project louise

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Project Louise: ‘The Single Best Thing You Can Do For Your Health’

Maybe you’ve seen this video already — it went viral on YouTube a while back. But I hadn’t, until CommonHealth co-host Carey Goldberg encouraged me to. If you also haven’t, I encourage you to watch it right now.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

So, now that you’ve watched it, I can go ahead and talk about it without worrying that I’ll spoil the big reveal for you. Actually, even if you didn’t listen to me and haven’t watched it, I’m not too worried about that, because the huge secret in this video is simply that (last chance to watch before I spoil it for you!) we should all be walking or exercising or in some way moving our bodies about half an hour every day.

We should all be walking or exercising or in some way moving our bodies about half an hour every day.

Not exactly news, right? But for me, anyway, something about the very simplicity of the video’s presentation made me sit up and pay attention in a fresh way. Dr. Mike Evans, the video’s creator, has made it his mission to present preventative-medicine information in as clear and useful a way as possible — and, to my mind, he’s done exactly that here.

The point: We all have 24 hours in a day. Spend 23 and a half of those hours any way you want, but just use the remaining 30 minutes to go for a walk. And the health benefits will be incredible. He’s got charts and stats and everything to prove it. By the end of the presentation, I just couldn’t wait to get up from my desk and go for a walk.

And I’m going to do that in one minute. First, though, I’ll pass along another link to a Dr. Mike insight — this one from a post on his blog. It’s in the form of an infographic, and I’m thinking of blowing it up and putting it on my wall. Again, a simple and obvious point with a powerful potential for lasting change: There is no one big thing we have to do to make ourselves healthier. It’s all about making a lot of little changes, sticking with them, then making more little changes and sticking with those, too.

Little changes like going for a walk.

OK, I’m out of here.

Project Louise: New Habit? It’s In The Bag

(BeWellPhilly)

(BeWellPhilly)

The Salad Club is dead. Long live the Salad Club!

Way back in January, in the early days of Project Louise, my fabulous colleague Jessica Coughlin made an offer I couldn’t refuse: She would bring in salad ingredients every day, and I would eat them.

We’re lucky at WBUR to have a well-equipped staff kitchen, so it was easy to take whatever showed up in the bag and make a delicious, huge salad. Other folks in the office soon noticed this development and wanted a piece of it, and so the Salad Club was born.

For a small – I mean really, really small – monthly fee, Jess would bring in all kinds of wonderful greens from her garden, along with produce from Allandale Farm, great dressings and other assorted treats. The other four Salad Club members, including me, could also bring in whatever garnishes and accompaniments we wanted to add.

Nirvana ensued.

But, like so many good things, it couldn’t last forever. Two weeks ago, Jess announced with regret that because of vacation, moving, and the increasing work demands of her despotic boss (that would be me), she just didn’t have the bandwidth anymore to keep doing this.

Despair ensued.

But then a funny thing happened. Continue reading

Project Louise: Exercise Every Single Day? Says Who?

(Bjørn Giesenbauer via Compfight)

(Bjørn Giesenbauer via Compfight)

OK, this is getting interesting. One week into the challenge laid down by Editor Carey and Coach Allison — to exercise every single day before 7 p.m., and to post a comment reporting that I did so before 11 p.m. — I have made several discoveries.

  1. Carey was right. Exercising every day makes you feel better.
  2. The sweatier the exercise is, the better you feel.
  3. I hate being told what to do.

Let’s focus for now on No. 3, because we all know that Nos. 1 and 2 are true. Right? We do know that, yes? We just don’t do it because … well, because of No. 3.

At least that’s what I’m concluding about myself. Even though I signed up for Project Louise of my own free will, and even though I did it because I really, truly want to change my habits for good and live a longer and healthier life, and even though I know that Carey Goldberg, Allison Rimm and all the other wonderful people who are helping me on this journey are truly here to help, not to push me around, a huge part of my brain reacts to all this support and encouragement and expert advice with a simple, all-too-familiar refrain:

You’re not the boss of me.

Yes, this is the week when I’ve been getting in touch with my inner child. Or, more precisely, my inner brat.

As soon as I wrote that, I realized that I have heard that phrase before — from a wonderful woman named Pam Young, who has written a lot about this idea that we all have an inner “brat” whom we need to learn to love. Because it’s that little bratty voice that keeps us from doing all the good, mature, responsible things we all know we should do. And as long as you keep fighting the brat, you’re going to lose — as any mother of a 2-year-old can tell you.

Likewise, as that same mother can tell you, the secret to success is to persuade the 2-year-old that what you’re telling her to do is actually fun — to make her want to do it, and even to make her think that it’s her own idea. Continue reading

Project Louise: On Exercise, Sex, Free Stuff And The Secret Of Life

(Edson Fong via Compfight)

(Edson Fong via Compfight)

 

Dear Louise,

Let me be blunt: I’m afraid you’ve been having sex without orgasms.

When it comes to exercise, that is.

