Why I Gave up Social Media for Lent

Exciting news!

I finally signed up to get my personal training certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or NASM! I chose the 9-week CPT online classroom option and it starts on Sunday. I’m so grateful I was able to connect with Mike through Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers — he was very helpful and answered my email within minutes. I am so, so excited for this first step in the direction of my dreams!

In health and fitness news, I’m also starting a new diet plan soon. It’s going to be sort of an “If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)” approach because I want to have a flexible dieting regimen while still being able to lose some fat. I’ll be updating a post on my most recent goals soon, which I’m looking very forward to sharing with you all!

In Cocoa news, she’s still a cutie. Always and forever.

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Now, for the purpose of this post: why I gave up social media for lent.

I’ve been doing a LOT of self reflection lately. My bible study is reading an awesome book, Craving Grace, that has really caused me to look deep within my self and take note of the areas that need a lot of improvement. I’ll do a full recap of this book, but I promise you it’s a GREAT read. The chapters are short, so it’s perfect for a bible study or book club!

With the Lenten season upon us, I was really evaluating my life and finding things that were distracting me from my relationship with God and being my best self in general. I found that I spend way too much on social media — not necessarily all at once, but I would check it as I was getting ready in the morning, before I went to sleep at night, and all throughout the day if I was driving (at red lights of course). I found myself mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds more than necessary.

I do believe social media is a great thing. It helps us reconnect with those we’ve lost touch with, allows us to share photos to our friends and family that we don’t see often, or even keep in touch with friends that have moved away. But when it starts taking away from your quality of life because you’re constantly checking your apps instead of having face-to-face conversations, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate the situation.

So, for 40 days I will be social media-less. I started yesterday and was seriously SO much more productive, and I felt much more in tune with the world around me. I’m generally not one of those people that sits on my phone at dinner because I absolutely HATE that, but I do find myself mindlessly scrolling through my feeds late at night instead of reading my Bible or a great book and just going to sleep.

I’ll keep you guys updated and I’m hoping to come out of these 40 days refreshed and renewed, with a much greater awareness of the world surrounding me :-)!

Have a great Thursday. It’s almost Friday, my friends. WOO WOO!

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What Do I Stand For?

In this transitional period of my life, it’s so important to have a strong foundation with clear values, goals and morals. This morning I had a big AHA moment — I realized I’m lacking clarity.

What are my goals? What are my passions? What do I stand for? 

To be honest, I’ve been neglecting a lot of these lately — things that make me feel good, things that bring passion into my life. Honestly, I haven’t been too nice to my body or myself. Because I lacked clarity, I felt for a while like I was aimlessly wandering day-by-day with no purpose, no set goal, no vision of what I know deep down in my heart to be correct.

So, in the grander scheme of things, here’s what I stand for:

Nutrition  Whole foods: In a perfect world, my diet would consist of all fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Maybe a morning green juice with ingredients fresh from my garden. By “whole foods,” I mean I do my best to make sure the food I put in my mouth has one or two ingredients (i.e. apple, brown rice, turkey, avocado, etc.) I thrive on foods that are minimally processed and I notice an improvement in both my mental and physical abilities when I eat them.

Exercise — Strength training: Although I teach group exercise classes (boot camp, BodyWorks, yoga and sometimes cycle), I try to spend the rest of my time in the gym strength training. Strength training for me incorporates various circuits, because I believe in the importance of functional strength. Being able to lift 9,000 pounds is great, but to me it means nothing if you can’t run at least a few miles or have any capacity for cardiovascular activity. Also, in terms of fat loss and long-term results, I’ve found a mixture of high intensity interval training (HIIT — sprints or other exercises with hard working periods and periods of rest) and strength training works best for me. Less is more here — no need to spend hours in the gym to get results.

Lifestyle: In order to balance hormones and counterbalance my hypothyroidism, I need to remember the importance of SLEEP, rest and recovery. Allowing my body to rest from strenuous workouts is key to improving my time in the gym. It also allows this lifestyle to be one that I’m able to maintain throughout my life. I rarely drink alcohol anymore (maybe a few drinks here or there); I strive to drink 1-2 gallons of water daily; and I take vitamins daily to fill the gaps in my nutrition.

Religion: I believe in the power of long, restorative walks and meditation. Through prayer and communication with my God, I’m able to recognize that I’m fully and wholly loved, and perfectly made just as I am. I’ve realized my worth in relationships and to myself through Christ. I attend church on a weekly basis and just joined a Bible study with a group of women whom I already feel such a strong connection with. More than anything, my spirituality fills me up, makes me whole, and helps me realize that I am good enough.

Relationships: As I stated above, through Christ I’ve realized the importance of not settling for any old thing that comes along. I’m working on building myself and the foundation for my life now, so when I’m ready, I’ll be the best I can be for someone else. I genuinely believe that relationships (friendships, family, intimate) are the foundation of life. Without love, we will never truly be satisfied. Love is worth more than any materialistic thing in this world.

Work: I take pride in my talents and abilities. I’m very self-motivated and give 100% to everything I do. This is a blessing and a curse, because I tend to wear myself out by taking on too much. However, I wouldn’t trade my discipline and dedication to my work, studies or fitness for anything. I can’t wait for the day that I’m able to speak, eat, breathe, sleep and portray my passion and love for health and fitness to the world.

Side note: these are arranged without order to importance in my life.

I’d love to go into further detail about each of these topics in upcoming posts, simply because I could talk for hours about each. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own mind that I forget to share what I believe to be basic information that could be SO beneficial to those who are just starting out on their own health and fitness journey!

I’ll leave you with what I posted on my Facebook this morning:

We are all a work in progress. No matter how much someone seems like they have it all together, we all are struggling in one way or another. That’s the beauty of life, though. We’re all in this journey together and it’s important to help each other out — giving someone a word of encouragement, a shoulder to lean on, a soul to confide in… Even when someone doesn’t admit they need the help. Without the darkness we wouldn’t see the light; without the rain we wouldn’t appreciate sunshine. Keep pushing. This life is beautiful and fleeting, and so, so worth living to the fullest.

Dear Graduating Semester…

Dear Graduating Semester of Senior Year,

If you were a person, you’d be quite the frenemy (friend/enemy).

You’ve caused me more stress than you can imagine. You’ve diminished what little was left of my social life.

You’ve made me work weekends to make ends meet. You gave me the choice to live at home to save some money, which gives me an hour commute to both school and work. You’ve made me spend countless hours devoted to my textbook in lieu of going out with my friends. When I have time to go out, I’m weary because I can’t afford to waste the whole next day in typical college hangover style.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had breakdowns because I don’t think I can handle it all. School, internship, group exercise instructor, news station, blog, my personal workouts, studying… I don’t even have time to breathe. *cue anxiety attacks*

However, you’re also one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. You’ve presented me with countless opportunities and have shown me that God doesn’t give me anything I can’t handle. You’ve taught me to embrace this season of busyness (insanity) in my life, for one day it will pass and I will most likely be wondering what to do with my free time.

You’ve given me a hectic but rewarding school schedule. Although my internship at the advertising agency is unpaid, you’ve provided opportunities for income through my new group exercise job and working at the news station.

You’ve cured my loneliness by giving me the opportunity to work the Wiggle Waggle Walk and adopt Cocoa, who has brought me more joy than I could ever explain in words.

You’ve taught me who my true friends are — the ones who understand that I’m busy, yet are still SO encouraging and accepting. You’ve given me a passion and fire to continue writing this blog, which has rewarded me with friendships that extend beyond a computer screen.

Turns out you’re not a frenemy at all, but one of the greatest challenges and blessings I willingly accept.

Eternally grateful for you, my friend.

Julie

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My 12 Summer Life Lessons

This summer has truly been one of self-discovery. I’ve learned so much about myself and about others and I’m confident I’m taking steps in the right direction toward a happy, healthy future. I didn’t think it would be so hard to write a “reflection” post, but I’m at a loss for words trying to describe the changes, both physical and mental, I’ve made just in the past three months.

My travels this summer came at the perfect time. It was a transitional time in my life as I embark on my final “first” day of school EVER tomorrow! I feel like I’m a completely different person than I was starting college and I’m constantly growing and changing into the person I hope to become.

Here are a few important things I’ve learned about myself and in general this summer:

Don’t take life too seriously. I’m making it my goal this semester to start looking at school as my “day job.” Yes, it’s important. Yes, it’s a stepping-stone for my future. Yes, I need to get good grades during my last semester. But do my grades define me? Certainly not. I’m a whole lot more than that. I used to find myself getting wrapped up in studying and the little details about school – I always felt like I could be doing “more.” Reading more, studying more. In turn, it gave me major anxiety made me less productive because I wouldn’t even know where to start! Being a student is only a small part of who I am and I shouldn’t let it consume my life.

Always make time for fun. This little detail is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in the past few months. For the past three years of college I’ve been so focused on work, working out and school that I almost forgot to live and have fun. Sure, I’ve had the greatest college experiences but I always found myself thinking too much about the future – maybe I shouldn’t go out tonight because I have to study all day tomorrow. I want to work out tomorrow morning so I think I’ll skip going to dinner with my friends. You may call this responsibility, and trust me, it is to an extent. But it’s also a limitation. When you’re constantly planning for the future, you forget to LIVE IN THE PRESENT. This semester, I’m going to be a “yes” man and do all that I can to take advantage of my last few months of college!

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BE YOURSELF (and choose your friends wisely). I’ve always had trouble with identifying myself as an individual. I’ve kept people around in my life simply because I wanted to “fit in.” Of course these weren’t my intentions as I was hanging out with them, but I realize looking back on my life that they served no purpose in my growth or happiness. In fact, they would suck the happiness out of me. I was trying to be someone I was not and in turn I was masking my talents and abilities. My dreams were belittled, I put my ambitions to the wayside. This summer I’ve realized that I’m different and I’m done trying to fit some “mold” just because it’s the “college norm.” I used to beat myself up because I didn’t want to go out and live the typical “college life.” I always said I wasn’t fully living the “college experience.” But what does that even mean? It’s different for everyone! From here on out, I’m embracing that I view things differently than some of my peers. I’m defining my college experience as a time of growth, reflection and self discovery and I’m forever grateful for the experiences I’ve made in college (“college experience” related or not) that have shaped me into the individual I’m becoming.

Take risks. Simply put: where there is no risk, there is no reward. We get so caught up in being comfortable with where we are that we forget how EASY it is to change it up a bit. Life should never be boring and mundane… when it is, that’s a sign you should make a change. Take a risk because I promise you there is way more to gain than there is to lose. If I didn’t take risks this summer, I wouldn’t have traveled up north. I wouldn’t have made all these discoveries for my self. I wouldn’t have cleared my mind and opened up to so many new experiences. Sure, I was scared to death. And trust me, I had my fair share of mental breakdowns. Would I trade the risks I took (good or bad) for anything in the world? Absolutely not. Because I’ve also learned another thing – life always works itself out. It may not be how you expected it, but it’s often BETTER. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you take risks with an open mind and an open heart.

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Explore new places. In a broader sense, this was the epitome of my travels. I saw so many amazing places that have opened my eyes to the beauty of the world (and has given me a serious case of wanderlust.) I know not everyone has the amazing opportunities to travel the country this summer like I have and I realize that I am extremely blessed beyond words. However, exploring doesn’t take traveling throughout America or even the world for that matter. Explore where you are. Right here, right now. Go outside. Take a walk. Some of the best memories I have from this summer were from my walks. I would pray and listen to music and think and reflect and get to know myself. I truly believe that nature connects you to who you are and who you want to be. Make sure to explore and open your eyes to your beautiful surroundings. Exploring has connected me to myself in ways I never thought imaginable.

Be a kid. It’s OK to be immature, no matter how old you are. Laugh! Sing! Dance! Have fun! Sometimes I would forget to actually “be myself” and have fun because I felt uncomfortable, and this goes along with learning to be comfortable with myself. Now I’m pretty much myself around anyone. If you don’t like my weird accents and dancing, that’s perfectly fine with me. Plenty of people do 😉 You may grow old in age, but your heart should never grow old. Keep having fun. Keep making memories. Be silly. I don’t remember the exact context of the situation but I was expressing concern about something to my mom this summer. I repeat this to myself every time I feel like I’m getting too serious now: “Just be your goofy self!” (Thanks, Mom. Bet ya didn’t know your words would become the motto of my life :-))

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Enjoy being single. So many people look at being single as a “curse.” Sure, it may be lonely at times, but that’s what friends are for! Being single should be seen as a time to focus on self-improvement, exploring new things, meeting new people and taking risks. I’m single for this season of my life for this exact reason. It’s given me confidence to make the choices I’ve made and a clear mind without any outside distractions to make these decisions. For me, being single is a personal choice because I want to develop my own self worth and stability before committing to someone else. I’m learning something new about myself pretty much every day and I’m loving it! I have a big heart, and I want to share my dreams, passions and love and all that my life encompasses…. Some day 🙂 I adore this:

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Read. The greatest book I read this summer was Love Does by Bob Goff. That book is absolutely incredible and deserves a blog post of it’s own (I’ll put that on my to-do list! Seriously, it’s too good for anyone to pass up.) Reading has sparked my creativity. It improves my writing, studying, relationships, mind, heart and pretty much every aspect of my life. It allows me to relax, live in someone else’s shoes for a day, and even shows me how blessed I am.

