Posted in gifts, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health

Gratitude for pain

So … I climbed on Tuesday until my hands wouldn’t hold onto the rocks on the wall any more.

My forearms (from gripping) and lats (from pulling) hurt for two days.

On the second of those days, I had a session with my trainer. Leg Day.

My legs were hurtin’ the next day. And, from all of the weights I held and moved in addition to just legs, my lats and forearms were unhappy an extra day.

How glorious!

My body is strong enough that I can try to climb fake rocks until I physically can’t any more. I can train (hard!) with a trainer. I can walk around at work all day, noticing that I’m sore. I can run 5Ks and ride my bike and play on the playground with my kid and move furniture and carry laundry.

Lucky me.

Why do it? Because you can.

A friend’s mom recently completed her first 5K. Except that she has a degenerative disorder, making walking long distances painful. She walked it. With a walker. Took WAY longer than everyone else. But she did it.

There are countless examples of people working through massive obstacles to be able to walk or run or lift or climb. (I’m sure there are examples in other sports, too–those are just the ones on my radar.)

Do it! Because you can!

Posted in food, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

New year detox?

A Facebook friend asked her online universe why cleanses and detoxes are so popular.

My opinion?

They’re popular because people believe they can trash their bodies for days/weeks/months/years and then “detox” for 2-5 days and call it even. It’s justification, and it lets people do what they want without feeling guilty because they “fix it.”

The best way to keep your body in good working order is to fuel it well on a regular basis. Perfect every day? Nah. But mostly great stuff most days. Minimal not great stuff most days.

We have built-in systems for cleaning out crap. The problem is when we overload the systems on a regular basis.

The more problems your body has, the stricter you’ll need to be for it to be happy (or happier).

Allergies typically require a modified diet (though when eczema or something similar is the consequence, many will use creams instead of diet to manage it).

Autoimmune disorders (which I would argue are a more severe case of allergies) have low or no tolerance for added sugars, fried foods, processed foods, alcohol.

Diabetes (regardless of type) requires dietary maintenance, and if you don’t do it, you’re going to have severe problems (immediately, down the road, or both).

The list goes on and on, but illnesses that we weren’t born with have some link to diet; some can be blamed entirely on diet. (And some that develop in utero can be blamed on mom’s diet. And now, we’re learning, grandma’s diet.)

What we eat and drink is really important. REALLY important. But because the side effects are gradual, because we’re “all” tired and a little (or more) overweight, because we’re “all” a little achy, we assume that’s just how it goes, but it’s not.

A detox doesn’t fix it.

Eat well. Drink well. Your body will thank you. It’s the only one you get. Treat it well.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, exercise, food, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health, thoughtfulness

Accountability to self

Who are you doing it for?

Are you doing it to better yourself? (In what way? Why?)

Are you just trying to impress people?

When you eat junk hiding in the bathroom, or tell your people you went to the gym when you didn’t, or pretend you ran faster than you did… why?

There are a lot of things I’d like to do every day. Even with time off, I’m not doing all (or even most) of these things every day.

So I decided to make a chart. It’s on my dresser and tracks a week at a time. About me. For me.

On it, there are all of the self-care things that I need to do every day and all of the things that in theory I would do every day but realistically don’t have time for. But I could do all of them a couple of times per week.

Exercise. Stretch. Foam roll. Meditate. Work on my book. Spend time with friends. Eat produce every color of the rainbow. Sleep. (Enough.) Put stuff on the stupid plantar wart.

This just helps me to monitor, and to keep things a little more in the forefront of my mind.

There are a lot of things on there. I decided before I made it that it’s not a daily to-do list; that would just be stressful. More of a “how am I doing this week?” list.

Things change when you monitor them, and I believe this will spur change for the better. We’ll see.

I also have sweets and caffeine on there, just to keep track of my intake of those. Many (not all) of the teas I drink in the cold mornings are caffeinated, and I don’t have much issue with that. But if I have too much or drink it too consistently, then I get a withdrawal migraine when I stop. And I don’t want to drink enough caffeine to go into withdrawal.

