Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude

As part of my rotation in Lifestyle Management this week, I have to create a gratitude journal. This involves writing 3-5 things each day that I am grateful for. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude has been shown to boost happiness and satisfaction by 25%! Is increasing our own happiness as easy as writing down what we are grateful for? Emerging research says yes. But it's more than just making a list -- you must get in touch with how those things made you feel. I learned today that happiness and gratitude oppose negative feelings like anxiety, so you can't foster both. By keeping a gratitude journal, you can begin to protect yourself from the "mean reds" as Holly Golightly might say. For the next week, I'm going to keep a gratitude journal and share my thoughts online.

I just got back to the island from a 3 day weekend, which leads me to 2 things for which I am incredibly grateful:

I got to spend all my time off with Phillip & Roxy and for that I am thankful beyond words. The love of a dog is like no other. In Roxy's eyes, I can do no wrong. I hold the world in my hands. I'm having trouble nailing down just what it is that makes Roxy so amazing because she is just what I need at any given time.

And Phillip. Oh, Phillip. Someone who loves me and puts up with me voluntarily for 7 years deserves a medal! He just gets me. I can be cranky, bratty, and quite irrational to put it lightly but he's there no matter what. I am truly blessed to have found not only love, but a partner and friend for life.

10pm update:
One last thing  I'm grateful for that I've been thinking about today:  my wonderful parents.  One of my greatest life fears is that my parents will never know how much I love them and am appreciative of every thing they do.    Any complaint I ever have about them is completely trivial.  They are the 2 most selfless people I have ever met.  Each day I am grateful that I was born into a loving household and raised to be what I am today.

How can you begin to cultivate gratitude? Check out more here:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Letting Go

On my way back from the beach yesterday, I realized how happy I was.  The view of the ocean and soaking up the sun for a while worked wonders for me.

A few months ago, I kept an anonymous blog about my trials and tribulations of the horrible living situation I found myself in.  I am in such a different place in my life now (both physically and figuratively) and for that I am thankful beyond words.  I was thinking about all of this on my jog back home, and about how our experiences and what we hold on to affect our daily life.  My last few months in Columbia were absolutely miserable, but because I have been able to let go of that situation, I am markedly more happy.  What are you holding on to and what can you let go of in order to make room for happiness?  Let it go.  Let go of the stress and worry and allow yourself to be happy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Decide what to be and go be it.

This is one of my favorite quotes from the Avett Brothers' Head Full of Doubt.  What does the best version of you look like?  What's standing in between your current self and your best self?  When it comes to change, we are our own worst enemies.  One of my biggest pet peeves is listening to people talk about who they want to be and what they want to do followed by multiple excuses or contradictory behavior.  Stop getting in your own way.  Decide what to be and go be it.

I'm sure you just read that and rolled your eyes, but it really is that simple.  Yes, I do recognize the fact that something called "life" happens and so much is out of our control.  But we are in control of so much -- decisions about being our best selves included.  If you remember my last post, I was pretty down about falling off the healthy wagon this week.  All the interns stayed up late last night and the last thing I wanted to do today was go outside and run.  But I did.  Not only did I enjoy the 70 degree island weather, I ran to the beach.  And not only did I run to the beach, I took my shoes off and walked in the ocean.  I have been so blessed with this opportunity and it would be foolish to waste it.  The point here?  I got out of my own way and did something I needed to do to be my best self.  And I feel 100 times better for it.

What's in your way?  Decide what to be.  Go be it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Food Rules

Yesterday before dinner, I did something I haven't done in my adult life:  I weighed 109 pounds. No, I am not trying to brag or fish for comments and flattery about being skinny.  But I couldn't help feeling so proud of myself!  I feel like in the past few months (although a struggle they have certainly been), I have really come into my own.  I'm feeling better about what I'm putting into my body and what kind of work my body has been putting out.  I'm in my prime and feelin' good.

Can you feel the "BUT" coming???  I'm in my prime and feelin' good UNTIL...I ate an extra piece of toast today at breakfast.  UNTIL...I found myself eating multiple metabo-meals at once.  UNTIL...I came home after that and ate heaping handfuls of nuts.  UNTIL...I tried to eat dinner as usual and am writing this as I sit uncomfortably full and unhappy with myself.

