In Search of the Right Combination

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A lot of people are constantly in search of the right combination of medication. Which prescription will keep them level? What can they take that will help them be the people they want to be?

I’m not a fan of medication of any kind, you don’t have to know me for very long to learn that. I will admit that a fear of mine is discovering some ailment I might have that would require me to join in the search for the best medication combination.

I realized something the other day, however. I am already searching for the best combination for me. I just choose a different form of medication. Right now, my combination consists of Bikram Yoga, hooping, and reading books and blog posts to better understand myself.

I tweak my combination regularly, because it never seems quite right. I also occasionally add running, counting calories, and eating less sugar, all of which are helpful, yet I keep searching. With my current combination, I can get almost to where I need to be, but I always feel just on the other side of that “healthy” fence. The most recent form of healing I’m seeking is called Rolfing.

Rolfing is also called Structural Integration. It’s similar to massage, however, the focus of Rolfing is to realign your body in relation to gravity by manipulating deep facial tissue.

I LOVE massages, professional and amateur alike. But what I’ve always wanted out of a massage is to find out what is causing the tension. I’ve known for a while that just because my shoulders are tight, it doesn’t necessarily mean the issue is in my shoulders. I’ve gotten massages from a few people who are able to track and locate the actual root of the issue, but those people are very hard to find. Finding the root of the issue is the central focus of Rolfing.

I also believe that emotions are stored in our muscles, and I’m hopeful that Rolfing will help me access emotions I have difficulty accessing on my own. So far, my journey to self-help has largely been without professional assistance. I’m interested to see what comes up when I involve someone trained to notice the things I take for granted and therefore may have never worked on independently.

My goal in combining these different “medications” is bringing my whole body into alignment with my mind, so that the two do not conflict. I think everybody, regardless of whether or not they are seeing a professional or doing their own personal research, is looking for the right combination to help them on their way to their own personal goals. What do you think your combination involves?

In other news, a quick update on what I’ve been up to since falling off the face of the earth: I got a new job, I got interviews from some awesome people, and I got engaged. All of which I’ll discuss in the coming weeks!

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Super Simple Movement Activity For Non-Movers

Despite my honorable intentions to avoid it, being at Green’s parents’ house (there has to be an easier way to say that) has resulted in a whole lot of sitting on my ass and not a lot of moving around.

I don’t know what it is about this house, but being here makes me feel lazy, and my body is pretty angry at me. I’m lacking energy, and I’m SORE as hell. I live in a body that’s used to doing intense sessions of hardcore sweaty yoga and hooping for hours. And here I am letting it atrophy. It’s not happy with me at all.

Our bodies gotta move. They don’t like sitting still. Still bodies start to stiffen and lock up.

Does that mean you have to get out of your house and go to the gym for half an hour to wake up your body? No, not at all. You can do some easy, simple stretches and body awareness exercises right here, wherever you are. If you aren’t a big mover and you want an insanely simple place to start, or even if you are into movement and exercise but you’re having one of those days where it’s tough to get going, here’s a quick activity to try.

Oh, before you start, I should state that I’m not a professional stretching instructor person, I have no licenses or doctorates that qualify me to instruct you, so try this at your own risk and go at your own pace. This activity is pretty dang low key, though. It’s gleaned from almost ten years of practicing yoga and personal experience/discoveries.

I’ve broken it down into three steps. Do as many or as few as you like, but at least try the first step. You may surprise yourself with what you discover about your own body!

You should try it right now. Go ahead. You don’t have to leave your computer or anything.

You do have to stand up, though. Come on. On your feet!

STEP ONE:

-Stand with your feet together. If you can’t get them to touch, bring them as close together as is comfortable without losing your balance.

-Focus on sending your body weight into your heels. If it feels like you’re going to topple backwards, lift your chin and pull your shoulders back (either try rolling them back, or imagine you’re pulling your shoulder blades together in the center of your back).

-While you stand here, think about your spine. That’s that set of bones that starts right below your hips and travels all the way up to the base of your skull. Think about pulling it upwards so that it is as straight as possible. Lifting your chest up helps this, as does attempting to touch the top of your head to the ceiling.

-Relax, then try this again. The point of this step is to gain awareness of your body’s natural alignment.

-At this point, I should mention that your breathing should be natural. Don’t hold your breath for any of this. If you catch yourself holding your breath, back off and go back to the last step you could comfortably breathe in.

STEP TWO:

-While standing in focused alignment (from Step One), bring your arms out to your sides, palms facing up. Bring your arms all the way up over your head, and cross your fingers together.

-Very gently, use your grip on your own hands to pull your arms up straight. The goal is straight elbows. You should feel this in your shoulders. If you’re having trouble getting your elbows straight, focus on gently pressing on your ears with your arms.

-Slowly and deliberately start to pull your arms slightly backward. Keep them straight. Remember to lift your chest and focus on the alignment of your spine. Try to keep your weight in your heels if possible. If you feel like you are straining your neck, you can drop your head back if it’s comfortable.

-Slowly push your hips a bit forward. Keep your chest lifted. Breathe normally. What you should be feeling here is a little bit of a back bend. If your back hurts a little, that’s okay, but back off if you feel any sharp, shooting pain.

-Alternate lifting your chest up and pushing your hips out, then relaxing into your normal stance. If “lifting your chest” isn’t working for you, here’s what you’re aiming for: Take a deep breath and hold it, then pull your shoulders back slightly. You should feel your sternum raise up. When you let your breath out, try to keep your chest where it is.

(You can drop your arms whenever you need a rest and bring them back up when you’re ready as you do Step Two.)

STEP THREE:

-Keeping your arms up above your head, bend your knees. Suck in your belly. Bring your upper body down slowly, doing your best to keep your back straight and your chest lifted. Bend your knees as much as you need to in order to touch the floor.

-As soon as your hands are on the floor, let them support your body weight. Let your neck go. Allow the weight of your head to hang down, gently and naturally stretching out your neck. If you’re having trouble letting it go, you can try slowly turning your head from side to side as if shaking your head “no”.

-Keeping your belly sucked in to protect your lower back, bend and straighten one leg at a time. Do this at your own pace. The goal is to attempt to straighten each leg while letting the other relax in a bent position. Remember to keep your feet as close together as possible. If you’re having trouble with balance, you can move your hands further out in front of you.

-As you straighten each leg, shift your attention to your hip joint. Feel the stretch there. If you can identify where your hip joint is, slowly let yourself sink into it a little bit. From there, you can shift your focus to getting a slight stretch in your lower back. (Again, suck in your belly so that this is done safely.)

-When you’ve stretched out each leg to your satisfaction, or if you’re just ready to stop hanging upside down, suck in your belly, bend your knees, and slowly roll back up to standing, stacking each vertebrae on top of the last as you go. Stand for a few moments in your focused alignment from Step One. Take at least three slow, deliberate breaths.

-Smile. πŸ™‚ Your body says thanks!

Cycles of Self-Respect and Self-Neglect

I haven’t been posting too much recently because I haven’t been in the best of moods, but I’ve felt that if I’m trying to post stuff that makes other people feel good, I should probably feel good myself.


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Unfortunately, the truth is, I’ve been in something of a slump. I haven’t been going to yoga, I’ve been eating lots of ice cream, and I’ve been spending hour after hour locked in front of my computer watching Project Runway on Hulu. (By the way, I’m officially out of Project Runway episodes to watch, does anyone happen to have seasons 1-6 on DVD that I could borrow and watch obsessively?)

I’m getting dizzy spells when I stand up and I’ve broken out in my yearly summer rash. I’m a non-stop itch machine. Green and I are trying to move out of our apartment and all I want to do is lie on the floor and play Animal Crossing. (That’s not true, all I want to do is lie on the floor and watch Project Runway. But I’m out.)

In addition, I’ve noticed my waking temperatures (which I’ve been tracking every morning since going off the pill) are extremely low, in the 95 – 97 degree range. This could be a sign of thyroid issues, which might explain my dizzy spells, my rash, and why I’m lethargy-prone. I really don’t want to get it checked out, though, because I’m terrified of a positive diagnosis, and I do not want to be on thyroid medication.

The tipping point came yesterday, when I broke down in a fit of tears for no discernible reason.

And all this time, I’m thinking, “I should really blog about something,” but I’ve been avoiding blogging about my miserable mood because Jessica Mullen recommends only blogging about what you want more of, and I certainly don’t want more of my miserable mood. The “post-what-you-want” method works in theory, except for the fact that avoiding posting because I’m not in a great mood is just making me feel worse, and less authentic.

The truth is, I am a cyclical being. Ever since I started to be more health conscious, I’ve gone through cycles of being super on top of things and feeling great, to lying in slumps of absolute misery. It happens. I think it’s almost worse to get my hopes up thinking THIS TIME it will be permanent, because then when I fall off the wagon, I spend extra time beating myself up about the fact that I’m not being healthy like I know I should (and can) be. Which sets me back even further.

