Friday, October 24, 2014

The Detox Series: Part 2

This post essentially has two parts, so stick with me.

Every day we face opportunities to make choices, choices we make without much consideration.  Choosing to listen to public radio vs. commercial-run top 40s.  Deciding to make coffee vs. buy it.  Taking the scenic route vs. the busy highway.  Or in our case last night, choosing to have Chinese take-out for dinner vs. make a homemade meal.

My posts the past couple of weeks have been about cleansing, detoxing, and making healthier choices all around.  I truly believe in this, but I know it is a process. You cannot be perfect every hour, of everyday.   Yesterday I made the choice to eat a Quest Bar (protein packed, gluten/sugar-free) for "lunch" because after teaching 5 classes, my business partner and I were preoccupied with getting our errands done for the Grand Opening on Saturday, and didn't have time for a real lunch before our workout.  This choice meant that by the time I got home at 6pm (left at 4:30am) I was mentally exhausted, physically hungry, and made another poor choice: Chinese takeout.  I choose the healthier options there, but knew that I would still feel less-than-great the next morning.  And it's true, I do feel a little groggy today.  However, this morning is a brand new day and the choices I made yesterday do not dictate today.

I woke up and chugged a big glass of water.  I made a fresh cup of coffee, added cinnamon and coconut milk, and let the yumminess warm me up.  Topped my gluten-free toast with crunchy, organic peanut butter with chia & flax seeds, and ate a perfectly ripe banana.  I practiced a quick yoga sequence that focused on detoxifying poses (another post to come!) and an hour later, feeling much better!  All too often we allow one poor choice to define us, control us, and cause us to lose direction of who we are and what we believe in.  Know that you have the power to change that!

Now the original goal of this post, Detox Series Part Duex, was to pass on to you a simple, yet effective trick I learned from my mother.  In my last post, I discussed how we can choose to minimize the negative effects social media has on our time and our lives.  But before we had social media, we had print, in the form of magazines, catalogs, etc and television.  Even though magazines are not has popular as they once were, they still exist and I still read them every once in a while.  I already discussed my recent disappointment in YogaJournal, and my subsequent discontinuation of my subscription, but I still have a few issues coming my way.  In addition, I like to treat myself to the occasional Vogue or InStyle.  But what I don't want to treat myself to are the ridiculous amount of advertisements in each issue.

When I was younger, I remember by mom collecting Better Homes & Garden magazines and putting together binders of her "dream home."  (This was the original way people did Pinterest.)  She would get a magazine and rip out all the advertisements first.  Without even looking at the stories.  For those tricky pages with articles on one side, she'd fold the ad in half to hide it.  It wasn't just Better Homes & Garden, it was all magazines.  When I was in high school and started buying the horrendous Cosmopolitan magazines, I didn't rip out the ads.  Instead, they made impressions on me, whether I knew it at the time or not.  (Buy this, look like this, you need this, blah blah blah--this is old news, we all know this and it's been discussed at nauseam.)  It continued until this summer when I received yet another YogaJournal magazine and I noticed it was so full of ads, that it was hard to distinguish between the ads and the articles.  I started ripping out all the ads.  It was fantastic.  No more opportunities to looks at supplements that claim to make you look younger, yoga pants to make your butt look better, etc.  Duh, and photoshopped images.

I started following in my mother's footsteps and now each time I pick up a magazine, the first thing I do is rip out all the pointless ads.  It works for all kinds of magazines and it feels awesome to do it.  Cut out the garbage and keep the stuff you really bought the magazine for.

As for watching television, try muting the TV during commercials.  Use the time to talk to the people around you, switch out the laundry, do a couple of air squats/push-ups/sit-ups, light a few of candles, etc.  When you're favorite show comes back on, simply un-mute.

It's a subtle change, but all these small choices we make during our day will help to detoxify our life.  We receive so much involuntary stimulation throughout the day, why not choose not to when we can?

Have a happy Friday!!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Detox Series: Part 1

Every Wednesday morning I start my day by teaching 2 yoga classes before the sun even rises.  While there are other days during the week in which I rise before 5am, Wednesdays are by far my favorite (Sorry Monday and Thursday crew!) There is something wonderful about starting your day with your yoga practice.  A chance to enter the day with a clear mind and clear body.

This morning as I drove in, the rain softly showered the world around me.  It felt like a calm, slow morning, so I chose a yoga class that would gently energize the group.  Opening into backbends, opening our chests, and opening our hearts.  After each class, I felt more clear and more ready for the day.

It helped me to finally clear my head enough to write down what I've been thinking for the past couple of weeks.  After completing my last 21-day cleanse, I discovered that it was not just the way I eat that needed to be cleansed.  I found that when I really looked at the way I live my days, hours, etc that there were many opportunities for toxic behaviors, images, or thoughts to creep into my life.

The largest offender of toxic thoughts, often leading to envy, comparison, frustration, "boredom" and the like?  My stupid, stupid "smart" phone.   We all know this, this is not breaking news, but the iPhone is creeping into our lives, ruining our ability to connect to people in the same room as us.  It is interfering with our ability to be with our own thoughts.  It is warping us to live our lives in a way that we can document through social media.  If we don't post it to the world, did it really happen?!

I remember in the years before I had a cell phone (I got mine at 17 with no texting plans) I would be okay with waiting in waiting rooms.  I was content on long drives.  I wouldn't read books, but I would simply day dream. I would talk with my mom, my friends, whomever I was with.  I was fine with listening to music and really listening to the music.  As an introvert, being quiet or being in situations without a lot of stimulation is not boring.  There were moments of clarity.  There were moments of inspiration.  There were moments when I really got to know myself.

That was until the smart phone.  Now it's too easy to pick up my phone and "scroll."  Scrolling is now an activity.  Commenting on pointless content is now a sport.  Posting the perfect picture of yourself is now a "thing."  I'm an active participant in this toxic behavior and I know it must stop.  My husband and I do not get as much "free" time to just be with each other as other couples without kids do.  Yet there are nights when we are both home, in the same room, with the TV on and the phones in front of our faces.  I find this terrifying.  And what's worse, its a really hard habit to break.

