The Gratitude In Overcoming Difficulty

I can be far too hard on myself at times.  It’s landed me in precarious and damaging situations, so much so that I am not only more aware of it – all this time later in Life! – but, despite slipping, I am also more willing to work hard to get to the root of it.  (I’m blessed to have the support in so doing also – that makes a world of difference.) Doing so, however, means being more vulnerable, but it’s a necessary part of growth and overcoming hardship – it takes (often uncomfortable) work to get to the other side!  

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I’ve come a long way, and weathered storms like most human beings (after the age of three!) and it’s important I remember that… It’s important for all of us to remember where we have been, what we have accomplished, and that we have more strength than we think – because it’s so easy to forget and beat ourselves up. 

It’s also important to remember that we are works in progress. Recovery is a journey – It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes you can sail through the day, and others requires a moment at a time. 

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What NEVER slips my mind, though, is how grateful I am.  No matter my flaws, my moods, my “humanness”…not a day goes by that I am unaware of how blessed I am to be healthy, and to be alive.  

I remember that time I fell down the stairs, and had trouble with my legs buckling every so often – my body was eating the muscle from the inside out and I could no longer support my weight at times. 

I remember waking up with eyes so swollen – one of many effects of hyponatremia – that I actually staggered back, not recognizing the stranger staring back at me.  I stared into a reflective abyss confused, terrified, and wholly unable to see myself.  What HAPPENED..?

I remember when getting coffee and adding something to it – even a drop of skim milk – felt like an impossible hurdle. 15 extra calories? Not then

So when someone offers a kind word – whether of support of my lifestyle or some result of it…or simply asks for health or fitness advice – I feel it profoundly.  At times I even want to cry because I am not only touched and honored, but I know what it’s like to NOT have health, to watch myself dying a slow and painful death. . .and what it took to get where I am today.  (I am, incidentally, choked up with tears even writing this now…all this time later.)

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To be active and fit is a gift I will NEVER take for granted. Not only in remembering my own experiences, but knowing those without the fortune to walk or speak or see. . .my eyes have been opened in a such a way that I cannot UNsee.

I am thankful to each and every person who takes the time to encourage, to ask for help, to offer a kind word – you motivate and inspire me just as much, if not more so.  I work incredibly hard at it, and try my best…but I fail plenty too.  

To know I’ve potentially lifted one other person – even if only temporarily – is an honor.  It reminds me that my suffering was not in vain, and that I can give so much more having known it.

With gratitude. . . 

 

Traveling Nutrition IV

I’m always amazed – and sincerely touched – by the support of social networks from like-minded but total strangers.  We all have different goals, needs, and circumstances…but it’s neat to see the general camaraderie surrounding the broader aim to stay healthy, and make good choices for ourselves.  I posted a few photos from a recent trip and was touched by how many folks even cared.

I’ve enumerated at length how utterly terrifying traveling used to be for me – the eating disorders that accompanied my PTSD made leaving my parents’ home, at the time, nigh impossible – forget getting in a car for hours, or – god forbid – getting on a plane.

I worried about what I would eat, if I could eat, who would be eating what types a foods around me. . . The prospect was enough to launch a generally debilitating panic attack, so to be able to travel at all now…and with some ease…is a gift I never take for granted.

What makes it a TON easier is to have the support of those closest to me – I’m not sure where I’d be without it, to be honest.

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The most recent – a rather last-minute – trip was to a car show out in California.  Long flight, several hours in the car on both sides, and lots of fast food (that my stomach couldn’t handle if I wanted it to!) When I travel I always pack a plethora of snacks, but in this case, I brought extra.

The great news beyond that, though, is that SO many places have options – they may not be main menu options, but they do exist, you need only ask. Yes, even on the plane!

