How to have a kick-ass 2016

Almond

I knew that having a child was going to provide ample distractions and make it challenging to stay focused. That said, I didn’t fully realize the magnitude of perpetual disruption on how connected I would feel to myself and my life’s path. It’s taken two years, but I am finally refocusing and recentering myself for this coming year. For me, it will be a year of reclaiming myself independent of my role as a mother and integrating Mother with Self so that I can operate from a more authentic place and honor who I am in this next phase of my life. While my clients have demonstrated the difficulty of self-care in the face of motherhood, I now understand it at a much more profound level than I did pre-parent and am even more committed to helping mothers reconnect to themselves so they can have a fulfilling life.

This plan is a work in progress, but I invite you to join me in taking the time to do this important work. I would love to hear from you throughout the year on how it is going, what you are discovering and what works and what doesn’t. You can share by commenting below or by sending me an email. I will be sharing my experiences here throughout the year as well.

[Tweet “Without further adieu, here’s how to kick ass in 2016!”]Screenshot 2015-12-30 16.22.27

 

STEP ONE: Get clear on your intention for the year. 

This is best done not as a goal, but as an essence. As I had no clear sense of what direction I wanted to go earlier this month I went back to an exercise that has been very helpful to me in the past: Jade Teta’s Totem Word exercise. This exercise reliably brings me back to my values and core mission for my life whenever I lose sight of it.

 

STEP TWO: Make It Juicy!


Leonie Dawson
is a goddess of Juicy Living. Her niche is helping hippie artist-types find success in their artistic passions, but her messages and products are really useful for anyone
in business or those wanting to bring more creative, right-brained habits to life. This year I am using her 2016 Create Your Shining Year in Life to outline what I want more of and how I am going to get there. This notebook begs for markers, stickers, collaging, and play; something I am betting most of us can benefit from! [Tweet “WARNING: if you hate hippies or are especially allergic to Woo-Woo types this may not be for you.”] Leonie can push my woo-woo tolerance but her message is really grounded and practical and has always benefitted me when I have utilized any of her programs or products. While starting the workbook at the new year gives you the most time to get results, the reality is you can pick up this workbook at any time of the year and use it as a tool for clarifying, outlining and planning the next phase of your life (or business if you get the business workbook)

STEP THREE: Record it where you’ll see it daily!

I’ve started using a passion planner and am really enjoying it as a resource for tracking my actions that are connected to my overall intention for the year. At the beginning of the planner are some exercises to help you get focused on your year ahead so you have a reminder on hand daily. The planner itself offers a weekly focus, space for notes, to-do lists, and quotes and challenges to keep you connected and growing. You can check out these planners at passionplanner.com

Inside of the Passion Planner, available at Passionplanner.com

I’m also trying a new service this year, “One Little Word”. I’ll be getting monthly writing prompts on the word that I have chosen to serve as my totem word for 2016. I believe there will be some opportunity for crafting as well, which is something that I have wanted more practice with all of my adulthood.

What are your big aims for 2016? I would love to hear your totem word or intention for this coming year!

Calgon Ain’t Got Nuthin’ on THIS!

I love luxurious herbal baths. I rarely take them, and since becoming a mother I can count the amount of times I’ve had one easily on one hand. Lately I’ve been speaking to a friend of mine who is a radical self-care devotee and uber-fan of what she refers to as ‘tubbie’ time.  She has inspired me to find some herbal bath recipes to test and share with her for her birthday at the end of this month.

 

(SHHHHH! Don’t tell!)

 

Soothing Softening Milk Bath

Milk contains lactic acid, which helps to exfolate skin. Lavender comes in to provide post-workweek decompression and the cornstarch is added to make the water silky smooth and also soothe skin.

 

  • 1 cup dry milk
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup lavender sprigs

Combine all in a decorative jar and use after a rough day to promote relaxation and sleep. Makes one bath.

Romantic Rose Bath

Rose is traditionally used to tonify and soften skin. Almond oil is also a great moisturizer and the vinegar exfoliates and reportedly neutralizes the water pH to prevent skin irritation from the essential oils.

  • 3 drops rose essential oil
  • 1 tbsp. sweet almond oil
  • 1/4 cup rose water
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 handful dried rose petals

Add rose petals to the bottom of a pretty glass jar. Add oils and stir with a chopstick to blend. Top with rosewater and vinegar and shake well. makes one bath.

 

What’s Your Sabotaging Persona?

We all have things which trip us up and set us off course from our goals. The most common difference between those who succeed and those who do not is simply that the successful ones pick themselves up and keep going. They do not allow a set-back or self-sabotage permanently derail them. When things are not working they keep hunting for the answers, spending as much time inward as outward finding solutions to their challenges.

An effective way to cease self-loathing and blame when slipping up is to identify and be on the lookout for your sabotaging personality. What are the situations or thoughts that precede a slip up? Below are some common sabotaging personas. Identify yours and begin to see this persona not as who you are, but an aspect of you that seeks to get a need met through food, excessive Facebooking, avoiding exercise, etc. This persona is just misguided and doing its best. It’s your job not to let it continue to call the shots and run your life, just as you wouldn’t let an 8 year old boy run the family household.

Below are some of the most common personas that show up in our clients. Do any of them sound familiar to you?

perfectionism


The Black and White Persona
(aka – the Perfectionist): “I don’t have time for 30 minutes, so I don’t have time at all…” “I had that handful of M+Ms at lunch and blew it, I might as well have XYZ”, “I’m scheduled to lose a pound a week and I’ve only lost ¼ pound this week; this isn’t working.” “I’ve lost 20 pounds, but all I see is the last 10 I haven’t gotten rid of” The Perfectionist is NOTORIOUS for expecting things to be a certain way. If they aren’t, well, F-it! This persona needs to be reminded that life does not progress in a linear fashion, and life never turns out exactly as we expect. Letting go of the tight grip of control allows this persona to relax and enjoy more of life, develop a greater sense of trust in oneself, and prevent or eliminate ulcers. This persona needs it hammered in that in life, progress, not perfection, is the goal. Perfection is a myth in the realm of unicorns and leprechauns. If you can only fit in 15 minutes of intervals, go as hard as you can for those 15 minutes and be proud of yourself for getting 15 minutes more than the Perfectionist would have given you! If you have a dietary slip up, let it be history and make a better choice the next time you pick up your fork.


Untitled design (1)The Victim
– “my kids left it on their plate”, “in-laws were in town”, “there was nothing else in the house”, “it’s so hard” … this person always has a reason why someone or something has gotten in the way of his or her efforts. The reality is there can always be a reason NOT to – to combat this persona you need to start listing the reasons why you CHOOSE TO. This persona wants to avoid the burden of responsibility. By playing the victim card, he or she has all the reasons why it just isn’t going to work. Exploring the fear of responsibility and what that means to this persona as well as staying deeply connected to the reasons WHY you WANT TO take responsibility for your health, happiness, and your life are needed to put this persona in its place.VerucaSalt


The Self-Entitled
– you know this persona is present when you hear the words “I deserve it”. Somewhere in this person’s life food became the prize for a job well done, the consolation prize for a bad day or just because she feels like it! Often times all this persona needs is to think of other things which are also special, decadent, and just as rewarding as a plate of pasta or dessert. These will be things you typically do not do for yourself because they are just a little too decadent – fresh flowers from the farmer’s market, a massage, a weekend afternoon in bed with a good book, refusing to check email or voicemail for a set period of time, a manicure, or a bottle of ridiculously expensive, imported aged vinegar for your fat-loss friendly salads are some ideas to get you started. It will be important to examine what this persona is really looking for as the Self-Entitled is the one most likely to subversively create problems by transferring food treats to clothing treats or other consumables which can lead to financial problems down the road (if this is one of your saboteurs, you may notice that she pops up as a ‘retail therapist’ already!)

The People-Pleaser – this persona eats Grandma’s cookie so she won’t be upset, gets injured by signing up for a race that his buddies are doing even though he knows he’s not prepared, gives in and gets another glass of wine or an appetizer because others at the table are doing so, uses the kids as a reason to keep trigger foods in the house, or finds herself in front of the fridge after a confrontation or argument where she felt unable to express what she really wanted to say. Food can be an excellent means of ‘shutting oneself up’ to keep the peace and in many families the acceptance of desserts, second portions, and food in general is synonymous with acceptance of the preparer’s love. Combating this persona requires a commitment to staying connected to oneself in social situations and starting to test the belief that others will be upset if you stay true to your needs and desires. Start with the easiest situations (work functions and parties, for instance) and work your way towards more challenging scenarios as you experience success.

