“You’re Fat”

No exaggeration, I could listen to loops of health and nutrition podcasts,YouTube clips, and audio books all day long. The research and education that’s happening in this space right now is so inspiring and makes me want to learn and implement all the things! All of this listening, note taking, and research-consuming has lead me to implementing specific lifestyle choices into my routine that I feel are best for me and could help many others as well. I am extremely passionate about health and nutrition because it is not only an essential and viable, daily aspect of all human life, but it also has tremendous power to either heal and get us closer to optimal health or make us slowly slip into an early breakdown of cells. Pursuing and becoming a yoga instructor, certified health coach, weight loss coach, and personal trainer was all because I wanted to scream from a mountain to whoever would listen that nutrition and health doesn’t have to be difficult and that I could help. So what kick-started this obsession with health and nutrition? It all began and grew from the day that the person looking at me in the mirror at 18 years old said, “You’re fat” and this stung more than any possible negativity from anyone else.

The heaviest and unhealthiest. Circa 2010

In hindsight and through the lens of life experience, and my increased knowledge of psychology and many other aspects of mental and emotional health I am able to label what I was feeling as: I am not enough. Many people have variations of this feeling stemming from all types of experiences in life and I was no different. I looked in the mirror and my gut told me to start with physiology first and the mental and emotional would follow suit; tackle nutrition and fitness and the chemical changes will help boost toward holistic healing, and it turned out that this worked great for me.

Living it up & feeling amazing at a wedding 1 year later

I don’t know if it’s just the stubbornness in my bones or something else but I cannot bring myself to subscribe to only one school of thought when it comes to nutrition; I hand select one idea from here and a new theory there, and through trial and error see what works best for me. From this process I’ve discovered that I feel best doing intermittent fasting and following a Keto(ish) type lifestyle. My version of this is as follows:

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Fake Glasses=Real Research Nerd

 

1. 6/7am: Wake up-drink water and black coffee (sometimes with Stevia)

2. Workout, do yoga, jog/walk. Drink water.

3. Drink more water

4. 12/1pm: Have first meal! (this varies widely and depends on what I have and whether or not I’m traveling)

-Naturally low carb, high healthy fat, micro-nutrient smoothie (recipes to come)

-Eggs, chicken, grass fed beef, salmon, tuna

-Avocados, cucumber, lettuce wraps, dark greens, celery

-Minimal full fat cheeses, whipping cream

-Natural nut butters, nuts, coconut oil

-Berries, watermelon

5. Drink more water

6. 2/3pm: Sometimes have a treat=Keto Coffee. My version is coffee, coconut oil, ghee, stevia, splash of almond milk. Blend in Vitamix. Yum!

7. 6/7pm: Dinner! Same variation as lunch (making sure to finish all food by 8pm)

8. 10/11pm: Sleep 💤

My modifications with Keto are that I am light on dairy because I’ve always been a little lactose sensitive; I just tune into my body and feel better with less. I try not to make any “fat bomb” or “treat” type recipes which can contain a lot of ingredients or sugar alternatives; I try to eat almost exclusively whole foods in their natural state with the exception of processing in a blender. I also probably eat more fruits and vegetables than the average “Keto-er” because I see huge value in fiber and micro-nutrients but I am still at or below 20g of net carbs.

Now for intermittent fasting: the nutritionists, dietitians, doctors, researchers, and fitness professionals who I follow and respect the most, all agree that the benefits of IF are too good to be ignored. For me, if a food or method helps in healing and cellular repair then I am all for it, and if one of the positive side effects are things like better sleep and improved metabolism/fat burn then sign me up like, yesterday. Here is an info graphic showing some benefits, and the link below to a website of a comprehensive list and in-depth explanations.

https://nxtmodern.com/21-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting/

My final point and I would say the most important is: TRACK YOUR FOOD. I know, I know, I know this is extremely annoying, tedious, and time consuming but I can promise you that the benefits it provides far outweighs any animosity you may feel toward it. As a DNA-based weight loss coach and as a personal trainer I implemented this with ALL of my clients and the ones who listened and stayed consistent saw results much quicker, this is not an opinion, this is an observable and documentable fact that I watched and recorded for years. I recommend using the app MyFitnessPal or an equivalent tracker and start recording every single thing you consume as best you can with type of food/drink and exactly how much. I would say the obvious benefit of keeping track of what you consume is important but what can be even more important is the control, accountability, and the ability to re-build a positive relationship with food; a relationship where you begin to make the connection between what you eat and exactly how it makes you feel and then from that you decide when, what, and how much to eat without overwhelming cravings controlling you. You make the tactile connection of eating something and addressing it face-to-face in your tracker; I know it may sound silly to some, but the emotional healing, regained control, and positive health results I saw with myself and client after client with this simple, consistent implementation was pretty amazing.

Health coaching in my office. 2017

If you’re looking to feel better or lose some extra pounds, I truly hope that the above advice helps you. And like I used to tell all of my clients, some version of : “Okay, we have a plan and you know exactly what you need to do this week, but I cannot be in your house every day slapping bad foods out of your hand and reminding you to track your food, so YOU’RE in control and YOU need to stay consistent and do this because you love you.” Corny but hey, I will do whatever it takes to keep clients and myself lighthearted and continuing to get results. Now go call truce and make friends with the person in the mirror.

 

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The Journey Gypsy is…

I started writing on a public platform to share my journeys…my literal journeys meaning my world travels, but also my adventures with yoga and meditation, and my walk with nutrition and health. Whatever I pursue, I go at it with all of my heart and this has proven to be scary but ultimately tremendously beneficial over the years. The travel, yoga/meditation, and nutrition/health branches of my life all began and started intertwining almost exactly 10 years ago.

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San Francisco circa 2009

Moving away from home at 18 years old meant getting slapped in the face by the world in the form of 20 pounds of weight gain and financial despair. This catalytic event started a fire in my belly and catapulted my yoga practice when I moved back home; I needed to get back to feeling healthy and recenter myself, and the flow of the Universe flawlessly lead me to yoga. The yoga lifestyle focused on mediation, breath-work, asanas, and clean eating and I dove into each detail like my life depended on it (because it felt like it did). I also discovered that if I ran a couple of miles a week and did some weight training, my yoga and meditation practice became even stronger. Making these discoveries and feeling great all around sparked my thirst for independence and growth, and a year and a half later I applied and got accepted to the University of Oregon and moved to a town I had never been to, not knowing a single soul; I liked the adventure and endless potential that this promised.

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University of Oregon Graduation 2013

I loved discovering new places alone and I loved feeling good in my body again; my travel, yoga/meditation, and nutrition/health seeds were officially planted and on their way to becoming a mighty forest. Over the next several years I graduated University, became a certified yoga instructor, traveled to South Africa with one of my best friends, worked as a teacher and chiropractic assistant, moved to Dallas, Texas and worked as a DNA-based weight loss and health coach, yoga instructor, fitness instructor/personal trainer, and then a chiropractic assistant again. Now, starting in January of this year, I decided to fan the flame of my travel fire once more and began journeying around the world doing work exchanges and volunteering, ideally also sharing guidance in yoga, nutrition, and other aspects of health as best as I can.

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Rooftop Yoga | Las Palmas, Gran Canaria | 2019

On this platform I will be sharing as many of my experiences as I can. The good, bad, ugly and BEAUTIFUL from my travels, my knowledge and practice of yoga and meditation, and my discoveries and ups and downs with nutrition and health. My intention is that these things will inspire and help improve your life, or at the very least, make you laugh and entertain you on a cold rainy night.

Here, at 28 years old and in between travel destinations, I am spending time with family and friends and finding a deeper gratitude for life as my mom goes through the end-of-life process with her mom. I continue to marvel at the perfection of life and death, beginnings and endings, the seasons that bring pain and peace whether we think we’re ready for them or not. Surrendering to the flow of life is the best and only thing we can do and I find that immeasurably powerful and truly nurturing to the soul-I hope you do too.

Namaste, friends.

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Un Aeropuerto Intentó Matarme | An Airport Tried to Kill Me

I left my hostel family the only way that seemed fitting: with tears on my face, family dinner made with love in my belly, dragging luggage down the cobblestone streets, in the shadows of the high afternoon sun. With 3 final hugs from the fam, we said our goodbyes and I faced the dramatically frustrated bus driver one last time. So cyclical, so poetic.

The Gran Canaria airport and the flight were a blur except for my moment of intention where I absorbed as much as I could of the loud, constant chatter of Spanish conversations from people all around me; I’ve grown such a fondness of the melodic rhythm of español.

Then we landed in Dublin. And I have to say, Customs and U.S Preauthorization in Ireland is, in my humbly comedic opinion, pretty dang hilarious especially when you’re sleepy. The questions were so serious and the uniformed robots were NOT smiling, but I could not remove this mysterious grin off of my face. And what’s worse is that I knew I looked tired so to look less weird (which I normally wear proudly), I widened my eyes to appear more alert. Good call.

Now, I had an angry authority figure comparing my passport picture to my current state, which I can only imagine resembled something like the obnoxious face of Buddy the Elf, and the robot did not approve. After another series of questions, of which he interrupted every answer I had, he said “Okay…bye…have a good….day..” I yelled “HEY FRIEND YOU TOO!” He didn’t like that, I didn’t care.

After a 7 hour flight I am now in Newark. I let a friend know that I had landed and he quickly replied: Do not, I repeat DO NOT go outside, this part of town is not exactly the exemplified Garden State. Great. At this point I have been awake for more than 30 hours and have been through 2 time zones; needless to say my body is confused and fighting me with every step. It’s late evening, I have been advised not to explore outside of the airport, and my next flight is not for another 10 hours. I carry my 40lb backpack and wheel my 30lb luggage around the shiny tiles, feeling like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. I make my way through winding lines of security to my gate just to be told that I cannot enter until midnight…which is in 6 hours. So, I get out of line, eat $18 spaghetti and lay on the food court bench, just to be shaken awake 30 minutes later.

Saucey-faced and incoherent I walk around a bit more to try to stay awake for my next checkpoint. I walk up to my terminal entrance at midnight, with the promise of a place to finally lay and rest near my gate for the next couple of hours, only to be confronted with a bitter face who tells me that the gate doesn’t open until 4am (my flight is at 5am). I respond with a comatose and sarcastic, “REALLY?! Okay, GREAT! Thanks for ALLLLL your help!” I shuffle away to find a nice, cold patch of tile floor to lay on for the next 3-4 hours and proceed to fall in and out of sleep while homeless people walk by asking for money and my joints crunch into more and more stiffness.

At 4am we are finally allowed to enter the gate, I get to a chair and pass out immediately, waking up to board the plane 45 minutes later. I get situated in my aisle seat and I start to smile and almost laugh out loud in delirium: even after ALL this, I still have a deep love for airports and what they represent to me. Airports equal freedom, exploration and adventure; they are a gateway to endless opportunities, and for that, even when they try to wear me out, I will always be grateful.

Now I am temporarily home in Dallas, being a responsible adult and doing my taxes, as well as catching up with family and friends. And after this?…Stayed tuned for my next adventure! 🙌🏼

Resumen: Los últimos treinta días

To say these past 30 days have been absolutely jam-packed with life-altering experiences, laughs, people, food, sunshine, and all other bliss-evoking happenings this earth has to offer, would still be a pretty shameful understatement. The best way I can think of to relay my experiences is through an aperiodical smorgasbord of feelings, stories, and as much sensuality as I can muster through words because that’s what I’ve come to understand Spanish culture and island life is all about. I am currently sitting, reading and reflecting through my tattered journal of events and I have been moved to laughs and face-palm worthy groans; I am also forced to address the gut-dwelling mariposas I feel as I get ready to close this chapter in a few days and move on to the next.

Only in this place and in this season of my life could I be sick from a stomach bug, throwing up for hours one day and then hiking a mountain and meeting three Sam’s all from different parts of the world, the next. Beach days, BBQ’s, cleaning and cooking, long nights running around the cobblestone streets, early morning meditation and yoga, pasta, Tapas, cafe con leche…Is it just me or does this all sound like the recipe for pure solo travel bliss? I met a new guest and instant friend, Jed (from Houston but residing in San Fran) and we immediately kick-started the next few days with belly laughs. Gallivanting the Carnaval in tiny clothing, climbing Tejeda with new BBF Sara from Sweden, reenacting a scene from Full Metal Jacket to describe the bottom floor of the hostel, and making plans to one day open a health food classic 50’s style diner.

Saying “good-byes” to instant friends and family has not proven to get any easier from the first day on the island up to today. Me and Sara hugged and pouted as Jed walked away, back to his reality in America, misty-eyed. And subsequent farewells to guests and volunteer family, most recently Selene, has left me with a pit in my stomach but undoubtedly an even bigger, grateful heart. I have reflected on the fact that not a lot of things pull on my gut enough to evoke much emotion, but people….people, no question, have this strong ability and impact in my life. I can’t help but look into the eyes of the people who have become family and see myself in them; I see all walks of life and me in every set of eyes all together, all at once. How can I not be moved? The connection is stunningly pure and undeniable.

A lot of time for reflection has lead me to observe life on the island from an anthropological and health/wellness viewpoint; the different shapes, sizes, and dispositions of people, especially on the beach, are unveiled in a beautifully and easily analyzed rawness. The default expressions are either strong frustration and unthinkable disappointment OR ecstasy; there is no in between. I have seen older women yelling in the streets as if someone murdered their dog just to later learn from Spanish-speaking friends that said woman was only minorly inconvenienced but she wanted everyone to hear about it. On the same street I’ve seen the biggest smiles and upbeat songs echoing through the alleys conveying romantic love and bliss-HOW could there be anything else in life?! This place is syrupy and incredibly sensational. Regarding physical appearance and health, I have decided to account on the experiences that have lead to these Spanish shapes and sizes by sharing my own evolution.

Traveling around, experiencing new things, changing locations, and having a budget is the exact equation that results in eating and drinking whatever is presented to you, whenever it is presented to you. This, coupled with a culture that consumes pasta and bread in large quantities, expressing love and bonding through food and drink, and we have ourselves some unplanned weight gain. I immediately associated tighter pants and a swelling bra with this beautiful community cohesion; so many different tables and conversations with locals as well as souls from all over the world coming together to break bread and share stories is something out of a nostalgic movie. The fact that I have been invited to so many experiences, even if I have already eaten, fills my heart as much as it fills my gut.

Now that I’ve had a relaxing lunch consisting of ensalada fresca y pasta carbonara, it’s off to the beach! To be continued….

Días Uno a Doce

Thursday January 31st [Day 1]:

*Disclaimer: These first four paragraphs were written the day after Day 1 so please excuse the non-lyrical, blunt nonsense 😁

I flew into Las Palmas in the Gran Canaria airport which is very small. I came out onto the street to try to see and plan the bus route to get to the hostel. I sat on a bench and set my bags down and overheard a woman who has been to the island several times say she knows the bus schedule and this one goes North to the tip of the island-perfect that’s where I need to go. While I’m reorganizing and stuffing things in my bag, the familiarized woman yells “Wait! The bus is stopping over THERE!” In a panic we all run across the street and over some railings to try to catch the bus. We made it, I split off because I see the 60 bus that I know I need to get on and I put my stuff underneath. Then I realize my wallet is nowhere to be found. My eyes widen as I rationalize that it’s probably on the bench.

I jump over the railings and fly back across the street and a nice couple is holding it for me and they smile but scold me that I am very lucky, I say Gracias and I know 🙏🏼 I race back to the bus and barely make it as I pay 2,5 euro and take a seat. I follow my google map to the nearest stop to the hostel and before I know it we’re flying past it with not a glance from the driver. I stand up and he sees and stops at the next stop which was another couple streets north. I get out, take my backpack and luggage and orient myself South. I walk for 20 minutes until my little arrow (me) on the map is lined up with my blue dot destination.

There are rolling stone streets and tall, old, beautiful stone buildings and I’m getting hot baking in the sun and walking with an extra 40lbs up and around streets. Finally I see a tiny sign “Columbus” and I press the biggest button on the call box. The buzzer buzzes and I walk in, a man with a bun pops his head over the stairs and down at me, “Come on up!” I carry myself and baggage up the 2 flights and meet some guys at the wooden reception desk. After some confusion distinguishing between checking in and volunteering, we all laugh then one of them goes to get my bed ready and another shows me around.

I meet and hang out with some volunteers and guests on the rooftop terrace for a bit-a few announce that tonight is “Tapas night!”-so I say I will join but first I’m going to take a nap which they all hum in understanding. I wake up at 7 for free dinner (every night) and hang out and meet others. Then I lay down again until 11 for Tapas. The streets are packed with 20 and 30-somethings and drinks, cigarette smoke, and various Tapas are abundant. I meet more people and we pop in and out of bars who serve all versions of pizza, meat, cheese, seafood, jams, crackers, fruits and veg. We head back home and stop on the stairs of the neighboring cathedral to chat more and they smoke. We get back around 2am, type in the code and I fall into bed and immediately asleep.

The next days are an incredible blur of cigarette smoke in the air, echoes of “Si pero no” 😅 through the streets, multiple accents and life stories from people all over the world, sun, siestas, volunteering, friends, dancing, yoga, cleaning, cooking, and exploring all mashed together in the whirlwind that is my solo experience thus far.

I’ve aquatinted myself with every corner of the hostel and find a meditative state in cleaning and cooking. I love the dynamics of people here, I love the stories and non-judgment, I welcome and worship any solitude, and accept and bask in times of community. The shops and cafes, the mercados, buses and bikes, the ocean, the mountains…I truly feel peaceful almost anywhere and this place allows an even easier inner oasis. It perfectly combines my thirst for exciting social interactions, cultural immersion and exploration, AND self-sustained independence and good old fashion “me time”.

I relax by being outside-on the terrace, beach, mountains, and walking through the cobblestone streets; I challenge myself by managing to drink late into the night, wake early to volunteer, and interact with locals and guests only en espanol.

There have been some difficult times but nothing I can’t see as a learning silver lining, and 98% of the time has been nothing short of amazing and I feel truly privileged. The biggest lesson that I’ve been reacquainted with so far is that life is ALL about perspective. Choosing to be in control of your view is all the power you need; we all have free will to choose how we see and feel every minute of every day and then act accordingly-what a beautiful thing.

Gratitude

Getting dropped off at the airport by my parents was this wildly nostalgic, magical moment of time-space. There was a flash of the times when they would drop me off at school when my backpack was bigger than me, and today was a mirror image of that with just a little more wrinkles on all of our faces. I was flooded with this relief that my seed idea from five years ago of “Becca’s year of solo travel” was finally coming to fruition, a bit of nervousness and worry because I didn’t want them to worry (sounds counterintuitive and silly, I know), and a tickling sense of pride because I had planned this from start to finish, almost like a major presentation and then the completion of a project. This was my baby, and as I walked into the airport I was seeing it off, just like my parents were seeing me.

Sitting on this flight, I have time to do one of my favorite things: reflect on what I am grateful for. I am grateful for my family who loves and supports me through my wild escapades with very little description or explanation on my end as to what I’m doing or why. They smile and ask if they can do anything, and as my independent creature tries to bare its teeth, I calm it and simply reply that I’m fine for now; they nod, they know.

I am grateful for my mind that I can think, plan, organize, prepare, and for my body that can take me through every action. I am grateful for new experiences and new people, learning about different cultures, gaining new opportunities, and allowing an expansion on my current perspective.

Coming to the end of the first flight from Dallas to Madrid, I am grateful for a whole other list of things. I am grateful for the transition and the way this flight worked out, I am grateful for the food and legroom in economy plus, but most of all I am grateful for the skilled and highly trained pilots, as 90% of this flight was over the ocean. This is especially important to mention as anyone who knows me knows that I am deathly afraid of sharks, which I feel is a reasonable fear; the fact that I am not afraid of the impact and that I am even afraid of sharks on land…I understand is less rational, but what can you do.

I guess time will tell if and when this fear will rear its ugly head once more when I take on the oceans of the Canary Islands and try my hand at surfing (again). Stay tuned for that future blog of most certainly epic proportions of cruel entertainment. All for the love of adventure! But first, my next flight to Las Palmas. Until then friends.

Cancelled Flight, Challenge Accepted

“Chicago will be colder than Siberia on Wednesday…” this voice loomed through different news and social media outlets starting last week and the past couple days. My interest was of course piqued due to the fact that my flight from DFW was making a stop in Chicago before making its way to paradise. Though it can seem defeating to have to coordinate and move around 3 flights internationally, I truly never felt even a moment of fear because I KNEW, like I knew, like I knew that I was getting to Las Palmas and I was leaving TODAY.

I woke up this morning to “FLIGHT CANCELED” stamped across my boarding pass to Chicago. I had mentally prepared myself for this so I called American Airlines and was told I’d be called back in 15 minutes. While I waited, I checked alternate flights and the only options were triple the price…I knew I wouldn’t have to pay that price but any imminent “upgrade fees” were pulling at my brain. I patiently waited and finally received a call from a sweet lady at the airport who would determine my fate.

A shaky voice, “Hello, Ms. Hammond I am sorry for any inconvenience…” Oh I knew this tone, the all familiar bashing of unavoidable disappointment. We spoke for about 20 minutes, me being placed on hold 3 times while she talked to the infamous “higher ups”. Eventually she got back on the line and the conclusion and confirmation was made, and while I waited for the words, the Universe gave me a huge high five of motivation.

Instead of flying from DFW to Chicago, to Dublin, to Las Palmas, I will now fly with only one stop: DFW to Madrid and Madrid to Las Palmas! How beautiful, how poetic. I wanted to get to Spain as quickly as I could today and now that’s what is happening. Planning for this trip has flowed so easily that it’s almost too good to be true, so it should be of no surprise to me that this final challenge was seamlessly averted. I am now officially ready for any and all experiences along the way and for the next few months-bring it on adventure Gods!