Keeping Fit With Family Life: Three #NoBull Tips

3 #NoBull Tips for Keeping Fit with Family Life

Howdy, Heifers.! I’m greeting you from environmentally-friendly Phoenix, Arizona – where you don’t need an oven or stovetop to survive. All you need is a sidewalk or the dash of your car. Seriously. See my Twitter feed.

Speaking of feeds, I’m talking today about feeding ourselves well, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and sticking to our weight loss goals while living with a household of people who could not care less about whether or not we meet a five-fruits-and-veggies a day goal or get in an early morning run.

Yes, I’m talking about kids. I have four of them. They’re all teenagers. Do you know what this means? This means they care more about that status of their hair or their latest social media post than they do if I eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food or flop down after ten sit-ups and binge watch Bonanaza because I cancelled the cable subscription.  

Seriously. I don’t think they’d even notice. They’d just blow past me, prostrate on the floor, not even bothering to offer me a handful of Cheezits as they head back upstairs and into their dens of teenage angst.

Heifers, I cannot let my health depend on the people in my house any more than I can let it depend on friends who tell me to live a little and order the nachos, co-workers who suggest I skip an evening run and hit happy hour or neighbors who give me a raised brow when I run past them at 3:30 am.  As much as I have to tune out the opinions and behavior of the people outside of my home, I have to do the same thing, sometimes, with the people inside my home.

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve read the articles about healthy family living where nutritionists suggest making meal times fun by whipping up artistic creations with bananas, strawberries, raisins and a whole-grain toaster waffle.  These nutritionists suggest that if we just get our kids to help with meal preps, these kids will suddenly dive into a bowl of zucchini with gusto, the pride and sense of accomplishment from chopping said vegetables overriding their desire for pizza.  These articles show pictures of families on bike rides along scenic trails with a beach landscape in the background, everyone properly outfitted with helmets and knee-pads.

Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not what happens in the RHR Household.  My kids don’t care if I make them cut up squash and roast it by hand in the Arizona heat. They still don’t want it. They don’t care if I air up the tires in our bikes, shine the helmets and suggest (in a Disney princess voice) that we all spend some quality time together cycling to Whole Foods to stock up on quinoa and chia seeds.

They still want to eat entire Costco boxes of Fiber One bars and leave the wrappers stuffed between the bed and wall (true story) or play video games all afternoon before screaming a suggestion that we all have In and Out Burger and then hit Dairy Queen for dessert.

Heifers, the struggle is real. I mean that, too. It’s hard to eat healthfully and mindfully when we live with people who have different priorities and metabolisms.  So, instead of giving you princess tips to transform your household into a healthy living pamphlet complete with unicorns pooping rainbow skittles, I’m going to give you my TOP 3 NO BULL TIPS for sticking with healthy eating and exercise even if your family isn’t on board.  

  1. Do You - Like I’ve said before, if we want to be healthy and fit, we have to do it for ourselves and by ourselves. Period. I know we want everyone else to get on board and do it with us. It would be easier if our friends, family and co-workers also decided to give up hot wings and ranch dressing for a salad and fruit. But Heifers, this isn’t going to happen, and nothing can derail good intentions more than depending on other people to make them a reality.  In the end, you have to do it for you, hold yourself accountable, make your own choices and stop listening to all of the noise that comes from other people and their choices. This is true for family members as much, if not more, as people outside our homes. Our kids and spouses don’t magically change their eating habits just because we change ours. If we start a running program, it’s not up to anyone else to get on board and lace up to join us. And if we wait, hope or wish that the people we live with will make the same changes we’re making, we’ll fail.  We. Will. Fail. The only way to stick to a healthy lifestyle is to focus on our own health and stop being distracted by other people’s habits.  So figure out what a healthy you means. If it means a keto diet, fine. If it means gluten-free, go for it. If it means 3:00 AM workouts so that you can fit in the rest of your work, then kill it at 3:00 AM. Figure out what works for you and then make peace with that. When you know yourself and you know what your body and mind need to be healthy, you gain confidence and clarity in what exactly you need to do. You stop looking to other people for help or guidance or even companionship. Yeah, all of that is great. But it isn’t always reality. My teenage daughter isn’t going to get up and run with me. My son isn’t whipping up baked tortilla chips and fresh guacamole for us. That’s the reality. So when my kids are ordering dessert or still sleeping when I get home from a run, I don’t let that affect me. I know what I’m doing, how to do it and where I’m going. I do me. End of story.

