Back On Track After Illness

I started to write a blog the other day about my sinus surgery. It really wasn’t until I started to write everything down that I noticed just how long my sinuses have given me problems. I actually first started presenting issues back in May of 2018. That was a year ago!

The past year has been amazing from doing my TEDx Talk, launching my book, and having my dream book signing at my favorite book shop Savoy. I was even nominated for an Athena award, celebrated 10 years with my husband, and moved! Did I mention that I teach POUND several days a week and take karate?

In the midst of all these great things I also took 10 rounds of oral antibiotics of increasing strength and duration, took prednisone for far longer than I ever wanted to, had a PICC line of antibiotics since my “severe persistent maxillary sinus infection” seemed to never go away. Through it all I rarely paused.

Figuring out I’m allergic to a host of plants, animals, and fungi and starting immunotherapy has been great but finally going in to repair my deviated septum and tool through my sinuses has been incredible. I sleep better, breathe better, and even though the first couple of days I felt like I was hit with a bat it is all worth it.

Now that I’m feeling better I got to see just how much this has affected me. I was always very diligent with journaling my food and meal prep but the past few months have been so draining that I barely kept up. It’s easy to make excuses when you don’t feel well. Being under the weather is always a great excuse to slack.

If you’ve been around these Blog parts for a while you’ll know that I’ve had a very unhealthy relationship with scales. It was bordering on obsessive and emotionally controlling. When I had RNY Gastric Bypass I only weighed myself at the doctors office until those appointments became less frequent. I then implemented what I call the Rumble Strip.

On a roadway the rumble strip is the lines placed in the asphalt beyond the white line. When your tires hit them it makes an alarming sound jilting the driver back to attention. My rumble strip is a pair of pants. I have a pair of jeans that I love. They fit well and the true test is how they fit fresh out of the dryer. If I ever want to check how I’m doing I’ll throw on those pants and let them be my guide.

I haven’t done it in a while and with my general slack and boatload of excuses I knew it was time. I put them on yesterday after 3 solid weeks of limited activity recovering from my surgery. They went over my hips and zipped just fine. The button, however, not my finest hour. I’ve officially hit the rumble strip and I’m finally feeling well enough to tackle it!

So many people ask about getting back on track. Not just after weight loss surgery but after any way that you’ve lost before and began the slow creep back. The best thing is always to go back to basics. You know what you did that worked so return there and begin again. The month of June I’m doing a 30 Day Re-Focus where I’ll return to my basics and get back on track.

What are Basics?

  • Count macros and calories
  • Journal all food (if you bite it write it)
  • Chart how I feel when I eat
  • Be sure I’m pausing and taking 10 seconds (read about that HERE)
  • Increase step goal to 15,000 per day
  • Move 60 mins per day
  • Meal prep!

What are NOT Basics?

  • Getting upset about gain
  • Isolating and not addressing the issue
  • Continuing to live in your excuses
  • Not trying to correct the behavior before it gets out of control
  • Hating yourself

Remember:

  • You cannot hate yourself happy
  • You cannot shame yourself thin
  • You can take steps to correct
  • You can reach out for help and accountability
  • You can bounce back
  • We can do it together
  • Give yourself 30 days

Before May 31st

  • Weigh yourself
  • Take measurements
  • Make sure you have a place to journal your food
  • Find an accountability partner or check in with me
  • Have at least 3 days of healthy and portioned meals ready to go
  • Be ready to take this challenge on!
  • NOTE: You will not weigh in or take measurements until July 1st. Feel free to put on your Rumble Strip pants to check progress if you NEED to see how you’re doing before July.

You’ll be amazed what 30 days of focus can do! Let’s do it together. I’ll be posting some free reference guides and helpful planning tips.

Who Are You Fighting?

I first walked into East Coast Karate two years ago on a whim when a friend of mine posted they were hosting “Buddy Week” where people can bring a friend to try classes for free. You can read about that experience here: The Karate Adult

Karate – like anything that challenges you and takes you out of your comfort zone – had proven to be a place where I experience the most growth physically and mentally. I’m a person who likes to do things right and well. I like the satisfaction that comes with doing something to the best of my ability. I’ve also been known to “not see the forest for the trees.” I can get so mired in details that I fail to notice the big picture. That became abundantly clear a couple of weeks ago.

In karate class, we’re often sent in groups by rank to work with a sensei. A sensei is someone who has achieved a rank of black belt or above and is entrusted with the training of underbelts. On this particular day, we were paired with Sensei Les and we were thrilled. A little backstory on Sensei Les: when I first started in the dojo he was going from his final green belt (green with a black stripe) to his brown belt. His entire belt rank was amazing. I can safely speak for my entire group when I say that we would watch them in absolute awe and wonder if we would EVER look like that.

