Hunger in Your Belly

I met a dancer once. The fittest person I’ve ever met in my life. Part of her job and livelihood meant staying fit and keeping in the best shape she possibly could. As a basic American girl who has long been exposed to the false narrative that beautiful boils down to skinnier…plain and simple, I wanted to know some of her secrets. And she gave me advice I’ll never forget.

She didn’t tell me what all the diet plans and fitness routines will tell you…move more, eat less. No, instead she told me she goes to bed every night with a hunger in her belly. I think about that advice a lot.

I don’t think she meant “don’t eat before bed” like a lot of fitness gurus will tell you, although it’s good advice. I don’t think she meant “stop eating after a certain time at night” or “no midnight snacks” which is also advice you’ll read about on fitness blogs and in health magazines. So maybe that’s all decent advice for staying fit or losing weight. But that’s not what she meant.

Even though she was talking about a biological need like “hunger” I think she meant something far more emotional and philosophical than the act of eating or not eating. Think about times when you have been well and truly fed. I mean full to the bottom of your heels.

Picture a Thanksgiving day…maybe it’s the evening and you’ve just had all the things at the holiday buffet. The turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the brussels sprouts, the salad, the bread, the cranberry sauce, the pie…all of it. You know the feeling I’m coming to next…it’s not just being content. It’s being absolutely stuffed. You feel lethargic. You feel lazy. Maybe you lie around for the rest of the night in a state of light coma with the rest of your clan.

We’ve all been there. And it’s not even a bad experience on occasions like Thanksgiving. Holidays are meant to be treated with a little looser fist, giving yourself more grace and allowing yourself an extra helping of Granny’s apple pie, after all Granny may not be around to make it much longer. So eat that pie!

But still, it’s not even the physical act of being hungry that she was talking about. When you’re hungry, truly hungry, you have something to fight for. There is a primal instinct inside of us when we have a basic need like hunger that comes out. Some cave person imperative that we didn’t even know we had. And this is what she meant.

When this dancer friend told me she goes to bed with a hunger in her belly every night, she meant that she keeps that instinct alive. She doesn’t kill it off with complacency and comfort and a full Thanksgiving stomach. She doesn’t appease the dragon inside of her giving it what it wants till it goes to sleep and stops breathing fire. No, she keeps the dragon hungry so the dragon has something to fight for. Something to live for.

Dragon Fire Health and Fitness blog

I believe this is the best health advice I’ve ever gotten in my life. And there have been seasons in my life when I’ve followed this advice to the letter. I’ve never been as fit or as healthy as I was during the times when I actively went to bed with a hunger in my belly every single night. I had a poorly fed dragon in my belly and that was motivation to get out for a run every single morning. It was motivation to pursue dreams like starting my own blog or a side hustle or a web series. Those are times in my life that I can look back on and see that the hunger was there in my belly and it made me better.

I wish I could tap into that every single day for ever and ever. There are people who do a good job of going to bed with a hunger in their belly more nights than they go to bed with a well fed dragon in there. There are people who are paid to keep the hunger in their belly and that is a powerful motivator, for sure. There are people, like my dancer friend, who have taught themselves that there is no other way to live than to have the hunger in their belly.

This doesn’t mean that the people with a hunger in their belly are all skinny and perfectly fit and walking around with the flawless bodies on the planet or the most perfect lives. Not even my dancer friend is free of flaws. We are all human. And we all have to be ok with that!

But, for my dancer friend, her hunger translated into fitness and physical movement, which led to a very physically fit body. For others that can translate into health and fitness of a different kind. Healthy careers, healthy parenting, healthy relationships, healthy whatever. There are all kinds of ways the hungry dragon in your belly can motivate you and make you want to get up and fight for something bigger every single day.

Lately, my dragon has been overfed…he’s fat and he’s lazy and he sits around all day dreaming of things he’ll never actually do unless something changes.

Well, dragon…little buddy…I feel a change in the wind, says I and I think it’s time to stop feeding you so many times a day.

#InfinityGauntletFitness – Intro

It’s that time again! The fog of the holidays has finally lifted (the older I get the longer it lingers.) The weather has been turning warmer and warmer down here in Florida and it’s time to gear up for a brand new fitness series!!

Themed fitness series have been the best thing for me in regards to getting on track with my personal health and fitness. From my #AvengerinTraining series to my #PrincessBootCamp, each one has motivated me beyond just meal plans and fitness routines. These are opportunities to break bad habits, discover new things and make real, lasting lifestyle changes. Even if you only take away 1 or 2 things from each series, that builds up to a really good life. And as my friend Renita always says, #babystepstogreatness.

With Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War on the horizon, I thought I’d start with the franchise that motivates me more than any other franchise out there. Do I think I could be a superhero one day? Yes! Do I think I have some work to do before I achieve superhero status? You betcha. But I don’t like to recycle fitness plans. The thing that worked for me 4 years ago with #AvengerinTraining won’t work for me now. My life is different. My schedule is different. And my body is older. So I have to move at a pace that works for today’s me, not yesterday’s me.

But like my #AvengerinTraining series, I wanted to use Marvel as my inspo. So I came up with a series based on the Infinity Stones. Which have been peppered throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years, if you’ve been watching closely. The stones are the McGuffins that Thanos himself has been seeking since The Avengers hit movie theaters in 2012. They are all powerful gemstones that are tied to all the power in the universe. Each one has a different property and purpose, but when they are all combined in the Infinity Gauntlet, they grant the user…

With that in mind, I devised a 7 week series. 1 week for each of the 6 Infinity Stones (Space, Reality, Power, Mind, Time and Soul Stones) and a 7th week for the full Infinity Gauntlet!

Stay tuned for a full week by week breakdown, starting with Week 1: The Space Stone.

But here’s a little tip if you want to dive into a new fitness series, or anything really…put your money where your dreams are! I’m starting each week by purchasing all my fitness classes up front and creating my schedule right off the bat. That way, I have no excuses. The money has been put aside, the classes have been purchased and it’s just up to me to do the things I say I want to do. So…stay tuned!!

#PrincessBootCamp – Pocahontas Week Fitness Plan

Disney Princess Boot Camp fitness blog post nerds Pocahontas Week

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Pocahontas is easily the fittest Princess in the bunch. She climbs willow trees, canoes rivers, free runs through the forest and swims. This week I did as much of that as I could with my main focus being on running and canoeing.

This is my canoe, her name is Grandmother Willow. There is a lake with all kinds of canals leading to other lakes right near my apartment. I strapped Grandmother Willow to my roof and we went canoeing 4 days this week.

As an added bonus this week, I took a class at Orange Theory Fitness. They offer a free 1-hour trial class and since they incorporate a rowing machine, treadmill and free weights, I thought it would be a perfect addition for Pocahontas Week. I was right! This class is a hard hitting, interval workout that and hits every muscle group. I walked away pleasantly sore and I believe it would be a great class to incorporate into a weekly schedule. But I couldn’t sign up, because I had other princesses to focus on.

#PrincessBootCamp – Ariel Week Fitness Plan

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One of my first orders of business last week (Cinderella Week) was to clean my parent’s pool and deck to get it ready for Ariel Week. One Princess helping another one out! With Cinderella’s hard work behind me, I was ready to dive in and get my swim on.

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As a native Floridian, I’m no stranger to swimming. I love swimming, but I’ve never done it as a workout before and boy did it kick my ass!

This week, as I was eating fish and channeling my inner mermaid spirit, you could find me in my parent’s pool in the mornings. And let me tell you, Ariel week was in January…so that pool was frigid. Instead of being off putting, I found it strangely invigorating.

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Since swimming is the only activity I chose to do for Ariel Week, I had to find ways to create variety in a single activity. I did some research on the different kinds of strokes and styles that swimmers do and tried to a little bit of each stroke every day I was working out (4 days a week.)

Here are the strokes I did:

-Breast stroke

-Back stroke

-Doggy paddle

-Butterfly stroke

-Front Crawl

-Mermaid Stroke (I made this one up)

Each day I swam, I did as many laps as I could of one style till my body started to get sluggish and my pace started to slow, then I’d switch to another stroke or style and on and on till I’d hit around 60 minutes of swimming.

It was slow going at first, but by day 4 I really started to feel stronger. I could go longer with each style and my rhythm and breathing improved. On the weekend, I added a bonus day at the beach so I could try some of the strokes and styles out in the ocean itself (home of all mermaids.) It was much more difficult to do in the freezing January ocean waves, but it was a fun challenge that I had spent the week preparing for and was able to handle.

