What’s messy, and why it matters

If you’re a Brené Brown fan like I am, I hope you’ve picked up her newest book, Rising Strong. I’m into it now and can’t help but be inspired by her words and her dedication of the book to the space in between vulnerability and the heroic ending of the stories we are all so excited to get to. She admits that failure is part of life, and says that the journey is messy:

 “We much prefer stories about falling and rising to be inspirational and sanitized. Our culture is rife with those tales. In a thirty-minute speech, there’s normally thirty seconds dedicated to, “And I fought my way back,”…We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending.”

I like to think that my blogging here as well as at my old blog was a space for me to share some of my struggles, but I’ll admit that I like to rush to the ending. Sometimes this blog serves as a spot to figure things out, which is great. But as someone who wants to help others to figure their own things out, it’s a disservice to skip to the ending or to leave out the messy parts. So as I’ve been reading Rising Strong, I’ve been thinking about my own mess in the middle.

On a regular basis, there are parts about living my recovered, healthy, life that are not so easy. There are “failures” or stumbles now, and I don’t always want to talk about them. Is it shame? Is it an attempt to inspire and focus on what’s good? Maybe. But talking about where we feel shame, I know, only takes away its power. And being real about the messy parts of life is what is really inspiring to others. Take it from Brené:

“…[T]here’s a vast difference between how we think about the term failure and how we think about the people and organizations brave enough to share their feelings for the purpose of learning and growing. To pretend that we can get to helping, generous, and brave without navigating through tough emotions like desperation, shame, and panic is a profoundly dangerous and misguided assumption.”

She talks about “the beauty in truth and tenacity.” So for the next couple of posts here, I want to share some of the struggles I’ve had and/or have when it comes to living the healthy and happy life I try to stay committed to. I’ll talk about what it’s like to walk around recovered—some of the times where I find myself slipping, or the ways that I have to work on staying true to myself. It’s not always easy, and I hope that this serves to send the message that it’s alright to have to work at recovery or living a healthy life. We sometimes see these images of people who have it all figured out and beat ourselves up for not being as carefree or as put together as them. It’s the whole comparing other peoples’ highlight reels with our behind the scenes footage, and it’s shitty if you’re the kind of person who then beats yourself up for struggling. Talk about kicking yourself when you’re down. I’ve been there, and I hope talking about it both helps me to let go of some of that shame and also to let others know they’re not alone.

 

imperfections

So in the coming posts, I want to talk about what’s tough. Holidays, the scale, comparisons–these are just a couple of the things I want to talk about.

Are there things you struggle with but keep to yourself when it comes to being healthy and happy?
When you tell your story, do you skip to the end? 

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Weight, vacation, and checking in beyond the scale

Happy Canada Day from…America!

canada

This is my first Canada Day as a Canadian citizen!

We are on the final leg of our journey from the trip we made for the Farm to Fork Fondo last week. I’m enjoying the trip and the extra sleep and the break from being alone with only my thesis to keep me company, but I’m also excited to be home. I am starting to feel better and am eager to ride my bike a bit and maybe swim some laps at the outdoor pool that’s open now, even though I’m tapering for my half ironman, which is coincidentally not very far from where we are staying today, next weekend.

I was thinking today about the scale, and not having one on this vacation. For a few years, I didn’t keep a scale around. I was in the thick of my eating disorder recovery, trying my best to focus on letting my body do what it needed to in terms of size while I got back to a relationship with food that was healthy. Lately, I’ve been using it, albeit consciously, to see what’s going on with my body: not a whole lot. It seems training for a half ironman vs. mostly lifting weights / dabbling in Olympic weightlifting have left me remarkably the same in terms of how much I weigh, and I think in how I look.

This trip, I haven’t had access to a scale. I also have not been wearing my FitBit or tracking anything by hand or on an app. I did see that when we were in NYC the other day, according to my iPhone, Brent and I walked nearly a half marathon – 20km in one day! That seems like a lot to me.

I got to thinking about the way I used to freak out on the last days of a vacation over the “damage” I had done while I was away. Now, this trip involved minimal exercise—one bike ride, one little run—and some admittedly junk food—pizza under the Brooklyn Bridge, s’mores, and a chocolate bar that tasted like my childhood. But, without a scale to measure where I’m at and see if I can “get away” with such indulgences, I’m forced to ask myself if I’m happy with my choices.

The answer is yes, for this trip. For the most part, I’ve been following my hunger signals. I’ve been enjoying the food along the way—the pizza was part of being a tourist, the s’mores were over a campfire, the beer in NYC—and for the most part I’ve been able to eat ‘til full and not stuffed. There have been no binges, no tears, no big fights over food—all things that used to be commonplace for me when I got out of my routine with eating and/or exercising. Do I miss the gym and want a salad? Yes! Do I wish I’d felt better and was able to run once or twice? Yep. Do I wish the weather had been better so I could get out on another bike ride? Yes. But that’s alright—that’s the kind of thing that happens when healthy is your normal and you can enjoy the change of pace on a vacation. For me this time, it’s not about “indulgences” or “cheating” but about being in the present and choosing what’s healthiest and happiest in the moment. Sometimes that’s a candy bar, sometimes it’s an apple. Sometimes it’s sleeping in, and other times it’s getting up early to fit in a workout.

chosen to be happy

When I get home, the scale won’t be waiting for me to let me know how I did. I already know that I’ve had a good trip and that I can go home feeling pretty good about the choices I’ve made, and also with a few lessons about what makes me feel my best to go along with it.

So maybe, rather than the scale, it’s about asking ourselves: How are my food choices right now making me feel? Can I look back on today and say that I made choices I can be proud of? Does what I’m doing fit with my vision of “healthy” living?*

chosen to be happy

*Your vision of healthy living might be something you’ve never thought about. For me, it’s not all kale and wheatgrass, but it’s about letting things be simple: from shopping at the farmer’s market and eating lots of whole foods to taking a break on vacation to having an ice cream cone on a hot day. It’s about doing things that make my body feel good and build it up, not break it down and wear me out in terms of training. It’s about trusting myself.  

…what’s yours?

Body Positivity Tuesday: Be Picky

It’s time for another tip from the body acceptance arsenal. This week is about putting on blinders when it comes to things that don’t serve you on your health and happiness journey…

Week 3: Limit your digital exposure to things that make you feel bad about your body.

As a blogger, I’m obviously biased towards social media’s potential to be a positive force in our lives. But I’m fully aware how the literally unlimited exposure available to us via the internet and social media to the kinds of content and pictures that can make us feel inadequate can wreak havoc on our abilities to feel good about ourselves. The internet is also a place where people can present things that aren’t even real—as real as they appear. A big step back during my eating disorder recovery was letting go of the blogs I was following who took part in the “What I Ate Wednesday” madness. I realized that part of giving up the obsession with whether or not what I ate was good or normal or too much or too little or whatever was to stop comparing myself to others, especially those who took the effort to document their every bite on the internet.

The remedy? Examine what you expose yourself to on social media. If you’re constantly bombarded with photos to which you compare yourself, or with people promoting all kinds of extreme diets, or with anything that leaves you feeling worse off, get rid of it. We have to be the gatekeepers of what we allow into our lives, and given the way in which we are constantly connected these days, social media is a big part of this puzzle.

respect

Is there anything you’re letting go of after reading this post? 

Throwback Thursday: thoughts on Paleo, balance, and finding what works

This post has been on my mind for a while. I am going to use “Throwback Thursday” as the excuse for posting it now, even though my thoughts are still a bit scattered and I’ve got some apprehension about sharing…

Paleo didn’t work for me.

Before I started CrossFit and found out what Paleo, or Eat By Design, or whatever you’d like to call it, was, my eating was pretty balanced. I ate mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, (mostly lean) meat, nuts and seeds, and sufficient froyo with a smile on my face, and I’d been at a stable weight for a while, though I still didn’t have my period on a regular basis. I had been through my eating disorder, done a stint of vegetarianism (mostly because I read Eating Animals and got sad), and was in a super high stress state, but I was back on track—even if my body hadn’t totally sprung back to (hormonal) health just yet. Up from my lowest weight of 114lbs, I weighed a comfy 138-142lbs and when I look back at pictures, I think I looked healthy and athletic.

My half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was "bad." I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

My first (and only) half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was “bad.” I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

So what happened?

The “for me” part in “Paleo didn’t work for me” is important. I didn’t really do it right, but I did what I think a lot of people do. I also think the way in which I failed at “doing it right” is indicative more of the diet not being good for me more so than of me not trying hard enough, even if I’ve spent plenty of months telling myself I should just try harder.

When my bookshelf was stocked with The Paleo Diet, Primal Blueprint, The Paleo Solution, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Practical Paleo, and Everyday Paleo, things changed. I told myself it wasn’t a “diet” in the traditional sense and that I was after health, which was true but I was also hoping for a six pack along the way and I certainly was not ready to gain more weight.

So, I started to make changes. I replaced the chicken, turkey, fish, and beans I ate with more and more pork, sausages, steaks and ground beef. While I did do a good job and managed to track down some free range organic sources on occasion, the vast majority of this meat was just from the grocery store.

When I ate grains, they were definitely not whole grains any more. The Paleo diet says white rice is okay if you train hard enough, so I ate more of it, usually with plenty of coconut milk and sometimes butter on top (FYI, this is delicious). But I also had the mindset that if bread was bad for me, I might as well have the white stuff, so I said farewell to the whole grain options I used to buy. French fries were healthier than a hamburger bun, right? Potato chips better than whole wheat crackers? If grains—or carbs, in my thinking—are bad, who cares about choosing well?

When I went for treats, I was never satisfied with a just a little. Dark chocolate became something like a food group for me, especially the kind of dark chocolate that I could somehow combine with almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, coconut butter, sunflower seed butter, etc….I ate all the butters. And real butter! With a health halo around it, I started to put more and more butter on the sweet—not white—potatoes I ate. Without bread as a vessel, I’d find myself spooning nut butters right from the jar into my mouth. It’s good for me, right?

paleo desserts

I started to take heavy cream in my coffee. Formerly one to add milk and maybe a sweetener or spoonful of sugar, I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the 30% cream and the looks on the Starbucks baristas faces when I asked them for the whipping cream to add to my highly caffeinated long Americano order (which is also delicious).

Some mornings, I’d crave oatmeal so badly that I would try to fake it. I’d microwave some combination of eggs, a banana, and almond butter. I remember worrying that I was having too much sugar and one day when I “caved” and ate two bananas, I was sure I fired up my fat storage and was doomed for diabetes. I’d make granola out of nuts to go on top of this, because the old recipe I’d used also included those oats, gosh darn it. Oats might not contain gluten, but they were still grains and everyone Paleo knows gluten and oats were probably bedfellows in manufacturing.

There were other changes, but I think you get the picture. I’d gone from what was defined as “conventionally healthy” to an attempt at a fad diet that I still think can be a fine choice—if you put in the time and effort (and moola!) to get the food from good sources, like eating meat, and are on top of food prep—that totally messed with what was a balanced approach. You have to know that I have an addictive personality and that as smart as I like to think I am, I can be easily persuaded. I took things to an extreme, and I used excuses like “It’s gluten free!” or “If I’m going to “cheat,” I may as well go big.” I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I also changed my exercise habits. I started to question whether or not “cardio” was good for me. I traded my daily swimming, biking, and running workouts for more and more time with the barbell. I loved the way I could focus on getting stronger. I also read things that told me that cardio was making me fat.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did in the thick of my CrossFit as the be-all end-all days.

But I love swimming, biking, and running.

I love oatmeal.

I love chickpeas.

I love not feeling like I need to have a huge hunk of meat with every meal.

…I gained almost 30lbs in the process of switching my exercise and eating habits. I can’t blame CrossFit or Paleo, and I should add that I added muscle.

As strong as I feel when I am lifting a really heavy barbell, I still crave the feeling I get from going for a super long bike ride. Last year, I experimented with doing both. In the process, I found my body shifting a little more and I lost some of that weight (5-10lbs, depending on the day of course). Stepping back into the world of long bike rides and runs and dips in the pool, I found myself remembering some of the common sense nutrition notions that I used to ascribe to.

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

While I can’t blame the Paleo diet or the ideas about exercise that came along with it or the books or the people who exposed me to them, I can take responsibility for myself and my health habits. Instead of feeling stuck, I can work on shifting my habits and thoughts back to a healthier place. Those beliefs I picked up about carbs and grains and exercise were built. As sticky as they might be—because nut butter is delicious and sausage is amazing—,they can also be replaced—because feeling light and healthy and good in my skin is another kind of amazing.

So, I’m in the process. Today, I am “back on grains.” I eat whole grains as much as I can—quinoa, oatmeal, and rice are my favourites. I like bread and cereal, so I eat them and choose the whole grain options because I don’t think they’re rife with anti-nutrients anymore. I eat lots of fruit and plenty of vegetables, and I have less room for the meat on my plate. I still overdo it on the nut butters, but I’m working on it.

wrong road

I’m writing this because I think there are other people who have dabbled in Paleo or have given up something they love that makes them feel healthy and happy in the name of something someone told them would be better. I know that it’s hard to shift back—there’s still times when I think “how the heck did I eat that many carbs?!”—but it helps me to remember that I was happier with my body when I was eating all the carbs, and wasn’t thinking about them as a villain.

I hope your Throwback Thursday isn’t as intense as this, but I also hope that you take the time to check in with yourself and ask, about your health habits, that question I mentioned earlier this week: how’s that working for you?

Have you ever gone down the “wrong” road and wanted to get back to the fork?
What have you learned from trying diets or exercise programs that don’t work for you?

summing it up

This week, I am grateful to have an opportunity to talk with the board at Hope’s Garden about my fundraising bike tour next summer. While telling my story is something that I think gives it meaning, that doesn’t make it easy. So, as I’m getting myself ready for this meeting, I have been asking myself a couple of questions to try to make it easier on myself:

Who am I and what’s my story?

I love it when other people introduce me, but when I have to do it myself, I’m never sure where to go with things. Does someone need to know that I’m a grad student first? A fitness instructor? A writer? That I love riding a bicycle? That I had an eating disorder and I recovered? At any rate, these are all part of who I am.

Why a cross-continent bike tour?

As part of my freelance writing gig, I interviewed a man who rode across the US and raised money for brain and spinal cord regeneration research, blogging about it along the way and raising over $26 000 with his efforts. Ever since then, I’ve had the notion of biking across the continent in the name of eating disorders awareness on my mind.

As someone who struggled with their body, weight, eating, and self-esteem for as long as I can remember, my relationship with exercise has been rocky in the past. So many of us come to see our bodies as our enemies or as problems to be fixed and end up using exercise in a way that’s punishing. The time I spent slaving away in the gym, hating my body speak to this.

Cycling, though, was one of the first sites where I was able to appreciate my body for what it was capable of rather than simply being concerned about how it looks. It seems only fitting that if I were to put myself to this kind of a physical challenge, I would do it in the name of eating disorders awareness, prevention, and treatment—all of which are close to my heart.

The start of a 100 mile in Philadelphia: definitely one of the hardest (and hottest) rides I've ever done!

The start of a 100 mile in Philadelphia: definitely one of the hardest (and hottest) rides I’ve ever done!

What do I want to be able to say about this experience at the end of this all?

Anyone who bikes across the United States in 33 days gets bragging rights. Racking up 3, 457 miles in just over a month—over 100 miles per day, on average—is no small feat. If I just wanted to be able to say that I did it, I would sign up for this tour as a vacation and leave it at that.

But I’ve always been ambitious. I want to start a dialogue. I want that dialogue to change the way that people relate to their bodies. I want to change the way that people look at and talk about exercise. I want people to start to realize how amazingly capable their bodies are. I want them to start taking care of themselves so that they can do all of the amazing physical things that we’re all capable of. I want people to realize that they can come to a place where they enjoy working out and where it is about creating more health and happiness in their lives. I want people who are struggling to see an example of someone who has recovered and isn’t just surviving, but is thriving.

love your bod

Why Hope’s Garden?

During my recovery, Hope’s Garden was an amazing resource to me. I know how important it is to this community and I know how much that the support will be appreciated.

How’s this all going to work?

I have set a goal of raising $20,000 to go towards Hope’s Garden. The tour’s cost is $5 500 and beyond its cost, the money is directly going to benefit Hope’s Garden’s ongoing work with eating disorders. In the process, I hope that I can raise awareness and start to make some difference in people’s lives who hear about the tour. I plan on using online donations—I’ve set up a website where donations can be made directly to Hope’s Garden—as well as things like charity fitness classes, raffling off my personal training and coaching services, etc. along the way and would appreciate any kind of support or spreading the word that people can help with. Like I said, I am ambitious, but I know that this will not only be a physical challenge with a huge sense of accomplishment but something more.

The end.

I think that I’ve summed it up pretty well–and while the perfectionist in me says I can do better, I know what I’m doing is awesome and that people will connect with my story no matter what parts of it I choose to share. I have lots of time to go into more detail, too…

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 9.41.51 PM

I’m already grateful for the encouragement, the words of wisdom, and the energy I’m getting when I tell people about this. The saddle sores I’m already getting from upping my rides, not so much. Thank goodness for chamois butter!

chamois butter

 

If you want to donate to my ride and to Hope’s Garden, please visit my Giving Page at https://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=37108. All the donations go directly to Hope’s Garden. If you want to get involved or have any questions, ideas, or other thoughts, please comment below! In the meantime, love your body and be happy and healthy. 

appreciating exercise (or why I’m ready to bike across the continent)

The other day, I was biking with a friend of mine and we got to talking about how training time—biking, running, swimming (she’s a triathlete friend)—gives us a way to destress. When she said something about how exercise has always been her way of keeping herself sane, happy, and healthy, I couldn’t agree more. There’s something about heading out for a bike ride or a run and getting to be outside, without your cell phone attached to you, with some space from the rest of what’s going on in your life, that’s oh so freeing.

More generally, I think exercise is a great way to destress. Letting it all out in the weight room. Processing thoughts in the pool. Thinking things over on a hike. These are all ways that exercise can give us that much needed break and time to just be in our bodies.

However, for a while, exercise was a source of stress in my life.

First: Am I doing enough? I should do more. This was the name of the game when I was really struggling with my relationship with my body and experiencing my eating disorder.

Then: Am I doing the right kind? I should do it all. Even through recovery, I’ve found that it can be a difficult balance to master: exercise is a place where I can learn what my body is capable of and where I have the opportunity to just experience it for what it does, not just for how it looks, but it’s also a loaded area where there are so many messages about what we “should” be doing.

But I’ve learned along the way that when it comes to deciding whether or not something is good for us, things aren’t always black or white. Going on a long run for one person might be about getting out and experiencing their body. For another, it might be about burning off a binge. We celebrate people who are dedicated to their recreational pursuits and sometimes we can go too far—for the average person who trains for health or just recreation, training through an injury probably isn’t necessary and seems counterproductive. It can be a slippery slope if you’re struggling with why you exercise—the compulsion is hard enough to kick, but add in acknowledgement from the world around us when we do come across as “hardcore” and things get even tougher.

That being said, I think it’s important to talk about how exercise, even for people who have struggled with compulsivity in the past, can be a part of taking care of your body. Our bodies are meant to move so learning a relationship with our bodies that allows us to exercise in life-affirming, health-building ways is essential. With so many messages about exercise as a way to control weight, it can be hard to flip the switch: exercise isn’t punishment or just about changing the way your body looks. The number of articles I’ve seen about quitting running because it’s not going to make you skinny just reinforce the idea that exercise is only about weight—it’s not. Running has other benefits—the mental ones I talked about at the start of this post, the other physical aspects that have no reflection in our body composition.

Exercising, in my opinion, is about using our bodies and keeping them moving in ways that feel good and that are enjoyable. It need not be complicated or intense. It shouldn’t come loaded with feelings of guilt and compulsion. It’s simple: exercise should make your life better—your physical, mental, emotional, and maybe even spiritual health (if you’re into that).

love your bod

If you’re a regular reader, maybe you’ve checked out my bucket list page. On it are some things that I’m making good on these days, namely biking across the continent. I didn’t really elaborate on my page, but ever since I wrote an article for Canadian Cycling Magazine in 2010 about a man who rode across the US and fundraised for brain and spinal cord regeneration research (he raised $26 052 to be exact), I’ve had biking across the continent in the name of eating disorders awareness on my long term to do list.

So, that’s why I’m uber excited to be planning this fundraising ride across the states. I’m sorting out the details now, with plans to donate the money that I raise to Hope’s Garden, the eating disorder resource centre in London that helped me so much. When I decided to ask for help with my eating disorder over five years ago, I used the Hope’s Garden website to find myself a therapist. I went to support groups throughout my recovery on campus and at Hope’s Garden itself. The Awareness breakfasts and special events that the centre offered kept me learning, committed, and passionate about my recovery. It seems only fitting that I do this in their name! My plan is America By Bike (the same company the man I interviewed used) and their “Fast America” tour in April of next year: 33 days, 3 457 miles, and a whole lot of awesome. I’ve been talking with Hope’s Garden (the woman in charge there makes me even more excited about all of this) about fundraising and setting up a donation page, looking for sponsors, and getting the word out about what I’m doing—and why I’m doing it.

cross country

If I hadn’t taken the time to think about what exercise means to me and to get my relationship sorted out with why I work out, I don’t know if biking for 33 days straight from one ocean to the other would be a healthy choice—my mindset of more is more is more in the past would certainly be raging. But I’ve earned back the right to bike my butt off by putting in the work and getting healthy. I had a good talk with my therapist (part of how I stay committed to myself and my health) about this. She (re)assured me that years ago, this wouldn’t have been a great idea. But given where I’m at now and what I know about exercise–I see it as a place to challenge our bodies and then to really appreciate just how much they’re really capable of–I know that this is one heck of an opportunity to focus on what my body’s capable of. It’s hard for me to think about how my thighs are looking in my biking clothes once I’m out the door and riding, and I trust more and more that the less I worry about how my body looks as a result of the exercise I do, the more I enjoy activity.

Like I said, I think it’s important to—and I’d like to serve as an example of someone who’s been able to—find a healthy relationship with working out that will keep us moving, happy, and healthy throughout our lives.

Stay tuned!

turn dreams

 

What kind of exercise helps you appreciate your body most?
What’s one item on your bucket list that you’re ready to make good on?

it’s not rocket science: my top tips for living a healthy, happy life

As a healthy living blogger, I thought it might make sense to put together a little summary of what I do on a regular basis to keep myself healthy. Thus, my top 10 tips for being happy and healthy. There’s nothing surprising or revolutionary here–I don’t think healthy living is rocket science. Enjoy!

