Finding the Balance

To me, peace is sitting in the dim light with a cup of tea, a book, and a nice fuzzy blanket. I enjoy silence above many things. It’s so calming to sit with oneself and read, meditate, or pray. In fact, I’ve worked this quiet time into my daily routine each morning. After I rise and before I press play on my workout, I spend a little time on my yoga mat praying, journaling, and setting my intentions for the day. The only noise I hear is the rumbling of the furnace when it kicks on and off. I am at complete peace.

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A rare lunch break reading sesh.

Lately, though, I’ve been having trouble finding the balance between many things outside of this brief morning routine. Typically the topic of balance comes into focus when talking about work-life balance. Everyone wants more weekend, vacation time, PTO. I think I just need more day.

I struggle with the fact that five days a week I work a 9-hour day (with a lunch in between, sometimes) and come home with a depleted energy supply. It leaves little time to spend with my husband (why can’t we both work from home?), crochet (I’m working on an Etsy shop), write (one day I’ll finish a book), cook (do we really have to eat dinner every night?), read (there are so many books on my list), study Spanish (I want to be fluent by December), as well as the countless other things I want to do.

You may be thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot!” Yes, I have a very FULL life. It’s full of many wonderful people, things, hobbies – you name it. But it’s also overflowing with stress and anxiety when I can’t fit in ALL THE THINGS. Most days I overextend myself until around 11 pm when I can barely keep my eyes open. Then I wake up at 5 am the next day to do it all again.

What ends up happening is that I crave vacations to escape my everyday life. Everything is blissful while I’m away – no qualms about waking up just before noon, no deadlines to meet, and the biggest worry is whether to order a Pina Colada or Angry Orchard at the poolside bar. Then, when I come back to reality, it’s almost as if a deep depression settles in. I feel worse than before I left. The peace I sometimes feel melts into a despair that’s hard to break out of.

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Isn’t this heavenly?

I just experienced the cycle this week after I came back from a long weekend in Canada. I realized that I end up surviving – not living – until my next break. I can tell you that there are exactly 57 days until I board the plane for California – a place I have been dying to visit for about two decades. After that, there are two months until we drive to Florida for our annual vacation.

This is clearly not a healthy way to think, live, or rationalize. And I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way. So, I’ve decided to create a six-week Finding the Balance series, where I’ll share ideas to combat stress, live in the moment, and find a little zen in every day. We only get one life, so why not choose to be happy?

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A friend sent me this beautiful card. It inspired me to complete a second 100 Happy Days challenge.

Check back every Friday for the next six weeks. Let’s make this year our happiest yet!

Peace, Love, Zen

DS

The Showdown: Whole30 vs. 21-Day Sugar Detox

You might be wondering why a girl who swore she’d never do another Whole30 again, just completed a 21-Day Sugar Detox. Aren’t they practically the same?

Well, there are many similarities when it comes to what food groups you can and can’t eat, but in my opinion, the other restrictions put on the Whole30 can facilitate an unhealthy relationship with food.

Whole30

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The premise of the program is to eat clean, whole foods for 30 days, but of course, that’s just the first layer of a very well thought out program. Eat three meals a day, large and nutritious enough to sustain you until your next meal. Don’t skip breakfast. Stop eating a few hours before you go to bed. Veggies are “required” at every meal and fruits, which should be eaten sparingly, can be eaten with a meal. Snacking is discouraged – not forbidden – but it really depends on how active your lifestyle is.

  • YES Foods: lean protein (meats, eggs, fish, seafood), veggies, fruits, healthy fats and oils, nuts, seeds, condiments, and supplements like collagen
  • NO Foods: added sugar in all forms (even honey), alcohol, legumes, grains, dairy, protein or meal replacement shakes, and the recreation of baked goods, junk food, or treats turned into healthier options.

