Fear and Planning

frozen lakeMy dad had a volcanic temper. By volcanic I mean that it was powerful, unpredictable, and it hurt everything in its way. I’m not a doctor, so I hesitate to make an armchair diagnosis, but I suspect a history of untreated mental illness. He had long mood swings with big highs and big lows. He had an addictive personality – he drank copiously and his heavy smoking is ultimately what killed him at age 59. And then, of course, there was the temper.

I loved my dad. Despite what I said above, he was also smart, funny and could fix absolutely anything. He and I liked the same kind of books and movies. We liked to fish, cook and work on projects together. I still miss him.

However, when you grow up with someone with an explosive temper, life becomes tricky. The thing with my dad was that he was absolutely great when it came to big things. My sister and I both have smashed a few cars in our days, and every time, he came to our rescue and was nothing but supportive. However, if something small happened that offended him in someway, well, Lord help you. Here’s a quick example: I was in high school and my mother had bought me a beautiful pale grey mohair sweater. I loved that sweater and wore it as often as I could. I got home from school one day and was just lounging around watching tv. My dad, who happened to have the day off, was working on a woodworking project in the basement. He came up and asked if I could give him a hand and hold some boards while he cut them. I told him I would – but I had to first change my sweater. I didn’t want a bunch of sawdust on it. My dad threw a fit – went nuts. Accused me of being lazy and said things along the line of, “See if I ever help you out with anything again.” After the tantrum? He didn’t speak to me for over a week. I was fourteen.

This is what I grew up with. One of my first childhood memories is walking up and down the block in front of my house with my mother. I was less than 4 years old. It was a cloudy, cold spring day. Neither of us had coats. She held my hand as we circled our street over and over. Why? Because my parents had gotten in an argument. Mom took me out of the house so I didn’t hear dad yell. When she left, he nailed the front door shut.

Yes, you read that right – he not only locked the door – he nailed the front door shut so his young wife and 4 year old daughter couldn’t come back in the house.

Growing up the way I did, I quickly realized that I couldn’t trust anyone. When you are a kid and you have no idea what will set dad off this time, and your mom doesn’t know how to stop it – or defend you – you just learn to rely on yourself. That’s what I did. My mother claims I came out of the womb independent, and that is roughly true. I think it was a combination of genetics and good old fashioned fear that made me learn how to take care of myself.

I don’t blame my mom. Maybe when I was a kid she tried to stop him – I don’t know. Stopping him when he was on a roll though was like trying to stop a freight train. If she got in his way, he’d just flatten her too. I should say – he never raised a fist to me. His abuse was purely emotional. I don’t actually like the word abuse – at the time it didn’t exactly feel that way, it just “was what it was,” but I know now as an adult, it was no way to treat a child. The worst part of his temper was that he knew exactly what to say to you to get you in the guts. It wasn’t just yelling or name calling, it was saying the one thing or two that he knew would make you cry. And he could do it every time.

My mother’s coping mechanism was just to stop talking. She’d leave the room and just not say anything. It wasn’t particularly effective when the anger was directed at her – and it wasn’t at all effective if the anger was directed at me or my sister. Nonetheless, that seemed to be all she knew how to do.

So, what does this mean for me? He’s been gone for over 12 years, why write about this now? This off-kilter childhood of mine is part of what made me into the woman I am. One result is that I don’t trust easily. Relationships, friendships, they are like giant frozen lakes. I move across them slowly, always testing for weak ice. It takes a long time before I truly trust a friend. Honestly, I don’t mind if there is weak ice – I just want to know where it is. For example, I have a friend who is never on time. If I didn’t know that about her – and that it had nothing to do with me – I could be really hurt when she doesn’t show when she says she will. It could seem personal and unreliable, but because I do know it, I can still have faith in her… just not in her punctuality.

My friendships are all with people who are self sufficient. It makes me nervous to be needed too much. I’m not the type that will call regularly, or email, or even set up coffee dates. I may go months without seeing my friends. It isn’t personal. It’s just that I have so much to take care of, but only so much time, energy and willpower. They understand that about me. The also know I don’t do surprises well, I don’t like unexpected company and I sometimes have a hard time with unexpected changes in plans. I like my scheduled plans, my routines, my lists and systems. Since I am responsible for everything in my life, I need those systems to keep everything going.

I don’t ask for help easily, but when I do, I don’t actually expect that I will get it. On the other hand, I feel my own responsibilities very strongly. I take care of the people I love and I hate letting them down. I am loyal and I do my best to balance my time with others with my much needed time alone. I love long talks with friends and loved ones, but I need time alone just to breathe.

I feel very strongly that every responsibility in my life – my career, my homes, my health, my dog, my relationships, they are all on me to maintain. I cannot expect to lean on anyone. It can be a lonely place sometimes, but at least I never pull the rug out from under my own feet.

This is the first time in my life that I have looked at this stuff objectively. It’s how I’ve looked at life as long as I can remember, but now I’m seeing why – and how this is a perfectly logical reaction to what I faced as a kid. There are thousands of ways I could have handled it, (I’m sure each person who has had experiences like mine has dealt with it in their own way,) but this is it for me. Since I’ve been spending time examining my life, I’m seeing connections that I had only guessed at before. How this all fits in with my health and fitness, my plans for the future and this blog that I write… I have no idea, but it does, somehow. I’m going to keep exploring it and let you know what I find out.

 

Photo credit: bjaglin via flickr

 

What We See in the Mirror – Thoughts on Identity

Make_yourselfI’ve been reading Madeline L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet. For those of you who are readers out there, you might know her as the author of A Wrinkle in Time. A Circle of Quiet is not like her youth fiction, it’s her reflections on writing and life. I’m enjoying it immensely. In fact, it is the first book in a long time that has made me stop, get out a pencil and some sticky notes, and start underlining and marking passages.

One of the things she talks about is our mirrors. She points out that when it comes to our homes, we are careful about the mirrors we choose to do our hair or brush our teeth in front of. We don’t choose darkened mirrors or funhouse mirrors, we choose true clear mirrors that let us see our image. She says that people are also our mirrors – the mirrors of our soul. She says she takes care who she uses as her mirrors – her husband, her children and her close friends. When she uses other people as mirrors, she stops being true to herself.

I know what she is talking about. Let’s call it the What Will The Neighbors Think syndrome (WWTNT?). It doesn’t have to be neighbors, of course, it could be coworkers, family members, whoever – it’s when you let other people’s opinions dictate your choices, instead of your own. The thing is, it isn’t even always What the Neighbors Actually Think – it is more frequently what we think the neighbors think. Reality might be that the neighbors are too dang busy with their own lives to have an opinion on yours, but we think that they do.

For some of us, WWTNT? can drive a lot of our choices – what house to buy, what career to go into, what to wear, where to shop and so on. It seems a little silly, but really, it is a very powerful force. And there is some validity in it. After all, social structures exist for a reason. Simply following the social conventions can make life easier, (why recreate the wheel?) and create more social bonding, (people that look alike and do the same things tend to group together.) However, it can also cause inner conflict. For L’Engle, she talks about her struggles with being a writer first and a mother and housekeeper second. How terribly guilty she would feel because she didn’t feel like she was keeping up with her neighbor’s standards of what a housewife should be. I would guess that a lot of us have gone through something similar – a internal struggle when we realized our passions and dreams differed from what other people thought we should do.

As I have mentioned, I‘ve been thinking about identity a lot lately. My identity has changed a lot in the past couple of years. Many of the words I would have used to describe myself a couple of years ago, aren’t true anymore. And, many of the words I would use now to describe myself, would have been unimaginable then. I’m not done, either. I am just getting to know this new woman who I have become. When I look in the mirror now, (both the actual physical mirror and the reflections of those closest to me,) I see someone completely different. Someone who I am just getting to know. I find myself saying, “When did I become this woman?” a lot. I usually mean it as a joke, when I am getting up at 4:50AM to go to a morning Boxing class, when I’m choosing nonfiction over a novel, when I’m tying on my running shoes… things I wouldn’t have ever thought of doing not that long ago.

I’m also saying “no” to things I would have never turned down. I’ve been active in our community theatre organizations in various ways since 1989. It’s been my lifeblood. All of my friends I met through theatre. But, for now, it doesn’t interest me. I still love my friends, I just don’t have any interest in being at the theatre. It could be just a pendulum, I was very, very busy with theatre the past four years or so, and maybe I am just burned out. In time the pendulum will swing back again. Or maybe not – I honestly don’t know. That’s what I mean – I’m still getting know this “new” me.

Without a doubt I have let other people’s opinions of me effect my choices. I can’t honestly complain, either. I’ve had a good life. I might have had a very different one if I had just listened to my own heart, but the one I have is good. However, I feel like I have the opportunity right now to examine it. I also have the wisdom and experience to start cutting out the parts that don’t work for me, and start adding more that does.

Side Effects and Society – A Light Bulb Moment

so distant by Andreia BohnerA few weeks ago my General Practitioner put me on a new medication. One of its potential side effects is drowsiness. I mentioned to her that I was concerned about that – I have enough problems with getting enough sleep and being tired/grouchy the next day, I didn’t need a medication that was going to add to that! She had a simple solution:

Take it at night.

In retrospect it seems incredibly obvious. If I take the medication at night, the drowsiness takes place at night giving me the added benefit of helping me get to sleep! By the time I get up in the morning, the side effect has passed. Brilliant! The thing is, I never would have never thought of taking it at night. I’ve somehow been trained that you take medication in the morning. You just do. Medications are kept in the medicine cabinet and you take them right before you brush your teeth in the morning along with your multivitamin. I don’t even know where that routine comes from, childhood, I guess.

It’s interesting to me because I have been doing a lot of thinking lately on societal conventions / family norms and how we just accept them as fact without necessarily thinking about whether they actually work for us – for our own lives. When to take medication seems like a small, silly example, but it speaks to a bigger theme I’m seeing in my life – that some of the things I’ve just accepted as “the way things are” don’t have to be that way. In fact, they were set up by someone with completely different goals and aspirations than me. So, I’m starting to think about that. I’m in my forties now. Life is pretty stable. It’s time to take stock and look at things – even little things – and make sure they fit how I want to live. If it isn’t how my mother or my aunts would have done it, so what! They have their own lives – and I have mine. Time to make it mine!

 

 

Photo credit: Andréia Bohner on flickr

Falling Out of Love with Fall

Hermes admires some Fall decor.

Hermes admires some Fall decor.

I used to love Autumn. Summer was my enemy. It was always too hot, too sticky and too sunny. When the weather started to turn, I was in heaven. The cooler nights and walking through falling leaves made me happy. I felt settled. This year, all that has changed.

This year I embraced summer. I ran, hiked, biked, kayaked, swam – even tried stand up paddleboarding. For the first time since being a kid, I’m actually tan. I’ve loved being this active and being out in the sun. Autumn, however, has come very suddenly to the Midwest. For the past week or so it’s been cold, rainy and windy. Since getting a dog, I feel much more attuned to the seasons. I am outside every morning and every night with him and I notice the shortening of the days more than I used to. I see the fading flowers and the landscaping changing, and I notice the flocks of birds moving south. I keep an eye on the weather. I watch out for thunderstorms (since my pooch is petrified of them,) and I now have to dress for the temperature. I’m already adding more and more layers.

I’m finding my mood is getting dark too. I talked to my therapist about it and she suggested reframing the season, to find things to love about autumn again. I thought it was good advice – it doesn’t make sense to try and fight Mother Nature, she always wins. So, replaced all my desktop photos of the lake this summer at the cottage with photos of pretty Fall foliage.  I took my hot pink toenail polish off and replaced it with a silly OPI color called “Wooden Shoe Like to Know?” I’ve started putting funny little Fall window clings on my door – not as decor for people coming in, but to make me smile when I leave. I bought some new candles in scents called “Harvest Apple” and “Flannel” and have been lighting them when I get home. (No “Pumpkin Spice” though… I have to draw the line somewhere.) I’ve even started pulling out my favorite sweaters.

I’m trying. Sometimes “fake it ’til you make it” is all you can do. I am very grateful for my fitness classes right now, though. Last year I had trouble staying active this time of year, this year I am actually ramping up. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Happiness isn’t Made with a Cookie Cutter

Lack of passion

Oh, shut up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about passion and happiness. It started with a question – if I wanted to change careers, what would make me happy? It seems like it’s a pretty straightforward question, but I didn’t know the answer. When you think about it, it’s ridiculous how we choose careers. Unless you know from birth what you want to be (and some people do have passion like that,) it’s hard to know what to pick. There should be some kind of “try out period” where you can sit in on different jobs and see what they are like before you commit. (And no, I am not talking about college.)

Trying to narrow this down I asked myself a couple of questions: 1) What would I do if money wasn’t an issue, and 2) What do I enjoy doing now? The first question wasn’t about a career, it was more about how would I spend money if I didn’t have to worry about earning it. I didn’t mean the lotto, because that’s a whole different kettle of fish, I just meant if whatever it was that I did paid “enough” what would I do? Most of the things on my list were pretty practical – I’d remodel the downstairs bath, I’d get another kayak, I would take more fitness classes. The only thing that really popped on my list as “extravagant” was that I would travel more.

