4 Tips To Build Confidence And Stop Worrying

October 26, 2014

I am the type of person that tends to want to figure everything out all at once. A challenge comes along and before I put myself out there to face it, I spend an agonizing amount of time assessing, planning and worrying about the outcomes that may or may not come to pass.

My husband Manny will often look at me and ask why on earth I am thinking so far ahead or considering options that are totally out of my control.

We should back up a bit and say that this habit has been paralyzing for me in the past. It has affected my confidence, well-being and productivity. Even sharing this here is scary and leaves me feeling quite vulnerable; however, every week I receive emails and notes about the aspects of your life that you have changed after reading my musings about living a more peaceful, balanced and happy life, so it is worth sharing.

Over the past few years there have been a number of valuable tools I have come across that have helped me to take control of my future-worrying-past-dwelling tendencies.

Healing myself from a Type A, perfectionist existence to a more relaxed, go with the flow, stop and smell the roses person is still a huge work in progress, but here are some of the life changing mindset shifts I have made to choose happiness.

Stop waiting for the sky to fall

At the end of the day, your experience in life affects one person the most – YOU. Creating drama, overwhelm and negative mental chatter only worsens the chances of you enjoying life and its many joys. I think I spent so many years very locked in my own head worrying about what other people thought about me and what sort of disaster was around the corner that I grew exhausted of living this way.

As Dr. Natasha Turner says, everything we say, think and feel affects our body chemistry. It is no wonder I had challenges losing weight when my thought patterns were littered with worry.

The past is behind you so leave it there

The ability to leave the past behind you and to avoid planning out every aspect of your future is tough! What can be so paralyzing about the past is the meaning we place on the events in our life. We can make a divorce mean failure, and an embarrassing event can mean were are incapable. Instead of letting your past dictate your future, leave it where it belongs and move forward with a clean slate.  

When we work on staying present in the current moment we not only let go of expectation, we also help to balance our brain chemistry. By focusing on one thought at a time, we increase the amount of serotonin (our happy neurotransmitter) released by our brain compared to when we try to multi-task.

The best ways to stay present include focusing on the experiences provided by our senses. Focusing on what we hear, see, smell or simply the sensation of our breath helps to block out mulling over the past or stressing about the future.

Be aware of the pause-and-plan response 

This powerful tool works for everything from managing impulsive cravings for sweets to dealing with emotional outbursts. In her book The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal describes this tool as the ability for our body to use the self-control centre of the brain to our advantage. “By keeping you from immediately following your impulses, the pause-and-plan response gives you more flexible, thoughtful action.”

You can use this any time you feel triggered by your environment. Spend a second becoming aware of the cookies in the office kitchen or the hurtful words from a family member and choose not to act. This is not about suppressing emotion, it is about experiencing it and then making a different choice of action rather than following impulses.

When we have more tools to deal with food and mental challenges, we build our confidence to excel in these often anxiety-inducing situations.

Above all, stay in action

This past January I attended a fitness retreat in Santa Monica, California with a group of 30 women just like me, fitness professionals passionate about learning and creating a fulfilling life experience. It was called the Radiance Retreat. 

On the first day of the retreat, we learned the ins and outs of creating an online presence and fitness business. My coach Jill Coleman was leading a session in which she said “If you want to create an online presence, be prepared to take massive action and create more content than you ever have.”

To this day, no matter what – staying in action is the best tool I have to improve my confidence and prevent worry. Fear halts action and perpetuates worry. For me, getting up and doing one thing whether it is a challengeing workout, a vulnerable blog post (!) or simply showing up authentically gives me the power to stay positive.

If you tend to worry and feel like this habit keeps you stuck, try practicing some of the tools from above. Remember, change is often two steps forward and one step back so keep progress not perfection as your goal.

Sincerely,

Lana xox

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

October 26, 2014

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup oats

1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (I used precision naturals) 

2 eggs

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or blend cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg)

2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk

1/2 tsp baking powder

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and combine until uniform. Pour batter onto a prepared pan (I use a teaspoon of coconut oil at medium-high heat) and cook for 1-2 minutes per side. The batter for this recipe will be quite thick so you may need to use a spoon to spread it into a round pancake shape!

The best thing about baking with pumpkin is that it keeps your pancakes very moist. The top of the pancakes will seem uncooked before you flip them over, so be careful when flipping! 

A note about protein powder:

Protein powders can be a great way to boost the amount of protein at some meals and snacks. We know that adequate amount of protein each day helps us to stay fuller for longer, balance our blood sugar and maintain lean muscle mass. I tend to limit protein powder intake to maximum twice a week and then focus on 'real, whole, unprocessed' sources of food for the rest of the time. 

This is a great brand I use often. Because I do not eat a ton of dairy and whey protein is derived from dairy products this is another reason why I keep my intake to a couple times a week.

To make this recipe without protein powder, simply increase the old fashioned rolled oats to 1 cup and omit protein powder altogether. 

Enjoy!

How my Mom found balance, health and her body!

October 20, 2014

It is a rainy Friday afternoon on the west coast and my Mom is at the wheel of her grey ford escape. The sky outside is about the same shade as the vehicle as we are on our way up to Whistler, BC for a much needed girls weekend away. 

There are rarely quiet moments between my Mom and we do talk a few times a day between my home in Calgary and hers on Bowen Island, BC. Today is the same and as the road winds and the rain slams on the windshield on the aptly named sea to sky highway we continue our chatter. The conversation steers towards the topic of ‘change’ and I pull out my iphone.

‘Oh gosh, what are you doing now?’ My mom implores. ‘You’re not going to record me are you?’

My Mom has this uncanny way of imparting knowledge and challenging you to introspect without nagging at all. She has had her own fair share of challenges and success with body change over the years and has a brilliant perspective on the topic. After losing 40lbs and keeping it off for years, I jumped at the chance to share her story with you!

‘Yep!’ I reply cheerfully as I press the large red button on my phone to document the pearls of wisdom she is about to divulge. I jump into interview mode and we are off...

Lana: Before finding success with losing weight, what other options had you tried?

Louise: Well, I thought I was doing the right thing by signing up with a personal trainer who did a one on one orientation to the gym with me. I thought that is what it took, you signed up and then they showed you what to do and then it just happened. But it didn’t just happen. I went to the gym a few times and then found excuses or reasons about why I wasn’t going to make it a priority for me. I also joined a weight loss program which initially showed some progress and then after a while, it was not a priority.

Lana:  Ok, so what was your frame of mind during the times where you would sign up for different programs?

Louise: At the time, I think like a lot of people, I thought that when I signed up for something, everything would magically happen for you. I didn’t feel that I had to participate so much in the thinking part of the program, I just had to do the program and not participate in other parts of my life. It was something that was separate from my everyday existence.

Lana: Would you say that you were trying to make these changes during a busy time in your life?

Louise: Oh yes, I was definitely busy! And I still am. But what generally happened was that I had a friend that was having some success with a program and when they told me about it, I would say I should do that too! However, just because they were having success with it didn’t mean I would have the same outcome because our reasons for signing up were not always similar.

Lana: So what happened to your mindset in order to get to where you are now, where you have lost weight and have been able to maintain your results for a number of years?

Louise: I decided that I had spent so much time in my life saying that I would make a change sometime soon. I realized that soon never had a date, and it was always in the future. One day I decided the date was today and if I didn’t start to think differently, change would continue to be elusive. 

I ended up simplifying my goals - like I started with not eating bread (which is a trigger food for my mom, it doesn't make her feel satisfied meaning one piece isn't 'enough' and once she got rid of it, she didn't miss it). There were other things in my diet that I thought I needed to have in order to feel satisfied and I got rid of those too. I kept the cream in my coffee though! I will never get rid of that. 

Another thing I did was realize that measuring and counting does not work for me. I can pick healthy, enjoyable foods and eat until I am full and that works for me. An example is cottage cheese. I can eat it with fresh fruit and stop when I am happily full but with bread it didn't fill me up enough or when it did I didn't feel good.

Lana: What is the biggest nutritional change you have made comparing your life today from 10 years ago?

Louise: I have managed to stop the cycle of sweet and salty foods being my go-to's. I realized I get way more satisfaction and feel so much better when I fill up on the things that I do now like veggies, fruit, boiled eggs..I don't need the sweet and salty foods anymore.

Lana: So it's like a feed-forward cycle? You make better choices and feel better and then do not crave the foods you did before?

Louise: I don't need as many treats and I just don't crave them like I did before.

 

Blast Fitness Friend Susan Dahl & my Mom Louise 

Lana: So what would you say are your favourite types of exercise?

Louise: Definitely, being active doing projects - gardening, mowing the lawn, going for a walk. I have recently started more concentrated one on one strength training which has helped me maintain my strength as I age. It is social and a bit competitive and it makes me feel great when I am done. I can do all the things I want to do!

Lana: And what about dancing?

Louise: I can dance until the cows come home! And I can do what my kids want me to do now. Years ago I wouldn't be able to keep up on trips and activities because of my own habits and I realized I was the only one getting in my own way.

Lana: Do you have any trigger situations?

Louise: For sure, when I am over-tired and exhausted I want to sit and eat something right away without too much thinking. I have to use willpower, but nothing like before. I know now that it is somewhat momentary. I can go for a piece of chicken or turkey sausage to get me on track rather than eating crackers and cheese and dip like before. I always carry a lunch bucket. I have oatmeal and fruit ready and warm for breakfast and boiled eggs for a snack. I often bring a piece of chicken and a bean salad or veggies. 

Lana: So if you could offer yourself some advice years ago based on what you know now, what would you say?

Louise: I think you have to be truthful with yourself that it is not simply the program that is going to make the success. It is your commitment to making a change because what is happening in your life has not worked for you. It can be the smallest of changes, it doesn't have to be anything more than one thing. But you have to pick one thing that you can stick with and actually change. 

Lana: Looking back now, what has been the best part of the changes you've made?

Louise: I have definitely gotten more confidence in my ability to be in charge of my body and my health. Before I felt that my body owed me something and I expected it to take care of me. I will be 60 in a few years and now it's pay back time! I am feeling much more energized, I can do more things, I feel great, people tell me I look better, and I enjoy my life 100 times more than I did before. 

Wow! Thanks Mom! 

What did you all think? Great words of wisdom here. Pop us a reply on our Blast Fitness Facebook Page!

Until next time,

Lana

 

Hasselback Baked Potatoes

October 20, 2014

These potatoes are so simple to make, yet they look so intricate. I find that yellow flesh potatoes taste really great rather than the russet variety for these. 

In order to relieve any frustration during the preparation stage, you will want to set yourself up properly to chop these spuds. After thoroughly washing the potatoes and leaving the skin on, slice a small layer off the bottom of the potato so it lays flat on the counter. Wedge the potato in between two cutting boards or chop sticks and slice thinly through the width of the potato end to end, being sure not to cut all the way to the counter!

Ingredients: 

4 yellow flesh potatoes of similar size

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp paprika

2 tbsp dried rosemary

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place the potatoes onto the baking sheet with the sliced side facing up. Before they are fully cooked, the slices will seem to stick together. During the baking process they will fan out. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over each potato, sprinkle with paprika and rosemary and bake for 50 minutes. 

Potatoes are a root vegetable that tend to get a bad name for how high in starch they are. This is a fabulous side dish to pair with a lean protein as an ideal post-workout meal. Starch helps with muscle recovery when eaten 30-60 minutes post-workout. 

 

The First Step To Improve Your Self-Control

October 10, 2014

You have uttered this phrase before: I wish I had more self-control.

Well great news, the latest research is telling us that self-control, or willpower does have a large potential for growth. We know that with practice, we can strengthen our will and desire to achieve the goals we set out to conquer. 

Before we embark on the journey of strengthening our ability to control our actions, we must understand the factors that zap our existing willpower, leaving us seemingly out of control when faced with a bag of our favourite potato chips. 

According to Stanford lecturer and author Kelly McGonigal, daily stress and lack of sleep are two of the largest factors to impair our ability to control (aka access willpower) our choices with food and drink.

I can certainly relate – the mornings where my alarm clock goes off and I begrudgingly roll out of bed like a zombie are equally as challenging in the realm of food preparation and making great choices at my local coffee shop.

Thus, the physiological challenge lies in our ability to self-regulate. Self-regulation is defined as the ability to deal with stress and subsequently recover from that stress. So, our inability to deal with stress properly will negatively affect our ability to exert much self-control. 

The basic physiological explanation for this occurrence is that self-regulation occurs in the oldest most unconscious area of our brain; whereas, self-control is contained in the most evolved section of our brain, the neocortex. When our body receives multiple signals of stress (whether real or perceived) we conserve energy by shutting down activitation to the more conscious thought driven areas of the brain like the neocortex.

Due to the large amounts of information and sensation we experience in our daily lives, it is simple to see the increasing importance of quality self-regulation. As professor of psychology and philosophy at York University Stuart Shanker explains “If IQ was the construct of the 20th century, self-regulation will be the construct of the 21st century.”

I believe that in today’s world you can think of our lives not as survival of the fittest, but rather may the best self-regulator prevail.

Now that we have recognized that self-regulation is one of the many factors that can aid us in our quest for improved self-control, how do we create the calm environment we need to recover from life stress?

Spend at least one consecutive hour each day without technology.

Video games, television and visual stimuli from electronic devices like smart phones and computers can negatively affect our stress response according to Dr. Shanker. If we know that our ability to self-control is only available to us when we can effectively self-regulate this surely lends support to at least an hour each day without electronics. My go to is a walk outside without checking my cellphone constantly.

Find a calming way to reduce external stimuli.

The key to this solution is finding an activity that is truly enjoyable for you. Dr. Shanker shared a story on the CBC radio program Ideas, about a class of 12 year old boys from the Yukon who were dealing with attention, anxiety and anger issues. Their teacher enjoyed knitting and taught the boys to knit as a way to focus on a relaxing task, thus reducing the effect of external stimuli, allowing their brains to effectively self-regulate and thus gain self-control over their behaviour. 

 

Crocheting is a relaxing, mindful activity that helps me to work-in, calming down and creating space between myself and the constant stimuli of the outside world. 

Use exercise as a tool to deal with stress. 

Of course this is an area near and dear to my heart. One of the best ways to self-regulate is to move. Regular exercise is THE MOST EFFECTIVE way to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies show that any type of physical practice whether it is running, yoga, strength training, dancing, tai chi or boxing all help to focus our mind, and calm the stress response that inhibits self-regulation.

Hmmmm...sounds like a feed-forward cycle to me. 

Exercise to reduce stress, once stress has been managed, we improve our ability to master self-control. 

I hope today’s post helps you to learn that you have the ability to improve your self-control once you find effective ways to reduce stress and aid self-regulation. 

Sincerely,

Lana