  1. Cook for yourself. Lots of people use time as an excuse for not cooking. In reality, there are plenty of ways to get around this problem: doing a big meal prep on the weekend, choosing quick recipes (that take less time than driving to the chinese food restaurant or ordering wings), for instance. Cooking for yourself can be relaxing and usually means you end up with less junk going into your meals and snacks–a big win, in my books! Plus, you wind up saving money.
  2. Have a (rough) meal plan. I used to think that if I wanted to be an intuitive eater, meal planning was out of the question. This made grocery shopping, cooking/meal prep, and living, to be honest, more difficult than it needed to be. I’ve since realized that if intuitive eating and meal planning are mutually exclusive, it’s not for me–I do better when I give myself a rough plan for the week, including what kinds of snacks and when I’ll eat them. Whether or not I end up hungry for all the snacks and meals I plan, knowing that I will be eating again makes me less likely to overeat at each meal and snack and having a plan saves me trips to the grocery store and lots of money along the way.
  3. Eat real food as often as you can. When I make my meal plan, I try to include as many real foods that don’t come in a wrapper as I can. As Jillian Michaels (who I have a love/hate–mostly love–relationship with) suggests, if it didn’t come from the ground or have a mother, you shouldn’t be eating it. That means my snacks are things that are either as is (fruit, veggies, yogurt, nuts, etc.) or that I make for myself (muffins, etc.). I still end up grabbing a bar here or there, but I don’t plan on eating very many processed things are part of my daily routine.
  4. Schedule your workouts. I know that if I have an appointment, I will keep it. One thing that keeps me sane and moving is writing down when I’ll work out ahead of time. Sometimes I literally just schedule in “work out” (if I’m not sure how sore I’ll be or what I’ll be in the mood for), but I’m most likely to get a work out in when I schedule a specific class or plan into the mix. Bonus points if I invite someone along with me to hold me extra accountable.  
  5. Focus on the big picture. I used to stress and stress and stress over every little thing I put in my body (was that yogurt 1% or fat free?) and over the smallest details of my workouts (I should have done 3 more minutes on that treadmill!). Realizing that these things are not what dictate whether or not I’m healthy and happy—but that worrying about them actually takes away from my health—has been freeing. The big picture and considering whether or not what I’m doing is moving me in the direction of a healthier and fitter version of myself keeps me saner and calmer than getting caught up in the little things.
  6. Strength train. I cannot think of a reason why getting stronger could possibly be a bad thing. With CrossFit getting more popular and the “strong is the new skinny” motto out there (a blessing and a curse, in my opinion), I think more women are hitting the weights regularly. Yay! My favourite part of being strong and lifting on a regular basis is seeing how it carries over into my day to day life: I can move my own furniture and can carry all kinds of things up the 2 flights of stairs to my apartment. It’s the small things that count! Also, on a purely vain and aesthetic level, filling out a pair of jeans and having broader shoulders (hullo, smaller-looking waist) are not so bad side effects.
  7. Do something that gets your heart pumping most days of the week. As a recovered cardio junkie, I still think there are huge benefits to getting sweaty on a regular basis. Whether or not it helps you lose weight or maintain your weight aside, I don’t think people would be less healthy for hitting the trails or hopping on their bicycles a few times a week. Maybe it’s playing a sport or going for a hike, but whatever it is, I think there’s a mental and a physical benefit from doing activities that are aerobic in nature and keep your heart pumping. In the midst of all the “cardio is death” messages out there, it can be hard to admit that hopping on a stationary bike with your iPod and a podcast is one of your favourite ways to unwind, but for me, that’s the case. Following this kind of activity, I feel calmer, clearer-headed, and restored.
  8. Take up yoga.  From CrossFit to triathlon to climbing to just wanting to be a healthier, fitter person, yoga will help. Whether it’s an athletic style that challenges you physically and mentally or something deeply restorative and meditative that feeds your soul, there’s something to be said for doing a yoga class once or twice a week to supplement whatever else it is you do for your mental and physical health.
  9. Move every day. Whether it’s a walk or 15 minutes of stretching on your living room floor, there’s something to be said for giving yourself and your body the love you deserve. Most people, when they put in the effort to exercise or to take care of their bodies, will make better choices throughout the day—I know if I’ve gone for a run or made time for the gym, I’m more likely to choose the apple over the cookie when decision time comes.
  10. Reflect on where you’re at and where you’re going. Maybe it’s not a blog that you share with the world, but documenting your health and fitness journeys – in a diary, on some kind of forum, with photos – is one way to keep yourself honest and to give yourself something to look back on. If you end up injured or overtired, it’s helpful to be able to see what led up to it all. If you feel like a million bucks and have a great race or competition, you’ll want to know what you did to set yourself up for that success. I also use vision boards and goal setting to keep me looking ahead to how I want to keep striving and improving.

take care

What is your top tip for living a healthy lifestyle?

on choosing happy

The Outward Bound trip I went on this summer was one of the most enjoyable—but difficult—things I have ever done. From rockclimbing to backpacking, there were all kinds of fun activities. Besides not having a shower or toilet for two weeks, there were also challenges I didn’t anticipate when I signed up.

fun fun

We’re on top of the world!

Near the end of our trip, we found ourselves starting on our day’s expedition at nearly 7:00pm (a cushy departure time is normally something like 9:00 or 10:00am). That day, there’d been a flooded stream raging river that separated our group holding up our start. Without going into the details, we were getting a very late start on a six mile hike—and the skies were threatening another storm.

Everything in me screamed “I want to go home.” I’m a scaredy cat by nature and while I love thunderstorms when enjoyed from the comfort of my apartment or some other safe indoor location, one of the last things I felt like doing was hiking in my yellow Helly Hansen rainsuit while worrying about being struck by lightning. As much as I was worried and thought that I should plop my butt down in lightning drill (AKA perch myself on top of my backpack on my rubber mat to keep myself safe), I was praying the storm would stay far enough away that we wouldn’t get even more held up along the way.

I was grateful for the downpour for at least one reason—it hid my tears. The rest of the night is largely a blur: we got lost, thought we got lost, argued about whether or not we were really lost, and used our headlamps to refer to the maps we carried in our bags for what felt like hundreds of times; we stopped for dinner—a spread of chex mix along with tortillas that most of us filled with salsa and cheese, afraid of the gastrointestinal ramifications of consuming questionably rehydrated black beans; we paused for a while when one of our cheeriest gals fell and hurt her leg and we had to dig out the first aid kit to patch her up; our hearts raced when our leader saw wildlife and alerted us, “Animal! Animal!” But also, eventually, in the midst of what I could definitely describe as “miserable” or “scary” and definitely “soggy” (it didn’t stop raining the whole time we were hiking), we found a rhythm. At some point, I realized that crying wasn’t helping the situation and that if I sat down nobody would carry me or come to save me I really had no option but to keep going. At that point, dwelling on all the things that sucked about the situation became pointless.  I ended up having some of the best conversations of the whole trip that night and when we strolled (ha!) into the puddle where we were supposed to find a spot to pitch our tents our campsite well past midnight, we’d experienced what became the highlight of my trip and we’d earned bragging rights to take home along with our suntans and bug bites.

Why am I telling this story now?

Because as cheesy as it is, I think there’s a lesson here: oftentimes, the things that are the most difficult are the ones that end up benefitting us the most. The most uncomfortable experiences we go through are what turn out giving us the best lessons, memories, and triumphs.

I can’t think of a time where I’ve ever felt as “legit” as I did that night in the stormy woods and like I said, I count the experience as one of the highlights of my trip.

Right now, there are a few situations in my life where the “I wish this was over!” sentiment I felt at the beginning of that soggy evening is coming up for me. I know I’m not alone—from fellow students who just want their degree already to people who want to give up yoyo dieting and find their happy weight…yesterday, it’s easy to despise where we are and just want to be done with it—whatever “it” is. It’s not fun to feel like you’re 15lbs overweight or to be in a program that’s hard (I’m speaking purely from experience here).

But what I’d offer (and what I’m trying to take from my Outward Bound fun) is that this experience—as much as it might be uncomfortable—doesn’t have to suck. What if while you’re slaving away for that degree, you find all the ways to have fun along the way instead of focusing on all the reasons it sucks? Rather than killing myself to try to get the best marks, what if I focus my energy on learning as much as possible, meeting as many people as I can to network, and building the skills I see myself using beyond academia along the way? And what if the process of giving up emotional eating and getting to your happy weight becomes a kind of adventure and opportunity instead of a struggle? Rather than beating myself up for still working on this, what if I recognize how powerful it is that I’ve put in the work and am not slapping a quick fix band-aid on the problem yet again?

positive thinking

I’m a firm believer in feeling your feelings and honouring your emotions, but I also believe that we can choose our attitude and our beliefs about our situations. Unfortunately, I lost one of my cycling friends on Thanksgiving weekend. Last weekend, there was a celebration of life for her. On the cards from the service was a quote that Kelly lived by: “Happiness is a choice.”

