How to Fight the Blues (even when rockets are falling)

We have reached a sticky wicket, my friends.

I write this blog as an extension of my health coaching business.  I write things that I hope will inspire others, as well as giving usable tools for living a healthier and happier life.  You read this blog presumably because you enjoy the content I write.  But of course, you also read because of me, the blogger herself.  Me, the blogger who lives in Israel.  Me, the blogger who might need to stop writing any minute to enter a bomb shelter at the wailing of an air raid siren.  Me, the blogger who will wait there until I hear the wall-shaking boom, mutter a prayer of thanks for the incredible Iron Dome, let the adrenaline drain away, and return to my seat in front of the computer to continue writing.

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Day after day, I look at the awesome content calendar I made to keep myself on track with writing and publishing, and I think, “How can I write about those subjects and not mention what is going on?”  But on the other hand, how can I mention what is going on, when to open my mouth at this moment, would unleash upon you a dark, vile blackness, that is the exact opposite of inspiration, health or happiness?

I know I am the only Israeli many of you know and you would really love to hear more from me about what it’s like here right now, but I’m not going to write that.  I don’t have the emotional stability to be able to say what you want to hear at the moment.  I’m too close and too upset.  I will say, because I know you are concerned, that I actually feel pretty safe right now.  What I am afraid of, is where things are going and of all the nightmarish scenarios I try not to even entertain.  And yes, in my better moments, I am afraid for the suffering of the very people who want to kill me.  They are still human beings despite it all.

It seems absurd to write glibly about the fact that I’m going to the gym every day, and except for one particularly scary night when I mistakenly thought food could help, I am still on plan and on track and gettin’ it done.  People are dying, but I’m achieving my personal goals.  I am ashamed to even write such a sentence.

But, maybe it is exactly what I am supposed to be writing?  Maybe seeing someone stay on track in the worst of situations, will somehow inspire you to stay on track in the face of lesser obstacles?  And for my fellow Israeli readers who are struggling to keep their heads up, may my words provide strength.

So today, like every single day, five days a week, I went to the gym.  I spent my usual 60 minutes lifting weights and then did 20 minutes of sprints on the treadmill.  Today was “leg day” meaning I did 5 compound leg exercises:  leg press, heavy squats, walking weighted lunges, lying leg curls, and deadlifts, about 4 sets of 10-12 reps each, then 2 ab exercises, bicycles, and crunches, another 4 sets of 20 reps each.  Then 1 minute sprint/jog  intervals on the treadmill for 20 minutes.

For those 80 minutes I thought of nothing else besides the burn in my buns and lungs.  There were no rockets, no hate, no depressed thoughts, no alarming predictions.  I built up the desperately needed rising endorphins which finally burst over me in a wash of well-being and even JOY.  If I didn’t have those 80 minutes, I do not know how I would cope with the remaining 22+ hours of frustration, fear and sadness the rest of the day will likely dispense.

Except for that one slip, when I was actually trying to avoid alcohol and chose cookies instead, I have been feeling my feelings and not eating (or drinking) them.  I am not rocketing around from sugar high to low (see what I did there? so puntastic).  I am sticking to my healthy food, eating when hungry, not eating when sad.

A good bit of this happens unconsciously because I have had years of practice and this is now my routine.  But there are still many times when I struggle as well.

-I have been reluctant to go to the gym some mornings for fear of a siren going off on my walk there.  Where would I take shelter?  But I remind myself that I am in a country of good samaritans (literally) and I would not be left alone and in danger.

-When I make the mistake of reading comments on the internet, pretty much anywhere, or watching a foreign news broadcast, I am overcome with the strong desire to drink alcohol  in order to dull the horror of the things people say about my country and my people.  But I remind myself that now we can defend ourselves.  That is the whole point of all of this.  And also, that if I focus on hate, I will see and feel hate.  If I focus on love, love is what I will see and feel. And ultimately, I’m a sloppy, depressed drunk anyway.

-When I feel the dark, sucking maw of depression opening up below me, I remember my Tool Kit, which consists of the following steps. May they help you as well:

  1. TELL someone!  Depression loves to isolate us.  You don’t want to burden anyone else with your crazy thoughts, right?  Well, that’s a trap, people.  Find someone who doesn’t mind a rant and get it OUT of you!
  2. Get outside.  Sunlight is magic and free.  Get into it.
  3. Take your vitamins.  For me that is B vitamins, D and EPA/DHA.  Maybe it’s a placebo effect but who cares if it works.
  4. Write in a journal.  Face it, there are some things you don’t even want to admit to your bestie.  Paper doesn’t judge.  Write it out of you.
  5. Exercise.  See above.  Endorphins are good.
  6. Stop and eat a good meal: veggies, fruits, protein, carbs and fat.  Balance it up and munch it down.  If you need help, that’s what I do…
  7. Avoid sugar, booze and drugs – depression’s best friends. They are not welcome at your party.
  8. If you’re a prayer person, pray.  If you’re an artist, create. A dancer, dance. Etc etc. Force yourself if you have to.  This is an emergency.
  9. Close the computer!  My kids (and everyone I know) have downloaded an app to their phones called Red Alert Israel, which rings whenever there is an air raid siren anywhere in the country.  For the first few days of this, I had to run to my computer every 5 seconds the thing rang to see where the alert was.  I quickly went mad.  If something happens that I need to know about, someone will tell me.  It doesn’t help the residents of Ashdod or Kiryat Malachi or wherever, that I know they are running to their shelters at the precise moment they are running there.  Likewise, if you stay off of Facebook because it makes you feel like shite, the only thing that will happen is you feeling happier and having more time to accomplish things.
  10. Have faith.  The moments when I begin to lose hope that there is a solution here, I start slipping into the abyss.  I made the conscious decision that I will NOT give up hope.  I have a few phrases and psalms that I repeat when I start to feel hopeless.  They remind me that my life is tiny in the scheme of things and my people have endured through thousands of years of relentless hatred and persecution. Everything will somehow be OK.  You don’t have to know HOW, just believe it will be.
  11. Volunteer.  One of the best things you can do to stop feeling sorry for yourself, is to focus your attention on someone who needs help.  Don’t just send money either because that negates the mood effect.  You have to actually offer of yourself, your time, your talents, your love, your comfort.  = Instant uplift.  Plus the world is a better place because of what you did.  Win win.

Disclaimer:  Depression isn’t monkey business, loves.  I am talking here about “the blues” not clinical Depression, which needs professional, medical treatment.  If you can’t get out of bed in the mornings, don’t want to wash, eat or dress, or cannot raise your spirits no matter what you do, PLEASE call your doctor and get help!

I am shutting off the ability to comment on this post.  I know some of you want to send me your support and I REALLY appreciate that, but I can’t take the chance of other sorts of comments.

To better days!

The Care and Feeding of Sports Injuries

So, I’ve been back in Israel for a few weeks now.  Upon returning home, I plunged right into writing my holiday recipe e-book.  I was also super busy with a wonderful round of new clients who all started up in the last few weeks.  

During this time, I have also written a number of blog posts.  They were all very eloquently, well-written versions of:

WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!  ARGH!!!!!!!!!!

I have been reluctant to hit “publish” on these posts because I felt crappy and discouraged and that is never fun to share.  But things are on the upswing and now I feel ready.  Plus, several of you have mentioned that, you too, need this post.

So here’s the deal:  After my last glowing post about my Vibrams, I must report a sad downturn of events.  The Plantar Fasciitis that I bought the Vibrams to cure, is not going to go down without a fight.  There was about a week there where I almost couldn’t walk, let alone run, and I have had to delay the official start of my race training until I heal.

Now, I am not a doctor or a physical therapist.  I’ve taken ONE college-level course in anatomy and I know the difference between quadriceps and biceps, but I claim no official medical knowledge.  None-the-less, I can tell you this:

DON’T.  TRAIN.   THROUGH.   INJURIES!

When you get hurt, you need to stop and rest.  Rub arnica into your sore spots, ice them down, get massaged by a professional, try foam rolling, and do other things in the meantime, such as swimming, yoga, spinning, walking… whatever does not aggravate your injury.  But most of all, be patient and wait.

I know it is an ugly suckfest to get derailed right when your train has begun forward momentum.  I know because I am super crabby about it myself.  But it happens and if you keep going, you will get really, really hurt and that’s when people start with the “running is bad for you” business.  It’s NOT bad for you if you listen to your body and don’t push through injury pain.

