You Can Do All Things!

On my forearm I have some beautiful words tattooed – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  This comforting statement has profound meaning. It means that because of my Higher Power I can do anything. I can set goals, I can dream, I can live a life of passion, and I can have hope. 

 

Lately this reminder has helped encourage me. As I prepare for my first competition in 3 weeks I am more tired and I am training more. I am sore all over. I am doing more cardio than I prefer and I am hungry. I want to cheat or take it easy. I walk into the gym each day and have difficulty getting motivated. However I get started. And each and every time I push through. I push harder.  I get stronger.  I run faster. I keep going when I want to stop. Not because of myself. But because I have a strength inside me that allows me to do all things. 

We forget our power. We forget the power we have through our Higher Power. We allow our own flawed thinking and skewed perceptions of ourselves to hold us back. A friend stopped me at the gym the other day to compliment me in my progress. I accepted graciously and then proceeded to tell her where I felt I was lacking and cast doubt and skeptism on my progress. She reminded me my perception was not accurate and that what I saw was not what others saw. She related and talked about her own skewed thinking regarding fitness.  For my friend she was feeling tired, overwhelmed, and exhausted. She had personal issues that were impacting her life and her family. This would cause anyone to be more tired, stressed, and vulnerable. Yet she continued to do!  She kept working out, she kept taking care of her family, and she kept doing well at her job. 

The ability to keep going despite adverse circumstances or a desire to dedicate your self to an activity requires strength. I am not an athlete because of genetic or situational factors. I am an athlete because I have a Higher Power that allows me to do all things. Alone I would not be competing, nor would I have the displine or commitment to keep training. But because I believe in a Mighty and stronger Higher Power I know I can compete and I know I can stay focused and consistent. When we become self involved our thinking becomes narrowed and too focused on self. We start to evaluate our weaknesses and remember our failures. We compare ourselves to others. I am not an athlete. I never compete in anything, nor did I want to. I always quit when things get hard. I do not want to be challenged. Honestly if my training were up to me alone, I would have quit. However my inner power keeps me focused and shows me every time I workout that I can. 

I can do all things. I can!  When I remember the Power I have I am stronger. I am braver. I am more confident. You are stronger than you think. You are braver than you think. You can run faster and longer than you think. You can have self-control around food. You can do one more push-up. You can lose weight, find health, and love your body. You can if you remember your Power!  Your Higher Power is with you all day, every day, and it will give you strength, courage, and passion to all things!

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Be Content to be More Fit

Living a fit lifestyle has a way of changing your perspective of the world and living healthier will change the way you think about things. Living a life that promotes health, wellness, and freedom causes one to be more self-aware, alert, and thoughtful. Living a fit and healthy life causes one to have more hope for the future, set more goals, and seek improvement.

Goal-setting is necessary to establish and maintain healthy life choices. I have discussed the importance of goal setting for living a healthy and fit life in several posts. Scientist also understand the importance of goal setting and cite that a future goal will maintain focus and lead to greater future success. Specifically a study suggested that in order to maintain health a person must consistently and frequently set goals, evaluate these goals, think about the goals, and pay attention to goals (Mann, de Ridder, & Fujita, 2013). What this means is that when trying to maintain health one must often and frequently think about individual goals, evaluate progress toward those goals, and take any additional steps required to achieve the goal. As I aprepare for my competition I daily evaluate my goal to be ready and able to compete on show day. This helps me stay motivated to work hard and follow my plan. Goals give us reason to move forward.

Setting goals keeps one looking to the future.  Looking forward helps provide motivation to achieve goals. Studies indicate future orientation, looking to the future, can change behaviors in the present. For example one study found that individuas focused on the future were able to decrease aggression and anger (a goal of study participants) in the moment (Stoddard, Zimmerman, & Bauemeister, 2011). Clearly goal setting and having a direction pointed toward the future helps achieve success. As I am focused on my future competition and all the work that is necessary to achieve my desired physique I also wonder what I am missing in the current moment.

If you are like most people pursuing a goal, patience can be difficult.  The outcome becomes a longing and as we yearn for our success and achievement we grow impatient, weary, and perhaps a bit frustrated. I know I personally struggle with this. I want to achieve my desired outcome and constantly looking to the future makes my goal seem unattainable. I, then start to feel overwhelmed and frustrated and fight the urge to quit. I feel confident I am not the only one that feels this way. Perhaps setting goals and focusing on the future distracts us from the present moment. This notion is supported by research. A study found that individuals focused on diet and weight loss goals had increased distraction and experienced increased failure of tasks in the moment (Jones & Rogers, 2003).

