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Taking Time To (Re)Treat January 25, 2014

IMG_4834So many things have helped me on my path to health, but one that I have been practicing for over 25 years is the retreat. I love this word. It means to take a step back; it means to take refuge. It also means to re-treat: to treat oneself, again. I first came to Santa Sabina in the mid-eighties, when I was a budding calligrapher (little known fact). I signed up for the Friends of Calligraphy retreat,  not really knowing what I was getting into.

It took my breath away. Silence, and beauty. The scratching of pens on paper in what had been set up as the Scriptorium. Words on paper (or on walls). A great spaciousness. My mind was blown.

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Once I started coming to this place, I felt I craved it like one craves chocolate, or oxygen. Once or twice a year (especially when I had babies and small children), I would slip away for twenty-four hours, to step into the quiet corners. I could climb the steps to the straw-bale Hermitage and “be the hermit” for a brief while.

IMG_1617 IMG_1612 IMG_1611Sometimes I came on my own, or with other writer friends. Sometimes I came with groups- calligraphers or poets. I experienced several amazing poetry weekends – one focusing on the work of Rilke, others with Jane Hirshfield and Naomi Shihab Nye. There is poetry everywhere here, and art. The art basement is a generous space filled with art supplies of all kinds – a calligraphers’ nook, a collage room. It invites gentle creativity.

IMG_1633 IMG_1630Several years ago, I began offering group retreats myself at Santa Sabina. It has been one of my greatest joys. Two years ago, I led a retreat called Stories of the Body. Participants came together to share stories through collage, art, writing, movement, and to be with their own bodies’ stories in silence and reflection and silent, mindful meals. It was so moving and beautiful. I have been trying to book a date for a return visit for years, but the center has been undergoing many renovations and there have not been dates open — until now! I am thrilled to be offering Stories of the Body again at the end of March.

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There’s an early-bird discounting until January 28th, and I’m also offering a discount to YOU, blog readers. (you can take advantage of both!) For readers of this blog, just enter the code FOODFOODBODYBODY and you’ll get an additional reduction in price.  I am also offering a deposit option with extended payments for those who cannot pay all at once.

I am hoping to be able to offer a weekend scholarship for one retreat assistant to this retreat this year. The work involved would be minimal but of great help to me (registration, set-up, logistics). If you feel that you would benefit from this special time away (and into yourself), please email me with the following:

  • Why you feel this retreat would benefit you at this time
  • Your commitment to attend if chosen
  • Experience in dealing with groups (ie your “people skills”)
  • DEADLINE: February 1, 2014

Exercise and eating well have been so elemental in my health journey, but this – THIS- has been an invaluable element that I often forget. Being with myself. Taking time for the quiet. I hope you will join us.

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MindMindBodyBody July 12, 2013

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It is amazing how things have a way of coming together, all at once somehow. It is a strange and wonderful story. Back in the beginning of May, I was in a kind of bleak place. My hip was hurting. I had not been able to exercise the way I wanted to. My weight was bumping up and up.

Then I got the dreaded email from the Powers That Be at Weight Watchers. Because you know, they keep an eye on these things. We staff members have to weight in once a month and show that we are either in compliance with the Staff Agreement (that we will be within 2 lbs of our goal weight), or that we have an Active Plan in mind to get back there. It was just a form letter. It wasn’t aimed only at me, but I took it absolutely to heart. I was utterly disappointed with myself and for the first time in four years, I felt hopeless. I went into this whole spiral of: I am a failure. I am a a fraud. How can I be standing up in front of people when I have let myself down so terribly?

I got that email about an hour before my regular WW meeting. I broke down in the parking lot and cried. I texted another leader friend intending to beg her to cover for me. No way could I go in there. But she didn’t answer back, she didn’t answer and finally it was time to go and I had to just suck it up and go in there. I bumped into a member who greeted me so enthusiastically. If only she knew, I thought. We walked over to the center and there was already a long line of people waiting to get in. “Look at all the people!” she said. “They’re all here for YOU.” Which made me feel even worse. My eyes filled up again and I thought about quitting. For good.

I went up to the leader area to prepare for the meeting. I noticed that the new Routine of the Month was: Mindful Eating, aka Eating Without Distraction. I laughed out loud. This is my favorite topic. This is the thing I am the most passionate about. I laughed. I told myself, all right, I will hang in there for this month and THEN if it still feels miserable, I will quit. I started the meeting and it was just awesome. As they mostly are. I love my members so much.

That next week, I took part in a one-day meditation retreat which was part of an eight week series I have been taking in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. (MSBR) It included an hourlong mindful lunch. I have had previous experiences of mindful eating practice, but it was before I was involved with Weight Watchers. I have also READ about mindful eating a LOT (love the book Savor) but I had not really practiced it in a formal way. So this was, like perfect timing: to have this experience smack in the middle of Mindful Eating month.

It was an astounding, beautiful, altering experience. First, we did the Raisin Exercise as a warm-up. Then we all went into various corners and spots of our own to eat and experience our own lunches. We were instructed not to make eye contact or try to communicate via hand gestures with anyone else. To see what it was like to eat WITH other people, but not in a social way. Interesting. I had brought a sandwich I’d make that morning, a bag of fruit, two little cookies and a bottle of sparkly water. I took it all out and laid it out on a napkin. I took off my glasses and held each piece of food up to my eyes, up close.

The raspberries blew my mind.

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Seriously. The way they had openings like little mouths. The teeny-tiny hairs. The puffy red bubbles. They were so luscious and somehow tender like tiny baby somethings. I was overwhelmed by affection and appreciation for them. Sweet little raspberries! Then I turned to the blueberries. I had never really given much thought to how blueberries looked up close. But they were like little grandmothers. Kind of drier, and a little more wrinkly (which I didn’t expect). The colors were muted and they didn’t have the same baby-like quality as the raspberries. They also tasted so very much themselves.
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The sandwich was another story altogether. I remembered when I was looking at it, how I really don’t like to eat the crusts of the sandwich. But it felt like a virtuous thing to do, to not “waste” food. I thought about why I don’t like the crust. Because it doesn’t have any of the yummy filling or flavor. It’s just… plain bread. It’s dry. There’s no goodness inside of it. So during my Mindful Lunch I paused and made the choice to leave the crusts behind. I didn’t need to eat them. And that felt just right.

It took me an hour to eat a lunch that would normally be snarfed up in about ten minutes. I made many, many decisions during this hour. What next? How much? More? What does it taste like? How hungry or satisfied or full am I NOW? What else is going on? How’s the weather? What’s that sound? It was really one of the most memorable meals I have ever experienced.

I felt changed.

As soon as I got home I emailed my awesome Territory Manager at WW. I told him I had an idea: to bring Mindful Eating practice to our Weight Watchers members. After all, it’s one of our new core Routines. How awesome would it be to invite members to actually practice something, instead of just talking about it? He was in. He was so supportive and excited. The first Mindful Eating session (which I had limited to 20 members) sold out and was held about a month ago.

I loved sharing this experience in this way. I am so grateful to our local WW administration for allowing me to expand the experiences we offer our members. The feedback was so good.

“A calming, conscious eating practice.” “

A very uplifting experience.” “

A quiet reflection, a safe space.”

“The food tasted better!”

“A chance to stop and savor our food.”

It made me so happy. And guess what? That month of focusing on Mindful Eating brought me easily, painlessly, calmly back to my goal weight.  BOOM. :-)

The first event was such a success, I’m offering it again this month at our Emeryville Center. Bay Area peeps, it’s free and open to the public, NOT JUST Weight Watchers members. But all participants need to register HERE (free of charge) to get in, because spaces ARE limited. I’d love for this one to fill up too. (click on image below for details, click on link in previous sentence to register)

MINDFUL EMERYVILLE  copyI am so grateful and kind of amazed at the course of events that have conspired since that day I sat in my car crying, ready to quit. I had no idea what changes would occur, how serendipitous it all would be, but for all of it, I am so very happy.

 

Not Beating Up, Just Wondering June 12, 2011

Filed under: emotions,food,friendship,lessons learned,Mindful Eating — Susan @ 4:33 pm
cupcake gone by TheTruthAbout
cupcake gone, a photo by TheTruthAbout on Flickr.

A few people near and dear to me communicated to me after reading my last two posts that I should not be “beating myself up” or feeling badly about myself for eating the Chinese food. And I just wanted to clarify. I wasn’t feeling awful about myself – I was just wondering, sort of curiously, “How did I get there?” Or “How did this happen?” When I know what I know. I’m just trying to sort it out.

Same person said to me that they had eaten noodles and bubble tea. Which to me is not an issue at all unless the purpose of eating those things is to go numb. And it made me think, it’s not the WHAT of the eating that is “problematic,” it’s the HOW. I’ve eaten cupcakes and cheesecake and fried calamari and all kinds of stuff without feeling it’s a problem. I’ve eaten lots of Chinese food without having the feeling I had last night. Last night I wasn’t savoring or tasting or even necessarily enjoying. It was just about the quantity. I had that “shoveling” feeling, and in fact I shoveled down the last of the fried rice with a serving spoon. THAT’s what I’m talking about.

If I eat six cupcakes in a sitting (OK, I’ve never actually done that. Maybe two. Three.) and don’t really taste them, then it’s a problem. If I lovingly, ecstatically really ENJOY eating a cupcake, it’s fine. In fact, it’s wonderful. It’s more about the “how” and the “why” and the “how much” more than the “what.”

That feeling I had last night just was something that hadn’t happened in a long while, and I was just trying to … you know, sort it all out. I’m not feeling bad about myself or even that it happened. Just… sitting here, thinking.

 

Calling All Zumba-Phobes!! May 24, 2011

(this is not the Official Fitbloggin’ recap, but a special outtake!)

So it turns out that Zumba had a MAJOR presence at Fitbloggin 2011. There was Zumba booty-shaking class, there were Zumba virtual video machines, there were Zumba instructors and there was Zumba swag.

shakin' it to the virtual Zumba!

I just came home with the Zumba swag.

I’ve been to exactly one Zumba class in my life. It gave my already injured ankle an owie, and i was also intimidated by my extreme klutziness. Even though the music was fun, and watching the extremely hyperkinetic teacher was fun, it was not fun for me to DO.

So I slunk around in the hallway with the anit-Zumba club while everyone else jumped around and shrieked and burned on the average of 750-850 calories during Zumba hour.

the Sitting In the Hall Not Going Into Zumba Club

I’ve been eyeing my little Zumba DVD since getting home though. I have to confess that I snagged a small pile of them from the huge Room of Swag on the final day.

So I have a proposal for y’all out there. If anyone else out there has had a small fascination/big phobia regarding Zumba, this is your chance. To try it out in the privacy and comfort of your own home, knowing that I will be stumbling around and perhaps repeatedly hitting the PAUSE button and going, “Whaa…??”

I’ve got six DVDs to give away!!

And there’s something else going on. Some of you may know that I have this lovely retreat, Stories of the Body, coming up in September. (click here for details) It is my deep desire to fill this space with amazing and wonderful individuals and to build a kind of awesome mini-community like we had at Fitbloggin (only there will be no 5k and no talk of SEO or monetizing).

So, in order to be eligible for the Zumba DVDs, I am asking you to (if you are on Facebook) – RSVP to the event here (yes, no or maybe), and then SHARE it with anybody you think would resonate with such an event.

If you are NOT on Facebook, I am asking you to email people and send them the following link. http://foodfoodbodybody.wordpress.com/events/

Then come back here and leave a comment telling me how many people you’ve shared with. (I mean don’t share with your whole email list, only with people whom it would FIT WITH – this might only mean 3, or 5, or…???) Each “share” is worth a Zumba point.

Top six Zumba-point getters will get a Zumba DVD.

Oh and P.S.! If any of your friends register for the retreat with the code “ZUMBAPHOBIA” they will get $25 off! (same goes for anybody reading this blog post)

Deadline: Wednesday, June 1st! GO!

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And the winners are:

  • Merri!
  • Mandy!
  • Mykhelle!
  • Jaemie!
  • June! (from Facebook)
  • Stan! (from Facebook)
Contact me here with your mailing address, and I’ll send the DVDs out this week!
 

A #7DayChip is Better Than a Chocolate Chip March 10, 2011

photo credit: =-.0= from Flickr

I circled around the idea of the #7daychip challenge for a long time, maybe a month, before jumping in. First, there was that association with AA. Personally, I tried OA a long time ago and 12 step programs just do not work for me. (although I acknowledge that they do work for millions of other people!) I was leery of using a tool that has long been utilized by alcoholics and addicts. For one thing, it’s a lot more straightforward for them. They stay away from alcohol or drugs. (I said straightforward, not EASY) For people dealing with food or health or fitness issues, it’s a lot more complicated. We can’t just STAY AWAY from food. Unless we want to, like, die.

Then there’s the issue of staying away from a particular food. This has always been an unsavory idea for me. I am not a vegetarian or vegan. I am not at all a fan of eliminating entire categories of any food from my repertoire. (more on that later)

Anyway, I watched lots of people getting their beautiful 7-and-30 day chips from Mr. Brad Gansberg and I started getting more curious and maybe a little envious. And y’all know I was kind of struggling.

So 13 days ago, I made the decision to chipify (<<<my word!) my goal of getting at least 30 minutes of exercise in per day. I can’t even describe how it has felt to do this.  I had told myself I was “too busy” and “too stressed” to exercise, and was jamming it all in on the weekends. That wasn’t working so well.

The first week, I started by exercising when I got home in the evening, which meant WHILE my family was eating dinner. I felt like, if I waited till after dinner, I was sunk. It was good in that it got me into the groove. It was bad in that I never saw my family. But on Friday I earned this:


How awesome was that!! I am such a sucker for rewards like this, just like I loved getting stickers and doodads from Weight Watchers. It might be “just” a little star sticker but it is an emblem of a real success. This #7day chip acknowledgement was huge!!

After I realized I had gotten kinda slippy with my diabetes, I decided to start myself on a second chip challenge. On Sunday I decided to start testing my blood regularly again and to lay off the sugar. (not including fruit) It’s amazing how I thought, “oh well, my diabetes is just progressing. I’m just getting worse and this is one of those inevitable things.” Um, NOT. Within a couple of days my levels went right back to normal.

This chip has not been so easy. I keep “forgetting.” In fact the other night I had an epic forget. It was after dinner, when I often like to have something sweet. I’d gotten into the habit of having a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich or a Weight Watchers bar. I noticed an almost-empy bag of chocolate chips on the counter. I scooped a few into my palm and popped them into my mouth, thinking, oh, this is probably only 1-2 points worth. And then I remembered!

I ran right over to the trash and spit out all the chips. It was such a moment. I did not want those chips to be ruining my chip, you know? I felt such a sense of relief when they were out of my mouth.

So now I am on Day 13 of the 30-minute-exercise chip, and on day 6 of the No-Sugar chip. I feel a billion percent better. I can’t even describe

Will I never eat sugar again? Well, I’m thinking about what my endocrinologist told me last year. She said that if my blood levels were in good control most of the time, then a little brownie now and then (ie maybe once ever week or two) would be OK. But that’s the key. So I am going to go for 30 days and then re-assess the whole thing.

For anybody out there who wants to accomplish a goal of any kind, I so strongly recommend trying the #7daychip. The support is unparalleled really, the community is amazing, and just taking it like that – yeah, one day at a time – really works.

 

Healthaversary #2: Rainy but Inspiring February 6, 2011

January is the month that I mark my Healthaversary, aka my Blogaversary, aka when I woke up and decided it was time to be healthy. Last year I marked it with a hike to a volcanic labyrinth, blowing bubbles and brunch. This year it was pouring rain and I knew the hike down to the labyrinth would be ankle-deep mud. So I decided to skip the hike part and just do a little ritual in my living room. I wasn’t sure who would come.

In the end it was about a dozen women (plus Mr. McB!) who showed up, some I’ve known for many years and one Twitter friend (hi @debroby) whom I was meeting for the first time. First we had an amazing feast prepared by Qi chef Patrick Bremser. He showed us the most seasonal, local dishes he’d made, for a transition into spring. There was a giant pot of potato leek soup with “pungent herbs,” (bright and pungent being the most appropriate foods for this time of year), a most amazing kale and radicchio soup that had been MASSAGED with sea salt and… grapeseed oil? and all I can say is, man, I’ve got to start massaging my kale! It was sooooo tender and fluffy and just.. incredible. There were also little bowls of walnuts, some quinoa, some long-cooked onions (mmmmmmmmm), olive tapenade (MMMMMMMMM), pumpernickel walnut bread, orange zest (zesty!), and some dessertish crostini with pear compote. It was all to. Die. For.

After having this most amazing lunch, we went to our health altar where we’d all put some items symbolizing our health goals for 2011.  Therapy bands, running medals, a heart, a little sumo wrestler, a stalk of broccoli, photographs, mementos and other things. We all lit candles. It was just lovely and I felt so … supported and held up as I go into my third year of health.

This second year has been both easier and harder than the first. On one hand, I feel like I am more comfortable with it. It feels like a more solid part of my identity. But this is also where I feel the foreverness of it all. The very long haul. Most days it doesn’t feel like  a struggle, but sometimes it does, especially when, like this January, when I’ve felt sick and not with my usual high energy. I don’t like being tired or sick.

But it was wonderful, and wonderful to see the ripples out as others have gotten healthier and others have faced challenges with great courage. I love and admire my community, both local and invisible-and-far-off, and I could not, could NOT have gotten these two years down without you all.

This goes out to all the invisible ones who weren’t in attendance but who have held me up so much these past two years. Much love.

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It’s the Food, Stupid! November 23, 2010

Sammy's guacomole

Okay, I shouldn’t be calling myself Stupid. But nor should I be shocked or surprised to return from my little vacation (less than a week!) to stare at a brand-new, unwelcome number on the scale. I was so glad to be all active, and get in runs and hikes and shredding and such, but on the food arena? Not so good.

And the “food part” is really more than half the equation. Some say it is 70%. It’s definitely at least 50%. Food intake and activity are BOTH important. But last week I was being so focused on my activity, I sorta (no, not sorta) turned a blind eye to my food intake. Because it was sooooooooo good.

You know we all engage in some kind of weird magical or wishful thinking when it comes to food. It doesn’t count if… you’re standing up. Or if it’s after midnight. Or you’re wearing a blindfold. For me, I tend to discount my intake if it’s beautiful, expensive, gourmet or lovingly homemade food. I “know” that fast food or junk food can be excessive or whatever, but … what if it’s Chez Panisse? Or some other amazingly wonderful place? I tend to turn a blind eye.

We went to an area that has an incredible bounty of amazing food. It’s the home of Cowgirl Creamery and oysters and and and… we ate at amazing restaurant after amazing restaurant. Then when we were sick of eating out, our friends came up to visit us and brought a crazy array of homemade and bought goods and we had an insanely delicious feast. Juniorette has turned into the world’s most awesome baker and she brought (I am not kidding) the Best Scones I Have Ever Eaten In My Life, plus some beautiful pecan shortbread. Neither of which I could (or wanted to) resist. But here I am now.

It’s the tracking. If I had tracked all that luscious food (which I obviously did not) I would have woken up very quickly to the reality that I was going over my points in every which way. But I am back now. I’m home. I’m back on track and trying to not turn blind eyes anymore.

I don’t regret it. I enjoyed every single morsel. But I think if I had it to do over, I would’ve been just…a little…more… mindful.

chocolate pudding stuff from Stellina

clam chowder from the Busy Bee

black cod from the Olema Inn

Juniorette's pecan shortbread

Cowgirl Creamery cheese

Sammy's caramelized onions & mushrooms

insanely good homemade roast beef sandwich (I had mine openfaced)

 

 
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