A Season of Gratitude

A Season of Gratitude

The month of November has had its very high ups and very low downs for me and my family over the last several years but this year in particular I feel as though I am finally able to embrace this season as one of genuine gratitude.  It is and always will be a work in progress but working towards gratitude has been much more fulfilling than I ever expected.  Many of my friends, all of whom are in different circles, have been sharing that which they are grateful for on a daily basis and it has been truly inspiring.  Let’s take a moment to explore all of the ways the attitude of gratitude can be our motivation to finish out another amazing year and continue throughout our years to come.

Embracing the Past:  Thanksgiving Day this year will fall on the date in which my family and I had to say goodbye to my dad as he moved on from our world.  It will be eighteen years since he passed and from that year on this season was never the same.  He was the glue that kept our family together and we suddenly had to figure it all out without him and without each other.  And then five years ago I met my husband and November changed.  His birthday, only days away from the anniversary, gave me something to celebrate again.  It became the center of my Thanksgiving Season and I found joy in preparing the feasts and participating in the festivities.

There will always be moments of darkness.  There will be sadness and pain, loneliness and heartache.  This year for me has been the true turning point, though.  Opening up to life and all that it has to offer includes embracing those moments just as much as the ones that fill us up with joy.  In fact, stepping back and not judging the darkness or pain as bad or negative at all has been my current practice which is certainly difficult but becomes easier with time.  You simply never know what’s around the corner, you never know who or what will rise above the ashes.  The heroes, the joy, the light, the laughter often reveal themselves to an unimaginable degree after periods of sorrow and we simply don’t have the foresight to see it ahead of time. 

My challenge to you (when you’re ready) is to join me in calling back those moments of sadness and heartache and take a breath to hold them close to your heart.  Love them for teaching you whatever strength, endurance, determination and values you learned, thank them for the experience that helped you grow……and then let…them…go.  It will not be easy, it may even be the hardest thing you ever do, and it will feel like a sharp and painful wound again…but I promise that with practice your tears will shift into tears of joy and your heart will find pure love through healing.

A Positive Outlook:  I’ve listened to the truths that many of us try to live by and then I hear the difficulty we sometimes have when we are not able to stick by them.  One truth that stands out to me as a belief that we all try to have but is often times difficult is that it’s essential to always think positively.  Easier said than done, right?  Well, maybe not if we turn our traditional approach around and practice with smaller steps rather than wait for the bigger events.

What often happens is that it’s easy to think positively, speak affirmations and celebrate joy when things are great but as soon as we’re challenged with a difficult period we feel, well, challenged.  It’s wonderful to appreciate the good, the great moments, the happiness when we feel it, but what about all of the smaller moments in between?  The smaller, unnoticed moments are the ones that can really use a shift.  Those are the moments that we forget about having a positive attitude and minor flashes of judgment, criticism, irritation and aggravation suddenly tip the scales without us realizing it.  Then we find that when a BIG pain in the rear, heart or head comes around we succumb to the external experience, the outside influence, and our ability to suddenly shift into a “positive attitude” or the “attitude of gratitude” is just too great to manage.

My challenge to you today is to join me in approaching the smaller moments in your every day with new thoughts when someone or something rocks you just the tiniest bit.  Remember, at this point the bigger more painful moments are not what I’m concerned about yet.  Besides, until you’re ready it will feel ridiculous to try and attempt suddenly shifting your thoughts.  Instead, throughout your regular day-to-day activities, when someone does something annoying as they often do and often will, try stepping back and considering that we’re all learning together, figuring things out in our own way and our own time, there is nothing to judge.  When you look in the mirror, step on the scale, or make an unhealthy choice, no matter what you’ve been doing up until this point, acknowledge the feeling and remind yourself I’m beautiful, I’m a good person, I’m doing the best I can, there is nothing to judge.  When something random and unpleasant happens to you, whatever it is, and your typical reaction is anger or frustration, assess the situation without emotion and breathe through it instead.  Tell yourself it’s just physical, it is external, it has no authority over me, there is nothing to judge.

