Category Archives: Exercise

What Does Being “Fit” Mean to You?

What does being fit mean to you? Try to remember that fit doesn’t always look like what we think it should look like. Try focusing on function and the joy you get from activity.

If you were an alien visiting this planet for the first time and taking in all the different sources of information we have available to us (TV, internet, magazines/newspapers, books etc) to learn about your new planet and it’s people, you’d quickly form opinions and ideas about our society.

Some of these would be absolutely and hysterically incorrect but others would be very accurate.

For example, an alien might come to believe that “Twitter” is a God who doles out important edicts in 140 characters or less, all day long.

They may determine that our primary food source is french fries and burgers from McDonald’s (and don’t forget the Coke!).

They may wonder why some people on this planet are starving and yet other parts of the world have grocery stores that are so overflowing with food that some of it gets tossed in the trash every day. They may come to believe that every American swallows a small white circle called a “pill” that has a funny name that gives them a dog, a spacious back yard with luscious green grass and a smiling husband and kids but also has to watch out for side effects like diarrhea, skin rashes, leukemia and even death.

This would look like a really strange place to someone who’s never seen any of it before.

Let’s say this alien’s job was to understand what being “fit” meant to humans, in particular, people in America.

I know you know where I’m going here, but just for a minute try to view this stuff through the lens of totally fresh eyes.

What would you see?

What would you learn?

Using the same sources of readily available information, much of it coming from heavily available advertisements and articles, this alien would soon create an idea in their head that being FIT equals:

  • being tan skinned
  • having no visible body fat other than in female breasts and booties (which may or may not be enhanced by implants or injectables)
  • being tall
  • usually being caucasian
  • having well developed and very visible muscles
  • wearing very little clothing but whatever clothing fit people do have is tight fitting
  • spending hours upon hours in an enclosed space called a “gym”
  • eating lots of fruits and vegetables, low fat foods and also powdery substances called “protein shakes”
  • working so hard that your body cries visible tears (sweat)
  • demonstrating amazing feats of strength and endurance by completing competitions like marathons, powerlifting, triathlons etc.
  • moving fast

I’m sure you can think of a few other things that would seem to be typical of a “fit person” in America if viewed through the eyes of an alien. That list is a little tongue in cheek but how much of it do you agree with?

What is being fit? What does it mean to you?

In our real “human” lives we take this same information and internalize it, some of it consciously, and some not so consciously and we kind of develop a similar impression of what it means to be fit.

I have spent many years being frustrated that my body physically didn’t look the way it was “supposed to” despite all the things I did to be “fit”.

I wasn’t the right size, body type or height. My body has and had plenty of visible body fat.

To someone just looking at my outside at most points in my life, and possibly even today, I may not appear fit . . .to them. I know I’m fit regardless of what I may look like to someone else.

Fitness and “being fit” is not a one size fits all definition and it certainly doesn’t have one single look or body type. Being fit doesn’t always look like what we think it looks like.

Here is what being fit means to me.

It is feeling and being strong and capable. Having the energy to do all the things I need to do and not be completely spent afterwards. Or being spent afterwards (sometimes that’s the goal!) but recovering quickly enough to be excited to do it again.

Being fit is being able to carry my snow tires on their rims from my basement to the back of my car without needing to ask anyone for help.

Being fit to me is being able to bike 30 miles on one day and still have the energy to meet up with friends afterwards.

Being fit to me is being able to help a friend move without being totally sore the next day or being sore but not having it destroy me.

Being fit to me is being able to climb several flights of stairs and not be out of breath for very long.

For me, being fit is so much about function than aesthetics.

It’s about feeling powerful, experiencing joy, having good health (something else with more than one definition), pushing oneself and pulling back as needed, and being able to adjust to a change in course.

I’m not planning to ever be a marathon runner or a powerlifter (but props to those who are).

I’m not fast. I’m also not that flexible. And I have some foot injuries that pop up occasionally that slow me down a little and even cause me to modify some things.

However, I also have a lot of strength and endurance that doesn’t quit at the end of a long day.

I know when to rest my body, when to give her the time and care she needs. I know when to push myself and when to back off. I know what I’m capable of, what I’m not and when it’s possible that I might entirely be wrong about myself.

My hard workouts are still hard. Even though I’m physically fit, I get out of breath, muscles cramp, and aches and pains sometimes make me stop before I want to. I sweat. I pant. I get rosy cheeks.

But I’m willing to adapt, modify and change my view if it means being able to continue moving forward, making progress and smashing my own goals. Being fit is accepting where you’re at right now, but also being interested in doing at least one of the following: maintaining, growing, challenging or changing. You decide what, how and how much. You decide what’s enough.

I urge you to question what you believe “being fit” means. If your beliefs about what “fit” looks like don’t match up with what you look like, despite your effort, energy and capabilities, throw it out the window and build your own definition from scratch.

What are you capable of?

What incredible stuff does your body do?

What sort of activity makes you feel incredible? What brings you joy?

What do you wish you were even better at?


Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!

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How to Go on Vacation without Gaining 10 lbs (but still be able to enjoy vacation foods)

Finding a way to get some form of daily movement each day is one way to prevent vacation weight gain.

Finding a way to get some form of daily movement each day is one way to prevent vacation weight gain.

Years ago, when I would go on any type of vacation or “girls trip”, I would find myself scrambling in the weeks leading up to the trip to lose a few pounds, regardless of where my weight currently was. I’d get ready by trying to eat as little as I could “safely” get away with before a trip. I even did this in 2011 when John and I eloped in California, though since we hadn’t planned on getting married on vacation until just a couple of weeks before, I only had time to drop a few pounds.

You may be thinking that the reason for the last minute weight loss before a trip was so that I would look my best during it. Well, sure, who doesn’t want to look their best on vacation? But that wasn’t really the reason. The reason I always had to work off a few pounds before vacations was really to balance out the weight gain that would definitely come during a trip!

I always saw vacations and nights out a nice restaurants as a reason to go crazy and eat and drink whatever and how ever much I wanted (probably because of my constant yo yo-ing between dieting and gaining weight). The problem with that was that a 10 day vacation became more about the food I would get to eat than about getting to experience a new place or doing fun things with my man or my friends. Inevitably, I would eat terribly all vacation long – eating foods that make me feel bloated and sluggish and eating far too much of them at every meal.

Vacation would start off fun, but by the last few days, I’d be feeling so uncomfortable in my body, that the clothes I brought with me would feel too tight and I’d be looking forward to going home just so I could have relief by “working it all off”. But not before I ate another ice cream sundae, plate of fried clams, some pastries and lots of beer. “Gotta enjoy myself, you know! Because after this trip, I won’t be allowed to eat these things again for a long time”.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned that letting myself go crazy and eat everything under the sun when I’m on vacation is the perfect recipe for me to A) feel horrible all vacation long, B) gain 10 lbs in a short period of time and C) set me up for messed up eating and restriction when I get back.

None of that sounds like fun or even remotely vacation-like or relaxing to me!! Yet I did it over and over. I finally realized that I don’t have to do that.

Vacation should be awesome and it shouldn’t be a free for all and it also shouldn’t mean automatic weight gain. Ok, but that brings up a lot of questions, like:  To avoiding feeling terrible on vacation and after, does that mean I have to eat super cleanly all of vacation? Isn’t life for “living”? And doesn’t that include delicious indulgent food sometimes? How can I enjoy food on vacation without causing myself discomfort, pain and emotional ups and downs but still enjoying myself? I’m a foodie, how can I go to fun places and not eat the local foods they are known for?

I’ve been doing things differently when we go away the last couple of years and I feel like I can now enjoy going to new places which includes eating delicious food, without feeling compelled to eat everything in excess and without feeling deprived and without gaining a ton of weight. In fact, when we went to Martha’s Vineyard two summers ago, I actually came home 1 lb lighter than when we left (without trying to). Not saying any of us should try to lose weight on vacation but I know it’s possible to enjoy amazing food and relaxation while on vacation without coming home 10 lbs heavier.

How do we do that?

How to Go on Vacation without Gaining 10 lbs


Start your day off with something really nutritious.

High protein breakfast in Kapaa, HI means I'm nourished and able to enjoy the whole day.

High protein breakfast in Kapaa, HI means I’m nourished and able to enjoy the whole day.

The first meal of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day. For me personally, if I start the day off with a bagel or a pastry, I will be hungry again in 2 hours and I will crave sugar and other carbs all day long. This makes it really tough for me to make choices that make my body feel good and by the end of the day I will probably have eaten enough food for two days and yet still be itching for more. On the other hand, if I start my day with high protein foods that I digest well, I have energy for hours and cravings don’t control me, which makes it a lot easier to enjoy myself. I love to start vacation days with eggs and sauteed veggies or fresh fruit. If that’s not an option, a protein bar and some fruit works great (and travels well). For you it might mean cottage cheese and some bacon or Ezekiel avocado toast. And don’t tell me you can’t get something nutritious for breakfast at restaurants. Even the greasiest diner in the world will make you scrambled eggs with vegetables or a side of oatmeal.

Make the best choice you can make at every meal.

Eating Whole Fried Trout at The Loon Lodge in Rangeley, Maine. Don't worry, I didn't eat the head.

Eating Whole Fried Trout at The Loon Lodge in Rangeley, Maine. Don’t worry, I didn’t eat the head.

Sometimes that means I have lots of really healthy options and sometimes that means the healthiest option isn’t so healthy. Let’s say I’m at the airport and food options are severely lacking (and I didn’t pack anything). Even at Starbucks, I can grab a piece of fruit and their protein sampler (or something like it). Just because they mostly serve pastries, doesn’t mean I have to choose a pastry. Use your common sense. I try to find whatever option seems to resemble “whole” foods the most (less ingredients is usually a better choice). And if the best option isn’t that great, don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s just one meal.

Eat food that you actually like.

Your nutritious choices can also be foods you like!

Your nutritious choices can also be foods you like!

It has to be said that just because you are starting your day off with something nutritious and making the best choices you can at each meal does not mean that you need to eat food you don’t like. You may have read the two above and said “but I don’t like eggs (or can’t eat them)” or “I don’t like cottage cheese”. That’s fine. You don’t have to eat the things that I personally choose! You can make great choices and start your day on the right foot by eating foods that work well in your body AND that you also like. Part of our problem in this society is that we think healthy food = bland / gross food and that’s not the case. If you go into your trip trying to gag down egg whites and kale juice and you hate those things, you are going to be be miserable. Nutritious doesn’t mean going without good stuff!

Eat whatever the heck you want a few times during the trip.

You can bet I am eating baguette's and local cheeses in Paris.

You can bet I am eating baguettes and local cheeses in Paris.

