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!

 

 

 

Thailand Training Camps

As some of you may know from reading prior posts; and if you don’t – I’ve been spending more and more time in Thailand, which will only be increasing. As a refresher; I traveled to the land of smiles by my self last September for a month, was a part of a training camp, and fell in love with the island of Koh Phangan.

Booking my ticket again for this past month was even better than last year (if that is even possible.) Not only did I fall in love more with Muay Thai and the island, but also got an amazing opportunity presented to me…

dmt.jpg

Rewind a little before I announce the opportunity that is to come, so I can tell you a little about our day to day routine in a Thailand training camp.

         6am–7am
  • Morning meditation usually starts at 6–6:20am (whenever you roll out of bed and get your butt on the beach kind of time)
    7am–9am
  • Morning training starts at 7am usually with 15 minutes skipping rope however not limited to (some jog, others bounce on tires, push-ups, squats, stationary bicycle, etc. are some of the common warm-up options.)
  • Once the muscles are warm, the body is sweaty, and you’ve gotten used to having your clothes drenched in sweat with the humidity; you wrap up your hands and get ready to stretch – we stretch as a group with a Thai instructor leading every move.
  •  From stretching we split into two groups: either you are with a trainer one on one for 3–4 rounds of pads OR you are on the bag for the same amount, and then you switch.
  • After both bag work, and pad work; we usually go into at least 3 rounds of technical sparring (either with teammates or trainers)
  • Following sparring is either technique instruction with partners OR clinching technique
  • 100 knees, teeps (front kicks), and sit-ups concludes the endurance and conditioning
  • Lastly is stretching as a team (not instructed by a trainer but usually we each take turns calling out a stretch)
    9am–3pm

    This time is considered free time, after showering; many common activities are:

  • Eat at the market, hotel, or nearby restaurants
  • Take a nap
  • Swim in the pool at the hotel, or ocean/beach
  • Explore the island on your scooter (temples, waterfalls, etc.)
  • Yoga with Liz for an hour depending on the day is offered either from 11am–12pm OR right before afternoon training from 2pm–3pm
  • Strength and conditioning class for an hour at the gym (Diamond Muay Thai)
  • Work, reading, personal time
    3pm–5pm
  • Afternoon training starts at 3pm usually with 15 minutes skipping rope however not limited to (some jog, others bounce on tires, push-ups, squats, stationary bicycle, etc. are some of the common warm-up options.)
  • Once the muscles are warm, the body is sweaty, and you’ve gotten used to having your clothes drenched in sweat with the humidity; you wrap up your hands and get ready to stretch – we stretch as a group with a Thai instructor leading every move.
  •  From stretching we split into two groups: either you are with a trainer one on one for 3–4 rounds of pads OR you are on the bag for the same amount, and then you switch.
  • After both bag work, and pad work; we usually go into at least 3 rounds of technical sparring (either with teammates or trainers)
  • Following sparring is either technique instruction with partners OR clinching technique
  • 100 knees, teeps (front kicks), and sit-ups concludes the endurance and conditioning
  • Lastly is stretching as a team (not instructed by a trainer but usually we each take turns calling out a stretch)
    5pm–”Bedtime” (whenever that is for you)

    This time is considered free time, after showering; many common activities are as follows not to mention usually 2–3 times a week is a group dinner where we all go out together to a different restaurant and Saturday evenings is team BBQ at the gym every week:

  • Eat at the market, hotel, or nearby restaurants
  • Explore the island on your scooter (plenty of bars and nightlife available as well as an outdoor movie theater!)
  • Work, reading, personal time

 

Saturdays usually after morning training is an ice bath that accommodates 6 people at a time; we take turns 3 minutes for 3 rounds.

Sundays are rest days; no training what so ever, this is a great opportunity to adventure and see the island, recover your body at the herbal sauna or get a massage, or just have a beach day! Sundays are usually the days that new teammates come to the island and check-in for the following week so a team meeting to get to know each other before team dinner is usually in the early evening.

