Lessons in Running: Go Left

the river

The alarm clock came too soon. My mind was still drowsy from the night before, but the empty checkboxes on the paper above my desk were growing in number and haunting my confidence. I walked out of my door before I could convince myself to stay under the covers. I forgot to eat but once I started moving, I forgot that too. I kept reminding myself the goal was 12 miles and that if I could just check that one box that maybe the next couple would flow more smoothly because that’s what matters right? Checking one box after the next until you have so many pieces of paper reminding you how wonderful and successful you are.

I headed out in the same direction I knew so well. The part of my mind drowsy from beers and a late night with friends couldn’t exactly figure out why doing this one thing I promised myself mattered so much. After all, what do we have if not the promises we make to ourselves right? But I’ve been stacking these papers for the past couple of years trying to build a stepladder to an elusive sense of contentment.

I began to question what I was promising myself and I decided to forget the 12 miles. I decided to just let go. I was tired of my typical route I’ve been to so many times before. The one with the flat path where you can run around in certain circles and easily meet your goal without having to venture too far or risk getting lost. It was safe and easy and I knew if I went right I could check the box and move on with my day. At that moment, though it didn’t seem that important. I was tired of being tied to a clear cut plan so I went left. I honestly had no idea where I was going and I didn’t care. I had a lot on my mind and getting lost with it all began to seem like a good idea. I found the river and followed it. Unlike the lake, the river was going somewhere and I decided I wanted to go too. Sixteen miles later I found my way back home, remembering that running loses its magic when you exhaust yourself in circles tied to check boxes. Plans can help us lace up our shoes and get us out the door but they can limit our potential if we let them.

There’s a quote “what screws us up the most in life is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be”, I use to hate this quote because I thought it was implying that one must settle and be grateful for what they have in order to be happy. I have never been the type to settle or be easily satisfied,  but maybe there is more to it. Maybe, it’s not about settling at all, but allowing yourself to be open to getting lost because what you might find is better than what you have planned.

Remembering What’s Important

The semester got a running start and I feel like I have been chasing it down since it started. I set a bunch of new goals and tried some new things outside of my comfort zone that scared me. Trying to stay involved in every project at work, be ahead of the game in class, and keep up my social life has me stumbling around like a college freshmen after a keg party. I had a moment of clarity last night when I read the quote below and as usual it led me back to this space.

 

Dale

 

I started graduate school with a core passion that has been driving my career since my sophomore year in college. Helping individuals, families, and communities overcome struggles with food and health stemmed from my personal life and became my passion. There is nothing more rewarding than helping others, but especially helping them with struggles you can truly be empathic about because you can connect and understand them at such a deep level. I believe there is something within everyone that we can connect with and one of the best gifts you can give someone is letting him or her be heard. When I started thinking about the families I get to connect with and the work I get to study it put my stress into perspective. It reminded me that my drive for perfection, my need to get the best grades, never say no to friends or coworkers, and always show up with a smile is all ego. These things are important because they help me grow into someone who has more to give, but they are useless if I cannot channel them into the giving.

I know I am one of those silly people that blows up social media with quotes (sorry) but this one really helped me to check my ego so maybe it is worth sharing. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do your best in all aspects of life, but you should always question your intentions and know your purpose. Your purpose doesn’t have to be your career, it can be your family, your friends, anything truly makes you happy and fulfilled but you should know what is important to you and keep it in sight. If you do not know, you should be searching.

A Resolution because It’s still January

 

reflection

(photo source)

Hey everyone, it’s been a really long time since I’ve written anything.

I know.

But, a barrier of snow is piling up outside my door and I finally have homework I should be doing again so it seemed fitting to procrastinate and write a post. Since I’m a sentimental sucker for motivation, goals, and resolutions I figured I’d start there.

It’s still January so I hope this post is nevertheless relevant to those trying to be better this year than last. I know we lose some people by the middle of January, the people that were maybe a little over ambitious with their goals or just off to a rough start. The space between who we are and who we want to be can be large and we can fall far when we leap, sometimes it makes more sense to build a bridge rather than jump but most of us don’t want to take the time. So, instead of giving you 10 tips or 5 rules to meet your goals, I have just one small piece of advice that has helped me reach a better place in my life. It’s just one small action that if you repeat in a consistent and meaningful way it will start to change your life for the better.

bridge

(Photo source)

This advice is active self-reflection.

Maybe it happens in the form of journaling at the beginning or end of the day, maybe it’s a conversation with someone close often, or maybe it’s just active conscious thought on an on-going basis. I think journaling is the best method because it forces us to create cohesive thoughts that can be reviewed over time to see patterns, trends, and changes.

Whatever your style, it’s about paying attention to your thoughts and emotions and how they impact your behaviors, relationships, failures, and achievements throughout your day or week. It’s part of building the bridge rather than leaping so, it may seem meaningless or tedious some days. However, when we let our small shortcomings, failures, bad days, or negative thoughts go unattended for too long they can grow to a point where we can no longer recognize the root. If we don’t understand the root we may create a false one or worse, without self-reflection we may begin to blame others for our own bad days and shortcomings.  We can fail to look for how our own actions or thoughts can be contributing to our unhappiness. Even when things are going great in your life there are always ways you can improve to be kinder, smarter, or more consistent.

To tie this advice back to food and nutrition, since well…. that’s what I do… I believe active self-reflection is the single best way to improve one’s relationship with food. Not just recording or reflecting on what you ate in a food journal, but taking a look at how your daily habits, emotions, and energy levels impact your food choices. Were you stressed? Did you take the time to plan things out? Did you enjoy what you ate? How did you feel after? These are all important questions to ask yourself if you are struggling to find peace with your daily routine.

At the end of the day we can only fix what we have taken the time to understand and I believe reflection also leads to more appreciation for the positive things in our lives.

So yea, that’s what I got for you today :) Happy 2016!

 

Mental Health vs. Physical Health

Hello! Happy November, sorry for writing so sporadically, my goal sheet is pretty long these days, and unfortunately, this blog has been sitting on the back burner. However, now as I sit with a 15-page paper that needs writing, I decide it’s the perfect time to pop in and tell you what’s on my mind.

For those that do not know, I am currently getting my masters in social work so I can be a mental health expert as well as a nutrition expert. With these two worlds colliding, the paradox between mental health and physical health is something I wrestle with a lot.

brain_0

Source

What does that mean?

Often making a change to have a healthier body leads to a healthier mental state right? Losing weight can lead to more confidence, higher self-esteem, more energy, less stigma, and more self-efficacy to reach other goals in life. We feel more empowered and generally happier right? For some people, the stakes are even more significant, losing the next 10 pounds may mean reversing a diagnosis of pre-diabetes or lowering blood pressure. We think if we can just lose the next 5 pounds or if we can just get some more gains (trying to act like I’m up with the fitness world) we’ll be happier.

The answer is it depends. Your weight, muscle tone or body size is not what actually makes you happy. It’s not the results that make you feel good, but what those results symbolize in your journey. Maybe you’re happy because you worked hard to reach a goal, you have a new found control, you’re being a positive role model to loved ones, you have energy again, or you’re happier with the way your clothes fit. It can be a number of things, but I promise you the physical benefits alone are not your happiness. If you are striving to improve your body to numb other emotions or gain control in one area of your life because it’s deficient in another, you may be making yourself sick.

What I am learning floating between worlds is that mental health always comes first. Not necessarily in a chronological way, we don’t always have to be happy and in a good mental place to start exercising and eating healthier. Not at all, doing these things is part of the journey to self-love. What I mean is that mental health is the priority, always. There must be a balance between your mental health and physical health but when you find yourself on a tight rope and need to fall one way or the other, fall to the  side of your mental health. Choose getting enough sleep over getting an extra workout, choose a meal out with family and friends over strict diet rules, run to lose stress, not pounds, deal with your emotions and life struggles instead of eating or exercising them away, and pay attention to your thoughts. Make sure that when you think about your body and everything you put it through, your thoughts are of gratitude instead of shame.

“Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.” – Lisa M. Hayes

 

 

 

Thoughts on Change

Hello, sorry it’s been a little while! I have been busy living and adjusting to my new life as a social work graduate student at VCU. So much has changed in the last two months and I haven’t been able to sit down and put it on paper. Shaking up my life and my career was the best decision I have made in a long time.

grad friends

(new places and new friends)
Richmond 1

 

(bits and pieces from life lately)

I was in a job that did great work, but I never felt fulfilled. The environment wasn’t healthy for me and I felt like all my hard work in school wasn’t being used the way I wanted it to. It started to eat at my confidence and I never quite felt good enough. When I would mention my frustrations to people, they would say things like “welcome to the real world” or “a job will always be just that, a job” or “join the club”. Despite graduating from UMD with honors in nutrition science, matching the first round for a dietetic internship, passing my RD exam, and obtaining a respectable job with a good salary and benefits, I always felt inadequate. Many people just accept 8 hours of unhappiness in exchange for a decent salary and health benefits and I get it. That is the society that most of us find ourselves trapped in. Sometimes we have other goals or responsibilities beyond our career that make the sacrifice to change  a lot harder, all of us have different challenges, but all of us all have choices.

“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” -Alan Cohen

I’ve always been passionate about food and nutrition and helping people create and restore healthy relationships with food and I am finally in a position where I get to do that. I am excited to go to my classes, to go to my internship, and when I get home, I find myself researching things still on my mind from my internship. Originally, I chose to get a graduate degree in social work because I wanted counseling skills and an in-depth knowledge of theories like cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy. I wanted a license in clinical social work so that I could understand the behavior behind food choices. I still want those things, but what I didn’t anticipate getting was an in-depth knowledge of society and poverty and how environments disproportionately impact health and wellbeing. I didn’t anticipate being inspired in my classes and getting to turn right around and use that motivation for action the next day in my internship. It sounds cheesy, but I really feel that way. I’m working obese children many of which have never known what if feels like to go for a walk and not get out of breath, there are no grocery stores near their homes, and many can’t identify vegetables in their natural forms. They are teaching me to be a better person and clinician every day. Putting back on the intern hat and burying myself in debt is worth every step back I have to take before I can jump forward.

This time last year I sat up at night researching graduate programs, emailing people in psychology and social work fields and most importantly admitting to myself I was unhappy. Being unhappy is not something you have to accept and it’s not a normal symptom of grown-up life. There are people that will tell you to deal with it or try to normalize it, don’t listen to those people.

steve jobs great work

 

And if you haven’t listened to this speech you should…just saying…

“You cannot connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever, because believing they connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path and that will make all the difference.” 

*sigh*

Sorry, I’m done with my rant and Jobs obsession for the moment.I promise to make an effort to be more present in this space if you keep reading!