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Monday, June 30, 2014

Nutrition Label Tips


When I worked as the Nutrition Curriculum Development and Evaluation Intern for Bel Brands, USA and the Boys & Girls Club, my favorite chapter to write was about nutrition labels. Think about it. How many times a day are you faced with a food decision? Do you ever use the nutrition label to make a healthy choice? Maybe it's time you should!

Since food labels are everywhere, I wanted to provide some tips on how food labels are meant to be read and used.

So where do we start?

Via

1.) Start with the Serving Size1
When I was younger, I would flip over a package and look first at the calories and then the fat content. Who knew it was so easy to overlook the serving size! When looking at the food label, look both at the serving size and also the number of servings in a container. This influences the entire food label. If you eat more than one serving, then all of the other numbers on that label will also change in accordance. For example, if you were to eat two servings of a food item, then all of the other sections of the label would be doubled as well.

2.) Calories1
After consulting with the serving size section, direct your attention to the calories and calories from fat. On the label above, there are 250 calories total in ONE serving of the food--110 of those calories comes from fat. When looking at the calories section, a general guide is as follows:
40 calories=low
100 calories=moderate
400 calories=high
While some critics argue that calories aren't everything, it is important to note that excessive calorie intake has been linked repeatedly to obesity and body composition of males and females.2  

3.) Limit these Nutrients1
Yes, it is true that you do need fat in your diet. (Especially the monounsaturated and essential fats.) However a little goes a long way, so it is still something to pay attention to. Fat, cholesterol and sodium may increase a person’s risk for heart disease, cancers, and hypertension.

A rule of thumb: if a product is greater than 20%, it is considered high in that nutrient. If it is less than 5%, it is considered low. For this particular label, the food is high in sodium, because it has 20% of the daily value.

4.) Get enough of these Nutrients1
Pay close attention that you are getting enough dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron in your diet. Females should get about 25 grams of fiber daily, while men should consume around 38 grams.3 However, the U.S. has been found to be fiber deficient.

5.) Understand the Footnote1
After examining all parts of the label, notice the footnote section. The footnote indicates the number of calories that the %DV (percent-Daily Value) is based off of on this label. Most labels are based off of a 2000 calorie diet. This is something to be mindful of if you should be consuming less or more calories each day. For example, this label indicates that a person on a 2000 calorie diet should consume 65 grams of total fat each day. However, if you were on an 1800 calorie diet, your daily value would be set lower. 

6.) Ingredients
While this is not mentioned in the article by the FDA, I would also like you to pay attention to the ingredients list. Less is better in this instance. Think of the last time you perused through the produce section. Did you see many food labels stamped on the fruits and vegetables? That is because those foods only have the one ingredient. The foods with long lists of foreign, difficult-to-pronounce ingredients are ones to avoid or eat less often.

I hope that these tips help you better understand how to use the entire label. We are often fixated on fat or carbohydrates. However, nutrition is all about the big picture. Have balance in all aspects of your life and you are already on your way to a healthier, happier life.

**If you are someone who is a diabetic or has a specific condition, you may need to make some modifications on how you look at the nutrition label. This is a general guide for the public. If you have seen a registered dietitian or physician, follow their advice on how to best read the label for your health status. 


 References:
  1. Food and Drug Administration. How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label. June 2000. Updated May 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/labelingnutrition/ucm274593.htm.
  2. Miller WC. Lindeman AK. Wallace J. Niederpruem M. Diet composition, energy intake, and exercise in relation to body fat in men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990: 52(3):426-30.
  3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. J Am Diet Assoc (2008): 1717-31
  4. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2002.

 
 
 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bucket List

Earlier this evening, my mom and I were in the middle of a conversation. I'm not even sure how this came up, but it went a little something like this:
Me: "Well, you know, when so-and-so kicks the can then..."
Mom: "Umm...I think you mean bucket..."
Me: "No...wait...
Mom: "It's kick the bucket, Amanda. Kick the can is a game."
People who know me well, know that it is not uncommon for me to mess up phrases or say silly things without always thinking. My debate coach in high school once told me, "You know, for a very smart girl, you say some of the dumbest things." (Don't worry, he always meant well.) There you have it folks...Amanda in an eggshell...(I messed up that one on purpose, guys! I knew it was nutshell!)

I digress.

The reason I bring up the above story is because I wanted to talk about my bucket list. Bet you weren't expecting that out of that intro. For years, I have kept a mental bucket list, but I have never really put it down in writing. Therefore, I thought it was about time to take the initiative to do it. I am sure that I will come up with other tasks to add, but I wanted to at least begin a rough draft. I also included some items that were on my mental list prior that I have already completed. These are in no particular order.

1.) See John Mayer live in concert.
2.) Live abroad for at least a year.
3.) Backpack through Europe.
4.) Say "I do."
5.) See Coldplay live in concert. (Best day of my life!)

6.) Run a half-marathon. (completed 9/27/14)
7.) Attend a blogging conference. (hopefully this September!)
8.) Skydive. 
9.) Read the entire Bible.
10.) Audition for the show The Amazing Race (Who wants to be my partner?)
11.) Send a message in a bottle. 
12.) Go to a drive-in movie.
13.) Travel to every continent.
14.) Add a lock to the Love Lock Bridge in Paris
Via
15.) Ride in a hot air balloon
16.) Go to the airport and buy a ticket to a random flight
17.) Zip-line  (Completed in July 2014)
18.) Volunteer at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving
19.) Delete Facebook for Lent (or for good!)
20.) Become a Spin or Yoga instructor.
21.) Be Accepted into a dietetic internship
Done, and Done!
22.) Visit the Holy Land
23.) Go Snowboarding.
24.) Go an entire month without processed foods.
25.) Write on Juliet's wall in Verona.
26.) Go on a camping trip at the Boundary Waters.
27.) Pay for the customer's order behind me (Completed on 2/12/15)
28.) Visit the Great Wall of China

29.) Help someone become a weight loss success story
as a Registered Dietitian.
30.) Ride a train, instead of a plane, to my destination
31.) Volunteer at an orphanage
At an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico.
32.) Adopt a child.

As time goes on, I am sure I will add or remove items, based on what I value at the time. But more importantly, I hope to continue to cross these items off my list.

What things are on YOUR bucket list?



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Simplicity

Via
Around two months ago, I began the process of gathering all of the items from my college house and boxing them up for the journey home. A little clutter here and a little clutter there sure added up quickly. Besides the obvious space that furniture takes up, there were also the items I stumbled upon and asked myself "Did I even use that in the two years I lived here?

The day after graduating from my undergraduate career, I journeyed off for nearly 2 and a half {AMAZING} weeks in Asia. However, when I arrived back to my house in my hometown, the boxes were still waiting for me. After unloading these items, I got to thinking about how in 3 months I would have to go through this entire process again as I make the move to Illinois for grad school. The thought exhausted me. So I decided right then and there, it is time to downsize everything in my life. Clothes. Decor. Books. Clutter. Clutter. Clutter. If I can't remember the last time I wore an article of clothing, then why is it taking up space in my closet? Then, after our basement flooded this past week, I have decided it is time to downsize even more. 
Via
I stumbled upon the above picture last night as I was pondering the subject of simplicity. We live in a society that values material things. I think it is pretty apparent when you look at the considerable amount of money people spend on clothing, decor, beauty products, electronics...the list goes on and on. However, lately I have been reflecting on what aspects of my life are most valuable to me. It really comes down to my faith, family/friends, and travel. When I narrow my list down in this manner, I realize that not a single one of these items revolves around things

While I am only at the beginning of this journey to pattern more of a minimalist lifestyle, I wanted to share some reasons why I am choosing this route and perhaps they will be reasons that resonate with you as well. 

