Facing my fears

August 12, 2009

For a long time, I’ve been afraid of heights. I wasn’t as a kid but somewhere during my early teens, I realized that even being up on a ladder made me extremely uncomfortable. When I did rock climbing at camp in grade 8, I only made it part way up the wall before I looked down and freaked out. I couldn’t climb up any further because I was afraid of the height. Even being on some balconies makes me nervous if they’re really high up and the railing isn’t overly sturdy looking. I think it’s partially a fear of falling too.

After this weekend, I don’t really think I’m afraid of heights anymore. I went to Treetop Trekking at Horseshoe on Saturday with my family and Josh. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a bunch of ropes courses, swing bridges, other suspended obstacle type courses and zip lines. Most are at least several stories off the ground (the beginner course is not but the advanced courses sure are). Here are some pictures from the website. I sadly don’t have any pictures yet – my uncle is working on it as he was the photographer (we couldn’t exactly bring cameras up in the trees with us).

I did four courses – a beginner, two intermediates and one advanced. I was hooked from the very beginning and I wasn’t scared a single time. Obviously you’re wearing a harness (which is super awkward to walk in until you get used to it.. I was definitely waddling lol) and you’re clipped in by two carabiners (and a pulley as well on the zip lines) so you know you’re not going to fall, but I felt fearless the whole time. I’d be standing up on the platforms, waiting in between the obstacles, clipped in but not hanging onto anything like other people were. I actually sat down on one of the platforms with my legs over the edge while waiting for my turn at a busy section and just felt so at peace. I could have stayed up there all day.

And the zip lines are such a rush. It was amazing. It took me a minute to make myself let go on the first zip after orientation (you’re like 5 feet off the ground on that one… so no big deal) but once I did, I was in love 🙂 The advanced course had four zip lines in a row and then a long one at the end. I didn’t get a chance to do the Big Zip sadly – it’s a 900 foot line, the longest in Ontario – but I have every intention of doing it when I go back. And I definitely will go back!

I’m proud of myself for facing that fear, as it’s been a major one for a while. And I got to face it in such an unbelievably fun way. Treetop trekking is an awesome experience  and something I would recommend if it’s offered near you. Even if you think you’re afraid of heights, try it – you may surprise yourself 🙂



August 5, 2009

I am stressed.

There, I admitted it. I think I’ve been denying that for a couple of weeks now. And since I’ve admitted it, I’m going to blog about it just to throw everything out there and maybe even feel better about things in the process. So, apologies in advance if this post is rant-y, but I need to deal with it before I turn into that whole bitchy, stressed out, no fun at all self that I become when I decide not to handle my stress.

Let’s make a neat little list: What am I stressed about? And how can I deal with each stressor?

Stressor number 1: Paying my fall term tuition.

What’s going on? Fall term tuition is due on my birthday near the end of the month. Joy. Happy birthday to me? Anyway, for the past 4 years I’ve been lucky enough to have my tuition covered by my amazing grandparents who set up an RESP to fund all the grandkids through school to make sure we didn’t end up in their position, unable to afford schooling. I’m so so grateful that they did this, but now I’m not sure I can claim anything from the RESP as I’ve accessed it for 4 years now. So I need to find a solution ASAP.

How do I fix this? 1) Talk to my grandparents and find out if I can still access any money (I’m just so nervous about this because they’ve already done so much and I worry they’ll think I’m asking for more handouts), 2) look into bank loans (eww) or 3) pay as much as I can afford to and beg my parents to help out. Hmm. I do have some choices and it’s something I do need to just DO as soon as I can rather than ruminating on it. The sooner I do, the sooner the stress is gone.

Moving on:

Stressor number 2: The job.

What’s going on? The thing stressing me about my job is the current lack of hours. Right now the lab is transitioning between research projects. Two have just ended (or are almost done) and another two are starting but not for a couple more weeks. Which means, aside from organizational stuff or random other tasks that don’t take up much time, there is little to do. Which meas the hours I claimed for the past two weeks are about equal to what I usual claim in one week. Yikes.

How do I fix this? Okay, deep breath here. I think I’m panicking mostly because I’m used to working 30-40 hours per week in the summer and now that I’m working less, it feels wrong. In reality though, I can sustain myself even on my current hours. I have enough in the bank for my next rent payment (almost two, really), so even if I don’t work for the rest of August, I will still have enough for September rent and several months of groceries. And that’s assuming the worst case scenario. Once the transition time is over, I’ll probably have plenty of hours if the last project was any indication. I’ll probably be in and out of schools/daycares and running gazillions of participants. I’ll probably end up complaining of too many hours at that point. So, all in all, I think I’m fine for hours and earnings. I just need to remember that I’m working part-time this year (about 15-20 hours per week) compared to not at all or piddly amounts (5 hours per week or casual work). I will be fine!

Stressor number 3: I’ve been feeling a little… out of control I guess… with regards to eating and exercise.

What’s going on? It’s not as though I’m eating everything in sight or not exercising. In fact, I am exercising but I’m having these ridiculous thoughts that I NEED to exercise every day or I will suddenly be fat again overnight. I’m shifting back into my old ways of feeling like I need to eat less on the days I work out. Ugh. And with eating… I am in a serious dinner rut. SERIOUS. I’m lacking kitchen inspiration like you wouldn’t believe. I need major recipes and I need to do some make ahead and freeze meals for those lazy nights so I don’t revert to simple but less healthy meals as I have been lately.

How do I fix this? I need to remember that I AM in control of my eating. I have the ability to make good choices and despite slipping up and being lazy a few times, I’m still doing fine. It’s all a matter of perception. Most people probably wouldn’t look at my food choices and think “Ew what disgusting eating habits, so unhealthy, blah, blah, blah”. I think that because of the stress in other areas of my life I’m maybe automatically assuming that my eating sucks too. And it doesn’t. Besides, one or two “bad” (but not even that bad, really) meals per week is not going to bring the weight back. I know this deep down. In terms of exercise, I think I need to tell myself the following: ‘umm, hello Val? You ran 4 freaking miles the other day. How do you seem to think you’re not working out enough? And exercising each day? Not a necessity. You didn’t even do that when you were losing weight! You worked out 4-5 times per week so what the heck is with this compulsion to work out 6-7? Chill! You are active and in shape. You do active things each day and even if you didn’t a day or two every now and then of sitting on your butt doing nothing all day is not going to bring the weight back either’.

Whew. I feel SO SO SO much better after getting that all out. I am doing fine. I need to remember that. I will figure out tuition and I have several options to consider so I’m sure something will work out. I have enough money even if I’m lacking hours at work. And I’m still making healthy choices 80% of the time and being active most of the week. I am in control of my eating and exercise and it shows on the scale. Have I gained in the past couple weeks? Nope, I’ve actually lost a little which is evidence that I’m just being too paranoid about my weight. I will get this under control and there is no way I’m going back to that restrictive past!

So, rant over, I do believe. If you read this whole thing, kudos. If not, that’s cool too. All in all, I generally feel better after blogging it out and that’s what this handy blog is here for right?

Sweet freedom!

August 3, 2009

On Saturday I wrote my exam for my summer course and an hour after I started, I was finished and free for the next month and a half (school has a late start this year, September 14th I think because of Labour Day being late and the first week of the school year being O-Week). Anyway, no more school until September for me!!

It’s already a weird feeling not having school stuff do to though. I always have a few days to a week of adjustment when I finish a school term. I think it’s because the end of the term is usually so crazy – final assignments and then the final exam – that it feels weird to go from being wrapped up in the course to not even looking at the course material for a second. I’m still getting used to the fact that I can waste a little time!

In other good news… I ran 4 miles yesterday! I set a goal back in June to run 4 miles by August 1st, so although I’m a day late, I’m still so pumped about being able to do it, especially considering the longest distance I’d run just a few days ago was 3.25 miles, so not even that close.

