Tag: Holiday

Share Your Joy!

Share Your Joy!

snow-flakes-background

Tis’ the season to remember that Christmas isn’t a happy, cheerful, fun, and joyous time for all.  Some find this time of year to be extremely hard due to loss, stress, anxiety, financial strain, or internal struggles that many of us may not even be able to see.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the holiday lights, the music, and the lovely Christmas and New Year’s festivities, forgetting the many people that have no one to share the season with, or don’t feel the happiness that others feel throughout the season.  There are kids that won’t have presents under the tree on Christmas morning, people suffering from depression and anxiety, divorced parents that must share the holiday with their ex-spouse, and endless situations that create anger, sadness, and uneasiness.

Remember that you have the ability to change that for someone. You can use your joy to help put a smile on the faces of others.  Smile at those who are hurting to give them hope and strength that shows them you care.  After all, your smile may be the best part of their day.  Consider changing the way you celebrate Christmas by decreasing the amount you do in your own family so that you can help give to another family.  Further, be willing to reach out and help strangers by delivering cookies, gift certificates, or presents to a family in need.  You could help someone putting air in their tires, a shopper who can’t reach groceries on the top shelf, or holding doors for senior citizens.  Be sure to also show a little extra appreciation this time of year to those in the customer service field, including retail workers and food service employees who work tirelessly and endlessly throughout the season (often at very low wages) to ensure that others are able to create special memories with their loved ones. (I speak from experience on this one!)

As you wrap up the holiday week, please keep in mind all those that may be suffering.  Those are the people we desperately need to reach out and offer a hand to.  It can be as simple as a smile, or as elaborate as offering to give to those in need.  After all, there are many people that struggle to even meet their basic needs this time of year and all year long.

So my challenge and hope is that by reading this you choose to use my #ProjectKindnessBook to spread YOUR cheer this holiday season.  Your cheer could be the difference in someone’s life; even if you only change one life this holiday season, that is better than none.  Happy Christmas with love and hugs from me to you!  May 2017 be the year of spreading kindness to strangers.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Make #GivingTuesday and #SmallBusinessSaturday an everyday thing!

Make #GivingTuesday and #SmallBusinessSaturday an everyday thing!

There are lots of organizations, big and small, all around the world that would LOVE to receive a donation from you this #GivingTuesday.  I got at least five or more emails asking for donations today.  I usually give donations to big and small companies or organizations throughout the entire year, but more times than not my time and money goes to local initiatives and events.  I do on occasion reach out to larger organizations because I like helping both in some capacity, even if it’s a very, very small amount it can make a profound impact.  Kind of like being a teacher, while you may only work with a student for thirty minutes, one hour, one day, one month, or one year, the way you approach and work with that student can leave a footprint on their life forever.  It’s the beauty of teaching, giving quality service to others, listening to those around you, and reaching out to those in need – you have the power to make a difference in the life of someone else.  And, to me, that’s pretty cool!

One thing I chose to do this year for the holidays was to give money to the Shawnee Hills Arts Council when I ran their Reindeer 5k to provide additional funding to performing, visual, and literary arts.  Not only was it a great way to give back to a local organization, but it also fell on #SmallBusinessSaturday which is a vital day for many small businesses and communities that depend on that economic boost each year.  It is so easy to order from online retailers where the prices may be a few dollars cheaper, but those few extra dollars you might spend at your local toy store, pet shop, or restaurant really boost your local economy and help money stay in the area.

Another donation I am planning to give this holiday season is my hair – literally!  It is almost time for me to head to the chopping block so that I can donate at least eight inches of hair to a woman in need.  This is something that you can give no matter what time of year.  You can make the commitment to grow your hair out without coloring it to send to an organization that will help change the lives of others.

You can do similar things in your local area to keep your economy thriving.  #GivingTuesday and #SmallBusinessSaturday aren’t just once a year if you make the commitment to help improve your local economy – volunteer, buy local goods, go to your Farmer’s markets, eat at your local restaurants, and make a commitment to helping with events, initiatives, and activities in your area.  After all, your local economy depends on your support and willingness to make a difference in the many lives and communities in which you are a part of.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Respect, Kindness, & Tolerance…this Christmas season!

Respect, Kindness, & Tolerance…this Christmas season!

I am finishing a book that I can’t wait to share with everyone because it revolves around helping others, kindness, and giving back.  This has inspired me to share a post about respect, kindness, and tolerance which I think is especially important and critical to remember during the Christmas season.  Christmas while fun is often a time of stress for many.  It can be stressful to prepare for all the holiday festivities and parties, expensive to buy presents for everyone on your list, and it can be emotional or sad for those that have loved ones that are no longer here to celebrate with them.

