Goals · Health Journey · holistic · Life · Uncategorized

The gym or the kitchen: where do I begin?

Many people express a desire to “get fit” and adopt a new routine. While this is wonderful and makes me heart oh-so-happy, it can be a tough road to travel in the beginning. This journey is littered with ups and downs and moments of elation followed by moments of self-doubt.

In a previous post Push: Start I made the statement that it’s just not very realistic to try to change everything all at once. It’s overwhelming and intimidating, especially if it’s all brand new to you. Most people can navigate a kitchen, but can’t navigate a grocery store or nutritional labels properly. Most people can throw a stone and land on about 3 gyms nearby, but have no idea what to do once they get there, and therefor don’t go. Sound like someone you know?

When it comes to making changes to your health or fitness, each person is going to be better taking an approach that fits their life. There is no one-size-fits-all. Hopefully what I will share will bring a little light to the situation and help you to move forward in your journey towards health.

There are many reports and studies that state that when it comes to weight loss, fitness progress, and physique reconstruction, nutrition will be doing 70-80% of the work here. Ever heard of the line “you can’t out train a shitty diet?” It’s true. Now, there are those few types of people that have crazy fast metabolisms and can literally eat anything and everything and not gain weight. While this sounds like a dream to most of us, this can be a big problem when those individuals have the desire to put on muscle. It takes a lot of structured eating, and meticulous diet tweaks to ensure that their bodies use the food in the proper way for muscle growth.

Since nutrition is the major player here, it would make sense to get that part on track first, right? But how, when there are sooo many different diet theories out there claiming to be the best? It truly boils down to bio-individuality. Everybody is different, and every body requires different things to perform optimally. Take a moment to think about your current diet – not what you are doing to lose weight, but diet in terms of what you consume on a daily basis. Are those foods serving you the way you want them to? Do you wake up every day feeling light and happy? Do you feel full of energy throughout the day and find yourself to be productive? Does bedtime pose very little issue when it comes to falling asleep and staying asleep? If you didn’t answer yes to all of these questions, we may have some work to do!

There are diets out there that food shame certain food groups. While the low carb crowd like to omit fruit from their diets, the vegetarians eat these foods pretty freely. Some spout that animal protein is terrible for you, while others claim that soy based proteins are not at all a better choice. What’s my suggestion? Simple.

First off, you want to see some progress quickly? Cut the processed foods from your diet. I hesitate even calling those items food, as most of the ingredients on their labels are not recognized by the average person or even pronounceable. Real, whole foods – found in nature – are the key to your success. It doesn’t even have to be fancy, raw or cooked, you will be doing your body a great service to make these foods the bulk of your daily intake. Imperative vitamins and minerals are found in these foods and designed to supply our body with what it needs to survive and thrive. Some simple changes are found all over Pinterest and Instagram such as substituting zucchini noodles for pasta, olive and coconut oils for canola and vegetable oils, and lettuce wraps in favor of bread and tortillas. Pretty simple, right?

What if you are already eating clean and still seems to be stuck? Maybe something you are eating is not agreeing with your body. This could be on a level that isn’t as noticeable as say hives or other severe reactions. Fatigue, bloating, digestive issues, skin problems, and mood fluctuations are all examples of symptoms that can be traced to food sensitivities. This doesn’t mean that you are allergic and can never have these foods. Chances are you may just need to spend some time balancing your gut and allowing your body a break from the constant stress of digesting foods that pose problems. The simplest way to do this is to cut out the major offenders: sugar, wheat, soy, dairy, msg, alcohol, legumes (including peanuts), and eggs if you think they cause you problems. Try omitting these things from your diet for a minimum of 3 weeks and take notice how you feel. If you think you aren’t noticing any changes, try reintroducing that food back for a couple days and then take it away again and monitor your body. When I did this, I noticed my body would react suddenly any time I had wheat or dairy by bloating, gas, and stomach pains. Sometimes I would experience brain fog and light headedness. For me, it wasn’t worth feeling like that just to have a Subway sandwich. I cut those foods out for about 8 months. After that I began bringing them back a little at a time. Now, I can handle both in small amounts without much issue. It’s all about trial and error here!

Once you have a good grasp on your diet, other things in life seem to become easier to squeeze in. With an emphasis on clean eating, you’ll notice increased energy, effortless weight loss, clearer skin, more confidence and a renewed zest for life. Who wouldn’t feel more motivated to get their butt to the gym or outside for a run?

To sum up, you can squat all you want, but if you follow that kickass workout with a plethora of pizza, tacos, and ice cream, you will not see much in terms of losing weight or muscle definition. This of course does not mean you can never have those foods. It’s about balance. I recommend treating yourself to a meal of your choice 1-2x over the weekend, and staying on track the rest of the time. If you notice yourself having insane cravings in the beginning, remember it’s the sugar monster that the processed food industry left behind and soon he will settle down. Be patient and be consistent.

If you would like to discuss some ways that you can turn into a clean eating machine, feel free to reach out to me. I would love to help you in any way that I can! And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes about food:

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” – Michael Pollan

Xoxo – Ame

Goals · Health Journey · holistic · Life · Uncategorized

Just Breathe…

What would you say if I told you that you have the potential to cut the chances of developing cancer by as much as 400%? Or that you can slow the aging process without spending a dime on surgery or fancy creams? That you could improve your mood without any side effects of medication? That you could improve the quality of your sleep without waking up groggy or disoriented? That you could help reduce cravings for processed carbohydrates (aka junk food), and actually stabilize your blood sugars – naturally? I’m willing to bet you may be thinking: what kind of wizardry is she speaking of??

Breathing.

Yes, that’s right, breathing. More specifically diaphragmatic or soft belly breathing. This has been shown to produce amazing results in everything I’ve listed above, and more. Not only will practicing for as little as 10min a day help reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, but it also helps you to handle stress more effectively and generally makes you healthier overall!

It’s a very simple, low cost and time investing tool that could really make all the difference in your life, and the lives of those around you. And now I’ll tell you just how to do it!

  1. Find a comfortable position, either laying down or upright. If you are sitting, relax the shoulders down. Place one hand on your abdomen.
  2. Relax your belly. This is where the magic happens.
  3. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, filling your lungs and expanding your belly. Hold this breath for 5 seconds or more.
  4. Slowly exhale by using your belly to push the air out, and repeat the cycle for 8-10min. That’s it!

Not only is this simple, but you can practice it ANYWHERE without drawing any unnecessary attention to yourself. They say the best times to do this is first thing in the morning, or right before bed. I have also done this while waiting at the dentists’ office, riding the bus, and sitting at my desk at work.

This isn’t only for adults, either. I have recently introduced my daughter to this practice (she’s 8 by the way). While she only had the ability to stick with it for about 2min, the effects were evident immediately. We tried this technique with her one night at bedtime, lying next to each other and simply breathing. After a few breaths she rolled onto her side and fell asleep instantly! She also woke the next morning much easier than in the past, and I believe she slept a little deeper that night.

Studies also show that children who battle with attention disorders, anxiety, depression, and anger issues can benefit greatly from soft belly breathing. That, along with a healthy diet, is cheaper than any doctor visits or ridiculous medications. Win-win!

I encourage you to try this every night for a week… then journal or write down what you noticed about yourself after completion. I’ve noticed that I have been able to handle my own anxious tendencies, sleep better, and that little things that used to flare up my temper no longer bother me. All without medicinal intervention! So give it a shot, you have nothing to lose, and so much to gain!

Xoxo – Ame

Goals · Health Journey · Life · Uncategorized

Push: Start

When it comes to wanting to upgrade your life, your body, or your habits, it can be VERY overwhelming to know where to begin. Should I start with a gym membership? A kitchen overhaul? Jump into the newest, hottest diet trend? Attend yoga classes? Adopt a meditation routine? Start running every morning? Follow a bunch of people on social media and do as they do? Not that any of these are bad things to start with, but let’s be honest: no one in their right mind could do a complete 180 and change EVERYTHING they are doing (or not doing) overnight. This is real life, after all.

Okay, take a breath, we will get through this together. The biggest thing to remember is that age old saying: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. A true transformation of habits occurs slowly, steadily, and one at a time. This makes for lasting success for the long haul, which is good for everyone involved.

But where to begin? That’s up to you, as we are all different. First, take out a sheet of paper and write down 5 things you believe you need to change in order to reach the goal you would like to one day accomplish. These things may seem as intimidating as climbing Mt. Everest for now, but bear with me. Look at those five items and pick one thing you want to start with. For example, let’s say you would like to begin drinking more water and less sugar filled drinks like soda or fancy coffees from Starbucks. It can be scary and overpowering to think that at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning you are no longer allowed to have those drinks. Instead, make a small goal for yourself, something easily attainable. When I began adding more water in, I did it slowly. Adding an extra 8oz to what I was drinking every day and increasing by another 8oz each week. This technique will naturally crowd out the drinks you desire to give up, but with much less stress and withdrawals. Currently, I’m up to a gallon or more of water a day. Eventually, you’ll see that the water truly quenches your thirst, and the beverages of your past no longer serve you the way they used to.

This technique works with the gym as well. Start off with looking at your schedule. What can you realistically commit to, without too much shuffling of your normal activities? We all have the same 24 hours in a day. There may be time here and there that you don’t even realize is open for a quick HIIT session or group fitness class. You do NOT have to do this every day, either! Again, start small. Waking up one morning and saying: “self, starting today we are going to go to the gym 7 days a week and that’s that” can be a recipe for failure. Talk about pressure!! Generally, when people jump head first into something new, they tend to beat themselves up over every little set back and can actually be easily convinced to give up and slide even further backwards from their goals. No Bueno.

