Monday, July 26, 2010

Over Indulgence

I have just finished off a long weekend of over doing it. Over eating, check. Over drinking, check. Over not sleeping enough, check. Over not exercising enough, double check. Over sugar, over champagne, over cake, over lazy, over dancing, over staying up late, check, check and check.

Ok, there were some good times too. I would even go so far as to say great. I was at the wedding of a friend of mine in LA. I got to see one of my best friends in the world. I got to see all my college friends who are like family to me. I didn’t have to get up at 5am to go to work. I watched cheesy movies in the afternoon. I ate the yummiest food ever. I laughed a lot, a lot. I played with the most beautiful baby that ever lived. I danced the night away. I appreciated and felt gratitude for the wonderfulness that is my life…

So how come when the wild weekend is over and the party dresses have all been taken to the cleaners, the stuff I over focus on are my over indulgences?

It’s so easy to feel bad about over indulging, but what good does that do anyone? Do you want to know what happens when I feel bad about a wild weekend? I end up not wanting to exercise. Why bother, last weekend was a wash, this one will be too. I feel hungry for no reason and the more I think about how unhealthy I am, the more I crave a big old bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I do not know the scientific explanation behind it, but for some reason the worse we feel about ourselves the less likely we are to change. The negative self-talk we will often have after a weekend of excess or even the holidays can hinder our chances of successfully getting back into our healthy routine. The times when I cherish the wonderfulness of my experience and relish all the goodness it entailed, I end up having tons of energy, wanting to work out and craving cottage cheese.

Who cares if you over everythinged in sight, it was one weekend and it was fun! Don’t negate the goodness of your summer holiday with post party blues. Instead have a little positive self-talk. Tell yourself how excited you are that you were able to get out all of your cravings in one night. Be proud that the pizza was consumed with such vigor. The less leftovers the better! Now you have an excuse to refill that fridge with veggies.

Think about how relaxed your muscles are. If you sat on the couch unbuttoning your trousers and watching baseball all weekend, right on! Your butt needed that break. It was tired. Now it has slept and now it is time for some serious walking. Get that butt moving!

So my friends my hope for you this week is that you will savor and appreciate all of your summertime-overs and you will not feel guilt, anger, annoyance or anxiety about any of it. Instead make it an opportunity to feel excited and ready to live your healthy life!

Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Life is my Workout

Recently I have become unbelievably busy. I felt like I was already a pretty busy lady, but it turns out I didn’t really know what busy meant. I even had to arrange a girlfriend to give me a lift to school so we could hang out in the car. During said car ride, my girlfriend said to me, “This is great Sarah, now you are in the same boat as all your clients, it’s your turn to see how easy it is to work out every day.” Sometimes this friend drives me crazy with her truths but this time, I had to concur. Turns out I am in the same boat as many of the people I work with; I am tired, stressed out, overworked, underpaid, sleep deprived, hungry and without even a shred of motivation to work out in the evenings. Sound familiar?

Well guess what? I have found a solution and I invite you all to join me. Get ready for it: I am making my life my workout.

Who ever said that working out has to be in a gym, in certain clothes, with a certain kind of music and a certain kind of energy? A workout is anything that gets you in your body, and gets you moving. Sure it’s great to go to a spin class or run in the park or lift weights in the gym but some weeks that just isn’t gonna happen, and you are doing yourself no good sitting around and whining about it. I certainly wasn’t doing me any good.

I know that right about now you are wondering whether the rest of this article is going to consist of me imploring you to take the stairs and yes, that is part of it, but it is so much more than just the stairs. First you have to want it. That’s that hardest part, it’s way harder than just parking farther away or doing push-ups during commercial breaks. Think about how difficult it is to get to the gym, it’s going to be just as hard to garner up the moxie to do squats in the elevator, but if you’re struggling with time, then you best get over that real quick. In the good old days (thousands of years ago) people didn’t workout, they lived and life made them fit. Take example from your ancestors and join me in making your life your workout.

The following are a list of little habits that can build up to make a big difference.

Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier and stretch in bed before you wake up. Hug your knees, drop them side to side, hold behind your legs and try to straighten them, roll over and cat/cow etc, etc. The list is endless. If it feels good, do it. Get the blood moving in the morning. Here is a link to get you started.,0,0

While brushing your teeth, stand on one foot, practicing your balance.
Lower yourself slowly onto the toilet, pressing through your heels. If you are in a public toilet and don’t want to sit down, then lift your arms, tighten your core and hold in the yoga pose, uttkatasana (chair pose).

