Proud to share my story

I am a guest blogger over at MilitaryOneClick! Please share this post to help erase the stigma of mental illness!

http://militaryoneclick.com/erasing-the-stigma-of-mental-illness/

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Let it go….

As most of you know one of the reasons I began this blog was because I want to become a health coach. While I like the idea of being a health coach, and I LOVE writing this blog and sharing information, I am not entirely sure health coaching is the right “job” for me. I realized the other day after spending 2 hours with a friend discussing and exploring ways for her to add  healthier options to her life, I walked away with a sinking feeling. I don’t like to sit still. I NEED to be moving around. Multi-tasking. Doing busy work. One of the reasons I chose a health coaching certification as an option (I am a few weeks away from my certification exam) is that I felt like it was a good use of combining my degrees in psychology and athletic training. I felt like I needed to stay within those realms or it would feel like a waste.

With my youngest approaching full time student next year (hello First Grade, finally!) I figured I would be stepping back into the real world of a paid job. I want to work. I like to be busy. I’d like to know, I, too, can help support the family. But I am struggling with the idea of just getting a job to fulfill these needs, versus finding a career within the scope of my degrees. I mean, what was the point of attending a 4 year college and studying psychology (and art) and then a 2 year graduate program studying athletic training, and never really using either degree? I am sure this is something many stay-at-home parents struggle with as they re-enter the work force after many years of not working (outside the home raising children). What did you do? How did you look at it?

My husband continues to say (every time I bring up this subject on the waste of my degrees), “Let go of the past. We never would have met if you hadn’t gone to grad school”. True, but that was one expensive dating service! I get what he is saying and I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, but even if he and I had never met, married, had children, and I became the stay-at-home parent, I think I would have found myself in this predicament.

There are times I wish my parents let me defer that year between high school and college.  Maybe I would have used that time to figure out what I wanted to do before I spent time, money, and effort on my college degree. (Sorry, still in this mode of thinking.) Graduate school was my own idea after spending nearly 3 years as a snowboard and tennis instructor/waitress/bartender/nanny. Honestly, I would have continued this lifestyle, except that I didn’t have health insurance from April to November, and I was in a bad car accident which left me with a degenerative cervical vertebrae. At that time I didn’t think I could continue instructing snowboarding since my neck and the rest of my back were in bad shape.

From the time I graduated from college I have felt this internal pressure to find a career within my field of studies. But a lot of responsibility and the fear of being held liable deters me from any medical/health related field. As an athletic trainer I was anxious every time I was on the field or assessing an athlete. I don’t miss that aspect at all. I do miss the busy work of taping 20 ankles in a row and the athletic training room banter, but other than that I would not jump back into the field, nor could I after being away from it for years. While I am still interested in health coaching, I realize I need more hands on work that keeps me moving around. Work that doesn’t involve me obtaining professional liability insurance.

So I am trying to just “let it go” and relax. My education has served me well in other ways. I use my psychology degree every day  rationalizing with my children, trying to understand the behaviors of others, and in general, communicating with people in the real world.  I use my athletic training degree often when it comes to medical issues within my family. I don’t pass out at the sight of blood (even when it is pouring down my 6 year old’s face), I treat minor strains/contusions/abrasions on my own, rather than rushing to see the pediatrician, and I am calm when it comes to most medical issues we have seen thus far as a family. My education has served me well.

Now if I can just find a decent paying job that is fun, low stress, and keeps me busy, I will be a happy girl! I might just go work at Trader Joe’s! It’s an upbeat, friendly place and the staff always seems to be busy doing something. Maybe I could so some health coaching on the side. That and give talks around the country in regards to mental illness, and write a novel. Oh yeah. Lots of ideas floating around in this head!

 

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Healthy Meals on the Go

Even though there is still a chance of snow this coming week, softball and baseball season in this household are under way. While I am excited about the season because I absolutely LOVE watching my children play their favorite sport, I am feeling completely overwhelmed. Why? Because my almost 9 year old daughter is playing on 3 softball teams this season, plus participating in Girls on the Run. I have volunteered to help with both her recreation and 8U softball teams, plus I coach Girls on the Run. My 6 year old son is only playing recreation baseball, thankfully. However, between practices and games, and the GOTR schedule, there is no time for regular meal prep or regular sit down family dinners during the week. Normally our family sits down together for dinner around 6 pm every night. This is the time we catch up with each other, discuss upcoming events, impart parental advice, and in general just be together as a family. While I realize it’s really only for a couple of months we have this crazy schedule, it still drives me batty. I want to feed  my family healthy dinners and I want to be able to have time where all four of us sit down and be with each other. Since I am coaching both softball and GOTR, I will also have to be at most practices and games, and therefore will have to prep meals earlier in the day. The criteria for these meals will be:

1. Healthy

2. Easily packable

3. Served cold or at room temp (or quickly re-heated)

These healthy dinners need to be eaten easily on the go, at the field, or served quickly after a practice/game so that my children can get to bed at a decent hour. Hopefully their homework will already be done!

This is my latest test recipe from the Oh She Glows Cookbook, and packs up quite nicely. Creamy Avocado Potato Salad and Super Power Chia Bread. Plus a Morning Glory Smoothie (I wouldn’t recommend bringing the glass, but it worked well to take this picture!)

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Another reason I am overwhelmed by this season is the lack of free play and down time for my children. I never intended my children’s schedules to be so busy. I have always said that I would not over schedule them with various activities. I don’t know how parents (or really the children) do it with multiple sports, Girl/Boy Scouts, Hebrew School/CCD, etc. Generally the rule in our house is one activity per season. We broke that rule in the fall when my daughter decided to participate in both soccer and Girls on the Run. Since GOTR is a character building program that enhances girls’ confidence and I had been coaching it for 5 seasons already, I was thrilled my daughter wanted to participate. However, this spring I should have put the kibosh on  it. I had no idea she would be involved in 3 softball teams! But she is insisting and remarked that she liked the looks of her busy schedule because in her words, “It energizes me!” So we will see how it goes.

I fully believe children should have the opportunity for free play. Making up their own games. Unorganized, unstructured, and unsupervised activity. Being the creators of their own rules and consequences. Fighting, decision making, solving problems. ALL. ON. THEIR. OWN. Free play teaches children to make friends, get along with others, learn to handle self control and their emotions, and makes them HAPPY!

Two questions for my readers:

1. What healthy meal ideas do you prepare that travel well or can be prepared ahead and served quickly?

2. How do you encourage free play in your children?

Week 2 NOT Starting off Good

I was so proud of myself for making it a week on  my food challenge seriously limiting grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods. I decided I could let them back in here and there and continue my great feeling. Nope. Sunday was great. I ate well all day, and had a small bowl of ice cream at the day’s end. Felt fine. Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and to celebrate our Irish heritage I made potato soup and served it with focaccia bread. Not so great. The bread has done me in. I had more than my share last night, and again at lunch today. Plus the bag of “Cowboy Bark” I bought at Trader Joe’s with the intention of sharing with my family, is so addictive and therefore, not good for me. I can’t stop at having a small piece. I did share with my daughter in her lunch today, as I knew I had to start doling it out to get it out of the house. My son would have had some (had he known), but he ate too much focaccia at lunch and was full before I could offer him the sweet treat. He is having a bit right now as an afternoon snack along with his applesauce. Don’t worry, honey, I saved the rest for you!

Plus on Tuesday mornings I am not able to get to the gym as I have the pleasure of taking care of a friend’s 1 year old. I guess I could go later in the day, or at night when there are classes offered, but I never seem to motivate. I am a morning workout kind of gal. If it doesn’t happen by 10, it doesn’t happen. I need to work on changing that. So with the lack of exercise coupled with the increased intake of grains and sugar, and lack of fruits and vegetables today I am feeling quite blah. My mind feels foggy. I have no energy. I am hoping the Green Monster Smoothie I just made puts some pep in my step!

Real Food 30 Day 1

I have never strictly followed any sort of nutrition program. I don’t like living like under such rules and I highly believe in moderation, variety, and enjoying treats here and there. So after much thought and a good night’s sleep I have decided to come up with my own program. Real Food 30. No processed foods/packaged foods for this girl. I still bought a few packaged things for the kids, but a lot less than usual. Until my half and half runs out, I plan on having that in my cup of coffee every morning. I just came back from Trader Joe’s and the fridge is stocked. Well, at least the two crisper drawers are and my hanging fruit basket! The pantry does  not have much more than yesterday, except for a few more cans of beans, olives, salsas, nuts, tomatoes, lentils….that sort of thing. For the next 30 days I will be chronicling this process.

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Breakfast:

Vegan Pumpkin Bread from OhSheGlows. I have been making this recipe for a couple of years now and the whole family LOVES it! However, I do make some changes to it. I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup, left out the walnuts, and did not make the buttercream icing, which is divine. If you do make that it is more of a dessert! I made two loaves of this bread a few weeks back and froze them. So luckily we had something to eat for breakfast this morning since I still hadn’t been to the grocery store. I also had  my cup of coffee with half and half and a little liquid Stevia.

Snack:

I was hungry when I came home from Trader Joe’s since I only had a small piece of the pumpkin bread before I left, so I made a bowl of European Style Plain Full Fat Yogurt with a handful of various nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, and macademia), a teaspoon of chia seed, handful of blueberries and raspberries, and a tablespoon of toasted coconut. Not bad. Not great. But I definitely could get used to it. I should note, however, that I never measure anything. I just eyeball it when I am cooking/preparing meals. Baking is about the only thing I measure ingredients for!

Lunch:

BIG SALAD with spinach and romaine, carrots, pepper, white button mushrooms, handful of cashews, scallions, and 1/2 of an avocado. The dressing I made and used atop the salad that my husband and I shared (and we have enough left over for a small side salad for dinner tonight) is actually a Moroccan dipping sauce.  My husband also ate a banana and peanut butter with the salad. I ate a handful of nuts I mixed up earlier (almonds, hazelnuts, and macademia). The kids had some cheese and crackers, grapes, and 1/2 apple. Normally, I would have given them more to eat, but it was already 2:30. We are clearly still on vacation mode. I had them each try one of the nuts, and peanut butter on one cracker. My 6 year old son did not like any of the nuts or peanut butter. He spit all the nuts in the garbage! Guess it is going to have to be black beans for him at lunch since he doesn’t like any other source of protein! My 8 year old daughter ate everything without complaint, but she did not like the nuts. She did mention she would eat salted almonds! OK!

Snack: Cherry Pie Larabar (the only packaged food  I plan on eating until I can come up with my own recipe)

Dinner: Crustless quiche cups with spinach, onion, mushrooms, and pepper. I added ham and cheese to the kids. For a side I attempted at making hash — zucchini and sweet potato hash! I didn’t mind it, neither did Marc, but neither kid was very fond of it. They ate it anyway. Marc ended up finishing the salad from lunch, and I finished the chickpea dish from last night. The kids had some graham crackers and milk. Clearly the quiche cups and hash was not enough food for any of us.

I am just not sure this Real Food 30 Challenge I have set up for myself is going to last. I might just have to concentrate on breakfast, lunch, and snacks for myself, and go back to our regular vegetarian family meals for dinner. My stomach feels good. Although I do still feel hungry. Maybe I’ll have another handful of nuts or blend some Greek yogurt and frozen berries later.

Real Food

I have been wanting to switch my entire nutrition towards eating “real food” for some time now. I would to seriously limit processed foods, and limit sugars, grains, dairy, alcohol, and gluten as much as possible. In order to begin eating this way, I was thinking about completing the Whole 30 program as my sister had glowing remarks about how much better she felt after completing it. I am interested in this “resetting” process or “cleanse” as I see it, but I just think it’s too hard with a family in which I am the main meal preparer. My husband did offer to help more with meal preparation, which I appreciated, but I am hesitant. Not only do I get really anxious having someone else in the kitchen helping with meal prep, I really want the entire family to also adopt eating real food, but I don’t feel it’s fair since we are already a vegetarian family within the home. The children are allowed to eat meat outside of the home. I just won’t prepare it in our home. Friends and family might be thinking, “how could she possibly limit the children’s variety of kid friendly food than she already has?!!” But, it is possible.  I know that I feel better when I eat real food, and I also notice a huge difference in my son’s behavior and how he feels when he eats a diet richer in real food. He has more energy, less stomachaches, less tantrums when he is tired. Yes, kids can burn off the calories of all the “kid friendly food” such as donuts, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, pasta, chicken tenders, french fries, but it’s not about them gaining weight or being out of shape. It’s about them feeling good inside (their stomachs…..they, too, experience gassiness or bloating that us adults do) and learning healthy eating habits at an early age. I personally would prefer it if restaurants got rid of children’s menus so that my children would order off the adult menu. The chefs could make the meals “kid sized” or we could take home the leftovers. I am sick of the restaurants that only offer hot dogs, mac and cheese, hamburger, pizza, and chicken tenders. Thankfully more restaurants are adding healthier side options such as applesauce, carrots, and broccoli instead of just pairing the main kid meal with FRENCH FRIES! But I digress…..

We have been in Florida for a week. Vacation mode meant a lot of eating out. Wine. Beer. Dessert. I figured it’s a good time to start over since our fridge and pantry are almost completely bare and therefore, have to go grocery shopping. But first I need to have some sort of meal plan in mind before I shop. I have spent the better part of the day pouring over websites such as Whole 30 and 100 Days of Real Food, and other blogs and sites trying to get meal ideas that the whole family would enjoy. But it is so  hard and time consuming. Besides unpacking and cooking lunch and dinner, I literally have been sitting at my computer since we got home around 2 pm and it is now 10 pm. I plan on transitioning slowly to give everyone time to adjust. I also don’t plan on committing to this nutrition lifestyle 100%, but there are some definite changes that need to be made. Of course it will take more work on my part since real food definitely takes more prep work. I hate meal planning!

Don’t believe me about my pantry and fridge? Here, take a look.Somehow we managed to make 2 meals out of what was left in the freezer (unfortunately packaged foods/frozen foods……mahi mahi burgers/veggie burgers/frozen corn/edamame) for today’s lunch and dinner. I, however, decided to try something new and sauteed up a can of chickpeas with a can of fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies. I added some spices (garam masala, cumin, and coriander) and at the last minute added some edamame and corn. It was delicious! Everyone else turned up their nose up at it, but I love meals like that. I just would like to get my family on board as well!

Bare Pantry

How about that one lime in the crisper drawer! Ha.Bare Fridge

Unplugged

I have currently been off Cymbalta now for over 3 weeks. I spent somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks weaning because I read horror stories of people coming off this medication. Every two weeks I experienced horrible headaches for a … Continue reading

Effects of Exercise and Nutrition on Mental Health

I promised a blog about how exercise and nutrition affected mental health. I broke it down as simply as possible. Effects of Exercise on Mental Health: 1. It releases feel good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins) that ease depression, make … Continue reading

It’s what you put in that counts

If you are interested in learning more about the food we eat check out these documentaries:
Food Inc, Food Matters, A Place at the Table, Supersize Me, The Gerson Miracle, Forks Over Knives

On The Funny Side

I like to think that I have always eaten pretty well. My mom always cooked for us, there was never a lot of junk food around. I remember her telling us to pick a cereal out but it had to have less than a certain number of grams of sugar in it. Mom was the original label reader. I was never a big fast food eater but sometimes french fries are just really delicious. I don’t drink soda, save for the fountain Coke I treat myself to about three times a year.  I make dinner 6 nights a week, I don’t cook on Fridays. Everyone should get a night off! There is always plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in our house and what I make is what’s for dinner. You don’t have to eat it but I’m not making something else. I am not a short order cook.

