The Recession Slim-Down to Bulk-Up Plan

dollar_sami-keinanenRecession this, recession that. Everything is about this darned recession lately! Frankly, I try not to dwell on it, but I have to admit that sometimes – just sometimes – I catch myself thinking twice before purchasing something because I should be saving money during “these hard times.”

Today, for instance, I was standing in line at the Starbucks stand in my building, eyeing the pumpkin loaf. Mmmm, pumpkin loaf… As I unzipped my wallet and reached for the dollar bills, my hand stopped, and the thought flashed through my head, I really should save my money.

Like the $1.45 was that significant, since I can honestly say I never purchase the pastries out of the Starbucks case (when I’m at work, at least. *wink*) But then it occurred to me: Hm, this recession thing just might work to my advantage in some ways.

As Leo Babauta would say in his ever-popular uber-blog, Zenhabits.net, “Less is more.” Here are ten ways you can save money during these “tough economic times” while improving and simplifying your life for the better, and maybe even while getting healthier and happier.

1. Cancel your cable. If you’re anything like I was, you’re wasting too much precious time watching celebrity reality shows on VH1 or reruns of Sex and the City. Save yourself 50 to 100 bucks a month, and save your brain from turning to mush. Aren’t there better things you could be doing with your time?

2. Eat more veggies. Eat less meat (the average person usually needs no more than 4-6oz. per meal) and replace it with tons and tons of vegetables! I got a bunch of organic kale for less than $1 the other day, and splurged on exotic veggies like baby bok choy and chayote squash for mere pennies too! Experiment with different kinds, and you won’t get bored. Head down to your local farmers’ market or Asian market and be adventurous!

3. Walk, take the bus, or bike. Save cash on gas, save the earth from your car’s emissions, and save yourself the stress. Instead, get some exercise or read a good book on the bus.

4. Cancel your newspaper subscription. What are you absorbing into your brain on a daily basis? The news is full of cynical, pointless, and depressing stories that only make you believe the world is a horrible place, and we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, so why even try. Try going on a media fast, and you’ll find that you just might be more energized. If you’re the type who absolutely has to know everything that’s going on, try a modified version: Allow yourself to skim the homepage of a news website, but allow yourself to only click on links to positive stories.

5. Learn to cook. The other day I made a healthy, fulfilling meal for about $5 per person: grilled organic free-range chicken in a homemade Asian-inspired sauce, steamed chayote squash, and brown rice. Cooking is so much cheaper than eating out, and you’ll save yourself the artificial ingredients, saturated fat, and sodium you’d get at a restaurant.

6. Just be. What is the cheapest possible form of entertainment? Doing nothing. What do you mean, Julie? How can I do nothing? Sit in a quiet place – somewhere in nature or even your favorite arm chair will do nicely – close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Pay attention to your breathing, quiet your mind, and just be. That’s right – for literally $0 you can reduce stress in your life, get some good oxygen circulating through your body, and get to know yourself!

7. Cut the venti caramel macchiato. Drink tea. Venti caramel macchiato: $4.00, 300 calories, 39 grams of sugar, caffeine jitters. Tall unsweetened green tea: $0.45, 0 calories, antioxidants, minimal caffeine. ‘Nuff said.

8. Play. Instead of paying an arm and a leg at the movie theater to sit in a dark room and not talk to your family or significant other, why not spend some quality time with them by playing in the park, playing a board game, or going for a walk?

9. Get a library card. It’s an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord for your mind – and it’s all FREE FREE FREE! Take advantage of your local library and all the free knowledge, adventures, romance, and laughs that live in its books.

10. Volunteer. Head down to your local homeless shelter, elementary school, or check out United Way for a volunteer opportunity that excites you. In “this economy”, rather than focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have, give thanks for it, and give it freely – whether it’s your time or your money. It’ll come back to you tenfold in ways that you don’t expect.

There you have it – my “Recession Slim-Down to Bulk-Up Plan.” The recession is a great excuse to slim down on things that waste your time or aren’t good for you or the environment, and bulk up on things that feed your mind, body, and spirit.

How are you slimming down to bulk up?

Photo credit: Sami Keinanen

The Case of the Missing Blogger: How One Fitness Wife Got Inspired

The Case of the Missing Blogger. No, it’s not a Nancy Drew book or Scooby Doo cartoon. Although Scrappy Doo was pretty kick-ass. It’s me. I’ve been MIA for, like, a week. I make no excuses, but I do apologize for leaving you, my faithful readers, hanging for so long.

