12.11.2014

Curvy motivations

OH EM GEE! What is happening?!
I grabbed a pair of dress pants today…they look like I’m wearing leggings! When did this happen? Where was I?

So it’s official…I’ve fallen off the bandwagon completely…in fact I think the wagon left me and is currently in Timbuktu. So since my last post about leading a sugar free diet and working towards my goals, I have had a birthday celebration which was pretty low key in terms of my sugar intake. Then I went on vacation for a few weeks for mom’s cooking. This was also overall sugar free vacation. But what has happened in my mean time is that my food portions have grown along with the unhealthiness  of my food. I pretty much ate fried foods for 3 weeks and didn’t keep up with my usually intense exercise regimen. I slept quite a bit…well I was on vacation and it didn’t take long for me to see the heaviness in my face and everywhere else.

The plan to lose it soon as I got back has flown out the window because something is different this time around…I have become more self-conscious.
 
Weight loss is great for improving self-esteem and making us feel good when we can fit into our clothes, healthy benefits etc, but it can also come at the expense of certain things to which we have become accustomed. Recently we have seen pictures of people’s real post-weight loss pictures, showing excess skin hanging from various parts of their body. For me, I realized that I did not have my curves. In fact, I posted a picture on Facebook and while folks said, oooh good job, a friend noticeably commented “nooooo, what happened to the boobs?!” Yup all gone.
 
I did not realize just how much I was attached to my curves and how it oriented me as a woman. During this past year I had decided that not carrying around a pot belly trumped curves and was willing to look like a pre-pubescent 15 year old boy if it meant I found six-pack abs! And I was headed there. The abs did start to show; and when I lost fat, I lost it everywhere. I often had to pep talk myself when I would see in the mirror that my booty was looking mighty flat. I mean my clothes were fitting so much better and my overall health had improved, so what did I really have to complain about?
 
But now that fried foods have led me to remember my curvy body, it has become completely hard to let it go and work towards my goals. In the last few months I’ve tried to get back into the groove, watching my calories and working out, but am soon reminded of new weight and ah well, just let me be.

So I find myself at the end of the year, 10 lbs heavier than I was same time last year. This time around I know exactly what to do to work it off, but completely unmotivated, or rather highly motivated by my curves.

I have spoken to many others who have this same fear, of not feeling sexy enough after weight loss. In fact, I often hear folks being told they have lost too much weight and need to eat...thereby sending them into reverse mode and slowly undoing all their work.

I'm not entirely sure how to proceed; I want to be a healthy, meaning no excess visceral (stomach area) fat, fit, with a BMI in the "normal" range. But I also want to look in the mirror and see a hollow version of myself. How have you dealt with the challenges of weight loss? What have you done to motivate yourself to get back with the plan? 

 Half-stepping diva

12.03.2014

Holiday bulk

The holidays are upon us! Regardless of where you live or your religion, the end of the year is a time of celebration which means a lot of care-free eating! Those who are ludicrous enough to start a new diet plan at the beginning of December are soon met with tempting treats everywhere, big dinner celebrations and goading from relatives to just relax and enjoy! I myself have attempted many times not to end the year on the wrong side of the scale by becoming ultra-disciplined in the month of December. But it doesn't take very long to unwrap my resolve when I find myself surrounded by tins and tins and more tins of cookies, caramel popcorn (chocolate-covered too) and more cake than anyone knows what to do with.
 
Indeed for most of us, celebration starts with food. Get a new promotion, food! a new baby, food! engagement, food, win the lottery....well I'm sure food is right up there with lots of extra spending. And we have been conditioned that a salad just doesn't make for a celebratory lunch, we need fried foods and lots of it, sugar, pastries, bread, etc. Which is why for many of us, weight loss becomes a resolution in January!
 
So here we are again in December with opportunity to indulge and overeat. Here are a few tips to avoid or at least reduce the holiday bulge:
 
Focus on what matters
The holidays can be filled with social events and time spent with loved ones. But for many, the holidays can be very depressing. While it's great to see family and other friends, it can be a reminder of what you have not accomplished. Many find themselves isolated, either because they do not have loved ones around, are estranged from loved ones or find it easier just to be by themselves. This time of the year can also be a reminder of loved ones who are no longer living. And for those of us far away from the equator, the lack of sun can make us just downright sad. Whatever the reason for depression, it becomes even easier to sit behind a TV and just eat. Holiday blues are very difficult to overcome. If you notice yourself slipping into it, become intentional about what you can do to make yourself feel better...not just temporarily. For me, I've noticed that during these blue moments it helps for me to step out of my comfort zone and accept an invitation I would usually decline. I am also intentional about staying in touch with friends and family even if it's by phone. It's also important to focus on all the positive things in my life currently: life, good health, loved ones, etc.
 
Plan ahead
There is no doubt that December is filled with lots of goodies and treats. Plan for these moments by determining what treats you don't need this season. I myself have given up chocolate (yes, again!). Yeah, I tried the whole one piece only thing....it's not working and my tight pants are the proof! I'll also be avoiding caramel popcorn which I so love, not just because of the high sugar content but also because of the root canal I had to endure from cracking blah blah blah.
 
