All Work and No Play (or why I don’t really care when the president plays golf)

We’re always told you have to work hard to succeed. This is certainly true and I am in no way about to try to refute that claim. That would be silly of me and quite honestly a waste of a blog post. But what I am going to try to do is convince you to take a break.

I can’t remember ever seeing my father with brown hair apart from in pictures; this is likely because, as he claims, his hair turned white the second my older brother was born. Now, my father is prone to hyperbole but you get the point: stress changes you. Some stress is good, but if you are overworked or under recovered you are going to eventually burn out. No one, and I mean no one is immune to the need for rest. For many, rest comes on in the form of sleep. A good night’s sleep has been shown to play as much an important role in your health (and in weight loss efforts) as diet and exercise. But I contend that leisure plays a vital role in our mental as well as physical health. Sometimes when I am writing a long and tedious paper for school I find myself starting to get frustrated and all brain function will cease to the point where I can’t type coherent sentences. At times like this I find it beneficial to step away and not worry about that paper for a while. When I come back to it my mind is fresh and I am again able to form thoughtful sentences. This concept spills overs into all aspects of our lives when we expect a lot out of ourselves: Work, cleaning, social responsibilities, even video gaming (ever try to beat a level of a game for hours failing each time only to come back the next day and beat it on the first try? yea I thought you did). My point if you can not be all business all the time and next expect to function at the same high level of excellence you expect from yourself.

You have to take a break.

This is why I love hobbies and television. They provide an escape that can relax and refresh the mind. This relaxation time allows us to recharge our batteries so that when we it is time to do our job again we can do it to the best of our abilities. Hobbies let our brain cool off and sometimes even help us gain fresh perspectives that will benefit us in the long run.

Have you ever looked at photos of presidents before and after they took office? They are pretty different, and not in a 4-8 years have passed sort of way. The presidency has a tendency to age a person beyond their years. And I mean, are we really surprised by this? That shit is stressful. Imagine the amount of stress you feel at your job and how sometimes that can be hard to deal with… now imagine that you a President of the United States and the entire world is scrutinizing ever decision you make… and any wrong decision you make can lead to war, increased debt, deaths, etc. No one they age so quickly.

And yet you hear a lot of complaints from people when the president (and even presidential candidates) take vacations with their families or go golfing. As though somehow the immense pressure of the presidency makes you immune to its pressures and the need for even 18 holes of futile escape. It’s true… when you are President… you are President 24/7 but I can not imagine even working a mediocre full time job and not being allowed a little down time. Granted the timing of trips to the country club should make an attempt to be sensitive to any urgent issues facing our nation, but lets be honest, no one is going to fix the economy in the amount of time it takes to drive your golf cart down the fair way.

So in conclusion, find a hobby, take a break, and let our presidents play golf.

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The Perks of Planning

As I embark on my last semester of undergraduate scholarly pursuits (queue droves of people applauding for me actually finishing… and then slowly stopping as they realize it means I have to pay back my mountain of debt… the scene fades as they weep… holding each other…. in despair) I’ve started to look back on why it took me so long finish. Sure, the fact that I kept changing my major didn’t help, but a large part of it was also that I got burnt out. I stopped caring. I had no desire to do my school work and the more I had to do the more I pushed against it. In more recent semesters I’ve gotten my act together and started to care a little more about my grades. In order to get through my last few classes I had to change my approach; I had to figure out a way to balance school, my social life, and a strong desire to lay on the couch and watch teen melodramas.

So I started planning out my school week.

The way my online classes are set up I am aware from day one (more or less) what I will need to do each week and when large papers and projects need to be turned in. Each week I divide up that week’s tasks so that I don’t have to do too much each day. I do the same with papers. I haven’t written a paper in one day since 2007 when I spent 12 straight hours on a Saturday writing a 14 page paper relating the developmental theory of criminology to serial killers (awesome stuff). Rather, I’ll start research and writing early enough on a paper that I usually don’t have to write more than 300 words a day. I mean, I’ll write more if I’m on a roll, but I tend to get writer’s block quickly (go ahead… ask me how my book is coming. I’d throw the manuscript at you but it doesn’t exist… consider yourself lucky). The whole point of it is to not overwhelm myself. I get a decent amount of work done, but then I also get to watch Gossip Girl. It’s win win.

