Archive for the ‘diet’ Category

Taking Control

Our Beloved DaleThis was a tough week. We had to put our dog to sleep on Thursday. He was old and very ill. He was also a sweet, sweet guy. We knew it was coming and we knew it was the right thing to do, but it didn’t make it any easier.

There were other stressful events this week too. Normally, I can shrug most difficult situations off and deal with them, but when they converge all at once, they can feel insurmountable–out of control.

And what do I do when faced with seemingly insurmountable stress? I eat. It didn’t help that this happened on a Thursday, my weigh-in day, and typically a day of more relaxed eating for me. On Thursday though, I let food take over. And that extended into Friday. I was looking for comfort, and looking for it in comfort food. The surprising thing was I didn’t get much comfort from the food. Only a stomachache.

Saturday I managed to rein in the eating machine somewhat by starting the day with a good 3-mile run. During the couple of hours after my run, I felt more positive and almost back to normal. My food day wasn’t perfect (we had lunch plans), but it didn’t include the bingeing from the two days before.

I am back in control today. I’m still sad. I’m still overwhelmed. But I am back in control.

This week, having reverted back to old ways for a few days, I realized that the most important part of my fitness journey is finally having control over the food I eat and how I take care of my health. My out-of-control days ended up feeding my distress and making me feel even worse. Taking charge again of my food and exercise has put me on the path toward being in control of other aspects of my life too.

Dale, our dog, got old and sick. We had no control over that. But we were able to say enough was enough and help him get to a better place.

For me, this fitness journey has been about being aware and in control of my health too so I can be in a better place. Sometimes, I get knocked off, but I won’t stay down for long anymore. I like having control.

The Cost of 100-Calorie Candy

MM_100CL_7br[1].previewI was out shopping last night, knowing today was going to be a tough work day…again. I was right. I decided, while I was in Target, that  I better have some manageable, calorie-counted chocolate on hand if  I planned to make it through the day without ravaging the vending machine for the Linden Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milky Ways that are in there (yes, I know what’s in the vending machine at all times, but I am careful never, ever to put change into it anymore).

Wondering what 100-calorie treat might just do the trick today, I spied 100-calorie M&M packs. They were like a beacon on a dark night. I scooped ’em up and threw them in my cart. $3.99 for seven carefully calorie-counted-out packs.

I grabbed a pack today when I went home for lunch, so I would have it for that much-needed 3:00 pm sugar injection. I almost always opt for a healthy snack at 3pm (yogurt, fruit, kashi bar), but today, I knew that wasn’t going to cut it.

When I grabbed my M&Ms from the box, I thought, hmmm, these look surprsingly similar to the M&M fun packs. So I went online, just to see. How many calories are there in an M&M fun pack? You’ll never guess. No really. You won’t. 100? Is that your final answer? Well, you’d be right.

I paid $3.99 for 7 M&M fun packs. What a bonehead. Had I just checked the fun pack package…with Halloween weeks away they are all over the place…I could have saved myself quite a bit of money if I’d just done that research. I’m pretty sure there are more than 7 packages in a fun-size bag. And it probably costs….drumroll please….$3.99.

I’ve learned my lesson. Always check the options before purchasing 100-calorie candy. I’m pretty sure though I’m much safer with only seven fun packs in the house.

Missouri 60 Challenge Results

I had four goals for the Missouri 60 Challenge and I did pretty well with them although I didn’t hit them completely.

1. The weight-loss related project I’m working on includes moving my blog to my own host so I can do more with it. I’ve hit some technical difficulties (mostly user related because some days I’m a technical bonehead), but I’m almost there.

2. I finished my first triathlon! YAY! I had hoped for a finish of under an hour and it took me 1.06, but that’s ok. In hindsight, I was asking for a lot from myself. I finished. That was the goal.

3. I wanted to sign up for another race. I was thinking a 5K maybe, or even a 10K. Instead, I’m doing the Trek Women Triathlon this coming Sunday. Thinking big. And I’ve scouted out some 5Ks I’d like to do in the later fall. I’d also hoped to be able to run 4 miles straight by the end of this challenge. I’m close. I hit the 3.5 mark last weekend. With the new triathlon coming up though, it was more important to concentrate on the 3.1 distance… especially off the bike. I’m ready. And running four miles is right there as the next goal.

4. I wanted to be fitter than I was when I started. I’ve definitely accomplished that. I’m running farther, more consistently, and my swim and bike training has gotten better too. I feel great!

And to top it off, I’ve lost 5.8 pounds since the start of the challenge, bringing my total loss to 61.2 pounds. I’m getting there!

dianenow new diane

Not a huge difference on the outside, but there is a huge difference on the inside!

And there’s a huge difference from where I started. And boy, does that make me happy.

Here’s one from back before getting healthy. This has been a year of big changes…all for the better!

Diane_Vacation

Soul Searching

I went to lunch with a friend yesterday. It was my last day of vacation and it was a nice close to a couple of days off from work.  I’ve gotten over my crazy binge-y days (well, sort of) and for lunch yesterday had a nice Caesar Salad with grilled chicken, dressing on the side. It was yummy and filling. And the whole way home, I wanted ice cream. Cold, creamy and sweet. I got home and had a bottle of water, thinking maybe that was just thirst. But about 15 minutes later, I went for the ice cream… (in a controlled fashion this time, light ice cream, 1/2 cup.) But I wanted that sweet. And I realized, I always need want something sweet after a meal.

Bear with me as I digress…

Last night I was talking with my sister who had gone to a past life regression session. She’s been sick on and off for a number of years now and she’s trying different therapies to get to the root of it. Traditional medicine can’t figure out what the heck is going on and she’s been told on a number of occasions it’s all in her head. Actually it’s just about everywhere but her head. She’s been diagnosed with Sarcoidosis (oh wait, that’s not what it is…even though the telltale nodules in her lungs were there) Lupus (oops, sorry, not that either), Hypo Thyroid (nodules there too but well, no, that’s not causing the other issues…), perimenopausal epilepsy (huh? ok a stretch, but more or less impossible to diagnose or dispute, and most likely not that either.)

She is now going for allergy testing, and through the program she is in, NAET, is trying to understand her emotions and how they may play into whatever she is dealing with, and how that might be affecting her relationship with certain foods.

From there, she decided to try past life regression therapy. She’s been told she’s an old soul…

Her regression therapy didn’t take her back to previous lives really. It did take her back, however, to when she was a baby and had pneumonia. She was 6 months old and in an oxygen tent in the hospital. Visiting hours were over and they made my mother leave. My sister put her arms up to be picked up for the very first time in her life, and my mother was not allowed to hold her. It broke my mother’s heart, and she told this story on more than one occasion.

Apparently it broke my sister’s heart too. What was so interesting is that she remembered not just that my mother left her in the hospital (she would have known that because she’d heard the story), but how she felt at that moment. Scared, abandoned and confused. It was a tough for her last night to dredge that up. But maybe, just maybe, it will also release some locked away emotion or fear that has had an effect on her health. Who knows?

Ok, so that was the long way around to a food story. Her story last night made me think about my relationship with food too. Where did it start? Where did it go so horribly wrong? I don’t have a normal relationship with food. I don’t think any obese or formerly obese person does. Obviously these things start in our childhoods. I had a therapist once tell me that everything we do, situations we put ourselves in, are attempts to re-create how we felt as children, because that is where we are most comfortable. For example, I grew up with four brothers, a sister and one bathroom. 🙂 My childhood consisted of ordered chaos and I’ve chosen jobs along the path of my life that are chaotic. I am also the oldest and have always had a strong sense of responsibility. So in my chaotic jobs, I’ve always had roles where I am the one who cleans up and makes sure everything gets done.

Growing up with four brothers and a sister and not a lot of money also meant that when dinner was put on the table, if it was something good, you had to eat fast if you wanted more. Not to mention, there was always a loaf of Wonder White Bread and Parkay margarine there with dinner. It was the ’60s okay? White bread was good for you, and it was ok to smoke during pregnancy.

My mother was a wonderful cook and she believed in balanced nutrition. We got our veggies, even if we didn’t like them.  Her specialty, however,  was desserts. So when she made us eat something we didn’t like, like liver and stewed tomatoes (my Dad’s favorite) or succotash (lima beans anyone?) or Pork Butt and Cabbage (actually that last one wasn’t too bad), it was always followed by some yummy dessert.

It was how they would bribe us to finish our dinners. Finish your lima beans and you get sugar! That wasn’t bad for you then either. Sorry, at eight years old, it’s tough to comprehend the starving children in other countries thing.

Desserts would be creamy homemade puddings, cakes, brownies or cookies and even, yes–I went for one of these last weekend–Whoopie Pies. My mother made those from scratch. Sometimes the desserts would be from the store…Ring Dings (does anyone remember them in the foil packaging? We’d eat the Ring Dings and then spend hours ironing out the foil. I’m not sure why.)

I was so conditioned as a child to expect dessert after a meal that it is what I look for still to this day. And I don’t know if it’s possible to change that conditioning. I don’t know that I will ever not want something sweet after something savory.

What I can change though is how I handle it. I want something sweet. It doesn’t have to be a gazillion calories and laden with fat and sugar, although that’s the most fun. There are so many portioned snacks that subdue that sweet urge just as well as a Whoopie Pie (470 calories folks, almost all fat). And fruit, that’s sweet too! Who knew?

For this food quirk at least, while maybe I can’t control the urge, I’ve learned to manage it more or less. Maybe it means I still eat a little too much sugar from time to time, but I’m eating far less of it than I would have in the past. And I’ve learned to savor it too. Somehow when I take my time and enjoy my food (another behavior that is taking some work), the calories just don’t seem to hang on as long.

Can you pinpoint any childhood habits, pleasures, behaviors that are affecting your adult eating? What are you doing about them?

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

CatAndMirrorI have a magic mirror in my bedroom. When I was heavy, it was always kind to me. I’d get ready for work in the morning or to go out somewhere and it never made me feel fat, well not too fat anyway. There was no getting around the fat thing really. I was never that delusional.

But I always felt ok in my clothes until I’d see myself unexpectedly…in a store window say, or in pictures. Is that what I really looked like to other people? Because it wasn’t how I saw myself. As a fat woman, I generally dressed in clothing that was on the loose side. Even though all of the magazines said dress in fitted clothes to shed ten pounds instantly, I was never comfortable with that. Wear a belt? God forbid. In reality, I probably made myself look even larger than I was (now looking back at pictures), but my thinking was that if I hid the rolls, no one would notice? Silly, I know. How, after all, do you hide three chins?

Ok, so now when I look into my mirror, I recognize that I’m smaller but I still see myself much the way I saw myself back in the “fat” days. Remember, in this magic mirror I didn’t see a really, really fat girl. I have sucked it up and changed some of my wardrobe habits. I wear fitted clothes now and belts, sometimes. But I’m still not so comfortable there. Give me a nice roomy empire waist top….a long flowy skirt with elastic waist, a pair of jeans two sizes too big now, and I’m a happy camper. I feel smaller when I’m wearing clothes that are larger. I also like layers. I’m trying to wear clothes that are more fitted though. And I bare my arms and even my legs from time to time.

I ran into Macy’s the other day with my daughter right after work and I passed a mirrored pole and caught my reflection.

When I passed, I had to back up and look again. There was a small person there. That couldn’t have possibly been me, could it? I was even smaller in that mirrored pole than I ever thought at home.

And when I see pictures of myself now, I’m kind of shocked. Only one chin? A collarbone? Biceps? I see these things in the mirror at home but I don’t know if I believe them. I keep waiting for fat me to return; I know she’s still lurking inside my head just waiting to make her grand entrance.

I don’t know that I’ve accepted myself in this new fit body just yet. And I should have by now. I’ve been working on it for quite some time. Maybe it’s that I am still working on it that keeps me from really appreciating how far I’ve come. Maybe its simply that I spent so much time in the other body, I’m reluctant to let it go?

How could that be you say? Being fat is like a security blanket. You get used to having it around as a protective shield. And change is scary. Even change for the better. I mean what if after all this hard work, the benefits I thought I’d gain from my fitness quest elude me. I’m still me. I still have the same insecurities and fears. I’m still unorganized.  I still procrastinate with the best of them.

