Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Progress ReportThe year is done. I’ve reported here monthly on my eleven goals for 2013 categorized in the areas of body, mind and spirit. Now it’s time to give you the final report.

Before looking at the details, though, I want to summarize my main lessons learned for the year. I blogged about them separately in the following posts:

While I will continue to be goal-oriented and publish each January 1st a new set of goals, the first of the lessons learned above is a biggie for me this year – rest. I just didn’t allow myself enough time for that this year and there were times when I was weary of having unending tasks before me. All of these goals are in addition to the 50+ hours of work per week I average, so I longed for more free time and less guilt about what was or wasn’t getting done from this list.

The lesson learned related to taking risks was tied to a major chance I took with a potential impact on my career and professional reputation – starting the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat. Fortunately, that chance continues to pay off in a number of positive ways.

The third lesson related to health comes after a great stride forward in daily healthy behavior once I started wearing a Fitbit Flex in September. The daily tracking associated with that has truly been major in its significance for my daily healthy routines for activity, diet and sleep.

Some of the lessons learned will be reflected in the 2014 goals I share tomorrow, but others are incorporated into my daily life now in such a way that I don’t feel the need to set, track and report on specific goals related to them going forward.

Overall, 2013 was a very, very good year. I am blessed. I worked hard and accomplished most of what I set out to do, professionally and personally. How can I ask for more than that?

Now, on to the details of my 11 goals…

I first published my goals here on January 1, 2013. These public updates have helped hold me accountable. I color-code the goals with green if I am on or ahead of schedule, orange if I am slightly behind schedule, or red if I am dangerously behind schedule. Here is the final status on the goals.

Goals related to body:

1. Keep my weight at or below 150 pounds – COMPLETE. I’m glad to say I kept this all 365 days of the year, lowering the maximum weight to 145 later in the year and staying at or below that goal since then.

2. Walk/jog/run a total of 10,000 steps per day three days per week – COMPLETE. In terms of total number of days for the year, this was completed in early August. Since wearing my Fitbit Flex in September, I haven’t had any day below 10,000 steps.

3. Average at least six hours of sleep per night – COMPLETE. Since getting the Fitbit, I’ve been able to verify meeting this goal. Six hours doesn’t seem like a lot, but it was more than previous years.

Goals related to mind:

1. Read a book every other week. The two reading goals were the ones I was woefully short on achieving. I stopped with 12 books this year totaling a little over 4000 pages beyond the untold amount I read for work. That was a more reasonable total than the 26 book goal.

2. Blog every other day (at least) – COMPLETE. With this post, I complete the goal. I had to do some catching up in December, but I did it.

3. Continue to follow My 3 Words: Ground, Stretch, Reflect – COMPLETE. After doing this the past two years, this is pretty much a way of life for me now. If you don’t know what this refers to, read this post.

4. Double the blog’s readership from 10,000 views in 2012 to 20,000 – COMPLETE. This goal was passed in early October. With over 26,000 blog views this year, the visits increased by more than 160%. Many thanks to all of you readers for making this goal a reality.

5. Continue to write hand-written letters to my sons. I’m working on the final letter for the year to my boys now and will complete it in the next week or so. I’m a couple of weeks behind where I wanted to be, but I’ll complete it soon.

Goals related to spirit:

1. Finish reading the ESV Study Bible and read half of The Apologetics Study Bible. Since it took me until September to finish reading the ESV, I abandoned the goal of reading half of The Apologetics Study Bible also this year. I started reading it and will set a goal to finish all of it by the end of 2014.

2. Review 100 Bible memory verses weekly – COMPLETE. This has been happening for several years, so it is ingrained behavior by now.

3. Come to some resolution regarding an unsettled situation where I worship – COMPLETE.

As I said above, 2013 was a very good year in many ways. I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do, but I did a lot and I feel good about that. As a colleague reminded me several months ago, most people probably don’t even bother to identify goals and track progress for things outside of work, so attempting several in an organized, public manner is out of the ordinary. I’ll be grateful for what was accomplished and won’t beat myself up for what didn’t get done. What I learned about my limits will be reflected in the goals for 2014 that I share on New Year’s Day.

Thanks to many of you for encouraging me in my pursuits this year and for sharing the experience with me. Your presence and words of encouragement make a real difference. I can’t thank you enough for taking the journey with me.

What about you? How did things turn out with your goals for 2013?

MiniMarathonNobody would ever accuse me of being the picture of health or a model of purely healthy behavior. There is room for improvement in my diet, exercise and sleep patterns. Still, one of the major takeaways of 2013 for me will be a renewed awareness of and emphasis on healthy behavior.

I was reasonably good about eating and sleeping and getting enough activity the first nine months of the year, but everything kicked up a notch once I started wearing a Fitbit Flex in September. Since then I’ve tracked activity, calories and sleep daily. I decided to lower my maximum weight another five pounds and now maintain that level. I’ve counted calories of everything I’ve consumed the past three months and am far more aware of the caloric and nutritional consequences of my eating decisions. I haven’t had a single day since getting my Fitbit of less than 10,000 steps, averaging at least 80,000 per week. I may not be doing all that I should for better health, but more health-related behaviors have become ingrained and an important part of how I live each day. I have new habits, and that is critical to changing one’s lifestyle.

It’s easy to make excuses not to make time for physical activity or not to take the time to track calories and nutrition of what you consume or not to sleep enough, but I’ve known for a long, long time that we always find time for what is really important to us. If watching the TV or eating certain foods or killing time with our favorite sedentary or unhealthy pastimes is what we value most, then we’ll choose those over more healthy options. Short-term gratification is a formidable foe of long-term better choices, and too often it wins the battle in many households.

Research varies as to how long you must do something before it becomes a habit, but there is no dispute that you can develop new, healthier habits if you choose to do so. What motivates one person to change behavior may be very different than what motivates another. How long it takes to get to the point where you can live the new lifestyle without hardly thinking about it may vary widely from one person to the next. But new habits can come to pass.

Let me offer an analogy from running to explain the point I believe I’ve reached this year…

When I first take out on a longer run, the first several miles are the toughest for me psychologically. After just a few miles I’m battling inside my head unwanted thoughts like “Why are you doing this?” and “Why don’t you just stop now and go home?” The temptation to call it a day is great and sometimes I’ve given in to that voice.

However, I have run enough times to know that for my body, for whatever reason, it’s at about the six-mile mark when something happens. After that distance and length of time, it’s as though that unwanted voice takes the hint and finally realizes “I guess he’s going to keep on going. I may as well go away.” At that point, I can keep on going literally for as long as the ol’ body will allow. I’ve never run a marathon, but I have run out on my own in such circumstances up to about 18 miles or so.

So it seems like this year has been when I’ve passed the psychological six-mile mark in creating new habits of eating and maintaining a regular routine of activity such that the temptations to do otherwise just don’t win the day any more. That’s a good feeling.

Unfortunately, you can’t build up healthy behavior like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter. It’s something you have to keep at year-round. That’s a good thing, really, because breaking the habit for a long period would not only be detrimental for the short term, but most likely for the long term as newer, unhealthy habits emerge.

Consider yourself fortunate if you are surrounded by others who set a good example of healthy behavior and who encourage you to do so as well. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones if your employer offers numerous health and well-being initiatives and incentives as does my company. Any and all external motivation and encouragement to live healthy helps pave the way to a better, longer future.

Ultimately, though, you have to make the decision to pursue a healthy lifestyle yourself. Nobody can successfully force you into it and keep you on the path against your will. I understand that in the absence of any external support and encouragement, the lone commitment to improve seems like a long, uphill climb. But it can be done! And it doesn’t all have to be done quickly. In fact, it can’t happen quickly. In pursuits like this, I like to take an annual or monthly view – not a daily or weekly one – and ask myself, “Am I in a better place today than I was a year or a month ago?” If the answer is “Yes,” then that’s good enough. At least I’m moving in the right direction.

My thanks to work colleagues, family, friends and my employer who encourage healthy behavior. You have helped make 2013 an important year for me in changing habits that should serve me well for years to come. Things are shaping up for some new healthy goals for 2014, but with the advantage of already having established a new baseline of healthy habits on which to build.

Being healthy isn’t automatic or easy. You have to want it and work for it. I am grateful that one of my major lessons learned for 2013 is to work at being healthy.

2013 Lesson Learned: Rest

Posted: December 6, 2013 in Health
Tags: , , , ,

hammockDuring December I will sprinkle throughout the month a few posts regarding key lessons learned for the past year. I’ll kick off the lessons with this post on the subject of rest.

I have noticed both my body and mind yearning for more rest than I’ve given them this year. Even though I have intentionally worked at sleeping at least six hours per night, I know that isn’t enough. It may be more than any recent year in memory when the average was closer to five hours, but if I listen to what the ol’ bod is saying, I have to conclude that somewhere between 7-8 hours per night is what I need these days. That will be reflected in the goals I set for 2014.

Besides sleeping, though, I need more unscheduled down time than I’ve given myself. It’s nice to have ambitious goals at work and outside of work and feel the accomplishment their achievement brings. However, there are too many days when I grow weary of a self-imposed task list that would require me to keep going late into the evening and throughout the weekends if I really did everything on the list. I need time to chill, relax, do something fun and spontaneous or just veg in front of the TV or play with my dog for a while. Doing so rests not only the body but the mind, and rejuvenates the spirit. It contributes to overall well-being in a way that constant activity cannot.

I’ve long had feelings of guilt if I relax too much, so changing that will be an adjustment for me. I’ll really have to battle guilt when I reduce the goals and tasks in 2014 and intentionally increase the hours of sleep and unscheduled fun and relaxation, but I must overcome that in the long-term interest of better health – physical, mental and spiritual.

The title of this post may include the phrase “lesson learned,” but it remains to be seen whether I’ve really learned it or not. I know it, but I will only prove that I’ve learned it and care about it when I change the behavior. Since I do care about my wellness, I believe I’ll do better in 2014, but I have to quantify what that looks like in goals and then make sure I do it. One more hour of sleep and one less hour of structured evening tasks daily equals 14 hours per week of less activity than what I’m doing now. That has to come from somewhere, so the challenge will be in deciding what goes away. Fortunately, I have the rest of the month to ponder that before deciding the 2014 details.

As an educator for most of my life, I’m grateful for lessons learned – even those learned the hard way. So the first big lesson that stands out to me from this year’s experience is this: I need more rest.

Progress ReportOnly one more month of the year to go! This is my next-to-last monthly update on my annual goals that I first published here on January 1 – eleven goals divided into the categories of body, mind and spirit. I share updates monthly as a public way to hold myself accountable. I color-code the goals with green if I am on or ahead of schedule, orange if I am slightly behind schedule, or red if I am dangerously behind schedule.

By mid-November it was evident which goals could be met by year’s end and which would not be. Overall, I’m satisfied with how much I’ve done. I’ve also learned a lot about goal setting that will impact what I plan for 2014, especially considering that these are all goals accomplished in addition to working 50+ hours per week at my job.

So here is where I stand with a few weeks of 2013 remaining.

Goals related to body:

1. Keep my weight at or below 150 pounds. This has been no issue, especially since I lowered the original goal to 145 and maintain that daily. I entered Thanksgiving Day a couple of pounds under so I could enjoy all the normal foods with family that day and not go over the goal. I’ll keep 145 as my goal going forward – no need to lose more.

2. Walk/jog/run a total of 10,000 steps per day three days per week – COMPLETE. In terms of total number of days for the year, this was completed in early August. Since wearing my Fitbit Flex in September, I haven’t had any day below 10,000 steps. In addition, I’ve made sure not to have any 7-day period with less than 80,000 steps total, so my average is a little over 11,000/day now.

3. Average at least six hours of sleep per night. I love tracking this with my Fitbit. I’ve not had a week averaging less than six hours per night since getting the device. It isn’t enough, though, so I’ll increase this goal for 2014.

Goals related to mind:

1. Read a book every other week. I gave up on trying to reach this goal recently, capping my book reading at 12 this year. The original goal was just too much given all my other goals and work schedule, so I’ll be more reasonable next year in this regard.

2. Blog every other day (at least). I should reach this goal by the end of the year, but being eight posts behind, I will have to blog more days than not this month to reach it.

3. Continue to follow My 3 Words: Ground, Stretch, Reflect. All is well here. If you don’t know what this refers to, read this post.

4. Double the blog’s readership from 10,000 views in 2012 to 20,000 – COMPLETE. This goal was passed in early October. It looks like we’ll finish the year with about 25,000 views, thanks to you, dear readers.

5. Continue to write hand-written letters to my sons. It’s time to figure out the subject of my next letter and plan on getting them to my boys by Christmas.

Goals related to spirit:

1. Finish reading the ESV Study Bible and read half of The Apologetics Study Bible. Having completed the ESV in September, I’m still in the early books in The Apologetics Study Bible. I won’t complete half of it by year end, but I’m fine with that. I’ll set a goal to finish all of it by the end of 2014.

2. Review 100 Bible memory verses weekly. I’m on track with this.

3. Come to some resolution regarding an unsettled situation where I worship – COMPLETE.

I’m eager to set my goals for 2014. I’ll post them here on January 1. They will not be as time-consuming overall as this year’s goals. I need to bake into my schedule next year more free time and more sleep time, so that will require less in the way of goals outside of work.

With only a few weeks left in 2013, that’s where I stand on my goals. What about you? How are you doing on your goals for the year? Are you thinking about goals you’ll want to set for 2014?

I’m Thankful For My Health

Posted: December 1, 2013 in Attitude
Tags: , ,

healthEveryone experiences health issues from time to time – some more than others. I consider myself fortunate that I am rarely sick. Outside of a little cold now and then, it is highly unusual for me to have any health issues at all. At nearly 57 years old, I’m 5’10” tall and weigh 145 pounds. I don’t run as often as I used to, but I still walk at least five miles a day, jogging some from time to time. I’m on target to accomplish my health goals for this year and look forward to setting some different goals for 2014.

There have only been two health issues of concern since the year 2000: (1) a series of heart atrial fibrillations for about a decade (that ended overnight when I gave up my stressful PhD pursuit), and (2) melanoma in 2000 that was removed with no recurrence. Every annual checkup, blood test, and biometric exam yields great results. I’ve lived with the ringing in my ears for so many years now from tinnitus that I don’t even notice it unless I’m in a very quiet room. All in all, I won’t complain.

I have my parents and a very healthy family line to thank for good genes, and I’m grateful for that. Not everyone is as fortunate. My 79-year-old parents still go to the local YMCA nearly every day to work out on a treadmill for a while. They are both very active with Mom volunteering and taking care of a huge, old home while Dad takes care of their 60-acre farm. I think that’s awesome.

Having good health also requires taking reasonable care of myself – an ongoing goal that demands regular attention, even though I certainly enjoy the occasional decadent food choice that tastes oh, so good, and at times I test my luck with a too-busy schedule for too many days running. I track my calories daily and make sure I don’t overdo it. I’m more mindful now than ever of the value of recording everything I eat and drink to get familiar with what is healthy and what is terribly costly in terms of calories. It’s amazing how few calories healthy foods have compared to the poor choices of processed or fast foods. I am convinced that the single best thing anyone can do to really get a handle on losing or maintaining a desired weight is to record everything consumed and the caloric consequences. It’s very eye-opening.

I weigh myself every morning to make sure I am at or below my target weight of 145 pounds, and if I’m over it even by ounces I do not eat a meal until I can weigh in under the goal at some point in the day. I haven’t missed a daily weight goal since July, 2012, including the typical holidays where much is consumed. I made sure this past week that I entered Thanksgiving Day a couple of pounds below my goal so I could enjoy the foods of the day without weighing too much the next morning. I’m down about 25 pounds from my highest weight in the spring of 2012. Any weight I would gain would just go to my gut, so I have no interest in doing that. I have several daily vitamins and supplements I also take without fail.

Since wearing my Fitbit Flex in September, I have not had a single day without accumulating at least 10,000 steps, nor any seven-day period with less than 80,000 steps. I track my sleep to make sure I average at least six hours per night – more than any year in recent memory, although my body is telling me lately that it isn’t quite enough.

There is certainly more that I could be doing. I could be better about stretching, other regular exercises or weight training. I could run more often and will set a 2014 goal for that. I could space throughout the day what I eat rather than concentrate most of it in a single meal. I could get more sleep and will set a 2014 goal for that, too. Still, I’m happy with my health and with being able to do whatever I choose to do. I know I’m not the spring chicken I used to be, but I can’t expect that.

None of us are guaranteed another day in this life, so I won’t take anything for granted. I have joked a number of times that I have every intention of living to be 100 because I think it would be awesome to have that birthday party. Who knows if that will happen or not, but I’ll keep plugging away expecting it until I have a reason to think otherwise.

Good health is precious. I am thankful for others around me who promote it, for genes that contribute to it, for the desire to work at staying healthy, and for working at a company that offers constant healthy behavior incentives and rewards to encourage the right lifestyle. Every day of good health is a gift.

Thank you, God, for my health.