Beyond it just being anti-social, we open ourselves up to all sorts of emotions we may not even encounter on a regular day basis.  We open up to envy--wanting what others have or seem to have.  We open ourselves up to comparison--deciding that what we do, what we have, who we are is in some way less than.  We bombard our minds with images, over and over again, without processing, or even thinking through what we see.  Worse, we aren't even deciding what we see--we see it all.

I don't want to be one of those people who say, "well, back when I was a kid,"or "things were so much better when," because I think that takes away my own responsibility for my actions.  But I will acknowledge that some of life's advances aren't necessarily good for me.  In order to be my best self, I don't need all the first-world modern conveniences, including the constant attachment to my phone.

Of course, the list goes on.  For instance, just because you can buy already made chicken soup, doesn't mean you should always buy it, right? How much better does it taste when you make it from scratch?  When you commit to something, focus on it, and make it yourself.  The sensation of comfort you get from smelling fresh rosemary.  The squirmish feeling you get from handling raw chicken, the physical reminder that this was once alive, so do not waste it.  The feeling of the steam on your face as you stir the soup.  It's all important.  It makes you mindful of what you're doing, where you are, and the time it takes to make something worth having.

Imagine all the time you would have to notice the beauty in each day if you didn't spend the 10 min in the morning scrolling Pinterest.  The 10 min waiting for the train scrolling Instagram, or the 30min after you eat lunch diving deep into a high school classmate's wedding photos.  Before you know it, more than an hour of your day--of your thoughts--is spent mindlessly scrolling.  Literally doing nothing, but scrolling.

Again.  Terrifying.

So, I'm getting the toxins out.  I'm vowing to put my phone away when I get home.  It's going to go in a "cell phone" jar and it's going to stay there, only to leave when someone texts or calls.  Even then, if it's not important, it can wait until tomorrow.  We can take our lives back, take our time back, and put the distractions away.  They say it takes 21 one days to create a new habit.

Here it goes.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Results of the Cleanse

Sooo… I was planning on sharing my results from the cleanse, but I was NOT planning on sharing my before and after pics.  After some back and forth with my insecurity, I thought, 'what the heck! who cares anyway!' Throughout the process I wanted to be completely honest and open, to encourage others who are struggling with their own health issues to begin healing themselves with food.  I truly believe that food is one of the most powerful tools to heal yourself of most of our emotional, mental, and physical ailments. Eating right, moving mindfully, and listening to yourself are crucial to triggering your HAPPY.

Making changes is tough though, and I think the biggest hurdle is the mental part.  We have to shed our emotional attachment to the food we eat, how we eat, and why we eat.  Again, it's TOUGH.  It's not supposed to be a cake walk, and you're definitely not allowed to eat cake.

So, in an effort to be honest and open, let me start with the beginning.  The VERY beginning.

This was me a year ago. I was about a year into marriage and was loving beers with dinner, sweets, late night snacks, etc.  The next day I started a challenge, which centered around a strict Paleo diet, which meant that I cut out all grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, legumes (beans), etc.  I lasted a month before I started cheating. It was such a strict diet that I found when I cheated, I cheated HARD.  Plus knowing the challenge was 2 months long was really tough mentally to get through.  It was more about what I couldn't eat verses, what I could.

I knew I wasn't officially overweight, but I felt overweight for me.  I felt heavy, sluggish, and not-sexy.  So, trying the challenge was a good first start.  But it wasn't successful. In January, my father-in-law offered us to try Isagenix, and we did, but again it wasn't successful because it was about eating/drinking shakes for meals.  It didn't fit our lifestyle and didn't make me feel good.  I wanted to eat real food and get my energy back.

So, through our very stressful winter, my eating habits were quite bad.  Not eating until 2pm, snacking at night, emotional eating/not-eating, etc. In June I decided to do my first cleanse with Liz.  It was about listening to my body and it changed the way I look at food.

I don't have any pictures from that, but the results are pretty much the same as below.  I decided to the SECOND cleanse because I had a really fun summer, with lots of travel, parties, weddings, etc.  I knew I had gotten out of the habit of cooking and I thought it would help.  And it did!

So here I am 3 weeks ago:

The very next day I cut out all the junk. I felt fine on Monday.  In fact, I felt great.  Tuesday, I felt like I was walking through a fog.  I had slow, tired thoughts.  I took a nap (which I never do) and stumbled over my words.  Wednesday was worse! I had crazy headaches, more tired and was SO HUNGRY.  I kept eating all day.  By Thursday I felt fine and continued to feel fine.

The following Monday I cut out animal protein.  It was supposed to be for the full week, but I shortened it to 5 days because I do CrossFit and coach it, and teach yoga, and practice it, all day long.  All of this had been discussed with Liz the first time around, so I knew I could do it.  Without the animal protein I was feeling like I had hardly any energy and my job requires I had energy!  But aside from that, I kept at it.

What did I eat?  A TON of nuts--borderline too much nuts--and fruit and beans and rice and spinach and broccoli and dried fruit (no sugar added) and tea and tea and tea and tea.  (Can you tell I missed coffee!?!?)  I worked out 4-5 times a week (my usual) and went to bed at 9:30pm when I had to wake up at 4am.  I ate 3 meals a day and allowed myself as many snacks as I wanted.

I completed 2 weeks without any "cheats" or changes to the cleanse.  Then this week, I added back in eggs for breakfast, as I had done the cleanse before and know that my body can handle 2 hard-boiled eggs in the morning.  Then, last night, my husband and I split a pumpkin beer.  I completed 18 full days of the 21-day cleanse.

What I continue to keep out of my diet (90% of the time) dairy, processed foods and sugar, nightshades, soy, gluten products, red meat, corn, and artificial sweeteners (I do like Stevia, so I have that.)  I am human, so there are times when I have gluten (beer) or dairy (ice cream) or sugar (chocolate) but I keep these to a minimum, as I know that a "treat" doesn't feel like a treat to my body.

