In this episode of "Bama Goes to School", we are going to talk about the business of managing expectations when we're in different environments!
Someone at Urban Pooch asked Pamela the instructor, “What is normal to expect of a dog’s behavior outside of the classroom?” Bama’s school goes by levels so dogs start at Level 1 (where they learn sit, down, their name, for example), Level 2 (stay, come, heel... this is where we are), all the way to Level 5 and dogs graduate level by level once they've passed some tests until the owner is happy with how well-behaved their dog is. The thing is, I can feel TOTALLY happy with Bama's behavior in school or at home but once she's outside, it's like I don't exist and neither does any of what she's learned at school!
WHY can a dog can who can FINALLY “stay” and “heel” really well in school (YAY, BAMA!) not understand what a basic “sit” means at a stop sign (BOO, BAMA!)?
Because of the environment, that’s why.
The classroom and home are comfortable environments where our dogs are at ease and get into a certain routine. But, explained Pamela, dogs might very well behave at least one level — if not two! — below their current school level when they are outside of their familiar spots, at least for a little while. Newer environments or situations can leave dogs feeling stressed or excited so their ability and willingness to hear you say, “SIT!” is just not there.
We humans may be more complicated beings than our doggie counterparts but how often do we ask ourselves what our habits should look like outside of our "normal"? We think we should be on our “best” behavior no matter where we are: Home, work, business trips, vacation... But, like dogs, our behavior might change because we're in a stressful situation; or we're excited about something; or we're in a different country that speaks a language we don't know; or we're in a season that brings with it a totally different schedule (or lack of one) than the rest of the year. Like summer.
For example: We may be skilled at staying away from ice cream at home but when we’re in Rome, we can’t say no to gelato! Or, we pat ourselves on the back when we stick to our gym schedules whenever life is “normal” but we berate ourselves when we don't fit in a workout before 8AM meetings start at the Shanghai office when we might be jet-lagged!
I decided to bring this up this week because summer vacations are upon many of us, work trips aren't slowing down and next week is the 4th of July which could mean BBQ'd everything, beer and wine and all types of jello molds depending where you are...
I am a big believer that each season brings with it opportunities to swap out certain habits for others. So for the next few weeks, we’ll examine what those summer habits and skills might look like because you deserve to put yourself in a winning position when it comes to feeling your best while thoroughly enjoying every moment in the sun.
Ready? Here’s habit one, the way I present it to my CleanSlaters:
Choosing your best option, no matter where you are
There are two big times of the year where we find ourselves in situations where we feel like we have no “healthy” options: the summer (on vacations, at cookouts, etc) and from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. So we plod along, looking like Charlie Brown after Lucy takes the football away and think, “Well, I have no good choices here at this barbecue/holiday party/all-inclusive resort so I might as well just have it all.” We eat a bunch of food, drink a bunch of drinks and can’t even enjoy a second of it because we feel annoyed/guilty/sad. So we consume even more to numb ourselves.
Practicing actively choosing one option over another — even when our options are 5-cheese pizza vs pepperoni pizza — puts the power of choice back in our hands. Once we take ownership of our choices and decisions, the chances of us overindulging go down while the chances of us having fun and living a full life go up!
HOW CAN YOU PERSONALIZE THIS SKILL?
You likely won’t have to do this at every meal but see if there is one part of your day this could help you out. This habit can look like this:
What do I mean by "best choice for me", exactly:
By "best" I might mean: healthiest, best-tasting, least-costly, on one of Anthony Bourdain's best of lists (happy belated birthday, AB), best-looking... the list goes on. The takeaway is that it is an active choice made by you.
But what if I don’t want to pick between one option and another?
Not choosing between two options IS a choice so own it! If you decide you’d like to eat both options, you can always choose to alter the portion size. Just be in the moment and enjoy it.
What if none of the items are healthy?
Sometimes there won’t be a single veggie is sight. Sometimes there may not even be a non-fried option in sight. And you know what? That’s OK. You can still make an active decision. For example, let’s take the pizza example above. You’ve got your choice of cheese or pepperoni. You could choose the pepperoni slice because you know it’ll taste better. Own it! You could choose the 5-cheese because it just looks better. Own it! Own the decision and you’ll be more satisfied and will very likely eat less.
Whew. I feel like I just threw a lot out there. I also feel like this "choosing what's best for you" skill isn't talked about a whole lot so: If you have any questions/concerns/feedback/anything, please post a comment below or email me! Let's chat!
Remember when we’d watch The Biggest Loser and be in AWE of the contestants who were able to get through their workouts despite having a broken ankle and eat 1500 calories a day even though they exercised for eight hours in that day and thought, “Wow, Jillian Michaels is SO MEAN but I guess that’s what we all need sometimes.”?
