The Birthday Blog Post – 37 Life Lessons

Last year I wrote this post for my 36th birthday which included 36 life lessons. I just read it again and I must say, not much has changed. I agree wholeheartedly with all of them to this day. So, here’s to being consistent!

But as I mentioned last year and it bears repeating: We are always learning, are we not?

With that, I give you 37 NEW Life Lessons:

  1. You don’t HAVE a body, you ARE a body. (shameless plug for my last blog post which discussed this from a fitness standpoint)
  2. Having a goal of writing a book is so much more daunting than I ever thought possible. So much to say, but no idea how to say it. But I keep plugging away!
  3. Setting an alarm on your phone is perhaps the best advice I ever gave myself and anyone else. The alarm can be anything from “Cook your dinner now!” to “Everything will work out fine.”
  4. Since evil is the absence of good, I want to avoid evil at all costs. I ask myself if I’m working towards that which is good prior to taking any sort of action.
  5. I worry less and less about the physical flaws and worry more and more about…nothing!
  6. Fasting once a week is a great way to appreciate how lucky you are.
  7. When people told me, “You’ll change your mind,” in response to my decision to not have children, I realize now that they were right. I did change my mindSET. I still don’t desire to have them, but I probably love them more and appreciate them more than I ever have.
  8. Being thankful everyday you have breath is a great reminder of how awesome life is and how blessed we are each day to be alive to witness this miracle.
  9. Seek advice from those who do very little talking. Those people are the best listeners.
  10. Nutella is a drug. The side effects include ecstatic happiness and a constant state of euphoria. Eat sparingly to avoid eternal bliss.
  11. There are living saints among us. I call them Mothers.
  12. This past year I found my lats. This means after many many many lat pulldowns, I finally was able to activate the muscle that is supposed to be working during this exercise. Just further proof that the mind is a powerful tool when it comes to bodybuilding.
  13. When you take the blindfold off your eyes, amazing things begin to happen.
  14. Face to face contact is still my preferred form of communication. Sadly, not to many people care enough to make the effort to engage in this kind of contact anymore. It’s considered “archaic.” I would also add that no one seems courageous enough for face to face interaction.
  15. I will probably never have good handwriting. And I will continue to blame my left-handedness as the reason even though it probably isn’t.
  16. Changing your heart is one of the best side effects that comes from changing your mind.
  17. The gym is the best place to people watch.  It’s also kinda gross to see how much people sweat on the elliptical without wiping it down.
  18. Thinking of 37 life lessons gets more difficult after number 15.
  19. I wish more people would take the time to get pictures developed instead of just sitting on your phone/computer for no one to enjoy.
  20. Babies are awesome to look at but if you stare too long the parents will think you are a little weird.
  21. Sometimes kids take forever to grow up into mature adults. Give them time. Like, 37 years.
  22. The reason people do stupid things is because they mistakenly believe those stupid things will make them happy.
  23. The biggest lie I believed for a long time was in order to be a productive member of society, I must always be doing something. Nope! There is beauty in being still.
  24. Multi-tasking is NOT a skill.
  25. It gets even harder to think of 37 life lessons after number 24.
  26. When I think of what I wanted for my 30th birthday, I cringe. Someday I’ll write a blog post about it.
  27. Speaking of writing, everyone should keep a journal. It’s awesome to see your thoughts from years gone by.
  28. The word terrific actually means terrifying. But no one uses it in that way anymore. Which is terrific and terrifying to think about how the english language has changed.
  29. I did just learn this year that dilemma is really spelled that way.
  30. My love/hate relationship with social media continues but I’m proud to say I’ve practically discontinued use of Instagram, Twitter and Periscope. Some things just don’t need to be shared.
  31. If you’re ever tempted to send a text while driving, throw your phone in the backseat.
  32. If you’re ever tempted to speed while driving to get somewhere, think of how much that speeding ticket will cost you.
  33. I try and carry enough cash on me to give some to the homeless guy on the W 150th exit ramp. But if I don’t have change, I try and just smile and look him in the eye. It’s not much but if you look someone in the eye instead of looking away, I think that leaves an impression.
  34. Miserable people HATE associating with happy people. They will do everything they can to make you as miserable as them. Love them anyway. Sooner or later, your happiness will either rub off on them or they will flee from you to be with their miserable cohorts.
  35. No matter how many times I cheat on my diet, I still think, “I’ll do better tomorrow.” Sometimes I do…Sometimes i don’t. But many times just saying it and believing it helps me to TRY to do better.
  36. For my fellow PT’s: Don’t ever give away personal training for free. There’s value in what you do.
  37. A blog post under 1,000 words is the best way to ensure you readers will read all the way until the end. Tell your readers to comment and share their life lessons.

