Slog the Blog

This is a slogging wrench. You hit the stubby end with a hammer.
This is a slogging wrench. You hit the stubby end with a hammer.

Since my last blog post I just haven’t been able to figure out what to write about. Everything seems so uninspiring. I don’t seem to have anything original or clever to say, no brilliant ideas, no aha moments. What is wrong with me? I’m not depressed, but I just have no oomph.

Then, suddenly, AHA! An aha moment. It’s the end of October, the beginning of November. The days are shorter, and my body has not adjusted. I’m still in “missing the long days” mode, and haven’t yet made it into “cozy and creative winter activities” mode.

So I’ll just slog on this week. A few too many games of spider solitaire, a little too much white food*, a few too many snippy remarks at my long-suffering husband.

But I am getting the garden tucked in, I’ve started a blog about learning to recycle, and I’m experiencing the joys of figuring out what health insurance to go with next year.

All is well.

Send me an inspiring story.

*I still have parosmia, and it seems that almost everything that doesn’t smell bad is white. White bread, white potatoes, white rice. I’ve started making jokes about going to the “white food” section of the grocery store. Sounds vaguely racist, but I can’t figure out exactly how.

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Shhh…Mind the Baby…Habit

SeedlingI am hardly Miss Meditation. In an early post, I mentioned that I found the idea of Mindful Eating was boring. But my attempts at circling in to better eating behavior were just not working. Sure, I was eating plenty of vegetables, and drinking plenty of water, but the poundage of chocolate eaten on the couch was easily overwhelming my other efforts. And the poundage was sticking to me.

So, on my birthday, the day I found I had re-gained twenty hard-lost pounds, I read the first two chapters of Mindful Eating and tentatively began to practice it.

And found it not at all boring. If I really pay attention to the food, the process has its own pleasure, sort of like stepping into a warm bath, or sitting on the porch on a sunny spring day and feeling the sun on your face. Who knew?

The wonderful side effect of tuning in is that I noticed when I’d had enough – way before eating half a bag of Oreos.

I hadn’t yet blogged about this experience. It felt too new, too tender. I didn’t want to crush it by shining too bright a light on it. Nor did I want to have to admit later that I only kept it up for a week.

A few days into these first attempts at mindful eating, parosmia crashed into my life. Nauseated and disoriented, I stumbled around just trying to find where the horrible smell was coming from, and learning what few foods I could eat.

Three weeks into parosmia, I have a list of foods that taste good or at least all right, and have begun to branch out a bit. Added to white rice, potatoes, and French bread, I discovered pound cake and vanilla ice cream. Yesterday I tolerated a bowl of white rice mixed with plain canned diced tomatoes and plain canned kidney beans. The protein felt so good!

But as I re-discover high-fat, high-sugar foods, I’m realizing that parosmia can become an excuse to return to compulsive eating. “Oh I’m sick, I need special treatment…Honey, would you please bring me another piece of cake?”

So, tentatively, I am returning to mindful eating. Yesterday I baked a small potato, added margarine, placed it in my favorite blue bowl, sat at the table without the radio on, admired the hand-embroidery on the table-cloth, took a bite of potato, rolled the rich, soft potatoey-ness around in my mouth, and enjoyed the feeling of food reaching my stomach. A small potato was just the right food, and just the right amount for that meal. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Mindful eating is still new. It’s still tender. I still have parosmia. I continue to stumble around doing the best I can.

Life is good.

Where we goin’, and what are we doing in this handbasket?*

This lovely pastel by Ylli Haruni can be purchased at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cat-in-the-basket-ylli-haruni.html. I didn't pay to use the image, so the least I can do it plug it.
This lovely pastel by Ylli Haruni can be purchased at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cat-in-the-basket-ylli-haruni.html. I didn’t pay to use the image, so the least I can do it plug it.

I was doing pretty well, and then I made the fatal mistake.  A couple of days ago, out of nowhere, I weighed myself. And discovered that these past two months of blogging and forming new habits has led to a two-pound weight gain.

And it all went straight to hell.

I tried to shake it off, pretending to myself that it doesn’t really matter, I look fine, I’m in it for the long haul, yadda yadda. “Coincidentally”, I went to Costco that afternoon and bought, yes, the dreaded XXL Peanut M&M’s. And a giant box of chocolate chip cookies, nicely done up in sub-packs of six for “portion control”. And one of those big square boxes of chocolate-covered raisins. And a big pack of rice-cake rolls. And a big box of those cranberry-“thin” breakfast wafers.

I’ve mainly been hitting the chocolate covered raisins so far. Raisins make my stomach hurt if I eat too many, so I suck off the chocolate and leave raisin skeletons.

I was lying in bed last night, my stomach hurting, feeling dispirited and wired on theobromine, and decided, “once and for all” (where have I heard that before?), that I just need to suck it up and STOP eating on the couch. After a couple of antacids, I was able to drift off firmly holding to this resolve.

Which lasted until exactly one minute after lunch today, when I licked off a new batch of raisins. (Got that acrostic licked too!)

This is so frustrating and discouraging.

But I want to do two things: 1. Hold Fast to my 52 weeks of trying to improve my eating habits, and 2. Avoid “all or nothing” mentality.

So, I am counting on you, my vast audience of supporters.

This week’s habit goals:

  •  Continue to eat breakfast at the table.
  •  Eat lunch at the table. 
  • Immediately after lunch, meditate for 15 minutes. (THEN I can lie on the couch and get to work on the XXL Peanut M&M’s. The raisins are about gone.)

Are ya with me? Send me your woes, your triumphs, your deep thoughts, the dumb joke you heard at the office.

Namaste (Is that something to eat?)

*This is apparently an old joke, but my daughter used it in context recently and I thought it was hilarious.

21 Days and waddya get? Three weeks older.

Flylady.net is a real person. I find her ideas and her inner light lovely. Check out her site if you need help with housekeeping.
Flylady is a real person. I find her ideas and her inner light lovely. Check out her site if you need help with housekeeping. Flylady.net

My friend Ros sent me an article called: Habit Formation: The 21-Day Myth. I found it simultaneously repellent and enlightening.

Repellent because it’s macho and corporate, using words like “successful”, “fight”, and “win”. It uses Michael Jordan and the Williams sisters as examples of “success”, rather than, say, M. L. King and Georgia O’Keefe. Reading the piece, I get the definite impression that these folks are “swimming with the sharks”.

Enlightening, though, because it clarifies that “21 days” do not, after all, make a habit. Aha! I wondered about this! I have done plenty of things for 21 days and still not continued them as habits.

The article uses a three-phase model of good habit formation:

  • Honeymoon
  • Fight-thru
  • Second-nature.

Seems obvious once I read it. Nice to see it clarified.

The best wisdom nugget comes from this addition: The “Second-nature” phase, (touted by some to happen automatically after 21 days), can be disrupted, and we need to get back into “Fight-thru” mode.

Now this makes sense. Too often I have braved my 21 days, but fallen all the way back to squat. If I’m lucky, there’s a new Honeymoon, and sometimes another “Fight-thru”, but more often than not I just forget about it after a few days.

So I think I’ll incorporate this model into my year of building better habits, but reword it into a “kinder gentler” approach.

Instead of “success”, how about “fruition”; “gratification”; “growth”? Instead of “fight-thru”, how about “Hold Fast”?

Let’s see…

To form and keep better habits, I need to Hold Fast. When a new habit seems to have become Second Nature, but then gets interrupted, I’ll Hold Fast again. This will increase my joy and contentment.

Hoo boy, it’s hard to leave “corporate-speak” without falling into “Birkenstock-speak”.

How about…

To get my act together before I kick the bucket, I need to stick with the habits I’m trying to form, so I can quit feeling whiny a lot of the time. When I get distracted and/or lazy, I need to suck it up and keep on keeping on.

That’s a little closer.

Feel free to send me your version.

This week’s new habit goal:

My Second-Nature light housekeeping habits are slipping. I’ll revisit FlyLady.net and Hold Fast, and get back that cozy feeling a clean home gives me.

Now What? — Redux

NowWhatReduxImageHey – not you people out there juggling school and jobs and kids – I mean you people like me –retired, with a hobby or two but no big obligations. Do you ever have a day where you look up after your morning walk, lunch, and a nap, and say to yourself: “Now what?” I sure do. In fact this blog is named after that feeling.

Don’t get me wrong. I like being retired. I have had enough of fulfilling and not so fulfilling work, of dragging myself out of bed on Monday mornings, of being told to “work smarter, not harder”. But I am still figuring out the rhythm of my days.

Today I got a nice reminder of a technique for figuring out what to do next.

I got up early because I had a garden helper coming at 7:30 to help me re-stake tomatoes. That went well, and then I went for a lovely walk in the woods with a friend of 45 years (Hi Gerri!). I was pretty tired after all that, and took a rare after-lunch nap.

I woke up around 3:30 recalling that I had intended to clean up the kitchen and make something with the 10 pounds of tomatoes we had picked this morning. But I felt logy and unmotivated. An incipient headache prevented me from spacing out on the computer. “Now what?” I wondered uncomfortably.

