Life Lessons from Volleyball

This month, I had the honor of watching my high school’s volleyball team compete in the state tournament. Small town sports teams are a close-knit community of learning and growing and bettering oneself and others.

I had a wonderful volleyball coach in high school – someone who guided and molded and shaped me as an athlete and a person. Unknowingly (or, maybe to her full knowledge), my coach provided me many nuggets of advice that have stuck with me throughout the years and have turned out to be applicable in many contexts of life beyond the volleyball court.volleyball

  1. Know your responsibilities, but be willing to go out of your way.

Volleyball meaning: In volleyball, this means a player knows which parts of the court they need to cover. It is that person’s job to make sure no ball falls on that part of the court, and that they are playing the ball in a way that contributes to the team’s goal of making a competitive attempt at scoring a point. There are grey areas, though, which are the boundaries where the zones belonging to two different players meet. In that region, either player could play the ball equally well, just so long as someone plays it rather than allowing the ball to fall to the court. (Side note: This grey area is often known as the “husband and wife” area because lack of communication can lead to failure to make a play on the ball and loss of a point.)

Real life meaning: We all have things that we have to make sure are covered and taken care of in our day-to-day lives: rent, bills, kids, feeding ourselves, and going to work. All the tasks that fall into our realm of responsibility can feel like a lot at times, but we need to be willing to flex on that and even add more tasks. Sometimes a coworker or spouse may need help to get things accomplished, or something unexpected could come up that has to be handled. Taking on that responsibility yourself could mean that you are effectively managing the situation in what would be the real-life version of competitive-ness – doing a little more than just existing and surviving by making that situation just a little bit better and figuring out how to use it to contribute to your overall well-being.

  1. Trust your teammates.

Volleyball meaning: You don’t have to do everything yourself. This is a balance with my previous point. While you need to make sure you’re covering your area of the court and step up to cover the periphery of your area sometimes, you need to trust that your teammates are doing the same. One person can’t effectively cover the whole court. If they could, a volleyball team would just be one person. Trust your teammates, and lean on them to help you.

Real life meaning: There are people in our lives who can help us accomplish everything that needs to get done. A lesson that I’m still learning (slowly, and repeatedly) is that it’s alright to let people help me. It’s okay to take someone up on their offer to contribute to your life even if they don’t have to do it – they wouldn’t have offered if they didn’t want to be taken up on it. It’s even okay to ask for help. The end goal here isn’t to score a point, but to get everyone through life and have each person be as okay and good as they possible, and sometimes (usually) that’s more than one person can do for themselves.

3. TALK.

Volleyball meaning: It’s impossible to look both at the ball and see where each teammate is at all times. It’s also impossible to know what’s going on both on your team’s side of the court and the opponent’s side of the court at all times, and what you can see is often from a different angle or perspective than another person’s. Talking, LOUDLY, is a major part of volleyball. Players go home hoarse all the time from talking so much.

Real life meaning: One person can’t see or know all that is happening, and each person involved in any situation will have a different perspective. As humans, we tend to fill in the gaps in a story with details that make sense in our own minds, even if those details are not true. It’s incredibly and dangerously easy to believe that they are true, not even realizing that we generated those “facts” ourselves with no basis for knowing whether they are real. Talking and communication are just as key in real life to make good decisions and handle situations effectively so that we can do more than survive and exist.

  1. Make a decision and commit.

Volleyball meaning: The best way to play a ball may not always be clear, but one thing is certain: the ball will fall to the court and a point will be lost if we don’t do something. Anyone who has spent much time playing volleyball remembers a moment when their hands felt stuck at chest level because they couldn’t decide whether a forearm pass or an overhead contact would be best with the ball coming at them. Usually, this ends in a messy contact just to keep the ball off the floor, when committing to a technique would have resulted in a ball played more cleanly that would be easier for a teammate to use.

Real life meaning: The same thing happens in real life. Occasionally, we find ourselves waffling on a decision for so long that we end up backed into a corner and having to do something, anything, to get out. Sometimes it is impossible to know all the information we want to know to make a decision. And sometimes, even when we have all the information, we can’t see into the future to know which decision is best. In that moment, you just have to make a decision and commit to it. Maybe you trust your gut, or pray over it, or make a Rory-Gilmore-esque pro-con list. Whatever your method, though, something has to be done. Personally, I would rather know that I made my own choice rather than getting pigeon-holed into doing something I didn’t choose.

