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Happiness Resources: Google Docs

The past few days, I’ve been feeling like this.

Not one to wallow in self-pity – for more than 24 hours, at least – I was determined to do something. Enter, Jenny Blake and her lovely blog. While Jenny doesn’t write specifically about getting over your pity-parties, one post in particular has been quite useful (so, of course, I wanted to share). In this post, Jenny shares various resources on Google Docs. Take a gander.

Two of the eight Google Docs have been just what I needed to clear the mind-fog. The Wheel of Life is a tool that forces you to evaluate how you are feeling in various areas of your life and plot out action steps to correct or modify any pieces that need special attention. I don’t know about y’all, but personally, there’s great therapy to be had in writing things out. Abstract thoughts are scary. Concrete plans are reassuring.

For fun, I’m also working on the Life Checklist. It’s great to document your goals – they are far more likely to happen that way, no? Also, thanks to the loveliness that is Google Docs, you can share any of these documents with friends. Will now has access to my life goals (and is now aware that we will someday be travelling to New Zealand).

I hope you find these resources useful! Let me know if you use them!

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Notes from Personal Training

As of today, I’ve been working with a Personal Trainer at my gym for two weeks – twice a week, hour-long sessions.

I love it.

It’s hard, but I love it. It’s great to have someone there to structure your work-out and make sure you are doing things correctly, using a variety of muscle groups, and truly pushing yourself. My trainer and I chat as I exercise and I can give it my all knowing that he’s there to keep me from dropping a dumbbell on my face (a real worry for me). My workouts take it out of me, but they fly by and I leave feeling great about myself. Well, I also feel sore, but it’s a happy sore.

Oh, and you know what is really hard? Jumping rope. I don’t think I’d done it since Jump Rope for Heart in grade school and remember it being fun, but it really takes it out of you. I know you don’t believe me, but seriously, go get a rope and try. Good luck.

In only two weeks, I’ve noticed progress. I can hold plank pose for considerably longer. I think my arms look slightly more toned (I’m definitely flexing more to show them off).

The best part? I can take all this knowledge with me when my training period ends. I’m learning a lot of new ways to use the free weights and machines at the gym, so I no longer have an excuse to avoid weight training. I’ve also thought of ways to modify some of them so I can keep it up when I’m traveling (a necessity for work). I ask a million questions about form, breathing, and timing. The trainer and I also discuss healthy living in general, and I’m proud to report that I’ve had breakfast every day for the past two weeks.

Body Image Boost

On Friday, my office held a Health and Fitness Fair. A team of nurses and clinicians set up in a conference room and – at prescheduled intervals – employees could go and get a Health Screening. I was a little nervous that this screening would focus on body fat percentage and leave me feeling bummed. Again.

I was wrong. I ROCKED the Health Screening.

Blood pressure? Low. Glucose level? Lowish (I’d just eaten). Cholesterol levels? In the “good” category (despite having just eaten!). Body fat percentage? In the healthy range. The nurses cooed that I must eat well and get a lot of cardio. I let this praise go straight to my head.

The standout Health Screening superstar? Bone density. I have pretty dense bones, turns out. I’ll be tucking this knowledge away for the next time numbers on the scale threaten to get me down as it’s now been scientifically proven that do inded have big bones. 

OK, it’s likely genetic. I have lactose issues so I’m hardly the ideal model for one of those chirpy “Got Milk?” ads. Whatever. I’m still celebrating my Viking Skeleton.

Plus, the Health Screening ended with a free massage.

Bitter Body Image, Part 2

Yesterday, the problem. Today, my attempts at a solution.

Previous Attempts:

I don’t exactly have a list of diets I’ve tried as I’m loathe to even try anything too rigid.

I wouldn’t consider something carb-vilifying as brewing and drinking beer with my boyfriend is one of my favorite pass-times. Plus, sometimes I come home to fresh-baked bread. Any woman who comes home to fresh-baked bread and refuses to eat it because of the carbs it contains is no friend of mine.

I’ve had brief spats of I’m-not-eating-anything-until-I’m-thin! but they usually last about 12 hours and end with a headache and a box of animal crackers.

I tried Weight Watchers and had great success at the start, but wasn’t able to keep up with logging my food. Perhaps once I get an internet-enabled phone and fully join 2011 I’ll give it another go.

If the first trick to success in any great endeavor is to know oneself, I know that I can’t (and won’t) stick to any food plan that’s too glum. I drink beer. I love cookies. I know that to make these statements and then lament my waistline seems a little ignorant, but I know that food-restriction is not the answer.  (Ok, moderation may be part of the answer, but if I can’t have a beer and some cookies on the weekends, I quit).

The Plan:

While I know I can’t give up treats, I know I can work harder in the gym – or rather, to be cliché, work smarter. I’m blessed in that I build muscle tone rather easily (I come from good stock – my mother is a strong, toned former farm girl), but, left to my own devices, I am loath to pick up anything heavy. I get bored and distracted rather easily.

Solution: Personal Training.

Why haven’t I tried this before? Well, it’s kind of expensive, and I’m loathe to spend money on such things. Lately though, with Will’s help, I’ve realized that I’m worth the investment.