Now that you know a little about what it is like to be a part of a Thailand training camp, and what I did daily for 28 days this summer– I am excited to announce not only will I be traveling to Greece in September for a week camp there; training, filming, and the wedding photographer for Sean and Liz, not only will I be in Costa Rica for a week camp there for the same (minus the wedding as they will already be married!)

But…

I have bought my one way ticket to Thailand for the end of January 2019!

Not only have Sean, Liz, and Paul given me extraordinary opportunities to become part of these training camps; but Diamond Muay Thai recognized my work while I was there, and they would like to hire me to film videos and photos for them as well for marketing and promotion!

We have camps coming up so if you think this would be the kind of vacation to take you to the next level check the dates below!

February 3rd – March 3rd, 2019

Diamond Muay Thai, Koh Phangan
Train alongside two pro fighters – Sean Fagan and Paul Banasiak – as they share with you their top training methods.

Click here for more information: http://www.thailandtrainingcamp.com/

April 1st – April 29th, 2019

Diamond Muay Thai, Koh Phangan
The Perfect Balance of Intense, Technical Muay Thai Training in Beautiful Surroundings and Culture

Click here for more information: http://www.thailandtrainingcamp.com/

Video I made this last camp | A Day in the Life:

 

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.

 

 

Café Coffee |Good or Bad?

I went from drinking coffee “light and sweet” occasionally, to not at all, to now black, sometimes 3 a day (or night.) What is the phenomenon with coffee and caffeine? Well, for one– in the Western World we want to accomplish everything and then some; preferably accomplished “yesterday”. Caffeine helps the illusion that we are superheroes that can accomplish more in a day, in a shorter period of time, with precise focus. Sometimes that is exactly what it is though; an delusion.

coffeecollage

Let’s recap some of the benefits of coffee…Say HELLO to Caffeine. Did you know that coffee is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world? Coffee can improve energy levels through the caffeine content, it can also help burn fat as it is a appetite suppressant. Several studies show that caffeine can boost the metabolic rate by 3-11%. Some essential nutrients are found in coffee as well; one cups contains Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) 11% of the RDA, Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) 6% of the RDA, Manganese and Potassium: 3% of the RDA, Magnesium and Niacin (B3): 2% of the RDA not to mention it is loaded with antioxidants.

In a study involving nearly 20,000 individuals; people who consumed at least four cups of coffee daily had a 64% lower risk of early death compared to those never or rarely consumed coffee…four cups!

Now that we have talked of some of the benefits; be mindful of how much you consume, when you consume it, and whether your body has become accustomed and reliant on coffee. The reduction in risk was more significant once people reached the age of 45, which means it may be even more beneficial to consume coffee as we age. Also it is not advised to consume large amounts of caffeine while pregnant; limit yourself to 1 cup or less during pregnancy.

Coffee is coffee right? Wrong–bad quality coffee can have a lot of impurities in it; which can cause sickness, headaches, etc. This can happen if your coffee is made from beans that have been over ripped or otherwise ruined. Even one ruined bean can make your cup toxic. If you invest and buy high quality, speciality coffee you don’t have to worry about this.

Another thing to consider is if you have high cholesterol please choose filtered coffee! Coffee beans contain cafestol and kahweol, two ingredients that appear to raise LDL cholesterol levels. Filtering the coffee traps most of the LDL, but cafestol and kahweol are found in espresso, turkish coffee, french press and scandinavian style “cooked coffee”.

Keep in mind that decaffeinated coffee still contains caffeine. Say what!? Typically an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee can contain anywhere from 75 to 165 milligrams of caffeine; whereas decaffeinated coffee contains an average of 2 to 7 milligrams per cup.

