Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Diet Trends

Something I’ve noticed in the past two years or so is that there are cycles, or trends, if you will, in types of dieting and nutrition. I have followed people on Instagram (try @skinnymeg31, @jazzythings, @dallassrae, @busygirlseatclean, @corinanielsen, @shivalicious89, @trishallen, @fromfatgirlto5k, @fitalicious_me, @tastyhealth) and watched their journeys. Some of them started overweight and lost a lot of weight. Some of them started thin and got healthy and toned. Some of them decided to do bikini and physique competitions. Some of them got to an unhealthy weight, ruined their metabolisms, or developed eating disorders. Many of them have evolved in the way they think about nutrition. While they all have had different paths, they have the same goal: health and balance. They also love food! I’ve learned a lot just by reading their posts, seeing their food, and observing their development.

There are a few dieting trends I see that have lingered in the last couple of years. Rather than research all of these in detail, I just want to review each of them briefly including what my impressions have been. I also want to provide a little direction if you want to find out more about any of these. Do your own research. Always! 

Intermittent Fasting

This actually is a growing trend, still in its beginning phases from what I’ve seen. I’ve done a little research and would like to do more, and maybe even try it out sometime. Essentially, intermittent fasting is the idea that you go without food for a period of time, and you consume all your daily calories within a small time frame. This can vary from 4 to 8 hours of “feeding.” Then you spend another period of time fasting. Some people do this constantly. Some people cycle with a few days of fasting, and a few days off. I can’t attest to the best way to do it. {This guy} says that your body will adjust to the type of eating that you do. For example, if you currently get hungry and eat every few hours, it’s because your body has come to expect that. The same will go for fasting for longer periods of time. The types of food you eat in your “feeding” period depend on your goals, but some say you can eat whatever you want. {This article} has some great explanations of your options. My cousin has also recommended {this guy’s book}.

I feel like this would be a major adjustment for anybody, but it seems interesting and doable, especially if you have so much freedom. It also appears to get good results for people. I’ve heard in general that fasting is actually a very healthy thing to do regularly, so I don’t see too many drawbacks, especially reading the research in Steve’s article. 

Gluten Free

Again, I haven’t done too much research on this trend. I started to read the book Wheat Belly after a foodie friend read it and posted about it. It’s very compelling as the author, William Davis, M.D., has seen some great results for himself and in his patients. By “great results,” I am not just talking about weight loss. He says that some benefits of cutting out wheat gluten help with intestinal problems, cholesterol, bone density, skin conditions, joint inflammation, and more. Some people go gluten free because they have a serious intolerance, and others do it for different reasons. The overwhelming majority of people I've observed do not make this a permanent lifestyle. But they do attest to feeling great when they do it.

While I’m not a big bread or pasta eater, I love baked goods, sandwiches, and pizza. I notice the difference in my bathroom experiences when I eat wheat in certain forms, and because of this I've thought about trying to go gluten free to see how it makes me feel. I anticipate it would make me feel better (because veggies), though I doubt I’d be as serious about it as some people are. Besides, you find gluten in {the craziest places}!

Clean Eating

This is the biggest and most powerful trend of eating that I have observed and also participated in. For those unfamiliar with “clean eating,” just consider it to be the simplest type of eating. Sticking with whole foods—fruits, veggies, whole grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa, lean meats, and certain oils (like olive or coconut)—is usually qualified as “clean.” Many clean eaters also stay away from especially starchy foods, like white potatoes. Some will eat plain Greek yogurt, and others don’t drink milk, but go with almond or coconut milk instead. Although you can tell from the ingredients that these often have more ingredients than a typical clean food would. A devoted clean eater might also encourage you to only get your sugar from .fruits, though less processed sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or molasses are also used, albeit sparingly. Try {The Gracious Pantry} for clean eating recipes and explanations. Technically if you avoid processed foods, you also may get rid of a lot of the refined foods and therefore end up somewhat gluten free anyway. Many of the people who make clean eating a priority have a cheat day or cheat meal every week. This idea is debatable in the health world.

What I notice on days I eat especially well is how much better I feel, especially during workouts. I have a very keen sense of self-awareness when it comes to my body and how foods and habits affect me. I feel that our bodies know what to do with healthy, real foods, and that these are definitely the best for us when it comes to performance and how we feel. I love the simplicity of it as the recipes by @busygirlseatclean on Instagram are so easy to make (7 ingredients or fewer). But as I’ve said repeatedly, I have a very hard time staying away from the less healthy foods I love. (Try Chinese for dinner on Monday, Noodles & Co. chicken Alfredo for dinner on Tuesday, peach cobbler and ice cream both nights, and Belgian waffle/eggs/bacon at The Original Pancake House this morning.) The benefits of eating this way are numerous to me, though I find it very difficult to maintain. Also some clean eaters can be judgmental and get into the habit of making other people feel bad for foods they eat—I’ve done it! 


Oh, you’ve all heard of Paleo by now. Based on the Paleolithic diet eaten by cavemen, this one is a {very simple diet}, even simpler than clean eating. Its name may not be appropriate since most of the foods we eat today, even our normal produce, were not available to cavemen {see this video}. However, the idea behind it is that we are genetically adapted to eating certain foods. Paleo dieters eat a lot of protein, few carbohydrates, more (good) fats, low sodium, etc. The amount of protein we actually need as a species is debatable, as is the way in which we obtain the protein (meat vs. veggies, beans, etc.). With this diet you also have the cutting out of refined foods and wheat gluten, obtaining carbohydrates mostly from vegetables.

I think a diet high in vegetables is always a good thing, but I also believe in lower meat consumption, and I think legumes and peanuts are perfectly healthy! So this diet has never really appealed to me because it is restrictive even of healthy foods. Again, many people claim to feel great when they eat this way, but I’m not sure what we really should attribute that to. Is it the lower sugar and cutting out of wheat gluten? Is it the increase in vegetables and good fats? Is it all of it put together? I guess the answer is to do your own research or try it out yourself.

IIFYM – Flexible Dieting and Reverse Dieting

I think what makes flexible dieting so interesting is how many people I’ve seen “convert” to it after developing eating disorders (several of the Instagram accounts I mentioned earlier discuss their process of reverse dieting). For a humorous and interesting introduction, I’d recommend following @biolayne on Instagram, or look at {his YouTube channel}. You may also want to check out the {Flexible Dieting eBook} by Krissy Cagney, or follow her on Instagram @kmaecags. Heads up, she has a foul mouth. (She has a lovely movement called “Doughnuts and Deadlifts,” which I think sums this idea up pretty well.) Both Norton and Cagney use science to explain why you don’t have to eat clean all the time. You use the “if it fits your macros” idea to fit in the foods that are good for you, and the ones you enjoy, all in one day. The general idea is 80% healthy foods, and the other 20% “sanity foods.” This is meant to help you keep your sanity by preventing you from binging on foods that you tell yourself are “off limits.” It helps you be more aware of portions and macros for accomplishing goals. Another good piece of reading is {Corina Nielsen’s latest blog post} on food phobias and food shaming. She stresses moderation. 

an example of @corinanielsen's flexible dieting day
As far as my observations go, I’ve seen that this method gives all my favorite fitness people really good results. The downside is the constant measuring and weighing you have to do to count your macros (fat, carbs, protein). The upside is being able to fit your favorite “unhealthy” foods into your macros. You calculate your macros based on your personal goals, and the experts can help you do that. Though even using something as simple as the MyFitnessPal app or website can be helpful to start. I like that this helps people keep a healthy relationship with food, making it so that they don’t feel bad when they decide to eat some pizza or ice cream at the end of the day.

Final Comments

Now, look, folks, I am no health expert. I don’t have a nutrition certification or degree. I don’t have a personal training certification. I’m just an observer. I see a lot of merit to all of the different diet trends that are out there. And if weight loss or health is the goal, then I bet any one of the above would work, at least for a small period of time. The question you have to ask yourself is what would work for you, what makes you feel the best, and are you going to gain all your weight back if you quit?

I believe in moderation in life. The same goes for food. Did I feel bad for eating all that Chinese food on Monday, or the pasta from Noodles & Company on Tuesday? Nope; food is delicious. Were they the healthiest options? Probably not. Did I keep the portions in control, or fit them in my macros? Definitely not. Should I make some changes? Probably. Should I just give up on being healthy and eat all the things? No way Jose. Is there hope? Yes.

I believe you can enjoy life, enjoy “unhealthy” food, and still be healthy. I’m no health expert, but I love food. I’m learning. And this is all a process. Striking a balance is the key, and I think flexible dieting is probably the most sensible bet for anybody looking to get and stay healthy.

