Morning Musing

I know that I need to write more, but I’ve ignored the urge so much that when I sit down to finally do it, my mind goes blank. And then I allow myself to become distracted until I don’t have time to do any actual writing. Needless to say, the books I have floating around in my head are still unwritten. In fact, there’s quite a bit floating around up there in my dreams that I plan to get to… some day. (More than I care to admit, actually.)

But what about TODAY?

Most days, I’ll convince myself that I can’t. That I don’t have enough time, money, experience, clout… I’ll find ways to keep busy and justify my lack of progress. I’ll say I can do it tomorrow, that it’s not important enough for today, that something else needs my attention more – the kids, the house, the finances… you know, real life. Or I’ll once again fall victim to my triggers and lose hours out of my day as I process.

But the truth is, until I make writing a priority – it won’t be. Until I decide to stop letting those negative voices and excuses impede my success, they won’t. Until I accept that my needs are real, my dreams are important, and my desires are okay, I’ll never fully heal and enjoy my life.

So TODAY, I am going to do life different! Today I am going to tell myself that I CAN and I WILL. Today I am going to make time, earn money, gain experience, give attention. I’m going to allow myself to let go of my perfectionism and enjoy my day. Today, I am going to write.

Welcome to my Morning Musings! 

A Different Kind of Doctor – Week 28

Since the beginning of the year I have been learning how to live a more holistic, simplistic and natural way of life. Knowing that healing begins on the inside, I decided to start the journey by addressing what was most obviously unhealthy in my life – with my diet and exercise. First, I began my learning about and incorporating more organic, clean, whole foods into my diet. Then, I began looking into specific foods to help with my specific health issues. One day, my mom drove past a sign with the number for a clinic of natural medicine and she passed on the information to me. Weeks later, I finally called and scheduled a consultation with a naturopathic doctor. At the initial meeting, she did a physical (and emotional) exam; we discussed my concerns, my treatment goals and a planned course of action. She explained how naturopathic doctors treat the whole person, not just the symptoms. She described how certain foods can harm your body, while nutrients from other foods can heal your body. She also talked about using food to help manage your moods and emotions. After a thorough discussion about my symptoms, she recommended some steps I could take immediately. These included beginning some vitamin supplements, making some drastic changes to my diet according to my blood type (including adding healthy protein, fruits and vegetables to my menu while eliminating soda, sugar, processed foods, cow’s dairy and red meat) and a homeopathic remedy.

I was able to make most of the dietary changes without too much trouble and started the supplements and remedy as suggested. At my follow-up visit about 3 weeks later, my doctor was impressed with some signs of internal improvement she could see from a second physical exam. It has now been about 5 weeks since I started this new regimen. It really is a lifestyle change – learning how to feed your body instead of your emotions or inner child – and some days are better than others. I can’t be sure if it is the vitamins, the food, the homeopathic remedy, or any combination of these and other steps that I’ve been taking to improve my health and happiness, but most days I feel like something is working. I feel myself getting stronger, feeling healthier and more hopeful, excited, and happy. I have days that I’m not so strong. Days I feel like giving up or just screaming at the world. But I know I didn’t get like this overnight and that I won’t achieve the level of success I desire overnight. Slowly but surely, though…one day at a time, I am becoming more the person I am meant to be.

Nutrition & Fitness – Week 1

I have a terrible diet, high in processed foods, caffeine, sugar and salt. My workouts mostly consist of juggling an infant with chasing a toddler. To correct this, I need to address a couple of different issues. My first challenge is to change the way I think about what I am putting into my body. Instead of merely eating whatever I feel like, I’m looking at food in terms of its nutritional value. Food is energy. Water is hydration. I need to make sure I am consuming the right types of foods in the right quantities to meet the demand of energy I use throughout the day. This is going to require making a lot of small changes to the way I eat.

