Thursday, January 5, 2012

31 Days to Better Health - Day 5

Good afternoon, I hope you are all having a fantastic day I know I am. The skies are blue and I just came back from three miles in the crisp cold air and I feel rejuvenated and full of energy. Exercising in the cold air has a wonderful way of reminding me that I am alive.

Before we jump into day 5 let’s review what we have accomplished during of the first 4 days:

Day 1 – Defined Success and What is/was Holding Us Back

Day 2 – Determined our Purpose and Looked at Passion

Day 3 – Listed Our Goals for January

Day 4 – Listed the Things We Have Needed to Work on for a While

Are you an Optimist or a Pessimist:

Today’s exercise has two parts which are both related to attitude. The first part is about optimism and pessimism and the second part is fear and intuition. On first blush they don’t seem related but I will try to show you how they are by taking you through a few of my life experiences to show you how they manifested themselves for me.

I would say that am a natural pessimist which probably surprises many of you. In fact it surprises me that so many of you think that I am an optimist because my gut reaction is to see myself as a pessimist. It is amazing how long we can hold on to the old mental images of ourselves, like thinking we are heavy long after we have lost weight. Apparently attitude is the same as weight and I still see myself as more pessimist than optimist.

My parents are both extremely pessimistic. My father never met a situation that he didn’t see as a potential calamity. He has always been a professional at turning a mole hill into a mountain. He plans for every possibly “disaster” before the problem has occurred. Talk about bringing a room down, my father can do it faster than anyone I know. My mother is no ray of sunshine either. She complains about everything and things that go wrong are always things that happen to her never anything that she had any control over. Imagine being raised by two people who never saw the bright side of life? Yep, welcome to my world. I grew up expecting the worst to happen, and when you expect it that is what your reality becomes because it is what you are focused on.

The low point of my young adult life was being raped at knife point just after turning 18, getting pregnant as a result of that rape, having an abortion that I kept quiet and trying to go on as though nothing ever happened. This happened during a time in America when women were blamed for somehow enticing men to rape them. Needless to say I did not report the rape or even tell anyone about it for years, nor did I get any professional help to deal with it. As a result this event dominated both my conscious and my subconscious for much longer than it should have. The event caused me not to trust people particularly men, I was also afraid to be out at night (that was when it happened) and generally just expected the worst from people. My life was being run by fear and I was always worried about my safety.

As a result of the rape I didn’t want to be “alone” and married while I was an undergrad. Let me go on the record that this is not a wise thing to do. My first marriage was thankfully short lived as it was a mistake on my part. My husband cheated on me and then tried to blame the marriage not working out on me. Clearly the demise of that marriage was my fault as I am sure you see (heavy sarcasm). *rolls eyes* In addition to this marriage ending in divorce (thank goodness) my ex-husband thought I owed him something financially since we were married most of the time I was in college. Never mind that I paid for my education by working three jobs and using the inheritance from my grandmother. Are you started to see how I might have been a bit of a pessimist?

However cancer has a way of cutting through the "crap" and getting you to focus on what really matters. No one would consider cancer something frivolous, clearly this was serious. I had two ways to deal with it, I could attack it head on or I could let it crush me. The other things that happened in my life had taken their toll on my mental and physical health but I was determined that this problem wasn’t going to define how I lived my life. A funny thing happened when I started doing research, I became less fearful of the disease. Something inside me (my intuition I assume) told me that I was on the right path (with the shift to a plant-based diet) right from the start in spite of what everyone we knew were saying.

I read a number of books and studies that attitude had a big impact on survival from serious illness. Being the fighter that I am I immediately started to institute not just dietary changes but attitudinal changes at our house. I don’t have to tell you life at our house did a 180 flip do I?

In addition to going from omnivore to vegan we also changed our outlook on life. Each day we both take time to appreciate the things that go well in life of which there are many. My husband and I tell each other “I love you” many times during the day every day. We spend time together each day talking, sharing our day without whining or complaining, and just hanging out enjoying our time together. We are that couple who still holds hands and enjoys being together even after a quarter of a century of togetherness. When either of us are out and sees something the other one would love we snap a picture and text it. Every day I know how much my husband loves me and I am certain that he knows how much I love him.

