New Year's Resolutions: Uses and Excuses

"You'll fail at a 100% of the goals you don't set". - Mark Victor Hansen

Christmas is around the corner, and it blindsided me as it always does.  How is this possible when I haven't worked since Wednesday?  That I don't know.  I did spend a lot of time catching up on appointments, reading, working on this year's handmade presents and watching documentaries on my one month free Netflix account (the world is scandalous, yo!).

 Christmas is, well, Christmas.  Usually it's wonderful and sometimes it's a stress-filled nightmare.  But what I'm really excited for is the week after Christmas.  There's this beautiful lull in my world in between Christmas and the New Year: no work and a lot of time to think.  And to what end does all this thinking lead?  (<--Please read in uppity, nasaly voice in your head...yes, friends, this sentence I DID revamp in order to not end in a preposition...although really we do it all the time, and it's really not a bad thing, but grammar nazis would notice, as they will surely notice this run on sentence.  I <3 linguistics.  And grammar nazis.  <-That phrase dressed as a sentence is for you, from me, with love.  Mmmmk, let's get back on track.)  Where does all this thinking lead?  To New Year's resolutions, of course!

I used to dismiss New Year's resolutions as a waste of time, citing what I'd heard others say...if you want to make a change, you should do it at any time of the year.  I concluded, before ever trying, that resolving to do something at the New Year would ultimately end in failure.  (And by failure, I mean giving up and going back to the old ways.)  Why?  Because that's what I observed happening with my friends, in the media, with the mass numbers of people crowding into my 24 Hour Fitness all of January...only to be back to normal sized herds in a month or two.

Well, that all changed for me about five or six years ago, when I was dating a fellow who was smart, driven, quirky, and who annually sat down, reflected on the last year and wrote New Year's resolutions for the upcoming year.


Sunday Revelation

"Don't think about your food.  Feel your food.  Let your body be the expert." -Krista Scott-Dixon

Krista Scott-Dixon, author of e-book, Fuck Calories and Other Dietary Heresies, just blew my mind!  Please, please, please check out her e-book here, I guarantee you will be inspired, learn something new, or at the very least have a great giggle at her delightfully crass yet compassionate writing style.  

Her call to action is hard to ignore.  Do your body a favor and spend twenty minutes reading it.

That is all, lovies...have a wonderful Sunday afternoon.  Go Broncos!!!


The Truth.

"Good writing is about telling the truth."  -Anne Lamott

Holidays are hard.  Which seems weird because my brain is filled with all these fuzzy, warm, cider-scented memories.  But in the moment, those memories only seem to increase my anxiety in comparison to the reality of the holiday season as it engulfs me.  For me, holidays are lonely, stock-full of nights being the odd-numbered wheel of the gathering/event/party wagon, too often a reminder of what my life lacks instead of all the great things it is filled with.  (<--Dear Grammar Nazis, please excuse this sentence ending with a preposition; I briefly considered rewriting it as "...instead of all the great things with which it is filled" but discarded the idea as I would then feel compelled to add that you must read that uppity-sounding sentence in a British accent or something equally nasal.)

This season is writhe with expectations: my own and those I perceive others to have.  Expectations, more often than not, end in disappointment.  Holidays are filled with family time, which can be wonderfully warm and laughter-filled...but can just as easily be uber emotional, stressed-filled, draining and yucky.

Do you know what stress leads to in my life?  Crutches.  But not this year, right?  Wrong.  I reached a breaking point this week and fell off the wagon.  For three days, I ate sugary crap.  That's right, three days.  Much like I was digestively exorcising a demon whose holy water is sugar, I consumed things I haven't touched or even thought about for months.  What the crap?  (Literally.)  I rounded off the diabetes binge with a full-caff latte.  Just cuz.  And remembered why I love that crack-drug.  Danger.  Maybe I should've gotten drunk too...just to make it a crutchy hat trick.  I have yet to let a drop of alcohol hit my tongue.  Mother-lover, I thought that would be the hardest one.

After three days of self-medicating and failing to fix the problem of seasonal stress and yuck growing inside me, I find myself here.  Although it's hard to do, I have to take my own advice and be gentle with myself.  I have to remember that "...failure is not making mistakes.  Failure is not trying something new and crashing and burning.  Failure is quitting.  Period."  So, let's go on a journey.  Let's figure this sh&* out.  Let's make it so this doesn't happen again.  Ready?  Here we go.


Epic _ _ _ _: A Confession

"Celebrate we will for life is short but sweet for certain."  -Dave Matthews Band

The word I was going to write in the title was "fail".  But, today as I sit down to write, I just can't write that word down.

This blog post has been bumping around my brain for about two weeks (an eternity), AKA since the last time I wrote a post (an eternity ago).  It started out as a diatribe about how incapable I seem to be at sticking to a goal.  Luckily, it sat and simmered and received some commentary from a few people I chatted with.

Slight panic attack in a box.  I guess that's what
I get for working at an elementary school.
I won't spend a great deal of time talking about how my eight weeks of Paleo-Zone went great for two weeks then fell off into the swarming, sleep-deprived blur that has been my life--the teacher's wall we crash into around this time of year.  (Is it just me, or didn't this just happen like six weeks ago?  Meh.)  Then, how I got my sh*% together for four more good days till it crashed and burned again.  Long story short:  it didn't happen.  The MBS Turkey Challenge is in eleven days and I am most certainly not where I envisioned I would be.

Instead of beating myself up, like I would normally do, I'm going to take a sec to list all the progress I HAVE made since ninety or so days ago...because life's not always about what's missing/lacking/needing improvement.  Sometimes, it's about celebration, suckas!


How to Get Rid of the Evil Sugar Monkey

"Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress."  -Thomas Edison

Evil Sugar Monkey
I've had a couple people tell me how they connected to the discomfort and sort of melancholy restlessness that brought me to this challenge.  I believe that sensation is our potential best-self communicating to the conscious mind that...."um....heeeellOOOOoooo, it's time to make some changes!"

But, let's be real.  Changes are intimidating: hard to start and super easy to put off.  That's why I'm bringing to you a wonderful step-by-step article on how to "Dump the Sugar for Good" from stumptuous.com.  Seriously, click here and give it a read...it will make you laugh, nod in a agreement, and then help you get on the sugar-free train to....well NOT diabetes-ville, that's for sure.

If sugar is not the habit you're looking to kick, I believe this article gives a great foundation to maybe cutting out alcohol or junk food as well.  If you're feeling that restless discontent, maybe give this challenge a shot!  And don't forget to be gentle with yourself; one slip up is never a good reason to give up.  Peace, love, and a happy Monday to all!


Broken-hearted Knees and What To Do About Them

"IBS, Fibromyalgia, back pain, neck pain, knee pain and more are due, in large part, to our thoughts and emotions. " -Dr. Steve Rosman

I was disrobed and lying under a sheet in immense amounts of disorienting pain.  "Uggggghh," I moaned into the face rest as Jason, massage therapist extraordinaire, dug into my quad, "I seriously think I'm gonna throw up."  I didn't.  But, as the hour ticked on, Jason brought up the concept of emotions/traumatic events being trapped or stored in the body.  It was the second time in two days that someone had told this to me after working on my legs.

I thought back to the Sunday night before my week-long Case of the Mondays and big break down.  Jason had aggressively worked on the knots and ropes that live in my legs these days.  During the week following that massage, I had felt increasingly worn out and distraught by work and (although not mentioned before) suddenly ever-present thoughts of an ex.  Ok...let's be real...THE ex.  I was surprised by the persistent haunting of our past relationship in my brainspace as I had thought I'd come to terms with it and moved on.  For me, there was a lot of anxiety and emotional pain during our on-again-off-again, three-year relationship that ended last December (around the time my knee pain began with a vengeance).  During the week-long haunting of relationships past, I cried more than I had in the previous six months, for no apparent reason.  Following my most recent massage, I was inundated by thoughts of another, more ambiguous, loss from the last six months that continues to be a large source of confusion and sadness for me. Was this all a strange coincidence or something more?