I know getting fit doesn’t change everything, even though I suppose I hoped it would have in some ways. Get fit and win the lottery! Doesn’t work that way, right?

But it has changed one very key component of my life and for that I am grateful: my health. And with my health, I hope to live long enough to work on all those other pesky changes.

P.S. I lunched with a friend today who I’ve seen a number of times as I’ve been losing weight. I was late and she was waiting and she admitted that twice, she saw women she thought might be me and then realized, no, those women looked like the old me, not the new me. It seems people who know me are still adjusting to the changes too.

And then she told me I look really good. She’s a good friend. 🙂

Climbing Back On The Wagon After A Hard Fall

littleredwagonWhen I wrote my blog post on Wednesday, I wrote that I was struggling with staying on track food-wise. I somehow managed to stay in control until that evening when I came home to pizza and scarfed two pieces without even thinking about it. I will admit, even though I felt a little guilty later, it felt GOOD to eat with abandon. So good, in fact, that it sent me on a downward spiral for the next four days. By day four, however, it didn’t feel so good anymore.

Thursday there was seafood bisque in a bread bowl and delicious chocolate truffles. Friday it was an overload on english muffins with butter and cinnamon sugar (a favorite treat but I always stop at one. Mind you, these are the high-fiber, low-cal multigrain english muffins and I used light butter, but still. Did I really need two of them?

Saturday, ah what can I say about Saturday. If it didn’t try to run away from me, I ate it. Candy, more pizza, whoopie pies (have you ever had those?) ice cream….the list goes on. Food shopping was a dangerous thing to do on Saturday.

And yesterday, while I started to regain some control, I still ate some of the wrong things.

During this, I did still try to make some healthy choices, as though that would somehow magically make the madness stop. It didn’t. And I exercised and drank my water…same reasoning, same results.

By last night though, I felt out of control and a little nervous that I’d screwed up big-time and wouldn’t be able to pull it back. And my stomach hurt.

I think I’d been heading toward this for awhile, and that may have a lot to do with my stalled weight loss. Little tastes here and there that I wasn’t tracking, a slightly larger than measured portion, an extra treat.

Last night, through a twitter conversation with @patbarone, I realized that I had put myself on vacation mentality, and I was also feeling overwhelmed by stuff I have to get done at home over the next few days. Procrastination by food.

This morning, though, on the 3-mile run that I really didn’t feel like tackling (this is why I sign up for races), I realized that instead of being proud of myself, I’ve been beating myself up again. Instaed of focusing on how far I’ve come, I’ve been frustrated with how slow the weight loss is going and that I’d like to be further along in my tri training.

While I was running this morning, I reversed that. How far have I come, for goodness sake? What can I do now that I couldn’t a year ago? What positive changes have I made that stuck? I’m running. In the beginning, I was barely walking. I’m a size 12. I was a size 20. I drink lots of water and very little soda. I eat so much healthier than I did. I even eat vegetables and lean protein and whole grains.

So many things have changed for the better for me since I started this journey. So “fat girl” managed to creep back in for a couple of days. “Fit girl” is stronger and today she has pushed “fat girl” to the back corner again.

I don’t doubt that “fat girl” will show up from time to time. She’s been a part of me a lot longer than “fit girl,” and man, does she love her chocolate!  But I know I’m strong enough now to regain my healthy self even after a hard fall off the wagon.

As @patbarone said, “it’s not about what feels good now. It’s about what feels good later.” Today is later, my resolve is back, and I feel great!

Humidity, Kittens and Random Thoughts

kitten2

It’s been particularly humid on Long Island this week. And hot. We have had an unusually temperate summer here so this this drippy heat isn’t making anyone very happy. I can’t even talk to my husband most days (he works outside).

I kind of like the heat, but I am in no way a fan of the humidity. It makes everything just a little more difficult. It’s even humid in my office. Ick.

