Archive | September, 2011

Eating Clean: A Place to Start

26 Sep

There are so many healthy eating tips out there it is hard to know where to make changes in your diet.  Eating clean is a great place to start. A little research quickly reveals that there are several different definitions for what eating clean really means.  When I personally talk about eating clean it means sticking with whole foods in their most natural form as much as possible and avoiding added chemicals, sugars, added sodium and unnatural ingredients.

Here’s an example of the types of food I eat regularly:

Whole Grains: quinoa, brown rice, barely, steel cut oats

Lunch: Steel cut oats, egg whites, red peppers, mushrooms

Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, cauliflower, spinach, bell peppers

Fruits: (whenever possible opting for those low in sugar) blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, pears, apples, bananas

Lean Proteins: Ground turkey, chicken, egg whites, fish

Healthy fats: unsalted nuts, avocado, olive oil, salmon

In addition to eating clean, I am also an advocate for drinking clean!  Often times we consume a lot of unnecessary chemicals in the form of liquid, which detracts from the amount of water we consume.  Water is essential for our health and helps with our metabolism, so it’s important we consume enough every day.  If you like to sip on things, try a smoothie for lunch made with fresh blueberries, raspberries, ice, plain Greek yogurt, a banana and honey.

Dinner: Sweet potato, lean ground turkey, low fat cottage cheese

The most important thing you can do when you are changing your diet is to pay attention to you body.  While one person might react adversely to dairy, others may tolerate it well.  Pay attention to how you feel after you eat certain foods.  The foods above are an excellent starting point to construct your daily eating plan. Combining these food groups within each meal will give you the healthy balance of nutrition you need to fuel yourself through the day.

One of my favorite sites to find recipes on eating clean is http://eatingcleanrecipes.com/  If you have recipes you like or other sites you frequent for ideas, feel free to share them.  Happy eating!

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From the Ground Up: Five Qualities to Build Your Fitness Foundation

22 Sep

I’m an avid reader when it comes to fitness and nutrition.  I enjoy many “how to” articles that gives strategies on getting fit, loosing weight and staying healthy.  However, I often think there is an element of fitness being ignored. Beyond just understanding topics such as how to work out and what to eat, there is a deeper level we must strive to understand.  How do we change our mindset and develop a foundation for creating a healthy lifestyle?  Like building a house, you start from the base. You can’t put a roof on something without the foundation from which to build.

How does one build the foundation for fitness then? A good place to start would be to look at what fit, healthy, balanced people do. Across the board, I found there are certain characteristics these people share.

1. They make fitness and healthy living a priority.
It’s easy to forget about ourselves in the game of life. This is particularly true for those of us who are caretakers and moms. We are taught to give all of ourselves and often times that makes us feel worthy. While admirable, those who have mastered fitness and health as a way of life seem to recognize that in order to best serve others; they need to care for themselves first. This requires spending some time every day on self-improvement. Just as sleep, family and work are priorities, so is fitness. They find creative ways to incorporate it, encourage others to participate and embrace a lifestyle that promotes balance. They make “we” time but also make “me” time.  This isn’t always easy, but it seems to be essential as a base for achieving healthy living.

2. They are mindful.
This can be a confusing concept. I know this because for years I couldn’t really wrap myself around what it meant to be mindful. I think all the time, sometimes too much. Does that make me mindful, apparently not. To be truly mindful you need to connect your inner voice with your outer actions. It’s the mind/body connection that creates this.  How does mindfulness play into fitness then?  Let’s consider this; how many people do you know who work out all the time but never achieve their fitness goals?  There are a lot.

The answer to this is thinking very hard about what you are doing while you are doing it.  Quiet your mind to all the other things in life and pay attention to your body. When you lift weights, do you notice the way it makes your muscles feel? When you run, do you pay attention to your breathing, how hard you have to push yourself, when to back off, when have you rested enough and should be quickening your pace?  When you sit in yoga class do you go through the moves or do you feel the pull of your body, think about every part of you and what it is doing, let everything else go and simply be in that moment? When you do the simplest of moves, like a sit-up, do you rush through without engaging your muscles or do you pay careful attention to making every contraction of your body count? This is what turns a 15 minute workout into something powerful.

3.  They are confident.
Generally fit and well-adjusted people exude a unique confidence.  Confidence comes from believing in yourself. You have to believe you are worthy and important. You deserve this. The best way to find this is to start by changing the voice in your head. What does it say to you?  Do you wake up and think to yourself, “I am beautiful”?  I am important and have valuable things to share with the world”? Start there and listen to your self-talk and if you notice it is not positive then change it.  Say something positive about yourself out loud.

