Want To Form Good Habits? Treat Yourself!

Fitness Favorite Things

Based on my Birthday Extravaganza trip to Shanghai, one might assume I like to “live large”. In reality, it’s quite the opposite.  It’s  the little things in my day-to-day world that I find the most joy in. A good cup of tea, a hike with Brian and a trip to the farmers market are the things that make me the happiest.

When we find the things in life we really enjoy, we should cultivate those habits. We shouldn’t save them for special occasions. According to Gretchen Rubin, regular treats can play an important role in forming good habits. In her book Better Than Before she says,

Studies show that people who got a little treat, in the form of receiving a surprise gift or watching a funny video gained self control….When we don’t get any treats, we feel depleted, resentful, and angry, and justified in self-indulgence. We start to crave comfort – and we’ll grab that comfort wherever we can, even if it means breaking good habits. (pg 201)

My favorite things right now feel like little treats to myself. They didn’t cost a lot but make me feel a special and perhaps even indulgent every time I use them. Call them instant mood lifters. They are part of the bliss moments that I want to cultivate on a regular basis.

  • The Tea Totaler


    My love of tea is no secret. I indulge in it every day but sometimes the quality of tea isn’t as good as I would like it to be. The Starbucks switch to Teavana tea has been, in my opinion, a disaster. However, when on the go it’s the best  I can often find. I solved that problem with this birthday present to myself. The Tea Totaler is a travel mug for the tea aficionado. With a removable steeping basket and storage container I can take my gorgeous Mao Feng from Tea City anywhere!

  • ToeSox


    I love TJMaxx because you never know what you’re going to find. My latest bargain is ToeSox – toeless for yoga and full toe for hiking (or walking and running too). I love the way they spread my toes apart for a good stretch during yoga and the way they support my feet when hiking and walking. Yoga and hiking are good habits I want to support. My ToeSox make them that much more special and encourage me to do them even more.


  • White Peaches


    You will not find white peaches anywhere on either OxyChallenge meal plan. These beauties only appear at the farmers market for a short time however and I won’t let them pass me by. If I did I would feel like I was depriving something of myself very special. They almost taste like a mix of peach and pear, firmer and not as sweet. I’m replacing the recommended grapefruit with a small white peach instead for breakfast some mornings.

Speaking of the Ultimate Oxygen Challenge, I’m getting ready to wrap up week three. What I love about it so far is some of the new recipes. The Rocky Road Protein Pudding is to die for! It feels like a treat too, especially at the end of  hot summer day. While not as good as my protein pancake recipe, I’ve also come to really enjoy Amanda’s Coconut Blueberry Protein Pancakes. More about the meal and recipes next week so stay tuned!

What’s your favorite way to treat yourself?

By the way, if you have questions about the challenge I might have time to do a Periscope Q&A. Let me know what you think!

Are You An Abstainer Or A Moderator?

Are you an abstainer or a moderator?

I enjoyed the discussion of these terms in Gretchin Rubin’s Better Than Before but they were not new to me. I have always identified as a moderator. When Santa leaves a bar of dark chocolate in my stocking I have no problem doling out one square at a time for a tea time treat. Since the very beginning of my journey I have practiced the 80/20 rule and have encouraged others to do the same.

What I started to realize when I became a personal trainer and health coach is not everyone is like me. To abstainers a chocolate bar lurking the cabinet is like a grenade ready to explode. Once the wrapper is off all bets are off. I thought with time, and patience, however that I could change abstainers to moderators. That by educating them on the virtues of clean eating I could help them brake the craving cycle. I thought that by teaching them how to strengthen their willpower and build new habits that nothing had to be off limits.

With time, experience and age comes wisdom. I realize that my assumptions were wrong. It’s time to stop fighting it and approach the journey in a way that makes sense for them. After all, successful habit change requires setting up a path that requires the least resistance. If you’re fighting how you’re hard wired, you’re setting yourself up to fail. For habit change that is lasting, follow these tips in accordance with your abstainer or moderator nature (as well as where you fall in the Four Tendencies).

Are You An Abstainer Or A Moderator?

If You’re a Moderator:

Practice delayed gratification.

If you tell yourself the chai latte is off limits you will think about nothing but the chai latte. Instead tell yourself you won’t have it today but you can enjoy it Saturday morning while you stroll the farmers market or while you read a good book.

Go for quality not quantity.

