Wednesday, November 22, 2017

3 Simple Tips for CHOOSING a Healthy Holiday

One of the best feelings in the world is anticipating a really fun day with family and friends which will include sitting down to a really good meal.  One of the worst feelings in the world is crawling away from the table with an overstuffed belly, pants that are now way too tight and the mental haze of an uncontrolled feeding frenzy.  Wouldn't it be fantastic to focus on that first feeling without having to worry about the second?  Here are three simple choices that you can make to have a healthy holiday and avoid the post-dinner pain of having eaten too much.

1) CHOOSE TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES BEFORE THE PARTY BEGINS.  Before leaving your house or welcoming your first guest, make the conscious decision to have a healthy holiday.  Going in with the mindset of making healthy choices increases the possibility that you will do just that!  I encourage you to take that one step further and tell someone that you want to have a healthy holiday.  Having someone give you the evil eye as you begin to help yourself to a second piece of pie can be a strong deterrent!

2) CHOOSE YOUR SEAT.  When you arrive at the gathering, scan the room before you sit down.  If there is a table with appetizers or desserts, sit far away.  You are less likely to keep munching if you have to stand up and walk across the room.  If there are other members of your family or friends also striving to be healthier, sit with them or where you can make eye contact with them.  Getting that "look" as you reach for another chip loaded with dip can be very powerful.

3) CHOOSE YOUR TREAT.  Before jumping into the buffet line or placing a large spoonful of the first dish passed to you on your plate, know what all of your options are so that you can choose wisely.  I'm not suggesting that you deny yourself any Thanksgiving goodness, simply be mindful of what you are putting on your plate.  If your uncle makes the best macaroni and cheese, take a smaller portion of other sides and save room for a heaping spoonful of that cheesy deliciousness.  If your mom only makes her pecan pie at Thanksgiving, choose that as your dessert and skip the others.  When you are lifting your fork to your mouth, go slow!  Take your time.  Savor each bite.  At my work's Thanksgiving Dinner last week, my co-workers were teasing me as I ever so slowly took each bite of that sweet potato casserole.  I look forward to that casserole every year so I didn't want to shove it in my mouth without pausing to enjoy it.  I purposely made sure that I delighted in every single mouthful of that casserole!  It was the highlight of my meal!

Three simple steps that you can take to help yourself make healthy choices at your holiday feast.  Set yourself up for success!  And most importantly - focus on having a good time with family and friends.  It will be much more fun without the worry, guilt or discomfort of overeating.  You got this!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

6 Easy Ways to Move More at Work

It's time to close my laptop and head out to my car.  Let's go home!  On my way out, I nervously glance down at my Fitbit.  I've avoided looking at it all day because I know that number is small.  My day consisted of meetings, 1:1's with my staff and a lot of time at my desk.  I barely moved at all!

That scene was becoming way too routine for me.   As a result, I was stiff and mentally groggy at the end of the day.  My body hurt.  I decided that I need to be purposeful in adding movement to my day.  The Adult Day Health Center where I work is a small building so classic ideas like taking the stairs instead of the elevator aren't an option (there are no stairs!), but there are ways that I could help myself move more.

1) Put down the phone and go talk to the person face-to-face.  Between phone calls, e-mail and texting, it would be easy to go for long stretches of time without talking to someone face-to-face.  Besides increasing your movement I bet that this will improve your relationships with your co-workers. 

2) Print out your work on a different printer.  I have a private printer in my office, but I also have access to the public printer.  For items that don't need to be kept confidential, I'll use the public printer.  I have to leave my office and walk to pick up those papers.

3) Use the bathroom that is farthest away from you.  Just plan wisely so you have enough time to get there!

4) Use a coffee mug or small water bottle during the day.  I had been using a fairly large plastic cup to ensure that I would drink water during the day.  My co-worker drinks out of a small coffee mug.  One day I suggested to him that he get a larger mug or a water bottle to drink from during the day.  His reasoning for using that coffee mug makes a lot of sense - the smaller glass forces him to get up and refill his mug often throughout the day causing him to get up and move.

5) Take a lap!  If I have a day where I am sitting in my office for long periods of time, I'll set my phone timer for 45 minutes.  When it goes off, I get up and walk a lap around the large room that makes up our Adult Day Center.  That gives me a chance to stretch and an opportunity to interact with our clients and my staff.

6) Invite a co-worker to take a walk over lunch.  There are two great aspects to this idea besides adding movement to your day.  Inviting someone to join you adds accountability and gives you an opportunity to take your mind off of work and socialize.  There have been many times I've popped into our breakroom and several staff members are sitting in there in silence playing on their phones.

These ideas sound simple, but how often does a day go by that I don't do any of them?  More than I'd like to admit.  The key is being purposeful about it.  Making a conscious effort to get up and move.  Making healthy choices is a daily thoughtful decision.  It's something I have to do everyday.  So TODAY I choose to add more movement to my day!  Let's get up and go!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Surviving the Office Halloween Candy Bucket with Chocolate Meditation

Last week one of my worst nightmares came true - someone brought in a large Halloween Bucket filled with various types of candy.  To make it worse, the candy supply was unending.  The bucket was never empty!  Everyday it was filled to the brim with different types of candy - chocolate, gummy, sweet & sour, fruity.

Over the years, I feel that I have developed a pretty strong Will Power.  I have tools in place to help me pass up on temptation - chew gum, drink water, avoid the area of the temptation, surround myself with people who will hold me accountable.  I was prepared for this moment.  And I did a great job . . . until Thursday.

I was unexpectedly going to have to take Friday off so I was feeling crunched to get everything done.  The homecare schedule for the weekend, which I was responsible for, was full of open assignments with a small group of staff available to fill it.  I had a site visit for the Senior Companion Program, which I am in charge of at our Adult Day Center.  Let's stop there and just say that my list of stressors was long.  My chest was tight.  My head was pounding.  I was nearing a complete meltdown.  Mid-morning I walked passed the bucket and found that it was filled with my favorite . . .
I grabbed one and shoved it in my mouth.  Mmmmmm . . . it was so good!  So I grabbed another.  And another.  And another.  Every time I walked by I would grab one.  I was still at work long after everyone had left.  I actually took my key and walked to the Bucket's office, unlocked the door and looked to see what was left.  Much to my delight, when I pushed the first layer of candy aside, I uncovered the mother load of Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins!  How had these gone undiscovered?!?  I am embarrassed to say that by the time I took my garbage can and set it outside my office door, it was nearly overflowing with bright orange wrappers.  Seriously Lisa?  Yep - that had just happened.
Thursday night I felt sick to my stomach.  Literally from the amount of pumpkins I had consumed.  And figuratively - how I had I let myself get so out of control?  After sending myself on a major guilt trip, I came to two conclusions.
First, tomorrow is a new day.  I would do better at making healthy choices than I had today.
Second, I would dust off a tool that was buried in the bottom of my Temptation Tool Box.  Chocolate Meditation.  I read about it in an issue of Psychology Today several years ago.  Since then, I've practiced it myself and included it in workshops that I've taught.  How many times, like me on Thursday, have you consumed a piece of candy so quickly that you did not enjoy it and got zero satisfaction out of it?  What a waste!  Chocolate Meditation allows you to take a moment to relax and truly enjoy the experience of eating the chocolate leaving you satisfied instead of craving more.  You should give it a try!

Chocolate Meditation
Choose some chocolate - either a type that you've never tried before or one that you have not eaten recently. It might be dark and flavorsome, organic or fair-trade or, perhaps, cheap and trashy.
Here goes:
• Open the piece of candy keeping it in the wrapper. Inhale the aroma. Let it sweep over you.

Take the candy out of the wrapper and look at it. Really let your eyes drink in what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny.
• Pop it in your mouth (or take a bite depending on the size). See if it's possible to hold it on your tongue and let it melt, noticing any tendency to suck at it. Chocolate has over 300 different flavors. See if you can sense some of them.

• If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went, then gently escort it back to the present moment.

• After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Let it trickle down your throat.

• Repeat this with one other piece.
Tomorrow is Monday and I am ready to face the day and face the Office Halloween Candy Bucket!  Are you?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Happy Watermelon Day! Celebrating with a Healthy Team Building Activity

Work has been very stressful lately and I could tell that my aide staff was feeling it.  I wanted to come up with an idea that would be fun and de-stressing for my staff, a healthy idea and inexpensive for me (so the obvious and easy ideas of ordering pizza or bringing in donuts was out!).  So I hopped online and saw that August 3rd is National Watermelon Day.  Who knew?

One of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of watermelon is a seed spitting contest. When is the last time that you participated in a watermelon seed spitting contest?  A long time, right? I was a little worried that my staff would think it was silly, but we need some silly at work right now.  So I posted a sign saying Team Meeting at 2PM.

I had one hurdle - my day got crazy so my plan to run to the grocery store in between meetings fell through.  I walked over to the corner store across the street where I knew they had a small selection of fresh fruit.  Can you believe that they only had seedless watermelons???  As a back-up plan I bought grapes.

When my Team gathered at 2PM I could hear the groans about ANOTHER meeting.  What was up now?  They were quite surprised when I wished them a Happy Watermelon Day and suggested that we celebrate with a Grape Spitting Contest.  There was a pause . . . and then everyone burst out laughing!  We headed out to the patio off of our Day Center.  We set a spot where staff had to stand and then everyone got two turns to spit a grape and see how far it would go.

Let me tell you - we had SO much fun!  Everyone participated and we were cracking up.  It was the perfect way to break the tension.  Staff members were laughing, cheering each other on and teasing each other a bit.

Our Grape Spitting Champion and Runner-Up!
In the end we crowned a Champion and Runner-Up.  Our Champion chose a $5 gift card to Get-Go (a gas station and grocery).  The Runner-Up received a certificate for an extra fifteen minutes for her lunch one day.  To celebrate, we all snacked on seedless watermelon!

This activity took about 15 minutes (only half of my Team was in the Center at the time).  It was a great team building activity and stress reliever.  Everyone enjoyed the watermelon which was a healthy snack.  And the entire event cost me less than $15.

Healthy!  Fun!  Cheap!
Doesn't get much better than that!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's not too Late to Check Things Off Your Summer Bucket List

My kids recently returned from a week long Missions Trip to Puerto Rico with our church's Youth Group.  It was so exciting to hear their stories and look at the pictures they took!  They had an absolutely amazing time.

As I was taking care of the not so fun part of their trip - the smelly sweaty laundry! - my mind began to wander to one of the next big events of our lives . . . prepping for back to school.  School supply displays are up at Target so we should head their sooner rather than later.  My daughter "donated" her tennis shoes in Puerto Rico so she'll need a new pair.  My son needs a form completed by his doctor.


It is the middle of July.  We still have half of the kids summer vacation!  Why am I allowing my mind to be consumed with the stress of back to school already?  Don't get me wrong - it's important to plan ahead and be prepared.  My daughter and I will be making a school supply run this weekend (few things top the anxiety of needing a 1" red binder with a clear plastic cover sleeve that the teacher is requiring you to have tomorrow or you lose 100 points and there is not a single one left in 20 mile radius!).

I grabbed my planner and opened up to the page where I had written my Summer Bucket List back in May.  I've already checked several activities off.  But there are several more items on the list!
Hiking at Beam Rocks in Forbes State Forest - CHECK!
Fortunately, I caught myself before I allowed the stress and anxiety that always seems to attack me during the transition from one season to the next consume me.  There is still a lot of summer left to experience in 2017!  So I paused and took a close look at that list.  Picking a few items off it I purposely put them on my calendar so that they would not be missed.  I'll get to Pittsburgh's Wiener World!  I'll get to Hidden Valley for a weekend!

Trust me - I'll be ready for the start of school, but I won't miss out on the fun of summer!  How about you?  What's something you want to fit in before the leaves start to change colors?

A few more items already crossed off my Summer Bucket List . . .
Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Arts Festival - CHECK!

Yoga in Pittsburgh's Market Square with my Mom - CHECK

My daughter and her BFFs at Phipp's Conservatory
in Pittsburgh, PA - CHECK

Sunday, June 25, 2017

JJ's New Workout Game: Three Foul Shots or RUN!

Once again my teenage son had spent a large amount of his day sitting in front of the TV playing video games.  I told him that after dinner he and I were going to workout - no complaining, no excuses, no arguments - we were heading outside and we were going to sweat!

Much to my delight - and a little to my surprise - after we finished the dinner dishes my son said to me, "I'm ready Mom.  And tonight, I've planned the workout."  WHAT?!?!

Grabbing his basketball, we headed down to the bottom of our driveway (We have a single lane driveway that goes down a hill to our garage behind the house.  Our vehicles are parked at the top of the driveway one in front of the other.) .  JJ explained to me how he had adapted a basketball drill his 7th grade coach used during practice.  Here's what we did:

We took turns standing at the Free Throw Line.  Each of us got up to three shots per turn.

If you missed the first one, we both had to run to the top of our driveway touching the street with our foot and back to the very bottom.

If you made the first one, but missed the second one, we had to run up to touch our jeep (parked in the driveway closest to the street) with our hand and back to the very bottom.

If you made the first two, but missed the third one, we had to run up to touch our van (parked in front of the jeep) with our hand and back to the very bottom.

If you made all three, it was the other person's turn.

We did three rounds of eight total turns per round with a two minute break in between each round.

It doesn't sound like much as I type it out, but we were both dripping with sweat and out of breath by the time we finished.  Several things made me fall in love with this workout - 1) The fact that my son took the initiative to think plan the workout and suggest that we do it is obviously #1!  2) The element of surprise.  You never know which shot is going to go in!  It is very difficult to make the shot when you are out of breath.  3) Sprinting up the driveway over and over was a GREAT workout!  Plus, the more people who play the more running you do.

This game can be adapted to multiple sports - shooting a hockey puck in a net, kicking a soccer ball into a goal, throwing a football through a hoop.  You can also adapt the running to whatever space you have.  In the case of JJ's basketball practice, they had to run different lengths across the gym floor.  You could even do different exercises - If you miss the first you do 25 jumping jacks, miss the second you do 15 sit-ups, miss the third you do 10 push-ups.  The key is that your child likes the sport so that they engage in the game.  

Have fun trying out JJ's new game!  I know we'll be playing it again!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Beach Chair Transformation

This is my favorite beach chair.  I've had it for nearly 20 years.  Every time I go to the beach I sit in it for hours reading my book, watching the waves and digging my toes in the sand.

There was always one thing that I didn't like about my favorite chair - I could hardly get out of it!  It was the most ungraceful action that I'm sure was ugly to watch.  Often my husband or children would have to give me a hand to help pull me up out it.  I would hear myself making a horrible grunting noise without even realizing I was doing it as I struggled to get myself out of the chair.

Shortly after returning home from our beach vacation last summer, I was working out with my group of friends from work.  Our trainer Dana had us doing Chair Dips - one of my least favorite exercises.
Chair Dips
However, I quickly realized that the motion of the Chair Dip was the same motion required to get myself out of my beach chair!  So instead of complaining, I started repeating to myself "get out of the beach chair" with every dip.  By that time my husband and I had begun to plan our trip to the beach for our Anniversary.  I knew that I had about 11 months to work on being able to get out of my chair with a little more of a sexy flare rather than like a woman who is ten months pregnant.

Week after week, every time chair dips appeared on our workout I would repeat over and over - Get out of the beach chair.  Get out of the beach chair.  The move never got any easier.  My arms would burn and I never developed a love of Chair Dips.

Last week my husband and I spent the week in Nags Head, NC to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. Our first  morning at the beach, I awoke at the crack of dawn, grabbing my chair and my book and heading down to the beach.  Several chapters later I decided to go back to our condo to see if my husband was awake.  Without giving it a second thought, I sprung out of my chair.  You read that right - I SPRUNG out of my chair.  I couldn't believe it!  

Later that morning I returned to the beach with my husband.  I couldn't wait to show him!  I sat down in my chair and immediately sprung back up with ease and grace (and maybe a little sexy flare!) throwing my arms in the air and exclaiming "ta-da!"  He could see the difference.  I was so excited!  In fact, every time that I got out of the chair for the remainder of the week instead of letting out a moan, I would look at my husband and say "ta-da!"  It never got old.

There are many times in life when we work hard at something and don't always see a result.  The scale doesn't move.  Our pants don't fit any differently.  It feels as if no one at work is noticing the time and effort you are putting in.  Then all of a sudden - TA-DA!  Something happens and you realize that your work has paid off.  It's a lesson in never giving up!


I have to give a SHOUT OUT to my friend Dana for making me do all of those Chair Dips and to Team Muscle who continue to encourage and motivate me every single week!
Team Muscle led by Dana (green shirt)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Discovering Motivation in the Moment

Boyce Park

Saturday morning was a warm sunny day in Pittsburgh.  The weeks before had been chilly and rainy.  That motivated me to get out for a run to enjoy the weather.

A group of friends and I are registered to run the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay in a couple of weeks.  My leg of the race is 4.2 miles - a mile farther than I normally run.  The need to train so I don't let down my friends motivated me to get out for a run.

Over these past few weeks I have watched several of the senior citizens that I help care for at work continue to physically decline.  I constantly hear our Physical Therapist talk about how they stopped coming to exercise and the impact that that sedentary lifestyle has had on their health.  My fear of becoming like them motivated me to get out for a run.

I parked my car and began to run along the hilly road that winds through Boyce Park.  A little over a mile into my run, my legs started to ache and I felt tired.  I was ready to turn around and head back to my car.  All of the reasons why I was out for a run came to mind.  They were very valid reasons to continue, but I wasn't feeling it today.  Forget the three miles, I was just going to do two.  My motivation was gone.

