Health/Fitness

Halloween Hodge Podge: October Link Round-up

There's all kinds of fun stuff cookin' for our round-up this month, so let's dig right in! On the subject of cooking -- I am proud to announce that I have come up with a . . . wait for it . . . second recipe for my one-trick-pony cooking arsenal. I do have a handful of others I'm slowly mastering, but this is the next one ready for public consumption :)

Chia Seed Psuedo-Dessert

This isn't so much of a recipe as a concoction, but I'm enjoying it nonetheless! It is inspired by Inna, who sent me an awesome article on the power of Chia seeds.

  • Empty one container of Greek Yogurt into a bowl
  • Mix 1-2 tablespoons of Chia seeds into  yogurt and stir well; let sit for 20 minutes (the Chia seeds need time to expand to an almost tapioca-like state)
  • Optional: mix in honey and/or half a packet of Justin's Honey Almond Butter
  • Add blueberries, raspberries and sliced banana (or fruit of your choice)
  • Optional: refrigerate again so it gets cold (I usually make this before I eat dinner, then have it ready to eat later)
  • Final step: ENJOY! Better than a bowl of Ben & Jerry's amiright?! Okay fine, I hear you, there's no substitue for that. But maybe it will come close.

Fun features around the web

Free ebooks and resources

There's something in the fall air -- in the last month I've noticed quite a few free (awesome) ebooks make their way onto the Internet. Here are a few to check out:

Ignorance is Not Bliss Webinar Reminder

As I mentioned in last week's "Ignorance is not bliss" post on common business mistakes, I’m excited to host Kyle for a free overview and Q&A session this Thursday at 3pm ET to explain the material and answer your questions.

Kyle will walk us through the most common mistakes new small business owners make, then we’ll open things up for live questions at the end. You can enroll for the webinar here — and no worries if you can’t make it — we’ll send out the recording afterward.

Make Sh*t Happen Round 3: That's a Wrap!

We've just completed the third Make Sh*t Happen course and I am beaming like a proud mom over what the amazing crew was able to accomplish.

A few highlights:

In alumni news:

There's much much more happening than what I shared above (which I'm barely doing justice), including some amazing health and fitness progress too. I'm gearing up for a big re-launch in January to kick of 2013 with a bang, so sign-up here to be on the early notification list!

A crazy reminder about identify theft

My brother sent me this article a little while back that talks about the "amazing mind reader" video in which a man uses technology to get all kinds of personal information from unknowing strangers, just from what was sitting in their pockets.

From the article, PSA Uses ‘Psychic’ to Demonstrate Dangers of Sharing Personal Info Online:

Do you really need pyschic abilities to know intimate details about a stranger? Maybe not. A new video from Belgium that hit it big on Reddit and YouTube is proving that, thanks to the Internet and social media, learning a person's deepest secrets and even just mundane info such as his or her favorite color or best friend's name is only a few clicks away.

The video is actually a public service announcement titled, "Amazing Mind Reader Reveals His Gift." It begins with random people being selected from the streets of Brussels. They are asked if they would like to participate in an upcoming TV program featuring Dave, described as a gifted clairvoyant. Once they agree, they are ushered into a white tent to meet Dave. He hugs them and dances around as he seemingly tries to get a sense of the person's energy. As people are seated across from him, Dave tells them random facts about them, from the color of the motorcycle they own to their bank account number and even the types and locations of their tattoos.

As the unassuming subjects become absorbed in Dave's trance and the factual information he is providing, the truth behind his magic is revealed. A curtain drops, and behind it is a group of computer hackers dressed in all black searching the Internet for information about each of the individuals.

See for yourself in the video:

[youtube id="F7pYHN9iC9I"]

Made Sh*t Happen: How Devin Termini lost 85 Pounds and Changed His Life

I got a message this weekend that dropped my jaw to the floor. Longtime LAC reader and two-time Make Sh*t Happen alumni, Devin Termini, had triumphantly reached his goal of losing 85 pounds (!!!) in just ten months. Check out this amazing before-and-after photo:

Beast mode indeed!! As part of the course, I provide 50+ case studies of people doing amazing things -- big thanks to Devin for graciously agreeing to make his public! I hope you enjoy the interview below and following his journey as much as I have :)

Before we jump in: the Fall Make Sh*t Happen course is still open for enrollment until Sunday, August 5 (or until the 50 spots fill up). If Devin's story resonates and you've got a big idea of you're own that you'd love to activate, I would be thrilled to have you join us!

Interview with Devin Termini: How I Lost 85 Pounds in 10 Months

ABOUT: Describe your goal in more detail - what did it involve? What inspired you to go after it? During my time in Make Sh*t Happen I declared that I would lose 85 pounds in ten months. My milestone for the end of the MSH course was to lose 30 pounds in eight short weeks.

COURAGE: How did you build the courage to actually do it? How did you know it was time? A favorite nugget of Jenny Blake wisdom is that so much of confidence (and courage) is a choice. For so long I was waiting to be "ready" to take on this goal. I would tell myself that I'd lose weight when if "felt right."

For me, I had to make peace with the fact that there is no right time. It will never feel right. I had let myself go and there was no easy way to climb out of the hole I had dug for myself.

VALUES: Why was this goal important to you? What purpose did it serve? What underlying values did it honor? I've always known that achieving this goal would be the catalyst to a larger life change. I want to live vibrantly, loudly, and confidently. Most of all, I wanted to increase the amount of happiness and fun in my life. Unfortunately, none of these things are directly measurable in my opinion.

To make these changes I decided to work on an area of my life that I let get wildly out of control. My weight and overall health. I believe that different aspects of our selves, that are seemingly separate, are actually tightly connected. In my case by focusing on improving health and wellness my confidence and mood will improve.

I weighed a slovenly 275 pounds, and since I've already argued that pieces of ourselves are so tightly connected, I'll let you draw conclusions on my confidence levels, mood, and overall satisfaction with life. I was barely surviving, not thriving. Mild physical activity such as climbing stairs was exhausting. I felt weak and tired on days that ended in y. I knew that my diet and lifestyle were draining what little energy I had.

I recall averting my eyes when I'd catch my reflection in mirrors. Shopping for clothes was painful. To make matters worse, every now and again I'd have to upgrade to a larger size. To be honest, I didn't really care to be around people most of the time. Being around people typically breeds conversation, and conversation that challenged me wasn't something I wanted to hear. It was easier for me to go home and eat to make myself "happy."

I was stuck in a terrible cycle. It was time to change.

FEAR/DOUBTS: What were your biggest fears, doubts and insecurities before starting? What barriers (real or imagined) were in your way? I did have some anxieties when starting on this goal. What nutrition plan should I follow? What will I do if the diet doesn't work? What happens if I don't hit my milestone? Is my weight loss goal even realistic? Will I fit in at the gym?

Even though all these crazy thoughts raced through my head, one of the things that set me up for success was that I was more afraid of staying fat and unhappy than I was about any of my anxieties. This served as an incredible motivator for me.

As an added bonus, those little anxieties almost completely went away for me the moment I started to take action on the goal. Another Jenny Blake-ism -- action, no matter how small, can quiet an inner critic.

SUPPORT: Who held you accountable to your goal? Were friends and family supportive, or did they think you were crazy? Weeks before I committed to this goal I had recently relocated to Southern California to start a new job. This was both a definite advantage and disadvantage. I was almost entirely cut off from any existing support system but I also had a fresh start. I could form new habits and mingle with new people who shared similar goals. I told some old friends about my plan, and they thought my long term goal was a bit extreme, but they agreed that I needed a change.

I had the full support of Jenny, my triad, and the MSH family to help me achieve this goal. Every week I would report to the triad and wanted to share a win with them. Some weeks were better than others, but hearing their encouragement really helped me when I was just getting started.

Also a trainer at my gym took an interest in my journey and would check up on how I was progressing.

THE DIP: Was there ever a moment/period if time that you felt you had hit a dip (felt like a failure and/or wanted to quit)? I felt the dip hit me like a freight train right on cue about the same time that Jenny presented it in the MSH course. I had some significant initial weight loss, but that slowed down to a near halt within several weeks. I was doing everything "right" and it was a lot of work to keep my diet and exercise were in check. I felt like I was putting in so much effort and getting nowhere. I was sore, tired, and I wanted to stop.

Was the diet wrong? Too much food? Too little food? Was I exercising too little? Too much? A myriad of questions, doubts, and frustrations filled my mind.

Fortunately, all I needed was some fortitude and patience. Within another week or so things started clicking again. I began getting stronger and leaner.

SUCCESS! How did you feel after accomplishing your goal? What did you learn about yourself in the process? What are you most proud of? I accomplished this goal exactly as I said I would. I lost 85 pounds in exactly ten months. However, I didn't always think that I would finish. In the beginning I hoped to lose the weight. I thought if I picked a big enough goal and only got a quarter of the way there, then I would have accomplished something, right?

It was only at the END of MSH then that I realized that I could actually achieve this goal. It changed from being a hope and a dream to something real and tangible. I now had the skills and fortitude to see this through to the end. At the time I had lost twenty four pounds and recall thinking to myself "only sixty one more pounds, no problem." Holy f*cking shit, did I just believe in myself again? This felt so incredibly empowering and gave me exactly what I needed to see this through.

In my opinion, the most important resource we have is belief.

Completing this goal has been the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Accomplishing this allowed me to prove to myself how much power I truly have. If I can do this, I can do ANYTHING! I feel powerful, vibrant, present, and alive.

ADVICE: What advice would you give to future Make Sh*t Happeners? What would you say to those who are afraid to start or afraid to fail? What advice would you give to others in pursuit of a similar goal to yours? During my journey I kept a fairly detailed nutrition and exercise log. I had to make many adjustments to my routine in order to find what works and here's a few things I learned along the way. These are in order for a reason.

  1. Do not decide to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve performance. That will come later. Decide to change your life. As an active individual your entire life must be able to accommodate this new you. Make the appropriate changes to operate in this way. Get more sleep. Join a gym close to work or home. Buy tupperware and cook tomorrow's meals tonight. Spend the extra cash on good running shoes. Decide that today you are an athlete. Whether you're 50 or 500 pounds, you're an athlete. Want to look like an athlete? Act like one.
  2. You are what you eat. Literally. Within 7 years every cell in your body is replaced. Bones and all. From what sources does your body renew itself? Food. Lean meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds and some fruits should be the mainstay of your diet. People will argue with me here, but as long as your diet focuses on whole and nutrient-dense foods you'll be off to a great start.
  3. Less alcohol, more water. Don't drink calories. If you absolutely must drink alcohol, stick to spirits. Beer is the worst. Sugar, yeast, calories, gluten. No good.
  4. Dedicate yourself completely. Lots of people say "I've tried every diet and none of them work!" This is bullshit. All diets work. You just have to do them right and put in the effort. There are no shortcuts or any magic pills for weight loss.
  5. Measure yourself. If you're doing a diet and exercise program right you'll see measurable results in a few short days. DAYS! Buy a good scale and measuring tape to help you visualize your results when the scale stops moving. If you can get your body fat percentage measured, do.
  6. Exercise. This will account for about 20% of your results. If you aren't making the dietary and lifestyle changes no amount of exercise will make any significant changes. Find something that you truly enjoy and do it every day. Running, weight-lifting, baseball, crossfit, tennis, yoga, whatever. Work hard at it. Very damn hard. You will want to quit. You will sweat. You'll bleed. You'll cry. But you won't quit, right? Set new performance related goals here.
  7. Get back up. You will fall off the wagon. You'll miss workouts. You'll eat a piece of cake when you shouldn't have. Shake it off and keep working. It gets easier, I promise.

I'm not sure I could have done this alone. The MSH class and community gave me the encouragement and support I needed to get started with this goal. My life is truly changed. From my deepest self, thank you.

Now it's time to go make more sh*t happen.

***

Standing ovation

I am so incredibly proud of Devin and grateful that he was willing to share his story in such detail -- if it resonated with you, please let him know in the comments! 

MSH Enrollment

As I mentioned above, enrollment is open through Sunday. Read more about the program here or if it's already calling your name, grab a spot before the class fills up!

A few reminders: 

  • You'll receive 10 weeks of guided content: weekly videos, 5 live group Q&A calls with me, 100+ pages of reading material, reflection exercises, and group discussion prompts. You will also be assigned to a triad of three people to help you reflect on your progress and hold you accountable week-by-week.

  • There are 50 spots open, available on a first-come first-serve basis. I'm deliberately keeping the class small so that we can create a tight-knit, awesome community. The course starts on August 6 and will complete at the end of October. Enrollment ends on Sunday, August 5 or once the 50 spots are taken (whichever comes first).

  • Finally, as an MSH course participant, you'll receive lifetime access to the MSH Alumni group on Facebook, and will have the opportunity to audit the class for free during any future sessions.

  • I recently conducted an hour-long Make Sh*t Happen Crash Course Webinar -- even if you don’t take the full course, this recording will give you a feel for what we cover and to formula for how to bulldoze your barriers to go after your biggest dreams.

Onward!

Eat. Sleep. Yoga. Part Two: Re-Entry.

Rainbow from White Lotus Re-entering the "real world" after 16-days of actual rainbows and sunshine in Santa Barbara was a major shock to my system, as I alluded to in Part 1:

"I’ve been working harder every day but feeling like I am falling farther and farther behind. I’ve felt exhausted to the core; disappointed and helpless as I watched (mortified and even ashamed at) how quickly the clarity and calm from White Lotus escaped me."

On the first day back I could already feel anxiety pulsing through every vein. My breath was short and I ran around like a maniac all day re-arranging a room in my house (more below) as an avoidance tactic to delay diving into the massive amount of work that had piled up while I was gone.

Ganga and Tracy taught us to breathe - that breath is life - and to treat our whole day as our yoga - but I quickly spiraled into a nervous, compulsive, frenzied state. I wanted so badly to carry that zen, relaxed, peaceful yogini-self with me into my normal life. I wanted to change the way I work and commit to habits that would sustain me over the long-term, especially as I prepare to launch and promote my book next year.

Double Rainbow from White Lotus

By my second day back I was feeling semi totally panicked about how much I had on my plate. I felt like I was sinking faster by the minute in productivity quicksand. Every day I woke up earlier to start working, but every day I ended farther behind. Balancing a full plate at work, the final-final-final edits of my book and drama over the cover (it goes to press any day now) was wearing on me. Without my full emotional faculties, every text message, phone call, email request and social commitment that piled up felt increasingly suffocating.

By last Friday, I was a total wreck. A hot, hot mess. Case in point: I made myself my first coffee in a loooong time so that I could survive the afternoon slump, then ended up spilling it all over the table five minutes before starting to deliver a three-hour training, eyes still red and puffy from crying hysterically that morning as I was getting dressed for work. Feeling guilty but in survival mode, I regretfully cancelled all weekend plans (again) so I could try to get my life in order (again).

I'm not trying to be dramatic - I know that people have it so much worse than I do. I am ridiculously lucky to have the problems I have (and the unwavering support of my friends and blogger BFF Elisa). At the same time, I am determined to start solving these problems for myself and others who get overwhelmed by the big shoes they are trying to fill.

"Our culture has an excess of doing and a poverty of being" - Ganga White

People often tell me to stop doing so much, to slow down, or to go easy on myself. It sounds so easy. But that doesn't change the number of deadlines at work or with the book, or the number of email requests in my inbox. If I knew how to change the situation, I would. But somehow I keep ending up back here.

Here is my pattern (which may be blindingly obvious to long-time blog readers):

  1. Work too hard for too long.
  2. Get overwhelmed and resentful.
  3. Feel as though I've lost myself.
  4. Fall out of sleep and exercise habits that keep me happy and healthy.
  5. Get sick and/or break down.
  6. Force myself to slow down.
  7. Feel guilty about not being able to keep up with all friends in all corners of the world.
  8. Gremlin tells me soon I won't even have friends (or blog readers) if I keep complaining about feeling overwhelmed and ditching everyone to go into "emergency mode." (Gremlin also kicks in to tell me not to publish this post because it's too Debbie Downer).
  9. Promise to change.
  10. Try my very best to actually change and put myself first...
  11. Fall back into old habits.
  12. Feel like I'm lacking the magic sanity-management skillset that others seem to have.
  13. Repeat steps 1-12.

