Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Contemplation of the week

'Practise not causing harm to anyone, yourself or others, and every day do what you can to be helpful.' ~Pema Chodron

This doesn't seem like much to ask, does it? Don't be hurtful; be helpful. This seems to me to be the precious essence of Buddhism. It is also a very deep practice, and not easy.

It's not easy to take the focus off yourself for even one minute. As my very wise husband observed today, we have been brought up in a culture that teaches us to hate, to judge, to suspect. We are trained on so many levels to do only to the extent that something has been done for us. If we go one step beyond that, we feel like martyrs. We sit back and wait for the recognition, the gratitude, the return of the favour. And if that doesn't come instantaneously, oh, the outrage! The righteous indignation! The blame -- and the descent into black self-pity. Why do we do this? How do we escape this trap of self-absorption?

We are all so self-absorbed. We respond to situations and to others only to the degree that it personally affects us. We have no real interest in other people, and no desire to make meaningful connection to them. We have always been like this. We talk, talk, talk about ourselves. Our version of listening is to wait for the other person to stop talking so that we can inject our next comments about ourselves, about our opinions, about our lives. We talk about ourselves. We think about ourselves. We want to make ourselves happy. We may have an abstract wish that 'all beings be happy', but at the same time we also hope that they would just leave us alone, or failing that, at least give us our due. We want it both ways. Every sentence starts with 'I'. Everything we've ever thought or done in our lives has started with 'I'. Maybe it's time to change that.

I know I can't make other people happy, but I can try take the focus off myself. I can try, occasionally, to do something without ultimately aiming for what's in it for me.

May the focus of my thoughts be others.

May the words of my mouth be others.

May my interest be for others.

May my affirmations and gratitudes be for others.

May this behaviour continue until it is my habit.

Here's a link to something I'll bet you've never seen: a rapping Buddhist monk.

Mipham--"What About Me?"

Please watch it.

May all beings be at ease.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Weight loss journey

Anna asked if I kept a journal during my weight loss phase. The answer is not really. I did some intermittent jotting of notes, but I seem to have thrown most of that out. (I tend to throw things away--I'm not a hoarder!) I can't find any of the my old Weight Watchers journals or any of that stuff. I do have a few notes of milestone weigh-ins and other stuff. I started keeping a journal in 2005, using the Sacred Journey Daily Journal for Your Soul, so I have more detailed records for 2005 to present. I started the Extrapounds blog in June 2006, so you can start on the last page and work your way backward if you're interested in my musings from that time! Apparently that blog became my journaling outlet, because my 2006 Sacred Journey journal is pretty sparse.

In the first year (2004), I lost 29 pounds using Weight Watchers, eating a Standard Western Diet and not exercising.
Start: 04/01/2004--190 lbs
Finish: 01/01/2005--161 lbs

I went vegan in November 2004 and pretty much stopped doing Weight Watchers, although I had been petering off from it for months beforehand as I was changing my eating patterns and found I didn't have to measure and weigh and count everything when I made better choices. I did go back to it occasionally as my journal shows.

In the second year (2005), I lost 16 lbs. (161-145)

I started exercising regularly in 2005. Some random journal entries from 2005:

8th March 2005 I did Firm Cardio Sculpt today! 156 lbs

9th March 2005 157 lbs! Why is it up a pound? Is it from exercising?

13th March 2005 I'm proud of myself for buying the dumbbells and the exercise clothes and making a start on a fitness regime. I have to remember NOT to look at exercising as a means to an end, but as a continuous lifestyle. It's something that I will do for life, not something that I do and then quit because I've reached the goal. There is not finish line, just daily choices. And because it's an ongoing process, I shouldn't get too rattled by occasional slip-ups, lapses or blips. There is always tomorrow.

24th March 2005 10th workout!

19th April 2005 Just read about MBT shoes. Interesting looking shoes. Hope to try some soon.

30th April 2005 I've discovered that Buddhism holds some interest to me and I'd like to explore it more.

17th May 2005 I notice I'm getting to the point that I'm eager to work out and that's a good thing! Still can't do all of Body Sculpt, though. 154 lbs

1st June 2005 Tried on Dorothy Perkins size 12 trousers again but they are still too tight. 155 lbs

7th June 2005 153 lbs Started Weight Watchers again with a fresh journal. :)

12th June 2005 I only did WW for 2 days! I just can't make myself follow it! Ugh! I will try to eat moderately and continue to exercise and just see what happens. I'd really like to lose another stone, but I just don't know if it's gonna happen.

30th June 2005 Bought SIZE 12 Dorothy Perkins trousers today! 151 lbs

This month I reached my first dream goal weight of 154 lbs. When I started this in Dec 2003, I said to my dad that it was an impossible goal, but that I dreamed of being 154. I reached it this month. Now my eyes are set on the ultimate impossibility that I scoffed at when I read it--139 lbs, the 'ideal body weight' for my height according to Weight Watchers and some insurance charts. It could happen!

August 2005 shows the first actual month-long rotation that I ever planned and then tracked. I have used a rotation every month since then. At that point I was copying rotations from the Firm. I didn't learn to make my own until later.

September 2005 shows the daily food intake for the entire month and seem to have averaged 30 WW points a day. Vegan.

October 2005 Tracked food again. Starting weight of month 146 lbs, ending weight 144 lbs.

In the third year (2006), I lost 10 lbs. (145-135)

In the fourth year (2007), I basically maintained, fluctuating between 135 and 133 (with brief and exciting dips into 132 and the occasional scary spike into 136!)

I can post more random journal entries from 2006 and 2007, if you'd like. Anna?

Friday, 25 January 2008

Wooooo! Cardio Mama!

So I got Amy Bento's Advanced Step Challenge day before yesterday. I spent over an hour learning step combo 1. (Then yesterday DH and I did Cathe's Slow & Heavy Legs and Shoulders. Wow, were my legs feeling it this morning. No telling how they're going to feel tomorrow after all the step work I just did!) Today I got Advanced Step Challenge out again and did the warm up, then step combo 1 as a review, then spent an hour learning step combo 2, then went back and did combos 1 and 2 straight through. There are a lot of tricky steps in this workout, but once you learn them, it's pretty fun! I can see that once I learn this workout, it will be a favourite. This workout consists of a warm up, four step combos, a power up option (7 minutes of torture, basically) and a cool down. If you do it straight through, it's about 45 minutes long including warm up and cool down. The step portion is roughly 30 minutes, so for a step cardio workout it is short. But it's so intense it more than makes up for length! I've decided that Advanced Step Challenge is going to be my primary cardio workout for February, and because Amy Bento has a habit during this workout of yelling, 'Woooo!' a LOT, I am calling my February rotation 'Wooo! Cardio Mama!' My goal is to be able to do the entire workout through by the end of February without messing up the choreography too terribly much. Here's a link to a preview of the workout from Amy's website:

Advanced Step Challenge This clip only shows a small portion of the warm up, a bit of step combo 1 and a portion of the power up segment--but you still hear a lot 'Woooo'ing going on. She is famous for this, apparently. In fact, some home fitness enthusiasts don't use her workouts just because of the woooing. I don't mind it, though.

I think I like this chicka. Next I will probably try out Advanced Step Challenge 2.

I also really like the look of her kickboxing. Check out Kickbox Extreme! Now that looks fun, and if that pregnant girl feels like trying to keep up I should be ashamed if I can't put some effort into it!

May all beings be at ease.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The veggies win again

Hooray for a vegan diet! I've just found more reinforcement for eating plants, plants and more plants. It's a study from the USDA Agricultural Research Service. They decided to do some research into the hypothesis that animal proteins lead to osteoporosis, a claim espoused by many nutrition experts and touted by vegans everywhere. As they put it,

When we eat beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or other foods from animals, our bodies take in proteins that may be rich in sulfur. That's unlike the proteins in plant foods—fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, or legumes like peas or dry beans. As we digest animal proteins, the sulfur in them forms acid. A slight, temporary acid overload—called acidosis—may result.

To regain our natural balance of acidity to alkalinity, or pH, in the bloodstream, our bodies must buffer the influx of acid. One possible buffer is calcium phosphate, which the body can
borrow from our bones—the body's main storage depot for this essential mineral.

Though calcium phosphate is an effective buffer and neutralizer, taking it from bones might increase our risk of osteoporosis. This unhealthy increase in the porosity of bones, and resultant thinning, leaves those afflicted with this disease especially vulnerable to fractures of the spine, hips, and wrists.

Researchers decided to study the bone density of young, healthy, nonsmoking American women with similar lifestyles. The only difference was some are omnivorous and some vegan. They found one expected result and two unexpected results:

Expected--The vegan volunteers excreted less calcium in their urine than their meat-eating counterparts. (This happens because the sulfur in meat turns acidic during digestion, and the body must alkalize it in order to process it. The only way to alkalize anything in the body is with calcium, and this calcium is leached from the bones and then excreted in the urine. Because the vegan diet is more alkaline to begin with, less calcium is lost.)


1) Bone resorption was the same in both carnivorous and vegan subjects. The model predicted that bone resorption would be higher in meat-eaters. (Bone resorption is the process by which old bone is broken down and removed by special cells called osteoclasts. If meat causes acid in the body, one would expect bone to deteriorate faster in meat-eaters, but this was not the case. The rates were equal).

2) Bone formation was significantly less in meat-eating subjects than in the vegan subjects. Vegans had a higher level of bone formation even when the meat-eating subjects had a higher overall intake of calcium.

SO, while your bones may not break down faster than a vegan, if you eat animal products, they are definitely NOT forming as fast. What are the implications of this? As the researcher put it,

"If you have less bone formation, the result is the same as if you had an increase in bone resorption. So, even though bone resorption was the same in both groups of volunteers, the lower amount of bone formation in the omnivore women could lead to a decrease in their bone density."

Bottom line: high amounts of animal protein results in lower bone density. (And yes, yes, a thousand times yes, that includes DAIRY PRODUCTS. Do not believe the lies the dairy industry feeds you!)

Here's a link to the study: Boning up on osteoporosis

Now go eat some broccoli!

May all beings be at ease.

Phase One Report

It's the end of Phase One of the No Diet Diet. I scored 16. The book says I have to do one more extra activity before I can move on, so I've chosen Food: Try something you've never eaten before. I've decided to try to make my own bean loaf. I searched online for a bean loaf recipe and found this fantastic site which I'm going to add to my useful sites list on this blog: The Magical Mystery Loaf Studio. You just choose from the list of basic ingredients and like magic the proper amounts are given to make a loaf. There is a disclaimer that not all ingredients might go together for a tasty loaf, but I'm more interested in getting the amounts of liquid and binder right, as I'm pretty sure I know enough about flavours to avoid making a nasty mess. I am going to make an adzuki bean and polenta loaf tonight. (That's because I have adzuki beans and polenta on hand...)

