Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Stretch for Instant Pain Relief

Now that I'm almost 67 and suffering from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, I'm not the exercise freak I used to be.  This is hard on me.  I want to exercise, but I manage to make myself miserable by doing it.  The exercise itself feels good enough; I love feeling my muscles work, and I love that warm, glowy feeling I get as juices start flowing.  The bad part comes later--typically an hour or two after I've finished my light workout. Arthritic shoulders ache, there's a pain in my knee that wasn't there before, and my wrist hurts from accidentally straining it too much.  All this, after maybe ten arm pulls with a yellow TheraBand, or four steps on and off the Bosu Ball.  It's gotten to the point where I find excuses not to go down to my basement gym in the morning, and one of them is the discomfort I now experience after even the mildest workout.

Hence, I've lost contact with my body, as if it was a Facebook friend that suddenly blocked me.

If you've read my book, Bucket List Weight Loss, you know one of the 11 tenets to success is "Gut Talk"--in other words, learning to dialogue with your body, not just with your mind.  Your body is an efficient machine which, left to its own devices, would function quite well if we learned to LISTEN to it.  But our minds and subconscious end up sabotaging many good dialogues we might have started with our bodies.  Our minds are the entities that tell us we want chocolate fudge frosted brownies, when our bodies are pleading for a simple glass of water.

After a long period of non-communication with my stiff and aging body, I started up a dialogue with it almost by accident one morning last winter.  It began when I got up at 6am to feed the dog and re-stoke the fireplace wood box.  The fireplace is raised about 18 inches off the floor and has a wide, deep hearth in front of it.  I opened the fireplace doors, inserted a piece of split larch, and swung the doors to the "almost closed" position so that the draft from the cracked doors would pull the remaining embers back into an open flame.  As I stood there half asleep, I placed my palms above my head and onto the chimney's warm rocks.  I leaned into the heat, let my head drop to my chin, and enjoyed the relaxing sensation of shoulder, back and leg muscles being stretched by shear gravity.  It was heaven.  I held the pose for about 30 seconds, then lowered my hands and let my upper torso gently drop farther and farther until my palms rested on the hearth.  I stood there, feeling the stretch of small muscles I'd forgotten I even had.  I flexed my shoulders up and down, ever so slowly and gradually, and felt a release of tension that started in the neck region and traveled all the way down to my calf muscles.  I dropped my head a little more, and my hamstrings suddenly said, "Hello!"

One little stretch led to another, until I was on a quest to see how many muscles I could wake up this quiet, gentle way.  As I slowly flowed from one position to another, I breathed deeply, bringing oxygen to the areas that were being stressed.

During this process, if something started to hurt, I'd immediately back off, mentally marking where and how the hurt occurred so I could avoid it the next time.  From yoga classes, I knew pain was a signal that something wasn't quite right, and that I should take care not to further aggravate it.

My morning "firestarter stretching" has now progressed to a routine that takes about 20 minutes to complete. I try to stretch the upper body first, then the lower torso and abs, and finally the legs, with special emphasis on hamstrings, psoas, and quadriceps  I throw in some heel stretching and flexing too, so I can better maintain my "heels down" position in the saddle.  Depending on time and energy, I might complete the whole stretching routine again before going upstairs to dress.  With more than 650 muscles in the human body,  it's not like I'll run out of stuff to stretch.

This isn't unlike a yoga session, except that I don't have to get up and down off the floor to keep pace with anyone else's set routine.  I'm not adding strengthening or balance exercises to it either.  Those I will do separately.  The stretching itself seems to help chronic pain as much as anything at this point.

I used to think "stretching" meant leaning up against a wall like runners do; it was the thing you were supposed to do before your real workout.  No doubt it still is for many folks.  But I now practice stretching for its own sake.  At 6:20 am, when I finish my stretching routine, I'm not going out for a job.  I go back to bed and enjoy a blissful nap!

Want an easy primer on healthful, sensible stretching?  Check out 
You'll find some easy non- intimidating starters with great illustrations.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Struggling to age with grace last post was three years ago and it was about "never giving up."  I was referring primarily to the fight against fibromyalgia which can briefly be described as "chronic and systemic inflammation without any identifiable reason."  It began in late 2014 following several physical and emotional traumas, and I've been learning how to live with it for the past five years now.

Fibromyalgia isn't the worst health problem in the world, but it will certainly affect your lifestyle and activities. The good news is that it is manageable. Those of us afflicted by it learn to temper our activities, minimize our stress, and adjust our diets.  But we're also on a never-ending quest to find the best and latest miracle pill, miracle salve, or miracle device that will make our journey less painful

When I published my book, "Bucket List Weight Loss," I was eight years younger than I am now.  Eight years.  Think of the differences that happen to us between the ages of 10 and 18.  They're monumental.  The changes that have happened to me now that I'm truly a "senior" seem equally dramatic.  In fact, I tell everyone that aging is like going through adolescence, except that now we're smarter.


In the process of aging eight years and dealing with health issues, I gained back enough weight to look healthy and normal, rather than emaciated.  I'm happy where I am now, at age 67 and 160 pounds.  The down side is that I can no longer do many yoga poses, and my stamina is greatly diminished.  Chronic pain has become a chronic companion.

Yet I can still say this with pride:  my shape looks pretty good for an older gal, at least with clothes on.

By writing "Bucket List," I etched my own successful weight-loss principles into my own head. Those principles still guide me in my food choices and self perception.  I knew that, once I'd written it all down in the book, I'd never be fat again.  As I approach the last couple decades of my life, I am still as confident of that as ever.

"Bucket List Weight Loss" is a story of discovery, but it could be your story as well as mine. You don't need an expensive program or pre-packaged foods to start feeling better TOMORROW.  All you need is to tune in to yourself.  "Bucket List Weight Loss" will help you do that.
 In fact, now more than ever, you need this book if you're over 40 and larger than you'd like to be.  Don't settle for less than you can easily have.  Don't short yourself or cheat yourself out of a life you've only dreamed of.

It's still available on Amazon for a song and a dance (or less).  Splurge on yourself and spend $12 on a book that can change your life.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Don't you DARE give up!!

A year ago I was sinking into a quicksand pit of depression. Healthwise, 2015 had been a lousy year.  Strange infections, chronic bowel problems, facial skin cancer chemo, knee surgery, a pending Achilles tendon surgery, laryngitis, weight gain and--to cap it all off--a diagnosis of fibromyalgia which explained the inexplicable aches, pains and malaise I'd been feeling all year. Christmas was hardly more than an inconvenience.  I hadn't the inclination nor the energy to decorate or bake.  We ended up stringing a set of mini-lights on the jade plant in the living room, and called it good.

A year ago I thought I'd seen the last of good times, good health and youthful vigor.  The outlook was gray and foggy.

Have you been to that dim, shrouded place?  Are you there now?  I have good news for you: it is NOT your new, permanent home!  It's only a stop along the way to something far better.

Maybe you think you lack the power to change your life for the better.  Maybe you think there are no circumstances or influences that can make a positive change in your situation.  You are wrong on both counts.  You alone have the power to improve your life.  It's up to you to actively seek solutions and help from other sources.  No one else is going to do it for you.  As much as your friends love and support you, they can't shovel you out of a hole.  They've already tried.  You have to claw and climb out by yourself.  The good news is that it's a whole lot easier than you may imagine!  Just get the ball rolling, ever so slowly.  The rest will take care of itself.

I was blessed to have positive choices revealed to me in 2016.  I took full advantage of those opportunities, and I made the choices that would ultimately turn my health and outlook around. Yes, I still have fibromyalgia, but I've taken steps to minimize its effects on my life.  Yes, I still have "aging issues" like wrinkles, failing eyesight, and bladder urgencies.  My strength and coordination are diminishing.  But I can live with these "normal" processes.I have no choice there.  I do, however, have choices on how much I want to suffer from fibro's pain, stiffness and malaise.  And I've chosen steps that have literally given me my life back.

DO NOT GIVE UP.  Stop complaining, stop the self pity, get off your ass and try something new.  
The most effective change you can make:  
Whittle yourself down to bones and muscle.   

The second most effective change:  

If you are in physical or emotional pain, or if you're not happy with your life circumstances, my Christmas wish for you is that you put one foot in front of the other and start making the changes.  You only have one life and one chance.

As a very influential candidate said to a group of challenged citizens a couple months ago, "What do you have to lose?  What the HELL do you have to lose?"

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pain is gone! Remedy worked!

Good news!  The agony I experienced last night ago at bedtime faded with the stars and hasn't returned.

This validated my belief that I can control my fibromyalgia symptoms by "living right."  I expect I'll feel even better tomorrow as my system will be further cleansed of the stuff that made me hurt so badly yesterday.

Today I got up at 6 a.m. as usual and hobbled downstairs feeling like I was 95 years old.  Fed the dogs, then retreated to the basement for one hour of gentle but steady exercise.  Within minutes, the pain and stiffness with which I awoke had greatly diminished.  Usually by the time I've fed the dogs and gone downstairs, I'm feeling at least 50 percent better than when rising.  No matter how much I hurt upon rising, I can always count on that.

Things continue to improve over the next hour.  I keep moving at a moderate pace, from one piece of equipment to another, from one body part to another, never repeating the exact same workout two days in a row. The hour flies by ever so quickly.  At 7:17 I'm headed back upstairs to bed for a 45-minute"nap," where I stretch out in "corpse pose" and concentrate only on relaxing the muscles I have worked.

When I get up again, I shower and prepare for the day.  I am now pretty much pain-free. I fix my husband's breakfast and prepare a smoothie for myself.

For the rest of the day, I stay in motion as much as possible.  This keeps the "rust" from settling into my bones and soft tissue.

"Lunch" consisted of  two cups of salted-in-the-shell peanuts with a cup of coffee.  Not the best choice, but not the worst either.  High protein + high fat = satiation.

I stayed honest at dinner...I really missed my wine, but opted to refrain because I knew it would cause a negative reaction.  So I polished off some leftover chicken salad (just chicken and lettuce) with a glass of vitamin water in the wine glass.

Total calories for the day: about 1,000.  Just right.  No bloating, Quiet gut.  No inflammation.  Tonight I will sleep well, knowing I made the right choices to heal myself for another day.

The right foods for YOU + moderate, frequent exercise + water + rest = NO MORE FIBROMYALGIA least, not until I allow myself to mess up again. And I will.  But a "well lived" day is money in the bank that pays interest.  Those dividends will help me get through the next recession, otherwise called "Thanksgiving."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I know why I hurt tonight

Tonight my joints are screaming.  Ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders are stiff and painful with inflammation that's so pervasive with fibromyalgia.  My brain is foggy too.  Today I nearly wiped out a woman at Costco with a frozen turkey I was slinging into my cart.  I kept running into other people's carts, and in the produce room I walked away from my own cart and grabbed someone else's by mistake.  I'm surprised I was able to make the two-hour drive home without incident.

But I am filled with optimism.  I think I know WHY I'm feeling fibro-like today...and that's why I'm going to change things tomorrow with the hope of feeling 100 percent better.

Here's what I think I did wrong today and yesterday to bring on the fibro attack:
  • I didn't drink enough water.
  • I didn't exercise for an hour this morning.
  • My sleep was disrupted because I was in a hotel room last night.
  • I ate crappy food instead of sticking to my regular regimen.

Tomorrow I WILL feel better.  I'll get up at 6a.m., exercise for an hour, return to bed for another hour, get up and drink plenty of water all day, and eat a minimal amount of food that is kind and gentle to my system.  There will be no gluten, refined sugar, or alcohol in my diet tomorrow.

Stay tuned and find out if I am in fact pain-free tomorrow evening.  I want to prove it to myself...and to you other fibro sufferers out there...that we really can minimize or eliminate our symptoms by "living right."

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Kicking fibromyalgia in the ass....

Find your magic hour

With four hip replacements behind me, I don't physically kick balls, stones or cans much anymore.  But for the past several months I've been kicking fibromyalgia in the ass.  I'm here to tell you that you, too, can kick fibro or most other chronic physical issues in the ass if you really get down to business.  In the process, you're going to lose weight, feel better about yourself, get stronger, and be able to live a somewhat normal life once again.  Without drugs.

My method, which I outlined in my last post, consists of these steps:
  1.  Eliminate foods that are difficult for you to digest.
  2.  Set aside ONE HOUR A DAY for some sort of exercise.
  3.  Go to bed earlier.  Take rest breaks during the day

For me, these three things are totally integrated.  I can't skip one and expect to feel well the next day. My favorite, however, is #2.  Set aside ONE HOUR A DAY for some sort of exercise.  So let's talk about that.

First, I credit my physical therapist, Stan, for getting me into this ONE HOUR A DAY thing.  He's been a therapist for 30 years and he knows his stuff.  He's seen it all.  He is passionate about this ONE HOUR A DAY mantra, which he says generally falls on deaf ears.  Face it, we've all heard this preached to us and most of us think, "Well, that would be nice but I simply don't have the time, and I hate exercise."

Now shut up and tell the truth.  You DO have an hour to devote to yourself, your well-being, the betterment and longevity of your life.  You just have to look for it or carve it out of your existing schedule.  Not only that....but you DO enjoy some forms of physical activity, whether it's dancing, walking your dog, bowling, raking leaves, or having sex.

To make this even easier, think how quickly you form habits.  Do anything for a few days or a few weeks in a row, and it becomes comfortably habitual.

So let's first find that hour in your day....that very special hour you devote to just yourself.  No excuses.  There's a way to do it.  My special hour--which has actually become the most precious hour of my day--starts at 6:15 a.m.  The dogs get me up at 6 a.m. for breakfast.  The feeding/pottying ritual takes about 15 minutes.  At 6:15 I head for my basement "gym" with my iPad in hand. Now, granted, my little gym would make most physical therapists jealous; I have a lot of exercise "toys" and I use them all during my workout because I like the variety.  But if I had to, I could get an adequate workout without any of it.  The key is to simply KEEP MOVING at a comfortable (not a killer) pace.  We'll talk more about exercises in a future post.

The 6:15 morning hour was the ONLY one I knew I could stick with.  At that hour there are no phone calls or doorbells.  The dogs have gone back to bed with my husband.  I seal myself off from the rest of the world, with the understanding that I am not to be interrupted unless it's an emergency.

As much as I enjoy exercise, I know that if it doesn't happen for me at 6:15, it's not going to happen that day.  I'm not talking about the additional spurts of exercise we all get during a normal day, whether playing at the dog park, splitting wood or grooming horses.  Sorry, but those don't count!    They should be IN ADDITION to your special hour.

Some suggestions for finding the hour:  

  • Instead of relaxing on the couch to watch your favorite weekly TV show, watch it streaming on your tablet while you peddle an exercise bike.
  • Get up an hour earlier...and go to bed an hour earlier too.
  • Put the dogs in crates so they can't bother you during your hour.
  • Tell your family members they'll have to fend for themselves in the kitchen during your hour.  
  • Buy some Leslie Sansone "Walk Your Way to Fitness" videos to use in your living room.
  • Ignore your phone!!!!!  YOU are more important than that thing!!!!

Next post:  

What you DON'T need to do to get a good one-hour workout. 

"Bucket List Weight Loss"--Order your copy today on Amazon.  Available on Kindle as well.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Feeling younger every day

Four months ago I sold most of my Size 6 jeans in a yard sale because I'd resigned myself to never getting into them again.  I ached all over virtually all the time, and was also resigning myself to a fairly depressing and scaled-down life of inactivity.  Moving hurt.  Living fatigued me.  That's what fibromyalgia is all about.  The arthritic knee didn't help either, and the Achilles tendon surgery I'd had last winter had taken its toll on my strength, stamina and flexibility.  I thought I was going to have to accept feeling like an 80-year-old, even though I was only 63.

Today I'm replacing the Size 6 jeans I sold....with more Size 6's.  I don't hurt like I did four months ago.  Even the knee is improved.  I have my life back again.

In fact, I feel like I'm getting younger every day.  I no longer feel 80, or 63.  Maybe 45 or 50.  I'll take that!

The secret?  Actually, I have two, and I'll share them with you.
1.  I gave up foods that disagreed with me.
2.  I changed my daily exercise routine.

Sounds pretty simple and common, I know.  But the turnaround in how I feel is anything but "common."  It's a freaking miracle.  First, a brief look at the dietary changes....

I stopped eating refined sugar because I knew it was causing inflammation and spikes in my blood sugar.  I stopped eating most gluten for the same reasons.  I eliminated artificial sweeteners and processed foods.  And I drastically cut back on my alcohol intake.  This all started as a water fast back in June, and it morphed into an appetite-killing realization that food often made me feel worse than hunger did.  Certain foods are safe and satisfying, so I concentrate on them and eat only what's necessary.  Most days I now consume about 1,000 calories.

The other secret:  I devote one hour of every day to uninterrupted exercise, immediately followed by total rest and a shower.  My hour starts at 6:15 a.m., after I've fed the dogs.  That's the only hour that works for me.  If I don't do it then, it won't get done.  The exercise is light but nonstop.  I don't even break a sweat.  I just keep moving, doing a wide variety of things to include yoga, resistance exercises, light cardio, and coordination drills.  After my hour, I return to bed for 45 minutes.  In yoga they'd call this time "savasana," a time to rest and rejuvenate the body after working it.   When the gentle alarm goes off, I rise and jump into the shower for a hot, invigorating scrub that leaves me ready to tackle the day ahead.

In future posts, I'm going to elaborate on how I came to adopt this new lifestyle.  I know it won't work for everyone--especially the "going back to bed" part.  But the combination of good nutrition and consistent exercise has turned my clock back about 15 years.  And there is no medicine that can replicate that feeling!

I'll be sharing my adventures in physical therapy with you too.  The four months of PT following my Achilles tendon surgery have changed my life.  Let me tease you by quoting the slogan that's plastered over the doorway of my physical therapist's office:  
 "Exercise is the best medicine."

More to come.  I might as well warn you, I'm going to be preaching my discoveries with a passion!!