Do What You Should Do

Standard

I’m fond of mantras. Often I find myself frustrated at my inability to consistently finish what I set out to do. It drives me crazy that what feels effortless in one moment turns intimidating and near-impossible the next. I wake up different every day.

Spoiler Alert: This frustration is part of being a human and not at all specific to me. But I do wish I could bottle the motivated, sunshiny positivity of uber-productive days for the ones that feel so very gray, the days when I find myself unbearable.

I use mantras from time to time to motivate myself on those gray days. I find them especially helpful during runs:

  • Problem: Can’t get out the door. Mantra: “Suck it up, buttercup!” or “You never regret a workout.”
  • Problem: Don’t feel like running up a particular hill. Mantra: “Dig deep!”
  • Problem: Feel like giving up when I’m almost done with my run. Mantra: “You’re not done yet!”

Yes, I actually say these things aloud. To myself. It works! This past weekend, I completed my first 15K. That’s 9.3 miles, farther than I have ever run before. And I felt awesome. As I crossed the finish line, reveling in disbelief at what I had just accomplished, I had a small but powerful thought: “I might not be where I want with my weight, but anyone who can run 9.3 miles is not in bad shape.” A huge smile erupted across my face. I felt proud. I had just completed something I could not have done a few months ago. I will carry that thought around with me forever now, for anyone who might look at me and assume I never workout and eat junk food all the time.

Image

Before setting out to run a half marathon, I assumed that because I’m not a natural runner and have very little athletic ability, I simply could not run long distances. I’m still not a natural runner and never will be; I will have to fight for every step. But I’ve realized it’s about making the commitment and simply muscling through. If I tell myself I have to run seven miles, even if I have to walk for a bit, I will get it done. I will fight for every step and get it done.

Recently, I’ve been working on adopting a new mantra: “Do what you should do.” It comes in handy when making food decisions. Yesterday, while running errands on my lunch break, I found myself parked outside Panda Express seriously contemplating going inside. I Googled “healthy options at Panda Express,” soon learning that statement is an oxymoron. But I told myself to do what I should do instead and picked up my favorite salad at the little deli down the block from my office. It tasted amazing, and I felt wonderful afterward.

So that’s my big insight: Do what you should do. Do what your future self would thank you for, what you tell people you are going to do. I’m finding so many decisions over which I used to agonize are much easier to make when I remove the option of screwing myself over. You’re welcome, Future Lauren. Image

Whole 30: Entering the Home Stretch (And Some Struggles)

Standard

Hi, friends! So I’m on Day 25 on my first Whole 30, and I have a bunch of random updates to share. Apologies in advance for this being all over the place.

Thing #1: A fantastic, Whole 30-compliant 24 hours in Atlanta.

I flew in to Atlanta on Saturday, Nov. 9, for a work trip, arriving a day early to visit my college roommate Hannah and her boyfriend, Kyle. (Check out their awesome movie, TV, game and comic book review site called Geekrex here.) Hannah and Kyle have done low-carb challenges before and generally eat a Paleo diet during the workweek (allowing themselves some leeway on the weekend), so it was no surprise I had zero trouble staying on track while visiting them. When I arrived, Hannah had made me a snack of sauteed bacon and Brussels sprouts with a drizzle of balsamic reduction (YUM). She had even purchased a kombucha for my enjoyment later that night! And to top it all off, they took me to an amazing paleo restaurant for dinner, Urban Pl8. It was liberating being able to order basically whatever I wanted off the menu. We started with a delicious Asian beef lettuce wrap appetizer and kale chips with a rosemary aioli, then for my main course I ordered this AMAZING chicken tagine dish with sweet potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms. The broth was so flavorful and delicious. I ate the entire thing.

Image

The next morning, our brunch locale (R. Thomas) featured exotic birds to entertain guests during the wait.

Image(Hannah with parrot.)

The menu was huge and impressive, with tons of healthy options. I got some coconut kefir and freshly-pressed apple/carrot/ginger juice in addition to my eggs and greens. Weekend in Atlanta = Amazing.

Thing #2: Digging out a box of skinny jeans.This past Friday, I dug out a box full of jeans that haven’t fit me in about two years. It felt pretty awesome. I wore a pair on a double date with our friends Carrie and Brad on Saturday and felt like I looked like a legitimate 29-year-old for the first time in a awhile.
Image

Thing #3: Tips on how to build meals for a spouse or partner not doing Whole 30.

