Thursday, November 29, 2007

0 Run 2, Week 3 (CT5K): My One & Only Run of the Week!


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Went running with my friend around 6:30 pm. It was 48 degrees, & other than a few minuscule lights around the lake, it was pitch black outside.

The cold & the dark certainly make it more of a challenge to run outside after work. I'd personally prefer to run earlier in the day, which I can usually do for my solo runs, but since this is the only time my friend can do our joint runs, it's either we continue our CT5K program by running outside in the dark or inside on treadmills. The first option is the only real option right now, since the later option would only aggravate my knee problems further.

(If it turns out that I need to stay off the knee for a while, I'll just do the recumbent bike & upper body strength workouts. The stair stepper is another possibility, but frankly I think it'd be best to avoid applying direct weight/pressure on the knee right now.)

My knees are still sore, so I so decided not to run my second, solo run tonight.

Also, I've decided to take the rest of the week off from running, aside from today's short workout, which was relatively easy for me to complete, & not too stressing on the joints. Will resume with Week 10 next week.



Weighed myself last night. Even though I gained 1.8 pounds, I went down 1.6% body fat percentage points, which is the only number right now that matters! ;-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2 Important Notes RE: My New Running Program (BTHR)


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Hello Runners & Workout Enthusiasts,

Here's just a few brief cautionary notes to anyone considering trying my newly created BTHR (Becoming A Two-Hour Runner) Plan:

This is an untested (i.e., beta) running program: Please be aware that this training program is brand new & untested. So, this means that, since I haven't actually started this plan yet, I'm currently unable to give you any feedback on it. I'd highly recommend wait until I've actually tried the plan & have given my feedback on it, before trying it out yourself.

Also, please note that I originally created this plan solely for my own use, as I couldn't find any satisfactory time-based programs for running longer distances. Most of the longer distance programs I found focused on daily mileage, versus total daily & weekly running times. And, since I can't seem to find my GPS right now & thus don't want to limit myself to running on a high school track, I knew I'd either need to find an existing time-centric program or create my own, in order to suit my needs.

Consider the source: Please note that while I'm an experienced runner, I'm not professionally trained in the field of fitness or exercise physiology. On that note, I should mention the following legal disclaimer: As is the case with most exercise regimens, please consult your physician before deciding to follow any of the plans listed &/or recommended here on this blog.

So, if you choose to follow this plan (or any of the plans outlined or recommended on this blog), especially after all of my warnings & legal disclaimers, you are willingly & knowingly proceeding at your own risk.

This plan has prerequisite fitness level requirements: Please note that this plan is for those people who are already currently doing atleast a full hour of running per day atleast 3 times a week. If you are not already running at this level, I strongly advise against following this workout plan. Rather, you should probably start at a more suitable level of fitness, and gradually work up to a higher level of fitness over time.

If you aren't quite ready for 2-hours of running, here's what I recommend: For newbie runners or currently inactive people who are interested in getting back into shape, I highly recommend the ever-popular CT5K (or C25K as some people call it) program. This 9-week program will take you literally "from couch to 5K."

There are also CT5K podcasts set to the music, which you can download from the links on the left sidebar of my blog. So check it out. This really helps to make the whole process a no-brainer; you won't have to worry about timing your workouts, or other such nonsense. After all, who wants to think about that kind of stuff when you're just getting started with your workouts! Anything that lowers the barrier to exercise is a really good thing in my book. ;-)

Once you've completed this plan, the next training program I recommend is the BOHR program, a 10-week running plan which will take you from a half-hour of running to a full-hour of running.

Again, all of the links for these & other resources are listed on the left sidebar of this blog.

As they say, a person is only human. We all have to walk before we can run. One step at a time!

Now that you've been duly warned, I promise to give you feedback on the new program in the upcoming weeks.

Have a good night!
-C

0 Taking The Night Off From Running.....


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I was supposed to run today, but have decided to wait another day due to my left knee, which is still a bit sore & swollen. I think the main contributing factor was the two back-to-back runs I did, & the amount of mileage done in a compressed period of time. Well, I'm definitely not going to be doing back-to-back runs again any time soon!

So, as my blogger pal Cymrusteve recently pointed out, taking a break is "just what the doctor ordered"! ;-)

Monday, November 26, 2007

2 The Next Step: Becoming A Two-Hour Runner (BTHR)


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As I'm sure I've already mentioned previously, I've been on the lookout for a new running program, specifically, one that will take me from one to two hours of running.

However, since my left knee is still a bit swollen from yesterday, I've decided to progress a bit more slowly on the path to becoming a 2-hour runner. It's clear that my body hasn't yet had enough time to acclimate to the 50+ minute distances on a regular basis, plus the recent back-to-back runs probably didn't help the situation any! Also, I've only had a total of exactly four 1-hour runs thus far (the most recent being my last run of 58 minutes, which is close enough to count as an hour!), but hardly frequent enough to call a "regular" running distance. It's very obvious that I still need to get used to being a one-hour runner, before I can work towards two consecutive hours of running.

Also, since I can't seem to find a running program that I truly like, which also fits into my busy schedule, I've decided to create my own training program.

Part of the challenge in finding a suitable training program is that most of the longer-distance programs I've found focus on distance measurements, unlike the two training programs I've done thus far, CT5K & BOHR. Since these two previous programs have worked out quite well for me, I plan to continue measuring my progress by overall running times.

Basically, the program will follow the same basic interval training principles of the BOHR program, but will instead start from a daily base of 40 minutes of running. So, fittingly enough, I've decided to call this new program, "Becoming A Two Hour Runner," or BTHR. ;-)

I will be following the 10% Rule, which states that all weekly mileage increases must be no more than 10% of the previous week's total.

The training program will take 25 weeks to complete, & will have 3 separate phases (to break it down into small, manageable steps): The first phase will be 5 weeks & will alternate between long slow runs & fast short runs, anywhere from 30-60 minutes in length. The second phase will take me from 1 to 1.5 hours total daily running time, and the third & final phase, from 1.5 to 2 hours total daily running time.

So, here's the proposed training schedule:

Phase 1: Becoming A Better 1-Hour Runner (The "Acclimation Period") (BBOHR)

Week 1: Run 30 min (fast), 40 min (medium), 60 min (slow). Weekly total: 130 min.
Week 2: Run 30 min (fast), 40 min (medium + hills), 60 min (slow). Weekly total: 130 min.
Week 3: Run 35 min (fast), 40 min (medium), 60 min (slow). Weekly total: 135 min.
Week 4: Run 40 min (fast), 35 min (medium), 60 min (slow). Weekly total: 135 min.
Week 5: Run 40 min (fast), 40 min (medium), 60 min (slow). Weekly total: 140 min.


Phase 2: Becoming a 1.5-Hour Runner (BOHHR)

Week 1: Run 40 min, 45 min, 55 min. Weekly total: 140 min.
Week 2: Run 40 min, 48 min, 60 min. Weekly total: 148 min.
Week 3: Run 45 min, 50 min, 63 min. Weekly total: 158 min.
Week 4: Run 50 min, 54 min, 66 min. Weekly total: 170 min.
Week 5: Run 55 min, 58 min, 69 min. Weekly total: 182 min.
Week 6: Run 60 min, 62 min, 72 min. Weekly total: 194 min.
Week 7: Run 65 min, 67 min, 74 min. Weekly total: 206 min.
Week 8: Run 65 min, 71 min, 80 min. Weekly total: 216 min.
Week 9: Run 70 min, 75 min, 83 min. Weekly total: 228 min.
Week 10: Run 70 min, 80 min, 90 min. Weekly total: 240 min.


Phase 3: Becoming a 2-Hour Runner (BTHR)

Week 1: Run 75 min, 80 min, 90 min. Weekly total: 245 min.
Week 2: Run 75 min, 85 min, 93 min. Weekly total: 253 min.
Week 3: Run 80 min, 84 min, 96 min. Weekly total: 260 min.
Week 4: Run 80 min, 88 min, 100 min. Weekly total: 268 min.
Week 5: Run 85 min, 87 min, 102 min. Weekly total: 274 min.
Week 6: Run 85 min, 92 min, 105 min. Weekly total: 282 min.
Week 7: Run 90 min, 89 min, 108 min. Weekly total: 287 min.
Week 8: Run 90 min, 95 min, 111 min.Weekly total: 296 min.
Week 9: Run 90 min, 97 min, 115 min. Weekly total: 302 min.
Week 10: Run 90 min, 100 min, 120 min. Weekly total: 310 min.

IMPORTANT UPDATE, (added on 11/28/07 at 10:24 am): Please be sure to view this post before attempting to try this program yourself.

0 Weigh-In: My Hard Work Pays Off + Thank You, Fellow Bloggers!


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Well, I weighed myself again today & confirmed that yesterday's weight loss was indeed accurate. In fact, I also lost another 0.2 pounds & an additional 2.2% body fat from yesterday. How's that for good news! YEA! YEA! YEA!!!!!

Also, on a related note, I just wanted to thank my fellow blogger pals for leaving me so many nice & supportive comments. I really appreciate your words, especially since I'd been going through a bit of a rough patch, which'd mostly been brought about by some recent stressful situations. Anyhow, I'm back to being the cheery, upbeat ole' me that you all know & love. ;-) So thank you, everyone for your friendly words, smiles, & encouragement!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

2 Run 3, Week 9 (BOHR): Only One More Week To Go! ( + Weigh-In)


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Started my workout around 3:30 pm this afternoon. Temperature was roughly 50 degrees. Ran for 58 minutes. Decided to run a different course tonight, which ended up being a big giant loop around the neighborhood. Left knee felt a tad bit tender towards the end, but other than that, the run went well.



Just for kicks I weighed myself after my run & the scale showed that I lost another 1.8 pounds. So, that means that I'm now back to where I was on 11/13 -- i.e., back to my lowest weight thus far since the start of my running program in late July (2007)! Yea!

I know, silly me, it's probably all water-weight loss, but I just couldn't help myself. I just had to know if tonight's run was helping in my quest for "damage control," especially after last week's food fest (and I'm NOT talking about the food eaten over Thanksgiving either)!

(Speaking of which, I forgot to mention what we did for Thanksgiving: Erik was feeling somewhat better, so that night he & I went out for a fantastic dinner at a local Chinese restaurant; both us ate really healthy & delicious meals: I had an amazingly delectable steamed fish dish, prepared steaming hot in a ginger & scallions sauce, & he had an excellent chicken dish. We both had soup. It was really cold out, so the hot food really hit the spot! ;-) )

But back to the subject at hand:

Taking a body fat reading & weighing myself tomorrow will be a much better gauge of what's really going on. 8-)

I think if I just keep running between 30-60 minutes, atleast 3 times a week, I'll continue to go in the right direction. Yea!

1 Winter Running Strategy: Running in The Sun For Optimal Warmth!


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Just checked the hourly forecast for today & it looks like 3 pm will be the perfect time to run for optimal warmth, as the temperature will be at its highest point in the day -- 50 degrees.

4 Weigh-In: One Pound Lost + Some New Insight Gained


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I thankfully lost a pound when I hopped on the scale this morning. Not sure what the exact body fat percentage change is, since I forgot to record this information when I'd recorded my weight a few days ago on 11/22. If I compare the percentage to what I'd recorded on 11/15, then I'm still up by few percentage points, a body fat percentage gain of 2.4%, to be exact. Ouch!

I've decided to squeeze in my last run of the week, Run 3 of Week 9, today. Will probably run this afternoon. Supposed to be 52 degrees, so will try to wait sometime around mid-afternoon (between 12 noon & 2 pm) when the sun's most likely at its warmest.

Normally, I try not to do back to back runs (to give my body time to rest & recuperate), but if I'm going to get in atleast 2 runs of the final week (Week 10) of the BOHR program before this weekend's trunk show (yes, there's going to be a second one, due to popular demand), that's what I'm going to have to do. I'll just have to suck it up & do it. Of course, if my knees or other part of my body start insisting otherwise, then of course I'll listen, but I'm going to still make every attempt to keep my running schedule on target.

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I've also been doing some thinking, especially regarding my writings of the past few days, when I realized something important: Much of what I'd been discussing were things that had already come to be, and more significantly, had already come to pass. So, in other words, I was dwelling on things or events that'd happened it the past that couldn't be changed. While these thoughts had bubbled up in a moment of reflection, they had seized my focus & threatened to capsize the life balance I'd fought so hard to achieve. What started out as a tangential issue morphed into a giant, emotional beastie with which I entered into battle.

Unearthing unresolved emotions (especially residual anger & frustration) in order to conquer them can sometimes be a dangerous thing (i.e., a proverbial "pandora's box" of sudden, over-flowing emotions), that is, unless you take the reigns early on & keep the focus on positive action & problem-solving. There aren't many moments when I let my emotions have full reign of my faculties, and so, when the emotions were starting to wreak havoc on my focus, it was clear to me that these feelings had clearly overstayed their welcome.

Now that I see this, I realize that I need to let go of these experiences, because stirring up them up again is not even remotely useful to me, nor is it very useful to the others who were involved in the experience. Of course, sometimes it can be useful to analyze the past in order to move forward, but I realize that cannot "make" others whom I feel have wronged or hurt me in some way, do this. They usually need to come to this realization on their own. It doesn't matter whether these people are family, friends, acquaintances, or other people with whom I come into contact.

It doesn't mean that similar interactions won't occur in the future, but I think that the next time they do happen, I will make every effort to address these situations at the time they are happening. I realize that this is not always possible, as a person's thoughts & feelings don't always crystallize into a perfect verbal expression until after the encounter. However, I'll try to do my best in this regard to communicate such things whenever possible.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

0 Run 2, Week 9 (BOHR): Just Getting It Done!


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Started my 38 minute run around 4:50 pm tonight. The temperature was in the mid-40's. Ran a really slow pace: Did 4 laps in 38 minutes, which is a pace of 12 minute, 50 seconds per mile. Was fighting waves of nausea & cramps, which was probably from eating a few almonds & a handful of grapes (too acidic on an empty "tum") only 20 minutes or so before running. Was also extremely distracted. My mind kept replaying all of the things that are currently going on in my life & what I'd blogged about in the last several days. Nonetheless, I just trudged forward & pounded it out. Today's run was just about "getting it done."

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I don't have any regrets about what I wrote over the past few days, but I think that it might potentially cause some needless distress, so I'm thinking about removing some of the comments. Plus, I think that my parents might take it the wrong way.

Compounding the issue is this: There's a big difference between myself & my generation & my parents' generation -- My parents' generation generally believes in keeping everything to oneself, keeping a "stiff upper lip," & not even telling good friends about certain things, whereas my generation is more open. This is not to say that I don't believe in discretion about private matters, but where I draw the line is a little bit different.

To me, talking about body image, weight, & food issues, especially as it pertains to society & my personal experiences, isn't something to be ashamed of or to keep locked up somewhere. I think that keeping this stuff inside is tremendously unhealthy. On the contrary, I feel very comfortable talking openly about this subject, as I've got nothing to hide & think it important for people to be comfortable conversing on the topic, both on general & personal levels. The way I see it, if I & other people are being open about the subject, it can also help more people to reduce their "shameful feelings" about their body image & personal experiences, & help them cope with similar reactions. It can also show others that it is possible to successful confront these sorts of challenges and be strong in the face of opposition. It helps to build strength of character.

At the same token, there are limits to this personal disclosure on the aforementioned topic:

Yes, don't get me wrong, it doesn't mean it's open season, or that I'm going to tell you all of my personal business. I reserve the right to talk & write about what I feel comfortable with revealing about myself & my thoughts & feelings, & also, to not have to answer questions I don't want to answer, unless I'm being required by law to do so. ;-)

Also, notice that I talk mostly about my personal experiences in terms of how I dealt with these challenges, & don't unnecessarily dwell on the private matters of others.

Discussing how I responded to someone's attitude about my weight is different than discussing personal details about their lives. Also, note that I rarely reveal names of friends & family, & when I do, it's because I've asked for permission first.

I like to think that I generally respect other people's privacy, so if any of my family members feels that I've overstepped my bounds & have discussed topics pertaining to them that they don't want to see here on this blog, then they are welcome to discuss the issue with me, & provide me with a compelling reason for why I should honor their request for a particular comment's removal (other than the possible reason that they disagree with my opinions!).

I don't think I've made anyone out to be ogres here on my blog, perhaps except for those stanky smokers that've crossed my path while I've run past them. ;-)

Anyhow, as I promised to keep my posts relatively short, that's all I'm going to blog about for tonight.

Have a great weekend!
-C

0 Time to Stop Talking & Start Moving!


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I know I said I was going to run last night. Well, it didn't happen. Mostly because I was writing/blogging so much yesterday, blathering on about this & that, that by the time I finished writing, & then editing & re-writing some of what I'd just written, it was way too dark & cold to run. And I didn't want to run alone outside in the pitch black of night either.

Procrastination via posting. That's a new one in my book. ;-)

And while we're on the subject of procrastination....

I'm thinking about the challenge I issued to my running pal during our last run, which I forgot to mention in my blog, until now: This past Tuesday, I challenged her to run atleast one more time over the holiday break (which gave her 5 days to complete the run before we met again for our next run).

I'm hoping she rose to the occasion & took me up on the challenge. We'll see.

But I realize one thing, I need to follow my own advice! 8-)

OK, let's compare notes, thus far: I was originally supposed to run this past Thursday, i.e., Thanksgiving. And then that didn't happen. Then I was supposed to run Friday, which also didn't happen. So now I'm behind in my runs. Way behind. I'm supposed to be doing my third run of Week 9 this weekend, but I'm only on Run 2.

I can't ask my friend to meet the challenge if I can't even do the same!

So, time to correct that & get back to business. I am going out for a run in a few minutes. And this run WILL happen. It's Saturday, so I can possibly do Run 3 on Sunday or Monday, and then try to squeeze in Week 10's runs the following week, hopefully before next Sunday.

Oh my goodness, it just dawned on me, as I was writing that last sentence, that Week 10 is, in fact, the final week of the BOHR program. Wow. I need to be on the hunt for a new program to take me to the next level of running, a 2-hour run. Will let you know which program I find to be the most useful.

If you'd like to recommend a program for becoming a 2-hour runner, please feel free to leave your comments in the comments section of this post.

Talk to ya later, I'm going out for a much-needed run!

-C

0 Reflection Time Is Over, Time For Action


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I know I've been in a very intense & reflective mood over the past few days, & have probably been trying even the most patient reader's patience with my exceptionally long & ponderous posts. Well, I'm putting an end to that, atleast for the next few days. ;-) And no more blathering on about my past or (even my recent past!), I promise.

Now that I've had a few days to mull everything over, one thing is clear: It's time to focus on the tasks at hand, recommit myself to my goals, & (to take my own advice from a previous post!), "just shortcut to the action part."

Friday, November 23, 2007

1 For the Record.....


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First of all, I'm far from perfect. And frankly, am feeling a tad bit like a frog in a blender right now.

And as you've probably gathered from my last few posts, I'm not the perfect health-food saint who eats nothing but carrot sticks, low-fat cottage cheese, and rice cakes.

And despite my inclination towards healthy & delicious cooking, I sometimes eat a marshmallow or a potato chip. Or even a chocolate cookie. Or a slice of tiramisu or pecan pie. Heaven forbid! Snap on the cuffs, the pastry police are going to cart me away to "pie-eating" prison! ;-)

Also, I'd like to state for the record that I haven't cooked an actual dinner (or any sort of meal for that matter!) in weeks. I frankly haven't got the time. These days, it's been more like two soft-boiled eggs & a salad for dinner, or some yoghurt & raspberries for lunch. The focus has been on eating whole foods & raw veggies, versus cooking up a storm.

Also, for the record, I'd like to say that I actually feel greatly relieved that I won't have to be whipping up holiday feasts for guests. This year, all of the holiday celebrations will be held at other people's houses. So while I'll be wrapping presents galore, I'm very thankful there will be no cooking or baking involved.

I know, a truly shocking confession to hear from a supposed foodie & gourmet chef.

Of course, while I do love to cook and bake, I just am NOT into those things right now. Preparing healthy & nutritious meals doesn't require making some elaborate meal. And while I enjoy making gourmet food when I'm in the proper mindset, right now I'm just way too busy & stressed out to put any more effort into cooking than boiling an egg right now. I haven't even made a smoothie. Not in weeks.

Now the question is this: Do I dare link to this post from my foodie blog? Perhaps not. There might be a revolt. ;-)

0 Nutrition Tip #5: Stress-Triggered Eating & What to Do About It


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As I mentioned before, I'd recently gained a minor amount of weight, 2.8 pounds total (a recent gain of 2.4 pounds on 11/22, and a previous gain of 0.4 pounds on 11/15).

Frankly, this worries me some, as the eating was done out of stress (& not from holiday noshing), and, one of the primary reasons I gained the weight in the first place was from a series of stressful jobs. Even though I'm exercising, I worry that if my stress increases, I'm going to revert back to old habits.

So, to counteract this, I'm going to formulate a realistic plan to stomp out my worst fears. Maybe if you're facing similar problems, it'll help you as well. So here goes:

(1) If the stress starts getting overwhelming, escape momentarily & go for a run. Sometimes it's easier to think more clearly when running, since it's akin to a meditative state.
(2) If the stress is still bad after the run, talk to someone & try to work it out.
(3) If that doesn't work, try to focus on other ways to reduce the stress.

OK, that seems a bit oversimplistic. Maybe I can do better than that.

(1) Instead of doing self-destructive stuff like nail-biting & over-eating, try doing activities like meditation, t'ai chi, chi gong, or martial arts. These activities calm & focus the mind.
(2) If I'm feeling overwhelmed, I need to just let those feelings pass, and let go of the nervous emotional energy associated with these feelings, which will do nothing to solve the problem. Meditation would again help me to control these feelings.
(3) I still need to break down large goals into smaller steps. Even more important is writing down the steps to achieving the tasks ahead, which will hopefully also make them seem more manageable.

I'm going to be honest, I'm facing a lot of stress right now. Frankly, I feel off-kilter, like my world is spinning too fast & I can't keep up with it.

Ironically, only a small part of the stress is due to the holidays. I won't elaborate on the other reasons, since they are private & beyond the scope of this post, but suffice to say that I need to mitigate these feelings, or I might be facing a heap of grey hair, weight gain, & decreased health. And I know, I know: my recent worrying isn't helping the situation either.

For some reason, (which is probably due to the mounting stress I'm facing!), I can't seem to come up with more detailed, salient stress-busting steps. I just remembered that I've got a book called "Stress Busters" in the bookshelves right across from me, which I'm looking at right now as I type this. So after I go for my run, if I'm still in need of de-stressing, I'm going to look over that book for some more tips. If I find anything useful, I'll post an addenum at a later point in time.

In the meanwhile, if you've got any stress-busting tips you'd like to share, that you've personally found to be effective in reducing the stress in your life, feel free to share those tips here, by posting them in the comments section of this post.

I'm sure that many people reading this, in addition to myself, would be grateful for these types of useful tips. Everyone could probably benefit!

0 Exercise Psychology Tip #7: Stop the Insanity! Time to Stop Obsessing & Just Love Each Other & What Nature Gave Us


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Do any of you remember that TV commercial in which a very macho guy asks in earnest, "Do you think my hips too big?" It usually exudes laughter from the audience, as the obvious point is that this is NOT something that would typically be uttered from the mouth of a "normal," heterosexual male.

Men, as it turns out, are not supposed to be fixated on such things. What a bunch of bull.

Yes, the secret's out. Despite the typical male stereotypes, this issue is not solely a concern of the female realm. So don't believe the hype!

Heterosexual men actually do focus upon (& also frequently obsess about) their bodies too, (as well as weight & food-related issues), and in some cases, even more so, than us females of the species. But they'd be damned before they'd let "you" know it. Well, that is, especially if the "you" refers to a person they don't trust very well with these rather sensitive subjects.

I know plenty of heterosexual men who fret about their bodies, their food intake, & their physical fitness. And while you might not hear their carping or worrying out loud in the public sphere, let me tell you, they are just as concerned about it as us ladies.

So, you might ask, how do I know this as a member of the opposite sex? Did I somehow secretly infiltrate the other gender's camp in the middle of the night?

Well, no! I happen to know this from -- Shock, shock! -- personal experience. Not only have I been privy to such frank comments from family & friends, but all of them have willingly disclosed the information to me at one point or another. And even though the request for the information to be kept confidential is never uttered out loud, I realize that the details of these disclosures are like top government secrets that I must protect with my life. ;-)

Now, of course, I'm not about to reveal anyone's secret nor am I going to rat out anyone here in this blog, but I just want to prove the point that men are just as sensitive about this topic as we females.

Now, I'm not just talking about the most vain of men nor the most insanely body-obsessed of body builders out there.

I'm talking about your average guy, who after a certain age, might be feeling a tad bit self-conscious about his "tum" or his pre-mature balding, or anything else that might make him feel less-than-fantastic about himself.

On this note, I'd like to talk a little bit about male self-esteem. I know that the men might feel a bit neglected sometimes, as the media & educational system often focus on this subject as it relates to women. However, I do think that this is an equally important topic for men, and they deserve their due when it comes to this topic.

Hand-in-hand with this topic, is the subject of how men & women can help each other out, to build each other's self-esteem, instead of working against each other like we are engaged in the ultimate "battle of the sexes."

So let's let go of the knee-jerk reactions & useless epithets. It's time we got beyond that phase & evolved into something more.

I'd also like to offer some advice to the ladies, as a way of helping the men in their lives.

Ladies, the best thing you can do for your man is to make him feel great about himself. Yes, men need the self-esteem boost & compliments just as much as the lady-folk out there. Perhaps even more sometimes.

Not I'm not saying to pump your man full of lies, but he does need to hear genuine compliments when he looks nice when he gets dressed up to go out, or that you (still) think he's handsome & sexy.

And ladies, if you want to avoid further magnifying already-existing problems in your relationship, the number one thing I recommend to you is this: Please don't nag & tell him what's "wrong" with him, whether it be something concerning his physical appearance or his apparent inability to effectively complete his "honey-do's," familial responsibilities, personal goals, career objectives, or "Tasks X, Y, Z." Men hate this. Most guys I know will just turn off like a faucet & become non-responsive to this sort of thing. And now, he's really going to get mad & dig his heels in & do nothing from that request list. Trust me on this.

Regardless of gender, who wants to hear what they aren't or need to fix!?! Certainly not I. Don't you think most people are already aware of those "sensitive spots"? They definitely don't need the constant reminders of the ways in which you think they are inadequate or lacking in some way. This never works. And will accomplish nothing for either you or your mate, and will probably tank your relationship faster than a certain Hollywood pop star's career after her run-in with a buzz-clipper.

So ladies, let us dispense with the nagging, carping, & whining, & just shortcut to the action part. This is something that men (on the whole) actually excel at doing. While us ladies are frequently bitching & moaning about "X, Y, & Z," the men are usually just doing what needs to get done. I'm not saying that the men are perfect or that the ladies are all like this, but in general, this is certainly an area in which the ladies could certainly learn a lot from the men. (Likewise, many men could also take a page from the ladies' book & learn how to communicate what's on their minds a bit more frequently at times too! ;-) )

A much better approach is positive reinforcement. This approaches not only work wonders in the self-esteem department for the men, but also for the ladies. So guys, please take note as well.

Also important is the idea of setting an example through your own actions. As the saying goes, if you want to bring more love & compassion into your relationship, be more loving & compassionate. It might sound utterly cheesy & "Dr. Phil"-like, but who cares, because it actually works!

Again, I'm not telling you to be a doormat & just put up with other people's crap, nor obsequiously flatter someone into submission, but rather to just stop & think about what you want to achieve by your words & actions. I'm just saying that we need to achieve consciousness of thought first in order to take a conscious action or make a conscious choice. So chew on that before you launch into the same old, tired script that threatens to tear your apart your relationship & tank your partner's self-esteem along with it. ;-)

This brings me to another topic: Conflict-resolution. As many of you already know, following that old, tired script in your head usually keeps bringing you to the same place: a knock-down, drag-out verbal sparring match with your mate. With a little rewiring of the mouth & the brain, I think we can really try harder to avoid verbal boxing matches with our mates.

Ask yourself, how will it benefit either of you to get into a fight?

Whatever actions you're thinking about doing when you're at your angriest are probably not a good idea to act upon. In fact, I'd venture a guess that what you really need to do is to take a time out, walk away, regain control of your faculties, and think before speaking or acting.