So my new motto, which I’ll repeat once more, is: IT HAPPENS. There are times when I let my health slack and I pull inward, staying home more than I go out. It happens, and I know I’m not the only one it happens to, either. So perhaps reading about my current temporary setbacks might make someone else feel less guilty about their own, because I think it is natural to be cyclical. It can’t be summer all the time, there has to be winter to balance things out.

Learning this stuff is a lifetime journey. Living healthfully, especially in a society that promotes dis-ease and quick fixes, is tough.

The good news, however, is that the more years I spend learning about health, the shorter my slumps get, and the longer my good stretches last. If nothing else, I can look forward to the fact that it can only get better from here. Not only that, but because of how much I’ve learned in the past, I know exactly how to fix it.


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My constant search for curing the problem and not the symptoms will never end. When I get to the point where I feel so bad that I know it’s time to get back on track, I ultimately find articles or books that point me in the right direction. This time, I’m giving cutting out sugar another shot. Five years ago, I did it for a month, but I ate lots of fruit and honey and felt miserable the entire time. It turns out that honey and fruits are just as bad for your system as refined sugar.

The stars seem to be aligning on this one: I know it’s sugar that’s slugging me down, and I’ve been reading Sarah Wilson‘s “I Quit Sugar” series on her blog for tips and support. Incidentally, Sarah Wilson also blogs about naturally healing and living with auto-immune disease (which includes thyroid issues).

The icing on the cake: A friend of mine on Facebook announced that she’s about to start her own 60 Days Without Sugar Challenge, and would anyone care to join her? Well, I love me a good challenge (and this one comes with a prize for the winner! A $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com, heck yes!), so I’ve signed up. The challenge starts July 6th, but I’ve already started, because I’m sick of feeling terrible. If anyone else wants to try this with me, check out Sarah Wilson’s blog and we’ll rock this out.

During slumps, it’s important to remember that they are only temporary, and that you have the power to get yourself back on track. At the same time, it’s just as important not to beat yourself up. We are human beings after all, and if the worst thing we’re doing to ourselves is having a few pints of ice cream and sleeping late for a month or two in between long stretches of honoring our bodies, I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

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Training Yourself to Like Healthy Food


Dinner Green made for us the other night

I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t smoke cigarettes. I don’t do drugs, I don’t pop pills, I don’t even drink coffee (okay, I do occasionally, but as a treat, not a way to get out of bed).

But I do eat food. I love food. Actually, I think a better way to put it is that I love eating.

When I was a kid, I adored junk food. Chips, pizza, soda, Girl Scout cookies (Thin Mints are my favorite!), I loved it all. I probably loved it even more because it was never in great abundance at my house. I saw my friends at school get nutter butters and mini-bags of chips in their lunches at school. I always felt envious of them.

When I finally lived on my own, I would treat myself to an entire bag of chips all for myself. Or an entire pizza, an entire pint of ice cream, whatever I was craving, I let myself lavish the experience of not having to share with anyone.

And I HATED vegetables. I wouldn’t eat them. If they came mixed in with food I’d ordered at a restaurant, I would painstakingly pick them out. If I accidentally crunched into one, I’d gag involuntarily. The meal in the picture above would not have made my mouth water like it does now. Instead, it would have sent me in the opposite direction, looking for the frozen pizza.

So how did I turn all that around? How did I get from a place where I waited until my mother’s back was turned so I could throw my vegetables in the trash, to where I now eat them happily, and consider spinach and onions a luxury as opposed to a family-sized bag of Doritos?

It wasn’t overnight. I first started actively shifting my diet toward healthier eating almost a decade ago, and I know now that the “transition” may never be complete. There’s always new things to learn, new foods to try, new ways to look at eating. The best advice I’ve gotten as far as healthy eating goes came from my dear friend Shellie White of The Healthy Hooper: Learn as much as you can, then use what works for you.

You are the only one who can change your eating habits. You have to want to do it, and you have to know your reasons. I decided to start eating better because I kept hearing about centenarians on the radio. You know, the people who live to be 100 or older. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I decided I wanted to become a centenarian myself.


Look, you even get an award for making it to 100! (source)

I was out of high school and working at Subway when I realized that I probably wouldn’t become a centenarian if I didn’t learn to like vegetables. Being around them all the time likely helped prod me in the right direction as well. I had to chop the tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and cucumbers that I didn’t eat in preparation for the people who did. It was during my time at Subway that I decided to start training myself to like vegetables.

