Sunday, September 17, 2017

Week #2 Self Care

For our challenge this week I wanted to share some information from an article entitled 6 Simple Self-Care Tips That Change My Life written by one of my favorite authors Rachel Macy Stafford. (I recommend all 3 of Rachel’s books:
Rachel begins by sharing the following story and then goes on to share some tips for self care. "Last spring, my body let me know something was wrong. I didn't feel like myself, and I wasn't acting like myself. In a moment of overwhelm, I actually smashed a casserole dish on my kitchen floor. After that I knew I needed to low down and make some change. I pledged to drink less soda, start running again, and log at least seven hours of sleep a night. And most importantly, I would finally get to the bottom of the bladder infection I had developed six months ago
The various antibiotics I’d tried hadn’t helped. So I made an appointment with a specialist—a highly skilled urologist, who discovered the underlying problem: I had a gargantuan-sized kidney stone.  She explained that left unattended, it could have been fatal. All I heard was: You could have lost your life.

Believe me when I say, I intend to be on this earth for a long, long time. I want to watch my kids grow up. I plan to write more books. So I was grateful for the reminder: If I want to stick around, I need to take care of myself the way I care for the people I love.”

Learn more
I’ve learned a lot in the last few months since that scare. These days, I think more clearly, handle frustration better, and sleep through the night—all thanks to minor tweaks in my perspective and daily habits. Below are six of the self-care tips that have truly worked wonders for me.

1. Acknowledge yourself

The first step: Remember that it isn’t selfish to look after yourself. It is critical for your happiness and well-being. You have limits, and they are crucial to help you honor your health. You have needs, and deserve affection, rest, sustenance, and grace—just like everyone else. And you have dreams, and are worthy of the time it takes to pursue what makes your heart come alive.
2. Gift yourself

When is the last time you did this? It’s important periodically to choose something that will add a bit of joy to your life to your life: A colorful water bottle to encourage proper hydration. A beautiful new journal to record your dreams. An extra hour of sleep, or exercise, or creative expression. If nothing else, give yourself a moment: We all need a moment of grace, forgiveness, or acceptance every now and then.

3. Restore yourself

Think back to what made you feel happy as a child. Was it the smell of a library book? Or listening to the crickets at night? Maybe it was strumming a guitar, or walking barefoot in the grass. Try to recreate those experiences of simple pleasure.

4. Speak up for yourself

Choose a trusted soul and voice the unspeakable: “I need help.” “I am afraid.” “I haven’t felt like myself in awhile.” There is something about voicing the burden that makes it lighter. Give the people close to you a chance to support you. (Note from Sandee (advice she needs to take as well as state)  “Be careful not to make assumptions that work against your own well being. Don’t assume everyone expects you to do more or to do it all by yourself. Don’t assume others are aware you need assistance, or acknowledgement or kind treatment but are denying you on purpose. Speak your needs to those that love you and clearly ask for what assistance or kindness you need.)

5. Take the pressure off yourself

What are you telling yourself about your parenting skills? What are you telling yourself about your appearance? What are you telling yourself about your long to-do list? Now try setting more realistic expectations. Lower the bar; let something go. Ban the word “should” from your vocabulary today. And when you lay down in bed tonight, ask yourself, “Did I show up?” If the answer is yes, that is enough. It’s more than enough.

6. Notice the good in yourself

Take a moment to recognize any tough obstacles you’ve overcome, or lessons you’ve learned—and think about how far you’ve come. Then try to see yourself through the eyes of those who love you. They don’t see imperfections, failings, and mistakes. They see love, never-failing love. Try to see it too.

So your challenge this week is to do something every day to administer self care and kindness. You can choose anything but some ideas:
1. Gift yourself something wonderful. Perhaps something to help you to better honor your own health. A pretty water bottle, a new pair of work out shorts or a pretty journal. Or ask your family’s cooperation to gift you an hour to work out, to sleep in, to play your instrument to do anything that renews and rejuvenates you. Another important self care gift you can give yourself is to make that doctor's appointment you have been putting off. Get a mammogram, a colonoscopy, a well women's check or a dental cleaning. (Note you can count this as your self care for the day if you just call and make the appointment) 
2. Gift yourself by doing something that brought you joy as a child. Go for a swim, go on a swing, listen to your favorite teenage music and dance like crazy. Whatever made you giggle as a kid do it now.
3. Speak up for yourself with those that care about you. My daughter is the queen of asking for compliments. Honestly I have hear her say to her cute hubby “Do I look cute in this?(He tells her she looks cute) “Really don’t you love how it fits me?”(He says yes it fits great) “Don’t you just love the color?” (He agrees it is his favorite color on her) etc. etc. etc. Especially if you feel like your co-workers or family don’t notice enough, help enough,, compliment enough. Kindly and with a sweet gentle tone ASK FOR IT!
4. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Someone told me once that everyone has their own “average”. I am a pretty good cook. But sometimes I am amazing and sometimes what I have made comes out awful. But I can give myself a break just by acknowledging that. Celebrate when my efforts in any area are above my average but when they are below my average be kind to myself as I would be to someone else when something doesn’t come out as well as they hope. Give yourself a break. You may need to do this OUT LOUD to and for yourself.
5. This kind of goes along with the one above but notice the good in yourself. It might help you to notice it as if you were someone that loves you looking for goodness and accomplishment in what you do or say.  Honestly-- either say it out loud or think it as if saying it. “That proposal I just turned it at work is really clearly written and well done.” “What I just cooked was delicious” “I am so good at showing up. I was the first one at work again today.” “The dog loves that I am so good at feeding him” It can be small things but honestly if you neglected to do them they would be big things. Applaud yourself; notice what you have done well. Give yourself some credit.

So that’s it ladies. For every day that you make an extra effort to do some type of self care you earn the 5 daily bonus points. And please do a different type of self care each day this week. This needs to become one of your life long healthy habits. This might work best for you if you plan your week out ahead of time and write what you are going to do for self care on your calendar! Good luck- you deserve it!

And just for fun ladies- google "Self care" and click on images-you will find some wonderful things there. You might want to choose something to print up and hang on your mirror! 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bonus Challenge- Use Your Body To Do Good

Not sure if you can tell from the pictures of my yard but while we survived hurricane Irma with the house intact (so grateful) we are still limping along with generator power and have about 100 hours of yard work to do. It's hot and humid and I HATE HATE HATE YARD WORK. Honesty after about 5 hours of it today I broke down and cried. Hubby felt so bad for me that he put me in his truck (only chance for air conditioning) and let me ride down to see if his office has power so that he can reopen. (It did not)

Earlier this afternoon when I was out raking and dragging huge branches and limps out of the yard 2 different neighbors at 2 different times walked by "getting their steps in." I would have had a little more kindness in my heart if they were walking a dog but- nope. How kind it would have been if instead of walking around in circles to get their exercise they had offered to help rake for 30 minutes. 

It was a reminder to me that we have been gifted these physical bodies in part so that we can accomplish physical tasks. And it's really kind of silly that the gyms are full (not in our community- they have no power) with folks running on tread mills while they may have neighbors that could really use some physical help.
So your bonus challenge for this week is to find some type of physical service to give to someone. Something where you use your body. It can be any service that you don't normally do. So to earn the 35 bonus points you can sweep a neighbor's porch, walk their dog,  wash their windows or their car or help rake a neighbor's lawn. Or you can help your own family members as long as it's a task that isn't normally on your list. Clean out part of the garage, change your daughter's bed (if that is normally on her list), clean out your husband's car and wash it or mow the lawn. 

I'm not going to designate exactly what you do or how long you spend doing it but I want you to give some type of service that is not on your normal to-do list for someone else-- that requires getting physical. If you give some type of physical service this week you can claim the 35 weekly bonus points. 

And of course you can count the minutes spent giving physical service toward your daily exercise minutes. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

And so we begin!

Welcome to our healthy living competition ladies! We are excited to include a few new participants. 

Just to review a few housekeeping items:

1. Please check in on the blog weekly. Our bonus challenge for each week will be posted here. I try to get them written by Sunday in case you have to buy any supplies before we begin the challenge the following Wednesday. If you check and I haven't written it feel free to nag. I have been known to forget.

2. Some ladies have asked about our "10 pounds or less to lose category". This is for ladies that have 10 pounds or less to their goal weight. As you can imagine they can't really compete with straight points as they just don't have that many inches or pounds to lose. For the purpose we offer a separate category where inches and pounds are not counted into the competition points. If you are qualified for and interested in this category find the spot to mark that on our weekly report spread sheet under the tab REPORT.

3. We have a good size group of participants this round so you do not all fit on one google spread sheet. You will notice that on the bottom of the spread sheet (which is under the REPORT TAB on the blog) you can toggle between groups. It might be resting on your page one time and not the next time. If needed toggle to the page you are on. 

4. You will enter your first report a week from Wednesday after you have completed your first week of competition. 

5. Please let me know if you have any special circumstances (food allergy, travel, health problem, pregnancy or nursing etc.) and need an alternate challenge to our weekly challenge or other exception to our rules. I am happy to work something out for you. 

And just a reminder of this week's bonus challenge:

1. Join my fitnesspal and invite at least 3 people to your friend (I am on myfitnesspal as 

2. Do something every day (BE CREATIVE) to encourage your healthy living challenge partner OR any of your new friends on to do a great job at forging new healthy habits! 

* For every day you encourage someone to choose healthy habits you will earn the 5 bonus points for a possible 35 points for the week 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Yes The Eating Fruits & Veggies You Don't Normally Eat Challenge Is Back Again

When I have queried past healthy eating challenge participants about which weekly challenge was their favorite this one is mentioned most often. In fact my favorite sister-in-law said she didn't even realize she liked so many vegetables until she tried them on this challenge. She has progressed really far in the years since she made that comment and now she is a full fledged green smoothie drinker with her own healthy eating blog! 

If you have ever read any of the blogs or books that tout various super foods you are aware of the power pack of nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables. Yet so many of us eat the same foods day in and day out. And in making these same food choices we also partake of the same nutrients. It's time to step outside our habits and take part in a wider variety of delicious fruits and vegetables. 
I have written before about a surprising experience I had when I prepared an evening snack for some teenagers that came to our home for a church meeting. I had heard some complaints the week before when these same teens were served store bought cake and cookies at an event. So... wanting to give them some healthier fare I served warm artisan whole wheat bread with honey butter (boo hoo they used to sell this at Target- I had just re-heated), sliced oranges and assorted veggies served in a cup with hummus. I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the girls asked what a slice of raw red bell pepper was and another exclaimed she had never before seen a snow pea pod.
Yet in my own family I have a nephew that when we reunited after a year apart shared that the last salad he had eaten was when he saw me 12 months prior. ARRGGHHH! 
I know that on this challenge you have been eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily. But are you in a rut of always eating romaine in your salads, and always eating apples or oranges for your fruit? 
In a recent study Georgia State University nutrition students challenged fellow students to a “nutrition fear factor” test to encourage them to try new foods.
Alexandra Friel, one of the organizers, said, “Everyone has seen the ‘Fear Factor’ television show, and we all tend to think we are a little braver than we really are. We wanted to put Georgia State students to the test.”
So, she headed to DeKalb Farmers Market (which btw was my favorite place to shop when I lived in Atlanta) with fellow student Rebecca Sterns to select food for the taste test. They choose some that might be familiar, such as kiwi, fresh coconut and raw mushrooms, and some that many students had never seen, let alone tasted. Jackfruit, star fruit, pomegranate and durian were on the menu, as well as baba ghanouj — an eggplant dish.
The results? “Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of tasting different foods that were interesting and healthy to eat,” said student Lauren Sieber. “The most interesting was the durian. It is by far the worst-smelling fruit in the world, but once you get past the smell, it tastes pretty good.”
Listed below are five foods that you may not have tried and they are just a small sampling of the wonderful variety we can choose from in our diet
• Plantains: A staple of Latin American cuisine, they look like large bananas, but are really a starch vegetable rich in potassium and vitamin C. Try the ripe ones (they will look almost black) for your test. Slice it, sauté with a little butter or margarine and a pinch of brown sugar and salt for side dish or dessert.
• Broccoli rabe: This vegetable, popular in Italy, is also called rapini and has slender stalks with broccoli-like flower buds. It can be bitter, so blanch it, toss with balsamic vinaigrette and serve it as a side dish. It is also good in salads or soups.
• Fresh or Dried figs or dates: If you like Fig Newtons, try a dried fig instead: moist, chewy and flavorful, a perfect snack. There are many varieties. The Southern California Mission fig is one of the most popular. (Note: dates are one of my favorite snacks when I am craving sweets. I buy them at Costco. I also use these to sweeten my green smoothies)
• Carambola: It’s used in Southeast Asia and is also called star fruit because when sliced each piece looks like a star. Choose a sweet variety, like Arkin. Look for one that is shiny and firm to the touch. Kids will like how it looks, and moms will like the extra fiber and vitamins A and C that it delivers.
• Eggplant: If you like hummus, try something new, like baba ghanouj served with pita wedges or flatbread. This Middle Eastern dish is used as a spread or a dip. My good friend and neighbor Maryann first made it for me and it was so delicious I literally licked the plate. 
YOUR CHALLENGE FOR THIS WEEK IS, EACH DAY EAT A FRUIT OR VEGETABLE THAT YOU DO NOT NORMALLY EAT (to figure out if you “normally eat it” all foods that you have eaten within the last month cannot be used for this challenge. So each day you should be trying a new fruit or vegetable that you have not eaten in the last month nor during this week of the challenge) For every day that you try a new fruit or vegetable this week you earn the 5 bonus points.
Here’s a recipe that might be fun to try and please feel free to share any recipes on the blog that you have found for our more unusual fruits and veggies!
Baba Ghanouj 
Makes 2 cups or 8 (1/4-cup) servings
Hands on: 30 minutes 
Total time: 90 minutes
2 pounds eggplant,
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice,
1 small garlic clove minced,
 2 tablespoons tahini paste (sesame seed paste),
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, 
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Grill the eggplant over a hot fire or under the broiler until the skin darkens and wrinkles on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. The eggplant should be uniformly soft when pressed with tongs. Transfer to a baking sheet and cool for 5 minutes.
Set a small colander over a bowl or in the sink. Trim the top and bottom off each eggplant. Slit the eggplants lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop the hot pulp from the skins and place the pulp in the colander. You should have about 2 cups of packed pulp. Discard the skins. Let the pulp drain for 3 minutes.
Transfer pulp to a food processor bowl and add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process until the mixture has a coarse, choppy texture, about 8 one-second pulses. Transfer to a serving dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until lightly chilled, about 45 to 60 minutes.
To serve, use a spoon to make a trough in the center of the dip and spoon in a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.
— From “Perfect Vegetables From the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated” (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95)
Per serving: 50 calories (percent of calories from fat, 72), 1 gram protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams fiber, 4 grams fat (less than 1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium.
Nutritional bonus points: Don’t let the 72 percent of calories from fat scare you. This is a low-fat, low-calorie dip, and the small amount of fat comes from heart-healthy fats in the olive oil and tahini.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Stronger and stronger to the core

I like to alternate our challenges between healthy eating (or "drinking" as in our water challenge) and healthy exercise or other habits. So you guessed it- this is an exercise week. I'm afraid you are often at the mercy of things I most need to work on in my efforts to care for my body so I am going to repeat a challenge we have done before-- THE DREADED PLANK CHALLENGE. 
My work out partner Gail will attest to my weak, pitiful, (and most often only from my knees) face grimacing planks. I really need to work on it daily. 
Shape Magazine suggests "Core exercises like the plank help train muscles to stabilize the spine and pelvis so you can avoid back pain and improve posture." I know that's true. Often our sore back, our sore neck and our sore shoulders are all occurring because we have weak core and especially weak abdominal muscles. 
Building strong abs and core muscles are vital to your health and well being. Often when people fall and injure themselves the reason they fall all the way to the ground is they are unable to "catch themselves" due to weak core muscles. 
Since planks are one of the most effective ways to get a good core work out I would recommend you start a daily plan challenge like this one and continue it beyond this week of competition and maybe even beyond the end of our challenge. 

As with any exercise if you give a good and consistent effort you will improve continually.

My older daughter has been a Pilates instructor and she recently had a couple in their 50's that could hold a plank for 7 minutes. You too can do incredible things if you make consistent, concerted effort. 

If you find doing a full plank too difficult you might want to begin with one of these modifications

The knee elbow plank (Sandee's favorite!)
or The Wall Plank

If you can only do the above wall plank eventually you will get strong enough to do a kitchen counter plank and eventually to do a floor plank from your knees as pictured above and finally a full body plank. Along with a regular planks the following are extremely helpful in getting your abs into shape.

And remember push up and go down with total control (no letting gravity flop you to the ground)

Here is another variation to work toward or incorporate. 

Why it works: This abs exercise is more challenging than a traditional plank because you're supporting your entire body weight on two points of contact instead of four. As a result, you must work your core harder to stay stabilized.
How to do it:
A. Lie on your left side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder and legs stacked. Place your right hand on your left shoulder or on your right hip.
B. Brace your abs and lift your hips off the floor until you're balancing on your forearm and feet so that your body forms a diagonal line. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. If you can’t hold that long, stay up as long as you can and then repeat until you’ve held for 30 seconds total. Switch sides and repeat.
For every day that you do some type of plank exercise (modify as necessary) this week you earn 5 daily bonus challenge points. For a total of 30 bonus points (no planking on Sunday's! ) Happy abbing ladies and I hope you all continue to carry on with this simple but powerful exercise. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Beautiful, sparkling, clean, water

So sorry I’m pokey getting this week’s challenge posted. We are going back to basics this week by focusing on drinking water. I realize that drinking 48 ounces of water is part of our regular required daily points. But I worry some of you are “guessing” you probably drank enough and perhaps not looking strictly at this requirement.

There are plenty of reasons to drink water. (Most of the info for this challenge comes from Web MD) In fact, drinking water (either plain or in the form of other fluids or foods) is essential to your health.

"Think of water as a nutrient your body needs that is present in liquids, plain water, and foods. All of these are essential daily to replace the large amounts of water lost each day," says Joan Koelemay, RD, dietitian for the Beverage Institute, an industry group.

Nephrologist Steven Guest, MD, agrees: "Fluid losses occur continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool, and these losses must be replaced daily for good health," he says.

When your water intake does not equal your output, you can become dehydrated. Fluid losses are accentuated in warmer and or dryer  climates, during strenuous exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults, whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.

Here are six reasons to make sure you're drinking enough water or other fluids every day:
1. Drinking Water Helps Maintain the Balance of Body Fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. "Through the posterior pituitary gland, your brain communicates with your kidneys and tells it how much water to excrete as urine or hold onto for reserves," says Guest, who is also an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University.
When you're low on fluids, the brain triggers the body's thirst mechanism. You should listen to those cues and get yourself a drink of water, juice, milk, coffee -- anything but alcohol.

3. Water Helps Energize Muscles. Cells that don't maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. "When muscle cells don't have adequate fluids, they don't work as well and performance can suffer," says Guest. Drinking enough fluids is important when exercising. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, they recommend that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.

4. Water Helps Keep Skin Looking Good. Your skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. But don't expect over-hydration to erase wrinkles or fine lines, says Atlanta dermatologist Kenneth Ellner, MD.
"Dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration," he says. "But once you are adequately hydrated, the kidneys take over and excrete excess fluids." You can also help "lock" moisture into your skin by using moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep moisture in.

5. Water Helps Your Kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine, explains Guest. "Your kidneys do an amazing job of cleansing and ridding your body of toxins as long as your intake of fluids is adequate," he says. When you're getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color, and odor increases because the kidneys trap extra fluid for bodily functions.
If you chronically drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones, especially in warm climates.

6. Water Helps Maintain Normal Bowel Function. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along your gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. When you don't get enough fluid, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration -- and the result is constipation. Adequate fluid and fiber is the perfect combination, because the fluid pumps up the fiber and acts like a broom to keep your bowel functioning properly.”

5 Tips to Help You Drink More
If you think you need to be drinking more, here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:
1.  Have a beverage with every snack and meal.
2.  Choose beverages you enjoy; you're likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste.
3.  Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods.
4.  Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag.

So what is your challenge? Our regular water requirement on the healthy living challenge is 48 ounces per day. Many experts recommend ½ ounce for every pound of body weight. You choose a challenging amount of water to drink each day this week and plan a way to MEASURE YOUR WATER to make sure you meet your goal.

I recommend the Swig Savvy bottles on Amazon. They will stay ice cold for hours and hours. In some areas Costco sells similar metal bottles that are amazing! Get in the habit of carrying water with you and flood your body with it’s goodness.