Hallelujah! I’ve lost 12 pounds in the last two months. My new avoid-diabetes-diet started on Wednesday, January 13 when I got the results of my blood tests. Fasting blood sugar — 118. HgbA1C — 6.4. If you don’t know, that means a hairbreadth away from a full-on diagnosis of Type II Diabetes.
My doctor was ready to start me on medication. However, not only do I have Princess and the Pea and Goldilocks tendencies, I am also the canary in the mine. I am super sensitive to medications; if there are awful side effects to be gotten, I will probably get them.
I decided to go another direction. A healthy for-the-rest-of-my-life way of eating and more exercise. I was pretty sure I couldn’t make this permanent change on my own. Fortunately for me Kaiser San Francisco had recently inaugurated a program of healthy eating and fitness. (Yay Kaiser!) Two different Heathers provide the teaching and coaching necessary for actually accomplishing this.
From Heather D’Eliso Gordon the nutritionist, I learned about plant-based eating, which I’m doing about 80-90% of the time. From Heather Pitman the fitness coach, I learned about “core work” — strengthening the oblique and transverse abdominals, the forgotten sisters of the more well-known and totally less useful rectus abdomenis, the “sit up muscle”. Who knew I was working the wrong abs?!? That, plus more walking, and still working on “upping” my high intensity interval training (HIIT). I’m in this for the long haul.
After learning a healthier way to eat, and losing all (or almost all) the weight I need to, I realized I still need support, at least for awhile. Most of us (including me) can lose weight fairly easily (though it takes more intention and follow through as I get older). I can also easily gain back the-weight-I-lost. I need to forego the concept of being on a diet; instead, it behooves me to view how I eat as a permanent lifestyle change. That’s big, and that’s why I need a coach, someone in my corner saying Yay Gayle! You rock! and, oh, you’ve fallen down and are having an emotional week of eating. No you are not a bad person. Let’s see how we can get you back on track.
Kindness. No judgement. Helpful tips and encouragement from an expert. Is that too much to ask for? I think not. Coaches are good.
Mentors are a good thing too. I wish I’d had one from early on. I really do. I have lots of good ideas, but often have trouble focusing on the work I actually need to do to get them done. I have a little bit of ADD (ALBO-ADD — A Little Bit Of Attention Deficit Disorder — self-diagnosed). It’s kind of how my brain works, but not so severe that it can’t be worked with.
Growing up in Phoenix, there was a real paucity of mentors. There was a free range childhood where I learned some skills —like jax, jumprope, and pick up games of softball, and learned a lot of skills of being alone, surviving 118 degree summers without adult supervision — conscious of being embodied, aware, and wondering, in immediate relationship with earth, water, and sun. Both my parents worked hard. I got a good basic grade school education from old-fashioned “schoolmarms” that I was all onboard for, and a much less-than-stellar high school education mostly because I had already disappeared myself from vision and curiosity and a sense of “future”.
That’s sad. And probably all too common. Especially for girls. I remember seeing a photo of a “seminar” class being taught at Brandeis University. There was a group of about 8 or 10 students, young women, and a professor around an outdoor table on rolling green lawn with trees nearby. I was probably a junior or senior in high school, my grades already unimpressive enough to deny me a chance at a “good” school. My parents didn’t think I needed a good school. Or rather that ASU was plenty good enough for a student like myself. I could have really used a mentor about then. I yearned to be part of that seminar in the photo.
A few decades ago when mom found out I was seeing a therapist mom offered to see me for free and give me better advice than any therapist could. My mother always has had a lot of advice to give and sometimes for people who aren’t her children it’s pretty good.
Now I have a therapist and a cranio-sacral body worker, who is also a friend, and a wise woman. I have another friend who is learning to be a life coach; I have offered my questioning self up for her to practice on. She learns from helping me; I learn from being helped. I’m hoping we can be helpful to each other in this way.
I once took a Psych 101 class at City College. I was 33. My teacher was Dudley Yasuda. He taught the basics from a textbook, but required us to think outside the box. If we only memorized the material there was no way we could pass a test. He was stubborn in his non-acceptance of superficial or linear thinking. He challenged me (and everyone) and I loved him for that, and hated his outside-the-box tests. A zen master would find his tests easy, just like Ram Dass’ guru Neem Karoli Baba enjoyed his first massive dose of LSD that one of his devotees (Ram Dass’ buddy) gave him. Guru? Zen Master? A Yasuda test or massive dose of LSD? No problem if you were a guru or Zen Master. For a “regular” person, it’d be a bigger challenge. Ok, a huge challenge. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t that worried about what grade I’d get; I felt enlivened by having my mind stretched to its limit, breaking open old patterns of previously accepted reality.
When I talked to the school counselor about how Mr. Yasuda was making me question everything I thought I knew, she said, Gayle you are too old for that. It’s one thing for 18 and 19 year olds to be questioning, but you are married and have a child and you need to focus and just do your work. Oh, the bad advice freely given. Fortunately I didn’t take it.
Somehow I passed Yasuda’s class. I think I might even have gotten an A, though I’m not sure about that. I wasn’t in any of his classes the following semester when it happened. I heard he was holding office hours and was surrounded by 5 or 6 adoring students when another student arrived at his open door, pulled a gun and shot him point blank. He died instantly. Dudley Yasuda had a wife and two small children. I start to cry now, 35 years later, remembering it.
Mentors. Coaches. We ALL need help sometimes. I wish the young man who shot Mr Yasuda had gotten the help he needed.
I was at my parents’ house in Phoenix the day I got the news of Mr. Yasuda’s death. I remember crying. I remember my father said I’ll make you a drink (I don’t drink). I remember my mother’s advice: Try not to think about it.
I believe things need an appropriate measure of attention. Especially difficult things. I think too often I/we short-shrift ourselves, probably because we don’t know how to be attentive, or because we’re afraid we’ll give ourselves the wrong kind of attention. Harsh judgments of self or others, long victim-y storylines. Instead I/we feed our feelings. Ice cream with salted caramel sauce. A coke. Potato chips with ketchup. You know, the early soul soothers, when what you really needed was a mentor or a coach, some wisdom, a person who knew the terrain because they’d already been there and paid attention. Someone who could teach you the attention-paying ropes.
I’m better at it now, thanks to Tara, Allison, Patricia, Anna and Cheryl. But I’m still going the mentor/coach route. For specific things: my health, my life, my writing. It’s crazy to think we can do all this alone but, to deny oneself a little help in difficult times, well, that’s just bad advice. Ask me. I know bad advice when I hear it. Being able to discern the right advice is sometimes harder; that’s the on-going project.