Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Fitness Story (Part 2)

 If you haven't caught up on the beginning of my story, you can do so over here.

Because this is the part of the story where real change happens.  And it was scary for me. I had tried to do other fitness programs and workout DVDs.  I always lasted a few days before I gave up.  I told myself it was too hard, it wasn't working, that I wasn't a "fitness" person.

So, admittedly, starting a new program that included a regimented eating plan made me nervous.  But deep down I knew it was time for a change and that I had to DO something.  I was tired of being tired, sick of not feeling good in my own body.  I decided that I could be "one of those people" who is fit.

Here's the thing.  I always thought that those "fit" people were crazy.  I thought they worked out for hours and had waaaay more will power than I ever would.  I held them up to a standard that I never thought I could achieve.

Enter the 21 Day Fix program.  21 Days.  7 different workouts repeated over 3 weeks (only 30 minutes each!  I could do this!).  A foolproof individualized eating plan.  Oh, and online support, motivation and accountability through my free coach.  (<---that turned out to be the part I was missing in my prior fitness attempts).

I was ready to go, food prepped, ready to press play.  But I was nervous.  I was already thin, and people were already asking my why I was doing this.  I "didn't need to lose weight".  Why was I "restricting my diet?".  Part of me thought that they were right.  That I didn't need to do this.  I was good enough.  I could have stopped there.  But for some reason this time, a little voice reminded me that I knew what it was like to quit, and I wanted to know what it felt like to NOT.  It was only 21 days after all.  If it didn't work or if I didn't like it, after 3 weeks I never had to do it again.

It only took 7 days for me to know that I would do it again. Were the workouts easy?  Nope.  But I learned that I didn't have to do it perfectly to do it.  I did what I could and I made it through the 30 minutes.  Every Day.  I felt great, full of energy and strong. Actually, the workouts were the easy part.  The eating part was the more challenging part.  But I also learned that it is the most important part.  You can workout all you want and undo all your work in the kitchen (or the grocery store!).  The program forever changed the way I look at what I eat and how much of it I eat.  I got stronger and yes, I lost weight and inches too.  The program did everything it was supposed to...and so much more.

Because the biggest changes from doing this program were not tangible.  The biggest changes were on the inside.  What I didn't know was how working out and eating well would permeate into other parts of my life.  I didn't just get fit and strong (after many months of 21 Day Fix and other Beachbody programs), I gained confidence in myself and my body.  I gained a sense of accomplishment and pride in what I could do mentally and physically.  My family is more healthy than it ever has been.  The kids talk about nutrition and healthy choices.  They "workout" with us.

My husband and I never used to spend time together in the morning. Now we cherish that early morning time together AND we are doing something good for ourselves by working out.  It gives us something to bond over and we are both happier for it!  In fact, as we reflected on the past year we both independently decided that the single best thing that happened last year was me making the choice to get fit.  Because it impacted our lives in SO many other ways.

So there is my story. It hasn't really ended though, because exercising and eating well has become a part of my lifestyle so we just keep on going...and there are always challenges and struggles with making it all work.  But I took the first step, and that's what it is.  One foot in front of the other, baby steps every day.
Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned as I try to figure out how to make the 21 Day Fix eating plan work with our CSA sharing, local food eating, homemade pantry making life.

Health and Happiness,


Thursday, January 7, 2016

My Fitness Story

(Part 1)

I think know I've been hesitating publishing this post because it is the most personal that I have gotten so far.  Today I reminded myself that the last 9 months have included lots of me pushing my boundaries physically and emotionally because that is where the growth is, right?  And so I know that once I get this out there it won't be nearly as scary as it seems right now and that I will feel better with it out of my brain and hopefully relating to (or entertaining!) someone else.

I'm one of those "lucky" people who was blessed with good genes.  I've always been thin and been able to eat pizza and cake without too much worry.  But I have learned that being thin isn't the same as being healthy or fit.

Thus begins my journey...

In my younger college days I was thin and trim and I ate pretty much whatever I wanted from the cafeteria.  It was a diet of waffles, sugary cereal and pizza.  Oh, don't forget the ice cream every night!  For years my weight fluctuated and though I was thin, I wasn't incredibly happy with my body.  My clothes didn't fit right, and I was pretty insecure with my body image.

I met my hubby and got happy and fat.  I had gained about 10-15 pounds from what I will call "newlywed bliss".  Food has often been related to emotions with me and it is still something I struggle with.    I gained the typical 30 pounds with my first child, Stella, and after she was born I didn't lose it all that quickly.  Dealing with new mommy hood and going back to work didn't allow me the time to get back in shape and I was still hanging on to that 20 pounds when I got pregnant with #2 a year later.  I gained another 30 pounds with Tucker and after he was born I lost all the "Tucker weight" but I held strong to the "Stella weight".

Two kids under two took its toll and I was tired, eating terribly, not exercising and not feeling very appealing to my hubby (even though I probably still was, but that's a post for another day!)

And here is where I think a lot of us will find common ground: I found myself using the fact that I was working full time and I had mommy responsibilities as an excuse for not taking care of myself.
I "had" to care for everyone else and how was I supposed to carve out time for me? This thinking carried on for about 4 years as I dabbled in workouts and attempting the gym. Eventually I started going to a gym and working out at home but I wasn't seeing any results and I wasn't really motivated to keep on keepin' on.

In 2013 I transitioned into being a stay at home mom.  My plans to get back into shape still didn't come to fruition as I didn't have as much time in the day as I thought I would when I was no longer going to work. Imagine that!  Being home with the kids was just as exhausting and also meant that I was home all day to rummage through the fridge whenever I felt a grumbly tummy (or stress!).

Then January 2014 rolled around. My baby turned 4 and was a bit more independent. More importantly,  I was tired of feeling like crap.  I decided that the hubby and I would do a New Year's cleanse to jump start our eating.  We wrote our weights on the chalk board and hesitantly planned out a 7 day cleanse.  I was 147 pounds, I still have the image of that number written in pink chalk on the board burned into my brain.  I think somehow I knew that I was not planning on staying at that number anymore and that this was the start of a new season of my life.

The cleanse was terrible.  We lasted 4.5 days.  We were grumpy and irritable, but we did it together and I lost about 7 pounds.  What we DID realize was that our current eating habits were making us feel pretty cruddy.  We gained some weight back, but did another (better!) cleanse a few months later.  I lost a few more pounds and felt good enough to start running.  I hate running. But it got my body moving and I didn't know what else to do.  So I ran, like a rhinoceros through peanut butter, I ran.  And I felt good.  All summer long...and then my hips hurt and winter came.  After losing and keeping 10 pounds off I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then my hubby came home from work one day and told me about a co-worker who was doing some new workouts and home and felt amazing, and looked great.  He suggested I "friend" his co-worker on Facebook, because she was talking a lot about her workouts there.  So I did.  After seeing a post of her looking super fit after losing 80 pounds (after 2 kids!), I knew I had to do what she was doing...

Part 2 is coming soon...

But until then, does any of this sound familiar to you?  Have you made a change?  So much of my fitness story is about the way my body feels.  Do you feel good?  Or not your best?

Health and Happiness,


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What I learned about making changes in 2015

Ah, the New Year.  It's always so clean and clear and full of promise.  Everywhere, it seems, folks are making resolutions, setting goals and declaring promises to themselves.  I'm all for new beginnings. And the New Year seems like a great place to start.  The key, however, is making your new goals and life changes ACHIEVABLE.  Making them HAPPEN.

Now I'm no pro, but I did learn a few things about making changes in 2015.
Most importantly, if you want to make a change you need to be honest with yourself.  Is it really something you are inspired to change or something you THINK you should change?  In other words, you need to really want it.  No change is easy and reaching goals requires sacrifice and discipline (some more than others).  Anyone can buy those workout DVDs or go to the grocery store and get a cartload of healthy food.  It takes discipline and daily choices to actually do the workouts and actually eat the healthy food.  Which takes me to my next point...

Write it down and break it down.  Write down your goal.  Post it on the fridge, your wall, your bedside table, your bathroom mirror.  Commit to it.  Then break your goal down into smaller achievable bits.  If your goal is to eat more healthy, then maybe you start with healthy breakfast and snack choices for a few weeks and then work on healthier dinners.  If meal prepping is overwhelming, start with just prepping snacks.  Then once that becomes comfortable, move on to lunches or breakfast.

Take action towards your goal DAILY.  This doesn't mean you are "doing" your goal every day or that you are "reaching" your goal every day.  Just do something that gets you closer to your goal daily.  Taking these baby steps is where the magic happens.  If being fit is your goal, make the choice each day to move your body. Thinking about getting in a long workout every day can be overwhelming.  Don't think about tomorrow or the next day.  Make the choice to move your body TODAY.  Wake up tomorrow and make the same choice.  If eating well is your goal, make a better food choice each day.  Beginning each day by thinking "I'm going to eat perfectly all day" can be intimidating.  Starting by saying "I will eat more nutritious snacks today" is a bit more manageable. And then make the choice to eat some carrot sticks instead of the cookies or chips.

Work on it.  It's not going to be perfect.  No one makes the best, most perfect choices all the time.  It takes work.  Be realistic with yourself.  And if you find you're not making those daily choices towards your goal, don't give up entirely.  Wake up tomorrow and make taking a step towards that goal your JOB.  Because in the end it will be worth it.

Health and Happiness,


Thursday, December 3, 2015

DIY Advent Calendar

Tired of buying advent calendars with tiny chocolates in them every year?  Me too.  Not quite ambitious or crafty enough to create one of those elaborate 24 envelope or 24 boxes advent calendars that are all over Pinterest?  Me either.  Here's my in-between.

Grab a piece of sturdy cardboard (ours is 15"x21") and 12 toilet paper tubes.  Yeah, we're all about reusing around here so we had all this on hand.  If you don't have any saved up yet, that's okay.  Just tell the kids that you're saving toilet paper tubes and they will never throw one out (or let you throw one out) again!  They might even change the toilet paper when it is out just to get another tube!

Oh and glue, tissue paper, a marker, tiny elastic bands, spray paint and acrylic paint in whatever colors you fancy (we went with a white and green theme).  Start by cutting the toilet paper tubes in half with some scissors.  They might flatten a bit, but that's okay.  Then use your glue to coat the cut edge of the tube and place them in a tree pattern (or whatever you like!) as shown below.


Grab a cup of coffee or fold some laundry.  That glue has got to dry.

When it is dry, spray paint the whole thing.  I didn't coat ours incredibly well because I like the way it kind of looks like snow.  Now wait again.  Pick up where you left off with that book or unload the dishwasher.  See all the things you can get done while crafting?!

Time to grab that tissue paper and start cutting. You're going to need 24 circles, roughly 3 1/2 inches in diameter.  It just needs to cover the hole enough that you can secure it with an elastic.
Label each with numerals 1 through 24.  And you're done with the crafting part.

Now the fun part!  What to put inside each tube?  The beauty of this is that it can be different for everyone.  We chose to have one calendar for our two kids to share.  You might want to make one for each.  Because we share the calendar, on days when I put candy inside there are two pieces.  Which means they need to be small, so I generally use Hershey Kisses or Rolos.

Other days I put in folded papers with an activity that we might do together or that they should open a gift from under the tree. By now the kids know that there are some gift and activities that they get or do every year, so they start to look forward to them.  They always open a gift with new Christmas pajamas and another with a new Christmas book.  For activities, we always make gingerbread houses one day and watch a Christmas movie (in the afternoon!  What a treat!) with hot cocoa.

Some new activities for us this year will be baking cookies to deliver to the neighbors (shhh) and making old fashioned popcorn balls.  Cover each tube with a circle of tissue paper and secure with an elastic.  Let the kids pop away!

This has become a beloved tradition in our home and the kids so look forward to it.  Have you created new holiday traditions in your home? Do you carry on some traditions from when you were a child?

Health and Happiness,


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Games the Kids Play (and you should too!)

"Mom, will you play ____ with me?"  "Mama, let's play _____".  "Mama, how about we play _____".  No matter how they phrase it, the kids always want to play with you.

How many times do you say, "Sure, I'd love to!"...

Answer honestly.

In my life, I try so set apart about 20-30 minutes a day to actually play and be present with my kids.  Let's be clear that this is not nearly as much time as they would like, but I make an effort to put my phone down and stop the household chores and be with them.  It's not perfect, but in my opinion it shouldn't be.  Kids need to be bored and find ways to occupy themselves, but that is fodder for another post.

Today I want to tell you about two games that I always say YES to, and why.

My Stella loves to play "school" or "lessons".  Sometimes she is teaching her younger brother.  Sometimes she asks to teach me, and I always say yes because this is where the learning can happen for HER.  Maybe you've heard the quote:

"What I hear, I forget; What I see, I remember; What I do, I understand." (Chinese proverb)

It is so important for children to take what they have been taught and spin it around in their brains and retell it in a way that makes sense to them.  Having your kids "teach" you their lessons from school (or homeschool) is one way to help solidify the knowledge they have gained!  Sometimes she teaches me her weekly spelling words, other times she makes me math pages that demonstrate the skills she is learning at school.  Lately it has been retelling the non-fiction stories in which she has been so interested.

It is also a wonderful time to sit and just listen to your child.  I've found that as Stella grows into her own person this is one time that I can really observe the individual she is becoming.  Her mannerisms and language are so telling of the unique person she is and I really cherish having those moments to savor.  

She loves to be the "expert", which also gives her (and ALL children) a sense of control over her life.  And that alone is super empowering!  So I say whenever your kids want to teach you something, have a seat and learn.
Now my little guy is quite a different child from his sister and is much more physical.  He recently "made up" a game with dice that we have been playing for weeks.  I love it for it's simplicity and how easy it is to modify for different levels of learning.  We started with 3 dice.  The object of the game is to be the first person to get all of your dice to show the same number (it is very similar to the game Tenzi).  Are you ready for how much learning takes place with this simple game?  
Here you go:
*Simple rule following (knowing and following the rules of a game)
*Feeling management (how do you handle winning?  losing?) Take this opportunity to model for your child how to manage these feelings by saying out loud how you feel and what you are going to do about it.
*Subitizing (a fancy math way of saying "knowing number without counting")  A crucial early math skill.  Playing this game helps children become quickly familiar with the amount of dots (pips) on a die face.  Here's an article on why subitizing is important, if you're interested: 
*Learning how to tally.  So much math is happening as your children keep score.  How many matches does a person have to win for the game to be over?  Why does that number need to be odd (3 out of 5, or 5 out of 7)?  Set up a simple chart and have your child put a tally mark under the person's name when they win a match.  Teach them how to make groups of 5 tallies (four upright with one across).  When you play a lot of games you can use this as an opportunity to teach your child to count by 5s.  
And best of all, what do you do when your child has gotten the hang of using 3 dice?  That's easy, just add more dice.  They will have more numbers to match up and recognize and the games last a little longer!  
I hope you get to enjoy either or both of these games with your kiddos. (You can even keep some dice in your pocketbook for those waiting times!)
Health and Happiness,


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Kale and Sweet Potato Salad

It's Fall in New England and the eating is...not easy.  My body brain keeps telling me to cook and eat fattening comfort foods.  I'm desperately trying not to listen to it, because my body knows that it doesn't need it.

There are some great comfort foods that aren't all that bad for you (think turkey chili and kale soup), and some traditional recipes that can be "healthified".  And let's be honest, we don't need to avoid those comfort foods ALL the time.  Indulging now and again is healthy and normal.  What we don't need to be doing is eating mac and cheese and shepherds pie and potato soup every day.

So in the interest of eating healthy AND seasonally I've been making this Kale and Sweet Potato Salad.  It, not surprisingly, also goes very well with butternut squash instead of the potato (for fewer carbs).


Prep time: 30 minutes.  Prepared salad should sit for at least an hour before serving! I've been known to make it and keep it in my fridge for a few days, eating it often for lunches.

One bunch kale (usually lacinato, but whatever I get in the CSA)
2 medium sweet potatoes (or half of a butternut squash), Roasted
half a medium onion, chopped finely

1/4 cup cider vinegar
1tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
~1/4 cup olive oil
pinch salt and pepper

1.  Prep the potatoes/squash.  Peel and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.  Toss in bowl with some olive oil to coat and spread evenly on baking dish.  Roast at 400.  Start checking for doneness at 20 minutes.  Should be able to pierce with a fork.
2.  Trim the kale to remove the stems.  Wash and chop into bite size pieces.  Massage briefly between your hands to tenderize the leaves.
3.  Place kale, onion and potato in salad bowl.  Mix up dressing (I place ingredients into a mason jar in the order listed and give it a lot of great shakes.  The kids like to help with this part!).  Pour dressing over salad, give it a good toss and let it sit for about an hour.  The dressing will make the kale more tender the longer it sits and marinades.

Add ins:
Occasionally I add in some extras like sunflower seeds, craisins or chopped apples.  Or even cooked (and cooled) black rice or quinoa. Mix it up and have fun!

Health and Happiness,


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Eggplant Casserole

Ahh, the eggplant casserole.

This is my life:  I'm not a measuring type of cook, I tend to think of recipes as a guideline, not a rule. And this time it got me.

This is last year's eggplant casserole.
It was sooo yummy.  
The hubby even ate it.

I sliced the eggplant and put in a single layer on a baking dish.  Drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Roasted at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  Then I layered them (like a lasagna) with spinach, tomato sauce, ricotta mixed with oregano and basil, and then topped with globs of fresh mozzerella.  I baked it all in 350 degree oven about 20 minutes until cheese was melty and sauce bubbling.  Served over pasta, if I remember correctly.

Flash forward to this year and apparently I should have looked at my old pictures!  I went about it a different way this year and while the result was absolutely edible, it was a bit underwhelming.  So here's what I did (lest you make the same mistakes I did) and what I would do to improve it.  Oh, and and actual recipe is linked below...

And here is this year's eggplant casserole.  This time I chopped the eggplant into half-inch cubes and put into a bowl with chopped tomatoes.  I tossed eggplant and tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  In a separate bowl I mixed 15 oz. ricotta cheese with basil, parsley and oregano.  Then I layered tomato mixture, ricotta mixture, tomato sauce, tomato mixture, ricotta mixture, tomato sauce.  I topped it all off with some parmesan romano cheese blend (I ran out of mozzerella!  Maybe that is where this all went wrong...).  Popped into a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, until cheese melted and veggies softened.  Served over pasta again.    HERE'S what I would do differently next time:

1) I would roast the eggplant and tomato mixture for a bit before layering it.  Roasting just brings out the natural sweetness in these veggies and who doesn't love that!?

2) I would layer mozzerella cheese with the ricotta (either fresh or shredded would do)

3) I would add spinach like I had in the first casserole.  It definitely added something to the texture.

And here's the recipe that inspired it all.  I hope you get to make and enjoy your own eggplant casserole, whatever recipe you choose!

Eggplant is a challenging vegetable for me to cook with, it is hard to get beyond eggplant parmesan. I'd love to hear if you have any other favorite eggplant recipes.

Thanks for reading!

Health and Happiness,