2020; a Year of Mourning

Many people think of grief as something you go through when someone you know dies. While this concept has validity, grief encompasses so much more than a loss of life. I define grief as a point in time where something significantly changes, and you view it as a divide. What once was, and now the present.

It’s safe to say 2020 has been a year of mourning for all of us. The pandemic certainly brought a divide, along with ambiguous grief. The feeling of uncertainty is quite unsettling. We may be fearful of our health, our jobs, our social health, our friends, our loved small businesses closing, certain industries being strained, etc. Closing, re-opening, “dialing back”, are all phrases we are too familiar with, along with the phrase “unprecedented time”. This season of life we are in is ever changing our and evolving. “New normal” is a phrase that has stigma as well. I heard opinions say they reject the idea this is the new normal and are waiting for things to go back to what once was. The reality is, we may never go back to what once was. It is on us to accept the time it is as now, and try to move forward each day. Whether it is day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.

Not only has the pandemic brought a divide, the tragedy of George Floyd has certainly brought a season of mourning.

To tie it up into a pretty bow, we had our most significant election yet.

2020 has brought a season of significant changes that will be documented in history books. That has been something I’ve been pondering recently, how 2020 will be transcribed and taught to future generations. What as a society are we learning from this?

I think the biggest thing I’m learning is how to cope with grief. I’d like to admit that I’m an expert on grief as it relates to my own personal life. I have lost many loved ones, and have had a significant amount of large life changes, specific to 2020. I rented my condo and moved to Raleigh, I lost my aunt to a tragic heart attack (and was unable to attend her funeral due to the pandemic), I quit my full time job, I chose to dissolve my long term relationship, I moved back home to Minnesota, I got a job as a server as soon as I got home, and now with the shutdown I am not employed there currently.

2020 has been a year. For everyone, not just me. I think we all can relate to the struggle 2020 has brought to all of us. The uncertainty, the mourning and loss, the pain. We are all in it, we all feel it.

So what can we do about it? This is a time where we need to unify and come together, instead of pointing fingers. If we take a step back, we may realize we are not so different after all. We are all human, we make mistakes, we have emotions, and everything you may be feeling about 2020, has validity.

I wish I could say at the stroke of midnight on December 31st all our problems would be taken care of. Since we know that isn’t the case, here are some of my personal tips for coping with grief that work for me.

  • Have real, meaningful conversations with trusted individuals about your feelings. Make sure you trust this individual to validate your emotions and truly listen to you, rather than jumping to conclusions trying to “fix” a problem.
  • Set boundaries with others. Grief can drain you, so energy conservation is vital. A simple “that makes me uncomfortable,” or “I don’t have the (time, space, capacity, etc.) to discuss that right now” works well.
  • Take care of yourself. Seek movement each day. Don’t get hung up on setting extremes where you must be on a strict diet or training regime. Your energy may be low and setting too strict or high of plans could set you up for failure, and may result in low self esteem.
  • Be mindful of what you are putting into your body. At meal times breathe slowly, practice gratitude, and chew each bite thoroughly.
  • Seek an activity that ignites your sense of “play”. This is hard due to circumstances now, but play can be found in coloring or doing something creative, reading a fun book, playing a game with a family member or friend, getting creative in the kitchen, doing a project, etc. Find something you enjoy doing, and relish in that feeling.
  • Ground yourself. This means practice being present in the moment. Breath work is great for this. If yoga is feels good, try that. A friend recently suggested a really great way to implement a new habit of grounding yourself if it isn’t something your used to. He asserted a way to make a new habit stick, is to apply it to one that’s already there. For example, ground yourself while brushing your teeth. Focus directly on teeth brushing, or maybe listen to a specific song you enjoy, or try repeating positive affirmations in your head. The act is do something intentional each day that reminds you that you are here, and the time is now.

I hope you find value in my tips, and am very grateful that you have read my post. Feel free to leave a comment on any tips that you’ve tried that works well for you. I know I will use all the advice I can get considering the year I’ve had!

Love, light, warmth, and positive vibes,

Annie

P.S. Looking for some accountability, a trusted health professional, and a cheerleader for your health and fitness goals? Schedule a FREE discovery call that works for your time and schedule using the button on my services page!

My Competitive Journey

My competitive journey has been a whirlwind of ups and downs. After competing last night and my goal coming to fruition, I have a lot to say about this sport.

First, I must thank my supportive tribe of individuals. My boyfriend has been with me day in and out, witnessed my struggles and gave me the encouragement when I needed it most. My coach Lucienne has the ability to coach me on the level I needed. I think that is what makes a coach great – to understand your client’s personality and learning style, and then adapt your coaching to them. I must thank my family. My Dad has been my biggest cheerleader no matter what I do. He was there at my figure skating competitions. He was there at my volleyball games. He was there at my graduation. Any large accomplishment I have achieved, he’s been there right by my side lifting me up. I have several supportive friends that I plan on reaching out to individually, but I must say if you’re a friend of mine and are reading this, please know I could not have done this without you.

Now, I’ll get onto talking about show day. I am pleased and honored to announce, I WON Bikini Novice Tall at Mr. And Ms. Natural Minnesota. This is what I set out to do, and I have achieved it. I interviewed my coach on New Year’s Eve in 2018 and told her my intention was to compete in this specific show. Two weeks previous, I also competed in Natural Iowa. This was a great idea of my coach, to compete in more than one show knowing all the time, dedication, and hard work this sport requires. It was perfect that Natural Iowa was two weeks before the competition in Minnesota. I was able to get my “first show” jitters out, and I knew what to expect at my second competition. My head was in a much better place during my second show. Not to say my first show didn’t go well, I am pleased to announce I placed second in Bikini Novice Tall.

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I think the biggest thing most people from the outside looking in miss, is how this sport is much more mental than it is physical. From the outside, you see competitors spending hours in the gym, being diligent with their diet, saying no to donuts in the office, getting a soda water at happy hour, but you don’t see the incredible hard work of training your mind.

It’s easy for an outsider to see the social media posts about training at the gym and think, “Wow, that must be hard”. I’m here to tell you, being in the gym is what kept my sanity during the past 6 months. It was a constant in my life that I knew I could count on. To be honest, I’m already back at the gym right now writing this blog post as I am incline walking. An outsider may perceive this as me being a “fitness freak” but I am happy to wear that title loud and proud. This is what keeps me, me.

Over the past 6 months I have dealt with a lot personally. In March, my incredible Grandfather passed away. A few short days after, I found out one of my Aunt’s dogs that I love dearly, passed away. My mother went back into hospice. I’m currently training a puppy (enough said there). My mother fell and broke her hip. My brother and I had to make a hard decision of surgery or treat the pain as her guardians. I get news that my Aunt’s second dog (they were brothers) also passed away.

The night before my first competition I read an email from my mother’s hospice nurse informing that my mother had a fall in the shower, and had a contusion on her left cheek bone. A week later we get notice she had another fall. (Thankfully, her hospice nurse has ordered a new wheel cheer to accommodate now). Last Thursday my boyfriend’s childhood dog also passed away.

Deep breath. There it is. In sequential order. Now layer dealing with the psychological effects of carbohydrate and calorie depletion of a competition prep. The cherry on top is dealing with naysayers that don’t understand why you’re competing in this type of sport.

Now you may understand why I think being in the gym is the easy part. Here’s a funny full circle moment, I like the sport of golf because it is a humbling, mental game. Maybe this is why I was able to thrive in competitive bodybuilding. Honestly, I think I had a lot of things from my childhood and upbringing works in my favor for this sport. Growing up a competitive figure skater, I was used to competing as an individual. I was the only one on the ice and felt the pressure of all the eyes directly on me. I had the years of training to appear graceful and elegant on the ice. My mind was already being trained for competition at a very early age. My Mom even open enrolled me in a different elementary school that got out of school earlier so I could make to the higher level ice time with my coach. Thinking back, my competitive figure skating years resemble competition bodybuilding prep. I figure skated before school, after school, and my during my “off days” I was still training, off ice. I practiced ballet and dance to work on my presentation.

I have reflected several times “what could have been” if I kept up with figure skating. As I have trained my mind, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and the Universe delivers you exactly what you need, at the right time. Figure skating delivered me incredible skills that I am able to translate not only to other sports, but in my everyday life.

This has been a long reflective post so if you’re still with me and reading this, THANK YOU.

Everyone is now asking me, “What’s next?” “When’s your next competition?” “Are you going to eat (insert a non-nutrient dense food item here)?”

This is what I can say today. Yes, I ate donuts, chocolate, a cookie, a burger and sweet potato fries, and had wine last night. I have yet to decide if I’ll compete again, and I am a 100% okay with that. I do know I will always value health and fitness as it has such a positive mental effect for me.

What’s next? Do you want to know more? Comment below, reach out to me via email, or through social media. I am a personal trainer, and am certified in Fitness Nutrition. I have the capacity of understanding how hard it is to change habits. I am happy to announce I am accepting clients for online and in person, personal training, nutrition coaching, and being an overall health coach. Let me guide you to not only look better, but feel better physically and mentally.

In sincere gratitude,

Annie

Why I Hate the Word Diet

Before I get into why I hate the word diet, I want to give a huge shout out to Perfect Fit Gear co-owner, Anita Swole for having me on her podcast, Balancing Act.  You can access the podcast through this link.  I also want to give a huge shout out to her sister, Camile Swole for summing up what was discussed during the podcast:

“Anita interviewed a soon-to-be first time competitor. Her website is bunnyflexfit.com Her definition of success will not be a trophy or a place, but her success will be the transformation her body goes through during this process. She plans on competing in the 2019 Mr. and Mrs. Natural Minnesota Bodybuilding Competition on May 24th and 25th.

“-Thinking about nutrition serving as the prevention of diseases, not just flavors of food.
– Thinking about exercise as a way to combat depression or anxiety instead of just a requirement to low body fat.”

These were the two biggest takeaways I got from listening to this weeks episode of Sowle Sisters Balancing act where Anita flew solo this episode when she talked to first-time competitor Annie Rathman!

This was SO fun to listen to for me! I actually related to her viewpoint SO much. I wish other bikini competitors would also shift focus on certain aspects of competing. They touch on
– Definition of a successful prep
– Nah- Sayers
– Getting offended
– The effects of fitness in other ways than vanity
-Thinking about nutrition serving as the prevention of diseases, not just flavors of food.
– Thinking about exercise as a way to combat depression or anxiety instead of just a requirement for low body fat.
– Life happens
-Intuitive Eating

Make to check out Annies blog she mentioned in the episode!
bunnyflexfit.com/2019/01/18/how-f…owerful-emotion/” – Camille Swole

Check out the rest of their podcasts on SoundCloud

__________________________________________________________________

Now, onto my definition of the word diet.

Hate is a strong word, I guess I shouldn’t say I hate the word “diet”. I would say I do hate the negative connotation with this word.

Diet, has a few different definitions within Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

diet

noun

di·​et | \ ˈdī-ət  \

Definition of diet

afood and drink regularly provided or consumed
diet of fruits and vegetables
a vegetarian diet
bhabitual nourishment
links between diet and disease
cthe kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
was put on a low-sodium diet
da regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight
going on a diet

 

As I read through those definitions, what sticks out to me is the definition about how the diet is set for a definitive period of time. I feel this connotation, sets up a lot of people for failure. For example, “21-Day Fix,” how do you think you will truly make a lifestyle change and create a habit that will keep with you for the rest of your life, in 21 days? I’m not saying this diet is not effective, but it has something in common with other diets. Think about: Atkins, Zone, Keto, insert new fad diet program here. What does all of these “diets” have in common? It makes you focused, and consider what you eat before it enters your mouth. After you hit your goal of say about a 15 pound weight loss, most people think they deserve a treat, and slowly but surely go back to the way they were used to eating, and gain MORE weight back than they originally had!

This type of yo-yo dieting is not great for your body physically, and mentally. It creates this mind set of guilt with food, and a mind set of “oh I’d be much more happier, successful, a better person if I lost 15 pounds” or “I am a failure since I ate a donut”. This type of mental guilt breeds eating disorders and overtraining.

Why don’t we shift our mindset and instead of saying “I am going on a diet” to “I am creating a lifestyle change to become healthier”. The latter suggestion states your why, and shows it isn’t for a finite period of time. I think this type of answer would defeat any type of naysayer telling you that you do not need to diet.

I like Whole30’s approach of defeating naysayers, you tell them you’re doing a 30 day experiment to understand how to nourish your body properly. What is the person that says, “look at you being healthy” going to say to that?

There is no “quick fix” to lifestyle changes and becoming physically fit. It is feeding into out instant gratification culture and society, but unfortunately body composition change is driven through hard work, and consistent dedication. Body composition change does not come from a short, finite period of time.

 

Thanks for listening to my rant. I think this is an important message for people to understand you can’t just drink Slimfast for 3 weeks and keep the weight off for the rest of your life.

Quiet consistency is how you drive change, and become your best self physically and mentally.

With gratitude, thank you so much for reading. Please comment on your thoughts about the word diet and your definition.

Exactly What I Needed

I am so happy I have a job that allows me to take bereavement leave. This past week has been up and down, time of sorrow and time of joy. As I wrote before, my life always has a way of evening itself out.

Thursday night, I attended an event that I was on the brink of bailing. I was making up excuses and reasons as to why I shouldn’t go, and made up my mind to do something else. Just as I was about to leave the house, I get a message from a friend that was leading the fitness event asking if I would like to be on stage. That was the spark I needed to help me make the decision to go to the event.

I honestly cannot put into words how much this event was exactly what I needed. It was Fitbit Local Minneapolis’ event where it was a combination of HIIT training, Dance, and Yoga. I moved my body, endorphins were released, and ending with yoga put me in a place of peace. After the class, I had so many people come up to me and tell me how I crushed the workout and they were impressed. One guy even said, “Way to be a role model up there for the rest of us”. I was honestly shocked when I heard that. I was thinking, “Who, Me?”

This concept brought me full circle, and remembering why I am doing this fitness journey. I got certified as a personal trainer because I want to help people live healthier lives, and not live their life in pain. I want others to realize they can do all the things, just like I can. I’ll leave you with some amazing pictures from the event.

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Day 1 – Whole 30 – Simple Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Here we are, 2019. Day 1 Round 3 of Whole30 for me. I was able to eat some of my egg bake for breakfast this morning. I started with hot water and lemon to kick start my digestive system. Julean and I went out last night so I know I will need to detox the alcohol and gluten I ate yesterday. The egg bake was delicious, but I need to continue to set myself up for success for the rest of the 30 days. That’s why I’m meal prepping a simple roasted spaghetti squash. This is an easy and versatile recipe. You can eat it as is when it comes out of the oven, or pair with different types of proteins. My favorite is to make a mock spaghetti and meat sauce since that is something I typically crave on whole30.

First things first, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and prep your squash. I use a fork and pierce a dotted line through the squash to help me cut it in half.

Using a large chef knife, and some muscle, slice through the squash so you have two halves.

Next, scoop out the guts and seeds of the squash using a large spoon or ice cream scoop.

Once your halves are cleaned (no worries, it doesn’t need to be perfectly cleaned out, just the major guts need to be removed), season the squash with salt and pepper. You also want to use some sort of oil or ghee to help the squash roast in the oven. If you do not have a tip like this for your olive oil, I would suggest brushing the halves with oil or melted ghee. It’s easy to over-do the oil so having a pouring tip like this or brushing it avoids putting too much oil on the squash.

Once seasoned and brushed with oil, place the squash cut side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in center rack of oven for 35-40 minutes.

When you take the baking sheet out of the oven, let your squash cool for about 10-20 minutes. It will be very hot to touch. If you’re short on time, just use an oven mitt to handle the squash and turn it over. After the squash roasts, it will be very easy to take a fork to the squash and pull the “meat” of the vegetable out. I went ahead and put the squash in 5 meal prep containers, as this will be an easy lunch for me as I make a meat sauce later today.

Happy 2019 and meal prepping!

RECIPE

Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 40 minutes Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Medium Spaghetti Squash
  • 1 Tb Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Using a fork, piece the length of the squash. Using a chef’s knife, cut the squash in half length-wise.
  3. Using a spoon, remove the guts and seeds of squash.
  4. Brush squash with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place squash cut side down on baking sheet, and place on center rack of oven. Roast for 35-40 minutes.
  6. Allow squash to cool for 10-20 minutes. Using a fork, pull meat of squash out of the skin. Serve as is, with other seasonings or protein, or make a meat sauce for a whole30 spaghetti!