Usually when I start a “health kick,” I clean most of the junk food out of the house and replace it all with food I think I should be eating. My logic is that when I am hungry I will reach for one of the better options. But the truth is that none of the healthy options are appealing, so I wind up leaving my good-for-me food in my organized and pretty kitchen and head to the nearest drive-thru. And if I won’t eat the healthy food in the house, you can be certain my husband won’t! This is clearly not setting the right precedent for our children. So, instead of trying to do a massive overhaul of our pantry and refrigerator in the beginning, I am slowly incorporating more “clean” whole foods into our meals, watching how much of the “bad stuff” I consume and increasing the amount of water I drink. My hope is that over time I will begin to acquire a taste for some healthier foods.

My second challenge is to use these better foods to make meals both my family and I will actually eat. Right now I am doing this by creating healthy “junk” food options. Basically, I make the same meals I normally do but replace some of the unhealthy options with healthier choices. For instance, this week I have made stir fry for dinner using brown rice instead of white and making my own sauce instead of a store bought sauce high in sodium and MSG. For breakfast this morning, I made omelets with coconut oil instead of margarine, real cheese instead of processed cheese product and had a whole-wheat pita instead of white toast. I know I’m not eating perfectly, but I also know I am eating way more nutritiously than I was last month!

Tools can be incredibly useful if you find the right ones. To help me get on the right track with healthy eating, I have started to use the Fooducate app for Android phones. I love this app! Simply scan the barcode of any product in a store or in your kitchen and the app will give you a grade from A to D. The grades are based on the nutritional content of the food as ranked by scientists, doctors and nutritionists. It also lists nutritional information, ingredients, alternate options, and reviews from other users for each food item. And if you scan an item that is not in the database, you can take a few pictures and send them on their way to Fooducate headquarters in an automatically generated email. It’s definitely a fave!

On top of eating better, I needed to start moving! I purchased a membership to my local park district and now have access to a swimming pool, gym and on-demand fitness classes. I also borrowed the P90X system from a friend. While I am certainly far from being able to complete the program in its entirety, I really enjoy using some of the DVDs in this collection to guide workouts at home when I have trouble getting to the gym. My goal is to spend at least 20-30 minutes a day, 5-7 times a week doing some sort of physical activity.

In addition to paying attention to the foods I’m eating and how much I’m moving, it’s crucial to have motivation and a good support system. My family has been amazing in this journey so far. My husband, younger brother and toddler son have taken to the changes in our eating habits with minimal resistance. My mom has been awesome at encouraging me to stick to eating healthy. In fact, she has even joined in on the journey with me! It has been fun seeing the whole family become a bit more active, too. All the boys have been to the gym at least once or twice this week, including our little guy.

After family and friends, the media is a wonderful resource for finding motivation and inspiration. Blogs, such as The Healthy Diaries and Thrive Style, are awesome places to learn great tips, spark your creativity, ask some questions, share your experience and/or just connect with similar minded people. And while it may seem like media is all about sex and violence these days, it is in fact still possible to find some positive messages out there, too. One such movie I’m watching on Netflix this week is called Hungry for Change and it has really inspired me to continue following the healthy eating path I’m on. I am also utilizing some nutritional knowledge acquired from watching Dr. Oz on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I know these are only baby steps and I have a very long way to go, but I am feeling good that this week, I at least got started. It’s my life, and I am making things happen.

 

Determining where and how to start this project has been quite a challenge itself. I decided to begin with what I felt I had the most control over, my body. As the first week progressed into the second, I realized that I am not going to be able to isolate different areas of my life anymore. The idea of ‘holistic’ healing is that I am taking my whole being – body, mind and spirit – into consideration. Any change I make in one area of my life is going to affect me in other areas as well. If I am truly going to heal, I need to learn how to accept and acknowledge who I am on all levels, at all times. 

THE THEORY

First things first: In order to solve a problem, it needs to be addressed at the root… Why does it happen in the first place? I believe that for me, these problems and my responses to them can be attributed to a number of factors:

1.)   Poor health: inadequate nutrition, exercise, sex and sleep

2.)   Poor parenting: witnessing unhealthy coping mechanisms during childhood as well as not being taught healthy & proper ways to experience & express negative feelings

3.)   Traumatic childhood experiences

4.)   Immaturity: my young age, lack of wisdom/knowledge/experience

5.)   Weak spiritual life

6.)   *Possible chemical explanation/genetics: i.e. brain chemistry or hormone imbalance

While I have sought help with this “illness” that resides in me from medical professionals in the past, I have never before taken a “whole person” approach to my health. Instead, I looked to these “experts” to “cure” whatever it was that is ailing me. What I didn’t understand before is that there is no magic cure. It is up to me to improve my health and well-being. In order to achieve a better life, I need to take all of me into consideration. I need to change my entire lifestyle: my thoughts, my words AND my actions. Enlightened with this realization, I began researching holistic healing.

