‘Tis the season for giving back

Full disclosure – this post should have gone up earlier this week, but things in real life have been a bit nuts. My father had surgery yesterday and it has thrown my whole week out of whack. Thanks for sticking with me as I get through this!

Thanksgiving has come and gone, the leftovers have been consumed, and you finally threw out the last slice of pecan pie that has been testing your temptation all weekend. You’ve survived both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and you’re ready to bask in the holiday season. Not so fast!

The first Tuesday in December is known as #GivingTuesday or #GivingDay. It’s a day dedicated to giving back – either through donating to your favorite charity or taking time out of your day to serve your community. In the spirit of the day, I wanted to take a short break from the normal fitness/wellness content. Volunteer work is a huge part of my life, and I wanted to share some of my favorite gifts that keep on giving. When you’re thinking about buying gifts this year, perhaps think outside the box – yes, those prettily wrapped gifts under the tree do add a festive air to the season, but there are some wonderful gift ideas that will continue to give back long after the decorations have come down.

Kiva Gift Cards

Kiva is a nonprofit microfinance organization. This organization makes it possible for people in areas without access to traditional banks or loaning bodies to receive the money necessary to accomplish their goals – from starting small businesses to furthering their education. You can learn more about how the process works by clicking here. Kiva loans are paid back, so giving a Kiva gift card can help establish a long-standing relationship between the gift recipient and the Kiva organization. As the funds from your gift are repaid, they can be reloaned to other causes. Through this process, just one small gift can be a positive force for change in countless lives.

Give the Gift of Health with Watsi

Watsi is a nonprofit that connects donors with individuals requiring medical treatment who cannot afford the care necessary to restore them to health. The website allows donors to choose where their funds will be allocated, and if you make a donation as a gift, the gift recipient will receive regular updates on the progress of the treatment that their gift funded. I learned about Watsi this past spring, when a dear friend of mine made a donation in my name for my birthday to help fund surgery and treatment for Nary, a Cambodian woman with a broken arm. I received a photo and information on Nary’s progress at the time of the donation, and an update about a month later confirming that her treatment had been successful. Watsi’s a relatively new nonprofit – they were founded in 2012 – so chances are your gift will introduce a new audience to this excellent cause.

Support small farms through Rent Mother Nature

Rent Mother Nature is another awesome gift-that-gives-back cause that a friend recommended to me. This organization is committed to supporting small, family-run farms, and to pursuing sustainable agriculture practices. Gifts purchased through this organization are referred to as “leases.” You can rent a goat, and receive a gift of fresh chevre; you can rent a maple tree, and receive a gift of maple syrup; you can rent a honeybell tree, and receive a gift of fresh oranges. The site offers customization options for your gifts, and provides information on when the various gifts will be harvested and delivered to the recipients. This is a great idea for foodie friends, or for friends who would be interested in learning more about farming practices in the United States. I especially love the idea of giving this gift to a family with younger kids who would benefit from a better understanding of where their foods come from!

Support your favorite nonprofit

10170785_10154098155653647_9116896630223398427_n

Time for a bit of shameless self-promotion! When I’m not blogging, I volunteer with the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation, a MA-based 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to providing leadership training (free of charge!) to high school students from across the state. I currently serve as the president of our Board of Directors, and previously spent four years as the Director of our flagship event, the MassSTAR Citizenship Conference. Community service, volunteering, and charitable giving has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.

December is a key time for many nonprofits; if their fiscal year coincides with the calendar year, this is their chance to make a final push for donations before launching a new year. However, giving back does not need to take a monetary form – there are so many ways to make a difference without spending a dime.

This is a great opportunity to open up a conversation with someone in your life about giving back. Growing up, my family would “adopt” a family in need through our local church; my parents prioritized teaching me that not everyone was as fortunate as I was. We shopped together for gifts that would help the family to have a happier Christmas – warm clothing; food essentials; basic necessities like shampoo and toothpaste – and it really helped to open my eyes up to how lucky I was to have a roof over my head and plenty of food on the table. I’m grateful that my parents made it a priority to instill these values in me from a young age, and I like to try to do the same for my own family members now. When some of my younger family members hit an appropriate age – usually high school – I like to discuss with them what causes matter to them. It’s important to instill values of charity and service from a young age, so we discuss how they can make a difference. This doesn’t always have to be a monetary gift. If they say they like animals and would like to help in that way, I might look into volunteering at a local animal shelter together, or make a donation to the local ASPCA. It’s a great bonding experience and I can’t recommend it enough!

