Category Archives: People

Weekend Roundup

Time for a weekend roundup/update!

 

This weekend was a very busy but very joyful one; I’ve got no complaints, except that I don’t know how Monday is here already! The weekend, when observed in retrospect, is a good example of ways in which I’ve learned to turn down temptations and/or pre-plan all my food. I agree wholeheartedly with the “Fail to plan? PLAN TO FAIL” mentality – so much of weight loss success is preemptively making sure your food NEEDS are met, so your food WANTS don’t get in the way. Also a tip: I pre-track everything. When I wake up in the morning I plan out, in my tracker, as much of my day as I can. And then, I just refuse to let myself derail from the things I’ve tracked. It’s helpful because I always know what is left over for snacks or a special food.

I’ll go down the list of the weekend’s events!

 

  1. Saturday: In the morning, I helped out at my parent’s annual neighborhood yard sale. Made about $20.00 selling old stuff from our kitchen and the depths of our basement, since our bridal shower(s) have equipped us well for forward motion! Usually, around lunch time on yard sale day, my mom will send me to Dunkin to pick up coffees and sandwiches for our family. And mind you, as someone who worked for Dunkin from ages 17-23, I am extremely fond of DD sandwiches. However, because we had a bridal shower (!!!!) later in the day, I told my mom I thought I’d have a Greek yogurt instead. And that is what I did.

 

  1. Saturday, Part 2: One of my very favorite people in the ENTIRE WORLD, Lauren, threw Chelsea and I a Bridal Shower for our friends who are local to the area to attend. It was such a beautiful afternoon! She put such care into every little detail – it was perfect; we loved every minute. We loved also the delicious food she prepared! Chicken and vegetable kabobs, grilled tenderloin, a really fabulous corn salad, greens, fruit salad – the works! It was all delicious and all very WW-friendly, which I so, so deeply appreciated. I did eat a cupcake – but it was a DELICIOUS cupcake, and I REGRET NOTHING. It was so lovely to gather up our NY friends and spend the afternoon laughing, eating, being together, etc. My mom drove out for the Shower, too, so she got to meet a few of our friends from the area which was a particularly great thing. All in all, it was marvelous.

 

 

  1. Saturday, Part 3: My best friend and roomie from college, Kim, came too! And she stayed over! And she is one of the only other people that Tag likes! We got hungry late at night and decided to go to Tully’s, where I ordered – wait for it – the same salad that I always order. Not too long ago, I would’ve ordered an intense amount of chicken tenders. But no longer!

 

  1. Sunday: Got up early and went on my piddly little 1 mile run. I hate only running 1 mile – it’s short and boring! It does, however, get me out there every single day. Which is the point of the GRO challenge. Afterward, I showered and got ready to head to Claudia’s house so we could drive up to Syracuse for our work picnic. Now, consider that I was out of the house from 10 AM to 6 PM. At a picnic. With no way to get “other” food aside from what had been brought. WELL GOOD THING I AM THE QUEEN OF PREPACKED LUNCHES because I brought a lunchbox full of smart, WW-friendly foods and ate them slowly throughout the day. I even brought hot tea in my new thermos (sexy thermos that it is) because hot beverages tend to make a person feel fuller than they are and so I drank my green tea before lunch. All in all, I was extremely proud that I only ate ONE. SINGLE. CORN CHIP. From the buffet of options available. Elsewise, my yogurt and I were happily separate, foodwise. When I got home, I ate a healthy dinner (zucchini-stuffed lasagna, from SkinnyTaste recipe, made by my momma! And also steamed broccoli) and had some blueberries and relaxed.

Packed my lunch for Monday, got my clothes, etc. together, and a new week begins. Hmph.

 

 

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My Little iPod (To the Tune of “My Little Pony”)

I got a new iPod, gang.

This probably does not sound like a momentous occasion to YOU, but it totally is one. Consider this: how many iPods do any of us even buy over the course of a lifetime? Counting my original iPod (2006), iPod Touch (2008) and my first iPod nano (2012), I have only ever had three and they were all such different beasts that it hardly feels like three of the same thing.New iPod, then = big deal.