Sweets is just to make sure that what I think I’m doing and what I’m actually doing match, and it includes all of ’em. Even if I just take a Peppermint Patty out of the candy jar at work. (Oddly, those have been tempting. No other candy is. Though I’m typically only at that school during my fasting period nowadays anyway, so it’s irrelevant.)

Nuts and bolts for copycats: I made the list, organized it, wrote it on a sheet of white-lined paper, and put it in a picture frame. You can write on/wipe off dry erase markers on glass. It’s so much nicer looking and uses less plastic.

Posted in hope, motivation, tips


Please, if you are going to make the effort to make a New Year’s resolution, please take some steps to make it more likely to be successful.

(If you have no intention of keeping it, don’t bother making it.)

Some steps:

Make it something in your control: “The garage will get cleaned out,” when what you mean is, “My spouse will clean out the garage.” Make it something you are going to do.

Make it one thing. You can’t focus on three or four or five things at a time.

Make it realistic. If you’re not already in pretty good shape, you’re not going to run a marathon every month.

Make it concrete. “I want to be healthier” is vague and can mean a lot of things. Weight? Sleep? Stress? Food? Drink? Interpersonal interaction? Mental health? Exercise?

Make it actionable. “I am going to cut dessert down to once a month and go to the gym three times each week” is more useful than “I’m going to lose weight.”

Put it on paper. Make a chart or use a notebook (or the electronic versions thereof). Write it down. Put it where you will see it every day.

And if you start to avoid the paper… figure out why. What guilt or shame is stopping you from actually doing this thing? It is something that someone else wanted for you? Is it tied to so much emotional baggage that changing this thing unleashes a cascade of other issues? (For example… I heard a bit on a podcast a few weeks ago where women in one particular study lost a substantial amount of weight and gained it back because they were getting male attention that they didn’t want; they liked the invisibility of being heavy.)


Posted in food, know better do better, motivation, thoughtfulness

Mindless snacking

I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (IF). That’s not what this post is about, but it’s directly relevant.

I eat all of my food for most days in a roughly 8-hour window, starting in the early afternoon.

I’m home on break.

I’m suddenly very aware of how often I wander into the kitchen looking for a snack. Or how much I pick on what I’m preparing. Because I “can’t” do it now. (More on “can’t” another day.)

I made oatmeal for the others for breakfast today. I didn’t pick off a few of any of the toppings I was adding to either. (Diced frozen mango for The Kid; dates, raisins, slivered almonds for The Climbing Daddy.)

When The Kid didn’t finish his, I didn’t finish it.

When I was chopping apple rings for another recipe for later today, I didn’t eat any of them.

Without IF, I would have eaten all of those things.

If you’re spending time in your house, make note of how much you’re wandering into the kitchen because you’re bored. Or procrastinating. Or any other reason that isn’t “hungry.”

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Voices in our heads

I saw a meme that said:

May you never be the reason why someone who loved to sing, doesn’t any more. Or why someone who dressed so differently now wears standard clothing. Or why someone who always spoke of their dreams so wildly is now silent about them.

May you never be the reason of someone giving up on a part of them because you were demotivating, non appreciative or – even worse – sarcastic about it.

There are details we could squabble about (is sarcastic worse and/or different than demotivating?), but the point is: don’t be an asshole.

Decades later, I can still hear my mom’s criticisms of how I look when I look in the mirror sometimes. (I have the skills to shut it down most of the time.)

“What makes you think you could…?”

“You know This Other Kid is really good at This Thing You Work Really Hard At.”

“Why don’t you spend your time on something worthwhile?”

In some cases, I can see where I was standing or sitting, where they were positioned in the room, where the furniture was.

Don’t be that parent. 

I’m not saying that telling your kid that they’re great at something they suck at is the answer. But the “you suck, other people are better, why bother” attitude is soul-crushing. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving. (It’s been how long since my parents have said any of these things to me??)

You’re the adult. Be the adult. Nurture the kids. Help them discover what they’re interested in, even if it’s not what you’re interested in, or what you’d like them to be interested in.

It’s your job to help them be them, not to help them be who you wish you would have been.

I have been told by dozens of people that they can’t sing, that they were told by their music or choir teacher that they can’t sing, in some cases, being told to lip sync.

People who, as kids, were explicitly told by their art teacher that they’re not good at art, and they believed it and don’t do it any more.

People who were told in school that they’re never going to be a writer, to choose something else.

Don’t be that teacher.

Your job is to teach kids and to help them the best you can given where you are in the moment. Even if you can’t help them—some circumstances make that so—don’t hurt. Don’t blame them for things that are out of their control or shame them for not being more responsible than a kid their age should be expected to be.

I remember conversations with people with regards to any of my leaps: switching from flute to trombone in college; moving across the country; starting a business; getting National Board Certification; writing a book; going back to school. It’s not always easy to find people who are supportive. (It’s not always difficult, either, though the larger the stakes are, the harder it is, from my experience.)

Don’t be that friend. 

In short: apply the campsite rule — leave people better than you found them. If it was you who was learning to dance or starting to paint or offering a new service or playing basketball for the first time or opening a store on Etsy, would you want the people closest to you to be supportive or dismissive? Would you want the people in your class or in your niche to be helpful or to snicker?

(Same rule applies as to kids: there’s a difference between “I think it’s cool/brave/amazing that you’re starting/trying this” and “Wow—you’re really good at [this thing that you’re not at all good at].” One is at least potentially sincere; the other is known by all to be insincere.)

Take care of your own baggage so that you don’t take it out on the people around you.

When you find yourself being critical, see if you can find what part of yourself is made vulnerable by their endeavor.

For example: my mom was one of the people I know of who was told she can’t sing. My mom was one of the first to make fun of how I sounded when I practiced singing for auditions. My endeavor brought up whatever hurt she endured by being put down by her choir teacher.

Easier said than done, for sure. But if we all endeavored to be a little more emotionally generous—with people we incidentally interact with, with other drivers, with people we interact with regularly, with people we like and people we don’t—then we would all be a little better off.

And if no one around you seems to be doing that, why don’t you take the lead and demonstrate how it’s done?

(And thank you to all of the people through my life who have modeled this for me, both before I was aware of it and since and still. You help me to make myself better.)

Assume you’re going to be the voice that sticks in someone’s head. What do you want to be remembered for?

Posted in ebb & flow, food, hope, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, tips

The path and the results

Yesterday, I posted more or less the transcript of my session about sugar, and I promised you that today, I would give you advice on dealing with all of that information and what you can expect as a result of your hard work.

Read labels. (Ask me if you don’t know how—I’ll teach you.)

Use a journal or an app or whatever works for you to keep track of how much sugar you’re currently taking in. All of it. Read ALL of your labels. There is sugar hiding in so many foods that aren’t sweet.  This is not to judge—it’s to know where you’re starting.

The current WHO recommendation is less than 18 grams per day of added sugars.

If you’re over that, look at where you can start shaving it down.

If you’re like me, “moderation” is bullshit and you need to just cut it until it’s under control. (I’ll write more about this thought another day.)

If you’re like me, you’re an emotional eater and you need to make a plan for what you’re going to do when you’re happy, when you’re sad, when you’re stressed, when you’re whatever state of being causes intense sugar cravings.

Overeating sugar is a SUPER COMMON PROBLEM. There is no shame in this. You are not alone, and anyone who judges you is wrestling with the same problem and can’t face it yet.

Your value as a human being has no connection to how much junk food you eat.

I’m not gonna lie—quitting sugar is hard. Partially because we have been trained to believe we deserve it (see decades of being rewarded by parents, teachers, etc. with candy, ice cream, etc.). Partially because it’s ubiquitous, so it’s difficult to avoid contact/temptation. Partially because sometimes people in our lives react badly to us trying to live better and make it harder for us. (I’ll write more about this thought another day.)

But it’s worth the work.

When you quit sugar and it loses its hold on you, you experience liberation that you didn’t even know you needed.

You stop thinking about food all the time.

You stop shaming yourself for eating crap all the time.

You save time and money by not seeking out and buying junk all the time.

You don’t spend so much time feeling guilty.

Your moods are better.

Your energy level is higher.

And eventually, you can have a sweet here or there without it becoming all-consuming.

I’m not saying it will be easy. I’m saying it will be worth it.

And I challenge you to instill eating habits in your children that will help them not to have the same struggles that you have.

Posted in cancer, food, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health

Sugar (CUSD replay)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present two sessions at my school district’s Wellness Expo—one on Motivation and Mindset, and one on Sugar. I’ll post here what’s essentially the transcript for each, editing for reading as needed. I was allotted an hour for each session, and while I didn’t talk that long (I leave time for questions, and I’m not going to include my introductions here), these posts will be long. Enjoy!

I introduced myself, told a little about me (including my former incarnation as a sweets junkie), encouraged folks to take what resonates and leave the rest—especially if they’re feeling overwhelmed by the information—and let them know that the space for the next hour is judgment-free: we all have strengths and weaknesses and because of factors outside of ourselves, this healthy living thing is hard.

So a bit about language…

I do my best not to refer to foods as “good” or “bad.” Those words are loaded, and I think they distract us from the task at hand. Foods either move you towards you goal or they don’t. If you have no goals involving health in any way, physical or mental, then you don’t need to spend time thinking about your eating habits, because they’re irrelevant. Aside perhaps from what’s tasty.

But you’re here because you have health goals, or maybe your goal is to have health goals. Regardless, you’re on the path, so let’s talk about which direction to point yourself.

What is sugar?

Looking at the ingredients list on your prepackaged food, sugar can show up in any of the following ways.

names for sugar

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate. Fiber and starch are the other two.

Carbohydrates are important. They give us usable energy, both to be active and also for underlying body functions. A big chunk of this is brain power. Brains use roughly 20 percent of our energy, by far the most of any organ.

We don’t specifically need sugar for these functions—any carbohydrate will do—but sugar does meet this need.

What about fruit?

In short: whole fruit is good. Partial fruit (juice, dehydrated, etc.) is a treat.

My nutrition professor told us: “Fruit is nature’s way of getting us to eat fiber.” Fruit in moderation is good!

Fruit is also sweet, if your taste buds aren’t calibrated to junk food, and makes a good snack or dessert.

As far as the not-whole-fruit goes, here are the problems.

Juice: Juicing removes the fiber, so we don’t get one of fruit’s primary benefits when we juice. That also means it doesn’t contribute much to feeling full (not any more than an equivalent glass of water). But we do get all of the sugar.

You could make a smoothie instead, using the whole fruit, and you’d have a drink that is still sweet but also retains more of the goodness of the whole fruit. (There is debate in the scientific community as to whether the insoluble fiber is made less useful/entirely useless in the blending process or not. Regardless, the soluble fiber is still there and just as useful.)

Dehydrated fruit: First, these tasty little gems have no water in them. That’s the point of dehydrating them, right? But there is a lot of water in fruit, and the water contributes to its bulk in your stomach when you eat it.

So an apple and a dehydrated apple (or grapes and an equivalent number of raisins) have the same calories and the same sugar content. But the proportion of sugar in the dried stuff is much higher, since the water is gone.

The other problem is in marketing, not inherent to the drying of fruit. Most dried fruit is sweetened. I have found only a few instances of dried fruit being only dried fruit.

Glucose vs fructose

Glucose is ready to use by your body; it’s metabolized in the small intestine.

Fructose can only be metabolized in the liver. Some of it is turned into glucose, but if there’s too much, it will be converted into free fatty acids, cholesterol, or triglycerides.

The liver can get overwhelmed by too much fructose, and, because it’s not in the stomach or intestines, consuming fructose doesn’t properly trigger hunger or satiety hormones.

This is why high fructose corn syrup and agave nectar aren’t good choices for sweetening. HFCS when tested has been shown to have far more fructose than advertised (80% vs. 55%). Agave has nearly as much.

Plain table sugar is roughly 50-50.

Free fatty acids, one of the metabolic results of too much fructose, accumulate in the liver as fat.

Which brings us to…

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Most of us know that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to fatty liver disease. But excessive sweets consumption can have the same effect.

