10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out

I’ve definitely experienced the same reaction during some exercise classes and when seeing all the fitspo photos on Pinterest. Sure, exercising is a little about looking good for me, but it’s also so much more than that. Focusing on how much stronger/faster/determined I’ve become by challenging myself physically is so much more rewarding and motivational than focusing simply on a number (be that weight, size, etc.).

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Mid-way through a recent group exercise class, the teacher lost me.  She didn’t lose me because of some complicated step sequence or insanely long set of burpees; I mentally checked out because of a few words she kept saying over and over.  “Come on!  Get that body ready for your winter beach vacation!  Think about how you want to look at those holiday parties!  PICTURE HOW YOU’LL LOOK IN THAT DRESS!

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Why Am I So Hungry?!

I’ve been extra hungry lately. I’m talking Hungry, Hungry Hippo, eat everything in site, ravenous, every two hours. Though I’d like to say it’s because I’ve amped up my workouts and just need more calories, unfortunately, I cannot claim that feat. (And according to the MyFitnessPal app, I definitely don’t need more calories.) Could it be all the food porn I consume on Pinterest? (Maybe. And it doesn’t help caloric intake when I turn said food porn into a reality in my kitchen. Why are the sweet dishes so much more fun to make than the veggie dishes??) How about the cold weather? Surely there’s some type of evolutionary mechanism in my brain that’s activated to hoard food when it’s really cold, right? (Answer: Eh, probably not.) Given that I can’t control or blame the weather, I decided to do a quick search of reasons I may be hungry and what to do about it. Turns out, there’s no shortage of advice out there. The most likely culprits (that don’t include a major medical issue):

  • Maybe I’m not actually hungry. Dehydration, boredom, anxiety, or any number of other factors can be masked as hunger. Occasionally, boredom does get the better of me, and I know I need to drink more water. Hot tea can help with hydration and easing cravings. But a growling stomach isn’t always satiated with water.
  • I’m not getting enough sleep. Well, probably not. Perhaps I should take my own advice on sleep hygiene
  • I don’t slow down to eat. Mindful eating, again. Okay, so I’ll stop the working lunches.
  • I’m not getting the proper nutrients. It’s not just the calories that count. We need certain amounts of fat and nutrients. Though my food diary is close to being a nutritionist’s dream (save the red wine and chocolate cupcakes), perhaps there are some adjustments I can make.
  • I didn’t eat enough for breakfast. That’s definitely not my problem, but a good point for many who skimp on breakfast.

This week, I’m going to up my water intake (including tea) and pay more attention to what I’m eating (behaviorally and nutritionally) and hope that keeps me from getting hangry. NOBODY wants that.

Gifts that Give

Since this is the time of year when many people are in the gift-giving spirit, I’d like to give a gift to my blog readers. Well, sort of. Following the lead of the Clinton Foundation, I’m participating in the Gifts that Give idea. This is such a cool idea because it’s something that is sustainable throughout the year. So, although I donated items to stuff a stocking for an underprivileged child this month, there is so much more I can do for months to come (and on a limited budget). Some of the ideas listed on the site are part of what I strive to do in my professional work (i.e., gifts of health and inspiration). Instead, what I’ve chosen to focus on and share with you is the Gift of Optimism. This gift is all about sharing positive stories about things happening in the world. I must admit, this is somewhat of a selfish choice, as I was drawn to it in part because I often find myself in need of a funny or uplifting story. I most recently found myself in serious need of some good news after watching the CNN documentary Blackfish and then shortly after hearing a particularly heartbreaking story from a client. This combination left me wondering if there was any human decency left, as we clearly are destroying the world. Luckily, life has a way of righting itself, and I found a few glimmers of hope for the future. For example, I was caught in a “pay it forward” chain at Starbucks (where each person pays for the order of the car in line behind). I later heard that chain went on for 72 cars. Then there are the stories of hope on the Good News Network (such as the man who used his lottery winnings to fund cancer research in honor of his late wife or the major reduction in homelessness in Utah via a rehousing program). And of course there are the Buzzfeed lists with various romantic or faith-restoring photos. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a little tear of happiness. With all the painful and tragic stories that plague the news, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that it’s not all bad. So, if anyone would like to give a gift, please feel free to share any stories of optimism, inspiration, joy, sustainability, service, hope, life, etc. Maybe we can start another pay-it-forward trend?

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World AIDS Day

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Yesterday was World AIDS Day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there were more than 2 million new HIV diagnoses worldwide last year. In the U.S., most new cases of HIV occur among socially disadvantaged people, leading some researchers to characterize this disease as a “pandemic of the poor.” It is quite fitting, then, that the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-free Generation.”

To address the health disparities evident in the spread and treatment of HIV, we must share the burden of prevention. Too often, our focus is solely on the biomedical aspects of treating HIV. This of course is an important area, and the medical field has made incredible advances in antiretroviral therapies that allow people infected with HIV to live long, full lives. This is progress that cannot be undervalued. I certainly am not proposing that we should abandon the current efforts to find a cure for HIV or improve treatment of HIV. However, maintaining a narrow focus on medical research ensures that only people with regular access to medical care would consistently reap the benefits. We must place equal value on psychological and social research aimed at preventing HIV (obviously, I’m a bit biased in this regard). While a vaccine or cure for HIV would be wonderful, people will never get the vaccine if we don’t consider the social and behavioral factors that keep them out of health care from the start. Whether the barriers are related to education, financial resources, access to care, beliefs about the healthcare system, stigma, or other psychological factors, each can serve as a roadblock to receiving effective prevention or treatment. Thus, professionals in health care, social services, education, government, and many other fields have a shared responsibility to address the multiple factors that contribute to HIV infection.

If you are interested in reading more about HIV/AIDS or World AIDS Day, you can visit aids.gov.

So I’ve decided to start a blog…

…And it feels weird, a little scary, and exciting. See, I’ve always loved writing and had a dream once upon a time of being a great journalist. I do write regularly as part of my professional role on topics related to coping with chronic illness and health psychology. But blogging… that’s a very different story. Blogging seems so personal. And as any of my friends would tell you, I’m not quick to share all the personal details of my life. I’m fascinated by other people’s stories and love to hear all about them, but sharing my own seems unnatural. In a social media-obsessed world, I don’t even have Twitter or Instagram! Eventually, though, the creepy feelings I get thinking about people around the world reading my work and knowing about me (ok, maybe that’s a little grandiose) became overwhelmed by my desire to indulge one of my passions and create something. So, riding a wave of confidence powered by a few motivational TED talks (which I’ll share later this week) and some words of encouragement from my husband, here I am.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, let me start with a little exposure and share some things about myself. I am a clinical psychologist with professional interests in how individuals adjust to and manage chronic illness, how to promote healthy behaviors, and the training of future health professionals. I get really nerdy excited (and not ashamed about it at all) about health psychology, but if I were to pick any other career, it would definitely involve traveling, eating, cooking, writing, meeting new people, and learning about other cultures (if Anthony Bourdain needs to add a psychologist to his crew, I can make myself available). I also enjoy fitness, finding pleasure in the small things in life, and, now, blogging.

My hope for this blog is to have a space to share interesting and/or helpful items related to psychology, wellness, health, and whatever else happens to strike my fancy. I should note that, although I am a psychologist and likely will be posting items related to treatment, this blog is not meant to offer psychological advice nor does it constitute the initiation of a therapeutic relationship. If you read something that you believe would be helpful to discuss with a health professional, I encourage you to do so. You usually can find a psychologist in your area by contacting your state’s psychology licensing board (www.asppb.net is a good place to start). You also can contact your insurance company to locate covered providers in your area.

So, here goes nothing…