The Power of Yoga: 6 Lessons that Led Me to Love

yoga

For years I’ve had a love – hate relationship with yoga.

It’s such a beautiful practice and I love the expression of it that I see from others. Yet, I hate the struggle it presents for me because of my limited flexibility.

I realize yoga is about so much more than stretching and flexibility. It is truly a spiritual practice.

This has been one of the most challenging years for me. Every area of my life has shifted and I’ve been forced completely outside of my comfort zone.

Recently, I finally decided to stop resisting the changes and began to embrace them.

That mindset has followed me to the mat.  I’ve been incorporating yoga into my lifestyle for the past few weeks.

I started out practicing once or twice a week because my body was so tense and I felt like I needed it.

Now, my yoga practice is aligning with my life. I’m experiencing a tremendous transformation in my life, and the same thing is happening on the mat.

I increased my practice to daily sessions and I’m amazed by my progress.

Obviously, my flexibility has improved. But here are some of the lessons I’m learning on the mat and in life.

  1. Be present and enjoy the moment. When I take the time to be fully present in the poses I’m not focused on the time. I bask in every sensation my body experiences. It reminds me that I’m alive.
  2. Be grateful. My body is functioning and moving and serving me in ways that I don’t take notice of often enough. I no longer take that for granted.
  3. Don’t be judgmental. I have spent most of my life being critical of myself and my body, especially this past year as I’ve gained some weight. But as I feel the changes happening in my body, and I become more flexible with every practice, I feel so grateful.  How dare I judge something that is working so hard for me. My body is a temple. It should be cherished. No amount of weight gain or weight loss will ever change that. My body is uniquely mine. Therefore, it is perfect!
  4. I’m enough. Whatever I bring to the mat on any given day is enough. Sometimes I can do more. Some days I’m capable of less. But whatever I have in me on any given day is enough.
  5. Know your limitations. My yoga practice – as is my life – is uniquely my own. I’m not competing with the person next to me or the instructor on the video. I have limitations. I can take a break if I need to or modify my poses. That’s perfectly ok.
  6. Be consistent. You get out of it what you put into it. Everyday that I practice I get a little stronger, and little more flexible. It doesn’t even matter how much time I put in each day, I just have to show up and do the work.

It amazes me how the challenges I’m working through in my personal life mirror those I’m working through on the mat. That revelation has been a tremendous aha moment for me.

These new insights are my inspiration to get to the mat everyday. I don’t have to fear or dread my practice anymore because I’m not going to get there and feel like I’m inadequate. I’m more than enough and I have just as much a right to be there as anybody else.

Now I get it. That’s why I didn’t want to practice yoga. I believed that because I couldn’t execute the poses perfectly I shouldn’t be there. I felt insecure.

It’s heartbreaking to realize that’s how I’ve felt in my life for so long.

But now I know better. And it’s empowering!  Neither life or yoga is about perfection.

As is the case in my life, I have learned in yoga that all I need to do is just show up! The rest will work itself out.

From here on out, I no longer have a love – hate relationship with yoga. It’s ALL LOVE!

Love for the practice and love for myself because now I can clearly see that my struggle was never about yoga anyway, it was all about me.

Namaste!

Please DON’T Overlook this Mineral in the Vegan Diet!

The primary reason most people consider a vegan diet, and subsequently adopt the lifestyle, is because of the numerous health benefits. From weight loss to low cholesterol to heart health there are a lot of health benefits to following a plant based diet.

kelpOn the fitness side, you’re also seeing many elite athletes switching to the vegan diet, if only temporarily, when they need to get in optimal health for competition. Triathletes, runners, bodybuilders, and football players have proclaimed the physical benefits.

On the flip side there are a couple of areas that must be monitored. When it comes to essential nutrients that can’t be obtained from fruit and veggies, vegans need to beware. The most common nutrients to monitor are protein and iron. These are always of concern, so most people stay on the lookout for issues.

As I indicated in my previous blog, I recently discovered the importance of iodine. I didn’t get a handle on my iodine intake soon enough and it caused – or at least contributed to – some key health issues I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of years. You can check out “This One Nutrient Drastically Impacted My Vegan Diet & Health” for more information about that.

Iodine is an essential mineral I don’t think most people give much thought to, but it’s crucial for vegans and vegetarians to consider. There are several reasons to be mindful of iodine deficiency:

  1. Thyroid Function – it can impact the functioning of the thyroid. Both too little or too much iodine can cause an enlarged thyroid gland, commonly known as a goiter. Hypothyroidism, in which metabolism slows and weight and cholesterol increases; or hyperthyroidism, in which metabolism increases resulting in weight loss.
  2. Brain Development – it can inhibit brain development in a fetus, therefore, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume higher levels of iodine than the standard recommended amount for women in general.
  3. Mental Retardation – it’s the most common preventable cause of mental retardation.

Since iodine isn’t found in fruit and veggies, vegans and vegetarians are at greater risk for iodine deficiency. Foods high in iodine include dairy products, eggs, seafood and some types of bread.

The good news is it doesn’t require a lot of iodine to reduce the health risks. Iodine recommendations vary depending on age and other factors.  Recommendations are expressed in micrograms, which is one-millionth of a gram. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for teens and adults is 150 micrograms per day; pregnant women need 220 micrograms per day; and women who are breastfeeding need 290 micrograms per day.

Since I felt my health situation required me to take drastic measures to get my iodine levels on track, I added salmon, tuna and eggs to my diet. But you don’t have to do that. As a vegan or vegetarian there are things you can do, including:

  1. Eat iodized salt. I was consuming sea salt, which does not include iodine. The container of salt will indicate whether or not it contains iodine. Now, I buy iodized salt.
  2. Eat seaweed. Most of the iodine found on the earth is found in the ocean. Since the availability of iodine from seaweed is variable, be mindful of the potential to consume too much. The most common seaweed among vegans is kelp. As mentioned earlier, too much iodine can also cause health risks, including arsenic toxicity from excess kelp.  Eating seaweed a few times a week should suffice.
  3. Use an iodine supplement. If you are watching your dietary sodium and don’t use much salt, or if you prefer to avoid iodized salt, a small daily iodine supplement is a good idea.  A regular multi-vitamin and mineral supplement may contain iodine – check the label. The amount of iodine in your supplement should be close to the RDA for your age group.

As always, most of my blog content is based on my personal experiences, as is the case with this topic. These are just my thoughts and some generic suggestions regarding iodine. But I highly recommend you consult your physician for recommendations that are specific to you and factor in your overall health.

 Until next time…

Peace, Love & Fitness!

This One Nutrient Drastically Impacted My Vegan Diet & Health

seaweed

It has been a long time since I’ve blogged. Way too long! Not to make excuses, but there are a few reasons for that.

I relocated to Florida last year and for a little while my priorities shifted. I still care about health and wellness, but I have other projects I work on that are unrelated to this blog. Since I apparently can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, my blog got pushed to the side. Nevertheless, I’m back and I want to share a few things that have impacted me.

For the past year I have been struggling to stay on track with my healthy vegan lifestyle. It’s not because I don’t’ believe in it anymore, I still do. I may have mentioned in a previous blog that I have fibroids. I should say I have one HUGE fibroid. It has thrown me completely off balance – mentally, spiritually, and physically.

Fortunately, it’s not intrauterine so I don’t suffer from many of the physical symptoms other women suffer. My fibroid sits on top of my uterus and my bladder, so my only physical symptom is excessive urination. I joke that I have the bladder of a pregnant woman in her third trimester.  Actually, my doctor equates the size of my fibroid to that of a woman who is five months pregnant.

I’ve tried to take my health challenges in stride, but the past year has been tough. When I initially found out about my fibroid I resorted to the natural approach. I chose to tackle it through my diet. I truly believe food is medicine, so that’s always my first course of treatment. After about six months of diet changes I went back to my doctor. It didn’t shrink, but she was excited that it hadn’t grown any larger. That was encouraging.

However, there is one side effect that is quite discouraging. Since there is a connection between fibroids and estrogen dominance, I began to notice those effects on my body. The biggest effect has been on my weight. I’ve had the hardest time losing weight without a lot of effort, and I’ve been steadily gaining weight. That has impacted me the most, especially my self-confidence.

While I was struggling with finding balance, including hormonal balance, I didn’t feel inspired to blog about health and wellness. I tend to teach others as I learn, but this time I couldn’t do that because I’ve been trying to figure it all out.

Another change I noticed was in my hair. I’ve always had strong, healthy hair so when it started getting thinner and shedding more, I was really concerned.

Honestly, I’ve felt like my body has been invaded, and I don’t even feel like myself. I’m just beginning to find my way back.  I’ve decided that I do want to have the surgery to remove the fibroid. I’m going to have it this year. In the meantime, I’m taking charge of my life. I’m taking control of the things that I can.

I’ve abandoned the excuse that it’s impossible for me to lose weight until I have surgery. That’s not true. I may not be able to lose 5 pounds as quickly or easily as I have in the past, but I CAN still lose them.

I began to suspect that my iodine levels were deficient. The more I researched it, the more it made sense to me. I also believe there is a connection between my iodine deficiency and my fibroid growth. Being a vegan, I was at risk of iodine deficiency. Unfortunately, I didn’t know to look out for that. You hear so much about vegans lacking adequate protein and iron. So, I kept an eye on those things. But I didn’t do that with my iodine levels.

There are so many things vegans and vegetarians can do to get iodine. I’m going to focus a full blog on that next week.

I felt like I’ve been deficient so long, I needed to do something to have an immediate impact. About four months ago I added wild caught salmon and tuna into my diet. I chose these two because of their omega 3’s. I also added eggs. I prefer cage free because they too have lots of omega 3’s.

So far, I’m happy with the changes. I’ve seen a tremendous improvement in my hair and iodine levels. I’m not sure if I’ll go back to a strictly vegan diet or not. With the exception of adding the fish and eggs, I kept my other eating habits the same. I still don’t eat dairy, cheese, or meat. Most days it’s plant-based anyway. I have fish about 3-4 days per week.

So, now I’m on the upswing and I’m working to become the best, healthiest version of myself. If you too are trying to re-establish healthy routines, keep these things in mind.

  1. Take it one day at a time. Don’t get consumed by how far you think you have to go, do what you can today.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to your former self. Accept where you are right now. It’s okay. Just remind yourself that everyday you’re getting stronger and better.
  3. Keep it simple. Do one small thing each day to restore your health. Whether it’s drinking more water, adding more fruit and veggies, or just doing something active, such as walking, swimming, or biking. Positive change happens over time – if you’re consistent in your efforts.
  4. You’re good enough now. Don’t convince yourself that you’ll be good enough or better once you hit a magical weight loss goal or fit into an old pair of jeans. You’re good enough right now, even if you never lose another pound.
  5. Be grateful. An attitude of gratitude will help you appreciate where you are on your journey and remind you that life is good.

Until next time…

Peace & Blessings!

Summer Lovin’ … How It Restored My Health!

summer lovin

We’re about two weeks into the summer season and I’m starting to feel the benefits. The primary reason for that is I can still vividly recall the end of last summer.

I was so disappointed to see it end. I had gotten into such a groove. I was working out consistently and I was eating the right kinds of foods; foods that were conducive to summer – salads, juices, smoothies. I was practically overdosing on watermelon! (It’s my FAV!)

Not to mention I was getting into great physical shape. When the weather is good I spend more time exercising outside and I’m naturally more active.

So, when the fall season began, I rebelled…BIG TIME! I did not want to switch to heavy foods again. My body wasn’t even craving that stuff. I knew it was going to impact me. But after a point, I was forced to drop my resistance. My training at IIN taught me about Ayurveda, so I knew I needed to surrender to the season if I had any shot at achieving balance.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Ayurveda is a 5,000 year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. It’s defined as a “Science of Life.” It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential. It provides guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior, and the proper use of our senses.

Basically, using Ayurvedic principles we are able to create harmony between what our bodies need and the cycle of nature. That’s why in the spring and summer we crave light foods, and in the fall and winter we tend to crave heavy, comfort foods like soups and chili.

Well, I’ve been excited to embrace summer, especially now that I’ve relocated to Florida. Living near the ocean is conducive to a more easy-going, healthy lifestyle. Prior to relocating, I was under tremendous stress over my move, and my body was reacting to it. I was a slave to my flesh. I pretty much fed it whatever it wanted: candy, cookies, bread, chips, etc. These were my comfort foods and they got me through my transition.

Now that I’ve been in place for a month, I’m settling into a sense of normalcy. I’m no longer living out of boxes, and most importantly, my kitchen is unpacked. I know where my pots and pans are, and I can eat at home more often.

Thankfully, I’m getting into a groove again. I’m doing yoga, running, eating more salads, and replacing my morning oatmeal with fresh juices or smoothies. I’m basically giving my body whatever it needs. It’s craving a lot of yoga now because of all the tension I’ve been carrying around. I’ve never really enjoyed yoga because I’ve found it hard. I only did it because of the health benefits. But I can honestly say, I’m enjoying it so much! It feels so luxurious to spend an hour or more doing gentle yoga. It’s the same feeling as when you spend an hour getting a massage. This is a new experience for me and I hope it becomes addictive.

So, if I can offer you any tips from all of this, I’d say the following:

  1. Listen to your body – it knows what it needs. So many of us have grown accustomed to ignoring the signs we get from our bodies. But once you learn to listen to its promptings, you get better at it and it becomes more difficult to go back to ignoring its signs.
  2. Respond to your body – when it tells you what it needs, be responsive. I went for weeks ignoring how my body was screaming for yoga. My bones were cracking when I got up in the morning. My back was tight and stiff. But as soon as I succumbed to what it needed, I felt 100 times better and looked much more relaxed.
  3. Create a life of harmony and balance. It’s the only way to live. Avoid extremes. Don’t deny yourself either. Some days you may feel like eating veggies, salads, and smoothies. Go with that. But other days you may want ice cream or bread. Give yourself what you need, but don’t overindulge.

I hope you find my experience and these tips helpful. Summer will be over before you know it, so my prayer for you is that you enjoy it while it lasts.

Until next time…

Love, Peace, & Fitness!

Honey – Is it Hype or Does it Heal?

There will come a time in all of our lives that our belief system will be tested. For me that happened this past week.

I’ve been having a bad reaction to all the pollen in Georgia. It caught me by surprise because I never thought I had any type of allergies. The most I’ve ever dealt with is when the pollen count is extremely high I get a scratchy throat or watery, red eyes. That has been the extent of it. It passes as quickly as it comes.

Honey

But this past week things were worse than that. I had an ear ache, sore throat and an incessant cough that made it impossible for me to sleep. The more I coughed the more sore my throat became. For someone like me, medicine is an absolute last resort. I typically will not take medication. After being out of work for several days I wondered if my condition was more severe than allergies. I thought it might be bacterial.

Here’s where the test came in for me. I’ve said it many times in my blog, I subscribe to Hippocrates philosophy of “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” So, the first thing I wanted to address was that cough. It was the main culprit because it was keeping me from sleeping. After three days of no sleep I had enough. Something needed to be done.

As I began to research natural remedies for coughs and sore throat I got a lot of information about honey and its healing properties. Every article stated that it was effective in suppressing coughs.

I immediately ran out to the nearest grocery store to pick some up. When I tell you the results were immediate, I’m not exaggerating. I took one tablespoon of this honey and it ceased my coughing spells. After being up all night, I was able to stop coughing long enough to get some sleep. I took my initial dose early Sunday morning. By the time the evening came around my cough was practically gone. I kept it by my bedside all night in the event I woke up coughing. I think I took it once in the middle of the night.

By the next day my cough was gone. I continued to take the honey to alleviate the sore throat. It lingered for a couple of days more and then subsided.

Here are some of the reasons honey is so effective:

  1. Its thick consistency helps coat the throat while the sweet taste is believed to trigger nerve endings that protect the throat from incessant coughing. Honey is believed to be as effective as the common cough suppressant ingredient dextromethorphan. It can be used in treating upper respiratory tract infections.
  2.  It offers antibacterial activity. Honey is a natural antibiotic that can act both internally and externally. It can be used as a conventional treatment for wounds and burns by disinfecting wounds and sores from major species of bacteria.
  3. It’s an anti-inflammatory. Many clinical trials have been reported and revealed that when honey is applied to wounds, there is a decrease in inflammation and it will have a soothing effect.

A 2005 study published in the British Journal of Surgery found all but one of patients who suffered  from wounds and leg ulcers showed remarkable improvement after applying a topical application of honey.

Though there are researchers who doubt the healing properties of honey in some areas, most do not dispute its effectiveness for cough suppression and wound treatment.

Even though honey has great benefits for adults, it should not be used for infants. The Mayo Clinic recommends waiting until infants are older than 12 months because it may lead to botulism and produce a toxin inside their body that can cause muscle weakness and breathing problems.

My final word of advice is to make sure you purchase the best quality. I recommend raw, organic honey. It’s unfiltered and packed with enzymes, antioxidants and minerals.

I hope the next time you suffer from pollen allergies you will give it a try. I can honestly say I’m a believer. It worked for me…I know it will work for you!

Until next time…

Peace, Love & Fitness!

 

References:

http://www.medicaldaily.com/liquid-gold-7-health-benefits-honey-could-heal-your-whole-body-325932

http://www.webmd.com/diet/medicinal-uses-of-honey

How to Gain the Momentum to Accomplish Your Goals

momentum

HAPPY NEW YEAR! It’s 2016 and I’m so excited about what’s to come. The new year is such a wonderful time! It offers us a fresh start and a fresh perspective. This is the time that we feel like we can do anything. The sky is the limit. I definitely try to take advantage of this moment of hope and expectation. I don’t make “resolutions”, but I do set goals. I set them throughout the year, but I kick off the main ones at the beginning of the year. The rest of the year I set sub-goals.

I have to say, I typically do pretty well with most of my goals. I tend to get at least 60 percent of them accomplished. I do well with the professional goals, but I often fall short on specific health goals. I think I self-sabotage my efforts. I start out well, and then when I begin to make progress on the scale I usually slack off. I workout with less intensity and eat with fewer restrictions. It’s not intentional. It’s an unconscious pattern. So, that will be something I can work on this year. I really want to make some headway with my weight goals. I need a break through. I know once I get it, I can help others more effectively.

Nevertheless, I do believe I have some insights to help you reach your goals. I have a proven track record of success. So, please allow me to share some of the strategies that work for me. These will work regardless of the type of goals: professional or personal.

  1. Put your goals in writing. The main reason you need to do this is to get it out of your head. Your goals become real once you can see them. It also gives you a means to track your progress. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stumbled on my goals list months or even years later, and have been able to see how much of it has come to pass. That’s such a blessing.
  2. Break down your big goals into small actionable steps. Identify the small steps you need to take to get the ball rolling. If you want to buy a house, there are several steps to get that done. Get your credit score to see where you stand; pay off small debts to reduce your debt to income ratio; start building your savings account to pay your down payment and closing costs; get pre-qualified, etc. There are so many steps to take. You can do a little bit at a time. All of a sudden it no longer feels overwhelming.
  3. Take immediate action towards completing those small steps. The sooner you start taking action, the sooner you’ll be able to generate some momentum. Those small steps will lead to big steps and before you know it you’ve accomplished your goals.
  4. Get an accountability partner. Immediately tell someone you trust what you plan to do. Be certain it’s someone who is supportive and will encourage you. Not someone who will tell you how impossible it will be to accomplish your goals. If you tell someone about your plans they are likely to occasionally ask you how it’s going. I encourage you to make it more formal by asking them to follow up with you. If you know you have to account for your actions, you are more likely to do it because you don’t want to disappoint anybody else.
  5. Evaluate your progress on a regular basis. Set up intervals to check your progress. These will be your milestones. It can be weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. Just whatever works for you and will keep you motivated. I don’t recommend letting it go too long without checking your progress. I’d say at least quarterly intervals are appropriate.

If you follow these suggestions you will find it much simpler to accomplish your goals. So, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to make a list of what you’d like to accomplish this year and then get to work. This year is going to pass by whether you do anything or not, so wouldn’t you rather reach the end of it and have made significant changes in your life. You alone are responsible for your destiny. There’s nothing holding you back but you. So, get to work and make 2016 the BEST year ever!

Don’t Let the “Fall” – Lead You to Failure!

fall image

The start of the fall season has been a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I love the beautiful scenery from the autumn leaves. I also love being able to wear my favorite winter boots – I think most women look forward to that.

On the other hand, it’s really interfering with my workout and eating habits. My preferred time to work out is first thing in the morning. I like to get it out the way so I don’t put it off the rest of the day. Unfortunately, since the mornings are chilly and my heater is on, I’m struggling to peel myself out of my warm, cozy bed.

As for my eating, I’m craving more comfort foods. It’s only natural to do this. Our bodies go through cycles just like the seasons. According to Ayurvedic theory, everything in the universe — living or not — is connected. Good health is achieved when your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe. A disruption of this harmony can lead to poor health and sickness.

For followers of Ayurveda, anything that affects your physical, spiritual, or emotional well-being can cause you to be out of balance with the universe. Some things that can cause a disruption include:

  • Genetic or birth defects
  • Injuries
  • Climate and seasonal changes
  • Age
  • Emotions

So, in order to achieve my balance, I need to adjust my thinking. My mind wants to hold on to what has been working for me in the past. For the past few months I’ve enjoyed eating light (salads, fruit, and smoothies). I’ve especially enjoyed the abundance of sunshine. I’m a nature girl so having beautiful weather makes me want to be active and makes me want to be outside. On the contrary, the cool, fall temperatures make me want to wrap up, and spend hours on the couch watching the Food Network and reruns of Criminal Minds.

I realize that is a slippery slope and will quickly put me on the path to the dreaded winter weight gain.  I want to avoid that by any means necessary. I’m assuming you do too. So, here are some suggestions to help keep your momentum with your healthy habits.

  1. Don’t resist the change, embrace it. I realize the important thing for me is to get my workout in. I’ve decided that I will get up on the mornings that I can to do my early workout. And on those days that I can’t get up, I can work out after work.
  2. Listen to your body. Just because my mind wants to stay with the salads and smoothies, my body is craving something different. I’ve dropped the smoothies for breakfast and added my oatmeal. I can incorporate smoothies later in the day for a snack if necessary, but as long as my body wants something warm and comforting in the morning, oatmeal it is.
  3. Incorporate activities that are compatible with the fall season. This is still a great time of the year to go hiking. It’s also a better time of year to get back into running. It’s harder to run when the temperatures are high, but fall weather makes for ideal running times. Finally, bring the activities indoors. Start that group fitness class you’ve been wanting try out, like spinning, Zumba, body pump, etc. Even if you like swimming, a lot of the major gyms have heated indoor pools.
  4. Prepare healthier versions of comfort foods. Pull out the crock pot and make your own chili or vegetable soup. When I make my own food I know it’s healthier. I can add as many veggies as I want. If it’s laden with veggies I can eat more food without adding a ton of calories.
  5. Nurture your soul by spending more time with family and friends. This is the ideal season to cherish your loved ones. If you’re going to be inside, make it quality time with family. Optimal health is about a holistic approach. When we nurture our mind, body, and spirit it fosters an environment for good health.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Until next time…

Peace, Love & Fitness!

Reference Links: http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/ayurvedic-treatments

The 2nd Biggest Myth About Vegan Diets

If the most common question I get from non-vegans is “where do you get your protein?” Then the second most most common question is “what do you eat?”

Most people assume that our options are limited and so few. Especially if you say you follow a plant-based diet. Beyond fruit and veggies they can’t see it. Consequently, they can’t envision themselves adopting this lifestyle because it appears boring. Nobody wants to eat the same thing all the time, including me. After all, variety is the spice of life. That’s especially true with our food.

vegan meal

Though I tend to eat a lot of the same things all the time, I still love trying new things. I often take my favorite foods and put a different spin on them to keep things interesting. For example, I’m always looking for new ways to experiment with Kale. I like to sautee it in olive oil, garlic and onions. I also like to use it as a base for salads. Instead of plain lettuce, I will use Kale or even mix it with my favorite lettuce – romaine. Another use for kale is to bake it in the oven, add olive oil and nutritional yeast to make kale chips. You can add it to your favorite smoothie. Or even marinate it in liquid aminos, olive oil, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes to make a refreshing salad.

You see how simple it is to take one veggie and get so many meals out of it? There are so many more fruit and veggies for which you can do the exact same thing. So, if you’re on the brink of adopting a vegan lifestyle, don’t let a perceived lack of options deter you from fully committing. There are so many options.

Here are some tricks I use to add variety to my diet.

  1. Keep an open mind when it comes to fruit and veggies. Be willing to try (almost) anything once. Just because there are a few veggies that you don’t like, doesn’t mean you don’t like ANY veggies. I found this out about squash. I used to think I didn’t like squash. I eventually realized I just don’t like traditional squash. I had to try other varieties. It turns out I love butternut squash and acorn squash. Unlike the regular squash, they have more sweetness to it. I don’t like traditional or zucchini squash because they don’t have enough flavor for me. They taste too bland.

  1. Cook your veggies differently. That’s what I do with Kale. Broccoli is another veggie that offers variety. If you don’t like to steam it, sautee it or roast it in the oven. For the really bold and adventurous – eat it raw. Chop it up in small pieces and toss it in your salad. It’s a great source of fiber and will leave you feeling full.

  1. Explore new ways to add flavor without depleting the nutritional value. So, instead of taking a healthy vegetable and frying it or sauteeing it in a lot of oil, do something else. I’ve learned to start the sautee with oil, and then add a little water. As much as I enjoy eating broccoli, I don’t always like it steamed. So, to add flavor to it, I steam it in vegetable broth and squirt it with fresh lemon juice. It gives it so much flavor without adding salt or anything else to it.

  1. Get recipes from Instagram and Pinterest. I love following other vegans on Instagram. I’ve learned simple recipes that I otherwise would not have tried. I love eating pancakes on Sunday mornings, but I can never get vegan pancakes in restaurants. After spending time on Instagram, I have learned some amazing, delicious recipes for pancakes. Anytime I feel like I’m out of new ideas for recipes, Instagram inspires me. There are just as many options on Pinterest. Try both and see what works for you.

So, if you really want to try the vegan lifestyle don’t be discouraged by a misguided perception that there isn’t enough variety. I’ve shared some great tips with you that have worked for me. I’ve been a vegan for more than five years and I still get excited by all the options I have. I learn something new every day.

Now I want to leave you with a question: What’s hindering you from adopting a vegan lifestyle or at least incorporating more plant based foods into your diet? Leave your comment on my blog. I can’t wait to hear your response. Until next time…

Your Health…Your Way!

The power to live a healthy life is inside you. That was the theme of the Phoebe Sumter Women’s Health Conference I spoke at this past weekend. Hundreds of women gathered at Georgia Southwestern College to learn how to take control of their health. There is no way I could turn down the opportunity to impact these women’s lives. My intention was to inspire and empower to change.

lmp at health conference

I spoke from the topic of “Your Health…Your Way.” I like to come from a place of practicality. It’s so easy to get caught up in trends and comparing ourselves to others. Whether it’s taking a spin class, crossfit, or hot yoga. Every fitness craze isn’t for everybody. So, you have to figure out what works for you. Most importantly, you have to find a strategy that is sustainable. If you choose something that is too difficult to maintain, you’re more likely to quit.

Since it’s about a lifestyle change and not about a “diet”, I want to offer some practical strategies for eating and working out. I call it my Eat SMART, Workout HARD plan.

Eating SMART is about “mindful” eating. It forces you to pay attention to what you’re eating. Eating SMART means to eat with the following guidelines:

  1. Simple ingredients – read food labels to ensure you recognize the ingredients and can pronounce the names. If you don’t recognize it, don’t eat it. Also, look for words ending in “ose” (fructose, dextrose, sucralose, lactose, etc.). These are all synonyms for sugar.

  2. Measure your portions – be mindful of portion sizes. Measure your food if possible, at least until you get a better understanding of appropriate portion sizes.

  3. Accessible Snacks – keep healthy snacks handy. If you’re unprepared and end up hungry, it’s more likely that you will grab the first thing you can find. That’s usually not healthy. So, keep healthy snacks accessible at work, in the car, and at home.

  4. Real foods – limit processed foods and replace them with whole, real foods. Add fresh fruit or veggies to every meal – fruit with breakfast and include leafy greens with lunch and dinner.

  5. Tasty foods – add flavor to your food by using fresh herbs and spices. Experiment with different herbs like cilantro, parsley, thyme, dill, etc. They are good replacements for table salt. Also, use spices like cayenne, paprika, cumin, etc. These are great ways to add flavor without using heavy sauces or cheese.

These are great starts to get you on track to living a healthier lifestyle. In conjunction with eating SMART, you should avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast; stop eating at least two to three hours before you go to bed; make sure you include proteins, carbs, and fats at every meal, and drink plenty of water.

I know the typical recommendation is to drink two to three liters of water per day, but if you’re doing “Your Health…Your Way” I want you to make this work for you. Start where you are. If you’re not drinking any water at all, add a glass with each meal and build your way up.

In my next blog I will share with you what it means to “”Workout HARD.” In the meantime, you can get ready for summer with my new 21- Day Jumpstart Challenge. It begins June 1st. This will be a group coaching program with no more than 12 participants per session. So, REGISTER NOW!

Finding Joy in the Journey

April showers bring May flowers. As it is in the natural it is in the spirit. We got a lot of rain in Georgia during the month of April. Now as we are a few days into May, the spring weather has surfaced. It has been absolutely beautiful every day.

finding joy in the journey

Well, as I look back over the past month, it was pretty rainy in my personal life. I faced a lot of physical and emotional challenges. I injured my back during yoga, so I was in a lot of pain for about a week. I was unable to workout for almost two weeks.

I also began processing a lot of emotional baggage that has been lingering with me. I had some things I haven’t wanted to deal with, and since you can only suppress your feelings for so long, it all began to unravel.

When the unraveling process begins, its really scary. It feels like opening pandora’s box. You don’t know where its all going to lead and you don’t know what you’re going to find. This requires a great deal of faith. Faith in the journey. Faith in knowing that whatever comes your way, you’re equipped to handle it.

Aside from the fear of the unknown, there’s the fear of not knowing how long it’s going to last. How long am I going to be in this season of my life? This rainy season. Unfortunately, when you’re in the midst of your storm, it feels like it’s never going to end.

As the end of April approached, things started to change. After about a week and a half of constant rain and cool temperatures, the rain began to clear out. I began to see some sunlight peaking through the clouds.

Just as the rain has passed and the days are so beautiful, I have to believe that my spiritual life will mimic what has transpired in the natural. I’m an eternal optimist. No matter how bad things appear to be, I always believe it’s going to work out. I heard someone say, “it will all work out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.”

It’s important that I learn from every journey. I’m not at the end of this journey, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m gaining insights that are strengthening me.

Here are some insights I’ve gained so far.

  1. In everybody’s life a little rain must fall. When I’m going through hard times, I’m so quick to ask, “why” or “why me”. What I’m quickly reminded of is that we all go through things. Some people have greater challenges than others, but we ALL go through something. I’m comforted in knowing that I’m not alone.

  2. No matter how long it rains, the sun will always reappear. It can’t rain forever. In the old testament in the bible it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. That had to be horrendous, but it eventually came to an end. I’m reassured by knowing my rainy season isn’t here to stay. I don’t know the expiration date, but I know it will come to an end.

  3. What you resist persists.  When I’m hurting, I have a tendency to try to behave as if I’m okay. That is especially the case when I don’t think I’m going to be able to handle it. But what I’m learning is the more I try to resist feeling the pain, the more it continues to surface. When I’m hurting, I try to give myself permission to feel it – for a set amount of time. Maybe it’s a few minutes. When I’m really sad, I’ll give myself a full day. After that I have to move on. Otherwise, I stay stuck. Just giving myself permission to feel whatever it is I’m feeling I get past it much faster and much easier.

  4. You have to find joy in the journey. No matter how bad it feels, there is always joy in the journey. Maybe you suffered a tragedy, but that tragedy brought you closer to your family. Perhaps you found out how strong and resilient you are; or maybe it brought you closer to God. The challenge is to find that joy. We often think we won’t be happy until we get to the end of our journey, but joy can be found in the process. Happiness is based on what’s “happening” in our lives. Joy comes from within.

So, this is where I am right now. I’m not sure how much longer this season of my life will continue. But I do know I will get through it. I will continue to seek the greater purpose of this experience and remind myself that this too shall pass. In due season, THIS TOO SHALL PASS!