Author Archives: Nicholle

The Mindset Mistake Most People Make

Have you experienced frustration when trying to get healthier, lose weight, and gain strength?  If you say yes, you’re telling the truth!  On bad days, thatwilder frustration can tempt you to stay inactive.  On worse days, you may feel hopeless and want to give up entirely.
What’s at the heart of the struggle?  What separates people who are successful in reaching their goals and those who give up?
I’ve found time and time again that it comes down to mindset.
Humans are creatures of habit, and we often think of habit exclusively as things we DO.  But the doing starts with thinking, and we may not even be aware of the reflexive thoughts and assumptions that are holding us back from reaching our optimal health.

 

These unrealistic expectations, aka “failure mindset” are poison to your health and goals.

 

What the failure mindset looks like:
  • Wanting the 6-12 month result NOW
  • Not accepting obstacles and missteps as a given, and not having a contigency plan
  • not having a plan for fuel opportunities (meal/snack times and social gatherings; EG deciding ahead of time when you will and won’t splurge on a treat)
  • thinking “on the ‘Biggest Loser’ show, contestants drop double digit pounds a week so I should be able to” (sadly, almost ALL former contestants gain some, all or more of their weight back)
Unrealistic expectations look like:
  • going to the gym for a week or two then quitting when you don’t see an immediate difference (this happens en masse every January)
  • making an unplanned unhealthy food choice and saying “I screwed up so screw it” for the rest of the day/week/month
  • by the same token, an “all-or-nothing” mindset.  Work out 5 days a week or none; never eat sugar again or eat way too much of it; be either thin or fat, healthy or unhealthy.  Neither approach is sustainable.
The biggest danger of unrealistic expectations is that they set you up for failure by robbing you of the very consistency needed for great results.  Save yourself from the failure mindset with honest awareness.
Here’s what to expect on the way to your goal:
  • A marathon, not a sprint.  Good health is for life, not just 2 weeks or months or years from now.  It takes time to develop the mindset and the lasting healthy habits that follow.
  • Freeing yourself from the scale.  A scale is but a few pixels of an entire picture.  It’s a tool that can show some progress, but blood work results, energy level, body composition (lean vs. fat mass) and movement quality are all fitness components MUCH more important than that number.
  • Mis-steps happen.  A mis-step is simply an unplanned detour from the path to your goal(s).  Everybody has different ones depending on what the goal is.  If your goal is to eat greens every day of the week, and you miss six days, figure out where it went wrong; typically either your goal is unrealistic, or you’ve missed some opportunities (EG you were busy and didn’t have time to go to the market and buy arugula or what you had went bad).  The antidote is to decide on and implement a plan.  How can you improve next time?  What will you do to improve next time?
  • It’s uncomfortable.  Getting back in shape isn’t without discomfort, and not just the physical aspect.  You’re becoming more aware of your body, but you’re not yet where you want to be health-wise, and that’s an uncomfortable space to live in.  It won’t be sunshine every day, and you’ll have good days, worse days, and best days.  When it feels like it sucks, you’ll recognize that it’s part of the process and free yourself to keep going toward success.   
I want you to treat yourself kindly when you make choices out of line with your goals…and then get right back up and take control of your health!
Do couple of stretches, a few pushups, or take a mindful deep breath.  A small action re-orients your path.  Call a supportive friend or text your trainer.  Drink water.  Eat a vegetable at your next meal.  Figure out a healthy behavior that you can do, do it, and feel better.
Be honest.  Be present.  The most important moment of your life is the very next moment.  Be in that moment and turn toward what you really want.

What’s Your Soul Food?

The landscape used to look very different in America.  Prior to WWI, most citizens were farmers, working and eating from the land.  Farm-to-table wasn’t a hipster movement but an actual way of life.rockyridge

When I was little, I was only allowed to eat real food for the first few years, albeit a slice of birthday cake here and there.  As I got older, fast food became more ubiquitous because of convenience and the fact that it tasted good, so everyone in the family would eat it.

As a result of the Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, pizza, and Chinese food, I got lazy.  I barely knew how to cook when I left college, and when I moved to CA I was mostly surviving on frozen food from Trader Joe’s.  Thankfully, then-boyfriend-now-husband taught me the basics of cooking, and after a few months we were regularly making dinner together.

I’ve never felt better than when I make dinner every night: fresh veggies, something with healthy fat and protein, green salad, and complex carbs.  A serving of each seems to be in perfect balance with whatever my body needs.  When I get away from that, my energy and well-being suffer.

Food is truly natural, un-processed, and has few ingredients.  Non-food is processed, probably comes in a bag or box, and may have six ingredients or sixty.  Just because something is edible doesn’t make it food.  Just because you grew up eating something, doesn’t make it food.  Just because it tastes good, doesn’t make it food.  Check your habits at the door and question everything you think you know about food and eating.  When you open your thought process, rather than chasing the latest “diet”, you’ll be able to make the choices that are best for your health and your well-being: true soul food.

I like the 80/20 guide: eighty percent of the time, eat fresh things (food) that originally came from the ground, not a factory.  The other twenty percent of the time, enjoy stuff you like that’s fast, processed (non-food) and/or not the healthiest choice.  Not 80 percent salad, though.  Change it up regularly so you and your taste buds don’t get bored.  (Plus 20 percent for whatever your cupcake equivalent is!)

Pro tip # 2: add three fresh vegetables (two green) and two fresh fruits to your daily eating.  Have fun with it by looking up healthy, delicious recipes that use in-season, thus more affordable veggies.   Simply planning more and adding produce will have you well on your way to higher-nutrient eating and more energy to live life and meet your goals.

[Photo: Santa Teresa State Park, San Jose, CA]

How Will You Fare Downstream?

Many of us give our future selves the shaft on a regular basis. We spend money we don’t have, eat sugar we don’t need, and procrastinate to the point that stress is inevitable.

We’re human. How can we manage to change our behavior for the better whemultnomahfallsn our best intentions don’t match what we do?  This: Be proactive. Start thinking upstream.

In business, “upstream” refers to the process of searching for and procuring raw materials. For our purposes, upstream behaviors encompass gathering all of the tools and support needed to be successful in making healthy changes.

First, ask yourself: what is the specific behavior that you want to do?  “Eating healthier” is a good goal but the target is too broad.  Start with one behavior, like eating one serving of greens per day, or drinking a glass of water when you wake up.  Then break it down: what resources do YOU need to make that behavior happen?

The answer to that question is driven principally by two things: motivation and ability*:

Here’s how to approach each one to maximize your success:

Motivation: 

  • Prepare your mind.  Create a mental picture of how you’ll look and feel when you reach your goal.  Alternatively, consider what not taking action will lead to in a month, six months, a year, and down the road.
  • Get social support.  Enlist as many people as possible to champion your efforts, especially those closest to you.  Reach out to them for encouragement when you need it.  Ask them to remind you why you’re doing this.
  • Be accountable and reward yourself.  Track activity with an app or paper log to see progress.  For every X number of workouts completed, put $5-10 aside for a treat like massage, mani/pedi, or new fitness gear.

Ability:

  • Try something new to build knowledge, experience, and confidence.  Go to a group fitness class that’s new for you.  Try strength training, or rock climbing, or a challenging hike.  Attend a healthy eating or stress management talk, or read a related book or reputable source online.
  • Get professional coaching.  An effective trainer is worth their weight in gold and more.  A good trainer can help you reach your short-term goal, and a great trainer will teach you everything you need to know to stay as healthy as possible over the long-term.
  • Set up an environment for success.  Make it easy to eat healthfully and work out.  Set a calendar alert to remind you to drink water or try a salad for lunch.  Block off time for a workout.  Make it harder to eat unhealthful food by not buying it at all or hiding it behind something that’s better for you.  Plan to only eat dessert twice a week, and do so away from home.

The more sources of influence you incorporate, the higher your chance of success in completing your goal.  Addressing at least 4 of these thoroughly “upstream” has been proven to boost your future (“downstream”) achievement.

Keep these guidelines close and figure out what’s going to work for you by trying different things.  Will writing out your plan work for you?  How much flexibility and professional support will you need?  Stay curious and be persistent.

What do you need to do now in order to reach your goal downstream?

[Photo: Multnomah Falls on a foggy day outside of Portland, OR]

*For further reading: Change Anything.

How to Motivate Yourself Without Fail

sunsetI love working out.  Breaking a sweat makes me feel amazing and strong.  I feel good, look good, sleep deeply, and keep stress at bay.  If there was a magic pill for health, it would be wholesome food and regular exercise, and fitness in my life is as automatic as taking a daily dose.  I help other people figure out how to make it a successful habit in their lives, so they can thrive in our rapidly advancing world and feel full of vitality, too.  It’s a thrill to partner with someone and help take the burden of modern healthy living from them.

That said, success takes two.  There’s a key difference between who I will work with, and who I won’t work with.  But first, I want to ask you this:

Which comes first, action or motivation?

