Tag Archives: health

When 50% is a Good Thing

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If you don’t already know, I’m a school teacher. I spend a lot of my time marking and grading. When I was a kid, if you got 50% on a test, it was a bad thing (I can’t remember, but I seem to think it earned you a “D”) Nowadays, a 50% is a C- (which means “not yet meeting expectations”). Grades are a big thing for me – not only professionally, but personally. I have spent pretty much all of my life around this idea of being graded. In elementary and secondary school, I brought home decent enough grades to keep my parents happy without having to do too much work. Now that my own children are entering high school, we talk about the importance of a good GPA as it pertains to getting into post-secondary programs.  As a music student, I took Royal Conservatory Exams, and remember the thrill of getting a “First Class Honours with Distinction” on a few theory exams…. and, I remember the devastation of failing my grade 10 practical exam the first time I took it (a pass, in that instance, was 70%). When I recently returned to university, I decided that this was my time to shine, and I pushed myself to get straight As. Each essay I got back with a lovely red “A” on the last page brought me joy. Those A+s were cause for celebration. When I was doing my teaching practicum, which was a pass/fail program, a friend and I resolved to give each other As at the end of the term, because we were both so driven by letter grades.  And, I’ve been known to brag about graduation from my B.Ed program with straight A+s. Grades are omnipresent in my life.

Today, however, I realized something very important: 50% is good enough.

Wow – I could hear my friends gasping at reading me say that!!! But, it’s true.

This week, I started following the Eat-Clean Diet (which isn’t really a diet as much as it is a lifestyle change for me). Typically, when I start a new “diet” it’s an all-or-nothing thing for me. If I couldn’t give myself a grade of “A” (or better) after a couple of days, I’d get so discouraged, and quit. Which would often lead to me feeling depressed and thereby eating more (usually in the form of chocolate).

Last Friday, during my counselling appointment, my counsellor had me set some goals. I decided that I’d eat clean for breakfast and lunch, which, a few days later, turned into “eat clean for two meals/snacks per day.” I know it sounds like a simple goal, but for me to not strive for perfection is very, very difficult.

You know what? It’s working! In striving for this partial goal, this ‘not-quite-perfect’ goal, I am actually feeling successful!! Sure, I’ve had a few “dirty meals” (um, Burger King isn’t ‘clean eating’ last time I checked), but, because my goal is two meals/day clean, I’m not beating myself up when I have one unhealthy meal. Ok, so I had that piece of cake and a can of pop at lunch today… who cares?!? It was one meal, and I didn’t let it ruin my day! I had a very healthy breakfast, and my dinner was really clean…. and tonight, when I was having a major sugar craving, I waited it out, reminding myself that this is just my body’s way of getting used to a new lifestyle, one that doesn’t depend on refined sugars for energy.

How cool is that?!?!

Even though yesterday I had Burger King for lunch, and today I splurged a bit, I don’t feel like a failure. I am able to focus on my success because I met my goal. And I can do it again tomorrow, and the day after that. Then, once I get used to eating 50% clean, I can increase it to 75% clean.

When I went to search for an image for this post, the first thing I typed into the search engine was “50%.” Do you know what came up? A bunch of 50% Off sale signs. That made me chuckle… maybe this 50% approach will help me take pounds off!!

I’ve never been one for baby steps. No siree. I’ve always been an ‘all or nothing’ type gal. However, I’m learning to be kinder to myself, to love myself, and to forgive myself. I’ve said it before that we treat our pets better than we treat ourselves. As I get ready to embark on a new year of teaching (and grading!) I need to remember something very, very important:

I am a great teacher who treats her students with love, compassion, empathy, kindness, respect and dignity (as every good teacher does): it’s time I started treating myself as well as I treat my students.

When a student fails a spelling test, I don’t tell them they should just quit school! When a student feels discouraged by an assignment that seems too difficult, I help them work through it, step by step. My goal as an educator is to help my students believe in themselves and feel proud of a job well done. I have come to learn that one student’s amazing achievement may be another student’s worst work; I work hard to help my kids recognize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. I encourage them to keep trying, over and over again, until they learn.

Why should I be any different with myself? Why can’t I encourage myself to keep trying and trying until I learn a new way of living? Because, really, it isn’t about the grade. Ask any teacher: grades are not as important as the lessons learned.

I am learning. I am learning a new way of being. It won’t always come easy, but as long as I try my best, I will succeed.

So, yeah, 50% is a good thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oven Roasted Brown Rice Pilaf

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I took this recipe and modified it, as I didn’t have tomatoes on hand.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/3 – 1/2 c finely chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped.
  • 2 cups brown basmati rice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano or thyme
  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, heated (you can use vegetable broth to make it a vegetarian dish)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy ovenproof saucepan with a lid. Add the onion & garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and red pepper, saute until soft.
  3. Add rice and chopped oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is shiny, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in hot stock. Cover pot and bring to a boil.
  6. Transfer to oven and continue to cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed – about 40 to 45 minutes.
  7. Remove the rice from the oven and fluff with a fork. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl.

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The original recipe called for 4 1/4 cups of broth, but I misread the recipe while making it and used 4 1/2 cups – the rice was nice and soft. All three boys said they liked it – and they don’t normally eat brown rice.

Eating Clean

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Today, I am starting something new: Clean Eating. It’s a term I’ve been hearing over and over again since starting this journey. The way I see it is that if the universe keeps presenting you with an idea, perhaps you should listen. There are hundreds and hundreds of diet books, programs, pills, magic potions, on which you can spend money. Those of you who have been following my blog know that I’m trying to become fit and healthy without giving into the propaganda of the diet industry (and without giving them a ton of money!)

Well, I have to admit, I gave in the other day and bought a “diet book”. Actually, I bought three diet books, costing me a total of $33. Which really isn’t that bad.

What books, you ask?

From the research I’ve been doing, this approach seems to make sense to me. Eat more of the healthy stuff – protein, complex carbs, healthy oils; Eat less of the unhealthy stuff – sugars, refined foods, calorie-dense/nutrient poor, prepackaged foods. Sure, I could probably figure this out all on my own, but I love learning, and knowledge is power, right?

Tosca Reno, the author, states that our physiques are 10% genetics, 10% training and 80% nutrition.  I cannot control genetics (which, in reality, I’ve been somewhat blessed with! My dad is a very trim man. From my mother, I am blessed with amazing skin!). The thought of training freaks me out – I still don’t see myself as a ‘exerciser’. But I love to eat. And, I can control food!! And if 80% of how I look is determined by what I eat, that means I can control how I look! That’s great news.

This past week, I have felt tired, depressed, unmotivated, lazy, listless, and have sat around on the couch like a blob.  I’m not surprised: I’ve been filling up on simple carbs and sugary food. I really don’t recall eating much fruit and veggies in the last week. And once you feel that way, it is really hard to be motived out of it.

Fortunately, I have help. My darling friend Jenn and I went grocery shopping together this morning. She’s doing the Eat-Clean thing too (albeit for slightly different reasons than I). She’s helping me with grocery lists and menu plans, which is a godsend. It was nice to go shopping with someone else – I felt far less tempted to buy junky stuff (although, I did buy some not-so-healthy choices for my kids, but it’s things that I generally don’t eat, so I’m not tempted to eat it).

I had my first Eat-Clean lunch today:

2 pc. sprout grain bread

1/2 avocado

1 tomato slice

1 oz. reduced fat cheese

A bit of sprouts

1 c. strawberries

I am SO full, and feel great. I am looking forward to seeing what heath benefits I can notice in the next few days. I’m a bit worried that it will be hard to give up sugar entirely, wondering what type of withdrawal symptoms I may experience. I am looking forward to having more energy, feeling more clear-headed and emotionally stable (less mood swings), having healthier looking skin and, of course, losing weight.

