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Monday, March 24, 2014

10,000 Hours

http://pendantbooks.com/james_batchelor/During my 7-mile walk-run this past Saturday I had the unexpected pleasure of the company of my brother, James Batchelor. Just as a bit of background, James is a very talented writer who is working on his lifelong dream of becoming a successful full-time author and writer, allowing him to support his family with his pen, or keyboard, if you will. As fellow dreamers, James and I have been down a lot of the same roads and struggled with some of the same challenges, doubts, and limiting beliefs along the way. This has led to some very interesting conversations. We are quite the philosophers, James and I, and exploring our experiences together has brought me a lot of insights, ideas, and even a few game changers. Our conversation this past Saturday seems be leading me to another of those game changers.

As we walked, we found ourselves discussing a book James had read recently called Outliers. He told me about the first part of the book where it discusses three divisions that can be seen among the students of The Juilliard School at any given time. I won't attempt to repeat the entire conversation, but there is one point that stayed with me and that I have not stopped thinking about since that walk. The top tier of students at Juilliard always consists of those students who apply themselves to such an extent that they have reached or will reach at least 10,000 hours of dedicated practice in their area of focus by the time they reach age 20. This equates to roughly 3 hours every day for 10 years. It doesn't matter how much raw or innate talent the students have. All that matters is how much time they apply themselves to practicing their art. After 10,000 dedicated hours, they become experts, or masters. They know that thing inside and out--it becomes a part of them.

So here is what I took away from the conversation. First, anybody can become anything they want to be if they are willing to apply themselves. Second, if I want to really master anything, I have to dedicate my time and energy to that thing in a very significant way. I will have to sacrifice other, less important things in order to devote more time to this one, chosen path.

Now I have some decisions to make. I am the type of person who does not do things halfway. I want to be the best at everything I do. But if being the best means devoting so many hours and so much energy and intention each day to that one thing, then I have to make a choice. I cannot master everything. Prior to this conversation I think maybe a part of me thought that I could, and now I find myself in this conundrum as I see that I cannot keep moving down this path I have been traveling. I must choose, but what is the best path for me? What thing am I most passionate about? What will bring me the most happiness and satisfaction at the end of the day? Which choice will bring me the greatest success? What will help me reach my goals for my life? What would you choose?

Decisions, decisions...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

February results and recommitting to these eating guidelines

Yes!!! We are not even halfway through this month and already I am posting my results for the previous month. This is amazing! I am turning over a new leaf. (o: And now, without further ado, I submit to you my February results:


  1/1/2014 3/3/2014 Change % Change
Weight (lbs) 179.2 168.2 -11 -6.1%
Waist 41.5 39 -2.5 -6.0%
Hips 44 42 -2 -4.5%
Chest 42.2 39 -3.2 -7.6%
Right Arm 13.8 13.5 -0.3 -2.2%
Left Arm 14.5 14 -0.5 -3.4%
Right Thigh 22.5 23 0.5 2.2%
Left Thigh 22.8 23.5 0.7 3.1%
Body Fat (%) 42.9 39.8 -3.1 -7.2%


Please forgive me for the analytics. There is still a little bit of accountant in me. In any case, the results are pretty good, but perhaps not as good as they could be. In this post I would like to review my eating guidelines and then recommit myself to them, since I really haven't been following them very well for the last month and a half. I know, I know, as a health coach, I should know better. So let me just remind myself of how I would like to be eating, and then we'll talk.

Guideline #1: Eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods (unpackaged, unboxed, without labels). No-brainer.

Guideline #2: Keep sweets and junk food to a minimum. When you do eat them, eat them right after a healthy meal (ideally, lunch). If you eat your dessert after a good meal, you are likely to eat less of the not-so-good stuff, and you will not have the blood sugar spike that would come from eating the treat on an empty stomach. Win-win.

Guideline #3: Lunch will be the biggest meal of the day, breakfast the second biggest, and dinner the smallest. This is based on the body clock in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The theory here is that the different organs of your body are strongest and most capable at certain times of the day. Your stomach is strongest in the morning (between 7am and 9am) and your small intestine--the primary digestive organ--is strongest between 1pm and 3pm. Those are the times when your body will be able to digest food most effectively. Keep your dinners small (e.g. soup or salad).

Guideline #4: Do not eat after 6pm. Your body  goes into repair mode in the evening, but if it is still trying to digest your latest meal (i.e. your dinner was too large or you ate too late) then it focuses instead on the digestion and skips the repairs for the night. THIS IS BAD! You need that nightly maintenance. It keeps you young and healthy and keeps everything in good working order.

Guideline #5: No snacking. Eating snacks or being on the 6-small-meals-a-day plan forces your digestive system to work all the time. It needs to rest and your body needs to be able to focus on something else for awhile. Also, if you are eating so constantly that you never allow your blood sugar to drop a bit and then to stabilize on its own, you will become (or remain) very dependent on food as your body will lose the ability to regulate blood-glucose levels on its own, as it was designed to do. So stick with the old, traditional 3 meals a day, like your grandma used to eat, and you will be healthier and happier. (For more on this, take a look at the following link.)

Guideline #6: Guidelines 1-5 are not rules, they are guidelines!!! Do not take them too seriously. Do not be rigidly compliant, to the point of refusing to eat the bite of wedding cake offered to you by your new spouse on your wedding day. Do not beat yourself up for not being perfect. Just do your best, pay attention to when you do stray a bit, ask yourself why, and then get back on track.

That's it! And just so you know, I am recommitting to these guidelines here and now, with you as my witness. March will be better! Yes! Go team!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chi Running Instructor Certification Pending...

Just today I sent an email submitting the last of my requirements to become a certified Chi Running and Chi Walking Instructor. The irony is that about 6 weeks ago, I was ready to throw in the towel. So what happened?

Here's the background. At the end of last March, 2013, my sister, Denise, and I attended a training/workshop that was part of the requirement to become a certified Chi Running Instructor. To be honest, in preparing for this workshop a lot of work and studying had to be done, and I was in the midst of a very rigorous full-time massage therapy program. I almost gave up. I felt like I couldn't possibly comply with all the requirements just to get to that workshop, let alone to actually become certified. So I called my sister up early one morning when I was supposed to be studying, and I told her I wasn't going because I just couldn't do it. Mind you, this was about 2 weeks before the workshop, and we had been preparing for months. Well, my wonderful sis talked me off the ledge, so to speak, and I ended up going to the workshop. As it turned out, the 2 of us were much better prepared than we realized and we passed through the workshop with flying colors.

Fast forward 10 months, and I am staring the one year completion deadline in the face (we have one year from the workshop to complete the remaining requirements). I felt like I was sinking into a pit of complete overwhelm as I was trying to grow my business and manage my time and my stress levels (no, I was not living in the "now" very effectively at that time). In an effort to avoid a complete breakdown, I switched to damage control mode. I looked at everything I had on my plate and found what I felt I could get rid of--and the Chi Running certification made the list. I knew I would eventually get certified, but missing this deadline would mean I would have to go to another weekend workshop, with additional travel time and cost thrown in, and then I would still have to complete all of the very demanding requirements at some future date. But why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right? So I sat down with my sister and very gently told her, once again, that I wasn't going to be able to complete the requirements and that I would have to miss the deadline and get certified at a later date. We talked about it for a while, and in the end she accepted it with some reservations but also with understanding for my situation.

A few days later, however, I found myself thinking it over once again while I was out on a run, and some very persuasive reasons came up that had me rethinking my decision. When I got back from my run, Denise happened to be at my house, and without my saying anything about my own reservations, she brought up the very same things I had just been thinking about, and then started laying out a plan that would enable me to navigate my busy schedule and get the requirements completed.

To make a long story short, I pushed through, took things one day at a time, did the best I could, and with lots of support from Denise I completed the last of the requirements just 3 weeks shy of the deadline. Phew!

So here is what I learned from this experience:

  • When you are stressed out and on the verge of a breakdown, having a true friend in your corner is invaluable!!! I don't know what I would do (or where I would be) without my sister Denise! She has helped me through rough waters more times than I can count. What a miracle she is in my life!
  • When you are in a state of overwhelm and can't see any way out, try taking a step back and looking at things from a different angle. Sometimes you get so lost in the midst of the trees that you can't see the forest. When this happens, try climbing a tree. As they say, it is always darkest before the dawn, so don't give up!
  • Trust God, open your eyes to your blessings, and take it one day at a time. All you have is today anyway, so quit worrying so much about tomorrow. Just make sure that when you go to bed tonight, you don't have any regrets about today.
So that's that. Within a week or two, I will be a certified Chi Running and Chi Walking Instructor.

Thanks for reading! February results coming soon!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

This is harder than I thought it would be...

As I stood on my scale this morning, looking at a number that has not budged in the last five days or so, I found myself wondering why my weight wasn't dropping as quickly as I expected it would. "This shouldn't be so hard," I said to myself. Well then, let's review the evidence.
First of all, I had in the last couple of years completely let my diet go. Please note that when I say diet, I mean it in the true meaning of the word, i.e. the food I eat on a regular basis. Anyway, I had let junk food gradually creep back into my diet until I was consuming it on a regular--even frequent--basis. I was also eating out A LOT more than I used to. Now, although I still allow myself to eat sweets now and then, the amount and the frequency with which I eat them has dropped significantly. And eating out doesn't really happen but once in a month. My meals are almost always home cooked and loaded with healthy whole foods, including many veggies. That is a big difference, right? So shouldn't it be making a big difference to my waistline as well?

Second, in the past year or two I have been what we used to call in the mission field a fubeca, or in other words, a major slacker, at least where exercise and movement are concerned. (Incidentally, if you speak Portuguese then go and check out this link. It is awesome! http://www.dicionarioinformal.com.br/fubeca/) My working out was sporadic at best, and completely nonexistent at worst. To add insult to injury, I was in school full-time for most of last year, so I found myself sitting in a desk for many hours each day. My life was the definition of sedentary. Since the beginning of this year, however, I have been extremely active, exercising on an almost daily basis, and I have been up and about much more due to the nature of my work as a massage therapist and a yoga instructor.

Alright, I have laid the evidence before you. It seems like the weight should just be melting off with these changes I have made, don't you think. Me too! And yet, here we are.

I have decided, however, that this is really a matter of perspective. When I am watching the scale anxiously for every pound and every tenth of a pound drop, thinking that the weight should be melting off so easily, then I get impatient and frustrated when it doesn't drop as fast as I think it should be.

At the same time, if my focus is on these lofty expectations I tend to miss the reality of the situation. I am dropping weight, slowly but surely. The drop may not be happening as fast as I would like, but it is happening. Even were I to only lose 2 pounds a month, if I did this on a steady and consistent basis, I would still eventually reach my ideal weight. And all the while, as I am eating right and exercising regularly, I will be building muscle, improving my cardiovascular health, and generally improving my level of fitness all the while. Think of that--by the time I actually reached my goal weight under this scenario, I would be this super fit individual, filled with energy, life, and vitality. Isn't that my ultimate goal here? Why yes, now that you mention it, it is.

As I said before, it is all about perspective. So for today, anyway, I am going to check my impatience at the door, and I am going to allow myself to feel grateful for that slow and steady decline in the number on the scale while I continue to exercise, eat right, and get fit!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

January results . . . finally . . .

Okay, I apologize for the delay. This bug I had was a nasty one, and I ended up going an entire week with no exercise at all (bleh!). It seriously knocked me flat! Definitely no fun. I am sure, however, that this came about as a result of stress and over training, so I am approaching my workouts a bit differently now that I am back on my feet. More on that later (i.e. in another post).

Anyway, I promised to post my January results so here you go:


Measurements (as of 1/1/2014):
Measurements (as of 2/4/2014):
Weight: 179.2 lbs
Weight: 172.8 lbs
Body Fat: 43.3%
Body Fat: 41.1%
Waist: 41.5”
Waist: 40”
Hips: 44”
Hips: 42.2”
Chest: 42.2”
Chest: 40.5”
Right Arm: 13.8”
Right Arm: 13.2”
Left Arm: 14.5”
Left Arm: 13.8”
Right Thigh: 22.5”
Right Thigh: 23.5”
Left Thigh:  22.8”
Left Thigh:  23.5”


These results are a combination of eating well (I will post my eating guidelines in the very near future), exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, and hoping for the best.

So here are a few tips that are working for me. Perhaps they will be helpful to you as well:

1. I have not starved myself or deprived myself in any way. I will talk about this more in my "eating guidelines" post, but suffice it to say that any kind of deprivation diet is not sustainable. If this is what you are using to lose weight, I wish you the best, but I do not believe you will be successful. In any case, I have never been successful (in the long term) losing weight with a severely restrictive diet.

2. I eat healthy, whole foods and keep processed foods to a minimum. This one is pretty self-explanatory. In general, if the food is packaged, and especially if it has a long list of ingredients, it is not good for you, no matter what it claims. Keep these types of food to a minimum.

3. I go to bed as close to 10PM as possible and I aim to get up around 6AM. A good night's rest is crucial to weight loss as well as to your overall health and vitality and mood. Don't skimp on sleep, even if it means missing your workout that day. Your body needs that time to repair and regenerate. So if something from your to-do list has to go, don't let it be your sleep.

I am happy with these results, and I am on track to reach that goal of weighing less than 120 lbs. by the end of the year. Yee-haw!

Monday, February 10, 2014

When Things Don't Go Your Way

My voice has been gone for these last couple of days. It is amazing how powerless you feel when you can't talk.

Speaking of feeling powerless, you may remember that I mentioned in a recent blog post how I used to get sick all the time. We're talking seriously ill: off my feet, missing work, miserably ill, at least once a month. At that time I was very unhappy, working in a job I didn't feel fulfilled in, living far away from my family, eating a very poor diet (way too many sweets), and all my closest friends were getting married and moving on while I stayed right where I was--alone and depressed. So now that I have painted this lovely picture for you, is there any question as to why I was getting sick all the time? Didn't think so.

Fast forward five years to today. I am living near my family (most importantly my twin sister, who is only 10 minutes away, and my mom), I am eating a very healthy diet, and I am running my own business (with my sis) doing exactly what I want to be doing. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention, I am also, once again, getting sick constantly--we're talking every other week. What??!!! This doesn't make any sense! That time before, now that made sense. But this??? What in the world is going on?

Unfortunately, I don't have the answers yet, but I do believe it is somehow linked to my deep-seated fears. Fears of what, you ask? I don't really know for sure--fear of failure, fear of success, fear of getting hurt, fear of loneliness, fear of letting my clients down, all of the above? Maybe it has to do with all of these things plus some that I haven't even listed. What I do know is that I am letting myself get way too stressed out about things again, and I am not trusting in my God enough. I have not been living mindfully these past few weeks. Instead I have been worrying and losing sleep over deadlines and sundry administrative obligations, and the stress has grown exponentially in that time. And now, at this very moment, I am sicker than I have been in years--probably since the last time my body and I were playing the "always sick" game.

So what now? Even though I don't understand all that is going on with my body right now, there are still some things I can do to make the situation better right now. First of all, I have done some energy clearing with my sister, Denise Mason, who is an energy coach, and I can feel my energy and my mood--and my body--changing already. I am also getting back to trust, hope, and mindfulness. I am trusting in the Lord again, and remembering that He has always taken care of me, and that He will continue to do so as long as I am doing my best to stay close to Him. This gives me great hope! I am striving to be present and live mindfully, not letting the deadlines and worries of tomorrow rob me of today. It is time for me to set my fears and my stress and my worries aside and just take things one day at a time--again. Add to all this a healthy dose of gratitude, since I know that recognizing my blessings will always raise my energy and my joy.

Now, it may seem to you that I had this all figured out a month ago; it seems that way to me too, and to tell you the truth, I am not sure why I have to figure it out again. But, looking on the bright side, at least I am figuring it out again just a month later, rather than a year later, or five years later. Before long these things will just be a part of me, and I won't have to keep forgetting and re-figuring things out.

So what is my answer to what you should do when things don't seem to be going your way? Trust God, be full of hope and gratitude, and choose to really live each moment of your life--that is my solution. Feel free to find a better one, if you can.

P.S. I have my January "get fit" results. I will post them in another day or two.

Monday, January 27, 2014

So you got sick ... now what?

I have done it! I have achieved something that has hitherto been completely unknown to me (at least in the last decade)! I have gone 4 full weeks, exercising every day (except for Sundays, which are always my day of rest), without missing! You read that right. 4 weeks straight! Woo hoo!

So this morning, going into week 5, I woke up with an annoying little stomach bug. After the worst had passed by mid-morning (ha ha, no pun intended), I quickly fell back to sleep and did not wake up until around 1:30 in the afternoon. As you might have guessed, I haven't done any working out today ... yet! So here are my thoughts on exercising when you are under the weather.

First, no matter the ailment, if you are going to work out when you are ill you should plan to scale down the intensity appropriately. When I exercise today I will do more of a walk-through of my exercise program (currently Les Mills Combat), possibly breaking a little sweat; however, no serious huffing and puffing, muscle-fatiguing, floor-stomping, barf-worthy workout will be happening today (just for the record, I have never actually barfed during or after a workout, but I know people who have and I think they might possibly have been overdoing it a bit--but who am I to judge?). The important thing here is to teach your body that you are serious about your commitment to exercise and that, if at all possible, you will be moving your body in some way on any day that you have scheduled a workout.

Also, remember that exercising, if you can find just the right balance of movement without excess (hint: this means learning how to listen to your body) can actually speed up your recovery time from many illnesses. It gets your blood and lymph pumping through your body, thus getting the gunk out more quickly. Working out will also encourage you to drink more water, which is essential for cleaning out your whole system. So go ahead and exercise when you are sick, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Second, there is no need to be perfect. I generally do yoga 6 days a week (I am a yoga instructor, after all) and I like to go for a run most days (I am almost a Chi Running instructor, after all), in addition to the quality time I spend with the Les Mills gang. Today I thought about going out for at least a walk after I woke up from my long, mid-day nap, but I was still feeling pretty lousy, and being that it is winter outside it is a bit chilly for an evening walk (assuming I was feeling better by this evening), so I decided to forego that part of my workout today. I am not stressed out about this. Missing one day will not kill me or cause me to lose any significant amount of fitness, and it is important that I allow my body to heal. So no running (or walking) today.

What about yoga? Besides the yoga I did while lying in bed trying to find a comfortable position without aggravating the nausea, I may do a few light, low intensity, easy poses after my Les Mills walk-through, but nothing too intense. Like I said, perfection is not the goal; teaching your body that you are serious about exercise is.

Third, if you had to be driven to the urgent care to get an IV full of healthful fluids to help you mend, chances are you are too sick to exercise today. Even if you have to break a 4-week long--or 40-year long--exercise streak, listen to your body. Be wise. Don't exercise at any intensity if your body is telling you no. And sometimes, it will tell you no.

So here is the take home message: Listen to your body. If you are under the weather but are still feeling up for a little exercise, be sure to lower the intensity appropriately and stop when your body is ready to stop. And when you are feeling like yourself again, get back to it, and be grateful for every day that you are alive and able to move your body. What a blessing that is!