Here are my results:

I wore the same swimsuit because that's what you do, right?!  Also, my weight-loss was not going to be major, so wearing clothes wouldn't have been effective to show change.  I also took the last pic in a different light to show that it's not the lighting.

Like I said, its not a MAJOR change in 3 weeks, but it IS major progress from my picture a year ago.

This is a year worth of work to not only find my food-happy, but find my LIFE happy.  It's not just removing the internal stress from the food we put in our bodies, it's also about figuring out what outside factors are causing us emotional or mental stress.  Learning to cope, to fight, to conquer, to listen, to love is what I attribute my major changes too.

Movement is medicine, food is medicine. Love is a cure all.

Interested in more information?  Reach out to me!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Go-to Recipes for Fall

So, my favorite season is officially here.  I know its cliche, and all I see everywhere is #whitegirl jokes about how much we love Fall and pumpkins, but its true!  I have always loved the Fall because it feels like a magical time.  The crisp air and the slightly dreary sky reminds me of slightly spooky tales of Ichabod Crane.  The turning of the trees, the darker nights, the warm scarfs makes me feel like I can curl up near a fire or watch a Quidditch match.  The fashion is romantic, the food is comforting, and the world around you feels mystical.  And to top it off, the Disney princess inside of me will forever and ever, for always, have the beautiful memory of marrying my love at a castle in the woods, in the heart of Fall.  It is the best time of year, period. End of story.

With the wonderful weather comes all of my favorite recipes.  I have gotten a lot of questions about food lately, so I thought it best to just compile them and give you my all-time favorite go-to recipes.  Most are clean eating naturally, but if they are not, I have noted my substitutions.  Enjoy!

Breakfast in bed:

Quick Paleo Pancakes
2 ripe bananas 
1 tablespoon nut butter 
1 egg 
1 cup sliced strawberries
Mash bananas in medium sized bowl. Mix in egg and nut butter until you have the consistency of a batter. Pour batter in skillet sprayed with olive oil cooking spray on med-high heat. Cook until browned on both sides. Top with sliced strawberries

AND just for Fall, Pumpkin Pancakes

Main Meal:
Slow Roaster Chicken
Honey Ginger Apple Shredded Pork
Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Savory Butternut Squash Pie
Turkey Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Chicken tenders (I add smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, cracked pepper, and garlic spices to the breading. Add to your taste)
Bacon Stuffed Chicken
Pumpkin Curry (i use regular brown rice, because I can't be bothered to make the other stuff!)
And, the BEST paleo dinner rolls

Brussel Sprouts (sub broccoli for brussel sprouts and just as delicious)
Sauted Kale with garlic and onion
Baked Sweet potato

Vegan Pumpkin Cookies
Apple Muffins

The best zucchini brownies!!!

  • 1 cup almond butter (I used 3/4 sunbutter and 1/4cup almond, since that's what I had)
  • 1 1/2 cup grated zucchini
  • 1/3 cup raw honey (I used maple syrup)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • i tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks

Cooking Steps

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Pour into a greased 9×9 baking pan.
4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

For the Love of FOOD--Trigger Happy Part 3

Over the weekend, I watched a documentary called "Spinning Plates," which I thought I would use as inspiration to talk about healthy relationships with food.  But the film ended up being so much more. It highlighted how much love is packed into food, how our relationships are built and solidified around great meals, and how enjoying food with loved ones is one of the great pleasures in life.  The film followed three different restaurant owners/chefs and their families.  One a high-end, modernistic cuisine restaurant in Chicago, another a family owned and operated restaurant in a small town in the heart of America, and finally a Mexican restaurant in Arizona operated by a husband and wife, both immigrants into the US trying to make a living for their family.

Hearing their customers talk about the food, and the amazing people behind the food, was touching enough.  It was a firm reminder that as much as we, Americans, obsess over foods and diets and weight and exercise and fats and carbs and 100-calorie packs of shit, that we are missing one of the greatest joys in life.  Enjoying the pleasures of taste, one of our gifts, with love and passion.  Tasting the delicious sweetness of a banana, without anything else.  Tasting just one bite of rich, creamy chocolate.  Or discovering all the complexities of olive oil.  I often hear people referring to the French, saying that the French do it right.  They enjoy rich foods, but don't over do it.  I don't want to over generalize, but the concept is right.  If we shift our perspective to see food as nourishing, delicious, healthy, and a blessing, I doubt we will scarf it down as quick as possible, load it with condiments, and pack it in with a large bottle of Coke.

The patrons in the family-run restaurant in Iowa would come in regularly, use it as a way to talk to their neighbors, enjoy their meals of chicken, potatoes, and corn, and get on with their simple living.  While the diners in the upscale Chicago restaurant were taken on a "culinary journey" where the menus fixed, and they trusted the expertise of the chef to create the perfect meal.  The chef viewed each plate as a piece of art.  In both instances it's about the experience.  Experiencing the food, enjoying it, without seeing it as a plate to conquer, to devour, to destroy.

Now obviously, we can't always eat out or make every meal feel like a heavenly experience.  But I would urge you again to shift your perspective towards food, and more specifically, anything you put into your body.  I have recently been trying not to eat on the go, or eat while I am doing something else.    Too often I am eating my lunch while typing away at the computer, or devouring a banana while driving.  I can't tell you how many times I have chugged my latte and forgotten to enjoy it.  Not to mention, we do not have a kitchen table, we use the coffee table in front of the TV.  It's terrible! It results in mindless eating, overeating, under-eating, poor eating, etc.

Weezy trying to eat my leftover pancakes!

If you've decided to start the food-happy journal, consider adding who you eat with, what you saw or experienced during your meal, where you ate, etc.  I know that each morning when I teach early, I spend the hour and a half between classes at a local cafe.  They know me when I come in, and I love grab a seat in the back.  I smell the delicious bacon (that I don't order,) I want as yummy stacks of pancakes are delivered to eager faces.  I see people meeting their friends, co-workers, or are simply starting their day alone, like me.  Its a beautiful thing, once I started noticing.  One day the man next to me, burly with grease under their nails, were talking about a construction project they were doing in a house.  They were drawing diagrams, discussing the pros and cons of two different plans, and all the while over bacon and eggs with a steamy cup of black coffee.  I thought they were fascinating (and I thought that I was being a bit creepy listening!)