Then I looked at what makes me happy now. Again they were simple things: walking with my dog, being on the water, spending time with people I care about, reading books, cooking and so on. I quickly figured out that while there are a lot of things I love, none of them were things I wanted to do as a career. I love to cook, but I don’t want to be a chef, I like paddling around in my kayak but I am not looking to become a guide, and so on. In fact, what it seemed like I would be best at was being retired!!

That’s when it hit me – I had gone through this same cycle when I was in my 20s and in college. I was trying to decide what to major in. My passion at that time was community theatre – as a volunteer, I didn’t want to be a professional actor or stagehand. So ultimately I decided to find a career that I enjoyed, but that was also stable, interesting, challenging and could support my “theatre habit.” I ended up in marketing since it beautifully combined my love of art and writing.

Now that I am in my 40s, all that holds true. I might be on a break from theatre, but the basic premise still holds true – I want a job that I enjoy and that I am good at that will support my lifestyle. I don’t have one huge dream to chase after, instead, I know what I want in my life, and I have set up my career to support that.

I admit that part of me feels like this is a let down. That somehow I should have this big… goal in my life, some grand dream. I don’t though, and you know what? That is okay. I can love riding my bike without having to race in a triathlon. I can have a career that I am proud of, without it being my “lifelong dream.” I can be good in business without feeling like I have to start my own. We push ourselves so hard to go big, to be the best, but how about just enjoying what we have right now?

That seems so unAmerican, right?

I’m tired of feeling like I am not meeting some kind of expectation because I’m happy with some fairly simple things. And I am tired of justifying those simple things. I’m fixing my life, but not by making any big changes – instead, I’m simply finding small ways to enjoy what I have now even more.

 

Anxiety and Me

Here’s what my anxiety looks like:

  • It’s the hyped up, heart racing jittery rush of being over caffeinated. It’s as if I consumed a half dozen expressos, a couple of candy bars and few handfuls of PopRocks. My breath feels short, I’m sweating and I have a stress headache.

    I'm so disappointed...

    I’m so disappointed…

  • There is a nagging feeling I have forgotten something, something really important. It’s a “I’ve left the oven on in Patrick Stewart’s condo and it’s going to burn down if I don’t turn it off soon.” kind of feeling. (You can pick any celebrity here, or anyone from whom it would be devastating to hear the words “I’m not angry, I’m just really disappointed in you.”) The problem is, I don’t actually know what it is I have forgotten. Truth is, I haven’t forgotten anything, but that reality doesn’t change how I feel.
  • I’m distracted, irritable and frustrated. I react too quickly. I want to punch the coworker who stands to close, sneer at the woman wearing that obnoxious shade of purple and scream at basically everyone on the road at the same time I am. While this is happening, I am perfectly aware that it is all me, so I try to be nice, I try to be calm. (It isn’t easy.)
  • At the exact same time, I am fragile. I am afraid of offending or hurting someone – particularly the people I care about.
  • I have a hard time settling down. I’m thinking about everything… and nothing all at once. My brain latches onto a thought and I run it around and around in circles in my brain, gnawing at it, until the thought becomes completely abstract. It loses meaning. Then another thought pops in.
  • I rush through things I should enjoy. I can’t relax in the garden, I have to hurry through it… though I don’t know why. I go for a walk on a beautiful morning, but I don’t enjoy it. All I can think about is getting back home, even though there is no reason to hurry.

The good news is that my anxiety isn’t debilitating. I can go to work and function just fine. At most, my coworkers might notice that I am a bit more quiet and considerate. I am aware of when anxiety is getting to me, so I take special care not to say, or do, anything I will regret. However fortunate I am that I can still work and take care of what I need to, it’s still hard.

The last couple of days I have been struggling with this. I went to boxing class last night hoping that I could work some of it off. Boxing is so intense that I was hoping I could release some of this uncomfortable energy. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

To start with, there is a reason why boxing is called “the sweet science.” It isn’t about just flailing away at something as hard as you can. There is a level of concentration required in how you hit. If you aren’t being deliberate, the bag will start to spin. As my instructor said, “Now you are hitting him in the back of the head… that isn’t so bad for street fighting, but it’s not allowed in boxing.” The class was a good distraction, (it’s hard to think about anything but the class,) but it didn’t give me quite what I was looking for.

The other problem was that I tired. My whole body was exhausted. I think the SUP class I took earlier in the week was harder on me than I realized. I didn’t feel as strong in the class as I usually do, and at the end I was completely exhausted – but not in that giddy “I left it all on the floor” kind of way that I usually do.

In fact, the best moment of the evening was when I was riding my bike back home from class. I was tired, but it was a beautiful night and the ride felt great. As I neared home, I decided to go an extra block and take the long way around, just for fun. I found out that the street leading to mine is one long, slow downward hill. I had this beautiful moment of sailing down the road at my top speed – wheeeee! Plus I knew that my house was at the bottom and I didn’t have to go back up! (Which is what I’m usually thinking about when I am coasting down a hill!)

So, I am just going to take care of myself this weekend and try to relax and remind myself of this quote by TS Elliot:

quote-T.-S.-Eliot

 

 

How to Take a New Fitness Class (Being 40 Helps.)

Pilates class

Do not make any mistake, this is hard.

Last Wednesday I took a Pilates class. (…yeah, I know. I don’t know when I became this gal either!) Since Hermes is still on crate rest and we can’t go on our long walks, I’m doing all sorts of things to keep active. I had a free hour that night, but I thought it was going to rain, so all my regular activities (biking, running, hiking) went out the window. I’ve decided to purchase a three month unlimited membership to the studio where I take my boxing classes, so I checked the website for classes. My options that night were something called “Inferno” and Pilates.

Inferno (whatever that is) seemed a little intense, so I went with the Pilates class. I knew almost nothing about Pilates when I walked in. Here was the sum of my knowledge:

  • It consists of isometric and body weight exercises
  • It was super popular about 10 years ago
  • It uses props – like balls and things
  • When I met with the head trainer at the studio and told her I was looking to increase my strength, it was the first class she recommended

When I got to the class, the first thing I did was walk up to the instructor and say, “Hi! I’m LongView Hill. I’m new!” (Note: so far as I can tell, instructors love new people.) She smiled, introduced herself and asked if I was just new to this class or Pilates in general.

“Nope! Never taken a class! I know nothing!” I quipped. (This included not knowing that Pilates, like yoga is done on a mat. I didn’t have one with me. Fortunately the studio has some that I could borrow.) She handed me a ball and told me to have fun and do what I could do.

There were about 7 other gals in the room with me. I put my mat in the center of the room saying something like, “Since I’m NEW, I’ll just put my mat here in the center so I can watch all of you, okay?” There was a chorus of nervous titters.

I couldn’t actually be in the middle though, there were eight of us, but only two of them arranged their mats towards the front of the room, everyone else was in the back. I chose the best spot I could, front center with a good view of the instructor. Like everyone else, I set my mat up yoga style – short end facing the instructor.

After the first 30 seconds or so, I realized that wasn’t going to work. We were moving into Bridge positions and with my head at the back of the mat I couldn’t see what the instructor was doing. (Pilates reminds me of yoga, but with more movement.)  I needed to see what was going on, so I stopped, grabbed my mat and flipped it sideways, so I was now parallel to the instructor. Then I could mimic her movements much easier – and see simply by turning my head.

I was glad I told her that I was new, throughout the class she checked in on me, and offered a few modifications for moves I couldn’t quite do. It went really well. The class was only 45 minutes, which was good because Pilates is hard – really hard.

Anyway, after we were done and packing up, one of the younger gals from the back of the room pops up and says this was her first class. Then another one did, and another, and another… it turns out there were six brand new students in the class! No wonder they giggled nervously when I said I would watch them!

I remember being in my 20s and being unable to admit I was new at something, or that didn’t know what I was doing. I remember being in college and thinking it was weird how the older adult returning students always sat at the front of the room – and how they always asked questions (too many, in my young opinion.) Now, I am that student. And you know what? It is great! I love having the confidence to say, “I’m new, but I’m ready to learn!” It makes classes a lot more fun.

 

Photo credit: Robert Bejil on flickr

 

 

A Different Point of View

Strong by Scott SwigartIt took me a little while to understand why the post: 10+ Reasons I Love My Ugly Body hit me so hard. I hadn’t read her blog before, I found it on a link from Fit, Feminist and (almost) Fifty on Friday. I’m pretty happy with the way my body looks, overall. So, it wasn’t that I felt particularly close to the author or that I completely identified with her, although like most women, I certainly have things about myself I wish I could change.