Eat/ snack before heading to that party
We often run around from house to house, or from store to store looking for the perfect gift. Which means that by the time we get to the first dinner party of the night we are famished! As important as it is to get that gift or get to that party, we must also nourish our bodies properly. Have a snack before heading out. Make sure it's a snack that has a lot of protein and not so much sugar (so no ice cream sandwiches!) This will ensure that "your eyes are not bigger than your stomach" when you see that big platter of extra crispy extra fried anything!
 
Talk more / Eat slowly
It's quite impolite to talk and eat at the same time. The holidays are a time of socializing and spending time with people we don't often see. It's also a great time to catch up. By talking more, we are more likely to slow down our eating so that we can finish telling that story. By slowing down we tend to eat less because our brains get a chance to tell us that our belly is full.
 
Reduce stress
Every year without fail, the holidays are a time of full-on stress. For some, the idea of facing family is stressful. During my retail days I often encountered customers in the middle of a complete meltdown because they could not get the perfect gift, or had waited until the last minute to find a gift and the store was closing, or my favorite, could not fit into the dress they wanted to wear to the holiday party. The pressures of the holidays span from our perception of our family's opinion about ourselves to realizing how much we have not accomplished by the end of the year. When we are stressed out, we often comfort ourselves with food/drinking and make allowances for overindulging. Find stress-relieving techniques that work for you. I like to journal because I am able to process my thoughts and not get so obsessive. Other techniques include exercising, spending quality time with loved ones, breathing exercises, chamomile tea, etc. It is also good to recognize when you are stressed so that you make conscious effort not to overeat just because your cousin is making fun of your new recipe right in front of everyone.
 
Watch what you sip
Fruit juices, soda, cocktails, beer, something something mocha latte...all of them are filled with calories. It's easy to lose track of how many drinks we have especially during this season. Be mindful of what you’re sipping. Request on the rocks when you can; it slows you down a bit. Alternate between water and your drink of choice and when you can water down your beverage. Take your time with each drink, nurse it for as long as possible and don’t forget to stay hydrated…with water. Water has been shown to boost metabolism, promote weight loss and boost overall general health.
 
So this season, I hope you eat, drink and be merry! while considering your body, your health and your life.
 
Season's Greetings!
Half-stepping diva

11.15.2014

Celebrating

Two years ago, I decided to start blogging. I wanted to work on my skills as a writer while honoring a friend whose death taught me the importance of living a life of no regrets, and loving on everyone in my space as much as possible. I was also inspired by feelings of uncertainty and  unaccomplishment and especially after I realized in talking to others approaching 30, in their 30s and even beyond, all of whom I have dubbed "30 something year olds" that it was a common feeling.

In the last two years it has been a challenge keeping up with my commitments, but I have learned how much  my work input influences what is actually happening in my life. The blog has also given me opportunity to process my world on a deeper level. I certainly hope something I've discussed resonates with someone out there.

As I hit the two year mark, I am taking a moment to examine how it all fits in my world and how to make this better. I'm also celebrating the memory of my friend and inspiration. He would have been 35 today.

So to start, I have made a commitment to continue to use this platform as originally intended; to give me space to fully express myself. I also want to use it to discuss some of the topics that are near to me: the world through the eyes of women, our health, weight loss, body image, Africa, building ourselves to be the best, and stripping away uncertainty and stepping out with confidence. I recognize that I will often half-step; and will falter, but as long as I keep making an effort, I know it's not in vain.

You might notice that I have finally moved the blog to its own domain: www.halfsteppingdiva.com. If you haven't already subscribed, please do so; it'll get updates right to your inbox and allow me to have an idea how many folks have access. I welcome comments and suggestions and hope we can grow together, dismantling the things that hold us back, and continue to step up to reach higher.

Giving you all my best,
Half-stepping diva

8.13.2014

What about your friends?

This week I had the chance to talk about a friend. I’ve known him forever…at least since we were in elementary school. We’ve kept in touch pretty much since, not necessarily on a regular basis, but here and there and as major life events happened. So when given the chance to provide information about my friend, I felt pretty confident that I could provide good, solid information.

And then the questions started. I sat with a blank stare, trying to remember the year I met him..was  it 5th grade, 6th, 2nd grade? Hmmm ok next question, where has he lived…em…in his house? Where did he attend school? University? Degree? Em, em, em, em, how many…ok stop! This is my friend! I should know the answers to all these questions! But one after the other, I was left mumbling, trying to figure out if I could draw answers, mixing up his life with the lives of others in our cohort. Wow, I guess I don’t remember as much as I should!

Now I can say I’m a big picture kind of person. I tend to take a global perspective and ignore the little bits that make it happen. Of course since I’m complicated, in many situations like when I’m helping coordinate an event or editing, I become overly concerned with the itty bitty tiny details and often lose sight of the big picture. But I guess when it comes to my friendships at some point some of the details get replaced. As I interact with more people, the specific information about individuals mostly fade into the  background! I'm not sure if this is a good thing, but it was rather startling to realize how much I did not know/remember about many other friends, many of whom I relate to, very closely.

