Sometimes It’s Just Hard Work

I went through this whole intuitive eating/ movement kick earlier this year. Renouncing diets (still do) and advocating doing what you feel like doing. I gained roughly 25 lbs. I know because I went back to weighing myself occasionally but without judgment and criticism. I noticed my clothes were getting tighter. I felt crappy. I was happier because I was free from diets but what these ladies preach may not be completely great for me.

My employer is participating in the Global Challenge where you set up teams of seven of your co-workers and record your steps each day trying to outdo one another. You get this little digital pedometer that syncs with an app to your phone. The challenge runs for 100 days and I’m 51 days in. My daily goal has been 10k steps the first part and now it’s 10.5k steps. I know I have to set achievable goals or I will drive myself crazy with the failure of it.

Many of these anti-diet promoters also promote moving when you feel like it along with eating what you want when you’re hungry. However, participating in this challenge lead me to an interesting discovery. The first week of achieving 10k steps a day was definite a struggle I’m not used to being that active every day. I also discovered how little I move when I’m at the office. If I reach 3000 steps in my work day, I’m lucky. This has prompted me to really push to get out of my chair and take a walk to the other side of the facility. Or walk uptown for my once a week lunch date with my BFF. Or walk a few laps around the building.

I didn’t feel like doing this most days and really had to push myself. So if I followed the advice of the anti-diet, intuitive eating crowd, I’d never really exercise much because I just wouldn’t feel like it. Another interesting result is the daily 10k+ (I’m currently averaging 15,500 steps due to frequent cycling – 229 steps per minute for moderate cycling) is that the exercise has quenched for the most part my desire to eat when I’m bored, stressed etc. It’s counteracted my overactive appetite. Seven weeks in, my ravenous appetite hasn’t returned. Not that some days I’m hungrier than others, but I’m not binging much on snacks and such anymore for just the activity of eating. Which with exercise has netted me an 11.2 lb loss without dieting at all.

It’s not easy to get yourself up and move like that every single day. I’ve fallen short 3 times out of 51 days but my average step count has kept consistent. I haven’t jumped for joy to get up on my bike another time when my inner thighs have painfully chafed because I got rained on the day before and my wet bike shorts rubbed against my delicate skin. I put on some skin protectant and got my happy ass back out on that bike the next day because I didn’t have the almost 2 hours to walk to get in my steps. It take 44 minutes of cycling to hit 10k steps at a moderate pace.

Tonight, I wanted to go up and lie down because I haven’t been sleeping well at all. I forced myself to gather up my dog and my walking shoes. Then I drove to the lake and walked 3 miles to get over 10k. I had to really push myself to walk that far. I picked out a shelter house in the distance along the path and made it my turn around point. When I got back into the car, the skies opened up and it poured. Tired and sore, I smiled to myself with the accomplishment of making my step goal and moving. Also, I was rewarded with a brilliant rainbow over the lake when the sun peaked out. The result – happiness.

Living a healthy lifestyle is work. Eating healthier takes thought and planning. Exercising every day definitely requires planning and dedication. It’s hard some days. Really hard others. I still believe in not dieting, to intuitively eat but I’ve also started focusing on eating more veggies and fruit just because it makes me feel good. As far as moving when I feel like it, joyful movement, eh. I believe you need to choose activities you enjoy, mix it up, try new things but this one you have to really prioritize and make it part of your life. Few of us are so super happy to exercise every day but it is so worth the effort.

My weight loss is just a marker and has not been my goal. I haven’t tried to lose weight at all. I just find it interesting that it happened without dieting. Just to be clear, I don’t believe you should measure your success by a scale. But I do love that my clothes are getting looser. But even more, I love that I feel good (outside of being sore some days), I’m out in the world more and experiencing cool things like rainbows where I may have missed them.

Like the old adage “nothing worth having ever comes easy” or however it goes, is so true. Sometimes I want everything to be easy but easy doesn’t pay big dividends.

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Food Peace Journal – Week 10 – For the Love of a Zebra Cake

Holy Swiss rolls, I’m 2.5 months into this bad boy of Intuitive Eating. Am I thinner? Nope. That’s not the point and honestly, I’ve been overeating a bit so my jeans are a little tighter. Intuitive eating is something I am definitely still learning. I don’t believe it’s something you automatically pick up if you haven’t been eating this way most of your life. There are so many ‘rules’ that have been embedded into your mind and psyche, that it take time to retrain yourself and how you eat.

Coming out of a dieting mindset and realizing that you can eat whatever you want is much like being a kid locked in a candy store overnight. There is a bonanza of foods that you can suddenly eat again or maybe for the first time. Starting Intuitive Eating is scary, and it feels like walking out of a dark, dank prison cell and into the sunlight of freedom. Don’t be surprised if you go through a period where you actually grow a little bigger (get off that scale!) because you’re indulging in all the deliciousness you had been forbidden for years. Then you remember, hmm, I’m only supposed to eat until I’m just satisfied but but lately, I have been eating past that point, quite a bit. Your first instinct will be to start restricting your food intake and what you eat. STOP! Do not do this.

