SALAD, The breakfast of Champions

Certain foods take on roles within our daily meal structures. Restaurants typically don’t serve steamed cod with grilled asparagus and capers for breakfast, just as old-fashioned oatmeal with a side of greek yogurt is less than likely to appear on the dinner menu. Midday meals fall within the gray area of either or both breakfasty or dinnerish offerings, and IHOP is open 24/7 for those who enjoy punishing their bodies with anything goes.

The idea of eating a large plate or bowl of mixed field greens, raw broccoli and cauliflower pieces, perhaps some baked butternut squash or sweet potato chunks, topped with an egg, slice of bacon, a little chicken and dressed with a tablespoon of hummus or salsa for breakfast is not quite the norm for the average bear. But when we think about the shape of most of our day it totally makes sense. Morning is really the only time of day we are untouched by life. We haven’t had back to back meetings or encounters with annoying co – workers, battled traffic, or experienced any stress. Our schedule hasn’t bulged out forcing us to work through lunch or settle for sub par cafeteria fare, and we have not been drained of our energy and alertness by the requirements of the day. So, doesn’t it make sense that the first, unadulterated time we consume fuel for our bodies we could choose the most nutrient dense, power packed, satiating foods available?

It may take several minutes more than a bowl of nutrient lacking cereal, or an energy depleting granola bar, but consider the benefit of feeling strong, energized, focused and truly healthy throughout your morning at work. The pros outweigh the cons. Oatmeal may give you a dose of carbohydrates for instant energy (which usually is not needed in our sedentary lives) but a bowl of salad greens can strengthen bones, sharpen eyesight, rev up muscles, fight breast cancer, protect your heart, and reduce risk of diabetes. Salad for breakfast, give it a try!

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The Dirt is in My Blood. My Sweat is in the Dirt.

There is no way to describe a trail that embodies the most elemental essence of who I am, where I came from and how I exist where I am today. Its dirt is in my blood and my sweat is in its dirt. Family hikes, picking bouquets of wild queen anne’s lace and bluebells and daisies, soccer practice conditioning, marathon training, romantic dates with the could have beens and once were’s, meditation, reflection, soul screaming purges of emotion and transformative healing all converged on this ribbon of stone and soil, rolling alongside the Rocky River.
Although life has carried me down shifting paths in other seasons, my roots have always led me back to this place where my soul first breathed. Out the front door of a redbrick ranch cottage to an asphalt road, leading down a steep hill into Cleveland’s Emerald Necklace is the start of the familiar trek. A moment on the bike path until the bridle trail emerges from the woods, underneath the Brookpark Road bridge is just enough time to get the breath moving and legs loose. From there it’s onto the trail, embraced by the arms of timeless trees and fringed with lush greens and wildflowers. A half a mile on the crunch of sandy dirt and crushed gravel reveals the ethereal rays of sun, pouring onto an earthy river, babbling in the spring and sluggishly creeping through summer. The scent of the trees and plants, entwined with the sounds of gentle waterfalls and flowing water resonate through the walls of my body and penetrate the core of my being. In this moment I can fly, I have no limitations, I can truly be and do anything.
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Endurance

Thirteen months and thousands of miles of training had all brought him to this moment. He approached, for the fifth time, the blue tarp, makeshift tent adorned in Christmas lights, welcomed by a blue dinosaur wearing a Santa cap. The volunteers working the aid station were tired, but cheerful, trying to keep each runner that passed through their establishment as comfortable as possible on their quest to reach 100 miles. This landmark was the 15.5 mile marker on a 20 mile loop and this was his last time approaching it, putting him at mile 95.5.

The thrill of the race had been lost to the trail hours before. Every step was pure agony. The repetitive impact of feet meeting trail, rock and root had taken its toll on every ligament and bone. The well of adrenaline was dry. The desire to be done was overwhelming, but the thought of taking just one more step inconceivable. At this point in the race, even with all the effort, determination, focus and training the thought of stopping is there. It’s human response to this type of physical exertion.

So what then, when all the glory of the finish seemed like a mirage, and the pain of enduring 4.5 more miles felt crushing, transpired to propel forward motion? The answer to that question is the topic of this post.

