Support makes all the difference in our lives

I just finished co-facilitating a support group for young women recovering from eating disorders.  Having suffered from them earlier in life, I thought this would be a good experience for me to give back to “my people”.  

It was without a doubt one of the most powerful experiences for me. My role as a facilitator was simple: listen, support, and listen some more.  As a result, I learned so much about them and myself through them.  The funny thing was as a facilitator I barely said much. It was if they were the teachers and I was the student.  Once I got the group going each session and opened the floor up for people to check in about how they were feeling or what was going on for them that week, the group ran itself.  It was an incredible community of young women bravely and openly sharing their personal lives with others in a safe and non-judgmental place.  It was powerful to experience what on in that room each week.

 What I found most amazing was that by the sheer act of listening I became much more empathic.  At first, it was hard and I was not prepared for what started to happen. I started to feel my own pain again, and could really relate to what these young women were going through.  It felt like someone spilt open my wound and poured salt on it.  I started to relive it all over again and it hurt, a lot.  Nevertheless, each session got better and better and ironically ‘the salt’ became the remedy and cleared out the remaining debris.  By the third session, I was there in the trenches with them all and at the end of each night, I wanted to hug each one of them before they left and give them the strength to go on.  

I was so proud of them and felt it was my obligation to encourage and support them for all their hard work, because I knew exactly what they were going through.  I had been there myself and had not forgotten. These young women are already hard on themselves, hence their eating disorder, I thought.  Moreover, they know what they need to do.  I thought what they really needed was more encouragement and positive affirmation in their lives. I know how hard it is to be objective with yourself, so positive reinforcement could mean the difference between them feeling good or feeling bad.  So, I continued to tell these amazing girls how wonderful they are and commended them on their continued commitment to themselves.  I pointed out how far they have come and what a great job they were doing, and how much I learn from them.  I meant every word I said, and saw the hardwork, frustrations, tears and triumphs in them each week.  Wow, it takes tremendous strength and support to unravel and understand your self.  It is true when they say, it takes one to know one. What a determined and amazing group of young women they are! 

 Each night I walked out teary eyed, humbled and honored to be there for each one of them.  I thought this it; this is what it is about.  We are all hurt and wounded in our own ways, which can create a lot of shame.  The more we hide from our feelings about anything, the more power we give them and therefore the more pain we feel.  In order for us to move on in our lives and be the amazing person that each of us is, we need to have those ’safe harbors’ in our lives with people we can really open up with and be ourselves. This allows us to keep our hearts open, even if it means we may feel more vulnerable, and the more we do this we learn that there is strength in our vulnerability, since it allows us to stay connected and find the support and love we seek.

 This experience has been invaluable to me.  I thought I knew a lot, but what I found out was that I don’t know what I don’t know, and that you stay the course in life by keeping an open heart and mind and by using your ears and mouth in the right proportion. When you trust that, each moment is exactly the way it is supposed to be and that you are doing the best that you can, only then can you let go and trust that you are right where you are supposed to be.

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The Power of Listening

I have not written in a while and I miss it.  Writing is a great way for me to process information and share with others.  It is kind of like talking aloud.  I get all my thoughts out, good, bad and crazy, with no interruptions which helps me get clarity.  It is a process though.  I think, write, refine and repeat.  Some posts come out better than others do, but nonetheless I get it out, then I feel soothed, centered and replenished.  It is a form of self-care for me, a time when I really listen to myself.  Ah, I already feel better!

 Have you ever found yourself feeling much better and clearer after sharing your thoughts with someone?  We all do, which is why listening is such a powerful tool for you to offer the people you love. The funny thing is the person doing the talking always feels closer to the person listening and feels as if they know them better as a result.  It is an interesting concept. The next time you are actively listening to someone see how he or she responds and you will see what I am referring to.  They will hug you, thank you or just feel calmer and better and maybe even tell you how much they like you… go ahead, try it. 

When you listen, really listen to someone in a non-judgmental way, you are really saying; I care about you and I am here for you.  It is a powerful message to give someone. The problem is that we all want to be heard and not everyone likes to listen or listens well, so we walk around with these unmet needs.  So do yourself a favor and learn how to really listen, it will do wonders for all your relationships, that is as long as the other person reciprocates.

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Feel Good

I am sure you would agree that the summer weekends go by extremely fast. There are always a hundred and one activities to partake in, parties and bbq’s to go to and good olde lazy beach days to be had. So by the time Sundays roll around I tend to get a bit of anxious knowing I have a list of things to accomplish (laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, food preparation, etc) so I feel ready and organized for the start of a new week.  Moreover, I am anal about it otherwise; I do not feel ready to start my week off on the right foot.     

I had so much fun this past weekend, I gave up my to-do list in lieu of more fun. By the time Sunday rolled around, I had accomplished nothing.  I went to a party, hung out with friends, and watched the Bunker Hill parade go by. By the time that ended, I managed to squeeze in a 6-mile run before I had to shower again and head off to a birthday party in the evening. I had a blast at both parties but especially at the birthday party.  It was an elegant house party in a beautiful five-story brownstone in the South End of Boston.  It was catered with delicious, mouth-watering food, a bar on every floor and an incredible three-piece band that played on the third floor and echoed throughout the house. The lead singer sounded like a mix of Harry Connick, Jr and Frank Sinatra. The music was fabulous, I met new people, laughed, and danced all night. In fact, I had a full dance card all night long so by the time I got home, it was late I was exhausted and my feet were aching something fierce. I also managed to feel a tad guilty and pissed off at myself for not planning better and getting anything done earlier in the day. I set my alarm for 5am and planned to get up early Monday morning and hit the gym before work, but I managed to blow that off in exchange for more beauty sleep.  

After a long day today, I came home feeling a bit of angst knowing I needed to get a lot done.  Instead of racing around and getting into a bad mood trying to get everything done, I approached it differently. I included healthier ways to lift my mood, spirit and health while getting everything done.                                                                                                                                        

1) Work it Out

You do not need pills or caffeine to flood your body with a rejuvenating flood of growth hormones. Research has found that doing squats and leg presses will greatly increase your natural production of the “youth hormone”. Increased growth hormone translates to an elevated mood, among other physical benefits. Keep it up with weight training, knee bends, push-ups, and rowing.  Then lace up those sneakers, grab a friend, and go for a run or power walk and have a good pow-wow while you are at it.  You are sure to feel much better in the end.

2) Smell the Joy
Research has shown that smell has a definite impact on our bodies and minds. When you stimulate the olfactory nerves inside your nose, you activate the limbic system of your brain, which is associated with moods and memory. This concept is instrumental to aromatherapy, a natural health tradition that makes use of the healing powers of plants with strong scents.  Use orange, tangerine or grapefruit to boost your alertness and joy.  Add a splash of lavender to create a happy yet calm mood.

Just put a dab of the essential oils from these plants on your temples, back of your neck, or acupressure points. Another option?  Get a ring to place on the top of your lamp, drop in oil and it acts as a diffuser and makes your room smell good.

3) Feel Fine with Flowers
There is a reason that flowers are the traditional get-well gesture. Colorful flowers have a powerful influence on moods; they can uplift your mood and even combat stress. One study found that during a five-minute typing assignment, people sitting next to a flowering bouquet were more relaxed than those who sat near foliage-only plants.  With that in mind I bought a bouquet of my favorite flowers, peonies, and put them in my bedroom and living room. 

Ah, what a difference these three simple things did for me. They lifted my mood, my spirit and health. In addition, I got everything I wanted to accomplish done, with time to relax and enjoy my evening and then blog about it, too. Now that was a chock-full and good day. I hope you try these tips and help the good feelings flow!

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And the winner is….

Well I did it!  I accomplished my goal, finished my second half marathon, and beat my time from last year.  Not by much though and with a real tough recovery.  The race started at 8am but it was a windy and hot 75 degrees and only got hotter. The Boston route was nothing but blue skies with very little shade, so dehydration from the heat and the wind wicking the moisture off your skin was a big issue. I tried to hydrate as best I could but apparently, I did not do enough.

I started great and at mile 8 was doing 7-minute miles. I was thrilled!  However, as I crossed mile 9 my legs started cramping, my feet were on fire and I was getting tired. Oh no, I thought. What happened, I felt like I could barely lift my legs to run. Quitting was not an option but when I saw many other in-shape runners having a hard time, I knew the conditions were tough. In fact, many people had to stop and rest on the side of the road, slowed down or just walked for a bit. 

When I run races, I do not wear my iPod so I had to be my own cheerleader, keep motivated and distract myself from my fatigue and pain.  I started singing to myself but that did not work so I resorted to repeating my mantra: this is my best race ever; this is my best race ever, etc. It worked but what really got me to finish strong were the crowds of people at the last two miles who cheered me on. Thank you! I could not have done it without them. From that point on, I felt like I was super human. Out of nowhere, I came back to life and ran like a bat out of hell.  It was surreal and I remember thinking, where did this come from. It was great and made it all worthwhile.

I felt great right after the run although I could barely feel my body. Luckily, I brought a few Advil and popped them right away to avoid the pain that I knew was coming. By the time I got home, I could barely walk and felt sick. If you have ever run a race, the aftermath of dehydration and the loss of electrolytes is an unpleasant and scary feeling.  You literally cannot function, feel disconnected from your body and are light headed. Given the state I was in, I swore this was my last race and wondered why I put myself through this. I have since changed my mind.  I do love it, the running and the camaraderie.  It brings out the fierce competitor in me, which is very invigorating and makes me feel so alive. The one thing I will do differently next time is drink a ton of Pedialyte right after the race and throughout the remainder of the day. Once I discovered that, I was on my way to a full recovery. It took the better part of the day to feel semi normal and then with some sleep and more Pedialyte I felt much, much better. 

Now I have my second “medal” and next I am going for GOLD!

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Running Boston’s Run to Remember Half marathon

I am proud to be running Boston’s Run to Remember Half marathon Sunday, May 30th. It is a historic run through downtown Boston in honor of all of the fallen law enforcement officers. The proceeds of this race go to Kids at Risk Programs throughout the City of  Boston. These programs provide safe and nurturing environments encouraging inner city youths to make healthy choices and an alternative to gangs and acts leading to incarceration.  This race also benefits the following charities: American Cancer Society, Children’s Hospital, Determination and Team in Training.

This will be my second Half marathon. I am definitely a workout queen and weight train three times a week and run anywhere from 35-50 miles a week through rain, sun or snow!  There is nothing a good workout and run cannot do for me. It definitely sustains me and is the key to being my best self physically and mentally.

Last year, I ran the BAA Emerald Necklace Half marathon with a few friends. I had such an amazing experience that I had to sign up and do one again this year. I felt so accomplished and proud once I crossed the finish line and received my medal. What a feat! Not to mention it was the most stellar picture perfect fall day with breath-taking scenery and perfect sunny running weather. All I remember was that at mile 3 my competitive spirit kicked in and I was off. From there on in, I had ‘runner’s high’ and swear I did not feel an ounce of pain or stiffness my entire 13.1 mile run. I completed in less than two hours and was thrilled to have finished.

In preparation for this run, I have been clocking the miles with the same small and long runs I did last year and have been taking good care of myself, so I am hopeful for good weather and for my best run ever!

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Self-care so you can Care

Self-care is about doing something special for yourself that calms you, fills you up, and brings you joy and back to your true self.  It is essential to our survival and something we must do so that we can in fact care. For it is only when we are ‘filled up’ can we give to or care for others. When we nurture others from this place of ‘fullness’, we feel revived and replenished rather than feeling taken advantage of. 

During a brisk walk last night, I witnessed a version of self-care in action. As I was nearing home a lovely woman with a cheery accent stopped me. She excused herself, said she was lost, and asked if I would kindly speak to her friend on the phone and point her in the right direction. When I found out she was not far from her destination, I decided to walk her there myself. We got chatting and I found out she is from Turkey and in the country for a few weeks visiting a good friend. As we turned the corner I noticed someone standing at the end of the block waving and asked, is that your friend?  It was hard to make heads or tails of anyone in the dark but once she recognized her, she thanked me, and in true girlfriend style they both started running towards each other. Once they met, out of pure excitement they screamed, shrieked and squealed like pigs as they embraced hello. It was such a beautiful site to see. There were no words needed; I got it, the screaming and all and it sent goose bumps up my spine.  I thought now that is good self-care. I need to spend more time with the people who fill me up with joy like that.

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How to Make Healthy Eating a Part of Your Daily Routine

It is not hard to eat  healthy, but it does take some thought and preparation to make it happen.  Here are some tips to get you started in the right direction.

1) Do NOT skip meals

a)Eat breakfast –break the fast from the night before and jump-start your metabolism

b)Make lunch the biggest meal of the day when your digestion is at its peak

c)Eat a light dinner. Try to eat before 7pm so you digest your food properly before going to bed

2)Stock up on healthy snacks so you always have good options available

a)Create your own trail mix: silvered almonds, dried fruit, dried edamame, unsweetened coconut flakes

b)Hummus and veggies

c)Celery rib and peanut butter

d)Apple and nut butter

e)Popcorn and nuts

f)Plain or greek yogurt with fresh berries or grapes

g)Mozzarella stick

h) Frozen banana or grapes

i)Kashi cereal, raisins and nuts

3)Drink more water throughout the day

a)Upon rising, drink a glass of water to get one out-of-the-way

b)Fill up a one liter bottle and carry with you throughout the day

c)When hunger or sweet cravings arise, first reach for a glass of water – a lot of times we are just thirsty

4)Substitute whole grains for white foods

a)Instead of white rice, buy brown rice, barley, basmati rice or wild rice

b)Instead of instant oatmeal, buy rolled oats or steel-cut oats

c)Instead of white bread, buy sprouted or whole grain bread

d)Instead of white pasta, buy brown rice pasta, soba noodles, whole wheat pasta, or buckwheat pasta

5)When grocery shopping

a)Select different color produce so you get all the vitamin and nutrients your body needs

b)Stock up your pantry and freezer with staple goods so you can throw together a quick, healthy  dinner when you have no fresh food

c)Buy packaged size meat, fish or chicken and divide into single portion sizes and freeze

d)Have a default grocery list of 2-3 of your favorite meals that are easy to cook and you can pull together in a pinch

6)Get in the kitchen, forget the rules and start cooking

a)Make it FUN, turn on the music or put on a headset and talk with family and friends

b)Recruit your children and/or significant other to help and make it a family affair

c)Cook once, eat twice.  Make enough to freeze for another day

d)Pick one day and a couple new recipes you want to cook

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