A…

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Live Sicker, Die Younger Generation

This generation of children in the United States will “live sicker, and die younger than their parents” according to a documentary entitled “A Place at the Table”. There is too much readily available  food with fat, sodium, and sugar, and NOT … Continue reading

Redefining Girly

I recently read a book entitled Redefining Girly by Melissa Atkins Wardy. If you have a daughter or plan on having children someday, it is definitely worth the read. I first heard of this author a couple of years ago through … Continue reading

10 Strategies to Promote Healthy Behavior Change

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How many times have you vowed to eat better. Exercise more. Lose weight. Get stronger. Sleep more. Yet somehow you fall short. Why is that? There can be a number of reasons why your good intentions towards healthy behavior failed. Rather than focusing on that, below are some strategies to promote healthy behavior change. You need to change your environment in order to change your behavior. This is called stimulus control.  “Stimulus control in an important modification and motivational strategy that involves altering the environment to encourage healthy behaviors and make following the modification program as easy as possible. Stimulus control is related to operant conditioning, as it refers to manipulating the stimuli in the environment to trigger the behavior of exercise or healthy eating.”

1. Lay out your workout clothes, socks, shoes for early morning workouts.

2. Keep a gym bag in the car with all the necessary items (clothes, shoes, yoga mat, water bottle, towel, etc.)

3. If you decide to join a fitness center, find one that is the direct path between work and home, and then schedule work out times that coincide at the times you will be driving past the facility.

4. Socialize with people who live healthy lifestyles. That way  you create a support system for behavioral change with others who have similar interests and goals.

5. Stick to your grocery list and don’t buy items that are not on the list. Not having certain foods in the house makes it easier to adhere to eating healthier.

6. Post signs in your kitchen….on the refrigerator, cabinets, pantry…. listing foods that you should eat.

7. Wear or bring comfortable shoes to work so you take the stairs instead of the elevator, or so that during breaks you can take a walk.

8. Leave your cash at home so  you don’t make impulse buys on snacks, etc. Pack a healthy lunch/snack and bring to work.

9. Remove the candy bowl from your desk.

10. Join a group that engages in physical activity together (running/biking/hiking/walking club).

As we say at Girls on the Run, “Be yourself. Have fun. Try your best.”

It is what it is.

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Holidays. My favorite time of year. NOT. Ok, sorry that was lame, but really I hate the holidays. I always have. Maybe because my parents divorced when I was a toddler, and then my mom and adoptive dad divorced when I was a freshman in college. I never really had the pull between households that most divorced kids have had, but I’ve always felt guilty this time of year. And stressed. And anxious. Just call me the Grinch. Bah humbug!

However, in the last few weeks I have developed a new mantra. “It is what it is”. Some things just can’t be helped. Or fixed. Or made better. Some things just “are”. I am learning to be okay with this. This being life and what life may hand us. I may get angry at first. Raise my voice. Stamp my feet. Use wild hand gestures. But then I take a deep breath, shrug my shoulders, and think to myself, “it is what it is”.

In the last few weeks I have been working for my friend who owns a small business. She called me in a desperate panic to act as her “customer service” rep and respond to customer’s emails. I was appalled at how rude some of the customers were despite my cheery responses letting them know we were “busy little elves” and were knitting their orders as fast as our little fingers could and assured them their orders would get to them in the “Nick” of time. At first I would get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I feel guilty or anxious, but then I realized these people needed to adopt my mantra. We were not canceling their order. We weren’t telling them we would never send it to them. We were just letting them know it might be a little later than originally noted. I mean, what did they want us to do? It is what it is.