To say that the mind is a prankster is an understatement. Just when I thought I had things figured out, just when I was sure what my overall first goal of this year was going to be, things got a little squirrely. But this is a familiar pattern. This is the ego trying to save itself and this time, I’m onto it early.
I am still clear on the Health Goal, but that insidious naysayer is tugging at my resolve with comments like, “You’ve already tried all of this.” or “Good luck with that.” And asking questions like, “What about accepting everything as it is?” or “What makes you think this time is different?”
I don’t have really good answers. I do accept almost everything as it is. One has to be in acceptance of a situation before it can be changed. But I did say almost. There’s more work to be done.
I want to say that this time is different because I am different and more ready than I have been. But even typing that out felt a little bit like a sham. There’s more work to be done.
But here’s one thing that’s different: in my past attempts at achieving a goal (any really, but in particular one related to health) I would allow those questions to convince me that I had more thinking to do. I have to spend some time figuring things out. If I may, that’s bullshit.
What is needed is action. Of any kind. So, here’s how it’s unfolding and what I have done so far:
I stopped drinking alcohol. For about 2 weeks now, and probably not forever, but I understand the value of letting it go while my focus is on high energy and shiny happy health. Wine is my poison of choice and while a single glass of red wine is considered to be healthy, it glues me to the couch and makes me want to sleep in which is antithetical to the energy levels I seek.
I stopped eating meat. For about a week. I usually do well with some meat, but the older I get the less I seem to need and the more passionate I am about environmental sustainability and animal welfare, so we’ll see how I feel. (I also already don’t really do dairy or gluten, making food creativity high priority.)
I bought a new Fitbit (my second). Hopefully this charmer will encourage me to move more.
I have been erratically meditating for over a month and stretching about the same amount of time. It’s a start but it is far from enough. Consistency is key. By stretching I mean a mini yoga sesh. I used to promise myself I’d get to a class, but I’m onto that too. Now I knock out something, rather than nothing, and if I make it to class? Bonus.
I am nearly done with the book Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. It’s his memoir-ish odyssey to super fitness from alcoholic and I’m finding it way more inspirational than I expected. I mean, like now, I want to make a plan to do a moderately difficult hike on every continent. To the point of enlisting my brother and starting the research. And for good measure I found some awesome guided bike treks through Europe.
It seems if I connect my health goals with my love of travel I will stand a better chance of staying on track and it will validate the reasons why I want to be solar charged and plant powered. All good steps, not super organized or cohesive but I’m confident that will come as I persevere and keep the goal of energy, joy and now Machu Picchu, in my sights. Still, more work needs to be done.
This awareness thing is tricky. It seems there are multiple voices lobbing suggestions at me. The high one, the one coming from that space of awareness, the one that is not the me walking around, not the one entangled in my ego, is pretty distinguishable. But the voice I call my own, has quite a few personalities, it turns out.
There’s the one I think of mostly me. It’s the one that says “ugh” a lot when receiving a download from the smart one. Then there’s the doubter, never quite sure if the information being downloaded from the galactic realms of absolute reason is sound. “Maybe I should have chocolate?” And then there’s this judgy presence who reminds me of Patsy from AbFab. Mostly she sits in a corner with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other scoffing and rolling her eyes whenever I set out to make a positive change. “Here we go again.”
So, naturally positive change is what I’m trying to make. Break some unhelpful habits, add in some new healthy ones, hope something sticks this time. You know the drill.
To motivate me to get (re)started, I opened Marie Forleo’s book Everything is Figureoutable and it was the right choice. Yes, it’s a self-helpy kind of book and yes, I have read every single self-help and motivational book there is. Every. One. I’m pretty sure. But with each one I take away a nugget or finally get some key principle I’ve read 27 times. Or maybe I am able to let go of some worn out belief that didn’t belong to me in the first place.
This book asks some great questions and like the student of life I like to believe I am, I dutifully answered each question in my journal.
To back up a tiny bit, the book is about going for your dream – whatever that is, starting a business, getting healthy, financial freedom, ending a relationship, whatever – and figuring out what is standing in your way or what needs to be done. Marie Forleo is a business coach extraordinaire, but with heart and presence. She gets it.
She allows for you to have more than one dream but insists you choose just one to start with as she is working on helping you build focus and discipline, twin struggles for me. Once the first dream is solidly underway, any other dreams can be addressed.
Here’s how it emerged.
Dream 1: World Traveler Storyteller Shopper. I would love to travel the world and take photos and meet people and write stories and buy really cool things from artisans and flea markets and bring them back to sell in my own awesome shop. I know. I’m already kind of doing that.
Dream 2: Financial Freedom. I have a student loan that is like a bad rash, it will not go away. It’s my own fault, I have deferred it a million times hoping it would just evaporate. It didn’t. I am left with a hefty sum bearing down on my happiness and freedom. In addition, I have a sort of round robin thing going on with my credit card debt. It all gets paid off, then it magically reappears, then it gets paid off, etc. I’d like to crack the code and eradicate all eliminatable debt. (New word. Meaning: any bills that do not occur monthly like phone and power.)
Dream 3: Vibrant Health. Lifelong struggle. I can pinpoint exactly when I went off the rails and it has everything to do with family dynamics, but that was over 40 years ago, so let’s get on with this, can we? What I mean by vibrant health is: an appropriate weight for my height, age and lifestyle; physically active daily – walking, riding my bike, gym; eating foods that support me and not my cravings and habits. Overall it means having this boundless energy that will allow me to do all the things, sleep all the hours and go all the places.
I was sure Dream 1 was the one to figure out. But guess what? Dream 3 rose to the top. For a few reasons.
While my brother was visiting I was sharing my desire to be successful and travel and start another business that involved said travel (I already have a very successful business I share with two badass women, and a couple side gigs). I was a little wistful and maybe a tad whiny. Then he has the nerve to say, while gesturing like the greatest showman, “I kinda feel like you already have that.” He’s right. I have someone’s version of success. If I took the time to practice gratitude more often I would realize that. And he’s also not completely right. Entrepreneurs like to start stuff and I love a beginning. But still, I heard him, and it sunk in.
Everything starts with health. Everything. I have no excuses other than my resistance to something that I have not yet figured out, but I bet it has something to do with that mean girl in my head (you probably know her too) that tells me on a continuous basis that I don’t deserve what I want, that I’m not good enough or that I’m just fine as I am. “Grab a bag of chips, girl, there’s a Hallmark Mystery movie you haven’t seen yet.” I’d like to use an expletive here but I’m trying to keep it street level and stay classy, instead I’ll take a page out of CeeLo’s censor’s book: Forget her!
A huge part of my existing business has to do with health and often I feel like a fraud. Not practicing what I preach. Not meeting my own standards and expectations. (Side note: most women feel like they’re frauds, that someone will figure out that they really don’t know what they’re doing, but we’ll cover that another time.)
As a result, health moved up. Here’s another interesting insight I had regarding these three: When I think about starting a business I take the long view, I understand there will be setbacks and struggles as well as wins. I have measurable goals that are like signposts along the way, once one is achieved I reevaluate and move on, I pivot, I hold, I recalibrate and keep going. With both the health and financial dreams I don’t do that. I have a final destination and then I’m done. I pay off my student loan and credit cards and then I clap the crumbs off my hands, take a deep breath and book another trip. On a credit card. Or I get to the perfect size, maintain healthy eating habits and exercise for a while then forget and leave the door open a crack for the not so helpful habits to sneak back in. And voila, we’re back in the depths of the self-shaming cycle.
To truly achieve what I want with my health and my finances I’m going to have to reframe them entrepreneurially. There will have to be other things beyond the eradication of debt and the perfect size for me. A growing savings and retirement account with measurable balance goals, perhaps. A refinement of muscle tone or races or dance classes, cooking classes, something to keep my body happy and my mind engaged in the ongoing healthy living process.
Still working on that part, but for now I have a plan in place that starts smallish and manageable and grows. There are markers, a stack of healthy cookbooks in my kitchen and a hefty pile of inspirational books from athletes to badass women to keep me inspired. Plus my brother has the same focus on health this new year, so we are each other’s accountability partners, checking in once a week.
This is ongoing, I’m recommitting to my health for the 1 millionth time and this is why Patsy is pffting in the corner. That’s okay, eventually the juicing and roasting and meditation will bore her and she’ll wander into someone else’s personal drama and try to convince them to stay stuck. I hope it’s not you.
This food odyssey I’ve been on for decades is wearing me out. I started a health coaching business over 10 years ago because I had become fed up with food being my enemy and was bound and determined to make it my friend. I schlepped to New York City for over a year on various weekends to attend trainings (don’t let the tone fool you, I LOVE NYC and loved the training) to become a Certified Holistic Health Coach. And to learn more about food and me.
I came home, set up a website, hung out my shingle and commenced to help people navigate the treacherous food jungle. A few years into it I got frustrated with clients that seemed determined to stay stuck in their stories. Mostly I felt like I had to be someone I wasn’t. I had to be all nicey-nicey and compassionate and supportive and say all the positive things.
But guess what? I can be firm and bold and STILL compassionate and supportive. Maybe even nice sometimes.
This, I have learned through teaching and training others these intervening years. Authenticity is king, or queen in this case.
About that same time I fell back into those comfy TV watching pajamas we know as habits. I had lost weight, gained energy and embarked on what I believed to be the lifestyle and career to keep me healthy and fit, so I slacked. I stopped paying attention. I wore yoga pants – the enemy of weight management.
Now, here I am again – on the other side of that hormonal high-wire act – revisiting all the old ways that helped me in the first place and floundering about for purchase. Add to that, all the “new” ideas. Kinda. Whole30, Eat Fat Get Thin, Paleo, Keto. The sea has become deeper and more turbulent as each new author has found the cure for obesity, fatigue and generalized ennui.
So really, not much has changed.
Here’s my dilemma. Dr. Hyman (who actually taught at the health coach dealio in NYC and whom I have a not-so-secret crush on) says “Eat FAT lady! Lots of it, especially coconut everything. It’s sooooo good for you.” I seek out the approval of Dr. D’Adamo (Blood Type hero) who is moving his head oh-so-slightly back and forth with the ‘I’m sorry’ face on. Coconut everything, except oil, is on the naughty list. Ayurveda says “you must eat legumes for protein so you do not need meat” (I kinda just typed that in an Indian accent) and the blood type diet says, “Girl have you looked at the size of your ass already?”
Yet, I continue to fall back on these very stand-bys, and when I do, I feel better and my weight begins to behave. I love using the combination of the principles and science of Ayurveda – a 5,000 year old system of health from India, that must be doing something right if it’s still here – and the newer, more suspicious Blood Type Diet that tells people what is excellent, mezza-mezza or muy mal to eat for their blood type, and has done wonders for me and my clients. Add in a dash of fat from avocados – 100% approved by all – and I’ve got myself something to work with. If I decide to work it.
All of this to say, I hear you. I get it. We’re all just tryna figure it out.
In the meantime, the advice-o-sphere is pulling me back toward health coaching. Ok, it has dislocated my shoulder while yanking me into the ring. But this time, things will be different. This time I will not hold back my heart-felt desire to unstick you from your personal flypaper. And this time, there will be yoga involved. Not headstand or any flying anything upside down, but the philosophy. In particular, the Yamas and Niyamas – the 10 tenets of the yoga philosophy. You know, innovative ideas like kindness, moderation and discipline. Doesn’t that sound sexy?!
But seriously. Here’s a glimpse at how the path is unfolding before me:
12 weeks, 1 session per week. Beginning with what your intention is for your LIFE. We’re starting off all light and breezy. Then we’ll move into the 10 tenets, one each week and tie it all up in a recap bow that looks a lot like a newly minted, very best version of you!
Perhaps there will be some podcasts or live videos; definitely some one-on-one coaching; and, of course, some classes and group work. My fave.
Stay tuned. More to come…
In the meantime, if I can impart any advice on behalf of the 739 health books I’ve read, seminars I’ve attended or certifications I thought were necessary to love people back to health, let me know.
I’m here for ya!
PS: Give up processed food. That one’s on me. Oh, and, avocados are magic.
If I were to start this challenge over again I might do it a little differently. I might devote the whole three weeks to just movement, then spend another three weeks on food.
There’s so much to explore in both and to throw down the gauntlet on all of it can be overwhelming.
But I’m in the middle – past the middle – so I shall persevere.
Formulas don’t work the way they used to. Eat this, not that, lose weight. Add in a healthy dose of exercise and watch the clothes start to fall off. Sleep better, wake up energized.
I have been at this for two weeks now and while I have gained a ton of energy I have not lost one pound. And I am frustrated.
This tells me two things, or maybe three:
I care more about losing weight than maybe I want to admit, and
It’s probably the food, oh and
I’m older. Which changes everything.
Way back in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) days I had experimented with my food like a mad scientist. I identified a few foods that I needed to eliminate all together: dairy and wheat rising to the top of the list. I’ve done pretty good with the wheat for the past 8 years or so, but occasionally a cupcake sneaks in.
Dairy. It was so easy to give up. I rarely used milk, yogurt and sour cream showed up only occasionally and I wasn’t a huge cheese person. Then a few years ago someone accidentally put feta cheese on my salad. Then, at an Ayurveda training there was goat’s milk yogurt for breakfast. I fell in love with chai tea in India and couldn’t possibly use anything but whole milk in it when I came home. Which was just the gateway to half and half. Then I stumbled upon just three little words that would seal my dairy fate: goat’s milk cheese.
So dairy has inched its way back in and helped put some weight back on.
Before my formal education at IIN I had stumbled across the Blood Type Diet. There are many doubters, but here’s the thing: it’s just food, what would it hurt to just play with it?
I did and it worked. Absolutely, positively worked. It worked for me. It worked for others. When I was health coaching I always recommended it and if it was followed, it helped people lose weight, reduce inflammation, and minimize or eliminate allergies.
So naturally, after great success, I let it go.
Is it laziness? Ego? Somewhere in between I suspect. Habit plays a pretty significant role as well.
As much as I believed I was using the blood type diet and Ayurveda as lifestyle changes, somewhere in the back of my mind I thought of them as diets. Short term solutions. While I was in it, I was completely convinced that I had left all those habits behind, but habits, especially the unhelpful ones, have a way of bullying their way back in.
As I revisit the blood type diet I will do so with a sense of curiosity. I’ll take a new approach, challenge myself somehow. It is in my best interest.
I have this internal gauge that lets me know when it’s time. It tells me when I’m done with something, usually kind of big and potentially life changing things: a job, a relationship, a town. Lately I can feel the valves beginning to close on an aspect of my life. Marriage is solid, community is strong, this has to do more with work.
I begin to feel it as an exasperation, there’s a lot of sighing involved. ‘I don’t wanna’ whiny vibes emanate from my gut. Then my head starts to tell me a bunch of stories about how good this job/person/place (we’ll call it ‘noun’) is. Trying to trip me up. Sometimes it works, it usually delays the ultimate act, but rarely changes the decision.
In response the gut speaks louder, it gets angry and starts to find fault in everything having to do with noun, down to a single unrelated incident that somehow is now noun’s fault. The mind reminds me of the good things noun has done for me and strongly recommends I maintain status quo. That’s its job.
The gut is pissed off. It’s time. The mind just wonders if this is really the best time to make such a big change.
The gut is done. The mind makes one last ditch effort; you know making this change now will affect everything you want to do, your whole life could change, is that what you really want?
And so it is. I have been playing this game for the past few months. I know what I need to do on an energetic level. It’s the financial level that scares me. A good chunk of my income is wrapped up in this decision. At the same time, my enchanted living is suffering.
I can see what is on the other side, I can feel it. I know what I am supposed to be doing, I get reminders and signs every single day. Every day.
I believe everything I have done that is perceived as negative; poor eating habits, lack of exercise, disorganization, financial debt are all ways to slow down my leap into this life that is waiting for me. It’s the mind protecting me from my bigness. It’s very scared of the unknown. Same is safe. New could be a mistake.
As I move through this challenge and begin to chip away at these bad habits and obstacles, the mind is fighting back. Rather than trying to convince me that I shouldn’t do what I feel called to do it’s guiding my hand toward the leftover Halloween candy. It pats my head and tells me to rest today, there’s no need to do yoga every day. It suggests I put the computer away for just one day so I can recharge so my writing will be fresher, bolder.
But I am onto it so I go to my mat, I open my computer and I continue. The key for me is to call up the vision, plant both feet firmly in it and dare the mind to knock me over. And if it does, the proof will be in getting back up. So far so good.
[Photo: Bay tree after some much needed rain today.]