eating · eating disorders · fitness · food · habits · Happy New Year! · holidays · new year's resolutions · overeating

Still Recovering From Holiday Overeating? Here’s what I’m doing next.

CW: Discusses disordered eating habits and negative self-talk.

Continuing with my normal life.

No, seriously. The moment the celebrations are over and I feel like, “hmm, maybe it’s time to eat fewer cookies, get a little more sleep and find that gym membership card again,” then I’ll just take one thing and do what is normal for me. I’m not going to ramp up, push hard, or go strong. It is not time to atone, make up for, or negate.

I’m just going to let myself fall back naturally into my old routines. It might take a few days, or a week, or whatever, but I’ll find them again. The key is to not spend my time wallowing in guilt or blaming myself in anger. The more emotion I put behind the transition, the harder it is.

I know because I’ve been there before, and not just at the holidays. You see, for nearly as far back as I can remember, I’ve dealt with compulsive overeating. I stole food and hid it in my room as a little girl. As a teen, I would spend my allowance on donuts and pastries that I would eat while walking home from school. I managed my emotions, my sense of loneliness and isolation, depression, traumatic experiences and their aftermaths with food.

I have spent the better part of the last decade extricating myself from these patterns, and while I can’t say I will never overeat unintentionally again, I can say it occurs less and less frequently.

One of the most powerful tools that helped me was to learn to remove emotions from my observations of these patterns and to switch my internal talk to neutral observations. “Why was I so stupid and ate all that cake again?!” has become “I have eaten more cake than I planned on eating.”

I don’t immediately go into damage control mode. I don’t promise to eat only a salad for dinner that night or swear off cake for the rest of the week. I don’t immediately go out for a run or plan a brutal lifting session. I try to just notice it and move on.

I think the noticing is important, although I haven’t read this anywhere else. My friends who are chronic dieters often seem to do a “I’m eating whatever I want, I don’t care” move and then use that as a way to “ignore” what they are overeating. From what I’ve observed on the outside, this seems to backfire as shame and guilt in the long run. It looks like the act of pretending one doesn’t care builds up increased levels of emotional connection to choices rather than diminishing them.

So, the first step isn’t to pretend I am neutral, but to acknowledge the feelings and the choices and consciously rewrite the observation into a neutral statement. “I care about how much I’m eating and I’m going to eat this cookie anyway” is a much more powerful sentiment than trying to convince myself that I don’t care when I actually do.

Then, when I’m ready to make a different choice–the party is over, I’m not out to brunch with friends, I’m back from vacation, and it’s just another meal–I do whatever I would normally do. The only exception is if I really, truly, just don’t feel like it. If my “usual” is dessert after lunch and dinner, but today I’d rather start with a piece of fruit at lunch, then I eat it. But I have to be honest with myself–it doesn’t work to try to convince myself that I should only want a piece of fruit. And this goes for the other direction as well–if my “usual” is a piece of fruit and I really want dessert, I have to be honest with myself about that, too. Again, the act of trying to convince myself creates too high of stakes and too much emotion. So, I have a serving of what I really want while practicing being neutral, and then I get back to my normal routine.

This works with other habits and routines I’m trying to get back to, too. Stopped going to the gym? Letting myself stay up too late? Need to call my parents more often? I observe it. And then allow myself to do one thing that I used to do that helped me maintain that behavior in the past. I only commit to trying ONE thing. It may be as small as putting it on my calendar or packing my gym bag. I break the inertia, do that one thing and observe it without judgement. And then try again.

And before too long, it will be just another day.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found practicing neutral observations, picking up heavy things, and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

aging · fitness · habits · holidays · motivation · new year's resolutions · season transitions

Words and Challenges for the New Year

Four days in, I’m still adjusting to this fresh start of a decade. We’re living in the 20’s now. A decade that makes me think my word for the year should be … ROAR.