Do you take time out of your holiday season to give back? What are some of your favorite causes to support?

Advertisements

Tackling tempation

I don’t know about the rest of you, but willpower and I don’t really get along all that well. More than anything, I really struggle with temptation. If there’s candy in my desk drawer, I’m going to eat it. If I open a bag of snacks, I’m not going to stop after the recommended serving size. At parties, I can’t just try a sampling of the appetizers; I park myself next to whatever is most delicious and munch away. With the holidays coming up, I know that temptation is going to be confronting me at every turn. I’ve committed to both #6W2C and #Fit4Fifteen to help myself stay on track through the end of the holiday season, but those challenges aren’t going to take me all the way on their own. I also need to employ some handy tricks to keep myself on track.

Tip #1: Pre-portion all snacks as soon as you get home from the grocery store. 

photo 3 (1)

I did my grocery shopping at the new Market Basket in my town last night, and I was super excited to find this Cedar’s Spinach Dip, made with Greek yogurt. Cedar’s is based in the Merrimack Valley, here in MA, and I’m a huge fan of their products. They’ve also been generous donors to the youth conference I volunteer with in the past, so I like to support them whenever I can. At only 50 calories per serving, this is a great thing to have on hand for an afternoon snack with pretzels or cut up vegetables. However, I know that if I were to just start dunking carrot sticks directly in that tub of dip, I’d exceed the recommended serving before I knew it. To ward off any temptation, I picked up small snack size dip containers and pre-portioned out the tub as soon as I got home. The tub contained twelve 50-calorie servings, so I portioned it into six small cups to have at work as an afternoon snack this week.

Tip #2: Stock your kitchen with healthy, nourishing snacks. 

You know the saying, “Monkey see, monkey do”? In my kitchen, it’s “Colleen see, Colleen eat.” If you keep your biggest temptations on hand, you’re more likely to eat them. Bypass those aisles at the grocery store and resist the urge to add tempting foods to your cart. You’ll tell yourself that you’ll only have those cookies once a week as a special treat, but we know that’s a lie. That ice cream will definitely not be for PMS emergencies only, and I don’t care how much you swear that you’re only buying those chocolate chips as an addition to protein pancakes, we both know those will end up getting eaten by the handful after a bad day at work. Try instead to make sure that you always have plenty of healthy foods on hand that still feel like you’re giving yourself a treat. Avocados are one of my favorite healthy treat foods – adding them to eggs or mashing them on toast feels so indulgent, but I’m getting the healthy fats that my body needs. I also always have apples, hard boiled eggs, and preportioned baggies of turkey or beef jerkey on hand. These are all snacks that are easy to grab and go if I’m in a rush, and they fill me up and satisfy me without destroying my healthy eating plan for the day.

Tip #3: The freezer is your friend. 

I could pretend that my kitchen is a place where you will find only healthy, nutritious food items. This would be a lie. Yes, I do try to avoid keeping tempting foods around, but I’m human, and sometimes a girl needs a Snickers. I keep a bag of fun sized Snickers bars in my freezer at all times. That way, if I decide I really do want a little chocolate treat, I can go for just one bar. The bar needs to thaw a bit before it’s edible (unless I want to break a tooth!) and that time helps me to limit myself to just the single serving, and to be mindful that I’m treating myself to this snack.

Tip #4: Don’t go to holiday parties on an empty stomach.

photo 2 (1)

I always have a snack before I go to a holiday party. It’s easier to resist all the tempting appetizers if you’ve already got something healthy in your stomach. I might make a half serving size of Shakeology, or I might grab a handful of almonds and an apple. It’s also a good idea to have a full glass of water before you leave for any holiday events, and to keep drinking water throughout the night. Hydrating will help you feel fuller, and it will also keep you from overindulging in the holiday punch! I know that my already weak willpower becomes completely nonexistent after a few glasses of festive sangria.

Tip #5: Plan ahead.

When I go out to eat, I like to read the menu online ahead of time and plan out what I’m going to eat. This gives me time to think about healthy substitutions so I won’t delay my dining companions when we’re all ready to order. It also lets me preview both appetizers and desserts so I can decide where I’d rather splurge. This type of planning can be harder if you’re attending a party hosted in someone’s home, but there are ways around this! Call the host and ask if there’s anything you can contribute to the event. Maybe you can bring a healthy appetizer option, or prepare a side dish that utilizes lots of delicious vegetables without drowning them in butter or cream.

Tip #6: Don’t forget to enjoy yourself! 

At the end of the day, the holidays should be about having a good time with the people you care most about. Don’t get so caught up in trying to make healthy decisions that you forget to have a good time. It’s okay if you slip up. No one is perfect! This is all about finding balance. Set yourself up to succeed by reducing temptation wherever possible, and you’ll find that your slip ups are few far between. And if you do overindulge on pumpkin pie come Thanksgiving, well, at least it’s only one day out of the year. Get up and go for a run the next day, and remember that every day is a new chance to start over and make healthier choices.

What are some of the ways you resist temptation?
Share your favorite tips in the comments!

Fitnasty for Life
This post is my contribution to this week’s #fit4fifteen link up, hosted by Carolyn over at Fitnasty for Life. Make sure to check out some of the other awesome bloggers in the link up – they’ve all got great stories to share!

Finding the why

As I mentioned last week, I’m doing another Six Weeks to Chic challenge at Studio Poise. I’ve done this challenge twice before, once in Summer 2013 and again in spring of 2014, and I’ve been really happy with the results both times. I’m very excited to be kicking off another challenge and looking forward to holding myself to a higher standard for the coming weeks, in the hopes of resetting my habits on the healthier track.

As I embark on this challenge, I thought about sharing another #MotivationMonday post jammed with Pinterest-worthy quotes and sources of inspiration, but then I realized that I would benefit more from deeper reflection about why I decided to tackle another challenge. For each of the previous sessions, I had a clear goal in mind.

The Summer 2013 session coincided with two weddings. I was motivated to look my best for those events, and participating in the challenge kept me on target while traveling. I even managed to convince some of my friends to rent bikes to ride around Sonoma wine country during one of those wedding trips! We got to see more of the beautiful vineyards this way, and the ride also offset the calories consumed at the vineyards we visited (because you can bet that I wasn’t spitting out those wine tastings!) If you’re ever in Sonoma, I highly recommend this plan – we rented from Sonoma Country Cyclery and had a great time. vineyard bikes

For Spring 2014, the challenge’s conclusion coincided with my 29th birthday. I had planned a big birthday event at Cadillac Ranch and had about 20 friends coming together, so I was super motivated to look and feel my best. I wanted to be in great shape heading into the summer, and that was enough to keep me on target. I loved how I felt after that challenge, and I actually did a pretty good job of continuing to follow the meal plan through most of the summer.

Kindly disregard the wolf wall behind me. My birthday party was at Cadillac Ranch, and this is their standard decor...

Kindly disregard the wolf wall behind me. My birthday party was at Cadillac Ranch, and this is their standard decor…

However, as I head into this challenge, I’m in a very different place. As I’ve previously acknowledged, this fall has been really rocky for me. I’m not maintaining good habits in my diet, I’m not making it to as many classes, and I generally feel like I’ve let my health become less of a priority. I signed up for the challenge to get back on track, but if I’m really going to stick with it, I need to spend some time considering – why do I want to get back on track? 

We all need to find our own why. In the past, I’ll admit, my motivation largely had to do with my physical appearance. I wasn’t happy with how I looked. As I’ve progressed, though, I’ve realized that this is about so much more than the size of my jeans. I’m gaining real benefits from living a healthier lifestyle, and I need to remind myself of those gains so that I can push myself through the times when it’s all to tempting to give up.

So, what’s my why? Good question.

I feel more energized when I’m eating well and exercising regularly. Anyone who knows me will agree that I tend to commit to too many things. I have a demanding full time job, I serve on the board of directors for a youth leadership organization, and I like to fill my free time with adventures, whether that means visiting friends in New York City or trying new fitness classes. It might seem counterintuitive – time spent exercising is time that I can’t devote to these other commitments! – but skipping my healthy habits actually made it harder to keep up with a demanding schedule. I need to take care of my body if I’m going to put such crazy demands on it!

I sleep better when I’m following a healthy living routine. I have had problems with insomnia my entire life. I took ambien for a while, and even did a sleep study a few years back to try to ascertain why I felt tired all the time. When I am exercising regularly and eating healthy meals, I found that my sleep problems basically disappeared. I was falling asleep more easily, I wasn’t waking up multiple times throughout the night, and I felt well rested when my alarm went off in the morning. All that has flown out the window over the past few months. I lay awake for an hour or more trying to fall asleep every night, and I hit the snooze button multiple times every morning because I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m hoping that restoring my wellness habits will also lead to better sleep.

My mental health benefits when I’m taking care of my physical health. The hour a day that I spend working out is one of the very few opportunities I have to unplug and turn off my brain. When I’m on the mat, or riding a spin bike, or shimmying in a Zumba class, I’m not worrying about my clients or thinking about my to do list. I turn everything off and just let myself enjoy the moment. When I don’t work out, I lose that opportunity to tune everything else out, and it has a noticeably negative impact on my overall mental health. Stressful situations impact me to a greater degree, and I had a more negative outlook on life in general. When I’m making healthy choices, though, it has a trickle down effect and dramatically improves my ability to maintain a positive mentality and attitude.

There’s more to all of this than the size of my clothes. I’m going to be constantly warring with myself over this. I can’t deny that it feels good to reach for smaller sizes when I’m shopping, and I do appreciate receiving compliments on how I look, but that can’t be my primary motivation for pursuing fitness and wellness. I honestly don’t consider myself a vain person, and I would like to think that I’m not someone who is overly concerned with appearances, but I can’t deny that my own appearance has been a driving force in fitness endeavors for my entire life. This is the area I really want to personally focus on during this challenge – concentrating on my whys and the benefits of wellness and celebrating those, instead of glorifying the size of my jeans. 

To further help with my accountability through the holidays, I’m joining a linkup hosted by Fitnasty For Life, joining with other bloggers as we work to get #Fit4Fifteen. I’ll update this post with the link up when it’s available at the end of this week!

 

So tell me in the comments… What’s your why?

Time to Focus

Okay, time for me to come clean: October was a really difficult month for me. I had my first serious backslide, and I ended up gaining about 5 pounds over the course of the month. I can blame a lot of things – I was giving in to stress-eating cravings, I skipped workouts, and family issues took center stage. I could beat myself up over this, but I’m being honest and trying to keep a positive perspective. My efforts at fitness and weight loss aren’t a temporary change; they’re habits that I’m building for a healthier life in the long term. Realistically, things aren’t going to be smooth sailing for the rest of my life, and learning to recover from difficult periods is an important part of this journey.

I’m embracing a few strategies to help me regain my footing. I know that as we head into the holidays, this isn’t something I can do alone. So, I’ve created a group on Facebook where friends can turn to each other for inspiration and support. This isn’t a challenge group; there aren’t any points and the only prize at the end will be how we feel about ourselves. I really just wanted someplace where I could honestly say, “I’m struggling today and I’m really craving a bag of Doritos,” and there would be support to help me through it. If you’re interested in joining, leave a comment below and I’ll happily add you to the group!

I’m also excited to participate in another Six Weeks to Chic program at Studio Poise. I’ve done #6W2C twice before and have had really fantastic results both times. It helps to remind me about ideal habits and get back into a routine, and I think doing this over the holidays will help me to avoid the normal holiday weight creep. Best of all, this time around there’s a challenge built in – and you know how I love me some healthy competition!

I’m really excited about the ladies on my team – they’re great friends and will be excellent motivation to help keep me on track. Being able to text them when I’m struggling or schedule classes with them for extra accountability will definitely help me past this bumpy point!

Finally, I’m trying to mix it up more. I love my at-home workouts (shout out to Body Pump, which I am LOVING!) and I am still loyal to my Poise classes, but I think I need to have greater variety to help jump start my weight loss again. I’m trying a new spin class this weekend at Sweat Cycling Studio in Wakefield, MA, and if I like it, I’ll probably buy a class pack to make spinning a regular part of my fitness routine again. I’ve also started scheduling lunch workout dates with coworkers. We have a great new gym that’s free for employees, but I never take advantage of it. Having someone else committed with me will make sure I leave my desk and get in an extra workout! Today we’re trying this resistance band workout from Lean it UP. I’ve got this pinned on my Pinterest page, and I’ll report back on how it goes!

 

Friday Roundup: 10/31

Happy Halloween! How are you celebrating this holiday? I already had one costume party last weekend and have another tonight – plenty of chances to show off my costume! I need to take some great pictures while I’m all dressed up tonight and I’ll share those in the next few days.

I’m taking a slightly different approach with this week’s roundup. Since I’ve been traveling this week and haven’t had a chance to post, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write up a recap of the past week, highlighting some of the fun things going on in my life!

Last weekend, I spent Saturday evening at a Halloween party hosted by my dear friend Stephanie and her husband Matt. Stephanie is the creative mind behind Sandpaper & Glue, and I don’t know anyone who loves Halloween as much as she does!

I had a minor costume malfunction halfway through the evening, but I figured all would be well – a DIY queen’s home is the perfect place to be when you need to fix something! Unfortunately, Steph and I had both been active participants in the champagne flip cup earlier that evening, and we went a little overboard with the spray glue…

Let this be a lesson to you all: Don't attempt to DIY after an hour of champagne flip cup.

Let this be a lesson to you all: Don’t attempt to DIY after an hour of champagne flip cup.

I spent Sunday at a baby shower for my friend Jenn. The party was lovely, and Jenn looked amazing! She’s going to be a great mama when Baby Zoey arrives in a few months, and I can’t wait to meet her. Jenn’s shower gave me an excuse to break out my hot rollers again – aka my new style obsession. I’ve always had super straight hair and usually wore it in a bob, so now as I’m growing it out I’m experimenting for the first time with other styles. I am 29 years old and I honestly never knew my hair could look like this. MAGIC.

It took me 29 years to discover that my hair could look like this. In my defense, my mom gave me some truly terrible haircuts over the first ten years of my life, but that's an issue for me to tackle with my therapist.

It took me 29 years to discover that my hair could look like this. In my defense, my mom gave me some truly terrible haircuts over the first ten years of my life, but that’s an issue for me to tackle with my therapist.

Unfortunately I couldn’t linger at the shower, as I had to make my Amtrak train to New York City that afternoon for a few days of training. I had to spend my days cooped up in an office building working through meetings, but that left my evenings free and clear! I went to college in NYC and love any opportunity to be back in my favorite home away from home, and this trip was no different.

flywheel collage

Monday night, I took my first Flywheel class at their Chelsea location. Flywheel Sports is a national chain that offers a unique spinning experience. Every bike is outfitted with a small monitor to help you measure your resistance (or “torq”), your RPMs, and your overall effort/output. You can also opt into the class’s “torq board,” which shows how your effort compares to others in the class. I am super competitive so I loved this feature, and I was pretty pumped to come in fourth place among females, especially after a very tiring workday! Best of all, the class was taught by a friend of mine, and he definitely helped to push me harder – he even called me out at one point! If you’re in the city, be sure to check out Matt R.’s classes – he’s a great guy and a great instructor! I don’t know how often I’ll be able to make it to the Flywheel Boston location (in the Prudential), but I definitely want to go back again at some point in the future, and it’s great to know that this is a chain I enjoy for when I’m traveling to cities with franchise locations.

I could fib and tell you that Flywheel was indicative of my overall wellness on this trip… but actually, it was an effort to offset some less-than-healthy choices. I left Monday’s class and proceeded to meet a friend at a bar, where we indulged in 20 cent wings and delicious fall beers while watching Monday Night Football. Balance is super important for overall wellness, and my mental health definitely benefitted from this night out.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. Most of my time was spent on work, and I didn’t get to fit in a run along the Hoboken waterfront as I had hoped. I stayed in the W Hoboken, and there were some beautiful running paths with views of the NYC skyline – I’ll definitely keep this in mind for my next visit and will make sure to pack my sneakers and GPS watch.

Since I hadn’t worked out, I wanted to be mindful of my eating choices for the rest of the trip. I expected this to be nearly impossible on Wednesday as we were returning to Boston. The last time I took Amtrak, several years ago, there were pretty limited options in Penn Station – and yes, there are still a ton of fast food places. I’d be lying if a crunch wrap supreme didn’t dance through my head when I saw the Taco Bell sign! However, I was super excited to find a takeout place called Chickpea. I was able to get a hummus bowl with grilled chicken, an assortment of fresh chopped veggies, some feta and tzatziki. It was filling and delicious – I may need to recreate this meal idea at home! I love that healthy options are becoming easier to find when traveling.

photo 2

I also keep healthy snacks on hand when I’m away from home. These almonds saved my life before class on Monday night! I like to have access to nuts, healthy bars (like Larabar), and fruit, so that I’m not tempted by the hotel minibar or the candy for sale on the train. Whenever I fly, or head out for long road trips, I always make sure I have my bag of snacks handy! I also keep a water bottle handy so that I stay hydrated. When you’re on the road, it’s easy to neglect your hydration, which wreaks havoc on your skin and on how you feel. I find that bringing my own reusable bottle helps me to remember to keep drinking water throughout the day, instead of continually refilling the free coffee on hand during meetings.

What tips or tricks do you have to stay healthy while traveling?

Shifting Attitudes

Today’s post stems from a lot of recent experiences – from conversations I’ve had with girlfriends, from how I’ve been feeling myself, and from some articles and blog posts I’ve seen kicking around the internet. It’s certainly not a new topic, and I’m not sure I’m going to cover any new ground here, but here goes nothing. I want to spend some time today reflecting on why we, as women, are so damn hard on ourselves.

Most days, I think I am my own harshest critic. I struggle to just let things go. On days when I can’t make it to the gym, I feel guilty for skipping a workout – even if I had a legitimate reason for being unable to make it to my scheduled classes. When my diet isn’t as healthy as I would like it to be, I condemn myself for making poor decisions.

I know I’m not alone here. I cringe every time I hear my friends criticize themselves. These are smart, talented, successful women. They are funny, compassionate, smart, and engaging people; I enjoy their company and I’m lucky to have them as friends. But despite all of their outstanding qualities, I still hear these women put themselves down. They’re not working out enough; they don’t like what they see in the mirror; they’re unhappy with themselves.

And as if it weren’t enough to battle the voices in our own heads, we also get it from everywhere else. If we do achieve our health and fitness goals, suddenly we’re under attack for becoming obsessed with the gym. I’ve heard friends – healthy, strong, inspiring friends – relay their frustration at being told they’ve gone too far. Don’t be overweight – but don’t lose too much weight, or you’ll hear just as many complaints about your appearance. If you don’t work out, you’re lazy – but if you commit to making the gym a priority in your life, suddenly you’re a bad friend who spends too much time working out.

I’m posting today because I’m sick of it. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been on track this month – and that’s okay. My weight’s gone up a few pounds, I’ve had to miss a lot of classes, and I haven’t prioritized food prep. It would be really easy to look at these past few weeks and see all the things I could have done differently, and to criticize myself for that. Instead, I’m choosing to concentrate on the positives. I didn’t grocery shop or meal prep this weekend because I decided to take some time to spend with friends, and the quality time I spent with them meant more for my health than any of the nutritious meals I would have prepared in my slow cooker. I had to cancel my gym classes this week because I had to have a mole removed to test for melanoma, but I’m not going to be upset about that. I’m prioritizing my long term health, and letting the biopsy site heal cleanly is more important than squeezing in a barre class.

I shouldn’t need to make excuses. I should be able to be at peace with myself, whatever version of myself I’m presenting on any given day. I want to feel as confident on my best days as I do on my worst. I want to silence the voice in my head that spreads doubt, and guilt, and leads me to question my every move. Basically, I want to get to the point that this is my inner monologue, 24/7:

So, I’m challenging myself to create a new habit. Every morning, I’ll set a positive intention for the day – something I’m doing that day for myself, for the pleasure of doing it, not for any other reason. And every night, before going to bed, I’ll reflect on at least one positive thing that happened that day. So as not to overcrowd the blog, I’ll be posting these intentions on my tumblr page. I’ll include a digest of my week’s reflections as part of my Friday roundup.

Do you ever feel like you’re too hard on yourself? Care to join me on this journey? Let me know how you’ll be logging your intentions and reflections – if you’re doing so electronically, share the link in the comments! 

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

I’m heading off on a long overdue family vacation this week. I haven’t been away with my parents in almost three years, and we’re all in desperate need of a break from reality. Between stress at work, seemingly never-ending health issues, and the grind of daily life, I’m not sure you could find three people more eager to get the heck out of dodge.

We’re heading to Las Vegas to spend five nights at Mandalay Bay. Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I do not expect to stick to my clean eating, healthy living habits in Vegas. I wouldn’t be able to truly relax if I were putting pressure on myself 24/7 to “be good” — but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to go totally crazy! There are ways to balance out a relaxing, indulgent vacation with a healthy mindset. Here are some of the things I’ll be doing to make sure that a week away from home doesn’t totally undo all of my hard work…

Find ways to stay active while on vacation. 

Just because I’m away from home doesn’t mean I can’t still be active. True, I won’t be able to take a Studio Poise class for a week, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do some core work on the floor of my hotel room! I’ll have my iPad with me so I can do some follow along videos every morning. I know I’ll feel better if I start my day by getting my body moving, and I’ll also feel less guilty when I indulge later in the day.

Mandalay Bay has a beautiful fitness center, but there’s a daily fee to use it. I’d rather save my dollars, so in addition to my hotel room fitness plans, I’m also bringing my sneakers and plan to get out for a run every day. There’s a half mile jogging path that runs around the outside of the hotel’s pool and beach area that I can take advantage of, or I can venture out and take in the sights along the strip while also logging some miles.

Indulge wisely.

Yes, I plan to have a drink while I’m lounging poolside, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be ordering up one of those ridiculously oversized souvenir glasses of frozen sugary alcoholic goodness. I may have one pina colada as a treat during the vacation, but primarily I’ll stick to vodka sodas. I find these more refreshing, they have significantly fewer calories, and they won’t leave me with a raging sugar-induced hangover the next day.

This was from my last trip to Vegas, in 2010. I'm sipping from a yard of margarita. I have no idea what a yard translates to in ounces, but I can tell you that it leads to one heck of a hangover.

This was from my last trip to Vegas, in 2010. I’m sipping from a yard of margarita. I have no idea what a yard translates to in ounces, but I can tell you that it leads to one heck of a hangover.

I also know that I’ll be having an amazing dinner every night, so I’ll pace myself throughout the day. I’ll scope out my options for healthy, lighter breakfast and lunch choices – places with great salads, fruit bowls, and low calorie offerings. I’ll make sure to steer clear of the poolside stands offering burgers and quick fried options! I’m also packing an assortment of healthy snacks – things like 100 calorie packs of almonds, Lara bars, and packets of Shakeology with my blender bottle – so that I’m equipped for success. This is especially smart for the days when I’ll be flying, as it can be challenging and expensive to find healthy options in airports!

Remember that this is a vacation, and it’s okay to enjoy yourself! 

At the end of the day, I love to eat, and I love trying new restaurants. When we booked the trip, I spent hours reading restaurant reviews before deciding on where we’d be eating each night. We aren’t the type of people who go to Vegas to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet, so I won’t be tempted by the never ending display of caloric options. Instead, we’ve got reservations at some great restaurants, including Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse, Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, and my personal favorite, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery.

The key, when dining out, is to know where you’ll get the most bang for your buck, calorically speaking. If I order an appetizer somewhere, I’ll pass on dessert. So, I do my homework. I read reviews, and I pay attention to whether certain restaurants have a really astounding pastry chef, or whether there are certain appetizers for which the location is famous for. I’ll try to order wisely based on this research.

However, at the end of the day, I also won’t beat myself up too much for enjoying an amazing meal. I don’t eat this way normally; I might go out for a really extravagant meal once every two or three months when I’m at home. I know that these restaurants are using quality ingredients and everything is being prepared by the best chefs, and I will concentrate on enjoying the experience and savoring every bite.

Come back from Vegas several million dollars richer.

Okay, maybe I’m practicing a little bit of The Secret here. If I put something out into the universe, it will come true, right? ….RIGHT?!

photo 3

Immediately after winning $600 on Sex and the City slot machines back in 2010… so really, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, you guys.

What are your strategies for staying active when on vacation?
Any favorite Vegas activities that I should check out while I’m there?