If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Doesn’t Change You

I have worked out 5-6 days a week on most weeks for as long as I can remember. That’s because I have always really valued my health, which has only intensified as I’ve gotten older. As a clinical dietitian, I see far too many people who have neglected their health for the majority of their lives, and then suffer the consequences way too early. As you can imagine, it is extremely hard to watch patients go through these things, but sometimes I think it’s even harder to watch their family members go through it. I am determined to live a long and healthy life so I can be there for my family as long as possible, and I fully intend to encourage my fiancé and future children to take amazing care of the one body with which they’ve been blessed as well.

So, how do we take good care of our bodies? Well, first and foremost, we fuel them with real, nutritious foods. Mostly plants – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes – and lean sources of protein, fish, healthy fats, and dairy (yes, dairy).

We have gotten to a place where people fear so many different foods, mostly for unnecessary reasons. Everyone wants to eliminate dairy, gluten, all carbs, this or that. When did we start fearing entire food groups, but somehow we can still justify eating a bunch of processed junk? I don’t know where we went wrong, but it’s time to get back to the basics. It’s simple, really. Eat. Real. Food. (With some splurges here and there; we all need chocolate and ice cream in our lives on a semi-regular basis.) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — healthy eating does require some effort and planning ahead on your part, but trust me when I tell you it’s worth it. When you get home after a long day at work and have no energy or desire to cook, it’s such a blessing to have a healthy meal waiting for you in the crockpot, or prepped roasted vegetables that just need to be heated up along with some fish you can toss in the oven. Even taking the time to sit down on Sunday evenings and create a “meal plan” for the week can take a lot of thought and stress out of the equation, and ensure that you and your family eat well throughout the week, rather than resorting to the McDonald’s drive-thru or another frozen pizza.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. 

The next thing we can do to take care of our bodies: Exercise. Often. Unfortunately you cannot choose between eating healthy and working out. Well, you can, but it’s not going to be near as effective in terms of your health. It is crucial to do both,  almost every day. Eat well, and move your body as much as you can. A lot of people use exercise as an excuse to eat more crap. Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that. Exercising should make you want to put more good stuff in your body so you actually see some of the results you’re seeking from working out in the first place. Like muscle tone or fat loss, perhaps?

Like I said, I have worked out consistently for many years, but I’ve gotten in a bit of a rut lately. I have gone to the same gym forever, and done pretty much the same workouts, forever. I’ve always done at least 20-30 minutes of moderate to high intensity cardio each day, combined with strength training a specific muscle group. For example, 25 minutes of intervals on the treadmill + arms on Monday, cardio + legs on Tuesday, cardio + chest on Wednesday, and so on. I am fairly satisfied with my body and I do feel fit and strong, but I haven’t seen any notable change in a long time. That’s because my body has gotten used to my workouts. My routine has become a little too routine. Too repetitive. I haven’t been tricking my body anymore or challenging myself enough.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

In the past few months, however, I decided I would finally switch it up a little. One of my best friends was doing something called “ClassPass”, and she invited me to join her. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s an app you can download on your phone, and by becoming a member and paying a monthly fee, you have access to hundreds of fitness studios in your area. Everything from yoga, to spin at Mojo Cycling, to barre at Pure Barre, to mixed classes like you’ll find at Fusion Fitness, or crazy high-intensity, ass-kicking workouts that incorporate strength, cardio & rowing at a studio called Health House (all in Kansas City). By using Class Pass, I’ve had the opportunity to try all of these studios and a variety of workout methods, all of which have really pushed my body. Mostly because they were brand new to me, and actually kept my muscles guessing.

I have felt especially challenged by my workouts at Health House over the past couple of months. I am absolutely exhausted at the end of each class, but I feel so accomplished. The workouts are only 45 minutes long, but let me tell ya, those 45 minutes are freaking hard. As a total perfectionist, over-achiever, and someone who feels like they are in pretty good shape, this has actually been a little frustrating for me at times. There have been several times during the classes when I wanted to quit, or I have had to take breaks when others didn’t. And don’t even get me started on the rowing machine. Rowing takes a lot more skill and technique than I ever imagined, and unfortunately, I don’t seem to have the skill or endurance. Yet. Every time I go back I seem to get a little bit better, so I can’t stop now, right?

The best thing about Health House is the way you feel when you’re there. Every single trainer is clearly so passionate about what they’re doing and they encourage you to push yourself to the limit every time. Even the people who go there motivate each other to be better and stronger during each class. Most importantly, in my biased Registered Dietitian opinion, Health House really encourages its members to eat according to their fitness goals, because again, you can’t have one without the other and get the results you’re looking for. It’s such an inspiring and health-conscious environment and I can’t get enough.

Personally, I love a challenge. I love to tackle difficult tasks and prove that I am capable of anything I set my mind to, especially when it comes to fitness. I have done this before by running a half marathon (twice, thank you very much), and I’m ready to do it again by joining this studio that pushes me out of my workout comfort zone. I don’t know if you know this, but I have a wedding coming up in just 264 short days — just kidding, I know y’all know because I remind you constantly — and I am determined to be in the best shape of my life for it. Not just for the wedding pictures that will last forever, or for everyone in the crowd to see, but for myself. And honestly, not just for my wedding, but beyond that, so I can continue to live the healthy life that I encourage you all to live every day. Sometimes you have to be a little selfish and think about what you truly want when setting your goals, or at this time of year, New Year’s Resolutions. I think we all owe ourselves that much.

Most people wait until about a month or less before a trip or big life event to do a “cleanse” or fad diet of some sort, and/or start working out to lose 20 pounds as quickly as possible. I will tell you for the hundredth time, that’s not the way it should go. It might work temporarily, but it’s usually not safe or sustainable weight loss. So I’m begging you, please don’t do that this year.

Instead, I want to challenge you to do what I’m continuing to do in 2017, and make healthy eating and exercise a part of your daily life for the long term. No crash diets or giving up on the gym in February. If you’re no where near that lifestyle right now, that’s okay! Start slow and work your way up. Small changes eventually lead to big results — it just takes a little dedication, and a lot of motivation. Living a healthy lifestyle looks completely different for everyone, and I’m sure you all have hundreds of different things in mind when it comes to making your New Year’s Resolution this year. If there is something you’ve been reluctant to go after or something you’ve given up on because it was “too hard” or you just got lazy, then go after it this year. I dare you.

I’m so excited to see what 2017 has in store for me and for all of you. It’s the year Ethan and I get married! FINALLY! I also hope to put a lot more time and effort into my blog in the new year. That might be tough as I get busier and busier with wedding planning, but hey, I said I like a challenge, didn’t I? 😉 I already have a few fun blog-related things brewing, so I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

I will keep you all posted as I embark on this new fitness journey and hope to see some awesome physical as well as mental growth in the months to come. Stay tuned.

Good luck with your goals for the New Year. Just remember, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Push yourself.

Shanna Stewart, RD LD

#wellnessforthewin

#healthhouse #rowforit

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