My cousin introduced me to this word of the year practice about 10 years ago. Our guest blogger, Anne Simpson, wrote about her Word of the Year a few days ago. The idea is to distill your hopes, dreams, ambitions and challenges for the coming year into a word. What’s the one word you choose today to describe the year you are aiming for? A word that aspires to something greater, but doesn’t set you up for disappointment. A personal word that captures both who you are already (and you are just dandy the way you are!) and how you can refine that existing excellence. A word that will inspire you for the 364 days to come.

Vortex of black letters on white background
Nathaniel Shuman on Unsplash

Last year, I had some pretty definitive plans for 2019 related to one of my plays and my book that was publishing in July. I wanted to remind myself not to get too caught up in expectations. I also challenged myself to meditate every day. My word was PRESENCE. In 2018, I was immersed in book writing and my personal challenge was to not shop for clothes or shoes for the whole year. My word was ATTENTION. 

A quick note about these challenges I mention. I’m not one for resolutions. Or maybe I just don’t like the word, in the context of the New Year. There’s something about resolutions that always feels like someone/something is chastising me to do better. And I was never very good at sticking to resolutions. But I have developed a habit of setting myself a challenge for the year. And, weirdly, I generally manage to stick to my challenges. Could just be that the word is more motivating. My challenges are usually ways of being that I want to try on for size, with no commitment to extend after the year is over. You can bet I’ve shopped for some new clothes since 2018 finished.

This year feels largely unknown and fluid. Scary. I have some specific events I’m looking forward to–talks I’m giving in Princeton at The Present Day Club and San Francisco at The Battery; another reading of my play at Missouri State University; plus a new workshop series I’m planning with a friend of mine. I don’t know what any of these will lead to. I don’t know what my big project for the year will be. A new book? Another play? Rolling out the workshops? Plus, there’s my challenge for the year—no buying anything (except books/tv/film) on amazon. I may also go back to an alternate month no-shopping practice, because the prospect is peaceful to contemplate.

All in all, I feel open. Excited. Super daunted. And sometimes a little frustrated, because shouldn’t a woman in her 50’s be looking forward to a steadier, more settled year? That’s my voice of insecurity having her say. But she does not get to decide my word! So, given all that, what is my word?

I like ROAR , but that’s not it.

Here’s my always evolving list of possible words: illuminate … grow … strong … steady … being …  belonging … becoming … run … light … recharge … strong … vitality … engaged … present … discerning … happy … incandescent … yes … flow … curiosity … change … renewal … reliability … radiance … spontaneity … pleasure … simplicity

I like the potential these words embrace. This is a year about expanding and making space. I want to get to the end of 2020 and feel like I’ve tapped into new personal resources.

In that spirit, this year, I choose BECOMING.

What’s your word or challenge?

fitness · holidays

Best self-gifts this year, and wish list for 2020

I’m writing this blog on Christmas afternoon while the rest of my family is either napping or gaming. It’s been a great day– gifts and food and family and kids and selfies with my mom, which I showed her how to do and send to others on her new iPhone. I may live to regret this… 🙂

It’s been really nice to receive gifts from folks. I got a new groovy bluetooth speaker (in red!), baking accoutrement (in honor of my late-to-the-party-but-sincere love of the Great British Baking Show), and assorted other fun or useful items. I love giving gifts too. My 14-year-old nephew got one of the xkcd comics guy books–What if? from me, which I think will help him cultivate his excellent geeky side.

Apart from things, though, the gifts I am giving my family this year are: 1) passports for everybody so we can travel outside the US this summer (watch out Canadian friends– we’re headed to Ontario in August!); and 2) experiences involving fun to be had together. We are headed to the beach in South Carolina for a few days, to ride bikes, swim in an indoor pool, eat copious amounts at a breakfast buffet, walk on the beach, play games, snooze, and make idle chit chat.

Yes, all this may seem altruistic, but it’s really a gift to myself. Why? Because I’m in a stage of life where I want to spend quality time with family and friends when I can. This means cycling trips, beach trips, book club weekends, family vacations, and combining conferences with active fun (preferably on two wheels) whenever possible.

