People Who Live By Excuses Die By Them: A Word for New Years Resolutions

Ah, the last week of the year. The week where people are ready to shake off the previous year and say “hello” to the new one, even though deep down inside they know it will only be more of the same (or in the case of 2017, even worse). Christmas is over and the glimmer of hope that New Year’s provides sparkles like champagne bubbles. People start saving workout plans and healthy recipes on Pinterest. Photos on Instagram of colorful acai smoothie bowls and living rooms that look like a minimalist IKEA catalogue get liked more than ever, in hopes that any of it will translate into real life.

This is when people swear that they will lose ten pounds, they will be nicer to their kids, they really will clean out and organize the garage, and – by golly – that gym membership they’ve been paying for years will not go to waste. Then by March, they have resorted back to all the same habits and absolutely nothing has changed. July rolls around, and the garage remains frozen in time. By September, those 10 unwanted pounds have turned into 15.

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Why does this keep happening to people? Because they live by excuses.

Let’s come up with some examples of the excuses I’m talking about:

“I’m too tired to work out.”

“Eating healthy means eating salads, and I don’t like salad.”

“But ice cream is sooooo good….”

“I can’t get rid of X item in my garage, I might need it someday.”

“Kale is nasty.”

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Sound familiar?

The truth is, people rarely count the cost of living the way they want to. This requires facing some personal demons and it requires actually getting off your bum. The change people hope for at the beginning of the year is far scarier than they realize. The moment they think, “I have to change in order to make this happen,” they back off. The creativity required to learn what you need to make the necessary changes work takes too much energy.

By the time they are facing the twilight of their lives, they are popping pills they can’t pronounce for diseases they don’t know how they got and getting surgeries they can’t really afford. Their houses are full of junk their children will have to sort through if they don’t.

Ever since I was I kid, I wanted to live with the end of my life in mind. What kind of an old lady do I want to be? Broken, weak, fearful, and afraid of change? Or vibrant, healthy, wise, and content? Definitely the latter. What is it going to take for me now as a thirty-something to be a healthy, vibrant, happy eighty-something? It’s going to require intentionality on my part. It’s going to require letting go of excuses.

Excuses when it comes to eating right:

“I don’t know how to cook a meal that doesn’t require processed foods.”

This is a big deal for a lot of people, and frankly nothing to sneeze at. This, I admit, is a scary one to tackle for most moms. What if their husband hates it? What if their kids hate it? The key for this one is starting slow. You don’t have to turn into Julia Child overnight. Cooking healthy meals requires little culinary expertise; you just need some hints and shortcuts. Slowly introduce new foods onto the family plate that don’t come out of a package or can: steamed broccoli, summer squash, sweet potatoes, etc. You can up your game to swiss chard once everyone is feeling more on board. Also, slowly start removing processed foods from the plate. Eat out less. Stay committed to the process (no pun intended).

“But healthy food tastes bad.”

This is an assumption that people make who have never had healthy food. They are afraid to try something new and assume that it must taste awful. It’s also important to note that people who are accustomed to lots of unhealthy, processed, fatty, sugary foods have completely wired their brains and their taste buds to crave those foods. They are literally addicted to them. If this is you, consider that there may not be anything wrong with the healthy food, there may be something wrong with your brain.  Detox, water, and staying focused are key to getting rid of these addictions.

“Healthy food is too expensive.”

False.* You do not have to shop at Whole Foods to eat whole foods. It is actually cheaper to cook simple meals made from whole, fresh foods from scratch than it is to be constantly buying processed foods. Meal for meal, pound for pound, healthy is cheaper. Your grocery bill really eases up when you stop buying soda and ice cream. Also, you will pay for your health at some point. You can pay what might feel like more now and stay healthy, or pay a whole lot more later when you get diabetes and heart disease. Your choice.

*There are plenty of ways to spend a lot of money on health foods. Plenty. But it is absolutely possible to save money on your grocery bill by sticking to the real stuff.

