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!

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!

Stopping the Bad Guys: How to Catch a Villain Diet

Stopping the Bad Guys: How to Catch a Villain Diet

In the world of nutrition and health, there are good guys who altruistically look out for your well-being, and there are bad guys who try to trick you and take advantage of you.

Stopping the Bad Guys: How to Catch a Villain Diet

As a soon-to-be-dietitian, I get several questions such as, “Is such-and-such a good diet for weight loss?” There are loads of fad diets and diet books out there claiming that they can help you lose weight, and it’s important to equip yourself to know which ones are worth your time.

In my opinion, there’s a simple answer and a complicated answer.

The simple answer: Don’t bother with anything labeled as “diet.” No one needs anything called a DIET to lose weight. What everyone needs is a healthy eating PATTERN.

The complicated answer:

There are a few (I repeat, a few) diets that are backed by research and recommended as heart healthy diets. These include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet, and the Mediterranean Diet. These diets are intended to improve heart health and reduce cardiovascular disease risk, but as they represent overall healthy eating patterns, weight loss may be an additional benefit.

What about all those other diets? The ones that are advertised on TV and the ones that are described in books and the ones that claim to have you slimmed down in no time?

Here’s the skinny on which weight loss diets to say “no” to:

  1. Any diet that promotes a pill, drink, or other supplement to lose weight. It’s just not necessary and the company is just trying to make money.
  2. Any diet that calls for extremely restricted calories. While everyone is different and calorie needs should be determined by a professional on an individual basis, think twice before going on any diet that limits calories to less than 1,200 calories per day.
  3. Any diet that promises rapid weight loss. A weight loss rate of 1-2 pounds per week is recommended as safe and sustainable, as it is often achieved by genuine lifestyle changes rather than crash dieting behaviors.
  4. Any diet that cuts out entire food groups. Each food group provides an array of important nutrients, and your body can make best use of these nutrients when they come in different combinations from a variety of foods.
  5. Any diet that is masked by client testimonials. If the diet tries to sell itself mainly on rave reviews from clients instead of legitimate science, be wary. There are likely lots of other people out there who hated the diet and had a negative experience.

myplate_greenThe bottom line is, weight loss takes time, effort, and lifestyle changes. The process of ‘yo-yo dieting’ (losing weight on a crash diet, then gaining it back, just to attempt to lose it on another diet) is a harmful to your body and will cause higher body weight in the end. No weight loss diet system is going to do it for you. Rather, follow a healthy eating pattern including foods from all food groups in moderate portions, and incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine.

Spend your time with the good guys and your weight loss journey will be much healthier and more pleasant!

 

Sources:

Liebman M. Nutrition & Weight Control Course Manual. 2012. University of Wyoming.

Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process.

Hand B. 12 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet: Identifying Weight Loss Scams. SparkPeople. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=395. 2015. Accessed April 2015.

ChooseMyPlate. www.choosemyplate.gov/about. USDA. 2011. Accessed April 2015.

The Meaning of TRY

The Meaning of TRY

As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”The Meaning of TRY

Far be it from me to disagree with the character of Yoda, but within the realm of health goals, I disagree with this particular piece of advice.

“All-or-nothing” thinking is a common problem among those who have health goals. It is the idea that if you’re going to eat healthy, you’ll have nothing unhealthy, and if you slip up and eat something less nutritious, you give up and stop eating healthy foods altogether. Another example is if you were to set a goal to go to the gym for an hour 5 days a week. If you only have time to work out for 30 minutes, you won’t go at all.

You can see where the all-or-nothing mindset is problematic. Often, you’ll find yourself worse off as a result of all-or-nothing thinking than if you had just allowed yourself a treat and continued on with your healthy behaviors.

From my perspective, Yoda is encouraging this all-or-nothing thinking. And while that may be sound guidance in other aspects of life or in a galaxy far, far away, it doesn’t have a place in health goals and behaviors. In this area, this IS ‘try.’

Try covers the middle ground between do or do not. Try is what you do when you don’t know what you’re capable of and you want to move forward. Try is how you accomplish the small steps to reach a bigger goal. Try is how you keep yourself on track even after slipping up, and try is how you avoid making yourself crazy by being super strict with yourself. Try is brave, because it’s an attempt in the face of possible failAs long as you are trying - honestly trying - it will get easier.ure.

Here’s the tricky part, though – how do you know that you’re trying? It’s important to make sure that you’re truly making an effort and actually taking real steps toward your goals, rather than just skating by on old habits instead of making the decisions to do better, wishing things were different, and labeling it as “trying.”

Try Check-in:

  1. Do you feel satisfied with your effort, or do you feel like you could easily have done better? If you’re at the end of a workout, feeling like you’re making no progress toward your goal to run a 5K, but you still have plenty of energy, maybe you could have run a little harder or a little longer.

  2. Are you using mini-goals as stepping stones to your big goals? If you are a chronic soda drinker and you quit it cold turkey, but find yourself picking up the habit again every time you slip up and drink one soda, it would probably be helpful to set mini-goals to cut out one soda a day each week.

  3. When you have a bad day or a slip-up, are you able to regroup and continue making progress? Health is a lifelong journey, and abandoning good habits because you ate too much cake at a birthday party or you ate out every day while on vacation will be detrimental. Cut yourself some slack and get back on track.

Do and do not certainly exist. But for all the times in between when you don’t know if you can make it from do not to do, there is try. Skip the all-or-nothing mindset. As long as you are trying – honestly trying – it will get easier.

How do you try to meet your health goals?

 

Sources:

Anderson D. Moderation in All Things: How to Avoid the Diet Blues. SparkPeople. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=729&page=3. Published 2015. Accessed April 2015.

Ways to Get Your Exercise Outdoors

As the weather warms up, we all want to get outside and enjoy it! When daylight is limited, it can be tough to decide between working out inside the gym or relaxing in the sunshine. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, though – try these ways to fit in your physical activity while playing outside and you can enjoy the beautiful weather without missing your workout.

Even better, you can take the opportunity to play outside as just that: time to go back to your playful childhood days when you stayed out ‘til dark. Here are some outdoor exercises you could try, some serious and some just to have fun and get your body moving:

  1. Go for a walk.girl riding bike
  2. Go for a jog.
  3. Go for a run.
  4. Ride your bike.
  5. Go window shopping downtown – make it into a scavenger hunt!
  6. Play catch with a baseball or a football.
  7. Look for a nearby park with a walking path and fitness stations to test your strength with various obstacles.
  8. Walk to a friend’s house for a visit.
  9. Lay out your yoga mat on the lawn.
  10. Intersperse your walk/jog/run with 30-second intervals of bodyweight exercises like skipping, lunges, burpees, pushups, or anything else you can think of.
  11. Take your dog to the dog park and run around with him/her.
  12. Climb every set of stairs you can find on your walk.
  13. Use a park bench or picnic table for step-ups, jumps, or inclined pushups.
  14. Play tag.
  15. Play volleyball, basketball, soccer, street hockey, tennis, or another sport.
  16. Go surfing.
  17. Jump rope.
  18. Return to your childhood and play hopscotch.
  19. Swim in a local lake.
  20. Grab some friends and do relay races in the backyard – do moves like running, crab walking, and leapfrogging.

So throw on some shorts and get outside to enjoy that sunshine! What are your favorite ways to get exercise outside?