How Frogs and Inertia Help You Get Sh*% Done

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."  -Antoine de Saint-Exuper

Sometimes I wonder if everyone has a brain like me, one that buzzes and whirs and keeps me up at night, striving for efficiency in everything, envisioning the ideal of every situation with no clucking clue how to get there, second guessing, insatiable, analytical...it can be exhausting.  But I love my brain, for within it is everything I've been, everything I am, everything I will be.  My brain is my greatest attribute and my greatest obstacle all in one gray, wormy, three lb mass.  

My brain does not let me rest, and I'm grateful for it.  I'm proud of the successes I've accomplished so far: kicking a seven year addiction to caffeine (this one's been on the New Year's rezzy list for five years or so); resting heart rate has gone from 75 bpm to 62 bpm; a smattering of new PR's at the gym after a year's plateau (snatch 110#, butterfly pullups, handstand push ups, etc).  Exciting!  But, enough?  Nope.  So where to go from here?  Here are the steps that help me get sh*# done.


Paleo-Zone: A Way to Look Good Naked

"The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation. You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek, therefore, not to find out Who You Are, seek to determine Who You Want To Be."  -Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God – Book 1

First off, happy hump-day to everyone!  I know I personally do a quick cheer each week when I get over the hump...two more days till I get to sleep in, yay!  Also, I will always jump at the chance to say "hump," especially in a non-crass way.  And every time I use the word "crass,"  I think of my dear mother who has coached the crap out of me to not embody the aforementioned modifier.  It's a tough job, but she has heart and endless determination.  

We are approximately sixty days strong into The Clean Year.  Whoop!  Time to do a recap.  It started with three weeks of hell, i.e. withdrawal symptoms from caffeine and sugar followed by approximately three weeks of smooth sailing.  My energy levels went from a 5-6 ish range to a 7-9.  Restful sleep became easier to attain.  My skin cleared up quite a bit.  Cravings were not too frequent and not too strong.  Six weeks in, I hit a big wall and cried about it, publicly.  Discovered new ways of crutching myself.  (Yes, I turned "crutch" into a verb...you're welcome, world.)  Stress levels sky rocketed, refined-sugar free binging commenced, skin broke out, tossing and turning replaced sleeping, used all possible restraint to not drink a gallon of beer/wine/tequila to relax my old-fashioned way.  Gah!  Refocused and rejuvenated myself with outside time and with support of a great community.  Began ten weeks of Paleo-Zone style grub-munching a week and a half ago.

Why Paleo-Zone?  First and foremost, because when I eat this way, I shed fat like it's nothing (click here to see), I lift heavier weights and get faster times on workouts, I feel amazing, and most of all, my energy and moods become super stable and positive.  I know that for me, it's a great avenue to work towards greater health and ultimately, a long and disease-free life.  The nutrition lecture at Crossfit Verve a week and a half ago reminded me of the reasoning behind it.  Paleo is all about eating quality, anti-inflammatory foods: lean meat, veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.  Paleo style eating can come in all different flavors and can be tweaked to meet each person's individual needs.  Check out this nice, concise blog that compares and contrasts the different takes on "caveman grub".  Zone, on the other hand, addresses the quantity of food/macronutrients I put in my pie-hole.

Realizations since starting my Paleo-Zone party are as follows:

- Weighing and measuring is a pain in the ass...AT FIRST!  Then, it becomes a part of the routine.  Easy peezy.

Post 5K recovery: 3 blocks of food and a crap-ton of ice.
- I was eating wayyyyyyy too much.  As in, I don't get to eat just cuz I feel like it?!  

