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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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!

That Was Then, This Is Now

Now halfway through my second term at Kung Fu class, I can look back over the past 6 months and say, ooh, I see some good changes!

Relationship with Food

Then: I used to literally be on a SEE FOOD diet.  I mean it.  I see food, I want it.  I see food, I eat it.  I see food, it calls to me.  By name.

Now: Since starting Kung Fu, I’ve managed to break my terrible habit of raiding the fridge around 10 pm for leftovers and eating surreptitiously with one ear listening for my husband’s footsteps coming down the stairs. My meal portions are still largish, but I am proud to say that I no longer eat after dinner.  It’s just ‘not something I do’.

Relationship with House

Then: My relationship with the disaster zone I call home has changed.  As soon as I saw the mess that faced me when I came home from work, I would roar at my husband and the kids: Why are there socks here? Why am I stepping on legos? Why is this pile of papers still here from 3 weeks ago? Why is there dust on this shelf? Why am I the only one who cares about cleanliness around here?!?!?

Now: After half a year of beginner kung fu and a little meditation, I can honestly say that my anger button has retreated slightly.  I still want to roar and on occasion I still do roar, but the thoughts that go through my head are more like: aw, dinner smells great, hey, the boys look so happy, ooh, the laundry is done! maybe I’ll do some organizing or cleaning this weekend.

Relationship with Saturday Morning

Then: Once upon a time, I dragged myself out of bed to get the boys to their Kung Fu class.  When I first started my class, I would wake up each Saturday wondering if I had a good enough excuse to skip class, but I really couldn’t because I had to get the boys to class and my commitment to their health was a priority.

Now: I eagerly look forward to the torture that our instructor wants to put us through. I do my best and I don’t compare myself to others in the class.  As a side note, we are getting new students every week, young, in shape and strong classmates.  They push me to be better.

Relationship with Class

Then: I was so embarrassed all the time, not being able to finish class without sitting out, not being as good as I knew I could be. The thoughts in my head were all about how badly I was holding back the class and how slow I was and how hard I was breathing when I should be in better shape…

Now?  My instructor called on me to lead one of the lines!  She reminds me that my stamina has improved. When she says “if you feel this is easy, push yourself” and I feel like I can, I lift higher, I jump higher, I hold longer, I go lower… And if I can’t, I just focus on getting myself through class in one piece!

Relationship with My Clothes

Then: Nothing looked good on me.  My 200+ pounds poked and rolled and flabbed no matter what I wore.  Even wearing all black couldn’t hide how out of shape I was.

Now: I have lost those first (last in first out?) 10 pounds over the past 6 months.  But more importantly, my clothes fit me better.  My goal is no longer about losing weight, but to feel good about walking into a room with a confident smile and whatever clothes I’m wearing.  I can wear shoes with higher heels without hurting at the end of the day. I can wear a skirt without feeling ashamed of my body. I can look forward to a time when I love the way I look.  Not there yet, but I’m on my journey there.

Relationship with Me

Then: I came last. Every. Single. Person. Came. Before. Me.

And now: I make sure I get my me time.  I make sure that I like myself.  I make sure that I speak to myself with a little kindness and respect.

Day 1 of 66

Being a practical, no-nonsense kind of gal, I always thought that you just said so and it would be made so.  You know, Captain Picard style.  “Make it so!” (I can even HEAR that fantastically deep sexy voice reverberating in my head.)  But failure after failure in making real change in a few specific areas have made me realize that I just can’t Captain Picard my way through the tough habits.

So today, I start Day 1 of 66 to truly change a terrible habit I developed after years and years of stress, couch-potatoing and pure feeling sorry for myself about all my work stress.  That’s it.  No more.  Done.

The problem is, I’ve started this journey many a times and the accountability only to myself thing just doesn’t work for me. If it was a matter of taking care of the kids, oh, that would happen.  If it was a matter of making sure that things at work ran smoothly, I would surely do it.  But if it were just about me, my health, my well-being and nothing else, somehow my willpower just wasn’t enough.

It’s pretty hard on the ego to think that a little bowl of cold fried rice (with mushrooms, which I don’t like) can overcome my intelligent, rational brain. So this is certainly something I’d like to figure out. AND the bigger problem is what I’m modelling for my children.  I’m the one who sets the standard for them: We do what is right, not what we want to do.  Why can’t I do this? For me?  And now… for them?

So, while I probably have to get some psychoanalytical help at some point in time to challenge the deep dark roots of my beliefs in myself and find the ah ha moment of why I keep undermining myself in this one area, for now, I’m launching my 66 days to change my one terrible, probably going to slowly kill me one day, but oh so comforting habit of raiding the fridge for yummy leftovers after dinner (you know like… mmm, cold pizza one night… oh, chicken pot pie – too good… and whoops, the boys’ lunch… and of course the ole I guess stale luncheon meat will do…), while watching TV.

There, I said it.  It’s out there.  It’s public.  There’s no turning back now.  And because replacing a habit is easier than just stopping cold turkey, my replacement habit is going to be drinking a nice hot mug of ginger tea or camomile tea or lemon water or… if I’m going to let myself be a little bad that night, I’ll put a teaspoonful of honey in it.

To make me honest, I’ve just invited a friend to join me and I’m publishing this post in 3… 2… 1… AAAARGH!  Wish me luck!!!!!!

(Note: it takes more than 21 days!  http://www.today.com/health/think-itll-take-21-days-make-your-resolution-habit-try-2D11826051)

Might as Well Face It – I’m Addicted to Food

“Experiments in animals and humans show that, for some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially highly palatable foods. Highly palatable foods are foods rich in sugar, fat and salt. Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine. Once people experience pleasure associated with increased dopamine transmission in the brain‘s reward pathway from eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again.” (Source: WebMD)

Need I say more?

Okay, I will… If there is food in the house, I will eat it.  If I’m at a buffet, I will sit in a seat with no barriers to the food.  If I’m at a reception, I will stand by the food.  If there are leftovers, I will eat them off the plates of my kids.  If there is Halloween candy in my office, it will get eaten.  If I’m watching TV, I will eat a snack.  If I’ve just had dinner, I’ll have seconds…

At one point in time, I was able to say, okay, no more eating at night.  Fell off that wagon of course and now I know how a smoker trying to quit feels…

So. First step.  Own the problem.  Acknowledge it. I’m never going to be skinny.  I love to eat. This will always be challenge.  It may never come easy.  But it is what it is and I need to break the cycle.

Next step. Fill the vacuum.  Find my goal and move towards it.  I want to be healthy. I want to be strong. I want to feel good. I will.  I will get there. I can do it.

Status: Feet are now turned in the right direction.  I found something I love. Not quite on the path yet, haven’t made any progress yet, other than facing the right direction.  I’m not good at it yet.  No pressure to accomplish anything yet other than to focus on my goal. This is where I am. This is where I start.