Category Archives: positivity
So… I’m going to honest here. I have nothing to write about today. Nothing.
I’m in a fab, it’s-almost-the-weekend mood, but my brain is just fuzzy from general contentment. Plus I’ve been super busy from work, making sure we still would have a place to live on October 1st (we found a roommate, so HOORAY, we don’t have to to move), helping other people move, ramping up my workouts, being sore from said workouts, and just running around trying to get a few other things in order. Also, I think maybe got my ranting all out on Wednesday. Whatever the case may be, I have nothing of importance to contribute today.
But these folks do!
Bess brought back her weekly Ferosh Female Fridays (which I LOVE, btw, because, well, how cool does that just SOUND?), and gave shoutouts to some lovely lady bloggers (including me!) for being fearless this week, and just kind of made me proud to be a woman who knows other women who support women. My lengthy sentences confusing you yet? Just check her out!
Laura and I must be on the same wavelength lately, because she’s talking body image and dismissing the silliness that is the BMI chart. My favorite line? “I could weigh 105-119 pounds, as the charts suggest in “optimal weight” terms (ha!), but I’d look like a stick with a big fat wad of gum stuck to its lower half. Or a kebob skewer stuck into a melon. You know what I mean.” Girl, I feel you on having a booty and thinking BMI truly is ‘a pile of poo’
Despite my raging sweet tooth, I rarely crave baked goods. Until today, that is. Rachel’s got me wanting to throw on my not-yet-purchased apron and whip up some of these white chocolate cupcakes while only speaking in double entendres. And Jenna at EatLiveRun has got me craving something hot off the griddle with her whole wheat butternut squash pancakes, which I usually only do when staring at a diner menu on a Sunday morning after a rather late Saturday night.
Over at Hollaback Health, we’ve had a whole slew of awesome posts lately! Read all of those, but start with AJ’s second installment in her set of guest posts, ‘I Call It Visibility,’ about her experience as a blogger with the intersecting identities of queer, vegan, and runner. Which, appropriately enough, the name of her blog as well!
I’ve been thinking a lot about running lately and how I need to try some other exercises for a few months because I keep getting injured (well, hello, new possible case of plantar fasciitis, please meet old cases of tendonitis and a stress fracture) and because I keep SAYING I’m going to take a break, and I never do. (Now it looks like I have to take a break, right during the BEST running weather in the midwest because I have really screwed up my feet). Well, apparently, Ashley from Fashionably Fit has been thinking the same thing, because she rejoined a gym and has been having a love affair with the classes and their efficiency and they fact that they play nice with her joints.
Kristen’s post pretty much summed up my experience with weight loss in the past, and I felt like she was practically writing my story on her blog! Kudos to her for learning how to eat intuitively! Still working on that one….
Last, but not least, Nicole’s post on Special K was so informative that I wish college me would have read because I was SOLD on the low-cal Special K crap, not realizing that while I got skinny, I was putting some scary stuff in my body. Also, I really think all of you will crack up at her title and the picture she posted to go along with it!
I like the idea of giving out a little link love to finish out the week, so happy reading! And for the sake of discussion, since we all know I loooove talking, tell me what you’re doing this weekend– healthy or not! What fun stuff do you have planned?!
On Monday, as I was getting ready to leave work, I stopped to chat with our office manager (Hi, Ali!). As I somehow always do with other women, I got onto the topic of body image and weight. I find this happens so easily because most women I know have had some bad blood with their bodies in the past. But it’s so easy to talk about it now because so many smart women are getting wise to the fact that no, this isn’t normal, and it isn’t healthy, and we want to talk about it. Because we want to resolve it, and just be OK with our bodies and use the time we spend worrying about our butt and abs to, I don’t know, fix the economy or reverse global warming. But I digress.
Anyway, we started talking about how, while we’d like to improve upon our figures now, it’s not the most important thing in our lives. Yes, we might want to lose a little weight or tighten up our rear ends, but these things aren’t our focus as they once were. We both have our stories of the times in our lives when focus turned to obsession, and examples of when our quests for health became the antithesis of health itself. But we’re realizing now that creating a good life doesn’t swirl around that one goal of ‘getting skinny.’ We’re understanding that this singular objective won’t make the other ones fall into place. Getting healthy, losing weight, toning up… all nice things, but not the key to happiness.
“I realized recently,” Ali told me, “that losing weight or getting the body I want is one little part of that circle that is my life. Whereas before, those things were the circle itself.” When she said this, I knew she had summed up how I had been feeling lately. In college, everything centered around sticking to my plan and staying small, meaning I let social events or enjoyable company with delicious food pass me by because it wasn’t what I had laid out for the day. ‘Oh sorry, I didn’t go running yet, I can’t.’ Damn, I bet I’m going to hear all about how fun that was tomorrow. ‘Oh, no thanks, I’m not hungry.‘ Plus that doesn’t fit into my calorie count for the day.
That circle had me spinning around and around, but I never got anywhere in life outside of my body. I stayed the same, and my goal never changed. I never progressed beyond, ‘Stay small and fit into that dress.’ It was like my life was a wheel of calories and miles and pounds and jeans sizes, and occasionally, the other stuff –my life – would happen because it accidentally got trapped in the spokes, and I would roll with it until I would snap out of it and get back to the plan. Lately, though, the circle of my life has involved so much more. Instead of those life experiences getting stuck to my tires, they ARE the tires. And I’ve decided that I can go ahead and let losing weight be a part of those rolling circles, but I won’t let it steer.
“In the same sense, I used to think that losing weight was the key, was the piece of the puzzle I needed to find before all of the others would fall into place, ” Ali said. ”But now, I’m finding that I’ve got this beautiful puzzle, and there’s only one piece missing, but I’m working on it.” And again, it was as if she had read my mind, because this is truly the way I’m feeling about my life. Am I entirely happy with my body? No, but I’m working on accepting where it is and improving on it as best I can daily. But the puzzle pieces I thought would fall into place when I was skinny or toned enough? I have so many of them now that I never had when I was thinner.
Career? When I first moved to Chicago, I thought life would just be easier and I would like my 9to5 if only I could get skinny again. But then I decided that I needed to be happy before I could get healthy, and the desk job wasn’t going to do it for me. So I quit, became a personal trainer, and I’ve been calmer and more content with my life (not to mention healthier!) ever since, no matter that my size 4 jeans are a long way from fitting.
Love life? I had boyfriend and a few little crushes and flings in college, but you know what? Even at my smallest, I never felt like myself around them. I had been working so much on my ass that I let the work I had to do on my head pile up to the point where I didn’t even know who I was. Now I’m dating someone who makes me feel more comfortable and happier in my own skin than I have in a long time, with or without makeup, “bikini-ready” or not.
Friends? I seemed to have some friends in college who liked to hang out with me because I looked a certain way and because I was the ’how can I make this healthier aka lower-calorie’ guru. I was told that I was ‘inspiring’ more than once, and while this might sound flattering, it was also a lot of pressure, and it meant that they didn’t see the personality part of me. They liked hanging out with me because I made them want to go running or make a salad, not because I was quirky or a good writer or because I lived for awkward stories and always had one to tell. But my friends now are the friends I’ve chosen, because I’m confident in who I am as a whole, and I know that I can afford to be picky. I can choose the friends whom I love for their never-ending optimism or no-nonsense logic, and who love me for the things I always wanted people to notice when all they paid attention to was what I was putting on my plate at dinner in the sorority house.
So you know what? Between my job and my friends and my dating life and my family and everything I have to be thankful for, I’ve got so many puzzle pieces in place, that while I would love to be perfectly fit and trim again, I’m not obsessing over that tricky middle piece that finishes the puzzle but doesn’t necessarily hold it together. That one piece didn’t make the others fall into place — it actually did quite the opposite. I was missing so many wonderful pieces when I did have a death grip on that elusive piece, because I let all of the others fall away.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
But, as always, dear readers, I want to hear from you! Does body image or weight play (or has it in the past) a huge role in your happiness? Is it the puzzle or the circle itself, or is that something you’re working for, but not feeling incomplete without? Have you learned that, while it can be important, it didn’t make or break your life? Spill!
So after Wednesday’s post on getting past your excuses for not working out, my friend Kira asked yet another great question: ”Okay here’s another excuse … money. Say you get bored to death running (or get too many weird pains), but you can’t afford a gym membership or sports equipment. I personally would love to go to a climbing gym regularly but I can’t afford it. I would also love to hire a personal trainer, but clearly, same issue. Any thoughts on this one?”
For some reason, even though I’m a semi-broke twenty something myself, this excuse didn’t even occur to me. Maybe it’s because I work at gyms or the fact that I got an amazing deal on my own gym membership (I now pay $9 per month for the rest of my life!) or the fact that I just can’t imagine a life without exercise. Whatever the reason, I’m always fretting about money, so it’s crazy that I didn’t think of this one! But once it was brought to my attention, I couldn’t stop thinking of new ways to sweat for very little money! Here’s a somewhat abbreviated list for those of you who, like me, don’t have dollar bills falling out of your pockets:
1) Use what you have. Now let’s start with the basics. While Kira mentioned that she didn’t love running, some of you might. I’m guessing you already have a pair of shoes, and that’s all you need (besides yourself), so give it a try! Add in intervals by sprinting on the choruses of your workouts songs if you’re listening to music, or, if you’re not, decide on a certain number of blocks you’ll go all out for. And there’s no shame in doing a walk-run combo if that’s what gets you moving. If you’re still not a fan of pounding the pavement, try biking! I’m guessing that about half of you have an old mountain bike from Target in the garage or stuck in storage somewhere. And if you don’t have it, I bet your parents still do, so if you live close enough for you or them to drive, throw it in the trunk on the next visit and you’ll be good to go (at least until it starts snowing here in the Midwest)!
As far as strength training goes, use your own body weight! Pushups, squats, and situps are awesome moves that require nothing but your own fabulous self. Once you master these, add weight with household items (as silly as it sounds, fill up old milk jugs with sand, even!) or try standing on one leg to make them harder. If you really can’t afford a gym membership, you already have everything you need to cover all of the basics. Trust me.
2) Buy used. If you don’t have a bike or other exercise gear, and buying new is out of the question, try craigslist. Honestly, you can find anything on there, and some people are selling some pretty nice exercise equipment in the Beauty + Health section. A client of mine bought a never-been-used wetsuit for a Tri, and I’ve even seen someone selling their gym membership for cheaper, so be on the lookout for those bikes as well as things you wouldn’t expect! If you have a Play It Again Sports or other used sporting goods store in your area, check it out as well! Sure, some things might gross you out to buy used, but a soccer ball or basketball or set of dumbbells is still the same, even if it did have a previous owner.
3) Learn to share. The things we learned in kindergarten are still valuable today. Sharing or splitting the cost of things is a HUGE money saver. Really want to hire a personal trainer for a few sessions? Find a friend or two who does too, and halve your cost! Honestly, most personal trainers (especially newer ones at big gyms who need clients desperately!), are willing to work two people out for the cost of one (sometimes a little more, but your cost is still lower than hiring one on your own), because it’s not much extra work and they’re still making the same amount of money for an hour of work. Recruit a third friend and your individual cost will go down by a lot even if the overall price goes up a tiny bit. (Note: with this situation, don’t expect the same individual attention you might get if it were just one or two of you, though. When training three or four, it gets hard to focus entirely on every single person in the group.) There are even tons of places that offer cheaper group training (like Motiv in the Chicago area) or pre-set workout plans available to their members (check out TEAMiFIT, also in Chicago).