But there is an opportunity each time we go to eat to be mindful about it.  Some people say Grace before they eat, and I often wonder whether the words still mean something.  But they have the right idea.  Taking the time to put away the laptop, put down the cell phone, turn off the TV, and tune in to your meal, what food/drink your putting into your body.  Then take the time to notice how it makes your belly feel.  One bite at a time, triggering our food-happy state!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Trigger Happy Part 2


That was the number on the scale this morning. As I have mentioned before, I don't believe in measuring your worth, happiness, or beauty based on the number on the scale. In the past, I have fallen victim to this, daily checking my number, stark naked, to make sure it didn't go up.  And guess what?  It did!  Somedays I would wake up with it 5lbs heavier that the day before.  Then it would go back down, then up again, and then when it was getting closer to that time that makes you hate being a women, it would go up a whopping 10lbs.

I stepped on the scale this morning because a fellow yogini admitted that she still struggles with obsessing over the number on the scale.  This pretty little lady has been a regularly practicing yogini for years.  At first, she stuck to the Hatha yoga classes, which mean less movement between poses, longer holds, and overall less "athletic" of a practice.  Not any less hard, just different.   In the time period she has started practicing Vinyasa, or flow-style yoga, which can be really intimidating for a lot of us.  She has gotten stronger, both physically and mentally, and has even decided to start her own teacher training program.  She has a lot to be proud of!

But this conditioning to base our daily confidence on the scale is just setting you up for failure.  Unless you are significantly overweight and have weight-loss goals of 50+ lbs, I don't recommend weighing yourself often.  Even those with significant weight to lose, I wouldn't weigh yourself more than once a week, as there are so many variables during the week that effect your weight.

In general, the daily weighing of yourself can go one of a few ways.  First, your weight stays exactly the same and you've already decided you hate that weight.  How do you win?  You've already decided that weight is not desirable. Second, the weight (like mine) fluctuates daily, weekly +/-5lbs.  Now you've made yourself crazy trying to figure out what exactly is going on.  Third, the weight starts to slowly go down and you become obsessed with it.  You develop unhealthy relationships with food and exercise in order to keep that number going down.  Overtime, you may waste away into a person you don't recognize.  Or, it can go up slowly and you think, 'well this is it, I might as well give up.' You stop caring and start to detach yourself from your body.  

The last two are obviously extremes.  (And I should note, I am no dietitian, nutritionalist, doctor, or therapist.  But between my close friends and me, I have seen all of these instances occur.)  When I woke up this morning I thought to myself, 'I don't have to go on the scale to write this piece.' I tried to come up with excuses as to why it was silly, but then I realized that I was succumbing to the very thought-process I wish to eradicate. So, I ate my full cleanse-approved breakfast.  Two slices of gluten-free bread with almond butter, herbal chai tea, and my cleanse shake.  I read a little article on aging yogis.  Then I walked myself downstairs to dust off that old scale of mine.  I kept all my PJs, took a deep breath, already deciding that whatever number came up, I wouldn't care about it.

And you know what?  I didn't! It was weird, the last time I stepped on this scale I was getting ready for my wedding and each reading had such an emotional response from me.  But today, nothing.  I have been 137.8lbs multiple times before. I have felt "fat" at 137lbs, and I have felt thin at 137lbs.  Today I just feel normal.  And that's the thing, it about what you feel.  I felt great after having my yummy breakfast.  The sun is out and the humidity is gone.  I have a day filled with teaching yoga and writing.  I went to sleep last night at 9am, so I feel rested.  All of these things which make me feel like having a great day are NOT on the scale.  137.8 does not represent all that I feel today, all that I can do today, and does not weigh the smile I have on the inside.  It doesn't mean much to me.  

Could you imagine the emotional roller coaster that would be if you truly cared about those little ups and downs on the scale?  I can tell you that no one else seems to notice them.  What people DO notice is confidence.  When you feel good when you wake up, you can't help but look beautiful.  Smiling during interactions, laughing at the small stuff, enjoying the Fall breeze.  Taking a sip of a delicious Chai Tae Latte…THAT radiates beauty and happiness.

To bring this back to those who are unhappy and uncomfortable in their bodies and want to start feel better, it does start with listening, not assessing.  I've said this before but I really mean it.  Start a little daily journal and use it as a "check-in."  Write how you feel upon waking, write how the different foods you eat throughout the day effect your belly.  If you have a Greek yogurt for breakfast and it was delicious, but 2 hours later your stomach is gurgling and acidy, note that.  Begin to find your own path to being food-happy, and belly-happy, and all around happy, by listening to exactly what works well with you.  When you eat the foods that love you, and you eat the amount that hugs you, your body will begin to feel like your own again.  That connection, between mind and body, will never be measured on a scale.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Trigger Happy: Part 1b

After my last post about my food-happy concept, I received a lot of feedback from friends, clients, and family. I am so glad that people have connected to, been inspired by, or found comfort in the post.  But I believe it was a start of a larger conversation, and today I was reminded of just that.  For that reason I am launching a little mini series of posts I'm calling "The Trigger Happy" series.  I'll consider last post as Part 1.

For the past couple of months, I have been disappointed with my yoga journal subscription.  Over the years, it has gone from a magazine filled with thought provoking articles on love, life, meditation, nourishment, and yoga asanas (poses) for all humans to a typical girly magazine littered with material advertising, yoga "quick fixes," tag lines like "yoga to tighten up that core!" and "clothes to highlight your yoga curves."  It was sad to see the change, as it seemed this would be the one magazine that could change the cultural conversation.  I decided not to renew my subscription, and today my final issue came in the mail.

