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The truth about gratitude

For those of us in the U.S., being grateful around Thanksgiving is a national pastime.

So much so that it sometimes feels a little cliché.

But what if the simple practice of expressing gratitude was, in fact, one of the keys to being healthy and happy…and to successfully reaching your health goals?

The science of gratitude and positive thinking is kind of fascinating (and surprisingly un-Pollyanna-ish ;). Since I’m a psychology geek, I LOVE digging around in the research to find little nuggets I can use to make my life – and your life – just a little healthier.

Here’s what I’ve found, plus some practical ways to build more gratitude and positive thinking into your life.

Gratitude

Practicing gratitude and positive thinking changes us both mentally and physically.

It seems pretty obvious that, if we can find the upsides in our lives, we feel better mentally. It turns out that positive thinking also has a ton of physical health benefits. From increased life span to greater resistance to the common cold to reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, focusing on the positive makes our minds as well as our bodies healthier.

And the truth is that, to reach our health goals (any goals, really), we MUST focus on what’s going well.

I see it every day with clients…there’s just no other way, because obstacles are inevitable. Cultivating positivity, resilience, and “grit” is key to success.

In fact, psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth found that “grit” is a better predictor of success than even IQ. (You can see her talk more about it here.) Dr. Duckworth defines grit as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Having stamina. Sticking with your future, day in and day out and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

One way to build grit, Dr. Duckworth believes, is having a “belief mindset.” A term coined at Stanford University, a belief mindset is the belief that “the ability to learn is not fixed; that it can change with effort.”

It seems to me that focusing on what’s going well – being grateful for the results of your effort so far – is a good way to start believing that you can do even more.

Before you tell me I’m being too “Pollyanna,” understand that positive thinking doesn’t mean being unrealistic about challenges.

In his influential book Learned Optimism, psychologist and founder of positive psychology Martin Seligman explains that pessimists “believe that bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault” while optimists “believe that defeat is just a temporary setback or a challenge, that its causes are just confined to this one case.”

Positive thinking, it seems, is less about being unrealistically upbeat and more about approaching challenges with a positive outlook…and with “grit.”

Now for the practical stuff. Staying positive takes practice, but it CAN be learned, even if you tend to be pessimistic.

When I slip into negative thinking – soooo easy to do and makes me sooooo unproductive! – one of these “tricks” usually gets me back on track. And there’s even research to back them up.

  • Think of three things I’m grateful for. Simple as that. Make a list, mentally or on paper. It works wonders.
  • Do what ought to be done. This is one of Gretchen Rubin’s “Twelve Commandments” from her NY Times bestselling book The Happiness Project. Nothing makes me grumpier than leaving necessary tasks undone. So just do it. Check it off the list…and feel 100 times happier.
  • Be mindful of negative thoughts (without getting sucked into them). Sometimes just noticing your negative thoughts – and letting them float on by without getting sucked into the unhappiness, my life sucks vortex – is enough to diffuse them. Having a mindfulness meditation practice is a great place to start cultivating this habit of noticing without attaching.
  • Replace “I have to” with “I get to.” If you’re like me, you often find yourself saying “I HAVE to go to the grocery store. I HAVE to go workout. I HAVE to do laundry.” As odd as it sounds, just replacing “have to” with “get to” flips things to positive in 10 seconds. I even wrote a whole blog post about it once. Try it and let me know how you feel.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me in the comments:

  • What do you do to cultivate gratitude and positive thinking in your life?
  • How has staying positive helped you stay happier (and healthier)?

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to you if you’re celebrating either…or both!

P.S. My friend Erin Stutland is a pro at using gratitude to create change, in your life and in your body. Check out her “Say It. Sweat It. Get It.” Challenge. It’s FREE and it starts next week! (And, by the way, I rarely promote other people’s stuff, so you KNOW it’s good. Check it out. :)

Love,

Lara signature

10 minute holiday workout you can do anywhere

10 minute holiday workoutKeeping up with exercise during busy travel times, like the holidays, can be a challenge.