  1. Swing through.

Volleyball meaning: This is serving and hitting vernacular for “follow through.” If you’re going to serve or make a competitive attack on the ball, you need to swing your arm all the way through the ball to put as much power behind it as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of the ball falling short of where you wanted it to go, or that the attack was too gentle and allows the opponent plenty of time to reach the ball before it hits the court. Knowing where you want the ball to go and how you want that attack to end gives direction and a goal to a hit or serve, and swinging through is the action to get the ball there.

Real life meaning: Goals and desired outcomes are great, but a half-hearted attempt is unlikely to have the power needed to see a goal to the end. Committing to a plan and following through with a directed force to achieve those end results is critical. This means going after ambitions with passion and gusto to make them reality!

  1. “Plan B” is not “Plan A – Harder.”

Volleyball meaning: In volleyball, the same set of skills are performed repeatedly to make up a match. If a player makes a mistake in their skills, or is completing a skill incorrectly, it can quickly lead to frustration and attempts by the player to perform the same faulty skill simply with more aggression. My coach always used to say, “I don’t care if you do nothing else right, as long as you don’t x again.” That x could be letting a ball fall to the ground, it could be hitting into the net, it could be serving the ball out the back of the court. Whatever it was, the requirement was never for perfection. It was to avoid making the same mistake repeatedly. Even if I still messed up, I just needed to make sure I messed up in a different way. Breaking skills down this way helped to take the focus off of coordinating everything and doing it all just right, and instead helped to hone in on adjusting just one part of a skill and working specifically on that. This was an excellent way to overcome repeating the same faulty skill with frustration, and instead work on making even a small improvement or change.

Real life meaning: I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Even if we add more enthusiasm and desire to a method that hasn’t worked, it is unlikely that it will work just because we’re trying harder. A better method is to re-work that fervor into a new plan to avoid wasting time, resources, and energy on an action that just isn’t delivering the effects we want. Trying a new approach certainly won’t make anything worse, and it might even make things better in ways we never expected!

  1. Better every ball.

Volleyball meaning: In volleyball, it is very common that teammates make mistakes and by the time the ball is yours to play, it is not ideal. There might be a weird spin on the ball, or it might be in a position on the court that’s difficult to finagle into a competitive play. This is incredibly common and happens frequently. Here’s the deal, though – just because you were left with less-than-perfect conditions under which to play the ball, you can’t cop out. If you do, it ends in blame that is destructive to a team mentality. No matter what, you have to do the best with what you have. And sometimes, those plays can be the most effective because the other team doesn’t see them coming!

Real life meaning: Whatever hand you’re dealt, it is critical that you do your best with it. We’re all going to catch tough breaks; that’s just a fact. And they’ll be hard and frustrating and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably cried. But we have choices. We can just blame the circumstances for our mediocrity, or we can put in work that we’re actually proud of, and maybe find more success than we would have had if things had gone the way we wanted!

 

What lessons have you learned from your sport that you have carried with you throughout your life? Please share in the comments section below!

Adventures in Cooking: A Dietitian’s Discoveries in the Kitchen

Y’all, I’m not a cooking dietitian.

Whew! Glad that’s off my chest.

Really, though. There are MANY dietitians who are great and cooking and passionate about cooking. In fact, a love of cooking is often cited as an attraction to entering the field of dietetics and nutrition. However, cooking has never been my strong suit or something I really enjoyed very much. I always fumbled a bit when patients and clients asked me for cooking tips because I had none.

Recently, however, I have made a point of learning more about how to cook. In addition to my inability to advise others, I am motivated by my own lack of interest and inspiration in the few meals I am capable of preparing for myself. I want to eat veggies in some for other than raw or steamed (because those are the easiest ways to avoid cooking). I want to eat new and different things. I want to create and I want to learn!

I’ve begun my adventure of discovery with meal prep. This way, I only cook once at the beginning of the week, and I usually don’t have to cook again until the next week. (I have yet to overcome my lack of desire to actually cook frequently.) In just a few weeks of consistently doing meal prep, there are a few lessons I’ve learned that have really opened doors for me!

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  1. I’m not the first person to try (or struggle!) with meal prep!

It seems obvious, I know; but to be honest, I felt sort of alone and anomalous among dietitians as someone who would rather hand over the knife and spatula than wield them herself. Simple internet searches, though, revealed so many resources from dietitians who LOVE meal prep and are totally willing to share their favorite tips and tricks! It also helps to remember that what I do doesn’t have to match anyone else – I can use the hacks I find most useful.

  1. A new recipe is only new once.

I find myself intimidated by new recipes. It only just dawned on me recently that a recipe is the hardest to make the first time. The initial making of a recipe takes F O R E V E R and it’s uncomfortable because I don’t really have the flow of the thing. I’ve realized, though, that all subsequent preparations of that same recipe are much easier. This “First Time Challenge” is why I…

  1. Pair one new recipe with one familiar recipe.

It’s much easier to [relatively] efficiently cook my lunch and dinner entrées for the week at the same time if I am comfortable with at least one of the two recipes. This way, I can build my recipe repertoire but cut down on the amount of intimidation and overwhelm I feel about doing my meal prep.

  1. Make YUMMY foods!

Duh. Why wouldn’t you?! Well, I didn’t. I made a whole week’s worth of salad-in-a-jar that I wasn’t even excited about at the outset. I was impressed by the nutrition in the recipe, it called for ingredients with which I was very familiar, and it seemed like something I ‘should’ like, so I made it even though I didn’t really want it. And you know what? I didn’t really care for it. It’s pretty disheartening to put in the time to do meal prep and not even like the results. I’ve since found more salad-in-a-jar recipes that seem more challenging but that actually sound good to me, so I’m going to be trying those instead!

  1. Convenience can be well worth the cost.

I had a thought at first that I wasn’t doing meal prep “right” unless I made everything from scratch. It seemed like the most foodie/cooking-dietitian way to do it. Maybe someday I will do everything from scratch, but it isn’t likely. For me, it’s worth it to use a pre-made pie crust for quiche, or to use frozen chopped spinach instead of buying fresh and chopping and cooking it myself.

  1. Lastly…

I’ve learned that my week is SO much easier when I don’t have to worry every night about what lunch will be the next day (or, let’s be honest, every morning when I’m getting ready for work). I’m learning as I go, and the most important part is that I’m DOING it and setting myself up for a nutritious week!

Have you learned any tips, tricks, or hacks for meal prep? Please share them along with your favorite make-ahead meals in the comments!

Then & Now: What It Means to be an Athlete

Then & NowAs I basked in the afterglow of a recent workout, I found myself reflecting on why exercise matters to me and what it really means to me.

I love to feel like an athlete. Several words help illustrate what my perception of an athlete:

Strong

Capable

Determined

Hardworking

Sweaty!

The more I thought about it, the realization dawned on me that I have always sought these feelings through exercise. As a tri-sport athlete in a small-town high school (I participated in volleyball, basketball, and track & field annually), I got my fill of feeling like an athlete through sports. As an adult, I have much less directed or structured athletic endeavors.

From the time I was in high school sports to adulthood, my drivers to reach that feeling of athleticism have changed substantially.

 

Competition with Others vs. Competition with Myself

In high school sports, being an athlete was very much geared toward being a better athlete than my competitors from other schools. I needed to be more than another person – more strong, more capable, just more. Now, I don’t much care where anyone else’s fitness skills are in relation to mine; if I can compete with myself and improve myself and my own fitness compared to where I was yesterday or last week or last year, I’m winning!

 

Stats vs. Health

In order to determine which of two people the better athlete is, sports statistics are used: race times, distances thrown, shots scored, wins/losses, etc. These days, I’m only comparing my statistics to my prior statistics. For me, fitness indicators include running pace, frequency of exercising, and pounds on the bench press bar. A few other numbers have been thrown into the mix, too – mainly, blood labs such as cholesterol and blood sugar that let us know if our bodies are healthy on the inside.

 

What I Can’t Do vs. What I Can Do

In competing with other athletes, it is important to find deficits and correct them to become a better contender. This results in more of a focus on can’t rather than can. For example, “I can’t consistently shoot free throws,” or “I can’t swim as fast as my competitor,” or “I can’t hit through that blocker.” When I compete only with myself, I get to focus on what I can do. Lately, my list includes, “I can run faster than before” and “I can lift more weight than last month” and “I can hold downward dog without wondering when the yoga instructor will let us change positions.” (That last one is a pretty fantastic accomplishment for me!)

 

Don’t get me wrong – sports are great! This simply reflects how my perspective on athleticism has changed over time

Whatever your reasons may be for seeking your version of athleticism, know that those are great and keep fueling that spark!

Why It’s Impossible to Fail at Making Healthy Changes

Why It's Impossible to Fail at Making Healthy ChangesFear of failure. We’ve all been there. We’ve all balked at intimidating undertakings because we’re concerned about failing.

What about making lifestyle changes to improve health?

Fear of failure is frequently cited as a reason for avoiding making changes. Those changes seem overwhelming and people claim to be concerned that they will not succeed.

 

Let me pose a hypothetical question: What if, instead of fear of failing, the real fear is that of finding greatness?

That probably sounds bit (or a lot) crazy, so let me explain.

As I said before, health-related lifestyle changes can seem extremely daunting. Most people are pretty comfortable in their current lives: eating in a comfortable way, exercising at a comfortable frequency and intensity. For some, that may mean giving limited thought or attention to food or exercise at all. Others may feel comfortable focusing greatly on their eating or exercise habits. No matter where a person is in their health journey, additional changes can feel like a step into the realm of discomfort.

Implementing positive changes is often challenging…at first. It is hard to limit the number of times eating out each week. It is hard to learn to cook more nutritious food. It is hard to wake up early to go to the gym, or take the dog for an extra-long walk in the evening when you’re used to spending that time on other activities. Those changes alter our routines and make us think more about what we’re doing.

Here is where I argue the fear of greatness comes in.

If making a positive change sounds uncomfortable now, the thought of being great at that change might sound like the discomfort will be prolonged – maybe forever. The thought of dining at restaurants fewer times per week for a member of a family that loves to go out to eat might seem like a plan that is bound to fail eventually, because greatness would result in a direct effect on that family time. For someone who likes to stay up later in the evenings, the thought of being great at exercising early in the morning before work might seem like more than they feel they can handle. My point is that the fear of greatness is related to reluctance to feel the initial discomfort over an extended time period.

Here’s the thing: It will get easier. It always does. It takes 21 days to make or break a habit. After those 21 days of implementing a change, it won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be easier (“-er” means more!). The discomfort won’t last forever. Not only will the new, healthy behavior become habit, a person’s life overall will likely change to accommodate their new changes. Maybe the person whose family goes out to eat frequently will start hosting healthy family dinners. Maybe the person who struggles to wake up early to exercise will begin falling asleep earlier (and sleep better, as a result of their increased physical activity), ultimately feeling more well-rested.

And what if the healthy changes don’t become part of the lifestyle? What if, after a few weeks, or longer, those changes just don’t work out?

That still is not failure. The positive effects of those changes exist. The time spent making those changes is time that less healthy behaviors were not taking place. That leads me to my second radical statement: You cannot fail at making healthy changes.

Choose Your Own Holiday Health Adventure

Happy Holidays, ScintillaLife readers and followers!

The holiday season can be a trap for unhealthy decisions, between the get-togethers with lots of food, high-calorie treats, and seasonal foods, plus being extra busy with less time to work out and bad weather discouraging going outside.

The good news is, you don’t have to succumb to the siren song of the season! Check out this “Choose Your Own Holiday Adventure” to learn how you can wrangle the power of tips and tricks to help you participate while making smart choices, set yourself up for success, and change your mindset.

Each situation is called an Opportunity – it is a chance to make a decision that will contribute to your health during the holidays (and throughout the year!). Keep track of your answers and find the scores at the end of this post.

Opportunity 1

The holiday season is coming up! Last year, you gained a few pounds during the holidays, and now you’ve realized you never lost the extra weight. You decide to set a goal for yourself. Which do you choose?

A. Challenge yourself to match the weight you gained last year, and even gain a pound or two more.

B. Challenge yourself to lose all the weight you gained last year before January 1 – then you’ll be in shape to go to the gym for your Resolution!

C. Challenge yourself to maintain your weight for now, then focus on losing weight after the holidays are over.

 

Opportunity 2

You want to get a jump on wrapping gifts for your kids, so you stay up after they go to sleep and watch a movie on TV while you wrap. Once the gifts are wrapped, the movie is still on for two hours! What do you decide to do?

A. Go to bed – you’ll feel better if you get enough rest.

B. Watch the movie for one more hour, even though you know you’ll be groggy tomorrow.

C. Stay up and watch the movie – you can catch up on sleep during the weekend.

 

Opportunity 3

You want to have some friends over to spend time together between all the rush and fuss of the holidays. Which type of get-together will you host?

A. A potluck dinner where everyone brings their specialty dish

B. Game night with a few snacks served

C. A cookie exchange

 

Opportunity 4

The annual company holiday party is tonight, and the company always make sure to serve great food! What do you do to prepare for the food you know you’ll eat?

A. Skip breakfast and have a light lunch to save calories for the party.

B. Don’t eat throughout the day so you can eat as much of the party food as possible.

C. Eat meals and snacks as you normally would.

 

Opportunity 5

After mingling at the company party, you find yourself feeling full, but there are still foods you haven’t tried yet. What do you do?

A. Make a small plate to take home – you can try some of these items tomorrow.

B. Set out to eat at least one of everything you haven’t yet tasted before you leave.

C. Pick out the things you haven’t tried that look most appetizing and just have a small sample.

 

Opportunity 6

You’re out running errands before heading home to make and decorate your favorite holiday cookies with your family. A display with bags of red and green M&Ms catches your eye just as you’re jonesing for a sweet treat. What do you decide to do?

A. Buy a bag and treat yourself to a few handfuls before leaving the parking lot – that sugar craving was really nagging you!

B. Buy a bag and eat a few M&Ms while you drive – you would be a Grinch if you didn’t eat the festive candy!

C. Pass up the M&Ms – you can get regular M&Ms anytime; besides, you’re about to make and eat yummy cookies!

 

Opportunity 7

The whole family is together for a holiday dinner, and Great Aunt Gertrude made her famous roast goose. Since it is one of your all-time favorite food that you only get to eat once a year, what will you do?

A. Savor it and use the Fork Trick – set down your fork between each bite to take the time to really enjoy the goose.

B. Eat as fast as possible so you can get seconds before your cousin takes the last piece, like he always does.

C. Skip side dishes and eat a bigger serving of goose – why eat other foods when you’re really in it for the bird?

 

Opportunity 8

Your spouse sends you to the grocery store with a list. The two of you have talked about trying to eat healthier during the holidays. You notice items on the list such as cream cheese, milk, canned veggies, and rib eye steaks. What do you do?

A. Throw out the list and instead take home lots of fresh veggies, dried beans, and rice.

B. Stick to the list, but choose healthier versions of each item (neufatchel cheese, 1% milk, reduced-sodium veggies, and sirloin steaks).

C. Follow the list. Your spouse probably has a plan.

 

Opportunity 9

You get stuck at work and only have 15 minutes to exercise when you get home before heading to a New Year’s party. You had planned to work out for a whole hour, but since you can’t, what will you do instead?

A. Skip it – it’s not enough time to really make a difference anyway.

B. Remind yourself to make a New Year’s Resolution to start working out tomorrow, then leave for the party.

C. Exercise for the 15 minutes and plan to sneak in some extra standing and walking around the party instead of sitting down.

 

Answers

  1. A – 0, B – 1, C – 2

  2. A – 2, B – 1, C – 0

  3. A – 0, B – 2, C – 1

  4. A – 1, B – 0, C – 2

  5. A – 2, B – 0, C – 1

  6. A – 0, B – 1, C – 2

  7. A – 2, B – 0, C – 1

  8. A – 1, B – 2, C – 0

  9. A – 0, B – 1, C – 2

 

Scores

11-18 points: You’re making healthy decisions most of the time!

4-12 points: You’re on the right track!

0-3 points: Practice recognizing opportunities to improve your health!

 

Please share your favorite healthy holiday tips below and whether you learned any tips from taking the quiz! Download my Healthy Holiday Toolkit for helpful reminders of tips and tricks to steer you through the season!

Give a Little Body Love

Give a Little Body Love

Give a Little Body LoveThis is a shout out to everyone who may get down on themselves. We all have our quirks, whether we are shopping and the most adorable pair of pants is the wrong size or because we can’t run as far today as we did yesterday. It is easy to be critical of ourselves and to forget all the fabulous things we can do.

Today I ask you to be your own best advocate. Nobody knows what you need or how to take care of yourself better than you. You experience your body’s pains, and its pleasures. Here is to being self aware and recognizing and meeting the demands of our bodies and minds. Here is some body love from me to you. I use these to treat my own body with love in a way that fits my life experiences, but yours may be quite different. Most importantly, find what makes you feel good and do it for yourself.

  1. Appreciate what my body does. Those feet you hate because they look funny, spend every day supporting your weight and helping you get from one place to another.
  2. Note my positive physical attributes. When I am in a group of women I have noticed that it is easier to recognize what we don’t like about ourselves and talk about that than it is to talk about what we love. I combat this by stating what I like about myself as opposed to what I don’t like, even if that isn’t how the conversation is going.
  3. Health is an individual goal. It isn’t based on my bodies shape or how many times I deprive myself from certain foods. It is a balancing act of finding what I like and what I can do for myself while creating a lifestyle that fits my needs. This is why I disregard those popular motivational quotes “Strong is the new sexy” or “Thin feels better than food tastes.” We don’t have to put down someone else to feel healthy and beautiful and promoting body punishment is not acceptable. We can be healthy at any shape and any size.
  4. I realize that I am the only person that can take care of me. If I have a migraine or a hurt foot, I am the only person that can decide I need a break. I value myself enough to recognize my pain and do what it takes to heal. It can be really hard to not push myself, but I know that I won’t get better unless I take care of myself.
  5. I want to be the best I can be, and this means knowing I have room to improve without being negative about myself. It is okay to want to change how I look and to be better, but in the process I want to appreciate all the things I can do right now. Check out Jamie’s quote from Jen Widerstrom!

I want to end with a quote from Miss Jamie – this is my new favorite mantra: “I am big because I have muscles, I have muscles because I am strong, and I am strong because I work hard.”

Please share with us what you do to take care of yourself and appreciate the body you have right now!

 

About the Guest Author: Hi, I am Jackie! I am a University of Wyoming graduate with a BS in Family and Consumer Sciences. I am also a yogi, dog lover and extension agent in Montana. I am just starting 9 month yoga training adventure to become a certified teacher, I have been practicing yoga for 10 years. I am so excited to be a guest blogger for Miss Jamie!

How to Take Nutrition Advice

How to Take Nutrition Advice

How to Take Nutrition AdviceThere is a huge amount of nutrition advice out there, some even legitimate. Nutrition and food are relatable to everyone, and so often, people are interested in how to change their body. There are a few things to know before jumping on someone’s nutrition wagon.

  1. You are unique. You have your body, not someone else’s. No matter how insistent someone is that this diet will make you look like [insert chosen celebrity here], it’s just not likely to be true unless you already share that person’s body type.
  2. Not everyone who has lost weight, gained muscle, cured their gastrointestinal discomfort, etc., is a nutrition expert. Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and what another person has done may not be helpful for you, and may not even be recommended or healthy. Look for credentials from those who are offering nutrition advice to help decide its worth.
  3. You don’t need to follow every nutrition plan out there. As a kid, I always wondered why magazines had new workout and nutrition plans every month, instead of following up with the same one from the last issue. There is no way a person can continue piling on new rules and plans every month and find success, at least not at the cost of being very stressed. Once you figure out what works for you and helps move you toward your goals in a healthy way, stick with it.

Due to the sheer volume of nutrition information available at the click of a mouse (or bombarding you throughout the day), it can be tricky to figure out what’s noteworthy. When you find quality nutrition advice that works for you, have conviction in knowing that you are doing what is best for you and let the rest pass you by.