Channeling My Inner Manatee

This week I joined a nearby YMCA. I’ve gone swimming twice.

The first day I think I was too ambitious.  I brought my kid with me. I put him in the childcare room while I swam. I went to the lap pool and attempted to swim laps and was surprised that I couldn’t swim more than 50 yards continuously. I swam a lot of 50s with rest in between. I played with some of the toys like kickboards and noodles. I lasted maybe 30 or 40 minutes, then sat in the hot tub for 10 minutes or so.

Then I went and got my kid, and we ate our lunch in the lobby. Then I took him to family swim. I didn’t bring anything inflatable for him to float in, so I had to hold him in the pool. I lasted about half an hour at that. My back was killing me by the time we got done showering and changing and walked to the car. I laid down for the rest of the day.  I was too achy to fight with my kid when he didn’t cooperate on getting ready for gymnastics class. I called the gymnastics studio and told them we wouldn’t be coming. I cried for an hour on the couch. I felt really sad and hopeless and angry that I couldn’t lift.  My kid went upstairs, came back downstairs with one of my husband’s bike bags, and told me “It’s okay mom; I have something that will make you feel better,” and whipped out a fucking power drill. That got me off the couch really fast. I hid the power tool and sent an angry text to my husband. Good times, really.

As far as the actual swimming, it wasn’t that bad, but I was surprised by how out of practice I was. I took years of swimming lessons as a kid, and I couldn’t believe how awkward I felt in the water. Also, my CPAP machine has me pretty well trained to nose-breathe, so mouth-breathing in the pool felt awkward. I felt very uncoordinated.

Today, two days later, I tried again. Since my husband was home I brought him along. We went during family swim time. We brought an inflatable tube for kiddo. Since this Y has family locker rooms, I had help getting kiddo ready and didn’t have to lug all the gear myself. I started in the shallow end of the pool with my family. Then I left kiddo to play with my husband while I swam laps.

I felt much less awkward than the other day because I figured out a good stroke rhythm for a pace I could sustain.  I realized that I needed to slow my strokes WAY down. If I am not used to sprinting on land, there is no reason I need to do it in the water. At first it didn’t feel natural to slow my strokes down because on land it would feel way too slow. But the water adds extra resistance, so using a speed that feels natural on land will be more difficult in the water. So I decided to visualize manatees leisurely floating under the surface.

Visualizing manatees helped me slow my strokes down and feel more coordinated. I was able to maintain a breaststroke for several hundred yards at least, without a break. (I’m not sure exactly how many because I don’t have a watch and I haven’t taken the time to figure out a lap counting system yet. ). For freestyle, I was able to go at least 100 or 150 yards continuously, once I slowed the stroke down and figured out a good breathing pattern for me.

I didn’t swim laps continuously; I took a few breaks to check in with my family, and to use the bathroom (I know Michael Phelps confessed to peeing in the pool, but I still can’t bring myself to do it). I also sat in the hot tub for 10 minutes after swimming, which felt great (my husband and kid were still playing in the pool). I didn’t count laps or time anything, but I know my family was in the pool for roughly two hours, and I was probably in the pool for maybe an hour and a half or so.  I’m not concerned with counting my laps or times right now. I know that right now, it is more important for me to create the habit of going to the pool than it is for me to stress about what I do once I’m there. In fact, in order to create the habit, it is really important that I remove as much stress as possible.

My lower back feels fine. My traps feel fatigued. Having my husband there to help with kiddo and gear helped make it a lot less stressful.

Takeaway: It may not be realistic for me to always bring kiddo swimming when I am on my own. It may be more manageable for me to leave him in childcare on some of those days, and then bring him to family swim on days my husband can join us.

Also, I feel kinda calm and tired and mellow, so maybe swimming later in the day is a good option when possible.

I thanked myself for giving swimming another try today even after the first day didn’t go so well. I reminded myself that my first night of CPAP use went horribly too, and I am so glad I stuck it out.  So, hopefully I can make this work too.

