Take flight!……And nose dive…..

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the articles circulating on blogs lately questioning how people censor their lives through social media. You know, putting up all the pretty, perfect pictures of their well-balanced, organic, local, hand-picked meals but forgetting to post the pictures of the cheese puffs and doughnuts they wolfed down in a stress-induced panic. While we turn to social media for support and inspiration, some of us can walk away feeling pretty crappy about our life when we compare ourselves to the picture perfect lifestyles.

As many of you know, I’m in my last year of graduate school to become a nurse practitioner. This entire year is dedicated to clinical rotations (otherwise known as “free labor”). 25-30 hours a week is dedicated to learning how to assess, diagnose, treat, and manage newborns to older adults and making sure I’m not passing off minor symptoms for something major (like death). Oh yeah, I’m still working 40 hours a week at night at my ever stressful job of trying to pull people back from more death. Personal life? Non-existent. Running? My heart aches for it. The person who would spend 10 days camping outside now sees sunshine on her walk to and from the car. Auuggghhh, it’s like a knife to the heart.  It’s just killing me!! Stressed, unhappy, and a little depressed is an accurate descriptor of my current situation. What’s making me happy now?? Here’s the big confession…..BACON, FRIED POTATOES, and DILL PICKLE CHIPS. Yes, Miss Thang here, whose last post was about making green smoothies, is now using grease, salt, and fat as her support system. I’ll give you a minute to gossip about that little piece of news…..

Last week I had a “get your sh*$ together” moment where I realized that all of my negativity and stress is REALLY affecting how I feel. I rarely post on Facebook because I’ve noticed that most things I want to say will put me in that friend’s category of getting blocked because I have nothing good to say and I DON’T want to lose friends because I’m a Negative Nancy. I thought about an anti-depressant (nothing wrong with them, I prescribe tons at work) but after more consideration, I felt like it was more of a lifestyle issue and a pill would just be a Band-Aid covering a bigger problem. I woke up between shifts to an amazing, sunny 75° Saturday. I took a great walk, soaking up some Vitamin D (low levels can cause depression), and then hit up Costco for some frozen anti-oxidant berry mix, kale, fruit, power veggies salad mix, and Greek yogurt. At the end of the day, my body really does crave clean eating and I know I respond really well to it. The dill pickle chips, while so good, just leave me feeling sluggish, hungry, and only give me about 5 minutes of satisfaction. To me, it’s not worth the trade. Like I’ve said before, I’m not a big believer in always depriving yourself of foods but I need to stop the habit of reaching for the bacon for a 5-minute comfort.

I’m always seeing posts (usually on Mondays) were it goes something like this “cleaning the fridge out today of all my junk! It’s just chicken and salad from here on out!” Good for you for taking that step! Just realize a healthy life is not always perfect. I have to break my relationship with bacon (sob). Do I feel bad about the last couple of weeks? Eh, no. I’m proud that I realized the habit I was getting into needed to end and I took action in conquering that craving.  Am I committing to green smoothies everyday till I die? Eh, no. I’m realistic. At the end of the day, I want to be healthy and happy and not full of guilt. My commitment is to do what makes my body and me feel happy and good. Spending time in the produce aisle and outside with my puppy helps me achieve that feeling. Today is the time to stop looking for that fast fix and spend more time cultivating a lifestyle of health and happiness.

Take flight and live!

a.

Find your peace

Find your peace

Green protein smoothie power!

Happy 2013! Did you make any food resolutions this year? Are you like my dad who is always trying to figure out what to do with random bags of greens like kale and spinach? I always get excited when I buy big bags of greens at the store but then they are sitting in my refrigerator and I’m suddenly panicking that I’m only one person drowning in a sea of greens. Smoothies to the rescue! Lunch is usually something quick and mindless so I can get back to work or run out the door. Here is a great way to use all of that spinach and kale and fill your body with amazing nutrients! Fair warning, I cook in the dash-here-handful-there method so do a little taste test before you serve so you can tailor it to your liking.

~Green Protein Smoothie~

  • Generous handful of kale or spinach, or both (today I just used kale)
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 small banana
  • Couple slices of avocado
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk (you can use more)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of honey or maple syrup if you need it slightly sweeter
  • Ice or water (depending on how thick/thin you like your shake)
  • Ground flax-seed or chia seeds (optional)

Blend the powder and almond milk together first. Then add the banana, avocado, apple, and ice and blend some more. Finally, add small amounts of your greens to the liquid and keep blending so they are nicely pureed. Add the dash of cinnamon and any more water/almond milk/ice/sweetener so it’s to your liking.

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I didn’t have any of the flax-seed or chia seeds on hand today but you can always add a bit to your smoothie for an extra boost of nutrition. I didn’t add the avocado to the picture because it was looking pretty ewwww, just like those bananas. I’ll be honest, I use smoothies a lot to get rid of shady looking fruits and veggies. Cooking on the wild side!!

What is your favorite way to sneak in extra fruits and veggies?

 

Taking charge

     With Christmas decorations popping up in stores and all the fall color quickly coming off the trees, I’ve been making sure Nellie and I enjoy the last days of warm, beautiful weather. Our days have been full of walks and tennis ball time. The other reason why I’ve tried to get outside more is because my semester is starting to get crazy with finals and I need some mini mental break times. Hence the crickets chirping on my blog site. I’ve put together my graduate innovation poster presentation on prevention and treatment solutions for childhood obesity by using social networking as a motivational and educational tool. In a month I’ll be presenting it at a nursing conference which I’m rather excited about. Maybe someday I’ll get to put my treatment tool into practice! I had no idea when I went to the Fitness and Health Social Media Conference in Denver last year I would be creating this innovation! Excited to see how life works out sometimes 🙂

     As the designated health guru of my family, I get lots of questions about diets, nutrition, exercise, joint pain, medications, and the latest “I heard this on the news the other day…..” My parents have always been open to leading a healthy lifestyle so getting them to change little habits usually isn’t hard. With the last round of cholesterol checks, both of them came back in the red. While they have a general idea of what needs to be done to change this problem, I decided to step in. Hello American Heart Association low cholesterol and low salt diet! I found some great cookbooks on Amazon and we’ve been talking about changes that could be made to their diets. Since I don’t have problems with high cholesterol, I’ve never really paid attention to it on nutrition labels. The American Heart Association recommends people with coronary artery disease to have less than 200 mg/cholesterol a day. When I started going through the fridge, I was surprised how fast that limit could be reached by lunchtime. However, I’ve already found some tasty looking recipes so I don’t think this transition will be hard. 

     I know I’ve mentioned this before but I love how I’m surrounded by other healthy bloggers and social networking fanatics who are so knowledgeable and passionate about making others health and fit. We’re able to using social networking to reach thousands of people a day with our healthy messages. I’ll agree that I want to be one of those people someday who is able to motivate the thousands to live a healthy lifestyle but now, I want to make sure I’m investing in those who mean the most to me. How about you? Are you making sure those you love are healthy and happy? Our families all have different needs and we are huge influences in how they live their life. So much of my research on childhood obesity linked parental influences with a child’s weight. Since I don’t have kids, I try to make sure my parents are staying caught up with the latest preventative and wellness recommendations. As a nurse, it’s important to have conversations with your parents about their health. You need to know your family medical history and how your parents are aging so you can plan for your own health needs. There is no better time than Thanksgiving when everyone is one place to start having these conversations 🙂 And with New Year’s resolutions coming up, maybe you can be the motivator in helping your family make the change!

What healthy habits have you started in your family? 

Fall fun!

My favorite time of year is here! I can’t get enough of the colors, weather, and fall activities. Last weekend I volunteered in the medical tent at the Kansas City Marathon. I really wanted to pay back all the love I’ve gotten as a runner over the years and thought I would do so in my hometown’s big race. By the way, KC was just picked as Frommer’s top 10 world destination cities for the year. This race will take you by many beautiful sites that make KC so awesome! Seeing how a medical tent is designed for 12,000+ runners was really interesting. We were right at the starting line so we got to absorb all the excitement of the pre-race chute and the elation of finishing. We handed out lots of Band-Aids for blistered feet and ice packs for sore knees. Some people had to be carried in for severe leg cramps (ugh, so painful) and our massage team helped with quick relief. Many of the nurses were scanning the finish line looking for people who were shaky on their feet or who were shivering and looking like they were fighting off some hypothermia. There was lots of happiness and excitement as people crossed the finish line but there were some sobering moments during the race. Hold on while I drag out my soap box….. If you are going to run, please train! I am guilty of not being really aggressive with this when I train for a race but I always keep up some level of cardio fitness through the year as a baseline. If you just got off the couch and decided today will be the day you run a 5K, your body (or heart) might decide it’s the last day you will ever run. Also, I had no idea how many people get disoriented while running. We’re talking about not knowing their phone number or how to spell their last name. Please, please, please, at the very least, write your name and number and emergency contact info on the back of your bib. Even better, invest in a nifty RoadID bracelet or something similar. It sucks when you’re trying to give medical attention to someone who can’t talk. You will never be that strong or that in-shape where a medical emergency won’t affect you.