I think the reason her post put giant tears in my eyes and made me catch my breath was that it directly addressed something I have been dealing with myself. I’ve mentioned that I gained some weight back in January. I’ve been trying to ditch it, but I haven’t had much success. It’s been really upsetting to me, and I think I am starting to connect the dots as to why. It’s not really about the weight exactly – sure, I wish some of my clothes fit a little better and I liked the way I looked last summer, but a few extra pounds do not look bad on me. I’m upset not about the weight… I’m upset because it is effecting my confidence. I feel like I should be able to just do what I did before and it should come off. But it hasn’t.

This probably wouldn’t be a big deal, except that I have gone through several confidence busting incidents in the last few months. When you start to feel like you can’t even control your own body the way you did before, it eats at your faith in yourself. My weight loss and fitness was something I have been rather proud of, and lately, it’s been slipping. It’s hard when other things in my life are in the same boat. There is a lot of “what is wrong with me??” kind of thoughts going on.

But Andrea turns it around, she celebrates all the things that her body can do that it couldn’t do before. And seriously, look at some of the amazing things she can do! She is a badass!!I mentioned I just achieved a personal record in weight lifting the other day, and honestly, I feel like I have a lot more in me. What if I relax a little and instead of beating myself up, give myself a little credit for all that I can do now – and for all the goals I have in the future? How would that feel?

I think I’ll give that a try.

 

Photo credit: Scott Swigart via flickr

Asking for Help

Iblue stars really liked this article on GoKaleo about weight loss and self compassion: Self-compassion: an Excuse to be Fat? No. It fits in with some things I’ve been thinking about myself. I’ve mentioned a few times over the past couple of months that I’ve been under some stress. After a gentle nudge from my boyfriend, I think it is time to do something about it. I set up an appointment with my doctor. I am hoping to get a referral to a therapist so I can work some of this stuff out.

I’m a pretty introspective gal. I’m not afraid of the long look inward, but sometimes it is good to have a guide. I was in therapy once before and it was incredibly helpful. I am good at asking myself tough questions, but the beauty of a great therapist is that they ask the questions you never think to ask. They challenge your beliefs, sometimes in ways that seem so obvious (in retrospect) that it is annoying, but usually really helpful.

I’m feeling a bit stuck in my life, like certain parts are in a rut. I know what I have to do to change those parts… and yet I don’t do them. Something is holding me back. I feel weighted down, and this weight is keeping me from moving forward. (Or moving forward at a glacial pace.) It’s causing anxiety and frustration.

I’ve been trying to get back to my healthy eating and exercising, and that does really help. As I type this, I am munching on a simple salad made from organic lettuce and greens plucked straight from my garden. I spritzed on some lemon juice and it takes like summer. These simple pleasures feed my heart, belly and soul. Lifting weights (hit a new personal record last week!) gives me added confidence and assurance. I’m not running off the rails, I just need a hand with my map.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

How You Eat

CabbageI just read this article over on Vox: So much for the Mediterranean diet — Greece & Italy have the world’s most overweight kids.

Personally, I think dieting is like exercising. What exercise is the best? The one that you do. What food plan is the best? The one that works for you. I’m still working on that for myself.

There are things I know I like –

I like eating locally grown or sourced food. I get the double win of delicious food while I’m supporting my local economy.

I like eating organic. Not all my food is local, (in the winter that would make for mighty slim pickings,) but I do try to make sure the majority of it is organic.

I like eating as close to whole foods as I can. I’ve never been a big fan of pre-prepared foods, but there were some that I ate regularly. Those are becoming less and less. I don’t make my own yogurt yet and I’ve not tried cheese making (although I would like to!) but I’m trying to get back to basics as much as I can.

I’m making a conscious effort to avoid grain based foods. I can’t say “carbs” because I eat boatloads of fruits and veggies – and those are carbs. Mostly I am avoiding breads, tortillas, rice and so on. I still eat them, but in very small quantities. This is probably the biggest change I have made in the last year or so.

I’m also trying to eat a lot more protein in the beginning of the day and eat lighter in the evening. I feel better when I eat this way, but due to cultural norms, it isn’t always possible.

What I am looking for is a lifestyle that I can maintain that makes me feel good – both physically and mentally. So in addition to these little rules, I like letting go once and awhile – valuing meals with loved ones over counting calories, relaxing on holidays and just embracing the joy of food. The trick is finding the right balance.

Photo credit: Ben Hosking on flickr