Category Archives: Motivation

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.

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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.

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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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Women and Weights

I have a sincere issue with the gender divide in health and exercise. When you step into a gym, you will usually see the cardio section occupied mostly by women, and mostly by women reading magazines or watching TV. When you look at the area with the mats, resistance bands, bouncy balls, and small dumbells, again, you’ll see mostly women, and sure, there will be a few women working hard, but more often than not, you’ll find women with their friends, chit-chatting and taking long breaks after 10 reps of bicep curls with 5 or 8 pound weights.

Scan your eyes over to the weight machines or large dumbells and you’ll see men. All men, only men, forever men. Men of all shapes and sizes, except not really… beefy men usually, sweating through their clothing, grunting, flexing, and moaning with each bicep curl. Often times with poor form. But one thing is clear: these men are cut and those women are not.

Let me just say… THIS IS BULLSHIT.

I used to be one of those women, who would spend 30 or 45 minutes on the elliptical at medium resistance, then maybe 15 minutes of weights (never more than 8 pounds), then I would go home and eat whatever the hell I wanted, thinking I had earned it. Early on in my college years when I started exercising more, this was mostly how I spent my time at the gym, and sure, I’d break a sweat, but I would leave with a false sense of success. I imagined I had burned 6,000 calories and that all those frozen lasagnas that I used to eat would be well-deserved. Honestly, if I burned 100 calories during my workouts, I’d be surprised. But I didn’t know any better, and most people don’t know any better either. Especially women.

There is a very terrifying lack of education in the female population about how to exercise and how to achieve the results that most of us want. Most women out there (even if they don’t admit it), in one way or another desire that “lean, toned” look, and most women think that spending their days fiddling around on the cardio machines is going to get them there. It pains me that this is our foolish reality. That women are so uneducated and so misinformed in fitness, and that they are so terrified of trying something truly challening, for fear of “bulking up”.

There are countless articles written about this subject, but in summary, women, listen up: YOU CANNOT AND WILL NOT GET BULKY UNLESS YOU TAKE STEROIDS AND/OR DEDICATE YOUR LIFE TO BECOMING A BODY BUILDER. You just cannot. We do not have the levels of testoserone that men have so no matter how hard we try, we just cannot bulk up! We can build muscle and lose body fat and achieve that “toned” look that everyone is after, but anything more extreme is supremely difficult for us to achieve. Women sadly live terrified of the real weights because they think they’ll look manly, and as a result, women exclude themselves from the one and only real way to getting the healthy, beautiful body that they desire.

Want to know what happens when women lift weights and drink lots of protein shakes?

Yeah, terrifying, right?

Women cannot be afraid of challenging themselves, because as they say, “What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you,” and if its change you’re after, then its change that you need.

The other part of this issue is the fact that men are not used to seeing women in the weights section, and women often feel intimidated and unwelcome, or perhaps a little too welcome, feeling more like a piece of meat than a strong woman who just wants to get her work out in like everyone else. This is true anywhere in the world, but I have become more aware of it since coming to France, where the spaces between the genders are much more culturally engrained. I was invited by a friend to come to her gym for a day, so after my insane 15 minutes on the spin bike (literally sweat flying everywhere, grunting and breathing heavily, getting all sorts of stares from the poised and clean French women leafing through Elle on the pussy-bikes next to me), I put on my weight lifting gloves and marched proudly into the weight room, which was separate from the other parts of the gym. Before walking in, I felt tough, confident, and excited to lift some heavy weights. As soon as I turned the corner, all the meatwad men with enormous biceps essentially stopped what they were doing, turned, and looked at me as I walked in to “their” section. Rather than going to the middle of the room to a spot where I could see myself properly in the mirror, I instantly felt like I was being eye-raped by these gross men, so I resorted to a corner of the room where I had a sliver of mirror and my squats would be as minimally disruptive as possible. It was a horrible feeling, but I pushed through it anyway, finding myself opting for tougher-looking exercises (lots of boxing moves, with weights) to assert myself as a strong woman. I felt self conscious and alone, like I’m sure many women fear feeling when considering lifting heavy weights.

The worst moment for me (a raging feminist and heavy-weight lifter) was when I was scoping out gyms in my neighborhood, and on the tour of one particularly gross-looking gym, the guy said to me something along the lines of, “…And downstairs we have the weight room. Its for men, but I’ll show it to you anyway.” And when we got down stairs, again he said, “So here you can see the weight room. It’s probably not of any interest to you because its mostly for men, but here is one machine that you could use if you wanted.” And he pointed to some dinky little cardio thing. I felt offended. I wanted to say so many things, but my limited French only allowed me to smile and say “Merci.” What a dick.

Ladies out there, my message is this: Do not be afraid of lifting weights. Real weights. Heavy weights. Weights that are heavy enough for you to feel muscle exhaustion after 8-12 good reps, without losing proper form. Weights that leave you utterly sore the next day. Weights that challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone. This is the only way to build muscle, aka “tone up” your body and get “lean”. Add cardio, yes, but good cardio (not 30 minutes on the elliptical while reading a magazine. Instead, choose a short, intense HIIT routine) a few days a week, and you will see the results you have always wanted (as long as you’re eating clean). And you will see them fast!

Again, I will use myself as an example. I had a personal trainer in college for about 6 months, and she entirely revolutionized my way of looking at exercise. She had me doing bicep curls with 15 pound weights, when I thought I could only handle 8lb, or maybe 10 if I was feeling tough. But she showed me that I could do better than that, and in just a few months, I remember looking in the mirror and actually seeing my arms look different. (At one point during one of our sessions, I remember her saying, “Damn girl, look at those guns!”… It was a proud moment.) The 15lb weights had been killer, but within a short amount of time, my body had actually changed in all the ways that all women want it to change. I wasn’t bulkier, I was leaner. I wasn’t manly, I looked feminine and strong. My arms looked amazing, my thighs were thinner, my waist was leaner, and I know it was entirely because my trainer forced me to lift heavier than what I thought I could. I’ve never looked back, and I can’t wait to get back to lifting weights again. It is the only thing that has ever made a significant difference in my appearance in all my years of being an athlete and fitness monster.

Also to note: There is no such thing as “weight lifting for women” or “exercising for women”. Anything that markets itself as women-specific is bound to sell you short and make reaching your goals that much harder and slower. We are all bodies, and we should all train the same way. To get the toned womanly body you want, you need to train “like a man.” That is to say, train like a human. (There’s a reason those men in the gym are cut, and yes, part of it is testosterone  but the other part is training. If you want to be firm and toned, you need to work for it like they do.)

So ladies, let’s break the stereotypes and the fears and the miseducation. The weight room is not just for men. I challenge you to go in there during your next session at the gym, and lift heavier than you normally would (even if its just a few pounds heavier. Strength and muscle take time to build. Also, please make sure you have proper form and consult your doctor before taking on a new exercise regimen. Thats my PSA for the day) and I promise, PROMISE, PROMISE that you will see results. You will have the “lean, toned” look in no time, as long as your diet is clean. You will wake up every day loving your sexy body, and you’ll be saying, “Thank you, C from Strong Fits Well. Thank you.”

You’re welcome.

Oh, I forgot to mention: Muscle burns a ton of calories, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn when you’re not doing anything at all. So the more muscle you build, the more fat you’ll burn off, making it easier and quicker to see those pretty, shapely muscles under the layer of fat that currently hides them. Just a fun fact.

Watch this video. Very funny, very relevant.

 

A few links for those of you who have had their curiosity piqued:

The Best Strength Training For Women, Women’s Health Magazine

8 Reasons You Should Lift Heavier Weights, Shape Magazine

Why Ladies Should Lift Weights, Fitocracy

Why Women Should Lift Weights!, BodyBuilding.Com

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Loving Myself and Conquering The Brain

No external change can happen without a true internal change, and as most of us know, that is the biggest challenge. It’s not really a matter of whether or not you can run a mile (trust me, you can) or 10 miles (you will, if you train) or if you can lift 5 pounds or 50, or if you can finish a 5k or a marathon or an Iron Man. It’s not even if your body is capable of losing 5 pounds or having abs or having a firm butt. All of that is possible. All of our bodies, more or less are built quite the same. If all those people filling up your Pinterest “Fitness” board have achieved those incredible bodies, honestly there isn’t any reason why our bodies aren’t capable of our own versions of the same. After all, we all do have a six pack somewhere in there and glutes and biceps and thighs and all the same muscles as all of those people. So, really, why not me? Why not you?

[Anecdote/afterthought: You may know I like running. I recently ran a 10k, and I’ve run several before. I’m hoping to run a half marathon this year, and maybe a marathon next year. Running has become a huge part of my life. But, fun fact: I used to hate, hate, HATE running. I couldn’t run a mile 3 years ago. Couldn’t and wouldn’t. I’d rather die. But I had a personal trainer for a while in college and she forced me to run a mile with her once or twice a week, and slowly but surely, running became a part of my life. IT IS POSSIBLE. The end. Back to regularly scheduled programming.]

Thats the easy part. Getting your body to look like that is easy when you look at it factually: Eat lean, clean, natural foods, lower your calorie intake, and exercise. Its a simple equation. To lose one pound of fat in one week, you must lower your calorie intake by 3,500 calories in that week. That means that you need to lessen your calorie intake by 500 calories a day through a combination of exercise and healthy eating (perhaps you burn 200 calories in exercise and you cut out 100 calories from breakfast, 100 from lunch, and 100 from dinner). Honestly, that doesn’t sound too bad, right? All of us are capable of achieving the body and the health that we desire. It is in our genetic makeup to be able to achieve that.

So… why in the hell is it so goddamn hard??!

If I really try hard, I can do enough bicep curls to have killer lady guns. No biggie, right? My body is capable of doing exactly what I want it to do. But my brain is the hardest muscle to reshape. The struggle for self control and stronger willpower seems to be so much more challenging than the 80 burpees I did on Monday (more on that later). And even doing the burpees isn’t even the real issue… I know my body will do them. My legs can jump and my arms can do push ups and my lungs can breathe and my heart can pump blood. I’ll be exhausted, but I can do it, eventually. But why is it that after doing 5 of those burpees, my brain says, “No, don’t do it, don’t do it! Noooo!” It requires turning off those thoughts (so hard to do) and forcing your body to do things that your brain doesn’t want to adjust to. Whether its burpees, 10 miles of running, weight lifting, or not eating the tempting food or choosing to eat salad instead of whatever you normally eat, it’s entirely a mental choice and our brains are so, so resistant to change.

Not only that, but I feel my brain being swarmed daily with conflicting ideas and advice about how to achieve the change I really want, and I’m constantly torn between different ways in which to get started. Should I focus on building healthy habits outside of health and exercise, and maybe I’ll get fit along the way? Should I focus on becoming vegan and then it’ll just be so much easier to lose weight? Should I focus on just exercising more, that way I’ll be happier and have more energy and be more motivated to make changes? Should I focus on writing more about how I feel about my current state so I can start to analyze my thoughts and behaviors from a basic, psychological level? Should I focus on doing more yoga and meditation to be centered and strong at my core? Should I focus on self love before changing anything about my lifestyle so that my heart is in the right place? Should I maybe just start with one thing and not overwhelm myself, and let everything else in my life stay the same for a bit so the change isn’t so striking?… AM I OVER THINKING THIS?

These are the things that go through my head constantly. And I haven’t quite found a balance between any of these thoughts, but the best answer to myself is… maybe its just a little bit of everything? I’m too distracted and ADD to be able to just do one thing. I need variety. Or at least variety is what has sustained me up until now, and I think it would be foolish of me to try to change that part of my personality. I need to learn to work within my own personal “constraints” in order to find the answers that are right for me. So taking a little from each of those thoughts and I suppose just patching it all together and “making it work” is the best, maybe the only way for me.

BUT ANYWAYS… what I was getting at was this: The body is easy. The mind is the real struggle. And even if I don’t always believe or truly internalize all the things I want to believe, as a friend (who happens to be a therapist) has said to me many times, “In order to achieve those deep-rooted cognitive changes and mental reframing, the trick really is just to fake it until you make it. Ultimately the subconscious doesn’t know the difference.” So, I suppose thats a great place to start. Similarly, a friend recently sent me this intriguing article explaining the effects of positive self affirmation, and how phrases like “I’m awesome” don’t really do much but something like “I am a great runner” are much more effective because they are direct, tangible, and easy to believe and internalize.

So, I want to focus on reminding myself of things that I know I’m good at and things I already like about myself, and I encourage you (whether you prefer privately or better yet, share it in the comments!) to do the same.

A few things I love about me:

I am an excellent dancer. It’s my greatest love, my greatest talent, and my greatest source of joy.

I am a great swimmer. 12 years of competitive swimming has made me a strong little fish, for life.

Thanks to swimming and waterpolo, I have strong shoulders and killer legs. My legs might be my favorite body part.

Hourglass figure! I’ve learned to love it as my love for fashion grew and I realized I could wear so many sexy, feminine pieces, like high-waisted skirts and belted dresses. I have a womanly body, and I like that.

I’ve always loved my hair. Though I have been caught complaining about the frizz (probably because every girl needs to find some aspect of their hair that they hate because its taboo to like your hair), it has always been a lie. I love my hair. Always have. Always will.

I like my eye color. Hazel.

I’m assertive and a natural leader. I love dealing with people, helping people, and teaching people and I love that about my personality.

I’m optimistic.

I speak 3 languages and I’m proud of my ability to learn languages with relative ease.

So there… a few things that I love about myself. I may make another one of these lists later, along with another list of accomplishments from the day. I found that to be a nice reminder to myself that things really are going well, even if I’m inclined to find the reasons for why they are not. Ultimately, things are GOOD. Things are great. I am healthy and strong, even when I have moments of weakness. Must learn to remind myself of this daily. Things really are just fine.

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I Hate Magazines and Fitness Blogs… kinda

You know, one thing that puts me off about a lot of fitness/health blogs or magazines is when they give you step-by-step instructions, how-to’s, or perfectly crafted lists, laying out all the answers to all the issues you’ve been trying to deal with on your own. “10 tips for better abs now”, “How to control your cravings”, “Follow these steps to have your best body by summer.”  Sorry but, I call major bullshit on all of you (meaning them).

Perhaps part of my problem with posts or articles like these is that it gives me a lot of hidden anxiety to read about how truly easy it is to reach my goals. Its like… so, all I need to do is follow those steps, and… I’ll have abs? I’ll be sexy? I’ll love myself? Perfect! Its like baking. And I love baking. Why don’t I just bake myself some self respect, or how about I whip up some confidence by mixing these 4 simple ingredients. No. It’s not that easy. It’s not easy at all. For some of us, we’ve been battling our demons our entire lives, and to simplify all of our trials and tribulations into “10 easy steps” just makes me (I don’t know about you) feel pretty worthless. Like, if its so easy, then why doesn’t everyone have abs? Maybe I’m just incompetent. Doomed. Destined for failure. These simplified articles, magazines and blogs all just walk around all day strutting their toned ass, waving it like a giant piece of berry cobbler in my face, like, “La la la, you can’t have this, la la la. It was easy for me, but it’s not for you. Enjoy your jiggle forever. La la la.”

I recently unsubscribed from the SELF drop a million pounds by summer email thing (I don’t remember what it was called and I don’t care) because I realized, first of all, sorry but your recipes and diet plan are whack (you are not going to lose 10 pounds by summer by eating 1600-1700 calories a day, unless you’re a 6’5 football player) and they all sound nasty and they endorse fast food as a decent option (no, you can’t eat McDonalds and lose weight. You just can’t, and even if you can, you shouldn’t unless you wanna die). In my entirely uneducated opinion, their dietary advice is completely un-sound (is that a word? Welp, now it is) and misleading, plus it just looks gross. I tried one of their recepies once. It sucked. (Okay, maybe my kitchen skills should take part of the blame for that, but still…).

But the real reason why I unsubscribed was because it was making me self-conscious. Sure, SELF Magazine is great, or whatever, and I’m sure they really want you to love yourself and all that jazz, but I just feel like any plan that promises to get you fit by summer is just missing the mark entirely. At least for me. Because yes, I’d love to leave this wretched French weather and go home to California and wear a swimsuit all summer long and actually be excited about it, but it’s not the most important thing to me, and setting a set deadline is both terrifying and entirely destructive to the internalization of my goals. Do I want a hot body for summer? Sure. Do I want a hot body and strong soul for life? Absolutely. And getting reminders every day that there are only X number of weeks before summer only makes me feel like more of a failure than I already care to admit. I feel like I’ve been wasting my time, like I haven’t been making progress fast enough, that I haven’t had the dedication to hop on board this temporary, short-lived nasty diet plan to lose some of this jiggle, only to gain it back again come October. So, I broke up with SELF Magazine, and my mind and my inbox are just a little bit less bothered now.

As for the rest of the blogging world… My relationship is harder to define. I have a blog. I love blogging. (I have 2 other blogs, entirely different). And literally all I do when I’m not on Facebook, eating, or sleeping is reading other peoples blogs, and generally they’re about fitness and health. If reading blogs gave you calories, I’d surely be obese by now. But its this constant back and forth, between feeling inspired and motivated, and feeling inadequate and unworthy. Whenever I read stories about inspiring people who have changed their lives and now have the abs to prove it, that conflict becomes very salient. “Wow, that’s amazing. It just goes to show, anyone can do it! I’m so ready to get my life going and be one of them!“… this very quickly turns into, “… except probably not. Because I like cookies and pie and calories too much. I’ll never be like them. God, I suck! Look at how many times I failed today! I bet this person would have never done what I did. I can’t believe I ate so much almond butter. Fuck.”

Yeah yeah, I know. But I’m just being honest. And surely I can’t be the only one out there who struggles with such poisonous self-talk. But its hard to break out of that cycle when, on top of all the challenges I already feel like I’m facing, I’m confronted with articles on a daily basis, simplifying all of my struggles into some stupid bullshit sentence like “It’s easier than you think!” (Literally taken verbatim from SELF.com)

**

This is actually related I swear. I was reminded of this hilarious article making fun of Cosmo Magazine’s ridiculous sex tips because after switching out a few words here and there, these tips for impossible sex acts are about as ridiculous as the seemingly helpful, easy tips for changing your entire life.

NSFW, mostly, unless you work where I used to work, where my coworkers and I would read this out loud to each other in our open-layout workspace, 10 feet from our boss. Cuz thats how we roll(ed).

http://jezebel.com/5919206/cosmos-44-most-ridiculous-sex-tips

**

So, my point is… I don’t have one. I’m torn. I love and often need the inspiration of looking at people’s insane bodies because it gives me a glimmer of hope, something to strive for. But never in my life have I ever come close to looking like them, and I hate feeling like my struggle really shouldn’t have been so hard. I get most pleasure out of reading “real” people’s blogs, where they talk about their daily lives, their ups and downs, their frustrations and fears, and they don’t pretend to have all the answers, easy steps, or quick fixes. They are human, and they make me feel less alone. This is partially why I connected so much with Tone It Up. I like Karena and Katrina, (especially Katrina, because she underwent quite an inspiring transformation), they’re friendly and normal, but more than them, I like the community. I like knowing there are others out there that are slipping and getting back up on their feet, and pushing themselves and each other every day to succeed. Maybe none of us will ever look like the people we see in big-name blogs or magazines, but thats okay. Those people live for their bodies. It’s their career. Some of us don’t have that luxury. But I find comfort in talking to strangers, people who I’ve never met but who seem to understand my struggles so deeply and who take time and effort to reach out to other strangers in need. Its like we can share each others’ load, make it a little bit easier for each other, remind each other that we are worthy, beautiful, and despite all odds, we are all stronger than we think.

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Battle

Battle

This resonated with me while scrolling through pictures of extremely fit girls on Pinterest. I fluctuate so often, but this reminds me that its OKAY. I’ve fought this battle before, and I’m fighting it again, this time a little stronger and a little wiser than before. A good friend reminds me time and time again that its not a cycle, because that implies that I’m not improving and not going anywhere new. Its an upward-trending line… sure, it has its ups and downs, but in general, I’m moving up, getting stronger with every failure and learning so much along the way.

I am stronger than I think I am. And stronger than yesterday.

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Healthy Weekend!

This weekend was such a success! I was traveling, again, this time visiting friends in Brussels, and overall, I’m pleased with my choices. This is one of the few times I’ve come home from a trip and not felt entirely guilty, so I’d call that a small but significant traveling accomplishment.

On the bus ride from Paris to Brussels, I brought a few healthy snacks with me, like a banana (note to self: bananas do not travel well) and some nuts. When we made a quick pitstop, I went to buy some food but of course, as with all gas stations, everything offered was pure filth. Chips, nasty pre-made bacon sandwiches doused in mayonaise, soda, candy… things that people have somehow been allowed to call “food.” (Honestly I don’t know how this stuff looks appetizing to anyone. It’s repulsive. It’s not food! Its like, hey, why don’t we go eat some concrete-flavored sandpaper and dip it in liquid mercury. Yum! Seriously… Unbelievable that processed food-like edible items exists, much less get eaten by billions. Barf.) I found some pre-sliced apples in a package (not ideal, as they have preservatives to keep them fresh… I hear these are often cancer-causing. Eek), but I figured sliced apples was probably my only safe-ish bet, so I ate that, and cringed at everyone on the bus fussing with that packaging that was keeping them from their wholesome, nutritious, life-giving Doritos.

On to the rest of the trip…

One of the friends I was traveling with (who reads this blog and shares many of my same feelings and goals – hello friend!! I see you!) was entirely on the same page as me the whole time, which helped both of us stay on track for the most part, while still allowing ourselves little indulgences along the way. We agreed before the trip to work out in the mornings and to share any heavy meals/treats we might consume, since often times all we really crave is just a bite and not the entire thing (like for example, with Belgian waffles), and we did exactly that. Our first morning we all got a late start so exercise didn’t happen, but at least we walked a lot that day and did not overeat. We shared one Belgian waffle between 3 girls, which was actually perfect (those things are so big and sweet anyway that eating a whole thing makes you feel like dying), we had a small burger for lunch (like, a correctly portioned patty, no bigger than 3 or 4 ounces) which my friend smartly ate without the bun (I ate half of the bun) and for dinner our friend and host made us some pasta with veggies and ground turkey and a little bit of red wine. That night, while out at a bars, we shared a beer and later a mojito (no need to drink the whole thing…), which was perfect. We got the taste, but none of the bad side effects. Not bad for a day of travel, where most of the time I spend too much money and calories on eating out and drinking at restaurants.

Day 2 was started off on the right foot when we set our alarms earlier and went outside to exercise, enjoying the surprisingly sunny weather in the process. We started with a short walk, then a 15 minute run to warm up. When we got to the park, we did a series of running sprint intervals, and after this exhausting set, we buckled down for a short HIIT routine before walking back home. (Our exact workouts are featured at the bottom of this post). After exercising, we bought some pineapple and water and fresh squeezed orange juice and refueled before setting out for the day. Our sightseeing was accompanied by a few healthy snacks (nuts, protein bars, green tea, etc) and of course, a few bites of a Belgian waffle. We shared our beers that afternoon, and all four of us in the group shared a few macaroons, and at dinner time, we allowed ourselves to indulge in our first and only true Belgian meal. I ate a chicken stew with veggies and potatoes and for dessert, a waffle. I’d like to think this was my only real indulgence of the trip, which is slightly amazing and really exciting that I didn’t indulge more than that.

Monday, day 3, was our last day, and I left at around 1pm. In the morning, my friend and I went out for another quick workout (featured below). Before leaving, I ate a panini (not the best choice, but also not the worst) and I took a banana and a raw, all-natural granola bar for the drive back to Paris. Dinner with my host family was, surprisingly, a healthy salad! I was so happy to be eating greens!

As I type all of this, I’m realizing that while its hard to have a perfect weekend, or a perfect trip (with regards to health), it is SO possible to make good choices given your constraints and to not completely blow it in two days. Surely traveling isn’t ideal for staying healthy, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! This is a big lesson I am just now starting to learn. After my travels through Belgium and Spain a few weeks ago (and my many indulgent moments therein), I’m seeing that it is still possible (though not easy, I admit) to be healthy while exploring the world and having fun with friends.

Another wonderful thing about this weekend was the power of friendship! Having someone who shares your goals and who understands your struggles is such a blessing. Not to mention, having that person be a great travel buddy… it makes all the difference. I know for a fact that I would not have worked out once if it were not for my friend, and its likely I would have eaten a whole waffle (or two, or three), several beers, plenty of fries, etc. But having someone to share the journey with (and to keep you accountable) was what truly made this weekend a success. Thank you, dear friend, for accompanying me on this journey!!

I feel proud and pleased. I had a great time, and food did not consume me nor did it cause me to feel any guilt, and that is something worth celebrating today. I hope all my trips can be as healthy as this one!

***

And now for a recap of our workouts, in case anyone wants to try it out. We came out sweating and sore in every possible way, so give it a shot, if you dare…

Workout 1:

Warm up: jog/run for 15 minutes

Jog (normal pace, resting pace) 1 minute

Sprint (all out, 90-100% effort) 20 seconds

Repeat 12 times

Then, do this circuit:

To warm down, walk or jog for 15 minutes.

 

Workout 2… We did both of these videos:

Then this one

To warm down, walk or jog 15 minutes.

***

Trust me, your ass will thank you after finishing these workouts. I know mine is.

 

Hooray for a healthy, fit weekend!!

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Accomplishments

This is a quickie because I’m eager to get to sleep, but I just wanted to post a quick reminder to myself about all of my small accomplishments from today, because everything counts and it’s all worth celebrating, right?

– Slept 8 hours
– Woke up on time
– Ran 4 miles
– Controlled my portions at all meals
– Ate mostly (about 90%) vegan
– Practiced 20 minutes of yoga at night
– Cleaned my room before bed
– Replied to a few (though not all) lingering emails
– Caught up with several friends
– Worked from home, successfully (!)

When I list it all out like that, it looks pretty good!! I should do this more often. It’s nice to see what I’ve accomplished in one 24-hour period, and it’s important to recognize all the goals that were reached, even if they were small ones.

This feels good. Maybe I’ll do this again tomorrow.

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Running Demons

Well, my friends, I ran today. The gods were telling me not to, but a little reminder (you’ll know from my previous post) in the morning was just the encouragement that I needed to drag my tired, mildly sick body out the door first thing in the morning for a slow 4-mile run.

It is so, so hard to get back into the rhythm of exercise, and I see now why it’s so hard for people to start when they’ve never had a habit of exercising to begin with. When you’re in the habit, exercise is like crack. It’s almost a drug. You crave it and you need it to function, the way some people need coffee. But starting, after not exercising in a while, is THE WORST THING EVER. It’s days like today where I hate exercise, it sucks, and I’d rather be buried alive than make the slightest effort to burn a calorie. During the entire run, I was hating life. My knees hurt (remnants of a never-quite-healed running injury) and my legs felt like lead and my feet were sore and my heart felt weak, not to mention it was cold and slightly rainy and all around bullshitty in every possible way. But… I DID IT ANYWAY. Despite my whining and complaining and enormous desires to eat cookies and cry at my miserable existence (ok not really), I just turned off my brain and tied my shoes and ran.

This is a reminder to myself that I CAN. Maybe I don’t always want to and maybe there will always be a million ways to rationalize not doing it, but my body can run, and therefore my mind can too. And the mind, after all, is the biggest, dare I say the ONLY hurdle at all.

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Back to Reality

Well, in case my last post didn’t quite tell you enough, I’m back. I arrived yesterday back to my house after 2 amazing weeks (traveling through France, Belgium, and Spain with my mom, and then with a friend) and the contrast between sunny Barcelona and dreary Paris was overwhelming. I came home, hungry, tired, sad, and lonely, and was welcomed by the awful smell of weird rotten cheese (or who knows what) in the kitchen [hence my bitter last post]. Needless to say, it was a shitty way to come back to reality.

I signed up for a 10k race in Paris in 2 weeks and I am entirely out of shape because of the past few weeks of no real exercise other than lots of walking. I also can see and feel the effects of 2 weeks of vacation-eating on my body, and even though I’m trying to not feel shitty about it, in all honesty, yeah, I feel shitty.  As I recently posted, vacation is often such a difficult time for me (and I’m guessing for everyone) because who wants to travel to France, Belgium, or Spain and eat healthy. Even if healthy options exist (which they don’t), eating is such a seemingly important part of seeing a new culture that it feels wrong, dare I say disrespectful or wasteful to not eat your heart out. You can’t go to Belgium and not eat a Belgian waffle covered in speculoos spread or a basket of the famous twice-fried Belgian fries. You can’t go to Paris and not eat pastries or cheese. You can’t go to Spain and not eat tapas.

So the question for me becomes… How can I travel (which is one of my greatest passions and joys in life) without the guilt and the weight gain, not to mention the unseen effects on my health? How can I still practice self control and strength when I’m faced with days or weeks outside of my normal routine, where indulgence is expected and applauded (by myself and by others)?

It’s easier said than done, but perhaps it starts with portion control. This coming weekend I will be going to Brussels with some friends, and one friend and I have decided that maybe the best way to not lose ourselves amongst the Belgian waffles and fries and stews is to just share them. Maybe vacation doesn’t have to mean missing out on food entirely – often times all you want is just a taste anyway. I want to reach a point in my self control where I don’t feel so compelled to eat the whole thing, but instead allow myself to just enjoy the few bites that I am actually craving.

My mom once said when I was growing up that the things that are most restricted are the ones that are most desired (saying it in Spanish sounds a lot nicer), and though she was referring to a style of parenting, this mentality can apply to food as well. Telling myself that I’m not allowed to enjoy the delicious treats on vacation is just a recipe for disaster. Not only will I inevitably break my own rules, but I’ll be feeling guilty about it for days to come. Telling myself that I can eat anything I want, just in honest, reasonable moderation will [hopefully] help me feel satisfied and in control, when I come home from vacation knowing that I was strong and maintained discipline while still enjoying the trip to the fullest extent.

I have to make an effort to incorporate these types of thoughts into my daily life too, not just while on vacation, and that is where the struggle begins. I’m used to being all-or-nothing and that generally does not work out well in the end, so working to find a middle ground should be my focus for now. Baby steps. This is all part of the process of “creating a new normal” for myself.

Everything in moderation, right?

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Transformation

Transformation

I’m posting this not because I want anyone to think or feel that either of these two physiques is right or wrong, or more or less beautiful than the other, because all of that is a matter of opinion and entirely subjective. However, I’m posting this as a reminder that anyone has the power to make changes to their life when they see that change is needed… whether that change means losing weight, gaining weight, getting healthy, having better grades in school, being more productive at work, finding self confidence, becoming more organized – whatever it is you are trying to achieve and trying to become stronger in, this is a reminder that you CAN. As I posted recently from Jillian Michaels, “why not you?!”

This girl decided to lose weight and get extremely fit, and though it took her two years to reach a place where she felt ready to share her success with others, she achieved her goal and that sense of dedication and willpower is what is most inspiring here to me.

She is beautiful no matter what, but now she’s healthier, stronger, and has so much more energy and clarity of mind to live her life as best as she can. If she can do it, why not you, and why not me?

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Now I’m Free From French Fries

This video by The Happiness Project, sent to me by a good friend, reminded me of something I have heard repeatedly through my mild obsession with reading health and fitness blogs. Most successful fitness and health people will all live by this particular mentality: instead of saying “I can’t eat cookies,” they say (or think to themselves), “I don’t eat cookies.” This small linguistic change shapes their entire perspective for their health and fitness goals as it frames their actions as choices that they made as free-willed individuals and not as things that they were deprived of by forces beyond their control. Its as if by changing one critical word “cant” to “don’t”, you are taking control over your life and your actions and living by a code of healthier, empowered choices and freedoms.

Personally, I don’t steal, I don’t cheat, I don’t drink soda, and I don’t eat fast food. I’m still working on developing that kind of power towards sugar, but its a work in progress and I think I’ve come a long way over the past few years. I need to start reminding myself that I am strong and empowered and that dessert (or whatever other temptation) does not have control over me, so when I see a dessert, I won’t be so quick to gobble it down.

What are you “free” from? What food/behavior do you just simply not do, for the sake of your health, self esteem, and self control?

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Why Not You?

Why Not You?

Jillian Michaels is such an inspiration to me. She used to be overweight (click here to see a picture) and she found discipline and motivation through martial arts, and decided to change her life for good. She reminds me every day that any of us are capable of greatness, whether it is physical or otherwise… it is just a matter of believing that you can. No one is excluded from health, wellness, success, or happiness… not you, and not me.

This is your one and only life. How do you want to live it?

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Habits

I’ve been thinking about some of the habits of highly successful people (as far as fitness and health), and I’ve realized that they are not just disciplined with their food and exercise, but with everything in their life. I suppose part of my journey here is to develop stronger self control, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that this extends beyond just food and exercise. My room is always messy, I’m easily distracted, and I rarely finish all the millions of little projects that I start. In order to build healthier habits over time, I need to work on all of the habits that are holding me back from reaching my potential, such as cleaning my room, clearing out my inbox every day, walking with better posture, going to bed at the same (early) time every night, etc etc etc.

I want to be stronger than I have always thought I could be, and I want to be more disciplined, not just with my food, but with everything, because I can’t slack off in other areas of my life and expect to see a change with my attitude towards food and my goals to have a better, healthier body and mind. So I want to start challenging myself to make small changes outside of just my eating and exercise habits. Changing your body or your health is not an isolated event or goal – it all relates to how disciplined you are with other areas of your life, so to expect to change one part is to force yourself to change other parts. Its a ripple effect and discipline/willpower are like muscles, so the more you use them, the stronger they get. For example, working out in the mornings is great because it gets your motivation and discipline going so you’re more likely to succeed the rest of the day.

In an ideal world, I would like to:

– clean my room/home every day

– practice yoga every day

– take 5-15 minutes to meditate every day

– disconnect from my computer at least 30 minutes before bed every night

– work out before work every morning

– have better posture

– respond to all my emails right away and always have zero unread in my inbox

– read 30 minutes a day

With the start of this new month, I want to start building and breaking habits beyond the ones that are directly related to health, fitness, and wellness. A friend of mine recently sent me this link from zenhabits about adjusting your definition of “normal” and I am using it as inspiration to slowly develop “a better me” with new ‘normals’ and new, healthier habits. I realize that I cannot change everything all at once, but I can start with one or two things and build from there. This month, I am going to focus on keeping my room clean by putting away all my clothing every night. I am also going to focus on going to bed earlier (my goal will be no later than 11:30pm for now, eventually I’d like to be going to bed at 10:30pm).

To accomplish this process of creating a new normal, zenhabits says:

You can do this with anything — exercise, meditation, procrastination. Gradually adjust what feels like normal to you.

Here’s the process:

  1. Start small. What’s the smallest increment you can do? Do this for at least 3 days, preferably 4-5.
  2. Get started. Starting the change each day is the most important thing. Want to run? Just get out the door. Want to meditate? Just get on the cushion.
  3. Enjoy the change. Don’t look at this as a sacrifice. It’s fun, it’s learning, it’s a challenge.
  4. Stick to the change. Notice your urge to quit. Don’t act on it. Keep going.
  5. Adjust again. When the change becomes normal, make another small adjustment.

This is the process of creating a new normal. It’s beautiful and simple.

Starting today, I will clean my room when I get home from work, and I will set myself up for an earlier bed time (which will hopefully lead to earlier wake up time, giving me time to exercise in the morning, which will give me energy and endorphins for the rest of the day, so any other task I have at hand will be slightly easier, I will be slightly stronger, and more likely to succeed in my goals, big and small, all day long… see, positive cycle!). I won’t try to tackle all my habits at once – maybe I won’t get off my computer 30 minutes before bed, or maybe I won’t have time to meditate or clear out my inbox, but I’m taking baby steps, and that is better than nothing.

***

I encourage everyone to think about what parts of your lives you can be more disciplined in, and set goals for how you can improve those. It may make your body-related goals a lot easier to reach!

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Tone It Up

Some of you may have heard me mention Tone It Up here and there, but for those of you who don’t know, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. (Please note, I have no financial or any sort of incentive whatsoever to be talking about Tone It Up. I just really like them and want to spread the word!)

Tone It Up is a fitness, health, and lifestyle blog… or dare I say movement, that emphasizes positivity, self-love, teamwork, community, and flexibility. The two founders/trainers are Karena and Katrina, two real-life best friends and fitness professionals who have taken a really fun, carefree spin on wellness by encouraging their followers to get healthy through friendship and a friendly, relatable attitude. The success of Tone It Up can be largely attributed to how easygoing and normal these two girls are. Many fitness professionals take the intimidation route, where they yell, push, scare, and generally try to light a terrifying fire under your ass in order to achieve success. Karena and Katrina are not like that. They are silly with each other and with their viewers and it really works. Personally, I’m all about it! (Plus they’re really cute California girls and their whole vibe is very beachy and warm and incredibly inviting).

I first heard about them about a year ago, when I was buckling down to get fit for a friends wedding. I came across Tone It Up (TIU for short) on Pinterest, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I started by just following their blog and their Youtube Channel and eventually I registered (for free) in their community to be able to interact with other TIU members and to get encouragement from others who were working hard to reach their goals. I love the support network and the sense of family and I think this was one of the most important aspects of Tone It Up for me. Often times I didn’t feel that I had the full support or understanding of my close friends or family, so I looked elsewhere for people who understood my struggles and who cheered me on through every up and down of becoming healthier and fitter. I really love the community and I still use it, though I haven’t been as active since I’ve been in France. I’m hoping to dive back in soon! They are also all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, and followers can interact with them, and with each other everywhere. You can also find plenty of regional TIU groups, where other TIU followers in your area can get together to exercise (or do whatever you want) together, extending the support network out of the internet and into real life. It’s super inspiring and I’m a big fan.

I also purchased the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan last summer, which I mostly use for recipes and nutritional education. I haven’t been following it very strictly in France, but when I get home I will hopefully get back into the swing of things quickly. Essentially, Tone It Up is all about 5 small meals a day, and the nutrition plan gives you everything you need to know about that lifestyle in order to achieve the greatest health success.

Best recipe ever… Protein Pancakes!

 

This is Katrina, one of the TIU girls… She’s a big inspiration because even though she’s a fitness professional, she strugged (and still does) to get fit and healthy. Her transformation is impressive and reminds me that anyone can do it!

Anyway, the reason for this post was to share the big “Bikini Series” that Tone It Up does every spring. It was through this series that I first started really following TIU and now, a year later, I’m excited to follow the Bikini Series once again. My resources are limited and my schedule is more complicated than it was last year, but I’m going to try to get back into my Tone It Up routine for the next 8 weeks, at least as much as I can! And I want to invite anyone out there (and it does not have to be just for women!) to join me in this years Tone It Up Bikini Series. There will be great recipes, workouts, education, and plenty of motivation to keep you on track for your goals, whatever they may be. If you are at all intrigued, be sure to check out the website and learn more. Once you sign up (all you need is your email address), you’ll get a cute little “starter pack” with recipes, and a few workouts to get you going from day 1.

Summer is coming… lets make this a good spring, together!

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Legs

I had a small but powerful moment yesterday as I began my run. I had just finished writing a long, long post (which I haven’t quite decided if I will post or not) about my experiences over the past 3 years with health, fitness, body image, etc, and immediately after, I went out for a run to clear my head. Within only the first 20 seconds of my run, I happened to turn my head coincidentally at the just right moment to make accidental eye contact with a young man, maybe a few years younger than me, who was sitting in a wheelchair. He was clearly disabled from the waist down and  has likely been in a wheelchair his whole life, and in that brief moment we shared, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of sadness and of appreciation at the same time. Perhaps it was the look he gave me, as I trotted past him in my fancy running gear, or perhaps I am just projecting what I thought he was saying to me with his soulful stare, but he really pierced right to my heart, and right after I passed him, I found myself short of breath and fighting back tears unsuccessfully.

I spend far too much time wondering if my thighs will ever not touch, or if my butt will be as hard as a rock, or if my knees will ever heal from my running injuries, and in that moment I suddenly felt so small and so pathetic for caring about such petty details. I have legs that work! Beautiful, strong, functional legs, and maybe they don’t run that fast and maybe they feel heavy sometimes when I run and maybe I have thighs that touch, but holy shit, how awesome is that?? I have those things. I. Have. Legs. And they work, really well.

I dedicated the rest of my run to that boy, and every time I felt lazy and wanting to quit, I reminded myself that if I was in a wheelchair, I’m sure I’d give anything to just take one step. So I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and being thankful each time I could do so. I am lucky and I want to keep taking care of myself so that I can have this fortune for decades to come.

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Confession

Okay, I confess. I’ve been bad the past few days.

I’ve been shy to post anything because I am far too aware of my poor choices and its easier to just keep it a secret and pretend like I’m still being inspirational or whatever the fuck, but I can’t look at my blog and act like all is well because I’ve been cheating, hard core. To be fair (can this count as fairness?), I have a friend in town and of course half of the experience of being in Paris revolves around eating, so it’s rather difficult to stay on track. Also, I may (don’t want to jinx it yet) have a new pseudo-internship/volunteer thing which will take over pretty much all of my extra time each day (aside from my job as an au pair), so I’ve been busy, and only going to get busier. BUT I realize I’m contradicting my last post, about excuses, so I’m going to try not to go there.

Wednesday was warm and sunny and though I went a little heavy on the almond butter throughout the day, all of my meals were healthy and I felt successful for the most part. Exercise was minimal, but I convinced the little one to walk with me to the “big park” which is about 20 minutes away, so that was nice to get out of the house and move my skeleton at least just a little. For dinner, since I was babysitting, I was able to assert a bit more control over what I ate. The parents had left a cauliflower gratin thing (aka ham, cheese, and cream and a little bit of cauliflower) for us to eat for dinner, but since I don’t like cauliflower and I want to avoid cheese, ham, and cream, I explained to the girls that I shouldn’t eat that because of my cholesterol (tried explaining that in French to them…) and I made myself an egg white veggie scramble. Success!

But yesterday… oh dear. Between 3 of us girls, we ate 2 whole baguettes and basically a whole thing of brie cheese, salami and cured meats, and gummi bears. My mouth was happy but my body hated me later. After that, I seemed to lose all my motivation to get my day back on track (its that “fuck it, I already fucked up anyway, may as well continue to do so” mentality) so somehow cookies and almond butter and too many dried apricots and lots of bread made it into my system, and I felt pretty shitty about that. I told myself, “Tomorrow, you will be good. You’ll wake up early and go for a run before meeting your friends, and you’ll make healthy choices all day.” And guess what…

Stayed up until 2:30am, woke up late, didn’t run, ate a huge falafel pita sandwich, and some baklava, and kind of hate my life now.

This is the whole struggle with being social and being healthy. The two more often than not tend to oppose each other dramatically and it’s really hard to find a good middle ground. You can try to surround yourself only by people that share your exact same goals and mentalities about health and fitness, but that’s not very flexible and realistic. So, what do you do? For those of you out there that have reached your health goals, how have you managed to do that while maintaining a normal social life?

This weekend I have two parties and a couple of events and visitors, which means little time for exercise and lots of food and drinking. I would love to get some advice from people out there who have been in this same position… how do you stay strong given social constraints?

This is one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. Help!

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Stronger Than Yesterday

You know what happens when you set your intentions for the day, when you plan ahead, and when you find internal motivation to have a better day than yesterday? You fucking succeed! Or at least I do.

Today was SO much better than yesterday, oh my god! I went to bed earlier, woke up earlier, and went on my morning run as promised, and that was crucial in setting the tone for the rest of the day. I ate clean all day, I had energy, and I accomplished quite a number of things, with plenty of time to spare to talk to a few friends back home.

After my run, I had my usual oatmeal with protein powder which kept me full for hours and hours. I mixed it with my usual cinnamon and walnuts and I added apples today, just ‘cuz.

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For lunch, I had a minor moment of distress when I opened the fridge and felt discouraged and too lazy to cook. I really wanted to spend a minimal amount of effort on my meal and I almost settled for some poor choices, for sake of convenience (i.e. leftover French food, aka a heart attack), but I paused, took a deep breath, and decided to do a little hunting to see what I could make. Sometimes I start cooking and I don’t even know what it is that I’m making until halfway through the process, and today was one of those days. I found vegetables, sauteed them, and found some eggs and decided to make a veggie eggwhite scramble with half of a small avocado that I had from my picnic this past weekend.

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It was a great success, totally lean, full of good protein, raw, full of vitamins and minerals, vegetarian, had good fats (from the avocado), filling, and low calorie. When I feel lazy and I have eggs around, I’ll usually make a plain eggwhite scramble, but today’s was even better because of all the veggies. I could eat this every day! This meal is all sorts of GOOD.

In the afternoon, I made myself a protein shake with a little almond milk, water, a scoop of protein powder, and a tablespoon of almond butter, because I’m addicted, duh. I don’t have my shaker bottle like I do at home, so I found a janky ass bowl and whisked it all together. Not ideal, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

Four my 4th “meal”, I had a picnic with the little girl and I ate an apple and some dried fruit. And when dinner came around, I didn’t have much (aka any) freedom to choose what I ate, but I controlled my portions and ate slowly and mindfully. It was lamb with all sorts of sauces, and good lord it was good, but its red meat, and I try to avoid that at all costs. I’m proud of myself for avoiding the nightly cheese course, the bread, and the dessert… all things which I crave more than life itself. But my willpower carried me all the way through a successful dinner time, and now, moments before going to bed, I don’t feel sick to my stomach as I do when I overeat, I don’t feel bloated as I do when I eat the wrong things, I don’t feel remorse as I do when I lose self control… I feel perfectly content, healthy, and satisfied with myself today.

It really is amazing what starting the day off on the right foot can do for the outcome of the rest of the day. For me, waking up early and working out early was absolutely the key to my continued success all day long. I want to try to turn this into a habit, as it clearly works well for me! I feel strong, physically and mentally… I’d call that a success.

What habits work well for you? What do you do to start your day off on the right foot?

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