Vacay.

I’m on winter break until the first week of January as of today.  That is, as of the moment my group partner so graciously submitted our research project on ketogenic diets and Ironman competitors.

To be honest, it hasn’t sunk in yet that I have no responsibilities of the academic kind.

Just think, in exactly ONE YEAR I will be really done.  I can’t even imagine.

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The Truth.

A while back I was all into those Shakeology shakes.  I won’t lie.  They really were awesome, especially from a convenience standpoint.  However, I can’t say I was any healthier then compared to now because it’s just as easy for me to eat those “phytonutrients”  throughout the day the old fashioned way by preparing real meals.  My husband, on the other hand, is usually too “on the go” in the mornings because of his job so he likely benefited more from it.

But we had to give it up because it was getting too expensive.  I could no longer justify spending $200+ a month on that kind of convenience even though I would often opt for the easier choice if I could.  And I also couldn’t justify only allowing myself and my husband to drink these shakes when I knew I should be offering it to my children as well.  But $500+ for “complete nutrition” for the entire family?  It just wasn’t feasible.

A few weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and sold all my camera equipment.  I didn’t do this because they weren’t being used or because I lost my interest in photography.  I actually don’t have the free time to do anything creative because of school deadlines and the challenge of learning dance choreography for one of the classes I still teach at the gym.  But who’s to say I don’t pick up the camera for school dances and band concerts and other milestones.  I still do.  Or at least I did.

Let’s face it.  Until I finish grad school and start working full time, it’s slim pickins here.  It always has been, but lately I’ve been feeling the stress of it even more for a number of unfortunate events that I can’t discuss openly.

I wonder sometimes if I need to be more honest and open about my financial situation.  I hear people complain about being broke and not being able to afford things when I really don’t think they know how stressful it is to have financial insecurity or the uncertainty of finding gainful employment, all the while trying to keep an entire household afloat.  Precarious doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about money, although I think pride keeps me from talking about it.

I guess I am thinking about this now when I should be sleeping because a random person popped into my head today.  I remember when I realized she had blocked me on Facebook though now I can’t recall how long ago this was.  Last summer?  Last spring?  Who knows.  I’m guessing she did this because she didn’t appreciate my lack of support for her “business” which involves the promotion and selling of Shakeology and other Beachbody products.  I think I got too much into the “Public Health” mindset while learning about people who are truly struggling to make ends meet.  A $130/month/person nutrition supplement just seemed frivolous to me, even more so when I learned there was nothing more nutritionally magical about it than a salad.

But considering where I was financially, it truly was frivolous.  Perhaps I should have just told her, point blank:  Look, I can’t buy this product because that is money that needs to be spent on basic needs, like food, clothing, and gas for my car.  I guess at this point it doesn’t matter any longer and the fact that I’m giving her this much thought at 1:30 in the morning probably means that I actually did care about our friendship a little.  It’s sad to think that even if I was more open about my financial situation, she probably wouldn’t  have given me the empathy that one would expect from a friend.  Especially one who constantly promotes herself to be super helpful and caring and all about empowering women.

Ah… but of course for people like her, such things are only for those who share the same agenda.  And I will end this with a note to self of what NOT to do when someone disagrees with me, challenges my beliefs, or just flat out tells me I am wrong.  Maybe there is an underlying reason why this person feels this way that has nothing to do with me.   Remember that.

Finding the why.

Ah, has it really been over a month since I last gave this blog any attention?  There have been some major adjustments to the dailiness of life, or liveliness of each day, or I guess I could just call it chaos, plain and simple.

First and foremost.  I learned a very important thing about myself.  I tend to plan things without a calendar in front of me.  Perhaps we can call this “organic planning” or “going with the flow”.  This leads to filling every (perceived) free spot with something to do, and usually this has nothing to do with vegging in front of the tv, or better yet – sleeping.  Add the busy schedules of two teenagers and a tween and the balance becomes quite precarious.

About mid-October I attended the first of eight sessions as part of my yoga teacher training, which admittedly was something I signed up for very last minute, after hearing about it from a fellow instructor.  Beyond the challenge of actually doing yoga again (who knew that dancing would create tighter muscles than running), we focused extensively on the attitude behind yoga.  Okay, maybe attitude isn’t the right word for most people…. but for the monster bitch I have evolved into over the past couple of years, it definitely applies.  I realized that if I were to continue down the same path, the health assessment numbers I take so much pride in (you should see my triglycerides – they are shockingly stellar!), it will all mean nothing if I’ve let myself be so overcome with stress that the entire family hates me and I have no friends.

Fact of the matter is, even though this really long journey of pre-requisites and graduate school has my priority since 2013, it isn’t everyone else’s priority, and I can’t expect everything to be all about me just because I’ve embarked on something that is life changing, challenging, and oftentimes overwhelming.  I started to make myself out to be the victim that no one respected and my self-pity was robbing me of finding happiness and contentment in just about everything, even in things that were supposed to feed my soul.  As a result, I forgot that I’ve been given an opportunity that isn’t available to everyone, and I was no longer enjoying this journey that I began with so much excitement, curiosity, and wonder.  I got into the mindset that I needed to hurry up and finish already so I could move on with my life and start making a real income.

Was that even the why behind this journey in the first place?  Um.  No.  I thought I wanted to help people lead healthier lives, which was why I’ve continued to teach group fitness classes for nearly a decade.  But now with all this knowledge and academics under my belt, I could widen my scope to populations beyond the marathon runners and gym rats, beyond the 9:15 a.m. Bodypump classes and weekend excursions with the run club.

After one month it seems that I’ve found a bit of clarity about the future simply by not allowing myself to worry about it too much.  I’ve let some things go (tutoring, for one) to alleviate stress and give me more much-needed family time.

There is still a great deal of uncertainty that can really cloud my mood if I let it, but at least I do know that one thing is for certain:  Everything will work out.

Catching my breath.

When you wake up not sure what day it is, I think that’s a sure sign you’re about to recover from a drunken stupor.  However, in my case it’s a sure sign that I’ve definitely overdone the piling of my plate.

Call me a glutton for punishment.  At the end of the day I actually think I love what I’m doing.  I don’t know how much I will love doing it once October 5 rolls around, at which time one more thing will be added to my plate, which may tip it over completely because it pertains directly to grad school.  However, right now I’m surviving.

So I decided to take a job as a tutor at a nearby college.  This is where I had completed all my science prerequisites for grad school.  This is where I also, somewhat on a whim, decided to enroll into the culinary program because I figured it would give me something challenging yet not too science-y to do as I complete the last few quarters of grad school.  And it’s related to the whole nutrition/wellness/healthy interventions thing I’m hoping to focus on when I’m set free from academia.

My former Anatomy and Physiology professor caught wind of my presence on campus and the next thing I knew, I was hired as a peer tutor to lead guided study groups for her classes.  The first few weeks have been a bear, as I’m trying to get used to office dynamics (politics) while reacquainting myself with the human body.  I am a little surprised that it has all come back with relative ease.

However, I’m still trying to figure out the office dynamics part, which will likely never happen because unlike the “me” of my 20s when I cared about what people think, the “me” of my 40s doesn’t really care.  Or really, I probably just don’t have time.  Along with A&P, I also do math drop ins, and I have a handful of appointments related to everything from Biomedical Terminology to Developmental Psychology.  Granted, I do think the drop ins and appointments have more to do with showing students study techniques and ways they can organize the giant heap of information they have to learn.  At least I hope so because I don’t have that much brain capacity.

In addition to all of this, I was unexpectedly hired to teach Bodypump at a nearby gym, an opportunity I jumped at immediately because in all my 9+ years of teaching group fitness classes, I have never taught any Les Mills program within such close proximity to my house.  The only problem is, the times they need me conflict with the tutoring gig, except for every other Saturday.  I’ll take it.

So in a nutshell, this is my current laundry list.  And I am only writing this all out to remind myself to not do this ever again:

  1. Grad school (online/independent study)- Advanced research study with children and weight perception/diabetes prevention.  With a group, thankfully.
  2. Tutoring – A&P guided study groups, math drop ins, appointments.
  3. Culinary Arts – Intro to Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management (online).
  4. Group Fitness – Bodypump and Bodyjam.  Nothing more.  Nope.  Just say NO.  Seriously.  Even though it’s fun and the participants are awesome.
  5. Marathon training – Chicago Marathon, 10/8.
  6. Grad school – Research Methods in Nutrition, begins 10/5.
  7. Parenting – which I am trying not to suck at.
  8. Oh yeah, ACSM personal training certification, which is totally on the back burner even though I’ve been “attending” (sleeping through) the weekly webinar.

Somewhere in the mix is my husband, injured so he hasn’t been running with me.  But he gladly does the laundry, makes me coffee, and carries all 200 pounds of textbooks, gym gear, and/or culinary tools out to the car for me, depending on where I’m heading off to.  Next semester that list will be reduced by more than 150%.  Seriously.

Some days deserve a rewrite.

Yesterday I wrote a post lamenting the end of a friendship.  Perhaps it was worth mourning at the time.  But now that I’ve had a day to ruminate on the matter, I realized it was ridiculous to dedicate any amount of time on something that really lost its value over time.  The tears she cried when I moved from North Carolina apparently were that of crocodiles.  She had also just given birth to her son so I’m sure hormones might have had something to do with it.

While I do think the time spent in North Carolina produced some life changing moments, I don’t think many real friendships were made.  Or perhaps I was a different person back then, newly divorced and deeply entrenched in a toxic codependent relationship.  The place had a lot of drama, which I left in exchange for even more drama in Illinois, I realized.  The most important takeaway from the drama years was that I don’t need an entourage of friends and weekends full of exciting things to do.  Peace and quite is definitely my preference.

So life goes on and I can’t really lament the time lost mourning a friendship that ended long before it became Facebook official.  I could have been doing a risk analysis of diabetes in DuPage County, which I will be scrambling to do today due to this time wasted.

Just like food that was burnt onto a frying pan, all it took to wash it down the sink was a quick overnight soak.  And voila, it’s all gone, ready to start anew.

Unfriended and Blocked. Oh my!

Today I discovered that an old friend decided to end our friendship.  Granted, in this day and age, this type of breakup is initiated by changing one’s Facebook relationship.  Sure you can Unfollow someone if you don’t want to Unfriend them.  It’s very passive-aggressive because (as far as I know) the offending friend doesn’t know about it, but even in real life face-to-face relationships, there are people we must tolerate but simply Unfollowing them just means I am not subjected to their ramblings on my Newsfeed.  It happened more often than I care to admit during and after the recent election, but sadly, now that everything has calmed down and (most of us) have resorted back to the usual snapshots of food, kittens, and gym memes, I cannot remember who I Unfollowed.  My Facebook Newsfeed probably consists of the same 5 people’s posts because of this.

But really, I should be too busy to care.  Facebook is an artificial means to be friends.  And I suppose that could mean that friendships that are maintained in such a way are actually pretty fake because most people only put forth what they want others to see.

Perhaps the “real” stuff is saved for actual real face-to-face interaction, but to me friendships are no longer taken that seriously because I never know who is sincere.  I realized when listening to gossip one day that I was probably once the main topic of discussion from this particular blabbermouth.  In the grand scheme of things I shouldn’t care because at this point in my mid-40’s, my life is an open book and guess what?  It’s not that interesting.  However, when your supposed best friend is going through a divorce, I don’t want to know the details of what is going on.  I’ve been there and it’s no one’s business, especially when you are the best friend who has been entrusted to listen and not tell the world.  Quite honestly, it’s about as heartless as gossiping about someone’s death, because that is what divorce is.  Death.

Anyway, in the artificial world of social media, Blocking someone is pretty serious.  Maybe I’m basing this on my own standards because I only block those who are truly offensive to me.  Even close friends who can sometimes be a bit off-color just get a quick scroll-through before I would even contemplate blocking them.  I think to myself: “Yeah sure, they’re behaving like an asshole at the moment.  But I’ve known them for X amount of years.  I value our history and know he/she is a good person because of A, B, and C.  This disagreement is not so huge that I would actually Block them.”

Well, I was either not that valuable of a friend or I behaved like such an asshole that I could no longer be tolerated.  I will go with the former, perhaps to pad my ego a bit because I won’t lie, my feelings are a little hurt.  Although, maybe this person was so used to me being sweet and agreeable that when a subject matter came up which I am passionate about forced me to take a stand and challenge her viewpoint, she was so taken aback by this that her only response was to drop me as a friend.  She made no real effort to actually engage.  Not that she had to.  But apparently I hit a nerve.  How dare I.

Good.

Oh well.  I really like the person I’m becoming.  If this ex-friend doesn’t recognize that (and she doesn’t… how could she when she is so consumed with her own thing), then she deserves to be a part of my not-that-interesting past rather than the craziness of the present and the celebration of things to come in the future.

Who is missing out?  Certainly not me.

From Point A to Point B

In my previous post I talked about the meandering line one often takes when trying to figure out solutions to health problems, rather than the linear reductionist approach which often leaves many stones unturned.  We cannot come to the conclusion that a single “thing” caused something to happen when we should also consider other factors that might play a role, many of which might not be very impactful by itself, but can be quite significant if many of these small, seemingly insignificant factors come into play at once.

Going with that meandering line theme, I mentioned to my sister today that diet trends are like that.  There are so many out on the market these days.  Not all are bad, though it really depends more on what sort of intervention an individual can incorporate more permanently so that the diet is a lifestyle change rather than just a quick fix.  They all start with Point A in which one wishes to lose weight, whether for aesthetic reasons or health reasons.  The hope is to get to Point B eventually.  Diets which are more restrictive tend to yield results more quickly, hence arriving at Point B with a much faster eta.

Whatever the case may be, obsessing over the path of Point A to Point B doesn’t do anyone any good.  With enough effort, we all get to Point B eventually, though I’m sure the vast majority of people would rather get there sooner than later.  However, more and more I’ve been seeing diet trends that are so damn complicated that I don’t know how most people can find the time to figure out how to incorporate it into their lives, especially when they work full time and have children to drive here, there, and everywhere.  This is because a common social determinant that negatively impacts people of all socioeconomic levels is lack of time, which I believe is a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.

Lack of time keeps us from devoting time to ourselves and our families.  It also prevents us from exercising more, hitting the fast food drive thru less, and further adds to the ever-accumulating stress that we can never seem to shake ourselves of because… we don’t have time.  It is already a challenge for some folks to gain affordable access to healthy food, what more to the added challenge of preparing these meals, then somehow making it to the gym or at the very least a brisk enough walk around the neighborhood to count for the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

So how about we make the path from Point A to Point B a little more scenic?  Take the time to incorporate healthy habits so that most of them stick, but even more important, take the time to learn about yourself so that you understand what sabotages your efforts and feel far less defeated when that happens because you know you have the ability to pick up where you left off and continue on.  There are always set backs in every journey, but if the end result is a better understanding of your own health, then it is a path of discovery that is definitely worthwhile.