Life in the fast (and slow) lane

We just took a trip up to Denver for a few days, and I mean “a trip.” I never get used to the many changes that happen as we drive up there. As far as Pueblo, the highway is pretty mellow, but north of there we quickly get into “get the fuck out of my way” traffic. That’s how I differentiate city traffic from life down here. Suddenly everyone around me is in a gigantic hurry, swooping down on me and sitting on my bumper. This just doesn’t happen much down here, especially on the county dirt roads…

My Mom is doing OK in her senior patio home, although she misses Dad terribly. She says she’s lonely and a little depressed. I get so nervous when she drives in Denver. It’s beginning to be too much for her now. She’s looking forward to moving to assisted living after Covid restrictions lift. Soon I hope. Even going to the store is stressful and exhausting for her.

For me, being with my Mom is always a reminder of the environment and rules I grew up with, especially because she seems to think I’m still ten years old. Heaven forbid I might make some choice or decision on my own! Sometimes I really can’t believe that I’m 65. I’m sure she never believes it. We also have to remind her ever few minutes what day it is and what she’s doing today. It’s sad and yet she is quite comfortable with no real health issues besides a slow dementia.

Yes, it is difficult to see my Mom this way, and yet in her more coherent moments she sees that she has had a great life and appreciates that fact daily. She says she is ready to downsize her life and have others around to help all the time. Thank goodness she can choose and afford the help she needs.

What, Me Worry?

Ever since I wrote this post about taking a worry vacation, I’ve been thinking more about why we worry. Of course there is a reality to why we worry. When I watch the tiny birds outside my window, I think about their worries. They need to be ever vigilant or some other animal might eat their food or even eat them!

In the history of our ancestors on this planet, it would seem the hyper-vigilant of the species must have survived longer than the lazy ones. But in this day, I have very little to worry about.

I realized yesterday that I live in a time and a place where I have less to worry about than just about anyone else in the history of planet earth. I’m warm, I’m safe, I’m well-fed and I’m happy. Yes, many of us have hit the sweet spot, and yet still we worry.

I wonder what percent of why we worry is based on completely faulty reasoning. Some say we worry to feel in control because our attention is turned to solving a certain problem. While we think we are solving the problem, we have the illusion that we have control over it. Worry can be reinforcing. We think due to the fact that we worried properly, we got the desired outcome.

The faultiness of this logic became far too obvious to me when I recently learned that I could not live without supplemental oxygen. It had never occurred to me that I would ever have trouble breathing. I had maintained a healthy lifestyle at 5,000 foot elevation and certainly never smoked. Then, after a few years living at 6,500 -7,000 feet, a doctor observed that I might be hypoxic. Very observant. But it still took a couple years and too many different medical tests to prove to me that I needed to live on full-time oxygen.

See how that theory about worrying properly worked out? Ah humanity! How we labor to convince ourselves that we’ve got this, and yet we still all have to die of something…

Since then I have tried to keep my heart open to change, because it’s coming whether we like it or not. These are my watchwords now:

“Even in seemingly dormant times, we are in transition. Losses and gains are in constant play. We are the change-agent, and we are changed. Even without toil, we transform. So wisdom advises us to open our hearts to transition; to honor fully what is passing, to learn from all that unfolds, and to welcome what arrives at our door each day with courage and curiosity.”

Courage is the mastery of fear

Morning rituals help me center myself for each new day. Since moving out into the southern Colorado foothills with few neighbors, I feel privileged to be able to view an unobstructed sunrise every morning as a part of that ritual.

Often I think, “It won’t be amazing today” and then I turn around in my bed and see something like this.

Living here has made me even more grateful for my life and that it has led to this place full of love and acceptance. It has also led to some tough physical challenges for me. The simple act of breathing has become more and more difficult. I can no longer live without supplemental oxygen. For a while we wondered if it was lung cancer.

There is nothing like the ‘c’ word to make you sit up and take notice, and the challenges of simply breathing every day naturally call my attention to my own mortality. Many years ago I was a follower of Stephen Levine, a well-known poet, author and teacher best known for his work with those with life-threatening illnesses. For over twenty-five years, Stephen and Ondra Levine provided emotional and spiritual support to those who were dying and their caregivers. I highly recommend his books to you. I went to hear him speak in Boulder once for an all day event. That was the beginning of my own internal conversation about my own death. I still enjoy listening to his meditation called:

“Take each breath as if it were your last”

I used to feel so afraid of death. Then my experience of moving quickly in and out of consciousness with a traumatic brain injury provided some strange reassurance. Death is simply the final loss of consciousness. Death is inevitable and really quite simple. I accept it now, and try to love each day that I have left to be alive.

I need to imagine myself in the future doing what I love. For me, now, that is a radical act of courage.

How I lost 55 pounds at age 55: It’s not brain surgery, but may require some serious soul surgery…

Laura Lee Carter, M.A. Counseling Psychology, AKA the Midlife Crisis Queen!

Copyright © 2012 by Laura Lee Carter

“Do at least one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Introduction

When I think back to one year ago, when I was 55 pounds heavier and DEPRESSED, so many thoughts occur.  How did I finally do it?  How did I finally buckle down and lose the weight? 

