February 18, 2012

Accepting the Sunset

Santa Barbara, CA Sunset
First of all, yes, this picture was taken from my backyard. Yes, that's the ocean. Yes, I know I'm incredibly lucky.

Looking at this gorgeous sunset last night made me think about sunsets that we all deal with in life. Yea, literal sunsets are beautiful and colorful and endlessly romantic. However, figurative sunsets, like the end of a friendship or a time in your life, are much harder to accept. If you're anything like me, you have a hard time moving on to new chapters of life, no matter how excited you are for the next "sunrise". 

In my experience, people have lots of different methods for moving on and moving forward. As the end of my college years come creeping forward, I find it interesting to observe how I deal with the end of this are in comparison to how my friends deal with it. 

I worry, I plan, and I do anything to avoid uncertainty. Many people just plan to move home after graduation and figure it out from there. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I can't do it. I need to know that I'll have a job. I need to know that I'll have a plan for moving out. I just need to know.

Sometimes, though, it seems obvious to me that by being so conscious of making sure I know what the next step is, I forget to enjoy the stage I'm in now. The sunset is quickly arriving, but it's not here yet. I have about 4 months to explore the city I live in, run and hike all the surrounding trails, and eat at all the restaurants I've always wanted to try. So, that's what I'm going to try and do, and I'll document some of the gems I find right here on my blog. 

Like everything, moving forward is about balance. Plan a little, enjoy now a little. 

How do you deal with accepting that one stage is over and another is coming? Have you ever gotten any advice that's helped you?


February 16, 2012

Treating Yourself Right - A Valentine's Moment of Weakness

Self control is the ability to eat only one chip. I have none.

There are few things in this world that I love more than food. In all honesty - the main motivator for me to work out is that it allows me to eat more. I can't be alone in this, right? I love breakfast foods like oatmeal and cereal, lunch sandwiches and salads, and warm dinner veggies. And snacks. Oh my, I could snack every minute of every day if I didn't care about needing to fit through doors. But I try limit myself, as we all do I guess, to just a few snacks a day.

Sometimes, though, it's harder to resist than others. One of those times is Valentine's Day. Jeez. With chocolates from my mom, my coworkers, my housemates, and my boss, I feel like I'm living in a world of temptation. Luckily, my very sweet boyfriend got me a Lululemon shirt for Valentine's Day which is much more relevant to my current mission of eating less crap and working out more reguarly. If only everyone else around me could catch on...

However, all this cocoa madness has made me think about how we treat ourselves. I mean this in two ways; how we respect and listen to ourselves and also, well, how we give ourselves treats. Yes, I often feel like one half of me is a nagging dog just BEGGING for treats, while the other half is the voice of reason shouting "No, chocolate chips in your morning oatmeal is unnecessary!"

I strongly believe that moderation is key, but also that letting yourself eat what you crave is a big part of happiness. The truth is that every once in a while it feels SO good to give in. After a 10 minute deliberation about whether or not to stick a pinky finger (or 2) into my almond butter, it just tastes that much better when I decide to just go for it. The same happens with chips and salsa, chocolate chips, and cupcakes. And when you really try to justify eating these things, it's not as hard as you'd think. So, I thought I'd record my most-used justifications, incase any of you out there were looking for a reason to eat those Valentine's candies but couldn't think of a good one. Just once, give in. I promise, it feels so so good.

1. I worked out today.

2. I tried really hard in school/work and my brain was working really hard which burns calories

3. Someone bought it for me, it's rude not to eat it

4. Chocolate has antioxidants

5. I need sugar and carbs to supplement my workout

6. I ate my 5 servings of fruit and veggies today

7. I want to still have boobs so I need at least some fat

8. Chocolate contains milk which is loaded with vitamins

9. Dessert makes me happy which helps me sleep better which is healthy

10. I want it. Who cares?

Happy Valentine's Day to you!


February 5, 2012

Health From A Wealth of Information For All

 With food and fitness, it's often hard to realize that the things that some people take for granted need to be taught to others. Some people learn about healthy living from their parents, others at school, and some are forced to learn due to obesity or other health problems.

No matter how you get your information about health and fitness, there are tons of conflicting opinions and facts, and it can be hard to know what the "right" thing to eat is or how many times a person "should" lift weights per week. I am lucky enough to have a mom that drilled into my mind the fact that happiness came from apples and bananas and I grew up eating whole wheat bread, a variety of vegetables, and a morning dose of English breakfast tea. As I've grown, my interest in nutrition has too, and I've spend a lot of free time researching what food is best for the human body and what exercise if the most beneficial.

I often notice that with learning about health comes judgment. "How could you eat that?!" or "Don't you know that fried food makes you fat?!" are both uttered regularly in the 14-person, sorority-girl house that I live in. The truth is that, while there are a few good-to-stick-by rules, each body is different and some people require different balances of fiber, carbs, dairy, etc. I do feel bad for the people that are constantly trying to be healthy but keep making basic mistakes, because it's unreasonable to assume that all people have had the time or luck to get educated on the importance of health.

So, here is my list of a few health rules that I think everyone should know in order to make the right decisions for themselves and their bodies.
*Note: Make sure to consult a doctor before making any large dietary changes

1. Whenever possible, choose whole wheat bread over white. White flour changes into sugar in your body. Whole wheat keeps you fuller longer because of the fiber and complex carbs. This applies to pasta, rice, pita, crackers, burger buns, EVERYTHING.

2. The more colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet, the better. Often, the color of a fruit or vegetable comes from an antioxidant or a special dietary feature of that food. So, a variety of colors leads to a balance of nutrients. There is no reason to limit the number of fruits or vegetables you consume, and filling up on these helps you avoid eating other, less beneficial foods.

3. Never starve yourself. Eating an extremely low-calorie diet is not healthy because it causes your body to go into starvation mode, causing your body to store fat. This dramatically slows down your metabolism as a survival technique. An ability to burn fat and a fast metabolism are imperative to a healthy weight. So, eat often and well.

4. Get enough Sleep. Your whole body slows down if you don't get at least 7.5 hours a night. If you're tired, you're less likely to have the energy to work out. Also, your body tends to reach for more carbs and sugars if you're tired and needing a serious pick-me-up.

5. Avoid fake sugar. Or, for that matter, Fake anything. Rather, choose real sugar in small doses. While there's nothing wrong with squash mascarading as spaghetti, fake chemicals simulating sugar, chicken, or cheese are never a good option. Our bodies have a much easier time digesting and absorbing natural ingredients.

6. Do cardio exercise  whenever possible. A short walk is better than nothing. A long walk is better than a short walk. Aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. This is important for health health and keeping an efficient metabolism.This can include running, using an elliptical, yoga, or swimming.

7. Lift weights about 3 times a week, never using the same muscles two days in a row. Use light weights with more reps to build leaner, longer muscles, and use heavier weights in order to get stronger, bigger muscles.

8. Moderation. Moderation, balance, and variety. Nothing you love should ever be off-limits. Try and eat as many veggies and fruits as possible as the basis of your meal, but finish your night with a piece of chocolate if that's what it takes to make your soul happy. Also, there is nothing wrong with taking a day off from working out if you're feeling sick or tired.

I hope that these tips help some of you wade out some of the fluff and find some truth behind all the noise in the health and fitness world. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but in my opinion it's the 8 base rules that make choosing what to eat and what not to a little easier.

I believe that no one should be criticized for not knowing basic healthy practices. Instead, I urge all of you amazing health and wellness bloggers to push for education. If we could teach people how to make healthier choices for themselves, I think the world would be happier, healthier, and overall better off. . 

What are your main rules? What would you add?