So where have I been? I’ve been going through my days, going to work, coming home, cooking dinner for my husband, cleaning the kitchen, going to bed, and doing it all over again. And somewhere in between all that, I’ve been thinking about blogging. But every time I think about it, it’s immediately followed by another thought: “I”m not inspired to blog right now. I don’t know what to write about.”

The Case of the Missing Blogger was actually The Case of the Uninspired Blogger.

meditation_hape-geraInspiration. For anyone who dares to do what they love, or are on a quest to discover if what they do is what they truly love, regardless of how much they love it, they still occasionally find themselves coming up short in the inspiration category. You know how it is – you have that project that you know you should start. But sometimes the idea of starting – especially when you’re starting something from scratch – is just too daunting. For no good reason whatsoever.

So you search for inspiration. High and low, near and far. How have I been trying to get inspired? Let’s take a look:

Meditation

Some people are down with the “om”. Personally, I make an honest effort to pray and meditate regularly. Meditation has been shown to increase awareness and connectedness with a higher purpose. Not to mention it has some great health benefits as far as being aware of your body and your breathing.

But sometimes just the act of sitting and quieting your mind will somehow clear the way for thoughts and ideas you’ve had tucked away, but have never bubbled to the surface before. If prayer is a way for you to talk to God, meditation is God’s way to talk to you.

It’s an interesting practice to sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and quiet your mind, and just observe the thoughts as they enter your mind. As with anything, the more you practice the better you’ll get at it, but it does take some patience. Start slowly, even 5 minutes to begin with. Observe what enters your mind, and you might get some good ideas for whatever your next project is.

Free Writing

I discovered this when I was at a Women’s Conference for work. The CEO of the Oxygen Network, Geraldin Laybourne, also one of the executives during the glory days of Nickelodeon in the 90’s, said she got some of her greatest ideas – like the show Clarissa Explains It All – from free writing.

Here’s a how free writing works. Right when you wake up in the morning, even before brushing your teeth, get out a journal and start writing about whatever enters your mind as it enters your mind. It should be a stream of consciousness. Let your pen do all the work. Don’t stop writing for 10 full minutes. If your mind draws a blank, just scribble. Just write. It doesn’t even have to make sense.

If anything, even if you don’t get that great idea for your next novel or for the next shammy invention you want to sell “as seen on TV”, you’ll get some great insight into your thought patterns and what kind of thoughts you really keep inside.

Immerse Yourself

Some people immerse themselves in the subject matter or surround themselves with like-minded individuals. I wanted inspiration to write, so I went to an Elizabeth Gilbert lecture, hoping to meet other writers. I met one, but unfortunately for the most part the lecture was mostly just filled with Eat Pray Love fans. (Elizabeth Gilbert is a riot, btw.)

Want inspiration to start working out? Try joining a class, or even subscribing to a fitness blog. Buy a nutrition book, or try hanging up a poster of someone whose level of fitness you admire.

Do anything and everything you can to surround yourself with what you’re trying to do. Just getting your mind to start thinking about the subject matter can spark ideas that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Or it can push that button that you needed pushed to get started.

Just Do It (No copyright infringement intended, I swear.)

Nike was on to something. Just start it. Start anything. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do the thing and you will get the energy to do the thing.”

I propose that you do the thing and you will get the ideas and inspiration to do the thing. Just get started. And if it doesn’t come, step away for a little bit, and start again.

So how did I get the inspiration I needed? I sat down and started typing. And somehow the words eventually came. Of course, I’m always surrounding myself with fitness and nutrition – hello, I’m married to a trainer, remember? – so that always helps. But when it comes down to it, the inspiration really comes when I just do it.

What do you keep putting off? Isn’t it time you get inspired and get to it?

Photo courtesy of HaPe Gera.

8 Goal Setting Guidelines to Help You Win in the New Year

new-picture-3

I know it’s kind of late to be talking about goal-setting since New Years Resolution time has passed, and about 80% of the general population has already given up on them.  I’m running a little late.

I already set some good high-level goals, but I know they’re not done yet because I need to get more specific.  So I’m in the process of doing so.  That got me thinking – what makes good goal-setting? 

Remember in high school – or was it college?  its’s all a blur to me anyhow – you were taught to make goals SMART (S=specific, M=measureable, A=attainable, R=realistic, T=timely)?  That’s all fine and dandy, but there’s got to be more to it than that.

Before I get into it though, I have a slight problem with the good ol’ SMART acronym that I need to get off my chest.  S, yes.  M, yes.  A, yes with a caveat.  R, yes with a caveat.  T, yes.  Explanation:

A.  “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” – Walt Disney.  Did anyone ever tell Walt Disney that his vision for a huge, magical theme park with mice in tuxedos and singing and dancing bears was unattainable?  You betcha.  So, this gets us into a discussion around visions vs. goals, which can be a meaty subject on its own.  Here’s how I see it: a vision is your long-term picture of what you want in your life.  Goals are how you get there. 