However, if a gym membership and split personal training sessions are still a stretch, check out some do-it-yourself programs that you can split with friends. You buy the P90X or other workout program between four friends and have up to 3 months of workouts for next to nothing! Do it at a different pal’s house every week to be fair, and make copies of any written instructions. You’ll all reap the benefits! You could also host a workout video swap, and have your friends bring all of their used CoreFusion, step aerobics, and yoga DVDS that they aren’t using anymore. Everyone will be able to find something that they haven’t tried before, and no one loses any money! You can always get your DVD back after letting the other person try it.
4) Look for deals! Call your local gyms and see if they’re running any specials and if they offer any additional discounts for students or family members or people in a certain profession. If you really want to try a gym, this is key! I know that when I worked at Bally, they were always offering month-to-month memberships for 20 to 30 bucks! They might not be the fanciest gyms, but they have all of the basics and even some classes! Basic gym is better than no gym, my friends. Call up gyms in your area to see if they do anything similar.
Additionally, I have found a ton of really cool stuff online by signing up for email updates from Groupon, Tippr, and Living Social Deals. They’ve got them for all of the major cities and surrounding areas, so I bet you’ll be able to find something! I recently bought a month of hardcore bootcamp classes for only $20 from Tippr, and I’m eyeing today’s deal on Groupon for two months of unlimited Bikram for only $39. And for just new and cheap ideas, check out Vital Juice. I get an email update for all sorts of fun activities, and they even do an email blast on free healthy things to do in your city! Seriously, this one is just about being resourceful!
5) Take advantage. Are you sure there aren’t services available to you, for free, that you just haven’t been paying attention to? Does your office hold a before-work bootcamp or fitness class to all employees? If not, would they do something similar to lower their insurance premiums? (Ask them! And if you’re in the Chicago area, tell them you know of someone who can lead the class!) Is there a running group that meets nearby a few times per week? Most groups have a website or ad on craigslist, so get to Googling! You could even start your own by tweeting or Facebooking that you want to start a group for swimming or climbing or cross-training… whatever! I bet you’ll get a ton of feedback from people just like you!
Do you have a library card? Head over to the nearest library and check out a workout video or fitness book (FYI, books usually have longer check-out periods so make sure you turn those DVDs in on time to avoid fees!) Does your local high school have a rec center or pool that’s open to the public for a small fee per visit? Try it! It’s like a gym, but on a pay-very-little-per-visit basis. Does a local workout facility or yoga studio host free weekly classes that you can join in on? I know that even my local Lululemon store has free Sunday classes right in the store! Even if these free classes are being used to plug a business’ services or clothes, so what? It doesn’t mean you have to buy anything! Go and take advantage!
I’m sure there are a million other ways to sweat on the cheap (or for free!), but this is what I’ve got for now! Have you tried any of these tips? Would you be willing to? Got any other inspired tips for me? Like, I said, sharing is an awesome way to get fit for free –and that includes sharing information, so if you have any more ideas, spill!
So recently my friend Kira tweeted this at me: Hey, have you ever written about tips for getting back into exercise (or start) when you haven’t been doing any? And I realized that, nope! I haven’t! So let’s discuss!
Now, a little background here: Kira and I have been friends since freshman year at the University of Michigan where we were thrown together in a tiny little dorm room in Bursley Hall. Subsequently, we also ended up in the same a cappella group and the same sorority, so we realized we were going to be in this friendship for the long haul. Anyway, while I was very much a gym devotee, Kira was not. Don’t get me wrong, she liked to move and be active, but I don’t think she ever felt that compulsion to go sweat for 2 hours in the campus rec center every single day (plus, having a normal relationship with food along with good genes, she probably felt she didn’t need to), which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. But now she does want to hit the gym a little more, and I think this is a great thing.
I think as a lot of us are getting older (read: we’re actual adults with lives that don’t involve weekends full of beer and just a few classes to deal with), we’re realizing the importance of a regular workout routine. And when we haven’t had one in a while – or never had one — it’s important to have a plan for getting into it. So, here are a few guidelines for starting or getting back into regular exercise.
1) Pick something you like, or even LOVE. You all know that there are certain fitness philosophies I subscribe to, and one is that you need to sweat, and the other is that you need to do strength AND cardio. But with all of the options out there now, there are plenty of enjoyable and creative ways to do all of these things. Hate running? Don’t do it! If something is more painful than enjoyable for you, then you’re going to do it approximately twice and give up on exercise altogether. So try out a lot of things, and figure out which one gets you huffing and puffing with a smile on your face! If you detest pounding the pavement, then try a dance class or hit the pool. Can’t stand the weight machines at the gym? Then hire a trainer who will make it fun (or at least distract you by chatting with you while they make you squat) or take a class in which you will tell the instructor you are a newbie or just restarting a program, and plunk yourself down in the front row so that he or she can keep an eye on your form. Whatever gets you moving and fits the three requirements (sweating, cardio, and strength) is an awesome place to start!
2) Ease your way into it. As much as you want to dive right into a 5-day-a week routine, DON’T. I’m not saying don’t try to be active as much as you can, but think about your current level of fitness. How long has it been since you exercised last? What were you doing before, if anything? How does your body respond to change? What are your goals? Is your body ready for intense workouts? If it’s been years since you’ve exercised, and you were never really that athletic before, your body probably isn’t ready for 5-mile runs Monday through Friday. Be realistic. If you aren’t, you’ll either hate what you’re doing or you’ll be incredibly sore for days or you’ll actually injure yourself and end up sidelined for a while (read: you’ll be taking another break from exercise before you even get into your routine). Honestly, when you’re first starting out, don’t even exercise every day! (What? Is she crazy!?) Here’s an example: I recently started running again after a little summer love affair with my bike. I know that in the past I was able to run 6 miles no problem, but now? Not so much. So I devised a little plan for myself to get back into running. I only run 3 days per week (some days only 2 miles, others about 4), and do other cardio or strength on the rest of the days. I’ll build up from this schedule. Whenever I’ve tried to jump right back into it previously, I’ve had ankle and stress fracture issues flare up again, and I had to stop running. As much as I might be mentally ready to do 6 milers, I know that I’m not there physically. And that’s OK. I will be soon, but not if I keep pushing myself on the miles and days I run and get injured again. **NOTE: You will probably be sore after starting up again, but don’t mistake this for a pulled muscle or another injury and just stop exercising. Learn to know the difference.