Here's the loaf recipe that the Magical Mystery Loaf Studio generated for me:

Adzuki Bean and Polenta Loaf
1/2 cup peanuts (I don't have peanuts right now so will sub some peanut butter)
2 TB peanut oil (which I will probably reduce and sub some bean cooking liquid for)
One large garlic clove, minced
One large carrot, peeled and grated
2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 to 1/2 cup liquid from cooked or canned beans, as needed
1/2 cup uncooked polenta
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 TB nutritional yeast flakes
2 TB ketchup
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. vegan bouillon powder


Preheat the oven to 350º. Spray a loaf pan or 8x8 square baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside (an 8x8 pan makes a crisper loaf).

Grind the peanuts into a coarse meal using a food processor or spice/coffee grinder. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Sauté any vegetables you've chosen in the olive oil until soft. Add to the large mixing bowl along with all the remaining ingredients. Mix and mash together well, adding only as much liquid as needed to create a soft, moist loaf that holds together and is not runny (you may not need to add any liquid if the grains and protein are very moist). Add more binder/carbohydrate as needed if the loaf seems too wet.

Press mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until cooked through.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a plate or platter and slice. Serve with potatoes, vegetables, and vegetarian gravy, if desired.

Cold leftover slices of make a great sandwich filling.

I will give a report on the results after we try it!

The bad news is I did not lose one pound during Phase One, as the book says I was guaranteed to do. I knew that was going to happen though, as I said earlier, my eating did not change during Phase One. Actually, I don't need to lose a pound, to be honest. I am within my ideal weight. But I'm not at the low end of ideal, which is where I want to be. So maybe it's people who are overweight who are going to see a loss during Phase One. I'm sure distracting yourself even a little will help you cut down on the Doritos and beer. But I don't really have a problem with Doritos and beer, nor do I have a problem with getting my butt moving or even trying new things (within reason).

Anyway, on to Phase Two!

Monday, 21 January 2008

No Diet Diet update

The first week of the No Diet Diet will be over tomorrow. So far I have done 4 of the 6 tasks. I went without TV for a day, got up one hour early one day, wrote something for 15 minutes (although it could be said I cheated as that was a personal statement for a job application) and I already made a list of goals for the year so I didn't see any point in repeating that. I failed to avoid drinking my favourite drink one day and and I did not go for a 15-minute walk one day because I was off work sick and it was raining outside. I have contacted a long-lost friend, albeit by email, and so all I need to do now is draw a picture and do a small random act of kindness for someone. I will report my 'final score' for Phase One tomorrow. Hopefully, I will not be told to repeat Phase One!

So far doing these tasks has made no difference whatsoever in my food choices or my attitude to my life. To be fair, I have not thrown myself whole-heartedly into the spirit of the program. If I had, I would have done the tasks that I found most uncomfortable to contemplate doing, those involving going out in the evening to seek out meetings of various types with strangers. On the other hand, I have had a dreadful cold this week. I wonder if I should go ahead with Phase Two, if my final score warrants, or if I should put myself back on Phase One because I feel that I didn't do this to my utmost. Mark, what do you think? (Mark is my No Diet Diet buddy. We are supposed to be kicking each other in the behind on this project!)

Real life intervenes here--gotta stop this entry short so I can leave for work early so I can stop at the supermarket to buy supplies. Isn't it stupid! I'm worried about issues of weight, but can't stop buying food. Stupid food! If we didn't have to eat, life would be SO much simpler!

May all beings be at ease.


Well, this is a new one. My work colleagues sent me home early. They said I looked like warmed-over death (or words to that effect) and sent me packing. SO I'm back home again. I have to admit, my head is killing, I've been coughing and sneezing, and my ears are stopped up, but as I told them, other than that I'm okay. I do have some serious dark circles under my eyes, having stared in the mirror for a few seconds. (My friend at work told me I was 'heavy-eyed like someone has punched you or you've just got up from a nap or something.')

So I'm home, I've had some lunch. I've got my new sweat/yoga pants on and I'm about to settle in for the day. Weird not being a teacher anymore, where you would have to be dragging yourself out on bloody stumps to get to go home early, and even then someone would call after you, 'Oy, don't you go before you set your lessons for the rest of the day!'

If this headache lets up, I may do some yoga.

May all beings be at ease. And may this cold end soon!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Comtemplation of the week

"To the extent that we stop struggling against uncertainty and ambiguity, to that extent we dissolve our fear."

~Pema Chodron

This year, as part of my Sacred Journey journal, I have decided to have a 'contemplation of the week'. This is simply a quotation that I have read somewhere that I write out on the page entitled, 'Blessings, Gifts and Strengths'. I try to think about it and keep it tucked away in the back of my consciousness all week. My contemplation for this week comes from Pema Chodron's book, The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.

It seems like everything we do in our lives is part of the struggle against uncertainty and ambiguity. We don't know what's coming in the future, we don't even really understand what is happening right now, so we are afraid. We spend all our time planning and scheming. We try to set things up so that we can prevent the unknown from happening. We somehow feel that a constant low-level sense of dread will pay the cosmic forces to hold bad things at bay. We know this doesn't make any sense, but we do it anyway. When we aren't trying to prevent what we fear the future may hold, we are busy trying to distract ourselves from the uncertainty of right now. We watch TV. We go shopping. We manage to move mechanically through entire days or even weeks without really thinking about anything. To think about things is painful, so we keep moving. This is dukkha, as I understand it.

Dukkha is an important Buddhist concept, which has no direct translation into English. The traditional translation is 'suffering.' Thich Nhat Hanh translates it as 'ill-being'. But dukkha encompasses so much more than these translations. It is an entire web of emotions that lead ultimately to feeling unsatisfied and lost: disturbance, irritation, dejection, worry, despair,dread, anguish, anxiety; vulnerability, injury, inability, inferiority; sickness, aging, decay of body and faculties, senility; pain/pleasure; excitement/boredom; deprivation/excess; desire/frustration, suppression; longing/aimlessness; hope/hopelessness; effort, activity, striving/repression; loss, want, insufficiency/satiety; love/lovelessness, friendlessness; dislike, aversion/attraction; submission/rebellion; decision/indecisiveness, vacillation, uncertainty. Notice that there are some 'good' things in that list. They're there because they also lead to dukkha. When we realise, as we soon do, that the good things are not permanent,that there is no way to hold on to them, that leads us back to dukkha. We fear getting what we don't want and losing what we do want. We dread. That's dukkha.

The Buddha said, 'There are three forms of stressfulness (dukkha), my friends. The stressfulness of pain, the stressfulness of fabrication, and the stressfulness of change. These are the three forms of stressfulness.' He was right, you know. All our fear comes from pain (physical or mental), from our own imagination, and from change of any kind. You cannot escape any of these things!

There is only one way out of dukkha. It is to accept that there is no way out of dukkha. Stop fighting it. Stop dreaming up wild imaginings about it. Stop running from it. It's there, it's real, it's right behind you and it ain't going away. Unless you turn around and embrace it.

'To the extent that we stop struggling against uncertainty and ambiguity, to that extent do we dissolve our fear.'

This is not defeatist. This is empowerment.


Today I'm wearing one of my less successful fitness purchases. I got them in May 2005 when my friend, Morandia, was visiting. Oh, how I wanted them! I was sure they were going to make a huge difference in my life and rid me of cellulite forever. It's a pair of MBTs! I hardly ever wear them because I feel a bit silly in them. I see them all over in London, but in my neck of the woods, I just look like Frankenstein's stepmother. There are so many styles out now, but when I got mine there were only a few to choose from. Here's what they look like:

Actually, I thought then--and still think now--that they are cute. Too bad I've got size 6 feet, or they'd be even cuter. And I have to admit they are fun to walk in; they sort of send you bounding along.

One reason I don't wear them much is I got stuck wearing them on a LONG train journey when I was forced to stand because there were no seats available, and standing in these shoes really works the calves and shins. And that long journey was after I'd spent a weekend tramping all over London in them, so my legs were already pretty sore. It's made me afraid to stray too far from home in them for fear I'd be stuck like that again. But to be honest, I'm much fitter now and don't think it'd be that big an ordeal. Plus I could always carry an extra pair of shoes in that voluminous ruck sack thing I'm always schlepping around with me.

Another reason I don't wear them much is I often forget I've got them, lurking in the top of the closet! Must wear them this summer until the wretched things fall apart and I will have got my money's worth out of them! Right now I'm wearing them to meet DH at the train station!

May all beings be at ease.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Perspective...and some shopping!

I was just digging around in some old files on the computer and found this photo of me from December 2005. I was visiting home and my mother brought out these overalls that I used to wear when I was fat. I bought those overalls for a journey to France when the French teacher and I took some students there for spring break in 1998. They fit me back then. They weren't tight, but they fit. My mother brought them out from the back bedroom and said, 'Here, put these on and let me take a picture of you.' So I slipped them on over the jeans and sweater I was wearing, held them out on the side and made the usual wretched facial expression you see on a 'before' photo. I have to add that in 2005 when this photo was taken, I weighed about 10 pounds more than I do now! (And I'm a bit depressed to notice that my hair looks the same in the 2005 photo here and the July 2007 photo on my profile. It was a bit different in between! Promise!)

This picture was taken in November 2001. I had lost about 30 pounds that year and in this picture I weighed around 175 lbs. I was 35 years old. Everyone told me I looked great. I thought I looked great, too. I'd had a makeover and was dating again after a divorce. (That explains the blonde streaks, contact lenses, overplucked eyebrows and excessive lipstick!) I never thought in a million years I would ever get much below this weight. For me, this was slim. Now it's my before picture.

Anyway, I ate chocolates yesterday, and this morning I weighed 135. And it's true I've only seen 133lbs a couple of times so far in 2008, and my dream muscled-and-sleek goal of 122lbs by the end of the year seems far away. I've been around the size I am now for a while, and you forget. You think 135 is a bad thing. (Which don't get me wrong, for me it is! ) But--I have photographic evidence of how far I've come. It's never advisable to be complacent, but it's always good to be reminded of where you used to be.

As far as the No Diet Diet goes, I've done okay. So far the challenges have not been terribly challenging. I got through the no TV day fine, wrote on the second day and only had one cup of coffee on the third day. (Forgot about it to be honest, but after that no more coffee. Actually, on a normal day after that I would have had no more coffee, either, so I should probably write that day off as a failure). Today I'm supposed to go for a 15-minute walk. Considering that I've done a 45-minute weight-lifting workout already today, it seems a bit anti-climactic, plus it's raining. So I am going to substitute 15 minutes meditation for it. The point of the walk is to get you moving and to give you time to reflect. I've already moved and I can reflect in front of my little image of Buddha instead. I haven't done any formal sitting meditation at all so far in 2008. Shocking!