My purple iPod nano went missing a few weeks ago. I know it seems like I must have been careless but I really wasn’t — I kept that iPod safe, along with my Beats headphones, in the headphones’ case. Somehow it went missing. And it went missing JUST as I became willing to make the transition to running outside instead of on the treadmill.

For someone who needs to know details, treadmill running is great. You’re told your exact speed, your distance, your time, etc. And for someone who is very loathe to let other people see them run, a treadmill in a basement is great protection from prying eyes. I fall into both of the aforementioned categories, and over the past 5 months my love affair with my treadmill has reached Kim & Kanye status. JK – barf – death – more like Beyonce and Jay, everyone’s true spirit couple. As the weather has improved I’ve considered branching out to run outside, but had several concerns: 1) How would I know how far I’ve gone? 2) How will I know for sure how fast my miles are? 3) How will I even know where to run? 4) I don’t want to hold my phone while running. Hmph.

And so I hemmed and hawed. I stayed on my treadmill, locked away from the world.

But then, on my birthday weekend, my Mom and Chelsea and I all went running at the River Trail in Scranton. I LOVED IT. It was glorious and green and sunny and it was just the best way to begin a birthday weekend. It really was. The next day, Chelsea slept in and Mom and I hit Nay Aug Park in Scranton. That, too, was lovely.

I decided immediately that I needed to start running outside.

The Monday after my birthday, I wanted to attempt Vestal’s Rail Trail. It’s a four mile straight line, 2 out and 2 back, and on its best days — and in the fully florid days of spring, I think we can safely say we are in its best days — it is boring as shit. I wish it wasn’t, but it is. When I got to the Rail Trail, it was around 11 AM and about 80 degrees. OBVIOUSLY THIS WAS NOT THE BEST TIME TO TRY SOMETHING NEW, but like a Justin Bieber and his attempts to be seen as a man/taken seriously, I cannot be deterred from a plan even when all signs point to failure.

So off I went. I tried. But being so used to the treadmill, I was miserably bad at pacing myself. And then, it happened: my Beats by Dre VERY SUPER NICE HEADPHONES… died.

I was running in the 80 degree heat on a boring trail, having to hold my phone in my hand, and with no music.

Honestly: it was one of the worst runs I have ever had in my life.

I came home bitter and cranky and defeated.

I was so miserable that I took THREE DAYS OFF, which never, ever, ever happens.

But then, Thursday evening, Chelsea and I went for a walk around our neighborhood — we branched into areas I had never seen before. The street on which we live is set apart from the rest of the neighborhood, kind of, and we had never much explored. But when we did, I was delighted — Chelsea has always run in our neighborhood instead of the treadmill, so the sights were all common for her. But the unique houses, the beautifully landscaped gardens, the majestic old and huge trees everywhere…. I could run here, I thought to myself. Then, the best part of all: we discovered, as I’ve mentioned, a woodland trail near our house. It’s less than a block from our front door, but it’s cleverly disguised as a fence and a field. On the other side of the field, a path begins. We walked it out and discovered that it seems to be about 1.5 miles out and 1.5 miles back (it ends at a normal road), so 3 miles total. I HAD FOUND MY PLACE.

Friday morning, I gave my headphones one last dry. No dice. It was pouring outside. Furiously. Should I return to the treadmill? Sigh. If you know me personally, you’ll know that when I’m irritated or angry I can be very effective if I channel myself appropriately. I had a feeling that if I just SET OUT TO DO A THING that morning, despite my disgust about the weather and the headphones, I would have success.

So I put on my old shoes and a windjacket and sans music set into the neighborhood to run in the pouring rain. 6.3 miles later, I came inside feeling calm and immensely pleased.

I was hooked, then, on neighborhood running. But using MapMyRun on my phone was wildly inaccurate, and waiting until I got home to plot the streets was not helpful for while I was actually out there running, and plus MMR didn’t have the woodland trail on it. I needed a better way.

I felt the loss of my little purple iPod more than ever.

