Monthly Archives: July 2013

What Are You Afraid Of?

During Academic Decathlon, I felt perpetually stressed. Any time I got into a complaining or worrying mode, some teammates would joke and say, “Ariel…you’re happy when you’re unhappy!” Darn those boys – in a way, they were right.

I always think about this story when I find myself in a rut.

Some weeks are better than others, and this past week was unfortunately a bad one. On the surface, it should have been a great time: it included a lovely message from a lovely friend, opportunities to network with awesome lawyers, coffee outings with my dad, chances to journal, a fun intern lunch, and generally a lot of good things happening all over the place.

So why, despite the abundance of happiness, was I feeling sad?

I think honesty is key, and if I’m being honest with myself (and with you), then the answer is clear. I was afraid.

What am I afraid of, you ask? Well, here’s small a list to start.

I’m afraid of…

  • Gaining weight
  • Losing friends
  • Eating
  • Bingeing
  • Feeling depressed
  • Dating
  • Bad grades
  • Setting a bad example
  • Failing
  • Succeeding
  • Change

Let me explain some of these more in-depth.

  • I’m afraid of change – for better or worse – because it’s unfamiliar. For example, feeling upset isn’t fun, but I’m also used to it.
  • Failing scares me, but so does succeeding. Failing means others are better than I am, but succeeding sets the expectation that I am good at something. (What a shocker!)
  • Gaining weight from bingeing, and bingeing because I’m eating, and eating because I’m sad, and being sad because I failed, and failing because of a bad grade…everything runs together.

I just get scared sometimes. While the fact remains that I am very lucky to have so many great things in my life, a small part of me feels like I don’t deserve it at all.

I’m pretty sure that’s why last week, I stopped doing INSANITY, Zumba, or any exercise. It’s why I decided to not only eat things I didn’t want, but to eat A LOT of it. (Seriously, I’ve had so much ice cream and sweets in one week that it’s a little bit ridiculous.)

I was scared that I was too happy, that the good in my life wouldn’t last – and I was scared about what that would mean for the future. What if I lost weight, but gained it back during the semester? What if I started a fun friendship, but ruined it by dating? What if I shared these thoughts with my friends, but they thought I was a drama queen?

What if, what if, what if…?

So what if I gained weight again? I could lose it again. So what if I dated a guy and we broke up? It just wasn’t meant to be. So what if my friends thought I was dramatic? I’d find out which friends truly loved me.

I’ve got a lot of random, contradictory, sometimes senseless fears. I’m afraid of a lot of things people might find silly – myself included! That doesn’t make those fears any less real, or less important. It does make them manageable though, if we’re willing to recognize them.

When I feel this way, I get introspective. Here’s a quote I found while attempting to sort my thoughts.

Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with the emotion. It won’t hurt you. It will only help. If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself, “All right, it’s just fear, I don’t have to let it control me. I see it for what it is”.

– From Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom

A week went by, and I spent it dawdling in fear. I think I would prefer to spend this week more productively – maybe biking at the YMCA, cooking with my mom, or cleaning my room (I’ve been saying that ever since I came home for the summer).

Regardless, I have a lot more fun when I do things I enjoy, and I look a lot prettier when I’m not crying all the time. I’m going to make a conscious effort to embrace the daily blessings in my life, rather than being afraid of them. Accept the good, and cherish it; times will be tough enough, without us being so tough on ourselves! I deserve the good things that come my way, and so do you.

Now it’s your turn: what are you afraid of? Better yet, what are you going to do to fight those fears?

As always, it’s a daily battle. But I’m right here with you!

nothing

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Categories: Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Dance (Or Have Fun)

Hi everyone! It’s Monday! For those of you on a true summer break – enjoy it! One day you’ll be spending your summer days working, volunteering, studying…or all of the above. Currently, I work full-time as an intern at a local utility company. I always stay up later on the weekends, despite the best of intentions, and so Mondays are always tough to make it through. That’s why today I thought I’d spread a little cheer by sharing something I’ve been doing lately that makes me super happy and excited.

What is it? What could I be doing that has me smiling and laughing the entire time? For those of you that know me personally, please don’t laugh, but…

DANCING!

More specifically…I do Zumba at the local YMCA, and Hip Hop Abs (by my true fitness idol, Shaun T) in my house.

Now, a disclaimer: I don’t know how to dance. Sometimes, the “dancing” one thinks of at college parties isn’t really dancing at all, if you catch my drift. It wasn’t until this year that I actually met a guy who knew how to dance the real stuff, and was willing to put up with me trying to learn.

I don’t have him as a dance partner anymore, but I do thank him for showing me the fun world of dancing. (As a side-note: I kept practicing dance almost just to spite him, which is super immature, but now I really, really like it. Something positive coming out of something negative,  suppose!)

A year ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a Zumba class – for fear of embarrassing myself, and also because I didn’t think it actually did anything in terms of a workout. And Hip Hop Abs? Like I would do an in-home workout video…please.

How could I be so wrong?

ZUMBA

The Original Dance-Fitness Party

Are you ready to party yourself into shape? Forget the workout, just lose yourself in the music and find yourself in shape at the original dance-fitness party. Zumba® classes feature exotic rhythms set to high-energy Latin and international beats. Before you know it, you’ll be getting fit and your energy levels will be soaring! It’s easy to do, effective and totally exhilarating.

From the Zumba website

First of all, Zumba does have the potential for some serious calorie burn – depending on your instructor. At my Y, there are between 4 and 5 instructors, and they’re all different. For instance, Monday’s class kicks my butt, because the girl teaching it gets pumped up, and we do a lot of cardio-intensive moves – like jumping side-to-side or doing power squats. Friday’s class, on the other hand, feels more like a dance class and doesn’t make me sweat as much, but it is so fun because the guy teaching it just loves to dance. He also has longer and prettier hair than I do…and he can sure move those hips!!

ZumbaActual story of my life.

I don’t know what the classes are like at Rice’s Recreation Center (my university’s on-campus fitness center), or other fitness places – but I intend to find out! I totally recommend taking a Zumba class – but try it out with different instructors, because they can make all the difference in the workout you’re getting. By the way, I’m not just talking to the ladies here – guys, Zumba is super fun, despite being dominated by the females. You might stick out…but that’s not always a bad thing, is it?

HIP HOP ABS

If you love to dance and you want to lose weight and tighten your midsection without doing sit-ups or crunches, Shaun T can show you how. Shaun uses a technique called “Tilt, Tuck & Tighten” to help you burn fat as you dance your way to six-pack abs.

In Hip Hop Abs®, Shaun breaks the dance moves down into steps, so almost anyone can do them. And the workouts are set to hot dance music, so they’re high energy and fun.

From Team Beachbody website

Then, there’s Hip Hop Abs. I won’t lie to you – I feel like a huge dork doing any in-home fitness program. (I’ve been doing INSANITY, too…starting Week 4 today, yikes!) Hip Hop Abs is no exception to the rule, but I finally realized: why does it matter if I look like a dork? I am a huge nerd, no doubt about it, but I like working out, and dancing – and this program does both. Might as well embrace the “dork”side (haha, like “darkside”…ahh…not funny?) and admit that I love these videos!

Hip Hop Abs is a collection of videos by Shaun T, released back before he created INSANITY. Clearly, it’s focused on targeting your abs, but it does so without all the situps, crunches, planks, and the likes. Even better, it is FUN. I feel the burn, but it doesn’t matter to me, because I’m enjoying everything about it. It doesn’t make me want to quit, or take a break, or anything – and yet, according to my trusty heart rate monitor, it does get my blood flowing.

HipHopAbsIsn’t he wonderful?

Now, the music…again, kind of dorky, but easy to follow and Shaun T is hilarious. Seriously. There’s a part where “Don’t Cha” by the Pussycat Dolls comes on, and he throws a fit because it’s one of his favorite songs. I crack up EVERY TIME.

CONCLUSION

Speaking of laughing – that’s the main point I’m trying to get across today.

Back in high school, even though I had plenty of emotional turmoil because of tennis – just ask my coach – in the end, I enjoyed the morning workouts, the drills, and all the matchplay we did. It was exercise, but I liked it because it was a means to get better at a sport I loved.

It was when I let ideas like “I ate too much today, I need to burn X amount of calories to get rid of it” and “I don’t want to get chubby, or else no one will like me” dominate my reasoning for working out – that’s when exercise became negative and boring and eventually seriously unhealthy in my life.

I can’t yet attest to the pure physical results of Zumba or Hip Hop Abs – or any dancing or fitness program. But I can tell you about how they make me feel. As of late, dancing helps me let go of my stress, relax, and just enjoy myself. It’s strange, but amazing.

You know, a lot of times I don’t want to exercise. Realistically, sitting on my booty watching Game of Thrones and stressing over Jon Snow usually sounds more appealing than getting sweaty and sore in a workout. That’s why on a lot of nights, my reward for completing an INSANITY workout is being able to pop in Hip Hop Abs shortly after.

