Back at it

Well I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging this summer to focus on some other things.  I often struggle to balance work and play in my life and while I can’t always cut back on work hours (you know because of bills and things),  I do sometimes find it necessary to cut back on some things to allow other things to flourish.  So unfortunately, blogging took a hit (as did a few other things).

But now I’m back at it!  This summer has been a whirl-wind of events, work, parties, and trips.  I allowed myself to cut back on my hourly work at the gym to teach more classes.  I got shifts covered so I could take trips with family and friends.  I drove to lakes and rivers to spend a few hours with the dog in the water between shifts.  But I also took more work home, spent longer hours at work when I was there, and used Sundays as the day to “catch-up” on sleep (tip: it doesn’t work).  So it’s time I start re-focusing on eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and taking some me time.

First thing first, I am keeping a fairly detailed list of each day in a notebook for the remainder of August.  This is both to hold myself accountable as well as check-in with any unhealthy habits that may have sprung up these past three months.  I’m including things like how well I slept, what I ate, how much water I am drinking throughout the day, exercise and daily steps.

Second, I am setting small goals to help get myself back in the game.  This summer I would allow “active days” such as hiking, playing with the dog (for 30+ minutes straight), swimming, etc. replace a workout.  Now I am setting the goal of 4 workouts a week plus at least one active day.  This will get tremendously easier when I start teaching workout classes regularly in September, so I may increase the goal.

Third, I am going back to planning my meals each day.  During the chaos of summer I was often on the road or running around when meal times hit.  While I tried to make the best choices I could given the options in front of me, it wasn’t always enough.  Now I am thinking through breakfast the night before, making sure I have all necessary ingredients.  On the walk home from my morning shift I will think about lunch options, and dinner will start being planned in the afternoon, leaving time to cook, prep, or even run to the store for missing ingredients.  Also I will stock the house with healthy snacks so I can avoid running down the street for some fro-yo mid-afternoon.

**Side note, there was one day this summer my sister and I had fro-yo for breakfast.  Seriously, we were the first customers of the day and they were in awe of our breakfast choice.**

Sometime you just have to let life happen.  We can’t always be perfect.  Maybe traumatic events occur, causing us to focus on things other than ourselves.  Sometimes you just have to let loose.  The most important thing to remember is that you are worth it.  Worth the healthy food and the splurges, worth the hard workouts and the couch time.  Mental health is important too!  Try to follow an 80/20 lifestyle, choosing healthy options 80% of the time, but allowing for 20% “slip-ups”.  When you are motivated and feeling good push to 90/10!  Maybe even 95/5!  But know that you aren’t a failure if you slide back to a 70/30 lifestyle.

 

Good luck!!

An Introdution to Veganism

Sometimes I think the universe played a grand joke on me when I decided to study nutrition.  Since taking on nutrition as my career choice I have been diagnosed with two conditions requiring restrictive diets.  It’s like the universe wanted to give me tests to see how well I truly understood my career choice (FYI: I passed with flying colors, if I do say so myself).  One of these conditions has forced me to completely eliminate dairy.  On top of this I stopped eating red meat around the age of nine because I simply did not like the way it tasted.  So after doing some of my own research, I decided to take the next step and follow a vegan diet.

Now to be clear, I am currently eating a vegan diet during the week and allow for a few non-vegan items during the weekend.  This is to help me adjust more easily to the change (as well as those kind-hearted people who sometime provide me with food and who are just figuring out the previous dietary restrictions).  I am currently eating animal products in about three meals a week.

Now this post is not to condemn any lifestyle choice (because I’m honestly so sick of those kind of articles/posts).  Rather I am detailing my experience for those who are interested.  I had a fairly easy entrance into veganism because I have followed a semi-vegetarian (fish and fowl) diet fairly regularly for 27 years and have spent five years avoiding about half of the dairy products out there and now one full year avoiding (or trying to avoid) all dairy.  The thought of going Vegan (for ease, environmental reasons, and moral reasons) had been going through my mind quite regularly.  About a month ago a made the plunge and I am pretty darn happy with my choice.  If you are someone who is considering this change I have detailed a few hints and tips below.

Tip #1: Take it slowly.  Unless you have a medical condition, there is no reason to go cold-turkey on animal products.  This will be helpful if you are concerned about nutrients like protein and iron.  Taking time to do some research on high protein vegan options.  Test out recipes and vegan food substitutes to see what you like, dislike, etc.  Start by adding in more fruit and veggies, beans and legumes, slowly crowding out animal products. You don’t have to be perfect to start.