What this means is that if I am thinking about my goal at my competition at a later date I may become too distracted while working out. This distraction will keep me from successfully completing reps, progressing in the exercise, or improving my performance. You do not need to be a body builder working toward a competition to experience decreased focus and lack of progress. If you are working to maintain a diet or lose a certain amount of pounds you may struggle  to feel satisfied when eating or working out. Future orientation and remaining focused on goals may be stealing your joy. Constantly thinking about the future keeps us preoccupied, lacking, and feeling unsatisfied. I understand how all this information can be conflicting. On one hand it is apparent remaining fit requires goal setting and thinking about the future, while on the other thinking about the future can limit progress in the current moment.

During my quiet time the other morning it occurred to me the problem was that I failed to feel contentment. The following statement cued me to my problem: ”

“Contentment isn’t a matter with being content with your situation in life and never trying to improve it. It’s a matter of being content with what you have — but realizing that as humans, we will always try to improve, no matter how happy we are. If we don’t, we have given up on life”. Leo Babauta

I always want to improve, grow, and live my passions and goals in the future. Although hope for the future is great and necessary to become a better person, it keeps me from realizing all the blessings and positives I have in the moment. Becoming content is a key component to maintain balance and overall health and wellness.

Finding contentment is needed to enjoy the work, the progress, and the journey. Contentment brings pleasure to the current moment and brings joy in life. Rather than focusing on what is to come it is important to evaluate and appreciate what is now. The current moment is all that is guaranteed and, although we can hope for the future, the future is not guaranteed. Contentment is easy to achieve.

  • Count your blessings. Recalling what you have, the people in your life, and what you have accomplished thus far brings to perspective the realization that we have much and have achieved much.
  • Look at where you have been compared to where you are now. You are not the same person. You have grown. You have changed. You have experienced success and have achieved goals.
  • Appreciate the people in your life that support and encourage you. Feeling loved and supported brings peace of mind and a sense of relaxation and joy. Knowing we are loved helps us settle into the moment and focus on the task at hand.
  • Recall future goals but do not remain focused on them. Remember the reason for the hard work and recognize the overall goal and then move on. Think about what you are doing in the present. Think about what can be done right now to bring you happiness.
  • Focus on the task at hand and the current moment. This moment in time will influence your future so use this time now to be present, aware, and engaged.
We find peace and contentment only by focusing on the present. You can choose a behavior and an action that is beneficial to the future or will stall future goals. We are better equipped to make positive and helpful choices when we choose to be happy with what we have, where we are, and who we are with in the current moment. I can choose to change the outcome in the future by making a choice to benefit me right now. Choose happiness, choose acceptance, and choose confidence that you are capable of improving your future right now!

References:

Jones, N. & Rogers, P.  (2003).  preoccupation, food, and failure: An investigation of cognitive performance deficits in dieters. international Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(2), 185-192.

Mann, T., de Ridder, D., & Fujita, K.  Self-regulation of health behavior: Social psychological approaches to,goal setting and goal striving. Health Psychology, 23(5), 487-498.

Stoddard, S., Zimmerman, M., & Bauemeister, J.  (2011).  Thinking about the future as a way to succeed in the future: A longitudinal study of future orientation and violent behaviors among African American youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 48(3-4), 238-246.

Top Tips to Find Balance to Keep A Fit, Fun, and Fabulous Life.

We have all heard the term, “Go hard or go home”. I say this to myself to power through a workout. I say this to my classes to motivate my students to push through their workout. I highly encourage working hard while being physically active. I also encourage being disciplined in your healthy eating choices. However I also recommend balance. 

Balance is necessary to keep us focused, motivated, interested, and engaged. Giving your all every single day can deter you from your goals. Why?  Because you are human. There will be days you will be tired, you will have obligations, your loved ones will want to spend time with you, and you will make mistakes. Having the “go hard or go home” mentality will sway you from your goals because you will be quick to abandon your goals when you have a dirty meal or you skip a workout or two. 

Balance is the key to making fitness, health, healthy eating, and weight loss a lifestyle. I think balance is hard to find though. For example people fear skipping the gym or having a cheat meal because they worry this will cause them to abandon all motivation. Skipping the gym today will not make going tomorrow any harder or easier. Or people fear certain foods and avoid health benefits by restricting foods for fear of gaining weight or not losing any additional weight. Restricting is not helpful and restricting leads to future weight gain and binging. All the stress of trying to stay 100% focused makes working out and healthy eating bothersome and it removes the fun from living a fit life. 

