What's Your Excuse?

When I talk about diet and/or exercise to clients, I get an array of responses. I also get a whole boat load of excuses. Okay, I'm not gonna lie, the clients that I feel most compelled to help (other than the ones with NO excuses who are raring and ready to go) are the ones who simply say "I just can't help myself, I love junk food" or "I know I need to exercise but I hate it." It's not just about the fact that they are being honest with me (although that helps a lot) but rather that they are being honest with themselves. 

Meanwhile, I've got the morbidly obese clients who swear up and down that they eat a perfect, nutritional diet and just can't seem to lose. Yes, there is such thing as a true thyroid issue but they are few and far between. In fact, I've had spouses, friends and family members often confide in me exactly what these clients truly eat. Okay, I can even deal with this. Pride is a powerful force so I get it. Unfortunately, I can't sit there and tell you how to control and prevent binges if you swear you've been eating nothing but chicken and broccoli for years. But, again, I get it. 

Then there's the common excuses: "I don't have the time" (I never hear people say they don't have time to take care of their kids, weird??), "I'm this way because I'm depressed" (no, more than likely, you're depressed because you're this way. Your hormones are out of balance, you can't move freely, you're probably sleep deprived and you're starved for nutrients). And my personal favorite "I'm this way because [insert person's name or situation here] made me this way." I'm not going to lie, these are the people that I feel the least motivation to help. Everything always happens TO them and they have no power over it. They are the eternal victims. I have very little patience for self-proclaimed victims. Sorry.

However, today I had what had the be the most interesting and worst excuse I've encountered so far in my career. I was speaking with a new client and my interview turned, as it always does, to nutrition. Here is how the conversation went:

Me: So how do you feel about your diet.

Her: Oh no, I don't diet.

Me: Well, good, I don't believe that people should technically diet. What I'm asking is how do you feel about the quality and nutritional value of the food you eat.

Her: I really don't want to change my diet.

Me: I understand change is hard and I'm not saying you have to eat perfectly but you're inevitably going to hit a wall in your weight loss if you don't at least make some healthy changes to your diet.

Her: Well, actually I can't eat a healthy diet.


Her: I tried eating healthy once and it raised my potassium levels dangerously high. The doctor said so! And, come to find out, all healthy foods have it, bananas, even kale (end of list apparently)


Her: So yeah, I just want to focus on exercise because I'm not going to change my diet.

So, basically, she is saying her doctor has told her that eating a healthy diet is dangerous for her health. I don't believe this, by the way. As little as most doctors know about nutrition, the one thing they've been taught to regurgitate whenever the topic of nutrition comes up is "eat a balanced, healthy diet." 

Okay, so makes for a funny story for me and she surely doesn't believe this so no problem there. The excuses clients make to me basically go in one ear and out the other. At the end of the day you are either ready or you're not and it doesn't matter if I call you out on your BS. The result will be the same. You do the work and I will be your guide. So your excuses to me won't harm our time together. It's your excuses to yourself  that do the damage. And we all have them. Here's some of the greatest hits of my past excuses as well as what my new replacement excuses are:

Then: I had a bad day. I deserve to sit down and chill and maybe have some take out.
Now: I had a bad day. I really need to get in a good sweaty workout to make me feel better. Then maybe if I'm still craving some comfort food I'll have a little something naughty while I'm making dinner.

Then: I worked out yesterday, I don't need to work out today.
Now: I worked out yesterday, and it's gone. Now it's today, I'm not sore or tired from overtraining, so time to work out again.

Then: My son is just being too demanding and we are stuck in the house on a rainy Sunday, I can't possibly squeeze in a workout.
Now: My son is being too demanding and we are stuck in the house on a rainy Sunday. If I don't get in a good workout and work out this frustration, I may lose my freaking mind.

Then: I ate bad for breakfast, guess I'll just eat bad for the rest of the day. OR, I ate bad for breakfast so I guess I'll starve myself for the rest of the day (and then it reverts back to the first version once I get really hungry again).
Now: I ate bad for breakfast, guess I'll eat really healthy for the rest of the day to make sure I get my body all the nutrients it needs and balance my blood sugar.

Then: I can't afford to eat healthy.
Now: I can't afford to NOT eat healthy because the cheaper stuff isn't actually real food. (Oh, and it turns out, when I'm not eating out constantly, my food expense ends up being the same)

Then: I don't have time to exercise.
Now: Oh wait, I have 10-15 minutes to scroll through Facebook, I could do a quick HIIT workout instead.

Then: The people around me aren't eating healthy, how can anyone expect me to?
Now: The people around me aren't eating healthy, maybe they will see me eating healthy and be inspired. I should eat better than ever when I'm around them.

Then: I'm tired because I need sugar.
Now: I'm tired, I better not eat sugar or I'll be even more tired in a little while.

And so on.

Have you paid attention to your own excuses? Not so much the ones you tell other people but the ones you tell yourself. 

Notice them.
Challenge them.

Change them!

It won't happen all at once but just becoming aware of your excuses and taking the time to challenge them will start to set off change. All changes start right between our two ears. Even if you don't act on your new, positive excuse, just think it anyway. Start reprogramming your brain and eventually it will start coming up with these new excuses on it's own. Then, BAM!, you suddenly find yourself working out on a Friday night even though it's cheat night and you worked out every day this week. Why? Because you now have every excuse in the world to do so!

Confessions of My Affair

So I promised on my Facebook page today that I'm going to go back to my blogger roots of being completely and unabashedly honest about my life. A great place to start is with an ongoing affair I've been having. Very few people have been aware of this until now. This affair has hurt me many times and seems to get worse as time goes on. However, I willingly go back for more. It's as if I am drawn back, powerless to the allure of it. I just can't help it. It makes me feel so good. Yet, soon after, it makes me feel so bad. 

The object of my unquenchable desire? Cheese.

I love it. I mean I LOVE it.  Ooey Gooey hot sharp cheddar calls to me. Little hunks of feta make a good salad a great salad. A meal seldom feels complete without cheese. Not a big deal, right? Well, no, not right. In addition to it comprising WAY too many calories of my diet, it makes me feel bad after I eat it. My stomach starts cramping, my sinuses swell up, my throat gets sore and I feel an overall sensation that I can only describe as "yuck". 

WHY can't a quit cheese?! I have conquered postpartum depression with diet and exercise. I have lost 100+ pounds "the old fashion way" and gained crazy muscle. And throughout my life I've cut out cigarettes, soda, diet soda, energy drinks, sugar, bread, soy products and about anything else tasty you can think of. What is the allure of cheese that makes it so impossible to kick? 

Well, from what I've been researching lately regarding food intolerance (which is what I quite obviously have), we tend to crave the foods that hurt us the most. It's something about the body preparing itself for the assault the food is about to make on our bodies so it releases some happy hormones or something. Whatever the cause, I can't seem to cut the cheese (actually I can....quite often after eating it actually...oh come on, you can't have a cheese post without a good "cutting the cheese" pun).

Here's my theory as to why....I HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO MAKE ME FEEL GOOD!!!! Okay, that's not true. I have exercise, I have people who I can laugh and have fun with, a son that lights up my life, good movies/books that help me grow and the occasional alcoholic indulgence (yes, yes, I know, more on this another time). Okay, but cheese is the only thing I have left that really really makes my mouth happy! And exercise is awesome but you can't melt it on veggies and make them taste delicious.

And, keep in mind, because I refuse to cut out the healthy foods that my body actually needs, it's also making me go over my calorie limit each day. In fact, the only reason I don't gain weight and can actually still see improvements in my body is because I work out like a mad woman and practice intermittent fasting. Otherwise, I have no doubt that my little love affair with cheese would be written all over my body.
What's a cheese lovin' girl to do? 

Well, I think I will start by keeping it out of the house, which I do more and more often. I will ask my loved ones to nag me about my cheese consumption in their presence, I will pay close attention to how unbelievably shitty I feel after I eat it (which should be enough!!), I will continue to educate myself on why it is not healthy for me (although I eat raw organic cheese for the most part so the evidence isn't stunningly horrible against it) and I will continue to be open and honest about it on my blog and Facebook page until I feel mounting pressure to quit if for no other reason to save face but, ideally, to inspire and motivate others to kick their bad habits as well.


November has become the month of gratitude. Although we all know we should be grateful all the time, and it's something wonderful to strive toward, it's also nice that there is now a month that has seemingly became dedicated to it.

