Failure

Often when people hear the word failure the immediate thought is to the definition of “lack of success”, and to be honest I fall into this category.  What we all forget is that failure also means “the action or state of not functioning”.  This second definition is why I am writing this post.  Today’s society puts so much emphasis on being “successful” that people feel inadequate and like “failures” for not meeting expectations laid out by societal norms, but what is success?  How one person measures success is not going to be identical to how someone else measures success.  Is success the size of your house? Or how expensive your car was? Or the number of commas in your bank account?  Is it the brand on the tags of your clothing? Or is it the amount of meaningful relationships in your life?  Is it that you wake up every day excited to go to your job? Or is it that you wake up with a sense of purpose and belonging?

No matter how you define success, there will be ways in which you do not to meet that standard throughout your day or week or month etc.  What I am sharing with you all is that as a human being you are allowed to have off days and not be “perfect” every day.  This innate human characteristic of imperfection does not mean you are a failure.  Failure comes when you choose to not to do something that you are uncomfortable with or not as skilled at, for the sole reason you are scared to “fail”.  Omittance of action or being in a “state of not functioning” is failure.  Choosing to not take a risk, is choosing failure; and you only truly fail if you learned nothing from your experience.  Malcolm Forbes says “failure is success if we learn from it”; and I would have to agree.

So, the next time you think to yourself that you aren’t going to do something because you don’t want to “fail”, just remember you have failed through your refusal to give it a shot.  You will never be successful with something if you do not give it a go. In the wise words of the great Michael Scott [ 😉 ] “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.  Believe in yourself and remember that every time you “fail”, you are merely learning what doesn’t work and getting closer to discovering what needs to be done to reach your goals.

I will leave you with this thought from Vernon Howard:

“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need”

“An Investment in Knowledge Pays the Best Interest”

I am a super nerd, so I love learning.  Whether it is through formal education, conversations with friends, picking up a new hobby, or enrolling in an online course.  I have found that I have learned the most from talking to my friends about different topics, because it has allowed me to approach these topics with a new perspective.  It is one thing to have knowledge, it is another to admit when you are wrong or less versed in an area than another person.  Some of the smartest people I know are the most willing to admit when they are unsure about something and offer their best answer while leaving their minds open to further explanation and a differing perspective.  The best way to continue learning is to surround yourself with people who see all of the amazing things you have to offer, and then push you to maximize your potential.  It is always great to surround yourself with like-minded people, in that you all have some shared interest and the same desire to maximize your potentials.  Surrounding yourself with like-minded people doesn’t mean to only interact with people who have the exact same opinions and thoughts as you do.  Doing that is how you get stuck and never truly reach your full potential because you don’t have people who challenge you.  Some of my best conversations have happened with friends and family who share the same fundamental view on life but approach this view in different ways because they challenge me to think a little differently on various topics and I love that from them.  I am beyond grateful to have the people I do in my life because they support me whole-heartedly while still challenging me to grow each day and to never settle.  They are also the people that inspire me to put my whole self into learning new things because I want to show them that I appreciate their support and by being my best I hope to show them they can also be their best.

With that said it is never too late to learn something new.  You can in fact teach an old dog new tricks.  It may not be picked up as quickly, but you will nonetheless learn something new.  There have been studies that also show learning something new throughout your lifetime will help slow cognitive aging and help exercise your brain.  Just like it is important to exercise your skeletal muscles and your heart muscle (which comes with skeletal muscle exercise), you need to exercise your muscle in your skull.

So, what I would like you to take away from this post:

  1. It is never too late to learn something new.
  2. Exercising your brain through continued learning is just as important as exercising the body.
  3. Knowledge is the greatest tool you can have.
  4. It is good to admit when you are wrong and be willing to listen to/ see something from a different perspective.

Get out there and pick up a new hobby, learn that language you’ve said you’ve been wanting to learn, join that group class that you have been interested in, and have deeper, more challenging conversations with your friends and family.  You will be surprised what you learn about the people around you and about yourself.