I actually feel like a runner now. I don’t know why I didn’t before, since I think as long as you do run, no matter how far or fast, you can call yourself a runner. But hitting that 4 mile mark kind of solidified that feeling of being a runner that I’d had for the past couple weeks. I don’t know if anyone else has had that experience of not feeling like a runner until hitting a certain milestone, but it’s weird how we just don’t give ourselves enough credit sometimes!

So I’m off to enjoy the last day of this gorgeous long weekend! Thankfully the weather finally turned around and it’s been all sun so far! And, from peeking out the window, I can see nothing but blue sky right now so hopefully that will hold up and I can enjoy some reading out on the deck now that I have time to do it.

Amazing wedding entrance

July 25, 2009

This video has been circulating the internet the past couple days. I think it’s so much fun!

I love how the wedding party is just having a blast! Even the guests look like they’re enjoying it even though it’s definitely not a conventional walk down the aisle.

I would absolutely love to do something non-traditional when I eventually get married. I’ve been to a couple weddings that were so super serious that it’s like people forgot that it’s a celebration of two people ready to spend the rest of their life together! I love ones where people just forget about the “rules” and have a good time. I definitely remember having a blast during the mass chicken dance at my cousin’s wedding a couple years ago!

A girl I work with is getting married next Friday and the girls planning her wedding were set on having her walk down the aisle to “Push It” by Salt n Pepa. She loved the idea of it (we’re all majorly into 90’s music at work and listen to it as much as possible), but unfortunately she’s getting married at city hall and I don’t think the logistics work. But at any rate, I love hearing/seeing people do less traditional things at their weddings that are so much fun!

Enough about weddings… I’ve got enough of those coming up (one on August 29th and one September 26th… yikes!)

In maintenance land, things have been trucking along. I’m doing my best to eat healthy while still allowing some splurges but I still have been falling into that trap of being super concerned with what I’m eating. I feel kind of bad having carb heavy days, even though I’m sticking to reasonable portions and still getting servings of fruits and veggies. I think these ideas that I can’t eat this or that food come from the fact that I spent nearly a year of my life in that mentality and I’m still adjusting to the idea that I can enjoy a wider range of foods in moderation. So I will admit, I’m sometimes still struggling to remind myself that I’m in maintenance. I can eat more and even while losing weight, I was able to go out for dinner, splurge a little and still lose. So it would make sense that I can do it in maintenance.

But… there’s a very fine line between allowing splurges and going right off the deep end and I think that’s where the worry comes from. I don’t want to let my guard down and start gaining, especially since my body seems to be in a good place right now – I’m easily maintaining my weight or very gradually losing a tiny bit more. At the same time though, I think I’ve been keeping a good balance between eating healthy, indulging occasionally and working out regularly and I need to remind myself of that. One carb heavy day isn’t going to be the end of me, nor is a day where I just don’t eat the amount of fruits and veggies I should. I will be fine, but I know it might take a little longer before I fully escape that weight loss mode.

Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend with much better weather than I’m having (rain and cool, but still muggy somehow).

Calorie counting

July 21, 2009

When I read Angela’s post this morning, I immediately had a similar reaction to her. What got us (and a lot of others) so worked up? This quote from Jillian Michaels:

You have to count calories. I don’t care how healthy you are eating. It’s a universal rule.

Whoa! That’s kind of a strong statement. Now, I don’t 100% know the context that she said this in (whether she meant, for example, that it’s a universal rule for those that are extremely overweight), but it got me thinking about my own relationship with counting calories.

When I first started counting calories, it was incredibly helpful. Before starting to lose weight, I had no idea either a) how many calories I needed per day or b) what a reasonable portion size was (and how many calories it contained). I barely glanced at nutritional labels, and if I did, it didn’t mean much to me because, like I said, I had no idea how many calories I needed.

When I finally figured it all out, calorie counting was helpful to make sure I was coming in under my requirement each day. It made me aware of portion sizes and it helped me realize that it’s much better to eat 100 calories of a high volume, nutritionally dense food than 100 calories of something with lots of sugar and no fibre or good fats that doesn’t even fill the palm of my hand (I’m looking at you, 100 calorie packs). These are still “rules” I abide by today.

