Shutting Down Kung Fu Mama!

After pondering this for a few weeks, I have decided that it is time to shut it down!  The Kung Fu Mama blog has been a labour of love and a documentation of my journey between my first breakdown and my second one.  It was a reflection of the me that was trying to bridge Tiger Mom to find an approach that could bring me the balance of health and happiness that I was seeking for me and my family, especially for the kids.

It’s not that the Kung Fu Mama approach didn’t work… it’s that… it… wasn’t… quite… me.  I am not a Kung Fu Mama.  Not yet anyway.  I haven’t earned the title and I don’t want to commit cultural appropriation for something I have so much respect for.  My amazing Kung Fu school is still going to be a big part of my life, but the next stage of the journey begins with a new profile: Healthy Joyous Mama.  This is the me I can be when I’ve achieved balance, when I’m confident, when I’m comfortable.

It’s simple: there is no magic bullet, no panacea for our problems, no one way.  Only daily habits, baby steps, moving forward, learning from our mistakes, growing, developing, loving, figuring.  We just set our goals and make our way there.  And my goals are health and joy.  It’s pretty simple.

It’s complex: it’s all inter-related, everything affects everything else, no one REALLY knows, do they?  We can only plan when we can, hope for the best, prepare for the worst and GO FOR IT!  My health goals are physical, mental and spiritual.  My joy goals are for me, my family, my friends and my work.  None of this can truly be compartmentalized, they all kind of ebb and flow into each other. It’s pretty complex.  It’s so hard to balance.

It’s about balance: We have THIS MUCH time and energy.  We THAT MUCH to do in order to get what we want (even if it is for as small a goal as getting through the day).  We need to INVEST in what can help us and REDUCE what can harm us. Pain and suffering tell us that something is not in balance.  Shutting out or avoiding that discomfort means that we aren’t learning the lesson… and it will keep coming back.  So… the simple answer is: when in imbalance or feeling pain, figure it out.  And the complex answer is: there are many moving parts, figure it out.

Peace and love to you all.

(If you are so inclined, please feel free to visit healthyjoyousmama.wordpress.com.)

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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!

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!

Finally! I Started Qi Gong!

8-Brocades-jpeg

My mother is one of those people who never stops learning, who never stops caring about self-improvement, and who always wants to share something she learned so that you can be a better you (healthier or happier).

Many years ago, when I was still in high school and living at home, my mother discovered Qi Gong.  She espoused how amazing it was and how much it helped improve her health.  She also wanted me to meditate or do Tai Chi, okay, she wanted me to pretty much do anything at all to work on strengthening my health.  Being young and fairly healthy, I sort of agreed with her but never felt a super strong desire to do it.  I took a class or two, sometimes I halfheartedly copied some movements from her and then would just nod off to sleep. My motivation level was low and therefore my attempts to do this ‘stuff’ was not the best.

Well, decades later, last year, when my blood tests came back with some results that made me realize, wait a minute, I’m not getting any younger and my body is not happy with me, I knew that it was time to start being more serious about focusing on my health.  I’m not 25 anymore and I can’t just eat whatever I want, sleep how little I want, or be sedentary without pretty bad repercussions.

A few years ago I did start up Kung Fu, which I still love, but am having problems staying motivated to keep learning… it helped with my health a lot, but it can’t help if I’m not doing it!  Yes, I took another hiatus, and that’s a story for another time.  But this time, I decided to start up Qi Gong and Gentle Kung Fu.  I know I can do this.  I love the flow of movement in these two art forms and I love how I feel after I’ve done it.  Loving this and have incorporated this into my daily routine by getting up earlier by an hour each day.

There are even studies now about the benefits of Qi Gong and specifically Shaolin’s Ba Duan Jing version that we are learning: like meta study or reducing neck pain.

Mom: after decades of you telling me to do this… I’m finally doing this!

Good Stress, Bad Stress

Like cholesterol, there is good stress and bad stress.  Bad stress brings fear (of failure) and disruption (to your health).  Good stress on the other hand, comes from challenging ourselves, which in turn, helps with our development and growth.

The boys have been going to their Kung Fu summer camp this week at the Shaolin Temple Quanfa Institute.  Initially, they were a bit stressed by all the practice and how hard Shifu was pushing them.  Then, two days into it, something clicked.  They felt stronger, more focused and leaner.  They were proud of their stances, they were fast and strong and eager to perform!  The stress brought out the best in them.

For me, as a new driver (at 46 no less!), I noticed that I was feeling stress when driving on the highway.  Initially, I didn’t realize that my body was stressed.  When I noticed it, I became aware of how much I was concentrating to do the right things: merging, watching the big truck in front of me, checking for pedestrians, slowing down…  A few days into it, something clicked.  I felt more aware, more confident and more focused.  I was proud of how much I improved, and at the same time, understanding that it was still going to take a great deal of practice to be a good driver.

Good stress: makes you better!

Bad stress on the other hand comes from toxic relationships, lack of constructive communication and constant unknowns. Bad stress causes frustration, anger, confusion and ultimately hurts our health.  There will always be unknowns in life, but we all need to work harder at improving our relationships through communication… or removing ourselves from relationships that hurt us.

Bad stress: makes you sick!

It is up to us to see what kinds of stress we are under and how to address them: rise up to the challenge and develop… or get out of the situation quickly!