Protein can be a little tricky to travel with but there are packaged options that don’t need a refrigerator, such as turkey and chicken jerky, nuts, and tuna, chicken, or salmon packs. I get a few looks sometimes but I feel my best when I eat as close to my “usual” as possible so it’s all good. 🙂 

Whole fruits like apples and freeze dried version are a sweet option to tote along, as are pre-portioned snacks like peanut butter crackers. When out to dinner, fish and chicken prepared as simply as possible are great choices, along with veggies to fill you up.  One of the restaurants had a “salsa” as cocktail sauce with their shrimp and I actually used it as a salad dressing because it was so good, and had very little in it (versus a heavier dressing whose ingredients I’d be unable to decipher.) 

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As for airports there are lots of options hiding out – turkey slices or chicken breasts are generally available where sandwiches are made, salads are always available, fruit cups are offered at coffee bars and meal establishments…even boiled eggs can be found in some places as well (sometimes they are even in pre-packaged salads too!) It may be a mix and match but you can definitely find options that work.

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So don’t lose heart if you have to be on the road or away from your usual meals at home.  It is definitely doable to eat clean and to be satisfied – a few snacks in your bag can help when cravings hit, and most of the time a restaurant is MORE than happy to prepare something more simple.  Don’t be afraid to ask!

More Deliciousness

10 Powerful Tips from Joel Almeida

I recently saw this article from Tiny Buddha, written by Joel Almeida, and it resonated very deeply with me.  I feel blessed to have experienced the hardships I have in relationships – alarming that may sound to some – because they has given me far more gifts than they have taken away.  

Being a better version of myself is a quotidian reflection for me, and a pursuit I have committed to for a lifetime. I make countless mistakes, have as many shortcomings as the next person, and feel as frustrated with human beings – strangers, friends, family alike – on a daily basis.  I fall victim to the dreadful habits of minimizing, justifying, and making excuses for everyone else ALL the time on top of it – one of the reasons I landed in such painfully damaging situations to begin with.  But, as a result of countless treatment methodologies, the understanding of what a healthy relationship *should be*…and the actual applications to myself came together.

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I have a ton of growing yet to do – learning, retraining, healing, and beyond. . . But the moment I recognized that I deserved better than the horrors I had, things began to fall into place rapidly – conceptually, physically, emotionally, and REALLY... But having a healthy relationship after a lifetime of dysfunctional and abusive ones?  It actually isn’t as easy to navigate as you might think!  It has taken a lot of adjusting to even allow someone to do something nice for me (my incredible fiancé can attest to the struggle – it’s real! 😉 ) 

It matters to me that our love flourishes, that he feels good about himself, and that he knows, no matter what, that he can always rely on me.  For that to happen, I have to also work on myself – whether in loving, forgiving, respecting, or being brutally honest, I owe myself as much as I do my significant other.  It is only then can I really give all of myself. 

A relationship itself is also work – not work in the sense of utter drudgery, mind you!  But it takes nourishing, understanding, and compassion.  Relationships are built on trust, respect, and appreciation.  With those things in place, it becomes and endless wellspring of love.

I loved the points Joel touched on – I’ve never come across his work before, but I really appreciated this piece.  Life is so fast paced and crazy that it’s easy to lose sight of things – or control of ourselves!  I know I’ve not always reacted in the way I’d like to, but I take each failure – in sports, school, work, relationships, whatever! – as an opportunity to learn and grow.  

Hungry Girl Cruise

So I’ve followed Lisa Lilien since she founded Hungry Girl back in the early 2000’s.  Having been through two eating disorders, as a result of PTSD, I was more mindful than ever about what I ate (to get WELL, that is.)  What I loved about Lisa’s blog was that she shared healthier options, but also kept things realistic.  She isn’t a nutritionist, but she likes to eat, she likes to eat on the healthier side of things, and she loves to share what she learns along the way.

I recently read that Hungry Girl is organizing a cruise with Royal Caribbean, aiming at January 2017.  I smiled because I DESPISE cruises.  There, I said it!  I know the many people love them but…I always felt uncomfortable about being confined to a space (albeit a large one!) with the predominant focus being on FOOD.  I mean…I have awesome willpower but let’s be honest…being surrounded by goodies makes it tough to have a good time – you feel this pressure to “be good” when all you see are delicious, not-so-healthy options!

But a cruise run by Hungry Girl?!  Holy smokes, that’s AMAZING!  The concept is one I absolutely love – for people who DO enjoy cruises, this offers them the opportunity to have the best of the islands, the onboard fun, AND healthy selections for their meals.  

All too often I hear people lament after a week-long vacation that they had “too much” and went “overboard” with the food.  Well…if this cruise comes to pass, you will not only have the great vacation you are looking for but you will also come home feeling great about yourself (and not overstuffed!)

Brilliant, Ms. Lilien!

If you want to chime in with feedback, go here.

Him

One year ago a man walked through the door of a coffee shop, brushing the unremitting, though gentle Spring snow from his head – I knew then that something was different, how fitting Mother Nature made a point that the day stand out. 

We had agreed to meet at the long-time urging of a friend (how blessed I am for the persistence!) – she unknowing altered my Life, acquainting me with what (who) would be the most precious gift of all my years.  Just days earlier he accepted a job in another state and would be moving only two weeks later – we’d apparently grown up in the same, relatively small town – how terribly ill-timed it seemed, at yet how fortuitous…

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Six months prior, I’d ended a third abusive relationship with a very ill human being – Narcissistic Personality Disorder and alcoholism at the core of the troubles, though scarcely the whole of them.  I had suffered trauma before, not recognizing my propensity towards codependency, but this was the most severe, triggering layers upon layers of anguish…and adding several more.  I wasn’t launched into a nightmare of eating disorders, as I was ten years prior from the abuse of a then, also alcoholic, boyfriend…but the PTSD came raging back (with a capital C before it, sadly.)

I was rendered nonfunctional, incapable of leaving my apartment, save to go to my (outrageously supportive!) parents’ house to weep, seemingly ad infinitum.  I slept on their living room couch for weeks, afraid and unable to be alone. Trauma therapy (EMDR), talk therapy, medication, podcasts, hypnosis, meditation, chakra balancing, Cranial Sacral work, Brainspotting, somatic release, blog scouring….I did ALL of it.  I did everything I possibly could to regain some vestige of strength and stability, but there was one bit of edification the EMDR would provide that would change everything…  

As I worked through painful, teary sessions, the fog began to lift from my eyes.  Though my loved ones insisted this wasn’t a pattern, I knew I had some part to play, and was desperate to discover the nature of it, no matter what the mirror reflected back.  Over time I began to see a woman with a devoted heart, a boundless spirit, an interminable will, who painted herself with appalling falsities and misplaced intolerance.  I realized that not only had I woven…and believed!…countless lies about myself…but I had actually never thought I deserved better.  The moment I accepted that I DID, my World was turned upside-down (for, rest assured, the better.)

I made a point to make a vision board – one into which I poured countless hours, both physically and emotionally.  Had I not infused each part with my spirit, I am not certain I would have come out to this path – the explicit nature of my intentions, and the reality which I breathed into each one, made (I believe) all the difference – it is in this way we practice “Magic.”  I read all the written words aloud as 2014 melted away, with a voice as strong as I could muster.  At 12:01, my heart beat more clearly and resolutely than it had in a long time –  whatever the shift that occurred was one I felt within, and without.

The next two months had their share of distress and lachryma…points at which I needed to work within moments (a day at a time, hour to hour, still feeling insurmountable.)  But on the 1st of March, the Stars connivance collided in a rush of Springtime snow, and a smile I was certain I’d known before…  Yes, and coffee too!

What they say about true love...about immediate knowing…it IS true.  It was as if a prior Life rekindled and flashed a thousand embraces in my mind.

The soul knows before the rest of us, often…  It knows despite the urging of the mind, or heart.  I’d learned over time to over-justify, to make excuses for others, to drown out my “gut feeling” in effort to make another person happy, or to keep the peace…but it always knew rightly.  Upon reflection I could enumerate at length how infinitely more acute my gut actually is than any fiction my brain could devise, or reason my heart urge I pursue.

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Every so often, all this time later, I feel as if I need to blink my eyes open…pinch myself…in effort to affirm I am indeed in conscious waking. His companionship is so much a gift that I’d not change a moment of my past – no matter which part – as I believe it gave me what I needed not only to find him, but to appreciate all that he is, as well as to appreciate myself.

I always believed that there is a reason in everything – for me personally, the notion has proved a beacon in the Night when the World seemed unusually cruel.  I believed that I could learn, and gain something positive, from my suffering…not least of which was some illumination, or enlightenment.  I do not believe we must suffer needlessly, only that whatever I have known within my own Life has given me strength and clearer vision.  So too have I recognized that my heart is capable of loving to oblivion, not only others, but for once in my Life, also myself.

I am blessed to have a companion who not only cherishes and respects me, but one who sincerely values who I am, and all I have known.  One of my greatest fears was that I would, yet again, be abandoned, threatened, cast aside as a stranger by the person I poured my soul into…  But when I met the Love of my Life, the fear began to subside…  

Not only do I feel loved, I know I am loved… He makes the effort always to let me know that I am neither alone, nor that I ever need be. He communicates with me honestly, and tells me with the utmost sincerity that “everything will be okay” when the pain creeps back in.  When you are in abusive relationships, you spend more time in “flight or fright” mode to the point you begin to think it is “normal.”  The desperate need for some reassurance, constancy or support is never fulfilled but somehow we push on…   

There are so many people who suffer at the hands of those incapable of loving us in return, but we needn’t remain there.  We do have a choice, and it is okay to reach out for the help we need to regain our strength and self-confidence.  

Codependency is common to Empaths, but we do not HAVE to be bound to the fate of fixing, helping, and losing ourselves…and our Lives.  It is possible to break the cycle, to learn to love ourselves, to learn to set boundaries…

True love exists, make no mistake.  It can paint the World with vibrancy you’d never believe existed, and extinguish all the shadows of your past.  The first step is loving yourself, above all, and believing that you deserve the best.  Once you believe it utterly, your World will change, blooming like am infinite blossom in the morning sun.

Simultaneous Wounding and Complex PTSD: How Our Past Wounds Can Make us Susceptible to Toxic Narcissists

Abuse and trauma are far too common but there IS a supportive community out there.

Incredibly valid, meaningful post, touching on the “simultaneous wounding” than can occur at the hands of a Narcissist. Truth, and then some…

Self-Care Haven by Shahida Arabi

Ca5XPD2UAAAMdW-Simultaneous Wounding and Complex PTSD: How Our Past Wounds Can Make us Susceptible to Toxic Narcissists by Shahida Arabi

The idea that narcissists only bring up our own wounds falls short of explaining how they also manufacture new ones. This is what I’ve dubbed “simultaneous wounding” – a term that encompasses the complex nature of how narcissists can bring up past wounds, reinforce them and also manufacture new wounds simultaneously.

The oversimplification that toxic partners only bring up what already exists for us internally ignores a great deal of the complexity involved in how toxic partners can weave a manipulative web that connects both past and present experiences. Narcissists and sociopaths not only bring up past wounds – they compound them and add onto them, creating a chronic chain of stressors that can even result in Complex PTSD, the symptoms of which can include the regular symptoms of PTSD

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Freedom To Make Healthy Choices

My hunnie and I went out the other day for lunch, which is something at one time in my Life I could not do.  As a result of PTSD I developed two severe eating disorders about a decade ago – anorexia and exercise bulimia.  The prospect of eating away from home was not only daunting, it was debilitating – it would trigger panic attacks, tears, and crippling anxiety.  

Fast forward ten years, through treatment, learning, growing…and the will to survive…I am able to be “human” again. I am incredibly specific about what I eat – in part it is just the nutrition I choose to have as part of my Lifestyle.  And in part it is due to allergies…so I feel less badly about that part! *LOL*  But I am not bound to fear in such a way that I can’t go out for coffee, or dinner, or take a road trip.  The ability to do those things is a HUGE deal when you know what it’s like to be beholden to disease.  At that time, it was seemingly impossible.

When I go out, I will always ask for what I want – I’m not embarrassed to do that anymore either, nor to eat with another person around.  And honestly, as I have mentioned in other posts, I am always met with the sincere desire to give me what I want.  Not every restaurant will have something simple, but it doesn’t hurt to ask…and no one is offended if you do!

We went to a casual restaurant, known for its shellfish and seafood – yay for me! 🙂  But I was in the mood for some dimple protein and, fortunately, they had exactly what I was hoping for!

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What I really loved about what they brought me was the portion – oftentimes I notice places either go way too heavy-handed, or on the skimpy side…the latter situation being the one I’m less fond of (who isn’t!?) But I do prefer that they go easy, so that I am not encouraged to stuff myself beyond what I really need at that time – overeating is really easy to do because you are paying for that food…and there it is, right?!

Right!  

So I LOVED that they portioned the food so well – it wasn’t too much, and it wasn’t too little.  I really enjoyed it, and felt great about the choices. It’s a gift to be free of the anxieties that can plague someone struggling with body dysmorphia or EDs – it isn’t easy to fully understand without having been there, but so many illnesses are similar in the addictive behaviors they are rooted in.  Breaking that cycle and finding a way to honor and respect yourself and your experiences is so important.  Giving yourself the gift of freedom is like giving yourself a new Life – you can take baby steps if you need to, but don’t be afraid to ask for what makes you comfortable, or stays in tune with your goals – you ARE allowed.

You’re Not Going That Way…

This is something I try to be incredibly mindful of…

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Having met with fear, failure, and success over time…as do we all of the human race…I cannot help but “fluctuate” – some days are good, some are great, while others feel somber and disheartening.

I sincerely believe that each experience provides wisdom and strength – while in some ways the construct of time is man-made (or made-determined), each moment builds, follows a prior one…and collapses as the next “tick” comes.  It will march forward one way or the other and being “stuck” is a painful and lonely place to be.

Accepting and acknowledging our feelings is of vital importance – they are, after all, valid.  That said, the deeper-colored they are, the more oppressive the shadows they cast over our positivity and well-being.  

I had some flashbacks myself the other day about an abusive person who had very little good to say, and who wounded me very deeply.  It hurt.  It was frightening.  It was sobering, and saddening…  I coincidentally came across this quotation not long after them – what a lovely reminder!

Staying mindful, and as much in the moment, focused on the good things feels like the proper undercurrent for me – I have my moments, and I forgive myself that I am human, shaped by the ups and downs of Life.  I remember that I am okay NOW – I am in a great place, I have fought to be where I am…and I am SO much stronger than I was.  

When the past endeavors to persuade my heart and spirit to sink, I take a deep breath and focus on the path ahead of me, and the blessings of NOW.  You are allowed to feel…but remember that you also have control, and you ARE doing great. 

Coincidence

I have never believed in coincidence…not even as a little girl.  Instead, events felt more to me as if something grander conspired to have them occur.  As if fate somehow knew one thing would lead to another (with the infinite multitude of permutations already calculated and accounted for.  Naturally!)

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I have always leaned towards optimism, believing that all experiences in Life have some positivity inherent within them – as the saying goes, “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”  Learning for me is ever and always a positive.

Lest I go too deeply into hypotheticals…  For one, I believe that we meet the people we are meant to meet, and when we are supposed to.  Each person is a piece of a much larger, much more complex puzzle, fusing the ends of one lesson with another, or perhaps leaving another section open for something new to fit in.

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After a long run of abusive and painful relationships I fell into a situation far worse than the others… Without realizing, I spiraled into a state much like being brainwashed, forfeiting my own passions, my own joy, my own Life for someone who couldn’t possibly appreciate it, much less see it. 

It was, without question, the most devastating and painful of all of the traumas I’d been through, sending me into a state of non-function.  But for the first time in my Life, the lights went on – ALL of them.  Born of all that suffering, though, came the most critical lesson of all – the gift of knowing I am worth so much more.  The gift of knowing I deserve love, respect and goodness.

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Praise be the light switch…!

In my mind the prospect of coincidence is too far-fetched.  The idea that there is some meaning, some reason, some benefit in circumstance, however, is one I can embrace more readily.  

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No matter how bleak the landscape became, nor how dark and oppressive, I believed I was on a path which would lead to others, PTSD be damned.  

I believed my end was neither assured, nor imminent.

I had choices.  But so too were those choices given to me, as there was something more elysian at work, guiding me to a reality so much brighter.  

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The moment my thinking changed, my Life was altered…for good…and for the better. That one snowy day at the beginning of Spring, the love of my Life walked through the door.  I knew then.  I knew immediately.

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There was no coincidence in our meeting.  No coincidence in our mutual friend wanting us to get together.  I am wholly and utterly convinced that it was meant to be – divined by the Stars?  A conspiracy of supernal magnitude?  

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Nothing that moment felt new – it was as if I’d known him forever.  It was as if, on a much higher plane, my Spirit breathed a sigh of relief.  

Or perhaps it was that it breathed for the first time in my Life…?

It is easy to say things are uncalculated, sometimes fortuitous, other times not…but then Life seems so much more Magical, mysterious, and purposeful to me…

I’d rather believe, right or wrong, that those diamonds which illuminate the velvet Night sky whisper and conspire…weaving dreams with possibilities, and bringing gifts into our Lives.  

 

Healthy Is A Lifestyle

Healthy is  Lifestyle. Period.

I was feeling really bummed the other day – we ladies can be “puffy” without forewarning, and I was just having one of those days!  

Maybe it was too much salt, maybe it wasn’t enough water…  Maybe it’s just that I was beholden to the tides of being a woman!  I’m 37, so things have changed!

I was also “taking it easy,” and took extra days off from my HIIT cardio sprints to baby a shin splint, so I was admittedly playing the mental “I-haven’t-done-enough” game.

Whatever the case may have been, I wasn’t feeling great.  I’ve been through eating disorders in the past (not of my own volition, but from PTSD and the causes of it), so I know body dysmorphia intimately.  

Fortunately, I will never go back to that place – EVER – and I proactively make sure of it each day by exercising, taking a break if my body needs it, eating (more than!) enough…  But it is something you carry with you, and it is a proactive battle you face every day – whether you have been through a trauma or not, health is a daily effort.  Taking care of ourselves should always be a number one priority!

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Anyway…  There I was feeling like the Staypuft Marshmallow Man…

On my way to the treadmill, two ladies stopped me to ask about “being fit.”  What is my routine, what do I eat, how to I maintain it…? I was so touched, and frankly honoredit means a great deal to me to touch others, and to know that they might be inspired to do something wonderful for themselves because of the work I put in.  (Honestly, that is the biggest gift of all for me! ❤ ) 

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The way I put it…and the way I have always viewed it…is that being fit is a Lifestyle.  

It isn’t about a fab diet or exercise-of-the-moment.  

Being healthy is a consistent, daily practice of “little things” that keep us on track, and in a “maintenance phase” (as opposed to the well known trying-to-catch-up mode too many people face today.)

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Eating clean, exercising, being around those who support you, and taking time to care for YOU is a Lifestyle.  It is the combination of a whole ton of positives that add up to a happy and healthy whole.

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You may have days where you aren’t as “ON” – you lag through your workout, you eat something you aren’t pleased about later.  No big deal!  You don’t have to be superwoman or superman EVERY day – the idea is that you are taking steps to stay healthy…not run after it!

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Even if you don’t feel like it, hop on the bike for a few minutes.  Walk on the treadmill for 15…  Choose a healthy, balanced meal even though something is taunting you because it smells good (it usually smells better than it tastes!)  If you take the “whole” approach, things fall into place.  When you are consistent, blips aren’t going to derail you – you will already be in a really healthy place!

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For more pix of my fitness and fuel, here are links to my Facebook albums, and Instagram: