Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Quest for Happiness

This post is inspired by my cousin Shelly who asked me if I had been following Shawn Achor, because a lot of my Facebook posts remind her of his advice on reprogramming your brain for happiness.  I had not heard of him prior to her asking. Since she asked, I thought I would share my thoughts on happiness with the interwebs.

Looking back on my childhood, I think I was a fairly happy child.  I was raised by a single mother.  At one point she married and later divorced.  From that marriage I got a brother.   I remember tough times, but I don't have feelings of negativity towards those tough times.  There is a span of one or two years (when I was about 14) that I thought were terrible, but otherwise life felt pretty good.  Part of why I felt happy as a child is because of the awesome support system my mom had.  I had good people take care of me while she was working.  After her divorce, I spent my evenings taking care of my brother while she worked two jobs.  Yes, it did stink, but I have a great relationship with my brother who is about ten years younger than me.

I think most of my life, I have generally been happy and kept a positive attitude.  I know there have been circumstances in the past few years that may have derailed me a bit, but I didn't let them keep me down.  Life is too short to be miserable and feel weighed down.  We all have stuff that can and (will if you let it) hold you back from happiness.  It is all in how you choose to handle the situation.  I realize that being unhappy got me nowhere fast.  It was a sinkhole of negativity.  When I came to grips with this, I started retraining my brain for positivity.  Things started to change.  Yes, it was only my outlook at first, but soon it was the things around me as well. 

I did have to consciously rid myself of the negativity and anything that was holding me back.  It was a slow but worthwhile process.  And with each step, I attracted more positivity around me.  Do I think my life is perfect now?  It is far from it, but I am choosing to be happy with what I have.  Happiness has gotten me farther in life than being unhappy.  It is when I am happy that I am able to drive successfully towards my goals.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Continuing to Inspire in New Ways :)!



Did you see this announcement?


For awhile, I have been mulling over my journey to take control of my lifestyle.  Weight Watchers worked really well for me.  The format of the "At-Work" meetings did not.  I didn't feel I had the opportunity to connect with the leader or to continue to develop the way I feel I need to as a member.  When I switched from the regular meetings to the at-work meetings I was at my goal weight.  My leader and I were talking about me becoming a leader, because I had inspired and motivated so many Weight Watcher members and non-members.

I wanted to find a way to continue to inspire those who were/are looking for the push into a healthier lifestyle.  I looked at becoming a life coach, but as a single mother that dream seemed a little out of reach at this time.  Then, I the friend who inspired me to live a better lifestyle presented me with the opportunity to become a Beachbody Independent Coach.  I think she understood my apprehension, because stood by me and encouraged me to take this leap of faith.  Thanks Maria!

The first program I am doing with Beachbody is Piyo.  I am on day 5, and it is wonderful.  As a single mom, I find it convenient to work out in my living room.  This program is great if you have neighbors under you, too as it is fairly low impact.  Last night, I did the Sweat work out, and was dripping sweat...BIG DROPS of sweat.  Also, the work outs range from 20-40 minutes.  With school-aged kiddos who are in activities, it is much easier to fit in a 20 minute work out at home than trying to get to the gym when the daycare is open to work out.  Also, no one is going to inhibit your kids from joining in.  My girls love doing yoga, so they were excited to see the Piyo program.

If you would like me to support you in anyway to reach your goals, let me know.  I would love to cheer you on, on an individual basis.  Or if you are interested in joining BeachBody as a coach, let me know, also.  I am looking for amazing people to join my team!


In fitness and health,
April


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Something New

Periodically through out my life, I was plagued with stomach issues.  Nothing too severe, but annoying enough to let me know that something is not right.  Last week, I had an upset stomach that lasted 3 days.  It wasn't something that made me bed ridden.  Rather, it was 3 days of me trying to eat food, and then get scolded by my stomach.  It made me realize that something is not agreeing with me, and I need to fix the situation.

A couple of co-workers have done elimination type diets.  One suffers from Celiac's disease and the other has food sensitivities as well.  The first friend just finished Whole30.  The other did something similar for longer.  They both felt better during and after their experience.  I have other friends who have done Whole30 as well with positive feedback.  I did my own research and asked my co-workers for advice and support before I committed to doing the Whole30 program.

What is Whole30?  Basically, it is a way of eating for 30 days.  You avoid processed foods, sugar, dairy :(, legumes, alcohol :(, and grains.  Yes, it seems really restrictive if you focus on what you can't have.  What you can have is fruits and veggies, lean protein, nuts, and healthy fats.  I just successfully completed day 2.  28 more to go!

Day One Recap
Breakfast: 3 egg Omelet with broccoli, onion, and tomato
Lunch: Spring mix salad with strawberries, blueberries, raw mixed nuts, homemade strawberry vinaigrette
Snacks: Strawberries, cucumbers, raw almonds
Dinner: 2 eggs scrambled with onion and an apple with almond butter (not a lot, because I am not a fan of almond butter).
Comments: I forgot my coffee at home.  Every coffee shop I walked passed made me crave a coffee.  I was strong and resisted the urge to duck in for a latte.  That is a HUGE win in my book.  I love me a latte.  Being that Whole 30 does not include dairy products (sorry to any farmer I may put out of business during the challenge) it is going to be challenging to skip milk in my coffee, cheese on my e

ggs, and cheese curds (fresh and deep fried). 
I was really tired at the end of the day, so I will chalk that up to the toxins leaving my body and being uber productive at work.  I had no energy to cook; hence the scrambled eggs for dinner.  I slept fairly soundly through the night.  I woke up tired.

Day 2
Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with onion
Lunch: Cubed/steamed sweet potato with ghee and cinnamon, salmon, and grapes
Snacks: Coconut Cream Larabar, grapes
Dinner: Chicken, pineapple, sauteed zucchini
Comments: My energy levels feel more consistent throughout the day than they usually do.  I didn’t have the 3 or 4 o’clock crash that I had been experiencing.
I had to go to Dairy Queen to pick up my oldest daughters Girl Scout cookie incentives.  I sat and watched all of the other moms and girls eat ice cream.  I was not even tempted to get my own treat.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Naturally...

Yesterday in the shower, I was reflecting on some changes I have made in my life.  I had one of those (OK several) of those, "How did I not know about this sooner!?" revelations.  The parent revelation led to me ranting on Facebook. 
1. Recently, I started using baking soda to wash my scalp and apple cider vinegar to condition my hair.  My uber fine hair is easier to style and feels softer.  Before, it just felt slippery.  My scalp is less itchy (product of this lovely winter we have been experiencing).  Thinking about how did I not discover the baking soda/apple cider vinegar thing sooner; I thought about all the other more natural things I have incorporated into my life in the past two years...

2. Exercise - natural anti-depressant/high.  Why don't more sources prescribe exercise when people are feeling down?  Today, I took my dog for a run (I am training for a 5K).  I don't particularly enjoy running (OK, I dislike it), but I do love the way I feel afterwards.  I feel lighter, energized, and happy, albeit worn out.

3. Laundry detergent - I originally started out with a recipe that was borax, washing soda, and Dawn dish soap that I found on Pinterest.  I was looking for a way to improve my family's budget and laundry detergent is expensive.  I know from taking18 credit hours of Textile Sciences in college and in my career, that Tide is one of the best detergents/most popular.  I know from having babies that Dreft is best for baby's skin.  I also know that Americans use entirely too much detergent in the wash.  Hmmmmm.....  My recent recipe for liquid laundry detergent is: 3 TBSP of Borax and 3 TBSP of Washing Soda, poured into a gallon container.  Add 4 cups of HOT water.  Put a cover on the container.  Shake the container until the powders are disolved.  Add 3 TBSPs of your favorite Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap (liquid) scent (mine is lavender).  Top off the container with water.  I use 1/2 - 1 cup per load.  I started using Borax and Washing Soda for cleaning products about 2 years ago.  Each box cost me a couple of bucks. I still have plenty to last me awhile...

4. Multipurpose cleaner - White distilled vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  I add a couple drops of essential oil to make it smell pretty (you guessed it, I use lavender essential oil).

5. Heavy duty cleaner - Baking soda and white vinegar...sit back and watch it bubble and fizz.  Wipe with a damp sponge.

6. Carpet cleaner - Vinegar, dish soap, and water.

7. Body scrubs (this is my favorite) - for those of you who do not eat sugar, this is a great way to use of any sugar supply you have...Equal parts brown and white sugar mixed well.  Add Vitamin E Oil, Coconut Oil, or Extra Virgin Olive Oil in any combination you want until the sugars look moist.  Add a few drops of your favorite scent (lavender) essential oil.  Slather on your wet hands and/or feet and rinse after a minute or so...The last commercial body scrub I bought was $15 for a small container.  I used it very sparingly and only when I wanted to treat myself...

8. Foot soak - I just found this one somewhere on the interwebs.  It is the best soak I have found.  I may have modified it a bit based on my experiences...1/8 cup of epsom salt, 1/4 baking soda, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and a couple drops of essential oil (guess what I used...lavender) and fill whatever you are soaking your feet in with warm water.  Soak for at least 10 minutes.  Use a foot file or pumice stone to scrub off all the dry skin. 

9. Spa water - Slice up some fruit, cucumbers, and or mint. Add them to your glass of water.  I am enjoying strawberries and lemon right now.

10. Facial cleanser - Crap, I can't remember the recipe.  I better find it, as I am almost out....1/4 Cup Chamomile Tea (brewed), 1/4 Cup Olive Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Essential Oil (your favorite scent), couple drops of Dr. Bronner's.  Keep it in an airtight container.  I keep mine in the shower.

Bonus: I had another "How did I not know this sooner!?" moment with organic not sweetened shredded coconut.  It tastes so much better than the non-organic sweetened one that is most easily found at the grocery store.  Added bonus, is that it is cheaper and I don't have to use as much :)

I am sure there are more that I use.  And you, are probably wondering is there any more natural product I have tried to make and use with out success....why yes, dishwasher detergent was an epic failure.  At first I liked it, but towards the end of the batch my dishes felt dry and dull.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Staples

Weight Watchers has had Simple Start to their arsenal of tools to help new and existing members take steps towards a healthier lifestyle. I reviewed the new plan, and thought that it is exactly what I need to reinvigorate my desire to be healthier than I was yesterday. The plan is very simple. You can either chose from a given recipe for your meal or snack or design your own by picking a food from each group of suggested foods (Protein, Carb, fruit, veggie, healthy fat/oil categories). Plus you get 7 points plus value points to use on what every you want (wine, cheese, chocolate for me ;))

Yesterday, I did my grocery shopping for the week. First, I reviewed the recommended shopping list on the back of the Simple Start booklet I received in my meeting. It got me to thinking about what staples are necessary to have on hand to make healthy cooking easy.


  1. Herbs and spices – These are essential for flavoring the food you are preparing. You can find these in the produce section or the spice section of wherever you buy food. Once, I found some in the frozen section of Costco (http://mydorot.com/). The frozen cubes of minced herbs are convenient for crockpot cooking, soups, or sauteing. I also love Gourmet Garden herbs and spices in a tube (http://na.gourmetgarden.com/us).
  2. Extracts – Another nice way to add flavor to foods. I added a teaspoon of peppermint extract to my brownie mix with out adding PPV. I saw that my local Super Target has about 5 or 6 different extracts to choose from (I remember seeing vanilla, maple, coffee, and some sort of mint).
  3. Produce – Stock up on what you love and keep it at eye level. Keeping fresh produce at eye level ensures you see it and will grab for it first. I also stock up on frozen produce for roasting. I also roast fresh produce when it starts to look no so fresh.
  4. Whole grain pastas, couscous, and quinoa – You can make a recipe on the fly with this staples. Combine with cooked veggies and a lean meat and voila you have a quick meal.
  5. Fat-free and reduced sodium broth or stock – I like to have on hand to add flavor to the foods I am cooking or to make a soup quickly. For soups I will put broth, chicken breasts, fresh/frozen and/or roasted veggies, and pasta, couscous, or quinoa into my crock pot with some herbs in the morning and will enjoy when I get home from work.
  6. Lean proteins – Fish, seafood, lean cuts of beef, chicken, turkey, and lean ground meat. The key here is to keep an eye on your portion size. A serving of meat is 2-3 oz. Many restaurants serve 8+ oz in a meal. I know that I lose more when my diet is higher in protien, but a 16 oz steak is way too much for me!
  7. Eggs – Hard boiled eggs can make an easy go-to breakfast or snack if you like them and are not allergic. Eggs are my favorite source of protein in the morning.


These are some of the things I have in my kitchen at all times. I do have things that are for the kids only. They are things I don't really care for, so it is easy for me to not eat them.  What are your staples?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tips and Tricks volume 1

People I have been meeting recently have a hard time believing that I used to weigh 205+ pounds.  I get asked all the time for my tips and tricks.  So, I decided that I will periodically share some of the things that have worked for me.  Feel free to share in the comments your tips for others as well.  My goal is that people come here to be inspired to lead a healthier life.  Disclaimer: this is what has worked for me.  Nothing is a quick fix - if it is, it is not going to last.

1. Find an anchor.  This is something that is going to remind you of your goals.  It could be a picture, an article of clothing, a trip, an affirmation or mantra,  a person, etc.  Mine has changed over my journey.  First, it was my children.  Then it was an affirmation of "nothing tastes as good as healthy feels".  As the compliments came pouring it, I regained my motivation.  Next, I used the tokens I received when I hit milestones through Weight Watchers.  My most recent anchors are my progression picture and my size 8 pants.
2. Classify foods as "all the time foods" and "sometimes foods".  I have a sweet tooth and and various times in my life I was treating myself more often than I should.  Sometimes multiple times in one day.  I found that swearing off cupcakes made me think of them more.  The more I thought of them, the more I wanted one or six.  Then, I couldn't control myself.  Now, if I want a cupcake I eat enough of a cupcake to satisfy the craving.

3. Move more than you did yesterday.  Find some physical activity you like.  Do it for 5 minutes today.  Build it up until you are getting at least 30 minutes in a day.  Feel free to switch it up daily too.  Boredom is one of the top reasons people don't stay active.

4. Enlist a buddy.  Tell your friend your goal, exercise with your friend, and/or have the friend keep you accountable.  I didn't have this for when I went balls to the wall with WW, but I have it this time.  It makes a lot of difference.  When I want a doughnut.  She tells me to have a doughnut, but not from downstairs...make sure it is really good and worth every point ;)

5. Reward yourself (and follow through with the rewards).   Just make sure they are not food rewards (you are not a dog).  Even my dog is satisfied with a pat on the head and, "you're a good girl".  Seriously, I created a reward plan for myself that keeps my budget in mind.  Work out 5 days out of 7 - give self mani and pedi.  Reach goal weight - 60 minute massage.  Pants too big - buy new pair throw out old (I LOVE buying pants that are a size smaller - it is a high for me).  Make the rewards exciting to you.

6. Listen to your mom: "Eat your veggies".  There are a lot of good nutrients in them that fuel your body. If you like them swimming in sauces and dressings, gradually cut back.  My favorite way to have veggies is roasted with seasonings like garlic, basil, and other herbs.

7. If you fail to plan you plan to fail.  I never planned out my meals per day and time.  I planned my meals for the week. When I make my grocery list it is: 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinner, 14 snacks, and ad hoc stuff for the kids.  I make sure there is a variety of grab-n-go for the nights that get choatic and things that need more time to cook for when I have the time.  If something comes up Tuesday, I am not freaking out that I was going to make chicken and rice and have no back up.  It is more like, oh well, we will have chicken and rice on Wednesday and fresh fruits, veggies, and sandwiches tonight. Also, schedule exercise like you would anything else. Write it in your calendar.

8. Be kind to yourself.  There will be times you feel like a failure.  DO NOT beat yourself up over it.  Stand up, brush yourself off, and move on.  What can you do better now?  What can you learn from the set back or obstacle?  Dinner party where you had too much wine (this is what I am most guilty of) -  get back on track in the morning.

9. Acknowledge that it isn't easy.  It is a challenge.  One I believe you can overtake.

10. Be brave.  Try new things.  Start crossing stuff off your bucket list.  Live your life!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Themes

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Since January 1, 2012 I have been taking steps to improve my life.  I started with losing weight and embarking on a journey that supports a healthy lifestyle.  I worked on eliminating the toxic relationships in my life.  I worked on becoming a happier person.  2013 was a journey of divorce.   My ex and I weren't on the same page with many things in life; not even following the same book.  We tried to get to the same place in life, but we just couldn't get there. 

A few days ago I was contemplating New Year's Resolutions and a friend shared this article with me:
Why A New Year's Theme Works Better Than A Resolution.

Click on it :)  I could really relate to it.  I was about to create a bunch of goals that I did not know if I could achieve in a year.  After reading the article I decided to adapt a few themes for 2104 to help me work towards being the person I want to be.

1. Minimalism.  I think we are a culture that demands tangible things and immediate rewards.  These are two reasons I am not a big on-line shopping.  I want instant gratification.  I digress...back on topic.  I live in a small apartment.  I have stuff that has been in boxes since 2002.  Have I looked at it in the past 12 years?  No.  Why do I still have it?  How much better would I feel walking into an apartment free of clutter?  What value does all this stuff give to me?  These are questions I have been asking myself for a couple of years actually. I already started this in my kitchen.  I just cleaned out my fridge.  Two trash bags and two trips to the recycling bin later...my fridge looks pretty empty, but it contains the amount of food I can consume in a week.
(there is a pic of my cleaned fridge I have been trying to upload here - blogger isn't cooperating)

2. Health.  This is a continuation of the past two years.  Why?  Because it is one of my values.  I like the way I feel now much more than I felt two years ago.  I love the way I look - although, I think that is a work-in-progress.  Who doesn't love a compliment?  Who can honestly say they look better at 33 than they did at 18?  This girl!
***Part of my health theme is working towards eating cleaner (sorry deep fried cheese curds...).  I am going to be following a this plan to get me to eating real food (which I am fairly good at, but there is plenty of room for improvement)
100 Days of Real Food Pledges
I woke up this morning and went grocery shopping I stocked up on semi-in-season fruits and veggies (it is the upper Midwest after all).
***Next is to get back on the physical fitness bandwagon.  I miss it.  Why did I stop?  The reasons are pointless excuses.  I found challenges that I can do to keep my head in the game and accountable, and that is what is important.  I am debating if I want to start running again, but in order to do that I need to commit to a 5K or something...
***Eliminate unnecessary stress is the last part of this theme.  What causes me the most unnecessary stress is worrying about money.  I will be following Dave Ramsey's principles to help me reach financial freedom.  From time to time you may here me reference this in the blog.  The second, I would say is my stuff, clutter, and mess.

I really believe that being minimalist will help me support and lead the ultimate healthiest lifestyle I can lead.  What are your goals/resolutions/themes?  I am interested in your responses...now off to work out :)  Happy Sweating Peeps!