30 something year olds, not unlike 3 year olds, make lots of connections; on the job, at social events, religious gatherings, etc. In fact, it is imperative to keep connected to people of various backgrounds and trades as we ourselves climb up our career or social ladders - It really is about who you know. It's necessary to send a quick hallo every once in a while to that friend from college, as much as it is to stay in touch with your ace boon.

Many of us now rely on Facebook® to help us keep tabs on our friends. We often don't even reach out, just take a look at pictures or posts and say awww. We feel very informed about their lives based on the snippets that they share on social media. Our Facebook® friends list doesn't match our phone numbers list at all...and we have quickly grown accustomed to living life in this world of oversharing only a small part of what we are experiencing...much of it scripted and hollow.

So with this new realization, I am taking a closer look at my inner circle and trying to remember details about their lives - I might have to ask them a few questions! I recognize that I can't keep all details about everyone, but I should be able to answer questions about those that I hold dear to my heart!  

A quick exercise for you:
Who are your close friends (not counting significant others and blood related family)?
What do they currently do at their job/school?
What level of education have they completed?
If university level educated, what degree(s) have they completed?
Where have they lived in the last 10 years (cities/countries)?
What do they like to do for fun?
When was the last time you talked to them?


I would love to know what you learned. Please comment below and share!

Half-stepping diva

8.07.2014

A sugar-free challenge


"I will NEVER eat chocolate again! OMG! What? Why? And who made that decision?! Seriously? Are you mad?!" -This is what was floating through my mind when I determined that a sugar-free lifestyle was more suitable for me.

The thought of never eating another piece of chocolate completely overwhelmed me, stressed me out and well, as you can imagine, I ended the day indulging in at least a bag of chocolate. Take that, sugarless lifestyle! 

It has definitely been a challenge working sugar out of my system and a bigger challenge convincing myself to sustain it. The forever aspect of it still overwhelms me...so you mean I will not eat cake at my wedding? (Oooh the brain travels far and fast, eh?) And how does it work with my family? Will others understand this lifestyle that I clearly do not understand myself? Will they support me? Will they sabotage and give me sugar whenever they can? Can I really stick to this? Do I want to do this? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Ok, let's pause and get a hold of ourselves a bit. A sugar-free lifestyle is not much of a stretch for me, I mean I'm already vegetarian and have a highly restricted palate. In fact, my mom’s desire for me as a child was to live life without added sugar. She specifically fed me all the fruits and veggies she could so that I would develop a taste for them. When we moved in with my grandmother, she was instructed not to give me any candy as grandparents usually do, and as grandparents usually do, she went firmly against it and voila! the sweet tooth monster was unleashed! My mother herself at some point gave up sugar. For all my childhood, I never saw her eat candy or any of the delicious cake with lots of icing that she made. She didn't even add sugar to the foods that usually called for sugar. So why can't I imagine doing the same in my life?

Well, sugar has become such an integral part of our palate. Think of what you have eaten so far today or recently? How many of the foods contained sugar? Eating sugar really has become such a no-brainer for all of us. From breakfast to dinner, we have several opportunities to load up on it and we usually don't let the opportunity pass by. Even those who do not have much "taste for sugar" (what does that even mean?!) and prefer savory/salty foods still consume sugar in large quantities.

Since I've been working on this new lifestyle, there have been many opportunites to try again. I
usually set time periods for my goal that allowed me to focus and stay disciplined. After the time period, I would "briefly" pause to savor some of the foods that I had been avoiding. This would usually stretch out into a few days (or weeks!) after which I would recommit myself to my cause. At some point, I decided I had been off sugar enough not to crave it and could just have "a little here and there"...alas, no. Soon as I worked in back in my diet it was like we had never been separated! Come to mama!

So now what? I am currently working on a body sculpting goal that requires the utmost discipline, which means, no added sugar until the goal is met (however long I decide to stretch out getting there!) There will be some birthday celebrations in between, and I plan on celebrating however it comes - I won't go out of my way to pursue sugar. For other times, I will politely decline and if necessary explain.

And for the rest of my life?! Well it's still an overwhelming thought. Some of my favorite foods require, yes, require sugar. I bake quite often and though I can sweeten my pastries with fruit, sometimes a girl needs cookies that taste like cookies! And my chocolate -well, dark chocolate is very good for your heart. In fact, 1.6 oz/daily has been shown to improve heart health (but who can eat only 1.6 oz!) Everything in moderation, right? The bottom line, good health!

I am more aware of my triggers to binge (stress, boredom, emotions, just because, self-sabotage/ reward for doing well) and I will continue to avoid having chocolate at home. I know sugar is not THE enemy and avoiding it is only one part of the solution to good health, so I will not villainize or obsess about it.

I challenge you to work sugar completely out of your diet or at least reduce it. Can you imagine your world without sugar? Can you go a week, 3 weeks, forever without it? Do you already lead a sugarfree lifestyle -how do you do it?


P.S. In case you missed it, I discussed my love of sugar and our break-up in this post, and why we had to break up here.

Sweetly yours
Half-stepping diva

8.01.2014

Still sugar loving

I'm sitting here enjoying my pudding...no worries, since I was reminded of my goals in life, I have definitely been really off the added sugar, though the last 2 remaining cones look so lonely in the freezer! Anyways, earlier in this post, I talked about my love for sugar and adopting a sugar-free lifestyle. So let's talk about how it worked out for me.

1. I started by assessing how much added sugar I eat.
In the U.S. sugar is added to the oddest foods. I had to stop using a particular seasoned salt because the second ingredient was sugar. It turned out many other foods I ate were chock full of sugar; many of the low fat options which have been touted as more diet-friendly and healthier have been loaded with sugar to make them more....well palatable.
I started reading about the different names of sugar, which include: anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, syrup, white sugar, carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, xylitol and zylose.

So how much sugar is in it
1 teaspoon of granulated sugar = 4 grams. So if my food contains 8 grams of sugar, I'm consuming about 2 teaspoons. In some foods such as fruit, naturally high in sugar, this number can look alarming: a serving of my daily banana contains 17g of sugar; about 4 teaspoons of sugar. As these sugars are naturally occurring, I did not eliminate them from my diet; my focus was on added sugar. An easy example of added sugar is a can of soda which contains 39 g of sugar; almost 10 tsp of sugar.

And how much added sugar should you eat?
Well, the new WHO guidelines recommend less than 5% of your daily caloric intake should come from added sugar. For most folks this will be around 25 g or 6 teaspoons of sugar.

I was eating more added than any of the recommended guidelines, even the previous ones of less than 10% of my daily caloric intake.

2. I found alternatives to some of my favorite foods that contain a lot of sugar.
I switched the seasoned salt, spaghetti sauce, and other foods that really didn't need sugar, like my honey covered peanuts. I love pancakes but between the sugar in the batter and the syrup was consuming almost 50g of sugar if I used 1/4 cup of syrup. So now I don't eat  pancakes as often, and when I do blend bananas into the batter and top it with fruit (berries etc).


3. I eliminated slowly.
The most obvious source of sugar for me is chocolate. I simply gave it up, there was no way to gradually taper that off. For other sugar sources, I started by using less. For example, I enjoy a nice cup of chai tea w a good serving of sugar and milk. I started by reducing the amount of sugar until I was down to a half-teaspoon.

4. I discovered new ways to eat my food. 
My breakfast consisted of high fiber cereal, most of which contains added sugar. I switched to oats which I did not sweeten and opted instead to top it with raisins and walnuts. I learned to love green tea, once I learned how to brew it and completely eliminated adding sugar to it. And though I don't drink it as often, drink my chai tea plain. I also diversified my palate and started adding more protein to my breakfast.

4. I avoided processed foods.
Cooking helps determine exactly what goes into the food and generally eliminates a lot of sugar. We trust the food industry a little too much with our health. Back to basics. My cooking has gotten more creative. The pudding I'm eating is sweetened with a few dates. The other ingredients are pure cocoa powder (the bitter antioxidant containing stuff), milk (cow or nonsweetened soy) and tofu (I know I lost you on that one!).

5. I gained an understanding of why excess sugar is bad for me.
My family has a history of diabetes and a slew of other chronic diseases. My dentist, well, she's probably amassed a small fortune from my dental bills. This year's checkup revealed my health indicator numbers are looking good and have definitely improved over the last year. With this in mind, I have become more determined that this is the lifestyle that fits my goals.

6. I set a specific time to adapt my new lifestyle.
The fast was for 3 weeks. I determined that during that time I would be super disciplined. I also realized 3 weeks was enough for it to become a habit. After the 3 weeks, I extended it and have continued since with mini pauses when life moments have happened or when fear has set it.

Of course it has not been all flowers and roses and cake...ooh cake with icing and ice cream and...! There have been many challenges and many opportunities to try again. Overall it's been a great success and I'm excited for my new lifestyle habits. I'll discuss the challenges in my next blog entry. In the meantime...

Stay sweet (without added sugar of course)

Half-stepping diva

7.30.2014

My Sugar love

One of the ladies in my class hadn’t seen me in a bit, and asked yesterday if I was off sugar again. I had to admit to her that yes I was generally off sugar except for the half tub of ice-cream I had over the weekend along with the little cones that I demolished the day before and on my way to class. Why do you ask, I say… She says she could see it….and I was looking good! Oh right! My efforts do show, even when I don’t see it! I guess I’m back off sugar.
 
