Supporting Those That Struggle

With all the changes this year, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog….After getting the farm sold and doing some serious soul-searching, I’ve decided to keep it going if for no other reason than the fact that I’m passionate about horses and being healthy with them – inside and out-  and I enjoy sharing that with other people. It’s therapeutic in that it keeps me going and motivates me as well.

View from halfway up

Earlier this week, I shared some progress pics on the CWC Facebook page that I took during a swim break at the campground we’re staying in. A couple of months back, I purchased a bare piece of property and we have been staying in a fifth wheel camp trailer at a KOA Campground nearby while we slowly build. While most folks would consider that roughing it, one of the big perks is having a nice swimming pool to use!

Camper living

The post talked a bit about not only maintaining my weight loss, but more importantly it talked about my mental well-being. That although there were still some “bad” days, I’m never ever as low as I was before and that faith, changing how I ate, how I think, and having genuine honest supportive people had helped.

 

Not the same person!

I want to talk very candidly about the support part. 

This last year was rough with a lot of loss. Not only did I lose a fourteen year relationship and marriage but I also lost a family that I loved as my own. People think step parents don’t love or don’t grieve, but that’s just simply not true. I also lost friends and my own family through all of this.

In the midst of dealing with depression and a marriage that was falling apart, it was said by family to my ex that I was crazy and that I needed to get back on whatever it was that made me sane, and that I was going through a mid-life crisis. In the immediate throes of a separation argument, and a lowest point, I was told I was so crazy I didn’t know what day it was. (Gaslighting, anyone?) That same argument I was told that all those people who I thought were my friends were laughing at me and pitying me because I thought I was some twenty year old cowgirl. Narcissist and cheater were thrown out there too. Keep in mind this came from two people who said they loved me.

For someone with depression going through that with no support system, no family to turn to, and only a few good friends to confide in, that was an extremely hard time in my life. I don’t know what I would have done without my co-workers, my neighbor, and my best friend and “Superman” Austin Foust. Those were the people who wouldn’t let me forget they were there for me no matter what and I will never forget that as long as I live. God gave me those folks to get me through that dark time. I really believe it.

Any time you go through something like this you reflect on the past and try to figure out what happened, where it went wrong. Sometimes in doing so, things start to make perfect sense. For me, that’s exactly what happened. Only after I gained some distance was I able to clearly see the depth of the lies and their purpose, and the gross years of manipulation that had occurred and what I had let it do to me.

In looking back at comparison pictures, it’s clear to me that this was a downward spiral years in the making. This didn’t happen over night. These are not easy to look at, and most definitely not easy to share.

 

These pictures are close to ten years ago and they speak volumes. Yes, I was heavier but it’s not just about the weight. I was not healthy, physically or mentally either one. I couldn’t see it at the time, but now looking back I definitely can, especially when I look at comparison pictures.

I was exhausted because I wasn’t getting enough sleep (not by my own accord), and my body was riddled with inflammation to the point that I had a place on my face that didn’t heal for over a year. I was miserable and you can see it!

There’s a saying that if you’re struggling and your people are just watching then maybe they’re not you’re people. That’s true. If you’re going through depression and/or health issues and the ones that say they love you are not being proactive to help you get healthy (not supporting you to get healthy!) then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate who your people are and how important your health is and do something about it.

Don’t be afraid to cut ties if that’s what it takes. Sometimes removing yourself from toxic people is the only way to get well if they’re not going to change their behavior. You can only control your behavior, you can’t control theirs.

If you love someone who is struggling with their physical health, and/or their mental health what they need most is your support.

Sometimes people don’t need to hear what you think they should do, or whether or not you think they’re making a mistake. Most often they just need support in the form of listening while they come to terms with what they’re dealing with. They don’t need judgement, they need a place to talk. They also need to know you’re true (and loyal) to them behind their back, not just to their face. They need to know you care by your genuineness.