In my case a “program” was essential, and also a very supportive husband.  I think of this now as my re-education program, or really just a simple case of brainwashing. I needed someone to sit me down and show me what I should be eating for the first time ever! 

I used Slimgenics* and it worked for me.  For some Weight Watchers* is perfect. Choose a quality program that works for you, the name of the program isn’t important.  Personal responsibility, accountability and determination are what count now.

I don’t know about you, but I sorely needed instruction.  I needed to be told exactly how much of things like starch I could eat each day and still lose weight.  That is how I finally took control over what I was eating, instead of it controlling me. 

I also found I needed to recommit to regular exercise and/or walking, and cut out what I now call “entertainment eating.”  You know, eating out of frustration, boredom and anger.  I learned that hunger is not sitting around thinking about what might be fun to eat right now.  I needed to learn what healthy weight loss was all about.

What a shock to realize at age 55, that the purpose of eating is to make me more healthy and sustain myself, and not as my primary form of entertainment or a major emotional outlet.

If you stop eating like you have, but don’t replace bad behaviors with something new and healthier, your weight loss will never last.  Replace your bad habits with something sustainable and different.

Now I know exactly what works for my body.  I know the rules and what works.  I know if I eat a set amount of protein, carbs, salt, sugar, veggies and fruit each day, than I will feel so much better both mentally and physically.  I have learned to eat and then wait for that pleasantly full feeling –like pleasingly plump – but so much better!

First you need to trash most of your previous assumptions about what you should be eating or what you think you need to feel satisfied. I now consume about one third of the total calories I used to consider OK and I NEVER feel hungry.  Instead I now eat the proper foods, in the proper amounts for a person my size, age, etc.

DID YOU KNOW?  Junk Food Turns Rats Into Addicts!

When exposed to foods like bacon, cheesecake and ho-ho’s, rats elicit the same behavior as that caused by heroin addiction.

According to a recent articles, pleasure centers in the brains of rats addicted to high-fat, high-calorie diets became less responsive as the binging wore on, making the rats consume more and more food.

This is the most complete evidence to date that obesity and drug addiction have common neurobiological underpinnings.

Why are we all eating so much?

It seems we in the West have created the perfect storm for eating out of control.   How?  Did you know there is a multibillion dollar flavor industry working every day to increase your food cravings?

Some of the best minds in the world are creating natural and artificial flavorings that make your mouth water and keep you coming back for more.

Yes, food doesn’t taste the way it did 20 years ago.  There are lots of scientists whose primary job IS TO GET AND KEEP YOU EATING TOO MUCH,and they know exactly what your brain finds absolutely addictive!

To learn more you must read David A Kessler’s excellent book: The End Of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.  Here he documents exactly how hard our major chain restaurants work to get and keep you addicted to their food.

What does FAT look like today?

Then we have the American perception of ideal weight, which has been heading up, up, up and away, especially in the past 20 years or so. 

According to the latest Gallup poll, actual weight and ideal weight — have risen, although “ideal weights” have not quite kept pace with actual weight gains.  The average American male now weighs 196 pounds and the average woman is up to 160 pounds.  Both figures are 20 pounds greater than self-reported weights in 1990.

Perhaps more importantly, Americans’ self-professed “ideal weights” are getting higher and higher.  Women on average said their ideal weight is 138 pounds — up from 129 in 1991.   Men on average said their ideal weight is 196  — up from 180 pounds in 1991.   In other words, our perceptions are shifting upwards as our health is taking a gigantic hit.

I know personally how this happens.  Before I decided enough was enough and started seriously losing weight, I could easily rationalize my midlife weight gain.  I would simply turn to others around me and say, “I know I’m overweight, but I’m not that bad. Just look at her.”   As those around us expand, our perceptions get distorted.

For the total reality check, go now and do an honest assessment of your own BMI.  And remember, anything over 30 is OBESE.

Our American addiction to starch in every form!

In addition, the traditional American diet assumes far too much fat and starch for our present lifestyle.  My own upbringing caused me to expect starches like cereal, bread, potatoes, and pasta, not to mention cookies, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  This is dietary disaster! 

Very few of us in midlife can eat bread or cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and a potato or pasta with dinner and expect to remain at a reasonable weight.  This is the road to obesity plain and simple.

Starches are filler foods we needed when we were doing physical labor 60 hours a week. Today we need to fill up on the highest quality proteins, fresh vegetables and fruits instead, and cut starches down to some reasonable size.

What are the facts?  Fat kills us even when we don’t see ourselves as fat.  We will continue to die at an ever earlier age with fat induced illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancers of all types. Our  obesity epidemic is leading to sky-rocketing health care costs, which will only increase as the U.S. has become the most obese country in the world!

So where do I begin to lose this extra midlife weight?

According to Dr. Oz, women over age 50 burn 200 calories less per day because of estrogen loss.  But when fat builds up in places like our belly or upper arms, which is common after 50, extra estrogen is also stored, which can lead to even more cravings for fat and carbs. 

WE also tend to exercise less as we age.  Is it because we feel hopeless about ever being fit and healthy again, or because our arthritis is getting out of hand?   Either way, we keep on eating as if we were still 25, as every restaurant in the world is literally plotting to get us further addicted to salt, sugar and fat!

If you don’t believe me, read The End of Overeating by David S. Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA.  The food industry knows that certain substances are like heroin to our brains, and they are trained to find many ways to keep us coming back for more!

If you are reading this e-book, you know personally the ins and outs of feeling fat and disgusting, but also hopeless at ever changing this fact on your own.   “So, what’s a boy or girl to do?”

A few months ago I ran into a former co-worker from my previous life as an academic librarian.   She said “Hi”, but I simply did not recognize her.   She was half the size I remembered her! I felt amazed, totally impressed and mildly depressed!  She said she had been working with Slimgenics for a year or so, and then she warned me:  It’s EXPENSIVE, but very effective.

Flash forward to last June 15th, when I heard some radio talk show host say that he had lost over 100 pounds with Slimgenics and kept it off.  We have a center here in town, so I decided to swing by and check it out. 

I had tried Weight Watchers twice and felt certain that program didn’t really work for me.  Why?   Because I feel weight loss is not a group activity, either the counseling or the weigh-ins.  (NOTE: I am NOT a GROUP person, and generally call most group activities group grope!)

I know I need a lot of individual attention, and I’m a natural cheater when it comes to measuring all my foods, etc.  In other words, discipline is a problem for me!

Come to find out, Slimgenics is VERY EXPENSIVE, but for me, that’s one good reason why it worked.  You try plunking down over a $1000 up front and then challenge yourself to cheat.   No way!   You have already spent too much money to cheat!  I knew I needed to SEE SOME SERIOUS RESULTS!!!  And long-term results too!

Join me in this emotional journey as I confront my many cheap excuses and bad moods, to FINALLY change my life while getting rid of some terrible eating habits.   I’ll let you know all of the thrills and spills involved in serious midlife weight loss.  I’m shooting for a 50 to 60-pound weight loss!

What I’ve learned so far…

I’m really glad we have a Slimgenics Center nearby because I NEED all of my questions answered and the daily pep talks from my counselor.   I can’t imagine paying so much money without a full explanation from an actual person. 

The most interesting new information I received was how important water is in weight loss.   Did you know that water is possibly the most important catalyst in losing weight and keeping it off?   Not only is it a great appetite suppressant, it also helps the body metabolize stored fat. Less water intake may cause an increase in fat deposits!  Who knew?   Low water intake is very hard on your liver so it cannot work as efficiently to metabolize stored fat into energy.

On Slimgenics, I never really felt hungry, but you do have to pre-plan every meal very carefully at first.   Get a new ounce scale to weigh your meat portions.  I know overall, this doesn’t sound like much fun, but feeling healthier, lighter and more confident will make this all worth it! 

Being on a plan like this also adds new motivation to exercise more than normal, that and the lovely cool weather we’ve been having lately!

The Emotional Experience of Weight Loss

These many physical changes in my life are really impacting my moods.  My new and improved midlife husband  Mike says I’ve been acting a bit manic-depressive lately, but he loves the fact that I’m on a plan and I’m on my way to a healthier me!

My first few weeks were tough, especially when I see those big, delicious-looking meals on the TV ads for places like Olive Garden and Applebees… How depressing to think I can never eat like that again!

I complained to my ever thin, but wise husband about feeling deprived, and he had the perfect answer:

“Don’t worry about all of that right now. Just stick to your goals and tomorrow will take care of its self!”

At first I feared that this program would never work for me because of menopause, but the real anger set in when I realized how truly restrictive my diet would be for the next seven months.  All of my lovely starches were GONE!   OK, not gone, but do you know what a 50 calorie piece of bread looks like?  Do I really only get 2 a day?   Pathetic!

Surprisingly, I realized that I went through the normal emotional response to the death of a loved one as I let go of overeating: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

But even that changed over time.  I realized I didn’t love rice and potatoes as much as I thought.  Certainly not more than life itself!  What I love is the sauce that goes on top of these things.  So now I add lots of veggies to all of my sauces and eat as much as I like!

The good news?   I feel good about taking responsibility for my own overeating habits. I’m finally getting control of my water retention problem. I feel reassured that I am on a plan that has worked for thousands.   I’m losing weight slowly and sensibly, and I’m confronting directly those fears and worries I have every day, instead of distracting myself with large, unhealthy amounts of carbohydrates. After just one week, I’m 3 pounds lighter and 100 pounds happier, because I’m on a plan and I feel hope for a better future!

I find I am now seeking out different forms of comfort, escape and contentment, returning to activities that have always given me pleasure, but I have not done in a long time.   I’m listening to music more, stretching, gardening, and other forms of creativity.   The loss of vast quantities of carbohydrates has forced me to consider further how I spend my free time, and my perpetual dilemma with the need to feel “productive” all of the time.

I KNOW this new stage of my life is a healthy adventure for me, and well worth the temporary discomfort. I know I’m going to be old, but I don’t have to be fat too!

I do feel so much healthier, more energetic, and lighter than I have in years. I constantly remind myself this is not some sort of short-term, quick fix. This is a total lifestyle transformation. I’m doing what I have been told to do and it is definitely (and surprisingly!) working. I am finally on a high protein, low fat diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, and very low levels of starch (as in rice, bread, potatoes, etc.)

The most surprising part to me is how reinforcing and delicious the protein snacks can be. As you know, when you are restricting calories, you really need something to look forward to during the day. In my case that is the required two protein snacks per day. These snacks are full of protein from soy isolate (10-15 grams of protein), but only 190-150 calories each. They really rev up your metabolism! Who knew you could make a healthy snack that tastes like sour cream potato chips or a chocolate bar?

My favorites are the “Diet Protein To Go” brand, and I LOVE my daily Chocolate Fudge Cake. Add a little fresh fruit to this cake and you have a GREAT, chocolate dessert! In fact, I’m sure I eat more chocolate now than before I started my life changing food plan! This all makes me think I could get addicted to protein snacks, which means I might also get addicted to losing weight. 

That’s got to be a good thing!

What is YOUR correct amount of protein per day?

I have noticed how much more protein I have been consuming both through the required amounts on the diet plus through my protein snacks. It seems that this increased level of daily protein helps me lose weight more quickly. It definitely makes me feel less hungry even though I’m eating a lot less total food than I used to.

For example, if I do have a bowl of cereal in the morning, I know now I will be thinking about food for most of my day. But if I stick with my 2 eggs and one piece of no sugar, 50 calorie toast first thing and then a protein bar around noon, I simply don’t get hungry until much later in the day.

So how much protein do we need to sustain a healthy body? Most experts believe that most of us get more than enough protein daily. In fact, some believe the average sedentary American eats about 50% more than they need, ranging from 40-70 grams per day, depending on your gender, age and situation.

If you’re an exerciser, your protein needs increase since resistance training and endurance workouts can rapidly break down muscle protein.

How to Calculate Your Protein Needs:

Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.  This is approximately how many grams of protein you will need to consume each day.

Use a lower number if you are in good health but sedentary most days. Use a higher number if you are under stress, trying to lose weight, are recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent weight or endurance training.

If you are anything like I was, you are not getting anywhere near this amount of protein per day.  You’re probably loading up on carbs and missing out on the advantages of revving up your metabolism with a high protein diet.

I found weight loss was so much easier when I raised my metabolism through exercise and protein consumption while also drastically cutting down on starch and sugar calories.  I found I needed to consume at least 60 grams of protein per day along with lots of veggies and two fruit every day. 

Revving up your metabolism!

Certain things will increase the energy you produce, at least briefly. Eating a meal raises your metabolism, especially if it’s high in protein.  Certain substances like caffeine may increase your energy by raising your metabolism temporarily, but sometimes with adverse effects.

Foods such as red pepper, black pepper, ginger, green and black teas and other spices are being studied for possible weight-control benefits.  These all raise metabolism through the body’s heat production and energy use, but whether they can provide long-term results, and at what dosages, remains unclear.

Did you know the BEST thing you can do to improve your long-term brain function and plasticity is to move your body every day?  That’s what keeps your brain young and active.

The BEST way to change your metabolism is to exercise on a regular basis.  This actually improves your long-term brain function too.

Pushing your metabolism higher

When you’re physically active nearly every day, your body maintains an elevated metabolic rate.   This keeps your engine revved up and burning calories, even while you’re relaxing.

Making small changes every day, like walking to the store instead of driving, does increase your metabolism.  Also, cutting your own grass, raking, hand-shoveling your snow and gardening all help you feel better both mentally and physically!

Ten foods that curb food cravings & boost metabolism:

Eggs: Eat two eggs with toast each morning, and you’ll feel less hungry and eat less all day long.

Beans: Beans contain a digestive hormone which is a known appetite suppressant.  Beans can also stabilize your blood sugar.

Salad: Studies show that women who ate a large veggie salad before a meal consumed 12% less starch during the meal.

Apples: With 3 grams of fiber per apple, and the blood sugar stabilizer pectin, apples greatly curb between meal cravings.

Lean beef: Fight unwanted muscle loss while dieting with 5 ounces of lean meat per day.  The amino acid leucine, found in meat and fish, helps you lose more weight and fat.

Green tea: Contains lots of antioxidants called catechins which speed up metabolism and help you burn fat.

Olive oil: Helps boost metabolism.

Grapefruit: Eat grapefruit regularly to help you drop pounds.

Vinegar: Contains natural acids and enzymes that act as an appetite suppressant and boost your metabolism.

Cinnamon: Helps you fight diabetes by increasing the body’s insulin response, while experiencing lower blood sugar levels and increased insulin production.

Some useful healthy eating tips:

Plan ahead, and don’t wing it, because you will probably end up overeating or eating something unhealthy instead.

  • Always start your day with a good, high-protein, low-sugar breakfast like eggs. This will help you manage hunger throughout your day. Remember: overeating the night before isn’t an excuse to skip breakfast.
  • Skipping a meal can result in overeating later or poor food choices.  Have protein throughout your day and try a late-afternoon snack (fruit, carrot sticks, popcorn) for quick energy.
  • Add protein to each meal — such as a hard-boiled egg, tuna or nonfat cottage cheese — to manage hunger and sustain energy. But watch the salt content on that tuna or cottage cheese!
  • Train yourself to stop eating after one serving.  Stop and wait to feel that nice full feeling a few minutes after you finish. If you are particularly hungry, make sure you have one food you can eat as much as you want of, like vegetables, salad or fresh fruit.
  • If you must eat at a fast-food joint, order a salad. Most now have great choices that include fruit and protein. Don’t use too much dressing, though!
  • Shop for groceries when you aren’t hungry, angry, lonely or tired.  Never bring food home you don’t want to eat.

Try sugarless gum when you get the urge for something sweet after a meal.

Save alcohol for special occasions. Alcohol is all sugar and “empty” calories, plus it can contribute to the development of breast cancer.

For a real eye-opener, see how many grams of sugar are in just about everything you eat!  

Less sugar equals less hunger.

Public health enemy #1: SUGAR in every form!

New studies suggest the key to weight loss and maintenance is eating a diet that keeps our insulin levels low.  The hormone insulin helps your body store fat, and makes sure it stays put.  This means that if you control insulin, you control fat.  It’s that simple.

Eating too much sugar (in ANY FORM) makes you fat, by triggering insulin.  It’s also linked to wrinkles, aging, cancer and a compromised immune system.  If you would immediately cut your sugar intake down to 10-15 grams per day (a couple teaspoons), you would greatly reduce your risk for illness, diabetes and cancer. 

Cutting down on your body’s production of insulin is key to reducing fat production.  One apple equals 12 grams of sugar.  The American Heart Association recently suggested limiting sugar consumption to less than six teaspoons per day.

I know of what I speak hereI cut out all sugar, alcohol, antibiotics, most dairy and artificial sweeteners (EXCEPT STEVIA) from my diet a few years ago, because of an overwhelmingly bad case of Candida overgrowth.  I limited my diet to meat and vegetables and then added in a few apples and blueberries gradually.  And amazingly enough, I found that I was hardly ever hungry!

Stevia is the best non-calorie sweetener because it is not artificial at all!  It’s an herb.

With up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, but no caloric value, this South American herb seems to be the perfect solution to our search for low-carbohydrate and low sugar food alternatives.

Stevia occurs naturally, requiring no patent to produce it, and has been used as a natural sweetener for centuries by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay.  It also now claims over 40% of the Japanese sweetener market.

Stevia is now showing promise in medical research into obesity and diabetes treatment, because it tastes so sweet and yet has a negligible effect on blood glucose levels.  In some cases it actually enhances glucose tolerance.

Try some tea for weight loss

Another way to reach your weight loss goal, is refreshing teas from around the world.  In the morning try fermented Chinese Pu-erh Teafrom China, for a great burst of antioxidants plus many health benefits. There are even claims that this tea can shrink fat cells!

Chickweed Tea is a powerful diuretic. Chickweed tea helps the body flush excess water or fat from the system, leading to regular urination and a cleansed, toned body.  It can also act as a mild laxative.  In addition, it may help increase your body’s metabolism for increased weight loss.

In the evening, try Bilberry Tea. Drinking one cup a day may inhibit eye and vision disorders by strengthening the walls of blood vessels in the eye and benefit the retina, reduce inflammation, and help support cardiovascular health, help with gastrointestinal problems, ease varicose veins, and lower blood sugar in diabetics.

What is the healthiest salty snack for weight loss?

Fiber promotes belly fat loss by creating optimum health. When you do consume sugar, if you eat it with a good amount of fiber, like an apple, or blueberries, you ease the amount of sugar going directly into your system.  Artichokes, oats, beans and whole grain products are excellent sources of fiber. 

What is one of your healthiest snack foods? Fiber-filled popcorn! It is my personal favorite! It is so satisfying, and yet doesn’t seem to add as many calories as others snacks. Popcorn reigns supreme among whole grain snack foods, with the highest level of antioxidants. Focus on whole grain snacks (the first on the ingredients list), which are rich in antioxidants. Then hold the butter and keep your salt intake as low as possible.

Transforming obesity in midlife, up-close and personal

I have been studying the problem of obesity on a personal level for the past year.

Last Memorial Day, my father experienced life-threatening health problems which required major surgery.  This turned into the wake-up call I needed to finally lose some weight. I got into a program last June, and finally got serious. I lost 50 pounds over eight months, and haven’t gained one pound back in the past few months of maintenance. The name of the program isn’t important. 

Personal responsibility, accountability and determination is what counts here.

What works when it comes to permanent weight loss? Certainly NOT silly “tips” and gimmicks which promise it will be easy.

I finally received the instruction I needed to control what I eat, instead of it controlling me.  I found I needed to rec0mmit to regular exercise and walking, and cut out what I now call “entertainment eating.”   You know, eating out of frustration, boredom and anger.  I learned that hunger is not sitting around thinking about what might be fun to eat right now.  I needed to learn what healthy weight loss was all about.

I now eat to sustain myself and only when I actually need to.  I replaced one behavior pattern with another that worked with my specific midlife metabolism.  It really is simple reprogramming.  Most of us had NO training in eating properly.  We simply eat the way we were told to, and in most cases this is a BIG mistake which catches up with us in midlife

In my case, this meant no more sugary drinks, fruit juice or not.  Being 50 pounds overweight was NOT OK, and so I greatly increased the amount of lean protein and the number and variety of vegetables in my diet.  Now I only eat two fruit/day, and have switched to two very small portions of starch each day, as in one 50 calorie piece of bread and 1/3 cup rice instead of a whole cup I used to eat.

At first I hated the whole idea.  I wasn’t actually hungry, but I had PLENTY of mental resistance.  Then slowly, as my extra weight fell off, I found I did not miss the extra starch, and I began to feel 500% better both mentally and physically!

In my first few months I lost ten pounds/month, then five/month, and the last few months only three or so, with a total weight loss of 55 pounds in eight months.

More importantly, taking full control over my weight has really changing my attitude about myself.  I feel so much more optimistic now!  If I can change this, what else can I improve in my life?

I’m finding more fun things to do, stretching more, and walking more.  I just feel so much healthier, happier and lighter.  I take lots of Omega 3 and 6 plus many vitamins.   Overall I see my diet as so much healthier than I’ve consumed in ages, and I have finally found some true sense of portion control.

I have been maintaining my goal weight for the past four months by weigh myself every morning and adjust accordingly.  I find I can eat just about anything now in small portions, pizza being the toughest!  I mean between the dough, the salt and the grease, watch out!

The icing on the cake was when the members of my exercise class (all age 60+) gave me a standing ovation one day.  I found my best support came from my loving new husband and others who are older and wiser than me, those who saw clearly how I was cutting my life short by ignoring my bad habit of overeating.  It is only those who truly love you, who can help you see the problem more clearly,

All of this has increased my awareness of the multitude of health problems brought on by overeating.  Most of us have no idea we are actually OBESE.  We just keep adding on weight over the decades and do not realize the harsh long-term effects.

Go check your BMI NOW.  Tell the truth and stop pretending. 

Do a reality check when it comes to the life-threatening and life-shortening powers of obesity.

Healthy midlife weight loss

This morning I got naked and glanced at myself in my full-length mirror.  My immediate response was shock and awe!  I unconsciously said out loud: “Oh, so this is  what I’m supposed to look like!”

Isn’t it funny how easily we get used to seeing a fat person when we look in the mirror?  The weight comes on so gradually over many decades, and then suddenly by age 45 or 50 we can hardly imagine our bodies any other way.   Getting back to a normal, healthy weight may seem absolutely out of reach.

What I have learned from my year of healthy weight loss?

Weight loss is a journey which begins by believing that you MUST change your life NOW, and then admitting you need some serious instruction and support. 

Especially in your first few months when you are struggling to believe it is even possible for you to get back to a healthy weight, one-on-one support is so essential.   Otherwise, who are you going to cry to when you feel so many mixed emotions as your hormone levels shift, and you change inside and out?

Weight loss is all about getting rid of the rules you learned as a kid and the norms you see around you EVERYWHERE.

We all need to first trash as much as you can of our previous assumptions about what you should be eating, what you need to feel satisfied, and what your new normal will be.  I’ll bet I now consume about one third of the total calories I used to consider “normal.”

Starving yourself is your shortest path to obesity!

When you wait until you are super hungry before eating, you will find it almost impossible to fill yourself up.   Just like waiting to take a pain reliever until you cannot stand the pain, it will take that much longer to stave off your hunger.  I now eat 4-5 what I call large snacks each day and I NEVER allow myself to feel true hunger.

A fair amount of “hunger” is in your mind, not your belly.

Sitting around thinking about what would taste good right now is not the same as HUNGER.   Weight loss may require you to find lots of new interests and ways of distracting yourself from focusing on food full-time.

Remember all the fun things you used to do instead of thinking about eating all day long?  Mine were playing, walking, swimming, stretching, listening to music, writing in a journal, reading a good book, walking out in the sun, and gardening. 

Get back into all of your former good habits again!  And be sure to exercise or else you will look like “flab on a stick” after you finally lose your extra weight!  I exercise constantly, but still have plenty of brand new “hangy down parts.”

You will need lots of support from family and friends, but believe ME, it is possible for you to find a much healthier way to live.

Changing your habits requires determination, dedication, and maybe even some outside help. Who knows, it may lead to a midlife crisis. So, what’s the matter with that? It beats the heck out of dying prematurely of a heart attack, cancer, diabetes or any number of other obesity-related illnesses.  

Besides, this just feels so great!

Please feel free to contact me any time for further information at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Sincerely,  Laura Lee Carter

Mindfulness & Higher Levels of Consciousness

To continue my train of thought from my last post, I choose to believe that we humans are uniquely supplied with a brain and conscience so that we might go beyond our reptilian or primal brain. Yes, we must maintain our innate and automatic self-preserving behavior patterns, which ensure our survival and that of our species. But I know we can be so much more!

A part of my learning at Naropa University in Boulder, was the study of higher levels of consciousness, most notably with Ken Wilber. There I learned of the research into what can happen in the human mind when we are able to shut off the constant thinking, wondering and worrying, reaching beyond this primal state of mind.

Buddhist monks have shown us that we can achieve an infinitely expanded true self through deep meditation. This is in accordance with Buddhist philosophy, which focuses on being liberated from one’s insignificant self consciousness to attain a higher state of being, thereby reaching an “infinitely expanded true self”.

The Buddha taught that consciousness is “like a stream of water” with different layers or levels. Mind consciousness is the first level, using up most of our energy. Mind consciousness is our “working” brain that makes judgments and plans; it is the part of our consciousness that worries and analyzes. The brain is only two percent of the body’s weight, but it consumes twenty percent of the body’s energy. So using mind consciousness is very expensive. Thinking, worrying, and planning take a lot of energy.

We can economize this energy by training our mind consciousness in the habit of mindfulness. Mindfulness keeps us in the present moment and allows our mind consciousness to relax and let go of the energy of worrying about the past or predicting the future.– Lion’s Roar

As strange as it may seem, my own trauma brain injury in 2008, helped me to access this higher level of consciousness more easily. Partially because I don’t have the energy to think and worry as much as I used to, I can simply slip into a state of mindfulness as I choose. Call it what you will, this is a great relief! I tire quickly with too much interaction or “thinking” and then I give up and just live in the present.

I have also found living close to nature to be quite mind liberating. City life kept me in a constant, often unconscious, state of anxiety and vigilance. It took me a few years of living away from cities and most other people to relax that vigilant mind state and just be here now. Sometimes I may still feel sudden city anxiety, but I quickly recognize it as not needed and let it go.

To learn more about all of this, I can highly recommend the Buddhist magazine Lion’s Roar and this particular article called: “The Four Layers of Consciousness”

Winter Solstice 2020

Tomorrow, Monday the 21st will be the darkest day of our year. This is the day with the fewest hours of daylight, marking the start of astronomical winter. After this solstice, days will begin getting longer and nights shorter as spring approaches.

The word solstice is derived from the Latin word sol (“sun”) and sistere (“to stand still”), because at the solstices, the Sun appears to stand still. The seasonal movement of the Sun’s daily path (as seen from Earth) pauses at a northern or southern limit before reversing direction.

The Winter Solstice in Human History

The winter solstice was a special moment in the annual cycle for most ancient cultures back to the neolithic. Astronomical events were often used to guide activities, such as the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter food reserves. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this.

This is attested to by physical remains in the layouts of some ancient archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and ceremonial structures in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. The primary axis of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset at Stonehenge.

In the midst of gathering darkness, light becomes ever more valued…

The winter solstice was immensely important, because the Ancient ones were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months.” In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast, before deep winter began. Most domestic animals were slaughtered because they could not be fed during the winter, so it was the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready to drink at this time.

For me, this Winter Solstice has even more meaning, following one of the worst years in American history. This Solstice gives me hope that next year will be so much better in so many important ways! 🙂

Crisis or opportunity? How do we convert our breakdowns into breakthroughs?

Watching the news these days fills me with sadness. I feel like the witness to the worst misfortunes that have befallen this country in my lifetime. Job loss, poverty, hunger, terrible health losses and death, not to mention the worst economy perhaps ever. This is truly a terrible crisis for everyone involved. I do feel badly for those who feel no hope as this year comes to a close. Those of us who now live on Social Security and Medicare are so fortune that we have survived our own crises and lived this long.

When I look back over my own life, I remember when I lost a job, then ran out of unemployment checks, my fears of losing my home and the depression that ensued. This was not so many years ago for me. This was my life in 2004. I remember crying with the counselor at the state employment office, my desperation was that great. Since then I have lost my health to an unidentified problem with my lungs. Mike also almost lost his home when Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) dominated his life in his mid-30s. He had to move out and rent his home so he would not lose it. I would not wish these kinds of crises on anybody. Mike and I do know that hopeless, sinking feeling personally. That is why we give to charities for the hungry and homeless.

What I did when disaster struck was sit down and consider how I would now find a way to land on my feet and avoid future misfortunes. Mike and I feel we both learned a lot from our own crises, things like how to protect our assets, ask for help and find strength inside that we did not know we had. We also learned not to be critical when bad things happen to others. In other words, we learned compassion in place of harsh judgment. We never could have imagined that these crises would happen to us, but they did, so the first goal is to not be too critical of ourselves. We now know that compassion must begin at home and then expand outward to those around us. Judging those who suffer does nothing to help them problem solve. Although it may seem harsh, the Chinese were correct when they combined the characters “danger” and “opportunity” in their word for crisis.

What is this difficult situation teaching me? What opportunities are presented right now for me to benefit from?

If you live through the crisis, you must then struggle to find the opportunity that may be well-hidden in your terrible misfortune. In every crisis there is a message. This is nature’s way of forcing change into our lives. What old structures or ways of thinking need to be reviewed? What bad habits can go so that we can try something different and better? Sometimes life crises require some serious soul searching and surgery to cut out the worst assumptions we have made about ourselves. This can lead to psychological reframing of our problems.

For me, my midlife crisis (divorce, job loss, career loss) led to a brutal analysis of what I needed most in my life to make it worth living. I decided that love was my greatest need and highest priority, and I would need to make some major changes in my heart and mindset to make that happen. I would also need to learn to listen carefully to my intuition, the wisdom inside that had been accumulating for decades. Why had my culture taught me not to listen and believe in these messages? Once I started to listen to them, they came through even more clearly and I followed them. This process led me to a positive career change and love.