Take the stairs EVERYWHERE. At the MUNI station, the BART station, the mall, the movies and the office. It’s been said before, because it works. The reason you hate walking up stairs is because it’s hard. It’s hard because you don’t do it. If you did it more, it would get easier and you would get fitter.

Walk everywhere and anywhere you can. Walk to work, walk to get coffee, walk to drop off the dry-cleaning, walk to the restaurant. Try and add it in whenever you can.

Drink water all day long so you have to pee lots and are forced to WALK to the bathroom and SQUAT over the loo.

Offer to restock the copy paper in your office. Walk to the storage room and use proper lifting technique to make trips with stacks of paper.

Don’t bring all your groceries into the house in one trip. Walk or jog back to the car and take one bag at a time, lifting slowly and using your muscles.

Use cues. Every time I see a red car, I remind myself to drop my shoulders, stand up tall and engage my core muscles. Every time spam mail pops into your inbox, take three deep breaths and contract your abdominals or walk around your office.

Move during the commercials. You could do push-ups, dips, lunges, squats, crunches etc. Who hasn’t seen an article in a magazine at some point in their life telling them to try this?

In the car every time you are stopped at a stoplight, squeeze your butt muscles. Try and lift your butt off the seat just by tensing those muscles.

While waiting for the bus or spacing off in a meeting, visualize using your muscles, tighten up the muscles in your arms or legs or back or abs and imagine flexing them. Just cueing our minds into using our muscles will make us stronger, less prone to injury and more prone to using them in the future.

When you are making lunch or dinner and you are waiting for water to boil or the microwave to buzz, do pushups or the plank against the wall.

Stretch in your chair, RIGHT NOW. Lift up your arms over your head, inhale feeling every muscle in your body and exhale bringing everything back down. You feel better already, don’t you?

I am sure you can all come up with about a million more things you can do in order to make your life your workout and I would love to hear about them. Please email me and let me know what you’re doing.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you live

Monday, July 12, 2010

Failure, Scmaelure

A really bad thing happened to me this weekend. I failed a very important oral examination at school. It was horrible. I was called into the examiners office and they looked at me with serious eyes and said, "Sarah, we would like you to retake the exam." What!? I was shocked. "Are you kidding?", I said. As if an examiner would joke about that. I went home in a daze (well after some school chums took me out for some much needed vino). I was a wreck. I cried and sniffled and called all the people who love me to try and get sympathy. I sat on the floor in the dark and felt sorry for myself. "What a loser I am", I said over and over again. And then when I finally ran out of tears I proceeded to get angry. "I was wronged! Those examiners were too picky or they had something against me. This shouldn't have happened. I should never have failed. I am a smart girl and there is no way this is possible!" Eventually after much more anger and a little more pity, I fell asleep.

Upon waking I went straight to Google. I did every search possible on failures who succeeded and overcoming failing and getting back on the horse. I needed to find someone awesome who had failed at something so I didn't feel so bad. Well you know what? There's a whole bunch a people who have failed at stuff. Did you know that Babe Ruth was known not only for his home run record (714)but also for having the most strikeouts too (1330)? Hillary Clinton and John F. Kennedy failed the BAR exam the first time they took it. Michael Jordan didn't make the cut when he tried out for his high school basketball team and Albert Einstein failed his entrance exam into college. Leo Tolstoy even flunked out of college and Louis Pasteur ranked 15 out of 22 in college chemistry. When Fred Astaire auditioned for the movies, the president of MGM said, "can't act, can't sing, can dance a little." Basically what I learned is this: everybody falls down sometimes and it's not the falling or the failing that makes the man, it's the getting back on the horse. 

As I was reading about failure and thinking about all these strong people, my mind was pulled back to exercise. When you're lifting weights, it is only when the muscle fails you that it has broken down enough to be able to build back stronger. If the muscle never fails, it will never grow. It's considered hard core when you bring a muscle to failure. In yoga you are encouraged to push yourself to a point when you might fall.  It is how we react when we fall that matters. The point is not to not fall, the point is to do it calmly. I started to look at my failure in a different light. The more I let that exam define me as stupid or weak, the more I become stupid and weak. The angrier I became at the injustice, the less open I became to growth. The sadness and the anger were closing up my heart from the experience of learning. It was as if I were standing in a tree pose and the moment I fell, I gave up and stormed out. Every fall is an opportunity to do it again, to do it better. 

And so that is what I am planning to do. 

This week I would love for you all to join me in taking a look at moments in your life when not being good at something or failing something has left you feeling less than. I invite you to see how that moment helped create a more successful you. If it didn't then, let it now. 

In the fabulous words of Rosalind Russell, "Failure is just a part of life's menu, and I have never been the kind of girl to miss out on any of the courses."

Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fight, Flight or Freeze

I am sure that most of you have heard the term, fight or flight response. It’s kind of a buzz phrase these days. It refers to our body's primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to "fight" or "flee" from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival. When something scares us, like say a lion comes running towards you, our body and nervous system tells us, “Hey man, this is scary, RUN!!!!!!!” or it says, “We can take on that kitten, FIGHT!!!!!!!” Then it proceeds to give us the extra umph (adrenaline, cortisol, CRH and noradrenaline) that we need, in order to do either response. Our breathing rate is increased, our blood is moved from our digestive tract into our muscles and limbs to prepare us for battle, our pupils dilate, our impulses quicken and our perception of pain diminishes. We become hyper aware and start to perceive everything around us as a possible threat to our survival. Our fear becomes exaggerated and our thinking distorted. It is by fighting (physical exertion) or fleeing (also quite physical) that we are able to calm down and our systems are able to return to normal. Our breathing rate settles and our blood goes back to our digestion. The lens through which we see the world opens and we move away from attack mode.

This works out really well for us when we are being chased by lions or confronted by a bad guy. It doesn’t work out so well when we are stuck in traffic or being scolded by our boss or late for a deadline. Those are the threats we experience today and because we can’t flee from traffic or fight our boss, we freeze. The stressors of today tend to build up because we aren’t fighting or fleeing. When we freeze we are more attuned to feel even more stress because we are never able to let go of our attack mode.

Being stuck in attack mode sucks. It doesn’t feel good to be constantly on the prowl for danger, never able to relax or let go. It also sucks for your waistline.

When the stress first occurs our appetite is suppressed (so good so far) and the digestive system shuts off temporarily. Adrenaline and cortisol help mobilize carbohydrate and fat for quick energy. However, when the immediate stress is over, the adrenaline dissipates and the cortisol lingers to help bring the body back into balance. And one of the ways it gets things back to normal is to increase our appetites so we can replace the carbohydrate and fat we should have burned while fleeing or fighting.

Ok, so what are we supposed to do about it Sarah?

Here are my thoughts: Firstly you can work on lowering your stress levels. That can be done with mindfulness, breathing exercises, yoga, meditation etc. You can also lower your stress response by changing the way you look at stressful situations. The glass half full people are often less stressed. Or you can do what nature intended and use up those hormones when stress hits.

I am not saying that it is a good idea to punch your boss, get into a fender bender during rush hour traffic or run away from your spouse during an argument. I am saying it could really help, if after you smile courteously at Mrs. CEO for her valuable insight, you immediately walk as fast as you can around the building or take 2 steps at a time all the way to the 10th floor. Or perhaps after sitting in your car for what felt like an eternity you do 20 jumping jacks before you do anything else. When you start to worry about bills, instead of sitting around worrying (because we all know that works really well) go for a jog, or dance in your living room or do 10 push-ups or clean the bathroom (hey it’s exercise). The point is that you do something physical to get the fight or flight out of your system.

Recently a client told me a story of how she was almost hit by a car as she crossed the street. Naturally as she backed up onto the sidewalk she was a little worked up. Instead of carrying that fear around with her for the rest of the day she moved her arms back and forth as fast as she could as if she were running in place. She did this for about 1 minute and then she crossed the street. She said that normally something like that would have left her shaken all day, but after exerting herself, it didn’t cross her mind again.

I know that some of you may be thinking, I don’t have time to go for a walk, or I don’t want to get sweaty in my work clothes or I don’t want to look like a crazy person. Please, get over yourself. If you weren’t so caught up in the stress response you probably wouldn’t be on the defensive. Let go of the armor and go for a walk.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live