Today, I’ll be going in for my initial assessment. Training will start the week of the 11th (as I’m out-of-town for work the week of the 4th) and will consist of two sessions a week for the next six weeks. That, mixed with cardio done on my own, should give me a good jump-start. After that, I should know some tricks to keep myself going. I’m going to reassess every six months and reach out to a trainer again should I need more help.

I’m excited to start training and, well, a little proud of myself for not completely giving in to my inner critic. I’m sure her voice won’t be completely silenced; I’m not trying to suggest I’ve found some magic solution to body image issues. I’m excited to start training, though. Small victories.

Bitter Body Image, Part I

While I try not to dwell on it – publicly, at least – I struggle with my self-image. I know the idea of a woman wishing she were thinner is nothing revolutionary, but there you have it.

I was a very active child. I started in dance classes and moved to competitive swimming when the requisite grace of the former never came. There also seemed to be no end to my growth spurts. I was tall, lean, and could eat whatever I wanted. I remember sitting down to breakfasts that consisted of four full bowls of cereal. Sometimes, after swim practice, my sister and I would eat these horribly-processed blueberry pie-type treats that came pre-packaged into slice-size portions. While I vividly remember wishing I were shorter (all my friends in grade school had pixie-like proportions and lacked my lanky legs), I remained blissfully unaware of my weight.

I even managed to skip any “Freshman Fifteen”-esque weight gain that I was assured would come with my first year away at college. Weight gain – and it’s related anxiety – didn’t come until after grad school.

I started working in downtown Chicago in August 2005. I joined a gym down the street from my office the following month and quickly became a regular. I started running more and entered races to fuel my old competitive spirit. Twice a week I attended a weight-lifting class with and instructor I adored. I was slimmer than I’d been in my adult life, fit into laughably small sizes, and was generally quite pleased with my shape and tone.

But slowly, things changed. The instructor I loved left for another gym. I had a falling out with the girl I considered my exercise buddy. I was put on different projects at work that required long business trips and unhealthy room service dinners eaten alone in random hotel rooms. Fewer work-outs, frequent treats. My doctor mentioned the increasing number on the scale, but really, she could have saved herself the trouble. I was well aware of every inch of space I consumed.

Currently, I’m thirty pounds heavier than I was when I moved here six years ago. I wear a pant size that is twice what I wore back then. While I know, at some level, that my self-worth shouldn’t be derived from numbers stitched inside my clothing, it’s been very difficult. I feel defeated. I’ve cleaned out my closet twice: first to get rid of the size sixes, next to get rid of the size eights. Some of the size tens don’t fit all that well, but I’m holding on to them for now.

My weight gain is constantly on my mind. When heading to work, I use my purse or gym bag to hide my stomach from the other commuters. I’ve become almost afraid to shop as I fret about what will fit. I’ll spare you the Dear Diary-type drama and just say that my current weight situation makes me very uncomfortable and quite sad.

But wait! Don’t cry for me just yet – there is a silver lining to this self-image storm cloud, I promise. I’ve never been one to stew in my sadness (hello, the very reason the blog was originally started). Tomorrow, I’ll share what I’ve done so far and my big, exciting plans going forward.

On Sleep

{Sweet lofts by Suzie Beezie; Richard Leo Johnson, Photographer}

Most of us have heard it before – getting the proper amount of sleep leads to all manner of riches: better health, improved mood, increased memory. (For the uninitiated, check out Arianna Huffington’s TED Talk: How to Succeed? Get more Sleep). While the benefits are undeniable, knowing doesn’t always translate into doing. I say I’m going to get more sleep… but instead, I read, I watch movies, I clean. I can always find something else (and seemingly more important) to do. The feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day may be trite, but it’s true.

I’ve read articles about what to do to get more sleep, and I’m succeeding at the small stuff:

  1. Make sure your bedroom is dark. Check! I wear a face mask as needed.
  2.  Exercise most days. Check! This has more of an energizing effect for me, but it’s on every sleep-list, so I may as well acknowledge my compliance.
  3. No caffeine after XPM. I’ve read everything from 3PM to 7PM – here’s where everyone’s body and caffeine tolerance comes into play. While I feel I’m less affected by the occasional Diet Coke, my intake tends to be primarily in the morning.

There are, of course, some areas for improvement:

  1. Keep your bedroom cool. Generally, I do well here. I’m part polar bear and would keep the place just warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing were I left to my own devices. However, as we transition to Spring (or the Chicago version thereof) I suppose I could relinquish my beloved duvet and use a lighter, more weather-appropriate covering. Before the onset of Summer, we are replacing the ceiling fan in the bedroom as the current one died (and was heinous, so no big loss).
  2. Reduce screen time an hour before bed. No TVs, no computers, no Blackberries, no phones. Limiting TV isn’t a problem (as we don’t have one) but I do spend quite a bit of time in front of a computer. Time to switch to a book prior to bedtime. I’ll also need to kick my habit of checking my work email before bed. I like to check in to ensure things are humming along smoothly. However, I’d be willing to make the sacrifice in the name of better shut-eye.

These improvement areas will be my goals for May as I focus on better health and mindset.

Yes, I did just publicly declare that my goals for the month are to put the duvet into storage and read books after 10PM. Baby steps.

Welcome, Welcome!

Hi. Welcome to “Bye Bye, Bitters” – my little blog.

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