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.

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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.

Too Fit To Quit

It’s possible to become “Too Fit To Quit” as a Nike tee shirt proclaims.

The October issue of Allure features an article that echoes what I’ve talked about all along: maintaining a healthy weight not a bone-thin weight.

In the Cindy Crawford interview, “How to Eat Well,” she quoted a doctor who gave her great advice:
“Find your healthiest weight and stay there. And don’t make it your skinniest weight because it’s unsustainable.”

That’s priceless advice for the five bucks it costs to buy the magazine.

How did I always know this? You can strength train and gain muscle yet you’ll still fit into the same size pair of jeans even if you gain five or 10 pounds.

It irks me when a woman sets a single, arbitrary number as her “must-get-to” goal weight. If you’re 5’5″, weighing 125 pounds might not be realistic, particularly if you strength train and gain muscle.

Cindy Crawford admits: “I still don’t love exercising, but I like feeling empowered.” She likes being able to help her husband move a couch.

The more you exercise consistently each week, you’ll fall into a groove because you have more energy and stamina. That’s the trick: even a supermodel resists doing what’s best for her body.

I recommend more than anything developing a fitness routine as part of your wellness practice. Link doing this to a SMART goal: one that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive. Set a realistic “lifeline” for achieving the goal instead of an impossible restrictive deadline.

The truth is too: when a person eats crap, she feels like crap. And that’s the best motivator for having healthful eating habits. Food choices go hand-in-hand with fitness choices.

We need to treat our bodies with love. We need to love our bodies as workhorses that can help us accomplish our life goals.

I’ll end here by echoing that it’s absolutely true a woman doesn’t have to be bone-thin.

Be proud of your curves. Be proud of your muscles. Use food as fuel.

Weight Loss Magic

From the time I was 23 until I turned 29 I was 20 lb. overweight.

It took me six years to lose 20 lb. and then in my early forties I gained 10 lb. back.

The earlier you start to train, the quicker you’ll see improvements in your life.

I did step aerobics and pounding the treadmill in my twenties. I did Zumba in my early forties.

You can lose weight and keep it off when you set weekly, 3-week and 3-month goals. At the end of the year you can assess where you’re at and if you need to change what you do.

I committed to changing one behavior at a time. First, I started drinking skim milk instead of regular milk. Then I ate chicken without the skin. Next, I stopped eating meat.

To this day I don’t eat beef, lamb, veal or pork. AT ALL. I rarely eat chicken and turkey. I mostly eat seafood and vegetables and pasta. During Greenmarket season June through November I buy and cook fresh seasonal organic produce.

I say: start to strength train earlier in your life. At 40, a woman needs to reduce what she eats and strength train to keep off the weight.

I started to lift when I was 45 going into 46. I was able to shape my self: “Make Yourself” as the Nike advertisement proclaims.

It would tick me off to think most people think healthful food doesn’t taste good. I don’t think meat tastes good. I don’t think processed food tastes good either.

I haven’t had a hot dog since 1992. I read the ingredients label of a hot dog package and found out it’s 100 calories and 90 fat calories. You do the math: does this sound healthy?

I haven’t had a soda since 1987. As kids, we used to drink C&C cola. Remember that? It was cheaper than Coke or Pepsi.

My philosophy of life is rooted in science and kindness as the twin engines of healing.

You can heal your life. You can have a fit body and a strong mind. It involves being kind to yourself and others. I’m not a fan of any kind of “garbage in, garbage out” lifestyle.

What you eat impacts how you feel. I submit that eating healthful foods can bring a smile to your face.

Cooking well is an act of kindness. Sharing a meal is one of the enduring joys in life.

People who take atypicals have lost 20, 30, 50 lb. and kept it off. I will try to interview one of them to share his secrets for weight loss too.

I’ll end here by stating that weight loss isn’t quick and it isn’t easy.

The rewards are lasting.