Big Goal #5: Go to BED!

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out this post, where I share my 8 BIG GOALS for these 43 days.

And don’t forget to GET IN ON THE GIVEAWAY!


I love sleeping, and I usually get enough sleep each night.  However, this does not always mean that I go to bed early.  I LOVE staying up late, and I can usually sleep in a little later if I need to, so the temptation to keep late, unnatural hours is one that I often embrace.  If it were up to me (and my husband, who is also a “night-owl”), I would go to bed around 1 AM every night/morning, and wake up around 11 AM.  However, that schedule just doesn’t work well for those of us who have jobs!

I’m not going to delve into all the science behind the benefits of going to bed with the sun, but I do want to point you toward some excellent resources.  Keep reading…

If you have been following my blog for very long, you know that this is such a difficult challenge for me!  Check out some of my past ramblings on sleep HERE.  I obviously haven’t tried hard enough to stick to the early bedtime routine, but I’m willing to try again, and to KEEP trying until I get this stay-up-late habit under control.  Why?  Mainly because I know going to bed earlier and rising earlier is a more natural way to live.

Before electricity, we didn’t have technology (or even lightbulbs) glaring us in the face.  As the sun starts to go down, we should ideally start settling in for the night.  In today’s culture, when phones are on the bedside table and laptops are easily-accessible on the floor beside the bed, we can go from “settling in” to “WAKE UP!” at the touch of a button… even if it’s 10:00 at night.  

Our bodies were created with a rhythm that suggest we rest when the sun sets, and rise when the sun rises. When we dance to this rhythm, our health improves (blood sugar is more regulated, cortisol levels are more regulated, cells and tissues are able to fully rest and restore, etc., etc., etc.).  In addition to better health, we’ll be in a better mood the following day, which ultimately means less stress and more productivity!  It all makes sense to me… how about you?


If you need more convincing, check out these resources:


So during this 43-day challenge, we’ll be making some extra efforts to ensure an early bedtime, and plenty of sleep each night!   Here are some tips that have been helpful for us so far… feel free to share yours in the comments!

  • Turn off all electronics (including phones!) at 9 PM/sundown, and then relax toward sleepy-town for the next hour.  The goal is to be sleeping by 10:30 each night.
  • Don’t drink caffeine after noon.
  • Take a warm bath 40 minutes before bedtime – add some lavender-scented epsom salts for an added bonus!.
  • STOP eating at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom slightly cool – this increases the desire to “snuggle-down” and get cozy.
  • When it’s time for sleep, turn off all lights, and sleep in a 100% dark room (read more about this in The Paleo Solution, chapter eight – FASCINATING!).
  • Take your magnesium supplement right before bed – this one is my favorite, and it really does help me relax.
  • Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your pillowcase to increase relaxation.
  • Don’t make late-evening plans (at least not on a regular basis).  My husband gets off work at 6:00 on weekdays, which does not leave us much time for socializing in the evenings.  A good alternative is to save plans for weekends when we have more daylight hours to spare.

Besides all the benefits that are listed in the resources I mentioned above, I just know that I feel so much better when I’m on a regular sleep routine.  We were really diligent in this effort during the month of February, and we saw some amazing results.  It’s so easy to fall back into old habits, but I’m not one to listen to excuses, so it’s time to SHAPE UP!


Well, it’s almost 9 PM… time to wrap some things up and shut ‘er down.


My Gut-Healing “Protocol”

If you read yesterday’s post, you found out that I have been having some very frustrating digestive issues lately.  This was difficult for me to admit, because I am striving to be a solid Paleo role model!  However, a lesson learned is a lesson learned, and I decided to share it with all of you (learn from my mistakes, please!).  Thank you for all the wonderful, encouraging comments!  I love the support that the Paleo community offers!

So that you can fully understand what I’m talking about, check out my “Digestion Woes” post.

At the end of that post, I listed several ways that I plan to re-heal my gut (it is definitely feeling more than a little damaged!).  Throughout yesterday, I kept thinking of more and more things I could do to encourage healing.  Now believe me, I am no Chris Kresser, Robb Wolf, or Diane Sanfillippo.  I do not claim to be an expert in the world of health.  I don’t even claim to be an expert in the Paleo community.  BUT… I have listened to all of Robb’s podcasts twice (he would say that I’m a glutton for punishment, but I heartily disagree!), I have listened to a ton of Chris Kresser’s show, I have heard all of the Balanced Bites podcasts, I’ve read Robb’s book twice, I’ve read several other Paleo-oriented health books, and I stay very up-to-date on the websites of all those mentioned above, and more!  So I have probably graduated from the “Stalker of Paleo Experts” course.

