Extra! Extra! Read All about It! I’ve Discovered the Panacea to Good Health!

Gotcha.

There is no panacea, magic pill, secret sauce, or one thing that can fix our health. Our bodies are made up of various systems that operate symbiotically at different levels, interrelated in complicated ways. So much that science tells us and yet so much that researchers still do not truly understand. So many ancient remedies that seem like old wives’ tales, and yet… at least anecdotally, a lot of them seem to work. So many people peddling their one secret Way. Just buy their book, take their master course, or sign up to be coached by them. And under the comments section, one can read just as many “thank you, this helped me so much” boxes as “this is a hoax and a waste of your money”.

What does that mean for those of us trying to find our way?

It means each of us has our own individual path, we must do our own research, we have to experiment on ourselves and try out different things, we need to rely on our own common sense and intuition to discover what can work for us. We need to develop persistence in doing routines that are good for us and resilience not to slide into bad habits that are detrimental to us.

We can only share our own experience and successes and not necessarily give advice to encourage others to take our paths. Our personalized, customized-for/us, and through-trial-and-error ways.

If I were to write a book after I reach my ultimate level of health and wellness because people want to know how I did it, it would be called “No, There is NO Magic Pill: Baby Steps to Physical and Mental Wellness”

Chapter 1: There is No Panacea

Chapter 2: Food, Exercise, Sleep, Thought, Feeling, Relationship

Chapter 3: Try What You Can Afford Versus Advice from Chinese Parents

Chapter 4: It’s All Related; Do Your Research

Chapter 5: You Start Where You Start

Chapter 6: Break the Vicious Cycle Somewhere

Chapter 7: Find Your Tribe; Do What You Love

Chapter 8: Reframe Your Perspective: Helpful or Harmful?

Chapter 9: Decide What You Want and Just Do It

Chapter 10: You Don’t Fail Until You Quit

I am incredibly proud of myself. Over the past few months, I have changed my relationship with food, established that an average of 10,000 steps daily is doable, and fit into some of my all time favourite clothing that I have not been able to wear in a long time (many years). One concrete measurement is weight… and I’m happy to say that I’m down 20 lbs from my high of 200+ lbs.

I will write that book once I’ve hit 150 lbs, can run a 10k, and am the picture of health both physically and mentally. Stay tuned!

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Wait… I’m Turning into My Father!

Heroify

A week ago, I signed up me and the boys to attend an anti-bullying, hero training program called Heroify Your Life.  (I was invited by good friend and amazing hero Scott Dietrich.  The speakers were amazing and the topics should be taught in every school every year for all kids.)  Initially, the boys were a little bummed by the idea of being talked at all day long on a Saturday.  But then… on the day, they behaved so well and were so engaged for the entire day. I was a very proud Mama.  At the end of the day as we walked through the mall to find dinner, I offered to reward them with a present!

My younger son said: “You probably shouldn’t do that. If you connect behaving well with a present, I’ll be disappointed next time if you don’t buy me a present.”  What a wise 9-year old.  I had to backtrack and reframe it… that I wanted them to be happy, that it was separate from my being pleased with their behaviour.  He nodded approvingly and happily accepted the gift with the understanding that it isn’t necessarily going to happen again.  The older one declined the present I offered but counter-offered with something else that he felt was more age appropriate.  Everyone was happy.

Fast forward to a week later. My father was so pleased that I took his health advice seriously, he offered to buy me a big present if I could sustain these habits for 3 months. I was like, my present was the advice, my present will be improved health, I don’t need a present… wait a minute… this all sounds familiar!

The apple does not fall from the tree.  I guess parents are not beyond rewarding and bribing our kids… regardless of how old we all are.

Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Oh My! Diets, Weight Loss and Picking Your Thang!

Are you as confused by the plethora of diets as I am? It seems as though there is an article refuting the scientific research-based findings of a miracle method as soon as you learn about it!

Furthermore, our bodies are so complicated and unique, what works for that beautiful, thin, and energetic motivational speaker may not work for me.

At the end of the day, the only thing we can truly stick to is this: food is the physical building block of our bodies. What we eat is what is used to grow and heal our bodies. So the question is: would you rather ingest something that helps or harms your body?

Lucky for us, there is now an annual ranking system for all the popular diets by Health Magazine. They have systemically and methodically evaluated all the famous (and some I’ve never heard of) diets. One of the criteria is… how easy it is to stick to! Who would’ve thunk! After all these years of yo-yo dieting, fighting cravings, and falling off the bandwagon… finally the experts are taking into account the KISS approach to keep it simple sweetie!

