Ask Amanda: Clean House

A few months ago a loyal client asked me a tough question and it’s taken until now for me to figure out how to answer it.  She is a dedicated client; works her buns off in the gym and does her best to shop for and prepare healthy meals.

Her problem, though, is a common one: her family doesn’t eat clean – and doesn’t want to.

How hard is it to prepare a nice, clean meal of chicken breast and broccoli and have your kids begging for mac n’ cheese?  Or to stick with a piece of grilled fish and salad when the husband brings home a bag of deliciously greasy-smelling McDonalds?  Or spend your time putting together a big batch of quinoa pilaf for the whole fam and they turn up their noses?

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In my opinion, what happens at home is about 100 times more important than what happens in the gym, and more often than not, is also a better determinant of how successful you will be on your fitness program.  You can hit it hard on your exercise program but come home to a den of temptation – and once you’re in the comfort of your own home, it’s a lot easier to give in.

I used to be a huge fan of the TV reality show The Biggest Loser, and it used to kill me when you’d see episodes of the newly-health-conscious contestants going home to their families and seeing their entire program unravel because their partners and kids refused to support their new wellness routines.  Time and time again you’d watch these formerly-obese people return to the toxic environments that enabled them to become that way, and like a caged wolf released back into the wild, they’d slip right back into their “natural” habits.

So what do you do when you want to make a lifestyle change and the people around you don’t?

My first answer comes with a lot of tough love: find new people to be around.  Ok, so that’s easier said than done when it comes to family, sure – but if you are part of a group of friends that gets their kicks from sitting around eating junk food, hating on “skinny people” and lamenting how hard/unpleasant it is to get up and exercise, it may be time to surround yourself with some new, more positive influences.  Find a bootcamp of like-minded people.  Hire a personal trainer to be your fitness partner.  Recruit a lunch buddy at work that will go get salads with you when the entire office orders in a pizza.  You control who you let into your inner circle, and if you can find a tribe that supports you, you are more likely to find success.

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Now onto the family/home issue more specifically.  If you are serious about making a lifestyle change, especially if it’s a critical issue of health (you need to lose weight because of prediabetes, for example), you should be able to have an open and honest conversation with someone who truly loves you about why you need their support.

Don’t let anyone belittle or rationalize away your reasons for wanting to make a positive change; see if you can work together to create and post an actual, written action plan (i.e. “we cook dinner at home three nights per week” or “I take walks at lunch every weekday”) that you can point to whenever there is some tension about wanting to do/eat/add/eliminate something in your life.  Never be afraid or ashamed to ask for what you need from your partner, especially if it is something that matters to your long-term health and happiness.

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As for the “kids food” issue, this of course is a bigger philosophical discussion than I have room for in this little ol’ blog (and truth be told, as someone who is not yet a parent, I may as well stuff my foot in my mouth before I talk about how someone else should raise their kids).

But what I can say is this: children are children.  They will eat what they are provided or they will hold out until they’re truly hungry, but either way, you are the parent and you are in control of what goes on the plate.  If you don’t put mac n’ cheese in the house, there is no mac n’ cheese in the house.  If you demonstrate healthy habits by putting green vegetables on the table at dinnertime, even if they don’t touch them at first, they will still see the example of you making a commitment to healthier options at home (remember those somewhat-creepy “I learned it by watching you” anti-drug commercials in the 90s ?  Yeah, it applies here too).

It make take time, effort, and a few tears to make healthy changes happen in your household – but as they say, nothing worth having comes easy.  When it comes to your wellness goals, you’re the one in charge – and where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Pioneer the positive habits and attitudes you want to embrace, and one day, the people around you will want to do it without their hands being forced.  Be your own best example.

How do you deal with less-than-supportive peers when you’re working toward a goal?

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Talkin’ Thai & the Great ROCKtober Challenge

Hey guys, it’s been a while.  Sorry for the delay – my parents were in town over the past month and while wonderful (truly wonderful!), it set me back a bit on the blog end of things.  But I’m back – and I have a lot to report.

First of all, can you believe I’ve been in Singapore for FOUR full months?  I hit the 4-month mark on Tuesday, and to be honest, it really is starting to feel like home.  I’m excited to get to six months as I feel like that’s really some sort of “established” goal time (and will also be our first expat Thanksgiving), but even at four it’s feeling nice and cozy.

That said, toward the end of my parents’ visit to Singapore, we snuck in a getaway to Thailand – Krabi, to be specific, beach paradise and gateway to the islands.

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A look down Aonang beach

Sure is beautiful, huh?  Too bad it looked like this for approximately 45 minutes of our entire 4-day stay.  Turns out that whole “monsoon season” is a real thing.

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Grey skies are gonna clear up…nope

Despite getting rained on every moment of every day (poured at breakfast, poured on the boat tour, poured as we tried to shop, poured all the way to the airport), we had a great time – we managed to sneak in some hammock time between downpours, eat a TON of great food (my personal fave?  Green curry beef, of course) and maybe imbibe a bit, often out of a piece of fruit filled with delicious booze.

Mom & Dada going "Coco Loco" at the beach bar

Mom & Dad going “Coco Loco” at the beach bar

Some might say we were crazy to try and make a Thailand trip happen in the rainy season, and those people might be right.  But don’t worry, we don’t take advice very well – Nick and I are headed back (this time, to the utter insanity of Bangkok) for the upcoming Asia Fitness Convention.

I’ll be there reppin’ Aquaspin which, by the way, is taking off in a major way – I’ll be running our first Instructor Certification program next week, and the week after, we’re taking the biz all the way “down under” to Sydney – can’t wait to certify our first international group while we’re there.  A quick behind-the-scenes from our latest photo shoot:

Not mad at this view

Not mad at this view

And oh yeah, in case you can’t tell from the grey skies in the photo above – the haze is back, and it’s awful.  Apparently this is a not-so-hallowed annual tradition whereby Indonesia burns the hell out of their palm oil groves and we get to breathe soot-covered air for an undisclosed amount of time (currently creeping up to a month; some estimates say it won’t clear until November).  Check out the crap I get to breathe:

Hazy lazy days of September

Hazy lazy days of September

But enough about travel, smoke and business – let’s talk about something a little cmore personal, shall we?

After nearly a month of eating, drinking, and general merriment with my parents in town, both my husband and I realized that we’d really start to let ourselves go when it comes to personal care.  Care for some examples?

  • Neither of us have been to the dentist since we arrived
  • I still haven’t gotten my hair cut
  • We’ve both gained weight (let’s not talk about how much)
  • I cooked ONE meal at home during the entire month of September
  • We typically have at least one alcoholic beverage five nights out of seven
  • I’ve done exactly three yoga classes here over a period of four months

I’m sure there is more but I won’t even allow myself to regale you with the full monty of our health and wellness sins.  Sure, I’m still working out regularly (nine Spin classes a week will kind of do that for you), taking Crossfit classes, and getting my 20K daily steps.  But it’s time for a real shakeup in the ol’ lifestyle – so behold – the Great ROCKtober Challenge.

The Great ROCKtober Challenge is really a misnomer, as it’s not really a “challenge” in the sense of a competition, and it’s not necessarily that rocking.  It’s more about returning to a healthy frame of mind and way of living that will give us both more energy, better eating habits, and a stronger mind-body connection by the end of the month.  The basic tenets?

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I laid out 10 weekly goals for myself right where I can see them – in my dressing room – and these 10 concepts (simple stuff, like eating vegges with dinner, getting yoga in once a week, or engaging in positive self-talk) will guide my habits throughout the month.

Do I hope weight loss is one outcome of the challenge?  Sure, and I’ve taken my measurements and body fat percentage to make sure I stay on track with that part, too.  But this challenge is mostly about getting myself back to the place where I feel my best – eating well, moving with intention, and giving my mind time to rest and recuperate.

What are your goals for the coming month – or rest of the year?  I’d love to know your strategies, too!

A Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self

My dear (and very funny) friend over at This Is Why You’re Single recently posted a letter to her younger self on her blog – and it got me thinking I should do the same.  So, with absolutely no apologies for blatantly stealing her creative idea, I was inspired to copy her.

Dear Manda (enjoy that cute little nickname for now; soon you will have to revert to your actual full name “Amanda” for grown-up professional reasons):

It’s me!  Well, it’s you! Surprised?  Well, you shouldn’t be.  A lot of cool stuff happens in the future, mostly computer and technology-related, but also some other neat stuff like dark chocolate peanut butter and these cool running shoes that glow in the dark.  I mean, mostly you’ll care about your smartphone and your laptop (both of which, by the way, are about a decade away for you, so don’t hold your breath), but the future is full of amazing conveniences and improvements (invest in Amazon now.)

