Stephanie Under Construction Blog

Finish Line Ready! Group 5K Training

Whether you’re ready to walk or run your first 5K or are a seasoned racer and wanting to improve your fitness, speed, strength, and flexibility in a group setting—this is the training group for you!  Welcoming all bodies and fitness abilities, we will spend some of the most beautiful months of Lake Havasu City’s weather to enjoy the outdoors and get race-ready!

Training Program Includes:

  • Weekly group walk/runs and stretching (Saturdays @ 7am—various locations in Havasu)
  • Ongoing endurance nutrition support specific to your individual needs
  • Full (written) 5K training plan for independent workouts
  • Group accountability and fun
  • (Optional) 60-minute Monday night virtual meeting for a 20-minute guided body-weight resistance strength workout, group discussion on hot topics (gear, fueling, recovery, etc), and to address any additional support issues (Meeting recorded, even if you can’t attend, you’ll still have access!)

Round 1: Havasu Balloon Festival 5K (Race Day: Saturday, January 21, 2023)

Meets Saturday, October 8, 2022, through Saturday, January 21, 2023 (Dark dates: 10/29/22, 12/24/22)

Round 2: Havasu Half 5K or Half Marathon (Saturday, April 15, 2023)

Meets Saturday, January 28, 2023, through Saturday, April 15, 2023 (No dark dates; subject to change)

Investment: $147/round or $267 for both rounds (Race registration not included; participant must complete their own registrations and waivers as required by race organizers)

(*If you are planning to attempt the 4/15/23 half marathon, both rounds are recommended to build endurance and ensure safe and healthy racing for the participant—a half marathon training plan will be provided in place of the 5K training plan)

Registration for each round closes 3 weeks after the start of each round to provide participant adequate training time to enjoy a safe and fun experience.

To register, email stephanielueras@gmail.com, message Stephanie Lueras on social media, or text 602-621-3392.

Both races have a virtual option if you aren’t local or available on race day here in Lake Havasu City—the only thing you will miss if you aren’t with us in person through the training process is our Saturday group workouts, but we’ll be sure to include you in the encouragement and accountability of those workouts, so you still feel like part of the group!

*This is an independent program of Heart and Sole Fitness & Wellness LLC and not in conjunction with any specific race organizer

Unpopular Opinion: Drink the soda

Hear me out…

If you tool around on any of the social media platforms, you might have seen the “healthy coke” that’s gone viral combining ice, sparkling water, and balsamic vinegar.

Now, let me first say, I love balsamic vinegar. I use it in cooking, probably more than palatable to most, but whatevs…it gives food amazing flavor. Never in my life have I thought, “I wonder how I can make this into a drink?!”

Second, and more importantly: you are under no obligation to “healthy hack” anything that you consume.

In my top five things I hear from clients and consultations is some iteration of, “I’m so bad for drinking soda.” To which we do a little more investigative work:

  • Why do you feel drinking soda makes you “bad?”
  • Why do you think soda is bad?
  • What type of soda do you enjoy?
  • How much soda do you consume?
  • When and where do you consume soda?
  • Do you enjoy soda?
  • What/how much of other beverages do you enjoy?

Soda has no moral value. You are so much more than your food and drink consumption habits. Drinking soda doesn’t make you a good or bad person–a beverage simply isn’t that powerful.

Soda in and of itself is not “bad.” It’s our habits and actions around its consumption that might be problematic due to your relationship with it, but its mere existence in any form (regular, diet, zero sugar, various sweeteners, caffeine free, etc) is not good or bad.

I only ask what type of soda someone consumes to have a little extra knowledge in how that particular beverage might be affecting their body on a more global scale. There is no right or wrong answer if you tell me that you drink regular, diet, sodas made with alternative sweeteners to cane sugar, caffeinated vs caffeine free, etc. The other reason I ask someone to share what type of soda they drink is to understand do they prefer this because it’s really what they enjoy, or they choose it because it’s “healthier” than another?

Questioning consumption is not a matter of this vs that (subtraction and restriction), but rather a question of quantity in terms of balancing soda with other beverages (adding to hydration–ensuring that soda isn’t the only beverage you consume in a day). The enjoyment factor is important because it helps to understand whether or not you’re drinking soda because you actually like it, or it is convenient, available, and/or a mindless grab.