Swimming is an activity that I decided would make an appearance in future workout schedules because I enjoyed it so much and saw quick results with consistency and that was just one week. Imagine what a month of swimming could accomplish.

#PrincessBootCamp – Cinderella Week Meal Plan

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Starting is always the hardest part with it comes to a new fitness plan. At least for me it is. Months of eating poorly and choosing Netflix over any strenuous physical activity had left my body in very poor shape. I live in a 2nd floor apartment and stairs were quickly becoming my nemesis.

At the start of 2017, I chose the word “Believe” as my word of the year. I picked it at a time when I was having trouble believing in anything, myself least of all. But I saw this challenge as a chance to start believing again. And for the next 8 weeks, that’s what I did. I dove into #PrincessBootCamp with both feet and I started to believe that I could do things I hadn’t done in a long time, believe that I could do things I’d never tried before!

As I said in my introduction post, I’m in a different place than I was when I was an #AvengerinTraining and repeating what worked then simply wasn’t an option. So a new series was born.

Week 1 I focused on Cinderella.

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Cinderella is the story of a girl who loses her mother, then loses her father and is left in the care of her evil stepmother and stepsisters. She is basically held captive by these uncaring women and with little love or compassion, is left to a life of slavery and cruelty. Her socio economic status makes it impossible for her to break free from this household.

Being the kind-hearted, optimistic young women she is, Cinderella takes each challenge as it comes to her and never lets it make her cruel or bitter herself. She is a hard worker who spends plenty of time dreaming of what could be. Does she dream of princes? Yes. But given her situation in life, and her view of the palace, can you blame her? It’s a tangible representation of the life she could have, if only…

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Photo by Cristina Fowler @thelittlestfowler

Cinderella spends her days in the kitchen cooking for her “family,” in the garden working her fingers to the bone. She does the chores in the house and she makes sure everything is in working order. If there is back breaking work to be done, it falls to Cinderella’s slender shoulders and do we ever hear her utter one complaint in most of the movie adaptations? One bitter invective? No, we do not. This Princess is kind and persistent and she does not let the circumstance of her life change her kind heart. Now, that is something to aspire to!

In an effort to channel Cindy for this first week of #PrincessBootCamp I created a meal plan for the week based on what a 19th century peasant girl might have been eating at the time. My shopping list looked like this:

-whole grain bread (the cheapest kind)

-butter or low cost jams

-oatmeal/porridge

-eggs

-inexpensive cuts of meat (ie: ground beef, chicken, whatever is cheapest at the market)

-greens (brussel sprouts and spinach)

-apples, blackberries, raspberries

-water, water, water

-tea

Monday through Saturday, I adhered strictly to the above list and DID NOT DEVIATE…can I tell you what a win it was to make a plan and stick to it. Even for 6 days. It was a bloody triumph!!! Now the amount of food I ate from day to day varied. With an elevated level of activity, some days I needed more energy than others. And since all the food on my list was good stuff, I felt perfectly fine not counting the calories and just trusting my body. I also gave up weighing myself for the whole 8 weeks. In fact, I encourage you to do the same with any fitness plan you take on. That scale becomes a crutch very quickly if we let it. Don’t let it!

On the seventh day, I let myself go to the ball and I indulged in a delicious piece of chocolate cake from my favorite place in Winter Park: The Briar Patch. In order to fully embrace your inner Cinderella, you have to accept that home girl probably got her eat on at that ball, despite what we see on screen! I think she would have taken the chance to taste something delicious at some point in the night. Even if she was short on time and dazzled by a handsome prince! Think what you want…I choose to believe in the power of cake!

Next up: Cinderella Week Fitness Plan

Fitness

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “fitness” I immediately think of physical fitness. Working out, doing yoga, going for a run, doing planks, going to spin class, eating quinoa and kale and flax seed paste. (Ok…ok, I never ate flax seed paste!) Even when you Google fitness, it’s pictures of gyms and weights and really well-muscled human beings that show up. But what about mental, emotional and spiritual fitness.

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We, as a culture, need to adjust how we think about a person’s fitness. If someone is overweight and looking to lose a few pounds, we know just what to recommend. We share our favorite recipes and the tricks and tips that worked for us. But try and talk about mental or emotional fitness and…crickets! Not a lot of people offering their favorite prayers or the therapist that really helped them through a crisis.

