“5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, With Dr. William Seeds & Kate Swoboda

I’d love to see a worldwide shift to providing access to fruits and vegetables for absolutely everyone. I know that there are many people who would love to eat a healthier diet and the foods they need are out of reach. No one who is barely getting by is going to spend $5 on a […]

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I’d love to see a worldwide shift to providing access to fruits and vegetables for absolutely everyone. I know that there are many people who would love to eat a healthier diet and the foods they need are out of reach. No one who is barely getting by is going to spend $5 on a salad when there’s a $1 burger at the local fast food place, so I want to support those who don’t have the resources to get what they need to support their health.

As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Swoboda. Kate is creator of YourCourageousLife.com, Director of the Courageous Living Coach Certification at TeamCLCC.com and author of The Courage Habit: How to Accept Your Fears, Release the Past, and Live Your Courageous Life. She helps individuals, teams, and companies see where old, fear-based habits have kept people stuck or started to limit what’s possible for an organization, and then start creating more courageous lives by getting into “the courage habit,” a four-part process for behavioral and organizational change. Kate has appeared in MindBodyGreen, Entrepreneur, USA Today, Forbes, Lifetime Moms, The Intelligent Optimist, Business Insider, and more, and her website Your Courageous Life was named a top-50 blog for happiness by Greatist. She’s spoken at conferences and seminars on the topic of courage as it relates to personal development, releasing overwhelm, business and marketing, money mindset, wellness, increasing emotional resilience, and healthy goal-setting using habit-formation techniques.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Kate! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

Ihad always taken reasonable care of my health and had been a runner, but in 2012, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease and that’s when I got really serious about looking at my health and how to improve it. I overhauled my diet and began training for triathlons. After a few years of triathlon training that included finishing two half-Ironman distance events, I found that it was taking a ton of my time, and while I loved the events themselves, the grind of training from week to week wasn’t fun. I was curious about CrossFit and tried it out–that first week, I remember immediately being hooked. It was like finding my soulmate–”Where have you been, my whole life?” Now, CrossFit is my jam. I’ve never had so much fun plus seen such great health results from any other physical activity.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I think the story I referenced–the autoimmune diagnosis–is that story. I’ll add to it that I had a period of feeling extremely depressed about the diagnosis and the symptoms that I was experiencing, and one day, I got really angry because I felt that what I was experiencing was unfair given that I had tried to take care of my health. Something in me felt backed into a corner, and I made a decision that day: this diagnosis would neither define me nor limit my life. I decided that no matter how hard it was, I was going to live a regular life. While this was not my intent behind the declaration, interestingly, my symptoms pretty much disappeared after that experience.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I was at a store struggling to get into a triathlon wetsuit for the first time. The phrase, “stuffed sausage” comes to mind. The person kept knocking on the door asking if I needed help because I was taking so long. I now realize that I just didn’t understand the mechanics of how to put on a wetsuit, but at the time? At the time I thought, “I am such an idiot.” It was embarrassing.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I’m interested in how people shift habits and stay authentic to their habits around wellness from a place of nurturing who they are–not subscribing to rigid dogma, particularly around weight loss. I want people to trust who they are, internally, and that means trusting that their bodies are okay and good as they are, even if their bodies are different or differently abled. I am a stand for people defining who they are and how they live, defying the odds, and creating their own particular authentic wellness.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

In the fitness realm, I’m extraordinarily grateful to Holly Wick, a world-ranked masters triathlete who also owns Athletic Soles in my hometown of Petaluma, California. Holly took time out of her day to help a newbie like me get up and going with triathlon training, and her passionate commitment to “You can do this!” championed me so many times when I was full of doubt. A bonus? She teaches spin at the local gym and her classes are not only challenging, they’re also a ton of fun.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

The three main things that block us from taking information that we know and putting it into action are:

  • Information overload. We have too much information, and too much conflicting information, and predatory marketing practices, unfortunately, make us think that we’ll get quick and easy results from the things that we try–which then means that when one thing doesn’t work quickly and easily, we start to doubt that anything works. Most of us also don’t have the time to research things adequately to find out if the results being promised really fit into our lives. I strongly suggest no longer getting your information from packaging labels or weight loss infomercials and tuning into your body. Do you feel good after you eat that? Do you feel good after that form of exercise?
  • Not giving it enough time. Any change is going to take at least a week, if not longer, to show any kind of benefit. If you suspect a gluten sensitivity, for instance, a week off of gluten might give you some results, but it will probably take longer to really see the full benefit. It takes three months to build muscle, so if you start weight lifting, you aren’t going to see increased strength for awhile. In the interim, unfortunately, many people get tired of the discomfort of change and give up.
  • Not creating routines. We are creatures of habit. Most health problems aren’t created because you do something once. They happen when we do things over and over. If you want to start moving your body more, pick a time of day and make it non-negotiable to move more. If you want to eat differently, make sure your home only contains the foods that nourish you most. Don’t even buy the stuff that you know doesn’t make you feel good.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

Make a habit out of befriending your inner critic. Most people want to get rid of their critic–but that’s actually impossible to do. Your critic is a wounded part of you that will do whatever it takes to prevent future wounding, which is why it criticizes you so harshly when you try new things or take risks. It just wants to prevent you from failing, being rejected, etc. The critic doesn’t realize that these experiences are necessary parts of growth and change. The more you can do to befriend this internal voice, rather than avoid it–hear it and understand it–the better. This doesn’t mean you have to do what it says. Listening to why it’s so afraid will help you to make different choices around managing your fear.

Turn off all notifications on your phone–and–never have your phone in your bedroom. We know the research into how phones disrupt sleep, social media brings your mood down, etc., but people have trouble figuring out “how” to stop being so addicted to their phones. It’s actually pretty easy if you disable the notifications and never have your phone in your bedroom (which means not staying up late surfing the internet).

Decide what your purpose is and live that. Purpose isn’t a destination. Purpose is how you live, every day. People really need to understand that someday, we all die–we all die, we are done, we are gone, we are off the planet. Do you really want to spend the days leading up to that moment surfing the internet? Checking your phone notifications? Feeling the effects of poor health choices? Not feeling fully alive, connected, happy? I want us all to aspire to something more. Bringing presence to your purpose in this world is something anyone can do at any time. Make the choice to decide what your purpose is, and live that.

Understand habit-formation. When you understand how habits work, it’s easier to take charge of your life. Habits run on a cue, routine, reward loop. It’s powerful to decide that when you feel the cue of fear, you’ll respond with a routine that is all about facing fear. It’s powerful to decide that when you’re stuck in a routine of negativity, that you’ll stop allowing negative “cues” into your life in the form of, for instance, spending time on social media when people are being negative. Understanding that habits are part of how we live life, and consciously choosing which habits we want to reinforce and those we want to shift, is powerful.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

Daily exercise is an investment in your long-term health. We don’t get the benefits from doing it once. If you want to be as able as possible when you’re older, daily exercise now is critical.

Daily exercise is a huge mood booster. I can be in a terrible mood, and after a short CrossFit workout, I feel completely different. I joke that it’s not possible to be in a bad mood when you feel like a badass!

Daily exercise helps with sleep. We all know that we feel crappy when we don’t sleep well, and when things that typically help with sleep just don’t seem to work? It might seem counterintuitive, but exercise is probably the missing link.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

I’m big into functional fitness–things that people may need to do in everyday life. Air squats, for instance, are an exercise that tie into a functional movement that people need to do daily, which is sit down or get up from a chair. Raising some kind of weight overhead, and the ability to bend over, are also important, so I’d say some kind of overhead press or dumbbell press, and some kind of deadlifting or leaning over to pick something up, will be really helpful.

In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?

Magnesium is really helpful for recovery. There’s a powdered brand called “CALM” that I’ve used that has been helpful. Rolling out with a “Grid” foam roller is great for working out the kinks in hips and legs. One of the reasons I love the CrossFit model is that functional fitness doesn’t get into repetitive movements that cause overuse injuries. You’re doing something different every single day, and most workouts are only around 20 minutes.

There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?

It’s important for me to first say that I don’t believe in “dieting” in the prototypical sense, and I definitely don’t think that women should be trying to get into a “thin body.” I think that we’re all different, mostly due to different microbiome profiles, so it makes sense that we may need different things, and it’s not healthy for anyone to strive to change their body in order to be accepted by others. With that having been said–there are certain things that we all need, and the diet misinformation out there is a real head-shaker. For example, yes, everyone needs protein, but that protein does not need to come from animals. In fact, for the health of our planet, I recommend that your protein doesn’t come from animals because animal agriculture is a huge source of not just CO2, but also methane, which accelerates the impact of CO2 in our atmosphere.

I’m a vegetarian. CrossFit promotes a pretty meat-heavy diet, which is the only aspect of the sport that I don’t endorse. I’ve made incredible gains while eating vegetarian and know that they’ll keep on coming. I don’t count calories or count macros or do any diet monitoring, and yet I’ve had incredible results (which I define for myself personally as having visible muscles, which I love). I can eat a wide variety of foods and love the plant-based meat alternatives that have emerged, but mostly I focus on eating plants. That’s it. Super simple yet super effective, and also better for the planet. The book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer helped me realize how critical our individual roles are in changing the tide of climate change. Yes, there are corporate polluters, and yes the transportation industry plays a huge role, but every single day we all have at least three opportunities to cast our vote for the kind of world that we want to live in when we sit down to eat.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart rocked my world 15 years ago, and I re-read it all the time. It’s a series of short lectures on different times when life hands us a shit-sandwich and we don’t know what to do–so Chodron encourages us to use those times as opportunities to learn more about who we are, what we want, what we’re really about.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d love to see a worldwide shift to providing access to fruits and vegetables for absolutely everyone. I know that there are many people who would love to eat a healthier diet and the foods they need are out of reach. No one who is barely getting by is going to spend $5 on a salad when there’s a $1 burger at the local fast food place, so I want to support those who don’t have the resources to get what they need to support their health.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“‎Have compassion for everyone you meet, even when they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” — Miller Williams

I first saw this hand-lettered at a coffee shop. I was so taken with it, I think because I was in a difficult period in my own life and saw how some people were rejecting me for the ways in which I was showing up with cynicism and negativity. I wasn’t intending to be that way; I was just struggling. To me, this quote is the essence of what it means to have compassion for others.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Greg Glassman, Ben Bergeron, and Katrin Davidsdottir would be a blast to have lunch with–Glassman is the founder of CrossFit; Bergeron wrote the book Chasing Excellence, and I love his podcast of the same name; and Davidsdottir is a two-time CrossFit Games “Fittest on Earth” winner, and I love her story and what she’s up to.

I recently read Jerry Colonna’s book Reboot, and I’m so in love with what he’s up to. I think he is leading the way for all of us to bring more compassion and humanity to the corporate sector.

It would be the honor of a lifetime to meet Pema Chodron, whose work has lit up my life in so many positive ways.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I’m on Instagram @katecourageous and on Facebook @yourcourageouslife

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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