After a bit of studying, I developed a theory: I believe I can lead a balanced, healthy and happy life by using simple, all-natural and smart {cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, modern} methods to treat my mind, body and soul. I believe that by maintaining positive thoughts & words and making positive changes in my lifestyle habits, I will be able to “cure” my body of most, if not all, its ailments without the use of prescription medications.

While I strongly believe a solution like this exists, I am skeptical of many holistic products and services on the market today. My hope is that this project will not only lead me in the direction of true wellness and good health, but that it will also help differentiate between fact and fiction in holistic health and healing for others. In short – I’m looking for natural healing that really works and that anyone can use. I want to learn how to live a healthy life so that I can teach American Dream Makers across the nation that they, too, can live healthy, happy and balanced lives.

*I invite you to follow my journey over the next 6 months in what I am dubbing “The ME Project: A Skeptic’s Search for Holistic Healing” – my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual pursuit for health and happiness.

THE PROBLEM(S)

In 6 months, I will be 29 years old. When I was 28, I set a goal to open my own business by the time I am 30. I am dedicating the next 6 months to my health and the following year to opening my business and buying our first home. This is my American Dream. 

That’s it! I have had enough of this unhealthy lifestyle. I am done with the nausea, lack of energy, fatigue, low sex drive, migraines, bad, bad, BAD mood swings, lack of an appetite/binge eating cycle, back pain, anxiety, depression…it all stops here! I am realizing that I have access to all of the tools I could ever need – it’s the excuses that need to stop. This year is the first year of the rest of my life and I am going to make it count! I am taking control of the one area of my life I have ignored forever – my health. And I’m going to do so as naturally, as simply and as smart as possible. Getting healthy is the next big step in my personal American Dream Making journey.

When I sit back and take a look at my truth, I realize quite a few things about myself that are not so easy to swallow. But I know that without taking this personal inventory, I can’t really expect myself to learn and grow and ultimately, feel better.

Everybody has a story and mine has not always been a happy one. Because, or in spite, of this, I realize that I have looked the most frightening challenges of my life straight in the face without flinching – not even a bat of an eye. Yet, my true challenges in life are the simple, everyday things that healthy people do practically on auto-pilot (think: eating regular meals, getting dressed daily, keeping up with laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, etc.). I stand tall against my greatest fears, yet crumble when it comes to keeping anything on a consistent track. This includes managing my moods so that they are consistently stable.

Maintaining homeostasis is incredibly difficult for me. It’s as though I always prepare for the worst to happen – if “the worst” happens, it feels normal; if not, it feels like something is wrong or going to go wrong at any minute. When I encounter negative stimuli (regardless of how small the molehill), my negative emotions are easily triggered. My attitude, thoughts, words and actions swiftly turn negative. Okay, I will call it what it is… I get downright mean. Since I wear my heart on my sleeve, my emotions become prominently evident in my body language, vocabulary, connotation, tone, and behavior. I feel physical symptoms, as well.

It seems like my temperature rises and I can feel the heat flush in my face. I feel a tingling sensation – something like adrenaline – coursing through my entire body. My teeth and/or fists clench. I hiss venomous words at my most precious loved ones. I lose sense of all positivity and feel very ugly inside. Anger (expressed through screaming, stomping, slamming doors, becoming rough with movements) is not easily softened by my own attempts or anyone who tries to come near me. Anger usually gives way to sadness (expressed through crying until exhaustion) and if I don’t pull out of it soon enough, zoning out/shut down is inevitable (where everything stops—I feel too weak to physically move, I go numb mentally and literally zone out (stare into space or at the TV) until I fall asleep).

Living life like this is not only unhealthy, it is exhausting, for both my family and me.

I am tired.

I am worn out.

I am not happy. And until I heal from the inside out, nothing will be able to make me happy.

Because of this, my relationships are strained and my parenting is negatively impacted.

My heart aches. My self-image suffers. My authentic self suffers. My soul suffers.

It is time to finally break free of this terrible cycle and take control of my life by taking control of my health.

I invite you to follow my journey over the next 6 months in what I am dubbing “The Me Project” – my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual pursuit for health and happiness.

WILL succeed.

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others have thrown at him.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.

An affirmation:
The healing power of God is working in me right now. Every day I get better and better in every way.

Complain and remain. Praise and be raised.

Challenges make life interesting. Overcoming them makes it meaningful.

– Joyce Meyer

My Merry-Go-Round

Okay, so clearly I have a problem with consistency. I feel like I’m running in circles with my fists tightly gripping the bars of a merry-go-round that I can’t quite get the hang of riding. I know that the goal is not only to be able to ride the merry-go-round without falling off, it’s to be able to enjoy the ride, too. Attaining that goal is not as easy as it sounds. There are more factors at play than meet the eye. First, in order to get the ride moving, you have to put in the effort of getting it started. This requires holding onto the bars, taking a running start and then hopping onto the platform. Then, you get to spin around and around as the circulated wind rushes over your face. Eventually, the ride will stop unless the passenger hops off, runs with the merry-go-round and hops on again. That is, unless a fellow adventure-seeker comes along and then you can either work as a team to gain some serious speed, or take turns enjoying the ride while the other maintains its momentum.

[I can see how a merry-go-round is a metaphor for a lot of things in life.]

The merry-go-round in my life is a metaphor for living a balanced, happy and healthy life. In order to take the ride (or maintain balance in my life) I have to put in the work. For me specifically, this means following the routines it takes to keep up a healthy and happy life. This is what creates a stable and consistent home. My problem is that I did not grow up in the kind of home that want to create for my own family. This raises two issues. First, I never saw a positive example of what I am trying to achieve. It is hard to attain something when you aren’t exactly sure how to get there. Second, since I did see negative examples, I picked up on negative traits that are now deep rooted habits that prevent me from achieving the harmony I seek. Getting back to my metaphor, it’s like trying to learn how to ride the merry-go-round the right way when you’ve only witnessed it being ridden wrong or in ways that resulted in injury to the riders.

If I can create a rhythm of hopping off, running, and hopping on and practice until it becomes natural for me, then perhaps I will be able to maintain the consistency I’ve been attempting to reach. I am learning that I don’t always have to burn myself out trying to keep the merry-go-round moving. Sometimes, I run too fast and become short of breath, quickly wearing myself down. Other times, I am exhausted and barely move for too long , resulting in me growing lazy. Sometimes, I let everyone else crowd the ride and I try to do all the running myself. Even though the load is too large, I often refuse to ask for and/or accept help. Still other times, I stop doing the work and the merry-go-round slows to a complete stop. This is when I feel my life has become dull, lonely, and purposeless.

I am learning the tricks to maximizing my merry-go-round experience.
I’ve learned that “slow is steady and steady is fast” – there is no need to sprint; I need only keep moving. Like the Energizer Bunny I must keep going and going and going and going……. regardless of what life throws my way… rain, shine, snow or hail… just keep moving.
I’ve learned that I am going to have days where I fall off, grow tired, or make mistakes. There are also going to be days when I can run a little longer in place of someone else who needs it, enjoy the serenity of a solo ride on a warm, sunny day or help someone else figure out how to ride their own merry-go-round.
I’ve learned that it is okay to ask for help if it gets too hard to handle alone and to take my own turn at enjoying the ride while others do the running.
I’m learning it’s more fun to ride with others, and family and friends are your best co-riders.
I’m learning that through it all, God has got my back.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of merry-go-rounds. I have never liked spinning in circles. Maybe it’s vertigo; spinning makes me dizzy and nauseous and faint. I could never figure out what it was about merry-go-rounds that people loved so much. I could not see how people get a rush from the feeling of freedom as they spin around and around. I couldn’t find fun in the hopping and running and hopping, then spinning and spinning and spinning. I couldn’t see past the “work” of it long enough to just enjoy the fun of it.

