Make it count: To track or not to track?

I hate tracking and logging things.

“I’ve always got too much going on to bother with tracking, it’s too much work,” I tell myself.

“I’ve been on enough diets and studied enough labels to know what I’m putting in my body…even when I choose to eat junk,” is another thing I tell myself.

it all boils down to this:

No matter how much I say otherwise, I don’t want that level of accountability. That level of honesty with myself is anxiety producing.

What will I have to give up?

Chips and soda – things I should’ve already given up because of the diabetes.

Eating out, for the moment, until I can figure out how to log nutritional content. Not that I eat out all that often.

Premade green tea. It’s got sugar.

All that being said, I’ve got to commit to developing healthy habits because of health conditions like diabetes and being at risk for heart disease. Changing what and how I eat is foundational to that change.

Ok. I’m going to do this but, don’t want to have to chase down the details of every calorie and macronutrient. I would drive both myself and the people around me batty.

I’m sure there’s an app for that.

Indeed. There are many. The one I chose is SparkPeople. It has a large supportive community of people also seeking healthy goals. There are articles, coaching tips, and, most importantly for me, a way to track food and exercise by just entering the food or scanning the barcode!

Not all foods are in the database. However, there’s a feature for you to add that item to the database.

Other features include the ability to post to the general community for support, for a status update, or write a blog post.

There are SparkPeople features which are accessible via computer, like joining “teams” with specialized focus.

Anyway, using the exercise and food log feature, the app calculates a target range of calories and the macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein). The ranges automatically adjust when exercise is logged and it measures the amount of calories burned.

I don’t want my health journey to be defined by or dependent on numbers. However, paying attention to those numbers and making food choices based on them, ensured my body got what it needed and I didn’t starve myself.

I already feel my clothes fitting differently and the scale says I lost five pounds, much to my surprise and glee. The power of the scale is hard to resist.

I choose to keep logging my food and exercise.


Liebster Recipient: Sovann Pen

Sovann is one of 11 Noteworthy Bloggers I listed in my Liebster award post. He opted to answer the questions and submit them to Human In Recovery.

Here are his responses:

1) Is your blog personal or professional and what is its primary focus and/or topic? Personally professional on counseling, marriage and parenting.

2) Do you have a YouTube channel or podcast? If so, please provide the title or link. No podcast yet but I’d like to do a podcast to encourage families, especially those who do foster care and adoption, in the future. I love talking with people and learning from them about their marriages and families.

3) Are you a contributing blogger/writer elsewhere? No (Does Facebook count?)

4) What is the most valuable, free product/app/service you have found as a blogger?

Definitely Facebook and Facebook groups. It’s fun to be a part of groups with kindred spirits who share and write about similar topics.

5) What piece of information or advice would you have found invaluable as a beginning blogger? Jeff Goins’ blog and You Are A Writer ebook, join his My 500 words FB group and/or take his Intentional Blogging or Tribe Writers course and listen to his podcast The Portfolio Life for inspiration. Michael Hyatt’s Platform and Donald Miller’s StoryBrand books are helpful too.

6) What social media sites do use use for public interaction and how do we connect to you? On twitter @sovannpen and FB at A New Day Counseling Center. I also invite you to subscribe to my blog at

7) Are you an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert (both to varying degrees) extrovert but not life-of-the-party, center-of-attention variety. I like to read and spend time on my own praying too.

8) What core value do you try to live by?

Love God and love others. That and the belief that redemption and healing are possible.

9) If you had to choose an anthem song, what would it be? Can I choose two? Right now, This Is Me from The Greatest Showman, a great song and movie and So Will I (100 billion X)

10) If you had to choose, would you consider yourself an advocate or activist?

Advocate. An advocate for grace and empathy and being brave.

11) What is your favorite quote?

This week it’s: “The opposite of joy is not sadness. It’s hopelessness.” (I’ve seen it attributed to Allistar Begg and Timothy Keller)

Mind over matter: Mental habits

Yesterday, the teaching elder of our church introduced the next sermon series…mental habits. He explained the connection between that and spiritual growth. It got me to thinking about implementing the healthy changes I need and want to make in my life – especially around nutrition and physical activity.

I realized that I have some pretty painful and counterproductive mental habits which have contributed to how I got to the point I’m at, both in life and in health.

Be aware when you compare. Even though I know it’s counterproductive, I still do it…seemingly unconsciously and involuntarily. I’ve gotten in the habit of comparing myself to others, almost always to my own deficit. Especially when it comes to my body.