As I mentioned in a previous video , I have also come to enjoy planning my meals for the week. If you didn’t heed my advice the first time, I’ll say it again. Try it. It’s especially helpful if you have trouble with cravings or if you are a stickler for macronutrients. By planning everything out in advance you will be able to see if you need to make any changes to ensure you get enough protein, don’t eat too many carbs, or whatever it is you are watching carefully. It also makes the day itself easier. No longer will you stand with the refrigerator door open staring blankly as you are trying to figure out what you want for lunch… you decided already. And since you are taking the time to plan, you allow yourself to make better food choices rather than grabbing the first easy to make sodium laden thing you find in the convenience store. I have some friends that go so far as to pre cook veggies and proteins for the week. This is an excellent idea if you work crazy hours and don’t have time to cook everyday.

Planning itself can sometimes be a tedious task, but it makes the rest of your life so much easier that it’s really worth it. I’m not always the most organized person, ask anyone who ever entered my adolescent bedroom. But we’re adults now and I can’t just shove things under our bunk beds and pretend we’re solving a problem. Planning things makes my life easier. I make to-do lists for everything. EVERYTHING. I even divide cleaning tasks into the days of the week so I don’t have to spend an entire day cleaning the entire house because I’d rather do a little bit of everything everyday (INCLUDING sitting around and doing nothing) than spend any day devoted to one task and not be able to have any free time.

Ok… I might be rambling now..apologies.

What ways can planning make your life easier?

Cut Yourself Some Slack

So it seems I took an accidental hiatus from blogging. It also seems that I took an accidental hiatus from watching what I eat. I did very little to limit the food going into my mouth over the holiday weekend; but these are the sort of things that happen when family comes to visit, the french bakery you walk into has fresh baguettes and macaroons and and the fish mongers at Pike Place are handing out samples of smoked salmon. I can say without  a doubt though, that everything I ate was delicious, and I had a blast.

With all that being said, deviations from my normal routine have a tendency to derail me for what is longer than necessary. I dwell on every pound I think I’ve gained (still avoiding my scale as much as possible so I’m not too sure of a number… nor do I care to know); I dread not getting to go to the farmer’s market and eating an organic corn-dog simply because there are organic corn-dogs (it was awesome btw); a small piece of me dies every time I see an add for the local cupcake bakery; I could go on, but I won’t.. because I’m making myself hungry. The point is, not caring about every morsel that goes in your mouth is fun and delicious, and going back to calorie counting can be kind of a downer after a week of dining out and Godiva truffles.

It’s times like this that I ask myself “why do you stop watching what you eat if going back to your routine is such a drag?” The short answer is “because I love cupcakes and refuse to live a life they are not a part of”. And the long answer is “because this is a life” (it’s get’s longer.. gimmie a sec). As much as the allure of my potentially smokin’ hot bod compels me to eat better and exercise, I also know my limits. In order for my new found lifestyle to continue long-term I have to find ways for it to work for me… and if I couldn’t sit down to tea and a scone with my sister-in-law because I was too worried about how many calories were in that scone… this lifestyle would not work for me.

The truth is… not eating like a saint constantly will likely slow down my fitness progress, but the rest of that truth is that as long as I don’t go on a food bender on a regular basis, and as long as I get back to my regular routine and put in the hard work, any damage I might have done will be reversed and I will still be moving toward my goal.

So the same goes for you. Taking the day, the week, or the month off from your normal habits will only ruin your progress if you let it. Just get back into your food and workout regimen… kick some ass… and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy body and healthy mind… cupcakes included!

Laugh it Off

When you listen to yogis talk, a lot of them will mention bringing a sense of humor to your practice. What they mean is that you should have fun and not take yourself so seriously. You shouldn’t beat yourself up if you fall out of a pose. You should smile a little more when your muscles start to burn. Hell, maybe you should even laugh (maybe not in class, but if you are at home practicing… go for it).

