The All or Nothing Mindset

When I talk about wellness, I’m talking about wellness on all levels- mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. I’m talking about a renewed sense of self—one of freedom and joy in all aspects of life. I’m talking about loving yourself so much that the love spills over naturally to touch others who are struggling. This is what wellness means to me. But it wasn’t always like this.

You know the saying “You can’t help others with their oxygen mask if yours is off”? This concept applies to my life beyond airplane flights. It applies to making the choices I know are best for myself, so that I can better help, love, and encourage those around me. Self-care anyone?!

How do I do this?

One way I’m working towards wellness in my life is taking care of my body.

My thought is this: I only have one body; I might as well take the best care of it that I possibly can. If my body is sick and broken, I can’t help or love others around me well. I will be caught up in my pain and sickness, rather than relieving others of theirs.

When I work out (currently limited to swimming, tennis, lifting, my daily morning stretches), I do it with intentionality and purpose. When I start my day with 16 oz of water first thing, my brain feels refreshed and I’m able to think clearer quicker, the dehydration from the night is relieved (you lose a lot of water in the night just through breathing). When I eat meals that are mostly produce and grains over other types of food it’s because I literally feel better after.

There is a greater purpose to taking care of myself physically. Like the airplane oxygen mask analogy, how can I help others if I am not living my best life and making choices that I feel good about? That said, this process, this lifestyle of finding wellness isn’t meant to be rigid and structured. It isn’t all or nothing.

In the past when I missed a workout, over ate, or even forgot drinking those 2 glasses of water first thing in the AM because, life, I used to beat myself up. I used to blame myself. I used to just give up. Somehow, I would jump from keeping a rigid schedule and trying to attain perfection to “screw it, this day is ruined, I might as well not even try.”

Really though, that’s no true wellness life. That all or nothing mindset was destructive.

I’ve learned the hard way to let go a little.

Now, my actions though intentional are not about conquering my body, controlling it, or trying to achieve some sort of physical perfection. Every choice is an act of love. And with the mindset of love over the all or nothing way I used to live, I can truly step into a place of being able to care for and help those around me like I’ve always wanted.

Sometimes I’ll purposefully skip my workout in a day because being is better than doing.

Sometimes like this past Valentine’s Day just a few weeks ago, I’ll eat a loaded crepe for breakfast, where other times I’ll fast and refrain from eating for most of the day.

Sometimes I’ll stick to my usual bedtime knowing I need rest and other times I’ll stay up late because I want to crank out a project.

These choices are no longer All or Nothing.

There is a flow and freedom to letting life happen and giving up the control. This is the start of true wellness.

I’m in a place of not stressing and fretting when things don’t go as planned. I’m in a place of choosing grace and love in every action, being intentional but not rigid. This is new mindset and new way of living is full of life. It’s full of love. And is the best form of wellness I’ve embodied so far in life, I think.

I hope where you are at today, you can let go of all or nothing. Let go of man handling your life. Let go of managing every action and embrace the beauty of self love through intentional choices. This brings FREEDOM to choosing to eat more plants in your meals and making your workouts work for you, instead of the other way around. It makes taking time off for family or hobbies refreshing. It means you get to the end result of losing weight, or growing your business, or whatever it is your goals are in this season with grace rather than exhaustion.

Think about it now and drop a comment—what steps can you take in your life to drop the all or nothing mindset for one of wellness and self-care?

{Q&A} Why Counting Calories Never Mattered

{Q&A} Part 2: Figure Competitions With Rachel Mateo & Why Counting Calories Never Mattered

Part two of the two part Q&A Interview with Rachel Mateo, focused on her experiences doing Figure Competitions in past years, and the reasons why counting calories never mattered.

Rachel has 15 years of personal training experience and a B.S. in Exercise Science. She currently works for Juice Plus+ as a Qualifying National Marketing Director, inspiring healthy living around the world by teaching on nutrition, and she is a certified group fitness instructor with Body By Rachel online and recently Fitology. She loves her husband and their dog May. She spends weekends traveling from Pennsylvania, her home state, to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware where she gets the freedom to run and play with the dog in the water.

Q: You did figure competitions a number of years back—what made you want to get into that type of training? A: I had a few friends who had done some figure competitions, and in seeing their pictures online something definitely clicked in me that made me want to give it a try myself. I saw it as a fun opportunity to try something new and really challenge myself with my diet, exercise and commitment. I actually enjoy the thrill of being onstage, so it was exciting to think I could feel that rush in showing off all of my hard work!

Q: How often would you workout each week in those seasons? What types of training would you do? A: That kind of training is very different than what I do now. Because I would focus on strength training a different specific group of muscles each day, I was working out every day of the week. One day might be legs and shoulders, the next day might be chest and triceps, the next day back and biceps, etc. So while a particular group of muscles were pushed hard, they also got the chance to fully rest the following day to move onto the focus of another group. Because the focus was muscle development, I also limited my cardio (which was tough since I do enjoy running outside and had group fitness classes to teach).

Q: Did you have a favorite or most rewarding part of the experience? What was it? A: Most definitely! I felt such a huge sense of accomplishment and pride in the hard work I had put in to experience that end result. Then showing all of that off in front of the crowd, the other competitors and judges was extremely exhilarating and so much fun! (Putting yourself out there like that in front of lots of people may not be for everyone, but being proud of what you had achieved certainly helps to get you through any nervous jitters.) Also, I so enjoyed sharing my experience, lending advice and guidance to others looking to make some changes in their bodies. Felt great to have people notice my progress and results and trust me to help them too.  

Q: What were your daily calorie restrictions when training for a competition? How did you know you were getting enough? A: I honestly didn’t put my focus into counting calories. I was guided by a fellow trainer friend who had worked with figure competitors and bodybuilders to focus on counting/monitoring my “macros” (fats, proteins and carbs) in grams. I had some reservations about some of the extreme approaches and dietary choices my friends had made in their prep and process, so it was very important to me to do things my way and keep my health as my number one priority.

I was determined to see how well I could do without consuming the synthetic, artificial “foods” that so many others ate in order to meet their daily macro numbers. I focused on eating as healthfully as possible (LOTS of vegetables, quality healthy fats, vegan protein powder, fish/seafood, eggs), while staying within the parameters of the amount of grams of each macro daily I was guided to start with. As the days went on, I payed close attention to how I was feeling, my energy level, my digestion, how my body was physically developing, etc and if something wasn’t feeling or progressing right I would tweak my numbers a bit by adding or subtracting some macros from one area or another.

Q: What would you recommend to someone trying to cut calories for a specific reason such as what you did? A: Since the monitoring of healthy, clean macros worked for me, that is what I would recommend. Calories don’t need to be the concern if you are focused on quality nutrition going in and listening to your body. The more nutrient dense a food, the more satisfied you’ll feel and the healthier you’ll be. Keeping within your allotted numbers of macros per day will ensure you’re not eating too much. Then use your intuition (as well as trusted guidance) to tweak what area you might need more/less of to keep seeing great results.

Calories don’t need to be the concern if you are focused on quality nutrition going in and listening to your body. The more nutrient dense a food, the more satisfied you’ll feel and the healthier you’ll be.

-Rachel Mateo

Q: What would you recommend to women when it comes to body image to find balance in dieting, working out, and pushing themselves to try something new, yet also honoring where they are currently at? A: That is a tough question, a lot of factors go into this for everyone. I think what it all boils down to is working on your mental state first and foremost. Figure out why you’re feeling the way you do about your body and hopefully come to realize that we don’t need to try to look like anyone else or fit into any particular size/shape box. Our bodies are individually beautiful and unique. I implore everyone to please focus on health first and then everything else can fall into place. If, like me, a particular goal of a competition or something similar is in your focus, then be very clear as to WHY you’re deciding to do it and then give yourself grace as you work through the challenges involved.

I think what it all boils down to is working on your mental state first and foremost. Figure out why you’re feeling the way you do about your body and hopefully come to realize that we don’t need to try to look like anyone else or fit into any particular size/shape box.

-Rachel Mateo

{Q&A} Fitness, Nutrition or Both?

{Q & A} Featuring Rachel Mateo on Fitness, Nutrition, or Both?

Part one of a two part Q&A Interview with Rachel Mateo which answers the question: should you focus on fitness or nutrition more? It also touches on mindsets when it comes to body image and overall health.

Rachel has 15 years of personal training experience and a B.S. in Exercise Science. She currently works for Juice Plus+ as a Qualifying National Marketing Director, inspiring healthy living around the world by teaching on nutrition, and she is a certified group fitness instructor with Body By Rachel online and recently Fitology. She loves her husband and their dog May. She spends weekends traveling from Pennsylvania, her home state, to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware where she gets the freedom to run and play with the dog in the water.

Q: Weight lifting vs Cardio: How often do you get each into your weekly workouts? A: I do some form of cardio about 6 days a week and like to have variety in modality and intensity. This may include online cardio classes, running outdoors, body-weight/plyometric exercises, hiking, etc. As for weightlifting, usually 2-3 days with a focus on total body training each time… also gets the heart rate up which I feel is a great bonus!

Q: What would you recommend to a novice in the world of fitness in getting started on a workout routine for the first time? A: When first beginning to exercise, I feel it is very important to work with a professional (or at least someone you know who is seasoned and knowledgeable) to assist you in proper form and technique. Begin with the basics to build a good foundation. Try not to overdo the duration and intensity and give yourself proper rest/recovery in between workouts.

Q: What’s the most important thing to you when it comes to fitness and nutrition? Why? A: To focus on more than just your micronutrition (carbs, proteins, fats). These building blocks of any diet first and foremost need to be quality: Limiting/eliminating highly processed foods and anything artificial, while focusing on whole food. Your body, mind, emotions etc… will notice the difference when you flood your bloodstream with good, quality, nutrient dense foods and cut out the stuff that is unrecognizable and unnatural. Energy goes up and therefore you can have better workouts, better recovery, better results.

Your body, mind, emotions etc… will notice the difference when you flood your bloodstream with good, quality, nutrient dense foods and cut out the stuff that is unrecognizable and unnatural.

Rachel mateo

Q: How much do you recommend women eat calorie wise to maintain health when working out? Are calories even important? Why or Why not? A: There is something to be said for being aware of your calories in versus calories out, but it certainly should not be the sole focus. When you focus on eating clean, nutrient-rich whole foods you’re feeding your body what it truly needs so you can feel satisfied and maintain good will power. There can still be “too much of a good thing”, so when it comes to even your healthy, quality macronutrition, be aware of portion sizes, eat slowly and mindfully, and do not eat too late at night. I personally like to leave a 14 hour window from my last meal/snack of the day until my first the next day. When you stay within this eating window making health your priority in your choices your body has the chance to utilize these quality calories when they’re needed during your daily activities and then fully rest/recover at night.

Q: How do you fuel your body to work out each day? A: I live by the “WFPB” concept (Whole Food Plant Based). Not to say I’m vegan or vegetarian, but I’m mainly focused on trying to take in the most high quality nutrient and antioxidant foods. My complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and quality proteins come in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts, nut butters,oats and gluten free grains, beans, organic vegan protein powders, almond milk, nondairy yogurt, etc. I do add in some eggs, fish/seafood and chicken from time to time, but not daily. So as an example, before a workout I’ll enjoy a light snack of an apple with almond butter or clementine with a handful of raw mixed nuts, and then post workout I’ll blend up a big filling smoothie with things like berries, almond milk, vegan protein powder, flaxseeds, chia seeds, coconut yogurt and cinnamon. Good energy in, good energy out!

Q: Do you put more value on nutrition or workouts? Why? A: Both are integral parts of total mind/body health, but when it comes to weight management, disease prevention, mood, energy, etc. nutrition takes the front seat. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “you can’t outrun your fork”? It’s basically to say that diet is about 80% of the equation when trying to lose weight. Same concept goes for when trying to build muscle or simply change the shape of your body. Workouts are certainly important for your metabolism and strengthening/building your muscles as well as creating a calorie deficit, but exercise alone could never get you there. At least not safely, healthfully and sustainably. We need the nutrition not only to repair the microtears in our muscles as we work them, but also play a huge role in recovery, neutralization of oxidative stress, decreasing of systemic inflammation, etc.

Q: How do you balance body image with being content with where you are and pursuing a certain look with being physically fit? What would you say to a woman struggling with body image concerns? How does mindset play a role in your own fitness and coaching? A: It’s not easy when we’re bombarded with images on tv, movies, social media, advertising… all putting labels on what is acceptable. We have to do our best to focus on our health and wellbeing first and know that our individual body type/shape is very unique. Instead of fighting an against the grain in an uphill battle to try to dramatically pursue a look that may not be the way your body is designed, try taking some time to really focus on the best YOU you can be. More intense/focused dieting and exercise routines (if done properly) may be ok for a short period of time, but it’s then more important to think of things in the long term. What is truly sustainable for real life? What diet and exercise routine will help you look and FEEL your personal best, physically and mentally? I recommend beginning and ending your day with some positive affirmations through meditation, prayer and/or self reflection. Then ultimately asking yourself: What is my motivation? Why do I want to look this certain way? If it’s centered around a positive, healthy result, go for it and seek professional guidance to help you in that direction. Also, choose an accountability buddy who also has similar goals as you. Having someone to talk to about your successes and struggles lets you know you’re not alone in your challenges and also makes it more fun to create your new healthy habits!

What is truly sustainable for real life? What diet and exercise routine will help you look and FEEL your personal best, physically and mentally? I recommend beginning and ending your day with some positive affirmations through meditation, prayer and/or self reflection.

Rachel Mateo

Normalizing Failure

Photo Cred: Amy Humphries

The number of times in my life that I have done anything at all, perfectly is approximately zero. I’ve done some things well, other things even better, but nothing in life have I executed or carried out perfectly. As a matter of fact, some things I’ve attempted in life… many things… I’ve absolutely failed in. I’ve failed to show up for friends and family when they’ve needed me. Failed in carrying out duties at work. Failed in my workouts and fitness life at times which I take pretty seriously as a lifestyle and habit.

And yet through my failures I’ve learned. Overcome. Transitioned. And grown. Through my failures I’ve seen things from a new perspective I didn’t know mattered. Through my failures I’ve been able to stand up and try again.

John Maxwell, a bestselling author and expert on leadership says, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

Applying this concept to my life, I’d like to introduce the idea of failure being quite normal even freeing. Because in failure we get the chance and opportunity to try again and overcome.

An example of this could be a child learning how to read or trying a sport for the first time. It would be insane to expect that child to perform a new task perfectly. The beauty of being a child is they are given the right (for the most part) to make mistakes in things, learn consequences if there are any, and get better.

I remember my first swim meet ever, I was 7 years old, maybe 8, and was supposed to swim a 25-yard breaststroke. I got to the end of the lane and popped my head up, thrilled to see I had won. For all of 3 seconds when the person running the timer in my lane said I was disqualified. I actually swam freestyle, not breaststroke. Oops! I learned the lesson and never made the mistake again I don’t think through all my years on a swim team. I had failed. But no one held it against me.

So why would we hold failure against ourselves as adults? Why do we take such considerable strides to HIDE failure on social media and with friends and family? I’m all about putting our best foot forward in life, but what if that is actually crippling us at the end of the day rather than living authentically with our stories of not being where we want to be yet that could be encouraging and helpful to so many people.

I submit to you now that failure is more normal than carrying out any task in life perfectly.

I’d like to see failure normalized, not hidden behind pretty social media posts and trying to hide our faults and failures to the enormous extent that we do.

Another example comes from my own life with working out and Triathlons. I used to compete in regularly 1 to 2 times a year in Triathlons around the northeast of the US in new cities and towns each race. My first year I had a HORRIBLE race time. I put so much effort into training and making a goal time for the race, yet I completely blew it the day of the race. I briefly thought to myself “I’m not made to do Tris.” I almost gave up this hobby and lifestyle because of a bad race. It took about two weeks until I missed the swimming, biking, and running and chose instead to say, “Well, it seems I have a lot to learn and become better in with regards to workouts and training. I can do better next time.”

I think giving into the first statement, “I’m just not made to do this” isn’t going to help me win and become better at the next thing I choose to focus my time and energy on. It isn’t going to help me succeed. It isn’t going to help me really at all. Though I failed in reaching all of my goals that first race, I chose instead to see my end time as a reason to adjust, get educated on workouts, include other people in my training by talking to a couple of other athletes who had done way more racing than I ever have.

I chose to realize that “failure” was just a matter of personal definition, not an absolute that determined an end to something that I really enjoyed— in this case swimming, biking, and running—despite my slow pace and poor choices in the race that really set me back.

Normalizing failure for any and all can be a way to rethink failure in general. If you personally “did bad” in something— could be anything from baking a cake that turned out horribly that you meant to give to someone for a special occasion, to showing disruptive and “bad” behavior at an event that in retrospect you realize you shouldn’t have acted that way—and you choose instead to learn grow and change based off of that perceived failure, have you really failed at all?

I don’t know a single person on planet earth that has done ANYTHING perfectly in life. But everyone I know has messed up in big or small ways around me my whole life, including myself, and the world still moves on.

Instead of getting caught up with our failures, beating ourselves up, ruminating on went wrong, what if instead we chose to focus on the positive that might be a result of that failure? What if that time we didn’t show up as we should for someone we learn the art of apologizing and making amends? What if we recognize that no matter how old we are, we are fallible human beings and failing is a part of life. Failing is actually… normal… and can bring about positive change including overcoming obstacles and achieving greatness in some area.

This new year, let’s embrace our “failures” as we might call them and realize that as Maxwell said, “The only guarantee for failure is if we stop trying.”

As long as you admit the mistake, change the course, make a new decision next time you’re faced with a problem or dilemma that you “failed in” then truly failure isn’t the end of the story.

I’m sure many people are making new year’s resolutions and vowing changes for 2021. Let’s not see 2020 as a failure, but a year of learning and growth. Let’s choose to walk into 2021 refreshed for amazing opportunities that if we keep going, don’t give up, and try again in we can have the greatest personal success imaginable, no matter what our goals are be them relational, financial, spiritual, physical, or any area of life that you may be holding onto failure in.

There is always hope. There is always room for growth and change. There is always a new time to keep the faith and change the course for better next time. At the end of the day, without failure we will never fully understand the deep feelings that success brings.

Balanced Triathlete

Balaned-Triathlete

Go. Go on days you don’t want to. Push yourself in training. Don’t be afraid of speed or injury. Fear will hold you back from most everything in life. Fear kills. Even fear of taking a break, a day off to recoup. After all, your body recovers during those breaks and reaches its max potential at rest! The R&R is what builds and strengthens for the next workout, which tears muscles and pushes heart and body to health.

But still.

If you want to rest well and work out well you have to know, it’s gauging what you want in your fitness goals with what you need to get there. It’s all about balance.

Training With Others & Knowing my Limits

I learned that I’m not the best –that I need others encouragement, motivation, and advice to become a better triathlete. But in that, not everyone knows what my body feels. If I skip a morning workout because I worked my body too hard the previous two days, that’s okay. I know that the best way for me to grow as an athlete is by sharpening and honing my fitness from others around me –but as I ask questions and learn from others, I judge what’s best for more. It’s a balance.

I’m in Control of my Body & Sometimes my Body Needs Grace

I learned that I’m in control of my body. But my body is also in control too. I need to treat it well for it to do what I want. I need to drink more water, take in more plants- fruits and veggies, and protein, and I need to train my body in the moment, to work with my mind. Breathing, posture, and burning in my muscles all matter to keep pushing and not give up. I am in control. But as I have that control, I guide and train my body with gentleness and patience when it doesn’t do what I want on a “bad workout day.” I cannot let those days get me down. It’s a balance.

Saying “No” to People & Spending Time With People

I learned that I need to be okay with saying “no” to people, to events, to even family when it is important that I sleep and take care of myself as I push. I feel like I’ve learned that “no” word a few seasons in my life, and once more it matters as I drive through the distractions in life. So often I feel I don’t want to be left out of an event, or miss a hilarious “you had to be there” moment. But that just means that I prioritize the fear of missing out, over the reality that I need to take down time to perform at my highest potential. Saying “no” is a way to get that down time, so I can get to that early morning work out, feeling rested and good about it, instead of grouchy and upset all day.

But I don’t want to be one track minded –that the ultimate, most important thing is going to bed and working out early, with work and even second trainings in between. People matter. Events matter. Life outside of training matters. It’s a balance.

Rejoicing in the Triumphs & Continuing to Push

Lastly, I learned that I need to rejoice in the gains I have made, while determining where I still want to go. I swim fast and bike hard, but run slowly that my feet feel like they are dragging, THAT’S OKAY. Rejoice in the swimming and biking, and look forward to tomorrow when I can run again on a new day. Rejoicing in today, while looking forward to and planning tomorrow’s workout. It’s a balance.