Lesson Learned: Listen to your Gut

I have a confession:  I have not been taking care of myself lately and now I am paying the ultimate price. As I sit here and write this, I am in a lot of discomfort and some pain that could probably have been avoided.  Here’s why:

Several months ago, I visited my naturopathic doctor who gave me a nutrition plan to help heal my ulcerative colitis.  The plan is very Paleo-like and was developed after I had food sensitivity and blood work done.  Basically, according to her instructions, I am supposed to eliminate all eggs, dairy, wheat, gluten, peanuts, corn, white potatoes, legumes, and sugar from my diet.  This, along with some supplements she’s prescribed, are supposed to help repair the damage done to my intestinal wall, decrease the amount of bad bacteria in my gut while increasing the amount of good bacteria, and get rid of the inflammation that causes the terrible symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

I followed the plan for a few weeks (with a few minor cheats and treats here and there).  But over the course of the last month, I’ve pretty much gone completely off my nutrition plan.  I’ve been eating whatever I want and if you know me, that’s nothing healthy.  There’s been ice cream (and lots of it), bread (and lots of it), fast food, chips, crackers, diet pop…. the list goes on.  And because, up until this point, it didn’t seem to be having too much negative effect on me, I kept it up.

Over the last couple of days in particular, I have eaten very poorly.  We got some upsetting news the other day and I’ve been using that as my excuse to eat junk.  And now I am paying for it…

Last night when I went to bed, I felt the old familiar pains of indigestion (a tight, painful squeezing feeling in my upper abdomen) and was also a tad bit nauseous.  I prayed that these pains would not send me into a full-out stomach attack like they’ve done in the past, where I am crying on the floor in cold sweats and excruciating pain caused by severe indigestion.  Fortunately, I was able to fall asleep and slept pretty well throughout the night.

This morning when I woke up though, I could still feel tiny hints of the indigestion although it wasn’t nearly as bad as last night.  I went about getting my day started.  Then all of a sudden, I got terrible stomach pains and a bit of nausea and had to hurry to the bathroom.  Without going into too many gruesome details, let’s just say it was not a fun experience.  It was very painful and when finished, the toilet bowl was full of blood (sorry).  This has not happened in a quite some time and I was devastated. Now the bottom end of my digestive tract is very sore and irritated, not a pleasant feeling.

As much as I hate to admit this, I had this coming.  I was foolish and had myself convinced that since I wasn’t really experiencing any of my typical UC symptoms, I could eat whatever I wanted.  Having a “treat” here and there led to a full-out free-for-all.  And now, my UC symptoms seems to be back (at least for now) in full vegeance and I am paying the price.

I am writing this for a couple of reasons.  First, I want to be able to look back on it to give myself that much-needed reminder about why it is so important for me to stick to a healthy eating plan.  I know I will get too comfortable again, but hopefully by coming back to this, I can more clearly remember the awful physical pain that it puts my body through and prevent myself from going too far off track.  It is so important for me to track my foods (something I have stopped doing recently) and to pay better attention to the physical and mental reactions to the foods I eat.  This isn’t just about trying to lose weight to look good anymore, this is my health, and I don’t know why I keep playing with fire….

Secondly, I want to spread the message to others that what we put in our bodies really does affect us in so many ways!  Sometimes, we may not see or feel the physical results of feeding our body unhealthy foods, but they are there!  Don’t be like me and wait until your body is unhealthy and you are in pain to make the change.  We need to start getting people everywhere to nourish their bodies.  Too many of us (myself very much included) eat for pleasure or to comfort ourselves.  We only choose our foods based on how they taste and not on how they are going to affect our body and our overall health.

As painful as it was, I think this is the wakeup call I needed this morning.  Unfortunately, I need to remember this feeling so that I can have a constant reminder of how important it is to follow the food plan that is going to help heal my body.  I need to be patient enough and to trust that when I make these changes, I will feel a positive effect (more energy, clearer skin, healthy bowel movements, slimmer waistline, etc.) It’s hard to be patient when you’re making these changes, but if we don’t do it, we end up back where we started, which in my case, is painful and unhealthy.

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Consistency is Key: Perfection is Impossible

I am feeling very upset with myself tonight.  Frustrated and angry would more accurately describe it.  I just got back from another failed run.  I picked running back up earlier this summer and while some days of my new training program have been awesome, some have been really, really hard.  Today happened to be one of the hard ones. I was supposed to do a combined total of 34 minutes of running and about 18 minutes of walking (including warm-up and cool-down) but I didn’t even make it through half of the run before my body just couldn’t do it.

And while I know that this is just the way training goes (some days are good, some days are not), I’m also feeling frustrated because I know this is mostly my fault.  It’s no surprise that my body could not perform optimally tonight (as badly as I wanted it to), when I haven’t been taking care of it nutritionally.

Several months ago, I was put on a fairly restrictive nutrition plan by my naturopath.  The initial reasons for doing so were to heal my ulcerative colitis, overcome the extreme fatigue I’d been having, and to lose weight in a healthy way.  After doing food sensitivity and blood testing, my naturopath eliminated the following from my diet: wheat/gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, peanuts, chickpeas, and cane sugar.  It was discovered that I have a high amount of yeast in my gut (causing too much bad bacteria which causes my inflammation and ulcers) so she also put me on a yeast therapy treatment and gave me strict instructions to drastically cut back on sugar (which feeds the growth of yeast).  I was also put on a hemoglobin supplement (my low hemoglobin would be one cause of my extreme fatigue and probiotics  which would help boost healthy bacteria in the gut.

For a good while, I stuck pretty faithfully to this plan (with only a few minor cheats here and there) and took my supplements and treatments regularly. I saw almost immediate results – my boating and gas went down drastically, energy levels went up slightly, even my skin got clearer.

 

But, over the last few weeks I have lost my way.  It started when we went on vacation and I told myself I could have more “treats”,  but since coming home over a week ago, I just can not seem to get back on my nutrition plan.  In fact, I shamefully admit I have gone completely off of it.  I’ve been eating everything that hurts my body (white bread, bagels, crackers, peanut butter, tons of sugar, ice cream, cheese, fast food….) The hard thing is, I don’t know why I do this because nearly every time I do, I become consumed with guilt.  I tell myself I shouldn’t have it but I do anyway, and then I feel badly.  I tell myself I will eat healthier at the next meal, and then I don’t.  I buy healthy foods when I go grocery shopping, but then they go back on my counter while I eat junk instead.  And since my UC symptoms haven’t been drastic lately, it’s been easier for me to say “f*&$ it” and consumer whatever junk I want.

So it shouldn’t have came as a surprise that when I set out for my run tonight, I was battling some indigestion and my stomach was bloated.  And when I started the running intervals, I felt like I was carrying a load of bricks around my middle.  I felt heavy and sluggish.  On top of that, since the weather was overcast, I had way underestimated the humidity and was sweating within minutes. Guys, I loathe being hot.  Yes, I know you’re supposed to sweat when working out, but humidity just kills me!

Needless to say, about halfway through my run, I gave up and walked the rest of the way.  I instantly felt hot tears of frustration welling in my eyes.  The negative self-talk started up as I blamed myself for eating poorly and for not being able to fulfill the run I had hoped to do.

Maybe I am just not cut out for running, I thought. I’ve been dreading all my runs lately anyway.  Maybe I am better off just being fat and out of shape. This is your fault, you should have known better…. Maybe I need to get a modified program, this one is too hard. All you did was eat carbs and sugar all day and you thought you could get away with it!  You know better!  What were you thinking?!  You should have known this would catch up to you eventually!

But fortunately, my only saving grace tonight was that I’ve been working really hard on overcoming negative thoughts with positive ones.  Sure, that harsh, judgemental, “you’re-not-good-enough-and-never-will-be” voice immediately piped up in my head, but then moments later so did the inner voice I like to think of as “my friend”.

Today is just not your day but not every day will be perfect. Forgive yourself. Yes you haven’t been making the best food choices but you can change that.  It’s okay. You win some and you lose some, next time will be better.  You are going to keep trying.  Consistency will get you where you want to be.  You can do it, don’t give up on yourself.  Make one or two small changes every day and you will get there. Don’t give up.

And thankfully this positive, encouraging inner voice took over (and just so you know, I have to make a real effort for the positive voice to over-power the negative one, it’s not easy) because now I have had some time to reflect and to see that perfection is impossible but consistency is key and it’s never too late to get back on track.

What I have learned is that I need to remind myself why I started this nutrition plan in the first place.  It wasn’t primarily to lose weight as I’ve been thinking of it lately (and somehow I had foolishly convinced myself that I can “cheat” with my food as long as I am working out and won’t gain weight… even though I know that’s not the truth!)  The real reason I started this plan was to optimize my health.  Even though, I am not currently experiencing the severe symptoms of ulcerative colitis, I am definitely starting to notice some of the warning signs since I have been eating poorly again.  I’ve had far more gas and bloating lately, and am even starting to get bouts of indigestion again (something that I used to get so badly that I was taken to the hospital in the ambulance a few times because I thought I was having a gall bladder attack!)  And while my energy levels have been better lately, I know that is primarily because it’s summer (which means I’m off work and it’s sunny alot!) If I were working and eating this way, I’d be feeling sluggish, tired, or even depressed.  I know that if I clean up my diet, I will start to feel better.  My bloating will go down (one step closer to a flat stomach!) and the digestive pain and discomfort I have will go away.  My skin will clear, my energy levels will continue to increase, and it will get easier and easier to maintain the positive attitude that is so important to a journey of good health.

