Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ringin' in the New Year

So I was just chatting with my best friend about New Years, and we both suddenly got super excited regarding the fact that 2010 brings an entirely new decade. 
I usually dread New Years, as the drop of the bell usually puts me into a semi depressed state, as yet another year goes by being a single girl, sans kiss at midnight. It's hard not to become just a little bit saddened by all the happy couples smooching, dancing and gallivanting around the room as the clock strikes midnight, as I stand awkwardly on the side in my pretty little dress.
But, NO, this year is going to be different. I've decided New Years isn't anything to fear. Instead, it's something to look forward to, as a new year entails new adventures, experiences, people and opportunities. It's a time to continue on with the goodness in your life, as well as start fresh with all the things you'd rather leave behind in '09. 
Enough of those stupid, cliche, generic New Year's resolutions to lose 10 pounds, exercise more or eat less chocolate. 
Rather, why not make it the year to travel and explore more often, spend more time with friends and family or allow yourself to open your heart up to love and new opportunities? 
Start thinking about what you really, truly want to make of this new year that lays ahead of us in just a few days. 
Here's a toast to new things, and a healthy, happy and wholesome New Year to look forward to for once!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Stop Counting Calories Already: They Are Actually Good For You!

The other day while devouring my large Chicken Schwarma dish with rice and salad from my new favorite Mediterranean restaurant, I got to thinking about calories.
The reason being is that two years ago, I wouldn't be able to consume a large (but, healthy) dish like that without feeling immense guilt, while simultaneously counting how many calories I was consuming. "Ugh, this has 300 calories in it. Now I'll have to work these off immediately!" I used to think to myself. 
Instead, these days I now think as food as something delicious, something I need for energy, considering I am a very active, healthy young woman. 
Too many women these days think as calories as something that will in turn make them fat. We count calories, analyze calories, and curse calories, wrongly believing that they are evil and will pack on the pounds. 
I myself used to go as far as writing down every piece of food I put in my mouth, psychotically counting up the calories, in fear I would gain weight. At one point, during my unhealthy eating phase as a freshman in college, I wouldn't allow myself anything over 1,100 calories. . . 1,000 was pushing it.  Keep in mind: this was also a time I was going to the gym for at least an hour every day. I was being extremely unhealthy. And on top of that, I was actually gaining weight because I wasn't eating enough, so my body was holding onto everything it had, also drastically slowing down my metabolism. 
Yes, now I look back and realize my behavior was crazy, but at the time I thought I was doing the right thing if I wanted to lose weight and look good. 
Yesterday, a good friend of mine and Personal Trainer at my gym said something to me that I think will help a lot of you women out there, who still have that "calories are evil" mindset.
"You know, I think people need to start looking at calories as fuel, rather than something that will make you gain weight." 
Yes, many of us know deep down calories provide energy and fuel, but we never take a second to think about it, and really believe in it. 
I wish so badly that during my unhealthy phase, I could have thought this way, because let me tell you it is much easier. I was destroying my body, and my mindset all at the same time, leading me to believe I was never good enough, never skinny enough. Now I know otherwise.
So take a break from reading the labels on every little thing, and start enjoying life, and eating because it makes you feel good and provides you with the energy you need to get you through the day. 
We read so many diet articles, books and magazines about how we need to "watch our calories, and keep an eye on our portion sizes, but there's never anything about how we need to consume healthy, good, hearty food (yes, with calories-sometimes lots of 'em) to live a healthy lifestyle as an active woman! 
Believe it or not, but from lots of reading and research, I found that an average weight 30 to 45 year old woman who exercises regularly needs up to 2,000 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight. And to think I was eating half of that a few years ago! 
No, I'm not saying dive into everything in sight-french fries, cupcakes, pizza! I'm saying fuel your body with the right foods (most of the time) like lean protein and whole grains, and you won't need to be counting calories, analyzing  what your consuming every friggin' minute. 
Us women need to come together and send out the message that instead of watching our weight, counting calories, and trying to be skinny 24/7, we should be concentrating being and living healthily. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quick Question of the Day: How Often Should I Weigh Myself?

