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Spring Fever!


It’s April and spring is in the air! I love the beginning of a new season – especially spring. The weather is changing and the timing is right to focus on renewal – physically and mentally!

I’ve spent the last few months organizing, purging, and cleaning in my home in anticipation of spring. Letting go of physical clutter helps me feel more at peace in my home, and I find that it energizes me mentally so that I have the energy to tackle new projects in other areas of my life. A wise friend once told me that clutter and dirt in the home represents trapped energy, and for me that is certainly true. When my physical environment is neat and tidy, my mind feels clear and I’m able to take on more challenging ideas and projects without feeling so bogged down. There is also a strong correlation between depression and clutter. As someone who has struggled with depression, I know how important it is for me to keep my environment clutter free. I’ve been reading Alexandra Chauran’s book Clearing Clutter and have learned some great tips along the way.

Addressing my physical space is just one of the projects on my spring cleaning list. I’ve also been working on clearing out old limiting ways of thinking, changing up my workout routine, and focusing on nourishing my body with better food choices. I work out and eat clean-ish – as I like to call it 😉 – all year, but find that it is helpful for me to reset my intentions a few times a year and evaluate to see if any bad habits have crept in. The same old workout routine can become stale, so I like to challenge myself to try new things periodically to give my brain and body something new. And when it comes to eating real, nutrient dense foods, spring brings so many fresh produce options and the warmer weather makes me start craving fresh fruits and veggies.

Clearing my surroundings, moving my body, and giving myself the food my body needs to feel its best empowers me to tackle the biggest of these challenges – my mind! I strongly believe that our thoughts affect who we are and the circumstances of our lives. If you believe that there is never enough money and you can’t be successful, your reality will reinforce those negative ways of thinking. If you embrace a mindset of abundance, you will find ways to make more money and you will always have enough. If you tell yourself that you’ll never be able to stick to a healthy eating plan and you can’t possibly say no to the snacks in the break room at work, you’re right! You must first believe that you are capable of change and that you are strong enough to stick to your decision. Most of us are not living up to our potential because we don’t yet believe in how amazing we are. Positive affirmations are a great way to begin to build belief in your ability to make changes. It may feel silly at first, but write yourself notes and tell yourself in the mirror – you ARE strong enough, you deserve love, and you are capable of making change.

One of the best resources I’ve found for building belief in yourself and owning your awesomeness is Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass.

I hope this encouraged you, and if you have questions on how to put some of these principles into action in your own life, I’d love to hear from you!

For more info on clutter and depression:

http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/home-and-travel/advice/a26118/link-between-clutter-and-depression/

These Amazon links to contain an affiliate code, so if you purchase either of these books by clicking on them, I will make a (very) small commission.

How to put down the Doritos and love yourself

Here’s the truth: we all have slip ups. There are financial gurus who make money mistakes, pastors who have serious doubts about their faith, and health coaches who eat crap. Most of us walk around feeling like failures because we remind ourselves of every little slip up we make, but rarely take credit for the things we do well. Does one mistake undo your credibility? Does one wrong move as a parent or in your career mean you’re a big fake? I hope not! No one can live up to that standard.

Ready for some real talk? I don’t eat as many veggies as I should every day. Some days I overindulge – even in healthy foods – just because they taste so good. I love food and don’t always make the best choice. I really, really, really love wine. And chocolate.

So, if you focus on all my shortcomings, you may be wondering why anyone would hire me as their health coach, right? But here’s what I do well: I move on from mistakes and make a better choice the next time. I used to dwell on the slip ups and use that as an excuse to throw myself into the downward spiral of finishing off the whole bag or ordering dessert because I’d “already messed up today anyway…might as well go with it.” But at some point I learned that one bad snack or meal does not have to mean one bad day. One bad day doesn’t have to mean one bad month. And 2 bad months doesn’t mean you have to wait until next January to start over yet again.

This is true for many areas in life, but my focus is health and wellness, so I’ll focus on what this means for our relationship with food. Every time you eat something that doesn’t make you feel your best or support your goals, put it in the past! Then make a conscious effort to start over again at your next meal. YOU get to decide when your clean slate happens. One bad meal won’t ruin your progress any more than one salad will make you thin or healthy. We are all living the sum of our choices up to this point. So all you have to do is make a decision to make better choices going forward. Want to look and feel better this time next year? If you eat 3 times a day, you have over 1,000 chances to make better choices, so don’t get down on yourself for one “bad” choice. Make a commitment to make as many good choices as it takes, to grant yourself a do-over at the next meal, and pat yourself on the back when you honor your body and your goals with the right foods.

