Archive for July 2009

Trips and Falls

I fell today, on the advanced hike.  But during the split second in which I realized I was falling, I was able to brace myself so I wouldn’t go flat on my face into the rock I had stumbled on.  And hardly another split second after that, I pushed myself right back up to my feet.  It was pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself!

It occurred to me that my gains of the last few weeks in strength, balance, and agility probably saved me from knocking out my front teeth.  And then THAT got me thinking metaphorically again, as I am prone to do on these hikes.

It got me thinking that in life, we can stumble and fall – I don’t mean physically – but we can make a bad decision, we can misjudge, misspeak, we can inadvertently hurt someone else or ourselves through our actions.  It’s inevitable for us to make mistakes.   But if we are emotionally strong, mentally agile, and all around balanced in our life, those missteps don’t have to be as damaging as they might otherwise be.

I also realized I had fallen because I was not looking where I was stepping.  I was focused on where the trail was leading up ahead. Aha! Another golden hiking metaphor…  I realized in life too, while we certainly want to be aware of the general direction of whatever path we’re on, if we dwell on the future we won’t be able to give the here and now the attention it needs for us to traverse it successfully – and ultimate get to that part ahead.  Cementing the thought for myself, I said, ” glance up ahead, have an idea where your future may lead, but don’t dwell on it to the exclusion of the present, otherwise it’s too easy to be sidelined by obstacles in your path.

Weigh-in 4

Wow! I lost 3.75 pounds this week! I can’t believe it! I guess I’m building muscle, which is helping me burn more fat, and I am pumped! I realize this is pretty rapid weight loss, which everyone says is not sustainable, so I’m a little nervous about it, but I am looking at this as my jump start.  I know once I go home I’m not going to be able to continue losing at this rate, but as long as it’s happening here, I will take it!

From Salt to Assurance

Today at lunch I was talking with a gal about salt – rather the absence of it, and it gave me pause.  It made me think of the words, “I can.”  There I was, a major salt lover from way back, describing various strategies for making food tasty without salt.  And I realized, wow I really can make changes I didn’t think possible.  It may not sound like a major change to people who use salt in moderation, but for me, it’s big.

I have been a heavy salt user all my life.  From the time I can remember, I always salted my food before I even tasted it.  When I was very young, I actually thought sprinkling salt on your food cooled it off when it was too hot to eat.  And as an adult, I have never – ever – cooked without it.

Thank goodness I don’t have high blood pressure, and when I came to Deerfield, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that I’d have a chance to cut my salt intake.  But when I learned they don’t cook with it here, and don’t automatically put it out on the table, I figured, well let’s try it.  I’m always hearing that too much sodium is not good for you, so what the heck.

The reason I thought, “I can,” is because I realized that a month ago, I would never have thought I could enjoy food without salt.  But I can.  And THAT made me realize that before I came here I wasn’t sure I could ever be satisfied with four ounces of protein at dinner or lunch.  I thought it would just be too painful not to eat as much as I wanted of even the healthiest foods, like fish or beans.  But in the split second  I thought “I can” about salt, I also realized “I can” about the 4 ounces of protein at a meal.

So it stands to reason that I can do all sorts of other things that are still on the frontier for me.  For example, I’m nervous about cooking healthfully for my family and myself once I return home and I’ve questioned more than once in my mind whether or not I’ll be able to do it.  Well, this mini-revelation made me think, “I can!”

Will I be able to balance work and family obligations with making time for exercise and social contact, both of which are critical to health and wellbeing.  Though in the back of my mind, I have doubts about it, I now have a couple examples of other things I never thought I could do that I now know I can, and it makes me answer my own exercise and balance question with “I can.”   It’s a nice thing to be able to say.

By the way, for those who are interested in reducing salt, I just substitute other seasonings.  I’ve been using lots of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, herbs and spices, and even a little Dijon mustard to liven things up.

And I like the results.  I can tell I’m less bloated, which looks better in the mirror.  And I have a little more peace of mind because I’ve eliminated one more thing (even if a minor one) to worry about.

Choices

Balance.  This is the concept that’s on my mind as I look ahead to my re-entry to real life.  And it’s surprising me.  I thought it would be weight loss or fitness or eating the right food that would be on my mind at this point, but it’s not.

I guess the reason this is so surprising to me is because I came here to re-train myself in the ways of eating and exercise, and to make significant improvements in my weight and fitness level.  It never occurred to me that I’d come to feel so strongly about the importance of achieving a balance between the expected things like work, family, and exercise, but also making time for stress management practices and socializing – yes, socializing!

Here’s the deal: I’ve read numerous articles recently about studies that document significant physiological benefits from ‘mindful relaxation’ and from social contact.  And while I don’t know whether my T-cells, blood sugar, blood pressure, and health regulating hormones are actually improving from engaging more in these things than I did before I came to Deerfield, as the studies suggest, what I do know is they make me feel GREAT.

When I participate in a guided relaxation or meditation at the end of a Yoga class, for example, I feel more renewed and relaxed, calmer, more alert, and just better in an almost indescribable way.  It’s different than the exhilaration and satisfaction I feel after an intense workout.  It wipes away any feelings of stress, anxiety, or malcontent. It’s like a magic gift, and one I’m glad to have discovered.

Tonight I went out after dinner with a few of the gals I’ve become friendly with.  We went to hear Jazz at this really great club about 15 minutes away.  When we got back to Deerfield, we decided to retire to the front porch and hang out.  One of them broke open a bottle of wine and started pouring for everyone.  I really didn’t want any wine (much to my surprise, as I usually love drinking red wine).  I said no thanks.  They said, “oh come on, just a little,” but as much as I would ordinarily join right in on a round of cocktails, I realized what I wanted much more than wine was a nice hot cup of spiced chai tea – something I’ve really come to enjoy in the last few weeks here.  It wasn’t even like I had to white knuckle it to stay away from temptation.  I really wasn’t tempted.  And I didn’t join in just to go along with my friends. What I really wanted in that moment was to do something that would put me closer to my goals, not further away from them.   I enjoyed several cups of hot tea over more giggles and girl talk tonight.  And I felt good doing it.

Connections

I love this place.  If my kids moved in with me, I could live here forever!  Sure it’s partly that someone cooks and serves me my meals, cleans up afterward, makes my bed, cleans my room, does my laundry, provides a dizzying array of exercise and stress management activities, pampers me on occasion, and teaches me how to live healthfully, all of which is pretty nice – you know, if you go for that stuff.

But aside from all that is camaraderie.  There’s always someone to chat with, laugh with, commiserate with, compare notes with, and just BE with.  And it’s not just that there are people around when you want them.  It’s the KIND of people who come here.  I have never been in a place that attracts such consistently nice people.

I’ve been here over three weeks now and I can’t get over how, no matter where they live, how old they are, what their situation in life is, what they do for a living , man, woman, married, single, divorced, widowed, here alone, here with a friend or a group, here with a partner or spouse, for the first time, the tenth time, staying a weekend, staying a month, outgoing, shy – you name it – they’re nice.

And since I’m here not only to accomplish a weight loss a fitness jump start, but to learn lessons to take home with me, I’m realizing one of the priorities I need to put on my list of things to do when I get home is find ways to be with people more.

I work from my home office, which I really love, but it can be a little isolating.  And I hunker down at my computer with blinders on and don’t look up until one of my kids gently alerts me it’s almost dinner time.  But I’ve experienced how interacting with others can actually make me calmer, happier, feel less alone, appreciate myself more (hey, I AM funny, or interesting, or a good sounding board), and make me more focused, positive, and productive when I AM working.

So although at home it usually seems like an indulgence to take a few minutes and talk to a friend on the phone, or to join colleagues for a lunch break, or heaven forbid, to make plans on a weeknight with a friend, I can feel the good it does for me and I want to find a way to do more of it when I go home.

The Trail Revisited

Today we did the advanced hike again, and it occurred to me that although I had been up this road last week, I was experiencing it as if for the first time, having new responses, making slightly different decisions about where to put my feet and how to get up the step inclines.  I saw things I hadn’t noticed before, felt surer of my footing in some places but not others, took the time this time to taste the wild  blackberries growing in the brush.  I needed to navigate a little differently because it rained last night and a lot of the rocks were slippery…and again, it all seemed like a big, bright, flashing metaphor for life – specifically it reminded me of the lifecycle.

I realized that hiking the same trail over and over again once a week was like living through every day of every year again and again.  The trail always has that particularly grueling 250-foot incline about half way up.  We have to do taxes every year in April (give or take).  On the trail, that same natural stairway made from dozens of boulders, each two and three feet high, comes just before that nice level path near the top.  Every year we prepare for and celebrate the holidays, then coast (or collapse) a little immediately afterward.
But on the trail, no two trips are the same, and in life, no two years are the same.  Each time we see something new (today we saw a zillion red esk newts, they were everywhere because of the rain the night before).  Each time some things may be harder (some of the rocks and ground were really slippery, so I had to lean over and use my hands to climb in a few more places).  Some things may be easier (my cardio-vascular endurance is definitely improving because I wasn’t huffing and puffing nearly as much – or was it just better conditions?  This week’s weather was cooler and less humid than last week).

It made me feel very forgiving of myself, for the times in life when something I’ve done a million times before somehow seems more difficult.  It made me think I can be generous and tolerant with myself in real life when facing a challenge.  And it gave me the perspective to realize that in the future, just because something is difficult today, doesn’t mean it will always be difficult or be difficult next time.  Life will twist and turn, like this trail.  Some parts will be easier than others.  But I’ll always make it to my destination if I simply keep putting one foot in front of another.

Weigh-in 3

OK, another 2-and-a-half pounds this week!  I’ll take it! Go me!

Small World

It’s such a small world.  Here I am in what I thought was the middle of nowhere – way out in the country – and it turns out it’s not so remote after all.  I guess that’s kind of the best of both worlds… feeling like you’re really “away” but not having to go far from home to get there.

I keep meeting people who know people I know.  I love it.  It makes me feel connected to home – and to the universe.  It started the first day I got here, when I met the representative from Sprayology (that’s a product Deerfield sells in its boutique).  Through our conversation we discovered we come from the same hometown and when I told her my last name she said, “your mother was my teacher!”  Then I met another woman who lives in Maryland, but grew up in Asbury Park and knew my father’s cousin.

Then I met this nice gal who’s a lawyer from Long Island, and I said, “Oh, one of my best friends from college is a lawyer and she lives on Long Island too.  Maybe you know her.”  Immediately, we started laughing because the thought was pretty preposterous – after all, what are the chances… Long Island is a big place and women lawyers our age are a dime a dozen there.  But sure enough, they know each other – well!  Then today, I was talking to this couple from Connecticut who came for a long weekend, and after a short while, we realized they know my sister, who lives in North Jersey.    You never know!

Advanced hike

Took the advanced hike today – on the legendary Appalachian Trail.  It was very exciting!  We came across a number of through hikers making the trek from Georgia to Maine and heard a little bit about their journeys, we saw breathtaking top-of-the-world views of the Delaware Water Gap clear across to NJ and NY, and we learned about a lot of plants and animals along the way from our guide.

I have to admit, for much of time, I wasn’t thinking about much more than keeping breathing, keeping climbing, and “when are we going to be done?” It was VERY challenging – an almost steady climb up 1,100 feet.  And even though it was grueling, and I was dripping with sweat, and I couldn’t wait to be done with the climbing portion and get to the gentler walk down from the peak, I was SO proud of myself, so psyched about the phenomenal workout I had gotten, so glad to have been able to get a great workout in such beautiful surroundings, and I FELT VIRTUOUS.

But when I was thinking about something other than, “am I gonna make it?” what kept running through my mind was how the hike felt like a metaphor for all the things that are challenging to me.

It occurred to me that I had to decide exactly where to put my feet, how to get up the steeper inclines, whether to take fewer bigger steps up higher rocks, or to take more smaller steps that might take me a little longer to get to where I wanted to get, but not put as much strain on me in the process.  In the case of the hike, the strain would be on my feet, legs, glutes, and my cardio-vascular system.  In the metaphorical realm, it was all about paths of least resistance, about how life choices affect our personal life journeys.

Some of the statements that went through my mind included:

  • It’s good to push yourself, to take a bigger step than you think you can, and you’ll see just how much you can do
  • On the other hand, there is no shame in taking smaller steps to get where you’re going. No need to be a hero.  You’ll get to your destination without as much wear and tear, and this is an honorable choice too

I wrestle every day with when and how much to push myself, when to take the faster but more challenging route, when to opt for a slower but easier path to where we’re going. So did I reach any conclusions out on today’s hike? No, but there’s always next week’s.

Weigh-in 2

Woo hoo! Another 4 pouds this week! What’s with THAT!? It almost seems like magic, though I guess I am working pretty hard at the exercise and eating no more than 1,200 calories a day, so…I’m psyched.