Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fed Up

Most of the time a call to action comes at the end of an article, post or message. Instead, I'll give you a direct call to action right up front: go watch the documentary Fed Up. I mean it... really watch it! This is a film that could truly change your life. Photo Credit 

Last night Erik and I watched this film that came out on DVD earlier this month. We rented it through iTunes for $4.99 for anyone interested in watching it right away.

It's difficult to summarize all of the information presented in this film as it's filled with so much detailed content (including quotes from experts, real world examples, studies and more). While I did "know" we have a serious problem in our country, watching this in-your-face film still was shocking in many ways.

The documentary ultimately shows how our society has been conditioned to think that "calories in equals calories out" and that exercise is the solution to obesity. We often victim blame and receive messages that gaining weight is a person's own lack of will. In reality, we are living in a place where so many unhealthy foods are normalized, and even worse, unhealthy foods are disguised to be actually seem healthy.

Kids specifically are put in the spotlight throughout the film and it made me so sad to watch. These pre-teens and teens are not only at risk physically, but are also living in a depressed state, wanting to lose weight, but not knowing how. To put in the effort but have so many pieces stacked up against you is a horrible place to be. We must work together to change this reality.

A couple moments that really caught my attention involved two different moms of overweight children. While each one made the sincere attempt to help their children be healthier, these moms shopped for foods they are told are good-for-you choices. Unfortunately they are not. "Mom A" pulled out a box of reduced fat crackers and noting that she goes for low fat and "cereal is a good go to for almost any meal replacement" because of its low fat content. A few minutes later "Mom B" says her son enjoys Hot Pockets, so she buys the Lean Pockets, thinking this is a smart and healthy alternative. Photo Credit 

As someone who personally fell victim to the processed food health claims for many, many years, this situation is extremely frustrating. This is why I now work to promote messages of eating real food often, limiting processed foods, not looking at calories and calories alone, and in the past month specifically pushing a message of eating less sugar more often (as part of the LMF SugarLESS September challenge). The examination of sugar and its addictive nature is a major element throughout the film. One expert noting that sugar is eight times as addicting as cocaine! Isn't that crazy?

So as already mentioned, this is REALLY difficult to recap everything in the movie in just one post, but this is just a start to pique your interest. My writing can't give it the justice it deserves, so you must watch it instead. While I have been on my healthy living journey for quite a while, watching this film renewed my passion for spreading the message of health. It's not easy to stay healthy in our world today. It requires daily intention, planning and sacrifice. With that said, the long term rewards are well worth it. It's good to get a reminder of this truth.

Fed Up also inspired my fiancé to start eating healthier, too. He's making the commitment to cook more often and give up his regular dessert habit in exchange for special occasions. I had to leave after watching the movie and was happily surprised to come back a few hours later to see him cooking away at midnight after a late night healthy grocery trip to get started right away. I'm so proud (and excited as long as he shares some of these new cooking creations)!

Have you seen the film or do you plan to watch it soon? After you do, please leave your thoughts on it below. What will you do to take your learnings and apply them to your real world life? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! Hope you find it as good as I did.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Healing—Michelle's Story

Michelle Bardino was one of my very first friends at college. We met at Ithaca College summer orientation before classes officially started. We were both physical therapy majors at the time (I ended up switching out of PT into communications later in college, while she is now officially a Doctor of Physical Therapy). We remained friends throughout our four years in school, having many mutual friends in the mix, too. There were certainly periods of time when we'd go weeks or even months without running into each other on campus, but whenever we did finally catch up it was always good, always like no time had passed, and always a deep conversation. Some of my best memories with Michelle took place at our Relay for Life event. We would walk together throughout the night and just talk, talk, talk. One topic Michelle and I would often dive into was fitness, weight gain, weight loss, and body image. We both connected on this issue deeply because we both put A LOT of pressure on ourselves throughout our school years when it came to this. We both exercised A LOT, tried to eat well the best we could in a college setting, and we also tried to fit into the party scene, too. This ends up being a hard mix to keep up with, but we both kept at it relentlessly, from 2006 to 2010. 

And then we graduated. I went my way to California and Michelle continued on in school finishing up her degree. We kept tabs on each other through Facebook once in a while and then one day I started seeing posts on Michelle's wall. Right away, I knew something was wrong. People were reaching out with thoughts, prays and well wishes. I had no clue what was going on and quickly tried to figure it out. Then I heard the news. Michelle was in a tragic biking accident in her new state of Colorado. As scary and as horrible as that time was, fast forward just over a year later and Michelle is stronger than ever. We've discussed her experience over the phone in the past and I have no doubt that if Michelle wants to, her story could be published in a story someday. The lessons learned through her accident and time of healing are inspiring and motivation for anyone going through a difficult time following tragedy. Ironically, Michelle is actually grateful that this happened to her because the experience forced her to slow down and tackle her own demons head on. 

