Adding some FLAVOR!!!

Adding some FLAVOR!!!

For those who get to experience a Zumba class with Ingrid, in addition to having some of the most FUN condensed in an hour, at some point the orders “Add some FLAVOR!!!!” will be heard, loud and clear.  Here’s how it works:  As she begins her instruction of a new routine, the basic steps are presented to give you a foundation for the choreography.  As the moves repeat and all become a little more comfortable with the steps, she encourages everyone to add a little something special, a little style, a little extra that comes just from you.  To continue with last week’s V-Tip, let’s use that concept to help SPICE up your routine, introduce you to new things and always be uniquely YOU to help keep your momentum going STRONG!

Fitness:  Just as in Ingrid’s classes, once the steps are learned, you already know what you’re “supposed” to do and to help you keep going she makes it fun, she changes it up and sometimes she reminds you to add your own “special something”.  Applying this to your entire fitness regimen, in my opinion, is the best way to maintain an active lifestyle.  Always, always, always be willing to try something new!  You never know what new exercise, sport or activity will generate that FUN factor inside of you.  Let your goal be to see how much fun you CAN have while working out and let the activity cater to you and your personality.  Always wanted to try kick-boxing or pilates but not interested in the pressure of a class?  Check out a few different workout videos and try it out solo.  Prefer a more social atmosphere?  There are almost always new student specials at different studios, gyms or fitness clubs and if you’re already active somewhere, see what other classes they have available—you might be surprised!  As you try new things, the activities that allow you to bring about that something special inside that makes you feel HAPPY, feel ENERGIZED and feel STRONG or whatever else you need to feel like you’re celebrating YOU will be that flavor that keeps you going and keeps you active!

Nutrition:  Speaking of something you already know you’re “supposed” to do!  You’ve learned some tips to help with portion control (like cutting your usual portions in half to save for later) and you know some basics in improving the quality of your food (like cutting out the unnecessary JUNK such as the only thing on the menu at fast food joints!) but really, why stop there??  The main reason to not stop there is because your body will adjust to the changes and you can get tired of snacking on carrots and thinking “healthy” food is never going to be tasty food.  Now, if you’re still eating the same portions as before and you’re still stopping through the drive-thu for any meal of the day, don’t expect any changes right away—at least any significant changes until you can start taking those necessary steps.  Once you have those basics down, however, don’t let yourself get bored either!

I’ll say it again: food is nourishing, it should taste good and be enjoyable and satisfying to you.  The first step in adding flavor (literally in this case!) is to keep trying something NEW and keep finding things that work best for YOU.  You don’t know what you’ll end up enjoying if you don’t try.  Does heart disease or high blood pressure run in your family?  If so, you may have been advised to cut back on red meat or meat in general.  Think a vegetarian diet or food without heavy, greasy meat isn’t tasty?  Just TRY it out and learn a few things from the wonderfully talented catering duo Señor Veggie!  Talk about some AMAZING dishes that are not just HEALTHY and free of animal products (and therefore animal fats and byproducts) but they are full of FLAVOR and are absolutely DELICIOUS!  Other wonderful local options to explore are Green Vegetarian Cuisine or Vegeria Vegan Restaurant.  You’ll be surprised at the options out there and what you might end up loving!  Don’t let yourself get bored when it comes to healthy eating.  The satisfaction of food that is clean and whole and natural but prepared well with PLENTY of flavor, not to mention love, can generate the same mouth-watering craving as a Big Mac used to but never will again!

Attitude:  I’m always going to address attitude because it makes the biggest difference in everything you do or ever try to do, even when it comes to that something special that makes things your own.  Adding flavor to your attitude is more about preserving that uniqueness that’s inside of you but modifying it so only the genuine truth comes out:  Not what you hate but rather would you could love.  Again, without judgment, I’ll say that it can be natural to always pay attention to and bring up the negative that we think, feel or see.  It’s just not an effective approach to staying motivated and it doesn’t help you in your efforts.  It may be true that you don’t like this activity or that type of food or this number on the scale or the way that move feels, etc.  I implore you to quietly acknowledge the initial thought or feeling as necessary to bring about awareness to that fact, but instead voice the opposite and use words that encourage rather than discourage.

If you don’t like an activity or type of food, think about a part of the activity or food you DO like or consider one you like better and think about why and what makes the other one more enjoyable to you.  If you have to say something out loud in anyway, share the positive instead.  Be aware of the words you use and think about the kind of attitude it takes to say something in a negative way versus a positive way.  Pay attention to what the words feel like and choose positive, hopeful, kind, generous and encouraging words especially if you’re going to share it with others.  Think about the attitude it generates after saying it out loud and whether or not that is the kind of energy you want within and around you.

Writing these tips every week has been a constant and humble reminder of how I, myself, choose to live my life.  I write each week with such passion and care for everyone I may be able to inspire but trust me, I don’t stop there.  Throughout my day, I do find myself struggle from time to time.  I hear myself begin a thought that I just advised against and I have to say to myself “No, I don’t need to think/say/do that… I wouldn’t want others to say that to themselves or not try this or express that.”  Whether it’s in my physical activity, the way I try to eat most of the time or the way I feel when I look in the mirror, every day I’m working on my attitude because I’m on this journey alongside of you.  We’re all learning together, on our own paths and at our own levels.  There is no judgment, only hope, love and encouragement.  Let’s add some flavor to this life we have and make it our own.

Love,

V

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Break Through Your Plateau!

Break Through Your Plateau!

Plateaus.  Whether it be within your weight-loss, fitness goals or general personal growth that you find your progress suddenly leveling off, first and foremost remember that it’s a perfectly normal phenomenon.  As always, you’re not alone AND you’re not doing anything wrong!  Quite the opposite in fact—you’ve been working hard, attempting to do all the “right” things to improve your health, increase your strength or speed, etc., and your body, your self, is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do—adapt.  The key to progress is in the challenges so all this phase is telling you is that it’s time to change it up!  Here are just a handful of questions to ask yourself as you evaluate your own plateau.  Consider where you are, be HONEST with yourself and plan out how and when YOU need to start stepping it up again.

1)       Where’s my head??  The same attitude that can hinder the start of a health regimen can also creep back in during this difficult period and, believe me, it can be a slippery slope backwards from there if you’re not careful!  I experienced my first weight-loss plateau after finally falling just below 170 lbs.  Coming from over 210 lbs, it was so exciting to get there but just as easy to start beating myself up again!  All those negative thoughts started coming back: “Ugh, look at this/these [insert annoying body part(s) here]” or (while yelling at the scale) “What?!?  STILL [XX] lbs???”  The first 20-40 lbs or so (depending on how much you actually need to lose) is always going to be the easiest.  It’s the last 5, 10 or 20 lbs. that can be the real pain!!  So now that your body is telling you it’s time for something new, you still need to have the right mindset to keep going.  Be proud of how far you’ve come and recognize the work that you have done.  Rather than beat yourself up for stalling, try a visual.  Take a picture of yourself from the past and put it up on the mirror or anywhere you’ll see it daily and put it right next to a current picture to remind yourself of how far you’ve come.  Write the year of each or even label the old one The Past and the current one The Present and appreciate that gift you’ve given to yourself.  When you’ve let go of those old thoughts again, start looking forward and take the next step up.  Put up a picture of the bikini you plan to rock next summer or an outfit you really want to get into and if you did that when you first started this journey change up the photos, the mantras or the self-talk.  You’re a different person now even from when you started.  You’re creating new habits and as your body and overall self adjust to the new you, so should you adjust your mind to keep the challenges and motivations fresh and according to where you are NOW.  Let go of the old you and keep looking towards the NEW you.  Sound familiar??