That afternoon, the bf and I went to Weston, Missouri, just 30 minutes north of Kansas City. This super cute town was settled in the 1830s and is still full of old charm, big red barns, apple orchards, and great food and drink. My top picks include: Weston Red Barn Farm for apple and pumpkin picking, the Vineyards for an amazing meal, Pirtle’s Winery for wine tasting, and Weston Brewing Co. for drinks in a cave. Isn’t Pirtle’s the cutest place ever for sipping a glass of wine?My other favorite thing I tried this week was Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle mix. Fun fact: when I was about 6 years old, I remember thinking, “someday when I get married, I am going to register for a waffle-maker.” I was dreaming big ladies and gentlemen. Well, I haven’t gotten married but I did get a waffle-maker. I guess dreams do come true! Anyways, the mix is awesome! Add a scoop of protein powder and some pecans and you have a delicious fall breakfast!

What are some of your favorite fall traditions?

My goals update

October! My favorite time of year! It seems like every Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest I see is overloaded with pumpkin pie spice lattes, butternut squash soup, and last-minute marathons before winter hits. This marks the first year I’m not running a fall race which makes me so sad. Last year I did the Marine Corps Marathon in beautiful Washington, DC and I must say, you HAVE to run this race at least once. The course is absolutely beautiful and it’s super fun to see many of the DC landmarks. To make up for missing a race this fall, I am volunteering at the Kansas City Marathon. I’ve always wanted to give back the love I’ve gotten during my races and I thought this year would be a perfect opportunity. Now that it’s getting closer and I hear more of my friends entering, I think I’ll have a slightly sad heart. Oh well, more motivation for finding another great marathon! Speaking of which, does anyone have a great recommendation for an awesome winter race?

At the beginning of this semester, I talked a lot about my goals for the rest of the year. Since I’m deep into projects and tests, I thought I’d give an update of how it’s going. So far, my butt is still fitting into my jeans. Major goal accomplished! I have planned ahead making sure I have lots of fruit, precut veggies, yogurt, and other healthy snacks ready so I can grab and go. Making sure my fridge is stocked keeps me from relying on takeout. My stress level is WAAAYYYY down too. It really shouldn’t be. I had to scrap a research project this week and I’ve pulled a couple 36 hour days with no sleep. Major difference is I’m taking more time for friends when they want to get together and I’m taking lots of running/walking/get outside breaks. I’m also learning to make more short-term goals to accomplish big projects and if I do get stressed, I make sure I step away from the situation to breath and re-focus instead of letting the stress build up.

(This is my favorite breakfast right now- oatmeal with cinnamon, cherry preserves, chopped walnuts, and vanilla almond milk. It tastes almost like the cherry crunch dessert!)

Some obstacles I’ve met this semester is my sleep schedule. I’ve had some 36-hour no sleep days which are awful. I don’t recommend that and I hate that I try to practice being healthy but screw up my body this way. Some days are unavoidable with my night work schedule falling into a day class schedule which coincides with a test or paper. I want to be more proactive in managing my time so I don’t have this problem.  I also need to figure out better solutions to my carb cravings. I don’t believe eliminating anything, and as an active person, I need carbs. However, I don’t need a pan of mac and cheese. While I haven’t given into that craving, it’s a nagging thought all the time (mmmm, cheesy pasta).

Since I’m new to the blogging/social media world, this next tip might be well-known to all you super bloggers. One of biggest things that has helped me this semester is Twitter! Gotta say, I never saw that coming. Having just joined this year, Twitter has been amazing helping me stay motivated. It pushes me to stay fit, eat healthy, and find other people who have the same goals. I’ve loaded up my follow list with mostly fitness, health, and clean eating lovers. Their continual positive tweets through the day has motivated me more than once to work out or eat better. I really recommend doing the same if you need a little extra support in keeping your fitness and eating goals. Look for me on there too @TakeFlightLive

(Nellie- my other great motivator. When all of her balls are sitting at my feet and she’s giving me this stare, I know it’s time for a walk break.)

What is something surprising that has helped you stay motivated?

Finding my fight

Where do you find inspiration? Sometimes we have a story we want to share but just don’t have an idea how to bring up. It feels awkward or uncomfortable. The only thing to do is blurt it out with no introduction. This is one of those stories.

When I was a junior in highschool, life was awful. I don’t know why. I really feel like I woke up one day stuck in a giant, black sucking hole. No single event started this spiral so it was really hard fixing an issue that had no cause. This went on for months and it was getting to the point where I was going to graduate, go to college, and make some really crappy decisions. I was in one of those critical moments where my life was going to be altered and I could end up being a person I wasn’t supposed to be in a place far from where I was supposed to go. I was a hot mess of anorexia, bulimia, major depression, and contemplating suicide. Life was not going to get better. I was sad and alone with very little hope. I knew my parents were having a rough time watching this and they were also unsure what to do. I had no interest in going to counseling and really didn’t think anything would change me at that point. My parents were at a total loss but they knew I loved the outdoors and needed a challenge, both physically, emotionally, and mentally. For years I had read Backpacker and Outside magazine (yeah, my love for life in hiking boots started early) and had seen ads for different schools that taught enthusiasts how to climb, backpack, camp, and be guided into wild parts of the world. While I had casually mentioned this to my parents, there had never really seemed like a good time sign up for one of these schools. Until now. Enter Colorado Outward Bound School in Leadville, Colorado. While this wasn’t a place for troubled teens, there was no way one could spend a month in the wilderness camping and climbing, completely isolated from the world, and not experience some type of change.

This girl from Kansas suddenly found herself on the side of a 12,000 foot ridge in the middle of the Rockies, struggling under the weight of a 60 pound pack, gasping for air and energy, and wondering if being airlifted home was an option. Having spent months earlier wrecking my body with eating disorders, I really wasn’t the picture of fitness. Every day was a miserable, exhausting process of hiking and climbing for hours, unable to breathe, and trailing so far behind the group that one of the instructors would get stuck hiking with me so I wouldn’t get separated from everyone else. I couldn’t wait for lunch when I could inhale some cheese and crackers and then lay down and nap while everyone else enjoyed the scenery. My body was pissed. I was pissed. I hated feeling this weak. Finally one day, I think the instructors got tired of drawing straws of who would get to hike with me and so they put me up front to lead the group up the side of a mountain. Up to this point, the group had been lead by two guys, one a quarterback and the other a soccer player. They could go all day and not break a sweat. I could hear the silent groans of the group knowing we wouldn’t get any distance covered since I was in the lead. As I made my way up front, my chest was pounding. I could feel this surge of energy and suddenly I wanted to prove to myself and the group I could do this. Within seconds, dirt and rock was tumbling all around me as I carved a path out for the group. My legs and breathing settled into a rhythm and my eyes were locked on the top of the ridge. I could hear the group behind me making shocked comments wondering where I had been hiding this whole time. Pretty soon they were asking me to slow down. I waited until I heard the football and soccer player ask again before deciding to slow my pace. When we took a break on the ridge, everyone joked around that if we needed to get somewhere fast during the rest of the trip, they would just stick me up front. I knew there was a huge smile on my face but what others couldn’t see was all the screaming and jumping up and down that was going on inside of me. I was back and ready to fight. Our month-long trip was capped off by a 13 mile run up the 13,736 foot mountain, aptly named Mount Champion. I had never run before so the fact that I did a double challenge like this absolutely blew my mind. I came home a stronger, happier person who was ready to tackle the future.

Back in Kansas, the giant black hole that had engulfed my life was suddenly reduced to a grey rain puddle. It’s funny how when you’re happy, blue sky’s are everywhere. I was more confident having returned from Outward Bound and was suddenly making new friends and becoming more outgoing. The mental battles were still there but now I had a better support group. I loved how strong I had become living in the mountains hauling my possessions around so I wasn’t about to lose my muscle or my endurance. I started eating again and taught myself to take pride in being strong and building muscle instead of finding pleasure in how I could make size 0 pants bag from me. This was going to be a process that would take years to overcome and I needed to start learning. My interest in fitness and wellness started when I was about 6 years old at Christmas when I got my first pair of sand-filled weights, sweatband, and workout cassette. When I decided to become an exercise science major and get my license as a personal trainer, things just felt natural, like this was the path I was supposed to take all along.

I’ve gone back to Leadville many time since Outward Bound to camp, hike, and climb. One mountain, Elbert, has always eluded me. We were supposed to climb it during Outward Bound but had to change plans last-minute. Elbert is one of the tallest 14ers in the lower 48 states and on my summer adventure this year, I wanted to make it happen. This was my way of remembering where I have been and what I’ve done since my life changed in those mountains. I am very proud to say here are the views from the top….

My inspiration of mountain climbing might seem cheesy at first but it makes me think of everything that I went through in highschool and college. It was years of hard work making my body strong again, finding happiness, and conquering mental demons. Learning how to climb and finishing Outward Bound is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done physically. Beating my battle with depression, eating disorders, low confidence is the hardest thing I’ve ever done mentally. Staring at a jagged, sharp, towering slab of grey rock, sometimes so high up it’s hidden in the clouds, makes me think of how I’ve conquered my impossible. Whenever I’m at a point where I want to quit or I am wondering if it’s worth the work and misery, I think of the mountain tops I’ve sat on, and the absolute euphoric peace of knowing I made the right choice to keep fighting.

Dear World

If you’ve never heard of Dear World, check them out for some amazing inspiration and stirring photography. They were part of the TedxKC event I attended a few weeks ago. Take flight and live has been a great mantra for me in the last year. It has helped me make decisions and live my life differently. I’ve experienced more, felt happier, managed my stress better, and my body is feeling great despite my hectic schedule. I have nothing but excitement for my future.

What inspirational quote has changed your life?