I was reading in Tosca’s book that you can expect to lose 3 lbs a week. I’m not sure if that will happen to me, because I’m not focusing on going “all or nothing” with this. I know myself well enough to know that if I do go all gung-ho on this, and try my best to follow it perfectly, the minute I mess up, I’ll give up. I’m trying to see this as a lifestyle change, taking it one day at a time. I was talking with my therapist yesterday, and she was helping me set some  goals. This week’s goal that I came up with in counselling is to eat clean for breakfast and lunch.  I think I’m going to tweak that a bit: Aim to eat clean for two main meals and snacks/day. I have menu plans and a fully stocked fridge with healthy food. I think I can do this!

 

Wake Up Call

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Last week, my 12 year old son and I went swimming. We are blessed to have an indoor pool in our complex that has a life guard 5 days/week. My son and I had a ton of fun – having races and a treading water contest (after 12 minutes, we called it a draw!). The next day, I was feeling a bit sore, which was to be expected because I haven’t been swimming in a while.

But the pain persisted a bit. Two days later, my hip was still a bit sore. And it wasn’t getting better. This morning, it was my whole leg.

Crap. Sciatica is back.

This time, it’s on my right side. In the summer of 2009, I had a very similar pain on my left side. A pain that I ignored. It got worse and worse. Turns out it was caused by a herniated disc which needed surgery. But, the neurosurgeon refused to do the surgery if I didn’t lose weight first. So, I lost weight, and the problem got better.

However, I’ve since put a bit of that weight back on. And now the pain is returning.

Last time, I ignored it for far too long. I am not going to make that mistake again. I remember the pain like it was yesterday. To say it was excruciating would be an understatement. I couldn’t drive a car for more than 5 minutes without being in tears. I couldn’t sit down for long. Standing up hurt too. Getting out of bed was near impossible. I was taking upwards of 15 prescription painkillers a day, and it still didn’t dull the pain. It was bad.

I refuse to experience that again.

I have been far too lax on my goals this summer. Ok, ok. I’ve been downright lazy. Part of me excuses myself, saying that I’ve been relaxing. Which I have been – and it’s really the first time in a very, very long time that I have been able to truly relax – not worry about a job or money – in many years. My soul has needed that. And, I think I’ve done a lot of personal, spiritual growth in the last two months.

But, it’s time to get of my lazy behind and get moving. Every time I do exercise, I feel great. I really do. I’m beginning to notice the amazing endorphin rush that comes from exercising. And I like it.  This brush with pain has made me realize that I need to take this more seriously. I do not want the rest of my life to be riddled with health problems.

Winning Streak

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Ok, my friends who know me well are probably thinking “What the heck?! Why does she have a picture of the Canucks on her blog? She is the farthest thing from a hockey fan I know!!”  But, hear me out… there’s a reason I have a picture of the hometown favourites on my blog.

Anyone who follows the Canucks (and let me tell you: Canucks fans are pretty loyal!) will tell you how excited people get when the Canucks get on a winning streak. The last few years have been an emotional roller coaster with this team. Leading up to the play-offs, every new winning streak brings on more hopes for the elusive prize: the Stanley Cup. And, lately, the ‘Nucks have royally failed to bring it home. Yet the fans keep coming back for more.

Personally, I haven’t really understood the emotional roller coaster of being a hockey fan. Yay! They’re winning! Boo! The Canucks suck. OOOOhhhhhh, we’re totally going to win the cup this year. Man, this bites! We lost in game 7.  And people pay a lot of money for this?

But they keep coming back, time and time again. Even though their beloved team has let them down once again and caused city-wide riots, come the start of a new season, Rogers Arena is filled to capacity with cheering fans.

I never really understood that until today. No, I haven’t had a change of heart and become the world’s biggest hockey fan. But, I am having a winning streak.

And it feels good.