Just walk away.
If more people would heed this advice, there'd be a lot less family-related violence & crime in the universe.

So people, please don't punch a hole in the wall (or worse, someone's head) in a moment of anger. Take a breath & just walk away. Don't engage, just walk away.

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Not that I'm perfect by any means, but I will tell you honestly that Erik & I rarely fight, if ever. So what's our secret?

Well, number one is the fact that we're very compatible. Secondly, we genuinely like each other & enjoy each other's company: We started out as friends before we dated, so we actually like each other in addition to obviously loving each other! (You'd be surprised to learn how many couples there are who love each other but don't really like each other! You think it'd be common sense, but not everyone thinks through one of the most important decisions of their life. You know the old adage, "You mate accounts for 99% of your happiness or misery"? Well, it's one of truest & wisest statements I can offer as advice!) And thirdly, & perhaps most importantly for avoiding conflict, we know when NOT to push each other's buttons.

If one of us is feeling crabby or frustrated, we usually know when to leave the other one well enough alone. We also give each other the proper space to work out our own issues privately if necessary (or when personally requested!), and usually give each other help when help is needed. Our dynamic is like a finely tuned radar; we know each other very well & are attuned to the other's moods, so much so that we can usually anticipate the other's verbal & non-verbal needs -- whether it be for space, a shoulder, or other kinds of "stuff." OK, sometimes the wires get crossed, but typically, we are on the same wavelength.

And again, I'm not saying that we never fight, but it has to be something fairly/significantly maddening & frustrating to even get us started down that path in the first place.

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So, in summation, the title of this post basically says it all. We need to love ourselves & each other & love the skin we're in. It's as simple as that. I write about this subject not from some isolated ivory towers perched on high, but from the down-to-earth perspective of someone who's "been there, done that." And, as I've expressed many, many thoughts of my own (on the triangulated subjects of body image, weight, & self-esteem) in previous posts, you can tell that it's something that concerns me greatly. I use the word "concern" here in its most positive & meaningful connotations, because I think it's important to realize the powerful effects that we as individuals can have on the lives of others. Although we might often like to think ourselves immune or insulated from the effects of each other's behaviors, actions, and words -- especially from the negative ones! -- the truth is that they all still have an effect, whether consciously realized or not. Like a small ripple in a pond. No matter how subtle, the effects are still felt. And I feel this is particularly true when it comes to body image, self-esteem, and weight.

The choice is there for all of us to make. And I would urge you to choose to be supportive & help others in their quest to find & believe in themselves, or rediscover the wondrous capabilities of their bodies.

I think that our health is one of the most precious gifts we have, & we should love our body for what it is & what it can be. And not just for what it looks like on the outside.

Amen to that, my brothers & sisters. 8-)

0 Reflections on My Recent Reflections....


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After that last post, dear reader, I'm sure you're probably wondering where all of that sudden & rather unexpected volcanic spewing of thoughts & emotions came from, especially after a string of several rather calm & uneventful posts.

So, what happened?

No, I didn't just snap & finally lose it. Rather, what was really going on was some Thanksgiving holiday reflection. Yes, some moments were vehement and volatile, and certainly exortative, but there were also many moments of clarity & insight as well.

As I'm sure is the case with many of you as well, the winter holidays bring about much reflection, especially about family and family-related issues. After all, you've got more time on your hands than you probably normally know what to do with in an average day. So during this extended period of holiday down-time, it's not so surprising that we quiet our minds & allow ourselves the inner reflection which comes so naturally to most of us.

Plus, what else is there to do with all of this time? Even after all of the eating & chatting, the TV ballgame, & other such activities, there always seems to be a lull at some point in the day. It's just what happens on Thanksgiving. And that lull & all of the time in between gives you a lot of time to think. ;-)

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For the recent holiday, you most likely spent this past Wednesday driving several hours in the car & then spent Thursday sitting around the dining room table, eating for a good bit of the day. Then perhaps you continued to sit around the table, talking with your family & catching up on the latest happenings. Or maybe you watched the ballgame on TV, dozing off in a hypnotic haze of TV & tryptophan, which was of course induced by a combination of much turkey-eating & the accumulated slothful effect of much couch-sitting & other forms basic inactivity throughout the day.

But then of course, afterward, after everyone had finished with all of the above, perhaps there wasn't much to do.

So perhaps the next logical thing to was to sit there and think. So perhaps you sat around & thought. And then thought some more.

And then again, maybe you just continued to sleep on the couch all day. 8-)

Not many people I know actually plan "activities" on Thanksgiving, other than eating & perhaps watching the ballgame. First of all, absolutely nothing is open, save the occasional gas station & Chinese food restaurant. It's funny how more stuff is actually open on Christmas Day than on Thanksgiving.

Especially if you are idea-challenged when it comes to group activities, it doesn't exactly help you out that almost every kind of recreational-related business establishment is closed on this day.

I mean, maybe if you've got little kids, perhaps you've planned some game-related type of activities to keep them amused 24/7, so that they won't potentially terrorize your relatives & guests with loud wailing, repeated shirt & pants-leg yanking, & other interesting antsy antics.

Well, I have news for you, the kids aren't the only ones who get antsy on this holiday. ;-)

Maybe you got creative, fought the urge for collective sloth, & went outside for some family fun. A hike or a run, or perhaps some fort-building in the backyard with the little ones.

Or some much-needed yardwork. Maybe some of you even tried the following tactic:

"Hey, everybody, I've got a really fun game we can all play together. Let's help Auntie Corey rake all of the leaves in her backyard; the first one to put the most leaves in the bag is the winner!"

Heheheheh, yeah, right. Sure that worked out well for you. ;-)

Or perhaps some of you were secretly thinking about how you were going to tactfully plan your "exit strategy" after about 10 straight hours of doing absolutely nothing & then finally going nuts & trying to scale the walls. Or if "exiting stage left" wasn't an immediate option, perhaps if you were then pondering how you were going to survive another 10 more hours of sitting around & doing nothing, that is, of course, aside from endless conversation with your family & other guests. Or perhaps you took the third option, seeking solace in another room after too much familial interaction.

But regardless of what you did on Thanksgiving, I'm sure you had plenty of time to sit there & reflect -- to mull over the state of the world, your life, & all of the people in it. Maybe you've even posted similarly reflective essays or rants about such related topics on your blogs. ;-)

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OK, I'm only slightly joking (sort of) about the familial interaction overload, but if you're anything like me, you might feel sometimes like the pace of the Thanksgiving holiday is the equivalent of been trapped on the RMS Lusitania with no life-preserver & the whole scene is going in slow-motion. Hahahaha!

Don't know about you, but I usually get really, really antsy when all there is to do is just sit around for hours. The general lack of activity just drives me batty!!!!

Compounding the issue is that I usually feel like pace of Thanksgiving goes in super "slow-mo' " -- I bet the bionic man on his slowest day ("Et-et-et-et-et-et-et-et!") probably moves faster!

Sorry, but I just can't help the restless behavior on Thanksgiving. Since I don't eat a lot of turkey, & hence am not trippin' on the tryptophan ;-), the "turkey-eating coma" doesn't really factor into the equation as much; and so, I can't take the slowness of the day.

I swear, it's not that I don't like to relax. I really, really do. It's just that the usual lack of structured activity in the day, aside from the meal time itself & the eating part, really just throws off my energy level. While I enjoy relaxing, I find that I've usually had my fill by the 4th hour of just sitting around.

And that antsy feeling always seems to surface at some point.

And this especially happens when I go to other peoples' houses for Thanksgiving, which means I'm usually looking to escape for a run at some point, that is, if it's not construed as rude by the host. ;-)

All of that sitting around just makes me want to launch right out the door!

The honest truth is that, for me, Thanksgiving would be much better if a timer bell went off after about 4 hours. That's about all I can stand. I know by now I probably sound like crotchety ole' George Costanza from Seinfield, but I swear to goodness, it's true!

I need to have a defined start & end point when I'm over at someone else's house. It just feels like the day goes on forever & there's not enough activity & stimulation to keep me going throughout the day. (I'll admit that it's partly because I can be a homebody at times, & just prefer being in my own house, especially when it's cold outside.)

So next Thanksgiving, if I do happen to go over to someone else's house, I'm going to bring my running clothes, & head out the door for a run after about 4 hours. And probably take Erik & whomever else will go, with me! Now that's something I can be thankful for. ;-)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

0 Weigh-In: No Turkey For Me & Some Minor Setbacks


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On the weight management front, I've (unfortunately) gained a few pounds (2.4 lbs.) from last weekend's unintended food fest, which was a combination of eating trunk show goodies, dining out with my family, & some caloric, carb-loaded road-trip snacking, which, among other things, included - the horror! - a bag of gourmet, salt & vinegar potato chips (consumed over multiple days).

Of course, I'm only slightly kidding about that last part. However, I do think it was slightly premature to be "rewarding" myself with such a large quantity of fattening treats, especially since I'm supposed to be on the path to weight loss.

Now, while I subscribe to the idea that I can still have a treat now & then (otherwise, I'd go completely batty!), I know I kinda overdid it in the treat department last week. OK, let's be honest: No, not "kinda." Make that a "definitely"!!!

"To err is human," and let's just say that I'm feeling very human right about now. ;-)

So, as I cannot seem to contain the nature of my "food sins" much longer, let me disclose the entire gory, overly caloric story:

On the way to the trunk show, we stopped at a supermarket to get a quick "meal." In addition to snacking on salt & vinegar potato chips, I also had about half of a Granny Smith & some low-fat buttermilk, which aren't bad in & of themselves. However, the real kicker was the brie! I was craving it, & thought that I "deserved" to eat it after all of my hard work, so I tried to find the smallest wedge they had. While it was a rather small wedge, 3-4 oz. of brie -- while being a typical serving size of protein -- can still do a lot of damage in the body fat department!

Why, oh, why, did I further compound the damage with that wedge of brie! Quel horreur!

Of course I already know the answer to my own question. You can just chalk it up to the ever-mounting craving inside. I really should've given myself more "treats" along the way, especially over the past few weeks. In my busy-ness, I forgot to satisfy, and thus tame, the little craving "beastie" inside me. Yes, I'd been on the verge of bursting like a dam, and I wasn't going to hold back those cravings any longer. The funny thing I wasn't even conscious that I'd felt that way until it was too late. I need to start paying attention to those signs, instead of getting caught up in the daily bustle of life & my work.

But of course, this wasn't all. The potato chips & brie were only the starting point to my wild, gleeful night of "nefarious" food consumption, which merely preceded the next day's "lunch" of 6 cookies, 4-5 pretzels, 2 cheese sticks, & several cups of non-alcoholic cider which I consumed while working at this past Saturday's trunk show. And there were more horrors to follow that evening..... We continued our calorie-consumption well into the night: First there was dinner. I had a fairly healthy dinner that night after the show, save the pizza wedge my mother repeatedly tried to foist on my plate (until finally succeeding by wearing down my resistance!) & a small bite of a shared dessert. Then afterward, when we got home to my parents' house, we munched on snack of pretzels & buttermilk while we watched an old black & white movie on TV ("Born Yesterday," which I'd already seen before, many years ago). I lost count of how many pretzels, but it was enough to do some serious "caloric damage." Notwithstanding the calorie overload, we did have quite a fun evening both during & following the trunk show.

Geez, this sounds like a confessional. Forgive me waist-line, for I have sinned! ;-)

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While I might've only slightly overeaten, I think what did the most damage was the overall fat & high-calorie food consumption accumulated over the weekend & following few days. As the old proverb goes, "the devil's in the details." ;-)

The only thing I can say to defend myself is that, while the majority of my snacking was a tad bit out of control, the only difference was that atleast I didn't continue to compound the damage once the weekend was over. I put an end to it right then & there. Also, while it's true that I ate cookies & chips as rather unhealthy "meal-replacements," I did consume many healthy foods (lots of vegetables & other whole foods, etc.) that weekend as well.

The only explanation I can offer for the weekend's "chip & cookie explosion" is that it was stress-related eating. Having just revealed that, I'm sure you won't find it surprisingly in the least to learn that I was, indeed, fairly stressed out, having left for the trunk show rather late, full-well knowing it would mean I'd have to get up super-early the next day to do the set-up. Sigh.

Setting off this chain-reaction was my ill-timed run that evening: I should've run a lot earlier in the day last Friday, well before the trip's start, but at the time, was struggling to get everything done beforehand (i.e., packing clothes & then the car, taking care of last-minute details, doing various business-related tasks, etc.)

Of course, in the end, everything was fine & the show went off without a hitch, but I'm definitely not going to squeeze in my runs like that again. Way too stressful & it threw my whole schedule off.

While it's important to squeeze in runs, I realize that it can't be at the expense of other major events. I really, really want to be sure I get my three runs in, so I'm going to have to juggle my schedule around & make some other sacrifices (i.e., perhaps go running a bit earlier in the day when it's much, much colder, etc.).

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But back to the eating issues at hand. I can take some comfort knowing the following: While it doesn't make the situation any better, I know that most of the unhealthy snacking was really done as "meal replacements" versus extraneous, non-stop snacking. Of course, this type of eating was due to poor planning (i.e., I should've packed meals in advance for the car trip) & the rushed nature of my attempt to get on the road, but quite frankly, there's no excuse. I know I could've made better choices.

And I'm not trying to absolve myself of responsibility for my actions either: I very consciously knew what I was doing: I wanted to eat that food, & my brain & body were responding like I'd just been let out of cage!

Atleast I didn't break into the bag of potato chips like I was committing some deeply disturbing criminal act, but nonetheless, it's not like I brought the bag into my parents' house upon arrival & immediately showed it off to my mom or rest of the family either. ;-) At first, the only one who was knew was Erik, since he happened to be in the car with me at the time of our road trip.

I eventually did let my family know about the potato chips, as if to say, "See, I can eat this stuff too, so don't think that I'm trying to be irritatingly perfect!"

And then the other reason I let them know was this: While I'm in my thirties & very much an adult, I wanted to shout my potato-chip eating to the skies to show them I still wasn't going to let their opinions affect my behavior of eating the occasional treat, regardless of whether I was thin or not. You see, while they didn't seem to particularly care that I ate the potato chips now that I'm thinner, I do recall they certainly seemed a bit more controlling about me eating "hash browns" several months ago at Perkins, when I was twenty pounds heavier. Now of course, at the time, that didn't stop me from eating the hashbrowns, but I was VERY irritated (no scratch that, "pissed off"!) at their behavior.

What they were basically saying at the time via their behavior, whether they were conscious of it or not, was that "overweight people don't deserve to eat treats." Just because a person's overweight doesn't mean they got there from eating one plate of hash browns. Any normal, sane person will tell you that. Plus, that sort of thinking is ridiculous! What really irked me about their behavior is that it was irrational & driven/motivated by fear. Plus, it also bothered me that they didn't even realize or acknowledge was that I actually eat fairly healthfully on the whole; that had never been the problem. It was the portion-sizes & stress-triggered eating that were my downfall.

Anyhow, while I don't give a rat's ass what most people think, it used to bother me to no end that my family were being so completely unreasonable & unfair in their thinking. While my family professes that moderation is important, it's actually not something that's very well understood -- or often experienced (!) -- by them. Being irrational & jumping to conclusions before collecting all of the facts often seems to be more what they are used to doing. ;-)

OK, that might seem a bit harsh to say that, but they aren't exactly known for being "reasonable" about food-related issues. To be painfully honest, I'm surprised I didn't end up bulimic or anorexic with the various "food control" issues that seem to plague my family.

While I take full responsibility for my actions, I will acknowledge that it hasn't always been easy growing up around people who's first instinct is to tell you not to eat something because they think you're a few pounds overweight, & then at the next moment, turn around & shove food in your face repeatedly even after you've expressed multiple times that don't want to eat whatever it is that they're offering. Talk about mixed signals.

Of course, as most child psychologists & many other humans already know, if you want to reinforce a message to your children, consistency is key, not only in your words, but also in your behavior.

And I know that I wasn't the only person affected by these food-related attitudes either. All kidding aside, it's not exactly normal when your little sister feels the need to hide her chocolate pudding bowl & spoon underneath the family room couch. Why would she feel the need to hide what she perceived as "unacceptable" food from the parental units, particularly my mother, unless she felt that there would've been negative repercussions (facing judgment & possible punishment, being berated, etc.) for her eating "transgressions"? Past history speaks for itself, & is often a strong indicator of future behavior. I know we joke about it now, & the fact that she could've picked a better hiding spot (!), but I know that she was affected by this sort of thinking as well. In the past she's internalized it & even reproduced it at times, but I think she's well aware of it now, so she doesn't propel this sort of thinking forward or subject others to the same sorts of mental torture. ;-)

It's so important not to unconsciously repeat the scripts of the past that don't work for you anymore. Get rid of those toxic things & free your mind from the chains of past habits!

And, speaking of which: As I said before, the one positive thing I was able to do rather early on in my development as an adult was to conquer my fear of parental or familial disapproval, and do what I want to do anyhow, instead of being influenced by their food-related comments one way or the other.

Of course, that's part of what it means to to be a mature, self-possessed adult. I'm proud to say that I have inner strength & courage, & can boldly assert myself & posit my own opinions, regardless of whether people agree with them or not. And it's not just limited to the sphere of my family or food issues.

Now, this certainly doesn't mean that, after all of these years, that their comments don't still sting or that it's not still hard for me to stand up to their sometimes rather forceful commentary, which can sometimes border on emotional bullying, while I continue to fight for self-preservation.

But I do it all the same, in spite of how difficult or painful it is. I frankly don't expect that my parents will change their behaviors & thoughts as they relate to food, weight, & body image anytime soon in the near future, as they are now at an age & mode of being/thinking which isn't conducive to an altered outcome. And yes, a certain part of me still holds out hope, despite all the odds, that in time, that my parents can, & will, learn to be less "insane" about food, weight, & exercise, & not be so "reactive" about these issues. I would certainly rejoice if this would happen. However, regardless of such an unlikely outcome, I do still think my sister has possibly worked past their "tentacles of influence" when it comes to this particularly damaging attitude.

Of course, after those last few, rather caustic-sounding paragraphs, I will say that I do love my family very much & they do possess many wonderful qualities, which I've lauded in many a previous post.

While I might seem unrelentingly & unflinchingly honest at time, let me just say that it is not my intention to demonize or punish anyone in my family. Ironically, this post is not really even about them. It's about me, & my need to gain clarity about the past & move forward. It's only by being honest about my thoughts & feelings in relation to my experiences that enables me to do this. And if that helps someone else along the way who's facing the same issues, then I've achieved something more.

Might I remind others that just because you love your family doesn't mean that you don't drive each other nuts at times. And while I realize this, I still can, all the same, try to mitigate exposure to unhealthy familial influences & consciously control my reactions to these influences as best I can. That still doesn't change the fact that I love them. People don't have to be perfect for you to love them either. They rarely are! We can & should still love each other, flaws & all.

And while we're on the topic of "perfection" & the expectations of others, my main point here is this: I don't think that we should have to be "perfect" in our eating habits, & any such familial expectations like these are frankly, unreasonable & unrealistic. I won't drone on about it anymore, but the last thing I'll say is that, for my parents, I often feel like this sort of thinking wasn't just limited to food. It pervades their attitude about many other topics. I truly feel sad for them that they haven't evolved past this limited sort of thinking, but I'm certainly not going to let it affect how I personally conduct my life.

One thing that's nice about having Erik in my life is that he serves as a wonderful re-affirming force of reason and balance. He not only understands the importance of balance & moderation, but actually practices it on a daily basis too. As I haven't had a parental model for moderation & balance, he's basically one of the first role models I've ever had for these concepts. He's definitely been like an anchor to me, in helping me "normalize" my life balance & incorporate moderation into my every day living.

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Anyhow, the irony of this entire food-related discussion is that, after all of the weekend's excessive consumption, I won't be eating a huge Thanksgiving day feast this year. Not because I don't want to do this, but because I was supposed to go to visit family for the holidays & plans changed at the last minute.

Erik unfortunately came down with the flu & has been bed-ridden for the past couple of days. Of course, I'm staying home to take care of him, & so, will instead be spending the Thanksgiving Day with Erik. Since I didn't have a back-up meal prepared, it looks like neither of us will be eating turkey this year.

And speaking of the Thanksgiving holiday, food, & eating, you're welcome to read the related post ("Of Thanksgivings Past + A Turkey Confessional") on my foodie blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

2 Run 1, Week 3 (CT5K) + Run 1, Week 9 (BOHR): 'Tis the Start of the Holiday Season, So Run, Run, Run!


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OK, this post is going to be an extremely short one, since I'm really busy, due to the holidays & various business-related projects/events:

Ran my solo run first at around 5:30 pm tonight. Did 4 laps in 35 minutes, or an average pace of 11:49-minute miles. It was a rather pleasant 55 degrees outside, which feels relatively "warm" when compared to the cold & windy 29-45+ degree weather we had over the last few weeks!

Then around 6:20 pm or so, my running pal & I ran Run 1 of Week 3 (CT5K) which went really well. Even though we had our longest joint run yet (3 solid minutes of running, twice, interspersed with intervals of walking & shorter running distances), my friend commented during our run that she didn't feel as winded as before. So she's definitely making progress in her fitness level, which of course is excellent news.

OK, that's all folks, for tonight.

Hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving!
-C

Monday, November 19, 2007

3 TV Show Review #1: Nova's Marathon Challenge


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Last night I watched Nova's "Marathon Challenge", which was on my backlog of Tivo'd shows to watch, but hadn't yet had the time, that is, until yesterday evening.

The basic idea behind this episode was about testing the idea of whether of not the "ordinary human being" (which was unfortunately equated with being mostly "sedentary"!) could become a marathoner.

Can just anyone do it? That was the primary question.

So with the help of knowledge staff from Tufts University, (my alma mater!), who were well-versed in areas such as exercise physiology, marathon-training & nutrition, and the advice & emotional support of stellar, world-class marathoner, Uta Pippig, "Team Nova" set out to see if "the average person" could transform themselves into marathoners in just 9 months.

At the outset, all of the participants were run though at battery of tests (VO2 max, medical screenings to make sure they were healthy enough to participate, etc.). Then, they went through 9+ months of training, which took them from 1-2 mile runs to 19-20 mile runs, which they did in preparation for the Boston Marathon. They had 1 group run on the weekends & then ran independently during the week. Here's their training calendar, if you'd like to get a better sense of their running schedule.

The people who'd joined the program had been selected from a pool of several thousand applicants. They were from all walks of life. Some were running to prove they could do it despite the odds (i.e., their age, health problems, etc.), while others were running for personal reasons (one participant, Sama, had recently lost her mother in a tragic accident, & was utilizing running as a way to work through her grief). If you'd like to read more about the individual profiles of the program's participants, you can do so here. (I found their backstories to be as interesting & inspirational as the journeys they took to become marathoners!)

In the beginning, there were 12 partipants, & by the end, almost all had made it through the training program & had completed the Boston marathon, save one person, Melissa White, who had been sidelined due to multiple stress fractures. (She did show up on race day to cheer on the other members of the team.) Replacing her on the team was former NFL-linebacker (turned TV/radio sports commentator), Steve DeOssie.

It was encouraging to see almost all of the participants stick it out & run the marathon.

There's one thing about Team Nova's program that did raise my eyebrows quite a bit -- their 9-month schedule.

It's generally recommended, for those who are starting out with a minimal level of fitness, to take between 1.5-2+ years of training to safely, gradually, & adequately prepare themselves to run a marathon. Even though they were guided by experts, I thought that their 9-month training schedule was ill-advised.

And not surprisingly, many of the participants experienced the effects of what a compressed running schedule like this can do to a person's body. There were people with hip problems, shin splints, knee problems, stress fractures, strain to the Achilles tendon, etc. Actually, I was surprised that there weren't more serious injuries considering the starting fitness levels of the participants & their very tight training schedule.

Nonetheless, I have to say that I wasn't surprised by the runners' transformations, which were mostly improvements in athleticism versus weight-loss related improvements. As the show's narrator aptly pointed out, losing weight & running a marathon are two separate goals, & marathoners-in-training don't necessarily lose a lot of weight, since they need to adequately nourish themselves for long runs which are typically anywhere from 1-3+ hours long.

The only rare exception to the above, in terms of major marathon-training-related weight loss, was Betsy, who had the most to lose, being over 70 pounds overweight at the start. She had the most dramatic transformation of all the novice runners, in terms of physical appearance, health, & athletic performance. She also became the fastest female runner of the group, which I thought was fantastic!

The show also talked about how exercise in combination with a healthy, balanced diet that emphasizes reduced portion sizes, is the most effective combination for losing weight.

(I can tell you that, based on my own prior experience as a long-distance runner, the reasons mentioned above are exactly why I plan to first lose the remaining 8.6 pounds before I start seriously training for the marathon. I'm conquering one goal at a time. Right now, I'm focused on working up to 10 miles, & in combination with proper diet & weight-training, I hope to shed the remaining pounds over the next few months. Then, after the remaining weight is shed, my runs will start taking on a more athletic performance-related focus.)

All in all, it was a very interesting show, & I recommend it to those of you who enjoy watching shows about running, especially the athletic transformations of runners-in-training. Also, those of you who are exploring the idea of running a marathon for the very first time might gain some useful insights by watching this show. Even experienced runners will probably enjoy watching the process of novice runners-in-training. After all, to quote Betsy herself, "we all have to start somewhere."

Here are some interesting, related links:

-->Check out these 10 tips for novice runners from Nova's "Marathon Challenge."

-->Glean wisdom from the advice of Team Nova's Dr. Miriam Nelson in the "Ask The Expert" section of Nova's "Marathon Challenge" website, for answers to common running & marathon questions.

-->For some useful mental training strategies from Uta Pippig, check out the related Nova link, The Mind of A Marathoner.

-->For more information about Uta's company, "The Magic Step", which offers training classes, check out her website.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

1 Run 3, Week 8 (BOHR): A Long, Slow Run


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The temperature was 48 degrees when I went for my run tonight at 5 pm. Did 7.5 laps around the lake. Total running time was 64.5 minutes, which means my total distance was 5.55 miles. My average pace was around 11:37-minute miles.

Felt pretty good to take a long, slow run tonight. This was definitely running for running's sake. I tried not to think too much about my times or pace, as I knew it was going to be the first long run in a few weeks.

I have to be honest, wasn't really looking forward to tonight's run. Was tired from all the work from this weekend's show, & knew I'd have to run as soon as I dropped my bags off at my place. Otherwise the run would probably not happen. Momentum is really important, especially when a person's extra tired from travel & a weekend of work. So it's best to jump on it & get it done & out of the way before the procrastination or mind games set in. ;-)

Of course, after about the second or third lap I began to forget about my initial attitude & started to enjoy the running. It felt good to finish the run. I'm going to give myself a few extra gold stars for triumphing once again over the twin "goblins" of procrastination & inertia. 8-)

I'm certainly happy to be inside now where it's warm & dry! (It was on the verge of a rainstorm during the tail end of my run. Thankfully, I beat the downpour, as it was only dribbles during the last few minutes of the run.)

Thinking ahead for this upcoming week: I'm going to have to squeeze in three runs next week, working them in & around the Thanksgiving Day holiday break.

The way these things usually work is that I either schedule the runs around the events or the events around the runs! In this case, I don't have much of a choice in terms of moving the event, since it's a national holiday! :-) For those of you who aren't familiar with the American holiday of Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving is a traditional "last Thursday of the month" kind of holiday, & for me, as it is for most Americans, the day for celebrating this event is a fairly fixed arrangement. Some people do make alternate arrangements, like one of my friends, who's going to celebrate the holiday with her family on a Wednesday, but this is typically a rare occurrence.

Anyhow, as I was saying, the Thanksgiving holiday's going to make this weeks' running schedule an interesting challenge. I'm going to run twice on Tuesday (one 30-minute solo run & then a second, shorter run with my friend), & then I'm not quite sure how I'll squeeze in the other two solo runs. My friend & I won't be running on Thursday (since that's Thanksgiving Day), but will instead pick up again with our joint runs next Tuesday.

However, I still need fit in the two solo runs. I'd rather not do back to back runs, so I'll probably run again on Thursday (definitely before the turkey consumption starts!), & again on Saturday.

OK, well that about does it for tonight's post, folks. Hope you all had a nice weekend!

-C

Friday, November 16, 2007

0 Run 2, Week 8 (BOHR): A Run When There's No Time For A Run!


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Had to squeeze in my run before getting on the road for a business trip, so had a very hurried run tonight. Was packing & then packing the car earlier, all of which took longer than expected, so I didn't get out the door for my run until 5 pm tonight.

Ran 4 laps in 36 minutes. It was a windy & chilly 40 degrees. Then after quickly showering & changing, I hopped in the car & got on the road at around 7 pm or so. Got in, unpacked, & got ready for tomorrow's trunk show.

3 I KNEW It Was Too Good to Be True!


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Using his GPS (a Garmin Forerunner 305), Erik recently measured the circumference of the lake where we run. It's only 0.74 miles. Knew my earlier pace approximations were too good to be true!

So that means that the total distance I cover in my typical four laps around the lake is 2.96 miles, & my average pace is about 11 minutes & 49 seconds per mile.

Whoah, that's a reality check! I'm going much slower on average than I previously thought. However, since I'm in the mileage building phase, I'm not going to be too hard on myself about it.

The good news is that now I know what the distance of a single lap is, & thus, will also be able to better gauge my pace when I run around this lake in future. (Now atleast I know exactly how many minutes I need to shave off from my total running time, in order to run a 10-minute mile: about 5 minutes worth! A 10-minute mile pace would mean running those same 4 laps in 29 minutes 45 seconds.)

Also, even more encouraging is the knowledge that I can, have, & will run much faster. But of course, I'm not going to simultaneously work on increasing my pace while I'm adjusting to new & longer distances. That'd be pure folly at this stage.

I want to have a long, healthy, & productive running "career." And the best way to do that is to gradually build the mileage & then gradually work on my pace.

For most humans, it usually takes a while to build up their mileage &/or improve their pace. Some runners run for months or even years to make significant improvements in pace.

I'm looking forward to getting better!

0 Running Apparel Tip #7: Review of Online Running Apparel Retailers


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Straight off the bat, I'm going to tell you what I think about Runworldwide.com -- They've got a lot of good products but their online store & catalog need to get their act together. So I'm going to give them a mixed review. Here are the details:

I'm going to have to return the (below) waterproof jacket I just recently bought from Runworldwide.com because it actually DIDN'T have a hood, contrary to what the sales rep lady told me on the phone.



Arrrgh. I should've known. The description of the item online didn't mention anything about a hood, but she assured me that it did!

I hate having to pay shipping for items which were misrepresented by the catalog or their reps, so I'm going to see if I can get a shipping credit to ship this item back. After all, why should I have to ship something back that I wouldn't have bought in the first place, provided I'd gotten accurate information from the catalog. Grrrrr.

IMHO, a waterproof jacket is rather useless without a hood. Even if you're wearing a waterproof hat to compensate, the water will just drip right down your neck!

Also, even though it looks really nice in the picture, it's actually rather short & boxy, & not flattering to my form at all.

Oh well. However, I did really like the other item I bought at this same online retailer:



It's called the "Sugoi Womens Mistral Running Top." It's made of a mid-weight fabric with wicking properties, fits well, & is very comfortable & warm. You can get a better look at it here.

Or maybe NOT, because they don't allow you to see close-up views of their items like almost every other online store. ;-) But atleast you'll get a description. Or somewhat of a description. Don't expect much detail or exact measurements though. Those type of requests apparently take 48 hours to process. Yikes!

Alright, time to sound off even more about what bothers me about this catalog company. Yes, there are more issues.

First of all, let me state for the record that they do have quality products. However, their customer service & computer databases could use a major overhaul.

As I mentioned above, they don't have very detailed product descriptions, & the rep I spoke to obviously wasn't very knowledgeable about their product lines.

Also, disheartening was the fact that she had to manually browse through the catalog to first find the item before she could tell me any more information about the product. That's right. No computer database, just a pad-&-pencil type of system. Yikes, some of these companies just haven't entered the 21st century yet. And it's not like they're a big outlet store trying to keep costs low to pass on the savings to the consumer. Atleast not that I could tell. I bought the jacket at the full price of $99!

And when she finally got to the product page, she couldn't tell me specific measurements for the jacket, so I could make sure that it was going to fit me. She said that a request like that would take 48 hours before someone could get back to me with more information. Hell, I wasn't going to wait that long. Molasses could move faster. I'd just as soon as buy it from an online retailer that could give me the information at the time I was requesting it! What decade are we in anyhow, the nineties?! :-)

[Yes, I'm your typical techhead in overdrive. The techies of my generation are the snappy movers & shakers of the digital world, & are the typical embodiment of the "speed is everything" mentality of the Computer Age. Snap, snap, we need it now! ;-) Plus, I've got a busy life & don't have time to wait for companies to get their act together. Also, with the lousy weather we've been having, I needed that waterproof jacket, like yesterday! ;-) ]

Even the online outlet, Sierra Trading Post, has a better system than that. I found their customer service much more helpful, although they still had a generalized system of measurements (which doesn't always correspond to specific vendors). You can't beat the prices of a lot of their merchandise, so it's well worth the extra time to sift through their site & then talk to the sales rep to get further product information.

In addition to Sierra Trading Post, here are some other decent online retailers from which I've bought sports/outdoor goods in the past:

Altrec.com (Bought a jacket here, which I ended up returning (but only because I didn't like the style of the jacket when I saw it in person), but I'd still buy from them again. Their customer service was excellent & they had a good range of high-quality products & brands.)
Backcountry.com (Bought Smartwool socks here.)
Campmor.com (Bought multiple items here.)
Essential Apparel (Bought Smartwool socks here.)
Sock Company (Bought Smartwool socks here.)
Target.com (Bought Champion C9 apparel here.)

Here are some good online retailers, in which I've had positive buying experiences in their store locations, but have yet to purchase items from their online store:
Patagonia
REI

And here are a few that I haven't bought from yet, but have gotten good reviews:
ExOfficio (I did buy one ExOfficio item from REI, which I really liked, but have never bought directly from their online store.)
R N J Sports
Roadrunner Sports
Triathlete Sports

Hope this helps! If anyone would like to share your personal buying experiences with any of these online stores, or provide additional resources for good online running apparel retailers, you're welcome to leave a comment here. I'd love to hear from you! You can also post your responses to our BlogCatalog running group, "Runners, Runners, Everywhere!" It's a very active group. If you are a runner, or want to learn more about running, I encourage you to join.

Whether you're seeking training advice or information/opinions about an upcoming race, or have got questions about running products & would like feedback from those who've tried them, you'll find lots of useful resources & friendly people who are willing to share information freely about all sorts of running-related topics. We also talk about fitness, cross-training, strength training, nutrition, & running-related health concerns. So stop by for a visit!

As a general note, I encourage you to join Blog Catalog, (whether you have a blog or just like to read blogs!), as I've found it to be one of the most useful & friendly social networking sites. Unlike many other blogging directories, it's a really well-developed, well-thought-out, well-executed site, and is so much more than just a sundry collection of people's blogs. It's free to join & the people there are incredibly nice (unlike some other social networking sites & blogging communities I've tried, in which members verge on creepy & stalkerish!). It's a great place to make friends, meet interesting people, & learn new information.

I'm certainly not getting anything to endorse their site; I just happen to like it a great deal & think it's worth mentioning!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

1 Slight Weight Gain + Body Fat Percentage Decrease


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Hello Loyal Readers,

OK, it's probably patently obvious to you by now that I seem have to completely disregarded my earlier promise to weigh myself once every 2 weeks. Hahahaha. Sorry, but I couldn't help myself today! I weighed myself this morning, because I was expecting some body fat loss after yesterday's challenging run. And I was right!

I lost another 0.9% body fat after last night's run. So who cares about the 0.4 pound gain, right! ;-) Maybe if I'm lucky, the weight gain is either water or muscle! Either way, it's so slight that I'm nonplussed about it.

That's all I've got for now. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post......

Have a great night, everyone!
-C

1 Exercise Psychology Tip #6: Some (Productive!) Thoughts On Body Image, Self-Esteem, & Clothing Sizes


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I seem to be having a lot of discussions lately with people, especially women, about body image & clothing sizes. Maybe it's just something that's been on mind a lot lately, as my body & mind are transforming into something completely different, but I've had this discussion multiple times over the past few weeks. It always seems that, although the women may vary in body size & attitudes, the focus is always the same trinity -- weight loss, body image, & self-esteem.

These people have been family members, friends, and sometimes even complete strangers.

Now before you think I'm totally bonkers to talk to strangers about this subject, let me preface this by saying that most of the "strangers" I've spoken to on the subject are actually "familiar strangers" -- i.e., other bloggers who've commented on related posts or retail shop gals at my local mall. (After all, a girl needs to buy new clothes when the old ones no longer fit!)

Here's a brief sampling of some of those conversations:

One lady I spoke to, who was in her mid-50's, said she lost 75 pounds over the past year. She said that she didn't exercise at all in order to lose the weight, but rather had had a sickness that the doctors apparently couldn't diagnose. They ran all sorts of tests on her but weren't able to find anything physically wrong with her. She said she eventually recovered from her illness, but had no idea why she dropped all of the weight. Of course, she was very happy to lose the weight, but a certain part of me, the part with medical knowledge (!), balked at how she'd lost the weight & couldn't help but wonder if her health had really returned to "normal." As unexplained weight loss can often be the result of more serious medical problems, I was rightfully concerned about the competence of her doctors! Of course, I gingerly told her how unexplained weight loss could signal more serious health problems, & also asked her if she was planning to seek a secondary medical opinion to make sure her health was really OK, but it didn't sound like she was too interested in following that course of action.

I guess what really bothered me about our discussion is that she wasn't more concerned about what the weight-loss might mean medically-speaking. Typically, a person doesn't just lose 75 pounds without any effort unless they are under extreme duress/stress or something is medically "wrong" with them.

Also, I question how long she'll keep the weight off, as it didn't exactly sound like she had significantly modified her overall lifestyle in conjunction with her weight-loss.

Now, I obviously have no way of knowing that, other than directly asking her, which I wasn't about to do, because it bordered on prying/nosiness. And since we barely knew each other, I didn't feel that it was entirely civil to ask questions like that. Of course, it would be different if she'd been a close friend; if I'd have known her better, I might've asked.

Keep in mind, she was the one who openly revealed all of this information. If people offer the information, that's one thing, but I don't believe in prying into other people's business. I hate when people do it to me, so I rarely do it to others.

Anyhow, as I was saying: As she was an age 50-something woman with no prior history of exercise & probably questionable nutritional habits at best, I wasn't convinced she was going to keep the weight off.

As most of you already know, the people who keep the weight off are those who significantly modify their lifestyle to incorporate healthy eating behaviors & regular exercise. Furthermore, those who manage to adopt proven, medically sound practices, based upon factual, scientific evidence, in combination with gradual, moderate changes in fitness & diet, considerably strengthen their chances of long-term success. (I believe that both Western and non-Western medicine have a lot to offer towards this end, but that is altogether another topic for another time.)

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One of my friends, who's thin, said she recently felt "fat" standing next to women who were thinner than she was. (I'd like to add that many of the women to whom she was comparing herself were also smaller in stature & body frame, which isn't exactly a fair comparison.) Keep in mind that she's around the same height as me, & we are very nearly the same clothing size. Of course, she doesn't look "overweight" in the least. But in reality, this mindset has nothing to do with "being overweight," but instead, has everything to do with "feeling overweight." In other words, it's about our mental self-image, how we see ourselves. I didn't say much to her about it at the time, as I was still processing the information, but I'd like to say something now about it.

If it's any consolation to my friend to hear this, I have to be honest & say that I too, used to "feel fat" standing next to other, thinner women. This was about several months ago. Now, I've obviously not lost all of the weight I have to lose yet, but I have to admit that I no longer suffer from this hang-up & rarely, if ever, feel this way anymore. So why the change, & how did it come about?

Now, some of you might say that this is because I am no longer overweight (atleast not if you measure me by standardized height & weight charts), and therefore don't feel as psychologically vulnerable anymore, which is partially true.

However, the reasoning behind my mental transformation actually something much bigger & more profound than that. In a nutshell, my self-esteem has become as strong as steel, & is able to withstand even the nastiest of hurtful barbs hurled at me by others. How did this happen?

Through physical fitness, I'm starting to realize my inner potential, & am thus, getting back to being the original "me" I used to know! While I'm not going to deny the positive overall effects of the weight loss, the feelings of strong self-esteem have honestly less to do with the actual weight-loss & more to do with my feelings of (fitness-related) accomplishment through perpetual effort & finding my inner feistiness again.

Also, if we take a longer range view of my personal development, I think it stems back to what my mother instilled in me from a very early age: I am so much more than a number on a scale, my waist size, or my clothing size. I am so much more than my body, my face, my hair, or anything remotely related to my external appearance. While it's important to take proper care of one's personal appearance, & I often find it enjoyable to do so, it doesn't define me as a person, & it's certainly not what makes me tick at my very core.

I'm very thankfully to my mother for being a strong role model in this specific way. She likes to say that she was one of the first women of her generation to exercise before it was considered fashionable to do so. She'd always been focused on nutrition and health, and at an earlier point in her career, had planned to study medicine. She ended up teaching speech therapy after attending grad school, but nonetheless, continued to learn about health & fitness. Throughout the years, she's always placed emphasize on the importance of us developing our minds & our talents, & not just focusing on our personal appearance. It is a strong signature idea like this which is my mother's lasting mental legacy to me and my sister. She is a feisty, independent woman in her own right, with a strong, healthy, vibrant mind & body, who values more than merely just what the eye can see, & it is qualities like these which make me proud to call her my mother. This, my friends, this font of self-esteem that comes from a deeper well-spring, is the kind of amazing energy I want to share with the world.

When we have negative feelings about our bodies, these feelings almost always originate from an external source, i.e., how we feel after reading one too many fashion rags, hearing other people's comments about us, or how we respond after watching other "thinner" women walk by us.

The danger of entering a mental pitfall is always in the comparison. Ladies, don't even think about it! You know where that bad boy leads, so just leave it alone! It only perpetuates your self-induced internal misery & suffering! Why would we ever willingly want to do that to ourselves! It's so unnecessarily masochistic & cruel. I think we can all do without the self-flagellation, thank you very much.

And we all know what can happen when we've already entered this mental headspace, i.e., how easy it is to let ourselves be stirred up by our emotions, especially those "feelings of inadequacy." But really, ladies, what we all need is a reality check at this point. Pull yourself out of your emotional haze, take control of those negative spiraling thoughts, & stop & think about what you're doing to yourself &/or others. Thinking that way isn't really helping you at all, now is it?

So here's my little pep-talk for those among us who have gotten off course & are losing their way:

"Girlfriend, if you would just pull yourself together, see inside yourself for a deeper sense of who you are, & then think about which direction you want to move in, I guarantee you'd see that beating yourself up does no good (& bashing on others' perceived body 'flaws' or 'shortcomings' is even worse!), especially when what you really want to do is focus on achieving your nutrition, fitness, & weight-loss goals."

On this note, there's also a much darker side to this whole equation - how we women treat other women who are feeling "down & out" about themselves & their bodies. Now, don't get me wrong. A good deal of the problem is how we ourselves respond to not-so-nice behaviors or comments made by other women (& men too, for that matter!).

However, we all need to seriously think about the "feeding frenzy" mentality & why people engage in schadenfreude, & bash others for their physical appearance. If you see someone feeling bad about themselves, are you the type of person who reaches out & help that person, walks away, or gives them an extra kick?

Consider not only what you are doing to them, but what you are doing to yourself & others around you. Which vibe do you want to perpetuate? Are you going to perpetuate misery in this world, barely leave an imprint, or be the happy little ripple that starts the chain reaction of smiles, reverberating your inner joys of your spirit? After all, paying it forward can work in either direction, or no direction at all. And, in the long cycle of our personal evolution, standing still is the same thing as moving backwards.

We all know what it's like to react without thinking to derogatory comments made by other women. Our knee-jerk reactions take over & we forget that we have a conscious choice to say, "No! I will not validate your unreasonable comments by giving you what you want, i.e., sending me into a self-propelled inner tizzy of sadness, loss, rejection, & misery. You are NOT superior to me, and I will not give you the negative emotional response you're seeking. I choose to not participate at all in your self-created drama." Ignoring people like this is usually the best response of all. No one likes to feel like they don't exist, and this is ultimately a much more satisfying response than slinging rude, below-the-belt insults towards others.

After all, what are those nasty people really criticizing? The body is only the shell or vessel of a person; it does not tell a person's complete story or explain their complexities at a first glance. I'd rather employ it as a tool to express all of what's inside.

There are definitely women out there, and you know who you all are, who want to make anyone larger than them (whether or not they are actually "overweight" in reality) feel fat. Of course, it's no mystery why they do it. They are massively insecure about their standing in the "food chain." (Hahaha, pun intended.) And like little birds who aren't quite sure where they fall in the pecking order, they are the ones who tend to peck the hardest. ;-)

At the same token, there are also those women who don't rejoice in the successes of their friends & others around them. They smile at you & then stab you in the back, or make passive-aggressive comments about your successes. They try to make other people feel badly about their fitness successes & weight loss triumphs, because they themselves are either not putting in the effort or have been unsuccessful for one reason or another.

Do we really need these people's permission for it to be OK to be proud of our accomplishments? Hell, no! I encourage you not to care what these people think; go ahead & proudly mention your weight-loss successes and shrinking body size. If they can't handle it, well then too damn bad, that's their problem!

Unfortunately, these types of people can't be happy for others, because they're too focused on wallowing in their own misery. If they don't like themselves & feel good about their bodies, they in turn, want to cut anyone else down who has what they don't have. I feel very sorry for people like this, because they are usually emotionally damaged souls in need of some serious therapy. Feeling like you are the body beautiful is not just about your body, it's about your mind too.

So, instead of spreading all of our frantic insecurities to others, I suggest that we instead look deep inside & see what's really making us unhappy.

Since we can't control how other's perceive us, only how we present ourselves to others, I suggest we let go of the outward-looking desire to "gain others' approval" and instead, quiet our internal noise, turn inward to self-reflect, & then focus on how we can best serve our own goals in the long run.

If we like what we see in the mirror, then we are less likely to act like grumpy, mean-spirited harpies that spit upon others' progress, hurl petty childish names at others, or scare everyone else away with our negative, hurtful energies. We can embrace what is good in our lives, and also help others to see the good in themselves.

My mother always taught me to "consider the source" before taking anyone's comments to heart.

So, when you're down & out, & feeling blue,
Don't be rash or hasty or flounder in what to do.
Tune out the distractions, and focus within,
And I guarantee you'll be a happier campier, & find the joy within.

Look past the above impromptu corny poem that just popped out of my head, & choose to see the wisdom in it instead.

(OK, I promise I'll stop rhyming now!!!!)

My final point is that when you feel a sense of inner joy, you can't help but spread it around. We need to support each other, & build each other up. Seek supportive friends that truly have your best interests at heart.

So ladies & gentlemen, let's dispense with the competitive self-comparisons, which only bring more misery into the world, & instead try to work on becoming being better, nicer, more caring human beings.

Amen, sister.

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