Fave Reads Friday #12 – Health, Happiness, and Habits

It’s FRIDAY! Although my Friday is not going as originally planned, I’m just sticking with it and seeing what happens. I keep ticking off things on my list and that’s what’s going to get me through the day. That’s part of my work on my HABITS.

One of the things on my list today was to read through an IDEA Fitness Journal because I’ve started to accumulate a pile of them again. I grabbed the top one which happened to be October 2017 and started to flip through. Things I highlighted for today:

And, more pointedly, should we think of exercise as a weight loss drug?

The answer to the last question, according to Yoni Freedhoff, MD, is no. “Exercise is not a weight loss drug, and so long as we continue to push exercise primarily (and sadly sometimes exclusively) in the name of preventing or treating adult or childhood obesity, we’ll also continue to shortchange the public about the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise, and simultaneously, misinform them about the realities of long-term weight management.”

~ Beyond weight loss: The many benefits of exercise by Tom Richards

SO TRUE! I am tired of hearing about exercise for weight-loss. I only want to teach people about all of the other great reasons to get up and move!

What does a 19-year-old have in common with a 60-year-old? Both achieve about the same amount of weekly activity, according to new research.

~ Lifetime Physical Activity Trends; Making News by Ryan Halvorson

I stress this so often to my students right now….we’re not thinking long term. Why are we not moving now and later? I keep kicking my kids out of the house to get more movement. I encourage my college-aged students to move around more. I am moving as much as I ever have….why? Because I don’t want to lose the ability to do that and to be independent when I’m older! It’s not just a now or then thing….it’s an always.

Perishable edibles such as dairy, vegetables and fruits are tossed at particularly high rates, leading to significant losses of underconsumed nutrients.

~Time to Eat Your Compost; Food for Thought

This is not the case at our house currently. Although we get the occasional bag of whole carrots that will go bad before we can get to them….I’ve noticed that our compost bin is containing less and less wasted foods now that we’re eating less processed foods, less animal products, and (because I have less time to make them) less baked goods.

And finally, there was an article on Why Modern Diets are Lacking (a fitness handout provided by IDEA) that noted

First of all, remember there are no superfoods, but there are staple foods high in nutrients…

Focus on getting a variety of foods…..

I’m not all about diets and weight-loss…I’m all about moving and feeling great; fueling my body; and living the best life I can. With all of that in mind, my habits are keeping me on track for this. And if you need some ideas for easy ways to make yourself happier, check out my favorite read from Amanda’s TOLT link-up this week:

How to (Quickly) Become Happier in 10 Aspects of Life

 

What’s the best thing you read this week?

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Being Me

In her first book on happiness Gretchen Rubin writes about “Being Gretchen” as one of her personal commandments. It’s something that I have always been driven to be….authentically me. Today authentically me feels like someone who yells a lot….both to be heard and out of frustration (and sometimes a combination of the both).

In Better Than Before Rubin writes about going deeper than the Four Tendencies framework and thinking about how to better define the self. These are the distinctions that make us not like all others, but like some. Kind of how I sort my laundry at the end of each day…..some things I would wear again before washing (like hoodies) and things that definitely need to be washed before they touch me again (like socks I ran in). The world is a little simpler (and sometimes so are we) if we can define ourselves in one of two groups.

Here are the questions she poses:

  • Early riser or night owl?
  • Marathoner, sprinter, or procrastinator?
  • Overbuyer or underbuyer?
  • Simplicity or abundance?
  • Finisher or opener?
  • Familiarity or novelty?
  • Promotion or prevention?
  • Small or big steps?

Today I’m going to start with just a few of these and I hope that you’ll consider them as well and share your thoughts on where you fall in these groups.

The first one that stuck out to me is the overbuyer vs. underbuyer. I am most definitely an underbuyer which you can read about in my post “How Many Do You REALLY Need?” This is a constant source of pain in my life. I find that most people I know are always spending money or looking for more STUFF! I just can’t stand the stuff. I feel like holding on to sentimental items clutters my life enough that I just don’t have room for more things that I won’t use.

I have moved many times in my life. I am still in my 6th state, but this is the 3rd city I’ve lived in in this state. This is the 3rd residence I’ve had in this city. And each time I move I look for what more I can give up without actually wanting to get more. The funny thing is that my houses keep getting bigger…..

I guess that would make me also somewhat of a simplicity lover over an abundance lover. I do like things simple. That’s probably part of what has drawn me deeper and deeper into the practice of yoga over the years. It’s simple: be kind and good and that is enough. However, I love the feeling of abundance when it means that I am surrounded by friends and laughter. I used to think that most people felt that way, but I’ve met a large number of people who prefer time alone. I get it. It can be nice to have the quiet, but I wouldn’t change my rambunctious boys for a quiet house….ever! Even when they’re driving me up the wall and asking for more stuff! 😉

So, what do these things tell me about myself and why is it important to decide? I think that knowing myself in this way will lead to more happiness in my life. I like a small, uncluttered space, filled to the brim with friends and family. That is my ideal life. The question will always be….is that reality?

Please share a few of your thoughts and join me tomorrow as I talk about a couple more of these distinctions.

The Skin I’m In

Welcome to the fifth month of My Best Body Happiness Project! It’s Thursday and I’m sharing my progress over on Running With Spoons weekly link-up.

One element that I have slightly neglected in all of this body talk is my skin. I had a full skin check done back in February when I first visited the dermatologist about the cyst in my leg. Luckily….she found nothing really to be of concern about…..except the cyst. On Monday I was back at the “doctor’s” and my leg is still not healed. It keeps flaring up and the NP gave me an antibiotic for that plus whatever else this cough is that is currently plaguing me and fingers crossed that it heals this time!

Once it’s healed, I’m going to have a terrible scar that will look just as bad as when the cyst was in my leg. It’s kind of part of who I am….I scar. I broke my wrist in several places in March 2007 and had to have surgery on it and a metal plate inserted. The stitches were the kind that weren’t supposed to leave a scar….and yet, I have railroad tracks on my arm. They’re so obvious that more than one person has questioned if I tried to harm myself. I didn’t; unless you count snowboarding without wrist guards as trying to harm oneself.

My skin and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I am very fair skinned in the winter and tan very easily in the summer. My siblings all have freckles on their face and I have random freckles on my body. I am allergic to “regular” sunscreen and I break out in hives if you feed me mushrooms. I get contact dermatitis from a few things like latex gloves and I had a weird eczema patch on my elbow during both of my pregnancies. I had the worst acne when I was younger and developed an esophageal ulcer thanks to strong medicine I had to be on for the bad acne. Basically, my skin kinda hates me….but not always.

There have been many times in my life when I thought my skin was beautiful! Like my headshot on the blog. It’s from the Christmas after my second son was born. I’m barely wearing make-up and it’s DECEMBER! I was simply glowing at that time. I don’t know if it was the prenatal vitamins, the happiness of being a new mom again, eating well because I was breastfeeding, or what the cause was, but I loved my skin at that time.

Your skin is kind of an amazing organ:

  • It accounts for about 15% of your body weight
  • Is thickest on your feet and thinnest on your eyelids
  • Renews itself about every 28 days
  • Changes in your skin can signal changes in your overall health

(Facts found at https://forefrontdermatology.com/skin-fun-facts/)

So, wow! and Yeah! I see why my skin has looked better at some times than others. For me, at this point in my journey, I would love to see beautiful glowing skin because of the dietary changes that I’m trying to make. However, they’re not always consistent changes. I am still struggling with how and what to cut out when and what fits into our social life.

For instance, last night we had a sick kid who wanted chicken noodle soup to feel better. It’s kind of a given; most of us were raised to believe that it has magical healing powers. So, we had chicken noodle soup….in JULY!

