Happy Is Important – Here’s Why

Smiley LogsOne of my blogger girlfriends started a thread on social last week asking, “How important is it to be happy?” I immediately responded with a resounding “VERY!” Then I watched as others gave their answers. Some people said that contentment was more important than happiness, while others said that being happy was somewhere on their list, though not at the top.

March 20 was the “International Day of Happiness” so the topic seemed to be on everybody’s minds last week. It’s also been seeping into global consciousness for the last few years. From Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project (and the follow-up Happier at Home) to an article in Forbes a few weeks ago entitled Why the World Needs a Happiness Campaign to Live Better, it’s a hot media topic.

And of course, there’s Pherrel’s “Happy” video, which has been watched over 453 MILLION times. Yeah, I think we’re all seeking a little more happiness.

If you look at the definition of happiness, it covers an entire spectrum of positive emotions, including contentment, joy, cheerfulness and delight. I’d throw optimism in there, too, as when I’m feeling optimistic, I’m happy.

As someone who spent my early adulthood in a constant state of pessimistic angst – just ask my college roommates…no, it’s probably best not to – I got in on this trend decades ago. I wanted to be happy, dammit, but I didn’t know how. Years later – years filled with therapy, support groups and self-help books – and I can honestly say I spend 95% of my time being “happy.”

Why is it important to be happy? Because we’re only here for a short while and we might as well enjoy it. Because happy people are healthier and live longer. Because happy people are more fortunate. (Seriously, look it up – it’s true!) And because happy simply feels good. 

The general gunk and chaos of life can get in the way, though one of the advantages of being 50 is that I’m finally able to get back to a positive place quickly with my own unique set of happiness enhancers. I read material like Gretchen Rubin’s books and magazines like “The Intelligent Optimist.” I hang out with my family and my frogs, felines and canines. I surround myself with symbols of happiness like toys, hearts and peace signs. Fortunately, I’m usually able to turn things around pretty quickly. I KNOW – in my bones – that happy is important.

What about you? Is being happy important to you? What do you find makes you feel happy? 

 

Plodding Along, Changing Habits On the Way

My Weight Doesnt Get to DecideThey say “Slow and steady wins the race,” and that seems to be my motto for now. A few weeks ago, I posted about walking every day, since I was struggling with my PITA injury. (PITA = Pain in the Ass, aka “piriformis syndrome,” an issue with a muscle in the rear end that when it acts up, causes severe muscle cramping and pain.)

So far, so good. By using my FitBit, I’ve managed to increase my average daily steps from 3,000 to 4,500 to 8,000 to 10,000. I feel stronger and have managed to honor this commitment about 90% of the time. (Awesome, right?)

Coupled with drinking more water, paying more attention to what I eat, ingesting less sugar/more protein, and going to three regular physical therapy appointments every week, in hopes of resolving my PITA, I’m on a strong and steady path. Not only am I changing some bad habits that impact me physically, I’m also – slowly and surely – evolving my mindset. I’ve not stood in front of the mirror and criticized myself harshly for being “fat” in at least a few weeks. My self-flagellation has been reduced to a minimum, quite an accomplishment, considering that it was previously a daily habit.

In the morning before work, I get dressed, I take a quick peek in the mirror and I move on. I look “good enough.” Not perfect, though who is? I look good enough for who I am: a 50 year old, somewhat overweight woman who struggles with an extra 40 pounds, who is working on getting physically healthier. My weight doesn’t determine my value and it doesn’t get to decide how happy I get to be. I am on a path and if I stay on it, I KNOW good things will come.

And to reinforce this approach, I saw a story on Good Morning America that really resonated with me. Tory Johnson, the contributor who does the “Deals and Steals” segment, has written a book, entitled “The Shift.” On GMA, she shared how she lost 60 pounds in the last year and a half with a consistent approach that had her losing less than a pound a week. Tory mentioned that, in the past, she’d give up when it didn’t happen fast enough, and that it wasn’t until she kept at it, persistently, that the weight came off. You can see the GMA story here: Tory Johnson Makes “The Shift” 

Thank you, Tory, I think I may just be on the right track.

What about you? What small changes are you making that will contribute to your health over time? 

Pushing Through Midlife Aches and Pains

Who could resist this guy?

Who could resist this guy?

My husband and I are both in our early 50s – he’s 51 and I just turned 50 in May – and we’re both amazed at the aches and pains we experience these days.

He just finished three solid days of yard work. Weeding, mowing, and spreading mulch have left him moaning and groaning in pain at every turn. I’ve been getting back into P90 and suffering the same issues. It’s actually somewhat entertaining when we get in or out of the car. “Ugh,” he’ll say. “Ouch,” I’ll add.

We’re hoping that we’ve simply been overdoing it lately and that our joints and muscles will catch up to us in the next few weeks.