First the comparison. Then the story I tell myself must be true. Then the self-judgment. Sadly, it’s all about determining my self-worth through vanity. It’s an unproductive habit, done in vain.
It goes something like this:

I walk past a reflective surface and catch a sideways glimpse of my image. I cringe at my physical appearance and begin thinking about what others must see and think when they see me. Shame rises within and births embarrassment. I walk past an ad for a weight loss program and see the beautiful, smiling image of someone who has lost weight and appears happier and physically smaller than their “before” picture. I think, “if she couldn’t get it done without paying for a program, I know I can’t. I don’t have any money to pay for anything like that. I don’t have what I need to lose weight. I’m just going to be fat forever. No one wants a fat person. I’m unlovable.”

This entire process takes less time than it takes to read about it. I’ve practiced it so often, I’m an expert at it and it is now an involuntary, automatic response to looking at my reflection.

Well, it needs to get disrupted. What if I do this instead?

I catch a glimpse of my reflection.The cringe starts to happen. I stop, turn, and look at my reflection and smile. I tell myself, “Your body is strong and capable. Be proud. Be grateful it functions as well as it does.” I keep walking and see the weight loss advert. I think, “Good for them. I am capable of getting healthy, too. I am not my body. I am worthy and deserving of love no matter what my body looks like. I am loved. I love myself.”

This process takes time, attention, and energy. It may feel false because I’ve believed the lies too long. But, it’s important to practice it, go through the motions, and deliberately think the thoughts if I want to change.

Change begins in the mind. Healthy thought habits lead to healthy action and healthy habits are formed.

Think and say the good things you want enough instead of focusing on what you don’t want. Easier said than done, but worth it, I believe.

What are some of your mental habits?

The Liebster Award: Celebrating noteworthy bloggers

I have been blogging here at Human In Recovery, on and off, since December 2011. During that time I have participated in The Ultimate Blog Challenge, as I am doing this month.

Something which seems to happen during these challenges is bloggers giving each other blogging awards. These awards build community and networks. It boosts traffic and is an opportunity for bloggers to connect to a greater audience. It’s a way build their platform.

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award, both when I participated in my first UBC (read about it here) and again during this cycle, by Vidya Tiru at Lady in Read Writes (read about it here).

The Liebster’s criteria and process has evolved over the past five years. Here’s the details of its current incarnation:

  • Acknowledge the blog(s) that gave it to you and display the award
  • Answer the 11 questions that the blogger gives you
  • Give 11 random facts about yourself
  • Nominate 11 blogs and notify them of their nomination
  • Give the bloggers 11 questions to answer

I will name 11 noteworthy blogs to explore. However, I am not requiring or expecting a Liebster acceptance post.

Noteworthy blogs:
Marc Alan Schelske, “a writer, speaker, hobbyist theologian, recovering fundamentalist, tea drinker & motorcycle rider.”

Sean Paul Mahoney, “a writer, playwright, blogger, tweeter, critic, podcaster and smartass for hire.”

Sarah Fader, “the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. “

Dan, “Having written his whole life, he blogs because he has to write…he can’t help it.”

Mary, “a music lover who finally got off her duff (or on it, I suppose) and started sharing her opinions about music.”

Robert Kennedy III, he loves “helping people create hope, generate excitement and belief in their capacity to change lives, starting with their own.”

Steve Austin, “focuses on everyday faith, mental wellness, and embracing wonder to encourage, educate, and empower audiences from every walk of life.

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur, Founder and editor of The Might Women ezine is “a Brazilian who adopted Wales as “home”’

Martha DeMeo “writes product and book reviews” at

Sovann Penis a licensed professional counselor, who loves “counseling because it offers healing and freedom” by “helping families with parenting challenges and with the stresses of communication, conflict and disconnection in marriage.”

Steven Shomler, a Pyrocatalyst, Author, Culinary Storyteller, Consultant, Entrepreneur & Speaker

If they choose to participate, here are my questions:

1. Is your blog personal or professional and what is its primary focus and/or topic?

2. Do you have a YouTube channel or podcast? If so, please provide the title or link.

3. Are you a contributing blogger/writer elsewhere?

4. What is the most valuable, free product/app/service you have found as a blogger?

5. What piece of information or advice would you have found invaluable as a beginning blogger?

6. What social media sites do use use for public interaction and how do we connect to you?

7. Are you an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert (both to varying degrees)?

8. What core value do you try to live by?

9. If you had to choose an anthem song, what would it be? If possible, please provide a YouTube link.

10. If you had to choose, would you consider yourself an advocate or activist?

11. What is your favorite quote?

Now, for those interested, we enter the “All About Me” part.

* If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?

* What is your favorite food to eat?
Depends on the moment.

* What advice would you give your younger self if you could go back in time ten years?
This line from the song, Dear Younger Me, says it all: “do I go deep and try to change the choices that you’ll make ‘cause they’re choices that made me.” What I want to say would change my life in unimaginable ways. However, it would also cost me my youngest child and my grandchildren. So, I have no advice, just, “you’ll get through this, too.”

* What would be the first thing you’d do if you won the lottery?
Pay off my student loan.

* Night owl or early bird?
There’s a difference?

* What superpower would you like to have?
The ability to clone myself and experience the memories of all the clones while they share each other’s and mine.

* Your favorite way to relax?
Water aerobics or swimming followed by a soak in the hot tub, chatting with the people around me.

* eBook or the printed book or audio book or no books at all?
If conditions allow a book at all, paper.

* What four words would you use to describe yourself?
Survivor, empathetic, committed, wounded

* Who is the most influential person in your life?
Currently it is my youngest daughter, in the sense that pretty much all my decisions and conditions are made with her in mind and affected by her.

* Do you make resolutions? If yes, what is your top resolution for 2018?
Not anymore. However, my personal goal is to transition my eating to be primarily whole food, plant-based by 2019.

11 random facts about me:

1. I am a 48 year old grandmother of three.

2. I have three children ages 31, 24, 9.

3. I am parenting a child who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum.

4. My 31 year old stopped being legally my child in 2012. He went through an adoption process, as an adult, and legally became another mother’s child. Our estrangement has been reconciled.

5. I earned two diplomas and a GED.

6. I have the debt of one who earned a Bachelors degree.

7. I have no college degrees.

8. I have experienced two major nervous breakdowns.

9. I have a Bipolar brain impacted by PTSD.

10. I am married but have not seen my husband since December 12, 1988.

11. I am half Mexican.

Making the switch: Going meatless

I’m a carnivore. I love, love, love meat. I especially love bacon. It’s good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It can even be a condiment, it’s that versatile. It’s been such a fixture in my life, it was the reason I knew I was pregnant with my second child.

“How’s that?” you ask.

Here’s the story. Back about 25 years ago or so, I was a single mom living with my grandmother. She was from The South, Alabama as a matter of fact. (Roll Tide!) things like bacon and gravy were staples in her kitchen. Just the smell of bacon in the skillet was enough to get me salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

One fine day a friend of mine had taken me to the grocery store – I didn’t own a car. I didn’t even know how to drive.

Anyway, we’d been gone a couple of hours. I was tired and just wanted to hurry up and get the groceries put away so I could rest a bit.

Well, as soon as I opened the door and the aroma of frying bacon wafted out, my stomach turned and I had to immediately reverse and walk back outside.

I decided to go in for a pregnancy test…the results of which came back positive on the day Bill Clinton was voted to POTUS #42.

But I digress.

Why would a dedicated meat eater like myself ever decide to convert to a plant-based health style?

The trifecta that is Metabolic Syndrome:

  • High blood sugar
  • Abnormal cholesterol
  • Excess body fat around the waist

According to the Mayo Clinic, these conditions are closely associated with heart disease.

When the following factors exist, the likelihood is even greater:

  • Age: I’m 48
  • Race: Mexican descent – I’m half Mexican
  • Obesity: I’m carrying about 260 lbs on a 5’3″ frame and a significant amount of that excess is in the shape of an apple around my waist.
  • Diabetes: I got the diagnosis four years ago.

The only factor not present is high blood pressure and even that is slowly creeping up.

When I found out that my cholesterol levels were in the danger zone, I woke up.

I’ve got too much to live for to die young.

After sharing the news of my scare to my Facebook framily, one of my Vegangelist friends highly recommended that I watch a documentary on Netflix called “Forks Over Knives

It very clearly provides evidence that a plant-based, whole food diet can reverse chronic health conditions which are rooted in a meat-based, processed food diet. It makes a very strong case for veganism that is health oriented instead of morally or politically motivated.

And so, one major goal in my journey is to be eating vegan by the end of 2018.

Since I’m a savory, crunchy snacker, am not fond of soybeans, and find most vegan meat and dairy substitution products unpalatable, I’ve decided I need a food dehydrator to make my own snacks without having to fry them and defeat the purpose or bake them into oblivion.

Bye-bye bacon.

It takes a village: I can’t do this alone

I have a lot of complex issues and the conditions of my life aren’t exactly conducive to accomplishing self-care activities.

Here’s the laundry list:

  • Single parenting a child on the Autism Spectrum
  • Dependent on ex to pay the bills and basic necessities
  • Subsisting on less than $100/mo and $350/mo SNAP benefits, aka food stamps
  • A support person for adult daughter and her family with three children under four – depending on availability
  • In treatment and recovery from PTSD & Bipolar Disorder
  • Fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, diabetes

As you might imagine, I feel overwhelmed and isolated much of the time.

The isolation exacerbates the intensity of the overwhelm from all the challenges.

In the past, I lived by the mantra, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

I became the go to problem solver and rescuer of those around me.

A lifetime of living that way is what led me to where I am…a 258 lb woman under 50 with diabetes, high cholesterol, unable to maintain employment, dependent on government assistance and the ex.

I have very good whys for changing my health style by exercising and improving nutrition.

However, those whys aren’t motivating when the overwhelm kicks in and takes over my brain. They just add to it and make it worse.

This is where I need community. I need a village of support people. I need a network and a safety net for the times when I’m going to backslide, cheat, or start to give up.

I need to feel the hope and inspiration from the success stories of others who’ve gone before me. I need the camaraderie of those in the trenches, marching beside me. I need the cheers of those who believe in me. I need others not yet where I am who I can offer my experience, hope, and strength to.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone with these needs. I’m almost positive that we all need these kinds of connections…which is more than challenging in the culture and society we live in today.

Everyone has their own laundry lists, their own challenges, and maybe even their own sense of being isolated.

What, then, is a person to do, especially when making the kind of changes I am making and can’t afford to join the weight loss programs and organizations?

I started online with my social networks on Facebook & Instagram.

I also did a little research and discovered Spark People. In the two days I’ve been engaged on the site, I’ve discovered tools (food/exercise tracker), information regarding making the healthy changes and sticking with them, as well as all the things I listed above. All for free.

I’ve found my tribe in a virtual village.

What does your tribe look like?

Sustainable change: Pacing myself

Historically, whenever I get on a “self-improvement” kick, I start out Fast and Furious, like Michelle Rodriquez’s character in the movies. I’m determined and gung-ho!

Perhaps you can relate?

It doesn’t have to be exercise or weight loss related. 12 Step Recovery from food addiction and codependency; back to college (I have the debt load for a Bachelors and don’t even have an Associates!), nutrition, and, obviously, exercise.

I don’t just go all out on whatever the activity itself is. I mean I go down the rabbit hole of trying to plan and organize the system I’ve decided will optimize the success of the thing. Don’t believe me? Check out my foray into the world of Whole 30 and Paleo, here.

I can immerse myself so deeply that there’s little room in terms of time, energy, and focus for anything else, including relationships and responsibilities. Which will lead to an implosion that causes me to shift into neutral, then park – where I get stuck.

The depth and intensity of this cycle is affected by the Bipolar when it isn’t being treated and stabilized. However, it’s a familiar process at this time of year for so many people.

I don’t want to and can’t afford to do that this time around.

I have to pace myself, pay attention to the road signs, respond to the signals, adjust to the flow, and be prepared to safely accommodate the things beyond my control that may cause delay or danger.

Flexibility is key. I have to stop chasing perfection and “instant gratification.” It is not failure on my part when I can’t drive 55 in a school or construction zone. That’s exercising safety and consideration for the benefit of myself and those around me.

Tuesday, my first day back in the gym after a two week hiatus for illness and the holidays, I did 40 minutes on the elliptical, followed by a water aerobics class – 85 minutes of exercise. I was able to do that because I didn’t push myself to the point of dropping, which is something I would have done in the past.

I had the time available. I had the mental and physical capacity.

Yesterday, I had two back to back meetings and was under a time crunch. I also had some achiness in my thighs from the day before. So, I decided against the elliptical and tried the treadmill – Hated it! I programmed 20 minutes. I worked my way up to 3 mph with 2 mph being the average. I broke a sweat!

I kept to my body’s speed limit. I planned my route (routine), taking detours into account. I arrived at my destination safe and sound.

I paced myself and I’m able to do it again today.

This is what sustainable change looks like for me. What does or might it look like for you?