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Paleo (ish)

In 2015, I did my first Whole30. I was trying to really reset my nutrition, jump start some weight loss and in general, feel more in control without being unhealthy about it (You can read more about my journey with food and fitness here

The Whole30, if you aren’t familiar, is a nutritional reset. For 30 days, participants eat no grains, no sugar, no dairy, and no beans or legumes, as well as some food additives and stuff. There is a ton of information about how and why to do a whole30, so I won’t get into all of that here. Check the website if you want to, and I would encourage you to do so.

I have had very solid, steady results with my whole30s. I now do one every spring. I sleep better, I have more energy, I’m less bloated, my menstrual cycle is less annoying, my skin clears up like magic, I usually lose a little weight (8-11 pounds over the month), and overall, I just feel… better. It’s difficult, sure. But that’s another point in its favor, for me. I tend to be a very easy going person. I’m an astoundingly unpicky eater, so I very rarely express firm opinions when people ask me where we should go for dinner. If my food isn’t exactly what I ordered, I’ll eat it anyway. Even when I’m cooking for myself, I find that I will eat something even if I don’t love it. So it is very, very good for me, one month of the year, to say “I can’t eat this and I need you to accommodate me.” It isn’t easy, but it’s a good exercise for me.

The hardest thing, then, is the period following my annual whole30. All of a sudden, I can eat all these foods I love, and so I often overdo it, and end up at the beginning of June, frustrated and off balance nutritionally.

Here’s what I do to help with that: I eat paleo at home, and then, when I’m out, I make a decision that works for me in the moment.

What do I mean I “eat paleo”?

I avoid grains: no sandwiches, pastas, rice, etc.

I avoid added sugars: this one is pretty obvious, but also really hard! I try to limit and avoid adding sugar to recipes but I also try to avoid eating things with a lot of sugar in them.

I avoid dairy: I use almond milk, I tend to cook without cheese, etc.

So what do I eat?

I eat lots of vegetables. Leafy greens, broccoli, sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots, you name it, I eat it, when it comes to veggies.

I eat lots of meat. Almost all of my meals have at least one serving of animal based protein, from eggs to seafood to steaks. When I can afford it, I try to eat meat that has fewer chemicals, and that was raised and slaughtered humanely. Someday, when I win the lottery, I’ll eat all local meat. But for now, I have to make due sometimes.

I eat lots of fruit! A lot of people think I don’t eat fruit, but I LOVE fruit. Yes, fruit has sugar in it, but you know, a banana is better for us than a snickers bar. And fruit is PACKED with vitamins and nutrients. So too bad, I love it.

I eat nuts and seeds. Almonds, cashews, walnuts- and anything made from them- are fair game! Almond milk and almond butter are staples in my fridge.

So, why do I eat this way? Well, eating paleo acts as a road map for me. It helps me avoid foods that i know don’t help me feel my best. I have a lot of trouble counting calories without it turning unhealthy, and so eating paleo is a way for me to eat without counting and still feel like I’m on top of my nutrition.

But I’m far from perfect about it, and that’s ok. I love ice cream. I love ice cream so much I’ve been known to eat it for meals, eat it twice a day, eat my own and then finish someone else’s. And I refuse to live in a world where I deprive myself of something I love- and for what reason? So it isn’t “good” for my body. Ice cream is good for the soul. The same is true of pizza. Pizza is a wonderful invention.

But I know I can’t eat like that all the time. It’s all about balance. And for me, I try to find that balance by eating paleo (ish)

 

Superhero action of the day: where do you need to add balance in your life? Is there something you can make into a “not all the time” food without feeling miserable about it all the time?

The power of forgiveness

Are you carrying baggage from something in your past? Of course you are. We all are.

Have you ever watched a superhero movie or TV show (or read a comic!) and the hero gets hurt by something and it sends him or her down a winding path towards becoming the “dark” version of themselves? Yah. The prime example of this, in my mind, is playing out with admittedly tedious repetition on the CW show Arrow. And I mean, I love that show, but man, Oliver is really good at this superhero martyrdom stuff.

In any case, there comes a time in everyone’s life where someone is going to hurt you. Sometimes, that hurt will be accidental. The person in question won’t mean to cause you harm, but they’ll do it anyway. And that will hurt.

But sometimes, in all likelihood, someone will hurt you on purpose. And, oh, my darlings, that will hurt. I wish I could protect you all from it. Because when you learn that someone has hurt you purposefully, the pain in your chest will overwhelm you. It will drown you. The waves of pain will wash over you, filling your lungs and chest. Purposeful hurt is unavoidable, betraying, overwhelming.

Somehow, though, if you’re lucky, you’ll learn to forgive the hurt you’ve been dealt.

Slowly, with conscious , deliberate, small steps, you’ll turn to face the onslaught, and then, you will find yourself not bowled over by it, but standing tall. And then, you’ll find yourself moving through it, beyond it.

Sometimes, you won’t recover from it completely. Sometimes, it will change the path of your life. That’s ok.

You can’t carry it around for long, my loves.

How can you swing your lasso of truth, use your super strength, throw your shield, throw a punch, or use super speed if you are clinging to an entire suitcase of hurt? Not us, superheroes.

We’re gonna put that down. Even -or especially- if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t apologize. You get to step up, and be the bigger person.

Get inside what the other person was feeling. Where did the hurt come from? It’s almost never “just to hurt you”. Usually, it’s indicative of a bigger problem with that person.

Wounded animals lash out. And we are just human animals. Whoever hurt you? I bet they’re hurting. That doesn’t give them an excuse. It will help you to understand.

And once you understand, I think you’ll find that the sting has gone out of the wound. It just doesn’t hurt as bad anymore. It may be disappointing, exhausting, frustrating. But the sting will be gone.

And once you can start to forgive, life becomes… easier. You’ll sleep better, be in a better mood, be more open to new experiences and relationships. You’ll have the mental capacity to be a more full person, and I think that’s so worth it.

 

Superhero action of the day: start unpacking your suitcase. Who do you need to forgive?

Let Monday be a new week

You ever had one of those days? One of those weeks? One of those Fridays where everything you can think of seems to have gone wrong, you fought with your work bestie, you spilled your lunch, you royally screwed up a project AND you forgot about a meeting.

I have.

And I don’t know about you, but when I have weeks like that, I get to Sunday night, start thinking about going to work the next morning and I already want to crawl under the bed and hide.

Or, have you ever had a week where everything went really well and you nailed everything, aced a test, breezed through a presentation, solved all the workplace problems, made a new friend, brought in pastries just because and made a home cooked meal every night?

Yeah, I’ve had those weeks too.

And then I get to Sunday night of the next week and Monday is looming, and I’m feeling good about last week, but when Monday arrives, I’m not quite as on top of things as I could be. And I beat myself up. “You did so well last week!” “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you do this right?”

Let’s try a new strategy: Let Monday be a new week. Let last week, whether it was your best week, your worst week or somewhere in between, rest. It doesn’t matter anymore. If things carry over, now they’re a part of this week. Last week is over. And worrying about it can’t help us anymore.

This applies to relationships too. If your boss, friend, coworker, partner, spouse, student, child said something to you last week (or even yesterday for that matter) that set your teeth on edge, Monday is a great time to make a decision: do you need to address it with that person? If so, find a time. Explain why you’re still upset. Stay calm. Don’t blame them. Just get it off your chest. And then… move on. If you don’t need to talk to them about it, then the onus is on you to let. It. Go. Holding grudges only hurts you.

Let Monday be a new week. There’s no point in hating it. (side note, if you really DO hate the place you spend most of your time, ie, work, please find something else to do that makes you happier. None of us love our jobs every minute of every day but you deserve better than outright misery 40 or more hours a week) Just think of all the opportunities this week brings you. Changing your attitude can and will change your life. I really believe that. If you’re reading this, you’re already pretty lucky. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to be able to read. Lucky to have internet access you can afford to spend on reading blog posts.

