25 Books In a Year | 2018 Resolutions

I have never made a New Year’s resolution in my life; I can no longer say that. After 28 years, on January 1, 2019 I decided to make a New Year’s resolution. Before getting to my resolution (that is so strategically placed in the title) I want to talk about why I’ve never partaken in this yearly tradition to millions of mostly Westerners, but also found in the East.

The main reason is this; I rather just set goals and surpass them instead of labeling them as resolutions, where in 2013, Forbes reported only 8% of people successfully followed through with their New Year’s resolutions.[v] In 2015, US News reported, by February, 80% of New Year’s resolutions were doomed for failure.[vi]

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For this year, Patch.com found the top New Year’s resolutions are: Eat better (37%), Exercise more (37%), Spend less (37%), Self-care (24%), Read more (18%), Learn a new skill (15%), Get a new job (14%), Make new friends (13%), Get a new hobby (13%). While only 32% of people said they weren’t planning on making New Year’s resolutions in a recent survey.

While my healthy habits of eating well and valuing exercise high in my list of lifestyle priorities wouldn’t be suitable for a resolution, putting a number on the amount of books I read would. And hey look, I fall under the 18% of “Read more” (I suppose?)

Which brings me to my 2018 New Year’s resolution to read 25 books in a year; why 25, no idea (for those who know me – know this number is easily attainable.) On January 4, 2018 I finished my first book; How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk by John Van EPP, Ph.D. while on September 6, 2018 I finished my 25th book The Bhagavad Gita translated by Juan Mascaro; as you can see – my interests and repertoire of books have a vast range of topics. From guilty pleasures, fiction, self-help, faith, and classics. Listed below are in sequential order the titles and dates upon completion for anyone interested!

  1. How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk by John Van EPP, Ph.D.
    January 4, 2018
  2. Side Hustle from Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau
    January 9, 2018
  3. What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro with Marvin Karlins, Ph.D.
    January 15, 2018
  4. The 4–Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
    February 1, 2018
  5. Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk
    February 20, 2018
  6.  The Normal Bar by Chrisanna Northrup, Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., James Witte, Ph.D.
    February 25, 2018
  7.  Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
    February 27, 2018
  8.  One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
    March … 2018 (this is currently loaned to someone and I don’t know the exact date)
  9.  The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey
    April 18, 2018
  10. Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss
    April 27, 2018
  11. What are You Going to Believe? by Joyce Meyer
    May 2, 2018
  12. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
    May 3, 2018
  13. Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer
    May 8, 2018
  14. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
    May 9, 2018
  15. Girlfriends by Carmen Renee Berry & Tamara Traeder
    May 12, 2018
  16. The Heart of Man by WM Paul Young, Jackie Hill Perry, Dan B. Allender, Jay Stringer, John & Stasi Eldredge
    May 13, 2018
  17. You’re Going to Be Okay by Holley Gerth
    May 23, 2018
  18. Do Yourself a Favor…Forgive by Joyce Meyer
    May 29, 2018
  19. Shame to Honor by Charles Lambalika
    May 31, 2018
  20. Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst
    June 8, 2018
  21. Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst
    June 19, 2018
  22. You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth
    June 27, 2018
  23. You’re Loved No Matter What by Holley Gerth
    August 21, 2018
  24. You Do You by Sarah Knight
    August 31, 2018
  25. The Bhagavad Gita translated by Juan Mascaro
    September 6, 2018

Not to mention I am a third of the way through The Science of the Mind by Ernest Holmes and daily I read a page of The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman; meaning I by no means planned to stop at 25 books in a year–only a resolution; I can proudly say I make the success rates increase!

In the near future I am contemplating making a quick video review of each book; would you be interested in this?
Also, I’d love to hear if you set a New Year’s resolution for 2018; if you are still sticking to your guns about it, if you have failed at one in the past, and if you plan to set one for 2019!
Comment Below!

 

 

 

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The Darkside Behind the Glam | What They Don’t Tell You About Competing

If you were to look at my Instagram (@reliablefit) a few months ago, to a year ago; you may think “Wow, she looks great! I wish I could look like that!” Thank you to all who have commented or sent me messages along the lines of that level of appreciation. However, it doesn’t come without it’s form of costs. It seems fitness competitions are becoming more popular with the aid of social media; and while competing did have many benefits in my life, do they outweigh the negatives? I am here to share the behind the makeup, glam, high heels, trophies, and cheat meals of bodybuilding.

I recall back in late 2014 into 2015 stating to a friend “I could never do what you do and compete, I love food too much!” Yes, I was one of those people; and who would have thought a year and a half later I would be a WNBF Pro Bikini athlete–surely not me!

competing

When I first started my fitness journey in December 2015; I was training for my C.H.I.P. test to become a cop, after the completion of the Appalachian Trail–I was eagerly searching for that type of camaraderie that I thought I could find within being a cop. While fell in love with the training; I evaluated my newfound career choice before I got in too deep into the process (though I did pass the C.H.I.P. test with the male standards of my age group which is harder and more than the female!)

I continued training though; and vowed to start my first bikini preparation January 2016 with my first show scheduled for May 2016. I will admit the heightened amount of self conscious thoughts and perceptions about the overall end goal of getting on stage in heels and flirting in a girly manner. A caption from an early Instagram post back in January 17, 2016 reads: “It’s about the fear of wearing high heels higher than these, on stage in front of a bunch of people judging you on your appearance, learning new routines that I’ve never practiced before, and seeing where I came from in the beginning while never losing the love and dedication towards my goal.” This was after my first posing session. My coach told me to stop walking like a boy and lead with the ladies, you can paint a picture in your mind of a male baby giraffe trying to show the world he is delicate butterfly…that just about sums up my posing sessions.

I hated practicing because I felt uncomfortable, awkward, fake, un-natural, difficult, and just frustrating–but I loved lifting weights in the gym. My confidence in my performance started to rise, and as I began to see my body change and chisel into that of an athlete; there was no stopping me. My perfectionism kicked in and I stuck to my perseverance in and out of the gym; some may say it even heightened it. I became a little obsessed with health, nutrition, and the gym; it took over my life and I was determined. My coach wanted me to compete a month early (April 2016) stating that I was ready and although I I didn’t feel it, I changed my plans to compete in my debut amateur bikini competition in Mashpee, MA in April where I placed 3rd place overall and 3rd place in debut. While this was a great accomplishment for my first show; I felt like I should have won, so 3rd place was a big of a let down. Everyone around me (friends who compete, friends who don’t, and family) were so happy for me, and proud of my placing, but in my mind I thought “It just wasn’t good enough. I was supposed to win.” Yes, this is my thinking at something I have never done before; to be the best. I understand now how unhealthy perfectionism is; and it is a constant battle every day to be more aware and present in the moment and not get caught up in the performance. I wrote in a post on Instagram that following day “The adrenaline was pumping through me, the nerves shook my legs, and my smile felt dry and forced; there is a certain confidence that comes from training countless hours toward a goal and yesterday I saw it flood from within. I didn’t feel self conscious, inferior, or insecure, I felt strong, sassy, and confident.

Back to the gym I went; I changed my diet for this next month in-between competitions because let’s face it, I am a foodie–and I only had ONE cheat meal throughout the whole 3 month preparation leading up to my first show. I became so strict with my meals that I no longer enjoyed food; it was just fuel– protein, carbs, and healthy fats at it’s most basic boring form. I was much happier creating macro-friendly meals that I could enjoy. My confidence boosted even more between these two shows; I looked and felt dynamite–but in a way, was still unhappy. There are many highs and lows of preparation and competing; not to mention the unhealthiness of it physically and mentally.

Which brings me to May 29, 2016 “I started training 146 days ago; that’s 4 months and 25 days to not cheat once in 105 of those days, suffer, grow, fall short, work harder, stay focused, get a cheat meal, partake in my first hell week. For 39.89% of 2016 I embraced a lifestyle with so much determination, and heart that I never lost sight of the goal from the start. I knew I wanted my Pro Card. No one said it would be easy, but it sure was worth it this journey I’ve been on!

I have met so many new amazing people, re-connected with old friends, helped current friends, and have been surprised a few times when people tell me that I, have inspired them. That’s the overall goal right? Find something you love, something that you get so excited to talk about, and be a part of, that it radiates and inspires other people without that being the plan. It’s when you help yourself, you find yourself helping others. Four roses, three 1st place gold medals, a plaque, and one thankful girl!

While this is all true; it has it’s price to pay, you don’t see that in a celebratory photograph. You spend a lot of time alone or isolated; sure you may train with a team or a friend, you can bring your meals to the table with friends or loved ones, you have a whole team the day of the competition helping and cheering you on–but it is a very singular experience overall. I have met many amazing people through my fitness journey, rekindled and strengthened other relationships, but at the end of the day; even when people support you–it doesn’t mean they understand you. Especially in the fitness industry; outsiders project their insecurities and self-sabotage on you when they see your change in lifestyle. Asking things like “Hows your diet going” “You sure you can’t eat this?” “It’s just a bite it won’t kill you!” “I could never do what you’re doing, but you look great!” and so on. I am not here to make you feel bad about your life or choices; so please don’t twist around your words or mine to think I am judging you for your lifestyle.

After winning; I went into a celebratory binge, I ate everything and anything–I was loving life, happy as could be, and I didn’t want to workout. Which left me feeling mentally like I should be working out. I beat myself up over indulging in food, and not going to the gym. It was a good month or so before I slowly wanted to get back in the gym–and by that point my mental realization of being absent from the gym for so long hindered my physical performance. I felt weak, I felt un-motivated, and I felt obligated. I had to compete within a year of winning my Pro Card to keep it’s status; let the ego flood in…NOW!

I slowly started to lose my confidence and sass; it would come in waves, I depended on others and this is not something I thrive on. I changed a couple trainers, stuck with one through the completion of my Pro Debut prep, and placed 4th in my first Pro show. While deep down, I wish I had placed better; I was a little more humble this show than my amateur debut. I had made the goal prior that I wanted to make top 5; that would be a successful Pro debut for me, and I did–I met that goal.

After my Pro debut; I again binged on celebrating, I never was the young girl who had an un-healthy relationship with food, I never tried fad diets, restricted my eating, or had a sweet tooth. Now this all changed; through competing, I began to associate food with emotion, eating sweets and over indulging with winning and good feelings of celebration. I started craving everything sweet and un-able to physically stop without telling myself I needed to. Let’s put this into perspective; one night I ate an entire sleeve of Oreos…let’s not stop there though–because each one had a dollop of peanut butter on top. They were amazing; so good tasting that I physically and mentally did not want to stop until they were all gone.

The hardest transition for me now has been maintenance; and overall living a healthy lifestyle. It is a struggle every day, to not associate with “bad foods” or “I can’t have that” and the freedom of I CAN HAVE IT! Restrictions are a tricky thing; you have to be disciplined either way, not to have too much just because you can, and not to restrict too much because I am no longer in preparation.

It has been 397 days (when I wrote this post) since my Pro Debut show; and like I said, it is still a struggle daily to allow myself to eat donuts or dessert without feeling guilty; but then when I do–to not overindulge and stop myself from doing so. I tell everyone (woman especially) who pursue me with questions on competing; to be prepared, and not for what they think like meal prepping and living in the gym–but for the mental changes and post show blues that we all face, yet withhold from sharing…the darkside of fitness competitions.

 

What Is Meditation to You?

While our Western civilization is becoming more and more eclectic; it seems some still squirm at the term meditation. Isn’t that just for the 20 year old female who hasn’t washed her hair in three weeks, smells of frankincense and tea tree oil, proudly displaying her peace sign tank top with beaded bracelets half-way up her arms and rings on nearly every finger? Or maybe the rather bald male; you know, with the mala handing around his neck, the one dressed all in saffron orange?

meditation

The short answer is no. Meditation is no longer just for the new-age, in-tune spiritual individual who labels themselves as a yogi or hippy. And while at times; I like to identify with that stereotype, that is not who I am–it simply is just a part of me. As it stands true with many other individuals alike and different from myself.

Considering there are many forms of practicing meditation; I will touch upon what is deemed meditative for me, in hopes of opening your eyes to something you may have never contemplated before.

First, we will start with the least abstract form of meditation in my life which is exactly what you may think of when you think of meditating. For me; this means Transcendental Meditation (TM) the technique for inner peace and wellness. I was taught TM when I was in high school; it was actually a family event. Myself, as well as my Mom, Nana, and Papa; all went to the same teacher/instructor/practitioner as a whole (though this is completely not necessary to go with others or as a family, we were just all open to learning this invaluable life technique.)

What is Transcendental Meditation (TM) you may ask? “It’s an effortless technique for “recharging your mind and body” — and creating a brighter, more positive state of mind. Hundreds of published research studies have found that TM is highly effective on stress and anxietybrain function, and cardiovascular health.” –tm.org Which seems like anyone, and everyone can benefit from those results; and it’s true! At the time I was 17 years old, my Mother 34 years old, my Nana 65 years old and my Papa 72 years old–which shows not only an array of ages, but gender as well. However, we are not the only ones who practice this vital awareness and practice either; Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Clint Eastwood, Howard Stern, Cheryl Crow, Hugh Jackman, Jerry Seinfeld, Russell Brand, Ellen Degeneres and many, many more implement this technique into their lives as well!

What exactly do you do? First, you will want to find someone in your area local who can teach you one on one; our teacher practiced under the Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who founded TM. Once you go through the course and learning process, you are set for life; to practice nearly anytime, anywhere. It is practically effortless, and nearly anyone can do it–from children, to learning disabilities, to elderly. You are given a mantra (a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation) specifically in-tune with you personally. From there; you simply sit or lay down in a quiet place, close your eyes, and after a few moments of quieting your mind and acclimating, you start repeating silently your mantra for 20 minutes. That is all, but the benefits far outweigh the simplicity of it.

Originally I practiced 20 minutes twice a day; on any given day, it is usually just one session for 20 minutes in the middle of the day as a reset button to refocus and rejuvenate my mind and body. If I have a busy day, a lot of computer work, many social interactions; I become drained, un-focussed, and foggy feeling. After 20 minutes of TM I feel more creative, attentive, and present for the next task at hand.

Ok, so granted I do wear beaded bracelets and practice what you may think of as a traditional meditative process; I also find meditative properties and benefits in other activities that I partake in. Something as simple as washing the dishes is very meditative for me; and that doesn’t mean while washing dishes I am chanting silently my mantra–no. Actually, I usually put on some of my favorite music; and tackle the task, this not only allows me to accomplish a chore that needs to be taken care of, but also allows my mind to freely explore any thoughts or just simply be.

Which leads me to my next activity that is very similar to washing the dishes but less of a chore; hiking or walking. Now while I feel very at home in the woods after walking day after day for 6 months (Read more here if you don’t know what I am talking about) but there is just something about being in nature, and physically moving, that resets and refreshes my body and mind.

These are examples of what works in my life; and what I’ve labeled as meditative, they may not look the same in yours. But I challenge you to be open to reflecting on your life and daily activities and identifying what brings you comfort, the feeling of content, happiness, rejuvenation, and energy; because that my friend– is meditation.