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Excuses when it comes to exercise:

“I’m too tired to work out.”

My husband and I were just talking about this one the other night. Exercise gives you energy. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into the gym feeling exhausted and wondering why I was there, and then left the gym feeling amazing. Also, people have this idea that working out must mean doing 45 minutes of plyometrics. What a horrible idea. No. Combine simple cardio and weight training instead. It doesn’t require running around like a chicken with your head cut off or dancing to the beat of some skinny DVD instructor when you have no coordination.

“I don’t have time to work out.”

Do you have time to watch Game of Thrones? Do you have time to play Candy Crush Saga? Do you have time to spend for ages on Facebook or Instagram? Guess what. You have time to work out.

“I have kids and I can’t get to the gym.”

The more legitimate excuse for not exercising in my book, but still not good enough. (“Wait until she has her kid…” I hear you whispering maniacally.) There are a lot of great avenues for working out at home that include your kids in really cute and fun ways, and it doesn’t always require a terrifying video of Jillian Michaels screaming at you from your TV. Who wants to be yelled at by a stranger in your own home? Ew. The truth is, a lot of the workouts I do at the gym I could easily do at home. Grab your kid(s), your yoga mat, and a kettle bell and have fun (don’t hit your kid with the kettle bell). My sister and I worked out with my mom to her amazingly 80’s Stormie Omartian workout video when I was little and we had so much fun. Got healthy and made some awesome memories.

“My (body part of your choosing) hurts too much.”

This one is for real, and I get it. I lived with chronic knee pain for over a year between my injury and my surgery and a good bit after that. You’re scared you’re going to hurt yourself or to make whatever it is worse. Totally get it. This is where I would say to go online and look up safe exercises to do for that painful body part and some that don’t involve it at all. Like I said, working out doesn’t have look like running a marathon or dancing to Zumba. Getting your body moving can be more gentle than you think. But not exercising at all is worse for your body (even the parts that hurt all the time) than babying it.

Excuses for getting rid of all the stuff you hold onto:

“I don’t know where to start.”

I do. Your clothes. Always start with clothes. It’s the easiest place to start. “Do I wear this or not?” and “Does this fit or not?” or “Has this been in style in the last 15 years?” are good questions to ask yourself as you proceed. Move on from there.

“But I was hoping to use/read/fix that someday.”

I have bad news. That day is absolutely never coming. You aren’t going to read that book ever. That weird piece of whatever you were hoping to use for a craft someday. Yep. Not happening. Swallow the pill of reality, and get rid of it.

“But that item is sentimental and makes me think of memory/deceased relative.”

My mom will be the first person to tell you that there are plenty of sentimental items I will hold onto with a firm death grip. Again, I get it. But let me ask you: is the item in question an actual time machine? No. Can it raise the dead? Nope. Will your memory be erased forever the moment you part with it? I hope the human mind doesn’t work like that (thankfully it doesn’t). If a sentimental item is also useful (hello, grandma’s super cute clutch purse from the ‘40s!) then by all means keep it. But if it seems like you’re drowning in a sea of sentimentality, it’s time to let go of the past and say hello to the present.

Real change, the change you want at the beginning of the year, is scary. It requires a lot of effort and a lot of transformation within yourself. It’s not really something you can resolve to do at the beginning of the year without really putting in the commitment to do it.

But I promise you that if you do, you will never be the same person, you will never want to go back and you will never regret it.

What are the excuses you live by? What would your life be like if you let those excuses go?

Adventures in Pregnancy

cacti“Two or three quiet years.”

That’s what my husband and I both really wanted. When we discussed having children before we got married last year, we both wanted a few kid-free years, just the two of us. So when I took a pregnancy test three months ago confirming that I was pregnant after only seven months of marriage, my reaction was less than joyful. It was so not what we had wanted. We had both waited so long to find each other, so we wanted to enjoy the short time that we had as a couple before life got crazy. Now, it would seem, that time would be even shorter.