Most people say it’s motivation.  First get motivated, then act.

TRAINER NEWSFLASH: You’ll be waiting a while, because ACTION is what motivates.

And now is the time to act.  If not now, it won’t happen.  It hasn’t happened.  If not now, then when?

The absolute best way to motivate yourself is to do something.  Go for a walk.  Join a gym.  Take a deep breath and step on the doctor’s scale.  Hire a trainer.  Set a goal and get as many people as possible to cheer you on.  Invest in yourself and you will not let yourself down.

I’ve heard it over and over again: “I’m just not motivated.  It’s too much effort, too much time, too much hassle, too much work.  I don’t know what to do.”  On and on.  Sound familiar?  When you tell yourself these things, you ensure that you’ll never be motivated because you’re talking yourself out of action.  Find your why and you WILL take action.

You’re tired of thinking about it, and you’re tired of talking about it.  Let’s do it!  It’s my joy and privilege to work with those who take action to improve their health and well-being.  You can reach out with questions by emailing me at PrimarilyFit@gmail.com.

The sun is down on 2014, and it’s a new year with new energy!  Cheers to your vitality in 2015 and beyond.

[Photo: Sunset en route to the Golden Isles, Georgia]

Diets Don’t Work! What To Do Instead

lyon1Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, vegan, juice cleanses, raw food, gluten-free…there are a lot of diets out there.  Every one of them markets itself as the “right” one for you, and does so brilliantly.  You’re unhealthy because you eat carbs (Atkins).  No, because you eat the wrong kind of carbs (South Beach). Actually, you don’t eat enough meat/animal fat (Paleo).  Whoa, you shouldn’t be eating anything from an animal ever (vegan)!  Time to “detox” (juice cleanses) and make sure your body has enough “living” enzymes (raw food).  And wheat is definitely ruining your digestive system (time to go gluten-free)!

I don’t believe in defining any food as inherently bad – REAL food, that is.  Allergies and sensitivities are one thing, but food itself is not bad.  In fact, real food is delicious, energizing and satisfying.  More to come on food vs. not food; right now we need to reclaim the four-letter D-word.

Did you know that the word “diet” comes from the Greek root “diaita” meaning “way of living”? A diet is not what you don’t eat, not a fad, and not something you “go on” to lose weight.  The way we currently use the word doesn’t work for me, and TRAINER NEWSFLASH: it doesn’t work for anyone.  “Diets” fail almost 100% of the time.  Weight is re-gained, and you have “failed”.  But a “diet” was never the answer, failure was inevitable, and it’s not your fault.   You’ve been set up.  Most people do not realize this.  The diet and weight loss industry is worth over 20 BILLION dollars for a reason, and that’s because a lot of people buy the hype.  We buy it because we need an answer to this problem of how to eat, enjoy our food, and stay healthy in the age of technology.  How on earth are we supposed to do all three at once?

Conventionally, “diets” are a temporary solution to an ongoing problem, so first we’ve got to re-define what a diet is.

Diet (n.) : what you eat.

That’s it.

Everything is permissible to eat, but not everything is beneficial to eat.

Some things, especially in large amounts, can cause metabolic harm (soda, beer, and refined sugar come to mind).  Does that mean you need to limit those things?  Absolutely.  Does it mean you can never enjoy those things?  Absolutely not.

I want eating to be a pleasurable experience and I believe it should be.   As a trainer, I often fine-tune how my clients are eating.  Recommendations always depend on lifestyle and goals, and eating is mindful and balanced with physical activity to derive maximum enjoyment.  It’s so much better than any depressing “diet” of deprivation, and all it takes is curiosity and a few simple guidelines.

The best news of all: it’s sustainable forever.

There’s no “going off the diet” and re-gaining what you’ve worked so hard to lose.  No “failing” and feeling badly about yourself.  Just simplicity and balance.  Savoring and splurging.  Feeding your body and mind what you need to function at your best.

So no more “diets”!  Eat mindfully, and be happy.

[Photo: Lyon Street; San Francisco, CA]

Wherever You Go, There You Are?

windyhill

Where are you right now?

Are you happy?  Are you fulfilled?  Are you as healthy as you can be?

Take a few moments presently to reflect on where you are in your life right now.  Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and consider: where do you see yourself in 2015?  How about five years from now?  Ten years?  Twenty?

You’ve noticed the thoughts that came to mind when you ask yourself these important questions.  Living life as you are now, what is your future health status going to be?

