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Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and What it Means for Health and Weight Loss

22 Aug

I’m a big reader. Recently, I was reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and one section really stuck out to me—it speaks to how community affects our health.

Living a long life, the conventional wisdom said at the time, depended to a great extent on who we were — that is, our genes. It depended on the decisions people made — on what they chose to eat, and how much they chose to exercise, and how effectively they were treated by the medical system. No one was used to thinking about health in terms of a place.

Wolf and Bruhn had to convince the medical establishment to think about health and heart attacks in an entirely new way: they had to get them to realize that you couldn’t understand why someone was healthy if all you did was think about their individual choices or actions in isolation. You had to look beyond the individual. You had to understand what culture they were a part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town in Italy their family came from. You had to appreciate the idea that community — the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with — has a profound effect on who we are. The value of an outlier was that it forced you to look a little harder and dig little deeper than you normally would to make sense of the world. And if you did, you could learn something from the outlier than could use to help everyone else.”

This chapter was published in the New York Times and you can read it here. To me, this was an important eye opener. So often, we think about genes and decision-making as the two main drivers behind our level of health. The research that Gladwell is referencing indicates that it so much more than just the individual. Our health is also a product of our culture, the people that we surround ourselves with. Whether we’re trying to pinpoint why someone is healthy or why they aren’t healthy, we need to not only look at the individual but beyond them to their culture and environment.

Outliers (book)

Outliers (book) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does this mean for someone who is trying to change their current health status? To me, I think that it means we have to think of ourselves within context. None of us exist in a silo. We are influenced by the people around us and their values. Does something in our environment have to change in order for us to succeed in changing into a more healthy being?

How do you think your cultural context has affected your health? 


Sunday Cooking & Looking For A Lunch Tote

19 Aug

Sunday’s my cooking day. I try to make something extra yummy for dinner (aka something that takes a little longer to cook) as well as get my meals planned for the week ahead. This includes a lot of the prep work and as much cooking for that as possible!

But one thing I’ve been struggling with is selecting transportable options. I take the subway to work so it has to be portable and able to survive 45 minutes of possibly being squished between many human beings rushing to work. (They aren’t joking when they call it the rush hour!) And, I’m ashamed to say, I mostly take what I can fit in my purse.

It’s about time I invest in a lunch bag. They always made me think of elementary school but it’s about time that I suck it up for practicality’s sake. The one’s I’ve liked so far cost more than I’d like to spend and ideally, I want one with a long enough strap to throw over my shoulder. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker though.

Does anyone have one that they like and that they’d recommend?

Thermos Raya Lunch Tote: Picture from

And what am I cooking today? Currently, I’ve got a healthier version of Buffalo Chicken Dip in the Crock Pot (from SkinnyTaste, I’ve made it before and it’s a total winner!).  I’m also planning on doing some baking and maybe a couscous dish. The extra Buffalo Chicken Dip will make some great lettuce (or regular) wraps this week!

Lifestyle Change: Taking Care of Myself Overall/Essie Marathin

18 Aug

I’m currently sporting a pretty pink Essie nail polish color called “Marathin”* which previously would have been totally out of character for me. Coincidentally (or not) it’s from Essie’s new fall 2012 “Yogaga” collection. I have no idea why they have a Yoga themed nail polish collection. The collection includes names like Spinning Again, Pilates Hottie, and Gym Dandy. Most of the colors are pretty soft and muted, but I’m telling you, this pink is out of my comfort zone. My fingers are screaming, look at me! (At least in my mind.) Which is the complete opposite of what I’m usually trying to do—which is hide.

Ever since I’ve been taking better care of myself—eating healthier, drinking more water, exercising regularly (you know the drill), I’ve been doing lots of other little things that I had let go by the wayside.

Marathin from Essie’s Fall 2012 Yogaga Nail polish Collection

I never really wore much makeup; but now, I’m taking 2 minutes in the morning to look in the mirror. I’ve gotten manicures and stopped biting my nails. I’ve worn headbands more than once.  It’s not that I’m becoming consumed with my appearance. I’m just making myself a priority again. I’m letting myself feel beautiful and confident.

For so long, I just wanted to blend into the background so no one would look at me. And for me, that was a way to be less accountable. If I hid behind my “lazy” I didn’t have to face reality—I felt like I could just “disappear” and all would be okay.

Most importantly, I’m learning/accepting that it is okay to feel beautiful and comfortable in my own skin.

*Disclaimer: I don’t want to be thin, I want to be healthy and fit.  I wish they named it Marafit!

Are your nails painted? If so, what color are you currently wearing?

That’s it! Thursdays: Sometimes It’s Okay To Say No

16 Aug

Earlier this week I was complaining about feeling like I was spreading myself too thin. So, for this week’s That’s it! Thursday, I’m vowing to say “no” to the things I don’t really want to do/don’t have the capacity to do.

English: Hot air balloon back-lit by early sun...

English: Hot air balloon back-lit by early sunrise during SkyFest 2010 in Cedar City, Utah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a people pleaser, it’s easy to say yes, yes, yes, when people you care about ask you for favors or ask you to do things. But sometimes, it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to say you can’t make it that BBQ or that you can’t take on that extra project right now based on your workload.

I have to be honest with myself. Because sometimes, it’s okay to say no.

Spreading Myself Too Thin

14 Aug

Warning: this post is kind of whiny–

But, If I’m being brutally honest (and there’s no reason not to be here, right?) I’ve been exhausted lately.  I think I’m spreading myself too thin and I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all that I want to do.

Try as I might, I can’t add more hours. So, I’ve got to do something about this. I can’t keep going the way I am or I know I’m going to burn out. And, importantly, I’m not letting my working out go to the wayside. Something else has to budge instead because getting healthier is way too important, not only right now, but for the rest of my life. I have to move that up on the priorities list and decide what is a bit lower down that I can cut out.

Nevada shore of Lake Tahoe around the barge li...

Nevada shore of Lake Tahoe around the barge line and terminus of the flume (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes I think I can do everything. But, I’m tired. I can’t. Something’s got to give.

Sorry for the lack of positivity in my post today, but I’m hoping that the honesty makes up for it?

Diabetic vs. Living with Diabetes

11 Aug

You might have noticed that I often refer to myself as a person with diabetes, or living with diabetes. But, I’ve never once referred to myself as a diabetic. Sure, by definition, I am. But– that’s not what I identify as.

It might seem like a subtle difference and just a difference in nomenclature; however, it’s a significant one.

In college, one of my majors was in Psychology. I remember in my Abnormal Psychology class they addressed the importance of this difference with regards to mental illnesses. It should be a person who suffers from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, not a schizophrenic. A person is so much more than their illness– whether mental or physical.

By saying that I am diabetic, it makes it sound like that is all of my being. It is a part of me and my life, yes, but there is so much more to me than that. I am also a daughter, sister, friend, coworker, reader, blue-eyed, and freckled. Get the idea?

It’s amazing the implications of such small differences in the way we say things. I’m working on being much more conscious of things like this… in how I think about myself and how I think about others.

Other Ways To Measure Progress- Besides The Scale

10 Aug

“But, I’ve been working so hard and haven’t made any progress!”  “Why am I gaining weight if I’m eating healthier and working out?” “Is this even worth it or working?”  It can be incredibly frustrating when you feel like you’re putting so much time/effort into something and the scale just isn’t budging. Since I revealed my weight earlier this week and discussed how we often label ourselves based on “our number”, I’ve been thinking a lot about other ways we can measure and track our progress besides the scale.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the amount of effort you put in equaled the results you saw? It might not be equal, but there is definitely some level of correlation between your effort and your progress towards becoming a healthier person. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways you can track this progress besides the number on the scale—which we all know is affected by so many things.

Tape Measure

Tape Measure for tracking body measurements. Lose those inches! (Photo credit: incurable_hippie)

Here are a few of my favorite ways to see success:

  • Measurements: Every month, I take my body measurements and track them on a website (but even an excel spreadsheet would work). It’s so nice to see those inches coming off even if my scale tells me otherwise. I use a vinyl measuring tape for this and it works perfectly.
  • Clothes: Dig into that closet! Are your clothes fitting better? Are they literally falling off of you?
  • Photos: Many people take pictures regularly (in the same outfit, location, pose, etc.) and compare them side by side. This is a great way to really see the changes in your body.  Every month or would work for this, you won’t see much/any change from one day to the next but over stretches of time you can definitely see a difference.
  • Energy & Emotions: Is your energy level higher? Are you generally feeling happier and better about yourself? This is a highly underrated way to track your progress in my opinion.  If you’re feeling better—isn’t that so much of what this journey is all about?
  • Workouts: Your fitness milestones are another way to track how you’re doing. Are you running faster or further? Are you getting stronger? Are you able to do that workout with more intensity? This all speaks to your improved fitness level—stamina, strength, cardiovascular health, etc.
  • Other Indicators: BMI, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, etc.: If you’re numbers driven, another great way to see how you’re doing is by regularly monitoring other parts of your health like blood pressure and cholesterol. Work with your doctor to determine how often you should be testing these.  They might be able to help you with goal setting and any other health measurements you might want to monitor—like for me; my A1C measurement is a huge indicator of my progress.

Do you track your progress using any of the above methods? Are there any others you use that I might have missed? I’d love to hear them!

Your Weight Is Not A Label

5 Aug

In 5th grade, our class was huddled in the gym during Physical Education (“P.E” as we all called it). We each took turns on the scale—a few yards away from the rest of the group; but, you know everyone was readily sharing their results like a badge. That’s the first time I really remember being labeled by that number.

I was 108 pounds.

I was immediately self-conscious and was only slightly comforted at the fact that one of the most “popular” girls in class admitted to me she was around my number. I think a lot of us still label ourselves with our weights. We let it affect our self-esteem, the way we carry ourselves, and even the clothes we wear.

All of this to say, I think I’m ready to reveal my weight on here. I’m switching my weigh in day to Monday’s and am also currently out of town (coming back Monday afternoon). I will try to use the scale at my dad’s house and hope that it is similar. If it seems to be, I’ll report in tomorrow with my results. Otherwise, it’ll be a day late this week. But, I have to admit, as much as I can preach about not letting the number on the scale control you—I’m a little nervous about revealing it. It feels like something intimate. Something I don’t want to share with the whole world.

But, it’s time to be honest with myself and with you.  Tune in tomorrow (or maybe Tuesday, depending on the scale situation) when the truth is revealed. Ohhhh that sounds so ominous.

“Compromise” – Relationships, Health, & Well, Everything

4 Aug

My lovely blog readers: this weekend, I am headed home to visit my family. Part of this (along with relaxing, bonfires, and kayaking), will be to celebrate my grandparents 65th Wedding Anniversary.

Sixty-five years of marriage. That’s not something you hear often anymore.  Recently, I asked my grandfather how they did it– how they made it so far, through so much, together.  A man of few words, he replied—“You Compromise.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about what he meant by this and the way compromise plays a role in so many parts of our lives.  It’s such a huge part of the way we navigate the world, and our relationships.


An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.
Settle a dispute by mutual concession.
Synonyms: noun.  agreement – accommodation – settlement – conciliationverb.  come to terms

All relationships have some element of compromise as you integrate your life with another person’s. It can be as small as I vacuum, while he does the dishes. Or, it could be deciding to raise your children celebrating both religious holidays.

We all have to give a little and take a little. I know I’m guilty of being hard headed and wanting my way. But, if that’ll get us through 65 years filled with five children, war, ups and downs and so much more—I think that maybe we should all start thinking about compromising a little more.

Goal Setting & Rewards: Weight, A1C, Inches…

30 Jul

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about setting distinct goals and rewards for myself as I move forward on this journey. I think it would be helpful to help give me benchmarks to strive for and ways to celebrate.  There are multiple schools of thought about whether or not people should set milestone rewards for themselves when it comes to weight loss. Personally, I don’t see these as motivators. I don’t see them as incentives. I see them as rewards– plain and simple. Celebration for a job well done and for accomplishing what I set out to.

Speaking of which– goals are another story all together. I haven’t yet figured out what my long term goal weight is. I have goal A1C’s for my blood sugar, which I set with my doctor. I don’t have goals for inches as I’m not sure exactly where I will feel most comfortable. That leaves me with short term weight loss goals, which I’m okay with.  Now, we all know that goals are supposed to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound.  I have trouble with the time bound part.

So far, I have the following goals planned:

  • Lose 15 pounds by the end of 3 months of TurboFire– Sunday, November 4th.
Polar heart rate monitor
Polar heart rate monitor (Photo credit: ario_)

And the following rewards:

  • Ten pounds down: Heart rate monitor (I’m hoping for a nice one, like a Polar).
  • Fifteen pounds down: Professional 1 hour Massage and a special weekend Bed & Breakfast getaway.

Do you set goals or rewards for weight loss? If so, what are they?