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How a Body Positive Mindset Helps Me Move Forward from Injury

I’ve been writing about how I need to take a break from lifting due to an injury. And people are telling me they appreciate and admire how I am moving forward with a positive attitude.  I actually don’t feel all that positive, but I am moving forward anyway.

I don’t think I would be doing nearly as well had I not been working on a more body positive mindset.

Five years ago, if this happened, I think I would have been nearly paralyzed with fear about what would happen to my bodyweight. Today, yes; I am still somewhat scared about that. I know I’m not “supposed” to be, but I’m also not here to lie to you ;). However, today, that fear is not driving my decisions and actions.

Some people have told me they are impressed with how I am quickly looking to find alternative ways to move. And the reason I feel this drive to do so, is because I’m highly invested in keeping my body feeling like a nice place to live. I know that continuing to move will help with that. I also know that if I don’t take a break from heavy lifting now, I may be forced to take a break later, with a lot more pain and/or loss of function (and that will mean that my body will definitely NOT feel like a nice place to live).

I also know from experience that I tend to hate being outside in the heat, and I tend to move less in the summer. So, getting into the pool more will probably help with that.

So, while I do feel some fear about how my body may change, the primary motivation for finding new things to do is taking care of my body, giving myself what I need, and keeping my body a comfortable place to live (as much as that is within my control).

I do notice some old thoughts creeping in. For example, I had some mental resistance to trying lunges and other alternative strengthening exercises to barbells. Yoga too. These exercises remind me of the days when I was working out to change how my body looked. I’m acknowledging that resistance….and I know that if I want to keep myself feeling well, I may have to get over that association and try them again now.

Bottom line is – I am very grateful to have been working towards loving my body more. That doesn’t mean I always love the way it looks, although I am having more days like that than I used to. More importantly,  it means I love myself enough to give myself what I need to feel well TODAY, even when things aren’t going my way. I love myself enough to give my body the break it needs, rather than operating out of fear about what will happen if I take that break.

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I Think I Am Starting to Get It

All my life, when I would hear about dieting or eating disorders or poor body image , I would hear statements like “it’s often not really about the body, or about food. It’s about needing to feel in control of something.” I never really understood that.

I think I am starting to get it. All week, when I was waiting for MRI results, I noticed that I needed to eat even when I wasn’t physically hungry. I needed to eat to calm my nerves. Which left me feeling like I was losing control. Which made me feel very tempted to tighten control and enforce stricter “rules.”

Then I was told that I couldn’t lift but I could swim. I made a mission for myself: find a place with childcare where I could swim. Suddenly I had something I could control. And I noticed I stopped eating to comfort myself. Just having something I thought I could control felt better. For a day or two.

And so I am touring gyms and YMCAs that have pools. And some of the pools look really nice. And seeing all the people in these fancy gyms in their workout clothes, it hits me: I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to spend lots of time here. I like working out at home. I feel like I don’t belong here, in a place where my budget has me stressed about paying the membership dues. I just don’t want to be here.

And so I probably will sign up someplace, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it today. I feel like I am being forced to do it, and I need to feel like I am choosing to do it. So, another day. Today I bought goggles and a swim cap. That feels like enough.

I came home thinking I would eat these leftover meatballs for lunch, and when I found out my husband forgot to put them away last night and I had to throw them out, I lost my shit. There goes another thing I can’t control.

And I told him that I was really having a hard time keeping it together, and that it would be great if he and kiddo could be out of my sight for a while.

I was hungry when I got home and I feel hungry now. I started to make a lunch but decided to sit down and cry instead. I just can’t bring myself to eat when I know I might be interrupted by the sound of a preschooler’s voice. So I am waiting while they get ready to leave the house. And I will eat in blessed silence, or maybe while watching the season premiere of the Bachelorette, or maybe the season finale of SVU. And for a couple hours I will feel have control over this one aspect of my life.

