Friday, October 1, 2010

One Month Milestone

If you know anything about psychology, you may be familiar with the Stages of Change. I won't go into all of the details, but it outlines the different stages of change from thinking about change to actually committing to a change. I haven't quite hit the Maintenance stage of my stages, but I did hit a great milestone - my one month mark! What this means is that as of Monday of this week I have officially been on my diet for four full weeks. Let me take you through the last month...

Honeymoon Stage

At first I was stoked and super motivated - I had committed to this diet and was going to stick with it. I went to my favorite grocery store, Sunflower Market, and I bought all of my natural foods and processed foods that had a maximum of five ingredients in them. I got rid of everything in my apartment that had more than five ingredients. I was set!

Initially I loved it, I felt so good about my diet and my life. My mental state pertaining to my diet was in a great state. My meals consisted of veggies, meat, and fruit for the most part. My sweets intake was at an all time low, though I made up for that with peanut butter straight from the jar!
I was on my way; the first week was cake (but not really because I couldn't have cake)!

Challenge

With any new change there come challenges and roadblocks that you must overcome. I hit a lot of challenges within my first month. Challenges that include, but are certainly not limited to:

• Parties - Food tables at parties are sooo tempting with processed deliciousness!

• Restaurants - Almost every dish at a restaurant is covered in some sort of sauce or packed with all sorts of goodies that are processed and re-processed, making the ingredient amounts reaching triple digits no doubt.

• Vacation - Try taking a vacation and sticking to a diet where every meal you have is at a restaurant and your options are limited.

• Office Kitchen - People are so nice when they consider their colleagues for things like donuts, pastries, cakes, and muffins. Every time I walk into our kitchen they just stare at me, tempting me for just one bite.

• Cravings - Come on, let's be real...do you think I just don't want a peanut butter cup or some ice cream? I want nothing more than to snack on some pretzels or have some delicious comfort food laden with high fructose corn syrup and words I can't pronounce.

• People That Don't Get It - I don't mean this in a negative way at all, but some people just don't get what you are trying to do and tempt you with anything and everything because they think it is just easier that way...and guess what - it is easier! But easier isn't the point...

• Lack of Knowledge - Sometimes when you start something new you do not know what your options are. I wasn't aware of different recipes and things that I could do to maximize this diet.

Kicking 'Challenge' Out the Window

Alright, I've hit the one month mark, which means I have figured out how to navigate through the challenging waters that are this diet. Here are just a few ways that I have learned to overcome the things above:

• Parties - Ok, well let's start with Step 1: Eat before the party so you will be less tempted...Step 2: Mentally prepare yourself for the challenge that is before you - stay strong!...Step 3: Be a nice guest and bring something to the party to contribute to the table. Here is the catch, make it something you CAN eat. I went to a party and brought grapes and Triscuits - both of which are on my list of things I can eat. I stuck with those and the veggie tray, minus the dip...Step 4: Congratulate yourself on success (when you leave of course)!

• Restaurants - I have a one sentence statement that will solve this problem instantly..."All you have to do is ask!" Look at the menu and pick out things that you can have. Sure, you can go the salad route and leave off the dressing, but you can only have so many salads. I find a meat I like and ask what my veggie options are. I also look at other menu items and check out the sides to see if I can find things like black beans or fruit. Then, true to the phrase, I just ask..."Is it possible to make a custom platter?" Every restaurant I have been to in the last month has been incredibly accommodating. And if you know how much I travel, you know I eat out often - so that is a lot of restaurants! Just Ask!

• Vacation - Right, smack dab, in the middle of this month was a vacation with my parents. They flew out to CO and we drove to Telluride for the Blues and Brews festival. If you remember from my original post, I was not including beer on my diet because...well, come on. So the vacation plan - similar to the restaurant plan - almost anything can be accommodated, you just have to be creative. I brought fruit with me and on days of the festival I would shop at the local market and get things I could take in with me. When we would eat at the vendors within the festival, I stuck with the Mexican place and made up my own menu item with just rice, beans, chicken, and veggies. Breakfast out almost always consisted of an omelet filled with veggies. Get creative!

• Office Kitchen - Gotta love this one! Simple solution - bring enough snacks of your own that include fresh fruit and veggies that will keep you full and satisfied so that you are not tempted. Be mentally strong enough to resist!

• Cravings - Let's get real, these occur. Well, that creativity comes into play here yet again. I looked around and guess what - I found a chocolate bar called Chocolove, made in Boulder that has 4 ingredients in it. It is so rich and delicious! I also discovered that Haggen Dazs makes an ice cream called '5' and they have numerous flavors of ice cream with just five ingredients. It is probably the best vanilla bean ice cream I have ever had! I made a chocolate cake for my friend's birthday and it had just five ingredients in it. You can always accommodate cravings in other ways such as distracting yourself or substituting something else to replace what you actually want...or you can find things that work too, like Haggen Dazs!

