I Used to Hate the Sun

The road near my cabin... so much sun.

The road near my cabin… so much sun.

I didn’t always hate the sun. When I was a kid during the summer, sunshine meant days I could go out and play: run around the woods behind our house, build forts, climb trees. My neighbors had a pool I could use, so sunshine meant days of swimming and making up games in the water.

I think I started hating the sun in Junior High, those terrible preteen years. That’s when we started paying attention to our bodies and our appearance back then. (I know it starts much younger now.) I’m old enough that tanning was still popular. Girls I knew started “laying out” to get that perfect summer tan. I tried it a time or two. I hated it.

My family weren’t beach goers, so laying out, if it was to happen, was going to happen at home. As I mentioned, our back yard was in the woods, so it was shaded and full of bugs. That meant one had to lay out in the (very exposed) front yard, something I was far from comfortable with in those awkward years. On top of that, it was dead boring, uncomfortable, and the minute I found a good position, it felt like an ant was crawling on my exposed skin. (Sometimes they were, sometimes it was my brain playing tricks.) I’m also pretty darn pale by nature, and of course, I had no idea what I was doing, so I inevitably got burned, and burned bad. Sunblock had a long, long way to go… and back then I knew girls who swore by tinfoil shields and cooking oil to get even darker.

So, I gave it up. I never did tan properly. It didn’t help that when I turned sixteen I got a car, thereby removing the last reason I would willingly ride my bike. Most of the popular girls, the ones who came to school sun-kissed and gorgeous, also played sports or were in summer cheerleading programs. If they didn’t have those, they had access to tanning beds, cottages or beaches. That wasn’t me. I was happier curled up in the shade with a good book, or in my later teen years, spending my spare hours working inside at my job.

It wasn’t just my pale hue that kept me from fitting in with the popular crowd. I was always too bookish, too artsy, too… odd. I had friends, but they were all like me, second or third tier odd ducks that were all funny, smart and great to be with, but also frequently socially awkward or a little too unfashionable to really fit in. At the same time I was meeting and spending time with a group of kids with dyed hair, white skin, and thick black make up. This post punk precursor to the goth movement defied the sun by only going out at night. My other friends, a bunch of theatre geeks, were too busy running from school to rehearsal to worry about things like getting sun, or “a little color” as my Mom always called it. (“You’d look nice with a little color.” she’d say.) All of this sort of snowballed into an extreme dislike of the sun.

Oddly, it wasn’t people who were tan that I didn’t like. My sister has that perfect skin that tans beautifully, my Dad did too. I knew plenty of people who worked outside or played sports that were tan and I didn’t think twice about it, but personally, I started to deeply hate the sun. Then all the findings started coming out relating sun exposure and skin cancer, and it cemented it for me. The sun and me – we just didn’t get along.

There are other factors as well. I‘ve mentioned before that because my legs have always been fairly thin, (despite me being larger everywhere else,) that I didn’t wear clothing that showed them off. The end result? From my freshman year of high school (when it was mandatory for gym class) until this May, I did not own or wear a pair of shorts. In the summer I wore jeans or skirts… long skirts. I didn’t even like capri pants much. Also, thanks to my fair skin, when I went out in the sun I covered up, either with clothing or super sunblock – the higher the spf, the better. (My sister called my sunblock “sweater in a bottle.”) Also, I didn’t “gleam” or “glimmer”, I sweated, a lot. Essentially, summer sucked – and it was all the fault of the sun.

I never got as bad as my mother, who (out of a fear of cancer) avoids the sun so completely that her doctor had to put her on Vitamin D supplements. I like nature and being outside – I just like it in the shade of a big tree, or in the spring or fall when it isn’t so stinking hot.

Then something happened…. I started running.

I started in the spring when it was still cold outside, but of course, that only lasted for so long. Then one day last month I went for a run in the middle of the day. I had appointments in the morning and plans in the evening, so I went out around noon. It was hot. The sun was high in the sky and there were no clouds. As I sat in the parking lot of the park, I realized that I hadn’t packed sunblock. I decided to go anyway.