In the meantime I am feeling the feels and crying the cries. Also I have a buddy, who I can actually tolerate right now:

image

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I Got Sidelined, and I Did A Thing That “Good Fatties” Don’t Do

I have been sidelined.

I had been feeling some tingling in my right quadricep (feels like pins and needles – like when your foot falls asleep but more mild). I first noticed it last fall when I had kiddo on my back on a trail walk. I’ve noticed it now and then since, when carrying kiddo on my back.

A couple weeks ago I started noticing it when I was not carrying any extra weight on my back; just while standing and walking. So my primary care doctor requested an MRI of the lumbar spine, to see if it was a spinal issue. I had the MRI this past Monday. That same day I started noticing tingling in my left foot.

The results came back yesterday and I have two big disc herniations. My primary care doctor  explained to me that while one of the herniated discs was super common for weight lifters and she wasn’t worried about it, I also had a compression on a vertebra in the thoracic that was not commonly herniated (even among weightlifters), and appeared to be related to an older injury or possibly something I was born with (since I don’t recall ever having an injury to the spine, but the MRI report definitely said it was an older injury). She is referring me to a specialist to see if this herniated disc causing my symptoms. It appears that it is slightly compressing the spinal cord.  I don’t know yet what treatment the specialist will recommend (physical therapy? surgery? shots?). I have a lifting limit in the meantime – no more than 50 lbs. I can still walk, swim, or do yoga or stretch.

I am beyond bummed, because lifting is so much fun for me and it makes me feel healthy and strong and proud. But not causing more nerve damage is obviously more important. I’m trying to look on the bright side and feel grateful that a) we caught it before I experienced any pain, weakness, or loss of function, and b) that I can still lift my kid if necessary, because 3 year olds are not great at listening. I’m feeling nervous about finding a new routine / way of going about my week that makes me feel as good as lifting does and that I enjoy. I’m nervous about the possible time/money commitment that rehab will involve. Hopefully my insurance will cover this. I don’t have answers yet. I am feeling defeated –  I finally got to the point where my movement routine felt like a true habit….like brushing my teeth. And now I need to change my routine and schedule.

My doctor also warned me me that the spine specialist group I am being sent to has the most talented spine doctors in the area, but they are all assholes. One of them once told a patient to “ditch the refrigerator she is carrying.”

I was super nervous about going to the specialist after hearing this. I don’t enjoy confrontation and I am scared that I will be so intimidated that I wont ask the right questions. I asked in the Fit Fatties group for suggestions on handling doctors like this, and someone suggested  “bring an advocate. ”

At first I couldn’t think of anyone. Let’s just say my husband is not known for his assertiveness. Most of my local friends have kids. And I have some local fat friends who would be great for solidarity, but would probably be just as disrespected and possibly triggered as I am by the specialist.

And then I thought of the perfect person to bring along. She is a massage therapist and ART practitioner with several anatomy practicums under her belt. She is a Cross Fit coach and weightlifting coach. She drew a tree out of a human spine on her Christmas cards.  Read: she will likely understand what the doctor says a lot better than I will. And she will know what questions to ask regarding rehab and lifting.

Now, though I like her a lot, we are not close friends. I trained at her gym for a while and we are Facebook friends and maybe we would hang out more if I didn’t have a kid and I wasn’t a boring introvert who likes to stay home. So I was really nervous to ask for such a big favor from her. But I remembered how important relying on a community is, and I reached out and wrote her a message. I explained what my doctor said, and how I was afraid that the specialist would intimidate me or shame me and I might lose it or forget to ask the right questions. I asked if she would consider coming with me to the appointment. I offered to pay her for her time or buy her dinner or barter veggies. I was in tears as I typed the message, even though I knew she was likely to say yes. From nerves and an emotion that I wouldn’t identify until later.

My friend did say yes. She didn’t make me feel bad for asking at all. She agreed with my doctor that the thoracic herniation and compression was concerning because it isn’t one that typically herniates. She is happy to come with me. I am so relieved and so glad I reached out and that a knowledgeable friend is going to help me.

Later, I asked myself why I felt so emotional asking my friend to come help me. I realized that the emotion I felt was humiliation. In our culture’s mainstream media, we hear about “obesity epidemic” this and “strain on the health system” that quite often. And so I was trained to feel humiliation about the fact that here I was, asking for an accommodation or favor that I needed, that I may not have needed if my body was a different size.

Once I identified that, I realized that I was doing NOTHING wrong by advocating for myself and asking for what I need to get proper treatment so I could get better. I realized I didn’t need this favor because of my size, I need it because of the societal stigma and medical bias around my size. And while that is not my fault, and it does indeed suck that it has become my problem, I am practicing good self care by asking for it anyway. Even if I cried tears of humiliation as I typed the request to my friend.

Wow. That was heavy. On to something a bit lighter. How am I going to get my movement in, now that my favorite thing is off the table for now?

In the meantime, while I wait to see the specialist, I am cleared to walk, and swim and do yoga or stretch. Since I already have a good walking routine going, I hope to continue that, but I need to make some changes now.  Since I don’t have the option of carrying kiddo on my back when he gets tired, it limits the distance I can walk with him, and probably limits trail walks. Anyone with kids knows that 3 year olds’ legs work great..until they don’t. So, hiking with a kid won’t work anymore, for now, but I can still walk to the garden on my own. Now that I’m not lifting in the mornings, I can try to get those walks in before my husband leaves for work.

I have done yoga in the past, but honestly, I have some resistance or a mild aversion to trying it right now.  Maybe that will change later. I realized that while I enjoyed it in the past, now, I tend to associate it with the days when I felt really unhappy with my body and was trying so hard to change the way it looked.  I was a lot thinner then than I am now, but  I was also a lot more unhappy with myself. So maybe that’s why I am not super excited about yoga.

But I knew I could wrap my head around swimming, if I found the right pool. As a child, I loved swimming. I was not good at any other sports, but I really enjoyed swimming so my parents paid for lessons year round (because “hey, whatever gets the fat kid to move” is probably what they thought, but nonetheless, I loved it). I wasn’t planning to join a gym this summer, but I knew I wouldn’t feel great if I didn’t find some form of movement to replace lifting heavy stuff.  And I want to keep myself feeling good.

So today I went to check out a gym with a nice pool and childcare. I have a friend that teaches classes there and I think it will be a good fit. Not only do they have a nice lap pool, it is in a room with lots of natural light, so you don’t feel like you are swimming in a dark, smelly room. They also have a kid’s wading pool so I can bring my kid to play. And a rock climbing wall I can do with him (or rather that he can do with me; I’m scared of heights and probably not cleared for that).

And not for nothing, but I was also pleased with the way the salesperson handled the gym tour and sales pitch with me. I told him what I was there for: “I’m a weight lifter and I am injured and my doctor says I am cleared to swim. So I am interested in the pool and your childcare hours.” And he asked me what kind of weightlifting I did, and I told him I do some powerlifting and some Olympic weightlifting. He showed me exactly what I asked about. He did not try to sell me training packages. He did not push (or even mention) weight loss – which means that he didn’t make assumptions on why I was there based on my size; he actually listened to what I told him about why I was there. When he was showing me the weight room, he said things like “when you are cleared to lift, if you want to do Olympic weightlifting, you can do it here. Here’s where I do power cleans…” And last fall I had such a hard time finding a place to do that. So I am happy.

Check out this sweet lap pool!

Check out this sweet lap pool!

So, I will probably join later this week. It will give me both a place to swim and an activity to do with my kid in the summer. I’m excited about that.

Still very sad about being sidelined, and feeling a bit defeated, but trying to make the best of a shitty situation.

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What My CPAP Has Done For My Bloodwork Numbers

….absolutely nothing.

But there is something cool and dramatic to share. Read on.

Backstory:

I have been getting regular blood work every three months for over a year now, mainly for monitoring purposes. Last year, I went to my doctor because I was having extremely infrequent and heavy periods. My doctor ordered bloodwork for a full hormonal panel, adrenal function, thyroid function, and more.

When the results came back, my cortisol was deemed to be too low, and I was deficient in Vitamin D. My blood sugar was also slightly outside of the normal range (by one point), so in subsequent follow ups, my A1C was tested as well.

My doctor has been really happy with the results over the past year. Everything has been slowly and steadily improving. My blood sugar has been in the normal range in every follow up reading. My cortisol levels and Vitamin D levels have been steadily improving. My thyroid hormone levels are all within normal ranges. My A1C is hovering just above the high range of normal, and it hasn’t budged much, but my doctor isn’t worried because everything else is looking great.

But I just got a CPAP machine in the past three months, and so many things have dramatically changed for me, along with my sleep. My energy levels. My ability to focus. My motivation levels. My recovery from heavy lifting.

So because everything has been going SO. MUCH. BETTER. for me, I was expecting Dramatically Different Results on this quarter’s blood work.

What Actually Happened

Well, I got my test results back this week, with a note that said “the doctor wanted me to let you know they look amazing.” And I saw them, and I saw that they were pretty much the same as last time, and I was actually disappointed, because I was hoping for some really dramatic difference.

So I Examined My Self-Talk

Why is it that we want drama and drastic changes to see if something is working? Is it not enough that I am doing things around the house I have never done, and actually able to sustain a healthy lifestyle now, and that I am a better parent and friend and can focus at work again, and that I don’t need to be sedentary for 23 hours per day to recover from a one hour workout? Why do I need dramatic blood work results too?

The Answer: Comparison

A friend of mine on Facebook, Patrik, has been posting about his own health journey, and it has included some dramatic changes in his blood work numbers. Within the past year, his A1C levels have dropped from 9.6 (diabetic) to 4.9 (normal).  His doctor has taken him off the medication he takes for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides. He went from spending hundreds of dollars per month on medication, to spending just $5 per month, as only one medication remains. He no longer needs the CPAP machine he needed before.  He was previously sedentary, and now he has recently run his first 5K and is getting stronger in the gym all the time. In the process of changing all these numbers, his body weight also reduced by about 30%, give or take.

Now, Patrik improved his health using a very different approach than I have been using. Instead of making small changes over time, he made some very big changes. He went from a sedentary lifestyle to doing regular CrossFit workouts, and adopted a lower calorie ketogenic diet.  I started questioning, momentarily….should I go back to CrossFit? Should I do what he does?

And I realized that I need to keep my eyes on my own journey and not compare myself to someone else.

See, Patrik and I come with different health histories, different needs, and different responsibilities. While I am beyond excited for him that he got off almost all his medication doing a restrictive diet and regular CrossFit workouts, I have already tried that route, and it didn’t work with my life in a way that I could sustain and it didn’t make me healthier. Does that make it “wrong?” Not for Patrik, it doesn’t. For me, it does.

So, let’s talk about those “dramatic” blood work changes I was wanting, and how I was disappointed to see stability. Patrik was on several medications, and his levels were still high, before he made lifestyle changes. He had room for dramatic changes. Whereas I am on zero medications. Shouldn’t I be grateful that I don’t have far to go? Yes, I should. Instead of being disappointed that I didn’t see any dramatic change, I should be grateful that my body functions normally without medications. How’s that for perspective?

For Patrik, his medical reasons for adopting a restrictive diet are obviously compelling. For me, with a history of disordered eating, any potential benefits do not outweigh the risks. I know, because I have done it in the past, and after years, it led to bingeing and weight gain and disordered eating patterns. So, even though I know I could probably nudge A1C down into the normal range by restricting certain food groups, the benefit is not worth the cost to me at this time. I am healthier and happier being more free with my food. And I am grateful that I have the luxury of doing so. Instead of being disappointed that my A1C is stable, I should be thrilled that it is stable, that my blood sugar is in the normal range, and that my body can handle the food I need to eat to maintain my mental health. Again, instead of being disappointed that I didn’t see a dramatic change, I should be grateful that I don’t NEED to see a dramatic change.

Patrik was able to stop using his CPAP machine in the past couple months. His energy levels and sleep improved on his new lifestyle, with his healthier habits. Whereas I have tried maintaining healthier habits throughout my life, and something always was wrong, even when I was much thinner. I recovered incredibly slowly from workouts that gave most people my age no problems. My hunger levels seemed abnormally high. My motivation at home was always low, and my motivation and focus at work took a lot of effort to maintain.

And I tried to make drastic changes, like Patrik did, over the years. I’ve done restrictive diets and high intensity workout regimens in the past….and they always ran me into the ground, more than they should, and I couldn’t continue. (Isn’t exercise supposed to make you feel better, not worse, over time?)

….Until I got my CPAP machine. Now MY energy levels are off the charts. My motivation levels and focus are at an all time high. I’m finally able to recover well from the workouts I do. So, while Patrik was thrilled to get rid of his CPAP machine, they may have to pry mine from my cold, dead hands.

In addition to having different health histories, we also have different responsibilities in our current lives. His daughter is a teenager, and my son is a preschooler. Until last month, I was still a breastfeeding mother.  Our day to day (and nighttime) parenting demands are different (I know nothing about parenting teenagers, so I am not going to say it is easier. Just different). So, the food and exercise routines that fit into Patrik’s life are different than the ones that will fit into mine. Again, I should be grateful that I don’t have health challenges that require me to make more drastic changes to my life.

So, there is no good reason for me to be dissatisfied with my own progress because it doesn’t look like my friend Patrik’s. We are completely different, and my progress is great too.

Three years ago, I had hypothyroidism. Now, even with a 40% weight gain (some muscle, some fat), my thyroid function consistently tests as healthy and normal.

One year ago, I went to my doctor to talk about extreme fatigue. I needed frequent naps. Now, I almost never need naps. I feel as energetic as I did 10 years ago and 50% lighter.

Since my pregnancy, I had severe brain fog that didn’t go away for years after I had my son. Now, I am thrilled with how mentally sharp I feel.

Even alongside a weight gain, my blood work is healthier today than it is one year ago. My cortisol levels are back in the normal range.

Now, my hunger and thirst levels feel much more manageable. I no longer need to eat or drink frequently to keep my energy levels up.

So, clearly, I need to be more grateful. My health has indeed improved dramatically. I realized that instead of hoping for “dramatic blood work results,” I can choose to be grateful that I don’t need to see dramatic blood work results in the first place, and be grateful for the amazing changes I HAVE experienced.

And remember how I said that one year ago, my periods were extremely infrequent and heavy? Well, I just got an unexpected menstrual period…..one month after my last one. For the first time in at least 6 years. So, I got my dramatic result after all, just not the one I was expecting. I have never been more happy to menstruate.

Moral of the story? Eyes on my own journey. Patrik is doing an amazing job, and I am doing an amazing job. Both of us are improving our health and quality of life, even though that looks different for each of us. I can be just as happy for myself, too.

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Satisfying My Cravings for Big Numbers

I’m in a pretty good groove with my current lifting plan. Doing Wendler 531 (back squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press) is really great for me. Not just because it fits into my life so well, but also because it is satisfying my craving for gainz while I do the necessary patterning work at light weights for the Olympic lifts.

Last year I worked on Olympic weightlifting almost exclusively. And I really liked it, though I found it too tempting to increase the weights before I really developed my speed and technique well. I hear that is a common problem among people who are already pretty strong when they discover Olympic weightlifting.

A few weeks ago, I went to a Snatch Seminar at my local Crossfit box. I got a lot out of it and I feel a strong desire to work on my Olympic weightlifting technique again.

The difference is, now that I am seeing consistent strength improvements on Wendler 531, I am happy to be a lot more patient with the snatch, clean and jerk. I have been working technique with an empty bar once or twice per week. Sometimes I include some very light technique work in my warm ups. Meanwhile, my need to know I am making strength progress is met by my back squat and deadlift programming.

I also started hanging from bars at the playground when I visit the garden. I can’t hang for very long yet. That will come in time too.

My Habit Practice Has Become a Toddler

If you have been following this blog, you know that I’ve been on a healthy habits path for a little while. In fact, one of the main reasons I started blogging was because I was doing something very different with regards to health from what most of my friends were doing, and different from what I had done my entire life. And friends started telling me “this is really interesting. You need to blog about this.”

So after a few months of hesitation, I started doing just that. I wrote about why I adopted a habits practice in the first place, and what I was doing. People asked me “how did you decide what goals to set? How do you decide on numbers? How do you track them?” So I wrote a series of posts about all that.

And now, I’ve been at this habit thing for 481 days. That’s just shy of 16 months. My habit practice has become a toddler.

And toddlers need some different approaches than babies do.  I’m starting to feel like my habit practice does too.

I’ve been tracking all my habit goals on this beautiful spreadsheet that I feel oh-so-proud of, but it’s getting a little ridiculous. There are over 20 habits on my spreadsheet now. I can’t see all the columns in one screen. And I’m wondering if I might enjoy taking some of the columns off the spreadsheet…which would mean NOT tracking all my habits.

With toddlers, you don’t need to pay as much attention to minutia.

When I had a newborn with feeding problems, we had to track every feeding and every elimination for two weeks. Once my baby had regained his birth weight and the lactation consultant had reviewed his feeding and elimination records and all was determined to be functioning well enough, we were given the green light to stop tracking these things.

Ideally, the purpose of developing healthy habits would mean that they are an automatic part of one’s routine, like brushing one’s teeth. I don’t have to track “brushing my teeth” to remember to do it every day. It is an automatic part of my day that I do morning and evening, and has been for as long as I can remember.

So, I took a look at my list of habits on my spreadsheet, and marked off the ones I that feel consistent enough that I probably COULD take them off the list and not suffer any loss of consistency. I can say that 9-10 of the behaviors have become more or less automatic. That means 12 or 13 of them I would like to improve on my consistency.

I feel about 95 percent sure that I want to take some of the more consistent habits off the spreadsheet, and I can’t say why. It’s not like tracking takes me a long time. Unlike tracking, say, calories at mealtimes, tracking my habits takes me just 2 minutes in the evening. It’s simply a checklist – at the end of the day I mark off whether I did the habit or not. I just feel like maybe I am outgrowing the need to check off 20 plus columns. The main thing holding me back from taking them off the spreadsheet is that I like feeling like I am giving myself a sticker on a chart, patting myself on the back for a job well done. I like seeing at the end of the day “wow, today I did 14 things that are good for me! Good self care, Bethany!” Maybe I need more excitement in my life.

Toddlers can have regressions.

There are some habits which go well in spurts, but on weeks when I have a lot on my plate, my consistency falters. So, the same logic that applies to new habits also applies to improving consistency with old ones: I am choosing ONE habit to really focus on improving my consistency. If I try to improve consistency on 12 or 13 habits at once (or even 2 or 3), I likely won’t have success with any of them.

Right now, I’m feeling a strong desire to improve my consistency with going to sleep early. Now that I am on CPAP and my body is actually getting the oxygen I need to sleep through the night, I feel like I can basically fly….IF I get to sleep early enough. So, why wouldn’t I want to do that?

Toddlers thrive on routine.

I am learning the value of having set routines and “habit triggers.” Habit triggers are something I see discussed in several habit based groups. It means that you attach your habit to a set item in your routine. For example, instead of saying “I will go to the gym sometime today,” you would say “when I wake up, I put on my gym clothes and do my workout.” Instead of saying “I brush my teeth when I feel like it,” you say “I brush my teeth when I wake up in the morning, and before I go to sleep at night.”