Oh, man! Look what I ordered! It's slanted risers for the Club Step! And some 10kg discs for my Reebok Rep Set!

SLANTED RISERS put the Step on an incline for strength training and cardio.

I got the Reebok Rep Set last year, which comes with three discs. (If you squint you can see them--yellow, green and orange. 1.25kg, 2.5kg and 5kg respectively!)

But for Cathe's SLOW & HEAVY series, I need a heavier barbell for squats, so I ordered these 10kg badboys (in lovely purple!) I can also use the discs on their own for lat rows. (My 8kg dumbbells are getting too light for lat rows...and of course Derek will soon be outgrowing all the weights with that testosterone of his!)

It's my 41st birthday this month, so I will count it as my birthday present. (You couldn't have convinced on my 31st birthday that for my 41st birthday I'd be a vegan...Buddhist...compulsive exerciser! I mean, who could have predicted! And they say people don't change!)

Happy birthday to me!

May all beings be at ease.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

A New Fitness Diva!

I'm very excited because I've just discovered a new fitness diva, a new heroine, a new aspiration, a new training style. It's Amy Bento!

I've been reading about her for about a year, but I've resisted the urge to try it out because I've been afraid of challenging step choreography. I've done Cathe for about a year now, though, and I'm more open to trying advanced step choreography. It doesn't matter if I can't do it the first few times. The point is in the attempt. Here's a link to a preview of the workout:

Advanced Step Challenge

I bought this one because I could get it at Amazon for £5.98. Bargain!

The next one is called Advanced Step Challenge 2. It looks much more complicated and it isn't available yet on Amazon. It's going to take me weeks and weeks to learn the first workout anyway, so not to worry!

I just got an email this morning that this order has shipped. It's coming from Florida so should be here in about 10 days. Woo hoo!

May all beings be at ease.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Look what I found!

I found an online photo album that I completely forgot about! The photo above is me in August 2006, Hafod Estate, Wales. (Derek took the photo. When we're walking, there's no one to take pictures of the two of us, so we have to take them of each other. Awww)

Icklebelly Online Photos

I posted slideshows of three country walks we did in 2006. I need to get some other photos on there! We saw some really pretty country. Too bad 2007 was such a washout of a summer. Hopefully the 2008 walking season will be better!

Here's a good one of Derek, the navigator.

I finished my job application. It's for an assistant librarian post at a well-regarded college in Leicester. Wish me luck and send me good vibrations!

I just finished The Firm Ultimate Calorie Blaster. Tonight Derek and I are going to do a Jari Love strength training DVD. We didn't workout last night as we were both really tired and depressed from the rain and a rubbish day. Today the sky is blue (sort of) and I have a dreaded chore out of the way. I will send the application off tomorrow and try not to fret about it. (One of my goals for 2008 was to send off one job application per month--so that's January's done!)

Today's No Diet Diet task was to write something for 15 minutes. I spent 3 and a half hours on my job application. I think that's enough writing for today!

May all beings be at ease.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

How many things can go wrong in one day?

1. Not enough bread for toast this morning.
2. It was tipping it down when I walked to work and my shoes got totally soaked, all the way to my socks.
3. I then had to go back out into the rain to wait for a lift to a meeting.
4. We couldn't find a place to park close to the venue so I had to walk through the rain again. By this time, my feet were squelching in my shoes.
5. I missed 15 minutes of my lunch break because we were late getting back.
6. I realised that I had left my purse at home.
7. I accidentally erased something important from a record on a computer at work, won't be there tomorrow and had to leave a note about it.
8. I did not realise that the keys for locking up were in my purse at home until it was time to lock up, so had to call my supervisor to come back to work from home to lock up for me.
9. We had to go to ASDA after work.
10. Walking home from ASDA, it was raining. Got soaked through again, even the socks.

So I didn't turn on the TV all day. So what. I left the house at 8.30 and didn't get home again until nearly 7.00. We were going to workout but I am too knackered.I'm going cross-eyed just looking at the screen at this point. The TV is off and all I notice is my tinnitus is intolerable in this silence.

It's 8.45 and I'm going to have a bath and go to bed. Good-bye to this wretched day.

May all beings have a more pleasant day than I've had.

Monday, 14 January 2008

So here we go...tomorrow is day one!

Tomorrow I start the No Diet Diet with Mark. In essence, the program consists of making small changes to daily habits, over 28 days, in a series of four progressive phases. Phase One is pretty simple, and the changes are very prescriptive. As the program continues, you are expected to make more in-depth self-assessments and make more meaningful changes to the way you relate to other people and to the way you do things.

Day One--No TV all day. This will be a challenge for me. We always have the TV on in the background. The first thing we do each morning is flick on the TV. It's just always there. But not tomorrow! To be honest, tomorrow night we won't get in until 6.30, then we have a one hour workout, then I'm going to work on an application for a job, and that will pretty much finish the day. Derek plans to play video games while I work.

There's a different step for each day, but I'll save them for the days I do them.