I’ve also been reading more about exercise and how it can actually strengthen our telomeres, the “end caps” of our chromosomes that can cause the detrimental effects of aging as they deteriorate. So, I will continue to exercise and allow my poor body to catch up with me as I push it past its comfort level.

These days, I’m trying a combination of walking, climbing the stairs at the office and P90, which includes some yoga and weights for strength training.

I’m sticking with the P90 program for several reasons. The trainer, Tony Horton, is a bit of a goof so it’s not too serious. He encourages you to work out at your level and not to overdo it. Plus, it covers all the basics – weight, cardio, push-ups, sit-ups and yoga.

Hoping that I can keep my telomeres long and healthy!

Trying the FitBit

fitbitFor my birthday – yes, it was the big 5-0 – I asked my husband for a FitBit One. It’s a tiny little electronic device that helps you track your movement, including the number of steps you take throughout the course of your day and how you sleep. It comes with an account on the FitBit website and it synchs wirelessly through your computer or iPhone.

I clip mine onto my bra strap or put it in a pants pocket, depending on what I’m wearing. After using it for the last four days, I’m actually having fun tracking my food, my activity, my blood pressure and heart rate, and my sleep habits. (Surprise! I’ve never found tracking anything to be fun.)

These first few days, I’ve simply been tracking my normal eating and fitness habits. I’ll use it as a starting point for improvement over the next 90 days to see how it works.

I’m really pleased that my husband got one, too, and seems to be even more interested in using it than I am. We’re enjoying comparing our numbers and trying to figure out how the FitBit knows when we’ve gone up stairs. (Yes, I’ve tried to imitate walking up and down, which looks really goofy, though I can’t fool it.)

I’ll keep you posted on how the FitBit works, since this week, I will be using it to upgrade my activity and nutrition stats.

What about you? Have you ever used an electronic device to help improve your fitness efforts?

 

 

 

A Change in Focus: Let’s Get Real

LJV Get RealWhen I first started this blog, I was feeling enthusiastic and frightened at the same time.  I wanted to lose 40 pounds and I figured I could do it in six months, if I made a concentrated effort. I was excited about the accountability a blog would give me and about putting my efforts out in front of the world. I was six months out from my 50th birthday and afraid of getting older. I wanted to make a major life change in a very short time. I knew I could come up with 40 bad habits I needed to give up and I figured I’d throw that in there, too. I would drop 40 bad habits and 40 pounds before I turned 50. No problem!

Not so fast.

Right after I started this effort, I injured myself doing P90. Basically, I got a major pain in the ass, literally. My piriformis muscle decided to act up and I ended up in the ER twice, on some pretty heavy pain meds and muscle relaxants for three months, and unable to exercise, or even focus my thoughts very well. I’ve since recovered to about 85%. I’m grateful that it wasn’t a permanent injury and I can now go back to working out, though I must do it slowly and carefully.

Sure, I’ve made some positive changes. I’ve changed some habits – I drink more water and cleaned off the kitchen counter that’s been covered with paper for at least a year. I’m more organized with my tasks. I have more self-love and less self-loathing. I’ve lost 3 pounds. (Nowhere near the 40 I’d hoped to lose, though I’m not giving up. I just know that it will take me longer than six weeks to do.)

I turn 50 in three days and I’m here to tell you that – in my dropping 40 effort, as I originally envisioned it – I failed. Brilliantly! So, I’m starting over.

I’m going to refocus this blog and my future efforts to be more realistic. Moving forward, I’m going to put my effort toward dropping those 40 pounds and those 40 bad habits, as I let go of my 40s. As I practice becoming comfortable with my age. As I reach for, and achieve, the goals I’ve set for myself. And I will keep failing, as needed, until I get there.

 

 

In a Rut Rut Rut and Trying Something New

First meal on my first week of Diet to Go plan - Low Carb Option

First meal on my first week of Diet to Go plan? Breakfast – Low Carb Option. Great tasting, huge portion and visually appealing, too.

I love getting inspiration from people who do the cha-cha. Of course, I’m not the only one trying to lose weight and get fit that’s sharing my story on a blog. I came across “The Weight is Over” a few months ago on Facebook and she’s doing something similar. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following Wendy, the blogger, because she’s authentic and fun and HONEST.

Her post this week resonated deeply with me. She’s braver than I am and posts her true struggles and fallbacks (and actual weight!) on her blog. Yikes. AND she’s lost 35 pounds in her effort so far!

This week, Wendy posted about her “one step forward, two steps back” journey and made a commitment to get back on track. I’m going to follow her lead and own that what I’m doing hasn’t resulted in much weight loss. A few pounds, sure, though that’s it.

Yes, I’ve been exercising, drinking water, eating better, avoiding most carbs most of the time, though it’s not working. I’m eating better and exercising more. And the weight’s not coming off.

Fortunately, today I’ve gotten a gift that will help me jump-start my efforts. I’ve been selected to be a Diet to Go ambassador and my week of meals came yesterday! I’ve always wanted to try one of the meal services, figuring that perhaps I’m not gauging my portion sizes or selecting the right foods that work for me, and if I take those decisions out of my hands, I might be able to lose some poundage.

This week, I’ll be posting photos of my meals and information about the plan and hopefully, dropping at least a few pounds.

PLUS, I’m considering asking for a FitBit for Mother’s Day. I keep hearing that one of the keys to weight loss is tracking your intake and physical activity, though I’m SOOO resistant to it!

What about you? What are you trying that’s new? How’s it working?

Searching for Inspiration for Self-Love – Another Stream of Consciousness Post

I’ve read – over and over – that the first step to losing weight is to love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, you won’t lose weight. Over the past several months, I’ve been watching women I know, who appear to be comfortable in their skin and happy with who they are, in spite of the fact that they’re not “thin.” While I can’t see their thoughts and the truth about what they really believe about themselves, I imagine that they’re perfectly content and wish I could be, as well.

“Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.”

~ Margo Anand

The thought is – if you don’t love your body, you won’t care for it as you should. If you don’t accept yourself the way you are, you’ll soothe your feelings of angst and anger with food. There’s even a woman (Laura Fenamore) whose work is all based on this who says you can start with One Pinky. If you can love one pinky, you’ve gotten a start on loving your whole body and you’ll start taking better care of it.

I’ve also made a new friend, Ursula, who was featured in a fashion story in one of the major metro Detroit newspapers. She’s not the typical fashion model type, though she’s learned to love herself, for who she is, and celebrate her body and her beauty with fashion. She’s bold, fun and enthusiastic about life. I had brunch with her this weekend and was inspired on my journey to self-love.

I’ve come to the conclusion that one of my biggest fears, which holds me back, is that I won’t be safe if I’m not the chubby girl. I’ve mentioned previously that when I was in my teens and early 20s, weighing in at what I thought was a very heavy 109 pounds, I got way too much inappropriate attention from older men. They took advantage of my naiveté and I look back in shame. Research has proven that shame contributes to eating disorders and other maladies, like substance abuse. While I don’t believe I have an “eating disorder,” id do believe I have a tendency to soothe myself with food. While I’ve worked on this issue a few times, it still needs some more exploration and resolution. Shame is a strange and unproductive emotion, which can cause all kinds of problems. Now, in addition to shame from my teen years, I also carry shame about my body.

As I looked into shame to discover what I could do to resolve it, I found a Ted Talk by Brene Brown, who (coincidentally) Ursula had mentioned to me during our brunch last week. It’s an amazing talk and you can view it here: The Key to Overcoming Shame. I love how she brings humor and lightness – and extraordinary depth – to what can be a dark and difficult topic.

Just another stream of consciousness post…hope you find a nugget of good information here.

Why Does Losing My 4 Feel So HUGE? A Stream-of-Consciousness Post

the_power_of_now1In about six weeks, I will exit my forties and hit the big 5-0. While no birthday has bothered me since I turned 25, this one’s going to be tough. I can feel it.

My 25th was painful because I felt like people would expect me to act like a responsible adult from that point forward and I was SO not ready to be considered anything resembling responsible. I was  bit of a wild child and had way too much fun in college and my early 20′s.

Since then, every birthday’s been a breeze. I celebrate and enjoy the day, then move on. I don’t linger on the number and don’t fret about my grey hair or wrinkles.

Why, oh why, does this one seem so different? It has me remembering when a woman I used to work with turned 50. She was (and still is four years later) gorgeous and youthful. When we celebrated her birthday at work that day, singing “Happy Birthday” with cake and candles, I remember feeling sad for her. Her age seemed like a landmark that wasn’t necessarily a cause for celebration. In my mind, 50 was, and still is, a big step in the aging process.

A few months back, I read a quote that said, “40 is the old age of youth and 50 is the youth of old age.” Somehow, that made me feel better. I can still consider myself “young” compared to some, even though I’m “old” compared to others.

I’ve pondered this subject for the last several weeks. I’ve also been doing Deepak Chopra’s 21-day Meditation Challenge for the last three. I was gifted with a “centering thought” for one of this week’s sessions that really resonated to me: “I am ageless and timeless.” It was a much-needed reminder that all I really have is now and I’m better off accepting my pending birthday and celebrating every day that I’m given.

The meditation reminded me of a book I read several years ago, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. It’s a fascinating book, focused on changing the reader’s focus from worries of the past and fear for the future to a laser focus on the NOW. It’s really all we have and we waste it when we keep looking in the mirror or trying to predict what’s going to happen in the future.  I think it’s time to pick up that book again.

What about you? How do you manage your feelings about aging?