My journey to wellness… and the many bumps along the way

I’ve been working on being really and authentically vulnerable these past few months, shedding my ego and allowing others and myself to see what’s really going on inside my head and my heart.

So even though it feels scary, and there’s a part of me that would rather have you believe I’m perfect (ha!), I’ve decided to get especially vulnerable and share my full story with you. And even scarier, I’m going to share pictures.

While I’m now living a life I’m excited about, in a body I love, and with friends and family I adore, it was definitely not always this way…

Ever since I can remember, I felt guilt and shame around my body and food behaviors. This eventually translated into deprivation/binge cycles when it came to food, and a complete disconnect from my body and its internal cues. As I got older, I didn’t even know what hunger or satiation felt like, completely relying on prescriptive diets to tell me how much/what/when to eat.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely had a great life and childhood even as I battled with my apparent lack of “willpower” around food and the way my body looked. I had great friends and family, I did well in school, I did theatre and swam and had a happy life. But underneath much of it, I was out of integrity with myself, my body’s needs, and my own desires. I felt self-conscious, often took things personally, got sick a lot, and fluctuated between feeling good and feeling terrible mentally and physically.

It got worse before it got better.

When I went to undergrad at the University of Michigan, I started getting sick even more often, getting bronchitis, ear aches, pink eye, and other infections fairly regularly.

My skin flared up with psoriasis and I had large, red, inflamed patches all over my body. They especially wreaked havoc on my face, making me feel even more self-conscious in any social setting.

I felt groggy and tired all day, relying on coffee to wake up and alcohol to have fun.

I suffered multiple-day hangovers, struggling to regain mental clarity and feeling even remotely better physically for days on end.

I developed an even more dysfunctional relationship with food and my body, with restriction and binging becoming more and more pronounced throughout my days and weeks.
I felt a loss of control when food was present, and a sense of regret and self-contempt after bingeing.

I constantly dieted and obsessing about my weight, even as my weight crept up to 25 pounds more than my current weight.
I felt a general and constant sense of sadness, as well as consistent irritability, annoyed with myself and those around me for no real reason.
I felt like time was passing by me without me knowing what I wanted to do or be in my life.I was scared of the future and frustrated with the present. It felt hopeless.

That was when I found Happy Healthy Habits.

Well, it wasn’t yet Happy Healthy Habits. It was called Body Thrive, and I went through it with a company called Yogahealer. I learned how and when to eat for optimal digestion, developed an exercise routine, actually started sleeping enough, and started cultivating a healthy relationship with my body and myself. I implemented health habits that made my body absolutely thrive, my mind clear and focused, my emotions steady, my mood much more positive.

I spent less time studying and got better grades.

I started loving my body for all it could do, and even for what it looked like.

I was excited to get out of bed in the morning.

I honored my body’s needs without punishing myself for eating something “wrong” or not working out as hard as I “should.”

I had more positive relationships.

I was more pleasant to be around.

I felt blessed instead of annoyed.

I took things less personally.

My psoriasis cleared up.

I no longer needed alcohol to have fun. In fact, I went out with friends and had more fun than I’d ever had without binge drinking or feeling hungover the next day.

I started feeling my body’s cues and knowing what to do with them.

I no longer needed coffee to wake up in the morning.

I no longer obsessed about my weight or the food I was eating.

Of course, I’m still not perfect. I slide back into old thought and behavioral patterns, I don’t do the habits every single day without fail, I feel sadness and stress and the wide range of emotions we experience as humans.

AND I’m so much better off than I ever was. I feel amazing most of the time. I radiate positive energy much more often than not. I honor my body’s needs almost all the time.

And I found my purpose.

I realized that this was exactly what I needed to be doing: helping people implement these habits, embody the growth principles I had learned, and change their lives to become ones they were excited about living.

Not only did I uncover my potential for health and happiness, I also discovered my passion and made it into a business. Once I finished my Master’s in Public Health, I got certified as a Yoga Health Coach with Yogahealer so I could teach the thing that had so drastically changed my life.

This is why I do what I do. I know what it’s like to feel so mentally and physically low. I also know what it’s like to feel like there’s something missing, like there has to be more to life that what I was living.

And I’m SO passionate about helping people finally feel amazing in their bodies, their minds, and their lives. This stuff matters. If we want to create a world that has more love and less hate and fear, if we want to show up as the best version of ourselves, if we want to make a difference in the lives of others, we have to start with ourselves. Once we implement the habits I teach, we’re so much more capable of living our purpose, feeling fulfilled, and being happy!

Do you want to feel as amazing as you’ve ever felt?

If you do, let’s talk! I offer free 30-minute strategy sessions to help people like you get clear on where you want to change in your life. I do this because I really and truly care about you, your health, and helping you design the life you actually want to have.

If you resonate with any of my story, and think there’s a part of you that could benefit from a conversation, please sign up for a strategy session here!

I really and truly want to talk to you. I want you to feel as good as you can possibly feel. I care so much about your health and happiness, and I know there’s a way to help you get to where you want to go.

I’m ready to get you there. Are you?

Stop Spending and Start Investing

focus photography of person counting dollar banknotes

The list of things we waste money on in this life is outrageous.

And we’re not entirely to blame for this. Spending money is what our culture does. If I pick up a little something to treat myself here and there it’s okay, right? Everybody does it, right?

A COMPILATION OF THE LITTLE WAYS I AND MY CLIENTS *USED TO* SPEND MONEY:

  • I was always short on time. Rush rush rush = justified picking up a $6 coffee on the way to class.
  • A client was unhappy with her body, and hated the way she looked in her clothes = justified trips to the mall.
  • I DESERVED something for all my hard work at school = justified impulse purchases at the grocery store and online at any time of day.
  • A client was too exhausted by the end of the day to make a meal for himself and his family = justified ordering in.
  • I was constantly getting sick (bronchitis, ear infections, psoriasis flare-ups) = justified trips to Urgent Care to get antibiotics and other prescriptions to get better fast.
  • A client’s house wasn’t what she wanted it to be = justified trips to Home Goods / Anthropologie / somewhere with pretty things
  • I was overwhelmed + stressed = justified ordering supplements to support my gut and adrenals.
  • A client felt so overwhelmed, wound up, and unable to relax naturally = justified spending money on marijuana to calm herself down nightly.
  • I didn’t feel confident enough to stand in myself or my body = justified spending money on drinks at the bar… a lot.

We thought we were buying happiness. Trouble was, the kind of happiness that comes from emotional spending and impulse buys doesn’t last. Fast forward a few years, and we’d be looking at a lot of wasted money, and no happiness to be found.

This is so common for so many people. And things get even more (non-monetarily) expensive from there. Emotional spending comes from emotional disconnection, which breeds disconnection from family, friends, and partners, which of course lead to separation and further unhappiness.

woman sitting on bed while holding mug

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?

There are a few things at play here:

We live in an age of instant gratification. Unlike past generations, for us it’s considered totally normal to go out for dinner or buy yourself a present (treat yo’ self) even if it isn’t your birthday or anniversary.

It’s a scientific fact that making small purchases and “gifting yourself” with stuff gives us a hit of dopamine – the ‘feel good’ chemical. This neurotransmitter surges when you’re considering buying something new—anticipating a reward. Sales, by the way, give us an even harder kick.

Many of us adopt the spending habits of our parents and peers. Keeping up with the Jones’ anyone?

Emotional spending is a Learned Habit. That which we repeat… we get really good at. Our brains creates pathways that engage a default response to emotional influences. So the more we respond to stress with shopping… the more we’ll respond to stress with shopping.

A collection of the above leads to one very unhappy bank account, and a sour relationship between us and our money.

 

So how do we get out of it?

WE HAVE TO GET CLEAR ON OUR VALUES.

Take some time to get clear on what you value in this one and only beautiful life. This is something I go through with people who sign up for Strategy Sessions (if you want to do one with me, sign up here).

the-habit-values-kelowna

Getting clear on our values shows us what’s really important. Our long-term goals become clear, which is important because our goals won’t be reached if we don’t start taking the (small, incremental, baby) steps to reach them.

A FEW OF THE THINGS I VALUE:

  • Life Experiences
  • Travel
  • Education
  • Physical Health
  • Mental Wellbeing
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Interpersonal Connection
  • Freedom from clutter (physical, mental, emotional, etc.)

It’s shocking how many of the purchases we make ACTIVELY GO AGAINST our values and long term goals. The only word I can think of to describe that feeling is: Ick.

 

Once you find your values, you can:

Align your purchases with those values.

 

The next thing we need to focus on is mindset. When it comes to little purchases, we have a real tendency to say:

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and ignore how those little $5-$30 purchases added up in the lines of our credit card statements. But when it came to bigger purchases, we are stuck in the belief ‘I can’t afford that,’ thereby shutting the door to the real opportunities that come with investing in things we value.

This is the difference between victim mindset and responsibility mindset.

As a victim, we can’t afford the nice things, yet “needed” to spend money on the little crap that just gets us through the day.

In shifting to responsibility mindset, our investments align with a more awesome, goal-oriented version of ourselves.

One of my Yoga Health Coach friends committed to creating a practice of reviewing her purchases and bills every week. After doing this for 10 weeks, she had paid off $12,000, where for years she’d been living paycheck to paycheck. This came from literally just paying attention to her spending!

The same thing happened for that Yoga Health Coach’s sister. For years, she had a victim, or scarcity, mindset. She talked about going on vacations, but always ended up coming to the same conclusion: “I can’t afford it.” But as she started to change her habits and shift her mindset, she decided she would put a vacation on her credit card, and immediately set to paying it off in weekly payments. Whatever she could find. She took a look at the ‘stuff’ she was buying, and cut out some of the purchases that didn’t align with her values or her goal of paying off the trip (check out this fun calculator to see how much you could also save). She paid off $3k in just over a month. And now, she’s no longer accepting the old belief of “I can’t afford it.” She wants to experience life.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPENDING AND INVESTING

There’s a difference here. Spending doesn’t align with your values. Investing supports your goals and your growth. And the best investment you can make is in….

Yourself.

If the most successful investor in the world said so.... it's probably accurate.

If the most successful investor in the world said so…. it’s probably accurate.

THINGS I NEVER KNEW I SHOULD INVEST IN:

  • Body integrity + connection with my body
  • Habit evolution
  • Mindfulness
  • Movement
  • UNDERSTANDING OF SELF.

There’s nothing tangible there. It’s not a comfy couch or necklace. There’s nothing to show off… or so it seems at first.

But the returns on investing in myself in this way have been greater than any other gift, thing, or accomplishment.

  • Improved immune system = no more supplements, prescriptions, over-the-counters, or visits to the doctor
  • Optimal energy levels, clarity of mind = ability to perform & succeed = ability to make more money!
  • Feeling grounded, responding instead of reacting, and not taking things personally = more wealth of relationships
  • Healthy routines automated in my day = more time in the day. The ability to create new habits like meal planning & prep = saved on groceries
  • Acceptance of what is. Appreciation for the things I have = LESS Emotional spending = ACTUALLY SAVING MONEY

And wow, there’s something to show for it. I am a totally different friend, partner, and family member. I’m so much more present. I can offer so much more value to everyone in my life.

MY SPENDING HABITS NOW ARE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Buying things that align with my values
  • TRAVEL. Life experiences
  • An emergency fund, so I have the money for when the hot water tank or refrigerator breaks down
  • And yes, creature comforts are still there. But, going back to the values part, I take time with my partner to talk out purchases, and ensure we’re buying from a place that isn’t feeding an emotional shortcoming. We’re buying things and experiences that bring us an incredible amount of joy, and help us in reaching our goals. Recent investments include:
    1. A personal + business development retreat in Mexico
    2. Surfing lessons 
    3. A ski trip to Utah (with free lift tickets courtesy a friend who works there!)
    4. A trip home to see my family
    5. A gym membership

So ask yourself: Am I in a victim mindset, or a responsibility mindset?

It may be time to shift your mindset in terms of money and what it’s worth. In my Happy Healthy Habits program, we do a ton of work in shifting mindsets. Let this be your first practice in engaging a solutions-oriented mindset.

One of the best ways to do this is to talk to people who are already there. Who in your life has invested in themselves? Coaching, education, mentoring, learning… what is the feedback these people have for you? You can check out some of the feedback from my clients here.

silhouette photo of group of people on mountain

AND ONE LAST THING – WHEN YOU INVEST IN YOURSELF, MAKE SURE THERE’S A COMMUNITY ATTACHED TO IT.

There are a lot of courses out there that give you a lot of information. But information doesn’t equal transformation – and goals have an 80% higher chance of being reached when you work with others. Get into a community of like-minded individuals. Support others and be supported. The change happens so much faster. And you don’t want to miss out on those big, beautiful goals!

 

This post adapted from How to Waste Money by fellow Yoga Health Coach Carly Banks

Rethinking My Relationship with Food

I’ve been thinking recently about my relationship with food and how it’s changed since I started this health journey.

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For the first time in my life, I’m not dieting. I’m not trying to lose weight. I’m just listening to my body. And while some days I feel fear around gaining weight, I’m learning that I really and truly can trust my body’s needs and desires, and that my worth doesn’t come from my weight or how I look.

Instead of forcing myself to follow rules around what things I can and can’t eat, following a strict meal plan, or limiting my food consumption and making myself hungry, I’ve really been able to tune in to my body’s needs. I’ve tried different foods with a curious mindset rather than a guilt-ridden, fear-based one, to see how they affect my body and whether I want to incorporate them more or less. I’ve broken away from labels for how I’m eating: I am no longer vegan, no longer vegetarian, no longer even “clean eating.” I’m just eating the food my body (and my soul!) want.

I truly didn’t believe that this was a possibility two years ago. I thought that if I didn’t have external rules around food, I would feel horrible, be unhealthy, and gain weight (and therefore have less worth). I had absolutely no trust in my body.

But I’m finally able to look at what I’m eating from a place of curiosity, to see how it affects me and make tweaks accordingly, rather than following a prescriptive diet or meal plan.

I do believe there is a time and place for setting up guidelines for ourselves, but when we follow them blindly without tuning into our bodies to see what they actually need, we’re missing the point. And we’re missing the joys of everyday life by being all-consumed with what we “should” eat, whether we can “afford” to eat that thing in front of us, and the guilt of eating things we “shouldn’t” eat but still do anyway.

There is no quick fix for shifting this mindset around food. Many of us are indoctrinated with this belief that we shouldn’t trust our bodies. This is fueled by diet culture (and the diet industry) in response to our food system that really does have a lot of crap in it. Toxins and harmful things really are in a lot of our food. And we can be mindful of what we’re ingesting. But we don’t have to do it in a way that makes us feel bad, panicked, guilty, or mentally exhausted. It takes time, and a decent amount of work, but that work is so worth it. And doing that work sooner rather than later is also so, so worth it.

This is a lot of what I do with my clients: shift the mindset from rules and restrictions to curiosity and deep respect for our bodies and intuition. If you feel like this is something that resonates with you, I would love to chat. Sign up for a strategy session here, and let’s get really clear on what you want from your relationship with yourself and your body!

An Intentional Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year: Thanksgiving and the holidays! And while the holidays can be absolutely magical, often people end up feeling kind of miserable during or after them.

Below are two different scenarios of my Thanksgivings: one is the Thanksgiving I used to have, the other is the Thanksgiving I intend to have going forward.


First scenario:

I wake up on Thanksgiving, hungover from going to the bars the night before (what up biggest bar night of the year?!). I drag myself to the Turkey Trot we have with our family friends. While this is an awesome tradition, I find some other hungover people and walk it with them instead of actually running, then eat a bunch of the pastries everyone brought for the post-Trot party while skipping over the veggie- and protein-filled options.

Feeling even worse from the pastries, I go home and nap before helping cook Thanksgiving dinner. I wake up from my nap and head upstairs, feeling pretty groggy and also a little grumpy. I end up getting annoyed with family members for something they say or do because of my bad mood. I help my mom and sister make Thanksgiving dinner, but insist on doing things my own way and end up getting underfoot. I’m still not satisfied because I’ll I’ve eaten today are pastries, and I can feel my mom’s annoyance at my stubbornness, so I drink some more wine and pick at the food to banish any emerging emotions about it.

Dinner rolls around, and though I’m not even super hungry because of all the picking I’ve been doing, I load up my plate with everything, even the food I actually don’t like that much, cause it’s Thanksgiving. Then of course, I get seconds, this time only putting my favorites on my plate. It’s Thanksgiving!

Then the pause between dinner and dessert occurs where we drink more wine and play games, but I feel absolutely terrible and find it hard to engage. Even when I do, I get snappy and impatient. My stomach is uncomfortably full, and I just want this feeling to be gone. So I drink more wine, which makes me even more snappy.

But then it’s time for dessert, and everyone else seems to have plenty of room left for more food. I definitely don’t, but it’s Thanksgiving, and I already feel terrible, so I do my best to shove some more pie into my mouth. Maybe that will make me feel better?

Finally, it’s time to go to bed. But my stomach is so full and I’m so uncomfortable that I don’t sleep well. I wake up the next morning feeling somehow even more hungover than the day before from the wine coupled with the amount of food I ate.

And of course, what’s Thanksgiving without leftovers??

I don’t go back to my normal eating, movement, or sleeping patterns because it’s a holiday break and there are leftovers and this kind of food only comes once a year. Honestly, my patterns don’t ever go back to normal with the start of the Christmas season. So I continue to feel bad and tell myself I’ll revamp my life on New Year’s Day.

And maybe I will change my eating and workout routine for a few weeks in the new year, or maybe I won’t. But even if I do, it doesn’t last long. And I feel pretty crappy for a full month before that.

 

Wow, I feel emotionally depleted even writing that and realizing how much of that suffering was optional. This is how many of my Thanksgivings have gone, and I’m not saying you’ve had the same experience. But maybe some of it resonates with you. If it does, know that you’re not alone, and that there are things you can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again this year.


Second Scenario:

Here is the Thanksgiving I intend to have from now on (admittedly, I will not actually be home on Thanksgiving this year, but I implemented some of these strategies last year, and also this year for the Friendsgiving Todd and I had before we left for our trip):

I wake up on Thanksgiving, feeling good because I had 0-3 drinks last night and got to bed at a reasonable(ish) hour instead of staying up until 3.

I go to the Turkey Trot and actually run the 5k, making me feel even better than before. I eat some of the delicious food made for the post-Trot party, but go for more plants and protein than sugary, dessert-like foods. I only eat as much as my body actually wants.

I go home and help make Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t place a lot of importance on the exact food I want to make because the holiday is so much more about being with the people I love than eating the food I want. The process of cooking goes a lot smoother because I’m not clinging to having everything go my way. Instead, I focus on connecting with the people I’m sharing the experience of cooking. We listen to music, tell each other about our lives, and laugh about shared memories.

I drink some kombucha, coconut water, or sparkling water in a wine glass instead of wine (my new favorite thing to do so I can still feel like an adult), and I don’t pick at all the food because I’ve eaten enough substantial food at breakfast and I’m feeling calm and connected.

When dinner comes, I load up my plate with only the food I really want to eat (and yes, that includes stuffing and mashed potatoes). If I really feel a desire to try everything available, I take a bite of it before deciding if I actually want it on my plate. And instead of getting seconds just because “it’s Thanksgiving,” I check in with my body to see if I’ll actually enjoy any more bites of whatever I’m getting. If the answer is yes, I’ll take some more and enjoy every bite. If the answer is “I have to eat too much food because it’s what you do on Thanksgiving,” I don’t.

After dinner, I feel pretty full but not horribly uncomfortable, and I enjoy playing games and connecting with my family and whatever friends have come over. I feel a sense of gratitude for everything I’m blessed with, which is what the holiday is really all about.

For dessert, I take the pecan pie and skip the pumpkin, solely because I just don’t really like pumpkin as much. Maybe there’s also another dessert I want to try, and I take some of that too if I know I’ll really enjoy it. At the end of the night, I’m more full than I am on a normal night, but I don’t feel overstuffed. I feel happy and blessed, and am excited to spend more time with my family the rest of the weekend.

The next day, I maybe eat some of the leftovers (my sister and I always make sure to make more than enough stuffing to have left over), but I mostly go back to the food I normally eat, knowing that there will always be more Thanksgiving food and I’m not actually missing out on anything if I don’t eat the leftovers for days following.

I feel much better than the first scenario, and I actually get a good workout in that day, the movement and oxygen making me feel even better. I’m able to get back to my regular healthy habits pretty quickly, and don’t feel completely derailed. I keep up those health habits through the rest of the year, and have a better holiday season and Christmas for it. I also reflect on the New Year and make some intentions for it, but I don’t have to plan to completely overhaul my entire life for them.

In this second scenario, I haven’t missed out on any part of Thanksgiving: I’ve simply been more intentional with how I navigate it, and what I choose to do to make me feel the best I can throughout it. I’ve consciously decided to eat what will feel good in my body, as well as eating some of the things I just want to eat regardless of how healthy they are. I’ve also decided to take care of myself in other ways, with movement, getting enough sleep, and not overeating/overdrinking. And all of this took a little bit more forethought, but made for a much better experience of the holiday and beyond.

Do either of these scenarios resonate with you? Will you be making more conscious decisions this Thanksgiving? I’d love to hear about your intentional Thanksgiving plans in the comments!

Wishing you the happiest of Thanksgivings,

Hadlee

Banana + Zucchini “Nice” Cream

It’s been ~hot, hot~ all over the country the past two weeks, even in Seattle! And wow, my apartment gets SO warm come 3pm. My favorite treat to make when it’s this hot (and let’s be honest, pretty much all the time) is banana “nice” cream. I’ve been playing with this recipe for a few years since banana nice cream became a thing, and when I first made it with non-frozen bananas and then stuck it in the freezer, it was rock solid and had freezer burn all over it.

So after a lot of playing around with it, here is my basic version, with a few suggestions for variation. Feel free to switch out any toppings or ingredients to change it into harder ice cream, make it into a sundae, mix up the flavors, or create more of a smoothie bowl out of it.

Banana + Zucchini Nice Cream (1 serving)

Ingredients:

  • One large banana, frozen (take the banana out of its peel and put it in a ziplock freezer bag in 3-4 chunks – it makes your life way easier when you go to use it!)
  • 1/2 zucchini, blanched then frozen (I cut the zucchini into fourths, then blanch, then throw it in the bag with the bananas to freeze it)
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • A splash of almond milk (really, only a splash if you want it to be harder like regular ice cream)
  • 1 tsp honey, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Throw it all into a high-speed blender and blend. It might look like it’s not going to blend all the way, but scraping down the sides a couple times while you blend will help. Do this until the mixture is thick and creamy, then transfer it into a bowl and add your favorite toppings (suggestions below).

Optional Toppings:

  • Cacao nibs
  • Coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • Nut butter
  • Dried gogi berries or other dried fruit (i.e., raisins, dates, figs, etc.)
  • Fresh or frozen fruit (berries, kiwi, bananas, peaches, etc.)
  • Seeds or nuts (hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, etc.)
  • Granola
  • Mint or other herbs
  • Dark chocolate

Tips and variations:

I keep frozen bananas and zucchini in the fridge because I make this so often, but you can also just freeze the amount you’ll need for however many servings you make.

You can use any type of milk, whether that be nut milk or a dairy version. Use less to make it thicker like ice cream (sometimes I don’t use any at all), more if you want to be able to drink it like a milkshake. Occasionally, I use a little bit of chia pudding (chia seeds soaked in water) instead of milk.

You can also use any type of nut butter, or none at all! I find adding it makes it creamier and richer.

If you don’t eat honey, agave or another sweetener would probably work too. Honestly, if you’re not into super sweet things, it might not even need honey! I don’t always add it.

Go crazy with the spices and toppings! Sometimes I add nutmeg, cardamom, even turmeric depending on how I’m feeling. The above picture shows cacao nibs, some extra peanut butter, dried gogi berries, and coconut flakes. But try different types of dried fruit, fresh fruit, seeds, nuts, granola, or anything else you can think to put on it (any other ideas welcome: comment below!).

Sometimes I put spirulina in it to get some iron and protein, and it turns a really pretty dark green (pictured above). Usually when I do that, it needs a bit more honey or banana/zucchini ratio.

Let me know if you make it and what you think. Enjoy!

~ Hadlee

Celebrating Independence from Outdated Mental Patterns

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! The fourth of July is celebrated by those of us from the United States as our Independence Day. While it’s technically a celebration of our independence from Britain, nowadays it’s more of an excuse to spend the day barbecuing, boating, beaching or doing other fun outdoor things, and ending the day watching fireworks, all while wearing red, white, and blue.

 

Fourth of July can mean spending some amazing quality time with friends and family and enjoying the beautiful summer day. But it can also mean stress and anxiety from the expectations of what the day “should” be, feeling bloated and irritable from the bbq foods mixed with the hot sun, and regret the following day from how much food or alcohol was consumed. We all put the most beautiful and curated photos on social media, capturing the good but rarely capturing the unpleasant. If you have any sort of mixed feelings or disappointment from the day, you may feel like you are the only one.

But you are absolutely not alone! The day doesn’t have to be either perfect or terrible, and honestly no one has the perfect Fourth of July (or the perfect life, for that matter) we all see in their photos.

I remember anticipating the holiday with mixed emotions. I was excited to hang out with friends, swim, and enjoy the sun, but I was also terrified that I would inevitably be in a bathing suit while also eating bloat-inducing bbq food. When I was a kid, this meant overriding my food anxiety by placating it with more food and feeling worse about myself. As I got older, it meant drinking more than I would have otherwise so I could feel better in my skin.

And I wish I could say that those feelings have completely gone away, that I feel completely and totally comfortable in my skin all the time, no matter what I wear or eat or how bloated my tummy gets some days. I wish I could say I live completely in the present moment, and don’t have any expectations for a holiday that may or may not disappoint. But while I can’t say that I’m magically the happiest, most secure, confident, and zen person in the world, I can say that I have done a lot of work and gotten a lot closer to being that way. And I can say that I continue to work toward being the best version of me, knowing there is no end destination but that it’s all about those little steps forward into becoming a better me.

I post this in the spirit of Independence Day. Independence Day can be a day for connection with friends and family, a day for fun in the sun, and a day of celebration. It can also be the perfect day for reflecting on our own individual independence. What beliefs or behaviors are you holding on to that don’t serve you anymore? Once you’ve discovered what those are, you can let go of those outdated patterns and form new ones that serve you better in the next stage of your life, the next version of you.

For me, this meant letting go of the mental pattern that told me I wasn’t good enough, that my body didn’t look like it should, that I didn’t look as good as the people around me. It meant letting go of all the “should”s in my life that I thought were so important, and thinking about what was really important to me and how I actually wanted to live my life. It also meant taking on the behaviors I actually wanted to have. It meant letting go of eating patterns that didn’t serve me, like the cycle of deprivation and binging so common around the holidays. It meant letting go of perfectionism and an all-or-nothing mindset in every area of my life. It meant taking on new beliefs, like believing I am good enough. It meant cultivating my desire to put things in my body that nourish me, and doing it not to make my body look better, but to make me feel amazing. It meant believing I had the power to pull myself out of old mental patterns, and the power to grow into another person who is never the same as the previous day, but is always malleable and growing into a new self.

Of course, I’m still working on all of these beliefs. It’s wild how ingrained those outdated mental patterns can be. But every time I reflect on the beliefs I currently have and really take a look at whether they are useful to me at this point in my life, I uncover some pattern I didn’t realize I was holding, and am able to start the work of moving into new and more useful patterns.

So I ask you to do some reflection on this day, just briefly when you have some downtime (preferably before all of the festivities begin). Let’s celebrate our Independence Day by reflecting on our independence from old patterns, and break free into newer, healthier, happier ones. You may discover some old beliefs you didn’t even realize you had!

Let me know what you discover, and how you’re going to change those old beliefs on this beautiful Independence Day! ❤️💙

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

As I’ve starting leading my first Happy Healthy Habits course, the very first habit of Earlier, Lighter Dinners has brought up some questions about what to eat for lunch. The concept that lunch should be our heavier meal of the day is antithetical to current societal norms, and having a nourishing lunch can make meal planning more difficult if we have to pack it to go.

This is one of the meals I’ve prepared for myself that is perfect for bringing to the office, to school, on a picnic, or enjoying at home. It is a balanced meal, and the couscous and hummus make it more substantial than a green salad, so it’s perfect for lunch. If you want to make it even heartier and add more healthy fats/protein, you could mix in walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts, or add avocado, a sliced hard-boiled egg, or your choice of meat on top.

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Yield: 5-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry couscous (or 4 cups pre-cooked couscous)
  • 1½ cup water
  • ½  head cauliflower, cut into florets, stems peeled and sliced into coins
  • ½ head broccoli, cut into florets, stems peeled and sliced into coins
  • 2 small sweet onions (or 1 large sweet onion)
  • 2 tbsp + ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil (for roasted vegetables and for dressing)
  • MSalt, to taste (for roasted vegetables and for dressing)
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained, quartered
  • 14 kalamata olives, pitted, quartered
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 bunch spinach (optional)
  • 1 cup hummus, homemade or store-bought (optional)

 

Directions:

Couscous (I just used couscous I had made the previous day): 

Make the couscous according to package instructions. Fluff the cooked couscous with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.

Roasted vegetables:

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Mix broccoli, cauliflower, and onions together in a large bowl with extra virgin olive oil and MSalt. Transfer to cooking sheets. Roast in oven for 12-15 minutes, or until tender.

Dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the rest of the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, MSalt, and black pepper.

To serve (optional):

Serve on a bed of spinach (I just use a handful for each serving). Add a dollop of hummus on top and a few sprigs of cilantro to garnish.

 

Cooking and meal prep tips:

  • Make some sort of grain in bulk for your week and put it in a container in your fridge. Then you can mix and match pre-cooked grains with different kinds of vegetables, beans, nuts, etc., and not make a new one each time you want to cook something. And mix up the kinds of grains you use: I was getting sick of quinoa, so I used couscous this week.
  • Make roasted vegetables in bulk for the week too, and get creative with the types of veggies you roast and the spice blends you use. Some of my other favorite vegetables to roast are sweet potatoes, shallots, mushrooms, zucchini, beets, asparagus, and green beans. I only used MSalt for this recipe to keep things simple, but you could use an Italian spice blend, curry powder, Asian Blend, or your favorite spice mix as well, depending on the kind of dish you’re making.
  • Add whatever kinds of raw vegetables you like to a salad like this. Some of my other favorites to throw into a salad include cucumber, edamame (you can just buy it frozen and put it in the salad to thaw!), bell peppers, jicama, and tomatoes.
  • Add more or less of any ingredient in the dressing. I tend to deconstruct my dressings and add each ingredient to a salad separately, tasting the salad after adding each ingredient to see what other flavors are needed.
  • I make homemade hummus because I like it more than store-bought and it’s cheaper and healthier. But if I don’t have time to make it, I’ll buy some to have on hand and use it for recipes and with raw veggies to dip. The best kind I’ve found is Trader Joe’s Hummus Dip.
  • To make this meal even heartier and add more healthy fats/protein, you could mix in walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts, or add falafel, avocado, a sliced hard-boiled egg, or your choice of meat on top.