Our incredibly reactive bodies

If discussions about weight trigger you, don’t read this. “Text Me When You Get Home” is  a good read. Try that instead.

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Body fat increases during the adult years, particularly visceral fat. It’s a gradual process and easy not to notice because often weight stays constant as fat overtakes muscle. It’s not all bad. The extra fat provides reserve energy. It helps us recover after an illness or surgery and keeps us warm in cold weather and cushions falls. It’s also where we store a reserve of vitamins and minerals.

I read this in one of my nutrition books and found myself nodding along. It’s true. One day I was a slim 20-something. The next thing I knew, I was standing on the scale at the doctor’s office wondering how I’d put on 25 pounds since my high school graduation without noticing.

It creeps up on us. Just like a coffee habit, amIright? It starts with the occasional latte run. Then it becomes a cup every morning. Then two. Then one afternoon you open your eyes and see a latte sitting on your desk. When did this happen that I started drinking coffee all day?

Same with my weight gain. Even though I’ve only lived in a house with a scale for the last year and a half, I actually do know how I put on that weight. When I graduated from high school, I was around 115 pounds. That’s the low end of a normal BMI for my height, but to me it looked too thin. Through my 20s, I maintained a weight I was happy with – in the region of 125.

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Suddenly these pants fit again! (no children were kicked in the gut in the taking of this photo)

When I moved to Seattle from New York and took a work from home job, I started gaining weight. I was working out 3-4 mornings per week plus some fun active weekend activities like hiking and paddleboarding. The morning workouts left me hungry. I’d usually eat a small breakfast (like a banana) before my workout, then eat a bigger breakfast (oatmeal or eggs) when I got home. I’d usually want lunch around 11. There were always snacks nearby. That’s when I started buying pants a size up.

One thing I’m realizing, though, is that this can also act in the reverse. On a nice day in March, I decided to go for a run outside. I took off the 2.5 kilometers to the lake. Usually I’d do this, meet a friend for a walk around the lake then run home. Or I’d stop, look at the lake, then make the reverse trip for about 5K. This day, though, I didn’t feel ready to head home, so I took the nearly 5K lap around the lake before heading home for a total of 9.7K! Granted I walked up most of the hills on the way home, but still. I didn’t know I could run that far. In part because most of my winter running is done on a treadmill and I get dreadfully bored around 2K. Sometimes I’ll tough it out to 5K. Max!

I was amazed that my body had gradually adapted without me even noticing.

I’ve also been weight training for the last two years or so, which made a difference. The scale told me my weight went up, but those pants that I’d relegated to the back of the closet suddenly buttoned up comfortably again. It also helps that I now work away from home, at a company with a good salad bar available for lunch. I feel stronger and healthier than ever.

I like the small changes approach to preventing obesity. Small lifestyle changes can reduce weight gain and are also easier to fit into our lives.

Creating a 200-calorie deficit per day can improve metabolic rate and doesn’t increase hunger1, which means you might not even notice until those extra pounds gradually roll off. Some simple swaps include trading an apple pie dessert for some apple sauce.  For a 150-pound person, a 30-minute walk can burn 105 calories.2

3,500 calories make up a pound of fat, so a combination of diet swaps and increased physical activity that adds up to a 500-calorie deficit can lead to losing a pound per week.  But remember, nothing has to be all or nothing. Starting by reducing 100 calories per day is totally respectable and will improve health.

As one trainer once told me, “it’s not going to get any easier next year, so you might as well start now.”

  1. Hills AP, Byrne NM, Lindstrom R, Hill JO. Small Changes’ to Diet and Physical Activity Behaviors for Weight Management. Obes Facts 2013;6:228-238
  2. Zied E. Losing 10 Pounds: Small Changes In Diet Can Mean Big Health Benefits. Envir Nutr. 2002;1. http://link.galegroup.com.une.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/A83677808/ITOF?u=bidd97564&sid=ITOF&xid=c97949c1. Accessed 12 May 2018.
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Falling back

Look who’s back!

After a couple of years on hiatus, I decided I have a new Living Life Big story to tell. This is the story of Candace getting healthier and living life to the fullest. It feels appropriate to start documenting my journey today. When daylight saving time ends and it feels dark all the time in Seattle.

I was having an especially difficult time saying goodbye to the summer months this year. No number of pumpkin muffins or cozy hoodies was going to be enough for me to be happy about 4:45 p.m. sunsets, piling on layers to leave the house, and the frizzy hair that comes with the chillier months. I was enjoying my summer dresses, paddleboarding after work, stepping outside without 10 minutes of prep work.

The culture in Seattle is that we don’t want to waste a minute of the precious summer sun. Sometimes that means feeling guilty for working out in the gym or binging on the latest Netflix offering when it’s lovely out. That’s what the dark months are for after all.

