Q & A

I am very lucky to have many people who feel comfortable enough to ask me questions that they may be too embarrassed to ask otherwise.  Today, I will devote my post to addressing the most common of these questions in hopes that you will have your questions answered as well.  Of course, you can always ask questions in the comments section of this blog and I will happily share my experiences with you!
Q:  My relative has just announced that they are going Vegan, or have food sensitivities/allergies.  How the heck am I supposed to deal with family get together’s now??

A:  I understand that your initial response may be “OH GREAT!”  Going ‘gluten-free’ seems to be the current fad these days.  There is a lot of mis-information circulating out there about gluten, and not everyone who excludes gluten needs to.  It’s always just better to assume that there is a reason for what they are doing, and it’s their business only.  Let’s use me as an example.  I have the following food sensitivities:  Pineapple, Black Pepper, Rye, Yeast, Kidney Beans, and Cow’s Milk.  On top of this, I follow a vegan diet, so I am your worst nightmare!!  My family forever wants me to have meals with them, and ask me how they can accomodate me.  The simple answer?  Don’t.  I think that people who have issues like mine understand that trying to cater to me would be a recipe for disaster.  Or, my family will say, “Come over!  I will make sure that there is a salad for you!”  At which time, I remind them that I hate salad.  SO, a few things:

  1. Vegans don’t necessarily like salad.
  2. Sides may not contain meat, but may contain items that are unfriendly to your relation’s diet goals.
  3. Don’t take it personally.

I would advise to first ask that person to help you understand their diet or food issues.  I would then try to come up with strategies together to make sure that they are able to attend, and also feel like a ‘normal’ guest.  Many times, I will eat in advance, or I will offer to bring a dish that I can eat, but can also share with others.  Interestingly enough, when I do bring a dish to share, it usually ends up being a hit.  I tend to not tell anyone it’s vegan until they eat it and love it.  Not only is it fun for me, but it also gives people who may not ever be exposed to anything positive regarding veganism to come away with a good impression.


Q:  I watched the documentary “What the Health” (Or “Forks over Knives”, or “Fat, Bloated, and Nearly Dead”, or “Super Size Me”, etc…, and now I want to eat better.  Should I quit meat cold turkey (pun totally intended)?

A:  I have done both methods:  I have gone cold turkey vegan, and I have done the frog-boiling method.  The first time I tried it was cold turkey.  I did it for all the wrong reasons.  I was desperate to lose weight, and a junk-a-tarian that I know said I should get off meat and I would lose weight.  So I tried.  I ate frozen veggie burgers, vegan cheese, chips, French fries, and I failed miserably.  I didn’t really know what a vegan actually was.  I have the most basic possible definition, which was no animal flesh or products.  Did you know that gummy vitamins are not vegan?  Or that French fries are often fried in animal fats?  Or that Mexican restaurants usually make refried beans with lard and rice with chicken broth?  Not only did I not know what the hell I was doing, I wasn’t considering that it takes time for your body to adjust.  

Once I finally did lose weight and cleaned up my diet, I started to naturally eat less meat.  It just started to not digest well with me.  I would get horrendous stomach aches and (sorry…) really constipated.  One day, I just stopped.  I thought about my meat consumption and what it was doing to my digestive tract.  I didn’t like the way it tasted unless it was drenched in sauces and seasonings.  So I just stopped.  And I haven’t eaten it since.

A few years after that, I was still having stomach aches, and decided to get tested for food sensitivities.  At that time, I would eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast, cottage cheese with pepper and pineapple (I know…don’t judge…it’s good), and lots of beans every day, including my favorite, kidney beans.  So, if you remember my food sensitivity list, I was basically ONLY eating things that bothered me.  I didn’t become vegan out of compassion for animals, or anything other than I just wanted the stomach aches to stop, which they did.  Since becoming vegan, I have definitely become passionate about animals and how we as a culture treat them.  

Long story short, for me, it worked better to make small changes over long periods to maintain those changes.  Just like boiling a frog, start with Luke warm water, and slowly turn up the heat.  Side note, it’s sick that I’m advising on how to go vegan by compairing it to boiling a frog.  Oy.  


Q:  I want to go vegan, but I can never give up baked goods.  What’s the deal?

A:  Oh man, I know what you mean.  Did you know that you can make absolutely delicious cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies totally vegan?  It’s true!  In fact, I gained about 10 pounds once I figure that out!!  A great baking cookbook that was given to me by one of my best friends in the universe is The Joy of Vegan Baking by Coleen Patrick-Goudreau.  You can find most of the ingredients at your local grocery store, or, I have found a lot at Amazon.  Would you believe that I used a drop biscuit recipe from this cook book and crafted a vegan gravy recipe, and now we have biscuits and gravy for dinner on the regular?  I NEVER thought I would have that again!!


 
Q:  But where do you get your protein from/But are you getting enough protein ?

A:  This is by far the most asked question.  Over the years, I have answered this question differently.  Sometimes, I ask the asker if they are getting enough protein.  It’s kind of funny, actually.  I know that I need 1/2 a gram of protein per pound of body weight, so it varies as my weight varies.  Did you know that vegetables have protein?  It’s TRUE!  My advice here would be to not ask this question to a vegetarian or a vegan.  They know where to get protein from, and if it is enough or not.  Protein comes in grains, beans, veggies, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, and seitan (pronounced ‘satan’, as in “I ate Satan for lunch…hahah).  I am not sure why Omnivores are so concerned with protein intake, other than they believe that they will ‘stump the chump’ with this question.  I promise, you won’t. In fact, I think that we could all do ourselves a favor and stop listening to the meat and dairy lobbyists and educate ourselves on foods.  

Q:  Is it better to cut carbs, or go low fat, or do Mediterranean diet, or Paleo, or what?