21-Day Sugar Detox

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The Sugar Detox is all about cutting sweet cravings naturally to eliminate short and long-term side effects of sugar addiction including mood swings, fatigue, depression, and even PCOS. There are three levels to the program, and all meal plans include three meals and a snack – which definitely comes in handy during the gap between lunch and dinner.

  • YES Foods: lean protein (meats, eggs, fish, seafood), veggies, fruits (only green-tipped bananas, green apples, and grapefruit) healthy fats and oils, nuts, seeds, homemade condiments without sugar or date paste, and supplements like 100% pure protein powder
  • NO Foods: gluten-containing grains, starchy veggies like cassava and plantains, legumes, cashews, all other fruits, dairy, alcohol, supplements with multiple ingredients (like Shakeology)
  • Plan 1: The least strict, allows for the addition of gluten-free grains, legumes, and full-fat dairy
  • Plan 2: The in-between plan, allows for full-fat dairy
  • Plan 3: The most strict, avoids both gluten-free grains and full-fat dairy

The similarities

Both programs…

  • focus on cutting cravings and eating healthier by eliminating foods that may cause triggers or irritation over a period of time.
  • observe and encourage a reintroduction period after completion of the main program.

The differences

Helloooooo Captain Obvious – one is 30 days, the other is 21. Wink wink.

Sweeteners

Whole30 gives you options when it comes to using natural sugars – sweeten ketchup or bbq sauce with date paste, choose any fruit you’d like as long as it’s eaten with a meal, and grab a Larabar or RX Bar to snack on the go.

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The beautiful variety.

21-Day Sugar Detox says NO to any kind of sugars, whether natural or artificial, you can only choose between green apples, grapefruit, and green-tipped bananas, but they don’t have to be eaten with a meal, and really, you’ll be hard-pressed to find compliant on-the-go snacks.

Treats & Desserts

Whole30 says absolutely NOT to recreating desserts, the creators even coined the phrase SWYPO (Sex with Your Pants On) to describe this. The basic premise is that your eating habits and behaviors will remain the same if you keep eating the way you always have. If you regularly eat doughnuts for breakfast, recreating paleo doughnuts doesn’t do a thing to change your old habit.

21-Day Sugar Detox is pretty lax when it comes to this, in fact, there are recipes for pumpkin pancakes, coconut milk smoothies, apple cinnamon doughnuts, and almond butter cups right in the back of the book! (One day I even made banana pancakes for breakfast and I didn’t feel so restricted to EGGS – see photo.)

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Quick and easy banana “pancakes”

Snacking

Whole30 says to limit snacking unless you have a very busy or active lifestyle, in which case it’s unavoidable.

21-Day Sugar Detox says YES ma’am to snacking and even has it built right into the meal plan. This was helpful at work and actually kept me AWAY from the vending machines because I had enough food throughout the day.

Overall

After the Whole30 I could not wait to go back to my previous (aka gluttonous) ways of eating. The perceived restriction was just too much. I felt like a little kid being told no – it just made me want to break the rules even more! I mean, what harm can one paleo doughnut do?

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Whole30 perfect plate.

The program definitely wasn’t intended this way, but I replaced my sugary junk food (not allowed) with sugary fruits and Whole30 packaged snacks (allowed) and ended up feeling guilty for it. Of course, my taste profile didn’t change because I was still relying on sweet things to get me by.

I didn’t lose any weight or experience any miraculous changes. If anything, I just felt hungry and powerless. I rebelled against the lifestyle that was essentially trying to help. Then I ended up going on vacation soon after and pretty much ruined any of the progress I had made.

After the 21-Day Sugar Detox, I jumped right into the reintroduction period, as advised, and walked away with a healthier mindset. I didn’t have any desire to wreck the progress I made.

During the 21-Day Sugar Detox I made healthier choices – granola made with nuts instead of grains, coconut flour doughnuts “sweetened” with applesauce, chia pudding. All of these were recreated treats (SWYPO in Whole30 lingo), and yet, after the Detox, I had absolutely NO desire to run to Dunkin’ and scarf down a dozen “real” doughnuts. Why? Because I didn’t feel deprived for an ENTIRE freakin’ month.

I didn’t indulge in sugary sweets because I didn’t have the option – it just wasn’t in my meal plan. So, over the course of 21 days, my tastes started to change. I no longer craved super sweet things, but was content with spicy, or even better, umami. And banana with almond butter tasted pretty damn near dessert!

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These two give me that umami fix!

Today is day 29 and I’m almost done with my reintroduction period, with no desire to stuff my face with any of my old favorite junk foods – I have untouched ice cream and salt and vinegar kettle chips in my kitchen as I type.

The bottom line: So, which method is right for you? Maybe one, maybe both, maybe even none! All I can do is provide you with my experiences and tell you to do your own research. Many people swear by the Whole30. It’s definitely more popular, but does that make it better? In my opinion, the 21-Day Sugar Detox is very realistic and achievable while the Whole30 is quite the opposite and fosters an unhealthy relationship with food.

Motivation, where art thou?

In simple terms, motivation is the desire to do things. One quick Google search will produce almost 500 million results including articles, books, images, and studies on motivation. “5 Ways Millennials Can Fine Motivation At Work” (Forbes). “This Navy SEAL Says Your Lack of Motivation Does Not Matter…” (Inc.com). “Motivation may be less limited than we think” (Science Daily). You get the idea.

What does this tell you? Other than bundles of contradicting information, it shows that motivation is a hot topic and many people must be in dire need of it.

About two years ago I read a book called “What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions to Work” by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. It included a code to take an assessment that would produce my top motivators. Usually, I’m skeptical about these types of assessments because who knows me better than I do? It turns out that my results were SPOT ON.

I’m driven by challenge, creativity, autonomy, and money.

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At the time, this book helped me understand that I wasn’t getting what I needed out of my job. I felt stuck and couldn’t understand why I had no desire to get up and go to work anymore (other than the hour-long commute I faced every morning, of course!). I realized that I wasn’t passionate about the work I was doing. It wasn’t creative, there was a ton of “red tape,” I felt micro-managed, and the pay wasn’t nearly enough for the work I was doing and the distance I was traveling. Even though I knew my work, in a way, helped other people, that wasn’t a big enough factor to keep me motivated.

The authors suggest trying to revise your work responsibilities to better suit your needs to be more productive. If you try it, and it doesn’t work, move on. That’s exactly what I ended up doing.

What motivates you?

The first step in getting motivated is finding out what exactly drives YOU. I highly recommend taking The Motivators Assessment for yourself – even if you don’t want to read the book, you can purchase a code online. You’ll end up with a detailed printout of top motivators that I have found invaluable.

Motivation is fluid, which means that it can be hard to keep the momentum because different things drive us all at different times. I know, personally, that some days my motivation is abundant and I can accomplish my entire task list and then some. Those are the days I get in 7,000 steps before 9am. Other days, just getting out of bed feels like an accomplishment. Sound familiar?

You have to find something that – even on your darkest of days – will keep you moving.

Look forward to your reward

Let’s say you’re driven by chocolate. Get a special bag of truffles and reward yourself with one after doing something big – like organizing your kitchen cabinets or meal prepping for the week. This way you have something to look forward to. (I promise that one chocolate won’t break your eating plan, if you’re sticking to one. Plus, it’s better to eat one than the entire bag!)

Make it a game

Maybe you’re motivated by a good challenge like I am. Some days I dare myself to burn 5-10 more calories in my workout than I did the day before. If I do, I can revel in the satisfaction that is “winning.” If I don’t, I make it my goal for the next day.

Just get it done

There will be days when you won’t want to get out of bed. The worst thing you can do is punish yourself for it. I allow 3-5 minutes of wallowing (or snoozing the alarm) before I break out of the funk. Let the feeling pass, pick yourself up, and just do the task – even when you really don’t want to. The ability to do so is the sign of a successful person.

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A passage from Big Magic.

 

While no book, article, etc. can give you motivation, they can give you ideas on how to motivate yourself. Here are a few favorites that have helped me along the way:

What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions to Work by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy

 

DISCLOSURE: This post is not sponsored by any of the books or authors appearing above. I appreciate your support for books and programs that I love, but I will not receive any commission or affiliate compensation if you make a purchase. I just really enjoyed these reads and hope that you can also snag some positive takeaways.

Happy Reading!

Fall Fun

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the crisp hoodie weather, the crunch of the leaves, spooky Halloween stories, carved pumpkins, all things apple (crisp, cider, pie), spicy scents, and the thrill of it. Most of all, I love that you can move around and be outside without sweating bullets. It’s one of the best times to get out and get moving. And what better way to do that, then to check out some of the area’s best haunted attractions!

My fiancé and I started a tradition of going around to different haunted houses hayrides each weekend in October. This is our fifth year (and we actually expanded the fun into September)! Not only is it a crazy good time, but between the scares, belly laughs, and trekking through cornfields and woods, it’s also a pretty awesome way to burn a few calories and sneak in 2,000+ steps. Afterwards, you can enjoy a few fall snacks to put those calories (and then some) back on. Uhhh…triple win?!

I’m really not sure what’s going on in the state of Pennsylvania, but they have some kickass haunts. They are perfectly creepy, gory, and even downright funny. But beware, because if you are traveling from New York or another state that has strict rules about practically everything, you will be in for a shock. Some of the haunts in PA don’t have any metal detectors or security checks, and actors are allowed to touch you. (Touch you in the sense that they can poke, prod, run fingers through hair, and in some cases, put you in a cage or jump up on a wagon and drag you off.) Call me crazy, but I think these things add to the suspense, fear, and entertainment.

Tips

  • Plan Ahead – We (well, I) like to map out our haunts in early September so we have a clear action plan. Some of the places we travel to are over 3 hours away (this is serious stuff!). If you don’t want to drive 6 hours or more round trip, you could see about hotels or other things you could do in the area and make a weekend getaway out of it.
  • Visit Early – Most attractions are open the last two weekends of September, which is actually the perfect time to go. (Keep this in mind for next year.) Lines are short and you can get by with paying for the base ticket instead of upgrading (see below).
  • Dress in Layers – Fall weather is unpredictable. Remember the time it snowed on Halloween? It’s always a good idea to wear pants if you will be in a wooded area (think deer ticks). I usually opt for jeans, boots, a long sleeve shirt, and a fleece jacket. One time last year we needed hand and foot warmers because the wagon ride was so cold. Two weeks ago I went in a t-shirt and was still hot. Just check the weather before you go.
  • Wear Proper Footwear – This shouldn’t have to be said, but still – don’t wear flip-flops, sandals, or heels because…duh. Wear something that will support your feet while walking on uneven ground. Boots or sneakers are always a good choice.
  • Splurge for the VIP Pass – When it comes to haunted attractions (and amusement parks), I really believe in going all-out. You might spend $25 or more per person for a VIP ticket, but that will allow you to skip the lines and go first. Why is this a big deal? Believe it or not, you could be waiting in line for hours before you even get to go through one attraction. That just sucks the fun right out of everything. Do yourself a favor – get this pass and you can do the royalty wave to everyone else as you board your wagon first.

NY/PA Attractions

#6 – The Barn of Terror

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Photo property of The Barn of Terror

My Rating: 1.5 Stars

Location: Lake Katrine, NY

Cost – CASH ONLY (ATM on site): $33 per person

Theme: Creepy Farm Family

Duration: About 60 minutes

Review: I kept waiting for something to happen and it just didn’t. First you walk through an 8-room barn and silo, then you take a bus down to a corn maze. The barn was dark and the costumes were pretty cheap and mostly looked the same – bloody hockey mask and black robe. The corn maze was so boring I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Truly disappointing that the space is there, but the creativity was severely lacking. After 15 years in business, you would think there would be more excitement.

Bottom Line: Regardless of the stellar reviews on Facebook, this “haunt” is not worth your time or money. The only reason it gets 1.5 stars is that I got quite a few steps in thanks to the corn maze.

#5 – Headless Horseman

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Location: Ulster Park, NY

Cost:

  • It’s cheaper to buy tickets online, but plan ahead because tickets are non-refundable due to weather. You can, however, use them for another night.
  • $45.90 + tax – Online Ticket
  • $49.95 + tax – On-site Ticket
  • $25 extra for Scream Pass (aka VIP badge of honor)

Theme: A Series of Haunts

Duration: 2.5-3 hours (depending on wait times)

Review: There are 10 attractions (including a hayride, corn maze, and several haunted houses) and a little “village” of gift shops and cafes, which makes for a full evening. All guests must go through a bag check / metal detector after purchasing tickets. Keep this in mind because that line gets long fast and all ticket holders are considered equal until you pass through the gates. The hayride theme changes slightly every year, but the other attractions are pretty much “fixed.” Once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. This year I went on opening night back in September and was really disappointed that the company didn’t take advantage of their 25th year in business to do something special for the guests. It was like any other year with the ridiculously long lines and predictable haunts.

Bottom Line: If you live in or near the Hudson Valley, try it at least once, but I wouldn’t go out of my way.

#4 – Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Location: Glen Mills, PA

Cost:

  • $40 –  (Base) Combo – General admission to all three events
  • $75 – VIP Combo – Front of the line privileges to all three events
  • $100 – Super VIP Combo – Front of the line privileges to all three events, PLUS: VIP parking, hot dog, popcorn, soft drink, and t-shirt

Theme: The Walking Dead Meets Prehistoric Times

Duration: 90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There were zombies, there were dinosaurs. There were also spiders, snakes, and clowns. A scare for everyone. It was just okay. We went on a weekend in September – there weren’t any lines so we were able to get by on just the base ticket. There were only three attractions – hayride, corn maze, and haunted house. The theme was a bit odd, but the special effects were pretty cool. I love Psycho and A&E’s Bates Motel series, but there was little connection to both. I think the majority of my disappointment stems from just wanting more.

Bottom Line: If you’re in the area, I would recommend checking it out for a fun evening. But if you have to drive over an hour, I would say skip it.

#3 – Pure Terror Scream Park

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My Rating: 4 Stars

Location: Monroe, NY

Cost:

  • Prices are cheaper on-site. Cash only.
  • $45.25 – Online General Admission
  • $68.69 – Online VIP Admission

Theme: Clowns

Duration: 90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There were clowns, lots of clowns. There were also spiders and very dark places. A scare for everyone, really. After I got over the frustration of finding the place, parking, and waiting in line, it was fun. We went on opening night so it was cheaper and there were fewer people. There are six haunted houses that are seriously awesome. One group is admitted at a time, which causes a really long wait in line, but a better experience once you’re actually inside. The makeup and special effects were so good that it was hard to tell real person from prop. I love that they incorporated the new release of IT into one of the houses – very nice touch! This was my first visit, but according to the website, the content is freshened up each year. Will most likely make this an annual trip.

Bottom Line: Definitely check it out!

 

#2 Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Location: Spring City, PA

Cost:

  • $18 – Individual Attraction Tickets
  • $35-44 – Combo Pass
    • General admission to 3 haunted attractions
  • $39-48 – Super Combo Pass
    • General admission to 4 haunted attractions
  • $78 – Pennhurst VIP Pass
    • Front of the line privileges to all 4 haunted attractions
  • Note: online tickets have varying service charges

Theme: Insane Asylum

Duration: Approx. 2 hours

Review: This place is really cool because it is actually an asylum turned haunted house. The original buildings have been repurposed to create a haunted insane asylum, catacombs, and more. There isn’t a hayride, but you won’t be disappointed by the 3 main attractions:  Dungeon of Lost Souls, Containment Tunnels (new for 2017), and Mayflower After Dark. There are creepy clowns and walking dead, but the real terror here is the idea of the insane asylum and the horrible things that were probably done there. That and the fact that you spend a lot of time walking in near darkness and through strobe lights. While you are waiting on the lines you may or may not be terrorized by the cast members. Luckily, the VIP pass will help you avoid this. Again, do the royalty wave as you enter. I can’t wait to visit again this year!

Note: This is the ONLY haunted attraction that actually reduced some of their prices for the 2017 season. Very impressive.

Bottom Line: You’ve gotta go. I’m sure this one will be on your list for years to come.

 #1 Reaper’s Revenge Haunted Attraction

My Rating: 5 Stars

Location: Scranton, PA

Cost – CASH ONLY (ATM on site)

  • $45– General Admission
  • $70 – VIP Package
  • $3 – Parking
  • Note: online tickets have a $2.75 service charge

Theme: All Things Creepy

Duration: 75-90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There are 4 attractions including a hayride, dark forest walkthrough, pitch-black indoor walkthrough, and zombie maze. There are hillbillies, spiders, zombies, government officials (super scary), and the Grim Reaper and Michael Myers make appearances out in the woods. There’s also something really cool that happens during the hayride, but you’ll have to just take my word for it because saying too much would just ruin it. The combination of so many different attractions and a super long and enjoyable hayride makes this my number one choice. The first time we did this, we were laughing, we were screaming, we were having so much fun. We wanted to do it again. This year we are making a special trip on Friday the 13th 😉

Note: The price increased $10 from last year. I’m not crazy about it, but I still think this one comes out on top.

Bottom Line: Make the trip. I don’t care if you’re in California, Florida, or Toronto. It’s worth it.

I hope you go and have a great time this fall. I’d love to know if I’m missing out on any good ones 🙂

Happy October!

An obsession is coming 

Photo property of Beachbody, LLC

This January, Autumn Calabrese is back with a new Beachbody fitness program. You know her – celebrity fitness trainer and creator of 21 Day Fix, Country Heat, and the cooking show Fixate, to name a few.

80-Day Obsession – a program designed to sculpt your abs and booty.

When the news first broke at the beginning of the month, I was less than thrilled. An 80-day program? That’s like a lifetime. I quickly dismissed the idea and went back to Letting Shi(f)t Go.

Then I thought about it. In the scheme of things, 80 days is not very long. It’s less than three months – the probationary period before benefits kick in at a new job, the first trimester of pregnancy, a quarter of a year. In fact, several other Beachbody programs run longer. In other words, it’s doable.

I thought about chunking the program into four 20-day cycles and how each new cycle would be an opportunity to take before and after photos, reset the mind, and begin anew. It would be good to challenge myself to make a BIG commitment, and to show others that even with a full-time job, a family, and a few freelance jobs on the side, it’s still totally possible to work on yourself. Now I’m actually excited for it to begin!

What I know

  • The program lasts 80 days (duh) and will begin in January
  • New workouts are released every Monday-Friday
  • High-intensity workouts build on previous ones – no repeats
  • Times vary from 45-60 minutes a day (much like in Core de Force)
  • It follows the container system, with precise guidelines of when to eat what
  • There will be tacos!

Preparation

So maybe you aren’t in the mindset to fully commit right now. It’s going to be an extreme 80 days. Luckily, you still have about four months to get your mind and body ready for it. Start by completing some of Autumn’s other programs – 21 Day Fix, 21 Day Fix Extreme, and Hammer & Chisel.

Before you say “Oh, hell no!” I encourage you to believe in yourself. Before you think you can’t commit to 80 days, see my idea for breaking it down (above). Before you say that 45-60 minutes a day is just unreasonable, remember that a one-hour workout is just 4% of your day. It might take some rearranging of your schedule (I wake up at 5 am to get my workout in before I go to my day job), but it’s definitely worth it. Your body (and your mind) will thank you.

Always remember – nothing is impossible.

My aching back!

When my muscles start screaming, I know they are overworked and need a little TLC. In my earlier days, I would have popped a few Advil and called it a day, but now I rely on natural methods of pain relief. Here are a few things you can do to ease muscle tension and discomfort.

Drink more water

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Don’t like drinking water? Make it into an hourly game or buy fun water bottles like this one!

I think the girls in my challenge groups must be sick of me saying “drink more.” What happens when flowers don’t get enough water? They dry up. What happens when lakes don’t get enough water? They dry up. What happens when your body doesn’t get enough water? You literally dry up – flaky skin, brittle hair, chapped lips, etc. Hydrate your body and your muscles to help increase your energy and prevent muscle cramping.

Stretch

Never underestimate the power of the cool down. I used to hate this so much. Once I was done with the meat of the workout, I was DONE. That meant no extra time to stretch out those muscles I just literally worked to the bone. It hurt, and I quickly learned my lesson. Think of it as your reward for finishing a tough sweat sesh – your muscles and body deserve it. I also recommend stretching or light yoga just before bed to prevent cramping at night.

Eat up post-workout

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I love Icelandic yogurt with berries and pistachios post-workout. It’s a nice treat!

I never miss an opportunity for a snack! After working out, you’ll want something to fuel the day as well as calm inflammation, aid in muscle repair, and improve mental focus. I have a brand of gluten free post-workout bars that I absolutely LOVE, but you can also opt for eggs, a protein shake, grilled chicken, oatmeal, bananas, cottage cheese, berries, or a handful of nuts.

Take a warm bath

Nothing is more soothing than a warm bath with lots of bubbles. Add some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil and take a deep soak. Both help to ease the tension in your muscles and joints.

Rub on some essential oils

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I use these two oils post workout and also diffuse the lavender one throughout the day.

There are a host of oils that are good for post workout – cinnamon bark, wintergreen, and basil (for sore muscles and joints), grapefruit (lessons mental and physical fatigue), lavender (eases muscle tension), and peppermint (clears breathing). Diffuse in the air or rub directly on your skin. For sensitive skin, you’ll want to use a carrier oil or cream. Just mix a drop or two of your essential oil with your carrier and apply. I only use 100% pure essential oils of high quality so I know I’m putting the good stuff in my body.

Try a foam roller

Foam rollers improve flexibility and also help to massage tired, achy muscles. For this reason, it might be painful at first, but after prolonged use, it will feel oh so good! Benefits include the reduced likelihood of injury, better sleep, boosted energy, and soothed muscles aches.

Get some rest

wp-1501720797577.If you’re feeling sore, don’t overdo it. Curl up with a book or find something on Netflix and then get a good 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body needs time to recharge and create energy, so don’t skimp out on those old fashioned zzzs!

How do you relieve your achy muscles?

I’d never do another Whole30 again!

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Whole30 gets a lot of press – good or bad, it’s still attention. Last year I completed my first and only Whole30. After a month without dairy, grains, legumes (including my beloved peanut butter), sugar, alcohol, daily superfood shake, and baked goods, I felt accomplished and proud of myself for completing such a huge feat.

If I’m fully honest, I didn’t experience any of the earth shattering changes that others have. I didn’t lose a ton of weight, the headaches I was experiencing almost daily didn’t decrease, I still wasn’t sleeping well, and I didn’t feel like a completely new person.

In one respect, the Whole30 was a total eye-opener. Prior to starting my month-long journey, I didn’t realize how much sugar and hydrogenated oils were in EVERYTHING. I took many of the “healthy” grocery store items for their full-face value. I never thought that ketchup, bbq sauce, salad dressings, mayo, and even bacon and diced tomatoes would be laden with every form of sugar that you can imagine. I was blind to the fact that what I was putting into my body was actually doing more harm than good. I took “good” food for granted.

On the flip side, I believe that the Whole30 can facilitate an unhealthy relationship with food. Now, I might get a lot of crap for saying this, but hear me out.

Where it went wrong

When I did my first Whole30 in July 2016, I thought it was the greatest idea since sliced (paleo) bread. I followed the rules and when other people were posting Whole30 meals that weren’t quite compliant on Instagram and Facebook, it made me angry. I started buying foods in the spirit of the Whole30. I stocked up on the books and even gave the new cookbook for a Christmas gift. For a good six months, I was a self-appointed Whole30 police officer. After a while, it was giving me so much anxiety, that it got old.

In the last year, I’ve tried to complete a second Whole30 multiple times. I planned menus and grocery lists, I tossed all of the unapproved items from my kitchen, and even set up a 30-day calendar. I was ready. Then, multiple times, it just didn’t happen. I really beat myself up about it. Seriously, how hard is it to START something? Something that I was supposedly obsessed with not too long ago.

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Typical meal prep Sunday.

I turned to Whole30 Facebook groups for support or guidance, but that just made it worse. There is so much cattiness, rule breaking, and unsupportiveness that I found the groups to be the opposite of encouraging. I left each one and decided to find my own way.

After playing with my diet for a couple of months, I realized that I don’t want to cut out so many foods from my diet. I enjoy mixing a spoonful of raw local honey into Icelandic every morning, I love making pancakes for Sunday breakfast, I look forward to sushi date nights and a nice burger with a bun every so often, and I will never miss another National Ice Cream Soda Day! They key isn’t cutting out all the foods that make you happy (unless medically necessary, of course), the key is moderation.

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Anyone else LOVE creamsicles??

Everything in moderation

I’ve finally comfortably settled into a “diet” that seems to work for me: portion-controlled and mostly keto/paleo. What does that mean? I consume around 1,400 calories a day (it’s PLENTY), and eat a diet high in fat and low in carbs and protein – pizza, chocolate, and dessert included! It’s satisfying, it’s yummy, and although it restricts HOW much I pile on my plate, it doesn’t restrict WHAT I can eat. I never go to bed hungry.

How does this work? Well, because I’m not limiting myself, I don’t have crazy cravings for sugar or carbs. In fact, I’ve actually all but eliminated peanut butter (one of my favorite things!), alcohol, and several other unapproved Whole30 items at will – not as a direct result of my Whole30 experience. I’m just making healthier choices and looking at food as fuel.

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A typical breakfast – hella yum!

The 80-20 Rule

No one eats 100% healthy 100% of the time – it’s just not sustainable. A lot of health coaches and fitness-minded individuals practice the 80-20 Rule, which means that you eat 100% healthy for 80% of the time. That other 20%? That’s when you fit in the donuts, chocolate, wine, nachos, cake, ice cream sodas – all the stuff that makes your soul sing. It works because you don’t feel deprived, because you know that you can have your cake and eat it too, and because you won’t feel guilty for indulging a little when out with friends or on the weekends.

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The right size treat.

The (New) Bottom Line

Every once in a while I’m really, really wrong. This was one such time. The Whole30 taught me an important awareness about food that continues to this day, but it also made me a little neurotic. I’m no longer recommending or endorsing the lifestyle. However, I will say that if you are interested in learning about it, check out the book “It Starts with Food” from your local library. Written by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, creators of the Whole30, it breaks down the science and why behind the bad foods we put into our bodies. It is relatively easy to understand, even to non-science-y types and will give you a very granular view of the program.

If you have questions about finding a diet or way of eating that is right for you, feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you find a good fit!