So how do you do this? Here are a few tips.

  • Address your negative self talk. If you call yourself names every time you slip up, you are only setting yourself up for another failure – and soon! Talk to yourself the way you would expect a friend or loved one to treat you. You are deserving of love and it must start with you!
  • Distract yourself. It’s pretty hard to quit eating from the bag of Doritos if you sit there with the open bag in your lap! Get up, put it away (or trash it!), and go do something else. Turn on a favorite song and dance around, go for a walk, paint your nails, pet your dog….it doesn’t matter what you choose, just do something different!
  • Write it down. Whether you use a journal, a calendar, or your iPhone, find a place to write about the feeling you have before and after your slip ups. If you always eat a bag Oreos after a visit with a certain family member, maybe the real issue is that relationship. If it’s a consistent time of month that sends you looking for the Ben and Jerry’s, being aware that time is approaching will give you the opportunity to stock up on a healthy alternative. Knowing how you’re feeling and why is a big step in managing these emotions in a healthier way.
  • List all the things your good at. It doesn’t have to be a long list, and it doesn’t have to include rocket science or curing cancer. If you’re really good at cleaning the floors or styling your hair, add it to the list. Focusing on your strengths will boost your feelings of confidence.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are the keys that have helped me dig myself out of the cupcake pity party in the past. I hope they help you! And if you have other tips you’d like to share, I’d love to hear what has worked for you!

#SelfLove and Body Confidence

Body Confidence has become somewhat of a buzz phrase of late. We all have a Body and we all strive to be Confident – nothing wrong with that! But I’ll admit, this term sometimes bothers me. I don’t ever want anyone to accept feeling lousy and being at risk for disease because they’ve embraced being overweight in the name of body confidence. On the other hand, I believe that we are ALL deserving of love and self respect regardless of what we look like or how much we weigh. In fact, self love and acceptance are so important that their absence negatively impacts our ability to make and stick to healthy lifestyle changes. I also don’t think that anyone should feel obligated to pursue the insanely unattainable beauty standards that our culture pushes on women.

 

So, how do you simultaneously love yourself right where you are AND love yourself enough to change? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll share my story in hopes it helps some of you.

 

I won’t go into all the details my past disordered eating in this post, but suffice it to say I’ve flirted with fitness and various diets (healthy and not so healthy) all my adult life. I was inconsistent until my 30s when I finally felt bad enough physically and emotionally that I decided it was time to actually DO something about it rather than just complain. Changing my diet at that time seemed so overwhelming, so I decided to start with exercise. I was overweight, but more than that I was tired, struggling with depression, and felt pretty hopeless.

 

I joined the gym because I knew I needed to exercise, but I was NOT looking forward to it. I needed motivation, so I started meeting a few friends at group exercise classes to hold myself accountable. Luckily, I found some amazing Zumba classes and was hooked. I’ve always loved music and dancing, and losing myself in a good beat with a room full of people was the most fun I’d ever had at the gym. And BONUS: they have childcare. As a mom of 3 young kids, I needed something that was just for ME at that stage of life. And I needed a break from Dora and refilling sippy cups.

 

I got a great workout, but the experience of moving to the music and feeling the energy of a group of people was also a spiritual experience. It became my church. It broke down walls in me and helped me find myself again. It’s difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but for that hour each day I stopped worrying about my muffin top or who needed a snack and I just enjoyed the feeling of my mind, body, and spirit being in alignment. It was pure JOY. After 6 months of taking classes, I decided that I wanted to teach Zumba so I could help other people experience that feeling. Teaching has been an incredible journey and I’ve grown more confident, become more fit, and stayed consistent because of the responsibility of that role.

 

Today I’m a Personal Trainer, Certified Health Coach, and a Precision Nutrition level 1 coach, which means I know a lot about getting strong, eating well, and changing behavior. But it doesn’t make me immune to criticizing myself or comparing my body or my fitness level to others. As a trainer, I measure and weigh my clients, analyze their body fat percentages and BMI, and then track that info as we tweak their exercise and nutrition. I train people of all shapes and sizes, and sometimes they are thinner or more fit than I am. That’s OK, because they aren’t paying for my looks or how heavy I can lift, they are paying for my knowledge and coaching. But sometimes, the pressure to look the part of “fitness professional” can be tough.

