Category Archives: Gratitude

New Year, New Home

Guess what?!?!

Today I begin a new adventure!  Actually it’s two adventures!

Today is the start of the last year of my 20′s!  Happy birthday to meeeeeee!

It’s also my first full day in my new home – Tucson, AZ!  Woohoo!

(I just  accepted a new job at BASF and had to move for it)

While I’m very excited about everything, I’m not gonna lie – it makes for quite the melting pot of emotions.

On one hand, I’m sad to leave new York city because I had a fantastic time living there. It was an experience unlike any other.

In the 9 months I was there, I….

…..made some good friends and was reunited with others.

…..got lessons from VERY unexpected places (read about my encounter with a drunk here).

…..ate tons of amazing food (some of it good for me and some of it not).

…..AND I survived mass transit and a 3-4 hour daily commute. BOOM!

 

On the other hand, I have many exciting things waiting for me here in Arizona.

Things like….

…being in the same time zone (and eventually state) as my man
….getting to live on the West Coast
….a cool new job
….gorgeous weather (well for most of the year)
….tons of hiking!
….significantly lower cost of living  (my new place is 3x the size of my NYC studio and half the rent!! ah!!!)

As you can see, there will be lots of things to miss but so much to look forward to, so it’s hard to decide on a single emotion :)

No matter how I’m feeling though, I think it’s probably a good idea to get a workout in today.

Now y’all probably know by now how I feel about working out, but I’m starting to notice that a good workout really helps me process my shit and any emotions I’ve tried to stuff away recently.

More on that in the future….

Anyway, since all my workout equipment is on a truck somewhere between here and New York AND I don’t have a gym membership yet, I am gonna have to kick my own ass some other way.

Enter this Coast to Coast workout I designed just for today.

 

C2C Workout
 Click on the photo to get the deets :)

I feel the title represents both the spirit of the celebrations today AND the workout itself.  Don’t ya think??

Of course I’d never want to deprive you of a good butt-kicking, which makes sharing it here the right thing to do.

So here’s to a crazy 29 years and the new adventures (and sore muscles) this day brings!

<3 Lauren

P.S. I couldn’t be more grateful to celebrate this day with you all. Thanks for being a part of it!

If You Give a Chemist a Poem…

“Lauren, if you don’t register for this class, you’re not going to graduate on time.”

I remember my advisor’s words sending chills down my spine as I sat in her cramped office at the conclusion of my 2nd to last semester of college.

As her words sank in, I quickly realized there was no way I could afford  to stay on for an extra semester at Belmont.  My academic and sports scholarships would be up by then.  Plus, I couldn’t miss the start of grad school…  I HAD to finish on time.

“Ok fine…  I’ll sign up for the Shakespeare class,” I muttered.

At the time, it felt like a death sentence or some cruel form of torture to make a scientist take a literature class in her last semester.

I’d have to suffer through an intense 6 week class on the late plays of Shakespeare in order to finish my bachelor’s degree on time.  Ugh.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against the Bard of Avon himself, but I’d always hated his plays with a passion because I could not for the life of me understand them!

The flowery language and the overuse of similes and words I didn’t know just annoyed me.  On top of that, every time I started reading a poem or a play, I’d have this overwhelming sense of “Just get to the point already!!!” overtake me.

Reading Shakespeare (and poetry in general) was not enjoyable at all.

I wish I could say that my perspective radically shifted and that I ended up loving that class.  I didn’t though.  While I passed and was able to graduate on time, I loathed every second I spent reading those plays.

Fast forward about 5 years….

While at home in Lafayette one night writing my dissertation, I heard a quote on TV that had me thinking “I need to find out who said that and write it down.”  A quick Google search told me that it was a quote from some poem a dead guy wrote.

Blah.  Since I hated poems I almost closed the browser, but something stopped me.

In the couple years prior to that night, I’d begun to understand the concept that life is more about the journey rather than the destination.  

I’d started searching for the value in each moment, in each experience.  I started appreciating processes more – whether it was cooking up a new dish, working on a crochet project, trying to improve my fitness or even just reading a book.

