Category Archives: holidays

How to Dye Eggs Using Natural Easter Egg Dye

Naturally dyed Easter eggs

Picture courtesy of the Bloom Blog

When my children were much younger, one of my favorite Easter activities was dying Easter eggs. The fun the kids had experimenting with different decorating techniques and proudly displaying their works of art created many precious memories. We attached a significant event to each color as one way of teaching the wonder of the Easter story.

As the years passed, I began to have concerns about the ingredients used in commercial egg dying kits. Does it really matter that egg dyes contain artificial ingredients since we don’t eat the shells? Yes, as the vinegar added to the egg dye tablets makes the shells more porous, thereby allowing the dye to potentially soak through. On top of that, we all know how common it is for eggs to crack during the boiling stage, and have all eaten brightly colored eggs as a result. My preference is to therefore use natural Easter egg dyes to avoid any exposure to potential toxins. 

Commercial egg dye ingredientsAs can be seen in the graphic at left, the ingredients contained in the most common OTC egg dying kits include artificial dyes and a variety of artificial chemicals and foaming agents. The artificial foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate is a known irritant with suspected mutagenic properties that is known to remain in the body’s tissues for an extended period of time. Since we avoid eating foods or using body products containing these ingredients, it therefore makes sense to avoid them in egg dyes.

Nature provided many wonderful alternatives for making natural Easter egg dyes. The table that follows shows which common kitchen ingredients can easily be used to create beautiful dyes:

Color Products Used
Blue Pureed blueberries; red cabbage; 
Orange (light) Turmeric; carrot tops; 
Yellow Yellow onion skins; chamomile tea; 
Lavender Grape juice; red cabbage; 
Red/Burgundy Red wine; paprika; cherry juice; raspberry juice
Tan/Brown Coffee; tea;
Green Grass (yes, the stuff growing in your yard); spinach; liquid cholorophyll
Pink Hibiscus tea; diluted red wine; beet juice; cranberry juice; 

The most important issue with using botanicals and other natural ingredients for natural Easter egg dyes is to make sure the ingredients are all edible. As I said before, egg shells are somewhat porous, so you want to be sure your dye ingredients are edible. If they are not, please only use the eggs for decoration and do not eat them.

Some people like to hard boil their eggs at the same time they make their dye, while others make their dyes and then color the eggs. I prefer the latter method, as it creates less mess and brighter colors. 

To dye eggs:

  1. Hard boil the number of eggs you wish to dye. Allow to cool and store them in the refrigerator until your dyes are ready.
  2. Choose which colors you wish you make and gather the necessary ingredients. Plan on needing about one cup of plant material for each color; 1-2 tablespoons of powdered spices; or 1/2-1 cup of juices. The more colorant you use, the more vibrant the egg color will be.
  3. Boil each botanical or spice in a separate pot of 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons vinegar for about 20 minutes. A longer boil will create a more vibrant color.
  4. If using juices for colorant, there’s no need to boil them. You can use one cup of straight juice and two tablespoons of white vinegar, or can blend the juice with one cup of water and two tablespoons vinegar. I recommend experimenting with straight juice before adding water so you can find the right blend for the perfect color.
  5. After boiling, strain the plant material or spices out of the liquid and pour the liquid into a ceramic/glass bowl or measuring cup. Be sure to use non-porous bowls that will not be stained by the dyes.
  6. Gently drop the eggs into the containers of prepared dye. They need to sit in the dye for a minimum of 20 minutes, but letting them sit overnight will achieve the brightest hues.
  7. When the eggs reach the color you wish, remove them from the dye and gently blot dry with a paper towel.
  8. The eggs will not be shiny, but you can rub a tiny amount of liquid oil on the eggs to create a shine.

For added fun, make designs on the eggs with a white crayon before putting in the dye solution, or use rubberbands to make wild patterns on the eggs before dying. Both techniques will create white spaces where the dye did not come in contact with the egg shell.

To see how others made natural Easter egg dye, I recommend visiting these sites:

The Bloom Blog, Natural Easter Egg Dyes

Live Science, Coloring Eggs with Natural Dyes

Serious Eats, How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally without Buying a Kit

That’s it! Making and using natural dyes is very simple and easy. Have you tried this before? If so, please share pictures of your creations on the Good Works Wellness Facebook page!

 

10 Reasons Resolutions Fail and Ways to Succeed

List of Resolutions

According to researcher Richard Weisman, 50% of people in the US create new year resolutions each year, and 88% of those resolutions fail. I’ve seen this in action in my gym. In the days and weeks following the holidays, there are so many people working out the huge venue actually seems crowded. By February 15, attendance settles back into the normal range and the crowd disappears.

