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Building a Food Business on Passion & Service w/ Monica Picchietti

Listen in on how Monica’s personal journey through diligent exercising and meal planning turned quickly into a meal prep business—”Meals by Mon”—from her own kitchen as a means to help others with healthy eating.

As she took on more clients, and eventually trialed her first commercialized kitchen, she realized that this was a vision larger than herself, and that’s where Green Spoon Kitchen came to be.

Be sure to tune in and learn about GSK, and claim your exclusive discount code on your FIRST online order for $25 off!

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#NEW CD FITNESS Podcast Episode!

Categories Fitness

Choosing Me: Solo Travel, Rediscovery & Self-Worth w/ Kim Dionisio

Kim’s journey through different cities in different countries throughout the world, as well as her journey through re-discovering herself through fitness and time on her own can teach us a lot about our relationship with ourselves.  Listen in on how Kim’s passion for fitness and mental health have both brought her to a new way of living with newfound strength and clarity for what’s ahead.

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#NEW CD FITNESS Podcast Episode!

Categories Fitness

Food as Medicine & Taking the Mission out of Meal Prep w/ Personal Chef, Carol Mavarganis

Carol Mavarganis is a mother of 3, who loves to cook for her kids and husband, and now several others. Carol has embarked on her new business, “Carol Cooks for You” as a means to share her joy for creating in the kitchen with real food—mostly Paleo and Whole30.

At one point 8 years ago, Carol was alarmed by some of her daily struggles with her health: brain fog, weight gain, moodiness, and finally: hair loss. Carol was uncertain how to get herself out of this on-going conundrum of battling with herself just to do it all over again the next day.

After seeing a naturopath, and doing some research on her own, Carol was aware that most of this was being caused by food! The things we eat everyday. So she had to change it up or her body was going to continue to presenting its harms until she was ready to heal: also with food.

Upon testing for food sensitivities, the best route for Carol to take was to take on a paleo/Whole30 approach to eating. Since then, her symptoms had decreased, she’s lost the weight, feels lighter and happier, and most of all, she’s sharing this gift of cooking with the family too, and nothing brings her greater joy.

As a means to share this passion for helping others, Carol started Carol Cooks for You, and is a personal chef to individual clients who are looking to have healthy meals prepared to heat & eat, or are looking to learn how to cook in the kitchen, alongside her guidance.  Her website is live and you are able to find her at carolcooksforyou.com

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#NEW CD FITNESS Podcast Episode!

Categories Uncategorized

My Perspective Shift On Failure.

A couple of days ago, a status popped up on Facebook’s “On This Day”.  It read:

“thinking about switching majors… ugh.”

I remember that day.  I received a D on one of my first Calc III exams–and this was the first time I’ve ever received any grade lower than a C+ on anything ever.  So it seemed like a huge failure at the time, and sure enough, I wanted out because of it.  Nope–didn’t want to major in math, with a minor in secondary ed.  At least I got the part about switching majors from math right… Elementary ed was much more my jam.

I grew up in a household where failure was just not acceptable.  You went to school, anything lower than a B is deemed not that good, anything you started, you finished, and if you weren’t good at something, it just means that you didn’t have enough: practice, time put in, work ethic… and so on.  I get it though.  I am a daughter of immigrant parents, whom if they had not succeeded, it meant a poor quality of life, a waste of a sacrifice to move their life here–in their eyes, if there was no success, it was a failure.

Unknowingly, this provided many mental obstacles for myself, as I was not always a quick learner outside of school, or outside of what I was interested in.  One thing that comes to mind aside from getting a D on that Calc exam was learning to play the piano.  I couldn’t understand it–several embarrassing, family performances, recitals, and competitions–I’d underperform.  Whether it was due to a lack of practice, or the fear of failure–I underperformed beneath expectations–of myself–even though the audience would applaud, the judges would score decently, and I went home with some sort of recognition.  It didn’t mean much though because to me I still didn’t do well enough.

So this fear of failure become a common occurrence throughout my life.  From the fear of missing a stunt on the State Cheerleading competition floor to not being hired after professional job interviews.  This little knot in my throat would always seem to tighten every time I felt like I had underperformed, or scored myself another “fail”.


I don’t exactly know when it was that this had begun to diminish, but I do know that there were not many things I started in my childhood that I have committed to for longer than I had committed to my academics, and as an extracurricular, as long as I committed to piano lessons.

I want to amount to some of this perspective shift to when I first started running as an attempt to take control over my 1) free time and sanity in addition to 2) my health.

When I started dating my partner at that time, he was well invested in lifting weights and spending time at the gym.  At the time, it wasn’t my interest, so I began to run, attend Zumba classes, and started doing what I thought was good for me: eating salads, eggs, canned tuna, yogurt and granola, green smoothies, drinking water (definitely didn’t know about nutrition in the way I do now!).. and soon enough I was signing up for my first 5K’s, and completed a half marathon race in 2013.

halfmarathon

Hallelujah–a moment of triumph–I ran the race, and despite my finish or placement (which surprised myself, actually, just over 2 hours), there was no quit.  From the moment I signed up for it, I made it my goal to simply finish without stopping to walk–and from there, I no longer felt fear of failure, but rather a determination to make it happen.

Hell, there were MANY nights, after student teaching, or Saturday MORNINGS after a long week of school, where I just did NOT WANT TO RUN.  I wanted to run away and I wanted to just sleep in… or go home and relax.  But I didn’t; I went to Planet Fitness to run on the dreaded treadmill–or I hit the pavement and went the miles because I knew I wasn’t going to quit come game day.  I had to prove it to myself that day.  This time it wasn’t for the audience, for my parents, or for a report card–it was for me.


IMG_2131

Many of you already know how much CrossFit has evolved to become a major part of my life.  In fact, so much so, that it’s now become my full-time job to coach others in CrossFit and nutrition, as well as train on a regular, full-time basis.

Just like the past, I had many moments early on where I faced the fear of failure once again.  The fear of failing a lift, not finishing a workout, being embarrassed in front of others, letting my coach down, letting teammates down in competition, being too lazy to attend a class, not meeting expectations…  it was years of this… even up until last year’s CrossFit Open. Phew—I was a mess in all sorts of ways (a story for another day).

So I’ve realized now that there were a few defining moments that have helped me overcome my fear of failure within the past couple of years, and it’s been rare for me to say that I’ve felt the frequency of fearing to fail since this realization.  Here they are:

  • Constantly getting up in front of 25-30 kids at a time, being able to teach a lesson, most of the time one where I would have no true idea of how well it would go, how well I would be able to teach it, manage the students, and how well they would learn the concepts.  Every time I taught a lesson, or even made my next MOVE, there was an opportunity to fail–but there was no option but to continue on and learn from it if it bombed.  Spoiler: most of the time, they didn’t–and 90% of the time, the lessons were just uphill from there with the more courage I gained and confidence I reaped from the feedback from my students, colleagues, parents, and administrators.
  • Signing up for local CrossFit competitions (my first one being 4 months in!).  So at first, I would typically compete on a team–surprise, surprise–less room for the opportunity of “failure” there.  However, with the Open as well as other local competitions, I had entered as an individual, and again, I wanted to prove to myself that I was going to 1) finish it on my own and 2) my work was validated through my performance.
  • Moving out of my parents’.  To me, being able to fully become independent of my parents was a HUGE step towards overcoming a fear of failure.  Not only did it mark a life landmark, but it also allowed myself to learn many life skills, which I didn’t happen to learn in my academics, or may not have learned later on had I not moved out.  Sorry, mom, but even before moving out, even choosing a major and a school that you didn’t originally approve of, was also an event that allowed me to overcome more fears lingering from childhood.
  • Switching career paths.  After four years of teaching in the public school system, in addition to the time I spent in undergrad and grad school, I made a switch to become a fitness and nutrition coach at CrossFit Des Plaines.  It was a long transition process, but this may have been THE number one transformative event in my life that has helped me shift perspectives on failure.  Read more about it here if you want to know more about it.
  • A recent talk with my coach about my training and performance.  Of all the things we discussed for what seemed like an eternity, the one thing that stuck with me was him telling me: “You… need to fail more.”  We discussed how I focused so deeply on “perfect form” and making sure I complete lifts or make my movements look pretty… however, if I wanted to get better, especially as an athlete, I needed to fail more.

And since then, it echoes in my ear every day–whether it was to do with my daily training sessions, or in my new line of work–it’s not that I have to fail more and pout about it or give up, but rather, fail, recognize it as an event and not a state-of-being, and continue on in order to improve.

A book I’ve been reading called Why People Fail: The 16 Obstacles to Success and How You Can Overcome Them by Simon Reynolds has been an eye-opener to the perspective I’ve had on failure for too many years in my life.  In one of his last chapters, he contrasts the mindset of high achievers and those who do not persist enough:

The typical person’s view of failure is that it shouldn’t happen . . . So it’s no surprise that after they fail three or four times their emotions get low and they’re ready to give up.

That sounds exactly like a version of me I once knew so well.  He continues:

Contrast that attitude to the mindset of a high achiever.  When champions go for a goal, before they even start out they know they are going to fail numerous times.  They comprehend that all substantial success is built on the back of failure.  This is absolutely clear in their mind, so when they encounter an obstacle they are not surprised or concerned.

So about a half novel later, I’ve finally come to this realization about how empowering and transformative it has been to expect and embrace the experience of failures.  It’s given me the drive to attempt many things I don’t think I ever would’ve.  I’ve gained a sense of courage I never really had for decades.. and I am excited for all the new prospective ideas, projects and accomplishments I have envisioned–despite the fear of failure.

The GOAT said it himself:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Categories Fitness

Week 3: Good | Better | Best

18.3: with a 14 minute time cap:
2 rounds
100 double unders
20 overhead squats (80#)
100 double unders
12 ring muscle ups
100 double unders
20 dumbbell snatches (35#)
100 double unders
12 bar muscle ups

(second attempt on 3/12: debrief below)

Good

  • Approached with less nerves than the first time, which helped muscles to relax in first and second set of double unders
  • Knew first attempt’s time benchmarks, and paced ring muscle ups appropriately in quantity and speed to manage both shoulder fatigue and pace
  • Stuck to one method of dumbbell snatches (except for when taking short break) – helped control breathing going into 4th set of double unders
  • Didn’t count my own double-unders, left the job to the judge… tried to zone out as much as possible and go into “auto pilot” with these, even when tripping in rounds 1-3.
  • Did not take 30 seconds to put on hand grips for bar muscle ups.
  • Placed plates directly under rings and bar to decrease jump height for muscle up attempts
  • Worked until the very last second of the workout with a strong finish
  • Improved overall score by 47 reps — got into 43 double unders in round 2

Better:

  • Utilize proper and practiced technique on bar muscle ups for efficiency: push down on bar with straight arms as toes come forward for the kip.  DEEP “chest to bar” + turnover did not maximize efficiency and increased grip and tricep fatigue.  Also landed on my upper abdomen on a few reps, which affected good breathing…. and then made me feel like I was going to puke or have my heart pop out of my abdomen afterwards for 5 minutes straight!…
  • Utilize the kipping rip dip more effectively.  A few muscle up reps landed in a “dead” hang at the bottom of the dip, which caused extra tension, again, in triceps and shoulders… no looking like a dead fish–look like a gymnast!!!

Best

  • Improve SINGLE jump roping technique in order to…
  • Improve high volume double-unders at any time
  • Improve double-under movement pattern to focus on relaxing shoulders and using wrists to rotate rope, rather than forearms
  • Continuously mobilize ankles and calves (which get the least amount of mobilization currently, especially in the winter!)
  • COMMIT to strengthening high-skill gymnastics skills in accessory work sessions throughout the week (3hrs/week * 52 weeks = 156 extra hours of practice for maximum achievement output) – need to re-prioritize this!
Categories Fitness

It’s Open Season!: What’s different this year…

No, I don’t hunt.  The CrossFit Open is summed up with this infographic:

IMG_5770.PNG

Basically, the reason why I “do” CrossFit all year long is for the sole purpose of competing in the 5-week “Open” competition season.

It wasn’t always like this; I used to just do the Open for fun, and for the mere fact that everyone else in my box did it too; it was just a norm.  After the first year, I got a feel for my competitive side again, and I started to take it more seriously… almost TOO seriously.  I placed lots of pressure on myself–really confident about what I was good at, really scared of what I wasn’t… and it was a pretty immature mindset towards CrossFit as a sport.

Though I’m not a veteran, I’d have to say this year is much different than others.  I’ve evolved both physically, and simultaneously, I’ve invested lots of time and practice in also developing my mental and emotional intelligence regarding training and competition.

I know where I stand in terms of my strengths and weaknesses; I’m far from the “outcome” goal I’d love to achieve one day a few years from now… however, I’ve never felt more prepared.  So like… if I were thrown into the Hunger Games tomorrow, would I win?  Eh… but at least I’d be more fit than ever to do the damn best I can to make sure I thrive for as long as my body and mind allow me to!

Here are a few highlights of what’s different for me going into the Open this year:

  • General Physical Preparedness is… mostly prepared!
  • Nutrition has been dialed in with over 90% compliance for months now
  • Not “afraid” of certain movements or lifts
  • Not “cautious” to “overeat” (eating so much that it’s literally a job! #payher)
  • More positive, self-affirmations – yes, sometimes even OUT LOUD (when no one’s around)
  • Reading a lot of mindset/ achievement literature lately
  • Sleep has been a consistent 8 hours 90+% of the time and my body is noticing its effect (lower body fat retention, better recovery, sharper mind & focus)
  • I’m actually excited and not as nervous (I say this now, and tomorrow the butterflies will be sure to show up) for an Open season and all its got to challenge me with
  • I won’t be having a beer after my workout — too many other nutrient-dense calories I’ll have to have
  • I will likely be re-doing the workouts on Mondays. *cue the positive self-affirmations*
  • This year’s placing will tell me a lot about the next 1-2 years

Hopping off now because I’m so tired and need to disconnect, chill out and sleep well.  After eating some more, though.

Keep you all posted…

Categories Fitness

Yes, I can eat this.

When you ask me “Are you allowed to eat that?” or “Dang, you’re going to eat all that?” do you feel empowered and entitled, or do you actually want to know?  Because of the tone of voice, most of the time, it seems like the former.

…and as I chuckle with slight apathy for your implied opinion about me and my long-developing relationship with food and don a superficial smile and politely respond “Hah, yeah…”

I actually want to say “Well, I’m already eating it… after taking a Lactaid for this cheese I can’t typically digest… but YES–I’m ‘allowed’ to, MOM.  Am I going to get ratted out now because I’m eating food that you don’t think aligns with your expectations of a person who still values health and fitness despite a single food choice?”


The image above is a personal pizza from Pequod’s Pizza–a local pizza joint where I grew up in a Chicago suburb.  On my birthday this year, I went to get this delicious, maybe even gluttonous, dish… and it is freaking. bomb. if you like deep dish pizza.

Despite the fact that I’m lactose-intolerant, and I just don’t feel that wonderful (lazy, bloated, a little inflamed, riding the struggle bus during a training session the next day) after eating something like this, I do enjoy it every so often, as I’m sure some would.

Now as a nutrition coach, the point of this article is not to say that you can eat deep dish pizza anytime you want, suck it up to feel a little off, and expect to live a pretty healthy life.  NO.  There is SO much more involved with education, coaching, support, practice, application, providing feedback, and communication that goes into my work with my clients, and this article is not a one-off to give out free passes to anyone to just go ahead “eat whatever, whenever”

However, I’m not a coach that believes that policing, criticizing, or judging anyone for the food choices they make is the way to go about creating habit, mindset and lifestyle change.

Furthermore, as a human being, I can completely empathize.

Whether you have specific fitness-related or sport-related goals, or are even just trying to be more health conscious, sometimes we simply want to enjoy a meal that satisfies their flavor palette every once in a while, as a mental and emotional break from the monotony or routine of the usual well-balanced meal from whole foods (lean protein, veggies, healthy carbs and fats).

It’s called finding balance and re-creating a mindset and in turn, a lifestyle.


I used to come from a place where I used food as a means to cope or reward myself.  Some very short-winded examples of this could be:

“I ate X, Y, Z (probably salads, smoothies, very few nutrient-dense meals) all week long, and since I’ve dropped a couple of pounds (probably water weight), I am TOTALLY going to go out for X, Y, Z this weekend because ‘I deserve it.‘”

“I just spent so much time doing tasks X, Y, Z, and…holy CRAP is I hungry (stress). Ugh, and I still have so much left to do… (anxiety) How are there not enough hours in a day??  Why didn’t I plan ahead?? (anger/frustration) It’s fine–I’ll just order for takeout this time, but next time FOR SURE I’m going to do it right.  Ugh, damnit. (self-depreciation)”

But things have changed.  My mentality has shifted.  My life has changed.


Yes, I can eat this. 

And no, it’s not because I am trying to find comfort or because I feel like I have ‘deserved’ it.

I can eat this because I have a healthier relationship with food today.

I can eat this because I have control over my food choices upwards of 80% of the time.

I can eat this because, after this, I can very easily go back to eating well-balanced meals.

I can eat this because I understand what role food plays in my life – a source of energy, nutrients, a means of living and thriving.

I can eat this because I understand how much food I need to be successful – in my work, fitness, my mood and in my life.

I can eat this because I track and log my food intake 80-90% of the time, which I have proved to myself that a consistent, committed approach will win over a perfectionist approach.

I can eat this because I have the knowledge to understand its impact on my body (and mind) and that one food choice does not define or change who I am or how hard I have worked to be where I am.


Thank you to a friend of mine who brought this conversation up with me yesterday.  As I learn more about others through their fitness journey, it sheds light on a lot of the deep-rooted past of my developing relationship with food.

If you’re interested in chatting about yours, or just want to learn more about habit, mindset or lifestyle change regarding daily nutrition, feel free to fill out this pre-assessment form on my coaching page.  I look forward to learning more about you!

Categories Fitness

Good. Better. Best.

I didn’t realize today how many more stressors have impacted me within the past two weeks since the start of the CrossFit Open. especially since I’ve taken many measures in my life to reduce stressors and practice good self-care and recovery…

but I’m human.

and I’m not invincible.


Today I’m going to start a practice that helps me evaluate my key performances as an attempt to do so–void of emotion.

It’s going to be difficult, but it’ll help me.

I’ve always been a person naturally driven by emotion, but I’m learning more and more that there are times where this is applicable (e.g., working with people, showing compassion/empathy, growing relationships, pursuing a passion) and times where I need to remove myself from these emotions (e.g., evaluating a performance, analyzing data, making major decisions).

The method is called “Good, Better, Best” – I read about this practice in the book called The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train and Thrive.  It’s an objective way to debrief your work:  “1) What did I do that was good?  2) What can I do better?  3) How can I change so I can perform at my best?”  It’s not a new-age practice–we’ve probably done this many times in our lives.  My challenge is keeping it objective.


With that, here’s a personal debrief of my most recent Open workout: 18.2 & 18.2a (second attempt, after self-reflection and analysis of first performance)

18.2: On a 12-minute clock, For time: 1-10 of each movement: Dumbbell Squats (35# each hand) Bar-facing burpees

Good:

  • Saved time on transitions by not hesitating to pick up dumbbells after each round of burpees
  • Paced the beginning of the workout better; did not start too fast & burn out in round 7
  • Took RISK to reach the “red line” level, despite the pain building up
  • Improved overall time by 35 seconds

Better:

  • Improve “snappiness” of burpees off the ground for efficiency
  • Improve burpee jump when tired–make every rep the same–no questionable reps

Best:

  • Continue to surround self with positive energy and people–start with self.
  • FINISH every rep of every workout strong, and not sloppy.  This could be the difference in several seconds.  This needs to change in training.

18.2a: In the remainder of 12 minutes, find 1 rep max clean

Good:

  • Utilized squat clean from the start, rather than switching mid-way through attempts (from power to squat)
  • Executed 90% of 1 rep max after sprint workout WITHOUT dead stopping at the bottom of the squat

Better:

  • Be more conservative with lift jumps in the future, over 90%
  • Be prepared to ADAPT to the failed lifts and continue to attempt, at more conservative jumps
  • FINISH hip extension in clean, and get out of the bottom of the squat quickly on every clean; utilize “bounce” if needed

Best:

  • Come up with a game plan that is a back up to the game plan when things don’t go according to plan
  • Place focus on building squat strength in the off-season
  • Choose 1 technical aspect of the lift to focus on in each training session–overloading focal points may rush the process and prolong technical improvements

Looking forward to 18.3 and hoping for some gymnastics for us featherweight athletes!  You can expect a post regarding my good-better-best from this next one too.

How’d you do?