Taking the Healthy Coastal Lifestyle to Another Coast

Even before the humbling and irritating doctor’s appointment, I knew I needed to make some changes to my life and diet. Four days before my appointment, we had returned from our teenager’s senior trip and a truly epic family vacation to Florida. Since it was VACAY!!!, I was pretty careless about my eating. I didn’t overeat, but I also didn’t make the best food choices. My teen challenged me not to log my food for the week, and I was okay with that. You may remember that I’m a lazy dieter, and as opposed to trying to figure out how to add a new food or its components to my nutrition log app, I’ll just not eat it. I vaguely remember eggs a couple of mornings, three (gasp!) cheeseburgers, a cinnamon roll, and a large banana fritter during the week. Suffice it to say, I’d butchered my cholesterol-vulnerable bloodstream!

After a trip like this, I eat a lot of whole grains in the weeks following, especially oat-based products, like oatmeal. Then again, I usually eat six burgers a year, so eating this many in such a short amount of time was really out of character for me. I ate my whole grains, but I also thought that we needed a reset on our diets to get back to our lean meats and fruits and veggies. Something led my mind to the Mediterranean diet.

You know me, and you have heard me say that I don’t do “diets.” I don’t do restrictions and eliminating certain micronutrients (e.g., carbs) from my life just for the purpose of losing weight. Friends and family members have done that, and I’ve seen that fail them over and over as their weight has yo-yo’ed down and back up with no lasting results. Before even entertaining the ideas of adapting our diet to the Mediterranean diet, I researched. And researched and researched and researched. I didn’t and don’t need anecdotal evidence of success: “I lost 18 pounds in one week!” or “I went down five dress sizes in a month!” In fact, I doubt either of those is a realistic expectation of this food plan.

From all that I’ve been able to ascertain, the Mediterranean food plan is more about long-lasting health and increased longevity and quality of life just from, well, pretty much eating as Jesus ate. Research shows that those who adopt this eating plan have lower cholesterol, less chance of cardiovascular events (i.e., heart attacks and strokes), and are less likely to develop certain dementias. A deeper plunge into studies based on this way of eating substantiates theories that eating Mediterranean can decrease depression and anxiety.

Wha-a-at??? Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? And yes, I know I’m beginning to sound like a late-night infomercial (“But wait! There’s more!”). Let me pause right here and say–promise–that I’m getting absolutely no kick-backs off this blog post at all. This is all me sharing with you some things I’ve learned. The American Psychiatric Association did this study where they looked at the effects of the Mediterranean diet on people’s moods. Apparently, magnesium as an important dietary mineral is prevalent in fish, whole grains, almonds, and a few other foods that are key components of the Mediterranean diet. I have no problem believing the science, but I also believe how fabulous I’ve been feeling of late! I feel stronger, healthier, fuller, and happier.

That’s the another thing I like: I feel full all the time. Not bloated or anything, just pleasantly satisfied. The amount of fruit I’ve been eating has taken care of my desire for sweets, and we have found alternatives to things we had enjoyed. Plain nonfat Greek yogurt that I can stir honey into has replaced my lowfat vanilla American-style yogurt with added sugar.

Another thing about this way of eating that I’ve really enjoyed is the creative inspiration to change up old stand-bys. Instead of chicken salad with mayonnaise (even though we use light), we have discovered chicken salad with a delicious olive oil and lemon dressing with veggies hidden in it. That was amazing in whole grain pita bread! Steamed broccoli has stepped aside for much more flavorful roasted broccoli drizzled with a little lemon juice and sprinkled with feta cheese.

The sheer variety of food options thrills us, too. Are you aware of how many nations and cultures border the Mediterranean, each with its own flavors? Yet, the basic foods of the Mediterranean eating plan overlap them all. Seafood, lentils, fruits, vegetables, and grains, all set apart by robust seasonings and herbs. This means dinner never has to be boring, but we can also stay with our plan while exploring different tastes and textures.

With the Mediterranean diet, we have only had to cut out the few bad fats we were eating, processed foods, and refined sugars. With easy substitutions, this has hardly caused a blip for us. I’ll admit, we’re not 100% on this thing, yet. A surplus of fresh broccoli after our teen’s graduation party over the weekend left me wondering what in the world I was going to do with it before it went bad. My dad suggested broccoli casserole. It’s not at all “Med-friendly,” but I made one, anyway. We’re having it tonight with baked salmon. My older daughter suggested fruit with honeyed yogurt for dessert to go with it and further offset the unhealthiness of the casserole while adding a bit more protein and a fruit serving.

Keep your eyes here as I share some of the delicious recipes I’ve discovered, including ones for all the dishes I’ve mentioned here (but not the broccoli casserole).

Have you tried the Mediterranean eating plan, yet? How has it worked for you?

Medical Fat Shaming Needs to Go!

If you are carrying a bit of extra weight, you’ve gone to the doctor, only to hear them make a comment about your needing to lose weight. Some doctors just tell you you need to lose x number of pounds to improve your health. Other docs are a bit more passive-aggressive about it.

Early last fall, my right knee was giving me problems, so I went to my orthopedist to see what was going on. He said, “You could stand to lose some weight. I was having knee issues, lost fifteen pounds, and that took care of it.” I replied with, “I lost twenty-five pounds and wrecked my knees in the process.” Suffice it to say, that shut him right up.

My teen suffers from migraines, and her doctor was telling her about one of her medications. He said, “It may suppress your appetite, so that’ll be good for taking a little weight off, eh? [chuckles]” My teen has curves backed by muscle and fierce soccer thighs with curves that were common among 50s pin-up girls.

The final straw came week before last, though. I went for my annual physical because part of the healthy coastal lifestyle is making sure everything is working as it should. I always get a full blood panel done to monitor my cholesterol (which tends to run a little on the high-normal side–darn genetics!). The family nurse practitioner came in and immediately started talking about my weight and addressing my cholesterol. Her advice ranged from cutting out most of my carbs, eating just egg whites, and not tracking what I eat. I pointed out to her that there is a huge difference between carbs from Grape Nuts and carbs from potato chips. Keeping my micronutrients in balance and tracking my food have been two things that have helped me.

Two things are true, though. I keep an eye on my cholesterol every year and am mindful about eating foods and living a lifestyle that will keep it within normal range. I also knew going into this appointment that my cholesterol would be higher due to pre-vacation stress and the food I ate on vacation. I wasn’t wrong. I also thought that, given the walking I’d done while on our vacation and that I was weighing in on a fast, it seemed that my relationship with gravity that the doctor’s office scales were reporting was off by more than a few pounds. The next morning, I hopped on our bathroom scales first thing and concluded that either I’d miraculously lost seven pounds overnight or someone’s scales were off. Maybe it’s ours, maybe it’s the doctor’s. But given that my eight-pound barbell weighed exactly eight pounds on our scale, I have concluded it was the doctor’s.

I would wager that everyone who is carrying a little extra weight is quite well aware of it. This has always been my truth, partly due to genetics, partly because I’m short, and partly because of my enjoyment of food. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. When I was younger and my pediatrician would give my mom the stats–“She’s in the 98th percentile for weight”–my mom would always say, “That means only two percent of girls your age are bigger than you.” It was always “bigger,” never “fatter” or “heavier,” but I knew exactly what she meant. The fat shaming didn’t work then, and it certainly doesn’t work now.

What if, then, instead of doctors blaming everything that ails us on our weight (except for, of course, those diseases that are directly related to weight), they addressed it more proactively and positively? Instead of doctors assuming we are idiots who aren’t aware of our proportions, they could instead ask patients what we know about our weight. That FNP I saw could have asked, “What steps are you taking to lose weight?” Then she’d know that I monitor what I eat and what my activity level looks like. If she’d asked me about my cholesterol, then I could have told her things like my genetic predisposition, how stress can make it go up and what stress I was under, and the very out-of-my-usual foods I’d eaten the week prior. Instead of assuming I was both ignorant and careless about my cholesterol, she could have instead learned that I’m both mindful and careful with it.

I have since made arrangements to switch providers. Our family has also started introducing elements of the Mediterranean diet into our lives. With its heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables, summer is the most fabulous time to start this. I’ll be speaking more about that in posts to come.

Have you ever had a doctor fat-shame you? How did that feel?

Investing in Good Health

You’ve probably heard that good health is an investment in your future. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can increase your life expectancy by decreasing your chances of developing illnesses related to poor health such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, certain lifestyle choices can also impact your odds of developing certain cancers. Those are most definitely the long-term benefits to investing in a healthy lifestyle.

However, most people want to see some small return on their investments, too. After all, you get monthly or quarterly statements showing you the health of your financial investments, be they savings funds, retirement accounts, or stock performances. When it comes to our physical health, we like to see some progress. We don’t want to have to wait until we’re decades older to see the return on our investment in our health. We can enjoy it then, and our families, I’m sure, will be happy to share in the benefits.

Because I like to see smaller improvements and dividends. I choose to think of my calories as debits and credits, and I invest those. Each day, I burn a certain number of calories, and I ingest a certain number of calories. The calories I ingest are my “debits.” The calories I burn are my “credits.” My goal each day is to finish with more credits than debits, just as we want to do with our financial investments. When I’ve earned a lot of credits through exercise, then I feel comfortable expending some of them in a sweet little something.

There are those days, though–and admit it, we all have them–when it’s cold, grey, and rainy outside, and all I want to do is curl up with a good book. There are also those days when it’s blazing hot, and I just want to lie under a fan and move as little as possible. If I eat too much on those days, then I’m going to wind up with more debits (calories consumed) than credits. The trick is, on those days, to know about how many calories my body will burn with no help from me (just over 1400) and eat fewer calories than that.

Other days, though, I’m killing it. I’m weight training and doing cardio and practicing yoga. I’m burning calories like a spoiled rich girl burns her dad’s credit card at the stores. Some exercises, like weight training, has the added benefit of burning calories even after the workout, as sore muscles heal and repair themselves in the day or two following. Those days, I happily end up in the black, calorie-wise.

I’m far from perfect; just motivated. There are those days when food is too good, lava cake calls me, and I haven’t been motivated to do much all day. These days aren’t the best, but I don’t let them get me down or discourage me. I accept them for what they are and resolve to get back on track the next day. At the end of the week, my report shows I’ve been burning more calories than I’ve consumed, and over time, that helps with the weight loss and strengthening that has helped me be healthier, get stronger, and become fit enough to do mission work and a 5K. Down the road when I’m decades older (hopefully), I’ll still be here and healthy enough to be active with my children, grandchildren, and maybe even great-grands.

These little investments now will lead to long-term benefits down the road. Thinking about that helps me stay motivated and show extra kindness to myself. After all, it’s about the healthy coastal lifestyle, not the healthy coastal “this week” or “this month.”

Subtract to Add

The healthy coastal lifestyle is more than just right eating and moving our bodies. It also involves keeping our minds, hearts, and spirits healthy, too, and that’s what I want to speak about here.

I love people. I’m called to minister to people and enjoy being around them. Caring for people isn’t much of a hardship for me. However, since I can discern spirits, it’s important that I protect my own spirit from getting overwhelmed.

And it was getting overwhelmed. You know how some people just put off negative energies? That’s what was going on. Then you realize that, though you may have liked someone and genuinely cared for them, their energies were beginning to be more than your heart, mind, and spirit could tolerate.

Last semester, I welcomed a friend of my younger daughter into our homeschool. By midterm, this was starting to feel like not the best choice. By the end of the semester, the Spirit told me loud and clear that things had to change. I had been neglecting a lot of things in my life–my daughters, my exercise disciplines, and my sleep. My poor husband was suffering, too, because he wanted to talk to me at night, and try as I might, I couldn’t sell him on the advantages of getting up with me at 7:00 a.m. to talk to me in the mornings instead. I functioned on six or seven hours of sleep for months.

When I subtracted this something that started off as a good thing but turned bad, I became liberated. I reclaimed myself and my time. My family got my spare time again. Shoot, I had spare time again! With no morning alarms, I could catch up on my sleep, luxuriating in the sheer joy of snuggling in bed just a little longer on cold winter mornings. Now I’ve reclaimed up to an hour a day most days to exercise and have gotten back into a fitness regimen with cardio, weight training, and two types of yoga with a day or two rest days a week.

As time has ticked on from those days, I’m noticing even more positive changes in me. I’m sleeping soundly, often sleeping eight hours straight without even getting up in the middle of the night. I have tons of energy to get things done, including sewing and exercising. Probably the best benefit, though, is having so much extra time with my girls. School days fly by, leaving time to spend with either or both of my girls and sometimes a friend or two. My stress level has dropped, my anxiety-related facial tic has gone back into hiding, I feel light, often dancing freely around for no reason at all.

I have often spoken of gaining things to add to the healthy coastal lifestyle–adding exercise, sleep, meditation, or healthy foods. This lesson has taught me that subtraction is also necessary to living the healthy coastal lifestyle because we can’t find room to add good things until we subtract some other things, perhaps things that create mental, psychological, and spiritual clutter in our lives.

As we embrace whatever this year holds for us–and who in the heck knows at this point, am I right???–let’s be willing to let go of anything that’s not serving us. Maybe it’s an activity, maybe it’s a relationship, maybe it’s a habit. We need to be willing to ask ourselves, “How is this benefitting me?” If it’s not, then we need to give it the Elsa treatment and just let it go. If you’re like me, you’ll find greater gains will replace the loss.

The Mentally Healthy Lifestyle

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure whether to place this on my spiritual blog or this one, but since this does have to do with an aspect of the healthy coastal lifestyle, I opted for here. (Not to say I won’t share it on my author/minister page.) Often I have highlighted the interrelationship between physical health and mental health, believing–and the research backs this up–that maintaining a strong mental health will have a positive impact on one’s physical health. Yes, you read that correctly. So frequently do we hear about how exercise helps combat a plethora of mental health issues–everything from anxiety to depression to ADHD–but we don’t often learn about the converse of that.

I am finding myself in a situation where I am helping someone while they tend to other things. The understanding is that there is a time limit on this arrangement. Recently, however, I have become concerned that this person isn’t tending to those other things. I was sharing this with my Sunday morning Bible study group, and one of my friends there suggested this time limit may extend. I replied with a firm, “No, it won’t.” Another friend chimed in with, “But what about ________?” I said, “This is going to sound cruel and callous, but that’s not my problem.”

My friends get me. You see, in my battle against my anxiety, I’ve had to say about certain things, “That’s not my problem.” I have my own problems–anxiety, arthritic knees, entrepreneurship during a global pandemic and an economic recession–and I have those things that I may list under “problems” that aren’t problems at all (family, managing the household, homeschooling, revisions on my book) but are things that require my time, energy, and attention. In these respects, they’re responsibilities. It’s enough to keep my plate pretty full all the time without adding someone else’s problems or responsibilities to the pile. It’s just simply good boundaries.

Along with setting and maintaining these boundaries on my time and energy, I have also backed away from negative and/or toxic people, as well as negativity in social media and the main stream media. That negativity and toxicity builds up like arsenic in the system. For a while you may feel fine. Then you start feeling a little sick, a little off. Then you get really sick and die. Even if it’s not physical death (though sometimes it is), too much negativity and toxicity can kill a part of our mental or spiritual health.