That said, let me assure you that the “protocol” below comes from bits and pieces of retained gut-healing tips and strategies that I have learned from the experts!

So here it is… feel free to use what you like for your own health (gut-healing or otherwise!).


Jennie’s Personal Steps to Gut Health

(a three-week program… though most will remain in place even after three weeks)

100% Paleo Diet.  This should go without saying, right?  I agree, but I’m saying it anyway.  Trace amounts of gluten can destroy every effort you make toward healing your gut.  It is the chief of gut irritants.  I’m sure that my involuntary gluten consumption last week contributed to the pain I’m experiencing this week.  Aside from not eating gluten, it just makes sense to eat natural, whole, REAL foods.  This means no sugar, no preservatives, no dairy (although I make exception for local, pastured goat cheese), no alcohol, etc.

No Nuts.  This step may not go for everyone, but I can definitely tell that I have a sensitivity to nuts right now.  As I stated in yesterday’s post, I really over-did it on the nuts over the last few weeks.  When I did a test and left them off my menu for a day, my stomach pain decreased substantially.  If you do not feel that it is necessary to cut out nuts completely, you should at least limit them to around one closed fistful each day (keep in mind that almond butter, almond meal, almond flour, etc., are all made from nuts!).

No Eggs.  This step is definitely more of a personal one for me.  I have noticed that when I have consumed eggs over the last few weeks, I have developed a stomach ache almost right away.  I eat a lot of eggs, so I’m really hoping that I have not developed an egg allergy.  Time will tell…

Three “Square Meals.”  This is a big one for me.  Lately, I have gotten into the habit of skipping breakfast, snacking for lunch, snacking during the afternoon, and then having a big dinner.  This is unacceptable, and not the best way to consume plenty of nutrients.  It’s time to get back on track… a good-size breakfast, a good-sized lunch, and a good-sized dinner will keep me feeling better, and more regulated, all day long.

LOTS of Vegetables.  The reason for this is obvious: vegetables are packed with wonderful nutrients, and they are incredibly low in natural sugars. 

Bone Broth.  What else needs to be said, really?  If you have been around the Paleo community long enough, you have heard this idea tossed around a lot.  Aside from the fact that it is incredibly rich in minerals, bone broth is a great way to consume gelatin!  Balanced Bites has the best article I have seen on bone broth. Check it out here.  If you’d like to make some yourself, try my favorite recipe: Quick Pressure Cooker Bone Broth.

No Acidic or Spicy Foods.  My stomach pains have felt like burning, so the thoughts of adding things like tomatoes, chocolate, hot peppers, coffee, or even raw sauerkraut really makes me cry inside!  

Limited Fruit.  This is a habit that I want to carry with me from now on.  Fruit is such an easy go-to snack item, but in my life it tends to replace more important foods, if I’m not careful (and I haven’t been careful enough!).  Therefore, when I do eat fruit, it must be surrounded by protein and fat (for example: diced mangos on my fajita salad, topped with guacamole).

More Beef than Chicken.  I know and trust my beef source, Little Creek Ranch.  When we run out of beef, I can definitely tell that I don’t feel quite as great as I usually feel.  So during the next three weeks, we’ll be eating mostly beef… not so much chicken.  And besides that, there are so many amazing health benefits of grass-fed beef!  Check them out here.

Low-Stress Workouts.  During this protocol, I want to put as little stress on my body as I can.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that stress played a big part in the downward spiral that lead me to the place I am right now.  I will still do regular workouts, but they will be more empowering than strenuous.  For more of my thoughts on stress, click here.

SLEEP!  This is important for every area of life… for more information, read this article!  My goal for the next several weeks will be to go to bed EARLY, and get at least nine hours of sleep each night.

Chew Your Food.  Have you ever stopped to think about how quickly you eat?  I know people who seem to swallow their food whole.  I chew, but I don’t really think much about it.  Since all this stomach pain has been happening, I’ve thought a lot more about how much I chew.  Did you know that chewing is the first step in digestion?  Read this fascinating article to learn more.  I heard Chris Kresser talking about this recently, and it really made me think (to listen, click here… in fact, just go ahead and listen to the whole thing right now.  It is amazing).

Cod Liver Oil (Butter Oil Blend) and Beef Liver.  Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins!  All you need to know can be found in this article and this article.

Probiotics, Kombucha, and Fermented Foods.  Good gut health requires that you have a healthy gut flora.  Chris Kresser explains that much better than I ever could… check it out here.

Again, these are the steps that I am taking for my personal gut-healing.  Not all of them will be right for you (although most probably are!).

Overall, I am really excited about getting better.  Dealing with stomach aches on a regular basis has made me realize how much I take my health for granted.  And, as I said in my last post, I am just glad to know that this is in my control!

Take a step toward gut health with me!

Digestion Woes…

I have a confession to make: I’ve been having some digestion issues.

In the months since starting Paleo (July 2011), I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have a stomach ache.

I am VERY careful to stay away from gluten-containing items.  In fact, before last week I think I had only had one encounter with gluten since before that first Whole30.

However, over the last few weeks I have learned two important lessons:

1. balance on your plate is just as important as eating whole foods

2. listening to your body is essential

These lessons have come as a result of a series of digestion issues.  Specifically, in the form of crampy aching after most of my meals.  This has led to a lot of frustration for me (“I’m eating Paleo foods… why is my stomach hurting?”  “I have a Paleo website and a Facebook page with over 2800 fans… I can’t tell all of those people that I’m having regular belly-aches!”).

It started week before last.  Almost every night, right after dinner, I started feeling a little queasy and crampy (in my lower stomach… not like heartburn or acid reflux).  Usually, after about an hour, the feelings would go away.  I figured it was just a fluke because I was so busy with work and gearing up for a trip, so I kept going on my merry way.

The next week (last week), I was in San Diego on a business trip.  I know that I consumed gluten on at least two occasions that week (not voluntarily, I promise!).  I also snacked on a lot of nuts and fruits.  I had a stomach ache almost every night that I was away.  At that point, I blamed it on the stress of travel, working in a different environment, jet lag, and too many meals out.

I came home on Sunday evening, ready to get back on track and let my gut re-heal.  However, I have still been in some pain almost every night this week… UNTIL TONIGHT.

Why tonight?  Well, I think it’s because I haven’t consumed ANY nuts today, and I’ve had very little fruit.

WHAT??  But I thought nuts, seeds, and fruits were allowed on the Paleo diet!!

Yes, they are allowed!  But let me tell you something:they should be eaten in moderation.

Last night I sat down and had a heart-to-heart with myself.  What has changed in the last three weeks that could have caused all of these digestion woes?  Well, there are a few things that have changed, but the summation is this: I have gotten a little lazy.

So today I did a little test.  I woke up, made myself a real breakfast (3 eggs, scrambled with kale in coconut oil, bacon, and chamomile tea with full-fat coconut milk), stayed satisfied until it was time to make a good lunch (chicken and leftover kale with fresh guacamole), snacked on a few blueberries with a cup of hot tea, and then had a delicious dinner (garlic-lemon chicken with roasted carrots and balsamic onions).  I felt so healthy all day!


Taking care of your body means just that: taking care of your body.

That means that you should make sure your body has what it needs, that it is comfortable, and that it is disciplined.  

Whether we like it or not, all three of those things require that we make a commitment.  It’s very easy for me to put myself on the back burner.  When I’m doing something important (working, taking care of things at home, even blogging), I will sometimes ignore feelings of hunger, or try to do something quick to make it go away (a spoonful of almond butter, a handful of pistachios, a square of dark chocolate, etc.).  I will sometimes do a tough workout when my body is already crying out for rest.  And I won’t even go into my occasional sleep issues (here’s a hint: I do not like going to bed early).

Well guess what, folks?  It turns out that stomach aches are not as fun as I remember.

And guess what else?  This is all in my control!  

I sometimes complain about how overweight people don’t just reach out and GRAB an opportunity for better health!  It is all in your control!  But here I am realizing that I myself have not been taking advantage of that control.

So what am I doing about it?

I’m taking control…

and here’s how:

1. I’m taking a break from nuts and seeds, and slowing down on the fruit.  Will I miss my heaping spoonful of almond butter with flaxseeds?  Yes.  Will I want to take a dive into the huge Costco pistachio bag every time I walk past them in the kitchen?  Probably.  Will I wish that I could make my favorite chocolate chip cookies every night?  Definitely!  But I control my habits; my habits do not control me.

2. I am forcing myself to eat three good meals each day.  This means that my little habit (developed over the last few weeks) of not eating breakfast, even though I’m hungry, needs to end.  And grabbing a smoothie or a handful of nuts for lunch is no longer allowed (I knew this already, but like I said before… I allowed myself to get a little lazy!).  To ensure that this happens, I’m putting breaks for food in my work calendar (which guides my day).  If that’s what it takes, that is what I’ll do!

3. It’s time to get back into better sleep habits.  I learned so much about the importance of sleep in February, and I don’t want to let all of those benefits fall by the wayside!

4. I have to listen to my body.  When I am exhausted from traveling and not eating well (as I have been this week), I do not need to work out.  My adrenals don’t need any more stress.  Therefore, I am taking the rest of this week off.  On Monday, I’ll ease myself back into my regular workout routine, and I’ll be rested and strong enough to handle it.

5. It’s time for some gut-healing.  I’m not sure if my gut is irritated by the over-consumption of nuts, or by the recent gluten consumption (probably both!), but I’m definitely feeling like I have some healing to do.  I’ll be making some bone broth, loading up on the sauerkraut, trying a little liver, and sipping on some kombucha over the next few weeks (take a look at #2, #3, and #4 at this link).

For a look at my complete “protocol,” click here.


Do you need a little reality check too?  

No one can take care of your body the way YOU CAN.


So take control!


Want Results? Get Some Sleep!


The Challenge


During the month of February, I set several health goals.  I completed a Whole30, a 21-Day Sugar Detox, some fitness challenges, and one more… a sleep challenge.  The sleep challenge was not the most exciting for me.  I’ve seen amazing results from food challenges before, so those were the ones I was most excited to complete.

As you may have read in previous posts, my husband and I are night-owls.  We enjoy staying up late and sleeping late.  However, because we both have jobs that do not allow daily sleep-fests, we often stay up late, and then wake up early.  During the month of February, we were very careful to go to bed early each night.  Our goal was to be asleep by 10:00 every night.  Since we typically set our alarms for around 7 AM, this allowed 9 hours of sleep.


The Results


I was afraid that going to bed early would be a real pain.  But after the first week, we really started to enjoy going on to sleep a little earlier than usual.  And be best part was that we felt SO good each day.  We had plenty of energy (even immediately upon waking up), and we felt good throughout the day.

Part of these great results came from cleaning up our eating habits a little more during February.  But this is where the bad news comes in…




We were not as careful about our sleeping habits once February ended.  We have had numerous social events and family gatherings to attend this month, and we have not been as careful to leave early and go on to bed.  Even during our nights at home, we haven’t been as careful to go ahead and get ready for bed at 9:00 so that we can be asleep by 10.

Have we seen a difference in how we feel since being less strict with our sleep?  Absolutely.  We have definitely been waking up tired, and experiencing an afternoon “slump” each day after getting too little sleep.  It is very frustrating, and I find myself CRAVING the good feelings that come from being well-rested.


It’s Important!


Today I did a “Robb Wolf podcast marathon” as I was working and cleaning the house, and I was amazed by how many times he recommended that people get their sleep habits dialed in.  It seems that sleep is the key best achieving every health and fitness goal!

According to Robb (from this post), “Sleep deprivation mimics many elements of the aging process. One could make the argument that how you feel when you are sleep deprived is likely how you will feel if you are both diabetic and old (sleep deprivation dramatically impacts insulin sensitivity). Improved sleep time and quality will help you: Lean out, avoid depression, autoimmunity, heart disease…it might even help you be a better athlete.

So yeah, sleep has the potential to  improve everything!  Some of us Paleo-people get pretty wound up in what we’re eating (is it grass-fed? is it soy-free? is it made from whole ingredients?), but we completely neglect our sleep.  If that statement describes you, then you are not getting the best possible results from your “healthy” lifestyle.

Whether you are hoping to lose weight, looking for better health, or desiring increased performance, you better make sure that you are not skipping out on one of the keys to achieving all of these things.  Challenge yourself to go to bed earlier, and measure your own results! 

On that note… it’s 9:00 PM.  I’m going to bed!

An Update: The Half-Way Point (Whole30 + 21-Day Sugar Detox)

If you read my Epic February post, then you already know that my husband and I have taken on some pretty intense challenges for the month of February.  Here’s a little update on how we’re doing, and what we’re learning…  It’s Day 15.



 The Good

1. Whole30 – We have been really surprised by how easy this Whole30 has been.  Our original Whole30 was a much bigger transition for us, but this has been almost identical to how we usually eat anyway.  When we’re not on a Whole30, we will occasionally splurge on some corn chips or a little sugar, and we aren’t QUITE as careful about an added preservative here and there on most days, but not on a Whole30!  It is really good to test your self-discipline every now and then… and to get back into the habit of setting higher food standards.

2. The 21-Day Sugar Detox (level 3) – This challenge has been much more difficult than the Whole30.  It’s our first sugar detox, so we really did not know what to expect.  Leaving the fruit and sweet potatoes off the menu has definitely been an adjustment, but it’s been a VERY GOOD ONE.  I knew before we started the month that I had some serious sugar issues… possibly some insulin resistance.  I could even tell that my leptin signaling was off (I would feel full before starting to eat a meal, and then half-way through the meal, I would feel as though I were about to starve!).  I was having crazy blood sugar crashes every day, which lead to mood swings, exhaustion, and cravings for more sugar.  It was turning into a nasty cycle, so something had to give.  I can definitely tell that I am more “on-track” now.  Loving this new-found energy!

3. The Sleep Challenge – I expected this part of our February goals to be the toughest, but it really has not been too difficult at all!  The goal is to get at least 9 hours of sleep each night, and to make sure we’re asleep by 10 PM.  We have done really well!  My husband and I are night-owls, so this has definitely forced us to apply some self-discipline.  Shutting down the computers and cell phones at 9:00 helps alot.  When we take some time to get ready for bed and just relax, and being asleep by 10 really isn’t that hard!

The best part of the sleep challenge has been how much better we feel the following morning.  It was very common for us to wake up feeling drained and somewhat emotional before we started this challenge.  Now we rise with energy, and we’re ready to take on the day!  I can also tell that I respond to stress MUCH better when I’ve had more sleep.  Things don’t bother me as much, or as quickly.

What a difference a few more Z’s make!

4. Fitness – The first week of February, I did great in this department.  My goal is to work out 3-4 times each week, and work toward 10 consecutive pull-ups.  I did great the first week, but not so great this past week.  Unfortunately, almost every day this past week was so busy that I would have had to bust up my sleep goals in order to accomplish my fitness goals… yeah, it was a CRAZY week.  Thankfully, this week is much more free, so I’ve have plenty of time to make up for my workouts!  I’m still at only 4 pull-ups, so I’m hoping I can crank out some more as I continue my weight training!


The Bad

I am going to admit here that the combination of Whole30 + The 21-Day Sugar Detox has been a little tough.  I don’t complain much because I believe anything worth having is worth some sacrifice, but limiting our diet to meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, has been very challenging.  It’s been tough to come up with snack ideas (other than too many nuts), but we’ve managed.  And now I know that we were way too dependent on fruits for our snacks!

This past weekend we took a trip to visit some of our best friends, and it was definitely a downer to not go full-force into celebration mode!  I didn’t realize how much we use FOOD to celebrate good times!

We have also come to realize how steeped we were in the “after-dinner-sweet-treat” habit.  Every single night after we eat, my husband and I seriously crave something sweet – even a slice of apple would be nice!  We are very excited about the thought of breaking this habit, and being able to just be DONE after dinner.


The Ugly

Yep… there is an ugly side to this month.  Here it is:  I am craving chocolate like nobody’s business.  I can’t think of many things I wouldn’t do for a huge hunk of 85% right now.  Seriously… I want chocolate.  Bad.  So bad, it hurts.  I get mad when I see others eating it.  And if I smell it, I feel ready to fly into a tail-spin.  See?  I told you it was ugly…  I’m glad to be breaking this huge addiction.



So there you go… overall, we’re really enjoying our February CLEANSE!  I can’t wait to see what our complete results will be after the next 15 days!  We’re only half-way there!

Epic February!


Happy New Year!

How is 2012 looking for you so far?  Many of you set big goals for January… Whole30‘s, 21-Day Sugar Detoxes, fitness goals, etc.  I set a few “New Year” goals myself, but February is my BIG GOAL MONTH.  My first Whole30 was in July of 2011, and I’m committed to doing one every 6 months… that is why I chose February.

Are you ready for some brutal honesty?  Okay… here we go!

In the last six months, I have continued to eat Paleo-style (see my Food Diary for proof!).  I throw in a little dairy occasionally, and I am not always as careful as I should be with preservatives, but I avoid gluten at all cost.  However, over the holidays I got a little sloppy with my portion sizes (I’ve definitely been consuming more carbs than protein and fat lately), and I’ve given in to the chocolate cravings far too many times.  I can tell that my pants are feeling a little snug, and that my energy level is not what it was a few months ago.  These last few weeks, I’ve been experiencing some pretty intense mood swings, and even more intense cravings for sugar.  I cannot even explain how much I am looking forward to a good CLEANSE.

I have also been really slack with my workouts.  January was a BUSY month for us, so I probably only worked out an average of once per week.  I am feeling those results as well… I’m not as firm, and definitely not as strong.

And yes, I have one more confession to make… I have NOT been careful about my sleep.  My husband and I are night-owls.  We really enjoy staying up until 2 AM!  However, when we don’t force ourselves to go to bed at a decent hour, we feel horrible the next day (which results in sugar/carb cravings, decreased energy, and elevated cortisol levels).  I can tell that my cortisol levels are all messed up, because I feel wide-awake and ready to roll in the evenings, but in the mornings I feel as though I’ve been hit by a truck. Not good.  I’m experiencing several other signs of cortisol imbalance as well (decreased leptin sensitivity, etc.).

So yes… I basically feel like a big mess right now!  Can any of you relate?  Have you felt this way before?  Are you feeling this way now?  It’s not fun, is it?


Are you ready for some good news?  I sure am!

The good news is that we have the power to change it all!  Want to slim down, gain muscle, increase energy, sleep better, and just feel better in general?  I do, I do!  That is why February is going to be epic.  I’m making changes, and I’m going to be a NEW WOMAN in March!  Who’s with me?

So what’s on my radar for next month?  Well, alot!  Take a look at my February Goals…  Maybe they will inspire you to set some of your own!



Food Goals

Like I said above, I’ve done very well sticking to the basic Paleo plan, but I’ve allowed a few too many “treats” sneak in.  That is why I’m taking on my second Whole30!

Whole30 – What a fantastic way to dial in your food choices!  If you have never done a Whole30, you should.  It will change your life!  Click Here to read about my first Whole30.  I *think* that things will be a little easier this time around, since I haven’t strayed too far from the path, but I cannot wait to learn more about how particular foods have been affecting my body, even since starting Paleo!  Click Here for more Whole30 info!  

The 21-Day Sugar Detox – Level Three – Yes, I’m taking my Whole30 to the next level by also cutting out all sugar sources for the first three weeks.  As I mentioned above, I have become very dependent on carbs and sugars (specifically 60% cacao chocolate chips and bananas).  These foods have not made me healthier, and it is time to break those addictions.  My goal is to regulate my blood sugar level, and cut my carb load.  (This detox is very similar to the Whole30, but in addition to removing grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, preservatives, processed foods, etc., it has you go three weeks without consuming fruit, sweet potatoes, winter squash, or any other item that tastes particularly “sweet.”)  Click Here for more 21-Day Sugar Detox info!

Pretty nice food goals, huh?  I’m going to have better digestion, less cravings, and an even healthier gut!


Fitness Goals

Consistent Workouts – Sounds like a no-brainer, huh?  Yeah, I know.  My goal for February is to work out at least 4 days each week (some of these will be more relaxing yoga sessions, or long walks/hikes).

10 Consecutive Pull-Ups – I love my at-home pull-up bar!  At this time, I can only squeak out 4 pull-ups.  My goal for February is to reach 10!  I know that it can happen!

How ’bout those fitness goals?  I’m going to be stronger, more energetic, and more FIT!


Sleep Goals

As I mentioned above, I’m a night-owl.  I do not like going to bed.  HOWEVER, I realize that it takes time to build a habit, and I am probably just not good at going to bed because I am out of practice.  I’m going to cure that problem in February.

Sleep At Least 9 Hours Each Night – Yes, I need 9 hours to feel rested.  I sleep in a 100% pitch-black room (room darkening shades, towels covering the crack under the door, etc… see Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution, Chapter 8, to learn why this is important), but I am currently not sleeping long enough!  During the month of February, I am planning to ENSURE at least 9 hours of sleep each night.  

Go To Bed EARLIER!  Just because I am going to get 9 hours does not mean that I should go to bed at 1 AM and wake up at 10 AM.  Our bodies function best when we go to sleep closer to sun-down, and wake up closer to sun-rise.  This means that I will be going to bed early even when I have the following day off.  As with my food, I need to regulate my sleep patterns.  

The sleep goals will probably be the MOST difficult for me.  I am okay with changing my eating habits and working out more, but I do NOT like going to bed early.  These goals will also require that my husband and I be more careful about how late we are out in the evenings.  We probably will not schedule as many get-togethers and functions as we normally do, so we can really focus on breaking our bad sleep habits.


So there you go!  Just a little peek a what my February will look like… I am SO excited to see what happens, and what I learn!  I am prepared for the rough days, the headaches, the grumpiness when “I’m just not sleepy,” and whatever else comes.  I know that these changes will be worth the effort, and I’m looking forward to a happier, healthier March, April, May, June, July, ……………………….

It’s A Brand New Year: Stress Less!

There are few things I love more than a fresh start.  

Fresh…. just typing the word makes me feel lighter!

And I don’t know about you, but I am more than a little relieved that the holidays are over.  I love Thanksgiving, Christmas, my husband’s birthday (Dec. 30th), and New Years, but all those exciting times mashed into two months makes for a VERY BUSY two months!  I feel like my life has been a whirlwind of activity…  and my day-planner is just as exhausted as I am!

Throughout all the craziness, I have been thinking about some goals for the new year (yes, I am one of those people who makes “New Years Resolutions” each January).  Several of them involve health and fitness, so I have decided to share those with you.

My NUMBER ONE health goal

is to Stress Less.

I actually thought about this a ton in 2011 (wow- seems like such a long time ago now!).  Have you read Chapter Eight from Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution?  It is the best chapter in the entire book, and it is all about stress and cortisol.  It formed the basis, or the foundation, of my “stress less” goal.  It made me realize [again] how insane we make our lives.

Seriously, our current reality makes up the busiest time in the history of the world.  When we are not working 40-60+ hours each week, we are running back and forth between various activities and social obligations, cell phones in hand.

So yeah… our lives are busy, and our brains are always on the move.  Sometimes it is difficult to “settle down” because we are so accustomed to a blur of activity.e are no dull moments, because Facebook must be checked/updated, tweets must be tweeted, texts need responses, and phone calls must be made.  It has gotten so bad that some people cannot even complete full conversations without looking down at their smartphones (this drives me absolutely insane).

However, things have not always been this way!  If you look back just a few hundred years, you will quickly notice that life was slower… people were more relaxed… things were simpler.  If you look back even further, you will see that the ultimate goal in life was to support family life (by bringing in food, preparing food, maintaining shelter, resting, and enjoying time together).  I agree with Robb Wolf… this is how we were wired to live!  The craziness of our lives today is exhausting, it is stressful, and it is killing us.

Ever heard of cortisol?

To quote Robb Wolf, “When you are subjected to stress, particularly chronic stress, your body releases cortisol much more frequently than it should.  This gets ugly when cortisol is not only high in the morning, but all day long, even at bedtime.  The consequences can be dire, as the more stressed we get, the worse our ability to deal with stress becomes.  It is a nasty snowball effect that is called a “feed forward” mechanism in biology.  Abnormally elevated cortisol begins to disturb sleep, which makes us more prone to daily stress, which raises cortisol.  The consequences of this downward sprial include suppressed immune function, chronically elevated blood sugar levels, decreased insulin sensitivity, impaired ability to form long-term memory, and decreased sex drive and libido.  Yes folks, cortisol is a big deal.

Aside from the health effects of a high-stress life, less stress would just make life more enjoyable!

My happiest days are the ones where I don’t have anything pressing to do.  My husband is off work every Wednesday (because he works every Saturday), and we look so forward to just being still!  We usually sleep late, make a big brunch, relax, do things we enjoy (blog, read, etc.), take a walk, maybe catch a nap, etc.  It is wonderful, and I want more of my life to look like this!  Stress is nearly non-existent on Wednesdays.

So how can we have less stress in our lives?  Well, here are some of my thoughts, and some of my practical goals for 2012…


1. Sleep more.

Quoting Robb Wolf again, “Just one night of missed or inadequate sleep is sufficient to make you as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic.  Think about how crappy you feel when you miss sleep.  That’s how much fun it is to be a type 2 diabetic all the time!  When you neglect sleep or have poor sleep quality, this registers as a significant stressor to your body.  It makes you immune-compromised, chubby, forgetful, and crazy.”  Wow!  Sadly, I can definitely relate to that!

How do you know how much sleep you need?  Well, 8-9 hours is usually just right.  But to know for sure, the right amount is whenever you wake up without the nagging of an alarm clock.  Personally, I have not experienced this on a regular basis.  If I do not set an al

arm, I will sleep until 12:30 (as I did today… it’s Wednesday!).  But, I also stayed up until after midnight last night.

So my sleep-goal for 2012 (starting tonight!) is to go to bed at a decent time, and sleep for 9 hours each night.  I have already taken the steps to make our bedroom pitch-black with the lights turned off, and that has definitely helped the quality of my sleep.  I’ll post more on this later… but just go read Robb’s chapter ASAP for more details!

2. Work less.  

When I think about the things I really enjoy… the things that bring peace and tranquility to my life… WORK does not make the list.  One of our personal goals for 2012 is to become debt-free.  We are really close to this goal, and should complete it by May!  When this happens, our schedules will loosen up alot.  And while it might be tempting to keep our crazy schedules so that we can fill our lives with more “stuff,” we have to realize that “stuff” is not important!  When I look back on the nine years we have been married, I remember our time spent together… I do not remember the “stuff” we had at any given time.  So why would we work our lives away, and sacrifice more time together, so that we can have more meaningless stuff?  Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that shopping, buying new clothes and “toys,” and accumulating things we like is definitely FUN at the moment, but does FUN = meaningfulness?  Nope.

The final section of Robb Wolf’s eighth chapter goes into detail about this.  I particularly enjoyed this part: “If you are attached to a bunch of crap that requires you to work ungodly hours to pay for it, you are missing something.  I also know people who LOVE to work.  They do not have an off switch, and just love to go.  If this is you, and you’re happy, fulfilled, and satisfied, great.  You are a rare breed indeed.  I’m not a guru, and I have no special knowledge, but I have seen alot of people benefit from assessing what is important in their lives, and making changes to support happiness.  It’s hard to do.  We can make excuses about obligations and kids and all kinds of stuff.  I don’t know what the right answer is for you, but if you have weight or health issues, work yourself to death, have a closet full of clothes you never wear and a house full of crap you never use, then maybe you need to do some thinking about how you approach life.”


My husband and I worked on this alot in 2011.  We sold our home and moved into a cheap place that we can easily afford.  It’s not super-nice, but it’s our home, and we love it because we both live here!  We have scaled our budget down to the minimum (no cable, no texting or data on our cell pla
Decide what is important to you, and chase that!n, no car payments, etc.) so that we can meet our goal of being debt-free and working less.

3. Choose to Chill.

Do you realize how many times each day you ALLOW yourself to be stressed?  Sometimes it’s okay to just say “you know what?  I just don’t care.”  If you can’t change it, don’t stress about it!  For example, lately I have gotten behind the SLOWEST cars on the road.  I don’t know why, other than that my commitment to this goal is being tested.  Instead of stressing out, gripping the wheel, and waiting for the broken yellow line so I can pass, I’m trying to just relax…. turn on some good music… and enjoy the ride.  I can’t blast that car off the road (though sometimes I would like to do just that!), so why stress about it?

If you can’t change it, find a way to enjoy it.

If we could adopt this principle in our lives, we would have so few opportunities for stress!

4. Relax.

As I mentioned before, Wednesdays are our relaxation days.  However, my goal for 2012 is have more than just one relaxation days!  Around mid-2011, Dustin and I decided that our weeks had become too crazy (we had commitments at least 5 out of 7 evenings each week!).  We have tried very hard to stick to this new “routine” for our evenings each week: Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays are HOME NIGHTS.  Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are open for hanging out with people (though we don’t always use all three evenings).  Wednesdays are DATE NIGHTS.  Keeping this schedule has made life much more relaxing!

Our goal for 2012 is to maintain this routine, and, as mentioned above, to work less so that we have more relaxation-time together.

5. Eat Well.

I don’t just mean eating the right things… Personally, I think Dustin and I tackled that goal in 2011!  Other than doing a Whole30 every 6 months, and working in a Sugar Detox every now and then, I am very happy with our nutritional status.

What I mean by “eat well” is to do a better job of actually eating.  I was listening to Chris Kresser on the Balanced Bites podcast earlier this week, and I loved what he and Diane had to say about the role of stress in digestion.  Did you know that you digest and absorb your food most effectively when you are less stressed?  Listen to the podcast for more details!  It is excellent.

Here are two ways that I plan to implement this goal:

*Less eating on-the-go.  We make our lives so fast-paced that we sometimes have to take our food in the car with us!  Starting tomorrow, we will be waking up in time to SIT DOWN AND EAT breakfast together.  We are going to make more efforts to SIT DOWN AND EAT lunch while we’re at work.  And when it’s dinner time, we are going to SIT DOWN AND EAT together, or with others, without our computers, our phones, or a movie.  Did you know that food is better digested when you allow yourself to sit still, undistracted, and actually CHEW it without allowing your mind to wander a billion other places?

*Enjoy meal-times!  I already love eating, but I can imagine that meal times would be so much more enjoyable if we allowed them to be restful, peaceful parts of our day.  Just sitting across the table from people you love, enjoying good food, and participating in good conversation is almost an endangered ritual these days (unless you are at a restaurant that does not have TV’s- and even then people are on their phones, or just looking all around!).  Let meal-time be meal-time!

Again, go listen to that podcast, and get inspired!


One More Thought…

Think about it… your life is made up of choices.  The way you live is up to you!  If you choose to work your life away and pour on the stress to obtain more stuff, that is your CHOICE.  No one is forcing you to do it.  Just wanted to give you that reminder… maybe it will empower you to make different choices, even if they require sacrifices, so that you can enjoy what (or who) is most important to you.



 What About You?

I would love to hear your personal health goals for 2012!

Please comment below.