I feel compelled to quote Ganga's wise words once more. This is what I would like to strive for instead of the pattern above:

White Lotus from a pond on-siteSit under the stars with a quiet mind and no goal. Be attentive to all things in life. Honor yourself. Laugh at yourself. Listen to the voice of your own body. Carry joy and light on your path. Listen to the wise, but always question. Truth and love are simple and ever present. —Ganga White, Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice

Even though the first week back was rough, all was not lost.

Here are some positive changes I have made:

  • I've gone coffee free (in an effort to get my natural energy back) - I've only had coffee once in two months (to give me a boost for my 5-hour drive back from Santa Barbara). I started cold turkey when I did the Clean Program cleanse about a month ago, and have been really focusing on letting my body return to it's natural energy rhythms. It feels great - I can already tell I am way less tired in the afternoons.
  • I have been eating mostly vegetarian, and significantly reduced my dairy intake. This change was inspired by White Lotus where we ate delicious vegetarian meals every day and watched Food, Inc. (an incredibly powerful and shocking movie from Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation). I also recently read and was encouraged by Michael Pollan's Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. His core principle: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." Pollan has two other great books worth checking out: In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and The Omnivore's Dilemma.
  • On my first day back, I gave away my TV (for free!) - I knew it was now or never -- and was curious to see if I could survive without a TV...another seemingly impossible feat. I figure without TV I will be more likely to read, write and think -- all things I could definitely use more of. If I were smarter I would have waited until after football season, but hey -- this might also encourage me to actually leave the house!
  • Taught my first (private) yoga class - I am excited about finishing my certification, which means teaching 20 group classes and 5 private sessions (I'll gladly take volunteers if you're in the area!). I successfully fumbled through teaching my first class last weekend, and I know it will only get easier from here. I also really want to make time for my own yoga practice every day - even if it's only 10 minutes. Now if only I could figure out what my recurring dream/nightmare about teaching an unruly yoga class means (twice now I've dreamed about teaching a class that rebels and stops paying attention to me).
  • Created an "essential self" sanctuary - this is the change I am most excited about. While at training I found myself longing for a dedicated yoga space. In an "aha moment" I realized that I've used my dining room about once in the last year. I never cook and I never work at the table, so it seems ridiculous to have a whole corner of my house go unused 99% of the time. So on my first day back I spent the whole day re-decorating to create a yoga/reading room with books, magazines, candles and all kinds of zen paraphernalia. I also bought a gratitude journal to keep in there -- before leaving the room, I make a point to write something in it.

BEFORE (the dining room I never used) . . . and AFTER (the yoga zen room!):

BEFORE: The dining room I never used.After - The Yoga Zen Room!

All of the great art on the wall is my dad's - online portfolio here.

***

My friend Julie is writing a book on this very subject - navigating work in a 24/7 world. We would both love to hear from you:

What is your biggest challenge in managing your work in the global, digital age? What related problem/s would you want help solving?

Eat. Sleep. Yoga. Part One: White Lotus

I waited a week after returning home to write this post in hopes that putting my experience into words would be a little easier. If anything, it feels harder. The sixteen days felt simultaneously like a lifetime and a fleeting moment. This post feels like a karaoke rendition of my favorite song - there is no way I will do the experience justice, but I'm going to grab the mic and give it a shot anyway.

"It has been said that the highest learning comes in four parts: One part is learned from teachers; another part from fellow students; a third part from self-study and practice; and the final part comes mysteriously, silently, in the due course of time."

—Ganga White (a very wise, humble and hilarious teacher and yoga legend) in his book, Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice

I went skidding into the White Lotus Teacher Training program at 100 miles per hour, tired and burned out, desperate for some quiet time to think and reflect and soul-search.

White Lotus delivered. I am pretty sure I died and went to heaven for 16 days. Studying yoga from sun-up to sun-down, napping, hiking, "cartoon sweating" during intense practices (hi Polly!), dancing to Black Eyed Peas with Ganga and Tracy (our teachers) or doing Intuitive Yoga during others; dedicating an entire afternoon to learning the mechanics of triangle pose or downward dog, eating delicious (mostly vegan) food prepared with love, and forming a yoga family with 30 other kindred spirits -- it all rocked my soul to the core...in the best possible way (my girl Sarah did an awesome job recapping everything).

Three trees (balancing on a rock on the edge of a cliff is harder than you might think):

Jenny - Tree Pose Jenny in Tree Pose

For those of you who know me well, you know that I don't miss an opportunity to turn major experiences into metaphors for life (see: river rafting, triathlon and marathon). The life lessons I got from yoga teacher training were reminders -- gems that deep down I already knew but that had gotten rusty amidst the whirlwind of life. Below are five of the countless lessons I will take with me from White Lotus.

Five Life Reminders from Yoga Teacher Training

1. Comparison is a losing game - I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Yoga (and life) is not about who can do what better. It is about how you feel on the inside. It is about feeling graceful and powerful; about feeling energy radiating through every pore, shooting out from fingertip to fingertip. All bodies are different. All lives are different. Focus on your lines, your practice, and living with integrity in your own life. Look to others not as a yardstick for comparison, but as an instrument for inspiration - you might be surprised to find you have those same qualities within yourself.

2. "Yoga doesn't 'take time' -- it gives time." This quote is from Ganga's book and it is so true. The things we love don't take time, they give it. Don't "make time" to do the things you love. Do the things you love, and you will find time in new and unexpected places for everything else.

3. The hard work is not in your to-do list. The hard work is in fiercely committing to things that energize and replenish you. Sometimes I feel like I am WORKING SO HARD (a weightlifter on steroids comes to mind) to get everything on my to-do list done. And yet, if I put half as much energy and attention into doing yoga, meditation, and carving out quiet time, I would be so much better off - so much less strain in my life. Feeling happy and balanced takes WORK - it is not easy. I want to focus my "hard work" on the things that really matter in my life - and trust that it will only help the smaller tasks to get done with more clarity and creativity.

4. Pain is an information system. This gem also comes from Ganga who taught us to listen to our pain, which is only trying to help us. Does pressing through the pain make it better or worse? What are the contributing factors? Without pain, we would have no warning system to stop destructive behavior, habits or diseases. What is your pain trying to tell you?

5. Our teachers are all around us. I learned so much from Ganga and Tracy, but also from the 30+ people I spent those 16 days with. I learned from the weather, from the land, and even from my crazy dreams (I was mortified one day after loudly jolting up with a gasp during Savasana while everyone was laying down...I had fallen asleep and was convinced that that a spider was crawling on my face. OOPS.)

Here's a 1-minute video tour of Yurt Village from the first day:

Here is a 1-minute video of me describing a typical day (you may need to turn your volume up - lesson learned that Flip cams have a hard time picking up my 6am whisper voice):

The first week of the rest of my life

I spend so much of my time online, hunched over my desk, buried in computers at Google and at home. Yoga helps me unwind, destress, and connect with myself again. It helps me stand tall and exhale. Becoming a yoga teacher was something I have secretly wanted to do for a long time, but for a while was terrified to admit out loud (for fear of not being ready...or good at it). I can't describe the elation I felt after delivering my 10-minute class (our "final exam") and realizing that I have just kicked a new door of my life wide open.

I'm thrilled to have a way to share the yoga gift - the ongoing, ever-changing alignment of mind, body and spirit - with others. I love having another way to unwind and express myself and physically amidst all of the "brain work." I'm hoping to start teaching workshops for teen girls, and maybe even incorporate yoga classes (and cupcakes!) as part of my book tour. This training came at a perfect time in my life (albeit a busy one), and I can't wait to see where the path will lead.

Stay tuned for part two of this post, where I discuss re-entry after being largely unplugged for two weeks.

Sneak preview: jumping back into the chaos of managing a full-time job at Google while catching up from being gone and balancing the last and final stages of the book project absolutely KICKED MY ASS. Up, down and sideways. I've been a hot emotional mess, working harder every day but feeling like I was (am) falling farther and farther behind. I've felt exhausted to the core; disappointed and helpless as I watched (mortified and even ashamed at) how quickly the clarity and calm from White Lotus escaped me. So more life lessons to follow soon in Part 2...

***

Two more pictures just for fun:

Jenny & Keith - Partner Yoga