Add a cramped hotel room or guest room in your family’s home to the picture, and making space for any kind of movement is tough.

Here’s a short – and surprisingly effective – workout I’ve been using for years to tone up my tummy, strengthen my core, and get my blood flowing…virtually anywhere.

Plus, you’ll get to see my fitness instructor alter ego in action for the first time in a while. (Try not to laugh…I’m a little rusty. ;)

So what’d you think? Is your tummy burning yet?

Share with me in the comments what you’ll do to keep up with exercise during the holidays. I’ll hold you to it. ;)

P.S. Are we connected on Facebook? Join the party on the Dalch Wellness page! We’d love to have you. :)

xo,

Lara signature

7 Thanksgiving recipes for a simple, healthy, and tasty holiday

Don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the pressure to figure out what to make for Thanksgiving dinner. (If you’re not in the U.S., you’re probably NOT having that problem. ;)

I’m going to two different friend Thanksgivings since my family and I are on different coasts this year. And, truth be told, I love whipping up something yummy to share with my hosts!

As I dug through my recipe stash for inspiration, it occurred to me that you might need a few ideas too, while you still have time to plan for the big meal.

Here are a few of my favorite side dishes (+ one breakfast and one dessert, just because)…some healthy, some indulgent (or both), all simple.

Recipes

pumpkin-pie-oatmealPumpkin Pie Oatmeal (Adapted from Kris Carr.com)

I love, love, LOVE this creative fall breakfast dish! And I’m a big fan of eating breakfast on Thanksgiving to keep my blood sugar at a normal level leading up to the big meal. That way, I can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without completely overdoing it. Besides, this recipe gives you an excuse to have dessert for breakfast. :)

Yield: 3 servings

  • 1 cup rolled or steel cut oats
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk + 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts (optional)

Add all ingredients – except hazelnuts – to a medium saucepan. Heat and cook according to oatmeal directions. Serve with hazelnuts sprinkled on top.

greensSpicy Mixed Greens (Recipe by Emily Casey, via a Whole Foods Southern Thanksgiving cooking class in NYC)

I made this quintessentially Southern side dish at last year’s Thanksgiving. My primarily West Coast-born dinner mates were not fans. ;) Oh well. Their loss. You’ll love it…but it does have a good kick, so get ready.

  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch turnip greens
  • 2 tablespoons butter, lard, bacon grease, or vegetable oil (Lara’s note: I used half butter and half extra virgin olive oil.)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chilies
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • Pepper vinegar, such as Texas Pete or Goya brands

Wash and rinse greens. Chop collards and kale coarsely; chop turnip greens more finely (they get stringy otherwise). In a deep stockpot, melt the fat over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the chilies, salt and sugar, stir, and add the greens. Mix thoroughly. Add the vinegar and water, and cover. Steam greens until done to your liking, from 20 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding liquid, if necessary, to keep greens from burning. Southerners cook ‘em “to death” – until they are meltingly tender; I like them a little more al dente. Taste and adjust seasonings, then serve, passing vinegar alongside.

Recipe Links

Photo: Yunhee Kim; Styling: Kevin Crafts (via MyRecipes.com)

Photo: Yunhee Kim; Styling: Kevin Crafts (via MyRecipes.com)

Roasted Delicata Squash with Honey, Pomegranate Seeds, and Pepitas (Sunset Magazine)

Made this last year too. Gorgeous on the plate, packed full of nutrients, and definitely a crowd pleaser.

Carrot Ginger Soup with Pomegranate Seeds + Maple Thyme Brussels Sprouts (Lara Dalch)

Just a few of my fall standards. The Brussels sprouts are my fave.

Maple Thyme Brussels Sprouts

Maple Thyme Brussels Sprouts

Wilted Chard and Wild Rice Salad (Bastyr University)

I’ve not made this for Thanksgiving specifically, but it seems like a fun – and different – addition to more traditional side dishes. And it’s one of my absolute favorite winter salads.

Apple-Bacon Pie with Gingersnap Crust (Tasting Table)

I haven’t made this…yet. Maybe not the healthiest option, but oh my god! does it sound AMAZING! I might even make it this year. Will report back.

Oh, and check out my holiday pre-party tips from last year. They’ll help you stay in control with your holiday food choices…without skipping all the goodies. :)

What are you making for Thanksgiving (or just for dinner on the 28th ;)? Tell me in the comments.

P.S. Are you on my mailing list?

xo,

Lara signature

Why I always make time for a morning practice

What’d you do this morning? First thing.

Before you ate breakfast. Before you took a shower.

Before you fed every person/furry friend in your house. Before you hit the yoga mat or laced up your running shoes for a run.

Before you packed up your laptop to head to the office?

I know you’re busy – and sometimes not entirely in control of your mornings – but what if I told you that making one small choice every morning could make the rest of your day run more smoothly (and with less stress)?

Morning

The idea of having a “morning ritual” comes up often in my conversations with other busy women, especially those whose days seem to speed up as the minutes tick by.

Everyone swears that a consistent morning practice does more for their sense of wellbeing than almost any other health-related choice they make.

So, being a “don’t knock it ’til you try it” believer, I started experimenting – adding little things to my morning in those moments of relative calm before the rest of the world gets moving – just to see what would happen.

All of these take about 10-15 minutes – or less (it’s kind of up to you) – and don’t require a ton of planning. And since exercise is already a regular part of my days, I focused on adding non-movement rituals (although yoga, running, and cycling are often my “rituals” of choice).

(Quick side note: One thing I’ve been religious about for some time is drinking a glass of water as soon as I wake up. If you’re not already doing it, make this your morning ritual ASAP, even if you do nothing else. It’s the best way I know to wake up and start your day fully hydrated. You’d be amazed how many unpleasant body issues – like headaches and low energy – disappear when you front load your day with water and keep it flowing until evening.)

  • Warm water with lemon. I’d heard of drinking a mug of warm water with lemon as part of Ayurvedic morning practices, so I decided to give it a try. (Ayurveda is sort of the Indian subcontinent equivalent to Chinese medicine, an ancient system of traditional medicine that’s still popular today.) There’s something inherently calming about heating water in a kettle and wrapping your hands around a mug of warm liquid. The clean and tangy flavor of the lemon juice was just bracing enough to wake me up without the jolt of caffeine (and subsequent crash). And the few minutes it took to prepare it gave me a chance to think about what I wanted from my day and to calmly begin it. During the weeks that I practiced this ritual, I noticed an increase in energy and clarity in the mornings that often carried into the rest of my day.
  • Reading something low-key. I’ll be honest – this one didn’t last very long for me, probably because the books I was reading at the time were on my iPad and the last thing I want to do first thing in the morning is stare at a screen…since I’ll be staring at one all day long. But I did enjoy the practice of reading something other than the news (that was my rule) first thing in the morning. It allowed my mind to open a little – either with the escapism of a novel or with the stimulation of psychology, food, or health-related non-fiction (my non-fiction defaults) – before diving into the obligatory reading I do as part of my work day (which I love, but still carries the weight of “I have to,” you know?).
  • Mindfulness meditation. I’ve written about movement as meditation in the past, but I wanted to make a meditation practice separate from my exercise routine (which already includes plenty of “meditating” on endurance and getting my butt kicked via my rides at Flywheel and vinyasa yoga classes ;). I like to keep it simple: 15 minutes of “dropping into” the present moment by focusing on sounds around me, sensations in my body, and the rhythm of my breath. I especially love this “Affectionate Breathing” meditation from Dr. Kristin Neff. If you’re new to meditation, it’s helpful to start with guided meditations like Dr. Neff’s or these from Deepak Chopra’s The Chopra Center. You can also work up to it with some of the suggestions in this overview.

