January 05, 2010

Modifying goals to fit the situation: a primer

We all start every new year with a list of goals, even if we don't make formal resolutions. Whether those goals involve fitness, mental health, our relationships with other people, the level of cleanliness we can achieve in our cars or houses is immaterial: sometimes, things happen that can throw us off track.

Take Crabby's recent foot injury, for example, and her reaction to it. Rather than sink into the couch with a permanent pout on her face (well, a *deeper* permanent pout), she experimented to see what she could do to stay active without further damaging herself. It might be overstating the case to say that she found things to do that she enjoys as much as running, but at least she kept moving.

Or, take my recent discovery (since it *is*, after all, all about me) that I have become quite frighteningly hypertensive.

Yep. Stage I hypertension (defined as a systolic blood pressure at or above 150 and/or a diastolic at or above 90) is in da hizzouse! It was a shock to learn that, especially as my BP was a nice, healthy, boring 110/68 as recently as March. Now I'm in stroke, aneurysm, and cardiac muscle remodeling territory.

That discovery brought my planning for the next year to a screeching halt and made me re-evaluate my short and long-term goals. I had to change my planning, change the things I wanted to do to meet the goals I had, and add another short-term goal to my list (ie: bring blood pressure back to a healthy level).

There are three very important things to do when you get hit by A Change In Circumstance.

The first is to look at the root cause of the problem that's causing the change. If your problem is, say, a workout-related injury, you'd take a look at your shoes. Are they worn out? Were you exercising, a la Coco, in stripper heels, thus spraining an ankle during your burpees? Were you overtraining? Were you just plain doing something wrong?

The second step, once you've identified the problem, is to take concrete actions to change it. For the Crab, that involved walking rather than running, and doing more low-intensity, stationary stuff. For me, it meant ditching everything in the pantry, fridge, and freezer that had more than 5% of the RDA of sodium in it. Then I made a grocery list of foods high in potassium and low in sodium. Just doing those two relatively simple things reassured me: it meant that I have control over this situation, at least to some degree, and thus can solve the problem.

The third step is to figure out ways to incorporate your change in circumstances into your long-term goals. This one is a toughie: if I can't eat any of the delicious, low-point, high-protein Boca Burgers I'd been snarfing down at an astonishing rate, how will I continue to lose weight? If Crabby can't go for her daily runs, how will she keep from strangling random strangers on the street?

The trick to making the third step work is to break your Big Goal down into much smaller baby steps than you might think is logical. Rather than looking at progress on a monthly or by-mile or by-five-pound scale, take it down to weekly, quarter-mile, or two-pound scale. That'll help you keep track of how well your Situation Modifications work with your Overall Goal.

I won't lie: even a minor roadblock can be a serious mental and physical blow. Not being able to do what you want to do sucks rocks at the best of times; it's worse when not being able to do what you want means that you'll have to reach a cherished end-point more slowly. However! It's important to remember that in most situations, we can keep control of at least a few small things, thus staying--and I hate to use this word, but it fits--empowered, and able to change our lives for the better.

Now I'm off to go clear the last cabinet and check my BP for the morning. I still intend to be able to run a 5K this spring, and I intend to be able to do it safely. In a weird way, the discovery that I'm hypertensive will actually *help* me achieve that particular goal, as the AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio daily for folks like me.

That's lookin' on the bright side, ain't it?


  1. Sweet merciful crap, I had no idea your blood pressure could just explode like that. Glad you're seeing the positive and able to take steps to help bring it back down.

  2. who can come up with a better phrase than sweet merciful crap?

    Ill go with HOLY CRAPBALLS.

    so glad you are taking care of you and, as always, am in awe at your resilient attitude.


  3. I can't top sweet merciful crap OR holy crapballs, but damn..

    I'm glad you're being proactive and taking care of it naturally rather than pharmacutically. Dad had been controlling his cholesterol and BP well for years with meds before his sudden heart attack and subsequent quadruple bypass in Dec. Mom's relearning how to cook with even less salt and fats!

  4. I am with everyone else... sweet merciful or holy crapballs.. it all is what I said too.. but it was more like holy friggin crap but the friggin may have been something else! :-)

    Really glad you have such a great attitude about it & have made steps to correct it along with short/longer term goals to attend to the future as well! Good for you!

    Stay well!

  5. Yes, Amy, sweet merciful crap was probably the most perfect reaction. I must use it today.

    Glad to hear you're making major changes to get that blood pressure under control. It's strange that it can skyrocket so quickly. It's true that there's something to be said for tackling realistic goals, but it's good that you have the bigger picture (lowering blood pressue) in mind, too.

