About six weeks ago in my posting Going Raw- Part One, I wrote about the process I am going through to change from eating cooked foods to eating raw foods. This is all part of a bigger process that I have embarked upon in order to get as healthy as I can. The food area of my life is probably the last major bastion that I am attempting to overcome and, because it has its roots in my childhood, it is proving to be the most difficult.
However, there is another area of my life that I am addressing right now that is having a major impact on my health. This is in the area of exercise. Yes, I know, that’s a four letter word in my vocabulary too!!! I have been struggling with exercise for many years. Which is really annoying to have to admit when I remember being the athletic person that I was in school.
I played on my High School’s netball team (UK equivalent of basketball) in each year of school. In several of those years I was the team captain. I was fanatical about netball and just remembering it, I can feel my adrenaline level soaring. We played netball during the winter season, September through March, which meant we played twice a week as part of our class PE program and then the team would also practice once or twice a week after school. Matches were played on Saturdays.
After graduating from school I went on to a teacher’s training college, and sports and gymnastics continued to be part of the regular curriculum. During my second year of college I “went off the rails” and left to get married. A baby came along quickly and my new lifestyle was very alien to anything I had known up until then. Physical activities disappeared from my life.
Many years and a divorce later I attempted to return to some form of exercise. But I only hiccupped along in fits and starts. I tried aerobics but felt very clumsy and because I am not good at multi-tasking I simply did not have the coordination necessary. I tried working with a personal trainer but it proved to be too expensive, so I just gave up.
By now I had remarried and had another baby at age forty and had not been able to rid my body of the baby weight as I had when I was in my twenties. I think this was when I pretty much gave up on myself for a while and simply indulged in eating what I wanted. The weight slowly crept up. I remember pledging with myself that I would never allow myself to go over two hundred pounds. I sat at two hundred for a few years.
About fifteen years ago, while living in Naples, Italy, I met a wonderful yoga instructor and started practicing yoga with her. I loved the asana’s and working with the breathe. Moving slowly into and maintaining the poses under Meredith’s compassionate instruction, I began to feel somewhat reconnected with my body. “Sun salutations” became my passion along with the “fish” pose. My weight diminished some and I felt healthy for the first time in a long time.
Then in 2004 I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and, in hindsight, I realize that it took me about two to three years to make the big transition from my European culture to the American culture. My exercise pattern got lost in the shuffle for quite a while. Every once in a while I would make a half-hearted effort to implement a walking regime. I love being outside and walking puts me close to God’s creation which allows me to exercise my body and my soul. I also found a good Yoga studio and began going regularly again.
Then I had a shoulder problem. Had to quit yoga while I dealt with that and exercise got away from me again. Once the shoulder healed I finally pushed myself back into yoga but shortly after that I had a knee problem. Six months later I tried to get back into yoga again but found that it re-awakened the knee issue so quit. I tried walking again but the knee was just too much of a problem and, again, I found myself at that quitting-on-me stage.
One day at the beginning of this year I got on the scales and realized that my weight had bloomed to two hundred and sixteen pounds. I felt defeated and at an all-time low with myself. I made the decision to try and go raw – again (I had been dabbling with raw for a few years), or at least vegetarian. But underneath I knew that if I didn’t start exercising I would get nowhere fast. However, I simply could not get myself motivated to do it.
I think God took pity on me – again. He has a habit of doing that from time to time and when I get to the end of my rope, he offers me the beginning of His! But, as usual, He has a funny way of doing it. My husband was hospitalized toward the end of February with chest pains. Long story short: no heart problems but he was finally forced to look at high blood pressure and cholesterol issues and the doctors were serious when they told him to make lifestyle changes. Our diet swung drastically to mainly salads, lots of veggies and fruit, and we cut out most of the carbs.
Within a month or two we both lost weight dramatically. Then I hit a plateau and stayed there and got depressed. Underneath I knew the answer was exercise but I just didn’t want to have to deal with it. Again God came to my rescue in His usual round about way, and in July I was introduced to Wendy, a personal Pilates instructor. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do Pilates because my only knowledge of this form of exercise was a memory of a friend who used to do it (a much fitter, younger woman!!!), and she would say things like “We were massacred at Pilates class tonight” or “I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole class today.”
I am grateful for the God-incidental way that I got to Wendy, for I’m sure I’d never have taken the leap otherwise. She is a compassionate but relentless instructor with a grand sense of humor. I told her where I was at and she said something like “I guess I’ll have to work you”. I have been doing Pilates twice a week with Wendy since about mid-July. I have pushed below my plateau, not a lot but enough. However what has happened to my body is nothing short of a miracle.
I have a level of sustained energy that I did not have before. My body is so much more flexible and feels very alive. There has been a shift in shape; I cannot explain it any clearer than that. The first major change that I noticed was one day when I went to do up the strap on a pair of shoes and realized I did not have to get into a certain position to “accommodate my stomach” as I leaned down! My tummy has definitely toned and my legs are so much more flexible. I can climb a flight of stairs without feeling breathless.
This week Richard and I are enjoying our traditional week of Thanksgiving in our time share in Orlando. Yesterday afternoon we went to Universal to watch the new Harry Potter movie (which was great by the way!). We walked around for a while before the movie and I noticed that I had no problem keeping up with Richard (he’s over six foot and has a long stride). Nor did I find myself getting breathless keeping up with him and, in fact, I felt quite invigorated. Today we went to Sea World and the same thing happened.
As I sit here typing this post I have to make a confession. I have been wanting to walk on a regular basis for about a month now. The reason I have not is because I did not want to feel tired and breathless or realize that I couldn’t keep a decent pace for long. Yesterday and today have shown me that I can get out there, keep a good pace, and feel really good. I know that this is partly because of the diet changes I have made as well as the regular exercising with Pilates. It is a total change of lifestyle that is allowing me to feel good about myself and to feel so much more healthy. This is what self nurturing is truly about.
(My Life-Long Love Affair With Food)
I don’t normally put sub-titles to my postings, but I felt this one deserved one. There is no way I can share my “adventure” at going raw without giving some background as to my relationship with food. And it is a love affair.
I have had an intimate relationship with food ever since I can remember. Some of my earliest memories of food are:
– sitting under the dining room table in the middle of the night eating rice paper (don’t even ask!!)
– sitting for what seemed like hours on the garden gate or at the front room window waiting for Aunty Polly to arrive with ice cream and candy
– going to Aunty Peggy’s to have wonderful four course dinners that included incredible appetizers, cheese and crackers, dessert with coffee (like in a “grown
– going down to the kid’s secret den to eat as many candies as I had been able to take from the pantry without it looking as though someone had taken them
(I’m sure my mother realized!)
– finger-swiping the frosting off a freshly baked “chocolate horror” cake (bliss!)
– sneaking teaspoonful’s of Fry’s chocolate spread (pure paradise!!)
– biting into the crusty heel of a fresh loaf of country bread slathered in real butter
– English cheddar cheese and crunchy pickled onions
So as you can see I was pretty much addicted to food from an early age. I could describe in detail, and still can, the sensations of different foods hitting the different taste buds in the various areas of my mouth just the way someone can describe the details in a picture. I think God proved that He really, really loved us when he gave us taste buds.
I discovered “ethnic” restaurants in my mid to upper teens and a whole new world of tastes and flavors opened up to me. English food is usually so bland and much of it, particularly vegetables, is simply boiled into oblivion and mush. Indian curry and crisp Chinese vegetables were like heaven, and the awesome blend of herbs in authentic, freshly cooked, Italian cuisine can still send me into a swoon today. I think you get the picture.
Moving to Sardinia, Italy in 1979 was a dream come true for this foodaholic. The Sardinian cuisine is unique and is as beautiful as the island itself. Home-made pasta was the norm in a Sardinian home in those days and if you have never eaten fresh home-made pasta you need to before you die. Roast lamb, kid, and pig are nothing like anything over here. I have eaten some of the best bar-b-q pork since coming to the States but nothing touches a succulent roast-in-the-ground pig in Sardinia.
From Sardinia I returned to London in 1978. It was mainly a “big mistake” but forms part of my life journey so it was important. During the five years I remained in the UK back then the only time that I ate well was when I cooked Italian pasta or I ate ethnic. I missed Italy badly, not just the food but the whole culture. So it was with a happy heart that I returned in 1983 to live in Naples, Italy.
Naples, rather like Sicily, gets a bad rap in some tourist books, but I fell in love with Naples very quickly. There’s an Italian saying that goes, “see Naples and die”. There’s a Neapolitan saying that goes, “Napoli ti prende per la gola” – Naples grabs you by the throat. The people are warm-hearted and friendly and the food, well I’m not sure anything I could say about Neapolitan food would do it justice. There are amazing pasta dishes with incredible sauces and fresh seafood cooked in the simplest but most divinely-tasting ways. “Dolce” (cakes) are out of this world and the pizza, oh the pizza!!!!! You have not eaten real pizza until you eat pizza prepared and baked in Naples. Not even the pizza in other parts of Italy is as sublime as Neapolitan pizza.
And then there’s REAL mozzarella cheese freshly dripping in its own liquid. This is an absolute delicacy that is only made in Naples, Italy. There is only one place over here that I know of where you can find real, fresh Mozzarella cheese and that is at the Fratelli La Buffala restaurant in the beaches area of Miami. They have it flown in fresh from Naples two or three times per week.
So, with all this love of marvelously prepared and served food, how do I get to going raw? With great difficulty let me tell you! I guess with age comes some sort of wisdom, and my brain began to tell my body that two hundred pounds on a five foot four inch frame was not so healthy. And, as usually happens with the fat accumulation, my blood pressure had risen and my cholesterol was fast following it.
Thankfully, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Back in 2005, about eighteen months after getting to Jacksonville, Florida, my church hosted a series of classes on the vegetarian diet. I was interested not only because I thought it would help me lose weight, combat the BP and cholesterol issue, and improve my overall wellness, but also because the classes were offered by the Cancer Society as a way to help people prevent cancer or live cancer free once they were in remission. Because there is a history of cancer in my family I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.
I’ll leave the “vegetarian experiment” for my next posting in this series.
Well, I’m sitting here looking at my lap-top and wondering just what am I going to write about. Maybe that’s the wrong comment. I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to write about – my absence from writing since 20 October. I’m just not sure how I’m going to go about it or exactly what will appear on the page.
I can at least share what I have been doing in the last ten days: reading. I have devoured at least twelve books in that period. Every spare moment has been spent reading. Every meal and every bathroom visit has been accompanied by the book du jour. I have done essential housework and kept appointments, and I have read. My husband has been away for the last week so I have been able to indulge my little addiction with no guilt whatsoever. I have avoided going out unless I had to, and I have avoided any other activities inside or outside the home that I might normally engage in.
With one exception: gardening. Somehow or other the garden manages to break through all barriers within me. And now is the great time of weeding and clearing, pruning certain plants and attempting to dig out the root systems of those pesky crab grasses and vines that seem to take over every nook and cranny during the summer months. Pansies have finally appeared in the garden centers and I have brought many flats home to brighten up the winter flower beds.
Perhaps the reading marathon is akin to squirrels collecting and hoarding their nuts for winter provisions. Right now is nature’s time to pull back and curl up and hibernate a little. And so I move into autumnal mode, make my hot herbal teas, and curl up with adventures created by other authors. I was thinking a little earlier on today that maybe I am tired of my own words and need to fill my head and my heart with the words of other writers.
There was a moment somewhere in these last ten days when I wondered if I was in one of my “funks” (read de-pression). But I have not felt that awful slide downwards, nor have my days been gray. Tears have not plagued me and so I decided not to fight it and just accepted that I needed to read rather than write. I have not felt frustrated at not writing, and I was still surrounded by words!
I have discovered Rosamunde Pilcher who writes about families and their incredibly rich relationships. She has a way of unfolding their stories on the written page that invites the reader into their lives in such an intimate fashion. Her characters are so real that I feel as though I could invite them into my own life and they would fit. And along with Rosamunde I have been reading Belva Plain whose style I find to be simply elegant and elegantly simple.
Then, too, I came across Robert B. Parker. I love a good detective or suspense story and he manages to combine those two aspects in the best possible way. His dialogues are composed of short phrases, sometimes pure monosyllables or just one or two word sentences. But they are so succinct, so totally perfect, and his humor is dry yet delectable as a nutty, crisp cracker (must appeal to the Brit in me!). The plots move along at a fast pace and keep the reader involved from start to finish. His series of books with PI Spenser as the central character is terrific and well worth the read.
And here I am writing again. There was one other thought process that I have entertained about my not writing. It reminded me a little of what happens when I make up my mind to get back into exercising or to make a specific change in my diet. Either something comes up (a sickness or an arthritic flare up) that keeps me from doing the exercise, or I get a “chocolate attack” and there goes the healthy eating. So either “he-who-shall-not-be-named” is getting at me, or I fall into a big hole of self-sabotage.
But I have managed to reach a point in my life where I can accept most situations as they unfold. “What is, is” says my dear friend Tish. And so I read obsessively for a couple of weeks – no big deal. It has brought me great joy. It is wonderful to love myself enough that I do not need to beat myself up. Bottom line is I was enriching my vocabulary and feeding my heart and soul.