Aside from mental support, sleep has more impact on health and mental well-being than anything else a person can do. If someone you love isn’t sleeping well, support them by encouraging them to get to bed earlier. Let them know their sleep is a priority to you too so that they don’t feel any pressure to stay up to get things done, or spend time with you. If you’re watching TV, turn the TV down so they can sleep, and make sure  you watch it in another room. Be considerate by being quiet.

If you truly love someone and want the best for them, you don’t want to be an enabler by rewarding them or showing them love with unhealthy food, especially if they have a health condition that’s impacted by food.Don’t set them up for failure by making it harder to eat healthy – They’re already struggling with that. 

Instead of showing you care by bringing home a gallon of ice cream, bring home something healthy that they enjoy. Take the time to find out what that is.

Instead of dangling temptation in front of them by eating that double burger with fries while they eat a salad, you could eat a salad as well. Sometimes when you care about someone, it means sacrificing a little bit yourself. In the end, not only will they benefit, but you will as well because they see your support and you will have had a healthier meal.

It’s true that we’re responsible for ourselves, and our own happiness and we shouldn’t let someone else dictate our happiness. However, if we’re struggling with getting healthy we have to put ourselves in a place of success and part of that success is having support.

If you care about someone who is struggling, what are the most important ways you can support them?

If you’re someone struggling with health issues, what changes can you make to make progress? 

 

 

 

It Seems To Be Working

When I started Cowgirls With Curves earlier this year, I wasn’t exactly sure what direction it would take. All I knew was that I was passionate about sharing horses and encouraging others to pursue their dreams. Little did I know what kind of impact that it would have, and that it would be just as much of a journey for me as it has been for those that keep up with the blog.

The journey has led me to make quite a few changes and quite frankly they seem to be working.

I’ve stopped obsessing over weight and size.

Quite frankly, this is new territory for me because I don’t think there’s ever been a time in which I’ve either been on some kind of diet, or I’ve been feeling guilty because I’m not on one and I’ve gained weight.

Instead, I’ve been focusing on how I feel, whether or not I have energy, and if my mental status is in a good place.

I’ve stopped obsessing over what I eat and listening to what my body says.

I’ve learned that I don’t feel well at all when I eat grains, soy (in certain quantities)  dairy (with the exception of butter), sodas, and sweets. Instead of focusing on not having those things, I focus on real natural foods that I love that I can have that don’t have a detrimental effect on how I feel, and getting enough protein and fat in during the day.

I’ve started focusing more on real food.  

Instead of getting caught up in “calories in -vs- calories out”, and tracking every ounce of food I put in my mouth, I’ve been focusing on just eating real food that makes me feel good. I haven’t been listening to what all the doctors and fitness experts say, instead I’ve been listening to what my body says.

I’m eating a lot more protein.

I’ve learned that the typical meals of an egg for breakfast, and a lean protein at lunch and supper is not enough protein for me. I don’t have enough energy and my cravings are still there. However, if I have at least one serving of protein powder with 20g of protein, It’s a whole different story. My energy levels are much higher, and my cravings are minimal.

I’m eating more real fats like butter and olive oil.

Fats stabilize your blood sugar and they make you feel full and satisfied. When you’re full land satisfied with real food you don’t have any desire for junk!

I’m not limiting myself.

I may have a steak and baked potato with plenty of butter and salt. I don’t worry about the portion or limiting the butter or anything else – I just eat until I have my fill. I don’t want to end my meal still wanting anything because that’s when I wind up eating the things I shouldn’t eat.

I’m not beating myself up.

Weekends usually wind up being “cheat” time when I just have to have some cheese dip or pizza. If eat something that I shouldn’t, I don’t beat myself up about it – my body already does that for me if I eat enough of it.

The last meal is 4 hours before bedtime.

I’ve learned that if I eat a full meal in the evenings, I don’t sleep as well. I also have a tendency to get heartburn if I eat late. I try to eat a hearty lunch and then eat another snack with plenty of protein a couple of hours later. If I just absolutely have to have something, I’ll have a smaller serving of protein shake with almond milk.

I’m taking a probiotic.

With all the new research on probiotics and how it effects your mental health, and weight I decided to start taking a probiotic that has a prebiotic as well. While probiotics add good bacteria to your digestive tract, prebiotics feeds the beneficial bacteria you already have so you can digest your food more efficiently.

For years, even though I got plenty of sunshine and drank a lot of dairy I have been deficient in vitamin D and calcium. Even though I’ve always eaten plenty of spinach and red meat which I cooked in an iron skillet, I’ve always been border line anemic even with taking an iron supplement.

Obviously I’m not absorbing my food, which would explain why I need more protein than the usual recommended amounts. Think about it – if you’re not absorbing your food there’s no way to tell how much you’re not absorbing, so the recommended daily amount really can’t apply!

I make sure I get at least 7 hours of sleep – no exceptions!

Sleep is another thing that has a huge impact on how you feel and perform, how you deal with stress, and how well you eat. I recently read a study that said lack of sleep can be as detrimental as smoking! Since I’ve been focusing on things that make me feel better, I’ve made it a priority to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Those 7 hours are sacred and non-negotiable!

Progesterone cream is awesome!

On a side note, suspecting some hormonal issues I started using a progesterone cream that does not contain estrogen-like herbs. It definitely helps in the sleep department, not to mention it helps with my mental status!

I don’t work out – for now.

Short of stretching, pun intended, instead of focusing on getting the regular set of exercises in every day, I’ve been focusing more on just riding. I have five horses that really need to be ridden through the course of the week (after stalls are done), and I’ve taken on a client horse to bring along as a back up barrel prospect. If you think about it, with that many horses I have a gym sitting in my pasture – all I have to do is ride! Once winter comes, and the horses get a break, I’ll go back to getting in some short sessions of kettlebells but for now I’m using my horses as my gym equipment.

Client horses at a barrel race.

Client horses at a barrel race.

So where have all these changes gotten me?

 

For one, I’m happier and less stressed.

I’m not obsessing over what I can and can’t have, and because I don’t feel guilty about not meeting some standard that I think I’m supposed to meet.

I have more time – which also helps with stress!

Because I’m not having to get in a workout every morning I have more time to prep meals and write.

I feel better!

Although still not optimal, my energy levels are getting better, and I’m not struggling with depression as often. I’m starting to pay closer attention to how food impacts both of those things and that helps keep me motivated more than anything.

I’ve lost close to 20 pounds since the first of the year.

Since the first of the year, I’ve lost close to 20 pounds. To some, that might not be quick enough but it’s not the time or even the weight that matters. What matters is what I’m gaining through it all – a sense of self-control and happiness, and feeling better.

I have more self-control.

For the first time in my entire life I’m starting to have self-control when it comes to food. Even when I do eat junk, I’m not going overboard, and I’m able to say “No” to food that I  normally would have to have.

I don’t necessarily think it’s one thing that’s making the difference. For instance, I don’t think I can just eat more protein and lose the weight. I think it’s a combination of the mindset and the other changes together that’s making a difference.

Have you made changes that are working? What improvements have you seen?

Riding with my step-son.

Riding with my step-son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Much Is Too Much?

Since starting Cowgirls With Curves, I’ve had an increase in followers on Twitter. Interestingly enough, most of them are fitness fanatics. Most of them post about the fastest way to get ripped, or the latest greatest diet supplement. Needless to say, people in my demographic are their biggest clients and I’m sure that’s what they’re counting on!

How much time at the gym did he spend to look like this???

How much time at the gym did he spend to look like this???

One of the things I’ve noticed is how much time they spend in the gym. It’s never 15-20 minutes. It’s at least an hour, often more, 5-6 days a week. They dedicate their whole life to looking good, eating healthy and working out. That’s fine if that’s what you love.

The problem is that we tend to hold those folks up as a standard, and all too often we’re made to feel guilty if we don’t put that same hour in at the gym. Think about it. How many articles have you read that have said if you’re not spending a minimum of thirty minutes a day working out you’re wasting your time?

No one dies saying they wished they’d worked more. I have a sneaking suspicion that no one dies saying they wished they’re worked out more either. On a side note, I can imagine them saying they wished they’d ridden a few more horses!

This looks like a fun way to stay active!

This looks like a fun way to stay active!

I work in the healthcare industry and I’m surrounded by “healthy” people who live in the suburbs and fill their lives with yoga, gyms and kid’s soccer games. More than once I’ve gotten little looks when I say I’m taking the elevator because I get enough walking in every morning.

But seriously, we have nine horses and I spend a full hour every morning cleaning stalls, dumping feed, and bringing horses in – seven days week. I’m going non-stop. While they are just getting up casually drinking their coffee from their Keurig and worrying about what are going to wear for the day, I’m already out dumping a load of manure!

Then when they come home and worry about cooking dinner or what soccer game to go to next, I’m saddling a horse to ride or giving a riding lesson right up until time to go to bed because it’s the only time I have to get my riding in. My morning starts at 4am most of the time.

Naturally, when I go to work, the last thing I want to do is walk up the stairs! I also don’t want to get up an hour earlier just to get a workout in. I used to, but not any more.

While I do think it’s important to build strength, especially as riders, I think it’s also important to keep a happy balance. I think you also have to consider what are you getting in return for what it’s costing you. Is it worth it?

If that hour at the gym is really a sanity break for you, then yes it’s absolutely worth it. My guess is that’s a healthy habit that will stand a good chance of lasting a long time and that’s great!

On the flip side, if you’re stressed just making it to the gym because you’re so cramped on time, or you’re working out instead of getting a recommended amount of sleep, or it’s taking you away from important activities then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing. That hour may be causing more harm than good in some ways. If you’re overwhelmed by getting in that hour or even thirty minutes a day of exercise, then maybe it’s time to try something different.

Spending 10-15 minutes a day on core exercises or kettlebells really can offer some benefits, and you’ll see a definite improvement in your riding. That 10-15 minutes doesn’t even have to be all at one time – it can be broken up into different quick sessions throughout the day.

A few weeks back, I ran across this article on PopSugar. It talks about how instead of exercising in the traditional sense, you can find other ways to get active and healthy. If you’re like me and already getting that hour of barn chores in every morning you’re already half way there!

If you’re spending that hour in the gym every day, do it because you look forward to it, not because you feel you have to.

How many of you have felt stressed getting your exercise routine in every day? How did you deal with that stress and did you make any changes?

One of our afternoon rides. THIS is what's important.

One of our afternoon rides. THIS is what’s important.

Find YOUR Journey

I always try to give a shoutout to those folks that I believe have something special. Zakk Tompkins, owner of On The Edge rodeo apparel is one of those folks. I recently interviewed Zakk for my author blog, Talking In The Barn, and I was quite surprised at how open he was about his struggle with depression. I really believe this young man has a big purpose in life to help others and be a voice that’s not often heard but is all to real. If you get a chance, please check out the interview and his blog, Be Remembered Be Bold.

Cowgirls are known for blazing their own trail but sometimes when it comes to our daily lives we have a tendency to think we should follow the crowd, or listen to the conventional wisdom at the time. If you don’t believe that, just visit a barrel racing forum the first three months of the year – there’s a least two posts a week asking what the best diet or diet supplement is, or what the best exercise is to lose weight. Most of the times, those posts receive more responses than the actual horse posts that the sites are designed for in the first place – that says volumes about our head space!

We’re told by physicians, fitness gurus, and supplement companies what we should be eating and how we should be working out. Yet at the same time it’s interesting that they all often contradict each other, and even more interesting is the fact that recommendations are constantly changing. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the drugs that were originally touted to be harmless and then later have a warning label of horrible side effects.