But Ame, I am a single mom and I don’t think I can make it to the gym often enough for real results. That’s totally understandable. My daughter was 4 years old before I was able to sneak out of the house on a consistent basis to make it to the gym. This only works however if you have someone to babysit during that time, and that is usually the kink in the chain. Believe me, I get it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find 20-30min a few times a week to do a quick sweat sesh in your living room. OR you can include the family in your workouts. Grab the kids, their bikes, and your running shoes and take it outside. A rousing game of tag on the playground counts if you work up a sweat! Even setting up a relay race or obstacle course in the backyard can have you fitting into your skinny jeans in no time. Not to mention how much cooler your kids will think you are!

What about something we all could use more of? I’m talking about the most underrated, underutilized, and most common thing people skimp on: SLEEP! I don’t think I’ve met anyone that said that they think they sleep too much. This is something I struggle with a lot.  I like to be Wonder Woman and Super Mom, but sometimes, I feel more like the Crypt Keeper by Friday afternoon and end up spending my weekend far less productively than I’d like to. On the regular, I average between 5-6+ hours a night of sleep. I’m not one to wake up multiple times, so I would mostly consider that a steady sleep. However, when on a long weekend at a friend’s cabin recently, I noticed that my body would easily sleep 8 hours uninterrupted. I would wake (without an alarm) at the same time every morning, feeling refreshed and full of energy. So what’s my plan? Getting to bed an extra 15-30min each night for a week or two, and slowly increasing that once I have a handle on the small change of routine. We all know we are more productive when we are rested, yet we don’t make time to ensure our bodies are getting the rest and recovery they desire.

So what’s the point of all of this? I believe it boils down to marking your goals higher up on your list of priorities than they are currently ranked – but doing it slowly. A little bit here and there; a minor tweak to your daily routine to make room for something you long to have. In some cases, this will require some sacrifice. In my case, I have sacrificed tv time, and happy hours. But for me, these were things I didn’t mind not participating in. What will it be for you?

If you’d like to connect and brainstorm some ways we can incorporate new things into your life, feel free to reach out to me! For now I will leave you with this thought to chew on: You define what is important to you by what you dedicate your time to. Heavy, huh?

Xoxo – Ame

Life

Tragedy on the 4th of July

Everyone has a chapter (but most likely more than one) that help to define them as individuals. Generally, these are not always the happy-go-lucky situations or experiences. That’s not to say that only shitty times mold us, but I would say the resilience and the lessons we learn during these times are true testaments to our character. These are the times that not only test us, but scare the hell out of us. Living nightmares that don’t fade away with the rising sun.

There will always be dark with the light. Good with the bad. Not all of my posts are going to be aimed at health and wellness of the body. Sometimes, we have things occur to us, not physically, but emotionally and/or psychologically. The health and wellness of our minds are as important (if not more) than the gains we make in the gym, or the progress we make in the kitchen.

I have never openly shared the story of what happened that day. The morning I woke up to the horrific news and had to explain to my 5 year old princess that she was without the king in her life. While I had been a single parent for years, a role I never expected to have was immediately placed on my shoulders: sole parent.

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This was their last picture together, taken the weekend before he died.

It was July 3rd, my daughter and I had been out to see the firework show that a local suburb of Minneapolis puts on. We like to go to this show, as it makes it so much nicer not having to get up early for work the next day. We’d spent hours walking the carnival they had set up, eating caramel corn, ice cream treats, and mini donuts (Mmm donuts). When the light show was about to start we made our way to the street and sat down on the curb and curled up together. It was amazing. We ooh’d and ahh’d, and couldn’t get enough. When they ended, we hauled ass back to the car to try and beat the traffic leaving the event. Wishful thinking on my part, as we ended up trapped in a parking ramp for almost 45min. Luckily, it was late, and Peanut had fallen asleep so I just sat back and relaxed and patiently made my way home. I knew the next day we had planned to meet some friends at the beach for a few hours, and just the thought of having my toes in the sand kept the normal road rage I display from time to time at bay.

We got home late, and I carried Kaylynn into my room and placed her on my bed, then went out to the living room and flopped down on the couch. My mother was living with us then, and had been up watching tv. We chatted for a little bit about the upcoming long weekend. She was babysitting all weekend as I had made plans to go up north to a boyfriend’s cabin for his birthday, which happened to be July 4th. Mom was telling me all of the things she had planned to do and was looking forward to keeping our tiny motor mouth busy for a few days with all sorts of fun activities. We finished our conversation, hugged, and went to bed.

I rarely wake up in the middle of the night. For some reason, I remember rolling over and instinctively grabbing for my phone to check the time (I mean, who has real alarm clocks anymore, anyway?). What I saw was that it was about 4:30am, and I had upwards of 12 missed phone calls – all from the same two numbers: his mom, and his sister. I knew something was wrong, but mentally, I wasn’t ready to find out what yet. I rolled over and immediately fell back asleep, hard.

