What’s Your Health History?

I’ve spoken a lot about my current state of health and what that means to me, and where I would like to go, how I struggle and stumble to get there. What I have not delved into that much yet is my health history. To be more specific, my holistic health history. The older I get , the holistic perspective of my health is the only one that matters to me. 

My earliest memories of food were specific brands like Kix puffed cereal, 2% milk, Juicy Juice, Jiffy quick bread mixes, and canned vegetables such as green peas, which I never liked. I can remember my dad telling me if I ate all of my peas, not only could I then leave the dinner table, but that they (the peas) would make me pretty. He was very active in the kitchen, most of my memories are of him cooking, and my mom shopping and doing some cooking. Chicken legs, and occasionally wings were the poultry cuts I remember from this time. I was allowed candy all year round, and Trick-or-treated every years. I was smaller child naturally, and very active, spending a lot of time outdoors. No cell phones or tablets for me then. I gave my life to Christ very early as well, after my parents ensured I knew what I was doing and was baptized.

Once I started  elementary school, I had a combination of school lunches and packed lunches. My packed lunches would consist Aldi brand food types such as white bread, sliced lunch meat ( turkey, ham, chicken), single-wrapped cheese slices, vanilla and chocolate pudding cups, Swiss rolls ( rolls of chocolate flavored cake with cream layers), Star crunches ( chocolate covered rice cereal round), Capri-Sun ( frozen , so when lunch came around it was liquid), Pringles. Gushers and Fruit Roll Ups were ‘extra’ and were not part of what we normally ate, but really enjoyed them. Every school year and almost every summer I was involved in some sort of sports/dance team or camp from Kindergarten to 8th grade.

Upon entering high school , my mother was diagnosed with high cholesterol and placed on medication. As a result, we abruptly stopped eating pork and beef in our home, because my parents stopped buying it.  The high school lunch menu was less ‘home cooked’ and the plans let us choose between a rotating menu and pizza/fries/Lipton juice drink. I did not play sports during this time, only took the mandatory physical activity course requirements . I was driven to school, did not walk or walk to a bus stop. By sophomore or junior year, my parents had joined the Y, so I would occasionally go with my mom. One of my most memorable unhealthy habits, was skipping ‘lunch’, and grabbing brown sugar PopTarts from the vending machine at school before a 1:30PM class. In my mind, I was saving money and opening up time to study before class. My hunger pains were so bad, but did I eat? No. I learned that, for me , the intensity of the pain from waiting to long to eat could be lessened by two Tums .  All throughout my grade school, I was a healthy weight according to my doctors, and never had any health issues. I was ( and possibly still am to a degree) introverted , shy, except when I was around my friends and family. I had people who I called ‘boyfriend’ , but I wasn’t actually allowed to date, so they should really be called ‘boys-I-liked-and-saw-at-school-and-talked-to-after-school-on-my-parents-house-phone’.

Even when I went to college, I was active . Going to the gym, walking to classes , running before classes, group fitness classes. Eating anything I wanted, including very large meals from cafeterias that were essentially like buffets with my meal plan card.  Cell phones made a huge evolution while I was in school. I started with a flip phone and ended with a Blackberry smart phone, but I can’t think of a solid example of how this affected my health.  I completed my entire freshman year without a personal computer. I lived on campus, and the nearest computer lab was less than 0.25 miles from my dorm. When I did get a personal computer, it was a laptop, that I toted constantly. I was not, and still am not, a sit at-the-desk-for-hours-person. In my free time I spent time first, working as sales associate in a women’s clothing store, and then as a nursing assistant in skilled nursing facilities, home care, and hospitals. Getting into, staying in , and getting out of nursing school was one of the most stressful things I’ve done . Once school was over, it was as if a weight lifted off of me, and I wasn’t even a ‘nurse’ yet. I felt completely calm having graduated, studying for my actual license. 

Throughout my 20’s I worked all the shifts at different points : 7am-3pm, 3pm-11pm, 11pm-7am, 7am-7pm, 7pm-7am. I would use Benadryl and Tramadol for sleep occasionally.

I would again have to say, I ate everything I wanted to eat during this time and began to drink more. My focus wasn’t eating healthy, just being active. I joined a gym as soon as I got out of college. Even had a personal trainer for a time, but truly ate whatever I wanted. Through focusing on lifting, I went from weighing about 112lbs at 22 years old to being about 130lbs in my mid-twenties. As my activity decreased and diet remained the same ( or possibly got worse) my weight increased gradually each year, and now I live in the 150’s.  I’ve experienced all the stress that comes with attempting post-graduate education, getting married, death of loved ones, loss of friendships, and career set-backs or #fails during my 20’s as well. Throughout my 20’s disillusionment, analysis paralysis about my next life steps have periodically held me back from making what I perceive as progress in multiple areas of my life.  

