Changing my weighs

Author: natalie  //  Category: It's all about me

Last week I announced physical fitness was moving to a higher spot on my priority list. I’m entering a phase of life where health must be attended to or the quality of said life will gradually decline.

I told all of you because I may need an added layer of incentive to stay on track: nothing like a few extra eyes to keep me motivated. Plus, you’re all welcome to join me.  And I realize I picked a rough time of year to start. I held my ground last year, so I’m looking to one up myself and actually see some improvements as I hit the other side of this holiday season.

My newest challenge: adding more muscle to my frame. (The men folk in my house are very afraid. Assurances have been made that it is not my goal to look as if I could lift a car.) It’s a proposition that’s going to tax me mentally and physically, but I’m up to the task.   

Research on long-term success has led me to adopt some basics of balance and common sense. Real life won’t allow me to do crazy drastic things, and I have no desire for this project to take over my life. Results will be slower that way, but if it’s doable I can do it forever.  And that brings me to the how of it all: proper nutrition and good old exercise. I’m a no frills kind of girl.

“Diets” and gimmicks don’t work. Instead of some complicated meal plan, I’ll be “eating clean”—most of the time. In a nutshell that means eliminating processed foods (man-made ingredients) and having everything that enters my mouth be as close to how it appears in nature as possible.  Pretty simple.  I’ll even build in “cheat” days because life totally devoid of junk food is bland. Funny thing is, though, once junk foods clear the system, cravings drastically diminish. I can vouch for that.    

On the exercise front, I’ll be replacing some running/walking with more muscle-building strength training. Working with weights has been a part of my routine for years, but in order to make muscle gains at this point I’ve got to crank up the intensity and force my body to work much harder. It sounds crazy, and I don’t like pain, but good things come to those who weight train. Rewards include an increased metabolism making the body a fat-burning machine capable of sustaining weight loss and there’s the not-so-minor detail of a much improved appearance.

And in line with my no-frills approach, a body-fat scale (very accurate ones are available in the $50 range), journal, and a mirror will help me track progress and determine what works.  

In the end consistency in nutrition and exercise are key. But it all starts with having a goal, getting excited about reaching it, and finding ways to balance the journey in the context of life. There are many things beyond our control—pick up some weights and healthy food and take your health into your hands.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Weighty matters

Author: natalie  //  Category: It's all about me

As we near the feeding frenzy that begins with Halloween and comes to a nauseatingly-sweet end around February 14, I’ve got something seemingly superficial weighing on my mind. A major personal milestone is scheduled to occur during that time, and I think I’m finally ready.  

I’ve mentioned this previously-dreaded event plenty in the last couple of years and in a little over six weeks the big day will arrive.  I swore last year that I’d celebrated my last birthday, but with the full understanding that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow: It’s looking like I’ll make it to the BIG 4-0. (We’ll pause briefly to allow all my “senior” friends to giggle . . .  like I do when they call me young. Yeah, yeah. It’s relative.)

For some crazy reason I’d been dreading it. However, I’ve turned my thinking around and realize how blessed I am to have made it—physically in one piece (mentally is a whole different ball of wax). Among the blessings I can count are great health, but I know through vigorous research that I can’t take that for granted. I must work every day from this point forward to enjoy it further as it will surely decline if I let it.

I started off on a mission about a year ago—mostly for vanity’s sake— to hit 40 in the best physical shape of my life.  I’m happy to report that I hit the mark. It wasn’t terribly difficult in that I’ve dabbled in fitness over the years post pregnancies, but I’d never taken it to any level difficult to surpass.

Now I see how people get “hooked”. I am the best I’ve ever been, but I’m on a plateau and feel even more compelled to raise the bar because there’s still a great deal of room for improvement. Being satisfied is great, but constant forward momentum is greater. Interest in long-term health and vitality has surpassed the external benefits. And good health well into later years is a goal worth striving for.

Plus, researchers say the aging process can be reversed through exercise and a healthy diet.  Reversed! That got my attention. Sounds like the Fountain of Youth; I can’t gulp it down fast enough.

The great news is that no matter where you are in life it’s never too late to start improving your health and fitness. I admitted to interest sparking for vanity, but that turned into a powerful motivator that caused me to look into the other aspects: being mobile, healthy, and able to do whatever my mind cooks up on a given day.

Next week I’ll share more about my fitness goals as I enter my 40s and how I intend to reach them. In the meantime, think about where you are and where you would like to go. We may be in very different places, but we’re all traveling. Join me in making the journey to a place where age is a source of pride and nothing to dread.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Check out some treasures

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

This will probably be a little preaching to the choir, but I’d like to remind all of you of a true treasure here in Baytown:  Sterling Municipal Library.

Last Tuesday I attended a discussion group hosted by Sterling Municipal Library’s Community Connections Librarian, Susan Chandler. The occasion was in honor of the One Book One Baytown program and was sponsored by the Friends of Sterling Municipal Library.

The program encourages community members to read and discuss the same book and come together through a shared reading experience. And that, we did. It’s always amazing to hear different perspectives and how people are touched by different things.  

If you’re looking for a good read, I would definitely recommend the selection discussed which was Same Kind of Different As Me by: Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent. An excerpt from the library’s website bills it as, “an inspirational, true story about a homeless man and a wealthy couple whose lives come together and are forever changed. Most readers will relate to the universal themes in the book: prejudice, homelessness, forgiveness, faith, sickness and suffering.” It’s all of that and more.

Going in, I knew the book was not typical of what I normally read. The opening: “Until Miss Debbie, I’d never spoke to no white woman before. Just answered a few questions, maybe—it wadn’t really speakin. And to me, even that was mighty risky since the last time I was fool enough to open my mouth to a white woman, I wound up half-dead and nearly blind.”

From that point forward, the more-than memoir took me and my emotions on a ride. As harrowing as it became, I couldn’t put it down. Nor could I shake the reality that some ugly truths I (born in 1970) thought were buried in the historical distant past weren’t so far away — in time or distance.  The story recounted by Denver Moore begins circa 1950s Louisiana and delivers the reader to near-present day Fort Worth, Texas.  

For me it was a stark reminder to look past first impressions. There are treasures behind human facades that can’t be purchased and are often missed as we “keep to our kind” in race or socioeconomic strata. Others were touched by the deep religious faith woven throughout and some were quite distressed over the treatment of a man who from the beginning and for a variety of reasons had the odds stacked against him. In the end many agreed people did what they knew and that they knew no different.  Give it a read and see what you think.

In upcoming library news, Sterling Municipals Library’s very entertaining Jamie Eustace will host the award-winning Starbooks at the Starbucks on the I-10 feeder at Garth Road on Tuesday, November 9 and Tuesday, December 14 at 6:30 p.m. If you’ve never been, mark your calendar.

The presentation lasts about an hour and you don’t need to read anything prior to attending. Jamie does all the work —and reading—in advance and presents various titles usually held together by an overall theme. Books reviewed are available for check-out at the end.

For additional information on One Book One Baytown, visit www.baytownlibrary.org/onebook  or contact Susan Chandler at 281-422-1145 or via e-mail [email protected].  Starbooks coordinator Jamie Eustace may be contacted at 281-422-1133 or [email protected].

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Falling for October

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

Bear with me if you can. I’m a bit tipsy. I’ll do my best to type in a straight line.

The weather has been intoxicating, and I am guilty of consuming way more than I should have. (Have the tan to prove it.) I couldn’t help myself — probably an indicator that I have a problem.

The thing is: I live for October and April. The comfort and beauty they offer is what sustains me for the other ten months here in sultry Southeast Texas. Plus, with the low humidity I get a few good hair days in, and well, shallow as that may be those make a girl feel like life is worth living.

Each year around this time I admit to imitating my little squirrel friends and going a little nutty. I have a one-track mind and all that matters is being outside. The squirrels, however, at least look industrious as they pack away needed winter supplies.

Me, I just bask in nature with a dopey grin and get rather irritable when responsibility forces me indoors. Thus the reason I’m mostly left alone with my intoxicant; I’m a little more fun to be around after I’ve soaked in it.

I fantasize about researching and finding a place where the climate is like this year-round. But then I realize that this weather seems so wonderful because it is fleeting. A steady diet would assuredly cause me to take it for granted. I’m a firm believer in that experiencing unpleasantness makes me much better at identifying and appreciating pleasantness.

And when I ponder it further, the seasons really do all work together – like it was meant to, I’m sure. Nature’s pressure relief valve — the now shorter days of Fall—give a needed break from the long summer ones where extended daylight made me feel like I needed to cram more into my days.

Then there’s cutting off the air conditioning and opening windows, enjoying the added weight and security of a light blanket (or in my case two . . . my personal thermostat has been declared broken) during slumber, all the pumpkin flavored and scented items, and the arch nemesis of my waistline: candy corn.

There is no other sugary delight that can hold a candle to it. I haven’t bought any yet, but I’m salivating just thinking about it. At some point I will make myself sick with an entire bag . . .  in one private sitting. I don’t share, and I won’t even allow myself to feel guilty. Added layers of fall clothing will hide the evidence that will appear on my backside.

There’s a theme emerging here: overindulgence. But I like to think I have mastered overindulging in moderation.

I can’t help it. I fall in love anew each year with October. It makes me dizzy and causes a sweet swirl in my tummy. Is it the new romance or am I drunk on the cool sunshine? Probably both with a whole bag of colorful confectionary maize sprinkled on top.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Comfort zone in the crosshairs

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

Someone out there knows that last week’s column, where I gave an analogy of myself morphing into a jack-in-the-box, was a stunning example of me missing the mark.

See, with a writing gig such as this one, readers are invited to contact me and proffer thoughts and/or suggestions. I enjoy the feedback immensely, but I was given a literary challenge that proved too much for my abilities. Good writers make dull subject matter fascinating. I’m not quite sure what it says about me that when given an engaging topic, I can’t perform. (I bet the pharmaceutical world has a pill for that.)

I was challenged to get you, Dear Reader, to step outside of your box – get out of your comfort zone, embrace the awkward, and grab the true essence of life. The thing was: How do I rally others to a place I’ve been unable to reach?  

I accepted the challenge and if you read last week you know what happened. (Yes, I was informed that I had possibly misunderstood my directive.) But I’m no quitter and thought maybe I could learn something if I studied how over long periods of time humans gather up constricting habits that quite literally smother the spark in many a soul.

Legal disclaimer: I am not advising anyone to completely throw caution and responsibility to the wind. If you become a hooligan, or catch yourself on fire, don’t blame me.

I ended last week by stating that without the spiral-wire attachment to my box, I’d only be a clown. Code words for: Cutting the tie and springing up and out would only result in me making a supreme fool of myself. So, it was ironic that the first piece of getting-out-of-the-comfort-zone advice I found was, “Make a fool of yourself.”  What? Intentionally? (I’m well versed in “unintentionally”.) Supposedly we’ll have more fun and be more memorable if we’re a bit crazy on top of having little to no interest in what others think of us.

The next instruction was to face fears. This could take me a while as I have sort of a list, and I’ll even admit being a slave to it. Most of us spend too much time circumventing potential “negative” circumstances and in the process waste precious time. I was afraid of that.

The third item flies in the face of pretty much everything I’ve ever lived by as a rule-following, first-born, stick in the mud: “Become comfortable with taking risks. Do something simply for the sake of doing it. Let go of any attachment to a certain outcome. Accept when things don’t go well and let go of the notion that the world is safe and predictable.”  Whoa! I once thrived in safe and predictable. Just reading that made my pulse quicken.

And last was learning to enjoy the unknown. It’s exciting not knowing what will happen next; anticipation and anxiety mix bringing a wave of cardiac flutters and flip flopping of the stomach. Sounds like more fun than a person should be allowed to have— pass the nitroglycerin and the Pepto, please.

There you have it. Put on your favorite flame-retardant outfit (safety first) and aim for some adventure in the uncomfortable zone. Let the sparks fly!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley