Bucket List

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The idea of a bucket list became popular after the release of a 2007 movie, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, where two terminally ill men go on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.”

A bucket list often refers to the goals one wants to fulfill, dreams one wishes to achieve, and life experiences one desires to have before dying. You may think that the idea of a bucket list is dark and depressing because it references death, but life is only precious because it ends. A reference to our mortality is a reminder of our vitality, a reminder to live life to the fullest and stay aware of how we are prioritizing our precious time.

What does it mean to you to be alive

Is it comfort? discomfort? energy? pain? pleasure? struggle? adventure? love? need? potential? humor?

A couple quotes to ponder on the topic:

“Live for 5am sunrises and 5pm sunsets where you’ll see colors in the sky that are stunning. Live for the times with music in your ears and the wind in your hair. Live for days when you’re surrounded by your favorite people who make you realize that the world is not a cold, harsh place. Live for the little things because they will make you realize that this is what life is about, this is what it means to be alive.” –Unknown internet source

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“I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive. ” –Joan Rivers

“You’re alive. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change.” –Neil Gaiman

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If you had one day, one week, one month, or one year left to live, what would be on your bucket list?

A little over a week ago, I had the opportunity to cross something off of my bucket list. I bungee jumped 100 feet off a bridge, called the bridge to nowhere, and I did it twice, once facing forward and once facing backward. It was perfectly safe, but terrifying all the same. I think, aside from voluntarily jumping off that platform, the hardest part of the experience was the 5-mile hike there. Five miles of thinking about what I was about to do, and that was preceded by checking in with our guides in the parking lot where we were asked to rate how scared we were to jump on a scale of 1-10. I told them “3” but to ask me again in 2 hours.

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An internet search revealed the top 5 bucket list items are:

  1. See the Northern Lights
  2. Skydive
  3. Get a tattoo
  4. Swim with dolphins
  5. Go on a cruise

Why should you have a bucket list?

When the daily routines of life set in, it can be easy to let the days pass without taking much thought for your goals and desires. We get stuck in our routines, in what is familiar, and life passes us by rather quickly. A bucket list helps to guide us out of our comfort zones to new experiences, new goals, and new memories so that we make the most of our time. It also helps us to re-energize. After bungee jumping last weekend, my perspective on life felt refreshed, my focus was sharper, and I felt more empowered to work toward my dreams. The last purpose of a bucket list is it helps us find our “why?” and define what is important in our lives. Why do we work so hard, if not to enjoy the fruits of our efforts at times.

My Bucket List (for now):

Life

  1. Bachelor’s Degree (April 2014)
  2. Master’s Degree
  3. Doctorate/PhD
  4. Get Engaged (November 2014)
  5. Get Married
  6. Have a kid
  7. Bench Press 200#
  8. Deadlift 300#
  9. Squat 225#
  10. Officiate a wedding
  11. Get a tattoo
  12. Compete in powerlifting
  13. Run a spartan race
  14. Run a marathon June 2010
  15. Run a triathlon  2014
Career
  1. Give a speech to an audience of 100
  2. Give a speech to an audience of 500
  3. Give a TEDX Talk
  4. Get an article I’ve written published
  5. Build IG to 1000 subscribers
  6. Build IG to 5000 Subscribers
  7. Work full time in my own business
  8. Meet Bret Contreras
  9. Meet Dan John
  10. Meet Eric Cressey
  11. Meet Mike Boyle
  12. Meet Lewis Howes
  13. Make $4000 per month
  14. Attend SFMA course
  15. Train a professional athlete
  16. Train a celebrity
  17. Write a book
  18. Get interviewed for an article or podcast
  19. Have a professional photoshoot  2017
Travel/Adventure
  1. Climb Mt Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
  2. Scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
  3. Run with the bulls (Pamplona, Spain)
  4. Visit Pompeii, Italy 2011
  5. Rock Climb in Yosemite Near Tanaya Lake in 2016
  6. Hike the JMT
  7. See the Northern Lights
  8. Hang glide
  9. Experience the Rio Carnival Parade
  10. Climb Machu Picchu
  11. Climb Mt. Whitney
  12. Hike through Spain
  13. Skydive
  14. Dog Sled
  15. Ride a Zipline
  16. Hike the Zion Narrows
  17. Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Local
  1. Professional Basketball Game
  2. Professional Football Game
  3. Professional Baseball Game
  4. Backstage concert passes
  5. Attend a red carpet event
  6. Hike Holy Jim Trail to Santiago Peak (15 miles, moderate, dogs allowed)
  7. Red Rock Canyon hike at Whiting Ranch (4.2 miles total, no dogs)
  8. Sutton Peak hike (9.2 miles, dogs allowed)
  9. Modjeska Peak hike (15 miles, hard, dogs allowed)
  10. Hike/Backpack around Catalina
  11. Hike Blackstar canyon (7.1, moderate, dogs allowed)

What does it mean to you to be alive? If you had one day, one week, one month, or one year left to live, what would be on your bucket list?

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Reflections

Last week, two significant events occurred in my life:

  1. I celebrated my 25th birthday  7279382038_7bacf1ef67
  2. My uncle tragically and unexpectedly passed awaysadface

Needless to say, my mind is full of overwhelming thoughts and emotions as I reflect on a quarter of a century of my life and everything my uncle meant to me and my family.

I want to write this post on my reflections- the thoughts and revelations I’ve had in light of these two events. I can’t promise this will be the most uplifting post I’ve ever written. Additionally, a lot of these points are part of my own “processing” of events, so I apologize if I ramble a bit.

Reflections on Uncle Mike

  • He was my dad’s oldest brother (only 54 years old, though), best man at my parents’ wedding, father to two of my cousins, and eldest son of my grandparents…among his other roles.
  • No doubt about it: he was the family jokester. I can’t picture him without a big smile on his face. One of the funniest stories my family tells is how Uncle Mike showed up the day of my parents’ wedding, as the best man, with hair and eyebrows freshly dyed jet-black. I can’t imagine my mom laughed about it then, but now we definitely do.
  • He was everyone’s cheerleader. He was such a big supporter of whatever I was doing in my life at the time. When I started weight lifting and bodybuilding, he was one of the only people in my family not saying things like “don’t get big,” “be careful of too much muscle.” He shared my excitement over lifting PRs, my progress in getting stronger and more muscular and we spent many a family party shooting the shit about fitness. He made me feel validated with my passions.
  • He adventured…Cairo, the Himalayas, Nepal, Europe, Yosemite. He was a tourist in the cities and backpacked in the mountains. I believe it was after he finished law school that he (and my Aunt) backpacked around most of the world. He had a passion for nature and culture. Sometimes his priorities may have been questionable…like the time in college when he spent money that was supposed to pay for housing on climbing shoes (then had to live out of his car)…but everything worked out for the better in the end.
  • He was passionate…about his kids, rugby, corvette racing, his wife, nature, adventuring, family, music, and so many other, sometimes random, things.

Reflections on Grief

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  • It sucks the big one.
  • I don’t like the word grief.  It’s weird.  One’s response to loss. I don’t feel like it’s an accurate depiction of what I or any of my family feel. Grief. Sadness, confusion, anger, numbness, emptiness, shock, devastation, sober, pensive, pained, preoccupied, distracted, heartbroken
  • Everyone says how important it is to let yourself feel, to “process” emotions associated with such occurrences, but, to be honest, I don’t really know how to even begin to do that. What do you do? Sit on the couch all day? Make yourself cry looking through old photos? Part of me doesn’t feel like I deserve to be as affected as others who were closer to hom. I was just one of his nieces, not someone who talked to him often, grew up with him, or saw him daily. A lot of my sadness around my uncle’s passing comes from empathizing with my family members’ pains…my dad’s, my grandma’s, my cousins’. Seeing my dad’s reaction to losing his brother, my grandparents’ pain from losing their son, my cousins’ heartbreak from losing their dad. These are the realities that affect me the most. I’m sad for their sadness.
  • Relationships and time are the most important aspects of life. Who matters to you? Do they know what they mean to you? How does your time reflect who is important to you? I know I definitely need to devote more time to cultivating relationships with my parents, my sisters, my friends, other uncles, and my grandparents. Life is too short to put these things off just because I’m busy with work or too caught up in my own world.

Reflections on being 25 years old

  • I bought myself 6 bottles of red wine for my birthday.
  • I feel old even though everyone I know who is older than me says I shouldn’t feel that way.
  • I feel so blessed to have such a close family and a fantastic boyfriend. My family has grown so close as my sisters and I have become adults. Our family dinners are truly the best and are frequently spent laughing, telling stories, playing games, and just having a great time together. My boyfriend and I support and compliment each other well. We both love working hard and playing harder. We both have our own businesses but make time to go climbing, back packing, shooting, surfing, sailing, hiking, to the movies, and to do all other kinds of things together. I’m so lucky and so blessed to be with him.
  • I’m frustrated to not be in or committed to a graduate program. I still feel like I’m in this “transition” phase in which I don’t know where I’ll be or what kind of job I’ll be doing 5 months from now. I am taking steps to remedy this, but it’s just a slow-as-molasses process. I’m not done learning. I’m eager to begin the “career” part of life, but there is so much more I want to learn.
  • I have a few major accomplishments so far in my life: 1) I was a member of the Santa Clara Vanguard for 2 years 2) I ran a full marathon 3) I worked as an EMT with UCLA EMS 4) I graduated from UCLA with my B.S. in Physiology.
  • On my own I’ve learned a lot about:
    • Exercise
    • Nutrition
    • Coaching
    • Motivational/Habit-Forming Psychology
    • Marketing
    • Sales
    • Running my own business
    • Physical Therapy
  • In the last year, especially, I’ve realized that a healthy mind is just as important (if not more so) as a healthy body. Achieving these is not something that happens over night nor is it something that one can just give up on. Both are essential for a high quality of life. I will never stop trying to be healthier today than I was yesterday.
  • I don’t know everything. Actually, I don’t know much at all. What am I doing?
  • I’m not sure what I want to do for my career. Some career paths have well defined names: physical therapist, doctor, writer. More and more I find that the people I look up to and aspire to be like have less defined titles. Eric Cressey runs two athletic training facilities, writes articles for multiple websites, publishes books and training programs, and speaks in conferences and seminars. Ben Coomber owns 4 businesses, runs a nutritionist certification program, has an amazing weekly podcast, speaks at tons of venues on nutrition, creates supplements, and plays rugby. James Clear publishes articles, writes books, speaks at events, travels the world, and lifts heavy weights. Bret Contreras writes a lot of great articles, does a lot of impactful research, is finishing his Phd, and runs a successful coaching business. So I guess I want to be an entrepreneur? A fitness professional? Create a career where I can do all the things I love that help people get/stay healthy and active? Impact as many lives as I can. Unfortunately, there isn’t a how-to book available on that kind of career. It’s a lot of touch-and-go, trial and error, work your butt off, try and try again, and take things a day at a time.
  •  I’m grateful that my parents allow me to live at home with a low rent…..but it’s really hard to grow as an adult under one’s parents’ roof. It’s really hard. I’m an organization nut, and the fact that I don’t have a functional, organized office space to work in, with white boards, etc drives me cray cray. Sharing a fridge and pantry with the fam is a challenge, as is spending most nights at my boyfriend’s place but having to come back home in the morning for clothes/food/etc. I do my best to create and environment where I can be successful, but I also crave my independence on the daily.

What are your thoughts? Please share below in a comment.

Bridging the Gap Between Artist and Architect

Have you ever heard the artist vs. architect analogy?

An architect spends years in studying the math, physics, and engineering concepts that lie behind designing a magnificent structure. He draws out the design taking all of this into account. This design is used to create an amazing building that stands up against time.

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An artist sees the building and skillfully recreates it.

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What’s the difference?

The architect understands why the structure is designed a certain way: Why certain materials are used, why specific angles are important, etc. There is a certain amount of artistry to an architect’s work, but it comes within the parameters of structural engineering concepts.

The artist recognizes patterns, angles, and shapes and recreates them but doesn’t understand the “why’s.”

In the world of fitness and coaching, I’m on a journey, bridging the gap between an artist and an architect. Most days I feel like an artist. I observe what reputable coaches do and copy it. I borrow great ideas from multiple coaches and mesh them together. I collect their designs, try them out for myself, and bit by bit figure out the “why’s” behind.

One day I want to be an architect in the fitness and coaching world. I want to understand the why enough to design brilliant training programs for people with different needs and goals.

The next steps for me along this journey include 1) working and learning from other coaches 2) continuing to educate myself through reading on a daily basis 3) practicing my coaching and design skills with clients and 4) pursing either my doctorate in physical therapy or masters in kinesiology.

This is my passion, and everyday I’m a little closer to being an architect.

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How Food Is More Than Fuel

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Food is a complex issue.

There’s a reason that our society struggles with weight management, and it’s not necessarily because we don’t know how to eat well. I’m sure many of us understand we’d be a whole lot healthier if we ate more whole foods and less sugar, avoided fried or processed things, drank less alcohol, and limited our soda consumption. So, why don’t we?

I’m the biggest culprit of it all– I really know a lot about how to eat well. So why isn’t my diet better?

The way we eat is not just a physical, biological process–it’s highly psychological! When we eat we are not only fulfilling our bodys’ fuel needs, but often, other emotional or psychological needs as well.
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In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week this week, I’m writing this article to share some insight into the complexity of eating behavior.

Adaptive Roles of One’s Diet

  1. Identity
    A person uses the way they eat to define who they are. “The skinny one,” “the fat one,” and “the health nut” are all identities that people take on having to do with the way they eat. Personally, I’ve been “the health-conscious” person to the point where I felt embarrassed to eat a food that was unhealthy or in a large portion in front of others. Coworkers would remark,”Look at Kait’s lunch, it’s always so healthy.” I’d only eat candy or burritos or fried food when I was alone, because heaven forbid someone see me eat something unhealthy and I lose that identity of being the health-conscious person.
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  2.  Distraction or Numbing Emotions
    Eating becomes a way of distracting from life’s problems when one is unable to cope. Instead of being unhappy, stressed, or burdened from the life problem, the central focus becomes one’s diet and the goal of losing weight. Sometimes people eat to “stuff” down uncomfortable feelings. In concentrating on eating, one can space out instead of focusing on the problem. I have some crazy mental association between relaxing and binge eating. If I’m stressed I need to relax so I binge…which is actually counterproductive considering that binging causes more discomfort and anxiety (i.e. more stress).
  3. Control
    When life feels out of control, eating becomes the one area that no one else can control. Sometimes our bodies become the battleground for self-assertion.
  4. Social Habits
    If you are female and you break up with your boyfriend, what do you do? Grab that pint of ice cream!
    Unknown-1Rough, stressful day at work? You need a drink….or 5.
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What characterizes an eating disorder?

There are a variety of eating disorders that exist, some more well-known than others: anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, orthorexia, purging, night eating syndrome, body dysmorphia. Do you feel immense guilt after drinking an In-N-Out milkshake? Would you still love yourself 5 pounds heavier? Do you opt out of a family dinner just because the meal isn’t the healthiest? Do you feel like certain foods have control over you or cause you to lose control?

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Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.

Research suggests that up to 50% of the general population demonstrates problematic or disordered relationships with exercise, body, and/or food, but clinical eating disorders only occur in 1-3% of the population. The difference lies in the degree of symptoms one experiences and how much they interfere with one’s life, health, and ability to function day to day. There are some common symptoms of eating disorders like food restriction, binge eating, purging, excessive exercise, and use of diet pills and/or laxatives. Symptoms that are not as well known include basing one’s self worth or self esteem highly or exclusively on weight or body shape, or having an obsession with or high amount of anxiety surrounding certain foods, calories, or food groups.

Keep your food/body relationships healthy:

  • Avoid classifying foods as good or bad. Food doesn’t have morality; you are not good because you eat broccoli or bad because you eat pizza. There is a time and a place for all foods.
  • Limit social media time. It’s easy to get caught up in comparisons, but when most people share pictures on social media, they are sharing pictures that reflect the best versions of themselves. These posts don’t tell the whole story–the struggles, the vulnerabilities–these pictures are the highlight reel. Check out Sohee Lee’s short article called Don’t Be Fooled By Photos.
  • Be as objective as possible about physical assessments. It’s been said that one should view his or her scale weight with as much emotion as he or she would count the number of white cars in a parking lot.
  • Don’t make a habit of “punishment” workouts or diets. “I ate X so now I need to do an extra workout this week.” “I binged last night, so I’m not eating any carbs today.” Be consistent with your diet and workouts and the results will come.
  • Make a list of all your amazing qualities that are not related to your body or diet. (I’m really organized, I listen well to others, My dog loves me)
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  • Be aware and respond to your own red flags. (Isolating yourself from others, becoming secretive about food, anxiety, depression, giving a lot of emotional weight to things like your scale weight, binge eating episodes)
  • Set realistic goals and focus on your system to make progress day to day. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds in the next 4 months, focus on your plan of going to the gym 4 days a week and eating enough protein each day. I like focusing on the small steps because it allows more opportunities for success every day instead of just one big moment for ultimate success or failure 4 months from now. Read my article on goal setting to learn more.
  • Forgive yourself!
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Further Reading

Body Dysmorphia in the Fitness Industry

Why Can’t I Stick to My Diet? The What-The-Hell Effect Explained

How to Break Free From Binge Eating

The Candy’s Not Going Anywhere

Ban No Foods

How to Stop at One Cookie

When Good Fitness Habits Go Bad

What are your thoughts? Let me know!

Confessions from a Recovering Perfectionist

My name is a Kait, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

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It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life. All or nothing. Black and white. Best or worst. No cookies or all the cookies. Kale or Cheetos. Clean eating or dirty eating. 100%. A or F. Good food and bad food. I was once insulted when someone accused me of not having a Type-A personality.

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To be honest, though, trying to be perfect has caused me a lot of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, embarrassment, shame, and guilt, and it has lead to an eating disorder and bouts of low self-esteem. When one aims for perfection, failure is unavoidable, because perfect doesn’t exist.

I am not perfect.
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I am. Not perfect.

I. Am. Not. Perfect…and I never will be!

But, TODAY I am better than I was yesterday.

Here are some areas of my life I’ve learned to appreciate not being perfect.

  1. My diet is not perfectly healthy

    I’ve fallen in love with the flexible dieting or the “if it fits your macros” mentality where no foods are off limits. I can occasionally incorporate imperfect foods into my diet without feeling guilty or like I’ve completely sabotaged all my fitness goals. I actually eat more whole foods because I choose to, not because I have to.

    My diet is still not perfect in these regards. I struggle to track my food, eat enough protein, and not succumb to emotional eating in times of stress, but I’m getting better at it. My relationship with food is much better now than it was at this time last year.
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  2. I don’t know everything there is to know about fitness.

    There is so much to know and to learn as a personal trainer, a fitness enthusiast, and a coach. No one knows it all. I certainly don’t know it all. Sometimes, the amount I don’t know overwhelms me, but for the most part, what I don’t know drives me to keep learning. It creates my passion. I’m so glad I don’t know everything because I actually love learning about training, nutrition, motivation, etc.. Half the reason I started this website is so I have a reason to learn and study more aspects of the fitness field in depth while I write articles.

  3. I’m not a perfect coach or personal trainer.

    Blasphemy, I know. I have so much room for improvement, but there are 2 things I’m certain of: 1) With my education and experience, I know a lot more than your average gym go-er (and many personal trainers) and 2) every day I do my best move my clients safely toward their goals. I am content knowing that every day I am working to be a better coach and if 3 years from now I coach the same way I coach today, I’ll know I’ve done something wrong.
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  4. I’m not a perfect writer.

    I don’t quite understand how to use effect and affect or semicolons vs. colons. I’m not bursting at the seams with words of wisdom each time I sit down and write. I’m not sure what “my voice” sounds like or if people even want to read what I’m writing about. I enjoy it, though, and I trust that in time I’ll figure it out. Plus, if i didn’t publish posts until I deemed them perfect, I wouldn’t have a blog…or a life.

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Are you a recovering perfectionist? Where do you embrace imperfections?

Sane, Balanced, Motivated

It’s the 2nd week of February, and this year is flying by. Since there is so much “new” in my life, a new job, schedule, blog, and goals, I’m always juggling and frequently re-evaluating. Today’s post is going to be an update on what’s going on in my life right now and what I’m doing to stay sane, balanced, and motivated.

Physical Therapy School

I’ve spent the last 2 years focused on getting accepted into a Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program.

The first year out of college, I retook (and Aced with the highest grades in my classes) two biology classes at my local community college, racked up 100+ hours of observation hours in a physical therapy office, and applied to 5 programs/schools that were within an hour’s drive of my house. I was rejected from 3, interviewed at 1 (then rejected), and waitlisted at the last (which never came to fruition).

The second year, I spoke with an admissions counselor from one school I was rejected from the year before, and framed my approach based on his recommendations. I retook a physics class (Aced), aced a 5.25 semester unit Spanish class, acquired over 1500 observation hours in multiple physical therapy settings, and had more recommendation letters. I also applied early to 20 programs this time. Well, after months of waiting for responses, I’m now at a point where I’ve been rejected from 14 schools and waitlisted in 3 programs, and I’m still waiting to hear back from 3.

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Every single rejection is heartbreaking. The nicest rejection email still reads like “you are not good enough.” It hurts. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing.

I just wonder if all these “no’s” are a sign that God has another path intended for me…or if struggling through this is God’s way of building an essential element of my character.

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I do believe He has a plan for me.

I’ve had time to cultivate my passions in fitness and physical therapy over the last years. I have a lot more direction and sense of purpose in my life today than I did a year or two ago. Physical therapy is not my [only] end-all-be-all goal. My passions are in helping others, working with young athletes, teaching everyone healthy and sustainable fitness practices, and keeping people active and uninjured through the entirety of their lives. I see physical therapy as a means of doing this, but it is not the only way. So, regardless of what happens with physical therapy, I know the direction I’m going to keep shooting in.

Following My Bliss

While I wait to see how physical therapy school plays out, still unsure of where I’ll be in the Fall, I’m spending my time developing my personal training business and learning about being the best coach I can be. I call it “following my bliss” aka doing what makes me happy!

 

  • Yesterday, I did my first [paid] photoshoot as a model. It felt great! This is something I plan to incorporate more of. Why not? Anyone need a model?
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  • I have a [awesomely organized] binder for my personal training business. Yes, I’m a organization nut. I have color-coded tabs, self-made logs, a place for ideas, and other resources strategically placed in my binder.
  • I’m cultivating a social media following to increase the exposure of my website/blog.
  • I’m building a network of fitness professionals to collaborate with, including the physical therapists I’ve worked for.
  • Although I work for a gym, I’m not limiting myself just to business in that setting.
  • I’m exploring opportunities for growth, including coaching internships, Masters programs, and seminars/conventions.
  • I’m frequently listening to awesome podcasts in my car such as Ben Coomber Radio (a great UK-based nutritionist) and Physique Science Radio (hosted by Sohee Lee and Layne Norton) and trying to keep up with my monthly-delivered Strength & Conditioning Research Literature Reviews.
  • I began a new training program in the gym. It’s from Eric Cressey (one of the top athletic trainers in the country and one of my idols) called the High Performance Handbook. Yes, I am a personal trainer who has a personal trainer because, I’ll admit it, there is still a lot I don’t know, specifically in regards to training program design, which is really a form of art. I’m two workouts into this program and already I feel FANTASTIC. Not only am I learning a lot about my body and program design, but following a newinteresting  workout program is highly motivating.
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One thing I need to improve on is setting boundaries for myself. In addition to planning time to get things done on my calendar, I really need to plan time off and time for non-fitness, relaxing activities. Doing fitness/career related tasks all day every day is a surefire way for me to burnout. This is where playing with my dog, Bug, and spending time with my family and boyfriend come into play.

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How is your year going? What are you doing to stay sane, balanced, and motivated while pursuing your career, goals, etc?

 

DIY Healthy Diet

 

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Many of us find ourselves with more than ideal amounts of body fat. Listening to a Physique Science Radio podcast the other day, Layne Norton said something that resounded with me; talking about the national obesity problem he stated that, contrary to what one may think, we are actually really good at losing weight. Many obese or overweight people lose a significant amount of weight at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, statistics show that over 90% will gain it back within 3 years. What’s the problem?

Sustainability

Can you see yourself eating this way in 5 years?

The best diet is the one you can stick to [forever].

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If you’ve had success (weight loss) on diet xyz but gained the weight back, that diet didn’t work. It wasn’t sustainable.

This is why I’m a fan of the “moderation” approach, also called flexible dieting or if it fits your macros (IIFYM). No food is off limits and neither is the occasional alcoholic beverage. In my experience, restricting or excluding foods from a diet tends to increase cravings for them and the chances of binging on them at some point in the future.

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Life is too short to exclude delicious foods. Sometimes, I want to enjoy a homemade spaghetti dinner with my family, a glass of wine with a fancy dinner, or a sundae with more whipped cream than ice cream. More so, I definitely do not want to feel guilty.

In this article I’m going to outline the steps I use with myself and clients to change eating habits for the better.

Steps to a Sustainable Diet

Take your time with these tasks. Spend at least one week focusing on each step, and don’t be afraid to hang out on one level for a month, a couple months, or a few years.

Step 1: Track Food Intake

Record food amounts as accurately as you can, using measuring cups or a food scale when available. Tracking food, while tedious, gets you acquainted with the amount of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat) associated with certain foods as well as the average amount of macronutrients and calories you consume on a day to day basis.

Tips:

  • Use a phone app such as MyFitnessPal or MyMacros+
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  • Don’t judge yourself for what or how much you eat. You are an amazing, awesome person–that has nothing to do with what or how much food you eat! Approach this like a scientist: observe your food habits with objectivity and without emotion. There are no “right” or “wrong” foods or amounts.
  • Consider purchasing a food scale that measures food in grams and ounces

Step 2: Track Food Intake + Meet Protein Goal

Continue tracking food. In addition to this, gradually increase your protein on a daily basis up to your target amount.

Protein is one of three macronutrients in food (carbohydrates and fats are the other two). Protein is what muscles are made of, and consuming protein helps fuel, build, and repair muscle during and after workouts.  Protein increases satiety, and it is also very difficult for the body to store protein as fat.

To calculate target protein, multiply current body weight in pounds by 0.8 to 1.0 (0.8 if not very active, 1.0 if you enjoy protein or workout regularly) and the product is the number of grams of protein you should eat in a day. For example, for a person who weighs 150 pounds, the daily protein goal is 120 grams if he or she does not workout regularly and 150grams if he or she does.

Protein sources (not limited to): chicken, tilapia, tuna, salmon, really any fish, eggs, egg whites, jerky, turkey, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whey.

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Tips:

  • Center each meal around a protein source
  • Aim to consume 20-40 grams of protein at a time
  • Protein shakes or smoothies are a convenient way to get more protein
  • Make a list of protein sources you like to eat and keep your pantry stocked!

Step 3: Energy Balance and Macronutrients
Track Food +Meet Protein Goal + Meet Calorie Goal

Continue tracking your food and meeting your protein goal. Additionally, hit a daily Calorie goal. Keep reading to learn how to calculate yours.

Eric-Helms-Muscle-Strength-Nutrition-Pyramid

The foundation of the “nutrition pyramid” is energy balance. Energy refers to Calories. The goal is balancing the amount of Calories one expends during the day with the amount of Calories consumed or slightly altering them to gain or lose weight.

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To find a starting point for your daily Calories, multiply your current body weight by 13, 14, or 15, depending on your level of daily activity (low activity or sedentary job=13, high activity or active job=15). If your goal is to lose some weight, multiply by 13.

Example: 150lb X 13 = 1,950 Calories

Protein has 4 Calories (energy units) per gram, so if a 150 pound individual is eating 150 grams of protein, he or she is consuming 600 Calories of energy. Subtracting this amount from the daily Calorie goal: 1,950-600 = 1350 Calories remaining to be “spent” on the other macronutrients, carbohydrates and fats.

Step 4: Micronutrients
1 Whole Food Meal Each Day + 1 Serving of Veggies

In addition to performing the previous 3 steps’ tasks, incorporate one meal comprised of whole food ingredients each day and one serving of veggies. For bonus points, have your serving of veggies with your whole foods meal.

Whole foods: foods that contain only 1 ingredient and haven’t been processed by mankind in any way.

  • Salmon, asparagus, and a baked red potato with a little butter (real butter)
  • Eggs/egg whites, walnuts, green chard, and coffee with coconut oil
  • Salad with canned tuna, sunflower seeds, and vinaigrette

Vegetables: spinach, kale, asparagus, peas, corn, chard, squash, zucchini, broccoli, radishes, and more. Boil, roast, steam, or sauté them and season with salt, pepper, garlic, etc.

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Work up to eating a couple servings of veggies each day (most days) and consuming mostly whole foods with a few “fun” foods here and there.


Consistency, not perfection, in each of these steps will help improve your dietary habits. Keep things simple, don’t over think the minutiae, and enjoy foods you like!

For more reading, check out Sohee Lee’s Website or her How to Count Macros e-book.

What is your sustainable diet like?

Let me know if you give this a shot!