The Hider – this persona finds all the reasons to stay small, unknown, and unseen. It stays in the dead end job where you remain unappreciated, says “It’s too late, I can’t, “It won’t hiding kittenwork anyway” when considering breaking out and doing something new and exciting. In relation to food, the Hider eats when you get ‘too thin’ … feels exposed as the weight comes off, even while feeling more confident. At it’s root it’s afraid of unwanted sexual advances or attention, of being seen or appreciated for the ‘thin’ self; afraid of success and what that means. This persona needs a lot of compassion and love to release the fear associated with successful fat loss. If sexual or emotional trauma is at the root of this persona’s action, receiving professional counseling is highly recommended. Other barriers to welcoming success can be talked through with a life or health coach, through self-improvement books, and journaling and self-examination.

Which persona do you most identify with? Many people have more than one! Keep on the lookout for the situations and places these personas show up to learn more about how they operate so you can find ways to discourage their impulses and behaviors. As they say, “Keep your friends close, and your sabotaging personas closer.” 🙂

Best Health Apps of 2012

Sleep Cycle – This iPhone app sounds amazing! It actually monitors your movement and uses this data to determine an appropriate time to wake you so you are not in deep sleep. I’ve heard first hand accounts of its effectiveness, and is very highly rated. To learn more, and purchase this app, click here.

Android users do not have this app available, but Sleep as Android is available. I downloaded the trial of this app and tested it out – it very effectively measures movement in the bed as an indicator of depth of sleep. Data collected showed what percentage of my sleep was ‘deep sleep’, the average amount of sleep debt I accumulated each night as well as total sleep debt during the course of the trial. Using this app I discovered that some reliable, consistent factors that were inhibiting sleep and used the data to make some changes. There is now an add-on for $1.79 that is called Sleep Stats and has more in-depth tracking as well as advice to gain more deep sleep. Well worth checking out if this is a concern for you.

my Fitness Pal – I hate calorie counters. Like nearly all other food trackers, My Fitness Pal focuses in on the archaic “calories in, calories out” model (which is really dieting and which we all know doesn’t work). This is the most comprehensive app I have found, however, for tracking food intake, water and exercise intake. What I would LOVE to see is the ability to adjust the nutritent ratios on the app so that I can focus more on protein and carbohydrates rather than calories. The only reason I was compelled to download this to test it out is the scanner option that allows you to scan the barcode of that food bar or box of cookies you just picked up to add it to your daily food log. That saves oodles of time searching through a comprehensive database on the phone, and consequently makes this app a winner. My advice: log your food, water and exercise as a tracker, ignore the calorie warnings, and use the info you gather to meet your goals. By clicking on the “daily” assessment you can take a look at a pie chart which gives you a breakdown of your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake by percentages, which I find much more useful. Because the app syncs with an online site, you have the ability to use the information from your PC and laptop as well as print out your logs. Click here to download MyFitnessPal for an Android phone, and click here to download it to your iPhone

Out of Milk – I am using this all the time – I can keep track of what’s in my pantry, what I need to purchase, AND create additional lists – to do lists for business, restaurants to try out, movies to see, etc. The big sell on this is you can scan the barcode of an empty box to add it to your shopping list AND sync your list with your partner’s or email it to him or her so that you both don’t go to the store and double up, or you can make sure everything on the grocery list gets purchased! There is also an option to set reminder alarms for those items on the list, move things between lists, and see what you previously had on your grocery list so you have a running idea of frequent purchases, as well as their cost. Price: FREE, with $1.99 for an upgrade that allows online syncing and back-up, list sharing on multiple devices, and a coupon tracker. Out of Milk is free, then click here to upgrade to Out of Milk Pro for Android users. Apple users, fret not – Out of Milk is developing an iPhone app; in fact, they are looking for beta testers if you want to be one!

Period Tracker – I have been using this app for over a year, and can subsequently geek out on knowing the exact day and length of my menstrual cycle. This tracker also allows you to log mood changes and PMS symptoms, weight, and body temperature and uses the last three cycles to fairly accurately determine your upcoming cycle date. This is PERFECT for what I call “PMS amnesia”, or that time of the month when you don’t know why you’re so cranky and irritable and sensitive…until you know EXACTLY why. 😉 It is also an excellent tool to monitor your fertility to prevent or facilitate pregnancy.

Back in the day, when we just had calendars, my mom taught me to track my cycle by putting little flowers on the calendar when my cycle began. Seeing the flowers bloom on this app reminds me a little of that, and endears me to this app even more. My only request of Period Tracker: that it also track the lunar cycle so women can begin to see how the lunar cycle corresponds to their own menstrual cycle. Click here to download Period Tracker on the ‘droid for free and click here to download it from iTunes!

There are tens of thousands of health apps on the market now – these are just a few I have come across that I believe offer great value and have proven useful to me personally. What are YOUR favorite health apps? I’d love to hear what else is out there, especially for iPhone users, since I have less exposure to those apps. Comment below and share which apps you find most useful!

Don’t Let Stress Make You Fat!


When you’re under stress, it is harder to eat healthier. You may find yourself eating high calorie foods at a time when you’re stressed and may not even be hungry. Much of this stems from the hormonal response internally – stress hormones ramp up the urge for cravings as a means of self-medication. Salty, crunchy or chewy snacks relieve stress by working the jaw and bringing a sense of focus; creamy and sweet snacks relax and soothe the senses through the release of serotonin and other calming neurotransmitters. The stress of overwhelm and multiple choices taxes the brain and actually consumes a great deal of glucose, which can lead to cravings as well.

How can you fix the weight gain during stress? It is ESSENTIAL to get a handle on the stress. When you decrease the stress, you will feel back to your old self and find it easier to eat healthier and have better exercise habits. Things which set you off or feel too hard now will suddenly, effortlessly, become far more manageable.

When you feel stress increasing, take some time to lessen the stress. Go for a walk, go to bed early, unwind with a good book or a hot bath. TV and computer does NOT soothe the body, and can exacerbate insomnia and other physical stressors. Yoga is a powerful way to relieve stress in the body as well. Take a yoga class after work to let go of your day, or tackle stress with yoga in your own home!

Bridge pose. This is designed to calm the brain, rejuvenate tired legs and relieve spinal tension.

How: Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the ground. Press down with your feet; lift your glutes, hips, pelvis and back off the ground. Keeping your arms flat, with your shoulders on the floor, lock your fingers under your glutes. Inhale and exhale.

Standing forward bend. This stretches tight hamstrings and relieves tension in the hips and lower back.
How: Stand straight, feet hip-distance apart. Exhale and bend, bringing the crown of your head toward the ground. You’re far enough when your hamstrings are stretched, but not tight. Put your right hand on your left elbow; release and switch.

Yoga is already a great way to de-stress but not the only thing you can do. Here are three more ways that can you take your body back and get rid of the stress.

• Physical activity at your local gym. Check if they have drop in classes for kick boxing, boot camp or another high- intensity class, especially if you feel wired and ramped up.

• Sleep: are you getting your 8 hours? If not, sleep is the most important piece to help with your stress.

• Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.

It’s your body and your life – don’t let stress take it over! What is one way you will nourish your body to reduce your stress today?

How to Kill those Night Time Cravings

“I do fine all day,” say many of my clients when we first speak. “It’s after dinner that I run into trouble.”

Sound familiar?

Evening cravings are the biggest saboteur I see among my clients. At the end of the day, we are tired, run down, and want a treat.

The child that still lives within each of us whines and begs and it’s often just easier to cave in and have a second glass of wine, too much ice cream, or several handfuls of tortilla chips.

“I have no willpower,” my clients will say to me.I disagree.

 

Cravings surface not because we lack willpower, but because we haven’t planned well in advance or because there are very real needs that are not being met. To truly address and conquer cravings, one must take a mind-body-spirit approach to them: educate yourself on the causes of your cravings, address any physical issues (low blood sugar, lack of sleep, food intolerances), and look at the emotional root of your trigger foods.

The biggest source of food cravings I see are improper food choices earlier in the day and a build-up of stress that leads to succumbing to temptations in the evening. I’m not one to white-knuckle my way through a massive craving, and I don’t believe you should either. That’s no way to live life!

Here are some very real steps you can implement to nip your cravings in the bud:

  • Look at your diet: are you eating regularly or are you going more than 3 hours between meals or snacks? Having low blood sugar earlier in the day can set us up to compensate by rummaging in the pantry after dinner. Also consider the possibility the foods you are choosing – whether or not they are healthy – may not be the right foods for you.
  • Look for patterns of stressors and rewards. Often we deprive and deny ourselves during the day – both with food choices AND with saying ‘Yes’ to too many people, or by taking on too much. If you give and give and give all day you are going to want to receive at the end of it to restore yourself. Often the cycle is to emotionally shut down in front of the TV or internet and reward oneself with wine or sweets. Where can you adjust your choices during the day so you are not so depleted at the end of it? What can you do (or not do) to increase your joy?
  • If there really WAS a little boy or girl living inside of you, what would s/he need? Is there an alternative to what you are choosing that is healthier and just as satisfying, or even more so? Watch your inner dialogue as well. Always aim to have the same dialogue with yourself that you would want to hear from an ideal parent or close friend.

Which parenting style most closesly resembles YOUR inner dialogue?

Managing and eliminating cravings begins with understanding and is facilitated with an effective plan of attack.  Look again at the above list – do you see one way to conquer your cravings right away? What step(s) will you implement today?

Are you a Tasmanian Devil, an Ostrich, a Squirrel, a Donkey or an Elephant?

We don’t get through life without having a few good ‘A-ha’ or ‘Come to Jesus’ moments. Sometimes it’s little things, like the first time the bagger at the grocery store calls you “Ma’am” or you realize you aren’t being carded at Happy Hour anymore. Sometimes they are whoppers – like the realization that your marriage is not going to work, that the person you’ve become was the very person you feared of becoming, or that your job is actually the very thing that is making you ill.

There are many responses to these moments of what Laurel Mellin refers to as “essential pains”. An essential pain is that moment when you face the fact, see what is, and have a negative response to it. That pain piece is usually because we have attachments to things which are at odds with what is directly in front of us.

“I thought we would be together forever.”

“I told myself I’d never get above 180, and look at where I am!”

“I let him hit me because I believe I’m not worth better than this.”

“Oh look, here I am again eating leftovers at 2am! WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS?!?!”

 

A lot of times, our impulse is to get angry, and like the Tasmanian Devil from the Warner Brothers cartoons, we become outwardly destructive with others in our frustration or take that anger inward and beat ourselves mightily for our mistake. If the pain feels like it is more than we can deal with we may turn around like a squirrel and skitter off in the opposite direction or refuse to do anything but stand there, immobilized like a donkey. Sometimes we turn to denial and try and forget by sticking our head in the sand like an ostrich and pretending nothing was discovered.

they-told-me-i-could-be-anything_o_212138

The discomfort we call pain can be a powerful motivator, if we know what to do with it. It’s what brings most people to my door – a realization and a tipping point where they are ready to make different choices for themselves, but aren’t sure quite how.

There can be a long valley between the realization and the action, but I have found personally that the following tips, practiced over time,  turn that valley into a small crack in the soil that you can very easily step across.

  • Ask, “what is the unreasonable expectation here?” This comes straight from “The Pathway” by Laurel Mellin, a fantastic book with very clear steps to unite the logical mind with the more tumultuous emotional mind. It was very helpful for me in allowing myself to experience anger and in working with my emotional eating. Knowing that pain is caused by a refusal to accept what is, we can then surmise that we have an obstacle to what is – an expectation that is not reasonable, given the current circumstances. Keep in mind, it needn’t be logical or rational, it is what it is. Examples: “I have an unreasonable expectation that I can neglect to eat all day and have willpower at night.” “I have an unreasonable expectation that I should stay in this relationship because he needs someone to love him and I’m the only one.” “I believe that I deserve these donuts because I had a bad day, and I keep telling myself that even though they make me feel worse…oh wow, I believe I deserve to feel bad.” “I believe if I say ‘No’ that makes me a bad person.”

Knowing our unreasonable expectations gives us awareness to where we are at odds so that we can make changes. Sometimes these awarenesses are as painful, or moreso, than the actual discomfort. It is very hard for rabbits and ostriches to stay engaged if this happens. I tend to be donkey-like (this stems from perfectionist tendencies – if I make a move, I have to make sure it is the right one! Otherwise – DON’T DO A THING.) and have spent months in paralysis while letting go of what my Ego told me I needed to be in order to be loved and accepted in the world. This is where the second tool comes in:

 

  • Cultivate Compassion.

 

This is what turns the ostrich into the elephant (funny analogy, no?). It is going a layer deeper and forgiving ourselves for our mistakes and bad choices. It is the top layer of our Ego that has adopted the unreasonable expectation, but the layer underneath that which tells a story of ‘knowing better’ or ‘deserving it’ or whatever excuse we use to keep us stuck is Ego as well. When I say Ego, I refer to the adopted and created stories we tell ourselves about who we are, what we should/shouldn’t do, etc. It contains both healthy and unhealthy beliefs about ourselves, who we are, and how the world works, though in this instance I refer to the latter aspects of Ego.

Here are some simple tools to bring yourself compassion:

  • Remember – you ALWAYS do the best you can in any given situation, with what you know and what you have at your disposal.
  • What would someone who loves and cares for you unconditionally say to you about this situation?
  • What would you tell a close friend or small child about this situation?

 

When we are living in a state of compassion and awareness of our past choices and their contribution to the present, it is usually easy to make a change. The drama and the story is gone and it becomes about making a course correction in your life to get to where you want to be. When we let go of shame and anger and “shoulding” all over ourselves the answers often appear very easily and readily, making action clear and decisive.  We move like the elephant, unobstructed by a crack in the soil or a dense thicket because we embody our grandness and our ability to move through what is in the way. We pull our head out of the snow and continue the journey towards Happiness, which is our true home.

 

Putting the ‘YOU’ in Yuletide

Ah, the holiday season is here.

This is, for many, the busiest and most stressful time of year.  At the same time it gets darker, colder and the desire to hibernate or dive into a vat of mashed potatoes escalates, so does the demand to be out later, socialize more, and add more to the to-do list, all while maneuvering through workplaces teeming with cookies and candies, parties laced with fattening finger-foods, and a near obscene cultural inundation of temptations. It’s the annual leap off the bandwagon into the cycle of sleep deprivation, caffeination, sugar saturation and neglected self-care that brings us, exhausted, to our ritual of penance the first week of January.

Staying sane and balanced over the next 2 months does NOT have to be a formidable challenge. Whatever success looks like for you, it can be achieved. The first step in success is identifying what you want to be different this year, then brainstorming ways to create change that allow you to participate in the holiday season without leaving your needs at the door.

For some, that may mean taking a pause on weight loss for weight maintenance, others may define their success this year by making sure they maintain their exercise. This can be done by setting a specific goal to train for, such as a holiday 5k or 10k, or it may mean making regular appointments with a trainer to keep you on task. Perhaps the most important change you can make is to emphasize the connection to friends and family this holiday season, and forgo as much of the gift-hunting and big parties as you can get away with for smaller, more meaningful connections. Some friends of mine have taken to holiday gift-making parties, where we come together as a group and make bath salts, soaps, or lotions to give to others. It allows us to spend quality time together and have a small homemade gift to give to others. This is a much meaningful way to spend a few hours than pacing through a shopping mall or browsing on the internet.

The greatest gift you can give to anyone in your life is your presence and your happiness. By committing to Radical Self Care, you allow yourself to be in the right frame of mind to present your best self to others. So how do you put the YOU back in yuletide?

1) Take stock of what is: what are the habits and tendencies that tear you down? What area of your life is calling for your attention, or would give you the greatest reward for your time and effort? What do you want to do differently this year?

2) Assess the tools and support you already have: maybe you have a colleague who has an unwavering commitment to walks during lunch. Join her. Maybe you have a friend or family member that you can ask advice of, or someone to join you and hold you accountable. This may be the time to hire the trainer you’ve been spying on at the gym or the one you met at that networking event over the summer. Now can be the time to get external support for your food challenges so you can make it through the holiday without regrets. In your energy levels are a challenge, this is an ideal time to work on correcting those, since holidays tend to be especially draining. What if you made it to January without the feeling that you had to undo damage?

3) Set reasonable expectations: You know your challenges. You know what is on your plate. Set yourself up for success by making goals which challenge you to live life differently, but do not ask you to revolutionize your entire life during one of the busiest times of the year. Sometimes it is helpful to bounce your ideas off a trusted friend to make sure you aren’t being too hard on yourself, or too easy either!

4) Measure your progress: Record your progress, be it in hours slept, number of workouts, inches lost, or the number of times you said yes to YOU when it would have been the norm to say yes to someone else. For weight loss or maintenance folks, I will let you know I am not a big fan of the scale – it does not differentiate between fat, water, or muscle and weight tends to fluctuate based on salt, hormones, changes in workouts, etc. Measurements, photos and how your clothing fits are far more accurate indicators of healthy fat loss. Also assess how you feel. Rate your energy level, motivation, digestion, and overall happiness. These are just as important as your body size, if not more so.

5) Identify Rewards and Consequences: Take this beyond “I will feel proud of myself” and “I will look better”. Celebrate in a big way by gifting yourself something you typically reserve only for special occasions or not at all. This could be a manicure, a massage, a weekend out of town…something which gets you excited and can be the carrot you dangle in front of yourself when you feel discouraged. Also, it can be helpful to offer a consequence as well. What is your payment for neglecting yourself? When I started instigating consequences for my own inaction, I started getting more $*!* done!  It turns out making a donation to a cause that is against my moral fiber is a strong motivator for me to push past fear and get started on a book idea that I have. Telling myself I would quit doing something I loved was the motivation I needed to take action and rise from mediocre to excellent in my own training. What kind of external consequence would motivate you to make the changes you know are best for you?

6) Success takes planning, not luck: Have healthy options available to you at all times. Cook in larger portions and freeze extras for later in the week or when you know you will be too busy or tired to cook. If you are extremely busy,  it is vitally important that you have plenty of frozen vegetables, bagged salad mixes, and other ready-to-eat healthy options waiting for you.  VIBRANCE client Briana Rognlin summed up some great ideas we discussed in her article on what to do when you are too tired or busy to cook. Click here to read more.

Here are some personal rules I use to reduce the pressure and stress of the holidays:

* I buy in bulk and cook in quantity: By purchasing 4-5 pounds of chicken breasts, -3 pounds of fish, I can cook everything up in one big batch and have it on hand to quickly grab and munch when I need to. Right now there are a lot of brussel sprouts with cranberries and turkey bacon roasting in the oven, and my George Forman grill gets a run for its money every weekend. If something happens and I am ill-prepared, I will stop and get a rotisserie chicken or some sushi at the grocery store for a quick and easy meal.

* I politely request gift-free holidays and pepper my year with ‘I love you’ gifts for friends and family so they know I care all throughout the year, not just during the holidays (mind you, I don’t have children, and I am aware this is a luxury not everyone has). For those I know who feel compelled to give I encourage experiential gifts, donations made in my name, or gift cards to places I frequently shop. This is a general, not hard and fast, rule I have. Sometimes I will find an “I love you” gift in the fall and save it for the holidays.

* I only commit to the parties that mean the most to me, and I come armed….armed with defensive eating tactics and a healthy dish or snack I know make me feel ill! My favorite defensive eating skills: take the conversation away from the food table, keep my hands occupied with a clutch purse or wallet and a non-alcoholic drink, and making sure I never arrive hungry.

*I don’t hesitate to go to bed early, stay in bed longer, take long baths, and curl up to movies and hot cocoa. Winter is our natural hibernation time, and giving in to the body’s need for quiet, reflective time keeps my spirits and my immune system strong.

With some mindfulness and planning, you can begin 2012 energized and without any regrets. We have only 6 weeks until the new year – will you be so bold as to get a head start on a life changing resolution? There is no time like the present! For those of you who are already accustomed to saying YES to you, what are some of your go-to strategies to stay afloat during the holiday season?

Top Ten Calorie-Free Treats

Below are my list of top ten calorie free treats. These are suitable for any diet, whether you are a vegetarian, omnivore, lactose-intolerant, or even a gluten-free triathlete!

1) Massage

2) A walk in nature – the beach, a wooded trail, around a lake…

3) Good Conversation

4) Laughter

5) Spontaneous Dance Parties

6) Exercise

7) Spa treatments

8) A Good Book

9) Candle-lit, rose pedal, scented baths

10) Playing with dogs, cats, and/or kids

What are some of your favorite calorie-free treats?

Aimee is Interviewed on Living her Passions!

I had the GREAT honor this afternoon of sharing with others what it is like to live an inspiring life. Sue Oliver, success coach and head of the Passions and Possibilities Project asked me to share some of my story and what it means to take the leap into living a life you are passionate about.

Below is our chat. I hope you find it inspiring and uplifting and that it moves you to live more of the life you dream for yourself!

With affection,

Aimee

PS — I am not endorsing, nor have any control over, any ad that is mentioned at the beginning of this radio show!!