Of these rituals, the one I’m still doing every day is meditation. It changes the trajectory of my day like nothing else, so I always find at least 10 minutes to do it. (I shoot for 15, but sometimes that’s just not possible. 10 minutes is better than nothing…and it’s a good practice to let myself off the hook for not “doing it right.”)

My perception of stress and my ability to move through it – and stay focused on what I need to do instead -  is completely different on days that I meditate versus days that I don’t. And, believe it or not, meditation tutorials are quickly becoming one of the things most requested by my private coaching clients. There must be something to it. (Actually, there’s definitely something to it. Here’s some of the research on the many mental and physical benefits of meditation, including managing cravings.)

I know some people like to journal or write down three things they’re grateful for…both really great ways to create a little space for yourself to get grounded first thing in the morning.

What about you? What’s your morning ritual? Tell me in the comments how you start your day and how it helps set you up for the kind of day you want to have.

P.S. Still coming down from the Halloween sugar high? Learn how to manage your sugar cravings NOW, so you can enjoy the holidays (and a piece of pumpkin pie!) without losing control. I’ll show you how in just 10 days.

Love,

Lara signature

Halloween survival tips for sugar junkies

sugarWelcome to “sugar season”!!

Sugar is everywhere year round; but between Halloween and New Year’s, avoiding the sweet stuff is nearly impossible.

If you have a well-developed sweet tooth like me, it’s time to prepare yourself for the temptations of the season…without going so far that you can’t have a little fun.

Here are some of my personal secret weapons for indulging in my favorite holiday treats without ending up in a sugar coma.

  • Stock up on naturally sweet treats at home. If you work these snacks into your day, you may find that your hankering for sugar at that party later are a little more manageable. My favorites are dates with almond butter (the protein will stabilize your blood sugar), honey or maple syrup mixed with almond or cashew butter and smeared on a rice cake, dark chocolate (70% cocoa content or above), and herbal tea with honey (especially for after dinner sweet cravings).
  • Eat lots of sweet fall veggies. Sugar season is a challenge; but it’s also a great time for eating naturally sweet foods. Winter squash like acorn, delicata, and butternut are at their peak and are super sweet on their own. Naturally sweet root veggies like beets and carrots are also plentiful…not to mention one of my favorites, sweet potatoes. Just like the naturally sweet snacks, eating more of these vegetables will reduce your cravings for the more damaging – and addictive – refined sweet stuff like candy.
  • Get some sleep. It’s tough at this busy time of year, I know…but I’m more convinced than ever that sleep is the key to ditching most of our self-destructive health habits, especially sugar addiction. Lack of it makes us hungrier than usual, weakens our resolve, and causes us to crave high sugar, high fat goodies. (For more on the science behind the effects of sleep deprivation, check out Why sleep may be the missing piece to your weight loss puzzle.) Just get some sleep…please? :)
  • Make nourishing meals a priority. When sugary temptations are all around you, it’s more important than ever to plan your meals and make sure you’re managing your blood sugar throughout the day. Eat breakfast. Get enough protein. Don’t skip lunch. Have little snacks like nuts and whole fruit if you need them. If sugar cravings are your downfall, now is NOT the time to skimp on nutrition!

Do these four things and you’ll be in better shape the next time someone shoves a candy bowl in your face.

Grab your favorite piece of candy. Enjoy…and celebrate your ability to walk away from the rest. (Maybe not EVERY time…but more often than you might think.)

Because a little indulgence never hurt anyone. :)

Happy, Happy Halloween!

P.S. Keep your eyes on your email this Friday for a special post-Halloween offer, just for sugar junkies. :)

Sweetly,

Lara signature

3 women who changed how I think about being happy and healthy

I read/watch/listen to a lot of random stuff. A LOT.

I do this mostly because I’m curious and find lots of things kinda fascinating.

I also do it because part of my job is digging up the best books, articles, recipes, videos, podcasts, websites, etc. about the very broad – and often overwhelming – topic of wellness to share with you.

You know that co-worker or friend who’s always sending you links with a note that says “Thought you might like to read/see this?”? That’s me. Always has been. Just think of me as your personal health, wellness, and happiness curator. ;)

So this week, I decided to share a few people whose work has changed the way I think about living a happy and healthy life. Things that made me run to Facebook and Twitter to share IMMEDIATELY. Or grab the phone to call a friend and say “Oh my god, have you read this?!”. Or work them into conversations as much as possible for weeks. (Annoying? Perhaps. Useful? Occasionally.)

I also know that when I find myself repeatedly sharing things with my clients, it’s time to make sure you’ve seen a few of them too.

Have a look. I hope they inspire you as much as they did me.

Kelly McGonigal is a psychologist at Stanford University who brings science back to earth by helping us understand how to apply research findings to our lives, particularly in the areas of health and happiness. In this TED Talk, she talks about her current research on stress…and how to see the positive side of it. (She also wrote a book called The Willpower Instinct that I’ve been meaning to pick up.) Watch it all the way to the end; Dr. McGonigal’s response to the emcee’s question is worth waiting to hear.

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work who studies courage, vulnerability, authenticity, and shame. She’s probably best known for her 2010 TED Talk, The power of vulnerability (it’s been viewed almost 12 million times…so far), in which she talks about some of the research that eventually ended up in her recent book, Daring Greatly. It’s seriously one of the most compelling reads of my year. Pick up a copy. It will change your life.

Daring Greatly | Brené Brown

Kristin Neff is Associate Professor of Human Development at the University of Texas at Austin. I came across her work via Brené Brown, who mentions her studies of self-esteem and self-compassion in Daring Greatly. So much of how we relate to ourselves – especially when it comes to health goals like losing weight and getting in shape – involves beating ourselves up for our failures. Check out Dr. Neff’s website for self-compassion exercises…and the science behind how and why they work to make us happier. Below is a talk Dr. Neff gave about the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion. You might be surprised.

Can you tell I have a degree in psychology? ;)

My psychology geekiness aside, tell me in the comments:

  • What surprised you about what these women shared?
  • Have you read or seen anything recently that changed your view of what makes us happy and healthy? How did it affect your self-care habits?

P.S. Is the Halloween candy bowl calling your name? Control your sugar cravings for good…in just 10 days. I’ll show you how.

Love,

Lara signature

3 easy fall recipes to boost your energy

Easy fall dinnerIt’s been a crazy few weeks here at Dalch Wellness!

I’ve worked my tail off to get my Effortless Eating Program out to the world (congrats if you’re one of my fall effortless eaters!). At the same time, I’ve insisted on not missing out on all of the amazing things that Fall brings to the Pacific Northwest.

For me, Fall includes lots of cooking (it’s cold outside!) with things like sweet potatoes, apples, pears, acorn squash, potatoes, and other yummy root veggies and fall squashes.

But recently – more than ever – I’ve needed to make simple meals to keep myself fueled and on track with whatever I’m doing.

So this week, I show you how to make one of my favorite fall dinners, using one of the beautiful fall veggies I bought at the Sunday Ballard Farmers Market in Seattle a few days ago. (I also threw in a random not-necessarily-fall-but-quick dinner idea that I recently rediscovered.)

The acorn squash recipe is here. And here’s a great fall breakfast idea from Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Wellness that I made – and loved! – this week: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. (I added a sprinkle of walnuts on top.) It’s quick, easy, nourishing, and yummy…for us busy, busy, busy types who need the extra energy. :)

P.S. Are we connected on Facebook? Join the party on the Dalch Wellness Facebook page! We share lots of good stuff…and have silly conversations about pancakes, waffles, pumpkin spice lattes, and the occasional “healthy” food too. ;)

P.P.S. You can find Skillet Diner Bacon Jam here. :)

xo,

Lara signature

 

 

How eating effortlessly changed my life

I get asked a lot why I do what I do…why I care that other people feel relaxed and happy about their food choices, instead of obsessed and stressed out.

