Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

So often when we make the decision to change our lifestyles, we tend to zero in on the bad habits.  This is very true when it comes to changing our health for the better.  We decide that we want to eat better, exercise more, and just be healthier in general.  Then we start listing all the unhealthy habits we have.  We snack too much, we count walking from the refrigerator to the couch as exercise, the only cooking we do is pressing the start button on the microwave, etc. etc…. In order to be healthy we have to get rid of all those habits, and the sooner the better.  Right?

Not so much.  When I first decided to be healthier, I had the same mindset.  I took a look at my life and immediately saw all the “bad” things that I did.  I was discouraged and felt the urgent need to change everything as fast as possible.  I got rid of all the junk food in my kitchen, bought new exercise DVD’s, and completely overhauled my lifestyle.  All of this sounds really good and is necessary when trying to be healthier, but it shouldn’t all happen at once.  Sure I had gotten rid of all the “bad” stuff, but I had no idea what to do next.  I had essentially changed my whole world over night and that led to more than a few slip-ups and feeling like being healthier was impossible.

Luckily I learned from my mistakes and found a much better approach to changing my lifestyle.  I slowly began to change things.  I started adding healthier recipes to my weekly rotation.  I experimented with a few new exercise routines to see what I liked best and I could stick with.  This gradual change made it much easier to stick with a healthier lifestyle.  The other thing that really helped me was to focus on the good habits that I already had before I decided to live healthier.  Once I saw that I had already had some good habits, it made it feel like I could actually change for good.

If you have recently made the choice to change your lifestyle, try this approach.  Instead of immediately changing every single bad habit in your life, take a look and find the good things.  Maybe you’re really good at drinking a lot of water, or you have a fairly solid workout routine.  Once you find your good habits, find ways to build on them.  If you’re a really good cook, start incorporating healthier ingredients and recipe into your repertoire.  Soon you’ll have a healthy menu and you’ll feel really accomplished and motivated to keep going.  The important thing to remember is to take it slow.  This increases your chances of sticking to your goal of living a healthier lifestyle.  Once you see all the good things you already do and find ways to expand upon them, being healthy won’t seem like such a daunting and unattainable task.  Each positive thing you do will be another step towards living and feeling great!


What I Learned from My Dad

This past weekend was Father’s Day and today is my dad’s 50th birthday, so I thought in honor of all the dad awesome-ness I would write a post on some important things that he has taught me over the years.

I can really only attribute my passion and curiosity for health and nutrition to my dad. I’ve mentioned before that he is a kinesiotherapist, and he also knows a plethora of information on the way the body works as a whole. He is always eager and willing to share that knowledge with me and I have grown to love everything about the way the body works and how we can help it to perform at its optimum levels. I honestly don’t think that I would have started this blog or begun my pursuit of my own health goals without his help and guidance.


I think that one of the most important lessons that my dad has taught me is this; no matter how many times life knocks you down, you can ALWAYS get back up and rebuild. While this can and does apply to so many aspects of life, I got to thinking how it can directly apply to your health. I know for me personally, there have been so many times that I have failed when it comes to my health. I struggled for years to try and lose weight or establish a consistent exercise program or eat better. How true is that for so many of us? It seems like falling off the health wagon is so much easier than finding something that works for us.

But it is so important to keep trying. Your health is vital, and good health makes your life so much more enjoyable and easier. If I had given up after the first time I faltered, I would never be where I am today. Yes, finding a healthy lifestyle that works for you will take time and you will most likely fail or struggle at some point, but you are strong enough to pick yourself back up and try again. I have been blessed enough to have a father who instilled that in me and has always been there to encourage me to get back up and fight for what is important. So if you are struggling right now, or have given up, know that I believe in you and I know that you can dust yourself off and jump back into the game!

And to my dad, thank you so much for everything that you have taught me, I am a much better person because of it. Happy Birthday D!

Yup, that's his kilt in Buchanan plaid!

Yup, that’s his kilt in Buchanan plaid!


new pic

I read a lot of health/fitness/nutrition blogs (shocking I know).  I like to see what other people are finding out about their health, and I like to learn as much as I can.   Plus it’s a good inspiration to see what other bloggers are doing, especially those that have been around for awhile.  I have blogs that I follow regularly, but I also like to search new blogs.  Lately I have noticed a sad trend among some health/fitness blogs: a lack of respect.  That’s the topic I wanted to address today, as it is something that must be said.

So what exactly do I mean when I say that some blogs have a lack of respect?  I am finding that more and more people are taking the “my way or the highway” approach to how they eat or workout.  They believe that their particular lifestyle is THE perfect lifestyle and that if you don’t follow along then you are doing something bad for your health.  How discouraging!  I don’t doubt that whatever lifestyle they have chosen is perfect… for them.  For them to say though that this is how everyone should be, however, is ignorant.  They have no idea how another person’s body works or where a person might be in their health journey.  SOme of these people will even go a step further with their convictions and make others feel that they are horribly damaging their health if they do not eat a particular way or follow a certain exercise program.

When I see this on a blog or in an article or even in a status update on facebook, it really upsets me.  I feel that as a health blogger, I have a responsibility to encourage anyone who reads my blog to pursue better health, in whatever way works for them.  When you alienate people by saying that eating Paleo or Vegan is the ONLY way to eat and doing CrossFit or yoga is the ONLY way to workout, you’re discouraging those who have tried those lifestyles and found that they don’t work for them.  You’re essentially calling them failures, and no one wants to fail.  Many would rather give up and continue with their poor health choices than feel like a failure for not being able to squat 350 lbs or eat only vegetable for every meal.

On the flip side, I am really excited that so many people out there have found something that truly works for them.  I know that it can take a lot of trial and error to find that perfect balance.  I know how exciting it can be to finally feel amazing both with your eating and your exercise routine.  I know that you might want to tell EVERYONE how amazing you feel and how great it is.  I have been there, and I have fallen into the trap as well.  When I first started running, I thought to myself, “This is FANTASTIC!! Everyone should feel like this!”  But I had to slowly realize that not everyone was as excited about running as I was.  I had to learn that not everyone felt running 6 miles in 40 minutes was an accomplishment and that is OK.  I realized that other people felt that lifting really heavy weights, or conquering a new yoga pose, or making it through a spin class was what gave them the feeling of great health.  I learned that while I might thrive on a plant strong diet, other people couldn’t reach their optimal health without meat.  We won’t all describe our ideal health in the same way and that is perfectly fine!  The one thing that is important is that we do what we need to reach our ideal health.  For me, I love running, kettle bell workouts and practicing yoga.  I eat a mostly plant based diet and I am working on not beating myself up for having a treat every once and awhile.  That’s my idea of a healthy lifestyle.  It might not be yours, but I want you to feel encouraged to find what does make you feel the healthiest.

If you do run across a blog or article or even a person who makes you feel that you are a failure because you aren’t doing exactly what they are doing, please don’t feel discouraged with your own journey.  Finding your optimal health is a very personal journey so try to understand that no one will be able to tell you exactly what to do.  We (as in us health bloggers) can give you advice and tell you what has worked for us, but in the end you should try multiple diets and multiple exercise programs to find your perfect balance.  And when you finally do and feel that rush of excitement, remember to channel that feeling into encouragement for others who might be struggling to find their way.  A sense of community and support among the health world is what is going to help us get more and more people at their peak performance, not narrow-mindedness or alienation.  Respect.  Give it out freely and I can bet you will get much more in return!

My Digestive Journey: Stress













If you were to ask anyone who knows me really well, they would tell you that I don’t handle stress very well.  I tend to turn into a wreck, no longer a human, but one giant ball of stress.  It’s not pretty and it is definitely not fun.  All this stress has wrecked havoc on my gut in the past..

I come from a long line of worriers, and I tend to internalize that worry and stress.  Whenever I start to worry about something, my gut goes haywire on me.  While I was in college, I used to have to perform solo pieces on my French Horn in front of a panel of teachers.  I do NOT enjoy playing by myself in front of an audience, as it pretty much terrifies me.  But every semester I would have to begrudgingly stand in front of 5 professional musicians and try not to throw up while playing my instrument.  Obviously this situation caused me great amounts of stress, and the weeks leading up to my performance I would think of nothing other than having to play my solo.  This stress would in turn mess with all things digestive.  I wouldn’t be able to eat, yet somehow would have to run to the bathroom all the time dealing with diarrhea.  It would get so bad that literally I would have to go to the bathroom 2 minutes before my performance or risk having an even more embarrassing accident than playing a few wrong notes.  The surprising thing though?  The minute I was done with my piece and walked out of the room I would feel infinitely better.  I could eat, I wasn’t racing to the nearest toilet, and my stomach wasn’t constantly swirling like a tornado.

Stress manifests itself in different ways for different people.  Not everyone may experience my intestinal fireworks whenever they encounter a difficult or worrisome situation,  but there is a significant link between stress and your digestive system.  There are actually a ton of nerve endings in your digestive system, and when your brain experiences a stressful situation it will release hormones that directly affect your digestion.  It even starts as soon as you eat, with stress decreasing your saliva production and causing food to not be properly digested right from the moment you chew.  Stress doesn’t mess around.  Many of the ways you can see stress affect the digestive system is through indigestion, ulcers, and even heartburn.  Not really all that fun.

So are our digestive systems at the mercy of stress and our brain?  You don’t have to let it.  There are things that you can do to eliminate or reduce your stress and that can help alleviate stressful situations.  For all you professional worriers like me, these habits can take some time to incorporate.  I still have a hard time dealing with stress (just ask my wonderfully patient husband) but I keep trying to practice and get better!

Talk it out.  One of the worst things that you can do is internalize your stress and bottle it all up inside.  That will just eat you up and spit you out.  Having someone you can talk to about your stress and worry will help you get all that bad energy out into the open and off your chest.  Also, now you have someone who can help you work through that stress and ease your worries.  Even if you don’t have someone you can talk to, writing in a journal works as well.  I always felt like I would be a burden to my friends and family if I bothered them with my troubles, but I have found that they are always willing to listen and help.  Those that love you don’t want to see you suffer, so talk!

Find an activity that will get you away from your stress.  Even if it is for a few minutes, do something that will take your mind away from your stress.  When I would be practicing for my performance, sometimes I would just have to stop for a few minutes and walk around the music building or read the school newspaper just to give myself a break.  If you are constantly dwelling in your stressful situation, you will eventually break.  Take a walk, drink some tea, do yoga, play a video game, ANYTHING just to give your body and brain some relief.

Eat healthy foods.  This is the toughest advice for me to follow, but probably some of the best.  When stressed, I tend to barely eat.  This is not good at all.  Your body needs fuel to function and it really needs fuel whenever you are stressed so that it can deal with that stress.  It may seem like common sense, but along with eating regularly, eat HEALTHY.  You do not need to be eating 20 oreos, even though that may comfort you.  Junk food will produce junk results and you don’t need that when you’re stressed.  How many times have you been worried about something, and in order to try and feel better, you eat your favorite comfort food?  How many times has that food made you feel better for the 10 minutes you are eating and then you feel awful after you are done?  You don’t need the added stress of bad food, as junk food will allow your digestive system to function properly.  At a time when you need your gut working as best as possible, don’t feed it garbage.  Stick to foods like oranges and broccoli and other foods that have vitamins and minerals that will boost your body and alleviate your stress.  Your gut will thank you!

Take a deep breath.  Breathe deep and realize that this stress will not last forever.  You can and will get through it and you will be stronger for having done so.  Try not to dwell on the immediate stress but think to the future and the outcome.  Think about how great you will feel once you have worked past this problem and come out on the other side!