Finding something that puts the fun back into your workouts – now that can be HUGE.

Now that I’ve revealed my super dorky nature (who knew, right?)…it’s time for you to fess up! What do you do to keep your workouts fun? How do you keep yourself happy and entertained, but in healthy ways?

No matter how silly or funny it seems – if you’re smiling and enjoying it, then keep it up!

Categories: Exercises, Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lots o’ Resources

There is this terrible picture of my family and I from our vacation the summer before I started high school; whenever I feel particularly distressed, I just look at that and am reminded how far we’ve come and how much we’ve improved our health.

In reality, I’ve been doing this weight loss, exercising, “get fit” journey for years now – and it all started back in high school. I want to share with you all some of the resources I found back then, and those that I use to this day, when it comes to tracking progress.

But first, some back-story!

When I made varsity tennis my freshman year of high school, the level of activity was more than any I had experienced in the past. At the end of the year, I had lost a fair amount of weight without changing my eating habits at all. However, at the start of summer, the father of a friend said to me casually, “Ariel, at the end of the season you were getting in shape, and now you’ve let yourself go.”

Why a grown man would say something like that to a 15-year-old girl, especially given the sensitive nature of body confidence at that age, I will never know. (And the fact that I still remember it today is a testament to how much the little things can resonate. Pro tip: NEVER SAY ANYTHING LIKE THAT TO A GIRL. SHE WILL NOT FORGET.)

Everything else aside, that comment was the motivation I needed to start focusing on weight loss – which leads me to my first discovery: SparkPeople.com.

There’s SparkPeople.com, and another derivative, SparkTeens.com. At the time, I joined the latter, but the principles are the same. Some pros of the site are:

  • Food/Calorie Tracker, with an option for generated/manually entered meal plans
  • Exercise Tracker, with an option for generated/manually entered strength-training plans and cardio
  • Personalized webpage and blog
  • Access to articles on nutrition, exercise, body image, and TONS of other items – all of them usually specific and easy-to-read
  • Calorie/Exercise Tracker phone app
  • Entirely free!!!

Just by tracking my food, I lost about 5 pounds that summer on my own. I continued to track on and off throughout high school, but as I grew more actively involved in tennis, I didn’t need it as much. I didn’t consistently start using it again until college started. The community aspect of the site is probably my favorite part – between message boards, blogs, private messaging, groups, and challenges, it’s hard to not interact.

SparkPeopleEx

But midway through freshman year of college, I started to get tired of the tracking system – particularly on the phone app. I found that adding foods took too many steps (and on my lousy phone network, that was a problem when I wanted to do something quickly).

So I searched the app store and found my next resource: LoseIt.Com.

Some of the big pluses with LoseIt! are:

  • Food/Calorie Tracker integrated with Exercise Tracker
  • Visual graphs/meters that display weekly and daily net caloric-intake
  • Easy to set new goals based on weight and a weekly amount you want to lose
  • Can display recent meals, exercise activity, weight loss/gain, and “statuses” on profile page

LoseIt! has a phone app, which is what I initially used, and also an online website, which I recently joined. In terms of pure tracking, the app is the easiest to understand and follow. The site leaves some things to be desired when it comes to the level of interaction. It also lacks the ability to track anything besides weight, unless you upgrade to a premium account. However, the site is reminiscent of Facebook in a sense, and that is good for accountability: when you track your meals or exercise, it will pop up on your “feed” for all your buddies to see and comment on.

The ticker showing net-intake was both my best friend and worst enemy when I started to use the app. It really does help you get a feel for how much you’re taking in, but I took it too far when I set my goal low (as in, 1000 calories per day low) on top of wanting to burn a lot exercising (at least 400 calories a day). My ticker was super low, my weekly calorie deficit high, and my weight loss rapid…but that also triggered various binges from time to time. Better to set realistic goals with this app!

Finally, the last major resource I use is TeamBeachbody.com.

Again, the benefits of this site are:

  • Workout Schedule/Tracker
  • Access to fitness/health articles
  • Online forums/support groups and personal “coaches”

I only use the basic free account, and to be honest – it doesn’t do too much. The whole idea of the site is this “coaching” aspect, where you find a “coach”, buy products through them, and get personal assistance, advice, and support. More than anything, I use the site as a place to research different exercise programs – like INSANITY, P90X, Hip Hop Abs, etc. – and supplements – such as Shakeology. It is also a good place to see success stories, and those always get me motivated.

TBBEx

My experience has been less personal, but there is definitely an avenue to make it personalized if you wish. I’m just a poor, frugal college student – I’ll spend my money on the occasional supplement or invest in a workout, but I can’t bring myself to pay for a monthly membership quite yet!

So let me summarize how I use these sites nowadays:

  • SparkPeople – daily (and personal) blogging, specific articles and recipes, and networking with others for support
  • LoseIt! – daily food and exercise tracking, public accountability, and networking with others
  • TeamBeachbody – researching programs and supplements, buying programs and supplements, and networking with others doing similar workouts offline (particularly via Facebook)

These are just the sites and systems I stumbled upon. Used correctly, these tools can be helpful – just be sure to be realistic in your goals, and STAY SAFE! Maybe they’ll be useful to you, and maybe they won’t. A lot of it comes down to personal preferences, and there are a variety of places you can find information on besides these sites.

Some people only need to track briefly until they figure out what they need, others (myself included) need to keep detailed logs lest we fall back into old habits (or develop new, unhealthy ones!), and some people don’t need it at all.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these sites before, and how you liked them. Or if you’ve got your own tools and suggestions…I’m all ears!

More than anything, this goes back to finding a system of support and being consistent in our endeavors to live healthy. We can do it! 🙂

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Partners In Crime

Family, friends, and fun – that can be a combination for greatness, but maybe not!

funny-kittens-window-fat-cats-friends-thick-thin-pics

Back in 2007, there was a study that claimed to find a correlation between obesity and social circles. The quick-and-dirty conclusion was that if a friend, spouse, or family member became overweight or obese, then the chances of you becoming overweight or obese would also increase. While the math has been criticized, and further studies are in the works to verify the results, I think the reasoning behind the study makes sense.

We’re more likely to engage in similar behaviors of those around us, at least in my experience, whether they’re good for us or not. That’s why I say finding “partners in crime” when it comes to healthy living is such a great thing.

Take this weekend, for example. My family traveled to Houston to visit relatives for a 4th of July celebration. Left to my own devices, I would have embraced the excuse to binge and be lazy, and we all know where that leads! Luckily though, I have an awesome older cousin – kinesiology major at UT, applying to PT school this year, and way knowledgeable about nutrition and exercise. I also have a mom who knows my habits, and was on the lookout for any bingeing signs. Then, there are my aunts who like to work hard and train for triathlons.

So yes, while I did indulge in more food than usual (burgers and hotdogs…mmm), I also had other factors working in my favor. We all ate adequate breakfasts, lunches, and snacks so that we didn’t go too crazy at dinnertime. My cousin, aunt, mom, and I walked together to a neighborhood park and track for some exercise. We stayed up late, but we slept in and had a good breakfast of eggs and bacon. Yeah, I ate banana nut bread and cheesecake. Sure, I tried the homemade guacamole with some chips. But it was balanced and moderated by the other things we did that day.

Then get this: after the drive back to Houston, it was actually me who motivated my parents to workout (when it’s usually the other way around). My choice to visit the YMCA for a Zumba class gave my parents little excuse to stay at home. Instead, we all headed out to the gym together.

Even on Saturday, which would mark the completion of WEEK 1 of Insanity, I struggled to turn that video on. Just 40 minutes of effort, but it was tough to get my behind into gear and just do it. But I’m part of some online health sites, where other people are doing the same challenge – and just the thought of them putting in the work was enough to make me hit that dreaded PLAY button.

What I’m trying to say is this: sometimes, we just don’t want to do anything. Sometimes we don’t feel like watching what we eat, or getting out and exercising. And sometimes, that’s alright.

But when we surround ourselves with others that will keep us accountable, and struggle right there along with us, making smart choices and doing healthy things becomes a lot easier. It becomes less of a chore, and more of a habit.

It wasn’t until my second semester at college that I started to build better friendships, and that came with its pros and cons. For instance, I dated a super cool dude who was active in sports and dance – but when we went out to parties together, I would feel so awful the next day because I was too tired to work out and too down to eat right. On the other hand, I met some cool people that made me want to keep healthy – like one guy who at first only knew me as “Crossfit Girl” (I took that as a compliment!), and some classmates that would see me at the recreation center while I was working out (or working a shift as a weight room attendant).

It’s amazing how the little things can make a big difference. Just having someone to walk to the gym with, or wander around campus talking – it was enough to keep me active and motivated. It’s even better when you both have similar goals. It’s currently the summer, so motivation is readily available. But when the school year rolls around, I have faith that I’ll find the healthy partners I know and love.

Who are your partners in crime? Go out and find some!

Categories: Motivation | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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