Monday, January 28, 2013

Your Mind Must Say Yes

I did something amazing this past week! I got on a treadmill and ran 1.2 miles.  That's the first time that has ever happened.  It all started with a challenge.  Jennifer, my co-worker (and subscriber to this blog) is currently training to run in an upcoming marathon.  We tend to work out at the same time in the evenings, where I get updates on her progress.  Well, over a week ago, she challenged me to match the minutes that she runs in miles.  She was up to 12 miles and that meant I had to run 12 minutes.  As I heard the words coming out of her mouth, I found myself nodding and accepting that challenge.  By the time I got to my car, I was wondering what I had just agreed to.  I had never run over 2 minutes on the treadmill. Yikes!  But something inside of me reassured me that I needed that challenge to push past my comfort zone...past my fears and step up to a new level of activity.

Well almost everyday until this past Wednesday, I tried to prepare for this challenge.  I agreed that I had to break up my run into intervals of running/walking. I ran three minutes/walked a minute...three more minutes, then walked a minute, then I did my last three minutes.  When I was actually on the treadmill, with my personal trainer beside me and Jennifer in front of me telling me to keep going and stop looking at the time on the treadmill. I had to keep thinking "I can do this!" My body was praying for it to be over. I could hear them both, as well as other familiar voices in the room, encouraging me.  For a moment I had a flashback of Henry Ford Hospital in the labor and delivery room when my son was born.  Just like then, I felt surrounded by  a cheering squad telling me to push and breathe.  When it was all said and done, I reached my time on the treadmill and there was that similar joy that mothers have when they realize the worst of labor is over and they have a beautiful baby to show for all of the pain, sweat and tears.  At that moment, I was just happy that I didn't have to run another second, coupled with the excitement of knowing I actually did it!  

Since then, I've come to realize that I wasn't limited physically from running.  I had been working out for over a year and building myself up all this time, but I was being held back by the limitations I set in my mind when it came to running.  That's the key.  I just have to take the limits off my mind.  So this week, I've gotta meet my new challenge.  Fifteen minutes on the treadmill this Wednesday.  I welcome the challenge once again.  I'll be back next week to report how that goes.  What will you challenge yourself to achieve this week?  I'll be happy to have you share it with me.     

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Order of Skinny Thighs Please

I don't really like change.  Nobody does, do they?  What's familiar is usually pretty easy.  Life throws enough my way without having to learn something new or force something that I'm not used to.  Yes, I want to be thinner, healthier, stronger, better, faster...(I sound like the Bionic Woman), but who has time to commit to working out and the money to shop at Whole Foods?  It's easier to just keep things simple, zip through a fast food drive thru and stop making a fuss about fitness. I've got more important things to keep me busy than trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Besides, we all have to die with something. What's the big deal, right? - WRONG!

Change will never happen without modifying our thinking.  Once the change begins to occur in your thoughts, that affects your actions.  When actions change, then you'll see a change in your lifestyle.  When your lifestyle changes, then you'll see the results of the whole process.  However, too often we never start with changing our mind.  We try to go straight to the results.  And the diet and fitness industry makes millions, if not billions, off of people who don't understand the process of change. Fad diets, drastic cleanses, pills that melt fat while we sleep are all gimmicks that promise results, yet require little commitment or effort from you. We can't wish it away or even pray it away.    

Speaking of our quests for sudden results, at the age of eight years old, I recall being taught that God answers prayer.  So, while on my knees at bedtime, I made my request, just like I was sitting on Santa's lap at the mall.  I told God that I didn't like fat thighs and I was putting in my order for skinny ones. All night long I was anxious to see what would happen by morning. The next day I yanked the cover off in excitement, but was quickly disappointed to see that my thighs were still fat!  What happened Lord?  Thirty-seven years later, I still have fat thighs!  It's because I kept eating. No mystery there. 

I'm happy to say that I'm finally catching on to the way change happens.  Two years ago when I decided to take baby steps towards better health, it was a gradual process. It's not about dropping the pounds (or skinny thighs) for me any more.  It's about quality of life.  I'm striving to think different so that my behavior will change permanently.  I'm making progress, but it's happening gradually.  Over all I've lost about 30 pounds.  My cholesterol has dropped from borderline high to below 200 for the first time in my adult life.  My blood pressure and glucose levels are normal.  This has come after modifying my diet to eating more fruits, veggies, nuts and fish.  And less fast foods, processed foods and sugars.   It all sounds pretty common sense and easy for some, I'm sure.  But to the person who clings to bad habits like a security blanket, it's not so simple.  Change can happen for anyone.  They just have to want it bad enough.  I do. Do you? 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Drinking Your Way to Health

I have to admit that drinking a cold glass of soda on a hot summer day, used to be so satisfying.  But it never was just one drink, it was usually a few soft drinks a day to quench my thirst.  Well, since I started monitoring how I eat, I also began to monitor my drink choices.  Many of those unwanted calories were being sipped through a straw. From sugary colas to rich cups of hot chocolate, I was getting bigger around the waistline just by drinking.

Believe it or not, my weight began to decrease when I started substituting water instead of sweet drinks with my meals.  Water has so many benefits that improve health that it's a wise decision to make when implementing small changes in your lifestyle.  We are supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day just to stay properly hydrated.  Rarely did I ever reach that goal.  But now, water intake is a big part of my daily diet and sometimes exceeds the recommended amount.

I also discovered that adding fresh slices of lime or cucumber to my ice water added flavor without the calories.  Unsweetened iced tea is another favorite of mine.   In fact green teas have great nutritional value.  They have antioxidants that help to fight free radicals in  your body - thus decrease risk of certain cancers.

Now I still enjoy a glass of lemonade every now and then.  I even drink orange and cranberry juices.  They have sugar nonetheless, but they at least have some nutritional value.  I just make sure I keep it to a minimum.

Try cutting back on the sweet drinks for a few days and see if you don't experience a difference.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

You've Got to Move It!

One of the small changes that I've incorporated into my new life of fitness is just moving more.  Living a sedentary lifestyle can become a big problem over time and I recognized that I was just not moving my body enough.  Working out is ultimately an activity that one should make time for on a regular basis, but I'm not even talking about working out.  I'm talking about just living everyday life with what should be "normal" activity.

I used pray for parking spaces at the mall that were close to the door and drive up and down lanes until I got one that was maybe one or two spaces over from the handicap parking.  Ridiculous!  That's just plain lazy.  But I know I'm not the only one guilty of that.  But now, I park in spaces that allow me to walk farther, thus more exercise.  When I have the option of taking the stairs versus the elevator, I use the stairs.  In my youth, I remember how I kept weight off...moving all the time.  I was involved in modern dance, basketball, gymnastics, roller skating, bike riding, and walking to the store several times a day with my friends.  Now I drive everywhere, sit at my desk at work and even now, I'm sitting down to write this blog.  I'm not going to give up my car, quit my job or stop using my computer, so I have to look for opportunities to move my body.  Our society is moving towards convenience and technology at a rapid pace.  However, just because something is more convenient, doesn't make it better for you.

Last year for a period of time I used a pedometer.  I began to monitor how many steps a day I was taking.  The goal was 10,000 steps a day, but rarely did I actually make more than 8,000 steps.  On average, I racked up between 4,000 and 6,000 steps a day - which isn't nearly enough to be considered active.  So with that knowledge, I began to make minor changes and walk to nearby places instead of drive. Just like with keeping a food diary, the pedometer is just one inexpensive way to gauge your activity. So, as soon as I finish writing this blog, I'm going to get it moving!  I hope you join me.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Faith is the Fuel

In any undertaking in my life, faith has to be the foundation that success is built on. Making changes to my eating and exercise habits are very much connected to my faith in God.  Yes, there are choices that I have to make and things I have to do.  I can't blame failure on Him.  Neither can I say my success is only because of Him. But the truth is, I have to do my part and He does His. I rely and trust in Him to help me in these areas where I feel weak. But I still have to take action. So, yes, I joined the gym, started my journal and realized that more steps need to be taken to accomplish my goals.  Faith is an action.  Without action, faith is dead.

One of the thoughts that prevail in my mind is that my body is a temple.  And since it is a temple, I have a responsibility to make sure that I'm treating it in a respectable manner.  Carrying around excess weight is not in line with a life of faith.  It's disrespectful to put garbage in the temple or allow it to be sluggish and not operate at its fullest potential.  So my faith has a direct connection to the actions that I must take to be a healthier me.

This year, I plan to let my faith be the fuel that burns in me to do better than I did in 2012.  And I have to push myself to do more and not become complacent with the small accomplishments.  I challenge you to use your faith to help you reach your goals.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

From the Plate to the Page

After I started working out at the gym for a period of time, I began keeping a Food Diary.  At first it was a pain in the butt to carry a little journal around and jot things down every time I ate, but it's a habit that became easier for me to develop over a few days.  I actually was taught to do it from my Weight Watchers days several years ago.  I believe Weight Watchers is one of the better life-changing programs out there and really helps people to develop some good skills if one adheres to them.  Taking inventory of what you eat is all about developing accountability to yourself.  Every time you put something in your mouth, it should be written on the page.

Before I started my Food Diary, I would eat and then forget what I ate and eat more later. I didn't realize when I was eating, how much I ate or how often. Again, it's about honesty. With a food diary, you begin to realize how the calories creep up on you.  Now in conjunction with the Food Diary, you may want to invest in calorie counter guide.  Today, it's much easier with smart phone applications. They have apps that allow you to scan items, or type in the names of foods, even items on the menus at restaurants and it will provide you with the amount of calories being consumed.  For me, I was able to blow the dust off of my Weight Watchers booklet that follows the Point System - Based on my weight, I wasn't supposed to consume more than 28 points a day.  I discovered that I had been consuming more than double that in a day.  The key at first was not to modify my eating habits, but simply record my habits as they were.  It was clear to see why the weight wasn't budging.  I was eating too much of the wrong foods and eating them too often and late at night as well.  It was easier to see the error of my ways with the journal.