Kelly embodied "positive thinking" and left quite the impact on the people she met. <3

Kelly embodied “positive thinking” and left quite the impact on the people she met. ❤

At a time where I could easily start feeling sorry for myself (school is hard and I got a bad-ish mark last week, my jeans won’t zipper, whahh whahh whahh), I was reminded of the power of a positive attitude. As cheesy as it might be, there’s a reason I keep the “We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.” quote kicking around my “About” page. Life is way too short to get down on ourselves or to get sucked into thinking about giving up. Just like my hiking “fun” and the realization that I couldn’t give up–if I sat down in the middle of the trail I’d only piss off my fellow hikers and there was no helicopter that was going to come and rescue me any time soon–recognizing that being frustrated or uncomfortable isn’t a reason to give up, but actually an opportunity to find a way to take something away from this experience–is powerful. With that perspective, I have a choice between being miserable or finding a way to forge on and to find a way to be happy, even if I’m feeling soggy (or fat, frustrated, whatever).

I’ll choose happy.

we either

What is a challenging situation that’s made for a lesson, a fond memory, or something else positive in your life?
Where are you choosing an attitude that isn’t serving you? What would it be like to choose happiness instead?

It’s about time

Nah, I’m not talking about my race time from tonight’s Go the Distance race, but I do feel pretty content with my 41:36 8km time. I also feel good knowing that the money raised from the event went to such a good cause. I saw quite a few familiar faces at the race, including one friend who raised over $1000 for Hope’s Garden. AMAZING! She ROCKS.

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They sent home the age group winners (2nd and 3rd too) with gift cards for Runner’s Choice (a running store here in London) so I have $10 to buy…something. Suggestions? I felt pretty sick during the race. My stomach is off and I found the chest cold I thought was pretty much gone. Things were clicking and snapping and hurting so you better believe I have a date with my foam roller and I think I need to rededicate not just to doing those awesome strength workouts I’m so fired up about (I started a box of WODs and ripped out routines from magazines and posted a teaser about bootcamp on Facebook today) but also to stretching, foam rolling, wearing my compression socks, and doing the little muscle work that I know is important for injury prevention. Promise!

I’m not sure what was up with my stomach. Nerves? I found myself nibbling all kinds of things this afternoon–I’m definitely one of those stress eaters. I did a pretty good job of fuelling today though, I’d say. I went to yoga this morning. I blogged. I sort of cleaned. My mom came for a quick visit and ran some errands and read some magazines with me (I’m a sucker for this month’s fitness mags since they’ve all got Olympic specials in them!). I sat around. 🙂

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Now I am so glad to be done for the day. I’m pooped and my stomach feels off! Must be a combination of a busy week, weird eats, the race, and everything catching up to me but I just want to foam roll and face plant into bed. Laundry can wait. Dishes can wait. Sleep is essential! I just had some chocolate (dark–bring on those antioxidants) so cravings are satisfied. I am thinking cough syrup and bedtime are in order. Not going to get sucked into Facebook, into another Jillian Michaels podcast (I think I’ve heard 5 today–catching up on old ones!), or into reading blogs (sorry guys). I am hoping to go home for a bike ride in the morning tomorrow and then come back for some fun with friends in London tomorrow. Somewhere in the next 4 days I’ve got a lot of studying to do…gonna worry about that later! 🙂 I’m preoccupied with how excited I am for finishing the tasks on my summer bucket list, having time to read non-school things at my leisure, for the opening of the outdoor pool (sweet one piece tan, let’s go), and for starting bootcamp<–especially this, but I guess if you’re going to be distracted it might as well be distracted by awesome.

How do you unwind after a long week?
Have you ever raced an 8k? What’d you think of the distance? – For me, I prefer 10k because it’s a bit more comfortable. Or maybe just familiar and I wasn’t sure how hard to push, or maybe it was the cold, or maybe I’m over thinking this! I had a good run and I was on the edge of my comfort zone and those kinds of workouts are important so I’m going to call it all a success. 😀
What are you doing this weekend?

  

Saturdays are for…

Swimming, shopping, and  smiling?

Sure, we’ll go with that.

This morning I left my cereal boxes in the cupboard and made a bowl of warm oatmeal with walnuts, banana, brown sugar, and soy milk. Note to self: eat more oatmeal!

Just before swim my stomach was growling so I downed a quick bowl of yogurt to fuel my workout, which was awesome! I had company and we did some fun stuff out of the box for us! Yay for working new muscles and giving up your ego (we even did fly, not our strongest but definitely worth doing!)

When I got home I was smiling but I was ravenous. I tided myself over with my second adora disk of the day (love) while I made use of the heftiest bunch of kale I’ve ever bought. Kale chips, anyone?

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They went perfectly with my ham and cheese sandwich with alfalfa sprouts. So much good on one plate!

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My afternoon was about coffee, shopping, and snacks.

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I even got to hear some vintage BSB when I was out and about!

And I returned some stuff to Aerie and came out with this awesome necklace…perfect much?

I also may or may not have been shopping for the finishings of a certain someone’s birthday present. I have a road trip on the agenda for this week so ya know, it might have happened!

How are you spending your Saturday?