It felt crazy and a little risky, but as I ran, I thought “How bad can it be?” It’s true, I was only out for a half hour and roughly half of that was under trees, so I don’t think I got any “color” at all. It was on that run that I started thinking about my relationship to the sun. For so long I fought for my pale skin that I had turned it into a point of pride. I considered the whole lot – athletics, tanning, shorts, exercise, sports, summer – all of it, as something that wasn’t me. The fact that I avoided it proved that I was different, and I embraced that difference.

But then I started running and it all changed. Later that day I stopped at the store to pick up some sunblock for my running bag. I went straight to the “sport” shelf. I ended up buying a small bottle spf 30 lotion for my face, but a spray on can of spf 15 for the rest of me. I have never in my adult life bought a spf below 45.

A few days later, I bought my first pair of running shorts.

Today, I’m sort of tan. Not dark tan by any means, but you can tell I spend time outside. (Admittedly, usually at 6:30 AM and 6:30PM, so we aren’t talking about a ton of exposure here.) I have three pairs of shorts and three pairs of outdoor walk/running capri pants and one pair of jean capris. Considering I own probably less than 5 pairs of pants, this has become a high proportion of my wardrobe. The sun doesn’t bother me now, and frankly, neither does the heat. I’ve mentioned that I have been running on days in the high 80s with 100 degree heat indices. I’m okay with all of it.

Running, and losing weight, first brought me to a place where I felt more comfortable taking risks. By taking those risks, I’ve started challenging my own long-held beliefs. Not just about the sun, but about how I dress, how I look, what I do – and don’t do. I know the fact I bought, own and wear shorts doesn’t seem like a big thing, but you have to realize that the last time I owned a pair it was 1986. It is a big deal.

We have these personal manifestos of all things “me” and “not me.” They are the very definition what we like, what we do, even who we are. They serve as mental shortcuts. When something new comes up we can check it against the list – is this me? Will I like this My taking up running is challenging, and changing, that manifesto. At first it happened subtly, but now I see it, and I embrace the change. When a friend recently suggested a climbing gym, “the old me” instantly started to demur, but I caught myself, and instead I said, “tell me more – where is it located again?” 

I’m not throwing away every long-held belief about myself, but I am holding them up to the light. I’ve decided to let the sun shine through.

 

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My Two Journals

I have a confession. This isn’t my only journal. I have another.

My other journal.

My other journal. Not pictured: my coffee cup, which is usually nearby.

Back in April, Julian told me about a weight loss journal he had seen at the bookstore and was coveting. It was pretty cool, so we went out one night and picked it up. While we were at the store, a little blank white journal with birds on the cover caught my eye. I like birds, so I picked it up for myself.

I wasn’t sure what I would do with it at the time. I just love journals and I thought I would find a use for it. What I’ve been doing is writing in it almost every weekday morning. (Weekends are a bit hit or miss depending on what I have going on.) I write two pages. On the front I write about what’s going is going on with my health and fitness goals, and I break the back page up into categories: Weight, Food, Exercise, and Good Things I Did For Myself. I just recently added one more category: Sleep.

To anyone else, it would make seriously boring reading. I typically write while having my morning coffee; totally free form and stream of consciousness. Sentences are wonky and every page is full of grammatical and spelling errors – not because I don’t know how to write without spellcheck, but because I just don’t want to take the time. (“Training”, for example, is almost always spelled “traing,” because I don’t have time for the other “in”!) The goal here isn’t to have tome filled with brilliant thoughts to pass on to future generations to read, but instead to just get junk out of my head and onto a page.

The categories on the back pages help me track what’s going on. Writing them down helps keep me more accountable. Weight usually is just a number with a few words, like “where I want to be.” Exercise is where I jot down what I am working on. It isn’t detailed like a training log, it’s just the basics. Food is also just a few sentences – kind of a tally on how I am eating and how I am feeling about it. Good Things I Did For Myself is where I make a short bulleted list of good things that happened the day before. It could be related to fitness, or might be dinner with a girlfriend or sitting and reading a good book. It’s my little way of reminding myself to take care of my heart and mind, as well as my body. The most recent category, Sleep, just got added so I keep an eye on how I am feeling in comparison to the amount of sleep I get. I’ve been short on this one lately and it has been wearing me out. By adding it to my journal I am hoping to focus a little more on making sure I am getting the rest I need.