Here are my top tips to find balance and keep a fit, fun, and fabulous lifestyle. 

1.  Step away from the scale. Put it away. Throw it away. The scale will deceive you and only make you feel bad. The scale only measures your body as it is related to gravity. People tend tomfocus on weight loss and will weigh weekly. Some even weigh daily. In the midst of my hysteria and unhealthy way of achieving fitness I weighed multiple times a day. This caused guit and shame and drove me crazy. You see we weigh to expect a certain outcome (pounds lost) and it is impossible to achieve that outcome overnight. Rather than focus on pounds lost focus on how your clothes fit, how you look in the mirror, how much longer and faster you can run, that you can lift heavier today than last week, that you were able to complete a group fitness class, and the extra energy that you have. 

2.  Turn off your cellphone, computer, tablet, and TV. Specifically spend a day not looking at fitness models or people working out on Instagram or Facebook. Seeing this can shame you and cause you to feel like you need to be working out rather than resting. Not only will this allow you to rest but eliminating these distractions opens you to have more time to enjoy the weather outside, enjoy time with loved ones, or learn something new. 

3. Take things one day at a time. Yes, planning will help you be successful in your goals. However life happens. It is inevitable that you will have your whole day planned but life will have a plan of its own. Rather than be thrown off by life’s little mishaps and things that are not planned, you can be best prepared by planning one day at a time. Yesterday may have been terrible and things did not go according to your plan. The good news is you have tomorrow. Tomorrow you will wake up and your goal and your plans will still be there. The gym did not close over night and healthy foods will still be stocked in the stores. Decide to tackle each day and be the best you can be today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. 

4.  There is nothing more important than your relationships with family and friends. Do not sacrifice spending time with loved ones for a workout. Perhaps you can incorporate fun and family time with physical fitness. But you must make time to spend time with those you care about. Have a weekly date night with your spouse or have coffee with a friend. Cut your workout early to,get home and greet your family. We are all busy and we have things we are working toward but nothing is more important than our time with the special people in our lives. 

5.  Find hobbies and interests that are different from healthy eating and working out. As you engage in fitness and healthy eating you will find you are drawn to friends with similar interests. You will start to read books and articles about health and fitness. Soon your activities become consumed with health and fitness. It is true you can have too much of a good thing. Having other interests outside of your new fit friends and outside the gym helps you find peace. When you can enjoy and look forward to other things it helps keep working out and healthy eating fresh and interesting as well. 

6. Find time to meditate, journal, and relax. You take such good care of yourself by working out and eating well but you also need to care for your soul. You need to find peace to stay relaxed and focused. A relaxed and peaceful mind will help you enjoy physical activity better. Meditation will help you keep your emotions calm. This will only help you acheive your fitness goals. Stress makes weight loss and healthy eating harder. Meditation, journaling, and relaxation will control stress so you can be your best. 

7.  Cheat!  It is ok to have a “dirty” meal two to three times a week. It is ok to skip the gym because you would rather go shopping or go to the movies. This helps keep life in perspective. This helps you have fun without worrying about your stomach or your thighs. Life is precious and fun. And although living a fit life is fun and exciting, cheating every once in while keeps life interesting as well. You have motivation to make changes. Your desire to be fit and healthy will not change because you ate dessert or because you were not able to workout for a couple days. 

Life is an adventure. You are the author. You have control over every thought and behavior. You get to choose how you live each day. Sure there are things beyond our control but you are responsible for how you approach each task through the day. The best way to find balance is to accept yourself and love yourself. Know that you are ok. Trust you are making the right decisions for yourself. Trust your choices. You will make mistakes. Be open to learn from them. Be open to change today what you did wrong yesterday. Live this one life with passion and drive. You accomplish that when you say to yourself, “I choose”. What do you choose to do today?

Meal Planning to Help You Stay Focused and Successful in Achieving Your Weight Loss Goals

I get a lot of questions about meal planning. I will start by saying that I am not a nutritionist, nor am I am dietician. But I do understand how eating and food impacts mood, behavior, thinking, and the body. And as such I have learned that food is essential for health and wellness. Not only does food impact the body and how the body functions but food can influence your mood. Research suggests that diets high in fats and starch are also related to higher rates of depression (Pepino, Finkeiner, & Mennella, 2009). Diet can negatively impact mood, but eating foods can also improve mood and behaviors. Making proper diet changes can decrease symptoms of ADHD (Peisser, Frankena, Toorman, Savelkoul, Pereira, & Buitelaar, 2009).  The food you eat will be a reflection of you. 

The food you consume is taken into your body via your mouth. From the moment the food touches your lips your body starts to process and break down the food. This process also involves brain function and these brain chemicals are also responsible for regulating mood, thinking, and behavior.  The body then works to help the food travel down to your stomach. Here the food is further processed and met with stomach chemicals that breaks down the food for digestion. The same chemicals that process food in the stomach are also in the brain. In fact your gut contains serotonin, a chemical responsible for moods like depression and anger, just like the brain. 

A study looked at how eating foods impacted the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. They found a diet that consisted of probiotics, yogurt, improved areas of the brain known for regulating emotions and keeping mood stable and improved the body’s alertness (Dr. Mercola via Mercola.com). This research supports the notion that “you are what you eat”. Healthy eating is not just necessary for weight loss and physical health but for improved thinking, improved focus, alertness, improved mood, and thoughtful behaviors. 

 What makes healthy eating difficult is when we are away from home, we are out with others, or we are busy. There is much research about the benefits of setting specific daily plans to maintaining healthy behaviors. Therefore meal planning is required to maintain healthy eating. 

  • The more specific the meal plan the better. Know what you will eat for each meal and know when you will eat. 
  • Plan for every single meal, including snacks.
  • All meals should include a lean protein, a complex carb, and a healthy fat. So for example a snack could include an apple, deli cut turkey breast, and half a serving of almonds.  (This is just an example and does not consider portion sizes, blood sugar, or other medical issues – a registered dietician or physician can best prescribe individualized meal plans). 

People meal prep in different ways, so how prepare for meals depends on personal perference. Some meal prep for a whole week or a few days in advance. I meal prep for the next day, as my schedule allows that flexibility. Everyone is different. But here are some tips to start and find a meal prep routine that works for you. 

  • Meal prep starts with breakfast.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it kicks off your metabolism to start for the day.  Breakfast can include eggs whites, whole toast, and peanut butter. Pull any dry foods out and place on the counters in ziplock or Tupperware. Only package the serving size you need to meet your dietary needs for the day. You do not need to prepare 4 pieces of toast unless that is your meal plan. Place perishable items in containers in the fridge.  
  • If you eat right your body will need more food in a couple of hours. Pack snacks that will satisfy. Avoid snacks high in sugar and that are overly processed. When I meal prep I try to follow the rule of protein, complex carb, and healthy fat for every meal, including snacks. 
  • Next you will pack lunch. Prepare foods by cooking them before and place in Tupperware. If you need to be more organized, label the bag or the Tupperware with date to eat and meal to eat. Then you can pull your Tupperware out of the fridge, warm it up, and you know you are getting in your healthy meal. 
  • You want to avoid starving and letting your metabolism drop so eating another fulfilling snack between lunch and dinner will help you stay focused and alert through the day. 
  • To avoid the evening hustle and bustle have dinner prepared. Crockpot recipes are helpful. Have meals partially prepared, all prepped, so you can remove food and place on stove, microwave, or oven with minimial effort. 
Meal prep will keep you eating healthy. It will keep you from eating out. It will keep you from eating unhealthy snacks and meals. It will keep you focused. Meal prep eliminates excuses of “you do not have time” to prepare meals. Meal prep will keep you from starving and avoid craving unhealthy options. Meal prep is a way to have a specified plan that will you help you be successful with you weight loss goals. 

 

References:

Peisser, L., Frankena, K., Toorman, J., Savelkoul, H., Pereira, R., & Buitelaar, J. (2009). A randomized controlled trial into the effects of food on ADHD. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 18(1), 12-19. 

Pepino, M. Y., Finkbeiner, S., & Mennella, J. (2009). Similarities in food cravings and mood states between obese women and women who smoke tobacco. Obesity, 17(6), 1158-1163. 

How Stress May Not Only Causing you Emotional Upset but May Be Hindering your Wellness Goals as well.

The immune system is an intricate system of cells and systems designed to protect and guard the body from potential harmful organisms and situations.  Without the immune system humans would struggle to fight infection, illness, and disease (Abbas & Lichtman, 2014).  The immune system not only keeps us safe from illness but the immune system also protects the body from psychological stressors.

