Thursday, March 28, 2013

Finding My Self-Control

Yesterday was the first day of Spring Break for my husband and kids.  I came home from work to find an empty bag of Snickers Minis on my kitchen table.  Seriously?!?  The entire bag?  In one day?

My first reaction was to be angry.  Guess who is eating straight lettuce with no dressing for dinner tonight?  Guess who is heading to the gym immediately after eating that pile of lettuce and doing burpees till their legs explode?  Guess who isn't getting a single piece of chocolate in their Easter Baskets?  Don't try to hide in your rooms . . . you know who you are!

Then my mind went back to a time several years ago when I would have eaten the entire bag of Snickers Minis . . . all by myself . . . in one day.  The one big difference is that I would have hidden the bag.  I was a pro at gorging myself with sweets or salty snacks or fast food stops and then getting rid of the evidence before anyone saw it.  I had zero self-control.  There was no guilt or shame. I felt a sick kind of pride that I got away with it and nobody knew my little secret.

If I wanted an Oreo, I couldn't eat just one.  I'd literally eat an entire row and then the entire package.  If I was at a party and there was a tray of scrumptious appetizers, I would pop one in my mouth and then have another and another and another.  After awhile I became completely numb to the harm I was doing to my body. 

When I reached the point in my life when I wanted to start making healthy choices, I knew that my lack of self-control was one of the biggest hurdles I would have to overcome.  After much trial and error, I discovered three tools that work for me:

1) EXAMINE why I'm eating.  Am I eating because I am stressed out?  I've learned that there are much better ways to handle stress than shoving chips down my throat!  Am I eating because I didn't have time for lunch at work and while I'm cooking dinner there is a brand-new box of crackers sitting on the counter?  I should put a handful of crackers in a small bowl so I know how many I'm eating.  And while I'm waiting for dinner to cook I'll pack my lunch for tomorrow and include small healthy portions I can eat on the run.  Am I eating because the food tastes so good and I simply want more?  I need to slow down and enjoy it.

2) ENJOY the treat.  Sometimes I don't pay attention and I'm truly inhaling the food.  How easy is it to pop a mini Snickers in your mouth and swallow after a single chew or two?  Your taste buds have barely had time to register the fact that there is food in your mouth!  Stop for a moment and focus on what is in your mouth.  How does it taste?  Sweet?  Sour?  Salty?  How does it feel?  Smooth?  Nutty?  Hot?  Cold?  I find that when I pause and enjoy the food I'm eating, I'm likely to eat less yet feel more satisfied - both physically and mentally!

3) ESCAPE - When all else fails, run away.  Just the other day I bought a bag of jelly beans.  What was I thinking?  I can mindlessly eat an entire bag of jelly beans in one car ride home from work.  It only took me a second to recognize that I was going to have no self-control in this situation.  So I enjoyed a few handfuls and then threw the bag away.  When I am at a party, I stay as far away from the food table as possible.  If we're having dessert and I'm too tempted to have more, I leave the room. 

I didn't master these tools overnight.  It took time and practice for me to learn what worked for me and how to use them.  Just like me, my family will need time and practice to learn how to master self-control.  They also will need a teacher.  I guess that is me!  And since I'm off from work today, class starts now!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Predicting a Victory in My Dodgeball-Themed Life!

Every Saturday morning I sit down and make a chart for my family.  It tells us who is going where and when, any tests or projects for school, what day everyone has gym class, my husband's doctor's appointments, what we're having for dinner each night and my exercise schedule - basically our entire life summarized on an 8-1/2x11 piece of paper.  Every Saturday morning as I hang that chart in our kitchen I expect that our week will follow the schedule that I have put together. 

More often than not, the days and hours are very compliant with following my schedule.  Then out of the blue I'll be thrown a curveball.  I've gotten pretty good at dodging those curveballs - switching up a meal here and there, asking my parents to pick up a kid, throwing JJ's gym clothes in the wash at 11PM - I can be flexible!

Then last week happened.  Curveballs were flying!  A home improvement project that took two days instead of one.  A pulled muscle that required an evening on the couch.  An afternoon and evening in the ER after Jamison got rear-ended.  A late-night trip to my parents to use their printer for JJ's research paper.  I felt like I was playing a fierce game of Dodgeball! 

Even with all of the curveballs, nearly everything on my weekly chart got accomplished.  Except one . . . my exercise!  Four days of training for the half-marathon down the drain.  The question that pops into my mind is the question that most moms ask themselves at least once a week - "Why is it my plans are always the ones to be cancelled, changed or ignored?"  I know the answer.  Because I'm the mom!

As I sit at my computer this morning preparing my chart for the upcoming week, I catch myself teetering on the edge of a dangerous cliff.  The cliff of an old habit that I have desperately fought to break over the past three years.  The cliff of giving up.  My negative self-talk tapes are playing at full volume.  "You gave it a good shot Lisa, but you blew it.  You didn't meet your training goal for this week.  What were you thinking?  You - complete a half-marathon?  Ha! Ha!  You are too tired.  You don't have a good enough handle on your life to fit in anything else, especially exercising.  You are destined to be chubby and super-stressed for the rest of your life.  You need to take care of everyone else first.  You come last."

As I listen I notice that that voice starts to sound garbled and warped - just like my Culture Club Colour by Number's tape after listening to Karma Chameleon over and over again while dancing and singing in front of my bedroom mirror back in fifth grade.  I was so mad when that cassette tape snapped!  (Sorry - I'll blame that thought on lack of sleep after my daughter's sleepover birthday party last night!) 

That garbled and warped voice begins to be replaced by a strong voice reciting inspiring and encouraging quotes that I have collected throughout the years.

It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.  Epictetus

Be miserable or motivated.  Whatever happens it's always your choice.  Wayne Dyer

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.  Thomas Edison

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.  Eleanor Roosevelt

Finally, I am reminded of the scripture verse God gave me back in January of 2010 when I started my journey of running and trying to live a health lifestyle: Do not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galations 6:9

God pointed out to me then as He has reminded me this morning - You HAVE to take care of yourself.  It will be difficult and choices will need to be made to put yourself first, but do not grow weary.  I have experienced some of the harvest - weight lost, cholesterol lowered, races completed, kids who ask to go to the gym.  I have tasted victory.

So - I've made the choice to not give up.  With a new day, a new strength and a new weekly chart in front of me, I am motivated to continue doing good for myself and in turn doing good for my family.  I am predicting a victory for this next week of my Dodgeball-themed life!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Moment of Choice

I'm sitting here after a long draining day and I want nothing more than to crawl into bed, shut out the world and sink into a deep sleep.  But this hasn't been a very healthy day.  I didn't make very wise food choices.  I didn't drink enough water.  And I've had ZERO physical activity.  I should really change into my workout clothes and go to the gym.  But it is snowing outside, which means that it's cold outside.  BBbbrrrrr!  I hate being cold.  That's not a good excuse.  I'll warm up soon enough.  I should really change into my workout clothes and go to the gym.  But I feel like I haven't spent much time with my kids today.  Maybe we should play a board game or something.  But it's getting close to when they should be in bed and neither have showered yet.  I could go to the gym for a quick workout while they are showering and packing up for tomorrow.  So I should really change into my workout clothes and go to the gym.  But I'm really tired . . .

This is the discussion I have with myself nearly everyday.  The easy decision would be to stay put and not get ready for the gym.  I could sit on the couch and argue with myself all evening long.  Eventually that internal discussion will quiet down and I won't even be thinking about exercising.  It takes more mental and physical energy to drag myself off the couch, change and workout than to stay put.

However, the funny thing is that the minute I step out the front door and am greeted by a rush of fresh air, I feel invigorated and so excited to get to the gym or my Zumba class or to start my run around the block.  If that's the case, why am I even wasting my time debating the choice to workout or not? 

The good news is that I am making a good decision more often than not when faced with that moment of choice.  That wasn't always the case.  It's taken time for working out to become a healthy habit.

To workout or not to workout . . . that is the question.  Today my answer is to workout!  What's yours?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Celebrating March Fourth!

I'm spending this afternoon getting ready for tomorrow which is one of my favorite days of the year - March Fourth.  In celebration I'm re-posting my blog entry from last year.  I hope you'll pause tomorrow, reflect on where you are in life and think about what direction you want to be MARCHing.

One of my favorite days is coming up . . . March Fourth!  Our family has been celebrating March Fourth for the past several years. It is the only date on the calendar that is a command . . . March Fourth . . . March Forward . . . Move on. It is a great day to set a personal goal for yourself and begin to teach your kids about goal setting. By this time, if you set a New Year's Resolution there is a good chance it's been long forgotten. This isn't about resolutions. It's about a goal . . . a measurable, achieveable, pleasurable goal.  Or as my friend Emily Jackson shared with me SMART goals: S=small, M=measurable, A=achievable, R=realistic and T=time specific.

Over the years my family has celebrated with games involving Tootsie Rolls (tootsies, toes, feet, marching forward!), yummy dinners with moving-themed food (wagon-wheel pasta, Rocky Road ice cream and "sneaker"-doodle cookies) and talking about goal setting. For the past six years we've traced the kids feet onto paper and then written our individual goals around the drawings. Each year we can review the goals from the year before to see if we accomplished them and see how much our children have grown. We started this when JJ and Ellie were 6 & 3 . . . you're never too young to start learning about the importance of goals! You're never too old either!  I'll be celebrating March Fourth with my senior citizens at work.

The celebration doesn't need to be expensive or extensive . . it can even just be a conversation over dinner! Or it can just be something that you do for you. Take a moment and think about what you want to achieve in life. To be healthier? To write a book? To learn a new language? To go to bed with a dish-free sink every night? Get more sleep? The possibilities are truly endless! What can you do THIS YEAR to MOVE toward reaching that goal?

Happy March Fourth!