Monday, October 8, 2007

Health Histories

As part of my program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition I have to conduct health histories. This is a free session I offer to a prospective client where I conduct a one hour session based on the person's health history. Its sounds fairly simple right? Its not so simple. I've mostly been meeting friends or acquaintances, but people are excited about the offerings and its hard to not be able to offer them anything yet.

I also find it incredibly challenging to listen and not offer advice. I think this is the first time in my life I have had to do this. People are always asking me for advice. On topics for the most part I am not really qualified to give advice, but I do anyway. I'm a good friend.

I like this role though. Its interesting in the same way its challenging. I've performed 3 health histories so far this week. This brings my total to 5 since starting the program in June. I'd say that's a pretty good start. I have three more scheduled and a bunch of people who say they are interested and just need to nail down some time.

I'm looking forward to doing more health histories! I'm also looking to find more creative ways to meet people and offer them health histories, but I feel that I need to practice with people who may not want to become clients or people I would not want to have as clients so I can just practice.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

starting out - my history

So, I've never done this blogging thing before. I guess I've undergone some major life changes in past few years. I'm hoping to start a health counseling business early next year. I start school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in two weeks. Its been an interesting journey. Since I started graduate school in September of 2004, I have managed to go from a size 14 to a size 4. In case you are wondering, that's roughly 50 pounds. And, although its not easy...I've kept it off.

How did I do it? and the better question you should ask is, how can I help you do it :) Well, I'll give you the history. I have struggled with being overweight my whole life. I've always been interested in weight loss and fitness - or perhaps other people around me were interested in me losing weight and getting fitter, but I would always start a program, lose about 10 pounds, get frustrated and quit, like most people I guess. But two years ago, I did something a little different. After a year or so of going to the gym regularly and changing my diet somewhat drastically and losing about 20 pounds; I started rowing competitively (is there any other way to row?) . I rowed all summer and into the school year, competing in several competitions with people who had rowed competitively all through undergrad. Rowing shed another 10 pounds.

I finished grad school in Boston and moved to New York and tried to find a rowing team here. Try rowing on the Harlem River. Its not fun. After one row with a group of girls where 3/4 of the time the front of the boat was underwater due to the lovely quite neighborly fellow boatsmen on the Harlem River, I decided that rowing in New York was not for me. But what would I do that would continue the cammradarie and the fitness of rowing? How about a triathlon? Sure, the only bike I ever rode I bought at target and the last time I ran was in the ninth grade - and that was 800 meters...and difficult. But it sounded like an interesting challenge.

I first heard about Team One Family, my triathlon team via an email from the Jewish outdoors club. An oxymoron right? TOF was a group of rather unathletic orthodox Jews (mostly guys)training for an olympic distance triathlon (1 mile swim, 26 mile bike ride and 6.2 mile run). I went to the first practice and really struggled through 2 loops of central park - about 12 miles - which took me about 1 hour and a half, although it felt like longer. Then we had to run. I think it was something like 2.2 miles. I never thought I would see the end of that run. It was excruciating. I had to stop to walk every two feet and the guys I was training with and my coach would not let me walk. I think we ran at pace of about 4.8 mph, something like 14 minutes a mile, it took me more than 40 minutes, so maybe with all the walking, I went slower.

I went home and told a friend there was no way I was going back. Somehow, the following Sunday I did. I rode the 12 miles with a little less pain than the previous week and I ran 5 miles in 45 minutes. My coach, Josh, just looked at me when I got back from running dumbfounded. He thought I went home, leaving my bike in the park. He couldn't believe it. For three months, I trained. Every day I trained. I biked, I ran, I swam, twice a day, 6 days a week. I lost another 15 pounds. The summer passed by. I found that I didn't spend any time sitting on the beach or shopping. Rather I spent my weekends biking long distances to New Jersey, Long Island, through Connecticutt. Who was I? I'd meet friends around the city while I was biking, they called me their "athletic" friend. My brother called me Lance. I don't think I ever saw him so impressed with me in my entire life. It was great. Oh yeah, and I raised over $3,000 for charity. As September started and race day was rapidly approaching training grew difficult. 5am runs in the dark and long bike rides in the rain and the wind were not what I signed up for. I complained to my teammates on the Asphalt Green triathlon club - big guys who did triathlons every other weekend including ironmans - where you swim 2 miles, bike 100 and then run a full marathon. What could I say? So, I continued to show up, 3 times a week with them 2 times a week on my own and one or two weekend days toward the end I was doing something. I tried swimming in the ocean in my wetsuit. I did a few other open water simulations where someone kicks you in the head on purpose and pulls your leg down. I laughed, but it was great preparation!

Race day was a Sunday late in September. It was 74 degrees. I stood on the beach with 200 other women in my age group (leave something to the imagination!) waiting for the gun. I'd seen men 25-29 and 30-34 go just before me. I stood in the back as I was told to avoid the people trying to be first. They were fierce! I ran into the water. I swam. I swam some more. I swam what felt like an endless distance and then I looked up and saw the boat. I was halfway done. I could turn around. I swam back. Completely disoriented I ran out of the water when I reached shore. My coach was right there. My mom was standing right in front of my bike behind the rope at transition. Off came the wetsuit and still dripping, confused Meredith got on her bike and rode...26 miles through the streets of Westchester, Connecticutt and New York and even a little bit on I-95. 1.5 hours later the bike went back on the rack and I changed into my sneakers for the last leg. I was barely in transition long enough to rack the bike and I was off. 6.2 miles - 1 of which was on a boardwalk. I really don't understand when race organizers pick boardwalks for running. Its not fun to run on a boardwalk. Its pretty - but put 3,000 people on a boardwalk. It shakes. It doesn't have a lot of give...oh, and it has slits. I was very happy to get to the road in mile 2 and run out the last 5 miles of this race. In almost 1 hour I completed the race. There was a man with one leg who collapsed next to me and a team in training hoard but I finished...strong. so strong I think I was yelling all the way down the finish pike - get out of my way to the big group of team in training people who slowly crowded around their last runner. Hey, they were in my way and nothing was going to keep me from that finish line. I finished the race in 3 hours and 43 minutes...pretty good I thought for the girl whose last race was the third leg of the 4X800 relay in the ninth grade.

Its been a year and a month since the Westchester triathlon. I've completed three half marathons and I have one more next week. Next week will also commemorate my seventh road runner race this year. I have 2 more to go to qualify for the 2008 New York City Marathon. Oh yeah, and if the torture is not enough, I've completed two century bike rides this summer (yeah, that's 100 miles). I don't belong to a gym. The world is my gym. I mostly run in the park or on the East River. I bike in the park - or anywhere else I can. I have some dumbells at home. I'm thinking of getting a few more. I hike. I walk. Fitness is a state of mind, not something that requires a lot of money or a lot of equipment. Sneakers help. "Good" sneakers are completely personal and not always the ones that cost $100. The $39 saucony trailrunners I bought at the outlet served me pretty well till right before the race. I bought Nikes because they had the slot for the Ipod pedometer...which doesn't really work...since it says I run a 5 minute mile :) Its good for motivation though...and Lance Armstrong congratulates me every time I go 5 minutes longer or a few paces faster.

So, now we get to diet. My friend was doing the South Beach diet in the spring of 2005. I tried doing it with her - and made it through one of the torturous two weeks and switched to phase II in week 2. In the summer of 2005, I augmented phase II and changed to an all vegan diet. I watched my portions. I continued with my South Beach ways and watched my white flour carbs and eliminated all forms of white sugar. It worked best for me for tri training and just in general. I ate fish when I went out to restaurants with family and I ate chicken twice a year at Holidays. I really hate chicken. Kosher, organic, its all the same. I've started incorporating a bit of grass fed beef and lamb into my diet lately. With all the running, I feel like I need the extra protein. I'm really looking to learn more in school about all these theories and see which one will continue to work best for me and my future clients. As I start to read about different dietary theories and philosophies, I have come to like those of Nina Planck. She scares me a little with her aggression, but I like her. I want to make it down to her markets one day. I hope to meet her one day.

Until next time :) Meredith