A few weeks ago I signed up for a 21 Day Gratitude meditation program scheduled to start on November 4th. The morning of November 4th passed without me doing as I resolved, starting my gratitude meditation. Why? Well, my time is limited to be sure. However, I do have a little free time, as most of us do. And, as many of us do, I have fallen into the habit of using my precious free time doing idle things such as playing games on my phone or checking Facebook.

I suddenly realized that my priorities are most definitely out of line if I can't dedicate 10-15 minutes of my free time to focusing on being a happier person because I'm too distracted by my iPhone. Thus began my November phone fast.

I deactivated my Facebook account and deleted the games off my phone. November 5th (yesterday), I spent my morning coffee time doing my first gratitude meditation and, as a result, started my day in such a positive, constructive way compared to the mind numbing way I usually start it after 20-30 minutes of Ruzzle and Facebook memes.

Now might be a good time to state that I am in no way against Facebook (although I think I am officially against phone games, I don't know that we should have such easy access to such things). I love Facebook, it's how I connect with many of the people who I love and how I stay informed about important things going on in the world and in my own community. December 1st, I will be back on Facebook. But my intention is that it will be back in its compartment where it belongs.

So my first benefit of my little "fast" was that I entered my day with a sense of gratitude and purpose. Actually the first day's gratitude meditation was about living your purpose. I already feel with all my heart that I AM now living my purpose. However, entering my day consciously aware of this helped me to give so much more to others and, as a result, get so much back in return.

Last night I laid down in bed and this is when I would usually turn on my phone and pull up Facebook for a little "me time" while I get good and tired. Instead, I pulled up gaiamtv.com (amazing website, soooo totally recommend it!) and watched a short movie called "Serotonin Rising" and was so happy and inspired when I rolled over to go to sleep. I woke up and watched my second gratitude meditation and I am entering this day with my new assignment of giving my thanks to the universe by remaining focused on my life's work instead of going through my day in a distracted haze.

What I'm doing may be a little extreme for some and that's fine. It may, however, not be extreme enough for others. We need to be open to the idea of removing that from our lives which distract us unnecessarily from what's important. Life is beautiful and exciting and full of wonder, but we are going to miss it if we're playing Ruzzle when the miracles happen.


Make Your Body Crave It

This is me at the gym early this morning before work. I barely had any time to squeeze in a workout this morning and had to choose between showering and washing my hair and working out and, well, you can see what I chose. (Ladies: Wet wipes, leave-in condition, a curling iron and a good strong deodorant work wonders!)

How did I get here? To the point where I would rush from dropping my son off to the gym where I would bust my butt as hard as I possibly could for 35 minutes before having to get ready for work in a crazy mad dash of 7 minutes? Well, it all started when I was overweight and miserable and never moved. I thought feeling tight and achy and anxious and sad were normal. Turns out I was wrong. 

I've talked in the past about how my addiction to exercise started to form (during some of the darkest days of my life, when I was 275 pounds and lived my sad life under the shadow of a severe case of postpartum depression). However, I don't know if I've ever talked about exactly how this addiction feels now. 

Well, let me share. When I wake up in the morning, my body feels stagnant and only half alive. My mind is pretty much right along with it. Coffee helps a little but I can feel that it's a false kind of "waking up" that I'm feeling. Whether I'm at home working out (which I don't exactly love) or at the gym (which I do totally love), I have the same "drag" that I think we're all familiar with. My legs have a little bit of a lead feeling. It's kind uncomfortable for my feet to leave the ground. I kinda want to lay down and take a nap, maybe have some cake. However, I know what's on the other side of that heavy feeling and my body has come to crave it.

On the other side of that feeling is the most alive, intense feeling most of us will feel in our day to day lives. Our problems shrink somewhere mid-workout. The heaviness is replaced by a lightness that I feel each time my feet leave the ground (for about 20-30 seconds at a time anyway, then I gotta take a break before that light feeling returns).

I feel powerful, I feel determined, I feel proud and empowered that I once again busted down that "I wanna lay down" feeling and threw down yet again. And when my workout is over? I feel truly awake. I don't mean "it perks me up", I mean, my body vibrates at a higher level, my mind is clear (and even clearer when I'm eating properly). My legs have a slightly shaky, wrung out feeling that I've grown to love. 

When I wake up the next day, I'm tired again, and now I'm sore! I love being sore. It's my tangible evidence that my body is, once again changing. It also reminds me that it's time to move again. Nothing makes soreness worse than sitting still! So I find a way to work in another workout. Some days I get off work early enough that I could squeeze in a quick workout before I pick up my son. I don't prefer this because I love to start my day off with a good workout. I don't feel pulled together or even as motivated to eat healthy if I haven't worked out that morning. Likewise, I feel like my day is incomplete if I go to bed that night without working out that day. Rest days have become what exercise days used to be for me. I have a very "I'll do it tomorrow, I promise" mentality. 

So how do you start to crave exercise? Force yourself just once to do it and pay attention to how you feel mentally and physically afterwards. You'll feel more in control. Your body feels better. You feel hopeful, like you're headed somewhere. I have 2 lists in the back of my planner. One is titled "How I feel when I do the right things" and the other is "How I feel when I don't do the right things". Days that I eat horrible and/or don't work out, I reach the end of my day in a sad state. The world looks bleak.

Perhaps the biggest reason I work out is because it's what fuels me in all areas of my life. I can't put my finger on it but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the more I push myself in my workouts, the more I can push myself in life. I gain confidence and clarity with each successful workout. 

So, find an exercise you enjoy doing so you'll stick with it. Pay attention to the whole process. Recognize that the uncomfortable feeling at the beginning of your workout is completely normal and you are not, in fact, going to die. You will find that, over time you grow more comfortable with being uncomfortable. You'll start to see progress in ways like improved insulin regulation (which you'll recognize as less cravings and more energy) and a control over your body that you didn't know existed. Then, one day when you least expect it, you'll wake up to find your body craving exercise like it used to crave cake....although you may still crave both.

Here's some other random reasons why being fit rocks:
  • Steps no longer get you out of breath
  • Better coordination, less tripping.
  • Okay, ladies, you're gonna love this. A stronger core makes you feel everything below the belt at a much more heightened level. Climaxing is easier and better. ;-)
  • Everything from tying your shoes to checking the mail just seems easier!
  • That uncomfortable feeling during exercise starts to fade and becomes easier to override.
  • Oh, and then there's the whole, living a long, healthy life and setting a good example for your children and everyone you love thing.
  • And one of my favorite things about being fit is the control I have over my body! I kind of referenced this when mentioning you trip less and feel more, erm, down south. I used to feel like a floating head. I was so out of touch with my body and had trouble controlling it. Now, I like to take steps two at a time simply because I can. One of the reasons I love Zumba is because I love how fast I can now. Although plyometrics (lots of jumping) isn't my favorite thing to do for fun (although it gives you lots more results) I DO enjoy how easily my feet now leave the ground, how light and athletic I feel and how I land like a cat. I love being able to have such amazing control over my body now and I'm always motivated to keep working harder to see just how good it can get.

What You Didn't Know You Needed To Know About the Gym

I am a gym rat! I love the gym. I love the clank of the equipment, the whirl of the treadmills, the crappy music and even the sometimes weird, flashy outfits. I love it all. Give me some lifting gloves, good music in my headphones and some iron and I'll see you in 1-2 hours! Love it. Love it. Love it.

However, this was most definitely not always the case. I used to feel such anxiety when I went to the gym. I felt like everyone was staring at me, wondering why the fat girl was in the gym. Then, add on top of that, not knowing what the heck I was doing. I felt like a fat fool, and my gym memberships usually collected dust (along with my gym bag) until I finally would cancel them convinced I'd start again later. Maybe New Years, after I had worked out at home for a while and lost some weight first (which also never seemed to happen).

I see it now in my clients. The unease. The feeling that everyone is staring. Convinced they don't belong. They are somehow different. So here's what I know about the gym that may make it easier for you to walk into your own the next time......

You will never know what to do if you don't ask! It is stressful enough to go into a gym where you aren't comfortable without walking in clueless on how to operate anything or even where everything is located to begin with. At the gym where I work part time, we have an amazing program that is free of charge where we will work with members and teach them how to use all the equipment and set them up with different workouts. While most gyms might not have anything nearly this involved, they will probably offer some kind of orientation. You may have to ask for one. Ask! You're a paying member! If they offer nothing, pay for just a single personal training session and ask the trainer to teach you how to use all of the equipment. It'll be the best money you've ever spent in a gym!