I am a foodie and half the reason I like to visit new places is to try new restaurants and eat amazing delicious creations. This may seem to be diametrically opposed to being a health coach but I swear it’s not!  One of the core teachings of the school I trained to be a coach at is that real health comes from making sure we are nourished in several areas of our life. Eating well won’t do much for our health if we are also not well fed spiritually, emotionally, creatively etc. and for me, enjoying indulgent creative food on occasion feeds my spirit. On vacation, I allow myself a few meals where I can eat as indulgent as I crave with no regard for the health or nutritive purposes of the meal.  I am not going to go to New Orleans without eating a beignet. I am not going to visit Paris without enjoying a baguette and local cheeses. You probably want to know how many times during a trip I let myself eat like this and to be honest, I don’t have a set number or restriction on it. I have to go by how I’m feeling on that particular trip. It might be 3 times on a 7 day trip or it might be 5 times. It depends on where we are and what sorts of things have me salivating and how much joy I get out of it. Sometimes the “healthy” food in a location is just as amazing as the unhealthy stuff. Kauai, Hawaii was like that – fresh mangos, coconuts, avocados and the most amazing fish I’ve ever had and available at every meal. And they tasted nothing like it does when I’m at home. I aim for a balance of feeling amazing and satisfying cravings during an entire trip. I want both, so that means listening in to my body and seeing what makes the most sense. Trust yourself (the only way to grow trust in yourself is by using it sometimes).

Get some exercise or movement daily.

Going on a biking winery tour in Calistoga, CA was a blast and a beautiful way to see the area.

Going on a biking winery tour in Calistoga, CA was a blast and a beautiful way to see the area.

I have learned that I feel best during and after a trip, regardless of what I’m eating, when I get some activity every day. This doesn’t mean we need to focus on burning off the calories in the beignet or those cocktails, calorie for calorie. It’s more about keeping digestion running smoothly (which often slows on vacation) and finding ways to enjoy life that is a change from our American couch and screen lifestyle (here’s to hoping you can bring home new active pursuits you love!). Some days that might mean just walking around local shops and parks while sight seeing, or renting bikes and ditching the car (we had no car in MV only bikes!). I might spend 30 minutes in a hotel gym or do some bodyweight exercises in my room if the weather is bad or if John isn’t feeling up for exercise. I’ve dragged John out for a sunset walk on the beach. We’ve rented kayaks and spent several hours paddling and exploring lakes. I’ve spent hours swimming and lounging in a salt water pool. We did a winery tour in Napa on bikes. We hiked to a waterfall in Rangeley.  The beautiful thing about making daily movement a goal while you’re on vacation is yes, you’ll burn some calories sure, but you will also be doing things that “feed” your soul. These new experiences, with people you love are sometimes the most memorable of a trip and will last so much longer than that so-so fish and chips you thought you wanted. The key to getting activity on a trip is to think how it can add to you enjoying your day and not how it can help you eat more or burn off more. You will not enjoy your vacation if the entire thing is a mathematical exchange of calories and time.

Relax. Really

Relax and make food less of a big deal and it will be less of a big deal.

Relax and make food less of a big deal and it will be less of a big deal.

Let’s say you go overboard and do gain a few pounds on your trip. That’s ok. It happens. But there’s a limit to the amount of real weight gain that can happen in a week or two and freaking out about it is going to do you more harm than good. If you do gain weight or if you are worried about gaining weight on a trip, the best thing you can do is to not make a big deal about it and focus on eating in a way that makes your body feel good and doesn’t make you feel deprived or crazy when you get back. The more we fight with ourselves and view our bodies as a battle to be won, the more casualties there will be. Practice putting down your need to control this stuff to a T and you’ll find that weight ups and downs are actually reduced. Try to view mealtimes as a time to refuel and not as something to fear and you’ll gain trust in your body.


That’s really it. I focus on taking pretty good care of myself but also leave room for some extras while on vacation. This way, I enjoy myself and my body feels good, instead of weighed down, bloated and uncomfortable. I can have both! An awesome and unexpected side effect is that now that I have done this a few times successfully, I have less stress as a vacation approaches and during it. I am able to focus on life more before I leave (rather than how much weight I can lose first) and enjoy it more during. I’m more present. I’m more me. And the food I do eat tastes even better because I’m not ruining it with calorie calculations before the first bite even goes in my mouth.

The key to not gaining a ton of weight on vacation is to go into it trusting yourself and choosing to eat and do things that will make your body and your soul feel amazing, the whole trip. You have to decide what those things are and how much feels like enough and not too much. You are in charge of you and you fully have it in you to enjoy your vacation and all the food that comes with it in a reasonable and enjoyable way.


Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

Things I wish I knew sooner (on this food, fitness and health journey)

Things I wish I knew sooner: that finding exercise that you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you "endure".

Things I wish I knew sooner: that finding exercise that you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you “endure”.

My mother had this sweater machine – a big electronic knitting loom thing that helped her make sweaters and blankets way faster than she could knit them by hand – because she loved to sell baby sweaters at Church fairs. In order to create a new row of stitches she had to move this white plastic handled part of the loom from left to right, right to left over the machine, and each time it went over the rows of yarn, it made a loud click-clack sound for a few seconds. I remember timing my trips to the kitchen by that sound after school. I’d wait in the kitchen with my hand on the cookie jar lid and when I heard the click-clack start, I’d lift the lid carefully and reach in and grab some cookies. My mom probably would have said yes, had I asked for a cookie. If she heard the cookie jar opening, she probably would have commented “hey, don’t ruin your dinner!” but nothing more. She wouldn’t have shamed me but I somehow knew I didn’t want to have a conversation about it and I knew that if I did it quietly I could go back and get more cookies. Just have to wait for that click-clack of the knitting machine to start so she couldn’t hear me.

“More” food was something I always craved and yet I wanted to push away all accountability for my choices all at the same time. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. If I wasn’t sneaking food, I was trying to find ways to burn more calories so that I could lose weight. I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but I remember laying in bed as a child saying my nightly prayers and asking the Virgin Mary to make it so that for every calorie I ate, I would actually burn 2! I obviously hadn’t worked out how that math would work long term had she been able to fulfill my wish and I may have misunderstood the types of things that prayer was useful for, but you have to admire the shameless way I tried to elicit the Virgin Mary’s assistance on my #bodygoals.

I don’t remember when specifically I learned that I was overweight or when I learned that that was something I needed to change. I just feel as though I always knew it was something “wrong” about me. Other people with food/weight stories like mine usually have one or two defining moments that stick out in their minds. I have tons of small moments that just add up to a life of feeling completely controlled by or out of control around food.

I’ve spent the last decade plus a few years working on my eating and weight issues in some manner (some things more successfully than others). The most progress in my journey has definitely come in the last 3 years – when I decided to train to be a coach and when I started taking on clients of my own. Watching other women make connections about their own stories and be empowered to change their story going forward has made my own stuff become so much clearer.

During this journey, I am constantly unlearning and relearning things that I took for granted. Things that I once took for certain, like “fat is bad”, I now can’t fathom that I ever believed that. I wish I had known that fat was a crucial and necessary macronutrient a lot earlier in this process. I think my relationship with food might have been less tempestuous had I been able to eat foods that were more satiating due to their fat content. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

If I was starting at the beginning of my food and weight story again, there are a lot of things I know now that I wish I knew then. I am going to share some of those below in case you are just beginning (or well on your way) and one or two of these could help you get to where you are going a lot sooner.

 

Things I wish I knew sooner:

  • that what you eat affects how you feel physically and emotionally.
  • that can’t outrun a bad diet.
  • that just being skinny wasn’t going to solve my problems.
  • that the things I didn’t like about my body when I was heavy would still be the things I didn’t like about my body when I was thinner.
  • that I don’t need to eat to comfort myself.
  • also that there are better ways to comfort yourself, that last longer and don’t have negative effects.
  • that there’s no quick fix, fast diet, pills or powders that will solve what got us into this mess in the first place.
  • not to compare my body and my progress to someone else’s. We’re all on different journeys.
  • that feelings won’t break me and I can feel anything without resorting to food.
  • that the number on the scale can go up and down throughout the week or month and not be an indicator of actual weight gain.
  • that foam rolling existed!
  • how to prepare healthy food so that it tastes good. I used to think it had to be bland and flavorless to be good for me.
  • that this is the only body I have and I need to appreciate it for all that it does for me.
  • that fat wasn’t going to make me fat and that eating it would actually help prevent me from overeating! (Could have saved myself a decade of being hungry here!)
  • that being strong and capable feels way better than weighing a certain amount.
  • that you can enjoy eating without it being your primary source of joy.
  • that liking myself was more important than liking how I looked.
  • that the amount of calories I burned during exercise doesn’t give me a license to eat as much junk as I wanted.
  • that having cute and well fitting clothes to wear makes exercising way more fun.
  • that motivation isn’t a secret energy that only some have, it’s just another word for being disciplined. When you say you lack motivation, what you really mean is that you lack discipline. We can train ourselves to become more disciplined – and it will stay with us a lot longer than any motivation, inspiration or will power.
  • that saying you are “trying” to do something is usually a hint that you are expecting to fail or preparing to never even get off the ground. Remove “try” from your vocabulary and just “do” (not “try” to do) the things you want to do.
  • that being so overweight wasn’t just a given because of my “genes”, or being born “big boned”. In my case, it was the direct result of many, many actions (and inactions) I took over many years (calculated hand in the cookie jar!). Had I recognized earlier that I had a huge hand in getting to such a high weight . . .I would have also been able to recognize that I had a hand in getting myself out of it.
  • that being attractive is not directly tied to the size of the dress I’m wearing. You can be thin and unattractive and you can be fat and attractive. Attractiveness is something so much broader than our size or shape.
  • that the more I worried about how much I ate, the more how much I ate would be a constant concern.
  • that taking rest days when my body needs them actually helps me make more progress, not less!
  • that lifting heavy weights wouldn’t make me big or bulky. (Getting big or bulky from weights requires major herculean effort – you aren’t going to get there accidentally).
  • that for every restrictive diet there will be an equal or greater binge (that idea is goes to Geneen Roth). The more I tried to dial back and eat less, the more I felt compelled to eat more the second I thought I could get away with it.
  • that physical hunger doesn’t cause panic (emotional hunger does). I didn’t really know what hunger felt like for a long time and instead had taught myself to feel “hungry” when I was bored, tired, overwhelmed, stressed, confused etc. I have relearned what hungry feels like in my body and it’s a lot easier to manage now.
  • that taking care of my body feels much better than retaliating against it.
  • that finding exercise you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you “endure”.
  • that having a proper sports bra makes exercise less painful and makes you feel good (check out Enell, Moving Comfort or Panache if pulling an elastic tube top over your chest that smashes you down isn’t working for you).
  • that keeping weight off after you’ve lost it can be harder than losing it in the first place. If you lose it in a fast or unsustainable way, how will you keep it off forever? Something to think about.
  • that love, success, friendship, admiration, creativity, self-worth and confidence isn’t something reserved only for the thin or fit.

What are some things you’ve learned during your health, weight and fitness journey that you wish you knew sooner? What would you tell someone just starting out?


If you’re not ready for a consult with Andrea but you like what she has to say, then please download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

I am a “Sometimes” Runner.

Sometimes I run, even if I can't do it regularly!

Sometimes I run, even if I can’t do it regularly!

Yesterday was such a beautiful fall day, I decided to skip barre and take my workout outside. I had a bruise on my palm that I wanted to baby a bit too (barre has been heavy on planks lately). Monday, John and I went for a walk on the new rail trail in town and it was nice, so I decided that’s where I’d go. It’s not very long (just 3.3 miles roundtrip) but it’s pretty, especially with the changing leaves, and very close to our house. It’s also flat – which is a nice break from all the steep hills in our neighborhood!

I started off walking but when I hit the 1/4 mile marker I decided to do some running intervals, just to take it up a notch. Several years ago, I did a lot of running and at my peak was running 25 miles a week. I loved it but it was way too hard on my body. I ended up with a couple of foot injuries and it was never very comfortable for my knees. I’d take some time off to heal and then try to get back out there and I kept having the same issues – eventually I decided that my body just wasn’t made for running and if I want to be able to stay active, I need to do activities that don’t cause injury regularly. Needless to say, it’s been a long time since I’ve done any running – even short intervals are rare because I’ve been focused on biking, weights and barre this year.

While my intention was to just do some walking/running intervals, I started running at the 1/4 mile mark and kept going until the end of the trail! I ran 1 and 1/4 miles without stopping. I walked about a 1/4 mile again and then I ran another 3/4 of a mile (before finishing the route by walking the rest of the way). So I ran 2 whole miles yesterday!

That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to me! While I feel like my heart and lungs are strong enough to run (I exercise at high intensity several days a week), I’m certainly not training for any type of distance or endurance and it’s been a long time since I’ve even attempted to run more than a minute at time. It felt really good!

Today, I’m feeling a bit achy and my hips are stiff (that’s nothing a good stretch can’t fix) but I’m itching to get out there and do it again. Maybe I’m not going to be a regular runner anymore, but I like knowing that I can run a mile or two, once in awhile. I love having variety in my workouts.

Not from the rail trail, but another pic from my time outside yesterday.

Not from the rail trail, but another pic from my time outside yesterday.

I used to see the fact that I couldn’t run daily anymore as a reason to not do it at all – but yesterday’s impromptu run was a good reminder that I can throw out absolutes and rules I make for myself, and instead focus on what the body wants/needs at any given moment. I can enjoy the occasional short run, even if I’m not able do it several days a week. I’m the one who decides this stuff.

There’s nothing boxing me in to either side. I don’t have to choose running all the time or not running at all. I can find a middle ground that works for me (even if that means it’s only 3 times a year). I can be a “sometimes” runner if that’s what I want.

This is something I always need to work on. I often have an all or nothing mindset. I usually won’t do something unless I know I can do it perfectly, or at least really really well. I get incredibly uncomfortable diving into things for the first time.  Over the years, there were countless diet attempts that I failed on and then gave up entirely because I couldn’t do it exactly as I was supposed to. If I had one emotional eating episode after two weeks of none, I saw it as a reason to just give up and binge constantly. I’d skip exercising if I couldn’t get a whole hour in. I’m the type of person who can’t enjoy a movie if I miss the first few minutes of it. And if I start a book, you better believe I’m going to finish it, even if it’s boring me to death and takes me a year to get through. All or nothing. No inbetween.

But life doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We’re not stuck obeying the rules we set for ourselves forever. I can be a sometimes runner. I can eat well most of the time. I can enjoy a cocktail and a dessert sometimes. I can exercise when I can. I can put the book that bores me back on the shelf (and pick up one that doesn’t!). I can take a week to respond to email or not respond at all (the horror!). I’m the boss of me.

Just as I’ve been practicing listening to my body more – paying attention to those hunger & satisfaction cues, knowing when I need to rest, knowing when I can push it harder, I have to listen to my soul more. If my soul doesn’t dig a certain book, who gives a shit? Who is keeping count? If my soul wants to dabble in an activity once in awhile, why not?

I don’t have to label or limit myself. You don’t have to label or limit yourself either. You don’t have to be a healthy eater or someone who enjoys cake. You can be both or neither. You are you. I am me. All of the time. Whatever that looks like.

 

A Few Awesome Reasons to Get Your Bum off the Couch (Besides Looking Better)

photo credit: The endemic fauna of the Amsterdam AirBNB Apartment: Poezi via photopin (license)

Great reasons to not be a couch potato like this little guy.    (photo credit: The endemic fauna of the Amsterdam AirBNB Apartment: Poezi via photopin (license))

Most people who exercise do it to look better, either from expected weight loss or more defined muscles. It’s true. We do it because we’re vain! Yes, there’s a subset of us who do it to be healthier (myself included) but we’d be lying if we said the outer appearance benefits didn’t help propel us to lace up our sneakers and work up a sweat.

But aside from stroking our vanity, exercise has a wide range of benefits, some that you may not even be aware of! Physical activity is quite possibly a panacea for everything that can go wrong in the human body – mental, emotional and physical. Knowing that, it’s hard to imagine why more people don’t do it – but then again, not everyone is tuned in to quite how beneficial it can be aside from out appearance.

If you keep vowing to start exercising but don’t, read on to see some of the “side effects” physical exercise can bring you. Maybe these will be enough to motivate you to get going (and if not – I highly recommend you join the free Light A Fire Under Your Butt 30 Day Exercise Challenge that starts October 12)!

Here are just a few studies that show the benefits of physical activity:

I literally could make this list a few pages longer but I don’t want to bore you! There is no shortage of evidence that exercise is vital for a healthier life. If looking better isn’t enough for you to get moving, what would motivate you? A longer lifespan? Less cognitive decline as you age? Reduced risk of heart attack or diabetes? Better sleep? Less aches and pains? Preventing depression? All of these things are possible if you start today.

How much could your life be improved with just a tiny bit of exercise? I bet quite a bit!

Need some hand holding as you get started? I’m running a casual free exercise challenge that starts October 12, 2015. You should join in – it’s just a few minutes of activity per day for 30 days. I want to get people moving! It’s called Light A Fire Under Your Butt. See you there!

Free Exercise Challenge for Bottom of Blog Posts

Light a Fire Under Your Butt! A Free 30 Day Exercise Challenge starts October 12

You, me, your living room and just a few minutes a day.

You, me, your living room and just a few minutes a day.

The hardest thing about making exercise a habit is the whole getting started part!

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they wanted to start exercising . . .

How many times have you said “I need to start working out! I’ll start tomorrow!” and then found yourself not feeling up to it when tomorrow comes? Or you decide it’s not worth doing unless you can do a whole hour or at least a half hour – which almost never happens. You might also hate working out alone – it’s so  much more fun and the time passes by faster when you’re with a friend (but none of your friends can exercise when you’re free so again, it just doesn’t happen).

How many weeks, months or years will go by before you do start exercising?

How much more fit could you be at the end of this year if you started now?

Why wait?

What’s really stopping you?

One of the biggest reasons people don’t get themselves moving despite a desire to be healthier and fitter is the time issue I mentioned at the beginning of this post. We think if we can’t exercise for 45 minutes 5 times a week then we shouldn’t bother. We think that it doesn’t make a difference to do what we can but even just 3 minutes of intense exercise per week has been shown to have health benefits! Bump it to 7 minutes and you can see some even bigger benefits. Anything is better than 0 minutes!

Another reason people don’t do it is because they think they need fancy equipment or a gym membership to get fit. In the beginning, your body weight can be enough – in fact, some of the most challenging exercises can be done with just your body weight (think planks, push ups, and squats!). I’ve been working out in a variety of ways for years and I still find ways to make body weight exercises strenuous – so I can get some activity in wherever I am.

Lastly, despite what it might look like on Instagram, not everyone who works out does so in $100 tights and $80 sport bras. It’s not a requirement for getting fit! While I’ll admit that wearing clothes that make you feel good will help make you want to workout more often, they certainly don’t have to cost a lot to do that. You just need something comfortable to move in and a supportive pair of sneakers (unless doing barefoot routines like yoga, barre or pilates)! And if you’re going to be wearing them in public, you may want to bend over in front of a mirror (in a well lit room) and check out your rear to make sure they’re not see through. It happens to the best of us.

Because I have a lot of people in my life who tell me that they really do want to start exercising but just can’t get themselves started, I started thinking about what I could do to help that. I’m not a personal trainer and I’m not super buff (though I like to pretend I am) but I do know the benefits of exercise and I have a lot of experience in trying to find activity that keeps me from getting bored (because if I get bored I’m not going to do it!). While I workout several days week consistently now, there have been many times in my life where I was just like you, sitting on the couch, wishing I could find the motivation to do some physical activity and I just couldn’t get myself started.

I want to light a fire under your butt. Please, let me light a fire under your butt. I’m putting together a free 30 Day Exercise Challenge that starts October 12 (Columbus Day). Each day of the 30 days as a group we will commit do doing at least 5 – 8 minutes of activity. I will send out an email daily that has a link to an online workout routine for all of us to do. The daily workout will be between 5 – 8 minutes long and they will be challenging. You will sweat, you will feel clumsy and you might feel like giving up if you’re new to exercise but you won’t because you don’t want to let the rest of us down (and you want to see what a difference it can make in your life).

If you don’t want to do the daily video, you are welcome to do whatever you want for exercise – you can dance, run, bike, lift weights, whatever! But you must do it (a minimum of 5-8 minutes per day!).

This challenge is free. It’s online and you’ll have group support and encouragement. I’ll either be doing a Facebook Group or Google+ community (though I haven’t decided which yet!) to go along with the daily emails and I’ll post the daily workout there as well. All you have to do is show up each day and do your 5-8 minutes. I don’t even care if you do your 8 minutes on commercial breaks while you watch TV. Just get it done!

Can you do that? I know you can.

At the end of the 30 days, you’ll be stronger, you’ll find the workouts don’t tire you out as much, you’ll be sleeping better, you won’t get as winded going up stairs and you might even lose weight or see muscle definition in places you’ve never seen it before! But the best thing of all, is after 30 days, you will have created an exercise habit that you can continue – 8 minutes a day will become a part of your normal day, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. You can then choose to do more or make it harder – whatever you want, but you can pat yourself on the back because you are NOW someone who exercises. You are NOW someone who is making their health a priority (and that is my goal for all of you). You are NOW someone who knows they can commit to lifestyle change.

If you can do this, what else will you be able to accomplish?

Come light a fire (under your butt!) with me! It’s free and we start October 12th. Sign up here . Share this challenge with your friends who also could use some help changing their habits – it’s always more fun to do something like this with friends!

Join the Light a Fire Under Your Butt free 30 Day Exercise Challenge.

Please read below
Participation in this challenge is free but joining means that you accept and agree to the following disclaimer:

All information provided by Andrea Quigley Maynard for this Free Exercise Challenge is of a general nature and is furnished only for educational/entertainment purposes only. No information provided is to be taken as medical or other health advice pertaining to any individual specific health or medical condition. You agree that use of this information and participation in the Free Exercise Challenge is at your own risk and hold Andrea Quigley Maynard harmless from any and all losses, liabilities, injuries or damages resulting from any and all claims.

 

 

 

5 Things You Might Be Doing That Aren’t as Healthy as You Think

photo credit: SweetOnVeg via photopin cc

photo credit: SweetOnVeg via photopin cc

If you’re like any of my clients, you have an interest in taking better care of yourself, and this includes making healthy choices in your diet and lifestyle. But what if some of the things you think are healthy really aren’t such a great idea?

If you follow nutrition at all, it can be seriously hard to keep up with what information you should follow! Studies come in all the time with conflicting results and the media reports on it – telling us that something is healthy one day and that it’s not the next! The media likes to report on the most interesting or popular things but they don’t always give the whole story, so we end up hearing a very sensationalized version of the truth. The problem with this is that we only get half the message or become confused by the conflicting info.  We end up making choices that we think are “good” but ultimately might not be the best thing for us. There are many things that I think the media has fudged the message on and I want to clear up some of it.

Part of my job as a coach is to educate and this means helping clients see multiple sides of a situation (in case they only see one) to remove any possible confusion. That way, they can analyze for themselves if something is a smart choice for them.

Today, I’m sharing the top 5 “healthy” things that I hear clients repeat over and over that they are confused by.  If my clients are feeling confused, I’m sure you are too!

This post ended up being longer than I planned it so if you’re short on time just read the bold bulleted number statements and the bold bottom line statement underneath each one!

Here are 5 things you might be doing that aren’t as healthy as you think they are:

1. Automatically assuming that non-dairy “milk” is healthier than dairy.
None of us need “milk” of any kind to survive beyond infancy but the idea that we need to have milk in some form in our diet is a hard one to let go of! And while some people do just fine on dairy, others find that it can be a big cause of health issues (allergies, lactose intolerance, asthma, inflammation).  Giving up dairy when necessary is easier than it was in the past because there are so many non-dairy versions of some of our favorite foods! But just because something is not made from dairy doesn’t automatically make it a good choice.

The most heavily produced non-dairy products are non-dairy milks like almond, hemp, soy, rice etc. And let’s be honest, a bowl of cereal just wouldn’t be the same with water. 🙂  The problem is that many of the store bought versions of non-dairy milks are full of not so great ingredients. They are often heavily sweetened and have additives like carrageenan, guar gum and others that we don’t want to consume in large quantities. These additives are often FDA GRAS (generally regarded as safe) ingredients. GRAS ingredients are only regarded as safe in small quantities. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little store bought non-dairy milk with these additives here but if you formerly drank 3 glasses of milk a day and are trying to replace the calcium that was in that with 3 glasses of non-dairy milk, you’re going to take in a lot more of these additives than is likely good for anyone. We don’t know if they are safe in daily increasing quantities.  To get more calcium without dairy, try adding a couple of servings of collard greens, bok choy, sardines, sesame seeds, broccoli and spinach to your diet.

If you really must use non-dairy milk several times a day, the best kind is one you make at home without any additives!  Check out this great recipe for homemade almond milk from Oh She Glows. It’s great without the sweeteners/flavoring too, believe it or not!

Bottom line: If you need/want to go off dairy milk, use non-dairy store bought milks in moderation and make your own if you will be consuming large quantities.

2. Choosing low fat or fat free foods instead of their regular fat original versions.
If you’re still buying low fat versions of foods you really need to stop. Why? For starters, look at the ingredient lists between a fat free frozen yogurt and full fat ice cream.  A low fat or fat free frozen yogurt will have many more ingredients in it, including several thickeners and additives that give it the texture and mouth feel that we want and expect when eating.  The length of the ingredient list alone is alarming. The longer an ingredient list, the more room for non-foods to be added in (and the often fall on the FDA GRAS list as well).

Another problem with eating the lower or no fat versions of food is that to get the same amount of enjoyment from the food, we often need to eat more of it. Fat is the nutrient for satiety and if you have a strong craving for a fatty food, odds are it’s the fat your body is after. If you choose the low fat or no fat version, you’ll never quite satisfy that craving and you may find you keep looking for something that will.  We think we’re saving calories when actually we’re increasing the chance that we will eat more. While it can be difficult to feel comfortable with the idea of eating more fat (especially if you’ve been a chronic dieter), if you try it for a little while you’ll see that you actually end up eating less when you eat more fat, leading to less cravings and eating less calories overall.

And a final reason to go for full fat versions of food: We actually need fat in our diets.  Vitamins A, D, E and K can’t be used in our bodies without fat in the diet. A few other important roles of fat in the diet:  it helps regulate our sex hormones (so important if you want to conceive, have a regular menstrual cycle or healthy libido), it keeps our hair and skin healthy and nourished and is integral for sharp brain function!

If you’re worried about eating fat and heart health, that’s an important topic and I’d love to talk to you about it but this blog post would be miles long if I did that. We’ll save that for another day (contact me if you want to discuss sooner!).

Bottom line: Eating full fat foods means less junky additives, more satisfaction from our diet, and better nutrient absorption for good health.

3. Eating large quantities of raw kale every single day
Just because every green smoothie, juice or raw salad recipe today has kale as the star ingredient doesn’t mean you should eat huge amounts of it every single day.  Kale is an amazing green full of vitamins A & C, magnesium, iron, calcium and many phytonutrients! But eating it raw in large quantities can be problematic for those with existing thyroid, kidney or gallbladder issues. And in some extreme cases, otherwise healthy folks who took in very large quantities of raw kale have developed hypothyroidism.

Kale is really good for us and in general, most of us do not eat enough leafy green vegetables period and we should absolutely be eating more greens in general.  But while it’s good to eat kale, a better idea is to eat kale and other green vegetables. Rotate through all the greens you can find in your local store and alternate between eating them raw and cooked.  Doing this ensures you get a wide variety of nutrients and don’t end taking in too much of something that could hurt you. You may also find that eating them cooked means less digestive stress (which means we’re more likely to want to still eat them).

Bottom line: Enjoy kale and other green vegetables in both raw and cooked forms but make sure you rotate and don’t eat the same greens all the time.

4. Training “hard” all the time
While the majority of us could probably use more activity in our lives, some folks hear
“exercise is good for you” and assume that means more, harder and faster is always better. Training hard has it’s place (maybe you’re training for a competition or event or have a plateau you’re trying to push past) but it may not be the right thing for you all the time.

Frequent vigorous or very long exercise sessions actually increase our cortisol levels. While increased cortisol is important when we’re in a dangerous situation (such as running for your life!), our stressful lives today mean we have increased cortisol levels most of the time. Chronically high cortisol levels can cause many health problems, including a suppressed immune system (more colds!), decreased libido, increased anxiety and depression, and even weight gain (think belly fat). For the athlete, high cortisol levels can also mean a breakdown of muscle (which is the opposite of what we want!) and reduced speed, strength and endurance.

Another thing that can become problematic with very hard training is that it can actually increase your urge to eat aggressively. One one hand, if you’re training harder or for more duration, it makes sense that you would want (and you need) to eat more to refuel. But in many cases, the hunger response that is created is far greater than the actual fuel need we have. We pat ourselves on the back for our hard exercise and eat more to reward ourselves but most of us underestimate the amount of food we take in.  Done once in awhile, this isn’t a big deal but if you over-train every time you exercise and do it frequently, you can actually undermine your weight loss goals in a big way.

It’s important to listen to your body. It’s good to push hard and feel challenged. It’s important to do activities we enjoy and get a lot out of. It’s important to have an active life. But rather than push yourself to work your hardest and longest every day of the week, think about what might be best for your body on any given day. If your knees are aching from a long run yesterday, maybe you would benefit more from taking a rest day or doing some gentle yoga today instead of trying to run on your already strained legs. If you’ve gotten poor sleep the last several nights and feel like you might be getting sick, it might be a good idea to go for a walk or resting instead of hitting a Crossfit class for the 8th time this week.  I’m not suggesting we stop pushing ourselves or that we don’t work hard – I love tough exercise as much as anyone.  But I think it’s important to listen to the signals our body sends and aim for balance and challenging oneself.   That way you can do the activities you love for a long time!

Bottom line: Challenge yourself physically but know it can sometimes be more beneficial to rest or do more gentle activities if that is what your body is asking for.

5. Making refined grains or grain products the major base of your diet
I’m going to go a little off tangent here but bear with me. The USDA came out with the Food Guide Pyramid in 1992 and in those dietary guidelines for Americans was the recommendation that we should be eating 6 – 11 servings of grains per day. Interestingly, it mostly focused on processed versions of grains. The recommendation was that we should consume 6 – 11 servings of breads, cereal, rice & pasta. So we did and often more.

And rates of obesity and diabetes have skyrocketed since. Check out the graph titled “New Cases of Diagnosed Diabetes Among U.S. Adults Aged 18 – 79 Years, 1980 – 2009” in the middle of this page from the CDC. What starts to happen right after 1990? Also check out this text summary of obesity trends among US Adults between 1985 – 2010. What happens around 1994? In both cases, rates started to increase sharply and have continued since.  Now correlation isn’t necessarily causation and I can think of several other reasons for these increases (increasing sedentary lifestyles for one) but I am convinced that the dietary recommendations to make refined grain products the base of our diets have contributed significantly. I’ll explain why.

What are breads, pasta and many popular cereals made from? Highly refined flours.  Refined flours spike blood sugar as badly as pure cane sugar because there is no fiber or hull to slow down digestion.  Eating 6 – 11 servings per day (and probably more since our serving sizes have increased) and not getting much exercise means that our entire society has been working hard to develop insulin resistance.  Another problem is that constant blood sugar spikes lead to blood sugar crashes and what happens when our blood sugar crashes? We get crazy hungry and don’t make the best choices food wise so we end up eating far more than we need and often really unhealthy stuff.

My point is that if you’re still following these outdated recommendations (and many are), you are setting yourself up for health problems if you don’t have them already. Grains can be a part of a healthy diet for many of us (it’s a case by case basis – some do not tolerate them well) but I’m referring to whole grains in their whole form not whole grains in refined pasta or bread. And 6-11 servings is far far too many!

Bottom line: Eat whole grains in moderation if you digest them ok but avoid refined grains. Eat less of them than the recommendations from 1992 suggest!

I encourage you to question any news report or article about nutrition and health. They’re telling you one or two sides of the story – are there more? Do your own research and decide for yourself.  Nutrition and health are relatively young sciences and we still have so much to learn but using your intuition and a little thoughtful questioning you can make some choices you can feel good about.

Are there any health trends that you’ve jumped fully on board with? Is there anything you’re doing that you wonder about the benefits of?  Share with us all below so we can learn from each other.

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