As we move into this season of giving I hope we can also be mindful of those around us.  While we may have different views, religious beliefs, and even traditions I hope that each person remembers to be respectful, kind, and tolerant of others.  We don’t have to share the same views, go to the same church, or have the same traditions to be diplomatic, respectful, kind, and tolerant.  That means we wish each other well and say, “Merry Christmas” to all.

This may seem like a simple post or even a “non health” related post, but in actuality it is a post that focuses on our spiritual, emotional, and social well-being.  We accept others for who they are, we reach out to others to say “Merry Christmas” to include all, and we remember that different Christmas celebrations is what makes the world so beautiful.

So I challenge you to embrace each other through respect, kindness, and tolerance this Christmas season!  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night (and year)!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Stay-cation or vacation, just make it an active one!

Stay-cation or vacation, just make it an active one!

Sorry for the almost-a-month long hiatus.  I took a short break to spend time with family over the holidays, enjoy some relaxation, and go on vacation with my boyfriend to Europe.  Our time in Europe was quite lovely and what I liked most about it was that it was an active vacation!  After walking mile after magnificent mile going from place to place in Europe I realized how much I absolutely love it there.  I have always dreamed of having a job where I can either walk, bike, or bike/walk to work.  That is something that was a majority in Europe (biking and walking everywhere and by everywhere I literally do mean everywhere, everywhere, everywhere 😉 ) and is probably one reason why you don’t see many, if any, obese people there.  I would say Americans could learn a thing or two from them!  I found it to be refreshing and fun, and a little exhausting, too!  My point is that whether you go on a vacation like me or enjoy a stay-cation at home remember that you can always make it an active vacation, which is my favorite kind!  You can go to Europe where staying active will not only be easy, but also unavoidable 😉 You can go on a beach vacation and take walks or jogs along the beach or you can go on a mountain vacation and go skiing.  Just remember that when you go on vacation, don’t just throw your workout out the window.  Consider small workouts, walks, and exercise routines that will keep you moving.  If you’re enjoying a stay-cation, consider hikes, organizing and cleaning to keep you busy, or other small routines that keep you active.

Once I got home and gave myself a few days to recover from the vacation and get back into the correct time zone after the jet lag, I got myself right back into my workout routine.  The week I would be starting back my workouts just happened to be Christmas week, but after taking 9 days off it was important to get myself back into the groove of life.  I got up Christmas morning and decided to hit the workout room before any Christmas festivities got under way.  Plus, all my Christmas fun is typically on Christmas Eve.  Anyway, back to this Christmas workout when my mom decides to semi-jokingly and semi-sarcastically say, “You just have to workout, don’t you?”  As if somewhat sickened, yet proud that I hold the will and motivation to workout on Christmas Day when many people do not hold the same discipline or expectations.  I know she knew in her mind that either way no matter what that I was going to workout because we had no plans or restrictions that would prevent me from fitting in a quick 30 to 40 minute workout.  Not to mention, for me, it is important to stay true to myself and my health, meaning I make it a priority even during the holiday season.  As I expressed to my mom, it’s the time of year when we all tend to eat a little more, eat a little less healthy, and eat until we feel like we might pop because we are so full.

My point?  Remember that you should try to keep the promises you make to yourself and goals you have for yourself, even during the holiday season.  That means sticking to your workouts, taking walks, and doing short exercise routines in-between holiday parties, festivities, etc so your friends and family understand that health is very important to you.  This keeps you in your normal routine and rhythm so that come January you are already in your same workout routine and schedule rather than taking a long hiatus from Thanksgiving through the New Year when you eat more calories and can easily slip into the winter slumber of not working out.  If you take a hiatus be prepared for a difficult time when you start back up again.  It makes it that much harder to get back into the swing of things, get your body and routine back in sync, and fulfill new resolutions that you should have never given up or done away with for a month to begin with.   Don’t feel guilty if this is what you did, but consider making changes next year  to keep your healthy lifestyle routine all year round!

So whether you are going on vacation, enjoying a stay-cation, or intertwining the two as I did during my holiday season, make it an active one that keeps you moving, gets you going, and helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle in the process!

Happy New Year, may 2015 be the year for exercising, good eating, and healthy lifestyle choices for you and yours!

~jj

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Make cold weather your motivation!

Make cold weather your motivation!

