I’m having a hard time titling this post. The reason is because I’m a perfectionist. I want a title that draws in readers; a title that’s clever and impressive; a title that makes people think, “This girl really knows her shit.” The truth is I don’t know my shit. At 53, I question my shit daily. I overthink, and rethink, edit and over edit, and spend 99.999% of my time working to make sure that other people are happy. I eat things that aren’t healthy for me (I just ate a doughnut). I skip exercise. I struggle for the right words to say to say to everyone and constantly worry about what people think of me. I clean and re-clean my house. I pray that no-one at a get together asks me what I do for a living, or notices the extra weight I’ve put on. I say yes when I want to say no. I do this all because I doubt myself and question my worthiness. I’ve done this since I was a very little girl.
Self-confidence, or my lack there of, is the number one thing I’m working on with my weight-loss counselor. I’ve learned how to eat and exercise correctly. I know the “magic” formula for conquering my metabolism and maintaining my weight. I’m introspective and know why I feel so worthless, yet my whole life I’ve not been able to drop the events in my past, or the words in my head, that have made me feel like I don’t measure up to others.
A few weeks ago, my counselor recommended an amazing book by Dr. Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Brown is a researcher at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who has spent her career studying vulnerability, shame, worthiness, and courage. I skeptically ordered it and for two weeks it hung out on my bedside stand. My thought was that this was going be yet another book full of psycho-babble that would end up on my overflowing bookshelf collecting dust. No so! When I finally cracked the cover last week at the beach, I found that it was full of simple truths that have begun to cause me to challenge my lack of worthiness, my perfectionism, and my constant need to please others. There were literally mere sentences that flipped my way of thinking. For the next few weeks I’m going to write about my thought processes and progress as I digest, and hopefully, put into practice the information in this very worthwhile book. In the meantime, here’s a short clip, courtesy of YouTube, of Brown speaking about her book:
PS–I decided to gift myself a break and not worry about a perfect title!
Please only answer these questions in the comments if you feel comfortable doing so.
What self-esteem issues do you suffer from?
What do you think the cause is/was?
What do you do to bolster, soothe, or celebrate how you feel about yourself?
PS–I decided to give myself a break and not worry about a perfect title! 🙂
“You just never know,” is something I find myself thinking lately. I’m only 53, but have lost several high school classmates within the past few years. This has led me to a relatively morbid new hobby of reading the online obituaries from my old hometown’s newspaper. After all, when death comes creeping closer to those that you’ve spent time with from the sandbox to algebra class, you begin getting curious.
My most recent read was about a guy I hardly knew named Jake. He was a nice enough fellow and managed to do very well, something that I never could–blend in. In the late 70’s I remember him with long wavy hair and an attempted beard, a flannel shirt and a cigarette hanging from his mouth, as he talked with his similar friends at the “smoke hole,” an allotted space for high schoolers 16 and older to light up between classes. I remember he was a general studies kind of guy, as were most of the 112 people that I graduated with. There were only six of us that went on to college. I was sure there, among friends, they were talking about how drunk they’d gotten the past weekend or how far they’d gotten with some girl. I remember Jake’s ready smile and the way he tossed his hair as he laughed with his friends. They all seemed so at ease and so in their right place in life. It was pretty hard for a girl like me, who had to hold my breath as I passed the “smoke hole” to avoid an asthma attack, to understand how to feel so in place or at ease in my small town.
At that time in my life I was secretly envious of people like Jake. They seemed so simple and unencumbered by the daily chore of being liked. While I was doing what all not-so-cool kids were doing, listening to show tunes in the respite of my bedroom, or going out in public with my face painted like Peter Criss of KISS, I pictured that guys like Jake were having fabulous times down by the river hanging with their friends. Turns out, I imagined mostly wrong.
Jake’s obituary was obviously written by someone who knew him very well and loved him very much, because through the eloquent detail of it, I came to better know the guy I shared so many spaces with. Jake’s life was a hard one. His mother left shortly after he was born. He was the youngest of eight children. When Jake was 10, his father collapsed and died of a heart attack in his arms. He and his siblings were placed in foster care with a relative and managed to forge on. Did I mention that I don’t remember Jake ever missing school? After graduation, he went on to become a Marine and served his country for 20 years before retiring to work as a mechanic. He had two marriages, three children, and was preceded in death by four of his elder siblings. He fought cancer for 12 years before finally succumbing a few weeks ago at 53.
