You Must Be Present to Win

heyward-mlb

photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

I must admit.

I’m overly identifying with the Chicago Cubs this year so the spectacular four-run ninth inning rally that secured their win over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night was more meaningful to me than most playoff games.

You see, early on I adopted these boys of summer as mascots for my How to Get Your Groove Back class. Jake Arrieta in particular seemed like the perfect poster guy for getting one’s groove back. He almost gave up the sport altogether when his pitching coaches couldn’t quite find his groove and released him from Baltimore.

Fortunately Chicago was able to help him find it. And then Jake was able to show the rest of the team how to find theirs. (It might have something to do with that Pilates reformer.)

After a lifetime of summers spent listening to the “lovable losers” on the radio, this summer I watched and learned from the victories and defeats of the Cubs like a vigilant den mother. And one of the things I learned is you must be present to win.

You don’t win by checking out, dwelling in the past, or projecting into the future.  If the Cubs had gone into the ninth inning on Tuesday night plagued by what had transpired in the previous eight, they wouldn’t have been open to the opportunities the ninth inning presented. They clinched the series by seizing every one of them.

That takes an unflinching commitment to being in the moment. That is deceptively difficult.

Last week I spoke to a student services group about resolving to evolve. The first of four actions I asked them to take was to embody. 

What does she mean by that?” you might ask.

I mean to be fully present in the skin you are in and to be open and aware of what you are feeling and to allow your body to provide you with all kinds of information.

Do I have a choice?” you might ask.

Yes and no.  If you’re reading this, you are in a physical form that you move around to do your brain’s beckoning. You feed it, clothe it, take it to work, and allow it to rest. So in one respect, you have no choice but to embody.

But anyone who suffers from aches and pains and a general distrust or disgust of their body will tell you how preferable it is to live life from the neck up. Their choice is to check out of their bodies as often and in as many ways as possible. They might choose to medicate or obliterate with food, alcohol, drugs, or their vice of choice in order to spend as little time as possible feeling what it’s like to be in their body.

As a certified eating psychology coach and fitness instructor, I see this a lot. Most of the people I work with have a very complicated relationship with their bodies. My desire to understand this relationship is what led me to become a writer and coach.

Here’s my take-away. The present moment is all we’ve got. It’s the only time and place where we can make things happen and move forward in our lives.

This means we need to be open to receiving feedback and support from all our faculties, not just our brain. Because I don’t know about you, but my brain can be a bully.

It can have me believing all kinds of things that are just not true because it’s feeling threatened or scared. That’s why I need an entire team of truth tellers located in my heart, my belly, my back, my legs, or anywhere that might get my attention.

I do not want to be stuck in the eighth inning where I might be down 2-5 with just my brain calling the shots. I need my body on board to rally and earn a shot at the World Series.

Bob likes to remind me it’s just a game and whether my team wins or loses, my life will be the same. He may have a point. Every team and every sport have come-back stories and heroes’ journeys stories and a hundred reasons why their epic victory is destined.

But I know on the days the Cubs win my world seems a little bit brighter or more hopeful. Not just because they’ve broken a curse or done the impossible or because my Grandma would be grinning from heaven to see her Cubbies win it all, but because of how they played the game. They model for me how to be all in and present to win. That’s something I can rally around.

Who does that for you? Share if you dare in the comments below.

It’s All Fun & Games

huskerdu

It’s Day 28 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to boost your brain power with some memory games.

Every Sunday morning when I was a kid we’d go to my grandmother’s house after church.  Once there we’d watch cartoons, All Star Wrestling, and movies that none of us kids understood but introduced us to the likes of Mae West, Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Mickey Rooney, The Three Stooges, and others.

I was too young to know the the cartoons were sexist and violent, the wrestling was staged, and the movies were classics, but I did remember the commercials. Especially the ones selling games, cereal, cigarettes, shampoo , showing us the consequences of littering, and asking us to take personal responsibility for preventing forest fires. 

What I remember most was a game called Husker Du.  The advertiser would always announce in a booming voice, “Husker Du! Do you remember?” I had no idea what the game was about. I just loved repeatedly asking with my brother and sister in my own impressively loud voice, Husker Du?