For the past three days, I have made a concerted effort to get out and exercise. As I alluded to recently, I fell off the wagon big time over the past two weeks. I haven’t stepped on the scale out of fear. I was feeling defeated.

I’m not sure what made me get out and go for a walk on Sunday night, but I did. And then again last night (mind you, that time, my friend Jenn texted me and gently nagged me, which I think helped a bit). Tonight, I spent over 90 minutes exercising, and it felt fantastic!! I even made an effort to smile at the cute guys I met along with way. Some of them even smiled back.

So, that’s a three day winning streak. Pretty cool.  I just checked a hockey stat (oh my, what is the world coming to?!?!) The longest winning streak the Canucks have ever been on was 10 games, back in 2002. Ten. That’s not a very big number.  And that was over a three week period. That’s one game every two days.

I wonder if I could beat that record? Exercise at least 10 times in a three week period?  When I started to think about this whole idea of a winning streak, I got really excited… “I wonder how many days in a row I can exercise, without missing a day?” But really, how realistic is that for a girl who is just beginning her road to fitness.

Here’s the plan: work out at least 10 times in 21 days. If I can do that, my winning streak is just as good as the Canucks. Maybe I’ll beat that record!

If you count the last three days (which I am totally doing), I basically have to work out seven more times before the end of the month.  Oh yeah, I am totally going to beat the Canucks.

And, if I lose? That’s ok. The Canucks lose all the time. Their longest winless streak was in 1973. In the span of one month, they had 10 losses and three ties. But, they came back. And they keep coming back, time and time again. Even after the loss is a colossal one, like losing to Boston in the 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals (see, I do pay attention – I didn’t even have to google that one!). Even though they sometimes lose, their fans keep cheering them on.

And you know what?

That’s what this blog is like for me. Facing my failures (hard for a perfectionist with an anxiety disorder!), owning up to them, and picking myself back up. But the best part? The cheering section! You know who you are…. the friends I’ve known for years, the new friends I’ve met only recently, and the virtual friends I’m making through this blog: you all cheer me on. And that means a lot.

Maybe that’s what keeps the Canucks going – showing up for their fans. Sure, they lose a game every now and then (and you know what? They’re really good at losing!), but they keep coming back time and time again to an arena full of fans proudly cheering them on.

I can do this. I can win this fight. I will be successful. The great thing is, my success isn’t measured by winning a big fancy trophy. And, now that I think about it, it’s not even measured by reaching my goal weight. It’s measured in days: having days in which I make healthy choices and make positive changes towards improved fitness. The “Stanley Cup” for me – reaching my goal weight – is just the icing on the cake. Oooohhhh. I wonder if I’ll get to my goal weight before the Canucks win the cup. Chances are I will, seeing as how the Canucks are pretty good at dropping the ball.

Well, I’ll be… I done gone and motivated myself!

Not AWOL

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I’m here. Really I am.

Sort of.

I haven’t written in  a week. And, truth be told, I haven’t really been doing anything towards this goal in that time. Granted, I spent the entire week enjoying life with my 12 year old as his older brothers were away at summer camp. In an effort to focus on the positives: we did a lot of walking around; I bought a new bathing suit and actually wore it at the beach; we went to the sports court at the end of our block and hit around the tennis ball (and it was fun! I actually worked up a sweat); and I got to spend one on one time with an amazing kid 🙂

Now it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

Why is motivation so elusive for me? Why are some people more motivated than others? Why is it that I get on a roll, have a good week or two, then get derailed?

I actually know part of the answer to these questions, at least for me. Some of it has to do with my own health struggles. When I don’t take care of my health, when I’m not super diligent about it, at first, I feel fine. But slowly and surely, my health starts to deteriorate, and then all of a sudden, I’m not well again. Anyone who has struggled with mental health issues understands what this is like. (And, to be completely honest: at first, I didn’t want to bring this up, to talk about my depression and anxiety, but thanks to The Bloggess  and her courage to openly talk about her struggles of this sort, I have a bit more courage).