As some of you know, my yoga girl-crush is Kathryn Budig, a fun-loving, beer-drinking, talented yogini, with curves to boot.  She happened to be the cover model this month, which makes my heart dance a little bit.  She has been a "celebrity" yogini for many years, training big names like Giada, creating a DVD for Gaiam, and being the naked girl in the ToeSox ads.  When she did those ads, she was 25 years old and in amazing shape.  Over the years she has found love, aged 7 years, and put on some weight.  Yoga Journal asked her what she thought about looking at her 25-year old self, and this was her response,
I don’t believe in changing anything, but it has been a challenge to watch my 25-year-old body turn into a 32-year-old body. It is not depressing; it is the evolution of a woman. This body, whether it is 10 pounds skinnier or 10 pounds heavier, can still do those postures because it is strong. I stay focused on what I feel, on the results. I have a lot of love in my life, and I didn’t have that when I was 25. If I get hung up on what my body looks like, I am losing track of my goal, of my aim.
The whole article was great, and I encourage you all to read it.  For me, it furthered the conversation about finding our happy, and specifically, making our relationship with our body a happy one.  As I said before, being in the fitness industry is tough, because there is a lot of emphasis on how you look, with the occasional "how do you feel?" thrown in as an afterthought.  I've known people who do not have an ounce of fat on their bodies be completely miserable and I know people who've put on weight and glow with happiness.  

I think the most important step is changing our perspective.  In the article, Kathryn alludes to the challenging yoga world, where the ideal aesthetic is long and lean.  As a curvy girl, she has been called "brave" for showing her curves.  Her response is simple, being curvy and rocking it is not brave, going to war is.  We aren't made to look the same, so it's not brave for those of us who have them to show our curves, its just how it should be.  Same thing if you have a naturally thin body, do you girl.  It's not brave to love how we are, it's just challenging.  Even then, it's a problem we created ourselves. We make it complicated when we are perfectly healthy and relatively happy, but we look at the cellulite on the back of our thighs and say, "I would be so much happier if that was gone."

I have a long history of bad-mouthing my assets, but over the years I have made a conscious decision to stop. I have been open in my classes, talking about my "CrossFit thighs" and my "yoga booty."  I have extra meat on me in different areas, but those are all signs of what I do, where I've been, and who I am.  Don't fight the natural you.  (Of course there are times when I am uncomfortable, like when I eat/drink too much of something or of the wrong thing.  But we must recognize the temporary discomforts and separate them from living in constant dissatisfaction.)  When you speak positively about yourself, it doesn't mean you are 100 percent OK with your body, but you are living with it and loving what you have today.  Then you empower and give permission to other people to do the same."

But, then there are real life issues we encounter and must face.  So, if you are truly unhappy, or if you are truly uncomfortable in your skin, its time to touch base on exactly why.  I had a student come up to me to inquire about the cleanse.  She feels uncomfortable in her skin, knowing that something isn't right.  I've known her long even to know that she has suffered in the past couple of months (possibly the last year) through physical injuries, emotional traumas, big life changes, and more.  These kinds of stresses have taken a toll on her body and she doesn't feel like herself.  Her body isn't representing who she feels she is.  She, like many of us, lost connection to herself, her physical self.  I've been there and when you're there, you know the difference between being superficially unhappy with the way you look and knowing deep down that something else is going on.

This is an example of when you can look at where you are and make changes to get back to you.  It's not about losing weight here, its about attacking the stressors that have put on the weight.  Because the physical weight isn't the issue, its the emotional weight that lives inside.  Shew!  That can feel heavy, right?!  

If you are feeling this way, and are not sure you are ready to take on any major changes yet, I challenge you to simply start "checking in."  Start a daily journal and give yourself 5-10 minutes each day to express anything you want. Write down how you feel, what's up with you, or even a quote that spoke to you.  Once you start that conversation with yourself, you're on the path to trigger your happy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Food-Happy Concept


Wow. Something about that word just screams misery.  It embodies all the feelings of deprivation, starvation, "no you can't" and "but I must."  Even the thought of a diet makes my head hurt and my belly churn.  

But being in the fitness and wellness biz, I hear it all the time, and sometimes even from my own mouth (gasp!)  Recently, I have had a lot of people ask me about diets so I figured I would lay it all out there.

I have been victim to this epidemic multiple times.  Trying to find something, anything, that makes me feel better.  Over the years I have tried many things.  I was vegetarian for 8 years, a vegan for a year, a "whatever-imma-eat-that" for some time, and then back to vegetarian, then wedding-dress-panic, lemonade cleanse, then strict paleo, etc.  The thing about all these diets, is that I can comfortably say that I have tried A LOT of things, and have discovered what exactly works for me and why.

My whole life I have been active, athletic, and a lover of food.  I remember being 10 years old and being proud that I could eat a whole pizza by myself.  That was a bragging point.   I exercised because it was fun—life was a game and I freakin' owned it.  Bagels were awesome, cheese was amazing, and I’ll have a sprite with my cupcake please.

Then at some point body issues creep in, and I became aware of what "fat" was, became aware of what foods "made me fat" and acutely aware that the opposite sex does not find fat attractive.   I workout because I must, I dieted because that’s the way to win at life, and I drove myself crazy because, goddamnit, I want to be sexy. Cue the diets!!!

I can tell you what eventually worked for me, and how you can do it too.

Step 1. Get rid of your scale. Unless you are trying to lose over 50lbs, the scale will just literally make you crazy. Here I am at 125lbs (the lightest I had been since middle school):
AND here I am at 148lbs (on the heavier side that I've ever been):
Whoa, what a heifer, right?

So, throw out the stupid scale. I fit into the same clothes I did at my wedding weight as I do now. (Unless of course I do a lot of arm/leg stuff one day and I feel all "swole.") If you follow all the other steps, the numbers won't mean anything to you anyway.

2. Stop counting calories. Eating is fun and eating is delicious, and math is not. If you turn your eating into a chore, a punishment, you won't EVER feel satisfied at the end of the meal. Instead, think of your food as a necessary and crucial part of your day. Feed yourself when you're hungry, not when you're bored and stop when you're full. Easier said then done, right? Follow step 5.

