This is NOT an affiliate post. I am in no way affiliated with Duolingo, I'm just a big fan.
The title of this post is "how I kicked my social media habit with Duolingo" and it's true, I did. But if I'm being totally honest with you, it totally happened by accident. It might have just been a coincidence, but it ended up being the most effective thing I've ever tried to reduce my time spent on social media, and so I wanted to share it with you guys so you can give it a try as well.
I took some French in high school, and a little in college as well, but never felt like I knew enough to consider myself able to converse with a French speaker if I traveled to France. It's a skill I have always wanted to possess, but hadn't ever fully committed to. So, at the start of the new year, as people often do, I decided I wanted to really make an effort this year to finally learn French - like really learn it. And I started working on Duolingo.
I've used it a little in the past, but I was really determined to make progress, so I spent more time in the app during each session. I really enjoyed the activities, and even felt like the tips helped me learn rules that I couldn't quite understand when I first tried to learn them back in high school. At first, I would do it for a few days, then maybe forget for a day or two and then return. I was enjoying it, but some days found myself forgetting about it.
Around this time, completely by coincidence, I decided that I needed to delete some of the social media apps off my phone. In a moment I'm not proud to share (I could write a whole separate post about this), I realized that my muscle memory reaction when I opened an internet browser was to automatically start typing in the letters "fa..." not to mention, it was always the first app I opened every time I unlocked my phone. This was a very upsetting revelation to me, and I decided it needed to end, so I deleted it off my phone.
In the days that followed, I would open my phone, and navigate to where the Facebook app had been, but as luck would have it, Duolingo had shifted forward to take its place. Since I was already there, I would think "oh yeah, I should do my lesson" and open the app, resulting in completing more lessons during the day. And I started to become sort of addicted to Duolingo.... but with such a more productive result than any social media app!
I've crushed through SO many lessons, and now I NEVER skip a day, and not only because it took the spot of Facebook on my phone. I push myself to finish in the top ten each week to move on to the next league, and I can see my skills growing by leaps and bounds in ways I never have before. Like I said at the start, it was a complete accident, but I feel more mentally clear and focused, and I feel proud of the accomplishments I've made in my language acquisition. Now I can't wait to take that trip to France and be able to navigate my way through the country with ease.
Practicing mindfulness and meditation are great ways to help you cultivate a more positive outlook and sense of peace, but sometimes when you're in a funk, it can be really difficult to focus your mind enough to focus on your practice, even if you know it'll help you come back to center. When this happens to me, I like to use music to help me realign my energy and focus on mindfulness. Music is something I can always count on to change my mood. Something about hearing a song with a killer beat and uplifting lyrics can diffuse any upset I'm experiencing in a matter of minutes so I can regain the clarity and calm I need to get back on track. Here are some ways that I use music as part of my mindfulness practice:
1. Make a playlist (or a few) to boost your mood
I have a happiness playlist and a power playlist that are both filled with songs I know are guaranteed to help boost my mood when I'm feeling sad or angry. My happiness playlist has songs that are upbeat, and that I love to sing along with because I know that singing out loud when I'm in my car or cooking dinner is another activity that brings me up to 100 right away. My power playlist is very similar, but I specifically curate it with songs that make me feel like a powerful badass who can take on anything. You might have a few songs that come to mind right away, but even if you don't, it's okay! Create a playlist and anytime a song comes on that makes you feel amazing, add it to the list right then so you can come back to it in the future. Note: it's dangerously easy to go the opposite way and be drawn towards sad songs that will fuel your emotions when you're feeling sad. While it isn't bad to have a song or two on hand for when you need a good cry, don't let yourself get sucked in to the downward emotional spiral of listening to sad songs when you already aren't feeling too good.
2. Find your anthem
Like your power playlist, but to the extreme. This is the one song that is absolutely, positively, 100% GUARANTEED to make you feel invincible. You want this baby locked and loaded so that when the moment strikes, you are ready to go with minimal searching. Take extra care in choosing this song. Pick something that has lyrics that really speak to you, and lift you up. My personal power anthem is "One Foot" by Walk the Moon. The steady, upbeat tempo and burst of energy at the chorus never fail me. Each time that chorus bursts forth, I feel like there are sparks of golden light (like what would come off a welder's torch) shooting out of my heart, and it makes me feel like I'm connected to the universe. Plus, the positive message of just putting "one foot in front of the other" helps lift me out of even my lowest moments.
3. Notice how the music physically makes you feel
Okay, so maybe you don't feel golden light energy shooting out of your chest, BUT pay attention to the physical response you have to the music you choose to listen to. It might be as simple as noticing the impulse to move your body or clap your hands to the beat, or it might be a more ethereal feeling as if you're connected to something bigger. I love to find music that gives me goosebumps from a beautifully played chord or a steady beat that I can physically feel like a heartbeat or an undulating wave of energy. It makes me feel like I'm connected to something larger than myself, like the universe or humanity as a whole. I've been enjoying the song "Delta" by Mumford & Sons because the soft drum beat that gradually grows and transitions the song, along with the back track of voice chatter, give me almost an omniscient feeling, like I can see the world as a whole, and appreciate the subtleties of humanity.
4. Pay attention to the lyrics
A big part of mindfulness is paying careful attention to the words we use so that we can draw more positive energy towards us. If you don't already, start listening more carefully to the lyrics of the songs you listen to most often. Do they reflect the way you want to feel? This is particularly important when you're using music to help change your mood or your outlook. There are plenty of songs with an uptempo beat that have rather somber or negative lyrics. Play songs that have meaningful lyrics that make you feel good. Bonus points if they are true works of poetry and art as well!
5. Get it in on the action - play or sing your heart out!
Listening to music is great, but being part of it is even better! I may not be the best singer in the world, and I can't play a single instrument (except maybe the tambourine) but I truly love to rock out and sing along to my favorite songs in the car, in the shower, or while I'm cooking or doing chores around the house, and so I don't let my musical inabilities hinder me from experiencing joy. It's an instant uplevel for your musical mindfulness practice!
How do you add music to your mindfulness practice? Let me know in the comments!
I want to talk today about why I think the body positivity movement does more harm than good, but even before I type these words, I know this is not going to be a popular opinion. I know that there will be some people who freak out at what I have to say, but I'm going to say it anyway because I'm sick of hearing the praises of this movement that, for me, is counterproductive and toxic. I know you may not agree, but I'd ask you to at least hear me out before you jump to conclusions about me.
Before we get into this, I want to acknowledge up front that as 5'1" 105lb woman, I have a different perspective on this and a different experience in the world from many other women. I fully understand that there are people who benefit from this movement, and I in no way begrudge them! I believe that each and every person should do what makes them feel empowered, strong, and beautiful, but that's exactly why I want to address this issue. Because the body positivity movement is not as inclusive and embracing of all bodies as it claims to be. In fact, as many movements of this nature tend to do, it simply shifts the negativity to a different group. And it just so happens that's where I fit in.
I am a small woman, I fully admit it. I prioritize health, but truly, I've always been small. My entire life, I was always the shortest one in the class, always significantly smaller than my completely average sized friends. I value health and fitness, but I also just have the good fortune of good genetics, which have allowed me to remain pretty much the same size I was in high school, even a decade after graduation - and maybe even a little lighter now that I prioritize frequenting the gym. I'm lucky, and I know this.
But the so called "body positivity movement" does not have room for me. They do not want me. You know how I know this? Because every article, every video, every TED talk and blog post will tell you how "big is beautiful" and "we need to stop showing our girls that size 0 is the standard of beauty." But this is the way I am. I have not starved myself to a size 00P, it's simply just the size my body wants to be. Instead of helping women to feel included and beautiful exactly the way they are, it simply shifts the hateful words to a different group.
Before you start to tell me that I don't understand how it feels to be a bigger woman, and that being small can't be that hard, let me explain. I know that I will likely never understand what it feels like to be on the other side of the spectrum. You're right, I don't know what it feels like. But I also don't try to make others feel bad for feeling beautiful in exactly the skin they are in. And while I might not understand that side of it, those same people probably wouldn't understand mine either. Do you know how many times someone has told me that I'm too skinny, or that I look like a little kid? Do you know how hard it is to be taken seriously, or to feel sexy when people look at you and tell you it looks like you're a kid playing dress up in adult's clothing? I've had co-workers and friends say things in front of me such as "Who wears a size 0? That's not even a real size. How can a person be a 0? They must not be a real person, just fake and unhealthy" without even realizing that sometimes even a 0 is too big for me. Another common misconception is that skinny women have no issues finding a man. Many men have rejected me because my chest size was too small, or I was too bony or thin. I've been turned down for looking too young, too childlike, etc. And my self-confidence has taken more hits than I care to admit because of these reasons.
All my life I've had this struggle, so when I first heard about this body positivity movement, I thought it would be a step toward acceptance for ALL, but instead, it proved to be just another voice telling me that I'm somehow wrong. I think it may have started with the right intention, because a size 0 that is only attained through starvation and excessive exercise is not healthy, either physically or emotionally, and I in no way advocate for that. But for those of us who are naturally smaller women, this movement is just as hurtful as fat-shaming, and I don't think it's okay. It's become a rallying cry for women who have been shamed and hurt in the past to try to make themselves feel better by putting a different group down. That's the honest truth about how I view it. I would never dream of telling another woman that she shouldn't be the size she is. It is absolutely none of my business, and I firmly believe that every woman should feel confident and beautiful. It's not my place to tell her how that should look. But, I would hope that I would be given that same respect in return.
This opinion is in NO WAY meant to shame anyone. On the contrary, I just want to bring attention to the fact that sometimes the things we say inadvertently shame others. And this is the most damaging part of this so-called positive movement: instead of bringing us together and helping us support one another, it is yet another means of driving a wedge into our community of sisterhood. We do not need to further contribute to the comparisons and judgments already placed upon us by society. We need a new view on body positivity that truly inspires positive change, without judgment. So, instead of jumping on a positivity bandwagon that might be hurtful to other groups, try these ideas instead:
1. Reframe the problem - instead of discussing sizes, let's discuss the societal issues which cause the negative feelings in the first place. Help yourself and others to see how even seemingly positive messages can sometimes still tear us down - and then change the way you use your own voice to contribute a message that is truly positive, inclusive, and uplifting.
2. Better yet, instead of talking about the way the other side is unhealthy and doing things wrong, let's shift the discussion entirely to celebrate the things we LOVE about ourselves, whichever camp we fall into. Let's truly make this body positivity movement center on health - mental health included. A movement that centers on calling out "unhealthy behaviors" of groups we don't fall into, will only create deeper emotional problems, that no diet or physical changes can fix. And if it's true that we receive what we actively put out into the world, ask yourself - am I spreading the message of self-love and acceptance that I want to feel in my own life? If you catch yourself using negative or polarizing comparisons or language, try to shift your focus to the ways in which you shine.
3. The best solution of all - work on remembering that EVERYONE has more to offer than just their looks. We all have so many other traits and skills that make us who we truly are. We have to stop perpetuating stereotypes - on BOTH sides. If we want to see a genuine shift in the cultural perception of beauty and the way we value ourselves and others, it starts small, with each and every one of us doing our part to change the conversation and living our values.
Let's all work on loving ourselves AND each other. We are stronger and better when we work together. Love to you ALL!
WARNING: While I'm all for hearing out other opinions, hateful comments will be removed from this post. We are trying to foster positive body image and confidence, and cultivate positive energy here, so anything that does not contribute to this goal will not be tolerated. Thank you!
When we designed the 52 Weeks to Peak Physique challenge, we decided it was important to establish some parameters and ways to measure our progress from the very start so that we would be able to track our progress and ensure that we didn't get too carried away. In addition to weight and measurements, we decided we should also try to measure body fat percentages, but what we have come to discover has had me questioning - is body fat an accurate and reliable measurement?
There are a lot of ways to measure body fat percentage, but many of them, such as DXA X-ray scans, or hydrostatic weighing where you submerge into a tank of water, while fairly accurate, just aren't practical for regular use. We have tried a few different methods to measure our body fat, including two different BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) devices (a handheld device and a bathroom scale), as well as a calculation that uses your weight and BMI
to calculate your body fat percentage. The result? Numbers that are all over the map!
When I stepped on the scale, my result was 19.4% but when I ran my calculation, my result was over 25%. That is 6 percentage points of variance! I didn't have access to the handheld device, but JC did, and between all three methods, his numbers spanned over 10 percentage points depending on which method he used. I should also note, that the different methods fluctuated in different directions for both of us, so they weren't even increasing or decreasing at a consistent rate. The problem is that these devices aren't really measuring your whole body, and they can't always tell the difference between muscle and fat. For example, when you stand on the scale, a small electrical current will run up one leg and down the other in order to measure your body fat. The problem here is that you are only measuring your legs (similar issue with the handheld device), not your whole body. Add to this, if you're muscular and athletic, it can skew your reading based on the mass. These devices can also be skewed by hydration and glycogen levels, and variance in the placement of your hands or feet on the device. The written calculation doesn't do a great job either as it only takes into account your height and weight, which doesn't accurately represent your muscle to fat ratio.
We've considered calipers, and other methods as well, but based on the results we've had so far, I'm not sure that any method will provide a more accurate measurement. Ultimately, we decided that the actual number doesn't matter as much, but as long as we use the same device every week, we should still be able to measure our progress, which is really what we need it for. My point here is to say, don't let the body fat number on the scale scare you! The main goal is to continue making progress toward your goals, and remember to take these numbers with a grain of salt, because they might not be as accurate as we think.
As we begin the 52 Weeks to Peak Physique challenge, I wanted to share with all of you what my experience with fitness has been up to this point, and why I'm embarking on this journey. People who know me (and my boyfriend, who is also doing this challenge) have questioned why we are doing this since we are already healthy and active. And it's true, we are. We genuinely enjoy the gym and other active outdoor hobbies, and we like to eat healthy food because it makes us feel better. But while I've always prioritized health, it hasn't always looked the same for me - and I didn't always love the gym. In fact, until last year when I met JC, I didn't go to the gym much at all.
As a 5'1" 110lb woman, I always had the mindset that the gym was not for me. I thought of the gym as the place that huge body-builder dudes went to throw massive weight around. It wasn't a place that I thought I belonged, or truly that I wanted to be part of. I was intimidated by both the equipment and the clientele, and so I pursued fitness in other ways - you know "girl" fitness, which consisted mostly of yoga, sometimes pilates, the occasional job on the elliptical. Things that I felt were manageable for my body type and abilities. And even THAT was an improvement for me! Through high school and college, I would work out sporadically, at best. I'd go a few months without working out, then start to think I should really start doing that again, then do one workout, which proved so difficult and left me so excruciatingly sore the next day, that I didn't work out again for several months. In all truthfulness, it wasn't a huge issue because I had very active jobs which kept me moving, I made fairly healthy meals, and I was young and resilient ;) but I knew that wasn't sustainable. Add to the mix former partners who flat out refused to exercise, and it was starting to become a sedentary life.
It wasn't until I got divorced that I really started a consistent fitness routine. I joined a yoga studio - the first I'd ever joined a gym of any kind - and I started going a few times a week. And it felt great! This was a whole new world for me. And then I started dating JC, the firefighter with a really strong passion for fitness, and extremely limited time. It became obvious very quickly that if I wanted this guy in my life, our relationship was going to have to develop in the gym, and so I decided to jump in and let him teach me. It was still intimidating, but much easier having him there to show me what to do, and explain the different machines and exercises we were doing. I gradually started learning more, and getting stronger, and to my surprise, I started to love the gym!
Once I started lifting weights, I started seeing my body change in ways that it never had with yoga and cardio alone. And this brought up a wide range of emotions. First, I started to realize (and this is an ongoing process, even now) that I'm much stronger than I thought. I had once believed that I couldn't lift weights at all, but now with JC's encouragement, I was lifting weights that I never imagined possible! Being a small woman, a lot of people (myself included) have held the belief that I am fragile and weak. I've often been told I'm too delicate or too tiny to do these things, and I just accepted it as truth. In school I never had much aptitude for team sports (still don't) but I took that to mean that I couldn't be athletic in any way. For the first time in my life, I proved myself wrong, and it felt great!
