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Archive of ‘Positive Change’ category

How adopting an “Endurance Mindset” can power you to reach your goals

IMG_4782Today I hit another PR, or personal record. At the gym, we had a couple of challenges going to see who could rack up the longest session on the Jacob’s Ladder machine as well as accumulate enough total steps to have climbed to the peak of Mount Everest. Today was the day I decided to wrap up both of those challenges in one fell swoop. The swoop took about three hours and fifteen minutes, however. Not exactly one of those quick errands to cross off your to-do list for the day. It required a bit of planning, some mindset training and perseverance to take it all the way to the finish.

This activity got me thinking about mindsets and favorable perspectives that help us in achieving goals. Most people stare at me in disbelief when they hear the amount of time I’ve been able to stay on the Jacob’s Ladder for. A couple of months ago, I broke the endurance record by 30 minutes at 2 hours even. Since then another challenger beat it by 15 minutes and today I was able to put in a healthy margin at 3 hours and fifteen. Most people cannot do more than 5 or 10 minutes on the machine at one time, so the concept of working it for endurance is absolutely alien.

So back to mindset.

Historically, my athletic activities have been endurance based. I’m familiar and comfortable with performing high intense activity for over an hour. I’ve run two marathons, competed in several multi sport races and some running relays and obstacle courses. Knowing at the outset that you are in it for the long haul keeps you focused on the process and not focused on the finish. Of course, we all think about what it will be like when this thing is over, but when you sign on for an endurance event, you know right away that it’s only a form of self torture to be thinking about your activity being over when you have hours to go. The best thing you can do is entertain yourself while you do it. You’ve got to find your joy in the process.

Is “joyful” the best word…

to choose to describe my mindset during endurance events? Maybe not, but it suggests the need to shift to a positive focus of wanting to be “here and now.” Knowing that there has to be a certain amount of investment and training to reap the rewards is a realistic perspective to keep. There was a month of training and practical preparations to consider, such as sports drinks, audio entertainment, shoe inserts and gloves to help improve the experience.

So what does all this have to do with reaching goals?

It’s all about understanding what it takes to ultimately achieve a goal, which is patience and persistence. Some people may invoke the quality of “grit” for when the going gets tough to help you get past those hurdles (or obstacles if it’s a Spartan race). But understanding that most of our goals are long term achievements, we need to nurture our spirit of endurance and willingness to say “Yes- I’m going the distance. I’m going to finish this. I will make it to the end, even if it get uncomfortable for long periods of time.” There’s no making it go any faster. there’s no shortcuts. It comes down to an understanding and agreeing to doing the work to enjoy the rewards that come with completion.

What are you most memorable finishes?

Do you have any special events (athletic or otherwise) that you are proud of accomplishing that took a long time to see through? Was it worth the effort?

The Daily Practice: Your Secret Weapon to Achieving Bucket List Goals

What do 30 Day Challenges, Getting to Carnegie Hall and a Successful Weight Loss Program Have in Common?

The answer? “Practice, practice, practice!”

There is a saying that a person becomes a master of their craft after they’ve put in 10,000 hours of work.  I think that’s about 5 or 10 years of time invested. It’s no joke. You can’t fake your way to the finish and suddenly become an expert. There are no short cuts to achieve real, lasting results. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon in my personal life and through the experiences of my clients.

IMG_4773There is beauty and magic that happen when you practice a behavior every day. It becomes a routine, then habit. Eventually, it becomes part of you and your identity. It’s the daily “doing of the work” that transforms you. I’ve seen sedentary people transform into runners, words on a computer screen transform into a published book, scraps of clay transformed into bronze jewelry. In fact, if I hadn’t “practiced” my hobby enough, I wouldn’t have ever attempted to open an online Etsy shop, participate in a craft show, publish a book on my hobby or create an additional income stream from doing an activity that I love. So here I am in my glory, doing the daily practice that helped me take an idea in my mind become a real, live pursuit of happiness.

I firmly believe that it’s my daily practice of consuming whole, nourishing foods that has kept me solidly healthy and illness free for the past 3 years. You can ready about that story here.

Or what about this one? I used to consider myself a “runner.” Meaning that I would run several times a week and occasionally participate in racing events like 5Ks, 10Ks and even longer. One day my friend suggested that I should try running a marathon. I flipped out a little:

 “I can’t even conceive of running a marathon! I’ve barely finished a half marathon and have absolutely nothing left. I could never do twice that distance!”

But look below. In the first picture, there I am at the finish line of my first marathon. How did I make it? The impossible became possible by tackling it one day at a time. It took four months to be ready (even with my running experience) and it wasn’t pretty, I still had to walk a lot during the event, but I crossed the finish line! I got my medal!athlete collage

 

I vowed to train again for a second marathon and finish it without walking, two years later.

The middle picture is me after finishing  a “century” bike ride, a distance of 100 miles. Again, the only reason I finished with a smile on my face is because I’d spent the previous 3-4 years cycling and logging miles on my bike on a regular basis. You can’t pull off 100 miles of cycling without doing the base work.

The picture on the left is me on the day of my first triathlon. I’d not thought of myself as a triathlete, mostly because I don’t enjoy swimming and am not all that great at it. But this particular race combined running, biking and kayaking. So I gave it a try! I had put in years of work with running and cycling and strength training. It was a great experience, a check off the bucket list, but didn’t leave me with a burning desire to be a triathlete. After five minutes of paddling, the burning in my arms was all I could focus on. The finish line couldn’t come soon enough!

Looking back on all that rather athletic period in my life, I realize that the only way I completed these “bucket list” accomplishments is that I did the work for them every day. I had a training plan for each particular event that I followed closely. The marathon training plan lasted four months, but I stuck it out. I did the work and I was able to finish these once seemingly impossible feats.

The same idea applies to long term goals of weight loss or following a healthy lifestyle.

The saying that it takes 21 days to make a habit is encouraging, but in reality, lasting change requires a much longer commitment. Daily repetition practicing a new behavior or an unfamiliar activity can take 3 to 6 months until it feels like normal.

Think about the popular “30 Day Challenges.” Compare someone who is performing a plank daily for 30 days in a row to someone who’s goal is to do more planks for the next month. At the end of the month, who do you think will have been more successful in improving their planking but also maintaining a regular habit of planking? The person in a 30 day challenge follows a modest plan (typically challenges start fairly easy then gradually increase in intensity over the four weeks) but is able to do a little bit EVERY day. The person who is not in a challenge to do something daily has a goal to plank 3 times a week for 5 minutes. Who will receive the more transformative experience? I argue that it’s the person who is getting daily reinforcement to practice their goal. At the end of the month one person will have 30 practice sessions at performing a plank while the other will have only had 12.

The Daily Practice is more powerful for creating new habits because it creates stronger connections in the brain from more frequent repetition compared to goals that are achieved a few days per week.

So what do you think? Is there an achievement, goal or other aspiration lingering out there in the future for you? What “daily work” are you needing to focus on to make this become a reality? Has a 30 Day Challenge helped you pick up a new habit? Do you think daily actions are more powerful than those done a few days per week? Leave a comment below and tell us!

 

 

 

 

My secrets to never getting sick

DeathtoStock_Clementine10I’m sure it seems like quite a bold claim to say that I haven’t ever been sick. That’s not exactly what I’m saying. I have been sick in my life, but not very often. As an adult, I would typically come down with a head cold about once a year, either in the dead of winter or early spring. I’ve met several people who could say the same thing. They don’t get sick often, but usually suffer from one malady that sets them back at least once or twice a year. I was rather proud of this accomplishment. Even when I got sick, it would only last for a few days, nothing dire like the flu or bronchitis.

The Mysterious Trend of Perfect Health?

But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Something has changed. I’ve started a new streak of good health. I haven’t been sick at all in three years. No Kleenex, no antibiotics, no cold medicine or sick visits to the doctor. I can hardly believe it myself! I had to double check the calendar to be sure it has actually been three years! So what has changed?

Previously when I was rarely getting sick, I had some really good habits. I would exercise regularly, eat plenty of nutritious foods without a lot of junk, and try to keep good sleep habits. The times I would end up coming down with something it would be after I hadn’t had adequate rest, or had been on a sugar binge, like the type of indulging that happens during the holidays. I may have been having some insomina and then would have to get up early and get ready for work. It was usually a combination of factors, but surprisingly I’ve stayed well while my husband had the flu and other colds.

Not Living in a Bubble

Maybe you’re thinking that I don’t get exposed to many germs. I used to work in an outpatient clinic at the hospital for four years and would get exposed to a variety of nasty germs in that environment. Then afterwards, I worked in onsite health clinics in corporate America, where employees would frequently come by to share their illnesses with our staff. Then, I’m a regular member of my gym, attending group fitness and using the equipment that everyone else is touching, so I know I was getting my fair share of exposure. Also my husband works at the hospital and surely comes home after being exposed to some nasty bugs there. The one thing I can say I don’t have is very young children in daycare, so there’s that. But I seem to be getting my fair share of exposure from other areas.

Had Certain Advantages in my Youth

So I’ve always had a healthy and robust immune system. I supposed I was blessed with a few factors in my favor. I had an excellent start to life that allowed me to develop a solid microbiome (gut flora). From a natural birth and breast feeding as an infant, I then played in the dirt as a kid, had dogs and cats and never had allergies.  As an adult I’ve maintained a healthy diet and exercise routine and don’t slack on sleep as a regular habit. But despite all of these contributing factors, I was still searching for the explainable difference between getting sick one year and not getting sick for three years? Could it be possible to make it 5 years or 10 without a cold?

The Defining Factors

Sleep

Over the past 3 years, I had made the decision to start my own business and leave a job that had lots of time and travel demands. I was able to set my own schedule. I had some commitments that I had to keep, but for the most part, I could decide when I wanted to see clients and I eventually got around to setting up late morning appointment as a habit. This let me sleep in if I needed it as well as get my morning exercise in most days of the week.

Stress

Having to work less hours along with commuting and traveling less and not getting frustrated working for someone else dramatically decreased the stress in my life. I used to have a bad habit of chewing insane amounts of sugar free gum at work (my version of smoking, I suppose) but this habit disappeared once I left my job. Being able to wake up naturally without an alarm starts my day without a jolt of the stress hormone cortisol and my body feels more relaxed and naturally energized. Sure self employment comes with its own set of stressors, but it’s much different than the day to day stress of commuting to work and balancing home life after working all week.

Food Quality

Having more time to spend at home permitted me to be able to prepare balanced meals as well. I’ve always managed to cook even when I was working full time, but occasionally I would grab some processed snacks when I was at work, enjoy the treats coworkers would bring in, settle for the semi-healthy meals when I was traveling out of town, more frequently grab some take out to feed the family like Indian or Vietnamese (which could have been worse). Most of the time, and I mean 90 percent of the time, most of the meals are made and eaten at home with wholesome, natural ingredients.

Happiness

Ultimately, I think the defining factor in the past 3 years comes down to a variable of mind-body connection. After the last time I was sick, it was only a few months later when I decided to make a change in the way I was living my life. I thought it was going to be a gradual shift, but it ended up taking on a life of its own. I set off to start a business and 6 months later I had opened my own practice and left my job 3 months after that. Just to be clear, I don’t think you have to quit your job to be as healthy as possible. For me, it was a way that I could get a few more hours of sleep and less daily stress, but the effect it had on my overall happiness was measurable in booming immunity. I felt so free and independent, to have control over my career, my work and how I spent my time. I felt so inspired, challenged, enterprising, and successful. It made me happy. And the research is strong in this area, that happiness is strongly linked to good health. I may be a statistic of this, but it’s one area of science where I’m proud to provide a contribution.

What’s your longest streak?

Have you experienced anything similar in your health or immunity? What’s the longest you’ve gone without getting sick?

Why New Year’s Goals and Resolutions for Weight Loss Backfire & What to Do Instead

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It’s tempting to start off the near year by mustering up all of your willpower and setting your sights high on the goals you want to achieve. Have you been known to write up an ambitious “to-do” list at the beginning of the year? It might be a list of the things you won’t do again (resolutions) or a tidy list of achievements you hope to attain? In either case, goals and resolutions have the potential to backfire, which can feel quite defeating.

How so? According to Edward Desi in the book “Why We Do What We Do” people are more motivated by autonomy and choice than they are by external motivators like New Year’s resolutions. Even though you may have chosen the goal to lose weight, it’s actually setting you up to follow specific behaviors (like dieting, exercising regularly, avoiding splurges and treats) in order to achieve the weight loss goal. Every time you think I “have to” do this or that because of my goal, you are taking away your own autonomy. You aren’t the boss anymore, but your weight loss goal is. And every time you fail to reach a goal or the steps you believe are required to reach the goal, you feel like a failure yourself.

Are there more effective ways to lose weight than setting a goal? To answer that, you need to look at the WHY behind your desire to lose weight. The weird thing about excess weight is that it can be disguising the real issue. If you’ve ever thought “my life will be so much better/happier/exciting/successful when I finally reach my goal weight” you are experiencing exactly what I’m talking about. Instead of tackling weight, it’s actually more effective to work in reverse and tackle what’s behind the desire to lose weight first. Then, you will find that the weight starts to come off without trying so hard. This is exactly what happened to Sheila Viers, read about here weight loss story here.

Let’s look at 3 alternatives to setting a weight loss and see how much more enjoyable these approaches are.

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The Most Important Ingredient for a Long, Healthy Life

IMG_4376We’re obsessed in our society with the newest superfood. I personally love keeping up with the newest trends. But which one is the best? Is it coconut oil? Acai berry or Maca root that will save us and preserve our health until the ripe old age of 100? You know when super food ingredients start showing up in granola bars, smoothies and multivitamins that a serious trend is dominating our health consciousness. I wonder, are superfoods really that essential to long-lived health?

I might be playing devil’s advocate a bit here, but what if food isn’t the most important factor in living a long healthy life? Are we spending too much time fretting and over-analyzing the perfect ratio of calories and carbs in our diet only to miss out on life’s other treasures? Do we care more about getting in our essential vitamins and nutrients from a power smoothie than we do about sitting down at the table to eat a meal with all of our senses? Could we be depriving our health even if the nutrition is on-track?

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Instantly Boost Your Motivation with a New Pair of Shoes

shoesHow many times has it happened that you’ve made the decision to go to the gym for your usual morning workout and you go to put on your typical exercise outfit when you suddenly feel completely unmotivated to take another step towards the door. Probably more than you’re willing to admit, am I right? You’ve become bored by your routine, your exercise and maybe even your outfit.

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Do Your Daily Habits Prevent Disease or Worsen it?

radish bunchMuch can be said about our habits. We have some that are good for our well-being, like brushing our teeth and some that aren’t so good, like the nightly bowl of ice cream. But have you ever had the chance to take an inventory of just how much your daily habits contribute to the development of disease? There are many factors that contribute to disease, including genetics and lifestyle. But there is one key factor that is the root cause of our most devastating illness: Inflammation. Heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and even cancer have shown to be caused from a cascade of inflammatory processes in the body.  We hear from the medical community about treatment to reduce inflammation (primarily medications) but don’t receive much guidance on how to prevent inflammation from starting.

Ask yourself this:

Do I have regular habits that are contributing to more inflammation in my body?

AND

Do I maintain habits that help to reduce inflammation in my body?

What are the key factors that affect inflammation?

For most of us, the majority of our control over inflammation and disease comes from the foods we eat. We can choose foods that actively reduce or promote inflammation in the body. We know many of the foods we should be eating more of (fruits, vegetables, fish, super-foods). We also know the foods we should be avoiding (fried food, fast food, processed foods). But what we are less aware of is how often we consume these foods in relation to each other. We tend to remember the good habits more than the bad ones, so we lose track over time if we are doing as much as we need to be in order to maximize our health.  Sure you get bonus points for drinking plenty of water today, but were you also avoiding the Chinese take out?

Food is Not the Only Factor

We can get overly focused on the diet when thinking about healthy living, but we need to consider other major players as well. Sleep, stress and exercise are just as important to keep well managed to keep inflammation at bay.

Many research studies have demonstrated an increase in stress hormones after a period of sleep deprivation. When our stress hormones increase, it also happens to coincide with our appetite hormones increasing. Like a huge snowball effect, when we become out of balance in one area, it can easily bleed into another.

What about stress though? Do we expect to lead stress free lives? It’s not about having an absence of stress in our lives, but about cultivating the appropriate reaction to stress that helps us cope without contributing to the inflammation response. It’s been shown that patients who undergo a stress reduction practice while trying to heal from illness are more successful at beating their illness. Check in with yourself on this one. When was the last time you got sick? What is during a very stressful period in life? Most of the time, it happens right after the stressful period has ended. The stress and adrenaline hormones subside and our body crashes.

So how can we take advantage of our habits to make sure we are not harming ourselves more than we are healing ourselves? The first step would be to take an inventory of how frequently you engage in inflammation reducing behaviors relative to behaviors that promote inflammation. Then step 2 would be to make lifestyle changes to shift towards adopting more behaviors that reduce inflammation.

Take this Quiz!

I’ve developed an Inflammation Inventory Index to measure both diet and lifestyle habits to give  you a current index of inflammation.

Tally up your score below (it’s 1 point for every Yes):

[mlw_quizmaster quiz=1]

Questions? Contact me!

Happy Loser: Susan Morgan’s Weight Loss Success Story

Susan-MorganOur featured loser this week is Susan Morgan. She talks about her unique experience and how she used Emotional Freedom Technique to clear her from her pattern of repeating weight gain.

Have you ever tried to lose weight before?

I have been on every diet under the sun. I was permanently on a diet for 40 years.  If I lost weight, I would regain it with more.
Why do you think you gained the weight initially? What were some of the factors you feel contributed to it?
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Lori Arellano’s passion for endurance sports sustained her weight loss success

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Have you ever tried to lose weight before? What’s been your experience with previous attempts at losing weight?

Yes. Positive and negative. I’ve succeeded with Shape Magazine’s Online Trainer which allowed you to log workouts and food eaten for the day. Don’t think it’s around anymore. Succeeded whenever I was consistent in sports: lacrosse, field hockey, USTA tennis, triathlon and marathon training. Actually participation in sports was way more effective than real “diet.” What didn’t work was diet pills, being around negative people who nagged me about my weight (which is why sports groups are so valuable – positive people- focus is on bettering your game with team then your weight but then weight loss becomes the biproduct of playing sports anyway you know what I mean?) Going to the gym just for the sake of going to the gym or trying to “flatten abs, make my thighs less flabby, etc” Anytime I tried to lose weight for cosmetic reasons I almost always failed. Or, it would be a short term fix.

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How I finally found Happiness

938969_10151611162375435_517067036_oIt came to me one day. Not in a big flash, but just a subtle realization that “this is it.” This was what I had been waiting for. I finally made my way and this is what it looked like. It just was a little hard to recognize…

So I’ll back up a bit. Like most Americans I’ve been in pursuit of happiness for most of my adult life. In fact, I may have the largest collection of books on happiness of anyone that I know. The interest in the subject started in late adolescence, when I had been researching mood and illness. It just fascinated me that there was an entire science related to the study of positivity. And I was fascinated by the fact that being able to experience happiness is something that escaped many people. Luckily, I didn’t have this struggle. In fact, I was crowned with the title of “Happiest” of the 8th grade class, an achievement I never tried to claim but was bestowed upon me. Despite my optimistic nature and sunny disposition, I continued to pursue my path to happiness. (more…)

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