So, there’s the pain of injury but there is also the pain of plain old soreness.  Do you know how to tell the difference?  This is important, because that good old soreness responds best to MORE exercise, whereas injuries, as we said need to be rested.

Soreness can feel very painful, but if you try to exercise again, it will probably start to feel better.  If it doesn’t, it feels worse with exercise, or if the pain is very SHARP and localized, it might be a more serious injury.

Soreness is a “hurts so good” sort of pain.  It may make you whimper, but you’ll laugh while whimpering.  Injury, on the other hand, may make you weep and swear.

Here are some of the most common running injuries you may experience:

1.  Shin splints

I don’t know exactly what shin splits are but they hurt like the dickens.  If you have them, you will feel terrible pain anywhere along the top of your foot up your shins to your knees.  Once when I was running track in high school, I had such bad shin splints I had to stop and sit on the side of the road while the team ran on without me.  I don’t remember how I got home, but it wasn’t on my own two feet!

Shin splints are usually caused by over-training and they are especially common in new runners.  The cure is to stop running for awhile until they stop hurting.  There is also this cure I use myself (but remember I don’t know jack, so at your own risk, baby):

Sit on the edge of a chair.  Put your feet on the floor.  Now put your right foot on top of your left foot (pigeon-toed).  Push down hard with your right foot while pulling up hard with your left.  Repeat on the other side.  Do a couple of times to build up your shin strength.

2.)  Plantar Fasciitis

PF happens when the ligament on the bottom of your foot is too tight and tears every time your foot strikes.  The tear isn’t what hurts but the calcification that builds up around it hurts like an SOB.  This is felt as stabbing or throbbing heal pain, arch pain and sometimes ankle pain.  The classic symptom is not being able to walk to the bathroom first thing in the morning.  Yes, I have honestly crawled to the toilet and apparently I’m not the only one.  As the day progresses, the pain lessens, except after periods of sitting or inactivity.

PF is fickle.  It can come and stay, or appear suddenly and disappear just as quickly.  Current treatments involve custom orthotics, steroid injections, a boot to wear at nighttime, and some sort of laser or sonogram wave treatment.  I have never had any of these treatments.  I get PF and I stop running.  It goes away and sometimes doesn’t come back for years.

But I can tell you that if your arches are low or flat, or your calves or hamstrings are very tight, you MUST spend a good amount of time stretching the bottom of your feet, calves and hamstrings.  Down dog pose in yoga is a good one, as is that runner’s stretch where you lean against the wall and stretch your calves out behind you.

 3.)  Knee pain

There are so many causes of knee pain, I’m afraid I can’t offer much help here.  Your best bet is to ice sore knees, rub them down with arnica, take ibuprofin, and if the pain persists, get to your doctor.  

It’s always a good idea to make sure the muscles surrounding your knee are strong and balanced.  That takes quite a bit of strain off the knee itself.  Consult a personal trainer or physical therapist if you are not sure how to strengthen these muscles.

4.)  Other foot pain

Some foot pain can indicate a stress fracture.  If it doesn’t get better, see the doc and get an xray.

5.)  Hip pain and back pain

This can be anything from alignment issues, poor strength levels, muscle strains, or arthritis.  Doctor, doctor, doctor…

For all of these injuries, athletic taping can be a real lifesaver.  But again, you need a pro to show you how to tape, so don’t be shy to get help.

Overall, exercise should feel good.  Yes, there will be soreness and pain as you push your physical limits, but you really must not live in denial about being injured.  Err on the side of caution and treat pain before it ends up being something seriously wrong.

This is one of my favorite quotes about exercise.  It’s by former Ironman (and Vegan Ironman, at that!) Brendan Brazier, from his book Thrive:

Training is really nothing more than taking advantage of our body’s ability to heal itself.  When faced with post-exertion muscle damage, the body will surmise that it must grow stronger to perform the task more effectively next time it is called upon.  Really, the body is taking the easy way out;  it’s easier for it to grow stronger now to reduce strain placed on it next time it must perform.  Little does the body know, as soon as it demonstrates its improved strength, more demand will soon be placed upon it.

Motivation by Lentil Loaf

If you are on my mailing list, you already know that last night I sent out a newsletter that contained some very personal and painful details of my own health history.  I sat on that email for three days, hand hovering alternately over the “send” and “delete” buttons.

In the end, what pushed me to “send” was a conversation I had with someone about the death at age 29 of Blair River, weight 575 lbs, spokesperson for the Arizona restaurant The Heart Attack Grill.  Yes, that is the name of a real restaurant and you can read about it HERE.  The conversation went along the lines of “well, I could get hit by a bus and die tomorrow, so I’m going to at least enjoy my life while I can.” And by “enjoy my life” this person meant:

Eat whatever I want and not exercise.

Boy, that rattled my cage.  So my newsletter was an impassioned response to that.  It basically pointed out that being overweight and out-of-shape and “eating whatever I want” was the worst sort of existence I have ever experienced and I detailed all the gory points of it.

It garnered a lot of responses.  Many folks wrote expressing love and admiration.  Some told me it inspired them and got them thinking.  One person said she hates me and I should never email her again (not kidding). Another unsubscribed from my mailing list.

But a few wrote variations of the following (not a direct quote from any one person):  Emily, it is understandable that because you were suffering so much, it was a no-brainer for you to want to change your life.  But really I am just a little overweight or not overweight at all, and it doesn’t bother me so much.  My cholesterol is just a little high.  My blood sugar has risen steadily each year, but it’s still OK.  I am not so uncomfortable and therefore, just can’t find the motivation to do anything about it.

Yes, I understand that.  But here’s the thing.  I didn’t realize how much of the suffering I had back then had anything to do with my weight or my eating habits either.  I knew I was obese, but had no idea my wild mood swings, cracked heels, or chronic heartburn had anything to do with what I was eating.

Only when I started eating better and exercising did I look back and say “Wow!  I had no idea how GREAT I could feel!”

So, maybe it is a leap of faith for you now, but let me tell you, how you will feel on healthy food and regular exercise is FRICKIN FRACKEN ROCK THE CASBAH AWESOME!  All those little aches and pains and random annoying things you are just kind of living with will go away.  If you have done my 30-day detox, you will know how different just 30 days can make (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for??)

So yeah, know what?  You can feel that good

All.  The.  Time.

OK, now go make some lentil loaf.  Because it is delicious and astonishingly healthy and will help you get to Awesome.

 

PS: If you are not yet on my mailing list and would like to see what all the hub-bub is about, then go HERE and fill in the form for the free starter kit.  You get put on the newsletter mailing list that way and yes, obviously you can unsubscribe when I offend you.

The following recipe is from ohsheglows with minor modifications.

lentil loaf

Lentil Walnut Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 3 TBS ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1/3 of an apple, peeled, grated (makes 1/3 cup grated apple)
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup regular oats, ground into a flour in the food processor
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 3 slices of toasted whole wheat or spelt bread, ground into breadcrumbs (3/4 cup total)

 

Sweet Glaze

  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp apple sauce

Directions:

Cook lentils:  In a medium sized pot, add the lentils and 3 cups of water or stock.  Bring to boil, and reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 40 minutes). Once the lentils are cooked, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 160C and line a loaf pan with parchment so that parchment paper hangs over the edges by 2 inches.

Walnuts: Toast 3/4 cup of walnuts at 160C for about 6 minutes and then set aside to cool.

Flax egg: Mix 3 tbsp of ground flax with 1/2 cup warm water and stir well. Set aside for at least 5-10 minutes so it can gel up.

Prepare vegetable mixture: In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion and minced garlic for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat, being careful not to burn. After the onions are tender, add carrot and sauté for 2-3 minutes over low heat. Add grated apple, raisins, and chopped walnuts and sauté another minute or two.  Add thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

Process 75% of lentils and Mix everything together: Once the lentils are cooled, take 75% of the lentils and place into food processor. Process until mostly smooth. Plop processed lentils and whole lentils into a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, flax egg, veggie mixture, oat flour, and ground flax seed. Stir well with a spoon and then remove the spoon and mix well with your hands, pressing it through your fingers. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Dump the mixture into your loaf pan and spread out with a spoon. Press it firmly and evenly into the pan.

Preparing Glaze:  In small bowl combine all glaze ingredients.  Spread evenly over loaf and bake, uncovered 45 minutes at 160C.

 

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Why Run?

