5 of the Best Lessons I Learned from My Worst Race

As many of you know I set a goal of running a half marathon every month leading up to my 40th birthday.

Going into the process I said all that mattered was that I finished every race. I wasn’t going to be concerned with finish times, but rather enjoy the experience. But along the way I have battled my own competitiveness.

Last Sunday I ran #8 in Sandusky, OH. It turned out to be my worst race of the series. There are a number of factors that lead to my finish time, and in looking back this race taught me more than any of the others I have ran. So while it maybe was my worst finish time, it was my greatest victory so far.

Only 13.1 to go!

Only 13.1 to go!

I’d like to share with you some of my lessons learned from this race…some of them may seem like ‘no brainers’ but even as someone who lives and breathes fitness and healthy living, they are a good reminder.

Nutrition

In general, my family eats a healthy diet. Of course we enjoy pizza or a restaurant burger and fries from time to time, but our diet consists of lean proteins and veggies. After 10 days of travel and numerous meals out, my body was pleading for it’s normal food intake.

Surely I did my best to make the healthy choices when available, but between the numerous hours in the ‘Mothership’ (our family suburban), multiple meals out and a visit to an amusement park there’s only so much control one has on their food choices.

My eyes were opened to how lethargic the body becomes when fueled with ‘junk.’ Sure I ate salads, grilled fish and found a stand at Cedar Point that sold fruit cups, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the other meals. I lacked the energy I needed to sustain the 13.1 miles.

We have been home less than a week and now that I am back to my regular food intake I have more energy and feel stronger.

Lesson learned: a consistent healthy eating lifestyle is necessary to achieve physical gains. I don’t believe this is a change that can happen overnight, but with gradual changes and true commitment to it being a lifestyle and not a diet anyone can adopt healthier eating habits.

Training

Because I teach numerous classes throughout the week (and do them with my classes) I don’t often have time to get in the long runs necessary to train for these races. I am fortunate enough that my cardio and interval classes give me the endurance to run for 2 hours at a time.

Over our 10 days of travel, 5 of those were spent in the Mothership. Each of those legs of travel (but one) was close to 500 miles. So as you can imagine, the 5 days spent ‘vacationing’ were focused on having the most fun as we could as a family. I didn’t want to take time away for myself.

We spent time in the ocean boogie boarding and swimming, we walked an entire day through downtown Nashville, we spent an entire day walking an amusement park – but none of this could replicate a true workout.

I do believe at times that my body needs rest. But as someone who doesn’t sit much throughout the day, 8+ hour car rides not only made me stir crazy but dramatically affected my strength and endurance.

Lesson learned: exercise has to be consistent and intentional. Even if you can just fit in 20 minutes – it’s worth it! You have to make it a priority and in retrospect, my family wouldn’t have ‘missed’ me for 20 minutes or a half hour. I could have taken advantage of the time they were showering or I could have let them know how important it was for me to take a break – they would have understood. Don’t cheat yourself out of a workout – ever.

Rest

I’m certainly not the best at a consistent bedtime. I preach about it often but my bedtime often varies which sometimes makes early mornings that much more difficult.

On vacation bedtime and waking times become unpredictable for our family. We stay up late enjoying activities and time with each other. We sleep in and enjoy not having the pressure of daily responsibilities. On the other hand, there are nights we crash early from exhaustion and get up at dawn to head out on our next adventure.

Between inconsistent sleeping patterns and rotating beds and pillows, it goes without saying our bodies were exhausted.

Between poor nutrition, lack of intentional exercise and inadequate rest – I had created a trifecta for reduced performance.

Lesson learned: our bodies need rest. Whether it’s a rest day from exercise to heal muscles, or mental downtime from the responsibilities of life, or actual sleep, we need to recognize the impact fatigue can have on our abilities. Improper rest from working out can lead to injury, improper rest from ‘life’ can lead to mental and emotional fatigue, and lack of sleep can lead to all of these things.

Reality Check

I started out the race really strong – too fast, in fact. But I felt good. I went into the race with little expectations because of all the things I mentioned above, but began to think, ‘What were you so worried about? You got this!’

Then the wind hit, followed by hip and knee pain, then bring on the shin splints. Before long I was physically beat. I am used to ‘hitting the wall’ halfway through the race. It happens every time. But this was different. I wanted to quit.

I was disappointed in myself and my performance. But I’m not a quitter.

So I walked. Ugh, I was w.a.l.k.i.n.g. But as I looked around I saw other people walking too. Maybe they were feeling as broken as I was, or maybe they were feeling strong. Either way each of us was doing the very best we could. And one way or another the finish line was going to be in the same place whether I was running or walking.

I decided this would be the perfect time to do some interval work. If I can’t continue to run into the wind with the physical pain, it was time to set some goals. Push through a song with a steady pace. Then slow it down, catch my breath and regroup for another push. That lasted for a while until about mile 10 or so.

I knew I had a day ahead with my family at the amusement park. Was I going to risk ruining my day of fun with them just to run more of the race? I knew if I walked more than ran at this point I would be able to keep up and enjoy the day. So I walked.

Lesson learned: Don’t quit. A setback is just that. It’s not the end. Find a way to push yourself, and do the best you can. Don’t ruin an experience just because you are meeting the expectations you had set. Evaluate those expectations and adjust them if necessary. Keep moving towards the finish and know that this experience is going to make you stronger for the next time.

Family

I continued to walk. Pushing myself into the wind, knowing every step was closer to the finish, closer to my family fun day at the amusement park.

My family has played such a major role in my races. They get up early to watch me start, then they bounce around the course to meet me and cheer me on at various checkpoints, always making it back to the finish to congratulate me.

This course was different. I saw them at the start, I saw them about mile 4 and I wasn’t supposed to see them until the end.

About mile 7 or so I called Don. I told him I was struggling. We talked he encouraged me, then put me on speakerphone and the Schindlings cheered me on. That’s about the time I put on my ‘girls’ playlist and started running intervals.

Just after mile 10 I stopped running. My head was hanging. I knew I was doing my best but I was still disappointed. Just after mile 11 I looked up and saw Don and Ella just ahead of me.

They carried me to the end.

They carried me to the end.

Maybe I’m getting sappy as I age, because again I cried. They knew I was having a tough day and even though they weren’t dressed to run, they were going to get me through my last mile and half to the finish. We ran some, we walked some, we did it together.

At the finish line we met up with the other two Schindlings – in a big group hug they all told me how proud they were of me and what a great job I did.

Lesson learned: even though this is a personal goal, I need the support of others. Achieving a goal means absolutely nothing if you don’t have people to share it with. Never underestimate the strength that comes from loving and being loved.

So while you may not be a runner, I hope the lessons I learned while running will help enrich your life.

I know that going into race #9 I will have a much better perspective on what it means to successfully reach the finish line.

How to go from a Size 8 to a Size 2 the Right Way

How many of those absurd tag lines have you heard for the fad diets out there? The master cleanse, raw diet, the five bite diet, the cabbage soup diet, the list could go on and on.

But I’m not addressing the whole diet industry today. I’ll save that for another day but before moving on I want to make it clear – weight loss and maintenance requires an eating lifestyle, not a ‘diet.’

What I want to address today is the discrepancy in sizing of clothing, especially for women.

Picture this…you enter the fitting room with clothing only to find that you can’t get the jeans over your hips or the top you chose looks like you could fit two of you in it.

You double check the sizes and everything seems like it should fit. So you ask an associate to help you adjust the sizing, but still nothing fits right.

All the while you are critically staring at yourself in the mirror and creating a list of everything that’s wrong with your body.

So rather than returning home with some fun new items, you are discouraged more than ever.

It’s happened to me countless of times. In fact, I did go from a size 8 to a size 2 in one day…but it was all by shopping in my own closet.

How can two of my favorite pair of jeans be two different sizes?

How can two of my favorite pair of jeans be two different sizes?

I could rant on about the fashion industry and what they do to us by having such inconsistent sizing but that’s not going to do anyone any good.

With the season change upon us, many will be going shopping for some new things. So here are my tips for the next time you go shopping:

Recognize that size isn’t what matters, rather how it makes you feel.

I’ve talked about getting rid of my scale because I became entirely too attached to the number instead of how I felt about myself. The number went up and I beat myself up, the number went down and I was on top of the world. But the problem was prior to stepping on the scale I felt confident and happy with what I had done that week. So why did the number matter?

The same thing applies to clothes. Who cares what the size is? Does it look good on you? Does it make you feel confident? Does it make you want to make plans with friends so you can show it off? Those are the things that matter, not the size.

Accept that some styles will better suit your body than others.

The fact is we are all of different shapes and sizes and not every style will look good on you. It’s okay to take a risk and try it, but if it doesn’t compliment your figure you shouldn’t criticize yourself. Acknowledge that the style isn’t right for you because the same styles that ARE good for you, aren’t for others.

Shop with a friend.

We are always more critical of ourselves than we should be. Take a good friend shopping with you. First, it’s a lot more fun to shop with a friend than alone. But more importantly, your friend can offer you the honestly you need about what you are trying on. If you’re being too critical, they will be able to point that out, and conversely, if you need a reality check for what you’ve selected they will tell you that too!

Shop for the ‘YES’!

How many times have you walked in a store and just went straight for the clearance rack? I do it ALL the time. Over time what I’ve found is I have things in my closet that are ‘okay,’ but I don’t necessarily love them. So I’ve changed the way that I shop. Yes, I spend a little more, but now my closet isn’t cluttered with a bunch of so-so things.

So next time you go shopping, have fun with it. And if you need a shopping pal, let me know!

Four Factors You Need To Have For A New You This New Year

The New Year is upon us and along with that brings many resolutions for a healthier life. For some that means changes in diet, for others that means quitting smoking or drinking less, for others it’s a gym membership – or any combination of all of these things.

To successfully make these changes there are a few things that are important to understand:

FourFactorsForFitness

Ready for a new you in 2015?

Change Doesn’t Happen Overnight

It’s easy to be discouraged by not seeing immediate results or having a setback. But those things don’t have to define your journey. Take each day for what it is, celebrate the victories and see the defeats as learning opportunities.

The fact that you are recognizing it is a ‘setback’ means you have the heart for change. If you have a bad day and you could care less, you might not be willing to put in the work to make long-term changes.

Find What Works for You

We’ve all seen the infomercials and the ads for diets and workout programs that promise spectacular results. Now I will reserve my opinion about the before and after photos because the point I want to make here is that living a healthy lifestyle isn’t a one size fits all. Granted, there are components that are similar – a healthy diet, physical exercise and spiritual wellness, however, each of us has to discover how to make sustainable changes that are meaningful to us.

For instance, one year I decided that eating a healthy diet meant cutting out animal protein, of which I also imposed on my husband. Daily he became weaker and weaker and we ultimately determined, being a vegetarian wasn’t a positive change for him. Now for others, by substituting animal proteins with other forms, dropping meat isn’t a big deal and greatly helps in their quest for a healthy diet.

The same goes for physical and spiritual health – we need to find the right fit for us and not worry about how effective solutions are for others.

Set a Schedule and Stop Making Excuses

Success is largely dependent on your ability to plan. For instance, if you know that waiting to exercise until after work will result on your child tugging at your pant leg asking you not to go because they want to read a book, make a commitment to get up early or go at lunch. For any parent it is hard to walk away from a child who needs you so remove the challenge.

Plan your shopping trips. Don’t wait until there is nothing healthy to eat to hit the store, believe me your temptation foods will never look so good against fresh produce. Decide what your menu is and prep ahead of time as much as possible. I often chop up fresh veggies and clean fruit immediately after returning from the store so it is just as quick to grab a healthy snack as it is to grab a handful of chips.

Establish a Support System

You will need encouragement, especially on the bad days. Take the time to talk with your family and friends about your goals and how important they are to you. Those that love you want nothing but the best for you so they will do anything they can to help build you up to succeed. This also ensures that you have someone to talk to when you feel discouraged. If they already understand the importance of your goals, they will easily understand the hurt and frustration you are feeling when you feel like you aren’t making progress.