Please let that soak in for a minute. Eating a diet high in sugar can lead to the same liver problems as being an alcoholic.

If all of our fruit consumption was via fruit, our bodies could handle it just fine; it totals roughly 15 grams per day. We’re designed for that.

But we eat between 70 and 100 grams per day, mostly in sweetened foods and sodas.

That is a path to liver disease.

(All of that sugar isn’t so nice to your pancreas, either, where you’re making insulin to deal with the onslaught.)

Type 3 diabetes

Another potential side effect of a diet high in sugar is Alzheimer’s Disease, which has, in recent years, been dubbed Type 3 diabetes.

Our brains need carbs to run. Also, our brains produce insulin.

Overdoing sugar leads to insulin resistance which reduces the body’s ability to use sugar. Most of us are familiar with this—Type 2 diabetes.

But we’ve recently come to learn that brain cells can also become insulin resistant, which makes them not function, which accumulates into Alzheimer’s.

What about mental health?

A diet high in sugar is linked (correlated) to anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.

Now, that is correlation, not causation, but…

Excess sugar causes inflammation, and recent research is seeing that inflammation is a cause (the cause?) of depression.

So if sugar causes inflammation and inflammation causes mental health issues, then it seems likely that sugar causes mental health issues.

Anecdotally, I feel much more balanced mentally when I’m off sweets. Less grumpy. Less sad. Less angry. I have had many other people tell me similar stories.

Speaking of inflammation…

What else is caused by inflammation?

Heart disease.

Most if not all cancers.


If you have any of these conditions, it would serve you well to keep your sugar intake low.

Immune functioning

This is the main one that keeps me away from junk food left in the teachers’ lounge (a label perhaps left over from a time when teachers had time to lounge?).

A shot of sugar—and I don’t know what the exact amount is—makes your white blood cells lethargic. They’re the foot soldiers in your immune system.

The effect is temporary—it only lasts a few hours—but if you’re eating sweets consistently through the day, then your immune system is chronically depressed.

Reduced brain plasticity

This one is significantly alarming, given the diets so many of our children have.

A diet high in added sugars reduces brain plasticity.

Brain plasticity is what allows us to learn. It’s how we make new pathways in our brains.

How does this affect us through the life cycle?

Babies (who don’t need added sugars at all) and toddlers (who, seeing things in the world, might start to ask, even if you never offer) are learning about the world around them, basic physical skills, language. Brain plasticity is critical.

School-aged children are still learning about the world around them, are still learning language, are still (hopefully) learning physical skills, and are also learning academics.

For adults of all ages, continuing to learn new things reduces the risk of dementia.

And we already touched on increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

A bit for the ladies…

Consuming sugar leads to water retention. It contributes to mood swings. Anecdotally, it increases symptoms of PMS.

Those sugar levels also reduce calcium absorption which affects bones and teeth, but cramps are often triggered by low calcium.

Other side effects that we’re often already aware of

Diets high in added sugars also can cause weight gain, dental issues, hypoglycemia/type 2 diabetes, headaches, and ulcers.

It’s addictive!

Eating sweet things releases dopamine—the feel-good brain chemical.

In low quantities of sweets, the dopamine response wears off.

In high quantities, it doesn’t, which means you need more sweet to get the same high.

Sweets are dressed in drug language and behavior:

  • we eat it in secret (this is a running joke among parents of small children)
  • we make deals with ourselves about what, where, when, under what conditions
  • we steal (see: your children’s Halloween stash)
  • “I can’t live without it” or “I can’t stop eating sweets”
  • we say we need a sugar fix

None of this is to judge the behaviors—just to point out that they exist.

Tomorrow’s post: my advice on how to manage this beast, and what happens when you do.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, motivation

Sometimes, you need to go with inspiration

The Climbing Daddy suggested a few weeks ago that over winter break, maybe we should paint the living room.

I was very excited about this! As far as I’m concerned, the best reason to own instead of rent is to be able to paint real colors. Most of our house is still need-to-sell-it tan.

We were talking in the last few days, and decided instead to paint it before our Christmas Eve Eve party on Sunday.

So the plan was:

Thursday: move furniture. Tape and do other prep.

Friday: paint.

Saturday: move furniture and undo other prep.

He actually moved quite a bit of the furniture yesterday morning after I went to work before he went to work. (I got a surprise text with photo!)

I moved the rest after I got home before he did, and did inventory on what painting supplies we had.

Priorities: we went for a run before continuing the evening.

To buy the paint, we ended up at a different store so we looked through chips again and ended up with a color similar but brighter than what we had originally chosen. Happy day!

We stopped off at an Indian restaurant for dinner, thinking that eating in would only take marginally longer than ordering out, would be fresher, have less trash, etc.

We were wrong. They were very slow. But the food was really tasty. But they were very slow.

In the course of conversation yesterday, we decided to go climbing this afternoon. But that was going to take a chunk out of painting time. So since there was still time last night, I decided to do all the cutting, and then just the rolling would be left for today.

The Climbing Daddy is not a huge fan of painting and as such, doesn’t do it often (well, I don’t do it often, but often enough), so he was having trouble. I told him that I’d take care of it (since I enjoy it), and he could hang out or go to bed or work on other things. (He got some good stuff done while I painted!)

And then … after cutting, I rolled, because it was so close to done and rolling doesn’t take that long and … then it was after midnight.

Usually, blog posts get written a day or more ahead of time so I can let them sit, then revisit and edit (tomorrow and Sunday’s are already done), but this one? Not so much. I’ll let it sit an hour before I edit and share.

It’s Friday! I’m sleepy (though I woke up an hour before the alarm! There was time to write!). I’m excited (the living room is green!). It’s my last day of work for two weeks (so many grades to do today…).

Honestly … this painting story is the kind of story that I’m excited to tell but very few if any are excited to listen to, so instead, I decided to share it here <smile>

The moral of the story is—sometimes, it’s worth going with the flow and energy on a project, especially if it’s work that might not be as exciting when the scheduled time comes.

And unless the daylight shows a lot of touching up to do (artificial light is showing a few spots), this afternoon, I’ll take a nap before climbing.

Happy Friday!

Posted in about me, cancer, gifts, motivation

In pursuit of avoiding carcinogens

Some of my healthy habits were in place before my ride on the cancer bus; some were a result of it.

Not having cancer again is one of my motivations for many of the choices I make.

“Everything gives you cancer, so why bother?” is common, and I hear you, and I understand your frustration. But that’s exactly the problem. We’re being sold countless goods (food, drinks, personal care products, household cleaners, furniture, clothes, toys, and on and on and on) that contain known and probable carcinogens.

We can’t avoid them all, but that’s not a reason not to bother with any of them. (As we go, I’ll share lots of ways that I “bother with them.”) Remember: better is really good.

One of the ways I have changed in the last decade is in personal care products.

To be honest, this hasn’t been as difficult for me as it would be for some, because I don’t use much in the first place.

One of the products I learned to make—and continue to make—is lip balm. Beeswax, shea butter, coconut oil, maybe a little essential oil for scent. It works really well and the little tins last a long time.

(I use little tins instead of tubes, because I avoid plastic as much as possible, both for my health and the health of the planet. Also, each tin is equivalent to about two and a half tubes, so less work! And in Phoenix, lip balm melts. If I leave a tin in the car, it doesn’t leak all over the place. Tubes do.)

The other day, I mentioned to The Climbing Daddy that I need to make more lip balm—my tin is almost empty.

And just like that, somewhat impulsively, I decided to make kits again.

A handful of years ago, I made DIY lip balm kits containing everything someone would need to make four of their own tins, including something to melt and combine the ingredients in (beeswax is a pain). Scent not included, because there was no practical way to include the oils. (They need to be added at the end of the process.) Jar of ingredients, four tins, directions.

If you’re interested in one, they’re $22. (I haven’t looked into the cost of shipping yet.)

If you just want a tin or two of slightly minty lip balm, they’re $5 each.

Neither has any labels or markings, so you could add a sticker or label to make a little personalized gift.

Everything will be ready for pickup or to be shipped on or before December 8. Hit me up at heat.weirdlastname at gmail if you have questions or to order some.