Clearly, the advertising worked. It was “sticky” as Dan & Chip Heath would say. Forty years later I still remember it. Slick trick for a memory game.

concentration

I also used to love playing Concentration at home to mimic the game show I’d faithfully watch on TV. I knew early on it was important to focus, remember, connect the dots, and make connections that might otherwise be overlooked.

These days, of course, there’s an app for that.  Games like Lumosity, NeuroNation, Brain Metrix, and FitBrains are just a few examples of websites and apps to train your brain.

While you can easily get through one of these challenges in 5-15 minutes, the real challenge is to not spend an hour or two once you get started.

But even if you did, it’d be good for you. It’s too easy to let our brains be lulled into a trance by all kinds of incoming and unquestioned media.

Take time out today to think for yourself, test your memory, and give your brain a run for the money.  As another ad I remember warned, “A brain is a terrible thing to waste.”

I’d love to hear how you train your brain and keep your wits about you.  Share, if you dare, in the comments below.

 

 

 

Do It for the Health of It

The office routine

It’s Day 7 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is to do it for the health of it.

In February I fulfilled this fitness instructor’s fantasy and went to Red Mountain Resort in Utah to spend a few glorious days exploring Zion National Park, let my toes luxuriate in the red sand surrounding the resort, and partake in as many fitness classes as my body would allow before going on a sit down strike.

Adventures abounded from lectures to spa treatments to culinary classes to art excursions. One day after a scrumptious lunch, Bob and I decided to attend a lecture and let our food settle before heading to the Drums Alive class.

Maybe because travel opens my heart and head to new information in a way that reading it in a fitness magazine can’t, I totally  latched on to the information presented about posture and proper spinal alignment.

It seems all this texting and being glued to our electronic devices with our heads down and shoulders slumped is wreaking havoc not just on our posture but also our health. This constant state of forward head carriage can age us quicker than sitting, smoking, sunning, or any number of risky activities can.

So what can you do about it? The good news is you can reverse the effects of this habit.   Here’s a link to a video with exercises you can start doing in as little as 15 minutes a day.

Click here for exercises to correct Hunchback Posture, Kyphosis and forward head carriage.

Your body will let you know when the strain is getting to you. You’ll instinctively feel the need to stretch, to roll your shoulders, or get up and move.

Please heed the advise of your well-intentioned body. Don’t worry who catches you bending, stretching, lunging, squatting, or planking at the office. Consider yourself a trend setter or the founding member of the newly appointed wellness squad.

One of my very favorite things at work is my standing desk.  At home I have a treadmill desk. I still haven’t mastered the art of typing and walking, but when I watch videos or TED talks or Skype with friends, the treadmill is on.

There are so many ways to work in a work out without any need for expensive gym memberships, fancy clothes, or huge chunks of time.

Next time you make or take a phone call, stand up while you talk. Stretch while you reach for that file. Lunge to pick up the crumpled up paper you were hoping would make it into in the round file. Do it for the health of it.

Your body will thank you. Your energy will most likely increase. And your attitude will certainly lighten a little.

Now, for the health of it, drop and give me 15 pushups.  Sorry, once a fitness instructor, always a fitness instructor.

Leave your ideas, suggestions, or best practices in the comments below.

 

 

 

Save

The Secret to Sustainable Success

front door standing welcome

I spent the better of Sunday pondering the secret to sustainable success as I sliced and diced and cordoned off portions of dietary staples for the upcoming week.

In terms of sticking to my new eating plan, the unequivocal answer is preparation. From shopping to chopping it’s all about the prep. This explains the impressive collection of colorful ceramic knives I scored for my birthday along with some bamboo cutting boards and mixing spoons.

Had you asked me a year ago if I would be spending weekends frequenting farmer’s markets, foraging around local food co-ops, attempting to plant an herb garden, figuring out how to compost, consorting with nutritionists, or getting needled by acupuncturists, I would have assumed you had me confused with my Santa Fe friends.

