Surround yourself with inspiration

This is a sponsored post; it does not contain affiliate links.

For as long as I can remember, having bright, pretty things to look at has inspired me. From the colorful posters I plastered on the walls of my on-campus apartment freshman year in college to the bright red, patent leather heels that make me smile whenever I wear them, I am happiest – and do my best work – when I have pretty things to look at.

When I moved into our new home – now just over six years ago! – I wanted to wait to hang things on the walls until I could figure out exactly the perfect piece for each spot. As a consequence, most of the walls in our bedroom and office are bare. A rare exception is the wall next to my side of the bed where I wake up every morning to see this:

minted more than coffee 237x300 Surround yourself with inspiration

More Than Coffee, a limited edition print by Lehan Veenker on minted.com

Several years ago now, I stumbled upon minted, where I found this print for sale, and fell in love. There are so many gorgeous pieces on the site, created by independent artists who submit their work for consideration and are chosen by visitors to the minted site; this one spoke to me because I am obsessed with coffee. Once I’d chosen the design I wanted, I was able to easily view my options then choose the size and frame for my finished piece – saving me a trip to the framing shop plus the time to wade through all of the framing options to choose just the right one for my piece. A short time later, my limited edition print, framed and ready, arrived in the mail and went straight onto the wall in our bedroom, where it still lives today.

When I was recently approached by a representative from minted to write a review of my experience with their site, I remembered the great end-to-end experience I had with my purchase and agreed without reservation. There’s a quote on their site, in the About Us area, that I absolutely love -

“Our purpose in life is to uncover exceptional design from all over the world and bring this to savvy consumers who won’t accept anything else.”

By giving visitors the power to choose what will be offered for sale on the site, minted allows artists from anywhere in the world to put their work in front of buyers who might not otherwise ever see it; what a neat business model.

What inspires you? And is anyone else still looking at (mostly) bare walls in their home and/or office?

Disclosure: I received compensation in exchange for writing this review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.

High Five Friday: Taking time to work on my mental health

highfivefriday6 High Five Friday: Taking time to work on my mental health

I mentioned in my Project Me post this month that I am experiencing greater-than-usual levels of anxiety at the moment and have been turning to late-night, secret (not from you, obviously) binge eating to cope. I know where eating food hurriedly and in secret leads and I’m not interested in going there, so I decided to make an appointment with my therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders.I saw Dr. Shapiro on Monday night and we had a great conversation about what might be provoking my anxiety and ways of dealing with it that do not involve using food inappropriately. I left with homework – track my anxiety to look for specific triggers and thought patterns – and a much calmer demeanor. Since then I haven’t had a problem, even when my anxiety has gone sky-high, and I know that hour was time (and money) well spent.

Your turn: what have you done this week that deserves a high five?

Project Me: September review and (belated) goals for October

My goals for September were:

  1. Put nothing in my mouth that has calories after 7:00 pm unless it’s fruit – I definitely did better with this area in September than I had in the previous few, but I’ve now discovered Jovial Crispy Cocoa cookies which are much better than other things I could be eating but are still over 100 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrate just before bed. This needs further focus!
  2. Wear my heart rate monitor for all workouts - did really well with this one and it’s accomplished what I’d hoped: I’m far more aware of how intense – or not – my workouts are. It’s not that every workout has to be in the top end of my high intensity zone or anything like that, just that I should have my heart rate over 115 for as much of my workout as possible. When I notice that my heart rate is a little low, I add some resistance to the stationary bike or quicken my pace if I’m walking outside (the two most likely times for lower heart rate) so that I pick it up just a bit.
  3. Do not buy anything unless absolutely necessary - did not do well with this one at all. Yes, there were a few times that I really, really wanted something and didn’t buy it because it was one of my goals for Project Me, but there were far more when I said to myself, “Yes, but it’s a really amazing sale and we need those gorgeous JCrew shoes!” (FYI, no one actually needs JCrew shoes, no matter how gorgeously gold and amazingly comfortable they are. I do love them, though, and I get so many compliments. Even my mom noticed and complimented them when we went to lunch yesterday. It’s possible I haven’t quite made the right mental connection to why this goal is important to me and to my long-term better health.)
  4. Focus on gratitude – I don’t think I wrote in my journal once the whole month of September. I keep meaning to and then I don’t. I think about things I want to write all day long and especially as I walk, run, or ride my bike outdoors. (I don’t think about anything when I’m riding a stationary bike other than “how much longer do I have to do this?” or “I love The Newsroom so much that it’s ridiculous and I don’t mind doing this a while longer if it means I can watch another episode”.)