 

Recently I was measuring a client whom I perceived to be thinner than I am. As I measured her, it seemed that our numbers were very similar, but I would have sworn that she was thinner. We don’t have the same build, but our waist and hip measurements were very similar, and though I weigh more I’m also taller. I kept trying to figure out how our waist to hip ratio could be identical and the actual measurements so close, and yet she could be so much thinner. I even took my own measurements again, because there was just NO way we were the same size. To my surprise, the measurements were not the issue. Numbers don’t lie! The real problem is my own perception of myself.

 

For all the body confidence I feel like I’ve “earned” at this point, sometimes I still look in the mirror and see my flaws more than I see my strengths. Now don’t get me wrong, for the most part I’m happy with my body. At 41, I’ve given birth to 3 children and I have no delusions of looking like a Victoria’s Secret model, but I can wear just about whatever I want with confidence, I’m strong enough to haul my own groceries and rearrange the furniture, and that’s enough for me. But on any given day I can go from feeling like a million bucks to focusing on the “fat” (aka SKIN) that hangs over my jeans. Blame it on hormones, a lousy lunch, or the unfair beauty norms our society tries to shove down our throats, but most women have days like this. My point is that you are not alone.

 

Let’s face it, we live in a society that seems to be consumed with the way we look. Thinner, fitter, curvier, bigger butts, smaller waists, bigger boobs, smoother thighs….everyone is chasing the next goal. In my life and in my job I’m surrounded by strong, fit women, but very few of them are actually happy with where they are right now. Why is that? Is it ever enough? How do we stop focusing on the GOAL and just stop and be grateful for what we ARE right here, right now, in this moment?

 

Here’s what I know. It starts with what we say to ourselves. Too many of us are walking around replaying ugly words from our past. We repeat these words so often that we believe they are true. So what if we STOP calling ourselves names, berating our food choices, picking apart the way we look in an outfit, and give ourselves the love and respect we need? And I’m not saying it’s OK to do that only WHEN you lose 10 pounds, eat the “clean” meal, go to the gym… I mean even when you just finished off the entire sleeve of Ritz crackers. When you hit snooze for the 87th time and missed your workout. When you have to wear your stretchy pants because nothing else fits. THAT is the moment when you really need to love yourself. Because you wouldn’t keep doing the things that sabotage your goals if you weren’t hurting and in need.

 

I’ve been calling February the month of self love because that’s what I’ve needed this month. Sometimes self love looks like feeding myself a big, yummy salad that’s jam packed with superfoods and sometimes it looks like a glass of wine in the tub. It never looks like shoving handfuls of chocolate in my face through tears, though I’ve certainly been there before.
Sometimes self love is a yoga class or sleeping in instead of a brutal weight lifting session. Sometimes it’s putting yourself to bed early with a good book and sometimes it’s getting dressed up and going out with people who bring out the best in you. Loving yourself has a whole lot to do with listening to what you need and giving it to yourself and absolutely nothing to do with what you look like. It doesn’t involve shoving feelings down with food, alcohol, sex, or whatever your drug of choice may be. So maybe that’s the real issue I have with Body Confidence – it shifts the perspective back to our bodies, which we spend so damn much time thinking about already. What I want is soul confidence. Mind confidence. ME confidence. To KNOW who I am, what I need, and how to get it. And to think about that more often than I worry about what my butt looks like in my yoga pants.

You DO have time to eat healthy. Promise.

“I don’t have time to eat healthy.”

Let’s take a moment to shift that way of thinking. We ALL have to eat every day, right? It takes the same amount of time to eat whether you’re eating from the drive through, the vending machine, or a nutritious lunch you packed at home. Correct? The difference is the planning.

Now don’t misunderstand me – I know that the planning, shopping, and cooking takes time. I know that some of you truly work most of your waking hours and spend the remainder of your time caring for your family and sleeping. So, what I’m saying is not that it’s easy or that your reasons aren’t valid, but that it’s POSSIBLE.

So how do you get started? First off, when your time is extremely limited, you need to be able to shop just once per week. You don’t have time to run back and forth to the store, so planning is crucial! Chances are that if you’re working that much, you are probably also watching your budget. The good news is that a once weekly trip to the store instead of popping in every few days will also help keep your grocery costs down. And since you should be increasing your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, you’ll also need to have time to wash, chop, and cook some of these purchases the day that you shop.

Before your shopping trip, take a look at what you have on hand. Check your pantry, freezer, refrigerator, and spices. If you already have the makings of a few meals but are missing an ingredient or 2, jot down those dishes and the extra items needed. If you have a stockpile of processed foods and you can’t afford to throw them out, incorporate small amounts of these items one or 2 days per week, but add a big green salad or a side of veggies to them.

Once you have a rough plan of weeknight dinners, you can make your shopping list. Plan to cook enough each night that you have left overs for lunch the next day. You may need to take that portion out of the meal prior to serving if your family is struggling with portion control. And if you’re really strapped for time, you may need to double or triple just a few recipes for the week. It may not make everyone happy, but no one ever starved eating repeat meals!

If you have a crockpot or Instant Pot, focus on recipes for these appliances since they cut down on your time in the kitchen. If you need recipe ideas, you can follow me on Pinterest. I’m constantly trying and adding new recipes there.

https://www.pinterest.com/shondaspencer/

You don’t have to eat all organic or all Paleo or all ANYTHING from day 1. This is a journey, and if you’re at square 1 you do not have to move from McDonald’s to Whole Foods in one fell swoop. In fact, if you’re living on an Aldi and WalMart budget, you can absolutely feed your family well and lose weight without ever stepping foot into a Whole Foods. I take a good, better, best approach when I’m shopping. Anything that is a basic ingredient like a fruit, vegetable, piece of meat, an egg – something that doesn’t need an ingredients label – is automatically GOOD. It’s leagues beyond a processed item whether it’s fresh, frozen, organic, pasture raised, grass fed, etc. While organic items may be better or best, if that’s not in your budget, don’t sweat it! Feeding your family grilled chicken, broccoli, and mashed potatoes made from non organic sale items at WalMart is way better than an organic frozen pizza and organic gluten free cookies from the fancy grocery store. Seriously.

So once you’ve made your list, shopped, and brought your budget friendly real food ingredients home, here are some steps you can take to simplify food prep throughout the week.

  1. Fill the sink with water and add a few tablespoons of white vinegar. Dump all your produce there and let it soak for 10 minutes. Then grab your cutting board, a good knife, and some Ziplocs or storage containers. If you have veggies that you want to cook, chop and put them on a cookie sheet, drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then oven roast them all at once. For the raw veggies you want to snack on during the week, put them in grab and go portion sized packages. If you have fruits and vegetables that won’t last the full week, either plan to eat them early in the week or cook them right away.
  2. Thaw any meat you’ll be preparing in the next couple of days. If you’re making crockpot meals, place all the ingredients together in the fridge the night before. Or, if you have space, put it all in the crock the night before, then you just have to move it from fridge to pot in the morning.
  3. Put your family to work. Whether you live with a roommate, a parent, or a bunch of kids, get them involved! They can help chop and wash, clean up, or do the dishes after. Don’t be a hero! And ask for their opinions along the way. Even if they are resistant to the changes, find out what they think and let them be involved in the process.
  4. Stick to the plan. There will be days that you get up late, don’t feel like messing with it, and would rather just order pizza. Stay strong! If you’ve already bought the food and it’s in your house, you CAN make a meal faster than you can hit the drive through or call Domino’s. And if you can’t, you may have over complicated your recipe choices.
  5. Get back on track when you don’t stick to the plan. See what I did there? Everyone caves and orders pizza on the occasional rough day. The key is not letting that throw you back into your old habits. Make it a one time thing and then get right back to your menu the next day.

Once you are consistently making better food choices for you and your family, you can get creative and try some new things. But in the beginning, keep it simple and plan for success! If you’ve already done this, I’d love to hear what worked well for you!

Why I’m not doing a detox

The New Year is in full swing, and today marks the beginning of week 2. If you set resolutions, how are they going? Have you started yet? Or did you start strong, and give up already? For so many people, that is the pattern each year.

I love the idea of a new year being a time to reflect on what did and did not work last year, and making plans to improve myself this year. But I gave up on starting new diets, detoxes, 21 day plans, etc. Now if you love those, more power to you! I’m all for doing whatever works for YOU as long as it’s healthy. But for me, living a lifestyle 365 days a year is what works. I may work out harder some weeks, I may cut out sugar periodically, and I may indulge a little extra during vacation, but I try to maintain a balance year round because eating and exercising to feel and look your best is a lifestyle, not an event.

If you haven’t figured out how to live this balance yet, here are my tips for getting started.

  1. Decide what your blueprint for health and happiness is. Is it more important to you to be strong? Flexible? Have a certain body fat percentage? Don’t let society dictate the goal you are working towards. Figure out what YOU want to feel or look like to be comfortable in your own skin. This can be a moving target as you work on becoming your best and healthiest self, but make sure you are working towards a goal that truly resonates with who you are, not some unreachable ideal of photo shopped “perfection”.
  2. Eat more of the good stuff. Focusing on removing things you like creates a feeling of deprivation. No one wants to feel like they are constantly giving things up! Instead, focus on adding in more veggies, more protein, more water. When you do this daily, you crowd out the “bad” stuff because your are full. As you gradually increase servings of nutritious foods and reduce serving size of the not-so-good things, it becomes easier to pass them up all together.
  3. Focus on eating the right kind of fat. If you grew up during the low fat and fat free diet craze of the 80s and 90s, it may be difficult for you to think about eating fat on purpose. We should all avoid deep fried foods and low quality vegetable oils because they cause inflammation, but fat is a vital nutrient that our bodies NEED. Consuming fat from olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and fish provides many health benefits and is necessary for feelings of satiety, which is crucial for anyone trying to lose weight. Dietary fat is not what makes people get fat, and I wish we had different words for the fat we eat and the fat we try to lose. Excess weight on the body generally comes from too many calories, hormonal imbalances, and excess consumption of sugar, not from consuming fat.
  4. Move. You don’t have to go to the gym or even follow a workout plan, but you do have to move. If you have a sedentary job and you spend your evenings on the couch, it is vital that you make time to move throughout the day. Set a timer to stand every hour while at work. Walk to a bathroom on a different floor. Park far away from the entrance. Go for an evening walk. Start with walking and adding more movement to your day, and then consider adding in some strength training to help build lean muscle mass and improve bone density.
  5. Supplement. It is impossible to get all the nutrients we need from our food. 100 years ago when soil was rich in minerals and there were fewer toxic pesticides being used, you might have been able to get the nutrients you need from a balanced diet. But today, many Americans are deficient in vitamins B, D, magnesium, zinc, iron and more. Part of this is due to lack of nutrients in food, and part of it is due to lack of absorption because of an imbalance in gut bacteria. Supplementing with a quality probiotic, a multivitamin, and an omega supplement at minimum can help all these issues. I use Plexus supplements for all of these. ProBio5 has 5 different strains of probiotics, an antifungal to kill off excess yeast in the gut, and digestive enzymes. Plexus Bio Cleanse is a gentle magnesium supplement that helps detoxify and oxygenate, and it also contains calcium. Plexus X Factor multivitamin is fully methylated, contains anti-oxidants and iron from the New Zealand black currant, and because of it’s patented aloe blend it is 300x more bio-available than other vitamins. Plexus Mega X is an excellent plant based omega supplement that contains omegas 3, 6, 9, 5 and 7. I love it because the capsules are smaller than the large fish oil supplements, and no fishy burps!
  6. Practice positive affirmations. It is just as important to say nice things about and to yourself as it is to feed yourself well. If your inner dialogue is critical and negative, how can you succeed at creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Be kind to yourself. Take those self-defeating thoughts captive and replace them with an encouraging statement instead. It takes time and practice, but you CAN and you MUST create an inner voice of self love. Also – don’t keep people in your life who feed the negative voice. Life is too short to be in relationship with people who are emotional vampires. Your vibe attracts your tribe, so start practicing those positive affirmations and like minded people will come into your life.

There are many other practices that go into creating a lifestyle that is centered around wellness, but these are at the top of my list. What’s at the top of yours? I’d love to hear from you!

Sources and further reading:

http://www.prevention.com/food/nutrient-deficiency-and-overeating

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601187/

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8370/15-affirmations-that-will-help-you-lose-weight.html

Why Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

chicken-tortilla-soupLooking for recipes your kids will eat? Here’s one of our favorites! I set it in the Instant Pot before we left for a walk and some time at the park. Perfect for when you come home hungry! And don’t panic when you read the ingredients – I purée all the veggies, so no complaining from the kids! 🙌🏼 I make this differently every time, so feel free to swap out ingredients for things you keep on hand!

Today’s Ingredients:
•2 chicken breasts
•1 small can green chilies
•1 packet Southwest style ranch (you could sub taco seasoning or your own spices, this is just a quick suggestion)
•1 large carton chicken broth
•1/2 bag frozen seasoning blend (celery, bell pepper, onions)
•1 bag cauliflower pearls
•1/2 bag shredded carrots
•1/2 jar your fave salsa

Pour a little olive oil in the pot and turn it on Sauté. When the oil is hot, add seasoning blend Once the onion is translucent, scoot the veggies to the sides and put chicken breasts on to Sauté. Brown both sides, then add chicken broth, 1/2 jar of salsa, and 1/2 southwest ranch packet. I also add some salt and pepper, cumin, and cilantro. Then add cauliflower and shredded carrots. Stir, put the lid on and set to manual for 25 minutes. Natural pressure release is best so the chicken stays juicy. When you’re ready to eat, remove and shred the chicken. I then pour the soup into the blender and purée until smooth. This way they’re still eating the veggies, but not complaining about it. It also gives the soup a nice consistency.

Other things you can add:
1 or 2 chilies in adobo
Black or pinto beans
Corn
Cilantro

Get creative! We serve it with shredded cheddar, sliced avocado, green onion, and tortilla chips. The chips are a bit of a treat, but it only takes a few to make it feel like a real indulgence!

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, this recipe could be done in a crockpot or on the stove. You’ll still want to brown the veggies and chicken before hand for a deeper flavor.

For more recipes like this, check back often or follow me on Facebook!

https://www.facebook.com/CoachShondaSpencer/

January 1

be-your-best

If you want to feel your best and accomplish all the things you’re capable of, taking care of your physical body is a necessity. Your goals may not include running great distances or rocking a bikini, but having a fitness level that enables you to tackle your to-do list and still have enough energy to take care of yourself and those you love is important! So, what do you need to do to be healthy? There are many ways to get there, but these are the basics to comprehensive health:
-Real Food
-Exercise
-Sleep
-Proper Elimination
-Hydration
-Stress Management
-Supplementation

We’ll dive into each of these over the next couple of weeks, but today I’ll focus on real food! Most of us are busy, so it’s far too easy to rely on packaged foods and the drive through when we don’t have a better plan in place. The reality is that these “convenience foods” are more costly; full of extra fat, sodium, and chemical additives; and while they leave us with excess weight because of the increased calorie content, they are very poor in nutritional value. The result is that people who eat these foods regularly end up overweight, undernourished, and addicted.

So where do you begin if you’ve been living on a diet of packaged and fast food? The simplest way is to reduce these and increase your meals at home. If you’ve been eating take-out regularly, even a rotisserie chicken and salad mix from the grocery store is an improvement. It costs less than the extra value menu, and it’s just as fast as the drive through. Increasing vegetables and protein at each meal and crowding out starches and packaged foods will improve the calorie content and nutritional value of your meals, and it’s easier to make changes when you focus on the things you’re adding rather than what you’re trying to eliminate.

So what’s the next step? MAKE A PLAN. We’re all in a different place, so if you’re currently eating fast food every day for lunch, decide how many days a week you’ll start bringing a lunch from home instead. Don’t say every day – set an easier goal that you know you can accomplish! Maybe it’s 1 or 2 days a week to start. Then if you end up packing a lunch 3 or 4 days instead, you’ve exceeded your goal! If you are already a healthy eater but have indulged a little extra around the holidays, maybe your goal could be to cut back on sugar this week or skip dessert until the next party or special occasion.

Whatever action you decide to take, write it down! Share your goal with others, or post it on social media. Tell someone you know will hold you accountable! Do what it takes and make 2017 your healthiest year ever!