Any time we set a goal, or take on a new project the excitement and newness of the challenge generates an energy that almost effortlessly moves us forward. We are on track, getting it done, proud of our work, patting ourselves on the back and the goal seems well within reach. As time passes we see some results of our efforts and those results fuel the focus to keep pushing. Often the gains that we may have experienced early on begin to slow down, the going gets tough. The option of quitting is there beckoning us back into the hole of a comfort zone we crawled out of in the first place. We question why we ever thought we could do this, how bad do we really want it, is it even possible, we make excuses and we procrastinate. This is the brain’s defense mechanism against doing something it knows is going to be uncomfortable or difficult.

When the newness wears off, the results go unnoticed or unseen, and we arrive at what seems an insurmountable wall separating us from our own personal finish lines, practicing endurance is what eventually delivers the dream. Endurance is the ability to resist, withstand, recover, and have immunity from hardships, disappointments, fatigue and boredom. Developing endurance is achieved by placing ourselves in situations which require us to practice overcoming the aforementioned obstacles little by little. No one who wants to be successful jumps straight into a 100 mile race. Months of training at shorter distances, building endurance is what allows finishers to run, walk or crawl across the line.

The pursuit of any goal in fitness, relationships, career or nutrition requires endurance. Maybe you have been “good all week,” with your nutrition plan and suddenly someone brings your favorite dessert into the office or friends suggest a night of heavy drinking. Perhaps you’ve been busting your butt at work for recognition and a promotion that doesn’t seem to be happening, so you feel like giving up and rationalizing mediocre work. What if you’ve been putting a ton of effort in with your spouse only to feel like there is no reciprocity and you are tempted to resign yourself to a lackluster relationship for the sake of harmony? Those situations are in that moment your mile 95.5. What will you do? Will you exercise endurance and finish the race, or will you disqualify all that you have already invested for the sake of what momentarily feels more comfortable?

Peace, love and running.

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Gobbling vs. Chewing

Digestion begins in the mouth and ends in the anus. Take a moment and allow that to marinate in your mind. Every time something passes through the oral orifice it embarks on an awesome winding, topsy turvy journey through 25-30 feet of digestive conduit, efficiently and ingeniously packed into the human machine. Below is a diagram of the digestive system:

 

 

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And here is a breakdown of what happens at each mile marker in the process:

Functions of the Digestive Organs
Organ Major functions Other functions
Mouth
  • Ingests food
  • Chews and mixes food
  • Begins chemical breakdown of carbohydrates
  • Moves food into the pharynx
  • Begins breakdown of lipids via lingual lipase
  • Moistens and dissolves food, allowing you to taste it
  • Cleans and lubricates the teeth and oral cavity
  • Has some antimicrobial activity
Pharynx
  • Propels food from the oral cavity to the esophagus
  • Lubricates food and passageways
Esophagus
  • Propels food to the stomach
  • Lubricates food and passageways
Stomach
  • Mixes and churns food with gastric juices to form chyme
  • Begins chemical breakdown of proteins
  • Releases food into the duodenum as chyme
  • Absorbs some fat-soluble substances (for example, alcohol, aspirin)
  • Possesses antimicrobial functions
  • Stimulates protein-digesting enzymes
  • Secretes intrinsic factor required for vitamin B12absorption in small intestine
Small intestine
  • Mixes chyme with digestive juices
  • Propels food at a rate slow enough for digestion and absorption
  • Absorbs breakdown products of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, along with vitamins, minerals, and water
  • Performs physical digestion via segmentation
  • Provides optimal medium for enzymatic activity
Accessory organs
  • Liver: produces bile salts, which emulsify lipids, aiding their digestion and absorption
  • Gallbladder: stores, concentrates, and releases bile
  • Pancreas: produces digestive enzymes and bicarbonate
  • Bicarbonate-rich pancreatic juices help neutralize acidic chyme and provide optimal environment for enzymatic activity
Large intestine
  • Further breaks down food residues
  • Absorbs most residual water, electrolytes, and vitamins produced by enteric bacteria
  • Propels feces toward rectum
  • Eliminates feces
  • Food residue is concentrated and temporarily stored prior to defecation
  • Mucus eases passage of feces through colon

 

 

The description of the processes above all involve the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food so that our bodies can absorb the nutrients of what we eat. The very first part of the process begins with chewing, and that is the focus of this post.

