happiness

How To Stop Hating The Process & Have Fun Losing Weight

Does Motivation Really Help?

Every time I've ever gone on a diet, I had to pump myself up like crazy the day before. I'd go out and got a stack of health/self love related magazines, buy a giant haul of fresh foods from the market, and stay up all night putting together recipes and meal plans. 

Every single time, I refused to allow one negative thought to come into my brain. This was it. After almost 2 decades of trying and failing, I was finally going to lose the weight. 

But after a few days of being perfect, weighing myself daily, and feeling a surge of confidence... a familiar little voice popped in my head. 

"You've been doing SO WELL, you deserve to cheat. Just a little bit. What's one meal?" 

I'd try to shake the thought and do anything else, but the longer I ignored it, the louder it got. The thought of food would take over my brain whether I was hungry or not and, no matter how many glasses of water I drank, I couldn't shake the idea. I desperately wanted relief from the hunger in my brain and my resentment grew with every healthy meal that couldn't satisfy my urge.

Before I knew it, the motivation would dissipate and I'd feel miserable. I just wanted to be normal and happy, to be able to eat food without gaining 10 lbs overnight, and I hated the amount of effort it took just to "be good". 

So, I'd give up to the urges which usually led to a binge and a whole lotta self hate the next morning.

What Was I Doing Wrong?

I HATED the whole process and loathed that I had no choice. I felt trapped between doing something I really didn't want to do and something I knew I had to do. 

Notice how I said I just wanted to be normal. Happy. And for some reason, I assumed that would come from weight loss. I'd done something that most of us do - I attached an emotional association to weight loss that didn't actually exist. 

I could've pushed myself to lose weight, but it didn't mean I'd be happy once the weight was off. It didn't mean I'd be more confident, comfortable, or successful. The things I was looking for from weight loss, It turns out, didn't have anything to do with weight loss at all!

But when my MS flared, my mindset changed. Losing the feeling on my right side, the ability to walk for 4 months, made me appreciate the process because of where it would lead me. 

Suddenly, that green smoothie wasn't a replacement for bacon and eggs, it was a vehicle to walking without a cane again. Getting to the gym became easier because every time I could do an extra minute meant I was closer to getting my life back. 

I put myself in a headspace of working for a goal that made me happy and, even though none of the actual work had changed, it turned out that the only thing that needed to change, was my mind.

So How Do You Enjoy The Process?

When I was heavy, I was already happy. I loved my family, friends, boyfriend and degree. I had everything I wanted, I just couldn't figure out how to the conquer the weight and it consumed me. 

I felt like my weight was preventing me from being happy, so I prevented myself from enjoying my life. I put experiences on hold until I could hit my goal and refused to just allow myself to just enjoy the moment because I always had my weight on my mind. 

I was MISERABLE trying to lose weight, so how could I ever expect to have any sort of success from it? You would never work that hard to do something you hate...

So once I regained the ability to walk, I knew I needed to maintain motivation. The memory of my illness wouldn't be enough - I needed bigger goals.

I started choosing goals that I loved and actually wanted to train for. I wanted to travel, to ride in a bike marathon, and to hike mountains. Suddenly, my choices weren't based on the scale, they were based on my abilities, and I needed to make the same healthy decisions regardless of the goal. Food became a source of energy instead of calories and trying new and healthy recipes became a game. I decided to try one new "healthy-but-indulgent" recipe a week that would satisfy my sweet tooth, but that didn't ruin my path to success.

I continued to workout, but I started realizing how much I hated certain workouts. If I was going to love my life, I needed to spend my time loving what I was doing, so I chose exercises that felt fun. I tried yoga, hiking, swimming, hula hooping, boxing, dance classes - anything that would make me WANT to get my workout done. Now, I look forward to my workouts every week and I'm always up to try something new!

Lastly, and most importantly, I dedicated time every day to feel grateful for the process. I felt so grateful that my body was able to do these things and as I reflected on that, I got an instant boost of happiness. This kept me on track and allowed me to see the benefits of my work instead of on what I was "missing". 

Just Remember...

You are in control of your experience. When you sit in the mindset of a negative experience, you can only get a negative experience. So if you're ready to stop waiting for your life to be as amazing as you know it can be, use these tools to make happiness your vehicle to success and let the frustrations fall to the side. 

