Select Page
Why I Became Health and Fitness Obsessed This Year

Why I Became Health and Fitness Obsessed This Year

No, it wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. But by coincidence, January 2016 marks the time when I made the decision to not just change some things, but overhaul my health and fitness habits.

I didn’t have particularly unhealthy habits. I’ve always been a real food, treats on special occasions, play outside, chemical conscious kind of girl. I wasn’t (and I’m still not) on a weight loss mission and spandex culture never really appealed to me.

But, the world seemed to grab me by the jaw and give me a clear direction of where I have to go from here.

Here’s the story.

It’s late summer 2015, and it’s coming to light how bad my Nana’s Alzheimer’s disease is getting. By Christmas, we’re hitting the reset button on our conversations every 30 seconds. Several times through Christmas Eve dinner she thought she was at a wedding, and my brother would bring her to a wall to show her the photo of the two of them dancing at his wedding a few years ago.

She repeatedly asks how many children I have, though they’re standing right in front of her. She claims she never saw me pregnant, but she absolutely did. I know this because I remember she loved telling me I was eating well, winky winky.

Christmas Eve, 2015 marks the day I decided that Alzheimer’s is the disease I fear most.

Around the same time, my active, athletic, hardworking, relatively young father-in-law gets diagnosed with cancer. Pretty much anyone would fit the picture for cancer better than he would, but we all know cancer doesn’t always follow the rules.

He had been on a chemo regimen before Christmas, and had to take frequent rests during gatherings. I think that threw us all.

Then there’s that always looming idea that my mom was 38 when she was diagnosed with the cancer that would take her. I’m 33, and in my head, the countdown is on. My overall health has to beat the clock.

If all that isn’t a wake-up call, I had a health scare of my own.

Let’s set the scene. We’re in the baby life stage for six years in a row, seven if you count pregnancy. It seemed that when my youngest turned two, life became easier than it had been in a long time. I wasn’t pregnant or nursing, everyone started sleeping. Everyone fed themselves, two thirds were wiping their own noses and tushes, and thanks to slip ons and sandals, everyone started putting on their own shoes!

Life became a lot less hands on, and I had space to notice myself again. What I noticed needed to be addressed ASAP. I went to the doctor with a whole laundry list of strange symptoms I could have brought up – losing my hair, weight loss, breakouts – but I settled on fatigue and forgetfulness. I expected to be politely and respectfully laughed out of the office, because we’ve all heard of “mommy brain” and how many tired mom coffee memes are circulating the internet?

Instead, she took one look at my face, a quick look at my hands, and asked me some questions to which I answered “yes” over and over. She gave me a STAT bloodwork order and a stern warning not to elevate my heart rate. My test results confirmed her suspicions.

What I thought was silly mom stuff was actually a severe (but treatable) condition that could cause me to have a heart attack. It could be fixed if I either underwent major surgery or would take Class I carcinogens for the rest of my life.

“Can we wait a couple months? I could try this diet and those supplements…” I asked.

“You’re a heart risk. Let’s get you to a more stable place before we try things,” she answered.

My case was severe and treatment was necessary, so I went on two prescriptions that would remove immediate threats. I figured I would do this short-term to lengthen my runway once I decided to go off of the medicines and try to get my body to reset itself.

While I was on the medications, I made some intense lifestyle changes. Gradually, I cut coffee, cut sugar, lowered carbs, began intermittent fasting, tripled my already high vegetable intake, added superfood shakes, prioritized sleep, ramped up my physical activity (once cleared to do so), drastically reduced household and personal care toxins. By the time I was able to go off of the medications, my body was better equipped to function without them.

I’m better now. The best way I can describe how I feel is…undead. This is how I’m supposed to feel, and it’s incredible.

Several friends have said to me, just in the last few months, “I don’t know what it is, but you look amazing.”

It’s not a new lipstick. It’s a new life.

But I’m not finished.

See my family members’ stories up there?

I’m terrified.

But more than fear, I feel readiness.

I crawled out of a hole that I didn’t even know I was in, and now I’ve got my feet on the ground, in broad daylight. And I’m suited up to climb.

Having a healthy basis back, I’m ready to become the best version of myself that I can. There’s no better way to give what I’ve got to my husband and kids than to have something in the tank to give.

I’m never going into that hole again.

 

The Gift That Made Me Say, “Do I Have To?”

The Gift That Made Me Say, “Do I Have To?”

Me and my big mouth.

A few months ago, I had a fleeting thought of something I might want to try, sometime in the unforeseeable future. And then that thought went away.

Until Mister brought it back, and put it into a box.

Want to know what I’m talking about? He took a video of my reaction, and here I am sharing it with you, PJs and unbrushed hair and all. That’s right, my first public YouTube video and I’m straight out of bed.

Yes, I opened up a gift and said, “Do I have to?”

I grumble in jest, though. I’m pumped about doing a mud run! As grown-ups, we don’t get many excuses to get dirty, climb up things, swing from things. And how often do we forego challenging ourselves for what’s comfortable?

He nailed the gift this year.

Now, it’s up to me to figure out how to train for this thing.

I’ve been doing the gym thing for a while, so we can check weightlifting off of the list. My upper body strength could use work, so bodyweight work will help me make a respectable showing when I need to climb and pull myself up. Balance work is probably a good idea so I can get across mud puddles or whatever there may be, and then there’s that endurance thing that I don’t like so much.

I’ll come up with a little mud run training program and post it soon.

If you’ve done something like this, be sure to leave me some pointers!

Free Christmas Traditions to Start This Year

Free Christmas Traditions to Start This Year

We’ve been gradually working through the KonMari method of decluttering, and things are ever so sloooowly coming together. Blame the toddler for my lack of efficiency 😉 I’m getting there.

Since clearing out probably half of our stuff, I’m hyper-aware of what comes into the house. But the holidays are coming, and we’re not the gatekeepers when it comes to gifts from the extended family. Based on how Christmas has been since the kids came along, I can predict with a high level of certainty that any decluttering progress we’ve made will take a few giant steps back.

The consumerist influence of the season – I’d skip it altogether if it were up to me. But it’s not my place to put the brakes on others buying things if it makes them happy. (Or, if they think it does. I have my doubts.)

So, my kids will get gifts, and I’m okay with that. But I see it as my job to balance the gift mindset with non-materialistic memories of the holidays. This is where traditions come in.

We could grab traditions from our ancestry – for example, our grandparents are Italian so we can take a crack at the Feast of the Seven Fishes. But with little kids in the house I know some of these traditions can be a bit much. If we decided to go turbo Italian, we’re looking at a seven-course meal right up against Midnight Mass? We wanted good memories, right? Instead, we have some simpler memory-making traditions to try, at least until the youngest develops a little more impulse control.

Accomplishment Jar

Each family member has a jar with his or her own name on it. Each family member gets one slip of paper for every other family member, and they write down what each person has accomplished this year and slips it into their jar. Together, we open our own jars and read aloud what our families wrote about us. The jars are emptied once we’ve shared our own accomplishments, and we can start dropping accomplishments into our family members’ jars all year to be read at the end of next year.

Volunteering

The holidays can be really rough for people who are trying to get through a tough season. Why not do what we can do to inject some positivity into their rough patch? You can gather up the kids and work a dinner shift at a soup kitchen, pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, make cards for troops overseas, or get a group together to decorate cookies at the nursing home.

Sometimes, it’s hard to get kids to understand how good we have it. Seeing how others spend their holidays can give us all perspective.

Christmas movie night

My kids are at just the right age to snort laugh at Home Alone, and I couldn’t wait to turn it on this year. We got out our sleeping bags, popped some popcorn tossed with melted white chocolate and crushed oreos, and had a memorable night that they’re still talking about weeks later. Christmas comedy movie night is going down in the books as a must-do every December.

Slumber party under the tree

Am I right in saying that small children love to sleep anywhere except their beds? Grab those sleeping bags from movie night, shake out the popcorn as best you can, and drag them to the tree. Snuggle up with extra pillows, read The Night Before Christmas and let them drift off to soft holiday classics streaming on Amazon Prime. They’ll remember things like this.

Holidays are just another thing we need to be intentional about so we’re not swept up in the tide. Shifting the focus from the buy buy buy mentality takes a little effort, but it’s the stuff memories are made of.

Why the KonMari Method Works, According to Science

Why the KonMari Method Works, According to Science

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a proselytizing believer of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. No sooner did I roll up my last pair of socks did I feel my mindset change. I knew I needed to be more intentional about what belongs in my home and around my family, but I couldn’t figure out how to go about weeding out the keeper items from the rejects. Until I read the book.

The KonMari method turned traditional decluttering methods upside-down and inside out, then rolled them into neat little categories that made perfect sense. But there was more to it than the categorization, and as I read, I started thinking about why this method worked.

Then, the aha! moment came. Remembering a college Behavioral Economics class that centered around consumer purchasing decisions, I began to think of our homes as tiny economies. As I read through the book, oddly I recalled names of Behavioral Economics principles as I came across them. (Amazing, what sticks with us and what dissipates once the exam is over.)

These ideas have been thoroughly researched and have made their way into commercial marketing methods. Now, if we are aware of them, we can balance our own mini-economies within our walls. No wonder the method works. Here are some of the concepts that Kondo takes on to break us from from our hyper-consuming and hoarding tendencies.

konmari-method-science

Diversification Bias

Before we left for our epic Vermont road trip, I loaded up my Kindle with everything I could possibly want to read. I needed a fiction option, a couple of business books, a few recommendations from my favorite personal development writers and two biographies. I was ready.

How much did I get through? About three-fourths of the fiction one.

When choosing items for future use, we tend to want variety. But when we choose items to use now, we are more sure of what we will actually use and we don’t look for an assortment.

Kondo encourages us to live in the present and select or keep items that we love and find useful today, not in the future. With that mindset, we don’t need nearly the quantity of items that we predict we need for some unnamed time period down the road. So, we give up the imagined need and keep items for now.

Decision Fatigue

Thinking about a decision even for a second seems like a nearly idle activity, but it requires effort. Think of decision-making as a fuel tank that can be depleted. Making too many decisions, or making few intense decisions throughout the day leads to an empty decision-making tank, and we run the risk of poor choices once we’re running on fumes. Self-control and self-regulation are the first to go once we’ve exhausted our decision-making reserves.

The KonMari method emphasizes the path of least resistance to get to your things. She recommends arranging clothing in a way that we can see everything, and we can what we want to wear is always in plain view. Similarly, she advises organizing our belongings in a way that we always know where everything we own is. If we do not have too much and it’s easy to put back in its place, we will not spend time and energy searching for things.

This eliminates the unnecessary decisions that we are not even aware we’re making. Sifting through clothing until we get to our garment of the day is like saying “no” to everything we move out of the way. When we lose our keys, we are essentially making a series of decisions about where to look before we find them. When we love everything in our closet, when everything has its place, we save our decision-making muscle

Loss Aversion

The idea behind loss aversion is that losing something has a much bigger psychological impact than gaining it. People are more likely to engage in risky behavior avoid loss than to gain something.

Kondo takes the sting out by telling us to thank the discarded item for its service. Even when that dress still has tags on it, you thank it for teaching you more about your own style and preferences. It feels strange at first, but it does change your thinking in a way that makes it easier to part with items.

Regret aversion

We humans go to great lenths to avoid the shoulda, woulda, couldas. As with fearing loss, we also fear regret. We don’t want to toss something that we might need again someday, or that we might purchase again in the future because we’ve made a mistake.

Kondo prepares us for the unpleasantness of regret. She acknowledges that we might make a mistake when discarding, but not to worry. The benefit we will have derived from all of the successful rejections will greatly outweigh any short bouts of regret we feel from making an oops.

Status Quo Bias

Status quo bias is related to loss aversion. Often, we know we should make a big decision but through inaction we show a preference for things to stay the same. This holds even when the cost (mental, monetary or other) of the change is small and the decision will make a substantial difference.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

We really, really don’t like to give up items once we’ve paid good money for them, nor do we like to change behaviors once we’ve invested lots of time or money into something. The sunk cost fallacy is the perception that we’ve made an investment and now we’re committed, even if it would benefit us to let go of an item or a goal.

The KonMari method tackles the sunk cost fallacy in two ways. First, she carefully explains the various costs of keeping something we don’t need, want or like. Second, her method first works on items easy to part with, gradually proceeding to difficult, effectively easing the pain of letting go.

Satisficing

Herbert Simon coined the fusion word “satisficing” to describe the tendency for people to choose the option that satisfies and suffices, rather than optimizes.

In other words, we say, “yup, that one is good enough.”

Marie Kondo tells us that we should keep only items that spark joy – quite a change if you’re a “good enougher” like me. A spark is abrupt and attention-grabbing, and joy is a feeling of nothing less than delight. Something that satisfices us doesn’t do those things, so we resist the urge to settle and purchase only the ideal.

With “does this spark joy” at the forefront, we more readily give up things that we don’t love, and we’re more conscious about what we bring into our homes.

 

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up doesn’t introduce groundbreaking ideas. However, the book does frame known concepts in a new context. Generally speaking, people tend to share ways of thinking and behavioral tendencies. Those tendencies can be used in or favor or to fill up our homes with things we don’t need. Marie Kondo, whether she realized it or not, decided to use her knowledge for good.

My shrunken laundry pile couldn’t be more thankful.

 


Readings that informed this article

Read, D., & Loewenstein, G. (1995). Diversification bias: Explaining the discrepancy in variety seeking between combined and separated choices. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 1, 34-49.

Vohs, K. D., Baumeister, R. F., Schmeichel, B. J., Twenge, J. M., Nelson, N. M., & Tice, D. M. (2008). Making choices impairs subsequent self‐control: A limited‐resource account of decision making, self‐regulation, and active initiative. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 883‐898.

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47, 263-291.

Seiler, M., Seiler, V., Traub, S., & Harrison, D. (2008). Regret aversion and false reference points in residential real estate. Journal of Real Estate Research, 30(4), 461-474.

Samuelson, W., & Zeckhauser, R. J. (1988). Status quo bias in decision making. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 1, 7-59.

Arkes, H. R., & Blumer, C. (1985), The psychology of sunk costs. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35, 124-140.

Simon, H. A. (1956). Rational choice and the structure of the environment. Psychological Review 63(2), 129-138.

The Family Fitness Habit

The Family Fitness Habit

We’ve always been the play-outside type of people, and we homeschool so my kids aren’t sitting in desks for hours a day. So it’s not that difficult to make sure kids get plenty of physical activity.

Still though, I don’t take that tendency for granted. There’s no way around it – we need to be intentional about getting out and active. According to the CDC, 17% or 12.7 million children ages 2-19 are obese, and 34.9% or 78.6 million adults are obese.

That’s a lot.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends a full hour of physical activity per day for children.

That sounds like a lot.

I don’t want to fall into the trap of assuming we get enough physical activity in our days. When there’s this much at stake, we prioritize it.

But it doesn’t have to feel like a chore, a line-item to check off of our lists. Physical activity is our favorite time together that we all look forward to.

First thing first – come up with a few activities that your family would actually have fun doing together, and decide which days you’ll give them a go. Then, keep these tips in mind to make it easy to get all the playtime your family needs.

Start now
Let’s make this easy on ourselves. When kids are young, they want to play with their parents, and they want to be outside whether it’s cool and sunny or cold with a foot of snow on the ground.

Take advantage of this willingness and start a family fitness habit that will last. If we lace up the sneaks and get outside with some consistency, it becomes something we just do, not something we spend time and energy deciding to do, or talking the family into doing. You’ll just go.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Be an example
Give a two-year-old a toy smartphone. What does he do with it? I know my little guy will lift it to his ear almost immediately.

“Hiyo…oh tay…uhvoo bye.”

Then he’ll tap and swipe as if perusing Feedly.

Kids are hardwired to imitate their parents. We overhear them spouting our catch phrases when playing house. If they find a whisk and a pot they’ll vigorously stir their invisible pancake batter. They love to sit in the driver’s seat and vruuuhhmmm while turning the steering wheel of a vehicle with no keys.

They don’t readily admit it, but kids imitate us longer than we think. For better or for worse, we’re a reference point. They start out repeating what they see, and later in life they’ll decide whether to keep repeating or go their own way.

It’s our job to show them good examples of healthy habits and positive experiences, and we can only hope it becomes a part of them.
Involve kids in exercise that looks like exercise
Especially when our kids are little, how many of us feel guilty for having “me” time?

Let’s look at that from the other side. What if our kids never saw us taking care of ourselves, then grew up to not prioritize their own health as a result?

IMO, that’s a bigger source of guilt.

We want to show kids that we as parents invest in our own health. We can bring kids to the childcare room at the gym or have them cheer us on while we run a 5K. We want our kids to see us make an intentional effort to get stronger and improve ourselves every day.
Involve kids in exercise that looks like play
This one is easier, and much more fun 🙂

Playing with our children is fun for us and fun for them. Everyone gets fresh air and gets moving, all while we’re making memories.

We don’t need to take up distance running and drill sergeant our kids through age inappropriate training. Active play can be a short flat scenic hike, or games of tag in a field. We can swim, ride bikes, spin around the ice rink, kick a soccer ball around, or just take a relaxing walk around the neighborhood.

Our goal is to show our kids so many active, fun play options that they don’t even bring up video games during free time.

Ah, dreams. Someday…
Let them pick
Kids like to have a say in things. If you want to get out but aren’t sure what to do, kids will have plenty of suggestions. When everyone in the family takes a turn choosing the activity every now and then, they feel like part of the team rather than the underling, and they’ll be more eager to join in the fun.

Creating a family fitness habit could be one of the most important things you do to keep your children and yourselves well for a lifetime.

Let’s swap some ideas. What does your family like to do together for fun and fitness?

 

Why I Became the Dreaded “Just a Minute” Mom

I’ve been coming across blog posts in my many feeds painting the “wait a minute” mom as something these writer mamas don’t want to be. There’s no one blogger I’m singling out – there have been a handful of posts in a short amount of time and they got me thinking.

I get what they’re saying. After the eleven thousandth time we’ve told our kids to just give us a sec, hours have passed and we feel pretty terrible about it.

So, I understand not wanting to overuse the hold button. But can we be real for a minute? Sometimes if we stop, we’ll burn dinner. Or the baby will sit in the poopy diaper we were about to change. Or we’ll miss the return call from that medical bill error we’ve been trying to resolve for six months, and we’ll have to call back and burn most of the afternoon on hold, and once we get through the nine-item touchtone menu we’ll have to start at the beginning of the story with “David” whose real name we probably can’t pronounce…

Hypothetically speaking.

Life doesn’t stop for requests for games of restaurant or parade band. Or, maybe it does for perfect moms with perfect houses and perfectly pinned dinners. For this very real mom, my kids sometimes have to wait for me to get through a phone call with the Davids.

What are we teaching kids if we drop everything, every time they want something?

I don’t want my kids to think that the world will take a break from spinning for them. The adult world certainly doesn’t work that way. They should know that everyone has their responsibilities and priorities, and sometimes we have to exercise patience and self-discipline until it’s our time.

It’s simple impulse control, a basic life skill that needs to be taught. Delayed gratification is so important that psychologists have been measuring it in kids since the 1960s with the famous marshmallow test.

What message are we sending if our kids never have our full attention?

We could spend a few minutes finishing that email completely, or we could stop halfway through and start a game of memory matching while typing the email out on our phone in between turns. Which scenario sends a better message?

Younger children don’t really get the patience thing as well as older children do. My big kids are well into the stage where they can wait, and they do.

I’m certainly not swatting them away every time they ask for something. Most of the time, I can get what they need right away. And when I can’t, they know it won’t be long.

Then, when it’s time to march in the parade, they get every bit of me and my xylophone.

Okay, I want to hear from other moms. Do you feel guilty when your kids have to wait?

 

Pin It on Pinterest