The difference between it and this blog is that I don’t care how repetitive I am, or how boring, or even how whiney I am in my little white book. Here I try to put ideas and discoveries – big things I am working on. My handwritten journal is for the minutia.

I do think it helps having it though. The accountability I mentioned is part of it, and also having a safe place to vent makes a difference. I started it almost by accident, but I’m really glad I did.

 

 

Dog Injuries and Walks Curtailed

My dog is injured.Dog Leash by Nicholas Hollows

Last Wednesday I awoke in the middle of the night to find my dog in distress. When I turned on the light he lept into my arms, crying and whimpering. Now, my dog is not allowed on the bed, he doesn’t vocalize and he certainly doesn’t cuddle. I knew there was something really, really wrong. It turned out to be a long light.

In the morning, after trip to the vet for x-rays and an exam, it turned out that he has a bulging disc. The prescription, for now, is ani-inflammatory meds, a pain killer and crate rest. No walks, no playing and no stairs for seven days. I’m incredibly grateful that Hermes didn’t have to have emergency surgery (something that felt like a very real possibility at 4:00 AM when he was panting and shaking so hard the bed moved,) but crate rest has been hard on both of us. Walking is what we do.

I can walk alone, of course. I got a solo walk in on Friday morning and another one this morning, (the weekend ended up being so busy I didn’t have time to workout at all,) but I really miss walking with my pooch. I feel safer with him along and, in general, it is just more fun checking out the city with my little pal. I will say that I can walk a lot faster without him (I sniff a lot less trees,) but I find myself less inclined to go out at all. That’s actually really bad, because walking really helps my stress levels, and those have been a bit rocky as of late.

He seems to be doing better. Everyday he gets a little bit more like himself. His ears are perking up again and he is starting to wag his tail more. He’s actually sniffing around again when I take him out in the yard – the night it happened, he just sat in the driveway and leaned against me. My little hound never gives up a chance to sniff around! Theoretically, his crate rest restrictions end Thursday, but I will still want to take it easy with him. There are worst case scenarios with this, and it involves paralyzation, so we’ll be easing into our routines again slowly.

I can’t wait to have my buddy back at full strength again.

 

Photo by: Nicholas Hollows

 

Future Plans

Goal Setting by lululemon athleticaSo, I have a confession to make. I am freaked out by the idea of weight loss maintenance. In theory it should be easy – just keep doing what I have been doing, but maybe eat a little more. Easy right? In actuality, it makes me quake in my boots.

I’m quite happy with where I am. I like the way I look, and I feel great. My instinct is to slow down a bit and settle in, but the problem is, I don’t know how. My friend Cee called me out on it the other day when I told her I had to tackle my maintenance plan. Truth is, I didn’t even think about it when I wrote it, but she pointed out that “tackle” might be a bit strong. I think it is just a sign of how I feel about it. I’m a planner, so for every goal, there must be a plan.

While I was out walking the dog last night I started thinking about why this bothers me so much. I mean really, there doesn’t need to be a new plan – I can just keep tracking, eating well, and exercising. I just need to weigh every day and make adjustments accordingly, right? So, why does it make my chest feel tight when I think about it?

I think there are two things going on here. The first is simply the fear of failure. I didn’t have this while losing weight because if I wasn’t able to do it, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I wasn’t under doctor’s orders or anything like that. I simply made a choice to give it a try. If it hadn’t worked the only people who would have known would have been my sister, my boyfriend, Cee and you, blog reader. But us? We have an understanding you and I, I’m not afraid of failing in front of you. Now that I have lost 30 pounds, however, people can see it on me. It is going to be a lot more obvious if I gain the weight back – and let’s face it, we all know people who have been very successful in the losing category, but didn’t make it in the maintenance department. The dieter who loses weight, then gains it all back (and then some) is so common it is almost a cliché – and for good reason, it’s hard work. People with far more willpower, and far more resources, than I have lost this battle.

The other is: time. I want to keep this weight off forever and ever, amen. Well, I am turning 40 this year, so if I live until I am 80, that means setting a goal for another 40 years. That is the length of my current lifespan… I can’t even wrap my brain around trying to set a 40 year goal! The numbers are just too large and life is just too variable.

While thinking about that span of time, a solution came to me. Instead of trying to set goals “for the rest of my life,” I am just going to set a year-long goal. I started losing on January 15 of this year – so, my goal is simply: Keep the 30 pounds off through Jan. 15, 2014. Once I thought of that, it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I immediately felt better. On May 15th, (just to keep things nice and tidy,) I am going to change the settings on My Fitness Pal. Then I am simply going to focus on my little seven month goal. Maintaining for seven months seems so much easier than maintaining for the rest of my life. (bum bum BUM…..)

It’s possible, of course, that I will lose more – who knows? I will probably bounce around a bit. I am not going to try to keep my weight on an exact number. I’m still figuring things out and still learning to run, which will, undoubtably, cause some changes. All I am going to do is work hard at keeping what I have lost off until my anniversary in January. Once I do that, I can set a goal for the next year – whatever it may be. It feels completely doable – and yet, there are still enough challenges in there (holidays, anyone?), to keep things interesting.

Here’s the other benefit that I thought of as I was writing this – keeping focus is hard. Keeping focus for forty years, or even five years is hard. Keeping focus for seven months is not quite so bad. I think by shortening my goal, I’m making it easier to keep it in mind. That should help make it a little easier too.

So, that’s the plan. I got it off, now I’m going to keep it off, by gum!

Photo credit: lululemon athletica

Eating Well While Stressing Out

I love this idea! Dance your errands indeed.

I love this idea! Dance your errands indeed.

I did it! I hit the big 3-oh in weight loss! I am officially down 30 pounds. I am incredibly happy and I love the way I feel and the way I look. Now onto the hard part – maintenance.

And of course, this week is crazy. I do some freelance work, and this week is the culmination of a big project. The good thing is that I have an amazing partner in all this, Red. Red and I have been friends forever. We both do the same kind of work, and have helped each other and paired up on projects in the past. Now she and I are working together as a team. It’s been great to split the work, but it has still kept me hopping. My lunch hours are spent in meetings or in running around taking care of last-minute details, and immediately after my day job, I am running errands or heading to the freelance location to work. Which means that, basically, all my meals are all kind of up in the air and I’ve had to get very creative. I don’t eat fast food, and I want to stay on the healthy side of things, so here’s how I’ve been able to swing it so far:

Plan Ahead. I use the calendar function on my phone to track where I have to go and what I have to do. That helps me keep on top of my schedule so I can plan accordingly. The more planning I can do, the less stressed I am – which is better for me all the way around.

Pack Snacks. I have started carrying multiple snacks with me. I have a couple of cute lunch bags that people have bought me that are insulated and even a small soft sided mini cooler. I keep them filled with things I can eat on the fly: string cheese, rice cakes, crackers, almonds, easy to eat fruit and veggies (like Mineolas, strawberries, carrots and celery) and even a small amount of chocolate. Everything is measured out ahead of time, so it is easy to track. This keeps me from crashing from hunger… and from eating all the unhealthy snacks that are lying around the workplace.

Indulge in Beverages. We’re getting some beautiful weather here in the Midwest, and its making me crave iced tea and coffee. I try to not have caffeine after 7pm, but before that, these are two easy indulgences for me. I also love La Croix for some fizz and keep a plain old water bottle handy as well. At the freelance location there is a lot of “hurry up and wait” and those wait times are prime munching hours. Having a tasty beverage nearby helps me fight those urges.

Eat at Work. I am lucky, I can eat at my desk at my day job. So another way I have been regulating my meals is by bringing both lunch and dinner to work. I eat lunch while I am working (and then use my lunch hour to run around getting things done,) and then eat dinner during my last hour at work. It’s a little early, but it is better than feeling compelled to grab something and eat it on the way.