Girls Running

I am the type of person who thinks of snappy comebacks 3 days too late.  So, true to form, when a few nights ago someone jokingly asked me why anyone would want to run a half-marathon, I had no good answer.  Now I do.

Let me just say that I know that the wife of the person who asked me “why run” is reading this.  I know he did not ask in a mean way and I do not mean to offend by my answer.  That said, the Question Asker is a doctor who works in the hospital for pete’s sake putting destroyed bodies back together.  You would think that if anyone understood “why run?” it would be the person who sees first-hand the horrible results of not running.

One day a few weeks ago I ran past a school that was out on recess.  Some little girls were sitting by the fence and one called out to me “Why are you running?” and in a stroke of uncharacteristically quick wit I called back “Because there is a monster chasing me!”  She laughed of course, but secretly I did not really mean it as a joke.  I do feel like there is a Monster chasing me and I have been out-running the fat mother f-er for 9 years now.  His name is Diabetes.  His gangasta name is Big D-bete.

I run for my life quite literally and a doctor should know that and applaud it.  I run so I won’t show up with valves and by-passes in his hospital.  I run because Big D-bete has this dialysis machine straight out of a horror movie and he is not afraid to use it.

I run also because it makes me feel good and I run RACES because they give me a training guideline and something to look forward to.

In a past post here, I listed the reasons why I exercise and those certainly apply to running as well.  But running is different from all other exercise and so often I hear people say “I could NEVER run” or “I am not a runner” or “I do not have a runner’s body.” and I say (3 days too late) “Are you a human? Because if you are, then you are a runner.”  Humans run.  We always have run.  And were it not for modern technology (that has admittedly saved us time and given us years), we would still be running.

Kids run.  They never walk.  Parents yell after them “Slow down! Walk, don’t Run!  No Running!”  Why do we say that?  Why don’t we run with them?  When did we stop running, anyway?  How old were we when we decided to walk not run?

The ability to run is inside all of us.  It is the most natural movement there is.  Well, except for that other natural movement we all seem to instinctively know how to do, winkity, wink. You don’t need any equipment.  You don’t need special time or special weather.  It can be done anywhere, anyhow, anyway.  If you can walk, then you can run.

Let’s not forget.  It’s called The Human Race for a reason:

Should your doctor tell you you’re fat?

In a recent study by STOP (Strategies to Overcome and Prevent) Obesity Alliance, regarding doctors and weight loss, it was revealed that:

-Almost 90% of doctors feel it’s their responsibility to help patients lose weight.

-Yet 72% said that no one in their practice has been trained to deal with obesity and weight-related issues.

When surveying patients, including many who were obese (defined as body mass index of 30 or more), they found that:

-Only 39 percent of obese adults were EVER TOLD by their doctor that they were obese.

-Of those 39 percent, one in three said they weren’t given any guidance on how to actually lose weight.

The report cites “clinical inertia” as the reason beneath the disconnect here and suggests doctors suffer from the following:

-stigmatizing attitudes toward the obese,
-a lack of confidence in their ability to treat obesity, and
-poor reimbursement for addressing obesity and weight conditions.

My personal experience: I used to weigh 220lbs. I had diabetes. I was in my 30’s. No doctor EVER said a single word to me about losing weight! It was like the giant pink elephant in the room. Only when I ASKED for help with my weight was I given either a referral to a dietitian or a weight loss DRUG. No help with food, with lifestyle, with exercise, nada.

As the study above showed, doctors have pretty good reasons for their silence. Doctors are healers and they are great at healing disease. But here we have Obesity, an entirely reversible condition that causes disease and poor quality life. This is Prevention and we can’t rely on our doctors to help us with this one.

I got a call the other day from someone who had gotten my name from a nurse in the hospital where her husband was being treated for a heart attack. The nurse told her that I could help her husband. I explained how I could teach them about healthier foods and how to incorporate them into their life along with a healthy exercise routine. She said “Oh no. My husband won’t do any of that! Can’t you just give him a Pill?” Cripes! Her husband just had a heart attack and was still not motivated to make changes to his lifestyle?

So, it’s not just the doctor’s fault is it? How many of us are just wishing for the magic pill to take our overweight away? How many of us would become angry with our doctors if they started to teach us about healthy food and exercise?

What do you guys think?

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