*Post edit: I still stick with what I said in my last paragraph, although I should specify it as more of a loose guide than actual specific tracking (80% healthy 20% not). Corina Nielsen specified to me that she stopped tracking and then started again to accomplish some fitness goals she has, saying, "The idea behind tracking is that it helps keep you aware of portions, macros for goals, etc. Definitely not a lifelong thing to do, I would shoot myself lol!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Cheap and Easy Eating

I realize that a post about food may not seem like it belongs in a “workout Wednesday” post. However, health is not just about physical fitness. Health depends largely on how we eat. So I wanted to do this post to change things up a little bit and talk about food.

Have you guys seen this?

OK, so maybe you shouldn't be eating fake food. But that doesn't mean you can't eat healthy food that's fast, cheap, or easy.

A few years ago, I started eating salads for lunch every day at work, er… almost every day. This wasn’t with the intent of a “diet” (which apparently confuses my coworkers). It was partially with the intent of making healthy eating choices for myself. But, truth be told, it was mostly with the intents of least resistance, and lowest cost.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I don’t like for things to be huge ordeals. Humans like the path of least resistance, right? I keep my cooking as simple as possible because if I complicated it, I’d never cook. So I thought I’d share a couple of ways I keep costs down while eating healthy.

1. I shop on Saturdays.
Designating one day a week when you do your shopping can help you reduce your overall grocery spending. Some people (like the Food Nanny) recommend shopping only once every two weeks. I can’t do it that way. Maybe you can.

2. I buy the staples.
I have a list in my phone of groceries. I keep the same items on that list at all times, and I add things as they become necessary (floss, shampoo, etc.). The things I buy every single Saturday include
- Bananas
- Other fruit (shop by season/price)
- Bagged spinach (1.99 for a bag of Kroger Tender Selections spinach. This gives me lunch for five days.)
- Cucumber
- Grape tomatoes (always cheaper than yellow or cherry)
- Zucchini (to use when I don't want frozen veggies)
- Other veggies (shop by season/price/need)

3. I buy the occasionals.
I know “occasionals” isn’t a word. I’m using it to show that I don’t buy these things every time I shop. It just depends on my supply, what I intend to cook, and what the current deals are.
- Avocados (depending on price)
- Sweet potatoes/yams
- Chicken breast (fresh or frozen, depending on price)
- Frozen vegetables ($1/bag at Smith's)
- Frozen fruit ($10 big bag at Costco, or buy fresh on sale and freeze it)
- Plain Greek yogurt (best deal comes in a larger container, or make your own)
- Cottage cheese
- Neufchatel or other cheese
Yogurt dressing (yummiest, healthiest, lowest calorie option)
- Almond coconut milk (unsweetened)
- Eggs
- Carton of egg whites
- Homestyle orange juice
- Canned tuna
- 2 lb container of quick oats and old-fashioned oats (better for making oat flour and overnight oats)
- Bag or bottle of Stevia sweetener
- Protein powder
- Nut butter
- Lawry's meat marinades (these get really cheap; watch for sales!)
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil

Now that you have the food, this is where I show you my simple tips and tricks for each meal.

Breakfast Tips

I absolutely don’t spend time making breakfast in the morning when I work. In the summer, I may take some time to make some Biggest Loser pancakes or egg white omelets or something. Here are some low-cost, healthy, quick breakfast ideas I use.

1. Plain Greek yogurt plus fruit
My favorite combination lately mixes 6 oz plain yogurt with a splash of almond milk, 1 tsp Stevia, some pineapple chunks, and coconut flakes. Holy moly it is delicious. But you don’t need to get fancy. You can just cut up some strawberries, slice some oranges, or throw in some blueberries (I just got 2 lbs for $5!). It just depends on what is in season and what you have time for.

2. Protein shakes
This is easy to throw together, albeit noisy in the morning. I use about 1 cup almond/coconut milk, 1/2 frozen banana, 1 Carnation breakfast packet or 1/2 - 3/4 scoop chocolate protein powder, and either 1 tbsp peanut butter, or 2 tbsp PB2. I blend it in my Magic Bullet. It’s yummy, and cold, and sweet. It keeps you full for quite a while. And I’m pretty sure chocolate and peanut butter is the best.

3. Smoothies
I buy the $10 bag of frozen fruit at Costco. I fill up half the Magic Bullet cup with that. Then I use some yogurt and orange juice or Fuze. Easy peasy. Also VERY sugary/high in carbohydrates. Use this on a hot day that you expect to be active. Sometimes I have spinach ice cubes that I throw in there too. Put in a partial scoop of protein powder or 1/3 cup egg whites in for some added protein. It'll keep you full for longer.

4. Oatmeal
There’s about a million ways to do oatmeal. Just look at the Gracious Pantry website! I pay less than $4 for the enormous container of oatmeal that lasts me for several months. I typically make 1/3 cup quick oats with 2/3 cup water in the microwave. I’ll put in lots of cinnamon, and a little bit of honey or stevia. It’s easier to use less sweetener if you decrease it over time; your taste buds adjust. If I have some extra time in the morning, I like to make microwaved cinnamon apples to put on my oatmeal. I also like to make overnight oats, which you can find on Pinterest. And slow cooker oats can be great because it can provide breakfast all week. There's 45 servings in the 2 lb container of oats. That's only $.09 per serving, which is on the high end. To reiterate, that's breakfast for a month and a half, folks, for $4.

5. Toast options
I honestly rarely buy or eat bread. I buy the Ezekiel frozen kind, and it stays in my freezer for a few months. I like this option for the days when I want something savory. I just defrost then toast a piece of Ezekiel. Then I either fry up or scramble an egg, and I put the egg on the toast. If I am feeling a little less healthy, I’ll put on a piece of American cheese. As a preworkout, sometimes I’ll toast a piece of bread, smear on some peanut or almond butter, and use a little bit of honey. It keeps me full for quite some time.

All these options are inexpensive and fast to make.

Lunch Tips:

When I’m working, which is 9 months out of the year, I take my lunch stuff to work and leave it in the fridge all week. This includes my bag of spinach, my dressing, tomatoes, cucumber wrapped in foil, croutons if you want, and other desired salad fixings. These might include boiled eggs, canned tuna, or avocados. I also keep a plate and silverware at work because I try to be eco-friendly. So every day at lunch, I bust out all my salad fixings and throw it all together. I tear up my spinach, throw down some tomatoes, slice some of my cucumber, possibly use tuna/egg/avocado, and put on some dressing--I don't like a lot of it.

Maybe two or three days a week, I’ll also have fruit with my salad. This could be an apple, orange, half a grapefruit, mango, strawberries, some grapes, or whatever I bought that’s in season.

When I told you I choose to eat like this due to least resistance and lowest cost, I wasn’t playing around, people. It’s easy to bring all my stuff on Monday, and not have to prepare or think about lunch for the whole week. I never have the “I forgot my lunch” problem. I don’t like to think about or make lunch. Therefore, least resistance.

Additionally, it costs $2 for the spinach, $1 for the cucumber (which could last two weeks), $2.39 for the tomatoes (which could last two weeks), maybe $.17/egg, and $3.50 for the dressing (which lasts me for at least a month). So every day, lunch costs me about $1.10. You could add $.40 for a half a can of tuna, or $.50 for half an avocado. Still, you’re at about $2 per day for lunch.

Snack Tips:

I like to have a variety of snacks. Most of them I just keep at work in a snack stash. Some of the ones I use frequently are:

1. Roasted almonds (buy the big bag at Costco, bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes)
2. Granola bars (make your own, or a big box of 100 calorie Quaker ones from Costco lasts me all year)
3. Sliced apple and peanut butter
4. Baby carrots
5. Other nuts or seeds (get them unsalted if you can) such as pumpkin, sunflower, or pistachios.
6. 100 calorie bags of popcorn (or make your own and bag it--super cheap!)

Be careful with the serving sizes of nuts, seeds, and nut butters as they are very caloric. Small amounts can be very filling anyway.

Dinner Tips: 

I typically stick with the traditional dinner method of protein, veggie, and carb. I try to go heavy on the veggies, and healthy on the carb options. To repeat, my end goal is to have a process of least resistance, and lowest cost.

So here’s what I do for my 20 minute cheap dinner meals…

1. Buy your meat frozen, or buy it at a good deal fresh, then freeze it yourself.
- When I buy it fresh, I don’t pay more than $2/lb for chicken breast--watch for sales! I cut the breasts into 4 oz servings, and freeze it in sandwich or snack bags.
- When I buy fish, I usually get tilapia or salmon, and I don’t pay more than $10/bag at Smith’s.
- Jennie-O turkey burgers are great options, but you can also buy two 1 lb rolled package $3 if you use coupons.

2. Defrost some chicken, fish, or turkey. Do this overnight if you want less work.

3. Marinate your meat while you’re at work, or pick your spices. This makes it easy to cook your meat on a stove top or grill. I also like to bake my chicken sometimes.

4. When you get home from work, turn on the stove to 325. Put a fork-tortured sweet potato in the oven and let it hang out for 1.5-2 hours. If you’re pressed for time, you can do a higher temperature with less cooking time.
- Another option is to start some brown rice in a rice cooker about an hour before you eat.

5. Cook your meat however you want to when the potato, rice, or other healthy carb option has 15 minutes left.

6. About 5 minutes before you want to eat, throw some frozen veggies in a Pampered Chef microwavable steamer for 2 minutes. Stir, then cook again for another 2 minutes. I like to use broccoli, cauliflower, or mixed veggie bags. You could do this on the stove if you want.

This should have a protein, veggie, and carb hot and ready to eat at the same time. It shouldn’t have required more than 20 minutes of your energy and attention. So the meat should have cost around $.50 for your chicken (4 lbs would be $8, and that’s 16 servings), $.50 for veggies ($1 per bag, if you eat half the bag), and probably $.60 for a sweet potato, or even less for brown rice. That’s dinner for about $2.

If you're OK with lots of leftovers, you can also make a bigger crockpot meal. Another healthy, easy meal I make a lot is turkey spaghetti with spaghetti squash. (Just use a jar of spaghetti sauce, buy some ground turkey, and microwave the whole squash--dinner in 15 minutes!)

All of the above is how I function on a budget. It is possible to eat healthy and not spend a ton of money. Before I close, here are some final tips...

**Bonus tip 1: Wash your fruits (especially berries, tomatoes, and grapes) and veggies (cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, etc.) in a mixture of vinegar and water right when you get home. The general ratio is 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water. This gets rid of bacteria and makes it so your produce lasts longer. Wrap your veggies like cucumbers and zucchini in foil. They’ll stay fresh that way.**

**Bonus tip 2: If you're in Utah, follow because she posts the best weekly deals at grocery stores. This helps me save money on produce since I know which stores have the best prices. She has also posted when produce is in season.**

I hope this helped you, or someone, to put things into perspective as far as eating healthily, efficiently, and cheaply are concerned. This is by no means comprehensive. There are a lot of ways to do things (for example, meal prepping for a whole week). It may seem like these meals are boring or limiting. The thing is, you can change up flavors and meals as you desire. No two meals have to be the same. There are so many options.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Motherhood Anxiety: Part 2 - Intense Love

As I’ve explained in the past, my feelings on becoming a mother are very complex, too complex for just one piece of writing to suffice. I got a lot of encouraging feedback and great opinions on my last post about motherhood. I thought I may as well continue the series and articulate some more of my anxieties. The more I write, the more clarity I get.

Those close to me and familiar with “personality tests” know very well that I am a blue personality. If you know anything about blues, you know that they love intensely, with just about everything they have within them. To be loved by a blue can be a pretty awesome experience, especially if you get to experience their romantic feelings. But to be loved in any regard by one of us is a gift.

From all of the tender things I’ve read about motherhood and parenthood in general, the feelings of love experienced by a parent seem to be indescribable. The feelings you must have for a perfect little Spirit straight from Heaven, whom you worked with your spouse to create, have to be completely amazing. It’s probably the closest to godliness we can feel on earth.

Let me explain why this scares me.

When I really sit and think about those I love most, and I mean really give it some deep thought, I get overwhelmed. I love my siblings so, so much. I don’t think my brothers have any idea how much love I have for them. I could try to explain it, and I could tell them a million different ways, but it just wouldn’t be enough. When I think of them hurting at all, when I have seen them or heard about them hurting each other, when I think of them hurting themselves, my heart breaks. The tears flow freely, the sobs from my chest are deep and painful. It’s like I’m being torn apart from the inside. More than anything, I want them to make good choices. I want them to love each other, themselves, and others. I don’t want any pain for them. And so run the already deep feelings of my blue personality.

You may not need me to explain any further, then, why becoming a mother scares the holy out of me. I am afraid, dear friends, that I just couldn’t handle the pain. I barely made it through my own, and sometimes I think the worst is yet to come! So many different types of pain come in our lives. We have to learn from it, and that is the purpose of life—to grow. We fall and make mistakes and have to learn to use the atonement both to obtain forgiveness and also to obtain comfort.

