The New Fitness

P/C

I’ve been rather introspective lately, which I figure is a natural side effect of doing a lot of self-work and spirituality seeking. My “Emily’s Deep Thoughts” posts seem to slowly be outnumbering the ones that contain what I ate for lunch and my latest run stats. At first this bothered me a lot, and I just didn’t want to post anything. I wanted to keep my “la la la, off to the gym, hey look, frittata for dinner!” content rolling but my personal life wasn’t in alignment with what I wanted my blog life to be. Sick of fighting with myself, I stuck to Instagram mini-blogging where it seemed easier to throw some stuff out there but not be too committed to a thought.

But I still felt bothered. I didn’t want to abandon my blog, but I didn’t know how to work it into what I felt like writing about. My whole paradigm of health and healthy living had been shifting, and I didn’t know how to address it. Part of it was because I keep looking to the outside for guidance – what are the other health/fitness bloggers doing? Oh man, I don’t have abs yet, so I can’t do it that way. Does … does she ever wear pants? Or even own pants? Wow, that’s a lot of green juice. And so. Many. Gym. Selfies. Wait, that was my account. But gym selfies of actually working out, not just in the mirror. Workout selfies? How do you even do that?!?

What I was trying to do just wasn’t working for me. I wanted to jump on the train of filming myself working out, coming up with inspiring recipes, and taking lots of mirror selfies of my non-existent muscle definition, which isn’t what I do. It really isn’t ever what I did.

What do I do? I listen to my body and try to give it what it needs. I work to heal my emotional wounds of the past and break myself free of the numbing, survival-based behaviors that no longer serve me. I remind myself constantly that I am love, and I give love, and try to be kind and respectful to all I encounter. And I eat well, go to the gym, take long beach rambles, and do what I can when I can. I am never perfect, and I no longer want to punish myself for doing anything but the best I can at the time. And I feel really, really happy.

To me, this is healthy. This is fitness. Take what you like, leave the rest, and always work in your own values and authenticity. And it’s not sexy. It’s not marketable, and it doesn’t engage people to click. But aren’t our newsfeeds filled up enough with pretty, empty images designed to make us feel not enough so we’ll buy whatever they’re selling?

I’m ready to rock a new road. A road that leads to a healthy, fulfilled life that’s full to the brim with love and experience. A road that says I am already enough, and all of this is just to celebrate all the things I can still do, for the fun and curiosity of it. I remember working out with the Girls Gone WOD group in Costa Rica, and realizing during the EmPack workout how much I love movement. We were sprinting up a hill with weighted duffel bags, something that would normally have me groaning and faking an injury to get out of it. But in that moment the experience was something else entirely. It wasn’t there to train therefore required to achieve and get better, it wasn’t because I ate a donut yesterday and I needed to do penance for my dietary sins, it was moving because it feels good and is good for me. Oh, and it was so, so much fun! One of the best times I’ve had in my life. I want more of that in my life.

Let’s make this the new fitness normal. No more restrictive diets and pills and powders that promise a sculpted body and almost certainly deliver an empty heart. Let’s do more of what makes us feel good, instead of look good. We are whole creatures that deserve wellness at all levels, not just our earth suits. Let’s be mindful of our fitness journey on the inside as well as the out.

Go make it a great day

Awesomely Average

For some reason, I’ve been fearful of writing lately. After some refection, I think I understand why. The fear comes from perfectionism. Not that I’ll fail, but that I won’t be perfect. Exceptional. That I’ll end up in the dreaded average. Who wants to be average? I either want to be amazingly inspiring, or so horrendously ill equipped that my cautionary story of How I Attempted Exceptional and Failed Spectacularly is a source of future amusement. Does it really need to be one or the other? I used to say, “epic good, or epic fail!” in jest, but now it’s become more of a life motto than an amusing meme. What is up with my avoidance of Average? So far all it’s doing is preventing me from living life and doing what I enjoy.

There’s nothing wrong with average. It’s comfortably in the middle. It’s unassuming. It’s where the power can lie in wait, recharging for the next surge. Average gets stuff done. It’s still progress. Average sets the standard. As David Letterman said, C’s still get degrees.

Our culture wants to reward the overachievers, the “greatests,” because they’re an inspiring story. And it’s super fun to be the winner on top of their game. Everybody loves a winner, and the prizes are fabled to  be great, even if the prize is “Congratulations! More work!” But the average is also rewarded – with lack of resistance. You just move forward to the next step. If I’m an average parent, my kids still grow up right. If I’m an average employee, I am likely to keep my job. If I’m an average powerlifter, I can still move and lift heavy-ish things. Average can still keep me moving forward without all of the effort and stress Exceptional requires.

Of course I don’t want to get stuck in a rut. But average isn’t a rut if it’s just a place I’m hanging out in for a while as I catch my breath and my bearings. Nor is it complacent; eventually I’ll get bored of Average and want a challenge. And then Exceptional will take the stage, and we do the dance again.

Average. Moving things progressively forward since the first caveman looked at his cave painting and said, “Meh, good enough.”

Mind Your Own (Body) Business

I’m 5’0″ and currently I weigh 154 lbs.

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PC: Zachau Photography

I’ve always carried more weight on my frame than the BMI calculations for my height would recommend. The only time in my life I was in the “green zone” on the BMI calculation was when I was in college, racing bicycles competitively and barely got down to 128 lbs from riding 20-25 hours a week and restricting calories. Oh, and I was bulimic. And severely depressed. But obviously I was healthy, because I was fitting into size 6 jeans for the first time in my life, right?

Today, I am the heaviest I’ve been, aside from my pregnancies. And I couldn’t be happier about my body. Because now it’s not about what I look like; it’s what I can do with what I got that I find fulfilling and puts me in awe on the regular. It’s taken decades of hating myself because I didn’t look like what others told me I should look like. It’s taken months of self-care, soul searching, and paying attention to myself. It’s taken getting my depression under control and accepting that I am a good and worthy person who deserves health and is healthy. It’s taken owning my choices, and making those choices based on what I believe to be good for me and what I want, and not what others or the media tells me what I should be doing. I’m rocking my own road and living my own life, just like what my blog byline says. I am not perfect, but I make progress, and I am happy to do so.

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And doing yoga on the beach in a swimsuit and giving zero effs about it

My only wish is that others can be happy and comfortable with their bodies, doing what they love and loving what they do.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that still struggles with the concept of “beauty at any size.” The “right,” socially-acceptable body structure is so closely tied with morality that we have a culture that supports, or at least turns a blind eye to, body-shaming. We look at people that are “too fat” or “too thin” (because that is totally an objective measurement, right?) and immediately judge them. It’s okay to leave a mean comment about what I think they look like. Clearly, they don’t realize how they’re being perceived. They must not care about themselves. How stupid/sick they must be, to not know what they need to do to look “normal”? Just put down the fork/eat a sandwich/stop lifting because you look too bulky. Because I am offended and concerned about how I perceive the way you look, and now I make it your problem.

I must confess, I am a former fat-shamer. I would see overweight people and think, “how could they not care about their health?” Because clearly that was the only logical conclusion. And of course, their health is totally my business (sarcasm level at an 11 right there). Never mind the decades of terrible diet advice the public has been fed. Or the fact I know nothing about this person or their life, how they might be working a full-time job and caring for an aging parent at home, or how a bad knee or lack of accessible physical activities that are varied and enjoyable might make fitness extremely difficult. What, you mean not everyone wants to slog it out on the elliptical 30 minutes a day, five days a week?!? Shoot me. (And if you love the elliptical, that is awesome and you keep doing you!)

And especially with females, body-shaming women just promotes the objectification of women. Because society dictates that as a woman, it’s my duty to look a certain way so I am attractive and pleasing to the eye. If I’m too fat, or too muscular, or too tall, or too thin, or not whatever is considered “right” to look today, it’s uncomfortable for others to look at me, and I’m not holding up my end of the bargain on being a woman. This type of thinking puts me in so much rage I’m just going to end this thought here with a big load of baloney. Because this is such baloney.

 

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RAGE!!

 

Finally, there’s the “health” argument. The argument that if you’re over- or underweight (especially overweight), then you are unhealthy, and that’s wrong because your lifestyle will cause others pain down the road as your body gives out and others have to take care of you, either financially or with caregiving. To which I have one comment:

MY HEALTH IS NONE OF YOUR G*DD*** BUSINESS. AND YOUR HEALTH IS NONE OF MY G*DD*** BUSINESS.

Bob Harper, most notably known from his work as a personal trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, recently suffered a heart attack. He’s an extremely fit person, and he almost died from a heart attack that nobody, least of all him, saw coming. Meanwhile, a Dutch study came out that people that are considered “overweight” on the BMI scale actually live longer lives than “normal” weight people. I cannot possibly know a person’s health history from their pants size. Fit-looking people might have cancer, and overweight people could go on a 12-mile hike and hike circles around me. I don’t know, and what’s more, IT’S NONE OF MY G*DD*** BUSINESS ANYWAY. Neither is it yours.

A couple years ago, Noelle Tarr from Coconuts and Kettlebells wrote a post that broke the internet in the paleo/health-sphere when it was featured on the Whole9 blog, called “Why I Don’t Want Six-Pack Abs.” She received an alarming amount of criticism from this post, from people who argued that if you don’t have a six-pack, you must not be working hard enough, and if you don’t want to work hard for your physique then what are you doing? SMH. This just illustrates my point that our culture is way too looks-obsessed, totally ignoring the person underneath the abs. Obviously with the personal measurements I gave in my opening sentence, you can be assured that I do not have a six pack. I have no desire for the work it takes to get one. Because those are my priorities, and this is what makes me happy. If you prioritize the diet and training it takes for your abs and are happy with it, again, that’s awesome and you keep doing you! But it is so not me, and the work it would take would make me miserable. That doesn’t make me lazy or unworthy or weak. It makes me different. Which is totally okay.

We are all on our own journey. Sometimes that journey takes us to a health-focus, sometimes it doesn’t. That is no reason to shame or hate on others. You are not bad because you don’t do what I do or think how I think, and the same goes for me. Be kind to yourself. Then be kind to others. That is how the world is supposed to work, I think.

Go make it a great day.

Shoutout to Steph Gaudreau’s article on Stupid Easy PaleoMind Your Own Body: An Open Letter to Body Shamers” for inspiring me to finally get these thoughts out that I had been keeping silent for way too long. And if this content speaks to you, check out a free pass to Steph’s Women’s Strength Summit May 15-21!

 

The Same 24 Hours

I am a bit crazy. I know this. Most people that know me personally know this. And the past week of crazy has been no exception.

So, my whole family has been out of town for two weeks, leaving me all alone at home and left to my own devices. Okay, I still have Olive and the fish to care for. But basically I just have to worry about me. For two whole glorious weeks!

At first I came up with huge lists of all the things I was going to accomplish. Clean the whole house and actually keep it clean! CrossFit every day! Hang out with all the friends! Read all the books! Maybe even watch that new Netflix series everyone is talking about!

You know what happened? None of the above. Because I still have the same 24 hours in a day as I did before, just with less distraction and small human chasing.

I did take Olive on a lot of walks, and I started trail running a bit (OMG the first time I started running on the trail with Olive, she looked at me like I just invented Christmas: “what, we’re going to run?!? For real?!? Sign me up, let’s go BEST DAY EVER!!!”), and I have some big projects coming up that I got started on, but the normal daily routine really didn’t deviate too much. Which leaves me with the big realization that when it comes to time management, I am my own worst enemy.

