Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Wisdom Sign Post #2 - Honour My Physical Me

I spent six months working on the first leg of my journey - getting my mind around my dreams and opening up the connection to the driving force - my heart.  My physical self was standing (or sitting!) in the way of the ending I had penned to my life story. I couldn't get to the mountain top if I was going to have to drag an unhealthy body all the way.  When it comes to our - or should I just own this and say - my body - I do a lot of "smoke and mirrors" kind of dancing, avoiding the inevitable until I truly can't walk anymore - or breathe easily or sleep well.  I needed help to start on a new treatment plan -to honour my physical me!  My first lesson was helping to move me forward and JUST START!   That little piece - just start - is within the grasp of anyone reading this today and can mean many things - a short walk in the neighbourhood, consulting a nutitionist, starting aquasize once a week, dancing with  your grandchildren or joining a community of people with the same hopes and dreams.  No matter what you choose, a step forward is moving in the right direction!

PROTECT "It" Along the Way
With my new mindset in place, and my new focus on my physical "me" or "it",  I started with a good look at my diet - the food, the additives, and the amount.  Youch!  The trick was to figure out what might be triggering the brain fog and fatigue, let alone the weight gain (that was easier to figure out!). Sugar was definitely my enemy and I was spurred on to control my sugar intake if not eliminate it totally.  I knew I needed to honour my own body with its own quirks and mysteries - and, everyone does have a very unique body.  Each person needs to figure out what might be lurking in their pantries and on their plates that is making them sick and then get rid of it to make room for all the goodness waiting to move in.

Three months into my journey, I tore the meniscus in my left knee - which, until then, was what I considered my good knee. I had not embarked on any new exercise program at that time - just a simple walk from the parkade to my office one day ignited an excruciating pain. I ignored it and babied it for weeks before seeking medical help.  I did not honour my body and I have learned that delaying medical intervention is unhealthy. Simple stuff, really, but ingrained in my personal beliefs - or so it appears. The medical intervention included a chiropractic visit, an X-ray, my first ever MRI and taking the right drugs to address the pain, but, more importantly, it equipped me to deal with the pain and taught me how important self-care really is.  My discovery of such a simple truth added fuel to the fire my mind had ignited earlier - a lesson learned - better late than never. 

Don't hesitate to involve medical professionals - chiropractors, naturopaths, physicians, physiotherapists - put your team together so your "it" is taken care of with all of the uniqueness and frailties considered - all part of one package - YOU!  Some won't go away; others will - and the only one who can discover that truth is you and who you call on to help you sort out that mystery.


As I sat on a bench in beautiful Prince's Island Park last spring watching the joggers and cyclists zip by and the parents push their first born's stroller, I felt like the whole world was passing me by - literally and figuratively. When I saw the senior couples strolling arm in arm, nodding to each other and smiling at the babies and ducklings my  heart sank.  My dream of what my retirement looked like in my heart began to crumble before my eyes.  Could I be happy sitting on a park bench and observing all of this activity for the next 30 years?  Or was there some way I could continue the journey to more - more movement, more cultural discoveries, more sharing with family and friends on all levels?  I tried to come to grips with the fact that my dream may have to be re-engineered if my injury persisted.  I struggled - wrestled really - with that thought that day and somewhere, deep inside of me I found a thought, a prayer, a rumbling and a shout - NOT IF I CAN HELP IT!  There, finally, accepting that I was still the author of my own story!

Now, there is always the chance that you cannot change the condition of your body but that is never the end of the story - there are always things we can change - heart attitude, mind-set, vision - but the wisdom for me was that I really was in charge of what I did about my dreams -  and sitting back in defeat was not a healthy chocie.  Believe in yourself, your abilities and your own strengths and adapt the limitations to work with you toward the healthy you - whatever that is like. Be willing and open to make the changes you can so you will never be in that place where you are wishing you had.

A wonderful trip out to see my youngest sister in PEI spurred me on to even more resolve to do all I could to change the way my story was playing out.  I sat and rested on benches and railings as my sister scrambled on to rocks and over ice.  I snapped pictures from the safety of solid ground (and they are beautiful pictures regardless) and wished for - more agility, more stamina, more desire.  We lunched in a small town cafe, drove along the rural roads of PEI, and talked and talked and talked.  She demonstrated helpful stretches from her knee-problem days and loaded me on the plane too soon, it seemed.

I landed in Calgary that March with a burning desire to start to take better care of myself.  This meant getting help for my recovery and then building strength and stamina to ensure I could enjoy what ever was in store for me - and I could only believe that whatever it was it was going to be great!

I watched closely as my knee healed and paid attention to all suggestions for help that came my way.  My oldest sister (so you now know I am truly a middle child!) suggested I get some Urban Walking Poles.  She loved hers and used them every day to walk downtown for a visit with her friends.  I ordered mine right away - and never looked back.  I felt like Forest Gump minus the "running" as I walked around the block, then around a small park and then, one day when said sister was visiting, we were talking and walking and using our poles together and we walked to the bridge in Prince's Island Park - right past that park bench I had sat on last Spring - and we kept on walking, across the river, and all the way back to Eau Claire Market with only one short stop to rest.

A few weeks later, I packed my poles and headed east for a visit to my childhood home and one more sister (and another visit with my oldest sister)!  We are a very gender-skewed family!  With poles in hand, I took on the pathways around Minnedosa, Manitoba, and then headed to the Devil's Punch Bowl - or as close as we could get in less than one hour, a beautiful area just a little north of my hometown.  We hiked through the park, avoided the poison ivy and were able to gaze over the Spirit Sand dunes - amazing.  Raouf and I made a stop at Winnipeg and played traveller there, staying downtown and walking everywhere.  Winnipeg is a beautiful summer walking city - lots of river pathways and culture and music - even in June.

And, I figured out - I am not alone in this desire to get moving.  I encourage you to look around you, find your "sisters" or colleagues or others who are also on their own journey and learn from them.  Glean all you can from their experience, soak up their joy and learn what it feels like to share in their victories! Movement fills our lungs with air, our joints with "lotion" and our hearts with a song!  Try it!

The physical me was gaining ground but not losing any weight.  Maybe a few pounds due to the increase in exercise, but not the weight loss I needed to continue to get healthy!  I joined Weight Watchers in July - I had done all the experimenting I needed and the conclusion was sugar made me sick and I ate too much!  Simple.  I was finally at the place in my life when my head and heart agreed.  I signed up and started blogging there as well as continuing here and have never looked back.  Any healthy, balanced eating plan would work; weight watchers works for me.  You will find your own "go to" through reading, googling, talking and exploring - just keep it simple, healthy and doable for you at the place you are at in your life.

  • Perfect is impossible! Has it been a perfect 8 months? Not really - I enjoyed Christmas and saw a 3 lb. gain; I ate a fanatastic birthday dinner with Raouf in August and again, for my birthday, in October, and I had birthday cake both times and avoided a gain!  I do not eliminate treats but I am very picky about what I do settle on when I decide to eat them. No more cheap chocolate or skinny, fat free ice cream - calories are calories, so, for me, if I am going to indulge, I want to indulge in what tastes fantastic.  I avoid low calorie treats - they are not as satisfying as the REAL thing and I have never been able to stop at one serving anyway! Be realistic about your treats and be careful about depriving yourself of an occasional indulgence - this is forever!
  • Small weight gains can be expected - I explain these away with "I am retaining water" but follow up quickly with a realistic look at what went into my body that week to make me retain the water! This outlook has stood me in good stead - I have never thrown my hands up in disgust and despair at a weight gain over the past 8 months (I do sigh once in a while though!).  I shake it off with that explanation, address it immediately, and never quit! For me that is usually adjusting the quantity of grains or sugar in a week or the lack of water or an increase in sodium (pre-packaged food which we rarely eat!).  The next week, my weight is down and I am back on track.
  • Slow but sure is good training!  - A slow, steady weight loss of 1 to 2 lb per week average - I said AVERAGE - will last and is much easier to maintain than big losses followed by gains.  It is a challenge to be patient with this - especially when you are looking at a large loss - but, I follow the belief that this is for a lifetime and not just right now and deal with it.  Sure I would like to snap my fingers and be done with it but, realistically, that would cost money and require surgery so - why not be healthy while I am losing weight and make it last forever?  Practice this new way of eating and moving and soon it becomes habit and if you slip once in awhile, you have developed a great recovery to fall back to each time. 
  • Focus on the Horizon!  I have discovered that it is not wise for me to focus too much on the scale or the food - that is why simple is best!  I keep my mind occupied with discovering new ways to move my body; new neighbourhoods to explore; new people to meet; and, new topics to blog about. Always looking forward to the next activity or trip or even a new way of doing things (remember my 100 Day Walking Challenge or my purchase of the FitBit!) keeps me from attaching so much importance to the scale or the points or calories for the food - things that are only a measure of one small section of time and effort - not the whole picture. Somewhere in among these activities and thoughts, I do, of courses, skim over the number on the scale and the food points (or calories for non-WW-ers) going into my stomach - but only long enough to track my progress!

As I mentioned before, this time around is so different because of all the mental and emotional work I did for the six months previously BUT it also helps that Raouf plans and cooks all the meals!  We have slipped into a great rythmn of predictability with simple foods: fresh fruit salad for every lunch and dinner (replacing the desserts he was so good at making before!); fish or chicken or even beef with lots of veges; homemade soup or salads; and bran cereal with banana and natural yoghurt for an evening snack (every evening!), oh,  and, yes, lots of great tea - just because it says "sit awhile".  We keep it simple, healthy and on program.
  • Simple paths - my feet find amazing little paths and alleyways to explore and take me on adventures in my own neighbourhood around a lake teaming with ducks and geese and even a heron and six swans this fall. 
  • Simple pleasures - I have danced Zumba with silly six year olds, practiced yoga with a community of zen-spirited strangers and tapped into my inner child as I played helicopter pilot with my grandchildren.
  • Simple moments - These old knees still ache from time to time but usually they are saying, "move me" and not "rest".  I have climbed to the mountain top, rested at the bottom of a waterfall, crunched fall leaves underfoot and visited with strangers while finding shelter from an evening thuderstorm in a convenient gazebo by the lake.  Every night, when I sink on to the couch, slip my hand into Raouf's and snuggle warm and comfy under a fuzzy blanket, I whisper a "thanks" for this chance to really live my life - one simple moment at a time.
My body is loving being cared for so well. It aches less and walks more. I do not have to travel far to marvel at the world around us - but I WANT to - and I am so grateful I have had the opportunity to start exploring beyond this continent!  Pay attention to the "simple" in your life. Take care of "it" - your physcial "YOU" - so you will be ready and able to live your dream each moment of every day to the best of your ability at the time. You will be surprised by how your moments will connect you to this wonderful world and to your DREAMS of what your life story will hold with the hope that the end you have already penned will be there, waiting for you, when the time comes.

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