Well, in the spirit of optimism and embracing Pacific Standard Time, I’m documenting the healthy ways I’ll recover from the summer busyness.

  1. Writing. I’ve committed to my version of NaNoWriMo, which is to work on my book project(s) 4 days a week. (+ look at me, blogging again!)
  2. Taking the workout indoors. I have a gym membership, live-in workout buddy, and personal trainer. Let’s reach some goals!
  3. Taking a class or lots of classes. Have you guys used Coursera? I’m obsessed. You can take basically any class you want at actual, accredited universities. Do the assignments, take the tests and earn yourself a certificate, or don’t. Sometimes I just like to listen to the lectures. Either way is a win!
  4. Cooking. OK, I score myself a B in cooking. I do it regularly, but some nights it’s a frozen thing from Trader Joe’s or cheese and crackers for dinner. We can do better.
  5. Reading or listening to stories. I love stories. I crave a good story. I recently treated myself to a Texture subscription. For $10 per month, I can read pretty much any magazine I want. If you know me, you know I love magazines. When I moved in, Nick was surprised at how many glossies found their way into our mailbox. I’ve since switched to digital subscriptions I read on my iPad. I have books and podcasts on my reading list as well. Ahhh! I’m excited already.
  6. Knitting a blanket. Yeah, I do that sometimes. I’m working on my third.
  7. Doing for others. I’ll probably hit you up to contribute to a drive for gifts for teens. I’d also like to volunteer for a campaign. (Elizabeth Warren, what do you need? I’ll do anything for you! Readers, please follow that link and donate to her. Thanks!)
  8. Spending time with loved ones. Let’s go for coffee, talk about your hopes and dreams, see a movie, make soup together, or try curling.

Workout inspiration

A couple years ago, my then-winter boo and I were hanging out at his place — as winter boos do on an especially cold winter evening. Snuggling on the couch, we started watching “The Biggest Loser.” I got so into the show that when he fell asleep, I found more episodes on demand and kept watching. When he woke up, I had tears streaming down my face.

I love watching people committed to changing their lives. The contestants are so dedicated to making a change that they spend weeks away from home and push themselves to their limits every day. I find myself cheering them on and celebrating their accomplishments. I’m disappointed when they are disappointed.

I consider myself really lucky that I never struggled with my weight, but I certainly know what it’s like to wake up and realize what I am doing isn’t working and I need a change. But extreme weight loss makes for better TV than someone chatting it up with a life coach.

In any case, cheers to everyone who did the work. It’s so worth it. And so inspiring to watch. How can I, a healthy, fit individual, sit on the sofa while others are struggling to flip tractor tires at the ranch? With that, I’ll go for a run.

Sharing time

For me, the last four months have been made up of high highs and low lows. I find myself incredibly grateful for the little things:

– Card games with Grandma (even if I’m too old for her to let me win now)
– The fact that both my parents are still kicking
– That I found a job so quickly after getting laid off
– My physical and emotional health
– The wonderful people who are either geographically close or connected via the wwws

Once again, I’m inspired by Nora over at My Husband’s Tumor, who is sharing her abundance with people on the Internet. She links to several worthy recipients who need a little assistance from the people of the world. I followed Nora’s lead and donated to several of them in gratitude for my own blessings, and to show that strangers are supporting and cheering their fights.

I hope you’ll all consider sharing your own extra with people who could really use it. If you can’t at this time, I get it. I’ve been there. No shame in taking care of you.

An inspiring example of living life

I’m so inspired by this woman and her late husband. I’m also proud to be (distantly) related to her. Here’s the synopsis: Nora’s then-boyfriend was diagnosed with a brain tumor. An eternally positive person, he says he can handle it. They married anyway, had a baby, lived life. This year, she not only lost her husband, but also their unborn baby and her father. She shared her story in an honest, vulnerable, humorous way. She didn’t pretend to be superwoman. She admitted her fears and shortcomings. We can all learn from Aaron’s “it’s all going to be OK attitude and Nora’s humor and strength.

I also loved how they just had faith. They didn’t let the diagnosis or inevitable medical bills stop them. They went to shows. They had a child. They lived, believing everything would be OK. Not that Aaron would miraculously overcome the tumor, but that whatever happened, they’d be OK.

I found it all inspiring. In part because I struggle to trust. I have had a great history of things working out. My move back to Seattle was no small feat for the universe to pull off, but man, did it deliver. So I have no reason not to trust. I have all sorts of reason to trust. So I’ll read Aaron & Nora’s “love story with some cancer” and remind myself to live and trust.

Some links:
Aaron’s obituary, which went viral. He hilariously claimed to be Spider-Man.

They didn’t fear death. That’s living life big and truly inspiring.