You can do everything in your power right now to make that future a comfortable, even thriving one.  Even if you’ve tried before and think you’ve failed.  Even if you feel like it’s a lost cause and you’ll never get to where you want to be.

You owe it to yourself to try.  And try again.  And again.

Because eventually you’ll find the right solutions.  You’ll function better and better as time goes on.  You’ll wonder how you traveled this far.  You’ll find joy in the journey.

You’ll be the absolute best YOU that you can be.  That’s how I train my clients, because moving steadily in the right direction is better than sprinting in the wrong one.

Wherever you go, there you are.  It’s true.  I want you to deeply and completely accept yourself as you progress toward better health.

We have a vision.  You, in five, ten, twenty years and beyond, knowing you did everything you could and put in the effort that it takes to thrive in this modern world.

So let’s flip the title:

Wherever you go,

there you’ll be.

Keep going.

[Photo: Windy Hill; Portola Valley, CA]

fearnofailure

Many habit changes fail.  Why?

One important reason: lack of motivation.

Why does motivation fade?

Because you forget the most important, ONLY thing you need to remember in order to be successful.

There’s one key to getting motivated and staying motivated.

It’s this:

WHY?

What is your why?  WHY do you need to change and want to change?  What’s your reason, right now?

  • Staying healthy.
  • Feeling good.
  • Looking good.
  • Looking good naked.
  • Getting married.
  • Starting a family.
  • Being able to keep up with children and grandchildren.
  • Losing weight.
  • Keeping weight off.
  • Healing disease, or
  • Preventing disease altogether.
  • What’s your reason?

Find it and HOLD ON TO IT.

Write it down, type it into your phone, look at it every day on your mirror, set it to pop up on your calendar.  Imprint it onto your being and tell it to the world.

Whatever it is, keeping your why in the forefront of your mind and heart will lead to your success.

[Photo: Seen @ the Embarcadero; San Francisco, CA ]

tree

What comes to mind when you hear “healthy person”?  What do you think a day in their life looks like?

I ask my clients this because I want to understand their thought process. I hear all kinds of answers: “someone who eats right”, is “at the right weight” and “works out a lot”.  Women often say “thin” or “skinny”, and men envision “cut with a six-pack”.  Others tell me, “I want to lose thirty pounds in six weeks!”.  Clearly, many of the answers I get are non-specific (or unrealistic!) and involve physical appearance only.  Physicality is a significant part of fitness and wellness, because you essentially ARE your body and I want you to feel good in it—yet, you are SO much more than a sum of its parts.  There are much deeper factors at play determining how you look and feel than simply eating certain foods (“dieting”) and doing cardio and weights a few times a week (“exercising”).  We’ll be defining—and redefining—what these two terms mean.  Food and activity are important.  But we’ve got to start somewhere else, and that’s in your mind.

In your mind, is healthy living a burden?  Is it a short-term project?  Is it about a number on the scale?  Is it an undertaking in which you’re set up to fail, committing yourself to live up to an impossible set of ideals?  Is it something you haven’t cared about until now?  Whatever the case, you might be asking yourself, “What are the most important things I need to know right now?

In my experience, the following five principles are the basic behavioral pillars that define healthy people:

  • Healthy choices are their default priority.  The mindset is: “Don’t think about it, just do it.” – This is key and one of the first things I share with clients.  Avoid arguing with yourself and sapping mental energy – “will I go to the gym today?  Will I park my car further from the store and walk an extra two minutes?  Will I skip the drive through and stop by the grocery store for a rotisserie chicken and salad greens instead?”  Your future self wants you to say YES!!! Do what you can, and start with what I call a “bite-size behavior”, like working the stairs instead of riding the elevator.  We’ll be going into great detail later on this blog about changing the environment around you to engineer better choices.  For now, onto the most important healthy defaults.
  • Unprocessed food makes up most of what they eat. Vegetables, fruits, high quality meats, eggs, beans, and nuts are a few examples.  Generally, “Food” that comes in a bag or a box and has changed form in some way is avoided.  The reason is simple: unprocessed food tends to have many more nutrients, which actually help you feel and function better, not worse.  Unprocessed food = healthy body that feels great.  Crap in a box = feeling like crap.  Does that mean no splurging on stuff that tastes delicious but isn’t so nutritious?  Of course splurging is part of the plan!  More on that later.
  • Physical activity is part of their routine. Again, they just do it.  Whether it’s going for a walk, a swim or a hike, or cranking out some bodyweight exercises, or lifting weights at the gym, the healthy-living crowd finds a way to stay active.  Some people naturally love to break a sweat, and others don’t.  That’s completely okay.  Either way, the truth is that you will function better with regular physical activity.  It’s a fact of human life, and once you make it a habit to move more, it becomes an intense reward in itself : better mood, less stress, more energy, higher quality sleep…the list is a long one.
  • They find as much social support as possible. If you prefer more social activities, ask a friend to come with you to try a walking Meetup or Fitmob group workout in your area.  Join a local fitness class inside or outside of a gym and get to know the people.  Have your partner go grocery shopping with you and help you pick out some health-promoting options that you’ll both eat.  Ask a friend who’s into cooking to share their favorite “light” recipe with you, or use the power of the Internet to Google something delicious and highly-rated (or try here).  Make your healthy living goals public and know that while some people may not understand, it’s important for you to take care of yourself, and you might influence them to make better choices while reinforcing with yourself what makes you feel your best.
  • They sleep enough! Most people need at least seven to eight hours per night, according to my primary care doctor.  Most of my clients get between five and seven, just short of what’s needed for prime functioning.  The best tip I have is to turn off the TV, laptop, tablet, and phone at least one hour before you go to bed.  Ideally, keep electronics out of the bedroom.  They’ll be there tomorrow, and with adequate refreshing sleep, you’ll be ready.