The sun beating through my windows around 7:30am was enough to wake me up. I remember laying there for a moment, thinking I had been dreaming earlier… I mean, the sun was shining, it was a holiday (and in my opinion, one of the best ones), and I was being snuggled by my mini. How could there be anything wrong today? But almost as soon as those thoughts wafted through my mind, they were interrupted by the realization that I had in fact seen missed calls on my phone. I reached for it and saw that now I had missed close to 40 phone calls. Just then, the phone began ringing in my hand.

I took a deep breath and answered the call. “Ame??” I heard on the other line. “Yea, it’s me, what’s going on?” It was his sister, my long time best friend, and she did not sound good. “Hold on,” she said and handed the phone over. “Ame, are you there?” His mom was now on the phone. My heart was pounding and my chest felt like a thousand pounds with each breath as I assured her that I was there. “Jordan’s gone,” she stated. Wait, what?? “He was in a car accident and was killed early this morning while leaving the bar,” she continued. “Can you please call his friends and tell them? And please don’t share it on Facebook, we are still trying to get in touch with grandma to tell her.” My mind was stunned. What in the actual fuck was happening?

My mom has always been an early riser and heard the whole thing from the other room. Since Kaylynn had been in my room, I was perched on the end of her bed during this phone conversation. Mom had sat down beside me at some point and had her arm around me. The first thing that came out of my mouth was wondering what I supposed to do now with an entire weekend planned for both of us. Mom didn’t have an answer…no one had answers at this moment. Still in shock, I told her to let me know when Kaylynn woke up, and I stepped outside to make some of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make…

I met Jordan when I was 12 years old. A friend and I were walking up and down Main Street of our quiet, small, hometown of Princeton, MN. We were dressed far older than we were, and had gobs of makeup on that no 12 year old should have been wearing. At the time, we lived for cat calls from “hot” guys driving around, or riding bikes up and down the 2-traffic-light strip. A dark Bronco pulled into a nearby parking lot and we trotted over to say hello. Two very good looking guys were in the front seat, hanging out of the windows to chat us up. We exchanged names and small talk. Then the other boy asked how old we were, and we truthfully said twelve. The conversation pretty much ended there and the vehicle sped off. I remember my friend saying, “I call Josh!” to which I immediately responded, “good, I liked Jordan anyway!” It would be a couple more years before I saw him again, when I got my first job at Taco John’s and found that he also worked there. We remained friends and occasionally he would buy my beer for house parties once he was of age, but we didn’t start dating until I was 18.

To make a long story short, we started dating in April of 2004. I graduated that year and moved to Chicago for school. 8 weeks later, he joined me in the Windy City and we lived there together for 3 1/2 years. I was getting lonesome for family and Minnesota life, and decided I wanted to move back home, with the plan that he would stay in Chicago for awhile and save up so we could get our place once he was ready to move back. We were on and off for the year he stayed behind. Long distance relationships are tough, and even more tough when communication is broken and substance abuse comes into play. But we worked through it, and after a month long “break” we reconciled and were better than ever. We even began having grown-up talks, like babies and home ownership. Something we never discussed previously without a look of absolute horror plastered on our faces.

When it was time for him to make the move, I had flown out to Chicago to help him pack the last of his stuff, and together we drove back to Minnesota and stored everything at my aunt’s house. Two weeks later, I woke up on a Saturday morning with one thought on my mind: my period was a day late. Now this isn’t crazy late, I know, but I was always pretty regular with my cycle. I mentally counted the days in my head, and yes I was supposed to start shark week (get it?) the day before. I happened to have a pregnancy test in my bathroom, any other time I was worried, I’d take a test and almost immediately start my mense right after. Looking back, I can’t imagine the look on my face when that faint second line appeared. After 5 positive tests at home and another one from the hospital confirmed we were indeed expecting, we were actually thrilled at the to be becoming parents.

We did make it through the pregnancy, but not long after. Our daughter was roughly 6 months old when we split. Nothing crazy happened, just that we grew up and grew apart. Jordan would take Kaylynn every other weekend and for the most part, life was normal. I had grown up in an almost identical situation so for me, it wasn’t a failure of a relationship, but rather an opportunity to keep the friendship alive for the sake of our child…

I had finally finished spreading the word of his death to his closest friends. Even though we had been apart almost as long as we’d been together, both his family and friends treated me as if I were family the entire time. I promised to keep information flowing as soon as I knew anything more.

I was standing in my backyard, looking out over the property I had just purchased less than 6 months before, when I heard the back door open and my mom poked her head out. “Kaylynn is awake, and using the bathroom. I’ll be honest, I can’t be here when you tell her….I’ll be back in half an hour.” Somehow, this honesty from my mom never once bothered me, but instead helped to empower me. There was a lifetime of sole parenting ahead for me, and that moment was as good a time as any to start.

