Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Writing and Planning

I've been so focused on my writing over the past 2 weeks that I've hardly been on my blog at all. I am such a good procrastinator that I knew it would be wiser for me to stay away than to come online. There are already enough distractions with Facebook and Instagram etc. etc.

Many years ago, one of my friends was going on a first date. It had come about rather suddenly and two days before the date, she exclaimed, 'How can I lose 10 pounds in 2 days?!'

We all chuckled because we knew it was impossible ... and the of course, many good intentions were made about planning ahead next time and not waiting until the last minute ...

Hmmmm -- can you guess how that went?

Today I submitted the chapter I've been working on for the past 2 weeks. In all actuality, I probably really worked on it for 7 out of the past 14 days - those were the long at-my-desk-for-12-hours-straight kind of days. I've known about this deadline for months now. Of course I had a lot going on - packing up my house in Kuwait, moving, adjusting, coping with family issues ... but the truth is, I really could have worked on this earlier. I could have paced myself. At the same time, I couldn't help but think - well, actually all you really need to write is 1 week seeing as that's when you got most (all) the work done ...

I know that's not a good attitude to have, but it definitely crossed my mind more than once! No matter how much time there is to plan, it's the 72 hours before the deadline that are the most frantic and productive.

This last minute work flurry has been my habit ever since I was young -- I think it's time to start trying to change.

I think not seeing immediate results to your efforts or not feeling immediate consequences to your actions can be quite difficult to cope with or overcome.

It felt like it took so much for me to get to the point where I could say 'At least I don't hate it' in relation to my writing. It's a very tough mental struggle to go through.

The same thing happens with my workouts.

Having the patience to stick to a plan is an important and useful skill to develop. I think getting through those hurdles is when true change begins and when real strength starts to build.

I've found that my weight has plateaued. No matter what I do, I can't seem to get those numbers on the scale to go down. It's on my mind all the time.

I know that it's easy to get bogged down with feelings of negativity and failure so I do focus on things I've achieved -- making notes of my progress after each workout helps me actually SEE that I am improving - whether it's getting a bit faster or lifting a little heavier or even feeling more flexible. It's all improvement and it's all part of the bigger picture of getting healthy.

However it's still hard. It's hard to reconcile with the fact that I've been following all the WLC guidelines to a T but this past week my weight has been all over the place.

I need to remind myself that the Whole Life Challenge is not a weight loss challenge. It's a tool to use to help you figure out what works for you and what doesn't. This is the challenge. This is what it's all about.

You've got to write down what you're doing, evaluate your progress, and adjust your actions accordingly.

The most important thing: Don't give up. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

FitBit Faults

I haven't been wearing my FitBit for the past few days. Ever since it stopped syncing properly with MyFitnessPal I started to get annoyed. I also realized that with the types of exercises I do - weight lifting and a lot of jiujitsu, I am actively working out but I'm not really logging any steps - particularly for jiujitsu.

I had become so focused on trying to hit 10,000 steps a day that I didn't take into any consideration the types of exercises. Instead, I was getting frustrated that even after working out for 2 or more hours, I hardly had any steps to indicate my effort.

I do like having it to track my steps. I'm just going to have to be a bit more lenient with the numbers and rely on myself more for accurately noting the intensity and effort of my workouts. Daily step counts have definitely not been the best measure of my efforts. It was important for me to come to terms with this because I was starting to obsess over the numbers -- even all this time it is easy to get sidetracked by numbers and comparisons with others. As soon as I realized that I was losing focus of the bigger picture, I took off my FitBit and just did what I had to do. Now that I've been without it for a few days, I definitely feel better.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Priorities and Discipline

I feel like the past 2 weeks have really put  my discipline to the test -- and since I'm blogging instead of writing my chapter, you can see that I haven't always succeeded. Still, I have been trying.

This week has been especially difficult as I've been trying to stay on top of my meals with a lot of home cooking -- it's all been great, but I do think I've spent way too much time in the kitchen. I need to maybe cook in bigger batches or find something quicker/easier to make.

