The Challenge Of Transitions


In my late 20s, I decided I was going to be a (slow, but determined) triathlete. I devoured books and magazines on the subject, and participated in races, starting with just-for-fun short ones, eventually working my way up to a half-Ironman. While I was educating myself, every book and magazine and triathlon veteran cautioned newbies about the same thing: the transitions are really tough.

They were so right.

Shifting mentally and physically from one task to the next was incredibly challenging. The race would start with the swim, where it’s all about rhythm and breathing and steering clear of the other churning arms and legs. Then when that’s done… BAM! it’s the transition area, huffing and puffing, strapping on a helmet and clipping in to sit on a bike seat for miles and miles. It’s disconcerting and a bit overwhelming — and that’s nothing compared to the transition from cycling to running. There’s a reason cycling+running workouts are called “bricks.” One’s legs have never felt quite so leaden as they do when making the switch from the bike to the final run of a triathlon.

For me, it’s the same thing with life. Transitions — both big and small — are so hard. Right now, I feel like I’m in a big, grassy field, sliding off my bike seat and frantically trying to swap bike shoes for running shoes, while my heart races. My life feels like a brick.

Our 6-week holiday in Europe was fantasticwonderfulmagicalfuninspiringeverythinggood. (I typed “everythinggood” as “everythingfood” the first time; that’s apt, too.) Now we’re back home, trying to make sense of it all, deeply entrenched in transitions.

In no particular order, the transitions I’m facing include:
— vacation eating (Cake for breakfast? Yes, please!) to Whole30 eating
the healing experiment to a re-commitment to bad-assery
— cookbook production to cookbook finalization and promotion (Well Fed 2 hits shelves October 22!)
— living in Austin, Texas to living in Prague (We hope, we hope, we hope.)

I like to believe I’m an adventurous person — and in some ways, I think I am — but I can also be extremely resistant to change, even when it’s a change for the better. In the last few years, I’ve had to learn to be comfortable experimenting on myself, and it’s made me a little bit more flexible, but I still feel like a true, stubborn (relentless?) Taurus when I need to roll with change, uncertainty, and transitions. I love a plan — with room set aside for planned spontaneity — and right now, I’m between plans, in a place where new plans are being formulated but aren’t quite solid yet.

It’s like I just staggered out of the lake, and I’m still dripping wet, while I strap on my bike helmet — except this time, I’m not quite sure how far away the finish line might be, or what I’m going to encounter on the roads between here and there. The only option is to keep moving forward and breathe nice and deep.

So tell me, friends, what are you up to these days?


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  • Paleo Granny says:

    Started a Whole30 four days ago and learning a lot. For example using Paleo versions of muffins, donuts and cake really were a problem for me. Eliminating these has been a real eye opener.

    • Mel says:

      Right on! Hope you have an awesome Whole30! I LOVE the stuff I learn about my habits when I get serious about Whole30-ing.

  • jj says:

    Wait… LIVING in Prague? Did I miss something?

  • Jill Gaissert says:

    Just returned home to the US from 10 days in South Korea visiting my daughter. I feel your pain.

    • Mel says:

      It’s weird, right?! I feel like I’m in between worlds or something. I know clean food and sleep will help, but the mental shenanigans are hard!

  • Deana says:

    Hey, ask me whatever you want to about living in Prague. As you know, I did it for 7 years, making 2 separate transatlantic moves of full households and a dog. It is much more modern now than when I first did it in 1995! (As in no party line rotary dial phone shared with landlady…etc.)

    • Mel says:

      I think the thing that’s causing me the most anxiety is thinking about getting Smudge over and back. Any tips on managing pet care and your sanity would be most appreciated! And anything else you want to share that you think is helpful that I might not think of…

        • Roz says:

          Definitely find out if there are any quarantine restrictions, required vaccinations/certifications and what not for Smudge.

          Sometime in 1998 or 99 I moved from the Netherlands to Houston, TX. My cat come on board with me in a sherpa bag (which was handy, since it had a zippered compartment for her papers). Our last night in NL was spent in a hotel near the airport.
          We dosed her with a vet-prescribed kitty valium before heading the airport for our flight, and once in flight she sort of talked to herself the entire time with short quiet meows. I think she was saying ‘dude, I am so stoned’. She refused to eat or drink, which was worrisome, and also held off doing any bodily functions whatsoever until we got her to a litter box in our new house. Poor baby just sat right down in the litter box and peed for a reaaaaally long time. Had to take a washcloth to her tail, because she was too exhausted to squat normally. But she fared better on that trip than she did with her neutering surgery recovery when she was younger…

          All cats travel differently. If Smudge isn’t terribly problematic with being put into and taken out of a bag, I would recommend smuggling her into the bathroom during the flight for some petting and see if she’d want to drink, eat, or change the pee pad in her bag if necessary.

      • Welcome back! I hear you on the pets: A few months ago I looked up taking my 3 cats from Canada to Japan should I decide to move and though it can be done, WHAT an ordeal! And how do I fly 3 cats out to Tokyo with me safely, happily, and affordably?!

        Anyway, I’m sooooo not there yet… Congratulations Mel on following your heart! If anyone can do this it’s you! xo

      • Clea says:

        I moved my two cats overseas from the East Coast to England. Yes, they even went in “cargo,” but it was a pressure-controlled “pet area” and cost over $1500 through British Airways World Cargo. Various carriers have different policies, and maybe I could have saved money by not going with BA, but the cats were cared for every step of the way…and they were totally fine.

        No drugs were needed, and I read that cats normally go into a “natural sedative” state when flying. Who knows if that’s true, but yep, they were fine.

  • Catherine says:

    I’m down to my last twenty pounds to lose (after losing 95 in the last 16 months or so) and they are being stubborn, so this week I decided to experiment with intermittent fasting, as in only eating in a window of a certain number of hours. Too early to tell if this will jolt my system into action again, but at least I feel fine, not starving or anything.

    • Mel says:

      Congratulations on your transformation — you must feel like a million bucks! YAY!

      I hope the IF works for you. Be sure you’re getting enough sleep and maybe even doing some meditation while you IF — any stress can add complications. I eat in a 12-hour window, which is a mild form of IF, and it definitely helped with my appetite. Keep us posted on how you’re doing!

  • Heidi says:

    Yeah to Well Fed 2–I cannot wait for the sequel!!

  • Lauren says:

    I just started my first Whole30 Monday and I have to thank you! I have been using your cookbook and I love everything that I have made so far. I really enjoy reading your blog too. Good luck on your transitions!

    • Mel says:

      Congratulations on tackling your first Whole30! I hope you have smooth ride and enjoy your 30 days of self care. So glad Well Fed is part of it… thank you!

  • Lydia says:

    I’m lifting! I’m lifting! Not lifting super heavy yet, but slowly working up to it. WoooHoooo! Yay for lifting again!

    My trainer is fantastic. He’s super patient and very good about telling me to take a breather or a drink of water when I slip into a WOD go-go-go mentality. Last week he said (super nonchalantly), “Have you ever climbed a rope?” When I said no, he asked “You wanna?”

    Wheeeeeeeeeee! How exciting is that?

    Best wishes with your transitions. Change is so stressful. I’m glad you have your groovy yoga stuff to center you when things get extra nutty.

    • Mel says:

      Lydia, that’s fantastic! Congratulations! I’m so thrilled for you.

      So… did you climb the rope?!

      • Lydia says:

        OH GOD NO. No rope for me yet. Maybe by winter? Depends on how fast my body decides to put on muscle. You know how it is.

  • Minda says:

    I’m on day 12 of my first Whole30! Since I cook most of my meals at home the transition hasn’t been too hard, except that I’m constantly running out of vegetables! I’m learning so much about my relationship with food like never before in my umpteenth (is that a word?) tries at “dieting” and getting healthy. In so many ways eating like this is easy and it feels GOOD.
    I also have been using your cookbook that I found at Costco here in Austin (hi neighbor). It’s been majorly helpful. I too grew up in a restaurant family so your stories are familiar to me.
    Thinking about trying CrossFit, but scared too! Maybe it will be my next “transition”.
    Thanks for your inspiring blog/book. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Congratulations on Whole30-ing! I’m so glad you found Well Fed at Costco… YAY!

      If you want to chat about CrossFit, I’d be glad to give you the scoop on my experience. I can see why it would be intimidating, but if you choose the right gym, with supportive people, you’ll be in good hands.

  • AustinGirl says:

    I’m 10 weeks away from having my first kiddo. So far, pregnancy has been a breeze and my husband is so supportive and excited (and adorable) but it’s a bit freaky to know that I’m going to have a new family member in about 2 months! Definitely counts as a “transition” that’s doing numbers on my psyche!
    Good luck with everything you’re up to, and hopefully both of us will notice a lightening in our “bricks” as time goes on!
    Oh, and heck YES to Well Fed 2!! Cant’ WAIT to order it!!

    • Harmony says:

      I’m 6 weeks from my due date with my first baby as well. Have continued to CrossFit and do Bar Method throughout the pregnancy – looking forward to seeing how recovery will be because of it and my (mostly) paleo eating throughout the pregnancy.

      Look forward to hearing more about your transitions Mel! You’re always inspiring with the things you do, and I’m sure that will continue on, regardless of where your life goes.

    • Mel says:

      10 weeks to a new human… yay!

      Thanks for the enthusiasm for Well Fed 2. We’re super excited about it, too!

  • Ellen says:

    Mel – thanks for a timely blog post. You do that sometimes, hit on something I’m really feeling. I am uncomfortable with transition and find it makes me want to stagnate or lose focus on all the other parts of my life that are NOT transitioning (like keeping the same husband, that sort of thing, haha). I’m deployed right now, feeling on the cusp of some life change and not quite able to wrap my mind around the transition. So maybe I’ll just keep moving forward, after all, the first few steps are the hardest.
    Also, I’m a veterinarian and I worry about Smudge too. I would begin to introduce the travel crate and even feed treats in it sometimes or have periods of lock up with release when Smudge is quiet and relaxed. And before you go, get some benadryl or liquid dramamine to ease any motion sickness (some cats get it, some don’t).
    You rock. Good luck with your transitions. Can’t wait for the next cook book, my Well Fed is ratty and well used – a testament to it’s popularity.

    • Mel says:

      Hey, Ellen. Sounds like you’re handling this transition time just right… just gotta roll with it. As my dad always tells me, “Just enjoy yourself, honey.” Not always easy, but it’s good advice, right?

      Thanks for the tips for Smudge! And thanks, too, for the Well Fed love!

  • SQUEEEE!!! Well Fed II? Cannot wait for this to drop!

    Sending you all good re-integration vibes, M.

    • Mel says:

      Thanks, Kirstin! We’re getting really excited about Well Fed 2, too! In fact, I was just about to make my favorite salad dressing from the new book. WOOT!

  • Donna says:

    I’m 57, just finished my first W30 and am in the middle of a W7 week. I have been where you are and have decided that the finish line is never there. It’s all a continuum. I divorced, then remarried my husband 5 years later. I mothered a German Shepherd for 10 years until she died, and now I have another German Shepherd who is about 10 months old. I was relatively immobile until I had 2 knee replacements a year part, and am now more mobile than I’ve been in 20 years (training for a 10K walk in December). After a long career in medical transcription management and with worn out wrists, I had my carpal tunnel syndrome repaired. And the list goes on. All of my challenges have ended positively in one way or another. The reason I am telling you all of this is that my transitions over the years have been so worth it. Put your helmet on and take that ride, and enjoy the trip without worry about the finish line. As soon as you reach one finish line, you will set up another one anyway 🙂

  • Carol Lovett says:

    I hear you! I’m going through transitions too and it is stressful. One of my plans for 2014 is to move out of the country too. Doing lots of research on my VISA application and cost of living.

  • Bethany says:

    I’m finishing my first Whole30-turned-40 here in just a couple days. I’m finding myself anxious at times about removing the training wheels, even for just a week. I know I have the tools I need to pick myself back up if I fall, but falling still sucks nonetheless. I’m high strung anyway, so that quality just compounds the anxiety I feel about shifting from Whole30 to a paleo/clean diet with responsible off-roading. I’m also training for my third full marathon (first since having my baby back in March!). It practically could be like a first marathon because I’m going to re-learn how to fuel before & during my runs in a more paleo way instead of the Gu’s and sugary drinks. I’m excited about learning what my body will be capable of with this new lifestyle of eating!

    • Mel says:

      Good for you! A friend of mine was doing a Whole30 + AIP a few months ago and was feeling anxiety about adding foods back in… after talking through it, she decided she didn’t need to add foods back in, but could just continue eating the way she was because she enjoyed it and felt good. Maybe you can mentally downplay the “end” of you Whole30 and forget about it being 30 days. Instead, just eat what feels good to you?

      Best wishes for an awesome marathon!

  • April says:

    I am planning on starting Crossfit for the first time at a new gym opening up by my house- so that will certainly be a transition for me! I’m a bit nervous about being able to handle the exercises but also excited too!

  • Trisha says:

    My life has been defined by ‘bricks’! We just bricked our whole family back to the states from Japan… 8 months ago… I’m still trying to adjust!

  • Susan says:

    Transitions. It must be going around.

    • Mel says:

      They always are, right?! And thank goodness for that! I said to my friend Stef one day, “Man! I get one thing figured out and then something else pops up. I just want to have it settled.” and she said, “When it’s all settled, you’ll be dead.”

      Good point 😉

  • Trish says:

    Wait, what–moving to Prague? Does everyone involved have a movable sort of income? If so, WOO HOO! If not, YOU ARE CERTIFIABLE NUCKING FUTS AND NEED TO RECONSIDER.

  • Lane says:

    I just celebrated six months since I had a hysterectomy for uterine cancer. Trying to dump sugar and eat better. I need to lose a boatload of weight. I want to do a Whole 30 but am anxious about not getting enough calcium without the dairy.

  • Katherine says:

    Welcome back Mel! I am also focusing on my food (what works, what doesn’t) and making much more enjoyable good-for-me meals so I don’t get into a pity party or a rut. Simultaneously, I am paying attention to healing some knee issues and have discovered mobility so I am learning about that and implementing it and am very excited and hopeful about that. I have to remember that while others around me may be things that tempt me out of my primal happy place, this lifestyle is good for me.

    • Mel says:

      It’s hard to remember that sometimes, right?! Like… I feel AWESOME when I eat right, go to yoga, get good sleep… but them some pesky, “fun” idea comes along and before you know it…

      It’s a constant balancing act, I think.

  • Joanne Goldstein says:

    I moved to Germany 4 years ago with 2 cats. I was very worried since neither of them like to travel at all. We did all the paperwork and vet appointments. We had to send paperwork to state for signatures after seeing the vet and make sure everything was signed within 7 days of our trip. The cats were crated separately and at the airport we had to take them out of their crates while a dog sniffed for bombs. When we arrived in Germany they were fine and no one even checked the paperwork. A year later when I returned to the U.S., the cats again made the trip and again no one even checked the paperwork. The customs official did not stop us at all. I was stressed on both trips and I don’t think my cats enjoyed it much but they were fine. So Smudge will be fine.

  • Alisha says:

    Dang, are you a mind reader? I’m trying to decide if I move for work or stay where I am and change careers. Plus I just got notified of a potential trip to the sandbox, so I’m working on a shortened decision timeline. Aye! I’m an adventurer but who knew so much would come at once!
    Can’t wait for Well Fed 2!

    • Mel says:

      This is going to sound all pompous, but as I get older, I’m realizing that I feel like life really is about the experiences and adventures, even when they don’t go as planned.

      YAY, adventure!

  • Kel says:

    Strategizing now to change jobs, income levels (less), move to another state into a tiny home – 192 square feet! Lots of change for very good reasons…to be able to love my work for once!

  • MC says:

    How exciting! That’s a lot going on! Especially the international move.

    This post is very timely for me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how transitions are hard but as soon as I get too settled, I start getting antsy and seek out change.

    • Mel says:

      I didn’t think I was like that, but Dave and I are realizing that our time limit for living in a place is about 7 years — and we’re way past our expiration date here in Austin 😉

      • Lane says:

        I know that feeling. We’ve been in the Bay Area for 10 years this September and I am really tired of it. Your expiration date for places sounds about right to me. We’ve even thought about Austin. Do you like it there, other than feeling over it?

        • Mel says:

          This is a VERY unpopular opinion, but no, I don’t like Austin much. To be fair, I did when we first moved here, but the city has changed, and I have changed.

          Austin is GREAT for:
          – staying up late and listening to live music
          – drinking beer and eating BBQ
          – Tex-Mex food
          – hot HOT HOT muggy weather, 8 months of the year
          – swimming holes and food trucks
          – driving
          – tanks tops and flip flops

          Austin, in my opinion, is not great for:
          – people watching
          – fashion
          – walking in an urban environment
          – public transportation

          Living here helped me realize I want to live somewhere that’s more urban and has distinct seasons, a walking culture, excellent public transportation, and a more cosmopolitan vibe.

          • Marcy says:

            The thing I miss most about living in Lyon was the walking culture. We walked everywhere. I never missed not having a car. I live in Portland (outside the city) and I can’t even walk to a Starbucks.

            Someday I either want to move out of the city or into it.

          • Lane says:

            That’s good to know. 20 years ago I lived in San Francisco, didn’t have a car and walked everywhere or took the bus. Now we live in the Oakland Hills and there’s nothing to walk to. Having a nice area to walk is important to me as that’s my primary exercise and I have dogs. Last year we moved for three fast months to Savannah, Georgia and found the heat, humidity and bugs oppressive. My husband works in tech so we moved back here even though it’s not really where we want to be. I’m thinking that once most of our pets have passed on (we have 3 senior animals and one young dog) we’ll look for a job where he can work remotely and we’ll buy an airstream and go everywhere we want.

      • MC says:

        I might even say 6 years! Change just wakes up part of my brain, stirs my soul and makes the world a little more fun.

  • Ashley says:

    Oh my. I have been waiting for an official date for well fed 2 – eeeee. Well fed is ny far my fav paleo cookbook and I can’t wait for hopefully some sneak peeks! 😉

  • Amy in Austin says:

    Welcome back! I’m so glad it was a great trip and look forward to hearing more stories about your adventures.

    I’m in a transition period right now as well – about to finish my management training course and start actually managing my own Healthy Living department at work. I am completely frexcited.

  • Lisa D. says:

    Oh wow. It’s like you’re my long lost twin. I too am considering a move (from one coast to another when the hubs returns from a deployment) + my first W30. I latched on to paleo in July 2012 and figure July 2013 would be a nice W30 challenge. When do you start? I’d love to do it in real time with someone else. Sure hope you blog about it.

    Smudge is lucky to have so much love from you and Dave… and all of us. 🙂

    Finally – WF2… on pins and needles here. Simply cannot wait! FWIW: baba ghanoush and chix pad thai with almond butter (not a fan of sunbutter) are my versions of heroine. 🙂 Totally addicted…

    • Mel says:

      I’m on Day 4 of my Whole30 right now. Because it’s the way I usually eat, I try not to make a big fuss about it. I’ve blogged my Whole30s before, but this time, I’m not even really keeping track of the days. This is just the way I’m eating now for at least a month — but most likely longer. I did some serious eating on my trip to Europe and need to heal my body 🙂

      Thanks for the Well Fed and Smudge love! Good luck with your transitions, too!

  • mel says:

    oh mel i sooo feel you. just over a year ago i decided to move up north (to a VERY isolated place) for work even though i had told myself “enough with the moving around!!!!”. but it had been 8 years of being in one place and it was a very unique opportunity. but change and transition is motherf*cking hard! even if you know it’s a good thing for you. but at the end of the day, transition, or change, is really just experience. it’s feeling, it’s living.
    btw have you ever heard of marina abramovic? for some reason i think you would dig her…check out her doc “the artist is present”. she was also just on Q cbc radio.