Attack of the Sleep Monster and What To Do For Lent (if that’s your kind of thing)

There is little worse than nights when you cannot sleep. I went to bed around 9:30 openly yawning and didn’t fall asleep well past midnight. It was one of those sleeps when you feel like you didn’t sleep at all, even though you probably did at some point. I fixed my alarm to skip the early morning workout because due to my lack of sleep, I was certain it wasn’t going to happen. Ended up I wasn’t sleeping well in the morning anyways and my alarm was an unwelcome sound blasting in my ears.

Sometimes this happens, drink coffee or tea, eat balanced meals, and suck it up.

I started my day still drowsy by mixing half a cup of milk with half a cup of water and boiling it for my oats. I tossed in some mashed banana, peanut butter, strawberries, blueberries, and cinnamon and mixed it all around until it was this delightful mixture. A nice warm bowl for another cold, snowy day.

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Lunch was a salad and soup kind of day. I chopped up some carrots, celery, peppers, and beets and threw it on top of a bed of baby spinach with a little feta, leftover pulled chicken, and Italian dressing. The soup was from Panera- which they sell in the grocery store- and it was mostly corn and black beans (supposedly chicken tortilla) but it was still pretty good.

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Dinner for the evening were steak tips, potatoes, cauliflower, peppers, and squash. Quite an arrangement of flavors and colors! Can you tell I’m obsessed with barbecue sauce lately, especially with steak? So good!

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One of my favorite yogurt combinations- I eat a Greek yogurt almost every afternoon- is an odd one. For awhile, I was going with the pomegranate seeds because they are so juicy and pair well with plain yogurt. Then I was being slightly lazy and running with the pre-flavored varieties. I took one look at the sugar content on those bad boys and knew it couldn’t be an every day occurrence. Now, I’m spooning in a handful of grapes- I prefer the black ones for their sweetness- and sometimes even a little teaspoon of chocolate chips. The grape-chocolate combination sounds like an odd one, but it’s really tasty!

Since it’s that time of year, I’ve been considering what I should give up for Lent. Sometimes, I’ll try to do more good things, which I’m definitely still considering, but I need to learn a new habit: staying away from the candy jars at work. This shouldn’t be so hard, but when you put something sweet in front of me and it’s 3:00 in the afternoon, I’m going to mindlessly dig into it. My hope is that by “giving it up for Lent,” I’ll learn NOT eating candy as a new habit. The other thing I need to do more of is standing while I work because sitting all day is going to detract from all those healthy benefits I gain from my morning workouts.

More suggestions for a healthy Lent? Giving up any kind of sweets or salty snacks is usually a good go-to. I wouldn’t give up all kinds though, maybe pick one or two, so that you’re mindful of what you’re eating, when, and why. Many times- I know I’m guilty of it- I’ll indulge without even taking enjoyment in it. In the end, it’s just more useless instant gratification without actual satisfaction. Another goal I’ll be working on in my life in general is doing things with intention. It sounds so much easier than it is! I’ve got a wedding to get ready for though as MOH and these pants are feeling a little tighter from the winter month and treats.

More good options are to start that regular workout routine. Dedicate time 4-5 days a week and go for 30-60 minutes every day. Exercise is my main source of stress release, but it took me awhile to get to that place. I mentioned the Elliptical machine that now RIP as my starting point. Find something, take your time, and get moving. It is so good for you and the benefits are so high!

Drink more water, less or no soda. Four years ago-AH!- when I was a junior in college, right before the moment that would kick me off on this weight loss journey, I was obsessed with soda. It was so easy to drink it every day, especially in a college cafeteria. I tried to give it up for Lent, knowing it was not a good habit, but it wasn’t an easy one to kick. I couldn’t do it then. My will was not strong, especially when I started having dreams about it. A year later and well into my weight loss journey, I decided to try it again. I haven’t made a regular habit of it since and I don’t miss it. Sure, I had my moments where I thought-NEED- but I overcame them, turned to fruity water (the natural kind with chopped lemons, limes, strawberries, etc) instead. So much of me changed just from this one little act. My taste for natural foods, like fruits and veggies, increased exponentially. My skin was clearer, I felt more energized, and less greasy. Keep in mind, I had a DIET soda habit, not regular. Both are pretty bad for you. Occasionally, especially if mixed with alcohol, i.e. Fresca with sangria, I’ll pour a little soda, but my taste for it has diminished.

Lent is another one of those times- if you choose- that help people focus on their habits and make changes. That doesn’t mean it’s the only time, but life is busy and we don’t always stop and realize what we’re doing until more of these days come to pass, i.e. New Years. Don’t see this “sacrifice” or choice as a negative thing, but as another notch in striving towards healthier, happier living.