That iPod and I had only gone “running” together once or twice a million years ago. I listened to it at work often and in the car, it plugged into my auxiliary jack. I never used its workout capabilities; I only vaguely knew it had them. But when Chelsea gave her blessing to Project New iPod, I felt excited and invigorated and desperately anxious for the new gadget to arrive in the mail. I hoped to use it 1) for sound, 2) for mapping my runs and 3) calculating my efforts. As I waited for the mailman, I contacted the vendor through which I got my old Beats. They offered to send me new ones. I was ecstatic — new headphones, new iPod, new ME out there running.

The iPod and headphones arrived yesterday and my excitement cannot be overstated. I ran two miles by myself, then came home, waited for Chelsea, and together we ran about 3.5 more. 5.5 for the day. The iPod calculated our distances perfectly, as well as our times per mile, etc. The headphones, too, were ideal.

And me? Oh, I was hooked on it all. Finally, with all my concerns assuaged, I had something telling me how far and how fast. I also had something providing some noise so I wasn’t quite so bored.

Most importantly, though, I ran through the streets and didn’t feel like I looked like an idiot. Not because of the iPod, obviously, but because I’m over 20 lbs lighter than I’ve been in awhile and because I felt like ME as I ran along — not like someone pretending at being a runner, but like someone who just IS a runner.

Just like that, I became someone who runs in their neighborhood.

With a snazzy new iPod.

Also, ssssssick headphones.

To me, this is a transformation previously considered impossible.

So this is all to say that I got a new iPod, and it’ll make running easier. I guess this is also to share my delight at my neighborhood running. Mostly, overall, this is me saying that fitness is a journey that is constantly evolving and I love seeing the changes it brings.

Oh and one more thing: It was MY IDEA to actually go for a run with Chelsea. Me? Willingly running with someone else besides my mom? ME? The slow-poke? The amount of courage it took to do THAT will be a post for a different day.

RUN ON, friends!

Back in the Blogging Saddle!

Howdy, ya’ll!

Sorry I’ve been away the past two weeks. Two weeks ago was my birthday week, and last week was the final week of the semester — so writing papers, grading papers, all that. It’s been CRAZY. So I’ve not been blogging. I do hope you’ll forgive me.

I’m still being healthy — I know sometimes when people who are open about their health journeys fall off the radar, others assume they’ve fallen off the wagon. Not in this case! I am still on the wagon. Just haven’t had time to blog.

So what’ve I been up to? Well, the short version: My birthday and Mother’s Day were the same weekend. Both days, I ate my usual. Both evenings, we cooked WW-friendly delicious dinners with my family. I had DELICIOUS ICE CREAM CAKE BOTH DAYS, and I regret nothing.

This week is that annoying time of the month, and I am up about half a pound but I know it’ll go away. Always does.

Otherwise, last week I was down to 161.7. CLOSING IN ON THOSE 150’s, MAN. CLOSING RIGHT IN.

In the world of running: Ran every single day of birthday week but only 3 days last week. Had one AWFUL run outside at the Vestal Rail Trail — I’m still learning to pace myself when not on a treadmill, and at 85 degrees and too fast a clip, I was donezo — but two GLORIOUS neighborhood runs. I’ll post about those later.

Healthwise, though, all really is well. This post isn’t too interesting, I know; it’s just me popping in to say that I’ve only fallen off the blogging radar, not the health radar! I’ll probably post two or three times a week now that it’s summer and I’m trying to relax AND get ready for field exams all at once. I’ll be around though.

Don’t miss me too much. :-p

I Wonder.

Hey ya’ll.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the “Who Am I?” section of the blog. You know: the link everyone clicks when they come here for the first time and try to find out who I am and what I’m about. As I mentioned in one of yesterday’s posts, the section is currently TEEMING with shame and self-resentment and a desire to make huge changes. Well, now those changes have been made. And while I’m still a work in progress, am I really still the same person who wrote that section of the blog?

In most ways, no. Instead of feeling embarrassed by my weight loss journey, I feel proud of it. Instead of loathing my body for its failings, I’m coming to be proud of what it can do. I no longer crave ice cream and cookies every day. I no longer feel shy about whether or not some bitchy girl from high school finds this blog and reads it. A lot has changed — physically AND mentally — since January.

And so I wondered: should I re-write that section to describe where I’m at now? Or how my path is continuing?

After some careful reflection, though, I think I should leave it the way it is. And here’s why.

When I first started this blog, I wasn’t doing it so that anyone would support me. I wasn’t doing it so that I could brag and wax philosophical about how awesome it feels to get healthier. I was doing it because I needed to keep myself accountable; I needed to admit in writing that there was a problem, before I could begin to SOLVE the problem. Further, writing the “Who Am I?” section in this blog was the first time I ever put down a lot of those thoughts into words. And if you know me, you know I put most things into words pretty quickly and easily. And so there’s something both sad and painful about that section of the blog, for me.

It is, in a sense, my “Before” picture.

I am hesitant to change it — and in fact, will not change it — because I didn’t write this blog for the person I am now, or people like her/me. I wrote this blog — and WRITE this blog — for people who might read that “Who Am I?” section and identify with it down to their core. I write this blog so that folks who DO still feel shame, or feel shy, or loathe themselves might see in me an example of transformation — not just another stupid and annoying blog about wellness and lululemon leggings or something. Like, the things I say now in the blog, well, most of them are things that people always told me I would think/feel once I “got there.” I didn’t believe them, really, but I guess those people were all right. You know: the endorphins, the way running becomes addictive in a good way, how clean eating feels good too, etc. And this blog was never, ever, ever, ever intended to be just another blog about how great it is to be healthy. It was intended to be a blog about how hard it is to become a person who is healthy.

And so, despite my attitudes and body changing rapidly, the “Who Am I?” section will remain as-is. It is the “before” picture of my mindset and my emotional journey which, as anybody losing weight can tell you, is just as — if not more — important than the physical journey.

Owning my story is part of my evolution and self-transformation. It’s like I always say: Speak your truth, and you’ll be surprised how many people are listening.

Thanks for listening, guys.

Week 15: A Love Story in Two Parts (Part 2)

This post is for you.

If you’re reading this — I mean it — this post is for you.

You inspire me. You motivate me. You remind me of my worth. You have celebrated me. You have validated me. You have made me feel as though I am being cheered on and loved and supported. You made every single step of my journey so far possible.

I owe so much to you.

When I first started this blog, and indeed, started my wellness journey, I was so embarrassed that the journey even needed to happen. If you read the “Who Am I?” section of this blog, that shame is plastered all over it. I didn’t want the bitchy girls from high school to know I had gained weight. I didn’t want my exes to know. I didn’t want… myself to know, really. It was hard to admit to myself, and even harder to admit publicly.

And so starting this blog was both an act of penance and a leap of faith. By sharing that pain and that shame, I was trying to free myself from it — or at least admit that it was happening. I didn’t really expect anyone aside from my closest friends to read along. I certainly didn’t expect feedback. I just wrote, and put it out there, and did so not because I was self-promoting (I’m embarrassed by this journey, remember?) but because I had promised to myself that I would remain accountable.

But then you found me, reader. And you sent text messages. And you called me. And you messaged me on Facebook. You submitted recipes. You liked posts, commented on pictures, and told me when you ran into me on a random Saturday that you made one of my recipes and now, it’s a staple at your house. You asked me questions. You actually wanted MY advice. You came out of the woodwork after years of our not speaking for whatever reason. You admitted to me that you’re struggling, too. You talked to me about running. You told me new power foods to try. You cheered for me. You read along. You proved to me what I always suspected: That more people feel the way I feel than they care to admit.

The affirmation has been life-changing.

I am all about body positivity, yes, but my blog isn’t about loving where you’re at — at least, not specifically. It’s about finding the motivation to keep going and become better. I think finding that motivation can be just as hard — harder, maybe — than loving who you already are. The discipline and commitment required are no joke. And your support and validation helped keep me on track: knowing you looked forward to posts and knowing you were rooting for me helped me focus on just how much I wanted to really get this right.

I hate to indulge in the cliche, but here it is: You believed in me. And it makes me believe in me.

The best thing I ever, ever did was swallow my shame and write this blog. Becoming open and honest about my struggle with my weight was a huge risk/vulnerability, but in taking those steps, I opened myself up to such wonderful friendships and such genuine support. When I “came clean” about the things that were hard, they became easier. When you all showed me through your love and empathy that I didn’t need to be ashamed, I stopped feeling ashamed. And when you kept coming back to read, I kept writing.

On WordPress, we’ve got over 100 followers. On FB, we’re closing in on 150. And for the record: almost none of those numbers overlap, since my WP readers are people I’ve never met before and about 70 of my FB readers are people I know.

The very best advice I could ever give to anyone who is considering beginning a weight loss or wellness journey? Aside from the obvious — commitment, discipline, etc.? Tell the truth. Tell your story. Be honest about who you are, and what you want, and what you need. And you will be amazed by how many people who know you and love you will support you on this journey.

Week 15 has come, and with it, a new me is popping up out of the dirt and grime like a spring flower, dammit.

I changed my life.

And you helped me.

Thank you.

Week 15, A Love Story in 2 Parts (Part 1)

This post has been a long time coming.

Together, we have finally arrived at Week 15. Well, it’s Week 16 now, but we’ve reached/passed Week 15, and to me, that’s a big and special week. Long, long ago when this blog first began, I was struggling to keep up my motivation. In one of my posts, I wrote:

“One pound could be anything.

And so, it’s hard to celebrate 1.5 lbs.

It almost feels like the road to weight loss hasn’t started at all yet — it would be so easy to flail and give up now and go back to the world of non-obsessive eating habits. If a pound can fluctuate on any given day, how do I even know I can attribute its loss to my efforts? It’s so tempting to just “start next week,” or have a massive brownie “just this once,” and plan (and then re-plan, and re-plan) on starting tomorrow or next week.

But I suppose I’d never see week 15 then.

And I really want to see week 15. And week 30, week 54.”

In my head, I had a budding romance with Week 15 the way little girls dream of their Prince (or Princess!) Charming. I waited for it. I worked for it. I wondered what it would be like. I imagined myself squeezing into old clothes with ease. I imagined myself running MARATHONS. Actually, I’m kidding about the marathons. Back when I wrote that post, I really hoped in the depth of my heart that I would be able to run a mile or two at once. That was all I wanted. Week 15 became the Camelot, the Promised Land, blah blah blah. Week 15 would not be one ambiguous pound, I thought to myself, Week 15 won’t be able to be denied.

I wanted to see Week 15.

I wanted to see it so badly.

Knowing that if I hung in there long enough, Week 15 would roll around, I realized I had to continually put in the work if I wanted this little waystation/weighstation (har har har) to be what I imagined. So I did. And you helped me. And here’s where we are today.

Today is just past Week 15. We’re on Week 16 now.

And as of a midweek weigh-in, it’s looking pretty definite that I will have lost over 20 lbs by this Friday’s weigh-in, and I’m closing in on the 160’s after beginning this January in the mid-180’s, and beginning WW in general years ago at 198 before finally getting my act together. So that one ambiguous pound has turned into twenty. It cannot be denied.

As of today, I am sitting at my desk and wearing my very favorite shorts. They’re khaki shorts from Loft and they’re comfy and cute and can be worn to look classy or slouchy, depending on whether I feel like a preppy lady or a hipster Q. I love them dearly — and for the PAST THREE YEARS (well, since two full summers and a winter ago) they have not been able to even be buttoned. Today, I’m wearing them slouchily with a flannel and a knit cap, and I’m wearing them with a belt, and I look adorable, and this is the first time I have worn these shorts outside my house (or at all) in THREE YEARS, and it cannot be denied.

When I first began runnning, a “long run” was anything more than a mile. The 30 minutes of Couch to 5K left me beat, every time. The only way I was able to convince myself to keep doing it was to say “It’s only 30 minutes,” and then think of all the other things I could do in 30 minutes and how short it seemed. 30 minutes for Family Guy episodes, a phone game, petting Tag, scrolling through FB… So I convinced myself I could spend the 30 minutes another way. Time went by; I graduated Couch to 5K; I kept running. Now, my shortest runs are 4 miles; my medium runs at 5-6 miles, and my longest runs are 6.5 miles and up. I’ve also cut my per-mile time from 12 to 10. When I first started running, my weight loss was stubborn and I didn’t see immediate changes — and that made it so hard to stick with it. Now, I am losing (on average) 1.7 lbs a week. Now, I look forward to my run each day (well, 5-6 days a week). Now, I do with the treadmill what I used to do with TV: “Oh, five more minutes, please!” I am running, and loving it, and have breezed through most of the 160’s weight-wise with such speed that all I can do is wonder why I didn’t start running sooner. I am a RUNNER, now. It cannot be denied.

Back when I first began my WW-hustle, I used to say to Chelsea pretty much every day: WHEN WILL I GET TO EAT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE AGAIN? WHEN WILL I STOP WANTING SHITTY FOOD? These days, I love everything I eat. I don’t WANT to go back to eating crappy food — the thought makes me queasy. So if that’s how “Everyone Else” eats, well, too bad/so sad. As for wanting shitty food: I don’t, anymore. Aside from the occasional NEED for chocolate, I don’t crave bad foods or large portions anymore. To me, this is perhaps the most shocking victory of all.  I used to get frustrated by smaller portion sizes, by the need to sub ingredients, by the thought that I could never have my “favorite” foods again. Now, I feel as though I eat like a queen. And I feel happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. It cannot be denied.

And so Part 1 of this “Love Story” is the story of all the things I’ve just shared — the weeks we’ve muscled through together, my body and I, and emerged victories. The one pound that has become twenty. The “changes” that became “habits.” The “running goal” that became the best part of my day. Wellness is the slow and beautiful journey of falling in love with yourself. I’m not quite there yet, but I do see more strength and conviction in me than I’ve ever seen before. Finally, my outsides are matching my insides: determined, proud, nuanced and hard-won.

It cannot be denied.

Wonderful Weekend Wrap-Up

Oh, just call me the Alliteration All-Star.

I’m joking.

I might be joking.

Am I joking?

Anyway, I gained a wee bit of weight this weekend, but I expect it’ll be gone as I plow through my workouts this week.

How did I gain the weight? And do I regret it?

Here are your answers.

1) This weekend, Chelsea’s mom & her boyfriend and my parents all came into town for our cake tasting and to go out to dinner at the Binghamton Club, where our wedding reception will be held. Lots of food. I planned to enjoy myself and I DID enjoy myself. I didn’t do anything dramatically bad — but I definitely did NOT drink enough water, and I think that’s a large part of the culprit. My stomach refuses to work like a normal stomach when I don’t drink half an ocean a day.

2) Despite the fact that I ate more than usual, I did stay within my points and am not bothered by the momentary gain. And even if I do gain, it’s a lesson learned. And I’m not worried about it. And I don’t regret it. Because life is for the living, I say! Enjoying the occasional really big treat is never a bad thing. I made pretty healthy choices all weekend despite eating a larger quantity than normal; these occasions are what life is. Can’t be stressing about it. I bet by the end of the week I’ve still gone down a bit and lost.

I’m back on the wagon as of today (Monday) though, and ran 6.8 miles to make up for taking Saturday and Sunday off.

Back to the grind, man.

A Sweet Little Thing

Chelsea, as always and ever, is my biggest supporter and biggest fan. When I saw online that some fellow WW-ers had made visual representations of their success so far, I got it in my head that I wanted to try and make my own. It’s a simple task, really: I just required two small mason jars and some colored rocks. Yesterday, Chelsea said she’d like to take me to the store so I could pick up these few items and begin to assemble my jars! She’s the best.

I don’t have pictures yet — the signs I painted for each jar are not yet dry — but here’s what I did.

I broke each pound into quarters, so that 1.0 lbs would be represented by 4 pebbles. That seemed to be more “exact” to me than doing whole lbs. (What if I lose 2.4 lbs in one week or something, you know? Then I’m trying to remember from the week before what I need to add, blah blah blah.) I filled one jar with “17.5 lbs worth” of pebbles, and the other with the remaining 35 lbs to go.

At Michael’s (the craft store), Chelsea found these super cute little wooden tags. We bought two, and I used puffy paint from home to label the tags “Lbs Lost” and “Lbs to Go” — they’re still drying, but soon they’ll adorn my jars.

The point of this craft is twofold. The visual of how much success I’ve had so far makes me proud; the visual of how far I still have to go makes me humble. Overall, I love the idea of these little jars. It’s a way to show, outside my body, the work I’m putting in and the success that results.

A great, big THANK YOU to Chelsea for encouraging the project and for procuring the materials! I’m so excited to show the finished product. And, for the record, I would never have gotten this far without her love and support. She practically moved those 17.5 lbs worth of pebbles herself!

Waging War with the Frenemy Within

This year hasn’t been an easy one.

Before I go on, I’ll preface with this: I’m blessed. I am nearly miraculously blessed. I am living one-in-a-million odds in many ways, from my family’s continued (or newly re-begun) health to my arrival in a PhD program at age 24 to my stable, wonderful, soul-affirming relationship and its fast approaching trip down the aisle. I am blessed with two wonderful jobs (three, if you count side work and four if you count being a student) and while we are far from wealthy, there’s always some extra cash around for frozen yogurt, or a trip to the movies. I know I am blessed.

But this year has been really hard, even with those blessings in tow.

For even the most stable person, the beginnings of a PhD program are stressful. Coupled with my teaching college classes for the first time, preparing for my wedding, and trying to live my life on a budget — well, it’s kind of like having caffeine or kryptonite injected straight into my heart most of the time whenever I think about how much farther I still need to go to get to where I eventually want to be. I try to take things day by day; I try to focus on the moment. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, and always I have a fresh slate in the morning upon which to try again.

I am — some of you may know — a person who lives with depression and anxiety. Not the fidgety-ness that many folks blame their inadequacies on… rather, the kind that grips my whole body and whole brain and makes it hard for me to feel, do, or grasp anything. For the past several years, this problem has been under control. I don’t require medication; I use a variety of mental and behavioral coping techniques that keep me in control of my own body, mind and life. This past school year has been really hard; this spring, I knew that my depression was skulking around in the back of my brain. I could sense it. As I’ve learned to do, though, I would not let it dictate a moment of my life.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to know — whether you are a fellow WW-er or just an interested family member/friend or an adventurous cook or maybe you’ve even just stumbled upon my blog by accident — I want you to know that the best thing I ever did for myself was begin to take charge of my health. Specifically, when I began to exercise more — and even more specifically, when I began to run — I found a new and powerful way to manage the things that make my life uncommonly hard.

Everyone who’s into fitness will tell you that working out releases those happy endorphins into the brain. I think that’s probably correct, except my endorphins never arrive until after the workout is over. That’s okay. I know that on bad days, if I can get myself to go for a good run, I will walk back up my basement steps feeling calmer and in control.

And “control” can be a double-edged sword, I know; wanting to “control” my body might sound like dangerous language to be using. It can be seen as the language of disordered eating, of body dimorphism, etc. — but for me, I promise, it is nothing so insidious. Taking charge of my health has allowed me to maintain the vessel that HOLDS my poor Brain; Brain, who, for me, works overtime every day — whose goal in life is to work beautifully and well. I am an academic and a scholar. If my mind isn’t on the right set of tracks, nothing is. And protecting my body has served my mind well. Having control over my daily routine and my health has allowed me to plow through the most difficult academic year of my life with aplomb so far.

There are days where teaching is overwhelming. There’s a line in an Ani Difranco song — something like, “No one asked me if I wanted to be everything to someone.” I’m not “everything” to my students — but the responsibility of answering their never-ending emails, guiding them, teaching them and being a mentor and authority figure is SO MUCH HARDER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.

There are days when my coursework is too much. Independent study, coupled with a psychotic history class experience that has forever soured me on branching out from my department — blah. I am drained most days just by the struggle to keep up.

There are days when the future is TERRIFYING: the job hunt in the awful academic market, the baby that Chelsea and I will struggle to add to our family,  the difficulties of paying for school and paying for life on grad student salaries, wondering if our marriage will ever be legal in PA or if I’ll have to live a state away forever, wondering if everyone I love will stay healthy, wondering if I will stay healthy…

My brain latches onto all these things and can’t let go. I get stuck. I get overwhelmed. For the past several months, though, I’ve found a temporary re-balancing cure: I go for a run; I take care of my body, so it can take care of my mind.

By eating enough nutrients — through foods like kale, berries, etc. — I have avoided being ill for most of the winter and spring. This is new for me; I’m usually decrepit by now.

By exercising, I’ve boosted my weight loss and my self-confidence. I’ve also, interestingly, boosted my comfort. For those of you who have never been overweight at all — you can’t really imagine how uncomfortable it is to carry extra weight around. Not when walking, etc. but moreso when there’s no type of clothes that are wholly loose and cozy. Moreso when there’s no way you can lay where you don’t get in your own way. Moreso when you feel like you just have too much space that you’re occupying and you wish it were different. Roughly 18 lbs down, and my cozy clothes swim on me. My couch feels comfier. I think less about moving my body around obstacles it faces during the day. I am comfortable.

By getting enough sleep, I’ve given myself the energy and stamina to tackle the above two things.

By mindfully tracking points and never giving myself the ability to make excuses, the plan continues to work for me. It might seem to you, readers, that I lose slowly — but at 5’3, if I lost more quickly, there’d be major problems.

All in all, this wellness journey hasn’t just healed my body (or hasn’t started to heal my body, I guess I should say, since I’ve got 35 lbs to go) — it has helped to heal my mind. Who knew these changes in lifestyle would heal something that pharmaceuticals struggled to manage?

I’ll end with a little anecdote.

Yesterday, I was sitting on my bed and getting increasingly anxious and frustrated about how much work is left in this semester — particularly because one of my professors has continually made life difficult. I started thinking about how busy this week will be, and about how I don’t have my usual day off on Friday and won’t be able to run, and about how we have company coming this weekend and what if I can’t run then, etc. etc. and my thoughts twisted and spiraled and wound around me like a vise. I got to a point that’s not unfamiliar to me: I felt like I couldn’t move. But instead of giving in to that anxiety, I asked myself this question: “Will you really feel better if you sit here?” The answer was no, and I knew it. Then, I asked myself, “Will you feel better if you run?” Stubbornly, I said, “I don’t know” (in my head, to myself). Through brute force — and those of you who have anxiety issues too will know the force it takes — I stood up and grabbed one of my workout tops from my closet. I flicked it at the bed and announced to Chelsea: “If I don’t go for my run, the anxiety wins. And it will not win today.” Off I went to the basement. It was a short run — 3.7 miles in 42 minutes, counting that 5-min walking warm-up — but I came back upstairs feeling better and feeling more in control. It changed the tone of my day and of my week.

Choices like the one I made yesterday? They have changed the tone of my life.

In short, I have begun to save myself from myself.

KNOW THY ENEMY, they say.

I’ll add: Yeah, know the enemy. And then, win.

 

Chia Seeds

Way, way back in the day when Chelsea and I first started eating flax seed, we had heard somehow/somewhere that chia seeds were comparable. I think we ran across flax seeds first at the store, and bought them, and remained deeply in love with them as time went by. Like healthy little graham cracker crumbles, they are.

But this weekend, my Aunt Maryjane was telling me about her love of chia seeds. She said they are a great energy boost, that they can congeal, that they are fibrous, that they are tasty. She told me that runners often love them as an energy boost — and ya’ll KNOW I’m ’bout that life. I investigated further and found that TWO TABLESPOONS is only 1PP!

And so, we shall soon be trying chia seeds. I’ll let you know what we do with them first! Probably we’ll pick some up some time this week; depends on when we get to Wegman’s. Although I guess I could make a trip to Down to Earth on my way home today… Hmm!

The more I read about chia, the more intrigued I am. Can’t wait to give it a whirl!