The two giggling women on the treadmills are NOT laughing at YOU!....Neither are those men on the other end of the room. This is actually a fear I somehow forgot to have when I was overweight and new to the gym environment but I see it in so many of my clients. People often go to the gym with their friends for two reasons, it is more fun and it is more comfortable because THEY are often self-conscious too. Often, they never look up, only down at the treadmill and at each other. They get in their own little world and cut up and have fun to make the hour pass. They don't even notice you doing squats and, if they do, there's really nothing funny about squats! Unless if you are just doing some kind of bizarre exercise that no one has ever seen before or just in some kind of way trying to draw attention to yourself, I promise, they aren't laughing at you!

Which leads me to my next point. No one thinks it's weird or funny to see an overweight person at the gym. This is what seems to keep overweight people out of the gym the most. However, oddly enough, people almost always feel the exact opposite about overweight people working out. They respect it. Especially if you're really working hard. Okay, I'll admit it, if you sit on a recumbent bike eating a doughnut, they're probably going to judge you. But if you're red faced and huffing and puffing, they're gonna admire the hell out of you!

You shouldn't skip the gym because you've had a bad day. A horrible day is a PERFECT excuse to go work out. Take each stressful moment you've had in your day and sweat it out! Leave every ounce of stress and anxiety on that gym floor! Exercise is THE BEST medicine for stress and anxiety! I am living proof! (In case if you're new to my blog, I cured postpartum depression through exercise and proper nutrition.)

Waiting one more day really does matter. All those days you've been skipping?....They've added up to years! If you work out today, you'll feel so glad you did. You'll look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow, and not feel hopeless. Perhaps the most discouraging thing about being obese is this: You can eat perfectly, work out religiously for an entire month and STILL be obese! It feels like you'll never get to your ideal weight.

In fact, I have to say, having just recently gained about 10-15 pounds and plugging away at them these last couple of weeks, it's sooo much easier than trying to lose 10-15 pounds when I still had 100 to go. This is for a few reasons. First, it's easier in general to move, which makes exercise much more pleasant (or at least tolerable). Second, my hormones are not all out of balance like they were when I was obese which means food and exercise affects my body differently. And, perhaps the biggest motivator, I can work out and eat good for a few days and see results in the mirror and in the way my clothes fit. However, when I was larger, the actual pounds fell off much quicker. I remember I had a friend I would text each Monday after my weigh in with texts like "down 5 pounds this week", "down 7 pounds this week". Now, I'm extremely happy if I can manage to lose 2 pounds in a week. Which doesn't happen many weeks. But, overall, much easier and motivational.
So, in the beginning, when those giant drops started to dwindle to the standard 1-2 pounds lost, I had to learn to shift my focus from the "superficial" results and, rather, focus on the immediate, internal results. I would really pay attention to how my energy level was after a work out and my mood in general. Perhaps the biggest motivator of all was really focusing on how proud of myself and in control I felt when I DID work out opposed to when I didn't. Notice everything. Do you feel more positive? Do you sleep better? Control your cravings better? More energy? Does your back ache less the next day? THESE are the things that will keep you going when the scale starts slowing down. 

You should go even if your workout buddy just canceled. .....no seriously, it wasn't your "sign" not to go! Workout buddies are a tricky thing. My boyfriend is my best workout buddy ever. Like me, he's a total gym rat. I can always count on him to be by my side, pushing me to the point of exhaustion. We joke and laugh which makes the workout fun and he always keeps me motivated. BUT I'm lucky! Most people's workout buddies....quite honestly?...suck! Because most people, quite honestly? Aren't motivated yet! It is estimated that only 15% of the population works out on a regular basis. So right now you are trying to become part of that 15%. If you've got another person who is trying to do the same and you both are depending on each other to get to the gym then, guess what?! You have MORE than an 85% chance of failure. So, you have two options. If your workout buddy keeps dumping you to go home and watch American Idol with her hubby then dump HER! Either decide you are going to go by yourself or find a friend who is already part of that 15% and ask them to drag your butt to the gym with them every day!

Crotch sweat/swamp butt is normal!! I remember when I first joined a gym many moons ago that one of the (many) things that made me self-conscious was the line of crotch sweat that would be on the seat after I used a piece of equipment. News Flash: Your crotch sweat is probably smaller than mine! My boyfriend and I joke that I leave a "Y" on the seat while he leaves more of a "T". Some people just leave a big honkin' sweat puddle....which is totally rude. Clean up your sweat guys! But, bottom line, your bottom is gonna leave a line. :)

It's okay to make faces! I've trained a few women who won't work too hard because they are worried they are going to grunt or make an unattractive face. Look around folks!! The people making the ugliest faces are usually the ones in the best shape! No one is going to be like "haha, look at the face that woman who is working hard is making". 95% won't even notice, the other 5% will admire you for pushing yourself. I make the ugliest faces imaginable when I work out. However, my goal is not to be attractive in the gym, it's to work hard so I can be attractive everywhere else.....oh, and um, to be healthy and junk too.

Strength training is not just for meatheads!!! Women, lifting weights will NOT make you big. Oh, you're the exception? No, you are not the exception.....no, seriously, you're not. I thought I was too. I'm almost scrawny and I curl 25 pound dumbbells. When I was heavy, my arms were tree trunks. Turns out that was hard, solid fat on my arms wrapped around tiny muscles, not bulging biceps. Men, lifting weights almost definitely will not make YOU big either. Getting really big takes hard work and specific diet. That's just for men. For women, forget about it. We need testosterone to gain muscle and we just don't have very much of it! Muscle is hard to get. HOWEVER, we want it!!! YOU want!!! When it comes to metabolism, I want you to look at it like this: our bodies are vehicles and calories/energy/fat stores is fuel. If our bodies are made up primarily of fat, we are a little 4 cylinder, fuel efficient car. It takes very little energy/calories/fat stores to get us around. However, if we are primarily muscle, we are a Hummer. Extremely fuel inefficient and burning up calories/energy/fat stores all over the place. Not at all fuel efficient. We want to be Hummers!!! The reason most people start gaining weight in their 20s is because that's when we start losing muscle (approximately 1/2 pound of muscle a year). That means that, if we are eating the same amount of calories in our 20s, 30s, 40s+ that we did in our teens, we will gain weight. UNLESS, we offset this loss with as much muscle mass as possible!

And, on that note, The free weight section is not just for the men! I see it constantly. Women walk in the gym, hop on a piece of cardio equipment, and an hour later they leave. As I just mentioned, strength training is essential! Furthermore, long extended cardio is not an effective way to lose weight! I love to drag women kicking and screaming into the free weight section and introduce them to the joy of true strength training. I've seen many fall in love with it. There's a reason the men flock to this section. It's where the results happen! Very little can take the place of unsupported, free weight exercises. Ladies, this is YOUR area too! Men will not drop their weights and turn to stare in disbelief if you walk into "their turf". In fact, they're probably so wrapped up in what they're doing that they won't notice you've walked in at all! If anything, they'll admire you for "working out with the boys". And, ladies, that's at ANY size! The bigger you are, the more admirable it will be!

The stability ball will not pop!! Overweight people, take note. These balls are meant to hold a LOT of weight. Some balls can even hold up to 750 pounds. Check the ball to make sure it's a little mushy (not too firm, not to soft) and that there's no bulging seams. Then sit that tushy down on that ball and get to work. You'll be fine! ....same goes for treadmills.

So, there you have it. The gym seems scary because it's unfamiliar. The more times you set foot in there, the more comfortable you will become. If you are a member, you have just as much of a right to be there as anyone else! Make sure you pick a gym that isn't a "meat market". A good sign of a meat market would be women working out in sports bras only. A more conservative gym will not allow this. The YMCA is a great family type place, so definitely check it out if you have one near you. Make sure you find a place that makes sense in your life. Close to work or home? Good hours? Child watch if needed? Then take the leap and just go! Also, keep in mind, anytime we make ourselves uncomfortable and step out of our safe and familiar zone, we grow as individuals!

Good luck and I'll see you at the bar. (That's gym talk....you'd know that if you went.)


The Raw Truth: My Experience With Going Raw

I want to start this by saying, if you don't have a lot of time, just scroll down and (a) find the movie I've provided a link for and watch it at your convenience and (b) find the bullet point list and you'll see what I learned and experienced on my one week raw fast.

Now, on to the long version....I am a cheater. I cheat basically every day. I'll clarify what I mean. I would say that at some point each day, at least once, I eat something I shouldn't eat. However, along this journey, my cheats have become less severe in size as well as in level of unhealthiness. For instance, at one time, a cheat could very well have been a plate full of corn chips with a ton of cheddar cheese melted on top, late at night, and I may have possibly gone back for seconds. Now, let me make sure you understand, this has been DURING my weight loss journey. I emphasize this because I see it time and time again  in my friends and clients (and, formerly, in myself), the whole "I screwed up, I failed my diet again" mentality. I now look at these cheats as, just that, a cheat and then I'm back on track and it's just part of living.

Now my cheats are more things like cheese on my salad, or fajitas and a few chips and salsa on non-cheat nights. Maybe even a FEW chips with cheese melted on them. Well, that was before I attempted to go raw. Now cheese is almost always off the menu. Along with sour cream and cottage cheese. Dairy has been a hard one for me to give up but the effects of going off of it, combined with the effects of trying to eat it after going off of it, have convinced me, just as I finally became convinced with sugar and wheat, that dairy is NOT my friend. 

It turns out that my raw journey has been very similar to my previous journey(s) in that I am taking some important things away from this experience. I have naturally dropped a couple more bad habits and naturally picked up a couple. I didn't have to struggle, I didn't have to deprive myself, I just educated and experimented, two HUGE keys to success.

Instead of trying like hell to resist the urge to eat cheese on my chips because I know it will deter my weight loss efforts, I now know not only what ugly, yucky things can be in conventional cheese and how the cows are treated, but also how I am going to feel after I eat it. This is something I never quite connected in the past because my diet was clogged enough with cheese that I was constantly feeling the effects. Headache, stuffy nose, slightly irritated, swollen throat and fatigue. And, um, stinky gas. Yes, the illusion is over. The jig is up. I fart. Shocker, I know.

So while we're talking about my farts, let's talk about what meat and whey protein do to the air around me. After being off of both for a while, it is almost instant as soon as I eat any animal protein. My stomach starts churning and then my son starts fussing at me (I think I liked it better before he could talk).

Now for the highlights of my experience with going raw.

I first resolved to eat raw for one week after learning more and more about the benefits of eating raw and finally after watching this video: Raw For Life (there are two parts but I only recommend the first part because the second is a series of long, greatly in depth recipes that end with two really obnoxious skanky girls who kind of ruin the video, so do like I do when I watch Titanic and only watch the first part and you'll walk away much happier).

I started with my boyfriend on a Sunday. It really helps to have someone in one's life to make changes with. I am so blessed that I not only have a family that values health and development but now a boyfriend as well who, just as me, is always looking to grow and change as a person. I value this trait a lot in a mate because I have come to understand just how much this can hinder or add to my success. However, it doesn't have to be your family or your mate, it can be a friend at work or even someone you set out to meet online for the specific reason of offering one another support. Bottom line, social support is a huge indicator of adherence to any lifestyle change.

That first day was hardest in a way because we were going through processed food withdrawals (a.k.a. I wanted some freakin' cheese!). However, in another way, it was the easiest because I was right at home all day and able to juice and cut up fruit until my little heart was content.

I'm going to break it down now to a bullet point list of the major things I learned and experienced on this diet.
  • Lots of fruit is okay! I've always heard that we shouldn't eat a lot of fruit because of the way the fructose affects our blood sugar. However, the more in depth I read into the idea of eating mostly fruit, the more I learned that, when eaten alone, our body metabolizes fruit waaaay different than if it's cooked or paired with processed food. Bottom line, the water and fiber slow down the absorption of the natural sugar to a point where very little if any of the sugars are actually dumped into your bloodstream. When I eat a bunch of fruit for breakfast (and I mean a bunch, one apple would make me miserable and hungry, you can't be afraid to eat on this diet!) my belly is satisified and I am full for a long while. There is no energy crash at all!
  • We should be using the bathroom at LEAST once a day. 2-3 is ideal. Nuff said on that subject.
  • Horrible stinky farts on a regular basis are NOT normal.
  • Food really can be medicine or poison. Eating a mostly raw diet (which I am still, weeks later, continuing to do) make me feel better in every way imaginable. I am more energetic, I wake up easier in the morning, people are actually commenting on how good my skin looks AND, you guys are going to love this, it is improving my skin elasticity! My face looks younger and my belly firmer.
  • I am convinced our bodies do need SOME cooked food. That is my personal experience with eating raw. Toward the end of the day, my body wants cooked food. My theory is that my metabolism and digestive system is starting to slow down for the day and needs foods that are easier to digest. My dinner has, many nights, consisted of things like green beans, new potatoes and lightly steamed kale.
  • I don't need to be perfect to see drastic improvements. But now I can't help but wonder what would happen if I could do better!
  • Which leads me to my next (and first) point, I am a cheater. On this raw diet, I cheated every day at some point. Whether it was wrapping my veggies in a corn tortilla or the night I threw a little steamed shrimp into my dinner, I am a cheater and that is okay! I can still be healthy and see great results as the cheater I am. And, as time goes on, I cheat less and less....naturally! Without trying! Because, as the saying goes "When you know better, you do better."
All and all, I would say that my initial experience with going raw was a great success. However, this is just the beginning! I am so excited with my initial results that this blog post is the preface for a series of blog posts that I am about to start doing. They will be part of a 28-day challenge I am going to start on my Facebook page and for any blog followers that would like to do it as well. I have a lot more raw food information (links, books, etc..) as well as non-raw food related information I'm excited to share.

This challenge will not be raw food, or even weight loss, specific. Rather, this 28-day challenge will be about improving our behaviors and ourselves in the process. The reason I have chosen to do this challenge now is that, along with be so inspired and motivated by my recent experience, it is the month of my son's 5th birthday and I want to give him the best gift I can possibly think of and that's a new improved mom with more energy and vitality to ensure I can give him the attention and example he needs to carry him through the rest of his childhood before, in a few short years, I release him to the world with only his upraising to guide him. But, in addition, I want to give this to myself and to all of you. Stayed tuned!!!

Sunday Food Prep Day

Free range eggs, a little Ham, farm fresh peppers and scallions and a little layer of farm fresh potatoes on the bottom.

2 different kinds of juice. The beautiful pink ones are watermelon, cukes, lemons and ginger. OMG! Soooo good!
Protein bars. Original recipe here. Now I use crunchy peanut butter and add raw walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds as well as some cinnamon and raw coconut on top.

Quinoa salad. Lightly steamed kale, cukes, squash, tomatoes (all raw), lemon juice, olive oil and garlic salt.

Quinoa and kale are full of protein!

So nice to be prepared!!!!! Come on week!! I'm ready for ya!!!

Out of the Ashes: A Budding Romance

I wrote this probably about 1-2 months ago and saved it as a draft because it was just so personal. However, without fail, the blog posts that I am most anxious about posting because they are so personal, are the exact ones that I receive the most feedback on as being the ones who help people the most. So, in the spirit of my new vow to serve others in order to better serve myself, here goes nothin'!.....

Today was beautiful and I had a precious few hours with nowhere to be and no one who needed me. So I went to a local park and ran as hard as I could. I used to spend so much time at this park but when I arrived today, I realized it had been over a year since the last time I had been there. It's funny how places can hold emotions. This park held a lot of my emotions....

This is not the typical love story.

To fully understand how this romance started, we have to go back a few years to when I found out I was pregnant in late 2007. I was not planning nor was I prepared for a pregnancy. In fact, at 30 years old, I had pretty much decided that I didn't want to be a mom.

Part of the reason, quite honestly, is because I'm not, and have never been, much of a "kid person". Another huge reason was because my marriage of 10+ years was, and had always been, rocky. However, there I sat in the bathroom floor at work staring at a pregnancy test in disbelief.

Fast forward to September 2009, my son had just turned one. One rainy day after work I stopped at the park to sit for a few minutes because I didn't want to go home just yet. My marriage of almost 12 years, that had always been rocky, had eroded away to an empty shell of a marriage. The differences and incompatibilities that had worn heavy on us for years, had now broken us to pieces. We barely spoke anymore. When we did, it was often harsh and unloving.

I want to take a moment to clarify something. Two people who are incompatible are just that, not compatible. This doesn't necessarily make either person bad. That was definitely the case here. We weren't bad, we were just bad for each other. There isn't always a villain and a victim in every story. Perhaps, if anything, we were both villains and we were both victims.

So on that rainy day in September 2009, I sat at the park and cried. I cried over the life I was living. It brings me great shame to feel this, much less say it, but I didn't feel about my husband or my son, the way I knew I was supposed to feel about them. I knew I had to change my life or I would suffocate and choke to death on the sadness and emptiness I felt.

A few days later, just 3 months before my 12th anniversary, I left my husband. And I left him in possibly one of the worst ways, over the phone. I was almost numb when I told him, feeling so little. Anyone who knows me would've known something was wrong with me for me to feel so little. Although I might not have been able to remain in a marriage with this man, he had been my family for 12 years and I loved him. One of the reasons I had stayed so long was because the thought of hurting him broke my heart to even think about. In fact, years earlier I had tried to leave and the way he cried hurt me to my soul. So much that I went back to him and vowed never to leave again because I never wanted to cause him that kind of pain again.

But here I was, ending our marriage...on the phone....virtually emotionless.

After I left, it didn't take long for the reality of my situation to really set in. Here I was, a 32 year old single mother of a 1 year old boy. The responsibility felt like a crushing weight on top of me. I actually remember saying to my mother once, "I wish I could just be his aunt or something and enjoy playing with him but not have to be the one to raise him."

It would be great if this is part in the story where I pull myself up by the bootstraps and make a wonderful life for myself and my son but instead....I started desperately looking for a boyfriend. After years of being in a mutually discontent marriage, I wanted passion and romance. Turns out when you're a 240 pound, 32 year old single mother of a 1 year old boy and you're depressed and desperate, decent guys aren't really interested. Hmm, whodathunkit?!

So this very park saw me with a couple duds along the way. Without a doubt, the most dramatic was my high school sweetheart who had came sniffing around from time to time throughout the years but who I always had the good sense to turn down. I gave him the green light and he came rushing from another state to be with me and we reunited at that very park. Romantic right? Hardly...

Turns out he wasn't there to sweep me off my feet and rescue me from my scary new life, but rather had taken a little "break" from his wife to hook up with his ex-girlfriend. I was absolutely devastated when he just never showed back up one day and I only knew he was gone and that his broken marriage hadn't been broken at all when his wife called to tell me he was back home and that I should go get tested for STD's. Those were a few of the scariest weeks of my life but, crisis averted, I came back with a clean bill of health.

Now, you're probably thinking surely THIS is where my eyes were opened to my poor decisions and I pulled myself by the bootstraps and made a better life for myself and my son. Well, you would be wrong again....

Before this happened, every day was already a sad struggle. I had to constantly push back sadness and an unending desire to lay down and go to sleep. But, when he did this to me, I snapped. I honestly turned into a crazy person. I went from barely sleeping to basically never sleeping. I sent him constant texts, emails and Facebook messages. I smeared his name on every website I could find. Yes, he screwed me over but, no, this is not generally me regardless of what someone has done to me. I was so filled with hate and misery and I had finally found the perfect person to direct it at...my cheating, lying ex-boyfriend.

This would be around the time that I finally, at the urging of many, and increasing thoughts of suicide, decided to go see a doctor. It turns out that I had a very severe case of postpartum depression.

This explained so much, it explained why I never connected with my son the way I should, why I felt numb when I left my husband, why I felt this desperate, desperate urge to have a man in my life, why I ever got back with a boyfriend who, in high school, slept with quite a few of my friends and ended up in prison for numerous reasons and why I felt an unending need to spew hate at him. I was NOT this person and finally I understood why I was behaving the way I was.

However, understanding why I was the way I was did nothing to fix the problem. That's what medication is for, right? Wrong, the medication was horrible and expensive and I got off of it fairly quickly.

Now surely THIS is the part where I get my shit together and start living a better life....no such luck. It was a long zig zagging road where I made more poor decisions including a 2 year relationship with a guy who rejected, belittled and cheated on me.

But this IS the time that I started to educate myself on better and more natural ways to cure my postpartum. I changed my diet, started exercising on a regular basis and getting a good night's sleep. This didn't happen all at once, mind you, but as time went on and I began to see how much these things could positively affect me, the more I did them and the better I got.

Along the way, my local park saw my son and me there quite often. I would push him around the track in a stroller, every step miserable and slow. As he became older, I would bring him to play on the playground but I wasn't truly ever "there" with him. I was either inside my own head or checking my phone constantly to see if my NEW cheating boyfriend had responded to me yet. Or I was scanning the playground to see if there were any cute, single dads around that could save me from my life of sadness and fear.

Somewhere along the way, I can't exactly pinpoint where, I fell in love with my son. Deeply in love. I began to look into those big blue eyes and actually SEE him, perhaps for the first time since he was born. As he took those first steps, drew a picture of his first monster and toddled off to his first day of daycare, I fell deeper and deeper in love. Now, at almost 5, he has captured my heart so completely. I am saddened and ashamed for the time so early on when I was on autopilot, always loving him, always doing the mechanical things I should do to make sure he was fed, bathed, etc. but never really loving him the way he deserved to be loved.

Now he is a little man full of character and his soul touches me in ways I can not describe. My heart is swelled with love to think about it. His name is Phoenix. And I realized today just how fitting a name it is. Because, he has grabbed hold of my heart and dragged me up from out of the ashes and into the light. I think, if not for him, I may have slipped away completely but having this little helpless person before me who required, no demanded, my attention, forced me to stay in this world at least a little.

But this isn't the end of the love story. My son has captured the biggest part of my heart but there is another love I have found along the way. My love for myself. I love my imperfect, sometimes crazy, selfish, angry, unbalanced, scarred and beautifully flawed sacred self. I love myself enough to know that I can publicly share my most shameful parts, as I just have, and that I am STILL enough.

And because I finally, somewhere along the way, got my priorities straight and gave my heart to the right people (that being, Phoenix and ME) I stopped running toward men who were toxic for me. I still always wanted the love, romance and passion that I felt I was missing for so long but I stopped being willing to find it anywhere and to settle for it in small, inconsistent doses. I held out and was rewarded finely. Now I have someone who is just as imperfectly perfect as I am and he does much more than fill that empty spot. He is my best friend, my biggest cheerleader....my soul mate. But if he leaves me tomorrow, although I would be heartbroken, I will STILL be enough and I will still find joy in life.

After my run today, I walked slowly for a while and looked around this park that had seen so much of the most tragic part of my life. I remember how heavy my body, and my heart, always felt when I was there in the past. How perfect that I was there today. In the Springtime, a time of new beginnings, in my new, fit body with my sound and happy mind, having just taken my son to his kindergarten assessment this morning. The Dogwoods were in bloom, the sun was shining and my heart was full. I cried tears of happiness and relief that I had survived the darkest hours in my life. Then I ran a little more...just because I could.

Shut Up Liar!!

How do you love yourself if you....well, don't love yourself? This was the question I struggled with for years. "You just have to love yourself enough to do it." Okay, that's not helpful. So let me break it down for you. FAKE IT! Just tell yourself "I love you" even if you feel stupid and don't believe it.
I always felt undeserving of anything good. I punished my body with bad food and no exercise... when I was stressed out. I punished my heart with relationships that didn't add to my wellbeing.
Once I decided I was going to fake it, and I started using positive self-talk, everything started to change.
Did I suddenly feel deserving? No way. In fact, I can't pinpoint exactly when the change occured. However, I woke up this morning feeling completely deserving of the body I have worked so hard for, the amazing man that loves me and makes my head spin, and the job that makes me excited to wake up and get ready for each day. I always thought that if/when I ever got to this point in my life that I would still feel like I was faking it. But I don't. I feel 100% deserving and comfortable (yet still unbelievely humbled and grateful) of everything I have worked so hard to achieve.
The negative self-talk still creeps into my head on a daily basis. But, likewise, another louder, more insistent voice has now been trained to speak up right behind it and declare "SHUT UP LIAR!"
If you don't believe you deserve something. You're right. If you DO believe you deserve something....YOU'RE RIGHT!! Start today. Argue with that little nasty voice in your head. Post notes around your house that say "I love you". "You deserve to be happy". On your fridge post "You deserve to be nourished with healthy food because I love you and you're worth it."

You CAN Change!

Don't ever feel like you're a lost cause. I remember thinking so many times, "If I was going to lose weight, I would've done it by now." But some little voice inside of me told me to keep trying, to keep looking for new ways.

I've said a million times, it's no one change, one exercise, one day, that will make the difference. But, rather, it's tiny, manageable changes over time that add up to a new and better you.

So change one thing today. Something small that you KNOW you can do.

Here's a "for instance":
If you suffer from chronic overeating, start noticing how you feel before, during, and after you eat. Physically, mentally.

How do you feel emotionally before you eat? How does the food taste when you eat? Really pay attention to the taste. How does this affect you emotionally? How do you feel emotionally/physically immediately after eating? 5 minutes after? 1 hour later? Are you tired? Does your stomach hurt? Are you more stressed out or depressed than you were an hour ago? Do you have a headache?