So often, the things we imagine about people are simply figments of what we think life would be like if we were living on the greener side of it. So often we’re wrong. So often we don’t know the true path of those we share a space with and we make judgements based on a smile or a puff of smoke.
Last year, on December 16th, I attended an informational meeting about Optifast at our hospital’s bariatric center. I was nearly 230 pounds and physically miserable. My health was on a downward spiral of pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep apnea, depression, and limited mobility. My spirit was in even worse shape. In fact, shortly before my first bariatric visit, a silly family conversation about the Zombie Apocalypse* turned pretty serious as each family member was discussing their special skill in defeating the undead. My husband’s years in the Army have given him amazing survival skills, coupled with a sniper-like aim with any weapon available. My younger daughter is super fast, fearless, and strong. Her fiancé is resourceful and also an expert in survival and weaponry. My oldest daughter is cunning, has expert medical skills, and extremely resilient, and her husband is wily, quick and strong. After talking out a few scenarios that slayed more than a slew of zombies, my family turned to me,
“What would you do Mom?” my oldest asked.
“I’m fat,” I replied, “I’d be your diversion.”
With that, their happy conversation ceased and I spent the next hour, promising them that I would get healthy.
Fast forward to yesterday. My oldest I were happily dancing around the kitchen to holiday music with a few twerking songs thrown in, when she reminded me of last year’s Zombie Apocalypse conversation.
“What would you do now, Mom?” she questioned **
I answered with a high, karate-style kick that finished just inches from her head.
“I’d kick their asses!,” I replied with a smile.
With just one year of extremely hard work, I’ve gone from a Zombie’s holiday meal, to the undead’s worst enemy. I’m nearly 100 pounds lighter, am no longer pre-diabetic, no longer have sleep apnea, depression, or high blood pressure. My asthma medication has been cut in half, and I’m physically fit. I’ve met new, wonderful people through my gym and this blog. I don’t fear life anymore, and I’m certainly not afraid of a few zombies!
I feel so immensely blessed this wonderful holiday season. I’m thankful for the love of my friends and family, for my health, and for all of the caring, sweet people that I’ve met here on WordPress. I feel like I know all of you as friends and wish you all the happiest and healthiest of holidays! ❤ ❤ ❤
*Something that people who have years of advanced education tend to do, along with lengthy discussions of Star Wars, Star Trek, and other various super cool subjects!
I was an exuberant child; quick-witted, smart, messy, noisy and driven by a very colorful motor. In my earliest years of schooling, my inability to sit still and cease talking, often made me the naughty chair’s number one occupant. Additionally, my bottom was more than well-acquainted with the class paddle. My lack of impulse control regularly made me both the object of my peers’ delight ,when it came to completing their dares, and the blaring object of their ridicule because I was so clearly not cast from the same mold as them. “They” wouldn’t dare get out of their seat to pass a note during a lesson. “They” wouldn’t dare make the noise of a train whistle as our bus crossed a railroad track on a field trip. “They” would never moon someone out of a classroom window, or do a science report on the chemistry of boogers. “They” seemed like dull, complacent control, to my sparkling, unruly chaos. Because I seemed to rapidly zig when everyone else was zagging, as a young child, I usually felt like I didn’t fit in.
Then, came third grade, the worst school year of my life, with Miss Stooky. Miss Stooky was a classic nasty of a teacher. She could easily be compared to Miss Truchbull, from Dahl’s Matilda. Her classroom was run like a tight ship and I was its loose cannon, a fact that she reminded me of nearly every single day. The year was 1973, and teachers could pretty much get away with saying and doing whatever they pleased to make their young charges attend and behave. Miss S took full liberties with this notion. She paddled me, hit my knuckles with a ruler, and made me an example of what not to do to the rest of the class–thus increasing my already nonexistent popularity. Her very favorite punishment was to send me to the special education room to spend the day. This was back in the time when the physically and mentally impaired children were placed in a faraway corner of the school, separate from everyone, as if they didn’t exist. Truth be told, I didn’t mind going there. It was far more of a safe haven than a punishment.The special education teacher, Mrs. Campbell was a kind-hearted lady, who never seemed to mind having me as her classroom “helper” for the day. I certainly didn’t mind helping to feed lunch to a boy with cerebral palsy, or reading stories to Sabrina, a girl bigger than me, who still didn’t know the joy of reading by herself.
One day, while I was helping to put away the large wooden beads that some of the children had been sorting into groups of colors. Mrs. Campbell asked me what my parents thought about me spending my days with her in the special ed. room. I quickly revealed that my parents didn’t know. Like I said, this was 1973, if you got in trouble at school, you got in trouble at home, as well. I’d kept my days in special ed. a secret from my parents figuring that it was a “win-win” situation for me, as well as Miss Stooky.
A few days after that conversation with Mrs. Campbell, my mother surprised me by telling me that I was going to have a day off from school to visit a special doctor in the city. I was delighted to meet Dr. Green, an educational psychologist. Her office was full of interesting toys and she had a plethora of fun “tests” that were relatively easy for me to do. At the end of the day, my parents had answers about my behavior and my situation at school was about to improve for the better.
I had a dual diagnosis of hyperkinetic disorder and gifted-ness. Now at school, I would spend part of my day with the gifted teacher, some of the day a grade up in a fourth grade classroom, and only a small portion of the day with Miss Stooky. I couldn’t have been more overjoyed.
Hyperkinetic disorder is now known as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and even as far back in the 1970’s its diagnosis was controversial. Like today, in spite of neurological and genetic evidence, some people blamed it on poor parenting and deemed it an excuse for bad behavior. It’s estimated that 5-10% of the world’s population has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD. Statistically, most suffers of ADHD are male, so I am a rarity. Treatment in the ’70s involved the use of stimulants, as it does today. My mother wasn’t comfortable with the contraindications of putting me on medication and preferred the use of behavior modification techniques which were somewhat effective. Though I’m sure there are school teachers who blamed their gray hair or baldness specifically on me!
As I got older, self-consciousness sunk in, and I learned to better control my behavior in order to fit in and have friends. I became involve in theatre and found teachers who fostered my love of reading and writing like never before. I figured out things about myself academically and socially. I learned to force myself to pay attention when I needed to, or to at least make myself look like I was attending!
Truth be told, most of the ways that I’ve dealt with having ADHD have been self-taught. I know I can’t stick with the same task for very long before my attention begins to wander. I know that by changing activities frequently and doing a bit of something at a time, that I eventually get everything done that I need to. I know I need to exercise to burn off excess energy and to improve my concentration. I’m also very aware that I can get “carried away” with silliness, in some situations, and I keep myself in check.
The good news is that ADHD doesn’t completely suck. In fact, I think it makes me more interesting and adventurous. I know it made me a much more understanding teacher when it came to helping children with my same disorder. My friends and family are in hearty agreement that my sense of humor and boundless energy give me an extra sparkle–and who doesn’t like a little bling in their lives? 🙂
I’ve been awake since four-something this morning; worrying, tossing and turning, chastising myself for something that I should have done in April 2013. I don’t’ like to speak badly of myself, but for the past week, I’ve reminded myself that in one potentially big area of my life, I am an idiot.
My oldest daughter got married on June 15, 2013. Because she was away at medical school, she enlisted me to do a vast majority of her wedding planning. It was amazingly awesome to pick out flowers, design and create centerpieces, make favors, and even write the ceremony. In fact, the months, weeks, and days leading up to her ceremony were so fantastically special for me, that I didn’t want anything to mar the fun that I was having. So when my doctor handed me the order for my yearly mammogram in April of 2013, I tucked it away with the good intention of fulfilling it after the wedding. After all, I wouldn’t want something to show up on a life-saving diagnostic tool that could add stress to such a happy time in our family’s lives.
Fast forward to this April 2014; when it’s check-up time, my family doctor realizes that she doesn’t have last year’s mammogram results and promptly writes me a new order. I’m in the midst of dropping pounds like a dude drops twenties at a strip club. Life is good. I feel great; way too great for any bad news. So like the year before, I slipped that order into my underwear drawer and continued to live the good life.
This Monday, I had another check-up with my family doctor. I needed blood-work to check my hemoglobin because of my extensive peri-menopausal bleeding, plus, I’d pulled a pectoral muscle goofing off doing push-ups and side planks with my daughter. My blood-work came back great; my red blood cell count was borderline, but higher than the last time, and my cholesterol and blood glucose were perfect. Things weren’t as rosy when my doc checked my pulled pec. She noticed some slightly enlarge lymph nodes in the area where the pain was. This reminded her that she didn’t see my latest mammogram results in her computer. While she told me that the enlarged lymph nodes were most likely an immune response to a muscle pull, or possibly a tear, and their existence reminded her to check the date of my last mammogram.
I got a new mammogram order and the lecture of a life-time about the life-saving benefits of mammography. The thing is, I should truly know better. My mother had breast cancer and endured a radical mastectomy in her late 30s. I’d witnessed it all; the angst, the surgery, the scars, the chemo and radiation. As a young girl of 11, I’d watched her gorgeous brown hair thin and fall out. I brought her cold washcloths and mint gum to sooth her nausea. I learned to cook full meals, do laundry, clean the entire house to my dad’s strict standards, and get myself and my brother ready for school each day. Breast cancer was a horrible presence that bridged the gap between my innocence and adulthood. Long after my mother recovered, I was anxious and never again a carefree child. So it isn’t any wonder that I’ve actively tried to hide from the beast that took my childhood? However, as an intelligent woman, I should know that hiding from anything only gives it an advantage. Good warriors strategize, and a yearly mammogram is an integral procedure in the fight against breast cancer.
So today, at 3:50, think of me as my breasts are squished to the limit in the mammogram’s vice. If you pray, lift one up for me that I haven’t given the enemy the advantage. If you’ve put off getting your yearly mammogram, and this post speaks to you, call your doctor, save yourself some worry, and make an appointment. Be a good warrior in the battle for good health!
On a happier note, I wish everyone a fabulous fun-filled Fall weekend!
Though I’ve had my share of struggles, I’m a very fortunate person. Life has given me the privilege to meet, get to know, and live with several distinctly different versions of myself as an adult. The first version of me was the wild 18-22 year-old college student who often made terrible decisions based solely on what made the pain of a dying mother go away. Those decisions often involved rather risky behaviors and very little positive cognitive processing. If it felt freeing, fun, or dangerous, I was doing it with little thought of consequences.
My wild years, ushered in the next phase of my adulthood which reigned from 23-30 and involved the birth of two gorgeous daughters, one marriage followed by one divorce, and the joy of living below the national poverty level. (I’m not using the word joy in a facetious manner; an explanation is coming)
Next, came my years of single motherhood from 31-36. These years were marked with fun, adventure, frustration on many levels, loneliness and continuing poverty.
My single years ended when I met the man that I’m now married to. From 37-40 all of our lives became significantly better, fuller, and richer with love.
Then, just when things seemed to be flowing smoothly, my younger daughter’s first depressive episode surfaced when I was 41. Though my daughter was properly diagnosed with Type II Bipolar Disorder within two years of her first episode, and though she was properly treated and doing well, my years from 41-48 were dark. Anxiety and isolation were the central themes of my existence and I spent most of my time compulsively eating to quell my anxiety and waiting for the next episode to happen.
Now, at 50, the past two years of my life have been an incredible period of growth for me. I have two wonderfully healthy daughters and a fabulous stepson. I am married to the kindest man in the world. I have the freedom to be the person that I want to be and I’m finding that the true person that I am is loving, patient, kind, giving, caring, calm, healthy, at peace, and very awake to the possibilities that life has to offer. The amazing thing is, that I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without the contrast of the past “me(s)” that I’ve been. Had I not had a “wild” period would I have been naïve to what my teenaged children could have been up to? Had I never experienced anxiety, would I now recognize peace? Had I not lived in poverty, would I now appreciate the little things, like having a dishwasher, or my own washer and dryer? Would I have figured out how to make something fun, or useful out of the limited resources that I had? I don’t think so. Had I not witnessed illness, I could now take my own health, or the health of my loved ones for granted. Had I not known loneliness and lack of family, I might not hold my husband, and the family and friends that I have, so dear.
