10 Notes to Self for 2016

Whether it’s the dwindling holiday sugar high, or my brainwaves centering to normal after some time off work, these are things I want to remember as we approach the new year.

1. Write more. Without considering the audience.

2. Take lots of walks. Summer will be here before we know it (not to be pessimistic butttttt it’s Phoenix) and I’ll be jonesing for the chance to exist outdoors without heatstroke.

3. Read my own books aloud to Lila. I did this when she was first born but have lapsed. It’s such a win though: quality time together, she hears more words and I get a blessed reprieve from Sandra Boynton. 

4. Listen to way more podcasts. I’m horrified to admit that I just started Serial. WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG? And Unorthodox is just too good.

5. Don’t worry twice. There are some things you plan for and take necessary precautions to prevent. But other stuff will just plain go wrong. Either way you spin it, it’s lame to spend chunks of time idly preoccupied.

6. Use your turn signals. Lately I’ve become an ass in this regard. My bad.

7. Make better eye contact. Ante up, introvert. 

8. Self care. It’s an ongoing and ever-so-important game of connect the dots. If it doesn’t happen, you’re left staring at a speckled page with glazed eyes and no motivation. Maybe it’s a glass of wine, a killer workout in the living room, baking muffins, browsing the aisles at Goodwill or spending the day in yoga pants. Whatever it is, DO it.

9. Be less fearful. Trust your instincts. See # 5. 

10. Do not stress about laundry. Ever. 

  

Gifts that matter.

There’s a big focus on material gifts this season. Lately, my blanket response when asked by relatives what our one-year-old wants, is “Please nothing plastic that makes noise.”

Said every toddler parent ever.

And while I’m still awkwardly avoiding my own shopping list, I do love the generosity the holidays inspire. And this year I’d like to suggest giving a different kind of gift in addition to those we’ll score at Target (where the endcaps get me EVERY TIME).

This month, please consider donating whole blood, platelets or plasma through the Red Cross​ or another local blood bank.

If you’re a regular donor – you’re awesome. If you’ve thought about it but felt squeamish or too busy, let this post be what moves you to be brave. Here’s why:

If heaven forbid, we or someone we love is in need of blood, we kind of just assume it will be available for us. We figure that accident victims, cancer patients and injured service members have plenty so we can pass on this. I’ll be the first to admit there are many things I’d rather do. But guys, sometimes babies and kiddos with cancer have to be admitted to hospitals when there isn’t a ready supply available. Because we aren’t acting. And that kills me.

The bad news is there’s a big ongoing shortage. The good news is this is a totally solvable problem we can all fix, for free!

Chew on this:

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Every. Two. Seconds.
  • More than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day.
  • More than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

How many of the 15 million units needed in the U.S. in 2016 might be for someone you love? How many of those did you and your family help contribute?

I don’t say this to bring doom and gloom to a joyous season, I present it as a fast, easy way to save someone’s life. And maybe I am trying to make you feel a bit guilty if you haven’t made time for this, because sometimes that’s what we need to act.

If you need any help finding a place to donate, I’m happy to help and I promise it doesn’t hurt. Plus, FREE COOKIES afterward. I like cookies a whole lot.

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Closer than I thought

Driving to work this morning I was felt kinda blah. My brain was on overload with all the things I had (and wanted) to do, and I started feeling like I was doing lots of things, and none of them well.

When motherhood is on pointe, I’m less prepared for business meetings. When dinner is homemade and healthy, I end up skipping a workout. When I meet my friends for wine, I miss quality time with my husband. Such is life, and it’s a natural give and take. But sometimes it’s just like MEH…I have 10 pots on the proverbial stove, and nothing ready to eat.

So anyway I’m driving, and stewing, as is my style. Trying to figure out how to put all the things into nice little boxes. And I flash back to watching Lila put together a puzzle yesterday.

She’s too little to understand what a puzzle is, and gets no more satisfaction from having one put together appropriately than can be expected from a toddler. But watching her try to place the oversized wooden pieces into their proper places is amazing. She finds such joy in studying them, trying them in different locations, and then exuberantly applauding for herself when she gets one in the semi-correct location (or gets distracted and throws it at the dog).

She doesn’t care about having everything perfectly lined up or finished, she simply delights in the process. She takes the experience at face value, embracing the fun, the challenge and the lesson.

So maybe I need to take a step back and approach my own life puzzles with this same attitude of determination and mindfulness.

Things are never going to all magically fall into their assigned slots, ever. And the more I make that perfectly finished puzzle my goal, the longer I’ll remain frustrated. So instead of trying to fix everything I’m working on, I think I need to reevaluate what I’m trying to achieve in all of this.

If it’s perfection, I’m doomed. But if it’s to learn and enjoy myself, I’m closer than I thought.

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Lean with it, roll with it.

We had Lila’s 15-month check up on Monday. Having missed and rescheduled it three times, there was NO WAY I was going to be late. We arrived 10 minutes early and I spent the next 15 minutes coaxing my child not to lick the waiting room doors and chairs. I dont care that it’s the well child room, pediatrician’s offices are the very reason hand sanitizer exists.

We finally got called back to a room, and it was an unusually long wait to see the doctor. We tried playing, and twirling around, and eating puffs, and reading…and then there was nothing that was going to appease this bored child any longer. Being a superstar mom I’d forgotten extra diapers, and even the most patient child would have gone batshit at this point of being confined and forbidden to lick strange surfaces while wearing a wet diaper.

So I started getting restless, and she picked up on it and started crying. And work was calling and texting and I’m like, please can you people let me be just a mom, and nothing else, for five minutes? Because that’s the rub in the motherhood/career thing. We’re needed in both, but each side has visibility into only its own stuff, so the overlap leaves us feeling a bit crazed.

Anyway, we kept waiting and waiting and at this point I’m sweating through my blazer and my hair is frizzing and ALL THE FRUSTRATIONS were happening.

But then I stopped to think about how absurd it was that I was upset over this. No one was going to die if I wasn’t at my meeting that morning. And a doctor running late, who had chosen to spend more time with another patient, is only doing her job. And seriously how many thousands of mommas around the world were praying at that very moment for what I was complaining about. How many would give anything, and are giving up everything, to find a safe country to live in with access to great healthcare. I felt like a really big jerk for finding anything to complain about in this situation.

I told my cortisol levels to take a chill pill and I took Lila on a walk around the office (she was wearing only a diaper – whoops!) and then 20 minutes later we were on our way, blessed with a perfect health report.

Perspective tends to flee when we’re stressed, but if we can step our of our drama and our own heads to look at what’s really going on, it’s so much easier to just roll with it.

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Scales are stupid, and other musings

Eight months ago I began leading groups of women on their journeys toward better health, and for the past 20ish years — until very recently when that venture began — I’ve worried that I was fat.

I’ve been so unkind to my body for so many years, all as a slave to the almighty scale. And I’m kind of done.

I remember in first grade, looking at a girl next to me in class as we sat reading, feeling self-conscious that my legs were bigger than hers. I was six.

I remember in 8th grade, we had to get our height and weight measured twice a year, and I would FREAK OUT inside my head as the day approached. What if someone in line behind me overheard our gym teacher as she told me mine? If I knew what day it was coming I would fake sick to miss it. I was 13.

In high school, as I saw what made certain girls popular, I considered if I should try to starve myself. I was 16.

In college, when friends in my dorm made late-night pizza orders, I vowed that I would only ever eat the crust, so I could avoid the fat and oil in the cheese. I was 18.

These are actual thoughts — nothing I’m fabricating — that a straight-A student with engaged parents and a strong support system had. I think to some extent many of us share similar memories: we’ve all felt the excessive pressure to look a certain way, and so much of that is centered around our weight.

I’ve always loved exercising and paid attention to what I put in my body, but I admit now that for many years it was for the wrong reasons. It wasn’t to help my body run efficiently or to feel strong, it was always to lose weight. As if losing 5 pounds would magically change my entire world. I had no problem spending an entire Saturday at the gym in a desperate attempt to ‘burn off’ what I had eaten the previous day. Makes me cringe to think about this now.

So, what changed? 3 things:

  1. Pregnancy. Creating a life takes your body out of your control in a forcefully magical way, and the experience teaches you how amazing your body is and all it is capable of. After having Lila, sure part of me wanted to lose the ‘baby weight’ and feel good about my appearance, but I hated the pressure to completely and immediately revert to my ‘old body.’ It somehow dishonored the amazing shit my body had just done for a year by having to eradicate every trace of it.
  2. Raising a daughter. I’ve become so much more aware of the words I choose to speak about myself and my activities with a tiny little gal in our world. While she’s only just starting to form words, I know how much Lila can perceive through my words, actions and energy. I want to be a role model for her and not just another source of pressure. I do not have to work out, I get to workout. I do not work out to be skinny, I workout to be healthy and strong. This is as much an exercise for myself as it’s an example for her.
  3. Being introduced to Beachbody programs and Shakeology. These are things that are still funny for me to admit because I always scoffed at them, but using the 21 Day Fix and Shakeology changed my life. I finally realized, in my 30s, that being strong and healthy is what matters – not a number on a scale. I can look and feel my best without being chained to my weight. The way these products have influenced my life is truly profound, and as a coach, connecting other women to them is a privilege. You see, it’s not me selling a quick fix or promoting a certain physical ideal — it’s simply helping others find the tools and accountability to feel better.

But back to why I hate scales.

Since March, I’ve led more than 100 women through the 21 Day Fix, and it never fails that every week or two I’ll get this feedback in a text or an email when I check in with people: “Hi! I feel great and my clothes fit better, but the scale isn’t moving so I’m really frustrated.”

Think about that sentence for a second. You’re essentially saying that you feel better and your body has made positive changes, but because a simple measurement hasn’t shifted, it’s all in vain?

Scales are a single measurement tool, and one that is fairly one-dimensional. Is our performance at work defined by just one metric? “Well Jessica, you’re always on time, have a great attitude and meet your deadlines, but your PowerPoint presentations are pretty disorganized, so no raise for you this year!” Do we love our friends any less if they are always good listeners, generous hosts and babysit our kids on a moment’s notice, but forget a birthday card one year? No! That would be ridiculous, and that’s how I feel about people only focusing on the scale as an indicator of success. I’m not saying we need to disregard the scale completely and go all Office Space-copy-machine on it, but just take your weight with a grain of salt. Incorporate what you weigh no more than once a week, in conjunction with how you feel and how your clothes fit, and instead track how your overall measurements are changing.

Scales don’t factor in body composition changes, like muscle gains (which can make you weigh more while taking up less space). Scales don’t consider things like sodium and hormones and drinking 8 glasses of water a day that can falsely make you weigh more. Scales don’t know how your skinny jeans fit or if your face is thinning out or if you can lift heavier weights than you could last week.

So, my friends. My point here is to be gentle with yourselves. Work hard toward your goals, but know what’s driving them and if your heart is in the right place. The scale will move when it needs to, but what I really hope for you is that your mind feels lighter as you feel healthier.

If you’re ever interested in joining one of my private health accountability groups on Facebook, comment here or send me an email: jesstaylorfitness@gmail.com. Everyone is welcome and no purchase is required, ever. And if you want to know what the 21 Day Fix and Shakeology are all about while they’re on sale this month, here’s a link to the products on my site.

xoxo

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Lest You Think I Have My Sh*t Together

I feel like the theme of last week was the emotional version of what it feels like to walk on ice. You start out gingerly, slowly gaining a bit of speed…then BAM! Feet fly out from under you and you’re flat on your tush. Every time. Disoriented, you get up and start moving again – with a little more knowledge of the process – but still sore from the learning.

Last week wasn’t a bad week but it was a hard one. Lila switched daycare rooms, and while day one went off without a hitch (yes, she slept on the magical baby cots), days two through five were less good. Each day started with her losing her mind screaming as I tried to leave. The kind of screams where I furtively duck out of her room because the entire building can hear “that baby.” It’s a natural phase and it won’t last forever, but it kind of makes me feel like garbage to walk away from my screaming child. I choose to work, and I like to work. Some days I feel like Super Mom; others I want to cry under my desk and eat Rolos because it all feels terrible.

It was just a week of small struggles. Getting to daycare and realizing Lila has one shoe on. Getting to work and realizing my lunch is on the kichen counter and there’s somehow black grease all over my skirt. Driving across town for meetings before learning they were cancelled. Leaving extra early to get the baby’s medicine, only to realize your local Walgreen’s doesn’t open until 8, because of course. Small stuff, just stuff.

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Sometimes I think about the different views people get into my life, based on the snippets that are visible to them. Not in the sense that I’m censoring things, but purely as a matter of timing. In the midst of last week I got a few messages from friends with unexpected compliments or kind words. And I kind of felt like a fraud accepting them. And wanted to respond, “Heyyyy if you saw what was actually happening in my life at this very moment, you’d eat those words.” Says the mom who just watched her child fingerpaint the kitchen floor with vomit.

I almost felt defensive about not wanting people to think I had my act together, or that it ever feels easy for me. Not in a self-deprecating way – I just don’t think it’s fair to let anyone else think that my life is easier or better. We all struggle with our own stuff everyday. No one’s doing it better than anyone else.

I was exchanging messages with a friend about some of this and the other things we struggle with as women. Little things and big things. Body image, messy houses, time management (there really aren’t enough hours in the day, we know this). Nothing extraordinary, but things I think a lot of us worry we’re battling alone. And it’s not that misery loves company, but there’s something amazing in knowing that whatever you’re struggling with has happened to others. It makes you realize that: a) you’re not alone, or unusual for what you’re experiencing, and b) it gets better.

I was wowed again at how often the most reassuring words in the world are some variation of “me too.”

My friend explained her son went through the exact same stage with daycare, and that he’s fine now. And that I’m doing ok. She also reminded me that behind every challenge we pass, there’s usually another waiting in the wings, but just knowing others are making it is so powerful.

If you’ve ever run a race and wanted to quit toward the end, but then saw the folks who finished before you on the sidelines cheering you on – it’s that kind of goosebump feeling. We’re all in this together.

focused fear

This weekend my yoga teacher spoke of fearlessness, and identifying where your fears are focused. It’s often not on the immediate or tangible things we might mention. Rather, it’s the much larger but harder-to-define impact that we blame, sometimes without even knowing it.

In this case, leaving a comfortable corporate job and paycheck created short-term fear about paying bills and measuring success among one’s peers. But the larger fear of not being truly happy is what spurred this person to act.

What if I leave this job and can’t make $xx and pay my rent?

What if I stay in this job and in 10 years realize I’ve wasted some of my best years in an unfulfilling role?

It made me think about how often I’ve stayed in situations or fled situations as a result of my short-term fears, without focusing enough on my long-term ones. Without identifying the underlying force, it’s hard to ever address it.

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