Additionally I love to take pictures of the beauty I see around me. Taking those pictures brightens my mood and reminds me that the world is beautiful place and all we have to do is stop to appreciate it. Somehow I just know (there is that intuition again) that stopping to appreciate beauty is a good thing for my soul. Now when you see pictures that I took out and about during my day you will know why. That is my way of sharing the beauty of life with all of you. *smiles*

So what does any of this have to do with being an optimist or a pessimist? What I hope you have learned from reading my story is that while there is a “cultural” component attitude really does come down to a choice. What type of person do you want to be? You can chose to focus on what went wrong or you can chose to focus on what went right. I find that when I focus on what goes right, the things that didn’t go quite “as right” just aren’t all that important. Being an optimist or a pessimist comes down to a decision. Since you can choose to be either one, wouldn’t you really rather be happy? Deciding to be happy was one of the smartest things I ever did.

Fear versus Intuition:

The other thing I want you to think about is how often your life is run by fear because this also relates to optimism and pessimism. In the past most of my decisions were fear based and those didn’t often turn out well. I can tell I am acting out of fear when I feel anxiety around a decision, or some sense of urgency. There are few things in life that require immediate action (a heart attack is one, but most things simple aren’t like that including cancer). In the last year or so I have been trying to cultivate my intuition and use that to make decisions instead of fear.

Fear is easy to spot if you take the time to look at what is going on in your decision making process. Do you feel a sense of urgency or immediacy? If you do try to figure out what is causing you to be scared. Are you trying to be safe? Fear is also something that we use to keep ourselves safe, so that could also be a sign that you are operating out of fear. Another sign that you are operating out of fear when you feel the need to be right, or that someone has to win. Looking at this from the other perspective you aren’t operating out of fear if you are willing to feel silly or be rejected. I struggle with this one too, but I am working on letting go of fear. Now when there is a little voice in my head I try to assess if it is fear or intuition talking. Sadly 95% of the time my little voice is fear, but at least now I see it so that I also disregard it knowing that it will hold me back. One of my favorite sayings is that you only fail when you don’t try! Fear has the way of keeping all of us stuck because doing nothing is safer than taking a risk.

I am sure that some of you are thinking that fear-based decisions are good, but I assure you that frequently are not. I can list a number of decisions that I made in life which I made based on intuition that turned out very well. That is the exercise for you today, what decisions have you made based on intuition that either turned out well or that you learned from? Here are the ones that popped into my mind:

1. Marrying Dan – this was not logical when I did it but is one of the smartest things that I ever did.

2. Starting the blog – this I did totally on faith though I certainly didn’t think it would become anything but I have enjoyed it and sharing what I am learning keeps me motivated

3. Bidding on a sailboat in Caribbean – again this didn’t seem logical at the time but it felt right and we went for it and it worked out well

4. Changing our diet – this was something we did after I read one book, it just felt right and the later research and results proved that we did the right thing

5. Selecting our oncologist – Dan and I “interviewed” a few doctors and went with the one we felt comfortable with, in the end we both know that we made the right choice even though many of our friends expressed concern that we should have gone with the “world renowned expert”. Our results have been fantastic so we are comfortable that we made the right decision.

Now it is is your turn.  What decisions did you make following your intuition that turned out well, or that taught you something about yourself. I know some of my biggest lessons were from things that didn't go the way I wanted.

I also want to share with you observations from my 3 miles today since they relate to what I wrote today. I have to cross a number of intersections on my regular route through the neighborhood. Each time I meet a car at an intersection I stop because the car is clearly bigger than I am. Three times today I met a car at an intersection and the driver waved me through. I smiled, waved and went through the intersection. I see this as proof that there really are nice people in the world. People aren’t all bad nor are they out to get us. Just so you know I only met three cars at intersections so I wasn’t cherry picking those situations. I thought some of the pessimists out there might think that. ;-)

Also while I was out I passed 6 large men running the other way on my route. Again each time I nodded and smiled and they nodded and smiled in return and we both kept our pace and direction. The old me would have been concerned meeting these men on the path since they were: men, in good shape and much bigger than me (I am 5’2 ½” and yes that ½ inch matters at my height). In the past I would have immediately felt concerned about my safety and might have crossed the street before we got close to each other. However after years of telling myself that not every man is like the one who raped me I can finally relax around most men.

I hope that this post helps you to realize that how your view the world is completely under your control.  I hope that your intuition can be good and that you try to follow it more than listening to your fears. Trust me when I tell you that deciding to see the good in people and the world results in a much happier existence.

Progress on my goals:

1. Newsletters – spent 45 minutes on this Wednesday

2. Body Bugg – three days in a row and going strong

3. Date with Dan – Dan came home early on Wednesday *woo hoo* and we are going to have another date either Friday or Saturday, maybe both! ;-)

4. Measuring my calorie dense food – I am doing this and was surprised to find that I was overestimating and probably need to add a few more seeds

5. Working on my business – the meditation DVD cut into my time and this didn’t happen on Wednesday but did on Thursday at least

How about you doing are you keeping your goals in mind and are you making progress? Remember it isn’t enough to have goals you have to work on them. I start every morning rereading mine to remind me what I need to do and that seems to help.


Dan had his favorite fruity oatmeal with nuts and seeds for breakfast. This time I added raisins, dried cherries, cinnamon, a little stevia and frozen wild blueberries and topped his oatmeal with chopped walnuts and raw sunflower seeds.

Since I greatly enjoyed my breakfast yesterday I went with the same thing today, broccoli and hummus. This time I measured the pine nuts and realized that instead of underestimating them I overestimate them. I was intending to add 1 tablespoon of seeds but have only been adding about ½ tablespoon and I would never have known that had I not measured. Darn I hate it when things I don’t want to do turn out to the be the thing that I should be doing! ;-)

While I eat my breakfast, and drank my green tea I decided to pop the meditation course into the DVD player. Let’s just say that was a big mistake. The Practicing Mindfulness course was really good and ended up taking over 5 hours of my day. I talked to Dan about it and he is going to do it with me, but only one class (30 minutes) at a time. Dan isn’t as prone to dive right into things as I am, in case you missed that. LOL

When I finished exercising I had a mid-day snack of a banana and almond butter. I put this in a little dessert glass, grabbed a pretty beaded spoon and I was ready to eat. It isn’t everyday that I use some of my favorite dishes, but it does make a difference in how it “feels” to eat. I will be covering conscious eating tomorrow for those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept.

My lunch was the end of the bean, mushroom and kale soup from a few days ago. Those intentional leftovers sure do make my life a lot easier as did reusing a photo.  ;-)

Dinner at our place was a baked veggie casserole (artichokes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomatoes, homemade whole wheat breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning and freshly ground black pepper) which was served over cooked quinoa and topped with a few pine nuts. When I put this together I made 4 servings so that there was enough for us to have lunch on Thursday.

Overall today was not as productive as it could have been because I got carried away with the mindful meditation DVDs. However I did enjoy the DVDs and feel like I learned a lot so it wasn’t a total loss.

Happy thoughts:

• I was very happy to have the weather warm up enough that I could get outside to exercise today. Spending time outside in the cold crisp air is something that I really enjoy.

• The sunset Thursday evening was spectacular. I love when the sky is painted with orange, red and various shades of blue. It is almost as if Mother Nature is putting on a show some evenings and tonight was one of her better ones. Binky and I sat in the bay window and watched the sunset. He didn’t seem terribly impressed but I enjoy it.

• Today’s post was one of my most personal but I am hopeful that it will shake a few of you up and cause you to see that bad things happen to all of us but that doesn’t mean that we need to let those events bring us down. It is easy for all of us to see people who we don’t know and think that their lives are so much easier than ours. However generally when you get to know people they have had their share of bad experiences too. Please don’t let those experiences cause you to live a life in fear.

• I only spent one hour with the meditation DVD today, so it was less of a time drain. However I am really enjoying the course so I can see watching at least one segment every day. There is a lot of information packed into 30 minutes and I feel like I will pick up tid-bits from multiple viewings. Also the course relies heavily on Buddhism and now I want to learn more about that. I never thought I would be drawn to Buddhism but that is what I am finding now. Who said that? ;-)

• I am very happy to report that the views on the 31 Days to Better Health posts continue to grow. This makes me very happy! We have also added 7 new followers in the past 5 days which is also a fantastic sign. Since one of my main goals is to get more people thinking about their health both of these things are huge for me. You guys really do keep me going, thank you!

• We have kale in the house again. *woo hoo* I walked to the grocery store today for kale and came home with kale, parsley, lemons, romaine and tofu.  You can't have too much produce in the house in my opinion.  ;-) Dan will be very happy to have a green smoothie option tomorrow for breakfast. I know he loves his oatmeal but I am sure he misses his green smoothies too. I love that my husband enjoys the green smoothies this much. I never expected him to be a health convert. It hasn’t been that long ago that he told me he would eat tofu as long as it didn’t taste like tofu. See how much progress I have made with him?

Signing Out:

I have another webinar tonight and I still need to make dinner so I need to run. Sorry this post went up a bit later than I intended. Better late than never right?

For those of you who want to know what is coming up for tomorrow that post will be about conscious eating. I think it will be a good one and may not be what you are expecting.

I hope you are having a great week and have some fun planned for your weekend. Talk with you again tomorrow.


  1. wow..what a post...very touching...thanks for being so open...I identify with a lot of what you said...always looking for the bad to happen so I will be ready for it!
    It is almost overwhelming in a good way to read all your ideas:) Thanks so much for all your work and the thought you give each day!!!Coco

  2. I am really impressed and touched by your honesty and openness, Alicia. Thanks so much for bravely sharing your experience.

  3. Hi, Ali,
    First of all, thank you for being honest about your experiences. It is powerful that you have acknowledged how your past has shaped your perspective but not defined who you are or how you react. My husband (I don't know if I've ever shared with you that he's a therapist?) works with many, many people who cannot make that distinction & as a result live their life as a victim. It's so sad.

    On another note, as I was half listening to the radio on my way to work, the morning show host was discussing how he read somewhere that people's happiness is directly related to how much uncertainty he/she can handle. Life is always uncertain: if a person can only handle a tiny bit of uncertainty, he will most likely be very unhappy. Made sense to me. I think maybe that's why I'm generally happier as I age: I'm accepting that life is uncertain so I'm better off taking care of what I can & letting go of the rest (rather than obsessing over what I can't affect). If I can find the researcher he was citing I'll post the link.

  4. Coco,

    Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed it, if that is the correct word. I am happy that you were able to connect your experience to mine. When I started expecting good things to happen it was amazing how much it changed my overall outlook on life. I hope it does the same for you.

    talk with you later,

  5. Brigid,

    Thanks, it is much easier to talk about now given how much time as passed. It took me a long time to put it all into perpective and realize how much it impacted my behavior. Since I have read my articles on the number of women who are raped I know that I am not alone. If any of those women read this and it helps them to look at their behavior than I am very happy to have helped them in some small way.

    enjoy your weekend,

  6. Jackie,

    It took me a long time to figure it out and see what impact my past had on my present. Being stubborn and refusing to go to a therapist was clearly not a wise move on my part. Hopefully what I wrote will get other rape survivors to consider help. *fingers crossed* You never mentioned that your hubby was a therapist, that is a tough career. I am sure he hears things that are both terrifying and depressing. I couldn't do that every day, but I am happy that there are people like him who can.

    I have read things about uncertainty and happiness too. I would love to know your source if you find it. Thanks for the offer to send the link if locate it. I really appreciate it. :-)

    Enjoy your weekend,

  7. Your story is very inspiring and I'm sure it will touch and motivate others. What an interesting discussion of fear versus intuition. I consulted with an Ayurvedic practitioner a few months ago based on intuition, and so far I'm happy with the results. But for me, decision-making is often linked to over-analysis and anxiety, which can be a source of discontent. So I'll try using my intuition more often!

    I'm impressed with all your innovative ideas for this Better Health series and am looking forward to hearing about your new business.

    About your calorie dense food intake -- how much do you consider optimal? Is it a specific percentage of your total calorie intake?

  8. Laura,

    I have two degrees in Finance so I was the queen of overanalyzing. In fact it was so bad that I used to put a number on everything. Seriously it was ridiculous and didn't lead to better decisions but like you said it definitely resulted in more anxiety.

    Thanks for letting me know that you are ejoying these posts. I have been trying to go with my gut this month. I have an outline of rough topics that I want to talk about but I am also using things I observe and conversations as inspiration. This month is really a go with flow sort of thing. ;-)

    I don't have a hard or fast rule in mind for calorie dense foods. I use myself as an experiment. When my body doesn't do what I want it to then I change things to see if it responds differently. Sorry if that wasn't much help.

    talk with you later,


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