Aging Gracefully Looks Different For Everyone

I came across this image the other day and found it to be incredibly inspiring (I have head of these ladies before but I am always impressed.)

As we age, it takes longer to recover, and we may not be able to handle the intense training of our youth.  (I sure as shit can’t!!) Our bodies change beyond that too – we may not look the same as we did when we were younger. We may also not be as able to achieve those results without more work than it once took.

One of my biggest pet peeves, though, is when people say it’s impossible to stay fit, healthy and strong as we age – they dismiss it with an apathetic resignation that doesn’t resonate for some of us. . . Just because we are getting older doesn’t mean we can’t stay active, continue to be an athlete, or stay in good shape.

I am a strong proponent of setting ourselves up for success, and believe that unreasonable goals are a fast track to disappointment. I also believe we can achieve anything we put our hearts to provided we are smart about it. If we want to achieve a healthy body, we CAN…and without having to work until we are horribly run down – that is a more than realistic scenario.

Staying fit isn’t about the OUTSIDE appearance – for many of us it is a lifestyle because it permeates every aspect of our lives…not just the exterior. It means having more energy, and feeling proud of little accomplishments along the way.  It means being able to participate in activities we enjoy without feeling horrendous doing them, as well as having a clearer mind, and more self confidence. It may also mean staving off some unnecessary (and unkind) illnesses as well.

We don’t have to force ourselves into the box of looking the way we did at 20 – we’d not only be disheartened, but it also isn’t going to happen (unless, of course, you find a genie in a bottle.) I struggle with this sometimes too – it’s hard to see those changes and know there isn’t a ton we can do about them.  I don’t think it’s necessary to beat ourselves up for feeling that way either, ps – it isn’t about vanity all the time.  For those of us who have been active our whole lives, and fueled our bodies with healthy foods, we might identify with certain conditions (internal as much as external.)

In this way, it might feel all the more overwhelming to lose the control we might have *thought* (wrongly!) we had.  In order to stay on a track to success we need only allow that “fit” may look a little different in our older age, and continue working towards incorporating healthy choices in our lives. That includes eating healthy, whole foods, staying hydrated, staying active, and at least *trying* to get a solid amount of sleep.

Remember that deviations once in a while are okay – living life behind bars isn’t exactly the point! It’s the overall attitude, approach, and consistency that will get you where you want to go…and keep you in that vicinity.

I was definitely more “fit” when I was younger – who wasn’t!?  I’ve backed off a lot of activities, as well as the duration an intensity of the ones I’m doing. I need more time to recover, and there are days when rest is more in line with keeping me healthy than going to lift or to class. I may also have days where I need to eat more…or less…depending on what my body is telling me. But the short of it is…I’m thankful beyond words to be healthy, to have the ability to be active, and to better recognize my body’s cues. There is such a thing as aging gracefully…and staying badass while you’re at it (however you choose to define it.) Never let anyone tell you what is…or isn’t…possible – that, my dear, is up to YOU.

 

 

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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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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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Food Humor – Human Factory Settings

Whenever people say they need a reset physically, I feel like it’s often followed by:

A.) A juice cleanse (or something to the effect) and / or

B.) This strange idea that they feel they need to, in some way, torture themselves with what the perceive as horrible foods (or liquified variants)

Why is that?!

I had quite a laugh at this meme because it’s definitely a pervasive attitude.  The truth is, though, it’s a little bit like drinking poison, getting sick, and then going right back to the same baseline.  If it’s painful…it isn’t going to work long-term!

If kale…or other less-mainstream food items…aren’t your thing, it’s OKAY not to go that route.  We want to set you up for success, after all!

Afraid Of The Dark

There are times in Life when it seems all light extinguishes, leaving blackness, fear, and despair.  

And yet. . .

In the midst of it. . .if we look deep without our inner recesses, we will find the inextinguishable flame we’ve carried all along.

Remember what you have accomplished.  Remember the demons you’ve conquered, the tears and blood you’ve shed.  For you are a warrior, stronger than anyone else can ever know.  You are a survivor, you are beautiful, and you are a beacon of light in spite of all.

Fearless

Fear of failure is common amongst us all… It is a painfully debilitating attitude which not only keeps us from learning, but potentially also from something we may truly love.  

To impose such binding limitations without offering our minds, bodies, and souls the opportunity to experience and grow with life is an injustice beyond reason.  There is never a rational explanation, nor any excuse – we must, in the face of fear, step forward, lest our lives slip from our fingers while we watch.

 

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Giving Back

Every aspect of life is a journey and I suppose that’s the fun of it – nothing remains static and we always have the opportunity to grown and learn.  As we get older we are often bombarded with the idea that we have to be young, have to portray that image, or that it is simply too late.  None of that is true – there is so much beauty in getting older, and it is absolutely never – ever – too late to try, learn, do something new…especially when that “something” makes your soul glow or your heart beat.

I spent a long time in industries that I was, perhaps, “meant”…but not “destined”…for.  While life ebbs and flows, and is indeed rife with ah-ha moments along the way, I’ve realized that I just had a monumental epiphany. And that’s not only okay, but amazing…

I didn’t question my work in fashion – I’d loved so many aspects of the industry from early childhood that it made sense that I was heading that direction.  No matter we all thought I was primarily left-brained, I was incredibly drawn to the arts, performing sports, to fashion, to photography, makeup artistry – they were worlds so colorful and captivating that I sort of just “knew” that’s the broad arena in which I’d eventually land.  That said, my pedigree was – finally – to the contrary.  I did a double major in International Business and Marketing, not exactly the design and creative background required for a position in Product Development.  But, what I lacked in typical education, I made up for with enthusiasm and a no-bullshit work ethic.

I suppose throughout it all, I always had a feeling that something was missing – I didn’t have a name for the sensation, nor did I know exactly what, specifically, was absent.  I’ve always wanted to do more, be more, achieve more, so I believe I attributed the growing hollowness to that.  

But, it wasn’t.

The truth is, life for me is vastly more magical than it isn’t – I will always strive to be better each day, in every aspect of my life, and I will always have goals and aspirations.  So that sense of still seeking fulfillment might be there…but after having had more recent revelations, I’m willing to bet it will die down a bit.

I began working with children on a whim many years ago as an instructor in Karate – I wanted to get out of my home town (not to escape an increasingly prosaic routine, but to evade one person, of all things) and this amazing gift, so aptly timed, just fell into my lap.  I initially contacted the Sensei in effort to learn new Arts – my background was in the Korean Arts of Hapkido and Taekwondo.  Despite my lack of knowledge (or experience) in his Japanese styles, he welcomed me warmly, and with sincere enthusiasm.  In seeing my passion for Martial Arts in general, and, I imagine, my personality, he encouraged me to stick around and teach. Game changer.

I realized at that moment both the responsibility I was given, and that I was in the unbelievably fortunate position to offer inspiration to these children. You never know when such moments of motivation and revelation may occur. Knowing that I could provide a strong role model, not only by means of a physically active body, but emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, was a gift to be valued.

I was, and still am, more of the disciplinarian – it is incredibly important to me that the children enjoy their time at the Dojo (why bother otherwise?!) But it is also a place in which we discuss and learn core values – how to treat one another, the meaning of respect, responsibility, healthy living, honesty, courage, integrity… It isn’t just about how we control our own bodies and space, but how we affect others around us in a physical way, and beyond.  Our attitude matters. In some cases, we are reinforcing what is taught at home.  In others, however, we are providing a framework and structure that they child is not exposed to elsewhere – a framework that hopefully will help them blossom and embrace life fully, challenges notwithstanding.

I’ve continued working with children in Martial Arts simply because I love to do it – I appreciate the opportunity to instill positive values, to encourage and nudge potential, to lead by example, and to help the children develop important life skills.  Along the way, however – and frankly I don’t even recall the impetus – I began to look into working with Special Needs children.  The opportunities for children with disabilities is far less, and as a huge proponent of physical fitness, I realized I needed to be out there helping kids who are often denied the chance.

Having a BLAST and high-fiving!

By some great fortune there is a volunteer organization in my state that offers the kinds of hands-on activities I was looking for – they serve children with varying disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome, ADHD, apraxia, and others.  None is so severe on the spectrum that they must reside in full-time facilities, but depending on the child, there might be some aggression, or major athleticism (as in, the “runners” who are hard to keep at one’s side!)  For me, though, that’s the fun of it – each child is different, and with my background in Martial Arts training and instructing, I feel very comfortable taking on the toughies.

My time with these children has been relegated to my 39th year of life (and some of my 38th) – my path managed to diverge rather drastically in some way, but I feel suddenly so much more aligned.  While it is not currently my profession to work with children with disabilities, I have made it my mission to find ways to help.  I have purchased several books to begin self-educating myself, and have reached out to others in the field whom I know are both honest and passionate.  It is in so many ways the beginning of a new journey for me, but life has a way of doing that…

Life presents us with opportunities along the way if only we remain open to them. When we listen to what our hearts are truly saying in between the beats, we allow a magic we may not have known existed the opportunity to unfold.  The gifts you will receive will be priceless…