2)      Where can I push a little harder??  Remember, it took time and consistency to get where you were originally.  Once you started to change up your personal growth, diet, eating and/or exercise habits your body and self adjusted to the new lifestyle burning up the fat and building the muscle, etc.  Now that your progress is beginning to stall take a look at everything you actually do on a daily basis.  If your goal is with self-development, are you just saying the words but not really following through with your actions anymore?  If you’ve planned to meditate maybe it’s time to actually start.  If you’ve started, maybe you can increase your time.  If your goal is in fitness, could you stand to attempt to increase your weights or move at a faster pace?  Or even the opposite—do you increase too much or too fast or do you not rest enough?  (A primary sign of this would be injury, yet another topic of which I’m all too familiar and one we’ll discuss more another time!)  And again, if it’s weight-loss that you’re working on, how much activity do you actually do or how can you adjust your nutrition habits even more?  If your week is full of activity and you’re resting well, maybe it’s time to look at exactly how you eat by starting a food journal.  Or if you’re eating really well, maybe it’s time to start or step up the activity.  Either way, your body is telling you it can stand to do more of something—it’s up to you to figure out what that “something” is and start adjusting your habits accordingly.

3)      What is it that I really need?  I mentioned that I reached my “first” weight-loss plateau when I hit just below 170 lbs and I’ve been where I am now for the last 5 years or so.  My body composition has changed a GREAT deal within the last 5 years thanks to the strength and flexibility gained in my yoga practice primarily at Southtown Yoga Loft and especially with the strength and conditioning classes I take at Octane.  Now, even though I never expected to reach a size 4 or 140 lbs, I could still consider myself at a 5-year plateau because my belly still has a little pooch or my arms and thighs aren’t model-sleek or all the books say that for my height of 5’5” my ideal weight is closer to 130 lbs.  I personally struggle with the idea of trying to lose an additional 5-10 lbs from time to time, but I’ve found that the bottom line for me has been this:  I would not trade any bit of the muscle and strength I have developed to lose even one pound at ALL.  For me, it’s strength and ability and personal power—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—that truly matter to me because I believe these are the necessities for optimal health and wellness.  I know exactly what I could do to drop a few more pounds:  increase my low-impact cardio, cut sugar out completely, skip alcohol on the weekends, but I don’t feel the need right now and I REALLY enjoy my life.  This is where I currently find my balance and it’s up to me to accept it, little belly and all!

It is only within the last month, after beginning this blog, that I’ve been most honest with myself just as I ask all of you to do—I just don’t want to ask anything of anyone that I’m not willing to do myself.  So just a few weeks ago I tucked the scale away and have let go of the idea of a “perfect number.”  I’m no longer weighing myself, I’m learning myself.  How does this activity or lack of activity feel?  How does my body really react to this type of food or that meal?   Do my clothes still fit well and the way I know they’re supposed to fit?  Am I emotionally fulfilled in this situation or with that experience?  This is what works for me right now.  In the same way, determine what truly matters to you and map it out.  Deep down you know if you’re doing your best or if there’s still more that you truly need for yourself.

This is YOUR journey and we’re all at different levels and different stages with different goals.  With honesty, an attempt to find balance and by always doing your best, the phase of the plateau will also become a period to look back on…the picture of who you are now can replace the other if that’s what you need.  See yourself moving it over and writing out a new label because it can also, one day, be The Past.

Love,

V

Small Changes to Reach Long-Term Goals

Small Changes to Reach Long-Term Goals

One of my favorite tips when it comes to reaching goals of any sort is to stick to changes that are so small you hardly notice the adjustment—especially when you’re reaching for big results such as in your overall lifestyle.  The only way to create lifestyle changes is with long-term consistency and if your changes are too big or too extreme from your current day-to-day routine the likelihood of sticking to them, not to mention your success rate, will be much lower and much more frustrating, too!

Think about it—when you look at where you are now, whatever the case may be, your current fitness level, eating habits, size, weight, attitude, etc., have developed over time.  Even if you didn’t notice it happen along the way, it took consistency to get you where you are today.  That momentum can just as easily be redirected towards healthy living and for some of us the key is subtlety so it feels less like work and before you know it, the new habits are part of your every day.  Depending on your goals and where you are now, try a new approach from below and see what works for you:

Fitness:  I see people try to go “Zero to 60” all the time and it’s no surprise that the burnout happens just as quickly.  Rather than try to go straight from the couch to INSANITY, try something much more subtle for your level of fitness.  If you are currently sedentary try adding 10-15 minutes on a treadmill, taking a walk or a much milder workout video to your day.

When I went from the couch to introducing activity, the first video I tried was a Pilates workout that I barely got through the first time.  I could only complete 15 minutes of the 45 minute video before I felt like I had to stop but that only lasted the first week.  By the second week of trying it daily I could feel my muscles just a tiny bit stronger and my breathing felt a little bit easier, too.  That improvement I felt really motivated me to do more which is another key to consistency as well as last week’s tip!

That was over six years ago for me and, trust me, every time I added something new, increased my time or pushed a little harder it was at a pace that was just enough to know I was working but not too much that I couldn’t MAINTAIN it.  Whenever I try something new and my immediate reaction is negative in any way (such as thinking “THIS SUCKS!” or “this is too hard” or “I don’t like this”) I instantly pull back, evaluate myself and the situation and do what I can.

Sometimes it’s the workout itself that just isn’t fun for me and I decide I’d rather workout a different way so it’s about trying lots of different things to find what you enjoy.  Other times it’s just introducing your muscles to new challenges and if you can’t handle the plank or push-ups or hour-long cardio, etc., do what you can, breathe through it and know that next time, you WILL be able to hold it a few seconds more, get one more repetition in or handle the activity longer IF you keep trying!  You can’t expect your muscles to suddenly hold you up and keep you going overnight if you haven’t given them a chance to build up over time!

Nutrition:  I’m SO proud of all of the ladies I’ve spoken to who are already making great strides in changing their eating habits which can be the hardest types of changes for many of us.  A good thing to remember about nutrition above all is that it will always be something we have to work on regardless of your level of health so don’t be discouraged if your habits sway from time to time.  Because food is a necessity for our survival and yet has such a cultural, social and emotional aspect to it as well, the challenges can seem never-ending.  But by constantly making small adjustments towards healthy choices the majority of the time it will be enough for you to start seeing (and feeling!) results.

For me, polishing off entire “meals” at chain restaurants or with fast food junk was a norm only ten years ago but that took YEARS of practice to get there, too!  First, slowly cutting back on portions and then adjusting the quality of food on a daily basis took about a year of consistency before my body adopted the need for cleaner, lighter, more natural food.  Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy an occasional indulgence, it just means that I can detect the non-necessities in different foods such as excessive fats, salt and sugar much faster than I could before and I just avoid them most of the time.

Attitude:  We’re all guilty of spending more of our time and energy than necessary on negative attitudes, judgments and excuses but there’s no time like the present to start adjusting those thoughts.  No one expects you to suddenly become super-positive-overly-optimistic-happy-go-lucky especially if you’ve been in the habit of easily picking out and voicing the negative in every situation for years.

There’s no judgment here, but this is what I truly believe:  No matter what you’re trying to change in you and in your life, if you’re attitude going in is already based on how much you hate exercise or hate vegetables or hate giving up certain foods, or hate ANYTHING including what you’re about to do, you’ve pretty much already set yourself up for FAILURE.  Don’t expect to succeed if you can’t even imagine success before you start.  I’m even inclined to say don’t even start a new health regimen until you can get your head in the right place because no matter what you accomplish during that time, it’s doubtful you’ll be able to maintain it in the long-run.

So start small.  Listen to your language and the words that you use especially when you’re upset or in a stressful situation.  Exercise is essentially stress on the body and changing habits as ingrained as the way we eat can be mentally and emotionally stressful.  Once you’re in the habit of being aware that you’re saying something that isn’t encouraging, supportive or kind, quiet yourself.  Then start to change your approach.  If you can’t think of anything kind just stay quiet and breathe.  Then, when you allow yourself to be more creative come up with a mantra that motivates you and say it to yourself whenever you struggle:  “I AM STRONGER THAN EVER!” or “JUST ONE MORE REP!” or “I’M WORTH IT!” or “I CAN DO THIS!” can all represent the attitude that WILL keep you going.