So my big gift to myself this year was spending money and time on being places with people I care about, doing activities that are fun and offer us ways to deepen our relationships with one another. Like on these trips:

2020 promises to be a good year in one big way. As of Feb 1, I will no longer be doing two very big volunteer service jobs– member of my university’s tenure committee and co-warden of my Episcopal church. Both have been time-consuming, important, and rewarding. Stepping down from them will open up a lot of practical and psychic space for me. This presents an opportunity for me to turn back to my own life to see what I want. And what do I want for me, from me in 2020?

strength training: I did a bit of it in 2019, and I purchased an online 12-week program, which I started, but didn’t follow up on. I’ll resume that program, and start looking around for weight training classes.

saddle time: I set up my bike trainer before I left for the holidays. Now I’d like to use it. Lately I’ve found myself shying away from riding in cold weather. Yes, I’ve got the gear. Yes, I’ve got friends to ride with. But if all that doesn’t get me out the door, there’s always the trainer. In the past, I’ve found short workouts (30 mins or so) to be pretty satisfying. Let’s see if I can give myself the time and focus to do that again.

cooking on the weekends: I love it when I have ready-made lunches and some dinners in my fridge and freezer Sunday night. Sundays became work days for me this year as warden (horrible term, but it just means you’re keeping lots of things running smoothly at church). When I got home, I was depleted. What I want to give myself is more time to spend on things I love to do for myself, for my house, for my body, for my friends, etc. Preparing and eating happily and healthily-to-me lays a foundation for everything else.

I don’t think this self-gift list for 2020 is too much. I’ll be reporting back from time to time on how I’m doing. Let me know what you might like for yourself in 2020; we’d like to hear how you’re doing, too.

Oh– one last thing; I’d like a Bianchi e-road bike.

Bianchi Aria e-road bike.
Bianchi Aria e-road bike.

It’s worth putting it out there… 🙂

fitness · holidays

Best of the worst fitness gifts for the holidays: beyond the Peloton

I don’t know about you, but I love end-of-year lists: Best books, movies, bikes, recipes– you put it on a list, I’ll read it. Lately we’ve been pummelled with gift lists, and of course social media commentary on said lists. The Peleton ad had its moment, and of course we were here for you: Sam’s peloton post is here if you missed it. I thought I’d take a look at so-called “fitness” gift lists for 2019. In short, I was appalled. So I’m sharing my ire and amazement with all of you,

In no particular order, here are my picks for worst holiday gifts, 2019 edition:

Smart scale with app. No.
Smart scale with app. No.

No to the smart scale. No to the scale in general. You may recall that I bought a smart scale that won’t tell you what you weigh, but it does make value judgments about you based on your weight. Why did I think that was a good idea? Yes, scales have their purposes, but like any tool, it can be used in ways that harm us. Certainly it shouldn’t be a gift for the holidays. No.

Next:

Supposedly self-cleaning water bottle. Hmmphf.
Supposedly self-cleaning water bottle. Hmmphf.

First of all, let me say this: it costs $74. Who wants to pay $74 for a water bottle? Not me. Well, if it created its own water show like in the picture, maybe, but it doesn’t do that. I’m not really sure what it does, but I’m certainly not paying $74 to find out. Did I mention how much it costs?

Moving on:

Customized shoelace tags; if I were in the mood to wear such, this would not be my message (keep running). But that's me.
Customized shoelace tags; if I were in the mood to wear such, this would not be my message. But that’s me.

I don’t get this at all. Wouldn’t they make it harder to lace up your running shoes? And also, to read the motivational message, you would actually have to stop running, fish your reading glasses out of your pocket (if you’re me), bend over, and then take in the message. I do like the tie-dye laces though (sold separately).

What’s next, you may be wondering. Here it is:

Humongous towel warmer, which isn't even plugged in in this picture.
Humongous towel warmer, which isn’t even plugged in in this picture.

This large, guaranteed to be in the way no matter where you put it device, is supposed to warm up towels or pjs or other fabric items you’d like to warm up. It costs $140. Seriously– haven’t these people heard of a dryer? Won’t that do as well– actually better, because you don’t have to set up a clothes dryer in the middle of your bathroom? I don’t have a dryer, so maybe I could use my microwave. Hmmm… Still, not gonna buy this.

Is there more? Of course there is.

One of those cockamamie devices that claims to tone your abs just by wearing it.
One of those cockamamie devices that claims to tone your abs just by wearing it.

I remember seeing devices like this advertised on TV when I was a child. They bellowed about how you could get toned abs while grocery shopping, watching TV, etc. No. It didn’t work then, and adding a smartphone app to go with it won’t make it work now. I love the photo though– a thin woman, sitting on a yoga mat next to a pool, strapped into this device, presumably monitoring her progress by watching the app on her phone. Brilliant. Oh, it costs $199.99.

This one deserves its own blog post, but I’ll try to be brief here:

Posture trainer-- you stick it on your back, and it vibrates when you slump. Get it off, get it off me!
Posture trainer– you stick it on your back, and it vibrates when you slump. Get it off, get it off me!

I did some research on posture training devices– they are supposedly designed to improve posture and reduce posture-induced back pain. The Washington Post did a story on them here. A physical therapy researcher said this about such devices:

Of course, you don’t need gadgets to accomplish [improving posture]. Fischer recommends performing “reverse” stretches in the morning and evening — backward bending, for example — to counterbalance leaning forward throughout the day. “We talk about [body] symmetry, but we don’t think about it with our neck and lower back.” Regular neck stretching, mobility exercises and getting up from your desk once an hour to walk around and loosen up are also recommended — as are core workouts, such as Pilates, yoga or barre classes that help strengthen the muscles that help to maintain good posture. 

By the way, it costs $99. Save your money.

I could go on and on here. Believe me, I found loads of bad gifts– many of them on so-called “best gifts” lists. Just goes to show you– let the internet surfer beware. But I’ll end here with perhaps my favorite bad gift, which I bet most of us have received at some time or other:

An otherwise-useful item (this is a gym toiletries kit) marred by lady-athlete sayings.This one says "I don't sweat, I sparkle". Ugh.
An otherwise-useful item (this is a gym toiletries kit) marred by lady-athlete sayings. This one says “I don’t sweat, I sparkle”. Ugh.

We could have devoted an entire blog post (or several– have we done this?) to awful lady-athlete-fitspo sayings on T shirts, gym bags, and other items. Not to mention the pink-ing of all women’s athletic equipment and clothing (not that there’s anything wrong with pink, but we want choices).

Hey readers– what’s on your wish list this year? It doesn’t have to be something you plan on getting; what are you yearning for, if anything? I’ll be posting a wish list from our bloggers later this week, but I’d love some ideas from you, which I’ll also post.

fitness · holidays

Thanks-giving to physical activity

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. This holiday has a rosy mythology and a horrendous actual history. But here it is, and I’d like to take a moment to give thanks to the activities that make me happy and feel good, offer me social connections and time in nature, that test me and challenge me, and release stress and provide peace– peace in mind and body.

Thank you, cycling, for all the opportunities to move under my own power through space, rolling along roads and paths and trails. You remind me that my legs are strong, that my lungs can work hard, and that I can steer myself through life in very fine fashion as long as I keep my tires pumped and chain lubed (and preferably a friend whose wheel I can draft!)

Pata and me this summer, caffeinated and ready to resume our Friday coffee ride.
Pata and me this summer, caffeinated and ready to resume our Friday coffee ride.

Thank you cross country skiing, for giving me entry into magical snowy woods and fields. The quiet of winter is the perfect environment for gliding along on my skis, listening to the sound of my own breathing. I didn’t grow up with snow, so my snow-age still feels about 12; I get so excited to go out there that I will wake up and bound out the door early to take advantage of fresh snow.

Me in 2016, at a meadow near my house. Hoping for snow this winter...
Me in 2016, at a meadow near my house. Hoping for snow this winter…

Thank you weight lifting– we don’t know each other so well yet, but I got a chance this year to spend a little time learning how much you have to teach me about me. I always thought water was my element, but I think I need to expand it to include iron. Let’s make a date to get together and explore our continuing relationship in 2020, okay?

Of course that's not me, but we all have our aspirations (from unsplash).
Of course that’s not me, but we all have our aspirations (from unsplash).

Thank you squash (the racket sport, not the vegetable)– we have been together off and on since I was 21. You are definitely high-maintenance– I have to find courts and partners and times to enjoy you, and it’s not always easy. And once all those things are in place, you still ask a lot of me. My ankles and knees have lodged complaints, but you are still special to me. I learned a lot about competition– how hard it is to win and how easy it is to lose– from you. You gave me tough love, but love comes in many forms, and I appreciate yours.

Competition from 2014. Lost in game 5...
Competition from 2014. Lost in game 5…

Thanks swimming and scuba– one of you is a steady life-long love, and the other a passing (if too expensive) fling. You both offer me immersion in another element– water.

A big thank you goes to walking and hiking and playing around with friends and family. I’m grateful to be able to enjoy companionship and movement in so many ways that provide pleasure and satisfaction and occasions for silliness.

My last and biggest thank you this year goes to yoga. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you! Together we work through stress, anxiety, exhaustion, recovery from injury, healing from illness, and strengthening for all the other movements I do. Most of all, you help me come to know what state my body is on any given day, and prescribe some movement or stillness for that state. You know me better than I know myself. Thank you, yoga.

Ropes yoga class, warrior 2 pose.
Ropes yoga class, warrior 2 pose.

Readers, what sport or activity or movement are you feeling thankful for these days? I’d love to hear what you have to share on this day.

219 in 2019 · holiday fitness · holidays

Sam is on a countdown!

A US route sign that reads “45.”

How many days are left in 2019? I’ve been Googling that question for awhile and comparing it to the number of workouts I have left in the year if I really do aspire to make it to 300 workouts in 2019.

Originally I was aiming of course for 219 in 2019 but that number went by a while ago. In a weird way my injured knee has helped with daily exercise because I just have to pay attention to doing physio and making sure I get the kind of movement that helps my knee. Keep moving and don’t give in to arthritis pain, is the latest advice. I’ve written about that in a post called Pain and the Choice to Walk or not Walk.

As of today there are 45 days left in 2019 and I just logged my 260th workout. It’s Sunday so I worshipped at the church of Zwift, riding 27 km in one hour in virtual London, England. Doing some basic math here that means I’ve got 40 workouts left and 45 days. Given that I also aspire to one day rest day a week, the math should work out perfectly.

I’ve often enjoyed having some sort of challenge through the holiday season to keep me focussed on exercise and not letting that be the thing that gives way in the face of all the extra socializing, shopping, hosting, wrapping, cooking excetera excetera. In the past I’ve done running streaks from American Thanksgiving through until New year’s short distances say 1 mile a day. My running days are over so this is probably a better focus for me anyway.

What will the next 40 workouts look like? My guess is we’ll be spending some extra time in the virtual cycling world of Zwift given a bit of extra flexibility around my work hours. I’m either walking or riding to work most days and doing some extra activity to make that count either yoga at home or planking. Sarah and I were talking this morning about making it out to the hot yoga studio in Guelph finally. And I’ll be sure to get some weight lifting in as well either with a personal trainer or on my own.

Wish me luck!

hiking · holidays · nature · traveling

Trekking in the Pyrenees, and not trekking in the Pyrenees

Last week I finally got my summer holiday. I really had to wait for it this year, but September did finally come! My partner and I went to northern Spain, where he’s from. We spent some days with family and friends, but we also spent three days hiking in the Pyrenees. In total, it was a five-day adventure because we needed to factor in two extra days to get there and back by public transport. As the owner of a hostel we stayed at put it, “people think there’s a motorway out here connecting everything, but that’s not quite the case”. I would say it’s definitely not the case. There’s one bus a day from the nearest larger city in each direction, if you’re lucky, and it meanders along curvy mountain roads, stopping at every village along the way. It was exactly what we wanted: to have some “us time”, just the two of us, in nature.

a horizontal white bar above a red one, painted on a tree.
GR11 signage: a horizontal white bar above a red one, painted on a tree.
a pole with arrow-shaped wooden signs pointing in different directions saying "GR11" and the names of different villages.
More GR 11 signage: a pole with arrow-shaped wooden signs pointing in different directions saying “GR11” and the names of different villages. There are three arrows, the middle one pointing towards the right and our destination on day one: Hiriberri.

For a bit of background, we decided to do a trek of three stages on the GR11 Transpyrenees trail. “GR” stands for Grande Randonée in French, or Gran Recorrido in Spanish (“long hike”), and is used to designate a network of long-distance hiking trails across Europe. The GR11, or “Transpirenáica“, runs from Cabo Higuer on the Basque coast all the way across to Catalunya and finishes at Cap de Creus. We chose three stages in Navarre (stages 5, 6, and 7), because the area is beautiful and was accessible by public transport from Bilbao (via Pamplona). The stages in this area are around 20 kilometres each and somewhat demanding mostly because there’s a lot of up and down, but no alpine mountaineering skills are needed.

Purple wild crocuses surrounding a silver thistle. This flower is a symbol of good fortune in the Basque region.
Pretty local flora: purple wild crocuses surrounding a larger yellow flower (a silver thistle, Wikipedia tells me). This flower is a symbol of good fortune in the Basque region.

The trail did not disappoint. On the first day, it rained in the morning, but cleared up by the afternoon. The next two days were beautiful weather: bright blue skies and sunshine! On day two, we had a lot of wind while hiking along an exposed ridge, but it was all safe and, have I mentioned, beautiful?

A wide path meandering along a soft slope, high mountains in the far distance.
A wide path meandering along a soft slope, high mountains in the far distance. The path wasn’t always this wide and flat though!

Also, cute villages! And nice country hostels and hotels!

a small hamlet nestled into a valley beneath a mountain
Cute village, exhibit (a): a small hamlet nestled into a valley beneath a mountain (that we hiked down and then back up on the other side!)

Unfortunately, we did what we usually do when we go on holiday and both got a cold. I don’t know how, but every time we’re on leave, at least one of us gets sick. I don’t know if it’s the germs on the plane, the change in weather, or the sudden lack of stress, or a combination of all three. This time, it hit my partner first, so by the time we were on the trail he was already recovering. But he kindly shared it with me, so on day three we actually had to call it quits. I was so congested I could hardly breathe, let alone hike 20 kilometres with a backpack.

I was so disappointed. But we did the sensible thing and took a taxi from the village we’d spent the night in to the next place, our final destination (Isaba). It was actually a fun taxi ride. The driver is also the local school bus driver and chauffeurs anyone who needs to go somewhere in the area, from school kids to drunk local youth during the village festival and hikers with head colds. We then spent the rest of the day wandering about and resting in the sun in Isaba, which also happened to be the nicest of the villages we stayed in. It’s surrounded by pine forests on steep slopes and consists of lovingly restored traditional houses. I would happily have spent another few days there.

A narrow cobbled street lined with traditional houses with wooden balconies on the left. A square stone church tower in the background and forest-lined mountains in the background.
Cute village, exhibit (b): Isaba. A narrow cobbled street lined with traditional houses with wooden balconies on the left. A square stone church tower in the background and forest-lined mountains in the background.

I’ll be honest, I’m still angry with that stupid cold that made us miss the last day of our trek. But what can you do? I suppose I should be happy I didn’t get really sick, so by the afternoon of that day I was well enough to take a short stroll around the area. But despite the dreaded lurgy throwing a spanner in the works of our trekking plans, it felt so good to be out there, largely on our own. In two days of hiking, we met exactly five people on the trail. It was a much needed respite from the current busyness of both our jobs and lives.

But still, I need to know: do any of you have any tips to avoid the dreaded holiday cold?