Do you every think about your health history ? Do you find it useful, insightful? What are you doing to change the course of your history? What habits remain? What new habits have you developed ?

February: What’s Going Well

Pushing Myself

The first week of February was rough. It followed a week where my workout regimen was cut in half , several busy days of work, and dwindling motivation. I had to give myself several pep talks about going to the gym, about limiting sweets, about going for that walk, and about getting up off the couch .

Affirmations

Pinterest is full of them . Affirmations of all kinds can be found on Pinterest. I’ve tried writing them, placing them in my phone and using them as reminders, saying them aloud. Whatever it takes for it to sink in.

Don’t Think , Just Do

Getting up and going to the gym before I have a chance to think about it or talk myself out of it. There will always be an excuse not to get up and be active , so just knowing that helps.

5Ks & Champagne

No I’m not actually drinking champagne. This is the name of a little group I’m in of friends ( and spouse). We go out in the community, we race, we fun run and post to social media about it #5ksandchampagne. For me, 5ks are a way to jumpstart fitness if I’ve been slacking on the intensity for a while. For the 5k I did this month, my motivation prior to was to work out so I wouldn’t suck . Now my version of ‘suck’ is just that: my version of it. It is the level of performance at which I know I could be doin better , but haven’t prepared to do so. So I psychologically and physically prepare myself to do well, which for me is having a goal to run/jog the entire distance ( no walking ) . Long story short: find some fitness friends and make some goals.

January:What’s Going Well…

Snacks, snacks, and more snacks

At present, I’m on a constant mission to avoid becoming ravishingly hungry. This is the type of hunger that precedes the ‘hangry’ state, and coincides with my worst food decisions (aside from the ones made while emotional).

My favorite snacks include Kind Bars. They have just enough of the right stuff in them to keep hunger at bay. I also enjoy fig bars, whole almonds, fruit cups , small to medium sized pieces of fruit, and organic (soy) protein shakes.

Stocking my pantry, purse, and office desk drawer with these easy to pack snacks are keeping me from being cranky, saving me money, and I believe saving me some grief when I step on the scale.

Eating the Same Things

I’ve gone a week without exercise, but haven’t gained weight. Per my physicians instructions, I am to try to ‘eat the same things’ and ‘get enough protein’ , and I must say he is right. I believe these instructions are helping me maintain my weight, if not slowly lose more.  Using a free food tracker also helps me hold myself accountable for any marked variations I may make. In those moments I try to enter a note in the app for that day of what was going on, or what I was thinking about at the time.

Less Bread, More Beans

Also of note: eating less bread, truly does help. I’ve transitioned to preparing 6 ounces of ground turkey into burgers, cooking them easily on a Forman grill and packing them for lunch. No bun, just maybe black beans on the side. My relationship with beans is also going well this month. I am ashamed to say, I don’t really prepare them fresh, I am still eating canned organic beans. However I am committed , and can say am benefiting from that commitment.

 

My Bra Is Still On

“My bra is still on.” This is my literal and metaphorical response to the questions,  “ Are you in?” , “ Are you coming?”, “ Are you done , you ready to quit?”

For women ( or at least this woman), the point within a 24 hour day in which you remove your bra and sit down, signifies you’re done for the day. Out for the count .

I want to quit often. I find the older I get, the more impatient I tend to be.

I recently watched some children play, and these children were of the smaller variety. So young, that when they would trip and fall, they’d pause ( as if stunned), then look for their parent , scrunch their faces and proceed with crocodile tears and whining. Once reassured by parents they were back on their feet and ready to go.

As an adult, still being ready to go means ‘my bra is still on’. I’m still engaged. I’m still interested. I’m still willing to give whatever a try : an adventure, a relationship , an attempt at keeping a blog. I’m not done yet. My bra is still on.

 

 

Set Your Standard

Thanks to a dietitian colleague of mine, I have slipped, tripped and fallen into the Healthy At Every Size wave and I’m not coming back. Truly, I’ve been leaning towards and been knowledgeable about body diversity for a while on a personal level, but just now spreading the idea to my personal nursing philosophy.

Articles and podcasts have been my recent sources of topics stemming from HAES, and have stimulated my thinking in what does ‘healthy’ look like at my current size. So far this is what I have ( …remember, this is what I’ve set for me):

  • Getting 7 or more hours of sleep most nights
  • Eating healthy meals with adequate protein portions; most of my plates look like a Diabetic Plate. I’ve tried the diabetic plate (not actually being a diabetic) and it has helped shed a few pounds in the paste and currently maintain my weight.
  • Being consistently active. Meaning I’m exercising every week. No off weeks. This is a challenge. I track myself using my MapMyFitness app and set weekly activity goals based off of what my doctor recommends which is basically what the AHA recommends for adults.
  • Occasionally challenge myself physically. Whether it’s a race or new workout, I want to challenge my body and my heart with rigorous physical activity. This will include indoor and outdoor activities.
  • LOTS OF WATER. I keep a 64ounce bottle at work and shoot to drink the whole thing or more during the 8 hours I am obligated to be there. Hydration is key, and none of us are probably getting enough.
  • More Veggies. More Veggies. More Veggies.
  • Allowing myself cheat meals . Not “cheat meals “, “cheat weekends”, “cheat weeks”, etc. That’s too much to come back from.
  • Allowing myself dessert, because cake is bae and (for me) that is never going to change. However asking myself , “Is this worth it? Or do I want to eat something better at a later time as a dessert?” Because truly, the double chocolate cookies in the vending machine at work can’t hold candle to Duck Donuts.
  • Let the holidays be the holidays.

So I’m going to encourage myself and my patients to be very personal and intentional about their standards . It’s not about what anyone else likes and it’s not about what you use to look like ( I struggle with this). It’s about loving yourself. Loving yourself for who you are today.

Rutabaga

For the majority of my teenage years I was barely one-hundred pounds at a given time. I tended to fluctuate a little over and a little under. Twenty-four hours after the removal of my wisdom teeth, twenty-four hours on a soft diet, left me at ninety-three pounds at 18 years old.

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At school, I typically ate in the cafeteria for lunch, and sometimes breakfast . I don’t remember much about what all was served except for the high-schooler favorite : pizza with a side of fries, and a 16 ounce Lipton “Pink Lemonade” .

At home, I ate what was prepared for me . I didn’t grow up in the type of home where I could make requests for meals or waste what was provided.  Please know that I don’t resent or regret this in any way. I wasn’t working, bringing money into our home, or cooking the food.  I recall salads, canned green beans, canned corn….but I do not recall rutabaga.

I’ve heard the word before, but can’t say that I knew how to spell it or could recognize it in a market without a label. Thanks to Google, I now know this vegetable is part of the ‘root’ family (meaning it’s grown in the ground) and low in carbohydrates. After washing and peeling, you can roast it, bake it, boil it, or julienne it to your hearts content.

So after my Google education session, I started wondering why didn’t I know this vegetable?  Was it cultural or socioeconomic thing? I know…I know…it’s just a vegetable, but how is it that I’ve sampled all kinds of Now or Laters? I can tell you at least 3 doughnuts flavors Dunkin Doughnuts serves. I can tell you a lot of things about different food groups, but I’m not too familiar with vegetables. I’m especially not well versed in how to prepare and pick raw ones either.

When I was teen, I was told I looked like, I wasn’t eating enough. “You need to put some meat on those bones” or  asked ” Is that all you’re going to eat?” . I was told ‘stress will kill you’, but that was as detailed as it got .

Now that I’m near thirty years old, no one is calling me ‘skinny-minnie’ and that’s fine (truly), but I am being told to eat better and to exercise by professionals…and I can’t say that I’ve truly understood what that means and taken it that seriously in the past otherwise, I wouldn’t be instructed to do so , right?  Maybe so, maybe not .  Either way I want to know what I don’t know, and try every vegetable there is at least once 🙂

“I’m a very different person than when I was younger and I feel better about myself and my life.” – Jane Fonda

The first half of that statement I can definitely agree with : I’m not who I use to be. 

Can’t drink like I use to. Don’t weigh the same. Don’t go to clubs ( not even every now and then or for my birthday). 

My introverted-ness has grown. My favorite thing to do on a Friday night is as little as possible. This Friday I fell asleep with a book in my hand and a cat on my lap. 

What worries me is the 2nd half of the quote; the part about ” feeling better about myself and my life”. This is the part I’m not sure about.

When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher made all of us write a letter to our future selves and describe what we though we’d be doing in 10 years time. Then she kept them and mailed them to me a year or so ago. 

Not surprisingly, my 17 year old self had more dreamed up for my twenty-something self , than what I have actually experienced or achieved and I’m looking at 30. 

Now, being older, I realize that at the time the letter was written, I had no clue about the realities of being an actual adult. However, after reading that letter, I start to wonder , “Who the hell did I think I was?” and ” How can I get that capacity to dream and hope back?”. How do I feel better about myself and my life?

I can answer this in parts. I know it has something to do with acceptance. I know it has something to do with forgiving myself. I know it has something to do with challenging myself in some areas of my life and being gentle with myself in others. I know making a true effort to be healthy is also a big part of the answer, because my health is the foundation upon which I am able to stand upon and say , ” I like myself. I like my life.”

As a nurse I’ve encounters many people with chronic ( life-long, long-term) conditions that affect their everyday lives.  Some conditions cannot be avoided, but some can through healthy decision making . 

So in all of this , I see myself charged to do two things:

1. Hang On : I have to trust that I’ll understand the ‘why’  to why whatever I thought at 17 would happen in my adult life did not happen that way. 

2. Continue to Make Healthy Decisons : I have to continue to take care of myself and love myself and take care of my body, so that when I get confirmation , I can celebrate or take action or whatever.

Or at least I think so 😉

Move, then…

There are lots of things that you could and should be doing between your workouts to improve your overall wellbeing . A LOT of things, but we’ll just review a few.

…EAT some quality protein. Do some research on how much protein you need based off of your current weight and activity level. If you’re anything like me working out hard makes you ravenous , so be sure to have a plan for a healthy, balanced meal with protein to eat afterwards.

…SLEEP. Make sure you get as much rest as you can when you can. Sleep sort of ‘seals the deal’ on things , including your metabolism .

…REFLECT and begin to plan for progression. Set a fitness goal for yourself . An example that’s worked for me in the past is signing up for a race and having my goal be that I’d finish it without stopping or walking or under a certain time.

…REWARD yourself. But not with FOOD 😄. Reward yourself something like new workout clothes, workout gear , or gadgets .

I’m quick to spend a good $100 on eating out and alcohol within a pay period and not think much of it until the money is gone, but when it comes to other things like workout gear or a boutique fitness class, I’m like, ” That’s not in my budget”. Therefore my belly rolls when I sit down like in this picture and I only have a few quality active wear pieces in my closet.

 

Motivation Killers & Excuses

Having taken a few days off from my posting schedule , I thought it only appropriate to come back with a post on motivation killers and excuses.

Who killed my motivation ? Me. (It’s that simple) . How did I do it? By setting my intention and focus on everything other than myself and my writing goals . I had a family trip. I had week alone in the office. I had chores. But I had plenty of time .

I had all the time in the world to do what mattered to me and made me happy , but I chose , out of a sense of obligation to do otherwise. I also worked out very little in this time period, using much of the aforementioned excuses as the reason why.

What did I gain in the end? A surprise date with anxiety this Monday that prompted me to take the day off to handle the business that really needed to be handled, rest and regroup.

My living room quickly became a yoga studio, meditation room, massage parlor, reading nook and spiritual center. I fed my senses with a aromatic candle. I fed my spirit with scripture and ‘good news’ , I nourished my mind and journaled the crap out and poured positivity in with some inspiring books, and released actual tension and deep breathing. And in all of that I thought, “ When was the last time I did this?” . That my friends, is a sign.

So after that I felt like myself again, and worked my way back into the gym, back to some healthy choices. Some.

Take a break, take a breath, become more self-aware. Identify your motivation killers and note the excuses you hear yourself often giving. Then do the work to circumnavigate these to reach your goal. Keep going.

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Tabitha and I completing some mat work , stretching of the deep fascia to relieve tension . No filter.

…at work

What you do for money can have a great impact on your health. Whether you’re on your feet majority of the time , constantly in motion or stationary, mostly sitting below are some tips to help you boost your overall well being while on the clock.

WALK UP– Walk up the stairs ( if you have any at your job) at the beginning of your work day/shift. I’m going to ask you to trust me on this one. It will make sense when you get to your floor. You can thank me later.

GET UP– If your job is primarily done from a chair get up. Get up whenever you can. Use a timer to remind you to stand or take a break. Stretch, yawn, walk away from your workspace for for some juicy gossip. Ask your manager for standing desk or rig up your own version of one with a anti-fatigue mat ( or kitchen mat).

STOCK UP– Don’t live out of the vending machine. At the very least, stock up on some healthy, non-perishable snack and meal items and stock them in your drawer. I keep things like granola bars, low sodium tuna, soup, LOTS of tea, honey, bottled water, etc to keep me going and less likely to make a bad decision. Do I still go to the vending machine sometimes ? Of course ! Some days I just feel like an Little Debbie cake.

SHUT UP– Shut up talking about work . Start talking about your life. Start focusing on what you love and who you love, as you exit your place of work. I’m am guilty of reliving my work day through conversation, and will admit that it only makes me feel better about 50% of the time. Plan what you’re going to DO immediately after work. Don’t take your stress home with you.