However, despite the initial benefits of calorie counting, I eventually became obsessive about it. I would make eating plans with really specific measurements of all the foods I would eat that day and that was all I was allowed to eat. Looking back, a lot of these meal plans were actually under the calories I should have been eating (based on my BMR). Some days I’d give myself a measly 1200 calories and expect that I could work out for 45 minutes at a moderate to high intensity. After dinner, I would be starving most days yet I’d only ever allow myself something like a fat-free yogurt (a piddly 40-50 calories usually) to ward off the hunger.

I had this irrational fear of going over my calories and would cringe at the thought of eating 100 extra calories even if I was super hungry. In my mind, I’d think “well, if I do this every day of the week, that’s an extra 700 calories this week… that’s nearly a third of a pound that I won’t lose this week”. A third of a pound. In my mind, losing that extra 0.2 to 0.3 pounds per week was more important than not going hungry. It was more important than being happy and having a positive relationship with food. In this type of mindset, food was the enemy, not fuel. It wasn’t something to enjoy, it was something that could prevent me from losing weight.

Looking back, I’m almost ashamed that my relationship with food was so negative. It took a lot of strength to stop calorie counting but I knew I had to. My weight loss was stalling at that point, probably because I was eating below my BMR each day, and I was not giving myself enough energy to just live life!

I don’t count calories anymore. While I don’t deny that it’s a valuable tool for some (and it was for me early on), I do think there is a danger to it for certain people. It can certainly cause obsessive behaviours and other issues, and I’m definitely not the only person that’s experienced this.

I have really come far from my restrictive patterns. I know I need to eat to fuel my body. I’m not afraid to eat more if I’m hungry, especially on days when I’ve worked out. I listen to my body and enjoy everything in moderation, or I find a healthier substitute. I’d rather eat when I’m hungry and end up putting on a couple pounds than starve just to maintain.

The road to giving up calorie counting can be difficult, I’ll admit that. It was challenging for me, but I think it’s possible to develop a healthy relationship with food without feeling the need to keep yourself in check through calorie counting. Like I said, it can be positive, but I don’t think sweeping statements such as “everyone should count calories” are necessarily accurate. If you’re trying to lose weight, calorie counting may or may not be for you. In the end, you need to find the method that helps you have a healthy, positive view of food.

Have you ever counted calories? Was it a helpful tool or did you experience problems because of it?

Being happy at your goal weight

July 15, 2009

There’s a trend I’ve noticed recently in women who have recently met their goal weight, both those in the blog world and those I know in real life.

They are at the weight they’ve always idealized, yet they struggle to find happiness. Some say they’ve experienced a “this is it?” type of feeling when finally seeing their goal weight pop up on the scale. Of course they’re pleased but that “reaching goal” moment was so built up that their actual feelings are almost a disappointment compared to how they thought they would feel.

The overestimation of one’s feelings is a common occurrence in Western society. People tend to predict that they will feel happy for long periods of time after a positive event, yet when the event actually occurs, their feelings are not as strong and long-lasting as they anticipated. Perhaps this leads to that disappointment some have felt after reaching their goal weight. Perhaps they had anticipated being happy for weeks after reaching their goal, yet the reality was that the happiness was much more short-lived.

With this short-lived happiness comes the quick realization that suddenly your life is not perfect because you’ve reached your goal weight. I know I’m guilty of having thought that all my problems would disappear if only I was at my goal weight. Yet, in reality, it’s not realistic to expect that everything will change for the better immediately.

So how can you be happy at your goal weight?

Well, obviously the answer is different for everyone, but one thing I’ve settled on is this: rather than focusing on ways in which your life is suddenly not perfect after reaching goal, focus on all the ways in which your life is better now that you’ve reached goal. Are you finally able to shop in any store you wanted instead of plus-sizes? Can you run x number of miles when before you might have only been able to run for 30 seconds?

