To Infinity and Beyond

“We can never judge where we will be tomorrow by where we are today.”

This last year has been a year of massive personal change for me. In fact, that last sentence might be is an understatement. I’ve been through a separation and am preparing to finalize my divorce in the coming month. I have sold the home my husband and I bought together and said goodbye to the dreams that went with it as well. I have moved 30 some odd miles up the road to a new city and into a much smaller apartment closer to work. I have said goodbye to processed foods, artificial coloring, flavoring, and sweeteners, chemical additives, and most white flour and sugar. I have pretty much written off alcohol and have cut way back on the amount of caffeine in my life. Exercise has gone from being something I do because I should, do something I do because I want to. My body has let go of close to 40 pounds of dead weight. My outlook on life has switched from a glass is half empty to glass is overflowing full of good because I choose to make it that way. I have become an active participant in my own destiny rather than watching life float by me. I can’t begin to describe how much I have changed mentally.

We are truly only limited by our own boundaries, as I have come to realize.  What I can do today is not an indication of what I can do tomorrow. Tomorrow has its own possibilities. Stop and think about that for a minute. On your worst day, the day you think you have f-ed up the worst of the worst, everything that could go wrong has, you still have the chance to start all over again in the morning. Just like the phoenix, you can rise from the burnt ashes of who you are today to become something new and amazing tomorrow. And if today has already been amazing, that’s not the upper limit. You can continue to advance higher than today’s aspirations by grabbing tomorrow by the horns. To quote an awesome superhero, you really can go “to infinity and beyond” as long as you don’t limit yourself. 

If I judged my tomorrow by today I would still be 200 pounds and a size 18. I would still be sullen about how I was unhappy and there was nothing I could do about it. I would still be drowning my sorrows in a bottle and getting my wings with Red Bull.  Instead, I listened when that little voice inside me spoke up and said, “NOW, change your life NOW or never.” And now my tomorrows all look awesome. They look awesome because I choose to see them as awesome.

I’m looking at another set of personal crossroads in my windshield right now. It’s a ways off in the distance, but I know it’s approaching. Normally something so big would be a major source of apprehension for me…or I would shove it off as a “no way Josè” kind of situation. But with this outlook in mind, I am really trying not to judge the chance to change my tomorrow based on my today. I know that If can look at all the possibilities with an open mind, there is a chance for real change for me. I just have to be open to seeing it.

 

Tastebuds? Oh Tastebuds? Where Did You Go?

I had some serious running around to do this morning on my day off beginning early. As is not unheard of for me (but I am getting better-promise!) I stayed up a little too late last night and slept a little too late this morning. I rushed out the door bleary eyed with a protein shake and peanut butter toast in hand. By mid morning my eyelids were droopy, so I popped into Starbucks for a pick me up. Caffeine is a drug. No two ways around that, Boss. I am about a 100x better about my love affair with this drug than I use to be, but we do still rendezvous on occasion, and no, I don’t want to hear about the evil empire that is Starbucks.

Typically I am a coffee drinker, meaning coffee should taste like coffee and be black in color. This is much to my parents shock and awe as they have no idea how I developed such an eccentric habit as they do not partake in such nonsense. How did I develop this habit? Enter the Mocha Latte. In college it is cool to drink coffee, but I wasn’t so hot on the taste of coffee. Now this mocha latte thing, that’s kinda like caffeinated hot chocolate. I’m down with that. From there it was a downward spiral to my current desire for plain old Joe. Don’t get me wrong, I will admit fully to being a coffee snob. I have bean preferences, and not to brag or anything, but I do have a Gold Starbucks card. (Random fact time: The barista at the Robinhood Rd Starbucks told me that he’d never seen a card with just a first name on it. I told him that I was so cool I only needed 1 name. You know, like Cher or Madonna, or Prince or something.)

Probably the only gold card I’ll ever own. Maybe If I had one of the other kind I’d have a better camera and take better pictures, but then again, probably not.

Back to the point. I popped into Starbucks today for a fix to try and lift my eyelids a little after my morning of business. I decided, what the heck, live a little! Give me an Iced Soy Mocha Latte. I haven’t had one in months, and definitely not since I started on this real food lifestyle change. My mouth started to water in anticipation. Epic Fail. First off the dang thing was $4.92 for a tall. Four F-N dollars and 92 cents??? For a cup of expresso, soy milk, and a little chocolate syrup? Worse: It doesn’t taste lke I remember it. It’s so sweet I couldn’t even finish it. I guess my tastebuds have officially reset from clean eating. It tastes fake and overly sweet. Like a bad candy bar.

