in the form of decorative pebbles into a jar labeled ‘pounds to lose’, and I’ve labeled another jar ‘pounds lost’. Each time I lose weight I will move the appropriate number of pebbles from the ‘to lose’ jar to the ‘lost’ jar. I’m looking forward to moving some pebbles!

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Finally, I’m going to document the next 30 days breakfasts here in photos. After that I may move to lunches, but no promises! Haha let’s see how it goes first! Today, purple oatmeal! That’s whole oat oatmeal made with a blend of water and unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and fresh blueberries! Delish on a cold winter morning!

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Have a great day everyone!

M&M Flicking

11 Nov

There are times when I’d like to flick the m&ms I’m eating at the TV. For instance, when Jessica Biel appears on screen looking fresh-faced and fit to hock the latest Cover Girl lip plumping miracle that is obviously responsible for all the wonderful things in her life, not excluding her recent nuptials to Justin Timberlake. Or, when Rachel Ray, in all her adorableness, manages to create a five course nutritious and delicious dinner party spread in a mere 30 minutes using little more than a can of pillsbury crescent rolls, some chicken and thousand island salad dressing. The magic of television doesn’t stop with the accomplishments of Jessica Biel or Rachel Ray though, it extends to include amazing transformations like Kirstie Alley when she lost 50 pounds by dancing with the stars and Valerie Bertinelli who did the same by shaking hands with Jennie Craig. Of course television doesn’t always just provide us with unattainable examples of talent and beauty. Sometimes, we get to see examples of society that actually might make us feel a bit better about our own circumstances, like poor little honey boo boo or the woman-turned-handbag known as the tanning-mom. Even then, I still feel compelled to fling those m&m’s. Am I doomed to succumb to a sugar fueled angry existence for the rest of my days, or do I just need to turn off the TV, put down the candy, and go get some exercise?

Here’s the deal. Comparison is the thief of joy. Whether you are comparing yourself to an unattainable ideal or pumping up your ego by comparing yourself to those less fortunate, you are failing to appreciate your own God created uniqueness for the gift that it is. I do this way too often. I’d be willing to bet that you do too. We tend to focus on our shortcomings and perceived failings which don’t fairly represent our gifts. Dig out your personal highlight reel, and take a few minutes to review it. Give God some glory by allowing yourself to be a little impressed by His workmanship in you! I may not be a Jessica Biel or a Rachel Ray, but I have gifts and assets that are uniquely mine, and best of all, God gave them to me! Having said that, I don’t think I really need the m&m’s anymore. : )

Isolation

22 Oct

Unskilled in social graces,

she prefers to be her own companion.

When sharing opens wounds

confidence becomes abandoned.

Everybody tries and everybody pries

to expose her failings and weakness,

and pain surges through her being

when judgment replaces acceptance.

Hurting and torn, a little girl retreats,

to save her heart and aspirations

in a protected version of reality

guarded from hurtful ill intentions.

A lonely fortress becomes her world

and nobody notices the tears,

because she weeps from within her soul

and wills her misfit to disappear.

She grows, she loves and lives by faith

years away from the war of words,

but the passage of time and placement of bricks

will not render them unheard.

Sharp tongues have cut the ties the bind,

impotent affirmations fail to buoy,

a girl child rebuked and schooled

robbed of her spirit for exposing her joy.

Why Not Just Eat the Cookie?

22 Oct

Disclaimer:

The post that follows is not inspirational.  I usually try to present positive thoughts.  I prefer to operate from a positive place.  But, doubts and discouraging thoughts do creep in from time to time and I would be misrepresenting myself and under-serving anyone who reads my blog if I didn’t occasionally share these thoughts as well.  Recently, I’ve been struggling.  The post that follows is honest.  I don’t know if it’ll be helpful or meaningful to anyone else, and I’m not really looking for any motivational pep talks.  I’m just sharing the plain simple truth of what I’m feeling today.  Do with it what you will.  God Bless!

Why Not Just Eat the Cookie?

Why do I keep trying to lose weight through diet and exercise when the effort seems so monumental and burdensome and the results are not forthcoming?  For several years I have struggled and tried, really tried, to adopt a healthy lifestyle. I have committed to avoiding sugar and other simple carbs, counting calories, cutting out foods I enjoy eating and working out intensely with an extra 90 pounds to move around.  I can deprive and limit my pantry choices for months at a time and lose 20 or 30 lbs, only to gain it back as soon as other priorities or challenges take my energies and focus away from constantly controlling my nutrition. It’s sort of crazy to have to spend so much time on that one facet of my life anyhow, right?  Despite the intermittent periods of dedication and drive, I’m not noticeably thinner, and I constantly feel like I’ve failed. I have spent so many hours of my life, not to mention some amount of money, trying to retrain my palate to appreciate foods that I really don’t love, to control my compulsion to overeat, and to find the athlete I covered in layers of fat years ago, only to fall short of success time and time again.  I am unhappy being overweight and out of shape, but I am also unhappy eating foods for months that I have to try to like and being no better off for it in the long run.  What’s the point?  If I have ultimately failed after years of trying in earnest, why keep banging my head against this same wall?  I can be burdened by my weight or I can be burdened with the pursuit of losing weight.  Either way, I’m still going to be fat.  So why not just eat the cookie and accept the lesser of two burdens?

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