If you’ve given something up for Lent before, then you’ll remember the feeling of Easter morning (or if you’re like my mom and aunts, Good Friday evening), and finally indulging in that tasty treat you’ve given up. You put so much care and appreciation into each bite, savoring all the tastes and morsels so mindfully. That’s how we should be eating every single thing that we eat. I’m not good at this, but I’m aware of it, and I’m ready to tackle it as my next challenge.

Mindfulness is a gift, but it’s also a skill that has to be practiced and honed. Care to join me?

Working Out Is Hard To Do- Except When It’s Not

It’s hard to come up with new posts on exercise because I do a lot of the same things over again. We’ve heard a lot about my running successes and woes, which I was discussing with my mom earlier. Both her and my dad have taken up running and they have noticed how one day you feel phenomenal, while the next day you feel awful. You just have to keep going. Obviously if the awful feeling is born from pain that is physically hurting you, then you should skip it, but otherwise, the type of exercise that makes a difference is the kind you do when you don’t feel like getting it done. Running is the most fickle form of exercise because it can be affected by water or food intake, temperature, or energy levels.

Strength training is similar but not as bad because you can do a lot of improvisation and take breaks in-between sets. When I’m not feeling my strongest but I know I have to get through a workout, I’ll focus on fewer sets and reps, working through the moves slowly and feeling how it affects my body. I notice the effects of rest days best when it comes to strength training. A day of rejuvenation helps to repair muscles and I come back feeling stronger and get through a longer, harder workout.

When I get to the gym or hit the streets, I can tell almost immediately what kind of day it will be. At my strongest, I can safely push myself, try new exercises, and go for a longer or harder routine. Then there are always the days where I’m going through the motions and counting down the seconds. When this happens, listening to music helps to focus the mind away from exertion or I will come up with story ideas that I play through my head. This will occur more frequently during my running, swimming, or other longer cardio sessions because I am doing the same thing for so long. With strength training, I move so quickly from one thing to another and do a variety of different exercises and using different equipment that I easily stave off boredom. I’m lucky because I’ve reached the point where I do genuinely enjoy working out, but I am still human and prone to having those days where even thinking of exercise makes me UGH.

Pleasure from exercise for me is born from a feeling of productivity, strength, and stress-relief. I am a natural organizer, attached to my planner, love making to-do lists, but love checking items off that list even more. Knowing that I am going to exercise and that I have one definite bullet off of my list checked off gives me a weird sense of satisfaction in the same way that I love having folded and put away my laundry, cleaned my room, or organized my desk.

When I first started my exercise plan, I knew I had one great thing in my arsenal, mind strength. There was a moment where it all clicked and I knew I could do it. That courage helped a lot when it came time to starting exercising and trying out new routines. Realizing that your body is so strong should not be surprising, but the truth is, we spend so much time out of check and focused on other things, that we don’t always allot enough energy to ourselves. I may not love doing Burpees, but I love knowing that I can. Push-ups are also a pain in the ass, but I had a deep moment of pride when I transitioned into doing them full out. Exercise is a way for me to better connect and understand my body that I have otherwise ignored. It’s similar to how you have to listen to the signals your body sends you when eat, what foods work, what doesn’t. You may not agree, especially if you despise working out, but exercise is also a gift. It’s taking the time to, as Parks and Rec declares, “treat yo self.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again 1000 times. I would not have gotten through my Fellowship without exercise. I’ve seen a lot of people cut working out from their daily plans when things get busy because it’s the obvious thing to step away from, especially if you don’t love it. Trust me, I get it. There are so many things that go into a day and not enough time if you actually want to sleep, but dedicating thirty minutes to an hour out of a day to exercise shows that you are still taking care of yourself, keeping your energy levels up, and will help you focus. I was lucky to fit my exercise in during the hour between my work day and my classes starting. Whether I had a horrible day or a great one, lifting those weights, performing those moves, or going for a run was my saving grace. I was able to let it all go (ELSA COSTUME YAY), give my mental muscles a break, and bust it out physically. It worked. It worked. It worked. My number one word of advice, fit in exercise in any capacity for any amount of time in any way that you can because it will make you stronger mentally and physically.

That being said, I can feel my body adjusting to my current exercise plan. As much as I’ve been enjoying it, I know that I have to mix things up in order to keep my body guessing. It kind of stinks sometimes that just making the effort to exercise doesn’t always get the job done, but creating a new work out plan can be exciting and up your motivation to get it done. Hopefully I’ll take the weekend to develop a new plan and share it with you next week!