Taking care of yourself is a responsibility, an exploration, a source of true joy when you make a choice and recognize that your future self will thank you for it.  It’s a personal journey, one in which you’re naturally searching for what works best for you.

These pillars support a process, played out over time.  It doesn’t happen at all once, but in some natural stops and starts.  Bookmark this list and come back to it often to refresh when needed.   Master the basics and do them consistently.  Healthy habits equal results!  We’ll talk more soon about keeping the motivational fire burning.

[Photo: Autumn tree @ dusk; Sunnyvale, California]

bamboo

This is a blog about fitness: the new primary care.  It starts with you.

In the modern world, self care is more important than ever.  Overweight adult Americans will be at 75% of the country’s population by 2020 (CDC 2013).  This is a national nightmare that we have yet to wake up from.  At this rate, if we don’t snap out of it soon, we’ll all be struggling with our health in a matter of years.  What kind of a life is that?  I’m not suggesting you go on an all-out juice diet, or spend hours in a gym.  I’m talking about your health: all of it, everything that you believe and do.  I’m telling you that being strong physically carries over into everything else in your life.  We’re going to talk about how you can find what works for you and re-define the terms “diet” and “exercise”.  I’m going to guide you through the fitness forest and share with you ways to eat and move and take care of yourself that will leave you happier and more energetic in the moment.  This isn’t about short-lived fads or unsustainable deprivation.  You’re going to be empowered to attain and maintain your healthiest body forever.

Why haven’t we all been able to do this already?  A major factor is the external world and its lack of support for healthy habits.  The American environment today has changed radically in the last several decades along with the technological boom.  The car, the TV, and the computer have created a world where we can easily sit over eight hours a day (in the car, at your desk, in the car, on the couch, repeat).  Just a generation ago, this was unthinkable, and there were relatively few chronically overweight and ill Americans.  Today, most of my clients fall into one of these categories when we talk for the first time:

A) Happy with their bodies, which are strong and capable, with plenty of energy to complete everything they want to accomplish in life and as clean a bill of health as possible

B) Approaching or in middle age and starting to notice weight gain and lack of energy; may have had blood work come back with newly diagnosed pre-diabetes or other concerning news

C) Dealing with significant weight gain or unhappy with their bodies, frequently sick and tired, on one or more prescription medications, and/or barely keeping it together with all of the tasks they need to complete in a given day

D) Suffering from one or more health conditions; having given up on ever attaining a healthy body or living the life they want and are coming to me in a last-ditch effort to get healthy and save their lives.

It’s time to exit the revolving door of weight ups and downs, forget needless “diet” deprivation and ditch the joyless drudgery of “exercise”.  You will enjoy food, movement, and life by learning and using a few simple tools that I’m going to teach you.  You’re going to use your external environment to engineer better health for yourself and those around you.  You’re going to free your mind from the burden of never feeling thin enough, productive enough, or good enough and become your healthiest self (at every age).  Keep reading and embrace the ideas and tools that you find here.  Come with me and with dozens of clients that have successfully adapted their lifestyles for optimal health and happiness.  I’m so excited to assist you along the way!  You owe it to yourself to find your A game.

[Photo: Bamboo Forest; Maui, Hawaii]