An important piece of information is the when/where with soda drinking. Are you drinking it on its own or with meals? Having a large quantity to sip on through the day in absence of other choices? Do you use it to soothe or treat emotional or physical feelings.

This might seem excessive, but it’s actually not a long conversation, but it helps me to see where someone might be at in order to help them see that they’re demonizing something that isn’t “bad,” or help someone to process how looking at their choices differently might empower them to consume soda in a different way that helps them feel better about the choice or the physical result of what they are consuming.

Now, down to the brass tack that hits with the soda argument: diet vs regular. Personally, I don’t give a rip what you choose as long as you are consuming which you prefer taste-wise–here’s why: regular soda contains calories that can satiate hunger and contains sugar (perhaps by a myriad of different names for sugar–but it’s still sugar) and satisfies not only a craving (emotional boost), but can provide a boost physically (blood sugar spike/caffeine kick). Diet soda is (mostly) calorie-free and uses natural or artificial sweeteners/sugar derivatives that also meet that craving and physical boost (might or might not spike blood sugar depending on your sensitivity to sweeteners/caffeine kick). At the end of the day, it really comes down to preference.

All this said–here’s my encouragement when it comes to soda consumption:

  • Too much of any one thing is not beneficial. Ensure you’re balancing your soda consumption with other beverages, especially water, to foster good hydration habits.
  • Explore your “why” behind soda, and sometimes that honesty factor empowers one to make different choices if they find it beneficial
  • Drink and enjoy your soda independent of meals. There are so many flavors and textures that go on with eating a meal, that water or another beverage can be more satisfying. If you drink soda, drink it in such a way that you’re honoring the choice and you can consume it mindfully–enjoying the taste, experiencing the carbonation/bubbles, how it makes your body feel, etc (If one is concerned about the amount of soda they consume, these mindful consumption habits can help to decrease the amount of soda one drinks if they find that personally necessary)

I often get asked if I drink soda (which is a loaded question because what I consume isn’t necessarily an appropriate choice for you), and the answer is yes, but rarely. Years ago I drank a lot more soda than I do now, but diet soda started to have an adverse effect on me from the artificial sweeteners used and I found that I didn’t have the same problem drinking regular soda. However, my soda consumption is limited because of how I perceive it–about 6-7 years ago I began a migraine prevention medication that has a side effect of dulling one’s sense of effervescence/carbonation. Basically all of these beverages taste flat to me (it’s bizarre, I know), so I don’t really crave drinking soda because who likes flat soda? It tastes like flat, colored sweet water to me. That said, I’ll occasionally have a ginger ale or coke to settle my stomach if I’m not well, or a sprite for a fast sugar boost on a hot day after a depleting workout outside in the absence of other electrolytes, but I much prefer other beverages that taste better and satisfy me more–mostly water, but I do drink coffee (daily), lemonade, iced tea, and occasionally adult beverages.

Oh, and another note on this ridiculous viral soda-hack: vinegars are fabulous! They provide some great nutritional support in your FOOD. Drinking/shooting vinegars in excess can damage tooth enamel, interrupt the natural gut biome over extended periods of time, and cause other forms of digestive distress.

There you have it–now, enjoy your drinks!

There Is No Magic Wand

(Originally published in the Today’s News-Herald on Thursday, June 2, 2022)

Last week I started discussing how to niche into the area of movement that you enjoy to build long term sustainability and consistency, and as we continue this topic over the several weeks, today I want to back up and look at fitness, nutrition, or any wellness pursuit and the “magic wand” effect.

You’ve seen it before–a great testimonial on how someone’s life has been changed by a program or product, and you can have the same results (or better) if you sign up for this short-term challenge or program.

In many cases, we have arrived at our desire to change through years of habits contrary to the ones we want to cultivate in our lives.  Studies show that not only does it take longer than these short-term challenges to create long term change, but the results also you might or might not achieve during these challenges tend not to be sustainable.

There are many examples of the magic wand effect under all umbrellas of wellness programs and products, but one of the easiest to breakdown is weight loss.  A 21-day program might promise that if you follow their diet and exercise program fully, that you will experience a certain level of success toward a weight loss goal.

You participate in the program, and not only does it have a restrictive diet where you find yourself maybe preparing foods that aren’t your fancy, you also have to purchase proprietary supplement products, and participate in an exercise program that some days you enjoy, other days you have to force yourself because it doesn’t fit your schedule/ability/energy/etc., and at the end of the challenge you might see some changes.