So, should your goals be “attainable”?  Yes, these are the stepping stones to attaining your big, scary vision.  BUT, they should be on “the teetering edge.”  As James Ray would say, they should be set so you don’t know whether they excite you or scare the shit out of you.

R.  See “A” above.  I always thought the two were the same thing, but for the sake of having a clever acronym were split into two.  (“SMAT” doesn’t sound as cool as “SMART.”)

Now that that’s off my chest, onto my goal setting guidelines:

  1. My goals are SMART, as we discussed above.
  2. My goals always span 5 categories: physical, mental, relational, spiritual, and financial.  Well-being encompasses all aspects of life, so I strongly believe that you need to give attention to all areas.  Some may get more attention than others at any one time, but there should never be one that is completely neglected.  I typically have one or two goals per category.
  3. My goals inspire me.   You are never going to achieve them if they don’t spark some kind of fire in you.  If it’s just words on paper, that’s all they’ll ever be.
  4. My goals are on the teetering edge.  Again, see discussion above.  They’re one step beyond what my initial gut reaction says I’m capable of. 
  5. My goals are written down.  Writing them down brings them one step closer to becoming reality.  If they’re just floating in your head, they’re likely to be forgotten.  Also, writing them down sends a strong signal to your unconscious (a.k.a. subconscious) mind that you’re committed. 
  6. My goals are written in the first person, are in present tense, and include a statement of gratitudenew-picture-4.  Setting your goals as “I am measuring at X% bodyfat, and am so grateful for it” or “I am so grateful now that I donate $Y to Charity Z once a month” is so much more powerful than “I want to weigh X lbs” or “To write Y blog posts every month.”  It sends a strong signal to your unconscious it’s already here and this is who you are.  In a great post about New Years Resolutions vs. Goals, Tim Brownson, UK qualified Life Coach, says it “forc[es] [yourself] to view [yourself] differently.”
  7. My goals are broken down into 1-year goals and then further broken down into 1-month goals.  Obviously I set my 1-month goals on a monthly basis.
  8. I reserve the right to revisit and reshape my goals.  Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a cop out.  I’m not saying that you should change your goal just because you’ve gotten lazy.  Sometimes you may discover down the road a goal doesn’t align with your vision.  Or maybe you underestimated the commitment required for another goal, and this one has to give way a little.  Whatever the case, sometimes goals have to change.  As long as it’s truly for a good reason, that’s okay.

I highly encourage you dedicate some good, quality time to goal setting.  It provides great clarity for what you want in your life, and is a great way to get motivated, inspired, and focused for the upcoming year.  I know it’s done that for me, and I’m ready to take on 2009!

Feel free to post some of your goal-setting guidelines as well!

To your health, prosperity, and happiness,
Julie (The Fitness Wife)

10 Ways to Stop the Snowed-In, Boredom-Driven Food Cravings

The snow has been falling outside for almost four days now, and looks like it might not let up for another couple more. This doesn’t happen where I live. Where I live, we get 1″ of snow and the entire city shuts down because of all the hills, the city’s inability to keep the roads cleared, and because this just doesn’t happen often enough so very few of us know how to drive in it.

Ah, gotta love Seattle.

Usually when it snows, it comes down for a day, and then takes a day or two to completely melt and start raining again. Not so much this time. This time we have at least 6″ on the ground, more in other parts of the city, and more to come tonight.

So, I’ve been stuck at home because my car can’t make it up the steep, unplowed hill that must be conquered in order to get out of my condo complex. I know many who, like me, are stuck at home because the hill they live on has been closed to through traffic. Just check out a couple buses that stupidly decided to go down an icy hill that ended on an overhang over a major interstate highway.

Anyway, I digress from my main topic of interest. With all this snow and being stuck at home, it’s super easy to get bored. How many books can one read, and how many movies can one sit through before going batty? Many people resort to eating. It’s a carnal instinct. Your hands want to move – move towards a bag of chips or cookies. And for some reason when you’re bored, your brain, along with your taste buds, start thinking about the bucket of ice cream that’s stashed away in the freezer.

The first step to conquering this kind of eating is awareness. Being aware is half the battle. The next step is making sure your cupboards are stocked with only healthy snacks. Then, if you find yourself yearning to reach for a snack just because you’re bored, have a back-up plan. Have a list of other things you can do to take your mind of it.