Speaking of a decade away, this might shock you, but in less than four years you are going to meet your husband.  YOUR HUSBAND!  Is that some crazy sh*t or what?  I know you haven’t even had one single boyfriend yet (sigh), but don’t distress – sow your wild oats and have your drunken shenanigans and wake up wondering where you left your (awful, platform-soled, regrettable) flip flops – and he will be waiting at the end of that hot mess parade, just for you.  You are not destined to be alone.

(Oh yeah, there’s one other guy before you get there.  Dump him as soon as you can.)

Love life aside, I know you’re wondering how college is going to turn out, and if you’re going to get a job right after you graduate.  Good news on both accounts – you graduate magna cum laude, on time, and are fully employed upon return from your postgrad Europe trip (make sure to thank Mom & Dad profusely).  Life is pretty rad so far, right?

Did I mention you are about to get a dog?  I know, I know – you’re still in college and can barely take care of yourself, much less another living thing.  But you visit a shelter next year and fall in love with one special little pooch – and he will be by your side for over a decade.  Don’t think about how it all will end.  Just make sure you never take any of his little licks, barks, snuggles, even his little poops for granted.  You will miss him every single day when he is gone.

You’re going to spend the better part of the next decade doing grunt work in grad school (yeah, you go back – twice –  even though you swore you were done with school), and by the end of it all, you’ll be five digits deep in debt with two semi-useful Masters degrees – it’s up to you if you want to go through all that, but if I were you, I might just shortcut to what you’re actually DOING at my age…

...which is personal training.  You’re good at it, really good – remember when you used to be an athlete?  That part of your life becomes relevant again.  Don’t worry about your current state of physical disarray; you’re at your heaviest weight of your adult life, so it only gets better from here (stop putting half and half on your cereal and dumping cheese and ranch on your “salads,” by the way).  You end up pretty darn fit, strong, and happy in your career – so if you want to just get your certification NOW and skip the whole grad school thing, I won’t complain.

By the way, you should probably start running (another thing which I know you’ve never tried, but listen, you’re gonna be good at that, too).  You’re going to run the Boston Marathon – and I won’t offer any spoilers on that, but know it’s not exactly what you’re expecting.  You just need to be there.

Despite owning your own business and running all these marathons and getting married and all that, what’s weird about being me now is that I was so much more confident when I was you.  I suppose when you’re young, you’re so hopeful about the possibilities that lie ahead, but when you’re my age, you start to just settle into established, easy patterns.  Remind me (you) to break free!  Stay excited!  Be crazy!  You’re going to jump out of a plane in a couple of years, so harness those balls and bring ’em over to me.

You know what else is crazy?  You’re gonna want kids.  YOU HEARD ME.  Don’t tell me how awesome you are and how you’re going to grow up without being tied down and get tattoos that say “fearless” and “freedom” and all sorts of other stupid mantra sh*t (you didn’t, thank God).  I mean, that’s fine for now, but when you get here, you’ll realize that you do want a tiny little human(s), you want it/them with your aforementioned adorable husband, and you’re actually kind of excited about being a (hopefully kick-ass) mom.

As far as moms go, yours is the best.  So is your dad.  Value your time with them and get home to see them as much as your budget allows – but worry not, they’ll eventually retire in California, near you, and you have years of amazing Oktoberfests, Disneylands, and all sorts of other shenanigans waiting.  Don’t forget that family time means everything.

And finally – I know you’ve only been out of the country twice (really, once – Cancun barely counts), but travel is going to become a really big deal for you.  You’re headed to Australia sooner than you realize, studying abroad in Scotland, watching a vow renewal in Ireland, and will have jaunted all over Asia by the time you’re me (including one very special trip to India – uh, spoiler alert?).  Your mind is going to expand and your tastes are going to change, and with it, your stubborn heart will open.  It’s a good thing.  Embrace it.

That’s about it for now, little one – just a few minor things to make the next few years a bit easier.  Watch the drinking.  Save your money.  Go to Sephora and learn how to apply makeup properly.  Stop buying cheap clothes.  As said, get outside and run.  The best of everything is yet to come.

Love,

Amanda