We take for granted the little thoughts we have going through our head and heart throughout the day, not to mention the thoughts we share out loud or even bother to type out in a post, email or text.  One primary truth I try to live by is that our thoughts help develop our words which help develop our actions which help develop our reality which then result in the thoughts we carry around with us and the cycle continues on throughout infinity.  See how this new approach creates a more blissful type of balance throughout your day.  Consistency will make all the difference with everything you do and attitude is no different than any other activity we choose to practice.

The blessings of just this year have been incredibly overwhelming in the best possible ways for me and I am truly humbled.  I hope you choose to join those who are sharing 30 days of giving thanks to explore the potential of your own gratitude.  Whether it’s something you write in your journal, share with a friend or post for the world to see, it’s never too late for thanksgiving.

Love,

V

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Bring On the Holidays!

Bring On the Holidays!

We’re only a few weeks away from the Season of Eating and I’m beginning to hear the rumblings of those who already expect it to be a period of defeat!  As if our only option has been and always will be to succumb to the obligatory pressures of holiday parties and an overabundance of rich and decadent foods and libations which only result in one thing in regards to our healthy habits—FAILURE.  To translate this mentality, we work hard all year only to undo every bit of it for about 2-3 months and then start over again in the New Year.  I’m here to challenge all of us to turn this entire frame of mind around starting right now.  We have the opportunity to not only accomplish more than we ever have during this period of JOY but more importantly to set the stage for better habits in the future and even all year-long.

Now, before you stop reading don’t get me wrong.  I’m certainly not against the celebrations that accompany this beautiful time of year which we all know is really about Love, Generosity, Gratitude, Peace and Hope.  In fact, I encourage you to celebrate as much and as often as you can!  I’m simply not an advocate for deprivation and especially not so during the holidays when participation of (some) events is part of the joy that we share with one another.  My challenge for all of us (myself included!) is to incorporate the tips below to add to the festivities we choose to participate in from now and throughout the New Year celebrations.  This is such a special time for all of us for our own reasons, values and beliefs and I encourage, support and celebrate them all with you.  Let’s enjoy these next several weeks together and really get into the spirit of love and living well, for ourselves and each other.

Tip#1:  Avoid the NYR cycle and start a new fitness regimen now!  Don’t make the mistake of waiting for the New Year to set goals or begin a new activity, join a new gym, studio etc., etc.  Here’s what happens when you do:  If this is suddenly (or is typically) your New Year’s Resolution, you’re probably motivated by the guilt of whatever you did to yourself over the previous two months and are probably even carrying excess weight that you didn’t have on you before the holidays started.  These two factors already set yourself up for a more difficult time to make any progress and it will take you much longer to see any results.  Also, the NYR craze is the reason that the busiest time of year for any gym or studio is the first three months.  As a result, while you’re “trying” to develop new exercise habits for yourself, so is everyone else and now you also have to work around a crowded class or facility while probably feeling self-conscious about anyone noticing you.  Soon after you start your new routine, you begin to make one excuse after another to avoid the large groups of people and because you aren’t making the kind of progress you initially hoped for your resolution is suddenly in the past until it comes around again next January.  Am I right???

End the cycle now and commit to trying something new before the holidays instead of after.  First of all, you know full well to expect plenty of festivities so what better way to balance it out than to start an exercise regimen that helps to expend the additional intake?  Secondly, this is your BEST opportunity to develop new habits rather than trying to do so in the New Year when you’re typically trying to get back into your old routine.  We know these next several weeks will only uproot our usual weekly and weekend schedules.  Developing a new habit of physical activity now will not only help you manage the stress of the holidays, it will also be an easier adjustment because nothing will be a set routine for the next two months!  What better way to get your body used to something NEW that will help you feel better and help you manage all those extra calories we ALL want to enjoy???

Below are some of the best local spots in town to check out now or research new classes in your own area.  My challenge to you is to join me in trying at least one new fitness class at as many locations as possible before the end of this month AND (especially if you don’t go with a friend) commit to introducing yourself to as many people as you can including the instructor.  Ask questions and listen to testimonials.  Find out who loves it there and why!  I would be surprised if you didn’t get hooked on something new and it’s always so much easier and much more fun to get moving in a group where friendships develop which can be a great source of encouragement and accountability.

Tip#2: Turn every errand and casual get together into an opportunity to move!  Shopping for party supplies, heading to the grocery store, shopping for gifts at the mall or even meeting a friend for lunch—put on your walking shoes and wear clothes you can move in to find simple ways to burn a few extra calories.  I personally love to dress up and look cute whenever I can but it’s the holidays!  We have PLENTY of opportunities to dress up even if it means calling a friend to meet for dinner at a fancy new restaurant later in the evening.  I challenge you to make activities during the day part of your fat-burning schedule, whether you get an actual workout in or not!  It never hurts our bodies to move, that’s what they’re meant to do, so bring a friend to stay motivated and park in a safe place but as far away as you can, opt for stairs whenever possible and consider walking the perimeter of the entire shopping center, mall or store at a brisk pace before you begin to stop and actually shop—consider it window-shopping the sales before you commit to the buy and have fun getting that heart rate up!

Tip#3: Indulge mindfully.  Don’t over think things this year.  Learn to follow your instincts and if something beautiful and decadent calls you to try it, do so!  But I challenge you to keep the following in mind when you do.  You’ll never have to deprive yourself of anything and you’ll keep that extra fat and those empty calories in check.

1.    Only indulge in late-night eating and special holiday treats during social gatherings, parties and festivities.  The pressure is too great when you’re hosting get-togethers or out with friends and family.  Allow yourself that time to join in but when you’re at home on a regular night, commit to avoid those extra goodies and stop eating anything by 7pm.  This is something I’ve started doing recently and I’ve already noticed a difference in how I feel in the morning and overall.  You’ll have plenty of opportunities to indulge these next two months and many of them will last well into the night.  Save those extra calories for when you have a good excuse to really enjoy them!

2.    When you do choose to indulge, commit to eating no more than half a serving and then put it down.  Again, you’re going to have PLENTY of opportunities to treat yourself.  Think of how many options you’re going to be presented with at every gathering!  I don’t plan on saying “no” to anything that I’m really interested in trying myself, so let’s commit to keeping the quantity of our excess in check.  I challenge you to plan ahead and see if anyone is willing to split something with you or simply take half portions of everything.  Additionally, always wait at least 30-45 minutes after your last bite before going back for seconds of anything except for water.  Again, you’re not denying yourself anything so you shouldn’t feel deprived.  In fact, you’ll have a better chance of enjoying your night because you shouldn’t feel overly full which is absolutely unnecessary and quite unpleasant.

3.    Get an extra workout in the day after a night out.  This tip speaks for itself.  Don’t let the previous day’s extra calories just sit there.  I challenge you to commit to taking a class, workout using a video or at the very least go for a walk in your neighborhood.  You’ll certainly feel better physically and I guarantee you’ll feel better about yourself overall.

I’m so excited about this holiday season because of my new journey to help others incorporate the joys of healthy living.  The opportunities we have to celebrate are endless if we choose to embrace them and that’s what I hope to inspire.  If there’s anything the holidays can encourage us to do, it’s to learn to live with gratitude and I’m here to continue to motivate us all along the way.  I hope you’ll join me.

Love,

V

Moving Beyond the Words

Moving Beyond the Words

Over the last several months, we’ve learned so many new ideas, tips, methods and even attitudes we can all use towards living a healthier life and reaching our personal goals.  It’s been encouraging to hear so many who sound really motivated and are definitely talking the talk.  There are daily declarations of living life with a positive attitude, letting go of the negative, excitement about working out and working hard and there’s certainly an eagerness to improve one’s health.  What we need to address now is how to turn those words into actions so we can actually start to move forward and see some results.  Take a moment to really ask yourself the questions below.  With honesty and determination we can truly start moving beyond the words and start walking the walk together.

Am I really ready for a change?  We all know what we’re “supposed” to do.  The basics have been said over and over, the foundation for a healthy life has been laid out for us and there are a million different strategies, techniques and health programs that claim to be the answer.  I’ve given my ideas on how one can figure out what works best for each person but the more I hear and see the choices people make and in the same day say they want to make a change, I understand more and more it all comes down to our true motivation and what’s really guiding us along the way.

We already know we don’t need junk food, fast food, sugary drinks, saturated fats, heavy sweets, etc.  Personally, I know that when I indulge in any of these foods for whatever reason, I tend to feel pretty awful afterwards.  Past any enjoyment at first taste, if I overdo it, once it goes down I eventually become lethargic, moody and unmotivated to exercise.  If, however, I still believed that any of the above was an overwhelming source of pleasure, an overall positive experience or a necessity to feel satisfied, I would say I was NOT ready for a change at all.  The contradiction is too great.  If something still makes you feel that good and you still value that temporary indulgence over your own overall health or long-term view of your own self-worth, it’s pretty difficult to suddenly start to cut any of it out.  The same goes for not exercising when you know you should.  If you haven’t found something you really enjoy moving to or your concept of an exercise isn’t intrinsically positive, how do you expect to really maintain or even begin any activity?

The difference from where I was when I shifted my life compared to others who can’t seem to find that first step, is that I had given up the idea of a magic number or the concept of “I’ll be happy when…” and just decided I want to FEEL better now, I want to feel good about myself now and I want to be healthy now.  If your motivation is still external and your choices still contradict your words, your attempt to make a change is going to be that much more difficult.  Be honest with yourself before you try to do anything new and when you know you really are ready then start thinking about the first step that’s right for you.

Where should I begin?  Now that you’ve found an internal motivation, it’s time to take a good look at your surroundings.  Your day-to-day relationships, family, work and social life will speak volumes when it comes to how you make your decisions and this is going to be just as tough, if not the toughest step, in making any changes.

I’ve put off discussing this challenge until now because my method was not intentional and not one many can adopt but it is such a huge issue for everyone that it has to be addressed.  With my initial shift in lifestyle, I found myself in a situation where my only family was over 200 miles away and living completely alone in this stage of my life allowed me the opportunity to choose to live however I wanted to live.  I had no one to answer to but myself.  Not eating out often and beginning to exercise was easy with no one to answer to or question me.  Simply put, if you are ready for a change and you value that lifestyle of healthy living, it is a choice you have to make for you and possibly your family and healthy alternatives will just have to become a regular necessity for everyone.

I have been on average the same weight for the past 5 years and one desk job I found myself in a few years ago had an atmosphere of ordering in food as an office on a regular basis.  By that time, I had developed a habit of not eating out much at all but this was on the expense of our employer so why wouldn’t I join in on free lunches and occasional breakfast tacos?  What I found for me was that even if I chose salads, the leanest meals possible and ate only half of my order EVERY single time it was STILL a sudden struggle to keep my weight in check!  The bottom line is that no restaurant out there prepares food the way that I do for me and without being able to control every ingredient and only have appropriate portions, I was going to gain weight if I continued to participate in their daily lunches.  I finally decided to opt out on a regular basis, went back to bringing my lunch to work and only joined in for special occasions.  My lifestyle was commented on regularly, but I also like to believe that I motivated a few others to at least consider making healthier choices a little more often than before.

When we find ourselves in the habit of eating large portions and poor quality foods when we’re with our families, at work or out with friends, choosing to make healthier choices can feel isolating and anti-social.  It’s human nature to want to fit in and yet if you’re surrounded by those who choose foods you’re trying to avoid or who don’t support activities you want to engage in, you’re not only without a support system but you will more than likely be ridiculed for being the odd one out.  First of all, it’s always important to NOT take negative comments by others personally.  Their opinions stem from their personal issues not yours and that goes for anything and everything.  Secondly, if you truly are ready for a change and you’ve decided internally that it’s time to do something for YOU and YOUR health, you have to evaluate your surroundings honestly and decide what you need and don’t need and DO something about it.

On the flip-side, surrounding yourself with as many like-minded people who live a healthy lifestyle you hope to emulate is another key to success towards wellness.  You need a support system whether it’s to help remind you of your internal motivations to treat yourself better, to eat well, get moving or just believing you’re worth more than a number on a scale, on your clothes or on a chart in your doctor’s office.  There’s value to you and who you are and the more you invest yourself in you on the inside, the more those words you’ve chosen to repeat become your actions and eventually an authentic lifestyle of healthy living.

Love,

V