Let Me Be Your Guide!

Let-Me-Be-Your-GuideGuys, I am really excited today because things are moving forward in a BIG way for me! Some of you already know that I have been in a training program to become a health coach. Well, the pieces are falling together for me to be able to start coaching soon!

I’m sure many of you are wondering “what exactly is a health coach”?

As your health coach I will be there to inspire & support you through your journey towards a healthier, happier life. It’s hard to make changes on your own! That’s where I come in :)

We will discover what a successful Health Odyssey looks like for you. I will help you plan your route, assessing your readiness for each destination, and determining what equipment you need. The journey is for you to take and you are ultimately in charge, but I will be there alongside you to give you support & guidance when you need it! I am your wellness ally! My goal is to help you achieve YOUR wellness goals!

So what is wellness?

Wellness is a way of life that revolves around a lifestyle in balance. It encompasses physical activity, nutrition, career, relationships, and spirituality. Everyone’s balance looks different, and so everyone’s journey to achieving it is unique.

Some of the possible parts of your journey may include weight loss, healthier eating, adding in more physical activity, stress reduction, improving your energy levels, self confidence, etc, etc – whatever you need to bring your life into balance!

If you are interested in learning more, please contact me to set up a free Discovery Session!

Experimenting with Food

I hwalk01ope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! I had a really nice weekend with my family – enjoyed a lot of good quality time! It was a house full of people & dachshunds :) I love all of the nature around my parents’ home. They have a great walking path that starts right across the street. It makes me long for more nature in my life – living in a big city, I have to go out of my way to really connect with nature! It feels so much slower up there, too.

(Oh & if you are on Instagram you should follow me here! I just made myself an account last week!)

I also experienced some challenges this weekend. A few weeks ago I found out that I have a sensitivity to gluten, dairy & eggs, so I have been avoiding all three to see if it makes a difference for me in any way. I’m really coming to understand the frustrations that anyone with a food allergy goes through as far as trying to eat out at restaurants! Especially in a smaller town with fewer options. My hope is that I won’t have to avoid all three forever, but first I need to work on doing whatever I can to heal my body. In the past I have cut out certain foods, so this isn’t the first time, but it IS the first time that it’s been for a medical reason & not because I was trying out some kind of diet plan or simply experimenting with what my body needs.

Quote005Have you ever experimented with how different foods affect your body? Each person’s body has different needs, and those needs will even change throughout your lifetime. More people have food sensitivities than realize it. What you eat affects so much more than most people realize! Of course there are the obvious symptoms caused by food – full blown allergies are pretty apparent when they give you an immediate reaction like hives. Stomach upset & gas are commonly known bodily reactions to foods, but did you know that there are tons of other things connected to food sensitivities & allergies? Insomnia, emotional instability, headaches, joint & muscle pain, acne, & impotence are just a few. (There is a pretty good overview here if you are interested in learning a bit more, with a great infographic!) I wish someone had told me this years ago! I encourage you to experiment with removing different foods if you are experiencing any troubling issues. (The most common food allergies/intolerances are gluten, milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, seafood & tree nuts.)

Take A Step!

Quote004I think often we find ourselves not attempting something simply because we are overwhelmed by the prospect of something new & different. If you’re going to do something you should do it all the way, right? The problem with that is that when you jump headlong into some big change you can easily become overwhelmed. Taking something a little bit at a time, however, has potential to propel you forward. Starting with a ten minute walk or a simple morning stretching routine can make a world of difference for someone who is not used to doing anything active at all.

In my case, I have fibromyalgia. For those of you not familiar with what that is, it means that I have chronic widespread pain, along with other issues that go along with it such as brain fog & issues sleeping. I’m very thankful that I have what would be considered a mild version, as I have met people who deal with much worse to the point where they can’t work a normal job. I don’t tell you this to garnish pity, but simply to illustrate that I have had challenges. I am unable to do the more “hardcore” exercises because my body responds aggressively if I overdo exercise. Have I let this stop me? At times, yes. But I have learned that a little bit of exercise goes a LONG way for me. I’ve experimented with different types of movement and currently have settled on regular yoga & walking. And if I’m having a bad day on the pain scale, just stretching has become my go-to.

I want you to know that everyone’s health odyssey is going to be different, and you do not need to feel the need to follow anyone else’s path. Find your own way – discover what works for you!

What Are You Doing For YOU?

Quote003Unless you live under a rock you know that Mother’s Day was this past weekend, a day for celebrating mothers of all kinds, normally by telling them to “relax, we’ll take care of things for you today.” While it is great to take a day to really show appreciation, it is unfortunate that it is the norm in our society for the rest of the year that mothers don’t take time for themselves.

Self care is SO important for our overall well being. You can’t truly take care of others in the best way without first taking care of yourself. If you try you will end up run down, dragging throughout your day, irritated often, eventually probably resenting those you help because they don’t “give” you time for yourself, and at some point you will likely get sick. Guys, when that happens it is your body PLEADING with you to slow down! I know that we are so busy in our lives, but this is SO important! Even if it’s only a few minutes a day, TAKE TIME FOR YOU! (This applies to men as well as women, by the way.)

You may or may not have noticed my absence for the last few weeks. Well, the reason for that is that MY body was telling me it needed a break! I had been going on overdrive for too long, trying to do way too much & going in too many directions, never really slowing down. When I would sit down to take a break, I would come up with something else I needed to get up & take care of. My mind would jump from one thing to another that I “needed” to get done. I wasn’t listening to my body, and so finally it decided it was fed up with me. I came down with a nasty cold that knocked me out for pretty much a whole week to start with, and am finally just now feeling mostly recovered more than two weeks later. I even tried to continue to ignore what I needed at first, because I couldn’t stand that I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted to – after staying home from work for two days I thought I could go back to work, which was a mistake. I ended up crashing after that day when I got home, and spent the next two days again in bed. I finally gave in & let my body have what it wanted.

reading

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now that I realize how much I had been abusing myself by the constant “go-go-go” I am working on prioritizing & focusing on what I actually NEED to do, and what can wait a little bit. I’m taking time again to take regular breaks – I go for a short walk at least once a day (weather permitting) & have started to meditate again for 5 minutes a day to be sure I slow down & take time to listen to my body. I’ve gotten back into my morning yoga routine. I turn on my favorite music while I’m in the shower to make sure I start my day in a good mood. These are a few of the things I’ve discovered are what I need to take care of myself.

I bet you will notice a big difference if you can just start doing ONE thing for yourself every day. I know that my mood is incredibly improved when I do. It makes the rest of my day so much easier & more pleasant – I smile more, I feel less tense & irritable, and I often get MORE done because there is less resistance!

What one thing could you do for yourself on a daily basis to take care of YOU?

Cooking Tips: How to Read a Recipe

Quote002I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where most of our food was home cooked, & so I learned early on how to make my own food. When I got older I was baffled when I discovered that a large percentage of the people I talked to rarely cooked anything! Our society has largely become one that is reliant on restaurants & pre-packaged processed foods. I myself discovered pretty early on, however, that eating this way is not cheap (despite the convenience factor), so I have always cooked the majority of my own food. Over the years it’s become not only about saving money, but also about saving my health! Whenever I have gone through periods of time where I have eaten more foods that I didn’t make myself I have gained weight rapidly, so I try to keep it to a minimum.

I have learned that a lot of people just plain don’t know how to make their own food (popping something in the microwave doesn’t count!), and/or they are afraid of cooking. They think they will screw it up, that it is a complicated skill to learn. While watching shows on the Food Network can make cooking seem incredibly intimidating at times, it does NOT have to be that complicated! And it is TOTALLY worth learning how to do, even if it’s only the basics. So I’m going to help you guys out & give you guys some help getting started :)

One of the MOST important things that you can do for your health is to start cooking at least some of your own food! Don’t let it intimidate you. Start small and work your way up as you become more confident in your skills. You will probably burn some things & create some things that are inedible. I STILL do this sometimes, and I’ve been cooking my own food for years! (I still remember the time I made what looked like delicious enchiladas only to taste them & discover they were absolutely disgusting & immediately deposited the remainder in the trash!) It’s OKAY if this happens – you just learned what not to do next time, and that’s part of the process (& sometimes certain recipes are just no good). You will also learn your own personal preferences. Myself, I am not a huge onion fan – the flavor overwhelms me easily, so I often will cut the amount of onion in a recipe in half to match my own taste preferences. For someone who is a beginner, I recommend starting with recipes & modifying from there. Find something with a short ingredients list to keep it simple. You will also slowly build up your spices collection and discover which ones you like & which you don’t.

If there are specific cooking topics you would like me to cover, please leave me a comment below! I’d love your input on what would be most useful for you :)

How-to-Read-a-RecipeI’m going to start with how to read a recipe! If this is unfamiliar territory for you, looking at a recipe may feel like looking at a knitting pattern. It seems like it’s written in code, and I’m going to help you crack it. Don’t worry, it’s going to be a piece of cake ;)

Recipes are usually broken up into two parts: the ingredients & the cooking instructions. A well-written recipe will list the ingredients in the order that they will be used within the recipe. Sometimes they even break the ingredients up if they will be used as a group of ingredients at a time (such as for cooking the meat & sauce separately). You will also often find additional information, such as the number of servings a recipe makes (or the number of people it will feed), the time it will take to prepare the ingredients & the time it will take to cook, as well as total time (which is the first two combined).

