What I Learned from Being Alone

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It is no mystery that I spent the last year of my life in pursuit of happiness.  It was a choice I made in a rather difficult time of my life, rather than falling off of the deep end.  I can’t thank God enough for his guiding hand throughout the last year of my life.  It is through prayer, lots of tears, and an immense amount of hope that I am sitting here typing to you today.  I believe there is a plan for each and every one of us and when you hear God calling you to action, you can’t rest.  I didn’t.  And these next ten tidbits of information I believe everyone should apply to their own life and pursuit of happiness.

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Top Ten Most Important Concepts I Learned from Being Alone:

1.  If you want to do something- go do it.  Far too often did I find myself sacrificing tasks that would ultimately make me happy for other people.  I would find myself upset that I didn’t go out for that run or mad because I didn’t get to go to the store like I had my heart set on all week.  Being alone allows you the freedom to do what you want, when you want it.  Looking back on all those times I didn’t do something because the people around me wouldn’t join me was foolish.  If I want to do something bad enough, I can do it alone.  Don’t get me wrong.  Having someone along for the ride is fun, too.  But if my ultimate happiness is measured by whether or not I do the said thing I want to do, then I can do it alone if need be.

2.  Never forget to be grateful for what you have.  I made a vow to myself around New Year’s of 2014 to always lay my head down on my pillow and name at least one thing that I was grateful for in that day.  You won’t believe how this transformed my thinking.  I began to not only wait until the moon came up to appreciate what I had, but I would find myself thanking God after a run for my legs, my heart, and my health.  I would sit at meals with friends and family and have to stop and just “BE” because the moment was so awesome.  Being grateful caused me to be aware of my life and all of the beauty within it.

3.  It is possible to cook amazing meals for one.  As someone who loves cooking, I think this was the most painful part about being alone.  Before I was alone, I would often host parties with lots of friends attending and I always had another person to cook for and take care of at the end of the day.  I love taking care of people in the form of a good meal and for months I didn’t cook because it would make me angry and sad inside.  I hated my kitchen.  But, slowly I worked my way back in there.  Chopping vegetables.  Sipping a crisp glass of white wine with some music on in the background.  The aroma of the house.  It was therapy.  Sometimes in this healing process, I wouldn’t even eat the meal because of how lonely I felt.  Slowly but surely, though, I got my joy back for cooking.  I plan out meals for myself for the week and challenge myself to try new recipes frequently.  And if you like leftovers like me, you’ll enjoy your creation the following day at work!  Extra bonus…it is much cheaper to plan a grocery list when cooking and eating for one!

4.  Wine is essential.  I’ve always loved wine.  But I’ll never forget last fall when I planned a bucket list trip to wine country to run a half marathon.  I can still remember the way the cool, fall, northern California air hit my nose when I walked off my tiny jet plane in Sonoma County.  The smell of those vineyards is unlike anything else in the world.  Wine country taught me that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for sometimes.  I’m bold.  I’m courageous.  I’m independent.  And I’m allowed to stop every now and again and just sit in stillness with a good glass of wine.

5.  Nobody cares about your problems.  This one was the most difficult for me to accept.  What do you mean nobody cares?!?!  There has to be someone out there?  Well, aside from my mom and dad, I’m pretty sure nobody cares.  Most of the people we tell our problems to want to hear about our problems because it makes them feel better about their lives.  It sounds harsh, but it’s true.  It is so much more pleasing to be around people who talk about solutions and resolutions than their issues.

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“Keep your face towards the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.” -Walt Whitman

6.  It’s okay to know exactly what you want.  Don’t be afraid to put your foot down and make demands.  It is incredibly powerful when a person knows exactly what they want.  Knowing what you are worth, where you are going, and what you need to get there puts you in a position of power.  You get to steer the wheel.  You’re in the driver’s seat.

7.  It’s okay to have no clue what you want.  On the flip side, it is okay to realize that this game of life we play in daily isn’t set in stone.  We don’t have all of the answers and THAT IS OKAY!  🙂  This one I continue to work on daily.

8.  You are the only one who can take care of you.  At the end of the day, you were graced with the one life and one body that you call yours.  Nobody can take that from you.  But, you also have to know how to take care of yourself and be ready to help yourself when no one else will.  There will come a day when you are left feeling alone in a time you could use a hand.  That’s part of life.  Embrace how strong you are and take those difficult moments one step at a time.

9.  Loving yourself is sexy…and so is forgiveness.  How many times are you told that you are beautiful and you shrug it off?  How many times a day do you cut yourself down when you look in a mirror?  STOP!  Find ways to love yourself.  It will change how people see you- I swear!!!  Opposite to love, though, we have feelings of hate.  These feelings of anger can eat us alive if we let them.  I know it isn’t easy to forgive people.  I continue to work on forgiveness daily.  So I’m right there with you.  But, I also know that being alone gives you a lot of time to reflect on people and experiences.  Find ways to let go and let things be.  Hate is heavy.  Free yourself of that excess weight.

10.  Never let a day slip out of your fingertips.  Don’t waste a second of your life.  It was brought to my attention in the finest of forms last fall when I lost a dear friend on a random September night.  His last post on Facebook was about his favorite team (The Knights) while watching the Saturday game.  My last interaction with him was in the football stands at a high school football game while we waited for half time.  I can still hear him laughing from that night.  48 hours later, though, he was gone.  Life took him.  This hit me ridiculously hard.  Why him?  Why not me?  What am I here for?  I can’t answer those questions.  Nobody can.  But what I can do is live everyday like it is a gift that has been given to me.  If I’ve learned anything about my year alone, it is this-  You have one beautiful, ugly, happy, sad, loving, hateful, successful, failing life that you have to live.  The only way have beauty, happiness, love, and success in your life is to inevitably deal with ugliness, sorrow, hate, and failure.  Life swings like a pendulum and we have to have one to feel the other.

I hope this message rings loudly for some.  I’m certainly not done learning and growing, but I needed to release this message to those in need.  Life is precious and beautiful.  Enjoy the gift you’ve been given and never forget to run to your happy place anytime life seems to get too hard.  I promise you’ll never run there alone. 1029

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A Healthier Pumpkin Spice Latte

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I’m not sure if I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t love Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.  I’m not sure if I WANT to meet someone who doesn’t love it. 🙂  PSL

What’s not to love?  Nostalgia.  Warmth.  Comfort.  Sweet.  Spicy.  Creamy.  Lovely.  It really is the perfect fall drink.

But lately, I’ve been on a pursuit to health-i-fy (is that a word?!) my favorite guilty pleasures.  So, I began my research and this is the recipe I came up with.  The best part of the recipe you are going to try (and fall in love with) is that you can rest easy knowing EVERY single ingredient that you are putting into your body.  There isn’t an ingredient which you can’t pronounce and everything is easy to find at your local grocery store.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!!!  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

healthy pumpkin spice latte

Health Make Over: Pumpkin Spice Latte

3/4 cup brewed coffee (strong)
3/4 cup vanilla almond milk
2 tablespoons pure pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (more or less to taste)
fat free whipped cream (optional)

While coffee is brewing, warm almond milk and pumpkin over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir off heat. Pour warm pumpkin concentrate over coffee. Top with whipped cream and an extra sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.

Never Miss a Monday

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I know that feeling all too well.  The alarm goes off, the sun’s not up, and Friday seems like an eternity away.  You roll over and think to yourself “I wonder if I’m coming down with a cold…Maybe I should call in sick.”  No.  You are not ill.  You are perfectly fine.  Except for one looming feeling…it is MONDAY. 

Love Monday

Monday’s.  Back to work.  Back to the busy, fast paced days.  Back to routine.  Most of us have a hate-hate relationship with Monday.  I mean, why not?  What good could we possibly find in a Monday?  We’re tired from the weekend.  Our job stinks.  We’d rather lay in bed and sip mimosas all day.  I know, I know, I KNOW!  But, friends, I’m here today to tell you why Mondays should be celebrated and not shunned!  <Record stops and scratches…>  It’s true!  Believe me.  If we turn our perspective around a little bit, Monday’s can actually be a great day to anticipate. 

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Never Miss a Monday.”  What does that actually mean?  Why do people always say “I’ll start my diet Monday?”  It’s simple.  Mondays are linked to fresh starts and do-overs.  Mondays are the beginning of a new week and a time for everyone to regroup whatever they feel they’ve fallen off track with.  Whether it is heading back to the gym, starting a new diet plan, or being more productive at work, people use Monday to give them that “go ahead” to dive in.  That’s why Monday can be exciting. 

never miss a monday

“Never miss a Monday” is a powerful statement.  It means that you are in control of your week.  If on Monday you ignite the week with a workout session or you choose to eat better, it is setting the tone for the rest of the week.  Doesn’t it just FEEL good to start your week off like that?  Yeah, I know it does.  😉

Diving into your week with a positive outlook can do wonders for you.  You will increase productivity in your job.  You will make healthier decisions.  You may just end up being more positive come Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, too!  I challenge you to see how you can make Monday count today.  It is a new week.  All of your goals are ahead of you.  Dive in.  Take charge.  And inspire others around you to do the same. 

Need some inspiration for a Monday sweat sesh?  Try this 20 minute sculpting workout from Fitness Magazine! 

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/express/20-minute/burn-fat-with-weights/#page=1

 

 

 

Five Reasons you AREN’T Losing Weight

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Are you stuck in a plateau with your weight loss? Do you feel like you’re putting in the work but not seeing results? Here are 5 reasons why you may not be shedding the pounds like you think you should:

Pair of female feet on a bathroom scale

1. You aren’t building muscle. If your workouts tend to be more cardio based, you WILL burn calories, but adding light resistance and free weights to your workouts will help you burn calories faster. Also, as muscles repair themselves post workout, your body will be burning calories EVEN WHILE YOU WATCH TV! 🙂 BONUS! 🙂

2. You aren’t eating enough. To lose weight we know that you need to burn more calories than what you eat. Simple enough. But, if you are eating TOO little then your metabolism will slow down to adjust and that will slow down your weight loss. Not to mention it will leave you feeling sluggish. My suggestion is to incorporate a well balanced, portion controlled diet.

3. You are drinking away your calories. Without thinking about it, we mindlessly drink 100+ calories in some of our favorite beverages. Try sipping a high calorie beverage with every meal and you’ve added around 500 calories just in liquid per day! AND THESE CALORIES ARE COMPLETELY EMPTY! 🙂 There is zero nutritional value to them. So swap out for water whenever you can!

4. You skip breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day…WE ALL HAVE HEARD THAT! But, skipping breakfast is very common among adults. With a fast paced morning and other people in a household to take care of, breakfast often gets placed on the back burner. It becomes minimal or non existent. Skipping breakfast, though, brings us back to our metabolism. The word breakfast breaks it down simple: “Break” the “Fast.” We NEED breakfast to jump start our metabolism in the morning since our bodies essentially fasted through the night. Breakfast high in fiber and protein can help fill you up and boost your metabolism early in the day, so that you will end up making smarter diet decisions later. Your body won’t feel STARVING come lunchtime and you will have much more energy and productivity.

5. You eat out way too much. Going out for food and drinks with our close ones is a lot of fun and helps boost our mood. It is a big part of our social interaction. But, too many nights out can be a major reason for your plateau- even if you are hitting the gym hard. At restaurants we tend to overeat. Too much food = too many calories. Portion sizes are much larger at restaurants and food prep is usually done with oils, grease, and high amounts of sodium. If going out with friends and family is a major part of your lifestyle, you will really have to consider the foods you order. Stick to fresh foods like salads and grilled lean proteins. Limit your amount of cocktails and look for ones that are low in sugars. Try squeezing in a glass of water in-between each drink to slow you down and maintain hydration.

Hopefully these five reasons spark something in your lifestyle. If you aren’t seeing the results you think you deserve, then consider which area of your life you could improve. Not seeing the scale change or our pants fitting looser can be frustrating in any health and fitness routine. Be honest with yourself about where you are letting down and don’t give up!!! You’ve already made it this far, so why stop now?

Running Uphill is Always Easier

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Overlooking Phoenix at the top of Camel Back Mountain.

Overlooking Phoenix at the top of Camel Back Mountain.

Overlooking the San Tan Mountains

Overlooking the San Tan Mountains

A good friend of mine once inquired about a run I had taken that he was attempting to trek.  The run was nothing major.  A simple 3 miler around a neighborhood.  The distance though was not the issue, the course neither.  The fact of the matter was, we were in a really hilly part of Pennsylvania and this particular route had major hills.  Now forgive me, I’m born and raised in Michigan and currently reside in Miami.  I am certain that these hills were child’s play.  Baby stuff.  But, this story has a point and a purpose, so bear with me.

So as I said, he inquired about the route asking “How are the hills?”

To which I responded “The going up isn’t hard, it’s the way down.”  He looked at me puzzled.  A sort of confusion on his face.

“Up?  That was the easy part?”  He questioned.

I shrugged and assured him that yes.  Going up was much easier than coming down those hills.

This story came back into my heart after a weekend get-away to Arizona to visit my father.  I got this bold and brave idea to hike Camel Back Mountain.  Yes, the idea was to HIKE the mountain.  Little did my eccentric mind realize that hiking was the last thing I would do.  Scaling large boulders and rocks.  Pulling my body weight over steep cliffs and fearing the drop of death below me was more or less what I did.  (Do I sound dramatic enough?!?!)

Anyway, this conversation I had with my friend entered my thought process that day. I may be alone in the world in this thought, but I stand by it. Going uphill is easier than going down. Climbing towards your goals, however difficult they may be, is much more exciting than falling from the summit. I hate falling down. I hate feeling defeated. I stand by my notion that, although it takes longer and it may be more strenuous, going up a mountain is always easier than coming down. I’m always striving to race up that mountain (insert metaphor here…). To better myself. To feel triumphant. That is far better of a feeling than falling down.

Proud daddy/daughter moment!  The top of Camel Back Mountain!

Proud daddy/daughter moment! The top of Camel Back Mountain!

So, yes, maybe it is silly to think that running uphill is easier, but the feeling of falling down is the hardest part in life. I’d rather continue to push up that mountain any day.

And with that, I say…

Oh, yeah, I JUST CLIMBED THAT! :)

Oh, yeah, I JUST CLIMBED THAT! 🙂

Climb On, my friends! 🙂

Watermelon Jalapeño Margaritas

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A perfect match for summer In honor of Cinci de Mayo I was craving a margarita ALL day (and tostadas, duh)!  I didn’t want just any margarita, though.  No. I wanted something special.  Something fresh and light.  That’s when it hit me!  Watermelon!!!  But I didn’t stop there.  Oh no I didn’t.  That’s when my imagination went soaring.  And thus I began researching how to make the PERFECT watermelon jalapeño mararita.  The recipe below is my spin on it.  Enjoy and margarita on!

 

Watermelon Jalapeno Margarita

Time: 10 minutes

Servings: Four 8 oz Margaritas

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cubed watermelon
  • 1 jalepeno, cut in half and seeded
  • 1 lime
  • 2 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 4 shots of tequila (I used Jose Cuervo)
  • ice

Place watermelon, half of the jalapeño, the juice of one lime, and the agave nectar in a blender and blend to a juice.  Muddle the other half of jalapeño in a shaker and add 1 shot of tequila with 1/4 of the blended juice. Shake. Pour into glasses rimmed with your choice:  salt, sugar, or like I did…chili powder!  Prep yourself to become addicted!!!

The Traffic Lights of Eating

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Here’s a new concept. And, no, I can’t take credit for it. Chalene Johnson gets it all! But, it may be a different way of looking at food for you. We are going to pledge right now to stop categorizing food as “good” and “bad.” Instead I want you to think about foods as traffic lights. I know you know the reference!  Green means GO, yellow means SLOW, and red makes you think quick and STOP!

Consider this: You can have whatever foods you like, but first you must classify them. Before you take a bite decide if it is a “green” light (ALWAYS A GO-like dark colored fruits and veggies, egg whites, green tea, salsa and avocado, lean white meats/fish), a “yellow” light (not horrible for you, but shouldn’t be overdone-like baked fries, baked chips, wine, low calorie beer, thin crust veggie pizza, pretzels, sushi, or lean red meats), or a “red” light (once in a while yummy treat-like onion rings, nachos, cookies, soda/pop, fast food). Utilizing this mind set will help you to have a better relationship with food. Many times our relationship with food becomes a love/hate thing. It SHOULDN’T be that way!!! You eat to fuel yourself, but you also eat to enjoy yourself! So its okay to acknowledge that!

Try this…contemplate your breakfast, lunch, and dinner from yesterday and decide which “lights” they would be under. You need to strive to be in the green and yellow zones and only hit the red light when you really want to! Did you fall into mostly green? What could you change to improve your traffic lights?

traffic light green

Let’s stop and look specifically at GREEN LIGHT FOODS. So what exactly are “Green Light” foods?

Green light foods are the types of foods that provide you with the most nutrition possible. These are your “I should ALWAYS be eating this” type of food. These are the foods that will help you perform at your best and help you stay healthy. The best part about traffic light foods, is that you will create the list yourself. Your list may look a bit different from my list.  THAT’S OK!!!  We don’t all eat the same types of foods or have the same favorites, but if you look at a type of food and think that it is CLEARLY good for you, then it definitely goes in the Green Light list. Here are some examples of Green Light foods that are on my list:

 

  • Shakeology
  • dark, colorful vegetables
  • avocado
  • salsa/pico de gayo
  • all fruits
  • water
  • vinegar
  • ground turkey
  • chicken breast
  • shrimp
  • hummus
  • string cheese
  • almond/soy milk
  • tea (especially green)
  • sweet potatoes
  • eggs
  • oatmeal


The list can go on, but these are the typical green light foods that I eat frequently. Go ahead and try to make your list. The fun part is that it is personal to you. Don’t put a food item down that you don’t really eat. And be honest about the foods you DO eat. Also, you may disagree with some of my green lights. That’s okay! It’s my list, not yours!

If your green light list isn’t very long, find ways to stretch it. Consider exploring new food choices.

heart apple

Now let’s talk about YELLOW LIGHT FOODS!  The yellow group is food that is not horrible for you, but that you wouldn’t label as the healthiest possible choice. These foods don’t bring a whole lot of nutritional value to your diet, but they aren’t the worst thing you could be putting into your body. Here’s a list of my “Yellow Foods”

 

  • whole grains (such as breads, pastas, rice, and tortillas)
  • low fat dressing
  • sushi
  • tuna salad
  • pretzels (or other low fat salty snacks)
  • wine/lite beer
  • veggie pizza
  • sugar free/fat free processed foods
  • low sugar/low sodium/low fat sauces and marinades
  • cheeses
  • deli meats
  • coffee and creamer


Again, my list may be different from yours. Try to brainstorm the foods you eat regularly and place them accordingly! Chances are, if you don’t place them in either the green or the yellow groups…you know exactly where they are going. 🙂

Chocolate after my meal, salty chips, nachos at a basketball game, fast food French fries, warm soft baked cookies…these are a few of my guilty pleasures. And I’m not ashamed! Everyone craves different foods at different moments and for different reasons.

Put the candy DOWN!!! :)

Put the candy DOWN!!! 🙂

 

After making green and yellow light food lists, now is your chance to be honest about your guilty food pleasures. Write down all those yummy treats and acknowledge what you tend to crave. This is going to be helpful for you.  Now that you have acknowledged your desire for certain foods, you’ve also labeled them with a red light (which means STOP).  You are training your mind to hesitate and THINK before you mindlessly put that cupcake in your mouth.  Sure it tastes good, but how many red light foods have you eaten throughout the day?  Would it be wise to wait and treat yourself to that cupcake at a later moment?  These are now going to be part of your thought process.

Keep traffic light foods on your mind all the time and you won't go wrong!

Keep traffic light foods on your mind all the time and you won’t go wrong!

Practicing healthy eating means placing value on the thought process behind eating.  Try not to eat when you are watching TV or engaged in other activities.  Before you just grab the treat in the break room at work, think about whether that moment of enjoyment is worth it in relationship to your goals.  If it is, GO FOR IT!  If not, you know what to do! 🙂

 

Eat On, my friends!!!