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Contemplating the F-word

I recently attended an outstanding conference hosted by the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals, and one of the speakers in particular has left me thinking…

and thinking…

and thinking.

Even on a weekend. Which is almost unlawful.

She talked about the F-word. You know: Failure.

Her message was simple. We must not fear failure and rob ourselves of living life, we must share our failures with others, and we must celebrate failures in order to create a culture of innovation. This concept blew my mind. I’ve always held myself to the standard that failure is unacceptable. It means I didn’t try hard enough, or I made the wrong choice, or I did something incorrectly- whatever “it” is, I screwed it up. And she wants me to CELEBRATE and SHARE these things?!956b2cadd449b6b6a05ed4f8e65b9ee1

She asked for volunteers to share a time they’ve failed and what they learned from it. I have to admit that it rarely crosses my mind to think, “What did I learnfrom this mess?” when it’s all over. I usually think “Oh my gosh thank GOODNESS that’s over! Time to move on.”I try to stay on the safe side of everything, and if something doesn’t work out right, I sweep it under the rug and move past as fast as possible. The last few jobs I’ve had have been “firsts” for the companies- I was the first Executive Director and I’m currently the first Events Coordinator. (Did I mention that my degree is dietetics?!) Anyway, before I took my last job as ED, I was almost paralyzed with fear that I would say or do something wrong in the position and somehow make the entire organization crumble. I sat down with this same great lady at the time and rather than offering pity or comfort, she challenged me with statements like: “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “So what?!” I was not ready to even consider the outcomes, as my mind was too consumed with the possibilities.

I’m someone who can easily get lost in her own mind. I think about thinking- to a fault at times. So now I have this new challenge to start celebrating and sharing my thoughts on failures I’ve had. I’m not going to lie- it’s been a few weeks, and I still find myself paralyzed with fear at times when I think about failing- but I try to stop and open my mind to the possibility that it may happen as a lesson- as something to celebrate. I believe that most things happen for a reason, even if it’s a reason I don’t like. Or a lesson I don’t want to learn. It still happens, and it’s up to me to decide how to close the cover on that book.

Girl walking in a field carrying a suitcase

What have you failed at recently? And what became of it? Share it with me- let’s CELEBRATE!



Taking the Reigns

When it comes to having a career, there are some people who will find themselves in the right place at the right time. With little effort, they will rise to the top.

And then there are most people.
The ones that work hard gain experience, build a network, and make the educated choices. Blood, sweat, and (and maybe even a few tears) bring success.

This is why it’s important to set yourself up as much as you can.

Within the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals’ organization, we believe in the importance of professional development, whether you’re still a student or several years into your career. And we often share opportunities with a variety of people to enhance skills and build a bigger network.

We are excited to have a bevy of opportunities for the community (that means YOU) in the coming weeks:
1. Monday, April 22nd from 3-5pm at AE2S (4050 Garden View Drive- across from the Alerus Center)

LINK is a program designed to connect students with professionals in the same discipline to encourage career awareness, establish mentorships and networking opportunities, provide project support and resources, and strengthen university/community collaboration and support.

The Sustainability panel presentation will begin at 3 p.m., with the LINK Networking event to follow, on Monday, April 22 at AE2S (4050 Garden View Drive) in the second floor training room. Please RSVP at:

Thanks to our partners: The Center for Community Engagement, The Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals, Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation, and UND Aerospace (Earth System Science and Policy)


2. On Tuesday we will hold one of our Executive Briefings, featuring Dave Molmen, the CEO of Altru Health System. The April 23rd event is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Altru Hospital Board Room – located just down the stairs or elevator from the Hospital Main Lobby (1200 S. Columbia Rd.). It will begin with a brief overview and walking tour of one of our key departments/services. The group will then return to the Board Room for a presentation and discussion by Dave Molmen.

Finally, on Friday May 10th we will host Leadercast, which you can attend for FREE. This one-of-a-kind event will be broadcast live from Atlanta and simulcast into communities across the globe. Join more than 125,000 leaders from around the world as we learn to Simply Lead. The first session will begin at 8:00am and the program will conclude at 3:45pm.
2013 Speakers include:
Condoleezza Rice (Secretary of State {2005-2009}Exclusive Simply Lead video interview with John C. Maxwell)
David Allen (Best-selling author of Getting Things Done and productivity expert)
Sanya Richards-Ross (2012 London Olympic gold medalist, track & field)
LCDR Rorke Denver (Navy SEAL and star of the 2012 movie Act of Valor)
Dr. Henry Cloud (Best-selling author and leadership consultant)
John C. Maxwell (Best-selling author and leadership expert)
Mike Krzyzewski (Head men’s basketball coach, Duke University and Team USA)
Andy Stanley (Best-selling leadership author & communicator)
Jack Welch (Former Chairman & CEO of General Electric)
If you’re interested in attending, contact me.

Remember that you play an important role in shaping your future. Rather than sitting on the sidelines, set yourself up for success by participating in career and character-building opportunities like these!

The Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals are both young and young at heart. We care about our community, and we represent the interests of the 20-40 year olds in our area. We are made up of college students, pencil pushers, parents, and people whose collars come in many colors. We love living here and we think other people should too. We plan events throughout the year for our members to network and learn. Through our committees, our members are able to get involved in both GGFYP and the community. For more information, contact:

Experiences of Fitness Intern at the UND Wellness Center

The reason I was drawn to the FLEX Internship was the opportunity to get all-around practice in a fitness setting.  I’ve always been enthusiastic about exercise and physical fitness, and before I started this internship I knew what my personal strengths were in the health/wellness field, but I knew there was more that I hadn’t seen yet.  The Wellness Center is the perfect place to see all different dimensions of health that are used to help people to live healthier lives.  I wanted to use this internship to help spark new interests and make decisions about potential career opportunities.  I was surprised at some of the new things that interested me, and I am really glad I found  ways to mix what I love doing with helping people improve their lives.  The projects I was a part of exposed me to many different aspects of the fitness world, from training to weight loss, and really gave me a well rounded knowledge of the health and wellness field.

_MG_0195The largest portion of my internship was giving various fitness assessments to Wellness Center clients. Not only did I learn the practical aspects of how to complete each assessment, I also had to interpret the results of those tests to clients who either had no experience in health or fitness, or had years of experience and asked very advanced questions.   Right away, I was nervous because I didn’t really trust myself when giving advice on others people’s health.  But this turned out to be incredibly beneficial to me because I had no previous experience working with clients and gave me a huge confidence boost in my ability to communicate with clients at all experience levels.

When I wasn’t giving fitness assessments, I was given various projects, some based off my own background and interests.  Because I had a strong background in strength training previous to the internship, my first project was a six-week weight lifting class.  I was given complete freedom in the design and implementation of the class, which was really cool, but at the same time was challenging and gave me a better perspective of how much thought has to go into a training program.  At times it could be stressful, especially making adjustments for the different fitness levels, but it was rewarding seeing people from my class coming into the weight room and confidently completing lifts that I taught them.  Overall, the class was successful, and again, was a confidence builder –as it turned out I knew much more than I first assumed.  Other projects, programs, and events that I took part in included: Maintain Don’t Gain Campaign, Exercise is Medicine, Family Fun Days, and basic equipment orientation, which all further promoted my growth in the field.

I think the most beneficial program I was a part of was the Exercise is Medicine Program that is available at the Wellness Center.  The program receives clients who have been prescribed exercise as medical treatment.  I only worked in it for a brief time, but during that time I learned a lot.  Much of the time was spent building a trusting relationship, and learning more about the client so I could help figure out the best way to guide them into an exercise routine.  I did more research preparation for Exercise is Medicine clients, so I could better answer any questions that came up for their particular situation.  I think I enjoyed this part of the internship the most because it was a new way of training that didn’t involved athletics.  It wasn’t just about athletic gain; it was helping people live healthier. _MG_0725

Overall, my FLEX Internship experience was great!  The Wellness Center took my interests into account when deciding the projects that I worked on, but at the same time exposed me to completely different things, like the Exercise is Medicine Program, which ended up being a huge part in helping me make some big decisions about what to do with my Exercise Science degree.  But besides the projects, I was constantly surrounded by fitness enthusiasts who were always around to offer advice and tips when I had questions.  This opportunity was amazing and I’m incredibly thankful!  I’ve gained tons of useful skills that I know will be necessary for my future education and potentially my career.  I think it’s opportunities such as this that can help students gain experience and confidence in the field of health and wellness.

– Megan Gray

Freedom Perspective

I recently took a much-needed vacation with my Special Someone to a few absolutely beautiful places.

Gooseberry Falls

It got me thinking about how much my weight loss has affected my life…

When I weighed 300 pounds, I accepted failure readily:
-broken furniture was inevitable… (this also includes tipped furniture: For instance, at my birthday party in 3rd grade, I managed to flip a picnic table by sitting on one side with 3 friends on the other.)
-growing another size was inevitable… after all, if I was “meant to” lose weight, it would obviously just happenright? I believed I was destined to stay huge. And kept eating and expanding just to live up to that limiting thought.
-missing out on opportunities with friends was inevitable… I would not accept that it was perhaps because of my terribly negative attitude about life. (my family/friends would attest that I took out my frustration with life on the people around me)
-inability to participate in the “fun things” in life- like amusement parks, trampolines, go carts, bikes, swing sets, etc. was inevitable… because in my own mind, they just didn’t build things “strong enough.”
-having to shop in the same section as my teachers, parents, grand parents, and other adults was inevitable… even though they were the only clothes that would fit, there were some pretty unique options- and I could TOTALLY rock them! (I still enjoy those “fashionable/seasonal sweaters,” by the way.)

The list could go on.

Bottom line: I was willing to accept failure too easily. I had given up on the possibility of truly embracing fun, adventure, and even love in my life… all because of fear and food.

I’ve said before that there was not really a “magic moment” or shining light that led me to weight loss. I was simply fed up and willing to try something new.
Thank goodness.

My life is so much fuller now. I still have moments of fear; for instance, I struggle with climbing up on top of things because I worry that furniture or branches or ropes or rocks will still break. But I’m growing more confident in my smaller frame. And having more fun. Sometimes it feels like I’m finally living out my childhood.

Why yes; I sure did climb on top of this massive rock!

I also embrace physical challenges more. Vacations used to mean eating a ton of crap and relaxing for days on end without a care in the world… Now I get excited about little things, like climbing 173 stairs for “the perfect picture.”

You want me to… do what?! OK!

In order to accept challenge, you have to be brave.

I’m a visual learner, so I always try to relate situations to tangible things.

Now, it may seem like such a simple activity for many, but during my vacation that bravery meant having the confidence to walk across rocks in moving water.

One step at a time… out into the unknown… bravely trusting in your abilities to overcome challenges.

I moved slow and steady, but I was willing to give it a try
even if that meant falling in once in awhile.

(Which kind of sounds like other challenges… like… weight loss…?)

And that bravery doesn’t just apply while on vacations. I’m in a sports league now… ME! IN SPORTS! (This shocks my little sister to say the least.)

And I have fun!
(despite my extreme lack of natural ability).

I also have more energy to do things like that, which is a blessing in itself.

My point is simple:
Weight loss, or any other major change, isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.
No one is asking you for a miraculous overnight change.
Just give it your best shot, and remember that each day is a fresh start and a chance to improve on the day before.
It’s amazing how much your life changes when you start to believe in yourself and embrace the rewards around you.

Life is too short to sit on the sidelines.
Don’t accept defeat.

Put down the ice cream and chips… and go play! 


We all know by now how much I LOVE  Zumba. Well, for Christmas my little sister bought me a set of Zumba DVDs and toning sticks so I don’t have to even wait for a class at the gym to get my “groove thang” on.

The other morning I was shake-shake-shakin it… and all of a sudden:

My mind started racing with things that I had to get done for work. The work day hadn’t started and all I could hear were the loud voices of my “to-do voices” talking to me  SCREAMING at me. In particular, there was a meeting I thought I had forgotten to send out a notice for.

Whenever I forget important things, I get a sudden sick-to-my-stomach-going-to-pass-out feeing that hits instantly. Almost immediately I found myself completely tuned out of my fun dance workout and tuned in to a negative voice that was saying, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Why do you always screw dates up? Now no one will show. Not good, staceabase. Not. Good.” 

One of my goals in the New Year is to mentally take better care of myself (that includes be more patient with the times that I’m not perfect), so I made a conscious decision that if I did, in fact, forget to send out that email and flub the dates, waiting just 20 more minutes (enough time to finish my dancing) was not going to change anything; especially considering the fact that most people hadn’t even gotten out of bed by this time of day (6am). So I tuned out the mumbo-jumbo and got back to Zumba.

Surprise, surprise… the world didn’t end!

On my way to the gym tonight, I started thinking of ALL of the things I needed to get done for work. Suddenly I felt like I had no time to work out.

I made a choice:
For the next 60 minutes, I was going to be present while exercising,
enjoying that feeling of challenge and building my strength.
And it was a darn good choice.

There was nothing that happened  while I was working out that couldn’t wait for me to finish. I’m pretty sure that my workout was even better because I wasn’t distracted. I was committed and it paid off.

As you approach your day, carve out some time where you turn off your computer, cell phone, video games (unless they’re those fun interactive dancing or motion ones), and everything else that unproductively robs you of your time.
Fill up that hole with something that will make you feel so good- like exercise! Whether it’s a meditative walk or a vigorously challenging military-type workout, go for it!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
You’re worth it.

but WHYYY?!

I like to ask a LOT of questions. Evidence of this: in 5th grade my teacher made me write 250 times “I will not be inquisitive” after one particularly lengthy question-answer session during a history class. (At the time I did not know what that word meant; I do now.)

I find myself continuously asking questions about pretty much everything I do: Why am I doing this? Is there a better way?

We’re just a few days into the New Year. How are those “resolutions” or “goals” treating you? Are you still going?

It’s hard to do something without understanding/knowing/having a purpose. Even the little seemingly insignificant things have a reason. You drink a glass of water because thirst is a basic human need. You wear clothes in the winter so you don’t freeze outside. You go to class to learn and pass in hopes to obtain a degree. You get a job to pay for expenses.

In my last post I talked about taking a new approach to achieving your goals this year, and part of it included listing your reasons for wanting to change things. This is so important. 

If you have decided to lose weight this year, why? To help your clothes fit better? To be able to shop in a clothing section reflective of people your age instead of grandma’s? To feel better about yourself?
If you’ve decided to exercise more this year, why? To have more energy throughout the day? To sculpt and tone? To complete some sort of physical feat?

Do you run races without a finish line? No. That would be simply running and running and running… and totally ridiculous. You need to have a reason for doing things. You want to cross a finish line and prove to yourself that you CAN.

If you find yourself already struggling to “stick to task” with those resolutions (which over 90% of people do at some level), take a few minutes to close your eyes and think about your motives. You might find that little extra “umph” that you need to REALLY achieve whatever your goals might be this time around.

What are your greatest motivators?

makin’ a list

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? It’s always “cute,” in theory:
You reflect over all of the things that you need to improve, change, or “fix” about yourself and contemplate solutions. When January 1 rolls around (or maybe 2), you hit the ground RUNNING.

Suddenly the gym becomes a priority,
you add a few more fruits and vegetables to your plate,
you hit the sheets an extra hour earlier,
you trade your cup of coffee for a glass of water,
you start wearing your seatbelt,
you find time to try a new hobby or sharpen your skills of a previous one,
you start cooking more meals…

and about a week later it all stops. Game over.

It takes, on average, about 3 weeks to either break a habit or form a new one. But most of us don’t have 3 weeks, we have RIGHT NOW.
Am I right?

For however many decades you’ve tried this hit-your-head-against-the-wall method, it hasn’t worked so well. Why not take a new approach?

This year, we’re not going to look at the big pictures.
We’re starting today. And we’re working on today.
That’s it.
Not next month, not 10 pounds, not 3 dress sizes.

Here’s what I suggest you try:

  1. Take a piece of paper. (Preferably something that’s pretty or eye-catching… but that’s just me.) And save room for “incentives.”
  2. On the top of the page, write down ONE goal, one thing that you are going to do today that positively aligns with a healthy eating choice you’d like to work on. (i.e. I will eat 1/2 cup vegetables with every meal or measure my food into correct serving sizes.)
  3. In the middle of the page, write why you are doing these “things.” And I don’t mean something ridiculous like, “To finally be a size 2.” Think of something like “To be an example for my family/friends.” “Because I care about my health.” “I want to feel better.”
  4. On the bottom of the page, write down ONE thing that you are going to do today/this week that positively aligns with some form of physical activity. (i.e. I will spend 30 minutes at the gym 3 times this week or I will lift weights one extra time this week or I will try a new exercise class this week.)
  5. Work on each of those “things” TODAY. Don’t think about tomorrow (unless you need to mindfully plan when you are going to hit your 3 gym sessions in advance).
  6. WHEN (notice, I did not say “if”) you reach your goal, give yourself a cool sticker. (No laughing; it works!)

Now, for the next month you are ONLY held accountable for these two things. When the new month hits, put up 2 new “things” you’re going to add/switch in your lifestyle.

It’s a little less stressful and unapproachable when you think in baby steps instead of leaps.

It took me 2 years total to lose over 100 pounds, and over 10 years later, I’m still trying to figure things out. We are all a work in progress.
Just keep moving forward. 

And if you have an “off” day, forgive yourself immediately and be ready to get right back at it the next day. You’re worth every effort.
Just keep moving forward.
Two little things at a time.


I think it’s important to celebrate EVERY success you experience as you work your way to a healthier lifestyle. It’s not easy. And everything from going to the gym when you didn’t want to, to adding more vegetables to your daily intake, is something to be proud of.

Remember that awful day when I got into a car accident and tried a new class at the Wellness center called CardioKick? The one where you get a t-shirt after surviving successfully completing 5 classes?

Tonight I hit my 5th class.
Not only did I make it, but now he says he’ll officially call me by name instead of “Hey You!” And I had to work REALLY hard tonight, too. The class had fewer participants due to the Christmas break, so those of us stupid brave enough to come had to do double  everthing.

I ended up punching myself in the throat, running head-on into a black punching bag (I never claimed to be the most coordinated person), and almost puking for the first time in a long time while working out… but…

What are you celebrating today??


To weigh or not to weigh… that is the question.

Studies show that weighing yourself will likely produce better results in not only losing weight, but keeping it off; in my opinion experience, it’s a fine line.

The more I write these blogs, the more I want to divulge every in and out of my weight loss journey. There are so many layers. And I want to share each one. Sometimes for the simple fact that I feel it may help you. Sometimes because I sincerely hope you never make the same mistakes that I have.

This is one of those “honest-to-goodness” blogs that make me own up to one of my many stumbles.

As my weight loss progressed, people said things like: “I can’t even imagine you being that big.” or “You are such an inspiration.” or “I want to be just like you.”

Zoiks. That’s A LOT of pressure, people!

I guess it’s also  good accountability, though.

Anyway, I’ve written a bit about how we measure “success.” It’s important that you don’t get SO wrapped up and reliant on the scale and the numbers pop up after those few seconds that take forever. Yes, it is important that you aim for a certain weight (aka your BMI), but it’s also important that you are building/maintaining muscle, drinking enough fluids, and not becoming so driven by the numbers that you become irrational (aka  stop taking care of yourself).

In college, I bought a scale to “keep me in check.” It kept me a lot more than just “in check;” because of that dang scale, I was a slave to time, clothing, eating, and working out.

Please, dear friend:

Do your best to be at peace with the scale.

First things first. Remember that it took you some time to get to your current weight. And getting angry and depressed will not make change the number. Use it as motivation- healthy motivation– to keep trying rather than a torture device.

At one point in college… (gulp, here comes the raw honesty)… I was weighing myself 3 times a day at least, wearing the exact same outfit (I had to change a lot), having eaten the same thing, after exercising nearly the same amount.

I was a robot. I was trapped. It was awful.

Sometimes I would beat myself up for fluctuating- even 0.2 pounds. Let’s put this into perspective using a fewinteresting points: If you drank one liter of pop it would add about 0.10 pound if you didn’t burn it off. It would add over 2 pounds  with just the “liquid weight.” After using a bathroom, you might to down 1-1.5 pounds.

So let’s be real here. Big picture.

Concentrate on eating right and exercising, and staying within your healthy caloric range. If weighing yourself is a “must” to keep you on track, do it only one time a day, in the morning after using the bathroom and without clothes on. Remember that slight fluctuations are no need for panic. Just so the numbers keep generally and gradually heading a downward direction. I guarantee that freaking out isn’t going to change the scale.

And we all know that it’s important to include weight resistance in your workout routine, right? So important that you implement it, yes? True, building muscle may slow/halt the scale temporarily, but in the long run you are better off, as your body will burn more calories and operate more efficiently. (And your new found strength will make you feel more like a rockstar/superhero.)

No matter where you are in your weight loss/healthy living journey, consider each day a gift. You have the chance to start over or begin again today. You have the chance to overcome the negativity in your life that brings you down. Not only chances, but strength.

Believe in yourself and make it happen one healthy step at a time.

And know that I’m with you… every step of the way!

the HARDEST part

I was at the gym today, nearing the end of my workout and DEEP in thought. (Exercising does that to me. If I could have an automatic translator running from my brain to a computer, I would’ve filled libraries by now. That has always been an incentive for me to get my sweat on.)

Anyway. I was thinking about how many excuses I come up with for not working out…  And then I also thought about how easy it is to replace those lame thoughts with something more encouraging and inspiring.

Here is my  list, starting with the idea of a morning workout:

  1. I have to wake up way too early, and I didn’t go to bed early enough.
  2. I don’t have enough energy in the morning to get a good workout.
  3. It’s WAY too cold to go out and drive to a gym.
  4. I won’t have enough time to get ready for work.

I’ve always been a person who has said, “working out in the morning will NOT work for me.” That is, until I was a part of a smaller gym at the start of  the New Year, when the resolutions kick in and EVERYONE goes to the gym at precisely the same time. I became a morning workout person out of necessity. So, yes, it CAN be done.Here’s how I overcame all of those things:

  1. You will adjust to a new sleep schedule. It won’t take too many nights of lacking sleep before you figure out how to GO TO BED EARLIER. (ya I know, I sound like your mom)
  2. Eat something little on your way to the gym- toast with peanut butter or an apple or a granola bar to help get you going. Once you start moving, your energy level will kick in. I read in a magazine article that you should eat about 1/2 hour before working out. All I could think was, “What?! Wake up even EARLIER just to eat so I can work out?! NO WAY.” I grabbed something to eat on the way to the gym and it worked fine. (Clarification: “something” includes the list of foods previously mentioned; a piece of chocolate or a cookie is not a wise choice)
  3. Ok, here’s a good system: First of all, sleep in your gym clothes, or put them right by your bed so you can literally stumble into them with as little effort as possible. Next, put your car starter button RIGHT by your bed. When your alarm goes off, press the button. Now you HAVE to get up. And when you get outside, I guarantee you’ll wake up real quick. And move quick, too. 🙂
  4. Set your alarm earlier. Duh.

Now, how about after work/school/whatever else consumes the majority of your day? Let the excuses… COMMENCE:

  1. I am hungry after work.
  2. I like to just go home and relax after work.
  3. I eat too much for supper, which leaves me in NO shape to be moving quickly.
  4. Once I get home, I stay home, especially in the winter.
  5. If I exercise too late at night it’ll keep me up all night.

Been there, done that. All of it. And here’s what I learned:

  1. Pack a snack to eat as you’re heading to the gym. OR go home, but only after you’ve made a pact with yourself to leave at a certain time.
  2. Again, it’s fine to do that. BUT you need to set your alarm with the time you’ll be heading to the gym. And NO backing out!
  3. Hmm… sounds like you need to lighten up. Maybe eat a little before and a little after. That’s how I do it.
  4. DON’T GO HOME!!!! Or, find a way to work out AT home. (I found this really fun dancing DVD at a rummage sale for $1 this summer, and in my living room I’m the MASTER of the dance floor!)
  5. Work out, but make sure you stretch for awhile when you’re done to bring your heart rate way down. There have literally been times when I’ve almost fallen asleep while “stretching.”

Look, I’ve lost 130 pounds. No surgery involved. Just a lot of hard work. So pretty much ANY excuse you can think of I’ve managed to use myself. Seriously; try me.

The best part of actually GOING to work out is the AWESOMENESS you feel when you’re all done.  So do yourself a favor and get there.

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