Monthly Archives: August 2012

Some Inspiration

I’m back in Illinois! It’s so wonderful to be back with my man but I woke up this morning to a head full of jet lag, a computer full of work, and a desk full of bills. Also, my finances suffered greatly this month from me being away. I’m seriously struggling to find some inspiration so I turn to a great book my friend gave me as a graduation gift. Here is one of the quotes in it:

“Nothing has to happen for me to feel good.

I feel good because I’m alive [and healthy]!

Life is a gift, and I revel in it.”

-Tony Robbins

I’m just gonna keep that in my back pocket for the rest of the day. Maybe you should too?

Airport Eating

Today I am slowly making my way back to Peoria from San Diego. Yesterday we spent 8 hours in the car driving from Santa Cruz and today I will spend 11 hours on planes and in airports. Those of you that can’t afford flying direct everywhere you go will understand how time-consuming travel can be. I feel like I could have driven to Peoria faster!

Anyone that has traveled through airports knows how difficult it can be to make healthy eating decisions. Everything is either very unhealthy or very expensive. The other problem is that you never know when you will have the chance to eat again. What, if anything, will be offered on the plane? What if my flight is delayed and I don’t have time to check out eating options during my layover? I’m not particularly hungry now but what if I get ravenous  in the middle of my five airborne hours?

Here are some facts that we all know but don’t much think about when we’re stressed and getting ready to fly:

– there will ALWAYS be food available

–  you are going to be hungry during the flight but it may just be because you’re bored

– it may just be necessary to choose the lesser of the evils

I am a little ashamed to say that I completely forgot all of these rules this morning. I was in a big rush before I left the house so was forced to get breakfast to eat on the plane. Instead of grabbing a piece of fruit to stave off the hunger until my next layover, I chowed down a croissant with egg, cheese, and ham. On the plus side I felt like crap within ten minutes and remembered, as I have to every once in a while, that its better to be a little hungry than put that gluten, dairy, and processed meat into my system.

So I have forgiven myself for that little slip up and here are some tips for you (and me) to follow from here on out:

1. Try as hard as possible to pack some easy food in a Tupperware to bring on the plane. It can add bulk to your carry-on but it only gets smaller as your day goes on! Also, it’s so much cheaper. For example: chopped raw veggies, popcorn chips, raw nuts, a sandwich (I do Udi’s gluten-free bread with almond butter and natural jelly), and a couple of pieces of fruit.

2. If you can’t pack food and are in a big rush, grab a few quick, unprocessed (if possible) things from whatever places are available. Stagger them throughout your trip so you’re never too full and never really hungry. For example: a salad or veggie platter if you can afford it, raw almonds, popcorn chips, fruit, etc. The closer to raw, the better.

^ There is always a news stand to pick up some quick eats.

 

^ The lesser of the evils but they always come in huge packages! Make sure you eat them in small portions and just save some for home.

3. If you’re having a long day of travel and want to sit down for a meal, choose something green and leafy, or if you just aren’t in the mood for salad, make sure whatever you eat is not fried. Also include some protein in there. For example: greek salad with grilled chicken, burrito bowl (no tortilla), non-dairy based soup, a burger minus the bun (a lot of places will wrap in lettuce so you can still manhandle it).

 

^ A typical airport meal is often the same price as a few packaged goods from the news stand.

It takes a lot of will power to do these things. With so many options for deliciously bad food and a great seat to sleep for multiple hours, it can be very tempting to chow down. But you will pay for it in more ways than just lethargy and its never really worth it. Being healthy feels so much better than food tastes. And I love food!

Questions: How many of you have struggled with this recently? Did you succumb or hold out? How did you feel after?

Vacation Exercising

At this very moment I’m staying with cousins of my mom’s in Santa Cruz, CA. Mom, Dad, and I have been up here for several days while my dad trains for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) Million Dollar Challenge (MDC). I am absolutely not in the right shape to join him and his friends for the 60+ miles, 5,000+ feet of climbing they did for the last three days so I’ve had to find other way to exercise.

If you exercise regularly at home and don’t go on vacation very often, it’s usually a good idea to just relax while on vacation. Take a break! Letting your muscles recover can often do more good than training every day. I’ve heard a lot of different recommendations but I stick to the breaking for one week out of every six or seven. By breaking I mean no exercising but continuing to eat a healthy diet with perhaps fewer calories so that it’s not too hard to get back into a routine the next week.

However, this summer has been completely varied in opportunities for exercise so I’ve been trying to get it whenever I can. The workouts I do, like my ones at home, pretty much stay under the 30 minute mark. I do a workout with Zuzka (see below), go on a 3 mile run, a brisk 3 mile walk (which takes a little longer), or practice some relaxing yoga, which is not just exercise but relaxation.

If you have determined that you want to workout while on vacation, decide on how frequently you will do it before you even fall asleep the first night and then stick to it. I decided that I would workout every other day but left the type and length of workout for the morning of. It’s good to still feel like you’re on vacation from exercise by giving yourself options. For the most part, while were still in San Diego, I went on a run or worked out with Zuzka but if I was having an especially rough morning, the yoga was enough. Now that we’re in Santa Cruz, however, I’ve been doing long walks on the beach. It doesn’t feel like exercise at all!

^ who wouldn’t want to take a long walk here?

And if your spending your day in transit, always take the stairs! You’d be amazed how much you can actually burn by skipping the escalator or elevator. < this is a personal rule of mine for everyday living.

Here is a list of the workout sites I frequent:

1. Zwows with Zuzka Light – some amazing, quick, body weight workouts that mean you NEVER have an excuse not to workout: http://www.youtube.com/user/ZuzkaLight/videos

2. My Yoga Online – cheaper and more comprehensive than any other yoga option I’ve seen. If you aren’t comfortable posing without an instructor, it’s a good idea to take a few classes first: http://www.myyogaonline.com/

3. Map My Run – a great way to track your running and walking from anywhere in the world: http://www.mapmyrun.com/

4. Map My Ride – same interface as #3 but for bikes! http://www.mapmyride.com/

And don’t forget to keep a smile on your face! They’re contagious.

Gluten and Other Food Sensitivities

When my brother was 11, my parents because so confused and frustrated with his lethargy (he never went outside, just sat and played video games) that they took him to the doctor. Every one of the five western medicine doctors they spoke to told my mom that it was “just puberty.” But she kept at it. Finally, through some string of conversations with friends, she was led to Acacia Wellness Center in Solana Beach, CA. They specialize is chiropractic and natural medicine and, as soon as my brother walked through the door, diagnosed him with gluten intolerance.

Gluten is a protein found in processed wheat and related grains. Research is still emerging but, in laymans terms, Gluten intolerance is much milder than Celiac disease but causes a lot of the same symptoms. For the real breakdown, the Wikipedia page is very accurate and comprehensive: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten_sensitivity

After administering some tests, the naturopathic doctor concluded that my brother didn’t have Celiac but did have a serious gluten sensitivity. A lot of times, if one family member has it, so do the others.  After more visits and more testing, we found out that every one of us four kids as well as my dad are gluten intolerant. This was when I was 16. So my mom, being incredibly devoted to the health of her family, converted our entire house to gluten-free territory. Pasta became rice pasta, bread was now sprouted wheat bread (like Ezekiel), and baked goods had to be made from scratch from some very expensive ingredients.

^ this is the GF (gluten free) cake my sister made me for graduation. Now there are a bunch of cheap, easy, GF cake-from the box, it’s so delicious.

Thankfully, gluten intolerance has become somewhat common place and most grocery stores carry an array of goods to make our lives easy (the best, by far, is Trader Joes). Cutting out gluten meant that instead of sleeping 12 hours a day like I did in high school (no exaggeration) I could get by on 8 hours. It was incredible! I also lost a ton of weight and gained better muscle function so I was better at sports! But my digestion was still really off. I was still fairly bloated and got cramps after eating certain meals. My mom has a great nutritionist so I went to see her but you can find out what you’re allergic to by keeping a food journal and working to eliminate foods that may be causing your symptoms. My nutritionist and I came to the conclusion that I am also intolerant to cow dairy, red meat, soy, and refined sugar.

That was two years ago. Since then, I’ve pretty much cut all of those ingredients out of my diet although my sweet tooth makes the sugar thing very hard. My apartment is only stocked with food I can eat so my boyfriend get the residual benefits too. In general, he doesn’t mind because I’ve become a pretty good cook. We don’t really eat out too much at restaurants (it saves so much $) but when we do, I usually get a rice based or poultry dish. Contrary to what you may be thinking, I don’t really love salad. I eat it when I feel like something light and to stave of hunger, but I consume my vegetables through juicing, blending, and chopped up snacks mostly. But that’s another post entirely.

^ this is one of my lunch time snacks. Almond butter (the sea salted kind is the best) and Nutella (a little too sugary but that’s all I had) on rice cakes and some salad leftover from last nights dinner. Surprisingly filling and yummy.

But that is another subject that I’d like to have frequently in this blog, eating for specialized diets without feeling like you’re missing anything. It was hard at first but now I actually love my food better than all that processed stuffed! Get excited because there are more recipes to come.

Question: Is anybody else gluten-free? Or suspicious they are? Is anybody interested in trying but not sure how to start? Just ask!

The Wonderful World of Bikes

I ride bikes. Scratch that, I LOVE riding bikes. My family is very health conscious so I was a regular at the gym play room when I was a kid and then, for my 11th birthday, I got a gym membership of my own. That gift began a lifetime commitment to fitness. Soon enough though, I realized that gyms are boring! So I tried every sport in the book (basketball, soccer, track, swimming, water polo, softball, you get the idea) and sucked at pretty much all of them. I came to realize that I’m terrible at anything that needs hand-eye or foot-eye coordination. It was pretty frustrating because I always knew I could be good at something if not for the passion and discipline I would bring the sport.

Finally, in 2008, I accomplished one of my goals of doing a triathlon. I was in San Diego (the mecca for triathletes) for a 6 month internship and joined the Tri Club of San Diego. They have an incredible calendar of multiple training sessions per day and it was so easy to jump in on a few of those before and after work. They also held FREE monthly sprint distance triathlons and before I left to head back to Boston, I had done six. SIX! I also managed to squeeze in the Pumpkinman Olympic Distance at Lake Mead in Nevada.

When I got back to school I realized how crazy expensive triathlons are so I looked for a new outlet. I always loved to swim so I did some of that but it’s so fricken lonely. Then I found Green Line Velo. It’s a Boston-based bike race team started by a couple of kids that graduated from my school. I joined one of their community rides and, in my first day, met several people who would become my best friends. Triathlons drifted to the back of my mind for a while and I got fast on a bike.

Image^ that’s me! we had a pretty sweet team photo shoot (photo credit to Sam Rosenholtz)

Image^ me and some teammates on a training trip in New Hampshire.

I joined my school’s bike team my junior year and felt really sad that I hadn’t joined sooner. Collegiate road racing happens for all of March and April and became my favorite time of year. My last year at school I volunteered to captain the team (along with Mike, my now boyfriend) and we had one of the best adventures I’ve ever been a part of. While it was an incredibly intense nine weeks, it was well worth it. We would leave midday Friday, drive several hours to our host housing (usually a teammates’ parents), sleep for a few hours, then race both Saturday and Sunday. Monday through Thursday was spent cramming in ALL classes and homework (this was pretty hard during thesis time).

In the last few years I have discovered an amazing world of cyclists. People that are so dedicated and excited to be a part of the sport that they’ll do anything to see you get into it as well. Seriously. Next time you meet someone on a bike, mention that you were thinking about going out on a ride sometime; they will inevitably invite you on various group rides and make it impossible for you to resist. And honestly, don’t even try. The people I met on Green Line Velo and my collegiate team have become some of my closest, most encouraging friends. They’re amazing people and they’re totally worth the 7am wake ups and ridiculous training rides.

Image

^ that’s me in the white helmet with a great friend of mine, Carolyn, in the pinstripes (photo credit to another friend, Chatura Atapattu)

ps. I fully intend on reentering the tri world but may have to wait until my real life job starts panning out and I can afford it.

Questions: Have you ever thought about riding bikes? Why haven’t you started already? Please comment, I’d love to hear what everyone else has to say.

Anxiety to Depression and Back to Life

Confession: I have terrible anxiety. Most of my loved ones know this about me but many others do not. I have never felt the need to tell strangers, until now. Maybe it will help more people learn to deal with it as I did.

Misconceptions: Most people equate anxiety to a singular, fleeting feeling, like being nervous. That is one definition of anxiety but it’s definitely not the only one. People can range from mild to severely anxious but it’s my personal belief that a large percentage of the population have very bad anxiety and haven’t yet recognized it.

My Case: I have always been a very detail-oriented, conscientious, and organized person. I am always looking to the next step so that I can be prepared for whatever life throws at me (I’m one of those people who carries an entire survival kit in my purse). However, when I started college, things escalated. I found that my brain would never turn off. There was no point in my day when I could just sit down and think, “Hm, that was a great day, now I’m going to sit down and relax.” My brain never stopped so neither would I. It’s hard to explain to people without this condition but it was like a movie reel that just kept spinning and spinning even though there was no film left. Even after my endless to-do lists had finally been accomplished my psyche would make up new things to think about. It was awful.

By the time I was 20, I was plagued by such overwhelming anxiety that all I could do was cry. A lot. My frustration just turned into sadness at the thought that I would never, ever be able to relax. I dove into a deep depression that stopped me from enjoying my life. It must be said that I am one of the most selfless people you’ll ever meet (obviously I’m not quite as humble, haha). I would never take my own life because of the pain it would cause my family and friends, but it was during this few months that I understood people who try to commit suicide.

Thankfully, I have an incredible support system. My family was available to talk over the phone anytime and I had an amazing boyfriend who would have done anything to see me smile. (I think every one has support like this, they just have to accept it.) The problem was that not one of my supporters truly understood what I was going through. After a couple of months, I knew I had to figure this one out for myself.

My Solution: Therapy. < my mom correctly pointed out that therapy was only one small part of the solution. Actually, it was a combination of self analysis, exercise, forgiveness, and therapy. The problem was that I’m from San Diego and only had emergency health insurance in Boston where I lived. So I did some research and found a group of doctors that provided help for only a much as I could pay. I scheduled my first appointment with Dr. Linda Puretz and the healing process began. I was still really busy with school and work so I only saw Dr. Linda once every two weeks but just that little bit started the ball rolling.

For about 1/8 of her normal hourly rate (that was all I could afford), she helped me practice coping mechanisms like muscle relaxation and meditation. But that was just a fraction of what I had to do for myself. I began exercising on a more regular basis but instead of focusing on weight loss I did it for mental health. I would use those workouts to clear my head of everything but technique and breathing. I also found yoga videos for really cheap online and started doing yoga and guided meditation whenever I was feeling overwhelmed. But most of all, I started to forgive myself. I started to realize that being productive wasn’t everything in life and that sometimes, the best moments and opportunities result from relaxed downtime. I just stopped putting so much pressure on myself. Pressure to be smarter, faster, skinnier, funnier, and more appealing to everyone else. I started to try to be HEALTHY. In mind and body.

Step Two: Although I had finally broken the loop, anxiety still floated around in my head like a free agent, looking for something to destruct. When I started grad school, it struck again. The combination of financial worries and intense academic obligations sprung up all those precursors to depression. Because of my self-analysis years before, I recognized the warning signs and took action immediately, before things could get worse. My mom had recently also been through some weird mental stuff and tried a new method, hormone medicine, or bioidenticals.

I still had three months before I got home to see our doctor so I started taking some depression medication. It definitely pacified my erratic thoughts but dulled my personality and zest for life. I was so excited to get the hormone testing when I got home in December.

December break finally arrived and I got my blood tested for my hormone levels. It turns out that I had almost no estrogen or progesterone in my system. Both things contribute to lack of relaxation and lower energy levels. Dr. Kelly Austin at California Natural Health in San Diego analyzed my hormone levels and prescribed me a couple of creams which I now apply, twice daily, to my arm and leg skin. Within 30 days, my anxiety had become manageable again. YAY!! I am still on the hormones one year later and consult with Dr. Austin every three months to make sure my anxiety and energy levels are on track, along with a host of other things that are affected by hormones. Also, it should be mentioned that hormone imbalance can affect any person of any age or sex. It can be pretty expensive to get tested but I know there are payment plans and it is seriously worth it. Just your nearest health center and ask some questions!

Finally: Its been three years since I pulled myself out of depression and one year since I started hormone treatment. Unfortunately, depression and anxiety are similar to addiction and it never actually goes away. I have learned to recognize the warning signs and to reign myself in when my thoughts get out of control. I still exercise regularly and practice some preventative yoga so that my brain never forgets how to relax. I learned an incredible amount from that period in my life but what I want to shout to the world is this: Every life has the potential to be wonderful, no matter your finances, family, or genetics; but every sad person has to find the strength to break their vicious cycle before they can improve their lives.

Something Fun: On a totally different note, I am on vacation with my family in Santa Cruz right now and I got to visit one of my best friends, Katie! We raced bikes together in college and now she works at Specialized (the biggest bike company in the US) in San Jose. We got to tour the office and everything! I am so insanely jealous of her work place.

20120816-145026.jpg^ yep, it’s a building INSIDE a building. With a fire hydrant and a car and everything!

ps. If anyone else can relate to this post, please have the courage to comment. Put yourself out there so you can help others.

Day One: Nightmares?

Today is day one of my blogging initiative! I’m pretty excited but also a little scared about it. I really want to commit to this and I’m nervous that my busy life will get in the way. My intention is that this blog be part personal journal, part exercise record, and part public inspiration. Hopefully I can hold myself accountable by writing: I will log one entry per day, every day, into oblivion. There! Wrote it, now I will have to do it. So thank you for reading Day  One. I hope you enjoy.

I live in Peoria, Illinois with my boyfriend (lets call him Mike) and our two guinea pigs (lets call them Elvis and Stinky Pete because those are their actual names).

^ Elvis

Mike works an amazing 40+ hour a week job at a major machine manufacturing company and I work as the Marketing Manager of a Chiropractic Office. This situation is brand new to us since we moved from Boston mid-June. However, right this second, I’m at home in San Diego for 17 days staying with my parents and two sisters, my brother is studying (and partying) in London at the moment.

^ Boston to Peoria= sweet trip to Niagara Falls

Anyway! I’m not sure if its the added stress of college loans kicking in and me being on vacation or the fact that I’m back under someone else’s roof but I’ve been having some HORRIBLE nightmares. And not just one or two a night but several that wake me up and keep me up. Who wants to go back to sleep after being kidnapped and having their throat slit?? Not me. So began the experiment to end my nightmares without multiple glasses of wine before bed.

Experiment so far: eat dinner very early, around 6pm; then a snack around 8.30pm; a small dessert around 10pm; and then a cup of tea. And definitely only comedy television and absolutely no thriller reading to knock me out. So far, this has resulted in milder nightmares. Instead of dreaming about kidnapping and murder, last night I dreamt that I couldn’t afford clothes in America so I stole a scooter, drove down to Mexico, and went on a shopping spree. There wasn’t any room in the scooter for all my new clothes so I stuffed them all down my pants to drive back to America. I got robbed at the border (which was interesting because the thieves had to reach down my pants) but all the got were a few pairs of new socks. I finally got home safe and sound only to find that, while down there, I had apparently covered my body in trashy tribal tattoos.

That last one was weird but I basically woke up, thought “WHAT THE HELL?” and then went back to sleep. This is progress!

Question: Any ideas for getting rid of nightmares without the aid of alcohol or drugs?