I know some people struggle with accommodating spouses on Whole 30, but this has not been a challenge for me. My husband would eat just Whole 30 meals if that’s all I made, however he likes a LOT of food, so I have been adding a serving of grains to most of his meals. For example, I made Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burgers topped with guac and bacon for dinner one night, and Jeff got cheese on his burger and a bun to round out his meal. Other times I have thrown some garlic bread or roasted fingerling potatoes onto his plate, in addition to the protein and veggies.

Image(Buy these burgers. Now.)

Thing #4: Homemade sweet potato chips.

One large sweet potato sliced on the 1/16 setting of a mandolin, 2T coconut oil, salt and pepper, and 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Watch them carefully, as my first batch burned to a crisp while I got sucked into Scandal in the other room. But oh dear lord do these help on days where I would punch a baby for some tortilla chips.

Image

Thing #5 (and it’s a big one): Some serious struggles with staying on plan.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the third week of Whole 30 ended up being extremely difficult for me and I ate off plan several times. The biggest reason was travel. I didn’t do a very good job planning my travel meals while visiting Alabama and Connecticut the last couple weeks. One downside of this plan is that if you are in a fairly remote area with very few restaurants and grocery stores and no kitchen, it can be pretty difficult to find Whole 30-compliant options.

Now, I travel for work quite a bit, and one of the first rules I set for myself is “no eating like you are on vacation.” It can be very tempting to sample all the delicious local specialties everywhere I go, but that’s a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, sometimes I break my own rule.

The first slip-up (that, in retrospect, ultimately led to all the others) happened during a business dinner in Alabama. I was dining at a local Italian restaurant with a wonderfully sweet older woman who volunteers for my organization. I ordered a salad to start and sausage and peppers over a bed of steamed squash for my dinner. Then they brought out their signature garlic knots. My dining companion proudly told me the garlic knots were considered a “must-try” for anyone visiting Auburn when the waiter set them down on the table. Now, I probably should have just told her I was gluten intolerant or something like that. It seemed too difficult to try to explain this caveman-style way of eating to an older Southern woman. So I gave in and had one (about the size of a golf ball). Within about five minutes of ingesting it, I felt dizzy and nauseous. I couldn’t focus my eyes and had a hard time listening to her. I honestly felt like someone had slipped me a neurotoxin. The feeling passed after I ate my meal. After dinner, I went back to my hotel and did a hard workout on the arc trainer and drank a ton of water.

Image

The next day, I did pretty well (omelet for breakfast, spinach salad for lunch) but did end up consuming a couple definitely non-compliant items starting with a smoothie that most likely contained dairy during a fit of hunger and a tight schedule, which led to me thinking “well, screw it, I’ve already had dairy today” and getting a small tart Pinkberry from the campus food court that afternoon.

I got back on track when I got home from the trip thanks to this amazing spaghetti squash marinara dish. A pound of Italian sausage, a pound of lean ground beef, a no-sugar-added organic marinara over the innards of a huge spaghetti squash made AMAZING leftovers for lunch that week.

Image

Unfortunately, virtually the same thing happened during my business trip the very next week, except even worse. The system broke down in Connecticut. With very few restaurant options and literally no grocery stores within a 30-minute radius of my hotel, the cards were somewhat stacked against me, and frankly I just didn’t try to make it work. Something came over me and I just could not stay on plan. I didn’t WANT to. This really caught me by surprise, because for the first couple weeks my willpower was ironclad, but for some reason I lost complete control and ended up consuming all kinds of terrible things (cookies, pizza, beer and chips, to be exact). I have never had an issue with binge eating, and this was the first time I’ve honestly felt completely out of control like that.

I got back on track the next day with an hour-long workout and 60 oz of water to flush out my system, and I felt immensely better almost immediately. I admitted what happened to Jeff when I got home, and I have recommitted to the plan. I’ve been struggling to understand why this happened, and I think it just comes down to being on such a restrictive plan. It felt like there was no end in sight, I didn’t plan well, and I wasn’t eating enough due to limited options. Hungry Lauren does not usually make good decisions. (Amazing how I have to learn this lesson again and again.)

So it happened, but I’m not going to let it get me down. I am back on track and feeling great, so I’m committed to finishing strong! I am still loving my “snack plate” breakfasts to start the day on the right note. This breakfast satisfies me without any type of blood sugar crash, the hallmark of a good Whole 30 meal. Trader Joe’s plain steamed beets have been an enjoyable addition lately.

Image

And as for what comes after the challenge, I’m going to mainly continue this style of eating, however I’m adding back in:

  1. Dairy. I have not seen the improvements I hoped to get from eliminating dairy (namely, clearer skin). I find a little cream in my coffee and a little cheese to be extremely satisfying, so this addition will help make the plan tolerable long-term.
  2. Alcohol. I have learned so much from eliminating alcohol; specifically, that I do just fine in social situations without it most of the time. But I do want to enjoy some drinks over the holiday season, so I’m just going to be more mindful of my consumption moving forward.

My First Week of Whole 30

Standard

Well, I’m on day 8 of my first Whole 30 challenge and feeling absolutely amazing! I survived Halloween without a single piece of candy. I survived the weekend (including dinner with friends and going to a bar) without a drop of alcohol. And it didn’t even feel that difficult. In fact, it was one of the most refreshing and enjoyable weekends I can remember.

Before I get into the details of what I’ve been eating, a few disclaimers:

  • I’ve been eating only one serving of fruit a day. While I have quite a few goals for the challenge, kicking off some weight loss is definitely my top priority in order to improve my overall health, so I’m trying to limit my sugar intake while on the plan.
  • Sweet potatoes are allowed on Whole 30, but I’ve only been having them a few times a week (for the same reason as above).
  • I’ve intentionally kept my exercise light for the first week. I went for a four-mile run on Saturday and several walks, but I didn’t want to tax my willpower by jumping into a new workout routine AND a new eating plan at the same time. I tried to spend last week acclimating to the Whole 30 and getting lots of rest.

So, more than anything, this plan requires meal planning. If your fridge is bare and intense hunger strikes, you can’t just grab some chips or popcorn to hold you over until you order take-out. I had to think about all my meals in advance, which has always been a weak point for me in my previous dieting efforts. I also noticed that the times I felt most tempted to cheat, I was just hungry; once I had a Whole 30 meal, my willpower returned in full force. Lesson learned: If you feel like giving up, eat something good for you–and then ask yourself again if you really want to quit.

For breakfasts, I’ve been having a “snack plate” style meal at work. Some Applegate organic breakfast sausage, grape tomatoes, and carrots with almond butter. Or some hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and carrots and a single-serving of Wholly Guacamole. Protein, healthy carbs and healthy fat.

breakfast 1

breakfast 2

Who needs oatmeal when you can eat guac for breakfast? And the best part? I feel SO alert eating this way. No post-meal sluggishness you get from carb-heavy breakfasts.

For lunch, I’ve mainly been eating out–Marsh salad bar, Subway salads and this delicious salad from Chipotle. Lettuce, fajita veggies, barbacoa and guac. Didn’t even miss the cheese and sour cream.lunch 1

I decided early on to plan for a slight deviation from the Whole 30 guidelines. The plan instructs to avoid snacking and eat three meals a day. The tough part for me is that I get home from work around 5:00, and Jeff usually doesn’t get home until at least 7:00. Those two hours are often the snackiest time of day for me. I am genuinely hungry right at 5. So I decided to split dinner into two mini-meals: I usually have eggs, bacon and avocado when I get home.mini dinner

And then I’ll have another small meal with Jeff at 8:00. I’ve made delicious concoctions like bunless burgers with carmelized onions and Paleo mayo, chicken thighs sauteed with zucchini and summer squash and topped with Trader Joe’s bruschetta spread, and this coconut lime-crusted cod (recipe from Mama’s Weeds) with green beans sauteed in coconut oil with garlic.

dinner

I am blessed with the least picky husband ever, so that’s a huge weight off my shoulders. If I cook something, Jeff eats it without complaint. He only complains if there’s no dinner at all. :)

A few observations after a week into the plan:

Sweetener creep: I thought I was being vigilant about avoiding artificial sweeteners, but I realized a few days ago I’ve been accidentally ingesting aspartame every day! We LOVE sparkling water and have a Soda Stream machine. One of our favorite drinks is to make sparking water, add a capful of the raspberry flavoring that comes with the Soda Stream, and then add a splash of 100 percent pomegranate juice. We call this a “Pomtail,” because it looks like a cocktail and feels like a special drink, but it’s a mocktail, of course. I didn’t even think about the artificial sweetener in the raspberry flavoring. As soon as I realized it, I switched to plain seltzer and it’s been fine.

Panera FTW: I was very impressed with Panera’s hidden power menu, a bunch of awesome low-carb options they recently introduced. I met my mom and two of her friends for lunch on Friday and had the steak lettuce wraps: Strips of thinly-sliced steak, cucumber, onion and tomato to roll up in thick leaves of romaine. It came with a pesto sauce. I realized halfway through the meal that the pesto sauce had a little Parmesan cheese in it. I ate it anyway. It was really the only flavor of the whole meal, and it wasn’t a TON of dairy. I’m doing the best I can with the plan, and I’m not going to completely freak out over small slip-ups. I can’t stick to a plan that involves frequent freak-outs.

Alcohol: I LOVE craft beer and dry red wine. I know a little bit of alcohol isn’t necessarily bad, but my problem is that I can easily put away four pints of IPA in an evening, around 800+ calories of alcohol. One thing that appealed to me about this challenge is the opportunity to scale back my drinking and get comfortable with just having ONE drink. But I’m very social, and I knew I’d be confronted with tempting alcohol quite a bit during the challenge. So I stopped by Fresh Market and invested in around $30 worth of kombucha on the way home from work on Friday evening. Kombucha is pricey ($3.69 each normally, buy they were on sale two for $6), but it’s worth to me if it will help me stay on track. I was insanely excited about my haul.

kombucha haul
Kombucha is a fermented probiotic tea with lots of healthy bacteria. It’s also, in my opinion, delicious. It tastes a little like hard cider. And it feels like a special drink, a reward for a long work week much like a glass of wine. We had friends over for dinner on Friday night (I made the burgers mentioned above), and they brought a bottle of wine. I popped open a GT’s Gingerade kombucha and poured it into a wine glass. I didn’t feel left out at all! And I woke up Saturday morning feeling awesome and ready to tackle my run. Saturday night, we had dinner at Bru Burger in downtown Indy, and while hearing the beer list (including a gingerbread brown ale…sounds so delicious..) was a little painful, I powered through and ordered a modified cobb salad and seltzer. After dinner, we went to a concert and then met up with my brother and his friends at a bar, since they were nearby. Again, I had a few seltzer waters and woke up Sunday feeling rested and hydrated!

In addition to following the plan, I’m also taking a multivitamin, fish oil and a probiotic. I’ve also been experimenting with apple cider vinegar, since I’ve read it has many amazing health benefits. Every afternoon I’ve been drinking a concoction of 2T ACV, 1T lemon juice and 1C water. It doesn’t taste too bad. And my crazy husband actually declared it delicious and has been drinking one every night with me.

acvSo am I getting the results I want from this plan? I’m only a week in so far, but I have been feeling absolutely amazing. I’m down six pounds and my skinny jeans are fitting well. I have been sleeping really well. My skin is looking better. I have been more focused and alert at work.

I will mention one weird thing I experienced in case any one else also experienced it. On day two, I noticed my hands and arms kept going a little numb. It started that morning when I was at the dentist. I thought I was just cold, but it kept happening all day. The next day, it was completely gone and hasn’t happened again. It might just have been my body adjusting to reduced carbs.

I was secretly hoping to lose at least ten pounds during my Whole 30, and I can’t believe I’m already 60 percent of the way to that goal! This week I’m starting some strength training in addition to some moderate cardio. I will be sure to update about my results!

My First Whole 30 Challenge

Standard

In the last few years, my ideas about healthy eating have shifted dramatically. I no longer believe whole grains are healthy. I no longer believe low-fat diets are good for people.  (This pretty much sums up my nutrition views.)

It all started with reading “Refuse to Regain” by Dr. Barbara Berkeley a few years ago. After years of wondering what was wrong with my body, I finally started understanding that carbs, sugar and our bodies’ subsequent insulin responses explain why people store fat. Reading Dr. Berkeley’s book chanaged everything for me. She attests that overweight people’s bodies function in fundamentally different ways than the bodies of people who have never been overweight.

A brief synopsis of her theory: Carbs, even “whole grain” carbs, turn immediately to sugar upon digestion. The body can only handle about one teaspoon of sugar in the bloodstream at a time and must send insulin to clear it away immediately. (For perspective, a can of coke contains approximately ten teaspoons of sugar.) Excess sugar is either stored as fat or sent to the muscles to burn off. In people who have never been overweight and are not prone to weight gain, the body does a good job of regulating how much sugar is stored as fat and how much is sent to burn. Their body weight remains stable without a ton of thought about calories in vs. calories out. But people whose bodies are prone to weight gain seem to have a problem Dr. Berkeley calls “stuck on fill.” Basically, their bodies don’t send much sugar to the muscles and just default to filling fat cells. So by avoiding the foods that produce the most insulin, your body can start to unlock those fat cells and correct the imbalance. This is a drastically oversimplified explanation, but see her blog posts “The Faulty Metabolism Myth” and “Stuck on Fill” for more info.

Her theories comforted me immensely; for years I had felt that my body composition did not accurately reflect my lifestyle. It frustrated me to compare myself to thinner friends and wonder why I was so much heavier despite cooking healthy meals and working out.

And then the Paleo movement came along, dovetailing with what I learned from Dr. Berkeley in its assertion that humans were never meant to consume processed carbs like we do today, and that meats, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit work perfectly to meet our energy needs and keep us healthy.

I wholeheartedly believe in these theories. This idea–that our modern diet fights our genetics and that overweight people’s bodies are systemically different–makes more sense to me than anything else I’ve ever read about weight management, and I have read a lot. But, of course, actually putting these theories into practice is not as easy as enthusiastically nodding my head in agreement. Our food culture is not exactly conducive to this lifestyle. For the last couple years, I have cooked and eaten lower carb in general, but have struggled to stay consistent with it, especially on the weekends. It’s so easy to fall into the “everyone else gets to eat that so I will too” mentality. And carbs are delicious and extremely addictive. I’ve been in a rut.

Recently I’ve been looking for a program to re-energize my weight loss efforts, knowing several things about myself:

  1. I despise counting things–calories, Points, grams of carbs. I will not stick with a program that requires counting. I just won’t. I am type B–no point in fighting it.
  2. I get decision fatigue pretty easily. I am already naturally inclined to overanalyze everything and play out every possible situation in my mind. On an “everything in moderation” plan, I have to make dozens of decisions all day long about what to eat and what not to eat. My internal dialogue goes something like this: “Do I get that bagel at Starbucks? Do I grab a cookie from the kitchen counter at work? Do I stop for a McDonald’s ice cream cone on the way home from work? It’s only 160 calories, right? Maybe I get that and then I run an extra mile to burn it off.” Imagine this ALL DAY LONG. It’s exhausting. And unfortunately I don’t have the willpower to keep myself from burning out. Eventually, I get so sick of focusing all my energy on food decisions that I just give up. (Gretchen Rubin has written some great pieces on moderators vs. abstainers. I’m an abstainer all the way.)
  3. The extra calories of alcohol–my beloved craft beer, especially–have likely been stalling progress toward my weight loss goals.

So when I heard about the Whole 30 challenge, I quickly realized it was the perfect next step for me: A month of avoiding grains, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, dairy and alcohol. All of these things have been shown to increase inflammation in the body and possibly trigger various undesired reactions. Creators Dallas and Melissa Hartwig challenge people to thirty days of eating pure, minimally processed food in order to pinpoint problem foods and restore metabolism. This is not a starvation diet; the plan instructs basing each meal around plenty of protein, vegetables, healthy fat and some fruit. Eat until you are full at each meal. Avoid snacking.

My goals for the program are:

  • Reset my tastebuds after a few months of sugar and processed carbs sneaking into my diet
  • Sleep more soundly
  • Reduce inflammation in my body
  • Clear up my skin (I’m wondering if eliminating dairy will help with this)
  • Lower my blood pressure (currently 121/86, which is not terrible but could be a little lower)
  • Hopefully kickstart some weight loss

I will be finished with my first Whole 30 the day before Thanksgiving. If I like it, I plan to start another one after Thanksgiving weekend. I plan to document my results here on the blog.

I’m on day three today, and I feel great! I had a headache last night and went to bed early, which I’ve heard is normal for the first few days. Evidently days 1-6 are rough, and then the incredible energy kicks in.

I will be back soon with some Whole 30 meals I’ve been enjoying thus far!

Buck Creek Winery 10K Recap

Standard

When I signed up for the Buck Creek Winery 10K a few months ago, I was a little terrified. The furthest I’d ever run was four miles. And while 6.2 miles isn’t that much more, by the time I’ve run four miles I am usually DONE, so 2.2 extra miles would definitely be a challenge for me.

But I think I knew I needed a challenge to push me to a new level with running. I received a Garmin Forerunner watch for Christmas, and for some reason knowing my dad spent $150 on a running watch motivated me to actually use it. I’ve been running around two to three times a week pretty consistently since March. Even in the heat of summer, I tried to get in at least a couple short runs each week. One definitive lesson I learned is that I am NOT a hot weather runner. My body feels heavy, sluggish and uncooperative when the temperature’s above 70. I anxiously awaited cooler fall temps, but September and early October brought unseasonably warm temperatures, to everyone’s delight but me. I kept hoping once it was cooler I would get faster, that it would get a little easier. I kept waiting for the perfect running weather.

One day a few weeks ago, it was finally 60 degrees. I set out to do at least four miles after work. Miles one, two and three were a little rough as usual. I purposefully ran away from my house so I’d hit four miles. And then something happened around mile three: I got my first-ever runner’s high. All the sudden my legs felt light. The discomfort disappeared. I felt like I was flying. I didn’t look at my watch. I didn’t stop to walk. For the next two miles, I floated up and down the Monon effortlessly. “I Can Lift a Car” by Walk the Moon came up on my playlist right as I entered the final leg of my run. I looked down at my watch and realized I had run five miles for the first time in my life, and rather than feeling spent, I felt awesome. Honestly, I could have run more if it wasn’t too dark. I finally felt like a “real runner.” Despite these extra pounds I’m carrying, I felt like an athlete. I had done something not everyone can do. I had done something that proved I’m fit, if still overweight.

I ran a few more five-milers before the race, but unfortunately never recreated the amazingness of that first runner’s high. But I did learn that, for me, the magic happens after mile three. It takes me a long time to get in the zone.

I prayed for cool temps on race day. The weekend before almost hit 80. But thankfully, the forecast predicted a high of 54 for Saturday, Oct. 19. I felt as ready as I could be on race day. Jeff snapped a photo of our friend Neil and me before the race:

Image

It was a small race–about a hundred participants. I had set three goals for myself.

  • A goal: Finish under 1:15.
  • B goal: Finish under 1:20.
  • C goal: Finish before the 1:30 time cutoff.

I felt like a badass lining up with the 10K group. I swaggered up to the start line like, “Yep, I’m about to run 6.2. No biggie.” Before the gun went off, Neil and I bumped fists and I put in my headphones, blasting my current favorite “get in the zone” song: “Beating My Heart” by Jon McLaughlin. The course was uphill for the first mile and a half. I immediately regretted training only on the Monon, possibly the flattest trail in existence. I settled into a rhythm by mile two and reminded myself to run my own race.

The hills continued, and I started to feel discouraged as countless people passed me, but I kept chugging along. At one point I got lost. I missed a course marker and veered about .2 miles in the wrong direction. I had to turn around and run back the way I came to get back on the course, so I unfortunately added almost half a mile to my time. But I took my strawberry Clif shot blocks and didn’t let it get me down.

Around mile four, I had a funny interaction with a fellow runner. I was about fifty paces behind an older man, probably around 70 (yep, the 70-year-old was beating me). He turned and started jogging toward a heavy patch of trees. I assumed he was staying on the course and followed him. He kept glancing back at me. I thought it was strange but kept following him; I didn’t want to get lost again. Finally, after the fourth or fifth time he turned around to shoot me the evil eyes, I realized he was trying to break away to pee in the woods and understandably wanted some privacy. Poor guy just needed to take a leak and didn’t get why this crazy woman insisted on following him. I FINALLY got the message and turned around, laughing at myself.

I looked down at my watch and it read 4.23 miles. TWO MORE MILES? But just a minute later, I passed the mile five marker. My Garmin must have gotten confused at some point.

The last 1.2 were downhill, our reward for the uphill start. I paced myself behind a girl about twenty feet in front of me and vowed to stay right behind her. Before I knew it, the finish line approached. “Raise Your Glass” by Pink came up, a perfect track given the complimentary glass of red wine in my immediate future. I saw Jeff, Neil and Jesse cheering for me about 200 feet from the finish line. I cruised toward them, feeling awesome.

Image

I felt fantastic and unbelievably proud. I crossed in 1:17, not quite hitting my A goal, but I was happy with my time since I’d added a least an extra half mile along the course.

Image

And then I enjoyed a slice of pizza and a delicious glass of zinfandel. A fine reward indeed! Sometimes during a run it’s hard to remember why we crazy runners intentionally do this to ourselves, but I always feel fantastic after it’s done.

So what’s the next chapter in the story of Lauren running? A few people have urged me to sign up for a half marathon. And while I have fallen in love with running, a love I hope will last a lifetime, I’m actually taking a step back for now. I think the next chapter for my running journey is to get serious about losing some weight. I haven’t gotten faster at all in the last six months of running, and I think it’s because I’m carrying 50ish extra pounds. I read that every pound lost shaves 12 seconds off your time. That’s incredible!

But don’t running and weight loss go together? Not for me, I’ve found. If I try to cut calories, my runs immediately start sucking. My capacity for vigorous exercise plummets when I cut calories. And running makes me extra hungry. So while it’s counter intuitive, I actually need to cut back on the running in order to focus on my diet. Unfortunately exercise, while essential for my mental and physical health, doesn’t actually contribute to weight loss for me.

More info on my new food plan coming soon!

On Finding My Voice

Standard

Hello, friends! Despite my absence from the healthy living blog world, I have been having a fantastic year. I’m feeling comfortable in my own skin and confident in a way I’ve never been. Maybe it has something to do with approaching 30, but recently I decided to stop obsessing over making others happy. I decided to start actually putting myself first. I realized I’ve been living my entire life terrified of what others might think of me. A single awkward interaction at the office would result in hours of obsessive thoughts: “Did I do something wrong? Why did she say that? What should I have done differently? Does she hate me now?”

Then I had an epiphany: I cannot control others’ actions, thoughts or feelings. I can control only my own intentions and my own actions. If I do something wrong and hurt someone, I will apologize. Otherwise, I will no longer worry about what others think of me because it’s highly likely the problem lies with them and not me.

I realize some of you are scratching your heads right now, thinking, “Is there any other way to view the world?” But this was an absolutely life-changing revelation to me. I spent 27 years trying to be whatever was missing for other people. I was the bubble of air inside a level, aching to reach an equilibrium. Instead of being open and genuine, I spent most social interactions reading the other person for signs of what they needed me to be.

So how did this happen? How did I flip the switch? A huge component has been my writing group, which I joined almost two years ago. I am so blessed to be part of the Indianapolis chapter of Women Writing for a Change, led by the amazing Mindy Weaver-Flask. I have met some incredible writers/friends in this group. I have grown as both a writer and a woman. And I have found my voice.

WWfaC operates under some fairly strict guidelines in order to preserve the sanctity of the circle. We open the circle with a ritual of lighting and passing the candle, signifying the creation of our sacred space. The stories we tell are protected in that space, and we do not speak of them outside the circle out of respect for the women telling them. We presume goodwill and get comfortable with silence. The silence part has been one of the biggest adjustments for me. Mindy encourages us not to rush in with comforting words when a woman experiences an emotion or criticizes herself. Silence gives us a minute to meet that woman where she is, to really hear her. Sometimes the story being read is so raw and powerful that silence is really the only possible response.

At first, I found it extremely difficult to hold my tongue when a member of the group became emotional. Inside I was screaming, “Wait, wait! It’s okay! I can fix this! I will make it all better!” For the first few classes, I settled on a routine of passing the woman the box of tissues as a gesture of support, when what I really wanted to do was tell her she was being too hard on herself or remind her how far she’s come or emphatically declare she had nothing to worry about. It took me months to realize that rushing in to comfort someone is a way of dismissing him or her. It’s like saying, “Oh, that is ridiculous that you said that/felt that way/thought that. Let’s pretend it never happened!”

Accepting someone’s words with loving silence is one of the most powerful responses you can give. It means you heard her, and are in fact still listening. It means you aren’t going to railroad her words by imposing your own opinion as soon as possible. It’s the ultimate compassion, and it’s genuine to the core.

My discomfort with silence was the key to all my issues with insecurity. As soon as I learned to accept it, I began to speak more honestly and confidently. I gave my feedback to the women in my group with an open, loving heart–not with the overly-eager-to-please veil of insincerity I’d worn for so many years. Gradually, this attitude began to drift into other areas of my life. I found myself relaxing, accepting that who I am is pretty great, and if someone doesn’t get me, that’s just fine. The acceptance I felt from the women in my writing group, most of them 10-20 years old than I yet so similar to me at heart, made its way into my core. I realized that pleasing everyone was a ridiculous and demeaning pursuit, not to mention an impossible one. The only people who mattered were the people who mattered. I began comparing people in my life to my writing sisters, and if they didn’t match up in terms of compassion, empathy, generosity of spirit, unconditional acceptance–then maybe they didn’t really deserve a place in my life. This choosiness–this willingness to say, “You might not like me, and that’s okay!”–it changed everything for me. I let go of that desperate need to make everyone happy, that constant obsession that perhaps I’ve never actually been good enough. And it feels incredible.

I think getting to know yourself is something of a lifelong pursuit, if you’re up to the task. Realizing your own power and worth can be a continuous journey. Some of the most incredible moments in my life have involved only me–moments where I recognized an important milestone in my journey to better know and love myself.

One of these moments happened recently at a writing workshop at the Esalen Institute in Big Bur with Cheryl Strayed and Pam Houston (about which I will be writing a full blog post). Cheryl and Pam told us they would sign books on the last day of the workshop. My good friend Rachel had a birthday coming up, and she had recently read and loved Cheryl’s best-selling memoir, Wild. On Friday morning I stopped by the office to pick up a copy of my favorite of Cheryl’s books, a collection of her Dear Sugar advice columns called Tiny Beautiful Things. “This will be a really thoughtful gift–a personally signed copy of a book!” I thought to myself as I stood in line. Then it hit me: “I just spent a mind-blowing, life-changing week with one of my absolute favorite authors. I have one book in my hands, one chance to obtain a signed copy of this treasured work to forever commemorate this amazing experience, and I am going to have her sign it to someone else?” There was no time to make the trek back to the office to buy another copy. I had to make a decision. And I chose myself.

Tears streamed down my face as I repeated those words: “I choose myself.” It felt like the culmination of that entire life-changing week, but beyond that, I had finally turned a corner in my journey to accept and love myself. I was treating myself like a friend. I was putting myself first. All this work I’ve been doing to find my voice had finally come to fruition. When I got to the front of the line, I was still wiping away tears. I told Cheryl the story of how I had chosen myself. She smiled at me and told me I had absolutely made the right decison.

cheryl note

When It Gets Tough

Standard

I was doing Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred a few days ago (level one because I’m only in mediocre shape at the moment), and something she said has been on my mind. During the second strength circuit, toward the end of the lunges, she says something to the effect of, “I know this is tough, but when it gets difficult, when it’s uncomfortable, those are the ones that count the most. That’s when you have to push through. That’s when real change will happen.” I’ve done this DVD dozens of times over the years. I’ve heard her say those words countless times, but the last week, as I’ve been contemplating how I’m going to get some weight off for good in the coming months, they had extra meaning for me. Weight loss happens outside of the comfort zone. When it’s easy–when I feel like eating light meals and skip with delight into spin class–those times don’t count for much. If every day were an easy day, I wouldn’t find myself with 50 extra pounds. It’s the days when I want to eat everything in sight and can’t drag myself to the gym to save my life that really count. When it gets tough is when it counts the most. My inability to recognize tough period and push through it has held me back for years.

Tina from Carrots n Cake and I share a love of motivational quotes. She posted one the other day that I can’t stop thinking about: “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.” Talk about a truth bomb, and one I needed to hear as I’m quite literally back at my 2006 Weight Watchers starting weight, 10 pounds shy of my highest weight ever.

The first way I’ve implemented this philosophy is with hygiene. I have to admit I’ve never had a nighttime routine. I brush my teeth before bed only half the time. I rarely wash my face on nights I don’t take an evening shower. I know I need to work on these things; I want this face and these teeth to look as good as possible 60 years from now, when I’m (hopefully) an old woman. I also have an Invisalign retainer that I must wear at least a couple nights a week, otherwise my teeth will start to drift and space almost immediately. Here’s my usual cycle: Wear my retainer for two nights in a row. Don’t wear it for two weeks. Put it in and practically cry from pain for the first thirty seconds. Repeat. It works well enough that my retainer always fits and my teeth are still straight, but it’s certainly not ideal. I took the “tired of starting over” mentality and applied it to my nighttime routine. For the last five nights, I’ve washed my face, whitened, flossed, brushed, put in my retainer and moisturized my skin before climbing in bed. I know it’s cheesy, but I tell myself, “It’s time for your self-care routine. This will only take five minutes and is a priority.” My retainer has been fitting really well, and I can tell my teeth are straighter than normal. I’m hoping this will turn into a habit.

The rest of December is going to be a bit nutty, between a trip to Florida for a wedding, Disneyworld (SO EXCITED to experience it as an adult), and of course Christmas and New Years. I’m working on maintaining a decent fitness level by getting in at least three good workouts a week, and I’m trying to keep my meals healthful despite the overabundance of Christmas cookies (many of which have ended up in my tummy, I’m sorry to say). I already know my goals for 2013: Lose some weight to feel more comfortable in my skin and follow through on a serious writing project. Both these goals require tremendous discipline. I’m preparing to get uncomfortable, and I will never give up.