Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is It Compassion, Not Communication, that is Key to a Happy Relationship?

“Communication is critical to a healthy relationship.”

We’ve all heard it… and we all know how important it is to be able to dialogue with the one we love, but what about acting with compassion?

In relationships, compassion can sometimes take a back seat. Our lives are busy. During arguments it is often times easy to put blinders on and fail to see things from your partner's point of view. To truly be compassionate to your partner, it’s the ability to recognize when our partner is suffering in any sort of a way – and to be loving and kind to them in return.

There’s no one way to show compassion. In fact, when I started thinking about it, there are plenty:

1. Give your undivided attention.
Have you ever sat in front of your partner and spent more time thinking of how you’ll formulate a response to what they’re saying rather than actually listening to them? When you’re actively listening to someone with genuine attention, you’re more likely to understand them. So put down your phone and listen. After all, we all just want to feel like we are being heard.
2. Show affection
Whether you’re “touchy-feely” or not - everyone requires some level of affection. Affection comes in many forms - a sweet smile, picking up their favorite treat at the store, a gentle kiss on the forehead, big hugs, sex… you name it! Affection can also be expressed through encouraging words and unexpected compliments. Let your partner never go a day without knowing how much they are loved and appreciated.
3. Be kind with your words.
Sometimes it's not what we say but how we say it. Sometimes in moments of stress, it’s easy to skip the step of thinking about what our partner needs to hear. Sometimes all they need from us gentle understanding and support. Need an example? Yesterday I picked up my boyfriend from his office for lunch. On the drive home, I got a speeding ticket. When I called to tell him, we both began apologizing. WHY was he apologizing? Well, according to him, he should’ve warned me that road had a lot of cops pulling folks over. He apologized that I got the ticket driving home from dropping him off. I apologized for speeding in his car. I said it was my fault for speeding and not taking note of the limit. Our conversation could have easily turned accusatory – why were you speeding, you can’t drive my car anymore, this wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t driving home from lunch… you catch my drift. But nope. Reason one million and one why my partner and I (in my humble opinion!) work so well together. We try to be as kind as possible, whenever possible. It’s a funny thing when you begin to put the one you love above yourself. If each of you operate that way, you both come out on top.
4. Appreciate
Each of us has an innate need to feel valued and appreciated, especially by those we love. What a great feeling it is when your partner shows their sincere appreciation for the smallest of things. Expressing a high level of emotional intelligence allows couples to become intimately familiar with each other’s world and consider the qualities and characteristics that we genuinely appreciate. It can be something as small as a home cooked meal, buying your favorite bar of soap for the shower, or booking the middle seat just so the two of you won’t get split up on a flight somewhere together. All gestures – small or grand – deserve appreciation. Say thank you. Give kisses. Write a romantic card for no reason. Never stop showing the one you love how grateful you are for them and all they do to ensure your happiness.
5. Nurture Your Friendship
Nearly all successful relationships are based on a solid friendship, due in part to a mutual respect for and an enjoyment of each other’s company. Partners who have a strong friendship don’t just get along, they genuinely admire and support each other. Relationships based solely on sex and passion are fine for the short term, but if you’re looking for a love to withstand a lifetime, you need a solid friendship. There will be days when you’re not feeling so sexy, days when you’re sick with the flu and sweating out a 102 fever. There will be times when you accidentally let one slip in the middle of the night and times when your beloved skinny jeans feel a bit snug. So don’t forget to be playful, have fun with each other and above all else – be each other’s best friends.
6. Accept your partner for who they are today
Let’s face it. We all want to feel accepted. Sure – if all things are going completely splendidly it’s easy to accept your significant other. But what if things aren’t going according to plan? What if they recently got laid off? What if their six pack has disappeared? What if they had a bad day and feel badly about themselves, leaving them incapable of expressing their love and gratitude to you the way you would’ve hoped? My point is, it’s easy to show acceptance and love when things are great (i.e.: when you see these couples “falling in love” on the Bachelor – a false reality where they are eating and drinking to their hearts content, not worrying about work or paying bills or complexities of the outside world for 8 solid weeks) – but the real challenge lies in accepting the not-so-desirable qualities our partners may exude. Accepting those we love for who they are – not for who we hope they will become – is love and compassion in its truest form.
7. Let your partner be themselves
“You must love in a way that your partner feels free.” I’ve said this before and honestly never fully grasped the concept until my current relationship. In the past, due in part to insecurity and/or immaturity, I never knew how to love freely. Yet now, I am completely and whole heartedly aware that if I want my partner to love me with his whole heart, I have to foster an environment where he can be vulnerable and share himself fully. Letting your partner know how much you love them, and how you always will – with no judgment toward anything they may think or feel – allows them to be their true, authentic self. Why not tell your partner the ways in which you appreciate and accept them? My man wants to go golf with friends? Go! He wants to stay for lunch and a few beers? Do it! Love with all your heart and let your partner CHOOSE you.  

It’s not always easy to love compassionately. It requires patience, emotional intelligence and self-awareness. None of us are perfect – if we look for things to criticize in our significant other, I’m sure we can all find them. The key is to catch ourselves BEFORE we begin to criticize or get irritated. In those moments, bring yourself back to all of the positive attributes of your partner/relationship. If you both operate from a place of compassion and kindness, your relationship will come out on top.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Carbs are NOT the Enemy!

Confused about carbs?? It's amazing how often I hear people say they're going "low carb" or how they're scared to eat that morning bowl of oats... and I just want to scream out "Carbs are not the enemy!!!"

Now, that's not to say I'd suggest hitting your local greasy spoon for a tall stack of pancakes drenched in butter and syrup, followed up by a burger on a hot, buttery bun with a side of fries for lunch... all washed down with a bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo for dinner. All I'm saying is carbs are not the enemy. And we should stop treating them as such. 

Let's debunk some common carbs myths and discuss the benefits of eating those tasty whole grains! 

1) They fuel your workout. Take it from someone who had their carbs cut as they trained for 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, in preparation for my first fitness competition. Carbs are life. Okay, maybe not life, but carbs do help fuel you for those long, grueling workouts. I'll give you a real-life example:
I was one month out from my show and headed into my local gym for leg day. Now I think it's worth mentioning, I LOVE leg day!! I train glutes directly once a week, hammies once and quads once. That's three days where I beat the every living life out of my little legs. So you can imagine my amazement when I loaded my barbell with 165lbs (a weight I never had trouble picking up thus far) and couldn't get it off the ground. I'm not talking couldn't fully extend... I'm talking not even an inch off the ground. I had ZERO energy and less than zero strength. Prior to cutting carbs, I was crushing 50 pullups a day. Once my carbs were cut, I could barely throw my 100lb body up to the bar... it was brutal. 
The lesson I learned is that our bodies need carbs - ESPECIALLY before and after we lift. Which leads me to my next point...
2) They help build muscle mass. Ingesting carbs after a workout kicks off the recovery and muscle growth process! After an intense gym session, our bodies are depleted of glycogen (stored energy) and glucose (usable energy). The reason being, when we're lifting weights our muscles are working hard - using up all available glucose and glycogen for energy. Once our bodies get to a point where there is simply no more glucose/glycogen left to use, we then begin secreting the hormone cortisol - which essentially eats up our muscle tissue for protein and converts it into glucose. This whole process - known as gluconeogenesis - results in a loss of muscle tissue. What a bummer, right?? Which is why it's critical to ingest carbs and protein - getting them to your exhausted muscles immediately following a tough workout. 
3) They help you recover faster. Eating complex carbohydrates after an intense lifting session can minimize delayed onset muscle soreness by replenishing glycogen levels, support immune system function, and assist with overall muscle repair (when paired with protein). 

And if the reasons above aren't enough, let's face it. Carbs are freakin delicious. Just remember that mostly EVERYTHING we eat has carbs. Fruit, vegetables, multi-vitamins, you name it! However, all carbs are not created equal. Some great complex carbohydrates to add into your diet are:

  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal (cook it in water and fold egg whites in at the end!)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Quinoa 
  • Brown rice cakes
  • Ezekiel bread (their cinnamon raisin bread toasted and topped with a tablespoon of almond butter is the BOMB dot com)
  • All veggies
If you take away one thing from this post, I hope that it is the mere fact that carbs - and food in general - are not the enemy. They're fuel. They work in conjunction with our training routines and should be enjoyed and appreciated. Life is too short to live in fear of food!