Your Body Tells a Story

A wise person once said:

You Don’t Have a Body. You Are a Body.

If I AM a body and it is not something I have, then why or how could I possibly consider changing it?

I think too often we focus on the negatives of our bodies. “We hate our own bodiliness,” was also a statement I’ve been hearing these past few months.

I can’t help but agree.  I talk to people on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to what to do with “this body.”

Either:

We hate our body and we do everything possible to hide it, to lie about it, to use it, and abuse it in an effort to make it appear acceptable, perhaps even attractive according to outside influences or societal standards. This becomes an obsession to the point that we become envious of anyone who has the body that we desire so much. This also could lead to despair as we try over and over to attain this “perfect body” with little to show for it. We don’t value our bodies at all and think ourselves unworthy.

Or:

We love our body so much that we become vain to the point of over exposure. We boast and brag and show off and become completely obsessed with maintaining this “perfect” physique. A narcissistic attitude takes over. We believe our body is something to be worshiped by those who hate their own bodies. We don’t understand how some people just don’t “get with it” and aren’t in love with fitness and health like we are.

But perhaps the overwhelming majority are those in the middle:

These folks have a love/hate relationship with their body. They struggle just like everyone else with maintaining their weight but they don’t obsess over it. They “watch” their diet but they don’t write down what they eat and they most certainly don’t count calories. They like what they see in the mirror but they don’t love it. There’s always room for improvement but they probably only get to the gym once or twice a month.

 

If there’s one thing all of these people have in common, it’s that they see their bodies as Objects. Things. Possessions.

But what if you looked at your body as a way to tell a story. How?

Simple: How you live your life through your body tells your story.

You can either tell a good, honest story, or a story of lies and deception.

Some examples:

I’m a smoker and I go to my doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells me that I’m showing all the signs of lung cancer and that I had better cut back or quit on the smoking if I want to live longer. Meanwhile, let’s pretend this is the 50’s and he lights up a cigarette after telling me this. That would be lying with his body.

Or:

I go to a used car salesmen to try and find a good deal. He sells me this great looking car, I take it for a test drive, the price is right and I drive off the lot but not before he shakes my hand and tells me I made a great decision. Meanwhile, he goes back to his desk and laughs to himself because he knows he just sold me a lemon. By shaking my hand and sincerely telling me I made a great purchase, he lied with is body, as well as his words.

Or:

In the gym, let’s say I take some video demonstrating an exercise or I take a few pictures to put up on my website. When someone asks me how I manage to be so strong or in such great shape, I tell them “Hard work!” but in the meantime, I’m taking some performance enhancing drugs or steroids. I would be lying with my body.

So how do we use our body to tell the truth?

I think the most obvious example, for me personally, is posting my progress pictures. (I know I’m in need of posting updated ones). But you’ll always notice I never even add so much as a filter to the pictures. I let it all hang out, I don’t do any re-touching. I merely admit that I get a spray tan to cover up some minor “flaws” that I’m honest about.

Other ways we tell lies and how to tell the truth:

You see someone at the gym using a piece of equipment completely incorrectly to the point that they are probably going to injure themselves or someone else. Lying with our bodies would be to say nothing and walk away knowing full well we know how to help them. (I am guilty of this).  Telling the truth would obviously going over and explaining what to do to that person so they won’t hurt themselves again.

(I avoid confrontation because I’m intimidated by people sometimes. If I took my own advice, I would see that I don’t need to be afraid to let someone know they are using their bodies to HARM or cause an injury.)

Or:

We see some good looking person at the gym and we want to show off a little bit. So we grab a set of heavier dumbbells (Men do this ALL the time, I am convinced) and lift just a little heavier than we normally do. We know we cannot and shouldn’t be lifting this heavy but we really want to catch someone’s attention. That’s lying with your body. Even if you manage to get a few reps out, you’re deceiving others by making it appear that you are stronger than you are.  Don’t be a hero Johnny. Stick to your usual weights.

With diet and food this is much easier to slip up and lie. How?

Let’s say you’re on a diet. Let’s say you actually signed up for sessions with a personal trainer. And let’s say you know that since your trainer/friends can’t see you every minute of the day, you take it upon yourself to sneak a few “cheats” in here and there. After all, no one will know! But you made a commitment to be true to yourself. To be true to your body and try to stick to this diet or this workout plan. And you know full well that “cheating,” even once in a while, is going to make your trainer look bad, it’s going to make you feel worse and it’s and not going to help your health. This is one of the more common “lies” we tell with our bodies. When asked, “Did you indulge this weekend at all?” and we answer, “Of course not! I was “good!” we lie right to our own faces/trainer/people who care about us and want us to succeed.  When it comes time to step on the scale, you can’t act surprised when it’s not where it should be.

 

Start to think of your body as more than just this “thing” you have to deal with and work at and drag around. It’s who you are.

You are telling a story every minute of the day with your body.

What kind of story are you telling and what would you want people to remember about it?

 

 

Put Down Your Phone and Pick Up A Book

A popular saying among fitness people and gym rats is, “Do you even lift?”  This is usually directed towards the male  population in a mocking tone to those boys who don’t take strength training too seriously.

But lately, I think the bigger question is, Do you even READ? Do you even do research? I’m not quite sure anyone does when it comes to working out. Why would they? Why would anyone when we have social media to instruct us on how to work out and eat and diet…and live. Right?

No..not so much. Books are still relevant, in my opinion. It’s still the best medium to get a message out there, and it’s especially useful for longevity. People need to refer, quickly, back to a resource. And what’s quicker than just flipping through a book? Yeah yeah, you could download a book to your electronic device but doesn’t anyone else just LOVE to hold a real book in their hands anymore? Plus, I LOVE to highlight in my books. And you can’t really do that on a Kindle. At least not the old fashioned way.

In an effort to get everyone back to reading the old fashioned way, and as way to keep myself from repeating myself a bazillion times on social media, I wanted to put together an easy way for my readers to see what I’m reading and what I recommend, especially when it comes to diet and fitness. Theres a ton of misleading information out there and I feel it’s important to share the relevant and well-researched information. Not just copying a workout you saw on YouTube. Let’s get back to really researching what works best and calling out those quick fix, hokey, quackery looking, scamming authors who just put out books to sell garbage and make a buck.

So without further ado, I present to you my Amazon.com Store! (I included an extra page at the top of my site as well as a link on the sidebar. And I’m including it here so you have no excuse not to give it a visit. What am I recommending?

Four categories:

Fitness Books

Diet and Healthy Living Books

Fitness Gear: All my favorite products that I own/use on myself and my clients

Miscellaneous Faith-Based Books: since my faith is huge part of who I am, I thought why not show you what I’ve been reading and what has changed my life

That’s it! Simple.

Also, if you missed my post about Periscope from last week, be sure to follow me if you are on Twitter (@fromfittofigure) and download the app. You will become quickly addicted, I promise! 🙂

 

-Michelle

 

When The Fire Dies Out, Find a New Campsite

So it’s 13 weeks until my next figure competition and I am completely unmotivated to do anything about it.

Workout-wise, I’m doing well. No big problems there.

Diet-wise? That’s another story.

I’m not quite sure where the motivation and energy and fire went, but it is long gone and I can’t seem to get it back. I tried logging my food, thinking the accountability of my clients and random friends on My Fitness Pal checking in might help. It has helped a bit, but I’m still not all in.

I’ve tried going to my favorite fitness competitor’s websites and checking out their progress pics. That sorta worked but it didn’t seem to illicit any feelings of “YEAH!!! LET’S DO THIS!”

I’ve tried reading my old blog posts from when I first trained two years ago. Nostalgia, right? Eh…I just ended up critiquing my writing style in some of them. 😉

I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly why I cannot seem to take this goal seriously like I did the first time.  I came to a few conclusions as to why this time around I am not as enthused about it:

  • This isn’t the first time. Now that I know what to expect, I’m not EXCITED as much as I’m DREADING it because I’m thinking of all the negative aspects of competing instead of the positive ones.
  • I’m.busier than before. I have several social events coming up in the next two months including a wedding across the country, a week long retreat in Pennsylvania, and a class reunion in less than a month.  I want to look forward to attending and instead I’m  sitting here thinking “How can I fit a cooler on to a plane?” and “I wonder if I can fit in a workout before the rehearsal dinner?”
  • I’m distracted. I’ve been reading a lot of books on religion and Catholic doctrine and Christianity and although I’ve ALWAYS known that there is more to life than 6pack abs, I can’t seem to find a balance between living the “fit life” and exercising my mind as well. Granted I’m reading other books too but I also want to travel and hang out with my family and friends and sometimes I think training prevents me from doing this.
  • My family won’t be able to attend the show. I will have a large audience of friends in support of me there at the show but as soon as I found out the majority of my immediate family couldn’t make it, I  felt like maybe this wasn’t meant to be. It’s super important to me that they be there and if they aren’t, I won’t take it as seriously as I should.

I’ve talked to my trainer/friend/co-worker Chris about this the other day and we agreed that if I am not into this, let’s not push it. BUT, this doesn’t get me off the hook. He suggested I find something that DOES spark that fire in me that I could shoot for. In other words, as the title of this post suggests, FIND a NEW goal because this competition just ain’t cutting it.

So, with that said, I discussed the possibility of sticking to the plan of training and attempting to diet and just training to look great for summer! The wedding that I’m in takes place in mid-July. I went to try on the dress and order it today. I tried on a size 6 and although it fit, it was a tad snug. So, there’s my motivation!

I’m not about to SQUEEZE into a dress in the sweltering July heat for my friends wedding and look like I barely fit into this dress. Granted, no one looks at the bridesmaids at weddings, all eyes will be on her. 🙂 But, it’s motivating me to take things more seriously.

And, the best part is, if by some chance I happen to look pretty good and feel pretty good at the wedding, there will still be a month left to prep for the competition, if I choose to do it.

If not, I will take my own advice and book a photo shoot, the one that I wanted to do LAST summer but didn’t because I got lazy and didn’t want to diet. Hmm….I’m sensing a pattern with myself.

Either way, I have found new motivation: July 18th is the wedding for my friend. Progress pics will be taken next week.

Let’s Do This!!

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 Great Bread Debate

Let’s discuss every dieters favorite topic: BREAD.  Yummy carb-filled delcious bread.

Okay yeah I can’t fake it. I’m not a big fan of bread. And this is coming from someone who grew up eating Peanut Butter and Jelly on white bread for like, 15 years.

I used to eat a ton of it when I trained for my half marathons and races years ago. But then I slowly just got sick of it. Pasta too. I know, I know, I’m Italian, I should LOVE pasta right? Maybe I just got sick and tired of all the carbs. Most of my carb sources these days are in the form of oats, rice cakes and low carb wraps.

So I got to wondering, “Are there others like me? Are there other non-bread lovers out there?” So I asked all my clients as well as anyone else who has kids (thinking maybe they eat bread because their kids probably do for sandwiches) if they eat bread. I also asked if they wanted to mention anything else about carbs and cutting back on the bread when dieting.

Here are the results of my informal survey:

  • Currently I buy Schwebel’s Sweet Harvest Wheat. It’s probably not any better than white, but I love soft wheat bread when I have my PB&J so that’s what I get. My daughters don’t care that it’s brown (like I did growing up).
    I buy it b/c it’s reasonably priced for how much bread we do eat.
  • I have 5 kinds of Ezekial Bread in the house, my kids love them!
  • My kids have sandwiches everyday and they eat regular white bread. I think people have to be smart when dieting. Most don’t know where to start or whatever. Oh…. I like bread too much. I like wine too much. I like food too much. Yeah, we know that, that’s why this country is obese. Nobody knows how much to eat. Once they learn the amount, then I would assume you start talkin about quality. Over time, I’ve learned to make different choices. Some do, some don’t.
  • My kids grew up eating Ezekiel bread or a similar style homemade bread their grandmother made. They thought regular grocery store bread was “weird” when they had it at their friends houses. I’m sure their friends thought our bread was weird. LOL I eat an Ezekiel English muffin almost every day.
  • I am a mom and I do eat breads, all kinds. When I first started eating better I kept my good “aka expensive foods” limited to just me. Then I realized why am I denying my son the right to have the good foods too. He eats pretty much whatever he’s told, however he would choose the good choices first in most cases anyhow.
  • I limit bread because it can be a trigger for me. For planned meals I’ll sub 2 corn tortillas on occasion to make tacos. I’ll sometimes have a toasted English Muffin for a Post Workout meal or when having a craving as I love the crunch/texture. My family eats wheat/sourdough bread on occasion but basic flour or whole wheat tortillas are the norm for making wraps.
  • I only buy Ezekiel bread. I myself rarely eat it but my daughter and husband eat it 5 out of 7 days/week.
  • I eat sunflower seed bread because I have worked it into my plan. I also have butter on it as one of my fats – again worked into my plan.
  • I buy Potato bread or a loaf of sourdough because they like it. I eat it too. Not everyday, but if I want a sandwich sure I’ll grab their bread. My kids wouldn’t go for wraps (especially lettuce wraps) unless they were at PF Changs, LOL!
  • I have three kids and we do have breads in moderation. Organic and whole grain usually.  I eat Ezekiel muffins, they do not like them much. I really try to have them make good choices… ex: a bagel is fine, but not a whole one…instead have a half with eggs and cheese … and fruit. For sandwiches at lunch I do lower carb whole grain for kiddos, or omit bread all together and do cut up cheese, fruit, veggies and meat… (and then maybe whole grains, like crackers…)
  • There are plenty of things I choose not to eat that my kids eat. Halloween candy for example. Obviously 80/20 on that.
    Bread is such a tricky one though. When you make healthier choices you look for volume- especially when dieting. Heck, even non-dieting I don’t really choose bread as a go to simply because there’s not much to it. I think the thought of no bread for newbies would sound restrictive and maybe even daunting. But I know plenty of folks who do cut things out especially when they are just starting.
  • I try not have anything that’s really off limits b/c I have so many food issues. I offer a large variety and they eat what they eat. I think because of that my girls love everything from Fruit Loops to broccoli. I will serve something over and over b/c they will eat something one time and then turn their nose up again at it 5 times before they scarf it down again. I also don’t short order cook. I serve dinner and they can choose to eat it or not, but I don’t make anything else, they don’t get dessert or snack after that.
  • I think people also don’t realize how much “bread” they do eat and that is when it gets dangerous. It’s not just sandwich bread, it’s bagels, pizza dough, cookies, cake, brownies. That’s ALL bread. Just b/c it doesn’t come in a loaf doesn’t mean it’s not bread and too much of it is not good.

 

I think the lesson here is if you haven’t tried Ezekial bread, give it a shot. 🙂  I myself have had the cinnamon raisin Ezekial bread and it tastes so good, and remember, I’m a very picky eater to this day. The last woman I surveyed I think had one of the best points: People don’t realize how carb-y foods can be and if you’re trying to at least “watch” what you’re eating, take note of all those doughs and cookies and cakes and bagels – Those carbs add up!

 

A separate blog post about what kinds of meals you can make for your kids is coming up later on this week too. 🙂

Happy Monday!