  • Last night I went to a benefit for an animal rescue organization at this adorable little tiki bar. The bar and the benefit were outside. I had on a sundress and a short sleeve sweater. It was so humid though, I had to take the sweater off. But for the first time in a very, very long time, I didn’t feel self-conscious. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bat wings for upper arms, but there’s also some definition there and this summer, I even have a tan (thanks to running in tank tops every weekend!) Oh and I may have adopted a tiny orange furball of a kitten named Gizmo. I’ll be his new mommy if no one else adopts him in the next two weeks. He was only 6 weeks old.
  • I did not win the food battle yesterday. I got home from work and there was pizza. In the food mood I was in, even though I kept it in check all day, there was no resisting pizza! I scarfed two pieces before I even had a chance to think about it. At least I only caved for one meal, instead of the whole day. There was a fudgesicle too! However, I didn’t eat or drink anything at the benefit last night, so the pizza may have saved me from a more calorie-laden fate. There was a pretty good food spread at the benefit. Yes, I checked it out!
  • This morning I knew I needed to work out…after a day off from exercise and you know, the eating thing. I just didn’t want to deal with the humidity this morning though. So I went to the gym. I need to do bricks anyway (biking, running) if I’m ever going to be ready for the Trek Women Tri on Sept. 13. I don’t know if the stationary bike/treadmill counts as a “true” brick  but that’s what I did this morning. 8 miles on the bike – 22 minutes (I think it must have started at 2 miles because that’s awfully fast for me (I’m as slow a rider as I am a runner). Then I went over to the treadmill and ran for 18 minutes (1.6 miles). I kept the incline at 1 because I’d read that that mirrors the resistance of a road run. It wasn’t a long run, but I felt strong off the bike, which is rare. Ran the whole way, except for a 20-second walk just to check my heart rate at the mile mark. I played with the speed too, although I still kept in my comfort zone. I’ll be pushing that in the next couple of weeks. And I forgot my iPod this morning so all this exercise was without music. That wasn’t much fun but since they don’t let you use an iPod when you race, I guess it was good training.
    It felt good though and I was sorry I got out of bed so late this morning because I felt like I could have done more but I ran out of time if I was ever going to make it to work today.
  • I was checking my heart rate this morning (another reason for the gym workout today) on the advice of the cardiologist yesterday. I had an appointment yesterday because of a slow heart rate. It was  44 bpm on the EKG. A normal resting heart rate for a woman my age is above 60. He wasn’t too concerned, he said, as long as my heart rate isn’t 44 when I’m running. It’s not. This morning I got it kicked all the way up to 150…endurance training, baby!
    Anyway, chances are it is just a “slow athletic heart” as my regular doctor said, but they are also checking for thyroid. A slow thyroid could also explain why my weight loss has slowed to a turtle pace, but that could also just be because I am eating more than I think I am. At any rate, I’m at very low risk for any kind of heart attack, so that was good news, being that I come from a family at high risk.
  • I’m planning a long run tomorrow (long for me is 3.2 miles) and I’m hoping against hope that the humidity breaks today. At least I found my sunglasses when I was fishing for my gym card this morning. They’d gone missing (in the bottom of my gym bag last week) and running this week without them has been annoying. My cheapy sunglasses that I run in are lightweight and don’t sit too close to my face but also don’t fall off my nose. It’s amazing how attached we get to the “things” we get used to for this whole running/workout thing! So glad I found them.

There Are Still Days…

There are still days where I wake up late and don’t get out to exercise in the morning or at any other time of the day, planned or unplanned. There are still days where I would like to eat anything that doesn’t try to run away from me and the more sugar the better. There are still days, after more than a year of eating healthier and exercising regularly, where I’d like to throw in the towel and go back to my old ways. There are still days where the threat of gaining the weight back doesn’t have nearly as much of an impact as eating cake would. Today is one of those days. Maybe it’s hormonal or the time of the year or lack of sleep/stress. Who knows?

I would have hoped that after more than a year of a healthier lifestyle, the lure of empty calories and laziness would have gone away completely. But they haven’t. My old behaviors still lurk in the back of my consciousness just waiting for a weak moment to spring to the forefront and sabotage all of my hard work. I’ve learned to resist for the most part, but resisting doesn’t make the day any easier,  and it doesn’t make the desire go away.

This morning I did not get out to exercise. And tonight I have a fundraiser to attend so there will be little or no exercise there either. I’m ok with that. It can be a rest day.

I have a doctor’s appointment at lunch today, so I can’t do too much damage foodwise. I’ll be at work all day and I only brought good food with me to work. I’ll make it through the day; I’ll work hard to be strong tonight too. And hopefully, the evil urges will go away by tomorrow. They usually do.

And that’s the difference between then and now. Then, I would just cave. Now, I cope.

  • This morning, I tracked all of the food I plan to eat today. I find that that helps me to stay on track.
  • I decided to sleep in this morning. Sometimes, I find if I’m really tired, it’s harder to resist temptation.
  • I’m drinking lots of water. I do this anyway, but on days like this, I drink more because it helps to keep me feeling fuller.
  • I keep peppermint tic-tacs on hand. Nothing tastes very good after a mint (except for water) and for a little while they kill the cravings.
  • I will remind myself how much better I feel now than I did then.
  • I will blog about how I feel and count on the support of my online friends to pull me back.
  • And if I’m still feeling like I really need something off plan tonight, I will allow myself a small indulgence. I will not have lost the whole day and sometimes it’s ok to take a little break.

Tomorrow will be a better day. I find that my resolve is usually back after a day like this. And having managed this day makes me that much stronger going forward.

When you’ve lived a sedentary life of overeating for a long time, like I have, staying the fitness course is awfully fragile. But each day like this where I win the battle over the evil urges, the fitness side gains a little strength. It’s a long road, and it’s worth every step.

Lifting The Limits – Why I Started Losing Weight

When I see people I haven’t seen in a long time, I am usually met with surprise at the changes I’ve made. After the “You look great!” comments, which of course I love, the questions start. “How’d you do this?” “What motivated you?”

Answering the how is easy: Eating healthier and exercise.

Answering the why is a lot harder. What was my motivation? Why did it work this time when it hadn’t in the past? That’s the $6 million dollar question.

I’ve always told people that I was turning 50 and I didn’t want to feel old. And that’s what I told myself too. But I knew that wasn’t the whole reason. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. After all, the age factor didn’t help when I was turning 30 or even 40.

I’ve thought about this often during the journey. Why, this time, is it easier to control what I eat? What makes me get out of bed at 5:45 and go swim or run or get on a bike? Why am I going to the gym this week to pay them more money so I can start Pilates and Yoga classes? What makes me believe that this is the time these changes will stick?

The answer came to me when I was writing yesterday’s post about swimming in the ocean after a long time away.

I had gotten to a point where I was allowing my weight and my fitness level to impose limits on what I could and couldn’t do.

Of course, we all have limits. I’ll never be an olympic gymnast, for example, and I can’t play golf to save my life.  I wouldn’t have aspired to those sports when I was 14 either. But I used to love swimming in the ocean. And I had stopped because I was out of shape and afraid that I couldn’t do that anymore.

At 48, I tore two rotator cuff tendons, a bicep tendon, and developed bursitis and arthritis in my left shoulder. Don’t ask me how. I’m not really sure. But it hurt to move my arm so I didn’t. And my shoulder froze and for four painful months, I couldn’t move my arm. Physical therapy and time helped me get my range of motion back. I didn’t need surgery, thank goodness. But I will never be completely pain-free in that shoulder. Had I been in better physical condition, maybe I wouldn’t have damaged my shoulder. Or even if I had, maybe my recovery would have been easier.

I’m getting older. There is no stopping the clock. And I’m ok with that. As long as I don’t let my age get in the way of the things I want to do in my life.  I realized as I approached 50 that it wasn’t my age so much as my fitness level that was limiting me. Getting winded going up stairs, being uncomfortable in a plane seat or walking on a beach, worrying that I was going to break a horse I was riding on vacation when I was only 20 pounds below the weight limit (that’s a whole different story!).

And it was more than that. When I bought my car in 2007, the seat was a little too small to be really comfortable. My knees hurt always and I couldn’t crouch down. Going up and down stairs to do laundry…ugh. I would get so winded. Walking anywhere carrying stuff would hurt my back. Activities I always enjoyed, I avoided.

I could have just continued to contribute my limitations to getting older. I know people who do that. But I also knew that wasn’t really the case. When I started Weight Watchers in July of 2008, I knew I had to do something. Did I think Weight Watchers was the thing? Not really. I figured I’d start and stop the way I always had before. And then something wonderful happened. I lost a few pounds and started walking again. And I felt better. And there was more energy. And I felt younger again and the whole thing just clicked.

I think then, even though I may not have consciously realized it until Saturday, subconsciously, I knew that my age wasn’t setting the limits. My fitness level was. From there, I’ve gone on to lose 60 pounds and participate in triathlons. And I’m planning to run a half marathon next year too. Why? Because I can. Because I’m redefining my limits.

I’m realistic as to how long it may take to reach these goals, but I’m not going to let my weight and fitness level stop me anymore from trying. Enough limits are placed on us from forces we can’t necessarily control. But I’m done limiting myself with unhealthy habits and a body that I’d forgotten had so much strength.

What’s limiting you and what can you do to change it?

A Day At The Beach

long island beachSaturday, I went to the ocean. It had been a very long time since I spent a day lazing on the sand, soaking up the sun and swimming in the cool Atlantic water. It was wonderful.

I grew up at the ocean. My father was a lifeguard when I was a little girl, and I learned to swim admist the rolling waves and breakers. As we got older, my father, a teacher, always had summer jobs managing town beaches and we spent many of our summer days and weekends covered in sand and salt water. It was a great way to grow up.

As I got older, my friends and I worked as lifeguards at the town pool, but spent every chance we got back at the ocean. I was a strong swimmer and was never afraid of the water. While I had a healthy respect and knew what to watch for and when to stay on shore, I was always drawn to those rolling swells.

When I had kids, I wanted them to have an appreciation for the ocean too. We had a pool in our backyard though, and because we now lived on the North Shore of Long Island, the Sound beaches (calmer waters) were where we ended up most of the time. Ocean trips were a little bit more involved and required time and planning. We didn’t get there as much as I would have liked. Add to that, that when my children were small, I was in the worst shape of my life. I was uncomfortable in a bathing suit and while I was still an efficient swimmer, I had nowhere near the stamina and strength I had when I was younger.

When my daughter was 11 (12 years ago), I took my children (my son was 9) and two of their friends to Robert Moses to spend a day at the ocean. My son was never comfortable swimming in the ocean so he and his friend stayed on the shore, playing in the sand. My daughter, on the other hand, had no fear, loved the water and jumping the waves. She even enjoyed it when the breakers grabbed her and sent her tumbling. She always came up smiling and ready for more.

On this day though, there was a storm offshore and the ocean was angrier than usual. The waves were larger than what we normally get on Long Island and the currents were powerful, including areas of rip tides. Kate, her friend and I were jumping waves about chest deep in the water (waist deep for me) when suddenly my daughter was being sucked out to sea. I snapped at her friend to get to shore, and I swam into the rip tide after my child. I caught up with her quickly and grabbed hold, but she was scared. I know that you need to swim parallel to the shore to get out of the rip and we were close to the edge, but she wasn’t having any of it and kept trying to swim toward shore.

And then I heard two whistles blow. I knew the lifeguards were coming for us and I was able to calm her that way. While I was a bit embarrassed (who ever heard of a former lifeguard having to be rescued) I was never happier than to hear that sound. I could probably have gotten myself out of the situation, but I was out of shape and I was tired. With ropes and buoys, we were towed safely to shore. It should have been my wakeup call that it was time to do something about my weight and physical condition, but it wasn’t.

Instead, I stayed away from the ocean. Not that I never went to the beach again, but I never went back to really swimming in the ocean after that. Until yesterday. Yesterday, the ocean was relatively calm, clean and comfortable, so I walked in, dove under the breakers and swam out a ways past most of the people. From there, I swam parallel to the shore for a while and then back, laid on my back and just let the rolling waves slide underneath me. I came out of the water refreshed and invigorated.

For my training, I swim all the time. I can log 1000-1200 meters in a training swim…in a pool. And that feels great.

But nothing felt quite as good as swimming in the ocean, my old friend, on Saturday. I felt confident and strong in that water. And that alone has made all of this hard work worthwhile.