Also, you have to consider taste profiles. We’re learning to love new foods (my kids are digging nectarines like crazy!), but also struggling to find recipes that don’t involve cheese. Why? Because we tried the vegan cheese and it was the worst thing I’ve eating in a long time! It’s not a flavor I will get used to because I’m not interested in spending money on it again. Meatless meals are sometimes sooooo delicious (we recently had apple/almond salads with baby greens and broccoli slaw) and other times a big fail (enchiladas with sauce that tasted like it belonged on pizza or spaghetti).

My skin is responding to these foods and changes as is the rest of my body. But I used to be so good about taking care of my skin in other ways too. I used to have a million different lotions for different parts of my body and applied them religiously. Now I’m lucky to remember to apply any at all to any part. But I’m also choosier about what I put on my skin.

Currently I use:

  • Shea Moisture Fruit Fusion Coconut Water Energizing Bar Soap
  • Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow, and Restore Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Shea Moisture Argan Oil and Raw Shea Butter Body Lotion
  • Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion
  • Ology Facial Moisturizer with SPF

(Not a sponsored post)

I wish that I could afford Shea Moisture products all of the time, but I can’t. Currently all of the ones I’m using were bought on clearance. I wish that I could remember to put on my facial moisturizer every day, but as a mom sometimes my get ready routine means that I forget because I’m in a hurry. And I wish that I took the time to fully lotion after my showers, but I often am rushed then too. So, for the next month I’m going to try and pay a little more attention to my skin in three ways:

  1. Get sunscreen on every day to protect my skin when I’m running, at the beach, on play dates, and in general outside
  2. Take the time to get a pedicure because my feet deserve it (I was given a gift certificate for my birthday last year and I still haven’t used it!)
  3. Get my leg healed.

How do you take care of your skin?

What make it its best?

Meditation Monday #41 – How to Meditate: The 5 Koshas (Pranamaya)

I swear that all Mondays are rainy ones now and it puts a real damper on my running…especially when I can’t wake up in the morning because my 4yo threw up at 3am and I had to do the usual clean up from that nonsense. Well, after that amazingly long run on sentence, how was your weekend? I went to Myrtle Beach on Saturday to see Chevelle at the House of Blues.

The House of Blues is a great venue for watching concerts and offers a fun “pass the line” feature if you eat at their restaurant. The restaurant is not super vegan/veg friendly, but I also said that we weren’t being strict about that when we go out to eat…..and I paid for it later anyway. I did, however, find myself choosing options that contained more veggies than I used to go for when I was out to eat. I ended up with a spicy turkey burger that was packed full of peppers (and sodium). I really wanted to try the veg sandwich with eggplant or the house salad, but opted for spicy this time around. Spicy is probably one of my favorite flavors, but you have to make sure it’s not too spicy because then you can’t enjoy it.

You may wonder why I’m spending all of this time talking about food? Well, that’s because food is a source of energy. I talk about this all of the time when I teach the PT Workshop and how language has changed. Diet used to mean the culmination of all the food and beverages you consumed. Now it means something restrictive to your eating/drinking patterns. Organic really means containing carbon (hence most food should technically be organic), but now means grown without added pesticides/hormones/genetically modified something. And calorie….or actually kilocalorie….is a measure of energy; not something to be dreaded and counted.

Energy is the essence behind the second of the Kosha layers: Pranamaya. You may have read some posts here on OGB about Pranayama, aka breathing techniques. Pranayama is often translated from Sanskrit to mean: Expansion of the Life Force. This makes sense as prana is your energy and I don’t know anyone who can survive without breathing. The Pranamaya layer represents all of those things that keep you alive. So, where do you get your energy from?

Some yogis claim to go without eating for days or weeks because they just soak up energy from the sun, nature, and sharing it from those around us. I’m not sure if I’m that deep of a yogini, but I do believe that we feed off of each other’s energy. I’ve written about that some in regards to Asteya and stealing from other’s energy.