Read more of Nora’s fantastically written story here  and trust whatever happens, it’s going to be OK.

Big ups to my other distant cousin, Nicole for sharing the story.

I’ll take care of it, thanks.

I spent much of the day looking into what Millennials want (I know. Welcome to marketing.) I was surprised about how by-the-book Millennial I am. Pretty much every bullet described me.

While it wasn’t groundbreaking research I did, I combined it with my working knowledge of psychology and human behavior and found it all fascinating.

Most notably, Millennials are distrustful of institutions and want to take care of it themselves. Millennials trust the opinions of people they know personally. I guess this explains why our Facebook friends are always crowd sourcing (can you recommend a florist? What brand of diapers did you use?)

I completely agree with this. The recession took a toll on us (and I’m on the old side of the Millennial spectrum). We don’t trust our employers to give a shit about us. Why would we? Many Millennials struggle or struggled to find a first job and moved home after college. Those of us who were employed before the markets tanked either were laid off ourselves or watched our parents, friends and co-workers struggle with long periods of unemployment or underemployment.

We learned to fend for ourselves. Any period of time in which I’m receiving a steady paycheck, I consider it a blessing or a bonus. I keep freelancing because I need to count on me therefore I need to be versatile. Keep all possible fires burning because I know no retirement fairy is coming to hide money in my mattress at night. (Full disclosure, I do work with two teams of financial advisers, but I’m involved.)

Similarly, I know it’s up to me to take care of my health. I don’t necessarily believe doctors know my body better than I do. My doctors, trainers and advisers are part of my team, but ultimately it’s up to me to take care of me.

And pretty much everything else. I don’t want a travel agent planning my vacation, a politician deciding what I’m allowed to do or an executive deciding what I watch on TV or when. I didn’t even like send-out laundry when I was in New York!

How do you feel? Do you trust people to do the job for you or would you rather take care of it yourself?

This is a no-stress zone

I’ve been so stressed this week. Like, sick-to-my-stomach, I’ve-developed-a-rash stressed. Why? Oh, I just quit my job, my boss was in town (he’s a good boss, for the record) during another intense news cycle while the how-tos of my job change daily (sometimes hourly), so I constantly wonder if I’m doing things right or if I missed some email, telling me the sky is now yellow, and I am now the photo editor, not the content editor. I struggled through some freelance writing and to finish a class project on time. I’m moving in two weeks (!) and more.

So, I declared it stress-free week. Obviously I still have to do my job well, but anything I can let go, I’m letting go and doing what I love instead. And there’s so much I love. Want to know what’s making me happy right now?

  1. All the well wishes I received when I went public with news I’m moving.
  2. The show, “Welcome to Sweden.” Have you seen it? I’m a bit obsessed with the country of my heritage – and the people remind me a lot of Minnesotans.
  3. Kangoo. Last night, I just felt like bouncing, so I went to Kangoo. I walked in 5 minutes late and didn’t care one bit. When the teacher saw me, she ran back and got me my size. She knows me so well. (PS does anyone know of Kangoo classes in Seattle?)
  4. Yoga retreat with Liz or the amazing Kristin. Seriously, listen to her talk for 2 minutes and you’ll be all “ahhh!”
  5. Magazines. I bought a ton as research for the Women’s Magazine Writing class I’m taking. I have always loved the glossies.
  6. My amazing friends who offer help before I even ask. Pam told me I could ship boxes to her house, and she’d hold onto them for me. Tara listens to my ridiculous rambles and helps me see things differently all the time. I’m so glad I have them in my life.
  7. My friend Betsy is having a baby girl! I can’t wait to hold her and read her stories. Does she like “Madeline,” Betsy?
  8. Writing my blog, other people’s blogs, articles for class, whatever. Makes me happy. I really can’t wait to do more of my freelance projects.
  9. My urgent care bill was $100 less than I expected! Always good news, right? (Think I can get it reduced further since it was a misdiagnosis?)
  10. Trader Joe’s sells stuffed grape leaves. Have you had? I eat them for dinner sometimes (OK, often).

Brain time

As I’m prone to do, I once again jam-packed my commitments for the month. In addition to working full time, taking a class my meeting my fitness goals and living life, I took on a couple freelance projects and just for fun, decided to move far, far from New York.

So, I feel like I really need to maximize every hour of my day. But I recently learned a trick that’s leaving me feeling content and capable of finishing all I need to do.

Napping.

For real! I had been coming home from work, forcing myself to start on some writing until time for whatever gym class I scheduled or meet whichever friend I made plans with. That was no good. I wasn’t giving anything my all, or I was feeling burnt out, so I didn’t want to do anything.