A:  I have the definitive answer to this question!  The best diet is the one that you can stick to for the rest of your life.  You can’t cut carbs for the rest of your life.  I know I’m going to catch hell from some of you for saying that.  Carbs are converted to energy. If you cut them, you will burn stored fat, that is true, and totally sustainable in the short term.  However, our bodies adapt very quickly to all of our brilliant plans.  You will find what worked for you for a few weeks will no longer work.  The body is in a constant state of seeking equilibrium.  It will slap back with lower energy levels, headaches, nausea, and other issues.  Same with low fat.  Did you know that your body uses fat to transport hormones?  Fats are good for you!  The key to both fats and carbs are in the quality of the macro.  Cookies are carbs.  And so are vegetables.  Which do you think are better for you?  Butter is full of fats.  And so are avocados.  Which do you think supply the greater nutrient punch?  Your body will thrive on                            complex carbs and ‘good’ fats.  Keep that in mind.  Completely restricting a nutrient is never really a great strategy for long term success.  


Q: Why do vegans and vegetarians have such a superiority complex?  What makes you better than me?

A:  We don’t, and we’re not.  It’s in your head.


Next week, I will do an exercise Q & A.  Let me know if you have any questions about today’s blog, or have a question you’d like answered about exercise, and I will for my best to answer it.  Have a great week, everyone, and remember…

You’re probably not crazy!!

Finding Motivation:  How to light your fire and keep it burning, even when it gets tough

Close your eyes.   Wait, don’t. How can you read this if your eyes are closed?  Instead, imagine with me Friday afternoon.  It’s probably been a really long week at work.  That guy you work with has been dancing on your last nerve.  Your neighbor has been working on keeping you up all night with left over Fourth of July fire crackers.  The kids are crabby.  Your spouse is feeling run down.  You?  You feel totally overwhelmed.   All you can think about is crashing and binge watching Netflix until it’s time to get up Monday morning, and start all over again.  This, my friends, is the rat race.  Is this the life you really want?  You see Facebook posts from perfect moms who go on perfect runs every perfect day and have perfect kids, and wonder, “How in the world is that possible, when I am struggling to just make it every day??”

If I said I didn’t have days like this, you would know I am lying.  Or maybe you wouldn’t.  The social media perfection machine makes me feel like such a failure some days.  Don’t get me wrong, I use social media.  It has one of two effects on me.  I either feel like such a complete loser by comparing myself to posts that may or may not be embellished, or I feel totally inspired to get off my tired bum and make myself better.  For me, Facebook is a total lost cause.  I gave up around the time that everyone I knew was farming fake crops and wanting me to contribute to their imaginary farms.  In my opinion, it was too much a time wasting, passive-aggressive bragging fest for my tastes.  Thankfully, I simply deleted my account and moved on with life.  Today, I use Instagram to look at positive and uplifting accounts to keep me moving towards my goals and grant me a bit of motivation.


 On many occasions, we go into changes and view them as a temporary existence.  Think: Diet.  We commit to ourselves that we will stick with the change until we reach a specific goal or number, then every thing can go back to the way it was, and we can ride our unicorn to the end of the rainbow where we will be granted the perfect body and everyone will love and accept us.  In the beginning of my journey, I thought that is what would happen for me.  In fact, I went cold turkey Vegan one time, and expected pounds to just fall off of me.  They didn’t, and I quit.  What was my motivation?  I wanted all of the glory with none of the work.  I thought that if I just give up meat, I would have a model’s body.  When that didn’t happen in two weeks, I quit.  Does this sound familiar?

At some point, we need to examine our motivations.  Not just what’s on the surface, but the deeper motivations for choices.  I used to be very afraid to know what my true motivations were.  Now, I jump at the chance to look deeper.  The more I know about myself, the better I am about making good choices for myself.  Case in point:  I have a sensitivity to yeasts and casein.  This means that breads and cheeses are really bad for me.  However, sometimes, the idea of pizza gets in my head, and I let go of all logic and do everything I can to convince my family that pizza is a good idea.  Every time I start to get under the spell of a piping hot pie, I need to think about my motivation.  I know it’s not good for me.  I know I am going to have stomach aches for 2 weeeks.  I know it’s going to make me irritable.  I know that once I have it, I will crave it more.  So what is my motivation?  Well, much like everyone else, I can fall prey to eating my feelings.  Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, sometimes I feel like work is overwhelming, sometimes I just don’t feel good about myself, and sometimes, I just feel like I deserve a treat.  You know, like a cheat day!  But my cheat days end in weeks of pain and discomfort.  Just like everyone else, I also at times just feel entitled.  I eat well, I work out…I deserve it!


So, how can we find positive motivation, and keep it long enough to accomplish anything?  I feel like I’ve painted a grim picture for you.  My intention is to show you that you are totally capable of doing the impossible.  You can use motivation for good or for bad, just like social media!  Many moons ago, I was challenged to do Pat’s Run.  I had never really run anything but my mouth before, but something in my head just changed.  I wanted to run this.  I wanted to run the entire 4.2 miles.  So I started to train.  And I kept going.  I had a week long vacation scheduled to Washington DC.  I walked for miles all day long, and then would go to my hotel and run on a treadmill.  What was my motivation?  I wanted to prove to myself that I was not ‘that girl’.  In high school, I would wear my resistance to running as a badge of honor, when truthfully, I was totally embarrassed.  I didn’t want to try because I didn’t want people to know that, though I was a really good sprinter, I had no endurance.  This was a chance to prove to myself that I could do it.  That I could gain endurance.  That I was capable of change.

Possibly the best way to change your mindset is to start with a small goal.  What is it that you want?  What is on your mind?  Do you want to prove something to yourself, like I did?  Do you just want to know if you have what it takes to just see something through?  I was once told, “People who can start things are great.  People who can finish things are great.  The person who is able to both start and finish is exceptional.”  Doesn’t that seem strange?  I always felt like everyone around me had their act together.  That everything came easy to them, and everything was a struggle for me.  When I hear and understand that people who are able to both start and finish are exceptional, I begin to understand that everyone puts up a facade, just like I do.  If I know that, it’s easier for me to believe that I can do anything that I want to.  


Since I don’t know what you want to do as a challenge, let’s talk about a recent goal that I took on.  Oxygen Magazine hosts a challenge annually, which is a 3 month body and diet boot camp of sorts.  At the sign up, you can choose one of two coaches (some people choose both), and you start your 90 days of eating and working out according to your fitness pro coach’s plan.  I have been telling myself every year that I could never do that.  90 days is a long time.  That’s a big commitment.  This year was different.  Last year, I had a bone tumor on my tibia removed in August, and ran a half marathon in November.  That experience alone was enough to tell me that I can commit to 90 days, and I have no excuses.  Through training for the half, I learned how to not be so rigid in my schedule, and to start to look at time before and after work as opportunities, and not just tv time.  In fact, when I started to utilize those hours, I became less run-down at the end of the week.  I stopped telling myself that I don’t have time to run during the week, and started getting up earlier.  After work, I started cross training for 30-45 minutes.  I wasn’t missing out on anything.  I was cutting out dead time that I was spending on the couch.  Sometimes, you just need a goal that is so exciting to you that you area willing to look at possibilities instead of probably nots.

So, I signed up!  I am on #Team Jamie, under coach Jamie Eason Middleton.  I just finished week one.  Some days were pretty easy.  Some have been pretty tough.  But every day has been an inspiration.  Every day is a choice.  Am I going to stick it out and complete the goal, or am I giving up?  So far, I choose success.  That choice has inspired my husband to do it with me.  I don’t know what the next 11 weeks will hold. I am sure that there will be days when I am tired, or discouraged.  On those days, I need to examine my motivation.  If I am not motivated to be my best and have the healthiest body possible, then I need to change things.

Ok, I outed myself.  Now it’s your turn!  What are your goals?  What do you want to achieve?  Maybe it’s a one mile walk.  Maybe it is a marathon.  Maybe you just want to run around the block.  What ever it is, what is stopping you?  What are your motivations?  What are you fears?  The more you know your self, the more you understand your own patterns and cycles, the more you can harness your energies and become the best you possible.  Every.  Damn.  Day.  You CAN be exceptional.  You CAN be a starter AND a finisher.  Take it from a former great finisher, who is currently exceptional.  Don’t give yourself options.  Don’t give yourself a way out.  I believe in you.  Set those goals.  Take steps to achieve them.  I’m always here for you.  You can reach me in the ‘contact’ form, or through Instagram @healthierversionofchris. No matter what happened in your past, you don’t have to let it determine your future.  No matter what, I only know this….

You’re probably not crazy!!!

ACCEPT YOURSELF!

When I was a kid, I was shy.  I didn’t have very many friends.  I used to think that I was just plain unlikeable.  I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk to, so what was my strategy?  Cling to anyone who showed any interest in me, and go along with whatever they wanted me to do.  Change myself, and don’t stand for my own principles.  Morph myself into what other people thought I should be.  For me, this meant that I would date any boy that liked me, and do almost anything that would keep them around.  I look back and consider myself pretty lucky that I didn’t fall into drug use, and I drew a line with what I was willing to give up for acceptance, MEANING, I didn’t let boys guilt me into having sex with them when I wasn’t ready or willing.  That was more likely because I was terrified of anyone seeing me naked and judging me at my most vulnerable state.

I used to think to myself, “Once I am out of high school, things will be different.  I will be different.  People will see that I have value, and they will want to be around me.”  Things did change, but for the worse.  I had a wider array of people who preyed on low self esteem.  I welcomed those people into my life and allowed them the power to control me through my need to be accepted.  I would cry sometimes.  Why do I have to be this way?  Then I found alcohol.  Alcohol took me to places that I thought I liked.  I was able to talk without being afraid that people would think I was stupid.  I could be free.  I had liquid courage!  Years later, I realize that alcohol was a substitute for dealing head on with my need for accceptance from other people.  I felt like people liked me because I was that crazy girl that you never knew what she would do next.  Karaoke?  YES!  Flirt with anyone?  YES!!  Party all night, and still show up to work the next day?  Oh yeah!  Close down the bar?  You know it!  What a fun girl!

But you know what?  It wasn’t fun.  I was slowly losing every bit of my authentic self while striving to be what I am not.  I am not a party girl.  I love spreadsheets.  I am not a flirty girl.  I am reserved.  I am smart.  I am scheduled.  I am loyal.  I am driven.


As you know, this lifestyle caught up with me.  Two completely failed marriages, doubled my body weight, fired from a great job, and, SURPRISE…all those people that loved the crazy girl weren’t there for me when it all crashed in.  They moved to the next crazy girl.  They peeled off, one by one, as things got hard.  My life fell apart, and they were only interested in watching the train wreck.  They didn’t seem to realize or maybe even care that I was an actual person.  

Flash forward to today.  Even though I have lost weight.  Even though I have acccomplished goals.  Even though I am at peace with most parts of my life, I still struggle with accepting every part of myself.  In the header photo for this blog post, I have put a picture in from my recent dream vacation to Hawaii.  I don’t see the beautiful ocean, or the famous pier in Hanalei Bay.  I see cellulite.  I see the constant negative self talk about my ‘disgusting’ legs.  I didn’t put it up for you to tell me, “Ah, but you are pretty!” or for you to tell me it’s not bad and you can’t see it.  I posted that picture because I am outting myself.  I struggle every day with accepting myself.  I love WHO I am, but I am critical of what I look like.  


Last summer, Wave and I decided that we should go to the high school pool one Saturday.  Typical Arizona summer day, stifling hot and unbearable.  I was excited!  Yes, let’s go cool off and swim.  But then, I put on my swimsuit and I was horrified.  I was paralyzed.  I started stalling.  Of course I have to sweep and mop before we can go.  Oh, but I need to do our weekly meal prep before we can go.  Finally, Wave took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and asked me what was going on.  I knew I had to be honest, so I told him that I am terrified of people looking at my cellulite and being disgusted by me.  He just hugged me and told me that we didn’t have to go.  I, on the other hand, knew that I had to face this.  It was scary, but I did it.  No one vomited, or fainted by the sight of my cellulite, so that was good.