My goals for 2013 have been published and they include:

  • fasting blood sugar reading below 130 mg/dL – already achieved, need to maintain
  • triglycerides reading less than 150 mg/dL – already achieved, need to maintain
  • body weight at or below 169 pounds (putting me into the Overweight category on BMI scale) – 35 13 more pounds in six three months
  • waist measurement of not more than 39 inches – 5-1/2 2-1/2 more inches in six three months (side note: wow, I lost 2-1/2 inches from my waist since August 1 – must have done something right!)
  • an improved quality of life as perceived by me – well on my way to achieving this!

So, do I want to work on for October?

  1. Stop spending so much time reading other blogs, shopping, and being a social media fan girl and actually start writing here more often – we established in my September wrap-up (above) that I didn’t write in my physical journal at all last month but hey, isn’t that why I have this space here? Was the original intent of my blogging not so that I could use writing to sort through my feelings? Not doing much of that lately, am I? Let’s see if I can do better.
  2. Continue working on eating after 7:00 pm – it’s not good for my morning blood sugar readings (not that they’re bad, but they’re not as good after I’ve eaten late the night before) and it’s not needed. I’m eating to relax before bed or as a reward for my righteously good behavior during the day, neither of which is a good thing, so let’s see what we can do instead to relax and reward good choices without sugar.
  3. Get my flu shot and figure out what I need to do to get a pneumonia shot – as a diabetic, even a well-controlled diabetic, it’s dangerous for me to get sick because my body will have a tougher time fighting infections than it would if I did not have this disease. Accordingly, my doctor tells me every year to get vaccinated against flu and pneumonia, and every year I tell her that I will and then never follow through. That sort of thinking doesn’t seem consistent with the healthy, happier lifestyle I’m working on, so I’m going to do something different this year and do these simple things that are so important for my health.
  4. Re-jigger my schedule so that I can fit a weekly strength training session in AND go for an outdoor bike ride – the problem here is that I am not able to ride my bike (or do much of anything physically) after Pilates Reformer classes. I adore my Sunday morning Pilates pain-fest, I really do, and I know it was building my body’s strength tremendously, but I need to be able to ride outdoors and with Mick usually working on Saturday mornings, that usually means a Sunday ride. Maybe I’ll just start riding by myself on Saturday mornings? I don’t know, but I have to come up with something, and I will.

Talk to me, folks: what are your goals for this month?

Quick race recap

Wanted to let you all know that I finished my event on Saturday.

My times were:

First section (1 mile run): 14 minutes, 14 seconds

Second section (8.3 mile bike ride): 46 minutes, 15 seconds (average pace 10.92 mph and I’d been lucky to do 10 mph in training rides, so I was happy with that)

Final section (3 mile run): 47 minutes, 14 seconds (average pace was 14:48 per mile)

Full and complete time from start to finish was 1 hour, 52 minutes, 28 seconds. I guess the one thing I can say with certainty is that it won’t be hard to improve on that performance should I ever decide to try a duathlon again.

1374116 10100321832312399 447134879 n Quick race recap

at the starting line

Bottom line? I finished and I wasn’t as slow as I’d feared. I also didn’t have to get off and walk my bike up the hill at the start of the bike portion. These things are good.

On the other side of the equation, I still have a lot of work to do on accepting (perhaps even embracing) my vulnerabilities. I was the fattest girl there. I was the slowest girl there. I couldn’t even run a whole mile straight, which I really thought I could. Intellectually I know that, on February 1st when I started Project Me, walking a very slow 15 minutes left me winded and miserable and I’m a lot stronger than that now. Nevertheless, as I waited to start, throughout the event, and especially at the finish area, I just wanted to run away and hide from the shame of it all. From the shame of being me and being less than perfect, I guess. If I hadn’t told you guys I was doing it and if I hadn’t known that wonderful, encouraging Susan would be there at the finish line, I would have changed my mind the night before and done something else that morning instead. To be OK with being really, truly bad at something is just not something I’ve mastered yet; I’ll keep working on it.

Anyone have an uplifting story about doing well in a sporting event? Share, please, so I can remember that it does get better eventually.

Doing something scary

I’ve spent a lot of my life frightened. Oh, I’ll talk a good game but most of the time, I shrink down to stay as small as possible and avoid risks. Maybe it started when I was a really small child and my father (biological father, not stepfather) used to scream at me and make me cry. Maybe it was tumbling down a flight of stairs and landing on my head when I was a toddler. I’ll never know why I am the way I am and it doesn’t matter: I’m a ‘fraidy cat.

do something scary 300x172 Doing something scary

Today, though, I’m moving way outside my comfort zone to participate in a sprint duathlon. Starting at 8:40 am Pacific, I’ll walk/run a mile then bike 12 miles, then walk/run (crawl?) a final 3 miles. I’m not scared that I won’t finish – I’ve done more than enough training to know that I can finish – but I will probably be the very last person to cross the finish line. And they’ll be holding all car traffic until I finish the bike portion of the event, so there will probably be angry people tapping their feet, waiting impatiently for my return.

But hey, I could barely walk 15 minutes without discomfort back in January and today I’m going to complete a sprint duathlon. Let’s just celebrate that for a moment before I continue my barely-controlled anxiety attack.

I’ll be back, hopefully tomorrow, to talk about how I did in September and what I want to do for October, but for now, I’m off to start getting ready. Wish me luck!

There’s no crying in Zumba

I haven’t been here in a while, I know. You’ll have to take my word for it that I’ve been out there living my (active) life while I haven’t been here writing, unless you’re on my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds, in which case you know about the fun stuff I’ve been up to lately. (Now could be a good time to click and follow, if you’re so inclined.)

Last week I went to a Zumba class at the fitness center at work with a work colleague/friend; it didn’t go well. It was the same old stupid stuff going on in my head: you’re too fat, too clutzy, not graceful enough, not pretty enough, just plain not enough to shake your body and enjoy Zumba. I hated it and couldn’t wait for it to end.

As I processed the experience, I realized that it was another perfect example of my fear of being vulnerable rearing its ugly head. Again. I resolved to go back to class this week and every week until it either became something I wanted to do or at least the voices in my head stopped making me feel less than while I was in class.

So I schlepped my workout bag to the Fitness Center when I should have been eating lunch, got dressed, and went to class.

Same songs, same instructor, same thin, graceful girls in class.

And then suddenly, I was crying. Still dancing, but crying.

5958071944 2b33f8a28d Theres no crying in Zumba

leaves by Jasmine Fitzwilliam via Flickr

Why was I crying? Because I was listening to the words of the song coming from the speakers and realizing that I wasn’t thinking about how stupid or fat or ugly or anything “less than” I was, but rather I was just dancing with abandon.

Which song was it?

Baby you light up my world like nobody else
The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed
But when you smile at the ground it ain’t hard to tell
You don’t know (oh oh)
You don’t know you’re beautiful!
If only you saw what I can see
You’ll understand why I want you so desperately
Right now I’m looking at you and I can’t believe
You don’t know (oh oh)
You don’t know you’re beautiful!

What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction

Yup, I was overwhelmed by joy while listening to a boy band – crazy, but true! And that’s when I realized that I don’t hate Zumba – or myself – anymore, and so I cried a little and smiled a little and finished my second Zumba class.

How’s your week going?

Half empty or Half full? Neither, actually

This post contains an affiliate link, which means that if you click on that link, I’ll receive a percentage of the price you pay if you purchase the product from Amazon.

halfway 200x300 Half empty or Half full? Neither, actually

55 pounds gone, 55 more to go!

Somehow, in the last not-quite-seven months, I’ve managed to shed 55 pounds of extra weight. I’ve also lost three medications related to my Type 2 diabetes that I didn’t need once I started eating better and exercising every day. (I’m on the cusp of losing one more, too, which will leave me only taking a single prescription.) I’ve also lost the ability to wear virtually every single item of clothing in my closet and chest of drawers. (I’ve developed a much closer relationship with my tailor, too.)

More important (to me) than what I’ve lost is what I’ve gained since February 1st:

  • Better health
  • More energy
  • A daily workout habit that I don’t just enjoy, I actually look forward to*
  • A closer relationship with my husband (we’re creating a healthier lifestyle together)
  • Enhanced ability to cope with my depression (it’s still there but I recognize it faster and seem more able to push through even in the worst of it)
  • Dedicated, pre-scheduled time for me (my weekday mornings are for working out, Saturday at 7:00 am is my Weight Watchers meeting – followed by an hour at the gym, and Sunday at 8:00 am is my loved/dreaded Pilates Reformer class)

* OK, I don’t look forward to the required training workouts for the duathlon I signed up for in October – they stink! – but when it’s just a single workout that I choose, I love it!

