How 5 Minutes a Day Can Change Your Life (Planning Ahead is Awesome)

“Many people think that by having no plan, you are creating freedom, but in fact it is the plan that gives us freedom.”

Keysa Amaro and I talk about our experiences with using planning ahead as a tool for weight loss, how you can become a person who plans ahead, and answer some great listener questions at the end!

Are you a mental health professional looking for inexpensive and accessible self-care tools?  Join my Facebook Group called Self-coaching for Mental Health Professionals!

My 6 session program for mental health professionals looking to quit drinking or emotional eating is open!  Click here to get more info!

How to get in touch with Keysa:
Hire Keysa to coach you!
Check out her website here
Her Facebook here
Find her on Instagram!

Find Mary on:
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Send an email.  I would love to hear from you!

Meal Planning Made Easy Handout

Weekly Meal Plan-Template


Should You be on a Diet? (Everyone Else Seems to Be!)

Join Keysa and I as we explore the world of dieting and whether or not it’s a good idea for you.  We discuss what a diet is, talk about our own experiences and offer guidance on how to figure out if it’s for you.  At the end we also answer a listeners question about gradually introducing healthier foods.  Find the FREE questionnaire below as well as our contact information to find out more or work with us!

Link to the Developing Healthy Eating Habits for your Kids podcast we referenced at the end.

Our tips:

  1. Commitment:  What is your commitment? What is the reason you want to lose weight? And is it strong enough to keep you from overeating or eating foods that promote weight gain?  Weight loss is not always easy, so are you willing to feel uncomfortable in order to lose weight?
  2. Why? Look at the reasons why you want to lose weight.  Maybe it is to look better in a swimsuit, or to impress your husband or partner. If this is a compelling reason for you and will motivate you, then go for it.  Maybe it’s for your wedding, or maybe you have chronic diseases and your doctor said you needed to lose weight. Whatever the reason, as long as it is compelling enough and will work for you, go for it.
  3. Support: Finding support either through a weight loss group, friends and family, or a health coach, support will help motivate you help you stay accountable for what you choose to eat. You can share your struggles and someone will be there to support you.  
  4. Predict obstacles: This one is simple; get a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. Write down all of your obstacles on one side and write down everything you will need to do to overcome each obstacle on the other column.
  5. Plan ahead! Planning ahead is fantastic! When I plan my weekly menu, I write it down on paper and stick it to my fridge.  I buy all the groceries I need, and then refer to the menu when I need to make a meal.  It takes all the thinking about “what am I going to eat?” out of my head.  I think about food less, and subsequently have more time to think about and spend on other things, like playing with my daughter, preparing for clients, and working on my website.

Questionnaire to help you decide if you are ready to go on a diet

How to get in touch with Keysa:
Hire Keysa to coach you!
Check out her website here
Her Facebook here
Find her on Instagram!

Find Mary on:
Facebook
Instagram or
Send an email.  I would love to hear from you!

 

The Experimental LIfe

According to Wikipedia “An experiment is an orderly procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, refuting, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Controlled experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated. Controlled experiments vary greatly in their goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results.”

Love this graphic from HD Wallpaper

As a species, us human beings have come quite far from the hunter-gatherer caveman.  Technology today makes it possible that a person could live out there entire lives without moving more than a few feet throughout the entire day.  You can work from home, over the phone or internet, you can call someone to deliver your food, you can pay with a credit card number instead of cash, entertain yourself through TV and the internet, date online, chat with friends, go to school, you can basically do everything.  Right now, the only thing I can think of that you would have to move for, is to use the bathroom.  And that’s only because robot-automatic-bed-toilets haven’t been made popular yet.

How did we get to such a point?  How have our inventions come so far?  In order to continue to advance our technology, we must begin with previous knowledge and inventions.  An app creator today doesn’t first have to invent a computer and the internet and he doesn’t have to be fluent in code.  That pool of knowledge already exists.  Someone else, with their hard work and toil has lay the groundwork for the next person to build upon.

This goes for any how-to these days.  We have to accept a certain amount of knowledge that we build on.  This is awesome in many cases.  Cell phones, facebook, medical technology- these wouldn’t exist unless we could build on something that was already there.

Up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t have said there was anything to worry about.  But then I started to realize that in some areas of my life I was trusting too much to the “experts” that had done the legwork for me in previous years.  As a child I was very trusting.  A rule was a rule.  If an adult said it out loud, then it had to be true.  What I didn’t realize as a child was that adults are just leaning on what they learned from the adults in their life and on and on and on.  The problem comes in when a generally accepted piece of information is actually not true.  When that groundwork is not stable, everything built on it can come crashing down.  And it was making me sick and fat.