Parents, in all their love, can only try to prepare their children for the pain they will inevitably encounter. Then they have to sit and watch, often helplessly, when their very creations, their most beloved, experience copious, excruciating trials, or make awful, life-shattering decisions. Thinking of the pain my mother felt when I went through my first heartbreak, and the worry my dad feels to this day when I get hurt—these thoughts bring tears to my eyes. Knowing how they wished they could remove my pain, knowing how I wish I could remove the pain for my brothers, and knowing how that will be multiplied with my own children... This all is more than I think I can bear.

And so, I know. I know what you’ll all tell me. You love your kids and know they have to learn for themselves. You can prepare them in the Lord’s way, protect them from some things, but pain will come. Occasions will arise when you have to simply point your children to the Savior because you can’t help. And the only place for you as a parent will be to turn to the same One, because who better to succor you as a parent?

I don’t need explanation or encouragement from you, parent friends. These things I already know, but for you and others to simply acknowledge that this will be a reality for me—feeling the intense love and all the pain and frustration that go with it—that would be helpful to me. And so I know I’d draw closer to my Father in Heaven as I take on a role similar to His, insofar as our very limited human experience allows. That doesn’t make the future any less frightening.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Teacher Summer

Every summer I get asked by friends, family, and strangers alike, “So what do you do during the summer?” This is always asked in an interesting tone. Like, “You’re so lucky you have all that time. What could you possibly do with all that time?”

I think a lot of people have images of me or other teachers just sitting on their couches in the summer.

If you’ve ever had a weekend to spare as an adult where you didn’t really have any solid plans, you probably understand what it’s like when a day kind of runs away from you. If I’m being perfectly honest, some summer days are just like that for me. But I also need it. I need things to slow down, and I need to have nothing to do. The level of stress I carry during the school year is indescribable, so I and my fellow educators need to just have nothing to do.

The truth is though, that most days aren’t like that. In fact, a lot of teachers spend their summers in trainings and classes, for what? To become a better teacher, of course! We have to keep our teaching licenses current by continuing classes. So I already did a Common Core Academy (my third summer academy to date). I spent three weeks of one summer in a writing class. Also, I really need to learn to use my SmartBoard.

Not all days are spent on the couch, wasting time. And not all days are spent in teacher trainings. In case you’re interested, my typical summer day for me looks like this:

-Wake up at 8:15 AM
-Eat a small pre-workout snack (such as a banana or Buddy Fruit packet)
-Read a chapter in the Book of Mormon while eating
-Get dressed to exercise
-Do some kind of workout or go to a group workout class (I live in BodyCombat and Step class in the summers)
-Come home and eat a more substantial meal
-Put on bathing suit
-Spend an hour at the pool
-Come home and shower
-Spend time reading, or go to the dollar theater, or write
-Sometimes take a nap
-Make dinner or go out to dinner with Patrick
-Watch The Office or a movie
-Every Wednesday watch So You Think You Can Dance with Kristen

But I mostly keep myself busy with a variety of things I wish I could do during the school year. For example, I go shopping for unique grocery and health items and try to use them in new recipes. I enjoy going to Whole Foods and Sprouts just to browse for cool items (coconut water latte, anyone?).

I also have spent many hours this summer in a plasma donation center to earn some extra money. I’m not sure if I’ll go back in next week or not. It is really time consuming, and my veins are difficult to find because they roll and they are small. So it’s always a huge ordeal.

This summer I've had a couple of campfires with friends or with Patrick where we ate unhealthy food and had fun. I’ve driven up the canyons a couple of times to walk around Silver Lake, and we tried to go on another hike, but the trail was closed still.

I usually try to go home to southern California at some point, which I did last week. I went to Newport Beach and San Gabriel Mission and read a lot of Jane Eyre and went on a lot of walks with my family. I practiced a lot of piano too, which I’d do here in Utah if I had a piano.

I enjoy going to Big! Lots or the Dollar Tree once in a while and finding awesome deals. You guys! I spent less than $14 at Big! Lots last week in Covina on so many awesome things, including a large package of PB2, some Justin’s peanut butter cups, $.60 Luna bars, etc. I’ve been to Barnes and Noble to use coupons, and have gotten some great deals at Gordman’s, Kohl’s, and Payless. I just can’t let good deals go to waste.