Like I said before, I still struggle with dealing with stress properly.  In fact, yesterday Adam and I started to pack for our upcoming move (long story short: we did not plan on moving, we were told that our lease was not going to be renewed and thus had to find a new place to live. Woooo….).  I started to feel overwhelmed by everything that had to be done in a few short weeks and I started to shut down.  Luckily, I (with a lot of help from Adam) was able to vocalize that stress and work through it.  While I am still a little stressed about the whole situation (I seriously hate moving), I am not experiencing any of my usual symptoms.  That alone is reason to be happy, because seriously who wants to have to pack and have the trots? Not me!  When you start to feel stressed, take a step back, breathe deep, and know that you are tougher than any problem out there and can handle this!

You’ve got the power!

What do you think of when I say willpower? Maybe resisting temptation, overcoming adversity, or maybe a specific person comes to mind.  Whatever the case, some form of strength comes into play, the word power is right there.  A lot of you may believe that you have absolutely no willpower, especially when it comes to food.  When you see that plate of cookies you know you are going to cave and have one, or six.  What gives a person willpower? Why does it seem like some people have greater amounts of it? How do you tap into that?

Willpower is a tricky thing.  You can’t see it, only its effects.  Willpower also means different things to different people so it is hard to give it an exact definition.  But I do believe that we all have willpower, no matter how weak you might think yours is.  I think there are a few important aspects to a strong willpower that makes it seem as if some people have great stores of it while others are just trying to muster up a few drops of it.

The first one is the desire to change.  It might seem obvious, but this is so often overlooked or not given much credit.  People have a strong willpower really and truly WANT to change some aspect of their life.  Let’s take nutrition and eating (this is a nutrition blog after all folks).  If you really want to eat better you have already taken the first step to having more willpower.  But Katie, I do really want to eat better, I just can’t resist those “bad” foods.  Then no, you don’t want to eat better, you want to eat the same garbage you have always eaten.  Sorry to be harsh, but saying you want to change but then turning around and downing a pint of ice cream is a bit contradictory.  You almost need to be at a place where you are disgusted with the way you are eating and the only place you can go is in the total opposite direction.  There is a point where you will WANT change and act on that want, there is the first little hint of your willpower.

The second part of willpower is motivation.  Wanting to change your eating habits is great but you are going to have to have motivation to keep that change going and to strengthen your willpower even more.  Motivation is another tricky idea; here is the technical definition of it.  I’m going to simplify it because I think that it doesn’t need to be super technical. Motivation is personal to you and is what gets you revved up and going.  What motivates me probably will not motivate you in the least.  That’s fine, what isn’t fine is when people use what they are fighting against as motivation.  Let’s use eating again. If you are trying to eat better and maybe lose weight and decide to motivate yourself by promising yourself a piece of chocolate cake if you lose five pounds, how is that helpful? That’s the equivalent to trying to quit smoking and rewarding a smoke free week with a cigarette.  Find other means of motivation for what it is you are trying to change.  By using food to reward yourself, you’re just slowly weakening your willpower as well as your motivation to keep going.

One other thing that is important to willpower is the perception of gaining something from your use of willpower.  In this article, the author talks about how when people see results from the use of their willpower, it actually gets stronger.  That makes a lot of sense; if you see the fruits of your labor, aka willpower, you are going to continue to use it.  And as a result of continuing to use your resolve, you’re strengthening it.  And that right there will motivate you to keep up your change (see how it’s all tying together!?).

I can’t tell you how to get willpower.  It’s not as simple as that.  I can tell you that you already have the willpower you need to change right inside yourself.  You just need to find it.  You have to truly want that change, and you will need to find the proper motivation to keep going.  Take a look at your life and see where your weakest area is.  Ask yourself if you are ready to take on the job of turning that behavior around.  If you are then you have the tools within to make that change. I believe in you, do you?