The truth is I didn’t embrace this lifestyle until recently when I discovered that eating well is the fundamental secret to success.

Please don’t confuse eating well with eating extravagant meals, preparing elaborate dishes, or coupling exotic spices with complicated and hard to find ingredients.

Eating well in my book means eating whole foods you can easily pronounce, readily find, and effortlessly digest.

We’ve gotten carried away with convenience, making it the number one reason we eat what we eat, when we eat it, even why we eat it.

I get it. We are busy people. Convenience soothes a stressed out soul.

But it wreaks havoc on our health. It was certainly messing with mine and I knew better. Yet I felt incapable of competing with its allure. Until I decided I must.

It’s been a year long journey into learning how to nourish myself. I’ve experienced as many setbacks as successes. But I am profoundly changed by the lessons learned and transformed by my training as an Eating Psychology Coach.

How I previously defined success has been seriously called into question. I didn’t spend forty years wandering around the desert only to get to my personal Promised Land and decide I liked it better where I came from because it was more convenient.

Oh no. There is no going back. Not even for mango margaritas.

I haven’t reached my Promised Land before because it’s incredibly hard to get here. It’s even harder to stay. Consequently, I’m determined to set up shop.

The secret to sustainable success is we are responsible for sustaining it. We have to pay attention and work with intention every day, course correct, scratch some of our best ideas, begin again, ask for help, be generous, have fun, and remember to give thanks for living in the land of milk and honey – even if it comes with a few mosquitoes.

I couldn’t have arrived here before because, admittedly, I wasn’t ready. If I got too distracted, hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, all bets were off. I had no healthy snacks and I had no Plan B – or options for the rest of the alphabet, for that matter.  In other words, I was not prepared.

I couldn’t recognize success for what it was because I couldn’t recognize myself for who I was becoming. Suffice it to say, it’s been a work in progress.

And now that work is cut out for me. It may appear to some as the same work I’ve been doing all along.  However, coming from a new vantage point makes all the difference.

After 8 months of intense training, I’m thrilled to be able to call myself an Eating Psychology Coach and passionately practice the work that’s been a guiding force throughout my life.  

In the next couple of months I’ll unveil my new website along with opportunities for you to join me in challenges and adventures that invite you to sustain your idea of success. 

Sound fun?  Hope so!  Leave your questions or suggestions in the comments below.

EPCC-Coach-Badge-500x500

Top Ten Tension Tackling Tunes to Keep You Humming Through The Holidays

Christmas card

It happens every year. We start out the season with visions of Christmases past when we were younger, things were easier, and our lives were manageable. This year we vow to re-create the magic. We’ll shop early, get organized, entertain lavishly without gaining an ounce, attend every school program and office party, and enjoy all the pleasures of the season.

This vow lasts until the reality of relentless schedules, impossible expectations, extra activities, and crowds at every corner bring this vision sharply into question. Then the question is no longer how will we celebrate but how will we survive?

The good news is we always survive. The bad news is we don’t always utilize the stress management techniques we perfected by the end of last holiday season. However, this year we have a new strategy.

It’s called tunes and tips. When you hear the tune, let it trigger the tension-tackling tip. And what better songs than Christmas carols to keep you humming through the holidays?

1. ‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly…

If you’ve lost your sense of humor, find it immediately!  Stuff happens and you need to keep your wits about you.

Create a stress relief kit that contains anything that conjures up calm for you. Suggestions include a foot massager, a packet of herbal tea, island getaway brochures, funny photos, your favorite music, or an emergency clown nose. Or find an app for your phone that helps you relax and is at your fingertips when you need it.

You are only one thought away from a different perspective.

2. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let it Go…

You don’t have to wish for that fluffy white stuff to perfect the holiday picture. But it is wise to acknowledge that there are certain things that are out of your control, like the weather. What is in your control is your reaction to events.

Letting go of your expectations of how events should unfold, how people should behave, and what should happen allows you to be present to what is actually going on.

3. Dashing Through the Snow…

Movement is essential to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Since Santa supposedly has your new exercise equipment, now may not be an opportune time for you to start a fitness program. But you can easily incorporate movement into your day.

