Guest blogger Paige Johnson shares her guide to staying healthy over the holidays.  As a single parent it’s a priority for her, but we can all follow her advice.

holiday tablePhoto courtesy of Unsplash by Mel Turner

“I need to take better care of myself.” Be honest,  how many times have you had the exact same thought? This time of year means balancing your parental responsibilities with budgeting money for gifts and time for shopping. In addition, you probably have commitments with your family, friends and co-workers at various holiday events.

It’s no wonder why so many people become overwhelmed or even tempted to overindulge around the holidays. How can you stay healthy while still enjoying your holiday season? Luckily, it’s possible to find the time, energy, and money to stay healthy and in shape throughout the holidays.

Here’s what to do – and not do…

What to do:

Meal Prep

Preparing your meals ahead of time can help you avoid temptation so you can stay on the healthy track. Pick a specific day and time (such as a Sunday evening) when you know that you’ll be at home and will have time to devote to meal preparation. This is a great strategy for avoiding overeating at holiday parties. Of course, it can certainly be something you do each week in order to stay on track.

Combat Food Cravings

Of course, if you’re too busy to prep your meals, there are still plenty of ways you can be more mindful of your holiday eating habits. To avoid slipping into unhealthy food and beverage choices this holiday, Harvard’s School of Public Health recommends avoiding salt and sugar, especially in processed foods.

When food cravings kick in, especially if you’re an emotional eater, try replacing candy with fruits and try replacing salty foods with low-sodium options like unsalted nuts. If you’re stressed, try going for a walk or doing some mindful breathing rather than reaching for food to calm your nerves.

Practice Self-Care

Recent studies have linked stress eating, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and mood changes to weight gain during the holiday season. In each of these situations, proper self-care can help you resist the urge to overeat. As mentioned above, mindful activities such as breath work, meditation, a walk in nature, or doing yoga can all help you care for yourself, in turn reducing stress without adding extra calories, salt, or sugar.

Schedule Workouts

Block off a time slot on your busy schedule for exercise and fitness – and don’t allow yourself to schedule any other appointments during this time. For instance, you might work out first thing in the morning while your little ones are still asleep – or during the afternoon while they are still at daycare. Having trouble staying motivated? Find a workout buddy or partner with a co-worker (preferably another parent) for a monthly weight loss challenge.

What to avoid:

Drugs and Alcohol

It can be difficult to resist temptations during the holidays. Many people feel stressed and triggered during this time of year. It doesn’t help that alcohol plays a prominent role in so many holiday parties.  Enjoy in moderation, unless you’re in a recovery program.  In that case,  continue to stay focused and remain on track, including attending AA meetings, throughout the holidays. If you feel triggered, soothe yourself using coping methods such as yoga, meditation, taking a hot bath, or even spending some time in nature (weather permitting). These proven methods will help you resist cravings and overcome triggers so you can have a safe, healthy and sober holiday.

Food FOMO

As strength coach, Molly Galbraith, says, “Eating past full is not fun.” Although it can be tempting to feast upon all of the delicious seasonal or holiday-themed foods and beverages that you can only consume this time of the year, avoid overeating. Instead of getting caught in the trap of food FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), try to limit yourself. Eat slowly so you can savor each bite.

Your health should be a priority year-round. By following the advice listed above, we can all make healthier choices this holiday season – and every day of the year.

For more fitness and healthy lifestyle tips from Paige Johnson check out her website at: learnfit.org  

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The homeless problem: From condemnation to compassion

homeless-cart2.jpgMy recent visit to southern California left me frustrated by the rampant homeless  problem seizing the golden state.  I lived in the heart of L.A for over a decade, and homelessness existed, but it didn’t seem permanent or ubiquitous.  Mostly confined to Venice Beach, downtown at Skid Row, and the freeway ramps with beggars holding honest or creative signs.  This time I noticed them everywhere, even in the out-of-the-way, senior living town of Sun City.  This desert town was once only occupied by the 55 and over crowd, retirees looking for cheap living in a safe community.  The youths were watched closely, and vagabonds non-existent.  This visit I watched backpackers and cart pushers wandering though town with all their belongings.  A few were passed out in bushes, homeless man 2others displayed burnt hard faces of the street life, and some lived in their car.  I felt disheartened, and disappointed that this seemed to be the new norm.

