Control, accountability, balance, blogging

There are bunches of trees flowering in my neighborhood and town right now that send my sinuses into a frenzy. Happens every winter, and the day I see the first blossom I start taking zyrtec and hope it works through the 2 or 3 weeks of potential suffering with both the symptoms and the OTC medications for treating those symptoms. The cure is frequently almost worse with its related side effects.

I recognized and waved a white flag at my prevention of allergy escalation last Thursday, when I came home from work with my face pounding from sinus congestion and a raging headache. My preferred allergy-related medication tends to keep me awake for days if I take it after about 2 p.m., so I took several aspirin and laid down for a nap. That was about 6 p.m Around midnight I woke up, still fully dressed, but with slightly less pounding face and raging headache. Banana, more aspirin, and back to bed, and I was better Friday morning. But I was able to take an allergy pill before heading off to the gym with hope and prayer that by the time I got to the office face and head pain would be better.

J went through cables with me last Thursday, and I had expected to be trying that on my own Friday through the weekend. But then I realized there is no way I am ready or capable of trying something new-ish and out of my comfort zone on my own in this condition. Allergy meds tend to amp me up, mess with my concentration and focus, and further reduce my base levels of not-very-patient and easily-frustrated-with-myself. If I have learned nothing else doing time at the gym, I now have a good handle on pacing myself and accepting the fluidity of limitations on my ability to cope. Under the influence of allergy medication is not the time to be trying to succeed at something new. So back to my usual spot with my dumbbells and what I already know well. I texted J not to worry about updating my Lists, because it would be Tuesday at least before I attempted cable machine practice under my own power.

I have been thinking about control the last few days – how much or how little I have over many aspects of my life. Funny thing about being a bit of a control freak is you really do not realize how much of a control freak you are until someone bonks you over the head with clear examples of your own behavior. That happened for me years ago, and it took a lot more years before I finally made peace with my own tendencies. Now I am mostly a creature of habits; it is one way I tend to maintain the illusion of being in charge of myself and on my own terms.

It seems that when one grows up in some sort of chaos we try very, very hard to maintain a tight grip on our environment and surroundings. I find myself having to constantly seek out and reassess the balance with work, especially now when I am primarily self-employed yet also have a part-time job. I have been pretty good about not letting work completely consume my life, and I have found myself having to exert the same sort of balancing techniques upon my slowly solidifying exercise habits. On recent occasions, I have had good reasons to remark to J and to my dietician that I am not a typical client. Part of me feels the tiniest bit proud of that, because for once I do not make that statement in a negative way. Because I have been the typical client for both – I would go to our sessions, listen to what they told me, perform to the best of my ability or ask the right questions and leave there with every intention of practicing what I have learned, only to not think much about it or return until our next appointment. Of late, I am not so much like that. I meet with J for 2 hours a week and probably spend at least another 7 or 8 hours practicing whatever new things we just covered or reviewing prior routines he has written for me. The dietician and I are finally communicating and he is speaking to me in language I can understand about changes I should try to implement, now that he has a baseline of what I typically consume. Eat more protein, A LOT more protein, and primarily plant-based carbohydrates is direction I can fully grasp. Gone is the advice to “keep a food diary,” replaced instead with “try to track protein consumption and carb sources.” That I can handle.

So I have taken it upon myself to look up how much protein and other nutrients are in basic foods I eat – chicken, pork, beef, turkey, and eggs. I decided upon a basic amount – 5 oz. – and weighed and photographed each as I prepared it the first time. So I have a general idea and point of reference. “Plant-based carbs” translates to fruits and vegetables, so I am just eating a lot of those. It has simplified grocery shopping to meat, fruits, vegetables, and any condiments and sauces.

It’s been a few days and I would say it has been a bit hit and miss. I’m back in the bulk cooking business, my crock pot going all day long yesterday with chicken and turkey, but M being kind of under the weather and a meal out with visiting in friends, I am about 50/50  on the increased protein. The week ahead looks much clearer, though, so I am more hopeful and determined to see how a “typical” week can be for me. More importantly, balance begins inside my own head. I am not thinking I have “failed” somehow so much embracing the new food goals as a process. Life is going to happen; sharing a meal out with family and friends or with M just because is always going to be a priority for me over being rigidly faithful to whatever meal planning I might be involved in this week. This is progress for me.

I am starting to understand that lifestyle changes for me do not necessarily mean that the life I had, the friends I enjoyed, will want to be part of the evolving life I lead. And it makes me sad, and I do not really understand, yet I accept that these are things well beyond my reasoning and control. However, I am also starting to see that the changes I am making with my increased exercise and improving eating habits open new doors for me with existing friends that are far more dedicated in their own healthier lifestyle pursuits. Every year we host friends for training runs leading up to trail running season, and every year I learn a bit more about discipline and dedication to that sport. M retired from racing before he met me, so his running is a hobby and a way to stay in touch with old friends. Many in our social circle are “runner people” who eat, sleep, breathe running and the sacrifices it takes to grow stronger and shave tenths of seconds off their times. Being the non-exerciser in the group set me apart in ways I understood but did not have any urge to bridge. We get along well, I was and continue to be hugely supportive and a fan of their individual goals even if I could never quite understand them.

While still not a runner, no plans to EVER be a runner, my own practices the last few months and the desire to be better overall have given me some inkling into what drives them. We are not on the same page because our books are completely different, yet their encouragement and kindness toward my efforts means a lot to me. Where I thought (feared?) they might pooh-pooh my efforts as inadequate in comparison to their own athletic feats they have been solidly behind and unconditionally supportive of whatever little baby steps I am taking. I do not think it takes another gym goer or athlete of any stripe to understand how difficult it is to get started just getting baseline amounts of exercise and then stick with it so much as it is just willingness to try and understand that people change their habits.

More and more I am recognizing how unhealthy comparison to others is for me, and I am starting to wonder if the same is true for everyone else. Jealousy and envy cannot be good for anyone, particularly me, and desiring to be thin and pretty in ways I perceive others are thin and pretty else is never going to get me anywhere but depressed. I thought I had learned that a long, long time ago (like in my teens), but the refinement of the last several months has been eye-opening to my need to go further. My journey with diet and exercise is my own, and wherever I am right now is a waypoint to some future destination. There is no end, because I do not get to get myself into good shape, a healthy and sustainable weight, a good dress size … then stop. I think that’s an unstated myth that somehow gets propagated, that you chase the dream and then you achieve it and get to rest on your laurels and revel on easier street. Nope. The day I finally feel like I have achieved my next significant milestone is followed by the day after where I get up and get my ass into the gym for practice or to meet with J and while still pursuing the right balance of protein and carbohydrates. I cannot imagined life where these activities are automatic or on autopilot, and I am not sure I would ever want that. To be able to exercise and have so many choices in foods to eat is a blessing, one I never want to take for granted.

I was aware of and from a distant sideline watched my dad go through 8 years of cancer treatments, everything from having a tumor removed from his tongue followed by surgery to remove his prostate to the final diagnoses of all the other places the cancer had traveled. His poor lifestyle habits – smoking and alcohol – made me know I am never going to be either a smoker or a drinker. Mom was better, having pretty good health most of her life. But when she quit smoking along with my dad, she gained 25 lbs., which was a lot on her tiny, 5’1″ frame, and it impacted her knees and legs. However, she too eventually died of cancer, refusing to face reality that there might be something wrong with her female plumbing, only to be facing stage 5 uterine cancer after refusing to discuss the spotting, bleeding, and pain with her doctor for nearly 3 years prior.

Even my sister, who ignored a lump in her breast and did not consult a doctor about it until 8 months had passed and it had grown to the size of a walnut. Mastectomy, chemo, radiation, only to find it had spread to and metastasized in her bones. A year later she too was gone.

Thus far, being diabetic is the worst health issue to befall me. But it has forced me into a routine of seeing my doctors regularly, even if I was not really ready to follow most of their advice until the last year or so. I have been very fortunate in that, though, because once I got started moving and systematically cutting the extraneous junk from my diet things turned around very quickly. I have no idea why I am so lucky in this regard.

However, I am now at this point of refinement to start scaling my next challenge, and the “things beyond my control” are really starting to rear their ugly little heads. This week it has been allergies. Today it is allergies and a bloody nose while at the gym. When I already really didn’t feel like going and forced myself off my dilly-dallying path and to get there and do my light day something. Until my nose started to feel drippy and I realized it was a bloody nose. Lovely, just lovely. I wanted a light day and I certainly got it.

A few month ago it would have freaked me out in big ways. Now, not so much. Maybe it is J telling me he is delighted if I come to the gym 6 days a week or others suggesting a day off is necessary, but I typically go lighter on Sunday anyway and do a set or two of something on the Lists and then work at other things giving me grief, usually single leg anything or lunges of any type. I did get that done – my single leg Romanian deadlifts are feeling more confident – but still, more time is always better.

But progress is I am not freaked out or beating myself up about it. Life happens. I am completely un-delighted about the bloody nose, but I am also sure I don’t know anyone who thinks they are great and desirable events.

And I am about 2/3 of the way through a complete kitchen reorganization. Our refrigerators – all 4 of them – have had their share of science experiments brewing, but the worst offender is the main fridge in the kitchen. My quest to eat more protein requires a lot more containers to efficiently put together meals, especially at work or on the go, and for some reason a lot of our small container inventory has been MIA. A clean-out of the refrigerators and freezer found the vast majority of them, so at least I got through all that yesterday. Our cupboards and pantry were next on my hit list, and I disposed of a lot of staples and experimental foods we either did not like or no longer eat at home. And bread – I have loaves of different types of bread in just about every freezer in the house. Since I’m dramatically cutting back on eating that right now, they are now neatly packed in bags to deliver to the kids or other friends who still eat bread or are interested in trying something different.

Amazing the amount of stuff still hiding in there after the initial purge of less desirable foods after Christmas.

The things I can control – my kitchen cupboards, pantry, fridge, freezer – I am doing my best to get a better handle on. The things I cannot – my dang sinuses and this season of flowering trees – I do my best with the medications available to me. It’s an imperfect solution but better than trying to go drug-free and just enduring the sinus pressure and head pain.

I feel pretty good about the weekend thus far, and I am looking forward to the week ahead. The new eating plan is a bit of a struggle, and most definitely a PITA, but I committed to trying it and have some basic plans to implement and make it work so I can report back at my next RD appointment that I took these steps and have this result. From there I expect (hope?) that he can offer further guidance to help me get better at it.

After a couple of days of unintentional blogging break, I realize how much I have come to depend upon this process to sort of out my stuff. I say unintentional because I have thoughts started in my draft folder languishing and needing some time and energy to see them through to completion and posting. Despite my best intentions, my body said sleep where I might have preferred to stay up and write it all down. I still have to ignore it when it says “chocolate, sugar, soda!” or “No gym today; there are lunges there!” But those voices are growing a little quieter as the days pass.

Maybe listening to my body – when it says sensible things – is the best type of progress.

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