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?

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.

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: “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.

You’ll Topple and Poot

It’s no secret that I enjoy yoga and have incorporated it as part of my healthy coastal lifestyle for many reasons – relief from anxiety, flexibility, strength, and balance. As everyone who’s ever practiced yoga knows, other things come out of a yoga practice.

Our adorable little town offers free exercise classes – cardio and yoga practices – and this time of year, especially, people want to explore these classes. While cardio is pretty new user-friendly, yoga is a lot more intimidating. There’s the image of lithe, flexible, young bodies contorting and moving in smooth, fluid ways while incense burns and New Agey music plays in the background. So often, people are scared to try yoga, because they think they’ll be the klutzy elephant in the room full of swans. I was like that one time, too.

One May, I was working an event and happened to be almost right across from the local yoga and wellness booth. During a lag, I scooted across and chatted with the ladies working the booth, and they told me that the classes are friendly for all levels and there are modifications available. Their words gave me the assurance I needed to dare to try the class, and it’s been a good choice ever since.

There was still the fear that I’d make a total fool out of myself. Early on, I toppled over. Another time in my first year of practice, I was coming out of a deep yoga squat and went head-first to the hardwood floor surrounding my mat. People look at you when you fall, but mostly it’s out of concern. I’ve seen far more experienced yogis than I topple over. Once you accept the fact that it’ll happen – that you’ll lose balance and topple over – you’re free to focus only on your flow.

Another thing that makes people give up on yoga is not having consistently perfect practices. It is very common for someone to be able to balance better on one side than the other within the same practice. It is also common for a yogi to balance great on one side but not have that same balance during their next practice. And sometimes, there’s just no balance at all on either side during a practice when you were nailing it perfectly in your previous practice. Being aware that this is normal keeps newbies to yoga from dropping out, thinking they’re failing at yoga. It is called yoga “practice” for a reason.

The other thing that drives new yogis away from practice in fear and embarrassment is the inevitable gas passage. This exchange from Bridget Jones’s Baby sums it up perfectly:

I think of that last line every single time I’m in yoga practice and getting that feeling. The fact of the matter is, sometimes, in certain poses, it’s just impossible to clench your sphincter while holding the pose. Perhaps, though, yoga allows for the body to do what comes naturally to it. With standing twists, sitting twists, and lying twists, the intestines get massaged and the stuff in them moves as it should. One evening, I was just finishing up the final stretching segment of a cardio/pilates workout. We’d been flat on our backs as it ended, and as I rocked up to a seated position… Yep. And it was loud. Thankfully, the workout flush hid my blush, and I apologized. The teacher quipped, “Better out than in.” It’s true, though. While we think of passing gas as uncouth and most definitely not lady-like, our bodies aren’t supposed to hold gas. This is why we come equipped with mechanisms for burping and pooting.

As you ponder your fitness goals for 2020, they may include yoga. In fact, I hope they do. It will improve your physical and psychological health and is a key component of the healthy coastal lifestyle. Remember some key ideas, though. (1) Everyone’s a beginner at some point. (2) Everyone at every level of experience topples over and falls or, at least, loses their balance. (3) Some practices go better than others. (4) Everyone poots during practice. Remember these and give yourself some grace, and you’ll be able to relax completely in the no-judgement-zone that is yoga practice.

Accomplishing a HUGE Goal

This truly wasn’t one of my goals when I started embracing the healthy coastal lifestyle a little over three years ago. I had no idea at the time that I’d push my body to the lengths I would, trusting it to take me all the way to the finish line.

A little over a week ago, I completed my first 5K. That may not be entirely accurate. I participated in 10Ks when I was a tween/teen for charity, and I took part in the Walk for the Cure 5K fifteen years ago, again for charity. This was my first “official” 5K, complete with bib and medal.

My bib and medal. Hard won!

It was a sultry, humid day in the Bahamas. Our cruise ship had been delayed arriving in port, so we didn’t get as early a start as hoped. We were truly hoping to be done with the walk by 10 before the heat really set in. That didn’t happen. We couldn’t even dock until 9:30. Half the ship’s guests were disembarking down the same gangplank as we were, and then there was the half-mile trek from the ship to the starting line, again amongst hordes of fellow travelers that slowly thinned as we passed each beach spot.

By the time my younger daughter and I got to the starting line, it was nearly 11:00 in the morning and the 5K was already twenty minutes underway. It was a warm and humid 84 degrees with a heat index in the 90s (I didn’t look, because I didn’t want to know). My tween and I were set, right down to the bibs safety-pinned to the backs of our shirts.

The track was mostly sun-exposed with just scant pockets of shade. We were lucky to have intermittent breezes to help cool us down. I had my phone’s fitness app to track my progress. I’ll spare you the details (We passed a pink flower. We passed a sign warning people to stay on the trail, etc…). Although my daughter and I ended up getting separated, I waited beside the trail when my app said we had just under a half mile to go so we could finish together. When we finished, my app didn’t show the 3.1 miles I was expecting for that distance, but instead, 3.4 miles – and this was on top of the half mile or so we’d had to walk to the starting line, not to mention the trek from our room, using the stairs, of course.

At the 2/3 of a mile left (WOOHOO!!!) mark, I announced it to my fellow walkers. One responded, “You sound excited about that.”

“There’s a big, beautiful, blue sea just over there, and it calls me!” I sang the last part from the song from Moana. They’re Disney people, so they got it.

I’d seriously considered finishing the walk, ripping off my shoes, socks, and phone, and plunging, fully dressed, into the Caribbean Sea. I practiced the modicum of restraint required to resist doing that. Instead, we went into the bathroom to change into our bathing suits. This was a feat in balance and coordination. You know how hard it is to put a bathing suit on, anyway? Well, imagine that but add in sweat-dampened skin, a decent-sized bathroom stall, and standing on sport sandals; additionally, being solitary, my daughter and I couldn’t help each other make the necessary adjustments. Once properly changed, we stepped around to the side of the building to the showers and flushed all the sweat and salt off of our skins. The rest of the day was a smorgasbord of delightful flavors and carefree frolics in the sapphire blue sea.

At the finish line. My smile is looking a bit manic here.

I never planned or expected to participate in and finish a 5K. With my knees giving me so much trouble, including having a blood vessel burst behind my right knee the first day of our cruise, I wasn’t sure how the 5K would go. We had been active all week with stair-climbing, swimming, walking, and exploring volcanic caves. Yet, all that activity kept my knees moving. (A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Basic physics.) Even though I found myself wishing I’d heat-trained throughout the summer, I was still proud of my time – under an hour with an average speed of 3.6 mph – and proud of the fact that I did it. Even being a little slack, I’d kept myself in good enough shape to meet this new goal.

Getting Exactly What You Need

I have learned so much in the past year about taking care of myself as I pursue the healthy coastal lifestyle. One of the key things I’ve learned is the importance of making sure I get exactly what I need. What I need may not be what I want or what I think is best, but it’s what my body needs.

This past weekend was my teen’s and my mom/daughter weekend away. We always go to this one beach, stay in the exact same room at the same resort, and eat at the same places both nights. We like the routine, we’ve made our mark in our room (to make it helpful for us and others who stay there), and at no time have we ever been starving on a Saturday evening and playing the “Where do you want to eat? I don’t know. Where do you want to eat?” game. It’s easy, because we can also be flexible in what we do as need be. This past weekend was a miracle in and of itself, because the island had shut down ahead of Hurricane Dorian and just reopened to the public two hours before check-in time.

As a result of the hurricane causing so many to cancel plans, my daughter and I were only two of five people Friday night and into Saturday morning, and throughout the weekend, we had the entire back half of the resort to ourselves. There was no fighting for seats at breakfast or crowded beaches (though the beach usually isn’t bad). The concierge said it could be a little eerie. To us, it was just fun.

The things we did this past weekend were just what we needed. They may not look like “typical” weekend vacationer things, but we’re not typical vacationers. Instead of a heavy dinner Friday night, we were satisfied with a shared appetizer and chowder. We opted for movies in the room when the sun or mosquitoes got to be too much. And in a rare moment, we grabbed late afternoon naps before dinner on Saturday. So many times previously, we would’ve pushed through our fatigue, but we didn’t this time.

We obeyed our bodies. We took hold of exactly what we needed for optimal health. It seems like a silly thing to have learned, but I’m not very good about allowing my body to dictate my activities. I push through, force myself to keep going, to perform, to take care of everyone and everything. However, when my head is pounding from being tired or when the anxiety begins to creep in, I can’t keep going, I can’t perform, and I can’t even take care of myself, let alone others. Because I have started doing this, my teen has been able to give herself permission to do it, too.

My favorite rest moments come in savasana naps. Savasana is final resting pose in a yoga practice, and practitioners are supposed to hold the pose for five minutes per hour of practice. When I grab a savasana nap, I lay down across my bed in savasana, drop my tongue from the roof of my mouth, and focus on something mindless – rain on the roof, the whirl of the ceiling fan, my own breathing. My mind stops thinking, stops racing, and simply rests. After twenty minutes and a good stretch, I feel like I’ve just slept for eight solid hours.

A minor version of this is simple meditation. It allows my mind to rest without going all the way into a nap. Today, for example, I could breathe into the headache pounding away behind my forehead and breathe that discomfort out. I came out of it refreshed, headache-free, and ready to tackle work. A year ago, I would have pushed through the work and the headache, but now I’ve learned that I need these moments to be my healthiest and best.

What are some tricks you’ve picked up to be the healthiest and happiest you can be? Where do you see yourself needing to give yourself permission to take moments for rest? Drop your strategies in the comments.