Taking Paths Less Traveled

Joyful Hiker. Mother. Teacher. Adventurer.

The first 6 years after my divorce, my focus was solely on obtaining stability for my children by earning a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential. I put 100% of myself into this goal in an immensely successful way. I graduated with a 3.9GPA, had received scholarships, and began working at a school that ranks at the top of the district.

The next 5 years were dedicated to two goals: 1.) continuing the stability for my children to attend schools that supported their endeavors and 2.) becoming an expert in the craft of teaching.

The first goal has nearly been actualized. My children will be graduating with honors and moving on in their lives being successful contributing adults to our society. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

Goal number two, however, is not going quite as planned. I had imagined having my sh** together in the classroom by now. Imagined myself like the teachers that had inspired me to enter the classroom in the first place. Firm, but kind, singing songs with a classroom humming with learning activities. After nearly 6 years of practicing in the classroom I’ve made gains toward creating such an environment, but keep having to cope with curveballs. Between insanely high class size or students that have a combination of learning challenges and behavioral challenges, I haven’t been able to gain my footing in the classroom.

My children’s inevitable flight from the nest presents me with another change in life that has immense possibilities. I’ve always dreamed of traveling, writing, and living a life that is closely connected with nature. Divorcing left me with a wide open future, but one tied to taking care of my children.

The future is wide open. (Cue Tom Petty) And it’s a little scary.

As I have begun to prepare myself for this next season of life I’ve found several inspirational leaders that have shaped my current journey and illuminated paths that make the journey easier. Authors and speakers such as Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Dallas Hartwig, Rachel Hollis, and Stephen Covey are just a few people that have articulated life changing ideas and concepts that lead toward the life that I would like to create.

Brene Brown has encouraged not only to be be vulnerable and brave, but also, in Rising Strong, she highlights how to get up again when you’ve been knocked down in vulnerability. We can’t give up when our attempts toward self actualization are knocked down and we aren’t alone in this struggle.

Rachel Hollis directly speaks to women in both her books, Girl, Go Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing, to illustrate that we aren’t alone in our struggles as women, mothers, and aspiring entrepreneurs. Life is messy, but this is a journey, not a destination, and achieving goals means articulating audacious goals and finding the small steps needed to get there.

Finally, it hasn’t just been these popular best-sellers in the self-help section that are supporting my transformation. Friends and family have been incredibly supportive and inspirational. I’ve found camaraderie in joining hiking clubs and webinars focused on optimal health. My health coach has encouraged me and offered words of wisdom when I stumbled on my journey. The small community on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter bring encouragement and support as well.

My journey is far from over. I haven’t yet reached a level of optimal health that I hope for. There have been hurdles and canyons to cross along the way, but today I am confident that I’ve got what it takes to reach for the stars and achieve my dreams.

What are your dreams? What hurdles do you see in front of you? Do you have a plan in place?

Yesterday I wrote about the seasonal changes and the comforting habits that I have kept, even to my own detriment. Over the years my comfort habits of Autumn changed, driven by the marketing ploys, consumerism and economic gains. My body has always sensed the turning of the season from summer to autumn by the feelings in the air and the shifts of the sun. In the past this meant harvesting the garden, turning the soil, raking and playing in the leaves, and building up the log pile to hunker down the the winter. It meant card games with family and satisfying stews with grandma’s biscuit recipe. Crocheting beside the fire while watching a heart warming Hallmark movie with my family is, happily, one habit I still employ on a regular basis.

As I’ve moved into my career and away from my family I’ve struggled to recreate these scenes, and the artificial substitutes of pumpkin spice lattes and fashionable sweaters and boots attempted to replace the comforts my soul was seeking. Last night while driving with my friend, I remarked how I was looking forward to feel the longer nights of winter’s approach because I always crochet during this time of the year. My friend didn’t had the comforting experiences that I had as a child. She suffers from seasonal depression and dreads the decreased hours of daylight. As I ruminated on the realization that crocheting is something I only do in this season, she expressed her sorrow and desire in creating a happier winter season.

A couple weeks ago, I was selected as a participant in the early release of Dallas Hartwig’s new book “The 4 Season Solution”. Having recently found success an medically formulated food program, I’ve had a complete body transformation. I’ve developed habits around foods that have changed my body’s metabolic structure. I’ve learned how to use the program’s supplied fuelings (small snacks or meals) to consciously select foods to change the way that I’ve thought about food.

Several years ago I was a participant of Hartwig’s coauthored book, It Starts With Food. I embarked on a Whole30 journey with my family and found excellent success. I learned foods that provoked an inflammatory response and chose to exclude them from my diet. But, those 30 days weren’t enough to change my lifestyle, and I found myself quickly slipping back into most of my old habits. I still don’t eat gluten, corn or dairy, but those changes aren’t enough to sustain optimal health.

As I am nearing my weight loss goal and working toward “optimal health” I’ve become terrified of coming off the program. The program is designed with an end in mind. There is a transition plan to take me off the supplied meal replacements and work my way into choosing all my foods from the market. When Dallas asked his followers to preview his new book, I was so excited. He has always provided inspiration to help me change unhealthy habits, brought awareness to the choices I make both with foods and social media consumption. The title alone, The 4 Season Solution resonated strongly with my understanding of life. Several of the people that I’ve found inspirational on my journey towards my optimal self have mentioned life in terms of seasons. Not just the circadian seasons of the earth and sun, but the seasons of age, career and family.

Dallas’s book has been delivered into my hands at a serendipitous time. As I read through his work and internalize his findings, I have a gut feeling that this solution is the one that I’ve innately been working toward. His book has the promise to be the guidebook to incorporating my body’s biological needs with today’s modern technologies and realities. Combining the advances we’ve made as humans with the natural rhythms of the earth speaks directly to my ancestral soul.

Since we are well into the month of November, I figured it would be silly to start a monthly goal. So, instead I’m going to challenge myself to a seasonal goal. Join me!

Goal Number One: Daily Exercise

When the going gets tough, the tough sit their ass on the couch…. 😖

Seriously, I’ve got to exercise. I know. Know. KNOW. that exercise will make me feel better in every way. How to make sure that I follow through? Set an internet goal!

1.) Walk my dogs daily. Poor pups… they don’t get enough exercise!

2.) Plan and commit to hikes with the Sierra Club.

Goal Number Two: Learn More Lean & Green Recipes

This weather makes me crave soups, chilis and other comfort foods! But, when I made a broth based soup, I got too full too quickly on the broth and missed out on the quantity of vegis and proteins I need for my diet. When I made a pot of chili I didn’t have a portion plan and ended up eating so much that my stomach was in literal pain!

1.) Select three new recipes to try out.

2.) Become an expert at new recipes.

Goal Number Three: Connect With Community

Join me to help me achieve my goals! Use #AutumnFitness and tag me in your posts so we can support each other!

Embarking on a lifestyle transformation is never an easy decision. You’ve got to give up something in order to bring new things into your life. Habits, ideas, maybe even people need to change in order for true change to take place. Habits that provide comfort are the hardest. As I’ve been slowly correcting the way that I use food and adjusting how I spend my spare time, I’ve become aware of the way that comfort can lead to self sabotage, and in this case could set me back into the yo-yo pattern I’ve been working so hard to end.

The month of October was the hardest yet. As autumn takes over, those habits of comfort seem to kick in at even greater lengths. One “annual” pumpkin spice latte leads to another… One candy corn pumpkin leads to 10… One sugar rush leads into just another quick “hit” and before you know it, you’re secretly grabbing a bite of pizza and stashing a candy into your bag because your body is now craving it.

What can we do in order to avoid these struggles when all around us are carefully orchestrated, researched based marketing ploys encouraging you to give in to these comforts?

I found success by reaching out to my community of health. Talking to friends and family that are also on the path of transformation saved me. After making myself physically ill from “indulging” in not only those despicable candy corn pumpkins, but also fluffy frosting covered cookies and greasy cheese pizza, I reached out to my community. My long time friend and inspirational leader told me, “Girl! Perfection isn’t long term. There will be times you have the opportunity to learn from choices you make.” These words not only unburdened me from the feelings of guilt that I had, but also illuminated a problematic feature of most health programs.

On my past health roller coaster rides, I’ve done really well… until I didn’t. When I gave in to those cravings, I felt as if I had to start back over again. For example, with one temporarily effective program I followed, Whole 30, if you screwed up, you started back at Day 1… I used this program for about 90 days and even though I gained some healthy habits along the way, it wasn’t sustainable. The mental concept of having to ‘Reset” to Day 1 was effective for only the first month. After that, with very little progress made in weight loss goals, resetting just became defeating.

Long term change will only happen if you are persistent and forgiving of your humanity. Instead of striving for perfection, strive for growth in change. I didn’t have to start over an entire 30 days, I just had to change my very next choice, and then the one after that.

I’m excited to share my progress so far. This is my 3rd month on program and my body has changed so much I can hardly believe it is true. Sometimes when I walk by a mirror, I pause to see the woman I’m becoming. I’ve seen glimpses of this woman in the past, but never like this. When I was at a healthy weight in the past, I was a 19 year old girl. I didn’t have kids, a career or an education. Today when I look in the mirror, I’m the woman that I’ve always wanted to be: a healthy, strong mother with a college degree and a stable career.

This is only the beginning.

Want to know more about my transformation? Just ask.

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Taking Paths Less Traveled

Joyful Hiker. Mother. Teacher. Adventurer.

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