I read this article all about sleep and how it restores our brain. (If I can find the article, I’ll post a link to it. No such luck yet.) The most interesting fact I pulled out was that the brain prioritizes whatever we were doing last. If you’re in school and are cramming for a midterm, take a quick rest after studying but before your test to perform at your maximum.

I’ve really found this working for my noggin. Today after work, I laid down I could feel my brain sorting out boxes of content from the AP, Reuters, HuffPo and others. I woke up about 20 minutes later (I’m really good at the power nap timing), and I felt like I let all that work stuff go. I was ready to focus on the next thing.

Prior to my discovery, I was forcing myself to work on the next thing, then getting frustrated because it just wasn’t coming together.

Adios, frustration!

Work it

Years ago, my aunt, the massage therapist, told me that your muscles are like Play-Doh. When they’re not worked, they get stiff. If you start massaging them and moving them, they become soft and pliable again.

I have a desk job, which makes it really hard not to get stiff. I make a point of walking to the kitchen or bathroom (each trip is 250+ steps round trip). I also go to the gym or workout about four times a week. On days I don’t hit the gym, I like to compensate with extra walking. I like to end the work week with a Friday night yoga class.

I just know my body and how it makes me feel. I also know how crabby I get when I haven’t gotten my move time in.

And I admit to typing this with a bag of peas on my lower back. I took a long break from running. I just decided I don’t like it that much, but three weeks ago, I started taking Run, Yogi, Run, a class at my gym that includes running intervals and yoga. I love the class! I feel so powerful after running the intervals.

Screenshot of "23 and 1/2 Hours" from Evans Health Lab
Screenshot of “23 and 1/2 Hours” from Evans Health Lab

I was very interested to see this headline on NPR today A YouTube Video Is Doctor’s Secret Weapon Against Back Pain and wanted to share it with you all.

Check out the 23.5 hours video. I found it amazing. Think of all you can do in 23.5 hours a day!

My super-trendy diet

“Candace, imagine if someone told you you could never eat your favorite food again. It would be hard, right?” my sweet former-co-worker once posed.

My cobbler-baking days.
My cobbler-baking days.

Debi was struggling to quit smoking, and I was struggling to understand why she wouldn’t just stop doing something she knew could kill her. But when she described it in terms of food, I got it. I remember standing there in the rain while Debi smoked, thinking about how much it would suck if someone told me I could never have pizza again.

Fast forward nine years and that’s what happened.

My doctor told me to cut out gluten and possibly dairy. Suddenly, all my favorite foods were in the forbidden zone: Pizza, cookies, beer, lattes.

I admit, I struggle as much as Debi did to stop smoking. It’s been a huge lifestyle shift for me. I no longer bring gluten or dairy (with the exception of yogurt, which my doctor said is OK) into my apartment.

  • Cereal is out, eggs and gluten-free waffles are in.
  • Oatmeal is out, steel-cut oats are in.
  • Granola bars are out, trail mix is in.
  • Cookies are out, fruit is in.
  • Sandwiches are out, salads are in.
  • Milk is out, almond milk is in.
  • Beer is out, wine is in.
  • Cheese is just out.

I cut out about 85 percent of the gluten and dairy I was previously consuming. I do make exceptions and get gluten or dairy when I’m out. For Maggie’s birthday last week, we got lobster rolls. I ate the bread. The other day, I was craving pizza. I ate a slice. This morning I got a latte and a blueberry muffin.

This isn’t something I’m doing for attention or because it’s fun or trendy. In fact, the opposite. This is not something I ever wanted to do. I know it’s good for me, but I don’t like it.

I like to think it’s my God-given right to eat wheat. I grew up in wheat-growing country. My grandfather was a baker. I grew up on delicious, flaky croissants.

Just last night on “The Mindy Project,” one of the guys made a crack about the girls he dates who all “talk about their gluten-free diets.” I hate being lumped in with the trend or being accused of “faking” a gluten allergy. For the record, I’ve never, ever claimed to have a gluten allergy. If I did, I wouldn’t cheat and get pizza because I’ve heard that makes your tummy hurt for days.

My problem is inflammation, which is the body attempting to protect itself from harmful stimuli, irritants and pathogens. The immune system response is a good thing if you have a cold, sprained ankle or pimple. But some bodies, like mine, go in overdrive. Inflammation can become inflamed.

Chronic inflammation can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression and allergies because the immune system constantly being in go-mode isn’t sustainable.

Thankfully, my case is mild and can be controlled without medication (or with medication, if I chose that route, which I did not.)

One of the best ways to fight the effects of inflammation is through diet, my doctor told me. That’s why she instructed me to give up gluten and dairy. She said ideally I’d also cut out coffee and alcohol. Again, I’ve cut both way down from my previous levels.

What would it be like for you, if someone said you could never have your favorite food again?

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