I’m at this point right now and I know the panic you might just be feeling. I’m getting fat (or fatter)! I have to stop, control and restrict before I blow up into a Macy’s parade balloon. Take a breath, a deep and calming breath and remember you’re okay (I just did this yesterday). Think about why you are eating more than you want (or whatever is going on). It’s not about what you are eating but why you are eating. This is a hard thing to decipher at times especially if it is something you’ve done for years. Be kind with yourself, remember that this takes baby steps and it’s a learning experience. You’re undoing years of dieting behavior. Years of emotional eating, though you’ll always have times that you emotionally eat, as much as we want, it’s impossible to be perfect and it’s okay that food provides comfort at times. Deep breath, calming thoughts, its all okay. It’s even okay if you get bigger, we are more than our bodies – I am using this mantra a lot lately.

Being patient with yourself is so hard especially when you have a fear of being ‘too fat’. I know my odd is a little bigger right now than a few weeks ago and since I pursue athletic pastimes like hiking and cycling, I am freaking out inside that I will not be able to do activities I love because I am getting bigger. I don’t want my size to limit my life. So I had to stop my momentary freak out and remind myself that I’m fine just as I am, I just need to look at the fact that I’m eating a lot of times when I am not hungry and figure out why. Maybe it is because I’m stressed at work, maybe it’s because the four-year anniversary of my mom’s passing is close or maybe I feel lonely or bored. Therein is where the hard work comes up, the reason(s) behind the ‘why’ when I emotionally eat. My body is telling me one important thing, I”m feeding it more than it wants, so I need to figure out why I am ignoring my hunger cues. It is a simple theory but not always so simple to figure out. It gives me something to work toward though.

That aside, I have a little story of a hike that I took over a week ago. I took my dog and drove to one of my favorite, closer parks. The sun was out though it was still cold but the wind was calm. I needed some gas so I stopped at a gas station about a mile from the park entrance. While I was pumping gas, I realized, I’m hungry so I went inside for a drink and a snack. I’m asking myself what I might want. What sounds good to me, I pick up a pack of trail mix, nah, on to the next idea. Out of habit I walk by the endcap full of Little Debbie snacks. Little Debbie’s have been forbidden fruit for a long time. I rarely eat one or even buy them. I stop halfway up the next aisle of snacks and realize I want a Zebra cake. White icing with brown stripes over some kind of white cake with cream filling. When was the last time that I actually ate one? No clue. I bought the cake and a tea.

The park is closed to auto traffic right now which is a big bonus to me, the lover of solitude. I packed up my coat with my key lanyard, my cell phone, my tiny notebook and pencil in case I wanted to write or sketch and the Zebra cake. Bundling up and grabbing the dog’s leash, I took to the wooded trails rather than the paved ones today as the mud was minimal. I did one trail, cross the paved road for the nature trail which partially runs along the river. Out of habit I had started a route with my Map My Walk app. Standing a few feet into the woods, I realized I had been walking fast and not paying a bit of attention to my surroundings. I pulled out my phone and deleted all my fitness apps. I can always put them back on if I want but I continued without thinking about speed or steps or calories burned.

Do you know what happens when you aren’t trying to walk to fast and burn calories? The world comes back to you. When you get out of the ‘training’ mode and just enjoy your surroundings, it’s a completely different experience. I would have walked right by the path down to the river because I had to go fast. I would have missed the fact that across the river where the bank was higher, where the trees’ roots anchored the soil and my oldest daughter had recreated in her first college art print, the trees had fallen after all the rain and crashed down right beside where I stood on the trail. A bit of melancholy for a special place to my daughters and I. Looking around, I found several sycamore branches that I picked up to take home. When it warms up, I will clean up the jagged ends and clear coat them for decorations. I would have missed the way the sun felt on my face when I just stopped, closed my eyes and turned my face to the sun, the sounds of the rushing river soothing my soul.

On the way back to the car, I traipsed the same trail I had quickly walked through before I had deleted my fitness apps. I passed the covered bridge and settled into the woods again until I came to a bench in the sun. My stomach was growling a little so I thought it was a great moment to eat my snack. I tied the dog’s leash to the bench as he is so impatient and pulled out the slightly mushed cake. Opening the cellophane, I broke off a piece of cake and tasted it. Granted, this is not the mecca of baked goods but it brings back happy memories of my childhood. In a way, it felt like I was a bit of a kid again, especially when I realized I was swinging my leg like kids do when they are happy. I slipped out my notebook and sketched the woods and covered bridge. Sketch, take a bite, pause, just be. It was the perfect afternoon. Quiet, simple, unrushed, like the summers of my youth. Why do we get so busy doing, achieving, improving and so on? I had forgotten to slow down. Well I’ve told myself I had slowed down but I was still walking too fast to enjoy what was right around me.

We wonder where the joy and fun of childhood escapes as we age but we push it away with all our responsibilities, to-do lists and constant need to be achieving something. We can’t eat a snack cake because it’s unhealthy and will make you fat. But I wasn’t fat as a kid. I ate plenty of them. I just ate when I was hungry normally. I finished my sketch, adding the date to the bottom. I stuck the wrapper in my pocket to discard in a trash can and set back to my car. I don’t know how far I walked or how fast I walked nor do I know how many steps I took. Tracking all that stuff never made me thin anyway and I’m not training for any events. I just felt that I should do that kind of metrics. Why? What is the point? To suck all the joy out of the little things in my life? Oh track your exercise and it will force you to burn more calories. Maybe it does but again, I’m not thin still. I may never be thin and it”s hard to accept that possibility and live with it but I am working on it.

When I went home, I didn’t stop and buy a box of Zebra cakes to binge on. I was happy and contented with one. The knowledge that I can have one whenever I wanted keeps me from wanting to binge on them. It is only when they are forbidden do I feel the need to scarf them down like I may never have another meal. It’s simple psychology when you think about it.

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little down, I pull out my notebook with the sketch and look at it. The memory makes me happy, makes me smile. For the love of a Zebra cake and letting go of achieving every moment of every day.

Food Peace Journal – Joyful Movement & Panic Mode

I got out my calendar to look up how many weeks it’s been that I’ve been on this new journey, six weeks! It feels like six months! Truly I was surprised when it was only six weeks though I honestly can’t tell you why it seems longer. Maybe because so much has happened in a short time for me. No, I haven’t lost weight during this six weeks. I don’t know what what I weigh. It doesn’t matter what I weigh as my quality of life does not hinge on this number. Am I bigger or smaller? I don’t know. I feel a little bigger but not enough my clothes aren’t fitting. But enough I’m edging into panic mode. My fear of getting fatter is edging more to the forefront as I give up more and more control over my body by not dieting or weighing myself.

Panic mode means I am not trusting my body to do it’s job and I’m letting the diet culture and mentality take back over. Also, when you think about how long term off and on dieting affects your metabolism, when you suddenly start eating when you are hungry again, I think you will get a little more rounder for a bit. First of all, suddenly you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. This is a bit like being a kid locked into a candy store overnight, you’re going to overindulge for awhile until you and your body figure out that you are no longer starving it. I feel my moods have improved somewhat, I feel more level. Maybe because I’m not experiencing blood sugar fluctuations so badly? My jeans feel a bit more tight. Not enough that I will need a larger size but in the back of my mind red flashing lights and warning sirens are going off. ‘Stop! Stop! Stop what you are doing! You’re going to get fatter!’. This is so hard to deal with at times. These thoughts put me in panic mode and suddenly I want to go dig out the scale, reload the food journal app and throw out anything not ‘healthy’ or ‘fattening’.

Then I stop myself and look at my body. All that diet culture paraphernalia did not make me thin, it probably made me heavier than what is natural for me by fighting my body’s own natural instincts and defense mechanisms. I am living proof diets only work temporarily and you just get bigger. The more I dieted, the bigger I got. Deep breath, Laura. I am ok, if I have to go to a size 20, so be it. I must be kind and gentle in this process, love myself and my body and the wonderful machine it is. I’ve fucked with my body’s natural processes for years, six weeks is not enough to undo literally 37 years of dieting and restricting and exercising until I drop. This is where patience (something I lack) is my friend. I have to let my body do what it needs to do to heal and get back into a natural rhythm. Plus I am also still learning about listening to the cues when I’m hungry and when I’m full. I find in the evening, I tend to overeat feeling anxious as if I may never get to eat again. I am not sure what this is about as I have a fully stocked kitchen, a grocery store within ten miles and plenty of money to buy food. There is no shortage. Maybe evenings are just an anxious time for me.

Also, being able to eat whatever you want, you’re going to indulge in all those foods you restricted. So I probably am getting a tad bit bigger as I reprogram my mind to not freak out when these formally ‘forbidden’ foods are in my grasp. Case in point is chocolate. I’ve eating a f*ck ton of chocolate in the last six weeks. I’ve received and bought 3 candy hearts over the last few weeks due to Valentine’s Day. The first candy heart, I literally plowed through, the second one was small – only three pieces – devoured in one sitting. The last one was from my husband and it’s the same as the first except 3x’s the size. By now, I will eat one or two pieces and be like wow, that’s sweet and two pieces are plenty. My husband asked me if there was something wrong with the candy he bought me because I wasn’t shoveling it in like normal. Nope, it was fine, it’s just I’ve eaten so much candy lately, I’m a bit overwhelmed by it. When you can have it and have as much as you want of it, suddenly you find that you will not want it so much. Also you’re focusing on your hunger and satiety cues at the same time. You start noticing at one point that you aren’t hungry when you pull out the box of delicious chocolates so you may only eat one or even none, waiting until you are hungry again.

This journey is a bit of a roller coaster. I love jalapeno kettle-style potato chips. So last night at the grocery I bought a bag. I even opened them and ate a few in the car tough they recommend you eat sitting at a table, focusing on your food so you don’t mindlessly shove half a bag of potato chips in your gullet. I spent the evening grazing on them. I’d put them away, get them out, put them away get them out. I even ate them with the nice roast dinner I made. I ate half the bag and still am suffering from their effects this morning. My stomach is burning, my acid reflux is kicked up. So in this case, I am thinking maybe if I get the craving for these chips, I go and buy the small bag even if it means going to a gas station. Or do I just buy the big bag and eat until I realize I can have these whenever I want? This is one of those ‘forbidden foods’ so naturally since it’s the first time I’ve bought them this year, I’m going to overindulge. I think I should just buy the big bag because if I buy the small bag at the gas station, I am in a way restricting myself. Which means I may overeat them a few times and suffer horribly a few times until my brain figures out these chips are no longer ‘forbidden’ and therefore I do not need to eat a half a bag of them in an evening.

Being aware of why and when I overeat is key for me to reverse this behavior. Deep breath, I will be okay. If I get bigger for awhile, then I get bigger. The key remains, eat when I am hungry and just until I’m satisfied, not feeling stuffed and sick. This seems so simple but after not listening to your body for almost 80% of your life, it isn’t going to happen in a few weeks.

Raise your hand if you only exercised to lose weight? ME! ME! Well I like to exercise but my focus has always been calorie burning. Intervals for more calorie burn, longer rides to burn more calories, pedaling until you’re ready to puke to burn off that big lunch. ‘Joyful movement’ is a term I hear frequently on the podcasts and in the books I’ve been immersing myself in this year. Joyful movement is simply doing physical activity you love without any consideration to burning calories or losing weight. It means cancelling the gym membership if you hate going to the gym. Or keeping it if you love going but changing the activities you do and your mindset. You love Zumba class and now you just go to this class because you love the movement and camaraderie of your class mates. Or you put on music and dance around the house. Take your dog for a walk where you actually enjoy the process rather than trying to walk as fast as you can for thirty minutes. You stop worrying about the number of calories burned and you start focusing on the simple joy of moving your body.

Case in point – I am going to list my cycling rollers today for sale. I’ve tried and tried to do stationary riding in the winter on my road bike. I hate it. I get bored in the first few minutes and just want to stop. I’ve tried different methods to no avail. Yes it is a way to add miles to your yearly cycling goal but I can’t stand it. I might as well sell them to someone who will actually use them. I love to dance way back from the school dances and clubs. I’m not very good at it, I’m a typical white girl when it comes to dancing. I’ve never taken a dance lesson in my life but I like more the non-choreographed kind of thing anyway. We have an old Wii and a few Just Dance games. Nothing is more awkward than a fat girl prancing around in her basement, that is until she turns the full length mirror resting on the wall around and forgets about how she may look.

The other night, no one was home and I went down in the basement in a sports bra, shorts and socks and fired up the game. At first I’m a little self-conscious but it’s only the cat and dog watching. Without thinking about calorie burn or time elapsed, I just enjoyed the different dances and trying to do them. Before I know it, I’m covered in sweat and over an hour has passed. Without even thinking about it, I got in an hour of exercise without staring at a clock because I was doing something fun, something I enjoyed. I was wearing my phone to count steps (I do this just for fun) and I amassed about 3000 steps just prancing around in my basement. My bike and rollers just sat there across the way, leaning against the wall. I would have had to force myself to finish 20 minutes of riding on that set up. I would have had 0 fun. The whole dance experience put me in a great mood as well. Joyful movement, those words suddenly made perfect sense.

I love to ride my bike but not inside. Time to sell the rollers. I’ve been holding onto them for several years just convinced this was the year I’d really make use of them. The bottom line is I hate riding in place. So it’s time to honor the idea of joyful movement and bring back fun rather than torture myself to burn calories. No wonder people hate exercise so much. We don’t do it the right way or for the right reasons. I love, love riding my bike on the bike path or my mountain bike on the trails. I will be smiling ear to ear while doing so. But put me on my bike in the basement on training rollers and I’m no longer enjoying the ride. I’m annoyed, frustrated and impatient to get the time over with. If you dread the exercise, it feels like torture.

