My Health. My Responsibility. # 2 Exercise.

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This is the fifth in a series of posts on ‘My Responsibilities’.

Exercise
This area of my life is my downfall.

My husband was a keen athlete, participating in both individual and keen sports, all of which came easily to him. Rain, hail, or shine he was out running, kayaking, skiing, lifting weights, or cycling. Meanwhile I was inside looking after the children or cooking or cleaning or at my desk working. Sometime after he left me, I found a crumpled piece of paper of his jottings where he had drawn up a table, listing various attributes in the first column, then giving a score for both him and me in the next two columns. I presume this had been him weighing up whether we were really suited to each other. He included such things as socialising, dress sense, punctuality, and physical exercise. Needless to say, he had scored me very badly on physical exercise.

I was quite upset that he would draw up such a list after a 40 year relationship. I was angry that part of his decision to leave me was made after consideration of what I thought were personality differences and that, even if there were differences, a good marriage is all about tolerating those differences. There was not a hint of consideration of deep values such as kindness, honesty, and compassion; that I had always thought our marriage had been based on.

Initially in the throes of divorce grief  “I’ll show you” angry phase; as well as a complete makeover and spring-cleaning of the house; I focussed on my well-being, diet and exercise. I became quite fit and healthy. That all fell away when I fell down into the “complete and utter sadness and misery” phase at which stage I was quite content to remain a motionless blob for days at a time..

Then over time, focussing on my inner self and affirming my values and beliefs, some reverse illogical psychology also came into play for me.

A dog has four legs, fur and a tail.
A cat has four legs, fur and a tail.
Therefore a cat is a dog.
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Husband exercised every day. .
Husband dumps wife of 37 years without warning.
That is not an admirable trait.
Therefore, exercising everyday is not an admirable trait.

Floored logic.
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With the best of intentions, I do sometimes start an exercise programme and keep at it for some time. Then things crop up and the exercise gets shoved aside. So in my new take-responsibility-for-myself frame of mind, rather than start an intensive programme that will surely fail, I have decided to start a new approach to physical activity. I read this on another blogger’s post last week of always doing “something” physical every day. There is no need to feel guilty if it is not a marathon run, or two hours at the gym as long as it is “something”. So I can pass the test even if I only manage a 20 minute walk because that is better than nothing at all.

Interestingly enough, this philosophy works.

While too often I am rushed for time, with too many other more ‘important’ things to do, it is hard to find that hour or even a half hour for exercise. However, I can always find twenty minutes. In fact I can find twenty minutes twice a day. I can even making finding that twenty minutes a habit, a life-time habit. I can make those twenty minute episodes full of fun, and I can combine this strategy with a great walking adventure at least every fortnight.
One week down, so far so good, and I will update you further down the track and let you all know how I am coming along.

🙂  🙂  🙂

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Image Courtesy [Grant Cochrane] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My health. My responsibility. # 1 DIET

ID-10072006This is the fourth in a series of posts on ‘My Responsibilities’

I have a dreadful family health history with my father and his mother dying relatively young from strokes; and my mother having had high blood pressure and diabetes for many years. From my youngest days I have had a voice inside of me telling me to take responsibility for my own health through dietary means.

  • As a young teenager, I cut out chocolates, confectionery and junk fatty foods having observed that people who consumed a lot of these foods were overweight.
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  • When I was fifteen, my father had a heart attack and our family diet changed drastically. Gone forever were saturated fats of butter, cream and fatty meats. Sadly this was too little too late for my dad who passed away from a stroke 5 years later.
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  • After being diagnosed with post-natal high blood pressure at the early age of 28, and scared of my family history of strokes, I went on a series of strict diets including the Pritikin diet, amongst others with an emphasis on salt restriction. I managed to bring my blood pressure under control.
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  • My second son was a failure to thrive suffering bouts of diarrhoea and respiratory ailments. After a two year struggle I did some research and took him to specialist immunologists at Sydney’s largest hospital. After an exclusion diet and food challenges, he was diagnosed with food sensitivities reacting to preservatives, colours, MSG; plus salicylates and amines found in natural foods. With his modified diet, I was able to keep him happy and healthy throughout his childhood
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  • On the same diet, I discovered ailments I had suffered, such as asthma, were triggered by certain foods and food chemicals. More importantly, I ascertained my high blood pressure was triggered by foods high in biogenic amines, found in aged and fermented foods such as cheese and wine. Excluding them from my diet, I have been able to control my blood pressure and at the age of 59 am still drug-free. Interestingly, many foods high in salt are also high in amines (cheese, preserved meats) and my earlier dietary exclusion of salt also reduced amines.
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  • After finding “the answer” for my son and myself through diet I went on and did a post-graduate course in nutrition so I could help others.
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  • Over time I modified my diet to one that continued to be low in fat and salt, and also low glycaemic and high in soluble fibre. A low glycaemic diet helps control appetite and prevents the spiking of blood sugar levels. Foods high in soluble fibre reportedly help lower blood cholesterol.

Despite this theoretical ‘perfect’ diet; when under stress, when feeling glum, when I do not feel like cooking, or when busy, the diet can slip away. The diet entails a fair amount of home prepared meals. Not only are restaurant and cafe foods laced with preservatives and spicy foods I cannot eat; they rarely offer low glycaemic foods such as barley, lentils, and beans. Even oat-porridge is a rarity on ‘breakfast menus’. Foods I can eat when out tend to be high-glycaemic which do not sustain me and I tend to overeat.

To get back on track I need to focus on my health benefits as being as important as the busy things I am doing. I have to re-rate it at a high level of importance, just as I did when my son’s health was at stake, just as I did when I wanted to make sure my children’s mother (me) did not die prematurely from stroke.

This last week I have got back on track. I have restocked my pantry with the right foods. I have taken the time to prepare foods to take to work. Most importantly, I am focussing on my eating pattern and its long-term health benefits, as being as important as the crucial big-picture decisions confronting me in my life at the moment.

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Menu for the day
Breakfast: Oat-porridge with soy-milk and chopped apple
Lunch: Brown rice, with bean and vegetable salad.
Dinner: Barley, lentil and vegetable soup. Chicken optional.

Yum, yum

Gradually the old (good) habits are returning. Onwards and upwards to a healthy long life.

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Beans Image Courtesy [Witthaya Phonsawat] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oats Image Courtesy [Grant Cochrane] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Responsibility for basic needs

ID-10039226This is the third in a series of posts on ‘My Responsibilities’

At a time of crisis, say after a flood or earthquake, people’s needs return to those very basic needs of food, water and shelter as they begin to rebuild their lives. The ending of a marriage is similar to such a crisis, especially if it is unexpected and sudden. It rocks the very foundation of your life; your self-esteem, relationships, your emotional and financial security. As everything comes crashing down, to cope and survive you cocoon yourself by living in the moment of waking, eating, walking, eating, and the comfort and security of a warm bed at night. You are thrown into a survival mind-set of fulfilling these basic needs because everything else is gone. In the early days post separation, in a state of turmoil, I was comforted by focussing on my basic needs for some months by following a healthy diet, engaging in a gentle exercise programme, and restoring routine and order back into my daily life. Then my initial enthusiasm wavered. Why?

  1. Reason # 1: I became overwhelmed by the ‘big-picture’ changes required of me. I did not have the time, energy or inclination to focus on trivial daily activities.
  2. Reason # 2: I did not see who would benefit from what I was doing.
  3. Reason # 3: I was focussing on short-term gains rather than long-term outcomes.
  4. Reason # 4: Doing the right thing seemed like deprivation (eg dieting, budgeting).

    Pep talk to self:

    These are all just excuses.
    – It is time to stop blaming the divorce and its emotional upheaval for my lack of inclination to do what is right for me.

    Having spent all my adult life putting my family first, it has been difficult to put myself first. I have to keep reminding myself that the person who will benefit from all this effort is me. I am important enough to make that happen. Moreover I can only be good for others if I am strong and healthy and calm myself.
    When short-term goals (eg: weight loss) are the focus, rather than long-term outcomes (eg: good health), enthusiasm wavers at times of stress or when a short-term goal has been achieved and then discarded.
    – After a while, if habits are formed and results are seen, the effort will no longer be seen as deprivation but just how it is.
    – Keep going, you are worth it.

So lets begin……..
I have listed here aspects of three basic needs that I will be taking responsibility for, together with a long-term desired outcome for each and the first steps to take to get there. I will be posting brief progress reports on the side panel of my blog in each of these areas; and over the coming weeks will outline the plans in more detail.

Health

My desired outcome: To remain independent, fit, healthy, and active into my old age.
My responsibilities:

  • Follow a healthy eating pattern one day at a time.
  • Engage in a regular exercise programme for at least 5 days a week.
  • Spend some time each day in a relaxing activity.
  • Keep up with my annual medical checks

Home and Routine

My desired outcome: Simplification of my life to reach a state of calm
My responsibilities:

  • Get into a daily and weekly routine for my activities
  • Achieve a balance of work, home, and leisure.
  • Simplify and de-clutter my surroundings

Financial Security

My desired outcome: Financial independence
My responsibilities:

  • Set a budget. Cut down discretionary spending. Stick to the plan.
  • Plan for a secure financial retirement
  • Take control of personal affairs.

Message to self:

“I am responsible for my own health, sense of calm, my home and my finances”.
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Image Courtesy [Digitalart] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Responsibility for my own needs

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This is the second in my series of posts on ‘My Responsibilities’

In my last post I stated that it was my choice to take responsibility to attend to my own needs and wants. When did that responsibility start? Which needs can I control? How?

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When my husband suddenly announced the ending of our marriage, I was left without choice. I was denied any opportunity to save my marriage, denied any right to a say in its ending and the manner in which it ended. My belief in my own self-worth as a person was completely shattered and I was left feeling utterly powerless. I was thrown into a trauma-like state of distress overlaying a grief process which overwhelmed my ability to cope and threatened to crush my inner resolve. My basic needs of security, trust, and having some control over my destiny, were destroyed in an instant.