What happens at the end of the challenge to maintain your results?  Do you continue with something that you’re not fully enjoying and doesn’t integrate fully into your schedule, lifestyle, or budget?  Do you modify it?  Or do you stop the program?

The overwhelming majority tend to do the latter—abandon the program.  You achieve some success and live under the assumption that without the structure you’ve been under to attain it that you will sustain the change.  Others leave because the scheduling, cost, or other commitments involved don’t align with their needs.  There is a small group that do continue and maintain their success over the long term—about 5% in these instances.

Let me be VERY clear: you are not a failure for leaving a program or abandoning a product after a short-term challenge.  The program or product have failed you, and that is the very nature of the diet industry and its marketing. You are not weak, lacking willpower, or undisciplined.  It just wasn’t right for you.

Change takes time, consistency, and flexibility.  I’m not knocking the concept of the challenge in and of itself, but simply as a stand-alone solution to reach our goals, it falls flat.  It can be a motivator, a jump start, an education tool, and more—but a short-term challenge is just a start.  For any type of challenge or short-term program to be successful, you need to start at the end first and ask a few important questions: what is the end point of the program?  How does it help me transition habits from the rigidity of the challenge or programmed lifestyle into MY daily life?  Where does continued support come from?  Is this financially feasible for me to continue for the long term?  Does the nature of this program align with my values and goals?

All these questions help us to make the choice to move forward with something that might be the springboard to our long-term success or fall into the continual stop and start of looking for the overnight transformation to look and/or feel how we want to feel—which doesn’t exist.  When it comes to habits and our wellness, there’s no easy button, but as we’ll continue to explore, we can make the journey enjoyable.

Drink Up!

(This column originally appeared unedited in the Today’s News Herald on March 31, 2022)

I was on a call last week when our temperatures were in the mid-90s and it was snowing in Wisconsin, so it’s a hard for me to say that it is beginning to warm up everywhere, but spring is upon us!  It is a natural tendency in the cooler months to hydrate a little less, but now that temperatures are starting to climb, it is a good time to talk about hydration—what to drink and how much we need to drink.

Drink water.  You do not need to go out and purchase fancy alkaline water, water enriched with different vitamins and minerals, or other advertised benefits.  The health enhancements these products provide are anecdotal at best (remember our biased studies from a couple weeks ago?).  Choosing the water you drink is purely out of preference, I fully appreciate the taste difference between tap water, reverse osmosis, water softener systems, bottled, and more.

Something I often hear regarding hydration is, “I don’t like drinking water.  Can I hydrate with other liquids?”  Sure!  Most of your liquid intake ideally should be from water.  Water helps carry many body processes, and if we’re consuming pure water, the body is having to do less work to put that water to work for our benefit.  Here’s some things to keep in mind about some of those other beverages:

Coffee and tea: Nothing wrong here! Caffeinated coffee and tea can be dehydrating, and is ideally consumed in moderate amounts, but there are trace amounts of caffeine in decaffeinated versions that need to be considered.  However, there are nutritional benefits that come from coffee and tea.  Where coffee and teas can become counterproductive from the lens of hydration is the addition of sweeteners, syrups, and many of the add-ins to create fancy drinks.

Sports drinks: If you are exerting yourself, sweating excessively, outside for a long period of time, or engaged in sports or exercise activities, sports drinks can be a great way to aid in hydration to help replace essential electrolytes and nutrients that have been expended.   These drinks often contain a high level of sodium, and other ingredients unnecessary for everyday use.  (I will cover this more when I address pre-workout, post-workout, protein, and recovery drinks/supplements in a few weeks) 

Sparkling/Bubbly waters: Go for it! The only thing to be aware of here is not every carbonated water is created equal.  Read your label.  Some of these products have additional sodium, artificial sweeteners, or pack a caloric load that you might not have been expecting because you assumed it was simply just water.

Juice: Some.  There’s nothing wrong with juice. We love juice, but it’s the calories and nutrients of the fruit with the fiber (pulp of the fruit/veg) strained out.  It can be refreshing, but not our greatest source of hydration.  (More on juice at a later date)

This is by no mean an exhaustive list of the beverages that help our bodies maintain a great level of hydration (PS: alcohol consumption doesn’t make the list of items that hydrate us)—nor have I given you a prescriptive level of how much water you should consume in a day.  Answer is, we’re all probably not getting as much as we think, and it’s probably not enough.  I acknowledge it can be hard to consume enough water to feel adequately hydrated, and it comes from a place of privilege to suggest purchasing other options.  Sometimes we can be creative with the water we have at our disposal to make it palatable, adding a few drops of fruit juice, crushing a few berries, a slice of citrus, or going savory with a sprig of herbs.  Some of these add-ins can be sourced from social media pay-it-forward groups and apps like Nextdoor where neighbors share their abundance with each other.  Regardless of how you’re getting your hydration, be sure to drink up!

If you’re not sure where to go next in your journey, but know you’re ready to do something, let’s have a conversation soon!

Guest Blog: Smoker’s Shame

A note from Stephanie Lueras, owner of Heart and Sole Fitness & Wellness: I’ve decided that once in awhile I’m going to feature a post from another small business owner that aligns with my values. Carol Rudd, CEO & Founder of Healthy Choices Oasis LLC, is a friend of mine that I first met in a virtual co-working space and our paths continue to cross in other wellness spaces, making the world a much smaller place! She mentioned this article during a networking time yesterday, and I felt compelled to share it others because of my passion in breaking down stigmas. Whether it be body size, mental health, ability, health condition, or anything else under the sun–misconceptions often run amuck, and in the end, we can be the ones that suffer. I am grateful to Carol not only for this article, but for the work that she does. If you have any type of breathing conditions, please reach out to her and see what she’s got available (in-person and virtually), her programs are amazing!


Smoker’s Shame, written by Carol Rudd

If you are a smoker, you have heard of COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It consists of Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis. Emphysema is a breakdown of the air sacs, while bronchitis is chronic inflammation of the airways. “COPD is a progressive disease and therefore affects people later in life. As a result, current or former smokers 40 years or older are the most commonly afflicted with COPD.” (quoted from the Lung Institute website)

Smokers tend not to seek medical help early in their disease process because they have been told by everyone under the sun that smoking is bad for them and they should quit. After several failed attempts, they feel helpless to quit and carry the burden that because of their smoking, it’s their fault. Both my parents were smokers and while my dad, after a heart attack was able to quit smoking, my mom was extremely addicted to smoking. After she had severe lung disease, knowing that smoking was bad for her, she smoked even more. Instead of letting the cigarette burn out in the ash tray, she would inhale deeply until it was gone, even when she was on oxygen! She would go into the bathroom, turn the 02 off, open the window and smoke. Sadly, she would spray lysol to cover up the smell, but everyone knew. My point is this, everyone gave up on mom, including mom!

Smokers are treated differently in healthcare. Not intentionally, but there is a subtle bias of blame, that you brought it on yourself and if you can’t quit, why should we help. Do people with heart disease get blamed for their clogged arteries because they are high stressed and abuse their bodies? NO! Do diabetics get blamed for making poor food choices that lead to or worsen their condition? NO! So, why is it that physicians treating patients with COPD don’t offer Pulmonary Rehab earlier in their diagnosis? Or why is lung volume replacement surgery and lung transpants still considered experimental after more than 20 years? In the last two years, while mortality rates have been declining for Heart Disease and Strokes, deaths from Lung Disease continue to climb, going from 4th to 3rd place in the US.

Smokers feel there is something wrong with them because they can’t shake their addiction to cigarettes. The reality is the tobacco industry has worked to make their products more addictive and at the same time more lethal! Studies show that cigarettes today have more cancer-causing chemicals than ever before!

“In the past, men were most commonly affected with COPD. However with the rise of tobacco use by females, specifically in high-income countries, men and women are now afflicted almost equally. In 2007, approximately 64,000 women in America died of COPD compared to 60,000 men (quoted from the Lung Institute website).”

Second hand smoke is also a concern for children raised in smoking households. “The age of the sufferer directly relates to the age at which his or her lungs were damaged. For example, a child who grew up in a heavily polluted area may be at risk to -developing COPD much earlier in life (quoted from the Lung Institute website).”

Why do I care? First of all, I was raised in that smoke-filled home and struggled with asthma all of my childhood. Secondly, I watched my Mom die a slow and terrible death, toward the end, her carbon dioxide levels were so high, she couldn’t tell her waking from her sleeping and thought her dreams were real. She was a fighter and hung on longer than I thought possible until one night she had some clarity and asked if she was dying. I told her yes and that morning she passed away. I think of the things she could have done differently. Quitting smoking, learning how to eat and exercise better to improve the quality of her life. I couldn’t help my mom, but I can help anyone struggling with COPD. I spent 41 years working with both men and women who had COPD and smoking addictions. Helping them find ways to quit, empowering them to find strategies to improve the quality of their lives was and is my passion. There are many things you can do to help yourself. Choices like eating simple, less processed foods, drinking water, daily exercise, energy conservation and so much more.

My one frustration while working in the Pulmonary Rehab program was I couldn’t help those new to COPD, I had to wait until they were sick enough (Medicare guidelines had specific criteria, based on a pulmonary function or breathing test). They had already lost muscle mass, strength and stamina and were feeling hopeless. Either they had gained weight or were to the point of losing weight because their breathing was more work than the calories they could eat.

So, if you or someone you love is new to COPD, or a current smoker wanting to quit for good, tell them about FIT2Breathe, my program for those newly diagnosed with COPD. The thing is, in life we always have choices, ALWAYS! When we feel powerless or victimized we feel we have no choice. But all it takes is to consciously choose to do it differently. Don’t give up on yourself like my mom did, seek out professionals that can help. No matter where you or a loved one is on the path of COPD or smoking addictions, there are choices!


Thank you Carol Rudd for being our first guest post!

Ditch the Diet Swap: Taco-Taters

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve been back around with my repurposed recipes to empower you to have fun in the kitchen and break free from the bounds of restrictive diet-based recipes and enjoy food that nourishes your body and soul.

I’m back today with another recipe reimagined from a popular early 2000’s cookbook where common recipe ingredients were things like fiber cereal crushed as breading and powered creamer in place of milk products to save on calories and fat…and flavor (no offense if you actually enjoy fiber cereal…I’ve got some cardboard in my recycling bin I’m happy to share at a low, low price).

The recipe today shifts dramatically from the original recipe, but it creates a meal with a variance of ingredients to create a nutrient dense meal. You’ll note I don’t focus on exact measurements too closely in terms of serving sizes, because we all have different nutritional needs and hunger/satisfaction/fullness levels, and we’re all serving different size herds! We can get down to the nitty-gritty 1:1 and discuss what’s most appropriate for your needs on a call.

In the meantime, enjoy some Taco-Taters!

Ingredients:

  • Ground beef (we use 85/15, you use your preferred lean cut–or ground turkey, chicken, pork, or meatless/plant-based product)
  • Garlic (we’re all about fresh and in absurd amounts here!)
  • Onion Powder
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Green Chile (chopped) or Rotel (canned diced tomato and green chile for the uninitiated)
  • Baking Potatoes
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Green Onions
  • Sour Cream/Crema
  • Salt
  • Olive (or other preferred) Oil
  • Other Taco Toppings

Prep:

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Scrub, scrub, scrub those taters and stab it with a fork a few dozen times
  • Give them a rub down with olive oil (or your preferred oil) and sprinkle with salt, wrapping in aluminum foil and baking for 60+ minutes or until just squishable to the touch (with an oven mitt, those suckers are hot)
  • Alternate: you can forego the foil and microwave the potatoes for 6-8 minutes per potato, but personally I think you can just trash the potato at that point because it’s just not as good
  • Brown meat/meatless option with garlic and onion powder to taste until fully cooked through
  • Add green chile (with liquid; my preference–tomato allergy) or rotel (with liquid) and taco seasoning (in proportion to the amount of meat/meatless option prepared) and simmer about 15 minutes.
  • Strain any liquid/grease from pan
  • Once baked potatoes are done, serve up the potato as a base and top with taco meat/meatless option, cheese, sour cream, green onions, and/or whatever your heart desires!

I’d love to know what other additions you’d put in this. I added some pinto beans to mine too!

I hope you’re hungry–this can feed an army!

…and yes, the original recipe on this called for fat free non-dairy creamer. Just, no.

Happy Birthday Heart and Sole!