Pick something you love, make it spontaneous, don’t time yourself or worry about calories burned. There are so many things you can do to move. The majority of us aren’t training for athletic events anyway. I imagine once you start doing things you love for the sheer pleasure of moving, you’ll find yourself much more active in general. I’m going to see if I can buy some used Just Dance games just to have new dances to try because it’s fun!

Until next time, happy eating and joyful moving!

Depression & Nature’s Cure

Depression affects millions of us every day at different levels. Some people are able to function but at a dulled existence. Other people end up bed ridden, unable to function while some even feel that ending their lives are the only way to ease their pain. If you ever feel like part of this last sentence, please, please, please seek help. There is nothing wrong with getting help because it’s not all in your head, you’re not weak or stupid. Trust me.

My own lifelong fight with depression is not a secret and I’ve mentioned in several of my blog posts. And others in my family suffer from it too which lends me to believe it’s somewhat genetic. Though with millions of us suffering, maybe a lot is environmental. We’ve gone from being outdoors, to spending most of our time inside for work and after work. With so many ways to be in front of a screen, we’ve become more of an inside society. Me included. I’d much rather lounge on the couch binge-watching Netflix than go outside especially when the weather isn’t perfect. But therein I believe lies my issue. Too much inside.

I really hate the anti-depressants and I only have utilized them when in a severe depression. My goal is to find ways to keep from going ‘there’ where I’m so dark and despondent that I feel like I don’t want to live. Find my preventative medicine so to speak. I read most articles I see on depression and have read many books on it as well. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist but I think they are just crap-shooting what’s really going on with our brain. There are many studies out there and the one thing I think I have noticed in common is ‘nature’ as far as people feeling better.

They were pushing vigorous exercise as an alternative to anti-depressants. After my mom died in 2014, I rode my bike a lot. After about 20 minutes of riding after literally forcing myself into the gear and out the door, I’d feel like someone flipped the happy switch. I thought maybe it’s a runner’s high type of thing. So I went on the theory that vigorous exercise was the antidote. Late fall I joined the Y so I could continue the vigorous exercise, except it didn’t work. Didn’t matter how long or hard I rode the spin bike, the happy switch never flipped. I tried the treadmill, elliptical and rower going as long as an hour until I was completely drenched in sweat and nothing. Which of course just added to my depression because then I believed well maybe I have to do my vigorous activity outdoors and I just hate riding in the winter and cold.

But the thing I think was missing in this study was where the subjects did their exercise, indoors or out in nature? Japan has practiced ‘forest-bathing’ for years and done studies on spending time out in the woods to combat stress and depression. Other countries and academic institutions have also studied nature’s affects on our mood and depression. I could link up a bunch of studies but feel free to research yourself.

In late 2015, we moved into the country. I started walking the dog up and down the country roads where its more fields and woods than people. When I lived in town, I also walked the dog except it’s not really nature. A lot of concrete, homes, people and while there is grass and trees, I never felt much difference in my mood walking even five miles around town. However, I started to notice after walking the dog about twenty minutes, I’d feel the switch just a little less prominent which lends me to believe that vigorous exercise forces you to breathe in more air which might be why when I was riding, I felt the ‘switch’ stronger than when I’m walking. Maybe there is some microbe or something biological in the air when you’re in nature or the woods that your body needs and a lack of it, throws your brain chemistry off.

I believe exercise helps, exercise is super important no matter what. If you don’t keep moving, you die which is why Medicare and such are pushing seniors to work out and exercise. My theory, which I will test over this next winter, is that the antidote to my depression is nature, being outside at least twenty minutes most days and coupling it with exercise is a double whammy. Which means, I am going to have up my outdoor gear so I can do this on the most frigid Ohio -20 windchill days. I’m fortunate because I live on 1.5 acres surrounded by prairie and woods. I have a pine grove in the back corner of my lot where I can go stand or sit or walk circles around. I love the smell of the pines. Essentially, even if I can’t fathom walking the icy roads, I can walk around my yard to get my nature pill. Vitamin N.

This truly sounds a bit crazy but google it, you will find studies where they have looked at city dwellers and found the ones who live near more green spaces have less depression. Case in point, I haven’t been feeling the best so I hadn’t been outside much. To add to it, they spread turkey shit across the street after they harvested the soybeans. You literally can’t breathe that stuff just smells of death. Coupled with rain, I hadn’t been outside for several days and when I was at work, I noticed I was feeling depressed. So when I got home, I bundled up, grabbed doggo and headed out to walk for 35 minutes.

I left my headphones at home and focused on the surroundings. I walked west from my house pretty quickly as the frigid air was blowing against me but within a quarter of a mile, I can turn south and down into a more protected road. There is more woods on this road as well and the traffic is a bit lighter. The only aggravation on this route is the people on the corner let their two Rottweilers run free and they always come running out to us. They are mostly friendly but my dog goes batshit excited about ripping my arm off. I wish they would put them on a containment system because I’m afraid they will get hit.

Within 20 minutes of my walk, I felt my mood lift. Again, it’s not as dramatic as when I cycle but it does happen nonetheless. Once I got back to the house, I let the dog inside and walked the perimeter of my back yard. The sky was cloudy but the hue of the sunset was cast in the sky as a grayish pink. I stood behind my shop, underneath the pines and listened to the wind rushing through their branches. I felt all the anxiety just flow out of me and go with the wind. I know that sounds hokey but that’s really what it felt like.

After my walk, I picked up some dinner and watched some Netflix. I’m really into Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown where he travels to places like Libya. My sense of darkness, depression were alleviated for the most part and I enjoyed relaxing the rest of the night. I even slept well. Maybe I’m crazy but I’m going to try adding Vitamin N or nature to my regimen this winter, well, all year round, to see if it does indeed keep me from going into a deeper depression. I don’t figure outside of a chance for frostbite and getting hit, it can’t really hurt me to walk or hike this winter. Even maybe just wander around my own back yard on the days I can’t walk on the road or get to a park.

I am going to keep a notebook to jot notes in every day to help me study what helps and what doesn’t. And this spring I will revisit my notes and blog my results. Of course, I must add the disclaimer that just because this might work for me, it may not be for everyone struggling with depression. The best thing to do is to see a trusted doctor and also get therapy especially if you’re not quite sure depression is what is going on with you. Rule out medical conditions because you don’t want to guess you have something when it could be something serious medically. Therapy is also a great tool especially if you have things in your past that may still bother you, even subconsciously. Every now and then I go get a check up as I call it. But try getting out in nature as well. It doesn’t cost much and see how you feel after 20-30 minutes.

Remember, depression affections millions of us, you don’t have to have anything bad going on in your life to be depressed, it can be biological. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s no different than having something like hypothyroidism or another illness. We understand so little about the brain right now. Go with your gut and if your depression gets severe, get help.

I’ll be reporting back later with my results. So give it a try, the nature antidote. Get outside!

The Quiet Foe

When I decided to ditch any of my metric collecting apps and electronics in the name of living a freer, more spontaneous life, I didn’t realize that these items were motivators that kept away the quiet foe I have fought for most of my life. Without goals like riding 50 miles a week (or near that), walking several miles a week, tracking my food intake, I slipped under the murky waters that I fight every day of my life.

Thanks to my genetics, my traumatic past and who knows what else, this quiet foe is simply chronic depression but it has a way of sneaking up on me. While at first, I felt freer and happier not tracking my steps, miles and calories, I didn’t know that these were indeed motivators that kept depression at bay. Left to my own devices, as depression started winning again without me noticing, I stopped riding my bike as much, stopped walking and hiking, stopped paying attention to what I’m eating. At first I thought that oh, it’s just peri-menopause so I rested more. I was taking care of myself, listening to my body. Except I didn’t realize I was slipping under again. Depression feels so normal to me, it’s so hard for me to detect until I’m almost drowning.

So, I can’t just be what I consider normal. I can’t trust my body or mind to tell me what I really need because without consistent exercise or eating healthy, I get swept back under the current of apathy, disinterest, fatigue and agitation from sleeping less than my usual nights. I can’t trust my body to tell me what I should eat because the depression has me seeking sugar as if it is my only life force. Without healthy food, I further compound my issues especially lack of energy. Without my weekly fitness goals, I lack energy and motivation to get outside, to ride, to hike and do yoga which counteracts my depression. My body just slips deeper into a ‘lazy’ pattern as I lose interest in things I enjoy. I just stop caring about doing these things.

Without forcing myself out to ride, walk, hike and so on, I just will not exercise. Or I make a half-hearted attempt at whatever I chose to do. It’s the curse of the depression. Once I have the goal set in my head and I’ve started into my first minutes of the activity, I find myself enjoying it but sometimes the hardest thing is just putting on my shoes or riding gear or driving to where I am going to perform the activity. Just starting can seem so overwhelming, I end up on the couch or lying in bed reading. Which if I do this often enough, it becomes the norm which lets my quiet foe sneak up on me and drag me down under the surface again.