Beyond telling yourself positive words of affirmation, begin to tell other people. Find the things you admire in others and let them know. Self-confidence is not just about seeing yourself as beautiful and worthy; it’s also about seeing that in others. When you can begin to celebrate others successes and achievements very genuinely, you can also begin to celebrate your own.

4.  They have passion.
Passion fuels action. I always think about those around me who are good at what they do, but they really don’t love it. It’s the love for something you do that makes you great at it.  Find a fitness activity you are passionate about, and spend time working on it. In his blog, photographer, writer and public speaker James Patrick often asks his clients, would you rather have passion or talent? Both can lead you to success, but only one can keep you there. http://jamesmpatrick.com/blog/marketing/passion-versus-talent-which-would-you-rather-have/ Passion is what drives us and makes us want to do it better. Develop the passion for something active, anything, and work on becoming better at it.

5. They seek support.
People often succeed in groups surround by others who support them. Pick up any self-help book and you are likely to find a chapter about building a network of strong healthy relationships. These are what allow us to get through difficult times. One resolution I always keep is to have at least three people in my life I’d drop everything for if they truly needed me.
You should not only be that person for someone, but have people who serve as that for you. You get what you give. Give others support and you will be surprised how they reciprocate. Giving support doesn’t always have to be with your time.  It can be kind words of affirmation, small tokens of affection. Don’t underestimate the value of the smallest thoughtful gesture; those are sometimes the most meaningful.

When we develop a support network in our fitness world, we surround ourselves with like-minded people. Those who value what we are trying to accomplish.
Your quest for health and fitness may be a big change for you. As such you could be met with resistance and unforeseen obstacles. At that point, you really have to decide which relationships to keep and which to let go. Carefully choose from whom you will draw your energy. Let people know about your goals and seek out support networks. Surround yourself by people who believe in you.

Fitness is a journey.  It’s something we re-make over time and continually strive toward. Even the people I most admire in the fitness world have goals they work toward. Whether you are starting from the beginning, or well on your way to achieving health, keeping the principles of balance, mindfulness, confidence, passion and support can help you along the way. Take the time to build the foundation because that is what will support you in the long run.

In Search of Mentors

12 Sep

We all know the value of a good mentor.  What we forget is that a mentoring relationship doesn’t just happen.  A lucky few might find one that just falls in their lap.  If not, you better go out and look for one!

How?  That’s a good question.  I remember my days advising students who would say I really don’t have a mentor.  I’d offer that they ought to get one, and a good way to start is by looking around at the people you know.  Who would you like to emulate?  Who do you admire?

Find someone who fits the profile and study what that person does.  Ask the question, “How did you get there?”  Listen closely to the answer.  Sometimes the most effective way to start a relationship is simply by saying, “I admire and respect you.  I’d like to learn from you”.  Most people who are told this are flattered.  Many have a desire to share their knowledge, and here is their opportunity.

Surround yourself with a handful of people you admire.  As your relationships develop, your mentors will likely offer you advice.  Take it!  Do something with it.  One rule I live by that never really fails me is that if enough people you trust are telling you that you ought to do something, you should do it.  Why is this hard?  I don’t know.  I don’t always follow this advice myself, but I keep the rule and do my best to remember it on a regular basis.

If you consider yourself to be “the best” at something and have a hard time finding someone to emulate, you’re not looking hard enough.  The minute you see things from that perspective, you lose the ability to improve.  You lose your edge.  Even the most successful people can point to someone they look up to and from whom to learn.

Find the person who meets your needs.  Don’t limit yourself to one; find at a few, particularly if you have a variety of goals.  Maybe you aim to get in shape, advance your career, raise a family, take on a new hobby, or improve your image.  Every one of these goals becomes more obtainable when you find people to emulate and from who to learn.

I think about the people I’ve mentored over the years and so many of them have gone on to have fabulous success in a number of areas of their life.  These people have reached success far beyond what I consider obtainable for myself.  That’s what a good mentor does. They teach the student how to grow until which point they begin to teach you.

The Competition Diet – A Personal Journey of Lessons Learned

5 Sep

I’m the first to tell people how making changes toward a healthier lifestyle can better them.  I did it first hand but its like childbirth, once you’ve done it you forget how hard some of those moments were.  I was reminded of those challenges over the past 6 weeks when I decided to participate in a fitness competition.  I knew the required diet was rigid but I figured I eat clean, I don’t eat a lot, how hard it could be?  Harder than I thought, and not for the reasons I suspected.

I received the diet and it listed exactly what foods to eat each day and the order in which I should eat them. There are about 15 foods on this diet.  I eat them day in and day out.  Almost everything on the diet  is a “one-ingredient” food.  I eat things like quinoa, egg whites, mushrooms, oats, salmon, broccoli, lean ground turkey, apples, chicken, brown rice, green beans and nuts. Six weeks and counting and here is what I’ve learned.

Week 1: I clearly need to spend a little more time preparing food.  Life is beginning to revolve around eating.  I am hungry all the time and since many of these things are hard to eat while out and about, I feel like I am running back home to eat constantly.  I spend a Monday afternoon preparing, measuring, and bagging all the food I’ll need for the week, as to insure I don’t find myself in a bind without what I need. Lesson Learned: Pay it forward – a little preparation can simplify your life, making it much more manageable in the long run.

Week 2: I am already growing tired of the diet.  I’ve had a hard week and I am dying for frozen yogurt, or red wine, or both!  My kids sit in front of me eating a treat while I choke down plain ground turkey, green beans, and quinoa.  I finish and am left with a terribly unsatisfying feeling. Am I feeding my body what it needs?  I’ve gotten so good at that over the years.  Is this really a healthy life-style? I decide this will only last four months and I will stick it through.  As I watch the kids eating their yogurts, I literally find myself breathing through my urge to eat more, to eat anything other than what’s on my diet.  Let it pass, I tell myself, and I go for a walk.  As I do, the urge slowly goes away. Lesson Learned: Sometimes you have to give yourself  time for the urge to pass: the urge to eat more than you might need, to eat something you know you shouldn’t, to stop working out sooner than you planned because your tired, even the urge to munch on your kid’s leftovers after dinner.  The urge will often come, and if can distract yourself long enough, it will go.

Week 3: I’m still having moments where I have to talk myself down but not nearly as many.  The desire to eat a lot of things I previously ate and loved, like hummus, Kashi Go Lean, protein bars and watermelon is slowly going away.  These are all good foods but they are not on this diet, so they will not come near my lips…period.  Everyone I know asks me how competition training is going. It reminds me to stick to the program.  I never would have had the will-power to do this before, but I have a specific goal in mind.  Lesson Learned: Setting  a specific goal (e.g. a fitness competition, a race, a weight lose challenge with friends, a 30 day yoga cleanse) makes it much easier to endure something and succeed. Telling people you are pursuing a goal and that they should hold you accountable to stick with it helps you achieve your goal.

Week 4: I’m not feeling right.  Apparently rigorously following this diet has worked to lean me down to extremely low levels.  On the other hand, it’s also left me feeling depleted.  I am craving fat like I never imagined.  All I want to do is eat nuts.  I visit trainer Scott and tell him this just does not seem right.  He takes one look at me, checks my body fat and agrees.  He adds more fat to my diet.  I’m hoping this makes me feel more alive, brings my color back, improves my skin tone and texture.  All things I felt where going downhill.  I have to be very lean for competition, but I certainly don’t need to get any leaner at this point with over three months to go. Lesson Learned: While you should take the advice of the experts, you should not blindly follow.  Listen to your body.  You know yourself best.

Week 5: I wake up in the morning and cannot wait to eat egg whites and mushrooms.  I’ve never liked mushrooms.  I forced myself to start eating them as they were one of only 4 vegetables on the competition diet.  I’m also find myself savoring the taste of sweet potatoes, salmon, and cashews, some of my favorite foods on the diet.  I might not have chosen these foods all that often before but now I’ve learned to love them. Sometimes when you try foods enough times, they grow on you. Lesson Learned: Giving things up more fully allows you to appreciate other things you might not have previously.

Week 6: I’m doing well on the eating plan.  Thinking back six weeks ago, I remember how far away the competition was and wondered how I would possibly make it 4 months.  I looked at the end goal, rather than the goal of making it to the next day.  I tried to change my mind set and start taking things one step at a time.  Now I am beginning to feel like this is completely doable.    Lesson Learned:  Don’t be overwhelmed thinking about all the things you need to do in order to achieve your goals, whether it be weight loss, or anything else you want to accomplish.  Take it one step at a time, go day by day.  You’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve by doing this.