3. Do something active each day, but don't always put a measure to it. High intensity training is all the rage, and I wholeheartedly agree that it works, because it does. But there is a limit. Your body needs both low intensity and high intensity to function. Think about high intensity workouts as high stress moments. Imagine if your life consisted of riding roller coasters every single day. Eventually that adrenalin rush or euphoria will lessen its effect. Same thing if you went to a massage every single day. The effectiveness of both decrease over time. But, alternating between high intensity, low intensity, moderate intensity, etc will keep your mind and body on it's toes. Set a goal to workout hard 3-4x a week, while the rest of the week is committed to yoga, walking, light jogging, and/or biking.

4. Start a food/exercise log. This was extremely helpful for me. Not because I wrote down amounts, calories, or nutritional facts, but because I started to see patterns. I noticed that if I skipped breakfast, I usually had a much bigger lunch, had no motivation to workout, and slept poorly. If I ate a really salty snack (chips are my favorite) I craved sweets at night. Just by writing down what I ate and being accountable for my habits, I saw how the choices I made throughout the day effected me for days after.

5. Eat food that makes you feel good. This is the hardest thing for most of us, myself included, to get right. But if you get this right, everything else becomes easier. This is how I finally stopped dieting and just started eating right. The bottom line is you need to find food that makes your mind and body happy. That means food that tastes good going in, feels comfortable moving around inside and is smooth coming out. That doesn't mean eating baked macaroni and cheese because you looooove cheese and pasta, but suffering through bloating and farting for hours. I am not talking about devouring ice cream after a long hot day and suffering through a sugar headache all night and next morning. These are examples of mental comfort food. The foods that we see as "treats" but are not really treats at all. They make us feel sluggish, bloated, gassy, achey, unsexy, and are keeping us fat.

I started this journey of food-happy discovery when I was vegetarian. I realized beef doesn't mesh well with me. We aren't friends, so I avoid him. Then when I began vegan, I realized all those Greek yogurts I was eating made me feel gassy and cheese made me constipated. They were taken off the favorite list. Then I tried paleo, and I realized I don't digest quinoa well and bread makes me feel bleh. But, I still couldn't quite figure out the food-happy concept, and I kept going back and forth between foods I like and foods my body actually likes. Saying to myself, "well I LOVE beer, so I'm going to drink it anyway!" I kept fighting it because I was trying to commit to set "diets" rather than listen to what exactly I needed.

Then in June, I committed to a 3 weeks "cleanse" which focused on specifically finding the foods that did not agree with me. Liz, founder of free + abel, and the host of the cleanse, and I have talked about our love/hate relationship with the word cleanse. Despite it being exactly what it is, "cleanse" has been used recently to describe a "quick fix" for weightloss, which is NOT what this particular cleanse is. The 21-Day Cleanse Liz runs is about much more. It was the final push I needed and provided me with all the proof I needed to change my eating habits for good. Within a week I felt more energy, within 10 days I found my abs, and by the last day, I didn't crave any of the foods I missed. I have kept many of the habits I learned from that cleanse and I am a way happier eater. I think the key was finding the "Rachael diet' or the foods that make my belly happy. There is no book for the Rachael diet, because it's made just for me.

That's how it should be!

Do yourself a favor this Fall and commit to making your mind and body happy. Know that there are days when you fall into old habits, but they will get fewer and fewer. If you are interested in the cleanse, reach out to Liz directly at Get in tune with yourself and all the rest becomes easy. Cheers!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

No Time Like The Present

My post yesterday was actually written over a week ago.  I was struggling with getting back into the groove of routine, specifically my workout routine, after weeks of excitement--personally and professionally.

What I didn't know was that that very night, after I wrote that post, my perspective would be drastically shifted.

Last Monday, my husband lost his uncle.  He was relatively young, had a lot of life left in him, and didn't give his family and friends much time to prepare for his passing.  This is the second death in my husband's family this year, and this one hit him hard.  My husband is the hardest working person I know, and yet he is still amazingly giving to anyone who needs him.  He never complains at work, he rarely expresses impatience, frustration, or even annoyance with me (and I can be annoying.)  He just gives and gives and gives.   I could never do what he does, work Monday through Friday, then sit in school on the weekend.  Without envy or complaint, he gives up nearly all of his little spare time to others.  To top things off he had a medical scare that really shook him.  My heart just broke for him.

Phone calls with your mother can always make things better (or at least mine can.)  After listening to me cry and scream, and say things like "why can't we catch a break?! Everyone else has it so easy" she reminded me of something so important, I better never forget it again.  It doesn't get easier.  We just get better at dealing with it--whatever IT is.  Kids, house, job, money, health--there will always be something that tests your patience, your sanity.   There is no, "well, once this is over things will be better."  Or, life would be so much easier if I only had _______.

When a person leaves you relatively suddenly, you begin to think about all the ways you live your life, and if how you spend your time, your energy, is the way you really want to spend it.  For me, it made me really appreciate the people in my life that I love, and how precious each interaction is.  I worked extra hard not to stress the small stuff.  And by small stuff, I mean the things that I will not think about on my deathbed, like the extra $300 I shouldn't have to spend to fix my car mirror that I didn't break.  Or the $100 to take the cat to the vet, which didn't solve the cat's problem.  Or the day(s) I didn't have time for a workout.  Or even the bellyache I had after having delicious cupcakes.  None of these annoying inconveniences will matter in the end, so I really tried not to spend my time being frustrated about them.  

What I can control is how I treat myself and how I treat others.  I can decide to make choices that enhance my well-being, rather than deter me away from my personal goals in life.  As a couple, we decided to take care of ourselves.  My husband has decided that he will take time, everyday, to do something that he loves. Something that will make him happy.  He can't control the hours spent at work, and he knows he chose to follow his dreams by going to school on the weekend.  But he can choose not to be miserable when he has the time.  For that, I truly admire him.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.” Dumbledore 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Getting It Together

So, a lot has happened the past 4 weeks, and most of it has been wonderful.  But last week, I needed to kick myself into gear and get my own butt moving.  I needed something or someone to tell me to "get it together, girl!"  No one likes to feel like they wasted something (time, energy, money, chances), but sometimes, it happens.

One of my favorite people in the world, Jennifer Lawrence, had a moment when she had a little voice tell her to get it together.  She had been nominated for an Academy Award, for the second time, and WON and was at a fancy-shmancy after-party.  She had already won the award, got to canoodle with the always-sexy Brad Pitt, and was wearing a gorgeous dress. But, at some point in the night, she ended up having a moment.  Check out the video, she's way funnier than me.

What's the point of this?

Well, in the past month, I kicked off my Instagram Yoga challenge, attended my best friend's bachelorette party, launched my yoga program's website, attended my father-in-law's bachelor party, rehearsal dinner, and was a groomsmaid in my father(s)-in-laws' wedding, closed our old box location, and actively helped prepare and open our NEW box location.  Not to mention, my amazing husband completed his summer school with a 4.0 AND helped me with all of my career moves. We worked until midnight on a Friday, just to make sure our spot was ready for Saturday's class.  It was exciting and overall, I would say it's been good 3 weeks for the Hotchkiss-Heim crew.  Not to brag, but I'm pretty proud.

But after all that, I woke up on Saturday having completely overslept and thus missing our first class in the new box.  Embarrassed, but still exhausted, I ultimately stayed in my pajamas all day.  I did not make any effort to exercise.  I had a latte and toast for breakfast, toast for lunch, and pancakes, eggs, and ice cream for dinner.  On Sunday, I was better, I taught yoga in the AM, got done all my errands, did some cooking for the week, and got a lot of work done for Body Reconstructed.  But again, zero motivation to do anything physical and no interest in going outside.  Kinda sad.

Just like Jennifer Lawrence, who celebrated too hard, I woke up last Monday morning (bright-n-early at 4am) and realized I needed to get myself together.  After weeks of eating and drinking in honor of celebrations, after long days of slow and steady manual labor, after many nights sleepless in anticipation, my body felt like a pile of....crap.  So, I got it together.

There is no easy way to get back into the groove of working out, you just DO. IT.  I knew I needed something that would get my heart rate going, but didn't involve too much strength, as I know after 3 weeks, I would be much weaker.  So this is what I did:

Active Warm-Up, Followed by the following WOD:

500m row
50 Wall balls (#14 to 10' target)
400m row
40 Wall balls
300m row
30 Wall balls
200m row
20 Wall balls
100m row
10 Wall balls

If I'm being honest, I'm not happy with the time I got, but I am happy I did it at all.  Motivating yourself is not always easy and after the first round, my legs felt shaky, I was very short of breath, and I thought about quitting.  But that day was step one, the step I must take to continue on and get back what I lost.  You must wade through the suck.  You must.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why I hate Yoga, but not as much as I hate CrossFit

Yoga is many things to many people.  And I am not one to tell you want it should be.  I am not going to tell you it's simple stretching, but I'm not going to tell you it's a spiritual experience.  Yoga to me, may not be yoga to you, and that's okay.  In fact, it's hard for me to define what yoga is for myself when I get onto my mat it feels like it is for something new every day.  What I need from yoga today, may not be what I want or need tomorrow.When I teach, I recognize that my students are all different, and do not have the same reasons for coming to me.

More than our own individual experiences with yoga, which inherently makes it different, the yoga community (Western world specifically) has created so many types of yoga.  You have power yoga, acro yoga, aerial yoga, hot yoga, kundalini yoga, ashtunga yoga, yin yoga, Christian yoga (what?!) etc.  Not to mention this overwhelming obsession with handstands that is taking over social media, creating what I'm now referring to Instagram yoga.  There are so many options, so many variations, so many claim-to-fame yoga styles.  It's almost dizzying!   How do you know how and where to begin?  Why even begin at all?

I come across plenty of people who hear the word yoga and immediately cringe.  There have been many times when people tell me directly how much they hate yoga (knowing that I am a teacher, and therefore, at the very least, like yoga.)  When we get to talking, I find out that either a.) they never tried a yoga class and therefore have no real idea if they like it, b.) took one class and got frustrated at how tight and inflexible they were, or c.) are a go-get-after-it type and think yoga is not a "hard enough workout" for their lifestyle.  All three of these reasons to hate yoga come with their own baggage, but I think the overwhelming drive is fear.

Fear that it may make them uncomfortable, fear that it'll be hard, fear that yoga may be humbling and they aren't ready for it.

Ironically, CrossFit has recently suffered a similar fate.  Like wild fire, CrossFit boxes are popping up everywhere.  Each one claims to be the best, to have something others do not.  Mention CrossFit in a group of people and you're bound to have at least one person scrunch their nose at you in disgust.  (Ugh, don't get me started on CrossFit, I had someone say to me at a wedding knowing I am a partner of a CrossFit box. But, not unlike yoga, the reasons for hating CrossFit come with a lot of baggage, most rooted in fear or ignorance.  They hate CrossFit, but they've never taken a class.  Or it's way too intense, they could never.  Or CrossFit is too competitive.  They hate CrossFit because "it's cult"or "it's stupid."  Perhaps they have that one friend who started CrossFitting, found a new sense of confidence, a new appreciation for their health, and is telling the world about it.  And god, isn't that annoying?

Like yoga, CrossFit is not the same everywhere with everyone.  Each box has it's own flavor, it's own style. I remember taking my first yoga class in a studio, while attending college.  The teacher was so strange and I hated it.  But, if I never tried yoga again, I wouldn't be here now.  Knowing that it was one teacher, one class, allowed me to give it another shot.  And the next class I took blew me away with awesomeness.  My first experience with CrossFit was Murph, at the CrossFit Reebok One box.  It was a small class of 4 people: my husband, my good friend (and Reebok employee), a random man, and me.  I was uncomfortable, nervous, awkward, and tremendously sore the next 3 days.  BUT, I gave it another shot and loved it.

As I mentioned in my last post, over the years I have found the style of yoga that speaks to me and what I need.  Due to the amount of CrossFit I do now, coupled with years of athletics in my past, I generally approach my practice as a way to heal, rebalance, strengthen, and stretch (both mind and body.)  There are days when the practice mostly gives me mental clarity, emotional calm, and serenity.  Other days, my body hurts so much, that it's all I can do to continue to breathe during suddenly-painful poses.  I started CrossFit because I wanted to find some fight in me, some strength.  I wanted to challenge myself.  Together, I find they are the perfect balance for me.

