What’s Your Motivation?

What’s Your Motivation?

During my first presentation regarding weight loss and healthy living, I requested that attendees share with me their primary challenges as well as their overall wellness goals.  This allowed us to talk about the different factors that can disrupt an attempt at healthy living (such as loving to eat or having a sweet-tooth) and focus on the big picture goals that most everyone listed (such as losing weight and dropping their clothing size).  Today, I want to talk about the foundation that lies beneath both of those factors in healthy living which is your own personal motivation.  Being truthful with yourself and conscious about what motivates you every day is what I believe will help you get past the inability to start a health regimen so that it becomes a lifestyle that you truly adopt for life.

I have shared with you all my experience regarding health in bits and pieces but I have yet to emphasize why I am so passionate which, beneath all of my day to day advice and suggestions, respectfully has a constant presence in my heart.

mommy & daddy

I was barely a teenager and the first memory I have regarding health was seeing my dad struggle with his weight.  I don’t know why that stands out as my earliest memories because it wasn’t as I do recall visits to and from hospitals for my mom and my grandmother much earlier than that.  I think the strength of the memories have more to do with how much I felt him struggle with it.  For someone who was always so strong, always putting us—his family—first, I felt sad for him.  It seemed so hard for him to start measuring his food and going for walks.  I saw him really try to make some changes and I even tried to join him occasionally but I didn’t understand what it all meant.  He seemed so miserable.  Why was he doing it if it was so hard?  It wasn’t long after this period of his life that he really fell ill and it was all slowly revealed to me in time.

I didn’t fully understand until later that my dad was a type 2 diabetic and what that meant.  Along with his high cholesterol and high blood pressure, his sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition and overeating had developed a disease that is fully preventable, even reversible, but his attempts were too little, too late.  And by the year he turned 54, he had also developed pancreatic cancer, taking him away from us only 22 days after the tumor was originally found.  Many will isolate the diseases as if they have nothing to do with the other.  The bottom line for me, however, from what I saw as a teenager is that it set the stage for a personal, concrete belief that we have full control over our quality of life, at the very least, regardless of how long we have during this lifetime.

It took me several years to come to terms with what happened to him and why.  When I did and finally stepped back to look at myself and embrace the passion the experience granted me, it became my personal motivation to just start taking care of myself, to feel good every day and to enjoy life as much as I possibly can.  I do not want to suffer through changes nor do I want to see anyone else suffer if it can at all be prevented.

What I hope to inspire most is an ability to find joy in the lifestyle changes I’m encouraging as I am personally motivated by my father’s memory.  Whatever your challenges, whatever your goals, I hope you find the underlying motivations that generate a genuine passion for your life.  Whether it be fulfilling a dream of athletic ability, being around long enough to see and truly enjoy your children and grandchildren, being as healthy as possible to prevent disease or to simply feel better every day—may you find your own personal joy in health and may it always keep you going.

Build Strength with Rest and Recovery

Build Strength with Rest and Recovery

There’s a very important aspect to overall health that doesn’t get as much attention as regular exercise and good nutrition but is just as important for our overall well-being:  Rest & Recovery.  As I visit with everyone from fellow athletes, students in a variety of exercise classes and trainers in the field of fitness, I can totally relate to the occasional oversight of this necessity.  I understand the enthusiasm we can feel when we go hard and go strong but the stress we cause on our bodies with exercise must be balanced out with proper rest in order to recover so we truly CAN get stronger.

The basic thing to remember is that the work we do when we train with any type of fitness regimen is that the muscles in our bodies are actually having to break down during that process.  Imagine the next time you’re in Zumba, lifting weights in your conditioning class, holding planks in yoga or running to train for your next race—the fibers in your muscles that you feel working for you and getting tired are actually pulling apart and breaking down while you exercise.  It’s not until you allow your body to rest that your muscle fibers actually have a chance to rebuild and become even stronger than before your workout which is why the same exercise will eventually get easier with regular cycles of breakdown and repair.