  

So, how does one begin the journey of self acceptance?  For me, it was a pretty methodical process.  First, I had to write out everything I hated about myself.  What were the negative thoughts that were rolling around in my head?  “No one likes me.”  “People think I am stupid.”  “I am a burden to others, because they only feel sorry for me.”  There is a lot of healing that is initiated in this step.  Shining a light on the monsters under the bed makes them less frightening.  I looked at each piece and broke it down.  Why do I think no one likes me?  Maybe I am surrounding myself with people who are not really there for friendship, but are they going to use me for something in their own agenda.  Am I truly an unlikeable person?  What are the qualities that I see in myself that ARE likeable?  Finally, what kind of person do I want as an ideal friend?  Do the qualities in me line up with the qualities I want in a friend?  We often hear the phrase, “Opposites attract.”  Though that may be true in science, in my experience, birds of a feather really do flock together.  If I want a friend who listens to me, and who keeps things in confidence and doesn’t blab my problems to everyone, am I a friend who listens to others intently, and keep their issues confidential?

In essence, self acceptance comes with a lot of soul searching and brutal honesty with yourself.  We often tell ourselves what we want to believe, but is not exactly true.  One may tell themselves, “No one wants me because I don’t have the body of a cover model!”  In reality, no one wants me because I act like a piece of human trash who is selfish and doesn’t value others in the way I expect to be valued.  The only way we can truly change is to first and foremost, be honest and cut out all the BS.  You are only a victim if you want to be.  Feeling sorry for yourself is being a victim.  Being shy is not a character flaw.  Expecting the world to cater to you because you are shy is. If you want to be accepted, then start with accepting yourself.  If you want a great self esteem, do something esteemable!   If you don’t like what you are, change it!  You have power over your thoughts, words, and actions.  If you want people to be friendly with you, then be a friendly person!  Say hello to a stranger. There is no danger in that.  Just a simple, “Hello!”  Tip the corners of your mouth up and walk around with a smile instead of a stoic and unexpressive face.  Let people know that you care what they have to say. If you hear someone say something that strikes a profound chord within you, tell them that you appreciate their words, or if you like what they are wearing that day, say so!  Be honest with yourself, and decide if you are willing to acccept the things you don’t like about yourself (like cellulite on your thighs), or if you aren’t willing to accept it, then are you willing to change it?  For me, I have to always be in a constant state of loving who I am right now, but always striving to be better.  Be willing to adapt the belief that the only opinion that matters is your own.  If no one else likes it, F*&k ’em!  It just does not matter what other people think.  They don’t get to have that power over you, unless you let them.


My friends, what I know is that we all have really silly hang ups, and monsters in our closets.  I haven’t met a perfect person yet.  I know that a lot of people that know me think I have my act together, and I am a zen master.  But I am not.  I have issues.  There are things that I accept.  There are things that I am working on changing.  There are things that I am finally admitting to myself, and I am always and forever cleaning out my closet.  Please know, whatever it is that you are going through, you are not alone.  That deep, dark secret that you have been carrying around for most of your life…I am positive that someone else has done that too.  In finding ourselves, we become less judgmental of others.  We start to appreciate the flaws and failings that make us who we are today.  We become more open and honest beings with one another, and we start to become just a bit more understanding and open to others.  I am always here for you, either by the ‘contact’ form at the end of the blog, in the comments section, or on Instagram (@healhierversionofchris).  We are all in this together.  Stop questioning yourself, and understand this….

You’re probably NOT crazy!!!

Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

Have you ever read that book, “The Secret”?  I know, I know…but stick with me on this one.  For those of you that haven’t read the book or seen the subsequent movie, the basic premise is that what ever you put out into the universe, you will get back.  If you put out worry that you will be broke, the universe will grant your wish, and you will find yourself broke.  On the flip side, though, if you visualize yourself being content and financially stable, that will happen for you as well.  This is the secret that separates you from the wealthy and successful.  They know how to harness their thoughts, and you don’t…yet.  Now, I am NOT presuming to know if you are wealthy, successful, or content.  What I do know is that when I talk about controlling my thoughts, I usually get a very puzzled look.  “There is NO WAY to control your thoughts!  My brain thinks thoughts all day and all night, it has nothing to do with me!!”  If this is true, then why the slogan ‘Think Positive’?

The first time I was told that I could control my thoughts was shortly after I sobered up.  I am sure that not all who come to read these musings know what that is like, so let me explain.  Have you ever gone swimming all day long in a pool with your eyes open?  Your ears are sloshy.  Your eyes sting and you can’t see anything clearly.  Your skin crawls and tightens from the chlorine.  People talk to you, but you feel tired and groggy and not really present.  That’s how the first bit of sobriety felt to me.  So, when I heard this revolutionary idea that I can control my thoughts, my honest reactions was, “Bullshit”.  The truly beautiful thing about our minds is that we take ideas, push them to the back,  roll them around, and digest them, all without knowing it.  

When I was finally ready to accept that maybe I could try, I also had to swallow a pretty big pill along with it.  I had to accept that if I had power over my thoughts, then I have always had power over my thoughts.  Therefore, this warped reality I had been living, these negative thoughts that consumed me, were all within my power.  I had to accept that I had done all of this to myself.  Maybe knowing that I had to accept this idea was what made me balk so heavily in the first place.  It’s pretty scary, but, as we have already discussed, you can’t live any kind life if you are consumed with fear.

Albert-Einstein-quoteIf you’ve ever taken a yoga class, or tried to meditate, you may have heard the idea that you can guide your thoughts.  So, how the heck do you do this?  You may be yelling at the screen, “How do I stop thinking about my grocery list, my kid’s schedules, the vet appointment, the undone laundry, EVERYTHING going on at work, not to mention what I am doing for dinner?”  Well, let me tell you how I did it, and maybe you can find a way too.