It’s a fair question. And the answer isn’t entirely altruistic.

Like all good Type A achievers, I think the world – and the people in it – should be a certain way…namely, like me. ;)

But the good news is that, in this particular case, my tendency to think everyone should be like me works to your advantage.

In this week’s post, I share a story I’ve never shared before…one that might shed some light on one of the reasons I’m on a mission to help you eat effortlessly and what I’ve learned in my journey to get there.

Pancakes

The world’s best pancakes (seriously)…at Lake Placid Lodge.

I grew up in the South (Richmond, Virginia to be precise) and went to a girls’ school from kindergarten all the way through high school.

While I’m beyond grateful for the things I learned there and attribute a huge amount of my success to the foundation I gained from the experience, I also learned first hand how relentless girls can be when it comes to looks and body image. (Remember the movie Mean Girls? There are a few in every bunch.)

I don’t think my high school was unusual in this respect: The way you looked determined, to a large extent, your social status.

Many of my classmates were obsessed with their weight. They dieted and exercised obsessively. They did anything and everything to maintain an unnaturally skinny frame. Several of them struggled with eating disorders.

And who could blame them?! Girls can be, well, mean! Add that to images of perfect women in magazines and on TV and…yeah, it’s tough out there for girls. (Sadly, not much has changed since I was in high school.)

Looking back on it, I see how lucky I was. I had a naturally athletic and slim build, one that I didn’t have to work all that hard to keep (although I was active in sports throughout my years in school).

Despite that, I wasn’t immune to the social pressure to stay thin.

I wasn’t one of the “popular girls.” I was somewhere between geeky and popular…not a total outcast, but a bit bookish…a straight A student who put studying first, no matter what else was going on in my life. As a result, I had to fight for my social status (that’s what my teenage brain told me, anyway).  

While I escaped the hell of an eating disorder, there were times when I ate nothing for breakfast, a small frozen yogurt with a little granola sprinkled on top for lunch, and a Lean Cuisine or salad for dinner. I was probably eating less than 1000 calories a day in some cases. Not good for an active teenager (the standard calorie recommendation for a teenage girl is MUCH higher).

But I could never keep up with such restrictive ways of eating for long. Even then, it seemed a little crazy to me.

Emotional eating was my true demon in high school (still is on occasion) especially during one particular summer.

I have vivid memories of coming home from my summer job one afternoon, turning on the TV to watch Wimbledon (I was obsessed with tennis that summer), and marching back and forth between the TV room and the kitchen with a parade of different – and often bizarre – food combinations in hand.

She may not remember this, but my mom came home to find me sobbing on the couch because I just couldn’t stop eating and felt so full I wanted to be sick. I don’t remember what emotional hole I was trying to fill with that food (god only knows…I was an angst-filled, teenage girl ;); but it must have been big, because I just kept eating and eating.

Lucky for me, my 16-year-old body handled the abuse and bounced right back…and my restrictive diets and emotional eating never amounted to anything more than brief moments in time.

Somewhere along the way, I must have decided that diets were stupid.

And as I entered my 20s and 30s, I learned that food is one of the great pleasures of life. I wanted to love food without abusing it…to feel healthy without being obsessive about it.  

So I started experimenting, still trying to control the way I felt by making food choices that would get me there. What I learned, though, is that I had to let go of control to regain it. That approaching food with a measuring stick and a dash of guilt – or as a replacement for other things that were missing in my life – made it HARDER to “control.”