Now, I am not saying that everyone should love yoga and CrossFit as much as I do.  I believe that everyone has different motivators in life, different goals and priorities.  But at it's core, I believe yoga and CrossFit are for everyone and anyone.  Yoga is essentially the act of harmonizing mind, body, and spirit through physical postures and breath.  The word yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning "to join."  So, at any moment, when you are trying to make yourself feel more whole, that is yoga.  CrossFit is functional fitness.  It is our basic, primal ability to move through our environment as a human being, capable of all things we were naturally made to do.  I think yoga and CrossFit are trying to achieve the same thing.  Disconnect from our man-made systems and connect to ourselves.

Like I said, yoga is many things to many people.  CrossFit is many things, to many people.  Some people move as a way to deal with stress.  Others move because their health depends on it.  Some move to connect to other people, find friends, be part of something.  There are those that move because they want to challenge themselves.

Then there are the ones who move simply because they love it.

I wish we could strip down the labels and call it what it is: mindful movement.  Because if we did that, I know more people would try it.  All I  can hope is that you find your yoga, your fitness, and you rock it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Case of the Yoga Selfie

So, I am launching my first Instagram Challenge, starting on the first day of August and I am a mix of excited, nervous, and apprehensive.  There are many reasons I decided to do this, which I will get into soon, but before I do I have to address the selfie.  First of all, I loathe the word selfie.  I think it embodies all the stupid, narcissistic, spoiled, self-centered characteristics of a first world nation concerned only about ourselves.  Namely, our image, thus the #selfie.
Then while coaching CrossFit, the song that puts it all out there, the #selfie song came on and a few of our members started groaning in agony.  (I know, I know, it's a terrible song, but it also happens to be catchy, so I kept it on.)  While it droned on in the background, we talked about how pathetic the song is, how I feel like my brain cells commit suicide while it plays, how the whole song is representative of a much bigger, more horrible trend in humanity, how we're all doomed.  Oh, the horror.

But then, a member said, "Yea, but Rachael you're like the queen of selfies."


I was mortified.  I never considered myself a repeat selfie offender.  Primarily because I am hardly ever at clubs, I never remember to take pictures at parties (or maybe I forget to attend parties?) I don't take duck face pictures with my girlfriends, and I never take pictures in public bathrooms.  But then it hit me, he was talking about my yoga selfies.

Over the past couple of months as I made a shift in my life, my career, I started documenting my yoga practice.  In truth, I had originally been inspired by some of the amazingly beautiful photos I found on instagram of some wonderfully bendy, flexy, strong yogis.  (This trend sparked a great article denouncing the yoga selfie, a must read. )  Either way, it was fantastic to see these yogis doing inspiring things with their body, but it wast truly representative of my own practice.  My yoga practice has never been showy and still isn't.  I've worked hard to be flexible, to try the more challenging poses, but I pretty much do the same yoga poses when someone is watching, as I do when I am all alone.  This means lots of sun salutations, strong warrior series, lots of hip openers, some yin, some yang, etc.  So, knowing that my photos were never going to look "as cool" as some of these talented folks, it didn't occur to me to put my yoga photos or videos on there to share.

What really started my #yoga #selfie journey was my cat, Weezy (aka #weezus) Every time I whipped out my yoga mat, Weezy would come into the room and stay by my side the entire practice.  It was so adorable, I could barely stand it.  I started to send pictures to my husband, then to my friends.  Then I decided to just share it on Instagram, because everyone found them so entertaining.  The fact that I was doing yoga in there seemed like an afterthought.
Getting all zen-like with my maine man. (get it, he's a maine coon.)

As I shared in my last post, it's been an interesting journey lately, one that took me away from my mat for some time.  Now that I am starting over, when I see the photos I took in the beginning with Weezy, I see how hesitant and vulnerable I really was.  As the days, weeks, and months have passed, I am beginning to see some changes in the way I approach my practice and it shows in the photos.  I'm trying new things, I'm having more fun with it, etc.  However, more than just that, I am happy to hear from people who have been inspired by my photo story in some way.  I love knowing that someone saw my photo and chuckled, smiled, maybe rolled out their mat, or went to a yoga class.  While I am not perfect, I too am working towards being less critical and more accepting of each practice, each photo.  Being content with getting on my mat each day and not being worried about how I look is a daily reminder, because that's the essence of yoga anyway.

#fatcat #longhairdontcare

Even though I had no direction when I started taking them, I now see my #yoga #selfies as a photo journal. I want it to be a testament to my dedication, my journey, and my commitment to living my life open, free, and full of love. Do I need to take pictures to prove this?  No.  But I love photos, and always have.  And this is nothing new, not for me and not for human kind throughout time.  The Egyptians made #selfie coffins to sleep in for all eternity.  In the early centuries, people sat and posed for hours for a single #selfie.  Then, when Kodak created film, people didn't take pictures of beautiful mountains and lakes, they took pictures of themselves.  #RevolutionaryWarSelfie.  When we invented the handheld video camera, we used it to document our own lives, our families, our memories.  Call it a memorial, call it a portrait, call it a selfie.  Whatever it is, we've always wanted to document and record our lives.

Just like in yoga, when it comes to selfies, the most important thing is our intention.  If our intention is kind, both to ourselves and others, then I see no harm in the selfie.  If it's used to inspire, to share, to connect, then go for it.  If we find its about approval, about comparison, about showing off, then we know we're on the wrong track.  When the Instagram yoga challenge launches, I want people to recognize their own intention. Perhaps you want to challenge yourself to try something new, maybe you want to hold yourself accountable to practice everyday.  Maybe you want something fun to look forward to each day.  Perhaps you want to share your lifestyle with friends and family. Perhaps it's just for you.

In the end, its about putting love out there and not worrying about what comes back.  More smiles, the better.  So, selfie on.