Start, Continue

The number one lesson I’ve learned in a lifetime of playing the piano, writing two books, dealing with my wonky thyroid, and pursuing superhero status is that I will be successful if I don’t give up. That doesn’t mean it’s always pleasant and inspiring; sometimes it’s downright overwhelming and annoying. It also doesn’t mean that I remain blindly committed to whatever cockamamie plan I originally cook up — often, mid-course corrections are necessary. What it does mean is that I keep going, trying, chipping away, fighting for what I want. Because quitting something that’s important to me would be the real defeat.

In that spirit, here’s an update on what’s been happening ’round here lately and what I’m planning to do with my fresh, shiny, bright new year.

Kundalini Yoga
I can no longer deny it: I love my Kundalini of Sound class with Robin. Seriously. I have imprinted on her like a baby duck. I want to follow her around and sing the Long Time Sun song with her, and practice our breath of fire, and sit on the floor to drink yoga tea while she plays the guitar. I could not be more surprised by this development.

Our class on Tuesday evening had us doing all kinds of wacky sh*t, and I loved it. How wacky? First, we did four exercises that included breath of fire with our tongues sticking out (like this, only with our eyes closed). I felt ridiculous and comfortable at the same time, and no lie, it was kinda hard because it just goes on and on… and pounded our hands on the floor in rhythm with our breath and stretched our quads in a way that made me feel like someone was taking a fillet knife to the muscles. All while breathing with out tongues stuck out! So, yeah… awesome in that ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable’ way. Then, then, we did our meditation chant, and instead of singing like we usually do, we made little antennae with our fingers and whispered the mantra. I can’t describe how mesmerizing it was to be in a room with 20 or so people, whispering mysterious sounding words with my eyes closed and my consciousness floating, like, two inches in front of my body. It was… wawesome (weird+awesome; you read it here first.)

If you’re curious and you can tolerate the groovy, here’s what we chanted:


It means, roughly:
True in the Primal Beginning
True throughout the Ages
True Here and Now
Forever shall be True

So, yeah. That happened.

It’s all very mysterious and strange, but you know what? I feel freaking great afterward, and there cannot possibly be anything wrong with pumping lots of oxygen into my body with breath of fire, letting the gong carry away mental toxins, and releasing my brain from its usual monkeyshines with some deep meditation. I’m so in. [more yoga-related adventures here]

Barbells & Bodyweight
At the other end of the spectrum, I’m back at the Craptastic Gym to lift weights twice a week. I’ve been keeping my physical activity to the bare minimum while participating in The Healing Experiment, but it’s time to start de-mushifying my body with some serious barbell work. I’m following the guidelines in 5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System for Raw Strength. I like the program a lot because it specifies exactly how much weight to lift and when, based on 90% of a 1RM. It’s great for someone like me who loves structure, and it removes the stress of trying to decide how much to load on the bar. On Mondays, I start with deadlift and military press, then cashout with dips and knees to elbows; Friday, the work session is back squats and bench press, followed by situps, pushups, and lunges. I’m so happy to be re-building my callouses and communing with the iron. Fingers crossed that muscles start to return soon ’cause while The Healing Experiment is great for my peace of mind, it’s been unkind to muscle tone.  [more barbell-related adventure here]

Whole30 Paleo at 40-30-30
How many descriptors can I string together?!
The Healing Experiment continues, which means I’m sticking to my “three meals a day, no snacks” protocol, as well as slightly higher carb and slightly lower fat — all while following the Whole30 guidelines for foods that make me healthier. I resisted the higher carb/lower fat idea mightily when I first started my experiment about 8 weeks ago, but I have to admit, now that I’ve adjusted to 40 (fat) – 30 (carb) – 30 (protein), I’m feeling really good. It’s mentally annoying to not snack after dinner, but I’m honestly not hungry; eating before bed was just another habit that I’d fallen into (and enjoyed). I’ve figured out ways to get some lovely carbs in without feeling over-sugared or like I’m eating mountains of green things; at breakfast, I have a dose of butternut squash and at lunch, I rip into a cold grapefruit; other than than, my meals mostly look the same and keep me feeling satisfied.

Meditation & Sleep
I meditate for at least 20 minutes every day, and some days, it’s twice that. I’m getting more adept at keeping my mind from wandering, and it finally feels like part of my routine, instead of something special I have to force myself to do. The truly exciting thing is that I often find myself reflecting on my mediation at other times during the day. Take this morning, for instance. I was running late for the bus. (I’m almost always running late for the bus because I try to pack too much into my pre-corporate overlords time.) There I was, speed walking down the street, brow furrowed, eyes squinty, attitude somewhere south of pleasant… and then I took a deep breath, relaxed my face, and forced myself to bring it down a few notches. I figure if I keep at the meditation, I will eventually get better at automatically re-adjusting. Practice, practice, practice.

I’m also committed to plenty of good sleep and saying ‘no’ to social stuff for the next few months. I’m weary (although starting to bounce back), and the numero uno way to be my best, is to get plenty of rest. Plus, climbing into bed is delicious — this is a great time of year to snuggle under a blanket.


So that’s where I am and what I’m doing. How are you? What are your plans for being the best version of you in 2012?