3) Take your schedule into account. I know, I know. I should be telling you that you should always make time for exercise. And you really should. But I realize that when starting a new workout regimen, it can all be a little overwhelming. Just like I don’t want you to throw your body into a new, super rigorous routine without any preparation, I don’t want you to jump into it without considering your LIFE. Maybe 90-minute boot camps every day aren’t really going to work with your 12-hour work days. But maybe a quick half hour on the spin bike every other day and one or two days of 20-minute strength routines on your lunch hour is something you can make time for. (Also, see #2. Don’t throw yourself into something intense like a 90-min bootcamp that quickly!) Get used to your beginner routine and how it works with the time you have first, and then ramp it up from there. Baby steps are the way to go here, and I bet that once you make a little time, you find ways to make even more to keep progressing.
4) Hire a trainer. Yes, I’m a little biased because I am one, but I’ve also been a client, and I know how much this helped me. I also know that trainers are expensive, but if you have the means, hire one for just a session or two (or longer if you really have the means!). What you’ll learn will help you so much in creating and sticking to a plan. They can make sure you know proper form for strength moves and they can give you tips on how to commit to a workout routine. Plus, making an appointment with someone almost guarantees that you’ll get your exercise in for the day!
I’m sure I could go on and on about how to start or get back into working out, but I want to hear from you! How did you get yourself (back) into a routine? Any tips for those who have no idea where to start? Spill!
A few weeks ago, a friend and former client of mine, Kate, emailed me about an event her aunt was doing to raise awareness for Pulmonary Hypertension (PH). She thought I might be interested in her aunt’s story, and once she told me a little more, I definitely was. You see, Lil Battle Long and her long-time friend Nicky both decided years ago to take the diet drug fen-phen (when it was new and hot and legal). Little did they know the kinds of complications it would cause down the line. Both of them, later in life, were diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH). Unfortunately, Lil lost her best friend Nicky two years ago to the illness, but she decided she would not take this loss lying down. She is swimming the dangerous Mississippi River on September 4th to raise funds and awareness for PH, and to remember Nicky in a powerful way. I had the chance to talk to Lil via email about her event, and here’s what she had to say:
HG: You’re holding an event to raise awareness and funds for Pulmonary Hypertension (PH). First things first, what exactly is PH and what causes it?
LBL: Pulmonary Hypertension is the constricting and narrowing of the blood vessels around your lungs. This makes it really hard for blood to get in the lungs to collect oxygen, making the right heart work overtime, enlarging it, and eventually leading to heart failure. It is a rare, incurable, life-threatening disease. Anyone can have it; men, women, children, any ethnic background, any age. People who have it normally don’t look sick, just like people with high blood pressure. It causes chronic fatigue, breathlessness, and dizziness and makes even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. The chronic fatigue hit me first. I was contracting building my house and I blamed it on that.
HG: What caused it in your case and in Nicky’s?
LBL: Four friends got together one Saturday afternoon and had lunch in 1992. In the course of conversation, we started talking about our weight and how they had come out with this new drug, fen-phen. I’ve buried two of those friends and one is now on oxygen 24/7. Mine was probably caused by fen-phen, but I also inherited leaking valves. My father had a leaking mitral and tricuspid valve. I have a leaking mitral, tricuspid, and just recently found out my aortic valve is leaking too. One more to go!!! Therefore the fen-phen lawyer has dropped my case because we’ll never know whether it was inherited or self induced.
HG: How did you get the idea to swim the Mississippi River instead of hosting some other fundraising event?
LBL: I’m very limited on what type of exercise I can do. I had a horrible accident several years ago that badly injured my left ankle and it never healed right. Then in February of this year I found out I had to have total knee replacement surgery on my right knee, probably due to the way I walked because of my ankle. During my recovery, my blood pressure dropped drastically and I had to have two blood transfusions. By February, I had already been in training eight months! I had to start over.
But to answer your questions, after losing my father and my best friend within months of each other (I was holding each one’s hand when they died) I was feeling terrible myself. I contracted Lyme disease and went undiagnosed for years. By the time I found out what was wrong (72 claims later) my brain had swelled so badly, I had blood coming out of my ears and Bells Palsy. A doctor in Mobile, AL, diagnosed me and got me in remission. I also had Lyme induced fibromyalgia, so I hurt all other. I sat in a chair and gained 100 pounds and went into congestive heart failure. It was time to see a cardiologist. She did an echocardiogram and a heart catheterization and diagnosed me with Pulmonary Hypertension.
Then one night, two years after her death, I dreamed about Nicky for the first time. As dreams go, it was weird. She was jumping up and down on a pogo stick, repeatedly saying, “Do something, do something, do something”. I literally woke up the next morning and told my husband I was going to build a pool. I did and went on a diet and lost 21 pounds in the first month (Mostly fluid). I have now lost 52 pounds.
I installed a Badu jet in my pool and the first time I tried to swim, I lasted three pitiful minutes. Now I swim sixty minutes, non-stop. I was swimming with my best friend one day and just popped up out of the water and said I was going to swim across the Mississippi River in honor of Nicky. Nicky and I both were event planners and always trying to out do each other, so I thought this would be the best way to honor her memory. Something huge!!! I did host another benefit, the gala. We had a live and silent auction, cash bar, great band, great food, and raised $41,844.00
HG: I’m a swimmer myself, so I thought it was great that you chose swimming for your fundraiser since so many people have done bike rides, runs, and walks for their causes. How did you and are you preparing for the big swim?
LBL: For eleven months, I read everything I could get my hands on about long distance swimming. I dieted, but found out I was dieting the wrong way. I got my hands on a book by Nancy Clark called, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and started following it to the letter. I have built a lot of muscle mass but I’m still losing weight slowly. I was always good at the breast stroke, so that was my chosen stroke. I wore goggles, nose clip, breast stroke snorkel and breast stroke fins. Then, after my trial run, I wrote this:
Swimming the Mighty Mississippi River
It broke my goggles; it tore my snorkel away from my mouth. My nose clip nearly drowned me because I couldn’t get enough air. In other words everything I thought had prepared me for over a year was useless. My heart was pounding I guess as hard a heart can pound. I swam in circles for fifteen minutes from being so disoriented I didn’t know up from down. That current is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
When I finally figured out what all I was doing wrong, I grabbed the boat (I was swimming with no life jacket or tether) and had to rethink everything I had learned.
First of all, you CANNOT keep your head under water and swim the river, thus the disorientation. Second, you have to spend money on a very good pair of goggles. You cannot do completely without them because my left eye where my goggles broke is almost swollen shut with sand! Third, keep your eyes on the prize, the other side! Fourth, if you ever get a little over halfway across, the current starts to help you instead of hinder you. It will begin to push toward the other side. And, most of all, fifth, stay calm! It’s hard to breathe when your heart in beating 90 miles an hour!
When I figured all of this out, I finally started getting somewhere. If I hadn’t spent that time going in circles, I probably could have made it three fourths across a very swollen river.
Next time I’ll be calmer. It didn’t help any that right before I went in the water the Cap’m and a media guest saw a four foot alligator! I really did NOT want to hear that.
When I got to the middle, I paused to look around. I absolutely could not believe that I was in the middle of that great river of ours. It gave me hope and I felt Nicky all around me. I was completely awestruck.
So now, at the eleventh hour, I am learning an entirely new technique! I have new flutter kick fins that have given me blisters on all my toes and hurt my stainless steel knee. I’m having to learn a new way of breathing, which is MOST important! It’s like starting all over again and I have only 15 days to learn it!
HG: Other than the health benefits, have you noticed any changes in yourself since committing to swim the Mighty Mississippi? That’s quite a feat!
LBL: I’ve learned when people in the past have called me hard headed, it was really true. I’ve learned that determination will get you anywhere you want to be. I’ve learned who my friends are. I’ve learned a LOT about family.
HG: How did you come up with the very catchy and clever title, ‘The Long Battle for Nicky’?
LBL: My name is Elizabeth Battle Long. I just used a play on words. After all, it is my gift to Nicky.
HG: It seems like the fundraising is going pretty well! Have you gotten a lot of support from the community and local media?
LBL: Oh my Lord!!! I live in a VERY rural area. The nearest “town” is 32 miles away, but The Delta is like no other place on earth. They take care of their own. People came from every community within 100 miles in support of this. I’ve been on TV four times. I even did a PSA. I’ve lost count of all the articles that have been written in newspapers and magazines. It’s been incredible!!! We beat the NATIONAL record for most money raised for PHA at one benefit. My original goal was $50,000 a year ago and I thought, yeah, right. But we are only $8000 away and we still haven’t had the event yet, where we’re selling t-shirts and catfish plates, while a gospel choir fills the air with music!
HG: Besides Nicky, who has been your biggest inspiration for the event? Who’s given you the most support?
LBL: The two other people sitting at the lunch table that day; Robert Chapman, who died in June of this year and Linda Oxley who is on oxygen 24/7. All of the heroes that painfully make their way to the PH meetings to see if there is any new hope for them have been a great inspiration. As for support, my Daddy Long (father in law), who is 92 years old, my sweet husband that I was only married to a year when I became ill, my friends who never doubted I would pull this off and my best friend, Alice, who was swimming with me the day I popped up in the pool and said I was going to swim the river. She never hesitated. She said,”OK, when and where?” I like that about her. I usually get asked if I’m crazy or wanting to commit suicide.
HG: Obviously your swim is in honor of Nicky, and is being held in order to inform more people about PH, but is there any other message you would like your event to convey?
LBL: I would like everyone who has a best friend to hug them on the 11th. However you can, be it by computer, telephone, or Western Union! I promise you, you never know when they won’t be there. And you’ll never understand how badly you will miss them unless you’ve been there.
HG: Can you recommend any resources for those diagnosed with PH and their families?
LBL: Yes, the best of the best, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. When I found out I had PH and decided to do an event, I Googled, just to see if there was such a thing. They gave me support in every way. They will answer any question you have about PH. They are yet cheering me on. They also helped me get sponsorship and sent me materials to put out at the gala.
HG: Anything else you’d like to tell us about the event or about your cause?
LBL: Just that although this has been a VERY publicized fundraiser, it is VERY personal for me. After losing both my father and best friend within months of each other I went through a terrible depression. My father meant the world to me and all of a sudden I didn’t have my best friend to talk to about it. This swim started because I was mad at Nicky for leaving me. I was there for her when she was sick, but she isn’t here for me. This swim is to say goodbye and to let her know it’s all right and I’m all right to move on.
HG: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about this, Lil! Best of luck in your swim, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes!
Lil added this after answering my questions: Just found out ten minutes ago that a film crew from California is coming to do a documentary on my swim! It will also be a PSA on national television!
Are you or is someone you know suffering from PH? Had you ever heard of PH before now? To donate to Lil’s cause and support her in this incredible feat, head on over to http://www.firstgiving.com/lillong.
So I’ve posted a couple times already about how I’m not a foodie, and on multiple occasions I’ve let you in on the not-so-secret secret that I still have body image/food issues. Then a few weeks ago, I posted myconfessions as a personal trainer. And I’m going to post a few more here today. But unlike the confessions of my Catholic school days, I’m not going to ask for forgiveness or justify myself. And I am most certainly not going to do penance for them.
These are a few of the things I’ve realized I need to own up to — things about myself that I need to lay out there because they are who I am and what I do, and, well, sorry I’m not sorry about them. So what inspired this sudden show of bravado, you ask? What made me decide to own up to all things Heather without feeling the need to explain myself? Well my good real-life friend (we go wayyyy back, which is what I’m going to say when she becomes a ridic famous author) and blog buddy, Rachel, started the ‘Own It’ challenge, encouraging other bloggers to come out and state what they’re about, no apologies necessary. Hmm, I thought, this is the perfect opportunity to talk about the things that I am constantly apologizing for that I really shouldn’t be.
In the past few years, I’ve noticed that my happiness factor has gone up exponentially since I stopped asking for permission so much. And I actually remember having a conversation about this with Rachel on one of our many Starbucks dates back home in Michigan. Last year, I told people that I was quitting my salaried desk job to become a trainer. This year, Rachel told people she was up and moving to Texas. We didn’t ask if these actions were OK, and we didn’t give a laundry list of reasons for why we were doing them. And because people in general are so used to everyone (especially young women) asking if what they’re doing is right, this confused them. You mean you don’t care what I think? Nope, or at least not enough to change my mind. I’m forging on either way. Anyway, inspired by that conversation and by her post on it, here are some more confessions that don’t bother my conscience one bit. My opening declaration:
Since I’m a trainer, let’s start with something fitness related. I hate running in the summer. HATE. I do not like it at all. Running in 90 degrees with 80% humidity just so I can tell people I’m a real runner? No thanks. I’ve been one, and maybe someday I’ll be one again, but not right now. I like to breathe and not feel like I’m wading through the soup that is a Midwest summer. If I run at all during the months of June, July, and August, it is at the gym or at night, and I do it because I know how many calories it burns, or sometimes because I need a change. But you know what I would rather do for hours at a time in the summer? Bike or swim or dance or anything besides run.
Here’s another one: I am not a morning person. Props to all of you that are, but I get pissed off when people make it seem like you are a lazy, slothful person if your internal alarm clock doesn’t have you springing out of bed at 6am. Stop acting so damn self-righteous about it. I get just as much accomplished as you do, but I just do it later in the day. Give me a project to work on at 8pm and I’m way more inspired than I would be at 8am. I like my workouts later in the day too. I’m programmed this way, and I’m owning it.
For as much as I talk about loving the skin you’re in, I’m with Rachel on the fact that I would still like to lose weight, even if I do think I’m beautiful right now. And as much as I talk about how unhealthy I was when I was at my skinniest (not having a period is usually a bad sign, folks), I sometimes still look at pictures and remember how much control I had and how good it felt to slide that XS or S on without a snag. I will own that I feel that way, and I will also own that I still have some work to do, mentally and physically.
I also own that when fat talk starts with my girlfriends, I shut down. I do not respond, or I get quite curt, all of my response being two words or less — if that. I mostly do it because nothing about that conversation is healthy for any party involved. We don’t need to perpetuate the cycle of caring more about our jeans size than our actual mental wellbeing. But another part of it is that for the first time in my life, I’m not one of the skinny friends. And that sounds catty, I know, but I know I didn’t fish for compliments even when I was the skinny friend. It also hurts my feelings when my size-4 friends comment on how they need to ‘get rid of this flab’ because they are just ‘soooo disgusting.’ Gee thanks. By the way, thanks for being a bitch and not thinking about anyone else’s feelings before you opened your mouth.
I also jump up on my feminist and body image champion soap boxes pretty quickly, much to the chagrin of any males in my life. Sorry I’m not sorry.
I did a total 180 as far as careers go and quit my secure corporate job to become a trainer (with an unstable hourly wage) and a freelancer, and I put myself in a lot of debt doing so. I also freaked my parents out and made them wonder why they paid for a bachelors degree in English and Women’s Studies (take a guess at how many times I heard, ‘So what are you going to do with that degree?’) from a good school for their eldest daughter. I switched jobs again about a year into my gym job because it was so sales focused, and I refused to force people to buy training when they could hardly make their rent. Sometimes I worried that I had made the wrong decision going into training. But now I don’t regret it because I found a better fit that reminded me why I love what I do, and I love the freedom I have working at two smaller studios who really want the best for the clients. I stumbled along the way, and I still don’t know what I’ll ultimately end up doing, but at 25, I don’t need to yet.
Even though I’m a trainer, I do not live at the gym. And I won’t tell my clients that they have to either. I won’t tell them they aren’t allowed to drink, because I do it, too (give me whiskey or beer, and I’m ready to go!). I refuse to be a complete hypocrite with my clients, and I’m usually honest with them about how much I’m working out at any given time. Also, lately, some of my workouts have taken a backseat to seeing friends or a boy. But I’m good with this, because for a long time, it was the other way around. I still work out, but I don’t let it take it over my life. I like this, and I own this.
So now it’s your turn — what are you owning, what have you owned, and what are you going to start owning that maybe you were afraid to before?
So I recently read an article on Self.com about a study published in Psychological Science showing that people tend to be happier when they have less down time. Those that are busier and have a rather full plate seem to be in a better mood than those who are constantly searching for something to do. Interesting, right?
I thought this was a pretty fascinating little find and wanted to discuss it with you, dear readers, but I was putting it off — until this morning. I was putzing around online, clicking through some of my favorite sites while trying to convince myself to get out of bed and be a productive member of society. When I visited Glamour.com and read the same thing on the Vitamin G blog and then again on BlissTree, I realized this might be more than just a little blip on the psychological health front. So I decided to do a little further research on the topic and here’s what I found:
Being busy –even the ‘OMG, how will survive until Friday?’ kind of busy — tends to work in our favor and causes a boost in those feel-good vibes.
Those who find themselves bored more often also find themselves bummed more frequently. The study suggests that not having much to do leaves plenty of time for ruminating on our lives — especially on what’s wrong with them!
Having a million things to do (and getting them done!) can give us a sense of accomplishment, which, at least for me, is a key component to happiness.
A packed schedule not only makes us feel accomplished, but it’s stimulating to our brains and increases our endorphins! And as we all know by now, endorphins make us happy!
