Thursday, March 31, 2016

I wish one of my book clubs would pick this book...

Have you gotten around to reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin yet? She wrote The Happiness Project, which I truly enjoyed, and Happier at Home, which I enjoyed slightly less. Better Than Before delves into the science and experience of habits, and I found this book to be exceedingly enlightening. I've been wanting to talk to you about this for the past month, and have just not gotten around to it...

Since I have chosen to really focus on health and wellness this year, I read this book at the perfect time. Rubin contends that habits save time and energy.
In other words, if waking up and going to boot camp, choosing veggies over popcorn, and water over soda are habits, they eliminate the time and energy that goes into those particular decisions...

She also says you have to understand your motivation, so that you may determine how you make and break your habits. There are four motivations, dependent upon how you might wish to meet expectations - she calls them the Four Tendencies: Upholder (meets outer and inner expectations,) Questioner (meets inner expectations, questions outer,) Rebel (eschews all expectations,) and Obliger (wants to meet outer expectations, doesn't care about inner expectations.) Guess which one I am.
fb_ObligerHeck yeah, I'm an obliger. One time I opened one of those Dove Promises (dark chocolate, duh,) and the wrapper read, "Keep the promises you make to yourself." I really liked that, and kept it as a quote on my computer at work, but my guess is I kept the saying because I knew it would never apply to me. Sadly, I do not keep the promises I make to myself. If I decide I'm going to boot camp in the morning, there's a 50/50 chance I will turn the alarm off and go back to sleep. But if I make plans to meet a friend there, let Mel know I'll be there, or even just put a Facebook message that I will be there, I will freaking show, because someone may be looking for me, and I don't want to let them down. I didn't keep up with the Whole 30 because I promised myself, I kept it up because I was talking to all of you about it. That really helped. And I'm starting another one on Monday, and you all will be coming along for the ride, because, holy crap, did I just fall off and eat all of the things. Back to all my old, stinky, sugary habits.

Which leads me to the next habit fact from Better Than Before that really resonated: people generally identify as moderators or abstainers, and if you are one, the other tactic generally will not work for you.

Let's explore this a bit, shall we? We've all heard the phrase "everything in moderation," right? You can keep something you enjoy, say, ice cream, in the house, have a small serving every few days, and be happy, and not gain weight...if you are a moderator. But then there are those of us for whom a small serving only whets our appetite for more, and the next thing we know, half the container is gone, and we feel like that ice cream may be showing its not-so-delicious self the way out the in-door. That is why, I think, the Whole 30, with all its strict "I could never stick to that" rules, worked for me. I couldn't eat any of the things I tend to binge on, so I didn't even try to moderate, which more than likely would have led to a binge. I abstained. And that worked. It's the same reason I will not get on the computer for 20 minutes, or watch just one show. I am not a moderator, I am an abstainer. Which makes it easy for me to go for months without alcohol, certainly, but very difficult for me to do anything in moderation.

I may have to read this again, so if you choose to read it, please let me know so we can discuss it. You can find out what your tendency is (my tendency is to want to spell tendency, tendancy...) by taking the quiz here. Although, my tendency was so obvious to me, I did not need any quiz.

So. Yup. Starting another Whole 30 on Monday. I may go a bit longer than 30, and then I will (and I promise to all of you) do a slow, steady reintroduction. I lost 18 lbs on that freaking plan, and I gained back more than half. That was a lot of work to undo, and no Pepsi is worth that. So I will be checking in everyday again - hope you all don't mind. My Obliger self needs you...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

May you be happy.

I had a rather extraordinary spiritual experience tonight, and I'd like to talk about it, if you don't mind.

I don't meditate much. I have this idea of myself as a spiritual person who meditates, but I really don't - at least not in the traditional, seated meditation. I have friends who say they don't meditate because they can't sit still, or they can't shut their brains off, etc. That's not my issue. It is, like anything else, a discipline, and not one I make time for regularly. As a woman who suffers anxiety and depression, regular meditation would be a useful tool in my kit of healing. When I fit it into my day, specifically my morning, I find myself so much more clear-headed, and calmer.