Even in personal training school, we couldn’t stop watching. Forget the fact that we KNEW that show was abusing these poor contestants, there was still this dogma that losing weight and getting fit required going all in, all at once and that it wouldn’t be pretty.
The bad news is, some still believe you have to go all in to see and feel results. The GOOD news is, thankfully, that it’s becoming more en vogue in the fitness industry to learn how to meet our clients where they are and use positive reinforcement rather than shame someone to help them out.
Turns out this actually applied to dog training methods, too! Even the most loving dog training gurus would use fear tactics and place dogs in positions where they couldn’t possibly succeed so they could be scolded into learning how we DID want them to act. Luckily that’s turned around and now the training methods point to teaching your pet how to WANT to act the way you want them to.
As y’all know if you read last week’s newsletter, Bama has been working hard on understanding what “stay” means. Pupdate: Still working on it but improving!
Bama’s trainer Pamela tells us that when teaching a dog to stay you have to deal with “the three Ds”: Distance (how far away you are from the pet), Duration (how long your pet stays in “stay”) and Distraction (all the things we cannot control that might distract your animal). Right now it would be crazy for me to expect Bama to “stay” in a seated position on the sidewalk as I run into Starbucks to grab coffee with the urban world happening around her.
Let’s take this into the human realm. When learning a new skill or habit, be it exercise- or nutrition-related, we need to deal with our own version of the three Ds which I am calling “FIT”: Frequency, Intensity and Time. Let’s use “to exercise” as the habit we are trying to work on. Looking through the FIT variables, here are some ways to choose how you will practice this new habit:
Frequency: How often either throughout the day or throughout the week you will practice this habit or skill.
Intensity: In this exercise example, intensity can mean how hard you want your workout to be that day on a scale of 1-10 and it can also mean how long you want your workout to be.
Time: How long, in days/weeks/months you choose to practice this habit or skill this particular way. I am a planner and the reason I like to play with Time is because it can remind me that whatever I’m working on, I can take it one day at a time for a length of time of my choice. While you can take the habits and skills you learn with you for the rest of your life, playing with the Time variable helps to remind us that there will be moments in our lives when we may decide to tweak how we practice something! For example: Want to lose those last 10 lbs before a big event? You may choose to restrict your diet and eliminate all added sugars and alcohol for two weeks and reassess how you feel after that.
Let’s go back to Bama for a minute: In learning to "stay", we are pretty much always going to deal with Distraction. If I was taking Bama for a walk at prime dog-walking time and I asked her to “stay” sitting down while I run into Starbucks to get coffee, do you think this 10-month-old puppy who’s just started to work on this could do that? Um, no. We’re already playing with Distance (I'd be many yards away from her) and Duration (it’ll take a few minutes to make my Americano) and then, layer Distraction on top of that! People coming up to pet her, birds flying around, children yelling from the playground, loud buses coming by… Am I setting Bama up for success here with her “stay”? NOPE! Would it be silly of me to expect that she’d stay in her seated position exactly as I left her? YES!
Now, may I ask: Have there been times that YOU have expected yourself to succeed in a situation that might have been too bogged down with Frequency, Intensity and Time? Something like, “I haven’t worked out in a year but I will start going t the gym Monday through Friday (F) for an hour (I) before work from now on (T).” That might work for the outlier but for most of us, it’s putting us in a tough spot where it will be hard to succeed.
When going through the FIT variables, put yourself in Bama’s paws. How can you play around with Frequency, Intensity and Time to set yourself up for success in our "to exercise" example? Here are just a few ideas:
We’ve believed for so long that in order to get fit we need to do tough things. Well, yeah, you need to make a change or change won’t come and that might take a little mental toughness and body soreness. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be wildly successful with every step (and stay) you take along the way.
Crazy Dog Lady Reporting for Duty.
I am officially a crazy dog lady.
I am obsessed with our 10-month-old corgi/Jack Russel rescue. Her name is Bama and she loves chewing on anything she can get her mouth on; chasing after anything that moves on the sidewalk (birds, rabbits, leaves, you name it); sitting perched at the window like a cat as she looks out at the world with wonder. She does not like: Car rides in the city.
She also loves going to school to learn new tricks and how to be a good girl (and, let’s face it, getting treats and praise). I don’t know what I was expecting with doggie school but I can tell you that it wasn’t a deeper insight into coaching people.
That is exactly what going to Urban Pooch as done: Given me more empathy and a deeper understanding of how to set myself and others up for the greatest amount of success when learning new skills and habits.
Yes, as a coach I help people get stronger and help them shift some of their behavior around food but at the core, isn't my biggest responsibility to help my clients tap into their potential to be their most awesome self?
Over the next few weeks, I'll explore some of my biggest Aha! moments and what I've been reminded of while bonding with Bama. And I hope it sparks a little something with you at the same time.
