Finding Your Happy Place in Health

While I do consider myself still in the Paleo category of living, I very much despise diets and labels and any over-moralization of the way we eat. Why?

I think Americans (mostly women, but men are also affected by this as well) suffer from chronic disordered eating. Maybe it doesn’t look exactly like anorexia, bulimia, or body dysmorphic disorder, but it certainly isn’t healthy or normal. We are in a constant pendulum swing of dieting and indulging, loving and hating, restricting and overeating, overexercising and vegetating…and even though the “right” side of the swing may appear healthy, it’s extremity is doing us no favors in the long run.

happy place in health

What we need to find is our happy place in health that allows us to be content with who we are. How do we do that?

1. Avoid “Challenges”

You know that saying It takes 21 days to make something a habit? No? Maybe six weeks? Whatever you’ve heard, it’s probably inaccurate. A recent new study shows that it can take at least two months to build a habit, and for some people it can take several months.

So what does that study have to do with challenges? Diet-based challenges are meant to “reset” or “detox” your body so you can jump start your perfect new lifestyle. But here’s what actually happens: you over restrict, under eat, over exercise, and then punish yourself when you slip up. (Am I projecting? Sounds like my old self!) That restrictive, punishing mentality is setting us up for failure.

 2. Enjoy and Move On

Stop thinking of slip ups as slip ups. I do still consider myself Paleo, but when I go out to eat with my husband  or go to New Orleans and eat all of the holiday food I can manage, I am not at all concerned with the outcome. (Okay…the goal is to not be concerned with the outcome.)

Will that meal or extra beer change the fact that I can go to Body Pump tomorrow? Does it mean I’m a bad person? Does it mean I have no willpower? Nope. It means that food is delicious and life’s too short to deny yourself a good meal. Savor it, and move on. The lettuce is still in the fridge waiting for you, and it won’t be any less nutritious because you had ice cream yesterday.

Of course we can’t have special meals everyday, but once a week won’t cause you fall off the wagon.

3. Realize That There is no Wagon

(I’m only referring to dieting, here.) Those individuals who claim to have all of the willpower required to successfully eat restrictively are winning no awards. And those little treats they avoid here and there will add no significant time to their lives when compared to a person who eats moderately healthy. And is it really worth it to constantly fight with your “willpower” over whether or not you can have that piece of chocolate?

There is no diet “wagon” that we are on or off…and you don’t need more willpower to win all of the diet wars. Eat well, move frequently, and enjoy that bowl of Ben & Jerry’s on Saturday.

4. Emotionally Eat

I want to be careful with this one because I do think extreme emotional eating is a part of the chronic disordered eating I mentioned earlier. But if you are a relatively healthy and active person, indulging after a long day can be good for your mental health.

Do be sure that it’s what you really want. Would it be more helpful to enjoy a few chocolate chip cookies or would you rather binge watch Orange is the New Black? (Or both!) That’s not a rhetorical question, and each individual will have a different answer. Sometimes, I want a drink to feel like an adult after a day of working with 8th graders. Other times I just want to zone out in front of the television because my nerves are shot from the day’s tasks.

You need to decide which action will be most helpful to you, and then make that decision with no consequences. Do not force yourself to skip a meal or wake up extra early just because you gave yourself a break the night before. Our bodies are always fighting to get back to equilibrium, so that once-in-a-while emotional decision will not have long term effects. No punishment required.


If you’re like me and are always searching for ways to 1) be more effortlessly healthy and 2) be happy with who you are, then I suggest some of these wonderful ladies to follow:

Summer Innanen: nutritionist and body coach who wants to make you feel fearless!

Maddy Moon: “reformed” fitness model who learned to be healthy by letting go of restriction

Paleo for Women: Stefani Ruper is an incredible advocate for women’s health, and it’s so refreshing to learn about the Paleo lifestyle from someone who has taken the time to learn what it means for women. Obviously, this link has a Paleo spin, but Stefani focuses on a whole health approach that will help you boost your health and confidence :)

I’ve also written my fair share of blog posts on the issue. Check these out!

