Category Archives: Mind

How to Not Die (Before You Need To)

I just got back from an awesome and quick workout and I feel a million times better than I felt yesterday after not exercising. Why is it so easy to forget how magical exercise is? Just a few days without it and I already was starting to fall into a slump, and with one good workout, I feel rejuvenated (and sore… I guess that happens when you’re a turd and don’t work out for several days). If you exercise regularly, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you’re missing out man! Pretty much anyone can exercise, so really you have no excuse. If you have a body, you can move it, and you should, and if you don’t, you’ll probably die like, 20 years sooner than everyone else, leaving behind your spouse and children to mourn your unhealthy life and unhealthy death.

Um, ok sorry. Sometimes I get really morbidly existential about health and exercise. BUT ITS TRUE, OKAY! If you don’t exercise and if you eat unhealthy food, YOU WILL DIE. I mean, we all are going to die, but its how and when you die, and more importantly, how you LIVE, that you have some control over. Some factors you can’t fully control, like pollution (lies, you CAN control this) or second hand smoke, and those things can cause all sorts of awful deadly cancers, BUT if you exercise regularly and stop eating crap and start eating organic whole foods from the earth, you can avoid so many more deadly cancers and diseases that are entirely lifestyle-related. Yes, I know, easier said than done, but (and I’m saying this to myself too), stop the excuses and just do it.

So… A few tips on how to NOT DIE BEFORE YOU NEED TO:

Start small if you’re new. Try one (and only one) of these changes for a week. Start gradually… by swapping one or two things a day, and slowly grow, week by week. Set small goals. See how it goes:

Food

  • If you’re still drinking soda (really? are you still 7 years old?? I guess easy for me to say because I’ve never liked soda), drink sparkling water with fresh lemon or lime in it.
  • If you like juice, find one thats 100% fruit, without added sugars or any of that bullshit that I can’t pronounce.
  • If you like sweets, eat fruit, or heck, just eat half of the damn cake and not the whole thing. Share it with another fatty friend who also is trying to be less of a fatty. Just start somewhere. (This is the hardest one for me. I fail constantly, but I’ve gotten better.)
  • If you like chips, go for tortilla chips instead of Lays or potato chips or any of that greasy nonsense. (Also easy for me to say… I’m not big on chips. Unless they’re tortilla chips, with guac, and then I’m done for.)
  • If you want a burger, eat half. Or take off the top of the bun. Or get a whole wheat bun. Or get chicken instead of beef. Or a veggie burger. Or turkey. So. Many. Options.
  • If you like cereal and milk, try oatmeal or Kashi cereals instead. (Or something natural, organic, and as close to raw as possible. Add raisins for sweetness, if you must.) And try almond milk or soy milk.
  • If you go to McDonalds or ANY other place where your food takes less than 10 minutes to make, DON’T. Like really, do you live in a cave? Has no one ever told you that these places are pretty much the worst thing you could EVER POSSIBLY DO TO YOUR BODY?! Like, why don’t you just shoot up heroin in an ally with a rusty shared needle or fucking go skydiving without a parachute. You might be better off. Fuck, at least skydiving is fun. But really. McDonalds? There is NOTHING WORSE. Plus if you’re like me and have sensitive skin, you’ll just become pepperoni face girl and it’ll be age 16 all over again, or you’ll be muffin top boy or man-boobs man or mom-arms lady and your stomach will hurt and you’ll probably have diharrea and you’ll feel lethargic and stoned and also cracked out because there is literally crack (and by literally I mean figuratively) in everything they serve you and you’ll hate your life afterwards and really, its just never a good idea. If you’re broke and are starving for calories, buy a jar of almond butter and a bag of carrots for like, $5 and you’ll pretty much have enough food for the whole day. Like literally if you’re starving. But if money isn’t the issue and its just that you don’t know any better or that you actually like the taste of a mediocre soggy burger, then listen to these words: IF YOU EAT FAST FOOD, YOU CAN START SAYING YOUR GOODBYES NOW.

I am totes serious about that.

  • OK but without the sass, here’s a more gentle solution. Craving fast food? OK, I know if you’re in the habit of going to a fast-food restaurant every so often, then it might be a hard habit to break. (I’m the queen of struggling to break bad habits.) Often you don’t know what other choice you have, or you don’t know how bad it is, or you really love the food. I get that. I’ve never liked fast food (I’ve probably eaten McDonalds less than 10 times in my life), but I fucking LOVE dessert, so I get the appeal. My suggestion is to go to McDonalds or whatever your poison of choice is, and choose something “healthier” off the menu, like a fruit and a salad or something. Or if what you want is a burger, just don’t go to McDonalds and splurge a little on a nicer burger at a restaurant! At least it’ll be more satisfying and probably slightly healthier. There are solutions. You just have to care enough to find them.

Exercise

  • When it comes to exercise, its the same idea. Start small. Try walking 20 minutes a day for a week. After a week, move it up to 30 minutes. After a month (or when you’re ready), try power walking. Looks silly, but gets your heart rate up and burns more calories. Give it a few more weeks and when you’re ready, go for a short run. 10 minutes, and you can take as many breaks as you need. Even if you weigh 300 pounds, YOU CAN RUN. Please, please, please, do it… for me??
  • After you’ve been walking, power walking, and jogging lightly for a few weeks or months, I challenge you to sign up for a 5k race. It should take you 30-45 minutes (or however long you need) and I promise you, it will change your life. If it doesn’t, you can come back here and smack me for being a liar.
  • Don’t be intimidated by a gym. I realize a lot of people avoid gyms because they think they won’t know how to exercise, or people will stare at them, or they’ll feel pathetic next to the beefy dudes or the skinny women, but remember what is important and just push through it. The first step is the hardest, and it will get easier with time. People that exercise frequently are usually so excited to help someone start exercising (like me!), so you might be surprised… you might find that people would be really happy to show you how to use the treadmill, or the stationary bike, or how to properly do a bicep curl. And if you have a friend who can go with you, even better! The point is, don’t be afraid. You are worthy, just like everyone else, of going to a gym and doing what’s best for you. So do it!
  • If you’re still too embarrassed or don’t have the money, try exercise videos. There are so many resources online… all it takes is a very quick google search and you’ll have access to some of the best trainers in the world, for free! This has been my saving grace for my broke ass here in Paris, since gyms are super expensive and difficult to find. Try Zuzana Light or Jillian Michaels to start, then explore to see what other videos or styles you like.
  • Try yoga. Anyone can do yoga and while it might not give you the intense cardio that you need for your heart and to burn calories, it gives you something much deeper and more powerful. It gives you awareness and appreciation for your body, confidence, and a sense of calm (among many other benefits). And, if done enough, it will transform your body. Try yoga once a week, then slowly increase. If you can do 15 minutes in the morning, every morning, you will feel better all day long. Promise.

***

If you’re not a n00b anymore and you’re already more established on the road to a healthy life, which is where I think I am, I think these are the things that work for me, or that I should work on more.

  • Portion control. I know this is really vague because, especially in America, our idea of portions is entirely skewed, but start small and eat off of a smaller plate, or share a dish at a restaurant with a friend, or measure out your servings when you’re at home. This is a struggle for me, but I’m trying.
  • Lessen carbs. They’re the bain of my love handle existence. It’s amazing how quickly the weight comes off when the carbs are gone. That means less bread, less potatoes, less cereal… and sadly for me, less oatmeal. But little by little, it gets easier. And avoid AT ALL COSTS any refined carbs (anything white, like bread, pasta, rice, etc).
  • Lessen dairy, especially cheese. Its fatty. Enough said.
  • Cut out red meat. Cholesterol and saturated fat up the ass.
  • Eat more greens. Spinach and green beans are my go-to, because I’m picky and I hate broccoli, asparagus, and pretty much all other green veggies. Half of the plate should be green. Personal rule of thumb.
  • Drink more water. Not a problem for me because water is all I drink (I don’t like anything else, oddly), but some people (I’ve noticed French people in particular) don’t drink water! Aren’t you thirsty!??
  • Drink more green tea between meals when the hunger pangs arrive. Apparently helps curb the appetite for a little. I’m a monster snacker so this might help me stay away from the temptations when its not meal time.
  • Experiment in the kitchen making healthy swaps for your favorite meals, like instead of spaghetti with meatballs made out of ground beef, use whole wheat spaghetti (if you must) or even better, spaghetti squash with turkey or tofu meat balls. This is actually one of me and my moms favorite things to make when we’re lazy. Trader joes has awesome meat-less meatballs that have tons of protein, with a little homemade pasta sauce and spaghetti squash… YUM. I really have no need for regular pasta again.
  • Eat fruit as dessert.
  • Eat nuts as a snack. Who doesn’t like nuts in their mouth??! !!@?#!@$ [Sorry, I’m tacky.]
  • Learn about calories and nutrition basics. Don’t obsess over the numbers, but be aware. Like when you sit down at dinner time, you’ll know that your piece of salmon has X amount of calories and not Y as you used to think. We tend to underestimate our calories consumed and overestimate calories burned, so use an app (I use MyFitnessPal) to get you started.
  • As for exercise… amp up the exercise to 45 minutes (or more) a day, 4-6 times a week. And if you’re really intense, you can do 2-a-days, with light cardio or yoga in the morning (for 20-30 minutes) and a real workout in the afternoon, doing weight training or HIIT routines. Mix it up, so your body doesn’t get bored. Learn to crave the soreness and the sweat.

And if you’re a pro… well you can tell me what I need to do WHEN I get there, because it’s happening, someday.

***

Other things that might help everyone get a healthier life started:

  • Keep a journal or a blog! Writing how you feel about food and exercise and health helps you stay accountable and helps you see the progress you’ve made. Seeing what you ate in any given day can really be enlightening.
  • Keep inspirational images or quotes in a visible place. Sounds cheesy and guess what, IT IS CHEESY. But guess what else? It reminds you of your strength and power to change and grow, every single day. And at the end of the day, haters gon’ hate. But wear your badge proud, and put up a cheesy little poster in your room to remind you of what your goals are. I did this, and it helped.
  • Tell your friends about your goals. Don’t keep it private. Part of my reason for starting this blog is for this very reason… I know that if I don’t tell anyone that I’m trying to make a change, then no one will know that I “failed” if and when I did “fail.” It essentially gives you a green light to give up before you even start. But telling someone and having them hold you accountable makes a big difference in your motivation to succeed.
  • Ask for help. So many of us are in the same boat. I am so far from perfect, and me writing this list isn’t me giving you all the answers, as if I’ve already found them. This is encouragement for me and for you to seek each other out, find help, and work together. I don’t want to feel alone in my struggle, and I know you don’t either.
  • Get rid of all the haters. People don’t like it when their friends try to get healthy if they aren’t on the same path themselves. They might not know it, but its a reminder to them that their choices are not the best, and they react in disapproval, they mock, they try to get you to eat the burrito that you’re trying so hard to resist because you are showing them something they are not ready to accept about themselves. I am FAR TOO FAMILIAR with this. Its frustrating and alienating when your closest friends make fun of you, judge you, or just simply don’t understand you (and don’t try to) for wanting to improve your life. Find friends that encourage you, that respect your choices, and that maybe even want to join in on the fun, because they know how much it means to you. Find friends that will be selfless, even if they’re not ready to make a change in their own lives. People are resistant to change and people don’t want to be made aware of their own lifestyle if they somewhere, deep down, know that it could be better. Find people who boost you up and make you better. Get rid of the rest.

Lastly, for now… remember this: YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE. You are beautiful just as you are today. There is no standard of beauty that you need to adhere to. This isn’t even a question of beauty at all. It’s about your health, your life, your family, your future, and your self respect. You are worthy and perfect right now, today, yesterday, tomorrow, and always. You are capable of so, so, so much more than you think. It’s a long journey, and it never ends, but all you need to do is take the first step. One little step is closer than yesterday. You are powerful beyond measure. Know this at the deepest core of your being. And you deserve nothing but the best.

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Couscous Decisions

I’m proud of myself today. I went to lunch with my coworkers and we went to a restaurant to eat some amazing couscous, and I kept it as healthy as possible by ordering the vegetarian couscous. It was actually quite a display of my indecisiveness and internal torment, because I ordered vegetarian, then I heard everyone’s order and I decided I wanted chicken, so I changed my order. The waiter left and a few minutes later, I got up from the table (after sitting there, feeling guilty with my decision for quite some time) and asked if he could change my order back to vegetarian. I was mildly embarrassed to be so indecisive in front of colleagues  but at the end of the day, my health was more important and I’m happy I went with the veggie meal.

Somehow, I think I’ve developed a bit of a distaste for meat now… Or, perhaps not a distaste but a slight disgust. Don’t get me wrong, I still love eating it (this past weekend I ate 2 burgers… oops), but I think when it looks like flesh, it creeps me out, whereas in the past I never would have thought about it. Seeing the waiter bring out a tray full of meat, a lot of it on the bone, and seeing people at the table pick at it and cut it with difficulty with their sharp knives made me so happy to be eating just vegetables, chick peas, and couscous. I felt light after eating rather than bogged down as I normally feel after eating meat, and I know I didn’t consume any cholesterol or saturated fat in my meal while the others surely did, and best of all, no one had to die a miserable factory life so that I could eat lunch! So really, whats not to love about being vegan? I get all the right nutrients, I eat cleaner, no one dies, the planet doesn’t suffer as much, and my body thanks me and rewards me for my healthy choices every day.

Now to be clear, I’m not 100% vegan. But I’m okay with that still. Perhaps I may never be fully vegan, but if 80% of what I consume comes entirely from the earth, then I think I’m in a better place than I was before. I want to stay flexible and I don’t want to feel deprived, so I will allow myself a relatively guilt-free non-vegan indulgence when the situation calls for it, and I know it won’t cause that much damage at the end of the day. My family is from Colombia where I’m fairly certain the concept of vegan or even vegetarian just simply do not exist. I know with my family and family friends, living a vegan life would be nearly impossible, so I’m open to eating meat and dairy in social occasions when other options are not available, and sometimes when going out with friends, I’m okay with eating a burger or ice cream. Not the end of the world. But while I have the power to control what I eat, I want to try to stay as vegan and clean as possible, and that is a solution for my daily diet that I can be very comfortable with. Fortunately today my meal allowed for that flexibility. It won’t always be like that, and I’m learning to be okay with that.

I’m trying to be gentle with myself. If I label myself as “vegan”, I’m bound to feel guilt when I break the rules. But if I can make my own rules that suit me, I’m more likely to feel satisfied and happy with the choices I make.

So today, I’m proud of my choice. I’m proud of all of my choices today, actually. They weren’t all perfect, but they were as good as they could have been and I managed to eat clean, vegan, and light all day long and I went for a 4-mile run in the evening. I’m feeling pretty good about how today has gone and I hope to have more days like today in the future.

Go me!

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All Talk

All Talk

A conversation last night with a friend led me to think about something that has been vaguely on my mind the past several weeks, which led her to send me an article which helped me understand what I have been feeling.

The article from Nerd Fitness is about taking action on your goals, not just talking about them and expecting results. Read it!

I am so much like the underpants gnomes he references from South Park. I collect underpants (knowledge) and I even make underpants (I write this blog), but I so often forget about Phase 2 and I eagerly jump to expect Phase 3, “profit” to happen automatically. Confused about what I’m talking about? I told you to read the article!!

I have spent years reading health blogs, books, watching documentaries and TED talks, and in every other way absolutely inundating my brain with knowledge about health and fitness. I should get an honorary fitness and nutritionist certification with all the research I’ve done. So you’d think, you know… I would have reached my goals by now. But the reality is, I’ve looked and felt mostly the same pretty much my entire life. I’ve had little moments of brilliance, where I really stepped it up and lost weight and felt amazing, but I quickly fall back into my old habits and my changes fail to stick.

I talk a lot and think a lot about health, but I’ve been feeling lately like I don’t actually DO anything about it. I mean, I’ve made changes that I shouldn’t ignore, like my slow progression to a mostly vegan diet which has been a great accomplishment for me so far, but if I’ve lost weight, it has been maybe a pound or two. Nothing noticeable. And while I do feel a lot better eating a clean, plant-based diet, I’m feeling impatient and I’m feeling disappointed that my progress has been so slow and mostly invisible. I don’t want to just talk about making changes… I want to actually make them!

My question is, how do I make these changes really stick this time? I’ve done this before. I’ve been right here many times, and I’ve temporarily succeeded. I’ve lost 10-15 pounds several times (gained them back, of course) and I’ve felt accomplished and proud, but why do I struggle with sticking to my lifestyle changes? I’m determined to get to the root of the problem, in one way or another.

Perhaps the key for me (and anyone else struggling with this feeling) is to make a list of tangible, quantifiable, achievable, realistic goals (or assignments/homework), write them down, and stick them on your wall so you remember them every day. Maybe if I try to think of this as a game, or as an assignment for work, maybe I’ll feel the same sense of urgency or desire to accomplish them. I don’t know. Just a thought. I’m a lists-person. I feel great when I can check things off of my list, and often I can’t accomplish much without one because I’ll just simply forget, so maybe I can work with my goals and see them as “errands” that I can check off today, and perhaps that will help me just get it done, and thus slowly start building patterns and habits, maybe without all the emotional baggage that I tend to tie into “changing my life.” That feels too heavy. Do I have to think so hard about it? Can’t I just… do it?

Anyway, my point is… I feel like I talk too much and don’t take enough action. I still give in to my snacking cravings every time they come and I still eat the same sized portions as I normally do and I still stay up late and miss my morning workouts and I still eat crap if its in front of me and I still overdose on my addictive favorites like granola and almond butter. I suppose, as I mentioned, my biggest accomplishment is sticking to a mostly vegan diet, with exceptions whenever I don’t have a choice (like occasional dinners with my host family or social gatherings, etc).

I can’t tackle all of these at the same time, but I can start by what I can control today.

– I will try really hard to eat at the designated eating times, the way French people do. In following the Tone It Up  lifestyle suggestions (as well as the suggestions by most other nutrition experts out there), I will eat 5 small meals today, and if I get hungry in between, I will drink water or green tea and remind myself that my next meal is not too far off. I need to learn patience and I need to learn not to be afraid of hunger. Now DO NOT misinterpret that, please. All I mean is… I live in this perpetual fear of hunger and at the slightest grumble in my stomach, I immediately feel the need to binge on something to avoid starvation. It’s irrational, and I end up not even being that hungry when I actually do eat a meal. I just want to not feel so controlled by the hungry animal impulse, and usually drinking a glass of water does the trick for a while. So without further ado, here is my plan for the day:

Meal 1: 8am, breakfast quinoa – DONE

Meal 2: 11am, soy yogurt with banana – DONE

Meal 3: 1pm, lentils + sautéed veggies + apple – planned

Meal 4:  5pm, half sweet potato + spinach + almonds – planned 

Meal 5: 9pm, something healthy-ish at the restaurant + red wine – planned

– Even though its Wednesday (long day as an au pair), I will try to find time to squeeze in 50 squats and 20 pushups. Like, maybe right after posting this.

– I will take a moment to reflect on my accomplishments thus far, and I will try to be proud of myself for them.

Those are my small goals for today. I will let you know how it goes. I have plans to meet a friend for dinner and drinks tonight, but I will try to order something healthy and I will stick to a glass or two of red wine. No day is perfect, but I can still be strong.

Enough with collecting underpants. I want to be ready for Phase 2.

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