Friday, March 26, 2010

It's nice to know it's not just me

Last Sunday while relaxing around the estate and mindlessly channel surfing, I stopped on Channel 2 (our local PBS station) and found a program called "Change Your Brain - Change Your Body." Naturally the words brain and body sucked me in.

The gentleman speaking was Dr. Daniel Amen from the Amen Clinics and he said that his clinic had conducted over 55,000 SPECT scans of individuals' brains. He talked about how you have to know your brain type to be successful at losing weight. Since my ADD diagnosis, I had wondered how different my brain was and more importantly, how it worked. 

He sucked me even further because he started talking about the "Inattentive and Impulsive Brain Type."  He explained that the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) at the front of the brain is responsible for attention span, judgment, impulse control, organization, self-supervision, short-term memory, ability to learn from experience, critical thinking and problem solving. If the PFC is not functioning properly, those skills are at risk.  When he started to referring to this as the ADD brain, I was hooked. Tell me more!

He showed a scan of an ADD brain at rest and the PFC was active when it shouldn't have been. Then he showed the ADD brain when the individual was trying to focus/concentrate and the PFC goes dark with little activity. This means that just when the brain needs to be used for something, the activity decreases and the individual is screwed because the harder they try, the worse it gets.

So, how does this apply to weight loss? Dr. Amen explained that an individual with untreated ADD would have problems staying with a diet for very long. He gave a great example of an ADD person on a diet walking by donut shops - at the first donut shop, he is able to stay focused and walks on by. The second donor shop starts to weaken him and by the third one, he's given up and goes in for the binge, completely forgetting why he was avoiding the donut shops.

I wrote in a early post that I sincerely believe that my ADD diagnosis is the reason I was able to lose weight after so many unsuccessful attempts. While I've been on medications for almost eight years, there are still many of the issues mentioned above that I still struggle with such as short-term memory. 

Some days are good and some are bad. But having the list of skill sets that are impacted by my ADD has been enlightening. It's not just about lack of attention - there's so much more to it. 

I bought two of Dr. Amen's books, "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life" and "Change Your Brain, Change Your Body." (I actually bought them while still watching the show using my iPhone and downloading the books to my Kindle app on the phone. - I am a tech goddess!)  I have this feeling that I may be talking more about this in future posts. 

It's just great to know, it's not just me!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Next 50 Years

Most birthdays feel like any other day. Some years you may go to work and ignore it or celebrate in a low-key way, if at all.  But then there are the milestone birthdays: 16, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, etc. 

Today is my birthday and I'm 50. And it doesn't feel like any other birthday. It feels like the start of a new day, a new year, a new direction...
I'm feeling like turning 50 is new beginning. I want to be healthier and take time each day to workout. I procrastinate better than most, but I'm beginning to realize how wasteful that is. Do it today because tomorrow isn't guaranteed. Yesterday, I was reminded of that when I heard the news that a friend of the family who is only a year or so older than me, died very suddenly Saturday. Do it today.
I will appreciate my friends and family and all their craziness because they love me regardless of all my craziness. 

I will be grateful for all I have and also grateful for the things I don't have. 

I will make a better effort to stay in touch with my friends who I don't always see - they came into my life for reason and while I may not know what that reason is, they have changed who I am today - for better or for worse. (Song in my head: For Good from Wicked.)

I don't know what the next 50 years will bring or even if there will be another 50.  I know I've mostly enjoyed the first 50 - so whatever it is or will be - I'm ready. Bring it on!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How ADD helped me discover my inner skinny

I have struggled with my weight since I was 9 years old. I could be petty and blame it on a very nasty third-grade teacher who beat up my self-esteem, but my self-esteem recovered awhile ago.

I have done nearly every diet and exercise program you could name. While I didn't succeed at many of those, I won't call them failures. Those attempts were just practice for finally getting it right. If I could pinpoint one event for pushing me to success, it would be my Attention Deficient Disorder diagnosis. (I know, it is strange to give credit to something that I'm usually blaming for causing problems in my life, but I gotta be honest.)

**That's me with Lucy at Camp Snoopy comparing waistlines.**

How can ADD be credited for pushing me in the right direction? Two things - one was physical and second was mental. First, the physical: The first thing my doctor did after the diagnosis was to get me a prescription to handle the depression (that was the main symptom for the ADD). I won't say what the medication was, but the drug's side effect was loss of appetite due to nausea. I lost 25 pounds in four months without even trying.

When I realized that I was starting to gain it back, I joined Weight Watchers in January 2004 and started to lose again. In April 2004, I joined the YWCA and started to work out at 5:30 a.m. most weekdays. That was the second gift I received from the diagnosis, my mental attitude. I never had a doubt that I wouldn't lose weight and I didn't second guess myself.  When all was said and done in January 2005, I was down nearly seventy pounds (from my pre-diagnosis high in 2001)

I kept the weight off for awhile, but in 2006, I was losing focus because I had multiple demands on my time - work, school (working on a master's thesis) and chairing the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships local organizing committee. By the end of January 2008 (and the end of Nationals), I had gained fifty pounds back. I called it my "Oh-8 Weight."

I got back on the weight loss band wagon at the end of 2008 and lost almost 30 pounds in 2009. In the past three months, I've been losing the same five pounds over and over again and it drove me crazy. I finally rejoined WW and the YWCA last month and have been reminding myself what I have to do to make it work: Be active and be accountable (and drink water!!)

Part of my activity plans is doing the "Couch to 5K" program. I started it yesterday (3/13/10) and hope to run my first 5K in early June. Also learned that a friend of mine started it this past week, too, so I've challenged her to join me in running the Burnsville Heart of the City 5K. I can't believe that I'm really looking at running a race. Stay tuned...

How Massa & Marie are ruining my birthday

Okay, I'm getting more than a little hyper about turning 50 in ten days. And I can blame the media, Eric Massa, Marie Osmond and NutriSystem for all this anxiety.

The media has been covering the Eric Massa story non-stop for the last week and Massa hasn't helped by appearing everywhere from CNN to Fox. Massa is being accused of sexually harassing a male staffer. When asked about a "groping" incident, he admits to it and then goes on to explain that it was more of a "ticklefest" and this was just something that happens at 50th birthday celebrations. It was his 50th birthday party. Really?  Call the restaurant and cancel my party if that's the "average" experience. 

Ah, and then there's NutriSystem. Their most recent advertisement features a woman who lost 96 pounds telling Marie Osmond her story. She explains that her motivation was turning 50 because " if you're overweight and 50, there's really no hope for you." Seriously??!!  Should I just pack it in right now and not bother thinking I have a future?  Not quite sure who the marketing genius is who approved that ad, but it didn't win any fans with any of us who were born in 1960.

I was planning on talking about my progress on my weight loss journey in this post, but since I'm not at my goal weight yet and my 50th birthday is a little over a week away, the geniuses at NutriSystem are telling me that I shouldn't bother with it.  

Well now that I've ranted about it, I feel better about it and will talk about my breakthroughs and fitness plans in tomorrow's post.

Friday, March 12, 2010

One of my favorites: CaringBridge

Nonprofit organizations are my passion. I love helping nonprofits and I love seeing the wonderful things that they do. One of my current projects at work is looking at how other nonprofits recognize their donors. This has given me an opportunities to learn about their mission and vision and thus far, we have visited the Hudson (WI) Hospital, Courage Center and the University of Minnesota Foundations. I hope to feature their work in future posts.

But I want to start with a personal favorite. I adore CaringBridge and the service they provide is priceless. Unlike the three nonprofits mentioned above, they aren't a bricks and mortar type of business. They are virtual. CaringBridge provides free websites that connect family and friends during a serious health event, care and recovery. In the Summer of 2008 when my sister was battling Cancer, our family learned the wonderful blessing CaringBridge is to families facing difficult health situations.

