Be Who You Wanna Be!

One of the things that’s been most helpful to me in life, but especially in my health journey, is the idea of a growth mindset.

Here’s a little exercise: write down one “negative” thing that you believe to be true about yourself.

Mine was something along the lines of: “I’m not an athlete.”

In junior high, I was on the softball field, up to bat, and I hit a foul ball. The boys behind me said, “well, at least she hit it.” I laughed it off. But I learned, gradually, that I was bad at sports. Not a natural athlete. Not a runner. Not able to be active without feeling defeated and comparing myself to the “natural athletes” I thought I wasn’t. I failed all the P.E. “tests” on various sports rules – football, basketball, etc. I was picked last for teams. I focused entirely on my intellectual self, because my physical self was the source of such hard feelings.

Of course, if you think you’re bad at something, you aren’t going to want to do it in your free time. So, rather than getting “better” at sports, I just avoided them. This reinforced my identity as a non-sports person, and I became what I thought I was: bad at sportsNot athletic. Not active.

This was cemented for me a decade ago, and I didn’t really question it until this year. When my energy and physical well-being started improving in January and February, I started craving movement. I felt like I had so much energy to burn. I started Barre classes, running, and swing dance lessons. I would go home and take a walk. These new behaviors were both cause and consequence of a new attitude that I was forming: If I move, I will get better at moving.

Obvious, right? But it was not obvious until I challenged my own beliefs about exercise. I believed that exercise wasn’t “worth it” if I didn’t go hard, and when I felt like I couldn’t go hard I just wouldn’t go. I thought exercise was all about losing weight, and when that didn’t happen (see: thyroid problems), I stopped. I set a lot of goals and couldn’t fulfill them, partly because I was handicapped by my own attitude, my own identity as someone who doesn’t exercise. Who’s not a natural athlete.

Now, instead, I describe myself like this:

I enjoy movement. Moving makes me feel good. Moving gives me energy. No matter how much movement I do, it’s beneficial to my health. The goal of my movement is to have fun and feel strong and flexible.

Everyone is a “natural athlete.” It is natural for us to move! Humans did nothing but move for hundreds of years, and it was pretty healthy for them. Another thing I’ve learned is that you get better at whatever you want to practice. If I do yoga, I’ll get stronger and bendier. Running will make me better at running. If I do barre, I’ll get stronger and more stable. If I swing dance, I’ll get better at swing dancing. And, as long as I’m enjoying myself, I will keep moving! I don’t have to worry about when my next workout is, because I’ll know when I need to move next.

There are people who are “natural athletes” who have similar, fixed beliefs about themselves. In fact, everybody probably has fixed beliefs about themselves. Your belief about yourself could be in a totally different area than mine. The point is, psychologically, beliefs have a tremendous impact on behaviors. In fact, beliefs cause behaviors. But, behaviors also cause beliefs. Liberation from these fixed beliefs is totally possible, if we are able to challenge the attitude as we change the behavior.

And, when that happens, we can literally change our identities.

I think the world will be a happier place if everyone is exactly who they want to be, don’t you? 🙂

 

 

Be Who You Wanna Be!

5 Things You Need to Make a Lifestyle Change

Let me preface this by saying: everyone is different. These are 5 things I needed, and 5 things I’ve seen many other people need, but what you need may be different. Making changes requires a lot of reflection and it’s very specific to each individual, so trust yourself to figure out what you need!

reason : Why do you want or need to make a change?

In my case, I was finally tired of not feeling my best. I wasn’t quite sure how I could feel, but my doctor seemed convinced that I could feel better. I had a laundry list of symptoms that turned out to be the result of chronic autoimmune disease, so my motivation lay in alleviating those symptoms.

Once you’ve identified an area of your life that you want to improve, ask yourself this question, which I learned in the beginnings of my health coaching training:

What does your body need to heal itself?

The theory of non-western medicine is that people know their own bodies better than health professionals do. This is contrary to what we’re led to believe: if something’s wrong, doctors know how to fix it, right?

Wrong. Or, right, but only some of the time. The goal of health coaching is to empower people to listen to the data coming from their own bodies. Are you tired? Are you stressed? Do you have eczema? Allergies? Asthma? Do you need Adderall to focus or Nyquil to sleep? Your body is in a state of stress in all those cases. Making a change will be more successful with the identification of that stressor. There may be a lot – in that case, pick one to address. Generally, when one thing starts falling into place, it has a domino effect.

A goal : Change goals must be specific and measurable.

Lifestyle changes require a lot of willpower, and the brain has limited reserves of willpower. Therefore, willpower must be focused in an intentional way. For instance, instead of “eat better,” decide exactly how you want to eat better. Do you want to eat more veggies? “Include leafy greens in at least two meals per day for a week.” Drink more water? “Drink at least 60 oz per day of water for the next 30 days.” The gray areas are totally removed from these goals, and there is an opportunity to do more than your goal, increasing feelings of success.

Goals like this enable mini-successes which replenish willpower reserves. It’s easy to measure whether you’ve accomplished them, so it’s easier to stick to them. It’s also easier to buy into a change for just a week, or just thirty days, allowing small and incremental changes in lifestyle until they become habitual behaviors.

Support : Love and encouragement, from yourself and others, enables the achievement of goals!

Everyone needs different kinds of support. In my world, a good support system is comprised of people that are able to cheer me on when I’ve had a success, are interested in what I’m working on, and hold me accountable for my intentions. People who shut down, shame, or get competitive about lifestyle behaviors are not your lifestyle-change friends. It’s okay, they can be your fun friends, but you need others to provide all the unconditional encouragement that you need as you exert willpower to make a change!

Also, whatever change you’re making, odds are that someone else has made it already. Either this person is in your personal community, or they’re in some social media community somewhere. Instagram has many powerful sources of information and inspiration in the form of wellness bloggers, or registered dieticians and health coaches. Which brings me to….

Inspiration : Keep up your energy by staying inspired!

Embarking on a new goal can be fun. In my wellness journey thus far, I’ve loved learning new tricks in the kitchen, making new recipes, and absorbing new information about health and wellness. It isn’t always easy, which is why inspiration is so important. In those moments when it feels so boring, so frustrating, and so hard, there is usually a new dish that can rekindle some newfound creativity.

Even yesterday, as I contemplated beginning the Autoimmune Protocol for healing my thyroid, I went to the bookstore and bought a new cookbook full of recipes. It totally reinspired my meal planning and made me excited to start the week!

Perspective : The most famous line in the whole30 is a tough love line:

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It is followed by the admission that yes, it will be hard. Food, especially, is an emotional, social, cultural, personal issue that can be very triggering for people. Breaking habits is notoriously hard, because they’re habits, a.k.a. deeply entrenched, automatic behaviors. But, I think this quote is important to remember. Many people said, when I told them about the Whole30, “I could never give up (insert food here).” Having a growth mindset has been the most liberating thing for me. My attitude going into January was “yes, I can do it!” Once I did, it only made it easier to believe.

You can do it, too!

 

5 Things You Need to Make a Lifestyle Change

Summer Dreams

The weather is FINALLY hot, guys. The sun came out of hiding. Thank Zeus. Er, I’m sorry, Helios – let’s keep it going, buddy.

I am definitely a cold-weather person at heart. But let’s just say that the past FOUR DAYS of sun have been the LONGEST STRETCH of sunny weather since SEPTEMBER??? Sorry, I’ll stop yelling. It’s been a rough winter.

So anyway, this weather has gotten me thinking – hard – and when I’m supposed to be doing other things – about all the fun things I want to do this summer. Here are my summer dreams:

Become a wellness blogger. One amazing thing that has come out of the Whole30 is that I have discovered this community of people on the interwebs that are doing the whole food/healthy lifestyle thing in really down-to-earth ways. They’ve become my main sources of inspiration and information as I embark on this journey to figure out what the heck is inflaming my system. I have since become really interested in the idea that food and mental health are very connected, and that nutrition could be the key to reducing things like anxiety and boosting peoples’ moods. My goal for the summer is to explore wellness and see what I can give back to this amazing group of influencers!

Read. Lots. Now is the moment when I casually drop into my blog post that I am going to grad school in the Fall. Starting in September, I will be a student of humanistic psychology with the goal of becoming a therapist? Although I still harbor secret dreams of being a professor and researcher and writing a book. And I will be working as well. So, I want to get a head start on my reading for next year as well as dive into the stack of books I’ve had sitting next to my bed forrrrrrever. I can’t wait to be #learning again.

Plan the heck out of next year. Planning is something that I just will not have time to do, and it is also probably the most important thing that I do as a teacher (along with manage the class and stuff like that of course). When I start the year, I want my projects planned out for each level so that I know my major units and when things will be assigned and due. It’ll be easier than last year, because last year I was going in blind!

Do yoga and barre and run and dance and walk and hike and camp and swim and…One of the major, like indescribably major, benefits of getting my health things figured out is that I have way more energy than ever before. A combination of better thyroid performance and less chronic inflammation (no more asthma) makes it so much more fun to exercise! I really can’t believe that I was missing out on this feeling. Plus, with the weather, I just wanna get outside. It calms my mood and body system like no other thing does.

Ciao for now. Time to get back to work. TTY soon 🙂

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Summer Dreams

People to Follow

As I got more and more into my Whole30 journey, I collected new blogs, Instagram accounts, and cookbooks that served as great resources when I needed inspiration. I thought I’d share some of them here.

Against All Grain: Danielle Walker makes amazing recipes. I have two of her books, Celebrations and Against All Grain, and I like looking through both for new meals to try. I use her recipe for nut milk, which is super simple and delicious!

Shut the Kale Up: Her Instagram is more in-depth than her website, but she is generally just so cool. Her bowls are drool-worthy and her son is adorable. She has lots of cool wisdom to share, and is very real about her lifestyle and how personalized everyone’s lifestyle should be.

Minimalist Baker: Dana makes recipes that are fast, easy, and amazing. Her vegan parmesan cheese is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while, and her baked goods are allergy friendly and always look scrumptious. I’ve made a variation of her vegan cheese several times. Cashews make amazing dairy replacement products, who knew!?

Stupid Easy Paleo: She’s a badass. Her recipes are stupid easy and great.

Living Loving Paleo: This website also has some great Whole30 recipes.

Real Food With Dana:  Another Dana! This girl is super fun, and she makes some great food art.

The other things I use all the time for recipe inspiration are the Whole30 Cookbook and the original Whole30 book. I’ve recommended both to friends and family members and everyone loves them. The recipes are simple, easy, and usually all the ingredients are things people have on hand. I highly recommend them – even if you aren’t doing a Whole30 anytime soon, or ever.

Hope you enjoy these resources! Message or comment if you’ve found some hidden gems that I haven’t.

 

 

 

People to Follow

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Three Steps Forward

It sounds like a dance move, doesn’t it? Well, that’s me: always Dancin’ With Myself .

In my post on Food and Feelings last time, I talked about my meltdown of a couple of weeks ago, when things just seemed so hard. After that, I was given the green light to add some things that I’d taken out – Thai food (no soy, though), rice, maybe quinoa or other gluten free grains, and mayyyybe paleo sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup.

For the first week, this went okay. I accidentally ate soy sauce because there was free octopus salad at my favorite sushi bar. Cue hand hives. It happened about ten minutes post-consumption: tiny red, itchy spots under my skin. Cue feelings of guilt, frustration, and general angst about the unfairness of it all.

In the following two weeks, my forays out of the Whole30 guidelines included rice cakes, almond flour crackers from Simple Mills (this was really made with all compliant ingredients, but is an SWYPO situation), and coconut butter cups from Eating Evolved (coconut sugar). I also had half a girl scout cookie, and…I think that’s it. Until last weekend.

It was my friend’s going away party. I was prepared with compliantly roasted chips and paleo chili. I swung by Trader Joe’s to pick up some gin and carbonated water – the first alcohol I’d have in 2017. When I arrived, I spontaneously decided that this would be a YOLO night. No more worrying about ingredients, no more label-reading or sticking just to what I knew I could consume without repercussions. So, throughout the evening, I consumed: dark chocolate peanut butter cups, gin and soda water, tequila, tomato (in the chili), and a slice of cake.

It doesn’t sound like much. It didn’t feel like much. But, the next morning, I instantly decided: NOT worth it.

Melissa Hartwig, in Food Freedom Forever, promotes a really great system for enacting the “food freedom” that comes post-Whole30. True food freedom is all about making very mindful choices and critically thinking about what you put into your body.

For example – you will not suddenly want to eat more cake when it’s your birthday. Your body doesn’t know it’s your birthday. If you see some amazing treat, Melissa challenges you to decide, with thorough and conscientious thinking, whether that treat is “worth it.” In other words: armed with the information that Whole30 gave you about how that will affect your body, what is the best course of action? It’s sometimes to eat it… and sometimes, it’s to not eat it.

My first mistake was the gin. I had maybe two drinks of it, but it impacted my ability to make mindful choices for the rest of the evening. My other mistake was deciding to throw the rules out the window. I could have had a few peanut butter cups and been satisfied. But, because I was eating “whatever,” I had to try everything.

Why wasn’t it worth it? For the whole day afterward, I was in bed with a variety of symptoms: stomach distress, a massive headache, fatigue, bloating, and suddenly worsened eczema. I was angsty and irascible. On Sunday, I had a glass of wine with friends. Not only is alcohol not great because it annihilates gut bacteria, but I am also sensitive to grapes, sugar and brewing yeast; this did not go well either. Going back to work on Monday was the worst. I slept poorly for a few days in a row, waking up stressed in the early morning. My mood was depressed; I was less patient and much less fun with the kids.

On Wednesday, I talked to my doctor. She told me to go back to what I know works for me: Whole30 eating. After 14 days of that, I’m supposed to reintroduce a medical food she prescribed me for people with malabsorption. It has sugar in it, so I have to monitor my reaction and make sure it’s okay for me to consume. Round 3, Day 6.

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This stuff is pretty delicious, though…

I follow so many bloggers now who are Whole30, Paleo, health nutty clean eaters. They are often very inspiring, because they show me that it’s possible to get where I want to go. But sometimes, looking at their social media accounts makes me feel like they’ve achieved a perfection that I haven’t achieved yet (that cliché instagram probem). My life right now feels out of balance.

I think it’s important to hear from people in this stage, the struggle to back in balance: the stage where you don’t think it will ever happen, and it feels really hard, and you’re in the middle of this giant life change which exhausts your willpower muscles to a maximum. 

But, in the back of my mind, I know that I’m on a right track. My diet right now includes so many nutrients, so much produce, and so much variety. I am getting better at combining simple ingredients to make varied and delicious meals, and I am really comfortable in the kitchen.

People often express pity that I can’t eat all of the things. My external response is: yeah, it’s hard. My internal response is: but, it’s not worth it for me to eat like I used to. What I put in my body has too much physical, mental and emotional impact on me to ignore. It wasn’t always this way, and I hope it won’t always be this way, but for now I’m embracing my reality and thanking this experience for forcing me into a healthful and nourishing lifestyle.

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New haircuts do wonders for morale!

On that note, I’m thinking of starting a project: developing my blog even more, as if it were my full-time job. If I were to write much more often, what do you want to hear? What do you like about my blog? What do you wish I did differently/more of? You can help by leaving a comment addressing any and all of these questions. Let’s learn and grow together :). 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Three Steps Forward

Walking and Wondering

I’m reading a book right now (actually three books, but this one is the coolest), and it’s about the history of walking. At least, that’s what it purports to be, but I know differently; really, it is about contemplation. As is walking.

“When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for you when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.” – Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust

My favorite way to discover places and to discover things is by foot. The above quote is the most perfect articulation of why this is my truth: while I walk, I move. I move through the world physically, of course. I also move through my mental world. Like writing, it is my medium for wondering.

Many times, I have wondered about myself. As I explore a city, I wander the nooks and crannies of my psyche, analyzing and processing and curiously probing the dark and far off corners. Or maybe there is something in particular that rushes to the forefront of my mind and demands to be heard. Often I wonder about other people, gripped by my fascination about perspectives outside my own. As I walk through these thoughts, I walk through the world.

Sometimes I am pulled back into it, and instead I notice the squirrel crunching through the fallen yellow leaves. Sometimes there’s someone else on the road, and I feel compelled to shoot the fellow walker a friendly smile.

Often I am tracing paths on a mental map. When I explored new places, I got lost and found myself again, over and over, until I never really felt lost. After reading this part of the book, I realized that I will never again feel lost in those places that I’ve walked.

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I’ve worn a rut in my mind, and I will always recognize it. When I walk in Walla Walla again, I’ll get flashes of past walks, of the girl that walked those paths. If I somehow journey back to Paris, or even tiny Somain, the invisible crop will be waiting for me. I am inextricably linked to those cobblestones and the landmarks that line them, and they run like a map through my mind.

This is what makes me lusty, for the wander and for the familiar at once. I know that both are fruitful: one will lead me toward new corners of myself, one will lead me back to old ones. The one is risky and exciting, alluring and adventurous. The other is comforting and enlightening, reflective and revealing of forgotten truths.

I love them both and all. I walk through old and new with the same fulfillment, the same curiosity, and the same feet.

Walking and Wondering

How I Spend My Days

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.” – Annie Dillard, via Brainpickings.

There is a difference between traveling and living. Although it probably doesn’t seem this way from far away in the U.S., I have spent less than 25% of my time here traveling. I traveled to get here, yes, but then I set up a home base and began my vie quotidienne (daily life). And, because my blog is disproportionately adventure stories, I thought I should say something about my days. For, after all, “how we spend our days is…how we spend our lives.” My schedule, my hours…this is what they’re filled with.

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1. I eat and write.  These are my two favorite ways to fill my time. I’ve already filled up a moleskine and bought a new one. In the morning and evening, I write. In my breaks between classes, I write. On my blog, I write more. I’ve also learned loads of new recipes. I cook for myself, I cook for friends, I cook for tomorrow’s lunch, I don’t cook because a waffle from Waffle Factory sounds better. I sometimes put on music in the background, genre “cozy evening folk” or “jazzy oldies,” depending on what mood I’m in. I dance and sing and cook, at the same time.

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2. I ride the train. Four days a week, four hours a day, I am either in or waiting for the train. This has ceased to be unbearable since I remembered On Being, my old favorite podcast. Now I use the time to be inspired by the mysteries of human existence as reported via interviews with the famous studiers of humanity. It can’t be beat, as far as train entertainment goes. It’s also a lesson in chuckling at the little things, like this Christmas-colored train board (unfortunately the result of multiple delays…not uncommon train behavior).

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3. I talk to students and teachers. Much of my time at the high school (12+ hours per week) is spent in the staff room, socializing with teachers as they come and go, or with students in class. I’m getting to know them, even if I still don’t know most of their names. I am greeted by a chorus of “‘ello” as I walk down the hallway. I am welcomed to lunch tables and solicited for english advice. I am engaged in conversation by especially interested teachers and students. I also have a tutoring job once a week, which provides extra money and the fulfillment that only one on one time with a really motivated student can provide.

4. I spend time with friends. In the land of workaholics (America) (or maybe just college), relationships too often get thrown into the “do if I have enough time” category. Now that I always have enough time, I get more enjoyment out of social events, because I never have to rush off to the next thing. I go round for tea. Breakfast dates, dinner parties, wine tastings, soirées in town, poetry readings, film nights, group workouts, leisurely walks to the lake…the world is our oyster, and I’m grateful to have others in my position to share experiences with.

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On any given day, I will do all of these things. This is how I spend my days. Really, my year with TAPIF is not about the number of countries I’ll see or the amount of French I’ll learn…it’s about the moments and memories I will have spent which make up a totally unique, and fulfilling, and happy life, in a foreign place-turned-home. I think the hardest question to answer when I go back to Seattle will be “how was France?”

You may as well ask, “how was life?”

And how would you respond to that?

How I Spend My Days