Thursday, 29 April 2010

What can I do to empower myself?

I asked the tarot this question recently, using my Anna K deck: 'What can I do to empower myself to lose this weight I've gained?' Then I drew three cards--

The Moon, Death, and Ace of Coins.

The Moon represents the shadowy world of our inner being, so this card suggests that I shed some light on the murky goings-on there. Recognize patterns of behaviour. Remember things that I have forgotten. Become aware of what I instinctively want to do. Distinguish what is realistic from what is illusory.

Okay, so let's examine my pattern of behaviour. Every morning I get up filled with good intentions. (Even though the breakfast I eat contains roughly 400 calories or more--toast and peanut butter, etc). I get to work and as soon as I walk in the door I can 'feel' the presence of the table in the staff room, which nearly always has chocolate on it. It begins calling to me at once. Usually by 9.30, but sometimes before, I have had a piece of whatever is on that table. At break, I will eat whatever I brought with me, then have something from the table. At lunch, same. Afternoon break, same. If I am on late shift, I will nick bits from the table around 5 or 6 PM. Then when I get home, sometimes before I even take my coat off, I forage in the kitchen for a bit of something. A spoonful of peanut butter, it doesn't matter what it is. Some days I eat more than others, depending on what's in the kitchen. Then I do my workout, then begin making dinner. I usually do some nibbling and tasting during food prep. For dinner, I eat what's on my plate, then usually go back for a smaller portion of seconds. Occasionally thirds. Then when helping wash up, I nibble from what's left as I pack leftovers for tomorrow's lunches. Sometimes we've both nibbled up all the remains of dinner so that there are no leftovers. Around 8.30 or 9 PM, Derek will suggest coffee, and we usually have a bit of Kit Kat or whatever naughty tidbit he's smuggled home. Then quite often, I will reach into the cereal box and have a handful of cereal around 10.00 or 10.30. That is a typical day, and why I have gained 9 lbs over the last 2 years or so.

What have I forgotten? I've forgotten how to put my long-term goals and priorities above the instant gratification of stuffing things in my face. I've forgotten how to look with contempt upon things that by rights should not be called food. I've forgotten how to enjoy being truly slim above any allure that junk food might have.

I instinctively want to eat well. I know this because I have observed my body's joyous reaction when I am eating a healthy dinner. It's a completely different feeling eating a veggie tofu stir-fry filled with crisp, gloriously colourful vegtables, compared to the feeling of eating a loaded veggie burger and oven chips. The first is a zinging feeling that thrums through the body--it's purely physical, it's like it trips something in the brain that acknowledges that this is good fuel. The second is more an emotional experience, sort of voluptuous pleasure. It's often accompanied by a quick, subtle feeling of being overfull, sometimes even a queasiness, but you keep eating because something weird is happening to the pleasure centres in your brain. It's almost like they're being overstimulated against your will and there's nothing you can do about it. This is the first time I've tried to describe this, but I know from experience that this is how my body reacts to the different types of food. My body itself prefers the good stuff. It's my emotions that prefer the junk. It's that simple. Feel how you feel and I bet you'll discover the same.

What is realistic and what is illusory? For me, it's illusory to think I can be disciplined all the time and live in my culture. I am surrounded by the worst possible temptations and my culture doesn't have a clue how it should relate to food or how it should be eating. I am going to give in to my cultural training and my emotional temptations sometimes. But it is realistic for me to try to set limits on that behaviour. In the past, I would limit it to weekends and special occasions. At the moment, it's a free for all.

Death is not the scary card it seems to be at first glance. It is almost always a positive card, an archetypal energy, concerned with transition. Particularly in the Anna K tarot, you can see that Death is a fairly attractive fellow who is beckoning to lead you down a path. It's possibly a new path, and he's definitely going to pare away what you no longer need with that scythe of his, if he hasn't already done so. This card asks me to identify what I need to let go of--both behaviours and emotions.

It's obvious to me what I need to let go of. It's no more subtle than a card called 'Death'. I need to let go of mindless and emotional eating.

Ace of Coins can represent both the beginning of and the culmination of worldly or material or corporeal concerns. It represents the centering or grounding of energy, having ideas materialise, sustaining the body, getting tangible results, reward for effort. The card asks me to look at any new opportunities for work, stability, home, money or health available to me now. Identify what makes me feel secure and grounded. Identify how I am putting plans in motion. Consider what kinds of seeds I am planting with my current actions. And identify what my reward will be for my efforts.

Right. Every day is a new opportunity to eat well. I acknowledge that each morning, then proceed to behave in exactly the opposite way. Routine is what makes me feel secure and grounded. I have got into the routine of eating poorly, and because of my nature, I like to stay where I've planted myself. So wrenching myself out of this pattern and starting a new one is hard for me. But, when I consider the seeds I am planting by continuing on this path, I can see that it leads to nowhere but regaining all the weight I lost and which I maintained for so long, and I desperately do not want that to happen. I want to grow old in good health, and I want to be able to take care of myself for as long as possible, because we don't have any kids or other relatives to look after us if we get old and feeble. I want to be alive and kicking until I keel over. Fine one minute, dead the next. Hopefully not for another 40 years or so!

This reading has given me a lot to mull over. I suppose the next step is to figure out the next step! :)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

It's a daily choice

These things I do:

I do not weigh or measure my food.

I judge portions using common sense.

I do not count calories or grams of anything.

I write down what I ate and the time I ate it.

I avoid food products containing ingredients no ordinary human would keep in the pantry--I must be able to picture each ingredient in its raw, natural state.

I avoid foods that list any form of sugar in the top three ingredients.

I avoid food products that make health claims on the packaging.

I believe it's not food if it's called the same name in every language (Fritos, Big Mac, Coca-Cola.)

I eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

I eat the rainbow daily.

I drink the spinach water. :)

I eat whole fruits and avoid juices.

I only eat junk food that I made myself.

I serve a proper portion and don't go back for seconds.

I eat meals.

I limit snacks to unprocessed plant foods.

I follow the 'S-Policy': 'No snacks, no sweets, no seconds except on days that start with S.'

These are rules I used to follow. (They're also some of the rules Michael Pollan recommends in his book, Food Rules). Over the last two years, I've slipped out of these good habits to varying degrees, and I've also gained 9 lbs. I weighed 142 lbs this morning. My jeans are tight--too tight to wear to work anymore. I don't like the way I look in my clothes now. I don't really like the way I feel when I eat the way I've been eating, although to be honest I have really enjoyed the food while I'm actually eating it.

I used to have a preachy food and exercise blog I called 'No deadlines, just daily choices.' That's going to be my mantra again. (I had to Google to find that old blog for the link I gave, but if you have the time, browse around in the older posts, like from 2006-7. There's some pretty good stuff in there!)

I'm also going to stop being so complacent about my workouts. I do work out regularly, I work out hard, and I am keeping fit. But I don't ever actually work out until my legs are jello and I'm truly, completely spent. And those are the only kinds of workouts that are going to get me a true training effect. I've got to push myself. I want to push myself. The workouts I'm doing now are the ones that used to really push me 6 years ago. It's not they're too easy now by any means--but I'm not pushing myself hard enough while I do them. I still make modifications when I know by this time I should be just doing it. I sink to the knees if I even start to get uncomfortably tired during push-ups. I don't lunge or squat as deep as I can when the reps start to add up. I take impact out of moves when I know I'm fully capable of doing them, just because I don't want to push myself. In fact, I'm being lazy. What I'm doing is cheating. I've cheated my nutrition AND my workouts--for 2 years!

If I'd been doing my best, by now I could have been ready to run a marathon. I could be wearing a UK size 6 skirt. I could have cut arms, which has always been my dream. I could be doing pull-ups--another fitness dream. I could be flexible enough to do the splits and able to do a backbend--yoga dreams. It's certainly been enough time to accomplish these things. I've just chosen to do the same old workouts at the same old pace and sit on my butt eating bourbon creme biscuits and in my spare time baking cakes and cookies!

