Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Living Authentically (Part 2 -- Physically)

As I studied what it meant to live authentically, I found (as I explained in my last post) that the key points I noted fell into one of four life categories: spiritual, physical, relational, and emotional. I decided to focus on physical authenticity first simply because I thought it would be the easiest. I further divided that larger topic into two: 1) physical as in diet, exercise, & appearance and 2) physical as in my home, place of residence, and place of employment. I've addressed the first incrementally, in small steps over the last 9 or 10 months.

The issue of diet caused me the most frustration. I had never given much thought to what I ate, other than in a very general sense; as a result, I was consuming the same types of food that I always had. I was very aware that my diet wasn't as healthy as it could/should be, and because I sincerely wanted to be as healthy as possible, I knew change was necessary. But what changes? One "expert" said I should watch my carbs, the other scoffed at that notion and said I should eat according to my body type, carbs be darned. Another claimed it was essential that I eat 6 (or was it 7?) small meals a day; according to other sources, three good meals a day with healthy snacks if needed was the way to go. The options, the advice, the rules, and the programs were endless and conflicting. After weeks, even months of  confusion I decided to consider my then-current health concerns and my long-term goals first. After establishing those, I began looking again at various diets (I use this term to mean "a way of eating", NOT "an eating plan intended to cause weight loss") in view of those concerns and goals, and I ultimately settled on an eating plan. I read every book written by a credible source on the topic, and then I discussed my goals and eating plan with both my "regular" doctor and my bone-loss specialist. Both agreed that the eating plan was a healthy one (as are many, but definitely not all, others) and that the plan was appropriate for my health concerns (avoid cancer at all costs and prevent further bone loss) and my goal of a healthier lifestyle overall.

I've been struggling over whether or not to share my eating plan. I am not a nutritional expert by any means and didn't want to in any way insinuate that my chosen diet is the only good one; on the other hand, I realize the people who read my blog are adults who will recognize that fact and not let my dietary choice influence their own. With the latter in mind, I decided to share that I have been gradually moving to a paleo diet. So far, I am very pleased with the results, but I have a long way to go. 

I also tried out various exercise programs and finally settled on one that meets my goals of overall good health and losing the "chicken wings" I developed over the 12 months that I was dealing with frozen shoulder and was unable to lift one arm more than a few inches. I discussed my routine with my general practitioner, bone-loss specialist, and orthopedist (who I saw for the "frozen shoulder"), and all 3 felt it was appropriate and would help me reach my goals. I'd like to be able to say that I've been exercising consistently, but I haven't; for a few weeks I would exercise according to plan, but then I would quit for a day, which almost always turned into a few days and then a week or longer. However, I've acquired an accountability partner, and have been doing much better the past few weeks.

As I considered the issue of appearance, I focused primarily on 3 things: hair, skin, and clothing. I'd had essentially the same hairstyle for a several years, and fixing my hair every morning took a minimum of 30 minutes. I don't like "messing with" my hair, so spending that much time doing just that every day was causing me to be frustrated and didn't reflect what I really wanted to be doing with my time. I decided to let my hair grow out in order to have more hairstyle options, which translates into less time spent fixing my hair (I'm terrible at it to begin with) and fewer trips to the beauty shop because I can trim my own bangs). I've also flirted with not getting hi-lites. I've done that several times in the past 10 or so years, though, and found that my natural hair color has with age become a mousy brown that makes me look old and very, very blah. For now, then, I'm continuing my every-eight-weeks trip to the beauty shop so Becca can work her magic.

After 50+ years of using sunscreen on rare occasions only and of hanging out at the pool or sitting on my patio to enjoy the sun and a good book almost every afternoon 3 months out of the year, I've given up tanning. It isn't healthy, so it was contrary to my health goals; since physical appearance isn't a high priority for me, tanning all summer wasn't an authentic use of my time. As an added bonus, by eliminating tanning, I have 2-3 more hours each day, 5 days a week, at my disposal! In addition to giving up tanning, I also began using both a moisturizer with sun protection and a sunscreen specifically for faces (for a total protection level of 60) on my face, neck and upper chest, and the back of my hands. I've gotten more serious about using good products (cleanser, toner, moisturizer) on my face and neck and about using them twice a day, every day. These changes caused a good-sized dent in my budget; fortunately, the products are used sparingly and, except for the facial sunscreen, won't have to be purchased again for about 6 months. I'm confident that my skin care routine is now aligned with my desire for a healthy lifestyle and for more time to spend dong things that are meaningful to me.

Clothing. How do I start? What do I say? I've always hated shopping for clothes. I'm short -- not cute short, but short enough that it has always been difficult to find pants, skirts, or dresses that don't require hemming. Petites and (often) junior sizes solve that problem; unfortunately, the junior sizes are often too "young" for me (have you seen the shorts in the junior department?), and the petites in the women's department often look . . . matronly. I don't aspire to look matronly. To avoid shopping, I had for 30+ years chosen to replace items here and there and only as absolutely necessary .  The result was a wardrobe that was filled with a hodgepodge of styles, none of which I cared for or that accurately reflected me. While visiting my cousin in Las Vegas a few months ago, I went shopping one morning with my cousin and my daughter. We ended up in Ann Taylor, where the salesladies were unbelievably helpful -- it was as if I had my own personal shopper. I scoured the sale racks for anything half-way decent in my size while a saleslady choose 8 or 9 pieces as well. I walked into that store resigned to the fact that the morning would be frustrating and a total waste of time. I walked out 90 minutes later with a new summer wardrobe of pieces (including a pair of jeans!) that mixed and matched, fit my short frame and long waste perfectly, and were all 30% and 40% off the already-sale price. More importantly, I like what I purchase -- they fit my personality and style.  I now have a 32-item, mix-and-match spring and summer wardrobe made up of clothes that I love, that fit well, and that are fairly timeless.

I want to take this opportunity to share a wonderful challenge that I encountered in December 2012 when I first heard about Courtney Carver through her book Simple Ways to be More with Less, which then led me to Courtney's blog and to Project 333. I hope you will visit Courtney's blog and read about Project 333 (don't forget to go to amazon.com and purchase her book). In a nutshell, Project 333 involves choosing 33 wardrobe items (google Project 333 for guidelines) and wearing only those 33 items for 3 months (corresponding to the 4 quarters of the year). Courtney's challenge provides for unexpected events; for example, I wear my "funeral dress" so rarely (thank goodness) that I did not select it as one of my 33 items. When I needed to attend a funeral a few weeks into my first attempt at the project, I followed the guidelines so I could wear it. Remember, the guidelines are just that -- guidelines, so even if the project sounds intimidating to you, check it out and adapt it to fit your purposes, moving closer to 33 items with each quarterly change. My closet is neat and tidy, most of my selected items can be mixed & matched, and my streamlined wardrobe has also translated into a more stress-free, efficient morning routine. 

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Does your diet, exercise program (if you have one), and appearance reflect you accurately? Maybe you haven't even given this much thought. I hope, though, that you'll take some time to reflect on these aspects of your physical life and ask yourself if you are doing things out of habit or because they are "right" for you at this point in your life. I hope, too, that you'll share your thoughts on living a physically-authentic life by commenting below. 

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