I stopped rushing for the finish line in everything I was doing, because I realized that while crossing the finish line feels fantastic, that feeling doesn’t last.

But the process – the experience – of getting to that final stop on the journey was full of all sorts of excitement and drama and lessons.

In other words, the in-between was full of LIFE.

So I did something I’d never done before.  I willingly read a poem.  [insert shock here]

I didn’t rush through it, and I savored each word.  If I didn’t know what a word meant, I looked it up.

Then I re-read the poem.  Three times.  And guess what happened by the end of the last time through?

I was just about moved to tears.

By slowing down and enjoying the process of reading the poem, I’d discovered an appreciation for poetry that I didn’t know I was capable of possessing (and would’ve probably never known about otherwise).

Now obviously I’m not perfect (I know, I know it’s hard to believe ;)), so I don’t savor every process… but I try because I know there’s value in the in-between.

I tell you all this today because I hope that you aren’t doing what I constantly used to do – rushing to the end of everything.  

Instead hopefully, you’re trying to find the lessons in the present moment and the joy in the current situation.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

If you’re working on health or fitness goals, I KNOW the feeling of quiet desperation to get to that goal you’ve been trying for months or maybe years to achieve.

If you’re looking to find balance in your hectic schedule, you want nothing more than to get control over the chaos ASAP.

What I hope you hear from this is that while you can still look forward to the end result of all your efforts, don’t forget that the learning and the growing happens during the process.

<3 Lauren

“Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are—
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Two Big Thighs and a Drunk

I figured it was only a matter of time until I had a run-in with a drunk, homeless guy in the city.  This weekend, it finally happened.

It’s gotten chilly in NYC, so I busted out a favorite long, cream sweater and my Nike workout pants to run errands this past Sunday.  These particular pants are flared, so they majorly cling to my thighs and show off my quads.  I didn’t think twice about how my legs looked in them – at least, initially.

Because I’m a beast and carry home 30 pounds of groceries over 20 blocks, I tend to focus on NOT running into the people around me.  I’m watching out for tourists who stop in the middle of the sidewalk to gawk at the tall buildings, small children that tend to dart everywhere, and drunks that stagger all over the place.

Ahhh city living sounds so attractive, right??

Anyway, I’m walking the last bit of avenue on the way to my apartment and spot one of the aforementioned drunks ahead.  He’s bobbing and weaving so I veer way to the right and avoid eye contact, the former in order to avoid a collision and the latter to discourage any sort of conversation/comments.

Fortunately, I’m successful on the “no collision” front, but unfortunately the drunk decides to scream at me as I walk by.  He lunged toward me yelling “TWO BIG THIGHS!!!

Two Big Thighs and a DrunkI’ve always had big thighs, probably
bc I played so much soccer :)

Since this isn’t the first time I’ve been yelled at by a drunk, I didn’t jump sky high like I might have before, but I did about shit my pants.  I kept moving to get by him, but it left me a little shaken up.

Sure it startled me, but that wasn’t all that was bugging me.  I was really pissed at the guy!  ”Yeah, I know I have big thighs, asshole!  Who does he think he is??  At least I don’t wander the streets hammered 24/7 like he does. What a dick…”  is all I could think to myself as I finished the trip home.

While I dragged my jars of almond butter, pumpkin puree, roasted red peppers, almond milk and coconut cream up the stairs to my apartment (why the hell do I buy so many canned goods so far from home??), I started to settle down a little and actually use my brain instead of emoting like a lunatic.  Here’s what the internal dialogue sounded like…

Logical Me:  ”Ok Hight, you need to chill the eff out.  It’s just a drunk guy spouting off.  Why does what he said bug you so much?”

Crazy Me:  ”Because that was a really shitty thing to say!  What if someone came up to him and yelled ‘worthless drunk!’ in his face?  He’d be hurt, too.”

Logical Me:  ”Ok so it wasn’t nice, but you’re letting this guy get to you.  Why?”

Crazy Me:  ”Probably because I still haven’t made 100% peace with the size of my ‘two big thighs’.  I wish they were smaller and tighter, so when he pointed out that they were big, it was a reminder of what I still don’t like or accept about myself.”