Michelle, I'm so proud of you for what you've accomplished so far and know this is only your beginning. Your story is meant to be shared and I'm so thankful you are allowing it to be shared here. Everyone, please enjoy this special guest post from my friend, Michelle: 

I woke up that Sunday morning in June, my road bike shiny and clean, tires full and ready to go. Little did I know how much my life would change that day. I had just moved to Colorado three months prior and could not wait to experience all that the Rockies had to offer. That spring season had been filled with long training rides where my friend and I would plan to meet in a random parking lot and take off for an adventure on our bikes in little towns we had found on Google maps. We were gearing up for summer cycling season filled with century rides and a week long bike tour across Colorado. 

So that day we set off on normal weekend ride. About an hour and a half into the ride, my front tire blew coming down a pretty steep downhill on the side of a reservoir. I don’t remember the accident, but I was sent soaring over the handlebars, legs to the sky, catching my fall with only my face, neck and chest. After several paramedics and two hospital trips, tests showed I had broken my neck in three places, crushed my wrist, had some pretty attractive road rash, along with a sexy plastic neck brace to show for it. 

My world as I knew it put on hold. I was scared, confused, and totally oblivious, thinking I’d be back to work in a few weeks and back cycling again in no time. But oh how wrong I was. For the next several months my life was all about healing; unable to turn my head, sit up straight, raise my arms above my head, drive or basically do anything but walk. I had no idea what my prognosis held. I was completely helpless and no amount of pain meds or willpower could change that. 

It was truly amazing to experience the community and love I felt from so many people around me both near and far. At that point, they were the ones keeping me alive. Coworkers offered to take me in to live with them until I was strong enough to be on my own. I mean really, it’s not everyday that your coworker offers to give you a shower and shave your legs on her lunch breaks! East coast friends planned their schedules exactly to the day, so that I was never alone. One visitor would leave and later that day the next one would fly in. For a straight month and a half I was absolutely surrounded by so much love and support it was overwhelming. 

Along with my injuries, one of the hardest things I struggled with was letting people help and take care of me, but I had no choice. I was truly powerless and had to honor what my body could and couldn’t handle. For the first month and a half, the only time I spent alone was when I was asleep. If that doesn’t teach you patience, I don’t know what does. It is difficult when we get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle of things, trying to accomplish a million tasks in one day, running 100 mph, trying to reach perfectionism in our own worlds and never achieving it. But I am human. I am not perfect. And this experience has truly taught me not only how to slow down and open my heart, but to give and receive more love and help than I could have ever imagined. 

I have always been a very independent person, running around to my own crazy beat, and living a pretty active lifestyle. After my accident, I was devastated. All of that hustle was taken away from me and life felt extremely blurry. But early on, I became determined to restore my relationship with my body, to love and heal myself the best I knew how. I can honestly say that prior to this accident, I don’t think I knew how to do that very well. It was always all or nothing. This was especially true growing up in a world where there are double standards and mixed messages constantly being sent to young girls and women. 

Over the next few months, I had to really look at what would be best for my health mentally and physically. That meant filling my time with healing foods, eliminating chemicals such as sugar, alcohol and most processed foods, developing a daily meditation practice, listening to spiritual podcasts and readings, and adding a little bit of movement each day, combined with a whole lot of rest. It was all a balance of self care, positive community and support, and avoiding any factors or negative energy that would slow my healing. This powerful combination was my real medicine. 

I also don’t think that it’s a coincidence that I live in a town with miles and miles of bike trails. My legs worked perfectly fine, so I put them to use. I think when you are faced with adversity, you must tap into and make use of what you have, cultivate strength from that which you already own. I was determined to keep myself moving and so I made a goal to take a walk every single day regardless if it was 5 minutes around the parking lot to get the mail or 2 hours to the other side of town. I called it “meditation in motion” because if you know me, I don’t sit still. Well, I didn’t until this happened anyway. I used this time to really connect with my body and nature, to process my pain and increase my strength. But because of this accident I have learned to now appreciate the calm and quiet, to really understand the healing power of my relationship with food, nature, exercise, and the true simplicity that our lives consist of when we take the time to stop and look. It was a time of reflection, to really look at who I am, what I enjoy and what defines me. 

Throughout this journey there has also been a lightness about it. Or maybe I just chose to add some humor for comic relief, because when you’re in a neck brace, can’t see your feet, only drink from a straw, move like a robot, with a wrist that looks like a weapon from a superhero movie, there is no room to be serious is there? 

The healing process continued and with little goals in place, little victories began to add up and then big successes were made over time. I still struggle every day with the thought that I may be in pain forever. I am a physical therapist and some days work feels like a full on work out. I won’t lie and say I don’t get frustrated being stiff and sore most of the time or that I now have to wake up 30 minutes earlier in the mornings just to stretch. I won't lie and say it's not annoying to feel like an 80 year old woman when I get of bed or that people will argue with me, saying I have pen on my face, when I lovingly fight to explain, “no it’s just a scar." When these frustrations come up, I remind myself I’m on my own journey of healing that is far from over, but look at where I’ve come from. I now can tolerate approximately four or five days of light workouts a week, consisting of gym, yoga, and the mountains. All a true balance of loving movement that doesn’t harm me. 

Although I have been unable to participate in just about every activity that I once loved to do, I now realize that they were replaced with a lot of new discoveries and interests. I can say I'm excited to have reached the “return to function” phase. I have transitioned back to driving, working and everything that makes up “real life” again. My friend said to me today on the phone “I feel like you have been in warrior mode all year,” and I think I would agree. 

With that said, it was and still is just about changing my attitude and lifestyle and not fighting it or pushing it away. I know that I have been changed forever. This life feels new, different, and some days I just laugh, and think did this really happen? It feels so surreal. In June I celebrated my one year anniversary. It was the most peaceful and humbling weekend I have ever experienced. I now have a new appreciation for my life, my body, and the ability for the human body to recover when it is loved and cared for. I wake up every day and listen to my body, it knows what it needs, and I have to honor that. I can’t force myself or push to extremes the way that I use to, but behind all that is a sense of peace and calm, knowing that I am taking care of myself, giving myself permission to let go.

In my heart I know this accident was supposed to happen to me, and that I am a better person and therapist for it. It helps me to have more ease, gentleness and compassion for the people in my life and I honestly cannot explain it in words. I know what it is like to have most of your identity taken away, to be told that you can’t do the things you want, and for me there are two ways to think about it. To be depressed and feel bad for yourself or to embrace what you have and explore how to take care of yourself in other ways. At the end of the day, we have the power to change if our mind and body are on track. 

My life was literally flipped upside down and I would not change it for the world.  It feels bigger and brighter than ever before, after all there is a reason I’m still here and I know it is because I have so much left to give: to be useful in this world; to inspire others to heal; to motivate people to take care of themselves despite all the hardships that we face; to guide those on their journey through rehab and recovery. Life is one big experiment and with that comes trial and error, failure and successes and new opportunities for growth. It can all change in an instant, taking turns that you don’t plan for, sometimes surprising you in the most unexpected ways. 

Surround yourself with positive love and energy as it will nourish your soul in unimaginable ways. Eliminate those things that don’t serve you, cultivate your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses and most importantly listen to your body. It knows what it needs. Everyone has their own story and is on their own path. This is mine. Who knew that a simple flat tire could have brought me so much. I’m constantly learning and the healing process will forever be ongoing, but today I am filled with gratitude and peace. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

San Diego Restaurant Week

Yesterday Erik and I hit up San Diego Restaurant Week and it was awesome! For some reason, I have never been able to go in the past (always prepping for a show or dieting in some way it seems like every time it comes around). Well, yesterday we made it happen and it didn't disappoint!

Because the LMF SugarLESS September Challenge is still in full swing, we didn't choose a lunch that had a dessert included (many of them do and they all sound amazing), so that was one less temptation to worry about. It took us forever to decide on a place because we wanted to go somewhere we haven't been before (if we go out it's normally for sushi 9 times out of 10...or frozen yogurt ha). In the end, we selected Union Kitchen and Tap in the Gaslamp location.

Lunch menu from San Diego Restaurant Week

For the first course, Erik and I both had the watermelon salad. And Ohhhhh-M-G... it was delicious! We couldn't quite figure out what type of dressing was on it, but it was light and very refreshing. Eventually we asked the waiter and he said it was a type of raspberry dressing. Erik was being a little foodie in the moment and said, "you can taste all the ingredients alone, but all together at the same time" and by the time he got toward the last bite, he said, "this is the best salad I've ever had." Maybe we will have something like this at our wedding in May. We both definitely loved it and it was the highlight of the overall meal. Oh and also I'm not much of a watermelon fan so this was pretty surprising! This would be an awesome recipe to re-create for a party or dinner at home. Maybe someday I will try and share the recipe here! 

For the main course, I had the blackened chicken wrap and Erik got the tomato bacon flatbread pizza. You could choose between salad and fries so I decided to get fries for Erik as I probably didn't need to eat two salads in one lunch. 

The portion was definitely large so I had half the wrap and Erik had the other. He has a big training coming up in October, so he's pretty much eating anything and everything right now to put on a bit of weight in advance. 

The wrap was tasty and it felt amazing to eat something other than a salad at a restaurant. I almost always get a salad, not just because I love them, but also because of being health conscious. The half wrap was filling, but didn't make me feel too full either, so it was a nice happy medium, which is just what I'm aiming for now-a-days.

What do you tend to order when you go out to eat? Do you have any tricks you use to keep reaching your fitness goals even when eating at a restaurant? Feel free to share with others in the comment section below!

Don't forget, Oct. 1 begins the new "Obsess Less" challenge. It's definitely going to be a great challenge to join. Connect in a supportive private online community and learn to treat yourself better! I've already been collecting lots of great articles to share and discuss in the group. It's only $16 to join in. Send an email to for additional details or to sign up! 

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