To extend this ham-handed metaphor a bit farther: I know some people say there’s no such thing as bad sex unless it hurts you. And of course there’s no such thing as bad exercise unless it hurts you. Any bit of activity, any rise from the couch, any flight of stairs, is good.

But I worry that halfway through your Project Louise year, while you’ve made truly laudable progress on healthier eating and emotional self-care, you clearly have yet to catch the exercise bug. Oh, you’ve tried, heroically, from bike rides to hot yoga to personal training. But it somehow hasn’t stuck.

So that’s the purpose of this letter: To try to jump-start your fitness, to remind you that in your original goals you listed “Create and follow a regular, sustainable exercise plan”; and most importantly, to try to persuade you that exercise — daily exercise, moderate to vigorous — is the magical secret of life.

(Readers, won’t you help? As in, let’s all pile on Louise! I end this letter with a few of my own quirky personal tips for making exercise a daily habit. Please add a few of your own in the comments section, or whatever arguments you think might most help Louise get going.

And we can also all help with accountability. Louise has agreed that beginning tomorrow, she’ll get some form of activity or exercise every day by 7 p.m. and report in on it by 11 p.m. in the comments section below.)

True, we’re aiming for sustainable change and reporting to an online audience every day does not seem like a lifelong practice. But this is just for the month, just to try to establish the habit.

Some say it takes just 21 days to establish a new habit; it’s surely more complex than that – some research suggests the average is more like two months — but here’s how you know you’re there: It’s harder not to do it than to do it.

Louise, I do believe that’s the key. You’ve said that you don’t make time for exercise the way you do for reading because it’s not as pleasurable. I’d so love you to reach the point I’ve reached: I do enjoy the exercise in and of itself, but what most motivates me is the desire not to feel like crap on a given day. It’s harder to face the torpor and irritability of not doing it than the brief sweaty effort of doing it. Continue reading

On The Road With Project Louise, Marveling ‘Who Is This Person?’

macdonalds

(Photo: Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

In my previous job, I spent a fair amount of time on the road each summer, traveling to theaters in the Berkshires and on Cape Cod. (Hey, somebody had to do it.) And I gained weight – because, I told myself, it was impossible not to gain weight when I was traveling so much, eating road food and going to restaurants and so on.

Well, that was just plain wrong.

I realized that this weekend, when a family event put me on the highway for an eight-hour road trip. (Sixteen, actually, if we’re talking round trip.) And I am here to tell you that, even on the New Jersey Turnpike, you do not have to eat junk.

True, 99 percent of what they sell on the New Jersey Turnpike is junk. But I managed to find some dark-chocolate-covered soy nuts for a snack, along with plenty of water, and that was a lovely supplement to the fruit and whole-grain crackers I had packed for myself. Add in the veggie-packed chicken sandwich I toted along, and you can see that I was doing just fine without the aid of Ronald McD. or Popeye.

What’s a little surprising to me is that I did not exactly do this consciously. I did not say to myself, “Hmm, I am trying to lose weight, and I am doing Project Louise, and I will be letting myself and my readers down if I succumb to the lure of the French fry, so I’d better pack other food.” No, I just ate what I really wanted to eat. I chose my food for its taste, and it tasted a lot better than those fries.

At the hotel, too, I made a choice that would have surprised me a year ago. Continue reading

Project Louise: Lose Ugly Belly Fat Fast! Yeah, Not So Much

(Photo: TORCH magazine via Compfight)

(Photo: TORCH magazine via Compfight)

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

I had an epiphany of sorts over the weekend: I hate my belly.

Actually, you can’t really call it an epiphany if it’s something you’ve felt for just about your entire life. And ever since I got a little chubby in second grade – a chubbiness that lasted until puberty, returned with the classic “freshman 15” in college and has waxed and waned ever since – I have gazed down at the extra flesh between my navel and my hips with a mixture of shame, disgust and self-loathing.

And let’s just say that passing the 50-year mark hasn’t helped with any of this. Here’s how we know Mother Nature has a sense of humor: Just when your body stops being capable of pregnancy, it starts looking as if you’re already about 4 months along. Permanently.

But that’s no reason to hate myself, is it? Sure, I’d like to lose the weight. But if I don’t, I don’t want to carry around this toxic mix of negativity along with the extra pounds.

So here’s the real epiphany: I don’t want to hate myself anymore, not even one imperfect part of myself. I don’t have to love my belly; I just want to stop hating it. I want to make peace with my body.

My, that sounds sane. But you may come up with another adjective when I tell you what I did next: I Googled “belly fat.”

Here’s a quick tip: Don’t do that.

Oh, go ahead if you want to. But I can save you the trouble. Here’s what I learned: Continue reading

Project Louise: Beginning To See The Light

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

Well, I did it. I got the damn thing done.

When you create a vision of your ideal life, it's easier to see what fits in and what has to go.

When you create a vision of your ideal life, it’s easier to see what fits in and what has to go.

For those just tuning in: Last week, I attended a workshop run by my strategic coach, Allison Rimm, in which she promised to help all of us develop a vision for our lives and start to create the strategic plan that will make that vision a reality. Since I’ve been promising Allison for months that I would write my vision statement and then somehow not quite doing it, I figured the workshop would, if nothing else, make me get out my pen.