I am learning that I thrive on routines. When my life is somewhat scheduled, things go well. I take my medication when I’m supposed to; I exercise regularly (anyone remember 5am yoga? Yep, it’s gone now that I’m on break); I eat healthy (it’s easy to pack a salad the night before!); I do much, much better with my health.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the laid back pace of summer vacation. But the routines have gone straight out the window, and I feel a bit lost. I know part of that is I haven’t been taking my medication regularly, which is pretty important. However, I have recognized that this time, I haven’t completely stopped taking it because I feel better and don’t think I need it (I’ve learned that lesson the hard way!)… it’s just that my routine is completely gone.

Summer vacation is half over. I still have time to implement a good daily routine to see to self care, which includes eating right, tracking my food, exercising, taking my medication, and drinking lots of water.

See, I’m not dumb. I know that when I do those things, my over all health, including my mental health, is much, MUCH better. I feel more clear-headed, stronger, more focused and, well, more alive. I miss feeling that way. I don’t like the way I feel now.

Well, I suppose tomorrow is a new day.

I did it!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about two things today: exercise as an enjoyable activity done for its own benefit, and the attitude ladder.

I knew I needed to exercise. I haven’t gone for a good long walk since late last week, and here it is, Wednesday already. The only other activity I’ve done this week was tennis with the boys yesterday (and really, it wasn’t really tennis… it was more like standing around trying to hit a ball… but it was fun, and I did work up a sweat).

Now I can see why I procrastinate with exercise. If I see it as punishment, why the heck would I want to do it? So, today, I tried to view exercise as a positive. I knew I would be busy in the morning, and I didn’t want to go for a walk this afternoon in the midday heat, so I made plans to go this evening after dinner. Throughout the day, I had this mental struggle going between wanting to go for a walk just for the sake of exercising (and those resulting ‘feel good’ endorphins), and feeling guilty for the White Chocolate Macadamia cookie from Starbucks that I had (did you know one of those cookies packs a walloping 470 calories?!?! Who wouldn’t feel guilty after eating one of those).

With my wishy-washy motivation in place, I drove down to Rocky Point, turned on my music (and my “Map My Run” app), and started off. It was an absolutely glorious evening. The tide was coming in, it wasn’t too hot, and the sun was beginning to set casting a golden glow on everything.  I started off slowly, being conscious of the times I’ve pushed myself too hard and ended up really sore the next day.

As I walked, I made sure I took in the beautiful scenery around me. About a quarter of the way into my walk (right at the end of the inlet, for those of you who know the park), it hit me: This walk was good for my soul. The beauty of nature around me boosted my spirits immensely. As I was nearing the end of the trail, where I turn around and head back, I was starting to feel tired… I thought, “Oh no, I’ve pushed myself too hard. I should’ve kept that slow steady pace I started with. Will I make it back?”

With about a kilometre to go (of the nearly 6 km walk), I got a second wind! I picked up the pace, walked tall and proud, and had a fantastic time. At one point, I realized that when I started this blog, at most I would walk about 3 km – half way around the park and back. Today was my third or fourth time walking all the way around.

But wait: it gets better!

Today I took 5 minutes off of my time!

Last week, I walked the entire 5.7 km in 1 hour 18 minutes. Today I did it in 1 hour 13 minutes. Last month, I couldn’t even walk half way around before I had to turn back, exhausted and in pain.

You know what?

I feel amazing!

I’m pretty sure that some of this amazing feeling comes from beating my time. And perhaps, just perhaps, the other part of it comes from those endorphins kicking in… how else could you explain that sudden burst of energy and the big smile I had on my face as I walked the last kilometre? Whatever it is, it does feel pretty good. I feel strong, healthy, energized, and in control.

In fact, that’s something I’ve been feeling more of lately: in control. I am not mindlessly eating or noshing on something loaded with carbs just because I’m feeling down. This in control feeling is making me feel a lot more hopeful about actually being able to achieve this goal.

Yay me!