Monday, March 23, 2009

Meditation Monday!

LIVING IN THE LIGHT

There are days when I could easily feel overwhelmed with everything going on in life. Like a cup about to overflow.

Instead of waiting to see which next "drop" will unleash the flood, meditation is my way of mentally and emotionally emptying the cup a little bit.
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Here's an exercise I find especially helpful in those moments. Very simple. Even if you've never meditated before, this is a good one to try. If you are familiar with meditation, you know you can also use different colors depending on what your focus or goal is at the time.

First, deep breathing. A couple of Mondays ago I mentioned square breathing technique. You can do that or just take a few deep breaths. Doesn't need to be a huge ordeal, just close your eyes and breathe... nice slow, easy, deep breaths.

Picture a little pilot light in the area of your heart. If you need a visualization to get started, picture a match or small candle being lit.

Now picture the light gradually getting brighter and brighter... a yellow or white glow expanding bigger and bigger until it surrounds your whole body. Then imagine the glow is radiating out into the room around you.... and then shining out into the universe like a beacon of light.

As you do this, feel the feelings of gratitude and happiness. You can even think of a specific happy moment. Whatever helps you replace the usual chaos of life with peaceful, joyful, thankful feelings. Let the positive emotion wash over you... bask in it.

I usually picture my kids. There a special feeling of intense joy and peace I feel when I'm snuggling them close; kissing their hair and just so filled with love that nothing in the world could ever take it away.

If you're into affirmations (which I am), you can repeat something to yourself like, "I am radiating love and light... attracting health, happiness and prosperity into my life now."

So be it, so it is.
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Be Do Have

As I share my stories and strategies here, I've gained this incredible new sense of accountability. Even when I'm not writing, I have more awareness about everything than ever before. Although my initial goal was to help others, it's helping me. I love it - THANK YOU!

As I mentioned early on, this is a journey. I'm sharing my personal experiences and hopefully some helpful insight into making the most out of life. Yet, I'm far from perfect at this stuff. With all of my strategies there is a range of what comes naturally now and what I still have to work at in a conscious way.

Whenever the experts talk about paradigm shift, they discuss this transition:

DO --> BE --> HAVE to BE --> DO --> HAVE

Maybe this is a fancy way of saying, "fake it 'til you make it." Of course you have to start doing the things which will get you to the mental, physical, emotional place you want to be. But the true beauty is when it's a part of your DNA. It's just who you are so doing the stuff is automatic.

When it comes to being a physically active person, I'd say that's true for me today. To say I'm an "athletic" gal would be a stretch. Yet I can't help but want to exercise regularly because it makes me feel so good on the inside, gives me energy and makes me physically healthier.

Inside out vs. outside in.

Although I have my vain moments, it's so much less about how I "look" than in prior points in my life. Anyone can be happy with their outer body at any size. I don't believe we should be judged based on some physical standard which may or may not be realistic on an individual basis.

However, it's hard to argue with wanting/needing to be healthier, have more energy and just generally feel strong in our busy, sometimes crazy lives. In addition to meditation, I personally require some form of physical movement everyday to accomplish this.

When I wake up at 5:30am, I can pretty easily talk myself out of working out if it's only about fitting into my old "mom jeans" or even trying to look decent in a swimsuit on an upcoming vacation. Instead, I need to think about how I want to FEEL.
"Today I want to feel ___________." How I fill in that blank is usually what motivates me to get my tired ass out of bed.

I used to be the Queen of Justified Procrastination. "I'll work out tonight" or "I'll start working out on Monday" or "I'll have more time to exercise once this class is over."

It's much harder to say, "Today I want to feel like crap." "Today I want to be tired all day long." "Today I want playing outside with my kids to be completely exhausting."

So... how do YOU want to feel today?


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Does this blog make my butt look fat? (Part Two)

A BUN IN THE OVEN -- make that a KFC biscuit!

With my noticeably distended belly, I went to see my doctor convinced that something was drastically wrong. It may be surprising that I’d mentally made the leap to something like cancer and yet pregnancy wasn’t even on my radar screen. Again, you just have to know my family. My mother having lupus was just the tip of the iceberg. Suffice it to say that when I complete a family health history, I usually have to ask for more paper.

As it happened, I was indeed pregnant despite having been on the pill for more than a decade. Surprise! The bigger and more disappointing surprise came when we found out several weeks later that the baby stopped growing, that there was no heartbeat and I’d need a D&C. (Yes, I know - this was nature's way of making sure I didn't have a kid with three legs or something... trust me, I heard it all.)

For several weeks afterwards I looked pregnant and knew I had been pregnant but I was not pregnant anymore. Add in a few adjusting hormones and you have a one-way ticket to Suckville.

The one positive thing that came out of the loss was that it made my (then) boyfriend and me closer than ever. We knew then that we would stay together to a ripe old age and that we definitely wanted children. The funny thing is that I was so adamant throughout my former marriage that I never wanted children. Turns out I just didn’t want to have them with him (my first husband).

After several months of “taking charge of my fertility” (re: great Toni Weschler book) I finally got pregnant again. Despite initial intentions not to get married, we did end up having a ceremony on a beach in St. Maarten after a surprise four-day engagement. That story can be a whole other blog entry.

Once again, I gained weight at a rapid rate. People constantly told me that I was “glowing.” I think it may have been the grease from the BK fries and KFC biscuits. I gained 70 lbs in nine months. Apparently my copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” came with a feedbag. My husband calls this my “Jabba the Hut” phase.

Even months after delivering my healthy baby girl, I hadn’t lost any of my “pregnancy weight.” People would say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself -- you just had a baby.” Okay, she was SEVEN pounds. Unless there are nine more kids hiding in my ass, I’ve got my work cut out for me.

I started experimenting with every diet known to man and beast. Hollywood, Atkins, Cabbage, Grapefruit, Three-Day, Great American. You name it, I tried it. My weight followed a roller coaster ride along with my emotions over the next four years.
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Three more miscarriages plus stress at work and home added to the “fun” – if you actually like roller coasters and think screaming, crying and throwing up is fun, that is. Obviously I was coping with much more than surface weight loss issues.

I was eventually diagnosed with Asherman's Syndrome. But something kinda clicked after my last miscarriage. I’ll spare you the details, but we had actually seen a heartbeat and gotten past the “scary” first trimester before the loss.
This particular loss was so devastating I don’t even know how to put it into words. Yet at the same time I had this profound new appreciation for life. I suddenly realized what an incredible flippin’ miracle it is that we were actually created…and that we get to live and breathe each day on this earth. My grateful bond with my daughter changed in a way which is hard to describe. My relationship with myself changed.
.Despite everything else that had happened in my life to this point, it took this experience to make a “forever change” on how I would approach my life from the inside out. To those that knew me before and after, you may not even know that this paradigm shift occurred.

My approach to getting healthy completely changed. I found a whole new path to success…

More to come...
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Does this blog make my butt look fat? (Part One)

Almost everyone I know struggles with their weight and/or getting enough exercise and/or food issues. I am the jackpot winner in this arena, having dealt with all three of these bonus categories at various points in my life. Since I really want to take the time to explore this set of topics from the “ground up” so to speak, I’ve decided to split this part of the journey into pieces. I mean, y’all have lives and more to do than read my blog. (Well, some of you anyway.) Eventually, I hope you’ll have a neat series of posts which give you my frame of reference as well as what I do now to deal with these areas in a healthy way. Always back to the whole “taking care of the critical core” thing. See, you're already figuring me out and we've just begun.

Oh - now might be a good time to cast your vote on whether or not you think it’s safe for me to post the dreaded “before and after” pictures. I’m slightly scared right now so we’ll see.

Anyway…

As a child and pre-teen, I was considered one of those annoying “I can eat and eat and never gain weight” types. I say that about my daughter now and it’s true. She is so long and lean, it’s crazy. My dad recently pointed out however, “She has long skinny legs now, but that can change. Just look at you.” Luckily I love and appreciate my dad’s sense of humor. Plus, he has a point. Personally I think I was just malnourished as a young kid.

In many of my friend’s houses, FOOD = LOVE.

It’s hard to say for sure what the equivalent was growing up in my mom’s house. A case could be made for the converse equation, but to say we had no food and no love” seems a bit harsh. At one point in my life, I felt that way I guess. But I’ve been through enough reflection and self-analysis to know that it wasn’t an accurate perception.

So another possibility is, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t make me eat that.” My mother was not what you would call a “happy homemaker.” She was highly intellectual, a talented pianist and fine artist. She also struggled with physical and mental illness, both of which I’m sure will be elaborated at some point during my blogging journey. For now the point is: the woman could NOT cook. More than once, she burned a hole in a pan whilst attempting to boil water. I’m not kidding.

My most positive childhood food memories at my mom’s house include sitting in front of the TV, eating butter on saltines. Also, “fun dip” which was eating my mom’s powdered daiquiri mix out of the little foil packets with my wet finger.

Oh, and ketchup. I loved ketchup. I mean, it’s pretty hard to screw up a condiment. Plus there were days when that was all we had in the fridge that didn’t look like a science experiment.

It turned out to be a lucky thing that we weren’t the type of family that was accustomed to a sit-down dinner every night. Every once in a while though, mom would decide we needed to act like a “normal” family.

This usually meant one of three dinner options: beef roast with “mashies,” liver & onions, or Hamburger Helper. I used to pray for “door #3” because my step-father was the Hamburger Helper king. (Sometimes Tuna Helper but Chicken Helper didn’t come out until 1983.) I may have some stories later about this guy too, but his mastery with a “Helper” meal was one of the high points.

My mom had this knack for cooking a beef roast until it resembled a hard, black rock. Remembering this makes me question my parenting skills today. My own kids can be really picky when it comes to food. Of course it’s my fault for allowing it. My daughter won’t eat a hot dog cooked on a grill because she doesn’t like “black marks” on it. And here I had to ingest what probably tasted worse than the charcoal briquettes.

What can I say about the liver and onion meal beyond the obvious? Despite mom’s uncanny ability to burn everything, these were the two ingredients she undercooked. The liver was cooked just to a pale grey color and the onions just to the point of soggy. Okay, “EW?” Ironically, my older sister always says now that she really loves liver and onions. The only possible explanation is that she has some food version of Stockholm Syndrome.

Suffice it to say that my unhealthy relationship with food started at a very young age.

Moving on...

During my senior year of high school I moved in with my dad. Did I mention that my dad was remarried to my mother’s (much younger) sister? In normal circles, this might be considered the “weird” part. But my childhood reality was so off the grid, this is now just a basic fact about my family. What's Springer worthy about "Uncle Dad?" Wait, don't answer that.

My dad and aunt/step-mom’s house was like living in a grocery store. Even more exciting to me than the fact that they had one of the very first Apple home computers was the fact that they were early adopters of the “juice box.” They also had Oreos covered in mint chocolate. They had not just peanut butter but Nutella.

We had big dinners with crescent rolls, salad, sausages (hot and sweet) and big cheese raviolis. My dad served freshly grated Parmesan cheese instead of the powdered stuff. If we ate enough food, we got more food in the form of dessert. Maybe even a Fruit-Roll Up chaser.

I don’t remember exactly how much weight I gained during that adolescent food honeymoon, but it was a lot. I remember a specific outing to Hampton Beach with a boyfriend. He told me that I had a pretty face but that the new stretch marks on my thighs made me look “old ladyish.” Lovely.

My first year in college I did justice to the “freshman 15” tradition, with the help of a hefty dormitory food plan of course. I also met my next boyfriend who one day commented about how cute my ass jiggled when I walked across the room. (Can I pick a guy with no filter or what??)

The next day I discovered the school workout room. This budding awareness of physical fitness opened up a whole new realm which would have both positive and negative effects on my life from that point through today.

I met my first husband at a gym. It’s ironic that those years mark the “rock bottom” of my low self-esteem since I was probably in the best physical condition of my life. Maybe 102 lbs (I know!), strong and muscular, but lean. I look back at pictures and wish I had felt prouder of my well-sculpted “pipes and pillars.”

Those years further etched mental programming which told me that in order to make exercise count for anything, I had to spend at least two hours at a gym. (This is not how I feel today and we'll talk about this more later.)

In retrospect, I’m sure I worked obsessively at my external appearance because I felt so crappy on the inside.

Plus, I was married to a sex addict. Even though those were the early days when *gasp* you had to pay for online porn, my ex-husband spent much of his day downloading naked pictures of other women. Somehow I thought I needed to look like those chicks to be “successful” at my marriage. Having read my previous posts, you know how this eventually worked out.

Flash forward to meeting my current husband. (This was 12 years ago this May if you can handle "flashing forward" to the past.). At that point I had been consistently single and "working on myself" for several years. I’d say I was in pretty good shape, both mentally and physically.

Not sure if it was the process of falling in love or maybe spending more time than usual in horizontal positions or what, but I definitely got a little chunky during our first year of dating.

I also started a new job which included traveling to fabulous places where there was lots of booze and lots of food. On one such trip to Puerto Rico, I tried to put on a favorite skirt and could not zip it up. Yikes. I was either really fat or I had colon cancer. Actually I was fat, but for a reason. I was pregnant.

Stay tuned for Part Two of “Does this blog make my butt look fat?”
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