Category Archives: Exercise and Health

Only 30 minutes! Cardio or Weight Training???

From some of my previous blogs, including “When the Lights Flicker Out”  and “Addicted to Planking: Plank Challenge Survivor,” you all know that I usually prefer to work out at home or outside. Well, I just moved to the Pacific Northwest. During the first month we were here, (August-September), the weather proved beautiful. Fall has come, though, and winter is not far behind.

In other words:

RAIN, RAIN, COLD FREAKIN’ RAIN!!!

So, I gave in, found a crowbar, pried open my wallet, and am now paying for a gym membership at a local community center. Even for this tightwad, the affordable rate at the center can’t be beat. Plus, it’s less than a five minute drive from my house.

Of course, now I have another dilemma.

Not a Lot Of Time

I get up super early, because I find I work out better first thing in the morning before I start the rest of my day. With my house obligations in relation to cars, child care, etc., I leave for the gym around 6 AM and try to get back at or before 7 AM.

After travel time and time to stretch, I really only have 30-40 minutes to work out. I try to work out Monday through Friday, and I average about 3-4 times per week every week, which rocks!

Sadly, my brief window of workout time makes me feel like I have to choose between all-cardio or all-weight training.

First of all, I admit that I do not have a background in nutrition and nor am I an exercise expert. From my time spent in various health classes, I know that healthy adults should get a mix of both cardio and weight training.

What exactly is a healthy mix?

To help myself and to spread the word, I thought I would do a little investigative research. Here’s what I found.

Which Workout Is Best?

Let’s start off by looking at this question from a bipartisan perspective. Is all-cardio better than all-weight training?

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In an article posted by the Poliquin Group TM, “The Pros and Cons of Cardio vs. Intervals,” the authors point out that the downside to an all-cardio regimen include the reverse effect of what workout junkies want. They state that:

“Over the long term, doing cardio as your sole form of exercise leads to the loss of lean muscle mass. This reduces the amount of calories burned by the body at rest and puts people at risk of pain, dysfunction, and increased diabetes risk.”

Likewise, in her article, “Should I Be Doing Cardio or Lifting Weights?” Vanessa Sofia stated that while cardio does burn fat, it won’t do much for sculpting your body. She comments that “if you are looking to tone your muscles and build definition and size, you will not achieve that through cardio exercise alone.”

So now, keeping with our bipartisan perspective, you might be thinking that all-cardio has its flaws. So what about all-weight training?

hiitReviewing several exercise and fitness articles, the most common complaint is that exercise regimens that are all about weight training result in excessive injuries or risk of injuries.

With free weights, if you don’t have the proper training, it’s easy to mess up your form and seriously pull a muscle. Similarly, machines offer more guided movements, but overdoing it causes stress on the muscles and increases your risk for hurting yourself.

In addition, Sofia points out that while weight training is the way to go for carving out that perfect body, “you will most likely develop bulk instead of a toned and streamlined body.”

Blending Routines on a Tight Schedule

Okay – I went into this already knowing that all-cardio or all-weight training wouldn’t give me the results I want. But I still only have 30-40 minutes! It doesn’t really feel like enough time to do both in the same workout. What should I do?

Nick Nilsson argues that your exercise routine and how you blend it should reflect your overall goals. In his article, “Weights or Cardio: What’s It Going to Be?” Nilsson states that you can’t successfully blend a workout routine unless you know what you want to do. For example, if you want to lose fat, you should have more cardio, whereas if you want to build muscle, you will need more weight training.

Of course things are not that simple.

jillian-michaels-shape-up-3_0Jillian Michaels, the famous fitness guru, argues that while cardio is necessary for cardiovascular health, more cardio will NOT guarantee weight loss. In her article “Finding the Right Balance of Cardio and Weight Training,” Michaels states the following:

“Resistance circuit training burns more calories than straight cardio both during the workout and after. This is because you are getting the benefits of a resistance-training workout and a cardio workout all in one.”

According to her, regular cardio is what you do to rest your muscles. After all, muscle recovery is essential, and overdoing it to the point of injury with weight training is far easier than most people think. With the exception of maybe having a heart attack, Michaels says that you really can’t overdo cardio.

In “Trainer Q & A: How to Mix Cardio and Strength Building to Zap Fat,” Mike Wunsch, Director of Training and Large Group Programming at Results Fitness and a certified personal trainer, concurs with what Jillian Michaels claims.

He points out that resistance training works the entire body and forces the body to burn more fat for energy. Of course, the level of resistance training that Wunsch describes is not exactly something that a novice like myself could do, but his points on burning fat and building muscle seem fairly accurate. He also recommends to do mostly strength training during your workout, then END the workout with a short, 5-10 minute intense cardio session.

My Plan

Well, I’m going to give the experts the benefit of the doubt, and try a regimen that’s heavier in circuit-based weight training with a burst of intense cardio to chase it down.

I am a little concerned, because my gym has requirements that you wipe the equipment when you’re done with it. Going back and forth between two machines always makes me feel like I’m being rude and taking up machines. (Silly and too polite, I know). Well, I go early enough, so here’s to hoping that I don’t piss anyone off by taking up two machines at once!

 

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Should I Cheat on My Body?

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It’s almost the end of the year, and if you’re like me, you start thinking about all of the goals you set back in January. Well, I was looking at my goals, and I noticed that I was far from my weight loss goals.

!Enter depression and desperation!

While I should at least be content with the fact that I maintained my weight and that I have been making better dietary choices that have helped maintain my weight, I can’t help but feel upset. I feel I should have progressed further this year.

And then I see this article about Melissa McCarthy’s amazing weight loss transformation.

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She, like many people in Hollywood, started taking the dietary supplement Garcinia Cambogia. Apparently Miley Cyrus also admits to using this particular supplement to lose weight – of course, even when she was supposedly “overweight” she still looked like a slender person, and now she looks like a skeleton, so I don’t know if I should be impressed by her using the supplement.

This may make me sound like a hater, but I want to be honest – whenever I read about celebrities losing weight through the magic pill du jour, I just want to shout out, “CHEATER!!!”

But am I willing to go to the dark side and become a cheater, too?

Reasons That Make Me Consider Cheating

I have been heavy pretty much all of my life. I hold my weight well, but you would never describe me as a skinny girl. I’m curvy, and most days I’m okay with that. But I know my weight puts me at risk for diabetes. My weight also puts a strain on my joints, which doesn’t help with my knee problems, and my weight contributes to my borderline high cholesterol.

I mainly want to lose weight to avoid a whole barrage of horribly unpleasant health issues. But, in the spirit of being honesty, I also wouldn’t mind losing weight to improve my looks.

As I said, I feel mostly comfortable in my body. People flirt with me, people check me out, so I feel fairly positive about my body. I get frustrated when I try to find clothes and stores don’t carry my size. I also see a lot of clothing styles that look fun and adventurous, but that I know would not complement my current body shape.

I also understand the cold, hard, genetic fact: I do not have the genes to be a toothpick.

Some people have those genes that say 6-pack abs, busting biceps, and rock-hard buns. Yeah – none of that is in my genetic code. But I don’t care, because I don’t want to be a toothpick person. I like my hips, my butt, and my boobs, so if I can keep those but become a little more toned, that would rock!

Even for just the health reasons, I’m still on the fence about whether cheating with pills is my best option.

Is Fast Weight Loss Cheating?

I realize the word “cheater” may seem harsh and completely judgmental. It is, but that’s how I feel when it comes to weight loss via pills.

That said, there are a lot of fast weight loss methods out there. Besides these supplements and cleanses, there’s also medical surgeries that result in rapid weight loss. I have more respect for the surgeries than for the supplements, but I still think some people are too willing to do the surgery instead of trying to lose weight on their own.

When the surgeries first came out, many doctors required people to make drastic lifestyle changes for a period of months. If the patients couldn’t make those changes, they weren’t approved for the surgery. Why were the lifestyle changes required? Because once you have the surgery, you completely have to change your life, or you might die.

That’s right – the fast weight loss surgeries aren’t magic either.

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After you get these surgeries, your body doesn’t process food the same way. According to the Mayo Clinic, during the first 3-4 months after the gastric bypass surgery, patients are incredibly restricted on what they should and shouldn’t eat. Even after this point, patients are encouraged to do the following:

  • Drink the bulk of their liquids between meals, because drinking liquids during meals can lead to nausea or the false feeling of being full.
  • Eat 4-6 small meals a day at first, and stop eating before you feel full.
  • Make sure you chew your food completely, otherwise food can get stuck in your intestines, leading to vomiting or other problems.
  • Avoid anything fried, fatty, or high in sugar.
  • Take vitamin supplements – as in lots of them and every day without fail. With that cut out piece of intestine, your body can’t absorb what you need out of food anymore.

When you look at these restrictions, doesn’t this pretty much look like you’re being put on a regular diet? The only difference is if you cheat on this diet, it could result in excess vomiting, malnutrition, further health problems, or death.

Talk about extreme dieting!

Some people claim they need this level of medical intervention. They don’t have the willpower, etc., etc. My problem is that if you don’t have the ability to live by the diet before the surgery, what exactly makes you think you can live by it after the surgery? Your willpower hasn’t changed.

Heck, a lot of people who did commit to the diet pre-surgery lost a significant amount of weight on their own, and they probably could’ve kept losing weight and avoided the whole surgery, as well as all the other potential problems that come with it. But instead, they believed they couldn’t do it.

If you ask me, and I’m no psychiatrist, but this sounds like the need for self-help therapy rather than the need to have part of your intestines cut out or a band tied around your stomach.

Why I Can’t Trust the Magic Pill Promoters

  1. Quick Fixes with No Education

Let’s be optimistic – let’s say you find the right mix of supplements, cleanses, what have you, and they actually work. You lose the weight you want, no adverse side effects, and you feel great!

Of course, you didn’t change your lifestyle when you started taking the magic pill. All the pill bottles and boxes said that you didn’t have to do anything different. So after you get to your dream weight, you stop taking the pills, and guess what?

!Yo-yo effect!

Also known as weight cycling, this effect refers to losing weight and gaining some or all of it back. According to an article on Livestrong.com by Kay Ireland, most people gain back the weight after they stop taking the pills, because they never learned proper nutrition to begin with.

2.  Blatant Lies by Manufacturers

To persuade audiences, most weight loss advertisements show the before-and-after image of someone who has supposedly benefited from their product. But these advertisers pick TOTALLY misleading pictures!

Here are their favorite ways to mislead you with the before pictures:

–> Shooting from angles that would make bean poles look fat!

–> Showing women in the frumpiest clothing possible

–> Using pictures of women when they were pregnant or shortly after they gave birth

–> Flat out photo shopping images to make the before pictures look way worse

–> Lying completely by using a different heavyset woman as the before picture

Oh, but it doesn’t stop with the pictures! Celebrities who are being compensated by these magic pill manufacturers also get in on the bandwagon. People like Dr. Oz, for instance, have been using their celebrity status to make claims of how studies show the wonders of whatever product they’re promoting.

In her excellent article, ‘Pulling back the curtain on Dr. Oz,’ Erin May points out the flaws with Dr. Oz’s assertions that Garcinia Cambogia leads to weight loss. She also provides an excellent list to help you spot the liars, which I’ve paraphrased below:

1) Look at the claims and verify the given evidence.
2) Find out if the person promoting the product is getting paid.
3) Do some detective work and go to reliable sources to verify product claims.
4) Determine whether the research is good, peer-reviewed science or unverifiable garbage.

3.  Fake, Fake, FAKE Testimonials!!!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

People pay writers to write fake testimonials.

In other words, people will pay writers to lie, or people will write their own lies. In these phony testimonials, most people will try to sound skeptical at first, so they can appeal to your own weight loss problems and fears. By the end of the testimonial, however, they will totally be turned around by the results they “experienced.”

What’s even worse is when you see almost the same testimonials – VERBATIM – on two different websites!

Case Study of Fake Duplicated Testimonials

Article #1 is written by Rachel for a company named PK.Baseline.com.

Article #2 is written by Katie who works for Fit Mom Daily .

In article #1, Rachel gives her “honest” account of her four-week trial using Garcinia Cambogia. Similarly, in article #2, Katie tells her story about her four-week trial taking Garcinia Cambogia XT and Natural Cleanse Plus. Essentially, both women are taking the same herbal supplement, but Katie is also taking some sort of cleanse to rid her body of toxins.

If you read both of these articles, with the exception of Katie using kilos for measurement instead of pounds, both article sound identical:
–> They each use the same format of a week-by-week report of their experiences.
–> They show their individual weight loss goals being achieved.
–> By the end, these “skeptical reporters” totally promote the product.

Of course, that’s pretty much what you would expect out of a testimonial like this. But let’s look a little closer.

In both articles, at the end of week one, Rachel and Katie both explain that they weren’t sure if they wanted to believe the weight loss was working. The reason they attribute to their suspicions is because of water weight. In fact, they both use this exact same phrase: “they say you lose a lot of water weight at the beginning of any diet.”

In week two of both articles, Rachel and Katie each make this comment: “I started the week off with even more energy and was actually sleeping more soundly than before.”

But my favorite piece of evidence that proves the articles are duplicates is what follows:

Article #1: After the fourth week, my results were shocking. I lost an unbelievable 27 lbs since starting the Garcinia diet! Everyone at PKbaseline.com was kicking themselves for not having volunteered to be the guinea pig.

Article #2: After the fourth week, my final results were shocking. I lost an unbelievable 11 kilos since starting the Garcinia Cambogia XT and Natural Cleanse Plus diet! Actually everyone at Fit Mom Daily is kicking themselves for not having volunteered to be the guinea pig.

Wow! In an internet-age of quick fact-checking, don’t these people realize how EASILY their lies can be found out?

To Cheat or Not to Cheat

The temptation to take the fast road stares us in the face every day. Countless emails and advertisements fill up my screen every day, each one hawking pills, diet plans, and cleanses that all supposedly make you shed the pounds without any work or lifestyle changes. As if that temptation wasn’t enough, most of these products claim to take the weight off in a few months.

Just the thought that in two months I could be at my ideal weight is almost enough to make me give my credit card to these people . . . almost.

But the fact is that the bulk of these supplements don’t work for everyone. Even the celebrities who claim that the pills work for them also admit to lifestyle, dietary, and exercise changes contributing to their weight loss.

Additionally, if the products really worked, why do the manufacturers and advertisers use so many blatant lies? Falsified pictures. Obviously mass-produced fake testimonials. Plus, most of the promoters never tell you the names or the parameters of the studies used to prove their supposed claims.

If you do a little digging on Garcinia Cambogia, such as this article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition or this article from the Journal of Obesity , both of which are respected, peer-reviewed scientific publications, you will find that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims made by those who promote the use of Garcinia Cambogia. In fact, both of these articles reviewed countless legitimate studies, and they found that the amount of weight lost experienced by patients using Garcinia Cambogia was of little comparable difference to those losing weight without the supplement.

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When it comes to my life and my choices, I can’t justify cheating on my body with these pills and cleanses, because they are made of lies and they don’t work!!! I’ve done the hard work of maintaining my weight this past year, but now I have to put in a little more effort to reduce my weight. That means not skipping out on my workouts just because I’m tired, or rescheduling my workouts if life gets hectic. It also means being more watchful with my diet, but also making dietary choices that are ones I can live with for the rest of my life.

So, after much research, I’d rather put in the work than be duped by a bunch of charlatans.

Counting Carbs: Survive and Thrive

carb joke

About three weeks ago, I attended a diabetes class with my partner. I myself do not have diabetes, but he does, and since we all live in the same household, we all have to adapt together. The meeting was enlightening, to say the least. I knew that breads were carbs, but I didn’t know the half of it.

Pretty much everything that isn’t meat or a non-starchy veggie IS A CARB that will turn to sugar in our bodies.

That means breads, grains, starches, (including some vegetables), beans, fruits, sweets, and a lot of milk products are just loaded with carbs. Not that carbs are completely bad; without them we can’t fuel our bodies. But if you are trying to count and cut back on carbs, you may feel as if you have eliminated the bulk of your food options. Don’t come into this with a self-defeatist attitude, though. Instead of looking at what you “can’t have,” look at what and how much you CAN have. Allow me to explain below.

You Can Still Have Carbs

When people go to diabetic meetings or to weight reduction classes, they start to think that carbs are completely off the menu. That all-or-nothing mentality is more dangerous than the carbs!

As I said – carbs are fuel. We don’t have to switch our fuel source, we just have to modify the fuel and use other items as additives. But what exactly does modification involve?

Modification – or moderation – means reducing your carbs to a certain amount for every meal.

Of course, you can’t reduce your carbs if you don’t understand what a carb is. According to the consensus of western doctors, every 15g of carbs counts as 1 carb. In the diabetic class I attended, the dietitian explained that for losing weight, the ideal carb intake per meal for men is 3-4 carbs (45g-60g), and 2-3 carbs (30g-45g) for women. This is also based on three meals a day and two snacks.

By the way, you CANNOT save up all your carbs for the day and have them in one meal. If you’re diabetic, your body simply can’t handle that on a regular basis. For non-diabetics, it really isn’t healthy to gorge yourself on carbs during any one meal, because your body may think that the larger meal is the only meal you’re getting. When the body thinks you’re only having one meal a day, it goes into starvation mode, and it will ACTUALLY start packing on the weight as fat storage for later fuel consumption. Remember, our bodies are programmed to be paranoid to survive.

nutrition label carbSo what exactly is 15g of carbs? Don’t let the metric system get in your way. Simply look at your food labels. Start out by checking out the total carbs. It will say how many grams is in one serving. Next, check out the serving size. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Some people will look on a box and see that it only contains 20g of carbs. They then assume they can eat the whole box. Nice try, but no. The amount of carbs listed on the nutrition label is PER serving.

As you start paying attention to carbs, you begin to realize that 3+/- carbs per meal really isn’t that much. It’s a good amount – don’t get me wrong – but it’s a major adjustment for most Americans. Nearly all processed food and fast foods are overloaded with carbs. True, you can stop eating these types of foods, but that’s not 100% practical for most people. Instead, go online and look up nutrition facts about your favorite fast food restaurants. Identify your low-carb options. Believe me, you have more options than just salads. Smaller sized items, foods that are wrapped in tortillas, or foods wrapped in lettuce all have less carbs.

13134389One of my favorite comedians, Gabriel ‘”Fluffy” Iglesias, has been quoted to say that he has gone through major weight loss as a way to battle with his diabetes. Part of what he has done to lose weight includes ordering fast food and tossing out the bread parts. In other words, he orders a burger and completely disassembles it, so all he eats is the meat, the cheese, the vegetables, and the non-carb condiments. That is definitely more of a no-carb diet rather than a low-carb diet. The main thing here is that Fluffy’s strategy lets you have a lot of your favorite fast food flavors without as many calories/carbs.

Adjust Your Shopping List as a Family

Going back to the diabetic meeting I attended with my partner, when we got home, we both started looking at all the labels in our house. The way we were shopping and eating would no longer work for a low-carb diet. To compensate, the whole household began looking up recipes, researching different foods, etc., as a way to figure out how all of us could eat healthier

Personally, I think anyone who is entering a diabetic-friendly diet, or even just a weight-loss diet, should communicate with the people they live with so everyone can band together. You’re going to need the support anyhow, so everyone might as well be on board. For our household, there are three adults, and only one of us has diabetes. The other two of us want to support our partner, so we’re willing to adjust our diets so he can live longer and healthier. Plus, all three of us want to lose weight, and this was just a great excuse to start that process.

Beyond adjusting your shopping lists as a family, you may want to consider posting signs in your kitchen that remind you about which foods have carbs, how to make better choices with different food groups, etc. I found these charts and information pages rather helpful. If nothing else, when you are meal planning, these make for a nice reference.

Furthermore, there are loads of resources online that give you delicious recipe ideas. Pinterest is a great place to start. You can try looking up diabetic-friendly meals, and that will lead you to a lot of recipe lists. If you are planning meals for a diabetic, you may want to look on recipe lists for different but related dietary issues. For example, people who can’t digest gluten tend to eat fewer carbs. As a result, there are loads of fun and delicious recipes that are gluten-free and low-carb.

Ways to Cut the Carbs with Fewer Killer Cravings

Everyone has different cravings, and combating those can be difficult no matter who you are. There have been several tricks that have helped the three adults in my household deal without going crazy. If you have other tips, PLEASE SHARE THEM IN THE COMMENTS!!!