Five Ways to Find Your Happy Weight

Self Care & Sanity

Let’s Kill Restrictive Eating

Why “Bikini Body Ready” Programs Are Not Okay!

Best and Worst Body Moments in 2014

Question for readers: What do you do to keep yourself happy and healthy?

A Great List

Clearly, blogging is no longer a regular hobby of mine. Changing back over to public school teaching has sucked up most of my available time. The time I used to spend cooking fun, new meals and creating blog posts are now replaced with 11 hour work days that involve lesson planning, creating materials, researching strategies, and of course teaching.

I’m not mentioning all of this to complain. I love teaching, especially since I’m working in a public school teaching 8th grade English/Language Arts and social studies. I am, however, constantly busy and tired. Sometimes I forget to take care of myself and pay attention to my husband!

I’ve had a 5-day stretch with no students. Thursday and Friday were both professional development days, and today (Monday) we are off for Columbus day. (I think this is the first time in my life I’ve had this day off…it feels weird.) So I’ve finally had time to slow down, take some time for myself, reflect on how I spend all of my time, and write a fabulous blog list :)

A GREAT LIST…a list of great things :)

10. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

SO great. I’ve had my fair share of food fears over the years, and I think Ben & Jerry’s may have helped fix me! Under the premise of the diet culture, people are on an unending search for that “guilt-free” diet food that allows them to eat ice cream (or whatever sweet of your choosing) guilt free. Guess what? It doesn’t exist.

Low-fat ice cream, Skinny Cow products, and diet “You can eat the whole pint!” companies like Arctic Zero are doing us no favors. First of all, those products filled with chemicals and additives generally not allowed in other developed countries that often make us hungrier. Second of all, blegh! That is not ice cream!

I’m growing weary of references to “guilty pleasures,” “falling of the (diet) wagon,” and “cheat foods.” How about we just eat food we like? Have you had Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Fudge Core? It’s AWESOME. And there’s nothing guilty about it.

9. Nature

I miss New Orleans. But New Orleans does not have the lush, green nature that Georgia has. It’s everywhere. The neighborhoods are beautiful. There are trails everywhere. And the state is devoted to keeping its parks and pathways as pretty as ever. It’s also important to mention we’re a quick driving distance from beautiful state parks and the Appalachian Mountains.

Nature is good for the soul. A walk outside under oaks, maples, and pines the size of 10-story buildings can reset your mind and keep you focused on what’s important in life. Work problems, grad school problems, house problems, and other stressors all seem much less significant after taking the time to get outdoors!

chimney tops

8. Teaching

While teaching may be a large reason for the neglect of this blog, I do very much love what I do. It’s not easy. Textbooks are really a thing of the past, so teachers must recreate a curriculum year after year that’s engaging, rigorous, differentiated, and “just right” for their students. If you have more than one subject to plan, then everything is multiplied!

When you teach, you get to show students a whole new world every day. Middle school students are dying to be treated like adults, so it’s great when they are able to collaborate and problem-solve their way through the material.

7. Reading

If I wrote this post two weeks ago, this wouldn’t have been on the list. One of my favorite hobbies that I have ignored over the last few years is reading. Recently, I’ve only read young-adult books as I learn more about the best new authors for my students, but that’s significantly better than not reading at all!

And actually…young-adult literature is great! The stories always deal with difficult issues, and you know the story line will be engaging :) The best can be found on the “National Book Award” list or any banned book list! The one I read most recently for my class is called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexi. This novel is about a Native American boy who is trying to escape the cycle he sees on the reservation. He leaves his reservation to attend an all white school, and he struggles to find acceptance at school and at home.

If you have a middle schooler (or you just like to read good books), I highly suggest it :)

part time indian

6. Me time

This is something that comes rarely these days. How do people with children find any time for anything????

At the beginning of this year (August…I count time in school years!),  I was able to have some me time during my long runs when training for the Smoky Mountain Half. That’s it. Maybe an hour or more.

Fortunately, every teacher becomes more efficient as the year goes on, and lesson planning takes up less and less time each week. I’ve had some time here and there to just watch a TV show, go for a walk, or read. And today, because I’ve had 5 student-free days, I get to blog!