There is also a list of extra challenges and for the first week (Phase One) you have to choose two of them. The book tells you to choose the ones that you feel uncomfortable with as they will break you out of more barriers. To be honest, I can't cope with the two that make me feel most uncomfortable: Go to a local town hall or somewhere where there's a public meeting. AND Choose any local charity group and go and help out. The very idea of going out of my way to leave the comfort of my home to mingle with strangers fills me with dread. I'm just not ready. So I have chosen two lesser but still uncomfortable ones: Draw a picture. Contact a long-lost friend or relation. I haven't decided what I'm going to draw or who I'm going to contact yet! (And just for fun I'm adding a third: I'm going to sit somewhere different in the room every night when I eat dinner. I realized on Sunday that I have eaten every meal I've ever eaten in this flat sitting in the same chair in the same spot. So I'm going to sit in the floor, on other furniture, and all over the room. Maybe even in a different room! Oooh! Danger Will Robinson!)

May all beings be at ease.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

A film, a book and a whole lotta junk food!

This weekend we had house guests and we all went to see Will Smith's I Am Legend in Coventry. I've been a fan of the book for years, have fond if lukewarm feelings about the Charleton Heston version, 'Omega Man', and have always loved Will Smith. I have been looking forward to this film for months. Overall, I enjoyed it. Will Smith's performance outshone the material by far. I was going to write a review, but this one is so spot on that I'll just provide a link. Dead right. I personally give the movie 3.5 stars--the extra half star is for Smith's performance.

The book is a copy of the new edition of the No Diet Diet. Mark and I are starting this on Tuesday. I will blog about it daily!

And finally, the whole lotta junk food. What didn't I eat! We had chocolate cookies, cheese puffs, onion rings, peanuts, cashews, white wine. Pizza for dinner (albeit homemade vegan pizza for DH and me.) No way am I getting on the scale for a few days! DH and I did get up early on Saturday morning and did Cathe's Biceps & Triceps workout from the Slow & Heavy series. I have been so sore today! That one really got me right in the triceps and in my back!

May all beings be at ease.

Friday, 11 January 2008

That's not me (ha ha!), that's Cathe Friedrich. Look at those arms. Oh, man. So far we have done two of the three workouts from Cathe's Slow & Heavy series. Last night it was Legs & Shoulders. I used my barbell with all the weights on for squats. It was the first time I've ever done that. To be honest, I think I should have used heavier dumbbells to pre-exhaust my legs beforehand. Even though I used all the weight I've got, my legs are not sore this morning. My fully assembled barbell weighs 18kg (That's just under 40 pounds.) That's respectable, as Cathe uses a 50lb barbell. But she pre-exhausts with much heavier weights. I'll know better for next time, and maybe I need to order additional weights for my barbell set. I also didn't have a heavy enough dumbbell for the plie squats. Cathe holds one 40 pound dumbbell. My heaviest dumbbell is only 8kg (17.6 lbs). I will have to figure out some way to increase the weight on that one.

Anyway, I enjoyed the workout. I like the Slow & Heavy style! Trouble is, since I've always done the low resistance/high repetition style training, I don't have heavy enough weights! Must figure out something...

Oh, testosterone envy here! Hubby has been working out with me for a grand total of 4 weeks (as opposed to my nearly three years) and his muscles are as developed as mine already. So not fair! :) Not that I'd like to be a guy, but I sure wish it wasn't so dang hard for a girl to build the beauty muscles!

May all beings be at ease.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Not knocked on the head entirely, but anaesthetized indefinitely

My driving instructor couldn't fit me in on a Friday so I've told him to just cancel all my lessons. I feel the need to step back from this. I must find a different instructor. Perhaps I will contact the guy who taught Derek, but it will not be until spring. I have been beating myself up about this and feeling like a failure because I want to pull back from it rather than attacking it with gusto, but after a heart to heart with DH last night, I realise it doesn't matter. So much of the pressure I put on myself is about something that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if I take lessons now or later. It doesn't matter if I take a few and stop, take a few and stop. It actually doesn't matter if I never get a drivers licence. If I never take another lesson, it doesn't mean I have failed. It means I have made a choice. It's hard to explain how much I struggle with the pressures that I put on myself because of some nebulous concept I have of what is expected of me. Who do I think is judging me? Why do I care if anyone is judging me?

So anyway, it's goodbye to that £120, and hello to a relief from the anxiety I've been having over the whole issue. I will most likely go back to it later, but the goal is to get the licence by the end of 2008, not right now this minute. And if I don't meet it, so what. I made up the goal. I can change it.

On another note, I have not been able to get my hands on a copy of No Diet Diet. Amazon is sold out, and the new edition is not available in WH Smith or Waterstones in my town centre, and the library only has it on order. Maybe Mark can help.

May all beings be at ease.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008


I've just ordered a copy of No Diet Diet and am going to work through the exercises in the book with Mark . We're going to be checking in with each other on this and I will most likely blog about the experiences. I'm not so much interested in the weight loss aspect of this book, as I think I've got that pretty much in hand, but I am very intrigued at the habit-breaking aspects in the book. There are challenges in the book to do something different, break out of old patterns of behaviour, and that is something I need. For example, day one's challenge is to simply not turn on the TV at all. See what you can find to do without it. The challenge is to 'do something different' every day to break what the authors of the book call the 'habit web'. I need this!

The other thing I've done is contact my driving instructor to tell him I want to reschedule driving lessons. I have found it demoralising and inconvenient to lose two hours of my days off to driving lessons, so I want to do them every other Friday when I finish work at 3.30. I will be home before hubby by 5.30 and my days off will still be my own. And I will only have to take two lessons a month. :) I don't care if it takes me a long time to get my licence. Right now, I don't care if I ever get my licence. But I will try it this way and see if it's any more tolerable.

Thursday, 3 January 2008


Before Christmas, 133.8 lbs. After Christmas, 136.8 lbs.

Okay, it's said that you have to eat 3500 extra calories to gain one pound. Apparently I somehow managed to eat 10,500 extra calories in December. That's roughly 350 extra calories a day. What's 350 calories? That's like 2 or 3 cookies, for heavens sake.

It's so good for me to break this down and look at it like this. I have to learn this lesson. Sustained indulgence, no matter how modest it appears, is going to lead to weight gain.

(Pardon the glamour girl. It made me laugh, plus I know the hubster is going to love it!)

May all beings be at ease. (Even if you weigh more now than before Christmas!)

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Leaning into the fear

I've just finished reading a book by Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare You. Actually, I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago, when I first started exploring the concepts of Buddhism. I think I wasn't ready for it. I didn't understand, I couldn't connect with Pema Chodron or the material. This time was different.

It just so happens that hubby and I have been going through some stress lately. Mine is just my usual existential angst, hubby's has been brought on by some personal things and the fact that his parents are experiencing very ill health and a sudden sharp decline in their independence. In essence, we've been feeling the strain, and the other day I flew completely off the handle because he came back from the store with a bottle of some sort of chili sauce instead of the kind of salad dressing I asked him to get. I was really, really angry, and even while angry I knew I wasn't angry about the shopping. The anger was a symptom of what was going on underneath. I was feeling stressed because we were expecting house guests and I didn't know what we'd do if we didn't have salad dressing. It was so stupid. I didn't yell, but I snapped at him and muttered a lot. I felt bad instantly afterwards and we talked about it. I know he remains stupefied by my ability to go from zero to bitch in a nanosecond, and then after the sharp flare to settle right back down and expect everyone to act as if nothing had happened. It's not something I understand, either, but it's something I have done all my life and something I want very much to overcome. I am a lot better about controlling my hair trigger temper than I used to be, but still. (By the way, it turns out neither of our guests even wanted salad dressing! *rolling eyes*)

This was a tiny incident in our day, but you know what? It's these little moments that make up our daily practice. I can't help but think it doesn't matter how many books I read or how long I sit in front of lit candles saying, 'Present moment, wonderful moment' in my head if at the first sign of things not going my way I flip out. That's why I want to improve in these habitual reactions, not just anger but sadness, envy, guilt, whatever the case may be. Overcoming these little battles will help strengthen me for the bigger emotions both in myself and others.

I had been reading this book, working my way through Pema Chodron's introductory overview of some basic Buddhist beliefs, when at last that afternoon I got to a section on dropping habitual reactions. Hello! How serendipitous that I should read this on the same day I'd begun wondering how to do just that.

Pema Chodron teaches us to train in 'the three difficulties.' 1)Acknowledging our neurosis as neurosis, 2)doing something different, 3)aspiring to continue practising in this way. She gives this summary of the practice:

In essence the practice is always the same: instead of falling prey to a chain reaction of revenge or self-hatred, we gradually learn to catch the emotional reaction and drop the story lines. Then we feel the bodily sensation completely. One way of doing this is to breathe into our heart. By acknowledging the emotion, dropping whatever story we are telling ourselves about it, and feeling the energy of the moment, we cultivate compassion for ourselves. Then we could take this a step further. We could recognize that there are millions who are feeling the way we are and breathe in the emotion for all of us with the wish that we could all be free of confusion and limiting habitual reactions. When we can recognize our own confusion with compassion, we can extend that compassion to others who are equally confused. This step of widening the circle of compassion is where the magic bodhichitta training lies.

I read that paragraph over and over. I even copied it out into my journal, and now I have typed it out yet again for this blog. For me, this is important stuff. This teaching asks me to do something different from any other coping mechanism I've ever read. It doesn't ask me to not feel what I'm feeling. It doesn't ask me to find the underlying cause of my feeling. It doesn't ask me to count to ten, jog around the block, run to the bedroom and punch the pillows, or even engage in primal scream therapy. It doesn't ask me to let it all out because I have a right to be angry and say whatever I please. No, it doesn't ask me to do any of those things. It asks me to feel what I feel and drop the storyline.

Stop the internal monologue.

Stop the spiralling imaginings of what could happen as a consequence of this thing that has upset me.

Stop wondering what childhood trauma or current trauma has made me so edgy.

Stop everything and feel the feeling. Breathe before you react. Thich Nhat Hanh would advise me to say something like, 'I am feeling anger now.' He would advise me to breathe in the anger and acknowledge it. Pema Chodron teaches me to go a step further. She teaches me to remember that millions of people all over the world are feeling this same exact feeling right now. She tells me to feel compassion for myself and for everyone suffering in this way. Suffering is part of life. Every kind of suffering is part of life and every kind of suffering is universal, even this current one.

Our patterns are well established, seductive, and comforting. Just wishing for them to be ventilated isn't enough. Those of us who struggle with this know. Awareness is the key. do we see the stories that we are telling ourselves and question their validity? When we are distracted by a strong emotion, do we remember that it is our path? Can we feel the emotion and breathe it into our hearts for ourselves and everyone else? If we can remember to experiment like this even occasionally, we are training as a warrior. And when we can't practice when distracted but know that we can't, we are still training well.

This seems such a useful practice. Of course I won't remember to do it every time I feel a strong emotion or feel myself spinning off into a habitual reaction. But as Pema Chodron says, the more frequently I catch myself and try to work with interrupting my habitual patterns, my desire to help not just myself but all sentient beings will slowly grow.

Let's just hope hubby doesn't come home with the wrong sauce again anytime soon! (Ha! Just kidding...)

May all beings be at ease.

How I design a rotation

Anna asked me how I make up my workout rotations, so here's what I do.

First of all, I think of my workouts in categories:
cardio (I own three types: step aerobics, floor aerobics and kickboxing)

yoga (I own two types of this: kundalini yoga and vinyasa flow/ashtanga/power yoga)

strength training aka weight lifting (again, two types in my collection: low resistance/high repetition--sometimes called fast & light--and high resistance/low repetition--sometimes called slow & heavy)

AWT (aerobics with weights training--aka circuit training aka cardio+sculpt aka interval training)

There are so many training styles out there, but these are the types of workouts that I have decided that I prefer. It's important for your success that use a variety of training styles.

Now, there aren't many rules when it comes to making a workout rotation, but there a few key things to remember:

1. Do not weight train the same muscle group two days in a row. Give a muscle group at least 24-48 hours rest between workouts.

2. Even though your heart rate goes up during weight training, it is not thought of as an aerobic workout. It is more anaerobic. Conversely, even though a cardio workout works the legs very hard and might sometimes make you sore, it is not thought of as a sculpting or strength training workout. You need to incorporate both types of training in your regime.

3. For weight loss, conventional wisdom says you need to do 200 minutes a week of cardio (aerobics). For maintenance/heart health, not so much is required. Cardio exercise burns calories during the workout and briefly straight afterward.

4. For strength and muscle building, you need to do weight lifting three times a week, working the targeted muscle group to fatigue. Weight lifting will burn up glycogen stores and build muscle, which burns calories 24 hours a day.

5. You must have a rest day (no working out) at least 1 out of 7 days, but if you go more than 48 hours without a workout, you begin to lose your training effect. There is such a thing as 'active rest', which means you can go for walks, ride bikes, do yoga, etc, on a rest day. These activities are not that strenuous, depending on how you tackle them.

6. Yoga and stretching helps you train those tiny little muscles, improves posture and balance, and helps you perform better on all your workouts. Do include it!

OKAY, so here's how I make a rotation.
1. I sit down with the calendar for the month on which I have written my work start and finish times, days off, appointments, etc. I drop in my REST days on days that I finish work late anyway, making sure to plan one every 5th, 6th or 7th day (ideally). That usually means 4 rest days a month, but remember you can do yoga on rest days, so some of those might end up being yoga days.
2. I then decide what my focus will be for the month. Lately it has been strength training, so I drop in three strength training days per week, making sure there is at least one day between them. I then plug in a cardio or yoga or both on the remaining days. (During my weight loss phase, my focus was more on cardio, so I dropped in cardio first, making sure I chose long enough workouts to total at least 200 minutes a week). If I'm including circuit training, I make sure to go light on any muscle groups I may have worked the day before.
3. Some months I plan every single workout by title, sometimes I just write C, Y, S for cardio, yoga, strength and choose on the day.

I'm not a bodybuilder or 'super serious' exerciser or anything. The above tips are designed for people who want to achieve and maintain weight loss and overall fitness through relatively moderate at-home exercise. (While it's true that I am an 'advanced' home exerciser, I don't consider myself in any way an athlete. I know some home exercisers do, but I think jumping up and down in your living room a few days week is nowhere near athleticism. Being in good shape doesn't make you an athlete.) Anyway, you will find all sorts of more detailed and theoretical training methods elsewhere online. I'm not getting into any of that! This is what I do and it's worked for me so far!

Happy rotation planning!

*Sigh* This story is all over the news today: UK, US most keen on fast food

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

January Rotation

For this month, I am doing a Jari/Cathe rotation. I am planning my strength training in advance, but will decide which cardio and/or yoga to do on the day. Here it is:

1 Tom Holland Total Body Workout
2 C+Y
3 Jari Love Get Ripped
4 Y
5 Ripped Slim & Lean
6 C+Y

8 Cathe Slow & Heavy Chest & Back
9 Y
10 Slow & Heavy Biceps & Triceps
11 C+Y
12 Slow & Heavy Legs & Shoulders
13 C+Y

15 Y
16 Ripped & Chiseled
17 C+Y
18 Ripped to the Core
19 Y
20 C+Y

22 Slow & Heavy Biceps & Triceps
23 Y
24 Slow & Heavy Legs & Shoulders
25 Y
26 Slow & Heavy Chest & Back
27 C+Y
29-30 HOLIDAY (Don't know yet if we'll be home)
31 Y

Weeks 1 & 3 incorporate Jari's low resistance/high rep strength training. Weeks 2 & 4 are new (to me)workouts, Cathe Friedrich's Slow & Heavy 3-day split. This set of workouts focuses on particular muscle groups and requires you to lift as heavy as you can manage using an 8-beat count: 6 counts on the eccentric move, 2 on the concentric. It looks killer and is supposed to really build muscle. I ordered this set on Christmas day, and funds left my account on 28th December, so presumably it has shipped and will be here in time to use on 8th Jan. Hope so!

(I threw in the Tom Holland workout for variety. Haven't done this one in a long time. It's decent if you lift heavy enough and double time the cardio segments!)

I'm calling this one 'No Guts, No Glory'. Time to work hard!

I'd just like to add that I'm so proud of my husband! All through December he did every strength training and yoga DVD with me, and intends to continue with me all through 2008! Wahoo!