For the longest time I relied on conventional wisdom to get me through.  It was after dieting for my wedding in 2007 that I started to realize that conventional wisdom might be wrong.  For a full year I had restricted calories and fat and exercised 6-7 days a week like the Heart Association recommended.  I ultimately lost the weight I wanted to- and I looked great in my dress.  But I didn’t feel healthy.  I should have been the healthiest I had ever been.  I should have been strong and have tons of energy and feel great.  But I didn’t.  I was exhausted.  The ADD I have struggled with all my life was full force.  My already thin hair was falling out.  I was unhappy at work and I had depression and anxiety constantly creeping in.  I had injuries that wouldn’t really go away.

I knew that this was not the way it was supposed to be, but I didn’t know what to do about it.  I was following the mainstream advice on how to be healthy.  It wasn’t until years later that I finally went to a therapist, and started to really do the mental work that I needed to.  At first, I just started to google my symptoms.  And more and more the answers that made the most sense were popping up in unconventional sites.  People like Mark Sisson and Dr. Mercola, which the mainstream would laugh at, were giving me answers that given a try would actually work.  Those sites started to really intrigue me.  They might not have been popular or followed in the circles that I was used to, but they were very popular according to the number of followers they had.

Take notes. Journal. You’ll be surprised.

Cautiously I allowed the thought that these oddballs might be on to something.  And I started to test things out on my own.  And I found that a lot of things I had been taught were just wrong.  Some were just a little off, like how much red meat you should include in your diet and some were just plain backwards, like how much fat and calories and grains you need to eat.  At the time I was focused mainly on nutrition/exercise information.  I had always thought that I was knowledgeable in this area and I was intrigued that maybe some of the adults in my life had been wrong.  I certainly took my time before I started living what I now call “an experimental life,” but finally, in January 2010 I started my first Paleo challenge.  Paleo really went against a lot of the conventional wisdom on diets.  There was NO SUGAR allowed.  It wasn’t about everything in moderation.  It was adding in fats.  Cutting out all grains, even the brown stuff.  No soy.  No corn.  Previous to this challenge I wouldn’t believe that this could be healthy for me.  But I was floored.  I lost weight fast.  And I was so energetic and strong.

Ever since I figured out that it was possible that the experts I had been listening to might be wrong, I started to research everything. I decided that I will no longer rely solely on someone else’s opinion for advice.  I will research multiple sources and then I will do an “n=1 experiment” (just means that I am the only research test subject).  I will no longer trust commercials or my local news to tell me how to be healthy.  Instead I will try things that I research and I will listen to my body.

Running, running, running!
Running, running, running!

Some recent examples in the physical health part of my life include eating way more fats.  I used to think this would kill me.  Turns out it does not make me fat and my arteries are doing well.  I don’t eat very much dairy at all.  Sometimes I have grassfed mozzarella cheese on my omelettes, because it’s something I love.  Do I get enough calcium?  Yes.  There is plenty of calcium and other wonderful minerals in green leafy vegetables it turns out.  My bones have yet to snap and crumble into dust.  I do not eat grains most of the time (for health reasons, man do I love bread, so I have it sometimes).  According the USDAs guidelines I should be quite undernourished since I never eat brown rice or pasta.  I don’t eat quinoa, I don’t eat crackers, I don’t even eat beans.  Removing grains and beans for me reduces the amount of bloat I carry around my belly line and the best part is how my mind- my actual clarity of thinking- has improved.  I also don’t try to work out for an hour every day.  I do crossfit 3 times a week and I walk my dogs.  My dogs don’t walk very far, so it’s mostly just crossfit.  It’s intense, but there’s very little cardio, except on random days when the WOD includes running.  Has my body become a puddle of fat?  Have my muscles withered away?  Or do I have massive man muscles from all of the lifting?  None of that.  If I do say so myself, I look pretty darn good.

In my career life, the experimental life has also helped me immensely.  For many years I spent a lot of time thinking that if I did certain things, then surely I would be immediately tarred and feathered and then promptly terminated.  The past couple of years I tested out the theory that if I did my job really well, and then blurred the other lines a bit, maybe no one would care.  The truth is, they don’t.  I made sure I showed up for the important stuff.  I did therapy, made sure the important paperwork was done well.  I helped kids get better and I helped families feel better and healthier.  And I often went in late and left early.  Unless there was an early meeting or a late one.  I would be on point and on time for those.  I didn’t want to be lazy, I just didn’t want to waste my time or anyone else’s by sitting around in the office when there was nothing to do.  So I tested it out.  Not one complaint.  Ever.  If there had been a complaint, if it had been rubbing somebody the wrong way or something wasn’t getting done because of my behavior, I would have changed back to being promptly on time immediately.  But it turns out, people like it when you do your job well and are super happy.

And there’s so many more examples in my life, where being brave enough to test out “common knowledge” in my own life has freed me from unnecessary guilt, and work, and pain.

