Home is…

Home is… an elusive place. Have I ever really felt “at home”? I grew up in Adrian, Michigan – did I ever really fit in? It surely never really felt like I did.

I lived and studied abroad in Mexico for a year, and what a year it was! That year was filled with some of the best adventures and now some of my most vivid memories. And yet, I came back to Michigan, back to “home,” back to what was comfortable. And here I am over 15 years later wondering where I belong.

Today, living in Lansing, Michigan, I wonder if this small-big city is my real home. Sure, it’s got everything I could ever need. And certainly, my husband is here which makes it more home to me than anywhere else at this current stage of life. But do I truly belong in Lansing?

Because isn’t that what home is? Or should be? A place to belong? A place to really rest your head, and not in the morbid sense, but in the sense of true peace, relaxation, and calm. A place to truly get a break from the hustle and bustle of this crazy, modern, fast-paced world. A place where your mind, your thoughts can be at rest, be at peace.

Maybe home for me is in the woods on a quiet morning or tranquil afternoon, hiking and connecting with nature. Maybe that’s my home…surely that’s where I feel most at peace. If home is where you can and do find peace, then I suppose that’s the answer. That’s where I truly belong.

Maybe the answer to feeling more at peace, to feeling more “at home” is spending more time walking outside, hiking on a trail, being in nature, soaking in the calm, wondrous woods. The scent of pine, the soft carpet of needles underfoot. The mysterious bird songs that someday I should probably learn to identify. The million and one types of flora. The wonder and marvel of re-discovering a place across the seasons throughout a year.

Home for me is being wrapped up in the embrace of Mother Nature. I’m a homebody and an introvert certainly, but being able to spend all my time at home, if home is nature, is the best way to be at home for me.

Tell me: What is home to you? Is it a place? A feeling? A person?

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Get Outside – For Your Health!

And for the fun of it!

Getting outside more can improve your health – and not just in the summertime! Find time to be outside during all four seasons to improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. Benefits of being outside include improved concentration, reduced stress levels, better blood pressure, increased energy, and better sleep. In Japan, the common practice of “forest bathing” encourages people to go outside and take in nature or the wonder of a forest to improve health and reduce stress. Being prepared and finding activities you enjoy will help you get outside more year-round!

Bundle up in the winter months to stay nice and warm while you enjoy outside winter activities like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, sledding, or ice skating. Beat the wintertime blues or seasonal affective disorder by getting outside, soaking up the sunshine and Vitamin D, and breathing in the fresh, crisp winter air. Vitamin D is a great mood and immunity booster!

Don’t let a little rain keep you shut inside – grab a rain jacket and some rain boots to stay dry on a wet and rainy springtime walk. Find a nearby park or nature trail to spot newly blooming flowers and sneak a peak at some wildlife emerging from their winter slumber.

Beat the heat in the summertime by finding a shady forest for a leisurely walk or a more intense hike. Another great way to stay cool in the summer is at a local pool, lake, or river swimming, kayaking, or canoeing. And don’t forget about opportunities to pick Michigan berries at a local farm.

Enjoy the cooler fall temperatures and go for a hike or walk to take in the beautiful fall colors or go apple picking or visit a pumpkin patch with the family. And don’t forget about the great workout you can get from raking leaves!

Take your workout outside any time of year – cardio and strength workouts can easily be adapted for the outdoors with minimal (or zero!) equipment. Great outdoor cardiovascular activities include walking, hiking, running, swimming, or biking. And don’t forget about plyometrics that can easily be done with no equipment or just a park bench – think bench jumps instead of box jumps, jump squats, and burpees. Utilize body weight exercises for easy strength training outside: push-ups, pull-ups on the monkey bars at a park, planks, squats, and lunges.

Go explore and enjoy all the outdoors has to offer, my friends!

Tell me:

What’s your favorite way to enjoy the outdoors in each season?

Originally published in the August 2018 issue of Healthy & Fit Magazine

Sources: Harvard Medical School and NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation

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Embrace the Wonder of Winter

Last February for my husband, Noah’s birthday we rented a small cabin in Northern Michigan for the weekend.