Regular meditation also fits my happy little hodge-podge spirituality I have developed for myself. Anyone who has read here long enough, or knows me well in real life, knows my spiritual story, mainly because I find spirituality a lovely part of life to discuss, when discussed with open-minded individuals, and some of my friends are kind enough to oblige my desire to discuss. I grew up in the Lutheran church, among some of the kindest and loveliest people I've ever known. The minister was open-minded and compassionate, and the people at church were family. I miss my confirmation friends to this day, and Facebook has been a blessing in that I've been able to catch up on their lives.

What I'm saying here is that nothing drove me from the church. As one with, shall we say, non-traditional beliefs, I meet so many people who have had horrible experiences with church and the people they meet there. That is not the case with me. I taught Sunday School and VBS, sang in the choir, volunteered on committees. And I realized, as I had children and put them in VBS and Sunday School, that I didn't actually believe what I was teaching. I went to church to be social, to belong, because my friends and family were there, because I liked being useful to someone. But when my children would ask me questions about God or heaven, or anything else to do with Christianity, away from church, I didn't want to tell them things I didn't believe. Shortly after I came to this realization, we found out we were moving out of state, and I didn't have to Leave the church in which I grew up. I just moved away, and began my own spiritual journey.

Interestingly enough, with all the aspects of my life which worry me incessantly, my spirituality never did. I have enjoyed this journey. I am fascinated by studying different world religions - the more ancient, the better. I've become close friends with people who practice Buddhism, Judaism, Paganism, Hinduism, and many who practice nothing at all. My own beliefs and practices are informed by a little big of all of it, along with a small dose of my own childhood Christianity, and overall informed by my knowledge that I really know nothing, and that I am okay with that. Such an odd peace to achieve, when I fret about so much else. I, who always worries what others might be saying about me; I, who has a seriously hearty case of paranoia when it comes to even my closest friends; I have had no trouble responding to people who accused me of being a bad mother because I was not raising my children in the church. "How will they know right from wrong, good from bad, if they don't know God?" they ask. My response: a person who does good only because they fear the wrath of God, does not truly know right from wrong. A good person does good for the sake of good. Because it is the right thing to do. That is my belief.

Anyway, if you've made it this far, I appreciate it. I'm not talking about this to start a debate, or for you to save my soul (please don't try to save my soul. I'm ok.) I brought this up because A. I'm feeling introspective, and B. I found myself compelled to light candles tonight.

A photo posted by Missy Schueman Koeppel (@missy_koeppel_) on

This was a ritual I started close to 10 years ago, when we first moved here, and most of my family was out of town. It was inspired by a good and wise friend, who, when someone would talk about something bad happening, would light a candle for them. I took that bit and added in a little of the candle meditation (a very simple and gentle meditation where you focus on the flame of the candle, imagining that you are breathing the light of the candle in and out of you. It strengthens concentration, and sometimes, meditating on a focus object like this can help quiet the mind more effectively.) I haven't done this in 6 years. Life, you know. But yesterday, a coworker spent the day at the hospital with her grandmother. Last night, a good friend had to take her grandmother to chemo. The cashier at lunch today told me she was carrying malachite in her pocket because her grandmother was going through radiation treatments. And each time someone told me something like this, I said, "I will keep you and your family in my thoughts." And today of all days, those weren't just words, and I thought about all these people, and so many others, all day, and when I got home, and I didn't want to go to dinner with my family (no reason, just not hungry,) I saw it as a chance to perform the candle-lighting ritual. So I did, and with each candle I lit, I spoke what I knew of the person who is ill, and the person who is caring for that person, and their family. And then I started saying the names of others who are having some stress in their lives right now - my friend and coworker who is having to control a monster of a workload, and hurt her foot this morning; a friend who had minor surgery last week; my mother, always; a friend from boot camp who got hurt recently and I haven't seen in way too long; another coworker who lost her grandmother recently; another boot camp friend who has the flu...and then those with happy changes made their way into my, now silent, meditation...the families I love who have new babies; the friend with the new job; the friend with new responsibilities at her job; my children, for every reason; divorces, illnesses, deaths, new babies, new jobs, new houses, new coffee mugs...and soon the whole thing coalesced into one recurring thought, "May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful, and at ease."

This is the Metta meditation - the Buddhist meditation of loving-kindness. It was extremely appropriate, but I didn't light my first candle this evening intending to practice the Metta meditation. It happened organically and spontaneously, and it was rather extraordinary.

I feel at peace and very connected to you all this evening.
May we be happy.
May we be well.
May we be safe.
May we be peaceful, and at ease.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

When you're down...and troubled...