*Sigh* Next time I need my caffeine fix, I’ll stick with plain old coffee that always tastes like coffee.

Quit Being Your Own Worst Enemy

I am my own worst enemy…in so many areas of my life. Learning to overcome self-defeating talk has been a goal for me this year, and I think I have made progress. I still struggle with it in many places, but I am getting there, especially with my eating habits and workouts. How many times have you said something along the lines of “well I ate 2 cookies, might as well eat 2 more.” Or something like “I ruined this meal, might as well ruin dinner too.” Or “I could never do that exercise.” Those are all self defeating statements and all things I have regularly told myself in the past and still find myself stopping some days. Every minute is a new start. So what if you ate 2 cookies? What does eating 2 more do for you? It only makes you feel worse about the first 2. Statements like these make you your own worst enemy.

Lifting Revolution posted this article today: How To Improve Your Fitness Performance: Discovering My Flaws During Sunset. It really hit home with me. Being stronger, better, more kick ass all starts with the decision to do it. It doesn’t start by me telling myself that I can’t or it doesn’t matter. It starts by setting my mind to doing it and making the resolution that I can and I will meet my fitness goals and nothing anyone says can stop me.

I will admit that I get a secret, ok a not-so-secret, joy out of seeing facebook pictures of certain “pretty” people who knew me when I was fat that now are reaching a less than ideal weight themselves. I was so self conscious about my size for so many years that seeing myself as a thin person now is hard in a lot of ways. I still have the vision of myself as a big girl…just now I’m a big girl in size 6 jeans.  This is another self defeating thought. I have to realize that I really am 2/3 of the person I use to be. I am getting there. Every time I get something out of my closet that falls off my hips or shoulders, I realize that I am not the person I was even just last summer. I am thinner. I am stronger. I am better than I was. I am figuring out that I don’t need anyone else to cheer me on or hold my hand. I can be my own biggest supporter instead of my own worst enemy.

Must Read: Mark Hyman, MD: The Last Diet You Will Ever Need

When it becomes a revolutionary act to eat real food, we are in trouble.

 

I’m not going to pontificate on this. It says it all. Just read the article. Nod your head as I did. Share with your loved ones. Encourage a food revolution.

Mark Hyman, MD: The Last Diet You Will Ever Need.

So, It’s Salad For You, I Guess?

I love my job! But like most clean eaters, work functions are not catered to my dietary preferences. That’s ok. While I think it would be best for everyone to eliminate processed foods and chemical additives from their diets, I understand that not everyone believes like me, and I’ve said before, I will not be the food police. Today, my job thanked the management  staff with lunch at Golden Corral.

Even before gravitating to a clean eating lifestyle I was not crazy about the GC.  But, what I am crazy about is that my job appreciates me…and appreciates me enough to say thank you for my hard work by buying me lunch. Not to sound too corny, but in today’s times, just having a good job is awesome, and having a good job where the company wants to do nice things for the employees sometimes is really awesome. And I’m not going to let my preferences stop me from being appreciative of this appreciation.

But…I’m also not going to throw my dietary values out of the window either. I was telling my best buddy about the upcoming meal and the response I got was a laugh and “So, It’s salad for you, I guess?”  Pretty much. But wait? The GC has veggies right? Yes, but to be honest, I don’t trust the likelihood of those green beans having not been treated with a preservative before going into a can, and the good looking broccoli was probably seasoned with a special spice blend that I doubt they would be willing to reveal to me. I did have a salad (with oil and vinegar), and fresh fruit. There were likely preservatives on some of the salad items as well (some places will treat lettuce to keep it fresh longer), but that’s the best choices I could make. Sometimes you are going to have to make the best choices you can make.

Remember that idea that this takes some work? Well, I put a little work into this morning and planned for a light lunch. I had a BIG smoothie for breakfast that I knew would keep me fuller. Then I packed this little goody bag up to take with me today.

Homemade Mixed Berry Muffin, Homemade Granola Bar, Trail Mix thrown together at the last second this morning, Clif Crunch Bar. There was a bottle of water too.