Like anything; balance is essential to reaping benefits, become resilient to absence not co-dependent. With that being said…my cup of black coffee was delicious this morning! Coffee is often loaded with “hidden” calories, try adding almond, or coconut milk that is unsweetened. Cream contributes about 50 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon! Most importantly; avoid sugar in your coffee; a teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. It may not sound like much, but if you add two, three, five teaspoons to your brew and drink a few cups per day, the calories add up!

More importantly for me; the good far outweighs the bad since I drink my coffee black or with a splash of unsweetened almond/coconut milk. Coffee aids in a boost of happiness for me, not to mention is a big social factor–in a few hours I am meeting  a friend at a local café to share stories of her recent mission trip in Africa, and catch up before I leave for Asia in a few days (I will already be back in Thailand when this publishes!)

Ps. Pro-tip: I started to notice a discoloration in my teeth from consuming coffee last year so frequently in Thailand; I now drink both hot, or iced coffee through a straw! Slerrrrrrrp, cheers!

The Little Device That is Running Our Lives

I just shocked myself; literally, okay–not literally but pretty freakin’ close! February 4th 2018 was the first Sunday I turned off my phone; the day I am writing this is June 27th, 2018. This is beyond fascinating; if someone asked me 10 minutes ago, how long I have been turning my phone off on Sundays–I would have responded with “Oh, I don’t know; a couple months now!” Last I checked, a couple is two…not almost FIVE; 5 months that each week I turn my phone off completely for an entire day, and don’t go on social media either.

cellphonesundaycollage

I will admit; within these past 5 months, there have been two Sundays where I had my phone on (but this wasn’t until a couple months into the routine of religiously turning it off every week.) AND, it was necessary for me to implement the discipline to something rather difficult and addictive for me, to appreciate the healthy use of middle grounds and not having to be so “black and white.” If I commit to something; I do so fully, I don’t half-ass anything. Which meant on Mother’s Day this year; my phone was off. On Father’s Day this year, my phone was off. As well as during Superbowl, Easter, meeting friends for dinner, the movies, brunch with friends, etc. It wasn’t until May 20th 2018 when I turned my phone on for the first time on Sunday; and that is because I am a photographer and I had a wedding to shoot. The second time my phone was on; was a month later (just a couple weeks ago) on June 10th, 2018 when Tyler came to visit me from Portland, and I was to pick him up. As you can see in both incidents; they are both months after my initial decision and routine, and they were both necessary to have a cell phone that day.

So why am I telling you all of this? Much like the majority of our generation today (only heightening to come I presume) I became addicted to my cellphone. I didn’t like the power I allowed it to hold over me, I didn’t like the anxiety, the reliance, the time wasting energy and attention I gave it, nor the lack of communication and social skills I could see dissipating from my life. It is one thing to be aware of something in your life that makes you unhappy and do nothing about it; but for me, it was time.

I had been contemplating a day that would work best for me; and naturally, I think the best day for me was and is Sunday. Generally speaking Sundays are usually pretty routine for me, so not having outside communication would work well in most instances. Typically I reserve Sunday for “me” time; meaning– some days I go to church, train Muay Thai, breakfast with family or close friends, summer fairs/festivals or berry picking, laundry, reading, hiking or yoga, etc. Sunday was made as the seventh day; a day of rest, which means– even if something is physically exerting, the activities I choose are still a reset to me both mentally and physically.

I wrote an Instagram post the Sunday prior to starting this new challenge and lifestyle, “Going forward, if you want to make plans with me on Sunday; don’t ask day of-I’m not ignoring you, I’m ignoring everyone.” While it sounds rather rash to read; it wasn’t entirely meant that way, I just felt like nothing was personal to my family and friends my deciding to embark on this journey–I needed to do this for me. Sometimes things can seem selfish initially, when in reality; if I am at a better place in my life–I can be more invested and present in the relationships around me.

