52 Steps to Health – Step 10: Embrace the difficult

“I want to get healthy, but I don’t like vegetables.”

“I hear yoga is really good for you, but I’m not that flexible”

“I want to take Zumba at the gym, but I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of others.”

Every positive thing in life comes with something negative. As Seth Godin once wrote, “You don’t get to just do the good parts.

Of course. :)

Sometimes it seems like every time things in life start to feel ok (or even awesome) there is something else to push through or work towards or fight to overcome. What’s worse is the difficult always leaves this awful, uncomfortable, “dread” feeling that is sometimes difficult to shake. Some people (most?) avoid that feeling as much as they can.

There is another approach, however, that is better than avoidance, better than fighting, and better than waiting for something difficult to go away.

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The Step:

Embrace the difficult.

How:

  1. Chose something difficult that’s happening in your life (or something difficult you’d like to try)
  2. Chose a time and/or place THIS WEEK to get the thing done and commit to it: Put it on your calendar, make a mental note, ask a friend to go with you, etc.
  3. Decide how you’re going to EMBRACE the awful, uncomfortable, “dread” feeling:
  • If you’re going to your first ever Zumba class and dread looking like a complete fool, find a tutu or a pair of polka dot knee socks and embrace the dread!
  • If you’ve been avoiding your taxes because you dread how much money you owe, make a date with your significant other and battle it together. Set up some healthy snacks, some good music and reward yourselves when you’re finished.
  • If you hate vegetables (and/or hate to cook) plan a new meal with ingredients you’d like to try. Look up new recipes  buy yourself cool new tools for the kitchen, put on some music, invite friends over and make it an event.
  • Having a problem at work? Be proactive and talk to someone about it over a cup of coffee on you. Remember to stay professional when you explain the situation and ask for help.

This week I challenge you to EMBRACE THE DIFFICULT.

I’ll be embracing it by (finally) doing my taxes this week and giving myself some sort of awesome reward. Hmmmmm. What should it be?

P.S. If you’re just joining us, read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps here. You can get caught up on all the steps here  and If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog!

At your size and your age, you can amaze yourself. I promise.

I witnessed the coolest thing today.

A friend and I went on a short bike ride today and this was the first time she’s been on a bike since High School (she is now into her 50′s)!

Her fear, nervousness and trepidation before the ride paired with her surprise during the ride and her genuine joy after the ride made the experience positive and overwhelmingly cool.

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I loved hearing her making plans and setting goals..

“I wonder if I’ll be able to ride my bike to work this summer….”

It was like holding up a mirror, and I wanted to tell her she could do anything.

To me it was proof of our power as ordinary people — even when we’re sure something will be too challenging or difficult or scary or impossible. She did it and it was amazing to witness.

Step 9: Help Others

When your airplane is going down and the oxygen masks are deployed the instructions say to put your own mask on before assisting others.

But what happens once you’ve put your own mask on?

If you’re up for it, you help those around you.

Now that you’ve been taking steps towards health for 9+ weeks it might be time for you to look around and pass on some good, healthy habits. In fact, you may already be helping others. If you cook for your family, they might already be eating better; if you’re taking regular walks, you may have coerced a person or two into joining you; and if you’re visiting the gym regularly, you might have unknowingly inspiring others who have witnessed your determination.

If any of the above are true then you know: When you help others, you help yourself.

After be the victim of someone elses attempt to help last week, I thought this week I’d like to encourage you to help someone in way that doesn’t actually harm them

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The Step:

Help someone this week.

How:

First, consider the following:

  • Your heart should be in it. Don’t “help” someone begrudgingly or because you think you should. Examine your intentions and your motivation.
  • Don’t assume people want or need your help.
  • Help, don’t harm.

Here are some ideas for helping in a positive way:

  • Share your story with no one in particular (don’t focus it on one person). Start a blog, an Instagram feed, or a Twitter account and get the word out there.
  • Cook a healthy meal for a group of people that you love.
  • Volunteer your time to a cause that promotes health.
  • Invite friends out for a walk or to a class at the gym.
  • Give someone a call and ask them what they’re up to.
  • Find someone who is interested in going to the gym regularly and ask them if you can motivate each other.

Do you have other ways to help without harming? I’d love to hear them!

Rant: Don’t make assumptions about my health

This weekend I was the victim of an assumer.

I hate assumers.

Here’s the story:

As you may know, I’m training for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. That’s 200 miles of butt-numbing, pedal-pushing, hill-climbing work! To get ready for the big event, I decided to sign up for a training series and this weekend they held a “pre-ride” to help people who are still new to cycling and group riding get ready for the miles and miles ahead.

This wasn’t my first group ride, but I was still very nervous. I always get nervous before things like this. I worry:

  • I’m too slow (I’m not).
  • I won’t make it up hills (I usually do).
  • I don’t have the right gear (I really just need new shoes and possibly a jacket).
  • I don’t know anyone there (I’m getting to know people).
  • Etc. etc. etc.

The first group ride I did the weekend before last was great. Cycling people are friendly and I did a little over 26 miles, climbed every hill on my bike, and finished like a champ. It was an amazing uplifting experience, so I went into this weekend looking for more of the same.

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Things started off great.

I tried to stay close to the leader (which I did successfully for over 15 miles) until we got to the hills. I knew I’d be slow, so I just gave myself a mental break and took my time pedaling up as best I could. When we hit the hills I noticed our group was pretty evenly divided: There were people who could stay with the leader and people who could not. For most of the hills I was smack-dab in the middle. People were passing me and keeping up with the leader, but I was also so far ahead of the people behind me I couldn’t even see them after awhile. I was squarely in the middle of the pack and often found myself alone.

At around mile 18 we lost the group of people who were behind me (they took the route we were supposed to take) and we encountered a big, big hill that wasn’t on the original route plan. It was so big I had to get off and push my bike up it. I was embarrassed, but I told myself I was still getting stronger and had made it 18 miles through hilly terrain so I needn’t worry about it. Plus, there were a few  lighter people pushing right along side me.

When we got to the top of the hill the group leader told us about losing the people behind us and let us know we picked up a new sweeper (group leader who would be at the back).

That’s when the assuming started.

The new sweeper immediately started to talk with me. I think she needed a project or someone to help (but, hey, I’m just assuming…). She told me to unzip my jacket because I looked hot. Yes, TOLD me. She also TOLD me to roll up my sleeves.

Then we started off again and she stayed near me asking me all sorts of questions. When as we started up another hill she yelled at me, “Get into a lower gear!”

I looked down at my bike.

“I AM in a low gear.”

I was confused. Did she see something I didn’t? Am I doing this wrong?

I was admittedly feeling rather defensive because I had to walk up the last big hill, but I continued to pedal, slowly puffing up the hill, determined to make it and she started asking me really rude questions and giving me advice.

“You really need bike shoes, it looks like your feet are really working” (I’ve known this for awhile and have been waiting to buy clipless shoes until I’m sure I’m ready for them).

“Is your bike steel or carbon fiber?” (Steel frames are heavy, Carbon fiber is much lighter. I found myself wondering why she was even asking this. I told her it was aluminum and she butted in with “Well, your fork is carbon fiber” — Which I know and was going to tell her).

You know, it’s easier if you stay up by the leaders. The people back here have to peddle harder to catch up” — “Uh, yeah, I fell behind

“Do you ever get a chance to do cardio during the week?”

At this point I teared up…

…and actually felt my throat close up as I fought tears. My determined mindset was shattered and I became an insecure self-doubting mess. I couldn’t believe this woman. She has absolutely no idea what I’ve been doing with myself. She has no idea that I’m probably in the gym more than her (again, I assume), that I’ve lost 70 pounds, that I’m aware of the gear I need to get, that I know my bike and I certainly don’t need “helpful” commentary and condescending interrogation).

I tried my best to calm down before responding to her that, yes, I go to Group Kick at the gym.. (“What’s that???” She asks).

This is when I started to consider confronting her.

I wanted to say, “I know you’re trying to help, but what you’re doing is actually really insulting. I’m doing just fine, thanks.”

But, I didn’t because I knew I was feeling defensive and not in the position to make a thoughtful, well-reasoned response.

Instead, as soon as we were passed the hill and I caught my breath I got away from that woman. I pedaled hard to get as far ahead of her as possible. Then I tried to calm myself down and play devils advocate. I heard my husband’s voice in my head:

  • She thought she was helping.
  • I was just feeling defensive.

But, all I could really think was, she assumed that because I was big, was struggling up the hills, and didn’t have the right shoes I needed her advice. 

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The more I think about it the more angry I become, and the more I wish I would’ve confronted this woman. Instead, I’m writing this rant for everyone to read:

Don’t assume and don’t assert your fitness and health “wisdom” where it isn’t requested. A person’s outward appearance is no indication of their health, their knowledge, and/or their determination. Unsolicited “helpful advice” can actually be quite harmful to a person’s self esteem, not to mention rather insulting. Do me and everyone else a favor, and keep it to yourself unless we ask for it.

Is this too much to ask?

Step 8: Eat more fruits and vegetables

It’s no surprise that there are many benefits to eating fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases and fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other substances that are important for good health (source ). In fact, many now believe that at least half your plate for each meal should be fruits and vegetables.

While I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong in terms of your diet and your body, I can say that I feel healthier, lighter, and more satisfied when I have fruits and/or veggies with every meal.

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The Step:

Eat fruits and/or vegetables with every meal and snack.

How:

  1. Commit to the challenge of eating a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal or snack
  2. Spend today finding new recipes that include fruits and veggies you love and would like to try.
  3. Make a list and go shopping for your favorite fruits and veggies. Make sure you have enough fresh produce for the next few days.
  4. Pick a trigger that will remind you to eat a fruit or veggie with every meal or snack. For example:
  • Keep an apple or banana at your desk.
  • Stock up your fridge with ready-to-eat carrot slices.
  • Plan a new meal that sounds yummy and exciting.
  • Start each meal or snack with your fruit and veggies and then move on to the other stuff you have prepared.

Good luck!

P.S. Are you participating in 52 weeks, 52 steps? How is it going?

P.P.S. If you’re just joining us, you can read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps and get caught up on all the steps here. If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog here.