Q: How often should I weigh myself? 
A: 
Well, I actually have two different answers to this common question, since it depends on the type of person you are. 
I say, go ahead and weigh yourself once a day, that is if you do it in a sane manner. If you choose this method, you need to understand that weight fluctuates depending on your hydration level, how much you eat the day before, whether or not you are PMSing, and how active you were the day before. 
For example, if you ate really crappy and are about to start your period, your weight is naturally going to be a little higher than usual. 
So if your weight goes up 2 pounds one day, down 3 the next, you're still staying in your range. However, if suddenly your weight sky-rockets up 5 to 8 pounds one week, you'll know you need to either cut back on those extra sweet treats at night or up your workouts a bit.
So, if you can understand the causes of the ups and downs, you are a candidate to be one who hops on that scale daily. 
For those of you who will drive yourself nuts seeing that darn number fluctuating so much, weigh yourself once a week instead. Your weight should stay around the same number, give or take a pound. If it's not, then you know you need to crack down on the problem.
So take some time to figure out what kind of person you are, and weigh yourself accordingly. Don't drive yourself nuts over it though; it's just a number and a scale is never something to be afraid of. 
I once went through a phase where I was petrified of the scale, and refused to weigh myself, and I hopped on one day a month later to find I had gone up a whopping 10 POUNDS! Therefore, stick to daily or weekly weigh-ins so the number will never creep up on you as it did me. 
One more thing: no matter what method you choose, I recommend hopping on the scale at the same time each day, preferably right upon waking before you eat breakfast. And weigh yourself in the nude, because after all, that's your truest weight. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quit the Jealousy: It's Not Pretty!

As women, we master the word jealousy a long way back, from the first day we begin kindergarten and are introduced to BOYS. It's just innately in our blood. Throughout life, we are jealous of other women's boyfriends, other women's jobs, and other women's lives in general. 
And I don't know if it's just me, but lately I've been observing a lot of women jealous of other women's bodies. It seems everywhere I go I overhear yet another woman complaining about her body, idolizing or wanting to look just like her girlfriend.
"Ahhh. . . if only I could be your size!" "I wish I had your legs," "God I hate that you can eat all that shit and still be a size 2!" 
These comments tend to come up left and right: at the corner coffee shop, on the T, at work, etc etc. My goodness, enough already ladies! These unnecessary negative comments are literally ringing in my ears all day long, giving me a headache.
I'm not going to lie. I myself went through a phase where all I did was compare myself to other girls, wishing I had what they had rather than accepting myself. But I stopped because I was literally driving myself crazy, bringing myself down whenever I couldn't live up to a "beautiful" person. I'd envy, hate, despise and even go as far as saying I wanted to be just like other women, never taking the time to appreciate my own beautiful self. 
I was jealous. And it wasn't pretty. It never is.
I then realized, why not pause for a second to think, why not just be happy with "me?" I know it's cliche to say, but everyone is different, we are all unique in our own ways, and that's what makes each and everyone one of us beautiful. 
Trust me, even if you lost the 10 pounds, trimmed down your legs to look like your personal trainer friend, and got that Barbie dream body, you still wouldn't be completely content because you'd just find something else to complain about. It's in our nature. Us women are simply never completely satisfied.
So quit stressing, let go of that competitive edge that exists inside of you, and start taking a long, hard look at yourself in a positive manner. 
You are beautiful, unique and perfect, despite the cellulite you have on your upper thighs, your arms that may jiggle a little more than you may wish and the fact that your jean size is one size bigger than your best friends. 
Embrace what you are and already have. Life will be much easier and happier once you do!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

BORED? Don't Be a Baby: Change up Your Workout Routine This Holiday Season!