So, all I hear right now are complaints and negativity about the cold weather, snow, winter and yada yada yada.  Personally, I LOVE snow and I LOVE cold weather.  I actually can’t emphasize that enough and mostly because I love sweaters and boots and turtlenecks and scarves.  It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside! 🙂

But for all those cold weather haters and grumpy “grinches” out there, here’s something for you to think about!  Cold weather has actually been proven in several studies to be better for you!  For one, people tend to move faster and walk more briskly when it is cold out, increasing their heart rate more quickly than they would in warm or hot temperatures.  During the summer, people tend to walk more leisurely and therefore not as many calories are burned and your heart rate doesn’t speed up as quickly.  In other words, all those exercises such as walking, running, hiking, etc that you do (outside) after your Christmas feast or before the drinks and appetizers begin on NYE will be most beneficial in the cold, winter temperatures! 😉

Second, studies have shown that people burn more calories during the cold, winter months when the body must use more energy in order to maintain a warm, steady body temperature.  So, next time you consider complaining about the cold, winter months, maybe you should be thanking Mother Nature for the gift she is giving you! 😉  Two great exercise benefits: 1) you walk faster to keep your body heat up to get to your destination and 2) you burn more calories because your body is working equally as hard to help you maintain a balanced body temperature.  Sounds like a win win to me…so get out there and get to moving.  Play in the snow with your kids, take a hike to see the scenery, walk your dog to get fresh air, or even take treats to neighbors and friends by foot to get into the real holiday spirit of giving!

Let me remind everyone that each person’s body is different so what works for me, may not work for you.  Cold weather is something I love and enjoy, but it may not be something that fits you or your workout!  Further, where I see success, you may not see as much success because of the activity and level of intensity within the workout.  Don’t let that discourage you, but rather let those stumbling blocks be the force and motivation that keep you going.

So, grab some gloves, a hat, and cold weather gear, throw on a pullover or winter running clothing and get to exercising.  After all, there are plenty of fun outside activities to do, so don’t let the cold weather stop you from getting your 30 minutes a day!  Happy Winter!

~jj

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Tis’ the season for healthy casserole dishes!

Tis’ the season for healthy casserole dishes!

Winter is upon us again and with the cold weather comes lots of holiday favorites and casseroles being baked for dinners, parties, and holiday festivities.  Casserole dishes and holiday favorites tend to be full of cheesy, creamy, delicious goodness, which is also known as endless calories in the minds of dietitians and an extra 10 pounds in the minds of many people.  I thought it would be appropriate to share some tips that will help keep casseroles healthy, but still satisfy our appetites!  There are great ways to keep casseroles healthy this holiday season while also incorporating tons of great flavors.  People often think that without the pound of butter, whole milk, pound of cheese, or heavy cream that dishes lose their flavor, and that is definitely not the case…I promise!  Keep reading for some great tips to maintain the flavor and decrease the calories in your casseroles this holiday season…you will thank me later! 😉  There are 3 major tips that I think are beneficial when making casseroles.

First, consider replacing cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, and other cream soups with plain Greek yogurt, which you can flavor with garlic, salt, pepper, onion powder, etc or even add regular, low-sodium broth soups such as chicken broth or vegetable broth to flavor your dishes without the added calories.  Further, try to buy items that are fat-free, low fat, low sodium, or sodium free.  For example, green bean casserole calls for cream of mushroom soup, so replace it with Greek yogurt and vegetable stock.  Be sure to check the labels because sometimes low calorie, low fat, and low sodium items can be deceiving.  By this I mean that sometimes they have other equally bad ingredients for you, so you have to determine which products will be best.  This is why plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and other plain, non-flavored items that are less processed can be great because you can add the flavor you want to them.

Second, cut back on the dairy products if possible and yes, this includes cheese!  I know how awful that sounds because cheese is delicious, but I am not saying cut it out completely.  Rather, be cognizant of how much cheese you are putting into your casserole dishes, especially if they have other dairy products in them such as heavy cream, milk, and butter.  What I mean by this is that a veggie casserole can easily be made unhealthy and fattening by adding tons of cheese and cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, and other cream soups.  Milk, heavy cream, cheese, and other dairy products can quickly add calories, making healthy veggie casseroles unhealthy.  So the best thing you can do is stick to what recipes call for.  If the recipe calls for one cup of cheese, use one cup of cheese rather than a cup and a half to add additional cheesy goodness.  I realize it is the holiday season, but I promise you that your guests will still love your casserole side dishes and will appreciate the fewer calories in their already high calorie holiday meal!

Third, stick with vegetable casseroles or vegetables rather than carbohydrate-heavy or starchy casseroles that are high in calories.  I realize that many people love potatoes and what says Thanksgiving more than turkey and mashed potatoes?!  I am not suggesting that you completely do away with your mashed potatoes, but consider doing a split in your potatoes of part potato and part cauliflower.  Also, consider having one potato casserole or mashed potato dish rather than several.  Instead, make up for the fewer starchy dishes by having several vegetable casseroles or vegetable dishes such as sweet potatoes with brown sugar and pecans as a side dish rather than sweet potatoes with marshmallow fluff on top.  Some other options might be brussel sprouts with bacon, butternut squash with a butter sauce, or honey and balsamic glazed carrots.

Enjoy preparing your holiday dishes and remember that while the holidays are a fun time, it doesn’t mean you should give yourself the excuse to eat whatever you want and as much as you want!  While it might sound like a novel idea at the time, it won’t be when you gain 10 pounds, can’t button your jeans, or feel so full you want to bust!  So, make some healthier casseroles that encourage cleaner eating, but still impart great holiday flavors that you and your family enjoy!  Happy clean eating this holiday season from my table to yours!

~jj

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Conquer your stress…solutions for the holidays!

Conquer your stress…solutions for the holidays!

Today, I wanted to take a moment to talk about something that impacts everyone, especially during the holiday season, yet something that I and many others are guilty of not keeping under control.  It is something that tends to increase during the holidays and is something we, ourselves, can typically control.  What in the world do you think it is?  If you guessed stress then you are right.  Stress is something that we can control based on our response to things that are said, things that happen, and by how we choose to deal with daily trials and tribulations, successes and failures.  It  is something that can impact your health greatly if it is not managed and dealt with properly.  Further, it can cause digestive problems, cramps, headaches, anxiety, exhaustion, and multiple other major and minor health concerns.

It is important to channel within yourself the proper tools that will help you control and conquer stress.  Tools that are up to YOU to find, determine, and explore, because while I will provide suggestions and help, we all deal with stress differently.   You have to find what fits for you (this is continuously echoed in my posts).   Like everyone, I still deal with stress everyday, BUT the difference is I now know how important and helpful it is to have solutions to counteracting stressful situations.

So here’s a few pointers that I have been given and learned over time:  1) First, meditation can help even if it seems like an odd way to deal with stress.  Trust me, I thought it seemed unfitting for me, but meditation can be as easy as sitting with your eyes closed and counting to ten, taking deep breaths to control your breathing.  It allows you to cool off, release some steam, AND best of all, allows your heart rate to slowly begin to return to normal.  Other great options include 2) drinking camomile tea (or other hot beverage) which has a calming effect, 3) removing yourself from the area that is causing the frustration and stress for 5-10 minutes, 4) taking a hot bath with sea salts (ease aching muscles) or peppermint oils (calming and relaxing effect).  Of course, my ultimate way to de-stress is to 5) workout–run, stretch, weight lift, interval train.  Exercising and working out is one of the most effective yet underutilized ways to take away stress.  So, while the holidays, work, relationships, etc. can be the subject of great stress, REMEMBER that it’s how YOU choose to respond to the stress that makes it impact your life.

~jj

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Tis the season to help others, donate, & give!

Tis the season to help others, donate, & give!

Since it’s the holiday season, I deemed it appropriate to throw in an entry that is very, very, very (shall I say VERY again to emphasize my passion) dear to my heart.  While the holiday season is a great time of year, it can quickly become a very self-indulgent, over the top, season that is filled with buying the next best phone, computer, or tablet, more toys for children that have an overflowing toy box and toy room, and presents for friends that have everything they could possibly want and more.  We want to buy the perfect presents for our moms and dads, brothers and sisters, cousins and children.  I was as equally guilty of this at earlier times in my life, but I have come to realize that I would rather reach out to those that are less fortunate than me.  The holiday season is the perfect time to reach beyond yourself and your family to touch the lives and hearts of others.  This may sound silly and may not seem like a fitness tip, but when you help others it gives you that “feel good” feeling deep down that is great for your mind and body.  So, while helping others, donating, and giving to those who are less fortunate may not be physical fitness and exercise, it is a wellness tip that will do a lot for your mind, heart, and emotional well-being.

The holiday season is a time of celebration and joyous occasions for most people, but there are also lots of people in the world that are less fortunate or need help.  As a young adult, it is very, very, very (and yes, I shall say VERY) hard for me to watch people give thanks and appreciate their blessings on Thanksgiving Day only to become greedy, materialistic, and crabby human beings on Black Friday.  I am headed into working my 4th Black Friday in retail so I do have the experience to say this!  While I am not judging those around me, I am rather hoping to encourage and light a spark in others to reach out and help those around them.

I wish for others to reach within their heart and think about the kids that will wake up with no presents under the Christmas tree, cancer patients that are dying and suffering during the holidays, and soldiers, airport employees, and first responders (police officers, firefighters, hospital personnel) who are working so that everyone else can have a joyful holiday season.  This seems to quickly and easily be taken for granted by everyone, including myself at times.  My pledge, wish, and challenge to you is to send a care package or box to solders in need, visit http://www.anysoldier.com, which is a reliable website to send care packages to soldiers who are serving overseas.  Find an Angel tree and fill shoe boxes for children who otherwise will have no Christmas presents under the tree this holiday season or take freshly baked cookies, pies, and other treats to your local first responders to show them how much you appreciate their hard work during a season that is filled with chaos and stress for them.  Or even consider donating your hair if you don’t have the money to spend toward children and soldiers.  You can visit http://www.facebook.com/Beautifullengths8 for more information.

So, when you leave your house today, remember that one small thing to help others may actually be something that helps you as well!  Cheers to donating, giving, helping, and changing the lives of others.  And from me to you, I hope you and your family have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

~jj

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Cheers to the holidays…and good health!

Cheers to the holidays…and good health!

The holidays are just around the corner, which means potlucks, family gatherings, and work parties.  It’s a time of year which often means putting on a few extra unwanted pounds and losing the body definition you have worked hard on all year long.  While it’s one of the most fun, joyous, and cheerful times of year, it can also quickly become the most dreaded when you add ten pounds to your waistline.  To lessen your caloric intake and still enjoy the holiday season alongside your family and friends, consider some of these tips.

One tip that can be helpful is to drink plenty of water prior to going to holiday parties and potlucks.  This helps give you a full feeling so that you will eat less.  Further, you can eat something small and filling like an apple.  An apple helps give you a full feeling for a long period.

Parties, gatherings, and potlucks often mean buffets, which can be very tough for many people.  With buffets, avoid standing at the buffet tables and bars that have finger foods, appetizers, and hor’derves  sitting out.  Instead, grab a plate and fill it with 1/3 cheeses, meats, dips, chips, and snack foods while filling the other 2/3 of the plate with fruits and veggies.  Additionally, allow yourself to only visit the table once and then throw your plate away.  Upon finishing, socialize in other areas away from the buffet table so you cannot reach the food.  Same goes for drinks because drinks add hundreds and hundreds of extra calories and often give people the munchies!

While parties and potlucks are a fun holiday tradition, they also tend to have an “appetizer and munch” period followed by a large buffet meal that is often followed by a dessert buffet.  Rather than eating and munching on appetizers, try to stick to core meals during the holiday season so you don’t fall victim to eating so much.  These core meals during the holiday season are already much higher in calories than an average meal, so sticking to core meals and avoiding the appetizers will help cut down on extra calories.  Further, if your gatherings, potlucks, and parties include a dessert buffet, stick to one regular portion size of dessert OR choose up to three small, bite-size portions of several desserts that you would like to try.

I recognize that many people have family recipes, casseroles, and dishes that make the holiday season special, but one great tip is to limit your meal to one casserole and serve basic vegetables such as green beans, corn, asparagus, etc. as other side options.  For example, choose either green bean casserole, corn pudding casserole, sweet potato casserole and then have basic vegetables as sides rather than as casseroles.  This helps eliminate having three to five casseroles that have cream of mushroom soups, additional heavy cream, sugar, and lots of butter.  If this is something that cannot be done and you must have many different casserole dishes at your holiday table, consider using substitutes (that you will love and feel good about and I promise your family won’t even notice).  For example, use part cauliflower in mashed potatoes and low-fat milk in casseroles in place of heavy cream or melted butter.

Lastly, and I say this lightly (so that you don’t think of it as an excuse to eat whatever you want during the holidays!), it is important to remember that your body does not expect you to eat perfect all the time, everyday, all year.  You can always redeem yourself later with motivation, will power, and a positive attitude of improving.  So, while I won’t encourage you to eat a slice of pumpkin pie and pecan pie at Thanksgiving or eat cinnamon rolls, eggs, hashbrowns, and bacon on Christmas, I will tell you that if you do slip up, you can make it up, preferably sooner rather than later!

One last quick tip is try to squeeze in some brisk walking with your family before or after holiday gatherings.  It’s a great way to socialize and it makes you feel even better when you sit down for your big feast!  My family actually makes it a routine to take a brisk walk before eating Thanksgiving to keep us from feeling so full later in the day!

Tis the season…for GREAT food, family, and GOOD health!

~jj

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