But there were other conflicting emotions too. I was fairly tiny to begin with, and even though my muscles were starting to develop more, I was also getting tinier in other ways too. The numbers on the scale didn't change much, but my body did - a lot! I've always had trouble finding clothes that fit well due to my petite size, but now, EVERYTHING hung on me like a burlap sack. I constantly felt like I looked like a kid playing dress-up in her mom's clothing. Not a very sexy look. On top of that, my already small size 32A chest also started shrinking. This is something I've struggled with a LOT throughout my life (more on this to come in a later post) and losing weight in this area proved to be really hard for me. It seemed that the more I worked out, the worse I felt about my body. I started to feel unattractive, abnormal, and generally very bad about my self-image. All my life I've been told I was so tiny I looked like a kid, and it always felt bad, but now, it felt like a stab in the gut. But I knew I didn't want to stop working out either because I genuinely valued the new life I had created. I started to work on finding little ways to solve these problems, but I just needed to find the right long-term solution.
So when JC mentioned that he wanted to try to get into the best shape possible, and truly feel excellent about our bodies, I realized that this could be the perfect opportunity to transform my body in a more conscious way, and also transform my mindset at the same time. I loved how the gym caused me to question the beliefs I had held about gym culture and my own strength and abilities, so I want to continue to prove myself wrong and show myself that I AM strong and capable of physical strength - and that I have the power to challenge many of the beliefs I've held about myself as well. I want to show myself and others that a fit body is a sexy body, even if it's smaller, and continue to develop my muscles to a place where I'm satisfied, while also working on changing my mindset about my physical looks and prove to myself that I can be whomever I want to be along the way. Along with that, I want to prioritize TRUE health. As I've worked out more, I haven't really changed my diet much to keep up with my new routines, and I want to make sure I'm giving my body what it needs. For me, this is not about "how hot can I look by next year" as much as it is about developing a truly healthy, sustainable system for long term health and wellness. It's as much for developing my mental fortitude and challenging my beliefs about myself as it is to challenge myself physically. And to me, that's a battle worth stepping into the ring for!
Last night my boyfriend and I had a talk about fitness goals. Now, if you know us you already know that we are the type of people who take health and fitness seriously. We hit the gym at least 4 times a week for about an hour and half per night, we eat healthy, and we enjoy an active lifestyle in our home state of Colorado. For us, health is not the last and often forgotten item on a to-do list, but rather something we both strive for, and I'd even dare to say, our number one hobby. But even though we are both healthy and in good shape, we've been talking about how to explore this even more.
In the fitness world, the obvious next step would be a competition. Be it body building, bikini, or power lifting, competitions are a big part of that industry, but we both agree this isn't the right path for us. While these competitions are a test of what the body can do, I feel that they disregard the health component, and at the end of the day, health needs to be at the core of your fitness plan. All that being said, we want to push ourselves, to uplevel with ourselves as our own competition, to see what we can do. That's why we are creating a challenge for ourselves which I'm calling 52 Weeks to Peak Physique.
Over the next 52 weeks, we will work to obtain our ideal physique, taking into account physical exercise, as well as nutrition plans that will help us achieve our goals. In order to be successful and maintain the health component, we have decided to put parameters in place, and approach this using careful research, science-based strategies, and drawing lines in the sand before we start to ensure we don't get carried away. My goals and approach to health also include taking care of my mental and emotional health, so I'm adding some additional measures to make sure I'm checking in with myself and keeping that a priority as well.
Before I go any further, I want to address the elephant in the room - you're probably wondering if this is a vanity challenge for aesthetic purposes. And I'll admit that PARTIALLY....it is. I'd be lying if I told you that part of this isn't about trying to look our best, BUT we also understand that health needs to be at the heart, which is why we are taking measures to ensure that we remain healthy throughout this process. This is also the main reason we don't want to participate in any competitions. But while we do want to try to look our best, it's more about seeing what our bodies can do! We are looking to reach our peak, and then scale back a bit to something that's truly sustainable, but never will we put our health at risk. (PS if you want to read more of my thoughts on the aesthetic component of this challenge, I'll be writing more in depth about this later in the week!)
So, how will this be structured, and what measures are we putting in place? Great question!
For the next 52 weeks, we are going to create and follow nutrition and workout plans to help us reach our fitness goals. I'll be posting my plans on this blog to show you exactly what I'm eating, and how I'm working out each week, as well as weekly progress reports, and thoughts along the way. We are doing this together, but I'm only publishing my results in order to maintain my boyfriend's privacy. Additionally, we are making the following rules to keep us in check: (click Read More to see the rest of the post)