My sleepy eyed, bed head little girl stepped out into the sunlight as I heard my mom’s car take off down the street. I sat down and took her onto my lap. Looking into her big, beautiful blue eyes, her dad’s eyes, I took a deep breath and tried to keep as steady as possible. I told her that there was an accident and daddy was in heaven now. Her little lips quivered as she asked me a very legitimate question: “so I don’t have a father anymore?” I bit my own lip and shook my head gently, explaining that he would always be her daddy, and he would be in her heart forever, she just wouldn’t be able see him anymore. With that, we both clutched one another and sobbed for a few minutes. In the sunshine and beauty of that day, I rocked my baby girl back and forth and soothed a pain she wasn’t even old enough to understand and one I couldn’t yet relate to. She was mourning the loss of the most important man in her life, as I mourned the loss of my first real love, best friend, and partner in parenthood. Neither of us would be the same ever again.

Initially, I figured we would cancel all of the plans we had made for that weekend. I don’t know why I had thought sitting at home was any better, after all, whether we liked it or not, we still had lives to lead. When mom got back, all three of us sat down and had a talk. In the end, Kaylynn was not happy about missing out on all of the things she had been promised she was going to be doing. She still wanted to go to the beach with our friends that day, and she still wanted to spend the weekend with grandma. Reluctantly, I asked mom a little later in private what I should do. Her response was not only some of the most accurate advice, but also took the weight of the moment off of my shoulders. She told me: “Ame, I think Kaylynn is going to be okay. At this age, she doesn’t really know the magnitude of the situation like you do. She also may not be hurting as much as you are at this very moment, being so young. Life is going to get very real for you both come Monday when you all begin funeral arrangements. I think you should take the weekend and get away from it while you can.” And so I did.

That weekend was exactly what I needed. I was able to escape from the reality of what life was going to be like and enjoy a (somewhat) care free weekend at the lake, trying not to focus on anything except soaking in the moments of distraction as they were peaceful and precious.

A part of me, even to this day, worried about the judgement that may come from this action. She abandoned her child after something like that to go up north with a different guy?? No I didn’t. Nothing could be farther from the truth. My mom helped raise my daughter, and no one else in the world loves her like she does. Their bond is incredible and unbreakable. Mom also knew that if things took a turn for the worst, I would have been home as fast as my car would take me. But that wasn’t necessary. Kaylynn had a wonderful weekend, full of fun and memories. She has since asked why I wasn’t there with her, and I tell her the truth each time. She doesn’t judge me for it, even if a part of my own heart still breaks that I couldn’t have been two places at once. Looking back however, I wouldn’t have changed the decisions I made. They were decisions made to help prepare me for what life was going to be like after we lost him. There were many quiet moments that were spent analyzing how I would tackle the future. One thing was for sure, though: no one can fully prepare for something like this. You learn as you go, and you learn as you grow.

This year, things were pretty low key. We spend each 4th of July together, nothing specifically planned other than the understanding that we are not spending the day mourning his death. We are mindful of the day, but we don’t dwell on things we cannot control. Only at bedtime did we even speak of it. She told me that she had tried to have a fun day but also felt like she couldn’t fully and that she should have been sad. I told her that daddy wouldn’t want her to be sad, because he loved so much to laugh and enjoy life. He would want her to be doing the same. I also told her that the pain she has in her heart will never go away, but will get easier and easier to carry. She nodded and buried her face in my chest and I rocked my tear filled girl again until she fell asleep.

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Kaylynn and Jordan at a friend’s wedding 2013

God gives the toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. For a long time, I only thought that applied to me int his situation. As I think about it more and more, it’s so clear that He also sees my daughter as one of His little soldiers. He gave her a daddy and took him away all before she started kindergarten. The most amazing thing to me though, is that she never once has used this for pity in any way. In fact, she doesn’t even tell people that Jordan died. She doesn’t want the attention from it and she doesn’t want others to see her cry. So tiny, and so very mighty.

I share this as a reminder that we all carry things with us. Most days are perfectly fine and normal. But every once in awhile, I too feel that hole in my heart where Jordan used to live and I can’t stop the flow of tears that stream down my cheek. Whether its healthy or not, I never let her see me like this… Sometimes I think it would make it hard for her, and sometimes I think it would be harder for me. We talk about him almost daily, as I want her to know its okay to include him in our lives. He existed and I never want her to feel like he’s just disappeared.

As I mentioned in the beginning, there are times in your life when things go horribly wrong, and we all have a choice to become a victim or a survivor. This experience was another factor that eventually led to my health and fitness journey. I want to be here for my daughter for as long as God will allow it. More importantly, I want the quality of that life to be the best it can be. In many ways, I’m all she has left, and that sort of pressure can be very powerful. I choose to be strong, not just for her, but for us.

“I’m thankful for my struggle because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.” – Alex Elle

With that, I leave you until next time. Stay happy, stay healthy, and stay hopeful.

Xoxo – Ame

 

Health Journey · Uncategorized

My Motivation

Well hello there, and welcome back to Amezingly You! This is the beginning to my platform of personal growth, development, and wellness. A place I can reach out and touch the lives of those who need my help. My first ever blog post entitled “My Story” received such wonderful feedback – mind blown. Since it was such a hit, I decided, why make the masses wait? So here you are, and I hope you enjoy. 🙂

This post is going to be all about my motivation. I’ve had a few people say: yea great, you’re healthier and fit-ish now… but tell us how. How, as in how in the actual hell did I stay on track for so long, and how did I keep the enthusiasm to stick with it? To be honest, it wasn’t always easy. Some days I felt absolutely fantastic and couldn’t understand why I hadn’t adopted this type of lifestyle earlier on. My energy levels were soaring, I felt on top of the world, and the physical changes I was experiencing during my journey towards a healthier me was enough to make me want to take on anything. I’d walk taller, a perma-grin plastered on my face, and I viewed everything around me with rose colored glasses. The stress and anxiety I dealt with daily seemed a distant nightmare.

Then out of nowhere, a shitty day would rear its ugly head and I would be staring down a path that seemed to go on forever with no twists, or turns, or anything. If you’ve seen the movie The Labyrinth (with the late David Bowie) then you understand where I’m coming from (and if you haven’t seen it, we may not be able to be friends. I’m sorry, it’s me, not you…but really it’s you ;)). These were the days I literally stared at the reflection in the mirror and asked why the hell am I doing this? What is all of this for and why do I want to crawl into a hole and eventually disappear? That’s the stress and anxiety I was talking about.

Life is all about the ups and downs. I’ve always believed that we would have no idea how to appreciate the good if we didn’t also have to endure the bad. This is true for all aspects of life, really.

So what kept me motivated? A few things! First and foremost, the support I had in my corner. Number one was having the faith and the courage to listen to God as he pushed me more and more out of my comfort zone and closer to my goals. He knows your heart, and he knew mine desired a long, fulfilled and healthy life. You may not be a believer, and that’s okay. Whatever spiritual practice or force that empowers you is really what I’m getting at. Listen to that voice inside of your heart – telling you that you got this! This is not impossible! That’s the drive, my friends, and I suggest you listen to it, speak to it, and embrace it.

I am also very lucky to have the support of family and friends. Not everyone was thrilled when I began this lifestyle change. I know I annoyed many people with my posting of food pictures, flexing selfies taken at the gym mid-workout, and constant reminders that I was “healthy AF now”. Those that truly know me, understand that I go all in when I’m excited about something. They forgive my slight obsessions, and encourage me to keep going through reassuring words and actions. Some of these people even joined me from time to time, whether at the gym, or simply starting by cleaning up their own kitchens and getting back to the way of our traditions and cooking real, nutrient dense food. These people will forever be motivational to me, and a treasure, Now, don’t get it twisted, the haters kept me pushing too. That’s my competitive side coming out. If someone doesn’t believe I can do something, I’m driven to prove them wrong astronomically. It’s that metaphorical middle finger to the opposition that fuels the fire.

A huge driving force I had as well was the commitment I had made to myself. Why is it that we can make all kinds of commitments to other people, and keep those promises, but we so easily give up on the ones we make to ourselves? It’s no wonder we think the world treats us like shit, we treat ourselves like we don’t matter. That’s not to say that we need to be selfish and only focus on what we have going on, but to a certain extent we need to. In my experience, I’ve found that the best and most effective way to make the commitment stick was having a financial obligation attached to it.

So, I hired myself a coach. Did I know roughly would I could do to lose weight and incorporate effective workouts to help get me there? Sure. I mean, at the very least I could have figured it out through trial and error, although it would have taken a lot longer. Instead of wasting the time by learning on my own, I decided to hire someone to take the guess work out of it, and show me results much faster. Not only did he tell me what to eat, how much water to drink, or how often to work out, he provided the accountability piece. Once a week I would check-in and send him my current weight and progress pictures. Although I couldn’t always see the daily changes my body was making, he could. If I was frustrated or feeling awesome, I could let him know and he would offer suggestions or give me a virtual high five. I would say it is one of the most important factors to my success. Accountability can be the one thing that either makes us succeed or fail. It’s truly something I recommend everyone have, and I’m not above it. I still employ a coach and knowing that I have that assurance to my success makes me feel like I’m not just going at this alone.

I also found I had to juggle some things around to make time. Something we generally don’t like to do. In an already busy schedule, who wants to make time for more? Instead of cooking and meal prepping every night, I changed it to once or twice a week. I’d spend a few hours bulk cooking meats and roasting veggies so dinner and lunches could be thrown together in minutes. I changed my schedule so I was getting up much earlier and getting my workout done before work instead of taking up time in the evening when I wanted to relax with my family. I also decided to limit the social activities. For some reason the idea of hanging out at the bar every weekend no longer appealed to me. Sure I may have fun now and then, but what makes it special if it’s all of the time? These are just a few examples of things that I found worked well for me. Now that may not sound appealing to you, and that’s totally fine! We are all different and you may have other things that you could implement that would be equally as successful for your journey. Each person has their own priorities and goals; mine just happens to be my health and the desire to be rocking and rolling well into my 90’s.

Motivation also came to me in the form of a tiny human, my daughter. She was pretty young when I really got involved in transforming myself and my life. I realized she was watching my every move, and whether I wanted to believe it or not, I was her whole world. I also began watching many documentaries and reading many studies about the problems children born after the year 2000 will face and it was terrifying to me. Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, just to name a few. I wanted to make sure she was armed with the knowledge to avoid those illness and preventable diseases in the future.

Yes, I am a full-time working single mother and depend largely on other people teaching her and raising her during the day, but I knew I had to make an impact too! I made it fun to talk about food and health with her. We would eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables on our plates and I’d explain why we needed that in our daily diet. I will forever brag that my daughter’s favorite food as a toddler was broccoli, and how she requests mushrooms on her pizza (yes we still eat pizza!). I can’t tell you the pride that I feel whenever she begins reading the nutritional label on something in the grocery store and immediately puts it back on the shelf because of the amount of sugar, or lack of healthy pronounceable ingredients. Like mother, like daughter. J

See, I grew up listening to the women around me complain about their weight, their bodies, jumping from one fad diet to the next, only to give up when they didn’t see immediate progress. I grew up thinking I had to be thin by eating low-fat everything and not working out too much or else I’d look like a dude (clearly not the case!). I didn’t want that to be the cycle I fell into as an adult. I wanted to not only be happy in my skin, but to love my body for the hard work I’d put in, the amazing things it is capable of doing, and the ability to heal itself when given half a chance. Guess what? I’m finally on my way to that! I can’t begin to tell you how great it feels. It’s my passion for the health and wellness industry that has fueled my desire to do more for others who want to transform as well. No one can do it for you, but someone can help you get on the right track! If you struggle with anything I’ve mentioned and/or would like to chat about how I can help, feel free to comment, email, or direct message me on Facebook or Instagram. Until next time, show yourself some grace, some self-love, and some commitment. You deserve to be happy, and you deserve to do that for yourself!

Xoxo – Ame

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My Story

Welcome to my blog! As I sit here, trying to decide what to say, I want to start off by thanking you for taking time out of your busy day to read my very first blog post. I’ve gone back and forth for over 2 years on when to start new en devour, and today felt like the day!

transformation

So why am I starting a blog? I will admit, I love to write… but often I feel myself stuck inside my own head and at a mental block. Know the feeling? I get the urge to start putting pen to paper and then: BLANK. Nothing. Nada. Before I know it, I’ve wasted an hour and given myself a headache trying to come up with something to write about. Talk about frustrating… to have all of this creativity and passion and nothing that comes out of it.

Recently something occurred to me: why am I trying to write what I THINK people want to read, when I could write about the things I love to talk about? BAM! That’s all it took. In preparation for the newsletters I plan to release in conjunction with my upcoming coaching business, I began an outline of sorts on topics I know and can easily speak to with confidence that I am not only sharing useful information, but also helping out those seeking the same things I did when I began my health journey.

I will not be your run of the mill fitness coach. While I also plan to go after my personal training certification, I am currently enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Coaching Program and set to graduate in September. By fusing health, wellness, and fitness together into one, I will provide a program that is customized, supportive, and provides the accountability that so many people crave. But more on that later 😉

So many friends have reached out to me and expressed amazement and congratulations on my more recent transformation. Now, it wasn’t an astonishing 100lb weightloss or anything, but it was challenging nonetheless. “How did you do it?” “Can you help me do that?” “I want to feel as confident in my skin as you look in yours!” “I’m a single mom too, how did you manage to find the time?” These are just a few examples of what I’ve received through private messages. The funny thing is, I was simply sharing my journey, and no doubt annoying my Facebook friends with sweaty gym selfies and fit-food photos. Little did I know that I had a following of sorts – other women who saw what I was doing and wanted a piece of the action.

I had never truly been overweight, being a cheerleader in high school and college kept me in shape for the most part. But after the delivery of my daughter, I found myself 30lbs heavier than I had ever been, and it wasn’t budging! I literally thought that I would be one of those women who bounce back looking better than they did before pregnancy. Yea, not the case. After about 3 years, slowly some of the weight came off, but it left me even more insecure and feeling “squishy”. I decided there had to be a change, and I was determined to one day feel comfortable and confident in my skin and in the body that I planned to build.

The first step to my healthier lifestyle was giving up smoking. I’d resisted for so long for fear of weight gain through the common aftermath of snacking due to the hand-to-mouth habit leftover from smoking. In July of 2013 my home state of Minnesota decided to raise the price of cigarettes by quite a lot in order to help fund the building of what would become US Bank Stadium (home of the Vikings). My mom and I, both being stubborn and broke, decided we would not be paying for a stadium that we wouldn’t be able to afford a ticket to visit. So on July 1st, we each slapped on a patch and tossed the sticks in the garbage. This was the best decision I’ve made yet, and only wish I would have done it sooner!

Next, I began taking walks in the mornings before work. It started as a way to get outside and get some fresh air to help release some stress I had been holding onto while going through a breakup. But as the weeks went by, I noticed the walk became easier and easier and I began incorporating running intervals. I’d see a stop sign and decide to sprint as fast as I could to it, then walk it off to bring my heart rate back down. Little did I know I was experiencing my first form of HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio! I was quickly addicted to the endorphin being released in my system, and gradually increased the amount of time I was running. Eventually I was running more than I was walking. Soon, though, it would become winter in Minne-snow-ta, and running outside would no longer be an option – I wasn’t that die-hard about it. So I decided it was time for a gym membership.

I landed at the YMCA and signed up on the spot. I loved that they offered childcare while you worked out, free group fitness classes, and I wouldn’t be completely uncomfortable being surrounded by “meat heads” as this was more of a family gym. I started going to a live PiYo class (developed by none other than Beachbody’s Chalene Johnson) and my love of yoga blossomed. I continued running on the indoor track, added stationary bike cardio, and attempted to use the weight machines, although not as much as I should have. During this time, my mother and I lived together. I would put my daughter to bed and head to the gym to close it down without fear as grandma was there in case peanut woke back up. It was wonderful, and I was blessed to have that accommodation.

The next step in my journey happened when a co-worker let me borrow her copy of the Skinny Bitch book by Rory Freedman. This was the first nutrition based book I had ever picked up, and I read the whole thing in one sitting. If you have never read this book, you should! She has the best no holds attitude on snappy comebacks and tough love (and quite the collection of cuss words which helped make the book even more enjoyable!). After hearing me rave about it, my mom picked up the book and consumed it in under a day as well. Together, we decided to give up dairy milk and switched to the ever popular almond milk. My daughter was 4 years old at the time and had no problem letting go of her beloved chocolate milk for a nut milk substitute. I also chose to give up eating meat for 30 days. This was easy to do, but admittedly, I missed it and eventually it came back into my diet. Simple switches were made in our kitchen, little by little. My ultimate goal was to rid the pantry of all highly processed foods in exchange for whole, nutrient dense foods. This took the span of about 3 years to complete. Being a working, single mother to a toddler, it was tough not to have a few quick go to boxes of mac and cheese or hot dogs on hand, and I don’t regret that decision.

Finally, in September of 2015 I decided to embark on the ultimate challenge: completing a Whole30. This is essentially an elimination diet created by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. Hearing about it from a friend and then seeing the thousands of posts on Pinterest about it, I knew there was something to all the buzz. I successfully went 30 days without grains, gluten, msg, sugar, legumes, soy, dairy, alcohol, etc – and survived! I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing i felt. I lost the bloated feeling that I had literally ALL OF THE TIME. I even began getting up half an hour earlier just to do yoga before hopping into the shower (wh-what??). Life was awesome and this was exactly the distraction i need from yet another breakup (different guy this time!). The best part was that my then 5 year old was obsessed with the dinners I was putting on the table and couldn’t believe Whole30 could taste so good, lol. I never restricted her lunches or snacks, but dinner was going to be eaten as a family and she had no problem with it being Whole30 compliant. We also implemented “meatless Mondays” at that time, which not only gave our bodies a little break, but also cam in handy on busy weeknights.

After completing the Whole30, I maintained the next 8 months free from gluten and dairy as I had learned my body didn’t like to process it very well. After that time, I slowly started incorporating them back into my diet and noticed my issues were not as severe as they had once been. To this day, I still choose to limit them however, just for my own daily comfort and to stay as close to a clean diet as possible.

My journey has had it’s ups and downs. Restriction and binging, no exercise routine to over-exercising, and lack of motivation to damn near obsession. Only when I found weight training did I truly fall in love with fitness and began settling into a routine that I could maintain. I began dating my boyfriend Danny in early 2016 and he introduced me to the weight room. As I watched my strength go up, my muscles grow, my body transform, and my mind relax, I finally understood why some people needed the gym on a daily basis. I couldn’t get enough. Never did I think I would get excited about seeing veins popping out while I lifted heavy things. Yes, it’s true, I’ve become a meat head – or more technically: a bodybuilder. After a year of lifting, I decided I wanted yet another challenge – as if being a mom, a girlfriend, a homeowner, and full time working woman, and full time student wasn’t enough. I hired a coach and began prepping for my first NPC Bikini Competition. After a 5 month prep and cutting program (body fat shedding) I stepped on stage for the first time in June 2017. It was awesome, and I definitely got the stage bug! Do I plan to compete again? YES! But I also plan to make this time off in between shows the best improvement season I possibly can. But then, now what?

Now this. I’m officially beginning to embark on the task of opening my own coaching business. With graduation only a few months away, it’s time I get started and begin the work so that I’m ready and able to accommodate my clients when I hit the ground running.

At this point I am in the very beginning stages of production, and I’m thrilled to say I have retained my first client for a 3 month health and fitness program. As i mentioned earlier, I’m also working on my newsletter and will soon have the ability to send those out and provide information on things I believe many people wonder about. If you have any suggestions on topics, please comment below! I would love to tackle your questions for you! Until next time, take care and have a fabulous day!

Xoxo – Ame