It isn’t an easy thing to accept, that I can’t just trust my body or my mind to tell me the best things for me because it is so easy for me to slip into behaviors that make my depression worse because it is tiring always having to force yourself out to exercise. The benefit of this though is, the more I do it, the harder I work out, the easier it becomes to get myself started. The less depression has a hold on me. The happier I am. I wish I could just trust my inner judgment but the truth is, depression has skewed my perceptions of what is ‘good’ for me. Lying around all the time is not good for me. Lying around reading after I rode 20 miles isn’t the same. I’ve worked out, I’ve been outside, I’ve taken the sword and struck at the depression monster again pushing him back into his dark cave. The cave that he insists on dragging me back into with him. When I become complacent, he gains ground and when I fight (keep on the fitness, eating well path), I gain ground. The tug of war is so slight, so quiet that it happens without me knowing.

So bottom line, I have reinstalled my apps, I will clip my cyclocomputer back on my bike, I will reset my goals and keep fighting the good fight. This is what I need to do to live well and live happy. Maybe it’s a bit of a burden, maybe it ties me to my electronics and apps a bit, but the tradeoff is greater. The tradeoff is feeling alive, feeling happier and more alert. Goals aren’t a bad thing. Trying to go through day-to-day without any motivation, anything specific to work toward is like walking around blind at times. This has been an interesting manifestation of my theory of taking care of myself meant unburdening my life of everything that motivated me. As it backfired. Big time.

Taking care of myself means having these fitness goals to keep me moving. Otherwise, the quiet foe wins.

Flying Blind (Sorta)

Recently, I decided to spend a year revamping how I live a bit. I have tongue-in cheek named this the "Year of Me" as I question different beliefs about myself, etc. More on that later on down the road.

Today I sat down and wrote down specific things I wanted to do over the next year. Under the "Stop It!" Heading, I decided that I need to quit measuring everything I do against some sort of benchmark. Like weighing myself or counting calories or measuring my body parts as well as not feeling like I have to be doing something productive every moment of every day. Essentially, I want to remember how it is to be a kid without all these measurements of how successful (or unsuccessful) I am.

So I went on and deleted all the apps I use to track anything from food to steps to miles. I want to just live and not make everything into a 'job' or 'chore' or 'goal'. I want to live better, enjoy the moments of my life more. Anyone who cycle knows there are many ways of measuring what you are doing from cyclocomputers, to Strava (GPS power) and so on. You can get pretty technical in weights in everything on your bike and what you wear (in grams) and so on. I decided today when I went out to my bike to remove my computer from the handlebars. I wouldn't be able to see my speed, distance, fastest speed, etc. a all. i had deleted my ride tracking app. Simply I got on my bike and rode my fave short route, to the end of my road and back.

Other than grumbling because they tarred and chipped the last section of my road, I had a very enjoyable ride. I know I rode about 13 miles but that's just from memory. I don't know how fast I rode, or how many minutes it took me to do five miles. What I did notice was many things I ignore on this ride. I saw the flowers blooming in the ditch, I found a natural pace without worrying about if I was going fast enough. I just rode for the sheer enjoyment of it. You know, like when you're a kid and you just get on your bike to ride to a friend's house or go on an adventure you dream up. Fun. Without worrying about mph or distance.

I am not training for any events, I simply ride for exercise and the fact I love riding. Today I found dropping all the gauges and metric associated with road riding, I had much more fun and it didn't seem like work at all. That's what we seem to do as we get older, make everything 'work'. Or a goal or a part of achieving something more. We forget to just be in the moment and have fun. And the distractions of all the gadgetry adds to missing whole parts of the experience.

Today instead of relying on the miles per hour displayed on my cyclocomputer, I simply listened to what my body wanted to do. Maybe I even rode faster, I don't know. And it doesn't mater. I'm outside, in the fresh air and working my cardio though it just felt like play.. That's how more things in my life need to be. Play, fun. I need to quit sucking the fun out of the simplest things because that's what I am 'supposed' to do as an adult.

This next year is learning how to enjoy my life more and take much better care of myself. I'm not great at that. i tend to push myself past my limits when I shouldn't. Just like forcing myself to ride 50 miles just to say I rode 50 miles. I'm not training for anything, then why do it? It's time to rethink the way I approach things in life. It's the perfect year to regroup, rethink and explore. And remember what pure joy a simple act like riding my bike can be. To rediscover childlike wonder with the world.

Maybe I'll get some sparkly streamers too!

Keeping the Line- 29 Wk Food Journal Check In/ Cancer Scare

In April, I received the news that I had a small patch of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on my face by my right nostril.  A small pustule had been bleeding off and on and my wise husband said “You better go get that looked at.”  Though he had to nudge me several times before I made an appointment.  The dermatologist biopsied it along with doing a full body check for other possible skin cancers.  Considering I’m covered in freckles from my Irish side, everything looks like cancer to me.  I was sitting in my home office working the morning when the doctor called and said the dreaded words “It’s cancer.”

