Month: February 2014

Why Adopting a Dog Transformed My Life

As a self-proclaimed animal advocate, I have devoted most years of my life to taking care and including a pet in my family. When my husband and I got married almost eight years ago, we were both very busy people. He is a full time touring musician, and I work full time as well as go to school. We made the decision to wait until we could be “good parents” to adopt a dog. This was the first time in my life that I didn’t have some sort of pet in my life. You don’t get nicknamed the “Girl who lives on Noah’s Ark” for no good reason. I would rescue birds, snakes, cats we even had a pot-bellied pig named Porkchop. We were a suburban zoo. Needless to say, I felt like part of my life was incomplete. I was willing to make the sacrifice to go without something I wanted in order to do it the right way down the road. I knew full well that if I had pushed the issue I would have been one of “those owners” who left their poor dog at home alone all day.

Fast forward to January 2013. I had just graduated college, and had the opportunity to move to a branch of my job just a few minutes from my house. This was finally the perfect time to introduce a new family member. Joel and I had decided we wanted a small to medium dog that didn’t shed, that was sturdy, intelligent, loving and trainable. After a lot of research, and my personal experience working as a Veterinary Technician we started looking into Schnauzers. The idea of picking out a purebred dog was so foreign to me, since I have always adopted animals from the humane society. We took a chance and drove to a breeder in Sebastopol. We got to meet over 100 dogs, which was quite overwhelming. Unfortunately we ended up leaving empty handed, which left me devastated. As I sat in the passenger seat sulking, Joel hinted for me to check out the Craigslist pet section. I was leery, since something about Craigslist seems dishonest to me, but I did. The very first posting was for a 4 year old mini-schnauzer free to a good home. I did a double take, looked at Joel as if he was pulling a prank on me. It was too good to be true, but it turned out to be true! We met “Mitzy” that night after the long drive home, and hasn’t left my side since. Her new name is Emmy after the waterfall at Emigrant Gap where Joel and I got married, and since you know, she’s an emigrant.

Our first day at the Marina

Our first day at the Marina

Photo credit

She is the perfect fit to our family and activity level. She is agile, smart, loving just the best I could have ever hoped for, and as an added bonus I knew that we were giving an animal a second chance for a forever home, instead a buying one from a breeder. She goes everywhere with us, even floating the Truckee River!

Em, as I call her, inspires me to be active since it is my duty to take the very best care of her. She reminds me that “every little thing is gonna be alright” when she curls up in my lap after a long day. She has ultimately helped me out of my depression by showing her undying love and commitment to me. Lots of research has been done on the impact of owning a pet and its effects on depression. I just read a great article on DogWatch about Five Ways a Dog Can Change Your Life. My favorite was #4 Dogs Extend Your Life. The article suggests that by keeping active, which having a dog can help you do, and by lowering stress, also a benefit of owning a dog, that you will live a healthier, longer life.

We need each other, this is the type of relationship I was missing in my life, no offense to my darling husband! There’s just something about a pet’s unconditional love that snaps you out of a bad mood or rough day. Having someone depend on you for everything also makes you less self-centered and more aware of other’s needs, making you a better person. How does your pet make you a better person? Go hug your pet and give them a little treat from me! ūüôā

Advertisements

Being Healthy Sometimes Makes you Sick

I started week 3 of my challenge feeling quite under the weather. My husband had been suffering from a sinus infection all last week, and I must have been feeling sorry for him so I decided to contract one myself! The first thing that came to mind was, “I’ve been doing everything right! WHY am I SICK?!” After making a pot of chicken and vegetable soup, I sat down to get to the bottom of my dilemma.

The vast Internet had lots to say about why people who work out and are dieting may fall ill. Some of the simple answers were that gyms and other workout facilities are dirty, nasty places. Think about it, do you get off the elliptical machine to wash your hands after you sneezed or coughed? Nope, I didn’t think so. Hopefully we are conscientious enough to wipe down the machines after we use them, but let’s be honest not everyone is.

Another answer that ties in with dieting and getting sick is that your body can sometimes think that it is in survival mode if all of a sudden it stops receiving the amount of nutrients it is used to pre-diet. This in turn weakens the immune system, which basically makes you susceptible to getting sick if exposed to germs.

Now I’m about to release some science on y’all. After talking to my good friend, Doug, who is my mentor, works as a toxicologist and is a health freak (what 65 year old do you know that looks likes a Greek God?) he summed up why we get sick into the lack of basic hormone regulation. That hormone is cortisol. It belongs to the steroid family and the principal hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Cortisol has two primary functions in the body, first it stimulates glucogenesis, the breakdown of fats and proteins into glucose (aka fuel for your body). Secondly, and why I studied its effects on the body, is that it activates anti-stress and anti-inflammatory pathways. Cortisol is one of the body’s main players in responding to stress. It is what fuels, along with other hormones like adrenaline, the “fight or flight” mechanism. When cortisol is released in this method it is in reaction to a stressful situation. Some studies suggest that we are not necessarily in as many physically stressful situations as our caveman ancestors, but we are under a lot of mental stress, which in turn releases cortisol. This is why stress has been linked to so many health issues, many of which are categorized as aging issues, such as heart disease, lowering bone density, depression and weight gain.

cortisol

Photo Credit

So, what does all this have to do with getting sick when we work out??? Here’s the answer ladies and gentlemen, physical activity like lifting weights and working out is a form of stress! Stress produces cortisol and weakens the immune system. So let me draw you the big picture…With the release of cortisol to combat physical stress we weaken our immune system, paired with the exposure to germs at the gym as well as lowered immune system due to your body going into survival mode due to dieting you have the perfect environment for catching a cold. When we are adding new stressors to our body, it sometimes responds by shutting down. I missed 2 days of boot camp class and a day of work because I was so sick.

What can we do to combat this? Here are a few suggestions I’ve found:

  • Don’t go to the gym if you are sick! Come on people this is common courtesy.
  • Wash your hands and equipment after working out.
  • Change out of wet, sweaty clothes as soon as possible, you don’t want to add more stress to your body by catching a chill
  • Take a multivitamin and zinc supplement
  • Drink LOTS of water
  • Reduce stress
  • Get plenty of sleep

These are pretty common sense practices, but following these simple rules could help keep you in the gym working toward your goals. What do you do when you’re sick to get back on your feet faster? Leave me a comment and let me know!

The Abolition of Weakness

Week two of my Transformation Challenge is complete! I have learned quite a lot about myself as I push forward in pursuit of health and happiness. First, that the healthier I feel the happier I am! I never thought I could be so proud of myself for choosing to eat an apple over the box of Girl Scout Cookies my husband so conveniently ordered last week. I literally get a sense of elation and empowerment for making the right food choice. Next, I’ve learned that even though I am NOT a morning person, a strong enough goal can get any grumpy grouch out of bed at 5:25 am. I’ve also learned that true morning people are a little insane (like the ones who torture us at boot camp) , really, who could possibly be happy about being up before the sun? ūüôā

With all my burgeoning healthy habits, I have noticed the great need to unlearn some not so healthy habits. Here’s a short list:

  • Stop saying “I can’t”
  • Stop making excuses
  • Stop wasting time/procrastinating
  • Don’t go to bed so late
  • Don’t take out my tired aggression on innocent bystanders

Forbes Magazine published a great article on staying motivated. You can view it here. It focuses on making a goal and then making it attainable. I feel like I’m right on course to accomplish my goals, and then some!

After reading the article, leave me a little note either here or on Twitter (you can follow me @julesackerson) with what keeps you motivated to accomplish your goals.

Transformation, A Two-Step Process

Positive-Thinking

trans·form (verb)

1. to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose.

2. to change in condition, nature, or character; convert.

To go through a true transformation, I believe there needs to be elements of each of the two definitions above. The obvious, and maybe the easier of the two involve a change to one’s physical nature. What many fail to realize, is that in setting out to change one’s physical self that they need to also change their inner selves.

Since the start of my 12 week transformation challenge 2 weeks ago, I have seen more immediate results in the changes I am making to my nature, or character. Since I have more self-love and dedication to my physical goals, I am finding it easier to stick to my goals that don’t involve my diet or exercise. I am committed to doing my best at work and school even though I may be exhausted, I am becoming a morning person (something my mother would have never thought possible) since I am dedicated to achieving my goals and need the most time available. I have changed my spending habits since I go grocery shopping for my whole week on Sunday, and now very rarely eat out.

I have also changed my view on food, let me be the first to confess that I am addicted to food (that’s kinda how I got here); but now I view it as fuel for my body to perform it’s job to the fullest, and I’m conscious more now than ever at the quality of food I eat. The old adage “you wouldn’t put regular grade gasoline in a Ferrari” applies here.

It’s amazing how setting a goal like changing my body is also changing my spirit (for lack of better words) and habits. I am excited to triumph in the little changes I see in my body along the way, but am starting to be even more excited about how my entire attitude and demeanor will change due to self-love and dedication. I have a long road still to go, but small successes help power through the tough times.

If you liked this blog post here’s a link to my previous post, check it out won’t ya?

A little birdie suggests for more stuff like this follow me on twitter @julesackerson

Who do we really cheat on “Cheat Days”?

Week 1 of my transformation challenge is complete, and a very strange thing happened to me this week as I have been eating clean and working out, my body has been more efficient and energized! I was so happy with the results I was seeing in this short amount of time that I made a deal with myself, that I could have a cheat day! Many diets suggest a couple of cheat meals throughout the week are not only beneficial to your mental health (let’s face it, eating broccoli for 3 meals a day 7 days straight could drive anyone mad) but is also good for the overall strategy of your diet. As I found out, there is an added benefit to cheat days, they sometimes make you feel miserable so you are excited to go back on your “dreaded diet”.

My cheat day consisted of lunch at Chipotle, which is actually a pretty healthy option if you find yourself needing to eat out. I ordered a chicken bowl with black beans, brown rice, salsa and added cheese and sour cream as my “cheat” since I’m not eating dairy. So far so good, this was the first meal I had eaten away from home all week. Next my husband and I went to the new IMAX movie theater and saw RoboCop, and since it was opening weekend they gave away a medium drink and medium popcorn to everyone. Great, I thought, since I don’t really like popcorn and I don’t drink soda, but we felt obligated to consume free movie snacks. After a few bites of popcorn and a few sips of pink lemonade, my stomach started to hurt, so I tossed the rest in the trash. My hubby however, finished the slushee he ordered and paid for it dearly after the movie. High fructose corn syrup is terrible for you, but that’s another story for a later time.

We had planned to go to Grimaldi’s after the movie, but it seemed like everyone else in the theater had the same idea, and we didn’t want to wait (even though they are worth it!). So we eventually ended up at the Olive Garden. We split the chicken and shrimp carbonara, which was rich, and flavorful. As my taste buds were enjoying the carbohydrates and cream sauce, my stomach was complaining that it was not up for the job of trying to extract nutrients from this food. So, not to go TMI on you, it was out as fast as it was in.

So why do we think that we need to reward ourselves with something bad after doing so much good? It’s akin to the skit Bill Cosby performs about alcohol. It’s attached below for your viewing pleasure. After watching the video, let me know what you think might be a better reward for all my hard work.

 

Failure to Prepare is Preparing to Fail.

The quotation above from basketball hall of famer, John Wooden, really strikes home, and has proven to be true time and time again. This week was my first attempt at preparing a weeks worth of meals on Sunday night. Drumroll please…It was very successful! I took a shopping list of diet acceptable foods and went to Costco. Let me tell ya, I LOVE Costco! They are a fabulous company that values their customers by listening to their wants and needs. Costco has rapidly expanded their selection of organic foods which makes me happy. One hundred and sixty eight dollars later, I’m ready to prep. I enlisted the help of my mom to help cut down on the prep time, so together we made about 25 meals in two and a half hours. This is a small representation of what we made, there was a 5 pound bag of broccoli that I forgot to pull from the freezer and a 6 pound turkey breast used in salads. I whipped up some healthy and hearty turkey chili to eat on for the week (see the stock pot?) which was amazing, and did not taste like diet food. I’ve posted the recipe at the bottom for you to enjoy.

                                                                          photo 3

So why on earth would I fill my fridge with stacks of tupperware and ziplock baggies*, the same reason all the successful health conscious people do it, to actually save time and energy not having to worry about what you are going to eat. By preparing your food ahead of time you can easily make healthy food choices, rather than having impulsive food breakdowns which can lead to the double cheeseburger nightmare. Not to mention that I now have more time in my day overall to focus on other important tasks.

*side note, I need to find a more eco-friendly way to transport some of the smaller food items rather than in disposable ziplocks. I’ve tried washing them, but it is too time consuming. Leave me a comment at the bottom with possible solutions ūüôā

This year one of my goals it to adopt the life principle of not sacrificing the happiness of the future me by taking the easy way out now. Taking a couple of hours out of my week to set myself up for success has had a huge return on investment. I’m looking at it as making deposits into my life account to assure a wealthy and healthy future. I will be continuing to prep on Sunday nights, and as it turns out several of my co-workers liked the idea so much that they enlisted my help on getting them started prepping meals for the week. I’m finding out that healthy lifestyles are contagious, everyone wants to be successful.

Turkey Chili Recipe:

1 package of 93/7 ground turkey

1 8 0z can tomato sauce

1 14.5 oz can organic black beans

1 14.5 oz can organic pinto beans

1 14.5 oz can organic diced tomatoes

2 tbs taco seasoning

1 tsp onion powder

2 cloves garlic (pressed)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Simply brown the turkey, add spices and canned goods. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer you let it simmer the better it will taste. I added red chili flakes to it at the end to spice it up a bit. This recipe makes about 10, 1 cup servings weighing in at about 159 calories per serving. I slice up 1/2 an avocado and put it on top for added yumminess.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to leave a comment below on remedies for my ziplock bag dilemma!!

The first day of the rest of my life…

Here I am embarking on a new adventure, feeling dedicated to myself and my goals of taking charge of my life and transforming into a healthier, happier version of me. ¬†I’ve said my goodbyes to the current version of myself, the version that felt helpless and hopeless, the version that would “eat” her feelings, the version that was unable to love itself as well as others around her. Before I get to the triumphant story of what has pushed me to make a life change, I must give you a little back-story of how I got here.

This version of me was born in the wake of the biggest tragedy and loss of my life, my younger brother also my best friend’s, accidental death. I had never experienced such life shattering pain, to lose someone so close to you and at such a young age, the kid was only 19. I had no idea what to do and this downward spiral was my coping mechanism, turning off and checking out. I thought that by becoming cold that I was being strong, that I was holding it together for my family. I was also awkward when someone would ask¬†what was wrong, and I would coldly answer through held back tears that my brother just died. Startled, they would offer condolences and ask if they could help in any way, and I knew that there was nothing in the world that could possibly help my situation, so I said no thank you and would run away to cry in a closet somewhere. I started avoiding people and they me, since they soon realized there was nothing they could do. I was a complete mess, for years, and as I‚Äôm writing this am falling to pieces trying to type through tears. It seems like yesterday that I got the news that he had been reported missing (since they had not yet found his body in the lake) from the Wild Horse Reservoir, where he was working as a park ranger. He passed away July 6th 2007.

I have had a lot of time as this version of me, and am ready to reclaim some of the traits I have been known for my whole life, and integrate them into the newest and best version yet. I want to smile again from ear to ear because I know I love my life. I want to be a dedicated friend and partner who is compassionate and fun. I want to be back in fighting shape and look and feel like a martial artist again. I want to have that sparkle that I once had when walking into a room, and feel like I could talk to anyone. I want to put my health, both mental and physical back as life-long priorities. I want to know that my life was great when my brother was alive, and that it can be great now that he is gone, and that I am glad for the time I had with him, rather than feeling sorry for myself for the time I didn’t.

We are all here for a limited time, and we need to make the best of it. I know that my body, my vessel, needs some major overhaul, but I needed to take care of my emotional being first and foremost before embarking on a journey to physical health and happiness. So without further ado, I encourage you to follow me for the next 12 weeks on my quest for health and happiness. I hope to share my stories of success, give insight to what works, and provide the tools necessary for others looking to take on a transformation challenge.