Have a Healthy Summer

For most of my adulthood at the beginning of each year, I fell into the mental trap of “getting healthy and in shape for the summer.” I wanted to have that perfect beach body, even if we never made it to the beach, and feel comfortable wearing cute summer outfits.

I never succeeded.

Life would get in the way, I would get distracted or frustrated with my diet and exercise and so I would enter summer either at the same weight I was at the beginning of the year or a little bit heavier.

Since I made significant lifestyle changes and stuck with them, I have found that I am finally entering the summer the way I always wanted to: beach ready and several cute outfits.

Still no available beach and rarely do I get out of my “mom uniform” because cute outfits and a toddler do not mix.

But I am experiencing something I’ve never before: staying fitness-minded and motivated in the heat. As I discussed on Monday, having MS and living in a hot and humid climate is not a good combination. I am finding that my motivation and my ability to stay fitness-focused is waning more than it did in the cold winter months.

What do I do? Well, I have to make some adjustments to accommodate this unforeseen speed bump.

Healthy Choices

The main thing I’ve learned is that my choices had to change in the summer months. This can range from the food I eat to the time of day I exercise to the intensity of the exercise I commit myself to complete.

If there is a day where I know I won’t be able to exercise for a while due to the heat, I have to adjust my eating to reflect that. Rather than eating heavier or caloric-dense meals, I adjust to more frequent and lighter meals throughout the day.

If we expect a high heat day or extreme humidity, then I will make sure to get out earlier in the morning to avoid dealing with either. 6:30am is usually a great time to get out, beat the heat and the traffic, and be home in time to say “good-bye” to Ash before he heads to work.

If it’s too hot or humid out to exercise, then I move any sort of workout indoors with the A/C blasting or a fan on me if I need to do something with intensity. I also need to make sure that keep drinking water throughout the day.

The hardest choice to adjust is the first one: I love to eat. So if I am having a craving for something particularly heavy, potatoes of some sort, I want to indulge it. I try to find ways to compromise or satisfy the craving with something else. Popcorn works best, but a cool piece of fruit will do in a pinch.

Remembering to drink enough water can also be a problem for me – so by carrying around a water bottle or cup can help remind me to stay hydrated. I need to keep drinking water if I am going to keep exercising throughout the hotter months.

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A Berry Picking Time

Another favorite outdoor activity I had growing up, besides camping? Berry picking.

Every late-spring my mom would take me berry picking at the local farms. We tried to do two trips a year: strawberries and some other local fruit (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or apples). Living in New England meant shorter picking seasons so we could miss a specific harvest by a week depending on how well the fruit developed.

This meant my mom would announce one morning that she’d be heading to the farm in a few days and ask if I’d be willing to help her. When I was younger, I had little choice in the matter but I loved it anyway; and when I was older it would depend on my work schedule for the week.

I found on the days I had to work or go to school and miss helping her were always disappointing. She’d try to adjust her schedule to accommodate me, but sometimes the weather and harvest wouldn’t cooperate.

Our Family Traditions

Strawberries were a must in our family.

If we could only do one picking a year it was strawberries. We had a rhubarb plant growing in our backyard so my dad always requested a strawberry rhubarb pie every summer. My mother never believed in doing anything half-measure so she would make sure to bake him a pie with only the freshest ingredients: rhubarb and strawberries she picked herself.

With the haul, she would preserve a batch of strawberries in syrup. My mom would freeze this mixture and thaw it for Christmas morning every year. Our favorite traditional Christmas meal, besides the evening feast, was homemade scones, clotted cream, and those syrupy strawberries picked earlier in the year.

There was something wonderful in knowing that I helped make Christmas breakfast a little more special by helping pick those berries. During the cold, dark New England months it brought a little bit of spring sunshine for the day.

Another fun tradition that started while strawberry picking was the story about a mouse visiting his relatives whenever we picked. No matter the farm and no matter the location (I happen to know he’s moved down South), my mom and I would create this elaborate story about his adventures over the past year and all the fun he was having while visiting.

It was one of those fun traditions that started one day when my mom spotted a mouse in the patch we were picking in. I think she started talking about it to make sure I wasn’t startled or to keep herself from being startled, so a story began about why he was there. Our stories grew over the years, though we’ve never physically seen him again.

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Jai helping pick strawberries this year. Photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography

Like all my favorite traditions and childhood memories, I’ve wanted to share them with Jai in some small way. I didn’t even wait for him to be born before I took him berry picking: I was between 5 to 7 months pregnant when I went picking for strawberries, peaches, and blueberries.

Last year, we took him peach and blueberry picking while he was in my carrier. This year we’ve gone strawberry and peach picking so far (blueberries are around the corner). Because peaches are on a tree, it was easier for him to physically help this year, though he may have grabbed several under-ripe ones for Ash, who’s a fan.

Jai is a blueberry lover,  and the farm we go to has such tall bushes that he’ll be able to help me again, so I know most of the fruit he picks will be put straight into his mouth and squished into my shirt. I have accepted and plan to be prepared for it.

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Simple 3-Ingredient Fruit Leather

Jai and I went strawberry picking yesterday, our first of the fruit season. It was his first-time strawberry picking, though he went peach picking with me last year. He seemed to enjoy himself, although he stayed in his carrier the whole time which isn’t a bad way to spend the time: comfortable transportation AND food service? Yes, please.

This bodes well for blueberry picking because the farm we go to has tall bushes that are out of reach for little ones. He may be able to grab a few while he’s on my back and if he doesn’t, he won’t be bored while I pick.

I snuck a couple of (rinsed) berries to him while he was back there and he seemed to be a fan, though he was more into eating them once we got home.

Strawberries have an extremely short shelf-life, so I had to come up with some ways to preserve them beyond a couple of days. We got huge bucket-full so I needed to think of something quick.

Jai is on a fruit leather kick so I decided to make some from the fresh strawberries. I hunted around for some recipes and settled on this one, but I made my own modifications to veganize and help naturally sweeten the leather some more.

I’ve written up my modifications below, but do check out Momables for other great healthy eating ideas for little ones.

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Jai’s first berry-picking experience. He was the official quality control agent: my shirt-back can attest with all the strawberry stains.

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Wellness Month Wrap Up

This was a mixed month of results for me.

Dealing with the stomach infection took a lot away from my ability to fully engage with my month of wellness. I had hoped to kick my training into high gear for a major 10k in July and while I still have time, I feel woefully behind because of the necessary 2-week break due to medication side effects. But taking breaks are sometimes necessary to allow a body to recover.

No shame in that.

Now that I am back to feeling better, I’ve restarted my running and feeling better because of it. On Saturday I ran a 4-mile race with my mom and we both exceeded our timing expectations. No PR’s, but neither of us are behind in our training. This was a validating discovery.

I found the most successful aspect of the month was my phone detox. It reduced my overall stress and increased my productivity. I have even found that it’s helped me restart my love of hardcopy reading. I’ve been screen reading for so long that I’ve forgotten how much I love the feel of old-fashioned paper. Jai is also discovering books, so renewing my love is beneficial to both of us.

Revitalizing Resolutions

I think checking in and reaffirming resolutions every four months is a good idea. I don’t believe I need to spend an entire month to doing so, but perhaps in August, I can remember to check in and see how I feel about my progress.

Checking in gives me time to work on my habits and make effective adjustments, but also prevents me from self-nagging to the point of personal frustration or discouragement. One thing I’ve learned this month is that progressing slow and steady is more effective than trying to rush or push myself to fast.

The fable was onto something: slow and steady may not always win you the race, but it will get you over the finish line. Achieving my goals are more important than the speed in which I get them accomplished.

 

Wellness Within and Without

It’s important to remember that wellness begins internally, not just an externalization through exercise. By taking the month to check on my internal well-being with phone detox and promoting self-confidence, I am helping ensure the longevity of my external manifestations of health.

Building a strong internal foundation will help me work through moments of doubt or defeat. Being self-compassionate will also help me take it easy on myself when I am tempted to give up on my goals. We all have down periods, just learning to work through them and move beyond is key once we’re ready.

Wellness All Year

Focusing on wellness shouldn’t be a one month out of the year thing or at the beginning of the year for resolutions. It’s an all year journey, one that has its ups and downs, but being okay with the ebb and flow is important to maintaining motivation.

What are some of your favorite wellness tips or tricks? What have you learned about yourself while working on your New Year’s resolutions? Comment with your thoughts below.

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For the Love of Dark Chocolate

When we first met, Ash told me how much he loved dark chocolate.

Me: Dark Chocolate? Really?
Ash: Yeah. It’s great. It’s delicious.
M: It’s gross. Ugh. So bitter. How can you like the stuff?
A: Well, I don’t like all dark chocolate. I like specifically 82% dark chocolate. My friend from college – his dad was a Swiss chocolatier and introduced me to that percentage. It’s not too bitter, not too sweet, but it’s the perfect balance of the two for me.

I tried it and rejected it for my milk chocolate love because it was too bitter to get around the flavor. Yet, when I quit sugar it meant I had to quit chocolate. This was devastating because chocolate is delicious and I am addicted to that endorphin release.

I was able to last a month without chocolate at first and focused on fruits as a means to satisfy my sweet tooth. But soon I started craving chocolate again. I looked around and found that there are several options available for those trying to get a chocolate fix without added cane sugar. (These are not sponsored links, but I do recommend them)

Ash saw me unwrapping a candy bar one day and wanted to know what I was eating:

A:What’s that?
Me: Chocolate. Why?
A: Can I see the wrapper?
M: Yes… (I hand him the wrapper)
A: You know this is dark chocolate right? You always said you hated the stuff.
M: (My mouth full)…so?
A: I TOLD you it was delicious.

He caught me. I found that by dropping sugar I was more receptive (desperate?) to dark chocolate. It was a good thing doing so because I was starting to get the actual health benefits from eating dark chocolate that’s on the news.

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