The Secret To A Guilt Free Holiday

The Secret To A Guilt Free Holiday

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have become keenly aware of the worry the holiday season is creating for clients, friends and family. I have been pondering the problem for days and I am proud to say I have finally hit on the THE ANSWER for alleviating some of their anxiety. The secret to having a guilt free holiday is…..

Stop feeling guilty.

I have been frustrated in recent weeks with the plethora of “guilt free” holiday recipes and infographics depicting how many miles you have to run or minutes you have to exercise to burn off a piece of pumpkin pie. When did a holiday that began as a celebration of NOT starving to death and giving thanks for the bounty we have become overtaken about the idea that we need to deprive ourselves and feel ashamed for a big home cooked meal with those we love?

It is ONE day. It is ONE meal. It does not have the power to destroy.

I am all about keeping it as real as possible. I am pro eating with awareness. I advocate thinking about what you eat and how it affects your body. Guilt should not be a part of making healthy decisions. Guilt is about shame and punishment. None of these things has a place in balanced lifestyle and building a healthy relationship with food.

I want you to accept you will eat more than usual on Thanksgiving. I want you to not feel bad about enjoying things you don’t eat every day if they are TRULY treats. I want you to have fun with your family, being active together if you can. The day after is just another day. (Unless you’re Black Friday shopping, then pack your protein bars and plenty of water). Resume normal activities. Go back to your meal plan, your workout and hopefully an extra day off work.

Don’t hit the treadmill for an extra 30 minutes as punishment for the stuffing. Don’t schedule yourself for TWO spin classes to “pay for” what you did the day before. Exercise for the health of it, the joy of it and because it’s WHAT YOU DO in a fit life.

You still have time to make your peace with it, which I know may be hard. After years of trying to find a “clean” pumpkin pie that tastes just as good as Grandma’s or a way to make faux mashed potatoes where you really “can’t tell the difference”, letting go of the guilt may be a challenge. You can find balance by roasting up some Brussels sprouts to get your greens. You can make a decision to use a measuring cup to get the proper portion of stuffing, but have the stuffing if you really love it. Enjoy the butter on that homemade roll! It will be okay when the day is done. The damage will be minimal.

Creating a new healthy life does require creating some new traditions. Some things will change about how you celebrate the holidays but if it’s truly special, if you look forward to it all year, then enjoy it. Guilt doesn’t have a place in a healthy life. Awareness does. Guilt has no place in this season of thanks, gratitude and giving. Practice love and kindness to everyone, including yourself.

The Best Fit Things To Do On Oahu

When you book a trip to Oahu you will probably find yourself booking a hotel in Waikiki. All the major hotel chains are present and there is easy access to the beach, surf lessons, high end shopping and familiar restaurants. My husband and I stayed there because of our love of Hyatt hotels; both the Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Place hotels are within blocks of each other. However if you really want to experience Oahu you need to GET OUT of Waikiki. The best fit things to do are away from the over crowded and artificially created beach front. Here’s my list of the must not miss things for your active Hawaiian adventure on Oahu.

  • The waters on Waikiki are calm because of the breaks (think of it as the kiddie pool of the ocean) but there other beautiful and family friendly beaches to be found. My favorite? Lanikai Beach. While the Lanikai neighborhood is exclusive the beach is not. ALL beaches in Hawaii have public access points. As long as you are considerate of the neighbors you can park on the street and enter at any of the small trails leading down to this beach. It’s the perfect place to spend a day at the beach swimming, sunning and watching the locals walk their dogs. It would be great for a beach run too if you don’t mind the short distance.
  • Water sports are great exercise but the best outdoor workouts on Oahu are hikes. Before hitting the beach in Lanikai you can take the trail to see pillbox lookouts from World War II. Another favorite is the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. It’s paved, making it a great place for morning run. My favorite trail was the one we attacked on the last day of our trip – the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail. The stairs at the top are a leg burner but the view is totally worth it. Plus most of the trail is shaded making it a great option if you need a little relief from the sun.
  • If hiking isn’t your thing and perhaps you don’t have the means to venture too far away from Waikiki, try the Fort DeRussy Armed Forces Recreational Center. Start with a morning run from your hotel then do the exercise stations in the park or take your run onto this less crowded beach area.

What about food? Of course you want to enjoy some treats on (like the malasadas from Leonard’s) but you’ll need quality fuel for hiking, stand up paddle boarding, surging or swimming. Here are my favorite places to eat clean with perhaps a treat or two.

  • I believe you can learn a lot about a city by its farmers markets. There are several to choose from on Oahu but my favorite is the KCC Farmers Market at Kapiolani Community College. It’s open on Saturday mornings till 11 with an amazing selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, some of which you might not find at your local farmers market. Food vendors of all kinds flock to this market as well, making it a tasty place to get breakfast. I also loved the farmers market held in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My life was changed by the coconut peanut butter. You can pick up diced fresh pineapple or some apple bananas to snack on in your room.
  • If you need a healthy vegetarian meal try Ruffage or The Peace Café. Ruffage is within walking distance of Waikiki beach and serves food that is easy to take to the beach for a picnic. Our favorite is the tempeh burger avocado. The Peace Café is  an all vegan restaurant with daily miso specials. The sandwiches are huge, so share. That will leave you plenty of room for a scoop of chai ice cream.
  • Aloha Harmony Tea House is the perfect place to get your morning tea before hitting the road for a hike or an iced tea to cool off after your beach run. Any teas from the wall of tea can be prepared for you. I loved the coconut vanilla for my morning of farmers market shopping. I brought home the chocolate chai and uji genmaicha for a try.
  • ABC stores are everywhere on Waikiki. They are your best bet for bottled water at a reasonable price as well as restocking your protein bar stash.

Oahu was fun but I think I like Maui better. Are you an island lover? Which Hawaiian island is your favorite?

Farmers Market Finds for November

I am excited that the Farmers Market of the Ozarks will be open all winter long. I may not be there for the opening bell at 9 am, perhaps waiting a little bit for the morning chill to subside, but I plan on going as often as I can. I realize the selection will be smaller but I’ve been told I’ll be surprised by the variety.

No matter the weather, there are a few vendors I feel I can count on to always be there. I am feeling confident that the things I love from them will be available no matter what the weather.

London Calling Food Truck

  • I am counting on my newest favorite to keep me warm on a cold winter morning. Coffee is very popular at the market. Until recently I was very distressed by my inability to find a proper cup of tea. Then the London Calling Pasty Company food truck appeared one brilliant morning. They are now my first stop to pick up a cup of P&G tips. It makes my market morning just a little bit brighter no matter what the weather. I haven’t tried their signature treat, the pasty (pronounced Pass-tee), yet but I hear they are delicious!

Echigo Farms Bean Bun

  • Echigo Farm is my stop for my FAVORITE treat, an anpan. I don’t get one every week (that would be a habit not a treat) but a few times a year I will make their booth my last stop. I’ll pick one of the red bean paste filled pastries to take home and enjoy for a morning snack with a cup of green tea. This small family farm also offers a nice selection of fermented food like kimchi and tempeh. If they start making tofu, as they have hinted on their website, I might have to sign up for their CSA.

Fresh Herbs

  • A vendor that IS turning into a habit is PT Gardens. Their selection of herbs, peppers, salts and spice mixes are not only helpful for cooking but the herbs also make great teas! I love buying the chocolate mint leaves and making a lovely pot of chocolate mint tea. It’s very simple. You tear the leaves into your favorite pot or cup, then steep in boiling water for 4-5 minutes. The taste is so simple and pure there is no need to add anything else.

Farmers Market of the Ozarks is also ready to help you make the holidays healthy AND delicious with special cooking classes and pre-holiday markets for both Thanksgiving and Christmas! Check out the seasonal schedule here to help you plan your holiday feasts.

How is your local farmers market going to help you make your holidays special? Anyone going to do their holiday gift shopping at the farmers market?

My Favorite 3 Quick and Easy Fitness Finds This Month

When I decided to start writing a monthly favorite things list I made a commitment to follow the Zaxxon rule. If you’re a listener of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast you are familiar with the Zaxxon rule. In case you haven’t stumbled on this gem and have no idea what I am talking about here is the rule, as defined by the PCHH team:

The Zaxxon Rule states that one will not talk about some thing, event, situation, etc. that the other people in the conversation cannot relate to, easily participate in, or enjoy. For instance, it is against the Zaxxon rule to brag about buying a Zaxxon and playing it. However, it is acceptable to talk about a funny YouTube video you recently watched because the other people could easily go home and watch it.

This month it is really hard to abide by the rule. I’ve had a lot of cool experiences this month. I attended an amazing wellness conference hosted by the company I office with, Ollis & Company. I cheered on  BetterU team member, Angela, as she ran a half marathon. I just got back from a lovely vacation in Oahu. (In theory you could enjoy a Hawaiian vacation too but I understand it’s not readily accessible.) The last few weeks have been great for ME but this isn’t about me. It’s about YOU. It’s about things that I find valuable and helpful not just for me but for ANYONE on a fitness journey.

And what makes any fitness journey successful? The little things. While I’ve had some big moments recently, it’s the little things that bring daily joy and help someone stay committed to their path. Here are the little things that have made a big difference in my day this month.

  • I think the barrier for many people to enjoying yoga is time.

    yogajournal1014A traditional yoga class is 90 minutes long. Most people can’t find time for the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity, much less an hour and a half. That’s why I am loving the recently revamped Yoga Journal and their monthly yoga sequence. Their feature sequence is now broken down into 10, 20 and 30 minute segments. The November issue has a wonderful soothing sequence that I can easily do for 10 minutes at the end of the day. It helps me down shift almost better than a cup of Bedtime tea.

  • Books always bring me happiness.

    influencebookI read plenty of fiction on my trip but it was the book I started before I left that has me really excited. It’s called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. People often think my job is teaching exercise. That’s a small part of it but my real job is change. It’s helping people figure out how to do things that maybe they don’t want to do. It’s helping make the change process easier for people. Learning small ways to stack the deck in their favor is HUGE! If you need to influence others in your life (or just want to understand how others might be influencing you) this is a great read.

  • Have you seen the Clif Builder’s Bar?

    cliffbar1014Full disclosure: I was sent a box (by surprise) of Clif Builder’s Bars to sample. I have tried Builder’s Bar Max bars before and enjoyed the flavors but it was just too big for me. The mini Builder’s bars are okay for a snack. The “midsized” version with 270-280 calories and 20 g of protein is the perfect size to eat with an apple before my evening training sessions. I adore the Smores flavor. If you crave a Thin Mint cookie, try the Chocolate Mint flavor. If you want to try them too the Clif team has graciously agreed to do a giveaway! It will happen on Instagram in the near future so be sure to follow me!

Can I end with something I am NOT enjoying this month? Starbucks is phasing out the Tazo teas in place of Teavana (even thought they own both brands?). So far I am not a fan of the Teavana teas sold in Starbucks stores – the tea lemonades to drink and the cans of loose teas – because they have so much added sugar in the drinks and added flavors in the loose tea. My only hope is they bring in a simple green tea to match my favorite Zen tea.

What little thing are you loving this month? How do you deal with it when something you love and enjoy on a regular basis is suddenly replaced?

Childhood Obesity Prevention: Stop Blaming and Start Acting

While I’m enjoying some much needed R&R, I have a wonderful guest post from a friend I made at IDEA World Fitness. Michelle Carlson is a personal training with her own amazing fitness success story. She travels the world helping women who have been victims of human trafficking and helps kids at home through the Nike Safe Spaces program. Her work with kids (plus having a couple of her own) made her the perfect person to share how WE can help stem the tide of childhood obesity in American.

Michelle Carlson

Michelle and her family.

There seems to be an alarming trend among our youth today. No, I’m not talking about your typical teenage angst; I’m talking about the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our future as we speak. An alarming 2008 study released by the Center for Disease Control stated that 26.5% of our youth were obese. This is in conjunction with the 40% that are overweight. I hope that 100% of us will show our concern at the rise in this epidemic.  Youth obesity didn’t come onto the scene overnight. Its rise has been steady for the past decade or so. More doctors have reported an overabundance of overweight and obese children presenting with obesity related diseases. Children as young as 4 years old have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and placed on insulin therapy. Many are prone to ask the question “How did this happen?” Often we sit in amazement at what is going on around us and blame the fast food industry, the parents, or both. The facts are much clearer than that though. With the 2008 release of the aforementioned study came the startling CDC report that this very generation will be the first generation to NOT outlive their parents. I think the bigger question to ask is, “How can I help?”

It is my firm belief that information is power. You can do a lot just by delving into the information system to find what you need to be of help. I MUST relate a fact that parents need to understand: If your child is overweight or obese, it is NOT your fault. It is your responsibility to seek the proper help and guidance for your family though. I’ll repeat. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. I see far too many parents come through my practice that are overcome by the shame of what they have allowed to happen and they cannot even find the energy to seek out proper assistance. Fault is not an issue here.

Let’s take a look at how obesity occurs. The body will store energy (calories) as fat any time that more is taken in than is needed at that time. The storage system is to be used later. I’m pretty sure we can all say we don’t go without food, so the storage system continues to grow unless the body is forced to use some of the stored calories (exercise). This process is more intense and takes longer than simply digesting a meal. So, the more calories we take in at any given time, the more we store in our fat storage system. Pile on top of that the fact that a lot of the calories offered to our youth are empty, meaning they provide little to no useable nutrition, and the storage facility really starts to get backed up. Think of it this way: which will give you more useable energy? A Cheeto? Or and apple? Now, which will most youth reach for first? Yeah, we’re getting it now. OK, so pile onto that the fact that most youth live sedentary lifestyles. This sounds so harsh, I know, but it is true. Compared to 30-40 years ago, the youth of today are nearly motionless. Video games, television shows, internet, etc have taken up the vital hours of movement that our children desperately need for their survival.

So, this all seems pretty cut and dry right? The youth of today eat too much, eat the wrong things, and don’t move enough. The bigger problem is that it is not that simple. For starters, many youth today are not learning proper respect and care for their bodies. We live in a fast society. We want it all and we want it yesterday. Due to this fact many parents don’t even have a proper respect for their own bodies. They ignore the signals that they need more rest until their body shuts down with an illness. Children pick up on this disrespect at a very early stage in life. If mom and dad don’t move (or just drop junior at the gym day care so they can get some “me time”) then kids don’t learn to appreciate movement either.

Another factor that seems to build up against us is the alarming rate of depression in youth. Due to overwhelming stress in school, a need to be “perfect”, stress at home, and even stress about one’s appearance, many kids are turning to drowning their sorrow in the nearest thing: food. Let’s face it, food tastes good. Even though you know it doesn’t give you love, that bowl of ice cream sure does taste good! Children are no different. How many of us parents have soothed a bo bo with a chocolate chip cookie or trip to the ice cream shop? I’m totally raising my hands here. Treats are fine, but we must practice awareness and model this awareness for our children.

So, enough with all the bad right? Sometimes it can be a downer when you hear all the statistics, but it enables us to take a stand. The next part of this article will focus on the question that is probably at the forefront of your mind by now: “How can I help?”As parents and caregivers, it is important to understand that we are NOT to nitpick or nag our youth into nutritional submission. Most of the families that come through my practice make this mistake first and it causes months, sometimes years, of detriment that must then be healed. This is not to say that we have greasy pizza every night for dinner, but salads usually just won’t do. Our youth are honestly just like us, they want to know the why. If you don’t have the information they seek, find a professional that will help. In light of this epidemic, many nutritionists are offering free or low cost classes that allow parents and children to learn the basics of solid nutrition. Most of the time, that’s all it takes is to reset the family foundation.

  •  Allow your child to be involved in the decision making process for facilitating changes. If your child loves pizza, consider having a weekly “pizza and movie night” to help foster better relationships and more positive thinking towards food. You would be astonished at how all too often they really do want the time with you and that will help in the portion control of the food. Foster involvement by allowing them to pick some of the meals and menu items for the week. If they have a favorite food, incorporate it into the family meals. This helps them to realize that food is simply food. It is neither good nor bad for you, but rather it is meant to nourish you.
  • Do some research on the types of foods your youth generally eat. If it is a fast food addiction (I use that term lightly) then it was probably bread out of the need to socialize. Most teens either spend time at or work at the common fast food places, so they become a place to meet up. Research your teens favorite haunts and gently share information in a non judgmental way. You may be surprised that a lot of fast food chains are working towards offering healthier fare.
  • It is important NOT to point out weight as an issue. When I work with clients, I make sure to state that their health is of utmost importance, as weight is just a number on the scale. I know this seems odd in the fight against obesity, but hear me out on this one. If all you are told is that you must lose weight, you begin to attach your self worth to that fact: weight loss. This creates a breeding ground depression and even opens the door to other eating disorders. HEALTH, not weight, is the key component to adherence to the program. Parents and caregivers should act as a safe place to confide in, and not the “food police” or the food enablers.
  • If your youth is suffering from excess weight issues that show signs of inhibiting optimal health. Strongly consider seeking the guidance of a professional. There are many nutrition counselors, dieticians and eating disorder specialist that are available. When it comes to these sensitive issues, it is best to seek help as early as you notice a problem beginning. This will aide in assuring that both you and your teen get the pertinent information and well guided support you need before strong habits are formed.
  • Finally, just a little extra movement can go a long way in increasing your youth’s health and maintaining a healthy weight as well as boosting a healthy self esteem. Consider starting small in the beginning. Start with family walks around you neighborhood. If you happen to live close to a park, walk down to it then challenge your youth to find creative ways to work their muscles on the equipment. You can do pushups and step ups on park benches, chin ups on the monkey bars, and even hops over the steps. The possibilities are endless and it’s important to allow some silliness into your life. Also remember that not every youth thrives in competition sports. You may want a football player, but he may like dance more. Baseball may be your dream, but he likes martial arts. She may enjoy trail hiking as opposed to tennis. Allow yourself and your youth to think outside of the box when it comes to fitness.

Always allow creativity to come into play for both exercise and nutrition. Be prepared to take your time and enjoy this process. Your youth and your family can have vibrant health and an even stronger relationship with these simple guidelines in place.

Michelle Carlson Plank

For more on healthy living, nutrition, and goal setting visit my blog at

FitBit vs FuelBand vs Vivofit Video

One of the most common questions I get is regarding activity trackers. Clients (and friends) want to know what they do, are they useful and which one should they buy?

The purest goal of an activity tracker to make you aware of how much (or how little) you are moving during the day. They are useful only if you use them. Not only do you need to wear the tracker daily but you also need to look at what the data is trying to tell you. Which one depends on the features you need. I did a Fit Friday segment discussing my favorite three activity trackers. Hopefully it helps you decide which one might be the best fit for you. If you still have questions, let me know!