- When I'm consuming appropriate amounts of carbs, protein and fat, I am forced to eat a ton of veggies so I don't starve all day.  I have to think about my carbs and how to "spend them".  Luckily, that's how my body likes to be fed...it's the brain that needs the convincing.

- I'm lazy.  Or maybe it's just that I have no free time.  Either way...I don't cook that much.  I love to look droolingly at food blogs.  I dream big, then get back to my reality:  eating bags of frozen veggies or raw no-prep veggies, with a hunk of meat that I mass-grilled on Sunday and sliced up avocado or a few nuts.  Even the lazy man's Paleo is delicious.  Not joking.  People get jealous.

- I get smaller when I eat appropriate amounts of quality foods for my lean body mass.  Who knew?  So far, I have shrunk the same amount (a couple lbs and about a half an inch at the waist) in a week and a half as I did the first seven weeks of this journey.  Boom.

- A food journal is a fascinating tool.  You can figure out all sorts of sh*& about your body by looking for patterns of what you eat.  It is also a necessary practice for significant forward progress in my nutrition.

- A well-balanced meal that will keep me full and energetic will also make my jaws hurt from all the chewing.  Seriously, I eat at top speed all the time, and these meals still take, at the very least, ten minutes to finish.  If it's done in two, we've got a problem.

Driving back from the cabin with Sarah Bear and Jo Jo.
- Life still comes first.  Out of the last ten days, five were great Paleo-Zone days and four were Paleo-Zone-ish days and one was a Paleo-ish day.  Great?  Nope.  But I went to a cabin with some of my favorite friends, where we cooked and ate as a family...was I gonna whip out my scale and measuring cups right there?  Nope.  I might be there one day, but last weekend was all about friends and food and fun.  And watching them get all happy-drunk while I sipped on sparkling water with a splash of juice.  It was a GREAT weekend.

So, the next "crutches" in my squashing machine (not to be confused with the smooshing machine, says the reality T.V. addict...hahaha, cracking myself up) are grains, most dairy, eating too much or "just cuz I wanna", and too much fruit.  I'm on my way back to Awesome...and loving the journey!

I know a ton of people who also started dialing in their nutrition recently, how goes it with you?


How You Can Change the World, One Sticky Note at a Time

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
My awkward face.  Not pretty.

You may remember that I promised a laundry list of my most terrible habits at the end of my last post.  Well, I might have been the slightest bit hasty in that assertion.  You see, in a non-exhausted state of mind, I realized that it might make my life really awkward to truly lay out all that stuff in so public a manner...seriously.  What if one of you fine blokes decide you want to date me, but then you already know all my crappy, embarrassing stuff (which actually may reverse that first statement) and I know none of yours?  Awkward.  Walking into the gym, I'd be super self-conscious that everyone would be thinking about my weird habits and therefore would turn red a lot and probably stutter as well.  Awkward.  So, here's the deal...I will happily share my crutches as they are relevant to "The Clean Year" and upcoming goals.  Cool?  Thanks, I appreciate it.

Last week, I hit a wall.  A big one that had scary, militant gorillas on top of it.  And battery acid dripping down it's sides.  I wrote about the wall and the aftermath of the crash and was was surprised by how uplifted I was by both the process of putting my thoughts down on the screen as well as by the emails and calls full of encouraging words and listening ears.  Thank you.  Sometimes it is scary to just be real and lay all your cards on the table.  It puts you in a very vulnerable, uncomfortable, even awkward spot, standing with your arms raised, not knowing if a hug or a swift punch to your gut is on it's way.  It's especially difficult to be real when the "real" is just not that pretty.  Often, with great risk comes great reward.  This time was one of those.  Sometimes, a little affirmation, empathy, and just knowing that people care is all a person needs to climb back outta that funk, ready to take on the challenge that previously beat her down.  The whole journey of last week had me reflecting on how powerful these seemingly small gestures can be.  Even more, how these individual actions joined together to form a straight up tsunami of love that lifted me up right out of the gloom.