Freshmen (Quarantine??) 15

So, this post started out as advice on how to make better food choices during your time at college, since it is often a difficult transition to go from being under the watch of your parents to making decisions on basically everything on your own.  Now with the presence of COVID-19 and the new ‘normal’ (is anyone else as tired of hearing that phrase as I am?), I decided I would make this a two-for-one kind of thing.  The concept is pretty similar between the two.  Going off to college and living in quarantine/isolation/social distancing introduce a whole slew of stresses and anxiety triggers.  Whether it is the stresses of new people, new experiences, and not having your parents there to help guide you in your decision making process that comes with freshmen year; or it is the stresses that come with the uncertainty of COVID-19, not having a job, worrying about the health and well-being of your loved ones, or having your everyday schedule completely thrown, your body will respond to stress the same way.

When things get stressful your body craves those ‘junk food’ options, and it becomes a viscous cycle; you get triggered by a stress I said above(or another one because the list is endless) and so you reach for the bag of chips or the pint of ice cream, and then you get down on yourself for making that choice, then life steps back in so you need another bag of chips or chocolate bar, and on and on.  So, I am going to share with you a list of things you can do to help you make better choices and hopefully help you combat those stressful moments, while still living the college life or the quarantine life, or just plain old life.  You can keep these in mind when walking into the dining hall, walking into your kitchen, or heading into the grocery store.

  1. Fill one plate up with veggies. This can be a salad or some raw veggies.  You can choose cooked veggies but try to limit the amount of the cooked veggies if prepared in a lot of oils and butters.
  2. Fruit with every meal. A cup or half a bowl berries or diced melons. An apple, orange, or banana.
  3. Opt for water. You can also have your coffee, if you are like me and can’t go a day without it.  But limit the sugar/sweetener in it if you drink multiple cups day, that way you aren’t taking in calories through sugar in your beverages.
  4. Lean protein options like chicken and turkey will be the best animal protein go-to.
  5. Fish and other seafood are good options when you are bored of chicken and turkey.
  6. If you want a burger or pizza try to double the veggies you get at that mealtime. You will still enjoy the burger and pizza but will fill up more on the ‘better options’ so you don’t overeat and go back another slice or another handful of fries and back again and again.

And just remember to be kind to yourself.  Don’t approach mealtime or snacking with a “I can’t” mindset, as this will only make decisions harder.  Feeling restricted will box you in and make every choice you make feel robotic, and that isn’t how life should be.  If you approach your meals and snacks with the mindset that you are choosing ‘X’ because you know it will make you feel better that will give you a sense of empowerment; knowing you are in control of what you eat and thus your health and your life.  Freshmen year and quarantine are hard enough times in themselves and you don’t need to add to the already stressful moments by getting down on yourself for food choices.

What COVID-19 Has Taught Me Expanded Edition

Some of you may have seen my short post from about a month ago about COVID-19 and things it taught me. When I posted that social distancing and school closures had just occurred, so it was pretty early on in this crazy “new normal”.  Now fast forward from that post to today, almost an entire month has passed, and I still stand by the things I said in that post, but I now have a little more to say.  I will repost below what I said in my previous post as a refresher for y’all and for those that didn’t see my post to get a chance to see what I had to say.

  1. I don’t appreciate the beautiful place I live nearly enough. Charleston is an amazing place to live and has some pretty great options to be outside and I don’t take advantage of that nearly enough.
  2. Supporting local businesses is so important. I love my coffee shops and local restaurants but didn’t even think how something like this would affect their livelihood.
  3. While I joke that I live most of my life like I’m in quarantine I’ve realized that a lot of the things I enjoy doing involves me being around other people. (going to the gym, sitting by my pool, sitting at a coffee shop, laying at the beach, etc)
  4. People can be selfish, and the internet/social media can be a toxic place, but I’ve seen a lot of people offering to help others in various ways which is an awesome thing to see. Overall things are getting pretty crazy, but it is nice to see people are trying to help one another through this, showing that there is still good out there.
  5. Now that we are quickly approaching a month of living our lives in isolation and quarantine, with an end not in sight I have begun to think about how I intend to live once life goes back to normal. This thought actually stems from a conversation some of my friends and I had after a very thought-provoking question was posed.  Individually we all had little things we brought up about how life was going and what we have been doing and are looking forward to when life returns to normal, but there was common theme we all seemed to share.  We all said we want to be present in the moment when we are with friends and enjoy the little things more now that we have seen what life looks like without them.  Just going out to dinner or sitting at the beach or in a coffee shop are things we missed being able to do and never realized how much we took for granted the ability to do that.
  6. Personally, I am going to work on making plans with friends more often and not saying no to going out and being with people as often as I did before COVID hit. I am doing my best to stay sane through exercise, getting some fresh air, and being in virtual contact with friends and family and these are things I want to carry over into my life when the quarantine lifts.
  7. I also found this has been a great time to do some personal reflection and figure out life (as best as I can because do you really ever truly get it all perfectly figured out). I’ve been doing some future planning, lots of reading, and some life hacking (basically trying to implement concepts from books I have been reading to live out my best life/self).

Yes, living life in quarantine has been and is still pretty wild/strange/annoying, but there have been some positive take-aways, and I am sure more to come being the end doesn’t seem to be insight.  I would just love to see a continued sense of community and willingness to lend a helping hand once life goes back to normal and people become “too busy” with their own lives to concern themselves with everyone else’s.  Stay safe everyone!

Self-Experimentation #1

Hello friends.  Today I am sharing with you all my plant-based diet experience.  For starters, I did this to give myself some experience with this diet prior to conducting a possible study that asks participants to partake in a plant-based diet intervention for a 4-week time period.  I am an advocate of being your first client, especially when you are going to be asking someone to make a change to their lifestyle, you should be able to relate and pull from your own personal experience when looking to help someone else.  I also did this from a place of interest.  There has been increasing talk and ‘popularity’ when it comes to a plant-based diet, so being the nerd I am I wanted to see how I would respond to this dietary change.

So, for 2-weeks I went plant-based.  My shopping cart at the grocery store didn’t look all that different from my normal omnivore diet shopping cart.  The veggies, fruits, beans, and grains remained the same, the only difference was there were no eggs, cheeses, yogurts, or chicken to be found.  I also decided that I would be eating ad libitum (without restrictions).  This means I ate when I was hungry and did not track macronutrients or calories.  I felt this would reflect how many people who change from an omnivore diet to a plant-based diet make the change.  I did not purchase any plant-based protein powders because 1. I wasn’t tracking macronutrient intake, so hitting a protein goal wasn’t on my list, 2. This dietary change wasn’t one I planned on doing for more than 2-weeks due to things going on in my life, and 3. I prefer to get most of my food requirements from actual foods and I didn’t want to get a protein powder because I don’t want to use whatever I didn’t finish after I switched back from this plant-based diet.

I really didn’t feel any different in daily life or at the gym compared to when I was eating my omnivore diet.  I did actually feel a little more run down and would wake up some days feeling sick.  I also was feeling more sore than usual.  Some things that could account for how I felt beyond diet was the amount of stress I was feeling from school and work, poor sleep, and possibly not enough caloric intake compared to what was being burned throughout my day.  I will say that the day after I ended my 2-week experiment I woke up feeling like garbage, super congested and was waking up every hour that night to blow my nose because I couldn’t breathe.

I’m about 1 week back on my normal omnivore diet with macronutrient tracking and I am feeling much better than last week and like my muscles are recovering much better post exercise.  I am not sharing this to persuade people to eat a certain way, just merely sharing my personal experience.  Like I have said many times before diets aren’t one-size fits all, and what works better for me won’t necessarily work best for you or someone else.   This was not the most scientific experiment as I could have controlled for chance much better, but it was overall an interesting experiment.  I don’t think I will be removing animal-based foods from my diet anytime soon, especially with my current exercise goals, but I am glad I did this and stay tuned for my next nutritional self-experiment.