Yesterday, I decided to polish off my week with a walk. This also marks around the 4th anniversary of the beginning of the Healthy Coastal Lifestyle. (Yea!) It was cool and comfortable, just a titch cooler than the tank and shorts called for, but… Myeh, whatever. I’d build up my own heat, I figured. The purpose of the walk was two-fold: (1) cardio exercise, and (2) knee strengthening work. The screenshot above shows a pretty embarrassing average speed; it’s usually a bit higher than that. Some of the loss of speed was warming my right knee up. But that wouldn’t account for much. Then I remembered Dave. And John and Amanda. And… well, let’s just say that half the neighborhood was outside and I’m an extrovert.

I only chose to avoid negativity and toxicity to preserve my mental health. Like so many things we do, though, there were unintended side benefits. In liberating myself of those things and by refusing to take on other people’s responsibilities, I have freed myself for absolutely marvelous positivity to enter my life. In choosing not to allow extra responsibilities and negatives to burden my life, I have created space for unmitigated joy and happiness. This became glaringly apparent to me yesterday evening while I was walking.

I was on my second lap through the neighborhood when I saw a familiar little dog with a couple. We thought the male half of this couple–a nice guy who’d lived down the street from us for 11 years until last week–had moved away. Yesterday I found out he’d reconnected with a lady who lives on another street in our neighborhood and moved into her house after getting married three weeks ago. I spoke to an older neighbor whose grass had gotten uncharacteristically long, leading me to fear either his wife or he had had some health crisis. He assured me they were fine after I assured him I wasn’t at all being critical of his lawn, that I had been worried.

I felt more than just an endorphin rush from this walk. I felt the buzz from seeing and speaking to people. More, though, I felt joy. When I saw my neighbor with his new bride and dog (just the bride is new), I felt genuine joy for their happiness. I don’t know this guy for more than just a casual hello and a brief chat, but they were both radiating bliss. It wasn’t hard to pick up on that, and it spread. Because I had purged negativity and toxicity from my life, and because I choose not to add to my responsibilities, I had so much room in me to feel this positive interaction, as well as all the others in which I’d engaged during my walk.

I returned from my walk nicely warmed from the exercise and the interactions. When I told my family about our neighbor and his big life change, that happiness spread throughout our home. That experience really brought home for me how much one person’s mood affects the entire rest of the family.

So, to recap… I make choices that affect my mental health in positive ways. Those choices leave me open not only to feeling less anxious or depressed, but also all the way happier. These wonderful feelings spread to my entire household. They then also feel happier. It looks like my choices not only help me but indirectly help others as well, and that’s a solid win.

Cleaning Means Letting Go

I blogged early last year about how the Konmari Method has swept through our house. In the early days of that phenomenon here, we gathered and donated bags upon bags of clothing, boxes of books, and recycled half a forest’s worth of paper. In the midst of that, though, I never attacked my business stash. In eleven years, I have purged containers or fragrances that I no longer use, but I hadn’t done a major cleaning up and cleaning out. This week was that week.

It happened last week. I was taking a writing course online and happened to glance back at one of my soap racks. I have two, and one had become used for storage. A lot of storage. It mostly had soaping things on it, but it also had my sewing threads and pins to keep little children and cats out of them. I decided I didn’t need it for business things and that I would gut it and use it for the “domestic arts”: Canning, sewing, and cooking. In preparation, I ordered a sewing box and gathered all the bags of soap scraps (there were SIX of them!) to send down to Orlando to Clean the World. (Click here to see the stash I sent down.) That pretty much took care of the top shelf.

Then came the colorants. Organizing them and putting them where they belong required completely gutting their assigned drawer, cleaning it out, and replacing the colorants. It’s been a long time since that drawer looked that neatly organized!

As I was happily clearing off this rack, it dawned on me that I needed a place for my temperature-sensitive additives to live. My gaze landed on the corner rack. This rack is huge and lives in (you guessed it) the corner of our dinette. It’s where soaps cure and dried herbs live. If I were going to have room for the stuff on the hallway rack, then I needed to clean off the corner rack. You can see how this quickly snowballed.