Some moderators feel more satisfied with a daily splurge. Buy the best quality dark chocolate you can and enjoy a square a day. Create an experience out of it, tuning out social media and television and savoring each bite mindfully. Make whatever your splurge is a special occasion.

Only one thing, not all things, in moderation.

If you’ve set up an evening indulgence of dark chocolate that means you need to say no to the cake at the office birthday party in the morning. When you go out to dinner, pick the wine or dessert but not both. Moderation doesn’t mean you can have it all, it means you can enjoy an occasional small but satisfying treat.

If You’re an Abstainer:

Don’t bring trigger foods in the house.

If you have one bite, you’ll eat it all. I am not saying you can never have another chip again (although for some this could be the case) but if it’s in your pantry you will eat.

Set clear rules.

Establish boundaries by making firm rules for yourself. When the rules are clear (I don’t eat cake, I don’t drink soda, I don’t buy white bread) it requires less thought and willpower and leaves little room for negotiation. Saying I DON’T vs I CAN”T affirms this is your choice. Declaring these statements to others also sets up a system of accountability.

Beware of transference.

French fries may be your trigger (like Gretchen’s sister Elizabeth) so you swear them off forever. Slowly potato chips start sneaking their way into your daily diet. It’s easy to justify (or ignore) a new bad habit when you’ve completely sworn off another one.

What if you’re both? It’s all about knowing yourself. If you can have just one, then don’t be afraid to treat yourself. If eating one cookie sends you down the rabbit hole you know that they have to stay off limits.

What are you? Abstainer, moderator or both?

Your Quick Guide to Farmers Market Etiquette

Your Quick Guide to Farmers Market Etiquette

You have no idea how excited I was to get back to the farmers market after I returned from my Birthday Trip to China. For two Saturdays before we left I didn’t go because we were too focused on clearing out the fridge. We arrived back late on the 4th of July, so it was the next Saturday before I could resupply at Farmers Market of the Ozarks.

What I was not excited about was going to the market at 10:45 in the morning. For one, the best stuff is long gone by then. The peaches that were left were a little bruised and battered. The what should have been plentiful supply of zucchini was virtually absent. I luckily got my hands on the last paleo pizza crust from Pizza Crust Creations (for a Healthy Pizza recipe from the Ultimate Oxygen Challenge meal plan).


The other thing I disliked was the crowd. It was a hot muggy morning, but there were still people everywhere! I love that more and more people are choosing to buy local. I dislike that they don’t take the time to learn the ropes and mind their manners. That’s why I thought this might be an excellent opportunity for a lesson in Farmers Market Etiquette.

  1. Bring your own bags or baskets.

    If you stop at seven different vendors to buy products that can mean seven different bags if you don’t bring your own. That’s more than you might pick you on your average trip to the grocery store! Bringing your own bag is not only good for the planet it also helps reduce cost for the farmer. Bringing a quality product to market is a labor of love with a small profit margin. You can help a farmer keep costs down bringing your reusable tote or basket.

  2. Bring cash.

    While tools like Square make credit cards payments more accessible, cash is still king at the market. Primarily it’s about keeping costs down (for example Square charges vendors an average of 2.75% per swipe) but it’s also about efficiency. In this case, cash is much quicker than plastic too. When you’ve got a line of people waiting on a hot crowded day, having ones and fives available to pay with makes everyone happier.

  3. Think twice about bringing your pets.

    I love puppy watching at the market but not every dog is ready for the excitement. An overexcited animal can be hazardous to itself and others. In a crowd it is easy to get tangled in a leash or lose track of Fido has he stops to check out the bins of squash at ground level. Also not all markets welcome pets. Dogs visiting Farmers Market of the Ozarks are required to be part of the Canine Good Citizens Program for everyone’s health and safety.

  4. The aisles are for shopping not socializing.

    The market can be a great place to meet up with friends for shopping and a snack. Congregating in the middle of  the already congested aisles is not the right place to do it. Find a bench, wall or picnic table for the party and leave the aisles clear for those who are on the move.

  5. Don’t try to make a meal of the samples.

    What works at Costco on a Sunday morning doesn’t play so well at the farmers market. When a vendor offers samples it is so you can learn about a new to you food or check out the flavor or ripeness. Please don’t take advantage of this kindness and try to turn it into brunch. Grabbing a berry from a quart box to taste test is NOT okay.


If you play by the rules we can all have a great farmers market experience no matter what time of day you go!

What’s your biggest farmers market pet peeve?

Why I Decided To Join The Ultimate Oxygen Challenge


Sometimes the trainer needs a trainer.

I can get complacent just like anyone else. I get busy with the day to day of running a business. I put a lot of time and effort into prepping workouts for client so sometimes I am a little uninspired when it’s time to work on my own program. I still workout on schedule, that commitment never wanes, but sometimes I stay with the same routine WAAAY longer than I should. Sometimes I pick and choose the exercises based on my own likes, not on what I really need to work on. (Notice there haven’t been any burpees on Instagram for a while,) Sometimes the coach needs a little coaching too.

Sometimes it’s good to let go of control.

I am naturally a take-charge person. It helps make me good at what I do. It also makes it hard for me to take instruction from others. If you’ll recall my Dailyburn Inferno experience, I like to think I know better when it comes to someone else’s workout. My adjustments led to a pretty humbling first week Inferno score. I can sometimes be a slave to my own rituals. When habits get in the way of progress, it’s time to rethink those habits.

Sometimes a woman just wants to feel strong and beautiful.

#38 on my 100 Dream List is to be in the Future of Fitness section of Oxygen Magazine. I’ve wanted to submit my entry for a long time, it just never seemed like the right time. I would look at women my same age or of similar height and weight and think, I look nothing like that! At 40, I’m ready to stop comparing and ready to say Why not me?

These are the reasons why I decided to sign up for the Ultimate Oxygen Challenge. Sponsored by Oxygen Magazine, this 90-day program is described as follows:

The Ultimate Oxygen Challenge is a 90-day training and nutrition program led by the best of the best: BSN athlete and champion IFBB Bikini pro Amanda Latona, and two-time IFBB Figure Olympia champion and Division I track star Erin Stern. These women share a collective 20-plus years of experience in training, nutrition and competition, and are ready to share their extensive knowledge exclusively with you!

You can pick one or both programs, #TeamAmanda or #TeamErin. Unable to relinquish control long enough to commit to one or the other, I have signed up to receive both programs. My inclination is to follow Amanda’s program since she is known as The Booty Queen of Fitness. After receiving the meal plan I am convinced she’s the one for me. While I’ve followed other workout programs before, I’ve never followed someone else’s meal plan. I do have to make some adjustment as a vegetarian but I am stepping out of my comfort zone and sticking to as much of the plan as my dietary guidelines will allow. To be fair, at the bottom of the plan it does say this is a “guideline”.

Those who complete the program and submit an “After” photo will be considered for the grand prize – to be an Oxygen Cover Model. My heart won’t be broken if I don’t make one of the 20 finalist spots but I think I have just as much chance as anyone else. I know my chances are slim but again I thought, Why not me?

Here is what I am hoping to accomplish:

Get comfortable with letting someone else take the lead (with only minimal questioning).

Have an “After” shot that I can be proud of and submit to Future of Fitness, regardless of whether I make the group of 20 finalists.

Learn how a program like this works (because who knows when I might want to offer my own online program).

I’ve submitted my “Before” photos, being much less self-conscious about it than I thought I would be. I’ve been following the meal plan without too much grief. (Although I do miss my pumpkin pie oatmeal). This is the first full week following the workouts.



Here is what I have learned so far:

I am not the only one with control issues.

I had to turn of notifications from the Team Amanda FB group because of the number of posts with about what I can’t eat, what I can’t do and how do I modify this because I don’t like it. The idea of a community is nice, but the chatter is too overwhelming for my inbox. I just check the group  once a day now.

I’m not the expert here.

I am purposefully lying low in the FB group. I just want to be “one of the girls” and learn like everyone else. I may chime in from time to time about my experience but not as a personal trainer.

I still have mixed feelings about Challenges.

I saw a lot of donuts, pizza and cupcakes being consumed on Instagram in the name of “one last meal” before the program began. I don’t think that way, although my motto may be  90/10 instead of the usual 80/20 during the challenge. I am training for a specific goal, which can require a different level of dedication. Yet I will still live life, including going on a vacation during the challenge. I’m approaching the challenge with a mindset of “what can I learn for the next phase of my life, not just for the next 90 days”.

I get why women have a hard time with meal plans.

I’ve had to swap a few meals due to time (a snack works better between client sessions while dinner is easier during my afternoon break for example). The recipes only make one serving so you either have to make two meals or have an understanding family who plays along. The meal plan says I can be flexible, so I am substituting a couple of dinners for recipes I normally make that follow a similar macro breakdown but make leftovers for Brian. Those are Friday and Saturday nights, the two nights of the week he and I actually get to eat together.

I suspect there will be a lot more that I learn as the weeks go on. I’ll be sure to give you an update midway through. I’m sure there will be plenty of tidbits on Twitter and Instagram so be sure to follow me – @ThriveFit – and the hash tag #OxyChallenge to see how everyone is doing. You never know what you might learn. You might find something to add to (or check off!) your 100 Dreams List too!

When Habits Hold Us Back


Our habits are what make us or break us. I rely on my habits to keep me moving forward when my motivation wanes. Habits have served me well over my fitness journey… except when I become a slave to them.

This isn’t a new realization. It first came to me many years ago when we took our first “big trip” to Paris. We rented an adorable apartment in the 8th arrondissement that came stocked with a tea and brioche. Every morning I recreated my morning routine of email over breakfast. I checked Twitter and posted to Facebook. Every evening I had an urge to be back before my usual bedtime of 9:30ish. One night as I paced, fretting over the time, while Brian photographed the Arc de Triumph I said to myself, “This is ridiculous. You’re in PARIS!”. I still had my tea the next morning, but I managed to let go of any kind of timetable for the remainder of our time there.

There is a time and a place for a schedule.

This battle would play itself out on pretty much every trip we have taken since then. When we aren’t traveling a schedule and my habits are a necessity. They help me keep the chaos under control. My routines reserve brain power to fight the fires that are sure to come up by making sure I have the day to day on auto pilot. A to-do list and schedule are the only way I can get it all done.

When we travel, however, I should be able to leave it at home. I would love to tell you I could easily but aside my routine on my 40th birthday trip to China but I can’t.

Habits can take away the ability to be present.


We had one night in Hangzhou. The plan (because there is always a plan) was to catch an early train from Shanghai and arrive in Hangzhou by lunch time. That would leave us plenty of time to explore Lingyin Temple. I thought it would be easy to hop off the subway, buy a train ticket and be on our way. Everyone else had this idea too but they had the advantage of knowing which ticket window to go to and how to speak the language. So we waited in the station for about 90 minutes (of fantastic people watching) before we could catch our train to Hangzhou.

From that point on all I could think about was how we would get back. I worried that we would have the same prolonged wait if we waited too late to book our return to Shanghai. How much would this throw off the plan for our last night and day in Shanghai? I worried that we wouldn’t make it back for dinner in Shanghai despite the fact there were no reservations to meet. I worried we would not have time to enjoy a stroll on the Bund before it got “too late”. I worried about how long it would take to get to the tea garden, how long it would take to get back. Despite the fact I had protein bars and fruit in my bag, what if we didn’t make it back “in time” for lunch before the train? Would we be able to stick to the plan? I worried worried worried and almost decided to skip the trip to Longjing Village and the Imperial Tea Garden.

This is where habits are dangerous. This is where routine can steal the joy out of life.

As I got ready for bed that night, instead of continuing down this familiar path, I changed the conversation in my brain.

You have flown to the other side of the world. You have spent almost 18 hours on planes and another hour on a train to get here. Your heart and soul needs let go of yourself for just a little while and to see that plantation. You have no one in this world right now to answer to but yourself.

The next morning I turned over the worry to someone else. I asked the concierge to buy our train tickets. They helped us negotiate a taxi for our trip. I let go, sat back and enjoyed the ride. As the taxi climbed the hills into Longjing Village, the drive pointed out the window and said one of the few words in Mandarin I understand:



Everyone asks me what my favorite part of the trip was. I would have to say it was THIS morning, the one that for a moment almost wasn’t. It was a little over an hour of roaming a tea garden. It was climbing the stairs into the lush and green hills of tea bushes while inhaling their deep aroma. It was listening to the waterfall and seeing the dragon at the well. It was roaming around West Lake afterwards. It was shopping for tea and accidentally wondering into a teahouse with an unexpected dim sum style meal.


Embrace the power of the unexpected.

My habits are here to help us. I fully believe in their power. Just now I fully understand that power can be for good and bad. I’ve always said the rule is 80/20 and so it should be with our habits. I like to be busy. I take comfort in my routines. However checking out from time to time is allowed, necessary and encouraged.