BEEP, BEEP. BEEP, BEEP!!!!!!! The offensive sound waves emitted by the electronic reminder of how nice it would be to sleep in come crashing mercilessly against our bleary eardrums. And with that a new day is born. Maybe we got up in enough time to prepare breakfast, or maybe a granola bar or banana is snatched up on our blind rush for the door. It’s breakfast; our first foray into fueling our engines and initiating this day’s digestion. Many times getting the kids and family ready to get out the door, or even just getting ourselves ready can be a task. The thought of sitting in a quiet, relaxed space and calmly chewing our food into a liquified state is laughable.

We blaze through the morning stoked up on caffeine and adrenaline, and maybe a mid morning snack, arriving at lunch with either no appetite (due to coffee overdose) or completely ravenous (due to insufficient caloric and water consumption). So, either we skip lunch, force ourselves to eat, or inhale whatever the option is for that day. Again, taking the time to turn down the noise and truly look at this food as a gift, one bite at a time isn’t on our list of priorities.

At some point in the day this routine of indifference to our food and lack of recognition of its value will catch up with us. It could be around 3pm when we start craving something salty or sweet, or we just need a diet soda to hold us over till dinner. It could be when we get home into our comfort zones and graze or binge on anything available as a way to relax and “enjoy” our time to eat. If the act of sitting down and mindfully eating a meal from start to finish doesn’t seem like a conscious decision, then I urge you to monitor your behavior the next time you eat something. What did you eat, why did you eat it, when were you satiated, how quickly did you consume it and were you mentally present in each bite?

When we mindlessly eat for reasons other than hunger we abuse food. When we use food as a coping mechanism, it loses its importance as our fuel. When we keep going back for more of what we do not need, we are unconsciously practicing ungratefulness and taking for granted that which we are beyond blessed to have at our fingertips.

So the challenge is to wake up and stay checked in as you are eating. Instead of gobbling it up like there could not be a next meal, slow down, be thankful for every single bite, be awake in every single bite, and make every meal as special as you possibly can. We were given the cognitive ability to choose what, when and how we eat. The only person ultimately responsible for those choices is us. Choose well and chew longer.

One house, different metabolic needs: Creating harmony

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To begin let me say that I love my husband. Based on the images above you can probably imagine where my inspiration for this blog comes from. You see the guy I live with is not only a card-carrying member of the ectomorph tribesman, but as an ultra marathon runner he is also likely a chief. Let me now also say that I love my family heritage. However, there are many unhealthy, overweight and non athletic people chilling in my family tree. While my other half has to consistently strive to simply maintain rather than lose weight, my battle is definitely against the billowing bulge. So how is it that we are able to coexist under one roof and still get what we need from our nutrition? Well, it’s a process.

If you are an ectomorph living with an endomorph, I’m sorry. If you are an endomorph living with an ectomorph, I’m sorry. The first thing to realize is that navigating nutrition at either end of the spectrum is a challenge for both poles. The endo may see the ecto as being lucky to be able to eat as much of anything as they want, but in reality a true ecto has to really struggle just to avoid being underweight. The ectomorph likely feels bad sometimes that they can eat whatever they want while watching their co habitation partner fight ice cream, cookies and cakes like they are fighting an invisible demonic force. The point is, it can be difficult, in different ways for both parties.

Breakfasts should be pretty easy for each person to get what they need without outside influences. Ectos load up on the carbs and starches, i.e. oats, cereals, breakfast burritos, bagels etc. while endos fuel up with high proteins and whole carbs like protein smoothies, eggs, chia porridge, fruit etc. Next stop of the day is place of work. Ectos thrive in this environment with ample choices supplied by a wide array of snack dealers. Endos can successfully step through booby snack traps by having their own stash of treats that specifically work for their needs, i.e. fruit, raw mixed veggies, paleo muffin or cookie, larabar, pb&apples, smoothies etc.

Lunch time again, can be easy for both extremes. It would be great if both parties prepared lunch at home for their individual needs, but there are many half way decent options at popular lunch places. Again ectos need the high carb options like subway sandwiches, pastas, rice/beans etc. while endos will want to veer towards lean meats, veggies and complex carbs like sweet potatoes, Ezekiel bread or whole wheat tortilla that fit within caloric needs. Afternoon snacking should resemble the morning snack time.

And that brings us home to dinner and more snack time, the final challenge of the day. Because of the very different needs of both, different options need to be available to both for dinner. One easy-ish way to do this is with side dishes. Ectos can decorate their meat serving with whole wheat home-made biscuits, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes or pasta of some kind etc. Endos will want to gravitate towards one serving of quinoa, 5 oz. of sweet potato or mashed rutabaga as their starch option. BOTH types need vegetables and I am of the opinion that half any person’s plate should be filled with green vegetables. The other method is to prepare 2 completely separate meals. Typically this resembles some sort of one pot casserole type meal for the ectomorph that includes protein, carbs, fat and vegetables. The endomorph’s plate would look like the above description. Preparing the meals separately sort of draws a line, “This is your meal, and this is mine,” and the line is so clearly drawn that it does require conscious effort to step over it because time was taken to prepare both.

If you are at one end of the spectrum living with the other end let me just encourage you. We are not all built the same, and because of that we simply can’t all eat the same. Once that is accepted and even embraced, we can be free to take care of our own individual needs while also being aware and sensitive to the needs of others. Take care of you this holiday season! Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or calls normal. You are the captain of your physical body, keep that ship on course!

The Trinity as a Theological Foundation for Wellness

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Being that it’s the time of year when some people acknowledge and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ it seemed appropriate to draw upon some spiritual themes for this posting. Western religions of many different doctrines and beliefs often embrace the concept of the Trinity within their dogma. The Trinity is composed of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirt. Please open your mind to the comparison that our own being is very much designed to reflect that of the holy Trinity.

While the Christian faith adheres strongly to monotheism (the existence of only one God) it also affirms that this singular being exists and is represented in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each part of the Trinity is equally God, not three gods, but three parts of one infinite God. While each part is composed of the same divine constitution, each also contributes a distinct expression to the one Godhead. Since these three parts are identical in divine makeup, the things that identify them separately are the roles each play and the work they do in the world, and the relationship each has with the other 2 parts. Here are their roles with each other:

Father – ultimate authority, creates grand purposes and plans that take place in the world
Son – under Father’s authority, seeks to do His will. Still fully God, but takes lead from Father and wants to glorify Him in everything
Holy Spirit – under both Father and Son. Spirit wants to glorify the Son which ultimately praises the Father. Still fully God.

Here are their roles in the world:
Father – created us, created redemption, sent the Son into the world in human form
Son – came to the world in obedience of Father
Spirit – came to empower the Son for the purpose determined by the Father. Spirit raised Jesus from the dead

With that brief understanding of the Trinity, let us now examine the three components that exist in every human being, with or without religious conviction. Each person rushing through a busy mall this holiday season is powered by, not only Starbucks, but their own personal trinity of Mind, Body and Spirit.
Mind – The brain is the control center for the human body and within the brain occur many neuro processes and transmissions occur. The result of these mechanics is the human mind: the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought, person’s intellect, a person’s attention.

Body – under the authority of the brain and the mind. The body cannot function properly without the direction of the brain and mind

Spirit – under both the mind and the body. Indomitable spirit, will, motivation, sweetness, kindness, goodness and determination come from our spirit which operates to fortify the body and bring balance to the mind.

So the Mind is to the Father, as the Body is to the Son and the Spirit is to the Holy Spirit.   If the holy Trinity is completely equal, simply with different roles, and the mind, body and spirit are modeled in the same fashion, then shouldn’t mind, body and spirit also be completely equal within each individual? If you’re still with me then you probably already recognize that in the VAST majority of us those components are not equal. Personally, my body is way more active than my mind or spirit because I enjoy working out. For some who don’t enjoy exercise perhaps their mind is acting in excess. And others still have decided that they must completely ignore the other 2 components of their being to convey their dedication to God, and spiritual hypertrophy.

This concept came to me, I believe from God, while I was running (b/c trust me I don’t come up with this stuff). The message I received is that in order to live a fully happy and purposeful life, we must maintain a healthy balance between our mind, body and spirit. 15 hours a week of exercise, 1 hour a week of reading and 1 hour a week of meditation or church or whatever you do to express spirituality is not balance! Each day we must strive to keep our balance between these three components to enhance the experience of life and avoid missing out on one aspect because we are too preoccupied with another.

This holiday season strive for balance. Read an article on something that interests you, exercise your body and eat right, and reflect on the plethora of blessings that adorn your life. Arrive at New Year’s Eve with a sound mind in a sound body with a melodious spirit, ready to ring in the best year of your life. Thank you for reading, much love and peace be with you!

Despite all the rage, You are still just a rat in a Cage

Choosing WHOLE foods, meaning foods that come straight out of the ground, off the tree or from the farm with minimal processing is a very important part of practicing integrity with nutrition. The more whole foods we can incorporate into our daily intake, the better. In addition to choosing whole foods it is important to also determine the balance of macronutrients by which your body performs most effectively. What is your ideal ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat? This answer is unique to each individual and it is an ongoing self performed science experiment that we sadly never learn in the classroom. (I hope to change that one day.) The first step in using yourself as your own scientific test subject is to identify your body type.

We are all fearfully and wonderfully made in a variety of shapes and sizes. Determining a general macronutrient ratio depends on the shape we most closely identify with. There are three commonly used somatotypes that can help you figure out which you relate closest to. The International Sports Sciences Association depicts these types:

Ectomorph: If you’re an ectomorph, you’re naturally thin with skinny limbs and a high tolerance for carbohydrates. Usually, your metabolic rate is fast. A good starting macronutrient ratio for you would be something like 25% protein, 55% carbs and 20% fat.

Mesomorph: Mesomorphs are naturally muscular and athletic. They have a moderate carbohydrate tolerance and a moderate metabolic rate. Mesomorphs can usually start at a 30% protein, 40% carb, 30% fat macronutrient ratio.

Endomorph: If you’re naturally broad and thick, you’re probably an endomorph. Endomorphs have a low carbohydrate tolerance and a slow metabolic rate. If you’re an endomorph, try a ratio of 35% protein, 25% carbs and 40% fat.

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Now, while the above information does have some scientific basis, it is not the end all be all to personal sound nutrition. There are always exceptions. But, as a general jumping off point these are satisfactory guidelines. Once you’ve identified your somatotype and begun structuring your intake around those percentages you can fine tune the numbers to yield the result you are looking for. A tool that I use to see a broad overview of my macronutrients is the dailyburntracker.com .

Another approach to determining your macronutrient balance is through mathematical equations, which is definitely more precise. After you’ve been following the guidelines above for a while and want more fine tuning, the more precise calculations will get you there. These calculations are determined by finding your Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories your body needs to survive), knowing your Activity Factor (the total amount of calories you need to do what you do every day), and defining your goals and lifestyle. The easiest way to discover these numbers is to ask your personal trainer to schedule your nutritional consultation. While trainers are not nutritionists or dietitians, they are required through their education to learn the basics of sound nutrition and how to manipulate those standards to help clients achieve goals. The cheaper, but lengthier and potentially frustrating approach is to DIY by using credible resources on the internet. The resources are out there, but if you aren’t overly familiar or confident with the material it can be cumbersome.

So, now that you recognize that your nutritional intake is an evolving balance that requires education and practice, I urge you to invoke your inner scientist and let the experimentation begin! Once your meals are balanced according to your beautiful body’s needs you will feel more energy and you will start to see a leaner, stronger and healthier you. You can do it!

More Revival, Less Survival

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!!!!!!! The last bits of Halloween candy have thankfully bit the dust, the sparse leaves are fighting to hang on through the frosty, late fall air and every commercial entity is bursting with the message that the holiday season is blooming! There are so many great resources available offering insight and tips on how to survive, “The most wonderful time of the year,” but this little word nugget is here to encourage you to use this holiday season as a reminder to revive your fitness and nutrition decisions now and arrive at January 1, 2015 in the greatest thriving condition you’ve ever been! Yep, that’s right, I’m challenging you to not only make this the hap happiest season of all, but the health healthiest season of your LIFE!!!!!!

Society has somehow taken the day we reserve for thankfulness and transformed it into a day where gluttony, over indulgence and waste is not only socially accepted, but expected. Ouch, yeah it’s the truth. Think back to the poor pilgrims and Indians on the first Thanksgiving. Their binge meal was likely the equivalent to half of our first plate on Thanksgiving day, and they probably felt as if they were living like kings. Half those pilgrims starved to death their first winter. We are blessed with such great access to food now that we lose authenticity in our appreciation of it, because we do not know what it feels like to really, “starve to death.” I encourage you to recognize that as you sit down to dinner this turkey day. Instead of the mindless inhalation of thousands of calories, serve yourself a few of your favorite things, and allow yourself to experience a sincere gratitude for having those things at your table. While taking part in the holiday, remember to be thankful for your health maybe by doing a workout that morning or going for a walk after dinner. The world may condone sloth and gluttony, but you can choose how you want to celebrate, and you can still celebrate while practicing moderation and mindfulness!

