Intellectual Wellness: What Happened to Research?

Perhaps it is only because this is my blog that I realize I haven’t done any reviews or sharing of wellness news articles lately, but honestly it is because this time of year irritates me. No, I’m not a holiday hater. I actually love the holidays. But I hate that everyone seems to be fixated on weight and weightloss or maintaining weight or calories…ug. It always irritates me. I hate going to my wellness news sites and just seeing article after article about weight. That’s not wellness. Yes, it is a part of wellness, but come on…there is so much more to wellness than weight! Why can’t there be a money saving article for financial wellness? Or how to spend time with people while also being active for physical wellness? Or any environmental wellness tips during this season when people are typically out driving a lot…there is just so much more to write on for wellness then weight.

So this holiday season, regardless of your beliefs or joy or celebration methods, do me a favor…don’t fixate on the weight portion as much. Also, here are a few of my favorite tips for making it through the holiday season with your hair…(b/c I usually want to rip my hair out when I get stressed).

1.) Instead of driving around to look at holiday lights, why not walk/run around your neighborhood (or drive to a neighborhood you want to check out and park you vehicle and walk around). This let’s you be active and let’s you look at the lights for even longer. Plus, even when it is cold out, I love warming back up. When you get home have some hot apple cider or hot chocolate (for the adults, spiked hot cocoa is tasty with a mint liquor) and enjoy a hot bowl of soup. If you miss the joy of driving around looking at holiday lights and listening to holiday music, just take you phone/music player of choice! Just make sure that if you are going at night, you wear light colored clothing and bust out some reflective gear and generally be safe!

2.) To help relieve some of the financial stress of the holiday season you could be like my sister and start shopping early. Or you can do what I am doing this year. I have 6 people I need to buy gifts for so I spaced out the buying process over 3 pay periods so my bank account doesn’t take as big of a hit for Christmas presents then if I would buy all 6 at the same time. Another thing to keep in mind is that it is ok to say no and it is ok to not reciprocate a gift (obviously say thank you and express your gratitude) but if someone gets you a gift that you weren’t expecting…it’s ok to be grateful but you don’t have to reciprocate it. Also, with people you are giving gifts to, agree upon a spending limit. And then stick to the agreed spending limit.

3.) Car pool! My sister and I do this to help save on gas and wear and tear on our vehicles. One of us drives for Thanksgiving and the other one drives for Christmas (it works since we live about 45 minutes away from each other…and she is on my way home so we always meet where she lives). But also for holiday parties that might be happening, car pooling is a great way to meet some environmental wellness needs and it also helps with the stress of finding a parking spot and all that.

4.) Enjoy the holidays. It is really easy to get caught up in the stress of the holidays, but try to just enjoy it.

Intellectual Wellness: Life Lessons in Dwell?

Yup! You read right! The other night I was reading Dwell and the editor’s note really struck a chord with me. This month’s issue is all about how people have made these small, tiny houses work for them and fill them with only the necessities. And because I’m nowhere near the writer that Amanda Dameron is, I wanted to share the section that I loved.

Modern design is about making informed decisions based on an appreciation for materials and methodology-it’s not about replicating a “look” and it’s certainly not a style that’s dictated by furniture and fixtures. It’s about choice. Choose to incorporate good design into your home, and every home you have will be as big as you need it to be.” (Editor’s Note, Dwell, November 2013)

I feel like Dameron is definitely speaking to more than just your house and furniture. Because if you think about your life using this same theory, you can see the direct implications. You aren’t looking to replicate a certain person, but build your unique self. And by incorporating good elements, you can make yourself the best version of you. Perhaps it’s just me being overly analytical, but for some reason after I read this I was just like, “Damn, that’s good stuff!”

Intellectual Wellness: The Battle of Reality.

Last night I was trying to hamburgers hot dogs hustle my buns up after my shower so I could watch the Voice (my guilty pleasure show) and I caught the tail end of Biggest Loser. Having been in a health/wellness community on my personal blog for so long, I had heard everyone’s gripes and groans about the biggest loser, but had never really watched it myself. And I’ll be honest that they only time that I have ever watched it is when it is one right before a show that I actually want to watch. I just can’t bring myself to watch it.

But Vanessa, I distinctly remember you LOVING Extreme Weight Loss…why won’t you watch Biggest Loser? You may be asking yourself. Well…I like Extreme Weight Loss because, to me, it isn’t some reality show competition where if you don’t lose the most weight you get kicked off and that’s it. I like it because it is one person (or connected group) and they are concentrating on them and pushing them but also being conscientious of obstacles that come up. I like it because even though there are weigh-ins, at the end of the day the pounds don’t seem to matter as much as the journey and creating a life change. I like it because it never feels like the people are being bullied. I prefer Extreme Weight Loss because I think it is a more accurate show and has more positive results.

Not all weight loss shows are created equal. Not all weight loss journeys are created equal. Certain shows and stories appeal to me more based off of my personal beliefs and struggles. I know some people love and respond well to Biggest Loser. But I will always value and think that lifestyle changes are better than just dropping weight.

Intellectual Wellness: Arnold Said What?

Last week das boy sent me a link to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Instagram, specifically to this post. While Arnold posted this in regards to how do you workout in unfamiliar gyms, it resonated with me in more ways than just working out. He mentioned that your workouts aren’t always going to be under perfect circumstances and you have to make due with what you have. Get a solid hour of lifting and cardio in and you won’t regret your workout.

But think about it beyond working out.

Ok. Now you aren’t always going to have perfect circumstances in life are you? You won’t always live in the perfect city and have the perfect job with the perfect apartment and have this perfect life, right? Right. But you go to work and bust out a good day of work and you go home and make your apartment/home something that you love and you spend your time doing things that make you happy and that you love.

Now you may be asking yourself, “Now Vanessa, I thought this week was a week of personal posts?” It is indeed! Because everything that I just said above, is what I do everyday. I am not at the point in my career where I have a dream job but I make sure I do things in my job that I love and that make me happy (running data/statistical analysis), I make my apartment a place that I love to be (very slowly, but I do make it a tranquil place), I make sure I do things that make me happy (running, swimming, playing in the park), and I spend time with people I care about. Because guess what, if I keep waiting for the perfect train to come and take me to the land of perfect, I’m going to wait my entire life and die disappointed. But if I take imperfect situations and make them work for me, I get to experience happiness and joy. When you let go of “well, when x happens then I will be happy” or “if y then yes” then you can get to enjoy the imperfections that are in your life and love them for being imperfect.

Intellectual Wellness: What IS Wellness?

For as much as I talk, blog, and live wellness, I always seem to feel a little stumped when someone asks me to define wellness for them. Not necessarily because I don’t know or understand what wellness is but mostly because it can be defined in so many different ways. A simple google search of “what is wellness” turns up not thousands, not hundreds of thousands but about 412 million results. Sure not all of those are going to be relevant and some are probably the same (I think those are both really safe to assume, yes? yes.) but those are a lot of results.

The basic “dictionary” definition of wellness is “a state of being in good physical and mental health” so right off the bat, the most basic of definitions, we know that wellness is more than just working out. It involves your mental state as well. When I try to explain wellness I always make sure that I distinguish that it is more than just the surface stuff of working out and eating healthy. It is all these other aspects. And really that’s were it gets confusing. There are so many different models of wellness that it seems hard to know which is “right”. How many dimensions of wellness are there? Is it a pyramid model? A circle model? How are they all linked together?

Well, I can tell you that I think as long as you recognize that there are different aspects of wellness beyond physical wellness, you are opening your mind up to how complex wellness is. Whether you abide by dimensions of wellness or they pyramid, you can at least agree that there are different factors that contribute to overall wellness. And really, that is one of the most important concepts (in my opinion) to know when questioning what wellness is.

Intellectual Wellness: You’re Gonna Want to Hang This Up Somewhere.

Or at least save it. It’s not often that I find (or in this case someone sends) me an article that excites me to the point of me sharing the article with everyone I know…and then re-typing it up (for formatting mainly) to print out and have with me. THIS article, oh this article. Practically every single point made in this article I agree with. Really the only one is the getting on the phone to talk to someone or when you run into trouble just call someone. Basically the whole premise of using a phone terrifies me and I would rather not have to call anyone ever…but I can see where it can be useful to instead of just emailing back and forth to just pick up the phone and actually talk to someone.