I turned up the focus and intensity during jiujitsu training to prepare for my blue belt test. I scaled back my weight training to make sure I'm not too sore for the belt test. I modified my workout times/types in order to get them done and sit down at my desk and write ...

So there's been a lot of adjusting. As much as I'd love to have a perfect, static schedule, it's just never going to happen, so I need to be flexible and adapt.

It has been hard for me to get back to academic writing. I'm still not fully set up in my attic office. Most of my research books are still in storage. I don't have access to a proper academic library ... and of course there's the writing itself. It's such a struggle ... My mind is not focused because all I want to do is workout, blog, or cook. Still, I need to put my head down and do it. It may not be a physical task, but the mind over matter focus still comes into play here.

So now that I already went to Muay Thai class at 6:30 a.m., Yoga class at 7:30 a.m., came back home, showered, ate breakfast, and wrote this blog post there is officially nothing more for me to procrastinate with -- so I'm off to write!

and for today


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

'Crazy' Tuesdays

The best part of getting to the end of a Tuesday is looking back on all that I accomplished through the day. Usually when people hear about my Tuesday workouts they are quick to criticize - but that's too much, you're overdoing it, you're crazy (I hate that the most).

It's just one day. It's one day in the week when it just so happens that the exercise classes I want to attend are going on ... so I go.

It's really not that bad:
7 a.m. Yoga - starting off the day with a good stretch (1 hour)
11 a.m. Weight lifting - this usually lasts 45 minutes; right now I'm doing 3 sets of 6 reps - I'm aiming to lift heavy with good form (and yesterday I ended my set of back squats at 80 kilos! I end my lifting session with a bit of light cardio - uphill walk or yesterday skip rope (around 20 min)
12:30 p.m. MetaFit - 30 minutes of HIIT -- this leaves me exhausted
7:30 p.m. Jiujitsu - 2 hours -- this would be extra exhausting if I was rolling the whole time, but a lot of this 2 hours involves instruction plus slow practice of the technique

So yes, it's a lot, but they all balance out. Plus I rest/recover between MetaFit and Jiujitsu -- and I don't have anything until Wednesday evening, so I get to rest then.

I actually don't really need to justify myself as to what I'm doing when. I just find it really annoying when people are quick to criticize, and it happens way too often. Ironically, it's the healthier habits that get criticized and not the bad ones.

Eat a whole pizza? No judgment.

Exercise for 4 hours in one day - holy shit, you're crazy. That must be terrible for you.

How has this happened? Forget about body image and body size -- just think about health. With the thousands and thousands of gyms around the world and endless health and fitness articles and weight loss aids out there, why are people still surprised when people take actions to get healthy?

I feel like people are still looking for a quick fix - I pill that will make it all go away. It just doesn't work that way. In the beginning, the change may be a little uncomfortable, but if you stick to it, it gets easier. You just have to want to do it ... and hopefully you can also find something you enjoy doing.

I don't mind getting up at 5:30 a.m. to make sure that a healthy lunch is packed.
I don't mind getting to the gym at 6:30 a.m. to get in an early workout, especially if I know I'll have a busy day and won't be able to squeeze it in otherwise.

I may feel a bit tired at first. I may have second thoughts about doing it, but I know that after it's done I feel so good ... and what's more, at the end of the day, when I look back on all that I've accomplished, I feel happy. Instead of feeling upset at the bad choices I made or regret that I didn't get a workout in, I feel fulfilled --- and who wouldn't want to feel good at the end of the day?

I wonder if all people who are persistent with their workouts and healthy habits are told that they are 'crazy'. Sometimes it feels like people don't want you to succeed - it's like they see the work you're putting in and the progress you're making, but instead of supporting you, they criticize. Is it because they need to also put some work in but can't be bothered? Are they envious? Why is praise so hard to give? Forget about praise - just refrain from criticizing. Is that so hard to do?

I wonder at what point you become admired for your dedication instead of criticized for it.

In the end, I really don't care. Life is too short to worry about these things. It does get to me sometimes, but I just have to remember that at the end of the day, it's my life ... and it's worth putting in the work in order to be happy.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fully Aware -- 100 Days

We have 100 days left until the end of the year. Only 100 days! It seems like such a short time, but still significant enough to make positive differences before the year is out so that we can end 2014 and start 2015 feeling really good and successful about the days past.

I bought the book Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams a few weeks ago, but I only sat down to read it properly earlier this week. I finished in about 3 hours. It was great. Every concept that he was talking about in relation to his journey through martial arts was something I felt could be applied to every aspect in life, and especially to my practice in martial arts.

I want to share one particular quote that has stayed with me ever since I read it - said by Master Bong Soo Han:

"You must learn to live in the present," he said. "Not in the future or the past. zen teachers that life must be seized at the moment. By living in the present you are in full contact with yourself and your environment, your energy is not dissipated and is always available. In the present there are no regrets as there are in the past. By thinking of the future, you dilute the present. The time to live is now. As long as what you are doing at the moment is exactly what you are doing at that moment and nothing else, you are one with yourself and with what you are doing -- and that is Zen; while doing something you are doing it at the fullest." (Hyams, 1979: 27-28)

I often find myself being so busy that I multi-task. However, I've often realized that while multi-tasking can help sometimes, it can also distract me from doing a single task to the best of my ability or with all my concentration. I just get it done - without experiencing what it was about, without realizing the significance of what I have done. For me, with my endless list of things to do, I think that it is the only way I can really accomplish everything that I want to do. However, this quote made me take a moment to reflect on what I've been doing. Has the multi-tasking really been important, or is it a consequence of not being organized/disciplined? I'm not sure yet ...

What I am sure of is that life is short, and time is valuable. Marc posted a few videos over the past month about people in their 100s and what they felt was important in their lives -- health, doing what makes you happy, spending time with people you love ... these are the things that are really important.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we could just focus on those things and forget about commuting to work, doing errands, and all those chores?

The reality is that some of us have jobs that we don't enjoy. Some of us have lots of errands to do because there are many people depending on us. The reality is very different from the ideal/fantasy. However, that doesn't mean that we still can't make the most out of those things that we really do enjoy and make life worthwhile. I guess what I'm saying is that even if you can't be 100% present in every thing you do, try to be 100% present in at least the things that mean the most to you -- e.g. dinner time with the family is a TV-free, mobile-free, family only dinner time; replying to emails is only replying to emails, not also checking your messages, scrolling through Facebook, and chatting on the phone.

For these last 100 days of 2014 I'm going to try to set the tone for not only 2015 but for what I hope I can continue for the rest of my life. I'm not talking about making drastic changes. Rather, there are a few things that I want to get into the habit of doing.

Here are my top 10:
1. Watch my posture - As I sit at my desk or in front of the TV or even in my car, I tend to start off sitting straight and then slowly start to curve forward. No more. I want to make a conscious effort of at least trying to sit straight. Hopefully my continuous conscious effort will soon become an instinctive habit.

2. Breathe deeply and fully - When my anxiety was at it's highest and most frequent, I would often hold my breath and wait for the feeling to pass. That was definitely not a good idea. Even if I don't breathe fully and deeply all the time, I do want to be more aware of how I'm breathing and adjust it when necessary.

3. Say/Think something positive before complaining or saying something negative - It's too easy to get wrapped up in what went wrong or was difficult during the day. I think it's absolutely fine to vent to your partner/friend/blog, but before doing that, I think it's important to think of how fortunate we all really are. I saw this quote the other day: "If you have a family that loves you, food on the table, and a roof over your head, you are richer than you think." How true. Despite struggles, anxieties, and worries, there is so much to be thankful for. I think that when you are grateful, you are happy, and when you're happy, that spreads to others. The world could definitely use a lot more happiness!

4. Get back in touch - I need to spend some time reconnecting with some friends who really do mean a lot to me. It's easy to feel like you're in touch with people through social media, but there are a few people who I want to hear a bit more than a status update from. Skype and FaceTime have been so great to keep in touch with my family. I'd love to reconnect that way with a few of my friends too.

5. Wait 20 minutes before eating again - Sometimes after eating, I still feel hungry. However, I read somewhere that the mind takes about 20 minutes before registering the feeling of 'fullness'. I want to make sure I don't eat or drink anything, except for water, within the 20 minutes after eating a meal. I'm sure this will cut down on some mindless munching that always adds more calories to my day than I realize.

6. Monitor my water intake and drink 500 mL of water on an empty stomach - I used to be really good at this, but lately I've been slacking. My overall water intake is good, but I know that as it gets colder, I slack off a bit. This time, I want to make sure I don't slack off at all with my water (particularly because I have now moved to a colder country) and that I drink at least 500 mL each morning on an empty stomach.

7. Chew my food thoroughly - I'm a slow eater in general, but I think I could still stand to chew more thoroughly. I know that this will aid my digestion, but it is also about savoring the flavors and being in the moment. I spend so much time cooking, I really should spend a bit more time enjoying what I have taken time to prepare.

8. Say No to things I don't really want - Whether it's a social invite, something to eat, or an activity, if I don't want to do it, I want to be strong enough to say No thank you. This is difficult in the beginning, but I have found, particularly as I've adopted a healthier lifestyle, that it gets easier with practice. Too often I've felt 'guilted' into doing something/eating something/buying something that I didn't want. No more. I need to stand up for myself and for what I want. This doesn't mean being rude, but it does mean putting what I want first.

9. Do one thing at a time and focus on it - There's no point rushing. I will try to wait until I can really concentrate on what I'm doing instead of just bang something out. This may mean doing less during the day, but hopefully it will mean doing whatever I do well and in a purposeful, relaxed manner.

10. Mediate daily - I've been incorporating daily stretching into my routine for the past 2 weeks now. It feels great. For me, my meditation comes with my yoga practice. I love my yoga classes, but it's during my own sessions at home when I concentrate and meditate more since I am not following someone else's directions.

I'm hoping that by putting these 10 things into practice - which simply involve being aware of what I'm doing - I will feel like I am living more in the present and truly enjoying life.

Friday, September 19, 2014


This week has felt incredibly busy. From Monday morning until now, it has felt like there has been a non-stop barrage of things to do. That being said, it has also been a really productive week.

We're just about nearing the first week of the Whole Life Challenge. It's gone well so far. There have been a few impromptu meal creations (as a result of the busy week) but again, not having any non-WLC foods in the house has made it easy to throw something together and not worry about losing a point.

I saw a big improvement in my jiujitsu game this week. I have to say, that felt really amazing. Last week I was struggling. I was frustrated that I wasn't getting a few of the moves right. I was stressed about not having them ready by the time I test for my blue belt. I was just anxious overall. This week, I kind of decided to just go for it and not over analyze the moves ... and it went great! Who would have thought that not thinking would help me be ever more effective? Of course I knew better. I knew that I needed to relax and trust my knowledge to carry my through. I knew that over-thinking would only make me feel nervous and apprehensive. Still, it's a lot harder to push those thoughts aside and fully trust yourself. However, if I want to succeed, I know that's exactly what I needed to do. Although my moves aren't perfect (yet), they are improving, and what's more is that my confidence and comfort with the moves are increasing.

I also made good progress in the weight room this week. I don't know if it's cleaning up my food (though it had only been 2 days since the start of the challenge that I had my first good training session) or if it was just feeling more psychologically at ease/rest that helped me, but I've been on an adrenaline high ever since.

My yoga sessions have been great and I'm totally loving Muay Thai. I felt gutted that I couldn't make this morning's training as I had something else to attend to that needed my whole attention ... but I knew it was all about balance.

Sometimes you've got to make sacrifices.

I'm hoping to catch up on some rest, make some headway with my errands, and push forward with my writing this weekend.

I have a feeling this busy week is going to spill over and become a busy weekend as well!

embracing my crazy jiujitsu hair & feeling happy after a good night of nogi training

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cooking Fest!

The weekend plus Monday were full of errands, training, and a ton of cooking! I spent pretty much all of Sunday in the kitchen preparing for the upcoming week and making some new Whole Life Challenge-friendly foods. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun! I'll be posting recipes soon, but in the meantime, click on the link below the photo for the recipe for my homemade granola (gluten-free, sugar-free, totally natural, and suitable for paleo too).