Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Mantra: On the inside / Zero is not a size

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Where are you the most beautiful? On the inside
It's been a while since I've written with careless abandon. I've been more cautious with my words, more timid with my sharing of thoughts. I catch myself questioning what I want to say. I felt a need to build a safety net of sorts around myself. And that meant being a little less me than normal. That little less bothers me…a lot.

In an attempt to be a lot more of me, I'm pushing myself. To try harder, to live once again with a more open heart, to have more fun in the ways I have fun, and to not shrink back from what other people think about what I think. Ultimately, I'm trying to Be More Me.

It's funny how much you can change over time. I think back to a version of myself 10 years younger who was so hell bent on Making It In Life that it never occurred to me to care that much about others opinions of me. Not that I didn't think about it, because I did, but I cared far more about what I thought about me than about what they thought of me. Somewhere along the road that all changed. That change is the problem.

Part of the problem is the world, part of the problem is how easily it affects me. And everyone, really. The images on blast constantly of what we should look like, what we have to do to look like that, what we should spend our money on to get to that visual, and how then we should act after we do all of that- it's overwhelmingly exhausting.

The other day I found this article of a father writing to his daughter of what beauty really is. Not a makeup bottle, a magazine cover, someone else's opinion of you, or the size of your clothes. It's on the inside. It's your heart, your inner goodness, the value you add to the world by your actions.

Then I ran across this old but lovely picture of Sophia Bush back from her One Tree Hill days and the campaign against eating disorders- Zero is not a Size. I adore Sophia Bush, not just for her awesome acting skills, but for her awesome human being skills. Not only is she truly fighting the good fight against eating disorders in real life, she's also out there saving animals, saving the world, fighting for equality, and demonstrating what it is to be a strong and beautiful woman through her actions. We need more role models like her in the world.

We need to be those role models. For ourselves, our friends, our family, our children.

February 23 - March 1 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Go here to find more information on helping yourself or helping someone you love with an eating disorder.

Also, take a moment to read the article the father wrote to his daughter and let it all soak in. Repeat his words to yourself when you're having a moment of self doubt or self criticism.

Where are you the most beautiful? 

On the inside.

On the inside is what counts.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Mantra: Dark Moments

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: I have dark moments to remember
Far too often, usually when everything is going well, I’ll hit some small, very minor bump in the road and panic. I’ll over think and over analyze every little detail. It won’t matter if it was a bad moment, a bad day, or a bad week. In my mind, for that time frame, it was the most horrible thing to have ever happened to me in life. 

Thinking like that is the problem. 

When I find myself in a downward spiral like that, I think back to my actual bad days. My darkest hours of all the hours I’ve spent on this earth. I think of the sadness, the pain, the heavy hearted air to everything. 

While that may sound depressing, it is actually very uplifting. Remembering those truly dark moments keeps me honest with myself, accountable, aware. It helps to keep things in perspective. It helps me stay true to the minor moments that don’t actually matter. 

I am thankful for the darkness because it makes me appreciate the light, the dawn, the dusk of everything.

Monday, February 10, 2014

In the World of Wellness: Move If You Wanna

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.

In the World of Wellness: Just 10,000 steps to a healthier you
Tory Burch for Fitbit
Several months ago I signed up for a work competition which involved walking at least 56,000 steps a week. Since 10,000 steps a day is the recommend amount for an active, healthy lifestyle, I wanted to up my game and help me get to the coveted 70,000 steps per week. To help aid in my tracking of this, I did extensive research between the leading brand names in activity trackers. It came down to either the Jawbone Up or the Fitbit Flex. After reading many, many, many, many articles and reviews, I purchased the Flex.

For those of you who are debating, I'll help lay out my decision on why I went with this one so you don't have to do nearly the amount of research I did. While the Jawbone Up definitely has better technology (not by a lot, but better) and while it's sleeker looking and the bands don't stand out as much on your wrist, the cons outweighed the benefits- for me, anyway.

The Flex syncs up right to my phone, so I never have to plug anything in to see how well I'm doing. The Jawbone Up, on the other hand, requires you to take it off and plug it into your phone. While this means I have to charge my Flex every 7 days or so, I still much prefer the ease of tracking at a glance. The Flex band is soft and comfortable to wear and sleep in, while the Jawbone Up felt a little heavier and more restrictive on my wrist. The ultimate deciding factor, however, was the user reviews. The Jawbone tends to have a lot of issues breaking, in a variety of ways. Mostly what I read was that it either stops working or the band falls apart. A lot. Within a short amount of user time. I couldn't find nearly as many issues with the Flex and, after having one for almost 5 months now, I can say I haven't had one single problem. Additionally, it's $20-$30 cheaper (depending on where you purchase it), and all I really wanted was to see how much I moved in a day without clipping something to my waist, so the Flex was the perfect fit. I do want to point out that trackers that clip to your waist tend to be the most accurate of any option out there. Annoying, but highly accurate.

The cool thing about Fitbit is that they've been around for a while and have a variety of products and, most recently, released the Force, which shows data right on your wrist instead of having to look at your phone anytime you want to see how well you've done. They also just released a new color, violet, to the collection of wristbands you can get to hold your device. Better than all of that, however, they are working on a designer series of bands by Tory Burch so it no longer looks like you're a prison inmate. Check this out. Much, much better.

Now, the more important thing, why 10,000 steps a day? We've all heard about this daily target, but why this specific number? Well, my friends, a doctor in Japan came up with the daily target decades ago when he was trying to understand the difference between being considered an active person vs. an inactive person. He determined that the average person walks somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day and that, by increasing their steps to 10,000 a day, they could burn roughly 20% more calories. Not only that, those extra steps help reduce the risk of heart disease and, of course, lead to a slimmer waistline. Additionally, the dangers of sitting have been a new hot topic that everyone from Dr. Oz to the Huffington Post has been reporting on. By walking those 10,000 steps you help reduce the risk of inactivity caused by desk jobs and coach potato-ness. It's a win-win.

I recall this being a topic of discussion back in my nutrition school days as well. When the health of Japan was compared to the overall health of America, it was seen that the Japanese lead a healthier lifestyle through their diet and activity choices. Activity wise, they walk further distances that most Americans do on a daily basis. In fact, most other countries lead more active daily lives than we do. In many other countries people walk or even bike to work. Some countries, such as Denmark or the Netherlands, even use bikes as one of their main forms of transportation.

While this isn't always feasible for us in the states, we can try and make it a goal to walk the suggested 10,000 steps a day. I've found that the Flex does a tremendous job of keeping me motivated toward this goal. I'll admit, I don't hit the 10,000 mark every single day, but I generally hit the 70,000 steps per week by having some days where I'm more active than others. As long as I get to that 70k mark, I feel pretty good about the week.

If you're new to this 10,000 steps thing, start small. Aim for 6000 steps a day at first, then 8,000. Work your way up to 10,000. And if you have a busy schedule like me, see how well you do week over week. You may have slower days, but you'll probably find that the busier days help balance you out.

Whatever you do, and whatever tracker you decide to go with, have fun with it. It's a tool to help you establish a new awareness of how much you move.

Monday, February 3, 2014

All Around the World: Arizona

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.
Image via Babble


When I thought about doing a series on travel, putting Arizona on my list of Great Places To Go never occurred to me. Mostly because I live here and I do tend to think other places are more exciting, but sometimes it takes something small to make you realize how wrong you are.

Let's get the vibe going, ladies and gentlemen. Play this video song while you read. Also, watch the pictures in it. That's a lot of multi-tasking, but I believe in you.

I've lived in Arizona my whole life. I grew up in a teeny, tiny town called Payson, two hours away from the heat of the valley (Phoenix) and the cold of the snow (Flagstaff). This is probably my favorite thing about Arizona: the ability to go from desert, cactus, and heat to pine trees, snow, and lakes all in under four hours, all within the same state.

One of my most favorite places in the whole world is Jerome. Jerome is an old mining town/ghost town, where artists of all kinds set up shop, as well as some very famous musicians. Maynard James Keenan, anyone? Yep, he loves Jerome too. He has Caduceus Cellars, a pretty fancy schmancy wine store, and Puscifer, a little store with some weird things. Maynard fans will know what I mean.

Anyway, I've been going to Jerome since I was a baby. I love the eeriness of it. I love the motorcycle bars and the park that sits above these giant staircases. I love the winding road, the back alleys full of weeds, and my favorite place to eat there, The Asylum, part of the Jerome Grand Hotel. Yes, the food is great, but what's better is the atmosphere and the history. The Asylum is perched high on the hill and was formerly a hospital before it shut down due to the end of the mining operation. Thanks to its origins, many people believe the hotel is haunted. I've been there at least a dozen times and one very specific time I was pretty darn sure I was not alone even when I was alone. You get what I mean. It was creeptastic.

Not only can you go get yourself scared half to death, but you can go on a tour of the old mines with the Gold King Mine Museum. I will say that this tour has changed significantly over the years. There used to be a lot more to it than there is now. Before, you could walk into some of the old buildings that now, you can only see from a distance. They are old though, so I'm sure this is a safety thing. There used to be a larger trail to follow that even took you to a hermits cave, but that closed down a while ago. It's still fun in a junkyard kind of way.

A short drive from Jerome and you're in my next favorite place, Sedona. This little town is famous for all kinds of things. For it's red rocks, for the psychics and vortexes, for it's overall awesomeness. I highly recommend Pink Jeep Tours, if you go there. It helps to have a fun driver, but basically you go off-roading, up and down some very steep hills, while you get to check out the amazing scenery. And it is amazing. Just look. Ooo, ahh.

Sedona also houses a little place called Tlaquepaque. Got that? Tuh-law-key-paw-key. It's home to artists and art galleries galore, and my favorite little seashell store. While you're in Sedona, book yourself a horseback riding tour. You'll get some great old horse named Lady and you'll mosey along a very beautiful trail in the mountains, with a walk through a river and a picnic lunch. Mighty nice, if I do say so myself.
What else does Arizona have? I lamely just found out we also have one of the most beautiful canyons in the world- Antelope Canyon. All these years I've seen pictures of this place and never even knew it was here. Dummy. But I'm planning a trip now to go see this for myself. Check it out. It doesn't even look real, but it is.

Arizona has a lot of beautiful, wonderful, great places to visit. Tucson is great for the music scene, Flagstaff is home to lakes, snow, hiking trails, and the Lowell Observatory. Let's not forget the Grand Canyon, of course. Payson, my hometown, has more antique stores than is sanely possible to contemplate, given its size. Seriously. There are like 22 of them. Phoenix and it's neighbors (Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Scottsdale, etc.) have shopping and restaurants galore, which brings me to gelato. When you live in an oven 6 months out of the year, you need gelato. I would now like to introduce you the best gelato in the entire world: Frost.
Best in the world, you say? Yes. Here's why I, and others, confidently say this. First of all, I've tried gelato in 21 different countries, repeatedly in Italy even. I'm not bragging, I'm just making my case. You would think Italy would beat everyone out, but no. This is the best gelato IN THE WORLD. Another reason why? The former head master (head chef/guy in charge of gelato/whatever) of the gelato institute of Italy owns it. Yep. He retired and decided to open his own chain of gelato stores. This explains why gelato in Italy doesn't compare to gelato here. He must have taken his secret recipes with him. Oh man, is it good. It's so creamy and yummy and there's so much to choose from, and it's gluten free, and the samples...

Sorry, sorry. I'm getting hungry. Moving on.

As mentioned earlier, I had not originally planned on an Arizona post. So what changed my mind?

A sunset.

From every country I've ever visited and every sunset I've ever seen, none compare to what I have here at home. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of beautiful sunsets, they're just not Arizona sunsets. We are blessed with some of the most vibrant colors in the world. Almost every single night the sky lights up with flames of red and orange, and as we approach the darker hours the shades turn to rich purples and blues. I am constantly in awe of the sky. Constantly. This is what I get to see every day.

This all by itself is one heck of a reason to come visit. I'm sure I've missed mentioning some other great places, but come visit Arizona and I'm sure you'll find an adventure wherever you choose to go. Just don't come in, say, July. Or August. Or June, even. It's seriously hot as hell during the summer.

P.S. There's still time to participate in the Pay it Forward initiative! Email me a list of your favorite things (books, bacon, whiskers on kittens and dewdrops on roses) and I'll pick five people at random to get some free stuff  sent to them over the course of this next year from yours truly. Maybe it will even be stuff from Sedona. Who knows. That's all part of the fun with these random acts of kindness.

But seriously people, join in. I love shopping. And you get to participate too. See? Good things all around. Email Do it. You know you want to.

P.P.S. I found all of these pictures on Google and they are not mine. Whoever they truly belong to, good job. They're awesome.