Many people have good intentions and resolve to lose weight, improve their health, get six-pack abs and more as the old year ends and the new one begins. Unfortunately, most resolutions rarely last beyond the end of February. The following list shares the top reasons resolutions fail and also provides tips for achieving success in resolutions. If you would like more information about succeeding with new year resolutions, visit Revolving Not to Resolve: Success in New Year Resolutions.

Here are the top ten reasons many resolutions fail:

  1. Failing to Plan:  Many people make resolutions and set goals without really thinking about what is required to achieve and maintain their resolution. If you wish to change your behavior – which is essential to achieving any resolution – it is imperative to PLAN and create a strategy for success. Create a realistic plan (or find someone to help you create one) that will guide you to make the changes required to achieve your goals. Make sure your plan includes dates with specific milestone achievements. Also make sure each milestone is connected to a specific (non-food) reward. Celebrating your success should definitely be part of your plan! Having a detailed plan will help hold you accountable without overwhelming you and will also serve to motivate you. Trying to create change without having a road map to guide you is an exercise in futility. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap.
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  2. Trying to Move Mountains Instead of Mole Hills:  It is my belief that the main reason people’s resolutions fail is that they resolve to make huge changes instead of trying to make several small changes. For example, if someone wishes to lose 50 pounds in a year, that is a realistic goal. However, making a new year resolution to “lose 50 pounds” is overwhelming and unrealistic. A more realistic goal would be to lose 4 pounds in January. The same standards apply to any change. Instead of stating your year’s goal in a single resolution, state January’s goal. Once you achieve January’s goal, celebrate your success and move on to February’s. People who set huge goals without breaking them into milestone achievements often become overwhelmed and quit. Avoid that by creating smaller goals that lead into your ultimate goal.
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  3. Having Unrealistic Expectations:  Another of my firm beliefs is that unrealistic expectations are the largest cause of unhappiness in the world. The same applies to resolutions. Many people fail to achieve or maintain their resolution because they expect too much of themselves, expect to receive different benefits from the resolution than what they actually do, or because they expect the behavior of others to change as a result of their behavior change. Unrealistic expectations can often be avoided by creating a solid plan and by setting realistic goals, but it is also important to identify WHY you are making the resolution. Identify what you wish you achieve by making the resolution, and then very honestly think about whether or not those desires are realistic. Take time to do some soul searching and to identify if you are changing your own behavior because you hope it will change how people treat you or will change how they perceive you. You can only control your own behavior and cannot expect your change to affect how others treat you. Journaling can be very helpful as your begin any journey of change, but may be especially helpful as you make changes.
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  4. Being Too Vague:  Many resolutions fail because they are not specific enough. Resolutions must be specific enough to motivate someone to create true change. For example, resolving to “Eat Better” is very noble, but if you don’t specify what that means, you are setting yourself up for failure. Resolutions need to be very specific and have specific, achievable outcomes in order to be successful.
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  5. Making Too Many Resolutions:  Many people make multiple new year resolutions in an attempt to change many aspects of their life. This is usually unrealistic. Making even one change requires a lot of effort, discipline and dedication. Trying to make multiple changes is almost impossible to maintain long-term. If you have changes you wish to make, I recommend prioritizing them and focusing on them one at a time. As you focus on making one major change, be conscious of the other changes you wish to make and work to make better choices in those areas without distracting you from your focus goal.
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  6. Trying to Do it Alone:  Changing habits is challenging. It is therefore very helpful to get help and seek accountability from others. You can join a support group, ask friends or family to hold you accountable, find a buddy who is trying to make the same change, or any other source of encouragement and accountability. If you are trying to make a significant change that requires guidance, hire a professional. The expense will be worth it when you achieve your goal (or to set more realistic goals) as a result of hiring someone who knows more about the subject than you do.
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  7. Expecting Different Results from What You Receive: Another problem I see frequently is that people make new year resolutions, achieve them successfully, but do not receive the benefits they expected. I once had a client who broke down in tears while sharing that she had successfully stopped eating processed foods. She was depressed and angry because removing processed foods from her diet had not lowered her cholesterol. As we discussed things further, she shared that eliminating processed foods had resulted in higher energy levels, less PMS, weight loss, fewer breakouts and fewer mood swings. She had been focusing so narrowly on lowering her cholesterol that she failed to notice all the other benefits she gained. In addition, she had chosen the wrong solution to meet her goal. I created a plan for her to reduce her carbohydrate intake and exercise more. Her cholesterol dropped 100 points in three months. When making a resolution, be careful to specify a result that pertains to the change you made. Be ready to recognize unexpected benefits and celebrate them!
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  8. Failing to Prepare:  Many resolutions fail because people create a resolution and plan for its success, but fail to make the necessary preparations to allow them to succeed. For example, resolving to stop eating ice cream would be very difficult if the freezer still overflows with it. Resolutions take effort, so begin preparing several weeks in advance to make things easier. If you are resolving to stop doing something, remove anything that will tempt you to do it. If you are resolving to start doing something, make sure you are surrounded by motivators. The pre-work should also include mental and emotional preparation. In the weeks preceding the change, take time to review your reasons for making the change, remind yourself of the benefits you wish you gain. If you find you are not excited by the change or that you wind up expecting to feel deprived, it may be wise to re-evaluate the change and to reconsider your reasons for making it. Being excited about making a change helps ensure success more than anything else.
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  9. Setting a “Should” Goal instead of an “I Want to” Goal:  Many people make resolutions which they don’t really want to achieve. They resolve to start exercising or stop smoking simply because they think they should, not because they truly want to. It is very difficult to maintain change when you’re doing it because you should and not because you want to. Most “should” resolutions are valid and would have definite benefit, but maintaining the change will be impossible without identifying reasons that make you want to change. If you cannot turn a “should” goal into one you wish to achieve, leave it alone until you’re ready to achieve it.
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  10. Making a Resolution for Someone Else:  Similar to the reasons shared in #9, it is difficult to achieve any resolution made simply because you know someone else wants you to. Maintaining change requires motivation fueled by desire. Doing something for someone else may not provide enough motivation, especially if you are making a change you don’t really want to make. Making a resolution for someone else also signals a failure to communicate in the relationship. If you feel you must change to please someone else, it may be time to openly discuss your feelings and theirs. Honesty is always the best policy. Discuss the situation openly and honestly, then try to reach a compromise that works for both of you.

 Here are my top seven ways to succeed when making a resolution:

  1. Resolve to make changes that are “bite sized” and realistic. After you achieve the first one, move on to the next stage.
  2. Reward yourself for success. Celebrate each milestone you achieve! Find rewards which are not food-based and which do not counteract the change you just made. 
  3. Make a list of why you want to make the change and how you will achieve it. Consider the emotional motivators that are driving your desire to change.Hope is not a Strategy for Resolutions
  4. Create a plan for starting and maintaining the change, and then complete any preparations needed to aid your success.
  5. Make a list of everything you hope to gain from making the change you resolve to, and honestly evaluate whether the benefits you listed are realistic. If you listed items that pertain to how people will treat you or view you after you make the change, recognize that you cannot expect to change the behavior or thoughts of others by changing your behavior. Make sure your list contains items that are measurable and which only pertain to yourself.
  6. Get help. Join or start a support group, ask friends and family to support and encourage you, or hire a professional. Do whatever it takes to ensure you won’t feel alone in making the change and that you will receive both accountability and encouragement along the way.
  7. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail. No one is perfect. When (not if) you slip, take time to learn from it and move on without looking back. Try to identify why you failed, and then create a plan to circumvent the failure in the future. Beating yourself up, heaping shame yourself and feeling guilty gains nothing. Don’t let a minor slip become a huge negative. Turn it into a positive!

 Are you making a resolution this year? What tips can you share for succeeding with resolutions? 

 

 All graphics courtesy of One Way Stock.

10 Healthy Time-Saving Holiday Tips

There are about two weeks left in the holiday season. How are you feeling? Tired? Grumpy? Overwhelmed? My hope is that you are enjoying a well-rested, balanced holiday season. If you are not, here are ten holiday tips that may help:

  1. Just Say No:  Seriously … say NO. No to party invitations, no to requests to bring cookies to your children’s school events, no to one more piece of fudge,  and no to the surprise gift exchange request. Any stress you are feeling is your Christmas Clockown creation. Say no and set yourself free from it! Never volunteer to meet a need unless filling that need is appropriate for you and will bring you joy. (Saying “yes” to sex during the holidays is a great way of reducing stress, but that topic doesn’t really fit this post.)
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  2. Buy Holiday Meals and Appetizers:  Most health food retailers offer a pre-cooked holiday meal you can buy. This allows you to eat a whole-food, mostly organic holiday meal without going to the effort of cooking it yourself. It’s ok to let someone else cook. I promise. If buying food pre-made is too much for your pride to handle, take advantage of mixes. Liven them up with your own personal touches and enjoy the time savings.
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  3. Plan and Prioritize:  Sit down a few weeks (or months) before the holidays and map out a strategy. Schedule deadlines for specific tasks and then stick to them. Accomplishing a little bit each week prior to the holidays instead of trying to cram everything into two weeks will help take the pressure off.
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  4. Delegate:  Stop being a martyr. Assign tasks on that list you made in #3 to other people. Involve your children and your spouse in every aspect of holiday preparations. (I guarantee your children are capable of doing far more than you’re asking them to.) Don’t limit delegating to holiday preparations. Host a pitch-in instead of doing everything yourself, Delegate tasks during the party, too. Ask (firmly, if needed) guests to help with dishes, post party clean up, etc. If needed, hire help. Consider it a gift to yourself!
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  5. Shop Online … in Duplicate:  This one is a no-brainer. Do your shopping online. When you find a perfect gift, buy it for more than one person. Take advantage of free gift wrapping offered by some online retailers.
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  6. Re-Write Tradition:  It’s ok to change tradition in favor of simpler options. If there are family traditions that have become a burden, find new ways of celebrating. It may seem a bit strange at first, but the new tradition will soon feel just as cozy as the old one. Having less stress will be a nice benefit.
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  7. Communicate:  Clear, honest and consistent communication during the holidays is imperative. This is possibly the most important of all these holiday tips. It’s truly ok to let Aunt Martha know you can’t eat her annual fruitcake. It’s ok to let acquaintances know you are cutting down your gift list and would rather meet for a cup of coffee than exchange gifts.  It’s also ok to let your extended family know in advance if there are topics you’d rather not discuss during the family get-together. If you’re bringing a guest you know the rest of the family doesn’t care for, communicate that in advance and make it clear you expect your family to be on their best behavior. Be kind and courteous, but be honest and firm. Clear communication can help decrease stress and awkwardness.
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  8. Work Out at Home Instead of at the Gym:  Save time by using a workout video or by taking advantage of your lonely treadmill. Working out at home is a simple way to save time and a bit of stress. After all, you can work out in your jammies and no one will ever know. Notice I did not give permission to stop working out, but provided a simpler alternative.
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  9. Support a Worthy Cause Instead of Giving Gifts:  This is another no-brainer. Instead of buying many different gifts, use the money to make a donation to a worthy organization. Give everyone on your gift list a beautiful card notifying them that you made a donation in their honor to support a worthy organization. Not all of your recipients will appreciate such a gesture. That’s not your problem. Communicating your noble choice in advance may help.
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  10. Give it Up:  Give up your desire for perfection. Give up your unrealistic expectations. Give up any expectations you have of others. Give up your wish that __________ were different. Celebrate the perfection of your imperfection and savor every special moment. They are yours, so make the most of them!

 What are your favorite ways to simplify the holidays?

 

Photo courtesy of Aimee Wray

I Never Moved the Ornaments

I recently overheard a conversation between young mothers who were laughing about how their children decorated their Christmas trees. Each mom commented that she waited until the kids were asleep and then re-decorated the tree to fill in the “dead zone” that existed above the point the kids could reach. The implication was that having an “imperfect” tree would somehow detract from the joys of the holidays. I know this phenomenon is very common, but I don’t understand it. Is having a “perfect” tree so important that it justifies undoing and changing children’s efforts? Why is perfection so important?

As a mother of four, I have very fond memories of letting our children decorate the tree without help. I still remember the pride and excitement that radiated from their faces as they hung each precious ornament and repeatedly commented about Child Decorating the Treehow pretty the tree looked. I remember their “oohs” and “ahhs” when we turned out the lights and lit the lights on the tree.

I never moved the ornaments, garland or tinsel. Never. Each and every ornament was put exactly where the kids wanted it, so it seemed wrong (to me) to change anything. My kids would have noticed. (Trust me.) To me, changing what they created seemed to send the message that their honest handiwork wasn’t good enough. (I’m confident no child ever needed therapy because his mom moved the ornaments, so don’t get too hung up on that thought.) Another benefit is that the pictures of the tree through the years proved to be a great measuring stick of the kids’ growth. You can visibly see the ornaments creep a bit higher every year.

Please note I am not passing judgment on those who re-decorate their tree. I’m simply sharing that it makes no sense to me because having a perfect tree is not a realistic goal for me to have. I also confess I love visiting homes that are perfectly decorated. Kudos to you who are able to achieve that! I have a Pinterest board filled with your creations!

The phenomenon of re-decorating and undoing effort children took great pride in mystifies me. (Reloading the dishwasher mystifies me, too, but that’s a different issue.) My concern is that many people set themselves up for disappointment by trying to create the “Perfect Christmas” year after year. In my mind, a “perfect” holiday is about being with family and creating great memories. The decorations don’t really matter. (When my husband reads that, I’m quite certain he’ll start making plans to donate our twelve crates of Christmas decorations to whomever will take. them.) We always taught our kids to focus on the true Reason for the Season and didn’t put too much focus on the decorations. Decorating was part of the fun, but it had nothing to do with the joy of the holiday. I realized early on that the myth of the Perfect Christmas was just that: A Myth. A myth that could never be achieved with my lack of skills and a house filled with children. I therefore let go of that myth and learned to love and treasure our imperfect version of the perfect holiday. Doing so completely eliminated holiday stress and allowed us to celebrate in our own way. For more ways to reduce holiday stress, read: Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress.

My cousin and his wife also have four children: two older boys and two very active three-year old twin girls. His wife shared they use non-breakable ornaments, never move anything once the kids are done, and allow their girls to move and play with the ornaments throughout the season. What a beautiful way to eliminate stress and increase the kids’ fun! I love that!

So here is my encouragement: Lighten up! Leave the tree exactly the way the kids leave it, take pictures, show it off to guests, and celebrate every moment!

This year will be the last year we have any “children” at home. My stepsons are out on their own, my son is in college and in his own home, and my daughter recently signed a lease on her first apartment. I wasn’t planning on doing much decorating this year. It seemed like a lot of effort that very few people would enjoy. (My hubby’s a minimalist when it comes to Christmas decorating; I am Clark Griswold times twelve.) It then occurred to me that this would be our last Christmas with kids at home. I started thinking minimalism might not be fair to the kids. Then I caught myself and realized I had fallen into the trap of thinking the icing was more important than the cake. Shame on me!

My solution was to ask my daughter what she thought. Her response was that it would be nice to go all-out, but that it wouldn’t be fair since she wouldn’t be home very much to enjoy it. I therefore put up a smaller tree, fully decorated it, and displayed a few of our most treasured decorations. It was a relatively easy solution that created a festive atmosphere. UPDATE:  The following year we went all out and put everything out. It was wonderful and was nice to return to our “old” ways.

So … what do you do? Do you re-decorate or leave everything the way it was?

Photographer: Alec Couros

Holiday Helps to Maintain Peace

It’s that time of year. The time when folks often become overwhelmed with activity, unrealistic expectations and debt. The following posts are holiday tips from the past, but they are still very relevant. Please take time to read them and to help Holiday Bearscalm your holiday stresses. Please share your own tips in the comments!

Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress:  I recommend reading this one first. It contains simple tips to calming the holiday frenzy and to creating peaceful holidays that can truly be enjoyed.

Unusual Approaches to Keeping the Holidays Healthy:  More strong advice and helpful tips on ways to remain healthy during the holidays.

Simple Ways to Cut Carbs from Your Eating Habits:  Helpful tips on eating more healthily even during times of excess. 

Ten Tips for Avoiding Hangovers:  I hope you don’t need this post very often. The tips are helpful, but abstinence is the only sure way of avoiding a hangover. 

Resolving Not to Resolve: Success with New Year Resolutions:  Learn how to commit to change without setting yourself up to fail.

Holiday Gift Certificates:  There’s no easier way to beat holiday stress than to do your shopping online. Give the gift of health this year by blessing friends and family with Good Works Wellness gift certificates that can be redeemed for consultations, classes and webinars or in-office services. 

Graphic courtesy of Guillaume Brialon

Resolving Not to Resolve: Success in New Year Resolutions

Have you chosen a New Year Resolution yet? How likely are you to achieve your goal as a result? Although I applaud the attitude and desire that motivates New Year Resolutions, I’m not sure the “overnight sensation” approach is a good idea. Most New Year Resolutions become failed resolutions fairly quickly as List of New Year Resolutionspeople embrace unrealistic expectations, set impossible goals with impossible timelines, and soon become overwhelmed or frustrated and give up. 

I recently asked my followers on social media if they make resolutions and whether or not they are successful when they do. Most people responded they do not make resolutions because they typically fail, while others said they make resolutions but only attain them about half the time. My favorite response came from a friend who said he tries to improve every single day instead of waiting until the start of a new year to create change.

The problem with most New Year Resolutions are that they are “all or nothing” propositions that wind up being made with little forethought and which wind up being very temporary. Creating true lifestyle change that permanently alters habits takes a different approach.

Here are my recommendations for creating lasting change: 

  1. Identify why you want to change: Many people say they want to lose weight, but if you ask them WHY, you get a wide range of responses. Some will say they want to look better, others will say they want to be healthier, some will say they want to have more energy, and many will look at you as if you just asked the world’s stupidest question. Having a goal isn’t sufficient unless you can identify the reasons you want to reach the goal and can state what you will gain by attaining the goal. I recommend writing down your reasons so you can use them as motivation as you work toward your goal. Recognizing why you wish to reach a goal will also provide greater satisfaction when you reach your goal. One word of warning: Reaching a goal does not always have the outcome you thought it would. Recognize the benefits you gain even if they are not what you expected.The most common new year resolution is to lose weight. Unfortunately, some people want to lose weight because they believe being thinner will make them more popular, allow them to meet the man or woman of their dreams, or bring about other positive social changes in their life. One of the secrets of having a full social calendar is to love and appreciate yourself just as you are. Loving who you are and being content with where you are at creates a confidence and joy that other people enjoy being near. The type of people who are attracted to others simply because they’re thin aren’t the type of people you want in your life, anyway. Trust me.
     
  2. Break your primary goal into smaller steps: For most people, it makes sense to ease into your goal, using baby steps to reach it. For example, instead of setting a goal of not drinking caffeine (out of a desire to lower blood pressure or improve pH), set a smaller goal each week that will gradually build to create your final goal. For instance, give up energy drinks the first week, soda the next, and coffee the following week. In addition to making your goal easier to achieve by “chunking” it into smaller pieces, this also lessens the shock on your body and your psyche. Lessening the shock (or detoxification process) on your body will help you feel better and will again make it easier to stick to your plan and achieve success. It also lessens the emotional shocks that come with creating new habits. This approach can be used with any type of lifestyle change and is not limited to giving up food or drinks. There are times when giving up a food or beverage “cold turkey” is desirable, such as when a food allergy has been identified or when a health condition makes it necessary. However, making changes slowly and steadily brings a higher level of success when illness is not your motivator.
     
  3. Set a start date: Setting a target start date allows you to prepare mentally and emotionally for establishing new habits. Setting a start date also provides the opportunity to identify and eliminate any triggers that led to failure in the past. If you broke your goal into small steps or milestones, attach a time limit to each step. After you set your start date and subsequent milestone dates, use the time leading up to it to encourage yourself on a daily basis, to strengthen your commitment to meeting the goal, and to addressing any negative thoughts you have related to the goal. Use positive affirmations, write down your goals and review them daily, ask friends and family for encouragement and support, or use whatever motivational technique works best for you. Being prepared emotionally will make it easier to rise above and resist any temptations that come. 
     
  4. Celebrate your successes: Reaching goals is a huge accomplishment. CELEBRATE your success and reward yourself! When identifying your goals and milestones as mentioned in Step 1, attach a reward to each one. Pick rewards that are not food-oriented and which do not include anything you’re working to eliminate. Your rewards may include a pampering experience such as a massage, or may be as simple as allowing yourself (and asking your family to give you) one uninterrupted hour to read a book. Your rewards do not have to cost money. Be creative and choose rewards that will make you feel truly rewarded.
     
  5. Don’t let a single slip derail you: Nobody’s perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be. If you slip and step outside of the boundaries you created, use that slip as an opportunity to learn. Ask yourself what motivated the slip and how you could have avoided it. Learn from the slip, consider how you will resist similar situations in the future, and move on. Some people view a single slip as evidence they can’t succeed and use it as an excuse to abandon their entire plan. Don’t give into that temptation. If you deviate from your plan, learn from it and move forward without looking back. Beating yourself up about it won’t accomplish anything positive, so don’t do it.

The bottom line is that there’s more success in choosing to make tiny changes on a daily basis than in trying to accomplish a great change overnight.

Did you make a resolution this year? If so, what was it? 

Graphic courtesy of One Way Stock

My Holiday Prayer for You

This holiday season, my prayer for you is that your days will be filled with overflowing joy,

That you will know unlimited contentment in every moment,

That everyone you encounter will treat you honestly and ethically while wearing a smile,

That your body will glow with abundant health and your accounts with sufficient wealth.

I pray your household will be filled with peace, your heart with joy, and your outlook with hope.

I pray you will know no sadness, stress or anger in the year to come.

I pray every light will be green and every line short.

I pray doors of opportunity will open wide while doors of despair slam in your face.

I pray your weekends will be filled with sun and your weeks with productivity.

I pray your vehicles will carry you safely and your appliances never fail.

I pray every meal will strengthen you and be gently heated by the warmth of family and friends.

I pray your wardrobe always flatters and your shoes never hurt.

I pray your wisdom grows and your fears fade.

May every day begin with a smile of expectation and end with a sigh of satisfaction.

May you always have the confidence to ignore voices of doubt.

May each joy multiply and every sadness shrink.

Nativity Scene

May every raindrop create bouquets and every cloud sprout a rainbow.

May each day be full and each night peaceful. 

Most of all, I pray your heart never doubts you are loved deeply.
Your support blesses me. I sincerely pray this season is filled with much joy for you and those you love. May God richly bless you now and always

With Much Love,

Pamela Reilly

Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress

The holidays should be a time of joy. Unfortunately, many people get so caught up in holiday “shoulds and musts” that their season becomes a time of stress instead of a time of joy. Following are my recommended top ten ways to reduce holiday stress so you can enjoy your celebration.

  1. Let go of unrealistic expectations: Unrealistic expectations are the primary cause of disappointment and sadness during the holidays. Although it may be difficult, take time to consider which of your expectations are unrealistic and to accept the truth. Making the best of reality is a quick way to de-stress. Acceptance leads to joy!
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  2. Recognize that you are the source of your stress: It is tough to admit, but the stress you feel is genuinely all in your head. When you feel holiday stress, stop and ask yourself WHY you are stressed. If you can change the situation, do. If not, accept it, make the best of it, and stop stressing! (Refer back to point one if needed.)
    Two women experiencing holiday stress. 
  3. Get creative: Sometimes a little creativity is all it takes to eliminate holiday stress. Think outside of the box and come up with simpler ways of doing things. (Hint: It’s fine to have dinner catered or to buy the sides. I swear no one cares you bought the cheese ball instead of making it yourself. It’s fine to change the family meal to a pitch-in or go to a restaurant. Giving an occasional gift card is also acceptable. I promise.)
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  4. Keep a sense of humor and realize none of the fluff matters: When all’s said and done, none of the holiday fluff really matters. If things don’t go the way you planned, be flexible, laugh it off, and move on.
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  5. Just say NO: Most holiday stress is caused by overcommitment. Existing in a constant state of exhaustion is no fun and leads to illness. Instead of saying “yes” to every invitation, prioritize your commitments and say no to those which do not bring joy or which are too difficult to fit into your busy schedule.
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  6. Schedule time to do nothing: Take a day during the holiday season and dedicate it to doing absolutely nothing. Commit to spending the day with your family doing peaceful, stress-free activities. You owe it to yourself to take a day to recharge and refresh! If it’s impossible to commit an entire day to doing nothing, schedule a few hours each week and firmly devote them to being good to yourself.
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  7. Discuss changing traditions with your family: As families grow and mature, their needs and dynamics change. Take time each year to evaluate traditions and to openly discuss how traditions can be modified to better meet everyone’s needs. Things to discuss include drawing names instead of buying for each individual, meeting on a date other than Christmas day, making a communal donation to a charity instead of exchanging gifts, volunteering at a shelter instead of having a family meal, etc.. Consider meeting in January to completely eliminate holiday stress. If some family members are not willing to change, try to find a compromise that is not offensive to those who take comfort in tradition.
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  8. Use technology: Take advantage of time savers offered by technology. A few options include shopping online, sending an email card or newsletter, or getting together via a Google+ Hangout. The Hangout feature lets you connect “in person” with people all over the world.
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  9. Look outside of yourself: Proverbs 11:25 says it best: “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” Take the focus off of receiving and concentrate on giving. Giving your time and compassion has far more value than any material gift. Teaching your children to bless others and to appreciate the joy of giving is a gift that will multiply through the years.
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  10. Ditch the materialism: Gifts and food have no lasting value. Concentrate on the spiritual side of the holidays. In my family, we take special effort to focus on the fact we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. We blend all the other activities into this focus to give them higher meaning. Your celebration does not have to contain a religious focus in order to more enriching. Focus on gratitude, family and blessing others instead of gifts and food.

How do you avoid holiday stress? Please share a comment and let us know! Your ideas will help others de-stress and have more fun.

Unusual Approaches to Keeping the Holidays Healthy

This time of year, there are typically a glut of posts related to maintaining weight and making healthy foodSanta Eating a Cookie  choices during the holidays. Many of the recommendations are trite and share the same information that’s been shared for years. We’ve all heard the advice multiple times to eat something healthy before going to a party and to fill your plate with veggies before indulging in other goodies. It’s wise advice, but it’s time to breathe new life into holiday health tips. Eating fewer carbohydrates is a good place to start. For advice on how to eat fewer carbs on a daily basis, please read my post: Simple Ways to Cut Carbs from Your Eating Habits.

I’m going to share unique strategies for staying healthy during the holidays. My hope is to share tips that will enable you to enjoy the holiday festivities without feeling guilty. Here are my tips for staying healthy – and sane – during the holidays:
  1. Cut yourself some slack: Nothing is worse for your health than having unrealistic expectations of yourself, your family or your celebrations. Unrealistic expectations create a feeling of failure, which leads to beating yourself up for being normal. Negative emotions have been proven to cause health problems by causing inflammation and acidity. These factors can ultimately lead to cell damage and disease. Maintaining a positive outlook is essential to good health. My advice for the holidays is to not be overly strict. I share tips on how to maintain food balance below, but my best advice is to give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday festivities but to make wise choices and enjoy moderate serving sizes. When you splurge, enjoy and savor every bite to the fullest and then move on without looking back. (This advice naturally needs to be heeded with care for anyone dealing with blood sugar issues, food allergies or with health abnormalities caused by foods.)
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  2. Focus on the people, not the food:  Many people focus more on the food they’ll eat during the holidays than on the extra time they’ll have to renew relationships and to enjoy their friends and family. Maintaining the perspective of “living to eat instead of eating to live” can make a huge difference in how you eat and drink during the holidays. Focusing on catching up with friends and family instead of fixating on food will help you make good choices and avoid the buffet table. Instead of thinking about what you’ll load your plate with, choose instead to entertain the little ones (so their moms can enjoy a moment of peace), help the host and hostess, spend time with the grumpy relative no one else dares to, organize a group game, etc. I know from experience that when I focus on the people I’m with, food temptations fade into the background.
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  3. Focus on giving instead of receiving: This is another simple change in perspective that positively impacts body, mind and spirit. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to serve others. Volunteer at a local community agency, offer to help elderly neighbors with holiday chores, babysit for friends who have little children, reach out to people who do not have family nearby, or serve a meal at a homeless shelter instead of eating your own holiday meal at home. The end result is that you will most likely eat less, will drink less alcohol, and will receive an emotional and spiritual blessing that will positively impact your body chemistry. It is an undeniable truth that “he who refreshes others is himself refreshed.” When we tap into the freedom that comes from focusing on blessing others, we inevitably find that we are the ones who wind up being blessed.
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  4. Maintain moderation in all things: One piece of pecan pie isn’t going to destroy your health, but five pieces could definitely have a negative impact. As I said previously, give yourself permission to enjoy your favorite “splurges,” but put boundaries and limits on the frequency and serving size. Let yourself enjoy a single, small piece of pecan pie or whatever indulgence will bring you the most pleasure. Put boundaries around your splurge, enjoy and savor every single bite, and then stop. Research measuring the release of serotonin (a feel-good hormone) during meals found that we enjoy the first bite of any meal more than any other bite. Take advantage of this by accepting a small to moderate serving and putting special focus on that first bite. Chew it slowly, savor it and enjoy it. You may find that you won’t even need to finish the entire piece if you put extra effort into enjoying and savoring the first few bites. (Offer the remainder to Uncle Bob … he’ll love you for it!)
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  5. Counteract the Bad: Taking supplements is not a substitute for eating well, but there are some supplements that can help maintain health during the holidays. My favorite supplements to take during the holidays include (click the links to see examples):
Probiotics: It’s a simple fact that most people eat foods during the holidays that are richer and which may put a strain on digestion. Taking a daily probiotic (or taking one with every meal) will help maintain the correct balance of bacteria in the digestive tract and is known to greatly improve immunity and reduce inflammation. Since 70% of your immune system resides in your digestive tract, maintaining a stable balance of good bacteria is essential for good health. The rich foods and wild schedule of the holidays put an additional strain on digestive health, so taking a probiotic can help boost immunity ensure good digestion. For basic digestive assistance, I recommend using Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora probiotic. Taking one with each meal is recommended. For a stronger dose of probiotics, I recommend Renew Life’s Senior Formula, which is fine for anyone of any age. Taking at least one each day is recommended. Renew Life also makes a nice Children’s Probiotic which is chewable. Children can also benefit from using a probiotic.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is known to greatly improve immunity and reduce inflammation. Most experts recommend that adults take at least 2000 IU/day. Recent research found taking 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily was more effective than a flu shot in preventing the flu. Some people need much higher amounts of Vitamin D, especially anyone who lives in a region where it is difficult to get daily sun exposure. I recommend starting with 2000 IU per day and having blood levels checked every 3 months. I like Carlson’s 2000 IU Vitamin D3. Please read my article, 20 Surprising Facts About Vitamin D for more information. . 
Green Food (Powder or Capsules): A “green food” is a combination of dried superfoods containing high amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Green foods are a good source of foods which alkalize the body. They contain trace minerals and many other nutrients that boost immunity and counteract the negative effects of holiday eating. My favorites include Green Vibrance Capsules and Green Vibrance Powder. Each of these contains high amounts of probiotics in addition to dried grasses and other superfood. If you want a green drink that does not taste like grass, I highly recommend Amazing Grass’s Chocolate Green Superfood.
  1. Do the obvious: You know the drill … drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, wash your hands frequently, avoid the sour cream dip that’s been unrefrigerated for eight hours, eat more veggies, don’t have unrealistic expectations of friends and family about a “perfect holiday,” etc., etc.  Do what’s best for you, not what’s best for everyone around you. Make your health a priority.
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  2. Detox after the holidays:  One of my standing traditions is to use January to cleanse and detoxify. I choose a different approach and use different techniques based on what my toxic exposure was each year, but know that starting the year off right with a detox definitely improves my health and helps eliminate any harmful toxins consumed during the holidays. Even doing something as simple as eliminating all coffee, alcohol and sugar for 3 – 7 days can be very beneficial. I will soon launch a Life Transformation Cleanse which will be a 30-day detox regiment you can easily incorporate into your schedule. Stay tuned for details! 
How do you maintain balance and health during the holidays? Please share your tips!