So without further ado, here is a list of things you can do to take your mind off your boredom-driven food cravings when you’re stuck at home:

  1. Clean! This is what I’m all about right now. Clean the clutter out of your house – it not only keeps you moving, but it energizes your environment and may help you get out of the sluggish mood you’ve been in.
  2. Go for a walk. Even more fun when it’s in the snow. My husband and I walked down to the grocery store twice today, and even built a couple snowmen outside.
  3. Chase your dog (or kids) around the back yard (or around the house as I did today). Pets are great at killing boredom, especially when you have a crazy one like mine. (Kids too! :))
  4. Make some healthy snack bars from scratch. Okay, I know this one seems kind of backwards because you’ll just want to eat the snack afterwards, but at least it’ll be a healthy snack, and by the time you’re done, it’ll be time for you to eat anyway!
  5. Dance! Like no one’s watching. It’s good for your spirit and keeps you moving!
  6. Do a quick circuit. If you haven’t worked out yet today, you may as well get it in now!
  7. Drink water. Sometimes when you have the munchies, you’re actually just thirsty. Try drinking some water and see if that suppresses your cravings.
  8. Start journaling. Give your hands and mind something to do. And, if you’ve found yourself emotionally eating lately, journaling might give you some insight into why. Journaling not only helps you practice your writing, but it also reduces stress levels, enhances your creativity, and is a tool for personal growth and awareness.
  9. Go play in the snow! A Calvin & Hobbes snow scultpure, snow angels, or a snowball fight will do nicely.
  10. __________<< Insert activity here. Okay, okay. I know you’re probably thinking this last one is a cop-out. But really, it’s about doing something that you become so engrossed in, you stop thinking about your case of the munchies. What simple hobby have you always wanted to take up? Is there a closet in your house that you’ve been meaning to clean out? How can you spend quality time with your significant other and/or kids without including some kind of eating activity? You get the idea.

So next time you get the urge to snack for no reason, 1) acknowledge what’s happening, 2) step away from the pantry, and 3) do something else!

Happy Snow Days!

Need a Pick-Me-Up? Try Energizing Your Environment

Wow, I haven’t worked out in a week. And it hasn’t been on purpose either, i.e. I didn’t have a scheduled break in my routine. I’ve just found myself being uninspired and quite blatantly lazy.

Do you ever find yourself stuck in that mode? The weather outside is depressing, it’s pitch black when you wake up in the morning, and you’re so busy that when your day is over all you want to do is crash on the couch and veg out in front of your favorite TV show?

That’s me right now, and I hate that I’ve gotten that way. Something happened, and all of a sudden, my motivation switch just turned off.

So I was on the couch watching an episode of Sex and the City – although an entertaining show, quite useless to tell you the truth – I took a step outside myself and looked at what I was doing. Yuck. I didn’t like what I was looking at. Because I knew I’m much, much more than that.

So I asked myself, why and how did I get this way? Then I took a look around my home. It was a mess. My laptop and papers were strewn about on the dining room table, mixed with random junk like CDs, a camera, and a mess of wires from random electronic chargers. Dishes were piled up in the sink. Shoes were littering the entry way, and a pile of wrinkled laundry taunted me from atop my unmade bed.

Double-yuck. I hope none of your abodes looked like mine did.

I realized my surroundings were draining me. My husband noticed it too. We’ve both been so busy, we’d let our home drift down our priority list. We’d eat dinner, pile the dishes in the sink and say, “I’ll get to that later,” only to find that “later” was two days later.

My mother would be so proud.

Think about this: You get up in the morning, and it’s dark outside. Your room is pitch black and freezing cold. You get out of bed and step into your living, and one of the first things you see is a disarray of mail you said you’d sort through yesterday. You go into the bathroom to brush your teeth, and your toiletries are scattered all over your counter. Or you get home from work, tired after a long day, and you walk into a house that is in shambles.

Doesn’t sound very energizing, does it?

What’s my point? Sometimes you have to look not only at yourself, but your surroundings to figure out why you’re feeling a certain way. Your environment has quite a significant impact on your levels of energy. Do you have an uninspiring picture hanging in your bedroom? Believe it or not, opening your eyes and looking at an inspiring picture or an uninspiring picture first thing in the morning can effect how you approach the beginning of your day.

When I see something that doesn’t move me or inspire me to get moving, I’m much less likely to move.

Make your environment an enabler for you to live the life you want to live – and that applies to the physical, mental, relational, spiritual, and financial areas of life. Your level of energy directly affects how much attention and effort you are able to apply to those areas and what you want to do with your life – working out included.

