My top 5 resources to cut through the noise…or at least let it work for you

Does this sound familiar? You’re at home doing something like getting ready for work, preparing a meal or cleaning the house, and you turn on the TV for background noise? By week’s end you’ve consumed hours of mindless TV – at best – or a negative news feed – at worst. I used to do that and it drove me crazy that I “needed” that noise. Now, I use those times as opportunities for growth and entertainment and I’m going to share with you how to do the same.

Laundry-headphones_Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash_crop

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

I realize that not that every moment has to be “productive.” If doing your work in silence promotes a good state of mind, maybe even a meditation opportunity, keep doing it. But if you feel the need for background noise and your current choices aren’t doing you any favors, consider my 5 favorite resources for motivation, learning and enjoyment:

  1. TED Talks: Short, powerful talks available on multiple subjects. While some have visuals, I find most can be simply listened to. One of my favorites is Brene’ Brown’s, The Power of Vulnerability. She takes a topic no one is comfortable with and using humor, her personal experiences and her knowledge as a researcher, she makes you feel like you’re not alone and that you can overcome shame.
  2. Lead to Win Podcast: Michael Hyatt provides “leadership lessons for lasting success.” His show includes research studies and audio inserts from experts on the topic of the week that help his audience to become stronger, more effective leaders. A recent favorite of mine is titled “The Surprising New Science of Achievement,” a topic I find can be applied to many areas of life.
  3. Audio Books: I’ve recently taken advantage of my library card to check out several audio books. Most are motivating and informational, but not long ago I listened to a fiction book by Elizabeth Gilbert titled “The Signature of all Things” – loved it. TIP: I change the audio speed to 1.25 or 1.5 (depending on the speed of the person narrating the book) which takes me through it quicker!
  4. The Minimalists Podcast: These two guys speak to living a meaningful life, with less stuff and more fulfillment. While I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist I’ve integrated their philosophy into my own life in a way that brings me greater peace and contentment.
  5. Pandora: I use the free version and find myself dancing and singing as I put on makeup, workout and clean. I love the Earth Wind & Fire channel and my non-disco husband recently turned me onto Hipster Cocktail. Look for new options that pique your interest and ignite your energy. If you find yourself moving your shoulders and head a little while listening, that’s a good sign.

The best part about using these resources is that I’m no longer over-saturated with news or exposed to tons of commercials for stuff I don’t need – instead I’m learning and being uplifted, even entertained. Next time you’re looking for some background noise, optimize that time to serve you and your mood.

Share with me below some of your favorite resources to keep you company.

Top 50 Ways to Burn More Calories

Stairs_Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

I turned 50 this month which inspired me to launch my “Year of 50.” So, each month from this November through next October, I’ll be sharing my “Top 50” tips and ideas on all things health and wellness. This month I wrapped up my ‘Top 50 Ways to Burn More Calories.’ In case you’ve missed some, or forgotten a few, here’s a recap:

  1. be inefficient around the house
  2. make multiple trips unloading the car
  3. balance on one foot
  4. 2-minute exercise breaks
  5. standing desk
  6. knee extensions while sitting
  7. use a stability ball as a chair
  8. avoid the drive-thru
  9. dance (even just a little) when music is playing
  10. park once and walk to all the stores in the shopping center
  11. park far away
  12. take the stairs
  13. yard work
  14. fidget
  15. sit up straight
  16. calf raises in the checkout line
  17. get up & move during commercials
  18. wash the windows
  19. clean the floors
  20. vacuum
  21. jumping jacks between weight sets
  22. back-to-back strength training sets
  23. increase your walking pace
  24. swing your arms while walking
  25. add hills/incline to walking/treadmill
  26. hands off the rails (unless you need them for balance)
  27. a little caffeine (sans sugar)
  28. bike your errands
  29. knit or crochet
  30. sing to the music
  31. wash the car
  32. add 5 minutes to your usual workout
  33. if you’re not already, start strength training
  34. cardio push (intervals)
  35. exercise more often
  36. don’t skip meals
  37. eat breakfast
  38. get 7-8 hours’ sleep
  39. meditate to reduce stress
  40. chew gum
  41. red-light ab workout
  42. mini-workout during commercials
  43. walk the escalator
  44. walking meetings
  45. play pool
  46. miniature golf
  47. go bowling
  48. play darts
  49. volunteer

#50: Do it. The trap is to think, “What difference will that really make?” The truth is, small steps lead to big results. You need to take the right small steps, and take many of them over a period of time. So, pick a few and enjoy the process.