Too many times we beat ourselves up when we try something and we fail. Too many times we get upset when something goes wrong and we let it ruin our day. Too many times we take life way too seriously and forget to find the humor and beauty in the journey.

So my suggestion? Laugh it off!

Whenever I go to work out, my dog Jack seems to think it means I’m playing with him. He jumps on me and accidentally scratches my stomach while I’m doing jumping-jacks. He shoves his gross toys in my face while I’m doing crunches. And most annoyingly, he thinks my yoga mat is his special bed and lays right in the middle of it whenever he can. It use to infuriate me. How am I suppose to find inner-peace if I can’t come into chaturanga dandasana at THIS VERY MOMENT because Jack is in the way?!?!?! Clearly this means my chakras will be ruined forever and I’ll never amount to anything. Life as I know it is basically over and I should just go sit on the couch and pout about it.

Then one day, rather than getting my panties in a bunch when Jack laid down under me while I was in downward dog, I just laid down on top of him and started laughing. And it felt so much better to be laughing rather than getting upset over something I can’t control.

The same goes for minor mishaps. You are going to make mistakes. As long as no one died or something.. why not just laugh it off and move on?

The truth is, life isn’t always going to be perfect. One day you might have the best workout of your life and the next day you might feel like you are going to die if you have to do one more bench press. One day you might be able to find that restaurant you wanted to go to with no issues, and the next day you might miss your exit in Seattle to get to Pike Place and end up going miles out-of-the-way because the GPS simply won’t update fast enough (true story). And guess what? It’s all ok. You’re not perfect. Life’s not perfect. And it doesn’t have to be. What matters is how you handle those imperfections. You can either get mad and scowl until your face burns, or you can accept that not everything is going to come out the way you want and simply laugh about it. The latter option sounds like a lot more fun if you ask me.

No good comes out of beating yourself up over the little things. So just smile, and carry on. Sure, mistakes might be annoying and it might take longer to get where you are going because of it, but wouldn’t you rather be smiling while you try to get there?

An Exercise in Trust

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In the stereotypical drama class they do a thing call “trust exercises”. Generally speaking this means partnering up with someone from the class… You turn your back to them… let yourself fall… and the idea is to trust your partner enough to catch them. If you are working with someone you know fairly well… falling into them is easy enough… but if it’s someone you don’t know.. you hesitate.. and as you fall you take a step backward.

I feel like I’ve been doing this with myself constantly for the past few months. Metabolisms are very adaptable… but they don’t like to be fooled. When you seek to lose weight on a low calorie diet… chances are you will see some sort of success… the expense of this is that because you have been eating less, you metabolism has slowed. Trying to correct this imbalance can be tricky. When you start to eat more, your metabolism scoffs at you… thinking that this special treatment won’t last… and does its best to hold on to as much of that extra yumminess it can… you see it as a water weight gain on the scale. Instantly you’re convinced that you are going to continue to gain weight if you continue to eat more.. you panic… and then you prove your metabolism right by cutting calories again.

I realized last night that I inadvertantly did this when I got my wisdom teeth removed. Due to a lack of appetite and the sheer inability to eat most things I was eating 1100-1200 calories for a week… after eating 1400-1600 for almost three weeks.  So when I started to eat normally again, my metabolism didn’t think it would last.. it hesitated… took that step back… and starting hanging on to the extra nourishment.

I was frustrated. Yesterday I decided to take a day off from working out. I decided to cut back my food for the day because I didn’t trust my metabolism enough. I hesitated.. and I realize now the that was probably a bad idea.

So starting today my metabolism and I are going to learn to trust eachother. I’m setting my calorie goal to 1600 and I am going to try to get within 50 or so calories of that goal everyday no matter what exercise I do… even if I don’t exercise. My metabolism has to be able to trust me to feed it what it needs to matter what. I’m going to increase that goal slowly up to the 1700s in preparation for NROL4W.. hopefully by the time I start I will be able to trust my metabolism… and it will be able to trust me.. so we can both stop hesitating and finally work together toward the ultimate goal of a long and healthy life.