True Confessions

Finishing out my series on the self-help book Stick With It today. I have a couple of confessions to make about it, too. First, none of the information seemed truly new to me, but that may be because I am a self-help junkie and always have one on the go. To sum up, I’ll just use the “science” acronym the author employs.

S. “stepladders” — breaking big goals into small steps makes sticking to them easier.

C. “community” — sharing the goal with others inspires you to keep on the path.

I. “important” — if the goal is truly important, you’ll more likely stick to it.

E. “easy” — the easier it is to follow the new habit, the more you’ll use it.

N. “neurohacks” — switch out the usual “thought precedes action” by taking action first.

C. “captivating” — to change behavior, make the change utterly compelling.

E. “engrained” — repeating the new action will make it into a lasting habit.

While the ideas here are not new, my doctor made it clear I must change some of my behaviors, as my blood sugar numbers are worse than ever, and even if I quit sweet treats today, I might still become a diabetic. I’m so close to being diabetic that a mere one tenth of a point would bring me to that official diagnosis.

I bought Stick To It after I read over the paperwork my doctor gave me at my last visit. Then I did more research on my own. It’s no secret I enjoy a cocktail or two now and then. My Instagram is loaded with photos of pretty drinks I’ve concocted and glasses of chardonnay captured in certain light.

According to my doctor, I can still enjoy a glass of wine. One glass. Once a week. With a meal. My habit has been to drink a bit more than that, so I did further research. I was worried about the one drink limit. I tend to have a couple of glasses. And I enjoy them very much. So I wondered: am I more than just a social drinker? Do I need some type of intervention program?

So I read another book and took a quiz and found that I am not in danger of becoming an alcoholic. This was a real concern to me, as there are people in my family with the disease. Luckily, it is not my disease. Which means I should be able to change my routine to just one glass of wine. How to make that captivating? I’ll need something else to post to my Instagram account, too.

I’ve known people with diabetes. Some of them have died from it. It has affected them in terrifying ways. A friend recently had a kidney transplant. Another didn’t get one and died after years of painful dialysis. Another had her foot amputated. And those are just people I’ve known quite well. Eyesight can be ruined, too.

So what are the top two things people can do to stop diabetes? #1 is lose weight. #2 is exercise. Cutting sweet or sugary foods is also a must. My doc asked me to try the Mediterranean diet. I’ve been trying. But now sticking to my goals of weight loss, exercise, and eating properly aren’t just about fitting into skinny jeans. Sticking to the habits that will make these behaviors permanent is really about quality of life. Or life itself.

Changing Your Life

Sitting here writing about changing my life with advice from a self-help book when I feel as if that’s an impossible task. It’s almost as if someone snatched away the me I used to be, and frankly, all I want to do is get her back. Where did the Cindy who loved yoga and writing go? When did my resolve to eat healthfully disappear? I’m reading STICK WITH IT as a last-ditch effort. The book bases its premise on an acronym SCIENCE and does claim that all the advice is science-based. Since last report I’ve read two more chapters and actually made some progress. Did some backsliding, too.

I’ve already written about stepladders and community in previous posts. This past week I felt I needed a super dose of help so I tackled “Important” and “Easy.” I can sum up those two chapters swiftly. “Important” is all about priorities. If you think the change you want to make is important, you’ll try harder to make it and keep it. Sean Young, the author, sites a study about the three most important things in many people’s lives.

Money, health, and relationships are the top three. Turns out, as long as you’re not destitute, money isn’t important to health or happiness. People with money can still get death sentence diseases or be clinically depressed. People with lots of money are often miserable in their relationships.

It’s easy to think “if I just had X amount of dollars, all would be well.” I’ve thought that myself many times. One of the changes I’d like to make is in my health. “If I hired a chef, I’d be able to eat better with less effort. I’d also be able to hire a private yoga teacher.” All true but I can see that money wouldn’t take away temptation as far as cake goes and if I didn’t feel like working out, a coach wouldn’t motivate me to do it.  I’d just cancel. Health has to be important enough to me to change my eating and exercise habits for the better.

My other goal is to finish my book. I actually did complete a writing project that was on my to-do list. To get my books on audio, I had to fill out five spec sheets, choosing a section of each story to be narrated. After weeks of procrastinating, I got it done this past week. So that’s what I mean…this self-help method is working to a point. But all the money in the world can’t conjure that spark of hot desire that compels me to tell a story and get it in great shape for my editor’s eyes. But, since it’s important to me, partly because of the writing communities I’ve been a part of for so long, I am determined to get it done this summer.

So much for “important.” Next is “Easy” and I do know that “easy” helped me start a yoga practice again. I simply loaded Gaia onto my computer and with a couple of clicks and a move from chair to floor, I’m ready to go. No special equipment or clothing needed. No trip in the car to the yoga studio. “Easy” works for me as far as exercise goes.

Eating the right food is a bit more complicated. Fast food is easy. The stocking, preparing and cooking of whole nutritious food takes way more energy. Stepladders (that first helpful hint in SCIENCE) breaks down difficult or complex tasks, which does make them easier. I’m still working with my goal of eating right. And I’m trying not to bask too long in the glory of finishing the tasks for the audio books.

I have a set of steps for completing the book project, too. Meanwhile I’m still reading. I’ve done S, C, I, and E. I can’t wait to see what the heck N is all about. Neurohacks. Hmmm. Something with the brain, I suspect. SCIE/NCE. Maybe I can get this book finished by next weeks so I’ll have all the tools necessary to implement my goals.

 

 

What’s Not Working

A few days ago, the new moon in Aries prompted me to look at my life and say “What’s not working?” and then let go of those things, making way for something new. At first I thought of little things. The colonial kitchen chairs that belonged to my grandmother and did not fit my newish contemporary home. That empty foyer I had painted last summer, and, except for the Christmas tree last winter, has sat empty, waiting for a special piece of accent furniture. The jeans that no longer fit, the clothes hanging in my closet I never wore.

I did a bit of shopping and redecorating and reorganizing my closet and all that stuff was easily handled. What else? Well, I’d been growing out my hair for several months. And it was shaggy and long to the point that I had to pull it up in a twist half the time. Clearly, that wasn’t working. I got a haircut and wow what a difference. No more mullet!

There’s one more thing that isn’t working for me, but it’s a tough one. After years of managing pretty well on a low-GL (glycemic load–it’s all about the sugar levels) diet, I’m seriously stalled. Despite eating well, avoiding the white stuff that shoots my blood sugar to the moon, I’m gaining weight. Why this diet worked so well for so long and then suddenly stopped working is a mystery.IMG_2209

Just avoiding foods that spike my sugar is clearly not working anymore. I can’t lose a pound, and in fact am gaining, and all without pizza or potato chips. I checked out my portions, and they were fine too. I don’t drink much wine these days, so it’s not that either. But after investigating deeper, I acknowledged there was still something I could improve eating-wise. I could stop eating mindlessly. That is, eating in front of the television or while reading a book.

When I started paying attention to the taste of my food, when I stopped eating mindlessly while watching television or reading, when I stopped doing anything but eating, focusing on the taste of my food and savoring it, I realized something big. I didn’t much like what I was eating. I had been eating these same foods, protein, dairy, veggies and fruit, in a somewhat limited repertoire (salad, yogurt, chicken, burger without a bun, apples, peanut butter, cheese, eggs) for years.

I cook dinner every night using the low GL cookbooks, I have had every salad combination, every stir fry, every casserole, every sort of meat and fish accompanied by broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, even berries and apples. I’m not a real fan of cooking, but it was looking like I’d need to start cooking breakfast and lunch as well as dinner if I was going to get food I wasn’t bored to tears eating. I realized that’s why I ate watching television. It was so much easier to plow through another endless salad if I didn’t have to taste the sameness of it.

Mindful eating was causing me a problem. I wondered if I needed to alter my diet, since clearly it wasn’t working for me anymore. So I made a couple of small changes. I started making pizza for lunch with low carb tortillas. Yum. I went ahead and had burritos too. As long as you stick to ONE low carb tortilla a day, you’re good with the sugar. Pasta is something else with a low glycemic load, but in moderation, and done al dente. So I had a little pasta with my cheese and meat. Flavor!

Finally, I tried the low sugar ice cream with only 4 carbs for a 1/2 cup, which is not really enough for me. I don’t think I’ve had one scoop of ice cream ever. Also the artificial sweetener gave me indigestion. So out went the ice cream. Sigh. It’s really good with some nuts, a little bit of chocolate sauce, bananas or strawberries (or both!) and whipped cream. If I can ever get to the point of eating a half cup serving maybe I’ll try it again this summer.

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Still, I wish I could lose the extra weight. It’s not working for me being this size. What else can I do? I know that this is the diet that works best for my health, so I don’t want to abandon it for calorie counting or one of those diets with pre-packaged meals. I’ve done the food journal to the point that I pretty much know how many calories I put in my mouth. I can do that math in my head. And calorie consumption is not the problem.

What can it be?

Well, there is the one thing I have not been doing…I have not been exercising much this past winter. I clean house and stretch out my back and walk around doing errands and shopping, but that’s it. There’s something in the GL literature that talks about the slow twitch muscle. It’s actually an important component of the low GL diet. Basically, the theory says, that in addition to diet, we need to flex our low twitch muscles for at least 30 minutes a day three times a week. Very doable.

Low twitch muscles are the muscles you use without exerting too much energy. Like walking at a leisurely pace. Studies show that health improves and weight is lost just as efficiently walking at a steady pace for 20-30 minutes three times a week as it is doing a complicated gym routine for two hours or walking fast or even running. You don’t have to exert a whole lot of energy to engage the slow twitch muscles, but you do have to get moving. After a long winter spent writing, and resting the knee I reinjured last fall, I understand this is what I need to do.

But it’s still snowing in Michigan. At least this week. So I ordered a walking DVD. No excuses, I’m going to start firing up the slow twitch muscles. It might be the solution I’ve been seeking to this stubborn pound problem. It’s not as easy or as fun as buying new dining room chairs, but this Aries new moon invites us to let go of whats not working and embrace the new. So that’s what I’m going to do.

What’s not working for you anymore? New moon energy is such that even if you don’t drop it, it’s going to end, and that’s for the best. Now the challenge is to find something new (and fun!) that does work.

 

Guns & Opera: Blasting Through Stubborn Starts

I’m talking about a novel but this could be advice for starting anything, from a diet to an exercise program to a new career. I’ve been working on a book for awhile now. Various things got in the way, mostly myself. I was ill, I was tired, the room wasn’t the right color.

Maybe not the worst excuses but nevertheless there comes a time when you have to say “today I begin.” And then you do. And if you’re like me maybe you dither and take days off and lose the plot and just don’t get that groove. The book, the diet, the whatever has not had a chance to dig in and become a habit.

That takes a month or two. Of every day (or every week or whatever your commitment is) to happen. It’s those first 60 days–at least for me, for you it could be 30 or even less–that I need under my belt to cement the habit and begin to crave it. There is one way that this stubborn woman (me) who never does anything on a schedule has been able to get a schedule and here it is. Ready?

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Write it down. On a calendar. Make a special chart if you’re doing a diet with certain foods or an exercise program with several components. Nothing feels better than checking a line on a list. Nothing. I didn’t think this would work for me, but it did. Another thing that works is DO IT FIRST. Or at least first thing after coffee.

I do not know why I only know it works. The third part, for me, for the book, is a page limit. Mine is three. Write three pages. It is easy. It is doable. It doesn’t have to be good. I just have to fill those pages. So there you go. Write it down. Do it first. Limit yourself to something easily accomplished.

That might sound counter-intuitive but if you write three pages consistently, pretty soon you’ll write more. If you walk 20 minutes, soon it will be 30. If you eat one bowl of kale, well, never mind, if you eat one bowl of kale you are a rock star, okay?

It’s just starting. And these three things are the easy on ramp to start. For me, personally, I like to think of life as art. Always refining, revising, reinventing. I find housework a drag unless I also rearrange the furniture, you know? And for all the mundane, I use the breath and the now. I take in the space around me in present moment time and I breath, I follow my breath and what is happening. It is endlessly changing and fascinating. No, honest!

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My talent (everyone has a talent, find yours!) is writing and I like to always have a novel going. And it has to be totally different than the one before. I’ve been called a romance writer, but I’ve written really only one pure  romance novel out of the ten books I’ve published. The new one is a thriller, I think. For the thrill of the new, of course. I’m researching not just this new genre and structure but also things like guns and opera. It is so fun. And that’s the real ticket to starting anything new and keeping it going: make it fun.

Who Loves You?

How are those New Years’ resolutions going? Mine went out the window in less than 24 hours. Life has been different and exciting and I haven’t really thought about why I can never stick to resolutions. Except every morning when I stepped on the scale I thought about that holiday weight loss one. And then I fixed that. I stopped stepping on the scale. Problem solved!

Those holiday pounds, despite my admittedly slapdash efforts, have stubbornly refused to move. I lost a few of them but they came back overnight. Then at the doctor’s office I weighed five pounds less than I did that morning at home. And I had clothes on! Winter clothes! So that lulled me into a false sense of security. Also, my new smaller sized wardrobe still fits. One pair of jeans pinch a little bit in the middle. That made me get on the scale again and then pull out my journals from October, when I bought the new wardrobe. I calculated my weight gains and losses from then until now.

I didn’t like those numbers. I knew I had to do more to change them. I have back-to-back vacations coming up and that means restaurant food and airport cocktails to calm the nerves and less yoga. Although today I tried “Happy Baby” pose and think Owen might like it! Then I mentioned to Al that I would dust the basement if he would vacuum with his man vacuum. (It intimidates me.) We never got around to it last weekend. So it was yoga and back to the Lisa Plan for food.

But Seattle is on the horizon and I need to walk. It’s too cold here and there’s ice and snow and things. After great trepidation, I steadied my nerves and went down into the pit of hell, um, basement, and set my treadmill to incline. That worked out okay yesterday except it wanted me to run instead of walk. Like the mind of the machine thinks the more you incline the faster you should go. No. That’s not how I like it. I want Ballard neighborhood sidewalks! They don’t have that setting on the treadmill.

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You know the treadmill was invented as a medieval torture devise for prisoners, right? True story.

This entry has a shadow component to it … I am an emotional eater. I eat to fill a hole in my heart. Also, I am lazy. I would rather exercise my mind with a mystery novel than my body with certain kinds of physical exertion. I had to admit these things but doing work with one’s shadow self goes a bit deeper. I always thought that hole inside was because Al didn’t love me enough. He put everything before me: work, gym, sports, friends…there’s more, but you get the idea. He doesn’t put those things before me anymore, but when I began gaining weight, that was the reality of our world. He was a bachelor adjusting to a wife and two instant kids. I was doing everything I could to stay married this time and didn’t complain about his always doing stuff without me. I just ate. Especially after he talked me into giving up cigarettes.

So anyway, all Al’s fault, right? Wrong. It is not Al’s job to fill that hole inside. It is MY job. I need to love myself enough; nobody else can do it for me. Lazy was hard to admit because I am very busy on the inside. Anything but lazy intellectually. Except, in shadow-speak, everyone has both sides of the coin. So I am full of plans and active and busy but my shadow side is lazy. What people do with the shadow is they avoid it, ignore it, or deny it. I did that for a really long time. Until yesterday when I said, yeah, okay, I’m lazy about exercise. I like yoga and destination walking. In Ballard you walk everywhere, but there’s a reason, a place you want to get to. That is not true of the treadmill. I don’t even like walking aimlessly around my neighborhood. And below zero temps plus ice, well, no, I just won’t do it. Walk to the cafe. Walk to the grocery store. Walk up the hill to the ancient ruins. (That would be Delos, not Ballard.) But walk just to move?

Well, yeah. Just to move my body so it can get the exercise it needs to feel good and maintain health. When put that way, it sounds like a loving thing to do. It sounds like I’m giving my body something it’s been needing. It sounds like I’m filling a hole. Listen, I’m not beating myself up when I call myself lazy. I just like looking at things all the way through to the other side. There’s always something interesting going on over there in the shadows.

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