Many people report feelings of exhaustion, stress and depression in the last 2 months of the year and the first month of the next. Since they know these feelings are coming, and they are just “too busy,” they allow themselves to,”take a break,” from routine exercise. I cannot verbalize enough how detrimental to your physical and mental health this sabbatical is. First of all the body does not adjust itself to accommodate the holidays. The metabolism doesn’t do overtime to burn the unnecessary calories, and the muscles don’t get up and work themselves. Secondly, the mind doesn’t stop needing the release of endorphins and feel good neurotransmitters that come with exercising. So discontinuing exercise as a means of reducing your stress levels will end up doing the complete opposite. If anything, I encourage you to take this holiday season by the french horns and recharge your energy by elevating your exercise endeavors. Do you want to feel like the dead brown needles at the base of the Christmas tree, or do you want to be the shining star that spreads a glow of warmth, light and love to everything surrounding it!?? YOU get to choose! The holidays are not something to be survived, they are a wonderful time to embrace love and life and to allow yourself to thrive.

I am thankful to you for reading this and I wish you a wonderful, happy and healthy holiday season. I love you!

Count von Count?

Measurements are the numbers we assign to various objects. In many fields these numbers allow for precision, continuity, validity and reliability. In the realm of health and fitness we have an eclectic array of measurements from which we can choose to identify our placement in the spectrum of what is “normal,” and healthy. These methods include, Body Mass Index (BMI), body fat %, weight and waist to hip ratio among many others. Then, collectively as a society we also measure ourselves by clothing sizes and styles, comparisons to photos on pinterest and instagram as well as fitness magazines, and tape measured measurements. Whew, that’s allota numbers to keep track of and be measured by.

Throughout history being “fat” was regarded as a favorable condition and associated with people of wealth. Many held the belief that having more to squeeze at night was somewhat of an insurance policy in times of sickness. The idea of obesity being a pathological state has only made its way onto the radar in the past century, with morbid obesity being identified as recently as the primary decades of the 20th century. Sidenote; the timing of this classification interestingly aligns itself with the increased accessibility of the motor vehicle. Obesity related illness and death was identified early on by insurance companies! HA! Of course it was. Insurance companies discovered a relationship between their obese policy holders and increased death claims which then prompted the need for an index of normal relative body mass. The less the insurance companies have to pay, the happier they are and in this case it was a good discovery (if only they would wake up and see the benefits of preventative medicine now). And so the Quetelet index, commonly known as the BMI was born as a way to assess relative body mass. While the BMI is an effective tool in loosely identifying where we fit in the spectrum, it is certainly NOT 100% accurate or a true reflection of your fitness level. It does not take muscle mass, fluid, or bone density into account and for anyone who works out consistently it is an arbitrary number.

If ancient Egyptians could see us stepping up onto the scale today they would think we were all cray cray. Scales were historically used to measure goods for trade, 30 pieces of silver, grain etc. They were used to determine the VALUE of what was being weighed. The idea that we consciously or not step up onto a scale to determine our own value is antiquated and unnecessary. How many times have we all allowed the number on the scale to either deflate our demeanor or empower our ego? So many people often associate their body weight with their level of success, potential, beauty, happiness, and sadly, their worth. Let it go, let it go! (queue Frozen music).

Did you know that there was a time when clothing was made to fit the individual, instead of the individual trying to fit the clothing!!?? Wow, how much sense would that make? Once upon a time, prior to the 1800’s all clothing was made in the home or by a seamstress or tailor. Apparently the union of sewers got together and realized that the range of body dimensions wasn’t vast, so creating standardized sizing would allow for their mass production. The first to lose the individuality of fit in clothing were men during the Civil War. Due to the great need for uniforms after the onset of the war, standardized sizing was implemented and continued in menswear once the war was over. It wasn’t until the roaring 20’s that women’s clothing adopted the standard sizing approach. Development of mass production methods, the explosion of advertising, and the accessibility of national markets through chain stores and mail order catalogs, added to the success of the women’s ready-made clothing. Standardized garments were portrayed as cutting edge and chic during a time when consumer businesses were changing Americans impressions of mass-produced products. Rather than seeing the standardized clothing for what it is, a loss of individuality, women accepted the apparel as easy, cheap, disposable and current.  So you see when we go to the store and one day we wear a size 6 and the next day a size 10, it is not a reflection of our worth, physical condition or overall health and beauty! It is another arbitrary number to count because mass-produced products do not account for all of the wonderful nooks and crannies that make us who we are!

So if we can’t empirically rely on BMI, body weight, or clothing sizes to tell us how fit or unfit we are, then how do we measure it? Well, first is by feeling. Ask yourself how you feel in your body, alone, un-compared to anyone else. Do I feel lethargic, bloated, fatigued, embarrassed and winded, or do I feel energized, lean, strong and confident? Then ask yourself if you are physically able to do everything that you want to do, or need to do? Are you panting for breath after a flight of stairs or walking in from your car in the morning? Are you able to get down and up from the floor without a crane to help? Are you able to get into and out of the bathtub without having to have something to hold onto? Can you carry 6 bags of groceries in from the car without being exhausted? Can you run and play with your kids and keep up with them? These are the types of questions we need to ask ourselves in regards to our health and fitness. Instead of setting a goal to fit into a size 5, make a goal to run a 5K. Instead of working to fit into size 34 pants guys, work to see how many miles you can walk or run in 34 minutes. Make the goal about fine tuning your individual body to perform to its potential and allow your own personal progress to be your method of measurement. Stop counting the numbers that do not acknowledge the priceless gift of your unique being.

Thank you for reading!  I love you!

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Behind Closed Doors

Why is it that we can excel and consistently improve in certain areas of our lives like our jobs,  skills, time management and hobbies? Yet when it comes to other areas of life, like close interpersonal relationships, self-treatment, weight loss, personal organization and routine health regimes we often struggle to keep our ships from sinking? One argument would be that we are more diligent in areas of full exposure that produce desirable rewards and, conversely, undesirable consequences; and we let the ball drop when we are alone and there is no audience to witness our behaviors.

This meandering is exploring why the standard by which we conduct our public lives is sometimes drastically lowered when the spectators of our lives are dismissed and we are released to our own personal temples. It is my experience that tiers of importance exist in regards to relationships. Those on the top-tier who receive the very best of us, who can provide us with accolades, affirmation, validation, elevation and recognition are many times customers, bosses, pastors, clients, potential dates, patients and anyone else in a position to provide some type of reward for our exceptional treatment of them. For these people we are able to maintain or actively strive to maintain a healthy responsive, rather than reactionary relationship. We are usually willing to say yes as often as possible, check in with them as often as possible, do not allow our personal issues to be projected onto them and try to leave a good impression with each interaction.

The next step down from the top-tier still have it pretty good! Second tiered people include co-workers, fellow church members, teammates, volunteer partners, and I’m just going to say it, the baristas at Starbucks. Certainly there are times that all of these people needle our skin, but in the interest of presenting ourselves as agreeable, cooperative and helpful people we choose to tolerate, humor and find common ground with them. The degree to which we would expose any lack of control or composure around these people is minimal because those who do not love us cannot as easily forgive and forget our flaws.

At the end of the day, once the top tiered classes have been pacified and impressed sufficiently it is time to close our driver’s side door and begin the unveiling process. Our drive home brings us face to face with the third tier of people; ourselves and our families. Maybe it was a rough day, peppered with stress and we are just exhausted and not feeling well that brings us halfheartedly home. So often it is the case that most of the pleasantries, sweet smiles and extra miles we run for the rest of the world are empty in the presence of our own selves and our loved ones. Most of us are much quicker to get snippy with a spouse, child or room-mate than we would our boss. Yelling, screaming, silent treatment and other emotionally manipulative tactics that often rise up in our private lives are also excluded from our behavior in the top tiers.  The internal dialogue we have with our own selves also is much more severe than what we would engage in with a complete stranger. Sometimes the personas we present to the world require so much effort to maintain that when we exit the stage, we enter a dark alley way that drags us a great distance from the bright lights of broadway.

If this in any way connects with something you experience there is a way to completely eliminate the status of that third tier and it is through freedom of choice and awareness.  Starting with simply striving to treat yourself and loved ones as good or better than you would treat the person who will be writing your review is a good place. Maybe instead of getting pissed that something didn’t get done, you give the same patience that you give your boss who promised a million times to get you what you needed. And lastly, maybe instead of placing your own head on the chopping block for indiscretions and stumbles, you remove blame and shame from the equation and reflect on how to improve yourself and future situations, just as you would advise someone new on the job.

Often improving the behaviors, thoughts and feelings that transpire behind closed doors is as simple as opening all doors, de-compartmentalizing your life and embracing the beautiful, unique and special person that you are in every tier of life.