  2. Comparison is the Thief of Joy….and Killer of Fitness Plans - You’ve heard it before, the Teddy Roosevelt quote: comparison is the thief of joy. It’s also a real killer of healthy living and any other goals that take time, effort and serious suck. When we compare ourselves to someone else, anyone else, we forget our own unique situation and start thinking the answer to all of our questions lies in what everyone else is doing. It goes like this: you see a fit woman at Starbucks.  Maybe she’s rocking skin-tight yoga pants. And maybe she’s eating a slice of lemon pound cake. It’s easy to go down the mental comparison path, maybe thinking that if a woman that fit and healthy can eat a slice of pound cake, I can, too.  Or maybe I’m at the gym and I see a woman walking casually on the treadmill for half-an-hour and then chatting with friends for the rest of her workout. I start to wonder why I’m gutting out a 20-minute leg workout that is killing me.  Same thing happens at home, with kids. Have you ever noticed that kids can eat a few slices of pizza and wake up the next morning and not say a word about bloating or weight gain or basically anything else except plans for the day that include you carting them all over town in the Swagger Wagon?  It’s easy to see your kids or husband eating yummy food that would kill your healthy eating plans and think: maybe I should do that too? They’re not overweight and struggling. Maybe I’ve got this whole healthy diet down wrong and need to just splurge a little.  Yeah, slippery slope, Heifers. Don’t even start down that road. Teenagers have crazy metabolisms that, for women, peak in our late teens and early twenties.  You heard me:  according to Women’s Health magazine, the fastest our metabolism is going to get is in our twenties.  So, comparing myself with my teenage daughter is not only crazy, it’s scientifically wrong. Eating like a teenager will result in some serious weight gain for a (coughcough) forty-something mother. Even eating like a man, a man of my same age, does me no favors.  Men have more muscle mass, heavier bones and less fat. Thank you, Mother Nature.  What all of this means is that comparing myself and my habits to anyone else will only kill my diet, exercise and wellness plans. I can’t eat like a teenager. I can’t eat like my husband. In fact, I’m a whole little unique ball of just me, which is pretty great when I honor that and make choices that reflect my own body’s needs.  Comparison is a thief and a mirage.

  3. Set the Example…and the Menu - Finally, as much as this smacks of one of those CDC articles on healthy family life, I do believe the example I set for my kids is important….but, I take a long-term look at just how important it is. Just because I eat a salad today doesn’t mean my kid will stop hoarding Fiber One bars or forgo dessert. But, what she will see (even in the very back of her teenage mind) is that her mother cares enough about herself to eat well and exercise. Maybe that lesson won’t impact her today or this week or even in the next year or two, but one day, when she might face her own struggles or begin to think about her health, she’ll have a solid example to fall back on. This means that when I make healthier choices for myself, I know that I am teaching my kids how to do that when they decide to make that choice for themselves. I don’t think every lesson we teach our kids sinks in that exact moment. Sometimes, even for adults, lessons take years to learn. Still, we have to have the experiences to see the lesson at all. When I make healthy choices, my kids see that, and it reminds everyone in our house that food is not the enemy and that healthy living isn’t a fad diet or a week-long boot camp that ends on Friday, forgotten by Sunday.  So, I set the example. Then, I set the menu. Somewhere in American culture we got the message that happiness is directly linked to pre-packed snack foods and sweets. I don’t have to subscribe to that bull, and I don’t have to set that example for my kids. I can choose what I buy at the store, what I stock on the shelves and what I offer for meals. I don’t HAVE to offer pizza and cookies and bags of chips. I can, and do, stock the fridge with fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, healthy snacks and occasional treats. I don’t make a big deal of it, either. There are no lectures or nagging. I just don’t buy a ton of junk. If the kids get hungry, they have options. There are apples, bananas and string cheese. I set the example, and I set the menu. I don’t have to tempt myself with stockpiles of junk to be a good mom. I don’t have to stockpile seaweed crackers, either. I provide healthy food and a moderate amount of treats. Because love isn’t actually wrapped up in foil and loaded with a week’s worth of sugar.  
     

I know it’s not easy to stick to healthy lifestyle changes when the people around us don’t struggle with the same issues or feel compelled to change their own habits. It took a while for me to understand that I didn’t have to base my own choices on anyone else. In the end, that makes my own health dependent on someone else. That means I give away some of the power I have over my own health, and that’s never a good idea.

So, Heifers, think about the people in your life who have a direct impact on your healthy choices. It might be the family you cook for, the kids you pack lunches for, or the toddlers who ask for food every 22.7 seconds throughout the day. It might be the husband who keeps fit without thinking about it or the wife who has never struggled with her weight. Whoever it is, think about how they impact your habits and if you need to make some changes in how you interact with each other so that your own health and wellbeing don’t end up veering off track.  

Post your thoughts, experiences and ideas in the comments and let us know how you keep fit and healthy with a family in tow, and keep an eye on my Twitter account. Who knows what the AZ heat will cook up next.  

Parties, BBQs, and Food, OH MY!

Melissa's No Bull Tips for Partying Hard…But Smart

Okay, Heifers.  You guys know what’s around the corner, right? No, not the season finale of The Bachelorette (admit it: you watch)…..but the good ol’ American classic:  Fourth of July.

What does this mean? Aside from flag bunting, tube tops and lugging your lawn chairs around for fireworks….this means food. And drinks.

Lots and lots of both.

ERMAGAWD Get In My Belly!

ERMAGAWD Get In My Belly!

I don’t know about y'all, but I love to celebrate American independence with all sorts of unhealthy  options. Flag cake. Ice cream sandwiches. Potato salad. Open bags of Lay’s BBQ potato chips.

The list is as endless as the tables it’s piled onto.

Years ago, I didn’t think twice about a hot dog, baked beans, macaroni salad and a serving (or four) of Paula Dean pound cake topped with sugar-soaked berries and Cool Whip.

Today, though, times have changed. When I began eating healthier and getting serious about fitness, I first changed my daily habits. That was fairly easy because I had some control over my food and always had healthy options to choose from. But then, the inevitable holiday would roll around and healthy choices were harder to come by. I’d find myself face-to-face with a table full of crockpot mac & cheese, brownie bars and fancy cheese platters.  

If you’ve ever struggled to maintain a healthy diet during a holiday, you feel my pain. In the almost six years that I’ve been maintaining my weight loss, though, I’ve developed a few tips and insights into not just getting through holidays but enjoying them without binge eating and having to ride home with my pants unbuttoned.  I do that just to embarrass the kids.  

Here are my Top 5 Tips For Healthy Holiday Partying:

  1. Pick Your Poison - You have to choose how you splurge all the time, but especially on holidays. There are just too many options for going off the rails. There is alcohol. There are sweets. There is cheese. Endless options to go off plan. The thing is, pick one.  Just one. This serves two purposes: you have a clear idea of what it is you’re splurging on ahead of time, and you get the satisfaction of looking forward to that splurge. It’s so much more mindful than promising yourself you won’t touch a cookie or cocktail and knowing, deep in your soul, that you’ll do exactly that. When you pick your poison, you get to look forward to the treat, enjoy it and keep the other stuff in the corner, where it belongs.  I’m tempted to put in a Dirty Dancing joke here, but I’m going to refrain. Because that's how I roll. 

  2. Channel Your Inner Scarlett - If you know you’re heading to a BBQ or party where all those treats will be staring you in the eye, plan ahead! A good offense is the best defense, Heifers. Remember that scene in Gone with the Wind, when Scarlett is going to the BBQ and she’s instructed to eat beforehand so she won’t disgrace herself with unladylike public binging?  Yeah. Do that.  Have a high protein snack before you head out, and add some fat to that to keep you full. Then, when you hit the buffet line, you won’t be shaking and faint, grabbing for the first spoonful of pasta salad you can reach.  Drink some water, too. It fills you up and keeps you hydrated, which is important not just for good food choices but also so you don’t pass out after the beer bong.  I mean….so I’ve heard.  #afriendtoldmethat

  3. Know Your Weakness - We all have a weakness, that one thing that gets us every time. I have a friend who, after one cocktail, physically attaches herself to the food table and leaves claw marks when her husband finally pulls her away. Alcohol is her weakness. If she just sips lemonade, she can eat reasonably. If she swigs a Moscow Mule? Curtains.  I have a weakness for sweets, myself, so I have to be careful near the dessert table. One brownie turns into two and then three and then I talk myself into the cookie display because I’ve already trashed my diet so….why not really celebrate? Yeah, so I have to know ahead of time that I’m going to steer clear of the dessert table. My friend knows to have the lemonade or sparkling water. You might have to turn away from the cheese platter. Whatever your weakness, identify it ahead of time and steer clear. This way, you get to enjoy the other stuff without opening the proverbial floodgates.  

  4. Know When It’s Not About the Food - Social functions can be landmines of anxiety and awkwardness. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve felt out of place myself a time or two (read: often). When we don’t know anyone or we’re uncomfortable or we don’t know what to say, sometimes it’s just easier to eat. It soothes our nerves and fills a void when social anxiety hits, and I think it can hit for even the most social among us. If this might be a possibility, just think about it ahead of time. We’ve got options here. We can try to find someone we know to hang out with if it’s a new crowd. We can talk to our spouse or friend and ask not to be left hanging for an hour while they talk shop. We can think of a few topics for discussion to arm ourselves with, which sounds totally cheesy and like I got that tip from my therapist, but it works. Whatever we do, it’s good just to go into social functions aware of how we’re feeling and whether or not we’re tempted to use food to deal with those feelings. When we’re aware, we make better choices. It’s cheesy and it’s legit.

  5. Chew Gum - When all else fails, chew gum. I know: you think I’m weird. That may be true, but aside from that, chew the gum. It gives you that little bit of sweet you might be craving after a meal, and it keeps you from swiping another brownie bite on your way to the bounce house.  I do this at home, too, when I have to give my kids snacks or when they’re eating yet another meal outside of designated meal times.  I chew gum. It’s really hard to eat Cheezits and Trident together. Trust me on this one.

That’s it.  I think the theme here is just being aware and, with that awareness, planning ahead. Holidays are fun. BBQs are a good time. I love a well-made brownie, or a slice of brie slathered on a Keebler cracker.  

I don’t love waking up the next morning with a hangover: alcohol or food induced.  So, I use these tips to ward that off but still enjoy myself and celebrate.  

Do you have any tips you use to get through holidays with your good intentions intact? Leave me comments, tips, suggestions and questions below.  I'll share them in our facebook group page


 

But... I'm not a "Real" Runner....

Are You a Runner?

I was having dinner with a friend the other night, wolfing down Café Rio taco salad with extra tomatoes while she told me about her existential crisis (her words, not mine). So, here it is:  she writes stories but hasn’t been published yet, so she argues she’s not a writer.

It’s easy for me to see the Swiss-cheese holes in that theory. I asked her, “Do you write?” She said, “Yes, every day.” I said, “Then, you’re a writer.” DUH.

It seemed so simple to me.  But for her, it was a tough sell.  She had a ton of requirements for being a ‘legit’ writer.  She had to be published.  The publication had to be ‘traditional’ instead of self-published.  She needed to get some good reviews, preferably from a famous magazine or newspaper or something.  She might have visions of being interviewed on NPR.

To me, she’s a writer because she writes. Period. Simple. End of story.

But then I started thinking of running and how I felt like a total imposter when I first started running. I had the same bogus beliefs about finish-lines to cross before I could say, in more than a whisper, “I’m a runner.”

In fact, I still sometimes struggle with feeling WORTHY of the royal title of runner.  It’s a title, right? You have to be able to say it with a straight face, with some swagger.  I don’t always feel like I have swagger.  Sometimes I feel like a total fraud.  A swagger-less fraud.

Sometimes (ok all the times), when I’m out for a run, I walk and then run and then walk again. I do this when I run half-marathons and 10ks and when I cruise through my neighborhood. I have closed down races and gotten in so late the cones were picked up and we had to straight-up navigate our way to the finish line.  I limp to finish lines, 34th out of 35, and I’m pretty sure I’ve rolled in dead last.  

I wear the race numbers, cross the finish lines and eat the free bananas, if there are any left, but I still don’t always feel like a runner.  

And you know what? That’s as wrong as my friend who writes every day and doesn’t feel like a writer.  She writes. She reads about writing. She gets better and sometimes sucks and then gets better again. She is a writer because she writes.

And I’m a runner because I run. And so are you. The details, those things I need to say out loud to make it legit, those don’t make me a runner.  What makes me a runner is that I run.  I get out there, before the sun rises, and I run. I go to races, and I run.  

I ran when I was fat, and I run now that I’m fitter.  I run when I’m tired and would rather be sitting with a bag of chip, surfing the web.  

I run when I’m busy and have work to do and could totally justify skipping my run for a day….which we all know so often turns into two days…and three….and then a week.

The fact is, there is no official finish line to becoming a runner.  Some people run a 5k or a 10k or a half-marathon or a full-marathon or an ultra-marathon. Some people run in tights, and some people run in baggy sweats that have seen better days.

Some people wear gear.  Some people go minimalist, forgetting fancy shoes or sweat-wicking performance pants.  Runners come in all shapes and sizes, and just like you,  don’t have to be stick-thin to be a yogi, you don’t have to be in ultra-marathon shape to be a runner.

What we have to do to feel like runners or athletes or writers or musicians or whatever else it is we want to be, is really just a combination of two things.

  1. We have to believe it. 

  2. We have to do it.

In the words of C.S. Lewis:  We are what we believe we are. That’s it.  If it seems simple, it is.

Are you a runner?  Well, do you run?

If you do, the answer is yes.  It’s yes even if you sometimes walk.  It’s yes if you finish last or even if you don’t finish every time. It’s yes no matter your pace, your schedule, your conditioning or your outfit.  If you run, you’re a runner.

Celebrate every run, not just the runs that include monitors, set courses and finish lines. Celebrate getting out there, sticking with it and coming back to running after inevitable breaks.

Being a runner has only one rule, folks: run.  And if you’re out there doing it, you’re killing it.  

So lace up your shoes, put on whatever gear you want, get out there….and run.

 

justrun.jpg