    By the way, that cartoon is absolutely hilarious.

  6. About a year ago we discovered that Husband's BP was 220/100. He was immediately put on medication, which is fine, and it has worked, but I wish he would be more proactive about other measures he could take to improve the situation. Good for you!

  7. Great post. Injuries and other roadblocks really are frustrating. I like the attitude that you can take steps to correct the problem incrementally.

  8. And, yet, here you are taking time out to blog and share useful information.

    It's great you are on top of that BP and not having it go unnoticed (I guess that's the sweet merciful part).

    Cartoon was worth laughing out loud!

  9. Sweet merciful BP medication! I'm glad there are things you can do to improve this hand of cards. Jeez.

  10. It is indeed scary that blood pressure can escalate so quickly--good thing you're so on top of it! Too bad it's so darn hard to avoid high sodium foods, but sounds like you're on top of that.

    Wish I could claim that I'm being a good sport on my foot thing like you are on your blood pressure thing. Had a MAJOR cranky attack yesterday. I really do NOT like biking and elliptical as much as running and walking and I'm SO ready to be back to my normal routine. Yet my foot is not. I was a total grouch all day about it. (Poor Lobster.) Reading your positive attitude here makes me feel a little silly about my tantrums.

  11. I had the same issue with my BP. It used to be around 104/70 ish...and then suddenly it started going up. Finally at the doctor's I pulled a 160/90. I'd been getting headaches and feeling dizzy pretty frequently. Even the doctor was confused, since I was a vegetarian in marathon training at the time and I watched my diet pretty carefully.

    Luckily, the doctor held off on the medication because the moment I got my anemia under control everything went back down to normal. (I always thought anemia caused low BP!)

    So sometimes the cause of high BP can be something completely random. The best you can do is live healthfully and keep an eye on it. Good luck!!!

  12. Diagnosis can sometimes be blessings in disguise, because they impel us to make changes. Sounds like you've got it covered.

  13. I'm having similar problems, although not as extreme in the BP dept. It's up to 125/80 instead of 105/72. Happened in a few months too. So weird. And, cholesterol jumped like that. (to now borderline unhealthy heading towards unhealthy). Yikes.

    Great tips for accomplishing the goals. Does this mean I have to do something about being healthier? Holly crapballs and sweet merciful crap ;)

  14. Great post! I'm glad that you aren't letting things slow you down. I have yet to have any injuries or setbacks, but I know that, when I do, they are going to drive me freaking crazy. So, thanks for the post.


  15. Sriracha (chinese) hot chili sauce has 1/2 the sodium that Red Hot has. And it's way hotter. So you use less. If hot sauce is a big deal to you. For me, it's on par with oxygen. Plus the garlic in it is good for BP, right?

    Love the cartoon, I've always had borderline too low BP (really fun when giving blood), so it's good info to know that things can change drastically in a short period of time; and what we're currently doing for ourselves may not actually be in our best interest.

  16. Great post Jo. I was just saying the other day how sometimes people make a big song and dance about new years resolutions and when the slightest thing happens, they fall off track. A "change in circumstance" is one of the constants of life.

    Check this out and let me know what you think:


  17. Didn't you recently have a post about how the BMI was so inaccurate and a poor predictor of future health issues?

    As Thomas Paine said, "Time makes more converts than reason."

  18. I'm glad to see that you are taking control of your BP issue - love that you are not letting anything derail you from your goals. You are very inspirational to me, Jo, and I hope your BP gets back to normal soon!

  19. The tiniest roadblock used to make me go crazy and depressed. I wouldn't move or anything. Now I've learned how to deal with it better. Thanks for the tips you gave. They're very workable. Hope the hypertension won't give you too much trouble. Take care!

  20. Thanks, guys, for all the props.

    And Nasty Anon, you might consider this: I became borderline hypertensive *after* losing a total of 22 pounds, decreasing my time in a three-mile run to just over 24 minutes, and upping my bench press weight to 135. The culprit? The low-point, high-sodium food that Weight Watchers allows, like Boca Burgers. My whole family, it turns out, is sodium reactive, not just me.

    After a week off the salt, my BP's dropped 35 points (systolic) and I feel less weird.

    Oh, and speaking of weird, "Holy Crapballs?" I thought my friend Karen's use of "Sweet crapping monkeys" was bizarre.


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