Happy Harvest

I advocate that a person is grateful for what they do have instead of bemoaning what they don’t have or being jealous of someone else.

At Thanksgiving I prefer to celebrate the harvest and the bounty in my life. The true root of the holiday is that we stole this land from Native Americans. Thus I prefer to focus on the season as one of reaping what we’ve sown in terms of a harvest.

Be grateful. Set a goal. The striving to achieve a goal is what counts not the outcome. I have achieved a fitness goal what’s called a performance goal.

I’m going to have a holiday party. I’ll set the table with the Missoni dinnerware I bought from Target. Little things like spending time with friends count more than whether we’ve gotten a degree or have a job if you ask me.

If you ask me the point is to enjoy life.

A backlash against the happiness gurus exists. Yes: I do think so-called experts can go too far in preaching that everyone gets happy every hour of every day. Yet being terminally depressed can rob a person of self-esteem.

A happy medium can exist. Happiness is an inside job. No one can give it to you and it doesn’t exist outside of yourself in the products we buy.

The happiest times of my life were when I played with my niece and nephew when they were young kids.

Now you see why I’m the biggest fan of finding what gives you joy and going and doing that.

Nothing lasts forever–hopefully not the emotional pain a person is in either. We must cherish what we have while we have it.

On this Thanksgiving Day I wish that readers of this blog have a good day. If you don’t have family to celebrate with go and do what gives you joy.

A happy harvest season to you.

Gym Member Success Story

I have some cheerful news:

Though I was not chosen for a member success story at the gym:

My story is going to be featured for the gym’s other upcoming social media and website promotions.

The review team responded to me thus:

“Your story was incredibly compelling and special” so the gym is saving my success story essay and photos for other upcoming social media and website promotions.

I’m sent a $25/gift card as a reward.

It’s not ever too late to change your life for the better.

I was 46 when I started to work out at the gym like a madwoman in training for the prizefight of her life. Before I was 46, I hadn’t lifted one single weight. Four years later when I was 50 I could dead lift 205 pounds.

This story I hope uplifts and inspires readers to make positive changes in your lives at any point in your recovery and your life.

The goal as ever is not for everyone to be able to do what I do.

The goal is for you to define what a happy and healthy life looks like for you and to go do that every day or as often as possible.

It isn’t over until we’re no longer here. While we’re here we have the right and duty to use our God-given gifts to make the world a better place for ourselves and others.

God didn’t want us to love our neighbors before or instead of loving ourselves. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” often only happens once we start to like and more to the point love ourselves for who we are as human beings not what we’re able to do. Character counts more than any achievements.

Doing what’s healthy that makes us feel good is the goal. My intent in telling you this good news was to help readers see that success is not out of the question and that it might come later in life.

The milestones are different for each of us. The results we obtain for ourselves are not going to be the same either.

Yet perhaps readers can take from my story the idea and the hope that you can set a goal and achieve it.

Like all things it’s the effort that counts not the result.

Always try your best to do a little better each day.

It’s not ever too late to change your life for the better.

Like the posters on the wall at a gym beckon:

Don’t give up the fight. Reinvent yourself.

50 is the beginning of a better life not the end of our lives.

That’s my point exactly:

Do what makes you happy. Live your passion.

A long life to you!

Skinny Girl Lemon Swirl

I bought a Skinny Girl brand Lemon Swirl power bar the other day. If memory serves it has whey protein.

I checked out the ingredients label and it appears that it doesn’t contain natural flavors or any other fake chemicals.

At the library I once scanned a Betheny Frankel diet book titled Get Skinny Forever or something ludicrous like that.

The section I read berated women for the food choices we make. That’s not going to motivate your readers to lose weight. I found that Frankel’s tone of voice in the book was hardly encouraging.

The idea that everyone has to be “skinny” is a myth if you ask me. I didn’t lose any weight after strength training going on five years now. Yet I did drop one pant and one skirt size because I gained muscle. So in that regard you could say I’m skinnier even though I didn’t lose weight.

The number on the scale shouldn’t dictate how we feel about ourselves. Maintaining a healthy weight rather than an unrealistically low weight is the better option if you ask me. Kate Moss’s body is not the kind of genetic anomaly any of us should aspire to have.

I see woman at the gym. Their arms and legs are sticks and they lift puny 15 pound kettlebells. That’s their thing so be it. Yet I recommend lifting heavier weights as you go along to develop more muscle to burn fat at a greater rate.

My mantra now is “abs and arms.”

I will be on the lookout for healthier snacks like the Skinny Girl Lemon Swirl bars.

I’ll report back in here on what I find.

I bid readers peace happiness and health this summer.

Relax: you don’t have to be skinny.

Bring Strength to Life

I want to recommend a new gym in Brooklyn: Brooklyn Health and Performance.

The owners motto is that the gym staff help members “bring strength to life.” Their website encourages us to Be Determined. Never Quit.

The trainer tailors your routines to your individual needs and uses industry standards in creating routines. Unlike other gyms that offer a cookie-cutter approach to training.

It’s well worth it to consider joining Brooklyn Health and Performance if you live in the area.

I’m not getting paid to promote this gym either so don’t be fooled into thinking I’m gaining money.

You get what you pay for when you join a gym..

The gym is one of the only places in society where effort=outcome because you’re competing against yourself and no one else. In the gym the playing field is truly level.

Elsewhere if you compete against another person you might not win. When you compete against yourself you always win.

I’ll end here by saying that the goal is to strive to do a little better each day than each of us did yesterday.

Reconsidering Schizophrenia Treatment

Define what constitutes schizophrenia treatment.

Is it medication? Therapy? Family support?

My contention is that “treatment” must be inclusive of exercise, an eating plan, acts of faith in God or a higher power, hobbies and passions, work, school, and other healthy routines we engage in in our ordinary lives each week.

I wrote at HealthCentral about getting credentials. It’s my belief that we need to focus on habits we engage in to be whole and well. This is going to be a personal skill set or set of activities for each of us.

The days should be long gone when young people are shunted into traditional day programs, strung along years and years in a way that leads to dependence and disability instead of recovery.

This is precisely why I make the case for broadening what constitutes “treatment.”

I was lucky for over four years to employ the services of a trainer at the gym. I couldn’t afford weekly sessions so I met with him every five weeks to be given a new routine to do for the next five weeks on my own and so on. I achieved my fitness because of this trainer.

The trainer was a special person in my life and I’m grateful for the time I had with him while he was here.

This is why I think treatment needs to be expanded to incorporate at the least fitness and nutrition to help individuals with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses heal.

We can’t always do it alone. We need to assemble a treatment team that is comprised of peers and mentors for support as well as a doctor and therapist.

I wrote at HealthCentral years ago about a depressed woman who checked herself into a hotel with a spa for pampering as a form of treatment.

There you go.

I rest my case.

Winning

The playing field isn’t level for people with mental illnesses. Whether because of stigma or because of the battles a person fights against their own mind: the playing field is only level when you compete against yourself.

You can win when you choose to compete against yourself. You might even be able to win when you compete against others for a job or a promotion, or a spot on a sports team, or a place in graduate school.

I’m most interested however in the day-to-day: the pockets of time everyone lives in every day. In how we must celebrate little victories as well as milestones like 50.

I make the case for redefining success when in fact the playing field isn’t level.

I urge every parent to love your kid for who they are not what they can do in life. Get a pen and piece of paper and write down every great thing you can think of about your loved one. Try to write down at least 20 positive things you can see in your loved one. Keep on going.

Do this for yourself if you have a mental illness: write down five things each day in a grateful journal that you’re thankful for.

Winning isn’t always becoming a neurosurgeon against great odds. It isn’t always the result of competing with others in society.

In my book winning is as simple as taking action in the direction of your dreams. Winning is one day when you have the energy setting the dining table with a place mat elegant flatware and your best dishes. Winning is getting out of bed.

Winning is when you decide to like yourself even though you don’t see yourself reflected in media stories about successful people.

Winning comes when you accept that you are a great person just the way you are. You don’t have to apologize for your existence or justify to anyone else how you live your life.

Winning is not throwing in the towel. It’s telling yourself: “I got halfway today. That’s good enough. I can try again tomorrow.”

You win when you understand that you can’t do everything and have everything that other people have. You win when you’re grateful for what you ARE able to do and ARE able to have.

You win when you plant the seeds and water the grass in your own garden instead of envying other people’s grass.

It isn’t greener over there.

Each of us must define “success” in our own terms.

That as a fortune cookie stated: “There is no shame in failure only in quitting.”

Winning is making the effort even when the odds are stacked against you.

Winning is trying your best every day knowing that your best will change from day to day.

Winning is flashing a smile to someone who’s hurting.

Winning is tipping a waitress who’s been on her feet 10 hours 20 percent.

Winning is the little things.

Everyone’s a winner in my book.

You’re a winner simply because you try your best.

Athletic Heretic

I’m going to be hit in the head with a pocketbook or other big object for telling others that I value having a fit mind in a strong body.

Yet research indicates that exercise improves cognitive functioning as a person gets older. I’m living proof that getting mentally tough has allowed me to defend myself against hard times when life comes at me with hard punches.

Often, I was the only one in my corner when the punches came fast and furious. Yet ironically I don’t expect that anyone else should be able to take the punches and rebound quickly on their own.

I couldn’t be critical of any other person if they didn’t achieve a better recovery or create a better life or were not able to do other things like those of us who have. That’s why I’ve dubbed this heretic: it goes against the commonplace myth that people who are successful often take down others for not being able to succeed.

True sportspersonship involves fair play and inviting everyone to compete. Just by striving to achieve a goal you’re a winner even if you don’t achieve what you set out to. It is the trying not the outcome that counts in the end.

Trying can be as simple as getting out of bed on some days. It can be as simple as giving yourself a pat on the back when it’s hard to acknowledge your efforts.

Today I did the routine at the gym. I did a TK pulldown with 85 pounds for 3 sets of 6 reps.

My greatest dream would be to convince others to create an ongoing, consistent fitness routine. I don’t like to call this “exercise.” I like to call this a fitness routine because fitness is forever: it has lasting impact on your mental and physical health throughout your life.

