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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘healthy decisions

Other Examples

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As long as I’m on the subject of sticktoitiveness, there are two other examples in my life that have slowly rewarded me for staying the course day after day, in one case, for years.

When I finally took action to address an addiction to sugar which manifested in cravings that controlled my decisions, I had no idea what lay ahead for me. I had previously experimented with simply cutting out desserts and cookies or candy treats for a random period of weeks, just to see if I could, but I neglected to account for the amount of sugar I was getting from other sources.

My cravings for breads and cereals would ramp up to impressive levels, and I would allow myself those compromises.

After learning more about where I was getting most of the sugar in my diet, and discovering the actual measurement of sugar recommended by the World Health Organization for percentage of daily calories, I set out to control it by watching the numbers.

That made a big difference. First of all, it showed me how physically addicted my body, and mind, had become. I experienced withdrawal symptoms that included headaches, dizziness, nausea, and tremors, not because I cut out sugar completely, but simply by strictly limiting the amount of sugar in the food I was eating.

It has taken me years at the rate I am working it (because I waver with my level of strictness), but self-control slowly improved to a point where it hardly takes mental energy to employ anymore. Most importantly, I am not just doing this for a period of weeks. This is forever. I always measure how much cereal I eat, and I always check serving size information to figure out how much sugar there is.

A more recent adventure in every day tenacity that I am watching produce slow results is, my daily planking exercises. When I started back in the last week of March, I decided to see what results I might achieve if I did the exercises my physical therapist recommended for the entire month of April. These were focused on strengthening my core to treat the painful symptoms of degenerating discs.

It is really helpful to not be constrained by debilitating pain when doing daily chores to care for our animals.

Thirty consecutive days of planking in April established enough of a pattern that I found it easy enough to keep going through May. Then two months became four, and in a blink, I’ve made it eight months of pretty regular planking. In that time I have slowly gained enough strength that I have modified my methods to match.

The current plank that is my primary exercise is four minutes long, starting with a minute and a half of a basic horizontal planking, then 45 seconds of lifting an opposite arm and leg for a two-point plank, 45 more seconds with the other arm and leg, and then finishing with a final minute of the basic plank again.

There are other leg exercises and some yoga stretches that get mixed in after the planking, depending on how much time I have to spend, but the planking is key.

Between these two daily efforts of healthy controlled-sugar diet and regular exercise, practiced over months and years, my physical health is in better shape than most of my previous adult life.

That is providing plenty of incentive for me to stick to this indefinitely.

Maybe the fact that these steps are not a quick fix, makes the positive results that much more satisfying. It definitely provides a welcome bonus of boosting my mental health, as well.

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Surviving Halloween

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Today is the first day of November, so that means last night was candy-stravaganza! It also means the next week or so will consist of people trying to unload leftover treats.

All holidays are challenging for those of us striving to conquer cravings for sweets, but Halloween is particularly ominous. There tends to be an overwhelming amount of bite-size treats in seductively colored wrappers well within reach at every turn.

I have been enjoying uncharacteristic success with my self-control in the days leading up to last night. I celebrated by raiding Cyndie’s secret stash of Reese’s Peanutbutter Cups hidden in a drawer. I ate exactly one and was just fine with that.

I think I’m getting the hang of this routine. The longer I go without consuming more sugar than is healthy each day, the less my body craves.

On the way to the airport on Tuesday morning, I mentioned that I would be home alone on Halloween and Cyndie told me where I could find candy if anyone decided to venture up our long driveway and knock on the door. No one did.

In the six years we have been here, we have received a total of two visits on Halloween night. Both were by the same family that lives around the corner –a couple of miles away– on two successive years. It’s the only time we have ever talked with them.

I’m guessing their son is old enough now that he doesn’t want to be dragged to all these strangers houses by his parents, just to listen to them gab for 20 minutes at each stop. It wasn’t as much trick or treating as it was social networking.

Now, after the sun comes up, if there is no toilet paper hanging in our tree branches, and no egg stains on any of our structures, that will be the true, full measure of surviving Halloween.

The next thing I need to do is survive the days after. In the end, that’s possibly the bigger challenge.

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Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2018 at 6:00 am

Passenger Pilot

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It occurred to me two days ago how split I feel between being the pilot who directs the activity of my body and a passenger riding along for whatever happens next. Whether it’s a virus that pays a visit or an emotion that elicits a response, there is a constant balance of submission and control.

johnhsgradyoungjacksonbrownersmagWhen I was younger, I wanted to have straight long hair that would fall around my face the way Jackson Browne’s did. My hair style involved inherent waves. I worked desperately to battle my natural flip that keenly mimicked the classic women’s hairstyle of the ’60s.

Achieving 6 foot height was not in the cards for me, either. These things were not in my control. I’m a passenger to the genes determining such features.

At the same time, in the role of pilot, I was making decisions (and learning from my mistakes) on who I wanted to be and how I wanted to behave. I get to choose how I react to the world around me and decide whether I want to make healthy decisions for this body, or not.

It gets tricky at times, because there are a lot of mind/body interactions that happen unconsciously, plenty of it at a cellular level, in the areas of transition between the two perspectives of pilot and passenger. We have the freedom to choose how self-aware we are going to be. Some people think it serves them just fine to be willfully inattentive, even though they often grumble about the eventual outcomes that result.

I struggle to comprehend why our minds so easily overlook information and evidence that indicate negative consequences for our choices or behaviors. Why isn’t there a stronger drive to improve ourselves at every opportunity? It should be an integral part of our survival instinct.

Why would either the pilot or the passenger choose to settle for less than the best?

In time, I figured out a way to stop fighting my hair and instead let it do what it wants to naturally do. It curls. I even took it to the extreme for a while and dreadlocked it. I have yet to perfect the part where I choose not to settle for something less than optimal health —mind, body, & soul. There remain some days when I give in and allow myself to pay no heed to the healthiest choice.

For me, the secret to getting away with that is an intentional effort to ensure those are only temporary lapses. I need for more days than not to involve me getting off my butt and navigating down the center line of my healthy highway.

I think I’d also like to keep relearning how to integrate the two extremes of pilot and passenger that reside within me every day.

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Written by johnwhays

November 30, 2016 at 7:00 am