Tell me, are you willing to experiment in your own life?  If you discovered you didn’t have to do it, what is one thing that you would stop doing today?  Comment below!  I would love to hear it!

Preparing for New Year’s Goals

December is my second favorite month of the year.  July wins out because that is my birthday month, so it is full of celebration.  But December is close on its heels.  I love December for many reasons: there’s the holiday celebrations, the holiday food, the holiday music, and the gracious attitude that people seem to adopt as they count the days to Christmas.  But my favorite part of the month is its representation of the end of the year.  Over the last few years it has become a time for me to reflect on the past year and think about the next.  It gives me a chance to look at all of the challenges that I went through and to congratulate myself for the successes.  And it is a time for me to prepare for my New Year’s Goals.

How many New Year’s Goals have you successfully made and kept throughout the year?  For the majority of the population most goals are dropped by February and completely forgotten about by March.  Health clubs go through a ginormous spike in memberships during December and January.  And more than half of those people stop showing up a few months later.  Why is this?  People are usually VERY motivated at first.  They get the membership.  They buy the outfits.  They research the diets.  They get the nicotine patch.  They bite the bullet and look at their finances.  They stop buying things they don’t need.  They buy the Spanish Rosetta Stone.  They spend more time with family and friends.  But soon enough the motivation goes out the door.

I believe that we do not spend the time we should on figuring out WHY we want to reach the goals we choose.  We pick lofty goals that sound great, but when our desired outcome is superficial, or we’re trying to please someone else, we tend to lose motivation.  Want to lose weight?  Why?  Want to get out of debt? Why?  Want to stop smoking? Why?

 

If you can’t answer the question, you are likely to be one of the millions of people who drop their New Year’s Goals.  And if you answered that you just want to stop smoking because other people tell you it’s a good idea, your chances of following through are pretty slim.  But if you desire to stop smoking because you have a new baby in the house and you want to feel energetic enough to play with her, or you want to protect him by keeping second hand smoke away, now those are more likely to push you through the year.

So what if you can’t answer the why or you’ve just figured out you have no motivation past pleasing your spouse?  Journaling is my first recommendation for most problems.  The process of writing helps you get clear on what you perceive the problem to be, and helps slow down your thinking when it comes to solutions.  You can also go back and look at your writing if you lose motivation or need to remember something you’ve forgotten.  For those who don’t like writing, drawing a picture, cutting out pictures, or recording voice memos can be helpful as well.  Here’s some journal exercises that I have done over the years to get really focused on my goals and helped me follow through.

  •  Write down what you think your goals should be.  Then ask yourself the question, “Why?”  and write the answer.  Continue to ask yourself a few times until you feel like you’ve really gotten to the answer.  An example-  “I want to stop drinking.”  Why?  “Because I have gained weight and been less motivated to do work.”  Why? “Because I feel unhealthy.”  Why? “My wife is unhappy with me.” Why? “Because I feel unhealthy and I’m not taking care of myself.” Why?  “I want to feel healthy and take care of myself.”  Why? “Because I want to be healthy enough to take care of myself and take care of my wife.”-  Now there’s motivation to stop drinking.
  • Write down previous goals that you have made in the past.  Free write about any challenges or successes you had while meeting those goals.
  • Write out your fantasy life.  Write how everything would be different if you met your goal. All of the things you would be able to do, places you’d be able to go, or things you’d be able to have.  Get precise and specific.

Now that you’ve gone a little deeper with your goals, it’s time to evaluate if they need to be rewritten.  Continuing with the example above, wanting to stop smoking because of the new baby in the house, maybe you realize that it’s not just about cigarettes.  You want to feel energetic enough to play with your baby and keep both of you healthy.  Quitting smoking might only be a part of this goal.  Writing your goal in a more positive frame will help keep you on the right track, even when things get hard.  Your new goal might be “By February I will be able to have the energy to spend at least 8 hours with the baby.”  Framing your goal in this way might help you make decisions not just about smoking, but about exercise and healthy eating as well.  And if you give in and have a cigarette, you have not “failed your goal.”  You don’t have to give up.  You have the motivation of spending time with your baby to keep trying.

What goals do you have for the New Year?  What is the motivation behind it?  How will you keep the motivation to make it all the way through to December 2014?  Comment below!

An exercise in gratitude for the Thanksgiving season to use when you feel like your life sucks.

I am a big fan of gratitude.  Although sometimes it may appear to be a catchy, new-agey theory that having gratitude is good for you, the truth is that when practiced regularly finding the time to be thankful for the little things in life can be life changing.  When you get into the habit of focusing on the positive, more positive seems to show up.  The explanations for this vary, they go from  magic, or a miracle, to the Law of Attraction where you literally manifest what you want in life.  I’m more of a sciency, objective type of person.  For me it simply makes sense that if we are looking for things to be grateful for, we are more likely to see them and be ready to appreciate them when they come our way.  Let’s take this scenario taken from my very real life.