I ended up only eating the granola bar and most of the trail mix. I also keep 1 scoop of the Garden of Life Protein Powder in my office for a snack, so I could have mixed that up if I needed to. (Note: The Clif Bar is not at all a clean food. It’s an indulgence that is mostly organic and I got on a killer sale. Clif bars hold a special place in my heart after I lived on them pretty exclusively while dealing with a non-healing ulcer a while back.)

Eating clean doesn’t have to mean the end of eating with other people. It certainly doesn’t have to mean the end of your manners to be thankful for the opportunities to be appreciated like I had today. It does mean a little more planning and a little more carefulness in the execution. A good time was had by all and I was once again reminded that I am making the right choice to live a healthy lifestyle and eat clean. Once again, it’s all in the positive attitude.

I’m proud that I didn’t let this throw me off track. In the past, something like this would have been a temptation on a diet, too much opportunity to “cheat.” That’s how I know I really have changed my lifestyle. I can go and enjoy an event with other people, at a buffet, and not feel pressured to eat foods I shouldn’t. This isn’t a diet. It’s a life. My life. And I am finally in control of it.

 

I’m Not Going to Lie…This Involves a Little Work.

I’ve been asked a few times lately about what “all this” really takes. My first response is always, what’s “all this”? If you mean taking care of yourself, I’m not going to lie, this involves a little work. But trust me, it’s worth it. Healthy living is a little like college in that you can’t just show up and expect to get the best of the best, you have to put some work into it, and there is a direct correlation between the amount of work you put in and the reward you get back out. The big difference is that you will actually USE what you learn with healthy living unlike the vast majority of us with degrees completely unrelated to our careers. Not that I’m not using my Master’s degree or anything…but that’s another subject.

This takes a little planning. Because I don’t rely on processed foods, I do more cooking now then I have ever done. And seriously, that’s still not much. There is grocery shopping involved and a little recipe reading to make sure I have everything I need on hand. It’s easier to make healthy choices when the healthy choices are available in house. There’s a little prep work. I shared the power bar recipe I’ve been using, and I’ll make a batch of those up every so often to keep on hand. I also hard boil eggs to keep in the fridge for a quick snack or meal. On the weekend I may make a batch of whole wheat muffins with fruit to snack on during the week. I tend to freeze most of these since I can’t eat them quick enough.

There’s a little planning each day too. I’ve always taken my lunch to work so that wasn’t a big change for me. But if you’re accustomed to running out for fast food, you’re going to need to plan. I also plan for snacks. I like to eat. And I like to not be tempted by the candy in the vending machine because when the 3pm I’m-starving-right-now-damn-I-could-eat-my-coat feeling hits every once in a while, I’m tempted. I have to get all this done at night because if I leave it until morning, I just throw whatever in a bag and it never works out.

This also takes a little sacrifice. “I don’t have time to exercise!” Sure you do. I bet everyone could find 15 minutes a day for exercise at home. If you were brutally honest with yourself, where do you waste time? I waste time on the internet. I look at websites, play on facebook, read message boards, watch stupid youtube videos, watch Netflix, and just generally waste time. Who knows what I could accomplish if I stopped wasting time online. Where do I not waste time? TV. I don’t have cable. I own a TV really only because I got left one (crappy) one in my divorce. It hasn’t been turned on in 10 months or more. I don’t say this to sound self righteous, I say this to point out how I made time to exercise. I realized a long time ago that what I was spending my evenings doing was watching TV (which inevitably meant eating snacks) wishing I was healthier. Then the light bulb went off that if I would sacrifice a little of the TV time, I could exercise and maybe actually be healthier. I’ve been told that if I had kids I would understand how hard it is to find time to exercise (hello? self righteous much?) but my response to that is why can’t your children be a part of your exercise? I spoke with a friend today, someone I’ve known for a long time but haven’t seen in years (isn’t facebook great?). She told me that part of her motivation to exercise and be healthy was to set a good example for her son that fitness is important. How awesome is that? Even though her son is a preschooler, she is already wanting him to know how important it is to take care of himself. (I hope you don’t mind I’m talking about you if you’re reading this!)