A few years back, like the majority of women in their 30-40’s, I was on a common low-grade anti-depressant for a few years. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was tired, and basically had some depression. I work in the health care field but am holistic thinking by nature. I wasn’t too keen on taking medication but I had to do something and there were no alternatives. The doctors just said I needed to exercise more  – I was already getting an hour’s worth of barn chores in the morning.

One New Year I started off with a bang to get in shape. I joined the gym and went on a diet that included veggies, lean protein, and low-fat dairy – I ate a lot of greek yogurt.

Not long after I started the diet, I developed bronchitis along with a sinus infection. Even with antibiotics and enough Mucinex to kill a horse, I just could not get any better. I was sick for at least two months.

I knew dairy could cause thicker mucous and sinus issues. I also knew that most physicians will tell you that’s hogwash but since everything else had failed to work, I decided to try eliminating dairy. A week later, I was already feeling much better and the bronchitis was gone.

That’s when I first decided to cut back on dairy, against conventional medical wisdom as it supplies calcium and vitamin D. Since making that change, I’ve not had the sinus problems that I’ve had before. Any time I do have sinus trouble, it’s always after I’ve gone on a cheese and ice cream binge!

Around this period of time, I developed a bump and then a sore on my face that wouldn’t go away for over a year. A biopsy and blood work showed inflammation but that was it – the doctor was stumped. After doing some research, I asked my physician about Lupus. Based on the biopsy, blood work, and some joint pain that I was having he said that was a possibility and sent me to a rheumatoid specialist who promptly offered medication as the only solution. The medication made me feel like I had the flu, not to mention it had some horrendous long-term side effects.

Not having any alternatives to the medication, I started doing my own research. One of the things that I found was that the anti-depressant I was on could cause inflammation and auto-immune type symptoms. I also learned that certain foods like gluten and dairy could do the same. Armed with that information, I started on a journey of experimentation to see how my body would react.

Long story short, after going off all the medication, and cutting way back on gluten and dairy, the place on my face went away. By experimentation and paying close attention to how my body reacts to food, I learned that dairy and gluten both affect my breathing, cause joint pain, and causes my skin to develop inflamed bumps.

Did you know tomatoes can cause heart burn & cause Rosacea to flare up?

Did you know tomatoes can cause heart burn & cause Rosacea to flare up?

The ironic thing is that foods that the health industry tell you to eat (whole wheat, non-fat dairy) make me sick. The other irony is that conventional medicine had missed that fact.

I tell you this long story to say this —  don’t be afraid to find your own journey when it comes to food and exercise.

In finding your journey when it comes to nutrition and exercise, there’s a few things to consider.

  • How does you body react to certain foods? Start paying attention to even the very small changes that you see in your body and your thinking when you eat certain foods. Sometimes the changes are extremely small and aren’t noticeable until you start keeping track.
  • What nutrition packed foods do you truly love that also makes you feel better? If you can’t enjoy the food you’re eating, you’re not going to be able to keep up that way of eating for long. Face it – we love to eat! Find foods that bring you joy that are also packed with nutrition. For instance, I absolutely love mushrooms and red bell peppers. Instead of always eating bland salads that I don’t enjoy, I’ll brown some mushrooms and peppers in garlic and olive oil… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
  • What does the bigger picture look like? Finding happiness in life is all about balance. If you feel like your food or exercise is taking a toll on other important areas of your life then it’s time to re-evaluate. It’s ok to compromise and adjust if you have to – it’s YOUR journey, not someone else’s so don’t compare and don’t feel guilty if you’re not putting a million hours into running on the treadmill!
  • What type of exercise do you enjoy? The more you truly enjoy an activity the more likely you’ll continue doing it. If you don’t enjoy any other form of exercise other than riding, then ride! You can always bump it up and make it more challenging by riding bareback, cantering for longer periods of time, or staying in two point. At least do something and make sure it’s something you enjoy.

fitnessjog

I spent a lot of years listening to the “experts” and it got me nowhere. Just because the medical and fitness experts say you should eat a certain food, take a certain supplement. or work out a certain way doesn’t mean that it will work for YOU. We are all different and you can’t compare. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. In the end, this is your life and your journey and you only get to take one ride!