Life is short, be careful how you use your words. I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. I’ve lost people in my life because I didn’t tell them how I felt when I should have. I’m stubborn and relentless and I’ve used my words to hurt people that I care about the most. If I’ve learned anything this summer, it’s the importance of doing things for other people. Don’t act out of anger. Take a few deep breaths before you say things you don’t mean. Make sure you remind people in your life each and every day how much you love them. I’ll never forget one time when I was driving with my uncle and he was in the passenger seat. I was supposed to make a right turn and passed it and all he said was, “Did you figure out a new way to go?!” It wasn’t sarcastic. It wasn’t condescending. It was a genuine question and I was seriously in awe that he could be so kind IN THE MOMENT. If that was me, I probably would have said something more along the lines of “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO TURN!” Yeah, I’m working on that 😉

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Be a do-er. One of the most important areas of my life that I always try to improve is how much I “do.” By that, I mean I always strive to make the people in my life feel special by doing things for them. If they need a ride, I’ll be there if I can. I’ll send a letter to a friend I haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes it’s as simple as sending an “I love you and I’m grateful for you” text. Words can’t express the love I have for the people in my life, so I strive to make up for that lack of words by my actions. Staying with my uncle this summer opened my eyes to this on a new level. I remember mentioning ONCE that I was getting calluses on my hands from doing deadlifts. Next time we were at Target, he shows up in my aisle with work out gloves. It’s little things like that that make the biggest difference in life. To him, it was nothing. To me, it meant everything. He listened. He paid attention. He CARED. And he literally does things like this all the time without thinking twice about it. I hope I can give to the extent of my uncles to the point where it almost becomes effortless and second nature. I think we can all learn a little from these guys 🙂

Don’t be consumed by the idea of perfection. I’ve learned to realize that I’m not perfect. Well, duh… But I’ve learned to realize that this is OK. I have my faults and weaknesses. I care too much about things I shouldn’t. I worry. I have anxiety. I stress myself out over little things. I sometimes speak out of anger. But these qualities don’t define who I am. Instead of getting down about these things, I just focus on improving the areas that need a little work. I’m a work in progress and I’m becoming stronger every day, imperfections and all!

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Spend time with God. Let’s be real for a minute here. There are times this summer when I would pray about something happening and I thought I never got an answer. Looking back, I did get answers, they just weren’t the answers I expected to get. They were better. When you pray boldly and ask the Lord for things that seem out of your own control, He delivers. I’ve prayed for some pretty crazy stuff, but look at where it has taken me! All across the country, growing and helping people. Learning more about myself in order to love and help others. Now I’m praying for Him to use me in a way that will help others in unimaginable ways. I want to love like Jesus did. I want to give like Jesus did. I want to LIVE it and not just read about it. I’m not one of those people that can sit here and quote scripture and honestly I think it’s about so much more than that. I like to believe my faith is displayed in the ways that I take risks and in the ways that I love people. I want others to know Jesus because of my actions.

Disclaimer: This post was written straight from the heart. Lots of blood, sweat and tears went into the making of this post. OK, just kidding. Maybe just tears. I hope you’re able to take some of the things I’ve learned in my journey and apply these principles to your own life. I’m still being molded and shaped by my surroundings each day and I’m looking forward to continuing this journey with you all on board.

Also, while my posts are not always “health and fitness” related, I’d like to think that everything I write ties back to it. Just because it’s not a recipe or a work out doesn’t mean it’s not important. Mental health and spiritual growth are HUGE determinants of how successful you are in the gym and with a healthy lifestyle. A healthy heart and mind make up 90% of your health and fitness journey. Building a strong mind creates more willpower and ultimately a stronger body. The greater the connection between your mind and body, the greater results you will achieve. Simply put: BE HAPPY FOOLS! Keep growing, keep striving to be a better person and keep your eyes on the prize both mentally and physically 🙂 We’re only as strong as our minds perceive we are! 

Before I Die….

Yesterday, my uncle and I spent the day at the most amazing farmers market in all the land!

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The West Side Market, right here in Cleveland! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I could’ve spent hours there, but it wasn’t in my cards since I have 54239 assignments due each day. (…Or at least that’s what it feels like)

I saw this wall when we were out last weekend and I meant to write on it and take a picture. I’m so so so glad we saw it again so I could share it with you guys!

Note: This blog post gets pretty deep.

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I shared this photo on my Instagram yesterday and listed my top 5:

1. Inspire others through my blog 
2. Finish my bucket list
3. Be the reason someone wants to wake up in the morning 
4. Travel the world
5. Be so happy that it makes others want to do the same

As I sat there staring at the wall trying to figure out what to write, I was at a loss for words. If you know me, you know I’m a really deep thinker, so the whole “ride an elephant” idea just didn’t suffice (although I would like to ride an elephant some day :-).) That’s why my #2 says finish my bucket list… I’m not kidding when I tell you that I have a running bucket list that I keep in my phone. I’m constantly updating it as I think of new, crazy ideas.

To share a few items on my bucket list:

  • Skydiving in the Grand Canyon – Although I’ve already been skydiving, I’m a huge nature lover. I’d ultimately love to get my skydiving license someday. World traveling + skydiving? Count me in!
  • Visit a third world country and genuinely pour my heart & soul into helping out
  • Climb Mount Everest… I dream big, huh? 😉
  • Compete in a triathlon
  • Learn to play guitar
  • Go to Mardi Gras!
  • Cruise to Alaska (and Europe, for that matter)

And a few things that I’ve been able to check off my bucket list include: Snorkeling in the Cayman Islands; Zip lining in Cozumel, Mexico; Skydiving; Country concert (checked this off about 5 times now…); Cruise

I’d really like to emphasize #3 and #5 on my list. I think it is so, SO important to give back what you were so blessed to have. I want to live a life that makes others want to follow suit. I’d like to be known as someone who is always happy, always smiling and able to carry others through tough times even when she has her own problems to deal with. I want to be the reason that someone looks forward to their day (this includes friends and family & obviously someday a significant other).

I want others to want to know Jesus because of my actions and I hope to fulfill this through integrity, respect and providing unconditional love to ALL who surround me… Friends and strangers alike. It only takes ONE PERSON, ONE WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT to make someone’s day. My goal each day is to fill others up with so much love that, in turn, they do the same for someone else. I’m not perfect, but it’s an effort I make daily. After all, this life isn’t about US. It’s about helping other people. 

What would you write on the wall?

Cleveland: Part 2

I spend a majority of my day working on my summer classes (all 4- yikes!), but it turns out I’m actually enjoying them quite a bit! They’re sociology and philosophy courses and I’ve actually considered changing my major to philosophy. (Totally kidding, 6 months left and never looking back)

Despite my hectic school schedule, my second weekend in Cleveland brought more fun adventures! First stop: Broaaaaaadwayyyyy (jazz hands) 

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The Book of Mormon was hilarious, but wrong. So, so, so wrong. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor about five times. We had such a great time laughing and enjoying each other’s company and the venue was beautiful!

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After the show, my uncles and I had dinner at Dante. The menu had quite a selection and the night resulted in a few “firsts” for me. (Actually, everything we ate was new to me.) We started off with two appetizers to share and split everything between the three of us.

Appetizers
Lobster Spring Roll with pencil asparagus & truffled mushroom ragout- my absolute favorite!

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Hawaiian Tuna Tartare with poached egg, olive caper remoulade & crisp potatoes

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Entrees:
Cinnamon Rubbed Duck Breast with rhubarb dumplings, arugula & baby beets

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Truffled Scallops and Ramps with white bean puree, broccolini & potato crisp

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Warning: Vegetarian friends… Close your eyes

Grilled Spanish Octopus (what?!) with chorizo sausage, artichokes & kalamata olivesOctopus

The sight of the octopus seriously freaked me out. I’ve just recently become acquainted with seafood so anything besides non-fishy fish (very technical term) scares me… Plus anything that looks like it’s original form. I used to cry in the grocery store when I was little because the lobsters in the tank scared me. But, I must admit, everything was quite delicious. I’m proud of myself for trying so many new things in the past few months! Keep an open mind and life is much more fun :-).

I’ll leave you with this masterpiece:
Peanut Butter Banana Cheesecake with chocolate covered pretzels & rocky road ice cream.
Need I say more? 

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