Initially it was difficult for those closest to me to grasp, things like “Well what happens if people just stop texting you?” “Ugh, what if I need to get ahold of you or something happens!” and so on and so forth. My outlook on the matter; it is only a day. Sure accidents happen, things come up, plans change, and maybe people will stop contacting me. But you know what? Twenty years ago, we didn’t have these little devices that we expected everyone to carry around with them at every waking moment to be available at any time of day. If you wanted to know if someone was available, you stopped by their house. If friends couldn’t embrace my choice to not utilize my phone on Sunday; well then they weren’t really friends to begin with.

A lot of people like to joke with me saying things like “Well I guess I will just have to send smoke signals.” While I understand these statements are 99% sarcasm and jokes; there are some bitter connotations behind them, because I believe people hate change. I will be the first to admit I don’t like change, but I embrace it. As the saying goes; only one thing is for certain, and that is change. It was uncomfortable for me at first; I did’t know what to do with myself on that first Sunday, I had anxious thoughts about who may have texted me, I would pick up my phone to check the time out of habit, and I would go to use my phone for music while hiking or working out and realize…oh yeah!

As the weeks went by, these actions became less routine and automatic; and my new pattern had set in and I no longer picked up my phone to check the time. (Now, instead of turning completely off I turn on airplane mode so I can still utilize the alarm clock, check the time, and take photos and video.) I never realized how much my daily life depended on this handheld device until I went to set my morning alarm and all I stared at was a black screen. My life at times is consumed, and sometimes dictated by this tiny powerful device in my hands; and though I am grateful for technology, since most of my life is focused around it. I assure you, this was one of the best lifestyle changes I have ever made.

It led to the next phase of deciding a certain time each day to put my phone on airplane mode; and not turning on until a certain time the following day. When I first started this process; I was getting up at 7:40am everyday, so I would turn my phone off at 10:00pm each evening–and not turn on until 10:00am the following morning. Prior to this; my morning habit was to shut off my phone alarm and mindlessly scroll Instagram for endless minutes which turned into half an hour. What a waste of time and way to start your day! Now, I wake up at 5:00am everyday, so I have been turning my phone on at 9:00am daily, and off at night at 10:00pm. This seems to be working for me, but I am always open to changing ever so slightly to better adapt to my current situation. I also didn’t stop there; like a snowball effect, I turned off text message notifications.

This was a freeing act for sure, I could be in the middle of something on my phone; get a text message–and next thing I know an hour later that text lead me to Instagram, Facebook, and a video of cute baby kangaroos–not productive. By not being interrupted by text message notifications, I intentionally check my messages and respond accordingly. Small changes add up; don’t just wish something were different, implement the changes you want in your life.

I will leave you with this statistic below, if you feel comfortable in your life with turning your cellphone off for a few hours a day, or even a full day completely comment below to let me know how you like it (remember, the first couple weeks are hard!)

“We know that medium to heavy multitaskers, who engage in multiple forms of media simultaneously, tend to demonstrate smaller gray matter area in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for top-down attention control,” he said. “Altogether, this means that if you are too dependent on your smartphone, you are basically damaging your ability to be attentive.” Teenagers in a study also had significantly higher scores in anxiety, depression and levels of insomnia and impulsivity, said Dr. Hyung Suk Seo

How to Thrive Outdoors | Surviving the Heat

Since it is Summer here in New England; I will start this article off by saying these tips on thriving outdoors are geared around hot climates (maybe I will do another one this winter for thriving, and surviving the cold.)

One moment comes to mind when I think about surviving the heat; it was Catawba mountain in Catawba, Virginia, United States– day 71 of my 180 day trek on the Appalachian Trail. The goal was McAfee Knob; undoubtedly one of the most photogenic scenes on the entire trail, but have you ever been to Virginia in June?! That year, we barely got any rain; which made hiking days more bearable sure–but in a time like this, I was overheating.