What’s interesting is that when you hear advice from our traditionally wise people (like my Qigong Shifu, my Kung Fu Shifu, and my parents… all Chinese by the way), they would say, don’t restrict so much what you eat or remove things entirely from your diet, just eat less of everything and less of what’s proven to be bad for you (fats, salt, sugar, junk food, etc.). My Qigong Shifu says “Cut 25%!” My Kung Fu Shifu says “Work it off through exercise!” My parents say “Eat until you are 60% full!”

The other biggie is: It’s not a sprint. Don’t expect overnight results. They don’t last. It’s a lifetime journey, a lifestyle approach. Every single choice is another brick to layer into your foundation of health and happiness. And yet, one less-than-perfect decision is not going to undermine everything, so move on quickly and definitively from a single poor choice or one moment in time. Figure out why the slide and try to set yourself up to avoid that in the future.

For those of us who need to lose weight, that means 1 pound per week is healthier, more sustainable and less reversible. Because one pound per week over 15 weeks indicates an overall shift in choices, a more permanent outlook and set up, as well as a focus on health rather than just weight. Plus if I can do 1 pound per week for 15 weeks, I can do 1 pound per week for a year.

This is a very personal and unique journey. Each person needs to get to know their own body and, more importantly, their own mind. Better health and weight loss is not just a physical, calorie-counting, daily exercise thing, okay, well, yes, it sort of is, but if you are mentally resisting every leafy green salad or are dying to snack on chips (just waiting to rebel and cheat), whatever great plan you are on, have paid for, or has worked for other people… just is not going to work! So it’s gotta be something bigger than just some diet you are on. It has to be part of a bigger goal to be healthy, for all the right reasons. And healthy not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. Healthy as a family, healthy with your friends, healthy at work…

Kung Fu Mama’s Thoughts:

1. Want good health badly enough.

2. Know why you want it.

3. Keep it simple.

4. Make health holistic: mind, body and spirit.

5. Track everything to measure what you need to change (blood pressure, heart rate, exercise, sleep, weight, inches, water, calories, etc.)

6. Find your tribe and enjoy the process.

7. Fail and figure.

8. Reward right, not with cheating.

9. No, it’s not easy, nothing good is easy, but you can find ways to make it easier.

10. Keep going.

And:

1. Fix mental state and fundamental illnesses first, then eating habits and lastly exercise.

2. Trust your body, especially as you age, don’t push yourself so hard that you end up quitting.

3. Life is short. If you hate it, stop it. Or change your frame of mind.

4. Cultivate love.

5. Find and enjoy the humour in everything.

6. Relax, relax, relax.

7. Identify the good. Fix the bad.

8. Be grateful.

9. Share what you’ve got.

10. Never give up.

Health Advice from Mom and Dad

So now I’m nearly 50 and I’ve been dealing with health issues. It’s gotten so bad, I’ve had to take some time off work to address them and figure out how to manage the conditions, control the pain and deal with the subsequent mental health side of things.

Today, my father lectured me for an hour over Skype, reminding me of all the things he has been lecturing at me since he started looking after his health at the age of 50.

  1. Drink water.  Make it a habit to drink water and only water.  Not soda, not juice, not milk.  Room temperature water.  One tall glass of room temperature water as soon as you get up.  Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day.
  2. Eat bigger meals in the morning and lighter meals at the end of the day.  Eat until you are 60% full and then stop.  If you get hungry after dinner, go straight to bed.
  3. Go for a brisk walk everyday.  For 30 minutes.  Walk after dinner, everyday.  Be consistent.  Everyday.  If you do this, you will be physically tired and it will be easy to fall asleep.
  4. Think about the stressful things while you walk. Then forget about them.  Do not take those thoughts home.  Think about the meetings you will have the next day, think about the agenda items, think about what you are going to say and how you are doing to say them.
  5. Get good quality and enough sleep.  Get to bed early.  Turn off all electronics.  If you wake up in the middle of the night, do not check your phone.  Just go back to sleep.
  6. Crack open your windows and let the air flow through your room at night when you sleep to get fresh air.  If necessary, turn on a fan to keep the air moving.  This will help you get better sleep.
  7. Lose weight.  Carrying around too much weight is hard on the knees, the hips, the heart, etc.  Walk more.  Eat less.
  8. Do your own research.  Do what works for your body.  Do not take the advice of doctors.  They only know a little bit and they do not care about your overall holistic health.  They will prescribe pharmaceuticals and every single medicine you take from them will have adverse side effects.
  9. Do all of this everyday and you will have no more health problems.  But you have to do them consistently, without fail, without break.  You can’t just do it one day and not another.
  10. After you have been doing this for a couple of months, we discuss your progress and determine next steps.