Eventually I would appreciate my crisis, because without it I would have never changed so much. Today I’m so glad I got divorced and lost my job. Only then was I ready to accept love and embrace a whole new way of living and loving. I heard the message of my crisis and saw the opportunity within it. Is it time for you to do the same?

I am a trained psychotherapist and have written a few books about how this process works…

Surprise! I’m looking forward to Christmas!

This is the time of year I usually post my “I’m beginning to dread a lot about Christmas” post. Once those ubiquitous commercials begin, I start complaining. But this year feels different. I’m anxious to get our tree cut (from our own land!) and decorated, and I’ve ordered just a few small, special gifts online. I wonder why…

I think it’s because of the tough past few years. I know I was too depressed last Christmas to decorate the tree. My health has been a constant concern for a few years now. When you’ve been consistently healthy for most of your life up until around age 60, and then you keep having serious new ailments turn up, it’s disconcerting to say the least. The one I fought the hardest was going on fulltime oxygen. I simply could not believe it, and I also didn’t want to! It’s terribly cumbersome, expensive and irritating. Try fixing dinner while trailing around an O2 tube. But I did somehow adjust after a couple bad falls and much difficult breathing convinced me.

Funny how illness may help one appreciate things in whole new ways. When you are no longer so certain that you will be here for Christmas next year, you see things differently. Now I want to enjoy every little detail. Oxygen tube or not, I want to be present for every moment now.

A New Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge!

I have been making Thanksgiving dinner for so many friends and family for most of the past fifty years of my life. It usually turns into a bit of a stress-fest trying to get everything done and on the table at the same time. When it’s time to make the gravy I am usually at wit’s end and exhausted! I guess I should add I am very controlling and bossy in the kitchen…

So last night Mike laid down this challenge to me: Let him do it all. He has done it before, before he met me, he reassured me. This blew my mind as I started taking it in fully. Could I let go of that much control? Could I trust him to do it right? This all blew my mind, because it showed me exactly what a control freak I still am. Did I trust Mike to do it well and do it “right?”

Of course, we do need to take into consideration that I am now on oxygen fulltime and even then sometimes short of breath. Since I first saw it, I have related too well to that new anti-smoking ad about starting in October if you are in charge of fixing Thanksgiving dinner this year. I have to admit it made me laugh because that was me! And no, I never did smoke, just crappy lungs, which no MDs so far can figure out.

As it turns out, I cannot turn the whole affair over to Mike, but he will be doing most of the work. I feel I need to make my cornbread dressing and the pie. Funny how we slowly give up control, and only when it becomes almost impossible to do it all yourself!

Now for one of my favorite stories about Thanksgiving. When I was in my late 20s I went to Taipei Taiwan to study Chinese language at the Stanford Center. Thanksgiving can be tough in a place where nobody even knows what a pumpkin or a turkey are. Soon after I got there in September, my grandmother died and I could not go home for her funeral. My brother-in-law did something really kind for me that year. He had his grade school kids make me Thanksgiving cards and sent them to me. They were all so cute and welcome, but one of them still comes to my memory every year.

This kid had drawn a turkey and along the bottom he wrote the words:

“I am a turkey too yum yummy yum yum!”

to be sung to the tune of Little Drummer Boy!

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My Thanksgiving is perpetual.” — Henry David Thoreau

“Make yourself useful!” A post for overly responsible boomers

Two themes have been competing in my brain for decades:

Do we need to “make ourselves useful” all the time? Or is it OK to simply relax and enjoy our lives?

Let me begin by acknowledging that I was brainwashed as a child that everything we do should be “useful.” Laziness was not allowed, and laziness was very broadly defined. Pursuits like games, art, music, cinema, anything that was simply pleasurable and not academically motivated was a waste of time. Productivity was key, but only certain types of productivity. Now I find some of these same strict definitions among my fellow Boomers, who are having trouble getting comfortable with aging, illness and retirement.

First of all, I have studied the psychology of American boomers for years. One conclusion I came to is that we have been identified unfairly as an extremely self-centered and irresponsible generation. The boomers I know are now taking care of their parents if they are still alive, environmentally aware and responsible, and feel a strong need to feel useful in this world. That flower child, druggy image does not stick. Perhaps we are more self-aware than our parents, and more aware of our impact on this planet, but totally irresponsible, no.

Speaking for myself, I grapple daily with guilt over my own idleness even though I also struggle with hypoxia and the long-term affects of a traumatic brain injury. Besides the usual, “Why me?” questions, I feel lazy if I cannot complete at least a few household chores every day. Guilt feels like a permanent companion to my illnesses. Luckily my husband Mike is the direct opposite of my inner critic. He encourages me to feel good about simply still being here, and helps me make the most of it. He keeps our vehicles and home running smoothly…

while encouraging me to focus on hobbies that give me pleasure like photography,

gardening,

cooking and writing this blog.

Mike also understands my struggle with every day guilt, partially because he was not raised that way. He believes that retirement should be joyful and guilt-free. He believes we earned it “after slaving away our entire working life!” I can learn a lot from him.