When you really, really want something

When you really, really want something - like the stuffing - don't deprive yourself.
When you really, really want something – like the stuffing (or dressing) – don’t deprive yourself.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day here in the US. Happy Thanksgiving to my readers! I am truly thankful for you! Traditionally it’s a day of football, eating until you’re too stuffed to eat any more, and then collapsing in a turkey coma on the couch. As I wrote last week, Thanksgiving for me is truly a day of gratitude for family and friends, and food. Ours was a very small celebration yesterday – just two of us. But we had all of our Thanksgiving favorites – turkey, dressing (it’s dressing not stuffing because we don’t stuff the bird!), cranberry relish and brussels sprouts (yes, we love our sprouts!). And dessert. And I had everything. Because when you really, really want something, it’s perfectly OK to have it.

Everything in moderation

I’ve written about my “everything in moderation” philosophy. I never deprive myself. If I really, really want something, I have it. Perhaps just a little bit of it, but enough to satisfy the craving.

I love our stuffing – or dressing. It’s really a savory bread pudding with minimal herbs and spices. We salt and saute a few pounds of onions and a whole head of celery in vegetable oil until they’re nicely browned and caramelized (this takes a while). We mash a loaf of stale (or lightly toasted) egg bread with a few eggs and a quart of warm milk. Add a little more salt, mix everything together, turn it into a casserole sprayed generously with cooking spray and bake it for a few hours, stirring to get the maximum amount of crustiness every half hour or so. I’m making myself hungry writing about it.

I don’t skimp

When dinner time comes around, I give myself a regular sized portion. When I finish that, if I really, really want more, I give myself another spoon. It’s Thanksgiving, after all. 

I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t second guess myself. I know there are lots of calories in it. But it’s worth it to me to work out extra the next few days.

Because if I didn’t have exactly what I wanted, I’d think about it. I’d mope about it. I’d overeat in another way. I’m doing myself a favor in eating exactly what I want.

Food, family and gratitude

Next week is Thanksgiving here in the US. It’s one of my favorite holidays of the year, because it’s all about food, family, and gratitude.

Finally in person

Food, family and gratitude all lead to greater optimism and resilience.
Family gives me the warm fuzzies.

During the pandemic isolation we’ve tried to keep in touch with loved ones, but there’s nothing like seeing the people we love in person. After a long 18 months, my sister and I were able to get together with cousins last month for a wonderful afternoon. Being able to give a vaccinated-safe hug was probably the best feeling I’ve had in a long while. A cousin flew into town from the East coast and she probably won’t be able to make it for Thanksgiving, so that October afternoon get-together was our Thanksgiving. 

We shared laughter and recipes. And we commiserated with our cousin’s little boy who got sick from too many sweets (given by his doting Grandma in the morning). We talked about old family stories, and shared some new ones. It was a relatively small gathering, but my sister and I were overjoyed to be with any family.

Warm, fuzzy feelings

The food was great, but that afternoon its importance was diminished by the warm feeling of being surrounded by family. We don’t live very close to family any more – the closest is an hour or more from us. So the opportunity to get together in person on a Sunday afternoon was not to be missed.

Both my sister and I were unspeakably happy to see family. And we were grateful to be able to do so safely. We definitely had warm fuzzy feelings that day. And remembering that sunny afternoon continues to bring happiness and gratitude.

Gratitude => Happiness => Optimism => Resilience

And when we’re happy and grateful for what we have, optimism naturally follows. When we’re optimistic, we look to the future rather than the past. And being able to look optimistically to the future builds our resilience. With resilience comes motivation to meet our goals.

With food, family and gratitude, we can accomplish anything.

Everyone has their own stuff

Everyone has their own stuff, so they don't care what I'm doing now.
Even if anyone is watching, they don’t care. Everyone has their own stuff

It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. Really. Everyone has their own stuff that they’re going through. And you probably don’t enter into the equation. As I’m writing this, today has been a frustrating day. Internet issues, financial institution frustrations, dog training problems. It seems like most things that can go wrong have. I work with my sister – our desks face each other. Our monitors are back to back. I’m having my issues and she’s having hers.

The important things get done

Sometimes I’m a little hesitant to work on certain things during the business day because they don’t contribute to our shared businesses. It doesn’t matter that I’ve done the tasks on those businesses that I’ve set out to do for the day, I’m still hesitant. Stupid, but there you are.

