Workouts Lately

Hi there! Happy Wednesday and happy almost-fall. The weather here has been all kinds of nice lately, minus some mosquitoes that I guess won’t go away until the first freeze.

With school done and my crazy-busy summer almost over, I’ve been trying to get back into a routine that includes my old healthy habits. It’s a work in progress, and I’m trying to learn how to prioritize all the things. The last time I really was able to eat clean and work out on a consistent basis was like 3 years ago, and I was also living alone and hopelessly single. Translation: I didn’t have a lot going on, so I went to the gym every day and cooked all my own meals.

Right now, my plan of action is to go to the gym during my lunch break. Here’s the deal: I get a 1 hour break for lunch each day. I work in a pretty laid-back office, so we don’t have to look 100% profesh all the time. (Read: If I come back from lunch with a red face and sweaty hair, no one’s going to yell at me.) My gym is near my work. I have exactly enough time to get to the gym, change into workout clothes, work out, stretch, change back into work clothes, get back to work. No time for showers or any workout longer than 30 minutes.

Here are 2 workouts I’ve done recently during my lunch hour, plus a yoga video that I love so much and had to include.

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This is a little weights circuit I put together that includes some of my favorite moves. Do each set 3 times, rest 1 minute, and then move to the next set.

Exercise demos: bicep curls / squats / bent-over row / straight-leg deadlift / standing overhead press / standing tricep extension / stationary lunge / supine chest flydonkey kicks / leg pulse

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This is a cardio circuit I did when I had forgotten my headphones (hence the name). Normally, this would be an excuse to just head home. But since it was my lunch break, I had already eaten and didn’t have time to do anything else, so I toughed it out. I did 3 quick mini-circuits on different cardio machines to keep me from getting bored.

Finally, this is a really beautiful yoga sequence that I did after work yesterday. I have been craving lots of yoga lately, and this video was absolutely perfect. (Check out her channel on YouTube for lots of good videos each week here.)

Note: I am not a certified personal trainer. Check with your healthcare provider before beginning or making changes to your fitness routine. Honor your body and modify as necessary.

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How Stress Affects Your Weight

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An alternate title for this post could have been: “How I Managed to Finish a Degree in Food and Nutrition and Gain 30 Pounds While Doing It.”

The last 2.5 years have been really really good but also really really crazy. I started going back to school in January 2014 on a part-time basis. At the time, I was personally unhappy, work was crazy busy, and I was trying to fumble my way through a chemistry class (the only class I almost failed in high school, FYI). I eventually shifted my work and school schedules around to try to make things easier, but as you know, life tends to do whatever, regardless of if it’s what you’re needing or not.

So I wanted to talk a little bit today about stress and the body—what’s going on when we’re stressed out physically, what can we do to help fix it. Our culture basically thrives on stress—we feel constant pressure to be the best, to do the most, to constantly improve ourselves. We work a ton of hours, try to fit in time with family and friends, and still want to have extracurriculars. And all the while we’re looking for life balance, and even more frustrated when we can’t seem to achieve this.

The Stress Response

Our body activates a stress response to a situation via adrenaline, or epinephrine. This is the whole “fight or flight” thing people talk about. Our heart rates increase, blood pressure increases, you know what I’m talking about. Once the stress response is activated, our friend cortisol kicks in to regulate the response. All our unnecessary body functions go on hold until the stressful situation ends.

Now, this response is not a bad thing—it’s critical to our survival. You can think about the classic example of meeting a lion in the wild—your body has to activate a stress response so that you are primed to respond. Once you’ve gotten away from the lion, your body returns back to normal.

The thing is, in our society, our stress response is activated all. the. time. It’s like our bodies think we’re constantly interacting with lions every day. And a lot of bad things can happen as a result of this. Elevated stress hormones can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and weight gain. Cortisol in particular is associated with weight gain, especially in the abdominal region of our bodies.

On top of that, constant stress is known to affect our self-control, which explains stress eating, drinking, and sedentary behavior. Moderation takes discipline! And discipline is something I definitely lacked while I was chronically stressed.

Unfortunately, this all becomes a vicious cycle. Chronic stress is known to impair sleep, and poor sleep quality is associated with higher BMI. When you’re tired you lack self-control, plus your hunger hormones are screwed up and you crave more high-sugar, high-fat foods. See what I mean?

Assessing Stress

So what do we do? Just give in and accept that we’re going to be constantly stressed and unhealthy?

If you are going through a stressful time, there are a few things you need to assess. Determine what the source of stress is and how you are going to deal with it.

For me, it was school. And fortunately, there was a light at the end of that tunnel. I’m done with my degree and feel a TON better. And now I have time and energy to devote to things I love. But maybe the source of stress in your life is a job or a new baby or finances. Things that aren’t going to go away soon. What do you do then?

Prioritize sleep. Sleep is so incredibly important for your body, mind, and emotions. If you do nothing else, make sure you are getting enough sleep (or as much as you can). If thoughts or worries are keeping you up, try praying or meditating. I’ve been using this lavender sleep balm for a few months and LOVE it. Do some stretching before bed. Try to find a restful nighttime routine that signals to your body that it’s time to unwind for the day.

Secondly, try to manage the stress in your life as best as possible. Find a healthy way to relieve stress, and if possible, one that involves getting some healthy movement in. Again, mindfulness and prayer are key to this. Find social support—maybe through coworkers or friends or family members. It may mean making some changes, maybe some hard or scary ones. The thing is, your health has to be just as important to you as getting everything done. This is the only life and body that you get, and taking care of it is a privilege.

Lastly, give yourself some grace. Accept where you’re at and move on. For me, it’s with an extra 30 pounds. Am I thrilled about that? No. Am I going to beat myself up over it? No. I did a lot of incredible things over that past few years, and to me, that is more important than how thin I am. I am moving forward, looking at each day as a fresh start and way to make different, better choices than I was able to over the last few years.

Dealing with stress is such a difficult topic, and I by no means have all the answers. I’m just muddling my way through like everyone else. But I think this is a good place to start, and I hope this little post has been helpful, even a little bit. ❤


Please note: The opinions in this post are my own and are not meant to substitute for professional medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes involving your health.
Information was obtained from the following sources:
Berset M et al. Does stress at work make you gain weight? A two-year longitudinal study. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2011;37(1):45-53.
Brand S et al. Influence of mindfulness practice on cortisol and sleep in long-term and short-term meditators. Neuropsychobiology. 2012;65:109-118.
Harding JL et al. Psychosocial stress is positively associated with body mass index gain over 5 years: evidence from the longitudinal AusDiab study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014;22(1):277-286.
Rudenga KJ et al. Acute brain stress potentiates brain response to milkshake as a function of body weight and chronic stress. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013;37(2):309-316.
Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037. Accessed August 23, 2016.

10-Month Catch-Up

Hi! SO. My last post was in October 2015. The thing about having a blog is that it is time-consuming. As much as I would love to think that this blog will really take off and become my sole source of income and that I would just get paid to shill a bunch of stuff to my friends and family via the internet, it probably won’t. And when I have approximately 1,000,000 things going on, maintaining this little site is the least of my priorities.

So what’s been going on in the last 10 months? I’m glad you asked.

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I FINISHED MY DEGREE!

Yup, I now am the proud holder of 2 bachelor’s degrees—a B.A. in English Literature and a B.S. in Food and Nutrition. I have truly loved being in school for the last 2.5 years, but I am thankful that it is over.

When I decided to go back to school in December 2013, my life was in a very ‘meh’ place. I was living alone, single, working at a job that I didn’t feel challenged in, and watching a lot of my friends move into new and exciting stages of their lives. I had to make a change. And so even though I was really scared, I decided to enroll in classes part time.

In January 2014, I started taking a chem class in the evenings and 2 online classes. I was working full time, and at the time work was very busy. But I loved my classes and knew this was something I had to go for full force. So the following semester, I started taking classes full time and moved to part time at my job.

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This is where things got out of hand.

I loved my classes and, unlike when I was in college as a 20-year-old, actually cared about my grades. My life was basically consumed with work, going to class, and studying. If I was lucky, I would be able to do 1 fun thing a week. Around this time I also had met this great guy, and was trying to figure out how to fit that in to my life. Needless to say, I was pretty busy and a stress monster.

So now I’m back to just normal adulting. My degree is finished, and while I’m kind of sad that I’m done with school learning for this chapter of my life, I’m excited to start new ventures.

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What kind of new ventures? For one, I’m hoping to post on here more often. I have learned so much over the last few years, and I can’t wait to share some of it with you. I also am excited about committing to my own health again—mentally, emotionally, and physically. Yoga has been making a comeback lately, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

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I have a lot of other ideas going around in my head, and I haven’t had time to fully develop them yet. Classes ended at the end of June, and July was a whirlwind of weddings and vacation and general summertime. But now that I’ve had a little bit of rest, I’m excited to get back into working on a few projects. Stay tuned. ❤

One Month of Summer

Hello and happy Monday to you!

So on Friday, I realized (with a slight sense of panic) that I had exactly one month until classes start again. What.

I realize that the first part of my summer was taken up with a summer session at school, so maybe that’s why it feels like it’s gone exceptionally fast? Who can tell. But I do know that, while I’ll be sad for summer to end, this is the start of my last year of school—PTL for that! It has gone by so quickly, and while I’ve loved my classes and am so glad I decided to take the plunge and go back to school, I will be so glad to just be a normal adult again. You know, just working for the weekends and all that (I kid).

OK, one month of summer left, and I want to enjoy it. I came across this post on Pinterest a few weeks ago, and I became sort of obsessed with it. I just really love the idea of developing habits that are focused on self-care. And you know I also love to-do lists. So kind of combining those two things, here’s what I want my last month of summer to look like.

1. Get up with my alarm.

If you ever think you are going to find a list of goals on this blog that doesn’t include becoming a morning person, you are a fool.

2. Commit to a regular yoga practice.

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Earlier this summer, my roommate and I joined a hot yoga studio for their promotional summer class rate—basically three months of unlimited yoga. Yes! Like with most things in life, I started out super strong, then fizzled for the last few weeks. I love yoga, and yeah, I really want a yoga body, but it is time-consuming. So I would like to commit to practicing in-studio three or four times a week for the next month—I think that will give me the benefits of practicing hot yoga, and also the benefits of having a life and seeing the people I love.

3. Take Dora for more walks.

While we’re talking about moving, little Dora has had little to no exercise this summer. OK first of all, it has been super hot and I am worried about her hydration (yes, that was an obnoxious dog mom thing to say). But I also just haven’t made the time for it, and I feel bad about that. So along with getting up when my alarm is going off, I’d like to take Dora at least for a short walk in the morning. It’s a lot cooler then (mostly) and the sun is up early these days, and I’m hopeful that getting up and moving for a bit will help me wake up and clear my head.

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4. Rekindle my love for podcasts.

I do this thing where I exclusively listen to playlists on my phone or CDs for a few weeks, exclusively listen to the Top 40 radio stations for a few weeks, and exclusively listen to NPR for a few weeks. Podcasts used to be in that mix, especially during the school year when I was practically living out of my car and driving out to campus all the time. I really haven’t listened to any lately—perhaps this entire year (the horror!). Over the weekend I downloaded a few different podcasts that I’d heard good things about, and I’m excited to get back into them.

5. Try some dessert recipes.

I came across this dairy-free ice cream the other day, and it looks amazing and refreshing.

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And also this fruit pizza. Fruit pizza! A dessert I love but somehow always forget about.

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There you have it folks: My summer to-do list. Let me know if I’ve missed anything, or what plans you have for the rest of your summer!

Playing Catch-Up

Do you ever have those weeks that go by so fast because you have a million fun things going on? And then there are those weeks that go by equally as fast, but nothing eventful is really happening. That’s how I’ve felt lately. Somehow it’s already the end of August, but I feel like I have nothing to show for it. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

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Sharpening my card shark skills for ladies’ card night (ie, relearning how to play Euchre).

Reading the first 2 books in the Brooklyn Girls series—I picked the first one up on my trip to Chicago to read on the train and fell in love. I started the second one this week and I’m very pleased. Perfect summer reading.

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Visiting Holiday World with my family and having their infamous blue ice cream. I hadn’t been since college and it was amazing. Free drinks! Free sunscreen! An indoor ride where you can pretend to shoot turkeys! What more can you want?

Listening to BJ Novak’s book on my iPhone. This is the first audiobook I’ve purchased. Also, I own the hard copy and have already read it. Let me explain: In the few days leading up to Holiday World, I kept having dreams with BJ Novak in them. On the morning of our trip, I had another and decided he must be my soulmate—I should download his book and listen to it in the car. 20-something-dollars later, I actually don’t regret it. It’s a really good listen.

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Hanging out at Bluegrass in the Park. Guys, this is the event I look forward to every summer. Per tradition, I went Friday and Saturday nights, got BBQ and RC, and listened to some amazing music. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Running a lot on the treadmill. Which I don’t hate. Especially because it is 90-some-odd degrees and miserable.

Also, visiting the occasional hot yoga class. It’s amazing how humbling those studios can be.

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And having a lot of evenings that look like this—pizza, yoga pants, and Scandal on Netflix. This is my idea of perfect.

So what have you been up to lately? Also, let me know how the heck August is almost over already. Happy Thursday!