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Can you imagine bringing a not-yet-fully-housebroken puppy to its first day of doggie school and expect them to know how to "stay!" after one lesson? Would you expect a baby who’s just learned to roll over to know how to walk the next day? Would you expect anyone to hold a conversation in Japanese after one class? Would you expect yourself to be able to be really good at pushups a week after starting to learn them?
Logically, we can understand how the above scenarios make no sense and yet when it comes to us, we often do not give ourselves the grace of taking a good, hard look at where we are in our process.
We are high functioning people who learn quickly but when our bodies don't react the way we expect them to in the time that we've given ourselves, we can get frustrated and fold in the towel.
But what if we learned to understand where we REALLY are and meet ourselves there?
We’ve been trying to teach Bama to “stay”. Which she doesn’t understand because she wants to follow us around everywhere! So when learning “stay” at school, I was at a loss because I’d start to take a small step back and she would automatically move toward me.
Pamela (the instructor) saw I was struggling so she came over to give some guidance. “Try asking her to stay and then moving only one leg back?” “Really? But then I'm not even moving away from her.” “Think of it from her perspective: She's a puppy who wants to be at its owner's side and it's suddenly going to know how to stay put as you walk away from her? It’s OK to start really small,” she said, “because then you can build on the skill little by little.”
We practiced with me stepping literally one leg back. She stayed. Once she'd practiced that for a while, we were able to make the game harder: I stepped one leg back and shifted my weight back with it. She stayed! A while later I took an actual two-legged step back… SHE STAYED AGAIN! And as we've been practicing all week, she's learning to "stay" as I walk further and further away!
Bama needed to start with far more elementary steps than some of the other dogs in the class and that was 10000% OK. We were able to meet her where she was and where she needed to start and, thanks to that, she's been able to make great strides!
Why can’t we treat ourselves like that?
It can feel soul crushing to seem like you're not moving forward with your health and fitness goals. If frustration happens when reality and expectations don't match up, could it be that we need to reexamine our reality? What if we took a little bit of time to figure out where we truly are instead of where we think we *should* be?
Y'all: Sometimes spending time on the ground floor is the only way to move forward and up. And SOMETIMES we find out there are floors below that we should visit. These times aren't setbacks; they're just ways we get to lay a strong foundation.
I mean who wants to stay in a house built on a foundation made of straw? I'd rather stay in a house built on a foundation made of carefully poured out concrete :) Wouldn't you?
Let me be honest: Every time Anthony Bourdain would make fun of vegetarians, I would chuckle a little. When you study exercise and nutrition, it’s sort of branded into your brain that if you want to lean out and build muscle, you want to eat .8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Of course these numbers vary depending on how much you want to weight and your body type and blah blah blah. So I’d think, “Ok, vegetarians. Good luck building muscle without eating MEAT.”
Archaic and wrong. I know. And trust me when I say that I no longer think this but I DO want to recognize that it can take a little bit more planning to get adequate protein if you’re eating a mostly plant-based diet.
Now, since one of my really active clients does eat a plant-based diet*, I thought it would be fun to gather up info about non-meat sources of food that are high in protein!
Here's a list of non-meat foods I find yummy and versatile that are also high in protein**:
Hemp seeds: 6g/oz
Greek yogurt: 24g/cup
Green peas: 8g/cup
Quinoa: 8g/cooked cup
Artichoke hearts: 4g/cup
Spinach: 5g/cooked cup
Kamut: 11g/cooked cup
Mushrooms: 3g/cup white and shiitakes, 4g/cup portabella
Tempeh: 16g/3 oz
Black beans: 8g/.5 cup
Chia seeds: 6g/2 tbsp
Steel cut oats: 5g/.5 cup cooked
Brussels sprouts: 4g/cup
Broccoli: 4g/cup steamed
Sweet potato: 4g/cup
Asparagus: 4g/cup cooked
Tofu (extra firm): 9g/3oz
Plant-based protein powder like Vega Sport: 30g/scoop
Here are a few things to consider if you are consuming a plant-based diet and are focusing on protein:
So now let’s pretend you are a woman looking to lose fat and build muscle and are trying to eat roughly 1500 calories per day. I would want this client’s food be comprised of 30% protein. In this case it turns out to be roughly 120 grams of protein per day.
Here’s how we’d make that work:
NOTE: As a nutrition coach in Illinois I CANNOT prescribe a meal plan. I can simply help you put something together WITH you or make suggestions. I just thought it would be helpful to see what one day might look like. So here it is!
1 cup Greek yogurt (with the lowest sugar content you can find!) with 1 Tbsp chia seeds and a 1/2 cup of blackberries mixed in. One of my favorite former clients Kelly loved putting in frozen berries for texture so that’s what I’ve plugged in.
Salade Composée (that’s French for a salad that is hearty enough for a full meal): A fine mix of greens, roasted and steamed veggies with a Green Goddess dressing, topped with crunchy pumpkin seeds. I don't write restaurant menus so use your imagination for more flavor-packed adjectives ;)
The yummiest recipe I’ve made in a long time, pictured above: Curried Lentils with Kale and Coconut Milk. Check out the recipe here. The serving size I used is 1/4 of the recipe plus 3 oz cubed tofu mixed in. You could ALSO cut a 3-oz portion of extra firm tofu, season it with spices, lightly brush with oil and grill it, eat it on the side.
If you know me, you know I do not usually like to plug in my food into a calorie calculator. But, for the purposes of this post, I thought I would to use as an illustration. Here is the outcome:
As you can see, this day turned out to be just over 1500 calories, 124 grams of protein (remember our goal was 120) AND a whopping 42 grams of fiber to boot! That's a lot of fiber, guys. I'd make sure to drink plenty of water if I were you.
Whether you're a vegetarian or like to only eat meat occasionally, know that getting adequate protein from mostly plant form is absolutely doable! It just takes some planning (and possibly a B12 supplement; check with your doctor).
If you're someone who feels like they could use some help with some of their habits and skills surrounding their own diet, give me a shout! You can reach me via email, sign up for CleanSlate28 or call 312-497-8999. If you need a little extra help requiring a registered dietician, I can also help connect you!
If you are a vegetarian (or even a flexetarian or pescatarian or vegan) and have your own tactics for how to get protein in, share them in the comments below! I'd love to hear from you!
*By “plant-based” here I am also including dairy and eggs in this list.
**Grams are estimates; I've seen slightly differing numbers here and there so I picked what I saw the most frequently
I love them. I want them. Sometimes I actually need them to keep me from raiding all of the cupboards in my kitchen when I get home feeling famished!
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or lean out or gain weight, I'm sharing these go-to snacks. They are yummy, filling AND satisfying (you'd just adjust the portion sizes based on your goals!).
I know what you're thinking because I am, too: Donuts and cookies are yummy, too! I don’t know that they’re truly filling or satisfying, though. And while those 14 almonds you just laid out on your desk might fall into the category of a "yummy" or "filling" or "satisfying" snack, I highly doubt you can honestly tell me they’re anywhere near a combo or all three. Frankly those almonds make me really grumpy.
Here’s the thing with snacks: We have an abundance of food here in the US. No matter where you go you’re surrounded with snack foods that make it seem like snacking is a totally normal thing you can do all of time. Now, if you’re vacationing in Belgium for the first time, you may find yourself nibbling on chocolate or waffles or a stroopwafel or fries throughout the day. I mean, I’d go to bat saying you SHOULD be your first time.
But if you’re living your regular day-to-day, your snacks should serve a purpose: To fuel you when you've been hungry for a little while until you get to your next meal.
Snacks aren't supposed to exist to ease stress or to make you feel happier when you’re sad and that is an entire other subject (presented by the amazing Josh Hillis; click here). The snacks below should absolutely be enjoyed because they will give your nutrients, vitamins and minerals, will taste good and will help you not grab all of the food in sight at home because you were SO HUNGRY.
Alright, so why do I like these to-go snacks? I like them because they all have a combination of protein, fiber and a little fat which means they have the goods to be satiating and filling. And, given that a lot of my clients run around a lot, these snacks had to be able to be grabbed out of the fridge (and some can even be eaten in the car).
Without further ado, I present you with my seven favorite on-the-go snacks!
Turkey roll with hummus and sliced peppers
Of course turkey gives you a good dose of lean protein but the hummus also gives you a little bit of vitamin A, K as well as minerals like potassium and magnesium thanks to the chickpeas. Sliced pepper will add a nice crunch and some vitamin C. Just lay out a few slices of deli turkey, spread on some hummus and add in pepper slices. Season with a little cayenne if you like heat. You can totally make this in advance for the week!
Chia pudding with berries
Two tablespoons of chia seeds give you almost 5g of protein, 5g of omega 3s, and a whopping 10g of fiber! Berries add a good kick of fiber, too, as well as vitamins C, A, K, potassium, folate and calcium. You may want to prep these in advance, too, and keep them in the fridge for the week (or just make it the night before). Fill a small jar with 2 Tbsp of chia seeds, a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of honey (to taste). Next, add 3/4 cup of the milk of your choice (I recommend flax or oat milk because they have a thicker consistency). Close the lid and shake it like a cocktail shaker. Add in your berries (I normally use frozen ones) and stick in the fridge!
I posted my recipe for these so long ago but now they're all over Pinterest. They're definitely grab-and-go and if you make a BUNCH, go ahead and stick some in the freezer for the future! Note: I was on an elimination diet when I posted the recipe for these so you can be a little looser about your protein powder blend and sweetener of choice but the proportions for the recipe are the same. You just get a good dose of protein if that's a tough macro for you to get enough of (like, if you're vegan or vegetarian). The combo of protein and fat (from the coconut flakes) help even out the carbs from the banana and oats so you don't get a carb crash. Again, for the recipe, click here!
We order edamame at Japanese restaurants every time we go but can't seem to remember that Trader Joe's sells them in the freezer section! In just one cup of edamame in the shell, you get 4g of fiber and 10g of protein! Plus, they're incredibly easy to season to your taste: from salt flakes to old bay, truffle salt to tajiín, soy sauce to that amazing Japanese chili pepper blend shichimi togarachi... The possible flavor profiles are endless ;) Simply put that cup and your chosen seasoning in a container and take it with you!
These next few snacks fall into the category of yummy and best when you're out of town or truly have no time to prep at all. Quest Bars tout having around 20g of (whey) protein, 17g of fiber and very low in carbs (they use sugar alcohols to sweeten instead of sugar so although it brings down the carb count significantly, not everyone can stomach sugar alcohols; just be aware of that). I personally think the only flavors worth checking out are cookies and cream and chocolate chip cookie dough. Keep your intake of these to one per day; that fiber count in a sitting can be no joke if you're not used to getting that much in one go.
There are a lot of cool yogurts out there and Siggi's is one of my favorites. They do a great job making a yummy yogurt with relatively less sugar compared to most other brands. That said, their Icelandic-style yogurts have around 15g of protein in them! I'd recommend 2% milkfat for it to be more satiating (although the 0% ones are good, too!).
P3: Portable Protein Packs
I discovered P3 snacks on a road trip at a KwikTrip (shout out to my FAVORITE gas station shopping experience in Wisconsin!). Let's face it: When road tripping, it can feel like a treat to get snacks like chocolate or Doritos (I'm not alone here, right?). But when road trips are not a once-in-a-great-while occasion, finding a quality snack when you still have hours to go before your next meal can be challenging. I found these P3 snacks one day and they've been my go-tos. Now, I'm not saying these are healthier than those turkey hummus rollups above (they're not). But when faced with making the best choice for you in the moment, P3 might be it! They each have a meat (ham or turkey or chicken, etc) as well as a small handful of nuts like cashews or almonds and a little cheese. There are now other combinations but they're relatively well-balanced and at least have the fat and protein content to help keep you full.
I hope these snacks give you some fuel to keep in your back pocket or get your creativity going with other options! Which leads me to this question: What healthy, well-rounded snacks are YOUR favorites! Comment below!
Not only is it soup season but January is also National Soup Month! As a new Minnesotan-by-marriage, I thought I would share my new absolute favorite soup that is VERY popular in the North Star State: Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Did you know wild rice is the state grain? I do now!
I’m going to give you the stovetop recipe but have also made the soup in the Instant Harry Potter, just so you know. The directions for stovetop chicken and wild rice soup are pretty universal from what I’ve seen but here are a few things to note:
1 tbsp cooking oil (I used avocado oil)
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, sliced
5 carrots, sliced
8oz sliced baby bellas/creminis
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 cup wild rice (a special shout out to my client Myra who brought be back REAL MN wild rice as a gift! It was YUMMY)
6 cups chicken broth
1 already-made rotisserie chicken
1 can full-fat coconut milk
3-4 handfuls chopped curly kale
If you’re like me and like things to be a touch spicy, add in a little sriacha, live on the wild (rice) side!
When my business coach Pamela told me she was adopting the word SIMPLIFY for 2019, a lightbulb went on in my whole body. "Wow," I thought. "How many areas of my life, both mental and physical, could use a little simplification? What would it feel like to have everything more streamlined and decluttered?"
And the more I thought about that word, the more excited I was about it not only for myself and my household but also for how going back to basics could my help my own clients! [Y'all, I didn't promise my sentence structure would get simplified...I'll work on it.]
The fitness industry is mired in this technique and that method; this cleanse and that diet. There are at least 11 types of yoga and after those who went on the I'm-Paleo-and-therefore-can't-eat-potatoes bandwagon, the Paleo Powers That Be decided they were good for you again! (Side note: Potatoes are not evil.)
Here's what we know to be fact:
Humans are designed to move;
Humans only need a certain amount of food to stay at the same weight.
Therefore, we can infer that we should:
Eat less if we want to lose weight or more if we want to gain.
So why is it that we make it SO HARD to move more and eat the right amount? Could it be for the reason Marie Kondo outlines in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in that quote above? Is it possible that, even though we WANT to look and feel better, we make things as complicated as possible because we're afraid of letting something from the past go? Or that we're afraid of how much work it's going to be moving forward? Or afraid of future failure? Or even afraid of future success?
What could happen if we sweep our usual negative inner thoughts/excuses/rationals clear out of our minds when it comes to making changes that can positively affect our health? What if we choose to accept the facts and just DO IT: Move more, eat less. Without the drama because if we want to get to D from A we have to go through B and C?
Well, I'm not sure but that's what this year will be spent figuring out.
How have YOU simplified things in your life and what was the outcome?
What do YOU want to simplify in your own life?
I wanna know! Leave a comment below!
Finding balance in life… It’s a little bit like finding the Holy Grail. Or capturing the Loch Ness Monster on film. Or even thinking about a world where the Kardashians weren't famous.
How do some people manage all the kids, their career demands, their relationships with loved ones AND work out AND meal prep and live to tell the tale and post it all on social media? Where do they get the gall to make it look effortless? HOW DO THEY BALANCE IT ALL?
I heard the best answer to that question recently from IYCA president Jim Kielbaso: “You find balance by making it.”
I’m going to go a step further and say: Balance is a myth. It’s not something you “find” or can "make" and POOF, there it is! Even on someone’s best day, one of those "I have it ALL!" days, I’d bet that individual wouldn’t say they’d found “balance”. I bet what they'd found was a prioritization and time-management system that worked for them. What they’re feeling is the good life they’ve worked hard to build.
Life is fluid. “Balance” one day will look different than “balance” on another day. We may perform at a 10 one day and 4 the next. That’s a good thing! We’re not robots! And THIS is why we feel like we can never find balance.
Let's toss out this passive "balance" concept so we can get proactive! YOU get to be meticulous in what you choose to do and what NOT to do and what gets priority (like working out and eating well). YOU get to block out time in your calendar and stick to it. YOU get to learn how to forgive yourself for not getting it all done.
YOU get to congratulate yourself for finally knowing what you’ll allow into your life and what you can do without and live by your values. You know: Creating your best life. No big deal.
Want to figure out how to make time for health and exercise while also creating your best life?
Let's get to it!
Read through the below and take it one step at a time. Pick the step that sounds the easiest for you to do and layer from there.
NOTE: I am not pretending to know your schedule, the demands in your life or who controls your calendar. I will assume you still get to choose how to take care of your health, though, so I hope this is helpful.
1. Hold a meeting with yourself at the end of your workweek, before you settle into weekend mode. Schedule it out ahead of time. Make yourself a cup of tea, get your calendars together and breathe.
2. Review what you want to do/accomplish/get done in the next week or month or season and when those things are "due"; I'd keep this list relatively short (like, 3-5 things). List them out.
3. Place the 1-2 next steps you need to take to get closer to the “due” dates. Ex. Are you going to a beach vacation in February and want to feel your best in a bathing suit? What are the 1-2 steps you need to take this week to know you’re working closer to that goal this week?
4. Prioritize what needs to come before another thing. Which is more important to you: Using all of your spare time to finish up a project or making time to get three workouts in this week? Trust me when I say I’m not judging if you choose the project over those three workouts once in a while: It’s life, it happens. It's when choosing something over exercise becomes a trend that it's time for a serious talk with yourself about what you really want and value.
5. (I'm about to get geeky) Color code your calendar and schedule your to-dos in! For example: My client sessions show up on my Google calendar in yellow; my “working on the business” is purple; my personal stuff is blue; my couples stuff is green. Some weeks there’s hardly any blue or green and what that tells me is I may need more of a light work schedule the following week.
6. Execute. Stick to the plan as much as you can and alter things when needed. It will teach you what really matters to you. It might be illuminating to see how much time NOT having a plan is sucking out of your life.
Time is the only thing in life that we can never get back. It is not a renewable resource. Doing what you can to be strong and healthy can only lengthen the time you have in the world. Invest in this self-meeting time to invest in how you use your time so it pays off dividends in creating your best life.
Consider that it’s not advanced age that makes our bodies ache. It’s the habits we’ve adopted over years and years that do.
Many seek the help of a personal trainer or movement specialist to help them move and feel better. We spend the day sitting at a desk or in the car. We Netflix and Chill on the couch more and more as the cold weather settles in. We spend a good amount of time looking at our smartphones and tablets with our heads in front of our bodies.
Needless to say, there are many reasons our bodies may not feel fabulous when we move about the world. Seeking the help of movement pros like us to feel and move better so we can be stronger and healthier is a great first step! So then you spend a few hours every week at the gym. And you feel better when you walk out! And when we see you again the following week and we ask how your body feels, turns out it still feels achy and not close to 100% again.
Because when we leave the gym we might be going back to our same old posture habits that are creating the problems in the first place.
What are some of these postures and what can we do instead? Allow me to show you!
Sitting In a Chair
Oy, sitting in a chair. What more can I say about this topic? We all KNOW what we’re supposed to do but nevertheless we slouch! We have rounded shoulders, scooped-under pelvises,
forward head posture. Our upper traps always feel tight at the end of the day, our low backs feel dull and achy. It's a mess.
The Fix: I want to share two things: First, I’m going to share this video by body guru Evan Osar (who I’m giving a shout-out to right now because this post was inspired by his talk at the Elite Fitness and Performance Summit this past September!). In it, he demonstrates where your hips should be situated in a chair to allow your spine to be optimally aligned but ALSO goes through the importance of breathing and not holding in your stomach all day (gripping, as he calls it). OMG I cannot underscore the importance of this point. But I’ll try later on in this post. In the meantime, please take 5 minutes to watch this video.
Second, check your feet. If you’ve gone through all of the tips Evan talked about in his video but your feet don’t quite lay flat on the floor, you may be in a losing battle. Your feet will find the floor and that might mean your low back ends up mega rounded. Do your feet not feel the floor? Elevate them!
Do you sit cross-legged? And favor one side over the other? Your low back, hip and/or knee pain could stem from this position. Crossing your legs elevates your crossed-side hip which changes the position of your lumbar spine which alters the position of your mid back and shoulders. Looking below the hips, sitting this way can also cause knee pain.
The Fix: See “Sitting in a Chair Posture”. If you really, truly love sitting cross-legged, use it sparingly and try switching sides.
You get your phone out to look up what else A Star Is Born actor Sam Elliot has been in. [PHOTO] Over time this forward head posture can contribute to pain not only in your neck but in your mid-back and even low back because of the strain it's causing down your spine. The further forward your head is in relation to your body, the heavier it feels in your spine. I'm sticking this image in to illustrate.
So what do you do?
The Fix: Hold your phone in front of your eyes!
You’re working at a coffee shop on your laptop. Your laptop is likely lower than eye level so you have to compensate by rounding out your upper and mid back as you extend your neck forward. Over time you may feel this in your jaw, neck, front of your shoulders, upper traps, mid back and low back, hip flexors.
The Fix: Find something to elevate that laptop so the screen is at eye level!
Couch Posture: The Slug
You’re Netflix and Chilling and are becoming one with the couch. I think by simply looking at this picture you’ll FEEL where you may find pain over time, right?
The Fix: Similarly to sitting in a chair, you want to get “tall” through your sits bones, find lumbar support for yourself (or create it by placing something by your lumbar curve) and find a good place for your feet and legs so that they’re not dragging you down into a rounded back position. Having something like an ottoman can be ideal.
Couch posture: The Mermaid
You’re Netflix and Chilling and sitting into your hip like a mermaid. Over time you may feel this in your hips, knees and low back.
The Fix: See the description of the Fix above but if this is truly your FAVORITE couch posture, try not to favor just one side and get up occasionally for some resets.
Criss Cross Apple Sauce
This has been my favorite sitting posture for as long as I can remember. Sadly, it’s taken its toll over time and isn’t so kind to my knees. In this position, you’re forcing your thigh bones into external rotation and creating tension in your knee joint.
The Fix: I’m sounding like a broken record but if you’ve got aches and pains and this is your preferred sitting position, use it mega sparingly.
Standing With Knees Locked Out
Standing desks are all the rage since sitting is so bad for us! That said, there are still some things to consider. The body wants the path of least resistance so when we stand, we tend to do it with knees locked out. What does that do? [PHOTO] It sends our weight into our heels and places our low back into hyper-extension. Sometimes it also means we place more weight into one leg than the other, hiking that hip up.
The fix: It’s never a good idea to lock joints out or just sit into them. Unlock your knees and shift your weight from your heels to juts behind the balls of your feet. You may feel your pelvis soften down and your low back release! Then, just be aware that you're placing equal weight on both legs (or at least MOST of the time).
Carrying a Bag on One Shoulder
You may be carrying a diaper bag or a giant purse with a computer, full water bottle and your life in it. On one shoulder. The weight? I just weighed my bag and it came in at ten pounds. What might this do to your body? It can shift your rib cage to the opposite side of the bag to even out weight distribution. That shifts your spine laterally so over time you could be giving yourself lifestyle-induced scoliosis. One shoulder sits higher than the other. Your pelvis may rotate which means your hips will be in a compromised position which can leave your knees and even ankles unstable.
The Fix: Either get yourself a hot little bagpack, get a rolling bag or switch shoulders throughout the day. Or, if you can figure it out (because I have not), try carrying less around with you!
Carrying Baby in One Arm
Moms typically have a preferred side to carry their baby and there’s already SO much to think about and do while you’ve got the babe in one arm but over time, this can shift the position of your rib cage off to the side, strain and overwork your shoulder and elbow, hike a hip up and curve your spine laterally in a few positions.
The Fix: Do your best and be aware of your posture. Try to even out which arm and hip you hold your bundle of joy!