My first week or so here, my body loved the gourmet food and I had no trouble with 1200 calories a day.  Around the middle of week 2, however, my "food brain" started talking to me.  I found myself adding a few extra sprinkles of granola in the morning and having peanut butter with my afternoon snack.  My food brain was trying to buck the system I wanted it to be on.  Since then, I have tried to stay the course and fight off the food thoughts, but today was an absolute takeover by my food brain.  It made me think of the concept of food rules that are discussed here at H3 quite often (check out Michael Pollan's book on food rules).  These are, quite simply, rules about how, when, why, and what you will or won't eat.  My rule was to adhere to the H3 meal plan as much as possible.  Today, I not only justified some of the snacks I was having ("It's just a box of raisins and I need fuel"), I flat out ignored my logical brain and didn't address what I did.  But now I am. I'm coming clean and attempting to get to the bottom of why my food brain is trying to take over.  Food thoughts are usually triggered by an event or underlying emotion.  I'm in a new place.  I'm used to living more or less alone and dictating my schedule.  I'm undertaking new responsibilities.  My academic career is coming to an end for real this time.

These aren't excuses.  They're realizations.  I know that I can be stronger than my food brain -- I just have to understand why it's acting up and stand strong in my food rules.  We also talk a lot here about intuitive eating -- understanding the difference between hunger and appetite and only eating when your body needs it.  Essentially, eat to live -- not the other way around.  Think about food as fuel. Food as a necessity.  What if you had to report to someone every thing you ate?  Would you want to tell them about the candy bar you snagged immediately after dinner because you enjoyed the sensation?  Or would you rather be happy knowing you are satisfied and healthy?

Don't let yourself off the hook.  Be accountable for your actions, but let each one serve as a learning experience and move forward.  After all, nobody gets it 100% right 100% of the time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

3 weeks down, 13 to go

Lots of things keeping me busy this past week!  I started my 2-week rotation in the fitness department.  In addition to teaching my first class, I was given a few projects to help out on and a checklist of things to complete.  I thought my first class went really well -- I was a little nervous because treading was a new thing to me and of course the sound system was being uncooperative.  I always say that I'm the kind of person that, if something can happen it will happen to me.  I got a few groans and complaints and overall resistance from the class, so I'm assuming it was hard and I was doing my job.  The guests here need a good mix of push and comfort.  I taught my second treading class today (to a full house!) and I had a guest tell me it was the best one of the 5 he's attended so far!  I didn't think my first class was too bad, but this one was definitely a better experience.  I also led ULTRA Circuit last week, which is a circuit training class in which guests spend 2 minutes in the strength room and 2 minutes in the cardio room and continue that way for 40 minutes.  Usually the class is packed and high-energy, but last week's class was very small.  Keep your fingers crossed for a bigger class this week!

The checklist I have to complete includes tasks like observing personal training sessions, health habit reviews, and make an exercise prescription for someone (I made mine for my loving mom!)  The health habit review is a guest's first meeting with their coach and they go over their screening results, what brought them to H3, and what their challenges and motivations are.  I've also been doing research on some new technology and equipment for the facility and learning the inner workings of the company.

I also have become aware that my newly adopted habits have been affecting some of those I love and I LOVE IT! I've been getting frequent messages and shoutouts about a new vegetarian meal someone tried, curiosity about a vegan diet, and increased interest or adherence to exercise. I said I would never be an in-your-face vegan & I'm not. But I'm beyond excited that I'm raising curiosity & rubbing off on people. I'm more than willing to be a model for a healthy lifestyle if it means those I care about will jump on board. Now, I know it's not for everyone. Some roll their eyes & some think it's dumb. I, too, was a skeptic once. However, I won't apologize for being concerned about what goes into my body because someone else thinks it's silly.

In closing, here's my favorite photo I've taken since I've been here. I took it this morning on the beach. To me, it says, "I'm welcoming and accepting of this day and all it has to offer. Make the best of it."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Losing the Weight

I'll do a quick update on life this past week a little later, but I felt compelled to write about something a little different today.  We've talked about trying out various churches on the island and today we visited the Lowcountry Community Church in Bluffton.  It's not the typical church I like to attend but I really think I was supposed to be in that sermon today.  Today's message was about losing the weight of fear.  It's part of a series on losing weights of different varieties (debt, guilt, etc.) in order to be more in touch with Christ.

The pastor talked about three of the most common fears and how to combat them:

  • Rejection
  • Being out of control
  • Death
It's no secret that I'm a bit of a control freak, so to hear what the pastor had to say about the fear of being out of control is what made me feel like I was in the right place.  My mind starts reeling when I think about how small I am in a big world and how little I actually am in control of.  But it's essential to stop. And think. About the three things we can do when we are out of control:  flee, grasp, or worship.  Little by little, we have to learn how to replace this fear and say "I don't know why, but I know YOU."

I didn't think the fear of rejection would be too relevant to me, but I let myself be open to what was said.  Our self-esteem is fragile and who doesn't want to be accepted?  I am who I am and of course I have flaws.  But I also have other amazing qualities if you wait around for them.  Being yourself means being vulnerable to rejection from others.  But, rejection from others is out of your control and the most important audience won't reject you.

The last fear is one I've been struggling with lately in what I'm calling my "almost quarter-life crisis."  The key points from the sermon about fear of death is that we fear it if we don't understand it and if we face it alone.  Death and forever are two insanely big concepts for me to grasp, but this is where trust and faith get the most practice.

I was so glad to have been able to hear some much-needed words and I've got just a few more to leave you with:
"We lose the weight of our fears when we understand the strength of His love."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Whatcha been up to?

I'm starting up my third week here on the island and thought I'd give a little recap as to what's been keeping me busy the last 2 weeks.  My first few days here I observed lots of classes and lectures before taking over sunrise beach walks and screenings.  I feel as if I could talk non-stop about the sunrises here.  They are AH-MAY-ZING!  It's a great way to start the day and guests are encouraged to enjoy the sunrise over the ocean and start the day with early morning activity.  I also observed the screening process each guest undergoes their first day here.  I took over the screenings and I'll be on duty for that the next 4 weeks.  That means being at work by 7am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next 4 weeks. Yikes.

For guests, a typical day here can begin at 7am with the beach walk and end at 7pm after dinner.  There are multiple lectures and fitness classes offered throughout the day.  There are also opportunities for personal trainings, meetings with an individual's wellness coach, cooking demos, and group outings.  During my two-week orientation, I attended as many classes as possible so I could see what all H3 has to offer its guests.  Here is what my first day looked like:

7am:  Sunrise beach walk
8am:  Breakfast
8:30am:  Treading
9:30am:  Cardio boxing
10:30am:  Metabo Meal
11am:  Stress and Emotional Eating lecture
12pm:  Lunch
1pm:  Intro to Fitness Equipment (demo)
2pm:  Planning Healthy Meals lecture
3:30pm:  Metabo Meal
4pm:  Butts & Guts
5pm:  Drums ALIVE
6pm:  Dinner

Now that I've started my intern duties, I won't attend classes all day.  Insert projects & cleaning duties into that schedule and you've got my schedule for the next few weeks.  I got to lead Wii dance last week which was so fun & awesome and I teach my first treading class tomorrow!  Treading is a group cardio class on either the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike, which sounds boring but it's a great way to teach a workout that can be easily taken home when guests leave.

On New Year's Eve, the second intern arrived so I've enjoyed having some company in the cottage!  We've been exploring all the island has to offer in the way of shopping.  Let me tell you -- it's a lot.  The third intern arrived yesterday and by next week, there will be 4 of us to make a full house!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why veganism?

Per request from my favorite marathoner at, I'll talk a little bit about my decision to go vegan.  

Over the past year or so, I have rarely cooked meat or poultry at home for myself.  It was actually easier and more convenient not to.  When I found out I was accepted to the intern program at H3, I decided to give up meat and poultry for good and only eat seafood.  Eggs and dairy are a completely different story.  I can't totally take credit for this one, though.  Phillip actually introduced me to a documentary called Forks Over Knives.  I was very skeptical at first, but I have heard great things from people who have given up animal products altogether and I decided to give it a shot.  It has everything to do with health and nothing to do with animal rights/cruelty.  I love all the foods I used to eat, and if they just so happened to the be the healthiest foods on the planet, I never would have converted.  BUT, the scientific fact that humans grow increasingly lactose intolerant with age was enough evidence to serve as a starting point for me -- we just aren't designed to consume milk from other animals.  At first I thought it would be pretty easy, but the more meals I ate here, I realized how many things are made with milk or eggs.  Culturally, it's difficult because we're trained to believe that as athletes or people with active lifestyles, we need animal protein and that dairy is an excellent source of much-needed calcium.  However, I've learned that a plant-based diet can give you pretty much every nutrient your body needs.  

This is not to say that I don't think about eating non-vegan things.  In fact, we went out for happy hour tonight with some other employees and looking at the menu was tough.  My mind starts reeling and it's very easy for my thoughts to get out of control.  I'll never eat another cheeseburger again!  But I've learned, with help from some of the lectures I've attended here, to look at it a different way:  the "just for today" approach.  Just for today, I won't eat dairy.  Just for today, I can abstain from a cheeseburger.  Just for today, I can choose not to eat scrambled eggs.  Before you know it, years have passed by and conscious decisions to eat vegan become life habits.  Goodbye animal products!  It's been a good 23 years.  

The decision to adopt this lifestyle is about taking my health into my own hands and being aware of what I'm putting into my body and how it affects my body.  A friend actually said to me "That's silly".  But what's silly is all the ways people think they are eating "healthy" but still consuming animal products with various effects on the body.  But don't worry, I'll definitely never be one of those in-your-face-meat-haters, but if you ask, I'll give you some facts. And for those if you who think I'm being deprived, I'll tell ya -- I ain't hurtin'. Thus far I've eaten grilled tempeh, veggie quesadillas, shrimp & vegan grits (yes, I'm still eating seafood), veggie stir fry & stuffed peppers. And when I say "veggies" I don't mean carrots & celery sticks. These meals are expertly prepared & I've had the best food of my life here. Feel free to check out some of these recipes .

I'll let you guys know how it goes when I'm outside the bubble of H3 and don't have a professional chef cooking perfectly portioned vegan meals for me.  For now, I've got the help of the Vegan Stoner.  Check it out:

No Excuses

I've never been too much of a Biggest Loser fan, but I watched the Season 13 premiere last night. This season's theme is "no excuses" and features contestants with various excuses as to how they got in the shape they're in: I don't have time, I was injured in an accident, my family has always been heavy. The BL trainers threw those excuses right out the window and you should, too.

Each of us has the power to take control of our health. Diabetes, depression, heart disease have all been linked to a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet. You have the magic pill in your hands, your feet, your whole body. It's called exercise. Check out the "23 1/2 hours" video below if you need more convincing. It starts with you -- you can make excuses or you can make it happen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Glass Half Empty

On the way to the beach walk this morning, one of the guests asked me "Julia, have you ever seen a glass half empty?" At first, I thought she was referring to some sort of tourist site or alcoholic concoction, until I realized she was referring the fact that everyone was complaining but me.

This is going to be laughable to Phillip, who thinks I complain every waking hour, but it forced me to realize how much our attitude affects others. Yes, I was dog tired & freezing my butt off, but creating an enjoyable experience for paying customers and finding the positive aspects in everything was far more important.

To make everyday enjoyable, you have to find the positives & little moments of joy in every situation. Being cold for half an hour was nothing compared to being able to take in the morning sunrise over the ocean. There are so many worse positions to be in. When things aren't just the way we want, it's easy to get caught up in negative talk, but negative talk makes a negative life. So today, is your glass full or half empty?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Greetings from Hilton Head!

I've been in Hilton Head just over a week now and decided that I'm learning and doing too dang much not to share.  This will also serve as a reminder when I'm creating my Master's practicum presentation and am kicking myself for not taking better notes of what I did each day!

I thought I was off to a bad start, having to leave on Christmas day and all that.  Leaving was much harder than I anticipated and I really wanted to spend more time with my family over the holidays.  BUT, I put on my big girl panties and drove to the beach.  I arrived at my cottage expecting one last intern from last semester to be here to keep me company...WRONG.  I was left alone on Christmas.  Spent the rest of the night unpacking and had instructions to report to work at 7am on Monday morning.  The freakout/panic mode continued when I got to the Institute on Monday -- my internship coordinator was still on vacation and the intern who was training me was only working until noon.  Luckily for me, the staff here is AMAZING and even the guests were super-nice and helpful.

My first 2 weeks are more or less an orientation period.  I start some of my intern duties, but I also get to attend fitness classes and lectures.  My first week I've learned:

  • Colorado is the thinnest state.  The percentage of overweight/obese adults in Colorado today would have made it the heaviest state 20 years ago.
  • You only need to allot 2-4% of your daily 1440 minutes exercising.  Now tell you me you don't have time.
  • In every situation, there are unwise, better, and best choices. Wellness isn't "all or nothing".
I've also seen some amazing sunrises over the ocean (my background photo) and this guy:
This 6-foot gator is basking in the sun across the pond from the H3 cardio deck. I was more than creeped out seeing my first gator in the lowcountry, but I haven't seen too many since.

I also converted to a vegan lifestyle recently, so I'm sure that'll be a challenge/experience worth writing about!

For more on H3I: