Specifics, my friends!
As I was trying to think of something to write about on the blog this week (behind-the-scenes fact: I do not plan out my posts very far in advance), I kept trying to come up with some big useful research-based article that could serve you for a full week while I am away on vacation. But as I thought more and more about what I wanted to cover this week, I realized that the type of thing I personally like to read is much more small-scale, real-world and doable. And that’s where this idea came in. I’ve sort’ve shared some of this stuff organically in posts over the last few months, but this is where I’m putting it all together. And as the title of the post states … I’m getting specific.
These are little things I’ve done over the last several months that have been a step in the right direction. And here’s the deal: When you are Instagram, it can seem like everyone has it all together and is doing everything perfectly in the name of health. But most of us are just doing our best with what we have, and I’m in that camp. Even though I have a nutrition certification and a fitness certification, that doesn’t mean I make perfect choices or live a textbook-perfect life. I do things in ways that work for me. And how I do it may not be how you do it. But you know I like to share.
Let’s get to those specific improvements …
Specific improvements I’ve made in the last year for my health and life
Eating every single meal at the kitchen table.
Okay, I know this sounds so incredibly insignificant. But I used to eat all three meals hunched over the coffee table. Even as recently as two months ago, Brady and I ate breakfast side-by-side on the couch, in front of the TV, leaning forward over our low coffee table. I know … This isn’t the worst thing ever, but it also wasn’t a great habit. To be totally transparent: There was actually quite a bit of time that we didn’t even have a dining table through the moving process (on the California end and on the North Carolina end), but even when we did have one, we weren’t good about using it enough until now.
We have officially moved all of our three meals to the kitchen table. While I do leave the TV on during breakfast for Brady to glimpse at, there is NO technology at the other two meals at the table at all, other than some background music on the Sonos.
Eating at the table without distractions is a way that we can slow down our eating. This means we eat more mindfully. We enjoy and savor our food more, and we focus on the process of eating and connecting. I’m loving this. Especially because before that, I used to eat lunch in front of the computer, which I would not recommend at all. If you are too focused on other things, you won’t be able to truly appreciate your food, and you may even end up mindlessly eating more than you need to.
(Side note: If you’re back to work at an office, I know it can be so tempting to keep working while you eat to get more done. I always did this too when I was in the corporate world. But you totally owe it to yourself to take just 10 or 15 minutes away from technology to eat in peace. In most cases, work can wait that long.)
- Breakfast: Brady and I eat breakfast at the table at 8:30 a.m.. most days. We both eat oatmeal with a sliced-up banana in it, but I add Brazil nuts to my bowl. Brazil nuts are great for thyroid health, and they have a ton of other benefits, so I eat four a day with my breakfast.
- Lunch: Brady and I eat lunch at the table at 12:30 p.m.. most days. He usually has yogurt, nuts, fruit and crackers or some version of all of that, for a little platter meal. And I usually eat a frozen veggie/grain mixture with eggs and hummus and crackers. We also share some things. And on the weekends, we almost always get take-out lunch from a few nearby spots, and we’ve even been out to lunch or brunch a few times lately too. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we definitely miss the food in the Bay Area, because overall, it’s not as good in Charlotte thus far.
- Dinner: Brady, Dave and I all eat dinner at the table around 7 p.m.. Brady eats chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, avocado, veggies, etc., and Dave and I eat veggie burgers with avocado or fish or pizza and salad. Eating dinner together at the table is a big change for us, because for the longest time, Dave and I ate our dinners much later on the couch, and one of us just sat with Brady while he ate, saving our meal for after he went to bed. Part of this was because I was usually still catching up on work that I needed to finish, so I pushed off our meal. But not any more. I like having a slightly earlier dinner (although I know 7 p.m. isn’t all that early), and we’re definitely sticking with this change. On Saturday nights, or if we have guests, Dave and I do eat much later still, and that’s cool for just a night or two a week. But overall, we’ve scooted our last meal of the day up, the majority of the time.
I’m proud that we eat all of our meals at the table, and that we are mostly free of technology for all of our meals. This is a small change. And we’re lucky to be able to be home for all these meals, so I can’t neglect to point that out. And to me, this matters, so I’m sharing it.
Taking more vitamins and supplements.
*This is NOT a prescription for you. This is only my story, so proceed with caution.
Now, once again, I am sharing what works for me only. What I’m doing may not be right for you. I operate on a “food first” philosophy, meaning I try to get most of my nutrients, vitamins and minerals from what I eat. But, I also know that sometimes you can supplement your diet in some ways too for a boost. But not everyone needs a lot of supplements.
I took a ton of herbal supplements when I was trying to heal my hormones and get pregnant, and I think they truly helped. But then I pretty much stopped everything I was taking except for my prenatal once I got pregnant, had Brady and was nursing. Then most recently, after getting some blood-work and finding out I had two minor/slight deficiencies late last year (vitamin D and iron), I added in a bunch of supplements and have been going strong on them for at least six months.
During these last few months of taking a lot of supplements, I’ve felt great. I don’t know if there is a direct correlation, but I’m pretty sure there’s at least a placebo effect. I feel good knowing I’m doing something a little extra for my overall nutrient profile too. But of course, food first.
Over the last half of a year or so, I’ve started taking all these supplements on a daily basis. Here’s what I take and why, and if I’m happy with the brand, I’m linking it. If it’s not linked, it means I’m still searching for my favorite brand:
- Plant-based prenatal vitamin. It’s got so many valuable nutrients in one place, and I’ve been taking this brand for maybe five years.
- Slow-release iron. Although my iron is not out of range, it’s on the lower side, and so I take this pill daily, and I also try to eat red meat at least once a month. I’ve been slacking on that and want to return to my bi-weekly burger or steak routine. I’m mostly plant-based, but I also know my body needs red meat here and there to support my hormones. I mentioned last year that I had been having some hair loss due to all the stress of COVID, my dad’s passing and our cross-country move, and iron is something that is supposed to help rectify hair loss, as well as collagen and even fish oil. The verdict is still out whether my overall hair thickness is improving (it takes a long time), but I feel strong and I have energy, so that’s good.
- Biotin. This is another one to support my hair health.
- Fish oil. There are so many potential benefits of taking fish oil that I won’t bother listing them. So, I take it.
- Vitamin D. I started taking vitamin D during COVID times, because I read how many people were deficient in this and it’s essential to immunity. I take it daily now. I was also a little low on this one during my blood-work, so that’s another reason I started it.
- Vitamin C. I take a chewable vitamin C tablet along with my other vitamins, because vitamin C can sometimes help your body absorb vitamins, especially iron. The jury is still out on this idea, and some studies say it doesn’t matter. But because I want to improve my iron, I do this pairing.
- Collagen. You guys know I’ve been taking collagen for years, and I still use a scoop in my morning tea latte every single day to support my skin, hair, joints and gut health.
- Protein powder. I drink a protein shake after my workout most days, and that’s because I like to get a little extra dose of protein in my day. My protein powder also has some extra vitamins and minerals, and it has 20 grams of protein per serving. And it tastes yummy, so there’s that. (And my code ALADYGOESWEST works for a discount on this brand.)
- Magnesium. I’ve been using topical magnesium for maybe three years. I spray it on my stomach each night and rub it in, so this is the only supplement that I do not take orally. Magnesium is an incredibly important mineral that is required for many bodily processes, and it also supports good sleep and good muscle recovery. A lot of people would benefit from supplementing with magnesium.
I do not take a daily probiotic, but I have thought about adding one into my routine. If I do find a good one, I’ll keep you posted.
As you can see, this is a lot of stuff. I take all of my pills after my breakfast with a full tummy, while standing at the kitchen counter, and I rarely miss a day. Please note: There are some vitamin combinations that should be spaced out through the day, but I take all mine at once so I don’t forget. But you should look into your combination to make sure they don’t interfere with each other if taken all at once.
I don’t think everyone needs to take as much as I take, but I do think everyone could benefit from getting some blood-work to check their levels and supplementing as needed. And if you already know you have some areas where you want improvement, you should research what may support changes there too.
I’m feeling good with my current supplement routine.
Working at my desk in a real chair, and staying off the couch for long amounts of time.
There’s a reason that workplace ergonomics have become more and more popular as a topic of discussion. Your position matters.
For so very, very long, I did all of my work sitting on the couch. Yup. As a blogger/mom, I work on the computer for several hours a day, seven days a week. And I used to do all of that on the couch, in various uncomfortable positions. Sometimes I would even have the TV on in the back for background noise, and I would look up here and there and get distracted. I would then think about what was happening on the TV and it would mess up my work flow. This is not a dream set-up, and I think it’s clear why.