 

Junk In, Junk Out

We’ve all heard the sayings, “You are what you eat”, and “Junk in, junk out.”

 For most of my life, I’ve taken that saying with a grain of salt, pun intended. However, over the last few years I’m beginning to think there’s a lot more truth to those sayings than we realize.

 After a bout of unanswered questions about my health – that’s another blog post in itself – I started paying very close attention to how my body reacted to certain foods. Now, I’m not talking just gaining or losing weight. I’m talking about how food effects my breathing, my sinus levels, and even my mental status for the day.

After doing some experimentation, I learned that dairy and breads cause me to wheeze – that’s in addition to sinus and stomach issues. I also learned that cokes and sweets cause me to become depressed, and soy will send me into an emotional roller coaster during certain times of the month. In contrast, turkey and other meat cause me to focus and think more clearly.

The same thing could be said about our thought life. When we think negative things, the impact is negative.Those negative thoughts impact our happiness, our confidence, and ultimately our performance and whether or not we pursue dreams.

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Recently, I read a great article on thinking like an athlete. The article stated that the main reason athletes are successful is that they see themselves as just that – an athlete.

The article went on to say that when you see yourself as an athlete and get into that mindset, regardless of what your body is like, you start thinking differently in other areas of your life. You start taking training more seriously. What you eat and the amount of sleep you get become more important. Instead of those seeing those things as a means to lose weight, they suddenly become a way for you to train better and be a better athlete.

How many times have you been asked what you do with your horses or what discipline you ride? Probably too many times to count. Your answer has probably been, “I just run barrels” or “I just do a little western pleasure.” That’s the wrong answer!

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Today, you might not be running down the alley way at the NFR or doing a sliding stop at the finals at Congress. I get that you don’t want to blow yourself out of proportion, come across arrogant, or give the appearance that you’re competing at a level that you’re not – yet! However, if you keep thinking like you always have, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.

Think about it for a moment…

Do you spend any less money on your horse than a serious competitor? You feed the best feed, supplements and hay. You keep a routine shoeing schedule so your horse can perform well. You take your horse to the vet every time they need it. You make sure your horse is in a safe, happy environment and kept on a schedule.

Do you spend any less time on your horse than a serious competitor? I know a lot of girls that compete locally and not nationally that ride their horses every single day. I also know girls that ride every free minute they can in the midst of working full time to pay the feed bill and mortgage, working second and third jobs, and taking care of families. Is the fact that they don’t get to ride as much any less worthy?

There’s things that you’re probably already doing that aren’t that much different than someone rides and competes on a higher level. Don’t cut yourself short in your thinking!

If you think you’re “junk”, then junk is exactly what you’re going to reap.

What do you think Charmayne James or Congress champion Karen Evans Mundy thought of themselves when they were working up through the ranks? Did they think they were just a barrel racer or just a hunter rider? No! They thought of themselves as champions that just hadn’t gotten there yet. All they had to do was work a little harder and ride a little better – that’s all.

So my question to you is this… If you knew for a fact that you would be running down the alleyway at the NFR, or riding the rail at Congress in two years how would that change your thinking TODAY? Would it make you see yourself differently? Would you have a new purpose every time you rode or worked out?

If you’re like me, you’ve beat yourself up for far too long thinking you’re not good enough and you’re just a barrel racer, etc. That thinking hasn’t gotten either of us very far, has it?

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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It’s time to do something different. It’s time to think different and see what results we get!

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. It only matters what you think about yourself.

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