If weight loss and exercise are part of your new goals for 2015, drop me a line or text me at 574-387-1344. Let’s talk about writing up some short and long term goals that will help you obtain the healthy lifestyle you are striving for. Between personal training, group fitness and nutritional guidance, I’m confident that we can create a plan in 2015 to help you achieve the new you.

Disappointing Weigh-Ins

I despise the thought of being defined by the number on the scale. That said, regular weigh-ins can be a good reality check. Let’s face it, we all know when our clothes feel a little tighter or when our muffin top becomes more noticeable with certain outfits. But for me, tighter jeans or a ill-fitting top just makes me dig a little deeper in my closet and find something more flattering. Tight clothes aren’t the wake up call I need; seeing a climbing number on the scale is the splash of cold water I need to wake up and examine how my choices are affecting my health.

So in an effort to be accountable and try and shed a few pounds for summer I joined a weight loss challenge at Patriot Boxing. I find that if I am accountable to a team or a challenge I feel empowered to make better choices. 

Last night was the weigh in for week two and I bombed it. I would have been okay with holding steady, but instead I actually gained. Right back to where I started at week one. In that moment I felt like I had let myself down, I let my team down, and oddly I felt the weight of disappointment from my previous clients who looked back and me and asked, ‘How is that possible? I’ve been working so hard.’

The reality is, I too have been working hard. Unfortunately, when it comes to the number on the scale all that hard work can’t overcome some of the other things I haven’t been so great at: 

  • Poor sleeping patterns
  • Skipping weekend workouts
  • Eating too few calories
  • Eating enough calories but not getting the right balance of carbs, proteins and fats
  • Eating dinner late
  • Eating too little for breakfast
  • Eating meals out

See a pattern here? Eating. So what did I do after my terrible weigh in? I ordered a pizza with double pepperoni, ate 3 pieces and attacked the candy drawer for dessert. Clearly not the best of choices but I have to say that pizza tasted good.

So where do I go from here? I can continue to negative self-talk about all the ways I failed, especially with the pizza and candy, or I can take stock of the past week as a whole and be empowered as I work towards my week three weigh in. 

  • Poor sleeping patterns – Yes, I stayed up too late, but I would have missed out on quality time with friends and my husband. For those moments, I’ll gladly give up a little sleep.
  • Skipping weekend workouts – I could have been more intentional about working out over the weekend and that is something I should work on. However, throughout the week I put in some good hard workouts.
  • Eating too few calories – The days I ate too few calories, I simply wasn’t hungry. I try to tune into my body and eat when hungry and stop when I’m full. I know consuming too few calories can slow metabolism, but I’m not going to force feed myself when I’m not hungry.
  • Eating enough calories but not getting the right balance of carbs, proteins and fats – This is a work in progress and some days I am right on the money.
  • Eating dinner late – We live busy lives. I’d rather eat a late dinner and enjoy it with my whole family rather than eating in shifts.
  • Eating too little for breakfast – I’m generally not hungry in the morning and something is better than nothing. It’s time to get back to my green smoothies.
  • Eating meals out – Sometimes this is beyond our control and I at least made healthy choices. I wanted a bacon cheeseburger, instead I ordered a salad with no dressing.

Yes, by the number on the scale I failed. But in looking at the whole picture, I gained in a good way. I embraced time with family and friends and I made healthy choices as often as possible. Sure I have things to work on for the coming week, but I’m not going to let the disappointment of a bad weigh in weigh me down.

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Why I Stopped Counting Calories

Even before I was a trainer I believed in the value of logging calories – and I still do. Before the days of smart phones I would keep track of everything in a notebook. Then along came great apps like LoseIt and MyFitness Pal which made it much easier to log my caloric intake. 

Because I still believe in the value of food journals I want to take a few moments to share with you the benefits of keeping one of your own.

Food Journals Create Awareness

Many times we aren’t aware of how much we are actually consuming. By keeping a record you can take an honest look at your caloric intake for the day. This can be extremely eye opening and can raise your awareness to areas you may be able to cut back. For instance, many people don’t recognize the calories associated with beverages because it’s not a meal. Eliminating juices, coffee drinks with heavy syrups, and reducing alcohol intake are an easy way to cut back on unnecessary calories.

Food Journals Establish Accountability

When I logged my food I paused to think about every food choice. Did I really want Hershey kisses bad enough to account for 200 calories of my daily allowance? Probably not. By tracking your food intake you are much more likely to think twice about a food choice rather than just mindlessly consuming it.

Food Journals Reveal Patterns

There are a number of things you can learn about your eating patterns through food journals. Do you snack more at night if you skip breakfast? Are you always looking for something to snack on at 3pm when the kiddos are getting home from school? Do you crave junk food after consuming alcohol? These are just a few examples of what you might discover through food journaling. We all have our own patterns and food journaling is a great way to learn more about your own.

Food Journals Reflect Nutritional Deficiencies

Many times we are not getting the proper balance of carbs, proteins and fats and through food journaling you can discover which areas you may be under or over-consuming. Thankfully most of the apps available now will give you a breakdown of your nutritional intake. In general this is what you should be consuming:

  • Protein: approximately 50 to 70 grams (depending on body size) or 12 – 20% of your caloric intake
  • Carbs: a minimum of 125 grams, optimal 350 to 400 grams or 55 – 65% of caloric intake **NOTE: these are healthy carbs from fruits and veggies, NOT processed carbs found in pre-packed and processed foods
  • Fat: approximately 30 to 65 grams depending on caloric consumption, or 25 – 30% caloric intake

If you want to read more on the benefits of Food Journaling take a look at couple of my previous blog posts, ‘Keeping a Log‘ and ‘Keeping a Record.’

So with all of these benefits why in the world would I stop counting my calories? I’ve been working towards clean eating for many years. In fact, my daughter Ella once told me that I must have different taste buds from the rest of the family since I chose carrots over chips for a snack. 

I’ve recently discovered that for me, food journaling makes me overly obsessed with calories. As a result I make some very poor and damaging choices.

For instance, I am so fearful of going over my calories that I am likely to skip a meal (maybe even two) to compensate for the pizza I am going to eat for dinner. I’m so obsessed with staying within my limits that I limit my protein intake to avoid the extra calories. So in my effort to be healthy, I’m achieving the exact opposite: a screwed up metabolism and a body vulnerable to sickness and injury. 

So I stopped journaling and started focusing on three things:

  1. Recognizing Hunger
  2. Portion Sizes
  3. Smart Choices

Recognizing Hunger

I’m no longer bound to meal time because the clock says so. I am listening to my body and eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. Sometimes that means breakfast is only a green smoothie. Other mornings it may be a smoothie and egg whites. Which brings me to…

Portion Sizes

I am concentrating on staying true to portion sizes. Anything, even pizza, eaten in the proper portion size and moderation can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. So now instead of starving myself all day for pizza, I make sure that I also have a salad with my pizza.

Smart Choices

Having a salad with my pizza is just one example of making smart choices. I’m far less likely to eat 4 slices if I start with a salad. Not only will the salad help to fill me up but it is a great reminder of what good food tastes like as compared to fatty processed food.

So I’ve stopped counting calories because for me it was becoming a destructive behavior. Rather than feeling oppressed by food, I feel empowered to make the right choices.

My goal in sharing this with you today is to empower you to discover what works best for YOU. Life is not a one size fits all. For some, food journaling is the exact tool that empowers them, if that’s you – I encourage you to keep it up! I whole-heartedly believe journaling can be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, however, it is just not a tool that works for me.

When it comes to living a healthy life take time to consider what helps you to feel the best about yourself – if something makes you feel worse about yourself, find a new way. 

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My Relationship with Food

I love food, but I’ve come to realize I have an unhealthy and dysfunctional relationship with food.

I struggle with cravings.

I struggle with portion sizes.

When it comes to cravings rarely seek out sweets or chips. I crave things like pizza and cheeseburgers, which may have some redeeming nutritional value however tend to be very high in calories and saturated fats. And yes I know there are ways to make these dishes in a more healthy way, and I’ve tried them, but they aren’t the same. There are times that the only thing that will do is a classic slice, or two (or three or…) of pepperoni pizza.

Which brings me to portion sizes. I have a difficult time sticking to the recommended portion sizes. I know one of the best ways to reduce portion sizes is to reduce your plate size, and I do that. But then I go back for seconds, totally defeating the purpose of the smaller plate. (If you are unfamiliar with a standard portion or need a refresher click here to review a slide show on portions.)

So because I suffer from cravings and portion control, I have created a distorted perception of food. Instead of seeing food as fuel for my body there are times I fear having to make food choices and times where I even hate it because I’m unable to ‘control’ my consumption. As a result I see food as what makes me dread stepping on the scale instead of a necessity to help me stay healthy and active.

Granted, I’ve trained myself to think through my choices and not be impulsive so most days my food consumption remains in check. But there are those days where no amount of self-talk can provide the willpower needed to not give into the cravings or extra helpings. For years I’ve beat myself up over those days. I’ve been disappointed in my failure to eat healthy, I’ve chastised myself for seeing the numbers rise on the scale and I’ve looked in the mirror and said some pretty awful things to myself – things I would never say to any other person.

After a really tough conversation with my best friend (my husband) I realized my mirror dialog needed to change. It needed to change not only for me, but it needed to change so that my children would never look in a mirror and think negatively of themselves. 

I recently posted two links on my Personal Training FaceBook page that have helped me greatly in thinking differently about my relationship with food:

  • The first is about a 13 minute video in which neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt uses her personal story to explain how our brains manage our bodies, and the science behind why dieting not only doesn’t work, but is likely to do more harm than good. She suggests ideas for how to live a less diet-obsessed life, intuitively. Do yourself a favor, watch this video.
  • The next is a follow-up blog on the science of willpower written by Kelly McGonigal. Her blog explores why we cannot rely on willpower and is applicable to much more than just dieting and food consumption.

     

I recognize that in order to change my mirror dialog, I have to change my relationship with food. I need to recognize food as the fuel to help me be a loving wife and mom and a successful fitness professional. What is your relationship with food? Is it a healthy one? If not, take some time to think about how you can work on that relationship so that it doesn’t affect the way you talk to yourself.

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Keeping the Fat in Your Diet

As a trainer, I’m not one for stocking unhealthy snacks, baking sweets or making fattening meals. I shop the perimeter of the store and keep our diet as clean as possible. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you stick to the natural products and control your portions there’s no need to go for the ‘fat free’ or ‘sugar free’ options.

GASP, right? Eat fat? Eat sugar? What kind of advice is that coming from a trainer?

Let me explain…

When things like fat or sugar are removed from foods, the flavor changes. So to make those foods more flavorful, artificial ingredients are added. Our bodies are designed to process nutrients in their purest form. While we can digest artificial ingredients, we don’t process them as efficiently as products that exist in their pure form without modifications.

The other thing I have experienced is that when consuming foods that consist of artificial fillers to replace the missing flavors, I’m not as easily satisfied. I tend to eat more for two reasons 1) the craving isn’t satisfied as quickly and 2) it’s fat or sugar free so how bad can it actually be?

So while I don’t approve of snacking on junk, or eating foods prepared with heavy sauces, I do think that eating full fat yogurts and using olive oil are good choices. And so it seems Swedish scientists agree.

On December 6th, Sweden became the first Western nation to reject the low-fat diet dogma, in favor of low-carb, high-fat nutrition. The switch in dietary advice followed the publication of a two-year study by the independent Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment. The committee reviewed 16,000 studies published through May 31, 2013. Click here to read more about their findings.

Here’s what I hope you take away from my blog today:

  • Stick to what is natural and drop the artificial additives
  • Be mindful of your portions – fats are only bad when consumed in excess portions

goodandbad fats

Moderation vs Elimination Revisited

One of the biggest challenges with weight loss and healthy eating is making sustainable life-long changes. If you’ve ever committed to change before you know how challenging it can be to maintain the necessary willpower to overcome temptation. 

This is why in some cases it’s better to learn ‘moderation’ over ‘elimination.’ I’ll give you a personal example. I love going out for Mexican food. And when I say, ‘I LOVE GOING OUT for Mexican food,’ I mean I could actually go out for it every night of the week given the right restaurant. It’s something that willpower cannot overcome and I’m not willing to eliminate it from my diet.

So instead, I allow myself to go out no more than one night a week for my favorite foods and while there I limit my intake. Do I want a whole bowl of chips and salsa to myself? Absolutely! But instead I opt for just a few chips (5 or so) and push the rest away. When it comes time to order my meal I stick with the main dish and avoid the tortillas if possible. If the meal comes with rice and beans I only take a bite of each and leave the rest. When I am especially motivated I split my meal with my husband.

By still allowing myself to enjoy my favorite things I have the ability to control my intake while there. I have a feeling if I didn’t allow myself these weekly treats, I’d lose all control and completely overindulge in everything at the table given a chance.

But on the other hand there are things that I need to completely eliminate because even just having a little makes me want more, and more (and more).

Allow me to introduce my addiction to diet coke. Even just writing those words makes my mouth water. I met diet coke in my late teens and have battled with it ever since. Despite reading study after study, and numerous articles on the ill effects of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners, my desires for it overtake all reason and I allow myself to indulge in the toxic liquid.

So here’s my pattern…I quit drinking diet coke and then we take a road trip. I think, ‘Well, I can have just one while we travel. It will help me keep my husband company while he drives.’ Then we arrive to our destination and I think, ‘Well, we don’t normally eat here and a diet coke would really taste good with this meal so I’ll order just one.’ Before I know it I’m stocking up on the sales while struggling to keep the fridge stocked.

Meanwhile, my water consumption is tanking and my body is bloating. Yes, I know it’s zero calorie but between the carbonation and the artificial sweeteners I expand like a blowfish.

So for me, moderation is NOT a choice when it comes to diet coke. I have no choice but to completely eliminate it from my diet. One leads to another and before I know it I’m back to drinking 2 or more a day.

It’s been about a month since my last diet coke. Do I want one? Absolutely. Am I going to give in? I truly hope not. But if I do, the decision won’t define my journey rather be a stumble along the way.

As you think about making changes decide if it’s something that you need to moderate or eliminate. If you determine it’s something you should eliminate from your diet, don’t beat yourself up if your willpower fails. It might happen. Just know that just because you indulged once, doesn’t mean you have to fall back into old patterns.

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3 Questions to Consider When Setting Goals

Losing weight and improving health requires a lot of work and sacrifice. Weight gain and lack of physical fitness doesn’t happen over night – it’s a gradual increase in weight and a gradual reduction in strength, endurance and flexibility. To counter these effects you need to identify ways to gradually decrease your weight and increase your physical abilities. Again, it’s not going to happen over night!

As a personal trainer I work with my clients to help them set weekly individual goals around diet, weight and exercise (depending on their long-term needs). The goals are specific and measurable and at the end of the week there is a definitive answer if those goals have been met.

I find the key to success in achieving both short and long-term goals is realistically evaluating the change based on the following criteria:

  • Am I ready to make the change?
  • How will this change impact my quality of life?
  • Am I willing to make this a lifestyle change?

Readiness

All change requires willpower. The key is to gauge your readiness for the change so you aren’t solely relying on willpower to accomplish your goals. Why? Because your willpower will fail you.

Think about it…we all know what the right choices are. Faced with the decision of a cupcake or a bowl of berries you know what’s the healthier choice. The same is true with exercise; you know that being physically active is a much better choice than living your life in a recliner.

Our willpower fails us because we allow excuses to override what we know is right. For instance, “I know I shouldn’t eat the cupcake but it’s my friends birthday and I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” Or, “I know I should go for a bike ride but it’s been a really long day, I’m tired, it’s getting cloudy, I need to air up my tire, I’m not sure where my bike helmet is…”

Take the pressure off your ability to battle your own excuses and choose goals that you are ready to achieve.

Quality of Life

It’s also important to consider how working towards a particular goal will affect your overall quality of life.

Let’s say your exercise goal is to workout for 45 minutes 5 days a week and 60 minutes 1 day a week. Decide in advance what current ‘activity’ you are willing to sacrifice and how it ultimately impacts your desired quality of life. Will you wake up early or does getting up before 7 am make you cranky and tired for the rest of the day? Will you go to the gym after work or is that the time you normally spend with your children?