The timing in early February could not have been more perfect as we got up there and had 6 inches (or more!) of fresh snow to play in. Our dog, Jerome, is most definitely a cold-weather dog and LOVES tromping through the snow.

He also really loved the puffy vest I got him for that occasion. We had a great time Up North, hiking in the fresh snow, reading, and enjoying delicious food.

So far in 2020 now half-way through January, we’ve had a relatively mild winter here in Michigan. We had an ice storm over the weekend and Noah, Jerome and I enjoyed a relaxing and productive weekend at home. I worked a lot, but not too much, got some things done around the house, and Noah baked some fresh, oh so delicious, Challah bread.

Both of these weekends were wonderful – I love winter hiking and exploring, there is something about the stillness of the season that is very calming; but I also don’t mind staying indoors sometimes and using the winter weather as an excuse to get some things done around the house that I might not otherwise.

Now that we’re in to the most intense part of winter here in Michigan, I thought it might be useful to talk about ways we can fight the winter blues. After Christmas and New Year’s pass it can be difficult to maintain a positive mindset and focus on all the good winter has to offer when the thermometer dips into single or *gasp* even negative digits and it takes you longer to scrape off your car or shovel your sidewalk than it does to make dinner.

  • Make a Winter Bucket List and plan some fun things to do outside the house or outdoors
    • Don’t jampack your calendar with to-dos – save some space for down-time – but do plan some fun things to look forward to.
    • Try not to be a hibernating hermit in your house however tempting that may sound (we’ll talk about Hygge in a minute). Here some ideas for fun things to get you out of the house, get you moving, and get you socializing:
      • Go to a sporting event – basketball, hockey, volleyball
      • Go bowling, axe throwing, even high-speed indoor go-karting (sounds like my worst nightmare, but if it sounds fun to you, go do it!), or try an escape room outing
      • Plan a spa-day with friends
      • Try a new yoga or meditation class/workshop
      • Go on a winter hike, snowshoe adventure or cross-country skiing. Many locales even have snowshoes or cross-country skis you can rent if it’s your first time trying the activity.
      • Take the kids sledding and have a thermos of hot chocolate and some cups ready in the car for the ride home.
      • A craft (or craft beer tasting) night in with friends. Or a game night – whatever you’re into, but remember that quality social relationships are one of the keys to health and happiness.
    • Anything you think might be fun but you don’t get to this winter, save it for next year’s Winter Bucket List. Work on adding items to your Winter Bucket List all year so that when November/December/January/etc. rolls around you’ll already have some fun ideas ready to go!
  • If you don’t want to brave the elements for some fun outdoors or outside the house – here are some options for making the most of your time inside in winter:
    • The Danish concept of Hygge. Hygge is pronounced “HEW-guh” or “HOO-gah” and means comfort, coziness, or contentment.
      • The practice of hygge varies, but usually includes candles, hot tea or hot cocoa, a soft blanket, relaxing music, or a small gathering with friends. Other elements are being present (put down your phones!), togetherness, and relaxation.
      • Hygge is also viewed as the pursuit of everyday happiness. Reading a book by candlelight with some cozy socks on or outdoor activities like a winter beach walk or a winter bonfire can help you slow down and appreciate the little things.
      • It’s no wonder this practice is a favorite in Denmark as that country along with its Nordic neighbors of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland often rank as some of the happiest countries on the planet.
    • On the weekend – meal plan, grocery shop (you might actually have to leave your house unless you have a grocery delivery service), and meal prep for the week ahead.
      • Cook up a big batch of soup (loaded with veggies for the week ahead)
      • Bake some yummy muffins for breakfast
    • Don’t wait until spring to do some deep cleaning indoors – clean out a closet, clean under your stove, clean out your refrigerator, organize a drawer/cupboard
    • Have an at-home spa-day with a face mask, DIY mani/pedi, Epsom salt or bubble bath
    • Try a meditative activity like coloring and jigsaw puzzles as a great way to pass the time if you’re stuck inside.
  • Recognize that the “Winter Blues” might be more than a simple aversion to the colder weather, it could be the condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
    • SAD may be caused by a number of factors including: reduced sun exposure (Vitamin D), and genetic, biological, or evolutionary sensitivities.
      • Light therapy can help combat lack of sun exposure – talk to your healthcare provider about options for you.
      • Maintaining your regular physical activity (even if modified for the indoors), and social activities can also help.
      • If the options listed above don’t help, see your healthcare provider who can recommend more intensive therapies – your mood shouldn’t have to wait to improve until the weather does.
  • Another “secret” to battling the winter blues – the Norwegian mindset about winter. In Norway, people see winter as something to be enjoyed, not endured.  Try to see winter as a time to enjoy the peace, quiet, and calm the snow can bring; as a time to enjoy a hot mug of tea or cocoa.

Embrace the winter weather. You cannot control the weather, but you can prepare for it. Don’t fret over the snow and ice – control the controllables – dress warmly, have emergency supplies in your car, give yourself plenty of time for driving on the messy roads, and plan some fun activities to help you enjoy the wonder that winter has to offer. Don’t just survive the winter, thrive during it! Hopefully these tips will help you optimize your time and enjoyment of the winter season.

Tell me:

***What’s on your Winter Bucket List?***

***What fun things do you have planned before winter ends?***

  • I am looking forward to a winter weekend in South Haven Michigan, exploring the shores of Lake Michigan and the downtown shops with friends.

***What are you hoping to accomplish before spring?***

Feeling the Fear

When was the first time you felt fear?

I remember being 6 years old, at my first swim meet at the Adrian College Natatorium. I don’t remember the race, but I think it was my first one for the Lenawee County YMCA Alligators. It was probably a 25-yard freestyle race – 1 length of the pool, that’s all. I’m sure I had practiced countless hours to prepare for this race. I don’t remember the gun or horn going off, but I do remember being ½ way or less down the pool and absolutely losing it. Did I cling to the side? I don’t remember what lane I was in. Did I cling to a lane marker? Did I tread water? I just remember being frozen. The fear had frozen me in place in the middle of this gigantic pool and I couldn’t take another stroke. I was crying – maybe hysterically.

What I do remember is my cousin, Elisia, jumping in the help me. I don’t remember if we swam the rest of the way to the end or if she helped me out of the pool and I never finished that race. Thirty one years later, it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is that day she was my hero. She was only 11 years old at the time. Did she know she was being heroic? What prompted her to get in after me? Was it urging from Shirley Morley, the best swim coach on the planet? Was it prompting by the most supportive swim parents on the planet – either my parents or my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Roy, Elisia’s parents? Or was she just the bravest 11-year-old (and eventual state champ bad-ass swimmer) in the whole natatorium? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that she would be there for me countless other times in my life growing up. And even now that we’re both adults. What matters is she’s the sister I never had. She’s the role model I always needed.

You know what else matters? I swam competitively for 12 years after that. I’m sure there were plenty more times I was afraid. But I did it anyway. (And still have an open-water swim to conquer some fears around…maybe 2020 is year for that – just need to make time for swimming!)

Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s the saying, right? It’s easier said than done. I’m sure it’s easier when we’re kids. I’m sure it’s easier for some people than others. I’m sure it gets easier the more you do it, right? Flex the fear-confronting-muscles and go for the dreams, right?

It doesn’t matter what will happen in a year, in 10 years. It doesn’t matter what people will say to you or about you. What matters is that you take the action, do the thing, even if it’s scary, even if the outcome is unknown. Because what’s even scarier is not taking action and staying stuck where you are – in life, in your career, in the pool. Feel the fear and do it anyway – YOU ARE ENOUGH regardless of the outcome/success/failure. And if you’re lucky, there will be an Elisia there to help you finish the race if you need it.


Editor’s notes:

For some context – I just “finished” an 8-week session of group wellness/life coaching and one of the activities we did was the Emotional Clearing Method (ECM). This was pretty powerful (I don’t believe it’s recommended to do on your own – have a professional to guide you) and what prompted this memory of the first time I felt fear. So shout out to Blake and Pivot Wellness for some awesome work – gained so many powerful insights from those 8 weeks and will continue to use the tools I gained in that time.

Also – these photos of Elisia and me are very old – possibly before camera phones were even a thing. I think we need some new photos together!

And finally – my current big fear is “putting myself out there” to get my own wellness coaching business to grow so that can be my main job. Always a work in progress. So know that you’re not alone in whatever fear you may have, we all have fear of something.

Chronic Stress and What We Can Do About It

What Can We Do About Chronic Stress?

I watched a documentary by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the plane to Northern CA on my way to an outdoor/wellness/life design retreat/festival las weekend. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to go to this event because I am hopeful it will help me get clarity around some life goals and crafting the life I want to live.

But I digress…the documentary, One Nation Under Stress, details the struggles many Americans are facing today related to chronic stress and the epidemic of “deaths of despair.” Deaths of despair are classified as: cirrhosis of the liver (related to alcohol use), drug overdose, and suicide. Prime causes of these types of death in the U.S. are: social isolation, the depersonalization of society, and the increased stress and pressure middle-class Americans are feeling to just make a living.

Let’s talk about different types of stress. Acute stress, as a result of an adverse event, is not the problem – it’s the chronic, constant, toxic stress that kills. This type of chronic stress results from:

  • lack of predictability, uncertainty, lack of control
  • lack of social support
  • wondering – “Am I valued?” “Do I have a meaningful place in community?” “Do I have a community to rely on?” and “Why am I here?”

Chronic stress changes the brain and impacts the ability to make rational decisions related to thought regulation, action, empathy, and impulse and craving control – making it more difficult to deal with more and more stress. These stress biomarkers affect health outcomes. Some ways we can combat this change in the brain are through mindfulness/meditation and exercise. Try spending time in nature, the box breathing method, or taking a walk outside. These simple actions practiced over time can bring some of your brain chemistry back to where it was before the chronic stress altered it.

Stress Reduction Challenge:

  • Find your community, your tribe – people who support you and know your value, people who allow you to feel your place in the world
  • Reach out to someone who seems isolated – this will most likely be good for both of you! If you feel isolated, don’t perpetuate that – reach out even though it’s hard – don’t let the hurt and isolation turn to despair
  • Cultivate quality social relationships – with your significant other, family, friends, co-workers – strangers who might become a new friend. Having quality social relationships is one of the greatest predictors of health, happiness and longevity.
  • Re-evaluate how you’re spending your time and money – do they reinforce your values and bring you meaning?
  • Focus on what you DO have, not what you don’t – cultivate an abundance mindset and you will long less and less for what you don’t have, and appreciate more and more what you do have. And remember that wealth doesn’t necessarily equal health.
  • Look for opportunities to cultivate compassion and empathy – radiate loving kindness near and far.

Photo credits: Noah Bradow

Is Balance a Myth?

I wrote this post a few weeks ago when I had to make a choice between going to a family event and working on some professional activities. This issue comes up again and again for me – which tells me that either balance really is a myth and we are in a futile cycle to keep striving for it or I’m just not doing a great job at balancing…(?)


Work-Life Balance. Family-Work Balance. Work-Relationship Balance. Health-Work Balance. Take your pick…

Life balance is like multi-tasking – it doesn’t work. There is no way to be balanced with all the things we are doing in life. Whether it’s 50-50, 33-33-33, etc. We cannot be doing multiple things at once. We cannot truly focus on multiple things at once. At least not while being present and mindful with what we are doing.

This week I worked out a lot, had a nutrition coaching session, and went to a social event (Flex Happy Hour! – way out of my comfort zone but worth it!), but I didn’t do any laundry throughout the week, and Noah did all of the meal prep – planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. This week was a great example of balance not actually being a “thing.”  I also notice the reverse being true – when I get stuff done around the house, I am usually working out less and not socializing.

Chris Burkard has a 4-burner metaphor for life that I really like. He talked about it on The Stokecast podcast. His 4 burners are: career, family, friends, health. He says that in order to be successful in life you have to turn off 2 of these burners; in order to be wildly successful, you have to turn off 3 of the burners. He said for a long time he had neglected his health and social time with his friends in favor of more work on his career aspirations. Turning off a burner doesn’t necessarily mean that you stop doing the thing entirely – for instance stop going to work because you are mainly focused on getting healthy. It may just mean that maybe you’re not spending extra hours at the office or on professional development in favor of going to the gym, or maybe you’re skipping happy hour with friends in favor of meal planning and grocery shopping. Maybe sometimes some of the burners are just on low so that others can be on medium or high.