I was in shock. I was sad. I was angry. I was a million miles away from being happy, which made me feel guilty on top of everything else. I felt like I was supposed to feel joyful and happy, but all I could feel like was that the whole rug of my life had just been pulled from underneath me. It seemed all our plans would have to go out the door.

Would my husband still travel nurse? Would we still build a tiny house? Would we still rent our house out? Would I still pursue a life as a writer and health coach? Won’t pregnancy be awful? How will I have a baby on the road? What if we don’t get the house built in time?

The answer to most of those questions was, “Yes. You’ll be fine.” But it’s taken me three months to settle into that reality. After a whirlwind of emotion, I’ve settled into a mostly peaceful acceptance of our situation, and a burgeoning excitement to meet my child face to face. There are still hard days where I pine for the early days when we were first married and life felt open and exciting (thanks, hormones).

But, if anything, this baby has forced us to fast track the life we wanted. We are nearing the end of our first travel contract, saving like crazy for a tiny house, and I’m trying to finish my novel by the time this little person arrives. If anything, this baby has asked us, “Are you going to live the life you really want or not?”  Thanks, kid.

So, how are we traveling tiny and living healthy with a baby on the way?

By being really, really intentional and letting go of outside expectations about what babies need and what pregnancy is supposed to look like.

Eating healthy is a MASSIVE challenge when you’re pregnant (especially if you’re in the dreaded first trimester).

The first trimester was so hard. All the lovely healthy foods I normally enjoyed eating seemed to be nauseatingly foul and all I wanted was boxed macaroni and cheese and fried anything. Everything made me gag. I couldn’t even look at raw meat without wanting to die. Exercise was always shortened or totally curtailed by extreme exhaustion or nausea. Smoothies were just about the only way I could get anything nutritious down my gullet. But I wanted to try to be intentional about what I ate (which was all day long, btw) since those first few months are so crucial for baby’s development. I knew my cravings would go just as quickly as they came, so it seemed a little safer to ignore my cravings than give into them (save a few runs to the Thai restaurant and several to the taco place).

In my second trimester (currently), my nausea and food aversions have pretty much totally subsided, and my energy levels have returned.  Hooray for a window of opportunity! My green juices and most veggies are now back on the menu! I’m trying to avoid junk (especially sugar), and making sure that I get plenty of water and micronutrients and minerals so that baby and I are both feeling tip top. I’m back in the gym with lighter-than-usual weights, and trying to focus on keeping my core and my legs strong to keep my body prepared for labor and to avoid diastasis recti (hint, not crunches!). I figure that keeping my body ready to have a child is a little bit like training for a marathon: it’s not something to start thinking about two weeks beforehand! And, for those who think pregnant women are fragile lilies who should never move a muscle while they’re pregnant, that’s actually far more dangerous for mom-to-be than going to the gym and doing some light to moderate weight training (provided that was her custom before she was pregnant. If you never lifted a thing before you were pregnant, stick to healthy cardio). If you let your muscles turn to jelly, birth and recovery are going to be tough!

As we let people know we were pregnant, we got quite a few questions and comments about living tiny.

“You’re not still planning on building a tiny house, are you?”
“So you’re still going to travel nurse?”
“You can’t be a minimalist and have a kid – it’s impossible! Kids come with too much stuff.”
“You guys will do great!  I’m excited to watch your adventure!”

I realize having a baby in the midst of a gypsy life goes completely against the grain for most people. But if Mary and Joseph can have baby Jesus in a cave while on the road and then have to move Him to Egypt and back, I figure our kid will be fine. Billions of women since the dawn of time have been having and feeding babies without a Boppy and without wipe warmers and without 18 million toys.

So where will our baby actually sleep you ask? He or she will sleep in a baby box next to us, to start off with (in lieu of a bassinette). We’ve planned a few spaces for baby and things in the actual tiny house that should last for years. By the time we settle somewhere more permanently and have a slightly larger house (read slightly), little person and any others who have joined the tribe should still fit in the house fairly well.

There are a lot of “things” that people go hog wild for that supposedly come with babies when they’re born. I’ll tell you what comes with babies. Nothing. They literally come with nothing. You are the one who gets to decide how many toys they have, what kind of “mommy is actually the one who needs this” items, and which items you register for. Just because people tell you need something doesn’t mean you do.  My sister was good enough to send me a list of the bare minimum essential items that I’d need in a tiny house.  “Everything else is just extras!”  Thanks Jules!  My mother in law has also been amazingly encouraging (I struck actual gold in the mother-in-law department!).

But I knew I would be walking into a tsunami of advice, so at the beginning of my pregnancy I chose to trust the opinions of three women in regards to this: my mother (and mother-in-law), my sister, and my naturopath. All other opinions would be graciously smiled at. I’m 31, I have 13 nieces and nephews (some of whom I’ve lived with for stretches), I’ve been a nanny of infants/toddlers several times over, so I’m no stranger to babies or kids (I know, I know, I know: having your own is different). My mom has had six kids, my sister has had six kids, and my naturopath is also a midwife who had delivered countless babies.

So why do I want to avoid all the excess (other than I’ll be living in a 350 sq foot house)?The first days of bringing a baby home are exhausting and stressful. There are so many changes and transitions to deal with. The last thing I want to have to worry about is dealing with clutter or having to clean (there will be ENOUGH to clean if you know what I mean!) and then the eventual guilt that I shoved out a ton of money on an item I never used.

So, I’m curious (women who have already birthed babies): what was the weirdest food you wanted when you were pregnant, and what were two baby related items you wished you hadn’t invested in? Which Item was the major lifesaver? What was the worst advice you got while pregnant?

Five Reasons Why I Lift Weights

T14705101_199274070539101_8014979964468199424_nhe gym can be an intimidating place, especially for females like me.  I remember walking into the newly constructed gym on campus my senior year of college and having no earthly idea how to use any of the machines.  And the free weight room?  Forget it.  It seemed like that was for boys only.  Even until recently, I was afraid that if I lifted weights I would get “big” or “bulky” and develop a masculine physique.  Not only is women “bulking” to a manly size a myth for most women (you have to take a significant amounts of supplements and have weightlifting be your JOB in order for that to happen), it’s a terrible reason not to venture off the stationary bike and into the free weight area.

I started doing weight training for physical therapy after knee surgery two years ago and I’ve never been able to stop (it helps that my husband lifts weights).  There are so many reasons why I love hitting the weight area, but I thought I’d share a few.

1. I hate being sick.

With the exception of the Gastrointestinal Virus Honeymoon Meltdown of 2016 (thank you, Mexico), I have been sick maybe one day in the last two years.  For some of you with strong constitutions that may not sound like much, but for me that is a HUGE deal.  I have had a very sickly constitution my whole life and usually get some kind of cold/flu/sinus infection at least twice per winter and twice per fall.
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Since working out regularly?  Nothing, and science backs me up.

Studies have shown that regular moderate exercise (not just weightlifting), can give your immune system a huge boost.  Since your bones, lungs, liver and lymph nodes are all working together to keep you from getting sick, regular exercise (real exercise, 45 minutes a day, five days a week) helps activate both your lungs and your liver to do their jobs of flushing the bad guys out of your system, not to mention strengthening your bones.  All in all, if you’re sick of constant trips to the Urgent Care or your primary care doc because you just can’t seem to get healthy, you might want to consider some regular exercise.