The point is, I find things to do. I am of the opinion that, “If you’re bored then you’re boring.” I love to think of things I want to do or see, and then just do them. I enjoy having time to do things I love. I had to learn how to make myself happy in many years of being single and having time in the summer for myself.

I love my summer vacations and find them to be a relaxing time where I can be at the top of my fitness game, and get super tan. And though I love my summers, I’m still trying to figure out if these summers are worth my sanity and health the other 9.5 months of the year. But that’s a post for another day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Workout Wednesday: I'm That Girl

I posted a long time ago about how odd it was to me to have a doctor call me “athletic.” Having never been enrolled in sports, never particularly enjoyed P.E., fallen in the higher categories for BMI, and performed well in school, this was a revelation to me. When he called me that, it was like serious validation for all the physical activity I had been doing for quite some time.

I had a friend invite me to do a half marathon with her, which I ended up doing alone. Still, she invited me.

During training, I would hear from all kinds of people, “Hey, I saw you running the other day.”

Then a friend and fellow blogger referred to me as one of her “fit” friends. What? Really? People see me that way?

And another friend asked me to do a Spartan beast training with her. And she asked me to go to a partner challenge class at her kickboxing place, which I did. And she asked me to consider doing Ragnar, which I passed on.

A high school acquaintance invited me to do a workout event with her while I was home in California this past week.

I admit, I enjoy and indulge in pizza and ice cream way more than anyone should. I think it’s because I don’t fully commit to a healthy lifestyle that I have a hard time seeing myself as being the “fit friend” people think of. But I guess all the evidence shows that I am “that girl.”

And I will embrace the title, however short I may fall in terms of people’s idea of fitness, or my own idea of fitness. Because I do love exercising. I do love pushing myself. I do love to try new physical activities. Exercise is what I do. And I am happy to be that girl that comes to mind when they need a workout partner, or need some kind of support in fitness.

Do you have a workout event, or a “bring a guest to class for free” day? Invite me. I’ll be that girl!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Facebook: The Rules of Posting

A few days ago a Facebook friend of mine posed a question: “Curious question, Facebook world - how do you decide what's worthy of a post on Facebook? I find it very interesting the wide swath of sharing. How do you decide what to post?”

This got me thinking, as I actually am pretty selective about what I post these days. I remembered a funny video my friend posted a long time ago. Enjoy.

I will readily admit to having been the publicly emotional girl quite a lot in my past. I think I’ve improved upon this. I try to keep posts simple, and if any of them are vague, it’s deliberately so as I don't like to get too personal on Facebook. I also used to check-in at the gym every day when I first started getting into fitness; it was more of a way to keep me accountable and help me keep track of my visits. But I realized it bugged people, and I don’t do that anymore. So I hope I no longer fall into any of those categories in the video because they all irritate me to no end.

I suppose I should now answer my friend’s question and give some general rules about how I decide what to post.

1. Moderation
Moderation is my number one rule when it comes to posting on Facebook. Basically I try really hard not to do too much of anything. Do I share photos from Instagram? Sometimes. Do I share all of them? No. Did I check-in at the gym every day for a while? Yes. Do I do that anymore? No. I sometimes share recipes and things, but not always. I suppose I just try to gauge the frequency of my posts. I try to do this on Instagram too—not post too much of any one type of thing (*cough*selfies*cough*). You know those, “Dear ______,” status updates aimed at inanimate objects, or events? It gets annoying when you post too many of those. Basically I feel that anything too formulaic or similar too often is obnoxious. Moderation in all things. Too many memes, too many videos, too much politics, too much religion, or too much of anything is a no-go.

**Disclaimer** I am in a fitness challenge on Instagram right now and will probably be very annoying in that regard for the rest of the month. I also share my blog link when I post because I want people to read it. #shamelesswriter

2. Good News
I think good news deserves to be shared. If you got a new car, a new job, are expecting a baby, got engaged, or something else, that is Facebook Feed-worthy. I think positive posts are good, but in following rule #1, they shouldn’t be posted so often to make everyone annoyed at your perfect life, no matter how optimistic you aim to be. It’s just the “in-your-face”ness of it, you know? We don't care that every day "is the best day of your life!" Post good things, in good measure.