Sole: Belonging only to the person or group specified; the part of an item of footwear on which the sole rests and upon which the wearer treads (Merriam-Webster)

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NLT)

February 10, 2020, at 5am was the first day Heart and Sole Fitness & Wellness was open for my standing business hours–Monday through Saturday, 5am-7pm. It was the culmination of the scariest thing I had ever done–stepping out of the security and familiarity of a position that, through my own journey of personal wellness and growth, I came to realize the toxicity of it all and had built up the confidence to step into even greater alignment to serve and love others in the best way possible and leave behind what not longer served my spiritual walk, my health, my marriage, and more. Everything happens at the right time.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s not a single regret that we (my husband and I) have in regards to leaving our previous work and literally start over. But this post isn’t about that–this is the celebration of what Heart and Sole has accomplished and an anticipation of what’s ahead.

As I was getting some information ready for my accountant, I started pulling some other figures with the idea I was going to create and share this prettily packaged impact report as to the evolution of this business and what it has accomplished in two years…that might come eventually, but here’s the 30,000 foot view:

  • Over 1000 hours of 1:1 coaching (including personal training, nutrition counseling, and accountability coaching)
  • Over 600 group fitness classes taught
  • More than 75 webinars and virtual workshops taught
  • Close to 100 speaking engagements on various virtual and in-person platforms
  • A #1 international best-selling book
  • Writing a weekly health column in our local newspaper
  • Adding additional certifications to my resume since business inception including becoming a TRX suspension system instructor, SilverSneakers group fitness instructor, and SilverSneakers nutrition facilitator. Continuing in 2022 with Kundalini yoga and orthopedic exercise.
  • Creating a job for a local resident (besides myself)
  • Utilizing more than 40 small or locally-owned businesses within my community and more than 75 small businesses throughout the United States for vendor services, products, and other business needs (I can’t stress the ripple effect of small and local businesses utilizing small and/or local businesses)
  • Providing countless referrals to my network of vetted and trusted partners, affiliates, other health and wellness providers, and other businesses to meet someone’s need that wasn’t within my scope of practice (I’m not too proud to acknowledge I’m not everyone’s right fit)

These are well and good things, but the part that blows my mind is the transformation of my clients. Whether it’s people that have been here for just a season or those that have been here since the beginning and keep showing up, their results are why I get up in the morning and keep going. I can’t possibly put a value or a quantitative analysis on the impact of lives that I have touched through my work directly with an individual and the ripple effect that has on their own families, relationships, networks, and more.

Yes, Heart and Sole Fitness & Wellness is a business, it is how I contribute support to my family, but if there wasn’t transformations–if there wasn’t results–if there wasn’t growth, then it’s all for naught. This business was birthed out of my own personal wellness journey and the desire to empower others to find the same freedom and joy that I experience through accomplishing my goals that continue to grow, evolve and change. The business itself has had its own journey over the last two years. It looks very different, the offerings are 100% different, and how I show up in the world is absolutely not the same as it was on day 1, nor should it stay that way. My journey in this business growth has come through the same structure as my personal growth–by having the goals, systems, and accountability in place to keep moving forward a little bit each day.

There are more people than I could possibly begin to name that have been along for the ride–not only my absolutely incredible clients, but my family, friends, supporters, mentors, teachers, and even the haters. There’s nothing small about a small business–it takes a village. I get overwhelmed with my gratitude as I start naming names and calling out all that has come back around to me…thank you is never enough for all of the love and support that has been poured out.

As with all things, there are goals for Heart and Sole Fitness & Wellness. It will continue to grow and evolve over time to serve and empower in deeper ways. My commitment to my values of accessibility, adaptation, integrity, love, and compassion–those won’t waver. Two years has flown by in the blink of an eye; I wait with gratitude and anticipation for what the future holds.

By mere fact that you’re reading this, you’re a part of it all too. Thank you.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Heart and Sole Fitness & Wellness–here’s to many more!

The Danger of Before/After

As we are in the full on swing of 2022, 2020 v. 2, New Years, New Year’s Resolutions, and my ultimate favorite, “New Year, New You,” I first want to remind you that you are just as you are meant to be right now–amazing, intelligent, compassionate, loving, and excelling at being YOU.

The $70+ billion dollar diet industry is extremely loud in this season of the year, trying to convince you that how you exist right now is somehow wrong, and that your body is to be restricted, deprived, and manipulated in the name of “health.” It’s easy to fall prey to the temptation of the challenge, fix, product, or other shiny new way that these predators have labelled their diets.

I’m not going to lie and say I’ve never been a victim of those myself–if you scroll back far enough on my blog or some social platforms, you’ll see the very pride I took in “lifestyle change” to manipulate my body size with a parade of before and after photos. I won’t lie that I’ve spent the last 7+ years in dismantling my own bias around diets, diet culture, and the fallacy of intentional weight loss. Am I perfect in my language and understanding? Of course not, and it’s because I still continue my own personal and intentional inner work as I grow, change, and more studies (yes, science) comes available.

But here’s the deal, there’s a lot of things you can be focusing on right now that spur you to the place you want to be. I talk to a lot of people that are convinced it’s weight loss that will bring them what they desire, but when you break it down in conversation, it’s things like strength, stability, stamina, endurance, a different relationship with food, or changing a particular health outcome (ie: blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, chronic pain/conditions, etc) that is driving the motivation to lose weight. Let me be the one to tell you again (hopefully, I’m not the first), that none of these goals have anything to do with the scale or body mass index. They are incumbent on how you FEEL, and not the measure of your gravitational pull. Even goals such as achieving a particular aesthetic (*remembering that most of your inspiration is filtered, edited, and airbrushed) aren’t based on weight, it’s based on movement, nutrition, and (#sorrynotsorry to break this one to you) mostly genetics. While achieving a particular body size is still praised in the majority of society, remember that it isn’t long-lived. The studies are there that long-term intentional weight loss is not sustainable.

Now that I’ve got you in a cheery mood, let’s flip the script. As the noise is flooding you this time of year (and let’s face it, always), know that you don’t have to buy into the hype that your current body is a “before” and you are to be in pursuit of the “after.” Look at your body in the present moment, acknowledge it, appreciate it, and (a stretch for some of us still making peace with our bodies) love it. Take inventory of your body needs and desires to feel its best. Is it movement? Is it edifying nutrition that serves YOU? Maybe it’s rest, hydration, better stress management/coping skills, spiritual growth, or other things that have aren’t part of our physical wholeness.

Once you identify what it is that you need, that’s where your attention is to be spent–what are the goals, supports, and resources that empower you to feel how you want to feel and get those needs met? (Shameless plug: I have an e-learning course launching in a couple weeks to help you identify those things)

When we focus on how we want to feel and really hone in on those best supportive practices that aid us in getting there, we are free to release the shackles of diet culture and live as we were meant to live–in the present moment, not as a before chasing the after. You are worthy, perfect, and whole just as you are right now.

Want to chat more about this topic? Join me on Monday, January 10, at 10am Arizona time for Coffee and Connect with Stephanie Lueras.

Choosing Your Professionals

We’ve all been there, the person or company looks great and exactly what we’re looking for, and then once we sign on the line, we immediately realize the mistake we’ve made. Today I’m going to share some different things to look for when choosing health and wellness professionals that will hopefully make the decision a bit easier. It takes a little time on the front end, but saves us a lot of frustration and heartache on the backend (because wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was just honest up front?)

  1. Are they certified, and by who? Not every service you are seeking has a regulated state or national certifying body, or a university degree program of study by which they have completed in their field, but professional training is tantamount. Life experience is always nice to have with our practitioners, it makes them more empathetic and sympathetic, but life experience alone does not prepare someone to care for you and run a business. Verify certifications. Certifying bodies have ways for you to check professional credentials for those that tout their name, and there are also third party verification companies as well. For example, several of my certifications are held through the American Council on Exercise, and those certifications can also be cross-referenced through the US Registry of Exercise Professionals.
  2. Do they belong to professional organizations or business groups? Now, this can be a tough one for new businesses because the cost of joining organizations and maintaining memberships can be prohibitive as they are growing, but professional organizations and many business groups also vet the legitimacy of a business entity for their integrity before allowing them as a member. There are groups specific to the field of the individual’s field or just business as a whole. Organizations or groups that I belong to are You Define Wellness and my local Chamber of Commerce. One that I aspire to (that cost prohibitive thing…) is being an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau (this is important to me because I desire the external recognition of an ethically run business)
  3. References. Ask for references. Your provider should be able to provide professional references and possibly client references (if they have received a confidentiality waiver to do so)
  4. Testimonials. Either on their website or other review platforms, ask to see testimonials provided from clients or those that have worked with the provider.
  5. Registries. There’s a contact list for everything these days! Hopefully your provider in making themselves visible has put their contact information out there in multiple places so they can be found–and it’s up to date. I’m on several women in business registries, the You Define Wellness Provider Registry, and also the HAES (Health at Every Size(R)) Provider Registry (which involve a code of ethics for HAES aligned practices in order to be listed).
  6. Where do they show up? Again, new businesses sometimes are in a silo in simply operating the business, but is the business visible beyond the marketing and delivering of services? Where are they in the community? Are they on boards or committees? Do they give back of their time and talents? This is subjective, but to me, this is important in looking at anyone I work with—it shows me they aren’t just in their work for the paycheck, but they are part of something greater. Maybe it’s just important to me because I don’t know how I couldn’t not be a part of, but do a bit of research.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, maybe you feel differently about how you choose those that you work with, but let’s take a minute and talk about choosing MLM (multi-level marketing) companies.