Practice makes progress

img_5073TooltipTextYesterday as I was teaching my Zumba® class, I had an epiphany. I know, most people are just thinking about which dance move comes next, but I often have some of my greatest ideas and biggest breakthroughs in these classes. There’s something about joining the group energy, moving to the music, and getting your heart rate up that takes me to another place. It’s a spiritual experience, and it has become my church. It must be similar to what tribal cultures experience in a drum circle or sacred dance. Anyway, on to my point. 😉

I’ve been teaching these classes for over 6 years now, and as I looked around at the packed room and saw all the smiling faces, I thought about how I could never have imagined this many people coming to and loving my classes when I first started teaching. I started out teaching classes in a much smaller space, so that was part of the limitation, but I’ve also become a much better instructor over the years. Then I thought, how cool would it be if we could see the end result like this when we begin something new? It might have helped me be more confident as an instructor if I knew that my classes would be a success and that I would develop such a large and devoted following. Just as suddenly as that thought came to me, I quickly thought, NO!

To become truly great at anything requires practice, a teachable spirit, desire, and time. If I had known where I’d be today, I may have been complacent in my teaching because I knew I’d eventually be successful. Would I still have practiced as much? Would I have put in the effort to learn from other great instructors? Would I have said yes to all the teaching opportunities that seemed less than ideal but turned out to be learning experiences? Probably not.

If we could see how successful we might become or how we’d master a new challenge before we’d actually achieved that milestone, we might become complacent because we already know the outcome. But when we struggle and fail, but persevere anyway, that’s when we truly become great at something. See, the real difference between someone who is successful and someone who is not is what happens after a failure. There were plenty of times when only a handful of people showed up for classes, or when someone didn’t like my class, or when I forgot the moves and messed up a song (let’s be honest, this still happens and always will 😉), but if I’d given up in the face of these challenges, I wouldn’t get to teach hundreds of students every month. Yes, it’s “just an exercise class”, but it is the highlight of some people’s week. It’s an hour that they set aside for themselves to do something that makes them stronger and happier. It’s a time when they can drop their cares at the door and focus on nothing but the music and the beat of their hearts. I’m honored to get to play a part in that experience.

So if there is something you are working on in your life and you don’t feel like you’re good at it yet, set a goal and put in the time to practice and develop your skill. Find someone you can learn from or hire a coach. Read books on the subject. Whatever it takes to develop the skill you want, go after it. The time will pass anyway, so why not spend it chasing your passion?

 

 
 


Note: My new online Precision Nutrition Health Coaching program is starting now, so if mastering your eating, exercise, and stress management habits is on your to do list, I’d love to help you get started!

 

Busy People’s Guide to Staying Healthy (and SANE) During the Holidays

I feel like this year just started, but sadly, the calendar tells me otherwise. It’s already November and before we know it the “Holidays” will be upon us. While most of us are only celebrating 2 to 3 actual holidays between now and January, it seems the entire remainder of the year will be dedicated to stressing and overeating as if it’s a sport. Cocktail parties, holiday open houses, cookie exchanges, goody baskets, and the giant feast meals can really take a toll on your waistline, while the marathon of shopping wreaks havoc on your budget and sanity. If you want to ring in the New Year in your current jeans with your wits about you rather than a frazzled mess in your stretchy pants, read on.

Just say NO

The holidays present a dizzying array of demands. Adding all these extras to the  commitments we are already juggling can spell S-T-R-E-S-S. Sometimes, you have to say NO to the extras in order to focus on what’s truly important during this busy season. Your immediate family, close friends, and your own personal needs should come before all the superfluous social events. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed, so don’t.

Ditch the expectations

The Hallmark Channel might make it look like everyone else in the world is having a magical holiday season, but most of us are dealing with some major crazy. Stress, disappointment and family drama are part of the experience for most people, so don’t be bummed when things aren’t as you imagined they’d be. Enter each family get together with the intention of being kind to others and to yourself. It doesn’t have to be perfect or just like last year. Families grow and change, and sometimes traditions have to change, too. The sooner you embrace the mantra “it is what it is” and relinquish expectations and control, the better you will feel.

Make a plan and stick to it

If you haven’t had an eating plan all year, now is the perfect time to get it together. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, but you need to stick to real food – fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, beans – anything that doesn’t have a list of ingredients. Stock up on these foods and skip the chips, cookies, and other junk. Utilize shortcuts like pre-washed and chopped veggies, packaged salads, and grocery store rotisserie chicken for quick grab and go snacks and meals. When possible, choose organic foods. When you know you have a party in the evening, have smaller portions early in the day to budget some extra calories for the party. Don’t skip meals and show up starving or you’ll end up going overboard, but if you had a protein smoothie for breakfast and a salad with grilled chicken for lunch, a few extra canapes at an evening cocktail party won’t derail you.

Decide when to splurge

We all have favorite foods (or drinks) that we can’t imagine giving up. If your grandma’s cookies or your neighbor’s egg nog make you feel like the holidays are finally here, have some! Just decide in advance how much is OK. Have some protein and veggies first, then enjoy the treat. Don’t kick yourself, regret eating it, figure out how much cardio you need to burn it off, or give it another thought. If you’ve decided to indulge in 2 of your favorite cookies, have 2 and enjoy them. Period. Shaming yourself for every indulgence creates stress which is just as damaging as the extra sugar and calories.

It’s a Holiday MEAL, not a Holi-DAY

One huge meal a few times a year does not have that big of an impact on the scale or your belt. What does make a difference is going bananas at every event you’re invited to and eating from sun up to sundown. I’m not into calorie counting because what kinds of foods you eat makes a bigger impact than the calories, but it is a good idea to understand what you typically eat, what you typically burn, and how much extra you’re getting during the holidays.

The average Thanksgiving meal is about 4,500 calories and it takes roughly 3,500 excess calories to gain 1 pound. Knowing this, you should be cutting intake and increasing activity other days that week to compensate. You also don’t HAVE to eat everything. Make a salad you love or a veggie tray and fill up on that and the turkey before you hit the rolls and pie. If you’ve had veggies and protein first, you’ll be much less likely to go overboard. Get a workout in before the holiday meal and suggest a post dinner walk (or indoor dance party if it’s too cold) instead of the usual nap on the couch. You’ll feel better and you’ll have an easier time digesting your food.

Sweat the stress away

Even if you’ve been working out regularly, the extra time commitments that come this time of year can make it difficult to spend an hour at the gym. But don’t let that stop you from getting your sweat on – the stress relief of a good workout is too important to skip. The good news is that with HIIT (high intensity interval training) you don’t need an hour. There are several great apps like Sworkit and 8fit that you can download to your smartphone to coach you through these sessions, and you can be finished in 20 minutes or less. 8fit is my favorite, and the workouts travel well since they require no equipment besides a chair. You can select the type of music you want, there is a tutorial for each move with modifications, and they offer a meal plan with the pro version. If you’re an absolute beginner to fitness, Popsugar fitness on YouTube is another great option. It’s a completely free resource, and they have workouts for every fitness level, body part, and schedule. You don’t have to invest in equipment and cute gym clothes, and you can skip the traffic by getting it done in your living room.

Get some help

I’m sure you’re totally awesome, but you still can’t do it all. This is not the time to be a hero, it’s the time to enlist help. Whether it’s help preparing the big meal, a clean up crew to restore order after a party, or someone to hit the grocery store, delegate whatever tasks you can. Remember that sometimes DONE is better than perfect, so don’t sweat it if your helpers don’t do things just the way you would have.

Don’t slack on sleep

Sleep is important for memory, mood, weight, cardiovascular health, stress, and so much more. If you know you’re going to have a few late nights, budget the extra sleep into your week before and after. Burning the candle at both ends will leave you depleted, edgy, and making poor food choices. And no, coffee doesn’t count as sleep.

The Holidays should be a time to reflect on what truly matters – family, friends, gratitude, generosity, kindness, and hope for the future. Your health should also be on that list. As the saying goes, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. Fuel your body with nutritious foods, move your body in celebration of what you are capable of doing, rest when you need it, and take a deep breath. The busy season will soon be over and you deserve to begin the New Year at your best.

This article originally appeared in Pursuit Magazine http://thepursuit.tv/magazine

Mindful eating

As we approach the holidays, many of us are bombarded with holiday parties and indulgent foods that can pack on the pounds and leave us feeling less than our best. So, how can we enjoy the occasional treat and still stay on track?

Try being more mindful when you’re eating. Dr. Judson Brewer shares these 7 tips to eating mindfully:

1. Bring the food to the table.
2. Get rid of all distractions.
3. Take 3 deep, attentive breaths.
4. Ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of 0 to 10.
5. Observe the food – the texture, the color, the aroma.
6. Take one bite, making mental notes about the taste and smell.
7. Enjoy your meal and consciously put the fork down between bites.

Taking time with your food will also improve digestion and give your mind the time to process feelings of satiety.

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