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!

Advertisements

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.

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!