In my previous mariage (let’s just get this on the table, I have been married 3 times…THREE TIMES!  So, yeah, I have a lot of marriage experience, and a great sense of humor regarding my failings.  Moving on…), I was always focused on being a victim.  I seriously was always mad about what my ex husband was doing to make my life so terrible.  If I think of things in terms of ‘The Secret’, you can only imagine how much misery the universe was dropping at my doorstep, because all that I was putting out there was how miserable I was.  One day, I changed.  I decided it was time to change the course of things.  When I started to think about what a jerk he was, I noticed the thought, and replaced it with The Lord’s Prayer.  If you’ve ever been in a 12 step program, The Lord’s Prayer is like saying ‘Om’ over and over and over.  It was the one thing I knew like the back of my hand.  At a moments notice, I could think the words, “Our Father, who art in heaven.  Hallowed be thy name…” and it acted like a mantra.  

Happy-face-among-sadness That’s it?  Yep.  That’s it… First, notice the thought.  Your brain is often working on auto pilot. By the time we reach adulthood, we don’t even notice thoughts coming and going anymore.   So, by noticing the thought, you are starting to turn off the auto pilot.  If the thought doesn’t serve you, start methodically repeating, in your mind something that does.  “Life is beautiful.”  “Today I will be the change that I want to see in the world.”  “It is never too late to be who I always should have been.”  “There is no time like the present.”  Anything that is at least neutral, at best a positive message.  When you start, you may find that you are repeating your mantra almost all day.  The great news is, we are very intelligent and adaptable beings.  Once you make the decision to change your life, your mind will follow suit quickly. The first few days are the hardest.  If you fail, then you redeploy your mantra, and you keep going as soon as you noticed that you failed.

Now that you are starting to come off of auto pilot, you will start to notice your thoughts, and you may start to notice patterns.  These patterns may surprise you.  I personally noticed that my mind was often giving me thoughts such as, “You are fat.  No one likes you.  You have no friends.  People only feel sorry for you.  You will never be truly loved.”  Just typing that makes me feel terrible!!  None of that is true, nor was it true at the time.  Once I gained confidence with changing my thoughts, I started to push out the negative thoughts consciously with their positive counters.  “I am healthy.  I like myself.  I don’t care if people like me or not, I have value.  I am appreciated.  I feel loved.”  Do not let the negativity of your auto pilot thoughts scare you.  If you were harnessing your thoughts all along, you never would have allowed this to happen.  You just didn’t know that years and years of people telling you you are not good enough and you believing it have manifested in your thoughts for reinforcement.  

After a while, it feels like you have an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other, like a cartoon.  You become pretty skilled at recognizing the lies that your brain has grown accustomed to telling you, and you easily shut it down and replace it with something that is true.  In time, you will have completely retrained your way of thinking, and you will likely go back on to auto pilot, but this time, your thoughts are now geared towards your opportunities and possibilities, and not pinning you down to the ground.  You may find that stress is no longer really stressful.  You may also start to see that a lot of what you found so stressful before is totally manageable now.  What if you started to write down the changes that your see, so you can go back a year from now to remind yourself just how far you have come?  

If you have mastered guided thought, but all of sudden, you start to feel stressed again, or maybe you are feeling uneasy or just not at peace, start listening in on your thoughts.  Unfortunately, it is possible to relapse into that great abyss of negative self talk.  You may have had an upsetting event at work.  You may have had a senseless arguement with your spouse that fed the negativity.  Maybe you have a parent that is like the T-Rex at Jurassiac Park, and is constantly testing their boundaries with you.  Check in with yourself.  Find your mantra again.  Every time you need to get back on track, it gets easier and easier.

Friends, take care of yourselves. Maybe you are thinking of Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live from that late ’80’s.  Maybe you’re thinking that this is a lot of new age bullshit.  Maybe.  Or maybe it is going to the back of your brain now for you to roll around and consider until you are willing to accept responsibility for the role you have played in your own misery.  Or maybe you are already here, and, like me, you find gratitude for the hard pieces of your life.  For, if we don’t have the hard times, we would never know what we are actually made of.  

How do you feel about the idea of controlling your thoughts?  Is it really hocus pocus, or is there something to this?  Let me know in the comments section, or on Twitter or Instagram, or you can contact me by using the contact form on the home page.  I think that you may be starting to figure out that I know one for sure….

You’re probably not crazy!!!

Omnivorous to Vegetarian to Veganish: How and WHY did I make the transition?

Last weekend, I was out to a luncheon to celebrate my oldest sister’s birthday.  My middle sister always takes personal responsibility to find places that offer vegan options, so we can all enjoy a meal together.  For those of you who have not been exposed to veganism, that is not an easy feat.  In fact, eating at restaurants is such a challenge that I usually just don’t.  My middle sister travels a lot for work, so she is always open and willing to try new things, and is open to having meatless meals occasionally.  I am very lucky to have her, honestly.

As I was looking at the menu, my mother and older sister were pointing out salads that I might be able to have.  I have learned that people in general tend to be uncomfortable with what they don’t know or understand.  I try to be gracious, and thank people for pointing out items that I can eat, but there is one simple fact…I hate salad.  I mean, I don’t HATE IT hate it, but I certainly don’t love it.  It’s boring.  Plus, have you ever really looked at the salad selection on a menu?  It’s almost like they can’t fathom a protein source without animal flesh or cheese.  


Another strange thing happens when I eat around non-vegans.  “I eat salad every day!”  “I almost never eat meat!”  “I only eat chicken anymore!”  Then, when the meal order is taken, it’s a cheeseburger and fries.  Of course,  as with any group of people who subscribe to a particular lifestyle or choice, there are always people who give everyone else a bad name.  The vegans I know aren’t chastening meat eaters for eating meat, aren’t attacking them for their choices, aren’t throwing fake blood on them and yelling ‘MEAT IS MURDER!’.  The VAST majority of us want nothing more than to live harmoniously in the world, and answer questions to demystify and normalize the choice to not consume animal products.  

