Gratitude- It’s a Wonderful Thing.

One of the many cool aspects of working at a university health and wellness center is that you are constantly surrounded by research driven concepts to improve peoples’ health and wellness. Additionally, your coworkers are always talking about different health topics from the newest law that allows women to receive contraception from a pharmacist at places like Target, to the concept of positive psychology. Given my love for self-improvement literature, it’s no surprise that I find the concept of positive psychology very intriguing. Positive psychology, in the most basic terms, is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.

There are numerous strengths and virtues that contribute to happiness, but one that I am particularly interested in is gratitude. You see, I’ve never had much patience for complaining. I just don’t see the point. Why shed that negative light on something that probably really isn’t even that bad? I get that sometimes it might just feel good to let it out, but reminding yourself to be grateful also feels pretty awesome and will likely snap you out of whatever crappy mood you’re in. Also, there’s always someone worse off than you. Let’s take working late for instance, because I feel like this is very frequently complained about. Sure, it’s not fun, but it’s pretty great that you have a job, that may even be your dream job, and are making a living. You could be forced to work two jobs, get paid less than minimum wage and barely making it by. You could be working countless hours in a job that puts your health at risk. Your situation already sounds better right?

As much as I hate complaining, I admit that I do have my moments when a complaint sneaks into my thoughts. However, I’ve learned to recognize these moments and make an effort to shift my mindset. I promise you, it does wonders. We had a crazy busy weekend recently and it gave me multiple chances to practice gratitude in situations that I could have complained. Here is breakdown of the weekend and my thoughts:

  • We drove to the bay area on Friday after work. I was sitting in a meeting before I left and thought, “Man I really wish we didn’t have to drive for two hours after work today.” I could have let that thought put me in a crappy mood. Instead, I thought “At least it means I get to spend two uninterrupted hours with my husband and we have a reliable, comfortable car to get us there.” It ended up being a very enjoyable drive and I got to spend some great quality time with my in-laws.
  • Originally when I thought about all the activities of the weekend, I got overwhelmed and stressed. There was a lot of coordinating that needed to happen and lots of travel time. Then I realized, wow it’s pretty awesome that we have so many friends and family around us. When we lived in San Diego, we pretty much did whatever we wanted every weekend. I’m not going to lie, it was awesome and at times we miss it. Now there are birthday parties, wedding related events, dinners, etc, but we are so lucky that we now get to be around for all of these events. This was the first year we were able to celebrate our nephew’s birthday and I am so happy and grateful we were able to share that moment with him and the rest of our family.
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Uncle Kevin, Papa and Mitch doing their best to fly the shark kite!
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Cutest tractor driver I’ve ever seen!
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The only time this kid stopped moving besides to shove delicious cake in his mouth.
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Lagunitas for Life
  • After the beach I frantically made my way to San Francisco to meet up with my cousin. Of course the timing was perfect and a Giants game was starting soon after we got there. This would have been a prime time to complain. There was traffic and people everywhere. Instead, I tried to soak it all in and be grateful that I got to stay in such a cool location so close to the stadium.

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    Check out that view!
  • Our evening plans included going to the Chris Stapelton concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley (which was absolutely amazing!!). We had never been to this venue, so we really weren’t sure what to expect. You know what I didn’t expect? A HUGE line of people waiting to get in. This was not ideal. However, it was a great opportunity for all of us ladies that don’t see each other as often as we would like to spend some quality time together (with wine in red solo cups of course).

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  • My travel plans came to an end on Sunday when I took Amtrak from the Bay Area back home. After a loooong weekend, two hours on public transportation wasn’t exactly my idea of fun. However, without public transportation I would not have been able to do all that I did last weekend. I was also so tired that it probably wouldn’t have been super safe for me to drive. Instead, I got to sit back and check out this view for most of my ride. Thank you Amtrak for connecting the Bay Area to Davis.
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I’ll take this view over driving any day.
  • Finally, Sunday dinner. At this point, I was pretty wiped out from an extremely fun weekend. Making dinner sounded like an incredible obstacle. However, once I started doing it I thought, “At least I have food in my fridge to cook, know how to cook and actually enjoy cooking.” When you put it like that, making dinner really isn’t all that bad. My body was also very grateful for the homemade meal after a weekend away form my kitchen.
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Before- Teriyaki pineapple meatballs and veggies.
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After= Teriyaki pineapple meatballs and veggies.

We can’t expect other people or material items to make and keep us happy. We must do it ourselves through our own thoughts and actions. All I ask is that next time you are feeling like complaining about something, try to think of a way to spin it. How can you be grateful in this situation instead? Then reflect on the situation and try to notice if there was a change in your mood. I’d love to hear how it goes! 🙂

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Deck of Cards Workout

I am not famous for many things…actually I’m not famous for anything. However, the Deck of Cards workout is something I can say I am at least well known for.

My roommates from college might shake their heads in disdain and remember when I convinced them to go to a park for this super fun workout. Sometimes I have to remember that my definition of “fun” is different from others.

The lucky souls that used to attend my boot camp classes would probably just laugh out loud and remember the buckets of sweat shed during the deck of card workouts we did as one big happy boot camp family. I’m not going to lie, I greatly enjoyed watching their faces and reactions when they walked in on a Saturday morning and realized they had 45 minutes of sweaty fun ahead of them. On multiple occasions they accused me of stacking the deck with higher number cards and even took the deck to count it themselves.Sure, I took a few 2’s out, but who really want to do 2 reps of anything? 10 reps is way more fun. 

Recently, I was at a wedding and the groom’s father came up to tell me that he told his gym instructor about the deck of cards workout after we did it together during his visit to San Diego. Guess what? They are doing the Deck of Cards workout at his gym in Philly now!

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Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe it’s the Deck of Cards workout that’s famous. It is one of my all time favorite ways to move, because it is so adaptable to any situation. You can do it by yourself or with friends. You can make it easy or a gut buster. You can use your own body weight or equipment. You can do it indoors, outdoors, anywhere! 

The Infamous Deck of Cards Workout

What you need: A deck of cards or the Deck of Cards WOD app (it’s free!)

Directions:

  1. Assign an exercise to each suit. For example, hearts could be squats.
  2. Make the jokers something special. For example, hold a 1 minute plank for each joker.
  3. Decide how many repetitions the face cards will be. I usually assign 10 repetitions to all face cards, but you could also do 11 for a jack, 12 for a queen, 13 for a king and 14 for an ace if you’re feeling really frisky! (Sorry this isn’t blackjack, Aces cannot be 1 or 11)
  4. Pull your first card! The number determines how many repetitions you will do. Ex: If you pulled a 6 of hearts, that’s 6 squats. Get movin’ pal.
  5. Keep pulling cards until you complete the deck. It’s your workout, so you determine the pace. Go as slow or as fast as you want to go. Take as many or as few breaks as you need. Depending on your pace and the exercises you choose, this could take anywhere from 20-45 minutes. 

Here are some example workouts:

Workout #1 (body weight)

  • Hearts= Squats
  • Spades= Push-Ups
  • Jacks= Sit-Ups
  • Clubs= Jumping Jacks
  • Joker #1= 30 walking lunges
  • Joker #2= 1 minute plank 

Workout #2 (with equipment)

Next time your friends want to get together, you should suggest that you all play cards. I’m sure they will love you after it’s all said and done!

This workout is a great option for when you’re traveling as well. I’ll be living in a hotel for a week in May and you can bet that I’ll have a deck of cards in my suitcase 🙂

 

Weekly Grub + a Few Questions to Ask Yourself at the Grocery Store

People frequently ask me, “Would you eat this?” I would like to set the record straight, I will eat pretty much anything. However, I like to make sure the things I eat on a regular basis are nutritious and make me feel good. Also, I am not a registered dietitian nor do I have any formal nutrition training. My food knowledge comes from a pure obsession with all things food, doing my own research, and experiencing my own trials and errors in the kitchen.

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Sunday Salad Picnic

My favorite response to this aforementioned question is, “Well, what’s in it?” This usually takes people by surprise. They may rattle off the daily value of fat listed or how many carbs there are, but that’s not what I really want to know. I want to know what is actually in the food. What am I actually putting in my body? I don’t think the food label should go ignored, but I think the ingredient list tells us a lot more. This is why I ask myself the following questions when choosing what to put in my body:

  1. How many ingredients are listed? The fewer the better.
  2. Can I pronounce the ingredients? If I can’t, then it probably isn’t something I want to nourish my body with on a regular basis, because it’s likely a preservative, chemical or something formulated in a laboratory. 
  3. If I had the time, effort, skills and ingredients at home, could I make this food? Let’s be honest, sometimes we just want food to be prepared for us. We can’t always make everything homemade, but we can buy premade food with whole ingredients. I see whole ingredients as foods that are not processed or very minimally processed. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and eggs are whole foods and would be considered whole ingredients, in my book at least.  
  4. What order are the ingredients listed? Ingredients are listed in order of weight, so if sugar is listed first then there’s more sugar in that food than anything else. Sugar has a lot of disguises too, don’t let them fool you.
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The many names of sugar.

At this point I have a pretty good idea what the food label will tell me before I even look at it. One things to look out for is sugar alcohol, if it’s listed then the product will likely be low in sugar. But don’t be fooled, that’s only because they used sugar alcohols instead of sugar or a natural sweetener. I’ll pass. It’s easy to be obsessed with the numbers on the food label. How many calories, how much protein, how much fat? Let’s ask ourselves instead, how much real food?

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Buffalo Chicken Tacos + Coleslaw

This Week’s Grub:

  • Sunday: Strawberry, avocado and goat cheese salad with pretzel bun croutons
  • Monday: Buffalo grilled chicken tacos + coleslaw
    • I had leftover grilled chicken last week, so I threw it in the freezer. I took it out tonight and tossed it in some buffalo sauce for a super easy and delicious dinner!
  • Tuesday: Kalua pork taco salad
    • Rub a pork shoulder with pink himalayan salt and throw it in the slow cooker with a few pieces of bacon, whole garlic cloves, garlic powder and liquid smoke. Set on low for 12 hours. AH-MAZING.
  • Wednesday: Brinner! I need to restock our frozen waffle supply.
  • Thursday: Zucchini stuffed enchiladas with leftover pork
  • Friday: Out!

Questions for you:

  • Do you read the ingredient list? If so, what do you ask yourself?
  • What are you eating this week?

Let’s End the “No Pain, No Gain” BS

I’ve got beef with this “no pain, no gain” message that is so frequently used to convince people that they need to keep pushing through a workout. Before I start ranting, I would like to admit that, yes at one point in my life I also had this mentality and would repeat this saying in my head over and over as my body told me to stop. I also used to think fat was the devil, but I’ve come along way, OK? Don’t judge.

When I first began exercising, specifically lifting weights, I always wanted to be sore. I didn’t think I was working hard enough if I wasn’t sore afterwards. Spoiler alert! You don’t have to feel like your body got hit by a train for exercise to be effective. Yes, I do love a good burn and that feeling of faint soreness after a workout, but lack of soreness doesn’t mean your body didn’t experience a benefit from exercise.

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Last time I checked, I am pretty sure you can be successful without pain.

In my opinion, our society likes to take everything to an extreme- politics, nutrition, hot dog eating contests, exercise- all of it. Can exercise be as simple as getting some movement in throughout the day rather than being sedentary? No, of course not. We feel the need to go harder. We need to push our bodies to the limits, which is why P-90X, bootcamps, Crossfit and other high intensity workouts have become extremely popular in the last decade. Am I saying this a bad thing? No, not at all. In fact, I really enjoy a sweaty, high intensity workout every now and then. However, we need to be aware of the messages we are communicating when we are expecting people to push their bodies to the limits during these types of workouts.

I used to teach bootcamp classes and absolutely loved it. I loved building relationships with my clients, watching them gain more confidence as they got stronger and positively influencing their perception of exercise. Clients often entered the facility with the expectation that they were going to get pushed to the limit, yelled at, and leave dripping with sweat “given the bootcamp culture”. Sorry, but I wasn’t a drill sergeant and I didn’t have a whistle. I definitely challenged them, but always encouraged them to listen to their bodies. If they needed to stop and take a break, then I told them to stop. I wanted people to feel good after exercising, not defeated and broken. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean people always listened, because this “no pain, no gain” mentality is so engrained and promoted in the exercise world.

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If such a reward exists, I don’t think I want it.

Challenging yourself to work outside of your comfort zone is different than working through pain. A fast heart rate and being out of breath but still running to the finish line is different than continuing to sprint even though your knees are on fire. Finishing your last set even though your shoulder is killing you isn’t smart. It’s sometimes dangerously ignorant and it isn’t going to make you stronger. You will likely get injured at which point and you will have to take a break from that exercise for a given time, causing you to lose any progress you have made. So why do people push through this pain then?

From my experience, the “no pain no gain” mentality is most embraced when an individual is focusing on the way exercise will change their appearance. Let me just say, I don’t think there is anything wrong with exercising to alter your body composition. However, I think focusing on how exercise makes you feel is much more beneficial in the long run. If someone is exercising because they know it makes them feel better and reduce stress, they likely aren’t going to keep pushing through pain. Exercise doesn’t make you feel good when it’s painful. However, if you are only focusing on how exercise is going to change your appearance, then you might be more influenced to keep pushing through that pain and mutter one of these ridiculous sayings to yourself.

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The fact that this saying even exists just saddens me. If anyone ever tells you this in an exercise environment, tell them to eat dirt and walk away.

Everybody is unique and has different tipping points. Through tons of trial and error, I have found my limits and the signals my body sends me when I should stop. I know how hard I can work without injuring myself and I know what exercises my body doesn’t enjoy.  I also know my limits will continue to change throughout life and I must be willing to adapt. It’s taken me a long time to accept that my body just doesn’t like high impact, plyometric exercises. I want to do them so badly and fit in with everyone else jumping all over the place, but it’s not worth the pain they cause my knees. I can do other exercises that won’t make it hurt to walk later and I can modify plyometrics to fit my needs. If I attend a group fitness class, I tell the instructor ahead of time that I am going to modify exercises and do what works best for my body. I have never ever had an instructor tell me that wasn’t acceptable and I needed to push through the pain.

I encourage you to find and honor your limits. Appreciate your body for what it can do, not what it can’t do. Don’t force yourself to push through pain. The potential short and long term damage isn’t worth it. If you have to stop a workout early or modify an exercise to maintain your form and prevent injury, focus on how proud you are of yourself for exercising in the first place. When you can wake up the next morning pain free and ready to move again, your body will thank you.

The Weekly Grub & Takin’ It Easy on Yourself

I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what I wanted to write about for this Weekly Grub post, because I really didn’t have much meal planning inspiration this week. I still did it, because I know how much smoother it makes our weeks; but it was pretty half assed and the recipe gods weren’t giving me much inspiration. In the past, I probably would have forced myself to look through multiple recipes and convinced myself that I needed to make something complicated despite not wanting to do so. Without realizing it, this time I just said screw it and wrote down what came to my head first. By the time I got to Thursday on the meal time I was drawing a blank, so decided to leave it open as a wild card. Maybe my meal planning joy will come back to me by then and some scrumptious idea will pop in my head.

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Delicious homemade pretzels AKA the highlight of our Saturday night

I guess what I am trying to say is be nice to yourself and honor those times that you just might not feel like going through the normal flow. Sometimes taking a break from an activity or task you normally do is just what you need to remind yourself that you really do enjoy it. Typically, I love looking through recipes and trying new foods. This week? Not so much. I can almost guarantee you though that next weekend I be excited about sifting through my saved recipes and will eagerly look forward to making them the following week.

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Banana bread made with garbanzo bean flour. Surprisingly delicious!

It’s really easy to feel like we aren’t keeping up with the Jones’s when the internet is constantly telling us what we need to do to be happier, healthier and more productive. I am a total sucker for those “Secrets to _____” posts too. A secret?! What?, tell me! It’s easy to get wrapped up in it and always feel like you need to improve upon some aspect of your life. However, sometimes we just need to take a break and be present. Don’t get me wrong, I love goals and habit change. However, I think that sometimes we focus way too much on trying to reach this “ideal” person and we hold ourselves on a pedestal. Sometimes we just need to take a step back and relax.

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Sunday supper- fresh, light and delicious

I love putting my spin on a homemade sauce or dressing, but sometimes that’s not realistic.  If you are someone that typically always makes everything from scratch and the thought of buying store bought salad dressing makes you cringe, don’t get down on yourself if things don’t always go perfectly. Life isn’t perfect and there will be obstacles, including having to buy bottled ranch. I’ve learned that our response to these obstacles and the way we frame our thoughts is what matters in the long run. Say nice things to yourself when things don’t go as planned. Don’t beat yourself up for it, just laugh it off and move forward. If you don’t feel motivated to go the extra mile that you normally do, then don’t. Take a break and reflect on all the awesome things you do. While we’re at it, let’s be honest with other people to. We don’t always have to try and seem like we’ve got it together. Be vulnerable and admit your struggles. Maybe if we were all more honest with each other, we would feel less pressure to always have it together. Just a thought 🙂

This week’s grub:

  • Sunday: Salmon + tomato, cucumber, avocado & basil salad
  • Monday: Grilled chicken, strawberry, avocado and goat cheese salad
  • Tuesday: Pork (from the freezer) & veggie (using frozen veggies) stuffed sweet potatoes
  • Wednesday: BLAT (bacon, lettuce, tomato & avocado) sandwich + garlic fries (freezer)
  • Thursday: Wildcard!

Have a wonderful week!

The Weekly Grub

 

This is going to be a relatively short post, because I’m pooped. I had all these intentions to write this post on Saturday and even plan out a blog content calendar. How official does that sound?! Well, it didn’t happen. We decided to grill fish tacos with some friends and watch the March Madness games instead. I think we made the right decision. Kevin convinced me to join the bracket this year by using $10 from his Venmo account for my registration. Little did I know that my technique of choosing schools in places I would like to go and those that I have affiliations with would actually lead to me possibly winning some money. Games are a lot more fun when money is on the line. Go Tarheels! 

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Relaxing Sunday evening= Backyard fires + s’mores

We stayed out late last night (aka past 10pm), so I woke up exhausted this morning. For some reason though, I thought I had plenty of energy, enough to take white lightening (my new bike) on an adventure to Winters to meet my mom and some of her friends for brunch. I went from lying on the couch in PJ’s to biking down a country road. About 20 minutes into the ride, I was questioning my spur of the moment, probably not smart decision. Once I got over that hurdle, I had a lovely ride with beautiful spring scenery. You want to know what’s not fun though? Eating fruit and toast while everyone else enjoys eggs Benedict, breakfast tacos and other delicious plates, because you are worried you might puke while biking home. Let’s just say the hour long ride back was a little slower, which gave me plenty of time to enjoy the wildflowers 🙂

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Luckily I remembered to take my allergy pill before the bike ride.

When I first started meal planning and prepping, every Sunday I would make a separate dish for lunch the following week. Eventually I got sick of spending 2-3 hours prepping in the kitchen on Sunday, especially when the beach was right down the road. Now I make about enough food for 8 people for Sunday dinner and use the leftovers in various ways for lunch or even dinner all week long. This saves way more time and usually money as well, because I can buy the meat and veggies in bulk. Now that grilling season is back, this method has gotten even easier. Tonight I grilled an assortment of vegetables that we can use in salads, bowls or pasta this week. I enjoy meal prepping this way, because it allows you to be more versatile with leftovers. I personally can eat the same thing day in and day out, but I understand that other people might think it’s very boring. Some of my favorite meals to make tons of on Sunday are: stuffed sweet potatoes, casserole like dishes (spaghetti squash lasagna), slow cooker meats for bowls, zucchini stuffed enchiladas, kale salads (the kale holds the dressing really well) and fajitas.

This week’s grub:

  • Sunday: Grilled veggie and feta salad + burgundy pepper pork
  • Monday: A’s Opening Day game! We are grilling burgers at the park. 
  • Tuesday: Crab cakes + salad
  • Wednesday: Garlic parmesan chicken wings + roasted broccoli & carrots
  • Thursday: Cauliflower alfredo fettuccine with kale (I’ve wanted to try this for a while, so I will let you know how the sauce turns out!)
  • Friday: Leftovers creation

Questions for you:

  1. What did you do over the weekend?
  2. Do you have a method that makes packing lunch easier for you?