Monday, March 25, 2013

Cling & Clatter, Noise & Chatter

By now it shouldn't, but it never ceases to amaze me at how much I can accomplish in a day when I can find mental clarity and silence all the chatter in my head.  We often take for granted the importance of mental health.  It is obvious to when we need to make our bodies healthier.  The problem is that when we are overweight and begin a weight loss journey we don't give much thought, if at all, to the mental process.  There is an underlying, psychological reason why we got to be overweight.  

Some of us are food addicts, plain & simple, except there is nothing simple about overcoming any kind of addiction.  Some of us are emotional eaters...we eat when we are happy...we eat to fill a void when we are sad or angry...we eat for any reason or no reason.  Some of us don't eat at all when we are upset emotionally.  We eat plenty when we are happy.  Some of us eat out of boredom or because the person next to us is eating.

The important thing is to realize that there is a psychological reason behind our actions, good or bad.  We must admit that we are driven by our emotions.  When our actions are harming us and those around us (because everyone around you is effected by your actions whether you believe it or not), we must find a way to correct those actions so that we are healing our bodies.  

I find clarity when I run, most times, but even then it doesn't quiet all the noise still resounding in my head.  I've learned to admit when I need to speak to someone about what is flowing through my head & weighing me down.  Generally, I can speak to my best friend.  Sadly, it often starts with me having a melt down.  This isn't healthy, and I know it.  It is best to speak to someone on a regular basis, before things get so bad they cause the melt down.  I'm learning that I need to be more ready to admit & ask for help when I need it.

I have a lot of work I need to get done, goals I want to accomplish, which aren't getting accomplished because I keep sabotaging myself with this unhealthy behavior.  Let's remember that our mental health is equally, perhaps moreso, important as our physical health.  Let's vow to work on this daily, too, making it a part of our daily lifestyle.  Let's clear the cling & clatter, noise & chatter.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mental Health: The Power of Thinking

I've been listening to personal development audio most of the day so far. Currently, I'm listening to Zig Ziglar. He gave a very important reminder of something I have said to countless others. Sometimes these bits of wisdom are forgotten by the very person giving them, myself. The reminder was in the power of our thoughts. The advice I have given others is that if you think it, you will make it happen...good or bad. If you think you are not capable of accomplishing a goal, you are right. On the flip side, if you think you are capable, no matter your situation, circumstance, or background, then you are also right.

This is my very public & very personal confession. Since late last year, I have been struggling a great deal with not being happy. I'm not happy because I'm not where I believe I should be at my career, finances, etc.. I'm not happy because I have yet to experience what it is like to be in a mutually respectful, supportive relationship. I'm not happy because I don't have close friends like I once had or the support of the people from whom I most want it. These are the thoughts that have consumed me for nearly a year. These thoughts have turned to "I will never be happy. It just isn't meant for me. Those storybook, fairy tale relationships are meant for some people but not me. Owning a home is meant for most people but not me. Being happy & satisfied in ones career is possible for some but not for me."

Guess what has been happening.  My work environment is getting more and more hostile.  I'm not achieving anything with the career I truly want (fitness).  Dating is one bad experience after another (for one reason or another, not any one single reason).  My finances are improving but not at the rate that is possible given my situation.  I go home after work mentally exhausted.  I have a laundry list of things I need to do but can't bring myself to check off even one because I just don't see the point.

I spend a good deal of my days uplifting and encouraging everyone around me.  I dispense advice but don't practice it myself.  I have started telling myself that I'm just not worth the effort.  This is heartbreaking.  Never in a million years would I want my kids to have these thoughts.  Never would I tell them it is okay to sink down into this hole and just give up.  So, then, why am I accepting it for myself?

No more! I AM worth it! I DO deserve it! I CAN do this and anything I to which I set my mind. Why.Not.Me?! WHY not me? Why NOT me? Why not ME?

I have so much to happy about.  I have two wonderful kids who are growing into amazing adults who I know will make a powerful, positive impact on this world.  They love me & respect me.  They get angry when others speak badly of me or disrespect me.  I have a good job with full benefits and a great annual bonus.  I have the ability to educate myself on fitness & nutrition and to use that education to help others.  It took me seven years, but I have a college degree that I am using.  I've tripled my income in the last 5 years since graduating college.  I am able to provide for my kids more than so many Americans, and I'm doing it on my own.  I have very little debt.  I have an automobile in very good condition because I've been able to keep up with the regular maintenance.  I do have friends and family in my life who love me.  I don't get to visit with them as often as I would like but they are important to me and know I love them.  I'm a better person for having known them.  I have survived cancer.