Before I get to our conversation on the day in question I want to share how Sensei Les challenges us. He’s a man that always does things to full potential. If you’re going to go then GO and GO ALL THE WAY! It’s inspiring. I can get inside my head pretty quickly and I like to mentally go over things before I put any speed or emphasis. I was paired with Sensei Les and we were learning a new drill. I’m trying to work it out – trying to get it perfect (ugh) – and I go to punch Sensei Les. Remember, I’m trying to work out details so I’m not placing any power in that punch. As I “punch” him he just stares at me.

Me: You’re supposed to block…
Sensei Les: You’re supposed to hit!

(apply cold water to burn)

That was the first day I just laid waste to my perfecting BS and just did the drill and it was amazing. I was almost forced out of my head because I was going to do the drill or get drilled. I wouldn’t want to take an errant punch from anyone at our dojo but certainly NOT from Sensei Les. This was a powerful lesson (and epic clapback) that paved the way for our next session with Sensei Les at the helm.

Karate is learned in stages almost like child development. You have to crawl before you walk and certainly before you run. As you improve and progress you learn more advanced ways of doing moves. This is hard for me because I want to know what is RIGHT. RIGHT! What is universally correct. There’s a lot of nuance to karate. (I know, I know.. I’m working on it!)

Sensei Les is taking us through our katas. We start from the beginning and we know the patterns of 11 of them. As second level green belts (green with white stripe) we are at a place where are no longer crawling through karate. Sensei was gifting us with fine tuning our kata with more advanced moves. This is where Sensei Les was when I started karate. Having him teach us is like seeing the light in the tunnel! I want to absorb everything!

Me: Sensei I notice that you move your arm this way yet another Sensei does it slightly differently. Which way is correct?

Sensei Les: They’re both correct.

Me (mentally starting to crumble): Wait, which way is classically correct? Like which is the way that we should learn in our development now?

Sensei Les: Who are you fighting?

In an instant, the light bulb went on and my brain simultaneously snapped! As I was wandering aimlessly through the forest looking for trees I missed the largest and most fundamental part of karate:

Karate is a fighting style!

When we spar in class I fight. I’m actually surprised by how much I like to spar. It’s fast, there’s no time to think, you act and react accordingly or you get hit. Despite knowing this, I was approaching this entire class like a chance encounter with someone in an alley would go like this:

Oh, you’d like to attack me? Hold on… can you stand right there? Give me a second, I just have to perfect my punch placement! All the while my attacker is just letting me get set up. I would never do this in sparring but I was failing to connect the two. We are not learning poses!

When we learn kata we also learn bunkai or the practical applications of kata. I remember in the beginning just thinking that I need to know WHAT I’m doing then I can learn WHY. That logic is fundamentally flawed. Knowing the why improves the what, even at the beginning. Especially at the beginning! Why have I resisted this? Sensei Dave has said it repeatedly. This was the first day I received it.

One question from Sensei Les and my karate has taken a new level of intensity. Every moment is in preparation for an actual fight. In the mirrors, I am my opponent. When I practice I think of the fight and I’m preparing for it.

Ultimately, this works in so many areas of life:

  • If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability
  • When preparing for any battle know who you’re fighting
  • Practice like it’s real because when it’s real you won’t get to practice
  • Move, block, or get hit… the choice is yours.

Domo Arigato, Sensei Les!

My Seat and Thomas McFall

When I go to a place for the first time and I sit down my brain believes I own that seat. The next time I arrive I will expect that seat. If someone is sitting in MY seat I’ve been known to tap a shoulder and inform them of their egregious error. Most people gladly move but I’m sure are thinking insane thoughts as they shuttle their belongings to another seat. Crazy, I know, I’m working on it.

The other day the internet gifted me with another story about a series of posts from Twitter user Thomas McFall who has a similar seat issue and ended up calling himself out about it. Needless to say, I was drawn to this particular story because I intimately understand wanting MY seat. You can read it in full HERE. The abridged version is this:

They were at college and he liked to sit in this particular seat. Every day the gentleman next to him would have a pile of his belongings on it. Ever day he’d be annoyed as the gentleman would clear his things and high five him at the start of class. The writer indicated that the gentleman didn’t speak much English and as this happened every single day he was getting highly annoyed. It was ruining his class.

One day he had to hang back and finish a phone call and witnessed something that changed his perspective. Another student tried to sit in his seat and the gentleman said:

“Oh, sorry, that’s my friend Tom’s seat.”

Every day he walked in that classroom thinking this foreign kid was just a nuisance but it was really because he considered him his friend. What happened next was even more beautiful. Read the article and see what happens when you invite someone you may not share a similar life story or world view to lunch.

Perspective is powerful. We lean on ours all the time. So often we can be annoyed by someone’s actions without ever considering their perspective or even considering that our perspective may not be quite what it seems.

This story has allowed me to check my own thoughts and reactions to situations and truly look at other potential scenarios. What you might consider a nuisance may be someone who considers you a friend. Perspective.

Article was posted on Upworthy.com

Overwhelming Wellness and the Power of Words

I’ve seen a lot of posts lately from people overwhelmed by their health goals. I totally understand it because everywhere you look there’s a new thing to try that could potentially be better than before. Keto. Low Carb. South Beach. Atkins. They all seem remarkably similar.

What do you choose?

I’ve discovered that for me it was abandoning all of it. Diet is a dirty word with a limited time connotation. You do it “for a while” then when you try to just live your life after the “diet” is over you’ve likely gained the weight back and more.

There’s a lot of power in words like “diet” and even “cheat meal” carries some weight. This meal that you can take advantage of for another limited time that usually brings you only emotional relief and no real nutritional value.

Now, let’s look at “junk” foods. You know what they are: chocolate, sugar, high fats, and usually quite delicious. They are also the first things you remove when you’re on a “diet.” “Healthy” foods are usually things like vegetables and kale and often carry the weight of a necessary evil in a diet.

Are you seeing the power of these words? Have you noticed when you eat “junk” you feel like junk? Or a “cheat” meal makes you feel like you’re getting away with something? Don’t you always want most what you cannot have and it almost seems sweeter when you “get away with it?”

Imagine there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Is it possible that food is food? Can a cinnamon roll drenched in gooey icing have the same word as kale? Food really is food BUT cinnamon rolls are less nutrient dense than kale. Ultimately, that’s the difference.

We strive so hard to be “perfect” on our “diets”‘and we often are; yet during that window of time, we’re miserable. We count down the moments to chocolate and bread and we can’t enjoy where we are or what we’re doing.

When I speak at the hospital the most frequent question I get about food is: “Does this mean I can never have (insert what you love here) ever again?” I’m not the Food Police for adults. When I opted for surgical weight loss it was because my weight was completely out of control and I couldn’t manage on my own without outside help. When I took that step I also realized that moderation is not a strength of mine. With RNY Gastric Bypass could I eat chocolate again? I choose every second of every day what goes in my mouth. Will my stomach tolerate it? Most likely not. Could I eat it? Yes. Should I? No. What just happened there?

I took the item I wanted – chocolate – and I ran it through a couple of gates before the gateway of my mouth.

  • Do I want it? Absolutely!
  • Is it nutrient dense? Not at all.
  • Am I helping to maintain my fitness goals with this? No.
  • Is wanting it NOW more important than my long-term goals? No.
  • Why do I want the chocolate? Usually, an emotional response to something troubling me or it just looks darn good.
  • Do I eat it? No.

There is no diet, or cheat meal, or junk food. They are all opportunities. An opportunity to eat nutrient-dense foods that work toward reaching your health goals and less nutrient-dense foods that may hold you back from your goals especially if these decisions continue to outweigh your nutrient dense decisions.

There’s one other interesting caveat to the power of words and your food choices. Calories. I hear a lot of this as well: “I eat good, healthy foods and I continue to gain weight!”

A calorie (kcal) is the amount of heat energy it takes to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius (Wikipedia). By this logic, 10,000 calories of ice cream and 10,000 calories of kale are equal. How your body uses the kale and the ice cream will certainly vary and there’s an entire degree program for Bioenergetics that I do NOT have. The groundbreaking thought process here is that you can still have too much of a “good” thing because if you aren’t burning those calories then weight gain is inevitable.

So what do you do?

Try to find a way to make peace with your food. Don’t give it names of good or bad or junk that will subconsciously assign an emotion to what you’re eating. Pass your options through several gates and ultimately decide if it’s worth it for you. My experiences with bingeing food made me very aware that food felt great…. until it didn’t. Find a way to live your life well and if you get a moment of indulgent, less nutrient-dense food then let that be what it is – an option you made. Not a failure, mistake, or any other negative connotation. If it was a decision you wished you didn’t make, acknowledge it and remember the next time your making decisions.

Stop dieting and start living!

Also see: Take Ten Seconds.

FLASHBACK – Sadly Running With My Paper Bag

This is a Flashback post that was originally written on January 18, 2007, on MySpace…yes, MySpace. 

