Find YOUR Journey

I always try to give a shoutout to those folks that I believe have something special. Zakk Tompkins, owner of On The Edge rodeo apparel is one of those folks. I recently interviewed Zakk for my author blog, Talking In The Barn, and I was quite surprised at how open he was about his struggle with depression. I really believe this young man has a big purpose in life to help others and be a voice that’s not often heard but is all to real. If you get a chance, please check out the interview and his blog, Be Remembered Be Bold.

Cowgirls are known for blazing their own trail but sometimes when it comes to our daily lives we have a tendency to think we should follow the crowd, or listen to the conventional wisdom at the time. If you don’t believe that, just visit a barrel racing forum the first three months of the year – there’s a least two posts a week asking what the best diet or diet supplement is, or what the best exercise is to lose weight. Most of the times, those posts receive more responses than the actual horse posts that the sites are designed for in the first place – that says volumes about our head space!

We’re told by physicians, fitness gurus, and supplement companies what we should be eating and how we should be working out. Yet at the same time it’s interesting that they all often contradict each other, and even more interesting is the fact that recommendations are constantly changing. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the drugs that were originally touted to be harmless and then later have a warning label of horrible side effects.

A few years back, like the majority of women in their 30-40’s, I was on a common low-grade anti-depressant for a few years. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was tired, and basically had some depression. I work in the health care field but am holistic thinking by nature. I wasn’t too keen on taking medication but I had to do something and there were no alternatives. The doctors just said I needed to exercise more  – I was already getting an hour’s worth of barn chores in the morning.

One New Year I started off with a bang to get in shape. I joined the gym and went on a diet that included veggies, lean protein, and low-fat dairy – I ate a lot of greek yogurt.

Not long after I started the diet, I developed bronchitis along with a sinus infection. Even with antibiotics and enough Mucinex to kill a horse, I just could not get any better. I was sick for at least two months.

I knew dairy could cause thicker mucous and sinus issues. I also knew that most physicians will tell you that’s hogwash but since everything else had failed to work, I decided to try eliminating dairy. A week later, I was already feeling much better and the bronchitis was gone.

That’s when I first decided to cut back on dairy, against conventional medical wisdom as it supplies calcium and vitamin D. Since making that change, I’ve not had the sinus problems that I’ve had before. Any time I do have sinus trouble, it’s always after I’ve gone on a cheese and ice cream binge!

Around this period of time, I developed a bump and then a sore on my face that wouldn’t go away for over a year. A biopsy and blood work showed inflammation but that was it – the doctor was stumped. After doing some research, I asked my physician about Lupus. Based on the biopsy, blood work, and some joint pain that I was having he said that was a possibility and sent me to a rheumatoid specialist who promptly offered medication as the only solution. The medication made me feel like I had the flu, not to mention it had some horrendous long-term side effects.

Not having any alternatives to the medication, I started doing my own research. One of the things that I found was that the anti-depressant I was on could cause inflammation and auto-immune type symptoms. I also learned that certain foods like gluten and dairy could do the same. Armed with that information, I started on a journey of experimentation to see how my body would react.

Long story short, after going off all the medication, and cutting way back on gluten and dairy, the place on my face went away. By experimentation and paying close attention to how my body reacts to food, I learned that dairy and gluten both affect my breathing, cause joint pain, and causes my skin to develop inflamed bumps.

Did you know tomatoes can cause heart burn & cause Rosacea to flare up?

Did you know tomatoes can cause heart burn & cause Rosacea to flare up?

The ironic thing is that foods that the health industry tell you to eat (whole wheat, non-fat dairy) make me sick. The other irony is that conventional medicine had missed that fact.

I tell you this long story to say this —  don’t be afraid to find your own journey when it comes to food and exercise.

In finding your journey when it comes to nutrition and exercise, there’s a few things to consider.

  • How does you body react to certain foods? Start paying attention to even the very small changes that you see in your body and your thinking when you eat certain foods. Sometimes the changes are extremely small and aren’t noticeable until you start keeping track.
  • What nutrition packed foods do you truly love that also makes you feel better? If you can’t enjoy the food you’re eating, you’re not going to be able to keep up that way of eating for long. Face it – we love to eat! Find foods that bring you joy that are also packed with nutrition. For instance, I absolutely love mushrooms and red bell peppers. Instead of always eating bland salads that I don’t enjoy, I’ll brown some mushrooms and peppers in garlic and olive oil… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
  • What does the bigger picture look like? Finding happiness in life is all about balance. If you feel like your food or exercise is taking a toll on other important areas of your life then it’s time to re-evaluate. It’s ok to compromise and adjust if you have to – it’s YOUR journey, not someone else’s so don’t compare and don’t feel guilty if you’re not putting a million hours into running on the treadmill!
  • What type of exercise do you enjoy? The more you truly enjoy an activity the more likely you’ll continue doing it. If you don’t enjoy any other form of exercise other than riding, then ride! You can always bump it up and make it more challenging by riding bareback, cantering for longer periods of time, or staying in two point. At least do something and make sure it’s something you enjoy.

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I spent a lot of years listening to the “experts” and it got me nowhere. Just because the medical and fitness experts say you should eat a certain food, take a certain supplement. or work out a certain way doesn’t mean that it will work for YOU. We are all different and you can’t compare. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. In the end, this is your life and your journey and you only get to take one ride!

 

Junk In, Junk Out

We’ve all heard the sayings, “You are what you eat”, and “Junk in, junk out.”

 For most of my life, I’ve taken that saying with a grain of salt, pun intended. However, over the last few years I’m beginning to think there’s a lot more truth to those sayings than we realize.

 After a bout of unanswered questions about my health – that’s another blog post in itself – I started paying very close attention to how my body reacted to certain foods. Now, I’m not talking just gaining or losing weight. I’m talking about how food effects my breathing, my sinus levels, and even my mental status for the day.

After doing some experimentation, I learned that dairy and breads cause me to wheeze – that’s in addition to sinus and stomach issues. I also learned that cokes and sweets cause me to become depressed, and soy will send me into an emotional roller coaster during certain times of the month. In contrast, turkey and other meat cause me to focus and think more clearly.

The same thing could be said about our thought life. When we think negative things, the impact is negative.Those negative thoughts impact our happiness, our confidence, and ultimately our performance and whether or not we pursue dreams.

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Recently, I read a great article on thinking like an athlete. The article stated that the main reason athletes are successful is that they see themselves as just that – an athlete.

The article went on to say that when you see yourself as an athlete and get into that mindset, regardless of what your body is like, you start thinking differently in other areas of your life. You start taking training more seriously. What you eat and the amount of sleep you get become more important. Instead of those seeing those things as a means to lose weight, they suddenly become a way for you to train better and be a better athlete.

How many times have you been asked what you do with your horses or what discipline you ride? Probably too many times to count. Your answer has probably been, “I just run barrels” or “I just do a little western pleasure.” That’s the wrong answer!

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Today, you might not be running down the alley way at the NFR or doing a sliding stop at the finals at Congress. I get that you don’t want to blow yourself out of proportion, come across arrogant, or give the appearance that you’re competing at a level that you’re not – yet! However, if you keep thinking like you always have, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.

Think about it for a moment…

Do you spend any less money on your horse than a serious competitor? You feed the best feed, supplements and hay. You keep a routine shoeing schedule so your horse can perform well. You take your horse to the vet every time they need it. You make sure your horse is in a safe, happy environment and kept on a schedule.

Do you spend any less time on your horse than a serious competitor? I know a lot of girls that compete locally and not nationally that ride their horses every single day. I also know girls that ride every free minute they can in the midst of working full time to pay the feed bill and mortgage, working second and third jobs, and taking care of families. Is the fact that they don’t get to ride as much any less worthy?

There’s things that you’re probably already doing that aren’t that much different than someone rides and competes on a higher level. Don’t cut yourself short in your thinking!

If you think you’re “junk”, then junk is exactly what you’re going to reap.

What do you think Charmayne James or Congress champion Karen Evans Mundy thought of themselves when they were working up through the ranks? Did they think they were just a barrel racer or just a hunter rider? No! They thought of themselves as champions that just hadn’t gotten there yet. All they had to do was work a little harder and ride a little better – that’s all.

So my question to you is this… If you knew for a fact that you would be running down the alleyway at the NFR, or riding the rail at Congress in two years how would that change your thinking TODAY? Would it make you see yourself differently? Would you have a new purpose every time you rode or worked out?

If you’re like me, you’ve beat yourself up for far too long thinking you’re not good enough and you’re just a barrel racer, etc. That thinking hasn’t gotten either of us very far, has it?

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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It’s time to do something different. It’s time to think different and see what results we get!

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. It only matters what you think about yourself.

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What Is It That Makes You Feel Better?

This week I’d like to know…what is it that truly makes you feel better about yourself?

When you dread looking in the mirror, or testing your ability, what is it that makes you feel better about yourself? Is it losing a ton of weight? Is it winning that barrel race or pleasure class? Is it wearing your favorite outfit?

So often, we get into the rut of thinking, I’ll feel better about myself when I _____ – fill in the blank. For a lot of us, the blank might be losing thirty pounds or winning a class – or both.

The cold hard truth of the matter is that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Heck, we’re not even guaranteed the very next breath. So why do we waste our lives not accepting who we are as we are at this very moment when we may not even get the very next moment? Why do we do that?

I read an article earlier today about the designer Betsey Johnson. She’s 72 years old, wears what most people consider completely inappropriate hair and clothing for her age, and she does cartwheels on the catwalk. Yet, she’s a confident, happy, and very successful woman.

 

Earlier this month, I learned about Leah Gilbert who is a plus size athlete and fitness trainer from Australia. Yes, you read that correctly – she’s a plus size athlete and fitness trainer. While she doesn’t fit the typical aesthetics mold of what most people consider an “athlete”, Leah is one incredibly confident and strong woman who is on a mission to change how we think about ourselves. By the way, I strongly advise following her blog Body Positive Athletes. You’ll be better for it, I promise!

So here we have two women that don’t conform or fit the “perfect” mold at all and yet both of them are happy confident women. How do they do that?

Although I don’t have all the answers, I would say one commonality they have is that they buck the trends, do what they want, and they do what works for them – not what everyone else says works for them. They live in the moment, where they’re at. Long ago, they stopped fighting who they were and stopped listening to what society told them they should be. Oh, and they don’t compare themselves to everyone else.

What are the things that you do well right now? Focus on those for a moment and feel good about yourself for a moment. Feel better?

 

Just out enjoying a winter ride on my pony Fireman.

Just out enjoying a winter ride on my pony Fireman.