I wasn’t always a vegan, and for the record, I call myself ‘veganish’.  I am not perfect.  I eat pizza once in a while.  I do my best, but I am by no means perfect.  Growing up, and well into adulthood, I was under the impression that you have to have meat at every meal.  I didn’t understand that ‘meat’ meant protein.  Looking back, that seems really dumb.  The fact is, we learn things and accept them as unquestionable facts as children.  For instance, I loved tuna sandwiches as a kid, but I hated fish.  I didn’t know until I was 14 years old that tuna was fish.  My parents never told me that “Tuna is fish”.  It was just, “Do you want a tuna salad sandwich?”  Needless to say, I had great empathy for Jessica Simpson with the whole “Chicken of the Sea” debacle.  It wasn’t until I decided to learn about food and what we need to eat and why that my mind started to change.  


After I lost 100+ pounds, I became very invested in understanding first, what do I need to eat and why, and second, what works best for me.  A major revelation to me during this crusade for answers is that there is nothing but conflicting information on diet.  Did you know that the low fat diet was actually due to members of the US Congress dropping dead at alarming rates from heart attacks?  During the 60’s and 70’s, eight congressmen died in office from heart attacks.  So what did they do?  According to Alison Aubrey of NPR, the government introduced dietary guidelines based off of hearings in the senate.  Scientists thought that foods high in cholesterol affected blood cholesterol, but did not know why.  Hence, the idea that fat is bad and carbs are good was introduced.  Unfortunately, as is demonstrated in the current statistics of American health, this was flawed logic.  68.8% of adults in the United States are overweight.  35.7% of those are obese.  1 in 20 are considered extremely obese.  74% of men…MEN…are overweight or obese, all according to the National Institutes of Health.  Not only that, recent statistics show that 10% of the world’s population are overweight.  

If you remember the ’90’s, you remember the Atkin’s diet.  Eat all the protein and fat you want, and restrict your vegetables and carbs.  This was a dream to many people!  I can eat bacon and eggs every day and be healthy???  Well, sorry, but no.  And then South Beach.  And then Ephedra pills, which oops, that was speed.  And then.  And then.  And then.  Make no mistake, misinformation in the diet industry is big money.  We need stop looking to companies to decide and tell us what is healthy and what is not.  “Low fat muffins”…HA!  The secret to good health has never been a secret.  It’s just not as easy as we would hope.  Eat fresh foods, eat a balance of good fats, good proteins, and  good carbs.  Good fats?  Think avocado over Big Mac.  Good carbs? Dates over muffins.  Good Proteins?  Nuts over bacon.

Anyway…how did I get from there to here.  Well, the truth is, I’m not entirely sure.  I remember one New Year’s Eve.  I was making roasted potatoes and asparagus, and Wave was marinating rib eye steaks.  I looked at him, and I said, “You know, I don’t know why we bother eating meat.  All we do is season the hell out of it so we don’t actually taste the meat, and then I don’t sh*t for days.”  We kind of looked at each other, and just decided that was our last omnivorous meal.  Believe it or not, the transition was easy.  The hardest part was the questions.  It took me a while to learn a bit of grace and patience.

A true vegetarian has no issue getting protein.  I know that the first thing you want to ask me is “Where do you get your protein”, or you may be wondering “Are you getting enough protein?”  To this, I would ask you, “Are you?”  I would like to assure you, the ominivorious, that we are ok.  In fact, did you know that vegetables have protein?  Check this out:

Vegetable-protein-chartI finally understand that your questions about protein are because you probably were raised like me.  You have to eat meat at every meal.  I challenge you to change the word ‘meat’ with protein’.  I would also ask, do YOU know how much protein you need, and are YOU getting enough?  It’s super simple.  Take your body weight…your REAL weight, not your driver’s license weight, divide by 2.  That’s the number of protein grams you need per day.  Take that number, divide by 3.  That’s how much you need at each meal.  Simple, right?  AND, now you know, you are getting protein from many sources, not just meats!  

When I switched to vegetarian, I think I saw a minor weight loss, less than 5 pounds.  I didn’t do it for animal rights or saving the planet or any other reason that I didn’t like the taste and what it did for my digestion.  Everyone has their reasons, and it’s safe to say asssuming their motives is proabably not safe.  I stayed vegetarian for a few years.  I still had stomach aches.  I felt like I was digesting food much better, but still had some issues.  Further investigation was required.

I decided to get tested for food allergies and sensitivities.  So, what is the difference?  A food allergy can kill you.  A food sensitivity, though very unpleasant, will not kill you.  It will cause indigestion, stomach aches, IBS, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, irritability, and possibly acne.  But not deadly.  Turns out, I’m sensitive to casein (cow’s milk protein) and eggs.  So, basically, if I want to not have the afore mentioned symptoms, I need to avoid them.  By avoiding them, I become a vegan.  Now, before I am corrected, I understand that a true blue vegan wears vegan clothes, carries vegan bags, wears vegan shoes, and of course avoids leather and furs.  I would say that I 95% fall into this naturally. But I don’t know that every thing I own is animal friendly.  I do my best, and I think that is good enough.  There is no vegan tribal council.  I won’t be brought up on vegan charges.  

Vegan-means-sucking-less
I often hear, “I think I could be a vegetarian, but I love cheese!  I can’t give it up!”  Well, that’s ok!!  I think that this world could be a better place if we all just accept who we are and what we are willing to do, and stop judging everyone else.  Maybe you want to try vegetarianism for one day a week and see how it feels.  Maybe you learn that even going vegetarian helps our environment.  Mass meat production contributes more greenhouse gasses that either transportation or industry, according to Scientific American.  For some people, their concern for our environment is enough to make small changes to their diet.  Most of us accept that climate change is real and is happening, but don’t know how they can contribute. This is a major way to help.  Meatless Monday.  What do you have to lose?

Some people tie their masculinity or toughness to meat eating.  Why?  What does eating meat have to do with any of that?  You are not more or less of a man or a tough person.  There are many successful vegan athletes and body builders who compete with omnivorous athletes and body builders.  We are foolish if we think that how we get our protein determines our fortitude.  I also want to address the idea that becoming vegan will give you a running PR, or an advantage over a carnivorous competitor.  I would give a word of caution.  You can be a junkatarian or a vegetarian.  The quality of food will help you, but will not overcome the quality of your own training and commitment to your sport.  Will it make you drop weight?  Maybe.  It depends on the quality of your food choices.  When it comes down to it, Fritos are probably vegan and Dorritos and nachos are vegan.  Does this give you a competitive advantage?  Um…no.  Does it make you lose a TON of weight?  Maybe.  It depends on what you currently eat.  If you consume fast food and garbage now, then consume only nuts, seeds, beans, vegggies, fruits, of course you are going to drop weight.  But if you are a pretty clean eater now, you won’t see much of a change.

Make no mistake, vegan can be hard if you rely on packaged foods.  The best way to go vegan is to stick to vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and real foods.  The more you can control the inputs, the easier it is.  There are milk and eggs in almost all convenience foods.  The internet is a great tool.  Research vegan meals.  The variety of foods I eat now as a vegan are far greater than I ever ate as a carnivore.  Why?  Because the fear of eating salad only for the rest of my life forced me to try new things.  Who knew that you could make a nut meat that mimics the taste and texture of ground beef for tacos?  Or that there are vegan baking cookbooks?  Or even full on vegan cookbooks?  You’d be surprised!


To the naysayers who continue to say that long term veganism is not healthy for you.  I say, maybe try it.  Maybe, before you poison people against a choice, understand that there are entire populations who are vegan and vegetarian around the world that are far healthier than our American meat and cheese culture.  Open your mind. Try something new.  It certainly will not kill you.  It may make you feel better.  You may find that meats and cheeses never agreed with you in the first place.  You may realize that you always felt like hot garbage juice but never recognized it before.  You have absolutely nothing to lose by trying it.  I would encourage you to find a trusted vegan or vegetarian and get some advice.  Ask for recipes.  Ask for restaurants where your can try a meal.  Or, ask me!  As always, I am available to you.  You can contact me through the ‘Contact’ form here, you can DM me on Instagram.  I am here for you!  This doesn’t have to be scary, or cause anxiety.  Your vegan and vegetarian friends want nothing but for you to find peace in your diet, and within yourself.  We are not judging you…well MOST of us are not judging you.  

You may feel that even considering this is lunacy, but I assure you…You are probably NOT crazy!! 

“What is the fastest way I can lose weight?” “I work out, therefore I can eat whatever I want” …and other unicorn chasing ideas.

There I was.  Lying on my back on a vinyl covered exam table with needles sticking out of my shins, doing my best to lie still and let the dry needling do its work without damaging the tender tissues beneath them.  The receptionist asked my Physical Therapist, “Are there any bacon donuts left?”  “There is one”, he replied, “…and I will fight you for it!”  As much as I was charged with lying still, my head popped up, showcasing the look of confusion that draped over my face.  “Is this not an office of healthcare professionals?  And you are arguing over bacon covered donuts?”  My Physical Therapist, who actually turned out to be a decent guy, but highly skilled at mansplaining and letting me know that he indeed has a Master’s Degree, and my Personal Training certification is laughable, noted to me that they work out enough, so they can eat whatever they want.  I laughed, “I work out enough to know that you can’t shovel garbage in your mouth regardless of the amount of time you spend working out.”

So what makes me so smart?  It’s ok, I’m used to having to demonstrate that I’m not actually just full of opinions.  When I was in high school, I was 5’8″ and 115 lbs, or about 52 kg.  I was somewhat active, ate what my parents put in front of me, snacked on celery and ice burg lettuce, which I always called “watery goodness” because I loved them both.  As soon as I started working, I ate Taco Bell, Burgers, Fries, Shakes, and stopped activity.  By the time I was 31 years old, I was up to 265 lbs, or 120kg.  I had been asked, whilst purchasing a package of cigarettes, why I’m still smoking since I was pregnant, when I was not pregnant.  I was asked to join a group in my employers inagural ‘Biggest Loser’ challenge, because they needed someone on their team who could really stand to lose a lot and help the team win.  My chiropractor fired me as a patient (though to this day, he argues he didn’t fire me, he just told me he couldn’t help me if I wasn’t willing to make some changes.  As it turns out, I have been rehired as a patient).  It took me 13 months to lose 125 lbs.  I never quite got back to my high school weight, but that never mattered to me and still doesn’t.  

Since I went through this very public change, many of my work aquaintances felt like they went through the change with me.  I have heard everything from, “You have lost too much weight, and you look too skinny” to overly excited male co-workers who were convinced that I lost weight for their benefit, and began to pay me unwanted attention to the point of inappropriate behavior.  People who had always scoffed at me, and treated me like I was less than human suddenly wanted to be friends and go out to lunch.  People I thought were friends were suddenly so overcome with jealousy because I was now receiving attention, that they could no longer be my friend anymore.  Unconsciously, people still watch what I eat and judge everything I consume and weigh in on whether or not I should be eating this or that, even though it’s been almost 10 years since I completed the weight loss journey.  Interestingly enough, I did not win the ‘Biggest Loser’ challenge.  However, I am the only participant that has kept the weight off.  I am a legend amongst my peers.  When new people come to work there, I am introduced as the person “…who lost half of her body weight”.

Now, this is not a Trump-style bragging party.  I just want for you, dear reader, to know the point of view from which I have gained first hand knowledge of food, weight, exercise, and general health, and what each can and can’t accomplish.  