The human mind can be so powerful. From inventions that have changed our lives to surgeries that improve the human condition, the human mind has proven itself to be immensely vast yet amazingly unknown.

How could anyone think that mold growing on orange rinds could possibly become penicillin and save countless lives? Or how about the first brave person to eat an egg? The mind is a mystery that eludes us all.

How well do we really know each other? I ask people all the time how they are but I never think I am prepared to truly hear the answer. Most of us say it in passing: “Hey, how are you?” and keep on walking. You’ve been nice, did your part and smiled. I have even experienced the instant feeling of uneasiness when you ask someone how they are… and they begin to tell you.

But not everyone will tell you.

My yoga teacher once asked me to imagine every person on Earth lining up and placing all their negative experiences in a paper bag at their feet. Then we would all have the opportunity to walk up and down the line and inspect all the bags with an option of taking one. But once you had the ability to see the horrors that are in the bags of others you would take your bag and run.

People may show such joy on their faces but inside their “paper bag” can be something that is suffocating them inside. You never know what someone has in their bag or how the human mind would handle it.

Today we lost someone that we knew. He was one of those people that always made everyone around them smile and had the ability to captivate others. Engaging was the word that came to mind all day. He was able to engage people. But the mind is extremely complex.

I was stunned to discover that he took his own life.

Someone always smiling, always helping, and always engaging. It was nothing short of painful to see people crumble and fall into that slow yet steady decline that begins with denial and goes to grief. Holding people too shocked to speak or even cry. We never saw the darkness, we never felt the sadness, we certainly didn’t understand the complexities of his mind.

I thought about how many times I asked him how he was without MEANING it and I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck was in his paper bag.

I won’t ask questions without expecting answers and I will certainly listen more…

I am sadly clutching my paper bag.

Battling Perfection

Sometimes there’s something powerful when you see your behavior for what it really is and deciding to leap instead of continuing to look!

If you haven’t already feel free to like my Facebook page! There’s a lot new information coming that I can’t wait to share with you!

Thank you!

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Beautiful Destinations in Pain

If there’s one thing that’s universal it’s struggle. We all struggle with something. Do you struggle with fear? Anxiety? Failure? Success? Do you struggle with loss? Gain? Misunderstanding? Do you struggle with food? Weight? Alcohol? Drugs?

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. – Zig Ziglar

I’ve seen this quite every where and often quoted to unknown or a million other people. Who said, it is secondary to its power. It’s a powerful quote because it is so true. No matter what card we were dealt, we’re all playing a hand and theres joy in knowing that our struggle will shape us… and will shape someone else.

I knew a young woman (I’ll call her Sally) who suffered from multiple miscarriages. It was absolutely devastating for her and the emotional toll of her losses claimed her marriage and her self esteem. Sally suffered for years carrying the burden of these losses. A few years later another woman (I’ll call Jane) was also silently struggling with the same situation. Jane was unable to carry a child to term and couldn’t vocalize her pain. No one knew how much she suffered. She feared people either wouldn’t understand or would just pity her. Her silence was destroying her.

I was blessed to find myself in the same room with these two women – both strangers at a support group run by my church. As we all shared our struggles they both listened. When it was Sally’s turn to speak, she began to share her story of her miscarriages and how she was struggling to maintain her faith that She’ll be a mother one day.

Suddenly, Jane burst into tears! I was taken by surprise because she was silently listening the whole meeting. Sally immediately stopped and directly asked Jane if she was okay. Between sobs, Jane choked out her story of miscarriages and the pain she was experiencing, how worthless she felt, and how it took up every corner of her brain making it impossible to move forward. She thought no one could possibly understand her feelings of loss and fear.

Sally, who moments earlier was just sharing her struggle walked to Jane and put her arms around her and listened. When she was done, Jane collapsed into Sally’s arms finally unburdened from the weight of her silence and her grief for that moment. Sally was now a comforter, telling Jane that the losses are painful but she knows that one day she’ll hold her babies in heaven and that gives her peace. It was like I could see beams of light coming from their hearts that became entwined. Their shared struggle became a place of healing for both of them. God bonded them through their losses.

I never saw Jane after that but often thought about her and prayed for her. Sally, I’ve seen over the years and I know that she’s happily married with a child now. Something she thought was impossible a few short years earlier.

Imagine your struggle – whatever it is. Imagine the pain, the difficulty, the loss, the fear. It’s all too easy to imagine that these feelings are unique to us, that no one will understand. Until you vocalize your issue you will be internally suffocated by your silence. Imagine your struggle again. Imagine opening yourself up and sharing with a person you trust or in a support group and discovering you are not alone… and you never were. There’s freedom in that, there’s healing in that, there’s life in that. There’s a purpose to walking down these difficult roads.