So although I may be feeling frustrated and angry with myself, I am grateful tonight that I know not to beat myself up (for too long anyway, haha!) and to take this as a learning experience.  It’s time to put my health (in particular my gut health) at the forefront again and to know that some days just aren’t my day, but that there’s always tomorrow and that I WLL NOT GIVE UP on my goals!

xo

 

Eyes Wide Open: Discovering My Personal Passion

Recently at a professional book club meeting, the topic of passion came up. One of the questions was what are you passionate about personally?  The question kind of took me by surprise because I had always related passion to work.  When you are growing up and planning your future, you always hear the advice “Find something you are passionate about and then figure out how to make a job out of it.”  For me, teaching is definitely one of my passions.  And just recently I’ve recognized some things that have driven my level of passion with teaching sky-high (another blog post on that coming soon!) But when I was asked “What are you passionate about in your personal life?” I was really taken aback – what am I passionate about?

Of course, the most natural of answers came to me right away – I’m passionate about my family, about spending time with loved ones, and making sure they are taken care of.  But is that really a passion?  Sure, I care immensely about my family, but what interests do I have that excite me, inspire me, light a fire within me on a daily basis?

My colleague suggested my love for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I am definitely a huge fan.  I watch games religiously on television, attend as many games as I can throughout the summer, and proudly wear my Jays gear whenever given the opportunity.  I can name all the players, know what position they play, and know the basic stats.  But I don’t live for the Toronto Blue Jays.  It’s an interest but it doesn’t create a burning desire inside of me.  Watching the Jays doesn’t inspire me, it’s more just like a really enjoyable passtime.

So what is my passion?  I started to think about things I am good at and enjoy doing.  I know, I thought, my passion is writing!  It’s true I’ve had many fantasies about making a living as a writer – spending my days in a quiet room, alone, sipping flavoured coffee, and lighting my keyboard on fire as thoughts and ideas come flowing out of me and onto the screen.  I do feel I express myself best in writing. I do get great satisfaction from writing blog posts and putting my ideas into words.  But is it my passion?

I started thinking of a passion as that one thing you can’t stop thinking about.  It permeates your life every single day.  It makes you feel excited, inspired, thoughtful… but sometimes overwhelmed, confused, and scared.  Then it hit me!   I think I know what my passion is…..

Health and Wellness!

For years, I have been interested in health and wellness.  For the most part, I have been interested in health as it relates to weight-loss.  The story of my adult life is that I am consistently trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss.  I am constantly seeking out the right plan to follow that will help me to look and feel great.  But more recently, the idea of health and wellness has evolves into something different.  Yes, I still want (and need) to lose weight.  But more importantly, I have recently become more interested in simply making myself healthy.

This has stemmed predominantly from my diagnosis a few years ago with ulcerative colitis.  I consider myself lucky in the fact that my colitis is fairly mild compared to some others.  Most of my symptoms include bloating, a lot of foul-smelling gas, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation.  At it’s worst, I’ve also experience severe abdominal pain that has landed me in the emergency room.  I’ve also experienced severe urgency that has disrupted my workdays and interfered with social activities.

What I didn’t realize until recently though, was that some of the other symptoms I’ve been having could be directly related to the inflammation in my gut.  I’ve had excema, skin problems, achy joints, headaches, extreme fatigue, and mood swings.  These things are all symptoms of inflammation (mind blown!)

My most latest motivation to get back on the “healthy eating/exercise bandwagon” has been not only to lose weight, but to heal my gut and to feel better overall.  I am tired of being tired.  I am fed up with the mood swings (irritability, crankiness, anger, sadness).  I want to feel energized, positive, and happy – every day, all of the time!

This has inspired me to start a kind of “new” health journey.  In order not to overwhelm myself (which can happen so easily), I have decided to focus on nutrition and making better food choices, not only for weight loss, but also as a means to heal my body from the inside out.  I am slowly starting to learn about whole foods, natural ingredients, eliminating sugar, processed foods, wheat, and dairy, eating more plant-based foods, and feeding my body so that I can feel energetic, vibrant, and strong rather than bloated, tired, and irritable!

I have chosen nutrition because there are SO many areas of health and wellness that if I jump into too much of it, I will totally overwhelm myself and may give up altogether.  But that’s not to say I am not dabbling and looking into other areas of health and wellness (mindfulness, meditation, exercise, to name a few).  I am so enthusiastic about this topic that it’s actually kind of hard to rein myself in but I do have to remember that it’s a HUGE learning process.  Lord knows, I have a LOT to learn.  But the most important part is, I am not only open and willing to educating myself, I am so excited to do it!  I have this strong natural urge, this passion burning inside of me that wants to know all I can about how to live the best life I can!

Whether it’s articles, videos, books, websites, social media pages, internet sources, or people… if it has to do with health and wellness I am interested!   Here are just some of the topics that have grabbed my attention, that I’ve experimented with, researched, read about, or thought about so you can get the idea of how interested I really am!

Nutrition – gluten-free, elimination diets, anti-dairy, the wheat belly diet, holistic approaches, Weight Watchers, eliminating sugar, processed foods, 21 Day Fix (Beachbody), Shakeology, supplements, anti-inflammatory foods, recipes, plant-based foods, whole foods, Paleo diet…..

Fitness – going to the gym, walking, running, yoga, 21 Day Fix, home workouts, Tai Chi, pilates, weight lifting, heavy lifting, CrossFit, Pure Barre, ballet, dance, hiking, paddling, skiing, baseball, soccer….

Spiritual/Mental Wellness – mental health illnesses/conditions, mindfulness, mindful vs. Mind full, coping with stress, anxiety, depression, yoga, meditation, self-care routines, prayer, journaling, grounding techniques, therapy/counselling…

Wellness – natural self-care products, natural cleaning products, environmental factors, essential oils, sleep, balance, self-care, time spent in nature, self-help books, self improvement, positive thinking, mindset

No matter what it is whenever one of these topics comes up, I find myself wanting to know more.  I ask questions, I think, I reflect, I analyze, I read, I consider… and most of all,  I get so excited and so emotional!  If that doesn’t describe a person passion, I am not sure what does!

 

A Lesson Learned Again….

Well, guys, it’s been seven days since I’ve been eating healthier and working out regularly again and up until today everything has been going pretty great!  I’m sort of following the 21 Day Fix program – basically using the containers as guidelines for proper portions and to limit certain things like my carb intake and increase certain things like fruits and veggies.  I’ve also been doing the 21 Day Fix workouts which, until today, have been totally awesome!  I love that the workouts are only thirty minutes and that I can do them in my own basement.

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But today, I learned a lesson.  I’d been having a so-so day nutrition-wise to begin with because we’d stay at my parents’ place overnight and there are alot of temptations there.  I’d made the best of the situation but had already over-eatenmy carb intake (and it had been white bread to boot!). Plus, I’d drank quite a bit of coffee with french-vanilla flavoured cream which has a pretty high sugar content (it is so damn delicious that I’m just not ready to give it up yet!) Anyway, after getting back into town, due to some unforeseen circumstances, my family and I ended up grabbing dinner on the go tonight.  (I had planned to have roast chicken and salad for dinner but like I said, unforeseen circumstances…). We went to a little diner that is attached to the arena where my son was playing hockey.  Guys, this place has the best poutine I’ve ever eaten in my life.  So I convinced myself that since I’d done so well nutritionally for seven days that I deserved to splurge, so I went ahead and ordered a small poutine and ate almost all of it.

So where’s the lesson?  Again, you’d think I would have learned this one by now but I guess I’m still learning.  I think each time it happens it becomes more and more obvious to me: crappy food really does make me feel crappy!  Within an hour after eating that poutine, my stomach began rumbling and I started having cramps similar to what I get with my ulcerative colitis.  I was uncomfortable for the entire hockey game and the whole ride home.  In an effort to make myself feel better physically when we got home, I decided to do the 21 Day Fix Pilates work. Guys, I hate Pilates.  I’ve taken classes before and just hate it.  I find the moves so difficult and feel clumsy and uncoordinated when I do it.  But I was in my basement, and it was the next workout on the 21 Day Fix DVD that I’v been following, so I decided to give it a try.  Well, even though I was alone, I felt like a total fool trying to do this workout!   Next thing I knew, tears were streaming down my cheeks.  I was crying!  Now, I am proud to say that I did finish the workout, but I hated every minute of it!  I felt overweight, weak, and uncoordinated.  I was angry and disappointed with myself. Even when it was done, I still felt like total crap.  I was suddenly cranky, moody, and feeling down on myself.

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So there’s another thing I learned tonight.  Not only does unhealthy food make me feel terrible physically but it really does make me feel terrible emotionally too!  Between all the sugar I had consumed today (which had already been making my head feel fuzzy) and the poutine, I suddenly felt so down-in-the-dumps, frustrated and sad. Crazy!

The part that frustrated me most about all of this, though, is that I feel like I should have known better.  Even though I just got back to eating healthier a week ago, within days I’d been feeling the positive effects!  Not only had my mood improved, but more importantly, almost all of my UC symptoms had disappeared.  It had improved so quickly, in fact, that when my prescription ran out a couple of days ago, I decided to go without it for now since I’d been doing so well.  But after just one day of eating badly, the symptoms were back!  There is no way this is just a coincidence!

Anyway, as frustrating and disappointing as it all is, tomorrow is a new day!  I am grateful that I learned this lesson today (even if it was a tough one to learn) and I only hope that I will remember how terrible I felt today, next time I am craving junk food!

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Wish me luck!

 

My Intentions for 2017

Happy New Year!

Like many, I love the fresh start of a new year.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting over the last little while to try to decide what my resolutions will be this year.  I love exploring different sources for creativity and inspiration, and a theme that keeps coming up over and over again, and one I am really latching on to, is the notion of self-care.

img_1011Self-care is unique to the individual so it really means figuring out what is right for you.  Here’s what I’ve discovered so far about the components of my own self-care practice that I hope to implement this year.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

Exercise

This year, I’ve decided to cancel my gym membership and find different kinds of exercise that I truly enjoy.  Some things I plan on doing are:  walking my dog, cross-country skiing, hiking, at-home basement workouts (cardio, strength training, weights). I’ve also finally registered for my first yoga series at a local yoga studio that I can’t wait for.

Nutrition

I’ve decided to commit to cleaning up my diet for a few reasons.  One, I’ve continued to struggle with ulcerative colitis and am hoping that by making changes to my diet, it will improve my symptoms and eventually put me back into remission.  Secondly, I want to be in the best physical shape of my life and I know a huge part of that is eating properly.  I’ve decided to try something different and have recently started the 21 Day Fix in hopes that a new program will give me the motivation I’ve been lacking.  Finally, I know that eating healthy foods (and cutting back on the unhealthy ones) will give me more energy and help alleviate a lot of the fatigue I have been feeling.

Water

As part of my new nutrition program, I am trying to consume more water on a daily basis.  I find drinking out of a reusable water bottle helps me to get my daily water intake and also helps me to easily keep track of how much I’ve consumed.

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MENTAL / EMOTIONAL

Yoga

Besides its physical benefits, yoga positively benefits our minds helping us to become more mindful, release negative thoughts, and open our hearts to love, light, and peace.  Yoga helps me to feel relaxed and helps me to slow down the rush of day-to-day life.  I am really excited to get started on my yoga journey!

Journaling

The main reason I started this blog was to have an outlet for creativity.  While others may paint, dance, sing, or scrapbook, my creative outlet is writing.  I think a lot and sometimes my brain feels overloaded with too many things.  Journaling helps me to release some of the things I am thinking about which eases my mind.  Furthermore, it allows me to express myself and reach out to others in a positive way.

Slowing Down

As I get older, I find I crave a more simple and quietwe life.  The drama, chaos, and negativity that thrive in the world, make me upset and make me desire a slower, simpler pace. This year, I intend to slow down my daily activities whether it’s my morning routine, driving, reacting to the choices of others, teaching, or just day-to-day tasks.

Being Outdoors

Until recently, I never truly understood the benefits of spending time in nature.  Lately though, I’ve realized that being outside makes me feel overall more positive, calmer, happier, and more at peace.  I’ve even found a new appreciation for our Northern Ontario winters.  I’ve finally realized that fresh, outdoor air and quality Vitamin D is essential to my mental health.  This year, I intend to spend more time outdoors by doing things like: walking (with friends, my hubby and my dog), hiking, cross-country skiing, skating on outdoor rinks, camping, and exploring the woods.  When summer rolls around, I may even try canoeing or kayaking!

Home

One of the places I love being the most is at home.  Our house is small but it is cozy and it’s one place where I can (usually) fully relax.  Most of the time, this happens in my favourite arm-chair, with a cuddly blanket.  Nearby, you’ll find my water bottle, sometimes a coffee, the latest book I am reading, my Chapstick, my hand cream, my iPhone, and my iPad.  Next to me, my husband is watching TV from the couch with our fur baby curled up beside him.  Another favourite place in my home is my bedroom. I love the cozy weight of our duvet, the coolness of our pillows, the light pouring in from behind our white, gauzy curtains.  On my nighttable, I have a simple statue of Buddha that helps me to feel peaceful before bed.  I love long, slow mornings lounging in bed on the weekend with my husband and our dog, scrolling through social media, reading, or making plans for the day.

