Mind Trip Part II: Getting Inside Her Head

They say you are what you eat.  Some who have combatted weight problems and won would be more likely to tell you that you are what you think.

At the beginning of March, I shared Rebecca Berger’s story with you – how she had spent much of her life overweight and struggling to take it off; how she eventually made a mental shift that allowed her to lose weight, restore her health, and remain trim and fit.  This week, we delve deeper into what goes on in Rebecca’s head that helps her be the person she spent so many years longing to be.

First, Rebecca has completely reframed the way she thinks about eating and exercise.  She used to think of healthy eating as dieting.  She used to think of exercise as a chore.  Now, she thinks of the entire eat/exercise package as a journey.  Each time she eats or works out it’s a footstep along that journey.  In Rebecca’s words, “Inches add up to feet.  Feet add up to miles.  Every good thing you do is an inch in the right direction.  Don’t let one bad thing derail you.  So, you made a mistake and ate something you shouldn’t.  So what?  Get over it and move on.”

Part of Rebecca’s mental process is about staying focused, motivated, and positive.  She says that she loves the quotes of Muhammad Ali for this.  She has posters of him in her office.  Some of her favorites are:

  • “The only limitations one has are the ones they place on themselves.”
  • “I’m going to show you how great I am.”
  • “Champions aren’t made in gyms.  Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”
  • “Don’t quit.  Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
  • “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”

To get more into her head I asked Rebecca the following questions…

  1. What is the first thing you think of when you get out of bed in the morning?

First, I give thanks.  When each foot hits the floor I say, “Thank you God… for this day.  Please help me to do your will.”  As I pack my lunch I think of the choices I will make for the day and think about improving over the day before.

  1. How do you picture yourself, mentally?  Like you are now? Slimmer?  Heavier?

I see myself as I am or slimmer – usually at my goal weight.

  1. What do you think when you see yourself in the mirror?

I am much less critical of myself now than I use to be, when I look in the mirror.  I look for improvements in weight loss and muscle definition.  I must admit I think I look older now.

  1. How is your thinking different now than it was two or three years ago?

I think about things in a much more positive way.  I would get down on myself for every poor choice.  Now, I realize that it’s a lifelong journey and if I want something I plan and I account for it.  Plus, all things in moderation.

  1. What is/are your major motivator(s)?

I have sayings and signs everywhere.  But if you’re asking – what is my WHY – it’s my kids and family.  I want to be the parent they deserve.  My mom had knee problems that limited her from many activities as we were growing up, I don’t want my health and fitness to do the same.  Plus, the thought that if I continued to gain weight and not manage my health I would have risked being here for them – and that brings me to tears.

  1. Are you a happier person than you used to be?

ABSOLUTELY YES!  I have a much more positive outlook on life.  I have energy and I have confidence that I did not have before.  I often thought of things in life as a HAVE to, instead now it’s a GET to.  When you lack the energy to make it through the day so many things seem like have to do instead of getting to do.

  1. What frustrates you?  How do you work through it?

I occasionally get frustrated because I have slowed down on the weight loss, but then I think even if I never lost another pound I would still be a happy person.  I also still work with my [Herbalife] coach.

  1. What do you want more than anything else in life?

I really think I have found a passion with for fitness and exercise.  I would love to open my own nutrition club.  But again I think it is my kids and what I said in 5.

Is it possible that what goes on in our heads is what truly shapes the bodies we walk around in?  Rebecca Berger has reframed how she thinks about eating and exercise to transform her physical being.  Maybe, when it’s all said and done, when we are fighting the battle of the bulge, the real battle we are fighting is a mental one.  Maybe, before we change what we eat and how we work out, what we really need to do is change the way we think about all of it.  What do you think?

Tips for Taking Road Trips with Young Children

My wife and I enjoy taking road trips with our twin preschoolers.  They are four-and-a-half now, and these techniques have evolved over the past couple of years to keep them contented and enjoying the ride when we travel by car.  Whether you are taking a day trip or driving vacation, I hope these tips will help guarantee you happy trails.

©Matt Vasko, 2015
©Matt Vasko, 2015

Prep them for the trip.

We start to prep them a couple of days in advance for the fact that they will be in the car for a while.  We get out a map and show them where we will be going and how we will be getting there, pointing out landmarks and towns they should watch for along the way.  Our goal is to get them excited about both the trip and the destination.

Give ‘em leg room.

You might be packed to the gills, but resist the urge to pack items below their feet or in such a way as to restrict their movement.  Little ones swing their legs when they are in the car seat – it’s just what they do.  It helps to keep them from getting restless.  So, be sure to keep the area under and around them clear so they have room to squirm.

Engage them in the experience.

The beginning of the drive is the perfect time to start to engage them in the trip.  Ask them to point out to you when things start to look new and different than the area that they are used to – you might be surprised by how well they know their usual surroundings.  Once you get into new territory for them, point out things you notice that might excite them (“Look, a windmill!”, “Cows!”).  Encourage them to point out the new things they see.

Combat hunger.

On long road trips, hunger is your enemy.  Take a variety of healthy, car-friendly snacks.  Start with low-mess snacks you know your kids love and go from there.  In a cooler, we keep baggies of precut and cleaned carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, broccoli, strawberries, and blueberries.  Our kids still enjoy fruit and veggie pouches, so we are sure to take those because they are super-easy and usually tidy.  A company called Bamboo Lane makes a product called Crunchy Rice Rollers, which leave some crumbs, but are a healthy hit.  We also pack some of their favorite dry cereal and snack cups to serve it in.

Music, music, music!

Be sure to take along their favorite music on a mix CD (if you still use that technology) or whatever medium that will allow you to play it over the car’s sound system.  Some of our favorites are Lori Berkner Band and Veggie Tales tunes.   We take some new-to-them kid friendly music and use the trip as an opportunity to introduce them to it.  Car rides are also a great time to have a good old-fashioned family sing-along.

Plan for napping… but not too much!

We try to plan our stops so that we will be on the road for a several-hour stretch during the time before, during, and after that when they are likely to fall asleep.  This is usually our longest stretch of non-stop driving all day.  Since they are asleep for a chunk of it, it seems short to them.  I recommend letting them sleep for an hour to an hour-and-a-half, but no more.  If they sleep all day then they will be full of energy when you arrive at your destination that night.  They will be wired when you are exhausted and that is a bad combination.

Stick with water.

We just give the kids water in sippy cups in the car.  With water, they drink just enough to quench their thirst, but not so much that it makes them have to go to the bathroom.  Let’s be honest, if you want to make any real time on the road, you don’t want to have to be stopping for someone to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes.  They haven’t learned to limit their fluid intake yet, so if you give them something tasty like milk or juice, they’ll probably drink it all then then need an emergency potty stop.

Make rest stops count!

Each time you stop try to make it someplace where they can run.  It will help them stretch their legs and get their wiggles out.  Exercised kids travel better.  Whenever we stop for a meal we always have the kids use the restroom on our way back out to the car.  We call it a “safety” stop and it is exactly that, because it saves us from having to get right back off the road as soon as we are back on it.

A note about media time:

If your kids have a Leap Pad or handheld game console then take it with you.  Just be sure that you have enough battery life so that they can use it for as long as you want to allow them to do so.  Nothing reduces a child to tears on a road trip faster than dead batteries.  For our part, we save this type of entertainment until the kids are getting near their breaking point, and then bust it out.  We figure that part of raising good travelers is teaching them to love the road as much as we do, and that means engaging them in the trip as much as possible.

Prepare for anything.

Make sure you have something handy to clean up spills and wipe little hands and faces.  No matter how hard you try, there will probably be at least one emergency potty stop.  Know that it’s coming and then it won’t bother you so much when it happens.  Treat the trip like quality family time and you are sure to create some great memories.  Travel safe, have fun and enjoy the ride!

Giving Time

My Wife had grown accustomed to the phone calls.  Those calls I would make between 4:30pm and 4:45pm more and more often.  The ones that started with, “I’m sorry,” followed by my sigh and, “I’m going to have to stay late again.”  Five o’clock was approaching too quickly.  There was too much that needed to be done by the end of the day, which meant that the end of the day was going to stretch on past five until who-knows-when.  Such, I thought, is the life of a salaried employee in corporate America in the 21st century.

As I reached for the phone, it rang.  I glanced at the caller ID.  It was my Wife, hopefully not calling to make sure that I was leaving on time.  With luck, she was calling to tell me about something entertaining or wonderful that one of our three-year-old boy/girl twins had just done.  As a stay-at-home mom, she was always good about letting me know when something exciting had happened at home, like a new word spoken or new feat achieved.  Those were the calls that recharged my batteries on these too-long days.

“Hi Sweetie!” I said as I brought the phone to my ear, mechanically inserting some cheer into my voice to start the call on an up note before delivering the bad news.

She said just four words, but they would soon change my life forever.  “I got the job!”

“Congratulations!” I heard myself cheer, my mind zooming off in a million different directions at once and then rushing back to the here and now.

She paused.  “There’s just one catch.  They want me to start next week.”

My heart sank.  I stammered.  I wasn’t sure what to say.  My Wife had been waiting all summer for this call and it was beginning to seem unlikely that it was ever going to come.  We had planned for her to stay home with the twins until they started elementary school, but then her dream job working for her alma mater had opened up and she felt compelled to try for it.  This was not the kind of position that came along every year.  The last person that held it stayed for a decade.  Knowing this could be her only shot at the job for a very long time she had gone for it, not even sure if she would be seriously considered.  Now it was hers!  But what about the kids?  It wasn’t like her parents or mine lived close enough that they could just pop over and watch them for a couple of weeks until we figured out childcare.

Filling the silence on my end of the line she stated, “This could be my career job.  This could be where I stay for 25 or 30 years.”

“I know, but…” I trailed off.  “Can we talk about this when I get home, tonight?  It’s getting late and I still have a lot to do before I can leave.”

“Of course, Sweetie.”  She said understandingly.

Before hanging up I added, “Hey, I love you… and I’m proud of you.  Well done!

That night, after putting the twins to bed, we sat down to try to figure out how we were going to make this work.  We had kicked around some childcare options during the summer, but landing the job had seemed like such a hypothetical that we wanted to be careful not to get overly excited.

My wife got straight to the point.  “I checked on the childcare offered at the university.  It’s an option, but it’s presently full and there’s a waiting list.  That’s okay though, because I think I’ve figured out the solution.”  Then, she said the words that I will never forget, “We could trade places.  You could stay home with the kids.”

Suddenly, I am 12-years-old again sitting on the back porch with my Dad in rural Ohio.  The sun has just set peacefully across the corn fields that stretch on for miles.  The crickets are chirping.  My Dad is explaining to me, my older brother and younger sister that in the months since his father’s death he has come to realize how much he regrets having worked two jobs during our early childhoods.  He says that his Dad – who had died of a massive heart attack on the assembly room floor of the automotive plant he worked at for 40 years, just one week before retirement – had spent his life talking about the things he was going to do after he retired; the things the two of them would do together.  My Dad announces that he feels like he owes it to himself and to us not to repeat what he has come to see as his father’s mistake.  He is done with telling us about the things that we will all do someday when he doesn’t work so much.  “I’d always felt like I needed to get ahead,” he says.  Then, in a voice heavy with remorse he adds, “No amount of money was worth the time that I won’t get back with you guys.”  He concludes definitively, “I’m quitting my evening and weekend job to spend more time at home.  We can get by.  It’s the time with you guys that matters.”

I snapped back to the moment.  Without another thought or second’s hesitation I stated with determination, “Let’s do it.”

 

It has been a year-and-a-half since that night and I’ve never looked back.  We were able to convince my Wife’s alma mater that she was worth waiting a few weeks for, so I could give proper notice to my company – a company that I cared about or would not have struggled through all those long days and sometimes nights and weekends to give it my best work.

My kids are four now and started preschool last fall.  We made the decision to put them into a cooperative preschool so that I would get to participate in this milestone with them.  Even better, I had them at home with me for a whole year, last year.  I will forever cherish that time – and this time – with my children.  I never thought that I would get to have such a close relationship with them as I have grown to, that I could share so much of myself with them as I get to, or that my heart could be filled with such joy by an opportunity that I didn’t even know I wanted until it presented itself to me.

I am grateful to my Wife for the gift she has given me.  Like I was, she is a salaried employee.  She still has some late evenings, but fortunately for our family she took a lesson from all late nights she saw me put in during our children’s first three years and has drawn very clear boundaries for her job.  She is using some of her vacation days to work at the co-op.  She’s making time for the important things.

My Dad and I have spoken many times about my decision to stay home with the kids.  He is wildly happy for me.  He’s pleased that I value the time I gained with him when he started spending more time at home to the extent that it made me make a big change in my own life.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from this whole experience, it is this:  We only get one shot at being parents and our children only get one childhood.  There are no do-overs, but it’s never too late shift our priorities, change our course and become more like the parent we dream of being.

Mind Trip: How One Woman’s Mental Shift Changed Her Life

“I felt like I wasn’t even showing up for my own life.  I said, ‘This ends today.’

We are all given just one life.  What if you felt like you weren’t living the life you were meant to live?  What would you do if every fiber of your being was screaming at you to be something different than what you were?  Would you change?  Could you change?  Rebecca Berger experienced exactly that, made the change, and her transformation will inspire you.

Throughout her childhood, Rebecca had always been bigger and taller than everyone else in her class.  She was athletic and loved playing basketball and softball, but late in junior high she started having trouble with her knees.  Heredity and the strain of sports combined to put her in such a state that her right knee required surgery.  Suddenly sedentary while recovering, she started putting on weight.  Along with the weight came body image problems.  Through high school, even though she had become active in sports again, she continued to feel overweight.

Rebecca’s weight problems and body image issues followed her into adulthood.  “This will be the year I lose weight,” became her annual New Year’s resolution.  Still, she never seemed to be able to take off the weight.  She would work at it for a while, but she would slip and eat something she shouldn’t here or there and then next thing she knew – feeling defeated – she would be right back at the weight where she started or heavier.

In her mid-twenties, Rebecca was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as PCOS, a health condition that can affect fertility.  Now married and wanting children, her doctor advised her to lose weight, as it can sometimes help women with PCOS to conceive.  In addition to being overweight, partly due to the PCOS, her doctor also informed her she was also pre-diabetic.  Determined not only to have a child, but to have a healthy pregnancy, she redoubled her efforts to lose weight.  This time, for the first time, she had real success.  She lost 20lbs before she conceived in 2004.

After giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, Rebecca aimed to continue the weight loss journey she had started before becoming pregnant.  She was disappointed to find that she could only make it back to her pre-pregnancy weight before plateauing.

In the spring of 2007, Rebecca had a second child – this time a darling boy.  Her dreams of family fulfilled, she had little time to focus on herself.  Like so many of us, her life was dedicated to working and caring for her family.  She was happy, but something still wasn’t right.  At night, when the house was quiet, her weight and body image issues would put her into a funk.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2008, her neighbor introduced Rebecca to Herbalife, a health and nutrition company.  At that time she was the heaviest she had ever been and thought perhaps this would be the answer she’d been looking for.  It worked – sort of.  She was able to take off 40lbs, but slipped back into old patterns and 20lbs of that came back.

There came a point when Rebecca started to feel like she wasn’t the person she was meant to be.  “I used to sit on the couch and have my kids go and get stuff for me,” she said.  I thought, ‘this is not why I had kids – I did not have kids to make them my gofers.’  I felt like I wasn’t even showing up for my own life.”

She says that December 26, 2013 is the day it all changed.  That was the day when the mental shift happened.  “I got on the scale and it wasn’t good.  I said, ‘This ends today.’”

It was like at that moment a new Rebecca emerged.  It was as if the person that she had always wanted to be took control of the reins.  Between that day and June 1, 2014, Rebecca lost 50lbs.  And she has kept it off.  She says, “I feel like I’m back in my own life again.”

Rebecca Berger, Before and After
Rebecca Berger, Before and After

What changed?  Nothing… and everything.  Familiar with Herbalife and having had success with it before, Rebecca continued to use it to help her along her path.  But the real change was on the inside.  Rebecca transformed the way she thought about herself, about weight, and about exercise.  She says, “What’s different this time is a mindset.  It wasn’t a diet anymore; it was a lifestyle change.  It is a journey this time… I’m still on that journey.”

Later this month we will delve deeper into the mental process that has brought about Rebecca’s physical transformation, but for now we’ll leave you with this thought from her:  “I always say that losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is 80% nutrition, 20% exercise, and 100% mental.”