Here’s what I learned (and what I hope you’ll take to heart):

  • You can enjoy food – whatever food you like, really – if the rest of your life is in balance.
  • When your life is out of balance, food can be a drug.
  • When your life is in balance – when you take care of yourself without becoming obsessed with the task – food is a journey; a comfort; a sensual pleasure; a creative outlet; fuel for your life.
  • Eating well and being fit shouldn’t be inconvenient or overwhelming; they should be part of the fabric of your life. Finding ways to eat and move that make you feel good makes them feel as essential – and effortless – as brushing your teeth.
  • Taking it one day or one week at a time gets you to your goals faster than trying to plan an entire year. The days on which you make “less than ideal” choices weave right in with the days on which you take care of yourself in a way that honors the beautiful, dynamic, amazing woman you are…and they all sort of balance each other out in the end.

All of these things make eating…well, effortless.

You know how, when you try too hard to do something, it never seems to work? Yep. That rule seems to apply to eating, weight loss, exercise and everything else we do to “be healthy” too. Who knew?

Oh, and by the way…this is an ongoing journey, so don’t beat yourself up for not having it all figured out yet. It took me years – a couple of decades, actually – to “figure it out.” And I’m still figuring it out every single day.

So, remember how I said that I think everyone in the world should be like me? Here’s what I mean…

It makes me terribly sad – and a little crazy, actually – when I hear stories of women whose lives are run by food, who’ve become so obsessed with the task of “being healthy” that they’ve lost sight of why they want to be healthy in the first place. I grew up with that all around me at school, and it just doesn’t have to be that way.

It makes me angry, even…angry that we live in a world that sends girls and women so many unhelpful messages about food and, to be honest, a little angry at them for not letting me help them. (There’s that type A thing. ;)

Because the answer is soooo amazingly simple!

That’s why I’m on a mission to help you eat effortlessly – and without stress and guilt – every day. Your answers may not be exactly the same as mine, but I’m trying really hard to shortcut it for you. :)

(FYI: I’m not talking about eating disorders…that’s a much trickier place to be and not so easy to get out of. My good friend Minh-Hai Alex is a rock star when it comes to helping those with eating disorders. Check her out here.)

Now I’d love to hear your story. Tell me in the comments:

  • What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to eating right and staying healthy?
  • What experiences did you have growing up that shaped how you feel about food, being “in shape,” and staying healthy?
  • What have you learned as an adult that’s helped you create a happier relationship with food and your body?

P.S. This is your LAST CHANCE to secure a spot in the fall session of The Effortless Eating Program. Sign up now, because registration closes at 11:59p PDT on Wednesday, October 9th and won’t open again until Spring 2014. If you’re on the fence about joining the program, it’s time to take action. I and your fellow effortless eaters are waiting to welcome you!

With so much love,

Lara signature

Top 5 posts for making self-care a priority (even when you’re busy)

Last week, I shared a few of the excuses I make to avoid the “work” of self-care. (A couple of you chimed in in the comments to share your stories too – thank you!)

Which excuse did you relate to?

My guess is that “I’m too busy” had you nodding your head, right? :)

Okay. I hear you. But since I’m in the business of making busy and healthy co-exist, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite posts about making self-care a priority…and what specific things to focus on when you’re in “self-care triage mode” (i.e., life gets insanely busy).

Pick one – maybe two – habits from these posts to rotate in this week and you’ll be on your way to feeling amazing…no matter what fall throws at you.

  1. How to keep up with self-care when life gets in the way
  2. Get slow: 4 steps to avoid exhaustion and enjoy your life more
  3. 11 tips for extreme self-care
  4. 5 ways to make travel healthy and stress-free
  5. Why sleep may be the missing piece to your weight loss puzzle

P.S. If you’d like my support in making your self-care habits stick, you won’t want to miss the fall session of The Effortless Eating Program. Registration is only open for a little while – and the next session isn’t until Spring 2014 – so take action now!

xo,

Lara signature

5 excuses busy women make for skipping self-care

It’s the first week of fall and most of us have a project list a mile long.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about motivation killers…things that deflate us as we’re working towards big goals.

But what if you don’t even get to that point because you make excuses before you even take the first step towards your goals ?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a master of “reasons I can’t do this or that” when I want to be.

I’m pretty convinced that busy women in particular have a special talent for coming up with reasons not to tackle this or that project, especially when it comes to self-care and health goals. We can ALWAYS find something “more important” to focus on, right? ;)

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Here are some of the best (worst?) excuses we make for not making self-care (i.e., our health) our number one priority…and how you can move past them to start feeling amazing. (I should know. I’ve made these excuses myself…recently. ;)

  1. I’m too busy. Or “I don’t have time.” This is my personal favorite. It’s just so easy to use! But here’s the thing: We all make choices about how we spend our time every single day. If we want to make something happen, we make it happen. A few months back, I’d resigned myself to not having a regular yoga practice. I’d even shifted blame to my local yoga studio for not having classes at the times I wanted. (Ha!) Then I came across a website called Yogaglo that allows me to take amazing yoga classes online. I started streaming them from my iPad to my Apple TV about 2-3 times a week and voilà! – I magically had time for a yoga practice. In my living room. No more excuses.
  2. It’s too expensive. Maybe you’ve considered hiring a trainer or a health coach or participating in a program like The Effortless Eating Program…you know, to force yourself to make self-care a priority. ;) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed support and decided that it was just “too expensive.” Fast forward a few months, and I end up back in that place…desperately needing an assist and finally acknowledging that asking for support is worth every penny because it gets me where I want to go faster and with far less stress than trying to figure it all out on my own. (Sort of like the “going it alone” motivation killer I talked about a few weeks ago.)
  3. I’m already a healthy eater, athlete, whatever. I find that when I use this excuse, it usually means that I’m resisting taking care of myself out of fear rather than out of being 100% comfortable with how I’m feeling. Perfect example: My hip has bothered me lately (18 months of hardcore cycling at Flywheel is finally catching up with me). I’ve been thinking about calling my physical therapist for at least two weeks now. I’ve even told several people that I’m going to call him. But the little voice in my head keeps saying “I’ve had weird pains like this before and they’ve been fine after a few weeks. I know how to deal with it. I’m a Pilates instructor, for god’s sake! I’ve been active my whole life. What could my PT possibly tell me that I don’t already know?” Ummm…right. What could someone who works with clients with these kinds of challenges all day POSSIBLY know that I don’t? I call BS.
  4. It requires too much discipline. I just don’t have that kind of willpower! Here’s the thing about making self-care a priority: Once you start eating a little better or exercising a little more or allowing yourself enough sleep, it doesn’t take long for it to feel effortless. Creating new habits does require a smidge of discipline upfront – it took me about a month of dragging my butt to my yoga mat to make it a regular thing (and the support of a friend who was also doing a “30-day yoga challenge“) – but they quickly become second nature. The trick is to focus on the benefits that happen quickly – like more energy and clearer thinking – instead of on the stuff that takes a little longer, like weight loss. (That’s another one of my “motivation killers:” expecting instant gratification.)
  5. I feel guilty putting myself first. I saved the best for last. ;) This excuse is almost universal with women – married, single, kids, no kids. Doesn’t seem to matter. For whatever reason (too complicated to get into here, I’m sure), we’re programmed to take care of everything else – family, friends, work – before we take care of ourselves. I spend a big chunk of my time with clients giving them permission to take care of themselves…and reminding them that, if they don’t, they won’t be particularly useful to the people in their lives who depend on them. (Not to mention much less pleasant to be around. Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, not putting you at the top of your priority list eventually makes you grumpy.) So give yourself a break. Do something nice for yourself, even if it’s just a couple hours a week to spend time on you. The people in your life will thank you.

Your turn! Tell me in the comments:

    •    Which of these excuses do you make most often?
    •    What’s helped you move past them and start making YOU a priority?

P.S. The next video in my free video training series goes live on Thursday! Learn the single biggest reason you’re not exercising…and how to tackle it so you can get movin’ again. :) Sign up to get the video series, designed to help you make little tweaks for massive results.

xo,
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