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

Tag Archives: wellness

For a long time there was a war on fat, like over 30 years long. I’ve talked a lot about the importance of reading labels and understanding what you’re consuming. Not necessarily saying no to the processed food, but understanding or knowing what is in it. Well, taking that a step further – we need to also understand that the guidelines that back those labels up are created by governing bodies that may or may not benefit by creating certain guidelines or encouraging certain studies.

I’m not saying that the FDA or USDA or other regulatory groups are bad, but I am saying that the information can be misleading or a generalization in some cases.

A good example: the nutrition label you see on your boxed and canned goods is based off of a 2,000 calorie diet. This means the percentage listed as daily value is based off of 2,000 calories, but you may not be eating 2,000 calories – you may be consuming more or less.

Another example: the most recent guidelines by the USDA have a caloric recommendation for individuals based on gender, age and activity level with all numbers being whole, round numbers. These numbers are only below 1,400 daily calories for children under the age of 6, sedentary males peak at 2,600 calories for a 19/20 year old with sedentary females peaking at 2,000 calories for ages 19-25 – individuals who are more active peaked calories up to 3,200 daily.  The guidelines state that the sample bodies used to determine were an average height and a “healthy” weight (page 77-78).

“For adults, the reference man is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 154 pounds. The reference woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 126 pounds.”

I’m 5’4″ and I weight about 138 pounds. I’m roughly 17% body fat, which is lean and considered athletic for a female. My measurements are small. I don’t fit the sample body. I also don’t know many “healthy” men that would fit this sample body either.

The first dietary guidelines were rolled out in the 1980s and at the time, the biggest concern was heart disease and heart attacks. Ultimately, the first guidelines recommended against all fat and foods that had cholesterol like red meat.  However, more research has shown that not all fats are created equal and that dietary fat is necessary for bodily function. In the most recent guidelines for 2015-2020, it’s stated that saturated fat consumption should be 10% or less of overall calories consumed (page 15 footnotes). It’s also recommended that you replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about fats. Have you ever heard about triglycerides? It’s possible that your doctor has mentioned this term before when discussing blood work and overall health. These are the most common dietary fat we eat. This is also the form that fat is stored in our bodies.

The science of triglycerides

Triglycerides are a molecule consisting of 3 fatty acids attached to a 3 carbon glycerol backbone (Thompson & Manore, 2015). They are classified by their chain length (how many carbons are attached), their level of saturation (how much hydrogen is attached to each carbon) and their shape.

The first way to classify – chain length. The first thing we learned in biology is that structure determines function – if you have a wheel it can move things forward, right? It can’t make things fly. There are three chain lengths: short (6 or fewer carbon), medium (6 to 12 carbon) and long (14 or more carbon). The lengths determine the method of fat digestion and absorption as well as how the fat works within your body. As you imagine, the shorter the chain, the faster the digestion and absorption (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

Now, saturation level. What’s the difference between these two kind of fats?

The simple answer – saturated fatty acids have closely packed molecules because they lack a double bond that would “space” them out. This means they can solidify at room temperature, example: a jar of coconut oil. unsaturated fatty acids do have a double bond, which prevent them from solidifying at room temperature, example: olive oil (Reece, Taylor, Simon, Dickey, & Hogan, 2015).

Lastly, shape – the carbon molecules impact the shape. The lack of the double bond in saturated fat allows the chain to be straight and pack tightly together. The double bond in unsaturated fat prevents the chain from being straight and actually adds kinks, which makes them liquid at room temperature.

But what about  bottles of coconut oil at the store, how are those liquids? Coconut oil that is liquid at room temperature is manipulated during manufacturing. The removal of natural fatty acids that solidify allow liquid coconut oil to be just that. Lauric acid, the fatty acid in coconut oil known for its health benefits like being a germ killer, is actually removed in this process. This is because it’s melting point is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To read more about the production, safety and use of liquid coconut oil check out this article.

Coconut oil isn’t the only thing that is manipulated on the market. Unsaturated fats can also be manipulated by food manufacturing in a process called hydrogenation, which started in the early 1900s (Thompson & Manore, 2015). This process adds hydrogen molecules, which in unsaturated fats causes the double bonds to be partially or totally removed allowing the fat to become solid and store more easily for a longer period of time.

This is also where we get trans-fats, which actually is describing the double bonds in the molecule. This kind of fat is found mostly in foods that are manipulated, although a small amount of natural trans fatty acids are found in cow’s milk and meat.

Now that I’ve confused you, triglycerides do contain essential fatty acids that are important for health (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Essential fatty acids (EFA) are obtained from the foods we consume – our bodies cannot produce them. There are two groups of them: Omega-6 and Omega-3.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids have a double bond 6 carbons from the end (omega = end of the chain, 6 = number of bonds away from the end). Linoleic acid is an omega-6 that is essential for human health. This is found in vegetable and nut oils like peanut oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and soy.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids have a double bond 3 carbons from the end. Alpha-linolenic acid is the most common in our diets and primarily comes from plants like leafy greens, walnuts, flaxseeds.

Why are EFAs important?

They’re precursors to biological compounds found in every cell in the body that regulate cell function.

Why is fat in general important?Fat provides energy; it has 9 calories per gram, which makes it the most dense energy source. Our bodies use fat when we’re at rest and during physical activity.

  • Fat helps transport vitamins A, D, E and K throughout the body, which help regulate functions like calcium absorption and utilization, cell membrane protection, blood clotting, bone health and vision.
  • Fat regulates our hormone production and cell function. *
  • Fat contributes to satiety, which means we stop eating sooner and helps us feel full longer.

Fat Importance on Cell Function and Hormone Production

This is something I talk a lot about with my clients. Fat is important because of the reasons listed, but as someone who works predominately with women this is something I want to drive home with them. There’s no reason to fear dietary fat, but we do need to moderate it. Phospholipids are a major component of our cells (Reece, Taylor, Simon, Dickey, & Hogan, 2015). These are similar to fats, except they contain two fatty acids attached at the glycerol, not three. Steroids are hormones produced in the adrenal cortex, cortisol is an example of a steroid hormone, which regulates carbohydrate metabolism and provides an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

Fat -loving and the Ketogenic Diet

As the war on fat has started to settle, the rise of high fat diets like the ketogenic diet have started to become increasingly popular for fat loss; however, this style diet isn’t for everyone and should be monitored because of other potential health outcomes.

So what is the ketogenic diet?In simple terms it’s a high fat, very low carbohydrate (~20g or less daily), moderate protein diet that has been utilized to help with refractory epilepsy since the 1920s (Gupta, et al., 2017). It’s especially helpful for children with epilepsy, but according to the Epilepsy Society, adults may also benefit from it. The ketogenic diet has also been found to assist with fat loss in individuals who are obese lose as well as help manage other disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome (Gupta, et al., 2017). However, be reminded that less extreme diets that moderate calories will also result in fat loss as long as the individual adheres to it and a diet that moderates carbohydrate intake may also assist with PCOS.

So how does the ketogenic diet work?

Our bodies utilize carbohydrates that have been broken down to glucose as a main source of energy (Thompson & Manore, 2015). While our bodies also use fat as fuel, glucose is favorited by red blood cells, some nervous tissue and our brains for energy.

When we don’t take in enough carbohydrates…. let me pause…enough carbohydrates doesn’t mean hundreds of grams daily. Enough carbohydrates could be 100g a day depending on the age, gender and activity levels of the person. Ok continuing…our bodies start looking for another fuel source. In the process of ketosis, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and creates ketone bodies or ketones that will be utilized as fuel. These ketones are a natural appetite suppressant that can help control nutritional intake (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

What about the keto diet is beneficial to different populations?

The effects on the “central nervous system, cellular metabolism and metabolic pathways, have shown promising results in a variety of neurological disorders, traumatic brain injury, acne, cancers, and metabolic disorders (Gupta, et al., 2017).” “The ketogenic diet alters the energy metabolism in the brain, therefore altering brain excitability,” which impacts  how cells communicate with each other and regulate the CNS (Lee, 2012).

Is there one way to practice keto?

This is a tricky question. The classical diet of keto that is utilized with epilepsy patients suggests strict ratios of fat, carbohydrates and protein at every meal. It also includes little protein and carbohydrate because of the body’s ability to be “knocked out” of ketosis by too many of either.

The medium chain triglyceride (MCT) diet allows for a little more carbohydrates and protein. This version provides some flexibility and allows MCT oil to be used a supplement. Nutrients are also calculated by the percentage of calories for each group, meaning it’s not a specific number of grams, but a percentage of overall calories.

If keto can be helpful, why shouldn’t everyone utilize it?

A true ketosis diet should be monitored because of higher risks for other health concerns like osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones), hyperlipidemia (abnormally high fat in the blood), nephrolithiasis (kidney stones). Some of these health concerns can onset as we age, but nutritional deficiencies can increase risk. This means that supplementation is necessarily because there is a lack of diversity by lowering carbohydrate intake. This would be a recommendation for many people seeking fat loss with any diet – supplement appropriately.

The use of carbohydrates in our diets isn’t just for daily function like walking, talking and sitting; they’re also used for fuel during prolonged period of activity and protect again the use of stored protein as a fuel source  i.e. muscle loss (Thompson & Manore, 2015). When our bodies don’t have enough carbohydrates our bodies continue to find fuel sources, and while in a perfect world we imagine the body will find stored fat to utilize, it will also find stored protein. Not only does this result in muscle mass loss, but it can weaken our immune systems and prevent optimal function. However, this kind of loss can be associated with too little calorie intake because a nutrient group has be drastically decreased or eliminated.  

If ketone levels are too high the blood can become very acidic and can lead to ketoacidosis. This actually prevents optimal body function and ultimately can lead to damaged tissue.

Why don’t I believe the ketogenic diet should be prescribed to everyone?

My personal belief is that the ketogenic diet should be utilized for clinical conditions like epilepsy and other cognitive or metabolic disorders. I do believe that some people feel better on lower carbohydrates, but lower is relative.

I had a client who recognized she felt physically better on higher fat, moderate carbohydrate and protein. Her macros were 75F/100C/147P or 1,663 calories. Her goal was fat loss and this was a deficit for her. On days that she would run long distances (over 4 miles) she would increase her carbohydrates between 20-40g because it helped in those runs.

Yes, I eat processed food and things with real and artificial sweeteners in them, but I also know that’s not for everyone. I know not everyone can moderate these foods and that’s completely ok. I do believe that one way to work towards creating a healthier food plan is to examine the carbohydrates that are you taking in and how they make you feel. I ask my clients to do this often by making a list or notes when they recognize they feel bloated, jittery, exhausted, fatigued, etc.

Carbohydrates breakdown to sugars like stated above so in many cases they feel these things because of 1. too much sugar (real or added) 2. too many overall carbohydrates 3. the kind of carbohydrates they’re consuming (simple versus complex). I don’t think extremes need to be implemented to see change or progress unless specified by a physician.

Mentally, I think elimination diets that pull full groups of foods can be harmful over time to the relationship that we have with food. Creating a balance lifestyle also means enjoying foods that tastes good, but isn’t necessarily the greatest for us, but understanding that moderation is key. Eating out, attending and participating in parties and functions is a part of life and experience. While many suffer from auto immune disorders or illnesses that force them to create alternative eating styles to manage their health, many don’t need extreme measures.

Health coaches, lifestyle coaches, personal trainers, wellness coaches, etc. people assisting others like I do, should be encouraging individuals to bring in all their resources to find what ultimately works for them in a reasonable and safe way.

We shouldn’t fear fat in our diet, but we also shouldn’t fear other nutritional groups either – we just need to better understand them.


Epilepsy Society. (2016, March). Ketogenic Diet. Retrieved from Epilepsy Society:

Gupta, L., Khandelwal, D., Kalra, S., Gupta, P., Dutta, D., & Aggarwal, S. (2017). Ketogenic diet in endocrine disorders: Current perspectives. Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, 242-251.

Lee, M. (2012). The use of ketogenic diet in special situations: expanding use in intractable epilepsy and other neurologic disorders. Korean Journal of Pediatrics, 316-321.

Reece, J. B., Taylor, M. R., Simon, E. J., Dickey, J. L., & Hogan, K. (2015). Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections. New York: Pearson Education.

Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2015). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. San Francisco: Pearson Education.


Don’t doubt yourself. Try to not let the doubt of others fill you either. But, are you ready for the things you want to accomplish? I’m not just talking about your health, but in general, everything you want – do you really want to put your words into action or are they just words right now?

I talk about goals a lot because I feel better and more in control when I have a goal in mind – either continuous or deadline driven. I have a mostly Type A personality meaning I like structure, but I’ve also figured out how to go with the flow and be more fluid with my methods and goals. However, not everyone is like this and that’s completely okay.

Whether you realize it or not, as you think about tomorrow, next week, next month and next year you are going through The Stages of Change Model. I first learned about this model in my psychology course last fall, since then, it’s been discussed in five out of nine of my program’s classes.

Some background…

In 1979,  James O. Prochaska developed a transtheoretical model of change in a study that compared 18 different therapy systems and reviewed about 300 therapy outcomes. His model categorized the systems of therapy into five processes of change. “These processes are differentiated along two dimensions.”

1. verbal and behavior categorized the change process according to application – therapy that relies of verbal interaction or behavior manipulation.

examples: feedback and awareness of a problem like smoking, education about a problem like smoking

2. experiential and environmental categorized the change process by the individual’s experience or the individual’s surrounding environment

examples: finding new coping mechanisms instead of smoking, removing triggers like ashtrays and cigarettes

In 1982, Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente worked together using Prochaska’s model to examine self-change and therapy change in smoking behavior. Their study was titled: Self-Change and Therapy Change of Smoking Behavior: A Comparison of Processes of Change in Cessation and Maintenance. It was published in Addictive Behaviors volume 7 that year.

The sample was small, but there was a mix of gender (29 males to 34 females).  Smokers who quit on their own (n=29) were compared with two different groups of smokers: an aversion group (n=18) and a behavioral-management group (n= 16). The sample was random with self-quitting participants recruited through various methods like fliers, advertisements and newspaper – remember, this is 1982. Participants from the two therapy groups were recruited randomly as well through fliers handed out after meetings.

Within seven weeks of quitting all subjects were given a change-process questionnaire verbally with all responses recorded on tape. They also answered a variety of smoking history and demographic questions. They were told they would be interviewed a second time within six months.

From these responses, Prochaska and DiClemente looked six verbal and four behavior process of change, and three stages of change (decision to change, active change and maintenance).

Here’s what they found:

1. Attempts to quit among the three groups were similar, gender didn’t necessarily make a significant difference among the three groups either.

2. The group that did see signification differences (p < .01) were from the behavioral-management group. These participants were older with an average age of 42, the age range varying from 30.4 years to 53.6 years. They smoked for a longer time than the other two groups with a mean of 25 years and a years-as-a-smoker range from 14 years to 36 years. These participants were more invested in quitting this time.

When looking at the different processes of change they found:

1. Individuals who quit on their own rated feedback, stimulus control and social management as less important than the other two groups.

2. All three groups rates self-liberation as quite important, however, the aversion group said it was more important than the other two groups.

3. The behavioral-management group rated counterconditioning as more important than the other two groups.

During the follow up they found:

1. Two-thirds of all subjects remained abstainers.

2. There were no differences in proportion of successes and relapses for all groups. Looking at the variables such as age, education, occupation, years smoking, etc. didn’t have any significance.

When speaking to participants who relapsed:

1. They struggled to find other coping mechanisms to deal with personal problems like consistency with exercises or health-related physical activity.

2. Some said they believed the habit was under control even with the relapse.

3. Some said they missed the habit.

Prochaska and DiClemente conducted new study a few years later where they used a sample of 872 smokers. This study was an extension of the first.

This model of behavior change is taught in all areas of the health field from psychology to sociology to nursing and public health. While I don’t blatantly tell my clients they are going through this model when we have our screening, I assess them with this model.

Many who talk with me are usually past precontemplation and contemplation – they’re ready for action, however, some are still determining the right course of action. It’s not about how bad they want change, it’s about being ready for change and finding the right way to go about making changes to their lifestyle.

There are some cases where a client and I will discuss their goals and I’ll say, I think these are great, but be aware that it’s possible that they may change, that you may realize there are other things that will assist with these goals that may become more important for the time being. This isn’t too discourage them, but to let them know that I’m acknowledging that goals can change and that as their coach, I think it’s okay. An example may be the client who says they want to lose weight, but doesn’t realize that they have a poor relationship with food. The goal eventually will be weight loss, but for the moment it’s about working on building a better relationship with food so it’s not used as a coping mechanism or so that they don’t restrict themselves and feel incapable of adhering to their nutrition goals. We will work on stress management,  meal planning, meal creation and setting micro-goals that work towards a healthy lifestyle that assists weight loss for eventual weight loss over time.

It’s completely okay to not be ready for a goal, it’s also completely okay to change your immediate goals in order to work towards the bigger picture.

When we think about our goals and what we want out of life, what direction we want to take, we also need to look at the driving force behind it. I always ask my clients why their goals are their goals. The responses have ranged from “I want to be able to get on the floor with my kids” to “I want to be stronger”. There are also some who say they want to lose weight because they believe they will be happier or feel better when they have.  I have said to them that size doesn’t equate happiness, but if being a healthier smaller size means that they will be more outgoing and their mental well being will improve – then yes, it’s reasonable to say that you believe you may be happier when you’ve lost weight.

But for all clients, regardless of their reasoning behind their goals, I ask them to dig deeper to make sure that their goals are truly something they want.

Living a healthy lifestyle is more than the time that it takes to lose weight. It’s more than the time it takes to learn to allow freedom and flexibility. It’s about building lasting habits and truly implementing and learning positive behaviors.

Now, that’s not to say that you won’t ever “mess up”, you won’t ever not want to eat off plan,. It’s human to have set backs. It’s human to take a break. It’s crazy to think that every day has to be perfectly lived towards these goals. I don’t believe that’s realistic, but it’s about small behaviors that add up over time that make meaningful change.

I challenge myself often to remind myself why I’m back in school, why I’m coaching, what health means for me in this moment. I want you to think about your why’s, your life, your plan  – are you ready? Do you have the support around you? Do you truly support yourself to make the changes necessary to accomplish whatever it is you want to?

I hope you can see the greatness inside you. There’s nothing more rewarding than the light bulb going off when something finally clicks for a client or they start seeing the greatness I see in them.

I wish for you empowerment in the New Year. I wish for you that you allow yourself time as you start to figure out your next steps. Don’t rush – good things can come slowly, we just need to learn to be patient.

❤ Cristina


It’s been about a month since I’ve written on here, but let’s be honest, that was a recipe – that’s not real writing.

I’ve said it before on Facebook more recently, but here as well – I write when I feel compelled. I write when I feel it’s the most beneficial to me. I feel like this is something I always write when I’m coming back after a hiatus of not writing as well. But sometimes I need the reminder of why I blog or why I don’t, and I think you do to.

This year has been all over the place. I think it started with adventure and a new high. A new direction, a path that I was excited to take and discover. I felt that I was going to learn more about myself and the biological world that I had barely scratched the surface of. I’m sure some of you sat there and thought, well damn her life’s a mess – I’m pretty sure I said that a few times from my living room floor.

Academically, I have pushed myself well out of my comfort zone. This pursuit started so I could better meet my clients needs. I had been asked many times to help with weightloss and meal planning, I had been asked to coach people to help them create a healthier lifestyle, but people were asking based on my experience alone. For me, that’s not enough. I don’t think you can just have an education, and I don’t think you can just have experience. You need to blend the two and be open minded to learn more and learn often.

I’ve taken some classes that are straightforward like anatomy and physiology, and I’ve taken some that are more fluid like nutrition and sociology.

With finals I started to feel slightly burnt out, but that’s normal after writing thousands of words, reading through dozens of studies, studying for hundreds of hours and filling up multiple notebooks. It doesn’t matter if you take one course or five courses – it’s brain power. Along with my classmates, I had been saying I was ready for this semester to be over, but I’m also so excited and ready for next semester.

My courses: medical microbiology, chemistry and epidemiology. Eleven credit hours. All in person. All night classes. There are going to be some long days because I still work three days a week in a doctor’s office. I will also be starting an internship.

I start an internship for my program that should last for at least half the year. It’ll total roughly 300 hours at least. it combines my love of health and education along with serving specific populations – in this case, children. I think if we start the conversation while their young and the parents are involved, then positive habits can be created and in a fun way that doesn’t make them seem so tedious and boring.

On the more personal end of things- yoga, lifting and running have helped me get back to feeling like I did before with my activity. I’m feeling good about the ratio of ass sitting to mobility. I’m physically feeling more comfortable in my skin and have been working on getting my strength back up. I know the upcoming semester will be a little more unique as far as scheduling because I will have some long days shifting from work to internship to class to coaching, but that’s part of goal development. At different times, some routines make sense and others don’t. I’ve gotten better at not fighting it, and going more with the flow.

Since October 1st, I’ve run 76.62 miles. Nothing ground breaking, but a lot more than I had been running earlier this year because it wasn’t necessary to my training and I didn’t feel it in my heart to do so.

Eating has been normal. Indulging in a lot of cocoa and some treats that are only available at this time of the year. However, I’m creating a balance. I’m making the decision to indulge versus mindlessly doing so or feeling guilty about it. Stress hasn’t felt out of control, aside from the standard academic stress – I’ve been meditating a little less than I was before, but I also don’t think that’s a bad thing. My meditations have also changed, which wasn’t something I was expecting.

It’s been three months since I’ve been off birth control and hormonally, I’ve noticed a lot of change. My anxiety is different, reactions to similar situations are a little different – I feel less wiped out and that has been the biggest change.

Sitting down writing this out is weird because in my head I think I want to share what my next steps are, but then part of me goes who cares?  That’s the honest truth. I’ve always had both thoughts in my head, but the one always overpowered the other. I think about what is different, and I think I finally realized the answer.

I want to help people and that’s not a bad thing, but it also means that I forgot I can help someone indirectly by sharing my perspective.

On Facebook, I’ve started to share more about my interest in public health, my investment in organizations on campus, what I’m writing and talking about in class, but I’m going to start doing that here too. Writing has never been something I felt like I had to do, it wasn’t something that was an outlet for me. After talking with friends and doing a few too many videos on Facebook, I’ve been missing it.

My goal is to be more active in writing because I do enjoy it, but I need to protect it so that it doesn’t feel like an emotional burden. Some part of me also believes that there are people who click on my posts to actually read them, not just skim them to see if I’ve fallen on my face. So there’s that – the indirect way to help someone else.

I’m not putting a schedule out there for writing, but my promise to myself is that I’m going to sit down more often. I have a few recipes in my drafts folder I’ve been meaning to finish as well. So that’s on my to do list during break.

I have a list of things I want to do over the break before the spring semester starts. There’s no penalty if things don’t get crossed off, but I have a wish list, but that’s for another conversation.

❤ Cristina


Let’s define success.

We define our perfect world all the time, but is that what success actually looks like? Is that what success would feel like? Perfection?

For some, success means working out five days a week and eating on track every day. For others, it means being on time or early to everything they have scheduled. For most, it means never allowing or embracing the moments they fall short. Never allowing something to be misplaced. If a mistake is made they consider starting over and over and over until they just don’t start again.

We confuse success with perfection and we have every right to confuse the two. When we think about our goals, we see them in a perfect world scenario and we don’t want to think anything less. Society also tells us to not dream of anything less. When I speak to potential clients about their goals we talk in a perfect world scenario and as they become clients, I dive deeper. We talk about the perfect world, but I ask them what would make this week successful – is it really about checking everything off the list or is it about the attempts made? Is it about just getting out of bed on Tuesday or acknowledging when something isn’t working for them instead of just assuming they’re the failing piece of the puzzle?

I’ve worked really hard to allow myself to fall short or fail when seeking to accomplish my goals because I don’t believe it’s true failure when I can’t reach out further after exhausting myself. Failure is not  when you have to find a new route or seek a secondary solution. Failure is giving up completely. Failure is say I can’t when in reality there’s nothing stopping you, but yourself. I do think everyone has greatness in them, somewhere. I also think everyone’s greatness is different and is defined by some limitations whether physical or mental or pure lack of interest, but there’s something inside brewing. Remember greatness and limitless are two different things.

Most people I’ve talked to don’t talk about failure in this way, just like they don’t redefine success weekly or reevaluate their goals midweek when it seems a wrench has been thrown in. Many I’ve spoken with believe if they can’t accomplish the immediate task before them then they have failed. But the way I see it, they just didn’t find the right solution for them.

I define success by defining failure. I’m starting to define both by defining my fears.

I’ve been listening to a lot of TedTalks and podcasts from leadership to investigative journalism. It really depends on my mood. The TedTalks are more towards leadership and thought process. I want to watch a video and see the person’s body language; how they engage with an audience and the gestures they provide to the language they speak. Podcasts are more for running errands and hanging out around the apartment. Something to listen to casually, but not have to be glued to my television.

A recent TedTalk I watched was from Tim Ferriss called Why you should define your fears instead of your goals. We goal set to develop strategy to work towards growth, but rarely do we talk about our fears and how to overcome them in order to achieve new things, work towards the eventual goals that are being prevented from being a thought to begin with.

Ferriss shows the audience a model to evaluating and understanding your fears. After listening and then rereading the transcript it made sense. You need to start by listing your fears, so here are two of mine that I’ve been working on recently

  1. School – not being smart enough for the sciences in my program
  2. Utilizing medication over holistic approaches – the past few months have left me with chronic stress and hormonal imbalances related to anxiety

After listing them, you need to think about them long and hard, then define them. Ferriss says “you’re writing down all of the worst things you can imagine happening if you take that step”. He suggests that you should have 10 to 20 bullet points.

So let’s look at my first. School.

  1. I could fail a class
  2. If I fail a class, I would have to retake a class
  3. I would have to spend more time study than desired
  4. I’ll waste money if I’m not able to do well
  5. What if it takes longer than I have planned?
  6. What if I don’t fit in with my other classmates because of my background and previous education?
  7. What if an interest isn’t enough?
  8. What if others don’t understand why my degree is important to me?

Ok so, there’s 8, but you start to get the point.

I decided to go back to school because I don’t believe that just a certification gives someone the full understanding to help people with whatever the certification is. I think you need personal experience and a little more textbook knowledge. I have personal experience with my own health and fitness journey. I’ve tried a number of different approaches to nutrition and fitness. In my professional career, I did goal setting, strategy development and implementation in a fundraising setting, but those skills are transferable. The only thing I felt I was lacking was a formal education. I choose public health because it was well rounded from looking at the physical implications of health to psychological and social implications.

Before going back to school I contemplated the list above, but I never wrote it out. I thought about it alone, in my head. I talked it out with friends. JP and I had a number of conversations. I still talk about this list with friends even though I’m going through courses and I’m doing well because part of me is waiting for something to happen. I don’t really know what, but that’s where self doubt comes into play.

The next step is to “prevent”. Ferriss asks the audience to consider what you can do to prevent anything on the list from occurring or if not prevent, what could you do to minimize the probability.

So, school. To prevent failing I can make sure I’m studying and asking questions when I don’t understand the material. To prevent over studying and making myself feel wiped out I can look at my study habits and determine what is the best method to learn the information at hand. Every course may take a different strategy and in some cases, I might not be able to prevent over studying. I can re-evalaute my timeline periodically and check in with the academic support team to make sure that I’m on track for the timeline I have planned. Somethings are just out of my control because I can tell you now that most people ask me why I went back to school and don’t understand why I wouldn’t be satisfied with just the certification to be a personal trainer.

I want to make sure that I have a better understanding than what’s provided through the organizations that offer these certifications. There’s nothing wrong with them, but I also know that I don’t want to just provide someone with a workout plan. I want them to understand why they are executing it and I want to be able to dig a little deeper if we find that some methods don’t work. I want to find a solution for the individual, and I believe that having a more formal education will help give me a baseline to do that.

The fourth step in fear-setting, as Ferriss calls it, is to list out what you can do to “repair” if any of these do come fruition. If school takes a little longer then I just need to redetermine my timeline and understand that another degree is a lot, but worth it anyway. If I fail or do poorly in a class, I can retake it and yes, that would suck spending more money, but my prevention plan should’ve been better and this would be an opportunity to reevaluate…again.

After these steps, he asks the audience to consider the benefits of attempting to act upon these fears. He lists things like confidence, emotional growth, financial growth, etc.

Going back to school pushed me out of my comfort zone. Taking these courses is making me think in a new way and relearning how to learn material and study. The first section of anatomy and physiology started to connect the dots of the interdependence our organ systems have on each other. It reinforced what I knew about mental health and the mind – total body connection. It reinforced what I knew to be true about my own mental health and how hormone function greatly impacts more things than we ever consider. My courses on public health have pushed me to think about all parties involved and how the actions of one person have an immediate impact on their own life and the direct connections they have, but also the indirect connections they have on the world around them and visa versa. So even if I don’t get an A in every class, even though I want to strive for perfection in this case, I know that I’m still learning and challenging myself.  

Next, think about the cost of inaction. If you don’t do anything to chip away at these fears.

Honestly, if I hadn’t planned to go back to school, I wouldn’t be coaching right now. I wouldn’t be considering adding personal training to my resume and I wouldn’t be willing to connect with people in this way to support their journeys – whatever those may be.

I also wouldn’t have ever known if I can learn this way, understand this information and be able to assist people outside of sharing my journey. If I didn’t decide to go back to school and then act on that idea, I wouldn’t have been able to change career paths. Whether I go back to fundraising in a different area of the nonprofit sector or not, I’m no longer stuck on a path that was unfulfilling and causing me stress and anxiety. While there are new challenges, these challenges are less than those before.

So. moving on. Let’s think about our goals. Let’s define success and failure and be realistic with ourselves, but let’s also think about how our fears developed and what we can do to change them. We doubt ourselves a lot and when those around us place doubt on us, we continue to prevent ourselves from seeking our full potential.

Can you imagine what we could accomplish without doubt and fear?