3. Bad News
Forrest Gump in all his wisdom reminded us that “it happens.” Life sometimes gets hard, and we need support. And one of the beauties of Facebook is the support and shared experience we can get there. Now, if you’re a negative Nancy, or ask for prayers multiple times a day, or only talk about all of the unlucky things that happened to you, I’ll probably unsubscribe from your updates. I know. #soharsh

4. Funny Stuff
I guess this goes along with good news, but not all good news is funny. When there’s a legitimately funny video or meme, I’ll share it. But I always follow rule #1 when doing so. I don’t share every funny video or pictures I see. I also try to forewarn about any offensiveness, since I have some sensitive friends.

5. Original Things
If something is “going around,” and like three people have posted it within a day or two, I usually don’t repost it. I figure everyone has probably already seen it like I have. It had better be pretty awesome for me to repost something that’s been going around, because, come on, I don’t want anyone to miss out on awesomeness. Especially if it's one of my original thoughts that also happens to be awesome.

I think I’ll stop at five rules of thumb. That’s pretty much how I determine what I post. Never too much of anything (or too often), be it good news, bad news, or funny stuff. They seem to be good rules, as I seem to get pretty positive feedback on a lot of my posts. I wonder if I would get the same amount of positive feedback if I didn't follow rule #1. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Tips for Good Form

This is a topic I feel merits some attention. When it comes to exercise, form is everything. If you want to keep doing something and stay in good condition, you have to watch your form. This goes for everything, from running to weight lifting.

I found myself in a conundrum in my “total body conditioning” (step interval) class last Wednesday. A lady next to me was doing deadlifts incorrectly. Her back was curved, meaning she wasn’t working the right body parts, and she could injure herself. I wanted to say something to her because I didn’t want her to get hurt, but I’m not the teacher.

Tuesday in BodyCombat (kickboxing) class, a girl was lifting her head up, bending her neck, while doing crunches. This is not the right way to do a crunch, as you should focus on lifting your chin to the ceiling. Keep your chin off your chest, and let your abs do the work—not your neck. Again, they weren’t fully working the core, and could have potentially done damage to their neck. I said nothing because, once again, I’m not the teacher. My teacher in step class says to pretend there is a tennis ball between your chin and your chest. That should help, right?

I wanted to give some tips for you all to make sure you keep good form while you’re exercising. Here's how to buckle your seat belt while exercising.

1. Do Your Research
There is a right way to do just about anything when it comes to exercise. I have a book about running, and there are lots of them out there because there’s a lot to say about running correctly. This is also because there are so many ways you can get hurt while running. A simple Google search will bring up a lot of results and things for you to read. So if you plan on running, kicking, punching, doing dead lifts, doing crunches, or even using machines, do a little research.

2. Watch Videos
You wouldn’t believe the number of exercise videos I have watched on YouTube, guys. I probably couldn’t even count. When I first started using for workouts, I had to look up an enormous amount of Olympic and other lifts on YouTube. There are videos for deadlifts, kickbacks, jumping pull-ups, sumo deadlift high pulls, cleans, push presses, thrusters, squat cleans, and more. Many videos will walk through moves slowly, and they can show you modifications of movements.

3. Ask Your Teacher
If you’re not sure how to do a certain move in a group workout class, you can ask your teacher before or after class. You may want to minimize the range of your movement if you’re not sure about your form. Injury will be less likely this way.

4. Get a Trainer
These guys know what they’re doing, period. They’ll see any error in your form and correct you before you can make a habit of doing it wrong.

5. Use a Mirror
Do your lifts or moves in front of a mirror. If you can have one beside and in front of you, it’s even better, as it gives you more angles to check. For example, doing a good squat requires that your back is straight (lumbar spine), chest is lifted, and your butt drops down. The focus should be more on dropping your back end, and bending your knees should be secondary to that movement. Keep your knees pointed forward, and make sure your knees don’t go over your toes. You can watch all of this with mirrors in front of and beside you.

6. Slow Down
Part of the problem with “AMRAP” or doing as many rounds/reps as possible, is that people often sacrifice good form for speed. You need to practice slowly to get good form. You can speed it up after you’ve had enough practice, so don’t worry about timing your reps or rounds until you are confident in your form. Also lower your weight until you have good form.

7. Practice Makes Perfect
The first time I did thrusters or squat cleans, I’m sure I looked ridiculous. Be patient and recognize that it will take time practice for you to get better at any movement. Professionals didn’t become awesome overnight.