Soap rack
The corner soap rack getting cleaned off and cleaned up

I wish I had thought to take “before” pictures so you could appreciate the sheer amount of work that went into getting this rack looking this good. I have wrapped over 100 bars of soap since yesterday. I have wiped down all these shelves to get the soap remnants off of them. All the soap at the top is for family use, though I suspect a bunch of smaller soaps will, too, make their way to Orlando to meet Priscilla, the soap press at Clean the World.

All that to get to the point… I’ve thrown stuff away. I’ve thrown things away I never thought I would. I found some bottles of lotions that had been living on the rack for ten years. I normally would’ve dumped the lotion out and washed or recycled the bottles, but I didn’t bother. They went straight into the garbage. Yes, a little bit of my soul died at the idea of throwing away plastic, and I heard my younger daughter chastising me in my head for being a “fish killer.” I did it, anyway.

My heart broke a little when I found some of my old faithful melt & pour soap moulds had yellowed and cracked with time and age. I thought of all the cat-shaped soaps I’ve made in my soapmaking career–soaps I have no need to make anymore. One of those moulds is sitting in the recycle bin. I’m pretty certain more will accompany it.

And if you look on the fourth shelf up, just to the right of my Crazy Ideas inspiration, you’ll see a clear container. It’s hard to make out what’s in it, but it contains the bagillion little product portfolios I had made for my first show. Hundreds of little 2″x2″ squares, each bearing a product picture on the front, its description on the back. None of them represent products I make currently, and the business that went with them has been gone for four years. I kept them for the memories, and now I am ready to let them go.

There comes a point where letting go is part of the cleaning process. Holding on to too much weighs us down, and we have to choose to release that dead weight that’s holding us back. I was exhausted after standing and working, and God only knows (literally!) how many steps I took between the two racks, the sink, and the trashcan. But seeing the rack looking like it does is completely rewarding to me. Knowing the next steps for the hallway rack and what it’ll mean for the rest of our space excites me. If I weren’t willing to part with these bits and pieces of my past soapmaking life, I’d never be able to move forward toward what I envision next for this space.

It Goes Beyond Handwashing

You’ve heard it for over a week: Wash your hands. Wash your hands before you leave places, when you arrive at the next place, and after touching someone. This is, of course, in addition to washing your hands after going to the bathroom and before you eat. If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, then you should use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. It’s old news by now.

Since the days of (1) wash your hands and (2) don’t touch your face, we’ve learned of other ways to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. We are currently in the midst of a recommended (not required) social isolation. It’s recommended that people not gather together in groups of fifty or more. If you think you’ve been exposed to the virus, you should self-quarantine. Blah, blah, blah. We’re only on day three, and if you’re like me, you’re probably beginning to think that Jack Torrence in The Shining (Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie) wasn’t really all that crazy. If nothing else, you can at least understand him better now.

Soap and water are still the best tools to get rid of viruses on your hands.

What does it mean to be socially isolated? It means to stay away from people, to keep at least six feet between you and anyone who doesn’t live in your home. It doesn’t mean you have to stay inside all the time. It doesn’t mean not going places you may need to go. It means to spend most of your time on your own turf. It means to walk in places that aren’t heavily populated. You can take a walk with your dog in your neighborhood. You can even take a walk on the beach. In fact, exercise and sunshine help boost the immune system.

You can go to the store, and you don’t need to personally boost Charmin’s CEO’s yearly bonus. You don’t need to horde everything to the detriment of others who also need those same groceries and hygiene items. Just, when you go, pick times that are slower. Sunday after church time isn’t that time. Neither is senior citizen day – unless you’re a senior.

If we act wisely, we’ll be on the other side of this curve soon. Unfortunately, we’re just on the upward climb, so we’ve got a few or several more weeks of being isolated and inconvenienced. We have weeks more of anxiety and uncertainty, particularly with the rapid declines in the stock market. It has been said, “Keep your head when everyone else is losing theirs.” Those who keep their heads will have the better chance of survival.

How does that happen? Anxiety and worry flood the body with neurotransmitters that compromise the immune system. It’s so hard to keep our heads during trying times like this, but we can if we try. My secret weapon? Mindfulness practice. Mindfulness practice allows the brain to take a rest for a little bit, better enabling it to deal with crisis situations.

To learn more about mindfulness, click here. You can scroll down about a quarter of the way down the page to get steps for mindfulness meditation, but the areas before that and the video provide some excellent and fascinating information on the effects of mindfulness on the brain.

If you need soap for all that handwashing, click here. And don’t forget to pick up some moisturizer to combat the inevitable dry skin.

Stay safe and stay well.

Snack Smart

Last month, I purchased a package of 2- and 4-ounce containers, perfect for holding serving sizes of vegetables, nuts, and so forth. I’d had a bunch of similar containers in these sizes when my daughters were babies; I used them for their homemade baby food, and the four-ouncers were the perfect size for mixing baby cereal.

These small, square containers are just as perfect as their circular Tupperware counterparts for everything we like them for. Not only are they the perfect size, but, being reusable, we don’t have to burn through single-use plastic bags. The 2-ounce containers have been absolutely perfect for taking snacks when I have to sit around the community college while my teen is in class.

I didn’t think I would need a snack. A good breakfast should tie me over to lunch at home, or so I thought on her first class day in January. But by the time my teen started her last class of the day, my breakfast was history and I was getting hangry. Luckily, there was a poptart in the car leftover from the teen’s breakfast, and it took care of the immediate need, but no way could I wisely eat a 200-calorie, low-nutrient snack every day.

Around this same time, we discovered the German grocery chain Lidl with its brand-new, shiny store not far from the places in Wilmington where we often go. The first time we visited, almonds were on sale, so I grabbed some. In accordance with my fitness goals, while almonds aren’t my top snack choice, they fit in perfectly – much better than toaster pastries, that’s for sure!

Two ounces of m&m’s versus two ounces of almonds

I decided to do my own little comparison. Each of these containers holds two ounces. The container on the left is holding two servings of yummy dark chocolate m&m’s, coming in at 280 calories. The container on the right is holding one serving of raw almonds at 190 calories. Sure, those m&m’s look good – and everyone who knows me knows about my recovering m&m addiction. However, nutrition-wise, they’re just not worth the calorie hit. That container of delicious Ms contains 280 calories, 12 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fats, and only 2 grams of protein. Yes, there are carbs and sugars in them, as well, of course, but for the sake of comparison, I’m focusing on the nutrients I want in a snack. The container of almonds, on the other hand, has 190 calories, 17 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat (means the majority of those fats are healthy unsaturated ones), and 7 grams of protein. The almonds pack a healthy little punch. They satisfy me until we get home, and on our long days, those days we’re gone from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., half gets me to lunch and half with a piece of fruit gets me to dinner with a workout in between.

The first take-away I want to share is, plan to be hungry. Expect to get hungry and plan for that with a healthy snack. That first day of classes, I hadn’t planned so I hadn’t prepared. I ended up grabbing a pop tart out of desperation, and while tasty, it is loaded with tons of calories and sugars but not much else to contribute to a balanced diet. That certainly isn’t a long-term option.

The second take-away is, decide ahead of time what you’ll take. Consider portion sizes and nutritional benefits. The Ms are scrumptious (can you tell I’m missing them?), but the carb crash would have me hungry again in under an hour. There are just as many ounces of almonds, but they will hold me for at least two hours.

When making the healthy coastal lifestyle work for you, be mindful of how you snack. Not planning your snack will leave you grabbing the first thing you can grab, and that usually leads to a straight carb hit.

SMART Goal Setting

With 2020 well underway, be honest… How are those resolutions working out for you? If you’re like most people, your resolutions are beginning to fade into memory, and it’s becoming harder and harder to stick with them. Probably you’ve missed that morning work-out, grabbed that carbohydrate-laden snack-on-the-go just this once because you were in a hurry and had forgotten to pack your protein bar, or you’ve slipped and had that one cigarette. You feel like a loser, so now you want to be a quitter. In fact, US News and World Report states that 80% of New Years resolutions fail by February. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, you’re in good company.

Why do so many resolutions go by the wayside? Much has to do with the reasons I cited above. The well-meaning resolution setter slips up just once or loses momentum, and that’s it. Another reason resolutions fail is because the intended goal is just too hard to meet. It takes months to see significant progress on weight loss plans, whether your method is carb reduction or calorie burning. If you’re burning calories at the gym with toning and weight training workouts, you’ll likely see no significant weight loss, even as your clothes are getting looser and baggier. Why? You’re burning fat as you’re building muscle. That pound of fat you’ve lost weighs just as much as the pound of muscle you’ve built, but the fat is much more voluminous. It’s like comparing a pound of feathers to a one-pound brick.

A significant reason resolutions fail, though, is there’s no SMART goal-setting to back them up. So many people think that, were they to chart their resolutions, it’d look like a solid diagonal line going straight up, demonstrating constant improvement. In reality, it looks like the stock market graph for a high-performing stock if you were to look at the graph for the week. While it maintains an upward trend, the truth is, it rises and falls many times while it climbs overall. Meeting goals is just like that, because those dips show us moments when something we were trying failed followed by the growth from taking a different approach.

That said, let’s look at a SMART approach to goal setting, and I’m going to use getting fit as my example goal, since that’s an important part of my life. SMART goals are:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Timeable

Specific: “I want to get healthy.” That’s not specific enough. What would “healthy” look like to you? Does this pertain just to physical health or does it also include spiritual, mental, emotional, and psychological health?
Better: “I want to drop 4 sizes this year, lower my blood pressure, and lower my cholesterol through dietary changes, exercise, and yoga.”

Measurable: “I want to drop 4 sizes this year.” Or maybe “I want to lose 30 pounds.” “I want to lower my blood pressure to within normal range. I want to lower my cholesterol to be between 100 and 150.” These are all measurable goals. They have a quantitative value and can be objectively assessed.

Attainable: “I want to lose 200 pounds.” Can it be done? Maybe, depending on your starting weight. Can it be done healthily? Maybe. Timing is key here. Be mindful that some plans to lose weight quickly can also lead you to putting it back on just as quickly – and those newly found pounds have an ugly tendency to bring reinforcements, so you’ll actually gain more than you originally lost. If your overall weight loss goal as part of your broader plan to get healthy is to lose 200 pounds, then it’s definitely doable.

Realistic: “I want to lose 100 pounds. Nevermind that I weigh 180 and am 5’6″.” Is 80 pounds on a five-and-a-half-foot frame realistic? No. You’d look like someone who survived a concentration camp. That’s too much weight loss and quite unhealthy. It’s best to stick in the realm of a healthy weight per your frame size, your target BMI number, and your doctor’s guidance.

Timeable: “I want to lose 50 pounds by Valentine’s Day.” This isn’t happening, not in a healthy, sustainable way, anyway. This goal isn’t timeable. If you were to amend this goal to specify 50 pounds in a year, that’s entirely possible to do in a healthy, lifestyle changing way.

If you want to achieve goals of any sort, you need to make sure they are SMART with special emphasis on “realistic.” Reality is, you’re going to slip off the wagon regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish. The difference between a resolution and a goal is, all too often, people feel comfortable quitting on a resolution, but they will stick with goals, despite slip-ups, failures, and mistakes. When people set goals (I know this is true for myself), they tend to treat errors of every kind as the learning opportunities they are and don’t allow them to set them back. They just keep pushing forward.

I’m setting goals month by month for this year and seeing how that works as each new month brings with it new responsibilities and opportunities. For January, my goals are working out at least 45 minutes a hit for at least three days a week and writing a minimum of 500 words toward my book or stories. What goals have you set for this year? Share in the comments below.