1.) Cut the clutter and get organized.
People who know me well know that I am a little OCD when it comes to organization. (Take a look in my closet someday and you will see that it is color coordinated and arranged by type of clothing.) While I am a generally organized person, the clutter still piles up. When this happens, I, then, have to find other ways to organize the new junk in my life. Why not just reduce all of the excess to begin with and avoid the hassel? To me it makes perfect sense and avoids unnecessary work. 

2.) Save space.
Since I don't foresee myself owning a house in the near future, I need to be able to fit all of my items into a more condensed space...and I am totally fine with this concept. In fact, I like the idea of someday living in a studio apartment above a city with few possessions. I would be more apt to go out an experience life than keep to myself inside all of the time. Another idea of I have had for saving space is asking that none of my family members give me gifts. I have everything that I need and I know I will appreciate the holidays more without that being the focus. 

3.) Save Money. Make Money.
After I sorted through all of my things, I either threw or decided to sell each item. In fact, I am hosting a rummage sale this coming Friday and Saturday. In this case, I am hoping to make a little extra cash while simplifying my life. On the other hand, by also purchasing less items and being more conscious of what I do place in my shopping cart, I also save money. 
Win. Win. 

4.) Focus Less on Material Things
When I have too many material things in my life, I tend to forget the aspects that I value most. One of the areas I often push to the back burner is my faith. I go through little spurts of reading my Bible and diving into daily devotionals. But sadly, it never lasts long. When I think of simplifying my life, I want to go beyond just de-cluttering the "things." I am also contemplating giving up some facets of social media as well. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I have considered deleting my Facebook account for good. However, I soon think of about a million reasons why I need it in my life. Isn't that pathetic? Maybe one of these days I will make it happen. I think I'd even survive. <gasp>

5.) Travel More

I have this romanticized vision of myself traveling all over the world. You can thank my travels to China and Taiwan for that! (Speaking of which, are you sick of me referencing that trip yet?? I'm a bit obsessed, if you hadn't noticed.) It is my dream to live abroad for at least a year of my life. I honestly don't even have a preference where at this point. I just know it is something that I would really like to do when the time is right. In order to make this a reality, it would be much more feasible with less possessions to maintain. I've read about people who have moved abroad and how much more they appreciate the little things in life after giving up much of their possessions. I want that.

As the days go by, I am sure I will continue to add to this list. However, let's hope that is the only thing in my life that I am adding to!

What are some other ways in which you simplify your life?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nutrition: Back to the Basics


Nutrition is a confusing subject. One day fat is bad, the next it is good for you. Then you turn around the next day and the media is telling us that carbs are the root of all evil. And don’t even get me started on this whole gluten-free panic.With all of these mixed messages in the media, is it any wonder that our society is heavily confused with how to properly nourish themselves? Before looking at any of these trends (which I would like to eventually discuss individually on some of these Mondays), I think it is of utmost importance to go back to the basics.
I pulled out my old notes from my Human Nutrition course and other textbooks I have accumulated
to draft this post. 

Before we dive in, I want you to understand that nutrients (chemical substances that contribute to health), are classified into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. The macronutrients include: carbohydrates, lipids, and protein. The micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. A simple way to differentiate the two is by remembering that you need a relatively large amount of macronutrients (grams), whereas you need a relatively small amount of micronutrients (milligrams). In this particular post, I want to keep our focus on the macronutrients.


What are they?
Carbohydrates (or carbs, as we commonly refer to them) are the primary source of energy for the body.1 Carbohydrates are composed of the elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in the ratio of C:O:H2.2 The carbons are hydrated by the two hydrogens and one oxygen per carbon, hence the name.2 Carbohydrates might also be referred to as “sugars,” ie. glucose. The important dietary carbohydrates include the categories of monosaccharides, disaccharides and oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides.2 In this post, I won’t go into much further detail other than to explain that those categories are essentially just different lengths and branching of carbohydrates.    
What do they do?
As previously mentioned, carbohydrates are the major fuel of the body.1 When metabolized, your body converts these into glucose (or blood sugar).1 Once in the blood stream, the glucose is utilized by cells, tissues, and organs. In fact, your central nervous system and red blood cells cannot use any other source of energy other than glucose. (Therefore, we don’t want to eliminate carbohydrates from the diet). If the glucose is not used, then it is stored in the liver as glycogen and used later.3
Subcategories:
Carbohydrates are divided into simple and complex carbs.2 Simple carbs include both the naturals sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, but also the sugars added during processing foods.2 Complex carbs, on the other hand, include whole grain products, legumes and starchy vegetables.2 The complex carbohydrates are the foods with the dietary fiber. As a rule of thumb, strive to choose the foods that are complex carbs over those that are refined.
How much do I need?
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrate intake is 130 grams per day.4


What are they? Lipids are also comprised of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.2 We commonly refer to the lipid group as fats, though technically, fats only include those products that are a solid at room temperature and oils are the liquids. (However, for this post, I will use the terms lipids and fats interchangeably.) Triglycerides (a glycerol plus three fatty acid molecules) are the major form of fats in foods and are also the major form of energy storage in the body.2
What do they do? Dietary fat gives you energy, helps absorb certain vitamins, and is important within the body’s membrane functions.5
Subcategories: To best examine the types of fat, I thought a chart would be the most beneficial:6

Overall, limit the saturated fat in your diet as studies have shown their effect in raising the total blood cholesterol levels. In addition, limit Trans fatty acids. A good rule of thumb for Trans fatty acids: if the ingredients list uses the words “hydrogenated,” then it contains some level of Trans fats. Opt for the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. And if you are needing to choose between margarine and butter for baking, I recommend butter.
How much do I need? There is no RDA set for fats like there is for carbohydrates. However, the American Heart Association Recommends that you limit your saturated fat intake to 5-6% of your total calories, minimize trans fat intake, and limit the cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg. Overall, fat should comprise about 25-35 percent of a person’s total daily calories. Try and keep most of your fats in the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated family.7


What are they? Protein is different from the other macronutrients in that it also contains the element Nitrogen.2 Protein is comprised of chains of amino acids and are the main structural material in the body. Protein is commonly found in meat, poultry, fish, milk/milk products, legumes and nuts.2
What does it do? Along with being the main structural material in the body, protein has many functional roles as enzymes, immune factors, a contributor to the acid/base balance, and the maintenance of fluid balance.2
How much do I need? The RDA for adults is 0.8 g/kg of body weight. For example, a 140 lb female would need about 51 grams of protein each day (140lb/2.2=63.6kg*0.8kg).4


The take home message: All macronutrients are important! Each serve their purpose in your body and you need a healthy balance. The main challenge is to choose the healthier option of each. I hope this guide has helped give you a basic background of the three macronutrients. 

What topic are you curious about for next Monday?



References:
1)    MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); [updated 2014 Jun 2]. Carbohydrates; [updated 2014 Jun 2; reviewed 2014 May 27; cited 2005 Aug 12]; [about 2 p.]. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/carbohydrates.html
2)    Mahan, L. Kathleen., Escott-Stump, Sylvia., Raymond, Janice L.Krause, Marie V. (Eds. 12) (2008)Krause's food & the nutrition care process /St. Louis, Mo. : Elsevier/Saunders.
3)    MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); [updated 2014 Jun 2]. Complex Carbohydrates; [updated 2014 May 16]; [about 1 p.]. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/19529.htm
4)    Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, and Amino Acids (2002/2005). This report may be accessed via www.nap.edu.
5)     MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); [updated 2014 Jun 2]. Dietary Fats; [updated 2014 Jun 17]; [about 1 p.]. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dietaryfats.html.
6)    Huntsville Hospital Wellness Center Nutrition Services, 2007. Available from: http://www.hhsys.org/services/wellness/weightloss/monthly/pdfs/0212_TypesOfFat.pdf
7)    American Heart Association. Fats and Oils: AHA Recommendation. 2014 May 9. Available from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Fats-and-Oils-AHA-Recommendation_UCM_316375_Article.jsp

Disclaimer: All photos (with the exception of the first two and the last one) are not my own.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sunshine after the Storm

This is higher than normal, and was MUCH higher the day before. 
This area of town always gets badly flooded when we get a little too much rain.
This past week, I had the house to myself. My parents were off on their annual trip to the Black Hills and it was my duty to watch the house while they were away. Since I worked all week, I hardly spent any time at home anyway. Yesterday, I was almost finishing off my final shift of the week before I escaped to a 3-day weekend. I must say, I was really looking forward to having a couple days to relax and cross-off the items that have been rapidly crowding my to-do list. It had been raining all week, but the weekend forecast looked sunny. What's not to be excited about?!

Freedom. Finally my shift was over and I ran through the door of our house...

To what? A basement with water everywhere.

Now, before your imagination gets the best of you, it wasn't like a horrid scene depicted in a movie. I didn't have to whip out a life jacket and swim on down there. (In case you were picturing the sinking ship scene from The Titanic.) The water was seeping in and the carpet was visibly wet--some places worse than others. While it may not have looked like the aftermath of a hurricane, it was enough to overwhelm me.

To make a long story short, I am so very thankful for my family members who were in town and able to come to my rescue. What a blessing! I don't think my frantic placement of towels everywhere would have sufficed.We survived it all and will be doing some deep cleaning the next few days.

As I was rushing home yesterday, I was excited to write my post for Friday...well sometimes life happens. And I'm learning that that is okay. Even when we are going through life's roadblocks, God has given us so many reasons to be happy each day. Even after the storm, God always brings some glorious sunshine. Just in time to fold all of those towels I threw everywhere in a panic.

Catching some rays and watching "The American Blogger"
for the third time. I highly recommend this documentary!

So today I wanted to celebrate some of the little things that have been making me happy, happy, happy lately.

1 // Spending time with this little guy the other day
Our house has been too quiet since poor Maggie passed away. Luckily the new addition to the Lambrechts family arrives in 2 weeks. In the meantime, we occasionally see my aunt and uncle's dog, Quincy!


2 // Long runs on cool summer nights
Last week I ran 8 miles and then two days later I thought to myself, why not run more? So what did I do? I ran 11 and a 1/2 miles...at one time! I'm not sure I will ever have that much energy and mental willpower again, but I am reveling in it while it lasts.


3 // Friend Time
With textbooks and libraries out of the equation, it is so nice to spend some much needed time with friends. Not long ago, a few of my friends and I went kayaking. Can you believe I've never been kayaking before? Well if you had been there, you would have! My steering did not start out so smoothly.

4 // Blogging
I have missed blogging the past year. I have been writing on and off for the past 2+ years, but not very consistently. (It becomes difficult with when balancing school and a social life.) Now that I have created a schedule for myself, I am more excited about writing than ever before.

5 // Travel Dreams
To say I have been in a bit of an excited state about traveling the world would be an understatement! Just take a look at my Pinterest account and you will be flooded (might be too soon to use that verb) with images of travel. My friends Jessica and Morgan (both went to Asia with me) are on board for international journeys with me. Since traveling comes with a cost, I have been diving into article after article on how to travel on a budget. I came across the blog, Hope Engaged, and Katie shares so much useful information. It is my new favorite blog.


Want to plan a trip? I suggest you consult with this page of her blog first!

Have a lovely weekend! I pray that none of you dealt with any severe weather this past week. (There were some tornadoes here in South Dakota, as well.) I will be back on Monday with a nutrition-related post.







Monday, June 16, 2014

Blogging Schedule + a Simple Summer Salad Recipe

As I get back in the swing of blogging, the OCD future dietitian in me decided to try something new...a blogging schedule. I've read the posts of numerous bloggers who write about certain topics on designated days throughout the week. Since I am such a "routine" kind of girl, I'm a little surprised that I didn't start this patterned type of blogging sooner. 

So what exactly will I be writing about each week? I'm glad you asked!

Now that I have officially graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Science (dietetics emphasis), I want to talk more about this aspect of my life. Next year, I will be continuing my studies of dietetics at Illinois State University in Normal, IL, where I will be a part of their combined graduate school and dietetic internship. (You can learn more about that here.) As I prepare for this next step in my career, I want to find ways in which I can talk about some of the things I am learning. Therefore, I have decided that I would benefit both myself (by diving into nutrition-related research) and readers (by providing credible nutrition information) by writing posts about nutrition and other health subjects. 

If you have any topics/questions that you would like me to research and write about, email me at pavingtheruggedpath@gmail.com, tweet me, or message me on my Facebook page. I would love to take requests!


One of my favorite aspects of the blogging community is the ability to encourage and inspire others. It's no secret that life is often difficult and unfair. However, over the years, I have come to realize that sometimes we need to learn to re-frame our thoughts and look at the world in which we live with a different perspective. My hope is that my posts each Wednesday will help you see your life in a more positive light. I may not have all of the answers, but coming from a person who was once painfully pessimistic, I think I can provide some advice on how to seek the positive in each day.
Since there are some posts that don't necessarily fall into a special category, I have decided to designate Fridays as a free day. (Seems appropriate since it is practically the weekend anyway.) On Fridays I might make lists of some of my current favorites (I am a huge fan of lists), talk about what I have been up to lately, or this may also be a time where I link-up with another blog. The options are endless!
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

To kick-off this blogging schedule on a fun note, I thought I would share a recipe with y'all. It is no secret that I am a big fan of salads made of kale and baby spinach. This Simple Summer Salad is what I pack almost every day for my lunch break at my summer job. If you like lots of veggies and red wine vinegar, then this salad is for you!




Serves: 1
Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
1/4 cup lentils, cooked (you can substitute other legumes based on preference)
1 cup chopped kale
1 cup baby spinach
2 whole bella mushrooms, sliced
5 small slices of bell pepper
5 small slices of sweet red pepper
1/4 avocado, sliced
6 banana pepper rings (from a jar)
1/8 cup reduced-fat crumbled feta
red wine vinegar, to taste

Directions:
1.) Follow the directions for cooking the lentils on the package. (Otherwise, bring the water to a simmer over a medium-high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered for about 20 minutes. Make sure the water is just barely covering the lentils. Add more if needed. Allow time to cool.)
2.) Place the kale and spinach on the plate you will be eating from. If desired, you may cut or tear the greens into smaller pieces. 
3.) Slice all of the vegetables: mushrooms, peppers, and avocado. Place these, along with the banana pepper rings and feta cheese on top of the greens. 
4.) Drizzle with the red wine vinegar, to taste. You may also add some salt and pepper if you feel it needs the extra flavor.
5.) Enjoy this simple, healthy salad!

Basic Nutrition Information:
Calories: 232 kcals
Carbs: 26 g
Fat: 9 g
Protein: 12 g
Sodium: 429 mg
Sugar: 3 g
(nutrition info calculated using MyFitnessPal.com)







Saturday, June 14, 2014

Don't be Scared to Walk alone. Don't be Scared to Like it.


22 years old young and scroll through the feed of any form of social media and what do you see? Engagements, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, honeymoons...need I go on?
It's a little surreal, isn't it? Wasn't it just yesterday we were entering our freshman year of college--our biggest worry being when and where our first class of the semester was located. Now, most people I know are either: a.) daydreaming about their wedding day, because they are already engaged or in a serious relationship OR b.) wondering if they will ever settle down and get married or even just be in a serious relationship.

You can take a wild guess at which category I fall under.

The other day I was visiting with my Romanian hair stylist, Helen. (I love wording it that way...sounds so chic, no?) There are a couple of things you should know about Helen. First, she is quite blunt and honest. It is one of the many characteristics that I love about her. Second, she lived half her life in a very different environment than we are used to, until she moved to the States. (She has been my mom's hairdresser for more than 20 years!!) Her background has given her more perspective than most people. Finally, she is probably one of the most intelligent people I know. She is an incredible cook and can tell you why recipes work the way they do in terms of the chemistry of the food. (I probably couldn't explain half of what she does and I have a degree in nutrition, for pete's sake!)

Anyway, we were on the subject of traveling. I was excited to tell Helen about my journey across Asia and mentioned that I would love to do more traveling in the future. Without hesitation, she exclaimed,
"Travel, Amanda! Do it while you are still young and able to."
We talked a bit more and then I said, "Ya know Helen, isn't this the time in my life where I am supposed to find a man, settle down, and get married? Because that seems to be what everyone around me is doing." In her heavy accent, "No, No Amanda!! You are only 22! You can get married and start a family in your 30s. There will be plenty of time for that. People seem to think that marriage is life...that's not life!"

After leaving her salon that day, I not only went on my way with freshly groomed brows, but I also let out a sigh of relief and started thinking about my life in a different way. In John Mayer's song, "The Age of Worry," he sings:


Why do we always feel so distraught about singleness? Is it because we fear being alone? Society sure seems to paint a dreary picture. However, when you look at it from a different perspective, what is really so horrendous?

People who know me well, probably know that I am an independent person. I like my alone time. In fact, I think I'd go a little loco if I didn't have some time to myself each day. Running is especially a time where I like to be able to be alone in my thoughts. And after my recent travels to Asia {You can read about that starting here}, I value my independence more than ever.

Gazing out at the depths of the Great Wall of China

There are a number of reasons I personally feel that both young women and men, alike, should embrace this special time to their selves. After all, you never know when Mr. Right will appear in your life, so you better enjoy the "me" time while you can.

1.) Get to know your Maker
I cannot emphasize this one enough. Too often I see people who have not taken enough time in their life to develop a relationship with God. If you are not comfortable with your faith, how do you expect to feel confident in a relationship? We will never have all of the answers to our faith journey, but I suggest you start digging deeper before you throw yourself into a relationship.

2.) Learn more about Yourself
When you are young, there is often the question of identity..."Who am I?" "What is my purpose on this Earth?" "What do I really want to do with my life?"...so on and so forth. Take the time to try new things and learn more about yourself. My interests have changed tremendously since entering college...they still are continuing to evolve. Find out what drives you. It is often easier to discover what you really want in life when you have this time alone.


3.) Travel
One of my favorite sayings regarding travel is as follows:
Via
When I traveled to China and Taiwan this past May, it was one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had. I not only learned so much about different cultures and gained different perspectives, but time away from my everyday setting allowed me to discover new things about myself as well. 

In addition, I highly recommend mission trips of any length. I have been on 5 week-long mission trips (1 with a high school group, and one each spring break in college.) While the stays were relatively short, I accomplished 1, 2, AND 3 on this list!
I spent an afternoon at an orphanage outside of Tijuana in March 2013
Little Sara and I had a ball...literally!
4.) Embrace Girls' Night (and day!) 
Who doesn't love a good girls' night. (I could go for one right now!) Make this a priority while you are single. Make it a priority when you're not single too! (It is just more difficult once you are hitched...)






5.) Don't force things. Let it be.
Finally, I think it is so important to remember that relationships are something that can neither be forced nor rushed (at least not the healthy ones). When it seems like every one around you is happily with a partner, it can be tempting to try and make things work with someone you aren't meant to be with. Compatibility is much more important than simply having someone to fill that void in your life.

Now I'm not saying every day will be a walk in the park...ahem, Valentine's Day, I'm talking to you! But I will say that I really enjoy having this part of my life to myself...at least for now. The freedom and independence to go out in this world and make new discoveries are treasures I'm not sure I am ready to trade anytime soon.

If you are struggling with this season of your life, then hey, let me know...I am, after all, dying to plan my next big travel adventure! {hint, hint}

I love meeting new people so connect with me here, at my email address {pavingtheruggedpath@gmail.com}, my Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram! In the great words of High School Musical: "We're all in this together!"