The ingredients list should have all of the things which you will need to create the recipe. This will include things like cooking oil, spices, meats, vegetables, etc. Each item will also have an amount associated with it. (If you don’t already own a set of measuring spoons & cups you will need to get some – they’re cheap, and they are definitely necessary!)

Meats are usually given either a weight measurement (ex: 1 lb, with lb being the shorthand for pound) or they are listed as a specific cut (ex: 4 boneless chicken breasts). When you buy meats at the grocery store they will have the weight listed on the packaging (16 oz/ounces = 1 pound of meat). Other items will usually be measured in cups, teaspoons or tablespoons. This is why it is important to have both a set of measuring spoons & a set of measuring cups. Sometimes these will be written in a shorthand format: c = cup, lowercase t or tsp = teaspoon, & uppercase T or Tbsp = tablespoon. When you measure these ingredients you want them to be level with the top of the cup or spoon – it can be helpful to use a knife sometimes to even out the top, although this precision is only really necessary if you are baking, and that’s a whole different topic. (A note on measuring flour: spoon the flour into the cup & use a knife to level off the top. If you simply scoop flour directly out of the bag you will end up with too much, and whatever you are making will most likely come out dry.)

The cooking instructions are often separated into parts to make them easier to follow. Make sure you read through the entire recipe before starting! Preferably when you first decide you are going to make it. This way you are prepared & there are no surprises halfway through, so you don’t end up burning something because you didn’t know you had to have an ingredient ready at a certain time. Or so you don’t discover that you were supposed to marinate your meat before cooking, but you only have 30 minutes until you want to eat. I try to prep as much as I can BEFORE I start cooking so that I just have to grab the ingredients as I need them. This is ESPECIALLY important if you have to cut up any vegetables or meats. I also always get out the measuring spoons & cups I will need & place them next to their respective ingredients. These kinds of preparations will make your cooking go much more smoothly & you will be less likely to feel frustrated & frazzled halfway through (believe me, I’ve learned this from experience!!)

If a recipe requires you to use the oven, cooking instructions will usually start with what temperature you should set your oven to. Your oven will need time to preheat, and this will vary depending on what kind of oven you have; I have a gas oven that takes about ten minutes to heat up. I also know that my oven runs a bit on the hot side, so I often will set it 25-50 degrees lower than the recipe says, or I will reduce the cooking time. You will have to figure out your own oven – you can buy an oven thermometer to test the temperature of your oven if you like. Until you know your oven you will want to keep a closer eye on things while they cook (though try to keep opening the oven to a minimum while cooking, since this lowers the oven temperature each time you do it).

Quote001The best recipes will be very specific about what you should do when. They will tell you to first melt the butter or heat up the oil in your skillet before adding in the ingredients, for example. (Make sure you don’t overheat your oil; again, you will have to learn your own stovetop, but I wouldn’t heat a pan above medium starting out until you know for sure how hot your stove can get.) Your instructions should list things like how long to cook different ingredients as you add them, when to add the different ingredients to the pan or pot, etc. An oven timer is an extremely useful thing to have. I normally use my oven’s timer, but if yours doesn’t have one built in I’d suggest buying one. Nowadays you can even use your smart phone as a timer! A timer is important because it allows you to walk away while something is cooking & make sure you get back to the stove or oven when you need to. I’ve had many times where I walked away to do something really quick only to realize that more time had passed than I realized & I had burnt something.

As I experiment with recipes I will often make my own notes to the side to remind myself to do something different in the future. Feel free to substitute out ingredients – I’ve done this for ingredients I just plain don’t like, or if something is harder to find/expensive, or if I just don’t happen to have it at the moment & I have something else that will work in it’s place. You will get more comfortable with swapping items as you practice cooking more. However, don’t be afraid to try new things! That’s often the fun part of this whole process :)

A few other terms you might come across:

Bake = cook in an oven Beat = use a fork or whisk to mix the ingredients until fully blended

Boil = this means that you are bringing whatever is in your pot/pan to a heat where it is bubbling vigorously

Drain = pour the liquid off of the food; for pasta it is easiest to pour into a colander (a bowl with lots of holes in it to allow the water to drain off the food)

Saute = to fry small pieces of food quickly while stirring them in a small amount of hot oil or fat (also known as stir-frying)

Simmer = this means that you want the temperature of what you’re cooking to be just below boiling, usually for an extended amount of time; small bubbles will form, but you don’t want to let it reach full boiling

Toss = to mix lightly & gently Whip = to vigorously mix either with a whisk or a blender until air has been incorporated into the mixture

(Google is a fantastic resource if you come across a term that you don’t recognize!)

I hope you have found this useful! I want to know if this has inspired you to cook something :) Remember, do NOT be afraid of cooking!

How I Trained Myself to Like Water!

WaterI used to hate the taste of water. I grew up on Koolaid and pop, so my taste buds were accustomed to a level of sweet flavor that water couldn’t compete with. I hear it all of the time from people – that they can’t stand drinking plain water. The thing is, water is SO important for us! Our bodies are made up of mostly water, and you need it in order for your body to function optimally. A lot of people are dehydrated & don’t even realize it! Although most people seem perfectly aware that yes, they should be drinking more water, I think there is so much ignorance to the real importance of this.

Weaning myself off of the soda was the first major step I took towards being healthier. I can’t even remember what exactly motivated me. It may have been partly because of the cost, and partly because I knew it was bad for me. Honestly I didn’t even originally have a solid goal to eventually reach water, I just knew that the soda needed to go. The first thing I did was switch to drinking flavored carbonated water. They sell all sorts of these now, and I honestly doubt any of them are really healthier than soda, but it was what I considered the first logical step. Once I got used to that, I started to drink Crystal light. At the time I had no qualms about artificial sugars, and again this was what I felt to be the most logical next step. Eventually I began to dilute the Crystal light, using double the amount of water suggested for the packets. This reduced the sweetness as well as the flavor. Eventually I started drinking more & more regular ice water, sometimes with lemon slices. Now I drink water almost exclusively, as well as tea sometimes. I rarely drink soda, and when I do I have to be careful because it can upset my stomach really easily. I even would say I crave water now.

The problem many people have is that they are so used to drinks (& food) with a crazy punch of flavor & sweetness that they don’t even like what their body truly needs anymore. Regular, unprocessed food & drink seems boring to them. Trust me, I understand because I’ve spent most of my life there, and I still struggle with it at times. I have a major sweet tooth, for one thing. Did you know that many food companies actually employ scientists whose jobs are to figure out how to make their products more addictive to your taste buds? There’s a reason you can’t stay away from it! Once you get hooked it takes a lot of effort to stop.

I’m not going to tell you that the way I transitioned from soda to water is the best way to do it, but it did work for me. What I hope you will learn is that it is much easier to make a lasting change when you take small steps. This transition took me years to make. Now I avoid artificial sweeteners because I’ve had bad experiences with them, so I would not recommend them to you (btw, diet soda is NOT better than regular, if you haven’t been told that already). What I would recommend now with the knowledge I have is to try adding flavor to your water in other ways. Lemon & other fruits are great options for this – they even sell water bottles & pitchers where you put fruit into a central core that allows them to infuse the water with their flavor (I personally have one similar to this). Find something that works for you. The important thing is to drink more water! :)

Why should you drink more water? There are SO many reasons! Water is essential for your body to function optimally. It flushes out toxins, gives you healthier skin, improves digestion, can aid in weight loss (often we are actually thirsty when we think we are hungry, plus water has no calories!), balances blood pressure, improves energy, and so much more. There is some debate as to how much water you should drink, but I follow this method: divide your weight in pounds by two, and that is how many ounces you should drink per day. If this seems daunting to you, start with what you can manage & work your way up. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day! I’ve found it extremely helpful to have a water bottle with me at all times so that I always have some within reach. If you have a smartphone you can also use an app to track your water. I’m a fan of the Two Grand app myself – it helps you track all sorts of goals!

So it’s up to you to make the choice to move forward on your journey towards achieving greater health. Why not start with more water? Leave me a comment below telling me what small step you plan to take!

Join Me!

Welcome!

My name is Jen, and I want to invite you all to join me on a journey toward health & happiness – a Health Odyssey!

Let me tell you a little about myself. I am a dreamer, an artist, a cook & a geek! I smile & laugh a LOT, and use lots of exclamation points!! I’m not the type that fits in anywhere, and I’m totally okay with that! That wasn’t always the case, however. Once upon a time I was very self conscious. People would put me down because I was different, and that gave me a pretty negative view of myself. Then I began to discover that who I am is actually a pretty cool person, and that I have so much to contribute to the world! I realized that I am in control of my own life, and that I can do whatever I wanted with it. I have made many transitions over the last several years to improve my health and happiness, and now I want to help all of you do the same! Everyone deserves to be happy & healthy, and it is not outside of anyone’s reach! All you need to do is make the choice that you are going to change your life, one small step at a time.

I am going to be using this blog to share many things with you, including recipes, advice, stories about my own journey (which is still on-going), & anything else that I think might help you along in your own journeys.

So how about it – are you ready for your own Health Odyssey?