Here are some of my own “life improvements” that resulted from adopting a healthier lifestyle and losing weight:

  • I don’t have to wear the biggest size in any stores or worry that I won’t even fit into the biggest size.
  • I can walk up a flight of stairs and not be out of breath by the top.
  • I have visible arm muscles!
  • I can run 3 miles without a walking break. (I finally did it!! I was super proud of this accomplishment.)
  • I can wear shorts in public and not feel (too) self-conscious about my legs. (I am still working on this one a bit though… but I have improved, which is the entire point.)
  • I properly fuel my body with lean protein, whole grains and fruits/veggies rather than processed foods and too much sugar. I’m also way more aware of proper nutrition.

Of course, there are more things that have improved in my life. So I think it is possible to be happy at your goal weight by focusing on how far you’ve come rather than nitpicking what you could still change, or expecting perfection from a number.

Just a quick note here: I’m not trying to say that no one is happy when reaching their goal weight, but as I’ve noticed a trend of disappointment recently, I just wanted to offer some speculation as to why this happens to some of us and some possible ways to combat that feeling. I think losing weight and being healthier is something each person should be proud of and being disappointed is unfortunate after such an accomplishment!

Have you ever experienced some level of disappointment after reaching your goal weight or did you feel satisfied with the changes? What are some of the improvements that have resulted from either your weight loss or adoption of a healthier lifestyle?

Setting goals

July 6, 2009

Today’s topic of the Summer Glow Boot Camp was setting goals. I am a goal-oriented person. Setting goals helps me stay motivated while doing tasks that sometimes seem pointless otherwise. For example, reading a 400 page textbook in 3 months is part of getting to my goal of finising my undergraduate degree so I can attend graduate school. So this type of exercise is right up my alley.

First step, three accomplishments that I’m proud of:

1) Finishing my undergraduate thesis.

This was a huge undertaking. I worked on this project for nine months and logged countless hours reading journal articles, applying for ethics review, budgeting my grant money, training my assistants, teaching kids reading skills, scoring reading assessments, entering data and finally writing the whole document! I really doubted my abilities to follow through at many points in the process but when I finished, I felt like I could take on anything!

2) Losing 40 pounds.

It’s more than just about the number. It’s about the lifestyle that came with it and how much healthier I’ve become. I feel stronger, healthier, more confident and happier overall.

3) Taking up running.

Running has allowed me to reach a whole new level of fitness. Being able to run makes me feel so empowered and strong. Each new personal best makes me feel amazing!

Step two, three goals I want to achieve in July:

1) Tone up.

I think this will make me feel better about my body as there are some areas that I nitpick for being too flabby.

2) Read my psychopharmacology textbook.

I enrolled in this class in second year as it was a special topics class not usually offered at the school. But unfortunately, after the first midterm it was kicking my butt! I ended up dropping it since I was afraid of failing it (and since my program is competitive and requires a B to B- to guarantee yearly progression, failing one class does matter a lot). However, I found it really interesting and would love to learn more to increase my knowledge!

3) Further my German skills.

I love German. So much. But during school I haven’t had much time to work on my language skills. Now that summer is here I want to commit more of my time to it with the goal of eventually being nearly fluent in it.

Step three, what type of deadline I’d like for the goals:

1) By August 1st I’d like to see my legs and stomach looking more toned. I’d also hopefully like to lose some inches!

2) I’ll give myself until September 13th (the day before back to school). The textbook is 1) long and 2) very technical in some parts so it’s not exactly light reading and I might need some time to finish it.

3) By September 13th, I’d like to have covered 2-3 more chapters in the German textbook I bought for my class last year. I think this would bring me to chapter 6 or 7 in the book, just a little under halfway through.

Finally, planning:

1) I’m going to increase my strength exercises for my lower body and add more core work like planks into my workouts.

2) I’m going to work on reading about a chapter every week or so, although I’m not necessarily sticking to that for sure as I still have an actual class to do work for until August 1st.

3) I’ll do a quick review of what I’ve already learned in the book and then work through one chapter every couple weeks. Again, until August 1st I’m not making myself stick to the timeline exactly because of school obligations.

So there are some goals and these are things I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Hopefully now that I’ve publicly commited myself to them, I’ll act on them! There’s psychology at work for you 😉

Are you a goal-setter? Do you have any specific goals in mind right now? Are there any recent goal accomplishments that you’re really proud of?