Friday, February 3, 2012

My Crockpotting Life

A few days ago I came across this little gem:

Then I went on a seemingly wonky tangent about cooking appliances… weird, I know, but it all had a purpose… and I’m here to try and tie it all together… I hope. It may not be pretty, or all sorts of funny/happy, but it’s my story… and while there’s no Prince at the end to make all things better (well, actually I do have an Awesome Hubby who’s /way/ better than some fairy tale prince, but that’s beside the point ;) my goal is to offer hope and encouragement, and to finally get out what's been niggling around my brain for some time now.

When I started on my path to get skinny 6-7 years ago, I thought that’s what it was all about – get skinny, lose the lumps all would be right and well with the world and any other issues/problems would magically fall into place, and all of it would happen really, really fast.

I’m human, I’m all about instant gratification, and heck if the magazines show me pictures of fat, frumpy, and miserable Before Mary is ta-da slim, sassy and sax-ay After Mary all of a sudden, then that should be me, right?

Just like the microwave – zap it for a minute on high and your good.

Or not.

I did the stuff that They said to do but was OMG miserable! I’d exercise even though I felt like my arms and legs were sand bags; I’d push through because They said I was a slug and lacking motivation; I’d feel worse instead of better but pressed on because They said it’d get easier, I just need to get used to it and do more; I ate a cr@p ton of “whole grains” and less fat and less meat and extra veggies because that’s what They said was healthy (and we all know how I feel about that word now).

But nothing happened, at least according to that box in my bathroom with numbers on it… or a little bit would happen then it would un-happen… and that went on for a long time. I’d throw myself a Pizza & Beer Pity Party, then decree another go at making huge, sudden, sweeping changes… then repeat.

That got a little boring after a while.

The short-ish version is that I finally got it through my thick skull, er got the idea to do one thing at a time – so I chose to fix the food thing first, then the exercise, then something else, then something else…tweak here, tweak there, finally stuff was starting to happen according to that box. And I research the begeebers out of things till I get the answer *I* want.

I learned that I need to lose fat and build muscle, not lose weight. I learned, even more importantly, that in order to effectively lose that fat and keep it gone, I had to fix the system that had broken down in my body. The excess weight I carried around wasn’t the cause of my problems, it was the outward symptom of the massive imbalances going on in my body.

I also learned the really hard way that all the ‘work’ I’d been doing to correct the outsides was messing up the insides even more. All the cardio and longer workouts were stressing my adrenals and thyroid to the breaking point. The pushing to get my workout done in the name of excuse busting instead of resting was counteracting the work I was doing. The ‘endorphin’ rush I was feeling was really adrenaline coursing through my body, wreaking havoc along the way… and the ‘stress/emotional eating’ that I was blaming on my lack of motivation and will power had absolutely nothing to do with either, and everything to do with my stress and emotions and the impact it was having on my hormones.

That hard lesson forced me into my crockpot and locked the lid down tight.

Don’t get me wrong: I had a choice. I could have kept pushing on cuz that’s what gets me “healthy”, right?! Or I could. just. stop. I chose to stop.

Rather, I ran kicking and screaming “I have to workout/keep moving!! It makes me feel so good!” until I hit the proverbial wall that laid me out flat.

During that time I learned that what and how I ate impacted not only my ability to achieve any sort of fat loss, but also how my body functioned as a whole. If something is broken on the inside, it needs to be fixed and the best way is to give my body the best raw materials (food and nutrients) I can. I’ve learned the hard way – partly through trial and error, partly through just pushing my luck – that if I mess up that piece, a whole bunch of other pieces fall out of place, and I have to do a lot of work to put it back together again.

Essentially, I learned that food is the most potent form of medicine that we have access to… Hence the picture above.

Unfortunately I’ve also learned that information relating to administering that medicine has been greatly distorted (points back to the “healthy” post).

The thing is, people don’t want to hear that it took 6-7 years or that I had to do a lot of work on myself emotionally, physically, and nutritionally, and that it takes continual monitoring of my limits. They want to see my before and after and ta-da! Give me 5 easy steps to achieve what you did in no time at all.

*Bangs head on desk*

Fine, here’s what you do: Fix what’s going on on the inside and change your eating to help achieve that. *coughpaleo/primal/lowcarb/lowstresscough* Here’s why… blahblahblah… here’s a ton of references to do your own reading and make up your mind, etc.

Oh, I can’t do that! There must be something else! That’s too dangerous.

Ok, you asked, I told you, you don’t want to believe me. Moving on.

The part that’s been nagging at me is 2 of those people were close friends of mine. Both had major health issues that were being greatly contributed to by their eating. The powerful medicinal food was being shunned by them, and sadly, the food they were consuming was slowly poisoning them. It aggravated known health conditions, which added to the stress in their lives, which contributed to the food choices… but they chose to stay their course. And sadly it killed them.

Whoa with the Debbie Downer stuffs!

I know. It’s been bringing me down a lot over the past few months, too. All the shoulda coulda woulda opportunities to help them see a better way have been replayed in my mind, even though it didn’t seem to have impact. Thinking over the conversations, though, I did my part, I shared my enthusiasm, I lived to be an example, I was consistent, and in the end it was their choice. I wasn’t better or worse, I’d just made a different choice, even though it took me a while to make it.

There was no amount of fancy dancing or yelling and screaming to get me to make that choice before I was smacked down and sat on good and ready. Same goes for everyone else… I need to keep reminding myself of that. It’s a choice.

And I realize now why they never made that choice: The crockpot time scared them. It’s too long. It’s too hard. It’s too boring. I’d rather try this, then this, then this, then give up.

Been there, done that, have the movie deal in the making (not really ;)

Making that choice means you have to face what you’re really doing, acknowledge that you might not be right or know everything (and by you, I mean you, because, ya know, _I’m_ always right and _I_ totally know everything. ROFL!!! NOT!). It means you have to be open for suggestion and *gulp* correction.

It means letting go of something that you ‘love’ (be that sugar, bread/grains, tons of cardio, constant socializing, the nummy beer, whatever) in order to get something better.

It also means that it takes time, which requires patience… doesn’t matter if you have 10 or 100 pounds to go, it takes time to correct the course your on to one that’s leading you to optimal health, which is THE way to get to an optimal body composition.

Not many people are up for that… they’d rather read that they’re doomed to a lifetime struggle of over exercising and under eating to ‘maintain’ their weight and get back on the treadmill and eat their low fat microwave lunch.

Most folks won’t read/believe that there’s a way to fix it:

I have to say, that choice didn’t put me on the easy road, mainly because it goes against the conventional wisdom of ‘eat less and move more’. It’s a quiet road, but I’ve met some amazing people along the way, and brought a few with me. It was so hard watching my friends struggle, and it’s difficult to watch others struggle without getting in their face offering a friendly suggestion here and there to ease their minds and bodies… But my crockpotting time has given me a little bit of patience, to do what I need to do, and know that to fix the world, I first need to fix myself, so I can be of service to others.

So here I am… doing just that.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thoughts for Thursday: Crockpotting in a Microwave World

"The greatest thing is, at any moment, to be willing to give up who we are in order to become all that we can be." - Max Depree

I’ve alluded to the roughness of this past year, especially the last half, several times. I won’t go into all the gory details at this point, because it’s the lessons learned from those details that’s really important, because really, if you don’t learn the lesson that’s set before you, you’re destined to go through being schooled over and over and over again.

Trust me when I say that the faster you get it, the better off you are.

And the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s all about the crockpot.

No, really… it is… Yeah, I’m a card carrying member of Crazy Town, but stick with me, you’ll understand.

But here’s the Readers Digest version: We know we’re going to have trials, tribulations and struggles in our lives, we know there’s changes that need to be done… but we just want them to be over with quick so we can move on… sorta like zapping it in the microwave for a minute on high, *ding* you’re done. Sadly, life isn’t like that… it’s more like the crockpot where you have to sit and stew for a good long while, with the application of constant heat to soften you up, to make the changes last, to help the struggles have meaning, get perspective.

And here’s the loooooooong version… might want to grab a cuppa and get comfy….

Ya’ll know what the crockpot/slow cooker is, right? It’s that happy kitchen appliance that can take the ickiest, toughest piece of meat and turn it into the happiest, melt in your mouth meal you’ve ever eaten… or amazing chili, soup, chicken goodness and you barely have to do anything but flip a switch/push a button and wait… and wait. (you can also make everything from crème brulee to Cream cheese sausage dip [aka mommy crack!] to Christmas ornaments to candles in it too. Serious! Go check out She’s done it all and then some!)

But I digress.

This isn’t about sharing my favorite crock pot recipes (of which I have a few), it’s about the whole crockpot process… which is to say it’s about the slow and the waiting.

As a long haired hippy freak poet whatever once said, “The waiting is the hardest part.” (That’d be Tom Petty for you Gen-whatever-ers that were born after I graduated high school in 1987. ;)

Sad, but true… the fact that I’m fast approaching my 25th high school reunion, and that we have to wait, and that it’s hard.

It’s hard because we live in a microwave world. I think in some ways we always have lived in that kind of world – human beings are, by nature, impatient and this modern age has just made it worse. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at my disaster of a kitchen and thought, “UGH! OMG it will take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to clean that wreck! I can’t even deal with it right now!” So I don’t… and I put it off and then I play this game where I set my timer to /prove/ that it’s going to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r and I’m pi$$ed off every time because it usually ends up taking 10-15 minutes.


But not everything is like that. The really important stuff can’t be taken care of in 10-15 minutes, and most times not even 10-15 days… or months.

By important stuff, I mean that icky, ebil word that people don’t like, but have to deal with anyway: Change. I’m talking about deep down, full life change, and that takes time.

At least for me it does… and it’s possible that some of my experience may ring true for someone you know… because far be it from me to go start pointing fingers at people (Well, I want to do that, but I end up getting said fingers broken, so I stopped… mostly… because it’s hard to type that way.)

I’m human, I’m all about instant gratification, and heck if the magazines show me pictures of fat, frumpy, and miserable Before Mary is ta-da slim, sassy and sax-ay After Mary all of a sudden, then that should be me, right?

Just like the microwave – zap it for a minute on high and your good. You can go from this to that in no time!

Or not.

That’s the difference between the microwave vs. the crockpot mentality:

Microwave: All about the short term, immediate gratification.

Crockpot: Looking at the long term.

Microwave: You’re willing to take shortcuts driven by desperation and emotion, regardless of the costs (and trust me, there will be a price to pay), just to get it done now. It could be taking a “fat burner” to lose weight fastfastfast, or doing a marathon cleaning session just to get things clean, or some get rich quick promises that end up costing you more in the end.

Crockpot: It’s all about the slow, the steady and the sustainable. Decisions based on facts and determination, and delaying the gratification till the right time.

How to do you make that escape from the microwave mentality to a crockpot type life? It’s pretty simple actually… And by simple, I mean, well… simple. But not easy, because when you’re immersed in the immediate gratification, it’s really, really hard to give that up and suddenly find comfort that someday in the undetermined future, you’ll get to where you’ve set your sights. I’m all for setting goals, and having defined plans with general timeframes associated with them, but when you’re wanting something different to happen in your life, you have to allow for the process to evolve and grow so it’ll stick around forever… and that, my friends is worth its weight in gold.

How do you start that process? So glad you asked, because you know I’m dying to tell you.

The first thing is the most important and what everything else is built on… and the thing that certainly won’t make me very popular and may not make you very popular with the people in your life.

Ready for it? Ok… you asked for it.

#1 - Repent! I know, I know, you just raised your “oh no she di’int just use a Jesus-freak term on me” shield… Yes. Yes I did… because it serves the purpose and is a great illustration. Besides, I know I just made a few people do a happy dance in the process (or at least they will do the happy dance after they pick themselves up off the floor cuz they fainted from shock.)

I used to hatehatehate that term. It always brought to mind the evil, scary Frodo (from Disney’s Hunchback, not the cutie ring bearer from LOTR, though he got a bit scary near the end...) being judgmental and pious.

Then I really found out what it meant: Stop what you’re doing, and go the opposite direction. Turn away from what’s harmful and go towards what’s beneficial.

Oh. That’s it? I mean, I know there’s a lot more layers to it, but really… that’s it? So I’m diving headlong into a box of doughnuts… I stop, and turn away from them, and go for real food instead. Yep. Or, I’m drowning in debt… I stop using my credit cards, stop spending money I don’t have and start learning to live within my means (again, simple but not easy.) I’m over stressed, over extended (financially, emotionally), over scheduled! I stop saying yes to everything and turn to living a balanced life.

It also means admitting that what you’re doing, your way of doing things, or the way you’ve always been told to do things, isn’t working… and may actually make matters worse (which is a rant in and of itself… for another time.)

Whooaaaa Nelly! You’re doing some serious crazy talk. Besides, that can’t happen overnight!

You are SO right! That’s what we’re talking about…

And brings me to #2: Let time do the work. Instead of trying to do major sweeping changes, taking charge and micromanaging every. little. detail. yourself. Learn to embrace the slow, the steady, the baby steps.

Remember, we’re talking about crockpot type stuff: You toss some stuff in, slap the lid on, set the temp/timer and what? Futz with it till it’s done? No! You leave. it. alone.

That’s so aggravating! I know!! From a someday-to-be-reformed-futzer, it’s sooo hard to not futz! But work with me here. Just once, pick a plan, a budget, a habit, something that’s just one or two things, and just focus on that for some time like 4-6 weeks. Clear your brain of the elebenty billion other things that need to be done and just focus on that. I know what you’re thinking and I’ll take a line from FlyLady, “My house is a wreck and piled to the ceiling with clutter, how the *bleep* is shining my sink going to do anything?!” - ya gotta start somewhere so pick one thing and let that habit seep into your life.

It’s a process: Let it happen.

Lay a solid foundation for change to evolve and grow. Trying to do too much at once is like building a skyscraper on the beach. It’s just a matter of time before it falls over and has to be rebuilt. Starting slow helps you adapt to anything that comes your way.

#3 – Trust that there’s more than you realize going on under that lid. This is the part that’s extra frustrating. With the microwave mentality, if you can see instantaneous changes on the outside – dropping 10 pounds on the scale almost overnight, a beautifully cleared out room, a zero balance on the credit card [and a positive balance in the checking account], etc., that’s motivation to keep moving forward!

But what happens when all that comes to a grinding halt? We hop to the next latest and greatest thing! Then the next… and then the next.

The slow and steady looks at the long term trend. It’s about not making those drastic, quick changes at a moment’s notice due to a tiny blip. Instead it’s about looking at the big picture and the overall impact. There may not be anything on the outside showing you that what you’re doing is working, but under the surface, there’s a lot of beneficial stuff happening.

Think about seeds – even if you’ve never planted a garden, we’ve all planted at least one physical seed in some soil. Maybe it was a grade school project, I don’t know. When you put that seed in the ground, put some water on it, and set it on the window sill, did it suddenly sprout in front of your eyes?! Nope. It took time, maybe days, or weeks, then *poof* there’s a sprout that keeps growing and growing.

This is especially true in the whole ‘weight loss’ area – you may not see physical progress, and even consider it a ‘plateau’, but if you’re going for being truly healthy on the inside, just keep doing what you need to do. That plateau is your body healing so you can stay lean once you get there.

Even if you can’t see what’s going on, trust that something _is_ happening. Just requires patience… It’s said that’s a virtue… I’m still working on acquiring that.

To get you through the waiting game, there’s #4: Find your own serenity.

If you choose to share with others what you’re doing, or even if you don’t tell anyone, people will have opinions and they will share them with you. If what you’re doing is going counter to the mainstream - and let’s face it, if you’re choosing to step off the fast track, drive through, microwave world, you’re going against the grain – there’s going to be nay-sayers, there’s going to be countless articles telling you you’re doing it wrong, there may be family and friends that don’t like the ‘new’ you because the ‘old’ you was more fun.

To that I say! What-e-v-a-r!

Actually, no, I don’t… this one is hard. This is the part that brings a lot of people down and drags them back to the ‘normal’ world.

I really say: I’m sorry. It’s gonna happen, and it stinks to walk a different path from the majority of people in your life. It’s kinda lonely when you find you don’t have as much in common with people you’ve known for years because your attitude on things have changed. You may even be a little (or a lot) grumpy about giving things up, about losing something that’s been part of your life for so long. There may be tears shed.

That’s why it’s important to find serenity in yourself, being firm in why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you’re choosing to be a different, and hopefully better person. It also helps you shift your focus on what your gaining instead of losing. You may discover talents you didn’t know you had, or find you suddenly love to garden, or to read, or go for hikes, or cooking special dinners for your honey, or spending quiet, meditative time with your critters, or something! Do those things that bring you true and deep down to your toes joy.

When you feel lonely and cut off from your ‘old’ life, those will fill your emotional bucket so you don’t need external validation… Eventually you’ll find other people quietly wandering along the same path to help support you along the way… Or if you’re not me and are nice about the changes you’re making, instead of being all finger pointy, maybe those same people who poo-pooed you earlier will join you! All that will help bring you to…

#5 – Rest. Seriously! There’s not enough focus on that. In the rushrushrush world, where you’re considered a recluse if you don’t have every hour of every day jam packed with events, and gatherings, and meetings, and, and… Finding your happy place will help you rest, to relax in your life - be part of it instead of being swept along by other people’s expectations of what to eat, what to wear, what to buy, etc. – to renew your body, mind and soul, and truly find sound sleep – the happiest rest of all! You may start to learn that less is truly more. Busy-ness is keeping you from happy-ness.

By embracing #1, you have to let go of something to get something. By taking the time to allow 2-5 to really permeate your life – to simmer and stew in the process - what you’ll get is something wonderful: YOU!

“Even The Mighty Oak Was Once A Nut, That Simply Held Its Ground.” – Unkn.