Balancing Aesthetic Goals and Well-Being

Happy Sunday!  I hope this weekend has been able to provide some rest for those reading; I know mine has for today, at least.  Being that today is an off day, I wanted to start on my series of body image entries.

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Growing up, I was always on the heavier side.  I, like many others, began experiencing insecurities about my body very early on, probably even younger than 10 years old.  I don’t have children of my own, but after growing up and observing not only how I felt, but how others felt at a young age as well, I think it is important to start dialogues with kids about body image early on.  Topics such as body acceptance, how the media affects us, healthy eating habits, how to manage anxiety and insecurities, etc, are good to discuss with children.  I think at the very least, it helps kids know that they aren’t alone in how they are feeling.

When I was 13, I lost about 20 pounds.  I remember my teachers asking me if I was ok, and I constantly ensured them that, yes, I was ok.  I was just getting rid of some excess weight caused by eating too many sweets.  I felt that I was much heavier than the other girls my age, and after losing the weight, I felt much more “normal.”  The problem was, I was too young to understand the concept of “healthy lifestyle,” and therefore, viewed intense caloric restriction for a period of time as perfectly normal.  The perfect recipe for an eating disorder, right?  I don’t think it’s a problem for children to diet if they are overweight, but it must be supervised by parents very closely because kids don’t understand the numerous implications of drastically changing their lifestyle; to change habits just to see “numbers on a scale” decrease can be disastrous.

Weight management is such a complicated topic.  Because we are modern-day humans living mostly sedentary lifestyles, our genetic tendencies to hold fat do us much worse than our ancestors who were constantly on the move and never sure of where their next supply of calories and nutrients was going to come from.  Therefore, many of us must be cognizant of how much we are eating and what we are eating.  However, we must also be able to balance this with our own mental well-being.  Last May, I began a 12 week program to lose body-fat and build muscle to change my body composition.  It was designed for those potentially interested in entering bodybuilding competitions (at the time, I was interested in entering the bikini category).  I lost about 7 pounds of body-fat, but because of the intense restriction, I began to associate certain foods as “good” and certain foods as “bad,” and it started wreaking havoc on my mental state.  I would feel immense pangs of guilt if I ate something not explicitly outlined on my food plan.  I had to cut the program short, and I gained back the weight quickly.  I told a few friends and some family members that I was struggling, and they came to my aid.  Not everyone who suffers from disordered eating needs to be thrown in rehab or told to sit down and not get up from the table until they eat a plateful of super-sized enchiladas and down three margaritas, but they may very well need the support of friends and to talk with someone with a background in nutrition.

tumblr_lj1rg0ha2n1qgeygdWe’re going to get you back to being healthy!

I won’t say that my program was entirely a failure; actually, it taught me the importance of adding strength training and high intensity interval training to improve cardiovascular endurance and muscle density.  It also allowed me to begin my own research on food and how different macronutrients affect us (protein, fats, carbohydrates).  Genetics have the biggest say in how these are going to be processed by our bodies, but arming ourselves with knowledge about how can help us maintain healthy body compositions and choose exercise programs that will benefit us the most.  We don’t have to look like professional athletes to be healthy (it’s hard when Pinterest bombards us with pictures of bikini/figure competitors doing professional photoshoots and the captions read something like, “This is what health looks like.”), but if we want to bring our fitness to higher level, we must be aware of the overall implications.  I sometimes still consider doing a competition, but I now know that I would go into it with a totally different mindset.  While I was doing my program, I was going through some major life changes (moving, recovering from a painful breakup, and a few other things), and that did not help.  I think if you are going to compete you MUST be at a stable place in your life.  It’s also good to talk it over with friends and family so they understand what you are doing and don’t jump to the wrong conclusions (you lose a lot of body fat for a competition, and to most people, it looks unnatural).

Right now, I’d like to lose a little of the body fat that I gained back, but I’m doing it at a pace much more comfortable for me.  I have also accepted that just because I gained a few pounds, I’m still at a perfectly healthy body composition, and it hasn’t made me any less of a person.  We are ultimately in charge of how we look, but we must be aware of just how interconnected our actual physical bodies and mental state are.

Healthy mind=Healthy body.

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Current body composition.  Verdict=healthy.  Also, please forgive the fact that I am on travel for work at the moment.

-KP

Finding a Higher Purpose

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Today I started day one of my fitness project, under the training supervision of fitness pro, Kim Oddo.  I was referred by a classmate of mine to him, and after receiving my nutrition and fitness plan, I was expecting some of what he put together, but also surprised at some of the restrictions.  The interesting thing about nutrition is that for each person there are minute details which can be tweaked.  His plan goes down to each meal in detail, calories are overall most important for the day, but it is not as simple as just that.  I am allowed to swap out certain foods for like foods, but sadly, I can not consume 1500 calories of Peanut Butter and Nutella (although how amazing would that be?!) and call it a day.  Although I completed my marathon back in November, I can’t say that I was consuming the right kind of foods.  I think protein rarely made an appearance in my diet while I was living in Japan, which is really not a good thing, considering how important it is for overall health (and muscle growth).  If I had been taking in the right foods, I really have to wonder how much better I would have performed on my training runs and on race day.

Over the past few months it has been difficult dealing with the aftermath of my failed relationship.  I’ve been reading a few different books over the timespan to help me through the grieving process, to understand what went wrong, to recognize the signs of a toxic person, and most importantly, to once again find my higher purpose.   I recently began Richard Bach’s classic, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  I am still working through the book, but the basic premise is that we need to do what we believe in, regardless of whether it is what everyone else is doing, if we think that it will lead to our purpose in life.  When I was in my relationship, I thought my highest purpose was to love my significant other, but I noticed I began neglecting myself.  When the relationship ended I was left with a massive void where that love once was; it felt like a vacuum.  I thought: What is there for me if this person is now gone from my life?  What other purpose could I possibly have if not to love him?  Although I am still working through these emotions, I truly believe it is the love of oneself.  Author Jo Coudert puts it perfectly in her book, Advice from a Failure:

You do not need to be loved, not at the cost of yourself.  The single relationship that is truly central and crucial in a life is the relationship to the Self.  Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never lose.  

I think of the Alanis Morissette song, Underneath, where she sings:

There is no difference in what we’re doing in here
That doesn’t show up as bigger symptoms out there

What we do within, for ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, manifests in the world.  And it is so hard to feel good or to feel okay when somebody abandons us, but we must ultimately accept what their choices were, and realize it is not about us. 

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My fitness project, along with the increase in my writing, are ways that I am trying to regain what I felt called toward once before.  Seeing internal strength, willpower, and dedication manifested as physical strength.  BEING MY BEST SELF.  That is what my higher purpose is.

 

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So KP decided to try a 12-step program…

My apologies, I meant a 12 WEEK program!  Not the kind of program you had in mind (although if that’s currently part of your life more power to you!).  This is going to be a quick entry because it’s late but I’ve got much to talk about, so I’ll try and get an actual entry in tomorrow.  I know this originated as a travel blog, but fitness and health are also topics I really enjoy writing about.  I decided it was time to change my current regimen because I was expending too much effort with too little-no results, so my diet has COMPLETELY changed, I am going to be working with a trainer, and my exercise routine is also taking a 180.  I will talk more about the plan later and I’ll most likely be upping the entries to try and help keep me on track with the plan, but no better time like the present for a little life change 🙂

I’ve also got a few books that need to be talked about, along with a TED talk I found particularly interesting.  So much to write (and KP starts waaaay too late at night!).

What I Learned from Running a Marathon

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My coworkers are probably sick of hearing me talk about running a marathon.  Look, okay, running a marathon doesn’t suddenly make you a better person, you’re not “holier than thou.”  I will tell you this, though–it teaches you an incredible amount about YOURSELF and what YOU are capable of.  Sometimes it takes 26.2 miles of pain to figure sh*t out.  Oh yeah, there’s a little bit about running that you learn about thrown in there too (like don’t wear gear you’ve never worn before on race day, don’t forget to bring warm up sweats when your race is at the end of November and you’re the only idiot walking around in shorts in 35F weather before the race actually starts, and don’t just “wing it,” your body will thank you later), but mostly, it teaches you about life.

1. COMMITMENT AND DEDICATION ARE THE PILLARS OF SUCCESS.  You have to really be committed to the goal of finishing a 26.2 mile race.  I love the quote, “Do or do not, there is no try,” because you are either going to finish the race, or you aren’t, plain and simple.  Who the hell gets satisfaction in walking away saying, “Yeah, well, I tried to run a marathon.”  Injuries aside, you are going to be the one to ultimately decide whether or not YOU are going to cross that finish line.  Can you envision it?  Is the goal greater than the momentary doubt or pain?

2. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK.  I have NEVER felt so much continued pain in my body before.  Hours of pounding pavement is absolutely killer on the joints.  By the time I reached mile 20, I was really, really spent.  I thought about giving up so many times, but I kept thinking about crossing the finish line and about why I was even running the race to begin with.  Wasn’t it to prove a point to MYSELF that through willpower all things are possible?   And if that’s not enough, think of all the people, good and bad, that were there along the way–the naysayers, the people who supported you, the people who hurt you, and the people who ran alongside you through the pain–think about them too.  

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3. DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS THAN YOU DESERVE.  This is perhaps the most important lesson I learned. Since YOU have put in the time and the effort, you have pushed past the pain and torn down the walls of doubt, you know what it takes to be extraordinary, you know that success means being better than you were before, and we all have the ability to be better within us.  Don’t make excuses, don’t accept excuses.  You will never succeed by taking either action, you will only be holding yourself back..

4. CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.  If after touching down in Japan 2.5 years ago, someone would have come up to me and said, “You’re going to run a marathon 2.5 years from now,” I would have laughed in their face.  I had never run more than 5 miles in my entire life.  Why would I even waste my time doing something ridiculous like that?  Well, because sometimes the things we once see as “ridiculous” and “impossible” suddenly become important to us, and as I learned how to push past pain I understood what it meant to change.  It was a long, slow process from within that required the aforementioned commitment and dedication.   Change isn’t easy, but it is possible, and it allows us to grow.

5. BE GRATEFUL.  You have a body that allows you to absolutely feel what it means to be alive–everything that you are made up of is working together intricately, allowing your body to run the race.  Be grateful you have the opportunity to do so.

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Run for those that matter, run for those that don’t, because in the end you are going to have made the good ones proud and you will have left the bad ones 26.2 miles behind.

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“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” -Da Vinci

Reflections before a Marathon

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“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you’ve lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.”

― Asha Tyson

This is not a post about running. This is a post about the end of things and how life comes full circle at times, and how what is necessary to come to pass will eventually come to pass.

November 2011 I lay in my bed and I could feel my insides twisting in burned confusion; not about love–or at least nothing resembling love–but about people and about life and where I was even going. Success was not unreachable, but I found the path muddled and convoluted. It was like reaching through a thick wall of tangled yarn trying desperately to see what was on the other side. And there was part of it that took hold of the fragile core deep within me and held it tightly in its grasp, threatening to shatter it into a million pieces.

But somehow I refused to let it break; finally the hold lessened, and I drew into myself to protect that core. I ran mile after mile, in the cold, in the heat, in the early morning light watching the sun rise over the ocean, in the rain, and in the coolness of the night. I ran and ran and my legs ached and my stomach churned, but my veins surged with the one thing pushing me on–DETERMINATION. Sheer determination. There is nothing beautiful in a distance run. The body grows weary, it starts to give out at times. The joints ache from the continued pressure, and your insides churn from the constant motion. Why then, do human beings continue to distance run?

Because the run only reaffirms being alive, and in the end, when you finish your distance, you know that you are stronger than you think and that anything is possible when the mind and body are tested.

I lay here now, the culmination of my running efforts barely 48 hours away, and thoughts flood my mind like a relentless sea. Things that I have done and seen and felt course through my body and invade my mind, and I question whether the path has been the right one or not, but I already know the answer; there is no wrong path, only doubts and distractions that keep us from reaching the end goal. I think about god and how he/she/it keeps me from stopping to count pebbles or convincing myself I am too tired to push on; and the force comes like a great rain that washes down over the earth and pushes deep into the blackened soil, forcing nourishment. I chose HOPE to symbolize this post because it is this painful, sometimes forced grace that allows hope to spring forth, even if we didn’t think it possible. When we are open to reception, we will always receive the guidance and truth that is necessary in our lives to make us better people.

I carry these things with me as I run the race.

Triathlons, Temples, Typhoons, Oh-my!

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Today the winds have been continuously howling from a typhoon that is offshore, and luckily for me, that translated into an extra–much-needed –day off from work.

Recently a work colleague asked if I wanted to participate in a local triathlon, and since I am training for the Fuji Marathon in November, I decided to take him up on the offer.  I am a distance runner, swimmer, but I don’t have my own road bike at the moment and so that was the one portion of the race I wasn’t sure about.  I actually have never ridden a road bike…well….ever.  Needless to say it was going to be an interesting experience!  There is actually a lot more that goes into doing a multi-event race than just a run, because there is all this extra gear and the placement of the gear.  Some people really take the time to arrange things just perfectly.  Let me tell you how that goes in reality: “Oh my god, oh my god gotta move–going so slow–oh crap is the shirt inside-out?  WHY CAN’T I GET THESE BIKE SHORTS ON?!  Okay getting on the bike…crap, wait I have to walk the bike to the course entrance point…ok run the bike there–ok on the bike.  HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN RIDING??  HOW MUCH LONGER??”  And then my personal favorite is the transition from the bike to the run, because YOUR LEGS FEEL LIKE JELLO.  I ended up hitting all the times I was aiming for, so for a first race it was successful.

Yesterday we headed up to Kamakura because a friend was visiting and we wanted to show him some of the local heritage sites.  We took the enoden from Kamakura station to Hase station and made our way to Kotoku-in, which is the temple housing the Dai-Butsu, or Great Buddha of Kamakura.

Buddha

The structure that stands today may or may not be the original, which dates back to 1252, during the Kamakura Period.  Originally, the Buddha was enclosed in a hall, but a tsunami in 1498 washed it away, and the Buddha has stood in the open air since.  The structure was also orignally gilded, but having been exposed to the elements, it has all but faded entirely.  A notice on the entrance to the grounds reads:

“Stranger, whosoever thou art and whatsoever be thy creed, when thou enterest this sanctuary remember thou treadest upon ground hallowed by the worship of ages. This is the Temple of Bhudda and the gate of the eternal, and should therefore be entered with reverence.”

Our next stop was Hasedera, a temple dedicated to Kannon.  The temple is on the side of a hill and offers some impressive views of the Kamakura shoreline.  The main structure on the grounds houses a giant wooden statue of Kannon.  The legend goes, a monk once carved two statues of Kannon from great tree.  One was enshrined in Nara, the other set adrift to find the place it had a connection with.  It washed ashore in Kamakura and was enshrined there.

ShintoYoung woman in a kimono partakes in purification before ascending the mountain to the main complex.

Hase-dera

 

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Jizo

 

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Statues offered by parents mourning miscarried, stillborn, or aborted foetuses to the Buddhist deity Ksitigarbha, or “Jizo” as he is known in Japanese.

Hase-Dera

 

Kamakura

 

 

 

Tsukiji Fish Market

Oh my goodness I think it’s been over a MONTH since I’ve last written! My job has kept me quite busy–not much travel since China but I do have a little to write about. I refuse to talk about work on here because it’s actually quite dreadful at times, but something of note did occur recently. I was selected among many applicants to begin pursuing a much more specialized pipeline. What that means for me is more opportunities and MORE TRAVEL! Because let’s face it, that’s what really motivates me at the end of the day.

Another item of note is that within the last few weeks I’ve drastically changed my diet. Unfortunately my worst vice is I am an avid Coke Zero drinker, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to kick the habit just yet, but I’ve really begun to incorporate much more tea and water into my daily routine. Green tea, Oolong tea, and Peppermint tea are my favorites. Tea is one of those things you actually can drink as much as you want of; and Green Tea actually has hydrating properties. All teas have health benefits because of their anti-oxidants, including but not limited to catalysts for weight loss, cancer prevention, and anti-aging. You can read more about the health benefits of tea here.

I’ve also been incorporating much more protein, potassium, and healthy lipids into my diet, and it’s helped me lose a few of those stubborn pounds that I’ve been trying to lose for years. For me, since I am a distance runner, I often find I am plagued with painful cramps in my calves after runs. Potassium greatly alleviates this problem. With regard to weight loss, the secret is there is no secret. A healthy diet and exercise are ultimately what it comes down to. With the emphasis placed on DIET.

Anyway, on to the travel! This weekend we made our way up to Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, which is the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. The market opens up at 3 AM and products are shipped in from all over the world.

We stayed in the APA Hotel nearby, which was affordable and clean. The rooms were quite small (typical of Japanese hotels), yet convenient with comfortable beds.

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And no Japanese hotel room is complete without the attention to detail:

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We left our hotel at 3:45 AM only to find the tickets for the daily auction (starting at 5:20 AM) were already sold out by 3:15! So we took a walk by the Tsukiji Shrine, ate some fresh, early morning sushi at a nearby restaurant, and made our way back to our hotel for a few more hours of sleep before returning later that day.

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Specialized knives for cutting fish for sale in Tsukiji Market

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More adventures to follow!