100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 8

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100 Days of Crazy Healthy is not your typical health challenge! It is based on my personal experiences with getting healthy–a cumulative process that changes our daily habits incrementally.

However, because these changes are small and incremental, it can be easier to discount their importance, than it would be to make significant changes all at once. Don’t let your mind fool you! Keep moving forward with these small changes, trust the struggle, and believe that these crazy healthy habits will change your life, one week at a time.

For Week 8, we add back strengtheners, as counterposes for our core work. Practiced daily, these poses will improve your posture and balance, as well as boot your immunity.

I’ve included the full list of daily habits here, but you can page down to item #6 to learn more about our back work. These exercises should take less than 2 minutes to perform.

Do you have questions about 100 Days of Crazy Healthy? Feel free to email any time, or leave your comments below.

Good luck with Week 8! Let me know how it goes!

Namaste~

Amber

Daily Habits For Week 8

1. Upon waking, scrape your tongue from front to back with a spoon, or tongue scraper. This will remove the ama (toxins) that have built up in your mouth over night. Rinse your mouth with water, being careful to not swallow any of the water, and brush your teeth afterward. Read more about the powerful practice of tongue scraping here.

2. Drink 12 oz. of warm, filtered water, before consuming food. You may add lemon or lime to the water if you would like.

3. Enjoy quinoa with fruit and nuts, or a crazy healthy smoothie, for breakfast every morning.

4. Practice 5 B series Sun Salutations, moving intentionally on each inhale and exhale, as shown in the photo from Week 1. Don’t rush, and don’t think about anything besides the breath and the pose. This will feel difficult, if you are new to yoga, but reject this idea in favor of doing the work. For those who have practiced yoga before, doing 5 Sun Salutations every day may feel boring–do it anyway and trust the process. Play the music you love, or use my playlists on Spotify. Make it a moving meditation. Changes will happen on such a deep level in your body, that you won’t even be aware that you are being transformed. It’s a beautiful thing! It is preferable to practice in the morning before showering, but this may be done at night, if necessary. Do whatever it takes, to complete this task every day! Don’t allow yourself to crawl into bed at night, until it is done. It takes me exactly one minute to complete a B Series Sun Salutation, using full inhales and exhales, and it should be the same for you, so this is a 5 minute exercise.

5. Practice 3 minutes of core work every day, comprised of 100 bicycles, 20 toe touches and 6 plank exercises. The bicycles may be broken up into 5 sets of 2 or 2 sets of 50–doesn’t matter as long as you do 100 each day. The same is true for toe touches and planks…break it up if you can’t do them all at once. This may be done after sun salutations, or any other time during the day. No matter what, don’t go to bed at night, until you have completed this work.

To perform bicycles, lie on your back, and bring your right elbow to meet your left knee. Move intentionally, and on the breath, exhaling as the elbow reaches toward the knee, inhaling as you release the crunch. Count every time you reach the right knee to left elbow. Do not let the knee come forward of the hip.

To perform toe touches, lie on your back, with legs straight. Stretch arms overhead, and then lift feet and hands to meet each other, keeping arms and legs straight. Move slowly and intentionally, and take breaks as you need them. Always exhale as you crunch and inhale as you release.

To perform planques, begin in Down Dog, then bring knee-to-nose, knee-to-elbow, and knee to opposite elbow. Shift your hips forward to bring shoulders over wrists. Hold each for 20 breaths (or two sets of ten breaths each), and make sure you do them on both sides of your body.

6. After practicing your core work, roll over to your stomach, and practice poses to strengthen your back. Stretch your arms forward, and legs straight back. Lift your right arm and left leg, lengthening forward and back, and hold for 20 breaths. You may break this into 2 sets of 10 breaths if you wish. If you feel pain in your lower back, lower your arm and leg until you feel balanced. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the pose looks like, as long as you are meeting resistance and breathing into it. Lower limbs to the ground, and repeat on the other side, also holding for 20 breaths. Next, lift both arms and both legs at the same time. Try to relax the lower back, and let the hands and feet lift as they reach. Note: the photo above shows the pose performed with palms facing the earth, but I prefer to practice these poses with palms facing each other. Both are correct, so you may decide which is most effective for your purposes.

7. Eat raw or roasted veggies with a healthy fat for your afternoon snack. Some examples would be celery with almond or peanut butter (organic if possible), bell pepper strips with hummus and organic olive oil, asparagus roasted with grape seed oil and sea salt, spring mix with avocado, lemon and sea salt, or roasted sweet potatoes with grape seed oil and sea salt.

8. Practice Pigeon Pose, for one full minute on each side. Remember, the more you move your front foot forward, the deeper the stretch. Find your edge, and breathe into it. The back leg should be straight back behind you, and the hips are level.

9. After practicing pigeon on both sides, practice Cobbler’s Pose for one full minute. Keep your back flat, and reach the heart forward, for maximum effect. You may use your elbows to press into your thighs, to deepen the stretch.

10. Eat a vegetarian soup or salad for lunch. Prepare it (or order it) with the intention of maximizing your nutrient intake.

11. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the fight on my Facebook page. I will share quotes, and ancient wisdom to support the habits we are You can do this! It may seem too difficult to some, and too simple to others, but either way, trust the struggle. Don’t think, just do. I’m here to help, so please don’t hesitate to email your questions.

*Crazy Healthy Smoothies are balanced meals, prepared with awareness and intention to fuel the body. We include pure fruit juice, sweet and sour whole fruit, greens, healthy fat, and protein, for an energizing start to our day. It helps to think about smoothies from an ayurvedic perspective: how many flavors can we fit into one meal? Mixing sweet and sour fruits with bitter veggies, pungent nut butters, and spicy herbs (think ginger and cayenne) can help us start the day off feeling energizing and ready to tackle the world. Learn how to make Crazy Healthy Smoothies here.

 Photo: http://www.jillianhessel.com

 

Let’s Talk About Raising Healthy Kids

When I was a little girl, I believed in fairy tales. That no matter what kind of trouble might find me, there would always be a hero rushing to my rescue.

As I got older, I realized that this is not how life works–no one comes to save us, we have to save ourselves…

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.

I started having headaches when I was in kindergarten, and no one could figure out why. I visited doctors, changed my diet, and tried to get more sleep, but nothing seemed to help. I suffered a lot…loudly at first, and then silently, when people got tired of my complaints.

The headaches were relentless throughout elementary school, but I learned to hide my pain. I actually got quite good at it. As I got older, the headaches became more frequent, and new health challenges presented themselves–food addiction, depression, insomnia, and recurring sinus infections. I hid those as well. No one knew how much I suffered.

Until one day, I couldn’t hide my health problems any more. When I was 26, a near-fatal car crash left me with a dozen broken bones, and a long road to recovery. It was then, at rock bottom, that I finally realized that life is not a fairy tale, and the only way I would ever find happiness, was to rescue myself.

I spent most of my twenties recovering, and all of my thirties fighting my way to good health. My body healed from the crash, but a new challenge presented itself–autoimmune thyroid disease. I had to fight even harder, to get back on stable ground.

It took time, and a lot of hard work, but saving myself from a lifetime of ailments and injuries was the most worthwhile thing I have ever done. I learned how to control my energy, pain, strength, moods, weight, and illness with food and exercise. In the process, I traded my victim mentality for the commitment of a warrior, trusting the struggle, and seeking whatever it takes, to live life in balance.

I’m 43 now, and these lessons feel like some of the greatest blessings in my life! I am grateful for all that this crazy healthy life has revealed, and I feel called to share what really works with others, in every way that I can.

As a wellness coach, one of my favorite things to do is teach parents how to empower their children with the awareness, beliefs, and consistency that are essential for a healthy life. I call this approach “The ABC’s of Raising Healthy Kids”, and I will discuss how and why it works at Whole Foods in Atlanta (West Paces Ferry location) next Tuesday night, June 17th. Everyone is invited, there will be food, and it’s FREE!

Please plan to join me at 7 PM in The Cafe. Reserve your spot by emailing stephanie.watson@wholefoods.com, and let me know if you have any specific questions you would like me to address. As always, I am here to help, and appreciate your comments and feedback.

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Time Matters

1391767_485484761558997_1565215455_nYoga playtime with the girlies

Did y’all hear that a little snow brought our city to a standstill last month? I was one of the thousands of people that were stuck on the road for most of the day. It took me 7 hours to travel 13 miles. Lucky for me, the gas tank was full, and I had snacks on hand, so it was not as much of an ordeal as it could have been.

Even so, it was pretty stressful to be stuck in the car for hours on end.

My journey began at 1 PM, just after the snow started. By 7 PM, I was still 3 miles from home, and really thirsty, so I stopped to buy water at Walgreens.

The store was empty, but for 3 or 4 people and a single clerk. Shoppers were quick to pick out their items, and hop in the check out line–everybody wanted to get home as soon as possible. As I paid for my water, the man waiting behind me placed a 6 pack of Milwaukee’s Best, and two bottles of red wine on the counter. Another man walked up after him, and they struck up a conversation.

“You’ve got the right idea, buddy! Stocking up for a long day tomorrow.”

It struck me as so funny, because I had been thinking along very different lines. Sitting in the car for hours on end had stiffened up all of my muscles, and my joints ached where I had broken bones many years ago. I was not thinking about getting my drink on at all…instead, I was giddy at the prospect of having an entire day at home to stretch, flow, practice arm balances, and cook healing foods.

As they say, to each his own…

But I wonder what would have happened if I had encouraged my fellow shoppers to think differently about how they spent their snow day. This crazy healthy life has taught me that time is our most valuable asset, and we must spend it wisely. Every day is an opportunity to do better, and to be better. It’s all cumulative.

So, with this in mind, I thought I’d share what we are looking forward to doing, while we are trapped in the house:

1) Learning how to cook healthy foods. The girls are learning to roast veggies, make green juices, sauté fruit, and make spiced nuts. This means our kitchen will be a big fat mess for the next few days, but it’s a price I am willing to pay. Let the dishes pile up…we’ll all be better off for it in the end!

2) Memorizing Sun Saluation B. They girls have been practicing yoga with me for a while, but our practices are more whimsical and silly, than organized. Helping them learn Sun Salutation B will teach them how to wrap structure around their personal practice. And maybe, just maybe, they will even teach their friends! We play dance music to make the experience fun, and crack lots of jokes, so it feels more like a game than a chore.

3) Talking about how yoga philosophy complements our Christian faith. I have been reading snippets of Patnajali’s Yoga Sutras to the girls for the past few weeks, and it’s started some really important conversations about their friendships, their goals, and their personal habits. Concepts like ahimsa (non-harming) help them understand to choose their words and behavior carefully, santosha (contentment) teaches them to be grateful for their blessings, and bramacharya (non-excess) teaches them the importance of everything in moderation.

These are just a few of the crazy, but healthy ways we will spend our icy days at home. I think it’s some of the best things we can do for our kids right now, because, as Andy Stanley recently said, “In the areas that matter most, you can’t make up misspent time.”

Truthfully, part of me wants to park the kids in front of the TV, and curl up in bed with a good book. Mama could use a day off, now and then, too. But I won’t. Because time matters, and those of us in the Deep South have been given the gift of a whole lotta extra time to kill this week…and my crazy healthy family is going to make the best of it.

 

When Kids Don’t Eat Their Lunch, It’s Not About The Food

My friend, Cindy, has two precious young boys who adore her, but don’t always love the healthy lunches she packs for school. Feeling frustrated by their ever-changing attitudes, she reached out for a little help with “packing a week of healthy lunches the kids will actually eat.”

At first, it sounded like she was asking for a list of foods, and maybe some recipes, but after a few emails back and forth, it became clear that Cindy’s lunchbox challenge was not about the food at all. It was about something much bigger.

The conversation turned to psychology. We talked about how, just like adults, kids can have complicated relationships with food. Their beliefs, preferences, and actions are colored by every experience they have ever had with food….from nursing, to first foods, to yesterday’s snack. It’s essential to keep this in mind, as we teach our kids about nutrition. What we send for lunch, is not as important as how our kids feel about the experience before, during and after their lunch break.

So, keeping this in mind, here are some ways that we can help our kids embrace their healthy lunchbox:

1. Set boundaries, for yourself and for your kids. Talk about them often, and stand your ground. As much as they may protest, kick and scream, the one thing kids want most from their parents is boundaries. They need to know that you are in charge. Because, how scary would it be, to be a kid and be in charge? Unlike your kids, you have the experience, knowledge, and tools necessary for leading your family in healthy habits. So, be the leader your kids want you to be…explain what is acceptable and what is not, and enforce the rules with compassion, love and grace.

2. Let it be their idea. Clean out your cabinets of foods you don’t want your kids to eat, and take them shopping for better choices. Stick to the produce and health food aisles, and ask them to pick what they would like for snack, lunch, etc. Fill the cart with brightly colored fruits and veggies first. Ask which whole foods they like best. Which new foods would they like to try? Teach kids how to read labels. And give them opportunities to demonstrate what they have learned, by asking questions about what they chose and why. Encourage them to be leaders at the lunch table, by talking about what your family values about food. Most of all, have fun, be inquisitive, and enjoy the journey.

3. Let kids plan the meals. Would your kids be more likely to eat meals that they chose themselves? Ask them to help you make a lunchbox plan for the week. Remind them of the boundaries (75% fruits and vegetables, more color than white foods, or whatever your rules might be), and see what they come up with. It’s okay if their plan isn’t exactly what you hoped for the first week…pack it anyway. This is a process, and it takes time! The following week, challenge them to increase the nutrient density of their meal plan by adding more fresh foods, colorful foods, etc. Do it again the following week, and every week after, until you are both satisfied. It won’t be long before you both feel better.

4. Get creative in the kitchen. There are a lot of simple, yummy, healthy foods your kids can create on their own. Set out bags of nuts, dried fruit, and seeds, and ask if they’d like to make a trail mix for tomorrow’s lunch. Set out bowls of chopped fruit, and invite them to make a fruit salad to pack. Or maybe they would like to make cinnamon spiced apples with you? Or healthy no-bake cookies, made from oats, cinnamon, raisins and honey? The options for simple recipes are endless, and preparing food together is a great way to connect with kids.

5. Practice non-attachment. Does it bother you when your kids don’t eat their lunch? Do you get rattled when they say they like humus one day, but not the next? From our perspective, as parents, these are really frustrating experiences, especially when we are trying our best to instill good habits (and we don’t want food to go to waste). However, from a kid’s perspective, this is just part of the learning process. They are figuring things out, and it takes time. This is why it’s important to take a deep breath and try something different, when things don’t go as expected. And remember, it’s not just about the food with kids, it’s also about your relationship with them. The less attached you are to outcome, the less of a power struggle it will be, and the more the conversation can be about the right thing to do, instead of what Mom wants him or her to do.

So…if like Cindy, packing healthy lunches feels like one big struggle, loosen the reigns a little. Remember that teaching kids good habits is not a linear process. It’s complicated, but with a little intention, and a lot of love, we can inspire our kids to become the healthy eaters we always hoped they would be.

photo copy 27Me and my picky eaters, ringing in the new year at the beach

The A-B-C’s of Raising Crazy Healthy Kids

1503293_10202971599273913_792128419_nI have three daughters, ages 6, 8, and 9, who love to dance, swim, practice yoga, shoot hoops, play soccer, and invent healthy snacks.  They know that food and exercise can be medicinal, and love to talk about our crazy healthy adventures, with anyone who will listen.

I think this is why people ask me all the time, “How do I teach my kids to be healthy?” The way they say it, it sounds like it’s the hardest thing in the world.

And with good reason, because it is hard to teach kids to be healthy. But not in the way you might think.

It’s not hard because kids don’t like healthy food. It’s not because kids don’t like to exercise. And it’s definitely not because kids resist change.

It’s hard because we often expect our children to do as I say, not as I do, and it almost never works. The reality is that, if want to raise healthy kids, we have to be the change we hope to see in our kids. We have to earn their respect by doing the things that matter, and remember that we are teaching them, with every decision we make.

While some might think this is bad news, I actually think it’s the best news ever. Because being the change we hope to see in our kids is as easy as A-B-C:

A. Practice AWARENESS. Pay attention to how you eat, what you eat, where you eat, and why you eat. Question your behavior a lot. Figure out what you enjoy about getting healthy, and practice it often! Because the truth is that kids learn more from our actions than our words. Remind yourself every day that you are your child’s role model, mentor, and guru, and you have to act the part, if you want them to believe that their choices matter.

B. Examine and share your BELIEFS about food and exercise. What do you think it takes to get healthy, and stay healthy? Are you sure? Decide what you believe, and then talk to your kids every single day about it. Not in an organized, “I’m going to teach you a lesson” kind of way, but in casual conversation. Share stories from your journey, both failures and successes. And ask their opinion a lot. What should we buy at the grocery store today? What percentage of our dinner came from the earth? Why does that matter? Most of all, have fun with it, and seek to understand what your kids enjoy about food and exercise.

C. Be CONSISTENT. Pick two or three healthy habits that you want your kids to embrace, and add them to your daily routine. For me, it’s drinking a large glass of water with lime when I wake, practicing yoga (even if only for 10 minutes), and eating lots of vegetables. It doesn’t matter what we do, as much as it matters that we do it every single day. Start small, pick goals that are reasonable, and stick to them, no matter what. Think about what you want your kids to say about you when they grow up: When I was a kid, my mom always _______. This is where you should start.

The truth is that it’s not easy to teach kids to be healthy, but it’s always worth it, and these ABC’s help a lot. As you work on yourself, enjoy the journey and trust the struggle, because what you want most for your kids, is waiting on the other side.

Have you liked My Crazy Healthy Life on Facebook? Join our community for more insights, tips and conversations about this crazy healthy life!

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Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

ZiZi climbed off the bus with this tucked under her arm yesterday afternoon:

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Her lips and teeth were blue, and she was chewing a wad of gum that was way too big for her mouth.

With a goofy smile on her face, she said, “Guess what Mom?”

“You won the estimation game at school?”

“Yes! There were 96 gum balls in the jar, and I guessed 94! I gave some away on the bus, and I had a few, so there are 72 left.” She was so proud of herself, and clinging to her prize. 

All I could think was, “How am I going to get this mood-altering candy away from her? It’s hard enough to be an 8 year old girl with red hair, without a bunch of sugar and chemicals messing with your brain.”

I tried to bargain with money. I think it’s a much more appropriate reward than food, and she usually takes the bait. But not this time. The gum was a novelty–something she consumes a few times a year–and she wanted to enjoy it.

“There’s a lot of sugar in that gum, and you know sugar affects your moods. How about I’ll trade you a dollar for the whole jar?”

Blank stare.

“Two dollars?”

Nothing.

“How about a Beanie Boo key chain for your backpack?”

“Can I have the $6 Beanie Boo I want at Richard’s?”

I had to draw the line. Six dollars would have sent the wrong message.

“No, honey, I think that’s too much.”

And then, I remembered that our dentist had a dish of Spry Gum, last week when we visited. Spry is non-GMO, has no artificial colors, artificial preservatives, GMO or carcinogenic sugars, or artificial flavors and it is made with Xylitol. Also, the manufacturers claim it cleans our teeth as we chew.

I still don’t think that chewing gum is a good idea–it messes with our body’s ability to produce digestive enzymes–but I decided Spry Gum was a much better option than big blue sugar-coated gum balls .

“How about I buy you some of the Spry Gum you loved at Dr. Goldstein’s last week. It’s a healthier choice than sugary gum, right?”

“Could I have fruit flavor?”

“You can have any flavor you like! But I get the sugary gum with the blue dye.”

“OK, Mom that’s fair.”

As soon as we got home, I fired up my laptop, and together we ordered 100 pieces of Fresh Fruit Spry Chewing Gum.

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Here’s the thing, though…I will only offer it once when it arrives. I feel like the less I offer treats, the less my kids expect them, and the more balanced they can be in their diet. Our rule is no more than one treat a day, and I work hard to make sure we stick to it.

In doing so, I’ve learned that it’s best to rarely offer treats, BUT oblige within reason, when asked. My kids receive so much sugar outside the house, that it’s impossible to stick to our “one treat a day” rule, if I offer sweets at home. So, I keep candy and gum of sight, which usually keeps it out of mind. This is how we deal with Halloween candy, Valentine’s candy, birthday party goody bags, and other sweets that come into our home unexpectedly. I also make a point of asking a lot of questions about school each day, including whether they had any candy, cupcakes or other sweets. They are good about telling me the truth…I think because we have always talked this way, and they know I only ask because I truly care about their well-being.

When ZiZi asks for her gum later this week, I will oblige, if she has not had any other treats that day. Afterwards, I’ll put the gum up on a shelf, until she asks for it again. She will remember the day after, and maybe the day after that, but at some point ZiZi will forget about the gum. When she does remember, or if I need a semi-healthy treat for her, I will pull it back out when it serves a purpose.

I wanted share this story with you, because I think it demonstrates a fundamental belief about this crazy healthy life. We always have options to be healthier, and where there is a will to make a healthier choice, there is a way to make it happen.

Have you liked My Crazy Healthy Life on Facebook? Join the conversation…we would love to get healthy with you!

Let’s Start A Wellness Revolution


1294399_10202258839095354_1217924449_oPeople always ask me, “how can I teach my kids to be healthy?” The answer is simple: be the change you want to see in your kids. Kids value what their parents value. The way I see it, we must put the oxygen masks on ourselves first, if we want this generation to grow up healthier than the last.

This is why I volunteered to chair the Wellness Committee at our neighborhood elementary school this year. I think it’s a great way to rally our community around a shared goal.

In the past, we had a small committee that put in a lot of hours to execute Wellness Week. For the 2013-14 school year, however, we have a committee of 70 parents and faculty members, who have been asked to commit a total of 10 hours of volunteer time, between September and May. Most of their responsibilities can be scheduled at their convenience. I am hoping that this will be the key to our success: rallying a lot of leaders around a common cause, making it convenient to participate, and creating new opportunities to engage with students about what it means to be healthy.

The response to our new programs has been overwhelming. Of course, we had a little bit of a head start, because we live in a community that already values good health. Why not give them a chance to share their enthusiasm for all things healthy, within the school?

I spent a good part of the summer and the entire month of September thinking about how we can teach healthy habits on a $500 budget. It made me realize that we don’t need money to inspire our kids to create healthy habits. All we need is relationship capital, a platform to share what we love, and a small investment of time.

The programs we are adding to our school this year are so simple, that I think that every school in America could adopt them. It’s time to start a Wellness Revolution, and it begins by engaging our kids in more healthy activities.

Here’s whats working for us, that might also work for your school. It’s been awesome watching parents and teachers get fired up about wellness…it’s such a reminder of how connected we all are!

Most of our activities have been consolidated into a single week that we call “Wellness Week”, but you could do them at your school, any time during the year:

1. Healthy tips during morning announcements. We have parent volunteers sharing healthy tips during morning announcements each day this week. I created scripts for the parents who wanted them, and asked the parents who are subject matter experts create their own. Some of the topics are 10 Ways To Eat More Veggies, 10 Healthy Breakfast Foods, Breathing Exercises, and Stretching Exercises. This is one of our moms, leading yesterday’s healthy tip, which was a mindfulness exercise.

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2. Healthy games on the playground. Parent volunteers are leading fun exercises during recess, every day this week. Our recess runs 11 AM-1:30 PM, so there are two 75 minute shifts. School is closed this Friday, and we have two campuses, so this requires a total of 16 volunteers for 75 minutes each (2 schools x 4 days  x 2 shifts). Each day is a different game. Yesterday was Simon Says Exercise, today is Silly Animal Walk Races, tomorrow is Yoga, and Thursday is Freeze Dance. I don’t think it matters what games are played, as long as the parents have fun leading them!

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3. Healthy snacks in the classroom. We created a healthy snack list, and asked parents to pick a day to share a healthy snack with the entire class, each day during Wellness Week. This is such a simple, but effective way for parents to role model healthy habits!

4. Teacher gifts. We printed labels that say “Happy Wellness Week!”, stuck them to a LARA BAR, and placed one in each teacher’s mailbox. This was the only thing I spent money on for Wellness Week. If you want to save money, you could skip the treats, and print a healthy recipe, or simply write each teacher a note that says Happy Wellness Week! It’s the thought that counts.

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5. Walk To School Day. This does require some coordination, for safety reasons, but it does not cost money. Tomorrow is National Walk To School Day, but you could plan one of your own at any time. To encourage participation, we have a local vendor donating T-shirts, and our parent volunteers will work with our crossing guards to ensure safety for all children. It’s a great way to teach kids that walking can be fun!

6. Create a Wellness Ambassador Program. This is what we are doing outside of Wellness Week, to keep the conversations going all year long. I recruited volunteers from each of our 52 classes, who will lead a healthy activity in the classroom six times during the school year. Our volunteers will use standardized lessons that I am creating, but your school might want to just ask parents to make smoothies in the class, lead stretches, or help kids create and stick to a “Wellness Resolution” (like a New Year’s resolution!). It is the volunteer’s attitude and enthusiasm, more than the activities, that matter most.

7. Ask the faculty what they think. Invite teachers and administrators to meet with you monthly, or bi-monthly, to help shape wellness initiatives for your school. Seek to understand how wellness initiatives might help them be more effective in their jobs. Our teachers are required to teach health lessons, so our ambassadors can actually take some of the weight off their shoulders, if we plan our lessons in ways that support them. You might be surprised by how new healthy intitiatives can create win-win experiences for everyone in the school!

The more we invest in our own health, talk about our disciplines, and make our efforts visible to our community, the faster we will shift what our community values. We don’t need to spend money to create a healthier culture, we just need to take a stand for what we believe, practice what we preach, and bring everyone we know along for the ride.

Namaste,

Amber

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The Day Luli Learned To Pogo

DSC_6650Every now and then, when I am with my kids, something happens that I know I will remember forever. That little voice, in the back of my head, says, “this is one of those moments that I don’t ever want to forget.” I pay close attention, and try to name what it feels like, so it will be imprinted on my mind permanently.

It happened earlier today, when our kindergartner, who we affectionately call Luli, hopped on her brand new pogo stick for the first time.

It was a gift from us to her; a surprise for her sixth birthday.

She was so excited when she opened it. She really really loved it! Couldn’t wait to try it out.

Luli strapped on her pink Barbie helmet, as I took the pogo stick out of the box. It was a sparkly tuquoise color, and the box said it would light up when she jumped.

She proudly carried it out the back door, and down to the grassy yard. We all followed, anxious to watch the birthday girl her bounce around on her new toy.

She held it in front of her, and paused for a moment. My mind was telling me that I should hold her up and tell her how to pogo. But my heart spoke louder. Don’t say a word, Amber. Let her figure it out on her own.

And then, Luli lifted one foot to the pogo. She cautiously lifted the other…and then she and her pink Barbie helmet tumbled to the ground. Reality set in: pogoing would not come easy.

With determination, Luli tried again, first one foot up, and then the other, and then the crash.

I sucked in my breath, and said a prayer. It was really loud in my head.

Please God, let her try again. And again. And again, until she finds her balance. Because when she does, she will be really proud of herself.

Without missing a beat, Luli hopped back on the stick. It took at least a dozen tries, before she was able to take a full hop on her pogo. When she started to get discouraged, I calmly offered help. I didn’t do much–just lightly held her by the waist–but it was the assist she needed to find her balance.

All of a sudden, it clicked, and Luli was bouncing like Tigger across our backyard. With a big fat Cheshire Cat grin on her face.

She was ecstatic! Blissful! And really proud of herself. I thanked God, and tried really hard to imprint that moment on my brain. It felt like magic.

Luli spent the rest of the afternoon on her new shiny pogo stick. It was 85 degrees, and at least 85% humidity, but she didn’t care. She just kept on pogoing.

Within the first half hour, Luli improved so much, that she could pogo eight times before losing her balance. She figured out that if she reaches her seat back, and her chest forward, her balance is better, and she could get into a ryhthm. She pogoed for almost two hours, stopping only to catch her breath, and drink some water.

By the time I called her for dinner, Luli was red-faced, and drenched in sweat, but she didn’t care. She had pogoed 24 times before falling off the stick.

It was an amazing transformation. I wished my friends had been there to watch. And my clients. And everyone who reads this blog.

Because Luli’s pogo lesson is, at it’s core, a lesson for all of us: trust the struggles, because we are capable of more than we think. And what we really, truly want, is waiting for us on the other side.

Cook Without Recipes in Three Simple Steps

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I used to think the crazy healthy cooking is difficult–that it takes years of training and practice to learn how to make nutritious meals.

Thankfully, I was wrong. I just wish I had known then, what I know now.

Crazy healthy cooking is actually quite simple, once we learn which foods fortify our bodies, and how to maximize their flavor during the cooking process. When we learn to trust our own instincts, and rely on our intuition more than cookbooks, we empower ourselves to create nutritious meals that lead us to a healthier life.

Admittedly, it took me a while to figure this out. I followed other people’s recipes for years, before l realized that I was working harder than necessary, to feed my family healthy meals. I wore myself out, trying to prepare multiple dishes that would all be ready at the same time, running to the grocery store for forgotten items, and beating myself up for not getting things “just right”.

Until one day I realized that my meals didn’t need to be complicated. Simple dishes can actually taste better than complex concoctions. Less really could be more, when it came to cooking delicious, healthy foods.

I started simplifying recipes, and eliminating unnecessary ingredients whenever possible. Instead of trying to follow recipes to a “T”, I explored new, creative ways to bring out the best flavors of fresh, healthy foods. Most of the time, this meant less ingredients, and less cooking time. Cooking became less burdensome, and I actually enjoyed being in the kitchen, for the first time in my life.

I was amazed that, with a little high heat oil, proper cooking utensils, and a few basic spices, I could prepare almost anything to my family’s liking. I spent less time preparing food, and found it easier to time my dishes, so they all came out the oven at the same time.

This blog is all about learning to let go, so we can live well. In my next few posts, I will share tips and stories about how I learned to let go of cooking with recipes, and empowered myself to cook nutritious meals more efficiently and effectively.

Follow along here, and on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life, as I share techniques and practices that make crazy healthy cooking as simple as 1-2-3.

Crazy Healthy Cooking In Three Simple Steps

1. Learn how to prepare whole foods as close to their natural state as possible, to maximize their flavor and nutrient content.

2. Keep the pantry stocked with good quality essentials.

3. Get comfortable with working with what is available.

Stay tuned for more on each of these topics in the next few weeks, and let me know what questions you have about this series. I appreciate your comments and feedback–thank you for joining me in this crazy healthy life!

Namaste,

Amber

Photo: http://www.coachcalorie.com

Learning To Fly

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Looking back now, twenty years into my crazy healthy life, it’s clear that being healthy is more of a journey, than a destination. Small choices add up over time, and before we know it, we feel stronger and happier than we ever imagined. I was reminded of this yesterday, when, after many months of unsuccessful practice, I finally figured out a difficult pose on my yoga mat.

I’ve worked hard, to master standing poses, backbends, twists, and stretches. But, for years, I avoided arm balances that seemed “impossible”, such as side crow, peacock pose, and running man (Kaundinyasana). I didn’t think I would ever succeed.

It’s pretty easy for a yogini to avoid learning arm balances, because teachers always offer alternatives for those who don’t want to balance. Given the option, I took it. I was too afraid of failing, hurting myself, or just looking like a fool.

When I turned 40 in 2011, however, I decided it was now or never. I got serious about learning the arm balances. I sought advice from teachers, read about the poses online, practiced at home, and changed my mind about what was possible.

Slowly, but surely, I made progress. It became a game, and now I “collect” poses.

I make up my mind to learn a pose, and don’t quit until I achieve my goal. I flip through my yoga books, search photos on the internet for inspiration, and work on one or two balances at a time.

Sometimes it takes months, or maybe even a year. But I just keep trying. When I finally figure it out, I check it off my list, and look for a new pose to master.

In the past two years, I have collected ten new balances poses that I could not do before (photos of most of them are on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life).

Even though I have collected some really cool new balance poses in the past two years, there is still a part of me that believes I will never conquer all of them.

Kaundinyasana in particular, is one that had always eluded me, and I doubted I could master. It’s also a pose that you see pictured often in yoga magazines, which makes it seem like all the great yogis can do it.

So, of course, not being able to practie Kaundinyasana made me feel separate. Like I couldn’t quite measure up.

When I feel that way these days, I remind myself that anything is possible on my mat, with enough time and dedication, and I just keep trying.

I’m always glad I did, because eventually the poses click, as Kaundinyasana did yesterday. Like the pieces of a puzzle, it all came together, and I learned to fly in this crazy arm balance. It was such a surprise, and afterward I felt giddy for the rest of the day.

The most awesome thing about learning Kaundinyasana is that learning a yoga pose is exactly like riding a bike. It’s difficult, frustrating, and overwhelming for a while. Once you learn it, however, you own it for life.

I woke up this morning feeling profoundly grateful, inspired to learn another new pose, and feeling the need to share this story with you. I hope it reminds you that anything is possible. Keep making choices, and believing that you can be everything you hope to be, and one day soon you’ll find yourself flying in more ways than you ever imagined.

Namaste~

Amber

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How Sweet It Is: Strawberry Picking at Mercier Orchards


This is my crazy messy family:

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Their fingers (and clothes) are stained with strawberries, after an amazing morning of strawberry picking at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, GA. We had a great time last Saturday, playing in their strawberry fields.

Mercier is a family-run business in the North Georgia mountains, with a wide variety of fruits that are grown as naturally as possible (our guide told me they only spray calcium and water on the fruit to keep pests away, and called it “pretty close to organic”). We have picked cherries at Mercier in the past, and have picked wild blueberries and blackberries elsewhere, but this was our first experience picking strawberries.

The girls got a kick out of paying for their baskets at the country store, and riding the hay truck through the orchards full of apple trees, cherry trees, and blueberry bushes, until we got to the strawberry field. When they climbed off the truck, got down on their knees, reached for, and bit into their first strawberry…warm, juicy, and fresh off the vine…their big bright eyes got a little brighter, and a smile grew across their face. And I knew, in my heart, that, for the rest of their life, they would always remember the taste of warm strawberries in the North Georgia mountains. We were making memories.

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The strawberries were delicious, but I what I loved most was getting down in the dirt to find our treasures. Being close to the earth is good for the soul. The best strawberries were usually buried under the biggest, brightest green leaves, which added an element of surprise, and joy, to the experience.

“Look at this one, Mom, it’s huge!”

“What about this one, it’s even bigger!”

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I’m pretty sure we ate more berries than we took home, and we definitely had a great adventure together as a family. We also gained a new appreciation for one of our favorite crazy healthy foods. We talked with the farmers who tend to the fields, and learned how strawberries get from the farm to our table. It’s one thing to talk about “eating from the earth”, but actually meeting the people who grow our food, pulling their berries from the vine, and savoring the sweetness in the field, reminded us all how blessed we are to live this crazy healthy life.

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The Naked Truth

I find inspiration in the most unexpected places. Today, it’s from Congressman Frank Underwood, the corrupt House Majority Whip played by Kevin Spacey on House of Cards, who observes:

“There is no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than a flood of naked truth.”

He’s referring to a political manipulation that called for unexpected, and shocking revelations, but it made me think…

That’s exactly what keeps us from getting healthy!

The trickle of doubt that invades our journey to crazy healthy. Repetitive thoughts: “Just this one won’t hurt” or “I don’t have time to exercise” and “I can’t do that!”. Bad habits and patterns, that we think we can’t break.

Is any of it founded in truth?

Of course not! The reality is that we are all essentially the same at our core. Most of us wrestle with a constant trickle of doubt. It gets under our skin, and infects our lives. And we secretly hope for a flood of naked truth to wash it all away.

So, for those who think they are ready to embrace this crazy healthy life, here’s the naked truth about what it entails:

1) Letting go of attachments. It’s human nature to be attached–it starts the moment we are born, with attachment to the loving arms of a parent, and grows for the rest of our lives. We become attached to emotions, experiences, behaviors, people, and outcomes. Sometimes attachments serve us, but they often get in our way. Learning to identify attachments, and rejecting the ones that don’t serve us, is essential.

2) Cultivating awareness. How many times have you devoured a sandwich, without really tasting it? Or met someone new, and realized you don’t know their name, five minutes after you met? We miss a lot of critical information when our attention is everywhere but the present moment. On the contrary, when we pay attention, we learn. Knowledge is power! Cultivating awareness is a natural driver of crazy healthy habits.

3) Changing attitudes. Nothing worthwhile ever came easy, and getting healthy can often feel like a part-time job. The work, however, is a lot more enjoyable if we approach it with curiosity, hope, and expectation, rather than dread and self-doubt. Stay positive, and believe that anything is possible.

4) Committing to action. Every decision, and action taken, adds up to the sum and total of your health. Make a plan for success, with daily commitments, and stick to it. As Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

Most of all, remember that every day, and every choice, matters. Each moment is an opportunity to do better, and be better. Let go of self-doubt, and seek the naked truth. Pretty soon it will overpower anything and everything that gets in the way of your crazy healthy life.

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