A Case of the Mondays

"Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives."  -Henry David Thoreau

I'm going to lay it all out there.  All the raw ugly of this week and how I got here...exhausted, disappointed in myself, and sacrificing precious sleep to get the words whirling around in my skull out on a screen in hopes that they will R.I.P.  Why air my embarrassing secrets on the worldwide web?  Because, this is my year long project to make increasingly better choices and habits to enrich my life, increase the good I do in this world, and feel/be/look a lot healthier.  That all starts, and can only continue, with frequent honest reflections on what IS...right now.

Right now, work is a cluster f-bomb.  Please excuse my near swear, dear readers...but there's no other way to put it.  I've had the beginning of anxiety attacks (which I've only experienced a handful of times before, but never at work) and nearly cried almost every day.  Why?  Well, I certainly will not bore you with the mundane intricacies of my career as an educator in an extremely under-funded, extremely high-needs school...but I will just say that every person in my building does the work of two or three people...and no matter how much you do, it's just never enough.  And at the end of the day, you're working your ass off, spread so thin that you can't really do anything well, knowing you're doing a crappy job, but not knowing how to make anything better and carrying the heavy knowledge that in the end it's just the kids and your health that pay the price.  

Muffins from today.  Don't worry, I gave them all to my
coworkers.  I did smell the crumbs though...is that weird?
I hit this wall every year.  Emotionally, physically, and mentally, I find myself in a place of hopeless, exhausted despair.  It's around this time when my good ol' crutches calm my mind, numb my emotions, and give me the energy to carry on.  The crash came early this year.  And as my "case of the Mondays" continued to Tuesday, then Wednesday, then Thursday...I began to drown in the old urges.  (Man, it was so easy to be crutchless when I wasn't stressed and sleep-deprived!)   Tuesday and Wednesday, I had to fight my brain, which was wheedling, "It's only ooooone cupcake, no one will even know!"  By the time school ended today, I was done.  Capital D.O.N.E.  I had a stream of pirate curses and not so choice "French" running constantly through my mind as I walked out my car.  My brain and body and stress-induced urges were screaming for alcohol, "just a bottle of wine...sit on the rooftop and drink till you're relaxed," that sneaky voice in my brain coaxed.


Bovine or Bust: Cows and Your Diet

"One decision [does] not stand on its own. Each one is laying neural groundwork that will bias future decisions and eventually you [become] the summary of your habits." - Craig Weller, Barefoot Fitness

We've all said it..."This has been a super hard week, I deserve this beer/cupcake/pizza/Starbucks."  I know I said it nearly every day of teaching...or, well, to be honest, probably adult life.  It was just more true the days I was teaching.  The days I didn't "deserve it" because of how rough life's been, I deserved it because it was  special occasion.  You know: my birthday, Christmas, the day before Friday, Friday, the day after Friday.  Sadly, this one justification, "I deserve ______", has been the downfall of nearly all of my health-related goals.  The knee injury to my box jumps.  The dial up to my Internet.  The empty bank account to my to-do list of international destinations.  You get the idea.  But here's the truth: you deserve to feel great, to look awesome, to be insanely healthy, and to function the best you can for as long as possible.

Brain cow - so cute...but dangerous!
I've read some wisdom-ous words (yes, I make up words when I can't find the perfect one) recently.  Craig Weller, a guy I used to train with and learn from writes a brilliant blog about life, fitness, nutrition, and other topics.  He describes a concept called self-herding in one of his blogs (originally written about by Dan Ariely...author of fascinating books about human behavior and decision making).  Self-herding is basically the tendency humans have to make the same choice they have in the past when facing a similar situation, even when the past choice was made emotionally, irrationally, or under diress.  Basically, your choice is the lead cow part of your brain and the subsequent choices are the herd cows that brainlessly and forcefully mosey on in the same direction unless you really fight them.  Mooooo.


