Eating vs. Training

I frequently get questions about which exercises to use to “spot reduce” certain areas, and the answer is always the same – it’s more about the food we eat than the exercises.  

Spot reducing does not work, It can’t hurt to focus on an area, but without a comprehensive approach, efforts are often in vain, leaving disappointment in the wake of (some) concerted efforts.

Clean eating has a bad rap, though, among the masses – it isn’t about depriving at all which, in my mind, is 100% doomed to fail. It’s about the overall consistency (treats are allowed here and there!) and choosing healthier, whole foods as the primary sources of nutrition. When we are *generally* fueling our bodies with healthier options, having a goodie once is a while is NOT a big deal.

I don’t know this Instagram page – @vshred4women – but this image cropped up this week in one of the App’s ads (hence my post.) Much that sponsored material makes me crazy, I did agree with what was being presented. I always say that our nutrition accounts for 80 to 90% of the results we see and feel.

@vshredforwomen

This particular image shows meal prepping at it’s finest.  Not everyone feels like they have time to do this, and that’s okay – you don’t necessarily need to.  I tend to cook several pounds of chicken at once myself because I find that’s easiest for me.  If I’m also making veggies, or I think in a day or two I’ll be preparing a different meal, I may chop up those extra veggies ahead of time since I’m already at it!  Do what works best for you because that’s what will keep you on track.

Getting back to eating clean though…it’s all about setting yourself up for success.  I shared a few of my personal tips in this post – 10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry Is Horrible!) – a few weeks ago, and they really can help.  

Not buying foods I know will derail me is one of my key tactics, and filling up on foods that will keep me feeling full longer is another…but again, it’s about works best for you.

I think the misconception about healthy nutrition is that one mistake is the end of the world – many times people will eat poorly for a day or two, even a week (vacation, anyone?!) and then go into “weeeell, I’m failing as it is, may as well give up!” and they continue with poor choices. It is NEVER, EVER too late to have a fresh start, so toss that negative notion to the waist side. PLEASE!

Each day is a new opportunity to try again. If there is a strategy that you know works / has worked for you, re-employ it! If there isn’t, take baby steps and make a point to notice your progress – a tiny step forward is still in the right direction!

It’s also important to remember that little changes can make a huge difference.  Some examples:

  • Switching from cream to milk in coffee
  • Switching from whole milk to 2% or skim if you are a milk drinker
  • Having a whole fresh fruit versus putting a few fruits into a blender 
  • Using lettuce wraps instead of bread, or making an open-face with just one slice
  • Adding veggies to the base of your meal, or doubling the portion you already have
  • Switching to healthy fats like avocados, portioned nuts, fatty fish, or egg yolks instead of the kind you get in sweets
  • Having slow-cooking oatmeal instead of sugary cereals
  • Swapping your regular yogurt for Greek
  • Putting dressing on the side and just using what you need, vs creating a salad dressing swimming pool for your greens
  • If you must have a soda, try a zero calorie version. . .

There are so many possibilities, you just have to look! 

Fueling our bodies with the right foods also aids our training efforts, and the results of all that hard work. Without the proper combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat, we won’t function optimally, and we may not see the results we would otherwise if we did nutritionally support the exercise we are doing (for example, lifting weights and skimping on protein means you aren’t going to see the muscle mass you would if you had the appropriate protein intake.)

That ridiculous saying that abs are made in the kitchen? It is more true than it isn’t. Our culture is a food-centric one, so saying “clean eating” is sometimes meant with scoffs and dismissal, if not considered a bad word / phrase. But it isn’t some horrible, unachievable state of being that should scare or intimidate anyone. Unless you are working on preparing for the Olympia competition, there’s probably room to tweak (and even then!) 

Healthy changes…

Don’t have to be monumental…

You don’t have to go cold turkey (unless you know that is an ideal method for you)…

You don’t have to follow some stringent fad diet!

And you don’t have to say goodbye to all the things you enjoy.

Recognizing that you can see the results you want with some adjustments to your nutritional intake is actually very freeing – it’s something you have total control over, and can customize as it works for you. The key? Being honest and realistic with yourself – YOU are who matters the most, and there is no reason you can’t enjoy life, enjoy delicious food, and also have the results you are looking for.

 

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6 Personal Tricks To Maintaining Willpower

Every so often I’m asked what I do, or how I stick to my guns, in order to reach the goals I’ve set for myself. Some of my friends have said I stick to my routine like my life depends on it.  While it’s *generally* true that I color in the lines, it doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake all the time. Cake? Where?!  Is it chocolate!?  (See what I mean…?)

Some days it’s a challenge to keep myself on track, but I do have a few tried-and-true tricks to help me stay on the bandwagon when I want nothing more than to hurl myself off it!

Now it may be I’m already that crazy personality type that pushes myself extra hard…in everything…(and boy, is that exhausting!) It could be that I like routine. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen other people succeed, and I want to get there too.  Either way, these tricks do come in handy, and are worth a shot if you are having some difficulty motivating. . . They have helped me enormously, and continue to.

What is willpower, though, anyway?  Willpower is typically used to refer to that miraculous, supernal compass that allows us to abstain from whatever it is that ISN’T so good for us…  Or, as the dictionary puts it:

For me, that would be eating whatever I want, not getting up and exercising most days, and not following through with the things that will help me grow as a person, or in a field I’m interested in.  I’ve admitted to myself full-on how much easier that life would be…but when I think about the implications of walking that path, I’ve rerouted very quickly…

So there’s tip #1 right there…

TIP #1 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning the Implications

This trick works for me the majority of the time.  I don’t really consider it as guilting myself into things, it’s more that I focus on the implications of NOT doing the action I’m struggling with, OR staying where I am…which is not where I want to be.  I know that if I decide to abandon my dietary habits, I skip my physical activities, give up on something I really want to learn (which I almost did recently!)…I’m going to suffer on a number of levels.  I’ll feel more exhausted, depressed about how I feel / look / not achieving, my skin will probably freak out, the doctors (I’m sure) will be on my case, and I’ll very likely be in a shitty mood all around.  Bad for everyone!

Then there’s tip #2…which is similar to the first, but it puts things in a positive light (which, frankly, is where I personally prefer to be.)

TIP #2 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning…and FEELING…the Goals

When I focus on my goals, I get the most bang for my buck – more so than #1 because, again, I’m making this positive.  I focus on what I want most – whether to maintain my current condition, learn more about a subject I’m new to, achieve the next rank in my Martial Art… Whatever the goal is, I focus on HOW I WILL FEEL once I HAVE IT.  That’s how the magic begins.  How to keep it going?  Picture it as if you ALREADY HAVE IT.  Once you get there, you’re golden.  There are mornings that getting up and spinning is the last thing I want to do.  But I focus on the feeling of “that felt great – I did it, and I worked hard, and now I’m ready for the day!”  Focusing on the feeling I’ll have in accomplishing that goal makes all the difference.

TIP #3 – Progress Snapshots

Progress snapshots can take a lot of forms – it really depends on what the goal is. If it’s with regard to my Martial Arts, I’ll make sure to take periodic photos of my attendance card to see just how far I’ve come, and how close my next test is.  If it’s with regard to physical condition, photos go a LONG way.  Photos help us to keep track of how we are doing in the most real sense – I’ve caught myself being off track from pictures plenty of times!  It’s not easy to see ourselves as we really are sometimes – photos keep us honest.

TIP #4 – Staying Gentle with Ourselves

Life is a challenging journey any way you slice it.  There will be ups and downs, and days you don’t damn well feel like “making a gratitude list!” That’s okay.  What’s important is that you are gentle with yourself in understanding we all get a little sidetracked from time to time.  Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling fully.  Then dust yourself off, remind yourself how far you’ve come / that you have made it through successfully before (and I guarantee that you have!), and get to it!  Wallowing in our shortcomings is incredibly dangerous, and a surefire way to keep the negative cycle going.  Chin up  – you can do it!

TIP #5 – Sharing Our Progress

Don’t forget to share your progress with those you trust and love – I assure you that they will want to share in your joy, encourage your continued journey, and would be willing to help you in any way they can.  That’s what loved ones are there for!  You aren’t alone, and you don’t have to go it alone. If you are having a tougher day, it’s okay to ask  a loved one for help, to vent, or to ask for a proper kick in the ass – like being brutally honest! – when you need it. 

TIP #6 – Changing Our Language and Inner Dialogue

I’m as guilty of the next person of putting myself down, and putting road blocks in my own way with negative thoughts or language.  It’s vital that we work on using positive language, such as “I can!”…and using it all the time.  When we are stuck in a rut, or feeling miserable about past failures, that’s when using positive language (and / or replacing negative language) is the most important.  We must remember that there is always a new opportunity waiting – there is no better time than the present to get back on track, and we can do that at any moment.  Forget four letter words like “can’t” as they serve only to derail.  Make sure your language is positive, and you are on your way!

Willpower can be hard to come by all the time…but it is NOT an impossibly-achieved, elusive superpower.  The more we work at it, the more we will have.

You have everything it takes to get back on – and stay on – track, so long as you really want whatever that goal is.

So. . .

In SUMMARY:

TIP #1 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning the Implications

  • DO stay honest with yourself about the full implications of staying where you are 
  • DO visualize, and own up to that result (of not following through)
  • DON’T throw in the towel!  You have what it takes!

TIP #2 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning…and FEELING…the Goals

  • DO focus on how you will FEEL once you attain your goal
  • DO picture yourself already achieving that goal (this is the key to the miracle!)

TIP #3 – Progress Snapshots

  • DO take periodic “snapshots” to keep you honest with your progress
  • DO take photos, as they are the more true picture of reality than we sometimes like to pretend
  • DO be creative! Taking a picture of a school report card, or positive e-mail from the boss counts!

TIP #4 – Be Gentle With Yourself

  • DO praise yourself with affirmations when you do a great job of making benchmarks
  • DO share your joy with those you love, as they will be proud of you also!
  • DON’T beat yourself up if you had a tough day

TIP #5 – Share the Joy…AND the Challenges!

  • DO share your successes with your loved ones
  • DO share your struggles if you need or want to
  • DON’T isolate yourself.  You don’t have to brave the journey alone!

TIP #6 – Change Your Inner Dialogue 

  • DO use positive language, and try to use it all the time
  • DO believe in yourself and say it aloud if necessary
  • DON’T wallow past failure
  • DON’T give in just because you are in a bad place.  Without change, it’s going to stay that way.
  • DON’T use “I can’t” or “it’s too hard” or I’ll never _____”

You’ve GOT THIS!

What WE Feel Is What Matters Most

As an athlete, I’m often in environments where people have a heightened awareness of their appearance – in ballroom dancing, the focus was so intense it sometimes made me uncomfortable! In figure skating it wasn’t as much of a big deal, but it did matter. At the gym, I’m used to people checking in on themselves in the mirror… And even when I’m doing my own thing, I sometimes am interrupted by someone making a comment as well.

We all have different goals and what should matter the MOST is how WE feel…not what someone else thinks of us.  I remember someone saying “you know you look good” and it actually gave me pause.  I wasn’t ungrateful at all, and I certainly truly appreciated what I believe they intended to be a supportive comment – but my thoughts stopped for a moment to examine the idea. . .

To some people, we are going to look great.  But to others, not so much!  And that’s more than okay. I’m thankful to have a husband who is supportive of my mesomorphic body type. My family is also incredibly supportive, even though they don’t all “like” a muscular physique. It makes me feel good because “mesomorph / endomorph” is what I am working with – I can’t change that, and I appreciate that the people closest to me always back me up in what feels best to me.  

I *could* lose weight, gain weight, or stay where I am, but fundamentally, my structure is what it is.  As a lifetime athlete, I identify with feeling and being strong – I love having muscle, I love the feeling that I can move my own furniture, or roll my own car.  That doesn’t, however, necessarily mean OTHER people like that.  Fortunately, I ascribe to the following:

#1.) I don’t really bother myself with what someone else thinks about which condition feels – again – best to me, and…

#2.) I have ZERO misconceptions that I am perfect to everyone out there (or that any of us have to live up to that impossible standard)

As Dita once phrased it…

We could be the most gorgeous thing to one person, and not at all attractive to another.  That doesn’t mean we are too skinny, too full, too muscular, too tall, too short… Someone else’s idea of beauty is his or her own.  What matters most is how WE FEEL about ourselves, and in our own skin. 

WE need to feel good about ourselves – we deserve to feel healthy, and able, and happy.  Period.  If something in that picture is falling short, we also have the power to change it! But we mustn’t confuse what others think, because that reality isn’t our reality.

I always encourage people to be honest with themselves – are they wanting a change because HE or SHE FEELS that a change would bring about positive outcomes for themselves (feeling healthier, having more energy, feeling sexy, fitting into older clothes etc…) or is it because someone else is forcing that idea on them..?

The ball is always in our court – we have the power to decide what makes us feel our best, to have that, and to feel great in our own skin.

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Martial Arts Wisdom – Revenge and Anger

In Martial Arts we say we hope we never have to use what we learn – the idea isn’t about trying to prove something, nor to assert any kind of feigned dominance.

Along those lines, we are taught that ideas like “revenge” and “anger” serve only as injurious deviations from our true paths.  The Universe finds a way to right things without the heavier, shall we say, karmic repercussions of going down that road.

To seek revenge or harbor ill will is, as Buddha says, holding the proverbial hot coals and assuming both that they will burn another…and also that we are impervious.

The truth is the reverse – to seek such things is to diminish our own self-worth. It is a disservice to ourselves as willfully negative actions and thoughts hinder the flow of “good” that has the potential to continually manifest in our lives.  It is far wiser to let go of resentment, and to be as the Martial Artist aspires to be – free of the burdens that come with animosity and bad blood. 

It isn’t always an easy pursuit, but it is a noble one and worth the aspiration. Neither human being nor circumstance has the right to turn us from the higher road.

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10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry Is Horrible!)

Feeling hungry – or getting to the point of “hangry” – is terrible for everyone. There ARE ways – yes, really! – to maximize fullness and avoid the pitfalls of poor-choice snacking.  It does take some commitment, but it isn’t so difficult that it can’t be achieved (with minimal, if any, pain, I promise.)

I struggle with snacking too – I’ve always liked eating a lot of food, so I’ve learned some tricks to keep me on track, without the starving feeling of a “diet” (I don’t actually believe in the “D word” to begin with.)  The point is to set yourself up for success, not disaster.  Binges?  been there.

#1. . . H2O

Water is essential for SO many reasons, and I guarantee that most of us aren’t getting as much as we need. When you feel thirsty, it’s usually too late.  Incidentally, in effort to get the hydration it needs, sometimes you’re sent a “hungry signal” when in fact it’s the body and brain’s way of saying “need fluid asap!”

How to make it work: Always drink water before you eat.  You WILL get a stronger feeling of fullness.  In some cases, too much water at once might make you feel sick…so go easy and give your body a chance to adjust.  Sip your water first and you’ll likely notice you don’t need to eat that whole, huge portion.

#2. . . SLOW DOWN!

Eating too quickly is a surefire way to A.) eat more than you need and, B.) leave you feeling overly full.  Stomach aches are NEVER good! Slowing the pace can make a huge difference – you will feel that “fullness” when it’s time to stop.  The body has been designed to work like a highly-tuned machine – it knows before the brain does sometimes.  Trust it.

How to make it work: Take a bite and put your utensil down.  Sound basic? It is.  But try its because it helps.  Eat a little, put your fork down, and give yourself a chance to chew and enjoy the food.  

Feeling full!?

#3. . . Fruits and Veggies

Portions M A T T E R.  These nature-made goodies are easily found, not expensive, and are one of the best ways to add bulk to your meals (not to yourself!), while also adding a dose of H2o goodness and nutrients.  Veggies in particular are my go-to for making meals a lot BIGGER than they really are without adding a ton of calories (e.g. . .or to my waistline, which can happen when I’m not careful.  Thanks, meso-endo body type!)

How to make it work: Add an extra serving of steamed vegetables as a side for your meal, or add them to it (for example, soup or pasta) to make a larger, and more filling portion. Fresh fruits are also great (and a better choice than their deliciously dried counterparts) to add to things like yogurt, cereal, or even frozen yogurt for a treat.

#4. . . Distract yourself and stay mindful

Are you *really* hungry?  Or just bored?  I have a habit of wanting to eat when I’m not busy (working on the computer, watching something on tv etc.)  Bad news, because then I look for more food to snack on…

How to make it work: It’s okay to snack here and there but if you are not mindful of what you are doing, you’ll probably go overboard (it’s easy – portions aren’t really that big!) If you absolutely *must* snack while doing something else, portion it out and remind yourself to (#2) slow down. If you are simply eating because you are bored, find another way to distract yourself to get that “I’m not hungry but I want to eat” out of your mind.

#6. . . Pre-Portion

Having some options at the ready is always a great idea, especially when they are portioned out already.  You dont’ need to buy crappy snack packs, you can make your own (hummus with veggies, popcorn in portioned bags, fruit salad etc.)

How to make it work: Have some pre-portioned items in your pantry or fridge for when you need them.  Stay mindful and remember they are portioned for a reason.  If you savor what you are having, you don’t need to eat three portions of it.  Often we do that because it’s an oral fixation – the act of just munching – vs our body really needs the sustenance.  I’m super guilty of this one.

#7. . .  Don’t BUY it!

This is a go-to for me also.  Sometimes I know I really want something…but if I buy it, I’m not going to be able to control the amount I have.  So…I don’t buy it.  It isn’t worth it to me to then be kicking myself in the butt – if I don’t have it at home, I can’t eat it.  I CAN, however, buy other options.

How to make it work: Don’t get sh*t you know you can’t handle!  I’m serious! You know your weaknesses.  Do buy things you can have instead that you won’t beat yourself up over.  You deserve to feel great ALL around.

#8. . . Get moving!

Exercise is a nice distraction technique (see #4.) It’s great for  you, but it also gets your metabolism moving along as well.

How to make it work: Maybe you don’t have a gym membership, or you are having a tough time motivating…try doing a few little things during commercials when you are watching your favorite show, or in between stirs while you’re cooking dinner (e.g. pushups, jumping jacks, setups etc.) Baby steps are OKAY.  In fact, they are MORE than okay.  It might help get your mind off the need to munch, and give your furnace a boost while you’re at it.

#9. . .  Chopsticks

Yep.  Chopsticks are not as easy to eat with and they force you to follow rule #2 whether you want to or not.  Sneaky, yes.  Genius, also yes.

How to make it work: Pick up a pair and start pinching!  If you have trouble, there are modified ones that are joint at the top (not as good, but still slower than a fork or spoon.)

#10. . . (Worse comes to worse, and ps, I’m NOT a dentist!) Have some peppermint, or try a piece of gum

I am NOT recommending chewing gum as much as I do (it is sugar-free, but I’m sure it’s not the best habit.) There are plenty of healthy ways to avoid overeating but sometimes a quick piece of gum can keep me from eating something I don’t really want or need.  A dose of peppermint tea, or a mint can also help. Again, not trying to suggest this is should be a default – I’m slapping my own hands given that I love my Bubblemint.  But…if all else fails, it can help in a pinch.

How to make it work: Have some peppermint tea, suck on a mint, or even have a piece of sugar-free gum.  As a last resort, this can actually help.  Some folks recommend smelling fragrant oils – you can try that too, though the physical act of chewing, or having the taste on your tongue, might have a stronger result.

Once again, not a doc, and not a dietician..but these are a few tricks that might help when the munchies hit.  As someone who LOVES volume (e.g. LOTS of food) I can say honestly that these tricks CAN work.

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The Secrets Of Ninjutsu

Ninjutsu is probably one of my favorite Arts – its unique and unorthodox techniques, its higher-level, somewhat ethereal concepts, and the intriguing furtiveness captivated me from the get go.  It is, truly, an Art…and as a dancer and ice skater at heart, artistry is my language.

I’ve (rather sadly) seen traditional Arts dismissed as irrelevant – many modern-day practitioners want techniques that they can apply to modern-day scenarios.  Makes sense.  But therein lies the deception. Being rooted in a deep and complicated history also means that there are thousands of gems lying within the teachings.  Ones that have not only stood the test of time – when it was truly life and death – but ones that can also be very readily adapted and applied to “today.”

BudoRyoNinjutsu

One of the most interesting facets of Ninjutsu is the whole air of “secrecy.”  It sounds like an exaggeration but trust me, it isn’t.  Even within the walls of an official school, we find lots of “Henka,”or variations on specific techniques – the thing is, they are not always relayed in a straight-forward fashion, and sometimes are only hinted at.  For some Artists, that idea doesn’t go over (I can feel the eye rolls.)

While reading a Curriculum, for example, you might see images that don’t always jive with what the written directions are saying.  It ISN’T a lost-in-translation mistake either.  It’s completely deliberate.

The idea here is not that the “powers that be” of Traditional Ninpo are aiming to be unreasonably difficult, nor necessarily that they want to add some mysterious air that the Art can’t back up.  It’s more about the principle that learning is very much about DOing. Your Sensei is “passing down” the traditions, so to speak, and it drives home the idea that just reading a book, going online, or cerebrally understanding concepts ISN’T enough.  Martial Arts transcends any one approach – it takes grasping the fundamentals intellectually, absolutely, but the Art cannot be realized without being fully hands-on.

Taking it a step further, there are countless layers to the Art – you may learn a technique at one level, only to discover – throughout your own progression – profound jewels embedded deeply with in them…ones you neither could see, nor were capable of comprehending, in earlier training.

Ninpo embraces that we are not always ready for all of the “secrets” but that to develop our true “artistry” will take time, hard work, both finessing and breaking down the techniques until we can create our own. I suppose in a way many Martial Arts take that tact but here, some of the information is simply not shared until one has proven oneself to be ready.

The multi-faceted Ninjutsu is 1,000% NOT for everyone. It is acrobatic, intense, a little bit cryptic, unabashedly sneaky, and incredibly down-and-dirty at times.  Remember, the Ninja needed to survive…not stand on the battlefield until they – or you – were terminated (a la Samurai.)  

Ninjutsu focuses more on learning to keep distance, disabling, taking up an opponent’s space (including mental and spiritual) and getting away with one’s life.  To me, that’s the ultimate – I never began Martial Arts to “beat someone up.”  It’s an ART first and foremost for me, personally.  But, should I be faced with a true threat, I want the ability (or at least the tools) to disable, disengage, and get to safety.  It isn’t about “the fight,” but minimizing injury and getting away.  No ego.  No heroics.

Ninjutsu specifically will expose the student to everything from joint locks, small joint manipulations, grappling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, striking and weapons, to name a few.  I love that we have the opportunity to have such exposure, as many Arts are much more limited in scope. That said, the journey for each practitioner is unique, and built upon vastly different goals – in my own heart, I believe all Martial Arts are worthy and beneficial, markedly different they may be.

Martial Arts isn’t for the faint of heart – Ninjutsu isn’t “gentle” by any stretch, but it does teach us skills by which we can learn to keep ourselves – and our opponents – safe.  At the end of the day, however, we are taught that if we must overcome that individual, we must be prepared to do so.  Fortunately in modern times we don’t have to take it quite that far (certainly not in practice!)

Sometimes techniques hurt, sometimes they baffle, and other times they’re a little difficult to track down…. But each one of them – both the clandestine and the clear – are there should we be required to use them.  

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