I will practice positive self-talk.  I will set goals - daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.  I will take the actions necessary to accomplish my goals.  I will do daily the little things necessary to accomplish these goals.  I will NOT be defeated.

Have you found yourself in this place?  What have you done or will you do to get out of it?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Single, Sanity, & Chicken Noodle Soup

Days like this are truly challenging for me.  My daughter woke up sick...throwing up sick.  Aside from the vomiting, she complained of stomach aches & headaches.  She had no fever, so I was sure it wasn't the flu.  She was ill just a week ago.  She wasn't throwing up then but she did play it safe & ate soup.  I had no soup left in the house.  I don't like canned soups at all.  They are loaded full of sodium, chemicals, & pesticides.  The vegetables & noodles are mush & in general they have no flavor.  They taste like salty broth.  That's it.  Nevertheless, when I run out of homemade that I have prepared ahead & frozen, and don't have time to make more, I will resort to canned soups.

Today, however, I was determined my daughter would not have to suck down that canned junk!  I was not able to be home with her.  She is seventeen & perfectly capable of taking care of herself, but it doesn't change my feeling of needing to be home to care for her only a mother can.  Being a single mom is at it's most challenging when my kids are sick.  It is especially so with the job I have now.  I am not allowed to use sick leave to be home with my kids.  I have to use vacation time.  I get only 15 days a year.  This began this year.  Up to this year, I got only 10 days a year.  Having to use vacation for sick kids means not being able to take vacation time for any other reason or leaving the child home alone to care for themselves.

I had to work a full 8 hour day.  My day didn't end there, though.  I had agreed to swap days I teach spin class, so I had to teach that before I could leave the campus.  That had me leaving the campus at 6pm.  I knew I didn't have everything I needed to make the chicken noodle soup, so I had to go the store before I could go home.  Sure, I could have just bought the canned soup & been done with the matter.  To me, this was unacceptable.  My daughter has had numerous health problems since she was 12 years old.  Not a single physician has been able to diagnose what causes her to be nauseated & dizzy on a daily basis.  I already knew but after watching the documentary "Food Matters" I was convinced of it that our food can either heal us or make us sick.  Socrates said "Let thy food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be thy food."  After taking my daughter off the allergy & asthma meds she had been on since she was 4 in an attempt to make her symptoms less severe & it working, I decided the next thing we needed to try was cleaning up her diet.

She has gained about 30 pounds since she started working last August.  She works at a Chinese restaurant.  She eats junk there & eats junk most of the time when she is not under my watch.  For the first time in her life, she has body image issues...along with her health problems getting bad again.  She agreed to start eating better & has been taking direction from me.  In addition to eating better, I told her the next thing we needed to do was try making that food cleaner.  Making the food cleaner means more organic, whole options.  Organic foods are not produced with the chemicals of non-organic foods.  Those chemicals make us sick.  Period.

This is why I opted to make her chicken noodle soup from scratch.  She deserves the best.  Making a sacrifice of time is the least I can do for her.  Did I want to sit down & take a load off...after working all day...after teaching a 45 minute spin class...after grocery shopping...of course I did!  But she needs me & this is what she needs right now.  It took me a total of an hour, start to finish.  My chicken noodle soup, like my chili, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, & a few other things, has no recipe.  I'll attempt to give an approximation of quantities & build a recipe.

1-1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 medium yellow onion
4 cups water
Himalayan Sea Salt
ground black pepper
4 medium carrots
6-8 celery stalks
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
1.5 cups no yolks noodles
2 cups water
1 cup vegetable broth, low sodium

Add water to a large dutch oven.  Dice the yellow onion.  Add chicken (whole) & onion to dutch oven.  Grind in the sea salt with a 3-4 turns of the grinder.  Add in a couple of dashes of black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Simmer 20-30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Remove chicken from broth.  Set aside to cool.  Add all remaining ingredients to the pot.  Dice the chicken into bite size pieces and add to the pot.  Return to a boil.  Reduce and simmer 8 minutes, until carrots are fork-tender...NOT mushy!

This makes 6-8, 1-1.5 cup, servings, and should be under 200 calories per serving.

Making this made battling to meet deadlines at work, being the best instructor to my class, & the stress of not being able to be home with my daughter, where I really wanted to be, worth it.  Making this soup for my sick child meant I have the ability to still help my child, to be the best mother I can for her, regardless of our circumstances. This one hour chore made better the whole day, for my daughter's health, for my sanity.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Single Friday: This is How We Roll

The social life of a single mom is tha shit!  You will NOT believe what I'm doin ta-nite!

My girl and I are cuttin it up in da house!  The beats are rockin...tha boys are fly...tha base is bumpin

I'm just playin'!!!  Had ya goin!!!

My daughter and I are watching "Pitch Perfect."  I love the old school songs they brought back.  We are laughing and rocking, and singing along the whole time.  Afterward...guess...I'm gonna get my sweat on!

Does this single mom know how to rock a Friday night or what!

THE Single-Most Effective Weight Loss Method, Guaranteed to Work

The latest and greatest magic pill is now available for YOU!  All you have to do is swallow and the pill does all the work.  Wake up tomorrow a brand new YOU!

Sound familiar?  Okay, so maybe not in those exact words!  You get the point the though.  The media is constantly capitalizing on our need for instant gratification.  If you live inside a city limit, even in the smallest town, I’m sure you have…at the very least…a convenience store that sells food they have fried up and put on display in a nice little warming cabinet for you to drool over as you make your selections.  We have become a “drive-thru” society.

Simply waiting 1-2 minutes on the microwave to reheat or cook our meal at the moment seems an eternity because “oh my god, I’m starving!”  First, NO you are NOT starving!  Few people who say that phrase are actually starving.  Are you hungry? Certainly, I’m sure you are, but not starving.  Trash that phrase because it is a painful insult to those desperate people who are ACTUALLY starving.  Yes, I went there! Get over it!

Back on topic…INSTANT!  Instant oatmeal!  Instant breakfast!  Instant, instant, instant!  The only thing our INSTANT has gotten us is lazy and as a result, overweight, obese, morbidly obese.  So many people know they need to lose weight, not just to look the way they want to look but for their overall well-being.  They are taking prescription drugs to make better the symptoms of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, bladder disease, kidney infections, bladder infections, joint pains, muscle pains, varicose veins, on so on.  They pay their physician just to walk through the door of the physician’s office, then they pay the labs who test the blood/urine taken at the doctor’s office, the x-ray lab to take and read x-rays…okay, so you’re following me now!

These people start down the road on their journey to lose weight.  After three or four days, maybe even a week, they already start losing hope because they lost only 2 pounds!  TWO pounds!  “I can’t believe I lost only two pounds!  I’m tracking my calories and I’m working out.  Why am I not losing more weight!!”  Uh….maybe because it’s only been a few days?  Hun, you didn’t get to be 25/50/100 pounds overweight over night!  It is NOT going to come off over night!  An average weight loss of 2 pounds per week is sustainable for the long-term.  Don’t get discouraged and don’t lose sight of your goal.

A few will take this advice and keep going.  They will reap the reward in 2-3 months, when they have lost 25-50 pounds.  They will be encouraged, motivated, and driven to keep up the new lifestyle that has added the pep in their step.

Sadly, a few of these people won’t be happy at all with even the smallest success.  They will give up because it didn’t happen as quickly as they expected.  The will repeat this vicious cycle over and over and over.  Some will eventually get it and be happy in their new lifestyle.  Most will continue to fall victim to the latest fad diet, gimmick, and gizmo to hit the market year after year and wonder why they just can’t lose the weight.

A few of those have the doubts in the beginning and choose to keep going will see the reward of their effort in the first 2-3 months, also, and be happy.  They, too, will continue with what they have been doing to lose that weight.  These people, however, will hit a wall.  They will stop losing weight and some will even start to regain weight, not because they have changed what they are doing, but because of WHAT they are doing.  These people are those who believe in the myth “eat less, lose more.”

These people have put themselves on a starvation diet under the guise of losing weight faster because they are eating less.  When we look closer into what they are eating, we find that they may be eating somewhere in ball park of 600-900 calories a day.  The average person (if you’ve ever read a nutrition label, it states it there) consumes 2000 calories a day just to MAINTAIN their weight.  This means these people are consuming 1100-1400 calories below the daily recommended level.  To lose 2 lbs per week, the average person needs to create a surplus of 1000 calories per day, or 7000 calories per week.

Consuming less than 1200 calories a day will cause your metabolism to slow down.  Your metabolism is what burns the fat.  Ones intent should be to speed up the metabolism so that it works more efficiently and burns fat at a higher rate.  So, how does a person who wants to lose 2 lbs per week create the surplus required for that rate of loss?

First, let me preface this by saying that EVERYONE should first consult a physician BEFORE starting a new exercise routine or change in nutrition, especially those who are obese or morbidly obese or elderly. 

Now, some calorie reduction is required but the reduction is based upon ones daily activity level.  For a person who has a desk job, their job is sedentary.  A person who does hard, manual labor has a very active job.  These two individuals will require different caloric consumptions to meet their goals.  They will also require different activity changes in their lifestyles.

Ideally, it is most accurate to have a professional assess your fitness level and metabolic rate (rate at which you burn calories).  This determines your individual calorie consumption for maintaining current weight.  I’ve had mine done.  At the time, I weighed 146lbs at 5’8”.  My fitness level, together with my activity lifestyle and metabolic rate, determined my daily maintenance calorie consumption to be 1800 calories.  For the sake of ease and example, we will use the government’s determined level of 2000 calories.

The sedentary person can start with that daily recommended calorie consumption for maintenance, 2000 calories.  This person does little more than a brisk walk between meetings for any kind of exercise on a daily basis.  To lose 2 lbs per week, he/she needs to create a surplus of 1000 calories per day.  Now, simply restricting calories consumed would put this person eating only 1000 calories per day.  THIS IS NOT HEALTHY!  This cannot be done long-term.  Sure, short-term, this person will lose weight.  However, over time, their body will fall into “starvation mode.”  I will go more into this in a moment.

How does this sedentary person, then, create the necessary surplus but still keep the consumed calories at or above 1200 calories per day?  They’ve only cut 800 calories per day in what they eat.  They still need to cut another 200 calories.  Guess what! They MUST get moving!  This person doesn’t necessarily have to jump right into sports conditioning.  A person who has never done any kind of formal exercise is likely highly opposed to anything of the sort.  It is a fear of the unknown.  That’s okay!  They don’t have to do formal exercise.  They do, however, have to find a way to get their heart rate up to a level at which it is difficult to speak more than a word or two at a time for at least 30 minutes a day.  This will give them the calorie burn they need to meet their goal.  This 30 minutes doesn’t have to be done all at once.  It can be done in only 10minutes, 3 times a day, or 5 minutes, 6 times a day, or 15 minutes, 2 times a day, whatever is necessary to meet the goal.

Let’s look at our very active, hard laborer.  He works out in the sun all day, bending, climbing, stooping, hitting, whatever it is he does for a living.  He gets plenty of physical activity in and likely isn’t too fond of the idea of doing more after a long day at work.  That’s okay!  He doesn’t have to!  This guy simply needs to get his caloric intake down to 1200 calories per day and he will lose the weight.  However, I would strongly encourage this guy to, in the very least, invest in or borrow a heart rate monitor.  It needs to be one that requires user-specific data, such as, height, gender, and weight.  I would then ask him to wear that heart rate monitor for a 24 hour period during a workday to better determine his daily burn, given his current activity level.  Why?  He likely burns 2000-3000 calories per day, depending on his height and weight and the type of labor in which he engages.  This be the case, to lose 2 lbs per week by cutting 1000 calories per day, he still needs to consumer 1200-2000 calories per day.  If his daily burn is 3000 calories and he is consuming only 1200 calories, he crash and burn for lack of energy because his body isn’t getting the minimum fuel it needs just to get through the day. 

Losing weight isn’t difficult.  Fighting the battle in your own mind against your own will is difficult.  Take the time to do some deep self-reflection.  Be 100% honest with yourself about why you make the choices you make.  Point-forward, ask yourself if the choice you are making is going to push to closer to where you want to be.  Be 100% honest.  The very second you start to negotiate and bargain with yourself take a step back, be honest, and tell yourself that choice is NOT the RIGHT choice for you and back away.  The first 2, 3, 7, 10, or 20 times you do this will be difficult, but each one will be easier than the last.  Over time, you will have created a positive, healthy habit that will constantly push you toward your goal, no matter it be weight loss, career advancement, fitness…no matter what…you WILL BE succeeding!  YOU.CAN.DO.THIS!!!

Resources & References
Notice the Mayo Clinic References at the bottom.  I like because the articles can be read by the average person, no medical to English translation needed.
Calculate calries needed to lose weight
Crash/Yo-Yo/Fad/Extreme Diets
Shape Magazine - I love this magazine for recipes, free workouts, and inspiration.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Being Single: It's a Mine Field Out There! case you missed it in the "About Me" page above...I'm single.  I've been single for nearly four years.  The second year was very much a conscious decision.  I found myself headed down the exact same path and attracting the exact same kind of man.  Oh HELL to the freakin no!

The only way the pattern was going to stop was if I stopped it.  I did a lot of soul searching...crying, begging, pleading, whining, bargaining, "why me" -ing...and came to the conclusion that I was not ready to date.  In fact, I NEEDED to NOT date.  Another pattern I had found is that I had always...I mean from the very first boyfriend in elementary school...leaped from one relationship to the next!

Now wait a minute! I did not say I am a cheater or ever was nor did I say I slept with everyone of was elementary school!  I did, however, generally speaking, have not but a matter of a couple of months...TOPS...from the end of one relationship to the beginning of the next.  I could not remember ever having gone one solitary year having stayed single.  As a result...this realization hit VERY hard...I had no real idea who I was...ME...Heather...

How could I not know who I was as an individual?  Here I was 32 years old, mother of two kids, married & divorced 3 times, college graduate, career woman...but who am I?  This was a question that had to be answered before I would be ready to date again.  I couldn't be any good to another person...I couldn't truly give myself if I didn't know who myself was...that doesn't sound quite right.

That year was full of a lot of ups and fact the next two years would be so full of health problems with my daughter, behavior issues with my son, bullies to my son, a near miss with my daughter and a boy *gritting teeth tightly*...I found myself at the end of the year last year in a conversation with...wait for it...a guy!  We were exchanging how long we had been single.  I had initially said almost three years, then after some thought, I realized it was nearly FOUR years!  So much had happened during those three years that I missed a year!  It was my new job.  I spent so much time training and trying to learn my job, settle my kids into a new home & school, still dealing with behavior problems with my son that I lost a whole year!

Did I really go three years not dating all?!  No.  I gave it a go a few times.  I met a couple of really great guys.  For whatever reason, it just didn't work out between us.  We remain friends, but speak rarely.  I met more than my share of creepers.  During that first year of my strict "no dating" rule, I turned down a couple of guys who had asked me out.  One got incredibly upset and took the whole thing personal and there went the name calling and accusations...I'll let you fill in those blanks!

Mostly I talked with a lot of guys...yes, talked...conversations....some really great conversations...then...after a week or two....nothing!  No "I don't really feel an attraction;" no "I have an interest in someone else;" no "goodbye, have a nice life."  NOTHING!  They just stopped talking to me.  WTH! Right?!
I had met a couple of guys in whom I was very much attracted.  Mind you I'm not attracted to a man simply through looks.  I admit, I have to like what I see in order to be completely attracted.  But! A man can look like Channing Tatum and be a social peria...a complete ass...womanizing...manipulative...abusive...
intellectual wet noodle and he is the ugliest man on the planet to me.  A man does not get my attention whether he be visually stimulating or repulsive if he is cannot stimulate me intellectually.  Granted I do have a laundry list of other factors that I cannot help but be turned off if they are not me to my liking.  We are human.  We all have this list!
The men to whom I was attracted had all these things.  So why did none of them workout?  ONE.vital.requirement...they all lacked it...emotionally available!  Really?!  Isn't this a "chick" problem?  I never imagined meeting a man who wasn't ready to commit to a relationship because he was not yet over the last, whether it be a year ago or four years ago. 
I remain patient.  Regardless of their being emotionally unavailable, a man like that is what I want.  Someone who will get just as attached to me...emotionally, I would to him.  This doesn't mean he or I would be stuck to one another like velcro.  Quite the contrary.  We'd be so connected at the core that we would not have the NEED to be in physical presence of each other every waking second of every day.  The distance makes us appreciate the time together all the more.
Waiting for a person like this requires a soft touch and a patient heart.  Both these traits are outside my character.  Typically, I don't have much patience, least of all with myself.  However, this is a character flaw on which I need to work.  I find this very situation the perfect test subject.  He's out there somewhere, right?

Single Mom’s Struggle: Mental Health, Part 2

Part 1

I am truly blessed to have some very wonderful friends.  They are supportive and offer advice when I need it.  On the rare occasion I can muster the courage to admit I need help and ask for it, they are the first in line to lift me up.  They are also the kind of friends to tell me when I need to suck it up and stop being so dramatic.  Yes…those truly are the BEST kinds of friends.

While I love my friends dearly, all of them are married.  One wasn’t married when I met her but she had been in a long-term relationship with a wonderful whom she did marry.  Another is currently engaged.  The latter two are my newest friends.  They were single mothers prior to their current relationship.  The rest of my friends either don’t have children or have been married since having children.  You see where I’m going with this…parenting advice from parents who have never had the experience of being truly single…no second income…no friends who live close by…no family who live close by…no outside financial support…no one coming through the door in a matter of days/weeks/months, who is actually only a phone call away, to co-parent…is advice taken with a grain of salt.

We love you.  We know you mean well.  But advice like “put them in time out for 3 minutes” while the child is scream-crying and flailing about like a fish out of water is easier said than done when it has been this scene, wash and repeat, for the last three days with no relief!  We single parents have no grandparent to call to the rescue; no co-parent to whom to hand off; no friend to come help (even if they are close, they are likely married and have kids of their own doing the same thing and breaking away isn’t feasible or they are a friend who isn’t married or who has kids and “yeah, right!” they’re coming to help with that mess!  Seriously!  The chaos going through our heads, as single parents, at that moment is indescribable to those who have never experienced it.  At that moment, our ONLY concern is to NOT physically harm our child!  The only option is to walk away…go to another room…shut the door…and try to drown out the noise until we can calm down.  We have no choice but to let that child behave however they are going to for those minutes.  The whole “if you don’t stay there and stand your ground to let them know who the parent is” does not work in a situation like this.  We MUST separate ourselves, as hard as it is to let our child cry.  Some of us choose to not let it endure and we pick up the child to console him/her or simply let go what it was we were trying to punish.

The next ensuing battle is dealing with those same married friends and various family members accusing you of “spoiling” your kids, not being harsh enough in your punishments.  REALLY?!  Are you kidding me?  You have no idea to what extent I’ve been dealing with this.  You have no idea what I’ve tried or haven’t tried.  You know only what you see for a few hours every few months!  Get real!  How about offering to take the kids for a few hours so mom can catch some uninterrupted sleep, take that heavenly bath, or find out what the big deal is with the Grey person in that novel her friend (married) lent her six months ago!  Don’t accuse her of being unfit.  Don’t offer to take her kids and raise them for her because she “just can’t handle it.”

Ask questions, then wait and listen.  She will tell you what she needs in her time.  Make the environment welcoming and warm and inviting for her to ask for the help she so desperately needs.  Let her know that asking for help does not make her weak, it makes her better.

Learning to ask for help when I need it, even from complete strangers, was the hardest lesson I had to learn as a single parent.  I’m not saying I ask for handouts and charity.  After my first divorce, there was a time when I had no choice but to ask for government assistance.  I couldn’t afford to feed my kids.  I waited until I hadn’t eaten in a month so my kids could have the food until I finally gave in and asked for help.  The relief that burden being lifted felt wonderful!  I wished I hadn’t waited so long to ask.  There have been some from whom I’ve asked for help who expected me to pay back every cent.  I had no other intention but to do just that, but when bill collectors are already beating down your door, the last thing you need is another one in a friend or family member.  Patience is what is needed.

The second hardest lesson I’ve learned as a single parent is that taking time for myself, to keep myself healthy, is NOT selfish.  The mere thought seems so until you begin to realize that taking that time is actually more for the benefit of the very charge you keep.  When I started my weight loss journey, nearly five years ago, I had no energy.  All I wanted to do was sleep or watch television.  I didn’t want to talk when I got home from work because talk is all I did at work.  I studied when I wasn’t working. I rarely slept, so much so that the last year of that marriage I battled insomnia.  I couldn’t sleep without narcotics only I couldn’t function the next day on them.  That wasn’t the first time I had trouble sleeping but it was the last time I would not sleep for nights on end until I took a narcotic.  What I ate was horrible!  I ate junk food.  Seriously, that was the bulk of my diet because it was fast and cheap.  Our dinners were “healthy” in that the contained a main course, two sides, and generally, a desert (junk, remember).  However, those meals usually came out of a can or box or bag or jar of some sort.

The decision to focus on my health came when I found myself crying in a department store dressing room because I needed a bigger size pant and was already wearing the largest I had ever worn my whole life.  At that time, I suffered knee pain (which I blamed on old basketball injuries), hip pain, and lower back pain that kept me from laying flat on my back.  While I denied it outwardly, I knew I was severely depressed, also.  The depression may have played a role in my marriage ending but there were still other factors that attributed to its demise.  I knew something had to change.  The one thing I knew I could change was how I felt about the person I saw looking back in the mirror at me.  The one thing that would change that was losing weight.  After all, I was at my heaviest ever.

As I began to lose weight, I began to feel better about myself as a woman.  I began to be happier, more confident.  Little by little, the pains began to go away.  I could lie flat on my back without pain in my lower back or my hip.  I had energy to play with my kids and find out about their day when I came home from working a 10 hour day and making a 3 hour round-trip commute.  We were eating better.  We were learning what food tasted like when it didn’t come out of a box, and I was learning that really wasn’t that much more expensive after all.  I felt clearer mentally.  I could focus on any given task, at work or at home.  I was becoming a better mother, employee, daughter, friend (gf/wife is TBD).  How did I manage to make this transformation?  Simple...I take time...for me...first.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Single Mom's Struggle: Mental Health, Part 1

I'm sure this question may spark quite the debate among women in general, whether they be mothers at all, single, married, working, stay at home, etc..  The reality is this question is relative to the person asking.  Given ones personal situation one may think she battles her own mind moreso than other women in different situations.  For the sake of argument, let's pose this question among only mothers, those who are married, and those who are not.

I have been in both situations.  I did not intentionally have children knowing I would one day be single, nor did I have them while I was single.  I was married to the same man when I had both my children.  Having been married & divoced three times, I'm often asked if my children have the same father.  They do.  Having children in the subsequent marriages, or even today was not, and is not, an option.  I had cervical cancer when my son (my youngest) was barely a year old, during the same year my first marriage ended.  Now that we have that question cleared up, let's move on.

When I was married the first time, my husband joined the local Army National Guard and was in bootcamp for a few months.  This was after our first child was born.  Our marriage hadn't been very good up to that point.  It was markedly better for the first few months after he came home.  Soon, however, he reverted back to what he knew best, which was go to work and come home.  He did little else to help out, lest I "nagged," of course...who needs that is easier to do the job myself.  Many times I found myself saying "I feel like a single parent. I'm the only one doing anything around here."  I had no idea what it was like to truly be a single parent.  I knew I was raised in a single parent home, but I knew only the receiving end of that life. 

The reality of the matter is that, while some partnerships require one parent to be physically absent from the family for whatever length of time, that family still has the reassurance of a second income or ability to live on one income while the non-working parent stays home with the children.  One parent being physically absent by no means makes a "single parent" home.

There is a lot to be said for having the peace of mind that you either get to stay home to raise your children the way you see fit or that you have two incomes on which to raise that family.  In either scenario, there is always another adult, a partner, with whom to share stress, someone with whom you can vent or pass off those particularly difficult days of disciplining the children.  Hell, it's nice having that other person around to simply ward off the ensuing attack of the children once you close the bathroom door behind you.  You are able to arrange an escape long enough to take a nice hot bath & enjoy a few lines in the latest "best seller."

Single parents have no such luxuries.  If we are to enjoy a hot bath, we do so at the only available time...after the kids are fast asleep...laundry is maintained...dinner is cleaned up...rooms are detangled...and it is somewhere between 11pm & 12 which time sleep is so much more appealing than a long hot bath and who needs the stress of trying read a book only to never finish it or run the risk of falling asleep in the bathtub!  Sleep!  Yes, that is much more suitable past-time.

We have no choice but to live on one income AND miss the opportunity to raise our children as we see fit.  We spend as many waking hours as we can with our children, but those hours are often divided trying to squeeze in quality minutes with our children and taking care of everyday household duties required to provide proper care for those children.  There is no impending solice in knowing our partner will soon be there to help share the burden.  The thought of pursuing a partner in and of itself is a burden.  This burden is easily avoided.  We simply don't date.

Ah, dating!  Now there is an entirely separate rant!  Stay tuned for that one.  It will be a doozy!

For those few and far between moments we get to ourselves, we spend them wrapped up in our own heads.  We think about what life might have been like had we simpleystayed in our marriage.  Would things have gotten better?  Worse?  Could we have just sucked it up and dealt with whatever it was making the marriage unbearable?  Was the decision best for the kids or will it be bad for them in the long run?  This seemlessly endless barrage of questions leads to silent sobbing as we lie awake at night.  We muffle our cries in the empty pillow lying next to us so we don't risk the kids hearing, and thus, worrying why mom is crying.  We can't allow them to know we are weak...can we...because denotes weakness...inability to cope, right?

We have no one else to turn to who understands.  No one can provide support on a daily basis.  We don't want to burden anyone else with our own troubles.  That isn't what mothers do.

So, herein lies my single mothers suffer a harsher mental battle than do other mothers?  How do we cope with it? 

Part 2

Friday, January 11, 2013

Back off! Mom's Working Out!!

Kim is the perfect example of a mother who learned the value of taking time for herself.  Read her story below.

After having 8 children, you could say I’ve always been a mom. But I wasn’t always 110 lbs. overweight. No, that came from putting on 10 lbs. with each baby and never taking that weight off.

After cooking and cleaning (I do about 125 loads of laundry and over 100 loads of dishes EVERY month), home-schooling, and taking care of my husband—I just didn’t have anything left over for me… until this year.

When I saw Tony Horton with his 10-Minute Trainer workout—I said, maybe I can sneak away for 10 minutes. And I started. Soon 10 minutes became 20, and then 30, and I finished 10-Minute Trainer!!! I loved it.

But after all those babies, I decided it was time to attack my abs with RevAbs. So off I went. When I started, I had to modify. I gave birth EIGHT TIMES!!! There was NO WAY I could even consider jumping jacks. But by the end, I didn’t have to modify at all—I CAN do jumping jacks!

So far, I’ve lost 75 lbs. I give credit to 10-Minute Trainer, Rev-Abs and Shakeology. I drink Shakeology twice a day for several months. It cut cravings and gave me a good amount of protein and both start and end my day with.

Best of all, I am going to be a grandmother—at 49—next month. I used to look like a grandmother, but NOT ANYMORE! Now, I don’t even feel like a grandmother. And after all this time, I can fit into my wedding dress!!!!
You can change your life, too. Take The Beachbody Challenge™, for the ultimate motivation to get fit! Select any Beachbody® program and once you complete it, share your results for your chance to win cash and prizes.  You can see the program Kim used (Power 90) here.  While you are there, browse around at the other wonderful challenge packs available.  Comment below or email me for assistance and/or questions.

Single Moms & Brains

Ever have days like this?  We moms have the stress of raising children, keeping a home, including doing all the grocery & clothes shopping, maintaining a vehicle (or two), having a career outside the home, and maybe trying to have some similation of a relationship.  To say we are "stressed" is an understatement!  By mid-week, I generally find myself in a fog, wondering about aimlessly looking for the last place I left my brain.

We find ourselves in constant need of just a few more hours in the day.  The only way to get that is to carve it out of sleep time.  Heaven forbid we spend an hour of that time on ourselves.  We get lost in the hustle & chaos of our lives, always helping & caring for those around us, hardly giving a moments thought to our own needs, much less wants.

We must support one another in reminding each other how important it is to take time for ourselves.  It isn't selfish to do so.  I know every mother would so much rather take an hour for herself each day than end up blowing up at her child for no apparent reason.  How we spend that hour each day is uber important.  We need to prioritize it and capitalize upon it.  The time needs to allow us to destress & recenter ourselves, along with helping us deal with the remainder of our day & the days to come.

So, how do we do that?  Sure a nice hot, peaceful bubble bath, soothing music, a great book, & a glass of merlot sounds like heaven...and we most certainly should make time for that at least once a month...but it isn't realistic to do on a daily basis.  We need something that can be daily that will serve us & our families best.  The best use of that time is exercise.  Exercise has been proven to reduce stress, promote better sleep, and it keeps your body functioning for you instead of against you.  Exercise is a great way to expend a lot of anger and frustration.  It needs to be something to which we look forward because it is our chance to vent & air our stress.  We all need a soul-mate workout program.  Make it a priority for yourself to workout daily.  You don't even have to leave your home.  You simply need that one hour of uninterrupted time.

Feel free to comment below or email me for options on home fitness programs.  I'm happy to help.