Living more, with less

I watched the documentary Minimalism yesterday in an attempt to calm my nerves and expand my horizons.

In my studies at Institute for Integrative Nutrition, we talk about primary food — the concept of nourishing all areas of your life, including career, relationships, spirituality, and physical activity. Home environment has been one element of my world that feels out of balance. Our 1974 house needs some work and now that we’ve been here for 17 years we have acquired a lot of “stuff.” It can be stifling.

I tend to get into nesting mode before surgeries (yes, I have had that many) and clean house from top to bottom, declutter, and get organized. It’s been almost a year since my gastric bypass surgery. I had set up my little recovery area in the living room where I planned to binge watch every Netflix series and a laundry list of movies.

Ironically, I am sitting in the same spot almost a year later and some of the same magazines and books are still stacked on the table. And of course more stuff has found its way to the coffee table along with more electronic devices and remote controls. Hmmm. That tells me something.

Last week on my personal blog, I revealed my recent cancer diagnosis. I am awaiting consultation at UCSF Urologic Oncology department and expect to have part of my kidney, along with the evil inhabitant, removed in the near future. It’s made me turn even more inside myself that I typically am. Thinking and thinking. I’m turning to my typical de-stressors to try to reduce the anxiety: journaling, medication, yoga, rest, sleep, and nutrient dense food choices. That’s only taking me so far.

So back to Minimalism. Watching that film made me thing about eliminating excess in my life.  Yeah, obviously, less stuff. I know a massive declutter effort is brewing. But what else is excess? Drama, stress, things I feel like I have to do but are really a choice. We have one life to live on this planet, and this current threat to mine has made me more determined to find joy and focus on the things I am passionate about.

I was listening to one of my podcasts, Her Rules Radio, with Alexandra Jamieson and she walked through what she calls her Fuck-It List, which she defines as her approach to developing a personalized rule book for identifying the things you want to stop doing so you can focus on getting clear about the things you want to do. I downloaded her e-Book. This is the right time for me to take a hard look at my career, relationships with people, my spiritual practice, and to some degree physical activity and do some housekeeping. Adding this to my toolkit.

My mom died at 58, and I’ve always had that number in my head as something to beat. I took my health into my hands almost a year ago and got myself to a healthy weight and strengthened my body and my spirit. I have spent too much time Googling renal cell carcinoma survival and recurrence rates, and knowing I was diagnosed early gives me hope, but the fear of what I am reading makes living more fully the ultimate goal.

Time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

More joy, please.

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This has been a trying week for me but I’m forging ahead with my studies at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. In this week’s module, I’ve thought a lot about the primary food of joy: the things that bring me joy, and how I can bring more joy into my life.

This level of introspection is challenging, but it’s really the key to understanding how to transform your life into one that attracts positivity, health, and happiness.

I was born in 1967, making me 50, and the same age as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. With the celebration of its release, I’ve been listening to a lot of their later albums on my commute. There is nothing like music you love to transport you to a different time and place, recalling memories so vivid it’s like they just happened.

Growing up in the 70s, my mom stayed home with me and my brothers. She was such an amazing mother. She taught me how to read well before nursery school, and she started my love of music with piano lessons at the age of 4. Music was always part of my life with my mom, whether it was singing along to Sesame Street or to the music in the car on road trips. The other day, Yellow Submarine came on the radio (Siriux XM has a great Beatles Channel right now), and of course I am singing along in the car and it completely brought me back to a moment driving with my mom to Northampton, MA, the little arty college town where we would have girls’ day out when I was in high school.  We sang in the car at the top of our lungs — the good old Buick Estate Wagon. Such a vivid memory, and a happy one.

I have some challenges ahead of me, but I’ve been trying to summon joy to my life where I can to help me process the shock of a cancer diagnosis. Music brings me joy, calms my overactive worrying tendencies, slows the heart rate, revisits happier times, and gives me strength. I feel less alone knowing I have these memories to power me through this, and my mother was one of the best role models in my life. Now SHE was brave. I will channel her influence in my own journey, and share my experience with my clients in the future.

I found this great quote: “Joy is a decision, a really brave one, about how you are going to respond to life.” (Wess Stafford) I will keep this in my heart in the weeks to come.

And meanwhile, back to The Beatles (Abbey Road, to be exact).

Battling Weight Bias When You are Battling Obesity

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I call myself an obesity ass-kicker because it’s a battle I’ve fought for more than 30 years. And I’m winning! But the process isn’t easy, and along the way I have experienced weight bias by the very people who are supposed to help us achieve health: doctors!

Look at the state of health in our country. According to a recent New York Times article, one in every three people is obese. I can’t even imagine how much money is spent treating obesity-related diseases. That’s what doctors are trained to do. Treat diseases.

Raise your hand if you’ve been told by a doctor you need to exercise more and eat less. I know I have. Countless times. It took me years to get someone to actually look at me as a whole person and try to connect the dots between obesity, thyroid issues, a pituitary tumor, and the inability to lose weight, in spite of the 1200 calorie a day diet. Just treat the symptom and there’s no need to investigate the root cause.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to empower yourself to be your own advocate through the healthcare system. I’ll have a story on that in the future.

The driver for this post is this article shared by the Obesity Action Coalition, Barriers to Obesity Care and How to Create a Support Team. I react when I read that someone isn’t being offered the best medical options because of their weight. As an overweight person with knee pain, I was told it’s arthritis and there’s nothing to be done and I should stop running. Oh, and lose weight. That’s it. No guidance, no alternatives, nothing. I’ve been there.

However, I have also been lucky to have physicians who advocated for me, helped empower me to make decisions that led me to a healthy weight, helped me work with the insurance company to appeal bariatric surgery denial, and get me to a bariatric surgeon who understands the science of obesity and the challenges for someone who has struggled their entire lives and fighting an uphill battle against their metabolism and co-morbidities.

It takes work to build a support team, to research so you know how to ask the right questions, to understand not just “diet” but nutrition and lifestyle changes needed to be successful, and to navigate the complexities of insurance and the healthcare system.  This gives me hope that the rise of holistic health coaching can be a compliment to medical care for people like me who battled obesity. There’s some great suggestions in this article about how to put together a medical team for support, but kicking obesity’s ass requires so much more support. I was fortunate to have a mentor through my weight loss process — another bariatric patient who could answer questions or tell me what to expect, cheer me on, or kick me in the butt when I needed it. That emotional support really completed the picture for me and launched me on this journey to becoming a health coach.