Be sure to take some time for yourself away from everything. It’s important that we have this time to keep us grounded and remember the things that really matter.

5. Body Love Movement

Isn’t the Body Love movement great! It’s great! As someone who has always felt that I should eat/look/dress/be a certain way, the self-love movement that is currently blasting through the media has given me the opportunity to reflect on these ideas that I’ve had in the past.

Listening to body-love activists— Summer Innanen, Caroline Haagen, Stacy Toth, Sarah Ballantyne, and the many many others I’ve been learning from over the past few years—has taught me to stop focusing on arbitrary numbers that society deems acceptable. There is no perfect number for workouts, calories (sorry, calorie counters…restriction is a slippery slope), dress size, pants size, shoe size, or anything else.

We are all people doing the best we can. Sometimes that means I eat big Paleo salads and other times that means I eat Ben & Jerry’s. Both are great :)



4. Food

Life’s too short to not eat what you enjoy. For the first time yesterday I had an Ethiopian dish with injera, a spongy, delicious bread that is used to scoop up the entree with your hands! Was I going to let the fact that injera is made with wheat stop me from enjoying it? Absolutely not.

I still do the whole “Paleo thing.” I really do think it’s awesome, and I get a lot of happiness out of eating nutrient dense food. BUT when an incredible meal is set down in front of me, there are no rules. I will eat to my heart’s content. Because I can. No rules.

3. Exercise

It’s taken many years to exercise because it’s good for my body, not because it will make me look a certain way or create a magical number on a scale. Exercise is good for overall health…physical and mental.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post with my weekly workout schedule. It contained two very challenging strength workouts and three cardio workouts, all of which lasted about an hour. There’s no way that kind of routine happens in the real world. (I checked the date…I wasn’t yet employed in Houston, which explains my excess of time.)

Walking is great (I wish I could go hiking every day of my life) and strength training will keep us young! But we must do it for holistic reasons…not because we’re watching a ticker on a scale.

stone mountain cherokee trail 6.27.15

Hiking the Cherokee trail at Stone Mountain

2. Sleep

Sleep is great. It fixes many problems. Enough said :)

1. My Husband

My husband is great. He takes care of me when everything seems impossibly overwhelming. He is my life buddy, and we tackle these new Georgia adventures together :) All of these things on this great list are greater when we experience them together.

Having someone so supportive and so loving of me at all times makes those challenging moments worth it.

hawaii birds

What things go on your Great List????

Staying Healthy on a Busy Schedule

Hello, again, my wonderful readers! I have clearly been M.I.A. for quite some time. Since August 3rd, my days have been lengthy and jam-packed with English, social studies, grading, data-analyzing, and all those other fun activities that come with a teaching job.

Returning to Title I public school teaching is great, but it requires an incredible amount of work. I’ve been putting in 10-11 hour days at school, and then I do at least an hour of more work once I get home. It’s a little nuts and makes finding work-life balance a challenge, but I love what I do!

Staying Healthy on a Busy Schedule

Once life gets hectic, it’s so easy to let everything else go. When I come home after a day of teaching on my feet, it can be nearly impossible to convince myself to go for a run, stand in the kitchen to cook a decent meal, or avoid the chocolate and beer calling my name.

Because I’ve had a past with unhealthy relationships with food and exercise, it can be easy to fall into extremes….binge eating or restricting, chronic over-exercising or an out-right refusal to ever get off the couch. Extremes are easy to fall into when I’m anxious and stressed, even over a job I love and enjoy.

So I’ve set up a few basic guidelines to moderate myself when I’m too tired to give food and exercise my full attention.

1. A specific exercise goal

smoky mountain half picture

Fortunately, I can’t actually be a couch potato that outright refuses to move once work has ended. Two months ago, Ryan and I signed up for the Smoky Mountain Half Marathon. We’re SO excited about this race because the scenery will be gorgeous and we have an excuse to spend a weekend in Smoky Mountain National Park!

I created a rough training schedule that requires only three runs per week, with the long run scheduled for the weekend. On a good week, I can add in an additional run or workout. (I’ve only had two good weeks out of my eight week training schedule…) Otherwise, three runs per week can safely get me to my goal. Sure, it won’t be my fastest half, but who cares? I’ll be in the mountains!

Take Action! Choose a short term exercise goal that encourages you to get moving! Maybe you can find a race a couple months away. Thanksgiving is about 3 months away, and there are countless Turkey Day races around the country! You could also choose to aim for a certain amount of push ups, complete a month-long squat challenge, prepare for a long hike on your next vacation, or try a new class at the gym.

Make a short term goal that will motivate you, and then celebrate once you’ve accomplished it! Short term goals are more manageable, and you won’t get bored before the challenge is over.

2. Shop Smart


Enough leftovers, salad mixings, apples, and eggs to last us the week!

Set yourself up for success. Get your grocery shopping done on the weekend (or on Monday after work when, like me, you run out of time) and go in with a plan. I try to plan three meals for the week. That will give me three week days’ worth of meals and a few leftovers for other dinners or lunches. We also have our staples: salad mixings, eggs, almond butter, apples, almonds, chips and salsa (for Ryan!), yogurt, and avocados.

With three planned meals and our weekly staples, there’s always something healthy to eat! Ryan and I also go out to eat once a week and don’t really worry about how “healthy” our choices are because the rest of the week is well planned.

3. Squeeze it in

12 minute athlete

Sometimes, life really doesn’t work out as planned and there is no time for a workout and no time to make dinner. Having a list of go-to ideas for these hectic times makes all the difference.

For quick dinners, I think it’s important to choose something you actually want to eat. Sometimes a salad doesn’t sound appealing, so I need to come up with another option. In my personal opinion, food IS more than just fuel. You should enjoy every meal! Here are a few quick and easy meals I enjoy:

  • Scrambled eggs and sliced avocado
  • Soup or chili
  • Giant salad from the salad bar at the grocery store
  • Rotisserie chicken

For quick workouts, the key is choosing efficient moves. Some days a run will do the trick. On other days, I don’t want to leave the house. Throwing together a short, super efficient circuit is a great option! Here are a few ideas:

4. Sometimes, Rest is Key!

Know your limits, and know when skipping a workout or having some wine and chocolate is truly the best option! Self-care is important, too. If you’re too tired, take a bath and call it a day. Watch an old movie or TV show, and give yourself a break. Rest helps you recharge so you can make better choices the next day!

The Ultimate Fitness Challenge Song: Bring Sally Up!

Hello, everyone! I hope you’ve all had fabulous weeks and are ready for FRIDAY! I started a new job this week, and so far I’m loving my school and fellow teachers :) Being surrounded by enthusiastic teachers who choose to work in a challenging environment and constantly talk about how they love what they do is so inspiring! I am so ready for Monday!

“Teacher Tired”

There is, however, one small negative aspect of this otherwise wonderful week. Fatigue. There’s a certain “teacher tired” feeling that comes with the first few weeks of school…and every year I forget about it before it comes roaring back in August.

In the midst of the new job adventures, I’m also training for a half-marathon on September 12th. Skipping workouts is not an option…but I still skipped a run and a cross-training workout anyway. I’m just so tired! I need to get it together, be an adult, and go to bed on time!

I also need to squeeze in those strength workouts that are so important for well-rounded fitness. When there’s no time (and little energy) to devote to a full workout, I do a couple of quick fitness challenge videos on YouTube. Recently, I’ve noticed a particular song, Bring Sally Up, lends itself to some tough ones!

“Bring Sally Up” Fitness Challenge


I’ve done this one a couple of times. I can make it to 1:15 before I have to drop down from regular push ups to assissted. This one’s tough!


Today, I completed this one right after doing the push up challenge. My arms were burning! In the middle of the video, I gave the up/downs a rest and started doing plank twists instead. But I made it through 2 minutes of the video in plank position!

And last but not least,


I haven’t tried this one yet. I’m pretty certain I can finish this one, but I’ll report back after I’ve actually completed it :)

Before I go, let me leave you with this fantastic link! I had the opportunity to write a guest post at! I wrote about the body positivity I’ve seen this past summer. Click here to read it! Thank you to Carrie Elle for the opportunity!

Question: What’s your favorite fitness video, YouTube or otherwise?