Willpower, gummy worms, and choosing your way to happiness

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This past weekend, my mom and I took a mother-daughter trip to the Superbowl of pageantry, the Miss America pageant. It’s held every year in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which means that in addition to the lure of gambling, it’s also home to some of my most tempting vices. Namely, funnel cake, cupcakes, and gummy worms.

How much do I love gummy worms? A whole lot. I also love gummy bears, Dots, Mike and Ikes… you get the picture. It it’s pure sugar, fruit flavored, with zero nutritional value, it is for me.

Or, I guess I should say, it used to be for me.

This weekend I had a major aha moment, and it all centered around the It’sugar store right across from Caesar’s Palace.

After a very good forty-five minutes of playing Blackjack on the cheap-o tables at the Tropicana, I was up $30 and was looking to splurge (side note, I am great at Blackjack because I ALWAYS follow the rules and never bet enough to get emotional. If you want to always finish up, that’s the secret). My heart was set on a little plastic baggie full of sugary, gummy goodness.

So there I was, standing in front of It’sugar, and it hits me: eating gummy worms used to make me happy, but it’s not something that is ever going to make me happy long term. Sure, the dopamine spike is nice, but it doesn’t last. So, I could treat myself to the quick sugar hit, or I could save my money and spend it on something that would last a bit longer.

You guessed it: there were no gummy worms to be had.

My choice to not spend my money on my favorite gummies had little to do with willpower, but instead had to do with my recognizing that in that situation, and in every situation, I have a choice.

Earlier this year, I would combat a bad day, reward a workout, and treat myself with food. Gummy worms, French fries, slices of cake from Publix… it’s no wonder that I gained weight, and it’s quite honestly surprising that I didn’t gain more. I always chose the temporary high over my long-term goals because I characterized myself as someone who lacked willpower. Further, my poor decision almost always led to a whole day (or more) of poor eating decisions because I “had already screwed up.” But willpower is a self-construction, and can be so overwhelming when you’ve already determined that it is something you lack.

I have been a longtime student of Brian Tracy, and one of the most powerful mantras he shares is simple: “I am in control.” In every situation, no matter how bad it is, there is always something that you are in control of. You always have a choice, at the very least in how you react to your situation. Further, most of the time, the situation we are currently in is a direct results of other choices we’ve made.

Willpower is an overwhelming concept because it requires you to decide exactly what kind of person you are going to be and then make every choice in alignment with that concept. When you make a choice that contradicts the bigger picture, it’s easy to beat yourself up because it feels like you have failed.

Instead, it is much easier to look at each choice on an individual basis. Will I choose gummy worms or a non-sugar substitute? Will I choose to go to CrossFit or will I rest today? Will I choose to go to bed early or stay up late and wake up tired? Each time you make a positive choice that propels you towards your goals, you feel good. In this way, taking on life choice by choice builds you up because it gives you the feeling that you are constantly succeeding.

Both views will get you to your goals, but approaching each situation like you are in control and have a choice builds your self esteem through little successes along the way.

On Sunday afternoon, I chose to buy new (all-natural, fancy-pants, expensive) soap. Not because I dislike gummy worms, but because I am happier now than I ever was eating junk food every day. Because sugar-induced dopamine spikes trick you into thinking that you can eat your way happy, when in reality, true happiness stems from feeling empowered, unstoppable, and in control.

Today, you might be so far from your goals that you can’t even envision what it will look like once you hit them. That’s okay – everyone starts somewhere. You don’t have to wait until tomorrow to make a change, you can start with your very next choice.

The Road Warrior Series: Eating well while on the road

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If you’re following me in real life (or on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook), you know that in my current job, I work for a juice company. I spend eight hours a day traveling around Maryland, DC, and Virginia, and over the course of a week, I can travel almost 500 miles!

This is actually my third job that’s required a lot of travel, and the second that has given me a lot of one-on-one time with my steering wheel. That much time on the road has taught me some tricks that are helpful for anyone setting out on an adventure — including my other road warriors out there!

