Healthy Holiday Sides with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

Carrot souffle and sweet potato bake that are grain free, dairy free, and refined sugar free? Yes, please!

Now, before you head to the recipes, I have to say one quick thing. I know it’s a pain when you are looking for a recipe and the blogger spends all this time with the description and build up and pictures and you’re like, “Just get to the dang ingredients, Karen!”

But after I say this I’ll be done – and you can go on your merry way to try out these recipes.

I get annoyed with the phrase “healthy” in regards to food choices during the holidays. Holidays are celebratory, and if you’re stressing out about whether something is “healthy” or not, and you’re panicked about every ingredient in your meal, you’re less likely to be able to digest the nutrients from that meal.

Stressing about food is the opposite of health, in my opinion.

That being said, it seems to me that every year I get busier with celebrations. We have countless parties, and all of them feature lots of food and lots of alcohol. Because monitoring my mental health is always priority for me, and I will do whatever I can to fight seasonal depression, eating loads of sugar and drinking sugary alcoholic beverages can be taxing on my mental stability.

Consuming lots of sweet treats and drinking alcohol frequently during the month of December will throw off my sleep, make me less well-rested the following day, and then cause my cravings to skyrocket – perpetuating the cycle. So while I don’t want to stress about my food, I do want to be MINDFUL about what I’m choosing and how those choices will make me feel afterward. (For more on eating for mental health and my thoughts on that, check out the Sparking Wholeness podcast episode 10.)

Which leads me to the recipes.

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Continue reading “Healthy Holiday Sides with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes”

Eating for Mental Wealth

Nourishment comes in many forms beyond food.

Being aware of triggers that negatively impact my mental and physical well-being (because they’re connected) is key.

Your relationship with food affects your mental health as well. If you’re stressed about what you’re eating – or what you can’t eat – that sets off a fight or flight response in the body that is not health-promoting.

 

Eating for Mental Wealth

 

There is comfort in food. There is joy found in a good meal with friends, in a special holiday gathering. So the last thing I would say is you have to turn down dessert at every special event because it’s going to cause some mental health relapse. It probably won’t. If you have a leaky gut and food sensitivities, it might cause problems. I don’t know your body and your situation. It will take trial and error and individualized support.

I do want you to be aware of some of the most important things I’ve found that hinder and benefit my mental health, based on my own experience and all the latest research on how food IS mood.

Check out my most recent podcast episode, Eating for Mental Wealth, for more information on how I view nourishment! Click on the tree logo on the right to access the show page or listen on iTunes here.

Healthy For the Holidays

Here I go, adding to the noise in cyber space to try to tell you what it means to be healthy during the holidays.

img_1244But seriously – this is an important time of year to take care of ourselves – body, mind, and soul.

Rule number one: Take care of your stress load. This is a great time of year to exercise your “no muscle.” Don’t try to do it all. Stress weakens the immune system, shuts down proper digestion, and wreaks havoc on our health.

Start a gratitude journal. Get outside and move your body. Play with your kids. Breathe. Eat your colors. Minimize your screen usage (and social media). Do the things you WANT to do, not the things you feel you HAVE to do. This is supposed to be a season of joy, not a season of obligation.

In the latest episode of Sparking Wholeness, I chat with my friend and fellow health coach, Melissa McGaughey. We discuss our top tips for staying healthy during the hectic holiday season. Click here to find it on iTunes, or here to find it on my show page.

In Search Of My Goal Weight

“What do you want to change about your body?”

The question must have been standard for the personal trainer asking me, because he asked so nonchalantly, like it was just an everyday conversation topic.

For me, though, it gave me pause. I thought, and I thought, and I thought. A word kept floating in and out of my conscious mind, but I had a hard time grasping it.

“Nothing… nothing… nothing…” the word flickered in and out, like broken lights on an old restaurant sign.

But I couldn’t say it.

It would sound weird to say that out loud. I had signed up for a free consultation, and I thought maybe I’d learn how to properly lift weights. I wasn’t prepared to think about my body’s deficiencies.

But maybe that’s what these sessions are about, I thought. That’s the point of this meeting for most people, right? Maybe it would be stupid to say it out loud? Am I supposed to want to change something? Do I LOOK like I should change something? I mean, I’ve had 3 kids, but I kinda like my curves and my strong thick thighs (and for that matter, so does my husband). I practice yoga because I feel strong and solid, not insecure and unsafe in my body like I did for so many years. I run because I love to get my heart rate up. It cleanses my mind and soothes my soul. It’s a dopamine driver.

So I sat there. And I made up something about wanting toned arms (I’ve never particularly cared one way or other about my arms). He made me weigh and check my body fat. That only further intensified my thought that maybe there WAS something wrong that I should change, and that brief flicker of “NOTHING,” – the thought that there was nothing I wanted to change about my body -that was quickly popping out of my subconscious into real life… faded away and died out.

By the end of our conversation, I realized that I had allowed myself to believe I needed to change something about my body.

It seemed so innocent, so out of nowhere. Just one free consultation with a trainer. But after years of progress and learning to respect the body I’m in, it happened in an instant. I started believing the lie again.

The messages are everywhere. It’s easy to get caught up in it – the quest to look better. Thinner, more toned, younger. It’s easy to idolize it, to make that the goal. Your life will be better if you lose weight.

“When I reach my goal weight, I’ll…” fill in the blank. Have you ever thought that before?

At some point in the last few years I stopped dreaming about the mythical goal weight and started living in the present. I stopped working out and eating for a number and I started living for mental stability and freedom. I gained freedom from rules and guidelines that never make me feel good enough, and I won freedom to eat what fuels ME, not anyone else.

Today, if you asked me what I wanted to change about my body, I would grab onto that floating word with all my strength and not let it go.

NOTHING. I am so much more than a number. I am so much more than a size. I contribute so much more to life than a physical image.

If you are caught in the trap of believing that your life will begin when you reach your goal weight, it’s time to get a new perspective. For me, I didn’t need to change my body. But I needed to change my perspective. That is what brought me the most healing.

It is possible for you to find freedom. Contact me. Let’s work on true, sustainable health – from the inside out.

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Learning from my December Lows

The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is living with a chronic illness.

Meaning, I have to be aware of my triggers, the things that make me sick, at all times. Excess busyness, excess activity, excess inflammatory foods and alcohol… all those things are difficult to escape in December… but they take a toll on me in ways most people don’t have to worry about.

I go big. I love parties. I love people. I love LIVING life. Until it all becomes too much, and I crash.

This last week I felt a crash. Minimal crash compared to the destructive collisions of the past. I have an excellent support system, I am self-aware, and I am learning to communicate when I need help. So to be clear, I am OKAY. But I knew something was off. I thought I was getting sick. My chest felt tight like I couldn’t breathe, my body felt heavy, and I couldn’t get through my typical yoga practice without taking multiple child poses to rest. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to read my new nutrition book (big sign something was off). I was negative with my husband and my kids, who I love more than the world.

photography of barrel wave
Crash: (noun) a sudden failure which puts a system out of action

Continue reading “Learning from my December Lows”

Spiced Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

Today it hit a crazy low of 67 degrees in Dallas, so guess what that means – it’s fall, y’all!

In honor, I decided to try out something different. The elusive, mysterious, never-before-set-foot-in-my-house ACORN SQUASH.

It wasn’t even my idea. Four-year-old Roman saw one at Aldi and asked to get it. And based on what I’ve been learning about nutrition and the importance of rotating vegetables by what’s in season (as nature intended), I said, “Sure! Let’s make something fun!”

Spoiler alert – Roman did NOT like this soup. Baby Rhett did, because he dipped Veggie Straws in it. Whatever. Continue reading “Spiced Roasted Acorn Squash Soup”

My Skinny Shorts Lie

Confession: my skinny shorts don’t make me feel skinny.

Ten years ago, I went on Weight Watchers and lost 20 pounds. I met the man of my dreams in these red shorts from the Gap, feeling more confident than I had in a long time. Maybe ever. I sported a nice tan from spending hours each day at my parents’ pool, and I wore bangs for the first time since childhood, channeling my inner Katy Perry, minus the girl-kissing. The physical attraction I felt for him on that first meeting was mutual. He told me later that he noticed my toned and tanned legs before anything else.

 

 

 

One decade and two babies later, the shorts still fit, as does the dress I wore on our first date. Though I’m not as toned or tanned, I should feel as confident in them now as I did then, right?

Wrong.

Continue reading “My Skinny Shorts Lie”