Logical Me:  ”That’s what I thought.  So what are you going to do about it now?  Staying upset about it is only gonna make you miserable the rest of the night and probably send you headfirst into a bag of potato chips by about 9pm.”

Crazy Me:  ”I guess I can look at it in a couple ways.  #1 is his comment has more to do with how he feels about himself than what he thinks about me.  He’s a homeless guy for cryin’ out loud!  He probably isn’t thrilled with his life, so his comment is probably coming from a place of him hating on himself.  Maybe saying that made him feel a teensy bit better.”

Logical Me:  ”Ok, so you can remember in the future to NOT TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY and give someone the BENEFIT of the DOUBT.  What else?”

Crazy Me:  ”I guess #2 would be to find ways to be grateful for my ‘two big thighs’ instead of loathing them.  Ok…  My big thighs have come with a big butt, and I like my big butt.   My thighs help me carry home loads of groceries and move heavy stuff around my apartment all by myself.  They also have a lot of muscle on them which means that my basal metabolic rate is high and leg day creates a huge calorie deficit and EPOC effect.  I can also lift a lot in the gym because of them, and that makes leg day so much fun!  Alright, so I CAN be thankful for my big thighs.”

Logical Me:  ”Yep.  EXPRESSING GRATITUDE is critical in accepting less favorite body parts – and isn’t that the reason you got all upset in the first place?”

Crazy Me:  ”I know, I know.  But it’s easier to hate on myself. It’s a habit.”

Logical Me:  ”True, but you’re more miserable when you hate.  And we’re trying to avoid being miserable these days.  Therefore, we’re trying new things like gratitude over hate.  So anything else?”

Crazy Me:  ”Next time I’ll throw a jar of almond butter – wait, nope that’s in short supply these days, I’ll throw a can of black beans at his head.  That’ll shut him up.”

Logical Me:  ”Yeah… great plan…”

So you see – once I finally settled down, I realized that the reason the guy said what he did had nothing to do with me or my big thighs.  More importantly though, I realized that I still hate on my thighs sometimes and therefore don’t like when someone points out that they’re big.

One way of growing to accept them is by adopting an attitude of gratitude.  In fact, gratitude can do all sorts of wonderful things.   I highly recommend it.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”  - Melodie Beattie

Your turn – Tell me in the comments about a time when gratitude or not taking comments personally has changed your outlook on a situation.

<3 Lauren

Scales are from the pit of hell & other ways to track your progress

So word has it around the fitness industry that September is becoming more like January – people are paying more attention again to what they eat and wanting to workout more.  Basically, people are renewing their resolutions to get healthier.

My guess is that it’s due to school starting up again, vacations ending, and most of the summer holidays being over.  So it’s time for a fresh start with the new school year (kinda like a fresh start with a new year!  seeing the January connection?? :D ).  Totally makes sense to me!

I think I’m kinda doing that too, actually.  I’m planning on enrolling in THIS AWESOME PROGRAM from Metabolic Effect cause honestly, my nutrition could use a little more structure right now.

Between vacation and being a permanent tourist in NYC (hello unlimited bars and restaurants to try!!!), I’ve allowed myself more “treats” than I have in probably the last year.  I’m not going for a drastic overhaul – my breakfast and lunch tend to be fat loss friendly choices… but snacks and dinner have moved to foods that won’t get me to my fat loss goals.

Anyway, so the program will give me a little more structure and accountability, which I think is a critical component to any fat loss program.  I’ve done this program before back in January, and it truly was a jumpstart to my fat loss efforts.

One thing that I struggled with during the program though was keeping track of my progress.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have ways to keep track of my progress, but the way I was tracking wasn’t helping me attain my goals and creating mental tornadoes.

 Tracking your progress

No doubt, it’s important to be able to measure your progress.  As a chemist, I’m a data girl through and through.  [I can analyze the $h*t out of anything! Lol!]  I KNOW the importance of having data to analyze so that you can make adjustments if what you’re doing isn’t working.  Plus, doing the same thing over and over and over again, expecting different results, is the definition of insanity!  So you need a way to track progress.

My issue is that when I or anyone else wants to measure their progress on a new diet/exercise plan, the first thing they turn to is the bathroom scale.

Why do I have a problem with the scale?

Because it lies.

It is a number that too often gets tied to our self-worth or whether or not we’ll feel beautiful for the rest of the day or how confident we’ll feel in our afternoon meeting.

Not only is it feeding into all this negative self-talk, when used alone, it’s not an accurate way to measure fat loss or muscle gain.

All the thing does is measure your relationship with GRAVITY.  A basic scale will not make the distinction between whether you have lost fat, muscle, water or a combination there of.  All it says is that you’re exerting more/less force on the ground.  That’s it.

Too often, it’s easy to get hung up on the number on the scale.  Say for 2 weeks, I’ve been eating fat loss friendly foods, done my workouts, slept enough, and are doing cortisol lowering activities.  I feel great, I’ve had an increase in energy and I just *feel* tighter/smaller.  My attitude towards how this meal plan is working for me is SUPER positive, so I can’t wait to jump on the scale for “proof” of how well it’s working.

So I hop on and look down… and then BAM!  To my horror, the scale only reads 1 pound lighter… or worse yet, it hasn’t budged.

That’s when the mental tornado starts.  ”But I’ve been working so hard!!  I HAD to have lost more than that!  This is ridiculous!  I’ll just have to eat less/workout more…  But I have so far to go; at this rate it’ll take forever.  I’ll never get there.  Oh who the hell cares, I’ll go eat a family size bag of potato chips since eating strict isn’t getting me anywhere – besides potato chips taste WAY better.”

Ummm, has anyone else ever done this??  If you have, you know it’s a miserable feeling.  You go from super jazzed about what you’re doing to rock bottom.  Your motivation is gone and your confidence is likely shot.  One moment you felt like you could do what you were doing forever, now you’re ready to dive into a bucket of ice cream and never leave the couch.

All this because some flat, square electronic device showed a higher number than you weren’t expecting???  I say screw it.  It’s time to stop giving the scale all the power in your relationship (because yes, you are giving the scale the power to squash you and your confidence).  

There are MANY other ways to measure your progress to your health/fitness goals, so if the scale can crush you just by stepping onto it, then it’s time to choose other methods.

While I’ve never been addicted to the scale (e.g. daily weigh-ins), I found I was still addicted to what it had to say.  The thing had too much power over me, so I stopped.

Yep, you read that right.  I stopped weighing myself.  I no longer use it as a way to track because I don’t have a healthy relationship with the scale.  And why set myself up for mental tornadoes when I can use other ways of tracking?

So since September is becoming like January and there may be some of you out there deciding to eat better/workout more efficiently, you’ll likely want to track your progress, and I’m going to give you my top 3 ways of tracking that DON’T include the scale.  One thing to remember is consistency – for the things that require measuring, try to do it at the same time.  So if you measure weekly, try to do it at the same time on the same day each week (makes it more reliable).

1.  Photos of yourself in the same outfit.
I LOVE this method of tracking!  I usually pick a swimsuit or spandex shorts and sports bra, set up the self timer on my camera, and snap away!  Used to be that I took photos weekly, but I found that I got too critical too easily if I “couldn’t see progress” from last week.  So I started doing it 1x a month.  It’s really amazing to see how much your body can change over the course of a few weeks!  Definitely my top choice for tracking progress.

