Quieting the churn

This year has been one of great personal transformation for me. I am about to wrap up a year long program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition which has kickstarted a whole new passion and career as a health coach. It’s been busy and hectic, but manageable for a number of reasons.

First of all, I had a lot of support from my friends and family for pursuing something completely new. My main motivation was to keep me on track with my own wellness journey. I’ve maintained my weight loss from bariatric surgery for over a year now, with my second surgiversary coming up on July 5. So — mission accomplished there.

I’ve acquired a great deal of knowledge about coaching behavioral modifications and helping my clients find their own definition of health. It looks very different for each of them, and they all have different goals and different areas of focus.

One of the main reasons I got through all of this has to do with mindset. I am winding down my career as a government worker bee, so I have the motivation to be successful in this new chapter. But it’s not always easy. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for many years now, and while it’s a lot more manageable now post-surgery, I still have to work at it.

Meditation, not medication, has been my secret. Oh yeah, I am medicated too, but that’s not what has kept me focused. Mindfulness is such a buzzword these days, but it was my gateway to meditation.  I found the podcast 10% Happier in 2016 while contemplating weight loss surgery, when I was overcome with depression and grief after my dad died. The host, Dan Harris, is an ABC news anchor who had a panic attack live on TV which ultimately led him to meditation. I love his irreverence and skepticism about nearly everything, but the thing that sold me was his interview with the Dalai Lama. (Definitely check this out for all of the feels!) I didn’t actually decide to practice meditation however until I started my health coach training.

Journaling was an amazing outlet for me (we won’t talk about my office supply and journaling materials fetish) and I had already established a gratitude journal which really transformed my mindset. But I never really tried meditation because I figured I couldn’t shut that damn voice up in my head — that voice that is always churning. I started with some breathing exercises that I learned at a stress management training I took at work. Then when my Apple watch upgrade introduced some mindfulness apps I tried a few out. First it was Headspace, then Calm, then Simple Habit. After a bit of experimentation with longer form guided meditations on YouTube, I settled on Calm as the one I liked the most. Ten-ish minutes a day I can fit in. It quiets the mind, even mine with the spinning hamster wheel squeaking away.

I don’t get panic attacks very much, but over the past few weeks, I have been awakened out of the blue from a dead sleep with that horrifying chest tightness and heart palpitations which for me are a telltale sign that a panic attack is happening. It’s odd to wake up in the middle of the night to something so scary, so I am definitely looking into what that is all about, but it’s made me appreciate knowing that if I bring everything back to the breath, I can get them under control.

I’m normally encouraging people to step away from their phones and get some sunshine and fresh air, but this week, I thought it would be good to recommend something that really can enhance your health and get control of those damn hamsters churning away in your head.

Do you have any apps that have helped you on your health journey? Let us know what’s your fave!

Meal prep or meal planning?

Are you a prepper? Or are you a planner? Or a little of both?

I’m definitely a lot of both. But I like to keep things simple. First of all, it’s really important for me to know what is in the the food I eat. I would say that 95% of the food I eat is purchased and prepared by me or my husband. We rarely go out to eat (and actually prefer to make our own most of the time). But since I had gastric bypass surgery, I need to know what is in my food. I need to avoid added sugars and fried foods as those are an instant recipe for disaster and the need for a very close bathroom. There’s also some foods I used to eat, but my digestive system no longer tolerates.

Meal prep is now part of my weekly routine. But for me, planning comes first. I typically sit down on Friday or Saturday and think about what I want to prepare for the upcoming week. And then out comes Pinterest. I typically will make one or two recipes for the week, either a salad or soup, and then plan for roasted vegetables, and maybe a few Instant Pot recipes (lately egg bites have been in rotation and I sometimes make either quinoa or some kind of vegetarian recipe using beans or lentils). On the weeks when I am getting a farm box from Farm Fresh to You, I pick my box contents around what recipes I might make. Sometimes when I’m just not in the mood to cook, I just pick things I can prep and eat raw.