 

On the evening news, they showed permanent homeless camps along the L.A. river.  What in the hell is going on in this state, I thought.  Do people seriously want to live a homeless life?  Why can’t they get a job, or move to where they can live a better life?  The trash they leave behind is unbelievable!

I visited Santa Monica for a few memorable days to enjoy my old playground on the beach and in the mountains.  My morning runs took me though Venice Beach, where the homeless have always migrated. Again, it was out of control. Camps with tents, personal belongings, bikes and stoves.  They’d wake, use the public toilets and drink their lattes.  An ambulance was called for a dispute or injury between two of them.  Great, your tax dollars at work for those that don’t contribute.

Later that evening as I walked to dinner they hung out on main street, and I didn’t feel safe turning some dark corners.  Why let these people invade prime property?  Why do locals accept and support people who do nothing  to better society?

Back in Florida we also have a homeless problem as do many towns.  Sometimes they harass me, other times I smile at them.   I’m trying my best to hold compassion for everyone, including the destitute.  After all, I don’t know their story.  Many jobs have gone overseas, and the cost of living is increasing, especially in California.  I have since opened my mind and heart and compassion is my new word of the month.  With the holidays upon us, I hope to keep my eyes and heart open to those in trouble and need.homeless familycompassion jpeg

-Compassion-is-an-action-word-with-no-boundaries

A busy summer’s end: Audible Available

2017 irma.JPGI’ve been crazy busy since hurricane Irma hit Florida.  I participated in the largest evacuation in history as the east coast, west coast and most of our state was threatened with the strongest recorded wind, peaking at 180 mph.  Facing a monster storm on the east coast, we fled with two cats and a dog in our single engine piper and flew to Helen, Georgia.  Although air traffic was busy, the highways were gridlocked and many friends took all night to arrive at our safe house in the mountains.  The east coast was spared as the cone shifted to the west coast with the initial landfall after the keys, Marco Island.

carlAfter making the best out of our spur of the moment evacuation trip, I flew out of Atlanta for a pre-planned trip to California.  I visited familiar places and found some new favorites. I bonded with my father, got to know my grandparents through photos, clipped newspaper articles and we visited their graves.  We had road trips and explored Palm Springs, San Juan Capistrano, Temecula, and then after dropping off my dad I spent a few nights in Santa Monica. While hiking in Topanga Canyon,  I noticed the mountains  were extremely dry and the memorable waterfall and flowing river nonexistent.  A week later devastating fires broke out in many parts of California.  Overall a fun, rewarding trip, but the homeless population is out of control.  That’s a subject for a separate blog post.

A few weeks later I arrived back in south Florida to my intact home housing hurricane evacuees, one couple with roof damage and mold issues and another from Key West with no job to return to and hoping to make money fishing in Broward County.  I welcomed our displaced family and went about getting back to normal.  Whatever that meant with my travel schedule.  Five weeks later they still reside at our home.irma

Business trips and writing schedules continued and at the end my audiobook is complete. It’s for sale on audible.com and iTunes.  Overall, I’m very impressed with Emma Lysy and her performance of Breakfast In Bimini.  If  you are not an audible member you can join at this link below and receive a complementary copy for free.

http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B076BM4KSW

If you are a audible member then send me your information including email and I can send you a promo code for a free download to my audiobook in exchange for an honest review. You can reach me at http://www.sierramichaels.com or comment in the section below.

Happy reading and I hope you enjoy the audio version of Breakfast In Bimini.  I think you’re enjoy the adventure!

audible

 

 

Total Eclipse from North Georgia

Like many others I eagerly awaited August 21, 2017 for a chance to see a total eclipse. In Helen, Georgia that meant 1 minute and 41 seconds of complete darkness. People flocked to our town and others within the path of totality. Many events took place in the surrounding wineries, parks, schools and communities.  Wanting to avoid gridlock, we chose to have our own celebration at the Innsbruck Club house overlooking the golf course, and a regular meeting place for local residents.

About 50 people showed up with side dishes to compliment the burgers my husband cooked on the grill.  Moonshine cake and moon pies sat among the salads while the bartenders served up Tequila Sunrise cocktails.  The sky was clear, a telescope for viewing sat on the veranda porch alongside golf clubs, balls and corn hole games. Everyone brought their viewing glasses and excitement, the eclipse had just begun with the moon slowly casting a shadow over the sun.

eclipse8eclipse5eclipse3

I’d glance up at different stages, taking a few photos with my iPhone.  We milled about, socialized, ate, drank and looked up again.  An amateur photographer with a professional camera rigged a solar filter by duck tapping part of the eclipse glasses to his lens.  After an hour and a half the sky became grey. Everyone spread out on the porch, parking lot and even the golf range for the moment of totality.  It was easy to spot through the cardboard glasses since everything including the sliver of light went black, then it was safe to look directly at the sun.  I stared in awe, mesmerized for almost two minutes until the sun, known as the diamond ring, peeked through the other side.

golf eclipse

Afterwards, about half of the crowd left, not really interested in the waning of the moon passing over the sun.  The rest of us shot golf balls off the deck with the goal of hitting the 9th hole about 100 yards in the distance.  A young lady in her early 20’s hit her ball closest to the flag, as professional golfers competed against her shot to no avail. Drinks and some new age conversation flowed until the sun and heat returned full force and the party dwindled.

I had witnessed partial eclipses in the past, but it doesn’t compare to a total eclipse. During the brief moment of totality the world seemed so different and so small in comparison to the universe.  I later learned that this phenomenon occurs every two years in different parts of our world.  I found it so memorizing that I’d consider myself a total eclipse chaser.  Here I come South America in 2019.

total eclipse

Photos by Josh Garrison

 

 

July sale and audiobook production

BreakfastInBimini-AmazonI have two exciting promotions going on this summer.  For a limited time I’m offering my novel, Breakfast In Bimini,  for sale at half price. The perfect fun, bring on the sun and water beach read with a bit of a twist.  You can find the digital version and discount at:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/649848

 

I’m also producing an audiobook of Breakfast In Bimini to be released at summer’s end. This is a project I’ve been considering for the past year, but a bit uncertain of how to tackle it.  Originally, I wanted to read and record it myself at a local professional studio until I realized that maybe an experienced actress would do a better job.  I put up an audition request on ACX, the audiobook giant and I received several readings.  I found a match and I’ll have a sample by weeks end and the full book version shortly after.  I’d have to say, listening to the readings I felt impressed at times and uncertain at others. After all this is my creation and I have expectations about voice, inflections, and interpretation.  I have high standards, but I think she’ll do an excellent job.  I’ll let you know when it’s available on audible.com and other audiobook venues.

Any authors out there want to share their experience with producing their audiobook?  I’d love to hear about it in the comment section!

Bikini Season. Helpful Fitness Tips

With summer here, especially in the humid tropics, that means Bikini season.  I pretty much live, eat, and work in my swim suit daily with quick swims and long walks along the beach.  I’m able to run and do some yoga poses daily, but finding time to exercise and eat healthy it not always easy.  Guest blogger, Paige Johnson offers this advice.

4 Nutrition and Fitness Tips for Busy People

Being a hardworking professional and busy parent often means that you put your nutrition and fitness last. While it can be difficult to find ways to be healthy while you’re trying to squeeze everything you have to do into 24 hours, there are some ways to fit healthy habits into your busy lifestyle. We share four nutrition and fitness tips for busy people below so that you can work on your health throughout the year.

smoothie

Image via Pixabay by skeeze

  1. Prepare Breakfast Smoothies Ahead of Time

Most busy people skip breakfast because there is so much to do in the morning before you head out the door to drop off kids at school or make it to the office on time. The problem is, skipping breakfast is an unhealthy habit that you should break as soon as possible. Research shows that skipping breakfast can increase women’s risk of diabetes, cause hypertension and insulin resistance, elevate blood sugar, increase the risk of heart disease in men, and impair cognitive function related to memory.

If you want to eat breakfast but don’t because you don’t think you have time to make something, try preparing smoothies for your morning meal ahead of time. Begin by cleaning and freezing fruit such as berries and bananas that you can pop into your blender in the morning with Greek yogurt and whichever liquid you prefer. Some people opt for milk, juice, coconut water, or almond milk. If you don’t think you’ll have time to blend your smoothie in the morning, you can make it the night before, freeze it, and allow it to thaw on your commute so you’ll have a cold smoothie to enjoy throughout the morning.

  1. Find a Workout Buddy

If you work in an office, find a co-worker to be your workout buddy who will walk with you during a break or your lunch time. It’s worth noting that walking during lunch does not mean that you should skip eating lunch; rather, you should use your lunch time to go for a walk and then eat a healthy lunch at your desk. If you work from home or are a busy parent, find a neighbor or fellow stay-at-home parent who will walk with you while your child sleeps in the stroller or who will work out with you in your living room while your children play or nap together. You’ll stay more accountable if you know someone else is counting on you for workout time.