2.  How do my clothes fit?
Another favorite tracking method of mine!  And you can do it a couple of ways.  One is to just pay attention to how your clothes are fitting.
Good questions to ask yourself
– Is there more room in the waist than the last time I wore these pants?  Are the sleeves looser in this shirt?  How does the back of this jacket pull when I cross my arms in front of my body?  Eh-hem… Am I no longer filling out my bra?? (ALWAYS a way for me to tell I’m making progress – sorry guys!!)  –
So that’s one way to do it – just pay attention to what you’re wearing every day.  Another way is to have a single piece of clothing that you try on once every few weeks and gauge how it fits (use a scale of 1-10, 1 being crappy fit and 10 being awesome).  For me, it’s this pair of gray work pants.  Since I can get too easily hung up on the numbers, I actually put the pants on and take pics of how they fit/look.  It’s a very objective way for me to track progress.  Do they feel looser/tighter?  How do they fit through the thighs? Etc…

3.  Circumference measurements.
This was something I had to give up after a while because I started *expecting* to see certain inches lost based on how I felt that week, but for most people this is a great way to track progress objectively!  All you need is a flexible tape measure and something to write with/on, and you literally measure the circumference at different spots on your body.  The ones I say that are best for gals are the fullest part of your bust, your natural waist, the fullest part of your butt, and the fullest part of one thigh (use the same thigh each time).  I find that I tend to see changes also in my arms, so I’ll measure my right bicep at a certain freckle (helps with consistency).  Also, I measure right under my bust (where the band of my bra would sit).  For me, those tend to be good spots for tracking.  Measuring once every 1-2 weeks can be very helpful and much less mentally taxing than the scale.

There you have them!  My top 3 ways to measure your progress WITHOUT the scale.  Let me think here… Pretty sure the last time I weighed myself was mid-June.  Before then, sometime back in February or March.  It was more for curiosity’s sake, not a “I HAVE to know what I weigh”.  There were no expectations or wishes or hopes for a certain number when I got on.   The whole idea is that the scale is just a number.  I mean, you could get even more creative and not focus on something related to your size/shape at all!  Maybe you just start focusing on how much weight you’re able to throw around in the gym now.  You did your metabolic circuits a month ago with 12 lb dumbbells and now you gotta use 15′s to get your B’s and H’s?  AWESOME!  That is HUGE progress there!  The point is - No matter what method you choose to monitor progress, remember that the key is focus on your wins and be grateful for them.

Now here’s a challenge for you – toss the scale for 3 months.  Put it away in some corner of your apartment, buried in your winter clothes and stash that box under tons of other boxes so that you’re not tempted to use it.  Choose another of the 3 methods above (or all of them at once, that’s fine too!) and track your progress that way.  Then I want to hear from you how much more free you’re feeling mentally/emotionally since you’re no longer chained to a number.

If you’re with me, in the comments below say “I’m gonna #tossthescale” and then we’ll start this awesome journey to freedom from the scale together!

Super excited!!  <3, Lauren

Take it Off, Girl! How I Moved Beyond my Insecurity About Being in a Bikini

A few weeks ago I experienced something that can make many women cringe.  It’s the moment you have to remove the cover-up when you’re at the beach or the swimming pool and you’re not super thrilled with your body…

Let me describe what happened to me recently…

So my man and I had decided that we wanted to get away for a bit this summer.  He lives on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast, and so our summer vacation was going to be a great way to unplug and spend some much needed time together.

We decided that we wanted to hit up a beach and spend the time laying in the sun (or under an umbrella) and drinking refreshing adult beverages (possibly garnished with a tiny umbrella).  We also planned to do a lot of reading, and since we’re both bookworms, it is the perfect way for us to spend our vacation.

Our destination was Cancun, Mexico, and we ended up at this FABULOUS resort called Excellence Riviera Cancun.  –BTW if you want to spend some time in Riviera Maya, then you HAVE to stay here.   This place was absolutely amazing!–  We went with the all-inclusive package for the week that we were there, which took all sorts of stress off since we didn’t have to worry about how much food/drink cost at every single meal.  Decisions make me tired, and I basically didn’t have to make any that week (the most complex decision was do I stay in the pool or go in the ocean right now?).  We could just relax and enjoy the whole resort.

 A gorgeous view from our hotel – Excellence Riviera Cancun.
We’ll definitely be going back!!

There was one teeny tiny catch in this whole plan for me.  In order to fully enjoy gorgeous/massive swimming pools and the warm waters of the ocean, I was probably gonna have to wear a swimsuit…  As you may or may not know, I still have a ways to go on my physique goals.

