A Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go — Part 3: Accountability

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If you missed part 1 or part 2 – head on over there first – this post will be here when you get back.

Part 3: Accountability

Once you’ve mastered planning and variety, it’s time to establish some sort of accountability. While plans do help stay on track, you will need another way to monitor your progress and keep you motivated.

First, it is essential to keep track of what you put into your body. I use the Weight Watchers app to count points, but you can use a food journal, a calorie counter app, the Nike FuelBand – whatever works for you! By entering what I eat into Weight Watchers, I make myself accountable for my actions.

This is also a great way to see how bad your current habits are if you’re having trouble sticking to a plan. If you count your calories for one week – you may shock yourself into making a change for the better.

You also have to establish accountability for daily exercise. For me, the schedule in my planner is enough. I am a list maker, and the satisfaction of crossing off my workout for the day is enough to get me there.

If you’re not as neurotic as me about to-do lists, you might want to try a gym buddy, a personal trainer, or attending regularly scheduled gym classes. By making specific appointments to go to the gym, you’re less likely to skip out.

You could even blog or post about your progress online. No one likes an obnoxious gym selfie, but social media can be a great place for finding a support network. If you publicly announce your goals it makes you more accountable.

You can also try talking with loved ones about your health goals. Saying it out loud will make it more real and sharing it with people who care about you will give you someone to be accountable for.

For instance, my boyfriend is so used to my evening work out sessions that if I come home still in work clothes the first thing out of his mouth is “You didn’t go to the gym?” He’s supportive of my lifestyle change and never judgmental. Find someone who can play this role for you and ignore the haters. If you have friends who judge you for making healthy decisions, they aren’t friends at all.

How do you maintain accountability for your health?

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A Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go — Part 2: Variety

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Welcome back to the Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go! Did you start planning menus, workout plans or shopping lists? If so, great! If you missed part 1, click here to go back.

Part 2: Variety

Once you’ve been on a plan for a while, you may start to get bored. This is why fad diets often fail — because they expect you to do the same things over and over and over. If you’re looking to make a lifestyle change, it’s important to add some variety in all aspects of your plans to stay on track.

Sick of the same old chicken? Look up some new recipes! There are tons of healthy recipe bloggers out there that can help to spice up your dinner table. And don’t be afraid to experiment on your own, too!

If this is how you feel about what’s on your menu for this evening, it might be time to try something new.

Have fun with it — spend some time finding a delicious healthy recipe and plan to make it on a day where you have some extra time to play around in the kitchen.

Some of my favorite food blogs are Skinny Mom’s Kitchen, SkinnyTaste and Hungry Girl, but Pinterest is also a great way to find new recipes — just be conscious of the ingredients and be sure to keep tracking. You can check out my recipe board if you need some inspiration, but fair warning — not everything in there is healthy lifestyle friendly. Feel free to follow me while you’re at it ;)

You will probably develop a set of “go to” recipes as you get used to your new schedule, but it’s also important to switch it up and try new things once in a while to keep things interesting.

Each week, I almost always have a pasta meal and some type of grilled chicken, but I also try a new recipe every few weeks. If I like it, I add it to my recipe book so I can make it again.

Your workout may also start to get boring if you’ve been on the same schedule too long. You should vary your exercises and intensity so your workouts don’t get too easy for you. You won’t be bored if you’re pushing yourself hard enough.

Try a new workout class or a new machine. Increase the weight or duration of your workout. Vary which days you do which routines. Or try a new program or interval workout you find on the internet. Mix things up and don’t let yourself get in a rut!

Try using machines in a new way. (Warning: Do not attempt: this pup is a professional)

Try using machines in a new way.
(Warning: Do not attempt: this pup is a professional)

However you decide to vary your workout, make sure you’re getting a good mix of both intense cardio workouts and weight training for all your muscles. I usually try to include at least 2 or 3 intense cardio sessions, 1-2 days of ab exercises as well as weight training days for arms and legs.

Also, when you set a new schedule, make sure you aren’t doing the same exercises or machines every day. This will get old much quicker than a routine that is different every day.

Everyone has a different philosophy on what schedule is most effective. Longer cardio. Short intense cardio. Heavy lifting. But there is no magical formula — the key to success is commitment and hard work.

Just pick what works best for you and stick to it. This may take some trial and error. So if you’re not seeing results, increase your intensity and re-evaluate.

Here is an example of my current weekly workout schedule. For my weight training days I do a circuit of the weight machines, but you could try free weights, bands or whatever works best for you. I typically do 3 sets of 12 and increase my weight over time as it becomes too easy to lift.

  • Monday: (PM) Boot Camp class
  • Tuesday: (AM) 20 mins stair climber or treadmill intervals and arm weight training
  • Wednesday: (PM) 30 mins heart rate interval on the ARC Trainer and leg weight training
  • Thursday: (PM) Spin Class
  • Friday:  (AM) 30 mins heart rate interval  on the elliptical and ab exercises

Doing this helps me get to the gym every day, but also ensures that I don’t go too easy on myself. However, I also realize that this schedule must be flexible. I spend a few minutes every Sunday preparing for the week ahead to decide how I can fit my workout in.

For example, if I have an event after work on an evening workout day, I may work out in the morning that day. If my legs are sore, and I’m supposed to lift that day, I do arms instead and move legs to another day.

But I never let myself skip a workout. By specifying the exercises, duration and time of my daily workout, I prevent myself from making excuses to skip something or take an easy day.

When you start to lose motivation and you dread getting up in the morning or dragging yourself to the gym after work — It’s time to switch things up. 

Since I’m in grad school, I make a new schedule before every semester to best fit my class/work schedule. I plan out which days I’m going in the morning, over lunch, or after work, and I stick to it. I use a mix of group classes and individual workouts to keep me interested and accountable to myself. 

How do you vary your workouts and meals? What are some of your favorite recipes and exercise routines? Share below!

I also stumbled across this article today called “Why you’re not losing weight in your 20s” — check it out for some bonus tips!

A Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go — Part 1: Planning

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I don’t have time to cook. I’m too busy to go to the gym. I can’t fit being healthy into my schedule.

Sound familiar? If you’ve fallen into the trap of these excuses — this series is for you.

When you’re constantly on the go, it’s difficult to stick to a nutrition plan and a workout schedule. But It’s not impossible. Getting your health in order will make you feel better both inside and out. You’ll feel more confident, have more energy and be able to do more of the things you think you don’t have time for. 

The truth is — you don’t have time NOT to be healthy. Older relatives are always telling us to enjoy our metabolism while it lasts. But if you develop bad habits now they are more likely to follow you through life.

About a year ago, just six months after graduation, my freshman 15 had become a permanent fixture. My self-esteem was at an all time low and my energy was dwindling. I decided to make a change and signed up for Weight Watchers as a method of keeping track of what I was putting into my body and a resource for healthy recipes and support. After a few short months, I had dropped the weight and a year later, I’m happy to report it’s still off, and I feel great.

Throughout my journey, I’ve learned a few things that I believe are the keys to healthy living for millennials on the go, and I hope they’ll inspire you to make a lifestyle change too.  In this weekly series, I will identify the factors that I found most helpful as a busy young professional trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s up to you how you plan to get healthy, and the method you choose should also depend on your goals and your individual needs, but these tips will help you select a plan that you can stick to. 

Part 1: Planning

The first step to any lifestyle change is making plans. When creating a new habit, you should start out by planning for every detail. Although it may seem like overkill, planning makes healthy decisions easier and with practice, your planning will just become a force of habit.

One of my favorite blogs — A Life Less Bullshit — talks about decision making overload in her Goal Setting Formula. When you have to make too many decisions in the day — what to wear and what’s for breakfast, let alone making work decisions — you start to get overwhelmed and you shut down.

That’s when cookies become your dinner or you end up crying on the floor in a pile of the contents of your closet. Or is that just me?

The result of decision-making overload

The result of decision-making overload

If you allow yourself to “decide” what to do at the end of the work day — its a slim to none chance that you’ll select an intense cardio workout over your bed, the couch or the dinner table. However, if you set a workout schedule and make yourself accountable to it, you’re more apt to follow through.

Planning meals is more difficult. When you first get started you have to try out new recipes and learn how to cook and eat healthily. You have to train your body to stop when it’s full and not start up again when it’s bored. Once you have your go-to recipes and basic knowledge of healthy cooking, the time it takes you to plan your weekly menu will decrease.

Planning meals also means… dun dun dun… weekly food shopping. UGH. This is one of my least favorite chores. It’s hard for me to put into works how much I hate going to the grocery store, but this GIF sums it up pretty well.

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However, when you make the switch to healthy eating, it’s important to always have fresh fruits and vegetables and this requires more frequent trips to the grocery store. On Weight Watchers, most fruits and vegetables are ZERO points, so I try to eat as many as I can to get the nutrients my body needs and feel more full. And if you’re like me and you hate food shopping — try to avoid the busiest times, go to the store on a full stomach and make sure you have enough time to browse.

Along with planning what you’re eating, you should plan when you eat. I try to eat 6 meals a day, roughly every 2-3 hours. Plan out your meals and snacks to keep yourself within a healthy range — whether you count in WW points, calories, or some other system, planning is the key to staying within your limits. For example, I always save a few WW points for an evening snack because I’ve found that no matter how late I eat dinner, my sweet tooth kicks in around 9 p.m. This way, I’m less likely to go over my points for the day.

Over time, healthy eating and daily exercise will become intuitive. Now, I don’t think about whether or not I want to exercise each day, I just do. Healthy eating hasn’t quite become a habit yet, but I’m on the right track. After a few days of poor eating my body will let me know that it needs nutrients, and I get back on my plan.

It’s not about being perfect — it’s about making a lifestyle change one step at a time. If you’re committed to becoming a better, healthier you, you have to make a commitment to yourself and find the time.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week!

The Top 10 Pieces of Advice I Stole from Someone Else

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Disclaimer: This advice isn’t an original creation from my brain or tips that I’ve generated based on my own experiences. These are simply snippets of advice that I’ve gained over the years from colleagues, mentors and supervisors. 

1. Run Toward the Fire

Unstable positions are the best experiences. When a company is going through a rough spot, there’s more work to go around, more job opportunities and you learn to work under pressure. So don’t run away from an ideal job description just because the company looks like a mess.

This also applies to internships and jobs that you dislike. You may hate it while you’re there, but I promise you — you learn the most from a bad experience. After a few months doing something you hate, you will know more about yourself and your strengths and weaknesses than any good experience could ever teach you.

2. Say yes/Say no

ALWAYS say yes to interesting opportunities. But say no to crappy assignments and don’t take on things that don’t interest you or seem pointless. I have to admit this piece of advice shocked me coming from a supervisor to a lowly peon.

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I think this is great advice for seasoned professionals —  you have to learn to say no, or you will end up with too much work and not enough time.

But if you’re an intern or a new hire, most  of the time you really don’t have the opportunity to say no. My opinion is that when you’re the low man on the totem pole, you should say YES as often as possible (while still being honest with yourself and your superiors about the amount of time you have).

Even a seemingly silly or useless project could expose you to someone or something that will lead you to a full-time position. As an intern or entry-level careerist, you should soak up as much information as possible and meet as many people as you can. You never know when an opportunity will strike, and it just might be when you’re passing out flyers in the lobby.

3. The myth of 110% — there is no such thing.

Focus on giving 100% and nothing more. Take opportunities when they arise, but also know when a project isn’t a good use of your time. Say no, but offer a solution. Try something like: “I don’t feel like I have time to project manage this on my own, and I want to be fair to you. Could I work with (another intern) or (a supervisor) so we can tackle this together?

And this brings me to #4…

4. Team up with peers rather than competing

This is particularly an issue in leadership development programs and summer internships. Everyone is trying so hard to stand out they forget they are also being judged on how well they can work together and as part of a team.

Even when you have a full-time job, you will have to work with people you may compete against in the future for a position. Don’t let competition derail your team work. Peers can be a great source of new skill sets and inside knowledge don’t over look them.

Although I consider myself competitive in many aspects, this has never really been a problem for me — though I’ve encountered it many times throughout my collection of internships. There always seems to be that one intern who wants to stand out so badly, that they’ll step on anyone and everyone to get to the top. But here’s the caveat, it rarely works. Your peers’ perception of you matters whether you like it or not.

5. Recognize your weaknesses and try to work on them whenever possible.

As a young professional you should know your weaknesses. And no, I don’t mean the BS ones that you give in a job interview only to turn into a positive. I mean your real, raw and serious shortcomings. Figure out what’s keeping you from getting your dream job and fix it. Mine are patience and public speaking. In a corporate environment, both of these are crucial and in my current position I am challenging these skills constantly which is a huge help.

But on the flip side…

6 . Recognize your strengths and your worth.

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Know what your good at and don’t be shy about it. Try: “Yes I can do that.” instead of “I think so” when a supervisor asks you to take on something knew. Own your skills and be your own champion. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will?

7. Put yourself out of your comfort zone.

This piece of advice really stuck with me. It sounds so simple, but yet it is easier said than done.

For me particularly, I like to play it safe. I know my strengths and weaknesses (see #6 and 7 above) and I tend to choose projects and roles that fit well into what I know I am capable of. I resist change, and I don’t try new things as often as I should — even outside of work! This piece of advice came from a supervisor that I really admire, so it’s something I’m actively working on.

8. Focus on outcomes and accomplishments and not just “doing your job”

To excel and succeed in any position you have to go above and beyond what is asked. I learned this the hard way at my very first internship. It was an unpaid position where I received class credit and thus, a grade.

But when a boldfaced B reared it’s ugly face on my transcript I couldn’t understand why. “I did everything he asked of me!” But that was exactly the problem.

9. Strive for excellence and take pride in everything you do — big or small

As an intern or a recent grad, you’re going to do some less than exciting work and some things that you down right hate. But when you excel at even the most menial tasks, people will take notice and your level of work will increase. Don’t take any project for granted.

And finally…

10. Talent Always Wins

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The right people will move ahead and end up in the best positions.That’s what interview are for and it makes me so frustrated when people obsess over the “perfect” answers to the commonly asked interview questions.

Interviews are designed to get to know you. Not some fabricated version of you that you think is what the HR manager is looking for. The interviewers job is to find the right person for the position.

And if you’re shooting for a promotion, where they already know you — it’s not about who works harder, it’s about who has the right personality, skill set and mentality for the job. Sometimes you may not even understand why someone thinks you’re great at something or not so much — sometimes others can see things about you that you can’t. Learn your strengths by listening to what others have to say about you. Play to your strengths, and as you move up the ladder, you will build a team of professionals that make up for the qualities you lack.

That’s it! I hope some of these tips stick with you like they did with me. Got any other tips to share? I’d love to hear them!

My Parents House — Moving Out and Moving On

This past weekend I went home for Father’s Day — to see good old Dad and spend some quality time with friends and family. I’m always glad to be home, but I couldn’t shake this funny feeling that something was different.

First, I couldn’t connect to the WiFi. Nothing says “You don’t live here any more” like a new internet password.

Wrong_Password

Then, unlike when I came home to visit from college everyone seemed too busy to chat about what was going on with me.

And I probably sound like a spoiled brat saying that, but I’m not trying to insinuate that my parents don’t care about me or that I needed more attention. That’s NOT the point.

The point is. Life is going on at home without me. And I am going on with life on my own.

And these weren’t the first signs.

Although it  doesn’t look quite this bad now, a few months ago when I went home, my bedroom looked like this:

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My parents had new carpet installed up stairs, so ALL of our furniture found it’s way into my childhood bedroom. My bed was just a mattress on the floor, and I had three different dressers, none of which were filled with my clothes.

This time, my bed was back in its frame, but there are still quite a few pieces of furniture and packed boxes that don’t belong.

But I’m not complaining.

No really.

I’ve told my parents a dozen times that they should paint over my pink walls, take down my Marilyn Monroe posters and move in to the bigger room. But they won’t do it until I’m fully employed somewhere and out on my own for good.

But in my own mind — I’m already there.

When I was in college, my parents house was still my home.

It was my sanctuary. It was a pace away from roommates, homework and a break from the chaos.

But now, it’s just my parents house.

A place I visit. The place I grew up.

Now — as crazy as it sounds — I feel at home in my tiny, white walled, New Jersey apartment. And while I do miss my family and friends (a lot and often!), I don’t miss my home.

I’m not a person who dwells on the past. I have good memories and like to reminisce, but I feel like I’ve lived every part of my life (so far!) to the fullest.

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“Don’t let the past steal your present.”
–Terri Guillemets

This is the same reason that I don’t miss college.

I often lie when people ask “Don’t you miss Penn State?!” But the truth is… I don’t. I’ve moved on from that part of my life, and I’m happy where I’m at. I’m excited about what the future has to offer, and I would never want to take a step backward, even if I had the opportunity to relive something.

While it may be strange to go home to a place that no longer feels like mine, I know it is all for the best. It’s a sign of growing up and moving on.This is a turning point in my life where I am becoming my own person and starting to build my own family. I will never forget where I came from, but right now I’m more focused on where I’m headed.

 

What “Lean In” Means for Millennials

I originally thought “Lean In” was a book for feminists, working moms and female executives — in other words, not for me. I have never felt judged in the workplace by my gender, and I’ve never been held back just because I’m a woman (at least not to my knowledge).

And perhaps this is naivety or a sign of my lack of experience in the workforce. But I was always told growing up that I could do anything, and I’ve always believed that.

So, I really didn’t think I needed this book…

lean in

But, when my boss’s boss’s boss (yes, It is possible to be that low on the totem pole) said the book “changed her life” — I knew it was something I couldn’t ignore.

For the disbelievers out there, I recommend downloading the free sample from Kindle. Sheryl Sandberg dispels most of your doubts in the very first chapter and the next thing you know you’re forking over $12.99 to finish the book.

I am begging you. Add this to your summer reading list. You’ll thank me later.

“Lean In” opened my eyes to all of the sexism that goes on behind closed doors and the discrimination that isn’t always intended, but certainly exists.

Sexism isn’t always as simple as “You’re a girl, you can’t play” and “Lean In” isn’t about blaming men for all of women’s shortcomings. One of Sandberg’s key takeaways is that women also hold themselves and each other back from success.

Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter. 

We’re afraid — and that’s only half the battle. If a women is able to conquer fear and move up in her career, she is typically disliked by the majority of her female peers.

This has to stop.

As females we have to band together and support each other rather than fighting each other to the top. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

This idea in particular is why I think this book is so important for my generation to take in. As millennials enter the workforce and are beginning our careers, being aware of these discrepancies is the first step to fighting back.

I am very aware of the fear that holds me back each and every day.  As someone just starting her career, there is A LOT to be afraid of. But the one fear that I battle most often is the fear of being judged or not liked by my peers and my superiors.

Sandberg, too, has struggled with this, until she received an excellent piece of advice from Arianna Huffington. She said, it isn’t realistic to tell women not to care what others think or say about us — we just can’t let it consume us.

Her advice is that we should let ourselves react emotionally and feel whatever anger or sadness being criticized evokes for us. And then we should quickly move on. 

I like this tactic much better than “In one ear and out the other.”

I can’t ignore what others think about me, but I can learn to let it go. And other women starting their careers should learn to do the same.

If you want to change things you can’t please everyone. And if you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.

It is common knowledge that women make less money than men. In 2010, women made 77 cents for every dollar made by a man.

But in addition to the fear that holds women back, a lack of confidence can also be a major factor. Sandberg’s research shows that women, even experts in their field, do not feel confident in their abilities.

Women don’t give themselves the credit they deserve in the workplace and are less likely to take credit for a success than a male counterpart. Females typically attribute their success to luck, the help of others and hard work — while males cite innate qualities and skills for their achievements.

Do you know a girl who always seems to have it all — the guy? the job? perfect hair?

Her secret is simple…

Confidence.

Confidence breeds success and it helps us get what we want. Even in the dating scene an average-looking girl with the confidence of a 10 gets hit on more than a 10, who feels like a 5.

The way you carry yourself is important.

Sandberg says, when you don’t feel confident, fake it. We’ve all heard the saying “fake it til you make it” — but research actually backs it up. By acting like you have it all together, you will actually become more efficient.

“Lean In” is a call to action — and Millenials are a very important part of the change that needs to happen for women in the workplace.

We must begin our careers without fear, exude confidence in everything we do and take the credit we deserve.

But most of all, we have to come together as women. We have to hold the ladder for other women on their way to the top, in the hopes that someone will be there to hold it for us in the future.

I hope that you  — yes, you — have the ambition to lean in to your career and run the world. Because the world needs you to change it. Women all around the world are counting on you.

So ask yourself what would I do if I weren’t afraid?

And then go do it.