christmas vacation

Christmas Vacation is my all-time favorite movie. Everyone in my family knows that effective November 1st, that movie is fair game and will likely be played multiple times before January 1st.  It is the greatest movie ever, and if you’d like to argue this fact with me, feel free to post in the comments, but I can assure you that you’re wrong. 

One of my favorite parts of the movie is the look of horror on the Griswold family’s faces when the in-laws/grandparents ring the doorbell. It is the epitome of the holiday season. We’re excited and make these grandiose plans but when the time comes for the relatives to arrive, parties to happen, gifts to be purchased (and wrapped), decorations to go up, wheat/egg/dairy/soy/gluten free class treats to be made (shall I go on and on and on???), that look of terror comes over our faces and stress overcomes us.  What a shame that the days we celebrate gratitude and our Savior’s birth tend to be some of the most stressful of our entire year. (cue Ellen Griswold: “I don’t know what to say except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery.”)

Stress: good or bad? Both? Yes, it can be both. But it’s a fine line; too little and you’re bored/too much and you’re an overwhelmed maniac. We tend to classify ourselves in the latter category from November to December, don’t we?   Some of us handle stress well.  Some of us don’t. Some overeat. Some don’t sleep. Some make to-do lists. Some hold it all in and explode a la Clark W. Griswold upon opening his ‘Jelly of the Month’ club membership. (Should have probably prefaced that with “spoiler alert” but that movie came out in 1985 so if you haven’t seen it by now, that kind of feels like your fault)

So how to handle this unwelcome, but seemingly inevitable, stress-infused season? Well, I wish I had the answers (and so does my family) but maybe I can provide a little insight from the health and wellness side.  I can’t make your mother-in-law more tolerable at the Thanksgiving table or shorten the 4 hour elementary school Christmas program but I can tell you this: don’t compound your stress with more self-inflicted stress. AKA: take as much stress off yourself as you can. It’s ok if you miss a few workouts, or eat a Christmas cookie; don’t beat yourself up over the teacher gift that didn’t get wrapped Pinterest style, don’t deprive yourself of your favorite holiday foods. You will keep yourself much healthier if you can brush off some of those self-induced stressors than if you tried to add them to your already full holiday schedule. Don’t mistake this as a cop-out to just chill until January 1st and then recommit to being healthy, but trying to lose your last 10lbs or attempting to set multiple PRs in the gym, or attend 5 training sessions a week can be fool’s game if you know that your life is about to get quite hectic. Now is the time to enjoy your family, enjoy meals with your loved ones, make memories, and try to shirk as much of the stress as you can this season. You’ll be much happier and healthier by giving yourself permission to actually ENJOY these next few weeks…side note: it’s also a good time to practice that novel concept of ‘self-forgiveness’ I wrote about a few months ago!

In closing, remember, being mindful of your health and fitness goals is important.  Make time for the gym; make good decisions at your family meals but don’t stress over it. Don’t waste your time making every acquaintance a homemade Pinterest-worthy gift. Spend that time working on your trainer’s gift—or just send wine. 

Happy Holidays 😊

Tonight I got a text from a frazzled friend as she was watching the latest food documentary, ‘What the Health?’. Direct quote: “I’m watching what the health on Neflix and it’s giving me so much anxiety”. She was freaking because apparently (I have not and will not watch it) 1 egg=5 cigarettes. O. M. G. Stop it right now. Also, on a semi-related note, I apparently smoked 10 cigs today. Hopefully, she turned it off and sought refuge in the humor of Michael Scott from the Office.

I consider myself an individualist when it comes to both exercise and nutrition. There is no “right” way to do something. We all have different interests, likes, backgrounds, etc. and these things shape the way we view nutrition and exercise. That’s why I get so fired up when fear shoots through normal people that take 90 minutes of their precious time to think they are bettering themselves when they end up afraid and feeling like they are killing their family by serving grilled chicken for dinner. The truth is that you have to have a healthy dose of PERSPECTIVE when watching these types of films. The filmmakers have an agenda. They state that and you should know what it is going in. You have to remember that this agenda is embedded in EVERYTHING you are watching. Every interview, study, pie chart, testimony, etc. is there to back up what they believe (and convince you to believe too). You can probably find data, research, studies to support almost every ‘diet’ or way of eating. There are studies, testimonies, etc. to support consumption of animal protein. Is one better than the other? It takes perspective. Do you eat 18 hot dogs per day or 3 Big Macs? Then maybe this documentary is just what you need to help you cut down on animal protein. Are you trying to build muscle and lose fat and enjoy grilled chicken or a steak? Turn on the grill! It all depends on your unique wants, needs, beliefs, and goals. We can go round and round nitpicking everything to death and claim meat has tons of antibiotics that are killing us and others say that we are made to eat meat but the ultimate question is, 'is this getting me closer to or further away from my goals?'. Another good question to ask is, "am I doing this because I really belive it or out of fear from something someone claimed to be true?".

Look at it this way….does the fact that I choose to attend a Methodist church give me a better chance of getting into Heaven than someone that chooses to attend a Baptist one? I certainly don’t think so, although some might (or vice versa!). It’s the same with eating. I choose to eat meat. I believe that I am doing right for my body based on my goals just like I choose the denomination of church I attend. I have clients that choose not to eat meat based on their goals and beliefs and that is JUST. FINE. I am not better than that client and they are no better than me. We have different perspectives and philosophies. You can find scientific support for both just like you can find scientific support for different forms of exercise. Some claim that if you do HIIT, you’ll greatly increase your risk of injury Others claim that if you practice Yoga, you’re not getting enough cardiovascular work and you might be at a higher risk for a cardiac event.. Is one better than the other? Sheesh, I don’t know, it requires perspective.

So my long-winded advice is this: don’t panic. Stop it. You’re doing fine. You do you…and that may require some research (from both points of view!) and self-experimentation before you find your sweet spot in both exercise and nutrition. YOU know what’s best for you. Don’t let Neflix (or me or anyone else) tell you otherwise 😊

Today my husband was nice enough to send me a link to an article, which really irritated me (I can’t imagine why he says I’m difficult to live with). The article was from a source that I hold in high regard, Precision Nutrition. The subject matter was overtraining and how it can sabotage your goals…a subject that is a little ‘touchy’ for me. I’m fine telling others to rest and relax, take time off, let your body recover…I know the reasons why and the benefits BUT I have a hard time following my own advice. I attack my life with the ‘more is better’ approach and, frankly, it is a pretty stressful way to live. Some of you reading this get that; I know because I’ve seen you in the gym. So, when I saw this article linked on FB today, I promptly ignored it, thinking that I will take a hard pass on reading something that I already understand (yet don’t apply to myself all the time). That’s why I was little on edge when he texted it to me (twice). I told him I had already seen it and he replied “but did you read it?”—um, I think he knows me a little too well because technically I saw it but for sure didn’t read it. So being the submissive wife and person that I am, I read it...after he texted me about it AGAIN. I have to admit, he was right. It was good. Really good. So instead of droning on about my own thoughts on the matter, I’m linking it below (photo of infograph attached) and I hope you’ll take my husband’s advice (and mine too) and read it. It might not apply to some of you; but I know for a fact, there are some that are pushing harder, attending every class, making every workout as intense as possible, and cutting more and more calories to achieve your goals without seeing the results you desire. The write up is a little long so I’ve highlighted some of the key quotes below, but I encourage you to read it and take it to heart. Sometimes, rest is best. Sometimes, we need to play with our kids and spend time working on our relationships instead of grabbing that extra hour or attending that extra class at the gym. Sometimes, we need to enjoy having a piece of birthday cake at our child’s party because one slice of cake isn’t going to prevent you from having a six pack…also because cake is amazing. I hope you’ll read this and understand that being an active person and forcing yourself to engage in 8-10 hours of planned exercise (especially highly intense types) are NOT the same thing. Your body is smart; smarter than you give it credit for and this article does a beautiful job of telling you how and why…I admit, much more eloquently than I can. Enjoy :)

Key Quotes (if you don’t want to dive into the entire article…but please do if you have a few minutes!):

  • The problem isn’t the exercise, or even the intensity...the problem is not balancing stress with recovery.
  • In terms of a physical demand, we still need to help our bodies recover from all the stress we experience.
  • The right amount of exercise, at the right intensity, and the right time:
    • We train. We learn. We get healthier and stronger.
  • Too much exercise, with too high an intensity, too often:
    • We strain. We stress. We shut down. And break down.
  • Training too frequently and intensely — again, without prioritizing recovery — means that stress never
  • If you don’t build recovery into your plan, your body will eventually force it.
  • Exercise should make us feel, look, perform and live better… not crush us. (now that's good stuff!) 
  • Movement should help us function freely… not incapacitate us.


(Source: Precision Nutrition/John Berardi)

Round Two: if you are brave enough to return and read this let me offer a sincere thank you. While the aim of this blog is to have some short, #realtalk fitness and food fun (alliteration), I want to get into something that I feel needs to be talked about and I have a specific person that inspired this topic but I hope it speaks to you if you need to read it….

Forgiveness. It’s next to godliness right? Or is that cleanliness? Can’t remember but you know one of those was cross stitched in a frame at your church when you were little. Doesn’t matter. We need to talk forgiveness. Not the kind between you and others though; the kind between you and yourself. So let’s play never have I ever (sans drinking)…

Never have I ever:

-tried to exercise off a ‘bad’ food weekend

-shamed or had negative self-talk related to eating “bad”* foods or not going to exercise

-compared myself to others and wished my body looked like theirs

-wanted to look different than I do

-felt shame or regret for eating something “bad” or “off plan”

-punished myself with extra exercise (or an extra training/two-a-days)

Oddly specific, right? I’ve done them all. All of them. I would be drunk if we were playing the real ‘never have I ever’ because I’d have to drink to every single one. It’s so exhausting to hold yourself to an unattainable standard, isn’t it?

Are you doing that now? If you are, I hope you’ll try this: extend forgiveness….to yourself. So you ate a piece of cake. So what? So you ate all of the oreos in the pack? Big deal. (can you tell I’m a fan of sugar?). So you missed a few days at the gym? Shake it off. It’s easier said than done but you’ve got to let it go.

Is binging or missing multiple gym sessions going to get you closer to your goals? No, probably not but what’s worse is being angry and resentful of something you did that you can’t undo. And I always promise short posts so I won’t go into the ‘why’ you ate all of that or what you can do instead(we can do that another time) but the first thing you’ve got to do is: LET. IT. GO. Forgive yourself. It happened and it is over. Please don’t eat the whole pan of brownies again tomorrow and just say “oh, I’ll forgive myself” but don’t punish yourself either. I know you do it. At least one of you reading this does or has done or will do it. I did. I hated it; it made me miserable. And instead of being grateful for all of the things you CAN do—like survive a full tabata or Afterburn or do 10 pull-ups or push-ups or run a 5K or whatever—you dwell on imperfections. Perfection is an illusion (write that down). The longer I’ve been in the fitness industry, the more I’ve seen people stay in this same viscous cycle. I finally just got fed up--don’t think I don’t still have my moments…I do, we all do. I’ll go out on a limb and speak for most of the factor trainers: we all have ‘moments’--but I REFUSE to let brownies or cookies or missed workouts dictate my level of happiness. Please don’t let it dictate yours. You are good enough. Let it go. You’ve got this.

Hey you. Welcome to the #teamfactor blog…

FYI: #teamfactor includes all of you reading this, no matter where you are or where/if you exercise 😊 We’re starting a SHORT blog/vlog to have a forum to teach, talk, dispel myths, show workouts & exercises, address all things fitness and most importantly: how it affects YOU. It’s causal. Grammar and spelling errors will be made. Sentences won’t be complete. The English language might get butchered.; we’re fitness people, please forgive.

Everything will be easy to read and understand (no complicated physiology here, people) and will be no more than 5 min in length—to read or watch. *Insert all the praise hands* Let’s be real: you don’t have time for 15 min posts and 30 min biochemistry lessons. Um, no thanks. Instead, what we want to do is teach you about some stuff and how it works. Simple stuff about the body and exercise. We don’t know everything; in fact, the more we learn the more we realize we need a million more years to learn it all. But we will do our best to keep this informative, interesting, and simple.

This blog will focus on how the body works and how you can work it. Need to be an exercise fanatic to read this? Negative. Need to be willing to change the way you see yourself? Maybe. The goal here is for you to learn about your body and when you can start to understand all that it does for you, I’m 97% (+/-3%) sure that you’ll start looking at it a little differently (and hopefully appreciate it more!).

Our goal here is to focus on YOU and your journey learning about movement, exercise, nutrition, how to achieve your goals, and one of my favorite things: self-love. That’s a touchy topic in the fitness industry. There are lots of posts and photos of rock hard bods and crazy workout videos and while that’s great for some people (and sometimes fun to watch), we’re all about some realness and truth. Sometimes life is hard and you want to eat all the candy. Sometimes you go to Trader Joe’s and innocently buy chocolate and sea salt covered almonds and then they’re gone within 24 hrs (hypothetical example). Either way, realness here. Love here. Fitness here. No judgement here. Can’t wait…

About Me:

My name is Whitney Brown and I’m the Director of Personal Training at the Fitness Factor in Columbus, Mississippi. I do some 1:1 training, group training, lead training meetings, goof around, teach Group X (only when needed!), and dabble in marketing; it’s fun. We are a licensee with Alloy Training Systems at the Factor and have a full-service fitness facility and a sister Pilates studio next door. It’s the best place to work and we have the best team and group of members/clients ever.