It was then that I rounded a bend and saw them.  An elderly man and woman.  Bundled up in winter coats with hats and gloves.  He with a cane and her bent over a walker.  Moving at a slow pace.  Each step purposeful.  Each step obviously coming with pain and difficulty.  Wow - if they could be out pushing themselves to keep moving, how in the world could I let myself stop short of the goal that I had set for myself?  If they could do it, so could I.

I picked up my pace and caught up with them.  They were just adorable.  Talking to each other while continuing to move forward step by step.

I couldn't help myself.  I had to say something.

"What an inspiration you are to me," I said as I ran past.  "Keep going!  You're doing great!"

They looked at me and smiled.

I suddenly had a surge of energy and pushed myself to run through my walking intervals until I came to a hill and started to walk.  I could sense a car coming up behind me and then realized that it was slowing down.  It was the elderly couple.  The driver's side window was down.

"We finished our lap.  Time to finish yours!  Keep going," the gentleman said to me as his wife waved at me from the passenger side.

My motivation had returned.  I smiled and waved as the car disappeared over the hill.

I spent the next mile thinking about the absolutely adorable couple.  I could tell that they both were in pain as they walked along the road.  Yet, they hadn't stayed home.  They didn't quit because it was too hard or because they were tired.  They kept going and kept pushing themselves to take one step at a time.  Which is exactly what I did as I wrapped up a three mile run that had almost become two.

I have several big picture motivators, goals and fears that keep me moving day after day.  But sometimes the big picture isn't good enough.  It's easy to tell myself that I will focus on that tomorrow while choosing to do something else.  Running into that couple reminded me to look around me for a smaller dose of motivation to keep myself moving.  The beauty of the environment.  A favorite song with a great memory attached to it that is on my playlist that pushes me to run.  A friend who is expecting me.  A couple who inspires me to keep moving because they are moving.  I am surrounded by motivating people and situations just waiting to be discovered and push me towards success!
Making my way up the hill at Boyce Park.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

It Turns Out We were All Afraid of the Spin Bike

The Spin Classroom at my YMCA

While I like to try new things, I am far from the most daring person you will ever meet.  Rarely will I try anything for the first time by myself.  I ran my first 5k with my brother-in-law.  My best friend Amy and I went to our first Zumba class together.  Zip-lining was tackled with my sister's firm promise that she would be flinging herself down the mountain right behind me. 

One thing that I have been wanting to try for years is a Spin Class.  I would walk past the Spin Classroom at the YMCA and hear the pounding music and see the class full of people with wet hair and sweat pouring off their faces and my heart would start to pound.  There are a few Spin Bikes in the gym scattered among the treadmills and elliptical machines, but I would just give them a fearful glance as I finished a run. 

How could something as simple as a bike be so scary?  The seat is small.  No way my big bottom will fit on that little seat.  There are straps on the pedals.  What if I can't get them off and then I am stuck there - how embarrassing!  Various knobs are all over the place and what in the world are all of those numbers on that little screen?  Plus, I always see people peddling and standing.  How in the world am I going to stand and pedal?  I'll last like ten seconds.  No way.

One evening I ran into my co-worker Elaine at the Y.  She told me that she had just come out of a Spin Class and asked if I had ever tried one.  When I told her no, she invited me to join her sometime.  I shared with her that I had always wanted to try a Spin Class and that I would love to join her some evening. 

I managed to avoid actually going to Spin Class for about a year.  There was always a valid reason why I could not meet her for a class.

Then, Elaine called my bluff. 

I was sharing with my co-workers at our Morning Meeting about March Fourth.  Encouraging them to set a goal, try something new, do something for their health.  Elaine piped up - "This year Lisa is marching forth by trying a Spin Class with me on Wednesday."  WHAT?!?!  Everyone was looking at me.  How could I say no when I was encouraging them to take action?  "I'll see you on Wednesday, Elaine!" came out of my mouth.

Wednesday night I met Elaine at the Y at 6PM - fifteen minutes before class started (It is important to arrive early because bikes fill-up quick and once they are filled you are out of luck!).  I was literally shaking.  Elaine introduced me to the instructor who got me set up on the bike.  She moved the seat up and down and backwards and forward until she felt it was just right.  Then she adjusted the handle bars.  GULP - Next she strapped my feet into the peddles and had me start peddling.  My heart was pounding and I suddenly got really hot.  She instructed me on what the numbers on the screen meant.  Finally, she reviewed the Spinning lingo that I would need to understand in order to follow along - seated climb, standing flat, resistance, jumps  (Check out for a description of Spinning lingo.).  At that point, she deemed me ready to roll and walked away leaving me strapped to the bike gripping the handlebars for dear life and trying my best to maintain my balance.

Next thing I knew the lights went out and the music turned up.  For 45 minutes I sat.  I stood.  I pedaled fast.  I cranked up the resistance and slowly pushed those pedals forward.  Sweat was pouring down my face.  And then . . . it was over. 

Elaine and I after my first Spin Class
I LOVED it!  The 45 minutes flew by.  I pedaled while sitting and standing, going up hills and rolling along the flats.  I had no problem keeping up with the instructor.  Best of all - I never fell off the bike!  It was fantastic!  My mind was blown.  My fear was conquered.  I survived my first Spin Class.  Wow!  I was so thankful that Elaine had invited me and then pushed me to follow through with my yes.

The next day I felt great.  My legs and bottom were a little sore - just enough to remind myself that I had worked hard the night before rising victorious over my fear.  I told a few of my friends about how much I enjoyed the Spin Class and what a fantastic workout it was.  Several of their responses shocked me.  It turns out that I wasn't the only one afraid of the Spin Bike!  They told me that they had always wanted to try a Spin Class, but didn't want to go by themselves or were too nervous.  Really???  I honestly thought that I was the only one who had a fear of the bike.

So I invited them to join me in class with Elaine the following Wednesday, and two of my friends showed up!  By the end of class Spinning had two more admirers - both Nicole and Amy conquered their fear of the bike.

Nicole and Amy joining in on the fun!
Lessons learned:
* Never be afraid to voice fear about something because you're most likely not the only one.
* Conquering a fear is much easier and more fun with friends.
* Spinning is fun!

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Re-Visiting my Snack Attack Prevention Plan

My stress levels are rising.  Home life and work life are busier than ever.  My stress eating habit is wanting to rear it's ugly head!  Before things get out of hand, I thought it would be helpful for me to re-visit the Snack Attack Prevention Plan I set up for myself:

I admit it . . . I'm a stress eater.  When my stress levels go up, my willpower goes down.  The past month at work has been high stress.  It took me a few weeks to recognize it, but my willpower was plummeting.  The new habits that I had developed over the past several years seemed to just disappear.  Looking at my desk one day, I counted four food wrappers.  FOUR!  Wow!  That was the moment that I realized I needed to get my act together.  I was in a fierce battle with the Snack Attack Monster and I needed a plan. 
Re-Commit to Living Healthy
On my drive home that night, I turned the radio off and spent some time thinking.  I needed to admit to myself that I was slipping into some old habits.  I love snacking.  I love pretzels and chips and gummy candies.  So when someone leaves a box filled with small bags of Doritos in our Employee Lounge, of course I am going to grab one.   When I step into my co-workers office and she offers me a handful of gummy worms, of course I'm going to say yes.  When I'm sitting at my desk at the end of the day and my stomach is gurgling, of course I'm going to go the vending machine.  Really?  No!  I'm going to walk past the breakroom, graciously decline the offer and come to work prepared with healthy snacks.  Why?  Because I want to feel good, have energy, live long and not put back on the weight I've lost.  

That evening I got out two index cards and wrote down the scripture and quote that started me on my journey of healthy living:
Let us not grow weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9  
No one can go back and start a new beginning,
but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
Maria Robinson
The next day I posted them by my computer as a visual reminder of my commitment to live healthy.
Re-Charge Breakfast
The time between when my alarm goes off and when I need to be pulling out of the driveway always goes so fast!  I found that I was often grabbing a granola bar or the dreaded Pop Tart as I ran out the door to satisfy my morning hunger.  Neither are very filling.  So by 9AM my stomach is rumbling and I'm wanting something to eat. 

I had always wanted to try making smoothies for breakfast.  My hesitation came from seeing recipes that call for protein powder and not knowing exactly what that involves.  Talking with my friend Dana - a dietitian - eased my fear of the unknown.  She said that for my purposes there were plenty of ways to naturally add protein to the smoothies through bananas, yogurt, peanut butter and even pureed pumpkin!  (Note from my friend Dana after reading this blog entry - "Neither bananas nor pumpkin are high in protein but they def add bulk, fiber and other nutrients that will keep you satisfied until you need a mid-morning snack."  I want to make sure I'm sharing correct information.)

Well-educated and very enthusiastic, I dug our blender out of the basement, bought a variety of ingredients and been have been whipping up healthy, tasty and filling breakfast smoothies all week,  YUMMY!  I have to admit that I have been surprised that they truly are filling.  My stomach did not rumble in the morning all week! 

The only possible downside to the smoothies is that they do take a little longer to prepare than simply grabbing a granola bar.  However, I'm a great multi-tasker (I did almost put the chopped garlic in the blender instead of the crockpot yesterday, but I caught myself just in time!) and my husband hasn't minded cleaning up my mess - especially since I've been leaving him his very own smoothie!

Re-New My Relationship with Water
Over the past couple of weeks I realized that I have gotten away from drinking water at work.  The cup that I had always carried around the Center with me sat dry and empty on the corner of my desk.  This week I made a conscious effort to fill it up every morning on my way to our daily meeting and then carry it with me throughout the day.  One of my favorite features of the Adult Day Center where I work is the door ice and water dispensers on the fridge.  I do like ice cold water - it fills me up and wakes me up!

My battle plan is in place.  It was that simple.  I'm RE-COMMITTED, RE-CHARGED and RE-NEWED!  Workday Snack Attacks don't stand a chance against this girl. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Marching Forth: Know the Journey will not be Perfect

My plan had been to share a tip everyday this week leading up to March Fourth.  Here we are on Thursday night at 10:40PM and I am tired.  I've been up since 5AM, worked all day and just got home from a meeting.  I want nothing more than to crawl into bed.  But this blog post is looming over my head.  I seriously thought about telling myself to forget it,  No one would miss it.

But then I realized what a perfect topic to share!  We often plan out our lives having everything pictured in our mind of exactly how it will go.  Then when we miss something or mess up or life simply gets in the way we are very quick to throw our hands up and give up.

Those are the times that we need to dig deep and not give up.  We need to keep our focus on the goal and keep going.  So what we missed a couple days of exercise - let's head back to the gym.  So what I went to bed before hitting the 10,000 step mark on my FitBit - I'll try again tomorrow.  So what I mindlessly ate three cookies during our staff meeting - I'll make wiser choices starting right now.

It's important that we forgive ourselves, pick ourselves up and continue Marching Forth towards a healthier life.

Now I'm off to bed!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Marching Forth: Put it on Your Calendar

A few weeks ago our Pastor preached about finding balance in your life.  He must have been talking directly to me as finding balance is my lifelong battle.  How in the world does one fit everything in that needs to be done and remain sane?

He gave us four practical tips.  One of them stuck out to me.  It's one that I have been practicing, but hearing it again was a good reminder.


Pastor was speaking mainly about purposefully setting dates on your calendar with your spouse and time with your family, but I believe that the same applies to taking care of ourselves.  I can talk all I want about going to the gym or registering for this race or trying a new recipe.  I'm much more likely to do it if I put it on my calendar.  

I have a weekly calendar that I post on one of our kitchen cabinets.  I list all of our activities for the week and our meals.  When I put my workouts or plans to run, my family expects me to go.  I don't have to worry about what they're doing - they know that is my time.  Having it on the calendar prevents me from scheduling something else at that same time.  I also find myself saying to myself, "I'm too tire to run today, but it's on the calendar."  It's as if I don't want to let the calendar down!  That's the people pleaser coming out in me, but it works!  I get up and go!  

Being purposeful about your calendar doesn't have to have anything to do with exercise.  If you want to paint or write more - schedule yourself blocks of time to do that. If you want to de-clutter your house, schedule yourself for 20 minutes a day, one drawer a day, two hours a week - whatever will work for you.  If you want to call your best friend more often, set a weekly date to talk on the phone.  

As my dad always says, plan you work and work your plan!  Putting your goals on your calendar helps you to achieve them!
March Fourth is a great day to march towards a life of living with purpose, a life lived with intention!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Marching Forth: Create a Circle of Support

Five days away from one of my favorite days of the year and I have another idea for you of how you can March Forth into a healthier life - create a circle of support.  What does that mean?  Tell someone that you want to make some healthy changes in your life.  Telling someone will do two things:

1) The physical action of stating a goal out loud is powerful.  It makes it real.  It is no longer an abstract thought floating around your mind.  Your goal is now out there. You're no longer just thinking about maybe trying a spinning class.  You're not simply contemplating quitting smoking.   You're no longer considering running a 5k.  You've stated that you're going to do it.

2) Whoever you tell will be able to hold you accountable and encourage you on your journey.  Heading to the vending machine at work?  Dana knows you're trying to eat healthier and is going to stop you before you buy a King-sized Snickers.  Thinking about taking a nap instead of going to Zumba?  Amy is meeting you there so you can't skip!  Feeling discouraged because your week hasn't gone as planned?  Meg is there to listen, pick you up off the ground and get you back on track.

Telling one person is fantastic, but I encourage you to tell several.  I picture it in my mind as my friends standing around me in a tight circle holding hands.  If I lean to the left there will be people there to keep me from falling.  If I lean to the right there will be people there to keep me on my feet.  Any direction that I stumble or start to fall, my circle of support will be there to catch me.

Pick the members of your circle of support wisely.  You want friends and family in your circle who will be positive, encouraging and supportive of your journey.  Not someone who will put you down or burst your bubble of enthusiasm.  Your circle should be filled with your best cheerleaders.

On March Fourth, consider setting the goal to create a Circle of Support as you March Forth into a healthier life!

My Incredible Circle of Support

Monday, February 27, 2017

Marching Forth: Taking the Longest Route

I grew up spending several nights a week in a dance studio.  Exercise to me meant leg warmers and an hour or more of dancing around.  Exercise was following along with my Jane Fonda workout tape played on the VCR.  I remember being so excited when the Heart and Sole Aerobics Studio opened up in our local strip mall.  That first summer I went everyday.

The older I got the less time I had to "exercise."  I felt that there wasn't time to take an entire hour out of my day to drive to a gym and take a class.  Welcome to my twenties and my kids were born.  Hitting my thirties, my husband began to battle numerous health problems and I found myself to be a working parent and caregiving spouse.  After awhile, thoughts of exercising or working out never even entered my mind.

Then my weight began to climb.  My stress level was through the roof.  My blood pressure and cholesterol were battling for first place to see who could be my biggest health problem.  My doctor (and my mom) began to bug me about exercising.  I mentally dug out my old speech - "There was no time to take a class.  That would take an hour or more.  I can't do it.  I don't have time.  Plus, I'm way too tired."

One day my friend Jane, a Physical Therapist, told me something that really hit home.  Exercise is simply defined as increased movement. You mean I don't have to join a gym or sign-up for a class?  You mean I don't have to spend an entire hour-and-a-half of my day sweating and then have to take a second shower?  This is incredible!
 Exercise is   
So seven years ago I began to see how I could add movement to my day.  Parking at the far end of the grocery store parking lot.  Parking at the opposite end of the mall from the store I need to go to.  Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  Walking to talk with a co-worker rather than call on the phone.  Taking the longest route possible to get from point A to B.  Walking to the park located a street over instead of driving.  

I quickly began to discover that I physically felt better and had some more pep in my step.  I went from not moving much at all to seeing how much I could move in a day.  I began to take walks during lunch or after dinner.  My amount of movement kept building more and more.  Those small steps taken to increase my movement led to running 5ks, taking a weekly Zumba class and hitting the gym with my kids - all things that I still do today seven years later.  But I started with that small step of simply trying to move a little bit more every day.

Are you stuck in the I-don't-have-time rut?  Are you so tired by the end of the day that you can't move?  At the same time, are you ready to make a change and live a healthier life, but are struggling to do so?

Here is a great way to March Forth toward a healthier life - re-define exercise.  Commit to increasing your movement during the day.  It is a fun and easy way to start. The possibilities are endless of what you can do!
I will park at the far end of the grocery store parking lot.
I will use the restroom at the far end of the hallway.  
I will take the stairs to my fourth floor office in the morning instead of the elevator.

Remember - you got this!  Take it one small step at a time.
Happy March Fourth!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Marching Forth: Small Steps Take You the Farthest

My favorite day of the year will be in here in a week - March Fourth!  It is the only date on the calendar that is a command.  Move forward.  Get moving.  March Forth.

By now, for a majority of people, their New Year's Resolutions have fallen to the wayside (Only 8% of people who make a resolution actually keep it.).  Why is that?  I feel it is because a lot of people set completely unrealistic goals for themselves.   They set goals that are too big.

Over the past year I have become involved in several Quality Improvement projects at work.  In fact, I'm proud to say that my Team has won awards for our projects.  What I have observed about why our projects have done well is that we focus on making small changes.  When those small changes are completed successfully, we end up with big results overtime.  These big results have great impact changing the lives of the people whom we are serving.  Groups that have taken HUGE leaps looking for BIG results often fall short because the jump is too big - the project is too complicated, too difficult or unable to be maintained.
Can I pause to brag?  Here are a few members of my Team
from Community LIFE when we won the 2016
UPMC President's Award for Quality Improvement.
The same idea can apply to our lives.  When we set a small goal and achieve it successfully we are encouraged to set another small goal.  When we accomplish that one successfully we are pumped up even more and are ready to aim at conquering another goal.  This can go on and on until we see a BIG change in our lives.  Someone who aims for a big result right away is going to get frustrated or bored and give-up.  
~Lao Tzu
Marching Forth.  You can't start marching until you take that first step.  You can't make a change in your life until you decide to make that first change - Not drinking pop this week.  Skipping your morning smoke break this morning.  Walking around the block one time today.  When you achieve that, you march on to your next goal.  Or if you don't achieve it you forgive yourself and try again.

If I was able to have two of me and we stood side by side at the starting line of a 5k race and one of me took off sprinting while the other me took off at my normal pace, who do you think is going to finish the race first?  The me who took off at my normal pace.  You know why?  Because the me who took off sprinting is going to tire out quickly and either end of walking or collapsing on the side because I'm too tired to finish.  Small steps.  Moving forward one at a time at a pace that is appropriate for me.  Those small steps will get me a lot farther than the person who leaps from the starting line.

New Year's is long gone.  The re-birth and freshness of Spring is right around the corner.  This is the perfect time to decide to make a healthy change in your life.  I started seven years ago simply by running from one mailbox to the next on my suburban neighborhood street (that tells you how small my goals initially were - 50 feet!).  

Over the next five days, I'm going to share with you five ideas of way that you can March Forth and kick-start a journey of marching right into a healthier life.  You can do it,  You can achieve your health goals - one step at a time.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dinner Party Potatoes

I spend my days with about 80 senior citizens managing an Adult Day Health Center.  One of my favorite things to do is to sit and talk with them.  They have some of the best life stories.  Each one unique and with a lesson to share.

I've been spending time with one lady who was a housewife most of her life.  In the 1960's and 70's, her husband was a businessman and he would often entertain co-workers or clients in their home.  I can tell from the expression on her face that she loved being the hostess at those dinner parties.  She describes to me in great detail the meals that she would prepare and how her guests would love them.  Most of the recipes she recites from memory.

One dish she talks about often are her Dinner Party Potatoes.  I relate them to the Cheezy Potatoes that I often make.  The difference is that her recipe contains fresh ingredients.  Instead of frozen hashbrowns, she boiled ten potatoes and then shredded them.  Instead of canned soup and sour cream, she used cream.

I decided to write down her recipe and make her Dinner Party Potatoes for my family today.  They were so good!  I could tell such a difference in the texture and taste.  My family enjoyed them, too.  Surprisingly, it didn't take much more time to make these potatoes.  It did take me longer to prepare them, but they cooked for a shorter period of time so it evened itself out.  I'm not an expert to say which potatoes are "better for you," but I've always thought that fresher is better.  I'll definitely be making these again!  And I can't wait to see what dish she tells me about next!
Dinner Party Potatoes
Dinner Party Potatoes
10 potatoes
1 small onion
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 stick butter
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 pint half & half cream
Boil the potatoes with the skin on until soft (about 20 minutes)
Let the potatoes cool until you can handle them easily.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Remove the potato skins, optional
Shred the potatoes
Dice the onion, add to the potatoes
Add 1 cup of the cheese to the potatoes
Season with salt & pepper to taste
Place the potato mixture in a greased 9X13 pan
Cut the butter into cubes and place on top of the potatoes
Cover with the remaining cheese
Pour the half & half over the potatoes
Bake uncovered for 40 minutes

Sunday, January 29, 2017

I Know Me

Over the past several days I have found myself repeatedly saying "I know me."

I know that as soon as I sit down in the evening I am going to fall asleep.

I know that if I eat one Swedish Fish and I am sitting near an open bag of Swedish Fish, I am going to have a difficult time controlling myself.

I know that if I tell my friend Amy that I will be at Zumba and she is going to be at Zumba then I'm going to show up at Zumba regardless of how tired I am.

I know that when I am feeling grouchy, my best move is to lock myself in my room for awhile because otherwise - watch out family!

It recently dawned on me the power in that statement.  I KNOW ME.  When I pause long enough to remember that, I am way more successful at making healthy and positive life choices.  When I don't, I am more likely to make poor choices.  I also don't pay attention to what is going on around me and think it is fair to say that I don't enjoy life as much.

Let me dive a little deeper to help explain that.

Zumba.  Here is what I know - I know that by 7PM I am exhausted.  I've been up since 5AM, I've spent the day literally locked in a room with my staff and 30 people with Dementia.  I've carpooled my kids around town, cooked dinner and done about 10 other random things.  By 7PM it sounds like the best idea in the world to put on my PJ's, sit on the couch and fall asleep. However, I also know that I feel healthier, less stressed and more energized when I include exercise into my day.  I know that I love to dance and that I love the Zumba class I attend.  And most of all I know that I love hanging out with my friend Amy whom I don't get to see as often as I'd like.  So, I KNOW that if I make plans to meet Amy at Zumba than I am going to show up at Zumba.  SUCCESS!

Let's look at one more:

Swedish Fish.  Here is what I know - I know that I LOVE Swedish Fish and can easily eat an entire bag by myself.  I know that because I've done it before.  I also know that I am a mindless eater.  If there are snacks in front of me I'm going to eat and eat and eat without giving a second thought to how much I am eating.  I know that if I eat one I'm going to crave more and that I have trouble controlling myself when there is an open bag within reach; therefore, I am thinking of nothing else but how much I want another fish.  I know that my days at work are very busy and my best strategy to eating lunch is to pack lots of healthy snacks that I can grab throughout the day - apple slices, carrot sticks, string cheese, pretzels.  Yesterday at work I walked into a meeting to find piles of candy, including bags of Swedish Fish, in the middle of the table - a great strategy to boost the mood in a late Friday afternoon meeting.  However, for me, I knew that I had not done a good job packing my lunch that day and therefore had not eaten and would not be able to eat until after the meeting.  I knew that if I sat near the Swedish Fish it would all be over.  My mind would be focused solely on those fish and I would most likely end up eating a lot of Swedish Fish.  So, I made the conscious choice to sit at that far end of the table in the seat farthest away from the pile of candy.  SUCCESS!  I sat through the meeting focused on the subject at hand and didn't madly consume the entire pile of candy.

That sounds so complicated, but the thought process takes only a few seconds.  What has stuck out at me over these past few days is that the process is taking less and less time.  I used to wrestle with these thoughts and struggle to make the healthy choice.  Now, I am still aware that I am making the choice, but it is much easier and feels more natural.  Trust me, there have been many times that I have either made a poor choice without giving it any thought or still made a poor choice after thinking about what I was doing, but I forgive myself and try again the next day.

Do you know you?  Do you know what triggers a poor choice or what areas of your life you need to really think about what you are doing before you do it?  It will feel difficult and unnatural at first to make yourself pause before you act, but overtime habits and cravings can change.  I'm proof of that!

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Don't Give Up! 3 Tips to Keeping Your New Year's Resolution

It's about this time of the year that people start bailing on their New Year's Resolutions.  In fact, according to the University of Scranton's research, only 8% of people who make a resolution actually keep it.  Before you throw out your goal, your hopes, your dreams for a new and different year, take a second to read this . . .

I started every year as one of the 92% who never keep their resolutions.  The new year would kick-off and I'd feel motivated and enthusiastic.  This was the year that I was going to make drastic changes in my life.  Eat healthier.  Lose weight.  Help others.  Get organized.  Make my bed everyday.  Never yell at my kids again.  By the end of January real life would creep in and I'd stumble and then fall flat on my face.  Forget that resolution!  I'd be mad at myself for a few days, but then life would go on and I'd forget about any desire to improve myself.

The streak ended in 2010.  That year I was one of those 8%.  I kept my New Year's Resolution and my life would never be the same.  I resolved to complete a 5k.  Coming from someone who had never run even the shortest of distances that was a pretty daring goal to set.  Amazingly, on April 10, 2010 I completed my first 5k.  Since then I have set and kept my New Year's Resolutions every year.  How does that happen?  I do three simple things.

1. I set SMART Resolutions.  
My resolutions were always vague and unrealistic.  I will be healthier this year!  What exactly does that mean?  I will not yell at my kids this year.  Really?  You don't think they're going to push you to your limits at least once in the next 12 hours let alone 12 months?  I will lose 50 pounds this year.  Is that possible?  Yes - for some people.  But I know myself.  The minute the scale shows a gain I will feel defeated and bow out.  

In 2010, my resolution was a SMART one.  I will run a 5k this year.  It's specific.  You can read that sentence and know exactly what I'm aiming to do with no explanation.  It's measurable.  I either complete 3.1 miles or I don't.  It's achievable.  3.1 miles isn't that far (Though at the time it felt like I was asking myself to run around the world!).  I could accomplish that without killing myself.  It's realistic.  Looking at my life at the time and the training needed to achieve this goal, I felt that I could handle it.  I also had several friends who ran and were great examples to me that I could do this.  It's timely.  I had one year to complete it.  Or once I picked a race - until April 10th.  

2. I Share my Resolutions with others.
Sharing your Resolutions with others allows them to cheer you on when times get tough, celebrate with you and hold you accountable.  When I keep things to myself, negative self-talk fills my mind. "You can't do this."  "You're crazy."  "You know you're going to fail."  I have a small group of trusted friends and family whom I share EVERYTHING with about my resolutions.  They've listened to me whine.  They've jumped up and down with me to celebrate victories.  They've caught me sneaking into the Break Room tip toeing towards the vending machines and called me out on it, 
Back in 2010, I told everyone - and I mean EVERYONE - about my goal of completing a 5k.  That is actually what kept me going.  There were several times during my training that I wanted to quit and one key moment when the race first started that I was ready to head to the car.  Each time I thought of how many people I had told (Why had I posted my goal on Facebook?!?) and how embarrassing it would be to have to say that I quit.  

3. I Stick to it even when I fall.
This is probably the MOST important.  No one is perfect.  Life is not always fair.  There are going to be mountains to climb and valleys to cross.  When I mess up or miss a step, the key is for me to pick myself up and keep going.  Even if that means going back and starting again.  

When I was training for that first 5k, I had a string of three weeks when I couldn't get the training in on Tuesdays.  I was ready to give up.  My mom asked me why I would quit after already putting so much time and heart into training.  The only answer I could come up with was the missing check marks on the paper.  I had messed up "the plan" and now I was off schedule.  When my mom pointed out the ridiculousness of quitting because of a few missing check marks, I knew that couldn't quit.  Who really cares that I had missed three Tuesdays?  No one!

So what if you didn't reach 10,000 steps for the past two days.  Your child was sick.  You had a big report to complete at work.  That doesn't justify quitting.

So you ate an entire pizza after a really bad day.  What happened to you really stinks and deserved a pity party, but now you start fresh and get back on track with that clean eating.

So you paid your gas bill a day late.  Hey, everything else has been paid on time and you are doing a great job.  Next month, you'll get that bill paid on time.

Whenever we stumble there is a key moment when we literally ask ourselves - am I going to quit or am I going to stick to it?  The easy answer is to say I quit and fall back into old habits.  The hard answer.  The brave answer.  The smart answer is to push on.

So here we are nearing the end of January.  Did you tell yourself this year would be different and have found that it's not?  Have you been struggling to keep your resolution and have been thinking of giving up?  Maybe you never even made one because, "Why bother?  You know you won't keep it."

It's never too late to set a goal.  January 1 is only a date on the calendar.  You can make a New Year's Resolution on January 1st, January 22nd or even May 3rd.  It's all about you and how you want to live your life.  What decisions do you want to make?  How do you feel about your life right now?  If you want to change than you can do that starting today.

If you are ready to give up, I urge you to hang in there.  Look at your resolution.  Is it SMART?  If not - you can adjust it.  Have you shared your goal with anyone?  If not, call or text someone right now and ask for support.  Do you need to dig in your heels and stick to it even if you've already fallen?  You can do it!!

It's been seven years since I first kept my New Year's Resolution.  I still make a couple every year and I still follow these three steps.  If I can do it, I know that you can, too!