(Note!  Studies have also shown the regular extremely strenuous exercise — I’m looking at you marathon runners — can have a negative effect on your immune system)

2.  I want strong bones.

Given my strong family history of osteoporosis, I’m at a high risk of developing this disease when I age if I don’t take certain measures now while I’m young and healthy (AND when I’m older).

anigif_enhanced-buzz-29290-1389633012-13.gifWhen I was a little girl, Chiquita Banana had these commercials of all these old people running and swimming and playing tennis, and then eating a banana as a reward.  That had a profound impact on me.  I remember thinking, “THAT’s what I want to be like when I’m old.  Super strong and healthy.”

Thankfully, weight bearing exercises (especially resistance training) have been shown to help keep your bones strong and healthy and help prevent bone density loss.  This can be achieved even by walking, but the only bones bearing any weight are your legs.  I want my WHOLE body to have strong bones, so I lift!

(Note!  I also get plenty of plant based calcium from kale and other greens and take regular supplements of vitamin D.  Both are essential for healthy bones!)

3.  I deal with anxiety.

I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb anxious.  I have dealt with it one way or another my entire life (ask my friends in high school about me puking on dates from nerves, or ask my sister about the constant night terrors I had as a little girl, also unfortunately involving vomit).  My mom would paint me pretty pictures with helpful Bible verses on them for me to meditate on to keep me from coming to pieces (a very helpful practice at the time, even more effective now, no lie.  Thanks Mom.).

So, it’s a thing for me.  And lifting really, really helps.

“Working with weights — anaerobic exercise — stresses and tears muscles, which increases endorphin production based on the intensity and duration of exercise.” (LiveStrong)  Endorphins, if you don’t know, help make your brain feel happy and mellow.  Exercise in general, but especially weight training involving multiple joints, is great for reducing stress and helping to alleviate anxiety.

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For me, the mental exercise involved in focusing my mind on how I’m breathing, how are my muscles properly contracting, is my knee ok, counting my reps, etc, all help in focusing my mind on something other than what I may have been fretting about before and I leave the gym feeling great.

4.  I need to keep my metabolism up.

One of the keys to a healthy weight is having a healthy metabolism, and for a mesomorph like me, that can take some work.  (I’ll do a separate post on metabolism types and how to maintain a healthy metabolism in case you’re curious)  Before I started weight training, losing weight was really difficult because my metabolism was so slow.  I weighed 30 lbs more than I did in college (which was 15 lbs more than high school) and my weight seemed to yo-yo to no end.  But real weight loss seemed impossible even though I was juicing and running regularly (before my knee injury).

But within weeks of going to physical therapy after my knee surgery, I found that weight was floating off of me.  This was because I was weight training my legs.

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“Working bigger muscles in multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlifts or lunges will require more ‘work’ from the heart and brain and higher levels of metabolism compared to exercising smaller muscle groups,” says Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, a personal trainer in Canada.  Your legs do a lot of work during the day just to keep you standing upright, so training your legs with weights wakes them up a good deal and kicks your body’s ability to burn fat into high gear.

If you want to lose weight, you have to move weight.  And never skip leg day.

(Note!  All total I lost almost 35 lbs, and then gained 10 because honeymoon food)

5.  I like feeling strong

I cannot do a pull up, nor have I ever done one ever.  I cannot do a *real* pushup.  I see women in the gym in much worse shape than I am moving way more weight than I can.  When I started lifting, I was building muscles from nothing.  I had NO upper body strength, and no real visible muscles to speak of.  Just squish.  When I started training with my now-husband-then-boyfriend I could barely move any weight with my arms, I was so weak.

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I might not be able to move much weight compared to other people (I literally have to put all my weight on the paper cutter at work in order to move it), but I sure can compared to myself from the past.  There are some exercises that I have tripled and quadrupled the amount of weight I can move (not hard when you start from scratch).

I love how that feels.  There’s a boost to my confidence not just in how I perceive my looks, but in the fact that I am actually physically stronger.  That is empowerment.

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Me, after a morning fasted cardio in October 2016, just before our wedding.  I had been weight training for nearly a year at that point, didn’t look anything like a burly man.