Wandering aimlessly around the house, I realized I really did need to empty the compost, so I grabbed the bucket and headed out to the pile.

And came back an hour later. Emptying the bucket had led to meandering over to check on the pole beans, which led to finding an over-ripe cantaloupe that had to be composted, to pulling up the dead squash vines, to weeding some morning-glories out of the garbanzos…you get the picture. It was cool and pleasant outside, and I felt refreshed and awake.

Back indoors, washing out the compost bucket led to cleaning off the kitchen counters, putting the extra tomatillos in a bag to be sorted (soon?!!), and setting up a toaster-oven-load of okra to roast for supper.

The only down side to this spontaneous burst of activity is that I didn’t put on my bug repellant, and received a few mosquito bites. A small price to pay for satisfaction and contentment.

So my advice to you if you are wondering what to do next is: “How the heck should I know?” But my advice to ME if I don’t know what to do next is: “Wander out into the garden and see if anything happens.”

This week’s new habit to adopt:

              Bring only small quantities of junk food into the house at a time.

P.S.  A big thank you to those of you who, on and off the blog, support and/or join my efforts at self-improvement.

Couch Panda Presses On

Where's my salt-shaker?
Where’s my salt-shaker?

When I started this blog a few weeks back, I had high hopes. I was going to change one habit each week for 52 weeks until my overeating compulsion was cured.

To my dismay, I’m barely hanging on to the minor changes I have set so far. And the BIG change, the change I am trying to ignore because it’s just too hard, looms over me, miasma-style.

The BIG change is eating AT THE TABLE.

My big comfort, both physical and emotional, is eating supine on the couch, while doing something else (reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching Netflix). It’s my go-to behavior, and always carries with it a huge sigh of anticipatory contentment. Its ill effects (weight-gain, loss of physical conditioning, chronic neck pain, esophageal reflux), don’t hold a candle to that first bite taken with kitchen towel around my neck, shoes kicked off, salt-shaker at the ready, and puzzle-book in hand.

Oh, what to do, what to do? Talk about first-world problems. If only thinking about people who don’t have couches, salt-shakers, kitchen towels, or puzzle books, (let alone food) were sufficient to change my behavior.

Given my lack of progress, I have had a hard time making myself put out another perky blog-post.

But I’ve decided not to dessert. [sic]

I’m going to try to stick out the 52 weeks, and continue to make the changes as I can.

So here’s a report on how the goals are going so far:

  1. Ensure availability of prepped fruits/veggies at all times: 85% success
  2. Include fruit/veg with every meal or snack: 75% success
  3. Prepare thermoses of water with breakfast: 60% success and improving
  4. Eat breakfast at the table: 10% success and going nowhere

And for next week:

Suck it up and eat breakfast at the table. If I’m on the run, a portable smoothie is ok.

Onward and…onward!

Ac-cen-tuate the positive*

Positive reinforcement works!

Last week I set a goal of listing (and posting) habits I have improved. Now why would I do that? Why don’t I concentrate on what I still need to change?

Well, of course there is the positive reinforcement aspect.

When I was 14, my mom dragged me to a farm in rural Virginia, where she and six other seekers planned to build Walden Two, the utopian society imagined by B.F. Skinner. Reading Skinner, I learned that positive reinforcement is a much more powerful tool for behavior change than punishment. I bought in. So as I work to continue improving, I want to pause for a little self-back-patting.

But there is also another reason to list these newly acquired habits. I need to remind myself that change is possible. Changes seem to come so slowly, after so many tries, that it’s easy to feel as though I’ll never improve. Stopping to reflect on achievements, even small ones, helps me keep striving to improve.

So, here’s my brag list. These are things I used to do less than 50% of the time, and now do over 90% of the time. These are small virtues. A large percentage of the population just does these things automatically. I can only say that I envy and admire you. In that order.

  • Flossing my teeth daily, even under the bridges
  • Making the bed first thing in the morning
  • Maintaining a sparkling toilet
  • Keeping the contents of my purse organized in pouches
  • Keeping my keys in the same place
  • Replacing my glasses (I use three different kinds) in their cases so I can find them
  • Waiting for my husband to finish fixing his cereal without nudging him out of the way to get at the spoon drawer
  • Getting some daily exercise
  • Keeping the living room within 10 minutes of “good-enough” company ready
  • Eating a plant-based diet
  • Checking the calendar night and morning
  • Re-reading my emails before hitting “send”

OK, that’s my list. I would love to hear yours.

And for next week:

Eat breakfast at the table

*Here’s the incomparable Aretha singing “Accentuate the Positive”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w3AtKlY9oY