Redefine your Definitions

To be clear, I’m not a motivational speaker. I don’t have a trove full of wisdom that I draw from when someone asks me a question. For one, I’m only 26, you cannot expect too much from me there. And two, I have just as much if not more (thanks anxiety) worries and questions about this world as everyone else. I just call things as I experience them and half the time I write, I’m actually writing to myself. Call it a form of therapy, but it’s pretty effective.

In the past couple weeks I have made the transition from grad school finals to summertime. In other words, I have gone from 60 mph to 0 mph. From being full of purpose and driven, to being regrettably slovenly and slothlike. It is damn hard to summon internal motivation when external motivators have been riding your ass and nipping at your heels for a whole academic year. Nevertheless, I am forcing myself to develop routines - I lacklusterly search for part-time jobs, color (adult coloring is in!), pack the apartment (yes, a move is coming next week!), binge on series I’ve already seen, and think about wanting to write again. Writing, for me, is like running in a way- the hardest part is in the first five minutes and then gradually I feel myself fall into the familiar rhythm. So here’s me trying to fall back into my rhythm :)

Phew, what a lengthy introduction to a post! Thanks for sticking with me! The title of this post is about redefining definitions. I feel like I always hear people saying “I’m not ______. I’ll never be ______. I wish I were _____ but it’s never going to happen.” or some variation of those phrases. Now, while there are some things that will remain out of our reach- I am of the belief that most things can be manageably achieved through persistence and realistic goal-setting. And that last part is key. You can’t just wish you were 10 pounds lighter, a world-class athlete, or have a successful career and expect those things to fall into your lap. You gotta break it down to make it manageable, achievable, and realistic.

For example, because I have not, nor do I ever intend to, devote my life to being an olympic athlete, it is unrealistic for me to wish to become an Olympian one day. However, there is a more manageable goal nestled in there- why not just work on being an athlete/athletic? Is that realistic- yes!

Now I have my realistic goal: Being athletic.

Next, I break it down further. What am I going to have to do on a daily/weekly basis to achieve this goal? For me, that means running about three times a week and doing weight-bearing exercises two times a week. How did I come up with those numbers? Well, besides the fact that my future profession practically necessitates that I google these things a TON, more importantly these numbers are realistic for me and my lifestyle. (Especially seeing as I’m doing a whole lot of nothing these days ;). Also, I make sure to factor in a couple days off each week because the body needs the rest. The costs of pushing your body too far too fast outweigh the benefits, believe me.

So there you have it: my daily/weekly goals: Run 3x a week; weight-bearing exercise 2x a week

Now, if the thought of setting goals excites you (as it does me- call it another form of being an organization freak), you could even break this specific daily/weekly goal further down. Examples of this would be choosing to run 3 miles two days out of the three and then on the third upping the mileage to 3.5 miles. Or setting the duration of your workouts, the speed at which you workout, etc... Alas, I will truly dive into goal setting in depth in a future post, but the POINT of all of this yammering is that you SHOULD NOT under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES sell yourself short. Do not set boundaries for yourself because they’ll only hinder your ability to grow. A plant will only flourish as much as the pot it is planted in allows. So choose to plant yourself (metaphorically speaking of course) on a large plot of land.

We have all heard those stories of people beating the odds, pushing themselves farther than they thought possible, and achieving great success. You could absolutely be one of those people. In fact, I’m willing to bet that in many ways, you already are that person. So celebrate yourself for your successes, relish in the pleasure that they bring, but don’t be afraid to expand the definition of who you are. Being human is about constant growth and reinvention. Embrace it.


Let me know! : What is a goal you’ve achieved that you never thought you could? Or what is a goal you’re currently working towards?

Guidelines > Regimens

Happy late July everybody! Can anyone even believe we're almost done with Summer 2015??? Or, more importantly, can anyone even believe it's almost time to start shopping for school supplies??? I know. I cannot wait. (Super stoked to be a grad student...if you couldn't tell ;) )

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During my chat last week about having a healthy relationship with food I mentioned that I subscribe to the term "guidelines" instead of "regimens" these days when it comes to what I put in my body. Instead of the rigidity and perfectionism that the term "regimen" invokes, "guidelines" (at least to me) is a kinder, more compassionate word, for as much as words themselves can be compassionate. "Guidelines" implies flexibility and a willingness to change subtly when the situation calls for it, which I think is not only much more sustainable (which, if you want to keep up healthy habits your whole life, you need a plan with a little wiggle room) but also less daunting to adhere to. 

Below you will find my own personal guidelines as of July 23, 2015. It's not an exhaustive list by any means but that's the point: these guidelines provide me with a strategy to approaching my diet and can be changed at any moment I feel it is necessary. The simpler you can make them, the better. I encourage you all to keep track of your own and maybe even write them down & stick them on your fridge. Writing things down gives them a feel of permanence and importance and leaves me feeling motivated and organized :)  

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1. Minimize consumption of sugary beverages. This one has always been a no-brainer for me because I've always preferred eating to drinking. So when a bottle of Coke is the caloric equivalent to a piece of cake...really? There's no contest. I'll take the cake, especially if it's a corner piece ;) All jokes aside, sugary beverages really bring nothing to the table for me. If I find myself craving orange juice, I just peel myself an orange. Case closed. (Although I hate having orangey smelling fingers afterwards!)

2. Nothing is off limits. Once I condemn a food or food category, I only find myself craving it more, or worse, acting like a starving madwoman at a buffet line at a party. So instead I allow myself to indulge but set some parameters. I've realized that I only really enjoy drinks/desserts/treats/indulgences in the presence of friends and family so that's when I choose to enjoy them. Often if I'm craving a sweet and I'm alone at home, there's something else at play (like I'm on an emotional rollercoaster or I'm feeling blue or lonely). 

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3. Eat a bit of every food group at every meal. Lately, I have been trying to make my plates half full of veggies, then some protein-rich foods, and maybe some grain/fruit on the side. Find what works for you and what makes you feel good!

4. Stock my pantry and refrigerator with non-processed foods. Basically, I'm going to eat what's most convenient for me to make. And if all I got is kale, apples, bananas, and eggs...well I'm going to eat a kale salad with chopped apples and a side of over-easy eggs. Also, then when I'm craving a sweet when I'm alone, I can only reach for a banana and not a pint of ice cream. And it's a lot harder to feel guilty about eating a banana than eating ice cream. Just sayin'.

5. Make going out and ordering in a treat. My boyfriend and I only get one day off a week together and we love going out to eat, so I consider Sunday my "Treat yo self" day and indulge in some amazing food & drinks from around Chicago, usually from the same three restaurants if I'm being honest haha. 

There you have it! Just a simple list of guidelines; not a strict "Ten Commandments" deal set in stone. Be flexible. Be compassionate and kind to yourself. Know that if you stray from a guideline- it's okay. The next morning you just smile, breathe deep, and set a new intention for that day. 

 Do you have any guidelines you follow when it comes to your health? Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!!

Much love,

Aly

 

An Update on my Road to RD...

Hey there! It's been awhile, but I'm happy to be back checking in :) It feels wonderful to write, especially a happy post like this one!

As most of you know, for the past couple years I have been taking various science courses, brushing up my chemistry/stoichiometry/microbiology/biochemistry (*head explodes just thinking about it*) skillz, in order to fulfill the prerequisites for a masters in nutrition program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I submitted my application in January. I played the waiting game until late March when I got an e-mail asking me to schedule a time to be interviewed in the next week. I was overjoyed (to say the very very least). Out of a hundred or so applicants, the program only accepts 20- and I always thought that if I could just get to the interview, I could really have a shot. 

The day of my interview I was beyond nervous. This was it, was what I kept thinking. My entire future relies on 5 to 10 minutes of interaction with people I've never met. People who don't know me at all beyond a one-page personal statement and a GPA. In order for this to work, I knew I would have to lay everything on the table. I would need to find a way to convey my passion (which, if you've ever tried really describing what you're passionate about, is truly difficult) for health and wellness. I would need to input the sheer essence of me in everything I said. I would need to convey the magnitude of how much this would mean to me. How much getting a second chance at the career of my dreams would mean to me.

No pressure though. 

And then the interview came and went. No huge surprises (once you've been to more than five interviews, you kind of know what they're going to ask). No huge flops. There came a moment at the end of the interview when they asked me why I should be accepted into the program. And, because I am mostly emotions covered with skin and bones these days, I got choked up and said something about promising to work harder than I've ever worked and to give everything I had to be successful. I hadn't anticipated that question at all but I remember thinking in that moment how pivotal my answer would be. 

I was told that I would hear by the end of the month (2 weeks from my interview date). But exactly a week after my interview I got another e-mail. 

I was sitting in a Panera Bread downtown after a doctor's appointment (always such a relief to be done with those), eating lunch using a gift card I got from Christmas, when the e-mail banner update came across the top of my phone. I saw who it was from and my heart stopped as I dragged my finger down to reveal the message...

I had been accepted.  

And my thoughts became a jumble of fireworks and exclamation points and feelings of OMG and Holy Crap! and Mother of Pearl! (ok, maybe not that one). And, because I am mostly emotions covered with skin and bones these days, I cried.

And to this very day, three months after the fact, I get choked up thinking about it. To say I am grateful for the opportunity is a dramatic understatement. I have been blessed with the privilege and ability to follow my dreams and I will never forget that. I am so honored to be apart of this program and so excited to learn everything I need to help people be happy and healthy. Because, when you boil everything down, that's what any passion worth pursuing is all about: to bring happiness to others. To make this world, this gigantic world filled with billions of people and trillions of organisms, just a little better, a little more manageable, a little less lonely and scary everyday- that's what I want to do. And now I've been blessed with the opportunity to be given the tools to do just that.

And I promise you, more than anything, that I will not squander that opportunity. 

Much love,

Aly