And it did.

What’s interesting is that I had been thinking about my vision, off and on, for all these months – but there is something about actually putting it down on paper that is energizing, exciting, and very motivating. When you take the time to describe, in detail, exactly what you want your life to look like, it becomes more tangible – almost as if you can see it. (Gee, I wonder if that’s why it’s called a vision.) And once you see it in all its glory, you really, really want to make it happen.

Which is where the next part of the exercise comes in: figuring out what you need to change in your current life to make it resemble your ideal life. I was reassured to realize that many parts of my life are already working pretty well. I have healthy and happy children, one of my top priorities; I generally love my job, and I have wonderful friends.

As for the other elements – financial stability, personal writing projects and a few more things – well, now that I’ve identified those as a central part of my vision, I can start to build feasible steps toward achieving them. With a full-time job and the aforementioned children, I don’t have a lot of time to write outside of work. But because it’s truly important to me, I decided to commit to spending 30 minutes a day at my desk, every day. That, I can do. And it’s already making me happier.

Allison’s workshop gave me a couple of tools to help find those 30 minutes – and maybe some more time, as I get better at comparing my daily choices to my long-term vision. She had each of us fill out a calendar outlining a typical weekday; a take-home part of the exercise, which I haven’t completed yet, invites me to do the same for a typical week and then a typical month. But even just looking at a single day was useful. Continue reading

Project Louise: Clearing The Clutter, In Both Closet And Brain

OK, so maybe cleaning a closet isn't a huge workout. But it does wonders for the mind. (Derek Jensen via Wikimedia Commons)

OK, so maybe cleaning a closet isn’t a huge workout. But it does wonders for the mind. (Derek Jensen via Wikimedia Commons)

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

Wow, two weeks in a row where something works! Maybe I really did turn the right corner this time.

Once again I committed to exercising on Sunday, and once again I did it. Inspired by Carey Goldberg’s playground workout, I lunged and planked and pulled myself up, in between pushing my daughter on the swings.

Then, when my son finished mowing the yard and asked me to rake up the grass clippings for him, I saw it as another great chance to keep moving – and challenged myself to do it as fast as I could. Yeah, I got a blister. But I also felt great.

I think this is the key: I don’t much care for working out. But I do like to work. And I like to play even more.

The thing about my Sunday activities is that I was actually accomplishing something – not just getting some exercise, but spending time with my kids and making the yard look better. So the exercise I get along the way doesn’t feel like time stolen from things I’d rather be doing, but rather like an integral part of those very things. Continue reading

Project Louise: Turning A Corner — Or Walking In Circles?

(Sweet light/Flickr)

(Sweet light/Flickr)

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

I feel as if I’ve turned a corner. Then again, several times so far in this project I’ve felt as if I’ve turned a corner. And if I keep turning corners in the same direction, of course, I’ll end up going in circles. Which is also how I sometimes feel.

But on my more optimistic days – and this, for whatever reason, is one of them – the circles feel more like an upward spiral. I may have been in this spot before, but each time I return to it, I’m a tiny bit wiser and a tiny bit more likely to keep moving upward. That’s my hope, anyway.

The corner I’ve turned this time is the discovery that I can actually enjoy exercise. I felt that in spades last week, during – and after – my exhilarating bike ride on the Cape. And the glow from that ride made it easy to hear, and agree with, my editor Carey Goldberg’s latest tip.

She’d been talking with an expert about what to do with me – how to get me really into the groove of exercising every day. She’d suggested, to both me and the expert, that maybe she should write me a “scary” letter about all the bad feelings that come from not exercising – not so much the long-term effects, which we all know, but the daily fatigue, ennui, anxiety and general blah-ness that she gets on the days she fails to work out.

I thought it might work, but it didn’t exactly fill me with joy. And her source vetoed it outright. Better, she said, to get me to think more about my motivations for exercising – not the bad things that will happen if I don’t, but the good things that I’m aiming toward by changing my ways. Continue reading

Project Louise: Going For A Ride — And Going For The Fun

Not only did Louise ride 20 miles, but at the end, she was in a tent with Tom Brady. Oh, and hundreds of other people. Still ... fun! (Best Buddies)

Not only did Louise ride 20 miles, but at the end, she was in a tent with Tom Brady. Oh, and hundreds of other people. Still … fun! (Best Buddies)

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

This whole health thing? It’s like riding a bike.

That’s what I’m thinking this week, anyway. Once you learn how to do it, even if you stop for a really long time, when you get back on the bike, you’re amazed at how simple it is.

And this week, I got back on the bike.

Dedicated readers (I love you, wherever you are) may remember that, way back in March, I decided to sign up for the Best Buddies Challenge bike ride on the Cape. I figured having a goal would encourage me to go to the gym more often, and going to the gym more often would make the ride both easy and fun.

So … it did not make me go to the gym. At all. But it did feel like a firm commitment, and so on Saturday, I went for a bike ride. A 20-mile bike ride. Continue reading