The suffering that I experienced in my past is only a memory that I can chose to dwell on, or learn from. I’m certainly glad that I’ve finally reached a point in my life that is no longer dictated by the past. Goodness is now and the days ahead are what I choose to create. Do I wish that I could have figured this all out sooner? Of course, but I think we all figure things out in our own time though our own life experiences.
What experiences have you learned from and have made you appreciate the life you have now?
I’m always nervous about using the word “normal” to describe most things. As silly as I am, I realize that one person’s wacky is another person’s normal, and so on. However, when we’re talking body mass index, or BMI, it’s perfectly acceptable to use that word.
As of last night, my weight is 144, which puts me, with my 5’4″ height, at a BMI of 24.7%, which is in the normal range. While this is certainly something to celebrate, I know that BMIs can be deceiving. For example, my trainer, who looks like she could compete in bikini contests, told me that her BMI is in the obese range. It’s no myth that muscle weighs more than fat. In addition to personal training, my trainer teaches upper level fitness classes throughout the day; the girl is solid muscle and healthy as a horse. The BMI scale is meant to be used as a general guide, but not as a complete decoder of fitness. Though my BMI may be normal, it’s not a true indicator of my level of health or fitness.
To better understand one’s personal level of fitness, the true ratio of muscle to fat must be obtained. This can be done in several ways. Most of us
remember the skin-fold test with calipers from gym class. They’re somewhat accurate, but do involve some math and other than balancing my finances, I try to avoid math at all costs. My bariatric doctor measures muscle to fat ration with body fat scales that use an electric current to gauge the amount of lean mass, water, and fat in your body. These are also fairly precise, however, the reading can fluctuate depending on your personal hydration level. My trainer uses a hand-held device that operates in the same way, with the same chance for inaccuracies based on hydration level.
Another way to measure body fat is by a complicated machine called a Bod Pod. My daughter actually did this for extra credit in a fitness class at her university. Her school had just acquired one of these expensive little ditties and wanted volunteers to test it out. The Bod Pod works by measuring the volume of air you displace inside of the pod. The Bod Pod then does a complex mathematical equation (ARGH! Math, again, but the machine does it for you) to measure your fat, lean muscle mass, and resting metabolic rate. It’s extremely accurate, and used by athletes, but certainly isn’t easily accessible to the average person.
The dunk test is another very accurate method of measuring body fat. My daughter did this one, too. She’s a glutton for extra credit! The dunk test involves jumping into a pool while sitting on a special stool, in a crunch position so your body is entirely immersed. Then, you exhale as much air as possible and remain completely still as the machine weighs you. This is also really accurate, but, like the Bod Pod, it can be difficult for the average person to access.
The ultimate in body fat testing is the InBody. This is the latest technology and can be found in some fitness centers, like Lifetime Fitness. Using the InBody is as easy as standing on a metal platform and holding onto two handles for about one minute. This measures your body fat percentage, tells where your fat is stored and where you have water collecting in your body. It also measures the general strength of each of your limbs–which is pretty cool!
Though I’ve only experienced the less accurate methods of body fat testing, their results are close enough in telling me that I still have plenty of work to do. According to the Body Fat Percentage Scale, for a woman of 50, my fat percentage should be less than 30% at the highest end of the range. I’m at 38% right now and still concentrating on building muscle to be at a healthy body fat range. (When I began my fitness journey, my fat percentage was 67!) My muscular trainer, whose BMI tells her that she’s obese, has a very healthy fat percentage of 22% and is considered lean. Having a normal BMI is awesome, but I think we have to look beyond the BMI, because it isn’t always an indicator of how fit and healthy a person is.
What do you think? Does a healthy BMI mean a healthy person? What’s your favorite way to burn body fat?