Tip #2: Do your research.  You can eat a vegan diet that consists of potato chips, Oreos, and diet Coke, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  It’s a common myth that vegans are healthier, but this isn’t always true.  If you are looking to cut out large groups of food you’ll want to know how to replace those nutrients in a healthy way.  As I said before, test out different recipes and food items to figure out what will work for you.

Tip #3:  Find your magic item.  I love eating cereals for breakfast (oatmeal, homemade granola, etc.) because of how fast and easy it is.  When I was faced with eliminating milk I had to find an alternative.  I tested different types (soy, almond, coconut, rice, etc) and brands until I found one that worked for me.  I also was introduced to Earth Balance butter spread.  I rarely use butter, but found I wasn’t always thrilled with vegan baked items and tested this as a butter replacement.  It takes some time and practice, but you can find these types of magic items that make it easier to go vegan.

Tip #4: Figure out what exactly you want to do.  Technically a vegan diet will avoid ALL products made from or by animals.  This includes meat, dairy, eggs, and even honey.  However, there are many people out there who consider themselves vegan, but consume honey, or raise their own chicken to provide fresh eggs.  Think about why you are making this choice (health, environmental, moral, etc.) and mold your diet around those choices.  Not everything is black and white.  Like I said, I tell people I consume a vegan diet when I am out and not in control of my food like I am at home.  There’s nothing wrong with ordering a vegan option at a restaurant, even if you would eat the same thing at home, but with eggs (as an example).

Tip #5:  Be prepared.  This tip has two parts.  First, you may want to get in the habit of carrying your own snacks with you, bringing your own side dish to parties, or even eating at home before a food-based event.  Not everyone will be aware of your dietary preferences/restrictions and even if they are, they may not fully understand.  You’ll get plenty of people who offer cookies, forgetting the butter used to make them.  Also, be prepared for those people who question your dietary choices.  They may pepper you with questions about how you get your protein, if you’re a member of PETA, or how in the world can you not like bacon.  It’s not fun, and you only have to answer to yourself when it comes to your dietary lifestyle, but I feel it would be negligent of me not to warn you.

 

**In this post I brush over reasons for consuming a vegan diet.  This is not because those reasons are unimportant, but rather because I don’t want to bring into this post the negative stereotypes associated with Vegans (I’m sure you see the posts and videos on how Vegans push their dietary choices on others).  That’s a topic for a different time (stay-tuned, because I’ll likely cover it on this blog later).  This post is a simple, non-judgmental, kind of how-to for those looking into a vegan diet.**

Toxic Relationships

My first toxic relationship was in elementary school, and luckily it didn’t last very long.  I was too young to understand what was happening, but I remember my mom pointing things out to me, and reminding me I was better than I was being treated.  My “best friend” at the time was one of those people that demanded attention.  She wanted to be noticed, the center of attention.  As a young child, when she selected me to be her best friend, I found it to be an honor; I felt special.  This “friendship” often left me in tears after school and my mom frustrated.  She would remind me of my other friends, who cared about how I felt, but it took a long time before I finally acknowledged what was happening and was strong enough to walk away.

Toxic relationships are complicated and no two are the same.  Unfortunately we still live in a society where people feel weak when it comes to addressing their concerns about relationships.  If a young women were to come to you, complaining of verbal abuse in her marriage, you would likely immediately come to her defense.  But what if the same women came to you saying someone at work was being mean to her?

It was early spring when a young girl at work started “mean-girling” me.  She was rude, would not work cohesively with me, and would talk behind my back.  I kept my mouth shut for a long time because I didn’t want to seem weak or like a complainer.  I didn’t want a 17 year old to determine who I was.  But the emotional strain began to wear on me.  I would leave work in tears every night and I debated quitting a job I truly enjoyed, with co-workers I loved (yes, even the one hurting me), because I was so unhappy.  Honestly what got me through it were talks with my then roommate and nightly cuddles with my dog.  Soon summer was coming to an end and this young women was off to college and her future and for me, things went back to normal at work.  Once the ugliness was behind us almost every single one of my co-workers quickly agreed that I was being “mean-girled” and that they had been uncomfortable with the behavior.  After this I began to reflect on how our society treat different types of toxic relationships.