So, whether that means cleaning up the mess in your house, hanging an inspiring painting in your bedroom, buying a plant to bring life to your office, getting one of those natural light lamps to wake up to in the morning, or waking up to upbeat music rather than an annoying buzzer, do what you need to do to energize your environment.

All of the above are in my plan. Take a look around you. Do you need a plan too?

What’s the number for the gym? I’m calling in sick!

I’m a fairly healthy person.  I eat well (usually), I take my multi, I drink my superfood antioxidant drink, I exercise, and I meditate regularly.  I don’t get sick very often.  But last week, it happened – I got taken hostage by a head cold.

When I do get sick, I get really wimpy.  I stay home from work, I eat chicken  noodle soup, I drink gallons of echinacea tea, and I sleep to the humming sounds of my lovely humidifier. 

So when it comes to the daily dilemma, “Should I work out?”, I usually give that an “Ummm, I don’t think so!”  How could I possibly think about putting forth any physical exertion when I have to blow my nose every 3 minutes?  Oh no, I must get some rest.

Funny thing is, I usually feel worse after lying in bed all day versus when I’m up and around doing stuff.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m taking my mind off how miserable I feel, or if getting the juices flowing actually does help.  It’s probably a combination of the two.

My husband used to be the ultimate in whining like a baby while he’s sick.  I have to give him credit for being much better at that now though.  So I recently asked him if it’s okay to work out when you’re sick. 

When I asked him this, I almost cringed as I waited for the answer because I knew if I didn’t get the answer I wanted, I wouldn’t have an excuse anymore for being lazy and sitting on my butt feeling sorry for myself.

His answer was basically “it depends.”

“It depends on what?”  I asked. 

“If it’s just a cold, it should be fine.  There’s tons of information on that.  You should look it up,” he said.

Great, he’s doing this whole “you would do yourself well by researching this topic yourself” thing, I thought to myself.  I guess I’ll learn something.

Okay, okay.  So I looked it up myself, and here’s a quick test to determine if you should work out while you’re sick.  Ask yourself the following question:

Are my symptoms above or below the neck?

  • If it’s above the neck – runny/stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat – it’s okay to do a moderate workout.
  • If it’s below the neck – chest congestion, upset stomach, fever, body aches/chills, cough – you should take a temporary hiatus from the gym.

Dammit.  That means I should have gotten in a moderate workout at home last week while I had my cold.  (I still think it’s good I stayed away from the gym, otherwise I would have been spreading the love by sneezing all over the equipment.) 

Even if it’s a brisk walk or doing a quick circuit to some fun music, moving around will get your circulation going, lift your spirits, and might help clear up some of the congestion.

As all the experts say, however, listen to your body.  If you start hacking up a lung or sneezing like one of Snow White’s roommates, turn it down a notch and take it easy.  But make sure you’re being honest with yourself and not just making excuses.  Drink more water than you normally do, and get plenty of sleep. 

And I highly recommend a cup of hot tea, a warm blanket, and a Friends marathon.  Laughter is a great cure for the winter cold blues.

Resources:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/AN01097
http://www.ehow.com/how_6950_exercise-sick.html
http://www.prevention.com/cda/article/should-i-exercise-while-sick/e75e72e50d803110VgnVCM10000013281eac____/fitness/fitness.coaches/chris.freytag/

Let’s Indulge this Thanksgiving!

Ah, Thanksgiving.  My favorite holiday of the year.  Every November I look forward to waking up to the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, the sound of my mom clanging around in the kitchen, and the sight of my dad thumbing through the newspaper while the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade plays on the TV.

It brings a certain warm and fuzzy feeling.  You know the one – the one that makes you feel like you’re six years old again.  It’s a Thursday, and there’s no school.  The countdown to Christmas is finally starting.  And you’re about to eat the biggest meal of the entire year.

Succulent Thanksgivingturkey, creamy mashed potatoes, tangy cranberry sauce.  Savory stuffing, crisp green beans, decadent pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  And since I’m Filipino, fluffy white puto, peanut buttery kare kare, silky leche flan.  My mouth is already watering just thinking about it.

Food is an amazing thing.  Not only does it nourish your body, it brings family and friends together.  It satisfies your palate and your stomach.  And it has the ability to bring back nostalgia and memories.  It’s truly magical.

So what I’m about to say just may get me blacklisted in the fitness blog community, and my husband just might yell at me.

I propose that we all indulge this Thanksgiving.

[Screech!] Whoa, what?!?!  You want me to eat all that stuff?  What about my goals?  What about eating healthy?  What about steering away from the desserts, carbs, cocktails, and sticking to one plateful of food?

