I Am Willing

So, I’m reading my latest book, the one I have to hide from my children. (Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop) And the second chapter is called “I Am Willing.” And as I’m reading it I’m thinking it’s ok, nothing great, I’m not sure how I’m going to like this book….

By the end of the chapter I’m struck by that one phrase- I’m willing. It’s been running through my head all day. It really does come down to that. Motivation, commitment, discipline, getting things done. Are you willing?

It reminds me of a tough-love article I read awhile back. A personal trainer went on a rant about how people want this and want that and complain when nothing happens or they don’t get results. He knew, no matter who it was talking, that his answer would be the same. His basic response was: you’re not willing to do what you need to do to get there. Whatever your level of fitness, whatever your goals, you have to be willing to do what it takes to get there. And don’t fool yourself if you’re not.

It was a little dose of tough love that I needed. And it made me think. I was frustrated by being at a weight loss plateau. Frustrated and complaining and venting and reading articles about breaking that plateau. But I wasn’t doing what it would take to do that. If I wanted different results, I had to try something different. And I wasn’t willing to do that then. So I kept doing what I was doing, but I stopped complaining. That little article shut me up. If I wasn’t willing to do something, I had to quit whining.

And I’ve stayed there for a while….knowing my results weren’t exactly what I wanted, but not really ready to step it up. But in the back of my head, I still wanted more.

Before we set out to do something I think we have to ask ourselves that question- am I willing? Am I willing to do what it takes to get there?

We can all do hard things. But are we willing? Are we willing to do hard things to get what we want?

I think it’s important to consider in lots of areas of life, but I’m thinking here about fitness goals. I’m doing this program now that’s pretty intense. The workout intense-ness is in my comfort zone. I like to be pushed, I like hard workouts, I want to come out of it feeling like I just did something hard. The nutrition intense-ness has been outside my comfort zone. I have specifically said I would not give certain things up, even if it meant I wouldn’t get the results I wanted. I have considered timed nutrition and counting macros and that more intense nutrition stuff in the past, and you know what? It came down to the fact that I was not willing to do what needed to be done to get those results.

Well, now I am willing. I am willing to get up at 4:30 in the morning. I am willing to eat before I workout even though I really don’t like to eat before workouts. I am willing to food shop and prep so I have meals ready to eat every 2-3 hours. I am ready to eat vegetables at all hours and breakfasts that feel more like dinners like a crazy person. I am willing to go to bed early. I am willing to pass up cookies and ice cream. I am willing to drink seltzer while my friends drink beer and wine. I am willing to pack my own food for a Super Bowl party. I am willing to eat fruit instead of cake on my daughter’s birthday.

I have not always been willing. And I may not always be willing- at least not to this extent. There was a time I wasn’t willing to go for a walk, let alone run, hike, or do mountain climbers. There was a time I wasn’t willing to give up International Delights in my coffee. Or a pint of Haagen-Dazs on a Sunday night. There was a time I said I wasn’t a morning person. There was a time where I was doing most of what I’m doing now, but I wasn’t willing to go that extra mile with my nutrition.

And that’s all ok. What’s not ok is getting frustrated with ourselves because we’re not where we want to be. Step back and think about what you want. Think about what you have to do to get there. Then think about what you are willing to do.

I have been all along the spectrum, from complaining when my husband wanted to go for a walk around the block to going for a 9-mile hike with him. And I’m not saying you have to do timed nutrition. Or hour long workouts. Or wake up at 4:30 in the morning. I’m saying know where you’re at. And if where you’re at is eating crap and not exercising and not taking care of your body like you know you should, then think about what you can do to snap out of that place.

Maybe where you’re at is willing to do some exercise, but nothing crazy. Willing to eat a little better, but still have your treats too. Willing to take some steps, but not willing to change too much. And that’s fine! Just know where you are and be honest with yourself. You’re going to have to do something. Nothing works unless you do. You can try different things and you can jump on bandwagons, but until you’re ready to put the work in, nothing is going to work for you. There are no miracles when it comes to taking charge of your health.

So think of what you want and think about what your are willing to do. Be honest with yourself about what your goals are and what you are willing to do to get them. If that doesn’t match up, you need to rethink things.

Because there is also “I am not willing.” Or “I am unwilling.”

Sometimes it is what we are unwilling to do or unwilling to accept that will motivate us. Like being unwilling to wake up and dread getting dressed because your pants don’t fit. When I used to feel silly for letting my weight get me down, or not wanting to get dressed to go somewhere because I just felt so uncomfortable in my own skin, my husband made that profound statement. “It’s hard to get out of bed when you know your pants don’t fit.” Like it or not, our physical bodies and how we feel in them can really affect how we feel overall.

Maybe it’s when we’re not willing to stay where we are, that we know we’re ready for change.

Sometimes what we’re willing to do is enough. Sometimes we know that we need to be willing to do more. And sometimes being unwilling is what will finally motivate us.

What are you willing to do?

Personal Development Books

I love reading. I have loved reading since I was little. And I love all kinds of books- serious, dark, scary, funny, romantic. Fiction and nonfiction. I have also grown to love personal development books. I know people think those books (call them “self-help,” call them stupid, call them trite, call them whatever you want) are silly or weird or just plain stupid. And I know people make fun of them. But I really like them! And I kinda sorta think everybody should read them.

I think personal development books can offer us so much- even if your life is perfect and you’re bursting with happiness. Even if you wake with a song in your heart and drift off to peaceful sleep with a smile on your face each day. Even if you’re living the life of your dreams….Or, even if you couldn’t care less about dreams and fluffy stuff like that. There doesn’t have to be something wrong to read a “self-help” book. We could all use a little time for self-reflection, maybe a little inspiration.

I think there’s value to reading these kinds of books, just like I think there’s value in taking classes, trying something new, doing something you’ve never done before. Lots of life experiences- good or bad- expand us. Expand our minds, our thinking, our perspective. And sometimes doing something new, even if you think it’s silly, can add to your life experience. There are lots of ways to do this, but not all of those ways are as easily accessible as reading a book. Reading a book that has a positive message or can help us think of things in a new way or helps us find something out about ourselves is a good thing. It certainly isn’t a bad thing.

These books, the good ones, usually make you feel pretty good too. They’re positive. It’s a little mental/emotional/spiritual pick-me-up. They can be very motivating- to do whatever. To pursue something you’ve always dreamed of, to find a job that brings you more happiness, to do a race, to organize your home, to wake up earlier, to be more productive, to be better with money, to be more decisive, to be more confident, to love your life the way it is more or to make a change. Or they can just be a nice positive thing to add into your day.

If you have never read one of these kinds of books, you should give one a try. Look at it as an act of self-care. Or a break from reality. Or just something you do because it’s good for you, like eating vegetables.

I try to read 15 minutes of “personal development” a day. It started out feeling like a chore, something I did because I felt like I should. I think I just started with the wrong books. Once I found a book I loved, though, it became something I enjoyed. Pick something not too heavy, something that won’t make you feel the opposite of how you want it to make you feel. Something that won’t dredge up things you don’t want to dredge up or get too deep. Just a nice something to add to your day.

I also changed when I read it. I used to read it at night. My personal development book replaced the fiction I usually read at night. I didn’t like that either. I don’t want to think too much before bed. I want to turn my brain off. And I missed my fiction! I missed having a book that totally sucked me in and kept me up at night reading. (Some personal development books can suck you in like that, but I find most I can put down and look forward to reading tomorrow.)

So I started reading it in the morning (I know that sounds crazy, even to me it sounds a little crazy). I already get up early to exercise before my kids get up; I’d read after my workout while I drank my water. Ten or fifteen minutes, and it’s a nice way to start the day. I get to read my fluff before bed and I still get some time to read something that’s helping me live life. Making me feel better. Inspiring me. Making me think. Motivating me.

Another way to get some of this positivity into your day is to listen to something positive. There are audiobooks, so you can listen instead of read, and podcasts. I listen to podcasts while I clean sometimes. They can really change your mood, just like listening to music, but with more intention.

So, I just bought these two books yesterday. I had a gift card to Barnes & Noble 🙂 I haven’t read them yet, so I can’t tell you what I think yet. But I’m excited to read them! I just love Shaun T. I love his workouts, I love his motivation, I love his story. I feel like he genuinely cares about people. And the other book is one I’ve been hearing about. It’s supposed to be very good, and has been on my list for a while. Even if it doesn’t transform my life by 8AM, I’m sure it will inspire me in some way.

I just finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and loved it. It had a real focus on creativity, and doing what you love, and not being afraid of what other people think. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero is one of my favorites. It is flat out fun to read. She is very funny, very down-to-earth. I felt like she was one of my friends. She kind of reminds me of one of my college friends- some of her adventures and her no-nonsense way of saying things 🙂

Even the books I haven’t loved have given me something to take away from it. I read 12 Week Year and while I liked it, it was a little too high maintenance for where I was at. It required too much diving in, too much work. But I did learn a lot from it. It helped me think about what I really want to do, about goal setting, about being more concrete about what I want in life. Sometimes we just don’t think about the big picture because we’re caught up in the day-to-day, not necessarily being “present” or “in the moment” but just busy and feeling like a hamster in a wheel. Sometimes we don’t even think about what we really want.

I’m happy- I love my life. But I am at a kind of crossroads and I want to think about what I really want as I move forward in life. Before life pushes me along, maybe in a direction in which I don’t necessarily want to be going.

For “fun” I’m reading Game of Thrones. I remember before I had kids I would try to read classics. I read new books, too, but I would try to read classics and “good” books. I still think there’s value to reading those books, but in the throes of motherhood I knew I needed to lighten things up a bit….A teacher friend had once asked me what I was reading and when I told her she said, “Sheesh. No wonder you’re depressed.” I had been telling her about some sad stuff going on in my life then, and how I was having trouble not letting it weigh on me all the time. She had a point- maybe I couldn’t fix the stuff that was going on in my life. But reading The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tolstoy probably wasn’t helping my outlook on things.

So, I am a total reading dork. I love good books, I love fluff, I love personal development. I also love the library. And bookstores. And talking about books. And hearing what books other people are reading….Books of all kinds can change your world. And I’m happy I’ve made the commitment to reading something with the specific purpose of growing as a person. I think it’s when we become stuck or stagnant or stop evolving that we can get in trouble in this world. We should always be growing.

Have you read a personal development before? I’d love to hear what you have read!

My Dad

My father passed away in November. I originally wrote this post on Wednesday, November 29th. I wrote it and shared it with my health and fitness accountability group on Facebook. Writing it helped me process the grief. Writing specifically about one aspect of my dad’s life and one aspect of my relationship with him helped me process some of my grief. I was sad and I cried the whole time, but it wasn’t plunging me into what this all meant to my whole life.

One of the good things (for me) about having a blog (even if it is a neglected blog) is that it is a place to write. I love writing, but before I created this blog I rarely wrote anything. So it’s an outlet for me. Sometimes I type away like mad on my computer and then it just sits there. I never publish it. But having this blog gave me an outlet that morning, when I couldn’t sleep. When I was in bed and my mind was racing. It gave me a constructive way to talk about my dad, without getting too personal. A place to share some things about him without delving into all that he means to me. Even if I knew I wasn’t going to share it- yet or maybe ever- on this blog. I shared it only in the safe space of my little group.

I share it here now because losing my father has had a huge impact on my life. On my “journey.” I feel like I’m baby stepping out of the surreal, underwater feeling that has been the last few months. Part of moving forward will be wrapping myself up in nutrition and exercise. (Could be worse, right?!) I think my dad would get a kick out of hearing me talk about what I’m about to get myself into next….

Here’s what I wrote and shared with my group back in November:

 

“My father passed away on Monday night (November 27th). He was very sick, diagnosed with cancer on September 25th and things seemed to progress so quickly. But the way he died, and the quickness of the actual end, was unexpected.

 

I write about this here because up until the few months before his diagnosis he was an amazingly healthy and active man. And he inspired me to be healthy. He set a wonderful example for his children and grandchildren.

 

His fitness was a bit like a bell curve. He had that time in the middle of his life when he was less active, consumed by the responsibilities of work and commuting from Rockland County, NY to Brooklyn for 34 years. But even during those years he was health conscious. I remember him eating wheat germ and drinking apple cider vinegar in the ‘80s, when neither of those was a “thing.”

 

My dad was a conservative business man. You wouldn’t look at him and guess he was a health nut. But he was always open to vitamins and holistic stuff, never a sucker for fads but knowing there were real options out there to optimize health.

 

My love of nutrition is definitely inspired by him. Sometimes I feel like my father when I mix up my kefir and granola and berries. Every morning he would fix his “concoction.” The ingredients varied but mostly it was oats, cinnamon, nuts (when my kids weren’t around), berries. He ate salmon twice a week. I first heard about flaxseed from him and he heard about kefir from me and started eating it too.

 

He ran when he was younger, walked and hiked a ton when he was older. Just a few years ago my dad, my brother, my husband, my son and I hiked the Billy Goat Trail in Maryland. It was a challenging 9-mile hike and he impressed us all. There was a little bit of rock scrambling involved and we worried but he was fine.

 

And my dad loved golf. He would golf 4 times a week most weeks when he and my mom were in Florida. He shot an 81 when he was 81. He got a hole in one a few years ago. More often than not he would walk the course. Golf brought him great joy and as he got sicker missing it was one of his biggest concerns.

 

My sister Liz has been a big part of me finding a love for exercise and she told a great story about my dad the other day. She went to Rockland Lake to go for a run, started out and felt like she didn’t really have it in her that day. My dad drove by her and waved. She knew he was going to park and walk the hills by the golf course there. And if he could go do that, then she could go finish her run. It ended up being one of her best runs ever.

 

My dad would always ask me about what I was doing. And he always had something positive to say about my workouts or my running. He always showed interest and encouraged me. He also made me want to do better. I wanted to make him proud.

 

And maybe before I found my love of exercise as an adult, it was my dad who planted the seed when I was a child. Some of my favorite memories of him are from our hikes at Bear Mountain or our walks at Rockland Lake.

 

I have been wanting to write about my dad on here for a long time and just never did. I wanted to write about how he inspired my love for health and fitness, nutrition and exercise. I wanted to tell you about his daily walks, his golf games, his regular trips to the gym. How even in those middle years when he didn’t have the luxury to golf all the time, my siblings and I might catch him doing push-ups and sit-ups in his room. I wanted to tell you that he always took the stairs at work, I want to say it was 6 flights. He would never brag about his golf, he would never tell anyone he was doing daily exercises in his room. But he was there carving out his own healthy routines, all along.

 

I don’t want to pour my heart out here. I could go on and on about my father, about the wonderful man he was and will continue to be in our hearts and memories. About the gentleman he was, the strength he had, his brilliance, his humility, his incredible sense of humor that brings a smile to my face right now as I think about it. He gave me so many gifts- especially the love of books and words that I have passed on to my own children. He was a wonderful dad and a wonderful Poppop to my kids.

 

But I mostly wanted to write about him here to share his inspiration for living a healthy life. He was so strong and healthy and active the last ten years of his life. I want to be healthy so I can grow older strong and active and healthy. People would look at him and say, “he’s in great shape!” 

 

His level of health before sickness made it harder to see him as he weakened. And I know it made it harder for him. So while I’m sad we said good-bye sooner than expected, I’m glad he was spared some of the physical decline that would be inevitable.

 

The question on that Monday when I drove my mom and my dad to the emergency room wasn’t “Is it time to let go?” It was “Do we give the treatment another shot or do we call hospice?” But things unfolded differently than anyone expected. I can’t overthink why. I can’t wish I knew better or saw it coming or said a better good-bye. I can go through this with my family, I can know he’s always with me, and I can try to live a life that would make him proud. I’m lucky I had a dad that made me want to be a better person.”

When Your Little One Goes to Kindergarten

My youngest started kindergarten yesterday. He’s the first one of my kids to have full-day kindergarten. And I’m sad about that.

I am feeling so many things- lonely. The house is so quiet. Who am I going to eat lunch with? I’m missing the special time when it was just me and him. Who’s going to ask me to snuggle on the couch? Who’s going to run errands with me?

I’m also feeling a lot of regret and a good bit of guilt. I should have done more with him. I should have made better use of the time we had together. Why didn’t I take him to the zoo? Just the two of us.

Loss– these days are gone forever. I know he’s still my baby- they all are. But the carefree days of childhood before school are gone. That time in my life and his life is gone. My whole life for the last 12 years- staying home with my babies- is gone. I’m grateful for the time. I’m grateful I got to be home, and I’m not taking that for granted. But now it’s over. And I’m sad.

The crazy beginning part of motherhood is gone. I’m glad the diapers and potty training and nightly wake-ups are gone. But I’m sad that me being everything to them is gone. Is that selfish? They will never love me again the way they did. And I’m happy for them and excited for what is in store for them. But it’s bittersweet to let go of that cozy time in our lives when they were everything to me and I was everything to them.

I forget so much! I don’t remember so much of the last 12 years. Days are a blur. I came across a picture the other day of my four children. It was just a regular day. No one was dressed up, no one was visiting, nothing special was going on. Danny was in his exersaucer and the other three were just sitting around it playing with him. And I thought to myself, “Now those were the days.” Why didn’t I realize it then? I’ll never have those days again. I wish I could somehow have held on to that time more- that it didn’t just fade away into the past. I wish I still had those days. Somehow.

I wish I did it better. I wish I could go back and do it all again. I would do it so much better now! I would get out more. I would do more. I would care less about stupid things. I would have friends over even when my house was messy.

And I feel a little bit now like I blew it. Like I had this great gift and I didn’t appreciate it enough. I didn’t take full advantage of the last 12 years.

It’s also hard sending him out into the world. My sweet little boy. He’s everything to me but he’s not everything to anyone else. His teacher doesn’t know him and love him. It’s hard sending your babies out to the world knowing it’s not always so great out there. Knowing there’s not much you can do to help them or protect them.

It’s hard knowing that that isn’t your job anymore. It was when they were babies. You had to cover them and protect them and feed them. It’s not your job anymore. They are the world’s now. They are their own.

It makes me think of that developmental time when they realize they are separate from you. It’s hard. Remember reading that there is a time when babies first realize they are a separate being from you? That up until a certain point in development they think they’re part of you? Now they’re really separate.

And I’m not going to be a crazy person and stunt them or hold them back. I’ll stand on the sidelines and watch. But it’s hard….I’m sure it will get easier- I’ll appreciate having time to get stuff done. I’ll enjoy watching him go off on a day he’s excited about something. But there sure is a sadness too.

I think the hardest part of motherhood is knowing that all-consuming love is fleeting. On their part. I know they’ll always love me and I’ll hopefully always be near the top of their list. But the fierceness of that love will fade. Natural? yes. Normal? yes. Will I adjust? yes. But it makes me sad.

I won’t wallow. I won’t continue with the melodrama. I’ll have spontaneous bursts of crying for a few days and then I’ll adjust to life as it is now and enjoy it. (I hope- if you catch me crying when I see a mom and baby in ShopRite maybe it’s time to intervene). But I just have to acknowledge my sadness. I have thanked God every day I got to be home with my children.

I’m also a little uneasy. What now? What do I do with myself now? What am I now that I’m not anyone’s everything?

There’s no stopping it and I know that. There’s lots to enjoy and lots to look forward to. And he still loves me in a special way, a way the others don’t anymore. So I’ll hold onto that while I have it. That and the beautiful places my other kids are at. I’ll hold onto them while I can and try to capture the memories so these days, these days right now that are wonderful in their own way, will stay with me forever.

The Best Time to Workout

What’s the best time of day to workout? Ok, get ready to be annoyed. It’s the time of day when you’re most likely to workout.

I’m sorry. I know that’s not the answer you really want. But I think it’s true, partly because of experience and partly because of research. (Not like the conducting experiments or gathering data kind of research, just the reading articles on what I consider reliable websites kind of research.) I, at different times since I started exercising, have sought out the best time of day to work out. Like, when are you most likely to get the best results? The most bang for your buck? And, while my research hasn’t been exhaustive, I have come to the conclusion that there’s no one right answer.

Some people advocate exercising first thing in the morning. You’re in a fasted state, you’ll burn off stuff already in your body (glycogen I think?), that kind of thing. You might burn off more fat. I’ve also read that late afternoon is really the optimal time to workout– energy wise, performance wise. Hormone levels might be at a more optimal level in the afternoon, too. I haven’t read that nighttime is ideal, but I bet someone out there says that it is.

The answer I gave above- the time of day when you’re most likely to workout is the time of day when you’re most likely to workout- isn’t my favorite answer for me either. But I’ve accepted it as the truth.

I think the real best time of day for me, as far as how good a workout I get, how I feel during and after, when I have the most energy, is mid-morning. In a perfect world I’d wake up, ease into my day, have breakfast and coffee. Then I’d either relax with my kids and husband or do some chores around the house (though I guess in a really perfect world I wouldn’t be doing chores ever, would I?). About an hour and a half to two hours after I finished eating, I’d exercise. This does happen once in a while, and it really is when I feel best. But it doesn’t happen a lot.

The reality right now is that my time is not really my own. I can’t exercise at that time of day because it just doesn’t work. I have things to do, places to be, other people’s schedules to consider. So I wake up early. Now I’m sure some of you are saying, “I can’t exercise in the morning. That’s not happening. I’m not a morning person.” I said the same things. I didn’t think I could ever do it. I didn’t think it would happen. I am so not a morning person. If anything I’m a night owl….A night owl who has grudgingly become more of a morning person. Thanks to #1- kids and #2- really wanting to exercise and knowing if it didn’t happen then it might never happen.

I think the morning is probably the best time for most people for the same reasons it works for me. Once it’s done you can move on with your day. If you don’t do it first thing there’s a good chance something will crop up during the day that prevents you from doing it. Or you’ll be too tired to do it. You’ll also get that good feeling early, and what a great way to start your day. But it does take some getting used to.

When I first started exercising I did it at night. (Back then I would think I could never do it in the morning, now I look back and think how did I ever do it at night?!) It was what worked for me then. I had an infant I was breastfeeding, who was still waking up a few times a night to eat, plus three other kids, ages 3, 5, and 7. I was so tired and needed that sleep in the morning. Night time was the only time I could get it done. I’d put Danny to bed around 7:00, then the other kids, and exercise in the living room, before Danny woke up for his first nighttime feeding.

There was a period of time between those nighttime workouts and when I started working out in the morning when I had to accept and deal with a more difficult truth. I had to workout whenever I could, and that would change day to day. I would have much rather have had a set time, a schedule, a routine. But things were hectic, mornings were unreliable (usually due to a child or two or three or four who had made it to my bed or lured me to their bed sometime during the night). I was so tired at night, and the kids were staying up later. I had to accept the need for a more flexible mindset. It irked me, but that’s where I was at that time. This transition period might ultimately have made it easier for me to embrace the idea of morning workouts.

So I’d encourage every one to consider morning workouts. Even if you’re not a “morning person.” No birds are pulling my blankets back as I awake feeling refreshed and perky and ready for a fantastic day. Looking radiant of course. There’s lots of hitting snooze and internal dialogue, some of which I can’t repeat here for fear my children might read this. But it happens. Most days. I’m tired and cold and puffy-eyed and crazy-haired and feeling rather grumpy most days. But by the time the warm-up is over I’m usually feeling closer to human and by the time the whole thing is over I’m often feeling like a superhero. A pleasant, life-loving superhero. (Until I try to wake up my middle schooler anyway)

Wherever you are at right now, make it a priority. That’s the most important thing. My crazy-runner-husband used to say all the time, “You have to make it a priority.” And I used to roll my eyes and curse under my breath. But that idea must have nestled somewhere in my brain and eventually manifested itself. Because here I am telling anyone who will listen to make it a priority. It just has to be. And it might be tough at first, but keep at it and one day it will really be like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Just something that’s part of your day. Often one of the best parts of your day.

Have you found your ideal time? Are you struggling to make time for exercise? I’d love to hear from you! Sometimes just venting or chatting about something can help you process things and make things click 🙂

 

5 Easy Ways to Drink Your Way to Better Health

Can you think of an easier way to get healthier than drinking a glass of something? It’s not exactly taxing. So I came up with a list of 5 things you can do each day to improve your health that aren’t much harder than lifting a glass to your lips. Maybe they aren’t as much fun as wine, but they’re easy. And so good for you….

The first one is super easy and you get a choice.

  1. Drink Your Probiotics. You pick- kefir or kombucha. They have similar health benefits, but each has its own special charm. You can read more about kefir here. I drink both most days. The kefir I buy is thicker, so it’s more like yogurt than a drink. I eat the plain kefir with berries, a few drops of stevia, cinnamon, a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut, and pumpkin seeds (or granola). It is so delicious I feel like licking the bowl when I’m done. My son loves the strawberry kefir (no strep, no flu, no antibiotics for him this winter and I swear this is why!). You can find it in the dairy aisle. Kombucha is a yummy, fizzy drink that you can find in different flavors, too. I love the ginger flavor, but the fruit ones are nice too. It is pricey, but you can drink a little bit each day. In health food stores you can also buy it in a big, refillable glass bottle to save some money. I make my own and if you fall in love with it like we did this is a great option to make it part of your life!
  2. Drink Green Tea. Green tea has so many health benefits and may be a great weight loss tool as well. I aim for 2-3 cups per day, but just one cup will surely boost your health.
  3. Start your day with a warm glass of lemon water. It detoxifies your body and stimulates digestion. Add some apple cider vinegar if you’re up for it, too!
  4. Put some coconut oil in your coffee. You may have heard of this, or you might think it sounds totally weird and gross. That’s what I thought before I started doing it, and now when I can’t have my coffee with a teaspoon of coconut oil I feel a little sad. I use my Keurig (refillable pods of course!) to make my coffee in a big mug, add a teaspoon of coconut oil, and blend using a stick blender. You could use a regular blender, too. It comes out so frothy and even looks creamy. I sprinkle cinnamon on top and it feels like a fancy latte 🙂 If you’re stuck on sweetening your coffee try adding some stevia before blending, too.
  5. Drink your water. I saved this one for last because I feel like everyone knows it and oh my gosh is sick of hearing about it. But I wonder how many people still actually do it! How much water do you drink in a day? A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day. So if you weigh 200 pounds aim for 100 ounces. I like to drink more than half my weight in ounces- it’s just how I feel the best. I aim for a gallon, though I usually fall a little bit short of that. There are lots of tricks to get to drinking enough- finding the right water bottle, starting your day with a big glass of water, setting water “benchmarks” to meet throughout the day. You can also try flavoring your water if it’s tough for you to drink. I love lemon slices; you can also add other fruit, mint leaves.

The prospect of getting healthier can be daunting. You hear so many things about it- things you should do, things you shouldn’t do. One day you might hear something is wonderful for you, then read the next day that it’s bad for you. I like the idea of taking simple steps to improve your health. And often I think the idea of giving stuff up just sucks. So maybe start with adding stuff in instead. I hope these 5 easy things you can add to your day for better health are simple enough to implement and easy enough to keep for life. Give them some time to really become part of your routine. You can start with one and add the others when you feel like you’ve got the first one down.

Do you know someone who could benefit from one or all of these? Please share!

Energy Bites

This is one of my favorite recipes for a clean eating snack. These little guys are filling and nutritious. They also help satisfy a sweet tooth! They are a great little add-on to a meal if you’re still feeling hungry. I have also taken them with me when I know I’ll be out for a while. I’ll have 2 or 3 energy bites and an apple for a mini-meal on the go. Much better than trying to find a healthy snack at the mall or something!

They are a bit of a pain to make, sticky and messy, but worth it. I usually make a double batch. I have seen the recipe in a few places, but based mine on the one I found at Gimme Some Oven.

Print Recipe
Energy Bites
from Gimme Some Oven
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients; stir until thoroughly mixed
  2. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour
  3. Roll into balls (about 1 inch diameter)
  4. Store in refrigerator for up to a week
Recipe Notes

We are a nut-free house, so I always use sunbutter. I'm sure peanut butter is delicious, and imagine almond butter would be great too. To make them even healthier you could omit the chocolate chips or maybe try raisins? I keep planning on raisins and ending up with chocolate chips 🙂

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Sugar Swaps

Sugar is so bad. It’s bad for you, it’s addicting, it’s everywhere. It’s been linked to all sorts of bad things, including cancer and diabetes. It’s also been shown to negatively affect your gut flora and immune system. But finding a sugar substitute can be overwhelming. I gave up on doing exhaustive research and am just putting out there what I have gathered so far…

And when I say sugar here, I am referring to white sugar, not sugar as it relates to the sugar content in food.

First of all I think it’s important to say please don’t consume artificial sweeteners like Sweet ‘n Low, Splenda, Equal, etc. Don’t drink drinks sweetened with them, like juices that claim to be healthier because they replace some of the natural sugar found in juice with chemical sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are chemical nastiness, and to top it off they might even cause weight gain. I am not a soda drinker, but if I were to have a soda I would pick a regular over a diet for sure.

  • So what are some good sugar alternatives? The picture above shows the sugar swaps I use the most: maple syrup, honey, and stevia. They are the most natural, the least processed; they even have some health benefits. Be careful with Stevia- it’s hard to find stevia that’s just stevia. Sweet Leaf is the best I’ve found and it has “natural flavors” on the ingredient list, something I usually try to avoid. If you look at Truvia, for example, I think the first ingredient is dextrose- not Stevia. I’d like to try baking with powdered stevia, but I haven’t found one without additives.
  • Coconut sugar is great for baking. I usually have that around, too. (I did read somewhere along the line that coconut sugar is not sustainable which brings me some Earth guilt. So I don’t use it regularly, and keep meaning to do some follow-up on that. I’ll share when I know more.)
  • I use raw sugar or turbinado for baking, too. It’s from the same sugar cane that white sugar comes from, but is much less processed. The taste is very much the sugar taste you’re used to.
  • I also use organic sugar sometimes. It’s less coarse than raw sugar. It’s not healthy- it’s still cane sugar and it’s processed, but it’s better than white sugar. That’s what I use for my kombucha too, hence the Sharpie-written “kombucha” on the bag.

  • I really like Lakanto, which is made from erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and a monk fruit extract. It’s a bit expensive, though, and I know some people would discourage using erythritol. It is a one to one substitute, though, and the taste and texture are close to sugar. I’ve used it to make baked goods for my own use (like healthy muffins and granola that my kids wouldn’t eat). Another sweetener I’m intrigued by, but haven’t used, is just pure monk fruit, minus the erythritol. Sounds healthy, but it’s very expensive.

  • Xlyitol is another sugar alcohol used as a sweetener. It is derived from plant material, but probably highly processed. It’s questionable from a wholesomeness perspective, but from a fitness perspective probably a good option. Same for erythritol. These have less impact on blood sugar, but may have other side effects that cause concern.
  • Dates are a great natural sweetener, but it’s hard to work with them. I bought them to make some kind of bar once and it was a nightmare. If you are handier around the kitchen than me (or have a higher power food processor) these could be a great option! I recently saw a powdered date sugar; it’s just dried dates ground up to a powder. I might have to try that one day.

I avoid agave and have never even bought it. I know this is one you might hear a lot about. Early on in my clean eating journey I read something negative about it and haven’t read anything to convince me otherwise. Again, it probably comes down to the fact that it’s highly processed and in the end not much better than sugar.

If you’re not ready to get rid of the evil, processed, white stuff, at least go for organic sugar, preferably raw sugar. You’ll avoid some of the harsh chemicals that come along with the processing that happens with regular white sugar.

And all sweeteners should be used in moderation. Honey, for example, is wonderful and natural and wholesome, but eating too much of it can still negatively affect your body.

Again, I found looking at all the different alternatives confusing and overwhelming….I feel like this post might be too! This week I’ll share some links to sites that offer more comprehensive information on sugar swaps. Stop by my Facebook page to check them out!

Is there a sugar swap you use that I didn’t mention here? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Clean Eating Groups

I am loving the January feeling of this January. Sometimes I get a little case of the post-Christmas blues. My parents leave for Florida right after Christmas and it will be months before I see them again. The festiveness of the season is over. The rushing around and busy-ness is behind us (and it’s a relief, but also a little sad). We’ll see family and friends less again….

But not this year. This year I am all-in to this January thing. Goal setting, vision boards, resolutions, oh my!

 

I am energized, still plugging away at goal setting. (Is it this hard for everyone?!) I made a Google calendar and generally mapped out my time so I feel more purposeful and with direction during each day. I joined a vision board group on Facebook. I started a new personal development book. The Beachbody Health Bet started this past Monday and I started a new workout program- Core de Force. I’m finishing up Body Beast, a program I’ve been wanting to do for ages and have absolutely loved. So I am all geared up. Plus, now I am running a clean eating group with my team. It starts Monday!

What is a clean eating group? you might be wondering. In general, our clean eating groups are private groups on Facebook. We provide some information on clean eating, as well as a meal plan for the week, complete with recipes and a grocery list. During the week, participants are asked to post what they’re eating. And we are all committed to eating clean for the course of the group, usually 5 or 7 days. Basically, no white flour, no white sugar, no processed foods, no alcohol. Hey, it’s only 5 days! Hopefully you’ll continue with clean eating when the group is over, but knowing that it’s only 5 days can make it easier to take this step. After the 5 days, you can decide how “strict” you’re going to be. If you really commit to the group, it can help keep you accountable. You are more likely to stick to the guidelines if you’re feeling committed to the group. What will keep you committed? Motivation, support, inspiration. Maybe even a little guilt! I’d feel guilty eating something that wasn’t allowed. I can do that for 5 days. It can be motivating and inspiring to see what everyone else is eating, too.

What can happen in just 5-7 days? You’d be amazed. Depending on your regular diet before the group started, you might detox. By the end of the group you’ll have reduced your cravings, probably lost some weight, learned a few things about clean eating. It can help you with brand new goals, or help you commit to goals from which you’ve strayed. It might even change your life. Clean eating has changed mine! You would be amazed at what a difference it makes. Clearer skin, more energy, better moods, clearer thinking. And the effects can spill over to people in your life, too!

What makes a clean eating group great? The best clean eating groups are the ones with the most participation. When you really post what you eat, you have a better chance of success with your own goals. It’s like keeping a food journal (shown in studies to be effective in losing weight) that other people can see. People who are like-minded and there to support you and cheer you on. There’s a cycle to it; you post and inspire someone and they post and inspire someone. When the group gets on a roll, it’s easier to stick to your goals and succeed.  Some people might feel uncomfortable posting at first. Maybe they’re shy, maybe they feel silly posting what they’re eating, maybe they’re intimidated by other people in the group who post gorgeous, exotic, super-healthy meals on fancy plates. If you can get past the initial discomfort, you’ll start to feel the camaraderie. I’ve come out of some groups feeling like I’d made some new friends. And it’s uplifting to see someone else doing well!

Why join a clean eating group? If you’re looking to learn more about clean eating or get some new ideas, a clean eating group would be a great place for you. It’s also a good way to lose to a few pounds, get back on track after a bad spell of eating (like after the holidays!), or kick some bad habits. Some people join just to learn what clean eating is, some want new recipes and food ideas, some want to stop drinking soda (for example) and need some support.

Why am I especially excited for this clean eating group? Because it’s January! There’s a feeling of freshness and renewal and energy. I’m also excited for the timing with my fitness goals. I really want to commit more stringently to the eating plan that comes with Core de Force. I was not so stringent with Body Beast, and it makes a big difference in your results. When I am part of a clean eating group, I always make better food choices and I always learn something. I also lose a pound or two or three! I feel like I’m feeling so energized and other people are, too; this group is bound to be great.

If you’d like to give it a try, comment here! Or visit me over on Facebook and send me a message. It’s not too late to join!

Autumn’s Italian Meatballs

Meatballs are a favorite around here because everyone heats them. Sigh….

They even eat them leftover for lunch! Is there anything better than that?

I usually just wing it with my meatballs- following a general formula of 1 cup breadcrumbs and 1 egg per 1 pound of meat. I might swap out some of the breadcrumbs for some grated parmesan. And they’re good. But I love Autumn Calabrese’s recipes from her cookbook, Fixate, so I thought I’d give this recipe a try. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, because they would be immediately suspicious. After dinner last night Rose asked me if I did something different because they were “really, really good.” Luke said he liked them a lot, too! And Frances, who usually just takes the leftover whole wheat pasta for lunch, asked for a meatball with her pasta. So I guess this is our new meatball recipe!

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Autumn's Italian Meatballs
(from Fixate by Autumn Calabrese)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly coated with cooking spray
  3. Place bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl. Set aside; soak for 10 minutes
  4. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-low heat
  5. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until onion is translucent
  6. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute
  7. Combine onion mixture, turkey, eggs, parsley, cheese, oregano, salt, pepper, and bread crumb mixture in a large bowl; mix well with clean hands or wooden spoon. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour
  8. With clean wet hands, form turkey mixture into approximately 42 1-inch meatballs; arrange onto prepared baking sheet
  9. Bake for 13 to 18 minutes, or until browned and cooked through
Recipe Notes

I tweaked the recipe just a little bit. I used two pounds of ground turkey and one pound of grass fed ground beef. I also omitted the onion because my bubble of meatball happiness might have burst if just one of my children found an onion.

Serve topped with tomato sauce. Autumn has a great sauce recipe, too! I'll share that soon. In the meantime, try making your own or use jarred sauce. Just check the ingredients; watch out for added sugar. Look for a brand that has just tomatoes and spices. Rao's is a great one, but a bit pricey.

Enjoy 🙂

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