Lucky for me, I am learning to love the ride.

Junk Food Relapse

My healthy challenge has been… well, just that – a challenge. That darn junk food has an overwhelming attraction that lures me in every time. Chocolate, my arch-nemesis, has been the worst villain. Instead of throwing in the towel and letting the enemy win, I decided to fight back with weapons of my own.

First, I headed to the nearest supply store: the local supermarket. In the produce section, I stocked up on fruits and salad fixings (my favorite way to eat vegetables, I think). I stopped at the dairy case for eggs, cheese and milk, grabbed some chocolate Fiber One bars to satiate my cravings, bought some fresh pork, poultry and steak, and finished with a stop in the organic aisle for ground flax seed.

Now that my arsenal is full, on to today’s mission: preparing for battle. Of course, this means prepping the foods as much as I can to make for easy meal times during the week. Yesterday I started by hard-boiling a dozen eggs to use for deviled eggs or just for when I need a quick protein boost. Next, on to those awesome looking BBQ Sweet Potato Chips I talked about a few days ago. All of the ingredients are out on my counter, ready for magic to happen! As the chips are baking, I intend on washing and slicing the fruit for fruit salad and the veggies for garden salads, as well as dicing the cheese blocks into cubes so they are easy to grab-and-go. Finally, the ground flax seed will provide some much needed Omega-3’s, fiber and antioxidants to my diet.

So take that, Junk Food Relapse!

In other health updates, Spring-like weather in the Midwest has allowed me to take a couple of walks with my little one this past week. I haven’t been keeping up with my yoga/meditation/stretching as much as I would like to, as finding alone time to do this has been difficult. This is something I will work on this week, as I think these are beneficial both in the short and long term (i.e. during labor and delivery).

Little by little; one day at a time. Slow is steady and steady is fast.

Teach an old dog new tricks

As I was driving to school today, a quote I had read somewhere resonated in my head: “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” I read this a while ago but it didn’t really hit too close to home for me. My initial thought was that pretty much the only thing I “repeatedly do” lately is be inconsistent. Not until today did I make the connection.

I am what I repeatedly do. Actions that are repeated again and again form habits. Therefore, in order to be healthy, I have to repeatedly act in healthy ways – form healthy habits. The opposite of this, being unhealthy, obviously means acting in unhealthy ways, thereby forming unhealthy habits. What was not so obvious to me at first is that inconsistent “attempts” at healthy behavior is actually just as hurtful to my cause as blatantly unhealthy behaviors.

It has been easiest for me to see this when I watch the reflection of our parenting skills in our son’s behaviors. For instance, though it was never really “decided” for or against it, after Bug was born, so was the family bed in our house. It was so nice when he was nursing to have him right within arm’s reach, to be able to feed him and resettle us both for the next short stretch of sleep. It certainly had its perks. Now, though, we’ve decided it’s best for our family to have the baby in his own crib at night. Mommy and Daddy need their space back, thank you… especially with our second on the way. This is an issue we’ve been struggling with for a few months now. I have been checking out books from the library and Google-ing various methods of transitioning him. We hate to hear our little boy cry so of course we tried all the “no-cry” methods we came across, with no success. The past couple of nights we have tried the extinction method and he actually has cried less and slept more than with the other methods. The trouble with the no-cry methods is that I would wear down before him, break consistency and give in and bring him back to our bed, thereby reinforcing the same habit we are trying to break. This goes to show how important consistency is to developing healthy behavior patterns.

As for me, the patterns that I have developed in my own life are mostly habits I learned as a child. Clearly, if I am exhibiting unhealthy behavior, then I am repeatedly making unhealthy choices similar to those I made as a youth. What I need to do now is relearn the poor habits I learned when I was younger and turn them into good habits.

Of course, philosophical revelations are lot easier had than done. This is where the trouble starts… Then again, maybe it’s where the fun begins.