Okay, okay.  I don’t propose that you stuff yourself into a coma.  Until you couldn’t possibly move from the couch after you undo the top button of your pants, and you feel so sick to your stomach as you pass out for the rest of the night.  Because let’s face it – that actually ain’t all that fun.

I’m simply saying, enjoy yourself.  Thanksgiving comes but once a year.  Yes, it’s about giving thanks.  Yes, it’s about family.  But let’s be honest.  It’s about the food too.  Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the banquet.  If you, like me, are fortunate enough to have a table spilling over with food on this blessed day, you should enjoy it.  Enjoy that God gave you the gift of enjoying the savor, the sweet, the salty, the crunchy, and the creamy.  Enjoy the memories of festive parades and family football games that pumpkin pie and candied yams bring.

So while most fitness experts will tell you to skip the sugary desserts, drink fruit juice instead of cocktails, and load your plate up with salad so there is minimal room left for the mashed potatoes and stuffing, I’m telling you the opposite.  Enjoy the pumpkin pie, sip a martini, and make sure to get your fair share of the mashed potatoes and stuffing before your 15-year-old nephew hoards it all.

I will give you a few things to keep in mind however:

  1. Moderation is key.  Like I said, don’t stuff yourself for goodness sakes.  You’ll just end up feeling uncomfortable and sleepy.  Yes, eat a slice of pumpkin pie, but it shouldn’t be a full quarter of the entire thing!  Remember that it takes 20 minutes for your body to feel full.
  2. Remember there are consequences to your indulgence and accept them fully.  You just may feel like crap the next day.  If you do decide to eat all those goodies, understand that and accept it as a consequence.  Take responsibility the next few days to eat clean, drink plenty of water, and push yourself especially hard during your workouts.  (Skipping any workouts is NOT an option!)
  3. Promise yourself that it’s for Thanksgiving Day ONLY.  Most people make the horrible mistake of eating like crap for the entire holiday season.  It especially starts with Thanksgiving.  That’s when all the Christmas cookies start showing up at work, the cafeteria features gingerbread cake almost every day, and your weekend schedule is jammed with friends’ holiday cocktail hour. Don’t fall into that trap!  You’ll only hate yourself when the New Year rolls around.

So, this can be a tricky thing.  Allowing yourself to indulge for that one day can easily lead to moments of weakness throughout the holiday season.  You must have a strong mindset, discipline, and a strong commitment to yourself.  But if you truly feel confident enough to make it work, I say go for it.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!  I know I will.   Pumpkin pie, here I come!

Pumpkin Pie

*Obligatory disclaimer that my husband asked me to post: The opinions expressed in this blog do not reflect the opinion of Element 5 Fitness or the Element 5 Fitness staff. They are solely the responsibility of the author. (That’s me!) I am not a personal trainer nor a nutrition expert. I am merely sharing with you my thoughts, opinions, and what has worked for me. [End Disclaimer]

Do What You Gotta Do…Then Make It Work for You

My last entry got me thinking more about “cheating.” Why am I so concerned about “cheating”? Some of you might be thinking, “That’s no way to live – always having to stop yourself from eating something you enjoy.” That reminded me of a conversation I recently had with one of my good friends who is currently on a mission to lose some weight.

My friend is a very social individual. One night she’s out with one friend, and the next night she’s out with another. The common factor is a bottle of wine and dinner at some fancy restaurant. Besides the fact that she was spending WAY too much money on eating out, she was not eating very healthy, which didn’t help her at all when it came to her fitness goals.

She felt that there was no way her lifestyle and social calendar could uphold any type of “diet”, and she didn’t think that depriving herself from eating the food she enjoys was any way to live.

This is where we get into the whole “diet” vs. “lifestyle change” issue. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say it: “Diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes do.” Which is easier to do? Change how you eat for a month, or change how you eat for the rest of your life? I put my money on #1. The problem is, any results you saw from that diet will soon disappear, and you’ll be left at square one.

So I believe that to have any kind of lasting results, you must change your eating habits, or your lifestyle with regards to food and nutrition. However, what kind of lifestyle do you want to live? What is acceptable to you?

You’ve heard me talk about the 90% rule. Allow yourself a “cheat meal” only 10% of the time. Seems kind of strict, doesn’t it? Who wants to keep count of all their meals and how many of them were “compliant”? And who wants to wants to keep track of all the “compliance” rules?

This is where I blur the lines between a “diet” and a “lifestyle change.” I think if you’re going for a specific goal – to lose X pounds, to decrease bodyfat by X%, to fit into your old cocktail dress in time for your girlfriend’s wedding – you have to play full on. If you want more than snail-paced progress, you have to bear down, make sacrifices, and adhere to your “compliance rules”. You need to prioritize and say for example, “Right now this goal is more important than going out to dinner with my friends every night.” Do what you gotta do.

Once you obtain your goal, then if you want to maintain those results you have to take what you did and make it work for you in the long term. Go into maintenance mode, so to say. So maybe that means you don’t count your calories anymore, or you allow yourself starchy carbs even though you haven’t worked out. Or maybe you allow yourself a moderate “cheat meal” more than 10% of the time.

But you won’t go back to eating creamy pasta every night, making a run to the golden arches for lunch every other day, or eating a chocolate lava cake for dessert every single weekend. You have new habits and operate under new knowledge, so you can’t go back. “Man’s mind stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.” — Oliver Wendall Holmes

What I’m saying is, do what needs to be done to get to your goal. Once you get there, it’s okay to take it back a notch or two. Understand, however there are consequences. You might experience a slight decrease in energy, you might not feel as lean or rock hard. You might even gain a little bit of bodyfat back. But it’s all about tradeoffs. To enjoy life, if you truly feel you need to take it back a notch, then I propose you do it. Make it work for you. But keep in mind the consequences and what consequences are really, truly worth it to you. I highly doubt after accomplishing your health and fitness goal, you’ll think going back to your original unhealthy ways would be worth it. At least, I hope not.

So yes, while I was trying to achieve my goals, I was religious about the 90% rule. I logged my food, I watched my calories, I made sure I always ate a protein with a fibrous carb at every “eating opportunity.” Now that I’ve gotten there, I don’t pay as close attention, but I am ALWAYS cognizant of what I’m putting into my body and how it’s affecting me. I still make healthy choices, but I don’t freak out if I occasionally eat a snack without a source of lean protein. And I occasionally allow myself the pleasure of a warm, chocolate lava cake.

So what happened to my friend? She made a sacrifice, stopped eating out every night, and limits herself to one glass of wine every other week. She logs her food, eats plenty of vegetables and lean protein, and limits her sugar intake. She’s well on her way to her fitness goals. But once she gets there, I have a strong feeling she’ll stop logging her food and she’ll probably drink more than one glass of wine every other week. And that’s fine because to her, it’s worth it. (What is worth it, and if it’s truly worth it is another conversation.)

You know yourself better than anyone else. You know what’s important to you. Live life to the fullest. To you, if that means occasionally enjoying a bottle of wine with an old friend, more power to you.

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When the Cat’s Away…

I am a cheater. My husband has been out of town for the past week, and while he’s been gone, I’ve been cheating. About a year ago, he regularly went out of town once a month for work, and I cheated back then too. I cheated in the kitchen, I cheated in the bedroom, I cheated in the car, and I even cheated in my office.

It’s not something I’m proud of. This weakness of the flesh is a sore reminder that I’m human with carnal urges. How can I say no when temptation is staring me in the face? When I can feel the intense yearning deep within me…

Whoa, stop me before I get carried away and start talking about something totally unrelated to what I really mean to talk about: Snickers bars, chocolate covered pretzels, McDonald’s french fries, and hot fudge sundaes. Mmm…

*Sigh* So I know I’ve talked about the 90% rule and allowing yourself a cheat meal 10% of the time. And I admit that this is probably easier to uphold when your husband is your personal trainer. Here’s a secret: when my husband is away, the temptation to cheat is, like, 500% greater.

No one is here to slap my hand. I’m like the kid after trick-or-treating who is stuffing her face with the candy her mom told her to put away because she turned away for two seconds.

What about personal accountability, you say? I know, I know. Hey, just because I’m a trainer’s wife, and just because I have chosen to start living a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean I stop having all urges to indulge. Especially when no one is watching.

But I’m watching. I’m watching, and I have to live with myself afterwards. I’ve heard about a few strategies to stop yourself from reaching for the food that you know shouldn’t come anywhere near your mouth. Things like saying, “Oh well, it’s not part of my plan” and moving on from the tempting situation, or saying, “Thank you that I have food, but not this food.”

What tends to work for me – when I truly apply myself to doing this – is to just quiet my mind. Because usually while I’m reaching for the chocolate chip cookie, thoughts are churning through my mind like a whirlwind: “Mmm…chocolate. I love chocolate. But I shouldn’t eat this. Think about how you’ll feel after you eat it. But it’s just one cookie, it can’t hurt. But one cookie will lead to another cookie. And I didn’t even work out today, so I didn’t even earn it. But chocolate is so goooood…”

So the trick is to cut it off at the “Mmm…” or as soon as you can. Some have described this as the “chatterbox” in your head. And then move your body away from the cookie. As Alton Brown says, “Step away. Just step away.” (Well, that’s usually in the context of over mixing wet ingredients with dry ingredients when baking, but it works for my purposes too.) And then occupy your mind with something else. Like updating your status on Facebook or something useless like that. Or finishing that email you meant to send to your co-worker before lunch.

Okay, so tonight my method didn’t really work for me. I knew I should have eaten the salad with grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette, but the Panino Italiano with prosciutto and hot coppa was just crying out to me.

At least I’ve moved on from the hot fudge sundaes, Take 5’s, and Whopper Juniors from the cheating days of my past. This is progress. Next business trip he takes, maybe I’ll take the cheating down another notch. Probably a good idea.

Breaking Free

In my last post, I revealed that before I started working out regularly, I went through seven years of trying and failing. A vicious cycle that got me zero results and got me pretty down on myself. I was finally able to break free from that cycle, or the “thermostat”, about ten months ago. So how did I break free?

Before I get into that, I have to throw in a little disclaimer: I am not a therapist. I am not a personal trainer. I’m merely a person who’s also struggled with having the discipline and motivation to work towards her fitness goals. I can only share with you what I know – what worked for me. Everyone is wired differently. Everyone has a different background, different lifestyle, different situation in life, etc. Take what you need from what I say, make it work for you, or just leave all of it.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here goes.

The turning point came for me one night over dinner. My husband was telling me about his FitCamp program. It’s a 12-week program that includes group personal training classes, a nutrition program, before and after photos, progress tracking, etc. To qualify for the program, you have to go through an interview so they can get a feel for what your goals are and why you want to transform your life.

That got me thinking. What are my motivators? Why have I been trying to go to the gym for the past seven years? On a superficial level, it was always just to “look good.” I never really took the time to dig deep and figure out the real “whys.”

So after some soul-searching, I realized that it wasn’t about “looking good.” It was about more than that. Firstly, I didn’t just want to “look good.” I actually wanted to be the type of person who is healthy and fit. In other words, I wanted that feeling of achievement knowing that I reached the goal I’d been striving towards for seven years. I wanted to know that I grew as a person and was therefore able to get there and uphold a way of life I’ve always wanted to. Secondly, I’ve always wanted to help my husband grow his business. How could I represent his company in any way without “walking the walk”? And lastly, I wanted to be an example to my future children. How could I teach them to live healthy lifestyles if I’m not living one myself?

These were the true “whys”. Only after I identified them did I finally have a deep, emotional drive to achieve my health and fitness goals.

I met with my husband, and I told him that I wanted to join his FitCamp. Before that, I had never taken any kind of group fitness class. So this was stepping way out of my comfort zone. But I realized that I needed to hold myself accountable. For me, what better way to do that than to make it visible to other people when I’m not pushing myself hard enough or when I get lazy and skip class.

I interviewed with my husband told him all the reasons why this time I was serious about making a lifestyle change. I also set a timeline for myself – my cousin’s wedding in Vegas in four months.

Then the work began. It wasn’t easy, but I got there. I didn’t reach my goal by my cousin’s Vegas wedding, but that’s okay. I didn’t give up, and about a month later, I did get there. I knew I would.

The FitCamp was the jumpstart I needed. When the 12-week program ended, I continued to focus on the progress I had made, and I never wanted to risk losing it. I’ve found that once you get over the initial hump, it gets much easier. I stopped craving all the bad food (the bad food didn’t taste as good anymore either), and working out became less of a choice and more of a way of life.

Some days I’m still tempted to skip the workout, and yes sometimes I do. But I forgive myself, move on, and know that I’ll do better the next day.

So in summary, here’s how I broke free from my thermostat:

1) I took the time to do some soul searching and uncovered the real, deeply emotionally compelling reasons I wanted to reach my fitness goals.

2) I said these reasons out loud to someone else to hold myself accountable.

3) I set myself up in a situation to hold me accountable – the FitCamp. The key for me was that I made my quest visible to other people, surrounded myself with people who were also working towards similar goals, and made it fun.

4) I set a timeline.

5) I knew I would get there.

6) I was patient with myself.

So there you go. Like I said, take what you need from this and make it work for you. Hopefully I gave you some ideas about how you can break free from your thermostat. I think the most important things are to find the deep, emotionally compelling reasons behind your goals, be patient with yourself, and know you’ll get there. I mean really KNOW it. And you will.

Best wishes on your journey!

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