It's been a full week since I blogged, which is crazy, since I posted at least every other day last month. I feel like I have so much to tell you all! What with the life-saving research, diplomatically maintaining international relations, and the star-studded premieres, it's amazing I have time at all for the usual job, sports, workouts, books, etc. It's a delicate balance, people.

Let's start with food - oh, I have fallen off the wagon and fallen hard. I have some serious thoughts about that, and it is a blog post all its own. Let's just say, I think I need to stick with a modified Whole 30, and we'll talk further about it tomorrow.

This past weekend was lovely. Our regional Odyssey of the Mind tournament was on Saturday. The Girl is no longer involved in OM, I volunteered to judge the regionals as a favor to a friend, and it was great fun. First of all, I was put in the position of timekeeper - who is also the announcer. These people who assigned jobs did not even know me, and yet, they put me in the perfect job. There are so few people who actually enjoy public speaking so much as I do, even when it simply consists of announcing the next group of 3rd graders to their own parents. This went on from 8AM until about 4PM. After that, I went home and hung out with my husband and did my taxes. Because a truly wild Saturday night includes taxes and a 9PM bedtime.

Sunday was even better - made a grocery list, handed it to my husband and washed my hands of it, as I did not have to do the shopping, huzzah! No, Sunday was for my "I finished the Whole 30!" pedicure with my friend, S, about whom I have been wanting to write for the past few days. Which I will do in a minute, as I want to finish out my lovely day - a visit to my mom, and then out to my friend J's, where we drank wine, ate tiny, delicious cheesecakes, laughed hysterically, and dumped sugar all over her stuff - I mean unpacked boxes. It was way too much fun to have been "helping."

Remember, about two years ago, instead of the whole "I am thankful for" November posts, I decided to pick an actual person to laud? I don't know that I ever described S, and perhaps that is because I am trying to hide her from all of you and keep her for myself. We met pretty soon after I moved to KY - we joined the same book club, and you know that is enough to make me love her. She is relatively quiet and reserved, which led me to think, "Oh, she won't like me..." But...she was one of the few in the book club who actually read, and wanted to discuss, the books. And we started chatting more, and then one day she invited me to lunch to discuss interesting spiritual matters, and I love a good spiritual discussion, which led to the birth of a rather short-lived spiritual discussion group...but not because we had nothing to discuss (people kept moving.) She has introduced me to some of my other favorite people, we still talk books all the time, and she is one of the few people with whom I always want to spend time.

S is smart - wicked smart, but she doesn't shove it down your throat, and she lets me babble incessantly, whether I know of which I speak or not, and does not try to make me out to be an idiot (sort of like you guys! Aww, thanks!) She also reads this blog, in addition to some awesome books. She is one of the people whose book suggestions almost always pan out (I am still slightly leery of the creepy smiley pastor, S, but I'll give him a try.) She has a very dry sense of humor, she is strong and independent, and she is an amazing mom. S is one of the reasons I am so thankful we moved to Kentucky, and I am one lucky ducky to call her friend.

Yesterday was International Women's Day, but every day is a great day to celebrate strong, beautiful women. Tell me about some of your favorite females.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Whole 30 Results and Day 1 Reintroduction

Oh! Hello!I'm Missy. You may remember me from such places as...this blog. Facebook. And the drunk chick at last year's Halloween party.

So, you're probably wondering how I did over the past 30 days. I should probably have something slightly more interesting that just weights, but that is what I have. This is rather insane, as I am about to post my actual weight on a public space, but let's face it - nobody who knows me is under any impression that I am a slender woman, so, why not be honest here.

Starting weight (January 2): 288.0 lbs.
Whole 30 start (January 30): 282.6 lbs.
Whole 30 end (March 1): 271.4

Today was day 1, reintroduction. I added black beans to my breakfast soup, and I had hummus and veggies at lunch. But then.

Ok, so, let me explain. Today was my first day after 30 days of restriction, and one of the girls in the office, not just any girl, but the resident baking girl, brought in homemade chocolate chip cookies on the first day I was allowed sugar after 30 days...I had 1. I know! I know I said I wouldn't the first day, but it was like...a sign?

So I did have one cookie. But let's reiterate that - I had 1. Cookie. And I sniffed it, and ate it slowly with a very lovely ginger peach green tea, and I enjoyed every bite. And I didn't go get another.

I'm going to count that as a win.