Regardless of where a toxic relationship stems from, they are all damaging.  We seem to focus primarily on domestic violence in relationships as toxic relationships, but it is important for us to realize that any relationship that drains and damages us is toxic.  It could be a verbally abusive spouse, harassment from a superior at work, a friend who embarrasses you in large groups to make themselves sound better, or a parent that places excessive pressure on their child.  Damage is being done in each of the above situations.

When we are faced with toxic relationships in our lives we do have a choice.  Sometimes the choice may be the most difficult thing you can do- leaving an abusive marriage, cutting off neglectful parents, ending decades-long friendships, but there are always steps you can take.  Maybe you simply have a friend who complains constantly, draining you of energy and good thoughts every time you see them.  You could start filling your schedule with positive interactions, leaving less and less time for that friend.  There are some people you can eliminate completely from your life with some ease.  If this is not the case it may be time to start putting more energy into the positive.  Instead of trying to avoid the person, try to add joyful experiences into your life.  Start taking a workout class, take a book to the park and read, go on a walk, pick up a favorite hobby, schedule time to meet with people who support and encourage you.  Eventually you can fill your life with the good; empower yourself to be a happier and healthier person.  If the toxic relationship is still in your life this new energy you have found may help you make the hard choice or it may even spill over into your toxic relationship and begin to repair the damage.

 

**Disclaimer: This post is written to inspire people to build happiness and joy in their lives by eliminating negatives.  I fully understand that each relationship is different and the topics of abuse and violence are sensitive.  They have been included to acknowledge that these kinds of relationships exist, however the advice given may not apply to all relationships especially controlling or abusive relationships.  If you are a victim of abuse or violence please consider local shelters and hotlines for more specific help.

A Feminist Post

I had a recent experience that truly troubled me and still causes a gnawing in my stomach when I think about it.  A few weekends ago while grabbing drinks with a girlfriend I found myself challenged by an individual who seemed to think that I, a girl, could really know anything about sports.  What I thought would turn into a fun, lively debate on basketball legends took a sharp turn.  It wasn’t just the argumentative points he brought up, but also the way he interrupted me, spoke over my turn for rebuttal, refusal to combat my point with actual facts, and dismissed anything that came out of my mouth because I was “a girl”.  I was dumbfounded.  I even had a long-time acquaintance (a male) interject to say that I was actually quite knowledgeable about the topic and should be given a fair chance to speak.  The conversation moved quickly from sports to sexual assault to the bartender complaining that the female bartenders made more tips because of their boobs.  I was so insulted and felt so belittled I actually started to tear up (unfortunately, that was exactly what this guy wanted).

Females have had a hard time trying to break into the male-dominated world that is sports, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t women out there with the skills, talent, and knowledge to rival (or even out-perform) the guys.  Recently, a baseball lover and blogger faced some sexism through a dating app and her response was perfect.  Combining puns with an explanation on how rude and sexist the potential suitor’s question was she gained national notice.  I loved how she was able to use her wit and knowledge to point out that the man’s question was inappropriate and why.  Another recent campaign caught fire on social media highlighted the hate that female sports writers and reporters have to face every day.  The ad forced not only those involved, but also those watching to face the reality of anonymous “trolling” in our modern day, specifically that directed at women.

Women have made strides in sports as we have seen in recent media coverage.  It’s wonderful to see improvements, but sports is unlikely to make huge changes without changes in our society as a whole.  It’s terrifying to me the way Donald Trump speaks about women (among other subjects).  It’s as if treating women as objects is acceptable and that women should only be recognized for their looks, and possibly their ability to be a good wife.  But Trump comments are the extreme.  Much of the sexist attacks women face daily are more subtle.  For example, during the discussion with my counterpart at the bar he used a demeaning tone, while constantly interrupting me as if my opinions did not matter as much as his did.  It was as if he was saying, “hey, stop talking and listen to me because we all know I’m not going to listen to you”.  In addition, he refused to acknowledge the smart, well-thought-out points I made and rather attacked me as a person instead of addressing the topic.  Every day people like Megan Brown (see baseball lover above) are given backhanded compliments like, “you know so much about sports… for a girl”.  As if a woman could not have knowledge on sports.  It starts with little comments like those and builds to Trump-like levels.

The biggest comment I get when expressing my feminist views is that I must hate men.  Feminism is not anti-men, but rather the idea of total equality regardless of sex.  This cannot be overstated.  We raise our children to treat other children kindly- not to push, hit or kick them, not to hurt them, but we ourselves often fail to treat others kindly.  The issues of feminism are rooted in this problem.  Most of the worlds issues are rooted in this problem.  We need to stop putting others down based on our differences.  Skin color, gender, sexual preferences, religions, appearance, beliefs- these all can vary and we can still have good people.  A good person is a good person.  So maybe next time someone talks about Feminism (or Black Lives Matter, etc.) take a step back and realize that maybe it’s about treating people kindly and equally and not about an agenda.

Getting Back on Track

This weekend, after working so hard on focusing on me and my health, I went a little crazy.  I had a good friend in town for a few days, and while we spent one day exploring the waterfalls of Yosemite, most of our activity was based around food.  There were ice cream sundaes, treats, chips, beer, and more food than I tend to eat.  Don’t get me wrong, I had the opportunity to say no at times, but more often than not, I chose to indulge.

Now it is Tuesday and I am feeling sluggish and tired.  My whole body feels “salty” and I know that it’s time to get back on track.  Sometime life throws us a curve ball and we find ourselves making choices we know we shouldn’t normally make.  This can be okay if we limit these choices.  Be warned- the more poor choices you make, the harder it will be to get back on track.

Here is a quick list of tasks I will be working on to realign myself and bring my health back to the front.

  1. Drink water!  I know that I did not consume as much water as I normally consume, but I don’t think there was every a day a fell below 64 oz.  I know that I need to replenish and cleanse my body and the easiest way to do that is water!
  2. Plan.  I am a big planner.  I like to lay my week out in front of me to be sure I get everything done I want to get done.  This week I will be focusing on when I can get my workouts in as well as planning food daily.  I rarely plan my food intensely, instead I choose to think carefully about each meal choice before I make/buy/consume it.  For example, after eating yesterday’s lunch (delicious) I made the conscious effort to adjust my dinner intake and boost veggies while limiting fat and sodium (which my lunch had been a little high in).
  3. Grocery shop.  My house is a little bare, as I just spent a week house-sitting, followed by moving homes and then a visitor.  I don’t have my usual food choices readily available and that needs to change.
  4. Take some me time.  This is the biggest one for me.  I tend to overwhelm myself by packing my weeks full, making it hard to focus on me in any way.  I have a busy week  and I need to remember not to wear myself out!  In my planning I will include at least 15 minutes of some real, solid me time (meditation, reading, playing with the dog outside, etc.).

Focusing on these four things will help me start to refocus.  The biggest problem I see with people trying to get back on track is they tend to do all or nothing.  After a weekend of overindulgence they limit themselves to salads and water and commit to working out every day of the week.  This creates dramatic ups and downs in their health.  Sometimes we need to slowly get back on track, and often in doing this we end up getting there faster than we expected!

 

Sports Drinks: Performance Enhancing or Damaging?

Over the past few years my experience with student-athletes has expanded (primarily high school aged, but also younger).  These individuals can be so complex your begin to lose your mind.  At this age they are still growing and need vital nutrients to support their growth.  They are also facing body-type issues and stereotypes that can damage them both mentally and physically; and with their hormones they begin to focus their attention on others and how others perceive them.  As they reach high school specifically, they begin to experience new independence as well as rebellious tendencies.  Add on to these normal teenage health concerns pressure both physically and mentally of sports and you can see how things can get confusing!  I have found the best way to address this group is to focus on one topic at a time, and quite possibly the most popular is sports drinks.

**To be clear this will focus on sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) not protein shakes.  That is a whole different can of worms.**

Sports drinks were originally made to help athletes replenish both water and vital electrolytes lost during extreme physical activity.  The idea being that high level athletes are losing so much sweat (water + electrolytes) that it can be hard to replenish these nutrients quickly using food and water.  They combined these items into a beverage form making them easier to consume (especially during activity).

Well, that all sound great, but in the process of creating a tasty and efficient beverage, those who make sports drinks added in some items that are not as beneficial as the water and electrolytes.  First off, many sports drinks are loaded with sugar.  While this can be a beneficial boost for athletes who are depleting their carbohydrate stores and need added energy, the amount of sugar is often excessive and definitely unnecessary for those who are not high level athletes or exercisers.  Even the initial boost of energy provided by the sugar will end quickly, due to the fast metabolism of the sugar, ending in low energy and blood sugar.  Excessive amounts of sports drinks, prior to competition can be equally as dangerous because the extra sugar can cause the body a struggle with blood sugar that could result in loss of consciousness among other things (scary!).