There may be a little financial sacrifice too. I choose to pay for a gym membership, but my lack of cable service more than covers that. Certainly you can exercise at home without a gym or even fancy equipment. Youtube is an amazing resource for learning new exercises, as are blogs! Special mention to Peak 313 Fitness as my current favorite fitness website/blog. She’s a mom who works out at home with minimal equipment. You may find that your food costs change some as well, I am working on trying to really use my dollars consciously with companies I think deserve them, so I am finding my grocery costs are going up a touch. But you know what, any fruits and veggies are better than no fruits and veggiesDon’t sweat it if you can’t buy organic. Just eat your veggies folks. And whole grains. The way I see it, I may be spending a little more now, but I am cutting my future healthcare costs by staying out of the cardiologist and oncologists offices, and hopefully even my GP’s office.

So, I’m not going to lie. Taking care of your body is not an instant success. You have to put some work into it. It’s not an overnight thing, and if you start out thinking that way you are setting yourself up for disappointment. There is no gimmick. This is a lifestyle, one that is meant to be sustainable, long term.  You CAN do this. The work is worth it.

Why is Talking About Food So Offensive?

Since I’ve changed my eating habits, I’ve noticed that people are really defensive about the way they eat. I mean, really defensive, like “I love God, and America, and Doritos!” kind of defensive. Now, I am not by any means a member of the food police. You can eat what you want. But if you comment on MY food, or ask about how I lost weight, then you have opened the door for me to tell you about MY dietary choices.

I saw someone the other day I haven’t seen in some time and the first thing she said was to ask me about how I lost so much weight. I told her the truth. I’ve added in a significant amount of weight lifting to my work out, and I stopped eating processed food. I told her that I eat clean, meaning that I eat food with minimal ingredients and no artificial additives. She looked at me like I had told her I had gone to the moon and back. Suddenly there was this awkward pause and she mumbled something about how that was “good for some people, I guess” and suddenly had to go. Oooook? What did I say wrong?

Food is so ingrained in our culture. It is a part of every celebration and every gathering. Every holiday has it’s own menu, even the Superbowl. When you start questioning something so personal to people as the way in which we connect to others, people don’t know how to react. Be prepared for some strange responses when you tell people you are eating clean and you explain what that really means. Not everyone is going to be supportive of this decision. Not everyone is going to understand your desire to go against the grain of American culture of consumerism that says ‘more is more’ and gluttony is good. Be prepared for some people to now consider you uppity or too big for your britches as my momma might say. The attitude may be that of “so the food you’ve been eating your whole life suddenly isn’t good enough for you?” or “you’re too good to eat the same food I do.” I’m not sure why it is so hard for others to understand that it’s not like that at all. We are all good enough to eat good food! We should all respect our bodies enough to treat them as the temples they are and feed them the best there is in terms of nutrition.

I had a business breakfast recently. I was really apprehensive about how this was going to go. I had scouted the restaurant’s website ahead of time and knew my choices were limited and I would be asking a ton of questions once I got there. However, it was a business function, and I didn’t want to come off as a total a-hole with the upper management of my company (including the CEO). Do I throw my nutritional values out the window for the sake of saving face with a company meal? Do I order black coffee only? Do I attempt to order eggs and start the round of questions to the waitress (beginning with: are they even real eggs?) I could deal with conventional eggs for the sake of this meeting…if they are actually eggs…and if they are fried in butter and not oil…and if there is nothing else on them…and I have no other side items. No other real options stood out at me from the menu online. It turned out to not be as big a deal as I was worried about, and the waitress completely understood when I asked if they were real eggs, even joking that she wouldn’t eat a “cardboard chicken” either. Whew. I did get a round of strange looks from my table mates when I started asking about what the eggs were cooked with. I just smiled and said thank you when my order was done like it was no big deal. I think learning to deal with meals and comments from others with grace will serve me well. All my apprehension was in vain. There was absolutely no commenting on how little I ate (I had had a light breakfast before I left home just in case I found the menu sparse), and there was only minimal kidding me about my pickiness in ordering.

When you make a lifestyle change like clean eating it will effect more than you realize. Food is on center stage in so many places in our culture. It is completely up to you how you handle those discussions with others in your life, but be warned that they will happen, and they may not go the way you think. On one hand, you never know who you will offend, but on the other, you never know who you might influence for the better. Keep a positive attitude about it all. Since we are talking clean eating, I’ll quote the old adage that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar 😉