What to expect when you stop losing weight

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I ended my cut recently and it went well. I definitely look and feel faster, slimmer, and my energy levels are back up. I did it all by myself this time, calculated my own macros, and let myself be flexible. 

I was able to tailor my diet and macros towards things I liked to eat and never really felt deprived. A lot of anti-diet advocates focus on the depravity of diets and how you have to postpone all your favorite foods, but in reality as long as you account for them it’s not like you have to lock away all your favorite foods.

Discerning your priorities when it comes to nutrition is what makes a cut really difficult.

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So when you have to choose between 150 calories worth of tortilla chips, vs a big yummy sweet potato, you can opt for the tortilla chips when you’re really feeling it. It’s not moralizing the choice (that tortilla chips are “bad” and you should choose the “good” sweet potato) but rather knowing that when you’re cutting calories, and need to keep your nutrient profile relatively healthy, sometimes you do need to choose the sweet potato.

Of course, you can fill in the blank with whichever foods you prefer, I just chose sweet potato because I found it to be the most recent and relevant example to me. This comes in to play for all kinds of foods, and all kinds of choices.

There are other things I really didn’t expect when I ended my cut, which meant about a month/two weeks each of adding back in some calories bit by bit so my metabolism had time to keep up. I used Renaissance Periodization’s maintenance article to guide me as well as my own hunger cues.

Maintenance is the period of time after you lose weight- you either stay at the weight you’re at, or you give your body a break between cuts to adjust to the new size. So I’ve been upping my calories slowly these past few weeks.

Things I didn’t expect:

The mentality

Going from eating a smaller amount of food to a little bit bigger amounts every two weeks took some getting used to. As I entered my food into MyFitnessPal, all I could think of was “really? All this? And I’m still not at my goal yet?”

It was weird adding an extra serving of tofu, or beans, or whatever else it might be in order to reach a higher calorie goal.

There was a bit of guilt, too, since I advocate for a mixture of intuitive eating and watching what you eat, I felt uncomfortable talking openly about my cut. But as my friend, who’s undergoing her own IE journey, and some fellow RDs (Nutritionist Sam, doctormeetsdietitian) remind me, everyone works best doing their own damn thing.

You can be against the shame, black and white thinking, and sizeism that the diet industry pushes out every day while still personally knowing you need to log food to make sure you’re getting what you need.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but with my ADHD, if I don’t log and watch my food, I’ll be eating those dopamine-hitting foods all day err day. Chocolate, chips, (vegan) cheese, you name it, if my brain gets an extra dopamine hit from it it’ll be there.

It’s not depriving myself of the joy of food; it’s knowing my limits. Which is part of what makes IE make sense to me.

Blooooaaaatiiiing

I already have IBS, so bloating is not a stranger in my life. But wow, adding more food makes you more bloated at the end of the day and feel just a /bit/ more full.

One of those things that I logically knew but then when I experienced it, I just went “oh, well, that’s a thing”.

Energy!!!!!

When I first felt sluggish adding in more food, that slowly gave way to more energy when I lifted and better lifting sessions. I timed it well (on accident, as most things in my life) that my cut ended just in time for my program to get heavier.

I also have had to go for easier cardio now that my energy needs to go towards big lifts, which is another weird feeling. I love a hard cardio session at the end of the week, so gliding away on the elliptical is an experience I haven’t had since my early college days.

Finishing a weight cut and moving to maintenance is, like weight loss itself, a process.

It deals a lot with listening to your body, paying attention to how you feel after you eat, and changing your routine just enough that your body can get used to the new weight.

We’ve got a ways to go yet (I probably won’t cut during the summer and jury’s still out if it’d be worth cutting during my internship), but I’m pleased with how I’m doing so far.

I’ll talk more about body image in another post but for now, don’t forget to do your homework, eat a vegetable, and smile at someone today.

See you soon!

Is “Earthlings” OK for teens?

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The documentary Earthlings is a bit notorious in vegan spaces just because of it’s content. Unlike other food documentaries, it has little to do with what we eat. While it’s interesting, it’s certainly brutal, and a quick google search reveals people exclaiming that they went vegan because of the film.

I was already vegan when I watched it back in January, and it didn’t necessarily solidify why I was vegan, just reinforced things I had already heard. However having seen it now, I can certainly empathize with people who went vegan because of it.

If your teen is considering going vegan, there’s a good chance that they already have heard of this film if they’ve been researching on their own. Of course, you can’t dictate what your teen does and does not watch, but it might be a good idea to look into Earthlings a little bit.

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I say this only because of it’s content and what they show is at least worth having a conversation about after the film is over. You don’t have to watch it with them (and if you weren’t keen on the idea of going vegan at all, skip this one), but it has heavy enough content that it should be discussed.

Earthlings starts with the thesis that humans are exploiting animals on this earth for their own gain. They travel through four supporting “paragraphs”: pets, food, clothing, and science.

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Being a dog lover and someone who relies on her pets for emotional support, the pets section nearly made me quit watching entirely. They show dogs being put down, beaten, shot, poisoned, mistreated (most notably, a man putting his dog in a garbage truck that will eventually grind him to death. I still have nightmares about this scene). This alone might be enough to skip this documentary in your home.

Earthlings doesn’t spell out whether owning pets is ethical or not. Most believe these animals provide companionship and the relationship is legitimately beneficial for both parties. I can’t speak for the opposite side, because I’m biased when it comes to pets. But Earthlings will not make you feel bad for owning a pet so long as it’s loved and cherished.

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Next it goes to food, which most emotionally driven vegan documentaries focus on in one way or another. The state of factory farming, of animal slaughter and mistreatment, is the main reason I’m vegan. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can’t imagine harming another being just to eat. Again, the footage is graphic (it is meant to shock you).

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Clothing was a surprise to me, and even though I don’t wear fur, they explain how the fur industry gets its pelts. For science, another reason I went vegan, they do show dogs (beagles, mainly), and other animals being tested on. They talk about how it’s being used, what studies have used animals, and gives you context on it.

Overall I did find it a really interesting and surprising documentary. You always need to be aware of the message when it comes to documentaries, and Earthlings was written and narrated by lifelong vegans.

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To help you, especially if you don’t want to watch the documentary yourself, I’ve compiled a list of things to talk about with your teen if they do want to watch Earthlings:

  • What do you think the main message was in Earthlings?
    • What did the filmmakers want you to know, and feel when you finished the movie?
    • How did they get you to understand and feel these things?
  • What questions do you have now that you’ve seen this?
    • What did you see that felt exaggerated, or you want to look into further?
    • What statistics and stories do you want to learn more about?
    • How will you know if a source where you find these statistics is a credible one?
      • (Shameless self plug way back to “Media Muck” to help them learn more)
    • How did the film make you feel? Did the filmmakers achieve their goal by making you feel this way?

I found this film a difficult watch, not in a bad way, but in a “this is really difficult to realize this is going on” way. If your teen wants to watch it, I would say it’s a PG-13 to R rating, and something you might want to watch first or watch with them to help talk them through what they saw.

What did you think of it? Did you watch it? I want to hear your thoughts!

As always, do your homework, eat a vegetable, and don’t forget to smile at someone today. See you soon!

 

Meeting Independence Halfway

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When I left the gym today and walked to my own car- the one I was paying for with my own money- and a thought popped into my head without prompting, as I jingled my keys:

Damn, I missed this independence.

Up at school I would have some semblance of independence. I lived in an apartment, could take public transport, and would often be on my own with my own agenda. It taught me how to be resilient, how to hold myself accountable, and most how to be by myself.

“Close enough to home that I can come back for a weekend if I need to, far enough away that I get the experience I need” is what I would tell people. By the time I was planning to transfer I knew it was time to spread my wings and go.

Of course, I still cried a lot when I left home. There’s a picture of my Dad and I crying, with me holding a replica of Sully’s clipboard in Monster’s Inc that had Boo’s door.

My friends in High School got a lot more independent a lot quicker than I did. Part of it was ADHD, which I know now, another part was I didn’t know if I was ready.

I get that it can be scary for parents- is it just a matter of time, or if we never let go, will our teen ever grow? Will they ever fly?

Only you can gauge for yourself what your teen is up for and what they want to do. When I write about my personal experience, know that this is coming from an undiagnosed ADHD adult who made it through adolescence alive and doing pretty dang well for herself. I’m here to help reassure you, guide you, advise you when I can.

Everyone works on different timelines, too. My brother became independent way before I did and even now, to me, he’s more emotionally and financially independent than I am (damn you, FAFSA). My sister is in between the two of us. But we all know she’ll get there eventually.

It’s in the independence where your teen figures out who they are and what they’re like. I learned that at school and camp, too.

For a while, I didn’t really like being alone. Part of it, I think, was because I didn’t really know what I was like. But as college went on, as I made mistakes and learned from them (sometimes calling my parents about the mistakes), who I am slowly became more and more clear.  Even things like having to get my own groceries and developing my own palette helped me slowly become the person I am today!

But I won’t pretend to know 100% who I am, or what I can do, because I don’t think that’s a question that will ever have a definite answer. Just like the physical growing pains that come with puberty, so too will the emotional and mental ones come along in their own time.

We just need to be patient for those who seem a bit behind the curve. There’s a fear, especially among people my age, that once you hit 25 you’re on the downhill slope when it comes to careers, love, family, goals.

It creates this anxiety and rush for everyone who thinks that there’s this drop off of options at 25. Because of that, I think people miss a lot of opportunities to grow. Patience, too, I think gets lost in the mix of growth.

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We see this in pervasive diet culture, in school choices, in athletics. This sense of “goals need to be met ASAP or else”, or “if I don’t get it now, I never will” seeps into how we see everything else. Dating, jobs, even just going through the Starbucks drive thru becomes a “how quickly can I get this thing I want”.

(No hate on Starbucks, you all know I love my lattes).

Setting up long term success is what goal setting is all about. Rather than a light at the end of the tunnels, goals should be more like street lamps: there to light the way and see where you’re going.

If I could go back in time to high school and tell my former self one thing, besides stop frying your hair, it would be to just chill and keep working. Things come with time. You will grow up. It’ll happen, you just have to keep working. Everything you want in life won’t come to you, but it will meet you half way.

What goals have you made recently? Have you achieved any of them?

As always, do your homework, eat a vegetable, and don’t forget to smile at someone today. See you soon!

Validating emotions, the Fitbit Versa, and some Gary Vee

Validating emotions,

We had a bit of an upset this past week at our home when my younger sister was told she would not be competing in state this year for her sport, Tae Kwon Do, after she had thought she would be able to go. My sister and I are often on similar wavelengths when it comes to emotions and how we express them, so when she got home after hearing the news we were all on comfort mode.

And, of course, a little bit of familial anger- something I suspect you’re not a stranger to. You know, when someone in your family is wronged and you can’t help but feel a little angry?

My sister took it in stride though and did what we had been raised to do- bitched about it for a while, then set a plan in motion to fix it. And she did it without blaming her coach or team, she took responsibility and went with it. She just needed some time. 

I feel like we discredit the importance of “venting” and “bitching” nowadays because of the over abundance of memes about wanting “positive vibes only”.

In trying to create a positive culture out of the ones filled with jokes about suicide, as well as a world where death feels like it’s lurking everywhere, we forget that people sometimes just want to talk about sad things and get them out into the void and move on to fix the problem.

I’ve been neglecting this question lately, but it’s always good to gauge where someone’s venting is going. “Do you want advice or to vent?” is a nice way to understand where the person you’re talking to is taking the discussion.

This somehow ties into being a nutrition care professional, and I’m learning about that as I go.

Other cool things about this week:

Fitbit is my ride-or-die watch company since like 3 years ago. I currently have the Charge HR with athletic tape holding the strap together (hey, it works), but I’ve also been looking to upgrade since I got this replacement Charge HR.

I tweeted about this today, but Fitbit has a great policy for returns/replacements and that’s kind of what’s been keeping me there for so long. And the fact they found my tweet without me “@-ing” their company means they’re somehow watching me.

Fitbit just announced a new smartwatch, the Versa, that will include menstrual cycle tracking and phone-free music. I’ll be interested to see if I can just use spotify, but considering my sport involves throwing weights over my head, not having to worry about my phone will be nice. As far as the cycle tracking, I currently use Clue, but anything to dial down my phone apps would be nice.

Here’s the article about the Versa.

Next Friday I’m doing a comparison post on Fitbit’s calorie tracker and MyFitnessPal’s!

I’m almost done reading all of Gary Vee’s works. Libby Rothschild made me aware of him a couple weeks back and I flew through “#AskGaryVee” and “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook!”. Currently reading “The Thank You Economy” and love it. I think it’s useful not just in an entrepreneur setting but everywhere- learning to listen carefully, build relationships, and put work into it.

Match day is coming fast. Two weeks from Sunday…fingers crossed for all my “RD2Bs” out there, and keep some fingers crossed for ya girl as well.

This is a much more laid back blog post so let me know what you think of these kinds of posts. The fun part about Center Stage Nutrition is that nothing is set in stone, and I’m here for you, so I want to hear what things you like and don’t like.

You can keep up with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

As always, do your homework, eat a vegetable, and don’t forget to smile at someone today. Bye!

Teens need us to be body positive

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Let’s chat about body positivity, shall we?

A movement that has gained prominence over the past few years, body positivity is the belief that all bodies are good bodies. It’s the removal of shame, embracing differences, and ultimately honoring your own uniqueness.

There are lots of different versions of this movement, from Health at Every Size, to dismantling Photoshop beauty ideals, and trying to make media more inclusive.

Not only is it a movement, it’s an important tool in building confidence in your teen.

Why’s that?

As your teen grows and matures, their appetite is going to increase. Since puberty means maturation and growth that rivals infancy, an increased need for energy comes with the package. Like we discussed last week, it’s inadvisable to encourage weight loss in your teens. Rather, we want to encourage healthy habits and emphasize the importance of respecting your body.

Your teen is also beginning to recognize media and comparing themselves to the bodies they see in the media. Since there’s a pressure from mainstream society to look a certain way, body positivity is one of those healthy traits that’s worth discussing with your teen.
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Their friends, as they grow and mature, are going to look a lot different from them. It’s important to start encouraging inclusivity not just for the sake of your teen’s friends, but because that sends the message to your teen that it’s okay if they don’t look like the actors they see on TV. You’re giving them the tools to deal with a society that wants them to conform to a different size, to try and change who they are- you’re building their confidence before they leave for college or the working world.

If you’ve been following the Weight Watchers controversy, you can follow the research about teens and dieting. By introducing the idea that food is only for fuel, can be shameful if you have too much, you’re introducing a mental pattern that can be hard to break.

Instead of dieting, encourage your teen to listen to their body by:

  • Learning their hunger cues
  • Respecting their appetite
  • Not pushing themselves too hard with exercise

The best way to encourage this is to lead by example. By not dieting, expressing distaste for your body, or talking about good/bad foods, you’re helping teach your teen that food isn’t a moral issue. While your teen might feel like they’re pushing away, they still need you for guidance and mentoring.

By being proud of who you are, doing what you can to be healthy, and being proud of your body, you’re helping your teen develop these patterns as well.

Robyn Nohling, who writes a lot about Intuitive Eating, is a great resource on the benefits of intuitive eating.

Rebecca Stritchfield is also a resource I enjoy.

 

How do I talk to my teen about body image?

Raising Children has a great article on where to begin with body image. Here you can read more about what contributes to body image, and I encourage you to start with this factor:

Honesty.

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Tell them all about media, how body image can be influence by that, and talk about the effects of an unhealthy body image. Let them know about your struggles- let them realize they’re not alone.

In Sandra Susan Friedman’s When Girls Feel Fat she discusses the fact that saying you feel “Fat” often is a cover for a stronger underlying emotion. Our society (unfortunately) codes feeling ‘fat’ as negative, and because we feel like we can’t express ourselves, we turn these feelings inward and express it as ‘fat’.

What do we do with this knowledge?

  • Dissect the feelings with your teen
    • Ask them:
      • What’s going on in their personal life?
      • Is there something big coming up that’s causing anxiety?
    • Encourage journaling with your teen
      • Art journaling has an emotional benefit
      • It offers your teen a zone free of judgement to express their feelings
      • Gives you a chance to bond with your teen- both of you are creating!
      • Need ideas? Here’s my pinterest board for art journaling!

What are some resources I can show my teen?

Processing Grief

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I’ve tried writing this blog post about a million times.

I’m trying to write either a personal post or something covering what’s been going on this past week in the news. Last week, I covered Weight Watchers’ new teen program, and while that (unfortunately) is still going forward, there’s other concerns on my mind.

On Valentine’s Day 2018, 17 innocent people lost their life at their high school.

For those far away, spectating the event and media whirlwind following, it’s hard to know what to say or do in the event of a tragedy. I felt compelled to write something to help you guys speak to your teens about what happened in Parkland.

For coverage of the event and discussion about where to go from here, I recommend Philip DeFranco’s video on the shooting. If you are against cursing, just a heads up that he does curse- in regard to the Mark Dice tweet- but his argument is sound and he never discusses the shooter’s name, background, or shows his photo.

Using this video as a backdrop, you can use Fuller Youth’s blog on processing school shootings to talk about the event. The first tip includes prompts for questions to ask, to help dissect the incident, and process what this means for us going forward.

Fuller also has a blog post called Good Grief that discusses the process of grief. If your teen, or you, are struggling to process grief, this article can help you. For a nonreligious article, check out the Dougy centers post on grief and teens. Debroah Kenney also has an infographic that will help you plan this discussion with your teen.

It feels so confusing, so painful, to have to talk about this again. Gun control is a public health issue and should be addressed. Talking to your teen about this gives them a safe space to air their feelings, to feel validated, and to speak with you about what happened. And, God forbid, what to do in the event of their school being attacked.

In the end, you know what’s best for you and your family after this. I wish you peace, healing, and comfort in this awful aftermath. I send all of you my love.

Teens & Sleep: What you need to know

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Fighting the battle of Teen vs. Sleep is a tough hill to conquer. There are many kinds of brave tactics to use, and here were the ones my parents used on me:

Dad:

  • Open the door and let light flood into the room under the guise of letting the dogs out
  • Use sing-songy characters to embarrass us awake (surprisingly effective)

Mom:

  • Check on us once, twice, three times before we finally felt bad enough to wake up
  • Cook pancakes. Allow pancake smell to waft through house. Cue teenaged children zombie walking to kitchen.

You surely have a lot of techniques to get your kids out of bed. But what causes such a fuss when it comes time to get up?

The Melatonin Equation

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Melatonin is the hormone released by our brains when the sun starts to go down. I talked about this last week, about how it helps to have screen-dimming apps downloaded on your screens.

In puberty, the brain’s ability to release melatonin is pushed back by a couple of hours. While we’re able to wake up feeling great at 6am because our brain’s levels of melatonin have gone down, teens aren’t so lucky.

They’re still in the throes of high melatonin, making it difficult for them to feel anything but groggy. Coupled with early start times for high school and late nights studying or playing video games, sleep deprivation seems to be a common concern among teenagers.

This also explains why teens take longer to fall asleep. When your baby was a baby, they had enough melatonin to help them fall asleep immediately. Now in adolescence, with melatonin levels lower, they tend to take a while to fall asleep because of this change.

Well, that makes sense. How much sleep does my teen need?

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According to the CDC, the golden numbers are:

  • 9-12 hours for children aged 6-12
  • 8-10 hours for teens 13-18

What happens if my teen doesn’t get enough sleep?

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Clicking this photo leads you to the artist!

If it’s just one or two nights out of a week, or a couple days a month, it won’t harm your teen too much. Nights like that are just part of the equation of being a human.

However, chronic lack of sleep can have negative impacts on adolescent health.

In a study on anxiety and short sleep duration, there’s a link between the development of anxiety and chronic short sleep (characterized as less than six hours a night) . Other studies link psychological distress and sleep deprivation in athletes.

The CDC also talks about how chronic lack of sleep can put them at risk for diseases like diabetes, poor mental health, and injuries. Mental affects also include poor performance in school and shorter attention spans.

How can I make sure my teen gets enough sleep?

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There are a lot of studies talking about screen use and it’s effect on sleep , including how screen regulation can help athletes perform better on athletic tests.

The common denominator here is that reducing screen time, or the brightness of your teen’s screen, already goes a long way in making sure your teen gets to bed at a better time. Let them know about the benefits of sleep, which you can read more about on Fatigue Science’s post.

Have a conversation with your teen about their sleep. Ask them these questions:

  • How do you feel when you wake up in the morning?
  • What’s the hardest part of getting to bed at night?
  • How can we improve your room in a way that helps you fall asleep better?
  • Do you feel like you can’t sleep until you finish all your homework? Do we need to fix your schedule, so you have more time to study?

Go easy on your teens- if they tell you they have too many afterschool activities, they’re telling you the truth. Teaching your teen to advocate for themselves and know what they can and can’t handle helps them in college, where they can set their own schedule and study on their own time.

Other tips I really like from this article include:

  • Educate your teens on the affect light has on sleep
  • Let them decide what they want their bedtime to be- give them the info they need to make the decision, and then let them listen to their body to learn what kind of sleep your teens need
  • Like I said last week, keep them on a constant sleep/wake schedule to help their circadian rhythm smooth out

Any questions? Any tips you’d like to share? #jointheensemble on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and let me know your thoughts!

Opinion: Weight Watchers…get with the program.

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Recently some news came out about Weight Watchers piloting a free program for teenagers. Rebecca Stritchfield wrote an amazing piece on it, and the circles I inhabit have come forward explaining why, exactly, this is a bad idea.

Teens are a vulnerable population as their bodies are beginning to change and rather than helping them celebrate this step into adulthood, weight watchers seems keen to make it easier to shame girls, and some boys, that their body is bad.

They’re not even an adult yet. Let them grow, learn, and enjoy their lives without the stress of ‘points’ or whatever garbage you decide to shove down their throats because you’re unwilling to change your mentality as to the idea of what healthy looks like.

This news in conjunction with the fact that I’m currently reading When Girls Feel Fat: Helping Girls Through Adolescence by Sandra Susan Friedman has me thinking a lot about my own journey through body positivity.

The journey includes: being metaphorically dragged by my heels down a gravel road, laying by the side of the road refusing to move forward, and somethings rolling backward. There are occasions where I march forward, talk with people on the same journey, and stop and smell the roses of what it feels like to like my body and what it can do.

I don’t identify with girls who only started hating their size and body in high school or middle school. I remember teasing about my weight starting as early as elementary school and using food to cope with the fact that I had very few friends. I read and wrote a lot, liked a lot of non-mainstream nerdy things, and it wasn’t really until middle school that my social circle expanded.

Even then, food was my enemy. Because I was taller and heavier than my peers, and going through puberty sooner, my body felt less of a vessel to be celebrated and more of a neon sign to my faults. I couldn’t tell you when I started my first diet because I don’t remember.

What I do remember is my freshman year diet of five ritz crackers for breakfast, a 140-calorie bar for lunch, and a big dinner after I worked out because I ‘earned it’. Nowadays I know much better than that. It took years of learning, of dieting, and of wondering what was wrong with me to only realize that it wasn’t me.  Even this past summer I found myself thinking thoughts like that which I had in high school at the peak of my Eating Disorder-like behavior.

I don’t agree with weight loss for teens. I feel like now more than ever I can say that, after having a whole summer to come to this conclusion plus years of nutrition schooling.

I believe in healthy lifestyles for teens. But healthy lifestyles don’t include counting points or calories, excluding “”unclean”” food, or avoiding carbs just because some doctor without a nutrition degree said so.

I’ll talk about this more in my ‘should teens lose weight’ post, but teens don’t need a point system to tell them how to eat. They need patience, guidance, and occasionally therapy to help them through this time of intense change. They need adults helping them establish healthy habits (which yes, includes treats every now and again), and to learn that their bodies deserve to be hungry and to grow.

For the sake of girls and boys who, like me, weren’t small enough for society’s liking- don’t sign your child up for weight watchers. Talk to them. Teach them what a healthy lifestyle looks like. Find role models similar to your child’s height and weight and show them that success doesn’t come in pounds. Books such as “I’m, like, SO Fat!” and “When Girls Feel Fat” are excellent resources in helping teens who are having issues with body positivity and healthy living.

Remind them, like Clarence the Angel reminds George Bailey at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, that “no man is a failure who has friends”.

Let me know what you think about this. You can comment, reach me on Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram.

Introduction to Sleep Health!

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Sleep is the secret weapon in living a healthy life.

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Pexels never lets me down with stock photos

Before you click away, here’s a couple facts to consider:

  • According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep is important to help keep our appetite in check and gives you energy to exercise
  • In a study regarding adolescent mental health and lack of sleep:
    • 46% teens had a low depressive mood score
    • 27% having a moderate
    • 17% having a high depressive mood score.
    • Teens with the higher score were more likely to have sleeping habits that included staying up later, having issues falling asleep, or other sleep problems.

A lack of sleep can cause drowsiness behind the wheel, illness, and irritability.

Other studies from the CDC talk about how sleep can affect chronic illness, including an interesting link between sleep and diabetes. Did you know that getting proper rest helps your sugar metabolism work properly? How cool is that!

Improving your Sleep Health 

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It’s calling for you…

When you’re thinking about ways you want to improve your health this year, aim for getting a proper amount of sleep or working towards getting at least eight hours if you’re a teenager, and between 6-8 if you’re an adult.

The Sleep Foundation recommends keeping a Sleep Diary, which is something I’ve never heard of before! A sleep diary has you log:

  • The time you went to bed
  • Your last caffeinated drink and when
  • How you felt throughout the day
  • Whether you worked out or not

And I just might try one!

Lately, I’ve been trying to work towards a goal of waking up at 5am every day except for Saturday and Sunday. One of my favorite parts of my routine is to wake up early and read while I drink my coffee. Waking up early means I don’t have to scramble off to the gym right when I guzzle down my coffee. Rather, I can enjoy my time and stay present.

How do we fall asleep?

Our body produces a hormone called melatonin that works with what’s called our “circadian rhythm”, our brain’s recognition that the sun is going down and it’s time to sleep.

This is why it’s recommended for you to download apps that filter out the blue light that comes from our screens. The blue light mimics sunlight, which to our brains says “stay awake! There’s still time to do stuff!”

So when we have our screens on late at night, our body’s natural rhythm to start releasing melatonin gets agitated. Which can lead to you lying awake, wondering why you can’t sleep!

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I’ve also heard not sleeping on raw hay helps with sleeping better…

2 Apps I really recommend are:

  • Twilight (phone)
  • lux (Google Chrome)

Which put a filter onto your screen when night time rolls around, so you have no problem snoozing later!

Lesson Learned 

I remember when I went to go see the midnight premiere of the Hunger Games on a school night. High school was a nightmare the next day and I was so tired, I could barely remember what happened.

‘You were really grumpy’ one of my friends told me the next day. Who wouldn’t be? Studies have shown that sleep makes you more irritable and prone to illness.

If the illness part surprises you, think about the last time you’ve been unable to sleep: maybe you had a couple long nights at work, something stressful going on, or you couldn’t get yourself into a routine. How long did it take for you to get sick?

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Achoo? Nasal drip? We may never know

When it comes to establishing healthy sleep habits, set a routine. Figure out what times work best for you to turn off your computer and phone, and when you naturally head to bed. Try to wake up at the same time every day so your body gets used to knowing when it needs to sleep and when it should be awake. The Sleep Foundation recommends even doing this on weekends, so you don’t jar your body when Monday comes around.

You don’t have to wake up at 5am every week- you can wake up later on the weekends, so long as it’s consistent!

What do you use to help fall asleep? Are you already on your A-game when it comes to sleep health? Or are you like me and starting to take better care of your sleep health? Let me know in the comments below!

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Advice from a new graduate

Graduation came and went in the blink of an eye. One moment I was grueling over my human physiology final, the next I heard my name announced with “Cum Laude” attached to the end.

If I look even further back, it feels like just yesterday I watched my parents drive away on their anniversary 2.5 years ago. They were headed back to Chicago, back home, and I was left in Green Bay without an idea of…well…anything.

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I still remember not knowing that the cafeteria wasn’t open at normal hours so ate out of the vending machines in our community center for a few days, and the first salad I was able to get was suddenly attacked by a wasp. I think I cried over that salad!

When I was working out with my Dad yesterday, he admitted that the first semester had been the hardest for him. “But,” he said, “It was fun getting to watch you grow and mature in your craft, which you wouldn’t have done if you were home.”

My cousin and I talked about how we believe things turn out the way they do for a reason. It can sound weird, especially when looking at personal suffering, but things will happen the way they do and all we can do is make the most of it.

My time at Green Bay was filled with a lot of things: pain, growth, education, failure, and success. Being able to sit in my cap and gown, knowing I had made the most of my time at school, really helped me feel at peace with ending this chapter in my life.

Our keynote speaker gave us five tips on how to make our lives “epic”. Among them were read books, asks for facts (something nutrition majors know all too well!), and be a champion to others, as well as find your champions.

The idea being to always seek out new experiences, never stop learning, and be there for others. And let people be there for you.

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Seeking out champions

As someone with ADHD, it can be difficult to reach out for help. Especially since I was diagnosed later in life, I had a stubborn commitment to myself to do everything I could to be independent. Combining that with the fact that I was 19 when I finally left home to finish my degree, there was a bit of shame there as well. I was behind all my high school classmates who were getting ready to graduate, who had jobs, who lived out in the world instead of with their parents.

I loved my time at community college and I’d do it over again, but feeling behind really took its toll.

My advice for any neuroatypical kid heading off to college, or who is in college now, echoes what my keynote speaker said: find champions. They don’t have to be neuroatypical, they just need to be there for you. I have friends, professors, and supervisors who wanted nothing more than to see me succeed. And yes, you will have bosses waiting to see you fail. I’ve had those too, but luckily not away at school.

Surround yourself with people who care for you regardless of your differences. If you let them in, you’ll notice how fiercely they care for you and your success.

“Sure is easy for you to say” you’re thinking. “You’re done, you’re successful, you’re set”.

Sure. But it took me 5.5 years to get my bachelor’s, and some people (who will tell you the same thing) took even longer.

Blogs, social media, and graduation ceremonies are the “after” of before and after. Your story, and mine, lies in the “and”. To make that “and” count, find mentors. They’ll guide you on your path and make sure you have a safety net when you fail. I’m privileged enough that for me, my parents and family were a safety net.

Being a champion

Just like my cousin and I believe that everything happens for a reason, I also believe that you get out what you put into the world. It’s important to seek out mentors, but rarely will you feel fulfilled if you don’t help others on your journey.

It doesn’t have to be volunteering all the time and losing time for work, school, and socializing. It can be tutoring, helping a fellow student, whatever you feel is best about helping others. I liked my jobs as a resident assistant, teaching assistant, and getting to work over the summer with my camp kids.

Just a little bit of time goes a long way when it comes to championing for others. With mental illness, it can sometimes be a huge drain of energy, so do whatever you can when you can. Know that you’re doing your best, and that’s what matters.

Adjusting to being back home has been bumpy. My triscuits were already devoured by family (I was silly enough to not label them, since my roommates and I didn’t share food), I’m back to sharing a room, and a coffee shop is still a ten minute walk away, but I prefer the company of my beagle most days!

My new job starts on January 2nd. In a few days, I’ll post about what I’m doing to prepare for entering the work world…no word yet on graduate schools, but I’ll keep you guys posted on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!