Situation 1- I have not been practicing gratitude, in fact it’s been a long, exhausting, negative day and I am having negative thoughts about everything.  I arrive home from work and my husband is at the sink washing the dishes and the negative thoughts just continue on, merrily.  “Oh, NOW he wants to wash the dishes.  He lets them sit around for weeks, waiting for me to wash them or until they magically wash themselves.”  And I probably say thank you in a sarcastic, passive-aggressive, snarky tone and head to the couch to sulk and think about how crappy his dish-washing timing is.  This is, by the way, a serious example in my life.

Situation 2- I have been practicing gratitude, I have had a trying day, but have been looking for the positive.  I come home and my husband is at the sink washing dishes.  On this occasion, I can walk in the door, thank him for washing the dishes and go relax on the couch for a few minutes knowing that the dishes are being washed.  The only difference in the two days is my attitude when I walked in the door.

So- now we know, gratitude is awesome and worthwhile!  And just as we bring in the New Year with our fitness, health, career and life goals, we bring in the Thanksgiving season with reminders of gratitude.  “What are you thankful for?” is the catchy phrase that’s being thrown around recently.  The newest status trend on Facebook is to list all of the things you are grateful for that start with the corresponding letter of the day (1=A, 2=B, etc).  Although the gratitude trend may not last beyond the holiday, I do think 30 days a year of gratitude is better than zero and it’s a great start to what could become a habitual practice.

Some days it’s easier said than done.  Have you been there?  There you are, having a shitty day- your child barfed on you in the morning so you changed your pants, then you accidentally spilled coffee into your lap in the car, didn’t notice until you got to work that you forgot to brush your teeth, had a long passive aggressive conversation with a co-worker that took up all of your free time including any time you had to run out and grab lunch, then you got stuck in ungodly traffic on the way home.  You know, those kind of days.  Then you get home and call a friend because you just need to vent to someone and they say something along the lines of, “Just be thankful for what you have.”  Well, THANK YOU, very much, you (insert expletive of choice here).

On this kind of day I have a quick exercise that works well to adjust your thinking back to what you have in life, even if you don’t particularly feel like it.

1. Find somewhere to be alone, not in front of the tv, phone, or computer.  These are all distracting and are guaranteed to remind you of some more things that you could possibly be angry about.

2. Sit still for a few moments.  If you are a practiced meditator, now is a really good time.  If you are like me, and have difficulty shutting your brain off (the yoga peeps call this monkey mind), don’t fight it.  Just sit still for a few moments.  Take a few deep breaths.

3. State your intention (ideally out loud, yes, speak to yourself) to find three things you can be grateful for.

4. Start thinking.  If your meditation and deep breaths helped you calm down, you should be able to come up with a few good ones on your own here.  However, sometimes we’re really stuck.  If that’s the case, look around you.  The stories in our heads can keep us from finding the good in our lives, but often physical items around us can trigger a memory.

5.  If you’re really stuck here, and you are stewing in negativity, then this exercise is really important for you.  You need to get unstuck or go take a nap, because if you’re at this place, you might not want to be around people.  Force yourself to focus on an item that you see in your physical space.  A tree, a piece of paper, a sock on the floor, a piece of lint on your pants, a dresser in your room, a chair.  Anything.  And find 3 things about that object to be thankful for.  For example- the chair under my bottom at this very moment.  This chair is ripped, but it has lasted me for almost 9 years.  I am thankful that I have it to sit on.  Sometimes I will think of something I need to write at the computer, but my husband has wheeled it away from the desk for some reason and I’ll kneel in front of the computer on the floor and that, my friends, is painful.  I am grateful for its ability to hold me up to the desk and keep the pressure off of my knees.  It has a lever on the side that I can push on and it allows me to adjust the height.  It is tall enough in the back that I can lead my head back against it when I have writer’s block.  It is made of a feaux leather material that is cooling, and doesn’t get your bottom all sweaty when it’s hot and humid here.  It has armrests.  What more could you want in a 9 year old desk chair?

This exercise can be done at any time during the day.  Look around for an object and think of all the redeeming qualities it possesses.  Feel free to stretch a bit, sometimes the fun of it will knock you out of your bitter mood.  Maybe that lint is a lovely shade of yellow.  Perhaps it is making a smiley-face or appears in the shape of a unicorn.  Maybe the lint reminds you of something.  Get creative.

If that doesn’t work, look at this picture of this dog chewing on a kitten’s face:

Puppy Chewing on Kitten
Puppy Chewing on Kitten

I hope you enjoy this exercise.  What other methods do you use to stay thankful over the holiday season?