That's it! Don't reduce your food intake. Don't beat yourself up about it. Just NOTICE it! Be mindful.
And don't feel like you're not doing enough because, here's the really cool part, learning to make changes is like working a muscle, the more you do it, the easier it gets!

So every time you are mindful of your eating habits and how they affect you, you are teaching yourself to change. And one day change won't seem nearly as hard when it comes to the bigger stuff.

Also, just being mindful of how food affects you and what compels you to eat it can make a HUGE difference. You start to naturally catch yourself emotional eating. You, likewise, anticipate how you are going to feel after you do it.

For instance, I still crave pastries like doughnuts, cake, etc. a LOT. And I used to feel helpless to resist them basically after every meal. Sometimes even FOR a meal!

However, being mindful (combined with educating myself about how what they did to my body) eventually made a huge difference. First, when I slowed down and really paid attention to the taste, while they were definitely tasty, they were never EVER as tasty as they were in my mind when I began craving them. Also, taking notice of how these items made me feel, I can now easily avoid them (most of the time, and can ALWAYS avoid eating large quantities) because I've learned that the wheat and sugar combo gives me almost cold-like symptoms for at least a couple hours. Sore throat, stuffy nose, headache and fatigue (not to mention gas).

But, remember, changing what/how much you eat comes later. For now, just be mindful and nothing more. How long do you do this? Forever! When do you make your next change? When you feel ready!

Sunday Prep w/ Recipes

One of my biggest methods for success is, especially on busy weeks, to prepare meals ahead of time. Sunday is generally the best day to do this. I prepare enough food to get me through at least Wednesday at which time I might need to boil another dozen eggs, make some more protein bars and maybe break out some frozen stuff to get me through the rest of the week but, for the most part, I can be on autopilot for the week when it comes to food. I have all the recipes listed below for my food prep from last Sunday but first I'd like to offer a few additional tips on how to make your Sunday food prep a success.
  • Plan ahead. Make sure you know what you're going to make and that you have a good balance of carbs/protein/fats as well as all the ingredients you need.
  • Don't make food you are going to dread eating!!! You will see by my recipes that all the ingredients are not 100% perfect. However, this is food that I don't mind eating and, in some cases, actually look forward to and it's still very healthy and BALANCED which is key when you're trying to lose weight because these are the things that will keep you satisified and keep you from making unhealthy food choices that you feel you have no control over.
  • If you go off plan and eat an unplanned "cheat" meal during the week, don't decide that means you should scrap the rest of your meals for the day and try again tomorrow. No, pick right back where you left off and start eating those meals again the very next time you're hungry. Don't turn one mistake into a whole day (or week, or month) of regret and setbacks.
  • Get a giant cooler bag! This is one of the best things I've done for myself lately!! I pack a big cooler with all the food I have prepped for the day plus a few extras like fruit, raw nuts, protein shake powder, etc. That way if I get hungry more than I think I will I (a) don't eat fast food and/or (b) don't arrive home that evening starving and eating everything in sight. I consider my cooler bag to be my gas tank, and everyone knows you have to make sure you have a full tank before you start off on a trip (a "trip" being a long day away from home).
  • Don't decide that you can eat whatever you want on Sunday (or all weekend) because you know that you're "gonna start my new diet on Monday with all this great food that I'll be making on Sunday". Why? Well, first, those calories and unhealthy fats/carbs matter too. Your body will convert them to fat (and disease) whether you're planning on changing your whole life on Monday or not. Second, too many carbs, too much fat, excess calories can slow you down and make you lazy and you won't even feel like prepping your meals. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the more bad food you eat the more you want. You will wake up Monday morning feeling like crap from the horrible things you put in your body and, for some reason, craving more of that horrible crap. Your healthy foods waiting in the fridge for you will not look very appealing at all!
  • Finally, when Sunday rolls around and you don't feel like prepping your food, remember the saying "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." You will NEVER regret the time you take on Sunday that ensures you enter Monday feeling efficient, responsible and in control of your life.
****One thing I feel the need to emphasize here is something very important that is missing from the picture....FRESH VEGETABLES!! Almost everything I eat will be piled on top of a giant plate of beautiful, fresh, living foods! I chop as I go because I detest wilted lettuce or slimy cucumbers. Not to mention produce holds it's nutritional value much better remaining in tact until time to eat!

Homemade Protein Bars

This is a variation of quite a few recipes I've seen online for protein bars. I think it's most similiar to one I got from He & She Eat Clean, a great site that I highly recommend.

2 cups quick oats
4 scoops chocolate protein (I use Optimal Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey Double Rich Chocolate)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (make sure it doesn't have partially hydrogenated oil and check that sugar count, it shouldn't be more than 3g for 2 tbsp AT MOST)
1/2 cup almond milk (I use Blue Diamond unsweeted vanilla)
1/4 cup organic raw cacao nibs (optional)
dash of vanilla (optional)

Mix all ingredients together (adding the almond milk last).
Evenly spread all contents into an 8x8 pan lined with wax paper or plastic wrap.
Freeze for 30 minutes.
Cut into 6 bars & refrigerate.

I don't know all the nutritional info on this but I've calculated each bar has somewhere between 22-24g of protein.

Perfectly Boiled Eggs

I've had a few people ask me my method of boiling eggs. I've tried it several different ways but this is what I use now and the eggs come out nice and tender instead of dry and chalky.

Place eggs in pot of cold water.
Heat on high.
As soon as the water has the first boiling bubble, turn off & remove from heat.
Cover immediately and leave covered for 10 minutes.
As soon as the 10 minutes are up, immediately drain the pot and fill it with cold water and ice.

Kale Salad

I'm sorry I don't have exact measurements but it's because I started out from the beginning using & modifying an ingredient list off of Earth Fare's kale salad from the deli. However, I have yet for it to turn out NOT tasting good so just experiment!

Curly Kale
Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil (I usually put about 2-3 times as much sesame oil as I do vinegar)
Sesame seeds
Garlic powder
Soy Sauce (I actually use Aminos, they are healthier and just as tasty if not better)
Red pepper flakes (optional, I just use this sometimes for an extra kick)

Put all ingredients in a big covered bowl and shake. Let it marinate in the refrigerate for a few hours for optimal taste. This is excellent on top of salads or as a side dish.

Breakfast Casserole

This is another one of those recipes that I throw in different things different times but here's the recipe I used when I took the Sunday prep picture. I also generally use mushrooms but didn't this time around. I really want to start experimenting with more seasonings and/or fresh herbs so if anyone tries any and they turn out well, I would love suggestions!

12 eggs (free range or eggs that advertise they have Omega-3's in them are best)
1 red pepper
1 medium onion
2-3 handfuls spinach
1 package (4-6 links, depending on size) natural chicken sausage
1/4 pound cheese (I use raw, grass fed cheese)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a 8x13 glass baking dish (I use coconut oil because many other oils become toxic when heated to this high of a temperature)
Dice the veggies, sausage & most of the cheese into small pieces and place in pan along with the spinach (shred the remainder of the cheese & set to the side)
Mix the eggs in a bowl (add a little salt) and pour on top of the ingredients in the dish
Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Cover & bake for 25-40 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after 20 minutes is up. Remove just as soon as the eggs are no longer liquid but are still very soft as they will continue to bake in their own for a few minutes.

Buffalo Chicken

This one is hardly worth including but I will anyway because people keep asking about it.

1 lb of chicken
hot sauce (I use Frank's)

Dice chicken into small pieces and marinate in hot sauce for at least an hour
Bake on 375 for 30 minutes.

I use this chicken on top of salads with spinach, onions, cucumbers, green peppers, carrots, Annie's natural ranch dressing and walnuts or sunflower seeds for a crunch. This salad staves off my frequent hot wing cravings....most of the time.

The New Me

I just wanted to share this story. This morning I was at the gym getting dressed. I dropped my towel because I thought I was alone only to turn around and see about a dozen women filing in from their water aerobics class. I quickly pulled up my jeans and tried to cover as best as i could as a very overweight woman sat down right beside me and smiled. I sheepishly smiled back and said "sorry" (I was absolutely mortified that I was making eye contact with a stranger who had just seen me naked, especially today because I was not feeling very good about myself at all!). She smiled big and said "Oh you're fine honey, although it's gals like you that make it so hard for gals like me to come to the gym".

Even in my low self-esteem mode, I knew she meant it as a compliment. I then did something that I don't usually do. I told a random stranger about my weight loss and told her just how bad i needed to hear that today and started pointing out things on my body that I didn't like. She said "Honey, if someone told me that if I worked out really hard every day for the rest of my life that I would someday look like you, I would be thrilled".

I honestly had to choke back the tears and fight the urge to hug this woman, her in her bathing suit, me, basically in my underwear. She will never know how much she changed my perception of myself today. She said that I inspired her as well. It wasn't just that she made me feel better about my body, although she did, but more than that she made me remember that, at one time, I would've given all my worldly possessions to be where I am today. And I wouldn't have said "nevermind" if I found out the new me wouldn't be perfect.

Ladies, i have been that really big girl who felt invisible at best, and disgusting and unworthy of love at worst. I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that the time and effort I have put into loving and nurturing myself, is far FAR more comforting and satisfying than the most delicious ANYTHING or a veg night on the couch. It IS possible! I'm not saying you're life will be perfect once you lose the weight. You will probably still have days like I did this morning, where you wake up so critical of yourself. But, in the long run, when you're someday face-to-face with the person you used to be, you will realize that you have, quite literally, become your own fantasy (give or take a saggy boob or two).

Just Move

When I started exercising on a regular basis I had a huge fear that one day I would just stop. That was back before I grew to love it so much. As I look back on that fear, it is hard to remember it now because I hate rest days. Exercise makes me feel alert, energized and just more alive each day.

But if you are still struggling with exercise try to stop looking at it as a chore. Don't push yourself too hard (yet anyway!). Go take a stroll around the block, breath in the fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine. Go take a Zumba class. Yoga. Something that maybe you did and walked away with a positive memory in the past.

The honest truth is, pushing yourself in your workout today, will not help you attain your goal....whaaaat?! That's because one exercise session will not make you fit. However, one exercise session could very well determine whether you begin to associate physical activity with pain and misery which will determine how likely you are (or are not) to do it again.

So instead of the "oh my gawd, I have to go do bootcamp cause I've missed it all week! I hate bootcamp!", maybe you could call a friend or grab your iPod with your favorite tunes and go for a nice, easy walk. Or just turn on some music and booty dance in front of the mirror (um...no, I've never done that....why do you ask?)

Remember, this is about the journey, not the destination. Because, really, what is the destination? The day you slide into your size 6s? The day you peak and are the most attractive you will be in this life before your looks slowly fade? Big whoop! No. The destination does not exist actually because our lives and our bodies are fluid, constantly changing so must our goals. The journey, however, will be comprised of happy, healthy days where you know you are doing everything you can to ensure each and every OH SO PRECIOUS day on this earth is as good as you deserve it to be!!!

Keep Your Friends Close....And Your Workout Buddy Closer

As I studied for the ACE PT Certification, I learned many new things. In fact, so many new things that I often went to bed feeling as if my brain was swollen with all the new information. However, some of the information I had already learned from personal experience. One of the biggest "duh, I already knew that" tidbits we received was the importance of social support in determining adherence to any new fitness program.
I had learned this from my own life in two ways....having that support and not having it.
My marriage offered absolutely 0% support in pursuing and/or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In fact, I would almost say it offered a negative percentage in that he quite literally encouraged me to eat junk food, skip workouts and watch lots of t.v. But, just as I pointed out in my last post, I do not at all blame him for this. It was ME and me alone who allowed him to persuade me. I was a consenting adult of sound mind each and every time I made a poor decision and I will not hand the blame, nor the power, to anyone other than myself.
That being said, if you are already on the fence about getting healthy and not very motivated, social support can make all the difference.
So, fast forward to today. I make it a point to surround myself with health conscious people whenever possible. I'm lucky in that my mother, sister and brother are all as health conscious as I am and we are all very close so I already have a great support team there.
However, add to this my boyfriend, and I have the perfect support network. Instead of the typical American couple pass times of t.v., sitting beside each other on seperate computers and dining out, our bonding time consists of working out, hiking, yoga, juicing, planning & cooking healthy meals (well, he helps with the planning and eating part anyway, haha), meditating, making vision boards, and finding and sharing inspirational reading material with each other. We, in a positive and gentle way, talk each other out of poor choices and suggest healthy ways to deal with problems.
People could argue, "well, you're just lucky that you have people who are so supportive, that's not what my circle of friends/family is like". And I would respond with the following four things:
  1. I began and maintained my healthy lifestyle before I left my husband, while I had post-partum depression, a new born baby, extreme financial problems, 30+ years old, back and neck problems, and while weighing 275 pounds and exercising in about 4 square feet of our storage room.
  2. I have eliminated certain, toxic people from my life because they didn't contribute to my wellbeing.
  3. I have a fitness-minded boyfriend because I refused to settle for anything less. In fact, I ended relationships before him because (as I mentioned in #2) they were not conducive to my new lifestyle. I spent years fantasizing about the type of partner that I could embrace this lifestyle with and I held out until I found it.
  4. ....you are right, I am very lucky.
Yes, I didn't choose my family. My mom became health-conscious while I was growing up and set a great example for us during our teen years. However, since I've embraced the lifestyle, I've passed on new information and dedication onto my family and the synergy of all our knowledge and experiences has helped us all to grow exponentially over the past few years.
So your family sucks when it comes to nutrition? Your husband is clutching tightly to his Pepsi and your kids to their tater tots and you hate making two meals? Well, first, don't!!! Make one healthy meal. Be the example that your family is missing.
I will address one issue that can be a little stickier and that's feeding small children. While husbands and older children can fend for themselves, younger children (like my 4 year old son) are dependent on you to make sure they eat. My son eats better than most kids but I still have to make two meals because he gags on some of the more bitter or sophisticated foods but I still feed him healthy, single ingredient foods. A typical meal might be a salad with fish for me and boiled eggs, raw cashews & apple slices for him. He still isn't going to get junk just because he can't eat grown up food.
Small children need these types of nutritional building blocks as much as us if not more because these are the foods that are literally creating the bodies that will carry them through the rest of their lives. We must build a solid foundation, not just physically but psychologically as well by setting the best example we can for them. It can't be perfect. My son goes to daycare and they feed him total crap. (He actually informs the lunch lady that the food she is giving him is not healthy, haha, that's my boy!) And when he's with his dad one day a week, he gets pancakes for breakfast and peanut butter & fluff for lunch. However, he understands that sugar constipates him and eating too much junk food could make him sick so, when he comes home, he understands the importance of eating fruits and (occassionally) veggies. And he has even, at 4 years old, choked down fresh juice that tasted nasty because he was trying to beat a cold he was getting.
I assure you, I haven't done anything amazing here.
We splurge on junk food occassionally. He is exposed to it basically everywhere else when he's not with me. But he sees my example and he listens to my words (I don't just say "eat this, it's good for you". He even understands what his immune system is). If you can't motivate yourself to eat good for YOU, then let THIS motivate you! They are watching your every move!
Okay, so on to the real reason for this post. Social support. No, you can't change who your family is or what they eat/don't eat. You probably don't want to change who your spouse is, so you're kind of stuck with that as well. But, other than gently encouraging (mainly through your actions) your loved ones, you can find support many other places. Here's ideas of ways you can find social support:
  • Start a competition or support group in your workplace or church.
  • Look online for workout buddies (just be careful with this one and meet in a public/safe place)
  • Call your local gyms and see if they offer any kind of support programs
  • Post a message on Facebook asking if any of your friends are looking for support/workout buddies. Commit to more than one person. Not only does this broaden your support circle, it also ensures that, if one person flakes on you, you have a backup, or two, or seventy!
  • Join online support groups and/or communities.
  • Hire a personal trainer, health coach or nutritionist. Personal trainers will often train small groups of people so you could find a couple friends to do it with and the cost would be much more economical.
  • Go to Zumba!!! It's so easy and fun to make friends in these classes and people will start to notice after a while if you don't show up. Don't want to dance?....participate in one of the other 50-bazillion group exercise classes!
  • Get creative and be open to making new friends wherever you go. Join health based groups or a hiking club. On a Friday night, attend a yoga class instead of going to the bar, you're much more likely to meet like-minded people in these types of places than at bars, clubs, etc.
Bottom line, you don't have to have the support of every person in your life. Hell! You don't HAVE to have support from anyone but yourself! But finding creative ways to strategically place positive, health-conscious people in your life can be that extra little incentive you need to make healthier food choices or get to the gym. The reason for this isn't just because you have people supporting you and to who you must be accountable to but because what we think about is what we ARE about! If you are hanging out with fitness-minded individuals, you are likely going to be discussing the aspects of health & fitness more or even just thinking about them more merely by association and, I think we all know by now....Energy Flows Where Attention Goes.

The Blame Game

I talk often about how I changed my life so drastically and how miserable I used to be and, as a result, I get a lot of messages from people (usually women) who say they can relate to my old life and that they are miserable. They talk about how they wish their lives were different and about their strong desire to change.

So, in this post, I want to talk about the difference between those who succeed in life and those who remain stagnant. And it all boils down to one thing. Your attitude about....you. Do you make excuses or blame others? Or do you know that you alone have the ultimate power in your life?

There are two types of people in this world, people who believe bad things always happen to them and they have no control over them (i.e. victims) and people who understand bad things will always happen but they control how they react to them and what they do next.

My changes were not a result of external circumstances. They were, instead, a result of self-empowerment. The reason I point this out is because external circumstances are fluid, constantly changing and we have very little control over them at times, whereas being empowered (meaning, in control of ones own life) is forever!

I am the second. Always have been actually.

I was in a miserable marriage for 12 years. And, when I say miserable, I mean we were extremely poorly matched and horrible for each other. I never felt about him the way he, and everyone, deserves to have someone feel about them. I look back and realize (now that he is in a marriage with a woman who adores him and is a wonderful match), it wasn't just my life I was stealing away by staying, it was his too.

During our marriage, we constantly fought. There was constant tension and unhappiness. I tried so hard to make it work because I had made a commitment and I took that very seriously. And I felt an obligation to him because I was now his family. I had also made a commitment to an employer and I took that very serious as well. I felt that everyone needed me and that I couldn't let anyone down. However, in spite of all of those feelings of obligation, I never once felt like a victim.

As my weight crept up, I blamed no one but myself. I did not blame my coworkers who ate out every single day and encouraged me to do the same. These were the same coworkers who brought delicious goodies and laid them out in the break room on a regular basis. I blamed no one but myself when I ate them. I did not blame my ex-husband who constantly persuaded me to pick up McDonalds or pizza almost every evening on my way home from my exhausting day. This was the same man who even talked me out of working out at times that I would actually be motivated and, instead, staying at home with him and watching t.v. with a spread of junk food in front of us. I blamed no one but myself when I allowed myself to be persuaded.

And I am so glad that I never gave my power away, because that's exactly what blaming does, it gives your power to someone else. Let me say that again, blaming gives your power away. No thank you!

I always knew that I was overweight and miserable because I had poor priorities. Once my priorities changed, my life changed....FOREVER. I emphasize forever because, *I* am in control of my life. Not someone else. Not my circumstances. Only me. Not only would nothing ever make me abuse my body and/or mind again, but I also would never again allow myself to willingly be in a toxic situation again.

We can very easily and very frequently find someone or something to blame our poor choices on. But, as long as our circumstances resulted from a choice WE made, we have no one to blame but ourselves. And that's a wonderful thing!! There are so many things we don't have control over, things that are truly unfair in life. A child with cancer, someone we love not loving us back, a flat tire, etc. And, in these situations, the one unchanging connection is that our only power is how we react to such things. Do we eat ourselves numb or do we go to the gym? Do we curl up on the couch and embrace being a victim or do we sit down and make a list of everything in our lives we have control over and get busy?!

I choose the second, every time! Not because I'm so special but because I've learned for past experience that doing the first makes me feel like shit! It's what new-agers call "low energy activities".

I can't control everything, no one can. But, as long as there is a breath in my body, I can control my attitude toward any situation and I can find the silver lining. Then I can lace up my shoes and run away from that helpless feeling.

What I Really Did

Hardly a day goes by that I don't receive the comment (either in person or, more often, via messages on this blog) of how amazing it is that I "beat the odds" and lost (and have kept off) the weight. Now, don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful compliment and I'm definitely so grateful for the lightness and freedom that I feel each day that is a result of shedding this excess weight. However, my biggest accomplishment is not changing how I looked on the outside but, rather, changing so many toxic things that were at the core of who I was.

We can approach this from a spiritual, new age angle and say that I changed my thoughts and, therefore, changed my reality. Or we can take the clinical approach and say that I implemented behavioral modifications that resulted in a more positive outcome. Either way, I changed so much about myself that I can hardly recognize who I used to be, so much so that it seems so unreal to me now that I was able to live that way for so long.
After years of feeling a way that I can only explain as...."blah", I began to feel weary. The food that had once been used for celebration, comfort, etc. had now turned against me and made my body almost too large to function. It didn't really even taste good anymore, especially when I knew how it would almost instantly make me feel once the taste was gone. The drone of the t.v. no longer soothed me...it actually began to prickle the little hairs on the back of my neck (it often still does). Avoiding housework and other life things that just sat undone all around me no longer gave me a sense of freedom and relaxation. In fact, it began to leave a permanent knot in my stomach and drain me of the little energy that I was even able to wake up with in those days.
And, then, there sat this new helpless little person who looked to me for everything. What did I have left to give to him? Not much. I barely had anything within me to begin with. That is probably what finally pushed me over the edge and forced me to decide if I wanted to continue to "get by", spread myself a little thinner with my new title as "mommy" and just make the best of it or if I wanted, instead, to grab my life by the throat and choke the shit out of it!!

And that is exactly what I did.
When I left my house, my 12 year marriage and career that I had worked so hard for (because of my lust for money) in 2009, I would love to say that I walked out with my head held high, hell bent on making a new, better life for myself and never looked back. The truth is, I was broken. I collapsed into my parents' house a messy heap of a person...barely a person. Years of numbing myself had taken it's toll. Who was I? I knew what I DIDN'T want anymore but what did I want now?

The only thing I knew for sure is that I didn't want to feel this empty and miserable anymore. Something else I knew I wanted was....a boyfriend. In retrospect, my priorities were most definitely screwed up but, all I knew, after years of a passionless marriage, I was starved for it. And, it turns out, when you have low self-esteem and are desperate for a man that you don't always wind up making the best decisions. Who knew?!

I won't rehash, once again, the lows I went to in my pursuit of a man who didn't want me. I will, instead, talk about my ascent out of that low place and into the light. Because, just like my weight, my willingness to lower my expectations of what I needed and deserved, and to make myself look like a crazy love-starved fool to get it, was symptomatic of my tendency to focus on external things for happiness instead of looking for it between my own two ears.

We all have that hole that needs to be filled. Some people fill it with food, some with drugs, some with video games, others with sex. The slightly more sensible ones fill it with work, their children or religion. I filled mine with the easiest, best feeling things, whatever that happened to be at the moment. Once I stopped focusing on those various things and turned my focus inward, my life changed forever.

I've spent hours upon hours of writing blog posts that can best outline and explain the changes I made that led to my better, happier, healthier, more complete and amazing existence but I feel they all fall short. If I could sum up the catalyst for all these changes and the vehicle that helped drive them in one sentence I guess it would be "I remembered myself." Each and every time I felt weak and powerless, I began to recognize that there was one common thread, I was focusing on something external. This empty, exhausting feeling would vanish almost instantly as soon as I consciously turned the focus back onto myself.

One of the ways that I began to find a more lasting good feeling is in a way that I have repeated over and over again in many other posts, although I am sure it is not the glamorous, fun solution some people might want to hear about. Exercise. It became my thing I did for me. After a lifetime of finding new and creative ways to avoid moving, I was going out of my way to make it happen. I began to realize that anytime I thought about how I could improve my health through exercise and nutrition, I began to feel energetic, inspired and focused. It became how I dealt with feeling out of control.

The times that I suspected Mr. Not-Right-For-Me was cheating on me or when he added another bullet point to the ever-growing "Things That Are Wrong With You" list I would, of course, start by feeling helpless, hurt and/or angry. Then I would feel something else. Determination. I would turn that pain and lack of control into something amazing and I would propel myself toward my next fitness level. I started to become addicted to this feeling of control and started to use it whenever I felt out of control in ANY situation in life. Then I started to progressively realize that I felt empowered any time I could control ANY aspect of my life. Where I once would let laundry pile up for weeks, I began to feel addicted to the feeling of sliding the last drawer closed after putting away freshly laundered clothes. I craved a clear, clean space and am now acutely aware of how an unmade bed drains my energy and makes me unfocused.

I no longer go through the motions while living a numb, half existence. My heart is in this! I am living with purpose and meaning. Passion for life is a sustainable passion that can not be taken away by an external source.
Now, a couple years since I left my old life so directionless and out of control, I know who I am, what I love and what fills my empty spot. When I nourish my body with food and exercise, my mind with constant growth and my soul with self-love and freely giving of my self and my love to others, I feel so completely full. It is a fullness that all that food and all those poor choices in life never afforded me. It is a fullness in the depth of my soul and my cup runneth over.