hikinginhot

What are some tips to save you from heat exhaustion on your next adventure? First and foremost would be to hike as early as possible, to beat the dead heat of the day. Hike early or late; the hottest part of the day is typically between 10:00am – 4:00pm (yes, pretty much the whole “day,” time to implement a new schedule!) When you are hiking in places like Death Valley and desert settings this is especially crucial to your survival. While McAfee Knob is not in the desert; it is about a 4.5 mile hike with an elevation gain of 1,740 ft. for a total elevation of 3,197 ft. The direct sunlight, and heat at the time was unbearable. I slowed my pace, as I started to feel the onset of dizziness and disorientation setting in. Every spring I came across was dried up; I grew more and more frustrated and exhausted, I knew I needed to stop. I sat on top of a rock in the shade; took off my shirt (luckily at this point I was still wearing sports bras underneath!) and changed into some Under Armour briefs to minimize the clothing on my body.

Which leads me to stopping to take breaks; eat, and rest for at least 15 minutes for every hour of hiking in the heat. As you can see I started to feel dizzy and nauseous, when you start to feel these symptoms stop as soon as possible. IF you have water, drip some on your head, neck, torso, and wrists to instantly cool your internal temperature. Slowly sip on water if you have some to your disposal do not chug; it will only come right back up. Once you have done this for 5–10 minutes slowly start eating (it will be difficult trust me, basically the last thing you will want to do.) Slowly chew; salty snacks such as RXBAR or Natural Jerky for hyponatremia (due to drinking too much water — causing the sodium in your body to become diluted.) Rehydrate with water or sports drinks for dehydration (I kept pre-portioned ziplock bags of Gatorade powder with me on the trail for basic times of need, and as a treat.)

By me taking off my already breathable lightweight clothing, it allowed my body to regulate it’s temperature naturally. Starting out, you should choose light-colored breathable clothing I chose The North Face razorback  which was light-weight and breathable. By protecting your head, face, and neck with a hat is also an excellent way to cool your entire body, again choosing a tan hat over one that is black or dark green.

It may be rather obvious; but let’s just assume it’s not–apply sunscreen! Liberally. Every 3–4 hours not forgetting your scalp if it is exposed, ears, hands and feet if they are uncovered as well. Some clothing such as UPF-rated have UV-blocking capabilities which makes life just all that much easier!

You lose .8 to 3L of sweat per hour; it is important to pay attention to how often you are running off into the woods to pee as well, every 10–15 minutes is too frequently and it will basically be clear. Ever 2–3 hours is usually just right depending on individuality and it has a slight yellow tint to it (I know, it is hard to tell out in the woods sometimes when you are not staring down at a porcelain bowl.) If you are not urinating more than twice a day; you are in trouble, and it probably is the color of RedBull…not good, just like RedBull itself.

While this was not possible for me while hiking the Appalachian Trail (per-say) if you can get a head start; begin acclimatizing between 10–14 days prior to your trip. Adaptations should still be evident for around a week or two prior to doing so.

I hope this information was beneficial to you in some way; if it was, please comment below if you would like me to compose a similar article for winter climates and surviving the cold. Now please excuse me as I sip my iced coffee in the air conditioning!

Not Only Juice

Many of you know how much of a smoothie fanatic I am if you watch my Instagram stories; always creating a new concoction, not to mention my morning daily smoothie. What doesn’t get much love though; is juicing! And you may ask; “well what’s the difference?” The main difference between smoothies and juicing; is the pulp content / or lack thereof of fiber in juicing most of the time.

juicecollage

Well why would I juice then if I could just make a smoothie? The act of juicing contains a condensed version of most of the vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals found in the contents, both juices (homemade not store bought full of added sugars) AND smoothies have their benefits in your everyday healthy lifestyle– it’s not one or the other.

When I was younger; I drank apple juice all of the time, of course the highest sugar content juice presumably. I never cared for orange juice, though I always asked for an apple juice at breakfast. The majority of processed juices are loaded with excess sugar and ingredients. Ever wonder why children are so susceptible to cavities? Between the sugar content in milk and juice alone; is enough explanation (though I am proud to admit I didn’t have my first and only small cavity until I was in my twenties.)

Not only are processed juices high in sugar content; but also calories! One of the first things I tell people when they ask me for nutrition advise is to cut out the excess beverages. It seems people tend to forget about the copious amounts of calories they consume through liquid alone!

Enough of the negativity already; back to the benefits of juicing your own fruits and vegetables! It seems more often than not, people tend to not drink enough water a day; juicing ensures getting not only many vitamins and minerals–but water. Vegetables such as celery, cucumbers, and spinach are nearly composed of all liquid! It is a quick and easy way to not only get all of your servings of vegetables in one sitting, but also hydration.

Ever notice how long it takes you to eat a cheeseburger (for me it is like 3 minutes flat) and then how long it takes to eat a large salad? I am already quite aware I eat too fast; it’s all so good, I just want to get it in as quick as possible! However, the physical process of chewing food helps to break it down into smaller particles. Which helps to reduce stress on the esophagus, and helps the stomach metabolize your food. When you chew each mouthful properly, you also release a lot of saliva, which contains digestive enzymes. Needless to say I take longer to sit and chew raw vegetables in a salad, than I do to shovel in a hamburger.

Which means; if you don’t enjoy most vegetables, you are not going to take the time to sit for 20 minutes and chomp on them like a rabbit–your solution: juicing.

Let’s review some health benefits of vegetables you may not be first to grab in the grocery store; but are easily hidden in a juice, or smoothie.

BEETS

Can help lower your blood pressure, boost your stamina, fight inflammation, as well as aids in detoxification!

GINGER

Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, may prevent cancer.

GRAPEFRUIT

High content of Vitamin C and A, can provide health benefits for the skin, blood pressure, heart health, and disease prevention.

KALE

Vitamins A, C, and K, Folate (a B vitamin that’s key for brain development) Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, Lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that give kale its deep, dark green coloring and protect against macular degeneration and cataracts– Minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc.

PARSLEY

Antibacterial properties; freshens breath, can help eliminate body odor and treat excessive flatulence, flavonoid called myricetin may help fighting skin cancer, Apigenin decrease the size of tumors caused by breast cancer.

CILANTRO

Rich in phytonutrients, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds, Vitamin A, K, and Potassium, calcium help to build strong bones, teeth, and hair.

TURMERIC

Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (with the consumption of black pepper to aid absorption.) anti-inflammatory, boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in the brain, aids in prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and cancer.

RED CABBAGE

Vitamin A, C, fiber, sulphur which helps the liver at filtering toxins, potassium, which improves blood circulation, Vitamin B, magnesium, calcium, manganese, Generous levels of a particular amino acid called glutamine are found in red cabbage, which is excellent for reducing the inflammation and discomfort linked with stomach ulcers.

SWISS CHARD

Excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.

POMEGRANATE

Polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants can help remove free radicals, protect cells from damage, and reduce inflammation, Vitamin C, can aid to protect the heart and arteries, Vitamin E, Drinking 8 ounces of pomegranate juice a daily may improve learning and memory, according to a recent study. Ability to impact oxidative stress make it a potential fertility aid, may help reduce soreness and improve strength recovery. It also decreases oxidative damage caused by exercise.
The bottom line; be sure to check with your healthcare professional before drastically changing your diet and adding in an array of new foods, to be sure they don’t counteract any medication you may already be taking. Otherwise; to the everyday individual, next time you are at the grocery store–check out the produce section and select a few interesting fresh ingredients you may have not tried otherwise! Stick them in a juicer and sip on the longevity elixir of life and health!

 

Why Choose Loose Leaf Tea vs. Processed

I didn’t start drinking coffee religiously until 2 years ago; up until then it was tea–while I now drink both, depending on the occasion and application, sometimes I get rather picky with my tea.

My Nana tells the story frequently of when I was younger; maybe 4–6 years old, she would get me all dressed up, white gloves, frilled socks and all–and we would visit the local teahouse with her friends. The waitstaff would get a kick out of me apparently with my fancy white gloves eating tea sandwiches, crumpets, and shortbread cookies. Not to mention, one time they even had a photographer there to take photos of the facility and apparently I was used as a model in a few of the photos (I don’t recall this, I wish I had the photo to share with you all!) The moral of the story is; tea is a social activity, quality time to share with friends and family.

DO YOU DRINK TEA?

teacollage

The reason behind choosing loose leaf over processed is simply the “leaves” used in most bags are actually the dust and fannings from broken tea leaves. Finely broken tea leaves have lost most of their essential oils and aroma. When steeped, they release more tannins than whole leaf tea and less antioxidants are prominent. Now this isn’t to say that now companies make tea bags with loose leaf tea inside; they do, which makes the brewing process less time consuming and user friendly–but the process is half the fun of tea drinking!

We tend to call many things that we infuse in hot water a tea. But technically, it’s only tea if it’s made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis (originated in Southeast Asia), an evergreen plant indigenous to China and India. It wasn’t until the 17th century drinking tea became popular in Britain.

Tea is the world’s second most popular beverage, after water; and while Thomas Lipton invented the now-popular tea bag in 1952–tea in it’s traditional sense has been around dating back to the 3rd Century AD recorded for medicinal purposes.

Did you know:

  • WHITE TEAS ARE THE LEAST PROCESSED. THEY RELEASE THE LEAST AMOUNT OF CAFFEINE AS WEL
  • GREEN TEA, HIGH IN VITAMIN C, CHLOROPHYLL AND MINERALS
  • OOLONG TEAS ARE SEMI–OXIDIZED, WHICH PLACES THEM MID–WAY BETWEEN GREEN AND BLACK TEAS
  • BLACK TEAS ARE FULLY OXIDIZED AND MOST POPULAR TYPE IN THE WESTERN WORLD
  • PU’ERH TEAS ARE AGED AND FERMENTED MEDICINAL BENEFITS RANGE FROM CURING HANGOVERS TO REDUCING CHOLESTEROL
  • YERBA MATÉ HIGH IN CAFFEINE VITAMIN C, POTASSIUM, AND MAGNESIUM
  • HERBAL “TEAS” WIDE RANGE OF HEALTH BENEFITS DEPENDING ON THE HERB
  • ROOIBOS IS A NATURALLY CAFFEINE-FREE HIGH IN IRON, ZINC, COPPER

Most of these photos in the post were actually taken at a teahouse in Portland, Oregon; in the midst of a month long road trip with a friend of mine Anna, we stopped in to enjoy the Lan Su gardens, a cup of tea, and some Bao Zi (vegetable steamed buns.) Sure you can visit a place, and maybe you will remember it; but the act of experiencing a cultural tradition while doing so–engraves that experience in my memory.

Have you ever looked at a tea bag and tried to guess what’s actually in there? Very hard to decipher and see each individual ingredient. Unless it’s a very basic tea blend, you might not know what you’re putting in your body with processed bags of tea. If you look at the featured photo at the top of the post; you see many colors of green, fuchsia, and tan. You can pick out and hold each ingredient and identify it separately in loose leaf tea.

Health Benefits of Loose Leaf Tea:

  • High in Antioxidants
  • Lower Chloresterol
  • Helps Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
  • Possibly Helps Prevent Cancer
  • Calming and Mental Clarity

 

I boosted my tea consumption in 2016; when I started training for my first fitness bikini competition, and was drinking a gallon of water a day. Some people claim they actually hate water, you know the stuff that 60–75% of our bodies are made up of; I however love it. But, brewing my four 32oz containers with different flavors made the consumption new and exciting every time. Not to mention the added health benefits tea offers rather than just water alone. As I sit and write this; I am sipping on a steaming cup of Teavana Maharaja Chai Oolong / Samurai Chai Mate Blend Tea on this frigid 65 degree day at the end of June!

The Secrets of Meal Prep

As many of you know; and some may not, I competed in my first fitness bikini competition in 2016. In some areas of my life; I am a black and white kinda girl, and I don’t mean in how I dress. I am naturally a perfectionist (which I am growing day by day away from, or trying to at least!) Which means when I started my new meal plan back in 2016 I was very precise, 11 almonds meant 11 almonds not 10, not 15; not a handful, but 11.

While taking out a food scale and weighing 4oz of chicken, 4oz of sweet potato, and a cup of broccoli was cumbersome; it instilled the procedure and dedication I needed to keep me on track. But this way of meal prep isn’t for everyone; and it certainly isn’t for me anymore, and probably isn’t for you either.

So what got me from 2016 to 2018 (where I am now) and how will this help you? Well what got me from 2016 to 2018 is a loaded question of ups and downs and learning curves for sure, but we won’t get into that here; but we will pause on learning curves.

mealprep

Through the diligence of being so strict, I learned the basic principals that I still carry with me today. After weighing chicken and vegetables for countless days; I now have a keen sense on what an approximate 4-6oz looks like, and in the everyday healthy lifestyle sense–it is good enough! When you are not stepping on stage at a certain body fat percentage; the extra gram or two of chicken won’t hinder your day to day healthy physique.

Another valuable lesson learned was how to shop at bulk superstores like BJ’s Wholesale; not only does it save you money, but when you eat a lot of the same food it is easier to get larger portions saving you trips to the grocery store each week. Now, my weekly trip to the store looks like 10 items or so rather than a cart full. Every morning my green smoothie consists of frozen vegetables which are not only cost effective, but their longevity far outlasts that of fresh. Which leads me to frozen fruit and vegetables are not only cost effective; but already cut, clean, and when talking about vegetables– already partially cooked. Which means less prep time for you during the week!

Typically I eat between 5–6 meals a day because I love eating and snacking. Eggs are a big staple in my diet not only because I love them; but because they are also cost effective. I usually add one whole egg to egg whites, and while egg whites are more expensive sometimes than buying eggs; they have a high protein complex.

Let’s do a little recap; shopping at wholesale clubs, frozen vegetables and fruit, eggs–which brings me to whole fresh fruit, and pre–packaged vegetables. Now depending on whether you are looking to save money, or time (because let’s be honest here, they go hand in hand) both of these topics may be beneficial to you–as they are to me. I love snacking on fresh fruit; which means my go-to are usually apples, and berries which are pre-packaged and when I want any kind of melon, or pineapple I buy the whole fruit and cut myself to save on cost. Whereas with something like pre-cut and washed vegetables or even frozen are sometimes more appealing to me than taking time to chop various veggies and blanching.

The grill and oven are probably my favorite meal prep tools; not only can you cook large amounts of ingredients at the same time, but they come out really tasty as well! Grilling chicken, and roasting vegetables changes things up, dedicated a day of the week (Saturday and Sunday usually work best for the 9–5 corporate world schedule) to go to the store and pick up anything you may need, and then prepare, cook, and pre-portion out your meals for the week. This makes each morning a breeze of just grabbing and going with your already planned out meals for the day.

I could go on and on about my favorite topic of food; so I will end with services such as HelloFresh and Home Chef, which make the modern life easier and healthy. Our family subscribes to both and while I prefer the majority of Home Chef meals over HelloFresh (HelloFresh is a lot more kid-friendly with their meal choices.) Anything from Salmon with Green Goddess Sauce to Chicken, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Grain Bowls make for delicious, healthy, no–brainer dinners. Each week; these companies send you a box with ice packs, and all of the ingredients you will need to cook the meals inside. As well as directions, and sometimes the vegetables even come pre-cut for you! This makes dinner a breeze, to come home after work, cook for on average 30 minutes and from kitchen to table you are able to enjoy time with your family through a communal meal. Because let’s face it; as much as we meal prep, and stay on schedule of a healthy lifestyle–food is sociable, and we need to not only enjoy it, but in good company!