After college I put on a good 50 pounds.  Over the past year or so, I’ve been slowly working on changing how my body looks through smart nutrition (eating more of the right foods), efficient workouts (shorter, more intense workouts like these have been extremely important), managing stress and getting enough sleep.

By doing these things, I’ve been able to shed about 20 lbs in a little over a year   I’m super excited with my progress, but at the same time still have a ways to go and am not super comfortable exposing a lot of skin for all the world to see.

And to be honest, I was scared to death of having my man see me in a swimsuit for almost a whole week straight.  He has been incredibly supportive of my goals and efforts to get healthy again and encourages me however he can.

I so much appreciate his support, and I know that he never would judge me or say anything that would make me feel anything other than beautiful.

But I was still kinda freaking out cause I didn’t look as good as I thought I should look.  [And I have abandonment issues so I'm constantly fighting the urge to do everything that I think makes the people around me happy (yeah, people pleasing is a struggle for me).  But that's another post :) ]

Anyway, that was my biggest mistake right there.  Telling myself “you should look different” does absolutely nothing in the moment.  All that means is that when it was time to finally remove the cover-up, I was slightly panicked, nauseous, and drowning in insecurity.


Basically I was miserable
.

That first day when I was pulling off the cover-up, I was feeling all those things all at once.  Then I thought to myself — Um hello Lauren!!  Miserable is the opposite of what you want to be on this trip!!  Sure you aren’t as far along in your journey as you want to be, but you’re further than you were last year.  On top of that, this is how you look RIGHT NOW.

So dear self, you have two options.

1. You can continue to panic, feel miserable, say horrible things to yourself about how your thighs are massive and the girl across from you has tiny thighs.  Then you’ll miss out on all the things you could enjoy with your man because you’re too freaked out about how you look to have fun.  Oh, not to mention you’ll be wrapped up in thoughts of yourself and what other people are probably thinking about you instead of engaged in the present moment and what all is going on…

OR

2. You can choose to be HERE, in the NOW.  Acknowledge that the body that is here in this moment is the only body you’ve got.  In this moment, you can’t do anything at all to change it, so you are free to enjoy the moment instead.  You can’t do anything about it so why stress and shame yourself over it?  Plus, you think people are looking at you??  Well trust me, they are more concerned with how THEY look in THEIR suits to be paying any sort of attention to how you look.  <–  This is soooooo true!

So I thought about it for about, ummm, 2 sec?

I decided I wanted to enjoy my time and NOT be miserable.

So I went with option 2.

Each time I felt insecure, I told myself, “This is my body; I’m gonna own it.  I can’t change it right now, so I am going to choose to focus on what’s happening with me and my man and what’s happening at this gorgeous resort.  Instead of focusing on myself and worrying what others think, I’m gonna have a good time.”

I wish I could say that I only needed to tell myself this once, but I didn’t.

It came up several times over the first couple days, but every time the feelings of insecurity surfaced, I called them out (in my head of course… it might be a little weird to literally call them out :) ), and then I chose to think different thoughts about me and my body.  By the middle of the week, those feelings were surfacing less and less and I was able to completely enjoy my time.

Looking back now, I know I would’ve missed out on soooo much if I’d spent my time in my bikini freaking out about how I looked.  In short, letting go of my insecurity was FREEING.  I was FREE from self-doubt and worrying about what other people are thinking.  I could go into bikini situations totally relaxed and just be myself.  That made the trip so relaxing and fun.  I couldn’t have asked for more.

 
Letting go of insecurity and the negative beliefs
let me be FREE to enjoy and let go.  I got to me 100% me :)

I wish I could say I know I’ll never have to worry about these feelings popping up again, but the journey to accepting your body in the moment, in every moment, is lifelong.

[Note: just because you accept how your body is in this moment doesn't mean that you can't have body change goals... but it's important not to try and guilt or shame yourself into changing... that doesn't work longterm... accepting your body in the moment allows you to approach your body change goals from a place of love and gratitude for all your body is capable of instead of "ugh I hate how I look and can't wait to look different"].

So in the future, when these things come up for me, here are a few condensed steps of what I’ll do to address the insecurity.  I hope you’ll find them helpful, too. :)

1.  Be aware that you’re feeling insecure.
This is a toughie.  Calling out your emotions AND being able to connect them to underlying beliefs/feelings takes a while to start doing and is a process.  One way that I know I’m feeling insecure is that I get a tightening in my stomach/I get nauseous, I can feel my pulse quicken, and I get thoughts of “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I don’t think I can do this” or “holy crap I just want to run away” or “omg EVERYONE is looking at me and they’re probably saying ______”.  These are ways I know my emotions are probably coming from some feeling of insecurity.  I like to acknowledge this around the time it’s happening, if I catch it… but I don’t always catch it.  That’s why I like to journal – I can write out the situation and what I was feeling.

2.  Connect those feelings to thoughts/beliefs.
This is the 2nd most difficult part – figuring out what thought the emotion is connected to.  One more reason journaling is important to me because this step is really difficult in the moment.  When I’m journaling and removed from the heat of the situation, it gives me a chance to say “ooooh, this is what was running through my head but I was so caught up in the emotions that I couldn’t see my thoughts.  This is what those thoughts are.”  This step helps you separate the panic/emotions/physical reactions of insecurity from the associated thoughts.  Once you acknowledge the thoughts connected to the feelings/behaviors, you can choose to replace the crappy thoughts with better ones.

3.  Give yourself an alternative.
Jill Coleman (my mentor) asks this all the time, “What’s the alternative?”  In this situation, I could continue to dwell on how I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be in yet and how everyone was probably looking at me.  OR I could choose the alternative.  The alternative would be to focus my mental energy on being grateful for the progress I’d made and that I had a body that would allow me to lounge in the sun, swim, and walk along the beach.  I could also focus my energy/thoughts on the man and how much fun we were having together.    SO basically I could continue to be miserable by continuing to think the same thoughts, or I could choose the alternative – gratitude and focusing outside myself.

4.  Expect that you’ll have to remind yourself of this again and again and again and again….
You probably know this already – old habits die hard.  You’ve probably been mentally beating yourself up for yearssssss.  I know I sure have!  Suddenly changing what you say about yourself, and getting those positive thoughts to be the first things you think, will take a while.  So don’t get discouraged when you remind yourself of all the wonderful things about your body, and then 20 min later you catch a glimpse of your reflection in a window as you walk by and go “ugh”.  Take that as another chance to reinforce to yourself all the positive things you’ll choose to believe about your body.

This is what I want for you (and me) – that the next time you experience feelings of insecurity over anything, you’ll be able to call out those feelings, connect them to some negative thought or belief, and replace the garbage with some beautiful truths about yourself.  So to get you thinking about this —  Tell me in the comments below, what situations create feelings of insecurity for you?

<3, Lauren

If this resonates with you or you think someone else would glean a teensy bit of knowledge from this post, please share!  Email it, like it, tweet it, whatevs… just get the message out there that us gorgeous former athletes can choose how we talk to ourselves and what we say about ourselves and that they CAN be positive thoughts.

Life Learnings from March Madness

[Just an FYI, I'm still kinda reeling from Kevin Ware's horrific injury that occured in the Louisville/Duke game Sunday (as I'm sure many who saw it in person and on TV are).    My heart and prayers go out to Kevin as he begins the long road of recovery, and I sure hope we see him back in action in a couple years.  Hopefully, he will someday find a silver lining to this whole situation.]

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March is my favorite month for several reasons.  And I’m sad to see it go.

First, it’s the month I was born, so by default it’s the most awesomest month ever (yeah I said “most awesomest”  Don’t judge).

Second, it’s “in like a lion, out like a lamb”… well, it’s supposed to be that way.  There’s been WAY too much cold weather for March this year, but I digress.

Third, this month brings the height of the college basketball season – March Madness.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to TNT, TBS, truTV and CBS the past couple weeks watching games.  And not just your team’s games.

ALL the games.  I mean, that’s what March Madness is all about!

I remember when I was in middle school and high school, the teachers that had TVs in the classroom would turn on the games that were playing during the day and let us students watch.  That probably didn’t happen across the country, but growing up in the Hoosier state, well that was what you did.

Why?

Because basketball is to Indiana what football is to Texas and hockey to Minnesota.

Yes, it’s that important.

March Madness treat
My treat meal the night Belmont
played – Bdubs and Coors light. Yum!

Now though that I’ve gotten several years beyond my college career, I watch the tourney with a slightly different perspective.

Granted, I still act like every crazed fan – especially when Belmont plays.

I still eat wings, drink a couple of beers, and scream my head off at the TV - again, especially when Belmont plays.

BUT I do get sentimental at the end of many of the games, especially when I see the players crying.  I don’t blame them.

Out of the 68 teams that start, 67 of them will eventually lose.  Which means that 67 teams have seniors whose last game is a nationally televised loss.

Ending the season with a loss is hard enough, but to have the final game of your career be a loss?  Whew.  Nothing easy about that.

Actually, I don’t remember the last game I played in my college career.

No, I didn’t get a concussion or anything awful like that…

It’s because I didn’t know I was playing my last game at the time.

You see, my college career was, hmm how shall I say this…  unique.

I played my freshman year then redshirted my sophomore year due to a chronic knee injury/surgery.

I was already not considered fast, and after the surgery, my first few steps were even slower than they used to be.  Changing direction happened in slow motion, and even though I was still working my butt off, I was constantly getting beat to the ball.

Combine that with already fighting tooth and nail for playing time against the other girls on the team with mad skills?  And it meant that I hardly played more than 10 minutes a game.

Life Learnings in March Madness

My coaches approached me about a month or so after my junior year season ended and asked me to consider taking a “student coach” position for my senior year (read “glorified manager”).

It seemed like the best option for my physical health (my surgeon said that my knees would continue to crumble at an alarmingly fast rate as long as I was participating in high impact exercise)…

And also the best option mentally & emotionally (let’s be honest, it’s TOUGH to work your butt off day in and day out to at practice and then sit the bench for 90% or more of every game)….

After much consideration, tears, prayer, and several sleepless nights, I accepted.  And due to the timing of the offer, it meant that I had already played the last game of my career without knowing it.

Even though I was with the team for the entire next fall season as a “student coach”, I never really got closure to my playing days.  To be quite honest, this is something that is still hard for me to handle.

Every once in a while (especially during March Madness), emotions will come bubbling to the surface – anger, sadness, and jealousy (of all those players that DO remember their last game).  But when I start struggling with all of this, I try to remember that there are many things I can be thankful for that were a result of not playing my senior year.

For example, I got to coach a team that fall season which led to a summer coaching gig at the Shannon MacMillan soccer camp. Yeah, I actually met Shannon and got to work with her and a few other coaches for a week at the camp!!

For those who don’t know, Shannon was a member of the US Women’s Soccer team that won the gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics and the World Cup in 1999.  She was also the US Soccer Female Athlete of the Year in 2002.  She’s kind of a big deal.

Life Lessons and March MadnessThat is Shannon in the middle with a couple other
coaches.  We were showing her a good time
in downtown Nashville after the camp ended. :)

So, if I wouldn’t have been able to leave Belmont practices a little early to get to my girls’ team, I wouldn’t have made the connections with the coach that got me the spot coaching at that camp.

What I’m trying to tell you all today is that there is a difference between camping out in negative emotions that keep you a slave to your past and experiencing those emotions then using gratitude to release the past.

Gratitude helps me to find the silver lining of that experience so that I’m not stuck in the pain of the past.  The last thing I want is for my past to cripple me in the present.

I share this because I’m finding that my emotional health is just as important as my physical health, and as athletes, many of us only focused on the physical for years.  In fact, most of us were coached to focus only on the physical.

I’m not pointing fingers or blaming anyone, but now that we see this, it’s important that we don’t ignore it.

So my first tip on getting into better emotional shape is to give gratitude a try.  Find something to be thankful for, even if you’re right smack in the midst of madness.  Gratitude can radically shift your outlook on yourself and on your life.

Let me know – what are you thankful for today?