I let my pain fester in silence for years but once I was unburdened by it and shared my experiences I found healing and joy. Your difficult road is leading you to a beautiful destination. With faith it will be the most beautiful destination of all.

The Courage of Julia

Sometimes things sit in my mind and I can’t let them go easily. Something happened the other day at karate that I just can’t seem to shake because it was extraordinary to witness. 

People that only know me from the dojo must think I’m a neurotic mess – which truth be told – isn’t entirely incorrect but it’s better masked in my everyday life. I find comfort and solace in things I do well so I can perform them with ease. Public speaking, designing marketing collaterals, and blogging are all things I do with relative ease. So if you know me in those circles you’d have a completely different view of who I am than what gets shown in karate. There it seems to be a lot of doubt, struggle, and challenge. I’m starting to think those very things are why I like it. Overcoming these challenges each day in small ways is helping me tremendously. 

So what happened the other day that I can’t stop thinking about? We were working on distance and accuracy with our strikes and it only comes with knowing your body and practice. The drill was to attempt to throw a punch to come close to our partner’s hand but not hit them. After each punch the person would slightly move their hand allowing us to make these tiny adjustments. These adjustments will increase the knowledge of our bodies and our reach and increase our accuracy. 

Sensei Dave often will demonstrate  how the drill will work with a person in class. This person is called a uke. For this particular drill he chose Julia a young girl who is also a purple belt. Her hair was tied into a high ponytail and she had some wispy hair floating to the left of her face. Sensei said he was going to demonstrate this accuracy with her hair. He then punches directly at Julia and barely grazes her hair. The hair on the back of my neck stood up!

I don’t doubt the accuracy of Sensei and I know he has over thirty years of experience and literally hundreds of students that have trained with him. What I couldn’t shake was the courage of Julia. She stood steadfast and didn’t even blink! I got goosebumps! He showed several other punches and she was just as strong, fixed, and focused as the first one. I think my jaw was on the floor for several minutes.

I wondered if I would’ve behaved the same way? Could I see a punch come my way and not instinctively flinch? I often step on my “fake brake” when Jeff is driving and I think he’s getting too close to another car! I don’t want to do it, I just do it. Would I have the courage of Julia?

When I came home I told my husband I think I need Sensei punch me. Through his puzzled expression I explained how I frequently struggle with trusting the process and maybe that lack of trust is what’s holding me back. Maybe I need to get a highly accurate punch close to my face. If I just trust the process I’ll be fine, if not, I get a valuable lesson about trust and a $200 ER copay! 

Each day in karate is an adventure. I learn more about myself and what I want to be. After that class, I learned I want to be more like my teenage friend Julia: trusting, strong, and courageous. 

Perspective Shift

I read something the other day that I absolutely loved. 


Absolutely! People often think that after weight loss surgery our restricted diets are a problem. Limiting sugar, fat, and carbs can seem pretty daunting as is eliminating junk food and fast foods from your diet. I know I didn’t think I could do it at first! 

Over time things change. Your perspective shifts and so do your priorities. Now, what seems restrictive to some is just life to me. It isn’t a diet as much as it’s simply a typical day in my world. It becomes second nature almost like it was always there. You can develop a new instinct

There is life after cake, there is joy in zucchini, and a simple perspective shift can make a huge difference in your long term success. Strive to make your “can’t haves” into your “don’t wants.” Stay focused and I swear it will happen! 

Believing The Lie

I read a post on a Bariatric forum about a nurse who was caring for a woman who was a recovering heroin addict who stopped using after many years of active addiction. The nurse asked her how she was able to quit after so many years of using. The woman said: 

I had to stop believing the lie. 

The nurse had weight loss surgery and this statement really hit her… just like it hit me. I’ve often spoke of the commonalities of addictions. The feel good hormones your brain releases with drugs and food are the same. Those short lived good feelings is the drug or the cookie! The lie is that you believe you feel good when in just a few short minutes the pain/guilt/shame return. 

Food is seductive. So is anything else that allows you to lose yourself in its grip: drugs, TV, internet, sex, whatever you consider your “lure of choice.” You convince yourself that you’ll feel better with it – or worse – that you’ll never feel good without it! You believe that maybe you’re too far gone to change or that change is just impossible for you. You believe that it just doesn’t matter anymore. 

Don’t believe the lie. 

Overcoming anything is a challenge. Have faith, believe in the truth and never underestimate the power of prayer. There are so many days where the ONLY thing keeping me from diving in a sea of food is God’s amazing grace!  

They who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31