Some of you already know your trainer in class will encourage you to power through a workout (paying close attention to proper form for a safe challenge as opposed to feeling pain) but what happens after class or even a week or so of really hard training?  According to Jason Benavides, Owner and Head Coach of Octane Athletic Performance, there should be a steady build up of exercise in intensity accompanied by enough rest such as at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night to allow your body to properly recover.  Jason encourages all of his clients and training staff to rest properly because after 4-5 weeks of exercise without rest you eventually run your body into the ground.  This, of course, opens yourself up to injury and exhaustion from which it could take days, weeks or even months to fully recover.

I think about this issue mostly when I see those who try to go “zero to 60” when first attempting to lose weight or reach goals that seem or feel a bit out of reach.  They push really hard in class, never miss a day, constantly try to add extra weights before they’re ready, never allow their body to build back up between workouts and then suddenly find themselves hurt, injured or simply burned out!  I speak from experience, as always, and after a shoulder injury (due to overuse) that prevented me from practicing yoga to my level of practice for several months, I committed myself to not allow anything to stop me from the activities I love again.  I’ve even seen the burnout happen to those who only attempt to start a workout regimen for a few days trying to go straight from the couch to hardcore training!  They just can’t sustain it, they’re not ready for the intensity and rather than easing back they stop completely which is NOT the same as “resting to recover”.

Proper sleep every night is important but having a “recovery day” does not necessarily mean “do nothing”.  Learn what feels right to you but lighter activity such as a swim, an easy walk, gardening, a casual bike ride or a night out dancing can all qualify as a restful recovery day depending on how easy you go and given that your body isn’t telling you it needs more rest than that.  Be smart in your classes and know how and when you need to ease up with lighter weights or slow down your pace rather than avoid class completely.  Maintain that body awareness and learn what your body needs so you can rest as necessary, challenge yourself whenever you can, eat when you need to eat and, again, REST when you need to REST.  Remember that it’s the right balance and consistent cycles of Physical Activity, Proper Nutrition and Rest & Recovery that allows you to improve and maintain your fitness as well as manage a healthy lifestyle.

Attitude is Everything

Attitude is Everything

It’s so exciting to see and hear everyone’s enthusiasm as they all make such amazing strides to reach their goals!  Every day between posts, I am constantly listening to and observing some amazing journeys which inspire each of these write-ups every week so here goes!

The path to wellness is so much more than just a physical journey for all of us.  Even for those who coach, counsel, instruct and guide, we are always working on the right state of mind as we approach not just our own challenges but our day-to-day choices in life.  The key to maintaining the momentum in the direction towards health will always begin with our mindset, our attitudes and most simply in the words that we use.

Having the right attitude in every situation is always going to be essential for success but especially for those who are starting to experience a lull in your weight loss.  I plan to have a separate post completely dedicated to “weight loss plateaus” but today I want to address the biggest challenge, in my opinion, that can keep anyone from breaking through those initial 20-40 lbs so you can KEEP THAT MOMENTUM GOING!  Keep the following in mind the next time you notice yourself think, speak or act in a way that will not help along your progress and ADJUST it!

  1. “Get your mind right!”  As some may know, this is one of Ingrid’s favorite sayings that motivates us where we train at Octane Athletic Performance.  Remembering that you choose a healthier you every time you even plan to go to class, then get dressed for it, drive to it, warm-up, dance to every song or do every exercise, cool-down, rehydrate and refuel and then rest to recover.  All of that is YOU.  You put in the work, you take the advice, you put in the energy and you make that happen.  Be proud of yourself and your progress!  Don’t allow any “yeah, buts…” in your mind or your conversations:  Yeah, but I still have xx lbs to go, or xx sizes to dropit doesn’t matter!  You’re doing the work now!  You’re closer than you were before and every day you make these choices you get closer still!  Yeah, but this exercise is too hard for me, I can’t do itit only is if you THINK it is!  We all have to start somewhere—only with consistency do we gain strength and improve fitness.  Slow down, maintain your form and adjust as necessary but DON’T STOP trying!  I still remember my very first class with Ingrid almost two years ago and I thought I was going to PASS OUT!!  I was terrified!!!  Do you remember YOUR first intense training class, attempt at new exercises or a new workout???  And if you’ve kept it up, look at you now…amazing!!!
  2. Don’t waste your time on negative assessments of choices you’ve already made!!!  I know I’ve said this before, in posts and in person, and I’m saying it again:  Be KIND to yourself.  Love yourself, love your body and accept yourself!  There’s no need to spend time saying that you ate something “bad” for you.  Eating is a necessity, it’s nourishing and it fuels your body so if you physically feel bad after eating something,  your body is telling you it doesn’t like that food anymore, it doesn’t want that food anymore or it was given too much of something it didn’t need.  Take those lessons inward, evaluate what you could have done differently and then be conscious of your choices next time based on what you learned so you have a better experience.  If you think it was “bad” for you but you enjoyed it, focus on the fact that you enjoyed it, it was not an everyday, every meal indulgence and then let it go.  Don’t waste your energy on any negativity.  It has no benefit to you or anyone else and our thoughts and words are much more powerful than we sometimes realize.

I share this post with so much love because you know I was there with you at one point in time and even to this day, I still have to work on evaluating myself with less criticism and more appreciation.  Our bodies are incredibly adaptable and it’s up to us to give it the tools to do what it’s supposed to do.  With the right attitude and mindset we can always practice adjusting our thoughts and our words to help us along and soon most of those bad habits will be left completely in the past, right along with the “old you”.

Hunger Awareness to Burn That Fuel!

Hunger Awareness to Burn That Fuel!

A common theme that comes up when we talk about the challenges with our eating habits tend to include the following statements:  “I love to eat so I eat all the time,” “ I don’t know how to stop eating once I start,” and even “I hardly eat because I’m never hungry.”

Although it may not seem like it, all of these statements represent the same primary issue:  a lack of body and hunger awareness.  Without this awareness, we can’t recognize our body’s nutritional needs which leads to overcompensating when we do eat or under eating which can BOTH increase fat and LOWER your metabolism!  Don’t worry, it really is common for all of us but here are a few simple things to remember to help us turn things around:

1)      Food provides our body with FUEL and it will always be something we need so it should be enjoyed, respected and appreciated.  The higher the quality and the nutrition content, the less you have to worry about “stopping once you start,” etc.  But if you’re still working on quality, learn your body’s signals for true hunger and always try to eat accordingly.

2)     On a “Hunger Scale” from 1 to 10—“1” being absolutely starving and “10” being painfully full—your goal should be to never let yourself reach either extreme nor should you eat when you aren’t hungry at all like at a “5”.  Eating when you’re at a level of “1” or “2” will almost always lead to over-eating.  And then once you start, eating past the point of feeling satisfied, say at an “8” or “9”, is just giving your body more than it needs.  Both of these habits, again, lead to added pounds.

3)     Knowing that your body needs fuel to function properly, consider that the concept of true hunger is your metabolism working to burn that fuel.  There’s a reason that we feel hungry after physical activity—our body’s engine is running and needs energy to keep going.  Without feeding it properly, your metabolism will slow down as if in a state of starvation AND it will eventually start taking whatever nutrients it needs from your muscles or bones or anywhere else it can find it.

The body has an amazing ability to adjust to its environment so it’s up to you to give it what it needs and create healthier habits with the right mindset.  Turn your body’s natural state of functioning around by learning what each signal means and keep that Hunger Scale in mind.  Eat when you drop down to a “3-4” but no less (usually about 3-4 hours after your last meal) and then stop when you reach “6-7” (eat slowly and identify whether the next bite is something you really need or something you just want because it’s there).  It’s going to feel different for everyone but you will get the hang of it with practice.  Finally, don’t be afraid of hunger, or rather, encourage your body to function properly—give your body what it needs when it needs it and keep that metabolism BURNING!!!

Cutting Out the Junk

Cutting Out the Junk

I’ve had a number of people ask about *Junk Food* and what to do about handling such an addiction of sorts.  We all face this challenge whether it’s soda, fast food, sweets or anything that you “love” that doesn’t fall under the category of Healthy & Nutritious 😉  In order to help manage this, here are some things to keep in mind and help minimize yet satisfy some of those cravings:

No one has said you need to eliminate anything out 100% completely.  In my first tip last week I mentioned “working towards cutting out the junk.”  I’m not sure how many of you caught that but the idea of making the attempt rather than cutting it out entirely does 2 things:  First, it allows your body to get used to LESS of the junk so you eventually crave it less AND it avoids any feelings of deprivation which will only make you want it more.  Eat a whole candy bar after lunch?  Take one or two bites and then put the rest away. Still think you need something sweet after waiting 5 minutes?  Drink a glass of water or have some fruit until you don’t want anything any more.  Same with a can of soda or a bag of chips–aim for at least half of the portion you used to eat and your body and taste buds will adjust to your new habits until one day it doesn’t even satisfy you like it used to.

Remember that we’re all human.  Food should be nutritious but also enjoyable! So another way to look at it is to try making food choices by using the 80/20 Rule.  If you consistently work at eating well and exercising at least 80% of the week, then you can afford a little treat 10-20% of the time but then get back on track!  Enjoy the moment that you indulge but don’t ever beat yourself up.  Remember everything we do is a choice, so if you choose a treat over working towards your goals accept it all at that moment and then move on.

The primary goals I have for you is to help you LOVE YOURSELF and LOVE YOUR BODY so remember that when you think you love soda or junk or anything you don’t actually NEED, ask yourself–which do you really want to love more???

Low Calorie Diets???

Low Calorie Diets???

My best friend, Ingrid, has a fitness group known as ME Time Fitness (or “TEAM INGRID!” depending on who you ask!).  The amazing energy and enthusiasm she creates motivates us all to make healthier life choices including (but not limited to)  regular physical activity, hydration and better nutrition.

Just last month I was able to do my first Health & Wellness Presentation for these wonderful ladies and it was such a joy!  As I personally opened up and shared my own story I then encouraged everyone to really use us both as resources for continued motivation and encouragement as they strive to reach their goals towards a healthy lifestyle.  The questions and personal challenges presented to me from this wonderful group are the primary source of the tips and suggestions I offer each week.

Remember, we’re all at different stages and our needs will evolve as our habits change so stay patient through the struggles.  The tips and advice will vary along with the people who open up to me so enjoy the variety of options shared and try them out to see which ones work best for you!

Health & Wellness Presentation for the ME Time Fitness Group with Ingrid Gatica-Lujan

Last Saturday a question was asked regarding eating out at restaurants and their “Low Calorie” meal options. To help everyone make better choices, here are the two main things to focus on whenever we eat out:

1) Learn to eat *nutritionally* rather than worry about calorie content.  You already know we NEED to eat fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains.  What we DON’T need are any saturated fats (fried foods, creamy sauces and dressings, etc.) and extra sugars (sweet drinks, sodas, etc.).  So aim for eating sources of protein, healthy carbs and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, seeds and nuts) while working towards cutting out the junk!

2) Watch your portion size.  Restaurants tend to serve portions that are actually 2-3 SERVINGS in a single entree and that’s NOT including appetizers, desserts and drinks!  Whenever you sit down to eat at a restaurant, consider putting half of it away in a to-go container before you start eating so you can enjoy the rest of it later or share a meal with someone else.  Your body will soon adjust to the smaller portions and YOU WILL eventually NOT be able to eat a full entree of anything like you used to!

Any questions?  Comments?  Feel free to share and we’ll continue to address all of your needs so we can discuss them as a group.  Remember, you’re not alone!  We’re all in this together!!

Just the beginning…

Just the beginning…

In March of 2009, I decided to write my story.  I began sharing it with various health magazines in the hopes of writing articles on healthy living.  Instead it led to an appearance in the September issue of Women’s Health Magazine that same year and then life went on.

I’m ready to continue what I started then:  sharing my story and life choices to help motivate, inspire and encourage others to make changes toward a better quality of life.  This is why I’m here.  Below is just the beginning of my story along with the images of who I used to be and all I used to see in me…

Vitals Vernette Vergara 30, San Antonio, TX 
Occupation Writer
Height 5’5″
Time Required to Reach Goal 1 year, 5 months
Lesson Learned  Utilize all of your resources for support–there are all sorts of websites, books and magazines to keep you motivated!  Constantly surrounding yourself with people with like-minded goals and healthy lifestyles can make all the difference in the world.
Secret Weapon  A positive attitude!  Nothing beats the kind of optimism you can provide yourself and making the choice every day to take care of YOU first is the first step at meeting and maintaining your goals!

Weight before 210 lbs
Weight after 140 lbs

I’ve always been a chunky kid.  Growing up I was taught to clean my plate and was rewarded with sweets for doing so.  I never shied away from trying new things so needless to say, I loved to eat! 

Growing up I accepted that I may always be a two digit size as I climbed to a size 14 by the 8th grade.  But by the time I finished college, I had ballooned up to 210 lbs and my clothing size was suddenly ranging 18-20 in 2004.  Trying on clothes would make me cry and shopping was so difficult but it wasn’t the clothes I didn’t like, it was me.  With my unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyle, this over-sized version of myself was not difficult to accomplish.  If you’re not paying attention the reflection you see in the mirror can be truly shocking when you do see it.

V in 2004

For me, it was marrying and divorcing young that changed things around.  Being on my own, I had more time and focus to truly take care of myself and not continuously put others first.  I paid much more attention to the way I felt about the little things throughout the day and I realized that I didn’t feel great after bingeing on heavy foods or sugary sweets–I actually felt pretty awful afterwards!  So the first thing I did in 2007, was cut my portions in half.  I ate far less than I used to in one sitting and in just over 8 months I had dropped down to the 160 lbs!  This was a great way to drop the bulk of the weight because even though I was focused on not eating as much, I didn’t feel deprived because I was still eating all the things I loved.

That’s when I hit a plateau in early 2008 and I realized I had to do more if I wanted to keep up the momentum.  I decided to up the ante by choosing better quality foods while still controlling portion size and, of course, I began to exercise regularly, never knowing that I’d develop a love affair with such an active lifestyle!  I started out just doing Pilates videos at home and as I got stronger and more toned, I decided to do even more.  I began using the gym at my apartment complex, first just walking a few times a day until I got to the point where I could run…actually RUN!!  I was the kid in grade school who couldn’t even make a lap without heaving!  Soon after that I started to incorporate yoga with a personal instructor who has me doing a combination of power yoga and Pilates.  I also do weight training 3 times a week and on alternating days I do some sort of cardio, also 3 times a week which leaves one day off.  I never knew how much I LOVE being outdoors and living an active lifestyle!!

In less than a year and a half I made it to 140 lbs and am leaner and stronger than ever and gaining more and more lean muscle every week.  I never thought I’d be a size 4 but I am and I absolutely love it!  This has been a lifestyle change that has affected every part of my life in the most positive ways imaginable.  I have better focus and way more energy, I sleep better, I feel great, I have less health issues overall and I can do so many more physical things than I could ever do before.  I’m even able to keep up with the physically fit around me!  I’ve found and am happily in love with an athlete of my own and just living life together helps to keep both of us motivated.

 The best tips I have include:

  • Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want and eat them first!  I used to love sweets, but the more you eat healthier choices the more your body truly craves the good stuff.  You begin to want the taste of foods your body is used to eating.  It’s a cycle both ways so you have to be proactive at forcing the momentum in a positive and healthy direction.  The same goes for water, too!
  • Balance out your slips, don’t beat yourself up about it!  I don’t like the idea of depriving myself so I’ll allow a little bit of something here and there.  The way to balance it out, though, is to eat lighter the rest of the day and the next or commit to working out harder the day after.  You’re still human, you’re not a machine!
  • Stay positive!  This is an important lesson for LIFE, not just for fitness or weight-loss.  Speak truthfully and as you choose for things to be.  Rather than saying “I’ll never finish this lap, or fit into that dress” constantly remind yourself that you can finish this lap and you will fit into that dress.  When I was working out, my own mantra was always “I am stronger than ever!  I am stronger than ever!” and it always got me through a really tough workout.  This is one of those wonderful rules that applies to everything!
  • I also keep a life make-over journal that I use to keep track of all of my accomplishments, mantras, meditations, goals and whatever else I need to remind myself to keep moving forward.  It covers all areas of my life including fitness, nutrition, career, finance and overall personal development.  The positive energy you maintain feeds into other areas of your life so it’s a good idea to keep feeding it!