She knows, though. And, you know what? It doesn’t matter. There will always be more to do. Today? The crucial tasks are completed. Tomorrow is another day for the rest of the stuff.

She’s got her own stuff

My sister doesn’t care. She’s got her own stuff to deal with. 

And if I’m focused on what others are thinking about me, I’m not getting anything productive done. Nothing on that to-do list is getting checked off. That article is not getting written. The website changes I wanted to make are not getting done. I need to focus on what’s in front of me.

They don’t care

Just like exercising – if you’re at a gym, no one is watching you. Just about everyone feels self-conscious in their workout gear, even though some will never admit it. Everyone thinks that they look stupid doing some of the exercises. A while ago I wrote about this: “No one is watching” And it holds true for most areas of life.

People, unless they actively ask you to participate in it, are so busy with their own activities that they are not paying attention to others.

They don’t care what you’re doing. What video you’re watching. If you’re listening to a business podcast or a steamy romance audiobook. Unless they ask you a question and expect you to focus on them, they don’t care that much at the moment.

It’s natural that we care what others think

Of course, in the larger scheme of things, it’s totally natural that you care about what others think of you. People are social creatures. We want to be with others, and we want others to want to be with us. It follows that in order for others to want to be with us they care about us in some fashion, so we want others to think well of us. We want to do everything we can to foster our relationships and not alienate anyone.

But for the tiny minutiae of everyday life, no one cares that you’re watching a YouTube video and not doing a crossword puzzle. 

So stop wasting time. Get the important stuff (or the distasteful stuff) done first and then figure out what’s important to you. Decide on the steps you need to take to get there, and do it. If today the thing that’s important to you is regaining your focus, go exercise (because exercise really does increase focus), decide on a plan and get to work.

You’re worth it

Last week I asked if it had been a while since you focused on yourself. And I was kind of surprised that the answer for many was, “Yes.” Because you’re worth it. You’re worth the effort of focus and determination. And certainly you’re worth taking the best care.

Like those oxygen masks

It’s been a while … OK, quite a while … since I’ve flown anywhere. But during the safety announcement they always tell the passengers to put their own oxygen mask on first, and then put a mask on their child. Because If you pass out from lack of oxygen, no one will be there to put a mask on the child.

It’s the same point with focusing on yourself. Make time to exercise. Learn how to prepare healthy meals. Pay attention to your health – both physical and mental.

Take care of yourself first so that you can take care of your family. If you take care of yourself , then you’ll be around to enjoy family and friends.

My family thanks me when I exercise

An intense workout improves my mood. I'm worth it.
An intense workout improves my mood. My family is thankful and you’re worth it.

Exercise will keep your muscles and heart strong. It also helps flexibility. And, it may seem counterintuitive that an activity that makes you sweat, pant and turn red in the face will make you happier, it’s true. (More reasons to exercise.) Those post-workout endorphins are real. When I’m in a bad mood, or feeling tense and anxious, an intense workout helps my mood. My family thanks the DVD player for that when I’m done…

You’re adding years

Maintaining a healthy weight will add years to your life. Or, certainly, keep the years you’re around healthier, according to the American Heart Association. When you maintain a healthy weight, you’re less likely to develop certain chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and you may be less likely to get cancer. How do you get to that healthy weight? It’s mostly what you eat! So figuring out that nutritious yet delicious meal plan is essential.

So, if you’ve let yourself come last – it’s time to change that! Focus on yourself. You’ll thank yourself for (hopefully) many years.

Focus on yourself – for your health

Be mindful when you start to focus on yourself. Start slow so you can continue.
Focus on yourself – so you’re healthy for the long haul!

I can picture it… There you are, living your life. Seemingly happy with your family, your job, your home, your friends. It’s been a while since you actually focused on yourself, so one day you may realize that there could be so much more to your life. If you could move better. Zip your pants. Not feel so bloated in the evening. And all those prescriptions. Taking a good, hard look at your daily life you may come to the conclusion that, “Yeah, it’s good, but it could be better. I need to get fit.” You need to focus on yourself!

What a reckoning moment! When we decide that our own fitness is a way to be happier and be more for our loved ones, it’s an earth-shattering decision.