But all of the other things that Jason Nazar writes about are just so spot on. I made sure that I kept “Take responsibility for your mistakes” in mind last night when the lady who I’m helping with her leadership program did a quick check in with me to see where I was at with progress. And she let me know she appreciated that I was taking responsibility for not making this project more of a priority. I by no means want to shrug this project off, I just need to be better at my time management and ensure that I make this project a priority. I also love how (possibly indirectly) this article ties into my FAVORITE organizational development concepts brought to you by Benjamin Schneider (who I one time met at a conference-and by met I mean I sat in the room of his discussion and completely fan girl-ed because he is just one of the most influential groundbreaking OD researchers ever…that was the best day). Dr. Schneider came out a loooooong time ago with his People Make the Place research and it is still holding strong. This article reminds you that you will be working with people more than you will probably be enjoying perk packages. So when it comes to deciding on where you want to work, keep in mind the people that you will be working with on a day to day basis rather than just the perks that come with the job.

Basically what I’m saying is stop reading my writing and GO read this article. And then let me know if it was as life changing for you as it was for me. (Furiously scribbles in free-reading time into night time to-do list).

Intellectual Wellness: Who Gets to Decide?

You’ll notice a trend on my blog, I will rarely answer my own questions. Instead, I prefer to ask questions to get my readers thinking on their own terms. This is not a self-help blog or a blog that has all the answers. I am one girl who poses questions to help others. But this is one question you will get a definitive answer from me. And it is spurred from some backlash that has occurred in the gymnastics fan base with Al Fong releasing his statement in regards to Brenna Dowell. For those of you that don’t know (or don’t care), Brenna was named to the World’s team this year only to be moved to an alternate at some what of the last minute giving a teammate the chance to compete in the All-Around. I won’t go into the politics of the decision, that is just what happened. Al (her coach) finally released a statement and in his statement he wrote, “Rio—-get ready for Brenna Dowell!” And this is where we come full circle.

The gymfan community seems to be harping on Al for making such a “bold” comment (those of you that know gym know that the top gymnasts changes almost with the seasons as injuries and more talent are a constant with USA gymnastics). But it got ME to thinking that we don’t get to tell Al or Brenna if their goals are realistic or not. Because when it comes down to it, YOU get to be the decider of YOUR life. YOU get to decide on your goals and ambitions. YOU get to decide if you are successful. YOU get to decide. Not some catty people sitting behind a computer screen, not your neighbor, not even your family or significant other. I’m not saying that these people don’t have some input on your decision but what it boils down to is you making the decisions. If you decide to do what someone else tells you to do, that’s still YOUR decision.

I usually like to end blog posts with a series of questions to leave my reader pondering life’s evolving meaning, but today is different. Today I will end with this, if you aren’t in the proverbial driver’s seat of your own life, you need to kick out the driver and get in there. You can’t control much in this world-weather, politics, even what gymnasts get to compete, but you CAN control what you are doing with your life and what decisions you are making.

You get to decide.

Intellectual Wellness: Do You Know?

I’m a bit conflicted. Part of me loves to know what is going on in the world-reading the news, listening to podcasts, watching the news, etc. I like to be well educated in what crack-a-lackin’ in the world, the US, and the various states and towns I have graced my presence with over the past 25 years. But then part of me just gets sad knowing all the news because so much of the news is negative. I know my mom and some other people take the, “I don’t pay attention to the news because it is too depressing” route. But then I hate not knowing what is going on in the world.

The past couple of weeks I have traded out listening to my favorite Pandora station (which happens to be “The Cold War Kids”) and taken to listening to the BBC’s 24 hour news “podcast”/live streaming news radio station. I choose the BBC because it reports on world news, not just local news, and I feel like they are less…biased. Which is my other issue with being “in the know” of news. I cannot stand that news stations have a political stance. I feel like the news should always be unbiased. Just tell me exactly what happened without trying to distort my view. I would much rather be given the news and the facts and then let myself make a decision. Perhaps that is a different rant for a different day.

What are your thoughts? Do you like to keep up with the news? Any favorite news sources that you feel give really factual news? Like I said, I listen to the BBC, I also like to read theSkimm which is a pretty brief-to-the-point-this-is-what-is-happening-and-they-also-have-a-really-nice-writing-style type of deal.  theSkimm sends you an email every morning (I get mine around 5:30 am CST) M-F. Both are my favorite sources of fairly factual news. If you lean more on the “progressive” side and are anti-guns, inothernews is a actually a fairly good blog that does a similar thing as theSkimm and gives a kind of “quick hits” of the news. But be warned, inothernews is definitely anti-gun and pro-gun control so if you have differing views on that, you may be less likely to like his blog. But I like him because he has opinions (similar to mine) and isn’t afraid to state them AND back them up. But he also gives good insight to other news stories.

As a disclaimer, none of these services have asked me to promote them (let’s be real, I’m a new blogger, no one is asking me to promote anything), these are just news sources that I have found that I like.

Please feel free to share ones that you like! I love to know!

Intellectual Wellness: What’s in a Word?

I was scrolling through my health feed on HuffPo last night as it became more and more evident to me that sleep was miles and miles away…so I figured I might as well read some news and I stumbled across this article about one of my favorite words to hate, diet. Basically this article presents research that supports my documented hatred for the word “diet”.

Researchers show that when you concentrate on the “D” word, you start to fixate on which D is better and forget that when aiming for better health, lifestyle changes rather than just picking a D are more effective. They distinguished this as “what” to eat versus “how” to eat. Pagoto, a researcher from UMass Med School, encouraged a “three prong” approach to making lifestyle changes-dietary counseling, exercise counseling, and behavior modification (aka the most disappointing class in my undergrad career…how can someone make b.mods BORING?!?! No idea! But I digress). Pagoto’s approach gets to the root of a healthy lifestyle-portion control, goal setting, problem solving…all good stuff. Her thoughts of diets are spot on, “adherence is key, and the way to destroy adherence is forcing foods on someone they do not like, do not know how to prepare or can’t afford.” This sentiment is exactly why I am a huge proponent of making sure your nutrition matches your needs even if you are pulling from certain “diets”. I have said a number of times that I tend to follow more of a paleo nutritional outlook but one that fits me. I don’t om down meat at every meal. In fact, after a nutritional experiment/lent one year I have completely removed pork and red meat from my diet. It’s not about following a “diet” to a “t” as much as it is with adopting a lifestyle that is going to make it “easy” for you to  adhere to your nutritional intake. If you are doing a diet that requires you to buy certain foods/products that are ridiculously expensive, you might be causing yourself more harm than good.

So is it time for our society to drop the “D” word? Well, I think you know my thoughts on it. What are your thoughts?

Intellectual Wellness: Uh, Which Diet Should I Do?

I’ll start off with saying, I hate the word diet. It annoys the living daylights out of me. Diet, schmiet. But for the purposes of this blog post, I will use it. Mainly b/c the Washington Post article I am writing on is all about diets. This article briefly breaks down the gluten-free diet, paleo diet, clean diet, “fast” diet, and the Mediterranean diet.

We all know that there are a million more diets out there. Walk into a grocery store. Bam. South beach. Lean cuisine. Uh, other diet things? I don’t really know what there is in the grocery store anymore (whoops, probably should have had a quick walk through my grocery store before writing this…) mainly b/c I keep to the outside and whatever I need on the inside, I can throw the blinders on, take a deep breath, and army crawl into enemy territory to get what I need and get out.

The reason why I wanted to share this article with you guys wasn’t to go through and analyze all these diets (I don’t know them well enough to be honest-I tend to follow a bit more of a “paleo” type diet but I customize it to meet my needs), but I wanted to share how Telis (the author) broke down these diets. I found that so much more interesting than the actual diets. But that is probably because I’m a research nerd and I love reading research.

Telis presented the information in a way that he gave the pros and cons to the diet in question. By doing this, you can see maybe certain characteristics of a diet that you could adapt to your “diet”. For example, the “fast” diet which normally I would scream and throw a fit about b/c I thinking fasting is stupid and I hate when I have to fast for a health screening, but he points out the logic behind it. By taking x amount of days and fasting, you are switching up your diet and you are also using some amount of self-control. Now I don’t recommend fasting at all, but I can see where those two ideas could be beneficial (changing up my intake and exercising self-control) in my personal nutrition.

This article I found is really full of information (even if it is only 3 pages long-but it makes it a fast read). I’m going to quote Telis’ last few paragraphs because how he wrote it is just perfect.

Ultimately, building a better beach body isn’t about short-term diets or fads; it’s about long-term lifestyle changes that make your body as healthy as possible, Katz says. And those are fairly simple: eating minimally processed, whole foods, eating only when you’re hungry, and getting more exercise.

“Diets are, almost by definition, things you get on and get off,” he says. “It really needs to be about your whole dietary pattern. If you wouldn’t put your 4-year-old child or your 80-year-old parent on this diet with you, it’s a gimmicky short-term fix and not a way of eating better for a lifetime.”

What are your thoughts about diets? Do you read articles about different diets? Do you get as angry as I do when anyone mentions a new fad diet that they are on? Share your thoughts! I want to know! Comment below, Like me on Facebook and let me know, or tweet me. Or you can email me ( Loads of ways to share your thoughts!