A major biological function of the immune system involves blood and the chemical in cells, known as antibodies.  These antibodies are able to identify and attack dangerous organism that come in contact with the body (Abbas & Lichtman, 2014).  The immune system consists of body fluids, hormones, chemicals, and cells that fight off illness.  Medical science uses medicine to improve this system of the body and help protect the immune system from dangerous diseases.  However it is harder to protect the body from behavioral health and psychological illness.  Stress compromises the immune system and leave people vulnerable to not only emotional upset, but to illness, fatigue, and adverse health.

Stress, although a psychological stressor, also stresses the immune system.  The same fluids, cells, and chemicals in the body that protect against disease are negatively impacted by stress (McKinnon, Weisse, Reynolds, Bowles, & Baum, 1989).  Research suggests that increased stress decreases immunity.  Stress decreased immune functioning even when medical treatment was used to improve how the immune system operated (Stanojevic, Dimitrijevic, Kovacevic-Jovanovic, Miletic, Vujic, & Radulovic, 2003).  Stress is responsible for decreasing the resources needed to keep the body well, refreshed, and working properly.

Stress has the potential to prevent the body from being able to adequately protect against illness and disease.  Stress has the potential to decrease the body’s ability to burn fat, metabolize food, and recover from physical activity.

Research suggests that decreasing stress will improve health, fitness, and wellness.  Behavioral practices such as relaxation, mediation, exercise, and self-reflection can reduce stress (Kiecolt-Glaser & Glaser, 1992; Levy, Williams, & Henderson, 2001).  We have the ability to feel better and control our physical health and wellness.

Often times feeling tired, worn out, stressed, and sick can cause a person to feel powerless.  However learning to manage stress and decrease levels of stress can help individuals improve health and wellness.  An interesting research study found that relaxation not only reduced stress but also increased immune system functioning.  Learning to manage stress is a skill that requires practice. We encounter stressors every day, therefore it takes daily stress reduction practices to to keep the body from experiencing the harmful effects of stress.

Physical symptoms of stress:

headaches

stomach ache

eye twitch

muscle soreness (mainly in the back)

changes in appetite – either increased appetite or decreased appetite

changes in sleep – hypersomnia (sleeping too much) or insomnia (not sleeping enough)

tiredness

cold symptoms (runny nose, cough, etc)

heart rate increases

difficulty breathing – shallow breathing or feeling like not getting enough air

sweaty palms

dry mouth

These symptoms can also indicate health conditions but evaluating events in your life can cue you to whether stress may be upsetting you.  Also the following emotional symptoms can indicate stress is complicating your life.

irritability

diffiulty managing emotions – mood swings

anger

difficulty concentrating and difficulty focusing

easily distracted

difficulty staying on task

forgetfulness

feeling frustrated

feeling overwhelmed

feeling sad

self-doubt

racing thoughts – a lot of thoughts going through your head at one time

feeling hopeless

feeling like something bad is about to happen

These emotional and physical symptoms are uncomfortable and often times people take extreme measures to reduce the discomfort.  People will overeat, sleep in, avoid people, places, and things, neglect responsibility, and stop enjoying activities.  People will increase use of over-the-counter medication, use of illicit substances, increase alcohol consumption, and stop working out and eating well.  These things will only further decrease immunity and make it more difficult to manage stress.

Next time you think stress is the culprit for your emotional upset, physical upset, and lack of wellness try these things instead.

1. Go for a walk

2. Call a friend

3. Watch favorite movie/show

4. Dance/sing/listen to music

5. Journal/Meditate/Engage in spiritual practices

6. Draw/paint/create something

7. Read a book/magazine

8. Exercise

9. Laugh

10. Spend time with close family and friends

Doing 1 or more of these things daily will help keep stress at bay, but during of increased stress engaging in all these behaviors will help reduce stress. Start at the top of the list, and work your way down.  If you still feeling stressed when you reach the end, start at the top again.  These things will only make you feel good, improve yourself and your situation, reduce stress, and improve wellness.

*There are times in life when things are extremely overwhelming and it can be difficult to overcome.  During these times it can be helpful to increase support and to reach out for help.  Cntact a therapist for help.  As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Health Psychologist, Stephanie is here to help.  Please contact Stephanie if you feel need additional help overcoming stress.

Summer is Right Around the Corner – 4 Workouts to Get You Ready!

Walk into Target and swimsuits are the first thing you see.  This means it is time and Summer is almost here!  So to help us get ready and start preparing for swimsuit season I have 4 workouts for you!

It is never too early to start preparing for bikini and beach season.  Tag me on Instagram when you try these, @swaitt, and let me know what ya think!