Sunday, December 29, 2013

...Someone Has a Case of the Resolutions

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."
                                                   -Mike Tyson

I don't know if anyone else notices, but this time of year the number of Weight Watchers, Gold's Gym, and commercials increase what feels like a million fold.  On the surface they're saying "now's a time to get a great deal on my product or service" but what we interpret is "if you want to be happy or have value in the coming year, you need to sign up for this product."

Listen, I'm all for changing your life.  I'm all for getting together with community to make these changes.  I'm all for measuring, tracking, and bragging about changing your life. And if you decide that you're ready to make those changes starting January 1st, I'm for it.

But here is my beef with New Years Resolutions:  It's a great time for us to get help with the What, When, and How, rarely do we have a handle on the WHY.

The WHY, in my opinion, is the most important focus when changing your life.  Right around January 1st, our WHY tends to be because everyone else is doing it.  Or the gym is having a sale.  Or we really want to look good on the beach in 6 months.  None of these reasons are in any way bad- but they lack providing real drive when we're standing in front of a carton of Moose Tracks after a really really hard day.

Before you jump on the Resolution bandwagon, take a few minutes to think through WHY you want to spend the time, money, and effort on getting healthy:

"...because I want to be able to get on the floor and wrestle with my kids next year and my grandkids in 20 years."

"...because my family history of diabetes has finally caught up to me."

"...because my father just had a heart attack and despite the fact that we have a lot of the same habits, I'd still like to be able to walk my daughter down the aisle."

"...I'm tired of taking medication that is making me more sick than it is healing me."

"...I want my daughter to grow up to be a strong woman because she lives with a strong woman as a role model."

Whatever your motivation- it needs to be genuine.  You have to harness your desire to be better tomorrow than you are today.  "Because I need to" or "Because everyone else is" won't work when you're wrecked and the only people that can you feel better are Ben and Jerry.

So let me put this into terms of my life- I have around 3-4% of body fat that I seem to shed, then find again.  On the surface, I want to get rid of it because my jeans will fit better and I'll have a flatter tummy.  But when I break it down, I know I'm carrying that extra fat because I tend to run low on sleep and high on stress.  This produces cortisol, the cortisol manifests as abdominal fat, and voila, my jeans don't fit right.  So while I want to drop body fat and look good in my jeans, what I will really be focusing on is reducing stress and getting enough sleep.

Translated, my New Year's Resolution for 2014 is going to be to actively work on stress management and make sleep a priority, which will translate into a higher quality of life and a lower body fat percentage.

Make sense?

So in light of all that, I need to ask- what is your resolution for 2014 and more importantly, WHY is it your resolution?

Cheers and Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thriving During the Holiday Seaon

  From a health and wellness perspective, this time of year is riddled with guilt and anxiety.  A quick Google search provides 53,800 results pertaining to just the term "Holiday Weight Gain."  With that sort of cultural standard, who can enjoy a full serving of mashed potatoes without figuring out the burpee equivalent???  And this isn't even getting into the stress of buying perfect gifts, making the rounds to keep everyone happy, and getting those coveted few workouts in while you can.

Sigh.... All this stress is enough to make me find a tree and hide away for the next few weeks.

Wait, what?  When did the holliest, jolliest time of year become about survival? Is there is a Grinch that finally figured out he doesn't need to take our stockings, Who-Hash, or Roast Beast??  He's a Robo-Grinch that finally figured out how to get our Christmas spirit.

Sigh... (Again.)

Here's the thing- it doesn't have to be like this.  We don't have to JUST survive.  We just don't have to let the guilt and anxiety get to us.  Let's punch that Grinch in his hairy ol' face and take back the right to thrive during the holidays.

  I don't know about the rest of you, but there are three huge areas where I start to freak out and stop enjoying life this time of year.  I've broken down some thoughts to help you mentally be ready for the next several weeks:


Ok.  Here is my recommendation on home to manage the guilt and anxiety on this:

Stop.  Just Stop.

Stop stressing, freaking out, or crying about eating off plan on the holidays.  If you want some apple pie at the expense of your thigh touching (which, by the way, is ridiculous), eat some darn apple pie.  If you want to eat some whipped cream on it, eat some full fat, homemade, fluffy goodness (but try to forgo the fake process junk if at all possible).

Here is the thing- guilt will translate to stress and will wreck your body, metabolism, immune system, sanity, and love for other people.

Side note: this is not a free pass to eat like garbage all the time.  This is a free pass to enjoy off plan meals 4-5 times over the course of one week this year.  And if you're looking for some great, high quality, whole food meals (and one cannot even call them cheats they're so good), check out these.

(And for goodness sake- don't be THAT person that brings the veggie loaf.) 

Working out:  

The holidays are one of my favorite times to move.  I don't usually workout at a gym because I'm on the road and don't feel like finding a random gym.  Holidays are fun because you can get the family together for a game of touch football, a dance party in the toy room, or a stroll through a winter wonderland. 

More importantly, this is an opportunity to build memories.  I can promise you the little ones won't remember who gave them the brand new DS game or the Amazon gift card, but they will remember who climbed trees with them and taking the dogs for a walk.


Similar to the comment on food, STOP STRESSING.  Stress does not do anyone any good, and will most likely shorten your lifespan (whoa, this just got real).

But seriously, what is so important that's it's worth snapping at your friends, family, and spouse?  Certainly nothing that has to do with who can give the best gift, bring the best dish, or wear the cutest outfit.

To be honest, this is where I struggle the most (just ask the Husband).  I don't have any cute or whimsical suggestions on how to stop, other than to gut check yourself and realize it needs to be done.  And stop it.  Seriously.  You're exhausting everyone.

So this season, I encourage you to capture true health by loving, laughing, and being a light to shine on all the world.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus/New Year, and may you experience Joy in all you do.



Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Story- Part 2 (Nourish)

Note:  You’ll notice I don’t use any citations for this post.  For today, it’s not about what is or isn’t scientifically proven.  It’s about what I’m doing and what works for me.

But if you’re looking for more resources, check out some of my favorite people in the world of nutrition and lifestyle management.  Check out their websites, listen to their podcasts, and buy their books.  You won’t be sorry:  Robb Wolf, Diane Sanfillipo, Liz Wolfe, Sarah Fragoso, and Mark Sisson.
Life is crazy these days.  Between the uber amount of traveling for work, coursework for my Heath Coaching certification, training at the gym, supporting a few non-profit causes, loving on my husband, trying to help with the house, yard, and spoiled pets, and some occasional sleep, my weeks move pretty fast.

I'm not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me or to start a contest about who is busier.  I'm telling you this because this is Kelsey's Modern Life.  I would be willing to bet your life has a similar outline.  And we all know that crazy lives can cause some important decisions to get put on the back burner.

In Part 1 of this series, I shared with you the catalyst that ignited my health and wellness journey.  When I was diagnosed with MS, I reacted the way most of us do- "What medicine do you have to fix this?"  I took that medicine for a hot minute, but I never really felt good.  I’m not even sure that I felt better.  I still had numbness and tingling, no balance, suffered from brain fog, etc, etc, etc.  We all know the difference between feeling better and feeling good. 

Good didn't come for me until October of 2011.  Good didn’t come until I figured out a way to holistically solve my issues.  Good came when I was introduced to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle.  Specifically the nutrition side of things.  It's pretty simple.  Are you ready? 

Eat your fill of whole sources of meat, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, veggies, and fruits.  Avoid eating grains, legumes, and most dairy.

We can spend hours, days, and years talking about the ideal ratio of macronutrients, the role of fermented foods and organ meats, and if Paleo cookies, granola bars, and beer are ok.  But honestly- it doesn't matter.  (Well, it does, depending on your goals and life circumstances, but for what we're talking about today: It.  Doesn't.  Matter.)

Here is how I eat on a typical* day:

Breakfast: Pastured sausage and roasted sweet potatoes with kale and onions.

Lunch: Soup (I love love love love love soup (love it)), a salad or lettuce wrap, and a side of avocado.

Dinner:  Some sort of pot-roast with grassfed butter and sweet potatoes, burgers with sweet potato buns, or dark meat chicken curry with riced cauliflower. 

*Typical means when I’m not traveling.  I’ll spend time covering what I eat when I travel in another post. 

Of course this gets modified based on seasons, activities, and other things that pop up.  But here is my thought on food relating to health:
It seems to me that whenever we’re trying to cure an ailment with a holistic approach, the first thing we do is try to add something to our diet to make it go away.  For example, adding cinnamon to your diet is supposed to lower your blood sugar, chicken soup will help cure the common cold, and supposedly the acai berry helps fight off everything from cancer to the bubonic plague.  And I’m not saying that any of these are bad (I love soup, remember?).  But from my perspective, we don’t often take a moment to do some root cause analysis of what is causing us to get sick.

From stress to environmental toxins to a couple of harmless germs, contributors to illness are everywhere. From my experience, highly inflammatory foods are one of the biggest influencers of health.  The most common inflammatory foods are grains (especially gluten containing grains such as wheat, barley, and rye), dairy, soy, legumes, and any other highly refined foods. 

I’ve found when I eat foods that are highly inflammatory my digestive, hormonal, and immune systems go seriously out of whack.  My most common symptoms are acne, brain fog, weight gain, disrupted sleep, and, worst of all, MS symptoms. 

I cut out industrial foods that were making me sick.  The kind of sick that wreaks havoc on my immune system and breaks my body down cell by cell.  The kind of sick that causes inflammation in my gut and decreases my body's ability to digest and utilize key nutrients.  The kind of sick that slowly chips away at my life span.  And I'm not trying to be dramatic here (it just comes naturally).

And over the past year, something odd started to happen.  I went from feeling Good to feeling GREAT.  Of course there are more factors that influence this such as stress, sleep, and movement, but nutrition was the cornerstone of this change.

This lifestyle (it is a lifestyle, not a diet) is not always easy.  To make this work for me, I spend hours prepping meals and cooking every Sunday.  Remember what I told you….  I don’t have a ton of hours in my week as it is.  But for me, this is super critical.  Eating right goes well beyond looking good in a bikini or getting my deadlift up over 300 lbs.  My goal is to be healthy, vibrant, and mobile for a very long time. 

We all have goals.  We also all have free will.  And every time we exercise that free will to go off plan, it has an impact on our goals.  Sometimes it’s worth it (frozen custard on a summer night- yes pleaseeeeee) and other times it’s just not (gluten, dairy, soy-filled fast food every day because something else in my life took priority- no, just no).

So I would implore you to consider what your goals are, start thinking about what you need to do to reach them, and own the decision rights to your life.  I really think you’ll be glad you did.  I am.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Albers Down Under: Kangaroo Island and the Beauty of Local

There is something really special about Kangaroo Island (KI) in Australia.  It may be the perfectly quaint size, beautiful bays and beaches, or the abundance of wildlife.  But I would be more willing to bet it’s because of the local people and their absolute pride in everything KI.  They love to showcase local honey, eucalyptuses oil, wine, fish, and wildlife.  The local pride is amazing- like sweet, normal pride.  Not the beer guzzling, cutoff jean shorts, ‘Murica type of pride that we’re used to.

As most people know, I am hugely passionate about supporting a local economy.  Being on vacation is no exception.  Kangaroo Island is a great example of how staying local creates more than just a memorable vacation.  It creates an adventure.

For example, KI’s climate is perfect for bee keeping.  We visited a bee-ery (??) where a local bee keeper discussed what makes KI so great for honey.  The local flora creates different tasting honey based on the different types of flowers visited by the bees (I’m sure other people know that… I didn’t).  So the bee keeper moves his hives around the island to create different tasting honeys.  The honey (particularly the honey ice cream) were ah-maz-ing.

Side note- if you suffer from seasonal allergies, honey from local hives can help alleviate those allergies.  Since local pollens are present in local honey, ingesting it acts sort of like a natural flu shot (without all the questionable side effects).  Raw honey works best, but any would be beneficial. 

On the topic of local flora, KI is full of Eucalyptus plants.  These plants produce a very powerful, potent, and perfectly beautiful oil and KI is home to a perfectly local and sustainable Eucalyptus distillery. 

Now, those people who have been with me on this crazy wellness journey over the past several years know that I am completely nuts about making my own cleaning and beauty products.  Some experiments have worked out better than others, but most homemade products call for essential oils.  Eucalyptus oil is a powerful additive to homemade cleaners, as well as anti-septic and cleansing agent for the skin.  So when I walked into the gift shop my head almost exploded.  Good thing there are weight limits for checked bags, or else I probably would have rolled out with as many 2 liter bottles as my suitcase would hold (at the expense of bringing any of my clothes back). 

The last, and most fun part about KI, is the abundance of native and introduced wild life.  As the name suggests, there were Kangaroos everywhere (I mean everywhere).  Our visit included several wildlife sanctuaries and a beach full of seals for some up close and personal time with wildlife.   

We pet and fed Kangaroos. 

(I mean seriously, I’m like a Kangaroo whisperer.)

We cuddled with some Koalas.  Warning- your head may explode with a cuteness overload.  

Held a baby Wallaby.

Hung out with some kookaburras. 

Met an Owl

Went all Brittany Spears with a snake (I didn’t catch the name of this snake since I was trying not to cry with its’ slithery and disgusting snakiness around me). 

And had a close encounter with some Australian fur seals.

Joel and I tend to fancy ourselves adventurers when we’re on vacation.  We’re not the type that can stick to a resort for a week (or even beyond a day) and be happy.  In reality we’re probably no better than the rest of the camera clad, map wielding tourists at which we scoff.  But in our minds we’re the Lewis and Clark of the tourism industry.

KI is beautiful and I’m so glad we got a chance to get out and explore.  I can understand why the locals take such pride in their home.  And whether we’re far off explorers or zinc covered camera jockeys, KI made for some awesome memories and even better pictures.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Albers Down Under: Tasmania and the Art of YOLOing

Next up on our visit Down Under- Tasmania.  Now, I can honestly say that I have no idea why we put Tasmania on our itinerary.  I’m pretty sure it has something to do with Looney Toons and the fact that I grew up associating a large Tornado Rodent with Australia.  Either way, it got on our itinerary. 

We got the distinct impression that “mainlanders” don’t think much of the inhabitants of the southeastern island.  Our tour guide at the Sydney Opera house imitated them with a distinctly harder Aussie drawl (think Crocodile Dundee) and the front desk attendant at our Sydney responded (condescendingly) when I told him we were going to Tasmania “why would you want to go there?”
These impressions left us a bit apprehensive as we flew into Tasmania.  

I’ll paint the picture of a smaller sized jet flying into an airport no bigger than my grade school and deplaning in the middle of a runway.

But I’ll describe Tasmania to you in three words.  But first I want to you channel Janice from Friends through your mind:  Oh.  My.  Gawd. 

Tasmania is a beautiful, humble countryside riddled with livestock, rolling hills, and breathtaking coastlines.

But our trip to Tasmania didn’t go exactly as planned or hoped.  We ran into inclement weather (cold, windy, rainy, oh my), lost hotel reservations, and driving in a foreign country with foreign rules.  But all of this reminds me of one of the greatest lessons one could learn from traveling.  The lesson to be flexible.  To embrace challenges.  To roll with punches.  Learning this principle will help to optimize your life, reduce your stress levels, and create a view of the world beyond your wildest dreams.  Basically, what I’m getting at, is to learn how to YOLO. 

For those of you who don’t know what YOLO is, and for those of you who think you do, let me explain.  YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once.”  Most people have a very negative association with the term YOLO.  They frequently associate the noun YOLO it with skinny jean wearing, spring breaking, hipster wannabes.  But I’m here to introduce the verb YOLO.  Changing this word into a verb will change your entire outlook on life.  Situations that may have been stressful or frustrating before YOLOing become an opportunity to strike out and learn something about yourself or your world.

To be clear, I certainly do not condone YOLOing when it comes to fundamental principles of safety (don’t YOLO when welding), security (don’t YOLO down a dark alley), narcotics (don’t YOLO in the presence of cocaine), matters of the heart (don’t YOLO when it comes to bad boys), nutrition (don’t ever YOLO in the presence of a Twinkie), or general common sense (if you’re behind on a deadline at work, it is not recommended that you YOLO).

I’m sure I’ve made myself as clear as mud.  But let’s apply this to our trip to Tasmania.

What do you do when you’ve rented a car in a country that you’ve inhabited for less than two days who drive on the opposite side of the road?


What do you do when you get to lodge, only to find that they cannot find your reservation?  Freak out?  Yell?  No way.  Wait it out for a $400 per night upgrade and…


What do you do when the hike that the park ranger sent you on suddenly becomes a bit overwhelming? 


What do you do when you come across a creature that according to the Tasmanian department of transportation can deadlift a car

and has only existed in picture books and on TV?


What do you do when you plan on taking an after dark tour of penguins, only to be confronted with rain, wind, and cold?  


What do you do when your plan for a peaceful harbor cruise turns into a storm of Titanic proportions? 


What do you do when confronted with a saltwater booger (otherwise known as an Oyster) for consumption, but the thought of it makes you want to puke?


What do you do when you’ve been confronted by one of the most beautiful habitats on earth with no creative photography plans? 

YOLO.  (Pistol Style)

And for my canine readers out there, what do you do when you’re on a fishing boat with 15 strangers and no dolphins to chase?


You see, at its core, the principle of YOLOing has nothing to do with the type of jeans you wear, the brightness of your PCB tank top, or even how many Twitter followers you have.  YOLOing is not sweating the small stuff.  YOLOing is about finding ways to maximize your short time on this planet.  And most importantly, YOLOing is learning that life begins outside of your comfort zone.