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Creating a new habit

  • I never used to walk anywhere if I could drive.
  • I never used to bring my own food – healthy or otherwise – to work with me.
  • I never used to walk a 5K every morning before work so that I could start my day off with 8,000 steps on the pedometer (that I didn’t own).
  • I never used to do anything about it when I had worrisome medical symptoms.

…but I do now.

For each item on the list above, I’ve created a new habit over the last 14 months that makes me a happier, healthier person. None of those things were easy to change – believe me! – but I knew I needed to change my old way of doing things in order for Project: Happy/Healthy Me to succeed. I started out small, increased what I was doing slowly and steadily, and eventually it became easier to do the new habit than revert to the old way of doing things. Writing here needs to be the same way.

I am struggling to reach a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). The number on the scale doesn’t always go down and certainly it does not do so easily when it does. The 15 pounds between where I am now and a healthy BMI feel simultaneously impossible and yet so tantalizingly close that it sometimes feels as though I’m already there. It’s like the feeling I have when we’re nearing the end of a long road trip: aren’t we there yet? How much longer? This was fun four hours ago but now my back aches and we’re out of snacks, so let’s just get this done. But, like a seemingly never-ending road trip, there are no short cuts in weight loss, either, so I’ll keep plodding along because there is no other option. (Thanks, Kay Lynn, for reminding me of that fundamental truth at our recent lunch chat!)

In the meantime, I ponder these moments in time and remember how far I’ve come:

old habits Creating a new habit

post-5K 9/3/2011

 Creating a new habit

post 4 miles, 4/26/14

Not an athlete

I was in a Weight Watchers meeting this morning when I had one of those annoying “a-ha” moments. It wasn’t my normal, early Saturday morning meeting because I walk/jogged a 4 mile event to honor Pat Tillman, an American football player who quit the NFL to enlist in the Army after the events of September 11, 2001. I was feeling pretty good because I was down just over 5 pounds from two weeks prior when I weighed in and I gained weight the two weeks prior to that.

The meeting leader, Marie – who also leads my normal meeting, started the class off by recognizing two women who walked their first 5K event the week prior, then turned to me and asked what event I’d participated in earlier. I told her about the Tillman run and then she turned to the group and said, “I knew she’d been at an event this morning because Denise is so athletic – she even plans her vacations around different outdoor events she wants to participate in.” I couldn’t help myself: I laughed out loud.

Me, an athlete? The girl who was always picked last for every sport in Phys Ed in school? The one who has to find exceptionally flat routes to ride my bike because my legs are so weak that my bike barely moves at all when I have to go up a hill? I can’t even manage to run an entire 5K nor plank on my toes – I am hardly an athlete!

Marie saw my incredulity and said, “Why don’t you tell everyone why you’re laughing, and while you’re at it, tell them what you’ve accomplished since last February?” And I was instantly transported back 15 months in my head, to the day I started on Project: Happy/Healthy Me in earnest.

  • It was uncomfortable to walk 15 minutes on the treadmill at the gym even though my speed was so slow that I was able to read an electronic book at the same time
  • I hadn’t been on my bike in over a year
  • I drove my car everywhere and got angry with TCB if he ever dared suggest that we might walk to the nearby shopping center because I knew it was uphill from our house and I didn’t want to get sweaty

I shared a little of that with the class, then listed some of the things I’ve done since then:

  • Walk for 60 minutes most mornings, usually covering 3 miles, over a very hilly route
  • Finished a Sprint Duathlon last October, including a 12 mile bike ride sandwiched between two running sessions
  • Completed a 5K event every month, either in person or virtually
  • Started taking twice-weekly Pilates Reformer classes and progressed from being able to do approximately 25% of the moves without modification to doing about 70% as outlined by the instructor
  • Formed a walking group at work that covers 1-2 miles a day
  • Began taking the stairs at work, even when my destination is 4 floors above me
  • Choose a local shopping center to walk around every week with TCB
  • Carry reusable bags and walk to do all of our grocery shopping; we also walk to dinner every night

As I spoke I realized that, while I’ll never be at the front of the pack in any of the events I participate in, I can definitely be accurately described as a physically active person, and that feels amazing.

 Not an athlete

this is what active looks like

Three things I’m grateful for this week: February 20

  • An understanding husband. TCB puts up with my craziness, my mom’s craziness, and the craziness of my job at this time of year and he’s usually pretty even keeled about it.
  • A job that I enjoy, serving customers that I admire, with colleagues that I love. Some days are better than others but no matter what happens, I still wouldn’t trade this team, our customers, and our product for the world.
  • The ability to buy jeans off the rack and have them fit with no alterations. I can hardly form words to communicate how happy I am to very nearly be an actual, off the rack clothing size, people. Not just in knitwear or loose-fitting blouses, but in real denim jeans. The health benefits of my better lifestyle choices are what makes me get up to walk every morning and resist the leftover (homemade) scones sitting in my refrigerator since Sunday, but fitting into real jeans and feeling good about what I see in the mirror? That’s pretty satisfying.

What are you grateful for this week?

High Five Friday: A happy reminder about why I do what I do

highfivefriday6 High Five Friday: A happy reminder about why I do what I do

I went to see my Primary Care Physician – as opposed to my Endocrinologist (diabetes doctor) – recently, because I am losing my hair. (Definitely NOT celebrating that development.) After congratulating me on my weight loss and explaining that it was probably the cause of my hair loss, the doctor ordered a comprehensive metabolic panel and lipid panel – blood and urine tests to look at how I’m doing with my diabetes and see if anything medical might be causing the hair loss.

We were both expecting to see good numbers for these tests, based on the healthy lifestyle changes I’m making, so I was anxiously awaiting the results letter. I received it on Wednesday and rushed to open the first envelope. Every number on the metabolic and lipid panels was much improved from this time last year, including my overall cholesterol, HDL (“good” cholesterol – it was way too low last year and is now safely above the “low” level), triglycerides (a whopping 93% reduction in 12 months!), and fasting blood glucose (I’m smack in the middle of the “normal” range, not even near the “impaired” much less “diabetic” ranges).

Then I opened the second letter which turned out to have the results of my Hemoglobin A1c test, measuring how well my blood sugar has been controlled for the last several months. This is significant for diabetics because fasting blood glucose only measures control for a brief moment in time but the A1c shows how you’re doing overall. The ranges for this test are:

  • Therapeutic goal of American Diabetes Association = <7.0%
  • Controlled diabetics = 6.0-8.0%
  • Non-diabetics = 4.0-6.0%

Let me interject here to say that at my last test, back in June, my result was 5.8% and my Endocrinologist and I were THRILLED with that result. So thrilled in fact that he took me off of my remaining oral diabetes medication, so this month’s test is completely without medication of any kind.

So, what was my number? My latest Hemoglobin A1c reading was 5.0%. I read it, then blinked a few times because I’m blind as a bat without my reading glasses and I thought perhaps I’d misread a 6 as a 5; I hadn’t. You guys, that means that, without chemical assistance of any kind, my body now functions like a non-diabetic person’s does. Yup, I cried. A lot. Then I sent a text message to my diabetic colleagues (also friends!) at work to tell them the wondrous news and this is the message I received in return:

“I’m so happy, Denise…this is why you do what you do.”

And then I cried even harder because yes, this is exactly why I do what I do. Why I wake up every single morning – not just the days when I’m feeling good and had enough sleep the night before, nor only on the days when I have nothing else competing for my time – and make the decision, again, to put myself and my health first. To go for a walk before work and, optimally, again in the afternoon with my team. To eat smaller amounts of low-glycemic foods and to stop before I feel full because my body can’t use the extra food properly. To make an appointment with my therapist when my depression and anxiety lead to binge eating. To faithfully keep my every three month dental cleaning appointments even though I am terrified to be there and still traumatized by having 15 teeth removed in one go last July. Complacency in any of these areas will hurt my body and I don’t intentionally do that any more. (Gosh it feels good to be able to write that last sentence.)

So that’s my “win” for this week – not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

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

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?

Three reasons I’m grateful this week (November 21)

  • My iPad. Being able to instantly download and start reading a book or other reference material that relates to a topic I’m interested in makes me so happy. For instance, I just downloaded 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food Three reasons Im grateful this week (November 21) (Amazon affiliate link) by Dr. Susan Albers to help me deal with my before bed binge eating problems and it’s already paying off with better mindfulness. (No binge eating before bed last night – huzzah!)
  • New running shoes. No, I’m not running at this point but you should never walk for health and fitness purposes in walking shoes because they are not built for that kind of mileage. I splurge on good running shoes even when I’m walking because foot pain, shin splints, hip pain, etc, are all no fun!
  • Morning conversations with my mother. I don’t know if it’s an enhanced sense of my own mortality (and hers) that has kicked in, or what the precise cause might be, but I appreciate just chatting with Mummy so much more these days. It’s not that we have terribly meaningful conversations, it’s just the feeling of well-being when I hear her voice and listen to her point of view about whatever we’re discussing that makes me feel that everything is right in the world for a brief, wonderful moment.

What are you grateful for this week?

Happy Veterans Day & Diabetes Awareness Month

Veterans Day Happy Veterans Day & Diabetes Awareness Month

I borrowed this from the Lilly Pulitzer blog – it perfectly blends my love of all things bright and floral with my patriotic spirit!

Today I’d like to thank every member of the United States armed services for their service and sacrifice. Similarly, I would also like to acknowledge and thank the sacrifices made by the families of service members, too. (Believe me, they also serve.) Less than 1% of the families in this country have a member currently serving in the military. Less than 1%. Please take time every day to thank those in your life who put service ahead of self.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, the aim of which is to increase knowledge and understanding of this disease. Most of you know that I am diabetic, as are about 26 million other Americans. The type of diabetes that I have is called Type II – which used to be called “adult onset” until children under 18 began being diagnosed, too – and I am fortunate that my condition is currently well controlled with diet, exercise, and oral medication (Metformin). At the beginning of the year, I was injecting the maximum dose of long-acting insulin, a non-insulin injectible medication (Victoza), taking a pill to make my body produce more insulin on its own (Glipizide) plus a prescription-strength Omega-3 pill (Lovaza) and cholesterol medication (Tricor) to lower my triglycerides, AND double my current dose of Metformin – to absolutely no avail. I was a virtual walking pharmacy and none of it could get my numbers (blood sugar and triglycerides) into the recommended ranges.

I have made a lot of changes to my eating and exercise routines since then and have been fortunate to see drastic, positive changes in my health, but lifestyle changes such as the ones I’ve made this year don’t work for everyone – certainly not for Type I diabetics, who must inject insulin with every meal in order to allow their bodies to process the food that they eat – and so more must be done to spread awareness of ways to avoid diabetes as well as funding critical research to find new and better medical therapies for both Type I and Type II diabetics.

Last month, I was approached to participate in an online diabetes awareness-raising activity. The results of the project can be seen here and I’m very proud to be part of such a great group of bloggers with diabetes. Please take a moment to check it out and let me know if you have any questions about diabetes that I can help with. Knowledge is always powerful and it’s one of the best weapons against diabetes, too.

Workout Wednesday: November 6

3413789541 72be32e71d m Workout Wednesday: November 6

Exercising with Good Housekeeping by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

The IT band problems went away briefly and were much-improved by a 90 minute massage Friday night. Then I decided to jog on the treadmill for a couple of miles on Saturday and woke up Sunday with the horrible pain again. I have finally learned my lesson and will not even attempt to jog until after New Year’s so that I can let my body heal fully and just focus on enjoying my morning walks (perhaps a short, flat bike ride or two, too).

So, what DID I do this week?

Wednesday – 3 laps on the walking path at work (13,444 steps)

Thursday – 2 laps on the walking path at work (1 mile total) (22,735 steps)

Friday – 2.39 mile walk in the neighborhood (15,594 steps)

Saturday – 50 minutes jogging/walking on the treadmill (13,873 steps)

Sunday – Pilates Reformer class plus 3.31 mile walk in the neighborhood (14,860 steps)

Monday – 4 laps on the walking path at work (13,559 steps)

Tuesday – 2.29 mile walk in the neighborhood plus 3 laps on the walking path at work (16,477 steps

I’m going to focus on enjoying the everyday moments of my life and walking helps me do that beautifully. I won’t promise not to have moments of “what if?” between now and January 1, but I will not give in to them because I’ve finally realized that short-term ego trips are not worth long-term pain.

Three reasons I’m grateful this week (October 31)

(This is not a sponsored post and does not contain affiliate links. I have not and will not receive any compensation for writing about the products mentioned – they are all things that I use every day and love beyond reason.)

  • My gorgeous, gold wedge heels. I get so many compliments when I wear them, they are ultra-comfortable, and they brighten up even the dreariest day at work.
  • My cute new workout jacket. This is not a smaller size of a man’s athletic jacket – it’s girly and still completely functional. I have it in white and it goes with me on any walk (or run!) when I want to be able to get down to short sleeves midway through the workout. I’ve also worn it while walking around the mall near our house, not a workout, just shopping. It’s that cute.
  • The adorable keyboard stickers from Kidecals.com that I received in my Alt for Everyone goody box.
 Three reasons Im grateful this week (October 31)

Aren’t they fun???

Having something whimsical and fun that only I can see during an intense meeting at work makes me smile inside, where it counts! They peel off without any residue so it’s no commitment and no worry about making a long-term commitment. I want to get the Robin’s egg blue Elegant keycals for my personal laptop because I need spontaneous moments of happiness on the weekends, too.

(If you’d like to buy keycals for your computer – or any of the other adorable products on the kidecals.com website, you can use the code “teamawesome” at checkout for 10% off of your entire order. Thanks to Blair from their Marketing team for extending the offer.)

What are you grateful for this week?

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?