I have seriously memorized the layout of our local Nugget Market, so I make a list of all the things I need for recipes in the order they appear in the store: produce, then bulk items, then anything from the meat/seafood/vegan sections, frozen fruit for smoothies, almond milk, eggs. And that’s it.  I keep almost completely to the outer aisles of the store, where things have no packaging or ingredient lists. Whole food is my thing. Exceptions may be oats, spices, coconut milk, or Bragg’s ACV. Minimally processed.

In my planning, I like to honor meatless Monday, and I will often do a completely vegetarian week, if not vegan. Lately I have been looking for baked tofu recipes or something with tempeh, which I honestly could eat plain and uncooked and be a happy girl.

There are some weeks where raw foods work for me. There are some weeks when raw carrots or radish immediately give me an uncomfortable heartburn-like feeling.  I’ve learned to roll with it and just make sure I have options available for days when my digestion is tempermental. I also keep nuts like cashews and almonds on hand, either as snacks or as part of meals.

Once I get everything home, I follow somewhat of a routine too. Frozen stuff in the freezer, staples get put in the pantry, and then all the produce gets washed, dried, then prepped, either for recipes, or for snacking. I put things away in single serve sizes (I have these little Lunch Box containers which are the perfect portion size for a bariatric patient. They also stack easily in the fridge. And when they are prepared and ready to go, I know I will actually consume them and not just add them to the compost pile in the backyard. (Sound familiar?)

I do the same with my recipes. I either package up complete meals in single serving sizes or store them in bigger containers for assembly in the morning as I get ready for work. At the moment, I am doing 2 protein shakes a day, so one is typically in the morning mixed with chai tea or in a green smoothie with frozen fruit, a few handfuls of greens, and either chia seeds, or chlorophyll or some other supportive superfood supplement.

I’ve had clients ask me to do meal prep for them, and that’s actually fun for me, as long as they are eating in alignment with foods I already eat. My biggest problem is I can’t actually eat a whole recipe by the end of the week. I will either cut the recipe in half or freeze half in mason jars for future consumption.

I just chatted with a client this morning about meal planning. In recent weeks, she had asked me for tips on meal prep. Today, she told me that last week, she and her husband sat down and planned out all of their meals for the week, then stuck to the plan! She’s not big into the all-at-once food prep, but the planning worked for her.

My point here is that you really need to find what works for you, through trial and error. I have such a daily routine during the week, I need to have everything pretty much ready to go for me to pack and bring to work. And when I come home, the last thing I typically want to do is cook. So it’s all about assembly. Bio-individuality applies to daily routine just as much as it applies to food. They say one person’s food is another’s poison. I can’t dictate my routine to anyone, nor would I dictate my exact diet. Everyone needs to find that right balance on their own.

I’m curious to hear about other routines or suggestions for meal prep and planning. Share in the comments or on social media!

Use your words. Be powerful.

So much of creating a healthy environment for nourishment revolves around our own feelings of self-worth and positivity. How you describe yourself carries into how you live your life and present yourself to others.

This week, a fellow health coach shared an inspiring grounding exercise in a group coaching call. The demonstration of the power of words, language, and descriptors was perfect for a session when each of us was given the opportunity to tell our story. It’s really about creating a powerful affirmation mantra. Most useful for moments of self-doubt.

  1. First, write down 2 powerful words that describe your strengths. These are qualities you have, like compassionate, brave, influential, inspirational…pick your own.
  2. Next, pick 3 qualities you aspire to have. Something you may be working towards. Same kind of words.
  3. Now, in front of each word, write “I am grateful that I am…”
  4. Use these phrases as your mantra or daily affirmation.

I thought this was a simple yet beautiful exercise in visualization. The power of manifestation is real. Living your life as you envision turns aspirations into reality.

Many thanks to Tiffany from It’s Me, Lady G for the inspiration.

A fresh new look

Notice anything different? I decided to go to town and come up with a bit of a new look for my website. I’ve been refining things a bit. Things about me. Things about who I want to work with. Things about how I can apply what I have learned through my training and my own personal journey to my business.  Have any feedback, let me know!