My mother died of metastasized colon cancer after an 8 year battle not only with colon but lung cancer.  To say this traumatized me watching her suffer so much is an understatement.  Aside from something tragic happening to my family, my biggest fear has been to get cancer.  Any kind of cancer.  I have nightmares about it and I’m always getting check or tested as much as I possibly can for different types such as getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.  I do not want to die like my mother did, slowly wasting away, cancer taking over her bones where she was in constant pain.  We wouldn’t let our pets die this way, I’m not sure why we do our humans.  But that’s another blog post altogether.

I remember ending the call with the doctor and just staring out the window as my biggest fear had just come to life.  Logically, I knew it was a minor type of cancer, non life-threatening.  If I was going to have any kind of cancer, this was highly curable.  My unlogical emotional and fearful side just swelled and took over, stealing away my logic for about an hour or two.  I cried, I felt doomed, I was thinking but I used sunscreen at least from my mid-twenties when skin cancer advocates preached prevention.  Would I have a huge scar on my face?  Would that matter if it’s removed.  I just wanted that cancer out of my body and knew I would not hear from the skin cancer surgeon for a few days.

Then my brain kicked in and I calmed myself down.  Stop overreacting, I told myself firmly.  You’ve got this, you know people going through way worse than you, stop being a damned pussy about it.   Grow up, get a grip and get back focused with your life. The surgery was scheduled for the end of May, almost a month away.  I am an emotional eater.  I use food to comfort me and make me feel better.  Now that my mom is gone, I gravitate more toward food.  During this month, I was not as diligent about entering what I ate in the food journal, finally just giving it up until after the surgery.  Then I just let it sit until I weighed myself last weekend and realized I had indeed gained a few pounds back.  Nothing major but obviously left to my own devices, I don’t really pay attention as closely as I believe to what I eat.

I knew the time between the call telling me I had cancer until the surgery, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.  I’ve read all sorts of books on emotional eating, I’ve tried the listen to what you really want and eat it only those things type of instruction they give you from that book.  I’m sure that works for some people.  But me, I always think I want chocolate or something not good for me or to eat when I am bored, upset but not hungry.  The problem is, I’m so good at lying to myself and excusing what I eat, that I am not a reliable source of recollection and tracking just in my mind alone.  My mind covers up my extra portions and little treats I think, oh those calories won’t count much.  Except they do.  Every single one of those little bastards add up and total much more than the 1800 calorie limit I set for myself daily.

To know your limitations is to know thineself.  My limitation is that I have spent so many years lying to myself about what I eat because I was in this binge/purge/overeating/under eating/dieting cycle that I still carry around my old habits.   Though this May, I quietly acknowledged my emotional overeating without coming down on myself.  I just noted that it was a rough period I was going through, I was eating to comfort myself and it’s not the best for me but I’m okay.  Several years back, I would beat myself up and then eat even more because I felt worse.  It’s an odd cycle, emotional overeating.   I also said things to myself like, well at least it’s a little extra food and not crack or heroin.  You could be self-medicating with way worse substances.  So I have come a long way but I’m still not quite in the zen of ony eating when I’m hungry mindset.

So the solution?  A simple one.  Back at the food journal 24/7, full time, recording every thing I shove into my pie hole.  That’s a lovely mental image isn’t it?  It’s been working and when I go off the journal, I regain a bit because even though I would like to believe that I am acutely aware of what I eat, I still tend to use food for comfort at times or I don’t remember things I’ve eaten.  Having the calories consumed in black and white on my phone is a continual reminder to adjust my eating habits.  I was hoping by the time six months had come and gone into this food journal experiment, that I would have the knowledge and wisdom to eat without the food journal.  While I have improved, I’m not quite there yet.  I have some old, latent issues to resolve.  Which is good news because now I can pinpoint them and work on them more specifically.  It took me years to get to where I am, it won’t be overnight for me to correct them.   It’s a journey like anything else.

Since I have been back on the food journal wagon, keeping the line, I’ve lost a few of the five pounds I gained.  Two steps forward and one step back.  The important thing is to keep going forward and learning along the way.  I could easily get pissed off and discouraged so I quit but that doesn’t do me any good nor does it fix the problem.  If I give up, then I lose.  I fail myself.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve done it enough in the past.  It’s time to keep the line, keep going.  Keep using that annoying app and record every little dang thing I eat.  Mostly it’s annoying because I want to think I eat better than I really do and having that pointed out to me pisses me off.  It really isn’t the app’s fault.

Food journals work, if you use them.  Kindness to yourself works as well.  I could be ranting at myself that I am a failure for my weight gain but I am not.  I’m just getting back on the horse and back into the food journal groove.

With the manta – Keep the line, keep the line.  I’m not even sure what that means but it sure sounds good.  Ciao!

PS – The surgery went well, it was a tiny spot and I only ended up with minor scarring.  I was being a big weenie about it all because of my fear of getting cancer.