Hunt for Low-Carb Treasure in Your Grocery Store

Thanks to so many dietary restraints these days, a large number of manufacturers create low-carb options. You do have to accept that whatever you’re eating will be smaller than the high-carb version. Low-carb bread, for instance, can taste just as good if not the same as regular bread, but the slices are noticeably smaller. There also products made with soy or other dairy/wheat substitutes, and many of these products can help you cut carbs.

Arctic-Zero-frozen-dessertOne gem my partner found was Arctic Zero ice cream. Their logo is “fit frozen desserts.” They have a multitude of delicious flavors, and one of their lines of products is lactose-free, GMO-free, gluten-free, fat-free, and kosher. I will admit, this ice cream can be a little pricier at places like Safeway, but if you shop around, like at Sprouts, you can find better deals.

Become a Mad Veggie Scientist

In most diabetic meetings, they tell you that you should fill half of your plate with vegetables at every meal. Let me tell you that sautéed or steamed veggies get boring rather quickly, so we are trying many different veggie experiments.

Again, the Internet is full of recipes and instructions. I recently tried making a cauliflower crust quiche, and for the cauliflower crust I used the recipe from this website. Since it is summer and blazingly hot, I cooked the quiche in the crockpot. To do so, you make the crust as normal. To cook in the crockpot, start off by lining the crockpot with parchment paper. Then press the dough on the bottom and into the sides. After cooking the dough on low for about two hours – don’t forget a cloth on top to catch the moisture –put in the quiche filling and cheese, and cook everything in the crockpot for about another two or three hours. The cauliflower crust turned out real tasty. I think the quiche would’ve been better with fresh, diced tomatoes on the top, but that’s a personal preference.

Give Yourself Treats

I have to admit that I have had a few days where I think I was going through carb withdrawals or carb cravings – not sure which. To avoid going on a crazed rampage, I allowed myself to have a few extra carbs. It’s not something you can do every meal, and it’s definitely something you should do in moderation, but as you’re getting used to this type of diet, it’s the only way you’re going to get through it, stick to it, and avoid going insane with hunger pangs. Something you could do – at least something we’ve done a few times – is if your meal is completely carb free, which is a lot easier to do than you think, we occasionally use up all our carbs on desert. Granted, with our decadent low-carb dessert options, sometimes we can even manage having a low-carb meal AND a super yummy dessert without going over our per meal limits.

Anger Addiction: My Failure to Communicate

She's reached the end of her rope!

I can’t tell you how many times a day I sit there thinking something like this:

If so-and-so would just do “this,” they’d have no more problems.

Maybe you have similar thoughts. My problem is that my thought doesn’t stop there. I will spend hours in this thought cycle thinking about what so-and-so should be doing. I will go over every detail in my mind of all the things so-and-so needs to be doing, should be doing, or could be doing better. As if that weren’t crazy enough, I will obsess over how I would do things if I were that person, and I think how I would do everything better.

Then I start to get angry.

In my mind, I start to complain about why so-and-so isn’t doing all these things that I have thought about. Why aren’t they taking better control of their lives? Why aren’t they doing things more effectively? Why aren’t they doing everything I have thought for them to do?

I let this thought process stir me up into such a frenzy of rage that by the next time I’m around so-and-so, the moment they do the slightest thing wrong – and I do mean the slightest –all of my anger unloads on them. I start to go off about what I think they should be doing with their lives. Realize that all of this comes out in a burst of degrading belittlement that so-and-so DOES NOT even remotely deserve.

After recognizing that I do all of this madness, I’ve started looking at my life and my relationships. Obviously, I have an anger management problem.

When you admit to having this problem, you will most likely do what I did. You start Googling how to get over it. I came across the following term:

Anger addiction

I reviewed the definition on several websites. Most sites argue that people prone to repeated outbursts of anger suffer from some form of anger or rage addiction. Many sites also describe the cycle of anger addiction, and I’ve included a graphic below:

cyclebreakingpoints

From this graphic, the implication is that people let their anger build up instead of talking about it. Eventually it comes to a breaking point, which is when people burst out with moments of yelling and rage. Letting everything out feels good, but that feeling is only temporary. Anger addicts will then supposedly apologize and start to act differently to show remorse for hurting the ones around them. Unfortunately, they haven’t really dealt with the problem, and once again they let all the anger inside of them build up until it bursts out again, and the cycle repeats itself .

When I look at this cycle, to me it doesn’t seem like addiction in the classic sense. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, addiction means “dependent upon; unable to do without; devoted.” For myself, I’m not addicted to being angry.  I don’t like how I feel when I’m angry. I don’t enjoy screeching at my loved ones and then watching them turn away. I’m not devoted to anger. In my opinion, I’m addicted to the need to be in control and this addiction is significantly affecting my communication skills and causing me to act out in anger.

Control Obsession

The definition of obsession is as follows, “preoccupy; fill the mind continually; a persistent idea or thought dominating a person’s mind.”

Before we can move on with the idea of obsession in relation to anger management, let me tell you about myself. I am a planner. I deal with the problems directly in front of me and I foresee the problems down the road as well. As a writer, I have developed this skill fairly well. Many aspects of my life have contributed to my ability to forecast, predict, and plan future events. The downside to being a planner, at least for me, is that you become hyper dependent upon always having a plan. It gives you control in a world of chaos. As I try to maintain control, I plan out my life, but I can’t have true control if I don’t take into account all the variables.

What are the variables?

Everyone in my life is a variable – I don’t mean to come off cold or calculative, but for a control addict like myself, this is how we see the world. We know our loved ones very well, and we know the choices they will most likely make. In this knowledge, we can plan out how things will happen, what to expect, and what obstacles will most likely occur. Realize that when control addicts do all of this planning that it’s not necessarily overtly methodical or well detailed. Planning is what we do and how we live. We do this all the time, so it becomes almost subconscious. In fact, you may not know you have the addiction until things fall out of your control.

When you review anger management psychology articles, you come across the following phrase repeatedly:

People become angry because their needs are not being met.

My obsession with over-planning and controlling the situation is directly stopping my needs from being met; in many ways, my obsession is a self-sabotaging road to anger town. I have noticed that I let myself get angry when the people I love act in a way that does not go according to the plan I obsessively laid out in my mind. My need to be in control is not being met, which sets off my anger, at least in the cycle of anger as described above.

When I say all of this out loud, I realize the bigger issue here:

My need to be in control of others is not reasonable for myself nor is it fair to the people around me.

Most of the people in my life are fully capable adults able to make their own choices. My need to micromanage others is an obsessive behavior that stems from many other issues.

Which other issues am I talking about? Well, during the past two years, my life has been in a constant state of transition. I’ve gone through a divorce, moved twice, job hunted for over a year, gained and lost several clients, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! All of my normal planning strategies can only work to a point these days, because there are so many variables I cannot affect let alone control within my life right now. It is not surprising that most of my rage problems have manifested during all these transitional moments in my life.

How to Move Forward

Through my research and writing out my thoughts, I can admit to myself and to all of you that my addiction to control and my obsession with controlling others has created an unrealistic lifestyle. Rationally, I know that I’m wasting precious time with obsessing about how others should live their lives. Furthermore, letting the anger build up inside of me is taking all my focus away from more deserving projects. Obsessing about others and getting angry at them shows that the real issue is that I’m upset with my own lack of control.

There are many factors out of my control right now. Adding more problems to my list, I also have MAJOR issues reaching out for help or admitting I have been hurt. All of this has led to less communication and more outbursts of anger.

For me, my anger builds, because I don’t tell people when something upsets me. I’m failing to communicate my actual emotions, since I’m afraid of hurting their feelings or because I don’t want to admit vulnerability. It’s a stupid show of pride, perhaps, or it’s an unreasonable obligation of having to be nice ALL the time. Either way, it’s a habit I have had for probably over a decade. Kicking the habit and facing it every day will prove the greatest challenge.

As I’ve been researching all of this, I’ve tried to talk to those people around me who are doing things that upset me. I have had to be very careful of my tones, because I know I can sound callous or demeaning if I’m not careful. During these recent experiments, for lack of a better word, I’ve expressed why the other person’s actions were upsetting me and why I felt my needs were not being met. In both cases, the other person had no idea about how I was feeling, and for the most part they responded positively and we found an arrangement that was beneficial for both of us. I was also able to let go of the upset feelings (anger seeds) that normally I would just bottle up. It made me feel a little lighter.

It hasn’t all been a productive experience, though. My obsessive thought cycles happen sometimes without me even realizing it for several minutes. I’m trying to catch myself when these cycles happen and redirect my thoughts somewhere else. If I can’t redirect my thoughts and my mind wanders back to the obsessive cycle, I’ve been loudly singing a song in my head. While traveling on public transit today, I was singing and bobbing my head together as a way to try to move myself away from that negative thought cycle. I had to do this repeatedly, and I probably looked ridiculous, but it worked.

My fight with addiction will be a two-front battle. Part of it will involve stopping myself from the obsessive thought cycles, and the other part will be learning how to deal with my need for control. I do not think being a planner is a bad thing, but I know I have taken it to an extreme that is causing major issues in my life. During this past week, I have had several moments where I started down the control freak path. I managed to stop myself with the following thought: “It’s their life. Plan your own moves, and get focused on your work. You have plenty to do without worrying about their crap.” It’s a long mantra – true – but for the moment it is helping me deal with my addiction.

o-CALM-facebookI know I have a long way to go, and I know I’m going to slip up in the future, but I feel calmer today, and right now that’s what I really want.

Hunt . . . Apply . . .WAIT . . .Get Depressed . . . Repeat

waiting-timeFor some time now, I have been in a state of transition for many personal and professional reasons, but right now I’d like to talk about something many of us can relate to:

depression caused by all the waiting around during the job hunt.

It’s bad enough to wait for potential employers to call back and set up the first steps of the interview process. Waiting for the first call no longer bothers me, though. Now I dread the time after the interview.

As you wait to find out if you have been chosen for the position, time drags by at a snail’s pace. For the first few days after the interview, every time the phone rings, you leap to answer it only to discover it’s just your friend or family member calling. You check your email every 10 minutes, just in case. You torment yourself by replaying the interview in your head again, and again, and again, just to see if you may have said something idiotic or insensitive.

Eventually, someone might be kind enough to end your suffering by sending you some sort of rejection letter. More often than not, though, you hear nothing about the job for close to a week, stress over whether emailing them about the position makes you sound needy, finally email the employer anyway, and then find out that the company has selected someone else or that the position has been put on hold.

Or – if the stars align and the time is right – you might actually get offered the position!

NEVERTHELESS . . . before you get any answers, there is still the matter of what to do while you are waiting for your professional life to move forward.

Sure – you could do nothing and just sit there waiting. After all – you totally nailed the interview, you have a solid resume, and your references can’t say enough good things about you. Why do anything else BUT wait for the good news?

First of all, while there is nothing wrong with overconfidence, it’s easy to let your hubris blind you.

Reality-CheckREALITY CHECK: most employers don’t have time to waste, so they only speak to the people with the best credentials, experience, and references. That means that no matter how good you are, chances are you are up against people who are equally as talented.

Of course, knowing the reality of the situation doesn’t make the waiting process any easier. The dark voices of your job hunt-induced depression will make you obsess about all your negative attributes, your insufficient training in one area, or your lack of experience in another.

Waiting makes us down spiral because it’s the place in which we have no control over our destiny.

We can’t make employers read our resumes, and we can’t make interviewers choose us over the others. When you’re waiting, everything is out of your hands, making you feel vulnerable, miserable, and easily agitated.

Luckily – you can fight back against waiting-game depression!

The following recommendations WILL NOT cure you of your depression, but these suggestions will help you keep your energy up, so you can remain vigilant on the job hunt.

Post-Interview R&R

You just had your big interview, and you feel amazing. Granted, you’ve gone through the interview dance before, but don’t let that get you down! Remember that statistically only 1 out of every 100 applicants get interviewed. You deserve a pat on the back just for getting selected, so feel free to celebrate a little. More importantly, give yourself a break.

If you have been on the job hunt for long, you have spent weeks, if not months, meticulously reading through job advertisements, and you have no doubt spent just as much time crafting the perfect cover letter and resume. After finally getting an interview, going back to the grind of the job hunt is the last thing you want to do – so don’t stress yourself out over it.

Give yourself at least one day away from the job hunt. Watch movies, play video games, read a book, leave the house – whatever you want, as long as you give yourself that time to relax as a reward for your hard work.

Maintain Productivity

productivity-cartoonAfter some well-deserved R&R, you have to get right back into the swing of job hunting. It might be the last thing you want to do, especially while you’re waiting to hear back from an employer, but until you receive an actual offer of employment, the fact is you DON’T have the job.

Besides, in today’s job market, timing is everything! Consider the following:

  • Most employers respond to applicants and set up interview appointments within 3-7 days of the original job advertisement posting.
  • The majority of employers take 5-10 business days to choose who they want to hire after the final interviews have taken place. (That means you’re waiting up to two weeks for a decision.)
  • If you wait to start sending out job applications until you receive a formal rejection, you will be set back 1-3 weeks on your job hunt.
  • If you start job hunting 1 business day after your big interview, you could possibly set up another interview with a different company before you even get the results from your first interview.

To put it more simply, regardless of how many interviews you get, you have to keep moving forward with your plan to get a new job. That means if your goal is to apply to 10 different positions every week, STICK TO YOUR PLAN! Until you get that offer, treat it like business as usual.

Remember that every time you take a break from sending out applications, you set yourself back by days or weeks, which will only make the depression worse. It’s difficult to stay committed, especially while you’re waiting, but if you think about it as something to do WHILE you’re waiting, it may help take the edge off.

Healthy Distractions

Although staying productive is key, there are only so many job applications you can send out. If you are currently working while job hunting, you can use your job as a distraction. If you’re not working, or only working part-time/freelance, you have a lot more time to kill, so you’ll have to determine which healthy distractions work best for you.

Realize that by healthy I don’t necessarily mean things that can improve your health. I mean tasks they keep you mentally healthy and away from the down falls of depression.

If improving your health does distract you, studies have shown that exercise can improve your moods, which can help fight depression and anxiety.

When choosing other distractions, remember to choose activities that will minimize further frustrations. While trying to learn a new skill may improve your resume, the stress of job hunting can make you more irritable than usual. Angry people typically don’t make the best learners, so if you’re too frustrated to focus, you may want to try something else.

Another factor to consider when choosing your distractions includes choosing something that gets you out of your house. It’s easy when you’re job hunting to become reclusive, which only makes you more depressed. Try to get out of the house and visit with friends. Even if you’re low on funds, there are some free and inexpensive activities you can do with other people, such as meeting up to window shop, hanging out in the park, etc.

As an added bonus, by leaving your house on a regular basis, it’s easier to ignore your email inboxes, since you’re keeping yourself busy with other activities. If you check your email by phone, however, it might be harder to keep yourself distracted. Some therapists recommend turning your phone off for at least one hour every day. Let people know when you’re turning your phone off, just in case an emergency happens, though. Many people have reported that turning off their phones makes them feel lighter. Some people even experience a sense of relief when they don’t have to deal with the constant chiming and vibrating of their phones every five seconds.

Addicted to Planking: Plank Challenge Survivor

During the end of 2013, there was a meme going around on Facebook about the plank challenge. You may have seen this image below:

Plank challenge position

The challenge was as follows:

For 30 days, you, the acceptor of the challenge, would hold the plank position for a designated period of time each day, and that period of time would increase throughout the 30 days. By the end of the challenge, you would be able to hold the plank position for 270 seconds (4 ½ minutes).

If you look at the picture above, the position doesn’t look really difficult. Or so I thought.

With so many of my friends participating in the challenge, I thought I could at least give it a try. After all, I had done some planking before, but not for any long duration of time. Plus, some of the main muscle groups targeted by the challenge, according to the image, were spots I wanted to work on.

My Experience

First of all, let me point out that when I plank I place a memory foam cushion under my elbows, since I suffer from chronic pain/tendinitis. The cushion does not aid me in the actual plank position, but the cushion does keep my elbows from going into mind-numbing pain. Secondly, I am not an 8-hours-a-day gym person. I’m a regular person trying to get in shape. I work out about 3-5 times a week, and I only work out for 30-60 minutes at a time.

My first week of the challenge was not difficult at all. I started by holding the position for 20 seconds on days one and two, moved up to 30 seconds, and then 40 seconds by day five. The challenge then instructs you to take a day off; actually, you get a day off every five or six days.

Things became slightly more difficult during the second week. During this week, I started off by holding the position for 45 seconds, and then for a minute, and on the last day before the break I had to hold it for 90 seconds.

It took me three tries before I could finally hold the position for a full 90 seconds!

The first two days of week three were also 90 second holds. To be honest, those days were miserable. I could feel my entire body shaking. The muscles in my arms burned. My feet cramped up. And my ab muscles kept twitching. Nevertheless, I gritted my teeth, shouted expletives, and made it through.

On the third day I was scheduled to hold the position for a full two minutes. I was expecting it to be two minutes of torment, but instead the time flew by. I got a little shaky toward the end of the hold, but the pain from the previous few days didn’t occur. It was like after suffering through three days of 90 second holds I had been transformed into a planking machine.

I continued the challenge over the next few weeks, although I had to extend the challenge, since I missed several days due to a horrendous bout of flu. Finally, though, I made it to the 270 second mark, and I kept on planking.

In January 2014, I made it to five minutes.

On that morning, my partner had knocked on the door to ask me a question. I told him I was halfway through my five-minute plank and that I wasn’t about to stop. He made the smart decision and cheered me on through those last 2 ½ minutes. The final 30 seconds took forever! I was bellowing out my time left as a distraction, which I’m sure sounded strange, but my partner just kept rooting for me to make it. As the timer on my phone went off, signaling that the five minutes were over, I slowly released the hold and in a singsong voice I started chanting, “I did it! I did it!”

Results

According to Jessica Burns’ self-named blog, “It’s Time to Burn,” doing this particular plank position, (a.k.a. the elbow plank), targets the following areas:

  • Abs (including the six-pack area and the upper ab muscles right by the rib cage)
  • Back (especially the muscles by the spine and lower rib cage)
  • Neck and shoulders (Rotator cuffs, Trapezius, Deltoids, and Rhomboids)
  • Chest
  • Butt
  • Legs (calf muscles and quads)

After planking for a month, my shoulders and my upper arm muscles felt stronger and they definitely had some visible definition. I am nowhere close to having the coveted six-pack, but I can see a bit of toned muscle in the abdomen area, which rocks! My derrière might be slightly more toned, but it’s not immensely noticeable. My calves feel solid, but, as a short person, I do a lot of movements that strengthen those muscles, so I can’t say the improvements are strictly plank related.

Oddly enough, one of the places I have noticed the most new muscle development has been in my hamstrings, (the backside of my upper legs). It’s not surprising that my leg muscles would improve, since I’m using those muscles to keep the plank position stable. However, most of the fitness journals I have researched did not seem to mention this muscle group as receiving any noticeable benefit from the plank position.

Now What?

After 30 days of planking, I could not stop myself. I enjoyed the way the position felt and I liked how it has been slowly sculpting parts of my body. Plus, it’s an excellent exercise to do before or after your cardio.

I have tried to add a few challenges to the move. For instance, I tried to do donkey kicks (left) and knee tucks (right) while in the plank position.

donkey kick   fresh-body-plank-knee-tuck

Although it felt good to do these leg movements, and it certainly intensified the workout, I noticed a negative side effect. I might have been overextending my legs during the donkey kicks, I’m not certain, but my lower abdomen muscles, (right beneath my tummy roll), started to get sharp, lingering pains after the workout. The pain made sitting and getting up difficult, so I stopped doing those movements and went back to just regular planking.

Right now I’m planking for four minutes, resting/stretching for one minute, and then planking again for another four minutes. I’ll be increasing to two 4 ½ minute holds very soon.

During my research for this article, I found Tina Reale’s article about extra movements to liven up your planking routine. Although I had a negative experience with the donkey kicks and knee tucks, I might give these following moves a chance:

A Word of Warning

Obviously, don’t start planking if you’re not in the right condition to exercise. Beyond that bit of common sense, I would highly advise doing LOTS of stretching before and after you plank.

I realize that I suffer from tendinitis, and I use stretching as a method to alleviate my pain and increase my stamina. Regardless, planking causes you to make your muscles work overtime to keep your body still. You want to make sure your muscles are ready to deal with that sort of strain, especially the muscles in your shoulders, neck, and legs.

Stretch before you plank. Stretch between planks. And stretch after you plank. You’ll be able to plank longer, and your muscles will thank you.