Sunday, September 29, 2013


I woke up this morning feeling happy, healthy and clear-minded -  as if a big fat dose of perspective had invaded my body overnight, infusing each and every cell with a blissful state of awareness.  When I feel this way, when my first thought of the day emerges with a smile and a sense of gratitude, my second thought is often “why can’t I feel and think this way all the time?”

The reflexive answer, simply put, is that life gets in the way.  Illness, loss, family, jobs, stress, hormones -get in the way.  But that’s not the real reason I don’t feel and think this way all the time. Sure, the aforementioned can muddy the waters of true, deep happiness – but more often than not it isn’t life that gets in the way, it’s me.

Bottom line: I could feel and think this way more often if I could just learn to leave myself alone.  Instead, within a month of settling into a positive, healthy state of mind, my tireless need for self-improvement usually sneaks up on me and reminds me not to rest on my laurels. An enticing career or personal challenge proves a little too attractive and in the blink of an eye, the perfectionist in me is empowered by success or fueled by the threat of failure.  “Just be” is replaced with “just do” and potentially unhealthy expectations. Before I know it, I’m pushing myself harder than I should without conscious awareness. The kicker? I inevitably start to do the same to those around me.

I watch many of the women I know do a regrettably effective job of encumbering clarity and content with similar cyclical behavior all the time.  Think about it. You know how good you feel when you take care of yourself; break free from habits that weigh your physical and mental health down.  Yet you might meditate every day for 3 weeks before you’re back to reading your email with one sleepy eye as soon as the alarm goes off.  Maybe you made it 2 months in a wellness routine full of weekly workouts and healthy home cooked meals before you went back to takeout 3 times a week and frequenting your favorite restaurants in lieu of the gym. It’s beyond discouraging to feel doomed to repeat your mistakes at the expense of your own happiness.

So what to do? How do you stop getting in the way of your own happiness? If I knew the end-all be-all answer, I would be meditating on a beach somewhere naked instead of writing this, but I can tell you a few things that have helped me tremendously over the past few years. 

  1. Remind yourself that you deserve to be happy. Every day.  A sense of self-worth is a HUGE brick in the foundation of happiness.  It doesn’t matter if you have to put it on a post-it note on the fridge or tattoo it on the back of your hand – just find a way to reinforce that you deserve to be happy as often as possible.  
  2. Take a few minutes each day to think through things that you're thankful for. Consider keeping a little gratitude journal and jot down just 1 or 2 things each day that make you smile. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way when life gets overwhelming -  no matter how bad things get, there's always something to be happy about.
  3. Identify at least one activity - that is yours and yours alone - that makes you feel peaceful and content. Find time to do it once a week.
  4. If you’ve identified things that stand in the way of feeling positive about your life, share them with someone. Sometimes saying something aloud is enough to loosen its grip on you. Example: “When I’m at home all day with the kids by myself, I feel really lonely and sometimes sad.” (Stay away from the blame game; try to objectively identify things that encumber your life experience without pointing fingers.)
  5. If you want to take things a step further, engage someone you trust in helping you be accountable for working against yourself. Maybe even ask your partner to help identify proactive measures.  Example:  I told B that I know I take healthy eating to extremes sometimes and stress myself out about avoiding allergens 100% of the time. I asked him to help me create awareness around that tendency and to keep an eye out for obsessive behavior. I don’t always want to hear it when he catches me stressing and voices concern, but there’s nothing more effective than seeing yourself through a loved one’s eyes. 
  6.  Practice self compassion. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall off track. Punishing yourself for lack of discipline, focus or awareness is a terrible waste of time that will only perpetuate unhealthy cycles. Instead take the time to think through why you got black out drunk when you only meant to have one cocktail. Challenge yourself to learn from your moments of weakness.
  7.  Ask yourself as often as you can, if what you’re doing makes you happy. Life is too short to waste time with things that lack short or long term gratification. Of course it’s unrealistic to assume that every moment of ever day will be spent frolicking through meadows and playing with puppies. But it is certainly ok to demand some form of fulfillment, joy or satisfaction from our jobs, relationships, personal time and every moment in between. You do deserve to be happy after all.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

5 Reasons to Binge-Watch "Orange is the New Black" ASAP

It somehow manages to be socially relevant, culturally provocative and a guilty pleasure. I can’t remember the last time a TV drama inspired binge-watching the same way this Netflix series did. I also don’t think I’ve ever reflected on both our inability to overcome tribal instincts in favor of humanitarianism and the profoundly corrupt American correctional system all in the span of 1 week.

Piper isn’t entirely unlike SJP’s Carrie on Sex & the City. She’s likable enough to identify with her at least on occasion, and when you can’t identify with her you still feel sympathy for her struggle.  She’s a modern-day “everywoman” just like Carrie. She’s also shallow, narcissistic and selfish enough that you can keep a safe, slightly judgmental distance from her in her darkest hours. Her character flaws are not your own, right? Or are they?
The characters are so cleverly developed that you begin to forget they don’t actually exist. I lived for the well-timed insight into each character’s true nature and clung to clues of what landed them in prison.  I was anxious to “get to know” each one better. Their stories unfold artfully, and before you know it you start to feel things for them. Anger, sadness, pity, disgust - as if these women are real and have affected your life somehow. 
Watching Piper devolve and evolve at the same time forces you to consider what kind of person you might be if you too were stripped of your perceived identity, security blankets and everything that makes you feel happy and whole. If you were thrown into a pit with a mix of sheep in wolves clothing, wolves in uniform and plain old crazy-ass tigers, would you start to act like an animal too?  Your answer will be different after you watch the whole series.
On that note. You end up more creeped out by your own self realizations than Piper’s. The writers do a phenomenal job of challenging viewers to acknowledge how easily one of the many stupid mistakes we’ve made in our lives could have landed us in prison. We are all at the mercy of fate, law enforcement, timing, privilege - and there is potential injustice in all of aforementioned. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Learning to Walk

Eating a clean, healthy diet rich in nutrients and full of well-balanced meals every single day is not easy. Anyone that tells you it's effortless is lying or wealthy enough to afford a personal shopper and chef.  But I will promise you this, it's well worth it and it does get easier. It's kind of like learning to walk. At first, you're a mess. You fall all over the place, you can't stop getting in your own way, you trip over your own feet. Similar to finding your balance as a child and learning to walk, eating healthy is eventually both liberating and rewarding. You just have to get past the part where you feel like a drunk who's stumbled out of his bar stool and been thrust out onto Wall Street at lunch time.

Constantly exploring new recipes and cuisines has really helped me "learn to walk." Expanding my repertoire makes it far easier to "stay on the wagon" for longer periods of time. I believe variety and a little adventure ensure modified diets don't feel like deprivation. You have to have fun, love what you're eating and feel truly satisfied after ever meal.

There has been a lot of trial and error (and many an epic failure) involved in building my personal book of crave-worthy recipes. replacing bad habits with good and developing new eating habits is difficult enough. Allow me to spare you the traumatizing moments with nutritional yeast by sharing some of my successes. This one is crave, drool and certainly leftover worthy!


Clean Program-Inspired Almond Crusted Chicken 
1 egg plus 2 tablespoons almond milk (unsweetened)
1 cup almond meal (pulse whole, dry-roasted, unsalted almonds in a food processer until you achieve texture in photo above)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
few dashes of paprika
1 large or 2 small boneless chicken breasts (1/2 - 3/4 pound)
Olive Oil

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 and cover a baking sheet with foil. Spray the surface with olive oil mister (or other cooking spray)
  2. Filet the chicken breasts
  3. Beat egg with a fork in a medium bowl; add almond milk (use a bowl large enough to dip chicken filets in)
  4. Combine the almond meal, sea salt and garlic powder in a large bowl 
  5. Dip chicken in the egg/milk mixture and then in the almond mixture, until well coated
  6. Place the filets on the baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil
  7. Bake for 6 minutes, rotate tray and bake for 6 more minutes
  8. Cut into one of the filets to ensure it's fully cooked, (the thick almond coating can make it difficult to feel for doneness.)
  9. Serve over a salad of mixed greens + 1/4 avocado with oil and vinegar or with sautéed swiss chard!