A CaringBridge website is personal, private and available 24/7. It helps ease the burden of keeping family and friends informed. The sites are very simple to create and use. Authors add health updates and photos to share their story while visitors leave messages of love and support in the guestbook.  I would bet that most people have followed the story of someone on CaringBridge or perhaps have first-hand experience of authoring a site themselves.

Their mission statement explains the true impact of their service: "To bring together a global community of care powered by the love of family and friends in easy, accessible and private way." The closest thing to a hug given virtually.

According to their website, more than 30 million families depend on CaringBridge and each day more than half a million people connect through CaringBridge. One of the users of CaringBridge wrote this: "We had no idea God would use the tool of CaringBridge to bring us the comfort and hope we needed so badly."

CaringBridge is a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit and because their service is free to the users, they depend upon individuals, corporations and foundations for financial support. Next time, you're considering your charitable gifts, consider including CaringBridge on the your list. I know it's on mine.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saving Private Ryan

Did you watch the Oscars Sunday night? I didn't. It's another change in my personality that really intrigues me. In the past, I never missed a single award show - People's Choice, Grammys, Emmys, Tonys, Oscars, American Music Awards, etc. Today, I don't even pay attention to who is nominated.

I remain a fan of the movies, television and theater. So instead of watching the Oscars, I watched a movie - seemed appropriate.  I watched the amazing Steven Spielberg movie, "Saving Private Ryan." It is emotional movie in many ways, but for me the scene that destroys me is the final one in the cemetery in France. Not the rows and rows of white markers representing the thousands who died, but seeing James Ryan - the title character - standing before the grave of the man who saved him.  He is standing there wearing a golf polo shirt with a powder blue golf jacket over it, looking very much like my dad. It was his official uniform for the last 10 years of his life. 

My dad was a World War II Veteran who served in the Pacific. He was very proud of that service and rightly so.  He would rarely talk about his time in the Navy and I never pushed him for information. I so wished that I had.

When I first saw the movie in 1998, it had only been four years since my dad had past away. While I shed a tear or two during the movie, I started to sob uncontrollably during the final scene as the character was now my dad standing there in his golf jacket.  Since we had met at the theater, Dan walked me to my car, but I was still crying. I told him that I would be fine and that he should go home. I would cry for another 20 minutes sitting there in my car.

So, I watched "Saving Private Ryan" this past Oscar night, now 16 years removed from my dad's death. I still cried pretty hard, but when the scene was over, my crying was over, too.  I wonder if I cry today more from the emotional memory of how that  final scene impacted me or because I still see my dad in his golf jacket.

I can't think of any other movie that has impacted me emotionally like this movie did. Do you have a "Saving Private Ryan" movie that causes you to react differently?

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Big 5-Oh

Three weeks from today, I turn fifty. The big 5-oh. Five year away from being eligible to live in senior housing. The half century mark.  UGH!!  Look, I know that turning 50 is WAY better than the alternative, but there's just something about that number. 50...

I was 12 when my dad turned 50 and 16 when my mom turned 50. I don't remember thinking that they were "really old" at 50. At those ages, I thought anyone over 21 was old.

I've been trying to remember what age my parents were when I thought they were finally old.  But everything with age is relative and I was 22 when my dad turned 60 - one year past my former old guideline. 

I have a wonderful friend who is 14 years my junior. We met when I was 28 and she was 14 and we have been friends ever since. Our birthdays are four days apart, so Jessie turned 16 just four days before I turned 30. That day, she and another young friend decorated my office in black streamers. 

In 2004, Jessie turned 30 herself and called me to apologize. She confessed that on my 30th birthday, she thought 30 was REALLY old, but now that she's 30, she realized how wrong she was. It's all relative. 

My geeky side has found an odd way of coping. I've started referring to March 22nd as the launch of version 5.0 - just like software. Because you know that each new version provides a better product. And that's what I am - a better version of who I was at 40, who I was at 30 and most definitely who I was when I was 20.