The Key to Success: Persistance over Perfection

"If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning."  -Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

So what is failure?  Failure is not making mistakes.  Failure is not trying something new and crashing and burning.  Failure is quitting.  Period.

In our society we are brainwashed by this idea of natural ability or being born smart.  This accepted belief sets up life in such a way that we tend to give up...quickly...rather than be willing to put in the work.  Think about it.  When you get praise (especially in the formative years) it is almost always commending your talent or intelligence, and not as often applauding the processes you used: amount of effort, strategies you employed or choices you made. The latter sends the message that success is often a process laden with mistakes and revisions, whereas the former simply acknowledges and values the end product giving no weight to everything that came before.

Inspirational message brought by the 6th grade hallway in my school.
Every day I join students in the battle of "catching up."  In a situation where they are already far below grade level, it is easy for them to give up and mumble, "I'm stupid."  It feels hopeless to them because effort and growth are often not what is most praised and recognized by adults.  And the sad thing is, when I am in their spot (like during my grad statistics and algebra classes last year), I do the same thing!  When I don't get it quickly, I (more often than I'd like to admit) get frustrated, throw up my hands, and start making excuses.  "I just don't get math."  "Why do I need to know this anyway?"  "My teacher sucks."


Crutchless, NOT Exactly Ouchless

"To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear."   ~Buddha

Wow, I haven't written in a while.  But work started again, and...well, I'm not drinking caffeine so...um, I was really tired.  Valid?  I think so. 

Bunny and my brain, both pretty mangled after the wreck. 
They say, "no pain, no gain" and gawl-dang-it...whoever "they" are, they are right!  Since being back to work full time as an elementary school teacher, I have had intense, pounding, screaming, crashing, bashing, just plain mean headaches inhabit my brain space every day for about 4-5 hours.  I've also experienced the infamous "fog" that caffeine-quitters have told me about.  Yeah...it's almost equivalent to how I felt after I totaled my favorite car, Bunny, and I had staples all up in my head and my brain was swollen so much in the area that controls speech that I couldn't work my drive-through job or have a coherent five minute conversation for months.  (Ask me to see the scars...I'll show ya!)  Yeah...my caffeine withdrawal is kinda like that.  Gah! 

Well, enough bitching about the "pain", here's some "gain". 


In the Pursuit of Nap-iness

"I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee."  ~Flash Rosenberg

I didn't like coffee for a long time.  I had a coffee maker in college purely for it's use during all-nighters a couple times per semester.  (For all you non-procrastinators, an all-nighter is the 12-24 hours before a deadline when a student starts and finishes an entire month/unit/semester's worth of work with breaks only to pee and drink more coffee.)  After college, I moved to Denver and started my teaching career.  The first two years, I was concurrently teaching and getting my M.A. and daily had about 20 hours of work to do in 16.  So, I started drinking coffee and sleeping less.

Last full-caff latte, last weekend.
At first, I drank coffee because I needed it to wake up or keep moving throughout my day and to-do list while being  in a constant state of sleep deprivation.  As the years ticked by, necessity grew into desire.  I loved the taste, the smell, the tingle on my tongue of super hot, strong coffee.  All my senses sang "allelujah" to the heavens knowing that in mere moments I would feel more awake, more productive, friendlier and possibly, who knows, even slightly more attractive. 

It also was a social staple.  There is nothing more delightful than getting coffee with girlfriends and chatting an afternoon away.  Ok, I have a confession.  Before a date, a party, or some other event where I was really hoping to impress someone...I had to have coffee.  I didn't feel like "just me" would be fun enough, quick-witted enough, or chipper enough.  I wasn't whole till I had that cup or two in me.  Yeah.  Crutches.


Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch: How to Get Off the Crack

"You know how you wake up in the morning and sometimes you look gorgeous and other times you look like you got hit by a mack truck? I realized that my mack truck is food."  -Mariska Hargitay 

Let's start with a throw back to The Four Tops' song "I Can't Help Myself".  I mean it.  Click on the link and listen to this great song...and while you're doing that, please imagine me crooning the lyrics to sugar and all sugary "foods", and that would pretty much sum up my relationship with the stupid stuff.  Is it so wrong to have a passionate, borderline obsessive relationship with a "food" product?  Ummmm, yes.  Hence, this challenge.

I think one of the most commonly asked questions I've gotten after telling people about my challenge (and after the so very appreciated encouragement for my year of substance-abstinence) is what I consider to be sugar.  Some folks were thinking I might not even be partaking in fructose....Oh Em Gee...that would make my life so sad!

I consider sugar to be anything that contains refined sugar by whatever name.  That means no soda, cookies, ice cream, or even most juices.  That also means I won't be consuming the majority of processed foods and sauces and beverages out there, because nearly everything has sugar in the ingredients.

Here is what is passable right now: honey or pure maple syrup (the expensive stuff, NOT the corn syrup with maple flavoring) used in moderation for baking or cooking and fruit (my life saver at the moment).  Sugar withdrawals is one of the worst experiences...mostly because often I end up caving to the craving and wallowing in failure and self pity.  I've discovered that I can't "just do it", I must have a strategy to succeed.

For me, here's what works to get off the sugar train and start having obsessive relationships with more normal things in life, like boys and CrossFit.


3, 2, 1...GO! (And an Invitation)

"Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius and power and magic in it."  -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Well, folks...today is the day.  Today begins a year without my beloved (and also hated) crutches: alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.  Goethe's quote rings true for me on the eve of any great journey or endeavor.  It reaffirms what I know to be true...that we are all so much stronger and more capable than we give ourselves credit for.  So, I begin my journey, hoping for something great and still open to anything that comes my way.

I had sushi last night with one of my dearest friends.  Yes, we ate a "Multiple Orgasm Roll" that was, in fact, slathered with mayonnaise and then fried (it was delicious), and no, I did not have any alcohol or sugar or even caffeine.  It was the best "Last Supper" ever.  He asked me what I thought would happen during my challenge...and what amendments I may have made for myself to survive the year.  My response was simple.  I don't know.  I guess that's the beauty of it.  This will be a journey with highs and lows.  I think I will feel successful if I do my best in each moment and if I have learned more about myself and changed a bit for the better at the end.


Change Through Community (Or Why My Gym is My Church)

"We don't accomplish anything in this world alone ... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something." - Sandra Day O'Connor

I used to be so proud of my ability to "go it alone". My independence was something of a badge of honor, a chip on my shoulder, an aura I wore on my being like an overpowering perfume. I don't know how I got that way or what made me so dang proud of being able to do everything on my own and not needing anyone. In some ways it was magnetic to others...people could sense my vibe of confidence and my ability to just go solo into the world. However, at some point in my twenties, the success of my extreme independence began to crumble. Relationships failed because, in the end, I didn't "need them in my life" to be ok. I couldn't argue that, it was true.  I realize now that to be so rigid in my self-reliance, I must have built these huge walls up as to not risk vulnerability. Sadly, to not allow vulnerability meant I never really got close to anyone.

Over the last seven years, I have discovered the sweet, awesome, badassness that lives in a community. The first time I recognized this was as a teacher, when I tried to work alone and failed. Miserably. Success in that arena literally meant I had to open up, ask others for help, and lean on friends when I needed to (which was alllll the time). Reluctantly, I let down some barriers and found that it was ok to need others and for others to need you. It made relationships more meaningful and much harder to blow off. My heart became softer, and I was able to empathize in a way I hadn't been able to since I was a kid. It was a painful journey, but a necessary one.

In January of 2009, I discovered a new kind of community. One that buzzed with energy and support. I began to connect with people of all different walks of life, to truly understand that deep down...we are all the same! We want to be loved, to be accepted, to feel successful and to make a difference. I met some of the goofiest, smartest, most passionate people I know. Here was a place that every single time I walked in the doors, I was able to drop all the "life/work stress" and just be me. Here was a place that people greeted me and took time for me whenever I needed it. Here was a place that when others looked at me they saw the best of who I was, and who I could be. No, it wasn't a church or a support group (although it very well could be!), it was a gym.


The Definition of Success

"The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."  -Michelangelo

If only it was this easy!
I have only told a handful of people in my life about my upcoming endeavor.  Responses have been mixed...mostly positive, some a little concerned that my objective is too large, too challenging, that maybe I should take some baby steps instead of jumping in with both feet.  Granted, these are the people who know me...and my love for my substances...the best.  All of their thoughts and comments helped me start asking myself some questions.  How do I define success?  When have I been successful in the past and why?  What will it take for me to be successful now? 

For most of my life, success has been equal to nothing less than perfection.  Maybe it's the "first child syndrome", but all I know is when I did not live up to my own demanding standards, I felt frustrated, defeated, and just plain "not good enough."  As life breaks down my perfectionism bit by bit, my definition has morphed into a more loving one:  success simply means doing my best in each moment.  And we all know that our best will change according to context.  That frosty brew in my fridge might not even phase me on a relaxing Saturday as I'm leaving for a hike, but that same hoppy deliciousness will quickly be bubbling in my tummy after a grueling twelve-hour day of teaching and parent teacher conferences.


So...What's the Problem?

"There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain." -R.D. Laing

I turned thirty-one last month, in the middle of vacation from my job as an elementary school teacher.  It was my birthday, I had wonderful friends and family surrounding me and I was leaving to Iceland the following morning with one of my very best friends.  So...why wasn't I happy?  Why was I plagued by this empty feeling in my gut?

I had a lot of time on Icelandic buses the following two and a half weeks to think about this.  I reflected on my behaviors and lifestyle when I've felt the most "whole" and my behaviors and lifestyle when I'm feeling dangerously "empty" as I have been most of this last year.  I noticed undeniable patterns.  Stress in my life often results in my consumption of three mood-altering substances: alcohol, caffeine and sugar.

After hard breakups, stress at work, or a fight with a loved one, I often turn to food to make me feel better.  For as long as I can remember, I've battled this ever descending spiral of salty-sweet-salty-sweet indulgences, each bite setting off intense cravings for more, and more, then even more.  My relationship to alcohol is love-love.  For the last decade, I have a beer when I'm happy, sad, angry, bored or stressed.  I drink to celebrate or to de-stress and sometimes even to forget.  I didn't drink coffee until I started teaching six years ago.  The intense stress and little sleep I've experienced while teaching at a high needs school quickly led to a severe caffeine addiction.  I drink coffee EVERY day during the school year, up to 3-4 cups a day during more stressful times. 

I literally wear my stress and emotions on my body because of my reliance on these substances.  My weight fluctuates, I break out on my face and body, I don't have energy, and my moods maintain at a much lower baseline than normal.  My coping mechanisms are my "life crutches" and my defense system that allows me to avoid fully feeling and experiencing all the stress, pain and uncomfortable parts of life.  However, avoidance takes a lot of work.  And a lot of continued consumption.  It's time to stop the cycles, to begin living life real and raw...life without crutches.

My challenge begins soon: one full year with no alcohol, no caffeine and no sugar.  I feel excited and apprehensive, sensing that my life could change in amazing ways in those 365 days.  I'm nervous I won't be strong enough to succeed, that the dependence I've built on these substances will be too strong for me to overcome.  I'm petrified to strip away the walls that stand between me and a lot of pain and fear that I've been holding at bay with my "stress trifecta".  What will happen when I have to face it for real? 

I guess that's what this is about.  After taking away my crutches and falling to the ground, seeing if I have it in me to get up and continue to walk.