What a disconnect from how the human body functions. Again, I don’t know about you, but when my mind isn’t right it throws everything else into a tailspin. And not the good kind of Tailspin!

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Let me tell you about 2016. I was the heaviest I’d ever been. Weighing in at over 200 pounds, which for my body frame and height is not the worst I could be, but it was the worst I’d ever felt physically. Guess what was going on mentally…spoiler alert, it wasn’t rainbows and puppies!! It was a difficult year and there were times when I prayed God would just release me from my life. Yeah…you read that right.

My mind was not in a good place. My emotional and mental fitness took a toll and it was very apparent in my physical fitness as well. My smile had disappeared and there was no way I could get up and care about myself enough to go for a run or cook myself a healthy, balanced meal.

The people in my life tried the best they could. But I was embarrassed and thought I should be more “grown up” and able to handle the stress that seemed to be piling up on me. Guess what…I couldn’t. And no amount of “suck it up, kid” mentality could fix it! I was sinking and the world had little to offer in the way of help.

Ultimately, I am a woman of faith, so my reliance on God and His plan for me is what brought me back to who I truly am. Not everyone has that. And not everyone can see clearly in those moments. How are we working to make things easier for people struggling with the darker corners of their mind? How are we showing that we care just as much about mental health as we do about the physical?

I gotta say, I think we’re getting better as a society at “allowing” mental illness to be something important and something to not be ashamed of. But don’t get me wrong…we still have a long way to go!

If you feel like the stress of the world is piling up and the hope you have seems to be waning, reach out!! Reach out to me, your local church, a mentor or someone you trust or call this hotline: 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 to figure out some next steps you can take toward mental fitness! It’s important! And someone cares!!

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Welcome to #TheSweatPack

I love fitness! I really do. I love the feel of straining dormant muscles (most especially dormant after the holidays.) I love taking classes at Soul Cycle and Title Boxing Club (where I am a member.) I love running by the lake in my neighborhood and lifting weights and jumping rope. I love to feel like I’ve pushed myself, truly pushed myself outside of my box and past my limits. The limits I set in my head. The ones that tell me that I can’t go any further or that I’m never gonna be good enough. Some days those limits win out…but most days I kick those limits in the ass!

#TheSweatPack running

My last blog post was about the tone of my New Year. I’m going to be living this year with a freedom that can only come when those limits are abandoned completely. Is there something that’s holding you back from working out or asking for a promotion or jumping out of a plane? Live Free!! What’s the alternative?

Maybe this doesn’t sound particularly nerdy to you. And if The Big Bang Theory is to be believed, then nerds don’t really choose to sweat much (unless they’re running away from bullies.)

But guess what…I’m a nerd! A BIG ONE (this much you already know.) I love fashion and Firefly. I love music and Marvel. I love sports and Star Wars. I don’t fit into the “normal” nerdy categories and stereotypes that are out there. Never have. That includes the stereotype that nerds aren’t sporty. I just have to beg to differ. Or beg for that stereotype to be buried once and for all. Because I believe that when it comes to nerdom…there is no “normal.”

#TheSweatPack

So, I’m partnering with the lovely Grace Kelle of Lean Girl’s Club and we are kicking the New Year off with some serious sweat!

Frankie had Deano…Emilio Estevez had Judd Nelson…and me? I have Gracie. No, we don’t live in the same city anymore. She’s still living that big city life up in the Apple and I’m beachin’ it up down in the F-L. But when it comes to #TheSweatPack, distance is only a number!

Liz Tailor and Grace Kelle are #TheSweatLPack

You’re wondering where you come in? Well, the beauty of #TheSweatPack is that it’s open to all. Come join Gracie: @leangirlsclub and me: @nerdinthesand over on Instagram and jump into our weekly challenges. It could be 1 picture a week, it could be 7 or 17 (if you’re the overachieving kind!) Wherever you are in your Sweat Pack journey, we want to meet you there!

Listen, if I can do it so can you! And probably way better than me anyways. So show us your sweat. Let it shine! Get up, get moving and get out of that little box!

This week #TheSweatPack is… taking The Stairs!!!

#TheSweatPack taking the stairs Instagram challenge

I Promise, I’ll Keep Trying

Well, there goes all that hard work and those healthy initiatives from a few months back. Remember that? Remember when I thought I’d figured out the “secrets” to staying healthy and spoke like I knew something…anything about it.

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Look at me up there, all pompous and motivated and successful at losing weight. And sure, it doesn’t mean that the things I said weren’t true. The evidence is there. I really did lose that weight. I really was the healthiest I’d ever been. But as with most things…it was temporary. And as with other things… it takes daily maintenance and expended energy.

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Enter moving. And stress. And boys. And family. And humidity. And travel. And Chick-fil-A. Darn you, Chick-fil-A. There weren’t any of you in New York when I was there, so there was no temptation to have you for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I had blissfully forgotten how good you are! And ps…why is your lemonade so delicious? Is there crack in it? I sorta think there might be crack in it!! Don’t even get me started on you, waffle fries!!

I wish we didn’t need food for survival. Or better still, I wish all food tasted like a health supplement. You don’t want to take it, but you know it will be good for you. Sort of like how I imagine the food in the Matrix tastes. You know, once someone gets unplugged…that goopy, oatmeal looking stuff…the “bowls of snot?”  Yeah. That’s the stuff. Necessary for survival, but you don’t see anyone getting gluttonous with it.

God bless my parents. They did the best they could. And we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so we lived on a tasty array of fast foods and starches like macaroni and cheese, spaghetti (my mom makes the very best spaghetti!!) Taco Bell, McDonalds, Wendy’s, etc, etc, carbs, etc, etc, sugars, etc, etc fats! It’s not their fault. And I’d don’t blame them. That junk is delicious. Plus, it’s how you did things back then especially if you didn’t have a lot of money.

Whole Foods was a blip in someone’s mind space and high fructose corn syrup is what made the world go around. Especially in small towns in the south. It was just the way of the world.

All that to say that I still have a problem with food. I don’t know when to say no sometimes. And dear Lord, help me! I cannot resist Publix chocolate chip cookies. Mainly because they too must be laced with crack!!

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I hate to keep talking about the battles of my life. Because I have a lot of harvest moments in there. The fact that I can eat at all and have a home and a job and a family and a life. There are so many times of peace and prosperity in my own little corner, in my own little world. But it’s the battles that really make me feel a part of the human race.

So, I guess it’s time to reinvent my health… again. For the thousandth time. Being in California for the next 2 months is sure gonna be a good kick start!! And I can’t promise that I won’t be here again in 6 months lamenting the weight that I wish would permanently go away. In fact, I should probably go ahead and warn you that I’ll be here again, maybe tomorrow, maybe in a year. But my hope is that if I tell you lovely people about it, maybe one of these days it will stick. Up there in the cockles of my dusty brain. And I’ll be free from the chains that keep me running to food for comforts instead of to what I should be running to. I promise you, I will keep trying!!

Signed,

a nerd in progress…

#AvengerinTraining – Recap

After 6 weeks of weekly challenges, superhero meal plans and different classes all around New York City, I lost 15 pounds and I feel stronger than I ever have. 15 pounds is by no means as extraordinary amount of weight to lose. But it’s a good amount and it’s enough to be very proud of. There were times I faltered. Times I gave in to the temptation to fall off track. But it’s the getting back on part that makes the difference!!

If you decide to take this #Avengerintraining challenge, remember that any amount of activity is better than none.

-Staying motivated is sometimes hard, but never impossible.

-The second you make it about more than just a number on a scale…that’s when you find out the reason you want to do it in the first place.

-Never compare yourself to someone else’s goals or progress. Not the models in a magazine or fit actors in a movie or your coworker who is always hitting the gym. Their plan isn’t your plan. Their plan might not work for you. Find what does and ignore the rest!

Thank you for reading! I’ve got a couple ideas for some new nerdy workouts in the future. So I hope you’ll check back! And come follow me on other social media platforms! I love to connect with new people.

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Iron Man Week (photo by Cristina Fowler)
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Hulk Week (photo by Cristina Fowler)

 

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Black Widow Week (photo by Cristina Fowler)
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Thor Week (photo by Cristina Fowler)
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Hawkeye Week (photo by Cristina Fowler)
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Captain America Week (photo by Cristina Fowler )

Let me know what you thought about my workout. Did you try it, did you like it? And which week was your favorite?