Having to park three miles away from any place peopled with shoppers gives you an excellent opportunity to squeeze in a little aerobic activity. Carrying your purchases back to that same location might be considered strength training.

There are a myriad of ways to work in a workout.  Get creative and have some fun sprinkling your day with activity sprints.

4. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire…

Too many of those nuts, candies, and homemade delights can tip the scales out of your favor. Notice how you eat, drink, and be merry. If you are eating Christmas cookies to handle your woes or drinking Jack Daniels to prevent Jack Frost from nipping at your nose, the combination of indulgences could wreak havoc on your health.

People tend to put on an extra pound or two over the holidays, which isn’t a big deal if it comes off in the New Year. Unfortunately, for many it becomes the new set point that inches up year after year.

To guarantee that you don’t become one of those weight bearing statistics, plan for party temptations by eating a healthy snack before you go.  Once there, fill up on food for thought instead of food from the party platter.  Pay attention to the decorations, check out the entertainment, or visit with the bearded man and his little friends.

5.  Making a List and Checking It Twice…

Don’t expect your already overloaded mind to remember any more than your way home and the names of your immediate family members. Count on lists to remind you of those things you have determined you must do. Make as many lists as necessary and review them before taking action. Prioritize, organize, scrutinize, and compromise, if necessary.

Even if your superpower is finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list and you love to mix and mingle with the masses, make sure to shop when you are well-rested and well-fed. Shopping when fatigued, famished, or  frazzled can lead to costly buyer’s remorse.

6. Deck the Halls…

Surround yourself with things that bring you joy. Designate a room, corner, or cupboard as your own. Then decorate that space as only you know how. Bring a bean bag elf to the office or hang mistletoe in the cafeteria. Your spirit needs nourishment and encouragement. Be sure to give yourself the time and a place to celebrate what is sacred to you.

Many people use this time of year to reflect on the current year and make goals, set intentions, and strategically plan for the new year.  Be sure to schedule some down time amidst all the hustle and bustle to envision, dream, think, contemplate, relax, pray, or hang out in nature.

7. I’ll Be Home for Christmas…

Many families are spread out over the country. This can present not only logistical challenges, but financial and emotional ones as well when you attempt to make it “home” for the holidays.

Determine if the benefits of being home are worth the stresses you may encounter getting there – especially if you are organizing this pilgrimage for your household. If home is where your heart is, then may the force be with you in your travels! But if traveling makes your heart weary, know you can create the feeling of home wherever you are.

By volunteering your time at a shelter, visiting a nursing home, or helping serve meals at a community center, you might help create the feeling of home or family for someone who no longer has one.

8. All I Want for Christmas Is…

What do you really want? What will having this item do for you? How will it satisfy your soul? What about those on your list? What might they really want? Can you give it to them in a more authentic or direct way? Is it possible for you to make something or do something that brings them more joy than the buying an expensive gift that busts your budget?

Gifts of listening, laughter, and sincere compliments are always appreciated but not always afforded to others.  When you really listen and don’t interrupt, daydream, or plan your response, the gift of listening is priceless.

Same for the gift of laughter.  Clipping cartoons or sharing articles, blog posts (like this one!), tweets, or funny videos lets your recipient know how much you value the times you laugh together.

When a compliment is simple, sincere, and specific to the person such as, “You really worked hard on this project and it shows in your client’s feedback,” or “That was a hilarious interpretation of The 12 Days of Christmas,” it benefits the giver as well as the receiver.

However you say to another,  “I see who you are. I get you. I’m glad you exist in my universe,”  is a gift indeed.

9. Silent Night …

I know what I’m about to write is a radical suggestion, but for your own good, I’m going to write it anyway.  Unplug from your electronic devices for one night and plug in to the gifts of the season.

From the sound of carolers outside your window to the squeals of small children on Santa’s lap to the brightly colored lights decorating the streets where you live, sense the beauty that surrounds you. See, hear, taste, touch, and smell the sensations of the season.

Sometimes all you need to do this is a silent night.  Remember, you have the right to remain silent.

10. Joy to the World…

In the end, it all comes down to attitude. Maybe you harbor an inner Scrooge who threatens to declare, “Bah humbug!” on all this festive frenzy. Keeping him in check may require reframing your beliefs about what you “should” do, “must” do, or “have to” do as a choice, something you “choose to” do.

Although you may be a creature of habit, you are also an evolving creature.  What gives you meaning and brings you joy one year may not the next. You may decide some traditions are simply not worth the energy it takes to carry them out and invent new ones to suit your lifestyle.

When life becomes a choice instead of a chore, the world looks a lot brighterand you have more energy to spread that joy around!

BONUS CUT:

As much as I’d like to end this post on a Joy to the World note,  I do want to acknowledge that the holidays can be a very difficult time for many people.  For years, I dreaded them.  Here’s a tip for those of you who have a hard time with holidays for any number of reasons.

I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You…

Despite the festive feel of brightly colored lights and pretty packages under the tree, the holidays can bring up intense feeling of loss, longing, not belonging, depression, and wanting something other than what you have.

You may feel guilty for not enjoying the holidays or for being here when others are not and consequently overspend, overindulge, or over-schedule yourself to escape your feelings.

However, denying your feelings causes them to come back and bite you when you least expect it. Give your feelings the time and attention they deserve. Find someone to talk to or write in a journal. You don’t have to go through this alone.  Connect with others who share your struggles.

I wish you whatever you need or desire to feel loved and appreciated this holiday season.

Please share this with anyone who could use some stress reducing strategies to get through the holidays.  And feel free to share your tried and true tips in the comments below.

 Thank you for reading.   Happy, Healthy Holidays to YOU!

Detox Take Away #6 – Trust the Process

discovering new places

When I used to teach fitness classes, I remember thinking how much more motivating it might be for students if they could immediately lose a pound or two after completing a workout. Sure they felt better after having mobilized their bodies and activated their endorphins, but wouldn’t they be more willing to stick with it if they experienced instant weight loss?

We all know the real work of shape shifting takes time and consistent effort.  When goals are attained too easily or quickly, we can miss the message or sabotage the results. For many of us, weight is an incredible teacher. It certainly gets our attention and packs a wallop of emotion when we gain it or lose it.

Detoxing not only our bodies but also our brains is bound to take some time. We carry a lot of toxic beliefs about what we should weigh, how we should look, and how much of our value depends on an arbitrary number on the scale. Despite all my training, I’ve held on to some rather insidious beliefs about my weight that simply don’t serve me or anyone else.

Changing these beliefs and patterns of behavior is not easy.  There are a lot of variables to consider when attempting to make or break a habit. Factors like how often we automatically or unconsciously engage in the current habit, what benefits we get from continuing with the current habit, and what kind of habit we are attempting to change all impact the speed at which we can progress.

At the outset, 21 days seemed like a long time for a detox diet. However, I kept telling myself that 21 days in the course of a lifetime was not too much to ask. I reminded myself that I would gladly do this if it could save the life of a loved one. Hitting the reset button for myself might just save my own life.

I will not lie.  Some days were difficult. Every day I counted down the days until I would be done. Social situations were like land mines because they required special preparations and explanations and more effort than would be required if I just stayed home and kept the whole process on the down low.

The up side is that I felt better, cleaner, and lighter than I had in years. My brain fog lifted, my energy surged, and those few stubborn pounds melted away. But it didn’t and couldn’t happen overnight.

About half-way through the detox process I realized the only way out was through. I had to keep going. No matter how much I thought I knew, there was more to learn.  And that meant trusting the process.

Trusting the process meant relaxing into life. Trusting the process meant letting go of how I thought it should go. Trusting the process meant no matter what happened, I would be able to handle it. Trusting the process meant allowing the universe to have my back.

When I could do this, eating this or not eating that did not seem insurmountable.  Such a simple idea in theory.  But one that takes a lifetime of practice.  Or at the very least,  21 days.

Have you done a detox diet?  What lessons did you learn?

I’d love for you to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.

Top 10 Take Aways from a 21 Day Dietary Detox

good food, health and life

Sometimes life demands that we push ourselves way beyond our comfort zone. We can accomplish incredible things or even fail miserably but learn the lesson of a lifetime in a relatively short amount of focused time.

In the fitness world we call this “burst training” or Tabata training. Tabata training involves going all out for cycles of 20 seconds of intense activity followed by 10 seconds of rest for 4 minutes. It’s proving to be more effective than the traditional thinking that would have us spending hours at the gym or on the treadmill.

My personal version of “burst training” during the last month included a 21 Day Dietary Detox, creating an e-book, starting a coaching program, and holding down my day job. While we all juggle projects, family, and jobs, when I mentioned detox to anyone their immediate reaction was, “I could never do that!

I get it. I had the same sentiment six months ago when my functional medicine doctor told me I needed to give up sugar, flour, wheat, pasta, and essentially everything I relied on to get me through the day.

Admittedly, I went kicking and screaming into this new world order. But as I started to experience the benefits of adopting these guidelines and read the science behind it, I became convinced this was a better strategy than continuing on my current course, which left me feeling fat and fuzzy.

In my effort to sustain this new way of eating, I initially allowed myself some leeway to eat a few of the “forbidden foods ” without guilt or judgment. My results were good but I was not making the great strides in svelteness I had been lead to believe I could achieve.

In their fabulous book, It Starts With Food, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig explain it like this. Imagine you are allergic to cats and have 9 of them in your house. If you find a new, loving home for 7 of them but still keep 2, you’ll still experience an allergic reaction to cats.

When our bodies are unable to tolerate certain foods, we have to remove the usual suspects completely in order for the body to heal. They can be gradually re-introduced one at a time. But at the beginning, we have to eliminate all of them to pinpoint the culprits.

Usually when we think of food allergies we think of someone who can’t eat peanuts or shellfish or consume dairy products without causing immediate distress. But many of us have reactions to foods we aren’t even aware of. The top allergy producing foods are gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, and citrus.  Who knew?

Consuming these foods once in a while will probably not kill us. But consuming them on a daily basis and often times at every meal can keep us in a constant state of inflammation. We may think feeling bloated, experiencing indigestion, or feeling gassy, just comes with the territory. Or better yet, age.

I’m here to tell you it’s not normal. You can and deserve to feel great at any age.

Am I suggesting you run out and get tested for food allergies? No. But if you are curious, you can become your own detective.

This is where detox comes in. Now I am not suggesting you detox immediately.  In fact I wouldn’t suggest detoxing until you are completely prepared to do so and have medical or nutritional support people to oversee the process.

I had been working with my doctor for three months before I had the guts to detox.  I also have a peer coach in my Dynamic Eating Psychology program who is a certified nutritionist and she cautioned me about the downside of detoxing if I was not prepared.

For 21 days I basically ate vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and poultry. Days 8-15 all animal products were eliminated. This forced me to discover all kinds of new veggies, hummus, and other exquisite foods that I had never acknowledged before. I also ate really interesting things for breakfast. (Peas, poultry, and pears, anyone?)

The result was I felt better, lighter, leaner, or more in tune with my body than I had in decades. Admittedly, a couple of days, I also felt hungrier than I’d felt in decades.

Bob’s perspective may have been different. Like the 30-day 500 Words a Day Blog-a-Thon in January, he’d probably say results varied depending on the degree of difficulty and amount of deprivation I was experiencing sticking to the plan. For the record, my meltdown happened on Day 9.

In the next series of posts I’ll share with you one of the following Top 10 Take Aways from 21 Days of Detox. Because they each deserve their own blog post, I’ll be serving them to you in bite-sized, digestible portions over the next couple of weeks. For now, I’ll leave you with a sneak peek:

1. Freedom through discipline

2. Eat high quality foods.

3. Less is more.

4. Trust the process.

5. The way out is through.

6. Your body talks. Your job is to listen.

7. Hunger happens.

8. Sleep solves most problems.

9. Invoke the sacred. Accept grace. Give gratitude.

10. You are what you eat. (All we are saying is give peas a chance.)