It's time to live your life, Without The Weight. 

With love & light,

Carolyn Rachel

 

 

 

 

How To Start Loving Yourself

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If you know me in person, you know there's two things I talk about AD NAUSEUM: Dating and self love. 

I'm obsessed with both, not surprisingly, because they're essentially the same thing. 

I know it seems silly, but it's important to love yourself. Really important. Based on my experiences through research, coaching, and self work, I'm a firm believer that you'll never be able to hit your goals (or maintain them) without developing an authentic relationship with yourself. 

I only know it because I've been working on the relationship with myself for a few years now and, I'm not gonna lie, it was really weird to start.

Most of the time, it felt uncomfortable and awkward. Kinda similar to my actual dating life, really, and I struggled HARD to accept it - even from myself!

But the moment I opened the door for a serious relationship with myself, one based on commitment, trust, and appreciation, I started to receive an incredible natural high.

I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Let's bring it back to dating... 

It's similar to the high you get from starting a new relationship with someone. That giddy feeling. I couldn't believe that it was possible to have those same feelings by developing a relationship with yourself.  

Here I was, giving myself the love, attention, and care that I seek in a partner and I still got butterflies in my stomach, felt that excited/nervous feeling, and an all around happy attitude for life. It's that powerful high that develops into deep rewarding love and commitment. 

It works the same way when you're making the connection with yourself.

When I started flirting with myself (I kid you not, actual FLIRTING), I realized how awkward I felt. As I pushed myself through self sweet talk, I started wondering WHY it was so uncomfortable. Shouldn't I be comfortable enough at this age to act weird without judgement while I'm home alone? 

You'd think... but instead, I judged myself hard. My mind was racing. I made fun of myself for looking stupid and I pointed out every single "flaw" I would have picked myself apart for had I been out flirting with men. 

Once I realized that the judgement I was feeling was all in my head, I forced myself to ignore it and persevere. 

I wanted to be confident and comfortable with myself. I wanted to enjoy my own company. And damn it, I wanted to think I was as sexy, cool, and dateable as I hoped any man would think I was. 

But as I pushed myself through the awkwardness, I started wondering where these negative thoughts about myself came from. Who said I wasn't good enough, cool enough, or sexy enough? Who said I was these awful things that I told myself in my head? 

Then, it hit me.

We're taught to hate ourselves from a very young age. Everywhere around us, we're bombarded by media, telling us that we aren't good enough (and here's a product to help change you into becoming a "better version" of yourself). We listen to other people complain about what they don't like about themselves, what they don't like about others, but we rarely hear people talking themselves up in a positive light. It's absolutely absurd!

As a society, we've set up social norms on what's attractive or worthwhile and if we don't fit into those standards (surprise, no one does!), we get upset and beat ourselves up. 

Once I realized that, I made the decision to counter those thoughts. I don't care what society has designed to be beautiful because that isn't my idea of beautiful. That's taking someone else's opinion and giving it such a high personal regard that it becomes a fact. A fact that works directly against me!

I knew I deserved better than what I'd been giving myself so I made a commitment to change in my best interest. I was finally going to be an advocate for myself because if I wasn't going to love myself, how could I ever expect anyone else to?

So, I turned away from the negativity and the hate and I poured all my energy into love. These are the steps I took and I highly suggest 

How To Start Loving Yourself in Three Easy Steps

  • Stop being so judgmental. The very first law of Deepak Chopra's Seven Spiritual Laws of Success promotes practicing non judgement. Now, that doesn't just mean judging yourself (although it's a good place to start!), but it applies to all people/situations. If you're in a place of judgment, it's hard to see things with love, and you have to break the cycle of judgment in all respects. Being judgmental is just perpetuating society's standards and we've already touched on how those standards are simply opinions. Make it a challenge to point out one nice thing about everyone you see each day, even if you don't like them. Make sure to include yourself in that daily challenge when you look in the mirror in the morning. By focusing on the things you like, you'll retrain your brain to start automatically looking for those things (and stop looking for things to judge!)

 

  • Take yourself on dates. YUP. I told you it was weird, but part of cultivating a relationship with yourself is through actually dating yourself. Get dolled up for yourself, pick something fun that you've been wanting to do, and then go enjoy it. Whether that's people watching at a cute cafe, checking out a museum, or taking yourself out to dinner - it's important to spend some time alone with yourself so you can get to know who you really are! 

 

  • Be mindful of your self talk. Obviously, I'll want you to tell yourself that you love yourself, but I know that can feel like a lot all at the beginning. There's no shame in moving slow (in fact, its encouraged!) and your self love can develop as you progress.... again, similar to a partnership. That being said, you're never going to like yourself (or love yourself) if you talk shit about yourself, whether that's in your head or out loud. Notice when you say things about yourself that aren't nice and then call yourself out for it. Point out the parts of you that you like and put your focus on that. Make it your mission to point out your positive characteristics as often as possible instead of harping on the negatives. 

This is self care. This is self love. This is the art of healing. 

And if you're struggling to say it to yourself, please know, I love you, sweet soul. 

Love & light,

Carolyn Rachel

How To Start A Meditation Routine

I started researching meditation the day I yelled at my dad. 

Now, don't misread me... my dad is THE BEST and we're super close (BFFs!), which makes it tough to admit - I used to yell on the phone with him a lot.

It's not that I was mad at him, I was just going through too much. When I was really sick, everything felt like an uphill battle. I'd have complete meltdowns over every little thing because I felt so weighed down by the stress of my illness, the stress of my weight, hell - the stress of my life... I just didn't have the patience for the natural curveballs of life! 

My dad was willing to take the brunt because he knew how much stress I was under (he's actually the best dad ever) and I used him as my personal sounding board day after day.

One night, we were on the phone and I was on one of my usual tirades. 

I was crying, yelling, and arguing with every solution he offered until the true reason for my issues came out. I finally yelled:

"DAD. I DON'T CARE ABOUT THIS. I JUST HAVE NO STRESS MANAGEMENT SKILLS."

I heard it loud & clear the moment it came out of my mouth. When we hung up, I took a few deep breaths and thought - girl, you better get some!

I googled what I could do for stress and hated what I saw. Meditation? Mindfulness?

NO THANK YOU. 

I didn't have the time to "slow down" and the idea of sitting still made my skin crawl. 

So, I just kept on keeping on, getting stressed and having meltdowns. As you can imagine, this was amazing for my health (Hello, sarcasm!) and life felt a little harder with each passing day. 

I didn't know how to get myself to meditate. I tried, but it all seemed so overwhelming, so I focused on the part of my wellness plan that felt easier: diet and exercise. I started feeling better and losing weight and my stress felt a little lighter. I was definitely happier, but I could tell my lack of stress management skills was still making me sick. 

I felt lost and stuck, so in 2016, I quit my job to have an adventure. I decided to travel around the US for a bit but I wanted to do something more. Something wild. So, I decided to head to Peru.

The plan was to spend 5 weeks in South America. Two and a half with a friend and then two and a half on my own. I wanted to see the sights, but I also craved spontaneity. I wanted to wander around and find experiences as I journeyed through. 

Before I left, I only booked two things: Gate tickets to Machu Picchu (of course) and a 5 day silent meditation retreat.. I knew I needed to learn how to do this, away from all distractions, and what better place than on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca?

While I was on my retreat, I discovered what it felt like to be calm for the very first time in my life. Within a day, I had no MS symptoms and by the end of the retreat, I was unrecognizable to my friend and her family because of how much weight I'd lost. 

I knew then how important it would be to keep this up, so I came home and made it a mandatory part of my routine. I struggled with keeping up with it, making it a habit, but after lot's of trial and error... I figured out how to begin a meditation routine at home. 

Now, I want to share my top 3 tips with you! 

If you're desperate to manage stress but feel intimidated by meditation, these tips are FOR YOU!

Three Tips To Start A Meditation Routine

1. Start with 5 minutes. You don't have to start with 30 minutes of morning meditation, that's actually CRAZY to ask anyone to do! Start with 5 minutes and build up from there. Everyone can find 5 minutes in the morning (turn off instagram and set your timer!) and it's the absolute best way to clear your brain before a busy day! 

2. Listen to a guided meditation. Having a voice to guide you makes it SO MUCH EASIER to focus! There are apps like Headspace, Insight Timer, or even Youtube where you can find easy to follow guides!

3. Simply follow your breathing. Thoughts are going to come into your head and distract you. That's TOTALLY NORMAL. The trick to meditation is noticing that you've gotten lost in thought so you can come back to your breath. In the beginning, this is honestly HELL, but don't get frustrated... every time you do it, you strengthen that muscle in the brain to build focus. I promise it gets easier, practice makes perfect!

When I came home, I started with 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening and now, I do 30 in the morning and 30 in the evening. My stress levels have dropped SIGNIFICANTLY and the benefits are amazing. I feel confident, aware, healthy, and ready to take on WHATEVER the universe throws at me. 

Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Comment below and let me know!

With love & light, 

Carolyn

 

How To Work With Your Heart Rate

Note: If you don't want to read the whole story, skip to the bottom to find out how to calculate your heart rate!

Last May, I was given an incredible gift. I went an entire day without pain. 

I couldn't believe it. 

My mom was visiting me for Mother's Day and I was so excited, I ran into her room and jumped on the bed, my eyes filling with tears. I hadn't gone a day without pain in almost a decade!

I went to bed that night with my heart full of gratitude. I couldn't sleep. I didn't know how long this could last and I wanted to appreciate every single moment. 

Luckily for me, that day was just the beginning. With the pain gone, I started noticing other symptoms that I'd forgotten about. Symptoms that had been drowned out by the constant tidal wave of severe chronic pain. 

But before I knew it, those symptoms started to dissipate as well. I prayed every night, swimming in gratitude and not asking for anything, because I was already getting so much more than I thought possible. 

It got to the point where the only time I was getting symptoms was when I exercised.

I loved to lift heavy, do sprints, and run up the stair master. Anything that made me feel strong, powerful, and soaked in sweat, but it left me with numbness in my feet and heavy fatigue. I'd been doing this workout for years, despite the plateau on the scale, but I felt I needed to keep it up if I was ever going to finish losing weight. 

I brought it up with my doctor and we made a deal. He told me that, if I start getting symptoms, I should take a break and drink some water. I agreed and made the promise.  

Just the next day, I'd had a rough time at work and I was READY for a workout. I hopped on the stair master and set it to a level 7, essentially running up the stairs.

Oh man, it felt great. Hip hop music pumped through my headphones as sweat started pouring through my shirt. I was absolutely crushing it and the stress of the day was just starting to melt away when all of a sudden, my feet went numb. I hadn't even been on the machine for 5 minutes!

But, I'd made a promise, so I stepped off the stair master and grabbed some water. As I stood there, waiting for some sort of sign that I could get back on, I realized how hard my heart was pounding. I decided to take my pulse and realized... I have no idea what that number means, so, I did what anyone else does when they don't know something - I googled it. 

I discovered the different heart rate ranges and how, by pushing myself so hard, I was putting myself in my fight or flight stage. My body didn't understand why I was literally running up the stairs and it immediately assumed that I must be in danger.  Why else would I be pushing myself so hard? 

When you're in your fight or flight, there's a bunch of chemical reactions happening in your body, but I'll simplify it for the sake of my long winded story. 

In regards to this conversation - fight or flight does two very important things. First, it burns your sugar stores so you have enough energy to either run from or fight an attacker. Second, it creates inflammation around your cells and tissue, just in case you get tussled up in an attack or a fall from running. 

By stressing yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally, you're constantly burning sugar which means, yep - you guessed it, those sugar stores need to be restored as soon as you're out of your fight or flight state (and into homeostasis). That's why we all get that craving around 4pm to hit the vending machine for carbs or sugar and why binge eating is so prominent at night when you're at home in front of the TV. 

You can be "good" on your diet all day, but if you push yourself too hard, you will have no choice but to refuel. Your body's desire to survive is significantly stronger than your willingness to hit a goal. 

I stood there at the base of the stair master in shock. All these years, I'd been working this hard just to make it even harder for myself to hit my weight loss goals! I was creating inflammation in my body which stimulates my immune system AND setting myself up to binge! Sure, I was burning calories and building strength, but they were calories that I'd most likely make up (and more) later that night!