Before-and-after-Christina-Coates
Yes…these are my before and afters (you can see more of my story here: https://www.oxygenmag.com/fat-loss/head-games-11222

I generally need to plan on interruptions to my daily routine for the quiet question that always comes.  “Chris, what is the fastest way I can lose weight?”  I do not receive this question with an eye roll or a sigh.  I am immediately taken to that place of complete desperation.  I know that I have a problem, but I have no idea what to do.  I will admit that usually I will laugh at the question itself, not to put the asker down, but because the question is related 100% to the story I started with.  We have a massive problem as a society.  If I want something, I can go on the mystical interwebs, tell my friend Amazon that I NEED to have a robot vacuum cleaner, and I can have it to my door in 2 hours.  Not only that, but we put so much faith into our health care providers, that they know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING, when in reality, doctors are not required to have any education in diet or exercise.  I don’t mean to pick on my Physical Therapist, but his comment demonstrates my point beautifully.

So let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the deal, shall we?  Losing weight is not as simple as calories in less than calories out.  Side note: Everytime I hear someone spew this as fact, I want to punch them in the throat.  If our bodies were that simple and that predictable, then we wouldn’t have any problems with losing weight.  If you say this, do me a favor..don’t.  It’s not that simple.  There are many factors that play in, but the best place to start is always in the beginning.  My first bit of advice is to look at what you eat.  When I ask this question, 100% response is “I don’t eat very much, that’s why don’t understand why I’m so big!”  Then I ask them to take me through breakfast.  “I eat oatmeal!  Oatmeal is good for your cholesterol!”  So I dig deeper.  What kind of oatmeal?  Homemade or packaged?  I have actually been asked how it is possible to make homemade oatmeal.  I don’t blame people.  I blame convenience food companies.  Then we get to talking about lunch, “I only eat a frozen Mac and Cheese meal!”  So, you start to see the pattern.  “Hear me now, and believe me later”(Hanz and Franz): 

You can’t put garbage in your body and expect it to react well.

You need protein.  You NEED carbohydrates.  YOU NEED FAT.  Your body is like a Ferrari.  When you feed it quality fuels, you will see results.  Protein sources need to be quality.  Hot dogs, processed meats, highly salted meats are not quality.  Beans, nuts, vegetables (yes vegetables do have protein), quinoa, fish, chicken, turkey.  Seasoned but not heavily salted.  Grilled, roasted, steamed…not fried.  If you choose to rock a protein shake, and I do this for breakfast, find one that’s not full of sugar and garbage.  I like Sun Warrior products.  I can’t speak to whey protein, as I have no experience here.  READ INGREDIENTS!  If you don’t know what it is, question it.  

Good-foods-are-greater-than-fast-food
Stay away from as much packaged/convenience foods as possible.  This is where I usually get the most resistance.  “Chris, I don’t have the time to make meals!”  Listen to yourself. You absolutely do have time.  I don’t have any more time in my day than anyone else.  In fact, I may have less because I go to bed by 8pm every night.  Every time you are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, etc, ask youself if you have time then.  Even I get caught up in time wasters!  It’s our nature.  Somehow, though, I can still exercise every day, walk my dogs, make dinner, clean and do laundry, work full time, plan meals, pack lunches, blog, take French lessons with Duolingo, and more!  We all have the same tick-tock.  

Losing weight takes a lot of self exploration, examination, and above all, honesty.  You are going to have to call yourself out on your own bull puckey.  I tend to waste a lot of time on news shows.  I try to keep my political leanings at bay, but the state of the world really gets me in a tizzy.  I often have to have a stearn conversation with myself.  “Chris…are you going to change the state of things by watching hours of this, or are you going to change things by talking to other people, getting people excited about voting and the future, being kind, talking about common ground so people with a differing opinion might see that we are all just people, not the enemy?”  I limit my intake now to NPR in the car to and from work, and one national nightly news.  OK, two.  I like Vice.  I will post more on organization strategies in a future blog.  I know you are on the edge of your seat!

Journal-your-food
So, my advice to you is this.  

  • Journal what you eat for two weeks, and don’t cheat.  Every single thing that goes in your mouth, beverages included, gets logged. 
  • Pay attention to ingredients.  Even items that tout ‘Only five ingredients’ can have two piles of crap contained in the 5. Fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and meats are always better than convenience foods.  
  • Know what is considered a serving size, and use that information to reduce your intake to what is acceptable.  A serving of ice cream is 1/2 a cup.  Not 1/2 a carton.  Live by it!  Measure it out!  Get a scale and weigh it.  You don’t have to do it forever, because after a while, you will instinctively know.
  • Don’t think that your doctor knows.  I’m not advising you to ignore your doctor’s advice, and I am in no way educated as a doctor.  What I am saying is, get a Registered Dietician involved in the fight!  You are the only person who has lived in your body for your whole life.  Guidelines are guidelines.  But what I know is that every single BODY is different.  Learn what works for you and what doesn’t and go with that.  If you have stomach aches, what you are doing isn’t working for you.  Learn to recognize and listen to the language of your body.
  • Plan it and stick to it.  If you are going to lose weight, stick with it!  If you screw up on a meal, move on and do better.  
  • Know that you can’t just exercise bad choices away.  Once you put the garbage in, your body isn’t going to forgive you just because you walked an extra mile.  That’s nonsense.  Know that food choices are totally independent of exercise.
  • DRINK WATER.
  • GIVE UP SODA.  What is soda anyway.  Read the can.  Still sure you want that in your Ferrari?  (Hint: IT IS GARBAGE)
  • Acknowledge a job well done.  Learn to reward yourself with things other than food.  Do good on your eating plan?  Allow yourself some alone time, take a walk, get a new top…treats do not have to equal sweets!
  • Sleep.  Yes, you heard me.  Sleep 7-8 hours a night.  Your body needs it.  Don’t sleep all day.  Just 7-8 hours should do the trick. 
  • Talk to people who have actually been though weight loss SUCCESSFULLY.  Everyone has an opinion.  Surround yourself with people who will guide you, encourage you, and have actual experience.  Don’t listen to all the noise coming your way.  Focus on the facts from people who have been through it and fight the good fight DAILY! 

I am here for you.  You can reach out to me in the ‘Contact’ form, and I will always respond.  You are worth every sacrifice.  It is never to late!  If there is one thing that I have learned, through all of my ups and downs, it is this…

You’re probably not crazy!