Just wanted to post another invitation to follow me at my new website, lmwellness.com. I notice that there are still a number of people who are visiting this site (kimthedietitian.com), yet I have not posted in many months. I fear they must think I am lazy! Not so. I have just been posting in a different place. Join me there!
Category Archives: Personal Journeys
After years of posting as Kim the Dietitian, I have now taken my blog over to my new website, lmwellness.com. Please follow me there!
My wellness company, Lifestyle Matters, has some great mindful eating tools for individuals and corporate wellness, and I will continue to write on the blog there. Please check it out. Let me know what you think. Thank you for visiting my site over the years . . . health and happiness!
If you are a mother, I hope you find the time to mother yourself today. This can be very VERY difficult for many women to do without guilt. I know, because I spent too many moments martyring myself to others’ needs when my kids were small.
When offers of help came my way, my response was always something like this: “Oh, no, I don’t need any help. Yes, I AM exhausted and overwhelmed, but no . . . (heavy sigh) . . . I can manage.” I felt more uncomfortable asking for help than doing everything myself. I wondered, wasn’t asking for help a sign of weakness, or worse – selfishness?
A turning point came when a close friend made a perfectly-phrased comment: “That is so sad that you won’t allow others to love you.” Hmmm . . . “won’t allow . . .”: that was the part that hit me. This was a choice I was making, one that might not actually be serving anyone, maybe least of all the well-intentioned people who did love me and WANTED to help.
Self-care is a primary need for any kind of quality giving to be possible. This is a need, not an indulgence. I have learned this well over the years since my children were babies, and now I find myself sounding a little hypocritical when I repeat the well-worn wisdom “When mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” Obviously this is a lot easier for me to follow now that I am an empty-nester without even a dog to care for anymore.
I get it now, and it’s not too late, because there are still plenty of people who would like me to get involved in various investments of my time. Many are people or causes I truly value, and sometimes I say “yes,” but not always, and certainly not automatically without thinking first. Learning to say “no” occasionally has allowed me to give more joyfully and freely when I choose to say “yes.”
The basics of self-care include quality sleep, balanced nutrition, manageable stress, and enjoyable movement – sometimes called “exercise,” but the key is “enjoyable.” Interestingly, they all affect one another. It is hard to eat well when one is not sleeping well or is too stressed out to feel balanced. Staying physically active can affect sleep quality, eating choices, and stress level. You get the idea.
Can you imagine how much more difficult it would be for someone to eat well if they are not caring for themselves with the bare bones basics needed to feel balanced? Does playing the martyr sound like a healthy strategy to you?
Maybe you have already figured this out, but I notice what seems to be a disproportionate number of women trying to lose weight who are not meeting their most basic self-care needs. Sometimes the best first step to addressing eating issues is to take a good look at the status of self-care.
Are you mothering yourself well? Make today a day to commit (or re-commit) to this very important role. Yes, we are all responsible to some extent for others, but we are first responsible to ourselves. No martyrs, please! That kind of giving is not sent with the best motivation anyway. The best kind of giving is the joyful, conscious, deliberate type. Enjoy your day!
These are the choices on the treadmill I use regularly: quick start, pause, and cool down. I can also enter a pre-programmed workout, but I always just press “quick start.”
Without an iPod this morning, and with no interest in the TV options, I found my pace and settled into my thoughts. My eyes again glanced at the words: “quick start, pause, cool down.” They began to mean more to me than options on a treadmill.
“Quick start.” I’m good at that, I thought. Get going, just do it, take action! I have that mastered! I am someone who finds it uncomfortable – really! – NOT to be productive.
I started thinking about the potential down side to that. Possible drawbacks include anxiety, trouble sleeping, . . . all of the consequences that result from not using another choice on the treadmill: RESET!
Everyone needs to reset hormones and brain chemistry, which in turn resets mood and restores a healthful balance. Adequate sleep, healthy eating, enjoyable physical activity, and pleasant interactions with people all help to keep body chemistry “happy.”
It goes beyond that as well. Balance brings more balance. Erratic hormones and brain chemistry, left unattended, often lead to more chaotic emotions and a less balanced lifestyle.
Among the many benefits of attention to self-supportive care are better sleep, less anxiety, and all-around better self-care. I know this sounds a bit repetitive, but my point is that good self-care leads to more good self-care. Unfortunately lack of attention to self-care makes it all too easy to skip a workout, eat poorly or skip meals, and let unsupportive thoughts run wild.
What we do not see is how body chemistry that we create through our actions can affect how we act moving forward. This is powerful knowledge! Work with your body, because mere will-power is no match for body chemistry!
This is where a “pause” or “cool down” can be very helpful. I’m right there with all of you overachievers and perfectionists! This can be hard, but it is absolutely necessary for health. For me, sleep is key. I know I need to wind down and pause at the end of my workday and resist the temptation to schedule one more appointment, answer one more e-mail, or make that last phone call. I know that ultimately this will lead to more efficient use of my time once I’m ready to “quick start” again.
I remind myself I can start again, but the most productive thing to do at that moment is to take a break and pause. Do you notice how I managed to call a pause “productive”? That is one way to make pausing a little easier for a productivity freak like myself.
I can see myself doing it. I’m procrastinating again! I have a work project I had intended to work on today, but I keep getting up from my desk. “Just a little snack . . . a couple of nuts . . . then back to work.”
Who am I fooling?! I’m just not going to finish this project right now, so I may as well do something else. I am a disciplined person. I like setting deadlines for myself, planning out my work, keeping on target. So why would I advocate just quitting for now?
The simple answer is that I AM quitting right now. I can either embrace it, OWN it, lose the guilt, and do something else (productive or just plain recreational), OR I can keep pretending I’m working on my project and keep drifting into the kitchen for that little “something” to give the illusion of taking a needed break.
I’m not hungry! I don’t need to eat, so why do I do this, as so many of us do? I think it is because eating in small little spurts like that is “really not much of a break” and “It’s not like I’m sprawled out on the couch watching soap operas or anything!” In short, I am justifying.
When I hear myself doing this, I laugh. It really is ridiculous, don’t you agree? We are the masters of fooling ourselves, especially when it comes to eating.
I can usually spot this pattern quickly, now that I recognize it for what it is. This has taken lots and LOTS of practice. I now find that admitting to what I’m doing is the beginning of the way out of the habit. Then I can decide if it is realistic to expect myself to buckle down and do my project now, or lose the guilt and do something else.
Sometimes just stepping away, even when a deadline is looming, allows my head to clear. Then, magically, creative thoughts start flowing and I’m engrossed in my endeavor – and loving it!
To be able to say, “Yes, I am procrastinating, and while I’m at it, I intend to do an incredible job of it!” eliminates the guilt surrounding it. A psychologist friend recently told me that guilt is an emotion that has absolutely no positive side to it. I believe it usually just drives procrastinators into deeper pits of paralysis, which leads many of us to munch on food we don’t really need or want.
How many unnecessary calories do you think you consume while procrastinating? Hundreds? Thousands? It’s hard to really know, because procrastination is often so mindless.
My phone app (In the Moment – Mindful Eating) addresses this issue, so it may help the procrastinator in you to be more self-compassionate during these times. Here is a screen shot that gives a glimpse.
Ahhh, now I feel better. This post is a perfect example of productive procrastination. Now I think I can go back to work on my project – refreshed.
Today at around 9am EST, my first-born turned 30. He lives in Seattle, but this momentous day will be spent near New York City, close to his birthplace, while on tour with Allen Stone; my son plays bass.
We toss around the word “awesome” these days like we used to use the word “wonderful.” Break the words apart, and clearly the number of times either is used far outnumbers the actual moments in our lives that are truly full of awe or wonder. A sunset can inspire genuine awe and wonder; these words lose their impact after being repeatedly used to describe things like a trip to the mall or a hot fudge sundae.
During my pre-bedtime reading ritual last night, I picked up a Sierra magazine that just arrived. The title of the cover article is “The Science of Awe.” As I flipped open the pages, I thought, ‘there may be something in here to incorporate into my app (In the Moment – Mindful Eating).’ In fact, there is plenty to consider in terms of more mindful eating, but as I read the writer’s descriptions of awe-inspiring moments, personal memories took over my thoughts . . . and I felt open, hopeful, and positive – all from simply remembering my “awe-filled” moments.
One moment in nature popped up: a trip to Ecuador, where I walked barefoot out onto the most expansive beach I have ever seen, at night when it was all lit by nothing more than the stars. Other times in the outdoors made the hairs on my skin stand up (a sign, the author asserts, of being awed) even as a mere memory. At the top of my awe list, however, are the births of my two children.
Thirty years ago today, shortly after giving birth to my son Brent, I was in a very small, dark hospital bathroom with a single small window when I felt a sensation of complete happiness, that everything in the universe was “right” and everything was connected. Clearly, this was not the result of my surroundings, a bathroom that was far from the most beautiful bathroom I have ever occupied! I felt unlimited gratitude and a completely open heart toward everything and everyone. While I do not consider myself a very “churchy” religious person, there was no denying this experience; it was clearly much bigger than me, like the beach in Ecuador I would walk on many years later.
The Sierra article uses research to explain what happens to a person at times like this. We behave differently. We treat people better, we are more generous, we are simply nicer to “hang with.” While the article did not specifically mention health or how we treat ourselves, I’m going out on a limb to say that I believe awe is worth cultivating because of the health benefits it offers.
We know that being more mindful is better for our eating and psychological well-being. Since awe, which cannot be felt in the absence of mindfulness, seems to inspire the kind of good feelings that are connected with better self-care, it doesn’t take much of a leap to conclude that being in nature, nurturing relationships, and creating other truly “awesome” moments will cause us to treat ourselves more kindly.
That’s what being healthy is all about: being kind to ourselves. I’m feeling grateful today, just thinking about what happened in my life 30 years ago. Happy Birthday, Brent. You are truly a gift that keeps giving!
We’ve all heard the expression “Hindsight is 20/20.” But what does that kind of expert vision accomplish if it just manifests as regret. Absolutely NO good! In order to be valuable, hindsight has to give us a little foresight. In other words, it must be combined with learning to have any benefit in the future.
My husband Peter and I had this discussion recently after a very regrettable incident, and yes, if he could have predicted it, he would have done things differently. But one thing is for darn sure . . . he will never, EVER again stand on a chair without being very mindful. Actually he may never again stand on a chair at all!
Here’s what happened. Peter woke me up one morning last week with the urgent news that there was a bat in our house – a bat now trapped under a bowl on our bookcase after he cornered it – and I needed to get up to help him get the bat out of the house.
So there I was, cookie sheet in hand, while he slid the bowl ever so carefully off the shelf onto it. Everything was going perfectly . . . until Peter lost his balance and fell off the chair. The bat was captured successfully, but Peter landed badly and his knee was not looking “right.” Actually it was looking very, very wrong, with a huge bulge protruding away from his leg.
This long story ended with a trip to the Emergency Room and surgery to repair a torn quadriceps tendon a day later. He will now be on crutches for 6 weeks. What a set-up for a case of the “woulda, coulda, shoulda’s”! But it doesn’t help his current situation to realize that he was focusing too much on the bat and too little on his balance.
Experience is a great teacher though. This recent setback has started me thinking that learning from the “slips” of eating habits – the equivalent of falling off the chair (or the wagon!) – presents a similar opportunity. Unfortunately it is all too common for people to get stuck in the regret of their disappointments, looking back with hindsight (that crystal clear perspective) to see that “I shouldn’t have eaten so many cookies,” instead of understanding what caused it to happen and looking for solutions . . . changing the hindsight to foresight.
We can predict that destructive eating patterns will happen again if all we do is display perfect hindsight. That’s easy! In order to turn it into something productive, we need to give up on the regret and “if only’s” so we can actually learn something useful.
If having an abundance of cookies in the house causes a cookie binge, there is a difference between saying, “I shouldn’t have eaten all of those! I have no willpower,” and observing that “having all those temptations in the house is not very supportive of my goals. I will practice self-compassion by not buying them.” (awareness + insight = learning)
The first method is judgmental and negative. It does not get beyond the regret and shame of “messing up.” The second is supportive and useful. This may sound like picky semantics, but it makes a big difference! Are you learning or just finding fault with yourself?
I’m now getting ready to start development of an Android version of my phone app, In the Moment – Mindful Eating, which is already available for iPhone in the App Store. It never hurts to carry a good luck charm around with me . . .
Today is the memorial service for my father. I have been revisiting memories of my special times with him over the years in preparation for the brief tribute I will make to him at the service. Maybe because of my food-focused life, my thoughts have taken a food-focused form. You can learn a lot about a person by what they do with food: how they prepare it, how they eat it, and how they share the experiences surrounding it.
My dad had no use for recipes, in his cooking or in how he defined himself. He always cooked from scratch, and that is pretty much how he created himself too. Even though he was a Yale-educated lawyer with a long, impressive career, he was still the guy a waitress or bartender would greet warmly by name at the Channel Inn, one of his favorite places for a burger and a beer.
He liked nice things, but mostly he just appreciated the simple, basic pleasures of life: breakfast at George Webb, not George Watts; Timex, not Rolex; and most of all, time with family and friends.
He was a traditional breadwinner in the style of the 50’s and 60’s, but then again he wasn’t. Unlike Ward Cleaver, he seldom settled into a chair after work to read the paper quietly. He preferred to spend active time playing with his kids.
Occasionally he even stepped over the line into the role of nurturer, normally filled by my mother. I have a very special personal memory of one of those times. My mother was not at home, and my dad was in charge. I was probably around 6 years old, and I wanted my hair curled. It was something my mom had done for me a few times. I remember him carefully and somewhat clumsily twirling pieces of my hair around his fingers and anchoring each piece with a couple of bobbie pins, just how I told him to do it. As I said, he was not someone to be defined by any recipe-type of formula of what a dad of that time period should be, and we all benefitted from that.
In the kitchen, food preparation was one way he expressed a lot of love and caring, not to mention adventure and fun! There is no better example of this than the Sunday morning breakfast “events” he orchestrated with us. “Us” did not include Mom, because she was queen for the morning. Only as I got older did I fully appreciate how nice this must have been for my mom to be cared for and allowed to stay in bed to await her service. This service evolved through the weeks, months, and years from simple to quite elaborate and complex.
I remember developing menus and taking my mom’s breakfast order. Over time, we began to incorporate sterling flatware and cloth napkins – only the finest for our mom would do! We would go shopping to pick up donuts and other supplies. All the while, we learned to anticipate the pleasure she would get. “Oh, she really loves those plates . . . let’s use them.” My dad was always with us on this. Never did we hear, “No, those are too fancy. They might break.”
Along with his spirit of fun and adventure, making me want to sign on for whatever he had in mind, another trait I always admired was his willingness to take chances, try new things, risk “failure,” and make the best out any and all outcomes. In the kitchen, this played out in his love of creating sauces of all kinds for all types of dishes. They were all unique. Some were great, and some were, honestly, more interesting than tasty.
But that’s not the point. The point is that he loved to invent his sauces with what he had. I remember one time – on vacation, with limited pantry supplies. I watched as he put a little of this and a little of that together, all things that seemed normal (broth, seasonings, whatever), until he grabbed the box of grits. I don’t remember this as my favorite of all of his sauce inventions, but I will say that I remember it best, simply because he got such a kick out of trying something new with limited resources. He was not afraid of ruining it. He just tossed the grits in with an attitude of “Let’s see how this works. How bad could it be??!”
As an adult, I sometimes hesitate with decisions about trying something unknown, something with no definite “recipe” for success. I am not a huge risk-taker at heart, yet I know that without the guts to do those things, life ends up being a little “flat.” I try to think of Dad at times like that. I know he would tell me, “Life is short. Just go ahead and throw in the grits!”
My father died today after suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease for many years. He was 89. Two years ago at precisely this time of year, I wrote this story. It describes a moment in time when I began to let go of the man I had known and loved for over 50 years.
My hair is damp and cool. The sun is low and warm. Flecks of light bounce and spin across the water, releasing the last energy of a perfect day. Its remnants sift through the trees and up the hill to the spot where we – my small son and I – sit bathed in liquid gold.
The house was a dream of my dad’s for years before it became wood and stone. Its setting amid pines and water was only discovered after many Sunday mornings spent checking out lake properties for sale.
My best childhood memories include water. Growing up across the street from Lake Michigan, there were many walks to the beach in summer, but also across the crunchy ice of January mornings.
In the spring and summer there were fishy smells and glass stones of all shapes and colors, collected in plastic bags and treasured like jewels. In the cold of winter, we climbed the white mounds of snow and ice along the shore.
Many water-centered vacations broke up the routine of my early life. To this day, I wonder – what did my mom do on our family vacations? Of course she was there with us, but I have fewer distinct memories of her during those less routine times. After all, we were used to having meals and clean clothes, hugs and bedtime stories, security.
With my dad, we lived on the edge. We tested limits, tried new things – mostly in the water – and gained newfound confidence that we could, at least in that moment, do anything.
He did – do anything and everything that is, or so it seemed to me. He entered high school weighing about 100 pounds. Swimming helped fill out his 5’8″ frame over the years that followed, leading to summer jobs as a lifeguard in Chicago. After serving in the Navy during WWII, he returned to school, eventually graduating from Yale Law School and practicing law in Milwaukee for over 40 years.
My dad was a lifesaver, literally.
While sailing, he saved the life of a good friend’s daughter. They were on Lake Michigan in May when the boat capsized. It was cold. The teenage girl was trapped in the ropes underneath, but my dad somehow managed to free her and carry her safely to the surface.
That was not the only life he saved in the water. While on vacation years ago, my 2-year-old brother wandered into the lake alone. My dad discovered him face-down, floating lifelessly “like a lillypad” as the story goes. He pulled my brother out of the water and brought him back to life.
In a way, he saved my mom too. When they met, she was a single mother to 3 boys. They went on to have 3 more children, providing a good life for all of us.
Now I am standing outside the kitchen window at my parents’ lake house. I feel the warmth of my memory fade and sense the chill of the April Wisconsin air. The shimmer of the water on that August day in 1985 morphs in my thoughts, becoming the twinkling of stars overhead – beautiful, peaceful, shocking. My baby son’s smiling face becomes an empty deck chair, now in disrepair.
It is 2012, not 1985. I turn toward the window, smudged with dirt, and a cluster of pill bottles catches my eye. The water wings and damp towels, remnants of past days of play, are gone. In their place is a large plastic bag of Depends and a glass that holds my dad’s dentures as they soak in pale blue liquid.
My dad is asleep in his bedroom, still wearing the khaki pants he refused to take off. His brilliant mind and tough spirit could not hold off the attack of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The stars begin to appear glassy and distorted, and I realize that I am crying. The feeling? Grief. I am in the middle of the ultimate long goodbye – with a man who always avoided them.