“You. The Sequel.”

I pass this billboard every day on my way to work. Every day it inspires me. What if it can be true for me? What if I can create my own sequel for my life? I believe I can. It’s what I’m doing right now on this weight loss journey. (Unfortunately for the advertisers, it doesn’t make me want to go out and buy Vitamin Water.) 🙂

I keep wanting to stop and take a photo, but the billboard is located at a crazy dangerous freeway interchange. So I made an attempt this morning, and again this evening—a one-handed snapshot through the window.

A Tangible Way to Honor my Mom: A Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Based on mortality data from 2000-2008, death rates have declined for most major diseases while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have risen 66 percent during the same period.
Alzheimer’s Association

One out of every 57 people in the United States will die from a disease that slowly steals your memories, your mobility, your learned behaviors (like how to talk, walk, write, use the bathroom or comb your hair), and all the things your body does on its own (like fighting an infection and swallowing food; eventually it stills your breathing and silences your heart). Your body forgets how to do everything.

My Mom passed away four years ago from this egregious disease. She was 72. A wife to my Dad for 52 years.  A mom to her 7 children. A grandma to her 15 grandchildren. She is sorely missed.

In her honor, my husband and I participated in a local Walk to End Alzheimer’s today (near our home in Southern California, a thousand miles away from my family of origin in Oregon).

Mom was diagnosed in 2004 and passed away in 2007. It took me until 2011 to join the cause. I’m not mad at myself for not getting involved sooner; just perplexed at what took me so long. Perhaps it was my extremely sedentary lifestyle. Doing any kind of walking was the last thing on my mind. Perhaps it was my fear of asking people for money, even if it was for a good cause.

Now that I’ve become more physically active, participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s was something I had to do. My husband and I together created a team of two.

Today, throngs of people of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors arrived at the Walk, some wearing custom-designed t-shirts honoring those who were suffering from or had died from Alzheimer’s. My favorite t-shirt read: “Alzheimer’s attacked my family. I’m fighting back!”

We arrived a little later than planned so we had to park in a dusty field next to the park. We checked in and received purple wristbands. Because we had raised over $100, we received a ticket to pick up a purple Walk to End Alzheimer’s t-shirt.  I was bummed to discover they were out of all t-shirts except size small, but we put our name down to receive one in the mail later.

Next to the t-shirt booth was a table stacked with laminated paper flowers, Sharpies and safety pins. A sign denoted which color flower you should pick depending on your situation:

  • Multicolored flowers: I have Alzheimer’s
  • Yellow flowers: I am supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s
  • Purple flowers: I have lost someone to Alzheimer’s
  • Orange flowers: I support the cause and a vision of a world without Alzheimer’s

Was it an honor to write my Mom’s name down? No. It was sad. But it was an acknowledgement of her. That I was there today because of her. That she lived. That she was missed. That she mattered. A lot.

I pinned the flower on to a lanyard I wore around my neck, which was holding a photo of my Mom with her four daughters. It’s one of my favorite family photos, even if it doesn’t include my Dad and three brothers. My Mom had just been diagnosed and we were cherishing and loving all over her.

I looked at the flowers other people wore and wondered what their stories were. Of the vastness of their pain and loss. Of how great their love for each other.

Nearby there were tables full of coffee, bottled water and snacks: granola bars, fruit leather, crackers and muffins. High school kids wearing volunteer t-shirts manned the tables. I asked one of the kids where they were from. She was part of the Volunteer Club at a local high school.  Wow. How cool is that?

Across the grass were several booths with representatives from retirement homes, assisted care facilities, funeral planning, and the Alzheimer’s Association. A couple of Lakers cheerleaders were on hand to autograph Lakers team photos.

There was an opening ceremony, during which the speaker had everyone in the crowd hold up their laminated paper flowers to create a special “garden.” Later, a young lady sang a beautiful song she wrote for her grandma.

Then the walk officially began. It was slow going as there were lots of dogs, little kids, and elderly folks participating in the walk. The high school student volunteers held directional signage and cheered us all on as we passed them. They made me smile. It was a two-mile walk but felt much shorter, and was anticlimactic at the end. People just strolled directly to their cars and that was that.

The entire event was extremely well organized, both before and during the event. A plethora of tools were provided to help participants raise money: email blasts, Facebook posts, snail-mail letter templates. Lots of encouraging reminders were sent to me before the event. I had my own personalized donation web page where my friends and family could go give a secure donation. When I got home after the walk, I’d already received a “thank you” email.

It was a fantastic operation. I was totally impressed by the professionalism and organization of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Thanks for letting me share this with you. It was a good day.  I’m all in for next year. : )

Moonlighting as a Gym Rat

Name: Jennifer
Job title: Gym Rat
Employer: The Gym
Status: Part-time, 15 hours per week
Salary: Fitness and health
To pay off a creditor: My body

I’ve begun thinking about my time at the gym as my new part-time job. I was adding up the hours it takes and realized anew that it’s a serious commitment. Here’s our typical weeknight gym schedule:

8:15pm – pack bags and drinks for the gym
8:40pm – leave for the gym
9pm – begin working out (after putting stuff in lockers, tightening laces, etc.)
10:30pm – spend time in the steam room, then shower
11:15pm – head home
11:45pm – in bed
7am – wake up time (I do well with a good 7 hours of sleep)

With travel, showering and everything else, that’s about 3 hours per day x 5 times a week = 15 hours per week!

I’ve had to get a job as a gym rat because my body is in terrible debt. I’ve been withdrawing from my body account which has had a serious deficit for years.

The creditors—my heart, the cholesterol in my veins, my BMI—have come a knockin’ and it’s time to pay up before the grim reaper shows up at my door.

There’s something powerful about thinking of going to the gym as a job. Because going to work isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity. You need your job to pay the bills, put food on the table, and have the bank to have some fun once in a while.

Sure, occasionally you can call in sick or take a vacation day, but in general it’s a consistent, regular thing. You have no choice in the matter. I owe, I owe, so off to work I go!

In the beginning it’s a matter of survival, living paycheck to paycheck. Once your body is no longer in physical debt, then you get to start a savings account. Those reserves will give you more strength and endurance, allowing you to do more active and fun things. The savings will also stave off serious illness. Plus, you’ll look pretty awesome, too.

You’ll feel more alive than you’ve ever felt. It’s a good gig!

It’s my day off today (Sunday). I’ll be back at my part-time job tomorrow night.

What helps you get your body to the gym, day after day?

You wouldn’t do that to a friend. Why do it to yourself?

“Think of it this way: If you got a flat tire, what would you do? Change the tire? Or get out of the car and slash the other three tires? No! Get back on the road. Don’t dwell on it, don’t beat yourself up. That gets you nowhere.”
Jillian Michaels interview, by Amy Spencer,
Redbook, October 2011

I figure God’s trying to tell me something when I hear it twice in a short period of time. If I still have doubts, he’ll make sure he gets my attention by saying it a third time. Maybe even a fourth!

The message I received loud and clear?  Be kind and compassionate to yourself.

1. Other than the Redbook article quoted above, following are three more ways I received the message in a span of two days.

2. Relaxation Meditation Class – Tue, Oct 18
I reluctantly participated in a relaxation meditation class during a photo shoot I arranged at work this week. I entered into it with a bit of trepidation. As a Christian, I am nervous about opening myself up to spiritual exercises that do not involve Jesus Christ. So I put my filter on and had an amazing, unexpected, meaningful experience. During the class, the instructor took us through a series of steps to the point where I felt weightless and calm (e.g. tensing each limb, then relaxing it—everywhere from toe to head).  She had us imagine that our mind was a beautiful lake high up on a mountain, and that our thoughts were birds flying above the surface. When she instructed us to focus on the source of love—“whatever that is to you”—I thought about Jesus, of his light, and how he redeemed my life from the pit. Of my Mom’s face when she used to look at me with love and pride (she’s in heaven now). Of my husband’s face when he is laughing at something I said. The instructor had a soothing voice, and I felt safe. At one point, she said, “Be kind and compassionate…” My brain filled in the rest: “to others.” But she paused a few moments and then finished her sentence: “…to yourself.” Oh!

3. “Back Sliders” Kaiser Permanente ad heard on the radio – Wed, Oct 19
“…one trip to the back slider’s club doesn’t make you a loser. It just makes you human.”

4. Lindora Free Webinar: Women’s Weight Loss and Well-Being – Wed, Oct 19
One slide in the presentation read, “Handle with care.” The presenter went on to say, “Be kind and compassionate to yourself. You wouldn’t talk that way to a friend! If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.”

The last time I really messed up on my program unintentionally, without thinking about it, was a birthday party at work on October 7. I ate two small pieces of cake. I tore myself to shreds the rest of the afternoon. And then I beat myself up even more for beating myself up and not having a constructive attitude about it! It was a downward spiral. Good thing was, I got right back on plan for dinner that night, and then the next day, and beyond. I have since eaten off program, but it has been intentional… and combined with eating right most of the time and diligently exercising, I’m still losing weight. (Two pounds lost at weigh in on Thursday!)

When you really mess up, which of the following do you choose to do?

A. Lie to yourself & justify your actions
“I ate that cake without thinking. So what? I deserved it. It was a special occasion.  Cake doesn’t come along every day. “

B. Beat yourself up
“Why did I eat that cake? I’m such an idiot. I can’t control myself. I’m such a freakin’ pig. What was I thinking?”

C. Be kind and compassionate to yourself
“I wish I hadn’t eaten that cake without thinking. Next time I’ll think about it first and make sure I really want to do that. No serious damage done. Bygones!”

My usual M.O. has been to choose A or B. My goal is to choose C from now on.

It goes without saying that being kind and compassionate to yourself goes way beyond eating right and exercising. Being kind and compassionate to yourself doesn’t mean you are in denial about a choice you’ve made. It doesn’t mean you get to justify your actions or act like a victim. It means you have to be real with yourself, acknowledge what you’ve done, learn from your mistakes, and MOVE ON.

Let the four messages I received be one message for you: Be kind and compassionate to yourself.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

“Back Sliders”

“Welcome to the backsliders club—the negative space in our heads we’ve reserved for our weak-willed moments. Here we can spiral down into our feelings of failure and defeat in total comfort. Look around. Hey, there’s your sister-in-law who does everything right. Over there, that woman from the gym, who’s so together. And next to her, why, that’s your personal trainer. The truth is we all land here once in a while, whether you’re trying to eat better, quit smoking, or lose weight. The secret is not to stay. Kaiser Permanent reminds you that change happens one choice at a time, and one trip to the back slider’s club doesn’t make you a loser. It just makes you human. At Kaiser Permanente, we’ve got ways to help you stay out of here, or at least keep you from becoming a regular. Kaiser Permanente. We want you to get up, get down, and thrive. Visit kp.org/thrive.”

I heard this ad on the radio driving in to work this morning – you’ve GOT to listen to this… It’s perfect. Another excellent Kaiser Permanente ad that is part of their overall “Thrive” campaign. They really nailed it! I love the narrator’s wry, dry delivery (Allison Janey) and the silly music in the background.

The Land of the Fit Me: Why I Want to Go There

In my last post, I contemplated how nice it used to be to live in the Land of the Fat Me. As I journey toward the Land of the Fit Me, the benefits of the new world are already being felt. I am determined to make it all the way there, and not stop at the outskirts.

In order to stay motivated and moving toward my goal, I need to keep these benefits in mind.

  • Being healthy and fit gives you have two new fulfilling, interesting hobbies: nutrition and fitness.
  • Being healthy and fit makes you able to do things you weren’t able to do before! Hiking… biking… kayaking… shooting hoops with your nephew… 🙂
  • Being healthy and fit means you’re never bored! You have too much to do!
  • Being healthy and fit means you’re spoiling yourself in a different way. You’re spending a lot of time on food and exercise because you’re worth it. You deserve to feel this good.
  • Being healthy and fit gives you a way to cope with stress. (I haven’t had a headache or migraine since starting this program.)
  • Being healthy and fit means you’re honest with yourself. You no longer justify your actions when you go astray.
  • Being healthy and fit means you’re no longer riddled with guilt when you mess up; you know you just need to learn from it and do it differently next time.
  • Being healthy and fit means you’re intentional about everything you put in your mouth. Being in control of yourself is a great feeling!
  • Being healthy and fit means you’re not a lazy butt!  When you relax, it’s with the knowledge that you’ve worked out and that your body is simply recovering.
  • Being healthy and fit gives you a better outlook on life. You get bummed out less often. If you feel bad, you can go for a walk, or head to the gym. (This is way, way harder than I make it sound here.)
  • Being healthy and fit means you get to enjoy a well-functioning digestion system. Sorry to be gross, folks, but no more flatulence and diarrhea!
  • Being healthy and fit means you still get to participate in events that revolve around food, but you partake intentionally.
  • Being healthy and fit makes you part of a club. You’ve lost a lot of weight? You like to eat right and exercise? Me, too!
  • Being healthy and fit is a gift to your spouse, who would love you no matter how much you weigh. Being healthy and fit means you’re not abusing his unconditional love for you.
  • Being healthy and fit may bring you more attention from the opposite sex, but you won’t let it go to your head. You won’t suddenly think you’re all that and flirt back. You’ll make sure they know you’re married and that will be that.
  • Being healthy and fit may make you more visible, but you can use that for good to impact others. You can become a contagious change agent for others. They can see how much better life can be when you stopped giving up and have taken your life back.
  • Being healthy and fit means you have a healthy relationship with food. Food is your friend, not your enemy. Food gives you fuel and health. Pleasure from eating food is a bonus, but not the goal.

Have I missed any of the benefits of being healthy and fit?  Let me know…