When I started working on my habits journey, I had no concept of how anything would fit into my routine. I said “I am going to do 150 strength workouts this year.” And it took me a lot of trial and error to figure out the best frequency and workout duration and intensity for me.  Kinda like when you have an infant, sleep is all over the place and you get it in when you can, and everything is trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t with each particular baby. Now that I have found a groove with what works well for me, I also have found that doing my lifting in the morning usually works best with my routine (more incentive to go to bed early!).

Recently I have read that setting a habit goal without specifying a trigger could actually be creating a habit of planning when to do the thing, instead of a habit of ACTUALLY doing the thing (I am paraphrasing, and I believe the person who wrote this was Sean Flanagan). I can see how planning when to do the thing is better than not creating any habits at all…and I can also see how creating the actual habit itself eliminates the need for planning, which is even better. Excessive planning takes up space in your brain, and takes it away from other things in life.

So, as I revisit some of the behaviors for which I would like to improve consistency, I will be looking at concrete places where I can build them into my routine, and giving them more concrete habit triggers.

Looking around, I see that I already have people in my life who are very good at habits, and they use habit triggers without realizing it. My mother always unloads the dishwasher while she makes her coffee in the morning. My father in law always goes grocery shopping on Tuesday and Friday mornings. He goes to the gym 5 days per week, and when he does, it is always at the same point in his morning routine.

Routines are only recently becoming a part of my life, now that I have a child. For years as an adult, I didn’t have set routines. There were so many changes in my life – moves, job changes, marriage. I always thought routine would feel stifling (I thought my father in law’s routine must be extremely boring!), until I realized my baby needed one, and my toddler needed one even more so. Now, I’m seeing that my habits will all be easier with more routine, and I am actually excited about building more routine into my life. I think everything will feel easier.

So, that’s where I am now, in terms of my habits practice: toddlerhood, minus the screaming and poop.

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“If I’m So Health Conscious, Why Do I Feel So Unhealthy?”

I’ve been doing a habit-based approach to health for the past 15 months now. 455 days, to be exact. In that time, I’ve introduced 22 new habits, and most of them are easy and fit well into my lifestyle.

Well, shit. That’s a wake-up call. Because I thought I was health-conscious before.

And yet, after 15 months, I finally have some basic habits in place. I mean, I did some of these things before….but not often enough to call them “habits.”

Turns out that being “health-conscious”  is not the same thing as having  healthy habits. (And of course, they are not mutually exclusive….but they are not the same thing.)

[Insert disclaimer: having healthy habits, whatever that means to you, is a personal choice and is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, or anyone else’s business. I’m only talking about myself in this post. Also, health is not entirely within our control nor guaranteed.]

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A Weighty Experiment

I sometimes struggle with whether, when, and how I should mention bodyweight changes on this blog.

I have been very grateful for online support in my healthy habits practice. Some of my favorite groups have a lot in common. They recommend focusing on:

  • the process of creating healthy habits, as opposed to the outcome
  •  loving your body as it is, now
  • finding a form of movement you enjoy doing consistently
  • learning to pay attention to your hunger and satiety signals, and recognizing factors that might prevent you from doing this
  • getting enough rest
  • taking care of mental and emotional health
  • getting treatment for any medical conditions you may have
  • setting healthy boundaries
  • cultivating patience and long term, sustainable habits that fit into your life

But when it comes to the question of “should we discuss bodyweight / weight loss?” ,  there is definitely a difference of opinion. Of course there are shades of gray in everything, but I’ve noticed that the support groups I love tend to fall into one of two camps: the “HAES/no weight loss talk allowed” camp, and the “discussion about habits that encourage weight loss is allowed and encouraged” camp.

Since I learn from and benefit from groups in both of these camps, I sometimes struggle with “what direction do I take for this blog?”

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