What’s Your Motivation?

When it comes to motivation, there really isn’t a one-size-fits all approach. People are motivated by different ideas and different messages. Some respond well to extrinsic motivation – when behavior is driven by external rewards like money, fame, or praise. And some people respond better to intrinsic motivation – when a behavior is driven by internal rewards. For many people, it’s a mixture of both, but most of us lean more towards one or the other. One of the keys to being successful in anything is understanding what motivates you so you can use that to your advantage.

When I look to Pinterest for motivation (as I often do) I get a great mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Depending on the day and how I’m feeling, I might lean more towards one or another but I find these words of encouragement are great mantras that I use to keep me going strong when I need an extra push.

Here are some of my favorites:

Intrinsic

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Extrinsic

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Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, has a great little quiz to help you figure out which way you lean. You can check it out here.

What type of motivations works best for you?

Happy New Year + SMARTer Resolutions

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Happy New Year everyone! Whether you were relaxing at home or out on the town, I hope you had a wonderful New Year and holiday season. I had an amazing vacation with Jared to Vegas and Dallas (two cities that always go together!) We gambled a little, saw Jerry Seinfeld, ate a lot of delicious food, and caught up with friends. It can be hard to get back into the swing of things after a long time off, but I’m so excited to be back on my blog, back at work, and back to my normal workout routine.

With 2015 finally here, it seems like everyone is talking about New Year’s Resolutions and I’m no exception.

It can be tempting to make sweeping resolutions like “be a better friend” or “eat healthy and exercise” but I’ve always found that being specific with my resolutions (and goals in general) is the best way to keep them. One easy way to think about resolutions is to ask yourself if they’re SMART. SMART is an acronym that’s often used in project management, but it can really be used for any type of goal. It stands for:

S – specific

M – measurable

A – achievable

R – results focused

T – time bound

If your resolutions fit these criteria, you’re off to a great start! If not, how can you break them down so that they’re SMARTer?

Jared and I decided to start of the year on a physically clean slate by cutting out caffeine and alcohol for the first two weeks of the year. Depending on how our bodies feel at the end of two weeks, we may add them back into our diets, but in a more limited way. I’ve decided to challenge myself a step further and cut out added sugar for the two weeks, as well. The American Heart Association suggests women have no more than 25 grams of sugar a day which is surprisingly low. It’s going to be tough, but my goal is to stick to 25 grams daily for two weeks and see how I feel at the end of it.

This resolution is:

Specific – cut down on sugar

Measurable – 25 grams a day

Achievable – It will be tough, but it’s totally in my control

Results Focused – By January 19th, I’ll hopefully have less sugar cravings and more energy

Time Bound – 2 weeks

What are some of your resolutions for 2015? Are they SMART?

A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way

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My vacation is in full swing and so far, I’ve been enjoying every moment of it. Everyone needs a break once in a while and I’m trying to really turn off work and relax. On Thursday, Jared and I leave for a 5 night trip to Vegas, and I can’t wait!

I know for me, it’s easy for diet and exercise to fall to the wayside when I’m away. I don’t beat myself up over it because you SHOULD indulge, that’s what vacations are for. But falling off the wagon completely always makes me feel worse, so I try to get a bit of exercise in when I can. For me, it’s all about preparation. When I’m home, my workouts are in the calendar so I do the same thing on vacation. Maybe not as specific, but I plan in advance which days I’m going to work out and which days I have off. I call the hotel ahead of time to find out if there’s a gym. If there isn’t one, I decide ahead of time what ‘in the room’ workout I’m going to do (for this trip, I’m using a barre video from Gina at The Fitnessista). It takes a little extra planning, but I’m always glad I did it. And everyone is ALWAYS impressed when they hear you worked out over vacation!

**Click here for Gina’s awesome workout!

Happy Hanukkah! +3 Tips for Staying on Track this Season

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Happy Hanukkah everyone! Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love the decorations, the festivities, the candles, and of course, the latkes and donuts.

This month, my monthly pot-luck dinner with the girls fell on the first night of Hanukkah and I was thrilled.  I immediately offered to make latkes. They make your entire house smell like fried oil, but it’s always worth it. Our dinner included latkes, pistachio chicken, an apple and cranberry salad, plus a yummy tofu dish and sides of brussel sprouts and broccoli. We ended the meal with hot-from-the-skillet munchkins. It was a feast and we enjoyed every single bite.

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There was a time when I meal like this would have caused me a ton of stress. First of all, how are you supposed to track all of this food? And more importantly, aren’t the latkes and donuts going to completely derail my diet? But I look forward to them every single year, so what am I supposed to do?

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I’m a big fan of tracking calories and nutrition and there can be so much stress when you know you can’t track everything perfectly. I’ve learned a couple of lessons over the years to help me stay on track (and stay sane) in these types of situations. Because at the end of the day, celebrations should be just that – CELEBRATIONS! Not added stress in our lives. Here are my tips to help you track your way through the holidays.

  1. Be aware of portion sizes and make your best nutrition estimate based on what the dishes are and whatever food database you choose to use.
  1. Ask your friends for their recipes and use them to track what you ate. Again, you’ll have to be aware of portion size and try to estimate the best you can. I do this one all the time and have collected some of my favorite recipes this way!
  1. This one might be a shocker, but consider disregarding your tracking for one night. Yesterday, I ate a healthy breakfast and lunch and kept my snacks minimal. I didn’t have time for the gym because the dinner was at my apartment so I tried to get extra steps in. And I relaxed. I kept my portions reasonable and I tracked what I could (like the latkas, which I made and the donuts, which I got the recipe for) and this morning, I’m right back to tracking again.

Not every tip will work for everyone and that’s ok. If you have an all-or-nothing personality, tip #3 might not be your best choice. If you’re going to a party where you don’t know people well enough to ask for recipes, tip #2 might not work for you. But remember, what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. And enjoy the holidays!

Do Before and After Photos Make You Feel Better or Worse?

If you look up practically anything fitness or health related on Pinterest, you’ll be bombarded with images of women with incredibly perfect bodies. Beautifully tanned and chiseled and often accompanied by a ‘before’ picture. The same can be found on gym, diet, and weight-loss pill advertisements. Many people find these pictures inspiring and motivating – that seeing someone go from point A to point B makes them feel like, ‘Hey, I can do that too!’

Personally, I waver on my opinion. I worry that comparing myself to the people in these images will create false expectations and lead to failure. I know that the pictures don’t show the full story – like the cost benefit ratio of getting that awesome body or the extreme lifestyle changes the person probably had to make besides just food and exercise. And I know that Photoshop and camera tricks can manipulate pretty much any image. On the other hand, they can be motivating because I assume that not EVERY image is fake and that people CAN change.

I was inspired to write this entry by the video below (from Buzzfeed.com). Take a look and let me know what you think. Do these types of before and after photos make you feel better about yourself or worse? Do they motivate you or have the opposite effect? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Nobody’s Perfect

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Do you have a guru? Perhaps not in the traditional sense of the word, but maybe someone you consider as a master or teacher? For a long time, I’ve admired and respected the teachings and insights of author, Gretchen Rubin. Rubin has written a number of books on a variety of subjects and it’s her two books on happiness, The Happiness Project and Happiness at Home that led me to jokingly (and not so jokingly) refer to her as my guru.

As a lover of quotes, lists, and mantras, it’s no surprise that Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood resonate with me. One of my absolute favorites is, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

No one is perfect and it’s silly to try to be. Sometimes we have an extra drink when we know we shouldn’t. Sometimes we accidentally leave someone on an email that we meant to take off. Sometimes we miss a workout because watching the latest episode of Modern Family just can’t wait any longer. What’s important is to remember that if those mistakes truly only happen once in a while, it’s ok.

I keep this hanging on the wall as a reminder to acknowledge my mistakes and learn from them – but to also let them go and not beat myself up. We all deserve a pass once in a while.

 

**This post has not been sponsored by Gretchen Rubin in any way; I’m simply a fan. If you’d like to read more, check out www.gretchenrubin.com.

3 Tips to Win the Willpower War at your Thanksgiving Table

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Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to avoid snacking in the morning than after dinner? Or if you’re really sad about something you care less about getting to the gym? Well, there’s a reason for it and it’s not that you’re lazy.  It’s called the Principal of Limited Self Control or Ego Depletion – the idea that self-control and willpower are limited resources that can actually be used up and need to be replenished by rest. That’s why when you’re tired after a long day of work; it seems harder to resist that cookie. Or when you’re stressed out by family issues it’s harder to get to the gym. When you’re using all of your willpower just to get through the day, you have little left over for things like exercise and healthy food.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for many, that means potentially stressful travel, potentially stressful family time, and a lot of tempting food – things that can easily deplete your self-control. Here are a few tips to help you win the willpower war this Thanksgiving with just a little advanced planning:

  1. Plan Ahead. Planning for obstacles in advance means you’ll need less willpower when the situation comes up because you won’t have to think about it. Find out what will be on the menu ahead of time and create a game plan. Decide in advance what you’ll fill up on (like roasted veggies and lean turkey) and what you’ll indulge in. You won’t feel like you’re missing out and you won’t go crazy when you see all of the delicious food out in front of you.
  1. Develop an ‘If-Then’ Strategy. For example, “If Aunt Martha asks me to try one of her cookies that she made just for me; I will take one, eat half of it, and put the other half back on the table.” Or, “If everyone has a drink in their hand before dinner, I will have a glass of club soda and put a lemon in it.” Like the first tip, if you’ve already developed a plan, you won’t have to think about it when the time comes.
  1. Offer to make something. What’s your weakness at the Thanksgiving table? Whatever it is, you can make a healthy version to bring with you so that you can indulge without the guilt. I have a sweet tooth, so this year, I offered to make dessert. I know exactly how much is in a serving size and I can enjoy without having to worry.

Another tip that’s been shown to help with willpower is exercising in the morning, before the meal.  Studies have shown that when you work out before eating, you tend to eat less because you’re more aware of the work you just did.  Another tip is to not starve yourself before you sit down for dinner.  You’ll be wasting that valuable resource of self-control and won’t have as much left for the actual meal.

And remember, that no matter what happens this Thursday, it’s only one day. So even if you’re not the picture of perfect nutrition, give yourself a break, enjoy the holiday, and jump back on that horse on Friday.

 

Mind and Body

Language can be incredibly powerful and I love turning to quotes for inspiration and motivation. I recently came across this quote by Buddha.
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This week, I’m traveling for work and doing my best to take care of my mind and body. I find that the connection between the two is even more important when I’m out of my regular routine.
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Do you agree or disagree? Do you find that there is a connection between your physical and mental well-being?

My Worst Nightmare

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Twice in the past few weeks I’ve uttered the words ‘this is my worst nightmare’. Both instances involved all eyes on me and I was sure I was going to make a fool of myself. I was sure that I would be judged and ridiculed, and that I wouldn’t be good enough.  Have you ever felt like that?

The first was my favorite dance class that I take almost every Saturday morning.  I arrived at class to find I was the ONLY participant. While I silently patted myself on the back for getting to the gym at 10am the day after Halloween, I was mortified by the idea of a one-on-one class. The instructor would see just how badly I danced, just how long it took me to get the choreography. I prayed that class would be canceled, but of course it wasn’t.

The second was a few days later, I signed up for a 30 minute express HIIT class (high intensity interval training). I got to class and learned that all exercises would be done in pairs and we would rely on each other for every exercise. My partner seemed to be in such great shape.  What if I slowed her down? What if my form was wrong? I hated the idea of having all this attention on me!

The funny thing is that once the classes started, my partner in the HIIT class was too concerned with her own performance to pay attention to me.  And after the dance class, the instructor told me I made her entire day just by showing up.  Just as I was completely focused on myself, so was everyone around me. So much so that I didn’t really need to worry what anyone else thought of me.

It can be so scary to try something new and put yourself in a situation where you might fail but those experiences are usually the most rewarding.   I know that next time I go to a class with partners; I’ll have less anxiety about it and will be able to focus on my own performance. Have you had any similar experiences?