Also, many of the well known brands do not contain enough electrolytes to really balance the body out.  They may contain plenty of sodium, but not enough potassium.  The build up of sodium can put stress on the kidneys and ultimately result in kidney stones.  Sodium and potassium work together in the body so when they are out of balance they aren’t as efficient.  Excess sodium and limited potassium will not help the body function after a sweaty competition.

Citric Acid can be another concern, especially if someone is consuming sports drinks regularly.  The acid can wear down the enamel of teeth.  Think of people who drink sports drinks regularly, add in other sources of acid in the diet and you can see how the damage can add up.  Especially if those consuming the beverage are children, who are already at a high risk for tooth decay.

Not all sports drinks are bad for you!  In fact, there are many brands out there working hard to provide a quality beverage choice.  My biggest point here is that if you are inactive, a causal exerciser, or even a regular exerciser you DO NOT NEED sports drinks.  Maybe if you take a HIIT class outside in the heat of the summer you will need one of these drinks to quickly replenish you, but that’s not an everyday event.  Think of football players who practice in full pads, twice a day, followed by weight lifting, in the summer… are you sweating like they are?  Are you fighting a fire, in the forest, with complete gear plus extra packed on your back, in 90+ degree weather?  There are cases where instant hydration is necessary, and I recommend to those in these situations to choose their sports drinks carefully, but these are not regular cases.

It comes down to what I always say- focus on real foods!  This means real drinks as well.  No artificial color or flavors!  Think about what you are putting in your body.  What is your goal with this food/drink?  What is it supposed to do?  Do you need it?  What are the benefits?  Consequences?

Pay attention to what goes in your body and your body will thank you!

 

 

Power of Positivity

Last spring a friend of mine shared an article she wrote.  The title of the article was Paying it Forward: It’s far easier than you think.  Right away I was struck by the title and clicked on the link.  At this time I knew nothing of the website which she wrote the piece for (www.heyyoureamazing.com) or the organization’s purpose.  After reading her article, inspired, I perused the site.  I found out that the movement was started by a student I went to college with, but never really knew.  On top of that it was inspired by his friend, another student I only knew as a friend of a friend.  As if the topic didn’t speak to me enough, realizing these people were connected to people I was connected with gave me more to love about the movement.

image1(2)

I am a huge believer in the power of positivity.  I see daily how a positive mindset can change a person’s health and sense of self.  I admit to being a perfectionist, not the kind of perfectionist that you say you are when an interviewer asks about your weaknesses (although I do say that), but a perfectionist who can let problems control my life and force me to tears.  I expect to be perfect in all I do and on top of that I internalize any negativity I face (literally internalize as I started suffering from ulcers as a teen).  I have worked as a waitress for years now and there is still a negative Yelp review (in which I followed restaurant policy and did all I could) that can make me sick to my stomach when I think of it.  I can forgive others easily, but I hold on to my perceived failures longer than appropriate.  It’s not wrong to expect your best from yourself, but when the failures begin to eat at you, it’s time to take a step back.  For years I have had the desire to pursue some of my creative impulses and begin a business of my own, but I know my perfectionism and fear of failure are holding me back.  When I feel as if I am succeeding and doing things I love the positivity flows throughout me and seeps into every aspect of my life.  I am happier, healthier, and I’m sure my friend and family would say I am more fun to be around.

image2(2)

But this post is not meant to be about me.  This post is about positivity!  Hey You’re Amazing is celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Week 2016 by promoting kindness and positivity all week long (as well as every day).  Check out their Instagram (hy_amazing) to see what they’re up to today.  Little things like smiling at a stranger, opening the door for someone, paying for someone’s coffee, etc. can make a huge difference in someone’s day and ultimately their life.  Not only that, but you can increase your happiness by doing these things for others.  Give it a try!  I have been passing out the cards Hey You’re Amazing makes to clients in need of a confidence boost, tips jars, hiding them around my small town, putting them in greeting cards, and just handing them to anyone I think may need one.

image1(1)

If you are interested in learning more about Hey You’re Amazing and their movement visit www.heyyoureamazing.com and read up on it.  Request some cards today to help spread the positivity!