Monday, May 17, 2010

In a Fog

Last night I made myself a bowl of popcorn (my favorite nighttime snack) and sat down to watch a movie. I remember the first few bites of the popcorn and then it all sort of became a blur. I don’t remember eating it but after awhile I looked down and all I found were un-popped kernels. I had eaten an entire bowl of buttery, salty popcorn (I am talking about a big bowl, think large dinner party salad serving bowl) without even noticing. I have a vague suspicion that you have done this before. No?

I certainly have. I have finished off buckets of popcorn before the opening credits and wondered where it all went. I have polished off a granola bar on my way to work and then promptly forgotten if I had eaten anything for breakfast. I have stuffed myself at a restaurant while I wasn’t paying attention and gotten full from nothing but nibbles while cooking.

Brooke Castillo (a life coach who specializes in weight loss) refers to this as “fog eating” and she makes the case for why it’s no good. When we eat in this kind of a fog, it’s like we are eating behind our own backs while sleeping. If we can’t remember it, we probably weren’t enjoying it and most likely it wasn’t doing us any favors in the health department (not many people are prone to fog eating broccoli).

Brooke has names for other types of eating too. She categorizes them into four groups; Fuel Eating, Joy eating, Fog eating and Storm eating.

Fuel eating is just like it says on the tin, fuel. Food is meant to perform a job in our bodies. When we hire good employees, (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins and fiber) we get good results and a more efficient healthy machine. You know when you are fuel eating because you are hungry, you are making healthy choices and you feel good when you are finished. I don’t just mean you feel good about yourself as in self-righteous because you ate something green, I mean your body feels whole and healthy and satisfied.

Joy eating is also pretty self-explanatory. It is when you are eating purely for joy. You know the kind. For me it is when I am savoring the goodness of copa mista gelato. For you it might be cheesecake, butter, potato chips, candy or bacon. It’s food that isn’t really helping you any in the health department but is giving you pleasure when you eat it.

Storm eating is that kind of powerhouse eating that happens when we aren’t hungry, we want to stop eating but we feel as if we can’t. Have you ever continued to eat the french fries on the table even when you knew that you didn’t want any more? Have you ever gone a little crazy on trail mix or sees candy and found that even though you were fully aware of your eating and really wanting to stop, you just couldn’t? It’s kind of like fog eating except you aren’t in a fog; you know you’re eating but feel powerless to put the fork down.

I would love for everyone to pay attention to these four eating habits this week. See how often you eat for fuel and how often you eat for joy. If your joy-eating ratio is three times as much as your fuel, you might want to be aware of that. If you can catch yourself in the act of a fog, well you might want to pay a little more attention to that bag of chips. Do you want to eat the whole bag? If you do, then joy away but if you don’t, it’s probably better to be conscious of it. I also think that if you put a name to that french fry munching behavior (storm) you are less likely to feel out of control and powerless against them.

The first step in being mindful of our eating habits is by being mindful. Notice how you eat and how you feel when you eat and you will probably make healthier choices. This does not mean that you are going to stop eating cupcakes; it simply means you will enjoy them more.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gym Block

This weekend I had a bout of writer’s block. I was sitting at my computer thinking about this weeks’ article and wondering how on earth it was going to happen. This will happen occasionally, this writer’s block. When it does I can sit for hours staring into space drinking coffee and water as my mind wanders to grocery lists, to do lists and what I should wear to the movies next weekend.

Lucky for me a friend of mine just gave me a book with a lovely piece of advice in it about writers’ block. The book states that I should put a little frame, sans photograph on my desk near my computer. Nothing grand, just a one-inch frame. It is there to remind me that all I need to complete is one-inch worth of writing. A few sentences or a description of a character. Maybe the way the sky looked that day or a couple lines of dialogue. Whatever it is, it’s not very much, it’s not very daunting and it is entirely do-able.

This got me thinking about the gym and exercise. Unfortunately so many people have the same writer’s block about fitness that I sometimes have with these articles. You buy the Nike shoes and the I-pod and you join a gym and you want it, you really want it. You want the end result. You want the hot body, increased flexibility, stronger arms, no more back pain, knees that don’t give, size whatever jeans, clearer skin, increased energy; you want what it says on the tin. If you do this, you will receive all these benefits, that’s what the magazine said!

So why then are we so afraid to go? Why is it so ridiculously hard to get to the gym? Why is it so hard to sit down and write? What makes me choose emails to friends I haven’t written to in years or cleaning out my jewelry box or reorganizing the linen cupboard? What makes us purposely forget our gym bags on the way to work? What makes us just have too much to do?

I think it’s the dauntingness of it all, the idea that we have to achieve everything today! I will lose 10lbs today! I will lower my blood pressure today! I will run a marathon today!

With that kind of pressure, it's a wonder you get anything done at all.

Think of the gym like my little picture frame. All you need to do is get there. Walk through the doors and step on the elliptical machine. Just do 5 minutes. If that’s all you can do, then get off it and get back to work/home/school and know that you are healthier.

You don’t need to look at the end result, this isn’t about the day when you have achieved everything you’ve dreamt of. This is about living in the now and doing what you can right now. It’s no big deal; it’s just going to the gym or going for a walk or a class or whatever you do for your workout. It’s easy peasy. Tell yourself it’s that easy. It’s just a few inches or a handful of minutes.

Maybe using something like my picture frame will help you. How about a bottle of water? On days when it’s just not happening, bring a bottle of water with you to the gym and drink it while you exercise. When it’s finished, you are too. You are obviously welcome to refill it and stay longer but maybe that’s all you can do today.

Make yourself a few mixes on I-tunes. Make a couple 5-minute mixes and a 10, 15, 20, and 30-minute mix. When you go to the gym, start with what you can handle on that particular day. Maybe it’s just a 10-minute day, that’s cool because you have a mix for that. Maybe that was enough and if it was, congratulations for making it on a day when you might have otherwise flaked. Not done yet? Listen to the 5-minute one, ooh want some more, well great, cause you have a couple more 5-minute ones.

When the alarm clock goes off and you just can’t get out of bed, when the day is just rubbish and you have a pile of work falling out of your in box, when you feel drained and un-energetic, when everything in your life is pulling you away from health, just remember the picture frame. It’s just one-inch.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bad Drivers

I have been yelled at five times in the past week. I have been called a bitch, I have had a young man and a young couple give me the finger, I have been startled by a middle aged woman calling me a stupid, slow moron and I have had an older gentleman tell me that I am a bad person who makes bad decisions. (The last one was quite a bit worse but I did not feel it was necessary to write it out.)

I get that some of this has to do with me not being the best driver in the world but I am not so bad that I seriously deserve this kind of abuse. All of the attacks were prompted when, I did not step on the gas fast enough after a red light, I waited to let a pedestrian walk in the crosswalk or I pulled over because I thought a fire truck was coming. Not your typical negligent driver behaviors.

What these outbursts have made me realize is that people are really freaking angry. They are pissed off and stressed out and they want you to know it. I wonder if the gentleman (can I really call him that?) who cursed me with the tongue of a gang member would have had the cheek to say it to my face had I accidentally cut in front of him in a Starbucks? There is a quiet anonymity when people are in the car. You see little old ladies screaming at limos and mothers bellowing at the crossing-guard. It’s a time when people really feel it is OK to be mean. I think it’s pretty universally accepted that it’s not right to call people names, regardless of whose at fault. My mother does not want to me to call the librarian a mean name, even if she deserves it. So what happened? Why is it OK in the car?

Here are my thoughts: We are keeping all this anger bottled up in our every day lives. We can’t get mad at the co-worker who ruins our tps report so we yell at the Honda who took up two parking spaces. It’s not looked upon highly when you berate the waitress who served your lunch (even if she messed up your order) so you honk excessively at the Subaru in front of you. When you are fuming over your relationship, it’s easy to take it out on the Audi who didn’t use a turn signal.

I am not suggesting that all this driver madness is healthy, I mean it might be better than telling your boss to ---- off but it’s not doing you any good in the stress department or in the driver safety department. When we start to get angry in the car, we also start to drive faster and more reckless. It’s like we are using the driving to “get out” the anger but it has nowhere to go. Has yelling at someone in the car ever actually made you feel better? It seems like it does but it actually makes the stress worse because you have nowhere to "put" it. If you get mad at work, you can walk around the office or take a break and go to the gym. If you get mad at home, you can take a few minutes and close your eyes and let go. When you are in the car, you are trapped, physically unable to move your body and mentally unable to zone out or let go. It's like a stress trapper. By the time you get out of the car after all that pent up aggression, it may seem like it's had time to dissipate but it's still living inside your body, which is why we continue to talk about that "stupid guy who cut us off on the highway yesterday."

I would really like people to take some time this week to pay attention to your driving or your passengering for that matter. Driving does not have to be a horribly stressful event. People are not out to get you and no one is going to get there faster than you. Every time you get into the car I want you to take three slow deep breaths. Try to feel the breath enter into your throat and your chest and then your belly and slowly exhale it. Tell yourself that this is going to be a pleasant experience. When you pull up behind someone who is obviously a first time driver, take another deep breath. When you miss a light because the girl in front of you was too busy reapplying her lipstick, roll down the window and take a breath. In the game of life one missed light is no big deal but slowing down a little because it’s good for you, is a big deal. Take the moments in the car when you feel as if you might explode and use them to help yourself. Contract your tummy muscles and do some posture exercises. Stretch your neck muscles and relax your jaw. Sing loudly to the radio, breathe, again. So much of our day is spent swathed in stress, there is no need to make the one moment you probably get to spend alone, a fight with a stranger, it's only hurting you.

Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live