Butt- and Ab-Gripping
Sadly I'm not providing photos for these ;) What I mean by "gripping" is holding muscles in their tightened positions over time. Like the muscles are trying to "grip" something the way a baby grips onto a finger. Keeping your abs and glutes tight for extended periods of time is the equivalent of holding your shoulders up to your ears. It's no bueno. Many of us have been taught to "hold in our belly buttons" or "suck it in" or "squeeze your butt". There are times and places for these cues (like if you're deadlifting a heavy weight for example). But when you go about your day, your stomach and glute muscles should be nice and relaxed. Most of our body pain comes from not being able to breathe properly and most of the time we can't breathe properly when our muscles are all tensed up.
The Fix: BREATHE. Do a body scan throughout the day to check that your stomach muscles and glutes aren't "white knuckling". Adjusting to this new "norm" takes time and step one is to be aware of when you're gripping.
I swear I’m not trying to use scare tactics but I am trying to drive home the point that these seemingly benign postures we take up can, over time, really alter the state of our bodies.
If you can optimize what happens to your joints in the other 23 hours you are not at the gym, you will soar with strength gains and feel better.
Did I leave anything out? Are there postures you’ve abandoned and felt better without? Share in the comments! Do YOU need help feeling and moving better? Contact me on the phone or text or by email!
Imagine being in a sled on top of a newly-snowed-on hill. You've got your snow goggles on, ready to zoom down that hill. But if you've gone sledding before, you'll know that that very first ride down the hill can be a little rough-going since the snow is brand new. As a new pathway gets sledded on over and over again, the sleeker said pathway gets and pretty soon you're ZOOMING super fast without even trying!
If you've ever learned a new skill or exercise, the above situation might feel familiar: The first time you learn how to do something, it feels challenging because new neural pathways are being created (THANKS, neuroplasticity!). The more your nervous system recognizes that pattern, the more natural and ingrained and second-nature it becomes.
The. Same. Thing. Happens. With. Your. Thoughts. The more frequently you tell yourself a story, the more ingrained and a part of you it becomes.
And those stories and thoughts: They turn to into your values and beliefs which turn to your ACTIONS.
Imagine these scenarios:
“I’m fat and disgusting,” you think. You start to believe and see yourself in a world where you are “fat and disgusting”. How do you think you'd treat yourself if this was the story you told yourself all the time?
“I’m so weak,” you think. You start to believe and see yourself in a world where you are “weak”. How do you think you'd treat yourself if this was the story you told yourself all the time?
“Ooh, I am feeling and looking GOOD!” you think. You start to see yourself in a world where you believe you feel and look good. How do you think you'd treat yourself if this was the story you told yourself all the time?
Take a few minutes and give this a thought. I’ll wait.
I have some follow-up questions:
In your experience, have you been able to snap your fingers and change your habits and actions overnight? Snap your fingers and show up at the gym three times per week? Snap your fingers and eat the appropriate ratio of carbs, proteins and fat?
If you're like me the answer is a big no.
If we truly want to change something in our lives, we have to start somewhere, right? But could it be our Point A should have actually been Point D? Instead of jumping straight into changing our actions, what if we started with changing the stories we tell ourselves FIRST, made THAT Point A?
How do you do that?
Well, I decided to ask my good friend, leadership coach and CEO of WeInspireWe, Tami Chapek. She explains, "[Self] awareness is the mission-critical first step in any kind of self-improvement effort. When wanting to make a change, one must first identify their current beliefs and behaviors around the topic. Easier said than done, I know, which is a huge reason why coaching exists (we don't often take the time to ask or push ourselves on the hard questions).
"Discovering this takes a lot of soulful reflection and time answering 'why' like, 'What are these habits I want to change?' followed by, 'Why do I have these habits in the first place?' and 'What's holding me back/why can't I move forward?'
"Answering these questions with a really honest answer - not the easy answer - is key.
"The 'why' helps us to discover what is going on under the surface and what internal block is getting in the way. In coaching, we say there are four blocks that can stop us from being successful and/or hold us back from making a change:
"We want to identify what block is holding us back. Each has a slightly different nuance in how you'd try to address it but the overarching theme is to challenge that thought/belief with 'how true is that?' and 'how is that serving you?'. The main idea is to really identify what the block or thought is (awareness is key!!) and then begin to think about how to reframe it, rethink it, challenge it, restructure it, etc."
What are the next steps, you ask?
Need more guidance or want to be contacted with Tami? Please feel free to reach out to me my email or phone!
Tami Chapek is the founder and head coach of WeInspireWe – a unique career coaching and leadership development company dedicated to building strong leaders and enhancing performance for teams. This includes working collaboratively with clients together to answer two fundamental questions - "who are you" and "what do you want"? The combination of these results work together to establish vision and clarity so that they can move forward with confidence, focus and commitment to get that new job and reaching new heights both professionally and personally. With 18 years in a corporate environment, WeInspireWe brings a blend of coaching, leadership development and branding expertise together to support clients in creating their unique "story" to exponentially further their growth and leadership potential.