Of course, there is always room for improvement in our home.  While I have some projects I’d like to see happen this year, there are a few simple things I can do to help make my home even more cozy.  I’ve started listening to acoustic music when doing household tasks.  I love lighting candles around my home.  I love the greenery of dispersing plants throughout our house. I love having cuddly blankets and pillows.  I am also considering putting up some white twinkly lights in my bedroom to help create a cozy, romantic, warm space.

Relationships

There is nothing in life more important to me than the relationships I have.  I am very blessed to be surrounded by so many special family members and friends.  This year, I hope to cultivate those relationships even more by paying more attention to my loved ones’ needs and showing more kindness and appreciation where I can.  I hope to stay in better contact with friends that live far away and to visit my three, precious nieces more often.  There’s nothing that makes my heart feel fuller than time spent with those I love.

Parenting

Parenting is a tough job, and I would argue that step-parenting is even harder, especially to two teenagers.  That being said, this year I intend to practice more patience when it comes to parenting.  I am a highly sensitive and emotional person that tends to react too quickly to feelings of stress, frustration, hurt, or anger.  This year, I will pause and think before reacting to these kinds of situations.  I will listen, not half-heartedly, but really listen to their needs and interests when they talk so that they feel the love and attention they deserve.  In essence, I will be kinder and more loving to my children.

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SPIRITUAL

Mindfulness

This year, I hope to practice being more mindful and fully present in the moments of my life.  By slowing down my day-to-day routines, I hope to notice the small things that make life so pleasurable (example: the beauty of the snow-covered evergreens that line my route to work).  Practicing mindfulness will also fill my heart with gratitude, faith, and love.

Yoga / Meditation

I am excited to learn more about yoga and meditation this year and hope to discover more about myself through the practice of both.  I plan to explore some guided meditations and perhaps even create a yoga space in my basement surrounded by things that inspire and motivate me.

Light

For me, light is both figurative and literal.  Especially in the long, dark days of winter, spending as much time in daylight is crucial.  It’s one of the reasons I always open the blinds in my home and in my classroom, and switched all my indoor supervision duties for outdoor ones.  But light can also be figurative. For me the notion of bringing light into my life means to bring positivity and happiness ~ something I definitely intend to do this year!

Morning Intentions

At school each morning, our principal asks us to take a moment of silence to reflect on our day.  Each day, I use that time to set some intentions for myself, for my students and co-workers, and for my loved ones.  Recently, I have starting sharing my morning intentions via Facebook as a means of sending hope and light into the world. Also, by writing down my intentions, it allows me to reflect on them and express them more clearly.

Gratitude

Similar to my morning intentions, I sometimes share daily expressions of gratitude on my Facebook account.  Again, writing these thoughts helps me to see them and feel them more clearly.  But it’s also my intention to help others recognize the small, simple things in life that we have and to realize how very blessed we are.

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What are your goals / resolutions / intentions for the New Year?  Whatever it may be, I hope your year is filled with love, light, peace, and positivity!  💕

My Newest (and most Important) Reason to Get Healthy!

I feel like I’ve made a revelation of sorts recently.  In fact, it’s one that’s so huge, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to figure it out.  It seems like something I should have realized years ago, but somehow I missed the boat.  It’s taken me almost twenty years to realize this:

Nutrition and exercise are directly related to mental health.

As I said, it seems so obvious that I can’t believe I never really saw or understood that before.  I mean, sure I’ve read it and heard it, but it’s never hit home for me until now.

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For me, losing weight was always about looking good.  It was about trying to meet some kind of ideal of “healthy” and “thin” which I always, always linked with beautiful, sexy, successful.  For years the desire to be those things was enough to make me want to lose weight.  But something has shifted in my life and although I still want to be beautiful, sexy, and successful, those things in themselves don’t seem to be enough to motivate me to put in the hard work that it takes to lose weight and maintain it.

So I’ve been struggling.  I haven’t been able to find the inspiration and the motivation to get back on the wagon.  Terrible eating habits and nights on the couch in my PJs are my daily routine again.

Also part of my daily routine, especially at this time of year, are a major lack of motivation, incredible feelings of laziness, always, always feeling exhausted, and some feelings of anxiety, overwhelmness, and hopelessness.  Not to mention headaches, bloating, gas and a multitude of digestive problems.  Ugh.

Why did it take me so long to link the two?