During the first year of COVID, when we were in California, Dave was using my office and desk during the workday in our house, so that’s how all this started. But then, instead of finding a real chair elsewhere in the house, I would still just sit at the couch. And if Dave wasn’t using the office, I would still just sit at the couch. Sometimes my legs would go to sleep. Or my lower-back would ache. Or my wrists would hurt. You know what could have fixed all of this? Moving away from my slumped position into a better ergonomic situation in a real chair at a table or desk. So easy. But I just couldn’t seem to muster up the ability to make the change. My friends, I finally did make the change maybe three months ago. Yay!
I do sit at the couch in the mornings before breakfast with my computer, but that’s for a very small amount of time. My longer chunks are always at the desk now. I’m actually writing this exact line while working at my desk.
Now, once again, this is a small detail. But that’s what this post is about. I realize I am lucky to have a desk and a desk chair to call my own in our new house. But even if I didn’t, I could utilize a better situation than the couch.
Point blank: If your position starts to hurt, then it’s not a good one to be in. And now, I feel more alert, more present, more energized and more productive sitting at my desk.
If you’ve never checked out your working position, you should. Your eyes should be level with your screen so you aren’t straining your neck. Your wrists should be lying flat on the desk/keyboard, instead of being bent. And you should have your feet flat on the floor, with your knees at 90-degree angles. Oh, and your shoulders should be relaxed — that’s still a tough one for me, even at the desk. But I’m a work in progress.
And if you’re reading this right now on your phone with your neck bent forward and your shoulders rounded, let’s take a pause. Sit up straight, roll those shoulders back and take a deep breath. You’re welcome. 🙂
Using video and mirrors to improve and perfect my exercise form.
You know a big benefit of watching yourself teach fitness classes on video? You can find a whole lot that you want to change in how you do it. Because I’ve been teaching virtual classes for more than a year now, and because I did some other fitness-video projects over the last few months, I’ve had a chance to watch myself in action a lot more than ever before. I’ve made some adjustments to my form. I’ve made some adjustments to my facial expressions. And I think I’ve become stronger overall fitness-wise, and become an even better instructor because of all this self-assessing.
Fun fact: It’s not fun to see yourself on video for the first few times. I used to hate my voice, but I’m good with that now. But I definitely still have to tone down my facials. It’s a thing. You should see me in a live class. My facials are a lot.
The reason this specific improvement is good for my health, is because I’ve actively adjusted some of my form and position for my workouts that I teach and do too. You never know exactly what you’re doing unless you do mirror work or video work. I’m much better off because of this self-assessing, even if it wasn’t a good time seeing it up close. As an example, I would sometimes let my head drop during push-ups, and even during forward-facing barre movements, so I would lose my neck alignment. I had no idea I was doing this, but I definitely don’t do it any longer.
And by the way, you don’t have to be an instructor for this to matter to you. I would highly encourage you to get some sort of a full-length mirror situation, if you work out at home, so you can see your form. And if you work out in gyms/studios, position yourself near mirrors so you can see how you’re moving while in action. You can also video yourself, and watch it back later, if you’re up for a real good time.
Form matters in workouts, and I’m glad I’m continuing to work on mine. Because yes, even fitness professionals are always working on their craft. But like every other point in this post, it will always be a work in progress. Perfection isn’t possible, nor is it the goal.
And that’ll do it for this one, my friends!
A little break …
Thank you so much for coming by A Lady Goes West to read this one today.
Tomorrow, Dave and I head off with our besties for our first ever adults-only trip without Brady, and we’re so excited. We’ll be in Jamaica for four nights, and I am very much looking forward to it. I’m taking the rest of the week off of the blog, but I’ll be back next week with some pictures from our trip and more. Be good out there. And be well!
P.S. I’m not going to be on my phone much, but I do plan to share at least a few Instagram stories, so catch me there. 🙂
Other posts you may like …
- Five healthy eating habits to improve your nutrition
- Five positive changes I’ve made during quarantine
- How to get more from your virtual and digital fitness classes
Questions of the day
What’s a positive change you’ve made lately for your health?
What’s one thing you are working on that you would like to change for the better?
How are you?