Chasing Shade

This past weekend I was house sitting for a friend of mine who lives in an awesome part of Cleveland. The homes there remind me of my old neighborhood, Oak Park Illinois. It’s full of huge trees that line the streets, the local park always has something going on, (one night they had “Movie in the Park” and they were showing Big Hero 6, my newest all time favorite movie), people were out walking their dogs, everyone was very friendly as they typically are here in the midwest. I would describe it as a cozy neighborhood with a “city-like” vibe.

Sunday morning I was scheduled to run 13 miles as part of my marathon training.  As I ran jogged along this part of town, I found myself running away from the sun that was beating down that morning. I was constantly searching for those huge trees because it was getting upwards to 84 degrees and I had started my run a little later than I had anticipated. And since “I’m not fast” (that’s a movie reference but also, very true for me), I was concerned that I would melt away and not be able to complete this run.

I was literally chasing the shade.

Kinda made me think about life in general. Any runner will tell you that your mind wanders, you start thinking maybe a little too much as your feet are pounding the pavement. So this blog might be a little…deep. But bear with me.

Most of the time I’m running I’m thinking “I gotta get some water in me soon,” or “I should probably take a walk break in another mile.” But sometimes you can’t help but think other things too. It’s quiet, there’s no one around because it’s so early in the day. So it’s a perfect environment for some deep thoughts.

I kept coming back to “Gotta find shade, gotta find shade…find the darkest parts of the street.”

Yes I’m doing this to cool off, literally. But I couldn’t help but think it was a perfect metaphor for where a lot of people are in their personal lives. We hide! We run away from light that exposes us.

In the dark, in the shade, we are more comfortable.  “This is my little comfort zone.”

We, and my fellow women can relate best, hide ourselves in darkness. We can hide our scars, our flaws, our less-than-perfect bodies in the dark. No one can see lines, the wrinkles, the cellulite, the stretch marks, the blemishes, the soft parts, the flabby parts in the dark.

The more light, the more they are exposed and revealed. And the more REAL we are when there’s no shade to hide us.

By the end of my run, over 2 hours later, I didn’t care so much about the shade anymore. I didn’t care about hiding because I knew it was almost over. But I was also exhausted from seeking out the shade. It became a grueling effort to hide from the heat. I had to admit that it felt like I was running scared. And I didn’t like that feeling. I had to get out into the light, no matter how much I didn’t want to. I really had no choice.

The sun was out in all it’s hot glory and there was no running away from it anymore.

So this is my little shout out to those who feel the need to hide – You’re going to have to get out from that darkness at some point. Come on out into the sun. It’s bold, it’s beautiful, and it’s shining brightly! Just like you.

 

 

Becoming a Fit Family

I originally wrote this post for Rox Star Fitness. Hope you enjoy!

Is there just one person in the family that dedicates a lot of time to working out and dieting? It’s important to emphasize health and fitness all year round with all members of the family, not just one or the one that “needs to the most help.” You want to be a fit family, not just a solo fit member of an unhealthy family. Here are some tips on how to get everyone in shape so you all appreciate being a FIT FAMILY

Make every minute count:

A 15 minute walk around the block while dinner is warming up/getting ready (especially now in the summer time when there’s no homework) is a good way to get some quick work in. It’s something everyone can do and it doesn’t take a whole lot of time so there will be minimal complaining.

– Limit electronic device time and increase “hands-free” time. When it’s time to sit down as a family, the phones get turned off. Spend that time doing something active or at least talking and nix the texting for awhile. It’s amazing what you can get accomplished when there isn’t a computer or a tablet or a phone nearby.

– I know many families who belong to their local rec center. Although you may go there together as a family, many branch off and do their own thing which works really well. Mom goes to the gym, Dad plays basketball, the kids are swimming. This way you all get to do what you want at the same time.

Get them involved:

– Take progress pics – as a family. This could be as simple as your standard family photo done every year but you could take iPhone photo’s every month. This is a good lesson to the young teens (especially young girls) that the scale is not a good indicator of progress. Although they might be so little and young that they won’t see immediate changes, it could be a cool experiment to see how different they change every few months.

– When trying new recipes, have the family give their feedback and mark it down as something you would make again if everyone loved it. If it got more thumbs down than thumbs up, toss that one out or adjust some flavoring and to prepare it so all palates will be pleased.

– I’m a huge fan of bringing your kids with you to the grocery store. Of course, some kids like to just run up and down the aisles asking for everything they see on TV. But if they’re a little older, they might want to help out and tell you what THEY like to eat. Who knows, they might surprise you by saying they like to eat their veggies. If you’re concerned they’ll just beg for you to buy them the junk, adhere to the basic “perimeter only” rule, and you won’t even tempt them by walking down those aisles.

– Read the labels/ingredients together if you do get something that comes in a box so they can learn what you’re looking for and WHY you won’t be buying them certain snacks. “If we can’t pronounce it, we don’t buy it.” Or “See this has food coloring in it, we don’t want to eat that!”

Extra Curricular Activity:

– When one child has a game or somewhere to be, try not to SIT and watch but find some place to stand and watch or walk around if you can. Sometimes this isn’t possible but it helps if you already have a sedentary job, to put a limit on sitting the rest of the day.

– In addition, when you’re sitting, you’re more prone to EAT and snack in between meals, sometimes on things that aren’t so good for you. And if kids see this behavior, they might copy it. So set a good example for them!

Be on the same page:

Many people fail at diets and staying or maintaining their weight that they’ve worked so hard to lose once they feel they can just “go back to normal.” Your spouse or kids might be influencing this behavior as well, indirectly. They might say, “You’re at your goal so just relax and eat (insert favorite snack here).” But that might be a trigger for you. And chances are, no, you can’t just go back to normal because normal may have been sugar loaded, fat laden, carb heavy foods that made you unhealthy to begin with. Make sure everyone is on board with staying healthy because if just one family member isn’t all about it, it can derail you right off the health boat and before you know it, you’re back to square one again.

– Have healthy snacks prepared for the kids (and yes even the spouse) to take with them to school/work. Explain WHY it’s a healthy snack (it has fiber, it has little sugar, it’s a good source of protein, etc) so they know why this snack was chosen as opposed to something else.

– Carve out time to play and have fun, as a family. Pick one time once a day (or even once a week if it’s just too busy) to say “This is a time when we ALL have to do something active.” Call it Family Time, or Fun Time, or something. Make it an appointment you would never miss and put it in the calendar. Choose something you all would like to do – play a game outdoors or indoors, do some yardwork, get in the pool, go to the park, anything. As long as you’re doing it as a family, it’s a great time to bond as well as stay healthy.

These might seem simple and easy tips but believe it or not, families that stay in shape are rare these days. Everyone is busy with their own schedules and plans so sometimes it’s hard to be together often enough to develop this habit. Try it out, stick with it, be consistent and track your progress of your new FIT FAMILY!

An Alarm(ing) Diet Tip

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So I’ve been utilizing my latest tip for about a year now and I feel like a brat for keeping it all to myself and not sharing it with my awesome readers.

It’s pretty simple actually and it’s really not anything mind blowing. But the few people I mentioned it to responded with, “Wow, that’s a REALLY good tip!”

Color me surprised, I finally thought of something worthwhile to share! So here it is:

I set several alarms on my phone via an app called “Alarmed.” It’s free to download and it works pretty easily. You just set an alarm to go off either daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly. You could use it for Birthdays, Anniversaries, Pay your Bills, Write for the blog, Make that doctor appointment, etc.

I used to use it for these things until one day I decided to start setting reminders about my diet. This was at a point when I felt like I had lost control over my cravings and had to take steps to at least TRY to combat them.

So I set this app to alarm me at several times throughout the day when I would be most likely to binge or cheat with phrases like:

“Don’t cheat on your diet tonight.” – Reminded me that my cravings could be controlled.

“You’re making great progress, keep going.” – Reminded me that I wanted to be consistent in order to see results.

“Remember how fortunate you are that have food to eat…” – Reminded me how blessed I am and how plenty of people don’t have enough to eat.

“Be an example to your clients and your fitness family.” – Reminded me that my fitness family includes my readers, my blog readers, my social media followers, etc not JUST my clients.

Some are faith based and could be my own personal mantra/prayer or sometimes it’s a scripture passage but regardless of anyone’s beliefs, I think we can all agree that we only get ONE body in this life right? 🙂 So, with that being stated, I have used some of these “alarms” as well:

“Your body is a temple, don’t destroy it with junk.” – And not just junk food but junk tv shows, junk music, junk movies, junk social media, etc.

“God, not food, is who is in control of me.” – For my non-believer readers, you can adjust this to say something like “Food does not control me, I am in control.”

“Pursue holiness in all you do.” – Self explanatory but could also be interpreted as “Pursue good and avoid evil.”

“Untwist in me what is twisted.” – I stole this from author Christopher West. Technically you could call it a prayer but when used with a diet mindset, you’re asking that all those negative thoughts that are twisted up inside your mind telling you how you’re going to fail, that this is too hard, that you’ll never lose this weight, you’ll never achieve success and untwists those to reveal the truth. Don’t believe the lies of the scale, don’t believe the lies that the media portrays about beauty and fitness, untwist what is twisted and get yourself set up to succeed.

I hope this little tip was helpful. I use it everyday and most days, it works for me. Some days I admit, I ignore the alarm and I “snooze” through it. But that’s okay! I just move on and start fresh before that next alarm goes off.

-Michelle

Repeat After Me

I don’t eat the junk food because I don’t buy the junk food.

I don’t buy junk food because I can walk past the junk food at the store.

I see the junk food but I don’t want the junk food.

I don’t want the junk food because I’ve had the junk food before…and it aint that good.

I don’t eat the fast food because I didn’t cook the fast food and I’m not entirely sure what’s in the fast food.

I didn’t cook the fast food so instead I eat the food I did cook.

I eat the food I cooked because it’s usually 100% better than the fast food anyway.

I drive past the drive thru because I spend enough $ on the real food.

I don’t get hung up about my weight because I don’t weigh myself everyday.

I don’t weight myself everyday because I don’t care about the weight that much.

I don’t care about the weight that much because I know I’m not a reflection of a number.

I don’t complain about my physical flaws because they can’t talk back to me anyways.

I appreciate the flaws I have because it’s a reminder I am not perfect and I’m human just like everyone else.

I drink water instead of pop because water tastes awesome to me.

I don’t buy the pop because I hate the taste of sugar coating my teeth.

I drink water because I listen to my body and it desires good things that give me energy.

I don’t  have the bad food or drink the sugary stuff too often (but I do sometimes and that’s okay!) because my body feels like garbage after I eat and drink that stuff.

And the more I eat and drink the junk stuff, the more my brain tricks me into thinking I want more of them…and then it’s back to….

…I don’t eat the junk food because I don’t buy the junk food…

An Apple Versus A Doughnut: How Science Helps Me Avoid Junk Food

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Back when I started studying to become certified as a Personal Trainer, I came across an article that sparked something in me.

Ever have that feeling? Have you ever read something or saw something or heard something that struck a chord in you or resonated with you in such a way that you never looked at anything the same way again?

Yeah, for me, with regards to junk food, it was this article.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you I hate science. I’ve never had a knack for understanding science, math, chemistry, pretty much anything with numbers and letters. 😉 But food? I understand food.

So when I read this article, I remember thinking it was a tad too “science-y” and so I had to read it about 3 or 4 times to truly get it. For those of you who aren’t into this whole biology thing, I have summarized the main takeaways. My point with today’s post is that perhaps those of you who are addicted to things like donuts and all around crappy foods and can’t seem to stop, maybe if you READ or UNDERSTAND how these foods differ, you’ll be more likely to make the healthier choice.

  1. An apple contains good nutrients like Vitamin C but also has calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin A and a healthy dose of potassium. An apple skin contains a compound called quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that reduces cardiovascular risk.  The flavonoids and phytochemicals that it contains seem to help fight against cancer. AND the skin contains lots of fiber, which helps to improve bowel function and reduced cholesterol absorption. Woohoo! Lots of good stuff right??
  2. A doughnut contains none of these nutrients.
  3. The doughnut is loaded with saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugar and is largely devoid of any nutritional value, other than energy, which it has in abundance.
  4. The digestion process of the doughnut is quite lengthier than the apple. Healthier fats generally are absorbed via the liver, whereas saturated and trans fats pass through the villi and are converted into triglycerides, the main form of fat storage in the body. They are also coated in cholesterol (from the liver) and hence the fats in a doughnut will raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol and reduce the good (HDL) component.
  5. Trans fats do even more damage. They have been shown to wreak havoc with the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol and massively increase your risk of heart disease. They also get into the outer lining of our cells, causing them to harden.
  6. We shouldn’t be too harsh on the doughnut, some of their trans-fat containing friends are deep fried foods, such as French fries, cakes, cookies, biscuits, some breads (especially croissants and pastries), processed foods (especially pies, sausage rolls etc), snack foods (potato chips, some muesli bars) and margarine.

I would be lying if I said I haven’t had a doughnut since reading this post back in 2008. But I can honestly say I know I have had 3 in the past 7 years. Why? When I was presented with the option of having one, I ALWAYS remember this article. Like I said in the beginning, it was one that resonated with me. Maybe it will make an impact with you or someone you know that you think MIGHT take Doughnut Sunday at church just a little too far. 😉

As for the progress that’s been made since this article came out, the USA has taken steps to ban trans fats in most foods so it’s not as popular as before. But you can bet not ALL those popular doughnut chains are trans-fat free. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows companies to round down to 0 g in its nutrition facts label even if the food contains as much as 0.5 of a gram per serving. Some popular donut companies use the words “Trans Fat Free!” in their advertising legally even though they DO in fact, contain trans fats.

That’s just an FYI for you. I’m not the food police but trans fats are not something anyone should be eating on the regular. If you care about your body and your health, take the time to research what you’re eating.

In good health,

Michelle

P.S. I recently did a consult with a woman who found me through my other blog that has little to do with fitness. In case you wanted to read what truly matters to me, you can read my ramblings there too.

The Distorted Perception of Weight Loss

Let’s go back in time to July of 2013. This is what I looked like:

July 22 2013
July 22 2013

It was 9 weeks before the competition. So I was probably 112lbs.

But I recall a specific moment from this timeframe:

I recall telling my sister (and only my sister as I wouldn’t dare say it to clients or friends) the following statement:

“Everyone looks huge to me. Big. Everyone. The people I see on the tv. The models and celebrities in magazines and on the cover. Everyone on my Facebook feed. Everyone…looks…huge.”

It wasn’t so much that I felt and looked small – It was that everyone got fat. Everyone.

I remember looking at a swimsuit model and thinking, “Poor thing…she’s too big to be in that suit.”

I went to the grocery store and looked at people in line and thought, “Poor thing…she’s too big to be buying those chips and cookies.”

I went to the gym and thought, “Poor people walking the treadmill…they must be exhausted carrying all that weight.”

Just let that sink in for awhile. Me. A Personal Trainer. Thinking everyone I looked at was huge. Ginormous. BIG.

How is that normal? How is that acceptable to think that way? I was completely distorted. Why? Probably because every time I looked in the mirror, I was getting SMALLER. I was getting so lean, that it seemed like everyone else was gaining weight by comparison. AND because people kept telling me, “You’re so small! You look great! You’ve lost so much weight, oh my gosh, you look so small!”

Although people were trying to give me compliments, they were reinforcing my thought that, Yes, I am small. This is a good thing.

As I got bigger after the competition, that feeling and perception went away. And my perception returned to “normal.” THANK GOODNESS.

It was quite possibly one of the strangest and startling things that happened to me during that period of time.

Now, that I’m building again, I am well aware of potential setbacks and feelings having gone through this before. I’m feeling much more prepared and confident. I don’t think you can fully prepare yourself for what is reflected in the mirror staring back at you once you start to change your physique (on purpose or by accident). It’s startling to see yourself in a particular way (I’m so much bigger than I was! I’m so much smaller than I was! I’m way more muscular than I have ever been!) and hopefully it’s a positive experience.

But this is the part where I point out that double standard: Society says we can’t tell someone that they look too big or too fat or too muscular but we are completely allowed to tell someone they are too skinny or too lean or too small. As if telling someone they are TOO much of something based on their appearance is EVER a good thing. No. Not even when you’re complimenting them, it really isn’t.

Because although that person you’re trying to compliment might not be training for a competition, I’m trying to give you an idea of what goes through the mind of someone who is dieting or training or struggling with their journey since they, too, might have a body distortion issue.

Instead of attaching a size to a comment, can we change the dialogue to start saying things like:

“Hey there good lookin!”

“That dress you have on is a great color on you.”

“You’re looking well today.”

Is there a reason we have to tell someone how they look and give it a size?

“You look great, have you lost weight?” – What if someone just looks great because they’re in a good mood that day?

“You look great, have you been eating more? You were looking too small last time I saw you. Glad you put on some size.”  – Because your opinion matters, yes.

“You look great, what size are you now? A 3 or a 4? That’s awesome! How big were you? Like a 12?? Wow!” – So now that I’m smaller, am I a better person now? Wasn’t I okay at a size 12?

Let me give an example that just happened to me:

I was told I was looking “really small” by another female who really had no idea I’m trying to bulk up. I wasn’t insulted. She thought she was complimenting me! (It’s not very common for women to WANT to get bigger). I know this. But even though I know this, guess what I did about 20 minutes later?

I downed a bag of chocolate covered almonds because…ya know, “Gotta eat to grow, bro.”

I had the idea in my head that “I’m small. That’s not good. I need to get bigger, therefore, gotta eat more.”