Saying I have a sweet tooth is an understatement. I truly believe that whatever sensor in our brain that tells it to shut off eating sugar, because our blood glucose has risen too fast, often takes a nap -and for long periods. My shut-off mechanism kicks in only because we have made it to the bottom of the bag and there’s no more. I often tell folks I eat chocolate by the bar or box or whatever container it comes in. As a child, my mother would bring home treats for the whole family…I would eat mine and everyone else’s. There was no stopping. I got sick right after my birthday EVERY YEAR…I would indulge in my birthday cake which my mother lovingly adorned with Smarties (like M&M’s but wayyyyyyyyy better, I have some at home if you would like to try it!) along with all the other sugary foods allowed.  As an adult it got worse because I could simply purchase as much as I wanted. Indeed I regularly keep a few pounds of chocolate at home. I love traveling to new places, usually because I can sample their chocolate. I can’t admit how much I spent on chocolate last year in London…even I was horrified when the lady told me my total….say what?
And I’m not the only one in my family.  My family’s request when I travel…chocolate. Years ago, my brother won a 5 pound Hershey bar…it didn’t take long for me, my father and him to blow through it. Though, my father was recently amazed at how much chocolate I quickly ingested…I guess I take the cake for the sweet tooth of the family….oooh cake! Yum! Ok, ok, I’m back.
So imagine my surprise when for 2014 I successfully gave up added sugar, which of course includes my beloved chocolate! In the past, I have gone for months banning chocolate from touching my lips. This usually happened after an especially punishing binge (2/3 bags or bars in a sitting) after which I talked myself into giving up the chocolate. At the beginning of the year we have a corporate fast at church; I usually do a full Daniel’s fast and eliminate sugar etc (Daniel’s fast eliminates meat among other foods, which I already do, so my focus is on the other parts of the fast). So I’ve done that successfully for a few years now, and had drastically cut down my sugar intake in the process. But in 2014 I decided to make it a lifestyle change and removed added sugar from my diet.

I’ll admit, this was not easy at all. I mean, at all. Sugar cravings will make you forget everything including the fact that you're avoiding sugar! But the reward has been amazing. The first thing I noticed was that contrary to what I thought, my energy levels stayed the same and possibly higher. I am high strung and overly energetic which I had attributed to my sugar intake, but alas, it's all natural baby.  I also noticed that I was not overeating as much. My stop eating mechanism seemed to be functioning a lot more and quicker. And of course my favorite change was my weight adjustment. The scale went below 150 lbs, something I'd been struggling to accomplish - and my midsection got trimmer. I noticed my skin was smoother, probably from losing the fatty tissue accustomed to sitting right underneath it. And the ladies in my class noticed...only after about a week!

So why is sugar the bad guy.
Well this article explains that eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease (even if you're not overweight).

CNN reports here that excessive added sugar consumption can cause fat buildup in the liver which can attribute to obesity, Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease

And this article from SFGate discusses similar trends including an impaired immune system which prevents your body from fighting viruses, bacteria and other guys bad for our health.

Oh yeah and it contributes to dementia and aging too!

I started the elimination as a part of a 3 week commitment and decided to extend it out. This allowed me to be really focused and work at keeping my commitment. There have certainly been slip ups and oopsies, but my newly adopted lifestyle has shown me that even I, the queen of the sugar world, can put my mind to something and accomplish it. I'll talk more about how I stayed on track and the challenges of a sugar-free world in the next blog entries! Stay tuned.  

Happy living!
 
Half-stepping diva








 

7.23.2014

What are you holding onto?

This week, I was asked a simple question by a wisdom-filled woman I've been blessed to be around... "What are you holding onto?"
Huh? I've often heard and asked of myself "what's holding me back?" so this was a new outlook for me!

I shared this question with another blessing in my life who is quite versed in my brand of craziness and without missing a beat, her response was "Stability!" Hmmm...I think she's right, people!

I heart stability! I don't need to rock the boat...for what? I've had the same phone number for 10+ years- I don't know why I hold loyalty to the phone company...they don't provide excellent service, drop calls all the time, their phones are expensive and of no use to me outside of the US..the list of cons goes on. But I stay! I've lived and worked in the same place for the last 6.5 years. The only reason I have a new car is because I had to and even then managed to get a newer version of my previous car-same make, model, and even color!

My world does not change - if I go on vacation, it's because someone prodded me. Routine and schedules are my friends. If I do pick up something new, it will soon become a part of my routine! It is said that good girls rarely make history. Yeah if the history makers were like me, there wouldn't be much to talk about...and we would be stuck in a backwards world!

My desire for stability spans all the different avenues: financial, emotional, relational, etc. I am quite frugal, and that has helped me not spend money on frivilous things (ok not a lot, I mean what do I need all these black shoes for?) . I tend to keep friends for life, or at least try. For my own emotions, I'm fair even keeled. Though those who know me will say I am high strung, ah, I am generally a happy person.

Now I'm not knocking  my firm desire for stability. It is a survival mechanism that has afforded me freedom and peace. But now it has also become a safety blanket; a perceived security. And as a result I find myself stuck in a rut!

So now what? What is a goodytwoshoes-don'trocktheboat-noI'mokrighthere-Icancope to do?

What are you holding onto that's holding you back? What have you done to shake up your world and start digging out of your rut. What chances have you taken on yourself?

I would love to hear your thoughts...meanwhile, I am changing things up; learning spontaneity, ignoring schedules and living in the moment!

Half-stepping diva

7.09.2014

Consistently challenged

Ella maneja una carro!
Yes I know that means absolutely  nothing to you, even if you speak Spanish. You see, I decided to add Spanish to my language bank and have invested in Rosetta Stone®, which has promised me that I don’t have to worry about useless memorizations. I am guaranteed to start speaking my language of choice in a few short sessions.
 
I’d say the folks at Rosetta Stone® are right…there are no useless memorizations, though I’m not quite sure learning how to say “She is driving a car” before I learn how to count in Spanish is particularly useful, but hey, I’m with this program..no problemo!
 
The part they leave out, is that regardless of how good a program is, consistency is absolutely important to be successful. When I started with my Spanish lessons, I dedicated about 30 minutes daily to it. This was soon cut down to 20 min, then 15 min, and well I haven’t opened up the software in at least 3 months, maybe more. I still remember ella maneja una carro and that los gatos means cats, but I can’t string any words to make any sense. I’m still quite Spanish illiterate.
 
I’ve found in my world as a 30 something year old, the need for constant consistencies in order to see something happen/change. The most simplified example has been working towards my weight loss and fitness goals.  It’s required consistent effort and when I’ve strayed  have immediately seen my hard work poof into thin air!

Even with my blog entries, I have been inconsistent in the last few weeks. I learned from other bloggers to set a schedule that included specific time for blogging and had been keeping up. Then, life happened and then more life happened, and before I realize, hello July!
 
For me, it’s generally a vicious cycle…when I achieve a mark towards my goal, I feel completely empowered and “reward” myself by not being so disciplined and soon enough, I erase my achievement. If, on the other hand, I don’t get anywhere after trying for "some time", I get discouraged and give it up, determining it wasn’t mine to begin with. In either case, the consistent effort dissipates and we’re right back where we started.
 
Career & Financial stability
30 something year olds often find themselves defining their careers and taking steps towards it. For those in the arts such as actors, consistency is the key to success and working towards a career really means consistently acting, or painting or drawing etc. For other careers consistency means going back to school, or finishing school.  In all cases, creating our brand as hardworking achieving go-getters requires that we are consistent in the excellence we produce at our workplaces.    
Family life
Many 30 something year olds have fairly new marriage life and sometimes children. Consistency for them means working daily with a partner towards common goals, creating consistent habits for children such as teaching them to sleep in their own beds, potty training, mealtime habits, homework etc. For others, consistency means building/sustaining relationships and finding ways to connect with new people.
Spiritual life
As we seek growth, many of us work on strengthening our spiritual walk and aligning ourselves with a specific religion. Many of them require consistent efforts in prayer, reading, or attending services.
Health & Fitness
We are all acutely aware of our health and what role we play in achieving optimal health. Many of us have set goals to healthy eating, which might mean cooking healthy meals, or learning how to cook, and avoiding junk food.  Many of us also have weight loss goals, increasing physical activity and adding a sustainable exercise regimen to our daily lives.
We all need to be able to consistently move towards what we want…until our goal is met, no matter how many tries it takes and how often we fail.
 
Here are some tips to stay consistent
1.       Set realistic goals. Getting to the gym 5 days a week is not a big deal for me…I just have me to take care of. For you parents and people that take care of other people, this might not particularly be realistic.
2.       Set baby goals. Maybe the goal is to make a big purchase. Start with saving a set amount per week ($5) and work your way up to a bigger amount per week ($20)  
3.       Don’t let yourself off the hook. I’ll do it tomorrow is a statement that's as useful for a goal as “5 more minutes”. I know for a fact that if my plan is to do it tomorrow, somehow and quite magically tomorrow never shows up or when he does its usually in about 3 months or a year.
4.       Forgive yourself for slip ups. Consistency does require every something. Be it every day, every week, every hour…whatever the case, if you do slip up, let it go and keep going. Don’t beat yourself up for a simple human behavior. Keep pushing.
5.       Just do it...now! Nike® had the right idea with this tag line. Consistency means nothing if you don’t actually start working towards your goal. So just do it..whatever you’ve been waiting to do, just do it. Do you want to go back to school, learn something new, make new friends, get a new job, learn a new sport, have children? Just do whatever it takes to get you there.
 
She's still half-stepping!
 
Half-stepping Diva
 

6.04.2014

Sudden Impact

I am on the market for a new car...Why? Because a fellow driver was "startled" by another driver and run into my baby. I was minding my own business at a traffic light, waiting for the signal to proceed, instead found myself waiting for a sudden impact that rocked my car and my nerves, sending me in a period of utter lack of control wondering when it would all end. Right after impact, my adrenaline kicked in so high; my thoughts so clear I could have passed the MCAT! I hopped out to see what in the world had possessed someone to cause a 4 car pile-up 1 block from home!

The last two weeks have been filled with gratitude that the damage was only to my car; it could have been much worse. I've talked to more people than I care to, thought through various scenarios including what could have been done differently and more importantly working towards correcting the results of this sudden impact.

So far this experience has been a very expensive inconvenience, but it's not the end of the world. But it has me thinking about severe sudden impacts in our lives that cause us to go into a tailspin, losing utter control and trying to right ourselves.

At some point in our lives we can be impacted by something that happens suddenly and unexpectedly with life-changing consequences. When these things happen we are required to immediately assess the situation, see what can be salvaged and take actions to get our lives back.

The challenge is to find a renewed life that includes enough components of the old life, while showing progress and growth from the experience. Many of us never fully recover from our sudden impacts and like the loss of a limp feel the constant presence of what used to be. Sometimes the impact is so severe that when we find ourselves again are only a hollow shell of what we used to be.

We cannot prepare for all of tomorrow's possibilities. When life happens and we are suddenly impacted, it takes a few moments; be it hours, days, or  years to work through and accept our new situation. Without such acceptance we cannot work towards a new walk. Once accepted, we have to believe that the new version of our lives will be at least just as good as the old, and might even possibly get better if we work towards betterment. And of course we must take actions to ensure that the impact does not have an indelible imprint with bitter consequences, which is what happens when fear steps in and takes  hold.

I've found that processing through a sudden impact is often enhanced by prayer, my writing and spending time with encouraging loved ones. Many friends and loved ones have provided me perspective about the accident. I have also talked to friends who are experienced in the dealings with insurance and with car dealerships.  As the dust is setting and everyone is returning to their normal lives, I am assessing what is salvageable and finding my new normal. The car is definitely totaled, and has to be replaced. My new normal is a new or new to me car which has to be purchased very shortly. I am taking concerted and specific actions towards replacing my car by talking to friends in the car dealership business as well as friends who have purchased cars recently and going for test drives and talking to the car dealerships.

So like my mom says, live in the living present; we can't erase sudden impacts, but can ensure their impacts leave us better than before. Fight for a normalcy that includes joy and happiness. Our focus on our lives must be the pursuit of happy living and not just a mere life of survival.


Have you gone through a sudden impact? How have you dealt with it? I would love to hear some of your ways to righting your world.

Happy living, everyone!

Half-stepping Diva

5.26.2014

Loving You

Oh lawdie! I don fell off the bandwagon...and it backed up and rolled over me! over and over again! Ok, dramatics, but I did fall off and have lost my consistency in my dietary choices and it shows!


Since I have gotten to a more manageable weight, I decided to keep going and made a goal of discovering/building some ab muscles. You know, I purport to still carrying around some baby fat...no, not from having a baby...from when I was a baby 30 something years ago! And since I have been lackadaisical about my eating habits and my efforts in the gym, my potential for a 6 pack has expanded into the potential for a keg. Ok, still a bit dramatic, but my magic number of 35 inches around my mid section is slowly becoming a thing of the past. And this sister is not happy whatsoever about that!

As a 30 something year old woman I am definitely aware of how my appearance affects my daily interactions. I have used my perception of my body and/ or how it looks in clothes as a block to some things that I have wanted to do. Sometimes while getting ready to go out, I'd get so frustrated with my appearance that I simply would not go. Or decide against making plans in the first place because I didn't want to face the lying 3 way mirror in the dressing room, which has a sole purpose of seeking rolls of fat and putting it on magnified display. Though sometimes trivial, our appearance can be a stumbling block in our confidence and how we portray ourselves. And women are not the only ones who do not always feel confident about our appearance...it's a human thing that also affects our 30 something year old brothers as well...some of them are just better at not caring as much!

So once again, I'm resolving to consistency in my eating. I had cut out all added sugar (blog entry about how I finally lost the weight is coming soon!) but have slowly worked it back in my diet. So, back to what has worked, and focus on sculpting the muscles that I see trying to take shape. But above all those things, I am resolving to love my body no matter what she looks like!

I've recently been reminded of life's realities and with that, the importance of love, starting with love for all of me..including the silver hairs forming at my temples, my "athletic" build, my interestingly shaped toes and all those fat rolls that seem to only appear when I need to feel my best. I must love all of it. We often find faults with our body and harp on it, whether it's the acne that make us look 12 rather than 30 something, the extra body hairs that make us think of our Auntie Sally's mustache, premature graying, skinny legs, baldness, man boobs, a crooked smile or whatever we think should look better in order for us to feel great. But these are all the things that make us who we are and we often do not have control over them - no matter how hard I try, I will not grow past the 5'7" at which I currently stand (in fact, I might shrink as I get older!)


So as I chase the appearance for which I've been working so hard, I will continue to love me and not be so quick to criticize and demean myself. All of me is perfect. Period.


Half-stepping Diva

5.06.2014

What is you waiting for?

It doesn't take very long for 30 something year olds to realize that life is whatever we make of it. We actually have to get up and do something if we want it. It often starts after school when we learn that we have to actually apply for a job, attend interviews and hopefully get employed. If we want a spouse, we have to go out there and meet someone (if we haven't already), court and then work our way towards marriage. There is no longer a wait and it'll happen...whatever we want, we must pursue.

Most of us understand this concept in its broad sense. I mean, there are very few people at this stage of life waiting for someone to offer them a job just because their name is John or Mary, but somehow we find a way to wait for life to happen in other aspects of our world.

How often we do hear, I am waiting until X happens before I do Y. One of the most common ones that I hear involves weight loss. Many 30 something year olds would like to accomplish something that requires physical and mental dedication....so once they lose the extra pounds, they will train for a 5K. Or some of us afraid to work out in public and prefer to wait until we've lost the weight before joining a gym. In some cases, we are in pursuit of spirituality and religious knowledge, but want to wait until we have our minds right before pursuing a religious affiliation. My favorite of all times come from our 30 something year old brothers who want to "get their lives together" before pursuing a relationship or before taking the next step in a relationship. What are we really waiting for?

Life waits for no one. Many of us have attended enough funerals or heard about the passing of very young people to realize that there is no time to wait. Whether it's a new career, a chance at romance or pursuing our dreams, there is no time to wait. My mother always reminded  me not to put off to tomorrow what I can do today. And I think of that daily.

I often find myself in a place of comfort, not wanting to leave the perceived stability of my current, in  pursuit of what could be, or not be. And thereby miss out on a chance for something to change. Many 30 something year olds find ourselves stuck in a rut because we are waiting; for something to happen, for something to change or get better. Meanwhile, the hours are passing into days and soon enough years.

Do not wait for your skin to clear up before becoming more comfortable with your beautiful face. Do not wait to lose weight before pursuing anything, be it a date, clothes, love, job interviews etc. Do not wait for circumstances to be perfect before you take a chance at love. Do not wait for someone else to see the world, to go to the gym, to try that new restaurant, to see a play, to lose weight etc. Do not wait for a specific day/holiday before you do what you like. Do not wait for your bank account to reach a certain number to pursue what you really want to do. Do not wait to be less busy to spend time with people, or do things you've always wanted to do. Do not wait for the right circumstances to go back to school or pursue your career. Do not wait for the best circumstances to have children. Do not wait for a partner to be all that you can be.  And do not wait for the "right" time to tell those you love how you feel...the time may never come.

5.01.2014

Chibok: Bring back our girls

I have been struggling to decide what my blog entry for this week should be. I have had so many thoughts flying around and could not find one that would settle long enough for a coherent string of words. As I pondered, I consulted with Facebook ® (yup, distraction ala motivation and research) and realized that like many of us, I have been sleeping on the news of the girls that were abducted in Nigeria.

I remember reading the news when it broke a few weeks ago, but did not keep up with it. In case you missed it, here's the synopsis:

In the middle of the night on April 14, 2014, over 200 young girls between the ages of 16 and 18 attending boarding school in the town of Chibok in North-Eastern Nigeria were abducted and their school buildings torched. Some of the girls were able to escape the attack. The details of the attack and what happened after are very fuzzy. It was initially reported that some of the girls were released, but as of now it sounds like at least 230 girls were taken. It is unclear which group has taken the girls though the proximity to local insurgent groups and the  magnitude of the abduction have narrowed down the possibilities. The government is reported to be negotiating for the release of the girls, but would not provide details. There have been some reports that the young girls have been married off to insurgents, an act not unusual in these circumstances. It has been over 2 weeks so far and frustrated and scared parents do not have many choices or resources to which they can turn. A march was recently organized to the capital of Nigeria to demand more action from the government. There is a call for awareness through social media using "#BringBackOurGirls" and "#WhereAreOurGirls".
Girls in Chibok, Nigeria
Four of the students that escaped
And exhale! I am so heartbroken reading this news. It is so easy to get lost in my world and forget the daily tragedies happening elsewhere. The reality is that the problems in the world are endless, but it is very disheartening that some people's stories are over covered while other equally crucial stories are barely mentioned. 

The young women who have barely started their lives have been afforded an opportunity at education which is no small feat, especially in their region where there is a war on education. Many families risk their lives and sacrifice all they have in pursuit of an education to better their lives and provide their progeny a chance at more than they had. In this region and in many parts of the world, education, even in its basic level is a privilege and sometimes a risk factor for early death. Yet still many of these families, knowing the benefit, keep pushing and fighting for their young boys and girls to have a chance at a new future.

It is very humbling to think about my world and how often I taken my education for granted. I am lucky enough to have grown up in a part of the world, though not that far from these young women, where education was automatic and allowed. I often do not appreciate that had I been born in a different time, or in a different place this education that allows me to freely share my ideas and learn and grow would not have been possible.

It has been a challenge keeping up with news about the abduction, however let's continue to raise awareness for the return of the Chibok girls; their lives are as precious as any other person in this world. Let's not take for granted that being able to freely learn is a privilege.