I began to limit the number of meals, make better food choices and eat smaller portions.  Who wants to record that they are eating a deluxe cheeseburger, fries, milkshake and an apple pie for lunch?  Even if it tastes good, it looks wrong on paper for someone who is trying to lead a healthy life style.  I'd rather write down that I ate a 1/2 turkey sandwich on whole wheat, spinach salad and unsweetened iced tea.  Call it psychology or just plain common sense, but it does work.

Try writing down what you eat each day for a week.  I bet your little journal will help you learn a lot about yourself and you'll see some improvements in no time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The First Small Step

Years and years have gone by in my life with me knowing a change was needed for me to become a healthy, fit person.  It's not like I was ignorant that my health was headed in a bad direction.  Like most people, we can be aware of something, but not have the will power or the education to make the needed changes.  But a little over a year ago, I decided that I needed to do something about my health.  I was suffering from edema in my legs and feet.  Some days it was so bad that I couldn't fit my shoes!  I recalled going to a doctor and I asked him if he could give me medication for the swelling in my legs.  He said he could, but also handed me a pamphlet for the "Diabetic Diet".  I told him I didn't have diabetes.  He replied, "That's true, but if you eat this way, you'll lose weight and won't have to worry about the swelling in your legs."  He  followed that by saying, "If most of my patients would eat right and exercise, I'd have to give up practicing medicine and become a plumber."  I thought what he said was humorous, but the simplicity of his statement stuck with me. Taking water pills and reducing the use of table salt helped a little, but that alone wasn't the solution. I began to take his advice.   

One of the first steps for me was joining the gym.  I joined the one at work, instead of one across town. The likelihood of me making excuses to not go was diminished because I walked past the gym everyday for three years to go home from work before every visiting. How absurd was that?  I started out going two times a week, spending about 45 minutes working out - and not over doing it. Each time it became easier.  Then it became a routine and I looked forward to it.  I noticed a difference in my legs.  The swelling didn't go away completely, but I could see the improvement in my condition.  Within the first four months, I lost about 15 pounds.  I felt better.  It was the first step in the right direction.  That one decision, helped me to make the next healthy decision.

My encouragement to you today is to make just one small change.  Don't think about ALL the changes you need to make.  Just make one simple one.  Something you can stick to.  What is the one thing you can do today to help you start on your journey to a better you? 

Good Health Starts with the Truth

Honesty is the best way to approach anything you're trying to change. The New Year is the day that everyone is going to diet, get in shape, run to the gym and swear off of every bad habit known to man.  But statistics show that rarely does anyone keep these resolutions.  So let's be honest.  You didn't get fat and unhealthy over night.  And you're certainly not going to change over night.  My blog is not about making a resolution, with a sudden shift in behavior and following some fad diet.  It's about educating yourself and slowly implementing gradual changes in your life that, in the long run, will benefit you. 

Being from Detroit, which among other things was recently given the title as one of the "Fattest Cities in America", I was surely impacted by that fact long after I moved to LA.  Dieting and exercise is something I often talked about, but rarely did.  Fast foods like McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell were a regular part of my diet, not to mention fried chicken, tons of fatty carbs, processed foods and other sugary snacks and drinks.  

Growing up, I was given all kinds of advice about how to remain safe in a city like Motown. Everyone can relate to locking your doors, watching your surroundings after dark and using common sense to protect yourself against the enemies that lurk in the night.  But there wasn't anyone telling me how to protect myself in my own kitchen!  No one was there to warn me that I was eating my way to an early grave. That's because they were subjecting themselves to the same dangers. My grandmother died of a massive heart attack in 1994.  Ten years later at the age of 62, my father died of a heart attack as well.  Both he and my mom (still living and a breast cancer survivor) were diagnosed with diabetes.  I won't bother to mention to other family and friends I know who either suffer with or have been diagnosed with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer.  It's truly a sad epidemic. Yet everyone acts surprisingly shocked to receive these diagnosis, but does anyone seriously stop to ask how these illnesses occur?  Some people may get mad at me for telling the truth, but the truth sometimes hurts.  These diseases hurt more. 

Now, I'm not pointing the finger in judgement at anyone because there are people who do all the right things that are sometimes struck down by unfortunate illnesses, which they have no control.  But far and wide, these symptoms are greatly reduced when a person makes a conscious decision to take care of themselves. Diet and exercise play a major role in quality of life.  And having suffered the loss in my own family, I have a choice to make. I can either continue to eat garbage, make excuses for poor exercising habits, or do something about it.  I choose to have a quality life and make good choices.  I ask you to choose the same in 2013.  Let's do this together!