My schedule, they way I structure my day, and my life choices in general is 100% in my control. Sure, stuff might come up, but overall I get to choose what I put in my day, and how I react when things go off-plan. Without having my family around to distract me, I had to face the music that I’m not running late because of packing school lunches and cleaning mashed sweet potatoes off of various surfaces. I’m running late because I am still trying to cram too many activities into an already richly-scheduled day.

This brings me back to some advice my boss and mentor gave me when I started my first “real” job out of college: there will always be more work to do. No matter how late you stay or how many to-do list items you scratch off, there will always be more waiting for attention. The sooner I can accept the fact that I will never be “done,” the sooner I can stop making myself crazy for all of the unfinished business I have yet to attend to and enjoy the other things in life.

 

I think the next stepping stone on the path to happiness for me is really accepting and embracing the fact that I will not be able to do all the things, and that’s perfectly all right. For now I can do the one thing that needs to be done, do it the best I can, and move on. Maybe that’s something for me. Or it could be something for someone else. There is no law that says everything has to be done every day or else certain doom will result. That’s just the one I make up in my own head. Let good enough be good enough, and take time out to enjoy the journey.

Go make it a great day!

How Autopilot Works, and How It Can Work For You

The other day I read an article about how the autopilot feature works in an airplane. Knowing next to nothing about modern aviation (or any aviation really) I assumed that you just put in the coordinates of where you’re going, and the autopilot keeps the plane in a relatively straight line to get there.

In reality, the autopilot routinely calculates the trajectory on where it’s headed vs where it’s supposed to be right now and makes minor adjustments accordingly.  Sort of like driving a car, but on a bigger scale, it’s constantly making tiny corrections back and forth to keep headed in the general direction of the destination. It’s not a consistent straight line, and will veer off course for a time until the recalculations direct it back on track.

I realized that this is a fabulous metaphor to goal setting and life in general. You have an idea of where you want to go, you put in the coordinates (schedule, plans, tasks) to get there. And you cruise. Sometimes you look up and realize you’re off course, so you correct and continue on. The airplane doesn’t beat itself up for going off course, so why should I? The pack of cookies I ate before lunch, the wod I skipped the other day, the chores I blew off so I could lay around and read comic books with my kids, they are deviations from my goals to keep healthy and stay on top of my life stuff. But as long as I course correct back to my target coordinates, they do not distract me for long.

Today, take a few minutes to do an honest evaluation of your goals. Is what I’m doing making sense? Am I making progress? Do I even want to do the work to get to this goal? It’s okay if the answers are no, not really, and can’t even.

  • If you felt like last week was an off week, make a plan to change 1 or 2 things to get motivated again.
  • If you were spot on last week and feel pumped to do it all again, Yay! That’s awesome, and keep up the great work!
  • If you’re starting to feel a little burned out and need a break, be kind to yourself but make a plan for how you want to recharge and how to recommit as soon as you start feeling spunky again. Don’t just blindly throw yourself off of the wagon because you’re facing a case of the can’t-evens (speaking purely from experience here)! Be deliberate about what you need, make a plan, and go forward guilt-free and knowing you’re doing the best job you can for your health and goals.

Now go get ‘em, tiger.

That’s all for now, go make it a great day!    

Get After It (In Your Own Special Way)

Monday morning I was scrolling through Instagram while procrastinating on getting out of bed. It was the dawn of the new week, and I was feeling “a case of the Mondays” come on. It would be another week of my richly-packed schedule, catering to the demands of job, small humans, and whatever my body decides to throw at me this time (a resurgence of hamstring tendonitis and mild depression? Sure, why not!). To put it mildly, I was not wholeheartedly looking forward to getting out of bed.

I happened on a post by Katrin Davidsdottir, two-time Crossfit Games champion and Fittest Woman on Earth.

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The caption caught me. “Don’t understand the ‘ugggh’ feel that is generally put on Mondays .. I get such a ‘get after it’ feel”

How great would it be to wake up Monday morning and feel like “heck, yeah! Get after it!”

WHO DOES THIS?

Predictably, some of the comments reiterated my sentiment – “Easy for you to say, you get to work out all day instead of work a 9-5!” “Sure, tell me that when you have several small children to look after!” “Not all of us can be as lucky to travel around and live their dream.”

Wait, what?

First of all, let’s remember that social media is a highlight reel, not real life. Sure, Katrin gets to work out for a living, but she’s probably always sore and something is always hurting. She gets to travel a bunch, but that’s more time away from friends and family. Even the pressure of being the reigning “Fittest Woman on Earth” is probably tough some days, feeling like you have to always perform and live up to others’ expectations.

Despite a grueling training schedule, travel demands, and the stress of being a celebrity CrossFit athlete, she posts that she gets up Monday to “get after it.” This is drive. This is positive attitude. And anyone can do this.

Despite the pressures of my 9-5, feeling like I never have enough time for my family, and the stress of modern life, there is no reason I can’t find the joy in this life I have built for myself and wake up feeling ready to conquer the day. It’s just a mindset shift. And if something isn’t working for me and I’m unhappy, it’s my responsibility to figure out what I can do to make myself happier, whether it’s changing my outward circumstances or changing my inner dialogue on how I view the world around me.

Don’t fall down in the victim mind trap. However it seems like, when it comes down to it you control your life and you control your destiny. Wake up committed each morning to “get after it” even if you overslept and missed your 6am WOD and now you’re running late for your early meeting and your toddler just painted the wall with the contents of her diaper again and you ran out of bread to make your preschooler’s sandwich for lunch again so he’s getting rolled up turkey and a handful of tortilla chips because at least it’s food and dammit we are out of coffee again WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME SO NOT FAIR … but you know that this is just a moment in time and things are actually going pretty good and everyone will get where they’re trying to go eventually. Grab a Starbucks on the way to work, crank up the Kansas oh so very loud, and embrace the fact that you are indeed getting after it in your own special way!

Go make it a great day! xoxo

Monday Mindfulness: Be Here Now

Back in 2010, when I was still racing bicycles competitively, I attended a cycling workshop hosted by professional cyclist Giana Roberge. During one of the clinics, we were working on some pretty intense drills to work on building our stamina during power moves such as time trials and climbing, where you need to be throttling it at your absolute max for a long time. To red-line your power output like that is just as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one. The entire time you are fighting with your brain to keep mashing the pedals, while your whole body seems to be screaming that you need to stop. One of the things Giana suggested to help keep us motivated during this time was to identify a manta or phrase that we could repeat to ourselves during the effort that was inspiring and could distract us and keep us focused to push our limits. Her suggested phrase was, “be here now.” All that exists in this moment, right now, is for the pedal to get one more powerful turn, for my lungs to get in one more good suck of air, for me to pull myself out of the saddle just one more time. Do not think about the discomfort, about how I could be just sitting at home watching Netflix right now, or what I plan on doing when I get home, or anything that could distract me from giving it my all right now. Be here now, in this moment, giving it everything, because that is all that matters.

Six years later, and I am still repeating that phrase to myself, although it’s morphed to take on new meanings and manifestations since being on the bike. I say it to myself before I go into an important meeting, to focus on the content I have prepared and to not guess or predict what my client’s reactions will be. I say it to myself in between reading my toddler bedtime stories and tucking her into bed, so I can savor the short moment of one of the “good parts” of parenthood and not rush off to continue my own activities for the evening. Most recently, I say it to myself when I start planning to-do lists and big, overachieving projects I know I don’t really have the time or energy to initiate let alone actually complete.

Often I have felt in a goal-achieving funk. In the past couple years I’ve had to deal with a lot of Life Stuff that has taken up a good chunk of my time I used to spend working on my hobbies and goals. I feel like I haven’t had the focus or energy to put into the big, hairy goals I want to make happen next in my life. The other day I was looking for a book when I stumbled across some of my old planners from several years ago. Out of curiosity, I opened a couple to see what my long-term goals were back in the day. Out of habit, I always jot down my current 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year goals in the back pages of my planner, just for inspiration and visualization on days when I feel a little demotivated. Imagine my surprise when I realized that almost every 1- or 5- year goal I had written down – run a marathon, complete my family (2 kids!), work as a professional consultant, live in a big city, buy a “forever” home – I’ve done. These things just seemed to happen in my life at the time that seemed right, there was no “project plan” or obvious hard work or muscling it up that occurred to manifest these things. At some point I realized it was something I wanted to do, I wrote it down, and just kept working hard on the stuff I knew how to do. And magic happened, and I didn’t even realize it, because I was so focused on my plans for the future; I almost missed the “now.”

That’s not to say I didn’t work or plan for these things. But from the moment I dreamed up a goal, I had absolutely no plan or idea how I would make it work. It’s just something I knew I wanted. Then when time was right and opportunities presented themselves, I figured it out. But all the while, I was still planning and organizing the future, without stopping to look at the current. I forgot to “be here now.” And it stressed me out, making me feel like I cannot get it together and I did not have enough focus to make things happen. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. I just was too focused on making it happen rather than allowing it to happen, trusting that if I continued to work and act in a way that made me the person I wanted to be, the things I wanted to experience would come along shortly. Time and again, things have worked out for me when I least expected them to, and I can trust in that pattern.

Life has taken me on some really crazy detours, but they have always brought me around to the place I’m meant to be in the end. I’m starting to let go of my control-freak nature and just allow and trust things to go where they need to go as long as I’m doing what I feel like I need to do. Some would say this is sort of “let go and let God sort it out” sort of thinking. I see it as reducing the amount of crap I keep thinking about that I can’t control anyway, which frees up some brain space for just the crap that is in this moment. To “be here now” and let go of all of the stress, worries, and fears that Later might bring. Letting go of that control is sort of scary at first, like I’m just going to tailspin into the Land of No Forward Progress and Complacency, as if that’s a real thing. But the opposite is true. When I can truly let go and enjoy the moment, I feel as if the possibilities are endless. I have the capacity to do anything, without all of the weight of worry and control on my back. To “be here now” is such a feeling of freedom in this moment.

Reading About It Is the Same as Doing It, Right?

Hello, and Happy Friday!

It’s been a week since I visited the gym, and I’m starting to have those weird, jumpy energy bursts that indicate it’s really time to blow some steam off at the gym. I didn’t intend on skipping so many days, and I took Olive on a hike Tuesday morning, but I’m starting to feel that pent-up-energy feeling when it’s been too long since I’ve really worked out. I’ve been trying to catch up on sleep so I’ve been skipping the morning classes, and we’ve had a lot of last-minute plans in the evenings so I haven’t been hitting up the evening classes. I miss my CrossFit! But I’ve slept in for two mornings in a row now, and we have no plans the next few nights (fingers crossed!) so I think I’ll be able to pick up our regularly scheduled body-pummeling soon.

In the meantime, reading about fitness is the same as doing it, right?

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I’ve had this book on my Amazon book wish list for a while, and just found out the library has a copy! I’m only about three chapters into it, and my mind is already exploding with the awesomeness. I’ll probably end up buying a copy when I have to return this one to the library, I want to make so many notes in it. Tons of great info about what the body does when it’s exercising, what types of exercise inflict certain system responses, and how your body fuels itself for efforts. Brain. Full.

And even if I’m chilling out this week, my Jawbone app gave me this notification the other day:

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I’ve taken 5 million steps with my Jawbone this year. That sounds like a lot.

That’s all for now, go make it a great day!

Cravings, Sleep, and Stress

Hello, all of you awesome and rad people.

So, today I am dragging and so, so crave-y (I’ve had to pull my hand back from the candy jar a couple of times already, reminding myself that although I’m not on a Whole30, I’m on a Whole30 Reset and candy still isn’t a good idea right now). And I think I know the culprit: Hello, Life Stress! Things have been really hectic this week, and I’m not sleeping enough and the gym visits have taken a back seat to the bigger priorities of survival.

Fortunately, as I was dreaming of “I should bake all the Christmas cookies this year! Maybe tonight!” I was able to recognize that I am under-slept and haven’t had all of the time I need to recharge myself lately. It reminded me of this PaleoFX presentation called “Stress and Cravings: Why Changing Your Food Isn’t Enough” (yes, presented by my current girl crush Melissa Hartwig) about the cycle of stress > eat sugar > more stress > eat more sugar. My cravings aren’t because my body is deprived of sugar or because I even really want it, but because I’m tired and frazzled and looking for a quick fix of happy. And as I recall, giving into my cravings has rarely if ever worked out for me.

So the game plan is to make sure I’m still eating enough healthy food, reach out to friends and family for support as needed, and seize any opportunity I can to take a break, whether it’s take a short walk and listen to some music, curl up with the kids on the couch and watch a movie together, or forget about finishing the dinner dishes and go to bed with a book and a cup of tea instead. In fact, I’m really letting go of a lot of housework because I just don’t have the space for it right now (this is SO not the time to drop by if dust bunnies and food dried and stuck to various pieces of furniture gross you out). I’ll keep everyone fed and dressed, but beyond that the new motto is “messy but happy.” Because sanity > washing windows.

That’s all for now, go make it a great day!

Why I’m Taking a Social Media Break (not just because I’m nuts)

My brain doesn’t work. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Literally, my brain does work somewhat spectacularly. I don’t have to think too much about breathing or beating my heart, I can usually remember my kids’ names, and I can probably out-daydream anyone I know, except perhaps my sister Amanda. But as most moms can tell you, after kids your brain sort of goes “poof!” and suddenly trying to remember spare details of life such as where you put your purse or that you have an important meeting 9:00 Monday morning just doesn’t happen. Even stuff that occurs routinely, like Wednesday is trash night, just escape me. From who I was before having kids, this has been by far the biggest adjustment to try and deal with, the fact that my brain just can’t keep up with my life anymore.

Or can it?

Sleep deprivation is the most likely and most-cited culprit in Baby Brain. I mean, we are not made to function on four broken hours of sleep a night for months on end. Squish took a while before he was sleeping through the night enough to give me a decent rest. Buttercup, however, was one of those miracle babies that settled into a solid, predictable schedule right off the bat and was sleeping through the night in just a few months. I’ve had over a year of not really feeling like “oh I have a baby” is a justified excuse for poor sleep, since my own choices are now affecting how much time I get in bed more than my tiny, demanding humans. Finally owning up to this fact, I began do my best to get to bed on time, practicing good “sleep hygiene”,  and sleeping in if I feel like I need it. The past four months I’ve really improved my sleep, averaging 7:30 per night. While I have noticeably more energy and vast improvement on my overall mood, my brain still feels spacey and not really like it’s on it’s game.

Now that Whole30 has given me a good template for my diet, I’ve been more active with CrossFit, and my sleep is under control, so with the main factors of cognitive degradation under control I started exploring more options on how I can improve my mental performance. I was flirting with the idea of a social media detox of sorts, maybe doing a “SocialMedia30” of sorts where I abstain for a month. My totally inspiring bestie Alexis just embarked on her month media-free, which put the bug in my brain even more. But 30 days without social media is a bit drastic right? I mean, it’s not just a way to distract for me; this is how I share pictures of the kids with my grandma and stay in touch with friends that live abroad. Clearly I don’t misuse my online connections, do I?

There’s really only one way to find out: that dreaded “awarenes”.

Curious, I downloaded the Moment app, which tracks your phone usage. You guys, I’m spending on average about 2 hours a day on my phone. Two. Hours. I couldn’t believe it. I complain so much about not having time, about wanting to cram 30 hours into a 24 hour day, and here I am spending two hours a day on Facebook or who knows what.

And it’s not just Facebook. It’s Beyond the Whiteboard app where I record my CrossFit workouts and compare myself to my gymmates. It’s My Fitness Pal and the Up app that syncs with my Jawbone, where I load my sleep, food, and exercise data … and compare myself to the other users in the community and browse blog posts. It’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Yelp, my Feedly blog feeds, all of the apps that I don’t really need, but I find myself checking ever day, just because they’re there. And that’s not it. There’s all of the newsfeeds I subscribe to through email, with article links and other “healthy” tips that jam up my inbox and feed my brain with data.

What if I don’t have Baby Brain? What if my recent decline in cognitive abilities is because of the barrage of media consumption I subject myself to on a daily basis? Thinking about it: when I had Squish, the only social media I engaged in was Facebook, and I had just found out blogs were a thing. I don’t remember spending my free time sitting on my phone, except to put together a new iTunes playlist or read emails. Now, I am consistently turned onto all the things that are supposed to “connect” me. Connect me to whom? Not my Grandma. And then there is all the IM: the texting, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts. I’m constantly getting pings and notifications and reminders, and my brain cannot turn off.

Maybe I don’t have Baby Brain. Maybe my brain is just done with all of this extra stimulation.

The final straw was when I read this Fast Company article about the brain that I ironically ran across in the latest email newsletter from Dallas Hartwig. And it blew. My. Mind. The article, titled “Your Brain Has A “Delete” Button—Here’s How To Use It” took what I knew about your brain and sleep – as in, you need sleep for your brain to work – and took it a step further to explain how your brain uses sleep to “clean up” stuff, and more importantly, describes that your mindfulness and the things you focus on tells your brain what to clean up and what to repair. So when I’m looking at Instagram 326 times a day, I don’t remember what was decided on in that budget meeting I lead last week, but I do remember that funny meme or the wicked workout that <insert CrossFit Games athlete I follow> did yesterday. Because that’s what I’ve told my brain is important information to retain. Clearly important facts!

So I’m going to give this social media detox a shot. I’m going to go 30 days social media free, and see if/how my cognitive abilities improve. Here are the rules I am going to follow:

  1. No apps on my phone, and no apps in my phone web browsers. I’ve deleted the apps from my phone and web browser bookmarks.
  2. No email newsletters. I’ve either unsubscribed from all email newsletters, or have set up a gmail filter to mark them as “read” and move them to a special folder to read after my experiment, if I am so inclined.
  3. No reading blogs, articles, or online journals, but I will post here if I am so inclined because I sort of view my blog as a journal rather than social media. However if I find I’m posting more often as a substitute for real social connection, I’ll take another look at that rule.
  4. No podcasts. This will be a hard one; I love podcasts on my commute! But I know that if I listen to podcasts, I’ll probably start to crave online social interaction since many of the podcasts I listen to I also follow on social media. So better safe than sorry, and I’ll find other ways to amuse myself driving over the bridge. Like call my Grandma.

In addition to reclaiming my brain space, this social media detox will give me the opportunity to reconnect with the humans in my life, in my  real life. If you don’t know me in real life, please don’t take this as “Emily doesn’t care to know you anymore.” On the contrary, I’d love to get to know you better! Feel free to email me, and let’s connect! And if you do know me in real life, call/text/email me, and let’s connect without a screen in between us (except for my SoCal/East Coast babes, we might need to Skype! Skype is totally okay in my book), preferably over coffee or hiking mountains.

To be clear, I don’t think social media is bad. I think it is useful, purposeful, and an easy way to connect with people. But just like birthday cake not inherently “bad” and is useful and purposeful in the right setting (celebrating a birthday!), so is social media. It is a tool, not an activity. And just like I use a Whole30 to adjust my attitude to birthday cake (totally worth the splurge on birthdays, but not on, like, Tuesdays), I want to use this Social Media Break to identify the role social media has in my life and how I engage with it.

I am super pumped to get two hours back into my day. Wish me luck!

Now that I’m off to do something not social-media related, go forth and make it a great day!

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