A side benefit I didn’t expect is that in making this list I’m reminded to do them, too. Just yesterday I did the red-light ab workout instead of being irritated that I had taken surface streets to the post office rather than the freeway. Bonus!

If you need further details on any of these you’ll find five posts of ten tips each, including some videos, during this past month at Facebook. And, be on the lookout tomorrow when I launch my Top 50 Ways to Stay Healthy (and Not Gain Weight) During the Holidays.

Share with me below your favorite of the Top 50 Ways to Burn More Calories and let me know which ones you’re putting into action.

 

How I re-framed my thoughts on aging

It was the fall of 2000 and I’m sitting next to a psychotherapist at a business meeting. We were talking about women and aging, and I’ll never forget what she said to me:  “Heather, in our culture, a woman’s power is in her youth & beauty.” At the time I was in my early thirties and thought how great it was to be young and in great shape! But as each birthday passed I wondered how much longer I could be considered “young.” I had two choices: fight it with every available product and technique, or accept the inevitable and do the best I could while I “had it.”

Perfection_Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Eventually I discovered a third way. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-forties, but there it was. It’s so simple but it took time to see it. I’d even heard other women talk about it, but it didn’t resonate right away. Like any truth, it took time to seep into my psyche and be able to live it.

The reality is that you and I decide each moment how we perceive ourselves and our surroundings. If we soak in the anti-aging message that’s embedded in our society, we never get there. Whether in personal, career or family life, if our focus is on what we should do, how we fall short or how we compare to (fill in the blank with any number of options) then we experience anything from low grade dissatisfaction to self-hatred. Yet we keep trying.

This “third way” teaches me to relish life and live it fully – to own it. It teaches me to learn in every situation, and to appreciate myself and others in beauty and in brokenness.

On my 49th birthday last year I visualized what I wanted life to be like at 50. Nothing about fitness and finances (those are for another time). I was interested in feeling more connected with God, family and friends. I wanted un-cluttered surroundings, to be pain free, to set solid boundaries and be a strong leader. I had a sense of what those felt like and then I took my own advice. I set small goals, adding one upon another as the months went by.

Here’s the thing. I wasn’t perfect at it. I never have been. I work with so many clients for whom all-or-nothing is their biggest bugaboo that keeps them from experiencing the health, joy and satisfaction they crave. As I write, it dawns on me that the only way I could find my third way was to recover from my perfectionism. I’m not a perfect leader, my house isn’t in perfect order and I don’t feel constant, blissful connection with the Divine. But I’m a better leader, my surroundings are more peaceful and I experience greater calm.

Honestly, I don’t even know what perfect would look like. Maybe it doesn’t exist. And if it does, I don’t think it would be better than life at this very moment.

Do you struggle with perfectionism, with all-or-nothing? See what happens when you let it go and decide to live.

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Oreos or the Wall Street Journal?

Do you ever start the day with good intentions that never materialize? You intend to go to that yoga class but time gets away from you. You plan to eat healthy then find yourself grazing on a box of crackers, rationalizing that at least they contain whole grains. Or maybe you vow to stay organized and create more space in your schedule, but finish the day having said yes to too many things. If so, you’re not alone.

woman_Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash

I was listening recently to a podcast from leadership development expert Michael Hyatt when I heard him say “the most difficult person to lead is yourself.” So if the only person I can control is me, it can be a tough haul! This is precisely at the core of why we do what we don’t want to do, and don’t do what we do want to do.

Hyatt’s comment is the recognition that it’s easier to see other people’s weaknesses than it is our own. And it feels awful to admit, but it can be comfortable to mentally compare downward so that even if we don’t keep a commitment to ourselves at least we’re doing better than so-and-so (as opposed to the upward comparison in which we criticize ourselves).

Self-awareness is essential to achieving what matters most. In the realm of our health and weight, that means knowing our weak spots and learning to neutralize them. It’s in the stressful moments that we face choices necessary for our success. Do we fall back on our compensating behaviors or do we choose a healthy response?

Want to make healthier decisions when life gets stressful?

Download today my free cheat sheet of “9 Things to Avoid When Life gets Hectic.”

For example, people often tell me they have a weak spot for junk food. If it’s in the house and they’ve had a bad day, they eat it. A client of mine could relate and came up with a fun idea. She decided that at the grocery store, instead of buying food she shouldn’t have, she’ll buy a copy of the Wall Street Journal, something she always tells herself is too expensive. Now she tells herself it will be way cheaper than the junk food she would buy.