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For the first time, in my decades-long journey of weight loss, I have finally found a source of inspiration that I believe could be a real turning point in my life.   It’s like a giant, golden light bulb has gone off and what I have been looking for for years, is suddenly here, loud and clear.

I have a new, and significant, reason to want to eat better and exercise. Because now I know that doing those two things will impact my life in ways I may have experienced but never really understood before.  Fueling my body with healthy foods and exercising won’t just make me “skinny” and “self-confident”, it will directly impact my mental health and in essence, my overall life.

It will give me energy again.  It will give me the fuel I need to make it through the day.  It will alleviate my headaches and prevent me from feeling so tired by 4 p.m that I don’t want to do anything but bury myself under a blanket and never come out or cry. It will help to heal my digestive issues, build physical strength to prevent achy legs and hips, and take away the bloating and gas I so often deal with.  It will improve my self-confidence and drive me to want to improve other areas of my life.  It will fill me with positive self-talk and help me to be kinder, more gentle, and more patient with others – all things I want so desperately in my life but often don’t have the energy for.

I still can’t believe I never understood this before! 

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Many times my husband has told me that he thought I was “happier” during the few years in my life when I had met my goal weight, was working out like crazy, and eating on plan.  For so long, I disagreed with him.  I even wrongly perceived his comment. I took it as his way of saying that he prefers me to be skinny rather than overweight. I would shrug off his comment with the argument that I am just as happy now as I was back then.

But now I finally realize what he meant.  It doesn’t mean that I am unhappy now.  It’s just that the habits I had established then had such a direct impact on all aspects of my life.  It’s that eating well and working out regularly affects you in so many ways that I didn’t even realize it.  Yes, it’s possible to be happy without diet and exercise in your life, but it’s so much easier to be happy with those things.

For the last several months I have wallowed in self-pity and guilt. I have felt discouraged and was searching desperately for reasons to justify my lack of healthy eating and working out.  And now I can so clearly see that all that was doing was bringing more negativity into my life.

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So finally, finally, finally I feel like I have found my motivation again.  I have always known that eating healthy foods and exercising is important but I just couldn’t find the inspiration to do it.  Now that it is so obvious to me the direct impact they have on my mental health (and overall well-being) it doesn’t seem so daunting.  And although a new year is just around the corner, and it’d be so easy to say I’ll just start then, this new reason to want to get healthy doesn’t seem like something that can wait.   It needs to happen now.  And I can’t wait to get started!

 

30-Day Plan: Day 30

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve made it to the “end” of my 30-day commitment to myself!  It hasn’t been as “perfect” as I had originally thought it would be but it has absolutely given me the kick-start I needed to get back into a healthier, more nutritious lifestyle!  In reflecting on the past month, I wanted to share what I thought went well and what I think I still need to work on.

What went well….

  • I kept track of all my food and points in my food diary every single day (not just on the blog, but I actually have a notebook where I write down everything).
  • I researched lower-points options and looked up points before eating some things to make a conscious and informed decision about whether or not I truly wanted to have it
  • I was active at least 3-4 days a week
  • I drank way more water than I had been
  • I stopped eating sugary cereal (and don’t really miss it) and started my day off with a protein-loaded breakfast
  • I cut back on sugar
  • I really cut back on carbs
  • I are way more vegetables
  • I planned ahead for events that I knew would have many food temtpations
  • I packed my own food when I went on vacations so I’d have some healthy options
  • I meal planned and prepped food so I’d have something healthy on hand
  • I tried new foods and new ways of preparing certain foods
  • I attended my Weight Watchers meetings
  • I didn’t let the number on the scale discourage me when it went up
  • I allowed myself to have some treats without feeling too guilty
  • I felt encouraged, determined, motivated, positive, confident, and happy 99% of the time!

What I will continue to work on….

  • Seek more healthy recipes so I can eat a variety of healthy food
  • Continue to cut back on sugar
  • Plan ahead for treats – look up the points before having them instead of waiting until after
  • Try new foods and recipes
  • Obtain a healthy balance between treating myself and eating healthy
  • Establish more challenging workout routines (maybe start running again?)
  • Build healthy habits so that they come more naturally and don’t require so much conscious work and effort
  • Track every single day in my food journal

With that being said, here’s how Day 30 looks:

Breakfast:  I finally found a granola that is not too high in points!  A friend of mine suggested this Nature’s Path peanut butter granola and 1/2 cup (which is more than enough per serving!) is only 5 points (not bad at all!) I mixed in 1/3 cup Source vanilla yogurt for a delicious and satisfying breakfast (and a nice change from bacon & eggs!)

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Since we are leaving town tomorrow, I had a long to-do list today to get ready to go.  I started by tidying up the house, doing dishes, and sweeping the floors. After just those minor tasks though I was feeling really sluggish and tired (maybe not enough energy from my breakfast or maybe it’s the crazy humidity?) I drank some more water and took a quick social media/ TV break.

Lunch:  For lunch I ate my usual grilled turkey burger, sautéed vegetables (in a bit of EVOO) and a sprinkle of feta cheese.  The veggies were nice and fresh (I just bought them yesterday at the market) and were so good!  I topped lunch off with some more water and big slice of juicy watermelon.

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After lunch, I had to tackle a job that I had been dreading, and that my husband and I have both put off for months – cleaning out our SUV!  While away last weekend, I noticed that the filth and dirt inside had reached an all-new high and I just couldn’t take it anymore, so even though it was 37 degrees with the humidity today (eek!) I lugged my cleaning supplies out to the garage and got busy!  An hour later, I was sweating like crazy but at least we have a nice clean ride ready to go when we set out again tomorrow!  Plus, I am sure I earned at least a few activity points completing this task!

After that job, I came inside and took another social media/water break (drinking water has made all the difference – I rarely drink anything else now, except coffee and a diet pop once in awhile as a treat!)  Then I got to work cooking and prepping some food my husband and I plan to take on the road with us.  I grilled turkey burgers (we’ll also take lean hamburgers), cooked a pack of turkey bacon, and cooked a container of bow-tie pasta to make a pasta salad with.  Then I chopped red/yellow/green peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and red onions and packed them all in individual containers that will fit easily into our big cooler.  I also plan on taking: eggs, yogurt, granola, lettuce, salad dressing, feta cheese, coffee, cream, mini rice cakes, and a pre-bought meat & cheese tray (as a little treat).  We’ll probably eat a couple meals in restaurants as well and may have to re-stock on groceries next week, but this will definitely help us to save some cash while on the road and will help me continue with my weight loss goals!

After all that food prep, I decided to take another little break (I love the slow-moving days of summer!) so made myself a coffee (with cream) and sat down to check social media and watch some more TV.  Oh, I should also mention that I started another book  – Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and it’s really interesting so far!  I am really going to miss all the free time for reading when school goes back in!

Dinner:  For dinner, my husband and I ate leftovers out of the fridge.  He had hotdogs while I had some boneless, skinless chicken breast and made one of my taco salads with light Italian dressing.   My salad and chicken came to a total of about 8 points.

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Workout:  We had another softball game tonight (we lost by just a few runs).  It was still pretty hot out so it wasn’t hard to work up a sweat!  This earned me about 6 activity points.

Snack:  When we got home from softball my husband I were both really hungry!  I wanted something filling and satisfying so decided to have another 1/2 cup of peanut butter granola and 1/3 cup vanilla yogurt – it totally hit the spot and filled me up!  Plus, I guzzled a bunch more water.

Well guys, that’s it!  It’s the end of my 30 days!  I still can’t believe I actually stuck to this (and blogged about every single day!)  I weighed myself this morning and I was down another couple pounds so I’m estimating that I lost about 10 lbs over the last 30 days!  I am really happy with that result seeing as in the past it would have taken me months to lose that much!  I have already noticed that my clothes are fitting better and I’ve already had to buy a few items in a size smaller!  My energy levels haven’t changed much but I think that has more to do with the lazy days of summer than anything (hopefully when I get back to work, I will feel the effects of better nutrition when it comes to having more energy!)  The biggest transformation though has definitely been on the inside.  I am so proud of myself for doing this and for seeing it through to the “end”.  I feel more confident and motivated knowing that if I can do it for 30 days, I can keep on doing it until this becomes habit.   I know it will never be “perfect” but that’s not what I am striving for.  I am striving for doing better.  I want to be mindful about how I am treating my body, how I am nourishing it, and how I am challenging it.  I know that that will take work and effort on my part.  But I think the biggest, most important thing to remember at the end of all this is that everything happens one day at a time. As I have mentioned in previous posts, in the past I always fell victim to the “all or nothing” mentality.  I’d always let one bad meal become a bad day, which would become a bad week, bad month, etc.  I thought if I couldn’t eat “perfectly” I might as well throw it all away and just not do anything about it.  Clearly, that was not working for me.

So now, after the last 30 days, I can honestly say I am excited and very motivated to keep going!  I’ve seen nothing but positive results this past month and if I am being perfectly honest, it really hasn’t been that hard (after all, I did indulge several times in the last 30 days!)  More importantly, I know if I keep working at it, one day at a time, I will establish healthy routines that will be good for me mind, body, and soul.  That’s the ultimate goal.

30 days complete!  I DID IT!

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