Monday, February 1, 2016

3 Things My Long Distance Relationship Has Taught Me

It all began back in October 2015 at a friend's wedding

"How's dating going?" My friend Ryan asked.

My response? "It sucks!"

After Ryan inquired further, I responded with "If you happen to know a normal guy who loves to work out, likes to travel, isn't an ass and wants to settle down with the right person one day, let me know."

Turns out that guy was in front of my face for years. He just lived on the other side of the country.

From the very next day, so began a relationship I never imagined with a man I never dreamt possible. I'll save you the mushy gushy rant about how amazing he is - but really though... #swoon

Only downside is we happen to live on opposite ends of the country. A 3 hour time difference and 5 hour flight are all that separate us. No big, right?! Well, sarcasm aside - this relationship may not be logistically convenient but I'd rather do temporary long-distance with him than a geographically convenient relationship with anyone else.

Here's what I've learned ever since embarking on my first long distance relationship:

1) Have honest dialogue. For someone who has worked in Journalism and corporate communications for her entire professional career, it took this relationship to make me realize what a crap job I did of communicating in relationships. We all carry wounds from our past which may cause us to throw up unnecessary walls and shut out communication once it gets "hard." I thank my lucky stars that I have finally met a man who has an unbelievable ability to communicate - and make me feel safe enough to do so myself. When you're dating someone whose night is always just beginning when you're headed to bed and who you only get to see once a month, it's easy to get hit with a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out!). It's easy in this digital age to rely on text messages as a sufficient way of communicating, but it's simply not enough when you're trying to build a meaningful relationship. Call when you say you're going to. Use FaceTime to make you both feel like your daily lives are intertwined. With that said, I've learned that when you love someone - when you TRULY love someone - you do so in a way in which they feel free. If my boyfriend wants to lay around on a Sunday afternoon in silence or spend a Saturday golfing with his friends, I respect that. And he does the same for me. Talking through serious topics - including a vision of what your future looks like (i.e.: distance is temporary and you both will do what it takes to close the physical gap in order to begin living life together!) ensures you're both on the same page going in. There are plenty of nights when I lay in bed and remind myself that one day instead of saying goodbye, we'll simply be saying goodnight :)

2) Make time for the ordinary. After doing this long-distance thang since October, the thing I get most excited for when I know we'll see each other again is the mundane. I crave falling asleep next to him, waking up and seeing his sleepy face next to mine. I get butterflies thinking about ordering in dinner, opening a bottle of wine and binge-watching tv shows. Don't get me wrong - checking out great restaurants around our respective cities is a blast. As is spending time with our wonderful friends & family. So is taking day trips, planning vacations together and fantasizing about what the future holds. But when I close my eyes and think about what I cannot wait to do once we're together again, it's always about simply being next to one another. Nearly any couple could have fun if all they lived for were glamorous weekend getaways and a constant state of excitement. I'm not saying the honeymoon phase is anywhere near over, but standing in the bathroom putting on face masks together and making breakfast on sleepy Sunday mornings now makes my heart feel home.

3) Always know when you're going to see each other again. The only thing worse than leaving each other is not knowing when you'll see each other again. For this reason, I think it's critical to never leave without having your next trip planned. This may be challenging if one of you is not a planner by nature but knowing when you'll see each other again gives peace of mind and makes the time apart slightly more tolerable. Even the strongest people will have insecurities creep in after too much time apart. Whether it's a quick weekend together, a month of quality time or a vacation somewhere you've never been - having that date circled on your calendar and an "end date" to the distance is key.

At the end of the day, all I want is to find someone who is there for me when things are wonderful, terrible - and every day in between. Someone who makes my heart happy and makes me laugh harder than ever before. Someone who is proud to have me and challenges me to be a better woman. Someone to support me when I really need it and listens to all my zany ideas. Someone who is willing to put my needs before their own. And most importantly, someone I love enough to do the same in return. And if that means racking up some Delta SkyMiles in the process, so be it.

And above all else, don't forget to maintain a sense of humor and perspective. You have someone you love, who loves you! Life is good :)

What about you? Have you ever done long distance? I'd love to hear!