Finding the balance of physical and mental health through adventures and fitness

Monthly Archives: March 2018

“We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as your proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we’have barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.” – Interstellar


It’s Monday.

I just registered for my last class of my program. It’s United States Government. Perfect timing given the state of affairs we’re in. Public health officials affect change on policy – you need to know the laws and process before you try to break them or change them.

I have no idea where the last 18 months went. This is what I will say in June when I wrap up my final course.

There are many aspects to my health journey.

There was the day I got started. I don’t remember it, it’s not crystal clear. I know I refused to weigh myself initially because I knew it was bad. I went based on my clothes. I didn’t even track my food – I just ate less, but even that amount was still more than most people when they start. I saw weight loss and fat loss. My clothes got big, my body got small and I looked at my wallet thinking where will the money for new clothes come from.

There was day I started running. There was the day I started paleo – the day I stopped paleo. There was the day I decided I wanted to be a competitor and I started lifting, macro counting and clean eating. There was the day I decided clean eating wasn’t for me.

There’s been personal bests. There’s been solo 5Ks. There’s been a handful of competitions. There’s been a skin removal surgery. There’s been maintaining and gaining and loss. There’s been a fluctuating amount of weight loss, but size has been pretty much maintained…except these damn hips.

There’s the mental aspect of the journey. Deciding that health is more important than a bag chips or the dollar menu. Deciding that while there may not be motivation every day, effort should be made more often than not.

There’s been MANY conversations with myself. There’s been:

Girl, you look great! You’re crushing it. You can do this. You can’t do this. What did you get yourself into? Just another rep. Another five pounds is nothing, pick up the bar. Bed early, up early. If you don’t care about you, then who will? You shouldn’t eat that. You definitely should eat that. Stay on the floor a little longer, then pick yourself up. If you can get into the shower the morning will feel better. If you can get out of the shower you can make today good. Set a timer so you can study for your test. If you don’t study you won’t understand this. If you study too long you’re going to overload yourself. It’s ok that you didn’t get to the gym today, look at everything else you accomplished! Well, this plan was better on paper.

It’s no surprise, or it shouldn’t be at least – that there’s a mental or emotional connection with the physical manifestation of health, fat loss, weight loss – whatever label you give your journey.

I’ve said some uplifting things to myself. I’ve said some terrible things to myself. Sometimes I think about why I’m not as supportive of myself like I am my clients.

It’s not that there aren’t standards for them, but everyone has a different life.

Today is the last day of being 28 and I don’t know everything about myself.

I’m still learning about my capabilities. I’m still learning when to back off and when to push harder.

The past 18 months have had some ups and downs. There’s been some sitting on the kitchen floor moments – a lot less though when I think back.

The past 18 months have been a very different environment. Going to school for my bachelor’s was easy and I don’t remember struggling to adapt to a different schedule every semester.

In the past 18 months, I’ve taken 12 classes, five were lab intensive. I have one more course like I mentioned above. I’m also finishing up fieldwork into the summer. I need 300 hours minimum of unpaid public health related work.

In the first month, I launched my health and lifestyle coaching business.

I hate calling myself a health coach, I hate saying lifestyle coach too. Health coach has become synonymous with scheme or product pusher. Health and lifestyle coaching, for me at least, is so much more than fat loss. It’s analyzing the role our environments play in our lives and developing a plan that allows for flexibility that is unique to the client. It’s about long-term behavior change. It’s about making connections and finding what works for the individual.

Wanting to help people in this way pushed me to go back to school.


While coaching others, I share my experiences too while connecting them to theories and research. I share even my darkest moments with them because we are human, an we can persevere. They need to see that we can persevere – that they can persevere too.

By the end of the month eight in school I came to realize that health is bigger than I thought. Public health was a natural choice for me because it mixed what I believe health to be: emotional and mental and physical. I had been sharing on social media how my mental health impacted my choices and impacted my health.

However, I hadn’t been considering other external barriers.

Simply, if you don’t have healthy food in your home you won’t eat healthy food. When creating a healthy, balanced meal plan you want to look at foods that support you and those that hinder you. If you believe elimination of certain foods is important because of temptation then by all means remove them and work through the larger issue of why food controls you. This is a simple idea.

This is a barrier that can be easily removed. But what about those who can’t afford it.

If you don’t have an apple in the kitchen then you can’t choose an apple as a snack. But what if you’re at the grocery store and you can’t purchase the apple because $2.99/pound outweighs the cost of buying a bag of rice to feed a family?

I want to empower people. I want people to feel confident in their decisions. I want them to consider all the roles they play in their life. I want them to think about what impacts their choices and the process they go through when deciding.

I tell my clients there are some things you can’t control. I tell myself that too. When life gets hard we talk about it from two angles: what we control and what we don’t.

You can argue that people could spend their money more wisely to afford fruits and vegetables. You can also argue that they may not see the long-term effects of that and may only be able to see the short-term implications of making their dollar go further.

In the past 18 months, I’ve worked with about 60 people on various health and lifestyle goals and there are many similarities including internal barriers they create for themselves. The bigger question I started asking myself while going through course literature was “what about the external barriers that cyclically divide who should be healthy and who shouldn’t be?”

At nine months into my program, I started thinking bigger. I started thinking about my community. I started thinking about affecting change so that being healthy isn’t just for those who can afford it.

By month 10, I decided I wanted to create access. Not only do I want people to be able to make healthy choices, but before they can even consider a healthy choice, they need opportunities and access to choices.

Month 12, I had been reading even more outside the classroom than I already had been. I was going through legislation and interviewing for my fieldwork placement. I also decided I need to do more writing in the New Year. I work to educate my clients so that they can make informed choices, but I wasn’t sharing this aspect of me here. That’s where Wellness Refocused Education posts came from. I’ve been slower to write than I want to, but guys – this semester is kicking my butt.

These educational posts are meant to get people thinking, provide resources for them to continue to research on their own and more importantly help those who don’t want the help of a coach for whatever reason, but want to be more knowledgeable.

I started fieldwork in month 13 and that’s when I realized if I want to create more access, I want to get involved in policy. I want to get involved in program creation and implementation. I want to start at zero.

Last month, in month 14, as I was researching for fieldwork, I saw how environment dictates priority. I saw how the interpretation of standards influences if someone will go above and beyond or do the minimal requirements. I saw the conflict between these two.

I joked the other day at the office and said I want to solve hunger. A woman I was speaking with looked at me with all seriousness and said, “we need to talk the next time I come in. I’m working on a project that we should talk about.”

I never knew that when I said I wanted to help empower people to make healthy choices and feel confident in their choices, I really meant that I want to affect change so that there are choices and opportunities for individuals to create healthy lives for themselves without or with minimal barriers.

I wasn’t thinking big enough in the beginning.

I love coaching, but I also love the idea of making an impact in this way too.

I’m getting involved in my community. I’m currently running a book collection for kids for a local organization that focuses on victims and survivors of domestic violence. I’m raising money to support an organization that provides programming for food access (see below). I’m trying to see the larger picture and the connections.

This morning, in month 15 – I was told that invitations for a leadership and goal setting workshop I created and will be running at the end of April will be sent out soon to about 400 members of the honor society I’m in. I get to do what I love with a group of people in an academic and professional setting.

I’m a small person. I’ve actually shrunk. I’m 5’3.5″, I used to be 5’4″. But I need to keep dreaming. I need to keep thinking big.

By June classes will be completed. By August I’ll have an official diploma in hand.

I’ve already started looking and applying for jobs.

I don’t know how these months have gone by so fast, but I know the moments in which something in my perspective changed.

This health journey is so much more than my weight loss. It’s so much more than a competitor’s heart or coping with mental health.

I guess I’m interested to see what happens to my corner of the world if I can move the needle a little bit.

I say all the time, I never thought I would be here.

I thought I would look older, feel older. I thought my career would be different. I thought I would comfortable, but I’ve never been good at siting still and getting comfortable.

❤ Cristina


“Most people live life on the path we set for them. Too afraid to explore any other. But once in a while people like you come along and knock down all the obstacles we put in your way.” The Adjustment Bureau

I’ve been thinking about this post all weekend.

This weekend I got to relax. I didn’t have to do homework or reading immediately because I have break this week, but I will get back to it soon so I can stay on top of it.

Instead, we had friends over on Saturday night for food and drinks. We laughed a lot. We stayed up late. We made brunch on Sunday, and disconnected a bit.

But in the back of my head, I thought about a check-in I had with a client on Friday afternoon. It was our last check-in for this block of eight weeks and she has grown so much.

Periodically throughout the weeks of a coaching block, I’ll ask a client how they feel about progress so far based on their hopes and expectations from the start of coaching. I will also ask them to think back a few months or a year and compare progress. Sometimes I’ll ask “thinking back, did you ever think you would get here? Did you ever think this could be reality?” I also take notes during check-ins so I can look back and make comparisons and ask better questions.

In the screening process and during the first call as we’re getting started, I will tell every single client that it’s possible that goals will either shift a bit or completely change. That it’s possible that as we’re working on something, another thing may pop up that was unexpected that may have more importance in the moment. It’s not that we’ll stop working on the initial goal completely, but it will be worked on in a different way.

So Friday’s client is a mom. I’ve said it before that mom’s are my favorite population to work with. They don’t see their magic the way I do. It could be because my mom wasn’t the greatest, while she tried in her own way to be. I guess I think of mom’s as unicorns. Something I never really had, but something I know exists out there, somewhere.

So this client, this mom. She’s like other mom’s I’ve worked with. She’s got ideas and she’s got heart – a huge one. She wants the best for her kids and her family. However, she struggled to see how her environment impacted her.

By day, she’s a corporate employee who’s worked her way up. By night, she’s a small business owner, a leader, a chef, a chauffeur, a study-partner, a companion and so much more. I’m sure this sounds familiar to a lot of you. We don’t wear the same roles or hats, but we all wear many.

In the beginning of coaching, her short-term goals included wanting to get back in the gym and having a plan, she wanted to better understand how to balance her nutrition, she wanted to build her business; her long-term goals included becoming a certified dyslexia specialist and tutor, having a successful business so she could leave her job and maintain a level of health and wellness that made her feel good and confident to teach her kids how to be healthy too.

So in the beginning, we were focused on figuring out an eating style that worked for her. This was the first step. She understood macronutrients, but had never been a part of the diet discussion. We tried macro-counting  and then realized that with her schedule – in and out of the house, it wasn’t realistic and attainable. She suggested intermittent fasting because she had been doing some research and thought based on what she had read it may be beneficial. We talked about its benefits, we talked about its clinical purposes, we talked about how it would fit and work with her life. She said it would help alleviate stress from the evening rush with her children and tutoring.

I recommended trying it for a week so she had time to adjust to a more structured time shift and eating window. We also made a macronutrient shift because she recognized that she was eating more fruits and vegetables, less grains, but more fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts and we wanted to make sure that she was capable of eating in a shorter window and enjoying what she was eating.

Physical activity was discussed. We spoke about her workouts and what her goals were. Initially, she needed to get to the gym and see where her strength was because it had been a while she since had been consistent in the gym. We talked about tracking workouts so that she could see where she was starting over at and then could build from there. We talked about what she liked about the gym. She likes to do the classes at her gym sometimes, but she also likes to work out with her husband. Realistically, for her schedule, classes aren’t always able to be fit in. And with kids – her and her husband have to alternate who’s going to the gym and who’s driving them around. So we talked about workouts a week at a time – how many days do you want to be there and how many days are realistic. She just needed some consistency to start with. So three days, that’s baseline.

During our eight weeks, she had multiple regional business trips that put her seated in a car and in meetings for hours. She had a trip or two where she flew out of her time zone for a few days. There were days she was completely in control of the agenda and days she wasn’t.

Life popped up and added surprises.

At the very beginning of coaching, and possibly just before, she and her husband had learned that both of her children were dyslexic. It provided explanation for a lot of things, but that also meant changes to their family dynamic. One child also has ADHD, which is often associated with dyslexia and it meant adjusting their diet. While science is still looking for answers, there are associations with Red Dye 40 and hyperactivity. There could be better research, but this is a start, so it’s where they started.

This was something that they didn’t expect to happen, however, if you ask her how the elimination of a foods with Red Dye 40 is going, she’ll tell you that her kids point out it on the labels, they ask questions about foods they’re eating and they’re not really missing foods that have been eliminated.

With the diagnosis, it also meant needing more opportunity to go over school work in an environment that helped them thrive rather than made them feel as though they would never understand. Evenings now consisted of tutoring, which meant dinner wasn’t together – someone had to drive; the gym wasn’t priority and days felt a little bit longer. However, she saw the magic of having someone who could help her children. It ultimately showed her how she could help them too.

Check-ins frequently consisted of talking about tutoring and how household changes were going. We would go over measurements and discuss workouts, but we also talked about work and her own business. We talked about her business plans and how she was balancing everything.

There were emails that would reflect her own disappointment because she couldn’t see that progress still occurred even though it was slow. It may not have been as fast as desired, but still moving in the right direction despite everything else that was happening around her. However, there were also text messages saying clothes were fitting better and that through her business she believes that she’s finding purpose in other areas of her life.

During our last check-in, she told me the day she’s resigning from her corporate job, which is happening faster than she thought it would. She said, it’ll give her the opportunity to finish her certification so she can teach her children at home next school year because they aren’t able to get what they need where they are now even though the school has been informed – the resources just aren’t there.

She said leaving her job will give her time to work on her business a little bit more and that will allow flexibility as a family. Easier to plan vacations. Easier to say yes to activities like sports for her children who spend more time studying than playing.

She may be able to shift her eating structure because there will be more time and the family can sit down for dinner together again. She said, she’s actually excited about cooking.

She’ll be able to have more routine with her workouts. She’ll be able to fill her cup up more often so that she can fill the cups of others too.

Figuring out the next steps for her children, pushed her to think about what she really wanted out of her own future and career. On Friday, she seemed to talk with a happier voice that was relieved and ready to take on the future.

Looking back, in eight weeks, she accomplished a lot. There were some obvious things and some things that weren’t so easily visible. Some things that weren’t intended, but life wasn’t perfect the past eight weeks either.

  • lost 6 pounds
  • lost 11.875 inches
  • found a balance with her activity and nutrition that worked for her in the moment while examining external factors
  • tried new things
  • trusted someone else
  • was capable of creating an environment of open and collaborative communication
  • trusted herself enough to take a leap of faith without perfect timing
  • decided to home school her children regardless of the thoughts of others
  • redesigned her business model

So when I asked her that question about what she’s accomplished with coaching, how this experience has been for her, where she started and where she was a long time ago, she said she had always wanted to leave her career, but never thought she would be able to.

Two things she said to me that will always stick with me:

“I always thought really small.”

“I couldn’t see possibility passed what I already had.”

When she said these words, she looked up at the ceiling, I knew that it didn’t matter if she crossed off everything she had listed in the beginning perfectly, because it was clear that progress was made and that she knew it.

There is something bigger inside us that takes a while to uncover.

When we trust ourselves, when we trust our hearts – we’re more capable than we could’ve ever imagined.

We all can be unicorns.

❤ Cristina

It’s Sunday morning and JP’s still in bed. The alarm wasn’t set this morning, so it’s no surprise to me that I was up sooner and that he just kept on snoozing. He needs the sleep and it’s clear my body is ready to take on today.

The past few months I’ve had client calls on Thursday night when I get home from night class and one Friday evening before it’s really Friday night. This week, I didn’t have calls with those clients, because when we check-in it’s designed around their schedules as well as mine – they’re both traveling. When this happens, it’s a little bit weird because now I have space in my schedule that I’m not used to, but it’s also exciting because I can get work done or do nothing if I choose. We did a combination both nights.

I finished medical micro lab reports 9 and 10…before getting an email from our professor that we now have an 11 and 12 to write, but I’ll do those this week after exams.

Quickly after 9 and 10 were written, JP and I looked at each other and asked what movie should we watch. We can be terrible at picking a movie. Between the two of us we have about 300+ DVDs and Blurays…then we have Netflix, HBOGo and a few other streaming services – we don’t have cable and if I need the news I go straight NBC News, newspapers web sites and the AP.

We had at least decided to narrow it down to a category – comedy. We scrolled and then found Man on the Moon with Jim Carrey from 1999. JP asked if this was the same on as the one on Netflix. Nope. The one on Netflix is a documentary interviewing Carrey about his experience filming Man on the Moon as well as footage from his behavior while filming.

We then decided we had to watch both.

So Thursday – Man on the Moon. And Friday – Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond.

I watch movies two ways. 1) I watch while doing other things so I have background noise to prevent it from being too silent in a room, but I end up drowning out the film because I’m so involved in what I’m doing over the film. 2) I watch with analyzing ears and get sucked in.

Man on the Moon pulled me in. It was a film that was funny until it wasn’t. Man on the Moon is about Andy Kaufman, who was an actor, performance artist and entertainer among other things. He was controversial. He was liked. He was hated. He was funny and he was an asshole – according to him these were just characters. He didn’t like comedy in the traditional sense and I think that’s what makes him great. What he believed to be funny may or may not fall onto the right person’s ear. Kaufman died when he was 35. The film has a cast of actors that actually knew Kaufman and in the film Jim & Andy, I learned that his family actually came to the set.

This film did make me laugh. It also made my jaw drop because I was in shock. JP said he was confused and it didn’t have a plot, but the film was the depiction of Kaufman’s life and I think that was the point. Kaufman had said in interviews he wanted to confuse people and keep them on their toes. He wanted to be unpredictable.

On Friday, we watched Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, which interviews Carey in the present day while cutting to footage from the filming days. Carrey’s acting style is best described as method acting where he tries to get as connected to the character as possible. During the filming of Man on the Moon he played all of his characters at all times. He played Andy. He also played Tony Clifton – a persona of Kaufman’s that he played regularly, but denied often. Carrey also played himself, sometimes. The footage of his behavior as these other characters when not filming, but just on set, made you forget who he was.

I enjoy Jim Carrey and I do think he’s a good actor, but seeing footage of how he portrayed these characters outside of the film and how people responded to him made you feel lost. As we were watching Jim & Andy, I was confused because I didn’t know what to expect from Carrey. In his present day interviews in the film, he explained how Kaufman’s work while he was growing up had shaped how he viewed comedy and being and a performer. Kaufman’s ability to put on characters without care allowed Carrey to take chances.

Carrey talks about his own parallels to Kaufman and how he felt when creating. He opens up and in a few moments almost breaks down.

Carrey said two things that stuck out to me in his interviews.

At some point when you create yourself to make it, you’re going to have to either let that creation go and take a chance on being loved or hated for who you really are, or you’re going to have to kill who you really are and fall into your grave grasping a character you never were.

This made my heart sink. Because sometimes this is how I feel and I think back and try to figure out when did this start meaning something. I’ve been blogging for about six years. This is my second web site. I’ve been sharing my journey that long. I’ve shared a lot of angles of it. I’ve shared a lot of my ideas – some of which now contradict each other because I know more now than I did before. But I’ve always shared in the most honest way possible. Does that mean that every single thing is written down or photographed? No, but I’m sure many think that’s the case.

This past year with some success and some failure, I’ve been working on hard on letting my creation go and taking the chance on being loved or hated, but trying to not let either impact how I do what I do. 

I still get messages saying people miss me on Instagram, but I think that shows the reliance we have on human connection even if it’s through a screen. I’ve written back and forth with people via email kind of like Pen Pals. I’ve made some good friends through social media because they didn’t treat me like more than I am, a person who tries to be healthy.

I look back and try to think when did I make the shift and allow the voices to get so loud that it was a force to tell me yes or no?

We see a lot of half-truths online and a lot of false-truths too – it’s hard to dig through it all.

The best we can do is tunnel our vision when necessary and move forward regardless.

The second thing Carrey said was more about how he specifically does acting, how he creates characters.

Where did this character come from? What is the dirt that the pearl is built around? And the pearl is the personality that you build around yourself as a protection against that thought: “If they ever find out that I’m worthless, if they ever find out that I’m not enough, I’ll be destroyed”.

While I try damn hard to be honest and not create characters, I do think aspects of me can be compartmentalized – Cristina as a competitor is not the same as Cristina who’s living a healthy life. Cristina the students is similar to Cristina the professional, but not the same as Cristina the coach.

I wrote the other day about being or feeling inadequate and I think that sentiment aligns with this from Carrey. We use aspects of ourselves to be protected, but we also use those same parts to shine out and add something to the world.There are other aspects we try to drown out so they’re less noticeable because we find them unimportant.

When I was working with my tutor yesterday, he was telling me about the schools he’s applying to – he’s 22 and is looking at bio-chem programs. We talked about his transfer application essays. I said I had helped a friend of ours from the honor society write some her application essays because she struggled to talk about herself in a way that highlighted how she can overcome challenges. I told my tutor – schools won’t find it interesting if you say that you have a disability, but they want to know how you took what life handed you and ran with it. They want to know how your deafness has made you a great leader for a student organization. They want to know how you overcame homelessness and survived and what that means for what kind of energy you want to put into the world – maybe not so hippy dippy in that regard, but they don’t care that you have ADD, a lot of people do, but they care about what that has meant for you as far as how you’ve developed into a person they want to have at their school.

In this sense, you need to show the pearl and you need to show some of the dirt.

I think with social media, I’ve been told I’m worthless enough times to last me a lifetime that I don’t need to worry so much if that’s a thought for others. I know it is. What I’m working on is how do I prevent myself from believing it. Many times when I tell you it’s going to be a good day – I’m reinforcing it for myself. When I’m telling you that I hope you have a productive day – I’m saying it to myself too.

I’ve felt destroyed, so I don’t necessary connect with what he’s saying here, but when I saw his face and heard the words come out of his mouth, I just sat there and stared and thought you can be on top of the world and still feel and fear worthlessness.

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately – in my studies, to my tutor, to my professors, to JP, to my friends, to myself and to you, here are a few more.

Is what’s under the pearl so bad? Would you rather a life of happiness with falsehoods, or a roller coaster knowing truth?

❤ Cristina