According to the actual Pyschological Science article, even doing pointless activity will make us happier than doing no activity at all.
None of the articles specifically addressed how this makes us healthier, but my hunch is that, in general, when we’re happy, we’re healthy! We tend to have lower stress levels and we tend to take better care of ourselves when we’ve got smiles on our faces. Now, I’m definitely no psychologist, but I can tell you from my own experience that I’m way happier and healthier when I’m crazy, ‘I don’t have a second to sit down’ busy. I love seeing a long to-do list, and I like crossing each thing off even more. When I was a senior in college and constantly sprinting from class to an activity to a sorority function to the gym, I was deliriously happy! I was simply in love with life, and I was probably the fittest I’ve ever been. Even though my schedule was practically bursting at the seams, I made time to get everything done, including taking trips to the gym and making (mostly) healthy meals. And I even had a social life (we all know friends are good for overall wellness).
When I left college and moved to Chicago, I suddenly found myself with more free time, even with a 9 to 5. And at that job (oh, and the next one), I was incredibly bored because my work was mindless. I never felt a sense of accomplishment, I had way too much time to think about everything I wanted to change in my life, and I was so drained at the end of the day, that I just didn’t want to do anything — even the things I knew were good for me, like going for a run or visiting with friends. So when I switched to personal training, I was crazy busy all day, and I experienced this huge surge in those happy hormones! People I knew even noticed and kept commenting about how much happier I seemed and how I appeared to be more like ‘the old Heather.’ Now, I’ve switched to two slightly lower stress jobs with fewer hours (and no sales quota to hit, but that’s another story), but I’ve filled my schedule with other things I’ve been wanting to pursue, like my writing, exploring the city, and (gasp) having a social life. So, I’m keeping busy, but I’m not as stressed (best of both worlds!). I’m definitely happier AND healthier!
So I guess, in short (but really, when is it ever short with me?), I agree with these findings! If I’m bored, I start to brood, and I get cranky. But if I’m whizzing around getting stuff done, I feel great! What about you? Do you thrive on flitting around like a hummingbird like I do? Or does your perfect day include a little time to be completely sloth-like? Spill!
Now, I know I’ve given you my gym pet peeves, and I’ve gone off on a (necessary) tirade or two about things that irk me, but usually I’m a pretty happy person! Occasionally though, something just gets on my nerves, and I have to say ‘Enough!’
Well, today, my friends, that thing is the phrase ‘beach ready’ when it comes to whipping ourselves into shape for warmer weather. I know everyone wants to look their best when strutting across the sand or running about town in their shortest skirts, and I’m not telling you to stop striving to be the best and fittest you can be (I am a trainer, after all). But I get a little annoyed by phrases like ‘summer-ready’ and ‘bikini-worthy‘ because they imply that if these individual body parts aren’t ‘ready’ by whatever publication’s definition, then, well, we better not let them be seen! Arms aren’t rock solid yet? Better keep those long sleeves on. Don’t have abs of steel yet and there’s still some muffin top hangin’ around? Better keep your top on and don’t even think about trying on anything but a one-piece bathing suit. Riiiiiight.
Well, here’s the thing, friends. I didn’t drop 20 pounds or trim inches off my thighs by the time June rolled around. But did I think my legs were prepared for shorts? Yes! Because it was hot! My legs were ready to be freed, no matter what state they were in.
I really feel that phrases and articles like these can be really damaging, and can keep women (and men, too!) from believing that they can do whatever they want right now, no matter what size or shape or weight they happen to be. It keeps the mentality of “Oh, I’ll do this when I drop 10 lbs’ in place, and keeps us from living our lives. I know, because I’ve done it, and I’ve been there, and actually, it was when I was much smaller than I am now. I had it in my head that I had to keep preparing for the main event, but I was always ‘getting ready,’ so it never seemed to roll around. I spent a lot of time waiting for myself to get ready, and in the process, put actually living and loving life on hold. But once I finally figured out that life keeps happening, whether I’m ready or not, I stopped obsessing as much. As author Jessica Weiner points out, ‘Life doesn’t begin five pounds from now.’
So instead of asking yourself if your tummy or your butt is beach ready, why don’t you ask yourself if YOU are beach ready? Do you want to lie on the sand soaking up the sun (with SPF, obvi)? Do you want to play beach volleyball with your friends? Do you want to splash in the water or even bring out your inner kid and build a few sand castles? Then do it! Whether Fitness or Health or Shape says you’re ready or not. Summer’s almost over, and you’re ready, I promise!
So I recently saw this show (sitting home alone on a Friday night, watching back episodes on Lifetime online. I feel like the beginning of one of the network’s movies. When do I get a makeover and suddenly achieve all of my dreams at once?), and I have mixed feelings. Overall, I really like it and what the show is trying to do. ‘Love your body!’ Carson crows. ‘Flaunt it! Adore every inch!’ And that’s really what they want women to do. I believe that very firmly.
Do I think they totally achieve it or do it in the right way?
Eh, not so sure about that…so let’s discuss!
Here are some of the issues I have with the show:
- Use of the word ‘perfect.’ What is perfect anyway? Some might say it’s Gisele, others might say it’s Beyonce or J-Lo, and others might be drawn to the ladies with even more junk in the trunk. What’s wrong with thinking what we’ve got right now is perfect? (I don’t tell myself I’m perfect on a daily basis or anything, but I think it’s something we could all work on) It’s nice that Carson says the women are beautiful, but I almost think he devalues the sentiment by starting those statements with, ‘You’re not perfect, but…’
- Someone who has hated her body for 20 years changes her mind in 5 days? Without the help of a qualified therapist? Hmmmm… It just seems a little hokey to me. Anyone who has ever had body image issues (like 99.9% of us?) knows that it’s gonna take a little longer to get over that.
- The women only feel good enough about themselves to ‘flaunt it’ naked after they’ve had full hair and makeup done. So we learn to love our bodies, accept our curves, and embrace our uniqueness….when we have the help of professionals making the part above the neck look phenomenal. I feel like they aren’t REALLY naked, ya know?
- Once they get the makeover, Carson and Jude (stylist extraordinaire) exclaim, ‘Oh you look so different! Amazing!’ Wait, what? Aren’t these women supposed to be loving themselves for who they already are? Not for the glamazon that has been created?
- The lineup. Carson makes the woman in question place herself where she thinks she fits in a line of women. But he always asks them to place themselves in the order by size. First of all, the thing about this show is that it is always about size. There’s never anything about any other form of uniqueness. Maybe they just didn’t want to dig that deep, but I think the show lacks depth (pun totally intended) for that very reason. Anyway, this part always makes the woman realize that she was much smaller than she was imagining. I have a problem with this. I almost find it insulting to the bigger women in the lineup, and I think the women who are asked to place themselves do too, based on their hesitation to just jump in the line. And the fact that when a woman realizes she is much smaller than her perception of herself, suddenly her self worth shoots up and she’s happier with her body. Not helping with that whole ‘love every size’ concept. Because even in this show about loving your body, subtracting inches is still positive, and a decrease in size equals an increase in self esteem. It may only be in the woman’s head, but it’s still shrinking her and that is the part that makes her feel beautiful – not realizing that her differences are what make her amazing.
- When the picture from the final shoot is shown on the side of the building, they still cover her ‘trouble spots.’ Again, we’re not embracing everything here – just the good stuff and the parts Jude has worked his magic on. The same goes for when Carson helps the women choose new outfits to dress their bodies. ‘We have a lot of good to work with here!’ Which sounds to me like he just left out the part about how they need to camouflage the bad…implying that there is ‘bad.’
- I love that the show makes women want to love the bodies they have, but most of the women have parts of their bodies that they describe as ‘fat’ or ‘chunky.’ Although I can identify with these women a bit more, I think the skinny girls need some love too. What about the girls who try to gain weight because they too hate their shape, but stay bony or boyish no matter what? I mean, I can’t really commiserate with homegirl on that end, but still, I know there are girls who are just as unhappy with their lack of shape as other women are with their abundance of it. And while I usually agree with Carson that ‘zero isn’t a size, it’s a warning sign,’ I don’t know if there needs to be so much haterade being dumped on our slender sisters.
Anyway, what do you think? Have you seen this show? Do you agree with me? Or are you thinking my perception of the show is totally skewed? What do you think about body image shows like this? Spill!
So I know we usually hear those words around January 1st, but this is a different kind of ‘new year’ for me.
I’m turning 25.
Yeah, I know.
I can no longer claim to be in my early 20s, and I’ve officially hit my mid-20s. I can’t blame my age as much when I do ridiculous things, and I’m expected to be a little more responsible. On Sunday I will have officially been on Earth for a quarter of a century.
But I’m actually kind of excited about it. I know there aren’t many new perks to turning 25 (I can now rent a car. That’s something, right?) like there were when I hit 18 and 21, but I feel that up until this point I’ve sort of been teetering on the edge of adulthood, waiting for that certain something to tip me over. And although it’s just a date, I feel that June 20th is going to shove me out of feeling like such a kid. And that’s a very good thing.
That’s not to say that I won’t still be a complete goofball — afterall, that’s part of who I am. But I think that, to me, 25 will leave me feeling a little more sure of myself. A little less hesitant to take life by the horns. A little better prepared to run with whatever life throws at me. I’m no sage just yet, but I do feel that I’ve learned a lot –about myself and life in general — in the past year.
I quit my nice secure office job to try my hand at a completely new career path that I knew I would be much more passionate about. From this I learned that doing what you love can be hard, but if it makes you happy, it’s more than worth it. I started actually dating again, and I remembered what it was to open myself up, leaving myself vulnerable to heartbreak. I discovered I’m a lot more fragile than I ever knew, but also more resilient than I had imagined I could be. I made a lot of decisions on my own this year, and instead of asking people if I should do something, I told them. This meant dealing with the consequences alone as well, but I slept better knowing my choices were solely mine. Overall, with the many changes I’ve gone through in the past year, I found out I still have enough glue to patch myself back up when I start to crack. And that I have so much to be thankful for and happy about, no matter that I’m not exactly where I want to be in life just yet.
So what about this ‘new year, new me’ business? Well, I’ve changed so much in the past year, that I think it’s worth trying to continue with the education and evolution of Heather. I’ve got a lot I want to do this year, so there are things I’m going work on with me:
Be gentler with myself.
Sometimes I berate myself and tell myself that I haven’t done enough. But the thing is, I usually do try my hardest. And when I don’t I need to go a little easier on myself. If I wouldn’t speak to a good friend a certain way, then I shouldn’t speak to or treat myself that way.
Be more realistic with myself.
This means being honest with myself at all times. And if I haven’t done enough and I know it, then I need to admit that too. I know this sounds like the opposite of the previous statement, but I can apply the friend philosophy to this one as well. If my friend is being ridiculous and making excuses for herself, it’s my job to tactfully snap her out of it. So it’s all about finding balance. Being nice, but also not letting myself get away with silly things.
This actually goes with both of the above statements. I need to remind myself that I am capable of a whole lot. So I need to give myself pep talks here and there, being kinder to myself and building up my own confidence. I also need to be realistic when I think I can’t do something. When I’m being honest, I realize I’ve been through things a lot more difficult than things I’m doubting myself on. The scary talks, the job risks, the potential of falling on my face. I’ve already done them all and survived. I can do whatever I put my mind to because I’ve probably done it before.
Love myself for who I am right now.
Not for what I was in college or who I want to be by next year. But for every quirk, flaw, strength, and bit of potential I have this very second. I have to love me. For me. Right. Now.
Have any of you reached milestone ages recently? Are you approaching one? How did it or does it make you feel? Anyone else turning the big 2-5 soon?!
Happy Birthday to me!