Part of me, of course-- my lazy, I-don't-want-to-change side-- wants to just go curl up with a book in one hand and the other in a Doritos bag. Meanwhile the other side finds herself browsing websites for fitness bootcamps in order to blast off this gained weight and get to the level of fitness I dream of at long last. (Then my hey-wait-we-can't-afford-that side wakes up and says, look you, just eat less and work harder and see what you can accomplish for free!)

Friday, 2 April 2010

I'll be bouncing soon!

I thought I'd post about my latest acquisitions because I'm all materialistic like that. :)

A few weeks ago, I read about this workout that focuses on the lower body. People at Video Fitness were giving it rave reviews, so I ordered a copy of Tonique, featuring this reedy little Polish gal called Sylwia Weisenberg. It is a brutal workout of three segments: Squats, Lunges and Mat, with added segment of Drills and Cool Down. What's so brutal about it, you ask? Sylwia does all move in sets of 30 reps, with absolutely no rest breaks in between. You watch the clip and think, man, that looks like a good workout. But I guarantee you if you try it, you will be sweating, breathing hard and wondering if this woman is a robot. Look at the Squats segment, for example (all moves done holding 2 lb dumbbells):

30 basic squats
30 basic squats with a shoulder raise
30 squats with a front kick
30 squats with side leg abduction
30 plyo squats
30 squats into a side kick
30 double side kicks (no squats)
30 squat jumps (as for basketball)
30 one-legged squats
30 butterfly squats (a one-legged squat where you lift your opposite leg out behind you while doing lateral raises with the arms) right leg
30 more butterfly squats left leg

Then comes the Lunges segment:

30 R, 30 L basic back lunges
30 R, 30 L back lunges with a front kick
15 R, 15 L curtsy lunge/back lunge combo
30 R, 30 L curtsy lunge with side abduction
15 cross front lunges, alternating sides
15 R, 15 L back lunge/basic squat combo
15 Brazilian lunges, alternating sides
15 skaters with a hop
15 R, 15 L lunges with knee up and over head raise
30 side lunges, alternating sides
30 side lunges with knee up overhead raise, alternating sides

Mat work:

30 bent leg raises followed by 30 pulsing bent raises on same leg, per side
30 straight leg crossover raises per side
30 side raises per side
Then a series of hip lifts where I lose count: regular lifts, one-legged lifts, pulsing one-legged lifts, clam-shell lifts, pulsing clam-shell lifts
Then some killer ab work

It's truly brutal!

I fancied a couple new step workouts recently so I ordered 'Ready Step Go' with Kelly Coffey-Meyer, my first of this instructor's workouts. It's curiously old school because there is a lot of tapping going on, only this woman must have had 50 espressos before she shot this workout because she never taps, she HOPS. I myself do not hop. I remember reading (I think it was Cathe) that hopping like that is actually bad stepping form, hard on the shins, etc. If you watch the clip, notice that the background exerciser on the far right (the tall one) doesn't hop on the floor. All the rest of them do. Well, I follow her. :) The workout is okay, very high impact, and there's a vertical step segment that will take me some getting used to because I don't have quite enough room and have to modify it a bit, but overall, it's okay. :)

I ordered Cardio Fusion on the same day I ordered Ready, Step Go. This is Cathe, my favourite step instructor. This DVD is a compilation of segments from three of her other workouts, two of which I don't own, so it was new footage for me. I enjoy this and will do a lot, I'm sure. It's very high impact, though. If you watch the clip, you will see how fun the workout is. But it's no place to start with Cathe. If you want to start out with Cathe, get Basic Step and Body Fusion and work up. :)

Speaking of high impact, I can't remember why I got it in my head a week or two ago that I want a rebounder, but I shopped it and shopped it and finally decided to order a Heyman's Trimilin Pro Plus. Just ordered it day before yesterday, so it should be here next week! Yay! Do have a look at the link. The website is quite messy and could use an overhaul, but it's got a lot of information and the lady who runs it (Michele) is very nice.