Nine years later, I live with a boyfriend who works at a restaurant that makes its meals from local organic produce. He cooks delicious, veggie-rich meals for us that I eat with pleasure.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the course of my healthy eating journey:

1) Know your reasons.


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WHY do you want to eat healthier? To lose weight? To feel better? To avoid disease? To widen your food vocabulary? As I mentioned above, I knew I wanted to live to be 100. I also knew my family has a history of heart disease and diabetes, and if I was going to live to such a ripe age, I would have to get my eating under control.

What are your reasons? Make a list. Write them down. Think of as many as you can, then see if you can spot a common theme or goal among them. Do you want to stave off a family illness? Do you feel crummy and sluggish every day? If you don’t have a solid reason for changing your diet, you are less likely to push forward. Understand that healthy eating is a decision, a choice. Every choice has a reason and motivation. Find yours, write it down, and put it in a place where you will see it.

2) Start small.


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If you’re where I was, eating nothing but Tombstone pizzas, Taco Bell and Dr. Pepper, the idea of transitioning to eating 100% healthy can seem daunting. So pick something small, something doable, and do it. For me, it was cucumbers. I challenged myself to eat one slice of cucumber every time I went into work. How’s that for small?

Other first steps to consider: Eliminate soda, replace it with water. A lot of people addicted to soda claim to “not like” water. I know, because I did it, too. But try it. Try going one day without soda. Now try going another day without it. Go a week, drinking only water, and then when you crack into that Dr. Pepper, it will taste sickeningly sweet and you may wonder how you ever drank so much of it in the first place. I decided to give up soda when I watched Supersize Me and learned just how much sugar was in one can. Knowing my family’s history of diabetes, I understood that if I didn’t get my sugar intake under control, I could end up giving myself insulin shots every day. And I’m terrified of needles. Just thinking of stabbing myself every day proves motivation enough to steer clear of too much sugar.

You can also try replacing dessert with fruit, trying to cook one meal a week at home rather than eating out, anything that points you in the right direction. Be patient with yourself, don’t expect to get there all at once. Let yourself try new things and see which ones stick.

3) Eat your veggies by hiding the fact that they’re veggies.


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When I first started training myself to like vegetables, I had to fool myself into eating them. As I said earlier, eating them used to cause me to gag, so at first, I did as much as I could to mask their natural flavor. When I ate my one slice of cucumber, I’d drench it with ranch dressing. I LOVED ranch dressing, so I tried to tell myself I was eating a chip covered in ranch and not a cucumber. Eventually, I made myself slowly reduce the amount of dressing I put on each slice, until I could eat it without the dressing.

If ranch isn’t your cup of tea, pick a different medium. Italian dressing. Mashed potatoes. Macaroni and cheese. Chocolate ice cream. Whatever gets the vegetable in your mouth.

I found that getting used to the texture of raw veggies was just as big a challenge as getting used to the taste. If the same goes for you, try working cooked vegetables into your meals. They are mushier and a little bit easier to blend into something else.

4) Try cooking.


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If you’re like me, you eat out a lot. You don’t know your ass from a measuring cup. You view people who can throw a meal together from haphazard ingredients in the cupboard as some sort of superhuman rocket scientists.

Challenging yourself to make your own meal is a good way to get more in touch with your food. In addition, you also get that fun rush of adrenaline that comes from creation. You started with a handful of ingredients, and now you have an edible thing! You may find that you love cooking, and be encouraged to try it more. For me, cooking never became a habit, but I have a much greater appreciation for what goes into a meal, and food in general.

5) Challenge yourself.


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I love a good challenge. There’s nothing like specific goal, written down on paper and bragged about to all my friends and family so that they can mock me mercilessly if I fail. On the journey to good health, I’ve challenged myself to write down what I eat every day, to eat a specific set of foods every day, to eliminate sugar for thirty days (my mother successfully did this for an entire YEAR), to try making all my own meals for a week, to try eating small portions every few hours instead of three big meals a day, to try at least one bite of every meal offered to me.

Giving yourself a time frame makes it more achievable, since you don’t go into it thinking you’ll commit to it for life. Every eating challenge you take on will teach you something about yourself and the limits of your eating habits. You may discover something now that you put into practice years later. The point of these challenges is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new, and then pay attention to how you react to it. How do you feel on your challenge? Do you think you could sustain something like it over the long term? Giving yourself bold tasks to accomplish will help you carve out the building blocks for your healthy lifestyle.

6) Learn.


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Read books, watch movies, talk to people, read blogs, browse YouTube. Learn about what your food is made of, where it comes from, what it does to your body, how it’s made, its history, its controversy, anything. The more you know about food, the more attention you’ll give it. You’ll stop looking at it as just something to put into your mouth and instead start thinking about how it will make you feel, what effect it might have on you, and more.

I’m not saying you’ll never eat another piece of cake again. But like anything else, knowledge is power. Knowing exactly what’s in that cake puts the power in your hands, everything you eat becomes an active choice.

Documentaries I love that changed my views on food include Supersize Me and Food, Inc.. Books that helped me learn about food and its effect on the body include The Great American Detox Diet by Alex Jamieson, and The PH Miracle by Robert Young. I also love Kris Carr’s blog, Crazy Sexy Life.

These are just jumping off points. There’s plenty of information out there, and learning is a constant process that should never feel finished.

7) Surround yourself with people who eat healthy.


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One of the toughest things to do when you’re trying to change your eating habits is to hang around people who have no interest in changing theirs. You get teased for turning down cookies and mocked for eating small portions. Going out to eat together becomes challenging, especially if you do as I did and eventually eliminate fast food from your diet.

Sometimes people just won’t understand why you would want to eat anything other than junk food. It can be difficult, especially in the beginning, to try to explain it to them, and to stick to your guns when they offer you your favorite foods.

Find someone, even if it’s just one person, who also has an interest in eating well. Spend time with them. Eat with them. For me, it was my mother. I was lucky enough to have a mom who spent my whole life trying to teach me about health and good eating. I didn’t listen at first, but once I started to make that switch, she became a valuable resource and a trusted friend. I also knew that I could go visit her and get a good, healthy meal. If you don’t have anyone at all in your life like this, find someone! The Internet is full of social networking sites. Make a Facebook post mentioning you’re looking for someone to eat salad with. It sounds silly, but having someone in your corner makes everything easier.

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Above all, accept and embrace the journey that is health. Every day is a chance to discover something new about yourself. Every time you try a new food, experiment with a new diet, read a good food book, or chat with a friend about vegetables, you learn something about yourself. Your journey is going to be different from mine, and that’s GOOD. Take your time and feel it out. Trust that if you take enough small steps in the right direction, you will get there eventually.

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How I Didn’t Lose Weight Hooping

Here’s what I looked like before I started hooping:

And here’s what I look like now:


I’ve lost a little bit of weight in the two years and eight months I’ve been hooping. People often ask me if hooping is a good way to lose weight. Sometimes I tell them yes, that I lost 40 pounds since I started hooping. They always look at me in awe, and I always feel a bit guilty when I tell them this. It’s not un-true, I DID lose 40 pounds after I started hooping. Yes, hooping is good exercise, and yes, I’m sure you probably could lose weight from it. But hooping is not a magic bullet, and I did not lose the bulk of my 40 pounds by hooping.

That’s not to say hooping didn’t play a role in my weight loss. It did. It played a HUGE role, because hooping was the catalyst that made me want to actively lose weight and keep it off.

Weight loss was never one of my reasons for picking up the hoop. To be honest, I didn’t even think of it until people saw me doing it and said, “That must be a great way to lose weight!” The reason I originally picked up the hoop in the first place is I saw a video of SaFire doing it, and I thought, “Holy crap. That looks FUN.”

And hooping IS fun. I found that out very quickly. I practiced tirelessly, at least an hour a day for the first few months. I became addicted, practicing with the goal of one day being able to move as if I wasn’t even trying, like the hoopers I’d seen on YouTube. I got into filming and posting videos of my hooping, because I wanted to have something to gauge my progress by. Exactly five months in, I shot and posted this video:

It was a very scary video for me to post, because all I could see was my belly hanging out over my stupid plaid pajama pants. When I originally posted it, I called it something like “Fat Belly Hooping” and added a bunch of annotations basically apologizing for my belly. Here’s something I did not forsee: The army of fat belly fetishists that crawled out of the woodwork to subscribe to me. I liked to click on the channels of my new subscribers to see what kinds of videos they posted or watched. Imagine my disgust when this new slew of subscribers watched videos of, I kid you not, extremely obese women prodding their belly fat for five minutes at a time.

Didn’t do much for my self esteem, granted. But it did make me want to take action. I didn’t want people to subscribe to my channel to watch my belly jiggle. I wanted them to subscribe to watch me hoop! And I wanted to feel PROUD in that hoop. I wanted to feel GOOD about videos I posted, without worrying that some perv was checking out my goods. And not even the right goods, for crying out loud. So I re-named the video (took “belly” out of it completely), adjusted the annotations to be more self-loving, and set out on my goal to slim down.

So how did I lose the weight?

1. I counted calories.

I was spending the night at a friend’s house, and as we lay down to go to sleep, I noticed an interesting looking book lying on the table. It was called The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude, and the whole thing was one giant graphic novel. I loved the style immediately. I’m not a big comic book fan, but for some reason, I love non-fiction comics. One of the best books I’ve ever read has got to be Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, but I digress.

The book is part memoir, part how-to, about this woman’s struggle with weight loss and how she finally got it under control by counting calories. I read the entire thing that night (and didn’t get much sleep), and as soon as I got home, I ordered a copy for myself.

Later that week, I figured out my “calorie budget” and started counting. I counted calories diligently for at least three months. I was inspired to keep going by one particular message from the book. I’m paraphrasing, but the gist of it was, “If you stick to your calorie budget, you WILL lose at least one pound a week.” And I did.

2. I ran.

Let me tell you, I never intended to take up running when I started actively working on losing weight. But I attribute my running for the bulk of my weight loss. My friend (a different one) had decided to start the Couch to 5K program as a way to get active. In a nutshell, the program takes you from no running experience at all to running a 5K without stopping by using interval training. When she first told me about it, I was like, “Okay, you have fun with that, I think I’m good on the couch.” I mean, I HATED running. I’d always hated running, ever since they made us do it in elementary school.

But I like challenges, and I like incremental programs, so I checked out the site. And I decided, what the hell, I’ll do it with her. At least I won’t be doing it alone. Also, I couldn’t ignore this particular statement from the site: “Each session should take about 20 or 30 minutes, three times a week. That just happens to be the same amount of moderate exercise recommended by numerous studies for optimum fitness. This program will get you fit.”

It did. In combination with the counting calories, adding in the interval training running really kicked up my weight loss, and, more than that, my positivity about my body.

And I did end up running in a 5K without stopping!

3. I worked out.

In addition to the running, I stumbled upon Zuzanna of Bodyrock.tv completely by accident. I was looking up yoga videos, and I found one of her trying out Locust pose, which wasn’t terribly easy for her. Then I went to check out the rest of her channel, and I was in love. For several reasons, the first being her badass accent.

I also liked the variety of her workouts, how short and manageable they were, and how she showed how to do every exercise.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m not much of a calisthenics person, and I wasn’t terribly diligent with these workouts. But I don’t doubt that they helped me lose weight and gain strength. I did maybe one or two a week for a while.

4. I distanced myself from unhealthy friends.

At the time I started hooping, I was very tight with a household of people. I spent almost all of my free time hanging out with them. They started hooping with me at the beginning, but quickly lost interest. They were smokers, and I wasn’t. They ate terribly, lots of fast food and Starbucks, and I didn’t. Every time I tried to do something healthy and good for myself, I received some sort of smart ass remark. For example, when I told them I was going to take up running, the immediate response I got was, “You know, they’ve done research and found that runners tend to die sooner than people who don’t run.” And when I said I was going to start watching what I eat, I simply got, “Why?”

Separating myself from these people was one of the hardest, but most beneficial things I’ve ever done for myself. I firmly believe that removing their influence from my life is what has allowed me to keep the weight off. Before I left, I was constantly in their swirl of negativity, about how bad the world was and how misunderstood they were (and by association, I was, too), how the slightest setback was a huge catastrophe worth harping on for ages.

The turning point really came when I got back from my first major hoop event, Hoop Path Retreat 3 in North Carolina. (I talk about this event a lot because it really did change my life.) At the retreat, I met all of these people with a passion for hooping, but more than that, a passion for life. They all seemed so happy, so positive, so connected with themselves and everything around them. I hooped more intensely than I ever had before. I spun FIRE for the first time, for crying out loud! Fire! I came home on a cloud of incredible vibes and all I wanted to do was share those vibes with my friends.

When I got home, however, I did not get two words out about my experience before I started hearing about all of the terrible things that had happened around the house while I’d been away. As I got filled in on all the perceived problems in their lives, I realized that was no longer the energy I wanted to be around.

How I finally left could take up a whole separate post of its own. The point is, it had a huge effect on my ability to maintain my weight loss.

~ * ~

So you see, it wasn’t so much hooping itself that caused me to lose weight. It was a series of conscious, diligent efforts that got me to actually drop the pounds. These days when I hoop, it looks more like this:

No more pesky belly, no more pervy belly-watchers. I’ve since deleted most of them from my subscribers anyway. I am still, however, rocking the plaid pjs. πŸ™‚

I don’t doubt at all that hooping strengthened my core muscle and toned up my abs, and I KNOW it’s done incredible (and unexpected!) things for my arms and shoulders, but I don’t think that I would have lost as much weight if I hadn’t done the things listed above.

Oh yeah, there’s one more thing I actively did in all of this:

5. I chose to accept my body as-is.

I found out after dropping three sizes that no matter how much weight you lose, you’ll never quite hit that “sweet spot” where you feel thin. I always thought that if I could get into a size 10, all of my issues about weight would go away. Not so. If you’ve spent your entire life overweight, the tendency is to feel overweight regardless of how much weight you’ve actually dropped.

You can either obsess over it like mad, or you can start learning to accept yourself now. Which is what I finally did. I looked for things that I loved about myself. I told myself I was beautiful. I wore clothes that made me feel proud of my body, rather than clothes that I could just barely squeeze into.

Loving yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself, because the truth is a lot of weight loss is emotional. If you feel like you don’t deserve to have the body you want, you never will. If you feel like you already have the body you want, then it’s easy.

I’m still working towards my “ideal” body, but I am proud of the body I have today, and I feel great hooping in it. And I’m glad that my experiences with the hoop got me started!

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How Yoga Works

I did a quick Google search to see what popped up when I typed in “how yoga works”, and I was a little surprised to find there’s nothing that just comes out and tell you what is happening to your body when you fold yourself into these pretzel shapes, and why it’s good for you.

There’s plenty of links that will tell you yoga is good for flexibility, that it can be a deep spiritual practice, and it has healing effects. All of this is true, but none of it explains why or how. Yoga doesn’t work just by making you more stretchy. And you don’t have to be flexible to gain benefits from yoga.

I know a lot of my friends don’t know what yoga’s really about, I’d wager even a lot of people who do yoga don’t know (I know I didn’t really know until I’d been taking class for a few years).

My ex (who is still a good friend of mine) and I were talking about yoga once, because I’d constantly tried to get him to come with me through the entirety of our relationship*. I thought it would help him SO much and I didn’t understand why he was unwilling to try something beneficial. Finally, one day, he said to me, “Okay. Tell me how yoga works. And do it without using words like ‘spirit’ and ‘flow’ and ‘energy’ or any weird hippy-dippy jargon.”

And I said, sure thing.

How Yoga Works (Without the Hippy-Dippy Jargon):

Yoga works by cutting off the blood flow to a given part of your body during the posture. When you are in the posture, a tourniquet effect is created, damming up the blood in the area you are compressing, while simultaneously stretching the muscles in another part of your body.

When you come out of the posture, a reserve of fresh, oxygenated blood flows into the area that was compressed.

In our day-to-day lives, most of us spend all of our time sitting, standing, or lying down. Our blood circulates evenly (hopefully) throughout our system. When you do yoga, however, you are sending fresh blood to every part of your body through a series of postures. This “wakes up” your body. Getting a rush of fresh blood provides that part of your body with more oxygen and nutrients in twenty seconds than it would otherwise get during a normal day. This is why you have more energy after class than you do going in.

It’s also why yoga is so good for injuries, because you are safely sending healthy blood to a damaged area, rather than letting it atrophy from non-use.

While this compression is happening, there is another part of your body that is getting stretched out, and this is where you gain your flexibility. Yoga teachers stress form over depth. The reason for this is that it’s easy to “cheat” a posture, to make it look good by lifting your hips, leaning one way or another, etc. But by forcing yourself to go only as far as you can with proper form, you are stretching specific muscles that may not get used very often, as well as putting your body in proper alignment for the duration of the posture.

Yoga improves your strength, balance and concentration because in order to hold the postures for very long, you have to focus completely on what you are doing. It also challenges you to learn where to distribute your weight so that you don’t fall on your ass. And since yoga doesn’t use any special equipment**, you are using your own body strength to hold yourself up, twist yourself around, pull yourself down, and so forth.

Those are the physical reasons behind why yoga works and why it heals. Of course, there is more to the practice as a whole than this, such as the importance of breath, but for your basic summary of how yoga works, I feel the above is sufficient.

One more thing I would like to mention is that there is a commonly held misconception that “Hatha” yoga is different from other “types” of yoga (Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram, Vinyasa, etc.). The truth is that ALL of these types of yoga are Hatha yoga. Any yoga where you practice a physical series of postures is Hatha yoga. Unless they study yoga and are aware of the seven other branches of the practice (none of which involve physical postures), what most people in America think of when they hear the word “yoga” is Hatha yoga.

So there you go. Yoga is not just about twisting yourself into funny shapes to impress your friends, or sitting in a quiet room and smiling graciously at your peers while whispering “Namaste”. There are real, legitimate reasons why it is a physically beneficial and healing practice. Reasons that can be explained to your fellow humans without sounding like a granola munching hippie. Even if that’s what you are. πŸ˜‰

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*This is something I don’t do anymore. Trying to get someone to go to yoga when they are resisting is like trying to shove a cat into a toilet paper tube.

**For the most part. There are some schools of yoga that let you use props, like a block or a tension band.

The Rhythm Method vs. the Fertility Awareness Method (THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING)

I’ve spent the past four days reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility, a book by Toni Weschler about the Fertility Awareness Method of birth control. I’ve been off birth control for eight days now, and have been charting my temperatures and cervical fluid each day.

In my reading and discussing my decision with people, I’ve realized that what I’ve always known as “Natural Family Planning”, a lot of people confuse with “The Rhythm Method”, something I vaguely remember my health teacher mentioning in this context: “A lot of people use this method of counting back from their periods but it DOESN’T WORK because EVERY WOMAN IS DIFFERENT and DON’T USE IT.” I’ve caught a little bit of flak and a little bit of concern from friends and strangers alike who don’t realize there’s a difference.

I’m going to say this in all caps so if you were confused, you won’t be anymore because CAPS mean IMPORTANT (and also yelling):

THE FERTILITY AWARENESS METHOD IS NOT THE RHYTHM METHOD.

It’s not even technically Natural Family Planning, although they are almost identical save for FAM allows use of a barrier during your fertile period.

What the Rhythm Method is:

The Rhythm Method “works” by counting backward from your period to predict when you will ovulate during your next cycle. You abstain from sex during this predicted ovulatory phase.

Why the Rhythm method is faulty:

The Rhythm Method assumes consistency from cycle to cycle. However, even women that have a typically consistent cycle can still have delayed ovulation due to stress and other factors. The Rhythm Method is based on assumptions and previous observations, not what is currently going on in your body. There is also no charting aside from keeping track of when your periods start.

What the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is:

FAM uses consistent observation and charting of three ovulation indicators to tell when in your cycle you are ovulating, close to ovulating, or finished ovulating. By tracking 1) your basal (waking) body temperature, 2) your cervical fluids, and 3) your cervical position, FAM tells you what is currently happening in your body.

This is the part where I rave about FAM for a while:

The thing about FAM is that it takes very little time (I take my temperature in the morning when I used to take my pill, I check my cervical fluid when I go to the bathroom, and I check my cervical position when I take a shower) but from just monitoring these few signs, you gain SO MUCH INFORMATION about what’s happening in your body. You can tell when you’re going to get your period, within a day. You can know whether or not you actually ovulated, or if your body only prepared for ovulation but delayed it. You have a much better awareness of potential gynecological problems, and if you need to talk to a doctor, you can go in informed rather than blind.

I’m barely scratching the surface here, but the point is, I am amazed they don’t teach this stuff in high school. Obviously it wouldn’t be smart to present it as birth control, but I think it’s unfair to deny women the right to know how to interpret the changes in their bodies. I mean, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of how the menstrual cycle worked, but I learned stuff I didn’t know by reading this book.

Heck, I learned how the pill works by recognizing the hormones it uses and their place in the menstrual cycle.

I’m excited to see how my first fully-charted cycle goes. They say that when you first come off the pill, your cycles may be a little wonky for a while, but I was only on the pill for not even a full three months after being off it for over a year, so who knows. I’m really trying to resist the urge to force all of my girlfriends to chart with me so we can compare each other’s charts*. (I have already sort of done this to my friend Megan but SHE IS USED TO ME FORCING MY OBSESSIONS ON HER. I love you, Megan.) For the time being, I’m sating my desire to look at other people’s charts by looking at charts posted on the author’s website.

If you are a woman, I HIGHLY recommend you give FAM a look-see, even if you have no desire to use it as birth control or to get pregnant (which I didn’t talk about here, but it works just as well for getting pregnant as it does for avoiding it), simply because there are so many benefits to be gained just by knowing how your body’s a-tickin’.

If nothing else, I hope you’ve got a little clearer view of the difference between FAM and the Rhythm Method.

*That being said, if FAM piques your interest at all and you’d be willing to chart with me and compare and contrast charts, LET ME KNOW I am in my highly obsessive phase of learning something newβ„’ and I would love someone to obsess with. πŸ™‚