If you’ve been on social media for all of five minutes, you’ve likely had “health coaches” or other MLM company representatives that call themselves a myriad of different things slide into your comments, DMs, and email. Some are legitimately coaches and have completed accredited programs independent of an MLM company, however them term coach is not regulated and your Beachbody, Optavia, and other MLM health coaches/products are not accredited coaches like someone who has actually completed a health coaching certification program through a certifying body. These MLM representatives are making you a promise that their program and/or products with provide you with a specific result based on studies. Ask for the studies. Then ask for a study not sponsored by their company. The research is independent–but follow the money, I have yet to have an MLM rep supply me a non-biased study proving the efficacy of their programs. That’s not to sway you from what they have to offer, it’s just food for thought–there’s no quick fix.

I’d love to know questions you have about choosing health and wellness providers, or any other information I can provide. Drop a comment or contact me directly!

Bringing Back F-U-N!

We know that self care is important, we hear it all the time. You might have also heard the adage that self care isn’t all bubble baths, but work too.

Well, there’s a middle ground. I’ve had a singular focus for awhile that has come around and drained me. While I’ve focused on all of those core needs and secondary needs that I’ve talked about previously, I’ve still been neglecting that time to stop and smell the roses.

It started with the question from someone, “what do you do for fun?” I felt a little dumbfounded because the things that come to mind are the parts of my business that I enjoy, triathlon training, and many of the tasks that surround those things. I became very aware that I’m not in-tune to fun because it’s been too long since I’ve taken the time to have some fun!

As with all change that I incorporate, I started looking for the low-hanging fruit–the small actions that I could start to take immediately to focus on fun. While I came up with some small actions, they still seemed a bit insurmountable because of the guilt and shame that I’ve been programmed to carry.

It took me quite a bit of time to reconcile the idea of putting myself first mind, body, and soul/spirit so that I was able to be at the best service to others. Even in that, I had to fight around the constructs of previous work and voices telling me that taking care of myself was to be secondary to the people served. When I started to consider this idea of fun, I had to come back around again (like peelng away the layers of an onion), to remember that fun is a form of self-care and it equips me for service.

Now, as much as I would’ve loved to have dropped everything and gone for a month-long vacation, that wasn’t in the small steps I have been incorporating to focus on fun–but what I have been doing is things like playing and experimenting in the kitchen, doing workouts that don’t have a singular triathlon focus (I’m looking at you bellydance!), and even looking at games to spend a few minutes playing to free my mind. That last one was the hardest–I had a hard time looking at it being okay to play games on my computer or phone because it had been hammered into me how horrible those things were.

But…fun!

I love puzzle games and games that make you think–card games, yahtzee, tetris, dominoes, and more–those are my speed when it comes to fun games. Not video games or live action/roleplay, that’s not my thing. I started to think about some of the computer games that I used to enjoy on the old (OLD) microsoft operatig system–things like Taipei (Mahjong), Free Cell, Solitaire, and more.

Then I stumbled onto https://www.solitaire.org/ that has all of those games that I love! And better yet, for FREE! Now that I’ve been able to put aside the guilt and shame of taking a few minutes to play a game to clear my mind and recharge, it has increased my engagement and energy level between appointments and throughout the day. My favorites are still Mahjong and Free Cell.

Now, taking fun from a small action of playing a game to something larger is still a ripple effect in process, but hopefully someday soon I just might be taking that month-long vacation! I’d love to know what some of your favorite games to play for fun are? Comment below!