Thanksgiving week is here. We all know what that means - the fast track into the "most wonderful time of the year!" Unfortunately, the last couple months of the year can also be the most stressful. Here are five ways to beat the blahs and feel happy, healthy, and strong this season.
1. Find a friend
Everything is easier when you have a co-pilot on your side! Find a friend who is willing to keep you on track this season - when you do the same for her! Carve out time together to head to the gym, go on a walk, or meet for tea. Healthy relationships and knowing that someone is in your corner can have profound effects on your success. Find someone you can trust and who will keep you motivated! Most importantly, commit to FUN!
2. Focus on feelings
How do you want to feel? This novel concept can place healthy priorities at the forefront. Take a few moments to solidify your Core Desired Feelings (CDFs), and let those feelings fuel your decision-making throughout the season. Pick up a copy of Danielle LaPorte's The Desire Map, or better yet, ready yourself for an expansive and enlightening look at your goals and CDFs with my day-long Radical Passion Desire Map Playshop on December 31st. By bringing your desired feelings to the forefront, you can face huge the New Year with renewed focus.
3. Plan to succeed
You've heard the expression "Fail to plan, plan to fail!" I prefer a more positive approach. Your body wants and deserves love, in all its fresh/true/ripe/real goodness. Make a weekly meal plan and prep meals and snacks in advance (check out these amazing meal prep photos!). Stock your refrigerator and pantry with wholesome foods. Whip up some warm and nourishing meals that will compliment the season.
4. Mindfulness matters
Whatever actions you take this season, head into them with gratitude. This sentiment often pops up in November, when many people make a conscious effort to recognize the myriad reasons in their life to feel grateful. Bring this practice into your daily life. By keeping a gratitude journal, noting things or events around you that bring you joy, or whispering "thank you" upon arising in the morning, gratitude can surge. When we walk in gratitude, our focus shines outward to the world and we begin to step into the best versions of ourselves. For a dedicated step into the gratefulness journey, please join my free Facebook group dedicated to experiencing gratitude and Desire Mapping throughout the whole month of November.
5. Join the Holiday Survival Camp at BFF!
Back by popular demand, my Holiday Survival Camp is your opportunity to dive into the busy and stressful holiday season with tools to help you thrive! This 6-week program focuses on effective workouts, clean eating tips and tricks, online motivation and support, and challenges and assignments to keep you committed.
Space is limited, so be sure to book your spot today. Oh, and invite your friends! This course is often a new member's first experience of what we have to offer at Balance - fun, strength, camaraderie, and effective workouts.
You deserve the best!
This holiday season, commit to the best and highest version of yourself. Step away and unplug on a daily basis. Allow ample time for rest when your mind and body require it. Spend time with people who make you happy. Reach out to those who can be there for you. Dedicate a part of each day or week to random acts of kindness. Above all, let the joy of the season into you heart, and believe in your ability to thrive.
I love garbanzo beans. Chock full of healthy fiber and a great meat-free protein source, these little buddies are good for SO much more than the base for a nice, garlicky hummus. (Though I - and my kids - could eat hummus every day!)
I put garbanzo beans (chick peas) on green salads, into hearty vegan chili, and I toss them with mango chunks, diced cucumbers, and fresh herbs for a staple summer salad.
But as fun as these little power houses are for ME to eat, I wanted to find a surefire way to appeal to the masses. That is to say, the 4-year-old masses at my daughter's preschool.
I love the challenge of creating healthy, real snacks - that kids will actually eat! - out of wholesome foods. A favorite this time of year is making mini pumpkins out of peeled mandarin oranges and snap peas (and Terra makes some exotic veggie chips that look just like autumn leaves!)
My daughter's afternoon preschool classroom is totally tree-nut free -- a more and more commonplace practice in schools nationwide.
There is also a child who doesn't tolerate gluten and another who is dairy-free.
I'm fine with providing suitable snacks when it comes to our bimonthly turn for snack day, and I like the challenge of creating something for everybody.
Today was my daughter's snack day and it's a chilly, breezy typically October afternoon, with gusts of yellow leaves swirling through the overcast sky. The perfect weather, in other words, for something hearty, wholesome -- and warm from the oven.
Something for EVERYONE.
Enter: Everything-Friendly Garbanzo Bean Blondies!
These easy-peasy, one-bowl/one-pan blondies are
These yummy buddies came out just right - chewy and hearty, and sweetened lightly.
Ingredients (Organic if possible!)
1 can Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C. Sunflower Seed Butter
1/3 Pure Maple Syrup, Grade B
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Baking Powder
- Preheat oven to 350˚ F
- Lightly grease an 8x8 pan with coconut oil
- Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until mixed. (I left a few chunks of chick peas in the mix - to up the heartiness factor)
- Spread the mix into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until sides start to pull away from the pan and the center is springy.
- Let cool, cut into bars or squares, and ENJOY!
Since I wanted to give the children enough to eat, and stick with a late-October theme, I threw in some organic cling peaches. Dressed up as jack-o-lanterns, natch.
I thought the blondies turned out great. But we always have to check with the most important critic. Her verdict?
Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!!
My husband, John, would often say hello to our son when he opened the freezer in the garage. Reaching in for a bag of ice or frozen raspberries he'd call out "Hey, Kanoa!" before shutting the door.
It was one of his ways of coping.
I would roll my eyes and maybe giggle - that was mine.
I had giggled, disorienting Demerol coursing through my veins, on the day of my D & C, when John asked the OB if he had a "baggie or something" in which we could carry home the miscarried embryo, which we "knew" was a boy, which we named Kanoa. His question sounded absurd in the setting. But the kind nurse obliged, and Kanoa (Hawaiian for "free man") came home in a specimen cup, in a brown paper bag, and went into the freezer.
A week earlier, the midwife hadn't been able to find the heartbeat of this planned second child. An ultrasound confirmed that the baby had died inside of me at about 10 weeks along. My body just hadn't figured it out yet. It was a difficult time. Kanoa had earned his wings.
But we came through it, and decided that we would commemorate Kanoa by planting him with a tree in the backyard. The ideas started flowing.
"We'll plant it on the little hill above the swingset."
"A big, shady tree."
"With a bench underneath."
"We'll have picnics in the shade. "
That was five years ago. Kanoa's been holed up in the freezer ever since, and his little sister, who decided to ride in on his coat tails (I'm convinced her extra chromosome was somehow left for her courtesy of Kanoa), is now four years old.
And then, a few weeks ago, my friend Ron announced on Facebook that he had some catalpa saplings available if any friends were interested. "They're easy to grow!" he claimed. I jumped at the offer -- finally, a tree for Kanoa.
Ron delivered the tree on a Wednesday and I researched how to replant. Trees are very sensitive beings, and I didn't want to mess this up. Not with all the significance at stake.
It was the weekend before I was able to put the sapling into an enormous hole that my oldest daughter and her cousins had dug on the little hill above the swingset. It was already a little droopy, but I built the mound for water runoff at the bottom of the hole, surrounded it with rich compost from the garden, and, finally, retrieved Kanoa from his hiding place in the freezer.
John and I gently folded Kanoa into the earth around the tree and each said a little silent blessing. We were finally doing it. We tied a wooden stake to the stalk of the sapling to help it stand tall.
But then, the inevitable happened.
I've often said I have a "black thumb" - no natural gardening ability or special way with plants and flowers here. I've managed to kill just about every piece of green I've been in charge of...
And Kanoa's catalpa was no exception.
Within days the bright green leaves had withered and shrunk. The tiny trunk turned brittle. The tree was not thriving. I was devastated.
Mostly, I felt sorry that our dream of commemorating our lost child wouldn't come to fruition. That Kanoa's long and dark stay in our garage freezer was all in vain.
What does it mean? Why is the tree dead? What is my lesson here?
My lesson: Things are not always meant to be, and that's okay. Our best intentions, our most well-thought-out plans, our highest hopes for the right thing to happen... Well, at the very least we held those intentions, we thought out those plans, we hoped for the best. Ride that tide. Believe in your good. It will hang around. There's a lot of it everywhere.
Then John was calling from the backyard through the open window to the room where I was folding piles of pink leggings and mismatched socks.
"Come out here! When you can," he said. I took my time. Because laundry.
And when I finally came out, I saw.
The leaves were tiny, and the bright green of spring. They were spurting from the base of the lifeless catalpa like heart-shaped butterflies having a huddle. Dozens of them.
Neither John nor I knew why we had left the reedy dry brown tree in the hole. We just did. Perhaps our hearts just knew. Perhaps we were waiting to see what else might grow. Perhaps we couldn't bear the thought of turning up that soil.
Last week, we had to have an old and heavy apple tree removed from the yard. While he was there, John asked the arborist to come take a look at our surprisingly sprouting catalpa. What had made it start to grow again?
The arborist looked squarely at my husband and said, "I think you know."
My lesson: Continue to believe that good things are happening. Everywhere, all the time. That what we hope and think and intend can indeed unfurl into the light of a bright day.
Catalpa trees grow large and green. They have white blossoms in the spring, and long funny bean pods in the summer. Soon, we will have a picnic under the Kanoa Tree in our backyard, our very own tree that signifies strength and freedom. Feel free to come on over and say hey.
"The Law of Attraction always yields to you the essence of the balance of your thoughts. No exceptions. You get what you think about - whether you want it or not. " - Abraham-Hicks
Last week, Candace Smith received a call. Out of over 71,000 lottery applicants for the 2014 Chicago Marathon, her name had been selected. She will be headed to Chicago in October to compete in the marathon, and to complete a vision she affirmed more than a year ago.
Candace, alongside her fellow class participants at Balance, made a vision board last year. In the top left corner of her vision board is a flier for the Chicago Marathon. Since it has been a goal of hers to be a part of this race since she started her running journey two years ago, she felt it was an important thing to include in her personal vision board. She has had that board in a place where she can see it every day.
At Balance, we believe in the power of manifesting the positive into our lives! Several class participants can attest to the amazing changes they have experienced since learning to attract the things we want, and sharing our goals among friends.
This Friday night, I invite you to join me and our wonderfully upbeat Pilates instructor, Jeana, for our 2nd "Pinot & Pilates" event at the studio.
We will begin the evening with a strengthening, yet relaxing Pilates class focusing on coordinating breath and movement.
We will follow up with a glass (or two!) of wine and an informal discussion and fun activity: Vision Boards!
It's April - and Spring is in the air. We will touch on ways in which we can blossom and grow in our own personal, spiritual, and wellness realms. Please join us!
Please bring any items that you would like to include in your personal vision board, such as quotes, pictures, sayings or goals. We will also have materials on hand if you're not sure where to start!
Cost: FREE for current members and class pass holders! $12 if you do not have a membership!
Please RSVP here so we know how much wine to provide!
What will YOUR vision board include?
by Jeana Johnson
As I was stopped at a red light last week, I began to feel my fists clench, my body tense, my heart rate elevate, my frustration slowly grow… “why did I have to get stopped at this light!?” In that 10 seconds, my mood shifted from optimism for the day ahead, to one of irritation and frustration. I was late to work, and this stop light is in my way!
This was not the first day I left late to work (and I’m sure it won’t be the last). It was not the first day I felt frustrated by the fact I had to stop at a stop light. It was not the first day that I let my mood be affected by one little inconvenience. It was however, the first day I recognized what was happening to my mind and my body. A little switch went off, and my thoughts shifted from “oh my gosh! Turn green already, I’m late!” to “calm down, driving to work takes time, and you’ll get there when you get there.”
I had no idea my patience for life and time had become so slim.
I looked back on the last few months and years and revisited so many of the moments I felt frustrated, agitated or downright angry because things were taking too long (you can only imagine my definition of too long…if I was feeling this way over 30 sec stoplight).
In this moment, I began to think about other areas where I was struggling my new job (things should be moving faster, I should be having an instant impact), my move to Boise (everything should be in place; the perfect job, a great new apartment, a grand social life), my friendships (I should have lots of new friends, and my old friendships should be just as they were when I left 10 years ago), …and BAM! It hit me (no not another car…an epiphany).
Not only does driving to work take time, life takes time!
Trusting the Process
Deep down we all know this, but sometimes we get out of the habit of practicing patience and acceptance. Patience for the process, and acceptance of where we are and who we are in the moment we are in. If we are lucky, we will spend most of our moments in the time in between… the travel time to and from… the process.
At this stoplight I set a new intention – to enjoy and trust the process.
This space is often uncomfortable.
This space can make us feel lost and insecure.
But, it is this space that allows us to become lifetime learners.
This is the space where we grow.
This is the space where we become all that we are meant to be.
Not more than 10 minutes later, I arrived a work relieved. I felt light. I felt trust in time. I felt trust in the process. And I let go of focusing so much on the outcomes…I practice everyday and some days are better than others. But I am in the space of growth, which gives me gratitude.
Often times we get exactly what we need, mine was in the form of 30 second stop light.
Let’s learn from each other!
What was your “BAM! (epiphany)” moment?
Each week, I will bring you a Balance Challenge to try at home! Change and challenge are exciting ways to bring holistic health into your daily life!
Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope you remembered to wear something green today -- at the risk of getting pinched if you didn't!
Did the leprechauns visit your house last night? My daughter woke up early to a "terrible mess" in our house! We caught those little rascals, though, in my girls' homemade leprechaun traps. Did you know that leprechauns dislike getting caught so much that they turn into chocolate if you catch them? Our preschool teacher taught us this years ago, and ever since we've woken up to milk chocolate leprechauns trapped on the kitchen table.
Naturally, my girls wanted to eat their leprechauns for breakfast, but know they'll have to wait - at least until after school.
This day is often associated, food-wise, with green beer, corned beef and cabbage, and yes, chocolate.
But I think it's also a great time to dive into a Balance Challenge! Let's go green!
Can you eat a green vegetable with every meal this week? Yes - even breakfast! Get creative on ways you can incorporate some green power house energy and vitamins into your day!
This morning I threw a handful of chopped kale into my protein smoothie. It was my daughter's turn to bring snacks to her preschool class, so we made Kale Parmesan Balls. I'm sure they're going to be a hit. Kids love kale, right?!
(Actually, they're super delicious - and very kid-friendly!)
To make, combine:
2 - 10 oz packages chopped & frozen organic kale, thawed and drained
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups Gluten Free (or whole wheat) bread crumbs
1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tsp garlic powder, or more to taste
Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, let cool, and enjoy! These can also be frozen before you bake them! Bring them out of the freezer for unexpected guests or play dates, and enjoy a bit o' the green!
Give this week's Challenge a try! Comment below with your favorite ways to include green veggies into your day!
Wishing you a lucky day and a happy week!
by Jennifer Fitch, ACE Group Fitness Instructor
I must say that I’m not a huge resolution kind of person, but with the arrival of each new year, and two days later yet another birthday, I always find myself looking for ways to
improve. Probably the majority of New Year’s resolutions have something to do with health and fitness and I am no different.
For the past year or two I’ve been doing my best
to live by the 80/20 lifestyle; healthy, clean eating 80% of the time and relax and enjoy life and all of its indulgent pleasures the other 20%. As much as I love clean, healthy food, I really do look forward to indulging in that other 20%!
After spending a bit of time reflecting on how I can improve my life in 2014 and now that I’m a 35-year-old mother of two, I decided that my most frequent slip-ups were due to lack of planning and preparation. So with my love of Pinterest, I embarked on a journey to make eating clean and healthy a little easier for my family and me.
My first newfound love is the green smoothie. Yes, I’ve had them before and always thought they tasted pretty good and I loved the way they made me feel, but I was always too lazy to get out all the ingredients to make them only to have to put them all away again. I only like to “cook” at dinner time, the rest of the day needs to be easy! So I found this great idea on Pinterest to make smoothie freezer packets. Now I just grab a smoothie packet out of the freezer each morning and dump it in my new and improved blender (thanks Santa), add whatever liquid I choose and blend it up! Much cheaper and fresher than the protein bars I was eating each morning, and my boys will even drink them!
A new ingredient I’ve added to my smoothies is chia seeds. I’ve done a little research on these amazing little seeds and they are so good for you and have absolutely no taste so you don’t even know they’re in there. The best benefit of chia seeds by far is that because of the chia gel they form when they come in contact with liquid you feel full for hours! My cravings for snacks have pretty much disappeared because my belly is just too full of chia gel!
Here are a couple of links that I found helpful when starting this new habit:
My next stroke of genius is having perfect hard boiled eggs peeled and ready to eat in the fridge at all times. I love hard-boiled eggs, plain or mixed with Greek yogurt to make a healthy egg salad, but I’ve always hated peeling them. When I’m chasing two boys around in the morning trying to get them ready the last thing I want to do is sit at the sink running cold water over an egg to try to get that darn peel off so I can have my breakfast!
Here’s the secret . . . add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the
water while you boil the eggs. It changes the pH and the peels come off so easily. At the beginning of each week I boil 18 eggs and peel them immediately. I store them in a glass container with an airtight lid in the fridge and grab them whenever I need them during the week, often times with my green smoothie on my way out the door in the morning.
My next tip that has been helpful for me isn’t exactly anything fancy, but I’ve just been actually taking the time to do it. Having veggies washed and prepped ready to grab and eat with hummus sitting front and center in my fridge has been a life saver! Between the four of us it seems like someone is always standing at the fridge with the door wide open looking for something to munch on. Usually whatever is in plain sight and easiest to grab is the snack of choice. If veggies and hummus are sitting there looking colorful and gorgeous then that’s what’s going to get eaten.
Raw nuts are my next favorite handy snack. I’ve always had raw almonds on hand, but after reading a few articles about the health benefits of other nuts I decided to broaden my horizons. I now keep a gallon size zip lock back of a variety of unsalted raw nuts in our pantry and usually a smaller bag in my purse for easy snacking. Our family likes almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, and pistachios.
Usually whatever is in plain sight and easiest to grab is the snack of choice. If veggies and hummus are sitting there looking colorful and
And last but not least, air-popped popcorn with coconut oil is another fantastic staple to keep in the pantry. Now I’m not going to lie and say that it tastes just as good the buttery
salty kind that I make for movie night, but to have on a regular basis it is pretty good. I do add a little salt and the coconut oil almost tastes a little sweet like kettle corn. I also
keep this in a gallon size zip lock in our pantry to snack on during the week.
In the past I’ve always said I was going to do healthy food prep at the beginning of each week. I’ve even gone to the store and stocked up on all the clean and healthy essentials,
but after grocery shopping with the boys I was always too exhausted to really do it. The healthy food would sit in the fridge untouched all week and eventually get thrown out
because it had gone bad. Well, I guess the difference is, like anything else, I’m making healthy food prep a priority.
When I get home from the store I don’t let myself put it away until it is washed/chopped/prepped and ready to eat. Because of this simple change I’ve managed to lose about 5 pounds since the beginning of the year and I feel great! No more tired, bloated feeling at the end of the day. Now that I’ve seen and felt the difference really eating clean makes (instead of just saying I’m going to eat clean) I’m motivated to keep it going.
I know we all have busy, complex, fulfilling lives and I just hope this helps you fuel your body and your family to continue to make great memories in 2014.
Wife, mom of two boys, part-time group fitness instructor, and 80% clean eater ;)
Do YOU have any healthy, go-to, whole food recipes you'd like to share and possibly see published? Submit them to our new COOKBOOK! Entries are due by February 20th. Email your recipes and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
I have the best gift of all this holiday season: a 6-year-old. I love SIX. Six is wonder, and awe, and absolute BELIEF IN MAGIC. And wanting to talk about it all.
Six is the unequivocal knowledge that the Elf on the Shelf really does move every night, that Santa is 100% real, and that magic is everywhere. If I could grant someone a special Christmastime experience, I would give them a six-year-old to spend it with.
This is my first-grader's advent calendar this year:
I filled each little burlap pocket with a different activity to do each day. So far we've read a Christmas story, roasted marshmallows in our pajamas, and made hot chocolate ('tis the season for extra sugar.)
Today's activity was "make a craft" and we decided to follow through with making bath bombs. I've seen a few "kid-friendly" recipes online and I ended up combining a few of the ideas I saw with the ingredients that I could easily obtain. (Citric acid? Not at the corner store.)
To our delight, the bath bombs actually turned out! Fragrant, only slightly crumbly, and satisfyingly "fizzedy" when we gave one a test-run for an afternoon bath.
Here's how we did it.
First, we mixed together 2 cups of baking soda, 1 cup of cream of tartar, and our herbs in a big bowl. I didn't have quick access to dried lavender, so our "herbs" were actually 4 cut-open bags of Bedtime Yogi tea. (Whatever works.) Then, we cut in about 4 tablespoons of coconut oil. (I'm guesstimating; we cut in enough - with a pastry cutter - to give the mixture a crumbly consistency.)
Then we dashed in a few drops of essential oil. We made two batches - one eucalyptus and one lavender. My daughter's eyes got a bit watery from the eucalyptus explosion (from about 30 "shakes").
Next, we used a spray bottle to gradually add water. Since we wanted the bath bombs to have a little color (green for eucalyptus, purple for lavender), we added several squirts of food coloring to the water bottle. It was my daughter's job to spray it into the mixture about 4 squirts at a time, and I'd mix after each turn.
Eventually, we got it to the consistency that I'd call crumbly-dough; if I squeezed a handful of the stuff, it would keep the shape of my fingers.
Then, we pressed in really hard into silicon molds. Eucalyptus bombs got the snowmen. We let it sit all day long.
Voila! Six hours later, super cute and easy gifts for just about everybody. We are going to package them in little treat bags. My daughter is going to make the labels.
I did get a chance to try one this evening with a nice warm bath of my own. It certainly is satisfying to watch the fizzedy bubbles come up to the surface and to smell the relaxing herbal scents. The one downfall is that there is A LOT of herb residue left in the tub afterward! These could easily be made without the tea bag contents. Overall: a really fun, smelly, texturally stimulating activity that I'm thinking will become a yearly tradition. She won't be six forever but hopefully we can still maintain the sense of magic that comes from working together in a warm kitchen on a cold day.
Emily Nielsen, CPT, is the owner of Fit for Motherhood, LLC, mother of 2 little girls, and an optimist by nature.
All posts © Emily Nielsen