The purpose in setting goals is to improve your quality of life so don’t set a goal that steals your happiness and enjoyment in life.

Lifestyle Changes vs. Quick Fixes

Reaching your goals is only half the battle. It takes just as much (if not more) work to maintain weight loss and physical fitness over time. Quick fixes may contribute to achieving your goals but they aren’t a realistic long-term solution because none of them really require behavior modification.

Think about it this way…most people who go on an extreme diet or exercise plan usually have a set number of days associated with that plan and have no plan for maintaining it once the program is over. For instance, if your method for losing weight is to drink two shakes a day as meal replacement you may achieve your weight loss goals. However, to sustain that loss are you willing to drink two shakes a day for the majority of days for the rest of your life to maintain your weight loss? I’d guess most people would not be willing to do that.

Take some time to think beyond reaching the immediate goal and evaluate if the changes you are making are sustainable over weeks and months to come.

You’ll find that long-term success is built on a solid foundation of small victories all along the way. Start out simple and give yourself a chance to succeed. Each time you achieve a goal you become more confident in your ability to achieve bigger and better.

 

Learning to Love

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Think about the people and the things that you love. Certainly there’s a difference in the type of love you have for people than what you have for objects but every ‘love’ is founded in the relationship you have with the person or thing.

As you think about your ‘loves’ let me share with you a little about mine…

  • I love my God because He is my source of hope
  • I love my husband because we share a friendship and a bond deeper than any other person on Earth
  • I love my children because each of them uniquely challenges me every day to be a better person 
  • I love my friends because they help me to see the world through their eyes

Now for the ‘shallow’ loves in my life:

  • I love my truck – it’s big, it comes in handy and it has seat warmers
  • I love shoes – all kinds, can’t get enough of them
  • I love raspberry gelato – there are very few sweets that tempt me but I have a hard time resisting this one

I think it’s fairly easy to make a list of the things we love and why we love them. But have you considered the love you have for yourself? Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about indulging yourself with greediness or allowing your ego to get the best of you. I’m talking about the kind of self-love that allows you to look past the mistakes you’ve made and the perceived imperfections in the mirror. It’s the kind of love that isn’t tied up in actions or appearances but in the relationship you have with yourself.

Losing weight and improving physical fitness takes a lot of hard work. If your relationship with yourself isn’t founded in love excuses will be easy and perceptions will be difficult to change.

First, if you don’t love yourself you aren’t going to take the time necessary to see changes in your life. Aside from the time you need to exercise you also need to consider the adjustments you may need to make to shopping and food preparation time, as well as a potential increase in sleep and rest time. If you don’t love yourself it will be easy to find excuses to skip workouts, grab fast food or stay up late watching tv. A person with self-love stops putting poor excuses ahead of the quality decisions that will improve their life.

Secondly, without self-love it’s going to be difficult to make weight loss mean anything more than just a number on the scale. Let’s say your goal is to lose 20 pounds because you don’t like what you see in the mirror. Over a period of 3 months you modify your exercise routine and eating habits and you achieve your weight loss goal but you are still disappointed in the reflection in the mirror. While your physical fitness has benefited from the loss, your self-image didn’t improve so now the 20 pound loss isn’t a celebration rather a big let down because you’re still unhappy.

My suggestion is to keep that goal of 20 pounds because there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the goal. But to achieve satisfaction with the reflection in the mirror you will need to look at yourself EVERY DAY and find something you ‘love.’ At the beginning it might start with loving your eyes or hair but as your body begins to transform you will start loving the look of your bare arms or the trimming of your thighs. This exercise is not meant for you to become obsessed with the look of your body rather that you begin to become comfortable with it and you embrace the changes as they are happening.

Lastly, I would suggest that self-love is what will keep you from obsessing about comparing your look to those images promoted in the media. Instead of idealizing yourself through the images of celebrity air-brushed photos you will feel empowered to see the beauty in the uniqueness of your own body. We are all truly blessed with unique shapes and characteristics and I believe the more we learn to embrace them the more beautiful our world becomes.

So take some time today to love who you are now and with each passing day work on growing that love just the same way you find new ways to love the people and things in your life that mean the most.