Track Everything. I am so busy that it would be super easy to slack on the tracking. Now is exactly when I have to track. The other day I was out at a lunch meeting and ate way more than I should. I didn’t mean to, I thought I was making a healthy choice, but when I put it into My Fitness Pal I realized how wrong I was! That happens, it isn’t a big deal – as long as I know about it. I ended up just going lighter the rest of the day, but without tracking it, I wouldn’t have known to do that. I’m still new at all this and restaurants are fairly complicated to negotiate. Tracking helps me so much.

As for going forward, I don’t exactly have a maintenance plan yet. I know I will keep tracking and eating well – those are lifestyle choices. I’m planning on doing them for the rest of my life. I know I want to keep learning how to run. As for the rest, I don’t know yet – we’ll just see how it all goes!

Photo credit: theslowlane

Running Down a Dream

I hate squirrels. I like this photo, though.

I hate squirrels. I like this photo, though.

“Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself.”

-John Bingham, running speaker and writer

Just a quick running update:

As I mentioned yesterday, I picked up some running clothes this weekend. I’ve also visited two different parks – both of which are just ten minutes from my office. Both of them have running/hiking/walking trails, and of course, there are pros and cons to both. There is still a third I want to visit and check out. So, I feel good about that, I have some locations scouted. Sometimes I think the hardest thing about trying something new is the big fat element of the unknown. Like anyone trying something new, I am a little nervous. I am trying to minimize it as much as possible.

I am ordering a sports bra today. (I’m getting it from Title Nine since I have had very good experiences with their products in the past.) Next step – shoes! We’ve got a great store in town for runners, and they are my destination once I get back from my next business trip.

Looks like I am on my way!

Photo credit: Randy, Son of Robert

A Wonderful Weekend

dinner table art by danehavI had a wonderful weekend. It was relaxing, calm, productive and fun – what more can you ask for? It was a lazy sort of weekend, with plenty of time to kick back and read a book, but also some really nice time with friends. Plus, I got to do those little things around the house that make me feel good: laundry, cleaning, working out, and preparing food for the upcoming week, that kind of thing.

One of the great moments was having a long talk with my boyfriend about my goals. He is so supportive. He immediately volunteered to help with my Jump Fund goals. So this weekend, we ate in. We made our meals together – pulling things out of his ‘fridge and mine. In fact, the only money either of us spent on meals for the weekend was picking up some broccoli from the local organic market.

We both love to go out to eat, but honestly, both of us have really changed our diets of late, and eating out can be tricky. Eating in, however, was pretty simple. So, it turned out to be less hassle, more fun, healthier and less expensive. Awesome!

I am not cutting out dining out all together – not by any means. In fact, we went out one night to celebrate a friend’s birthday, but we had dinner at home first, and then just had a couple of drinks at the restaurant. I think that is how I would like treat eating out – as an occasion. I want to go out to for a reason – to try someplace new, celebrate with a friend, or enjoy a special event. What I don’t want to do is go out just because I can. That means means meeting friends for lunch, but packing my own when I am not. Since I have been tracking calories I haven’t gone out that much, but before this, I would regularly go out somewhere on my own. I like solo dining, and I like getting out of the office, but there are better ways for me to do that.

All this fits really neatly into my Health and Wealth goals. I want to treat myself better, but that doesn’t always mean buying something. Just as often as not, it means eating quality food, prepared with someone I love. It means taking a long walk on my lunch hour to get out of the office, rather than fleeing to a restaurant. And when I go out? Really making it about sharing time with people I care about.

 

Photo credit: danehav

Walkin’, Yes Indeed

Walking

I mentioned recently that I am trying to spend more time walking. I thought I would post a quick follow up:

Things are going quite well. In addition to my twice a day walks with the pooch, I have walked to my doctor’s office, to my hair salon and to the theatre downtown. These trips are ones that out of habit I would have traditionally done by car. None of them, however, are much more than a mile away and all of them took less than 20 minutes one way.

We also had some rare sunshine here in the Midwest so I used that opportunity to take a 30 minute walk on my lunch hour. I was planning on running errands, but instead I chose to take a walk. I mean, you don’t get sun here in the winter very often – you have to soak it up when you can!

It isn’t all unicorns and flowers though. I almost skipped that theatre trip. It was dark and cold and I had just walked the dog for a half hour, I wasn’t feeling up to another 20 minutes on a dreary winter night. I ended up doing it mostly because I bribed myself with wine. (If you walk, you will burn enough calories that you have plenty left over from today to have a glass of wine. Walk woman, walk!) By the time I got home though, I just crashed into bed and never did have that wine. phoo.

Here’s what I keep telling myself though: 1) Walking is good for my health. I am burning calories and building up stamina. 2) It is good for the environment  Every time I don’t start my car, I am helping out a little. 3) It is good for my Jump Fund. Okay, I know that at roughly $.50 a mile, I am not piling wads of cash into my savings, but every single shekel counts, right? A penny saved and all that…

So, I’m going to keep on walking. It is, after all, when I do my best thinking. And when I draft most of the blog posts I write!

What Are You Afraid Of?

Yesterday I read this on Seth Godin’s blog:

Rehearsing Failure, Rehearsing Success

Sunrise on Silver LakeThe active imagination has no trouble imagining the negative outcomes of your new plan, your next speech or that meeting you have coming up.

It’s easy to visualize and even rehearse all the things that can go wrong.

The thing is: clear visualization, repeated again and again, doesn’t actually decrease the chances you’re going to fail. In fact, it probably increases the odds.

When you choose to visualize the path that works, you’re more likely to shore it up and create an environment where it can take place.

Rehearsing failure is simply a bad habit, not a productive use of your time”

Seth usually writes about business, especially internet marketing and creating great companies and products, but in this case, I think he has hit on a prescription for life.

I started this blog because I have been doing a lot of thinking about my future – what I want to do, who I want to be, and so on. This post from Seth made me face the fact of how often I am afraid. I am afraid to make certain leaps of faith, to risk too much, to make too many changes all at once.

To make matters worse, it isn’t just fear. I spend too much time in my head rehearsing all the terrible things that could go wrong. I don’t frame it that way, of course. Instead, I tell myself that I am planning out how to react to various scenarios – but how often do those scenarios end in me having complete success?

Practically none.

I think as a culture we tend to not want to “set ourselves up for failure” or “set our expectations too high.” We call it being practical. How often as children were we encouraged to be more realistic? We are afraid of dreaming too big, of wanting too much, of being disappointed. But what is the alternative? Planning for failure …and getting exactly what we expected.

Photo credit: longviewhill

Winter Walking

winter quote

The truth is, I actually enjoy winter walking. All you really need is decent gear. A good set of boots, gloves, a warm coat, scarf and hat, and perhaps a set of ice fishing cleats, and you are good to go. I complain about winter a fair amount, but that is because I hate driving in it. Walking, however, is another matter.

Yesterday the weather was beautiful – sunny, clear and in the high 30s. I went for a walk on my lunch hour, something I haven’t done in awhile. With all the walking I do before and after work with the dog, I haven’t felt the need to walk on my lunch hour as well. It was nice to walk at my own pace though… and not have stop every time Hermes picks up an interesting scent on bush or tree!

I’m starting to think about walking more. A couple of weeks ago we had some pretty severe weather on a night I had a commitment. I am the President of the Board of a nonprofit organization, and that night they were having an event that I had to attend. The snow was coming down pretty hard and driving home from work that night was rather unpleasant. Walking, however, wasn’t bad at all. Hermes and I had a very nice stroll about the neighborhood. So, I decided that instead of getting my car back out and fighting through the snowy streets, I’d just walk it. I wore comfortable clothes, packed fresh makeup and a brush, and gave myself 45 minutes.

It took me 18.

That’s what started me thinking about walking. I burned calories, not fuel, and I felt safer. I also felt a little smug about not having to find parking during a snowstorm. So, this weekend I walked to the salon where I get my hair done. It is about a mile away and took me roughly 17 minutes. (I would have made better time if the sidewalks weren’t still pretty snow covered.) I like walking with my pooch, but as I say, it’s also very nice to walk without him, and since I am trying to lose some wight anyway, I think I will see if I can burn a little more shoe leather, and a little less rubber.