Superhero action of the day: Find two things about Mondays that you’re thankful for. Maybe its seeing your coworkers. Maybe it’s your nice quiet commute. Maybe its your yoga class after work.

But maybe its your chance to start fresh.

Don’t forget to do something amazing today!

On Grief

I went to another funeral this morning.

This time, it was the matriarch of a family I got to know through one of my schools. I’ve now worked with 4 of their 6 kids, and they’ve become good friends. The matriarch of this family was a strong, funny, kind, warm hearted woman. I didn’t know her well, and I wish I had known her better.

And so, I went to her funeral. It was a catholic mass funeral. It was my first catholic funeral, although I’ve been to mass several times before. (I was raised protestant and I am currently attending a methodist church.)

If you’ve never been to a catholic funeral, I found the experience lovely. Truth be told, it isn’t that much different from a heavily religious protestant funeral, but, as with many things about the catholic church, with a little more formality and ritual. There were some scripture readings, some hymns, a short homily, and the sacrament of the Eucharist (communion). It was a lovely ceremony, and I understand completely why people throughout history have found solace and healing in the familiarity of the heavily scripted service.

Because it was clear, the people around me did find comfort in it. There were a lot of tears shed this morning. It’s painful, when we lose someone we love. But the crowd that milled in front of the church after the service was a very different one than the tense, hard, sad group of people before the service began. Afterwards, though there were wet eyes in every direction, people smiled, and even laughed. The healing process has begun for those who are grieving this death.

I’ve been thinking this afternoon about finding comfort in the familiar, and in ritual. How can we relate to those ideals? How many of us, on finding out we’ve lost something or someone, have found comfort in doing something repetitive? Walking, cooking, or writing? Something else? I’ve said before that a hard workout soothes all wounds for me, but I think a great part of that is the repetitive motion of the hard work. Winston Churchill once said “When you’re going through Hell,  keep going.” When you’re hurting, you’ve got to keep living. You’ve got to find a way to keep going forward.

In the last year, I’ve known my fair share of grief. I’ve been to two other funerals, one for my beloved grandfather, and one for a cousin that I loved. I’ve lost jobs, friendships, and relationships. I’ve given up on a few dreams, and birthed new ones. Think about your past year- I imagine you’ve had at least one of these experiences.

I’m not saying this so you’ll think about what a bad year I’ve had, because it has been far from all bad. I’ve had some incredible highs, too. But I have known pain. Grief. Some of these things still make me hurt. That loss, it can redefine our world. It changes us. But hopefully, we can learn from it.

And here’s what I know about pain and grief. It will fade. But only if you let it. In some cases, only if you force it to lay down and be quiet. There are some things that will never be right again. There are some pains that it seems impossible to recover from. And there are things that happen that we can’t live through and be the same, ever again.

And when we’re in the throes of that pain, of that grief, it is easy, so, so easy to believe it will never end. Isn’t that strange? We long for it to end, pray for it to be over, dread waking up the next morning and starting all over in the mess and thick of it, but it seems so much easier to just let the pain drown us.

But you, my superhero, you can’t do that.

Instead, you have to get up. Yes, every day. You have to find a way to dig deep and find a place within yourself where you can keep going. You have to use that pain, that grief as a way to fuel you, to make you better. Just be sure it makes you better, not bitter. Don’t let it crush you into the kind of person who hurts others because of your own pain. You have to exorcise that pain.

And in order to get up and do that? You have to face the grief head on. You have to acknowledge it. You have to face it, head on, and say ‘hello’ to it. You have to sit in the room with it and learn it. And then, slowly, carefully, you can start to cut it out. You can start to remove it from your life.

When we face our grief, it starts to lose its power over us. It begins to fade. Just a little bit. It won’t happen all at once. It will take many, many sessions of acknowledging it and letting it go, especially for those really deep, dark or old wounds. But you can do it.

Sometimes, when we’re done cutting out the grief, we may not recognize ourselves anymore. We may have cut away so many parts of ourselves that we’ve left holes. We can fill those holes with new things though. Things that bring us joy. Things that light us up. Things that make us strong, that make us shine.

Things that make us thrive.

Superhero action of the day: take 10 minutes today and sit with something that is hurting you. Just let it hurt. You don’t have to do anything about it except feel it. Do the same thing tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, until you can start to do something about it.

F(m)F Fridays: Play Tourist in Your Own City

Happy Friday, Superheroes!

I hope you’ve had a good week! First full week of June- it’s a magical time! I hope you’re gearing up for some fun this weekend, so, in the interest of helping you with that, another installment in my Friday series: Fun and (Mostly) Free Fridays! This week, we’re getting to know our own cities!

How long have you lived where you live? A year? 5 years? Your whole life? Well, no matter how long you’ve lived there, I bet there are places you’ve never been, museums you’ve never visited, and things you didn’t know.

This was certainly true for me! I live right in downtown Dayton, Ohio, but I spent a lot of time on Tuesday doing things I’d never done, all within walking or biking distance from my apartment. First, let’s look at what I did, and then, I’ll clue you in on how you can take on YOUR city (or one nearby).

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To start with, my mom and I got 24 hour memberships to our local city wide bike share. If you have a bike share system in your city and you aren’t using it, you’re missing out! Here’s how it works (at least here!):

-You buy a membership for a period of time. We went with the 24 hr option, although there are weekly and monthly subscriptions available. The membership cost us $5 apiece.

-You pick up a bike from any of the city wide bike hubs- they’re EVERYWHERE. You have the bike for 30 minutes, and then you check it back into a hub. You can get another one immediately, and you can keep doing that for the length of your membership.

The bike share program is awesome- I’ve used it quite a bit to go places around town. Again, I recommend it!

After we picked up our bikes, we started on a “walking” tour of downtown Dayton architecture. I have to be honest, I wasn’t overwhelmingly excited about the idea to begin with. However, there are some stunning buildings in this town, some I’d never seen before, and it was very interesting to learn about the history of the city through it’s buildings.

After we finished our tour, we got some lunch at the always delicious and super fun Lily’s Bistro (local people, check this out!), we walked around the Oregon District for a while, checking out the cute little local shops the area hosts.

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Next, we went up to the top floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The top floor of the hotel is the bar and restaurant, and open to the public. They have incredible views of downtown! We had a great time looking out the windows and pointing out different places.

We finished our afternoon at America’s Packard Museum. This little known gem right in downtown might be small, but boy, it packs a punch! I’m not much of a car girl, really, but some of the history involved with these cars is really incredible. Besides, they’re so very fun to look at.

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So, that was our tour of Dayton- and we barely scratched the surface! There is so much to do and see in this city, I feel like we could do this for at least a week and not have seen everything we could.

If you want to play tourist in your town (and really, you should!), here are some fun resources for you to start with:

GPSmycity– Mom found our walking tour on GPS my city. This is an app that you load onto your phone (or tablet), and it has little ebooks that give you all kinds of information about what you’re looking at. Also, the walking directions were very clear and easy to follow- both for someone living in the city (me) and someone who is unfamiliar with it (Mom)!

Check local facebook pages. We have several- Dayton.com, Dayton most metro, dayton local… I follow all of them just on the lookout for fun things to do in the area! Find them for your city and then keep tabs on them.

Ask around! If you’re not sure what to do or where to go, ask someone! What’s their favorite part of the city? Where do they take guests? You’ll learn a lot!

Whatever you do, get out there. Enjoy the place you call home! This is how we save our cities as superheroes- not by fighting crime in the streets, but by supporting our cities as they build and rebuild and become the kinds of places we want to work, play, and live!

Superhero action of the day: Take some time to learn about the place you live! Maybe you’ll learn something new!

OMP: Baked sweet potato chips

Hey superheroes!