A lot of this comes down to values and prioritizing time – and these things can change day to day, week to week, month to month. I do think it’s important to be very clear about what you value and how you want to spend your time in order to get your life to align with your values.

Lately, for me, this has meant turning the family burner lower in favor of the health and career burners. It doesn’t mean I love my family any less, it just means that in order to take care of myself right now my main focus has to be on other things. After finishing my Masters in Public Health and starting a job back in the insurance industry I have been at a real crossroads professionally and experiencing a sort of mid-life career crisis. I thought that working a job I was good at, that spoke to my skillset, would be fulfilling, but it’s not. I’ve done some real soul-searching to try and figure out what my next step is professionally. I’ve got student loans, a car, a house, and other debts to pay off so I can’t just not work in favor of leisurely soul-searching. This has meant lots of listening to personal development podcasts featuring people doing cool things – The Adventurepreneur Playbook and The Stokecast mainly. Over the last few months, I have re-discovered that I really do love wellness coaching and want to continue that. I also really love training and development in the professional setting. The trick for me will be to find a job that could combine these activities or allow me to pursue wellness coaching as a side hustle. This is going to mean more sacrifice in other areas in order to achieve the things I am dreaming about that will make my soul happy.

All this is my long-winded way of saying that work-life-health balance is a fallacy. In order to achieve great things in one of these areas, something has to give in another area. Trying to juggle it all: family, friends, work, leisure, self-care, or healthy living practices is not easy. But spending the time to check in with yourself and be honest about what you value and trying to get your life to align with those values can result in fulfilling work, satisfying relationships, and positive health outcomes that will make your soul happy. And wouldn’t the world be a much better place if people’s souls were happier and we shared that happiness with others?

Weekend Recap: 36 Hours in Northern Michigan

It’s hard to have a bad Monday when you’ve just had a weekend filled with so many of your favorite things. Work was just fine today – no medical malpractice insurance emergencies – and Noah and I had a great weekend camping in Interlochen Friday and Saturday night and spending the day on Saturday in Leland and Leelanau State Park at the Trail to Table event benefiting Michigan’s State Parks and celebrating the 100th anniversary of Michigan State Parks.

We left quickly after work on Friday on our way to the Traverse City area. We delayed making camping reservations for the weekend and as such there were no reservable spots available at any state parks so we had a few state forest campgrounds on our list to check out for some first-come, first-served campsites.  Our first stop was Scheck’s Trail Camp – there were many open sites, but it’s a horse trail campground and the sites were kind of out in the open, so we figured we’d be able to find something better.  We headed on to Arbutus Lake State Forest Campground – it was completely full, but looked like a cool campground that we might want to check out in the future. At this point it was around 8 pm and Noah and I were both getting a little worried we end up having to sleep in the car, but onward we went.

Next stop was Lake Dubonnet State Forest Campground near Interlochen, MI – this one was not on our list, but there were several different areas in the campground and lots of sites – we lucked out and found a site not on the lake but towards the back of the campground.  The sites were a nice size and not super close together in a wooded area.

We did have some neighbors who were nice and gave us their picnic table and even helped Noah move it to our site. However, they had some visitors come to their site around 11 pm and didn’t leave until they got rained out at around 2am. Needless to say, I did not sleep very well the first part of the night due to all the hootin’ and hollerin’ and then the 2nd half of the night I had to pee, but didn’t want to get out of the tent in the rain. Ah, livin’ that camp life – not always and tranquil and certainly not glamorous the way we do it.


Saturday morning, we got up, had coffee and oatmeal at camp before heading to Leland to stop at Fishtown and The Village Cheese Shanty to pick up sandwiches for lunch.


We also stopped at a cute store (I don’t remember the name now) in Fishtown where I got a new hoodie, I am OBSESSED with! So soft, campfires and MI – can’t wait for some cool summer and fall nights to where the heck out of that thing!


Those sandwiches from The Village Cheese Shanty were tasty! I had the Fishtown  – all veggies with avocado spread and olive spread, delicious herbed Havarti cheese, on a fresh made pretzel roll.


Noah got the Northshore – turkey and bacon with herbed mayo and Havarti – also tasty! We ate the sandwiches while fending off biting flies (!) near the lighthouse at Leelanau State Park. From there we headed to the trail head for the Trail to Table event put on by MI DNR, New Holland Brewing Co., REI, and Merrell.

We opted for the 4-mile hike, led by a representative from the DNR, Nate. I tried out the Merrell ChopRocks – a water hiker. They were pretty comfortable and light, but some of the structure on the heel kind of hurt when I would hike up an incline. They definitely were not as cushy as my Brooks Cascadias. I do think they would be fine for some short beach hiking, or short hikes with lots of water/stream crossings.


The 4-mile hike was pretty easy with just a few uphill areas near the dunes. Most of it was shaded in the beautifully wooded trails of the state park. It did start to warm up and was a bit humid but almost perfect weather for an afternoon hike.


Just before the end of the hike we stopped on Lake Michigan at the dunes to put our feet in and rest for a couple minutes.


Noah and I then hiked the remaining half mile back to our car and decompressed for a few minutes before heading back to the park for the beer dinner. As an introvert, so much socializing and time in a large group leaves me feeling like a need a few minutes to quiet my mind and sit in solitude (with Noah 😉) for a few minutes.


We got back to the park and had a few minutes before the remaining activities started so we headed back down to the water to walk around a bit. The turquoise blue waters of Lake Michigan are always stunning and never cease to amaze me.


We went to the pavilion and park area to start the dinner festivities. I grabbed a new beer from New Holland, the Cerveza con Limon, which was very tasty! This is an easy-drinking lager with natural lemon and lime oils that give it a light refreshing citrus flavor, but not the artificial flavor like so many other citrus flavored beers.


We sat as a group to listen to a talk by REI staff members about the 10 Essentials to carry on any hike or backpacking trip and outdoor ethics and Leave No Trace principles. These were largely review for me as I had done a fair amount of research before we started backpacking earlier this year (I love to be prepared!) and Noah and I went to a LNT workshop here in Lansing last year when their Traveling Trainers came as part of their Hot Spots program last June.


The Daily Blend from Traverse City put together a delicious 3-course dinner starting with a spring mix salad made of Michigan produce, infused olive oil and vinegar from Fustini’s.


This was paired with New Holland’s Cerveza Con Limon. The 2nd course/entrée was chicken paella and veggie paella paired with New Holland’s new Lake & Trail Copper Lager.


This is a tasty amber lager new this year with proceeds benefiting Michigan State Parks. The can is cool too, designed by Erika Lange/Woosah Outfitters in Grand Rapids.


Dessert, the 3rd course, was Kilwin’s vanilla ice cream, with fresh Michigan strawberry sauce, fresh whopped cream, and sprinkles! So yummy! And the Dragon’s Milk White Stout paired with the ice cream sundae was delicious. I actually liked the Dragon’s Milk White Stout better with the ice cream than on its own.


This Trail to Table event was absolutely awesome! It was like it was made for me 😉 Hiking, time outside, outdoor talk, beer, food – so many of my favorite things!


On our way back to the campground – which does not have showers (only pit toilets!) – we stopped at public park/beach with swimming access in the Grand Traverse Bay to rinse off the sweat, bug spray, and sunscreen. That water was SO cold – leg-numbing cold! But very refreshing!

Back to the campground, Noah started a fire and we chilled.


I had another Lake & Trail copper lager by the campfire before we turned in for an early bedtime. We were tired from all the day’s fun activities! We both slept much better Saturday night – it didn’t hurt that our neighbors were quiet too.

Sunday morning, we packed up right away to head home so we could make the 3-hour drive back to Lansing to pick up Jerome from Doggy Day Care before noon.  The early departure and packing up was fine, but lesson learned: always have coffee and a snack ready before you leave camp in case you can’t get breakfast right away. We had planned to stop in Interlochen for coffee and breakfast on our way home, but due to some navigational issues ended up not stopping until we got to Cadillac an hour away! Needless to say, I was a little hangry and coffee-deprived. But some tasty Kona coffee from Cadillac Java – a neat little drive-thru coffee shack in Cadillac cured me.


We spent the rest of Sunday grocery shopping, meal prepping, and picking up around the house in preparation for the week ahead. And basking in the awesomeness of an awesome, awesome weekend!

Tell me: how was your weekend? Spend time outside? Recharge your batteries? Do you get “a case of the Mondays?”


Eating Well – What It Means to Me

I recently posted a photo of an afternoon snack of Nutella on toast in Instagram Stories and received a comment that Nutella is “so bad for you.” And that I should “make my own – there are a lot of really good recipes out there.” Would I like to make my own Nutella? Maybe. Do I think the store bought stuff it’s SO bad for me? Not necessarily (I *try* to eat it in moderation 😊). I’ve made homemade almond butter – pretty easy and tasty, but some store bought versions are better. The point is, I was pretty riled up about this comment. Judgment around food choices (or anything else – we’re not God, we’re human and don’t have that right) is not helpful and I try not to label foods as “good” or “bad.” My approach is to live and eat well so that I can be healthy.

So what does living and eating well mean? We all have different health needs, dietary restrictions, values and backgrounds that affect what we eat, and have lifestyles that impact our food choices. Making “healthy” (for me) food choices 80-90% of the time, and treating myself with “less healthy” foods the other 10-20% is part of what eating well means to me.

For me, healthy foods are whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean protein, and minimally processed foods. This does not mean that I never eat refined grains or processed sugars or fatty meats. Some of my favorite treats are: Nutella, marshmallows, bacon, pizza, ice cream. On the flip side I also really LOVE salads, brown rice/quinoa and veggie bowls, roasted veggies, ground turkey, and fish.

 The essentials... Photo Credit:  Bradow Photography
The essentials… Photo Credit: Bradow Photography

What else do I love? Tacos. Chips and Salsa. Sparkling Wine. Hard Cider. Going to breweries with my husband and friends. Indulging in soft pretzels with cheese sauce and mustard. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Macaroni and Cheese. None of these are particularly “healthy” if consumed every day or in large quantities, but enjoying these things in moderation lets me live well and enjoy life.

 Taco Pub. Photo Credit:  Bradow Photography
Taco Pub. Photo Credit: Bradow Photography

This balance is important to me, but it’s not easy. Would I love to eat pizza every week (or every day)? Sure. Would I love to have ice cream after dinner every night? Of course. But I know for me that thinking about my long-term health is also important so I make conscious choices that I think (with the help of research and evidence) will help me be healthy when I am 60, 70, 80+ years old. I want to make choices today that will help me live a full life now and also in the years to come. I want to age well and reduce my risk for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer.

I work every day to make choices to eat mindfully and intuitively. This helps me eat well so I can live well now and in the future. This also means that I want to have a healthy relationship with food and help others do the same. It means I try not to label foods as “bad” or “good” or even “healthy” or “unhealthy” – because this will be different for everyone. I also don’t want to perpetuate negativity around food or in life! – because positivity outranks negativity any day of the week! We all pretty much know what we “should” and “shouldn’t” eat – this is different for different people. So instead of focusing on what foods are “bad” or what we’re doing wrong, I prefer to focus on the positive and provide information that will help people make the best food choices for their lives and their health. Listen, our relationship with food is a very dynamic and complex thing that cannot simply be reduced to good or bad. It takes much more time and thought to untangle and sort through.

 Positivity... Photo Credit:  Bradow Photography
Positivity… Photo Credit: Bradow Photography

Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on healthy eating, living well, eating well, and being the healthiest you can be! Have a great weekend and go ahead eat the Nutella…just not too much and not too often 🙂

Keep Working on Those New Year’s Resolutions!

Get back on track to achieving your goals…

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Are you still working on it now, 2 months later? If not, you’re not alone! Only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them and 80% stop working on them by February. But now’s a great time to re-start your resolution!

The resolution is the “what,” for example, to lose weight. But the more important piece is the “how.” This is the specific action you will take to get to the “what.” However, the more important question is how are you going to lose the weight? You have to be specific – are you going to go to the gym 3 days per week? Are you going to eat healthier? That’s also very broad. Maybe the “what” of eating healthier is to try one new fruit or vegetable each week or include a fruit or vegetable in every meal or snack.

Knowing your “why” is also important. Why do you want to lose weight? What will that bring you? Better health? More happiness because you can play with your kids more easily or participate in activities you had previously given up? Know your “why” and make sure it’s big enough to keep you going. Your “why” needs to be a strong enough driver to keep you working toward your goals.

If you worked on your resolution but gave up or didn’t see the results you expected, next is problem solving what went wrong. Are your goals realistic? If you made a goal of working out every day, how realistic is that actually? Try starting smaller – plan to work out just 2 days a week for a month, then increase to 3 or 4 days per week. Think about striving for progress not perfection. All you really need is to be better than you were the day before, even if it’s just 1% better.

Starting out with huge goals can sometimes set you up to be less than successful. If you set a goal of exercising 5 days per week, but find yourself only making it to the gym 2 days per week – what happened? What were the challenges or barriers you faced in getting there? Did you forget about your kids’ activities 2 or 3 times per week that prevent you from going to the gym after work? What is a solution to overcome that challenge? Maybe you plan to exercise before work if possible on those days.

 Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison, WI  Photo credit:  Bradow Photography  Olbrich Botanical Gardens – Madison, WI Photo credit: Bradow Photography

Make a plan, be specific in the actions you are going to take to achieve your goals and anticipate any challenges that may trip you up. If you plan ahead and know the big “why” of your goals you’ll set yourself up for success long-term.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Healthy & Fit Magazine.

Eat Your Veggies!

Healthy & Fit Magazine February 2018

Tips to eat healthy (or healthier) with more fruits and veggies

The CDC reports just 13.1% of adults meet the recommendations for fruit intake and only 8.9% meet vegetable intake recommendations. Current recommendations for fruits and vegetable intake vary – either 5 to 9 servings per day or 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. What does this look like? Again, it varies, but a serving of fruit is 1 cup of fresh (a small apple, banana, or 20 grapes), 8 oz. of juice, or ¼ cup of dried fruit. A serving of vegetables is 1 cup of vegetables (raw or cooked) or 2 cups of leafy greens. So how can you get the “recommended” amounts in your diet and why should you?

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and some cancers; and help manage body weight when consumed instead of calorie-dense foods. Fruits and vegetables provide nutrients like fiber to help you feel full and improve digestion, and vitamins and minerals to repair cell damage, boost immunity, improve brain function, and aid in metabolism.

The “how” of eating more fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some ideas:

  • Make half of everything you eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat a vegetable at every meal. For example:

    • Breakfast: Baked sweet potato stuffed with ½ banana, unsweetened coconut, 1-2 Tbs. nut butter, chia seeds
    • Lunch: Big green salad or bowl of veggie soup
    • Dinner: Veggie noodles (zucchini, cucumber or carrot) or veggie rice (broccoli or cauliflower) topped with lean protein or roasted veggies
  • Include a fruit or vegetable in every snack – carrots and hummus or an apple with nut butter.
  • All forms count! Think fresh, frozen, dried, canned, or juice.
    • For frozen or canned vegetables or vegetable juice look for low-sodium or no-salt added or an ingredient list of just “vegetables”
    • For canned veggies, rinse the contents to remove about 40% more sodium
    • For frozen or canned fruit look for no sugar added or packed in its own juice
    • Watch portion sizes of fruit juice – you get all the sugar but none of the fiber found in the whole fruit
  • Buy one new fruit or veggie every time you go grocery shopping and research a tasty recipe to prep and eat it.
  • Shop at your local farmer’s market many even run year-round!
  • Try a local community supported agriculture program to get fresh, local produce each week.

 Photo credit: Noah Bradow |  Bradow Photography
Photo credit: Noah Bradow | Bradow Photography

Originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Healthy & Fit Magazine