 [photo from Flickr]

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  • Jude says:

    I just loved this post. So glad that your healing experiment has gone so well.

    I also require a lot of structure, and so my experiment kinda fell over. BUT! I’ve changed almost everything about my current plan, based on what I learned anyway.

    I’ll be hitting up the yoga a few times per week, dropping the metcons totally, getting my barbell on and not being so afraid of the carbs.

    I’ll also be avoiding all f’wits in my life and, just like you, remembering to relax my face (and my mind!).

    PS, I totally squealed when you used the word cockamamie. It made me happy.

    • Mel says:

      Cockamamie is a most excellent word, and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      I love the idea of removing the f’wits; approve wholeheartedly!

      I wish we could go to yoga together! So fun.

      Hope you have a wonderfully healthy, happy 2012… and I can’t wait to come to say hi in Houston before your cruise.

  • Melissa says:

    “imprinted on her like a baby duck” – love this description, there’s a yoga instructor I feel the same way about 🙂

    “Start, continue” – that and “begin, begin again, begin again” with compassion in the gaps….

    best for a happy healthy year!

  • Kelly says:

    Welcome back to the barbell! I have begun a (hopefully long) torrid love affair with the barbell, and I am so excited. Looking forward to watching your strength gains!

    • Mel says:

      I’m looking forward to strength gains, too! I did my 1RM tests this week –> lost 15 lbs. each on my back squat and deadlift after not doing them regularly for 3 months… but bench press and military press stayed the same. Here’s to getting stronger!

  • Love your plan!

    I’ve also learned that valuable lesson that if I just keep going, keep on truckin’ I will be successful.

    I just started following a Catalyst Athletics training cycle–and I LOVE it. I too like being told exactly what to do and how much weight to lift. It makes me feel like I’m making real progress instead of just doing things I like doing (or that I think I’m good at).

    Great goals, lady!

  • and by “goals” I mean “non-goals”

  • Marcy says:

    I love your site so much. It’s great to know other people out there are chasing the same goals.

    We’ve re-started bodyweight exercises while we’re in our apartment, but we definitely plan to have or join a gym once we find a house.

    I’m crossing my fingers for strength gains this time. I had to quit crossfit because I just couldn’t recover from the workouts. Now that my thyroid is supposedly functioning, I just have to not over-do it and hopefully I’ll get that elusive dead hang pull-up.

    • Mel says:

      On one hand, I miss CrossFit — and on the other, it’s a nice break right now to not be doing it.

      Sending you tons of “get a dead hang pullup” vibes!

  • barb says:

    love this post – particularly part about tongue yoga and your meditation – you continue to inspire me. btw – how did you determine you needed the 40-30-30 split – i am just about to finish the leptin reset and trying to figure out what my optimal maintenance should be. this post made my friday!

    • Mel says:

      I got advice from some smart people that I should try to divide my macronutrients evenly among carbs, fat, and protein, but getting my fat that low and carbs that high was tough, so we compromised on trying 40-30-30. Again, it’s all a big test, so I’m not advocating that others do what I’m doing… but 50% fat, given my history of obesity and my thyroid challenges is probably too high. And if the fat% goes down, the carbs naturally go up.

      Glad you liked this post!

  • Chris says:

    waaaaa. I wanted to read about The Healing Experiment and clicked on your link:

    Sorry, the page your requested could not be found, or no longer exists.

    • Chris says:

      (The grammar is not mine, by the way; it’s wordpress’s).

    • Mel says:

      Link is fixed now. Thanks for letting me know!

      • Chris says:

        thanks for fixing the link – your effort is very interesting to me, since I started on thyroid meds earlier this year (and feel better, I think) and I’m still trying to coax my body to let go of extra body fat, despite very regular lifting and sports and stuff. my trainer remarks (not happily) that my body weight stays remarkably the same. (except when I eat things made with wheat, and then I gain weight like the planet’s gravity has changed. Wait, that makes no sense. Like I went to mars. No, Jupiter.) You get the idea.

        • Mel says:

          I do get the idea… I feel you, for sure. I’m going to continue to be open about what I’m doing, so maybe some of the stuff I’m going through will help you figure out how to adapt what you’re doing.

          Good luck — and stay in touch!

  • Rebecca says:

    I loved Kundalini Yoga – the only problem was that a friend asked to come along but then I really had to put her off as I’m fine doing “wacky” stuff with strangers but with people I know……

    • Mel says:

      HA! Yeah… Dave went with me, and I could hear him breathing a few times, which was kinda weird. But since everyone is kind of being a weirdo, it’s not so bad.

    • Chris says:

      Kinda like seeing people you know while you’re sunbathing at the nude beach. At what distance do you cover?

  • ashley hibbitts says:

    Have you any Snatum Kaur? She sings the kundalini mantras. One is the song you posted above. I love to listen to all her songs when I need chilling out. I LOVE your whole plan, am following it myself and seeing great results. Happy!! Tomorrow I’m going to try the US Wellness Gyro recipe. Thanks for your POSITIVE, HEALTHY contributions to this community. You ROCK!!

  • ms jane says:

    2012 has already slapped me in the face but I’ve started and just need to continue. Thanks Mel. On a lighter note here is the most embarrasing yoga story ever. When I was doing my teacher training (in the Iyengar tradition) we had a workshop with some of the most senior teachers from around Australia. We had been up in shoulder stand for about 20 minutes when I decided I needed to come down. I had just had my second son a few months before and, as I got up and walked across the studio, I did fanny farts the whole way. LOUDLY. I just fanny-farted my way outta there. HUMILIATING!!! Anyway yoga is about letting go isn’t it so that’s what I did! Crikey!

    • Mel says:

      OMG. That is a fantastic story. I LOVE it. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sure it was embarrassing, but I bet it was liberating, too, right?!

  • Jeanye says:

    What a treat this post is! Thank you for sharing yourself so freely. You inspire so many.

    My theme for the year is something I borrowed from an email a friend forwarded. “Explore the world of contentment. It is a place of wonderment.”

    I crossfit and I eat clean. However, I’m motivated by fun and function in the workout (or playout as I like to call it) and the pleasure of a great meal as opposed to adhering to a rigid plan.

    It’s my crossfit and paleo plus grace plan. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      1. I love the idea of playout. Genius!
      2. I also love the idea of focusing on contentment and wonder — that would be a beautiful way to experience the world.

      Thanks for sharing, Jeanye! Glad you’re out there and part of our little crew here.

  • Jen says:

    Thanks for sharing and sending positive vibes for your continued success. My husband and I are going strong in the Well30 and we love cooking recipes your book, WELLFED.

    Just curious, what kinds of fats are you eating to meet your 40%?

    • Mel says:

      I’m eating coconut oil, grass-fed organic ghee, and fatty-ish meats — plus sardines and tuna packed in oil. I’m not eating nuts right now because I just feel like the other fats are a better choice for now.

  • Jennifer says:

    Just made a full dinner with a friend out of your cookbook and everything was a HUGE hit – salmon, cumin roasted carrots, cauliflower pilaf (threw in a side of garlicy kale) and it was the prettiest and tastiest plate all weekend. Loving it!

  • Melissa says:

    Hi! I was driving behind an SUV a couple of days ago with a Caveman Cuisine advert on it! (Yay Austin!) I had heard of Paleo but not in detail before. That advert lead me here, and wow! My fiance have been looking for a diet/lifestyle change that makes sense. We’ll be trying Paleo now. You blog is amazing! Thank you for all the information.

    • Mel says:

      What a cool way to find your way here. I’m so glad you did! Let me know if you have any questions — my email is up at the top of the page.

  • leah says:

    I’m sitting here after macking down that the-best-chicken-you-will-ever-eat-ever and some dipping sauce from your recipes.

    I feel high. NO really. This food is good like that.

    Found your site through and what a delight you are. Truly.

    Chopped Turkish is coming with me to steak night with some pals tomorrow. Doing up my beet greens in that creamy sauce you recommend. Oh – and those roasted radishes. Are you joking !?!?! They are like vegetable candy pops.
    What a discovery.

    I have been in kitchen reno drama for the past few months and – like a punk rocker – I’m in the corner with arms crossed and a pouty lip – refusing to cook till I get my kitchen back. Sigh. I found your blog an said – f*ck it. Went out and bought about 30 bucks worth of veggies, put some Lucinda Williams on the record player and made a big ol’ cookin mess. And now I have some groovy little numbers all lined up for the week of eats.

    I also had a playful blast trying out your recipes. Lovely change from my usual gear.

    I haven’t had a good day in the kitchen in a long long while. I loved it. Thanks for the inspirations. I’m so happy.

    Keep being great out here in blog land.

    • Mel says:

      Hey, Leah! Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I love everything about this post of yours… so glad you found a bunch of recipes you like!

      And I’m really glad that you re-connected with your kitchen. AWESOME!

  • Monica says:

    I miss Kundalini yoga! I was introduced to it in a rather unconventional way…needed a place to say during an internship and a coworker told me there was a room in a Kundalini ashram he ran. I had no idea what that meant, but was excited to have a bed to sleep in. Anyway, once I was living there I would usually join in during afternoon classes, but my absolute favorite thing ever was the 4 am session. I only ever managed to get up once, but I could hear and feel the chanting throughout the house – it was AMAZING. I absolutely loved just lying under my blanket and feeling/hearing it – one of the most comforting things to wake up to ever. My second favorite thing was the post-yoga tea hangout. I still make that tea at home all the time, sadly without the yoga beforehand. I can’t leave without saying…your book is AMAZING! Thank you for sharing your love of cooking with the rest of us!

    • Mel says:

      That is a pretty kickass story — and I would love to hear middle-of-the-night chanting like that. So cool.

      Thanks for the sweet words about Well Fed!

  • Ann Wendel says:

    Glad to hear you are doing well! If anything, our thyroid issues force us to slow down and do what’s best for our health at that moment in time! I agree with listening to Snatam Kaur Khalsa – when I put her music on it changes the whole vibration in the house (you know what I mean?) She has the most divine voice. My kids have loved her music since they were preschoolers. Here’s a link where you can listen: