Making Friends with Discomfort

I read something a couple of weeks ago that really stuck in my head. It was a short blog post about exercise and discomfort and why many people find it hard to begin an exercise program. It reminded me of a saying of mine when I was a full time personal trainer – the hardest part of getting fit is getting fit.

When a body isn’t used to exerting itself it has to get used to working at an increased level. It can feel very uncomfortable, particularly to new exercisers and those who have not excised in a long time. I also invoke Newton’s Law of Physics – a body at rest will stay at rest until an external force acts upon it. What is that external force per se? It’s two fold – there is the actual exercise that is acting as that force – be it a dumbbell or a treadmill, it’s a force just the same. The second is more ephemeral – it’s our will, motivation, courage, determination, and things of that nature. The two go hand in hand, and it’s learning to live in both of those worlds that can help you to achieve your goals.

comfort-zone

Be rest assured, I am not talking about Think about an acupressure massage, it may cause a lot of discomfort as the massage therapist is pressing down on a tight muscle area, but the result of a looser muscle area is quite pleasurable. Another example, has to do with food and I’ll share some of my personal insights with you. I am looking to lose 7 pounds in the healthiest way possible. I eat very cleanly but in my case, I eat too much, in fact, I’ve gotten in the habit over the past few years to eat until I am uncomfortable full. I also realized at the same time I was never letting myself get too hungry. I had it all backwards.

In my attempts to lose weight slowly and steadily, I’ve challenged myself for the next four weeks to allow myself to live in the discomfort of being hungry. I won’t allow myself to be starving. Rather, I’m going to allow myself to feel the sensations of hunger and sit in that somewhat uncomfortable feeling (making friends with discomfort also put the spotlight on impulse control, which I will save for a later time). At the same time, I will pay attention to my satiety signals by eating slower and to try to stop eating when I feel satisfied and not when I feel too full – and to live in that discomfort too. Interestingly, when I have tried this already, it’s not just the physical sensation of eating less than I am used to, it actually makes me feel anxious. I will simply observe that emotional discomfort as well.

Getting out of our comfort zones can reap some big rewards. By living in the discomfort and observing the physical, mental, and emotional reactions we can stretch ourselves. In fact, when I work with clients, we don’t just talk about making goals, we talk about making stretch goals. Human being are incredibly adaptable (this is especially evident with our bodies and exercise). We can use discomfort get us to a more positive place. Soon enough, my stomach will get used to eating less, shrink back to it’s natural state thus lessen the discomfort. In the case of exercise, however, you can get used to the discomfort of lactic acid building up in a muscle or being out of breathe to improve your fitness levels over and over again.

So what areas of your life are you letting a little discomfort get in the way? Is it that uncomfortable conversation with a colleague or family member? Maybe it’s feeling self-conscious that is preventing you from taking the acting class you always wanted. In my case, I am going to be learning a bit more about discomfort in changing my eating habits to achieve lasting weight loss. Live in the discomfort and see what’s possible!

obama-quote

 

 

 

Love, Love, Love

love

Happy Valentine’s Day! Whether or not you have someone in your life romantically, Valentine’s Day is a great way to check in on your love quotient in all ways. Although the day commercially focuses on a romantic partner, regardless if you have one or not, it’s a great time to celebrate your life and those who make it special. It’s also a great time to send some love to yourself (and quell that negative voice). Here’s a fun exercise to keep you smiling all day long and it only takes about 10 minutes. 

  1. List 5 people you love in your life and one sentence why 
  2. List 5 things that you love to do and one sentence why 
  3. List 5 things that you love about yourself and one sentence why

In the next week, chose one person you love and let them know, choose one activity you love to do and do it, and choose one thing you love about yourself and revel in it all week long!

An attitude of gratitude for yourself and others creates all sorts of feel good chemicals in the body. Now that’s something to celebrate.

 

Kitchen Revelations

It’s been a great start to the New Year. Here’s a little background: It all started in December when I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto. At the same time I decided to honor my dairy allergy and make my own non-dairy cheeses and soy yogurt and I found Myoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese.

food-icons
It’s like to two collided and created fireworks of inspiration. The cooking odyssey began and I ordered all the gear and supplies (from a yogurt maker to agar powder!). I got back into the kitchen with a new purpose: to create healthy and homemade food on a consistent basis. I was unsatisfied with the quality of food available to me at work and I was spending a fortune. And I really wanted to create some non-dairy alternatives to my favorite foods (if you’ve ever tried some of the commercial vegan cheese on the market, you know what I mean). Finally, I really missed my favorite unsweetened soy yogurt that was no longer available in the grocery store (not even Whole Foods carried it anymore). I digress…

in-defense-of-foodThere are three main tenets to In Defense of Food: “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants.” He urges us to return to our food roots and eschew eating what he calls “edible food-like substances” that is the mainstay of the debilitating Western diet peddled by many a grocery store. He asks us to return to the kitchen and the dining table, to savor the satisfaction, tastes, and smells of whole foods.

That is exactly what I did! In the last month, I learned how to may my soy yogurt, how to make rejuvelac from sprouted wheatberries for cashew cheese, had an epic fail of “brie,” a rounding success with provolone, created restaurant-worthy vegan lunch bowls, made my own seitan from scratch and a few slow cooker meals from lamb to lentils!

I also started to bring my lunch to work which is one of the reasons that I am writing this post. I can’t tell you how much better I feel eating fresh, healthy food every day!

I come from a FOOD family. To say that my father cooked unbelievably delicious meals is an understatement. He was entirely self taught. We’re talking about paella, caldo gaellego, chili, lasagna, roast pork, roast beef, stuffing, you get the idea. He was a magician in the kitchen. My mother was also pretty good too. She made a killer quiche and amazing tomato sauce. What was most obvious growing up was that there was VERY LITTLE junk food. Everything was fresh. My mom, who was a librarian, was home a little earlier on the weeknights and took care of dinner Monday through Friday and again, everything was home cooked.

My parents were pretty laid back with us except for one rule – during the week, the family sat down for dinner every night at 6:00pm. This lasted from my earliest memories to the end of high school. The only exception was eating at a friend’s house. If you were going to be late, you better call!

Why am I telling you all this? Because shopping, cooking, and sitting down to eat is very important to your wellbeing. It took me 30 years and an apartment big enough to fit a dining room table to get this right. I’ll say it again:

SHOP, COOK, and SIT DOWN AT THE TABLE

For those of you already doing the shopping, cooking, and feeding your family – I applaud you and please leave your comments here about how you do it! Just make sure you are all sitting down together at some point during the week.

For the rest of you, I implore you, it’s more important to cook and feed yourself wholesome, home-cooked food than it is to plop down in front of the TV. It’s never been easier to prepare healthy meals – I mean everything is already cleaned AND chopped for you!

There is something immensely satisfying to be able to feed yourself. It’s something that we’ve lost in our convenient modern day society. It seems to me that it would be as basic as learning to drive, getting a job, and paying your rent. You’d be amazed at how many folks I’ve worked with who have never learned to cook.

Here’s how to get started without feeling overwhelmed:

  • Decide on which meal you’d like to cook (breakfast, lunch or dinner)
  • Decide on the kinds of foods you like the most, for example, I love lunch bowls, a combination of a carb, protein, and lots of veggies with a healthy dressing.
  • Search the internet for simple recipes and look on Amazon for cookbooks that have the word “easy” or “quick”
  • Make a shopping list of the ingredients you need
  • Schedule a time to go to the grocery store with your list
  • Schedule an hour to prep and cook
  • Invite friends and family if you like
  • When you are ready to eat, sit down at a table and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

You’ll be amazed at how satisfying a home-cooking can be. And you’ll feel fabulous to boot!