So, yesterday I was bumming around the apartment, contemplating what time to go to the gym, when my roommate suggested we try taking a group fitness class for a change. I immediately thought, 'great idea,' for I knew if I just went to the gym it would turn into yet another run-of-the-mill workout: boorrringgggg
I've always been an advocate for changing up your fitness routine, but lately since I've been pressed for time, I haven't really been following my own advice. I admit it: I'm guilty. I used to be so diverse, taking a challenging step class one day, running 3 miles outside the next day followed by yoga the following day, etc. etc. But lately, I've just been plane old Jane, getting stuck in a rut.
Anyway, I took the hour long spinning class with my friend, and it felt great to do something different for a change, challenging my body in a different way. Granted, the instructor wasn't that great and the music was a mush of horrendous of songs gone wrong, I still had a good time and definitely wasn't as bored as I'd be on the elliptical.
So I challenge you to do something out of the norm today when you're working out! Maybe that's practicing intervals (short bursts of high speed activity) instead of your usual slow jog, or trying something completely new like that Forrest Yoga class offered at your gym.
 If you're normally a read-a-mag ipod gal while you're charging through your cardio drill, try going au naturel (well, with clothes on but you get the point) to really concentrate on your workout at hand. Never dared to go into the "man world" and lift weights? Come out of your shell, and stop being silly: strength training is for women as well and can actually work wonders for toning up your bod!
Come up with your own creative ideas as well to challenge yourself in unique ways! Christmas is just around the corner, and New Year's is shortly after that, so this is the time to make big changes and big moves. 
Trust me on this one, if you aren't bored already with your same old routine you surely will be in no time. Plus, studies show that changing up your workout routine not only helps challenge your body in new, different ways, but it also helps you see results faster!
So get out of that plateau girl, and start changing it up. Maybe your dream jeans you're dying to squeeze into by 2010 will fit before you know it after all! 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There is No Better Day Than Today to Start Living. . .

*From PostSecret.com

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

6 Ways to a Happier, Healthier YOU

Today I got to thinking about the little things in life that simply make you a happier, healthier, more content person. You know, the little things in life we sometimes forget to make time for. The best part is, none of these things are very time demanding at all.  If you take a few extra moments a day, you'll be on your way to a more fulfilling life! 
1. Friends: Yup, surrounding yourself with lots of friends actually benefits more than your social life. Studies show that the more friends and social networks you have, the happier you are... and happiness ultimately leads to a healthier YOU. I've always been a firm believer in this, because my great grandmother lived to be 99, and had more friends than anyone I know. Up until the day she passed away, she had visits left and right from close friends and family. So, embrace the social butterfly in you and it can benefit your health in more ways than you may think!
2. Making lists: Not only can lists motivate you to accomplish daily tasks and goals, but they can also make you feel a lot better about yourself! Lists don't always have to be monotonous "to do" notes left on the refrigerator door to make you feel stressed about your life. Lists can also be an outlet for you to write down little thoughts throughout the day. For instance, I often make little lists of things that make me happy, or things that I love and appreciate about myself/my life for an extra feel-good booster!
3. "Me" Time: "Me time" used to be something I cherished so greatly, as I've always been one to appreciate my alone time to catch up on Rachel. However, since I've moved to Boston, I've been super busy and not making enough time for "me," something I'm definitely going to work on. Whether it's taking yourself on a mini shopping spree, meditating in your room alone or making time for the gym, "me" time can work wonders for your mind and overall health! Take your "me" time to do the things that you love, things that make you feel absolutely fabulous. For example, my favorites include going to the gym, browsing endlessly on the web and walking around the city!
4. Play time: Just as importantly as "me time" is play time. As we get older, we often forget to make time to do the things we loved a a kid, or just let loose altogether. Don't be afraid to let out that inner youth, whether that's booking a fun getaway trip with a friend, or baking cookies all day long (and eating the batter too!) Just this past weekend, I hopped on a bus to NYC to visit some friends, and it felt great to just get away, have fun and not think about anything other than the moment!
5. Listening to Your Body: Sometimes, life gets so crazy that we forget to listen to our own body, something we all need to make more time for. Make a personal note of how certain foods make you feel after you eat them i.e. tired/bloated/energized/moody, etc. By listening to my own body, I found out that I'm extremely sensitive to dairy and wheat products. I used to get such bad stomach aches growing up, sometimes to the point where I was so bloated and uncomfortable I'd have to lay down, but I ignored the symptoms. Then, I recently found out that I have a sensitivity to wheat and dairy, and ever since I cut them out of my diet (or eat them extremely sparingly) I've felt  better than ever, and have lost a few pounds in the process! Listening to your body also means when you feel something is "off," don't be afraid to go to the doctor to get it checked out. Most of the time, it's nothing, but it's much better to be safe than sorry! Too many women ignore what their body is telling them, and it may hurt them in the long run. So stay on top of your personal health!
6. Love: It amazed me what a simple hug can do for your mood! Seriously, a hug from a friend can lift my mood up to the highest of highs. Make more time to be intimate with your husband or boyfriend, snuggle with your kids or just plain give more hugs. Try it out today and see what a difference it can make!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Confidence Boosters: In Your Lowest of Low Times

Last night, I was laying in bed watching the annual wintertime Victoria's Secret fashion show with my friend, something probably millions of other women were taking part in as well. Every year, come December, the Victoria's Secret angels walk the runways in gorgeous, glimmering bras, ginormous wings and tiny undies, rocking their hot skinny bods to the beat of the music. 
Before the fashion show even began, my friend looked at me and said "It's hard not to hate your body a little bit when it's over." 
The funny thing is, while I'm sure many women feel the same way, the VS fashion show shockingly makes me feel better about myself, exploding all of this positive energy. You see, before the show started, I was having a terrible day, and when I have a bad day I inevitably get down on myself, setting my confidence level at an ultimate low. 
But hearing the Black Eyed Peas sing "Boom Boom Pow" as the little skinny bitches walked down the runway pumped me up, well that along with a text from a good friend saying: "Rachel, you're amazing and everything about you is amazing. And you're beautiful. And tomorrow is another day, and you never know what good things it may bring."
She was right. It wasn't worth getting so down on myself, and letting my confidence go down with me. 
So, while for some of you, seeing skinny, little models in underwear may make you feel fat and ugly, for me it's having a bad day that onsets negative thoughts, and ultimately brings me down.
But, no matter what triggers those negative thoughts, here are 13 surefire ways to cheer you up and bring back that inner sexy confidence I know you all have.
1. Smiling-There's nothing like a frown that can bring your day down even more. Put on a smile, and people will perceive you as a happier, more confident person, and soon enough you'll feel that way yourself. 
2. Look in the mirror and find something you absolutely love about yourself. If it helps, put up motivational quotes around your bedroom mirror like "You are beautiful" or "You are healthy and strong." I know for me, I have my "ugly days", but taking a long look at myself and appreciating my strong legs that allow me to run 5ks, or my hazel eyes that vary from brown to green usually brightens me up just a tad.
3. Go on the web and get inspired by other people's words and ideas. A friend recently sent me a website she thought I'd enjoy with inspirational quotes of the day. Check it out, and explore some other sites while you're at it! Share your favorites below.
4. Put on some bright red lipstick or pretty pink lip gloss. It instantly makes you feel prettier.
5. Join a club, or sign up for a race with a friend. Being a part of a social network and looking forward to things will make you much happier altogether. Plus, you'll feel more productive, giving you a confidence boost like no other!
6. Surround yourself with a happy, confident friend. When your having a down-in-the-dumps day, steer clear of that Negative Nancy pal of yours, 'cause trust me-that's not gonna help the situation much. Instead, call up a family member or that positive go-to pal who never fails to make you smile!
7. Embrace Your Body-You know that episode on Sex and the City, where Charlotte is afraid to take her towel off in the steam room, 'cause she thinks her thighs are big? Then, she finally gets brave enough to let it go, and someone compliments her "great breasts." Well, even though that's fictional, it holds true in real life. When I was on Spring Break in Acapulco with my girlfriends a few years ago, a few of us were covering up our bikini's with shorts, towels or cover ups. But by day 2, we saw that people of all shapes and sizes were walking around the beach and pool, strutting their stuff, so we decided to "embrace our bods" and the confidence naturally came with it.
8. Take a long, steamy shower, shave and then cover your arms and legs with your favorite lotion. How could you not feel sexy afterward?
9. Pump up the music! Blast some feel good tunes that never fail to put you in a good  mood. Some of my favorites are "Video" by India Arie, "My Girl" by The Temptations, and anything by Beyonce or Fergie when I'm at the gym working out.
10. Get energized with a long, sweaty gym session in clothes that flatter your body. Too many people cover themselves up in big baggy sweats and over-sized Tee's. Instead, put something on that hugs your curves, and you'll feel much sexier. I love Victoria's Secret cropped yoga pants and a fitted tank.
11. Get inspired by other beautiful people-Don't let beautiful women intimidate you. Instead, let them motivate you and inspire you! Know that women of all shapes, colors and sizes are beautiful in their own way. Once you see the beauty in others, you will consequently find it in yourself. 
12. Finish a project-Clean out your closet, finish a book or paint your room once and for all. You'll feel wonderful knowing you got something done!
13. Put down the weight loss mags and read a feel-good article. Pick up a healthy cooking magazine or a women's running issue. Enough of that "Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days" crap in all those diet mags. Indulge in something that's going to make you think out of the box and feel good about yourself instead.