There’s no easy fix, though. If it’s been a while since you made yourself a priority, it’s going to take a while to reap the benefits of that major decision. Make sure you start right and focus on yourself so that you can achieve the results you want.

The food

We all need to eat to survive. Chances are, if it really has been a while since you focused on your fitness, the foods you eat may not be the healthiest. I’m not a nutritionist, but I do know that what we eat is reflected in our body. When we eat right – watching the calories, reducing the fat, added sugar and salt, and eating more vegetables – our health improves and we lose weight.

The exercise

Exercise can help you “burn” more calories, so it does help us to lose weight. But, I think, more importantly, exercise is a mood-lifter. We feel happier when those endorphins post-exercise kick in. Exercise boosts energy and also helps to combat some diseases.

But start small

If it’s been a while since you focused on yourself, start with the little things. If you usually enjoy a scoop of ice cream for dessert, don’t cut it out entirely. Or if your servings of potatoes take up most of your plate, don’t eliminate your mash. Just reduce the serving. Maybe go for half of what you’ve been used to. 

I’ve always been a firm believer of “Everything in Moderation.” If you cut all the good stuff out, you’re much less likely to stick with a plan. Perhaps, if you’re feeling it, enjoy your mashed potatoes, but cut out the cake and have fruit for dessert. I enjoy a couple of spoonsful (teaspoons – don’t get crazy!) of super-rich chocolate ice cream most nights.

Well-known fitness trainer Sohee Lee even advises the moderation approach. Especially at first, moderation is the key. More than that is unsustainable. Cutting all indulgences will just make you want them more. But if you have a tiny bit of whatever you’re craving, you’ll most likely be satisfied.

Start small with exercise too. I wrote about starting to exercise a little while ago. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start with a short walk after dinner a couple of days a week. Gradually extend the time and add another day or two in a few weeks. If you’re wanting more, search out a fitness class you think you can stick with. Be honest with yourself. Don’t attempt too much because that, too, is unsustainable. The last thing you want when you’re just beginning your fitness journey is an injury or pain. Now, a little bit of muscle soreness is to be expected if you’re using muscles you haven’t used in a while. But if you can’t walk for days after a workout, that’s not a good thing. Starting slow means that you’ll maintain your healthy progress. 

Fitness is a journey. No one ever says, “I’m fit. Now I can quit.” There’s no quitting. Eating right, exercising and attending to your mental health is something you do for life.

Exercise with limited mobility

How can I exercise with limited mobility? My right wrist took the brunt of a fall.
My right wrist got the brunt of a fall

I took a tumble not quite 2 weeks ago and injured my right arm. My wrist got the worst of it – it’s still giving me trouble. So much so that I can’t put much weight on it and it hurts to bend it sometimes. So – how to exercise with limited mobility?

Not even a plank

As you know, my favorite form of exercise combines strength and cardio. But such exercise with limited mobility is practically impossible. Body weight strength exercises are great, but a plank is out of the question for me.

To not exercise is also out of the question. It’s such a habit for me that if I’m home and not doing anything else at the time I usually exercise, the guilt is practically overwhelming. So the last few days I’ve been exercising without weights and with limited arm involvement. I know that when my arm is better, I’ll have a lot of catching up to do, but I’m grateful the injury isn’t worse.

So what exercise to do?

So, what exercise have I been doing with my arm out of commission? I’ve been cardio-bingeing. I’ve been doing my walk / run on the treadmill. And I’ve rediscovered the fun of step aerobics. I talked about doing step aerobics as a great stress-reducer a while ago, but it really is a super workout. Even with the risers lower than I used to have them, the sweat was dripping off my face.

Others deal with limited mobility

My injury made me think about how others exercise with limited mobility. If (heaven forbid) my wrist injury became more permanent, I would certainly investigate the possibility of swimming in my area. Swimming is a great, non-weight-bearing cardio exercise with other benefits as well. Walking outside is certainly another possibility. If the weather warms up again here and I’m still recovering, I may take to the greenway path nearby. And I may queue up some favorite songs and dance.

Limited mobility is no excuse to not exercise

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone, at any age, have physical activity to maintain their good health. In fact, all adults, with or without disabilities, according to the CDC’s Guidelines should get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of aerobic physical activity per week. However, the CDC has found that less than half of those with disabilities and limited mobility engage in aerobic physical activity. They’ve put together a resource for those with limited mobility to get ideas for getting the activity they need.

I’ve certainly gained new respect for people who stay motivated to exercise with limited mobility. It takes extra gumption to find ways to stay as active as they need to be, given the barriers society puts in their way.

Exercise can save you money

Exercise can help you save money.

You’ll be happier if you exercise.

And you’ll attract people to you if you’re not scowling – you’ll make more friends.

Exercise can save you money

Don’t believe me? A HealthPartners Research Foundation research study showed that people over 50 years old who started exercising only 90 minutes per week saved about $2,200 per year in medical costs. And a CDC study showed that older people who visited a health club twice a week saved over $1,200 more in healthcare costs than those who visited a health club less than that.

Sounds good to me.

How this makes sense

Exercise does more for you than just increase physical fitness. Exercise can save you money.
Exercise does more for you than just increase physical fitness. Exercise can save you money.

And it makes sense. If you’re exercising, you’re getting fitter. And you’re getting healthier. We’ve talked many times about the health benefits of exercising – It can lower your blood pressure and boost your good cholesterol (HDL). Exercise promotes better blood flow, and decreases the risk of heart disease. Plus, it can help prevent or manage other health concerns like diabetes and stroke.

Exercise has also been proven to ward off many types of cancer. Anecdotally, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a cold. Even before we all started to wear masks all the time, it had been several years since I’ve been laid low by illness (knock on wood – don’t want to jinx myself…).

Happiness after exercise

Exercise is also a mood-lifter. Those post-exercise endorphins are no myth. After a workout I’m happier and easier to be around. Just ask my sister. Exercise helps you sleep better too. And a good night’s sleep is a must-have for happiness. The world seems brighter after I burn a few hundred calories! And after a good workout there’s no guilt at eating a healthy dinner. 

Exercise can save you money and attract people to you!

If you’re happier and in a good mood, you’ll be easier to be around. No scowls – more friends. People will want to be closer to you. Even with a mask on, people know if you’re scowling! More friends = more happiness. A better outlook on life. And all from a couple hours of exercise.

Your workout may be easier with a friend

Your workout may be easier with a friend to cheer you on.
Working out with a friend makes it easier.

Your workout may be easier with a friend. After all, you’ll be sharing the misery. What’s that old saying – “Misery loves company?” Is that because if it’s shared it doesn’t feel like torture? Or because you can laugh at each other’s funny faces as you grimace through the hard parts? 

You’re doing the work

Exercise, unless you’re doing specific pairs exercises, though, is a solitary endeavor. When you run, it’s your legs doing the work. Not someone else’s. It’s you who is lifting that heavy weight. You’re the one who is struggling to stay on her feet as you near the finish line. And you are the only one responsible for your success – or your failure.

A friend’s motivation can help

But a friend can really keep you motivated on your fitness journey. It’s not easy at the best of times to stay on the straight and narrow path of an exercise program. Someone to talk to, to commiserate with, can help you stick with your plan. You may hate the same exercises, and dread when a certain yoga pose is coming up in the flow. And you can agree that the best part of a workout is the final stretch and cool-down.

You don’t even have to be together

But in these days of pandemic separation, how do you exercise with a friend? Many gyms have closed. You’re nervous about being out of breath with a mask on. You don’t even want to be close to other people. 

To get the support of a friend, though, you don’t actually have to exercise together or even do the same workout. You can both exercise and then arrange to get on a Zoom or Facetime call at a specific time to talk about your respective workouts. That might even be more fun than exercising together – because it’s really hard to talk if your workout is effective! You’ll have the accountability we all need to stick to an exercise program. And it’s fun to complain with someone who knows exactly what you’re experiencing.

Important for support and accountability

I wrote about the importance of having your friends and family support your healthy lifestyle plan a while ago. It’s still important to have that support and accountability. Your friends and family are your support system, which we all need to be happy and resilient these days. Yes, it’s possible to go it alone. You can stick to any plan you design. But it’s easier with others.

Your body is a mirror

You know that old saying, “You are what you eat?” Well, you can also say, “Your body mirrors your mind.” Your body really is a mirror of your mood and emotions.

Unexpected effects on your body

Your mood and emotions can affect your physical health in ways that you may not expect. You may experience pain, inflammation and even chronic illness as a result of continuing depression. Depression can deprive your body of its natural ability to fight off disease.

“Mental and physical health are linked. When the brain is out of balance, it can affect our body’s response to fight off illness,” says Dr. Munther Barakat, a psychologist at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wis. When our mental health is compromised, it can lead to increased pain sensitivity, slower healing, weight gain or loss, increased inflammation, even a weakened immune system. When our immune system is compromised, it can lead to autoimmune diseases like arthritis or fibromyalgia. It can even cause abnormal cell growth which can lead to cancer. Your body is a mirror of the bad as well as the good.

Tips to fend off bad moods and depression

Some exercise can be fun - like crunches on the stability ball. If it's fun, and your body is a mirror of your emotions, then you'll be smiling inside and out.

Dr. Barakat recommends developing habits to fend off bad moods and depression, like physical exercise! I’ve written before about how that “exercise high” is more than a myth. After an intense workout, I know that I feel more optimistic and happier. Even when I don’t feel like exercising, I do it anyway, and then afterward I’m glad I did. It could be the increased oxygen. It could be the tingly muscles. I just know that I feel better and more optimistic after I exercise.

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is another great habit to start or continue. Research has shown that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and complex carbohydrates has a positive effect on brain function and mood.

Relaxation techniques also calm your mind and body. Yoga and meditation are practices I follow. Hatha Yoga has the double (triple?) benefit of increasing your flexibility, exercising and stretching your muscles as well as calming your mind. You don’t have to be a yogi to benefit from a yoga practice. If you’re not able to do any particular pose, there are plenty of modifications and substitutes. If you take a class, mention to your instructor that you have certain limitations and more often than not, he or she will demonstrate terrific modifications. 

Meditation eases stress

Acording to Psychology Today, mental health does benefit from meditation. A study in Psychiatry Research revealed that people who meditated for 30 minutes a day experience stress less intensely than those who didn’t meditate. The study also showed that the part of the brains involved with empathy and compassion of people who meditated grew. People who meditate care more – and that’s a key component of growing your resilience.

So if your body is a mirror for your mood and emotions, and if you’re in a great mood more, your body will be in better shape. Not only will you be more fit, and more able to do the things you want to do, but you’ll be more resilient and better able to tackle the challenges of life. That’s my definition of “fitness.”

I feel like an elephant today

I feel bloated like an elephant today. If you do too, stick to your fitness plan.

Did you ever wake up and, after you do your usual morning stuff, say to yourself, “I feel like an elephant today?” Everything feels fat and bloated, even more than usual. Even my hands and feet feel bloated. Don’t get me wrong – I love elephants. I think elephants are among the cutest beings on the planet.

I don’t want to feel like an elephant

But I don’t want to feel like one. Elephants usually move slowly and deliberately. (Except for when your safari jeep gets between a mama and her calf. But that’s a story for another day.) That is not how I want to move. I want to feel light and energetic. I want to feel like I can move effortlessly. 

I’m pretty sure that you have this feeling sometimes too. I may have eaten too much salty food yesterday and I’m retaining water. Or I just plain ate too much. Or I didn’t get enough sleep. Any of these could lead to feelings of heaviness.

Stick to your fitness plan

First thing to do is not obsess about it. Feeling like you have to wear a giant muumuu to cover everything up can lead to feelings of depression. Don’t let it. Everyone feels this way at some point. And even if you feel it, it’s not visible. This article describes how I pull myself out of the dumps.

Next – drink more water. It may seem counter-intuitive to drink water if you’re retaining water, but it’s one step in the right direction. If you like to drink carbonated beverages, try to replace them with water. That carbonation can lead to excess gas not only in the beverage, but in your system.

It’s important to move!

Take a walk. This can diminish that bloated feeling right away. And over time, if you move more, you won’t feel bloated so frequently. Yes, this is another reason to exercise regularly!

Gradually add more fiber and probiotics to your diet. This tip is not an instant cure. Adding additional fiber to your diet is a long-term improvement and will improve your digestion over time.

But right now?

No matter how you feel, you don’t look different. You’re still the same person inside and out. So if you’re self-conscious and want to wear baggy shirts and pants for a couple of days, that’s OK. When I’m feeling bloated, I have to remind myself that no one is looking at how tight (or not) my pants are. I’m still me – tight waistband or not.