The energy layer is also represented, in yoga and other practices, as the Chakra level. I keep meaning to write more about the Chakras, but haven’t gotten to that part of our practice together yet. My Yoga I class studies the Chakras and talk about the ways in which their energies are balanced from the most primal level (having enough to eat, clothing, shelter, security, etc) to the highest level of enlightenment (the goal of any good yoga practice).

In our Hatha (physical) yoga practice we often focus on the Pranamaya layer through those breathing exercises, but it is also important to think deeper. Ask yourself:

  • What energizes and inspires me? Remember that the word inspiration means to breath in as well as to fill with an urge to do something.
  • How do I want people to feel when I leave the room? Think about the energy that you exude.
  • What is one behavior I can change that would benefit my Pranamaya layer? Think about ways that you steal your own energy.

These questions are adaptations of the questions found in Pacheco’s book Do Your OM Thing. It’s a great resource for getting deeper into the Koshas. For me, the answers are

  • Practicing yoga, reading new books/blog posts, and exercising because those things help me reach toward enlightenment. They fill me with the desire to learn more, push harder, and learn to accept.
  • I want people to feel happy in my presence and like I am a trustworthy person. I want people to feel calm and centered in my presence, but also inspired to learn more in what I share/teach with/to them.
  • And the behavior I have changed most recently is becoming more aware of how my food fuels my body and my soul. I am still not fully committed to eliminating all animal products all of the time (don’t think I can sacrifice my honey in my tea yet), but I’m making the change for the right reason for me….and that reason is for me and my health. It’s for my Pranamaya layer.

One of my goals for the Wellness Training I am doing for the fall is to take 20 minutes once a week to breathe. So far I’ve fallen short of this goal, but the goal is one that would help my Pranamaya layer and I encourage you to also find 20 minutes this week to just breathe and contemplate your energy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on/response to the questions posed above.

Meditation Monday #39 – Training

Welcome to Monday afternoon! For many of you tomorrow is the big American holiday in which we celebrate our forefathers’ declaration of independence from a tyrant ruler. For others of us it is an excuse to get drunk and eat grilled food while ignoring the fact that you didn’t put on any sunscreen and are wearing a flag. Still, for others of us it is an opportunity for reflection on what it means to be an American. I plan to do some of that last one especially with all that has been in the news of late.

Since last week I have been working slowly through two trainings that are helping me with my meditation goals. The first is an Inclusivity Training offered by AIM Healthy U and Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts. It is a yoga training to help me better discover the ways in which I have privilege, power, and bias in my teaching; and how to turn that into more inclusive yoga teaching. I’m a little more than halfway through the course and hope to do a full evaluation when I am finished, but one greatest things I’ve written down from this course is:

No matter how your body gets there; you’re still doing the yoga

I am also doing a Wellness Training in preparation for teaching this fall. I plan to write a lot more about that in the coming weeks. For this week I have set three action goals:

  • Do something active every day (I have successfully been active for 13 days straight including a run this morning)
  • Meditate 3x/week (I’ve been doing a lot of meditating and self reflection with these two courses)
  • Play a game or go for a bike ride with my kids at least once per week (we did a bike ride last week and I need to spend more time in play in my life)

All of this has fed into the work I did last week in the Meditations from the Mat book with Tapas and discipline. To create discipline is to create health the reading told me, but it also makes you feel like you’re going backwards. You mourn the things you lose during change, even if you want to lose them. Each of these three goals, by completing these two trainings, by just doing the yoga….I am creating a structure of health in my life. This, along with my slow food changes, are leading me to the point where I feel like I in the moment of allowing true self to emerge and burn brightly. I am leaving behind so much more than I could write about in one post.

Next week I hope to get back to writing about the How to Meditate series, but before then I ask you….

What are you changing in your life?

How are you creating discipline: health?

What will you never have again if not this life you once knew?

Breaking Up with Dairy in the Toilet Bowl of America – A Happiness Project Reset

So, it’s technically three months into this Happiness Project of mine and I’m kind of at the point of starting over. In the first month of my project I focused on getting myself well. Because the whole point of this project is to make me happy by giving me My Best Body, that included getting things right with my health. But, oh did that ever change for me in the last week?!

If you’ve read the blog at all, you know that I’m a big fan of documentaries…..I’m also a great proponent of eating what fuels you and not subscribing to restrictive eating plans. However, a shift has occurred within me that’s been coming for awhile. For a long time now I’ve felt on the verge of making a big change; something inside of me wasn’t quite yet defined, but I felt like the way I was eating was wrong for me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I watched What The Health.

Now, before you stop reading, let me put this disclaimer out there….

I still believe that each and every person has to make their own decisions based on what they feel is the right food for them and their body (diet). This decision can be made for health reasons, ethical reasons, financial reasons, cultural reasons…whatever. And I am not a Registered Dietician, so I will NEVER tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t eat.

With that in mind, I have made a choice for myself to slowly cut out animal products. Why? Because for some time now I’ve felt that they didn’t benefit me in the way that they used to. The food didn’t make me feel as good (hence the reason I went mostly meatless on travel weekends), it didn’t taste as good, it felt like a crutch. After watching many of the disturbing and disgusting facts presented in a wide variety of food documentaries, after always being informed about the secret funding behind our food guidance systems, and after my own experiences with dietary intake, I decided that dairy and meat aren’t really for me.

So, because I didn’t make this decision in an instant and I didn’t do it for ethical reasons (although I wish I could say that I did), I am making a slow transition away from these foods. I’m just not buying more dairy as it gets used up. I’m just not buying more meat as it gets used up. I am going to allocate more of my food budget toward whole fruits and vegetables. I enjoy almond milk and am going to try making my own cashew milk. I am going to try some alternative dairy products and eat more whole grains. I am going to explore different snacks and flavors. I’m rethinking what breakfast means. I am exploring and giving myself until the end of 2017 to see how this experiment goes.

The only expectation I have at this point is to try. I want to live happy and free from disease. I want to love the body that I’m in and feel that I am taking care of it. I am resetting my Happiness Project to have My Best Body in 2017!

Have you seen the documentary?

How do you make your food choices?

What is your favorite meatless meal?

My Best Body Part 3: The Shape of it All

We’re in the thick of it now….it’s the end of May and time for phase 3 – SHAPE!

I know, I know, how cliche for a fitness professional to be talking about their body shape and size and how wonderful it is to be fit! Well, NO APOLOGIES HERE! It is wonderful to be fit and I have really missed being as fit as I can be over the last few years. I have struggled to stay consistent with it and now that I am getting more consistent, I want to feel it in a tangible way. I have been tracking my mileage for the last two months:

Miles Run/Walked/Jogged since March 15 – 88.77 and counting

However, as I wrote about yesterday, other things are not going so well. I have a whole post I’m working on about being an Obliger….again because it’s sort of affecting my life and my workouts and this project.

For this month, I do want to focus on some other numbers and some strategies for improving them. It was time for my annual Health Risk Assessment with my husband’s work recently and I just got the numbers back:

Things that are a problem include my blood pressure going up, all of my cholesterols rising again, and my BMI (but I throw that number out anyway). I know that my weight is up and part of my goals for last month were to get stronger (although I didn’t sufficiently meet them) and therefore I am looking to improve body composition over weight or BMI. And how do I do that? By improving the amount of muscle I have and decreasing the fat in areas that are dangerous to my body.

The biggest pluses on this year’s results were that my glucose is down, my HDL is up, and my waist is down 3 inches from last year….although I’m pretty sure that different people measuring measure different ways. So, this waist measurement got me thinking about the measurements I had taken last year around this same time. I remeasured (myself this time) on Thursday to find more changes in results:

So, I’m pretty much up all around in my size and that’s what has prompted me to choose the following for this month:

MORE RESISTANCE TRAINING

It’s one of the areas in which I’ve really fallen off lately. When I do resistance training my body falls back into the type of “shape” that allows me to move. I will also be done teaching yoga sometime in the next month so I will also be setting the goal of doing my own yoga more. It’s a form of both resistance and flexibility training that makes me feel great.

Some of this was prompted by my own need to feel differently about my body…..I mean, that’s what this whole Happiness Project is about for me, but some of this has been prompted by my friends and their own stories. One such friend is currently pregnant and commented to her husband,

Please don’t ever let me get fat because I don’t’ know how I would move and sleep.

Obviously that’s not the attitude that I hold, but the movement part of her statement really struck me.

It’s not about being “small” to me; it’s about being able to move and live the way I want to.

Happiness Project Month 2: Strength – My Second Big Truth

For me and my body I first wanted to focus on health because of all that has gone on with my body in the first few months of this year. Now that I have resolved a few things with my health:

  • The cyst is out and my leg is still healing
  • The final lupus tests were negative
  • No cavities at my dental check-up
  • I’m still as blind as I’ve always been per my eye exam
  • I have had enough blood drawn this month to create a new human

…it’s time to move on to the second major part of my happiness project: Strength. Continue reading “Happiness Project Month 2: Strength – My Second Big Truth”

Coming Down

It’s been awhile since I’ve written on the blog….a little over a week. On Monday I had every intention of posting about how wonderful it was to have taken my last dose of Prednisone, but the truth is that this week has been a little of ups and downs. In my health journal I have seen my first smile on Tuesday when I went for a run with a friend and didn’t have to take the meds, but also my first frown because Wednesday I was so fatigued and couldn’t get off the couch to go exercise.

I am pretty okay with the neutral face days because that means that I’m still getting life done. I had another smile on Thursday while getting to experience Goddess Yoga as taught by a former student of mine. Things are looking up, but coming down from the Prednisone has meant that I’m more tired, my mind has slowed down, and I’m adjusting to the old eating patterns again.

And today? Today gets another smile! Today I am in Rochester, New York at one of my favorite workshop sites (Rochester Athletic Club for Women) teaching the NETA Pilates Specialty Certification. I love this place because the women are amazing, the facility is super clean, and the host, Nikki, is fabulous! I would work for her if I lived in this area.

I’m also getting the opportunity to eat at one of my favorite restaurants….Root 31. Today I had their Mediterranean Flatbread for lunch and it was so good that I ate it before I could snag a photo for you. For dinner I had to indulge in my go to Beets and Sweets salad. At first I thought it was a little smaller than last year, but it still hit the spot after my 4 mile walk on the treadmill. I wanted to run, but seriously….the treadmill is so close to the ceiling at this hotel that I was afraid of going through the roof!

Now I’m just prepping for another great day of Pilates training, one last meal at Root 31, my trip home, and a better week ahead. Check in with me on Monday for a full recap of my weekend away plus the start of a new Meditation series (think How to Meditate); Wednesday we’ll be breathing together in a different way; and Saturday I’m back doing another race for RTE.

How is your health holding up?

What is on your agenda for the week ahead?

What was the best part of your weekend?

Health in 5 Easy Steps

One of my least favorite terms as a fitness professional is the word “HEALTHY”. Why does it rub me the wrong way? Well, because it’s hard to define in some instances. The definition of HEALTH that we use for the NETA PT Workshop is:

 

Health: Freedom from disease AND the capacity to enjoy life and withstand challenges.

Last week on Monday, when I started describing my Happiness Project I said that the first thing I wanted out of MY BEST BODY was:

To be in good health and not currently fighting minor nor chronic disease

So, for the first month of this project I will be focusing on my health in this regard. Continue reading “Health in 5 Easy Steps”