It was actually kind of funny at the time, and I like to think I have a mostly POSITIVE body image, but what if I was a binge and purger? What if I had a really bad history of yo-yo dieting or poor self image? And what if she had said “You look kinda small” in a way that made me second guess her intentions?

“What did she mean by that? Did she mean I should be even smaller? Did she mean I’m not small enough? Does she think I’m TOO small?”

I should have said to my friend, “Hey thanks…Actually, it’s funny you should say that. I’m trying to put on muscle…So hopefully next time you see me, I’ll look bigger!”

Just be careful with the comments to someone who is struggling or trying to make changes to their physique.

Chances are, they have enough dialogue going on in their head. And what they see in the mirror might be in complete distortion to what you see when you look at them.

P.S. I have posted progress pics in the Progress Pic page but here they are to save you a click:

March 13th, 2015. 135lbs and feeling strong, but not too fluffy.
March 13th, 2015. 135lbs and feeling strong, but not too fluffy.

The caption from my Instagram page: I’m Huge! 🙂 5 Months to go until my next figure competition. Feeling good at 135lbs.

And I’m proud to say the comments were all positive reinforcement. 🙂

 

 

Strangers on the Track

Indoor%20Track%201I’ve been going to my local gym for over a year now and I’ve identified several people who are always there that I think are noteworthy. I’ve actually decided to give them names even though I have no idea what their real names are. Just thought it was cute and funny to do so. Here goes:

Harold and Harriet – the Old People

These are the older couple that always holds hands when walking the indoor track.  When it’s my turn or someone else’s turn to pass them on the right side, they stop holding hands and the man walks behind the woman until it’s “clear” to hold hands again and walk together.

I think it’s the coolest and cutest thing. No one else there does it, as far as I can tell. Just them. And they are adorable.

I always have my headphones in so I don’t hear if they talk about me as I speed past them. I have a feeling they might be thinking, “Why is she running so damn fast? Is there a fire?”

Once in a while they don’t hear/see me behind them and they are still holding hands as I’m coming up behind them. I’ve never had to say, “On your right!!” to them yet. I usually just start jogging LOUDER with my feet so they turn around and have this look on their face that says, “Oh Lord! Here comes that girl again!” And then Harriet probably says, “Move over Harold!”

I’m probably one of the youngest people on the track at the time of day that I go (mid afternoon before the teenagers take over) so it’s mostly stay at home Mom’s and old people. And then me.

Britney and Bobby – The “Too Cool for This Place” couple

But there’s also the annoying “Let’s pretend we own this track and disregard anyone else who is on it” people. And there’s a few of them.  I call them Britney and Bobby. They are the WORST. They are in their late teens, early 20’s and they just don’t give a damn.  They walk around like they own the track, walking extremely slowly,

If you have to yell, “On your right!” as you pass them by, they move over about an inch. They don’t hold hands. They just walk next to each other taking up the entire track. And they talk…and talk..and talk some more. In case you haven’t guessed, Britney and Bobby aren’t there to workout. They are there to socialize…with each other. Infuriating for people who are trying to get a little workout in.

Because of their lack of track courtesy and etiquette, they do force me to pay careful attention to whom I may literally run into as I jog past them. This is the only silver lining I can find with them. Most of the time, I secretly rejoice as they make their way to to the exits when they’re done with their leisurely stroll.

OCD Cindy – The Lap Counter/Obsessive Tracker

OCD Cindy is probably not obsessive compulsive, but she keeps track of everything, including the laps around the track. She holds a counter in her left hand clicking off each lap as she walks. (12 laps equals a mile). She also writes down a lot of stuff in a journal while she’s there. I assume it’s either her food or her laps in written form. Fascinating and also causes me to be curious. If OCD Cindy is walking the track as I come up the stairs to start walking, I want to walk just as long as she does.  This complete stranger pushes me to work harder even though she’s just walking.

So what’s the (life) lesson that we can learn from all these track stars?

– Slow down. But not too slow that you cause a problem.

– Be kind to others as they move past you, perhaps even a little faster than you. Let them go by.

– Be mindful of those around you. Smile, strike up a conversation, say hello.

– It’s not how fast you make your laps around. It’s more about how you feel at the end of your journey.

– Keep a count of how far your journey has taken you, adding a little bit more challenging to it each time.

– Don’t fault anyone for making your journey a little bit annoying. If they’re in your way, just move around them. Don’t let them bother you or get in your head.

– Keep running as long as you can, but know that you can always walk when the road gets rough and bumpy.

Look for those who can teach you something, not just about training and working out and being healthy, but about life in general. You can find them in the most unusual places, even at the gym.