  1. Schedule Your Workout Time

If you cannot stick to a lunchtime walking routine or have trouble making a workout a habit, pencil it into your schedule just as you would a meeting or appointment. You need to make your health a priority, so put yourself on your schedule by blocking out at least four 30-minute exercise times per week. You may have to find a schedule that works best for you and be flexible, but commit to penciling in workout sessions for a month to help develop fitness habits. You may find more time on the weekend or in the early evening. You also may realize that you can jog laps around a baseball field while your kid has practice or that you can climb the stairs in your building or do lunges while checking email.

  1. Audit Your Time to Find a Few Extra Minutes Each Day

You may find that you actually have more time than you thought for preparing healthy meals and working out when you audit your time. When you look at your day, you may discover that you are wasting time checking email frequently throughout the day instead of taking care of it in a few large chunks. Or, you may be losing more minutes to social media and web surfing than you realized. When you truly audit your time, you will identify time sinks that you can schedule at another time or avoid altogether. Be as productive as possible during timed segments of your day to free up some time for healthy behaviors.

Even the busiest of people need to make time to develop and maintain healthy habits. You can do so throughout the year by preparing breakfast smoothies ahead of time, finding a workout buddy, scheduling workout time, and auditing your time to find a few extra minutes each day for healthy activities. Nutrition can help you overcome all kinds of obstacles, including those related to mental health.

Paige Johnson loves offering her advice on weight lifting and strength training on learnfit.org

 

 

Familiar scenes in La La Land

lala landI recently watched the award-winning musical movie La La Land. In my 20’s I lived and played in the heart of  L.A., and embraced every moment including the jazz and Hollywood scene.  I was young, rebellious and passionate about the city, as I still am today at a distance.  The movie includes Universal Studios, Jazz and Griffith Park, as do these memories I share.

I somehow wandered into Universal Studios through a back gate with my BFF, my Asian twin.   I think the gate was unattended, or we simply smiled and walked through.  Tourists on trams were pointing at us and we seemed to be the only ones roaming the fake studios unattended.  I think we were walking through the set of Back to the Future, among others. The tram slowed and we hopped on the back as people took photos.  The driver was confused and pretended not to notice, or maybe he really didn’t.  After disembarking and spending the afternoon exploring, we asked one of the directors to give us a ride back to my car parked at the other end of the studio.

“How did you get here?”  He asked.

“We walked though the back gate, and jumped on the tram.  I think it’s a few miles that way, ” I said pointing.

“Without I.D?”

“Um, yes.  Nobody said anything.”

He grinned and told us not to try that again and then he had a conversation with the gate guard.

jax2My love of Jazz began in Los Angeles, with my first date night at JAX in Glendale. I think it’s one of the filming places in La La Land, or very close to it in ambience and location.  It was during the L.A. riots, 1992 and a curfew was enforced.

“Are you still up for getting together?” My future boyfriend asked.

“I’m game.  I need to get out for a while.”

The streets were smoky, eerie and strangely silent.  Live jazz at the close-by club reflected the mood.  We had a private booth, life altering conversations, and the beginning of a love affair that lasted until his sudden death.  Memories made but not forgotten.

griffithI considered Griffith Park my other love. It integrated nature and hiking, biking, the observatory, stargazing, drinking, and the famous Hollywood sign.  I’d hike or bike the trails and solve many of my problems.  Minor issues that seemed larger than life back then.  A breakup, head to the park.  A bad day at school, an intense bike ride through Griffith.  An hour at the planetarium watching projected stars on the ceiling while listening to Pink Floyd was a complete escape or sometimes a bonding experience with a friend as we sipped concealed cocktails.  I even watched a full solar eclipse with hundreds of others picnicking for popular the event.  A friend and I climbed the Hollywood sign and even met and flirted with the two Matt’s, young actors from the TV series Friends.  griffith 3

I was blessed enough to live close to the park.  When I moved near UCLA campus I found other places to enjoy the outdoors and jazz, but these moments will always hold a special place in my heart.  I’m visiting L.A. later this summer and I might visit Griffith Park, but not Universal Studios.  It’s too touristy and nothing can top my visit through the back gate.  I recently learned JAX jazz club and grill closed last year, such a shame since it was truly a unique local jazz club.