To say the least, I was pretty upset, but then I had another thought. If I was in my fight or flight, I was also stimulating my central nervous system so that my brain and spine could tell my body how to react to "danger". Not only was I creating inflammation, I was literally stimulating my disease and the numbness in my feet was my body's way of telling me I was going too hard. 

I couldn't believe it, but it made so much sense. 

That night, I researched how to monitor my heart rate effectively. I quickly discovered my "fat burning range" and decided to try it out for the entire week. 

Turns out, I didn't need the whole week to see results. 

The next time I got on the stair master, I had to drop the speed from a level 7 to a level 1. It was brutally slow, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was actually sweating more than I did when I was running. Best of all? I did the entire workout without any MS symptoms. 

Breaking binge eating came later, I still had to reprogram that habit, but working on it became significantly easier after I stopped making it a chemical demand. 

Now, it's been almost a year since I started monitoring my heart rate and not only do I avoid symptoms during my workout, but I go completely symptom free almost every single day. I still have this disease, but I no longer have to live in the experience of it, and that has been an incredible blessing. 

My target heart rate range is 115 - 133 beats per minute because I'm 29 years old. You can find yours by finding 60 - 70% of your max heart rate by following a simple equation. See my example below and then do it for yourself! 

(220 - 29) x .6  = 115

and (220 - 29) x .7 = 133 

It's too simple to ignore and if you struggle with binge eating or have a disease that is triggered by inflammation, you're doing yourself an injustice by not following your heart rate.

Do you monitor your heart rate? If so, comment below and let me know what benefits you get from it! 

With love & light,

Carolyn

Is Stress Good For You?

   Since we're always talking about the negatives, I'm going to take a moment to stick up for stress.

    We need stress to be able to react to dangerous situations. It's what keeps us alive as a species, just in case we're threatened or attacked. Positive stress (eustress):

  1. Releases hormones into your bloodstream to get your heart pumping and give you energy.

  2. Burns off your sugar stores to give you fast acting sugars for an energy turbo boost.

  3. Creates a cushion around your cells and tissues in case you get tousled up in a fight or fall.

  4. Pauses digestion so you don’t have to waste time.

  5. Clears your mind by creating  so you can be totally present and focused.

Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) to get through difficult and life threatening situations. It’s the basic goal of the body to survive and it uses stress as a warning bell to keep us alert and alive when attacked.

I mean honestly, how amazing is your body?! Take a moment.

The reason why stress gets so much flak is because the nervous system doesn’t realize that we’ve evolved and made a society that creates a lot of mental stress without a physical threat. In today’s world, when we experience stress through the day, it’s usually not because we’re in physical danger.

Still, it’s triggering those benefits I listed above EVERY TIME we stress. Think about that… Let's say, hypothetically, that lava is pouring out onto the floor you're standing on. If you needed to climb a flight of stairs once or twice to escape, you could handle that and survive no problem. But what if you had to climb 10 flights? What about 50? Or 100? You’d be on constant alert, stressed, and absolutely exhausted. But that’s what we’re putting our mind and body through every day. Lots of us are living in a constant state of stress (77% of Americans reported physical symptoms as a response to stress!) and that lava is burning out the positive benefits! That’s negative stress, distress, and chronic distress is what people are talking about when they hate on stress.

Chronic distress:

  1. Gets your heart pumping over and over again through the day, creating fatigue and high blood pressure.

  2. Completely depletes our sugar stores making us crave sweets and carbs for a quick refuel.

  3. Creates a cushion, inflammation, around our cells and tissues that stimulates the immune system (affecting those with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases).

  4. Leads to digestive disorders and imbalances.

  5. Creates inflammation around the frontal lobe so our conscious decision making becomes hazy and strained.

    Distress is what everyone is talking about when they connect stress to chronic health issues. If you feel like you manage burnout more often than stress, understand that the first step in overcoming it is becoming aware of it. Don’t let it upset you, but simply notice how often you feel stressed through the day. Notice how fast your thoughts race through all the worries of the day. Become aware of how you feel energetically at the end of the day and whether or not you have cravings. Take time to pay attention to how your body feels physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Stress is a natural part of life, but distress - especially chronic distress, can negatively impact your entire experience every single day. Being aware allows you to recognize and begin to stop situations where stress takes over.  

So don’t hate on stress, it can do a lot of good. Just be mindful and remember... Everything in moderation.