So… it was slightly disconcerting to be lectured at for an hour.  Especially since I was already doing quite a lot of this due to my most recent health problems.  It is not always fun to get yelled at by my father, especially since he’s not that interested in hearing what I have to say (e.g. But I have sleep apnea and stop breathing, so I need the machine.  You don’t need a machine, you just need to have air flow through your room.  Uh, Dad, it’s a medical condition.  I stop breathing 80 times an hour and am down to 60% oxygen at night.  Well, whatever, you will have more oxygen in your system if you turn on a fan and open your windows.).

I managed to stay calm throughout the whole thing (he literally repeated each piece of advice about 10 times in different orders and using different phrases) by reminding myself that he is doing this from love, because he cares and because he’s panicked.  It’s taken him this long through very hard work to get his health more under control.  He’s figured it out (late, by his standards) and he does not want us making the same mistakes, so he’s trying to give us good advice that he wants us to take now, now, now, and exactly in his way.  He’s worried about my health and about our family’s well-being.

When I shared this story with my husband and the boys, my husband nonchalantly said, “Well, Gong Gong isn’t wrong.  He’s made some good points there.”  True, true.  And I’m definitely working on it, I suppose, seeing as I’ve come to some of the same conclusions.  My kids found it interesting, as I have been working so hard on getting them to eat, think, and do healthy for such a long time.  They think it’s funny that I’m getting lectured by MY parents.

Then there’s adding all the advice my mother has been given me:

  1. Swing your arms everyday.  It will cure hundreds of ailments.  Do it once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
  2. Rub your stomach, clockwise, slowly, every morning and every night. This is good for your digestive system.
  3. Do Qigong everyday.  This will heal a lot of your illnesses, but it just takes longer.  Do it once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
  4. Meditate.  Meditate and calm your mind.  It is very important to calm your mind everyday.
  5. Have positive thoughts and look on the bright side.  Don’t focus on the negative.  Find a more constructive way of thinking about things.
  6. Stress is terrible, so don’t get stressed.  Find a way to release the stress from your body.
  7. Eat ginger, garlic and onions.  They are antibacterial and can kill lots of germs.
  8. Drink lemon water or apple cider vinegar.  They will help clean out your system.
  9. Soak dried longans and goji berries in hot water for a drink.  It’s really good for you.
  10. If you need to go to the washroom, just go.  Don’t hold it in, it’s not good to hold things in.  Your body needs to get the garbage out. So, if you feel you need to go… GO!

There you have it.  Advice from my mom and dad.  They aren’t wrong you know…  There’s science behind a lot of this stuff.

Now I’ll add mine:

  1. Be kind to yourself.  Treat yourself as if you were your own best friend.  Love, appreciate, and praise yourself. Be aware of how you are speaking to yourself.
  2. Remember your strengths. Focus on things you are good at.  Give kudos to yourself for being good at those things.
  3. Remember to enjoy life.  Do things you love to do.  Slow down and appreciate, savour, soak up the beauty around you.
  4. Remember that life goes up and down.  Prepare yourself for down times so that you aren’t surprised or disappointed.  Be ready for down times with things that will help it go by more easily and quickly.
  5. Find the helpers.  Reach out to people who are amazing and can provide you with some support during difficult times.  Find people who will give you good advice rather than cut you down or amplify the negativity that is already in your head.
  6. Consider every single failure an opportunity to learn. Anything that doesn’t work is now knowledge that something is not the answer.  It may be part of an answer, it may lead you to an answer… or it may just be something you know you never want to do again!
  7. Eat to provide nutrients to our bodies.  Less processed foods, less carbohydrates, less fatty foods, less red meat, less sodium, less deep fried foods, less canned foods, less sugar.  More fruits, more vegetables.
  8. Find an exercise you love.  Not just that you don’t hate it.  Find something you enjoy, maybe by yourself or maybe with others in a more communal environment.
  9. Address your health issues right away, in the least invasive manner possible and as soon as possible.  Do seek out professionals and specialists, but do your own research and trusts your instincts.  Find communities of people who are dealing with the same conditions.  There is so much to learn and medical knowledge is evolving all the time.
  10. Pay it forward.  Find where you can make a difference in this world. Be a helper, make your corner of the world a better place.  Be the change you want to see. Find a big meaningful goal to work towards and go all out.

So the question is: how does one fit all this in one’s life?  Well, that’s part of the journey we are all on! That’s what’s going to make life interested during the next part of life!

How to Land that Promotion!

Oh my, what did I get myself into? The organizer of the workshop I’m on the panel for wants me to give career advice…

Oh and by the way, you will also be asked about your career path and how to land that promotion.

I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer any questions about getting to the top (I’m no Oprah Winfrey or Sheryl Sandberg, I’m no Marissa Mayer or Arianna Huffington), but for what it’s worth, I can share what I think is important for all of us to keep in mind as we navigate our careers paths.

Know the Goals

Understand the goals and objectives of your unit, department, division… organization.  Really know the impact you have on your stakeholders at all levels, think about even the city, province, country!  Ensure that what you are doing aligns with what your boss and your boss’s boss and your boss’s boss’s boss need to achieve.

Know Your Job, Do It Well

I can’t emphasize this enough!  Know your job.  Do it well.  That’s what we’re getting paid for.  Know the rules.  Play by them or change them. Know your clients.  Meet their needs. Do this. Do it well.

Create, Don’t Copy, Forge, Don’t Follow

By the way, did you notice that I didn’t say: “Know your job description”? HR is going to hate me for saying this, but a job description is outdated as soon as it’s been posted. Know your job from an outcomes perspective.  But then make the job your own with creativity.  Do the job in a way that no one else can. Bring your strength to the table. Make it yours.  You want people to say to your successor “you have big shoes to fill”. Be YOU!

Make It Win/Win

Understand that everyone wants to do their job well, so don’t make it harder for others to do theirs.  Getting what you need done at the expense of someone else is not a sustainable strategy. When you do your job well, you look good.  If you make others look good, you look even better.  Make sure that everyone wins in every interaction.

Guard Your Reputation

Guard your reputation with every word you say, every action you do and every decision you make.  You are only as good as your reputation and you never know who knows whom or who talks to whom! Decide on the adjectives that you would want others to describe you if your name came up in a conversation and make sure you live those adjectives. Would you want to hear: Responsible? Intelligent? Confident? Effective? Hardworking? OR… Unprofessional? Lazy? Arrogant? Naysayer? Uninspired?

Create Good Luck

Luck plays a role in everything. However…

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan

Manage Your Career

The biggest favour anyone can do for themselves is to actively manage their own career. It’s nice to ask for advice, but the only person who knows you well enough is… you. Access mentors, but don’t ask them what to do.  Tell them what you think the situation is and what YOU think you should do.  Ask them if they see something you don’t, because they can provide a perspective you may not have considered. At the end of the day, it’s on you.  Take accountability for the decisions you make, the lessons you learn and the path you forge.

Lastly, don’t forget to give back!

 

 

How Do You Do It?

Recently I was asked to be on a panel at work to share my experiences about how to manage your career while having a young family. It’s a workshop run by the ODLC and Family Care Office at U of T and I think it’s supposed to help others answer the question “How do you do it?”.  I think what I say is supposed to help people with families do better at work. And frankly, I wonder if maybe should share what I ought to have done rather than what I HAVE done!

You see, the reality is that I don’t do it all.  I really don’t have it together.  Most of the time I think I’m doing a bad job at work (okay, maybe I’m a bit tough on myself, let’s just say… it’s not good enough… yet) and I definitely feel that I’m not a good enough mother, manager, wife, daughter, sister, friend (yes, in that order, sorry friends). Better mother than wife, better wife than friend… and so on.  (Yes… better manager than wife, you caught that, eh?)

I suppose I could share my learnings from the experiences of not quite doing it, but trying really hard to. This therefore a summary of what I’m going to present to my colleagues with young families for the workshop at the University of Toronto Mississauga in February:

#1: Your Health is #1

Everything else is #2, and I mean everything. Without your health, without self care, you can only do so much for so long.  I had a very massive breakdown earlier this year.  It was a physical, mental, spiritual, everything breakdown.  I could not get out of bed and I could not take care of my family. It was frightening to say the least, but… and I can say it now… it was preventable and I should have seen it coming.  Now I know, my health has to come first.

Put on your oxygen mask. Get your sleep, because sleep is NOT over-rated! Make time for yourself to breathe, re-calibrate, self-reflect, rest, laugh…

#2: Make It Easier

That means: make it easier for yourself whenever you can.  Make it easier for others to make it easier for you.  So, for example, if you find certain times of the day rough to manage, find the help, plan or prepare for it, reduce your expectations, reduce others expectations, delegate…

In the case of childcare, figure out what works for you now.  Some people have family in town, others have wonderful neighbours.  We’ve used nannies, we’ve helped out neighbours and they’ve helped us out, we’ve put the kids in daycare and then Bill quit his job to be a stay-at-home-Dad. Do what works for you and your family. Finances have a part to play in this too, but see #3.

Work with your boss to adjust your schedule, swap responsibilities, manage expectations… If you know you can make it up in the future, then allow yourself to shift your focus to your family for a bit.  Forgive yourself.

#3: Remember: Everything Changes

Remember that everything changes.  The chaos, the feeling of being out of control, the empty-headedness, the poocanoes, the 2 o’clock afternoon sleepies (ooh, I miss napping), the need for childcare, the flash of anger at everything, the frustration of not getting things done, the night-time peeing, the temper tantrums, the never-ending “mommy, mommy, mommy”… but also… the little arms choking you around the neck, the cuddles in the middle of the night, the bedtime stories, the flying leap into your arms, the  kisses, the songs… All of it.  There are many stages and you just make each stage work.  You plan for the next change and you manage through the one you’re in.

Someone reminded me that most people walk down the aisle potty-trained, so don’t get too upset that your kid is the only 4-year old at daycare having accidents.

Kids grow up.  They grow up fast.  Soon, it will be all in the past.  (Sorry, too much Dr. Seuss!)

#4: Don’t Lose Yourself

For many years, I completely lost myself in being a mother and making work work.  Other than my full-time job at work and then my other full-time job when I got home, I lost me.  I didn’t have a sense of who I was or what I loved (other than my children, who, to be frank, at moments felt like obligations rather than people that I adored.)  I didn’t do sports, I didn’t read books, I didn’t go out with friends to have long intellectual philosophical debates, I didn’t try new restaurants, I didn’t watch weird movies with my husband and critique them to death, I didn’t sing songs at the top of my lungs, I didn’t wander through bookstores, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t.  And.  It. Was. Killing. Me.  Only I didn’t know it.

I think I was hanging out by a thread through my 3 am blogging and watching of crappy TV.  I’ve since found friends who can commiserate about similar things or who tell me that I’m doing okay and, of course, Kung Fu.  The stretches and stances have built strength and stamina. The meditation has a calming affect (I’m not even sure I’m doing it right)… all I know is I feel more balanced. I found me!

#5: Remember the Love

This one is self-explanatory.  Remember how much people love you.  They do.  They just don’t always have the opportunity, headspace, time, energy to tell you or show you  (sometimes they will Facebook you).  But they do love you.  So when you need a reminder, just reach out and get reminded.  Maybe tell them first how much you love them if you need to.  Just remember the love.  It’s all about the love.

#6: Make Decisions with Integrity

Keep in mind that you may not be at your best when sleep-deprived or stressed about picking up kids after work from daycare.

Try to make values-based decisions.  That is to say, don’t make rash decisions, don’t react impulsively and don’t take anything personally.  I think the biggest mistakes I’ve made it have happened because I let things feel personal.  You’re not a different person because you have kids, you just have to take into consideration a lot more other issues.  Not everyone is going to understand. If you are lucky enough to work at an organization that is family-friendly like U of T, that’s great, but the reality is still that we (by having kids) unequivocally do make things tougher for other colleagues who don’t have the same responsibilities.  So, understand that.  Make up for it when you can.  (By the way, family responsibilities are not always just about having children, but include taking care of relatives or elderly parents.)

I would add that working with people who share your values is the ideal situation.  So, if you feel that you are in a place that isn’t ever going to align with your values, goals and integrity, you may want to start thinking about making a change.

#7: Strategically Pick What You Will Let Slide and Forgive Yourself

Some people will be able to Lean In.  If you can, good on you!  Go for it, make your millions and do great things!  For the rest of us, we will have to choose our battles and let the others slide.

Mine:

  • My hair – I need a low maintenance hair cut
  • The kids’ Chinese – they aren’t bilingual… yet, maybe one day
  • Christmas cards to friends – sorry, I’m thinking of you but…
  • Showers on weekends – yup, don’t stand too close to me on Sundays

#8: Consolidate and Find the Flow

Go with the flow, not against it. If you can find people going in the same direction, hitch a ride.  Don’t go it alone. If you something can be done by someone else because it’s convenient for them, let them help.  Don’t be a hero.  If the hard work you’ve done in the past allows you to ride the waves a bit without paddling so hard, rest awhile.  Reap what you sow and thank your past self as you gather more energy for the future.

When you find the flow, it’s great, because it takes a lot less of your energy and makes things easier for you (see #2). Give yourself head space, you’re going to need it!

 

#9: Be the Best You Can Be and Be Proud

At the end of the day, we are all human.  We are all flawed, but we all have a best we can do.  So do it.  Then be proud of it.

So there you have it.  My 9 points of advice.  Hope it helps!