When I got back from Berlin last week and was welcomed by the snow storm, I was not at all happy about it. Everyone around me heard about how freakin' cold it was for days. Many of us of were right pissed off about the delay of Spring although yesterday and today have brought some hope!
Last night I was having dinner with Victoria and she was telling me about a mutual friend who got a very interesting assignment from her therapist - DON'T COMPLAIN FOR AN ENTIRE DAY. Our friend was very surprised by how difficult it was but was also inspired to continue working on limiting her complaining after the exercise. Apparently, it had a major impact.
I was thinking about it. I had just come back from an amazing travel experience and just started bitching about the weather instead of focusing on exercising my gratitude muscles more. I was and am grateful for the opportunity to get away but I really should have just zipped the complaining altogether. I see clients with cancer and other serious disease. Why waste my life complaining about weather, something totally out of my control.
Surely, the mere activity of complaining must set off negative reactions in my brain and body. Maybe a well worn path like complaining needs a dramatic action to shut it down. We truly can rewire our brains just like we can change our bodies, through mindfulness, effort and intention. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that expressing negative emotions = complaining. I am by no means saying to stuff the shit deep down in our beings. I'm just saying that if there is one area in your life you find yourself constantly being pissed off about, why not decide to stop feeding it with more crappy feelings. It could be an annoying work mate, neighbor, or ex-spouse that you are letting suck up your vital energy. Or maybe it's feeling stuck in a job or a house. Inevitably, we are going to only make things worse if we don't turn our attention to creating hope, taking action and refocusing on what we should be grateful for.
So I'm going to put my money where my mouth is. I'm going to designate Monday April 4th as a COMPLAINT FREE DAY for me and invite you to join me. From the minute I open my eyes to the minute I go to sleep.
For every complaint I 'accidentally' make, I'm going to donate $5 to the Food Bank. The people needing those services have something to complain about, like poverty and malnutrition.
I will report back, honestly, and let you know how it went and how much money I owe.
If you're going to join me, let me know! Email me at email@example.com or post something below.
Let's see how hard this might be and let's do it together!
Just got back from Berlin. Feeling a little mushy because I haven't been sweating the way I normally do the last couple weeks. I stayed true to my not gaining weight while traveling guide, cross my heart. I ate out a lot and didn't deny myself the pleasure of trying whatever food I wanted. You only live once and I don't want to regret not eating that amazing strudel I saw in the outdoor market or regret not going back a second time to have some of the BEST baclava I've ever had (even though the guy was grumpy as hell). I didn't gain weight. Tada!
Which brings me to the subject of this post. One of my clients is constantly entertaining guests because of her work and because she has a giant network of wonderful friends who live internationally. She said "I have to stop eating out for a while. I've gained weight."
I nodded and paused. "Uh ha. Do you think you're ever going to stop entertaining the way you do? You're going to continue entertaining right? You're going to have to eat out a lot forever?"
"Well yes but I also drink wine when I'm out," she said.
I asked, "Do you finish everything on your plate? When you drink wine do you still eat simple starches?"
She said, "Well...yes I do. I grew up at a different time than you did."
"Well why don't you just start leaving something on your plate and stop when you're full. Stop ordering food that isn't healthy or just limit how much of the crap you eat. And if you know you're going to drink more wine, don't have any white stuff like bread or pasta."
Problem solved. Eating out doesn't mean gaining weight. Eating too much beyond what is full does whether you're home or whether you're at a restaurant. Crap is crap no matter where you eat it and full is full whether you're at home or at a restaurant.
I love traveling. I want to meet people, see new things and challenge myself to change the way I think about the world. Of course, I observe people's lifestyle behaviours and compare them to home. It's what I do for work. It's hard to shut it off.
People are generally not as overweight in Berlin as they are pretty much everywhere else I've been. It could be chalked up to the fact that most people don't drive and instead walk or take public transit. People I've met also seem to eat a lot of whole foods, not processed. That could be about the demographic of the people I know here or not. Although there are some fast food places around, they certainly aren't as plentiful as in Toronto.
Anyone curious about visiting Berlin really ought to just come. Whatever I write won't do it justice.
But here is a list of highlights so far:
1) Visited Cold War bunker in the ghetto which included an underground hospital, decontamination room, underground theatre space and a bunker that was used during the famous Air Bridge of 1949 2) Best apricot crumble of my life around the corner from where I'm staying 3) Best vietnamese food in XBerg 4) First trip to Hamam in XBerg, kids in tow. Got full on body scrub down 5) Check Point Charlie Museum, thanks Amanda 6) Visit to cafeteria in the middle of government building (by accident). Appreciated perfectly clean washrooms 7) Neues Museum - favourite thing...Egyptian gold rings 8) Bought two pairs of MC Hammer pants AKA Harem pants - you can kiss my arss if you think they look funny 9) Dinner with three sociologists and ate a delicious dinner in an amazing old apartment 10) Outdoor market where I found the best hat I've ever had on my head 11) Checking out bullet holes everywhere 12) Visit to the Berlin Zoo - Knut the polar bear died while we were there. Heard a lion roar for the first time in person 13) Got lost and found on the public transit system many times and always got help from nice people 14) Grafitti art everywhere and it just fits 15) Amazing Turkish food at a Hasir location 16) Cocktail at the Green Door where we had to get buzzed in 17) Blackberry streudel in outdoor market that was so fresh 18) Haunting Jewish memorial statue 19) Observing Freedom for Libya demonstration 20) Not stepping into a gym for an entire week so far but walking everywhere and getting fresh, sometimes frigid, air 21) Upgrade to first class on the plane after experienced motion sickness and getting a sponge bath from the flight attendant 22) Saw my first flowers of 2011 springing up from the ground
I'm about to head to the airport to catch a flight to Berlin. I was thinking about my plan to keep on feeling good while I'm away. I may or may not check out some gyms which is always an interesting cultural education. But I have things I automatically do to stay fit and healthy while I'm away. Most people dread gaining weight on a trip. I actually rarely gain weight while I'm away with the exception of my 4 month European adventure during university. That could have been due to a tight budget requiring copious amounts of baguette and cheese eating and maybe a little too much wine drinking.
I thought I'd share some of my secrets for being able to fully enjoy travel while avoiding weight gain and a loss of overall fitness. Life is too short to feel like we have to undo the effects of a vacation. Kind of misses the point of going away for a break or adventure doesn't it.
1) I eat whatever I want, I just don't eat too much.
I love trying new food and drink. It's a big part of why I enjoy travel. I don't deprive myself of the gift of food and the sensuality that accompanies enjoying it. I just don't over eat. Plain and simple. I stop before I'm full because I know it takes time for us to register we are full. I eat regularly and don't skip meals.
2) I walk everywhere.
I will avoid taking the metro if it means I get to walk through an interesting neighborhood. This is a no brainer.
3) I bring a heavy resistant stretch band.
One of the things I hate giving up while traveling is working my back and core. You can hit every major muscle group with bodyweight training (i.e. no equipment) except our backs. I'm very serious about good posture and alignment and love feeling tall and strong. So I do at least 2 strength training workouts a week while away that last about 30 minutes.
If you want an example of an equipment free workout you could do anywhere, check out a video of me on The Kit. There's one full body workout and one core workout.
4) I stretch
Sitting on a plane for long periods and walking a lot can create sore hip flexors and tighten up different muscles in the entire body. I take five minutes at the end of a travel day to do some basic stretching for my glutes, hip flexors and spine.
5) I don't leave assuming I'm going to gain weight
This is the biggest one. Most people assume they will gain weight while on vacation. I don't. We can taste food without stuffing ourselves like pigs. If I'm full, I leave leftover food on my plate. I hate feeling bloated. How is that fun?
6) I use vacations as an opportunity to catch up on sleep
We need vacations to recharge psychologically and physically. Albeit I might have a couple late nights during my trip to Berlin, I respect the need to restore our energy reserves. I love naps while on vacation or even just laying down and reading. I don't over plan my days so that I come back wiped out. One of the best ways to stop storing fat on our tummies is to bring our cortisol (stress hormone) levels down. Vacations should be about destressing.
So there are some of my staying fit while traveling tips. Just remember, fun doesn't have to involve gluttony. And overeating just isn't sexy at home or on vacation. Remember there is no falling off the wagon and getting back on it in terms of health and fitness. Stop thinking there is a wagon at all.
I don't know why people would invest in cosmetic surgery or other passive anti-aging endeavors without first doing the thing that is most obvious, exercise. And I'm not talking easy exercise. I'm talking about the stuff that makes our hearts pounds, our faces flush and our muscles burn. I see a huge difference in how people age based on the level of strenuous physical activity they've been consistent with. It is quite incredible to see how visible differences in vitality are when you stand two people beside each other, one who sweats and pushes themselves and another who has been relatively sedentary or engaged in more gentle physical activities.
But too often what seems obvious needs to be backed up my scientific evidence for people to believe it.
We all know that physical activity is beneficial in countless ways, but even so, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was startled to discover that exercise kept a strain of mice from becoming gray prematurely.
But shiny fur was the least of its benefits. Indeed, in heartening new research published last week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace.
In the experiment, Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lab rodents that carry a genetic mutation affecting how well their bodies repair malfunctioning mitochondria, which are tiny organelles within cells. Mitochondria combine oxygen and nutrients to create fuel for the cells — they are microscopic power generators.
Mitochrondria have their own DNA, distinct from the cell’s own genetic material, and they multiply on their own. But in the process, mitochondria can accumulate small genetic mutations, which under normal circumstances are corrected by specialized repair systems within the cell. Over time, as we age, the number of mutations begins to outstrip the system’s ability to make repairs, and mitochondria start malfunctioning and dying.
Many scientists consider the loss of healthy mitochondria to be an important underlying cause of aging in mammals. As resident mitochondria falter, the cells they fuel wither or die. Muscles shrink, brain volume drops, hair falls out or loses its pigmentation, and soon enough we are, in appearance and beneath the surface, old.
Now the next question I would have is, can people reverse the signs of aging with vigorous exercise. Well, unless you've fallen into complete resignation, I would say it's worth giving it a go at any age.
But as Sara-Clare stated on her facebook status a few days ago: