Saturday, April 20, 2013

Countering Cortisol

So...this is apparently what I do.  I write, and then I don't.  And it's been two months of lame-o don't.  I got busy, and then it was Lent, and then Easter, and then knocked off my feet and out of the gym for almost two weeks.  And things were going well enough not to have anything to say. I thought I was winning the battle-- after all, my knees rarely scream anymore-- even when doing squats and the legpress.  I was losing inches, and a few pounds here and there. I am beginning to see a shape emerging.

I started with He-who-trains five months ago, and while I'm glad I've lost the 27 lbs, it's definitely not what I hoped to achieve in that time. I was thinking I would be closer to 40-50lbs down.  And as warmer weather approaches (though clearly not today...brrr) I will want to wear tank tops. I had imagined that my arms would not jiggle this year.  I thought this would be the first summer in years that I would even think about a pair of shorts.  And maybe even that while I wouldn't be perfect, I wouldn't hate my shape come beach time in June.

Perhaps I didn't have realistic expectations.  Or perhaps I've not been as faithful about eating well as I should've been.  Or maybe I haven't pushed myself as hard as I could've in the gym.   Or maybe it's something else.

Several weeks ago, I started getting a new lecture (in addition to the other lectures!) from He-who-trains: that cortisol is significantly hindering my progress.  And further, that until I got it under control, that I physically wouldn't be able to see the results I wanted to see.

I've been doing a lot of reading. (The most helpful has been The Coritsol Connection.) Cortisol is the stress hormone-- and it does all sorts of nasty things when it gets out of control.  It is part of the "fight or flight" reaction, which is good, but when people are under chronic stress, the levels are not well regulated. When the levels stay too high, at the very least, it causes a craving of carbohydrates and a sense of lethargy.  But those things are tiny in relationship to the other things: increased blood pressure, suppressed thyroid and immune functions, decrease in muscle density, storing of fat, impaired cognitive functions, and a host of other things.

As I've been reading, I've realized something.  I've kind of always been stressed out--even as a little kid.   Even as a child, I had more to-do lists than anyone could imagine (since the advent of technology, my post-its are digital-- which at least keeps them from taking over my world.) Even as a child, the thought of being late would make me nuts.  And I've always had a sense of being too busy to enjoy things.  My dad used to tell me to "go ragdoll" because my muscles were always so tense-- and I could never make myself do it.  I've paid for it too.  In seminary, I underwent MRI's and all sorts of tests because I had a headache that wouldn't go away.  (Later ruled stress.)  Several years ago, I was nauseated almost every day for nearly a year. (Also later ruled stress.) And I'm always catching whatever bug is floating by.

If He-who-trains is correct (and he usually is), and even with all the diet and exercise in the world, I won't be able to overcome this, then I have good reason to be nervous.  I don't exactly know what to do to correct a lifetime of bad habits, but I've realized that doing nothing is not an option.  I don't know that these small things are enough, but they are something-- some place to begin. So here is what I'm re-committing to do, in effort to begin to manage my stress.

-Start writing again.  Here, but not just here.  In journals, at my other blog.  On lists.  Everyday, somewhere.

-Walking Bella-- not for exercise or because she needs to do her business, but because it makes both of us happy.   It's a good place to gather my thoughts before the day runs away with me.

- Doing creative things.  Taking pictures, and drawing/painting, knitting.

- Keeping my space neat (and cheerful).  I don't function well in clutter and mess, and it's easier to stay on top of it rather than having to take a day to recover from the toll my week has taken on the state of the house.

-Cooking.  Having healthy meals ready to go in the fridge--that makes it easier to be diligent about eating well.

-Practing some form of Examen at the end of the day.  Reflecting on the things for which I'm grateful, and the things that didn't go as well as they should.  Asking myself how I did in meeting goals.

Yeah, so I've committed to all these things before.  And I've slipped.  But I kind of like what Zig Zigler said: "People say that motivation doesn't last.  Well, neither does bathing.  That's why we recommend it daily."  Today's a new day, and it's time to begin again.