I firmly believe that fitness is the bullet train to success for individuals diagnosed with mental illness. The point is not always to lose weight. The point is to gain muscle and to feel good. Muscle burns fat at a greater rate. So you can drop one pant size even though the number on the scale hasn’t budged.

Food for thought as it’s National Sports and Physical Fitness Month.

Now if you’ll excuse me I hear a kettlebell ringing.

National Sports and Physical Fitness Month

May is National Sports and Physical Fitness Month.

I’m a big fan of having a fit mind in a strong body. I value having mental muscle as well as toned arms.

It’s not ever too late to start a fitness routine. I started to train for life at the gym when I was 45 going into 46. It’s better to do this later than not ever.

I disagreed with a woman who told me if she didn’t get sick by now she saw no reason to change her habits. I didn’t tell her that I thought changing for the better later in life is healthier than not changing at all.

I existed on Velveeta shells-n-cheese and hot dogs and frozen TV dinners when I lived below the poverty line circa the late 1980s. It wasn’t until 20 years later that I got on track with 80 percent healthful eating.

The Mediterranean Diet is by far the best eating plan because it focuses on fruits and vegetables, seafood, and occasionally chicken or turkey, plus whole grains.

In my view it’s better to make positive changes at any time in your life and your recovery rather than continuing to live in ill health.

If you don’t like your body the solution is to exercise. You will feel good in your body when you train. It can be as simple aschecking fitness videos out of the library. An expensive gym membership is not for everyone. Hiking a nature trail might be more your speed. As famously documented in Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild.

I have an enduring fascination with fitness. I might be biased yet I don’t think a person should live in hell for a minute longer than they have to. Delaying treatment or not getting treatment or not making the changes you know you need to make is not healthy.

Why is it that a lot of people resist doing what’s in their best interests? I wonder about this.

Health can lead to happiness. I value mental and physical health and emotional health too.

Certainly trying to do things on your own because you think you should be able to cope on your own often sets you up to backfire. Sometimes you can’t make it on your own. That’s when you call in a team of reputable professionals to help you get better.

I will report back next week on National Sports and Physical Fitness Month techniques.

Stay tuned.

Eating To Live

I’ve reviewed the book Body for Life for Women in the reviews section today.

Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP gives sound advice: to control your portions and eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

She is quoted: “You’re talking 15 almonds, 20 peanuts, or 12 walnut halves.”

A sample day’s meal plan includes 2 light string cheese sticks and 1 medium apple as an a.m. or p.m. meal.

You can have six mini healthful meals throughout the day.

This is the best kind of eating plan. A healthful “snack” counts as one of the six meals.

I’m going to experiment with buying the tuna and salmon in the foil packs. I will report back in here what I think of this option. Bumblebee calls their foil packs “SuperFresh” and I wonder if it is.

My contention is that even if for whatever reason you don’t want to buy organic food, you should be loading up on fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether they’re organic.

I have fallen down in this regard lately. The goal is not to have perfect habits. The goal is to follow your plan 80 percent of the time. This makes sense as a livable option to me.

The goal is to always do your best and to know that your best will change from day to day.

We each of us need to be kind to ourselves and stop chasing perfection, which is an impossible standard to live up to.

80 percent. Something to think about.

Healthy Habits

I recommend making it as convenient as possible to adopt healthy habits that you can stick to.

Make things happen for yourself instead of making excuses. I used to be friends with a woman and I was willing to help her lose weight yet she kept making excuses for why she couldn’t do what I suggested.

My first recommendation is to buy a small container of Blue Diamond whole and natural almonds. The container can easily fit in a gym bag or a medium-sized woman’s pocketbook.

Everyone knows cramming down nuts can pack on the calories yet I advocate for having a handful before or after a workout or during the day when you’re traveling.

Eat one banana a few times a week too. I realize the foam packaging my organic bananas are wrapped in defeats the purpose of being eco-friendly. Yet as long as I do the right in most other ways I’m okay eating an organic banana packaged this way.

Have five healthful meals every two to three hours throughout the day. This helps regulate blood sugar. If you are able to store a container of peanut butter at work or in your refrigerator at home, have a spoonful of peanut butter when you eat the banana. Slather slices of an apple with peanut butter to regulate the sugar rush from eating the apple too.

In a pinch, ongoing, you can have a Kind bar once a day every so often.

What I’ve done: when the almonds ran out, I stored chocolate-covered almonds in the Blue Diamond container to take with me to the gym or in my travels.

Another secret solution: I bought Silk unsweetened almond milk. I braved drinking some and to my delight it tastes only different not yucky. Plus it has more calcium than regular milk and you can use it in a shake you can make in a blender. Mix some blueberries, 0 fat Greek yogurt, a scoop of organic whey protein powder, and some almond milk in a blender. Voila: a healthful snack.

I know a guy who carries a couple sticks of string cheese and an apple wherever he goes. Guys: there’s no shame in carrying a backpack to store these items in your travels.

Like I say: it’s better to make things happen instead of making excuses.

And making it as convenient as possible to eat healthful foods is the best way to go.