You and your diet were on a break!!!

First off if you get the reference from my post title then I love you.  Second, this is me explaining why calling it a cheat meal/cheat day kinda makes me roll my eyes.  Before I get started I just want to say that I’m still working on removing that phrase from my own lexicon, so I indeed roll my eyes at myself and I don’t want you people to think I am attacking you all and being holier-than-thou.  Now with that disclaimer out of the way let me explain.

The more people in the field of nutrition that I meet and learn from, the more I become aware of the effect language has on mindset and people’s relationship with food.  The word cheat has a very negative connotation that is associated with some hefty consequences.  In school, especially colleges, if you are caught cheating you can get expelled.  In relationships if someone is found to be cheating trust is lost and the relationship may even come to an end.  When we refer to cheating on one’s diet we immediately think of eating ‘bad’ food.  This thought process and phraseology can lead to individuals having unhealthy relationships with food.  Everyone is different, no one is the same, and thus no one should eat the exact same foods and in the exact same way.  Someone’s diet should be individualized and made to meet the needs of the individual, and so if someone wants to eat a burger or have some cookies for a meal than that’s cool.  This person is meeting a specific need or desire.  Having a burger every single meal or eating 5 cookies every time you walk into the kitchen is not the best nutritional decision one can make(But this is a whole other post topic in itself).  Lets say someone has 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables with every meal they eat throughout the week along with lean meats, hearty-whole grains, and essential fats, and little to no processed foods and refined sugars; and Saturday this individual just wants to enjoy time with friends and they go out to dinner at the best burger place in their area and finish at their local creamery for dessert.  Most people in that situation would say, sounds like a great cheat meal/cheat day, but there will always be that negative connotation that is pinned to the word cheat, and that could lead to some feel bad about making those food choices.

The phrase cheat day/cheat meal has to go.  I am personally working on not using that phrase myself.  You aren’t doing something bad or something wrong when you eat something that might not align with your normal dietary choices, you are merely living.  So instead of calling it a cheat meal/cheat day, why not try calling it a free meal/free day, or a no-strings-attached meal/day, or a break meal/break day, or even…wait for it… a day/a meal.  It is okay, like I said, to eat something that doesn’t align with your whole-food, non-processed, organic, little to no refined sugar, or whatever nutritional/dietary food choice plan you ‘follow’.  Just remember the next time you stray, and your diet tries to make you feel bad for that, remind it you guys were on a break and you did nothing wrong.  You were and are free to make your own choices independent of it when you decide you need a break.  If you don’t believe me just ask Ross 😉

Life

Hello, hello, hello!!

Haven’t posted anything in a while, but I am just sitting at a Starbucks(that I walked to from my lovely apartment) trying to do some school work but I keep finding myself drifting focus from my school work.  I keep looking out the window and just thinking about life.  I know I talk about finding what sets your soul on fire and determining your purpose in life, and honestly every time I think I have that figured out something changes.  This is the one reason I don’t like school, and if you know me you know how much I love school and continuing to learn and gain knowledge.  The more I further my education the more people I meet and the more life doors are opened to me.  At the heart and center of what I want to do with my future I know I want to help people and make a difference in the lives of others, but each semester there are more avenues presented to me through which I can achieve that goal.

What has remained the same though, is that I know I want to do something with nutrition and do something with a gym, but recently other thoughts have come to my head about what I could do beyond that.  Another thing that gets me is the idea of having to start over in a completely new place, if and when I get accepted to a PhD program.  This idea scares me a little, unlike going off and starting college and graduate school away from my family, this time I don’t have the safety net of knowing I will have people who are there to support me.  Whether that was my teammates during undergrad or my friends that remained in the area when I started grad school.  Pursuing my PhD means leaving my comfort zone and potentially starting out somewhere where I would have no one I knew, in a place far away from those I love.  That is a really scary thought to me and sometimes makes me question whether this is something I want to do.  But those thoughts don’t last long because, in my gut, I know my purpose is to use the opportunities I have been fortunate enough to experience to help others who may or may not have been afforded the bountiful luxuries I have had in my life.  The way in which I do use these opportunities may change in my mind from day to day, but the core purpose has remained the same for as long as I can remember.

I guess I’ll never really figure out this life thing, but its nice to think I’m doing what I can do it to the best of my abilities.  So I leave you all with this; trust your gut and keep seeking out what sets your soul on fire.  Even if you never really figure it out, you can get very close, and hey you may even do something amazing during the process.

<3PD

Mental Health Awareness Month

Hello all!

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month here is my post on looking out for your mental health.  Like I always say, wellness is more than just working out and eating ‘healthy food’, it is about your mental health as well.  I wrote a previous post about mental health, and some of the things I like to do to help keep me sane.  So I will hyperlink that here for you all to check out again.  But I will also list some things you can do for yourself and for those you care about as well below.

So here we go:

  1. Exercise!  One article (summary hyperlink here) from the Journal of Sports Medicine talks about the effects exercise can have on mood and self-esteem.  Studies have shown that there is a boost to both mood and self-esteem in an acute dosage after exercise.  There needs to be more research on the effects of exercise, but you can’t go wrong by getting a good workout in.  It is beneficial to physical and mental health.
  2. Get outside.  Taking sometime during the day to step away from work or school or whatever it is stressing you out to just be by yourself and be outside in nature can help give you a chance to hit that reset button and unwind.  It is also a perfect chance to mix in some exercise! Maybe a take a walk and just take some time to be with your thoughts.  Leave your phone behind and really take the time to disconnect from everything going on around you to check-in with yourself.
  3. I have found journaling helps me.  Sometimes you don’t want to talk to people about stuff stressing you out or things (good or bad) happening in your life, so the journal can be your friend that doesn’t have an opinion.  The best listener in the game, never offers advice or passes judgement.  Just takes everything in with an open mind!
  4. But there are things you need to talk to people about, so talk to a friend or family or someone.  Sometimes you need someone to give advice and voice an opinion, so don’t just journal away your issues and think they are resolved.
  5. Check on your friends! Don’t be the person that is always sharing your issues and concerns and stories, and never offering to listen yourself.  You aren’t the only one with stuff to say.  Some people don’t like to come out and say they are struggling or have something going on in their life that is bothering them, so you need to truly check-in with the people you care about.
  6. Personally I feel coffee and chocolate are the answer to all my problems so you can never go wrong with indulging in those two things if you ask me. (this is low-key a joke, but also kinda serious, but maybe don’t take this advice as seriously as the other 5)

Remember life is hard sometimes, but if you have good people to help you take on life and a good sense of when you need to hit that reset button everything will be okay.  Happy Wednesday my peeps!

Get Moving

Newton’s First Law of Motion says “Every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it”.  Often this is heard stated as “An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion”. While this is typically applied to physics and all that math and science associated with physics, this can be applied to exercise. 

It is so easy to turn your one day off from the gym into two or three and the next thing you know you haven’t been to the gym in a month.  Once you stop moving it becomes easy to continue not moving. This inactivity has become a public health issue, and now it is unfortunately affecting the youth population.  The rise in obesity levels in children is at an all time high and this is in part due to the increased amount of inactivity of kids. I could probably write for days about the many moving parts that play a role in the rising childhood obesity levels, but for the sake of this post I will just briefly touch on early introduction to activity and motor skills.  There has been some emerging research on the correlation between motor skill competence and physical activity later in life.  Motor skills are any tasks that are performed that require some form of practice in order to become “good” at the tasks.  These tasks range from simply walking to engaging at a high level in sports. The studies have found that the more skilled children were at a particular skill or activity or more skilled they felt they were, the more likely they were to engage in activities and the more likely they were to continue being active throughout life and into adulthood.  [Please follow the hyperlink above if you are interested in this and want to read a little more about this research.]  

That being said, it is important for lifelong health to get kids to put down the video games and get outside and play.  It doesn’t matter if they join a sports team or if they are simply making up games with friends, so long as they are doing something that requires them to coordinate their limbs and raise their heart rate.  So get yourself into motion early and stay in motion, because it so much easier to maintain motion than it is to restart motion.  

 

R&R

“Rest is for the weak” and  “No days off” are just two examples of some things you may hear from your fitness fanatic friends or your rat-racing buddies.  We unfortunately live in a society of go, go, go, and always trying to do more than the next person or not stopping until we reach our goal, only to decide we have another goal once we get there. We are constantly moving and doing and we are not taking a chance to stop and enjoy where we are.  I want to keep this more geared toward physical rest and recovery by talking about taking a day off from your gym routine, but before I head there I want to share a message that the commencement speaker at my graduation ceremony shared with us.  She has an amazing story and accomplished so much; when I heard of everything she has done my jaw dropped.  If you want to read more about this amazing woman follow this link here.  Beyond all the amazing things she has done with her life, she shared with us all that we need to take a minute to just breathe and to be present in the moment.  Enjoy where we are and the people we are with because the little things are what we will miss the most and the people we share these moments with will mean more than all the fame and fortune and success.

Okay now that I have shared that nugget of wisdom lets get into taking actual rest days from the gym or whatever exercise program you follow.  Exercise is a stressor, and your body responds to stress of any kind in the exact same way.  Your body doesn’t differentiate mental stress from emotional stress from physical stress, stress is stress.  The stress of exercise is a good stress to have in your life because it is acute, and once you finish your exercise for the day the stress goes away(that is when you aren’t in the state of overtraining, which can be avoided with a good ole rest day).  After exercise there are many changes that are occurring within your body.  Whether these changes are occurring at the muscle fibers, mitochondria, or neuroendocrine levels, your body is adapting to the exercise stimulus you have just placed on it.  Lets look at the muscle fiber changes from something like resistance training.  When you lift weights and then feel sore the next day or two, that is a result of your muscles physically (micro)tearing and your body working to repair the damage.  There was a study conducted that reported that muscle regeneration can take up 28 days to occur.  That is almost an entire month of your body working to repair muscle damage(the kind you want) from exercise.  So if your body can potentially be working to fully repair muscles back to 100% for 28 days after one day of exercise don’t you think you can give your body a break for one day?

I know it is hard when we live in a society that makes taking a day off seem like the end of the world.  If we aren’t going 1000mph everyday 24/7, 365 then we feel like we are going to fall behind or not be successful.  This way of thinking needs to stop.  I am not sure when it became such a bad thing to stop and enjoy a day of nothing and when tackling one task at a time became a rarity, but I think we as a society need to get back to that.  When Sundays(or whatever day you want) were for sleeping in, slow mornings, sipping coffee and enjoying breakfast with your family and filling the rest of your day with nothing or everything as long as its what you want to do.  I like to get to the gym 6 days a week and fill my Mondays-Fridays with anything and everything I can, but I know that once the weekend hits I’m taking my foot off the gas and putting myself in park come Sunday.  It is also important to listen to your body and familiarize yourself with how your body lets you know you need to pump the brakes.  For me I start to feel sick or waking up and staying awake becomes a lot more difficult.  It is okay to take multiple days off if your body is telling you it needs to rest.  Even changing your typical routine from long runs to yoga, or from pumping that iron to spin class.  Do something different to rest the muscles that are constantly being worked, while still getting a workout in.

Long story short, you are doing your body a disservice by not taking a day to relax and unwind.  Taking a day off isn’t the end of the world and you might actually be surprised how much you can accomplish on your off day and how much you enjoy having a structureless, plan free day.