Enter: The Road Warrior Series. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some tips I’ve discovered to help you maximize your travel time, whether you’re going on vacation or pounding the pavement for your paycheck.

Today’s topic? Eating well while on the road.

When your office is your car, it’s sometimes pretty tough to make healthy decisions when it comes to food. Between fast food, gas stations, energy slumps, and trying to save money, it’s really easy to make unhealthy choices. I’ve found a few tricks that help me to stay on track:

Pack your own non-perishable snacks, or better yet, stash them in your glovebox. There is nothing worse than hunger striking when you’re driving down the highway in the middle of nowhere and your only food option is the mom-and-pop gas station. I always keep my favorite healthy snacks in my glovebox so that I never wind up hangry. Some great choices are snack/meal bars (I love Kind Bars, Larabars, and Quest Bars), your favorite protein powder/meal shake (I carry these AdvoCare Meal Replacement Shakes because they’re non-dairy and just need water), and dried fruit. Tuna packs are also an excellent option and can easily be added to a fast food salad for quick, lean protein.

Know what you’re going to order before you get in line for the drive thru. Ya’ll, I LOVE McDonald’s french fries. I love them. I LOVE Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme. Unfortunately, one cannot subsist on french fries and Crunchwraps alone. My game plan is to choose what I’m going to order before I get in the drive thru line. And, if I really want some greasy, delicious, terrible for me fare, I treat myself to the smallest size of one item. So, a four piece chicken nugget or a side of cinnamon twists.

Water, water, water. I never leave home without my Blender Bottle, which I fill up with water anytime I stop. While restaurants are required to give you a free water cup, if you want more than 12 oz, you’re gonna need to bring your container from home. Staying hydrated on the road is really difficult, and you’re really going to make it even tougher on yourself if you’re constantly drinking soda or coffee.

DO treat yourself to local treats. If you’re in a city and you come across a great local burger joint or donut shop, you should absolutely splurge, because food is part of experiencing a new place. I always make smarter decisions when I’m eating at restaurants or grabbing snacks that I could get at home — like choosing a salad at Chili’s or grilled chicken at McDonald’s — so that I feel good about indulging when I come across that once-in-a-lifetime local treat.

Pick your gas station wisely. I think most people would be surprised at some of the healthier options that many gas stations have — the trick is picking the right gas station. I almost exclusively stop at Wawa or Sheetz when I drive because I know for a fact that they have fresh food options. My favorite choices are hard boiled eggs (I eat the whites) and fresh fruit, but even the lamest of gas stations should carry Naked Juice or a Kind Bar, both of which have very few unpronounceable ingredients.

Those are my top five tips for eating well on the road — what advice do you have?

Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietician, and all opinions expressed are based on personal experience. Please consult with your doctor or an RD (like my friend Tara) before starting any diet program.

Your protein shake is not a milkshake (and that’s okay)

The people who tell you that their protein cookies taste just as good as a Mrs. Fields’ are liars.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, you’re never going to find a healthy equivalent to Sour Patch Kids or a really delicious, homemade chocolate chip cookie. And that’s okay, because these are treats that, when you get a craving, you should definitely enjoy in moderation.

But if you’re like me, you’re the kind of person who needs a sweet fix on the daily. Instead of satisfying your sweet tooth with a Snickers bar, finding a healthy sweet snack you like may help prevent a rough sugar crash. Plus, if you try any of the healthy desserts I’ve listed below, you’ll get the added benefits of nutrients, too.

Healthy banana split

Enter: the deconstructed banana split. In my (expert) opinion, it is the most delicious healthy dessert out there. If you wanted, you could even eat it for breakfast (although, I’d add some cereal, yogurt, or egg whites on the side). Slice a banana, top with sugar free chocolate syrup, sprinkle on some chopped walnuts, and add a dollop of whipped cream.

Other favorites of mine include:

  • Strawberries or pineapple with melted dark chocolate
  • This delicious (and nutrition-packed) vegan chocolate milkshake
  • A chocolate chip larabar microwaved for 10-15 seconds — it gets all melty and delicious!
  • A whole wheat waffle toasted and topped with dark chocolate chips and hazelnuts
  • Graham crackers spread with pumpkin, sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips (basically no-bake, totally delicious pumpkin pie)
  • Um, Kim Hoeltje cookies. Seriously, check out these easy to make, actually good for you, cookies.

Like I said, if I told you I got the same joy out of eating these things as I do a cookie, I would be lying. However, I also feel much less weighed down when choosing a healthier dessert than a heavier one. That said, if you want the cake, eat the cake — as important as it is to be healthy, moderation and enjoying food is a huge part of healthy living, too.

What’s your go-to healthy dessert? PS! Don’t forget to order your challenge today — we want YOU in on the #allstarslimdown!

Your guide to easy grocery shopping

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Grocery shopping has always been one of favorite things to do. That may make me a little strange – I mean, if I got to choose between mall shopping and grocery shopping, I’d choose grocery shopping 100% of the time.

I think it’s because I get more bang for my buck; I could buy one pair of pants or forty apples. FORTY!

Anyways, I digress.

Hands down, I find meal prep to be one of the lamest parts of trying to lose weight/staying healthy. It’s necessary, for sure, but it’s definitely not fun to cook all of your food (sans butter or oil) for an entire week. There is one redeeming part of meal prepping, though… it also means that I get to do one of the most fun things: grocery shop.

I tend to follow a few (unspoken) rules while shopping, so I thought it might be fun to share them with you:

Take inventory and have a snack before you shop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the grocery store on a whim just to buy things I’ve already got in my pantry or fridge. Before you go, take stock of what you have. It’s an easy way to save money. Similarly, having a small snack before you go can help you avoid impulse purchases you end up making just because you’re hungry (Birthday Cake Oreos, anyone?).

Stick to the perimeter, at least at the beginning of your trip. The highest quantity of least-processed foods are located around the perimeter of the store. Starting with the perimeter, rather than going aisle by aisle, means you’re filling your cart first with fruits, veggies, lean meats, and refrigerated goodies before you pick up your first boxed item.

Shop what’s in season. Typically, in-season produce is not only less expensive, but it tastes better, and chances are, it’s traveled a shorter distance to get to you. Meaning, in-season produce is a triple win: for your bank account, your taste buds, and the environment. To find what’s in season, go here.

Buy in bulk when it saves you money and use the freezer to keep it fresh. I LOVE fresh seedy bread, but it’s nearly impossible for me to finish a loaf before it goes bad. Luckily, that’s why the freezer was invented (or maybe it was for ice cream, who knows). Now, I buy the bread I want, and thaw it by the slice when I want it. Similarly, if there’s a great deal on chicken or fish, I’ll buy in bulk and freeze for later.

What are some of your favorite grocery tips? Have a favorite store? I love Trader Joe’s because I find everything I need, my bill is less expensive, and I get in-and-out quickly.

Blend a better breakfast

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Happy Monday! I’ve been up since 6:00 this morning kicking butt and taking names. I’m doing this new thing called The Miracle Morning, based on the book of the same title by Hal Elrod. You can read more about it here. I’m planning on sharing more about my miracle mornings (and my review of the book!) in the coming weeks.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I usually prefer eating solid food. Multigrain bagels, egg whites and sweet potatoes, egg white mini muffin omelets…you name it, I love it.

This morning, though, we’re making a superfood smoothie that’s totally dairy-free, vegan, and awesome for you. More importantly, it tastes delicious. It contains complete protein, antioxidants, phytonutrients, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, vitamins and minerals, and tons of clean, natural energy.

I took it directly from Hal’s Miracle Morning book, so I can’t take credit for developing this recipe. I can, however, take full credit for totally demolishing this smoothie this morning.

Enjoy, and be sure to share your favorite smoothie recipes in the comments!

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Miracle Morning Super-Food Chocolate Smoothie: Just blend and serve!

  • 1 Banana
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1 c. almond, soy, or rice milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 c. ice
  • 1 tbsp. maca powder
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp. chocolate hemp protein powder
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1-2 tbsp. cacao powder