It’s a mistake to think that “tomorrow will be better” without a plan to counter the obstacles that regularly pop up. Instead, reflect on the common challenges that confront you when you attempt healthy habits. Does your standard response take your farther away from what you want? How can you take responsibility for that response, and change it?

In the midst of it all, be kind and practice self-compassion because, let’s face it, this isn’t always easy. But know you have what it takes to change. And imagine the possibilities when you do.

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What could you do in 82 days?

This time of year always feels like another New Year, an opportunity to clear the slate and begin anew. Maybe it’s because school starts in the fall and even if we graduated long ago it’s the calendar of our culture. Or, maybe it’s because plants are shedding their leaves (and acorns in my yard!) that we feel like shedding what no longer serves us. Both seem to fit.

Reflect on what you set out to achieve this year for your health and well-being. Then answer these three questions to finish the year with a focus on what matters most.

Leaves_Photo by Takahiro Sakamoto on Unsplash

Photo by Takahiro Sakamoto on Unsplash

  1. “What could I start doing?” Do you need to improve your nutrition? Get better sleep? Reduce stress? Decide what’s most important right now and choose one small step to take in that direction. What one thing could you do that, over time, will add up to a big improvement? Last year I was waking up in the night with sore hip muscles so decided to start stretching every day. It takes a few minutes before bed and feels really good. Now, sore hips rarely wake me up. A small investment of my time for a big difference in how I feel.
  1. “What could I stop doing?” What do you do regularly that sabotages your efforts to lose weight or improve your health? What, if you stopped or did less of, would make the most improvement in your well-being? When I ask my clients this question some have answers like “drink less wine” or “watch less TV.” Can you relate? Choose one thing that if you stopped or lessened would move you closer to your health and weight loss goals in the next 82 days. Then, trade that habit or activity out for something awesome.
  1. “Where’s the fun?” Let me be honest. I don’t jump out of bed excited to go to the gym. I go because I’ve committed to exercise and I want the outcome. But being healthy and losing weight cannot be a drudgery if you are to succeed at your goals. Are you having fun in the process? If so, how can you have more? If not, what do you need to start/stop in order to have fun? Decide and take action.

Just imagine what you can do in 82 days! Reduce pain, have more energy, lose a few pounds…anything is possible. Remember: small steps can bring big results.

Decide on your step and please share your plan with me below.

Happy “New Year!”

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3 steps to manage what you can’t control

A few months ago I went to upgrade my iPhone and found out that Verizon doesn’t do that anymore. None of the carriers do. Full price. No deals. Continuing my dismay, they no longer transfer data from your old phone to your new phone.

I thought “this sucks” so I got on the phone with a friend to grumble about it. She empathized. But after a minute or two she said, “It’s getting awfully whiny in here.” Ouch!

She was right, of course. My righteous indignation (uh, complaining) wouldn’t change Verizon. It just kept my irritation alive. Gratefully her observation was the pattern interrupt I needed to stop giving attention to something I couldn’t change.

Stop complaining_Photo by Omar Prestwich on Unsplash

Photo by Omar Prestwich on Unsplash

Have you ever gotten wound up about something or someone you couldn’t control? It can be something as trivial as my cell phone issue or as big as a health problem – more rumination only leads to greater anxiety and stress.

While people and circumstances are outside your control, you can do something. Next time unwanted things come your way – like news, decisions, people’s actions, etc. – these three steps will keep you from getting stuck and help you move towards greater health, peace and happiness:

  1. Consider your response. I could get rid of my cell phone (I have occasional fantasies). I could find someone to help me transfer my phone data (I did. The Apple Store was great). I also sought out a better plan for less money, so it wasn’t all bad. In the case of something significant, like your job being potentially down-sized, gather information. Is there training that would improve the skills your employer desires? Have you wanted to start your own business? How could you research the viability? Is there another job or field you’ve always wanted to work in and now is the time to start checking it out?
  2. Pay attention to your dialogue. This means internal and external. Rehashing how awful something is or how someone said something mean, or how you wish you had done it differently…stop it all. Choose a helpful response. It may just be to stop talking about it – no one really wants to hear about it anyway, right? Maybe it’s finding a lesson or something beneficial in the situation. Even if you don’t find anything, the act of seeking the good will put you in a positive, growth-oriented mindset.
  3. Decide if you’re willing to change. Organizations make decisions that impact you and you choose how to respond. People make decisions you wish they wouldn’t and, again, you choose how to react. Sometimes though you encounter self-made problems. Poor health decisions or financial mistakes that cannot be undone. Mean-spirited words that cannot be recalled from the ether. But the next decision is in your control. Will you do what’s necessary to improve your health or finances, or dwell on how bad it is? Will you choose to repair a relationship even if it’s uncomfortable to ask for forgiveness? This is where knowing your core values and having a vision is so valuable.

That’s it! Three steps to taking charge of what you can control so that you get unstuck and move towards greater health, peace and happiness. Share with me what you’ve been chewing on that it’s time to change or let go of.

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I don’t need help. I know this stuff.

I’d been stuck for a while. Years in fact. And I know better. I’m a certified exercise physiologist after all (you can imagine that record playing in my head, right?).

My strength training routine was in a rut. Spotty, too. But I wasn’t about to ask for help. (I know what to do!)

As coincidence would have it, my massage therapist referred me to a personal trainer so that I could learn to use the foam roller on my tight back muscles. But then we started talking, one thing lead to another, and over a few sessions Rose had shown me a whole new strength routine.

When I told my husband he asked “don’t you know how to do all that stuff?”

Thanks, hun!

Well, yes and no. I know form and technique. I know that specific movements at specific joints will work specific muscles. But new equipment and machines have come on the scene since I got certified 20 years ago! I’d seen things like TRX and Bosu at the gym, and had taken a mat Pilates class here and there, but most of what I did for strength training was boiler plate 1990s.

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What was the problem? Why didn’t I just do what I knew I needed to do, and knew how to do? Honestly, I was bored. And sometimes I expected too much of myself, creating a whole different set of problems. I needed an outside perspective.

Have you done that, too? You know what you need to do and how to do it so you insist on going it alone. And as the months and years tick by, you still aren’t where you want to be.

Instead, why not pattern ourselves after the experts. Dustin Johnson, ranked #1 in the world for most of this year, has a golf coach and a swing instructor. Steve Jobs had a coach for many years. Delve into the habits of successful people and you’ll find they aren’t in it alone. In fact, the more successful, the more they rely on the support and expertise of others.

Are there changes you need to make to be successful, to thrive? Are there areas in your life where an outside perspective could help you overcome what’s keeping you stuck? Act like the experts, and hire one!

I love feeling stronger – I wish I’d done this sooner. I can tell you, I won’t wait next time. I’ll be back with a professional to keep my routine fresh and challenging. Thank you, Rose Nielsen!

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“I’m kind of stupid…”

That’s how she had prefaced her question. I stood, staring in disbelief at this precious woman who had come to volunteer in the community. Before she could ask her question I looked at her and exclaimed “Don’t you ever say that again!”

But how many times have I said something similar? And if not aloud at least to an audience of one?

Sad woman_Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash

Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash

Things happen daily that trigger those thoughts. Like when your shirt fits just a bit too tight or it’s a struggle to pull up the zipper on your pants. Or when you stumble over your words and say something you regret. It feels crappy.

What’s most important in those moments is how you react.

Are you kind to yourself? Do you practice self-compassion, knowing you’re not alone in feeling this way?

Or, do you poke a finger at your muffin tip and lament how little self-control you have? Do you berate yourself for bothering to speak up when you’re such an idiot?

In her article, Sleeping with the Enemy, Martha Beck asserts that when our self-talk involves degradation and name calling, we are essentially waging war against ourselves with propaganda. And this propaganda contains the words of the enemy.

Can you imagine being at that meeting and instead of the woman stating that about herself she had turned to someone else and out loud said “You’re kind of stupid”? We’d cringe, maybe even come to the other’s defense, right? Why doesn’t dreadful self-talk provoke a similar response from us?

We think tough talk will help us improve but it usually backfires as we self-soothe with food and alcohol, internet and TV. Calling ourselves names doesn’t motivate us to do better because shaming never brings out the best in us.

The first step to changing is to recognize your negative self-talk when it happens. Then call yourself out on it and repeat, “Don’t you ever say (or think) that again!” Look at self-talk as a record that plays in your head (dating myself!) and your statement as scratching the needle on that record. Scratch as many times as needed until the record is damaged beyond ability to play.

Be kind to yourself like you would be to a good friend or a child. Know that you’re not the only one who has $h!tty thoughts, whose pants don’t fit or who just embarrassed herself in public. It happens. Be good to yourself and move on. Find another person who’s berating herself and help lift her up. As we do that for others, our own problems feel smaller.

Beck says “A war against yourself can never be won; the only true victory happens when you lay down your arms and befriend the enemy. And if you can make peace with yourself, you’ll find the whole world becomes a kinder, gentler place.”

Let’s live in that place together, okay?

Warmly,

Heather

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“I eat a pound of bacon a day!”

My friend met a guy at the gym who told her he was once morbidly obese and lost the weight by eating mostly meat and now eats a pound of bacon per day. When my friend asked him about things like vegetables he declared that we can get by with almost none.

bacon_photo-by-andrew-ridley-on-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

Wow!

But someone who lost that much weight must know what he’s talking about, right?

First, everyone is unique.

I talked with a slim, vibrant 81-year-old last month who described her unhealthy habits (eating several Twinkies in one sitting) and said her two sisters, try as they might, struggle with being overweight. For her, it’s never been a problem.  It’s like the pack-a-day smoker who eats bacon and eggs fried in butter every morning, considers a slip of iceberg lettuce on his burger to fulfill his daily veggie allotment, and lives to be a sprightly 98.

These folks are the exception, not the rule. Just ask the millions of people for whom those behaviors don’t work so well.

Second, weight loss – or being slim – doesn’t automatically equal good health. And while someone may appear healthy in his 20’s, like the pound-a-day bacon eater, most lifestyle diseases go unnoticed until we’re much older and start testing for them.

So, what are the best sources for information on nutrition and exercise? How much info is enough?  Why do experts (I use that term loosely) disagree?

Google “how to be healthy” and you’ll have 548,000,000 sites vying for your attention. If only .0001% are useful, that’s still more than 500 sites to peruse. And even if you’re not actively searching for it, health is regularly mentioned in everyday life from cocktail parties to media outlets.

Ignore it.

Really! More information isn’t making us healthier, just confused. Start with what you know to be good and true (like getting in fiber, staying hydrated and eating the “rainbow” to name a few). How are you doing on those things? How can you do better? What’s the next step you can take that will move you towards success?

The mass of data available tends to stop people from doing anything (because, what’s the right thing to do?) or has them jumping from one thing to the next, never realizing lasting results.

You likely start with a decent picture of nutrition, but maybe that picture gets fuzzy the more you seek the next thing that works. Truthfully, it’s less about new information and more about the head game. You know what I mean, right?

Start with what you know. Consider your specific situation. Find the support you need.

Blessings!

Heather

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P.S.: You may be someone with a unique health situation who needs specifics from a health care practitioner. If so, it’s worth the investment. Know that most doctors receive little, if any, nutrition education in medical school. Gratefully some physicians make it a priority to educate themselves, but many don’t. If a nutrition consult with your doctor consists of a few general statements like eat “less carbs” or “low fat,” seek additional support.

The Great “Old Dog – New Tricks” Hoax

Nearly 500 years ago an English fellow named Fitzherbert initiated the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and it stuck ever since. We say it regularly, related to situations that have nothing to do with the canine species. It’s come to be spoken of as gospel for our belief that it’s too hard for older people to learn new skills or develop new habits. So they don’t.

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Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Guess what? Not true! MythBusters proved it wrong, saving dogs everywhere from low expectations. But, what about us?

The mind is amazing and will believe anything, good or bad. We have the capacity to change no matter our age. My mother-in-law, having smoked since she was a teenager, gave it up when she was in her mid-sixties. She’s 81 today, tobacco-free. I regularly meet Medicare-eligible folks who are learning to use technology, change their eating habits and try new activities. They are not the exception. They’ve just chosen a different belief.

I encounter a variety of assumed truths that hold people back, like:

  • It’s too late to…
  • I’ve tried before and it hasn’t worked, so what would be different this time?
  • Small changes won’t make a big difference so why bother?
  • If I can’t do it right (perfectly), I might as well not do it at all.
  • This is just the way I am.

These are not facts. They are chosen truths. The brain operates off of what we believe to be true (e.g. I can’t change) not what is factual (e.g. we can change at any time we choose).

I admit that I sometimes cringe at the things I hear myself think. But if I use those moments as opportunities to challenge my thinking, that’s when I experience growth. And the biggest progress I’ve made has come from small, consistent steps over the long haul.

My challenge to you:

Today, notice one thought that keeps you stuck. Examine it and ask yourself what would be a more helpful belief. For example, replace “this is just the way I am” with “I can find resources and support to help me make a change.” Write down this new belief. Then, decide on the first step to take. It could be finding a book, making an appointment, asking for a referral…no step is too small. Finally, take that step in the next 48 hours.

Head over to Facebook today and share with me your new belief and your next step. Then, in 48 hours let me know it’s done! Use this opportunity for accountability to propel you forward.

Warmly,

Heather

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