• People That Just Don't Get It - Yes, it is true that some people just don't get what you are doing. Explain your motivation; explain why it is important to you and then just practice saying, "No, thank you." Trust me, it is empowering!

• Lack of Knowledge - Duh, buy a cookbook or do some research online - it isn't rocket science, it is a diet!

So there you have it - that is one month of me trying this new thing. So far so great - I really love it and feel better about doing it. The next month will be a challenging one and I do have one cheat day on the books, I'm taking a cooking class focusing on pumpkin...mostly desserts. But you know what - when you try to change something like this, you have to allow yourself some slack and not be so rigid with everything. That cheat day is something I am working towards because I LOVE pumpkin everything! My goal is to earn it, and so far I am. Bring it on Month #2!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding Pride in Red, White, and Blue

It has been a little over a month since I returned from Singapore. It has been a month now that I have settled back into my routine. It has been a month to process everything from that incredible experience.

The reason I wanted to write this blog is because I had a moment...I had a moment that really affected me. This moment happened a few weeks ago and the after-effects have resonated with me ever since. This moment happened because of the great experience I had at the Youth Olympic Games...in fact it wouldn't have happened without it...

I went running a few weeks ago. I ran a course that I have run tons of times. I ran past buildings I was familiar with and ran past scenery I almost never noticed twice. However, this particular run was different. For the first time in probably 25 years, I noticed the American flag. I saw this flag blowing in the wind, waving in all of its red, white, and blue glory. For the first time in 25 years it struck me and overwhelmed me with a sense of pride.

Ok, so let me explain this a bit. Is this really the first time I ever felt pride for my country? Short answer: no. I've felt pride for the United States at many times throughout my 25 years of existence, but not like this. For the first time I was overwhelmed with this feeling. I felt the warmth of pride rush through my body. I was proud of those colors waving in the wind. I was proud to be an American. Lee Greenwood rang through my head.

I spent almost three weeks spending time with people who were from all over the world. For three weeks I was not surrounded by people who live in my country. Not many people understand what this feels like. If I did not wear something 'USA' then I felt as if I was betraying my country. I felt the need and desire to dress like the 4th of July every day because I wanted people to know where I was from.

Now I am at home and there may not be a need to dress like an American flag every day, but there is room for me to have a bit more pride in my country. I know I can make more of an effort to be proud of where I live and be proud of the culture that I have.

It has been a month since I returned to my home country and I have not looked at an American flag the same way since. I may not be fighting in a war or doing everything that I can to be the best citizen, but I love my country and love my life. I am proud to be an American, even if it took my 25 years to realize that...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

7 days down...183 to go...

So my last post outlined my new diet, lifestyle plan - the natural diet. The change officially began on August 30th and will continue for 6 solid months.

So this week has been a bit tough, as I've gone to what I know: raw foods. Cutting out almost all processed foods was the easiest approach to this diet. Now I know this is almost impossible, but to ease into it, that was the easiest route. My meals all week have consisted of vegetables, fruits, and meats. I found a bread with seven ingredients (two are water and salt, which I am not counting since I can't find a single bread with less). Spices have become my best friends, adding a lot of flavor to different things. So let's break it down...

Monday, August 30th - This day wasn't so bad. The first day out of the gate is always one that you can manage. The sustainability is what makes it harder. This day I found myself craving some pretzels and chocolate. I grabbed a peach instead and put those cravings to rest.

Tuesday, August 30th - I went grocery shopping and got some really great things to cook up, one being Salmon. With a little spritz of lemon and some garlic and onion powder, that fish was amazingly tasty. Ready for the kicker - take two Wasa crackers and break them in half. Split an ounce of goat cheese up between those four pieces. Add a half a slice of tomato to the top, sprinkle with pepper, microwave for 20 seconds. It is my new favorite snack!

Wednesday, September 1st - Kicking off the month with fruit and oatmeal. Get the cylinder of instant oats that you can heat up in the microwave in 2 minutes. Add a little bit of light brown sugar (less than 5 ingredients) and you have yourself a tasty breakfast or lunch. pair it with some berries and it is delic!

Thursday, September 2nd - Salads without dressings get a bit difficult. The most difficult part of the diet thus far is finding ways to add flavor where you normally do. In place of salad dressing I take a couple slices of lemon and some pepper. Pair that with a salad loaded with vegetables and it can be satisfying. Is it as good as a salad with some Balsamic dressing (my fav)? Short answer, no. However, you can train yourself to do anything, including eating things with less flavor.


Friday, September 3rd - Here was a challenge - a party. I arrive at the house and there is a table lined with delicious goodies: chips with dip, pizza, brushetta, fruit, cheese, etc. You name it and it was there - in all of its delicious glory. I went to the party having already eaten dinner. I left that party without touching anything on the table. Normally I would pick at things throughout the evening, but this time I refrained. I was quite proud of myself.

Saturday, September 4th - Here was challenge #2: the sweet craving. I felt like having a bit ice cream cone or a chocolate bar. A chocolate cookie would have brought me so much joy in this moment. I refrained. Instead I decided to make a little toast from my lowly processed bread and add a bit of honey to it. This satisfied my sweet tooth and kept me from breaking my diet.

Sunday, September 5th - Restaurants, restaurants, restaurants... Eating something that you are not preparing is dangerous ground...especially in restaurants. Twice this week I went out to dinner and was able to order a meal that was the least processed as possible. One night I had a salmon filet that was cooked in olive oil. I paired it with some grilled asparagus and a cup of fruit. I refrained from the appetizer bread and pesto sauce that was put out. Sunday I went to lunch and got a buffalo burger with no bun and a side salad without croutons and a side of lemons to add some flavor. Sure, my plate looks extremely boring when it comes out with only a burger patty and some LTO.

This whole week posed many challenges for me. The muffins in the office breakroom were calling my name. The buffet of party goodies, the tempting fries on the menu, and of course the luring temptation of chocolate. I'm still early into the diet and I will do some research on finding some of these things that I can in fact have. However, for now I am plugging along and doing quite well. Tonight I threw away all of the condiments in my fridge that had more than 5 ingredients in them. I'm really proud of myself for making it the first week. It helps when you have really supportive friends (Thanks Lindsey!).

Week two commences tomorrow on Labor Day - always a fun one to maneuver. Got any great recipes or advice? Send them my way!

Going All Natural

So I decided to continue blogging post-Singapore on the many adventures that come my way in the life of a former Young Ambassador. Now that I have returned it is time to start my routine again...except this time it will be a little different. I have decided to make a big lifestyle change, one that I am both excited and nervous about...

One thing that people know about me is that some of my favorite things are chocolate and peanut butter. Pancakes make me go bonkers. Mexican food brings such satisfaction to my taste buds. Bottom line? Food is something I enjoy so much.



But another thing that some people know about me is that I like to branch out and try new things. This year I ran a marathon. Last month I tried Yoga (which was not for me, by the way). Now it is time for me to experiment with my diet. I do not want to go on a fad diet. I do not want to try and lose weight for the sake of looking better in a bikini. I want to be more conscious of what I am putting into my body. Because of this I have decided to make a drastic change...

Let me welcome you to the start of the real foods diet - eating only the rawest forms of foods and limiting the amount of processed foods. The rules to my diet include the limit of processed foods to only 5 ingredients or less. Basically - anything that I eat will be the most natural form (such as meats, veggies, fruits, etc.) or processed with only 5 ingredients or less.

I will conduct this diet experiment for 6 months, starting on August 30th. Beer and wine do not apply and I will occasionally give myself a cheat day. I mean, come on - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all fall within the next 6 months. I think it is ok if I reward myself with a little gluttony on those days :) But don't worry, I'll still behave.

So there it is - I'm throwing it out there so you can all keep me accountable. I'll take you through how it is going, the challenges, the recipes, the discoveries, and of course the rewards! Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My First Olympic Experience

It has officially concluded. The closing ceremonies have taken place. The flame has been put out until the next Olympic event. It is time to reflect on my time here. It is time to identify the take-aways and moments that I will always cherish.

My name is Erin Kennedy and I am the Young Ambassador for Team USA at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games. I came into this role uncertain of what I would be doing. I was uncertain of what I would get out of it. I was uncertain of many things. I leave the games now certain. I am certain that my presence at the games was an experience of a lifetime. I am certain that I leave these games a better person than when I entered. I am certain that these athletes’ lives have changed for the positive.

The number one question I am positive that I will receive is, “What did you do while you were there?” I’m not sure that this question can be answered in one easy answer. I did a lot of different things at the games which included logistical, administrative stuff and also hanging out with athletes and fellow ambassadors. I enjoyed time at competitions and participated in cultural activities. I spent time getting to know many of our athletes not just as competitors, but as people.

A while back I wrote a blog about falling in love all over again, specifically with my career. I identified that there were moments in which I took a step back and came to realize why I do what I do. There are moments when I literally fall in love all over again and remember why I work the position that I do. These Youth Olympic Games gave me many moments like the one I spoke about in my blog. Whether it was hanging with the wrestlers at the volleyball game, learning about archery with Ben, Miranda, and Dee, or walking to the dining hall with Jessica - each moment that I spent with an athlete was a chance to relive that nostalgia.

If you ever get a moment to sit down with a young person then please do. What you can learn will amaze you. The passion in Nathan’s voice as he talks about the sport he loves or the motivation that Kaitlyn has to succeed in Judo will be enough to inspire even the non-believers. Being able to talk with Ben about the ‘mental game’ and hearing Lucas say that getting an education is just as important as wrestling when he goes on to college makes you step back and appreciate how motivated and smart these young people are.

Watching Max compete for the gold medal still gives me chills. Seeing him counter throw his opponent and then drop to his knees in pure astonishment that he had just won was incredible. He remained calm and collected as he finished protocol before jumping into the arms of his coach, Serge. As I type this there are goose bumps all over and a soft spot in my heart that feels this moment over and over.

Michael was in 4th place going into his 5th and final dive of the night. The only way to win was for the Italian diver to score 6.0’s and 6.5’s and for Michael to nail a solid 7.0 dive, which would secure the bronze medal. My heart beat faster and faster as my nerves grew – this was his moment. I do not have any children, but seeing Michael nail his last dive and watching the 7.5’s light up the screen made me incredibly proud.

I have only mentioned a few athletes in this post but each and every moment and each and every conversation is one I will cherish forever. These games were about culture and education. I have made new friends from around the world. I have had great moments experiencing cultures outside the U.S. But what surprised me the most was learning about my own culture and making friends with people from my own country. Within each sport and within each state of the U.S. there are cultures all in their own and each day I spent in the Youth Olympic Village was a chance to learn more about these.

Did you know that Judo players are traditionally called Judo Kas (Not sure if I spelled that right)? Did you know that Modern Pentathlon encompasses Fencing, Swimming, Running, Shooting, and Equestrian? Did you know that there are three different styles of wrestling? Did you know that two standing 8-counts in one round of boxing is a technical knock-out (TKO)? Did you know that archery encompasses the best of five rounds and that the weight of the bow can be balanced on one finger? Maybe you knew. I did not know these things until the games. I learned them from athletes. I learned them from teenagers.

The Youth Olympic Games were created as a way of educating young people on culture through a universal language: sport. Have they succeeded? In a heartbeat. Ask any athlete that participated in the YOG and ask them what the best part was. Reverberating like a drum you will hear: culture. Different for every one that was in attendance, the common denominator was cultural immersion.

Can the YOG create world peace? Can the YOG solve the problems of the world? Maybe not, but it is one heck of a starting point. Like a springboard in diving or a starting line on the track, the YOG serve as a catalyst for achieving things that we never imagined possible.



Call me Polly Ann but I believe in world peace and I believe in the YOG…

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Five Days Remain

Well, it is coming down to the wire with only five days remaining. The last few days have been super exciting with Team USA capturing a bit more bling for the count. Last night alone saw two golds, one silver, and one bronze. In the midst of the success there have been some personal records and some amazing cultural experiences.

USA Booth
As you may have read, I had a European and African experience in the World Culture Village. On August 20th they revealed the Americas and Oceania. I was pretty excited to see the Singaporean interpretation of the United States...

Brightly colored balloons welcome people passing by. The walls are lined with information on American culture which consisted of American breakfast and fast food, pop culture in music and movies, and our staple sports of basketball and football. After walking around a bit I then tried my hand at their version of Wheel of Fortune. I spun the wheel and answered a pop culture question about American TV. I left with a bookmark of the picturesq Grand Canyon.

Meet the Archers
The other day I spent some time getting to know Team USA's archers: Coach Dee, Miranda, and Ben. Instead of seeing them compete I spent my time watching some others compete all while receiving an education in archery. They explained the rules and we watched as some of the other countries battled it out for victory. During this time I got to talk with Ben Chu, who had competed the day before and fell to his opponent by one point in the final round. Ben and I talked a lot about sport psychology and the importance of the mental game.

Following the competitions we went to the practice field where I watched both Miranda and Ben warm up and prepare for what was to come. Watching their technique and seeing Coach Dee facilitate them in their practice was something that most do not ever experience. The relationship that the three of them have is beyond words and truly inspiring. Overall it was an incredible day that I will remember as one of my favorite moment in these games.

Red, White, and Blue Day - Scavenger Hunt
As a way to engage Team USA a bit more and give them something fun to keep them busy when they would not be competing we decided to offer a scavenger hunt and field day. About half of the delegation came out to participate for a fun fill afternoon of different competitive activities.

We started off pairing up to complete a scavenger hunt which encompassed participants to scurry around the entire village finding items and taking pictures. Mona from fencing and Samantha from volleyball came in first place, collecting the most items.

After the hunt we broke into teams of three to compete in a field day full of a whipped cream pie eating contest, brain bowl, obstacle course, water balloon relay, and a game called Giants, Wizards, and Elves. Teams had individual competitions and combined as well. It was a fun afternoon for all, finding laughter and smiles throughout.

Gold Medal Victory
Not many can say that they were there when the gold was won. Not many can say that they experienced the emotion in the win. Yesterday was that moment for me.

Maxamillian Schneider took the gold medal in the final round of Judo. His teammate, Katelyn Bouyssou, sat next to us to educate us on the sport. Katelyn competes today for her chance at the gold.

Max started off well and in a short while was able to counter throw his opponent for a full point. This was enough to win the match. Now, if you know Max then you know that he is a quiet boy. He looks quite innocent and contains most of his energy. In this moment he came to his knees, hands to his face, unbelieving of what just happened. After leaving the mat he burst into the arms of his coach, Serge, celebrating the first gold medal for a USA Judo player.

The emotion in the venue was incredible...

There will be more to come, but that is just a little taste of some of the stand-out moments over the last few days. Read all about other Team USA successes at http://www.youtholympicgames.teamusa.org/.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

African Adventure

As promised, I told you I would tell you about my African Adventure. I managed to visit a handful of countries, make friends, get a tattoo, try some foods, and have a ton of fun! Come along with me as we explore this great continent...

Morocco
We walked into the World Culture Village and immediately saw Morocco. Of course we needed to stop by in honor of our friend Hamza. In Morocco I learned about the tea they drink, sat on cushions that they use, and got a Henna tattoo. Apparently it will last two weeks - good thing I won't be regretting the design!

Mali
After some relaxation in Morocco it was time for a little competition in Mali. Fergus and I went head to head in Mali trivia. The trivia game was a neat set up on the computer that incorporated Mali facts and a soccer game. Fergus' character was Margaret Thatcher and min Karl Marx. Unfortunately Karl was not so great in the goal and we fell to Margaret in the end :(

Libya
Soccer is definitely the sport of Africa. We made our way to Libya so Fergus could try his hand at some more football. Considering my loss in Mali I decided to sit that one out.

Liberia
We ran into an old friend in Liberia - Kwan from Trinidad and Tobago! She was making a bookmark out of paper and stamps. This was a play off of the art in Liberia which traditionally uses dried fig leaves.

Guinea Bassau and South Africa
Two of the highlights during my African Adventure involved a sport I know well: rugby! We were passing the Guinea Bassau booth and the clay village that the school children made included a rugby pitch. In South Africa I took some time to toss the rugby ball around with my new friends. I couldn't have walked away without playing just once!




Equatorial Guinea
After my rugby excitement subsided I moved on to Guinea. Here I painted a flag keychain and accidentally got the colors out of order. Oops! To continue my mistake I decided to make my flag colorful. Maybe Guinea will consider the new design!

Ethiopia
In Ethiopia I made new friends - the proof is in the friendship bracelet that they made for me. Many of the booth included friendship bracelets, which shows me how much relationships are important in African countries. Family is something so sacred, which I would like to see the rest of the world adopt.

Eritrea
Everyone loves games and Eritrea is no different. Fergus and I played a game involving tossing a small ball into different size holes. If we made one in then we received a prize, which was a piece of clay tile, designed with flowers and things.

Equatorial Guinea
In Equatorial Guinea we played an animal game and completed puzzles. The animals within this country include elephants, gorillas, turtles, and much more. I took time to smell the many spices of the country, which only made my mind wonder about the different foods that they eat. The spices smelled amazing, perhaps I will have to visit and taste hem first hand for sure.

Egypt
If I say Egypt, what are the two things that come to your mind? For me, it would be mummies and pyramids. Sure enough, the booth consisted of just that. I made a pyramid that would then be added to the many others that had been made.





Democratic Republic of the Congo
My representation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was much better than my first flag creation in Guinea. Not too shabby!

Some of the other countries we stopped by included the Congo, Comoros, and the Ivory Coast. What an incredible experience. The music and dancing performances that the students put on were incredibly entertaining! Although my henna tattoo will only last two weeks and my friendship bracelets may not last, the memories that I have from my African Adventure will remain with me for a lifetime!