Recently I’ve been seeing friends post pictures of their infants with these milestone cards that celebrate the growth and development of their little bodies, specifically their muscular strength and control. It got me thinking, why don’t we do this for our adult fitness achievements?
Babies remind us that we aren’t born with a mastery over our bodies and it takes time, effort, and practice to gain the strength and control needed to do new things. Walking can be a long and slow process for children to learn, so why do we expect we will be able to immediately complete new movements and skills without a lot of work? And why aren’t we celebrating when we do conquer something new?
It’s also really important to remember that we should not compare where we are starting to those who have been working out and challenging their bodies for months or years. We don’t expect a 3 month old to be able to do what their 2 year old sibling can do, so why do we so often compare ourselves to someone so much “older” than us in the fitness world?
So go, conquer that new exercise, run that distance, hold that plank. And celebrate each victory along the way! And I'll let you know when I get some fun fitness milestone cards made up for you to take pictures with ;-)
This might sound like a lofty title, but I'm 100% serious. I learned this mental trick from a friend when I was struggling to find the right life balance in grad school. There was a constant sense of guilt in my gut about not accomplishing everything I wanted to eat day and this one sentence changed my life.
So here it is. The one sentence that will change your life...
"It's not a priority for me right now."
That's it! Super simple. Let me explain why it's so powerful.
It gives you permission to not do everything all the time. We can set unusually high demands on our time and accepting that what you are doing in a given moment, instead of something else, is not selfish or lazy, it is living your priorities.
It holds you accountable to your own priorities. If I say to myself "Working out is not a priority for me right now." I have to have a pretty darn good reason why, because if I keep saying that, my vision of myself as a healthy and fit person will suffer.
It's a litmus test for living your life the way you say you want to. Your actions should ACTUALLY line up with your priorities. This small mental game is a great way to see if you're really making smart choices in your life.
It keeps you from too much negative self talk. We've all been there. We just can't get motivated to do that one thing we said we'd do and now we hear that voice in our head calling us lazy, selfish, a failure, not likely to ever accomplish anything. Quiet that voice with this phrase and keep the self talk more positive and constructive.
I hope you try this out sometime soon, and let me know how it goes! I'd love to read about it in the comments!
Here’s something I struggle with when engaged in conversation about veganism with non-vegans… some people seem to believe that there is some universal truth about what is and is not healthy. And, honestly, I’m sure some people have had similar experiences in the reverse.
So why do we cling to what we believe to be true about healthy habits? Because health is personal. What works for you may REALLY work for you, so it feels like it should work for everyone else. And why wouldn’t we share something that makes us feel good?
Yes, there is general consensus around the value of fruits and vegetables and the lack of value in sugar-sweetened beverages. But here’s the thing… if having an occasional soda will satisfy a craving or a need as I work to improve my diet and giving in to that one temptation keeps me from binging on a package of Oreos, it’s “healthy”.
For me, steering clear of meat and keeping my dairy and egg intake to a minimum is what makes my body feel best and helps me eat more of the really good stuff like fruits and veggies. For some people, it makes them feel weak, they eat more junk food, and ultimately it’s unhealthy.
The same goes for fitness… some people will run every day of their lives and be extremely healthy and happy individuals. Some people will run every day for a year and develop stress fractures, injuries, and put a real strain on their bodies. The Insanity workouts I love are not at all similar to what a yogi loves, but it doesn’t make either of us fitter or healthier!
So in the midst of so many people adamantly telling you what is “really” healthy, here are a few tips to know if what you’re doing is best for you…
IT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
Soreness aside, your fitness and nutrition plans should ultimately make you feel good. You should have energy, feel satiated between meals, notice improvement in your fitness level as you progress, and be able to sleep well.
IT IS SUSTAINABLE
If what you’re doing right now is a lot of work, cumbersome, or time-consuming and you’re not totally in love with it, it’s not going to be sustainable. You’re better off with a less strict plan that you know you’ll stick with than a very restrictive plan that you’ll give up in 2 weeks or a month.
IT IS BETTER THAN WHERE YOU STARTED
Sometimes we beat ourselves up for not being perfect. I know I do it. But the reality is, my eating and exercise routine are SO MUCH better than they were a year ago. I’m constantly finding more balance in my life and slowly incorporating more and more healthy options. So if you’re eating better than you were and working more or harder than you were, you’re on the right track, and that’s what’s important.
BONUS: DON’T LET ANYONE MAKE YOU DEFEND YOUR CHOICES
Aside from working directly with a coach who may be asking you to own up to making choices that are off the agreed upon plan (and this should be done in a tough love/supportive way, not a berating or mean way), no one should ask you to defend what works for you.
If you are living a life that is keeping you healthy and happy, that’s what counts. Don’t let anyone bully you into changing what works for you, just because it doesn’t work for them.
Remember, THERE ARE NO UNIVERSAL TRUTHS ABOUT HEALTH.
There is no doubt that following a regular fitness routine improves muscular, cardiovascular, and bone health, improves sleep quality, reduces stress, can alleviate anxiety and depression, and makes every day activities easier. And I am a firm believer in the “magic” of physical fitness.
But here’s the thing… it HELPS it doesn’t CURE. You can work out daily and still have sleep issues, various health problems, stress, anxiety, or other life difficulties.
I say this because I don’t want anyone to blame exercise or give up on it when it doesn’t solve all of their problems. I’ve had days where I woke up, ate a nutritious breakfast, worked out hard and sweat, hydrated, showered, and after all that self-care inside and out still had a bad day and a bad mood.
So here are a few things to keep in mind as you look to be your healthiest you (beyond working out, which you should do 5-6 days a week).
REST IS PART OF THE PROGRAM
If you workout like crazy, eat only the most nutritious and balanced meals, and then only get 4 hours of sleep, you are doing your body a serious disservice.
Sleep is when your body gets a chance to repair, regenerate, and restore itself after a long day. It’s when your body can do some heavy lifting in regards to processing vitamins and minerals. This is where muscles grow, stress is relieved, and fat is burned.
So don’t forget to schedule sleep like an important appointment for yourself every day. Sure some days you’ll be off the mark, but sleep (and the occasional rest day) should be part of your regular routine.
WATER, WATER, WATER
Ever notice how when you wake up you’re a little bit thirsty? No? Try drinking some water when you first get up and you’ll be surprised how quickly you chug it.
Our bodies are using water constantly and need to be rehydrated often. Struggle to get your water in? Check out these tips on how to make it part of your everyday life.
GOOD NUTRITION GOES A LONG WAY
If you don’t have the right fuel, you’re not going to get very far… in a car, a boat, a plane, or with your body. Not only is food fuel, it can be medicine.
Here are some quick tips about what to have and what to avoid… EAT: fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils… DON’T EAT: foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce (except for quinoa, eat quinoa), foods with lots of added sugars, anything you drink that has calories that you didn’t blend yourself, red or processed meats (none of these will kill you, obviously, just keep them to really small amounts).
SOME DAYS ARE JUST BAD DAYS
Remember that some days you’ll be grumpy, you’ll be tired, your body won’t cooperate, your skin will break out. It happens, even to the healthiest people.
Accept that and don’t give up on the healthy lifestyle because it doesn’t fix everything. Just think of how many more bad days you’d have if you weren’t taking super good care of your body and giving it everything it needs to flourish.
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I will be the first to admit that I HATE cooking. It brings me no joy and I do it only because I value the benefits of it (having healthy, prepared food to keep me on track) so much. Because of this, I've worked at getting prep time down and making it as enjoyable as possible.
As I typed this, I had lentils, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash all cooking and sweet potatoes and quinoa in the queue. And I still had time to eat breakfast and type up this post!
OK, so here are my best tips...
Start with the longest cooking foods
This tip has two purposes. (1) Starting with the longest cooking food helps you time things so you get them all done around the same time and prep doesn't drag on and (2) It can be a great starting point if you're lacking motivation.
If you just don't feel like cooking, start with just one simple, long cooking item. I started today with prepping my spaghetti squash and putting it in the oven since it bakes for an hour. Once that's done, I can't help but think, well I might as well get some of the other foods going.
Use a Trash Bowl
You've probably seen them do this on cooking shows, and there's good reason for it! Having a bowl for all the odds and ends and bits of trash you create while cooking helps you keep the flow of cooking.
I was skeptical at first, but then I tried it and it's amazing how much easier it is to just stick those ends of onions or potatoes in a bowl rather than opening the cabinet and putting them in the trash. Try it, then tell me you aren't a believer.
Complete one task at a time
I had this habit of taking care of one piece of food at a time and realized it was totally ruining my flow. For example, I would take a sweet potato, remove the sticker, wash the skin, cut it up, put it in the bowl, then grab the next potato.
It might seems silly, but doing all of one step at a time can be a huge minutes saver. So remove ALL of the stickers, then wash ALL of that one veggies, then chop them all at once. It allows your body to create some efficiency around movements instead of constantly switching what its doing.
Cook Now, Spice Later
I'm not much for recipes, so I don't usually follow anything when I meal prep. If you're not following a recipe, I recommend spicing/seasoning food later.
Adding seasoning can eat up time in the prep phase and you run the risk of flavoring something in a way you don't like and getting stuck with it for a whole week. I prefer to cook things plainly and then pick what seasonings I want each morning when I pack my food.
Keep Foods Separate Until the Morning Of
Keeping foods separate from each other helps them stay fresher, longer. So prepare all the pieces you need and then just throw them together in the morning before heading to work or class.
This also gives you some freedom to adjust what combines with what based on your mood and if you know you'll be eating a meal out and want to account for the types of foods you'll be eating at the restaurant to stay on your meal plan.
Find the Time that Works best for you
Sunday nights were meal prep nights for a LONG time in my house. And then I realized that I would kind of half-ass it too often. I'm really a morning person and don't like trying to do anything productive in the evenings and it was so easy to just ignore it.
Now I meal prep on Sunday mornings. As soon as I get up I get the oven and stove going. It gives me a chance to start off the day productive, have prepped food for Sunday, and Sushi (that's my cat) doesn't bother me because he's usually lounging in the bed for a few more hours.
If you're going to have to do something that isn't super fun, you might as well put a little fun in it! Blast your favorite tunes, dance around, sing at the top of your lungs! All that extra movement is good for you, so it's a double bonus :-)
Today I'm listening to Savage Garden... and it's magical.
Got other quick meal prep tricks? I'd love to hear them! Put them in the comments so I can include them in a "Part 2" post!
I will be perfectly frank about this… I’ve had body image issues for a LONG time. My first ever diet was imposed on me when I was one or two and my first self-imposed diet happened when I was in 6th grade. I was chubby and even after losing some of the baby fat, I’ve always held weight around my midsection.
In high school I hit puberty in the midst of changing roles in cheerleading and packed on 15 pounds of muscle and curve in a year. For a while, it was devastating. In college I was often bigger than all of my friends, meaning I could not borrow or exchange clothes easily with anyone.
Then I hit post-college life. I was running regularly and learning to accept my size and shape. Some days were better than others. And then I had my big “transformation” where I challenged my body, changed sizes, and began a brand new journey of fitness and self love.
Here’s the thing. Becoming a size 4 didn’t immediately make me happy. Seriously. Even at a smaller size I still carry any extra fat in my midsection, some people in my life assumed I was unhealthy because of the dramatic change, and every time I heard “wow, you look great!” I couldn’t help but wince a little at the thought that my friends had thought I was fat and ugly before.
When I realized that changing size wasn’t going to immediately imbue me with true body love, I started on my journey to learn to love myself, flaws and all. I’ll be the first to admit that I still have some work to do and that really self love and body love is a continuous journey, but after struggling to know just what “progress” looked like, I want to share with you some ways you can see your own progress and have some goals to aspire to.
You May Not Always Love Your Body, But You Don’t Hate It
If you’ve really struggled with loving your body, chances are you’ve had days like I have, where you look in the mirror and HATE what you see. It’s not just about the physical flaws, but the accompanying thoughts of failure and why can’t I just stay away from the sweets or stay motivated to workout. It’s the sense that you exist in this being that will not bend to your will and the frustration leads to intense emotions.
Progress is being able to look in the mirror and just see a body. Some days I LOVE my body. I see its muscles, strength, and beauty. Other days I see it and think not much of anything. And on the worst days I see warning signs that tell me I’ve let myself get a little too far off the healthy path and I start making a game plan to get back on track. No more hate!
I don’t always love the pouch or rolls of fat that show up when I do ab work or the cellulite on the back of my thighs, especially when it shows up when I’m feeling icky, bloated, and know I’ve been not treating my body well. But just because I don’t always love my body, I’ve gotten away from hating it, and it is amazing how good it feels to not project negative energy towards this fabulous, miraculous body of mine.
Workouts and Healthy Eating Are Not PunishmentS
Working out used to be something I did to “earn” the sweets I wanted, or the punishment I had to go through to try and lose weight. Eating salads and quinoa was a restriction I had to make on myself to try and undo the damage of the last binge on junk food. Healthy behaviors were something I did only because I was not happy with my body and they were the “solution” to fixing that.
Now, I enjoy my workouts because I know how good they will make me feel… minutes, hours, and days after working out I have more energy, more strength, and an improved mood. Workouts keep my anxiety and stress low, and healthy foods fuel me to keep me feeling great. Sure I still have sweets and I don’t always feel like working out, but I always get back on track because I know I feel better when I’m treating my body well.
If tomorrow someone handed me a pill that would give me the body that looks like I’ve always wanted and I could eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight, I would still work out, eat salads, and drink my shakes. Because it’s about a HEALTHY body for me now, one that will serve me now and for decades to come. Not just trying to have a slim/perfect body.
Your Fitness and Nutrition Plan Matches Your Goals
Here’s the truth… with enough dedication, focus, and often times restriction and time commitment, you can shape your body to be just about whatever you want it to be. There are some limitations based on genetics, of course, but it is incredible what can be accomplished with diet and exercise.
This means, that I could have that six pack I’ve always wanted… but when I weigh the things that make me happy, keep me sane, and fit my current lifestyle, going after that goal doesn’t make any sense. I want to be healthy, feel good, and stay the level of lean that my body feels good at.
The things I would have to change in my diet, the extra time I would have to spend in a gym or working out at home is just more than I want to sacrifice right now to get that illusive six-pack. It also means that living the way I currently do is not inherently setting me up for failure. If I was trying to lean out like a figure or bikini competitor, I would never achieve my goal without making changes and would be back at feeling frustrated with my body for not doing what I wanted it to.
You Know That Ultimately Other People’s Opinions Don’t Matter
Sure, it feels pretty darn good to have someone in your life who’s really attracted to you that shows your body love. And it can be nice to go out and be hit on, to feel like you’re noticed from across the room. But when it comes down to it, you have to love you.
I am not a girl who always had a boyfriend or always turned heads walking into a room. And I used to think that if I found a man who made me feel sexy that was all I would need. Eventually I found one, and sometimes it helped, but there were still plenty of times when I would be getting dressed or looking in the mirror and those same thoughts of frustration with my body would creep in. He wasn’t there or his comments wouldn’t help. It didn’t fix anything.
Now I know that I have to love me, first. And as I grow more confident in my own body and my own worth, I attract better people into my life. When we rely on others to validate our bodies, we make ourselves susceptible to manipulation and emotional abuse. You’re making progress towards loving your body if you know that someone else won’t suddenly make you stop having negative thoughts about it. YOU have to do it.
I hope that this is helpful in giving you a way to help assess your progress. Remember, loving our bodies can be a long and arduous process as we compete with all of the things we see and hear on a daily basis. But stick with it, focus on your health and how you FEEL, and know that consistency with this can be the biggest factor in how much progress you make. Shift your thoughts and be kind to yourself as much as possible. You are human, you are flawed, and you are beautiful. And keep working hard to not let others tell you otherwise.
So here's the thing... as much as I LOVE fitness and trying new workouts, and as much as I try to do everything that I know to be healthy for me, I still kind of hate yoga. I have some amazing yogi friends who teach and live yoga, but it just hasn't rubbed off on me. So here's why I continue to try yoga and keep it a part of my routine... and you should too.
Yoga improves a little bit of everything
Except for cardiovascular endurance, yoga improves balance, flexibility, strength, and muscular endurance. Seriously. That slow-paced, bores me if I'm not careful workout is good for just about everything your body needs to be happy, healthy, and super functional.
It's good for your mind
Yoga includes focusing on the present and clearing your mind of distractions. If you want to tell me you couldn't use more of that in your life, I'll smile and nod and we'll both know you're lying. Seriously, this is good for your mental AND physical health!
Improvement is easy to see
Some workouts take a while to see real improvement and your energy level can really effect whether or not you're able to do that extra pushup or not. Yoga, however, improves the body in so many areas, and in areas we often neglect that improvement can be quick and easily noticeable for the new yogi. Being able to bend a little further, hold your balance longer, and progress into a more difficult pose are all such rewarding outcomes of yoga.
There's probably a Yoga you'll Like best
Yoga is not a one-size fits all type of endeavor. There are all sorts of various that relate to the speed, difficulty, focus on strength building, temperature of the room. Ever heard of aerial yoga? Look it up. It's my next fitness adventure! Also, just like any group fitness class, the instructor can make a big difference. So if you gave up on yoga after one bad classroom or video experience, give it another shot with a different instructor.
If you don't like it, you probably need it
You've probably heard it before... if it challenges you it's probably good for you. And it's true. We tend to stay away from things that challenge us because they are difficult and we don't like to admit our areas of weakness.
The reasons I don't like yoga are exactly why I keep trying it. I get restless, distracted, and frustrated. Which means I need more practice with presence, focus, and clearing my mind. I may never be a yoga instructor or doing handstands with the masters, but I will keep it up as part of my routine, and so should you!
Are you a die hard yoga fan? What are some of the other great benefits of yoga? Leave your thoughts in the comments for everyone to learn from!
I'm going to go out on a limb and say I'm not the only one who is totally done with the holidays. The disruption to the schedule, the lack of productivity even if you have a lot of time off, staying in other people's homes, eating all sorts of foods you don't usually eat, and more. I'm over it and ready to get back to every day life.
Wanting back to normal means you love your life
Excited to get back to your normal, everyday life? Guess what. That means you have an awesome life! You don't need to escape from it and there are a lot of things about it you enjoy and want to get back to! Take a moment and just let that sink in and appreciate how awesome it is to have a life you enjoy living.
this doesn't mean you don't love your family
For many of us, it's been YEARS since we've lived with our families (not including spouses, of course). That means it can be challenging, cramp our style, and overall be tiring to live under someone else's roof and/or with other people for a long period of time. Just because you are so ready to leave or have your family depart your dwelling does not mean you don't love them! Just try to figure out your limit and plan visits that don't leave you warn out and frustrated at the end of them.
the holidays aren't always what they appear in the movies
As someone who has gone through essentially every holiday as a single person, I can honestly tell you that the romanticism of holidays we see in the movies isn't always reality. There isn't always the perfect Christmas surprise or a romantic kiss at new year's. And that's OK! But sometimes it leaves us a little disappointed with the holidays. Take a moment to remember all the amazing things in your life and be happy the holiday season is over for the year.
Eating that much is not sustainable
If nothing else, chances are your body is screaming for a return to your routine. Normal foods eaten in normal amounts, workouts, lots of water, and a regular sleep pattern. You can totally love the holidays and still be ready to get back to a normal life. Be proud you enjoyed yourself and life like you should; then get focused on the new year and taking good care of your body... it's the only one you get, after all.
I hope you'll join me for the new year and a fresh start! Let's connect on Facebook! Just click the link below :-)
Let's be honest... you've made and failed to follow through on COUNTLESS new year's resolutions. If you're like me and most other people you've promised to lose weight, get in shape, save money, pay off debt, travel, etc. all at the start of the new year, only to find December 31st suddenly upon you and nothing crossed off your list.
So why does this happen to so many of us? Because we make resolutions instead of setting goals and objectives and creating a system for tracking progress. It may be en vogue to proclaim a resolution or 5 every year, but if it doesn't come with a plan you're sunk.
The answer? This year, focus on creating SMART goals. Below I've outlined some examples to help illustrate each letter and what it really means.
You may have heard this before, but chances are you aren't actually doing it. Here's what a S.M.A.R.T. goal is... Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound (there are a few variations on what the letters stand for, but they are all about the same).
Specific is "I will achieve and maintain a 28" waistline" or "I will pay off all $5,127 on my credit card". Vague is making goals like "I will lose weight" or "I will pay off my debt". There are still a lot of questions I need clarified to really know what you're talking about.
Measurable typically means a number. If I know I'm starting at one weight and want t lose 20 pounds, it's easy for me to measure my progress. With goals like "I will improve my relationship with my family" require some specifics and a chosen system of measure. For this you could say "I will call my parents at least 2 times every month" so that every month you can track whether or not you've met your goal.
I think we should all reach for the moon, but to be truly successful with goal setting, they need to be within the realm of possible. Could you become a millionaire in 1 year, absolutely, but if you're starting at broke and don't have more of a game plan than playing the lottery weekly, it's probably a goal that will set you up for failure.
Not sure what's attainable? Ask people who have already achieved what you want to achieve! If you want to run a marathon but can't run a 5k without stopping yet, talk to someone who's been at both levels and get their advice on how long it would take to build up the endurance so you schedule a marathon at an appropriate time.
R has two meanings...
(1) If you're breaking down goals by categories such as work, family, social, monetary, health, etc. each goal within the category should be relevant (e.g. you wouldn't set the goal of "Spend more time golfing with co-workers" in the family category)
(2) If the goal is something you feel like you're SUPPOSED to set, but not something that feels personally relevant to you, your life, and what you want to achieve, you'll most likely fail at it. For example, I have thought for years about doing a Figure Competition, which realistically I could do within a calendar year, but the sacrifices to pleasure foods, time, and a social life just aren't in line with where I want my life to be right now. So it's a silly goal to set when I'm not ready for it.
Put a date on it! And remember, you're setting goals for an entire year, so look at shorter term and longer term goals.
Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds by March for that cruise you're going on, pay off all of your credit card debt by September, and have found a new job by December. Great! Put dates on each goal so you know if you're making appropriate progress at any point in the year.
A little bit more...
You can be very successful with the information above, but I've found there are a few extra steps worth taking to help you really hit the mark.
Here are some bonus steps to take to help you really knock 2016 out of the park!
Need some additional help with goal setting? I would LOVE to work with you on it! Just connect with me on Facebook or email (below) and send me a message!
The holidays are full of family traditions. At this time of year I think it's important to embrace the traditions that go beyond food and to consciously try to build traditions that promote good health. Here are the holiday traditions I and my family have that fit the bill...
Playing Board Games
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas we are together, my family gathers around the small folding card table in the living room and play games. Our favorite, by far, is Yahtzee. It doesn't sound like much, but it helps everyone unplug, talk, laugh, and doesn't have to involve food or drinks.
Every year for the past several years I have done a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day and/or a Christmas themed run. It's so much fun to get dressed up and enjoy such holiday spirit with so many people of all ages. And the best part is, most of these races are the 5k distance (3.1 miles), so you don't have to be a distance runner to participate!
Post meal walk
Since I can remember, my family has been a walking family. Not only does it serve the same benefits as playing board games, but it also gets everyone moving. Try going for a walk between dinner and dessert or starting your morning off with a big family walk.
This might sound like a silly one, but my family appreciates RELAXING over the holidays. So if you stayed up too late chatting or from the excitement of the next day or because you went to a midnight service, naps the next day are encouraged. Holidays should not be a time where you're running low on sleep!
What are your healthy holiday traditions? Share in the comments!
Want to start some of these healthy family traditions? Share this post with your family and see if you can agree on where to start!
I'm Amanda K; lover of fitness, sweets, veggies, adventure, travel, and happiness.