It’s Summer time! And you know what I love about Summer? Yes, other than the long days of sunlight, endless sundresses, perfect outdoor weather (especially early Summer), and a respite from the school year? Summer food. There’s something so… lovely about grilling out, corn on the cob, watermelon, and lemonade. Maybe it’s my inner midwesterner coming out, but cookout food is the best food.

At my apartment, I don’t have any outdoor space, so I don’t have a grill, which is a bummer. So if I’m craving cookout food on a random Thursday evening, I have to get a little more creative than that. Thankfully, it has been very cool here this week (60-70 f) so it isn’t too hot to cook (I also don’t have AC, so I often eat cold food all Summer!). Anyway, gotta take advantage when I can to turn the oven on.

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The other day, I bought 3 pork chops on sale at my grocery so I could make one of my go to week night meals: oven baked paleo BBQ pork chops. It’s the easiest entree ever- dry rub some of Popular Paleo’s BBQ spice rub recipe (I got it in her EXCELLENT book, The Frugal Paleo Cookbook.) Seriously, I make this recipe all the time. It’s excellent, takes a half hour, including prep and goes with a lot of things.

But that brings me to my next point: what to eat as a side dish? I quickly settled on sweet potatoes. I love sweet potatoes. I can eat them prepared a thousand ways, for any meal or snack, and never get tired of them. They’re one of my pantry staples.

So, that was easy. But how did I want them fixed? Let’s try something new.

I’ve made sweet potato fries before, and i know the drill. Cut them, add oil, pop them in the oven and they turn out soggy. Cut them thinner, it helps, but… hm.

So I decided on a kind of sweet potato kettle chip. A couple of notes, and we’ll get on to the recipe

-The more uniformly you cut your potato, the more evenly it will cook. If you have a mandolin slicer, use it! If not, do your best, but don’t be surprised if you’ve got a few that are burnt and a few that are soggy.

-DO NOT skip the parchment paper. It makes a LOT of difference.

Ok? Cool. Here we go.

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Chips

Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

Serves: 1, maybe 2

 

Ingredients:

1 medium sweet potato

2 TB olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

-dash of red pepper flakes

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.IMG_1597
  2. Cut sweet potato in thin disks. The thinner the better, but no blood, ok? Blood doesn’t go well with potatoes. Again, the more uniformly thick the slices, the better. The thinner they are, the less cook time you’ll have.
  3. In a ziploc, mix together oil and spices. Add sweet potato slices to bag, seal, and shake, squish or wiggle to coat each disk in the oil mixture.IMG_1598
  4. Lay the disks out on the parchment paper covered baking sheet. Lay them out in one layer, not touching. The more space you can leave, the shorter the cook time! (I never leave much space, but I also like them a little soft)
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Check regularly after 15 minutes to judge your chips according to preferred level of crunch and thickness.

Remove from oven, serve immediately! Enjoy!

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Superhero action of the day: what’s your favorite cookout food? Is there a way to make it a little more healthy for yourself?

 

Living your truth

I went back to my boxing class tonight. I needed it. There’s something very freeing in a workout that hard. It leaves you wrung out, exhausted, It gives you so much room for mental clarity. When you’re stressed, sad, anxious or scared, my whole hearted recommendation is a workout that strips you bare, especially if it makes you uncomfortable. I talked a little bit about that preference of mine in Batten Down the Hatches, a post I wrote about what to do when life gets hard.

Anyway, there I was, in my boxing class, probably dying as we finished the second two minute round meets 1/4 (?) mile run. And everything hurt, I could barely breathe. It’s been a month or so since I was there, and in that month, I’ve eaten a lot of bad meals, and I’ve taken a lot of naps. So tonight class hurt. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts every time, but I could really feel that month off. When things get like that, I try hard to find a single floating life preserver of positivity to keep pushing through the onslaught. Usually, it’s a compliment, memory, or goal.

Today, my life preserver was this thought: you are a superhero, and this is how you train for your job. And then, the shame washed over me. How can I be a superhero when I’m sometimes out of breath at the top of the stairs? How can I be a superhero in double digit pants sizes? How can I pretend to be a fitness minded person when I love ice cream as much as I do, when I’ve essentially taken a really slow month on my goals? I’m a pretender. I’m a fake.

And then I caught myself. No. That simply isn’t true. None of those negative thoughts are true. I am a superhero because, even though I’m out of breath, I keep climbing.  I am a superhero because I have the courage to stand up for what’s right, and to live my best life, regardless of the size on the tags of my clothes. I am a fitness minded person because I am climbing back in the saddle, because I will never give up, because I will never, never back down from my goals.

And then, in a blink of an eye, I was thinking about how amazing a “plus size”, female, strong as anything, sexy, fierce superhero would be.

I. Am. A. Superhero. Because I choose to be. This is the kind of thing that you get to decide to be, unlike being tall and leggy, unlike being a physicist. I am a superhero because I say I am.

And you are all superheroes because I say you are. No matter your level of fitness. No matter how many times you’ve started over on your goals. No matter the amount of money in your bank account, no matter if you’ve eaten ice cream every night for dinner for a week. No. Matter. What. You are a superhero if you say you are.

Of course, this works equally well on all of life’s hurdles. Sure, maybe it’s struggling through running that last mile, but maybe it’s starting a new job, or getting a new job, or going through a breakup or losing a loved one. When you find yourself drowning, you dig deep. You own your truth. You put your shoulders back, stand up proud and shout from the roof tops that you are a superhero and that no one can take that from you. And that when superheroes are going through difficult stuff, or playing the comparing game, or feeling uncertain, they do what’s right anyway.

And we can do that too.

Superhero action of the day: Tell someone something you’re struggling with or ashamed about. Talk it out. Get rid of it. Kill that shame with some openness.

 

 

 

On my plate: spaghetti squash and meat sauce

About three years ago, I pretty much gave up wheat based foods. Not always, I love pizza beyond any reasonable person’s reaction. However, I feel better when I don’t eat very much of it. So, I try not to cook it, and I limit it when I go out.

However, that left me trying to find other ways of eating some foods that I really love and find comforting.

Especially pasta.

Enter the spaghetti squash.

Vegetable noodles are becoming more common. You can make them out of lots of different things- zucchini, sweet potatoes, even carrots.  That is, if you have a zoodler. If you don’t have the fancy tool, you can still try vegetable noodles. In the form of spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti squash are the bright yellow oblong shaped ones. They’re pretty inexpensive, but they’re a little intimidating. They look like this:

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Here’s how you cook them:

  1. cut in half long ways. This is a little tricky- they’re super hard skinned, but you can do it, Superhero!
  2. . Place cut side down in a baking dish, and add water to cover the bottom of the plan.
  3.  Cook for 30-45 minutes at 400.
  4. When the meat of the squash is nice and soft, use a fork and gently scrape the strands out of the skin and serve immediately. Be careful of those fingers- the halves are hot.

While that’s happening, make you some sauce!

For the sauce, you’ll need:

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 large onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

32 ounces of crushed tomatoes (canned)

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 TB pepper

1 TB oregano

1 tsp italian seasoning

1 tsp crushed red pepper

2 bay leaves

 

  1. Brown ground beef. When it is just a little pink, add onion and garlic and cook together until onion pieces stat to turn translucent.
  2. Add seasonings, and stir to combine well.
  3. Drain at least some of the grease from the meat off, or use a slotted spoon and start on a new pan.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes to beef mixture, and stir together.
  5. Let simmer together for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, and place over cooked spaghetti squash strands. Top with cheese, if you like! Enjoy!

 

OMP: spaghetti squash and meat sauce: www.superheroliving.blog

 

Get out of your comfort zone

I spent last weekend at the first annual Girl Redefined Retreat. I cannot WAIT to tell you ALL about it, but honestly, I need a little bit of time to process the whole thing. For now, though, let me say, it was one of the best weekends of my life and I have learned so much about who I am and the kind of person I want to be from my time there.

 

Perhaps the thing that was compounded into my head over and over again though, was the importance of getting out of our comfort zones.

This isn’t the first time that lesson has been jammed into my brain. Repeatedly, in my life, there have been times where staying comfortable cancels out any forward momentum.

It hasn’t been an easy lesson for me to learn. In fact, most of the time, I get dragged out of my comfort zone like a baby bird getting flung out of the nest. It’s SCARY to get out there, try something new. It’s terrifying to realize that getting from point A to point B is going to take something new. It’s going to take something scary. It’s going to make you uncomfortable. It’s going to require a level of vulnerability that you’re not used to.

This is true in many areas of our lives: it’s true in our careers, in our relationships, in our goals and dreams. It’s true with our pet baby projects that we’re scared to show the world. It’s true with our health, our fitness goals and our struggles.

There are several ways we can work on getting out of our comfort zones in small ways so we can be more prepared for the big, scary leaps.

 

  1. Try new things. This can be a variety of things! New foods, new hobbies, new experiences, new places. Heck, maybe it’s enough to try a new grocery store!
  2. Reach out to people. Sometimes, it can be uncomfortable for us to do this, especially if it’s strangers! My favorite way to practice this skill is to compliment strangers. “hey, your hair is really lovely!” “Oh my gosh, that jacket is SO CUTE!” You’ll be amazed at how people will react to this. It’s a sure fire way to lift people up, and it will make you feel UNSTOPPABLE. No one is going to say much of anything besides “oh, thanks!” when you do this. You’ll build confidence, and you’ll build their confidence. Win-win. Of course, there are lots of ways to reach out to people that will stretch your comfort zone. Call an old friend and catch up. Go out of your way to be nice to someone- especially someone who needs it extra bad.
  3. Find a challenge- or create your own! There are lots of online challenges you can be a part of that look SO fun- check this one out: comfortzonecrusher.com

So that’s just a few ways to work on stretching the size of your comfort zone. But what are the benefits of living on the edge of our comfort zone?

First, I think it’s important to live there, so we aren’t afraid of doing things. Superheroes are brave, and we want that! And living on the edge of our comfort zone is an important part of that. If you haven’t read my post on the meaning of the word brave, you should! Secondly, living on the edge of our comfort zone keeps us on our toes. Complacency is the enemy of forward movement, and we have to move forward, always. Finally, living on the edges of our comfort zone helps us to be ready to say yes to unexpected opportunities.

 

And that, my friends, is how we become superheroes. We stay on our toes, we stay brave, and we say yes, unflinchingly, and without fear. We build each other up. We speak our truths, even when we’re scared. That’s superhero living. You in?

 

Superhero Action of the Day: Make a plan to get out of your comfort zone today. Even if it’s just a random compliment, find that place of discomfort, and reach for it. You can do it!

How I meal plan for the week ahead

I have found meal planning and prepping to be an invaluable resource to me. I work three + jobs, work out regularly and maintain at least a semblance of a social life. If I’m not going to eat out every meal (or eat food that makes me feel yucky) I HAVE to meal plan.

I’ve developed my own way to do this fairly organically, and I’ve adapted it over the last six or so years. It works fairly well for me. It worked fairly well for me when I was cooking for the household too, although granted it’s a little less work intensive as a single person. However, it’s a fairly adaptable system, and you should feel free to adapt it to suit your needs!

Why I meal prep:

Well, for starters, I’m really, really, really busy. There are plenty of days where I eat all of my food on the go. This is why I bought a nice (and kind of expensive) cooler/lunchbag.  (I have this one) Because I always have to take food with me. So I meal prep because I’m busy.

 

It also saves me money. If I go to the store one time during the week, with a very comprehensive list of what I need, I save money over multiple trips, browsing and eating out a lot. Also I live in a food desert, and going to the grocery is not ever on my way home.

It provides some structure and form to my week. Because my schedule is so nuts, it’s nice not to have to make decisions as I go about what I’m going to eat that day.

It helps keep me away from disordered eating. Due to my past history, I have a tendency towards disordered eating when I get stressed or too busy. Having a plan in place as I head into a busy week helps ensure that I will eat enough to keep me moving.

Ok, so that’s why. But HOW, Charis??

Fair.

If you don’t know this about me, I use a 9×12 sketchbook for everything. Work, personal, all of it, right in my book. So I start with that.

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As you can see, I’ve written the dates for the week across the top, and then listed the days out down the sides, with a slot for each meal. At the end of the week, I’ve listed a spot for snacks.

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Next, once I’ve got my form set up, I go through and write in any meetings or events I have that week that will have provided food. So, for example, if I’m having dinner with Dad on Thursday, I write down “dinner with Dad”. Then I know I don’t have to plan a meal for that time slot.

Once those are all filled in, I count how many total meals I have left. Usually it’s about 16 for me, it might be more or less for you. That usually includes 7 breakfasts, and the rest are (obviously) lunch and dinner. So first, I decide what I want to have for breakfast.

I tend towards mostly paleo meal prep- in fact, my goal is to eat paleo at home so that when I’m out and about I don’t worry about it as much. That does extend to breakfast (sometimes unfortunately, breakfast is my struggle meal!) When I decide what I want to have for breakfast, I fill it in in as many of the blank spaces as possible, and then I either decide to make something else and fill that in, or get some “convenience” breakfast items (post forthcoming) to fill me in.

Then I do the same with lunch and dinner. But how do I know what I want to make? And where do I find recipes? Also fair questions.

First, I think about what I’m in the mood for. Just in general. Mexican? Salads? Fish? Steaks? Chicken? Sweet potatoes? Stretch my cooking wings? Play it safe? Then I take a look for recipes that fit that desire. Some things I can do now without a recipe. If I want fajitas, for example, I can do that without a recipe. But if I want this amazing enchilada crockpot casserole that I only let myself make about twice a year, well, I need the recipe for that. Or if I want to try something new, I’ll definitely want the recipe!

The first place I look for recipes is Pinterest. I tap a few keywords into the search bar and we’re off. I do have a couple of cookbooks and I like them. My favorite right now is the Frugal Paleo Cookbook. She’s amazing.

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If I’m using Pinterest, I pin the recipe to the proper board, and then I write the name of the recipe and that I pinned it into the slot on my meal plan chart. At the same time, I start a grocery list on the bottom of my meal plan. Frequently at this stage, I just write down everything the recipe calls for (except spices).

I’m also a really good leftover eater, so even though I’m only cooking for myself, I make family portions regularly and eat the same two or three meals for a week.

Once I’ve chosen all my meals, written in all the times I’m going to eat which recipe and made a composite list of ingredients, I double check my pantry to see what I’m out of or what I already have. I don’t keep very many pantry staples on hand, but it’s always a good idea to check. I also double check things like paper towels, dog food, etc at this point, and add anything I need to my list.

Then, if I’m feeling really crazy, I rewrite the grocery list and group like items together (produce, meat, canned goods) to make it easier to shop.

Lastly, I go through my grocery store’s flyer and the coupons in the app and double check if there’s anything I’m already buying on sale or that I can use a coupon on. I do this last because it keeps me from adding things I don’t need to my list. Oh, I’m eating Italian and American comfort food this week, but corn chips are on sale… this helps with that instinct for me.

And there you have it! Meal planning 101. It takes me less time to do it than it did to write this post at this point. I know it seems overwhelming! But you can do it.

I tend to do my grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon (although I’m thinking of shifting to Monday morning), so I try to do my meal planning on Saturdays. Frequently I’ll schedule a meal I call “grocery surprise” on Saturday- and I let myself get whatever I want at the store to cook and eat that night- usually it’s fresh fish or a small steak.

When I’m really on top of my game, I then spend some time meal prepping for the week- post forthcoming about how I do that!

 

Superhero action of the day: do some meal planning today! Maybe it’s just planning your lunches for the remainder of the work week. Or maybe, you go wild and plan out the whole week. Be sure to let me know how that worked for you!