Things are not perfect, however. I still struggle with my almost pathological fear of allowing myself to be vulnerable (or anything less than 100% perfect at all times) and that worries me a lot. Last week I was all set to take a Pure Barre Lite class at the center near my house before I saw the girls heading into class and chickened out. They were all in great shape physically and very petite, so I convinced myself that I couldn’t bear the humiliation of being the only obese person in class.

Interestingly, I’m in the middle of reading Dr. Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, [affiliate link] where she spends many, many pages extolling the virtues of releasing the need to be perfect in order to fit in (or even trying to “fit in” at all). I’ve also recently started following Jia Jiang‘s blog where he not only talks about living life without letting fear of rejection get in your way but actually goes out and courts rejection whenever possible. Once I stopped mentally berating myself for being weak, I started thinking about what these two people – both of whom came into my life, albeit only virtually, at the same time – would tell me about my Pure Barre (non) experience.

I’m pretty sure Dr. Brown would tell me to stop feeling shame about my fat self and how I got this way and also that if the class is for me then no one there will expect me to be anything that I’m not and, in fact, they’ll actually love me as I am for who I am and what I bring to class. Jia Jiang talks a lot about viewing rejection as an important milestone on the journey to eventual success, and that the rejection itself says as much about the other person as it does about the person or concept being rejected. In light of this, I’m guessing that he would tell me to give Pure Barre a try because even if it ends up as badly as I’m afraid it will then I’ll be one step closer to finding a strength & flexibility class that I will love. So, I’m going to class on Wednesday morning and we’ll see how it goes.

I’m learning that this “building a healthier, happier life” thing isn’t for wusses, and the physical discomfort involved is the very least challenging part of what’s required.

Workout check-in: July 7

I thought it might be helpful for me to share what I’m doing for my workouts.

I usually alternate between walking  about 45 minutes at a brisk pace through the neighborhood and walking 3.2mph for 45 minutes precisely on the treadmill at the gym. Last week I walked outside five days and hit the treadmill for a 45 minute walk once. They burn a similar amount of calories and have the same positive effect on my blood sugar readings so it’s really more about what strikes my fancy that day. Some days I want the fresh, cold air and pretty scenery and some days I want to be very precise in my time and energy expended. Giving myself that flexibility is an important part of my “just get some exercise every day” commitment to myself. I also walked a 5K during July, as I had done in May and June, too. I’d originally intended to run the July 5K but that wasn’t in the cards and I’m totally OK with that.

In addition to my walking workouts, I also managed one Couch to 5K jogging session, on Sunday. I am definitely not getting in the three running workouts that are supposed to be part of the Couch to 5K program – more like one per week – but I’m not finding them difficult to do on a less frequent basis than is recommended, either, so I’m not really worried about it. The reason I’m not running more frequently is only mental, I know this. My body doesn’t hurt during or after running workouts, I just don’t like them. I have promised that I’ll finish the training program, and I will, but I don’t know where my running will go once that’s finished.

Given where I am with my workout routine, it’s easy to see why the latest Couch to 5K coaching tips from Mo Langley , 10 Tricks For Sticking To It, really resonated with me.

Now that you are well on your way training for the Thanksgiving Day Dana Point Turkey Trot, you’re starting to really feel the benefits of exercise. You feel more energized, you’re clothes are starting to fit differently, and your overall confidence is improving. Don’t lose your stride! Keep exercising and don’t let excuses get in the way of your well-being. Stay on track with these simple tips:

1. Start Looking at Exercise Differently.  All movement is exercise. People need to give themselves more options. Take the dog for a walk, bike to the store or take five-minute stretch breaks. If you don’t count something as exercise unless it happens in the gym, goes on for 30 minutes or requires a shower afterward, you’re missing some of your best opportunities to stay active.

Click through to see the rest of Mo’s training tips on the Dana Point Turkey Trot website.

I know I’ve been guilty of not giving myself credit for having “worked out” if I never went to the gym or laced up my sneakers, how about you? Anyone else struggle with the mental aspects of a form of exercise you’re trying to work into your routine? I’d love tips for overcoming my antipathy for jogging, so please share what you’ve learned!

[If you're wondering, no, I am not being compensated in any way to share Mo's training tips, I just think she's got a great approach to helping folks go from inactive to moderately active all while keeping it fun.]

Checking in – July 9, 2013

ReadersWorkoutsLite Checking in   July 9, 2013

Last week was a challenge for me, especially because so many of my beloved routines were taken away from me, including regular intensity workouts. As a result, from last Monday’s surgery until after my dental appointment yesterday morning, I took a few very slow walks and that was it.

Once the dentist cleared me to slowly & gently resume my normal workout routine, I went home, changed into workout clothes, and hit the gym. I was planning to go pretty easy anyway because Monday is always an easy workout day for me, but I was really surprised at how sluggish and out of shape I felt. It was barely a week, for pity’s sake! So I decided to move Week 5, Day 1 of my Couch to 5K to tomorrow/Wednesday and do some more walking today. Probably a good decision although I was absolutely drenched after a walk that wouldn’t have even winded me a week ago.

I look at it this way: I had major surgery a little over a week ago and my body is recovering from that trauma. My whole purpose in working out and taking better care of myself is to live a healthier, happier life, so honoring what my body needs from me is more important than pushing through to do something I “should” be doing.

Pity, party of one

The six days since my oral surgery have been challenging.

My blood sugar was way up for the first day and that was scary but then it went back to normal and that was good.

I’m not allowed to workout. My normal routine is anchored by my daily workouts, so this has been challenging. I’ve taken a few VERY slow walks (~1.5 mph or less) with sitting down stops built in so that my blood pressure never rises.

I can’t eat much of anything. Tried rice but that nearly got stuck in the dental flipper/fake teeth thing that I’m not taking out until tomorrow morning at the dental appointment. Laughing Cow is a major win, though, as is Panera’s French Onion soup (no croutons or cheese). Went through a brief infatuation with Jamba Juice’s Peach Mango smoothie but having three in 24 hours was bound to end in antipathy.

But here’s the thing: I’m fine.

I’m a girl who likes my routine – hence sitting around quite happily for years without dealing with my medical & dental issues all while being 100 pounds overweight and diabetic – and this whole experience has been absolutely devastating in terms of my normal way of life. No morning latte. No trips to the gym. No brushing & flossing my teeth twice daily. No getting up and going to work. (Dread to think how bad my work inbox is after being gone for 10 days!) So I’m all over the place emotionally. And then there’s the whole “half your teeth are gone, luv – now what?” thing.

But I really, really am fine.

I forced myself to smile – really, really smile – at myself in the mirror this morning and oh-my-gosh, the fake teeth thing is beautiful. I’ve never had straight, even teeth before and wow, it’s sort of amazing. (Don’t want to think about what’s underneath the flipper and I don’t have to see it until tomorrow, so we’ll deal with that then.)

My blood sugar is right where it needs to be. No working out needed, just eating moderate portions of foods with plenty of protein and/or fat.

I lost about two pounds this week. I say “about two pounds” because I haven’t weighed in two weeks so I can’t be absolutely sure. I am sure that I weigh less now than I have in a very long time. I’m not exactly sure when I last weighed the same as I did yesterday morning but I think it was 2002. I definitely weigh less than I have the entire time I’ve been blogging. (Not just blogging here but also here.) I weigh less than I ever have in the time I’ve known my husband. I weigh less than my husband. (You can’t imagine how wonderful that is to be able to say!) The left-most number on the scale is so close to a new number that I nearly can’t breathe when I think of it.

In terms of Project Me, I’m only 5.5 points away from being merely Overweight on the BMI scale. I started February off 8 points higher than I am now and I still have six months left in the year! I had to send back a size 20 Petite jacket that I bought for FitBloggin (before I realized how blazingly hot it was going to be in Portland last week) because it was way, way too big. I just bought clothes from Gap, including jeans. Gap doesn’t have plus sized clothes, people!

This week is just another user story (aka mini-project) I needed to complete for Project Me. I am diabetic, I haven’t taken care of myself for many years including my gums, and 15 teeth needed to be removed so that I can be as healthy as possible. The depression tried to use this as a way to scare me into living small again, but I’ve seen through it and I’m gently reminding myself that I’m stronger than this oral surgery detour, that I’ve got goals for 2013 that I’m well on my way to achieving, and that part of living – really living! – is dealing with pain and fear and uncertainty.

me smiling 300x199 Pity, party of one

me, just as I am

So good news: I’m definitely alive. And even better news for me? I’m ready to write here again, so get ready to hear more about whatever comes into my head. I’m done worrying about what I ought to write and now I just want to tap-tap-tap everything. Ready?