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Thrown into that crisis without choice, the only was out was to get through, survive. However, beyond that point, beyond the instant of that initial announcement, it has been my responsibility to move past the drama, take back control of my life, and to attend to my own needs.

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There is nothing more empowering, no more certain way of winning back control,  than by taking responsibility for my own choices and attending to my own needs. I have come to realise the more aspects of my life I take responsibility for, the more choices and control over my life I am able to win back that had been lost by the action of abandonment.

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This has been a gradual process. I began by taking back control of my life one minute at a time, then one hour, then one day at a time. I began caring for myself with diet, relaxation and exercise. I restored routine and order in my life, and simplified my lifestyle. I focussed on my home and made it my peaceful sanctuary. I surrounded myself with things the way I wanted and redecorated my living space. I embraced solitude as a chance to do whatever I wanted and to follow my own passions. I let go of the coupledom that was and took the time to reflect on who I was as an individual. I spent time affirming my values and beliefs and resolved to remain positive and optimistic. I discovered me again.

That was a major step, discovering me.

However, when I went further and explored my needs I discovered that I was still down on the bottom levels of fulfilling basic needs, those of comfort and stability. I had been unable to rise to my higher needs of self-fulfillment and pursuing my life with purpose and meaning. I realised that, even though I had discovered and embraced my new self, I was still living our life my way, rather than living my life and following my dreams. Now it was my responsibility to change.

Attending to my higher needs of pursuing a life of purpose and meaning, of re-finding trust and re-gaining my feelings of self-worth will take some time. I will first need to eliminate those areas of my current life that are not leading to my desired outcome. This will require huge changes in my life. I will need to move away from the area where I have lived for 35 years, plan my future, get re-educated, start a new career, make new retirement plans, and work out how I will survive financially. I am aged 59. None of this will be easy. However, it is my responsibility to make it happen, to choose valued responses to those challenges ahead, in order for me to pursue my own passions to a higher level, and move forward to a life of purpose and meaning.

In the meantime, I will keep focussing on and take responsibility for those needs that I can address right now; those needs of my health, stability, and financial security. I will explore my responsibility for those needs in my next post.

Image Courtesy [Digitalart] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Responsibility

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“Look at the word responsibility – “Response-ability” – the ability to choose your response. Highly pro-active people recognise that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behaviour.”  Stephen Covey. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This is my first post from a series of posts on ‘My Responsibilities’.

I wrote previously how I struggled with addressing my needs and wants because of my overwhelming feeling of being responsible. All my life I made sure that I put others first and did the right thing by my husband, my children, my family, my work, and our community. I did what I thought was expected of me. If something did not quite go right, then it was up to me to find a solution to the problem, and to fix it. Even though being ‘responsible’ often brought with it negative feelings of over-work, obligations, loss of freedom and dullness; and even though sometimes I ended up exhausted with everything becoming a struggle; I still felt I had to keep on keeping on. That is what I did. That was being responsible.

There is a flip side to this. It is hiding under the excuse of ‘others’ or ‘my genetics’ or ‘circumstances’ or ‘my responsibility’ to never really having the courage to do what is in my heart. These are the excuses coupled with an overwhelming feeling of thinking that I would be selfish if I ever did what was best for me – ahead of others. I have been using these excuses for not taking responsibility for my own self and my own future.

That was until I had my epiphany, the bolt of lightening that shook me out of the ingrained attitude of mine that I simply have to keep on keeping on. At that point I realised that I had a choice. Part of that choice was to take responsibility for me and my own well-being. It was my responsibility to recognise myself as an individual with my own needs and wants, my own opinions, a right to be treated fairly, and a right to a wonderful future. It was my responsibility to shake my core belief that I was not good enough. It was my responsibility to instill in myself a new belief of my own worthiness for a happy life which did not include continuing the way I had been, slaving away in fruitless endeavours trying to fix things.

In various posts I have written about varying goals of mine to get myself back on track, looking after myself regarding diet, exercise, and having quiet moments of reflection. I had missed the underlying voice within me, probably because it was hidden underneath all the confusion and turmoil I had been thrown into after the separation. I had also been clinging onto what had been my ‘normal’, and not wanting to make any more huge changes to my life on top of the huge emotional upheaval that I had already endured.  The voice within me now was questioning my reason and purpose for doing what I was doing and denying myself a better and less stressful life. I realised that I had been working the wrong way round. I had been plodding along doing what I had always done trying to find a purpose in it, rather than working out what my purpose in life was and then planning towards it.

It may not be my highest calling, yet I know that one of my innermost desires is to find true inner peace and harmony. To get myself truly back on track to that calling will involve going in a completely different direction in life. That will mean massive change. That is daunting.

It will require much courage to strive to this goal despite the apprehension and fear that I have on the challenges involved in getting there.

However, it will be done. It will be the best outcome for me and my long-term health and happiness. I will do it for me because I am worth it. It is my primary responsibility.

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Image Courtesy [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net